Sunday, January 29, 2017

Just because you CAN doesn't mean you SHOULD

President Donald Trump signing an Executive Order

President Trump has been giving his Montblanc pen quite the workout this week signing Executive Orders.  More than a few people have had their feathers ruffled by this and have taken to the streets to VERY LOUDLY vent.  IMO many of the loudest protesters are mistaken when they insist "He [Trump] can't do that!"  From what I've read (in most cases at least) he DOES have the power to do what he's doing.

Today the big stink is his Executive Order regarding Muslim immigrants.  From the statute I read it appears he IS within his rights.  But just because he CAN doesn't mean he SHOULD.  With over three million Muslims living in the US right now, how many of them will become so incensed by this that they become some of those almost-impossible-to-detect "home-grown" jihadists we've been warned about?  Stop 3 foreign terrorists, create 10 domestic ones?

And while little publicized, the US has close working relationships with numerous Muslim countries involving intelligence gathering and matters pertaining to our national security.  Are they going to still want to work with us as closely after this?  Questionable.  If I were them I'd have some serious soul searching to do. 

Earlier in the week it was all about "The Wall".  It seems that years ago Congress voted the funds to build 700 miles (?) of border fence, but then didn't spend it all, so there's already money in the kitty.  I'm thinking Prez Trump CAN start up construction again if he wants, but SHOULD he?  If we build his border wall, 2017 might just become known as the start of the Golden Age of Mexican Tunnel Digging!  Where there's a will, there's a way.

And just as with the Muslim countries, US/Mexican cooperation on many sensitive national security issues might well be jeopardized.  You just can't kick someone in the 'nads and then expect them to act like nothing ever happened.  Secure the border, sure, but how about by another less expensive, less static, more flexible, more tactful means?

And Mexico is going to reimburse us for The Wall, or we'll put a 20% (?) tariff on their imports to the US?  Ummm....many of those products they sell to us are made with US components we sold to them!  *I think that's called shooting yourself in the foot* 

The President has historically been able to seat anyone he wants on his National Security Council.  Can Prez Trump choose to NOT give full-time NSC seats to the Chairman of of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence?  Yes he CAN, but SHOULD he?

I believe many thinking people are beginning to wonder if President Trump's decisions to date have been wise ones.  I understand he wants to honor his campaign promises to his supporters, but maybe he should slow down a bit and think of the unintentional consequences he might be creating.

S

Friday, January 27, 2017

Ever hear of the "chicken tax"?


Back in the late 1950's US agriculture figured they could package frozen chicken and sell it in Europe, which was finally recovering from WWII.  European-raised chicken was expensive, more than most people could afford, but the imported American frozen chicken was affordable and sold very well.  Too well according to German chicken farmers, who asked their government for a tariff on imported American chicken in order to protect themselves.

The US said, whoa, whoa....not so fast.  This was back when Volkswagen's first began pouring into the US.  In fact they became cult cars....everyone wanted a beetle, or the even more oddball VW bus.  Seeing they were on a roll (pardon the pun) VW decided to chop the back off a VW bus and put a pickup truck bed there instead....home-run, right?

To retaliate for Germany's tariff on American chicken, the US imposed a 25% tariff on foreign-made trucks sold here.  This became known as the "chicken tax" and it exists to this day.  Tit for tat, that's invariably the way tariffs work out.  This shut down VW pickup sales instantly....with a 25% tariff they were then waaay too expensive. We lost chickens sales, they lost truck sales.  Lose-lose.

Fast forward half a century and it looks like the US is threatening a similar trade war with Mexico.  

"Pay for 'The Wall' or we'll tax your stuff being imported into the US by 35%."  

"No, wait, make that 20%."  

"Hold on, we're still doing the math....we'll get back to you...."

For the record, we sell several hundred BILLION dollars worth of "stuff" to Mexico every year, much of it components that are incorporated into the products they sell back to us.  In other words, if we put a tariff on their stuff, we're also killing the demand for (some of) the products they're buying from us.  This is simple Economics 101.

