Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Congressional hypocracy?

The US House of Representatives recently passed, with strong bipartisan support, a bill known as the "Audit The Fed Act", and it's expected to pass the Senate shortly, too.  It's purpose is, as the name implies, to audit the Federal Reserve.  The Fed's balance sheet has ballooned from $800B in 2007 to $2.8T today, and we don't know where the money went.  It seems they've made many promises backed by the US taxpayers, but we don't really know to whom or by how much.  Congress is asking for complete transparency with an audit.  BRAVO! 

But hold on there Kemosabe.  There's also a bill before Congress known as "The Disclose Act" that seeks to require transparency in political campaign contributions.  Traditional tax-exempt organizations, aka 501(C)(3) in IRS lingo, can make political contributions but must disclose the source of the money they're giving.  The currently popular 501(C)(4) "educational" tax-exempt organizations can give all they want through their Super-Pacs WITHOUT disclosing where the money is coming from.  (Pretty slick loophole, huh?)  And surprise!...surprise!....so far a mere 200 donors have made 80% of all Super Pac donations this campaign season, out of approx. 310 million Americans. 

Can you see the potential for abuse here?  A wealthy individual or group could quite literally buy a congressman or two (or 535) without We The People ever knowing who's pulling the strings. If there was ever a situation that needed transparency, this is it, but the Republican-controlled Senate refuses to take a vote on it.  It's DOA in the Senate.

Come on Republicans.  This is making you guys look VERY bad.  Whenever someone tries to hide something from me I tend to imagine the worst.  How can you be FOR transparency when it suits you (The Audit The Fed Act), but AGAINST transparency when it exposes something you (apparently) don't want exposed (The Disclose Act)?  Oh...I think I just answered my own question.

This doesn't pass my smell test. 


Monday, July 30, 2012

Bionic eyes?

Yesterday I was watching Olympic women's doubles diving (synchronized diving?), and I must say I have no idea how the judges decide who wins and who loses.  I mean, the entire dive takes .004 seconds and includes a flip and a couple of twists and who knows what else.  How can anyone see things that fast?

"Oh, Brad, how unfortunate!  Did you notice her ring finger on her left hand?  It was ever-so-slightly kinked, while her partner's was straight.  And that twitch in her left eye!  The judges are going to rip her a new one for that lapse of concentration.  Ten-years of training down the drain.  At least a full point deduction."

All I saw was "jump / splash", and it was kinda blurred.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympic swimming as I would like to see it

Is there anything more boring than watching Olympic swimming?  I mean, the only part worth watching is the last 50 feet.  Can your guy/girl hold off the challenge from the Godless ChiCom?  Can your guy/girl eek out a win by .0001 seconds over some Balkan swimmer whose name no one can pronounce?   Everything before that is 100% predictable.  The gun sounds, they dive in, then it's stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke...for 10 minutes until the last (sometimes) exciting 50 feet.

Of course, in many sports it all comes down to the final stretch to determine who wins, but at least before then there are a lot of variables.  In football you might see breakaway runs, long passes, fumbles, goal line stands, and always a grand strategy.  In bicycle racing you might see someone fall off their bike and get run over by the 50 people behind them.  And I find women wearing bikinis jumping up and down, flying through the air, rolling in sand, and spiking a ball over a net exciting start to finish!

Then there's swimming.  When is the last time you saw one of the competitors cramp up and have to be hauled off by emergency rescue kayak?  Or stop to pee?   Or dive to pick up marbles on the bottom of the pool?  Maybe if they were blindfolded and their coach had to guide them by yelling out "Marco" and the swimmer would answer with "Polo".  Can you imagine the chaos?  Yeah, I might watch that. But as it is now, B O R I N G !


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Oh, my achin' back...mystery solved!

I've had a pinched nerve in my upper back, left side and my upper left arm for a month.   A week ago I had an MRI done and now we know what the problem is:  I have herniated discs.  I'm relieved as now they know what to treat.  It's fairly common and can probably be treated with injections of steroids. Surgery is many options down the road, and I've been assured a waist-up amputation is not likely.  Whew!


Anyone watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony last night?  I was most impressed!  I was there a few years ago and fell in love with London and the other parts of Great Britain I was able to see on my too-brief visit, and the people we met were wonderful, too.  It was fun watching the tube and being able to identify landmarks I had visited. 

