Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bankwalkers

When a group of folks makes the decision to go skinny-dipping, the normal and honorable ones take their clothes off discreetly and jump into the water as fast as possible.

But there is always one in the group that is the bankwalker. Strut. Preen. Stretch. Make sure everybody has an eyeful.

Sometimes they are well endowed and proud. Sometimes they are as ugly as a bucket of hair and proud. It doesn’t mean that those in the water aren’t equally endowed or equally ugly. It just means the bankwalker needs the attention.

They are male and female. You know right now who the bankwalkers are in your life.

And unfortunately, bankwalkers fill up our television screens, magazines and newspapers.

Rod Blagojevich. Paris Hilton. Tom Ford. Donald Trump. Terrell Owens. Barney Frank. Jose Canseco. Terri Hatcher. Rosie O’Donnell. Kanye West. The Kardashians. Madonna. Matthew McConaughey. Bill Clinton.

Would you all please get out of the way? You are blocking my view of Pamela Anderson.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Leagues of Nations

There are two amazingly similar organizations headquartered in New York City.

They are both inefficient, ineffective, rendered powerless by their members and their structure, subsidized by governments, and over-subsidized by the United States.

And for some odd reason, when things get really screwed up both organizations call in former Sen. George Mitchell.

Of course, we are discussing the United Nations and Major League Baseball.

In order for an organization to be effective, it must have a clear mission supported by all of its members.

Well, lets start with Major League Baseball. MLB is the organization that is supposed to set the rules, promote the game, and keep the teams and players playing Major League Baseball in line. It has become an international organization now with teams in Canada, season openers in Tokyo, and a farm team called Cuba.

MLB is owned by the owners of the teams. The owners appoint the Commissioner. The owners make the rules. And for years, MLB has been an example of wild West capitalism which means the MLB is a joke.

Unlike the NFL, the team owners in MLB never agreed to play by the same rules either on the field or in the business of running their teams.

The NFL is a lot like Marin County. We believe in socialism, so long as we are all rich and this socialism stuff will make us richer and won’t interfere with our lifestyle. Like, we will send money to Habitat for Humanity, but don’t think of building one of your places in our neighborhood. Like, what do you mean a black owner?

Anyway, MLB doesn’t buy that NFL crap. Dog eat dog. The big dogs do what they damn well please. The small dogs beg for fairness and subsidies. So, the big dogs have made sure that the MLB commissioner will be a meaningless figurehead. No power.

And to make sure that’s the case, the owners have learned that the best kind of commissioner is one of their own small dogs. This is akin to Spike appointing Chester commissioner of the backyard. Like Spike isn’t going to lift his leg where and when he wants to without fear of punishment.

MLB can’t even make sure that their two leagues play the same game. One league has something called a designated hitter. The umpires have made up their own rules including different strike zones. Puhleaze.


The United Nations got its start as the League of Nations. The League of Nations was formed at the end of World War I. Its task was pure and simple. To make sure that war never broke out again.

A couple of little problems. The League of Nations had no power. No peacekeeping force. Germany, who started WWI, wasn’t allowed to join. And the United States refused to join. Oh, Woodrow, where are you when we need you.

So, after WWII, which seemed to indicate that the League of Nations wasn’t cutting it, the idea for the United Nations came about.

The original United Nations sort of made sense. It was formed by the Allied Powers (the good guys) to make sure the Axis Powers (the bad guys) would never be allowed to be bad again.

Rules for membership are clearly spelled out in the UN Charter:

"Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.

The admission of any such state to membership in the United Nations will be effected by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council."

Somewhere along the way, it turned into a bad joke. “All other peace-loving states” now includes Iran, Burma/Myanmar, Cuba, Sudan, Afghanistan and North Korea. Every nation on earth is now a member of the UN. The good, the bad, the inconsequential.


Every nation is supposed to contribute on a fair “tax” basis (what a novel idea) to the UN fund. Supposed being the key word.

The UN annual budget is around $20 billion. The United States pays 22% of that. China pays 2%. Yet China has just as much say as the United States on UN decisions and policy. What? If you don’t pay your fair share of your PTA dues you don’t get to be a member and you are held up for public scorn. Not so at the UN.

