Thursday, 29 November 2018

A Fake Story?

I sat today reading over the story from the London Guardian.....that suggests that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort met privately with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.  Three times, I should note.

Manafort?  He says it's totally fake and suggests that he will take legal measures....to sue the Guardian. 

So how did the Guardian suggest this story?  The comment is one single “well-placed source.”

The three meetings?  2013, 2015 and 2016. 

Did they occur?  Well....the only single source that might have some legit say...would be the Ecuadorian Embassy.  The British police?  They might have some team sitting there 24-hours a day and monitoring the place.....but to identify all of those who enter?

The only explanation on how the Guardian knows this stuff?  Bond, James Bond.  He was standing across from the embassy on all three occasions waiting for "M" to arrive to have an Ale and get new instructions, and he happened to see Manafort enter. 

The odds that someone fed the Guardian some fake story.....to lead Mueller on a wild-goose chase?  They'd have to go and get Assange in on this situation....then Assange leave the embassy with the US demanding to grab him.  Then Assange would spend six months leading Mueller on....with some suggestion that he might know something.  A deal would be made.....no charges on Assange, with US residency allowed.  Then Assange lowers the 'boom'.....there were no visits. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Understanding the GM Decision

Go take an hour's drive around any rural or urbanized community.  Count the more modern vehicles (less than eight years old)...divide them into the category of sedan, truck, SUV, or crossover.  The bulk of cars you see fit into trucks, SUVs, or crossover vehicles.  Where you do find sedens....it's high-end type....sporty models....Asian models (Japanese or South Korean), or normal US-made sedens driven by folks over the age of fifty. 

GM set up a strategy and stuck to it.....the customer base?  They went to something else over the past decade.

When they did try to build a seden.....they scored marginal point with pieces of crap like their Impala model (loads of noise, jolts on every bump, poorly designed seats, etc). 

If you went to some eighteen year old kid who will graduate this year from high school, and they'd like to get a new car for college coming up.....it won't be a US seden. 

Should they have realized this impact back around 2010?  I suspect that the statistical crowd was telling them every quarter that they had a problem, and they refused to change their strategy. 

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Discernment

There are a hundred skills to develop in life (being able to handle finances, resilience, critical thinking, empathy, handling stress, etc)....but I tend to rank discernment as the one skill you need to have some capability over by age 18, and hopefully have a fair amount by age twenty-five.

Discernment is where you are faced with an issue/problem....prioritize the situation, and opt for the best possible solution (maybe not the perfect solution).  Basically, it's wisdom being utilized to resolve something.

Can a school or university teach or lay out discernment?  I'd argue that unless you end up in a class of logic-thinking or some history course where you have to debate events as part of the grading process....you won't find this as a school offering.

The problem is that you need people with discernment talents.  You need some to look at something and admit that the program or project is doomed and will never work.  You need a guy who can tell you why your life-plan needs work.  You need discernment skills to tell you that the $80k being spent on some crappy worthless degree is a waste.  You need this type of thinker to point out the dangers of partying after midnight at a honky-tonk with thugs is stupid. 

 You would think some college would go out and start a course in this....related to logic or philosophy....and entice young people to develop this skill. 

Postcard From My Trip

One of the things I admired while in South Africa was this twenty-old 'jeep' that a couple were using to transit South Africa. 

Their 'drive' was settled around six months of just driving through every single inch of the country, and into some rough vallies. They had the tool-kit, the camping gear, the grub, and all the necessities of life. 

They had the gear to camp out, and occasionally stay in a hotel or B/B.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s....you could have done this and had zero fear except for lions or snakes.  Today?  With all the violence and criminal activity....it's generally unwise.

There used to be people in the US who'd go and do some three-month period of adventure trek, and live out of a jeep for weeks.  Today, it's rare. 

On Tear-Gas

I sat and watched some news piece this morning over the crowd at the Texas border, and the use of tear-gas.  The journalist (safe to say they were awful supportive of the migrant guys)....laid out this terrible in-humane use of tear-gas.  After sixty seconds of their chatter, you had this feeling that it was the 'end of the world' for these people who'd been hit with the tear-gas.

I sat over this.

Around in January of 1978 (six months into my enlistment into the Air Force), I was in-processing through the last part of Rhein Main's introduction period, which meant a half-day of fake combat training (my term for it).  You had to be able to grasp the wearing of the chem-warfare suit, and there was this three-hour period where they talked about the terrible things which would occur if war started up and the Soviets used chemical warfare. 

Then came this brief one-hour introduction to the gas-mask, and a visit to the 'room'.  You basically entered with a group of five folks and the instructor....with the full-up mask on.  The instructor had some tear-gas capsule set off, and he wanted you to take the mask off....count to three....then put the mask back on. 

You got a pretty good 'huff' of tear-gas.  Then he let you leave the chamber.  It was one of those miserable experiences that you disliked, and repeated every twelve months, for the next 18 years.  Toward the last three years in the Air Force, I found various ways to skip out and miss the training episode.  So I probably did at least fifteen of these tear-gas episodes. 

I kinda look at the journalist hype and just start laughing.  It's harsh stuff, but it won't kill you.  If you don't like tear-gas....don't get into some stupid environment where it's going to be used. 

Sunday, 25 November 2018

DNA Story

It's an interesting science piece from the Brit Daily Mail.....which discussed DNA discoveries, and the likely history of mankind.

Scientists went and took DNA samples from 100,000 animals, and to include humans in the 'test'.  Conclusion?  Roughly 250,000 years ago...something of a major consequence occurred, with ONLY one set of parents left for the humans, and roughly 90-percent of the animal breeds (across the globe).  That one set of parents....reignited life on Earth.

The scientists in this project?  More or less shocked....every single theory that they had on evolution...now, more or less, tossed out the door. 

Questions?  Thousands of them.

The last big enormous event to wipe out most life on Earth.....was 65 million years ago (that killed off the dinosaurs finally, or at least they believed that).  So was there another big wipe-out in the range of 250,000 years ago?  No one has ever suggested that.

The Noah story?  Well....the problem here is that you have various lands which weren't land-connected and animals would not have crossed over to re-populate regions.

So you end up alien-Joe and alien-Francis, who arrived and reset the balance of things on Earth.....that's my theory.  Various animals were dumped off in certain areas, and the world was given some kind of chance number 2. 

