Friday, May 26, 2017

He was on his best behavior


Yo, Angie....you know, for a fat girl you sure don't sweat much*

President Donald Trump has been on a whirlwind tour of the Mideast and Europe all week, wowing them with his unique flair for diplomacy.  He began in Saudi Arabia, smiled politely, didn't show them the bottom of his shoes, and even joined in a sword dance without cutting any of his hosts.  Good job Mr. President.

Then he flew on to Israel where he met with Benyamin Netanyahu, visited the Wailing Wall, the first sitting President to ever do that, and reassured them that he never mentioned "Israel" as the source of the information he gave the Russians.  "So, we're good, right?"  Sure, why not.

Next up, the Vatican, where he met with Pope Francis, completing his "Big 3 of Religion" trifecta.  It was reported to be a very pleasant meeting, with His Holiness and the Pope exchanging personal gifts.  *Umm, wait...maybe I got those...*



Seriously, it truly was a nice gesture by him to visit all three major religious centers in an effort to maybe help bring a little peace to the world.  Kudos President Trump.  Through all this he pretty much kept to the script his keepers prepared from him and avoided making any newsworthy gaffs.  Two thumbs up, sir.


Then he moved on to the NATO meeting in Brussels where he fell off his "good manners" wagon a time or two.  He lined up all his fellow NATO leaders and then scolded them publicly for going cheap on their defense spending.  He actually made a good point, but might have saved his 20 lashes for behind closed doors, just sayin'.  Or better yet, let one of his lackeys make his point for him, with a dash of tact added.  (I wrote several years ago that much of the generous social safety net many Europeans enjoy is due to them spending their money on popular social benefits instead of their own defense, passing that responsibility on to NATO.)  He left on a pleasant note, however, telling his hosts he thought Belgium was a beautiful city.  *How sweet*


So you're the Prime Minister of the newest NATO member, Montenegro?  Well, good for you.  Now outta my way, boy.

At this writing President Trump is at the G-7 meeting in Taormina, Sicily, and the Twitterverse is still calm.  He's supposedly going to bring up the need to review our current trans-Atlantic trade agreements.  Fair enough.  *Play nice, Mr. President*

All things considered, he seems to behave himself better overseas than he does in Washington.  Maybe we should up the limit on his Gubment American Express card and send him off again.  Can I get an Amen?

S

*  OK, I made that one up...he never said that.  To my knowledge.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself"


The bastards have done it again.  I'll take the ISIS communique at face value and say "a soldier of ISIS" has blown up himself and 22 others (and counting) outside a Manchester, England music concert.  The victims are likely to be mainly young people.

By all accounts the UK police, intelligence services, and counter-terrorist units are world class.  The coming investigation will likely not find they were asleep at the wheel when this happened.  Fact is, there are just far too many sicko's among us, and not enough law enforcement to watch them all.  That applies to France, Germany, Belgium, and the US, too.

Yes, us, too.  We've seen less terrorism than our European friends probably because we are farther removed geographically from the huge discontented population groups they have there.  But that doesn't mean we don't have any of their problems here.  We have sicko Islamist malcontents, nut-job white supremacists, and warped religious zealots of all kinds.  What happened there will...WILL...happen here.

A country as large, as populous, and diverse as ours has too many soft (largely indefensible) targets.  Eventually one of these fringe groups will attack here, too.  But before you freak out and pull the covers over your head, think of the odds you will be a victim.  If an attack someday kills 20 people here, then the odds are only 1 in 16,000,000 you will be one of them.  If you don't like those odds, then don't drive a car, ride a motorcycle or bicycle, or even walk and chew gum.
 
Just be aware of what's happening around you, know where doors are if you're out on the town, etc.  Hopefully this is what you normally do anyway.  If you know someone who seems to show a major change in attitude, seeming to be sympathetic to a fringe, violent group, don't ignore the signs.  Call your police and tell them of your concern.  

But by all means, go about your daily business.  Enjoy every day, work hard, play hard, and have fun. And may I suggest saying a prayer for our brothers in Manchester.

S



Saturday, May 20, 2017

Heroes or villains?