As for the Secretary General, well s/he is selected by the member states. And since the member states don’t agree on much of anything, they are surely not going to allow someone from a big dog state to be Secretary General. So, we have Secretary Generals from South Korea, Ghana, etc. They strike as much fear as the robins-egg-blue helmeted UN peacekeeping force.

Here are a couple of thoughts on how to improve the effectiveness of the UN.

1. Get rid of the permanent headquarters. Move the meetings around to where the problems are you are trying to solve. There isn’t all that much poverty and violence on the East side of Manhattan. Why not move your meetings around between Mogadishu, Peshawar, Rangoon, Kabul, and other such places that most of the UN ambassadors have never visited. We know. The restaurants and the shopping won’t be quite as good as New York. But you will learn to love the taste of terrier.

2. The only real thing of value at the UN is that 18 acres of prime New York real estate that was donated by John D. Rockefeller. That land is not part of the United States. It is international territory. So sign a 99-year deal with Steve Wynn and let him turn it into Macau. Complete with the global array of prostitution and drugs. Then, the UN collects a big annual fee from this activity to go out and try to stop the prostitution and the flow of drugs in the real world.


Sen. Mitchell, if you need some help, give me a call.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cmmonuitacoin

Aoccdrnig to a rscheeachr at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Assuming that's perfectly clear to you, why do we spend so much time worrying about correct spelling?

Could Text Twist become our evolved level of communication?

Fried with brown sugar and worcestershire sauce

If you have never had it properly served, you might not appreciate Spam.

When you grow up whitebread in the South, you learn to love potted meat, vienna (pronounced vyeener) sausages, and, the jewel of spiced roots and snoots, Spam.

Mom coated it with brown sugar and worcestershire sauce and pan-fried it. Mmmmmmm.

Growing up whitebread means you were middle class, white, didn’t know anybody that wasn’t white, ate only white bread, were Protestant but didn’t know what that word meant, didn’t meet anyone Catholic or Jewish until at least college, and assumed the whole world was just like you. Safe, na├»ve, and happy.

I knew things were going wrong when mom brought home something called Roman Meal bread. Yikes. Dry, couldn’t make good doughballs out of it, tasted like a cowchip, but it was supposed to be “good for us”. Especially in Spam sandwiches.

I wonder about the good people at Hormel. They spent years building a nice brand that people loved. Then, their name is used to mean, well, shit. The stuff you don’t want. The stuff that might be dangerous. Did they sue somebody for disparaging their good name?

And why call it spam? Why not more despicable things? Like Sanka. Brussel sprouts. Corrective shoes. Designated hitter. Carrot Top.

And who the heck are these people that keep sending it? And how do I get a job making up those names? Why, in my inbox right now I have messages from Agamemnon Beck, Juanita Cherry (no I don’t need one), and Christy Dumas (Christy, you missed the b in your last name).

Since the post office is about to go broke, maybe they could learn something from email. Like have a “Barry Bonds” filter. I would pay them extra for them not to deliver one more Valpak, Welcome Wagon, Penny Saver or any other crap that is clogging up my mailbox, trash can and the landfills.

And where the heck is Al Gore on this? Al, this would make an excellent PowerPoint presentation. Both sides of the aisle would be with you on this one. And you could actually earn that Nobel Peace prize. Think of the joy and harmony you would bring to our lives if all that “Barry Bonds” never was allowed to reach us.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I blinked

Last night about 9:30, I went to the garage to get my wife’s backpack out of her car for her.

It was a toss-up as to who would do it, but I could find my shoes, so I went.

As I was walking back, I noticed two young men crossing the street we live on. They looked out of context.

At first, I felt ashamed for profiling.

Then as I was walking up the steps, one of them comes to the gate and says in a commanding voice to me, “Hey, you got a cigarette?”

Odd, I thought, and just said “No” over my shoulder to him.

He then asks, “Are you sure?”

Alarm bells went off somewhere inside me. I then heard him attempt to open the gate, and I turned around to glare at him. I was about to walk back toward him and tell him to get the hell out of here when he walked off.

I came in the house and called the police. They were here in minutes and I told them the story.

About 15 minutes later, the officer called back and asked if I would meet him downstairs because there had been an incident.

I went back down apprehensively. The officer told me these two had just robbed a man at gunpoint about 5 blocks away. Similar circumstances. The guy had just parked his car and was getting some things out of the trunk when these two miscreants walked up behind him and robbed him. (As of this writing, these jerks are still on the loose.)

