Thursday, 28 December 2017

The Canal Problem

I tend to occasionally write essays to provoke thought and make people ponder.  So this is one which will draw this situation.

Roughly two million years ago, down in the region of southern Africa, on the northwestern end of what is Botswana, and heading west toward Namibia.....there's this area which was in a state of 'creation'.  Most folks would refer to it as Lake Makgadikgadi. 

Various waters came to feed into what you'd call a basin, and form up the lake.  Because there was no true outlet to the Pacific or Atlantic....it kinda collected, and kept building.

For generations, this basin was active and able to provide waters.

Then 20,000 years ago, the overflow finally started to occur.  The drain?  It went northeast.  Leading to the Zambezi River.  Up until this point, there was no true 'drain'.  From that point (20,000 years ago, between the drain effect and natural evaporation....a dry period started up and changed the character of the basin.

It would be true to add this point....that a glacier period was in full bloom around this period in northern Europe and northern America. 

About 10,000 years ago, we reached the next stage of Lake Makgadikgadi was starting to dry out. 

Today, the basin still exists, but it's referred to as the Okavango Delta.  This amounts to roughly 3,800 square miles of a basin...swamp....lake...etc.

This amounts to what is one-twelfth the size of Alabama.  So it's a fair-sized basin.  Course, then you start think back prior to 20,000 years ago, and how the Lake Makgadikgadi area might have been....30,800 square miles of lake area....more than half the size of Alabama. 

Why any of this really matters?

Well....here's this odd thing.  When you pull up Google imagery and look at Okavango Delta area, and go down a notch or two....looking west of the present delta.....you see this straight lines.  Those are canals.  Straight canals....stretching for several hundred miles each.  Dozens of them.  It's an area about the size of the state of Arizona....all developed with canals.

You can use Google Earth Pro and look at the straight character and the length of these canals.  The size?  It's enough to probably feed farm-wise.....at least a hundred million people. 

A smart guy can go and figure the amount of earth moved.  Even if you had modern earth-movers, road-graders, and bulldozers....with a fair sized crew....you'd be talking about ten to fifteen years of continual work to get these canals built.  The scope and concept here....even in this modern age....would be enormous.

So, here's the thing.  This was not built in the past hundred years....or past thousand.  No one knows when the canal system was constructed but it has to be well over twenty-thousand years ago, and it's usefulness probably started to come to an end around ten to twenty thousand years ago. 

As long as the delta existed in this million-year period....this canal method of farming and decent climate of the region (no real winter) would have made this a fantastic farming area.

So who farmed it?  Who brought in the Earth-movers to move the dirt?  Who designed the canals? They had to exist way past twenty-thousand years ago. 

It's a problem, which can't really be answered.

The value today?  The basin really doesn't exist, and the canals are mostly all dried-up.  Nothing is left to tell the rest of this story.  Someone did a heck of a lot of work....to feed a bunch of folks. 

Alabama Governor Topic

I tend to follow Alabama news a fair bit.

Today, it was noted via Al.com that things are lining up for the 2018 Governor's election.

The GOP folks?

1.  Kay Ivey (present governor of the state).  On the positive side, Kay hasn't screwed up since taking over. Kay doesn't have some boy-toy or part-time lover on the side.  And Kay seems to avoid any kind of controversy.  On the negative side, Kay is 73 years old.

2.  Tommy Battle (Huntsville mayor).  On the plus side, Battle has been a business guy for most of his life, and if you wrote down his entire resume....it'd be at least five pages (he's 62 years old).  If you were looking for soap opera lifestyles.....he's about as boring as you can get.  The other plus of Battle is that he's gone and created more than 10,000 jobs in the last decade of being mayor in Huntsville.  In some ways, he is a mini-Trump-like character.  The title that he likes to point out?  He's won a few bar-b-q awards and apparently knows how to grill pork and beef.

3.  Birmingham evangelist Scott Dawson.  He's a mega-church kind of minister....a four-star public speaker....and likely will carry a fair number of the church-votes in the state.  Beyond that?  No real experience.  We've never had a minister as a governor, so it might be a shock to most folks if he were to win the election.

4.  Bill Hightower (state senator, Mobile).  He's a businessman turned state senator.  For four years, he's been around Montgomery and shaken a few hands.  In the Mobile area....probably half the folks have heard of the guy and would recognize him.  Beyond Mobile?  He's unrecognizable.

5.  Josh Jones.  He's a health-care executive out of Birmingham and likely the most unknown individual of the five.  Past political background?  Zero.

For the Democrats?

1.  Sue Bell Cobb. Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice.  She is a graduate of the University of Alabama, and has done a fair amount of legal work.  Age?  Near 60.  The problem in her case is name recognition.  You can ask a hundred Alabama folks about the name, and maybe three would have remembered her being on the state Supreme Court.

2.  Walt Maddox, current Tuscaloosa Mayor.  He's 45 years old....mostly done work with the education sector, and been a political figure for about a decade.  On the positive side....with the 2011 tornado episode that tore up the city, he's known for crisis management skills and is one of the folks you'd want in an emergency situation.  His problem will be name recognition outside of the Tuscaloosa region.