Wonder if they'll ever have the individual events on TV on an "On Demand" basis?  This morning they're showing a loooooooong bicycle race which I find rather boring, then they broke in and showed us the final point of a women's beach volleyball match.  WHAT?  The TV people need to review their priorities!  (Note:  the women were wearing bikinis.  I guess it was warm enough for them to not have to resort to their coverups. :)  I need to find out the Olympic TV coverage for today so I can arrange my outings around the more interesting events. 

Have a fun Saturday everyone.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Squeamish Alert

If you have arachnophobia you might want to back away slowly right now.

A guy in Omaha, Nebraska named Dylan Baumann, who lives in a small studio apartment, came home one day to find 40 spiders "crawling across my walls, crawling along my floorboards, and crawling by my foot."  And these weren't your simple little Daddy Long Legs kind of spiders.  Nosiree...these were venomous Brown Recluse spiders.

OK, now if that wasn't creepy enough for the spider averse, here's how the guy deals with his new house guests:

"It's mainly just learning to cope with them.  Pushing your bed away from the wall, pulling out your bed skirt, making sure nothing is touching walls, shaking off your clothes before you put them on, after you get out of the shower, shake out your towel, knock out your shoes at night.  It's just kind of learning to not get bit."

I don't have arachnophobia.  Big, small, they normally just don't bother me, but my IQ did make it into double digits.  Listen to me Dylan....these are BROWN RECLUSE spiders!   They're like the rattlesnakes or the great white sharks or the Nancy Pelosi's of Phylum Arthropodia.  ABANDON SHIP DUDE!  MOVE!  Now.  

Jeez...I hope this didn't scare anyone.  ;)


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rain, rain...NO! Please DON'T go away

I don't think I've ever seen such screwy weather.  Three-quarters of the country is experiencing drought conditions, while in parts of south/coastal Texas they've had flooding.  High winds are flattening the plains states, while much of Colorado and the southwest have burned up.  Ya think this is one of those "end of time" events?

For us in north Texas our weather has been pretty normal.  Of course it's miserably hot, but rains earlier in the year topped off our lakes, and I'm hopeful we can get through the rest of the year without any water shortages.  In fact, I looked out my apartment window a few minutes ago and saw this:

Normally we don't get these kinds of clouds build up until the heat of the afternoon.  Maybe the rains currently one county west will slide this way.  I'm ready for a rainy day.  I think much of the country is ready for a rainy day/week.


I saw on the bidness news that Sandy Weill, the man who assembled all the parts that made Citi into the first megabank, now agrees with me that our big banks need to be broken up.  (He obviously reads my blog.  ;)  He says "our banking system has been hijacked", and that banks that take deposits should be separated from those that take huge speculative risks.  Amen Brother Sandy!  But since he probably doesn't have any Congressmen in his back pocket like the banks do, I don't think it will ever happen.  At least not until after the next worldwide economic catastrophe.  (Ahem....back to that "end of time" theme?)


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How do you know what you don't know?

I heard on the radio a soft ad disguised as "oil and gas drilling news" (looking for investors no doubt) that said 13% of the world's undiscovered oil and 30% of the world's undiscovered natural gas are in the Arctic region.  It went on to say that with the shrinking polar ice cap it is opening up vast new areas for exploration.

So if it's undiscovered, how do you know how much is there?  You won't know how much is there until you discover it, right?  Why not claim 40% or 50%?  If it's undiscovered, who could argue with your numbers?

Think this is one of those "lies, damn lies, and statistics" things?


Team America...World Police

If you watch the news at all you know there's a civil war raging in Syria right now.  The question that's constantly being asked is, "What should we do?"  Do we just watch?...Supply arms to the rebels?...Provide some sort of direct military support? 

I wonder if we as a nation suffer from some sort of guilt trip dating back to World War II?  Do we somehow feel responsible for not doing more in the 1930's to stop Hitler before he initiated the Holocaust?  Is that why we feel this urge to save all the oppressed of the world?  Speaking for myself as a Christian I would say, no, I don't want to turn a blind eye to the hungry or sick, but how much can we be expected to do, especially when so many right here at home are needing help, too?  