Thankfully, the guy wasn’t physically harmed. But he lost some possessions, and his safety bubble. Come to think of it, my bubble is gone too.

And that’s a good thing.

What safety bubble? There never was one. We get lulled into thinking we live in a nice neighborhood and these sorts of things don’t happen here. Well, they do.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called “Blink”. It is about our innate, instantaneous judgments. Sometimes these judgments are right and sometimes they are wrong.

This time, mine were correct. It saved me some real trouble.

My wife is a consumer research expert. She loves to observe people and figure out what makes them tick. Her dream job is to be a criminal profiler. Like Jodie Foster in “Silence of the Lambs”. (I’m hoping one day to see her file on me.)

She just bought a book called “The Gift of Fear”. It is a book that can save your life. It encourages you to use your natural fears. Highly recommended reading.

The moral of the story is realize that your best protection isn’t the police, an alarm system, mace or a gun. It is your instinct. Don’t be afraid to use it.

And, don’t let anyone bum a cigarette. Except me.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ice in Los Angeles

In my tea glass, that is.

See, I am learning to write headlines like CNN.com.

They aren’t in the business of reporting the news. They are in the business of marketing the news.

If a story doesn’t get clicked often enough, it comes off the site. If it gets clicked a lot, it stays up.

That’s how you get headlines like today’s “Mom catches surprise twin in pants”. It is actually a story of a courageous husband and a well run 911 call. But they couldn’t resist.

And, always a headline with the word sex in it as in today’s, “Shots help boost low sex drive in men”. No, ladies, there isn’t a new shot that will take the Mississippi leg hound out of your husband.

Isn’t this great, you get to make the news. Click on lots of stories about sex and puppies, and you get more. Apparently, lots of folks are.

Not a mention of Iraq. Or Iran. Or Afghanistan. Or health insurance, or lack thereof. No ice storm news. No mention of Gaza. Nor China, deflation, or the proposed new electric grid for the United States.

If you want that kind of information, you go to The Christian Science Monitor. I know nothing about the Christian Scientists. I don’t know why they publish a newspaper. But, I am glad they do. It contains real information about what is going on in the world.

And, they are the first major newspaper to do the obvious. It is only available online. (So nice to read the paper and not worry about leaving black smudge on the white couch.)

I am sure CNN is anxious for the next Lindsay Lohan story. This Obama guy is getting way too serious.

Questions to ponder

-Why is it so funny when women and kids and dogs fart?

-What did Adam and Eve look like?

-Whatever happened to the best candy ever, the Zero bar?

-Why can’t doctors write legibly?

-Why do men start growing hair in strange places when they get older?

-Why does the United States not have an official language?

-Who is working on curing the common cold?

-Why are the stripes horizontal on knit shirts and vertical on woven shirts?

-Why do men have nipples?

-How long before an NFL player is killed by a helmet to helmet hit?

-Why does everything measured in the sports world get faster every year except a fastball?

-Why have commercial jet planes flown at the same speed since they were introduced in the 1950’s?

-Is P.J. O’Rourke the only funny conservative?

-What if Al Franken and Norm Coleman actually just tied?

-What if the South had won?

-Who ate the first oyster?

-Who Snopes Snopes?

Monday, January 26, 2009

God, are you there?

-Why do we close our eyes when we pray?

It isn’t prescribed in the Bible, the Torah or any other religious text I can find. How many times did you get swatted as a kid because you didn’t close your eyes during the blessing? And how did your mom know you didn’t have your eyes closed?

I think God just wants to talk to us. I am quite sure he can hear us with our eyes open or shut. Head up or bowed. Standing, sitting, kneeling, walking, driving or flying. I especially hope it works when you’re flying. How else can you explain a 255,000 pound machine lifting off the ground?


-If one of your new year’s resolutions was to resolve whether you believe in God or not, I highly recommend reading two books. god is not Great by Christopher Hitchins and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. By the time you finish both, you will be in one camp or the other.


-Kids get it. Perhaps you’ve heard the story by author John Drescher about the frightened little boy who lay in his shadowy bedroom one night, trembling in terror as a thunderstorm raged just outside.

“Daddy,” he called out, please come here—I’m scared!”

“Son,” his father answered, “It’s OK—God loves you, and He’ll take care of you.”