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

If I Were Going to Make the White House Press Rules

I'd have a list of ten rules for press behavior:

1.  Your question can't be longer than 20 words.

2.  If your question can't be understood by the typical average American, I'd ask you to rephrase it.  If it take three requests to rephrase it, and they all fail my 'typical' test....then we skip you and move on.

3.  You have to stand....state your name and press organization, then render the question, and finally sit as I respond.

4.  The phrases 'don't you think' or 'haven't you thought' won't be used.

5.  Any ridicule of the President or personal criticism.....renders your press pass void for two weeks.

6. Tie and suit required.

7.  I'd only do the conference on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

8.  If you attempt to make a speech (going two full minutes of chatter) as part of some fake-question....my answer will be for you  'Dallas Cowboys' (every single time).

9.  At the end of each week, I would hand out a 'Jean-Claude Van Damme' award for most dramatic journalist of the week (to signify overacting or bad-acting).

10.  The first row and priority questions would go to newspaper journalists of small towns in rural areas of the US.  They would get the first three questions.

Monday, 19 November 2018

Zucker in Freefall

This week, it looks more and more like Mark Zuckerberg will end getting fired from Facebook as the CEO.  His capital investment?  It's still there and he's still got a hefty amount of money.  But the loss of status, and a zeroed-out CEO pay-situation?  It would make things a bit more interesting.

The odds of catching on as CEO with another company?  I think it's near zero percent.

The odds of getting another Facebook-like idea?  Zero percent.

The odds of some political career?  Zero percent.

His value at 70-odd billion dollars?  At some point, Facebook is going to evolve and fall into some lesser value scale (maybe not 2019, but definitely in the next five years). 

My gut feeling is that he goes through 2019 and sells half of the Facebook stock and buys some newer player in the APP market, and tries to make some comeback in 2020 or later.  Who knows....he might even show up in Europe and try to pick up several developmental companies and try to evolve on his Facebook concept. 

My Suggestion For a New TV Series

There's so much 'crap' loaded on the networks these days....that you really go begging for shows to watch.  Reinventing?  Well....why not go to another different scenario?

One of the ten great characters of all time, was 'Cliff' from Cheers.  Cliff was the postal guy who seemed to live out of the bar....knowing virtually everything in life but rarely telling you his life story. 

So my idea is this....instead of using Cliff for Cheers at age 47.....retell Cliff's situation in life at age thirty.

Cliff was this guy who got the postal job at 18 but rarely showed up to work, yet never got missed.  In his part-time, he attended (without paying, naturally) various college classes and lectures.  At some point, he puts on a suit and sets up fake lectures at the university....pretending to be some PhD guy, and has the lecture hall filled to capacity.  Eventually, the university figures all this out, being highly embarrassed at the accomplishments of the fake Cliff professor.....then decides to give Cliff a PhD under the table if he just quietly leaves. 

Cliff returns to the real postal world and can't find happiness in a full-time work capacity.....so he drinks a good bit to make up for his situation in life. 

Carl's Imaginary World

I sat and read through a piece which quoted DC journalist Carl Bernstein a good bit.  The commentary?  Carl says that the cable news networks ought to stop broadcasting White House press conferences and briefings in their entirety.  Reason?  Carl says they are merely "propagandist exercises."

I sat and pondered over Carl's commentary.

With the exception of ESP*N.....I can't think of any network that has carried the entire WH press conferences in their 45 to 60 minute version.  The ABC/CBS/NBC folks will splice a 2-minute piece for their nightly newscast with three minutes of commentary or attached 'extra' political chat.

The CNN folks might have three or four clips that they run....but they rarely if ever will carry an entire press conference.

So what is Carl talking about?  I think he's imagining that various networks carry the full WH press conference.  Yes....a rather fake comment about an imaginary event that simply doesn't happen.

This is another reason why I think journalism is worthless today.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

After the Santa Monica Fires

If you owned a 10-million dollar home, and it burnt to the ground with just about every single one of your 500 neighbor's houses.....then the insurance guy came around and basically played his game of 'delay' and your insurance didn't amount to more than four-million....would you rebuild?

This is one of those debate questions. Most normal folks would look at the possible repeat statistics and the marginal forest management that helped make this a mega-fire, and then gaze at their California tax situation.....then finally make this decision to pack up and leave. 

I doubt if it will be discussed much in the news or public forums....but I would speculate that more than a hundred of these 'Hollywood' type folks will make a life decision to leave the Santa Monica region, and California itself.

Most will want a great landscape and some privacy....but this is stuff that you can find in Flagstaff, Arizona or some coastal town west of Portland, Oregon. 

So the burnt sites end up being on the real estate market?  Quietly, in roughly four weeks....I think a site or two each week will pop up, and some pop-rocker will swiftly move up....pay the $3-million for a burnt-out lot with four acres attached to it, and start construction. 

My 2020 Election Scenario

This essay discusses the likely November 2020 Presidential election, and the scenario of President Trump running a second time.

Generally, after the election wraps up.....the fate of the election is then tied to electoral votes.  The Electors would meet in their individual state capitals, on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December.  The Constitution then states that they would cast their votes on separate ballots....for one occasion only....for president and vice president.  If they fail to reach the 270 point, then the whole affair using the Electoral College is finished, and you move onto plan 'B'.

I would suggest that the ultimate strategy now developed by the Democratic Party....is to use the court system, the fragile voting system in a number of states, and simply stall by judge's decree the meeting on that Monday.  If they can't deliver their vote.....the Electoral College doesn't matter and it won't bring us a President.

Plan 'B'?

There would be a joint session of the House/Senate on the 6th of January, with the new incoming House/Senate normally blessing off the electoral vote winner.  In this case, there is no winner.  So they would proceed with the game plan.

The House would then go into a meeting, with each state group, and take up the top three vote-getters of the election.

In the case of Alabama....the seven House members would meet (six GOP and one Democrat) and they'd hold a 'state-vote'. 

The Senate would go into a meeting and vote with the top two vote-getters for Vice-President.  Each individual would have one single vote.....it would not be a state by state thing. 

The Senate would likely end their meeting in two hours, with a few speeches in the middle of this mess.