Washington has been turned inside out recently by leaks to the press telling us what's REALLY going on there behind closed doors.  Meanwhile the debate heats up....are the leakers heroes or villains?

Many see the issue in black or white terms.  The hard-core Trumpsters and Tea Party-types seem to think the leakers are all traitors, no exceptions.  "We need to find those who spilled the beans about President Trump giving away intelligence secrets and send them to prison for life + 20 years."  Ummm....what about the fact that Prez Trump GAVE AWAY INTELLIGENCE SECRETS?  That doesn't seem to bother them.

Then the crowd who has no love for Mr. Trump thinks that the leakers are all saints and deserve the Medal Of Honor.  Whether it's tidbits about whether the President's feet stink or whether he has a Russian KGB mistress on the side, it's all good.  Unless it smudges the reputation of one of their favorite mobsters politicians, then they want to lock 'em away, too.

It seems to me there is a huge gray area not being considered, namely WHAT is being leaked.  If the leaker sees what is going on behind closed doors and honestly believes a crime is being committed, or if they see a blatant misuse of power, and if they also see an active coverup in progress, then I can understand why they might want to put their career and maybe even their freedom on the line for the good of the country.  

A good example would be Mark Felt, the #2 man at the FBI during the infamous Watergate scandal back in '72.  He knew what was going on, saw the nefarious efforts being taken to protect President Nixon, and knew it was wrong.  His conscience told him to feed tips to Washington Post journalists Woodward and Bernstein, enabling them to get the truth out to the American people.  If his identity had been known he would surely have lost his job at the FBI and perhaps even been prosecuted.  (His identity was kept secret for 30 years.)

This contrasts to leakers like Wikileaks' Julian Assange.  He isn't leaking what he does out of some sort of righteous indignation of a wrong going unpunished.  He's just a prick.  He wants to pick and choose who he hurts and who he helps based on his personal likes and dislikes.  He just loves causing trouble and sticking a sharp stick in the eye of anyone who he feels slighted him or someday might slight him.  Plus he's a misogynist.

IMO, leakers can be both heroes (like Mr. Felt) or villians (like Mr. Assange), depending on their motives.  So far, the leakers who are coming out with disturbing info regarding President Trump and his associates and their actions vis a vis Russia seem to fall into the category of the former.  The copycat leakers likely to eventually show up with nothing more than embarrassing gossip looking for their 15 minutes of fame deserve the latter title.

Let's look at motives carefully before we assign either medals or prison uniforms.

S


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Old habits die hard


At age 70 Donald Trump became our oldest President.  Prior to his election he enjoyed a financially successful career in the rough-and-tumble, cutthroat world of high-stakes commercial development.  Deals are usually measured in the hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars.  It isn't a profession for the timid.  With that much money at stake, they'd throw their mama under the bus if that's what it took to close a deal.

There are no telling how many times in his career Mr. Trump has gone to a zoning official or building inspector, put his hand on his shoulder, and told him he'd "really appreciate it if you could make this little violation go away."  He might have even followed it up with "You're a smart guy.  If you ever get tired of workin' for city wages, come look me up.  We can always use someone with your talents."  And with that....problem gone.  And if not, a phone call later that zoning official or building inspector became the new South Side illegal dumping deputy assistant / third shift.  That's the way things often work in that world.

The problem for President Trump is that he brought that same method of problem solving with him into his White House.  


Early in President Trump's business career his attorney was Roy Cohen, the same Roy Cohen who made a name for himself representing Joseph McCarthy and later numerous organized crime bosses.  Mr. Cohen's modus operandi was simple:  Attack!  Bully!  Intimidate!  Bluff!  They hit you, you hit them back X 10.  They sue you, you counter-sue them for 10 times as much.  Wear 'em down.  Never admit anything.  Donald Trump was a good study.

Fast forward to January, 2017.  President Trump told Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates to defend his travel ban and she refused, saying it was illegal (and courts later agreed).  "You're FIRED!"

February, 2017.  President Trump (supposedly) asked FBI Director Comey for a personal loyalty oath, something not uncommon to demand from his former business subordinates.  Comey refused.  Then Trump told Mr. Comey he would like to see the investigation of Michael Flynn go away.  It didn't, and in fact the investigation widened.  "You're FIRED!"