“Yes, I know God loves me,” the boy replied. “But right now I need somebody with skin on `em.”


-Why is it people get so worked up about prayer before football games? I think it is a fine idea, especially if you are smallish and slow-footed. But why just football? Ever heard of people getting frothy about prayer before a swim meet? Or a tennis match? Or, heaven forbid, a debate tournament?

One of my favorite ironies is hearing someone deliver the pre-football game prayer and asking for “our team” to win. I’ve heard it. Over the PA system. (I heard it. Don’t think God did.)

Better yet, parents praying beneath the stands during the fourth quarter of a playoff football game for “our boys to win”. Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

-Why do we scare our children with “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray thee Lord my soul to take.” No wonder they won’t go to sleep. No wonder they keep asking for a glass of water.

-The Catholic Church (the one with capital letters), has the best real estate strategy of any organization in the world. Their churches are almost always on the best real estate: in the center of town, on the highest hill, on an island in the middle of a lake (Google up the church at Lake Bled in Slovenia. Wow.)

-If you haven’t already, go visit a Black church. African Americans have more fun at church than a sack of confused weasels. They worship openly and joyfully. They sing wonderfully. They MOVE to the music. (Try that next time your congregation breaks it down to “Great is Thy Faithfulness” or Yismechu).

-What is someone that is agnostic, dyslexic and an insomniac?

Someone who lies awake at night wondering if there is a Dog.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Thoughts on The First Week

-Congratulations to Obama. But the race was to see who would be the Democratic nominee. What Democrat couldn’t have won after Bush?

That’s just how it goes in this country. Left ditch to right ditch.


Carter.

Reagan.

Bush.

Clinton.

Bush.

Obama.


-There seemed genuine PDA from Bush towards Obama. Not so much with Bush and Cheney. I sense maybe the thrill is gone for those two. Cheney doesn’t have much use for Bush now, so he has taken his hand out of his butt and stopped moving George’s lips. And, Bush didn’t fully pardon Scooter Libby. Say goodnight, Dick.

-Bill Clinton doesn’t know what to do with himself. At least four more years of limelight. He can’t avoid a camera. He can’t avoid upstaging his wife, or his President.
Memo to Bill. You’ve had your eight years. Now go do something good and get out of the way.

-Thanks, Dr. Lowery. After all of the healing that Obama’s campaign has done, you can’t resist taking your shot once you had the national microphone. “When white will embrace what is right.”

Let’s see. Obama’s mom was white. So were the grandparents that raised him. So were most of his teachers and professors. So were the majority of voters that got Obama elected. Lyndon Johnson and a virtually all white Congress passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Tiger Woods is the greatest player of the “whitest” game in history. I have been the legal guardian of an African American kid to help him finish high school. My son died in Iraq for you. Dr. Lowery, the time for hate speech is over. Until you apologize, you can kiss my white ass.

I dream of a day when my six children will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

-I like Barack Obama. I may not agree with him on everything, but I like him. He smokes. Cigarettes. He plays basketball. He smiles. I think he has a great sense of humor, but hasn’t had the opportunity to show us yet. Too much serious stuff to deal with. (If only Bush had learned this. Or Biden.) He is madly in love with his wife and daughters. He works hard. He can speak English in coherent sentences. He has an appreciation for history and what a responsibility has fallen on his shoulders. I don’t think he is conceited. He likes dogs. You could go to a ballgame with this guy and have a fine time. He likes to hang out with smart people.

Obama, I’m rooting for you. We need you to do good. We need you to be one of the all-time greats. You, sir, have inherited a mess.

Oh, and Rush Limbaugh is a big fat un-American ass for saying what he did. Maybe he and Dr. Lowery could spend some time together. (How about Gitmo now that it will be available?)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Baldo

As I read the headlines today about the growing global economic meltdown, I wondered, “Is there anybody I know that hasn’t been affected in some way by all of this madness?”

Positively or negatively, is there anybody I have met in my 5 decades of living that hasn’t been touched?

I know some wealthy people whose lifestyles haven’t had to change. But, I have to assume their portfolios have taken a hit.

I know some poor people whose lifestyles haven’t changed. It is just harder and harder to bang out their existence.

I know some people in niche businesses who are flourishing. Like collection agencies. And gun shop owners.

Has it touched all 6 billion of us? (Not that I know us all.)

