Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Have Spam, Will Trade....

Hmmm....I'm not sure what to make of this:

This was the cover of The Economist three weeks ago....

....and the news this week is all about the high-living (?) Greeks and their impending default on a multi-billion-Euro loan payment.  Greeks have made a run on their banks, and now the banks have no liquidity....they have no more paper currency in their vaults and can no longer fill up their ATM machines.  People may have money on paper, but....

There was a piece on the local news earlier this week telling of a HUGE property value bubble building here in Dallas.  It seems investors are buying up houses for over-the-top prices, and paying cash, freezing many hopeful buyers out of the market.

Now today I learned that Texas Governor Greg "Who's on First" Abbott has signed into law a bill authorizing the State Comptroller to set up a State Bullion Depository (literally a secure vault) with HSBC Bank.  

It seems the University of Texas endowment fund (now in excess of $25 Billion dollars), on the advice of its investment team, has bought $1 Billion dollars worth of gold....not gold CERTIFICATES, but 6,000+ actual gold bars, and needs a place to put them.  Oh, and any Texan is invited to park their precious metal there, too.

The insiders say there is growing concern that gold certificates may not be readily redeemable if TSHTF (The Shit Hits The Fan), and that's why they are stashing away actual physical gold.  Having gold on paper is not necessarily the same as having gold, if you get the distinction.

Is there a message here for us lowly peasants?

Being the contrarian that I am, I'm considering diversifying with a new barter currency, too, but I'm thinking something like toilet paper or bullets, or maybe cans of Spam.  What do 'ya think?


Monday, June 22, 2015

Half of us are crazy, and the rest are just nuts!

It's been a few days now since the senseless killing of 9 worshipers at a church in Charleston, SC.  Tragic....racist....simply beyond comprehension.  But it happened, and it has started the conversation anew about gun control.  And IMHO we have again taken the wrong fork in the road.  We're headed towards a dead end where nothing will happen except get everyone even more polarized and pissed off.

We have lost our sense of reality.  As in most instances, we know what we would LIKE to see happen, without seriously acknowledging what actually CAN happen.  There is quite a difference between the two.

My liberal friends think Congress should pass a law restricting certain types of guns, or even outlaw them all together, similar to what has been done in the past in the UK, Australia, etc.  End of problem, and we all live happily ever after.  La-tee-dah!

My conservative friends think Gubment agents will soon be knocking on their door....no....KICKING THEIR DOOR DOWN....in order to confiscate all their firearms.

The first scenario is a pipe dream, and the second is silly.

No law can change people's thinking.  A law is a signed piece of paper, nothing more.  People have to be willing to accept it before it can have any long-term practical affect on our society (think Prohibition), and a huge portion of our population will NEVER give up their firearms.  ("....when they pry it from my cold, dead hands.")  It simply won't happen.  And no one, no amount of force, can go door-to-door and confiscate people's guns.  There would be blood in the streets. 

And for that same reason, no Gubment agents are going to come into our houses and confiscate our firearms.  There aren't enough police or soldiers to do it, and besides, a good many would probably mutiny if they were ordered to do so.

Nor can they prohibit / buy up all the ammunition, making our guns little more than paperweights.  There are already BILLIONS of rounds of every caliber ammunition you can imagine in private hands.  That goal is even more pie-in-the-sky than confiscating our guns!

Instead of chasing those windmills, why don't we pursue something more realistic, something we can all (?) agree on, like keeping firearms out of the hands of known criminals and the mentally unstable?  How difficult would that be to do?  Damn difficult....but much easier than turning the country upside down looking for several hundred MILLION guns and BILLIONS of round of ammo, and creating a civil war in the process.

Known criminals are just that, known.  They should regularly be subject to random searches of their residences, cars, their persons, etc, to insure they are not in possession of guns they are prohibited having due to their status as felons.  A daunting task for sure, but even if marginally successful, likely to yield immediate, noticeable results.

