Monday, June 30, 2014

The man (along with Sean Connery) who made gray cool


I just read the Most Interesting Story In The World about The Most Interesting Man In The World.  You know who I'm talking about, right?  

He's that worldly Latin guy on the Dos Equis commercials who has parallel parked a train, whose mother has a tattoo that says "Son", who once had an awkward moment just to see how it felt.  I've gotta admit, I'd love to hang with him for a while and take notes.

The article I read in Cigar and Spirits magazine shed new light on the man that we all thought we knew.  Things like he's not the sensual Latin man's man he makes out to be, but a 75 year old Jewish actor named Jonathan Goldsmith from the Bronx.  And he's spent over half a century being a bit Hollywood actor.  (Do you recognize him from Star Wars and Gunsmoke?)

SEVENTY FIVE?  He must have one helluva makeup lady.  How do I know it's a "lady"?  'Cause he's The Most Interesting Man In The World.  :)
 
So what's with that accent, you ask?  Great story:  Over the course of his acting career he became good friends with one Fernando Lamas, who might himself have been The Most Interesting Man In The World if he'd auditioned, and hadn't had that unfortunate death thing in 2011.  Fernando and Jonathan ran in the same circle and it was imitating Lamas' accent that helped seal the Does Equis commercial for him.

Goldsmith's wife, also his manager, arranged for his Dos Equis audition where he was one of 400.  He made that cut and was invited back for a second audition as one of 200 or so, then was one of the final three.  Turns out they originally passed on him saying they wanted someone younger.

That's when his wife/manager went to bat for him telling the beer guys that The Most Interesting Man In The World HAD to be an older guy.  How could a younger man have had all the life experiences necessary to be The Most Interesting Man In The World?

I agree.  Getting older does have some drawbacks, but I'll accept them any day in exchange for all the things I've experienced in my life....the things I've done and seen, the people I've met, the places I've been.  But I digress.

Turns out 'ol Jonathan really is a Most Interesting Guy.  For example, he traded his house for a boat and sailed the Caribbean for a while, then later lived on a boat near Los Angeles.

"I live in shorts and deck shoes," he says. "I'm basically very simple. I don't need much. There's very little room on the boat for a wardrobe, and our whole room is smaller than most people's walk-in closets. That's the beauty of living on a boat. You prioritize. You practice triage on those things in your life, what is significant, what has emotional attachment."

Amen, Brother TMIMITW!

Knowing all this, I'd like to hang with him now more than ever.  

Stay thirsty my friends.  :)

S

Friday, June 27, 2014

"Hey Earl, where'd all this #%^* oil come from?


I often joke about digging a hole in the ground in Texas and hitting oil.  Turns out it's TRUE!*

In Sugarland, Texas (near Houston) two Bubbas are in police custody after the duo drilled an unauthorized well in the back yard of one of the men looking for natural gas. They were in search of a fuel source for their extraordinarily large barbecue grill.  It seems they grew tired of changing the propane bottle on their 250,000 BTU grill.  (250K BTU?  Damn!  What were they cooking?)

They were charged with unlawful oil and gas exploration, damage to public property, concealing proven reserves, and numerous other charges by the EPA.  Not surprisingly, they were too inebriated at the time of their arrest to understand the charges against them.

They were both employed in the oil and gas industry and knew something about drilling.  They bought their supplies (lumber, plywood) from Home Depot and rented a cement mixer to serve as their drill drive system.

After drilling down "a good ways" their PVC drill pipe (OMG....PVC?) blew out and oil began flowing out of the ground, flooding their yard, the street, and the gutter.  The EPA later gauged the flow as being at a rate of 47 barrels per hour (that's 1,974 gallons per hour).

Their court date is scheduled for July 1.

I remember years ago there was an oil drilling company TV commercial that aired in West Texas that ended with, "If you don't have an oil well, GET ONE!"  I guess these guys took it literally.  :)

Have a great weekend everyone.

S

* I checked this on Snopes and they have no evidence of it being a hoax.  Still, I would think an oddball story like this would have made the national news.  Who knows?