Then I remembered Baldo.

Met Baldo on a mission trip in Brazil. About thirty of us flew to Manaus, then took a boat up the Amazon about 8 hours. We anchored in a lake that bordered the river and shared its amazing waters.

This was not “third world”. It was the first world. The people that lived here were so remote from what we call civilization. Their homes were thatched roof, no window, dirt floor, no door huts. They shared their living spaces with their dogs, chickens, pigs, and several generations of family. They cooked over open flame. Their water came from the lake.

These good people built their homes on land that suited them. Some in the jungle. Some close to the water. They don’t “own” the land as we might think because they didn’t have a proper closing and title search done. However, I don’t suggest anyone try to explain this oversight to them lest they introduce you to their means of protecting their property. As in very sharp homemade machetes. (Maybe that’s how we end the title insurance scam.)

Our group included doctors, dentists, missionaries, and knuckleheads like me.

One of our projects was to construct a building for the small “village” we were ministering to. The building was to be used as a church and a community center.

If you have never had the opportunity to do construction in the Amazon, it is something like this. Go into your bathroom. Turn on all the hot water. Turn on the heat. Seal all the windows and doors so the heat and humidity are locked in. Have a friend throw in some very large bugs that bite, and a few poisonous snakes. Then, do as many jumping jacks and pushups as you can. Then, get a hammer and smash your thumb.

Baldo lived next to where we were putting up the building. Baldo was built like an NFL linebacker on steroids. (Is that redundant?) He had a smile like Will Smith-permanent, authentic, and contagious.

Baldo was fascinated with us aliens. What in the world had brought us there? Where did all of this material and machinery come from? Who were we and what did we want?

At lunch break one day, he came over for a visit. He asked a thousand questions.

Then, thru an interpreter we had hired, I asked him one.

“Baldo, what do you think about when you think about the future?”

“You mean, tomorrow?”

“No, I mean the future.”

“Tomorrow, I will go fishing. If I catch fish, it will be a good day. If not, I will go fishing the next day.”

That was it. That was his vision of the future.

Ever since that day, I have been wondering who is more civilized. Baldo, or me?

He isn’t worried about his resume. His 401k. The equity in his home. His kids’ college funds. New run-flat tires on his BMW. Health insurance. Retirement. Vacation. Republican vs. Democrat. Exchange rates. Taxes. Boxers or briefs.

If Baldo is still alive, he is the one guy I know who hasn’t been affected. In a land where the life expectancy is 35 years, Baldo, I hope you are having a fabulous day.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Subtle Invasion

They are already here.

They being an organization based in a foreign country. An organization headed by a member of one of the world’s richest families. An organization headed by a man rarely photographed or seen in public. An organization with a global strategy for dominance.

They are here in the U.S. and they are spreading their culture. They are changing how we live.

This group legally builds their buildings. And, they proudly bear their own colors. (i.e. they ain’t red, white and blue)

The pain and torment they are willing to inflict are incredible. They lure the unassuming into their buildings. And God help you if you try to get out. It is an intricate and confusing maze meant to hold you in. Forever.

This group is so subtle yet diabolical. They have brought their strange ways and, even, their foods. They are cleverly introducing their culture by enticing our children to eat what they eat.

Like, lingonberries.

This group is, or course, al Ikea.

Who hasn’t suffered the mental torment of the missing piece? Or, the piece that isn’t in their “instruction manual”?

Who hasn't lost their mind (or their wife or their life savings) wandering their labyrinth?

Who hasn’t suffered the physical pain of lifting “Malm” furniture out of bin 13A?

We must unite and push back. We must demand the return of furniture made in Hickory, North Carolina. We must resist the seemingly innocent temptation of “Swedish Meatballs.”

My fellow citizens. We must pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off. We must remember our better history. Like when the furniture store was owned by someone your dad knew. And, they sure as hell didn’t serve you daime torte during a “fika”.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Definition of a Tarp

A tarp is something used to cover something up. A tarp is ugly. The only thing uglier is what’s under it.

Conveniently, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has a name for the $750 billion and growing bailout plan for U.S. banks. TARP. Which stands for Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Here is how it works. You pay federal income tax which goes to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The U.S. Department of the Treasury is now doling out your money to banks across the United States. This program was supposed to help the economy by enabling the banks to make more loans for things like houses and cars. However, the bailout funds to the banks came without any requirements as to how the banks must use the funds. The banks are not required to loan the money. In fact, they can use the funds to acquire additional banks if they choose to do so.