The Mexicans won't even have to pass a retaliatory tariff on American products because we'll already be shooting ourselves in the foot.  By putting a punitive tax on Mexican goods, we'll be costing AMERICAN jobs, too.  DUH!

All this for a border wall?  Have you ever heard of a wall that can't be climbed over or tunneled under?*  A wall might work in Israel because they have a soldier every 50 feet (slightly exaggerated) to watch their wall.   (Maybe we should just contract our southern border security to Israel?)  

We need to de-couple "The Wall" from NAFTA, and then respectfully renegotiate NAFTA.  Come on Prez Donnie John Trump.  Slow down and THINK.

S

*  Where there's a will, there's a way:  Foreign auto makers finally figured out a way around the chicken tax.  Ford/England, Mercedes, and others began shipping truck assemblies (complete cabs, beds, etc) to the US, then simply bolting them together in a US warehouse.  

Mercedes sent "passenger" vans here, then took out the seats, put in solid panels to replace the side/rear glass, and then sold them here as cargo trucks/vans, minus the tariff.  The removed seats were then sent back to Germany to be re-installed in the next batch of "passenger" vans being sent here, over and over. 



Monday, January 23, 2017

Maybe it's time to call in a few favors


It seems our favorite boy-king, North Korea's Kim Jong Fatty Fat Fat*, will soon be able to lob a nuke in our general direction. At least that's what he says, and our spooks confirm it, too.  South Korea goes so far as to say KJFFF has enough fissile material right now to build 5-10 nuclear devices.  Every new underground nuclear test and every new ICBM test launch seems to indicate they are indeed getting closer.

 
To counter KJFFF's threat the US has moved a special X-band radar platform closer to N Korea (from Hawaii) and is moving a THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile battery to S Korea, to augment THAAD batteries in Guam and Alaska(?).  Trouble is, I've read those missiles are 1990's technology that may or may not be up to intercepting the newest N Korean missiles.

Oh poor us....what SHALL we do?


I know what I'd do if I were Prez Donnie John Trump: I'd call up my new best friend, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (sorry Putin), and ask if we could borrow some of their brand new state-of-the-art anti-missile missiles.  Just coincidentally, last week the Israelis declared operational their new Arrow 3 system

Arrow 3's can intercept high altitude incoming missiles, and compliment their Arrow 2 system that can counter medium range incoming missiles and their Iron Dome short range defensive missiles.  They've got all their bases covered.

Israel isn't as bureaucracy-bound as the US and can pump out whatever new defense systems they need to (in record time, even) in order to guarantee their security.  Considering the 'hood they live in, they have no choice.  While we talk, they get things done, and their stuff works pretty well, too.

And since their new missiles were co-developed by Israeli Aerospace Industries and Boeing, and funded by the US taxpayers, they really can't tell us no.  We need to remind them that we've been covering their back since the '70's, and now we'd appreciate a little back covering ourselves.

 S

*  N Korea recently asked China to prohibit its media from calling their Dear Leader "fat".  Therefore I'm now filling the void left by China's compliance by referring to him as Kim Jong Fatty Fat Fat, or KJFFF for short.  ;)






Saturday, January 21, 2017

I did NOT see this coming!


I won't lie to you and say I haven't been expecting eventual trouble.  I have.  Maybe even a classic "revolution" some day.  It's just that my vision of a revolution was of crowds in the streets with torches, tossing Molotov cocktails, driving corrupt leaders to hastily board their fast jets and make a dash for whoever will give them political asylum, just like in the movies.  I expected it to abruptly just boil over, like a giant volcanic eruption.

Turns out we've likely been watching one for the past decade or so.  Think about it: Republicans were traditionally the party of the upper class, while the Democrats represented the working class.  



But by 2016 the establishment, exemplified by Wall Street, was hoping for a Democratic presidential victory, while the working class gave up on their former benefactors and elected a very un-Republican Donald Trump.  WTH just happened?



Even the 74-year-old self-described socialist Bernie Sanders came within a whisker of pulling off a miraculous upset.  The natives are restless!