I don't see many other advanced western nations (Australia, Sweden, Canada..?)  chomping at the bit wanting to get involved there and we don't seem to be too critical of them.  Why is it all on us?  Would we be terrible people if we just said, "Sorry, but this is your fight."  

Be honest....do you really care what happens in Egypt, or Syria, or Yemen, etc?  As long as they don't export terrorists to come here and do us harm, I really don't.  And if they do, don't we have ways (clandestine) to deal with that short of the way we've handled things in Afghanistan?  I just think we need to get our own house in order before we start telling others how to run theirs. 


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

They didn't think this through very well

We're days away from the opening of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.  I personally prefer the Winter Olympics because to this Texas boy, ski jumping and bobsledding and downhill skiing are pretty exotic sports.  The Summer Olympics with its running and swimming and spear chucking is something kids around here do from the age of 3 on.  Well, we don't start chucking spears until 6, but...it just doesn't seem that exotic.   With a couple of notable exceptions:

Gymnastics....I love watching the girls and guys jump 10 feet in the air flatfooted, then do 8 flips with 6 twists before they hit the ground standing up.  Dang....that's impressive!  And swinging around those uneven parallel bars, bending themselves into shapes that would put me in the hospital....again, impressive!

Women's Beach Volleyball....I love watching tall, svelte, tan girls wearing bikinis bouncing a ball over a net.  Actually I love watching tall, svelte, tan girls wearing bikinis just standing there!  

Unfortunately I don't think the International Olympic Committee thought things through very well when they awarded the 2012 Games to London.  Not because it isn't a great city.  It is!  It's a magnificent city I'd love to go back to again and again.   No, because it's too cold for the women's beach volleyball players to wear their traditional bikinis.  I've heard that instead of bikinis they'll be wearing the beachwear equivalent of long johns.  The athletes say with temps in the 60's they'll need to keep their muscles warm to prevent injury, hence the cover up.

I'm sorry, but this just ain't right!


Monday, July 23, 2012

What happens when you have "too much"?

"Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it."

I recently saw an interesting chart that brought home to me exactly how history repeats itself.  It showed what happens when too much wealth is concentrated in the hands of too few:

During the first part of the 20th Century the United States practiced "Laissez-faire" capitalism....pretty much "anything goes".  Since "those who have the gold make the rules", by 1928 the wealthiest 1% controlled 23.9% of total pre-tax income.  (See chart.)  Remember what happened right after that?  The economy went off a cliff in what later became known as "The Great Depression".  By the early 30's the government instituted new regulations, particularly affecting the financial industry, and our economy eventually bottomed out and slowly improved, helped along by the full employment brought about by WWII.

Beginning about 50 years later those who had the gold once again made the rules (thanks to their friends in Congress) and by 2007 they controlled 23.5% of total pre-tax income.  (See chart.)  Remember what happened right after that?  Our economy went off a cliff in what later became know as....well, it hasn't been named yet, but we'll call it The Great Depression II for now.

Apparently 23% is the magic number beyond which The Consuming Class (the middle class) doesn't have enough wealth to continue buying things in the quantities needed to keep industry humming along.  It seems counter-intuitive, but too much money in the hands of too few actually hurts the few, as they are the ones (the vaunted "job creators") who own the companies that can't sell enough to make a profit.  Sort of like "killing the goose that laid the Golden Egg".

Make sense?

This isn't about confiscating money from the 1% and re-distributing it to others.  That's wrong in a whole other way.  What I suggest needs to happen is that we need to scrap our entire tax code and re-write it so that it is fair to all and not tilted in any special interest's favor.  And close regulatory loopholes, end subsidies, and closely watch the financiers, too.  A level playing field will naturally undo past inequities and put money in the pockets of The Consuming Class AND in the pockets of those who own the businesses that sell to The Consuming Class.  

The chart suggests that "sweet spot" should be where the wealthy control between 10-15% of income.  Entrepreneurs who make a superior product or offer a better service can and should still get rich, but then their wealth would be merit-based instead of crony-based as it sometimes is today.

How bad do things have to get before our politicians admit what we're doing now isn't working, face historical facts, and build a fairer system that is sustainable?


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Interesting car...er...truck sighting

Seen outside Starbucks this afternoon:

Pretty cool, huh?

The Concrete Canvas guy....