LATE EDIT:  I found it!  This was actually from a ruptured pipeline in Oklahoma last year.  I'm just gonna change the topic from "news" to "humor" and leave it up, 'cause I like it.  :)  

  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Me? I thought YOU were driving.


I don't know the "Who", but the "What" is pretty obvious.  This elderly couple turned a little (a lot?) too sharply and rolled their car.  They seemed to be taking it all in stride, however, and were quite happy to pose for the paparazzi. 

I see by their license plate they're from California, known for, among other things, their trendy fashions.  Always on fashion's cutting edge myself *, I wonder where I can get me some of those high-ridin' pants?  I remember as a teenager we wore "hip huggers".  I suppose this is one of those yin-yang things.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


It might be legal, but it sure doesn't seem right:  I heard yesterday that the authorities are considering taking a portion of Central Expressway, THE major north/south highway into downtown Dallas, and turning it into a toll road.  How can you ask drivers to pay for the construction of a new road, then when it's finished, tell them they'll have to pay AGAIN to drive on it?

The cost to drive on our Dallas area toll roads adds up quickly.  I calculate I spend well over $1000 a year in tolltag charges.  If you can't afford the tolls, for example, that means you can't drive on the road you paid to build.  You subsidized building a road for those who are affluent enough to pay tolls.  How is that fair?

This is one of those unintended consequences of mandating better gas mileage for cars.  Today we have more people driving more cars, necessitating more roads and more road maintenance, yet using less fuel.  And the funds to pay for new roads and their upkeep are paid for by the tax on each gallon of gas sold at the pump.  

That's why there are so many new toll roads being built, at least here in my area.   The conservative political mantra today is "cut taxes" when we don't even have enough gas tax revenue as it is to keep up with our current growth, much less the funds to maintain anything.

We're gonna pay for it one way or another, either in higher gas taxes or more tolls.  There's no free lunch, and there's no free ride, either.  I guess the Tea Party-types have their heads so far up their asses they can't see that.  Sheesh!

S

*sarcasm*


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Looks like I'll be checking out soon

Ugh!  Just take me now.

I saw a story online this morning....and we all know everything on the internet is true....that said there are 11 foods that are so contaminated with bacteria and other yucky crawly things they are likely to kill you.  Then it went on to list my diet!

Meat and poultry....Yes, I eat a modest amount of both.

Leafy greens....I like a salad on occasion, even though some improperly washed lettuce likely was the source of my food poisoning a couple weeks ago.

Eggs....That's been my Sunday breakfast ritual since I was a kid. 

Tuna....I made some tuna salad just last week.

Oysters....I tried to eat them once but my mouth rejected them.

Potatoes....Love 'em.  You cook 'em, I'll eat 'em.

Berries....I have several varieties in the refrig right now.

Sprouts....I swore off them a few years ago after a near death experience.

Tomatoes....I eat them daily when they're in season....like right now.

Cheese....Some smoked Gouda is on my tapas lunch menu for today.

Ice cream....I have a half gallon in the freezer at all times.  I currently have some Blue Bell Pralines 'n Cream.

Luckily I'm still allowed bread.  It said that most people will have "sub-optimal results" (like a slow, painful death?) with a gluten-free diet.  Good, 'cause I like glute.

Until I read this I didn't realize I was virtually on life support.  (Apparently reading will kill you, too.)

You're all invited to my wake.  Casual, of course.  I've requested some fine Single-Malt Scotch be served.  Cheers!

S


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Monsanto's smoking gun



Talk about shooting yourself in the foot

The Governor of Vermont recently signed into law a bill that requires foods sold there and made from Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMO's, to be labeled as such.  In retaliation, Monsanto, one of the world's largest agrichemical (read: GMO) businesses, has threatened to sue them, saying such a law "is a violation of their (Monsanto's) right to free speech."

Huh?  How would this law prevent them from saying whatever they want?

I've never thought much about GMO's, or preservatives, or food colors, or much of anything else in my food.  If there's something wrong with it I think my system has already adapted to it.  But now after reading this.....

Not being a scientist myself I'm just guessing that GMO's exist because they enable farmers to achieve more crop yield per acre, or they're more disease resistant, or they're better able to withstand drought....something like that.  Right?