A decade ago the right-wing Tea Party was born.  Their unofficial motto seemed (to me at least) to be, "I've got mine, F__K YOU!"


.

With today's nationwide (worldwide?) Women's March, some say we're seeing the jelling of a new, left-wing Tea Party. 




Judging by the size of today's crowds, I wonder how many sitting Congressmen / Senators will decide to retire in 2018  and "spend more time with their families"?  *Start the car....START THE CAR!*  The mood is getting pretty nasty, folks.  Let's hope we can defuse it with signs and ballots vs bullets and fire bombs.



If we can, there might just be a silver lining to this growing mess.  *fingers crossed*

S


Thursday, January 19, 2017

An odd duck....

....that would be ME!

I've always been a bit "not normal".  Okay, a LOT not normal.  The things that most people do, or aspire to do, hold little appeal for me.  I've always been an outlier.  The flow usually goes its merry way without me.

I HATE summer.  I loath heat and humidity.  If I'm sweating, I'm not happy.  (To my Florida friends....what were you thinking? :)  Autumn is my favorite season, followed by spring, and I enjoy winter, and snow, too.  Keep in mind I live in Texas.  I'm not suggesting I want to winter in International Falls, Minnesota, however.  Is it true body parts spontaneously fall off people there in the winter?

I'm only marginally coordinated, which might have been at least partially responsible for my pitiful athletic career.  A golf ball on a tee is safe from me.  

Speaking of....I'm not a sports fan, at least as you normally think of a macho sports guy.  I love (American) football, particularly at the college level.  I know the teams, their standings, star players, etc.  But I wouldn't walk across the street to see a baseball or basketball game.  And golf to me is about as exciting as watching a bear hibernate.  I do enjoy Formula 1 (Grand Prix) racing and English (Union) rugby.  Thanks to me both those sports now have an American audience of one.

I'm an introvert who is intrigued by people.  I can see someone in a park, for example, say "hello", and in five minutes know where they're from, what their day job is, if they have any kids or pets, what kind of car they have, etc.  People somehow seem more than willing to open up to me.  I enjoy people-watching from a distance, too, wondering what each person does by observing them.  However I have very few friends.  Lots of acquaintances, but few close friends.  EDIT:  It's been suggested that I'm more "introvert heavy / extrovert lite".  EDIT #2:  Simon Butler says I'm an extrovert, and I trust Simon Butler on such matters / definitions.  He's very smart.  :)

I have three daughters (and six grandchildren) and I love them dearly.  I hope I was / am a good father.  I sometimes think I wasn't good enough, but then I look at them, see how they turned out, and realize I must have done something right.   (BIG kudos to their mom, too!)

I don't mind apartment living.  To most people an apartment is just a layover on their way to a house of their own.  Been there, done that....too much maintenance.

I like fast airplanes and cars.  I don't have an airplane, and my cars have been rather mundane, but I still appreciate high performance mobile exotica.

I like firearms.  *gasp*  But I'm not a hunter.  I'm too lazy to get up at O-dark-thirty, go out to a cold, damp hunting stand, sit there for hours hoping to see a worthy target, shoot it, field dress it, drag it to a processor and pay him $$$ for his service, when I can just go to my meat market and get a beautiful steak M-Sat, 9-6 for a fraction as much.

I don't understand vanity or narcissism.  If you have to tell someone how cool you are, you aren't.

I'm very organized.  I think three steps ahead.  Odd, huh?

I love dogs.  To hear of a dog being abused really eats at me.  If I were ever to actually see a dog being abused I'm afraid I'd wind up behind bars....but the abuser would wind up in the hospital!  While I'm not a great lover of cats or birds or squirrels, etc, I would never abuse one. 

I'm extremely loyal.  I appreciate loyalty shown towards me and happily return it.  Yes, I've stumbled before, and learned from it.  In my business I have friends (subcontractors and vendors) who I've worked with for 20 or 30 years.  To bring in somebody new means someone else either retired or died.