We thought about going out-and-about for a while last night, but after a brief shower passed through the area it was then hot AND muggy.  Yuck!  No thanks.

Instead we stayed in and looked for something unusual on TV to watch.  What I found was "Concrete Canvas" on The Halogen Channel.  You've probably seen some of this guy's work make the rounds on the internet:

The artist's name is Julian Beavers, and his 3-D drawings are amazing!  Until I saw him doing one of his sidewalk pieces I never thought about how uncomfortable it would be to paint on hands and knees or bent over all day long.  Here's how he does it:

Here's something he did that's a bit more relevant today:

Doesn't it look like the artist is just floating on air?

I'd be interested to hear what our resident Blogger / artist extraordinaire Stephen Hayes, aka The Chubby Chatterbox, has to say about his work. Not serious art?  At the very least he does have an interesting "perspective".

Hope y'all have a great Sunday and manage to stay cool.  ;)


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dateline: Hotter 'n Hell, Texas

It's really odd for me to see weather reports from YankeeLand (defined as any place north of the Texas/Oklahoma border...aka the Red River) where it's hotter than it is here in Hell...er...Texas.  We're expecting 104 today, but it will feel more like 110 the weatherguessers warn.  While many will be at the area lakes today trying to keep cool, I won't be one of them.  Lakes just seem dirty to me, plus fish poop in there!

This would be much more my style, except on weekends it seems to be overrun with little kiddlettes.  I'm guessing all the divorced dad's get their DNA for the weekend and park them here while they admire the stunning 'birds' lounging around, showing off their attractive plumage.

Before it gets too much hotter K and I are making a run to the farmer's market for some cantaloupe, watermelon, corn, and whatever else looks good.  Probably have a bite to eat out, too.  I'm also going to Lowe's for some wood filler, as my dog Luke all of a sudden seems to think he's part beaver:

This particular window sits right on the floor, perfect for him to sit and see the world outside.  Apparently he was too lazy to get up and walk to his dog bowl, and this was the result.

That's all for now.  I've got to burn up the roads and get back before the concrete melts.  Stay cool everyone.  


Friday, July 20, 2012

What does this button do?

So this is an MRI machine?  I thought it was some kind of industrial-grade front load washing machine.
Whatever....this is what I'm going to stick my bod into this morning at 9:30.  This stupid pinched nerve (?) in my left upper back / left upper arm has become more than just a nuisance.  The "steroid pack" I was prescribed didn't work, so now they're bringing out the big hardware to find out what's going on in there.  Maybe it will turn out to be something like my friend Cranky Old Man had, maybe not.  Regardless, I just want it fixed.

This seems like one of those medical events that warrants an ice cream afterwards, don't you think?  *wink*

Happy weekend everyone.  ;)


Thursday, July 19, 2012

The pot calling the kettle black

Do our politicians really think we're dumb enough to believe our current political / economic mess is ALL the result of "the OTHER" party?  I've done a lot of research on the housing bubble that imploded in 2008 and put us in our current mess and here's what I found:  The whole sordid affair began in about 1993 when Congress, the President, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and a few others began the National Homeownership Initiative.  

During the years since then Democrats occupied the White House for 11 years, the Republicans for 8.  Democrats and Republicans evenly split control of the Senate, 5 terms each, and Republicans have controlled the House of Representatives for 6 of 10 terms.  I would pretty much call that a draw.

For either party to claim sainthood, to say with a straight face that if we will trust them with all the reigns of power a bright future will be ours, is disingenuous in the extreme.  Both parties have had ample opportunity to do the right thing for the American people, but instead were all-consumed with extorting campaign contributions and preserving their power

Congress, mainly the Republicans, want to scale back government spending.  Fine...no argument from me.  Except they conveniently fail to mention this will put millions of people out of work.  Oops!  All while they point a finger and jump up and down on their soap box asking what the Democrat's plan is to reduce unemployment?  Huh?  Fess up guys....you can't have it both ways!

Are any of you buying the load of crap both parties are selling this election year?  If you are, then let me introduce myself:  I'm a wealthy Nigerian prince, and I need your help!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cars and Coffee, July 2012

I just realized I didn't post any photos from our most recent Cars and Coffee.  It wasn't really one of the better ones as it was on the long July 4th weekend and attendance of both cars and spectators was down by about a third.  Still, there were some good looking / interesting cars there....