Hold on there, Kemosabe.  If their stuff is all that benign, why not just say so and go on about your business?

Here's "the rest of the story":  Apparently there's some really nasty stuff that goes into GMO's.  Twenty-five states are considering mandatory labeling just like Vermont, but they're all scared of the agribusiness legal backlash.  They say they will put forth a bill only AFTER another state goes first.  Vermont is now that state.

For their part, Monsanto has partnered with DuPont and Kraft and maybe others to try and squash such labeling requirements.  They are said to be ready to throw unlimited financial resources into fighting it, while itty-bitty Vermont keeps their legal defense fund in a mayo jar in the bottom drawer of their AG's desk.  This is turning out to be a huge David vs Goliath re-match.

I'm thinking Monsanto has already lost, at least in the public's mind.  Whenever you're caught trying to suppress transparency, well....it's like pleading the 5th Amendment.  Whenever you hear that, don't you just assume the party is guilty?  Legally of course they aren't, but in the court of popular opinion, it's "off with their head".  Smooth move Monsanto.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Out with the old....

Have you ever taken a carriage ride around a quaint old town?  Aren't they fun?  Especially in the winter.  There's you and your honey all cuddled up under a warm blanket in the back, sipping hot chocolate, while the driver narrates all the historic sites his/her city has to offer, always mindful to never turn around and look to see what's going on back there.  ;)

At least that's the way it's supposed to be.  In reality my experience has been I'm sitting 8' behind a horse that had a super-sized feedbag full of broccoli for dinner and is single-handedly doing irreparable damage to the Earth's ozone layer.

But I digress.

Now animal right's groups are saying the horses aren't treated well and the practice should be stopped.  Their movement (pardon the pun) seems to be gaining traction.


In with the new

Now a Florida-based company has introduced the "Horseless eCarriage".  It's an electric vehicle that evokes at least some of the nostalgia of traditional carriage rides, but without the "exhaust".  It can go up to 30 mph (try that, horse!) and has a range of 100 miles.

I wonder if they could synthesize that "clippity-clop" sound a horse makes?  But not that other sound.  :)

I'd try it.  Would you?

S


Monday, June 23, 2014

The world's most expensive sauce pan

Our old pots and pans, or as K calls them, our "cookware", were pretty much crap.  We had been talking about buying some good quality replacements, but it seemed to just stay on our (my) back burner.  Until yesterday.

We received one of Bed, Bath, and Beyond's coupons in the mail and figured we'd might as well take advantage of it....20% off is nothing to sneeze at.



See that sauce pan on the right, above the griddle?  I went in thinking we'd just buy that for a start, but instead we came out with the whole set.

But wait....there's MORE!

They had a special promo going on:  if you buy enough Calphalon products they give you (maybe "give" is the wrong word) a $50 gift card, too.  20% off PLUS $50.  Sweet!

But looking back on our shopping experience I think I came up on the short end.  I mean, K got some new pots and pans cookware AND a $50 gift card, but she wouldn't let me buy anything I wanted. 


K made me put her back.  How fair is that?  *pout*

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I read an interesting article in the paper that said yellow, orange, teal, and green cars, in that order, had the highest resale values, on average about $1,500 more than similar cars in the more common white (21% market share), black (19%), gray (17%) or silver (15%) colors.


Maybe by the time I buy my next car (no time soon) VW will bring back their Fahrenheit Edition GTI.  I dunno....you think it would be a cop magnet?  The last thing I need is to drive a cop magnet.  I thought it interesting that red wasn't on either list.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


I did NOT see this coming!

We had a gray drizzly day yesterday, which was rather nice as it kept the temps down.  But last night when I took the dog out the skies were clear.  I just assumed (yes, I know) that we were back to "hot and dry".


Instead, this ^ is what I woke up to.  Yikes!  No complaints here....we desperately need the rain.

It's been pretty intense so far this morning.  Lightning, thunder, 60-70 mph winds....luckily I had just enough warning to get my outdoor furniture safely inside.