3.  Jason Childs.  Trucker (Oxford).  Well, he's the one odd character of the whole bunch.  He admits right up front.....he is pro-marijuana, and pro-LGBT.  He even says up front....both parties have failed the working-class folks in the state, and we need to bring back a fresh view of the common man.  Name recognition?  Near zero.  The thing is....if someone just stood up with a web site and actively went to some campuses in the state..Childs could pick up 25,000 votes and interest a fair number of people. But that probably won't happen.  To be honest as well....we've never had a trucker as a governor and that might be worth exploring.

4.  Anthony White.  Local black minister from Dothan.  He's a local guy....former Army....been a small business owner, and got a degree in business.  His issue will be name recognition.

5.  James Fields.  He's a black Methodist minister from Cullman.  He's actually pushing this idea of a rapid-rail system in the state....connecting cities.  Course, if you asked a hundred Alabama folks about something like this....they'd tend to rate this at the bottom of 10,000 things that you could do for the state.  His problem will be name recognition.

Is that it?  There might be two or three more jumping in by March, but I suspect this is the main group.

The odds here?  I suspect that Kay Ivey will have a problem in the primary and Battle might actually be this Alabama-style Trump-figure, who gets the primary win.  A second vote required?  Well, here's the thing, this Dawson-character will be popular with church-voters and he might actually take 15-percent of the state vote....meaning that Ivey and Battle don't reach the 50-percent required in the first primary.

For the Democrats.....the Tuscaloosa mayor Maddox ought to win in the first primary.  Childs is a wild-card because of his marijuana stance, and if this election was about making it legal....he might find 50-percent of the 18-to-50 year old voters in the state favoring him.  It'd be a shocker if suddenly this whole election was about making marijuana legal in the state.

The likely winner?  I think Battle wins in November.

Who Do You Call

Back in the late 1970s....I started traveling.  I was fortunate that the Air Force gave me that chance, and I've traveled through dozens of countries and admired lots of different cultures. I've observed TV, comedy series, food, beverages, hostility, and lots of aspects that you typically don't think about.

My brother brought this up yesterday....over something involving Asian folks.  I sat and pondered over cultures and reactions to chaotic events.  You can't say precisely in every single case....how various cultures will react, but there's this trend-line....you tend to know alot about chaos, and human reaction.

So you throw up some situation....a barn on fire....a broken water-pump....a flight to be cancelled where you need a plan 'B'....or some bear that has walked into the middle of your backyard.  You then mix the various cultures.

1.  The German.  This culture wants to study the problem for a fair amount of time.....making a plan which likely revolves around six options or resolutions.  All might work, but the time to reach that moment is generally more you'd like to imagine. 

2.  The Italian.  The Italian will go from zero to sixty in ten seconds flat in terms of emotion, and might possibly do more damage than the current situation is creating.  Some emotion will be driven into the problem, and you can't be sure about the final outcome. 

3.  The Greek.  Well....does it really have to be resolved or fixed today....will be the first question.  How important is it to be fixed....will be the second question.  This will be like a question and answer session with Socrates (former blacksmith in his early years).  At least an hour will be used to center on the relative significance of the problem.  In the case of the bear event....you'd hope that both of you are inside of the house at the time.

4.  The Japanese.  An immediate question or two will pop up first....how did this all occur?   They'd like to know the cause and only work toward resolving that one single problem.  Emotion will be throttled back....maybe to 20-percent of what the Italian guy was displaying.

5.  The Icelandic culture.  At least five minutes will be devoted to watching the chaos develop because they've never seen something like this....EVER.  Then about forty minutes will be devoted to talking about nature, and this chaos is part of the bigger picture in life.

6.  The Brit.  Some quick reactionary plan will be put into immediate action, and it'll be something of a creative nature that you could never repeat in a thousand years.  Even after the event, no one will be able to describe why he took fourteen different steps, how each step fits into a precision solution, and how they stopped the barn fire, or removed the bear from the backyard.

7.  The Chinese culture.  There will be a period of review....perhaps a few minutes, then a plan will be established, and a solution put forward.  There's a fifty percent chance that the solution plan is more dangerous than the current event....that they might make the problem worse than it already is.....or that some fight might break out among the handful of Chinese folks over comments uttered or insults thrown at bystanders. 

8.  The Irish culture.  They will mostly stand and talk a good bit about the problem....suggesting a pint of some ale as part of the process, and then talk over the woes of the problem in detail.  Their son, their daughter, or their relatives....will have seen the problem and it's a matter of talking this over and repeating the process.

9.  The French culture.  They will suggest that there is a special office or agency to handle this, and it's best to leave it to the government to fix the problem.

10.  Finally, the Russian. In one sweeping motion, with almost no plan, or words.....the Russian ends the problem in seconds.  They kill the bear....put out the fire....or arrange for a plan 'B' after the cancelled flight. Then, there's vodka to be poured, and long discussion over everything except the chaotic event.  By morning, most of what happened is forgotten. Then they proceed on.....remembering nothing and rarely writing down the solution for future generations. 

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The Bubble Game

I follow business news and it's hard to avoid looking at three enormous bubbles that exist in the stock market today:

1. The China bubble.  Tons of buildings go up each year....maybe 60 million apartments sitting empty....no real game plan.