It was a sleazy way to do business, and it's a completely unacceptable way to run a country.  At age 70 I doubt he is willing to change his ways.  "It worked then, why not now?"  The White House isn't Trump Tower, and Congress and the Courts aren't going to jump to attention when he snaps his fingers.  If he keeps this up, and I think he will, a taxpayer funded moving van will probably sooner rather than later be pulling up in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Stay tuned.

S


Monday, May 15, 2017

It looks like we put all our eggs in one basket, then dropped the basket


Unless you spent the entire weekend with mom slugging down mimosas in honor of her day, you'll probably know there's a nasty ransomware virus going around, infecting hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide that use the Microsoft Windows operating system.  Specifically, 200,000 computers in 150 countries have been hit so far, with the cyber-attackers demanding a $300 extortion to be paid in Bitcoins.  The UK's National Health Service, the German railway system, Chinese universities, many international businesses and others have all had their files locked up.

It seems that our NSA nerds found a flaw in the Windows system and utilized it to [CENSORED].  Unfortunately their secret got out and hackers developed it into this "Wannacry" virus, and now here we are all over the internet with our pants down around out ankles looking foolish.

Bad as this is, this is chump change compared to what might have happened.  What if they had hacked in and just hit the DELETE button?  What if all that info just permanently disappeared?  It could take months or even years to reconstruct it all, if that's even possible.  

As I've written about in the past, this is the new face of warfare.   No hostile military power is likely to roll 10,000 tanks across the border and invade the US or Germany or any other developed western nation.  There's no need to if they can just worm their way into our computer systems and knock out our stock exchanges, our medical centers, our research centers, etc.  They can bring us to our knees without firing a shot.

I know we have an army of cyber-security experts working to prevent this, but they will always be at a disadvantage.  Those on offense...in this case the cyber-attackers...know what they're going to hit, and when, and where, and exactly how.  Those on defense...our cyber-security experts...have to try and cover all bases all the time.  IF they can even identify all the bases.

This is the new normal.  We are hopelessly addicted to computers.  They control everything.  And with 90% of the world's computers running on the (apparently) super-vulnerable Microsoft Windows operating system, I have to wonder why we haven't kicked Microsoft to the curb years ago?  M/S seems to work 24/7 just developing new patches to fix their old patches.  DOH!  Isn't there anything safer/better?

Bottom line....there will always be hackers, and they will often win.  We will be increasingly inconvenienced, and likely even crippled now and then.  Count on it.  Individually, all I can think to do is hoard cash, for when our bank accounts and ATM's and such are zapped, cash will always be king.  I have no idea how businesses and other major institutions will defend themselves.  That's way above my pay grade.

S


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Poor guy can't buy a break. Well, on second thought, maybe he can.

Noooooooo!

President Donnie John Trump is now interviewing for a new FBI Director after he canned previous Top Cop James Comey earlier this week.  Many sources say Texas Senator John Cornyn is the front runner for the position.

So let's see....Sen. Cornyn is tall, well groomed, distinguished looking, very white....and tall, and.....umm....is not currently under indictment.  That pretty much sums him up.  But he's also NOT just your average, run-of-the-mill Senator.  He's the (Republican) Senate Majority Whip, second-in-command only to Mitch McConnell, which by definition means he's HIGHLY PARTISAN.  Mitch says "jump", Cornie says "how high?"  He loyally does what he's told.  That's how you get to an upper leadership position in either party.

Didn't The Donald supposedly ask James Comey for his loyalty over dinner one evening, and when Comey sidestepped the question, was shortly thereafter fired?  We know in his business dealings President Trump put a high premium on loyalty, which isn't an unreasonable thing to expect in a business setting.  But an FBI Director should show allegiance to the Constitution, not to the POTUS or any other individual.  

 Right now President Trump really, REALLY needs an FBI Director who will reign in the police dogs who are hot after him.

Having watched my state's Senator in action for some time now, I'm thinking Mr. Cornyn just might be the whore "yes-man" Team Trump wants to have on their speed dial.

