Monday, December 15, 2014

Remember my words!

I see that our illustrious Congress has passed a $1.1T spending bill to keep our gubment up and running for a while longer.  So be it.  But what really chaps my hide is that the unbelievably powerful banking/financial services industry has scabbed on to it a provision that pretty much guts the Dodd-Frank Banking Reform Bill.  WE...ARE...SCREWED!!!!

Basically the banks have been given a green light to get involved in highly profitable, but highly risky investments that are likely to eventually blow up in our face.  I say "OUR face" instead of "THEIR face" because when it all hits the fan again the banks/Wall Street will simply form a line at the Taxpayer's Bailout Window.  Congress has just put us all on the line....we just co-signed a TRILLION DOLLAR note!  *how's your sphincter feeling now?*

Gamblers eventually lose, and these days banks are just glorified, and very highly paid, gamblers. But when these gamblers lose, THEY don't lose.  Their money is safely tucked away.  It's OUR piggy banks that will get robbed.

So when is the bottom gonna fall out again?  Three years?  Five years?  Eight years?  Who knows?  But I fear this next time, unlike the financial meltdown of 2008, the rest of the world will be in the tank ahead of us, with no strong player(s) to pull us through.  (In '08 Europe and China were doing pretty well, which helped absorb some of the carnage.  Today they are in trouble, too.)

I hate being the bearer of bad news, but please don't shoot the messenger.  Shoot Congress and the bankers*.  Please.


*figuratively speaking, of course  *Hi NSA*  :)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A new family member!

I found her trolling the internet, looking for someone from a warm climate to rescue her from Minnnesnowta.  She was...oh, wait...wrong family member.  *ahem*

It's the little gray and white furball in K's lap that is actually the one pulling the strings in our family now.  His name is Jax, which means, as best we can tell, absolutely nothing.  (But give me some time and I'll concoct an exotic story he can use to impress the ladies  ;)

In the approximately six weeks since our Luke abruptly died we've both been in mourning.  Hard as we try, dog people like us just cannot properly function without a dog nearby.  It's been a miserable six weeks.  That all changed on Friday when I stumbled across Jax in a SPCA rescue shelter in Plano. 

Our previous dogs had all come from quality breeders because, well, we didn't know where else to look.  There were breeders, and there were dog pounds, and that was it.  The fact that our thoroughbred dogs came with the proper papers meant little to us as we weren't going to sell them or breed them anyway.  

Now we've become more aware of all the thousands millions of dogs needing forever homes, and who will be put to death if they can't find one.  *sniff*  Not on my watch!  There's certainly nothing wrong with quality breeders (NOT puppy mills!), but at least now we have options.

Jax is a mix, Miniature Schnauzer and Poodle.  He's about two years old and is a bit scrawny at 14 pounds.  I think we can get another couple of pounds on him and then he'll be juuuuuust right.  He's almost freakishly good.  He's already house trained, and sheds virtually none at all, as you would expect from either a Schnauzer or a Poodle.  

He's already been fixed, has all his age appropriate shots, and is instant friends with, other people young and old, and the other neighborhood dogs, too.  Street noises, including fire trucks passing by on hot runs, and even vacuum cleaners don't faze him.  He has the softest coat, and is a good strong walker.  (He'll no doubt walk a few pounds off me, which is a good thing!)

I had planned to post a few other pics of Jax, but he won't sit still long enough to capture anything but a blur.   He loves chasing tennis balls and playing with his squeaky toys.  He eats and runs and plays enthusiastically, but can also turn it off and just sit and chill with us.  He'll accept belly rubs until the cows come home.  (For the record, so will I.  Just sayin'  :)  

I'm hoping he's a football fan, as Saturday's this time of year will require him to share my attention with a couple of games on TV.  I'm sure we'll work something out.  ;)

Can you tell I'm pretty stoked abut the new kid?  K is too.  In fact, earlier she called for me, and there was a pregnant pause while she tried to remember my name.  :)

All is well here now.  And Luke, Emma, and Tara, just know that the new kid will NEVER replace you in my heart.  You just have another brother now. 