....like this little '60's vintage British Riley.  It was just like a real car, only smaller!  (Circus clowns optional.)

I generally don't get all gushy about hot rods, but dang, this was a nice one!

How about a rather sinister looking Ford Mustang?

And finally, a Morgan.  Although it looks like a holdover from the 40's, it's a thoroughly modern car still built by hand on an ash wood frame in Britain.  *Now where's my driving cap and pipe?*


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Politicians gone wild

I've nearly finished reading Do Not Ask What Good We Do:  Inside the U.S. House of Representatives by Robert Draper.  For a political junkie such as myself it is a fascinating look at how the lower house of Congress actually works.  

I found it to be very fairly balanced, praising several in both parties for earnestly trying to serve our country, but also revealing many in both parties for what they are:  crooked power hungry scum bags looking out only for their own political careers.  I mean to the point of being willing to throw the entire country under the bus if they have to to get themselves re-elected.  Our current crop of freshmen representatives are a particularly uninformed group. 

The bottom line is this:  IMO, If EITHER party ever gains control of the House of Representatives AND the Senate AND the Presidency, WE'RE SCREWED!  I'm convinced that a gridlocked Congress, bad as that might be, would serve us better than getting flattened by the runaway Special Interest Express of one-party rule.  You can't imagine how dangerous these people are!

Our wise Founding Fathers gave us the concept of "checks and balances" for a reason.  Whether between branches of government or houses of Congress, it's a good concept.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Men vs. Women; which is smarter? er...more smart?

I just heard on the news of a definitive study that shows women are smarter than men.  True story.  Does this really surprise anyone?  It should have been obvious as far back as prehistoric times when woman said to man, "There's a big 'ol dinosaur out there in the yard stomping all over my garden.  Be a doll and go out there and shoo it away.  Pleeeeeease?"  Meanwhile she stayed back in the cave baking cookies.


Flash forward to 1492.  Christopher Columbus sets out from Spain to find a shorter route to the riches of China and the Orient.  Instead he landed in what we know today to be the Dominican Republic.

Chris....THIS is China.

This is NOT China.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades

It definitely does NOT apply to thunderstorms.  From mid-afternoon yesterday I watched the radar as thunderstorms began percolating in southeastern Oklahoma.  The best part was they were moving towards me, which is very unusual as most of our weather forms to our southwest.  By 6 pm I received a text message that a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued for my county (nothing damaging expected, just rain, thunder and lightning).  WooHoo!

Wouldn't you know it....just as it arrived on the outskirts of my very town, it fell apart.  We had a little wind, a couple of claps of thunder, and barely enough rain to wet the street.  About the only benefit I got of all this were some gorgeous cloud photos at sunset like the one above, taken looking south from my den window.  

Maybe today will bring us another chance.  Happy Sunday everyone.  ;)


Friday, July 13, 2012

Huh? The clean end of the dirty scale?

It seems the LIBOR banking scandal is becoming more and more....scandalous.  LIBOR stands for London Interbank Offer Rate, and is set daily when a select group of major international banks declare (on an honor's system) what they would have to pay for an unsecured loan from another bank.  It seems that back in 2007-2008 when the world economy was in mid-collapse the banks lied by declaring an unrealistically low rate considering their deteriorating state.  

Big Whoop.  How does this effect you?  Many adjustable rate loans are tied to the LIBOR rate.  Many municipalities, for example, lost millions of dollars (each) because of the crooked bankers.  Same with many retiree pension funds.  In fact YOU may have a loan tied to the LIBOR.  The damage was massive and world-wide.  The fraud was discovered in 2008 and now Barclay's Bank has been fined $450M and the others are circling their wagons.  They claim they were just trying to make their banks look healthier than they really were, but those more cynical say the banks were trying to enhance their profits at the expense of...well...everyone else.

In their defense Barclay's said what they did was "dirty", but that they were on the "clean end of the dirty scale".  Read:  Other banks cheated worse.  (What's that saying?  "No honor among thieves.")  Now their next line of defense to protect themselves from criminal prosecution is that what they did was known by the regulators in both the US and the UK at the time.  They say if criminal prosecution is pursued against them they will tell all they know about their banks and their cozy relationship with the regulators, naming names, etc.  (Told you the whole stinkin' bunch were in bed together!)  