We (The People), however, deserve better.  We deserve an FBI Director who is a seasoned federal prosecutor, a high-level law enforcement officer, or an experienced intelligence guy, someone not in the gravity field of either political party.  Is this asking too much?  Please, no more contaminated political hacks.

S



Thursday, May 11, 2017

Careful which horse you hitch your wagon to


Another day, another head-shaking, eye-rolling, LOL revelation surfaces in Washington, DC.  I must hand it to the Republicans....when they throw a scandal, they throw a doozie!  Take notes Democrats.  You're up next, and we don't want any lame "theft of government office supplies" crap.  Where's the fun in that?

Prez Trump fires the FBI Director, fired Acting Atty General Sally Yates said she drew them a picture of who was caught with their pants down (figuratively speaking), Flynn did this, Russia did that...*sigh*...this is a circus!

What I can't figure out is why virtually every House and Senate Republican is doing all he/she can to stonewall any investigation into what the Russians might have had to do with our recent elections and the Trump campaign?  There may not be any felonious flames visible, but there is enough smoke to be seen from outer space!

Meanwhile, virtually every Democrat is calling for a Special Prosecutor to be appointed to pursue a non-partisan investigation.  The Dems feel (probably with some justification) that Congressional Committees chaired by Republicans will just give Trump a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card.   They also know the Republicans will never give them control of any investigation (I don't blame them), and a Special Prosecutor is likely the only way to honestly find out WTH is going on.

If I was a Congressional Republican I would commit suicide welcome the opportunity to get myself out of all this Russia/Trump mess.  I would just say there was too much People's business to do to waste any more time on this sideshow.  Let a Special Prosecutor take it and run with it and see where it goes, if anywhere.  But they for some reason just keep doubling down and saying they can handle it in Congress, no Special Prosecutor, no no NO!

Where is the upside to defending Trump?  If he gets run out of town, they get the plastic white haired guy.  And if Trump survives, he'll be too toxic to associate with.

S




Tuesday, May 9, 2017

THE REPUBLICANS ARE COMING! THE REPUBLICANS ARE COMING!

I have all my adult life consciously fought to keep myself from be pigeonholed as a Democrat or a Republican.  In general I think of myself as being just a bit right of center, but certainly no ideologue.  On some subjects I'm a bit left leaning, on others a bit right leaning.  It just seemed smart for me to keep my options open, and to not just obediently fall in line with the ideology of either party.  My independence kept my bullshit detection meter sharp.



Until recently it seemed to me both parties worked hard to front populist agendas, while behind the scenes they had entirely different and not quite so pure motives.  "Vote for us....we understand how difficult life can be for middle-class Americans, and we're committed to blah, blah, blah."  However, now that the Republicans have won control of the House and the Senate and the White House, they seem to have decided to just go for broke.  One big roll of the dice.  They have stepped out from behind their curtain and just put it all on the table.  Their entire reason for being can be boiled down to just two words:


TAX CUTS

Everything Republicans talk about today, from a "border wall" to a "travel ban" to "healthcare reform" is just to disguise what they really want.  The entire reason they so want to "Repeal and Replace Obamacare" is to free up a TRILLION dollars and pass it back to a select few of their special interests via TAX CUTS.  They don't give a damn about better healthcare choices for the people.  If they did they wouldn't have taken a bad system and replaced it with something worse.  Likewise, their desire to "reform Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security" is just code for "gut it and fatten up our TAX CUT" by, oh, I dunno, maybe ANOTHER TRILLION dollars.  Gut education, gut environmental protection, gut the State Department....Cha Ching!

And if anyone gets in their way, Heaven help 'em.  If the Democratic minority makes waves, cut 'em off at the knees!  Pull the trigger on the Nuclear Option that now suspends ALL Senate filibusters.  If someone threatens their Executive puppet who will ultimately sign their TAX CUT legislation, such as the FBI Director (who is currently investigating said Executive puppet), fire him!  Just whack him!  Will anyone else dare to speak up against them?  If they do will they just disappear in the night like an Argentinian dissident?