EDIT:  Oh, did I mention he has ONE blue eye?  It is the coolest thing!  The vet said sometime dogs with one blue eye are deaf on that side, which if true, might explain his acceptance of noises that other dogs freak out over.  All of which is just fine with me.  :)

Friday, December 5, 2014

"I didn't do it, nobody saw me (?), you can't prove a thing." Those days are gone.

I recently wrote on how, regarding the Ferguson, MO police shooting incident, we shouldn't be too quick to assign guilt or innocence without knowing all the facts first.  I said that hopefully cities will understand that personal body cameras on all police officers would be able to shed considerable light on, and perhaps definitive proof of, what happened during controversial police/public confrontations.

Now we see body-cam video of the police officer in NYC who subdued a large black man who was "resisting arrest".  The grand jury decided to no-bill the officer after the subject died as the result of choking/asphyxiation.  I would love to know what the grand jury heard that would lead them to override what they saw on the video.  It seems like pretty convincing evidence to me.

At least 5 officers had their man surrounded.  His "resisting arrest" consisted of backing up with his hands in the air in a non-threatening manner.  One officer came up from behind and put a choke hold on him, taking him down.  The man repeatedly complained that he couldn't breathe while several officers cuffed him, and several others stood and watched.  He was on the ground with his face kissing the pavement.  His outstretched hand/fingers still didn't seem threatening.  He looked desperate.

With that much manpower on the spot, and with the guy repeatedly saying "I can't breathe", I wonder why #99 couldn't back off some?  Wasn't he sufficiently subdued by then?  If there is other relevant evidence off-camera that we can't see, I wish the authorities would release it because this looks like a pretty cut-and-dried wrongful death to me.  The damage this is causing goes way beyond a monetary settlement with the family.

I don't know about NYC, but I do know that many cities are facing extremely difficult police recruiting challenges.  They want to keep their education/background/training requirements high, but I suspect they are dumbing down their standards to meet their numbers.  That is a recipe for disaster.  

Don't cops know....doesn't EVERYBODY know....that pretty much everything they do outside their own home is likely to be captured on video?  Count on it!

Yes to body cameras.  Now, more than ever!


Monday, December 1, 2014

The Rest of the Story (in my best Paul Harvey impersonation)

 Yesterday at Target:

K:  Wait here.  I need to get some wrapping paper.  I'll be right back.

15 minutes later...

ME:  Ah, there you are.  What's taking so long?  How hard can this be?

K:  *sigh*  Men!

ME:  Get this roll.  It looks like it has a lot of paper on it.

K:  No.  The quality isn't right.

ME:  Quality?  What quality?  Who's disposable.

K:  I'm not sure what color to get.

ME:  DUH!  It's Christmas...get red or green, or red AND green.

K:  *sigh*  Men!

I'm not 100% for sure, but I suspect the same guy who was behind Valentine's, Halloween, and the ever popular Mother's/Father's Day invented wrapping paper, too.  He was a marketing GENIUS!  He shouldn't just be IN the Marketing Hall of Fame, his name should be ON the building!

Think about it....Valentine's:  The flower growers had nothing to do after the Rose Parade floats were built.  All their greenhouses were empty, but capitalism being what it is, they wanted to make better use of their now-idle assets, so they hired a guy to dream up a holiday that would be "flower heavy".  Hence, Valentine's.  It was a totally made up event.

Halloween:  Already gloating over how well his Valentine's promotion had gone over, he approached the candy makers and pitched to them a holiday that would move a lot of candy.  They bit (pardon the pun), and sensing an easy double-dip commission, he pitched the same thing to the costume industry, too.

Mother's/Father's Day:  Hallmark called him and said, "Hey, we want some", and Wah-Lah, greeting card sales quintupled.  Cha-ching!

The wallpaper industry has suffered through innumerable booms and busts.  Wallpaper's popularity goes up and down like women's hemlines.  Grabbing at straws, looking for anything that could give them some stability, they called the guy.

"Help!  We've got a warehouse full of cheap-ass wallpaper we can't move.  We need a holiday.  Quick."