Banks have been caught so many times cheating recently they no longer respond to shame....they could care less what people think of them.  (Their PR guys have become expert at putting lipstick on the pig.)  All they care about is money, and now there's talk all those who lost millions (each) could band together and sue the banks for tens-of-BILLIONS of dollars in damages. 

I'm thinking "group ledge jump".  Pardon me for not shedding any tears.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Survivor: Texas"

Did you hear about the newest TV reality show?  It's to be called Survivor: Texas.  Here's how it works:  Contestants start at the Dallas Convention Center, then drive south to Waco, Austin, San Antonio, then to Brownsville.  On day two they drive west thru Del Rio and El Paso, then turn back east to Midland/Odessa, where they spend the night.  Finally on day three they head north to Lubbock and Amarillo, then back south/east towards Abilene, Fort Worth, and finally back to Dallas.

Each will be driving a pink Toyota Prius with bumpers stickers that say:

I'm a proud Democrat

Amnesty for Illegals

I love the Dixie Chicks

Boycott Beef

I voted for Obama

George Strait Sucks

I'm here to confiscate your guns

Re-elect Obama 2012

The first one to make it back to Dallas alive wins.

;)  S

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"A billion here, a billion there....before you know it you're talking real money!"

I believe any thinking American would agree that our government spends too much money.  These days Washington is just out of control, period.  The question today isn't "SHOULD we cut spending?" but "WHAT should we cut?"

Republicans want to cut back on all the social programs on the books, but they'll fight tooth and nail to protect the loopholes granted to their business special interest buddies.  Not surprisingly, the Democrats want to do just the opposite.  Both parties want to balance the budget on the other guy's back.

Here's my idea:  Do we even know the dollar value of all the tax loopholes, subsidies, "favors", etc that are liberally sprinkled all through our 75,000 page(?) tax code and various other "back door" appropriations?  I suggest we commission someone (the GAO?...maybe a Big 6 accounting firm?) to go through everything page-by-page, identify each, put a dollar value on each, explain how each is justified, and how it would affect the economy/taxpayers if it went away.  We know about some of the high profile ones such as subsidies for the oil companies, big pharma, etc, but we tend to forget things like home mortgage interest deductions and union dues deductions.  I wanna know about ALL of 'em.  How much do you think they would add up to?  $100 billion a year?  $500 billion a year?  A TRILLION dollars a  year?

Do any politicians have the guts to propose something like this?  No...didn't think so.  They all have their special interests they're covering for, and the LAST thing the special interests want is for the people to find out how badly they're getting screwed.

I'll bet it would be a real eye opener.  Then I bet we could make a helluva dent in our deficit!


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Blue Angels...or the Blue Devils?

In this morning's email inbox I found an amazing HD video a friend sent of a US Navy Blue Angels routine from the pilot's perspective.   It's really spectacular, and you can see it here if you're interested in that sort of thing.

I have a love / hate relationship with the Blue Angels.  As pilots they're incredible.  As people you'd like to hang out with, they're a__holes.  I know this because for 18 years I traveled all across the country working at airshows in the capacity of "Ramp Boss".   When the planes were in the air they followed instructions from the "Air Boss" (usually a current or retired air traffic controller), but when they were on the ground they followed my instructions.  'Course, the flight demo teams had their own people for that, so I just coordinated with them and worked around them. "Peaceful coexistence" I called it.

I've worked with the Canadian Snowbirds (great guys!) and the RAF Red Arrows (ditto!) as well as the USAF Thunderbirds (a little stiff, but still OK people).  The Blue Angels, however, seem to revel in being pricks.  They're just demanding, whiney people.  At one show I was at the Blues called an emergency meeting for 6pm on Friday evening, then made all of us wait until 7 before they made their entrance.  They sat ramrod straight while #4, their Safety Officer, read off their list of gripes.  

One was they didn't like their allocated ramp space.  I raised my hand and told them I was getting mixed signals, that I had worked out "my ramp" and "their ramp" in detail with their senior enlisted man when they first arrived. (Their enlisted crew are all nice guys.  It's just the pilots who were abused children.)  #4 glared at me and said, "You and I can discuss this further after this meeting!"  A friend leaned over to me and said, "Do you know what you just did?  You embarrassed him in front of his Squadron Leader."  Apparently nobody questions a Blue Angel.