The following is from an article in The New York Times by Mike McIntire on January 17, 2009.

“At the Palm Beach Ritz-Carlton last November, John C. Hope III, the chairman of Whitney National Bank in New Orleans, stood before a ballroom full of Wall Street analysts and explained how his bank intended to use its $300 million in federal bailout money.

‘Make more loans?’ Mr. Hope said. ‘We're not going to change our business model or our credit policies to accommodate the needs of the public sector as they see it to have us make more loans.”

Thanks for clarifying, Mr. Hope.

That warm feeling you are having right now is Mr. Hope relieving his troubled asset down your leg.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Airport Idiots

Example: Boarding in Chicago for a flight to LAX. TSA decides to do a random check of passengers as we board the plane. Haven’t seen one of these in a while. Can’t say it made me feel more secure. TSA pulls a 60 something year old lady behind me carrying bags like your grandmother would carry on her first flight. If she was a terrorist, we have won the GWOT.

Example: So, during this TSA shakedown, the first guy in line to board the plane (you know the guy, he lurks by the ropes and dashes to the front of the line) is stopped by the gate agent. With a dozen TSA agents around. Something isn’t working with his boarding pass. This guy starts screaming at the agent. “This is ridiculous. I was rerouted. This is your fault. This is ridiculous!!!!!” You might be correct, dumbass, but not smart. He ended up boarding last. Oh, and he was about a 5’2” nebbish with 100 pounds of carry-on crap, and he already had his inflated sleeping pillow around his size 13 1/2 neck. It had an Alabama Crimson Tide logo embroidered on it. Somewhere, Bear Bryant wasn’t happy.

Example: Walked into the Hudson News stand as my acid reflux was doing the Macarena after my pepperoni, black olive and onion pizza. Needed some antacids. Asked the young lady with the tattoos and the piercings behind the counter if she carried any antacids. “Huh?” was the response. I realized I had just woken her from a nap. And she didn’t speak English. “DO YOU CARRY TUMS?” I screamed, like this would help. It actually did. A guy who did speak English showed up and got them for me. She then rang me up. And gave me the wrong change. I still have the extra 32 cents.


Example: American Airlines was once the airline to fly for business. They were efficient. They catered to business travelers’ needs. They were efficient. (The exterior of American planes aren’t painted because their CEO years ago figured that all that paint weighed a lot and cost more fuel. Where are you Bob Crandall? We need a Secretary of Commerce.) Today, American is a Greyhound bus with wings. The American people hate the TWA people they acquired, and vice versa. The surliness of the customer service staff would be better used at Gitmo. They know how to make a guest understand the rules. Once upon a time, if you asked for olives in a drink, they had them. Now, they laugh. Even on international flights. Please, Cathay or Singapore Airlines, buy American.

Example: So, the airlines make the schedules. Not the customer, right? They tell you when you will take off, and when you will arrive at your destination. Right so far?
Then why is it you land on time, but then have to sit on the tarmac for up to an hour for a gate to become available? Didn’t the folks at the arriving airport have a heads up that we were coming in? Who schedules this stuff, Amy Winehouse?

Example: Many airlines have outsourced most if not all of their reservations call centers to India. I understand the concept. I don’t understand the execution. Meaning, I don’t understand Hinglish (that’s Hindi mixed with English). English has a certain flow and meter to it that are important to communication. When yodeled, English is hard to follow. That’s what the nice people in Mumbai and Bangalore sound like to me. “SO mr. BURKS you WANT to GO to VASHINGTON on THE terteenth? “ Ah, I will call back. Not. Did you know that Jet Blue figured out how to hire the nicest people in the world who speak perfect English and have them answer the phones? For the most part, they are housewives in Utah. That’s right. Utah. Jet Blue did research to find the nicest people with the most understandable English to answer their calls. And they let them answer the phones at home. Please Jet Blue, buy American. And United. And Delta. And add those wonderful TV’s in the seatbacks.