He said, "A holiday.  Just A holiday?  I can make EVERY day a holiday for you guys.  Instead of just handing mom a pot holder or dad a tie, we'll make 'em wrap their gift with your crappy wallpaper.  But we'll call it 'Gift Wrap Paper'.  It sounds much classier.  Whatdaya think?"

"And check this", he added.  "You can wrap just a couple of feet of your crummy Wrap Paper...around an over-sized cardboard spool and sell it for ten-times the price!"


And that's where Gift Wrap Paper came from.

Now you know The Rest of the Story.  :)


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Good cop....bad cop

 Good cop

Bad cop

Over the past several days the news, the social media, and water cooler conversation everywhere has been all about the shooting and subsequent grand jury no-bill of the police officer involved in Ferguson, MO.  

As if the incident itself wasn't troubling enough, now I'm taken back by the almost universal opinion, presented as fact, that the cops are always wrong and the victims, especially if they are of color, are always innocent.  All this before ANY evidence has been presented, and this from people I know to be highly intelligent, people who should know better than to speak before knowing the facts.  Of course there are some out-of-control police officers, just as there are kids who sometimes make bad decisions.  But without knowing the facts, it's impossible to tell which is which.  Decisions this important should be made on a case-by-case basis.

I know this because for 18 years I served as a Civil Service Commissioner (a non-paid volunteer position) in my city.  We oversaw the hiring, firing, discipline, and promotion of firefighters and police officers.  I was recommended by some firefighters I knew, who knew me to be fair and open minded, not capable of being bullied by anyone.  

Over the years we (there were 3 commissioners) backed up some decisions of our fire/police chiefs against errant firefighters/police officers, and other times we decided against the chiefs.  We called 'em as we saw 'em.  

For the record, I'm white, one was a hispanic male, and one was a black female, and I can honestly say our fairness was universally considered beyond reproach.  We represented the CITIZENS of our city, not the city administration, and not the police officers/fire fighters associations.

I took both the Citizens Police and Fire Academies, each a 15 week course where we were given insight into every facet of department operations.  Regarding the police, we had classroom time learning about state laws, Miranda rules, chain of evidence rules, rules governing search and seizure, court decisions, the proper use of escalating levels of force, and more.  We learned about patrol, traffic, narcotics, investigation, SWAT, K-9, forensics, etc.  

We drove pursuit cars and fired guns on their range.  We did role playing where we answered imaginary calls and had to deal with yelling/screaming spouses, parents and their out-of-control kids, etc.  We had to calm everyone down, then reason with them and get them to "kiss and make up".  We were just as often psychologists as crime stoppers.  The job involves a lot of stress and requires a lot of thinking on your feet.

We were taught to always look at a persons hands, not just blindly into their eyes.  Eyes won't hurt you, hands and what they're holding will.  I once went out on a "ride along" on an overnight Friday shift, on a payday, with a full moon no less.  It was crazy.  We...OK, the cop...caught a kid stripping a car of electronics.  As we pulled in behind him the kid reached abruptly into the back seat for....what?  The cop jumped out and unholstered his firearm, and the kid gave up.  Turned out the kid was just hiding something behind the back seat, not getting a gun, but the cop had to err on the side of caution.  (And yes, I was shown the "unlock" button on the console that freed the shotgun in case it all hit the fan.)

Once our city had an officer kill a minority youth when he was charged by the kid who was wielding a large knife.  There was an immediate outcry from the community....not on the level of the unrest in Ferguson, thank goodness....that was finally quieted a few days later when dash-cam video of the entire incident was shown publicly.  It showed conclusively it was a sad but proper response considering the life threatening situation the officer was confronted with when he arrived on scene.  Thank God that video existed, for without it who knows how explosive our city could have become.  The cop wasn't out of control, and the kid was definitely in the wrong.