Later #4 and I met in the airport manager's office where we looked at the ramp map and divied the real estate into "yours" and "mine".  It was the same agreement I had worked out with their enlisted guys two days earlier!  Haha!  We both left smiling and back-slapping happy.  Then he went back outside and put on his "I'm a Blue Angel pilot and you're not" face. 

But then the show began and all that was water under the bridge.  Damn they're good!  ;)


Monday, July 9, 2012

Was Henry Ford a Socialist?

I recently read an interesting piece about Henry Ford, the person who almost singlehandedly put America on wheels and introduced manufacturing to the "moving assembly line".  He was an innovative thinker for sure.  

Consider this:  In 1914 the average daily wage for a blue collar worker (in high-wage Detroit) was $2.34.  Henry Ford was having difficulty with employee turnover at his car factory (300% annually) so he addressed it by raising the wages of (almost all) his workers to $5.00 a day.  In other words, he took money out of his pocket (and his investor's pockets) and put it in his employee's pockets.  WHAT?  Without being coerced by government or a union?  Was he NUTS?   Some might call that a massive transfer of wealth.  I wonder what his Board of Directors had to say about it at the time?  Was Henry a closet Socialist?

But in reality here's what happened:  His Model T sales went from 250,000 cars in 1914 to 472,000 in 1916.  How?  All those now-well-paid employees could afford to buy the cars they were building.  Plus increases in productivity dropped the price of his basic Model T by approx. 50% to $360.  And to keep their employees motivated other automakers had to follow Ford's lead, and most of them (both the workers and the owners) prospered greatly also.  But it was Henry Ford and his company and his family who prospered the most.  Well-to-do before, the Ford's became wealthy beyond their wildest dreams when his workers prospered, too. 

Well....was he a Socialist?*  Was Henry a "re-distributor of wealth" or just a "pump primer"?  Is there a difference?  Could his example have any relevance for us today?  That's a tough one.  A policy to tax the rich like that being carried out today by Socialist French President Francois Hollande (with a top tax rate of 75%!) seems to be more vindictive than based on business logic.  But as Henry Ford demonstrated, a more balanced income distribution across the board can yield huge positives for workers and entrepreneurs alike.  It's all just a numbers game....unless a thriving middle class can afford to buy what entrepreneurs are offering, businesses stagnate or fail.  

It seems to me the trick is walking the fine line between a vindictive Socialist "share the wealth" money grab and finding that ideal "pump priming " point.  Do the ends ever justify the means?  Semantics aside, was Henry Ford's social experiment a good idea or not?

Thoughts anyone?  


*Henry was NOT a "card-carrying" Socialist.  In fact he was outspokenly anti-Socialist, anti-Communist, anti-union, and unfortunately anti-Semitic, too.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Crane collapse!

I just saw on the news that a construction crane that was being dismantled yesterday on the campus of the University of Texas at Dallas collapsed, killing 2 construction workers.  

This hits especially close to home because just 2 weeks ago I watched with interest as they dismantled the crane from the jobsite right behind our apartment.  I walked over and talked to the crew, listening intently as they shared with me how it's done.  They were excited to tell their story and I found it fascinating.

The removal crane was a monster 350 ton model with a 200' high reach.

They began by removing the concrete blocks from one end.  

Then they removed a long horizontal boom piece from the other end to keep things in relative balance.

This was just one of the boom pieces.  You have to see it up close to realize just how massive it is.  It was broken down further into 3 pieces and each piece hauled out on a separate truck.

They worked back and forth from the ends until all they had left was the central cab.  Finally it was removed, then the mast came down in 20' sections and it was all gone.  Just like a kids erector set.  (Do they even have those anymore?)

At UT Dallas they must have been somewhere in a mid-dismantle unbalanced state when a 50 mph gust of wind hit it, blowing it over. Notice the workers in my photos up high unbolting all the pieces?  I'm wondering if it was they who were killed?  As there aren't too many 350 ton cranes around I'm wondering if this wasn't the same crew I spent time with?  So far I haven't been able to find out.  Whoever they were, may they rest in peace.  We take so much for granted, never stopping to think about all the hard working, brave people who build....everything!