2.  The Bitcoin bubble.  What's it really worth?  It's useless to really discuss this because it's worth nothing unless you had something behind it.  There is nothing.

3.  The College-loan bubble.  $1.4 trillion.  No one can explain from the government....how this can possibly be reduced or controlled.  It simply continues on.  We will likely hit 2-trillion by the end of 2019. 

There are another dozen smaller bubble which could equal out the property bubble of 2008....but these particular bubbles are more serious than the 2008 episode. To have two of these occur in one single year?  That's the scenario that you have to start worrying about. 

The odd thing is that the US government just doesn't care.  The six months before the 2008 bubble burst?  Absolutely not a care in the world....by any agency of the US government.

Monday, 25 December 2017

The Santa Story

I noticed this piece early this morning (25th)....that a Canadian government organization is saying that global warming has triggered Santa Claus to "pack-up" and move....taking his toy-making operation, the deer barn, and the Santa house....down to the South Pole. 

This organization?  The Policy Horizons Canada. 

Part of the story going with this....that the 'international community' (apparently not the US)....were in agreement and there was some written document where Santa, and the global warming community signed this document.

Now....I sat and pondered upon this amusing story.

A smart 8-year old kid would have eventually got to this point and asked....so, Santa just lived on top of ice...not land, all this time?  Where did these reindeer eat grass?  Did Santa have to ship in grain and hay for the reindeer.....aboard aircraft, and thus trigger climate change himself? 

This toy-making operation, with the thousands of elves....did they require constant heat, and thereby create climate change as well....with coal or oil heat?

If things are heating up at the North Pole....wouldn't the same heating-up or climate change exist at the South Pole?

Will the letters written and addressed to the North Pole.....get now to the South Pole?  What if some kids don't get the message, will their letters just end up with some dead-end post office in the North Pole?  Will Larry (the kind-hearted mail guy from the Canadian government who delivered mail to Santa for 40 years) still have a job? 

Were the elves forced into this move?  Or did the elves just accept this as being the only solution? 

Can reindeer survive at the South Pole?  Are there any there (no)? 

What did Ms Santa say about all of this? 

It simply begs questions.  One has to hope that CNN will get to the bottom of this story.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

2020 and Harris

Over the past two weeks, I've sat and probably watched at least 90 minutes of video clips of Democratic Senator Kamala Harris (California).  She's rated now as the most likely winner-candidate in the 2020 Presidential primary for the Democratic Party.

Her plus-up in selling the image to the public?  She's black, and a woman.  Beyond that?

Well, after watching the video clips, I would offer four observations.

1.  She comes across as a very direct and confrontational individual.  In a debate situation, she might be a heavy-weight, but her tactics might also come to label her as cantankerous and combative.  Neither of those two personality characteristics sell well in the south.  A happy charming personality?  No....that really doesn't come across. 

2.  Her background is lawyer, prosecutor and US Senator.  Knowledge in taxes, business, or jobs?  Zero. 

3.  The hurt here for the GOP is that 2018 and 2019 have to be big years on women's harassment.  For this Harris idea to work across the US....you need constant harassment news in the press....365 days out of the year.....for two years straight.  It's hard to see people buying that slant on the news for that long of a period.

4.  Then there's this last problem.....she's from California.  Some people might see this as a major plus.  Some might see it as a major negative.  If anyone asks about how taxes stand or the public safety in California....it won't be something that she can openly hype upon. 

One might hope that the Democratic Party has two or three other folks lined up, and allows a totally open primary (unlike 2016). 

Friday, 22 December 2017

Thinking Over Taxes

If you sit and think about the Trump reform on taxes....there are two waves that will occur.

The first wave will start in January, as small, medium and big business operations start to feel some enthusiasm and look at improving their technology, their work-place, or bulk up on employees).  All of this will add onto the GDP statistics, and create a wave that will last all throughout 2018. 

GDP-wise, you ought to be thinking of a 4-to-4.5 percent GDP by the end of 2018.  Right now, for 2017....we probably are talking about a 3.2-percent GDP, which compared against the 2000-to-today numbers.....is FANTASTIC.  If you were comparing against 1980 to 2000 numbers....it's AVERAGE.

The second wave?  That starts in March to July of 2019, when private folks add the numbers up and realize that they are getting an extra $500 to $10,000 back.

A married guy, with one kid, and a wife....making $50,000 a year....you'd be paying $739 for the whole year on taxes. 

Same scenario, with no kid....$50,000 salary?  You'd be paying $2,739. 

Same scenario, with no wife or kid....$50,000 salary?  You'd pay $4,370.

So you start to think about these guys and families in the spring of 2019.  A check for $3,000 as the refund, instead of the $1,200 you were expecting?  The automatic reaction by ninety-percent of people.....spend it. 

This wave will start up across the US with people walking in and discussing a new car.....a renovation project....a new riding lawn mower.....a pool table for the basement lounge....a vacation to Aruba....or perhaps a boob-job for the wife.