We're currently under Stage 3 water restrictions:  Lawn watering only one day every other week, limits on car washing, swimming pool filling, etc.  And it's just the START of summer.  

They say unless we get lots of rain soon we'll go to Stage 4 restrictions....no lawn watering at all.  Imagine how this will impact lawn maintenance crews, landscape contractors, car washes, etc.

Meanwhile, less than 100 miles south it's flooding.  Go figure.

S

Friday, June 20, 2014

Thank Gawd for Southwest Airlines!



While most of their flights deliver the standard FAA mandated "get in, sit down, shut up, hold on" spiel, if you're really lucky you just might someday be on a Southwest Airlines flight and hear something like >>this<<.  (Suck it up and once you get past the obligatory commercial I promise you'll have a great laugh.  Be sure and listen to the end.)

I hope Southwest Airlines never loses their goof-ball sense of humor.  Not many companies would let their employees have this much fun at work.  Kudos SWA!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Once when flying SWA I was being my usual smart-assed self (playfully of course) with one of their flight attendants.  After a little back-and-forth fun she went to work, walking through the cabin carrying one of those small trays holding a number of Styrofoam coffee cups.  As she walked toward me (I was in an aisle seat) she "tripped" and dumped it all into my lap.  *gasp*

The cups were full of confetti.  Ha!  She/we had the whole plane in stitches.  That would probably be a firing offense on any other airline, but not Southwest.  Gotta LUV 'em.  

As we were deplaning at the gate, she was standing by the door giving us all the "thanks for flying Southwest" line.  When I came to her and turned towards the door I smiled and handed her my barf bag which had some ice and a little Coke sloshing around inside.  Karma is a bitch.  :)

I think we both had a good laugh that day.  :)

S




The dog days of summer....except it's not even summer yet.


 I keep hearing Colorado calling my name.

I'm NOT ready for this.  It's barely mid-June and the temps here in Dallas are already nipping at 100 degrees.  And worse, the humidity is awful, too.  Some say it's too hot too soon, before people have become "acclimatized".  I think that's just some flowery BS to make us think it won't be that bad this summer.  OK, I was born at night, but not last night.  I don't buy this "varying degrees of misery" theory.  

Is the weather in our part of the planet just off-the-scale screwy or is it a case of everyone having a camera phone and access to You Tube?  The lead story on the news every day is tornadoes in the mid-west, mudslides, with droughts and floods at the same time.  Are we just hearing more about something that's been going on forever?

All I know is if I want to do anything outside I have to be out at first light, even though you can already cut the humid air with a knife.  Every afternoon this week we've had a 20% chance of rain.  So far we've only been sprinkled on.  Grrr!  Mother Nature's a bitch, you know that?  I'd rather be wet with fresh rain than sweat.  Come on, rain already!

Which leads to my next dilemma.  Bro will be back from vacation any day now so I can again return to "semi" retirement.  Except sitting at home in my humble abode (kept so cool my nose hairs freeze) is bo-ring.  What I'd give to live somewhere the daytime temps plateau at around 72.  With a low cost of living (which sorta eliminates Colorado).  And good Mexican food.  Is that asking too much?

Maybe it's time to buy a couple of lottery tickets.  If I win we're going straight from the lottery office to the airport, where we're boarding a plane for....?  Help me out here.  Where?
 
Have a great weekend.  Stay cool.  :)

S




Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Aww....just throw it out there. They'll buy it.


 Dad had a pale yellow one with a black vinyl roof.
 
I was raised in a GM house.  My dad always bought General Motors automobiles.  We at one time or another had them all, from Chevy Impalas to Cadillac Land Yachts.  Dad wouldn't have owned a Ford or a Chrysler if you gave it to him.



So when it came time for me to spend my money for a car all I knew was GM.  My first car (bought with dad's money) was a used Mustang....a non-GM product, because it was cheap.  But with MY money I bought a brand new 1971 Camaro SS 350.  

In short order I followed that with an Olds Cutlass, a Toronado (what was I thinking?) a couple of sporty Buicks, and then it dawned on me:  they're junk.  (I since have moved on to Honda's, Mazda's and Audi's, with excellent success.)