The mentally disturbed....Oooo....that will be tougher.  Who gets to decide who is mentally disturbed?  Their former spouse?  Their next door neighbor with an ax to grind?  Will counselors and therapists rat out their patients who they suspect might be dangerous, without having any real proof?  Will that doctor / patient confidentially thing come into play?  I dunno.  Still, I think this, more than anything else, will make our country safer.  

We must somehow identify those among us who are disturbed enough, desperate enough, hate-filled enough, to resort to violence.  Making this a national priority should start NOW.  We can talk this subject to death and accomplish nothing, or we can get real and maybe see something good come of this tragedy.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Heads they win, tails we lose....

I saw this on Facebook yesterday and after reading it, didn't know how to take it.  Was it supposed to be humor, or an expose? (You've gotta add that little accent over the "e", 'cause I don't know how.)  Regardless, it's spot-on on how our political system, in America at least, works.  It's a short read:

Integrity Disqualifies Sanders for White House


WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—The Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s potential bid for the 2016 Presidency was declared over, on Monday, before it even began, because of a key feature of the American political system that makes a person with integrity ineligible for the White House.
According to some experts, the electoral system has developed a number of safeguards over the past few decades to prevent someone with independence and backbone from occupying the Presidency.

“Bernie Sanders’s failure to become a member of either major political party excludes him from the network of cronyism and backroom deals required under our system to be elected,” said Davis Logsdon, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota. “Though that failure alone would disqualify Sanders, the fact that he is not beholden to a major corporate interest or investment bank would also make him ineligible.”

Because of his ineligibility, Logsdon said, the Vermont Senator would be unable to fund-raise the one billion dollars required under the current system to run for President. “The best source of a billion dollars is billionaires, and Sanders has alienated them,” he said. “Clearly he didn’t think this through.”

Logsdon said that Sanders might persist in his quest for the White House despite his ineligibility but that such an effort would be doomed to fail. “Our political system has been refined over the years specifically to keep people like Bernie Sanders out of the White House,” he said. “The system works.”

This is exactly why we will never, CAN never have an honest politician, much less a legislative majority of honest politicians.  To even have the slightest chance of being elected to high office, you would have had to spend years proving to the power bosses that you are a team player....that you will work tirelessly to help elect, and contribute money to, and to RAISE money for, the scoundrels who are on the top of the podium, regardless of their lack of morals and integrity. 

Those two measures of character are not part of our political system.  Politicians care about one thing, and it isn't the "public good".  No, it's about getting themselves re-elected and possessing the power election brings, period.  They would throw ANY of us under the bus to get re-elected.

When I hear someone say, "Oh, yes, they're a bunch of scoundrels all right...well, except for MY Senator/Reperesentative.  He's a good guy", I wonder how, or even if, their brain works?  Can anyone really be that naive?

I know of politicians who might have made their early reputation by being honest people, perhaps military heroes, etc, but somewhere along the way they were seduced by The Dark Side to put all that aside and play ball with the Devil.  Even the most sedate politicians, the ones you never hear much from, are guilty.  Instead of speaking up for "the people", they just "go along to get along".  They are accessories to the crime.  They might not pull the trigger, but they sure as hell drive the getaway car!

And THAT, my friends, is why I have no respect for ANY politician, of either party.


LATE EDIT:  Except for Mr. Sanders, perhaps.  Regardless of his politics, he has shown a disdain for the political Status Quo.  Good for him!  Which is why he doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of being elected President.  Honestly, I don't know how he made it to congress in the first place.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Israel: Hero or villan?

I recently had an interesting conversation over on Facebook with Simon Butler, the topic being Israel.  Boy, there's a lightning rod issue if there ever was one!  I've been reading up on Israel recently and have some thoughts....if you do, too, I'd love to hear yours.

People today assume the US has always been a staunch ally of Israel, but that isn't exactly true.  The US was one of the first countries (THE first?) to officially recognize Israel back in 1948.  That really wasn't the giant leap that it sounds like as the United Nations had already officially endorsed the partitioning of Palestine into two states.  The US and other western nations simply fell in line.  Some humanitarian aid was soon forthcoming, but not much else.  Certainly not US government military assistance.