The House?  Several states would be able to block any vote because it's split (same number of GOP and Democratic members).  A key rule in this episode?  Delegates from two-thirds of the states must be present to start the process.  The winner?  You need 26 states to vote for the winner.

I would suggest the strategy here is to reach 6 January 2021, and ensure that the 26-number cannot be reached.

Who stands as the sub-president in this case?  The Senate picked-VP.  He will take the oath to fill in the position.  The intent of the Constitution is that some decision would be eventually reached (hopefully before 20 January).  If the Senate fails?  Well....the House Speaker takes the oath and serves as sub-president.

So, my humble belief is that this is the game-plan and we will reach 20 January without the House being able to conclude their job. 

Disgruntled voters?  It'll be a massive negative situation and likely shake the foundations of the republic.  But it'll be the only way that the Democrats can prevent a second term (if Trump runs). 

How the states stack up in 2019?  Once seated, there would be a 26 state hold for Trump.  So you have to wonder about the House election in November 2020, and if judges can step into the middle of results (like in Florida) and run out the Electoral College clock.  If the judges could then stall the seating of twenty-odd GOP House members?  Well....you'd get to 20 January and the VP becomes the temp-President. 

Friday, 16 November 2018

Why Vote-Counting is Difficult?

It's pretty simple....everything flipped over when we went to common-core math, and the folks over age 35 can't count in this mathematical system.  So we need to search Georgia and Florida....for nine-year-old kids....who can handle this, with a six-pack of Mountain Dew to start them off, and some Ms Watkins (the incompetent math teacher) to lead the group. 

Course, at the end of the six-week period with all the common-core math counting.....it's possible that we started out with 455,000 people voting and the common-core counting results suggest that 555,000 votes are in the bucket.  But with common-core....it's all fine. 

Thursday, 15 November 2018

The 'Right' to News?

When you dig down into this court episode brewing with the CNN reporter (Acosta) and the Trump White House....it really amounts to the question of a right existing....to news.  Or that news reporters have the right to sit in some room. 

So you start to think about it, and the longer you ponder.....the more amused you become.

There is no right to news.  There is a right to a free and open press, but no one has ever spoke to this concept in that way.  Usually, it meant you could type up a story and tell the story in your own fashion.  It didn't really mean that you were 'owed' a seat in some house, hall, or facility. 

How this will go?  Some judge might issue an order that the President has to give the CNN guy (Acosta a pass to enter the room), but since it's an executive facility....it's doubtful that the President will comply.  If it were a football stadium or banquet hall....then maybe the court might have some right. 

So this is mostly for show, and it'll be dragged out for six to twelve months.....just as a show item.  CNN?  They will find another reporter and put him in the Acosta spot.  What happens to Acosta?  That's really the curious question left to answer. 

Unwritten Laws

There are various unwritten laws that exist today.....which folks tend to gravitate over to....mostly because of logic and common sense.  So this is a list of twenty of these laws:

1.  Murphy's Law: Generally,  if something can go wrong....the odds are in the favor of that occurring.

2.  Sod's Law: Generally, as things are going wrong....it's best to just accept this as some accident or fate.

3.  The Ballpark Law: Generally, if you build it, they will come.  No one says who 'they' are, but just that they heard about you building something and need to check it out.

4.  The Indian Law: Generally, you can't ride a dead horse.

5.  The Whiskey Law: Generally, what whiskey cannot cure....there is no cure.

6.  The Septic Tank Law:  Generally, once you pull out the shovels, start planning on a 12-hour day and hope that the ground temperature is 32-degrees or more.

7.  The Baptist Chat Law: Generally, never engage in conversation with a Baptist enthusiast over wet-dry issues, Revelations interpretations, or houses of ill-repute (they usually want to know the location).

8.  The Handling of Delusional People Law: Generally, just about everything they say....didn't happen.  The landing of the UFO in their cornfield, the phone call from President Trump, and the girlfriend from Selma.....none of those events likely occurred.

9.  The Wal-Mart Law:  Generally, if they don't sell it.....you don't need it.

10.  The Food Poisoning Law:  Generally, a $6 bad case of food poisoning can occur with the same power and intensity.....as a $25 bad case of food poisoning.

11.  The Birmingham, Alabama Law:  Generally, there are cities and villages in Afghanistan which are safer after 10 PM at night to walk around, than within the city limits of Birmingham.

12.  The True Grit Law:  Generally, if you've fallen into a pit of snakes....things aren't likely to go well.

13.  The Diarrhea Law: Generally, if you consume a fair bit of booze nightly, eat high-content fatty food and excessive fruits, mix a hefty amount of dairy products into your diet, drink four or more cups of coffee each morning, enjoy eight slices of bacon each breakfast, and toss down two or three boiled eggs each morning....then you ought to expect extreme diarrhea by 9 AM.

14.  The Hurricane Law:  Generally, even if the President and Governor both encourage evacuation of areas on the beachfront due to an oncoming hurricane....there's pretty good odds that 3,000 Alabama folks would like to drive down and observe the hurricane first-hand (on the beach) because they've never seen such a thing before.

15.  The Thanksgiving Law:  Generally, no one ever loses weight from late November to early January.

16.  The Mennonite Law:  Generally, things stopped advancing around 1890.  If they'd just accepted 1918....they'd still be driving Ford Model T's today instead.

17.  The NCAA-Alabama Law:  Generally, the University of Alabama must fit into the final bowl selection process, unless some freak of nature has occurred.

18.  The Governor Bentley Law: Generally, if you hire up someone to be your closest advisor and some inappropriate lusty stuff goes on.....it's best that you don't get bugged or recorded talking about your 'feelings'.

19.  The Fork-in-the-Road Law:  Generally, if you've reach a folk in the road, with no map, no directions, no signs....it's best to ask the first guy riding a horse or mule down the road about where this path will take you.  It should not matter if he's a Republican or Democrat....a tobacco chewer....or wearing flip-flops.

20.  The Sandbag Law: Generally, if you've filled a hundred sandbags....you tend to reach a pondering stage asking yourself if maybe this just isn't the right place to live or camp upon.  By that point, it's really too late.

This Wine/Whine Argument

In recent days, the topic of US wine (typically meaning California quality) being equal to French wine....has come up (again).