I've also seen instances where there were complaints from citizens against officers for offers of leniency in exchange for sex, cops roughing up kids, cops wanting a payoff for letting someone go after being caught with hard drugs, etc.  To his credit our chief came down hard, indefinitely suspending (firing) the bad cops, and we upheld his decisions.  And once one city fires them no other city would dare touch them....they're tainted forever.  I've seen...we've all seen...videos where cops drag a grandma out her car window when she didn't unbuckle her belt fast enough.  Inexcusable!  Brutal!  Bad cops exist, for sure, and must be rooted out.

I know I'm rambling, but I do have a point here.  The job cops do is dangerous.  It can be scary.  It can be mundane one second, and life threatening seconds later.  Would you want to walk through a high crime area alone, after dark, looking for someone who just knocked off a 7-11?  I wouldn't, but we expect our cops to do it every day.  They sometimes have to make split-second decisions that can mean life or someone.  As I've tried to show, they aren't all bad, and they aren't all good.  

It is unfair of us to listen to hearsay rumors and make a decision on guilt or innocence.  I would hope we would be smarter than that.  ONLY evidence presented under oath should be viewed credibly.  In the case of Ferguson, MO, buildings were burning before anyone knew what evidence the grand jury had heard.  That just wasn't right.  For myself, I still haven't heard most of the facts that were presented to the grand jury, so I will continue to withhold my opinion until I do.

One good thing that might come out of this tragedy is (I hope) a law mandating all cops have body cameras on them when they answer calls.  That should offer invaluable, hopefully even conclusive evidence of who did what.  That seems like a win-win for both the public and the police.  But in the meantime, please THINK before you pass judgement.

Knee-jerk reactions are dumb.


Monday, November 24, 2014

What's the old saying? "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

DOH!  Where's a good lightning bolt when you need one?

Is anybody besides me sick of the politicians going all nuclear over Brick O'bama's immigration "reform" executive order?  The Republicans won't address immigration, so Obama issues his order, right or wrong, and the Republicans run straight to court, whining what a dictator he's being.

You know the old political ploy of inventing a crisis/war/catastrophe to take attention off yourself when you're caught asleep at the wheel?  "No, don't look here.  Look over there."  That's what this amounts to.  If the Republicans don't like what Obama is doing regarding immigration, put a legitimate, DETAILED plan of their own on the table for discussion and schedule a vote.  

Hello?  Boner....Mitch?  Anyone?  Still waiting....

Here's my beef:  The Republicans have said for several years that they wouldn't tackle immigration reform until after the election.  Going unsaid was the fact that they wanted to pander for votes in all quarters.  They didn't want to take a stand on anything that might cost them any votes.  

In other words, they were more concerned about THEIR jobs than they were about the good of the country.  Shouldn't that itself disqualify them from holding public office?  

Don't get me wrong....the Dems are as self-centered as the Republicans.  They are all too willing to throw us under the bus, too, if they can keep their jobs (and all the graft that goes with it) for a couple more years.

IMO, unless we're willing to give the boot to Mitch and Boner and Nancy and Harry and all their respective "yes men" (and based on recent election results, we aren't) nothing in Washington will ever get any better.  America is as successful as it is IN SPITE of Washington, not because of it.  

I still have this crazy, nostalgic idea that leaders are paid to LEAD.  Silly me.


Friday, November 21, 2014

It's been a month

It's been a month since my best buddy changed address.  A very quiet month.  A month without a happy furry guy greeting me at the door when I get home.  A month without early morning or late evening dootie walks.  A month without him waiting patiently (?) to lick my ice cream spoon. 

I still can't believe Luke, Lukie-boy, The Lukester....he answered to them all...went from healthy to struggling for his life in just a few days....some sort of auto-immune system malfunction.  I'd never heard of such a thing, and there was nothing I, nor veterinary specialists, could do to stop it.  If something seemed like it might help, we tried it.  And he fought bravely, too.

I have no idea if I'll some day be reunited with him or not.  I sincerely hope that "Rainbow Bridge" thing is true.  I'll be one happy guy if it is.  To be surrounded again by Luke, Emma Belle, and Tara Belle (previous canine family members) would be amazing.

Take care Lukie-boy.  I love you buddy.  Rest up now while you can, 'cause we're going on some epic walks when I some day catch up.

S..."The guy what passes out the treats"  :)