By the fall of 2020?  That's the curious thing.  You get into November of the next election period, and see three-million jobs created across the US, and a heck of a lot of enthusiasm for the nation.  Your cousin....the worthless idiot with the degree?  He might actually be working finally, and paying taxes.  Your wife who kept hoping for a 2nd shift at the local plant to hire up forty more employees?  She might get hired on.  Your son might be finally hired-up and working for $15-an-hour. 

For this long two-decade period....we were kinda sitting on marginal enthusiasm and just not getting much in return.  Now?  Things are worth discussing and having higher hopes. 

Movie Topic

I sat and watched the other night.....The Great Gatsby.....the 2013 version with Tobey McGuire.

To be honest, it's the only time I've ever seen the movie.  I tried reading the book back in the early 1980s, and maybe got thirty pages into it, then dumped it.  It just didn't have any real enthusiasm for me.

I was surprised with the 2013 movie because the characters....the story...everything, worked.

So it begs to me a lot of questions. 

For F. Scott Fitzgerald, the writer....it was his 'big' piece.  He published it in 1925, and it got into the 20,000 range for copies bought.  He made a couple thousand dollars, and died in the early 1940s....mostly thinking it was a failure.

It's an odd story then because it got picked up in 1943 by some folks who were wanting publish some books for GI's to read while deployed.  Why?  It's not ever explained.  Someone made the decision and thousands of copies were made up and pumped out.  Then these Army guys began to read it, and got enthusiastic about the book.

In the 1950s, it went through a growth period, and colleges were using for literature pieces.  By the 1960s, high schools were routinely using it.

Roughly twenty years after his death....the book was a classic. 

Fitzgerald is an interesting character because he ended up married to some Alabama gal....Zelda Sayre. 

Zelda, in her early teens, was considered some provocative gal, who deserved a one-ticket to New York City.  When 1920 came along, she was married up with Fitzgerald....fairly reckless (in terms of personal behavior), a heavy-drinker (yes, even in the Prohibition period), and a good example of the term "Alabama-crazy".

By age twenty-five, Zelda was having various issues with the husband, and with life. 

Around 1930, she went off to France, got examined by a mental health guy, and pronounced as being a Schizophrenic.  From that point, she was some clinic or hospital situation, and Fitzgerald was probably finished with writing at the level he was capable of doing.

By 1940, Fitzgerald was dead.  He'd died at age 44.....had two heart-attacks over the last decade of his life, and pretty much consumed as much alcohol as a man could consume.

As much as The Great Gatsby is a classic.....someone ought to write up the story of Fitzgerald and Zelda....it'd be just as much a classic. 

Zelda?  She died in the late 1940s....at age 47. 

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Mr Kim's World

I noted in news this week that North Korea's Mr. Kim has made up a new decree.  He's unhappy with folks getting festive in the Christmas season, so the rule handed down is: no gatherings of people that involve alcohol and singing.

Now, you can sit and imagine this type of rule, and how things would typically work in the holiday season.  It's not Christmas....if you erase or prevent alcohol consumption and Christmas songs in the background.

Growing up in the south, and in a dry county....we typically survived without any alcohol consumption for the Christmas holidays.  It wasn't that big of a deal.

I suspect that Mr. Kim tries hard to avoid festive-like occasions and music...of any type....would generally lead to happy people.  Maybe he might add.....if there are gatherings, it ought to be limited to six people maximum within a twenty-foot circle.  That would help to lessen festive occasions.  And you might go and suggest no muffins or chocolate. 

My guess is that he'll have to set some example and find a dozen folks who need execution, and accuse them of singing Jingle Bells while consuming Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

NPR 2.0 (My Version of a Reboot)

I can go back to the mid-1970s and remember the original content of NPR.  You actually got classic music, some jazz, literature readings, poetry, and some occasional bluegrass music. Then, in the early 80s....they started off to some other trend.  For me, if I were driving around at lunch....I might turn NPR on and listen to it, but they've lost me for the most part.

What I'd like to see?

6:00 A full hour of legislative matters in the House and Senate.  Explain what bills are coming up and what bills failed. 

7:00 Farm news hour.  Anything of a rural nature, relating to farms and rural business situations.  Bring in some PhD guys to talk about livestock, and crops.  Bring in a brewery guy to talk about garage beer creations.  Interview some bio-fruit people.

8:00 Medical hour.  Hire up four medical experts and have a morning round-table to discuss reports, health issues, and new innovations.  Bring on a nurse to talk about weird school health issues.  Talk about cancers and treatments. 

9:00 Jazz for an entire hour.

10:00 Great literature readings from the 1700/1800 era.

11:00 Business hour.  Have another round-table of four Wall Street guys to talk about what's hot in the news.

12:00 National news hour.

13:00 Classical music hour.

14:00 History hour (have four PhD history guys line up and tell some story over history).

15:00 Opera music hour.

16:00 Bluegrass Hour.

17:00 National news hour.

18:00 Four random folks interviewed hour.  Just go and pick out four random people (barbers, truckers, diesel mechanics, NCAA football refs, zoo-keepers, muffler-guys, etc) and ask them random questions.

19:00 1920s/1930s Radio Mystery hour.

20:00 More bluegrass.

21:00 Great literature readings from the 1900s.