That was the low point of GM products.  For years their market share had gone up and up and they got fat, dumb, and lazy.  They could roll out any old thing and people would just throw money at them.

That's what happens when the bean counters get the upper hand over the engineers.  No doubt GM had the know-how to build fine cars.  But when they'd come up with something really good the accountants would tell them to make it cheaper, use thinner plastic, find some supplier from deeper in some Third World jungle, or whatever they had to do to save a few pennies.  They shot themselves in the foot. Their reputation went down the tube. 


Enter the Age of The Public Relations guys.

You want to improve your image?  Just build a car that can stay glued together for 90 days.  That's all....just 90 days. If you can do that, JD Power will put your name on a trophy.  GM filled up a trophy room with 'em.  Ta-da!  Quality improved, reputation fixed, problem solved.

"Crash?  What crash?  I didn't see a crash" said one GM lawyer to another.

So far this year General Motors has issued 44 recalls covering 20,000,000 cars.  The big newsmaker was the ignition switch that would fail causing the car to lose all power, steering, braking, etc and crash spectacularly.  

Turns out they knew about the problem for years, but their lawyers covered it up because they didn't want to pay the $.50 to fix each one.  It seems the lawyers trumped the PR folks, the bean counters, and the engineers.

I can't help but wonder what the net cost would have been to GM if they had just let the engineers build the car they wanted in the first place?  So it would have cost $___ more.  So what?  If their cars had a reputation for being top-quality and bullet proof, I'm convinced people would have paid the price. 

Today they'd have better cars and fewer dead-weight lawyers, PR guys, and bean counters.  Win-win-win and win.  

S


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

So what shape should we make the wheel this time?

Can any of you remember the first Persian Gulf war in Iraq, circa 1990-91?  That was the one where we bombed everything Iraq had of military value for a couple of months, then turned the Army and Marines loose on what was left. 

After only 100 hours, literally, President George H.W. Bush called them off and dictated terms to Saddam Hussein, allowing him to remain as Iraq's dictator.  Ever wonder why that was?  

It was because the King of Saudi Arabia counseled Bush 41 to stop pursuing Saddam, telling him he might stir up (an even bigger) hornet's nest if he wasn't careful.   


And these Boy Scouts should know

What the King meant was, even the region's really despicable tyrants like Saddam Hussein looked pretty tame compared to the other nut jobs itching to step into their shoes.

Truth is, as I've stated before, the people in that part of the world have a different value system, a different way of thinking.  Our Western ideas of "logic" and "decency" just don't translate.  They are simply an uncivilized society. 

No, of course I don't mean every single one of them.  But enough that it makes my statement valid.  While we in the US have our Westboro Baptist Church types, they are just tiny little cells of crazies scattered here and there.  

In Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, on and on....their extremists are a huge percentage (a majority?) of their population.  Say something unkind about their religion or publish an offensive cartoon and they issue a fatwah on your ass.

My point is, they always have and always will fight and kill each other.  That's all they know how to do.  At times they might subscribe to "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" and work together, but it's a fleeting arrangement.  Blink twice and they're right back at each others throats.

Now the Sunni Muslim minority in Iraq are on a roll and are vowing to take over the entire country by brute force.  Our concern is that if they do it will open the door for more extremists to train there and eventually threaten us here in America.  

The truth is, even if the Sunni militants (the ISIS) DON'T take over all of Iraq by brute force (they're unlikely to capture Baghdad proper or other Shia strongholds) they can and likely will still train others to come after us.  Count on it.  While it would be nice to keep the bad guys "over there", I'm afraid we're past that.

Make no mistake, this is not an American failure.  It's an Iraqi failure.  We set them up with every material advantage they could possibly need to succeed.  What we can't give them is new gray matter between their ears.

So what do we do?  (Q:  Why does the entire world look to the USA when something "needs to be done"?)  IMHO, and as seen through my pragmatic eyes, here's what I think we should do:  Get some chips and dip and maybe a few beers, sit back, and if we're lucky watch the militants on both sides annihilate each other.  While we should pray they spare the innocents, it's simply out of our hands.