Israel had agents out everywhere looking to clandestinely buy surplus military equipment.  Often the sellers had no idea who they were selling to, only that the check was good.  British small arms and armor were common.  Many aircraft were acquired from Czechoslovakia, ironically knock-off German Messerschmidt designs with western engines.  

 Czech-built Avia S-199 in Israeli service

They were almost as dangerous to Israelis as they were to their enemies, but at least they had an air force.  And the British actively armed the new Jewish state air force, too.

 British-built Gloster Meteor

Soon the French emerged as a major Israeli military supplier, also.

British-made armor supported by French-made aircraft

US-made T-6 (WWII training) aircraft

So where did the money come from to buy these arms?  Likely from wealthy Jewish American donors and organizations....PRIVATE donors and organizations.  As Simon suggested to me, it is doubtful that European Jews contributed much as they had probably been economically emaciated during WWII.

So did the US have much influence over the early Jewish state?  Not as much as you might think.  By 1956 Egypt's Gammel Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, which led the British, French, and Israelis to launch the Suez War.  Not only was this war NOT supported by the US, but President Eisenhower slapped it down by forcing the invaders to cease.  Advantage Egypt.

It was the hugely popular Nasser who was the major sword-rattler in the Arab world against Israel by the mid-1960's.  It was he who kicked out the UN peacekeepers that separated his country from Israel, who had been enforcing a shaky peace.  It is now felt his ultimatum to the UN was a bluff, but when the UN complied, he had no choice but to save face by initiating limited hostility.  (Google the sinking of the INS Eilat by an Egyptian Komar-class missile boat prior to the start of the Six Days War.)

Sensing all-out war against a combined much larger enemy was imminent, Israel attacked first.  The 1967 Six Days War was a huge success for Israel, leading many to think Israel INITIATED the fight with a sucker punch.  (In a fight to the death, the LAST thing you want is a "fair fight".)  Realistically, this was Israel's best hope to prevail over the much more powerful enemy aligned against them on three fronts:  From Egypt, Syria, and Jordan.  They saw it as simply survival.  And for the record, Israel's vaunted air force at the time was equipped with French, not American aircraft.

By this time the Cold War with the Soviet Union was nearing its peak, and the Rooskies became the patron of the Arab nations.  It was a numbers game for the USSR:  There were hundreds of millions of Arabs, and only a few million Jews.  It was only then that the US became Israel's primary backer, not so much because they loved Israel, but because Israel was a tool the US could use to thwart further Soviet advances in the region.  The US also became closely allied with Turkey at about the same time, for the same reason.  

We remained "attached at the hip" with Israel until the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990's.  After that, we didn't need Israel as much and our support cooled considerably, although not entirely, as the rise of Arab nationalism was still a concern, and the natural counter was....ta-da....Israel!  There was a lot of pragmatism involved there.

Israel is roundly and regularly criticized for the method by which the Zionists gained control of land in the region.  Early settlers legitimately bought their land, but later the Jews became more heavy-handed, simply in many cases rounding up Palestinians and kicking them out.  

Right?  Of course not!  But let's face reality:  This is often how the world works.  The English did it, the French did it, the Germans did it, the Spanish did it, and...wait for it...the Americans did it, too!  (HELLO....Native Americans?)  How do you think Texas came to be where it is today?  And California?  They were WAR PRIZES.  Fact!  While many wrongs don't make a right, I don't see the Israelis as setting any new precedents....they haven't sunk to a new low.  That bar was pretty low to begin with.

And look at what the Israelis have done with their land:  It has blossomed, with a robust civilization, educations of higher learning, major new agricultural and scientific innovations (out of necessity), and more.  What did the Palestinians do with that same land prior to the Zionists arriving?  Not much.  Look it up.