So I'll walk into this discussion.  I'm not a wine connoisseur....but I have probably had over 1,500 glasses of wine in my life, from at least twelve countries.

First, you can go and find some really awful wine from France, Germany, and Italy.....which everyone will agree that you can't price the wine above 3 Euro (roughly 3.75 US dollars), and it's best to only use the wine for cooking purposes (like for a stew or chilli).

Second, I've had some really great Australian wine, but will admit that by the time you handle shipping costs to Europe....it's really overpriced.

Third, it's an odd thing to admit....but if you were looking for a decent red wine from Germany, and stacked against the same products from South Africa.....the South African red wine would win.  It's something about the soil....sunlight....and temperatures.  Germans don't like to admit it but quietly....most will say there is no way for them to compete.

Fourth, I suspect if you lined up forty 'regular' people (not the intellectual or connoisseur crowd) and laid out wines from across Europe, the US, and South Africa....I don't think anyone could really suggest a geographic location for what they were sipping.  They could say X is better than Y, but this would amount to a quality standard.

Fifth, this thing about Italian Lambrusco wine.  This is a red wine which typically ONLY comes from Mantua, Modena, Parma, and Reggio nell'Emilia (the central region of Italy).  I'm particular about Lambrusco, and would probably sip three or four glasses a day if given a chance.  It's generally cheap (rarely higher than four Euro (5 US dollars)....fairly sweet....and I might even suggest that it goes down like a alcoholic Ni-Hi grape soda.  The connoisseur crowd looks down up this wine.  But on a hot afternoon....you can't beat a chilled glass of Lambrusco unless you got some ice tea. 

So this Trump-talk that occurred and challenged up the idea that French wine might not beat California wine?  The California folks will point out various awards that they've won and that the vines themselves....are from Europe originally.  Same for South Africa.  Same for Australia and New Zealand.  In twenty years, I suspect that the vines will be put into place there in China, and also get them on the wine market situation.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

EU Army Chatter?

Chancellor Angela Merkel stood up and made a speech before the EU Parliament yesterday.  The main topic?

A sort of wild idea of hers....suggesting a EU Army.  The key phrase....NOT to be an alternate, but an ADDITION to NATO.

The news piece I pulled this from?  ARD, public TV new in Germany.....Channel One.

The amusing part of this piece (I watched the video clip)....as she gave this suggestion....there was a brief interruption and 'boos' taking place (not a lot but it was obvious).

So I sat and pondered over this comment and suggestion.  I have seven observations:

1.  To achieve this....you'd have to go and spend something greater than this 2-percent of GDP issue that currently plagues about twenty of the EU members (Germany and France are both having this same problem).  But let's be clear....you'd have to reach 2-percent and to really add any 'meat' to this EU Army existing....you probably are talking about a minimum of five-billion Euro a year from the 28 nations (oh, and lets remember that the UK won't be part of this deal after spring of 2019).  Can they whip out another five-billion Euro for this united EU deal?  Or would we go cheap....throw 500 million EU on the table and just run a 3,000 man tank and assault unit out of Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and France? 

2.  Could you sell the 27 remaining members (having taken the UK out) on this idea of spending on a EU Army?  I suspect you can only find seven to ten nations that really think this is a wise idea.

3.  The idea that NATO still continues to exist, and this EU Army is separate?  Go explain how this would work, and who would give the orders.

4.  Once you had this mechanism created....wouldn't the next step be to dislodge NATO and move the remaining European military units under the EU?

5.  Wouldn't President Trump take notice of this game and just start moving US troops out of Germany....perhaps to Poland?  Well....nothing really prevents him from doing so.  Even a Democratic House would only have a budget in hand to prevent him from doing so, but since the Senate won't go hand-in-hand with them.....there's likely no budget for the next two years.

6.  Who would be the director or general of such a EU Army?  Could they pack up and leave the NATO line of command and step into the EU line of command?  Could the EU declare some conflict but NATO refuse to get into it?

7.  Finally.....once you explain the extra cost feature to EU citizens...won't they go a bit 'nuts' and ask what the heck are they paying for? 

So I think this talk of Chancellor Merkels.....is mostly just chatter.  It won't go anywhere.  It sounds good on some university thesis project, but in real terms.....it's beyond their financial capability

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

“Make France Great Again!”

This afternoon, President Trump finally laid into France's President Macron.  Macron could have gone through the weekend and just hyped the end of World War I.....but no....he decided that via his intellectualism and brilliant gift for talking....he'd go and dump on President Trump.

So the Twitter comments came.  I suspect they were written out weeks ago in anticipation of this moment.

“There is no country more Nationalist than France.”

Then came “Make France Great Again!”

Here's the thing....if you go back to the France of the 1700s and through the Napoleonic era....France was this iconic society that thrived upon some great character of nationalism.  To be French....was some great achievement in life (at least French people used to believe that).

Since the 1940s?  There's been this odd 'loser' mentality bleeding over on society and an intellectual battle taking place to chip away at this great character of Europe. 

As for making "Make France Great Again"?  I suspect that MFGA will start to appear as bumper stickers and some younger French folks will pick up on this chatter.  Macron?  All he had to do was give some decent weekend speeches and he could have avoided this whole public spectacle.  Now he's gone and invited some Trump-like game to be played out on his front porch. 

The Fire Story

On the far northwest end of Los Angles, there's a massive suburb called Santa Monica.  It's maybe two miles by three miles in size.  Heading west....you got the ocean.  South and east....Venice Beach and Beverly Hills.  North....the hills and 'forests' (state parks and protected land).

The folks who live there....have money.  You can't really afford to live there unless you got some income level of $500,000 or more per year.

On the far north 'edge' of the suburb....this is where the real wealthy folks live....inches away from the state park, limited houses around you....everyone having some status of some type and semi-important in the entertainment industry.

This week, most of their houses caught on fire.  Blame will shift around....global warming will end up being the most utilized blame for the fire and massive destruction.

Here's the thing about this discussion, the fire, and the urbanization that has taken place.

The wealthy want a piece of property that is large....way out away from public viewing....with a magnificent view.  They will pay for that property.  You can list some three-acre lot for two-million-plus dollars and no one bats an eye.....they shell out the money and start building their mega-structure house.