LATE NEWS:  It was just reported that the US will soon send 275 Special Forces to "advise" the Iraqi Security Forces.  So the 150,000 troops we once had there couldn't "fix" Iraq, but now these 275 can?


DUH!  Even rocks are smarter than that.

S


Monday, June 16, 2014

My kinda weekend

For the first time in a long time I had a very relaxing weekend, start to finish.  No dreaded chores, no funerals to attend, just pleasant things.  On Saturday I went to see grandson Parker play T-ball, and see his sister Blakely, too.  Then later back home I almost fell asleep in my big chair.  (I'm not usually a napper.)

 

Then I settled in to watch the 24 Hours of Le Mans....well, at least a few hours of it.  How anyone can drive 200+ MPH at night baffles me.  And the mechanics those guys have!  One car had its entire transmission changed in 4 minutes.  My guy takes takes longer than that just to look up "transmission" on his computer.  Audi finished 1-2.  Wonder if I can get me one of these with a back seat and a hatch?  :)

Then Father's Day I visited with all 3 of my daughters.  We're going out for dinner together tomorrow with my 2 kids and their families who live here locally, and my San Antonio daughter and her family will be here in a few weeks for a visit.  And of course I quietly wished my Dad a nice Fathers Day, too.  I'm sure he heard me.  It was a nice day.

The news is dull today, so I won't bore you with any unrequested commentary from me.  (Hold your applause, please.)

When is this World Cup thing going to be over?  More important, how many days until REAL football season starts?

While channel surfing last night I saw a short piece on Jay Leno featured on 60 Minutes.  What a classy guy. 

Finally, I saw on The Presurfer this morning that Kan-yee West says he is the most influential artist of our time, that he's the modern Shakespeare, etc.  Really?  (No Yee-Aren't.)  I'm still trying to figure out what his talent is.

Back to work today.  I'm covering for bro this week while he troops around the Alps.  Y'all have a good week.  :)

S

Friday, June 13, 2014

Pragmatism 101

More of my Political Pragmatism series:

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has introduced a bill that seeks to allow those with pre-2010 student loans to refinance them at interest rates that are about half what they have now, going from in excess of 7% to 3.86%, the rate set by Congress several years ago for federal student loans.

Many economists, bankers, and others are now saying the average student loan....over $25K each, totaling $1.2 TRILLION dollars....is hampering economic growth.  And everyone agrees (or at least pays lip service) that an educated workforce is vital to our national health, now and even more so in the future.

Sen. Warren's bill died in the Senate when it failed to secure enough votes to stop a threatened Republican filibuster.  The sugar in the gas tank?  It was to be paid for with a higher tax on those making over $1M per year.



Meanwhile Bloomberg Business News reported this:  *stay with me here*

Using a tax shelter known as the "Double Irish" the most profitable tech company in America (the world?), Apple, is paying only a 2% tax rate on one of it's shadow companies that declares 60% of Apple's total profits.   

This subsidiary buys (on paper) all iPhones made in China, immediately sells them to another Apple subsidiary based in (low-tax) Singapore, then books the difference as Apples' profit.  Ireland's already-low 12.5% tax rate is massaged by their tax lawyers and eventually becomes a miniscule 2% rate (thanks to Irish tax loopholes, hence the "Double Irish").  This saves them BILLIONS of dollars in US taxes.

I don't blame Apple for doing this.  I blame an international system that ALLOWS it to happen.  Take this, multiply it by all the other international companies who are using smoke and mirrors to dodge their taxes, too, and you can imagine how much money we're leaving on the table.  

I know, I know....Businesses don't PAY taxes, they COLLECT taxes.  But as it is, consumers are paying the tax (in the price of their iPhone), but instead of it going to the treasury, it's going back to Apple's shareholders.

The liberal position:  Business is greedy.  The conservative position:  Taxes are too high.  Neither side can see past their own short term talking points.

My pragmatic position:  If we put an end to all these tax dodge shell games and just had a realistic modest corporate tax rate that could actually be collected, we would have the money to subsidize worthwhile things like reduced student loan rates.  

This would likely lead to a better educated, more competitive workforce, and some of those brainiacs just might be the ones to invent Apple's next iGizmo, making Apple and its shareholders even MORE money.