I'm NOT technologically savvy.  I have a smart phone with probably 100 features, but I only use five or six of them.  In a world where Microsoft Windows dominates, I'm an Apple guy.  I don't play video games.  Hitting a little cartoon monkey over the head with a club when he pops out of a hole in a log just seems dumb to me.  Do game designers really make BILLIONS of dollars designing them?  *I don't get it*

I'm NOT a music aficionado. Back in my "yout" I was, and still know the lyrics to the Beach Boys, Dion, Chuck Berry, and the other REAL rock and roller's songs.  I've heard the names of todays big "musicians" (?), but couldn't for the life of me identify one of their songs.  The music of today just isn't pleasing to my ear.  My few exceptions are barely on anyone else's radar.  Ever hear of Enya, for example?  Didn't think so.  Jazz?  *crickets*

I'm a skeptic.  I can see through most scams and political bullshit.  The Democrats and Republicans, although they like to tout their own piousness and lambast their opponents, are in reality equal partners in crime.  I trust them both about as far as I can spit into a hurricane.  I'm NOT an ideologue, and can't imagine how anyone else could be, either.  Inflexibility is stupid!

I often don't understand our legal system.  How can something be so wrong (as God and my mama taught me) and unethical, yet still be "legal"? "Loopholes" are evil.

I have more, but I'm tired of typing.  :)

S  


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Think outside the box? I can't even FIND the box!


You're born, you go to school, you go on to a job doing _____, you get married, have kids, and you climb the career ladder, making more $$$ at every step.  You have a house, 2 cars, a retirement plan for later on, and finally you hang it up and relax to a nice life bouncing grand-kids on your knee and traveling the country in your RV.  Oh, and you'll never get sick.  SWEET!

Except you forgot to figure in "reality".

Here's the more likely scenario:  You're born (so far, so good)....then the wheels come off.  Too often kids find themselves without two-parent influence.  The cost of higher education means many kids/parents can't afford it, except with massive student loans that can take decades to pay off.  Jobs seldom have the security of lifetime employment like they did 50 years ago.  Changing technology means you'll constantly have to reinvent / retrain yourself and start over again, which likely means a pay cut.  Which in turn means you'd better think twice before buying that big house with the 30 year mortgage.  It's hard enough seeing 2 years into the future, much less 30.

More and more, new jobs are being created by small companies, as opposed to the big Fortune 500 companies, and small companies often can't afford all the perks such as family health care and retirement / 401K plans that were common not long ago.  Statistically we're having smaller families since, for one thing, it costs so much to raise kids today....about $250K to raise one child to the age of 18 they say.  Ouch!  And if that big house is questionable, an RV is even more of a dream.

And the odds are great you WILL eventually get sick.  I was healthy as a horse until my innards decided to rebel at age 64.  (Maybe I should come back in my next life as a horse?)  Luckily I had good health insurance.  Many of us, however, find ourselves having to pay more for our health insurance than we do for our house payment.  Will it soon be an either/or proposition?  Copays and deductibles are up, yet the percentage insurance pays is often down.

Our personal "plans" are increasingly diverging from what life is actually dealing us.  The trend lines are moving in opposite directions.

The status quo isn't working for us.  Day after day, year after year, we're losing ground.  This isn't meant as a doom and gloom post.  It's just a wake up call.  We CAN turn things around IF we put aside the idea that "we've always done it this way" is the only way.

We're at a crossroads.  Are we going to stick with our "plan", or face reality and consider things that don't fit our stereotypical boxes?

S  


Saturday, January 14, 2017

How the big banks screwed us over, in terms you can actually understand...


Mary is the proprietor of a bar in California. She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar.

To solve this problem, she comes up with a new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later. She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans).

Word gets around about Mary's "drink now, pay later" marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Mary's bar. Soon she has the largest sales volume of any bar in California.

By providing her customers' freedom from immediate payment demands, Mary gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages. Consequently, Mary's gross sales volume increases massively.

A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognizes that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Mary's borrowing limit. He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral.