Example: On September 11, 2001, terrorists used commercial airplanes as a combination of guided missile and hypersonic transport to 18 black-eyed virgins in heaven. And, you should feel great about the response of our government. We have now announced our “intention” to “announce” new rules “sometime soon” to regulate the security of private aircraft. We have done basically nothing in over 7 years to prevent a terrorist from grabbing a private plane at Doodlebug airfield and flying a few hundred pounds of plastic explosives into a nearby building. (By the way, if you hear of something like this happening in your area, head to the nearest mosque or Islamic learning center. That is the one place the plane won’t be landing.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

America's City

Have been in Washington D.C. all week.

Longest time I have been here since our seventh grade trip. (No, I'm not throwing water balloons out the hotel window as I did in 1966).

It is an amazing place. History. Activity. Fabulous architecture. Beautiful geography.

I had the need to visit some Congressmen. I expected an ordeal.

I was wrong. It is an amazingly easy process.

Most interesting, access to the House Office Buildings is simpler than getting into most office buildings in New York. You don't have to sign in. You don't have to have an appointment. You don't have to have someone call upstairs to confirm you.

There is a security screen thru a metal detector, but not as strenuous as at the airport.

Once you are in, you can walk the halls. Outside each Representative's door is a plaque with their name and a sign that says, "Welcome. Please come in." And they mean it. You, the real America can go see any Congressman. And I highly recommend it. It makes Washington not seem so foreign and disconnected.

It is interesting to see all of the preparation going on for the Inauguration. The guy with the Porta Potty concession is the biggest winner. You have never seen so many in one place. Do we serve free beer at this event?

Everywhere you turn you are reminded of the greatness of this country. And how many great men and women we owe gratitude too. Monuments. Buildings and streets named in honor. Every sector of our country represented.

Here in America's City, there is one issue that is hard to comprehend. The taxis are driven by people who aren't American. They are from all over the world. Especially Africa. Most are polite. English is not there native language. My experience is that quite often they don't know the city. Last trip, the cab driver taking me to Reagan airport had no idea where to go. He barely spoke English. I had to point out the signs and tell him where to turn.

How hard would it be to institute a system as they have in London where getting a taxi license requires real study and knowledge of the city. Isn't America's City and the people that visit from around the world deserving of that?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

15c

Having the curse of traveling too much, I have status with American Airlines. I get to board first and usually get the seat I want.

Yesterday, I flew from LAX to DFW and got an exit row seat with two empty seats next to me. What a blessing, I thought.

As the plane began to fill, an Army sergeant sat two rows ahead of me. He was in his ACUs, and he was carrying a very full backpack. So full, that he couldn't get it into the overhead bin. So he stuffed it under the seat, and then had both seats next to him fill up. He was cramped in there, and obviously desperate for sleep. He was nodding off as the plane was boarding.

I had the honor of swapping seats with him. I told him to spread out across all three seats and sleep. He was a bit taken back, but reluctantly agreed. Within moments, he was out like a light.

He was 25 at most. Somebody's baby boy. Somebody's brother. Somebody's best friend.
Traveling alone. Not one other person on the plane acknowledged him.

Walking off the plane in Dallas, he thanked me. I asked him where he was going, and he said back to Iraq. I asked where he was based, and he said he didn't really have a base. He was all over the country. I asked why. He said, "Because I am in a security detail. I provide protection to foreign dignitaries when they visit the country."

What this means is he is one excellent soldier. Most likely a sniper. And he wakes up everyday going to work knowing he and his guest are likely targets for the bad guys in Iraq. His job is to keep U.S. government officials and other "important people" from getting their asses blown up by some Iranian armed asshole in Iraq.

After landing in Dallas, he had a few hour layover and then a 20 hour flight to get back to work.

Why doesn't he get VIP treatment? He voluntarily risks his life for me and my country. I sell pants.

Godspeed Sergeant Maldonado.

Friday, January 9, 2009

You Couldn't Make This Up

GMAC is the financing arm of GM.

So, GM is sucking wind. If GM gets a cold, GMAC gets pneumonia.

Now that the U.S. governement is in the business of bailing out failed businesses, GMAC has announced that it is now a bank. And therefore, qualified for federal bailout money. Which it took its first taste of last week. $5 billion of U.S. taxpayer money.