We used to call this "priming the pump".  Sometimes you've gotta spend a little more up front to make a lot more later on.  Win / win!

I know my example is overly simplistic, but the concept is sound.  Why can't anyone look a bit farther into the future and see it?

S

Thursday, June 12, 2014

FOR SALE: Iraqi Army rifles....

....never fired....only dropped once.
 

The pride of the 10th Annual Baghdad Jaycees Goat Roast and Labor Day Parade has proven they aren't worth a damn when it comes to defending their country.

Observations of a non-military man:  What is it about middle eastern / Arab armies that makes them such lousy soldiers?  I've read that the Egyptian Army fought fairly well at the opening of the Yom Kippur War with Israel in 1973, but other than that they seem to fold up like a card table when faced with anyone actually shooting at them. Snappy parade performers, lousy fighters.

After investing a decade of our time, thousands of American lives, and hundreds of billions of dollars helping get Iraq to the point they can become a self-sufficient, stable, law-abiding citizen of the world, it seems they can't even stand up to the first hint of determined opposition they faced.

Shades of the Fall of Saigon!  Al Qaeda affiliated rebels have seized control of the northern city of Mosul while the Iraqi Army was loading up and making a run for it.  

Now the insurgents are even in control of a formidable armored force left by the Americans for and now abandoned by the Iraqis.  Emboldened, the insurgents are now marching towards Baghdad while the Iraqi Army is melting away.

It's a sad situation.  On the one hand I feel sorry for all the downtrodden in the region, all the women who are treated little better than cattle, the little girls who are denied an education, etc, but the bottom line is it seems beyond our ability, anyone's ability, to bring them into the 21st 20th 19th Century.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and all the rest are simply from a different branch of the Homo Sapien family tree.  Our values are irreconcilable, our brains wired differently.  We can build them all the sewer treatment plants they could possibly use, but they're still gonna crap on the sidewalk.  The only reason we have anything to do with them at all is because of a freak of geography....they're sitting atop an ocean of oil.

I say we learn to live without their black gold, keep far, far away from them all, and let them stew in their own juices.  F___ 'em.

S


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

We sure could use Pat Paulsen right now (look it up)

Show me a young Conservative and I'll show you a man with no heart.  Show me an old Liberal and I'll show you a man with no brains. ~~Winston Churchill



Whoa!  Last night Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, the #2 guy in the House of Representatives, was defeated in his Virginia district primary race.  This is both good news and bad news.

Cantor was one of the Republican "Young Guns" along with Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy, a small group of virtually inflexible super conservatives who, IMO, were preventing our government from "governing".  Think "government shutdown".  He'll be gone after the first of the new year.  That's the good news.

The bad news is that the guy who defeated him is even MORE inflexible, as in absolutely rigid.  He's a Tea Party fave and one of those "my way or the highway" kinda people.  If enough people like him are elected our political polarization, our gridlock, will get even worse.  Sales of pitchforks and torches will surge.

While the Tea Party has been swatted down in many primary races so far this year, this was a BIG win for them.  As a student of politics (among other things) this intrigues me.  It's going to make for a fascinating fall election.

I'm tickled by all the fuss over whether Hillary Clinton will run for President in 2016.  My first prediction: She might run, but she won't even get her party's nomination.

She'll be in the headlines all right, and might win some early primaries, but her party will eventually realize she's a lightning rod.  

Her fans love her, but her foes are reviled by her.  That's not a recipe for winning an election.  She comes with a lot of baggage....I'm guessing even more than most politicians.  There's gonna be lots of mud (shit?) slinging.

Get one of her bumper stickers and buttons as soon as you can 'cause they will some day be political novelties.


I'll add Hillary's to my collection.  :)

S


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The true essence of baseball

What do you get when you cross an Aston Martin with a Premiership Champion (rugby) Northampton Saints fan?  This:


I'm impressed!

Here's a question for you baseball fans....when you go to a game do you actually go to watch the game, or to just eat hot dogs and nachos and drink beer?