At the bank's corporate headquarters in New York, expert traders figure a way to make huge commissions, and transform these customer loans into DRINKBONDS, ALKIBONDS and PUKEBONDS. These securities are then bundled and traded on international security markets. Naive investors don't really understand that the securities being sold to them as AAA secured bonds are really the debts of unemployed alcoholics. Nevertheless, the bond prices continuously climb, and the securities soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation's leading brokerage houses.

One day, even though the bond prices are still climbing, a risk manager at the original local bank decides that the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Mary's bar. He so informs Mary.

 

Mary then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons, but being unemployed alcoholics they cannot pay back their drinking debts.  Since Mary cannot fulfill her loan obligations she is forced into bankruptcy. The bar closes and her eleven employees lose their jobs.

Overnight, DRINKBONDS, ALKIBONDS and PUKEBONDS drop in price by 90%. The collapsed bond asset value destroys the banks liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economic activity in the community. 


The suppliers of Mary's bar had granted her generous payment extensions and had invested their firms' pension funds in the various BOND securities. They find they are now faced with having to write off her bad debt and with losing over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds.

Her wine supplier also claims bankruptcy, closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations, and her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers.

Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their respective executives* are saved and bailed out by a multi-billion dollar no-strings attached cash infusion from their cronies in Washington. The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on employed, middle-class, non-drinkers who have never been in Mary's bar.


~~~~~~~~~~~
*Of course they were saved.  (They always are.)  They can still be found living the high life in the Hamptons.
~~~~~~~~~~~

~sent to me by my friend Kathy via Facebook~
Thanks KM




Friday, January 13, 2017

Now you see it, now you....just kidding. You're NEVER gonna see it.


A few years ago we did a fairly sizeable home remodel for a client.  In conversation I learned that the Mrs was a now-retired hospital CFO.  (Her hospital was absorbed into another even larger system, and she took her bonus/payout and retired.)  I shared with her my frustration trying to figure out hospital and doctor statements, and she just chuckled and said, "Of course you're frustrated.  That's by design."

She told me how hospitals had a MSRP Blue Book (my term, as I can't remember what she actually called it) which listed their charges for everything you could possibly imagine.  "Appendectomy $19,300; double heart bypass $94,000; set broken arm $12,600, aspirin $10", etc (I can't remember her actual numbers).  

But then she told me their dirty little secret:  ALL their numbers were totally made up!  They bore no resemblance at all to their actual costs.  There is no industry standard.  And every other hospital had their own Blue Book, too, with their own totally made up prices, and they often differed widely.  That's why you'll hear TV investigative reporters tell of how one hospital charges $300 for a mammogram, while another across town charges $2,700.

Of course insurance companies have contract pricing where they pay MUCH less, but if you have to pay yourself, this is what they bill you.  Some pay, some walk it entirely, but some come back to negotiate (and the hospitals allow themselves LOTS of room to negotiate).  It's a giant shell game!

Some doctors do something similar.  You call a doctor and ask if they take your brand of insurance and are told yes, so you make an appointment.  A few weeks later you find out from your insurance company that the doctor charged more than the "usual and customary" fee, and that the balance is up to you.  Gee, thanks for telling me up front, doc.

Ditto for prescription drugs from your insurance plan or Medicare drug supplement.  They cover what is on their "formulary" list only.  Their what?  If it isn't on their list, you're SOL.  (Shit Out of Luck)  And they list page after page of things like hydrothialomicizinetine trididodickyluckypucky.  WTH?  What happened to "Lyrica" or "Crestor"?  Sadly this is the way our world works today....you're led to believe one thing, only to find out later the fine print screwed you over.

We little guys don't stand a chance!

So now they're going to REPEAL AND REPLACE Obamacare.  OK, great, by all accounts it needed to be overhauled.  But please tell me how they're going to get all those various interests, each with their own proprietary fine print, to agree to a viable replacement?  Each will be maneuvering to throw the other under the bus first. (No honor among thieves, you know.)  And it will eventually have to be voted on by Congress....yes, bought-and-paid-for Congress.  *bend over folks*

There's fine print everywhere....buried in that 8 page credit card agreement, that 75 page mortgage document, your homeowners/renters/auto/life insurance policies, your auto loan agreement, that investment prospectus....everywhere!