22:00 Science Fiction Readings

23:00 Sign off

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Tick Story

It came out recently in the world of paleontology, that they've got a bit of amber, which has a 99-million year old tick....holdingonto a feather of a dinosaur.

So there is some minor belief that you might be able blood locked into the tick, and you might be able to do some fancy work with DNA.....thus bringing back dinosaurs.  Well....an awful lot of fancy work.

One can sit and fantasize about this idea.

Would you even want to go and recreate this situation?  Is it dangerous?  Would some idiots go and try to sell these to the general public?  Would the UN go and try to forbid something like this?  There are a thousand things to ponder over an idea like this.

I would speculate that if they produced just one of these....it'd crank up an entire industry, and you'd have forty different DNA projects going on within a decade to reproduce various creatures.  I just don't see this being positive.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Ten Things You Get Out of the Moore-Jones Event

1.  To be blunt, no one really cares what Charles Barkley thinks about....outside of basketball.  If you ask most Alabamians who Charles Barkley is....less than 10-percent will say retired basketball player.  His comments on the election (negative as they are about Moore)?  No one cares.

2.  To suggest any Alabaman is 'stupid' by voting for Moore?  Boy, you just invalidated your whole argument and you probably won't get invited to supper, or be offered any ice tea while visiting.

3.  By withholding this story (as WaPo did) and intending to dump it only four weeks prior to the election....the WaPo staff have made themselves appear to be provocateurs....not journalists.

4.  All that money thrown into the Democrats strategy?  Well....it flushed down into the TV networks and was appreciated.

5.  View of this underage dating business?  All legit, and considered normal by Alabama standards up until the last twenty years.  Trying to suggest otherwise to some folks over the age of forty?  They just laugh at you because they know young ladies who married at age 14 and 15 to guys who were twenty to thirty years old.

6.  The Shelby-pretender.  Most folks have an amusing opinion of Senator Shelby at this point.  He has virtually no chance of running again, and most folks suggest he's not really a Republican.

7.  All of this mess?  Created by Bentley and Strange.  You can ask a hundred folks where this mess started, and the majority will start with some lusty tale about Governor Bentley, and the corrupted mess in Montgomery.

8.  Worthy of a epic Forest Gump-movie?  Most folks would say yes.

9.  Is Moore a nut?  Well....most Alabama folks will say he's a bit of a nut, but we all seem to forgive folks like this for being a bit crazy.

10.  This is one of those stories that Alabama folks will sit and talk about for years and years....some saga on how Moore won, or how Strange really lost out in the primary, or how Jones got an extra 10,000 votes to win.  For general store conversation, it's maxed out. 

The Ball Plan

It's one of those sports stories that you have to laugh about.  A few weeks ago....three NCAA basketball players from the west coast....went to China for some games.  They shop-lifted while there, and got arrested.  They couldn't leave China until President Trump got involved.  Then when they did get back to the college.....well....they were kinda suspended.  The college doesn't appear to have any desire to give them much of a second chance.

One of the players....LiAngelo Ball (son of LaVar Ball)....finally added up the problems and left college (UCLA). 

Dad sat there reviewing everything....knocking Trump several times for commentary that the kid should appreciate what Trump did. 

Today, the Ball family announced what LiAngelo would do next.  It's an odd deal.  The other son....LaMelo (in high school) announced that he was quitting high school (odd decision too).  Both kids are now signed up with a semi-pro league in....Lithuania.  The team  Prienai, Lithuania.

Prienai?  Well....yeah, it's a town of roughly 9,800 residents.

The team?  BC Prienai.  They've been around for about twenty years, and play in the Baltic League.  Their arena?  Prienai Arena.  It was built around six years ago, and holds 1,500 fans.

What this whole Ball-family move to Prienai adds up to?

Most basketball teams in Europe over the past decade have really grown their game, and they really don't care to be baby-sitters.  You got a drug problem, an alcohol problem or attitude problem?  Fine, go home....we don't need you.  I would compare about one-third of the clubs in Europe today as being almost at the level of the better NCAA teams.  In another decade, I expect the majority of clubs (maybe 75-percent) to be as good as the average NCAA team. 

The Ball boys?  There's some advantages to being in a small town like Prienai.  No stress.  No major journalists following them.  A chance to work out daily.  As for making a name for themselves?  Maybe.  But if neither kid expands their game or does much to attract more attention by the end of 2018....then their careers are finished.  They might stay around three or four years and be back-up players in the NBA eventually, but the chance to be starters in the NBA will diminish by the end of 2018 if they don't show improvement. 

I'm not going to suggest 'dad' is stupid here, but the odds of all three Ball kids making it into the NBA are statistically very low.  There's obviously no plan 'B', and I feel sorry for both of these kids thrown into the middle of Lithuania and trying figure into some plan without good odds. 

A Suggestion of Patterns

I sat and looked over this graphic today.  It does make sit and ponder 'patterns'.  

Saturday, 9 December 2017

That New Mexico Shooting

“Work sucks, school sucks, life sucks, I just want out of this s--t.”

-- William Atchison

This week....the twenty-one year old William Atchison wandered into his old high school....Aztec HS, New Mexico, and shot two students before killing himself in the bathroom of the building.