Oh, but wait. The chairman of GMAC has now had to resign. Ezra Merkin. He founded Ascot Partners, LLP. A hedge fund. They are supposed to manage your millions and make you more millions. At a charge of 1.5 percent a year. His strategy? He invested virtually all of Ascot funds with one Bernard L. Madoff. As in made off with the money. So, Ascot Partners, LLP is screwed, and so are it's formerly wealthy but continually stupid investors. Mr. Merkin has some splainin' to do. Not to kick a man while he's down, but look up Merkin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merkin

Oh, but wait. The board of GMAC has now appointed Lenard Tessler as its new Chairman. Lenard Tessler is a Managing Director of Cerberus Capital Management. Cerberus owns Chrysler.

So, now, GMAC is not restricted to financing only GM autos. It may also finance other things, like Chrysler autos.

I feel so much better now.
Add to Technorati Favorites

The Difference Between a River and a Swamp

Boundaries.

That's the difference between a river and a swamp.

Without boundaries and borders, anything can creep and seep in or out. With boundaries and borders, the defined flow refreshes, cleanses, stays pure, moves forward.

Boundaries and borders are necessary to make something sovereign. Which means, "not controlled by outside sources."

People and countries are similar. They either have and respect and protect their boundaries, or they end up being controlled by outside forces.

So, why is there any debate about the importance of respected, protected boundaries for the United States?

Where is the outcry to make our borders more secure?

We must have secure borders or we will end up controlled by outside sources.

Like who? Like the drug cartel. Next time you have the chance, drive thru El Paso, Texas. You can see Juarez, Mexico from I-10. At least 1000 murders took place in Juarez last year. You don't have to go to Afghanistan to see a threat. Just go to El Paso.

And the problem is coming across our porous border.

The drug trade and the related terrorism is so bad, so dangerous, so overwhelming, that the City Council of El Paso passed a unanimous resolution this week asking the U.S. federal government to consider legalizing narcotics. If you can't beat them, join them?

Like, radical Islam. They have already visited us on 9/11. They understand our laws. Our strengths. Our weaknesses. Our political correctness. And, they flaunt them. Just as they have in much of Europe, specifically the U.K. Did you know that in parts of England where Muslims dominate the population, the British government has waved a white flag and allows Sharia law to govern?

These well educated Islamic terrorists know the borders and systems. Which is interesting. Because in their belief system, there are no borders. Islam does not respect sovereign countries. The Qur'an calls for a world without borders, ruled by Islamic law.

Our ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) are so overwhelmed that they have to choose which illegal aliens to target. Local law enforcement officials will tell you that if an illegal alien is arrested for a crime, the ICE will not come pick them up unless it is a really high value arrest.

This is not suggesting isolation. This is promoting safe, secure borders.

The war in Iraq has turned out to be very different than what the planners imagined. Why? Primarily, because we did not send enough forces into Iraq to secure the borders. What happened? Thousands of radical Islamic fighters entered Iraq. Tons of weapons entered Iraq. As a result, thousands of soldiers and Iraqui citizens are dead. Thousands more are wounded and scarred for life. Again, why? The borders were not secure.

I have been in the Okefenokee and the Everglades swamps. I wanted out. Quick. They take the life out of you.

I have been in the Comal and Sava rivers. Wish I was in one of them now.

What to do about this if you agree?

Call, email, or write a good old fashioned letter to your congressmen and senators. Write letters to the editor. Join the Customs and Border Patrol. Run for public office. Make your voice heard.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mr. President Elect, Don't Forget the Job Description

The first job of government is to protect the people.

The instruments of power at your disposal to accomplish this job are many. But the most important job is to PREVENT trouble as opposed to fighting trouble. Which means you need the best possible information on potential trouble before it becomes a real problem for the American people. Several of your predecessors apparently forgot that.

Which brings us to the appointment of head of the CIA. Don't know who the best choice is. But Leon Panetta isn't. How is his Pashtu? His Hindi? His Baraha? Who are his contacts in Russia? Has he ever ordered the arrest or killing of an enemy of the United States? Does he have the stomach for ordering the arrest or killing of an enemy of the United States?

How about his understanding of cultures and religions around the world? How are his relationships with our military, to whom he will be responsible for supplying critical information?

The CIA is in place to protect us. It must be managed by someone who already knows how to do it. The Chief of Police from Anytown, USA would be a better choice than a politician.

Please, Mr. President Elect. Change. Change this bad idea. And/or, please, Mr. Panetta, stand down. For all of our sakes.