Here's the deal:  most businesses today don't WANT you to know how they operate.  They LOVE doing business in the shadows.  Transparency is the LAST thing they want.

Ever hear of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?  It was an outgrowth of the financial meltdown back in '08.  Its supporters will tell you it exists to slap down businesses that take advantage of unsuspecting consumers (ie: non-lawyers who can't understand all that legalese/fine print).  Detractors, such as the Big Banks, the US Chamber of Commerce, and I'm sad to say the Republican establishment, will tell you it "interferes with their ability to conduct business as they feel they need to", and besides, regulations are JUST DOWNRIGHT UN-AMERICAN!!  *saluting flag*

Seems to me if the Big Banks, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the Republican establishment (and probably more than a few Democrats, too) would behave the way their mamas taught them, there wouldn't be a need for a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

What you DON'T know WILL hurt you, or at least COST you.  Caveat Emptor now more than ever, my friends.

S


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Ummm, don't look now, but....

I'd hate to be the one to burst your bubble regarding America's seeming military invincibility, so I'll just let you down gently by pointing out we have several military Achilles Heels.  I recently read an article that points them out which says, basically, that while we are no doubt immensely powerful, we are putting a lot of our eggs in several fragile baskets that we may not have a good grip on.  (You can read the article for yourself here.)

After WWI the world thought of France as one of the preeminent Continental powers, with a large army and navy, only to see it collapse like a house of cards after the Nazi's breached its vaunted Maginot Line in 1940.  The United States today, much like the French with their Maginot Line, puts much faith in just a handful of our weapons systems.  Without getting too geeky, here are our problem areas:



Supercarriers....we currently have 10 nuclear aircraft carriers able to project power around the world. They carry a powerful wallop, but they themselves are huge targets.  In fact, there have been several incidents recently when real-world friendly naval forces, acting as "adversaries", managed to get their (old, not very sophisticated) submarines close enough to an American carrier to shoot virtual torpedoes into it.  (Story here.)  

In other words, it's easier than you might think for a non-state-of-the-art submarine to put a few million-dollar torpedoes into a multi-BILLION dollar aircraft carrier and send it to the bottom of the ocean.  Due to the lack of a worthy adversary after the USSR collapsed in 1991, our anti-submarine warfare skills have noticeably declined.

Should we begin to de-emphasize our carriers, and accelerate building many more, and much more survivable, submarines of our own?  Are we depending on our carriers too much? 




Stealth aircraft....most people don't understand what "stealth" means.  The common perception is that a stealth aircraft is invisible.  NOT true!  Stealth means "low observable".  Instead of showing up on radar as a big aircraft, it shows up the size of a small bird.  It's hard to see, but you CAN see it.  And now our adversaries are developing (and I'm sure we are also) things like "passive radars" that can see stealth aircraft coming from miles away.  Our stealth fleet is still plenty impressive, but it's losing its aura of invincibility.

As much as I like the romanticized idea of a swaggering jet jockey sitting in the cockpit of a $100M+ aircraft, maybe we should consider buying many, many more smaller, simpler, and cheaper unmanned aircraft.  (Much of the complexity and cost of a manned aircraft is due to the need for "pilot survivability" components.)  Look at how well our unmanned, armed drones have done!  As with our carriers, are we depending too much on our "stealth" aircraft?



And finally, our "network-centric warfare" capability....we have developed a superb system linking in real time our command, control, communications, and computers (C4) with their land, air, and sea assets.  This means we can respond almost immediately with any or all of our forces in a highly-coordinated counter-attack.  The problem is, for this to work, everything must be connected, which is currently done through satellites in space. 

Now the Chinese have successfully launched an armed satellite-killer into space and destroyed one of their own to prove its viability, and the Russians have launched a satellite into orbit which they maneuvered into close proximity to one of our satellites, presumably as a test to see if they could get close enough to blow it up.  (They can.)  As our satellites are unarmed and cannot defend themselves, they're sitting ducks!