So yes, I'm a supporter of Israel.  Do I follow their every lead with enthusiasm?  No, not at all.  I believe the Palestinians deserve their own homeland, too.  But the problem for Israel is how to give the Palestinians Carte Blanche to run their affairs as they see fit when they have vowed to destroy Israel?  

It isn't like Hamas can't control their extremists who regularly lob crude missiles at Israel.  THEY are the extremists doing the lobbing!  When they can act like law-abiding members of the international community and live side-by-side in peace with their neighbors, THEN they should be allowed to run their own affairs.  Until then it would IMO be suicide for Israel to NOT defend themselves.  

And building new settlements in the "occupied territories"....I understand why the militant Zionists want to do it, but why can't cooler heads see the problem this is causing?  That's crazy!

Here's the really sad part:  The Palestinians are so full of hatred for Israel they DON'T WANT peace with Israel.  As long as they are willing to launch an attack and sacrifice some of their own people, provoking a response from Israel, they can justify their existence as victims who should have the world's sympathy.  They don't seem to value the lives of their own people.  Their people are just pawns.  *sigh*

Fighting has been raging in the Mideast for centuries, and I doubt we or anyone else can bring peace to them now.  One thing is for certain....our involvement is just adding fuel to the fire.  It's sorta like we have a tiger by the tail and don't know how to let go, or even if we should let go.  Ouch!


Saturday, June 13, 2015


Thanks to the smartphone app "Stumbleupon"  I now know all about "Every Day Carry", or as the cool kids call it, EDC.  

There is even a website dedicated to what people carry with them on an every day basis.  Who knew?  Most of those who post are super geeks who pack gobs of electronic things with them where ever they go, usually filling up a small suitcase in the process.  Personally I've always subscribed to "travel light, freeze at night".  If it wouldn't fit in my pants pockets, I wouldn't carry it.

Up until now, this ^ is what I carried on a daily basis:  a cap (technically "worn"), because my dermatologist said it was either wear one or slather up with sun block (ewww)....a watch, this one a simple, cheap plastic Casio that is solar powered and updated by an atomic clock, which means it should never (theoretically) need maintenance....residence keys and garage gate and car key FOBs....a small pill holder, 'cause my doc says I must now take 'em or I'll seize up....my wallet....a pocket knife....and an iPhone.  Oh, and usually something that many would consider un-PC, which will therefore remain unnamed and unseen.

But according to the EDC folks, there are times and circumstances when it might be wise to have a few more simple necessities at hand than I had previously considered.  Times such as when earthquakes hit the west coast, hurricanes blast the east and gulf coasts, blizzards bury the northeast, and tornadoes (and now floods) overwhelm us here in the south and midwest.

After several minutes of thoughtful consideration I have given in and put together a few more "essentials", at least enough to keep me going until they send a helicopter to fetch me from my tree:

For starters, a Gerber multi-tool (pliers, screwdriver tips, bottle opener, etc)....several carabiners that I found in a drawer and thought they looked cool....one of those pens that will write upside down in a vacuum, 'cause you never know when you'll find yourself upside down in a vacuum....another (redundant) screwdriver....some of those pre-loaded toothbrushes....some deodorant, 'cause trust me, you do NOT want me walking around stinking up the place!....some bug repellant....Tylenol, Tums, and Imodium, since sometimes gas station sushi can bite....an LED flashlight....a tiny "space blanket", because K said, "here, put this space blanket in there"....my iPad, so I can keep up with the news and call for HELP in a blood curdling bold font, along with a spare charger....an Israeli Defense Forces emergency knife....and a spare magazine (oops, spoiler alert), 'cause not everyone appreciates my humorous sarcasm.  ;)   

On further reflection I'm thinking I might should throw in some band aids and some beer

All this new stuff can be packed into a small bag the size of a kids lunchbox and kept in the back of my car.  I'm still not going to physically carry it with me as....well....I'm lazy, but at least it will be close at hand.