In fairness, the Democratic Party has had their turn wielding the political sledgehammer, too, but at their worst they never just ripped off their "smiley face" masks and started blatantly raping and pillaging like the Republicans are doing today.  They at least gave us a kiss while they were bending us over.  

IMO we're at a serious Constitutional crossroad in our history.  We've been hoodwinked, and I think it's becoming more obvious by the day.  Will enough of our elected officials, of both parties, join together and recognize for once that they work for US and not just a few special interests, or will we someday soon have to take matters more forcefully into our own hands? 

S


Saturday, May 6, 2017

The only acceptable outcome: We win, they lose

When Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, it was pretty obvious who did it....the sky was full of planes emblazoned with the Rising Sun.  Japan!

The same was true in 1939 when Germany attacked Poland, in 1967 when Israel got the jump on the Arab nations surrounding them, and in 1991 when the USA went into Saddam Hussein's Iraq.  It was obvious who the combatants were because they had insignia on their tanks and planes and uniforms.  It was mano a mano, black hats vs white hats.  Old school warfare.  

But when peasant guerillas worked their Vietnamese fields by day, then went on the attack at night, it was difficult to know who we were fighting.  The rules began to change.  Today they're changing again.  Today we're being attacked, and this time we're not even sure who or where they are.

Hitler couldn't say, "Nope, those aren't our guys" after we saw them.  There was physical evidence to the contrary.  But today Russia's Vladimir Putin, after his cyber-warriors hacked into sensitive American political files and emails, can simply say "This is nonsense.  We have done nothing.  Show me your proof."  His cyber-soldiers don't leave behind flags or insignia on the side of tanks or airplanes. 

Our geeks can today finally say with great certainty it was Russia who interfered with our recent national elections (while not impossible, it's extremely difficult to backtrack a cyber attack), and I'm sure after a month or so of intensive investigation France will say it was also Russia who tried to influence their election (which BTW is tomorrow/Sunday).  German elections are later this year, and I'll bet you a steak dinner Russian political hacking will occur then, too, with the aim of helping whichever candidate Putin thinks will be more friendly to him.  All our aircraft carriers and ICBM's and special forces will be helpless to defend us.  We're not going to nuke someone we're not absolutely certain harmed us.  It's unthinkable, and Putin knows it.

National security no longer necessarily means guarding a border or builder bigger, better bombs.  It means outsmarting our adversaries while not getting caught ourselves.  We need to review where we're spending our defense dollars.  We need more for science and technology education, and less for some stupid border wall.

Ronald Reagan showed the Soviet Union they didn't have the financial resources to go toe-to-toe with us militarily, which caused them to throw in the Cold War towel.  Donald Trump needs to double down on the economic sanctions Barack Obama and our allies put in place to back down Putin today, and maybe even cyber attack them just enough to show them two can play that game.  If Mr. Trump flinches, IMO that should be grounds for impeachment followed by a treason trial.  We can't lose this one!  Cut Putin no slack Mr. President, and for Pete's sake, get yourself and/or your people out of bed with him.



Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Frustration


Frustration is just part of 21st Century life.  Some people just sluff it off and don't seem to give a s__t, while others whip out guns and start blasting away if they're so much as cut off on the inside lane.  In my old age I've realized frustration is often self-induced, and much of it can be avoided.

To many, cars are no longer just a means of transportation, but are a status symbol.  Certain nameplates will get you a knowing nod at "the club", while others will get you a parking spot out in the weeds.  But with that status comes much frustration.  Fancy cars are "needy" and costly to keep running.  (One of my friends has even named his high-end luxury Range Rover off-road vehicle "Twenty Five Hundred Dollars" because that's how much it cost him every time he passed the dealer.)  How much crap you're willing to put up with says a lot about your frustration tolerance.

Fancy watches:  Tag's, Omega's, Rolex's, Patek Philippe's, etc....eye-turners sure to impress, but they all have one dark little secret.  They don't keep very good time.  Some classic models still need winding, others need battery changing, all need to be manually adjusted after Daylight Savings Time changes, and they don't automatically adjust dates on leap years.  And after all the TLC you throw at them,  they still gain or lose a couple of minutes a month.  Grrr!