So maybe we should look carefully into developing weapons and systems that are simpler, cheaper, and more likely to survive an attack by    ?    .  We should study the history of the French Maginot Line carefully to make sure we haven't developed an American Maginot Line. 

We just might have outsmarted ourselves.

S  


Sunday, January 8, 2017

I have the answers, but you won't like them


So this time it was a mentally disturbed individual with a legally possessed gun who shot up an airport terminal in Ft Lauderdale, FL, killing 5 people.  And again, some are asking, "How did this happen, and how are we going to fix it?"

If we lived in an authoritarian society where there are visible police everywhere as well as many more unseen secret police, and a small army of informers to keep an eye on their neighbors, yeah, we might could have prevented this.  Guns and gun ownership would be outlawed, and the mentally ill would simply be locked away.  There would be no "due process".  You would just be picked up one day off the street, and in short order find yourself in a gulag.  End of problem.

But we live in a free society where people have rights.  There are millions of guns in the hands of our citizens right now, and the Supreme Court has validated the 2nd Amendment concept that guarantees Americans the right to own them.  The guns aren't going away, and even if a future, more liberal Supreme Court changes their interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, there will be millions of people who will always say our Founding Fathers said it, SCOTUS be damned! 

So to answer the original questions:  How did this happen?  An obviously mentally disturbed person did not get the help he needed, and he got hold of a gun.  How are we going to fix it?  We need to spend the money necessary to get the mentally disturbed the medical/psychological help they need, and we need to invest in a government-wide computer system that allows names of the mentally disturbed, wanted criminals, felons, those with restraining orders against them, etc, to be added (or subtracted) instantly. 

They won't be able to legally buy a firearm, they will be singled out for searches, both of their body and their checked baggage, if they fly, or perhaps not even be allowed to fly at all.  The same goes if they travel by train or bus.  It certainly won't stop every madman, but it will go a long way.  Right now this type system apparently doesn't exist at all, or if it does, is not kept current and properly utilized.

So, Mr/Ms Taxpayer/Citizen....your choices are to give up your liberties, spend the fortune it would cost to implement a better reporting system, or accept the fact that these things are simply going to happen.  I'm pretty confident we won't choose the first or second options, so we may just have to accept the realities of living in the 21st Century.

Stay vigilant.

S


Friday, January 6, 2017

I don't understand statistics....


I've come to believe statistics are just some high-end slight-of-hand tricks that very highly educated mathematicians use on us to pull in big-buck paychecks.  And by "us" I mean the American taxpayers.  For example, just this morning I heard on 'da news that, according to the Labor Department, in December the US economy generated 156,000 new jobs, AND THE JOB CREATION FIGURE FOR NOVEMBER WAS ADJUSTED UPWARDS TO 204,000. 

What do they mean "adjusted upwards"?  I suspect what they were trying to say, without giving away their little scam, is that they just made up a number a month ago, but since then they've looked around and seen fewer panhandlers on the street, so, yeah, more people are probably working than they first guesstimated.

"So what do ya think, guys?  Should we bump it another 20,000?"

"Sounds good to me.  But hurry it up, Genius Jeopardy is on in 20 minutes."

And how can we check their numbers?  If you Google it, Google refers you to the GOVERNMENT STATISTICS!  

WELL, DUH!  Seems like pretty good job security to me.

Hmmm....methinks I've just figured out their dirty little secret.  *wink*

S

NOTE:  I actually meant this to be satirical, but the more I think about it, the more it seems to resemble reality.


 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Get ready to RUUUUMMMMMBLE!


Democrats and Republicans are meeting (separately) in Washington today with their managers and trainers to strategize for their upcoming "To Repeal Or Not Repeal Obamacare" heavyweight fight.

In this corner we have the "Oh Dear God, Save My Legacy" Democrats.  They want to keep Obamacare, pointing out 20M people now have insurance thanks to it.  (But they will quietly mumble that, yes, it needs some major "tweaking".)

And in the opposite corner we have the "Repeal and Replace" Republicans.  They want to kill Obamacare, effective on    fill in a date__.  In the meantime they will work on whatever it is they will replace it with, TBD.