So, enough stuff?  Too much stuff?  Outside of those of you living in the frozen north who commonly carry blizzard kits, does anyone else do this?  Talk to me.  :)


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Hello, India? Is that you? SUP...yeah, it's me, Scott. Again.

"And we'll all be drinking that free bubble up, and eatin' that rainbow stew."

When I buy something, I expect it to work as advertised.  Every time, all the time.  Is that asking too much?

RING:  Service Department.

ME:   Oh hi.  I have a new ____ less than a year old, and it won't start.  I need an appointment, please.

SERVICE DEPT:  Whoa, hold on there buddy.  You know what we have to pay a technician?  We only use those guys as a last resort.  Let's try something else first.

ME:  Umm, OK, like what?

SERVICE DEPT:  I want you to pull out your resistor coil capacitor pack, turn it upside down, and see if the whiffledagger plug has worked itself loose.  If it has, take a hair dryer, turn it to "high heat", get the whiffledagger good and hot, and try and force it back in.  That should take care of it.  Have a nice day.

ME:  No, no, wait...DON'T HANG UP!  Although I can barely understand your English-as-a-second-language speech, you're all I have.  

That's pretty much what it's like talking to AT&T about their U-verse internet/cable TV service.*  They want US to unplug it, wiggle it, whap it a few times, wait 10 seconds, do the hokey-pokey, and finally reconnect it.   Plan B is for them to do a diagnostic on-line, and then grudgingly agree to send us a new box.

It usually arrives in just a few days, but then they want ME to take the old one to a "nearby" (NOT) UPS store and send it back to them.  Umm....it's THEIR box, why can't THEY come get it?

Our cable TV has been an on again/off again thing for weeks now, and this morning the Wifi has given it up, too.  I don't know if it's their service, their equipment, or some faulty wiring preventing the various parts from talking to each other, but in any case, it's THEIR stuff.  

They are sending one of their precious techs out tomorrow to make it work.  If they can't fix it, they can just take it back with them.  I'm too old for this shit.  (Actually I only need TV during football season.  The rest of the year I can happily just do without.  Oh, and 20 Formula 1 race days a year.)

Anyone know anything about Apple TV?  I'm headed there today to check out what they have to offer.


*Actually it's K who has been on the phone with the Land Of The Ganges.  My patience gave up years ago.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Cars and Coffee, June, 2015

From the absurd....

....a 1930's vintage Packard (American)....

....and the always stately Rolls Royce (Great Britain)....

....to the ridiculous....

....a tiny post-WWII Gogomobile (Germany)....

....that pretty much summed up the most recent Dallas Cars and Coffee show.

While I must say I'll never tire of seeing cool cars of every description, I'm becoming less enamored with the usual stuff, regardless of its Bling.

Well, OK, maybe just a bit of Bling for old times sake.
(Ferrari 599)


Classics like this MGA are what grab my attention these days.   (And Big Joe's, too!)  But wait....IS this an MGA?

The boot lid says it's an MG 1600. *must Google*

As those who know old time off-roaders will attest, a Land Rover Defender wasn't necessarily the best, but dang, did it look cool!  Still does.

This nicely turned out BMW Z4 was of interest....

....even if the owner, who left his cap on the dash, thinks it's a Jaguar.  DOH!

Speaking of BMW's, I LOVE this Z8!  (The prototype "little blue pill"?)

And to us old geezers, this '54 (?) 'Cheeevy' was pretty slick, too.

Talk about secure in your manhood!.....or maybe it was just a lost bet payoff.  Yeah, let's go with that.  :)

If I sent K to the paint/body shop on "certain days of the month" *ahem* this is probably what she would come back with.  Yes, she's often "decisiveness challenged".

My friend Neil even brought his classic '90's Subaru SVT, although he was too chicken to bring it into the arena.  *Come on Neil, share your toy with us peasants next time*  ;)

But my favorite of the day was....

....this pristine Jaguar E-Type.


And that was my Cars and Coffee,  June, 2015.