Most folks with common sense would view this in a different way.  A kinda dry landscape with a few trees and a fair number of shrubs which have adapted to this weather landscape.  Various political positions taken to avoid cutting back on vegetation or clearing away the extreme dry or dead vegetation.  Everyone patting each other on the back for their pro-environment positions but no one sizing up the threat to their housing via fires.

All of these folks wanted risk.  They may not have recognized risk....but they signed up for massive risk.  Rebuilding?  More than likely but you have to figure....within thirty years, the possibility of your house burning down again will be better than 50-percent.  Insurance?  My guess is that as the companies pay out the hundreds of millions....they will review factors and decide that a 50-percent increase in yearly premiums will be necessary, and the risk-crowd will go ahead and pay the increased cost.

They wanted maximum risk....it's part of this game for the view and status-symbol lifestyle.


Monday, 12 November 2018

Ocasio-Cortez and DC Rent

I noticed a short story over the weekend where the NY City soon-to-be House Representative.....Ocasio-Cortez....did a chat and admitted that she's shocked at rental prices in DC, and won't be moving until she gets her first 'pay-check'.

So the basic truth is that if you wanted a decent two-bedroom apartment, in a guarded or secure building, with some privacy....it's going to be in the range of $2,400 (minimum).  This is the base cost for someone in her position, living within five miles of the capital building.  Going outside of the 'zone'?  If you made it around ten miles out, you might be able to get your rent situation down to the $1,500 range.

My guess is that she's going to 'accidentally' find someone who has a condo in the region and will be out-of-town most of the time, and they will sub-lease it to her for 'super-nice' price (maybe $1,000 a month).  Rigged-up?  More than likely, but no one conducts audits on Congress folks, and there's probably well over fifty of the House members who live in this type of arrangement.

This is one of the serious problems in procuring a seat in the House or Senate.  No one has ever conducted a survey of living arrangements of the Senate or House members, and they'd balk if you attempted one.  For a number of years....one particular US Senator lived out of a basement apartment of his chief-of-staff's home.  There's also the story of the one House member who slept in his office Monday through Thursday night, and flew back home each weekend (his wife balked at moving to DC).

If you go back historically, in the 1800s, a lot of the political folks stayed at boarding houses, and even shared beds with each other. 

But this brings out a weird question to ask Ocasio-Cortez....how did you survive in the NY City rent situation?  No one seems to ask that question.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

The Last Time That The US Came Uninvited to France

I sat and read over various comments by French President Macron today.  A day or two ago, he was suggesting that the EU needed to build up an Army to handle the potential threat one day from Russia, China or the US (hinting that we might invade).

Twice, the US has come over to France.

The first time, we were invited.  It was one of those grave and serious moments when a worn out British and French Army could not mount some major attack and end World War I.  You can go over the list of battles and the change of the war from the moment of arrival....it doesn't matter.  It ended in roughly eighteen months, and we quietly packed up and left.  We didn't stay.....we had no need to stay.

The second time, we were not invited.  To be honest, the French government in 1944 was dominated by the Germans, and there just wasn't going to be an invitation.

So we came on landing craft....upon a beach or two, and left young dead American GI's there upon the beach.  To be kinda honest, we ensured that there were a lot more dead German GI's than American ones. 

We didn't stick around the beach much or have a chance to really mingle with local Normandy folks (things were pressing for time and movement).

In six to eight weeks, we'd kinda crossed the French countryside....met a number of French people who seemed to want to hug us, offer up plenty of wine, and shed some tears over what had to be done.  For this type of business....you need rough men who are capable of going out into the night, and stormy weather....with a preoccupation to settle wrongs.  It's hard to find men like this, but we seem to have found enough to do the job.

When 1945 ended, the beaches of Normandy were silent....graves were dug....and memorials were being prepared. 

To be honest, I've traveled around a fair bit of Europe, and found that around regular working-class French folks....we Americans tend to be more like them....than our Brit cousins.  Course, with the French intellectual class.....it's not the same story. 

I look upon Macron's commentary as one delivered by someone with a political agenda and hyped to send a message.  The general public trend for Macron?  It's spiraled down since the election and he able has a 25-percent approval rating in the country. 

I think we can mostly all assure Macron....we have no real intentions of invading France.  Yeah, if some Nazi folks were to show up and things were going badly for the French....we'd probably find more landing craft, and stage another landing at Normandy, if required. 

Upon Reaching Age Sixty

I've made it to sixty years old.  There are ten things that I've come to observe....particularly over the past forty-odd years:

1.  There's probably five-percent of population reading, watching or listening to seventy hours per week of political drama via TV, radio, or internet.  These folks can name more political and journalist figures than Bible characters, and live/breathe by the actions that occur each single day. 

2.  The Braves can have a payroll of 82-million and yet still not make it to the World Series.

3.   You'd be better off spending six months in some Air Conditioning school, or plumber qualification course.....than attending most university degree programs (unless engineering or medical).  There are people actually borrowing in the range of $80,000 for a four-degree in English literature. 

4.  There's at least sixty hours a day via various networks on TV.....telling you something about the President of the United States.  In 1976, it might have been sixty minutes per day with the options that you had.

5.  In 1973, you tended to get the best low-down on local politics either at the barbershop or general store.  Today, the barber is usually some lady who wants to chat about the View, or man-problems.....with the general stores mostly all shut down.

6.  County fairs are still the best place to drop off a 12-year old kid for the afternoon, but he'll need $30 instead of $6.

7.  As a kid, there was one single McDonalds existing within a 25-mile radius.  Today, there's close to twelve of them.

8.  There's at least 300 women appearing on the various TV networks who I would deem harlot, jezebel, slut or 'loose woman'.....and no one says much about the increasing number.

9.  Around 1977, out of the Huntsville Airport....you could end up on a plane with 80-percent of the seats empty.  Today, most every single is filled.....course, you can still only go to Atlanta, Dallas or Chicago. And it's still curious that a can of Coke at the airport can run in the range of four dollars. 

10.  Probably the best burgers ever made, in the history of man, were produced at the Florence Pool Hall, on East Tennessee Street.  Whatever the mystery ingredient was.....is still unknown. 