Last night about 8:30 I took Luke the Wonder Dog out and noticed they were playing a Frisco Rough Riders game at our minor league ballpark a couple blocks away.  It was a delightful evening, about 72 degrees, no humidity, slight breeze, and I was suddenly overcome by the desire to go to a game there tonight.

All I really wanted was some ballpark food, which is always better than the same thing if it were served at home.  Sorta like eating some canned crap food sitting around a camp fire.

But, hey, sometimes you gotta take the bitter with the sweet.  I would willingly sit there and dodge foul balls for some gooey junk food.  I aaaaalmost had K convinced we should go, but then she had a momentary flash of sanity and laughed in my face.  

When negotiations concluded she'd promised me some fake cheese (the staple of world-class ballpark nachos) over some fresh chips /w plenty of jalapenos, served to me in my chair high up on our balcony if I would let her off the hook.

Cold beer is a given.  SOLD!  Congress should take note.....THIS is how you compromise.  :)

S



Monday, June 9, 2014

Economics For Dummies



Income inequality....everyone is talking about it these days.  And by "everyone" I really just mean those who can think, and those who don't limit their reading to publications that have some knocked-up starlet on the cover and ads about how to spackle over your wrinkles.

Just to be different, let's not look at it in liberal or conservative terms.  You know, the argument that "we earned it, it's ours, you can't have it" (conservative) or "the Man skims off all the profits and pays the workers a subsistence minimum wage" (liberal).  Let's be pragmatic for once.  How is income inequality REALLY affecting us, besides just politically polarizing us?

The Reader's Digest condensed version?....Not enough people have enough disposable income (income left over after just paying for the bare necessities) to buy enough "stuff" to justify business expansion.  Without business expansion no new jobs will be created and unemployment will remain high, which means many people won't have the disposable income to buy "stuff", which won't create business expansion....  It's a vicious circle.

But our unemployment rate is down from 10% in 2009 (?) to 6.3% today.  That's good, right?  

"Lies, damn lies, and statistics."  Many of those newly employed are working low paying retail / burger flipping jobs, paying a fraction of what they were making before the recession.  Or they are only working part time.  Many have given up looking at all and are living in mama's basement.

But we ARE buying stuff.  LOTS of stuff.  

Umm, sort of, but only by going head-over-heels in debt.  Household (consumer) debt is crushing the middle class.  We're living in a house of cards.  We can't go on like this forever.

So while the middle class hasn't received a raise in 20+ years (after allowing for inflation), the wealthy have seen their income rise by well over 200%.  So much that today the wealthy have lots of money, but no where to invest it.  

Publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The Economist estimate that in the US alone there is somewhere between 1 and 2 TRILLION dollars sitting on the sidelines in short-term accounts.  Worldwide they estimate as much as 20 TRILLION dollars is just sitting there.

That much money (or at least some of it) in the hands of a vibrant middle class could buy LOTS of stuff.  Stuff that would need to be manufactured.  Stuff that would necessitate the creation of MILLIONS of new jobs.  The middle class would again be a powerful consumer engine, and remember, our economy is 70% consumer driven.  Again, it's a vicious circle, but this time in a good way.

Now for an exclamation point lemme throw out some cliches:  "A rising tide lifts all boats".  If the middle class does well so will the wealthy, who own the means of production.  Win-win.
  
"A little piece of a big pie is better than a big piece of NO pie".  If we keep going the way we are....well, let's just say that's how revolutions begin.  Beware of the unwashed masses surrounding your house while carrying pitchforks and torches.

You think that couldn't happen here?  Maybe not directly, but in most parts of the world it's common.  Unemployment in the Euro zone for example is over 10%, and the natives are very restless.  Enough discontent around the globe will definitely affect us.

So, we just grab some of the rich folks money and pass it out to the less fortunate, right?  

Hardly!  That's how you kill everyone's incentive to work.  Reform the tax code, stop giving favorable tax breaks, subsidies, etc to those who don't need them.  There are probably other ways to level the field, too, but that alone would go a long way.

One last cliche:  The rich need to wise up and recognize they are  "killing the goose that laid the golden egg".

That's not a liberal or a conservative opinion.  That's a pragmatic fact.

S