Obamacare has helped many people for sure, but stories abound of people whose insurance premiums have gone from $400 a month +/- pre-Obamacare to $1,400 a month +/- after.  And even after that, deductibles and copays are still up substantially.

But "replace later" is a joke, too.  There are far too many vested interest "cooks" in the kitchen for that process to ever produce a tasty dish.  Doctors fear socialized medicine, insurance companies fear serious regulation and/or competition, seniors fear having their Medicare thrown under the bus, young people don't even think they need insurance at all, hospitals are for whatever will pay them the most (and don't kid yourself, "non-profit hospitals" are NOT "non-profit"), pharmaceutical companies LOVE the "charge anything you want" sweetheart deal they have now, etc.

And to make matters worse, BOTH sides agree that we need to preserve the "no pre-existing conditions", "no lifetime $$$ limits", and the "keep the kids on mom and dad's policy" provisions we have now, which are THE MOST EXPENSIVE parts of Obamacare.  We want to have our cake and eat it, too!

The other, not-talked-about option is to re-institute the laissez faire system we had before Obamacare, the one that was slowly-but-surely failing.  Every year a few million more people had their stable (?) corporate jobs and insurance benefits disappear as their jobs went overseas or they became "independent contractors/consultants" with no insurance at all.  These people had to either pay through the nose for private insurance, do without proper health care and be sickly, or depend on hospital emergency rooms for care they couldn't pay for, which often led to bankruptcy, none of them good options.

My opinion (whether you want it or not) is that both replacing Obamacare with something that keeps the strong points of it intact, or heavily amending the existing Obamacare scheme, amount to the same thing.  Both sides might as well sit down together and use that as their starting point.

Right now our society has developed to the point that for national security reasons as well as for business reasons, ALL Americans must have health care.  Leaving some without health care weakens us both domestically and internationally, and we can't afford that.  We're too compassionate to leave some behind to suffer, and our adversaries/competitors have become much too strong for us to go toe-to-toe with unless we work harder than ever and ARE HEALTHY.  We're not China....our workers are not expendable.

So let's suck it up buttercups.  We can either pay for it now, or suffer the consequences later.  (And we WON'T like the consequences!)

S


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice....


What is it with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives?  Weren't they paying attention last November?  Even a blind man could see that the people were fed up with business as usual in Washington.  The supposed joke of a candidate, Bernie Sanders, turned out to be the guy that set the tone for the entire election.  He turned things upside down, calling out those who were shills for special interests, and promised to represent the people for a change.  And Donald Trump did much the same, in his own way, and in the process earned the votes of many who were fed up with the status quo.   "Drain the swamp" they said.

The big catch phrase has been "transparency", which means to put everything out in the open for all to see.  No secrets, no back room deals, just put the truth out there, period.  And if you're proud of what you've done, or at least not ashamed of it, why not?

So less than two months after the election, what do the sitting Republican House of Representatives members do in a closed door caucus / meeting on their last day before the next Congress is sworn at in?  They voted to strip the Office of Congressional Ethics of its independence and place it under the control of the House Committee on Ethics.

In other words, the members of the House will now be responsible for looking into charges of unethical practices by members of the House.  Are you kidding me?  That idea was proven to be a sham years ago, which is why the INDEPENDENT Office of Congressional Ethics was set up in the first place!  The fox once again has the keys to the hen house!

(In fairness, if the Democrats should again become the majority party in a future election, I don't want them to have this power, either.)

The soon to be* renamed and declawed "Office of Congressional Complaint Review" cannot review any misconduct that took place before 2011, cannot release any of its findings to the public, or alert law enforcement to any criminal activity uncovered, without the permission of their House committee overseers. ('Cause, you know, you've gotta give the crooks a head start so they can wipe off their prints and clean up the blood.)

Transparency my ass!  They've tricked us again.

S

* This is all contingent on the full House and Senate agreeing.  As they are both Republican controlled, and if there is no public outcry in the meantime, expect that to happen soon.