Me and Musicals

Most Alabama guys are lucky in their life to have avoided any attendance at musicals or operas.....that's my humble opinion.  I've been more or less dragged off to five musicals in my life, which two were probably worth the effort, and the rest were something 'less than enjoyable'. 

So this past weekend, I ended up at the another musical.  The catch here, which I felt real positive about....this was 'Bat Out of Hell', which was supposed to feature a lot of Meatloaf's music (from the late 1970s).  It's a memorable album, which I tend to rate as one of the ten best albums overall to listen to. 

My wife and I showed up in Gelsenkirchen (2.5 hours north of the house) and had a whole weekend planned out of this. 

The musical?  It was basically a bastardization effort and they used maybe five or six of his tunes, then threw in some tunes for the musical to work.  Their background story?  Destruction of the Earth, a bunch of young punks, some romance between teens, some fighting with the authorities, and then some wrap-up.....with this Meatloaf music in the background.  I know.....it's pretty weird.

If they'd just come out and done twelve to fourteen of his tunes with no theatrics or jumping around....it would have been a fine show.  But they just couldn't do that. 

The audience?  Well....Saturday evening and only three-quarters of the seats filled.  Probably at least a hundred seats empty. 

Not to complain or nothing, but if you spoke up about some opera business in Alabama, it means you'd be going off to Nashville, and attending the Grand Ole Oprey, with some five-star tunes.  Here?  It's mostly some kind of tale over woes, marginal music, and a bunch of skipping around the stage. 

Friday, 9 November 2018

The Problem for a Antifa Dude

'Winston' (my name for a 20-year old kid in some college program somewhere)....has been sitting around classes and gotten enough chatter from Professor Wendy....that he believes he can right 'wrongs'.  To be honest, he's probably not sure about the 'wrongs' thing, but Professor Wendy says by protesting and getting ACTIVE....you can make a difference.

So one day...'Winston' shows up at some rally or downtown area, and some folks get hyped up to go and protest at some guy's house.  It's a right-wing guy of some type.  The crowd is convinced of the great deed they are going to accomplish.  Somewhere in the middle of this mess....'Winston' encounters 'Claude' the maintenance guy, who pulls out a baseball bat, and whoomps on 'Winston' and six others.

Broken bones, ribs, concussions, and in 'Winston's case....he's got some brain damage.  'Winston' probably won't be able to function as a member of society and will have the behavior of a six-year old kid for the rest of his life.

The court?  After seeing enough video of threats made by the crowd, they believe 'Claude' did the right thing in protecting himself and the owner of the house.

The sad thing here is that 'Winston' and literally hundreds of others are going to face off and find that there is a real situation where massive violent reaction will occur, and lives hang in the balance.

It's a sad end for guys like this.  They were hustled around by stupid college professors to believe something, and naive enough to believe anything told.  They could have led productive lives, and instead.....sit in some artificial 'battle' thinking they are saving the world. 

And the really sad thing is that there are literally thousands of 'Winston's' around in America....who will never lead productive lives. 

Thursday, 8 November 2018

'Rural' Versus 'Rural'

If you ever sit down with a guy from Alabama, among the 7,000-odd topics that you might get into (depth of septic tanks, best paint for barn roofs, copperhead snakes, failed camping trips, etc).....there is this PhD-level discussion that would consume an hour over the definition of 'rural'.

Regular folks will classify a junction of two roads....where a church, a cemetery, and a gas-station lay....as being only semi-rural.  Some will suggest that a junction of two roads....where one bank, a catfish restaurant, a Dollar-General store, two churches, and a cemetery....as being truly rural.  So there is a thought process going on and some folks want to define real rural...as just plain rural.

I grew up near a two-road junction, with a cemetery, two churches, and a farm-related-general store....which I tended to note as just plain and absolute rural.

On the opposite direction, about another half-mile was a road that passed along a creek, and this 'town' had around four churches, a cemetery, two gas stations, a barber shop, a catfish restaurant, a post office, and a general store (Ottos).  As much as one might want to define it as rural....it just never had that appeal.

Southerners get into discussions like this because some folks think they've got it 'rough', when they actually have a 'drive-up' burger enterprise, a Dollar-General, a cemetery, and three churches.  Then the next guy will lay out his woes as a kid, where they had only a run-down gas station (with leaking tanks), a beer-joint, a church, and a cemetery. 

This discussion appears to be getting less and less of a topic-item.  Today, that junction of two roads doesn't really matter.  Within a four-mile circle, there's likely two Dollar-General stores, a couple of gas stations, a honky tonk, a cellphone-satellite TV shop, and six to eight churches of various faiths.  People under the age of thirty?  They don't even size up rural status anymore.  In another thirty years....ruralness may not even matter. 

SNL, Pete Davidson, and the Crenshaw 'Joke'

Over the past weekend, I observed the Crenshaw 'joke' from Saturday Night Live from Pete Davidson.  I watched it one single time, and then had this fairly negative view of the joke, the intent, and the lack of responsibility.  So, this 'joke' and the whole SNL show thing has been on my mind.

I've come to three observations:

1.  In 1975, across the entire US.....there were probably a grand total of 300 true comedians (either doing stand-up, TV, or movies).  There might have been more....but these were folks were making a living and you tended to recognize.  

Today?  There's probably over 8,000 folks attempting to do comedy....either via stand-up, TV, or movies....of which the bulk of them...probably 90-percent...don't measure up to the 300 folks from 1975.  In this case, Pete Davidson just isn't a comedian, and he's attempting to make up for the lack of humor with critical punchlines that you'd expect out of some fifth-grade kid trying to insult another fifth-grade kid.  

2.  Once someone today (2018) has gone and truly insulted someone....they have no ability to go back and apologize for bad behavior.  It's a talent or skill that they've never developed.  Important?

Johnny Carson never openly insulted anyone in his entire life, and basically never had to apologize for any bad behavior.  He could get away with it.  Same with Buddy Hackett.  Same with any of the folks from the Andy Griffith Show, or Gilligan's Island.  Pete Davidson? He probably needs to develop this talent because I don't think he's done....he's got dozens of other folks to insult over his career.

3.  Finally, I come to Saturday Night Live.  When it started in the 1975....for probably two years, I felt they had something unusual.  Every show clicked.  By the mid-1980s....I felt less enthusiastic about the show.  Over the past decade, there might have been a couple of sketches which worked but the bulk of it simply isn't comedy anymore....it's something 'else'.