But there are some cheap ($100+/-) models (from Casio or similar brands) that get their power from sunlight and are re-calibrated daily by magic radio waves sent out by an atomic clock somewhere in Colorado.  Time changes / date changes are automatic.  Your call....frustration and status, or cheap and bulletproof.

McMansions:  It's still the American dream to own a BIG house, the bigger the better.  But more square footage also comes with higher insurance premiums, higher tax bills, higher utility bills, and they require A LOT more maintenance.  And the bigger the house, the more stuff you need to buy to fill it up.  You're just a rat on a wheel, running as hard as you can to keep up.  I just don't get McMansions.....unless I'm your builder, then it would be criminal NOT to max out your credit and buy as BIG as you can possibly afford.  *wink*  Again, your call, status with the frustration that comes with it, or simple and a snub from the In Crowd.

Travel:  Monday's and Friday's are the busiest air travel days of the week.  DON'T fly then.  The more bags you check, the greater the chance one will get lost.  Most of us pack clothes to cover every situation from a blizzard to a heat wave.  Too much to drag around, too much to go wrong.  DON'T!

Appliances:  Fancier = bigger headaches to keep running.  Brand new models = bugs to work out, and you're the guinea pig.  DON'T!  Do your homework, or suffer quietly.  We don't want to hear your whining.

Tech:  Computers, printers, tablets, smart phones, etc....some brands and models are more reliable than others.  Don't buy on price, then bitch because you're constantly on the phone to India for tech support.  Remember, "It doesn't cost any more to go First Class.  You just can't afford to go quite as often."

You get my point.  If you want to impress, knock yourself out, but don't blow a frustration gasket when keeping everything up and running becomes an all encompassing, highly frustrating effort.

Full disclosure:  I can speak first hand on this topic as I've been guilty of all these things in my earlier years, but with age comes....umm....I forgot what I was going to say.  :)

  As for myself, I think Jack had it about right.  *snort*

S


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Mine...mine...IT'S ALL MINE! *cue the scary music*

Did you see the roll-out of the new Trump Tax Reform Plan yesterday?  Have you actually read it?  If you have, it probably didn't take you more than a minute or so as it's really not a "plan", but just a few bullet points.  Here it is if you're interested:



That's it.  This is what The Prez and his Team have been working on for the past 98 days.  Honestly, it looks like something I might have whipped out at 2am the night before a college paper topic outline was due.  I give it a half hour effort, max.

In short, it's insulting.  It seems at first glance to give a break to the middle class by increasing the Standard Deduction, but also seems to take away some possible deductions, too, most notably property TAX deductions.  Property INTEREST deductions appear to be left intact.  What will the middle-class bottom line look like?  Probably either "revenue neutral" (Gubment speak for "no change") or maybe a slight tax cut, just enough to give the incumbent Congressman a good shot at re-election, which is all he cares about.

On the other side, corporations, notably including privately held corporations like Trump, Inc, will make out like absolute bandits!  It will result in tax cuts, on paper at least, to small businesses like mine, but it will be a drop in the bucket compared to what the ultra-wealthy will get.  Let's face it, this is simply another wealth transfer to the rich.  They haven't even made much of an effort to disguise it.  We reportedly already have approx $1.7 TRILLION +/- parked in short term investments looking for a better place.  Another trillion dollars isn't needed....there is NO shortage of investment capital.

The bean counters say the tax cut will leave the Treasury short by approx one TRILLION dollars, to be offset by the ever popular "future growth" somewhere in the future.  Maybe.  Hopefully.

The one possible good thing in there:  The one-time opportunity for corporations to bring back earnings from overseas that they haven't before now because of the higher taxes that would be due here.  This has been done before (so much for "one-time") with minimal success, as it didn't create the new jobs it promised.  Instead companies used their windfall for stock buy-backs and dividends, which *big surprise* went primarily to the already wealthy.

Those who read my protestations will again probably accuse me of being a pinko anti-capitalist, but nothing could be further from the truth.  I am an ARDENT capitalist, one who understands it is the middle class that is truly the goose that laid America's golden egg, and who is trying to see to it it isn't slaughtered.  Right now, in Washington at least, words like mine are like a lonely voice in the forest.