From all reporting done, it doesn't appear that he knew either kid that he shot.  They were just random picks.

News analysts spent a fair amount of time on the shooting, but the truth of the matter is that it was at best a eight-line story.  He had a legal weapon, and he had no real police record.  Nut-case?  No one suggests that...he probably was maxing out on depression at a ten, but that won't get mentioned much.

Classified as a mass shooting?  No....by FBI standards, you need four folks dead, and in this case...while he did shoot himself as well in the end, that only adds up to three folks.

I have this theory that a fair number of shooters are nut-cases....maybe in the forty-percent range.  Some are people who are drugged up and unable to account for their actions, and then there's this last group who are plain tired of life (suicidal). 

In the old days, you'd reach some desperation stage and just go off to handle the suicide by yourself....not involving other people.  There is some trend going on where people think that they need others involved for some odd reason.  Maybe it's the thought that people should have helped you or that some folks prevented you from reaching success in life. 

Making a law to halt this behavior?  Go for it.  People in this stage of thinking don't readily react to laws.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The UN Dude

Once in a while, I'll notice a Alabama story which draws me to ponder.

So it came out in the news today....that some UN (United Nations) dude is planning a trip to Alabama this week to investigate.....poverty, inequality and "barriers to political participation". 

I looked at the item....roughly 12 lines.

This guy....Philip Alston....says he will visit a couple of places (Puerto Rico, West Virginia, and California are mentioned) on this 'road-trip'.

Where he intends to stop in Alabama?  Lowndes County....down in the south central region of the state.

Based on comments, he's got some folks lining up his schedule and prepared to hype up their poor situation in life, while living in Alabama.

How exactly he will help to change the poverty and inequality?  Well....that's the thing.  He's basically a nobody.  He'll write some report which will bring tears to your eyes, but he's basically going out to stay in some nice Holiday Inn situations....eat some high quality food....travel business-class....and spend a fair amount of travel funds.

You can imagine these folks trying to line him up and their hype?  Well....we are so poor, and bad-off.  He will have sit there for hours while these folks hype up their negative status in life.  When he asks about the barrier to their political situation...he'll do his best to ask how evil the Republicans are in the state and is there any way we can get more folks signed up to vote....because the more that vote....the more likely they would go and fix all the problems that exist in the world. 

It would be interesting if some Alabama folks would take him over for a catfish dinner, some Friday night football, a sip of whiskey, and offer up some advice on car mechanics....but that just won't happen.

Taxes

It's one of those statistics that news folks tend to skip.....roughly 45-percent of Americans don't pay anything on federal taxes.  It adds up to around 77-million households. 

They might have made enough in some cases to require the form submission, but when you add up credits....they zero out.

Oddly, I can go back all the way to 1978 and remember submitting my tax form in the spring of that period for five months of pay with the Air Force....feeling silly to waste time on filling out the form and to admit a total pay situation of roughly $5,000.  That was the only time in my life where I paid nothing.  I looked at the refund check as simply a 'gift'. 

I sat there in 1979....a year later, and figured I'd just repeat the whole episode, and that $400 of pre-paid tax-money would ALL come back to me.  I was wrong....I still ended up paying roughly $180 that year in taxes. It was an amazingly low amount of money but it just made no sense.

Are these 77-million households avoiding all taxes?  No.  They still meet up with property, car and sales taxes.  For a lot of them, they are still throwing a thousand dollars a year toward their state government in various ways.

If you think about this....no one in America is truly living a tax-free lifestyle.  Either through the federal folks, the state folks, or sales-taxes...you are paying into some pot.  It's virtually impossible to skip out entirely. 

Replacement for Conyers Topic

The 13th District of Michigan comes up in the news this week.  John Conyers, because of his harassment situation....will end up retiring.  So the seat will come up for 'action'.

The 13th District is 100-percent Detroit....roughly 705,000 residents....roughly 33-percent white and 55-percent black.  A typical election (every two years) would circle around 180,000 total votes cast, with Conyers typically winning with 85-percent of the vote.  In 2016, Conyers actually faced the toughest competition he's ever seen (he started in 1964 with 84-percent that year)....with the GOP guy getting almost 20-percent.

It's just about impossible for a Republican to win in the city election.

At this point, some folks are sitting there and looking at how this replacement game will run, and it gets pretty interesting.

First, John Conyers wanted his son to assume the seat.....John Junior.

Second, there's the nephew who has made a name for himself in state politics, and he says he will be running....Ian.

Third, Coleman A. Young....the 'secret' (illegitimate) son of the former mayor of Detroit says he will be running. He's actually been active in politics and done a number of speeches.  He actually tried running for the mayor's job but got beat out there.

Brenda Jones....the city council gal.

Benny Napoleon....the sheriff from Detroit.

Rashida Tlaib...politically active Muslim gal who is term-limited within the Michigan House of Representatives.

After that, there's maybe five or six others....but they don't have the traction like these six.