Maybe it's time that SNL just retired itself.  Bring in some Dance-Fever Show, or Soul-Train Show, or perhaps some Saturday night roller derby action, or even a celebrity crash derby show.  But to continue this fifth-grader type humor, and pretend they measure up to the crew from 1975 or 1977?  No.  

South Africa: 2038

I've been back from this South Africa travel episode now....for ten days.  It was my first, and likely last trip to the region, but it dwells heavily upon my mind.....so I sat and pondered the past couple of days. This is an essay of where I see South Africa in twenty years.

1.  I don't see it surviving as one single united nation.  Between the political climate, the government acquisition of farmlands likely to occur, and massive unemployment....there's very little to keep the country united.  My humble guess is that five to eight states will come out of this revolutionary period, with the Western Cape likely to be the largest 'piece'.

2.  There's little to nothing to hold young blacks to the region, and no hope for jobs.  I think at least three to five million over this twenty-year period will simply up and leave....either for the US or Europe.

3.  Drug trafficking will simply continue and escalate, with a drug-war likely to occur among gangs in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Duban.  Township police protection will be demanded....and ultimately fail.

4.  Bank failures or banking corruption practices will become a monthly topic, with trust dwindling for most folks in South Africa.  While people need a banking vehicle to exist....it won't work if half the nation distrusts the majority of banks.

5.  Drought and lack of water will remain a topic on the Western Cape for the next two decades.  The amusing thing here....if you had some real leaders....real capital investment, you'd have a dozen reservoirs existing, and a massive amount of water for irrigation projects, and make half of the Cape an agricultural paradise, with fresh fruit and vegetables available for the locals and to sell. 

6.  Finally, social media is likely providing a vehicle which will be the downfall of the ANC (the African National Congress Party), where their shortfalls and 10,000 promises will finally be open to public scrutiny.  But here's the thing....once they splinter up and dissolve, you will end up with numerous parties and agendas which will make stability impossible to attain.

Acosta and Trump

I sat and watched that clip of the exchange between Jim Acosta and President Trump at least ten times. 

Once the intern stepped forward to take the mic...you can observe Acosta using his hand deny her and assert that he wasn't going to let her do her job.  Suspending his privilege for a month....ought to be the punishment here. 

But I would go one more step....replace the mic-handling business with a Marine Gunnery Sergeant.  Once Acosta would have refused the directive and then put his hand on the Sergeant....the Marine would have laid him flat on the carpet.  After that, Acosta would have understood the message. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The Big Question

What if the Democrats go and make the entire period of 2019 and 2020....on some massive Trump investigation period, with zero 'other' accomplishments?

Two whole years, with soap-opera-like theatrics....CNN, Fox, and the networks hyped on the 'story'....and absolutely nothing done beyond that?

It's an interesting question to sit and speculate upon, with the odds now that the House will have just enough seats for the Democrats to control the message.

I anticipate three things out of this period:

1.  A massive shutdown of the government will occur over budget talks in 2019, and this shutdown will likely go beyond 90 days, with some federal workers in massive despair over their lack of a pay-check and a catastrophic 'doomed' landscape for politics in general.

2.  Another Supreme Court seat will come up to be filled, and we will get another round of Kavanaugh-like opera.  But this time, with a likely 56-seat situation for the GOP....it might be less theatrics.

3.  A majority of Americans will be fed up with politics in general by 2020....fed up with television news....fed up with journalists....with open confrontation taking place.

If you thought the last two years were just a marginal TV political reality show.....get prepared, we are doubling up now.

The Non-Existent Swift Effect

There were probably a hundred odd political 'games' out of 2018, but the one that interested me a great deal....was the Tennessee Senate race (Blackburn - R, Bredesen -D).

About a month ago, all hell broke loose when pop singer Taylor Swift stood up and did a big social media call out.....to support Bredesen.  At the time, everyone was hyped up....all chatty...that this one single endorsement would figure into the 18-year old voter group, and bring tens of thousands of votes over to Phil Bredesen.

Well....as the smoked has cleared....it's an eleven point margin for Blackburn.

The Swift-effect?  There is virtually no indication of an effect.  I think if the PhD guys sat and did a survey over it....there were probably about a thousand 'kids' who stood up and said Swift helped to settle their mind over the election.

So this brings me to the real discussion.  If so-and-so actor or singer comes up to chat over some candidate....does it really matter?  Thirty years ago, I would have said it's absolutely zero on the scale.  Today?  I would suggest it might have moved up from zero to maybe one or two percent chance. 

Now, if this was a catchy comment....made by Clint Eastwood....it might be remembered and thought about.  But this is like you asking your Waffle House pancake guy what he thought, or the exotic dancer at the Tin Star bar, or the Piggly Wiggly cashier....what they thought about election choices.  It just doesn't happen that way in the real world, unless you accept advice left and right...from strangers on the street.

Why did we listen to the journalists hyping this a month ago?  That's the thing about this.  Thirty years ago....you would have dismissed the Taylor Swift comment in sixty seconds flat.  Somehow, it now dwells on our mind and and we seriously think that Swift might flip 100,000 votes. 

Scientists ought to study this Swift effect and talk about how you get nothing, out of nothing. 

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Amazon? Crystal City and Queens?

I've sat for a day reviewing the decision to split the new 2nd headquarters between Queens and Crystal City.

I worked in the Pentagon area for 3.5 years and lived about 1-to-2 miles from the Pentagon and Crystal City.  I know the area well.

On the miserability index....saddling another 25,000 workers into Crystal City?  It's a solid '10'.

First, to reach Crystal City by car....you have to use the interstate chain either from DC, Maryland, south heading toward Richmond, or the Fairfax option.  All of them right now....maxed out with DC workers and Pentagon folks.  How another 25,000 workers transit in each day?  Unknown.

Maybe they were brought enough to buy a parking garage area on the south end of the METRO subway system.  Crystal City has a METRO link which goes south for about four miles, and then ends.  If you had some massive garage at that end point, you could herd the Amazon folks into that garage and force them to use the METRO for the last four miles. 