When you stiff the middle class and concentrate too much wealth in the hands of too few, you get Czarist Russia 1917 (revolution), America 1929 (Great Depression), TWA under Carl Icahn, (bankrupt), Eastern Airlines under Frank Lorenzo (kaput), etc.  When companies share their wealth, you get wildly successful stories like The Staubach Companies (Roger Staubach), Broadcast.com (Mark Cuban), Ford (after Henry Ford doubled employee wages), Southwest Airlines, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and more.  The owners actually made MORE money thanks to the efforts of their grateful employees than they EVER made before. Come on people....this ain't rocket surgery!

*sigh*

Rough landing ahead.  Hold on.

S


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

My latest Pintrest favorites




Cool Cars


 
Mountain Drives


 Small Houses





 Flight Attendants


Stairs

MG's

America's Cup

Guns

 
Cool Airplanes


Europe

Tanks

Girls and Guns

Sidewalk Cafes

Special Forces

 Nice Eyes





Saturday, April 22, 2017

In defense of Flight Attendants


Do any of you remember back when commercial flying was considered glamorous?  For us it meant looking forward to going on vacation and NOT having to drive daaaaays to get there.  Flying was a special event.  Flying was actually fun!  A window seat was prized....there's nothing to compare with looking down on terra firma from 30,000 feet!  And since it was expensive, it was a rare treat for us commoners.

My, how times have changed.  Today air travel is a dreaded chore.  With the introduction of low-cost airlines, everyone can now afford to fly....and they do.  The roads to the airport are congested, the parking lot is overflowing, and the lines inside the terminal are loooooooong everywhere you turn.  And then you come face-to-face with the infamous TSA, where they strip search you and feel you up, just to make sure you don't have more than 3 ounces of toothpaste on you.  Oh, and maybe a bomb.

My point is, your nerves are usually frazzled and your snarl is out before you even board your plane.  And this is what flight attendants have to deal with every day.


And back in the day, in the prospective flight attendant's imagination at least, there could be nothing more glamorous than traveling the world, visiting exotic places, meeting the rich and famous, and actually being paid to do it!  *dream job*  They were just conveniently not told that before you could do all that you first had to spend years flying the quick turnarounds to Lubbock or Tulsa or Des Moines.  Once you acquired some seniority, THEN you might could bid for a glamour destination with an overnight.  In reality it was and still is a hard job.

This brings us to where we are today, namely highly publicized violent maulings on aircraft, and just this weekend, a near fistfight between an offended passenger and an American Airlines flight attendant.  When I first saw the cellphone video of the confrontation my gast was totally flabbered!

I've had the privilege of personally knowing many flight attendants over the years, a few very well, and I can tell you that what was shown on that video is NOT the way 99.999% of flight attendants behave.  In the American Airlines incident, the (male) F/A was very recklessly handling a stroller belonging to a traveling mother with her child, who was almost struck.  Strike 1.  Then another passenger, outraged by what he saw, got up out of his seat and aggressively threatened the F/A Strike 2.  Finally the F/A freaked out and got right back in it with his finger in customer #2's faceStrike 3!

But did you also notice the other flight attendants getting the crazed(?) F/A out of the way, pushing him behind the bulkhead away from the situation, and trying to calm things?  (On a related note, did you notice the pilot come out of his hidyhole with his thumb still firmly inserted up his posterior, NOT [noticeably] taking control of the situation?  He should have....it was HIS aircraft!)   Flight attendants regularly have to deal with upset passengers, and I know for a fact they calmly, tactfully, but quite firmly take control and bring order back to their cabin.  They're well trained and very professional.

If you don't like paying $25 for checking an extra bag, don't blame the F/A.  She isn't getting a dime of it.  If you don't like the crappy food they serve, don't blame the F/A.  She didn't prepare it.  If you don't like being told to turn off your electronic devices, don't blame the F/A.  She didn't make the rule.

Flight attendants can have bad days just like the rest of us.  They go through divorces, family sicknesses, financial problems, etc, just like we do.  Life isn't easy in "the tube".  Yet in virtually every instance they still put on a smile, come to work, and serve us.  And the few who crack under the pressure, well, I guess they're just in the wrong line of work.