In a way, it's fairly odd election....all of the six are Democrats.  Each has some career role and can show their path.  The question is....if you shuffle up the 180,000 likely Democratic voters of the district, who are the likely final two?  Can Young use his name to captivate voters?  Can Tlaib find 40,000 votes from the Muslim crowd in Detroit to step up and get into the final primary?  Can Napoleon captivate voters with his speeches?  Can John Junior get dad to help in the election?  Can Ian Conyers find enough votes?

Might be an election worth watching.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Witch-Trials and Their Significance

My brother brought up the topic of 'Salem Witch Trials' today, and how most folks have no memory or a marginal amount of knowledge over them....when comparing it to the Moore episode in Alabama.

For the twelve years of school that I attended in Alabama....I think the total number of times that the 'Trials' were mentioned were probably twice.  If you gleaned the history books used....it usually amounted to eight to twelve lines.  The attempt by the teacher to explain this?  It would have come across to the group as nuclear science.

After the high school years....I went off and had the luxury of the University of Maryland, Louisiana Tech University, and Pierce Community College.  The topic of the Salem Witch Trials likely came up on one solid occasion and the lecture guy actually did spend thirty minutes laying out the basic story.  It was better than nuclear science explanations....but really didn't do justice to the story.

So a decade or so later.....I picked up two or three books and read through the entire episode and branched out....because it's more broad than folks think.

You can go back all the way to 451 BC and find locals in Greece who were open to the idea of blaming crop failures on bad spirits and pretender-witches.

You can go to 186 BC in Rome and find regulations already existing on how to handle witches.

After Christianity was introduced throughout the Roman Empire, the idea spread.  At some point around the 1100s, in Hungary....the King actually wrote out a regulation to halt witch-hunts because he just plain admitted....witches don't exist.  Folks didn't easily buy off on that.

In the mid-1200's, the Pope tried to stop all this business....also saying....witches don't exist.  That wasn't easily grasped by the general public.  Around two hundred years later, another Pope stood up and said yes.....we need witch trials because they exist.

In the 1500s and 1600s, throughout Europe, the trials took off and were a fairly regular thing.  I live around 15 miles from an area (Idstein) where the trials were regularly held in the fall, and some folks had to be killed to make folks happy.  In that town, they tended to kill women,  about eight to one over men.  No one could ever explain why women were often the chosen folks for these episodes.

In the Salem witch episode?  Around February of 1692, some accusations started the locals off on a mission with purpose.  You can safely say that this was...even before the accusations....a fractured town, with people trying to get into each other's business.

In the year prior, that had been some heated church-talk in the region by Cotton Mather (a Billy Graham-like character who could preach for hours and hours) on potential witchcraft, and this got people all hyped up.

So, two kids (nine and eleven) made the act of this....going into violent fits.  I think this was mostly to entertain folks but these locals actually took this serious.  This drew out some minister, who viewed the two girls, and he claimed that they were under the influence of the devil.  A couple of other young ladies then acted out the same way.

All of this led to three folks being detained and blamed for witchcraft.  There's no logic or sense to this.....just that locals needed to bring this quickly to a closure.

A month later, a couple of other young ladies were dragged in and were identified for witch business.

By early summer, court action was now underway and a prosecutor of sorts had to determine the intent of the devil here.

By mid-August, five folks were executed.

In September, around 18 other folks were dragged in and accused.  One of them was a guy who they asked him to plea and make an admission....while they put heavy rocks on his chest.  He eventually died from the weights on his chest.

By January of 1693, things were on a roll....more convictions.  Then, the Governor got involved and started to pardon folks.  In a way, he knew they were all unfocused and unable to grasp what was going on.

By early summer of 1693, the last court episode occurred, and everyone got 'sane'.

What you can typically say is that the witch trials were all based on some fake evidence, which got the general public all churned up and hyper.  The public at that point....could not grasp the landscape or understand the actual laws.  They just wanted a no-witch atmosphere, and were willing to kill to reach that point.

You would think that this would be a five-day detailed review in high school, with things laid out in detail.  Yet, no history teacher really wants to spend any time covering the topic.

Alabama and Moore

By midnight on the 12th of December, the Senate race in Alabama will be over.  Most folks (99-percent I think).....will say that it was the most entertaining race in their lifetime,.  Some will say that they'd like to see this yearly....strictly as entertainment.  So, my ten observations over this episode:

1.  Jones, the Democrat, never stood a chance.  If he'd been a Blue-Dog Democrat....lesser theatrics by the women involved...and someone other than Moore, he might have won.

2.  Of all the six-million characters in the state....to throw young-gal 'mud' at someone....the wrong character to pick upon and figure he'd collapse his election and just quit?  Moore would have been the last person to pick upon.  On the Alabama stubbornness scale, from one to ten.....Moore pushes a '12'.

3.  When the national comedians and talk-show folks jumped into this and felt that their gimmick would shift votes?  Oh, they were way-off in understanding the character of Alabama folks, and that people stay up at night to watch their late shows. 

4.  The power of the Baptist vote in the state?  Proven yet again....that it matters.

5.  Mitch anxiety among Alabama folks?  You can gather ten GOP-likely voters in a general store, and likely get some fairly negative comments uttered by six of them over Mitch McConnell. 