Second, housing.  In 2013, for a studio place (15 by 35).....I was paying $1,150 for place which I'd regard as basic and nothing special....with heat, cooling and electricity.  Today, it's probably near $1,300.  By 2021, with Amazon there....I'll bet they push the rent for the studio up to $2,000.  A two-bedroom place?  Probably by that point.....for a decent place....it might be near $2,750.

Buying a house?  Right in 2013, $400k was the basic standard, and for a better house....you needed $700k.  With Amazon in the local area?  I doubt if you can find anything for less than $750k.  Most of the houses south of Arlington will be rising in the range of 40-percent by 2021.  A guy who bought a great property back in 2005?  He won't just double his investment, but maybe even triple it by 2030.

What's Crystal City like?  It's an odd neighborhood.  Massive 10 to 15 story buildings for about a mile on either side of the road.  One Metro station in the middle.  Reagan International about one mile to the east.  Six to eight hotels. 

Crime?  Well, that's the odd thing.  Virginia cops are fairly aggressive.  What you found in DC.....simply didn't exist in Arlington or Crystal City. 

Eating establishments?  In Crystal City....at least in 2013, there were probably forty places where you could eat out.  My guess is that will double by 2021. 

The odd factor here?  Tons of Pentagon contractors will likely go and saddle up with Amazon, and the pay-scale that the Pentagon was used to....will escalate big-time.  The cost-of-living factor for GI's and civilian workers?  It'll have to go up by 50-percent. 

Arlington forced to add onto the 'Blue Line'?  I would take a guess that another 5-mile link will be added by 2030.  Maybe getting the link as far south as Woodbridge or Dale City, where you could park your car and avoid the interstate entirely.

Positive decision?  No.  I just can't see the logic to either Crystal City or Queens.  It's added onto the cost factor of salaries and made working at either site a miserable experience. 

728 Days

Here's the thing about today being election day....the clock starts ticking today....for the next election (3 November 2020).

As much as you think it's a relief to get over this election business and get everyone calmed down....nope, that clock is ticking by midnight.

If you go back forty years ago, in most states....you were lucky in a mid-term if 50-percent of the voters showed up.  But things have intensified and now it's a dramatic event. 

In some ways, it's become like a national circus touring the nation and everyone hyped up over a great act, and wanting the circus to be part of their everyday life.  In the three rings, there's a clown act....some tigers jumping hoops....some lusty lady swinging on ropes....an elephant dancing....some tame horses pretending to be wild horses....and some dude in a suit who seems to know the right moment to tug on your heart.

So get out your calendar and project out 728 days.  Prepare for everything to repeat itself again. 

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Warning Sign

One of the odd things that you came to notice after a couple of days in South Africa....was this continual display of a warning....'Indemnity against liability'. 

Over and over.

I probably observed at least seven-hundred signs over a two-week period. 

You saw them in public settings.  You saw them in safari camp settings.  You saw them on beaches. You saw them in public parks.

In a normal day.....I doubt if I went more than twenty minutes without observing them....at least outside of the hotel/lodge areas. 

At some point, I began to wonder if this was the one and only warning you got prior to walking around some corner and meeting up with some snake or lion.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

The Effect of a March

Back in 2013, for a period of about six weeks, I went to walking ten to twelve miles a day (five days a week)....mostly on a trail-program here in Germany.  Yes, there were a few hills built into this ritual daily walk. 

By the end, I came to three conclusions: (1) I had lost around two full inches on my gut and probably 15 pounds (never starving but avoid fatty food in this period). (2) This quiet hike gave you plenty of time to think and ponder....dropping your blood pressure as part of the deal.  And (3)....you came to grasp the intense nature of walking this twelve mile hike (taking three hours) and how a longer hike would have burned you out after a week. 

So I turn and observe this caravan crowd coming out of Honduras, and heading through Mexico to the US border.

Folks come to discuss the crowd but rarely touch on the requirement of each day.

Calorie-wise, you need a minimum of 4,500 calories if you were going to hike 25 to 30 miles a day.  Water-wise, you need roughly 32 ounces every two hours, so for a 12-hour piece of this caravan.....if you were walking.....you would need around 200 ounces of water (around 1.5 gallons) to survive.  Seven days straight?  Roughly ten gallons of water minimum. 

I noticed this week that the Mexican cops pulled over some trucks carrying 'marchers', and have hindered buses from carrying the 'marchers'....in effect....making them carry out their objective of hiking a thousand miles.  So this in effect caused some reporters to note in the past five days....folks have stopped marching (maybe 10 to 20 percent of the original group).  My humble guess is that if the cops keep the buses and trucks are forced to quit hauling 'marchers'....that by next weekend, about half of the group will have stopped.

I would challenge anyone to go and pick up on the habit of walking ten miles a day and do it day after day....putting up twenty days in a month.  You do build up stamina and it's great exercise but it also drains you and eats up on calories.  A 160 pound guy on this go-to-America march?  My guess is that in the heat and flat walk....he'll lose at least 20 pounds minimum.  Dragging kids along on this march?  A 80 pound 12-year old kid will probably lose 10 pounds minimum. 

My hikes today?  I'll do a 3 to 5 mile hike once or twice a week, and maybe twice a year go up to the sixteen mile situation.  Hiking from Honduras to Texas?  I'd probably pass on that idea.

The Potential Obama Impact?

Here on Wednesday of next week, a great deal of drama will unfold as the analysts sit and pick over the results of the 2018 campaign period.  One question laying there.....did the campaign effort of former President Obama help or hinder Democrats?

I've viewed three of these campaign stop speeches by former President Obama over the past month, and noted that the camera angles selected.....marginalize the counting of people at the rally.  It might be five-thousand folks showing up.....it might be 500 people showing up.  You just can't say.

If there are no real gains in the House for Democrats (I'm suggesting perhaps five to ten seats flipping over to the Democrats at best)....then was the act of bringing in former President Obama a mistake?  I don't think so.  There are certain particular areas that I would label as Obama-impact 'zones'.  Across all fifty states?  No.  But I would suggest that there are probably twenty small urban zones in the US where some speech by President Obama might persuade another 10,000 voters in some region to show up (when they weren't interested), and vote Democrat.

But if we get to Wednesday and find zero seats gained?  It'll be hard for the Democrats to talk over future use of former President Obama.