IMO American Airlines, no doubt learning from the earlier United Airlines fiasco, responded perfectly to this situation.  They apologized immediately and publicly, and even upgraded their mistreated passenger and her family to First Class for the rest of their international travel.

Wanna have a nice flight?  Try this:  Discretely give your flight attendant a small (still factory wrapped*) box of Andie's Candies (delicious chocolate mints), or something similar, and invite her to share them with the rest of the flight crew.  After all they put up with, it's a gesture they'll appreciate, and I promise they'll respond with the best TLC you could ever imagine. 

S

so they'll know it hasn't been tampered with....you can't be too careful these days


    

Friday, April 21, 2017

In this corner...Vladimir Putin, and in this corner...the rest of the world


The first round of the French presidential election is this weekend, and it has the potential to be as much of a world changer as did Donald Trump's election in the US last year.  The big Wild Card will be how well National Front candidate Marine Le Pen does.

The five leading candidates are on this first-round ballot, with the top two going on to the final election ballot next month, assuming no one receives a 50% true majority in this first test.  Ms Le Pen is expected to make it to the final round, and that's why much of the western world, and Europe in particular, is holding their breath.

Their unease is because Ms Le Pen is friendly towards Russia, has received campaign financing from a bank close to Putin, and is likely to follow Britain's lead and will try to take France out of the European Union, and perhaps the Euro Zone (the common European monetary system), as well.  She isn't too keen on France's NATO participation, either.

Ms Le Pen and her party are anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant (read: anti-Muslim), and ultra-right-wing nationalist.  Many say her "France First" theme is a take-off of Donald Trump's "America First".  Both she and Candidate Trump slammed international trade agreements (harmful to their economies), NATO (outdated and too expensive), and have questioned sanctions on Russia.  Le Pen has even said quite clearly that she would end sanction on Russia if she was elected, and offered no objection to their "annexation" of Crimea.

If Le Pen ultimately becomes the French President, Russia will be the big winner.  The thing Russia / Vladimir Putin wants most is to see the West weakened.  A European Union without both Great Britain AND France might completely collapse, as might the Euro monetary scheme without the French.  Weakened trade relations might see barriers arise again between countries now held tight by their economies, and a NATO without one of its most powerful members may not have the same resolve.  

Putin knows he will likely never be able to go toe-to-toe with the power and influence of the United States and a united Europe.  He sees that his best chance to restore Russia to its previous glory is to bring his opponents one-by-one down to his level.  He likes leaders and countries that he sees as friendly or at least malleable.  That's why Putin was so interested in seeing Trump elected President, and why he wants to see Le Pen elected now in France, and a Russia-friendly German candidate win later this year, too.  He's been chip-chip-chipping away at us since the day he assumed power, and frankly, he's winning.  If he wasn't, I wouldn't be writing this.

Once again, it's an interesting world we live in, and we have a ringside seat to some amazing history in the making.

S

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Oh yeah? Well...mine's bigger than yours. Take THAT!

I had to look twice to make sure this story wasn't from the The Onion:

"Russia claims its Electronic Warfare troops can detect and neutralize any target from a ship's system and radar to satellites, rendering ships, planes and missiles useless."  It went on to say, "You don't need expensive weapons to win.  Powerful radio-electronic jamming is enough."

You can read it for yourself here if you like.

While this story dovetails nicely with my previous post, it seems just a little too far fetched to be believable.  First of all, why would the Russians put this story out?  Why would they admit to us how advanced they were?  Unless....they had reason to believe that the US actually did have the technology to, for example, zap a North Korean missile at launch?  

Taking it a step further, do they actually think we really could somehow take down their satellites or aircraft or other systems, too?  Or is this story just their pathetic attempt to play "Anything you can do, we can do better"?

I'm wondering now if the hypothesis of my last post might have just received a (tiny) bit of credence?  Do the world's Superpowers really have some revolutionary new technology that will make our traditional weapons systems obsolete, or are the surviving Twilight Zone writers back at it again pulling our chain?

S