6.  That corrupt GOP image out of Montgomery, and left-over feelings about Governor Bentley?  Yes.  I would say a third of the outcome here for Moore....was anger about Luther Strange and his gimmick relationship with Bentley.  Without Bentley's lusty relationship and the whole deal worked out?  I think that Strange would have appeared somewhat clean, and Ivey would have allowed him to stay in DC.

7.  The black vote.  Well....if the Democrats had gone out and recruited early on some black candidate....I think it might have mattered on voting, and put another 250,000 votes up for their guy.  But this was not that type of race.

8.  The change in polling from three months ago and today?  None.  Polls that kept saying Moore was down?  Wrong. 

9.  Is Moore crazy?  I'd guess that 60-percent of GOP voters would say they'd prefer someone else, but it was Moore or Strange.  That's how we got to this point.

10.  Folks wanting to unseat Moore in DC?  Ask yourself....what exactly of an illegal thing, has Moore done?  Can you prove this point?  Want to drag the ladies up to DC and discuss their sexual escapes for public consumption?  You'd just be begging for trash talk by the public. 

Understanding the Flynn Situation

So, when some FBI idiot comes up and requires a statement out of you in the process of an interview, and then has a paper for you to sign at the end (attached to the tape of the interview)....you either don't answer particular questions, or admit all.  The third choice of lying?  That's precisely what Flynn got into trouble about.  If he had declined to answer their question on the contact with a Russian government official (not a lobbyist or plain-vanilla citizen of Russia), he would still be in some minor trouble.  But in this case....he just plain lied.

What else?  Nothing.

If you remember....there is some type of relationship between Flynn and Turkey's Erdogan.  There is a suggestion led by the press that Erdogan asked Flynn to possibly arrange for the kidnapping of Gulan (the arch-nemesis of Erdogan).....residing in the US.  This story has not been proven.  If true, Flynn....if he had taken steps to plan the kidnapping....would be in bigger trouble.  I doubt that the FBI has any evidence of this, and it was all just plain chatter.

Anything leading to trouble of Trump?  No....that's the amusing thing.  I realize 10,000 journalists and political folks are all hyped up, but there is virtually nothing illegal in folks talking to foreign citizens, Saudis, Russians, etc.  If promises were made, prior to the election....maybe this might be viewed in some illegal fashion.  But then selling uranium off to Russians, after their donations to the Clinton Fund occurred....would be awful high up on the list of stupid and illegal things. 

Friday, 1 December 2017

The Matt Lauer-New Zealand Problem

There's an odd story following the firing of Matt Lauer of the Today Show (for sexual harassment).

Somewhere early in 2017....a property came up for sale in New Zealand (south isle).  It's a 26,000 acre sheep-ranch....referred to as 'Hunter Valley'. 

If you go and pull up the map....along the western side of the south isle, are a ton of mountains and in the middle of this range is this lake (Lake Hawea).  Highway 6 runs along the western end of the lake, and this ranch basically sits on the whole (emphasize WHOLE) western end of the lake.  The dirt road out from Highway 6 to the actual ranch house?  It's at least five miles....maybe even going on seven miles.

Based on the newspaper accounts, it'd been run for years by a New Zealand couple and they put it up for sale, and Lauer bought it in March....for around 10-million USD (more or less).

Locals came immediately upon the sale and had negativity.  First, it was another foreigner (something that gets discussed alot by New Zealand folks these days).  Then came this issue of access.  The old owners had allowed some limited access.....mostly for bike races and special events. But for the most part, the dirt road was not a public road.  They wanted Lauer to agree on full open access, and that wasn't forthcoming.  The dirt road ownership?  Well.....it's a private road....not a state road.

As for civilization?  Well, that's another funny part of this story.  Where this ranch house and property exists....there's nothing else there.  Here's the lake on one side and a snow-capped mountain on the other side, and tons of sheep.  If you wanted zero stress, limited contact with humans, and solitude?  Well....this is the place..

Looking for a gas station?  The nearest one to the gate of the property....is twelve miles away.  Looking for a grocery? You can figure roughly a 45-minute drive from the house to a real grocery (not a general store).  The local 'city'?  Wanaka.  If you'd gone there thirty years ago, it was purely ranch property, cafe or two, maybe two or three stores, and a few houses.  Today, it's near 6,500 residents....with a number of hotels and lodges.  Yeah, a lot of tourists come through and stay for a couple of days because of the scenic lakefront and glaciers off in the distance.

What was Lauer's intention here?  Unknown.  Maybe he was going to retire there.  Maybe he would have opened up a lodge of his own.

The problem now?  Well....to get residency and thus full ownership....you need to pass a character-test.  Yeah, those sneaky New Zealand folks decided that with the foreigners coming in....someone needs to check people out.  Well....Lauer was fired for sexual harassment.  Apparently, the audit crew in New Zealand thinks this needs to be reviewed.  The odds of a purchase being halted?  At this point, it's an unknown.  The fear factor here is that Lauer might end up losing his the purchase deal  and be refused residency.

An odd problem?  Well, one might get the idea that he had some retirement plan in his mind for three or four years in the future, and the sheep ranch thing with almost no civilization around?  Well...yeah, it's just an odd idea.