Category Archives: Government

April’s Foole

worldfamousmagic.com

worldfamousmagic.com

Today is the day when we’re supposed to pull ridiculous practical jokes on one another.

However, in a world with [insert Putin, Kim Jong-un, or your favorite politician here], Kardashians, “The Real Housewives of [Insert city, town or trailer park here], Windows 8, and income tax due in two weeks, it’s pretty hard to be outrageous.

Nowak’s Theorem of Transplantation

Many phenomena are neither inherently good nor bad.

We read of invasive species like zebra mussels, pythons and snakehead fish that overtake an area when they are transplanted with harmful consequences. This is usually attributes to a lack of natural predators.

While I do not refute this, I think there is at least one other dynamic at work that applies – especially to people.

Ellis Island Immingrants archives.gov

Ellis Island Immingrants
archives.gov

As a country of immigrants, America has long been seen as a land of opportunity. People who pack up everything (or next to nothing in some cases) tend to be motivated, so there is some self-selection. However, sometimes the event of being removed from one environment and placed in another has its own effects effects.

Every society has its own challenges – both real and perceived. We all are far too familiar with the shortcomings of where we grow up, and this can predispose us to certain expectation of success or failure. In a new environment, however, since the challenges are unknown, they must be viewed more objectively to be overcome and old biases may not be as overwhelming.

We read of many foreign born Americans who succeed in a wide range of undertakings from advanced academia to small business. Perhaps the change in environment plays a part.

So, my theorem is – “When motivated people move from a familiar environment to an unfamiliar environment they tend to view challenges more objectively allowing them to overcome them and succeed.”

What’s Really Important?

Reading the headlines – the war in Crimea, political buffoonery in Washington, global warming, Snowmageddon, etc. can be intimidating.

What’s really important? What really matters?

I’ve given it much thought and I decided.

Of all the laundry, I like the towels best.

Brotex.com

Brotex.com

They’re easy to fold, AND you can fold a whole dryer load in a matter of minutes.

They’re easy to match than socks.

None of them need to go on hangers.

And nothing beats a warm towel after a shower on a winter’s day.

Russian Spokesman Comment

 

Russian spokesman Vlad “The Explainer”

With apologies to Matt Groenig

With apologies to Matt Groenig

“Those aren’t my troops!

Nobody saw me!

You can’t prove a thing!”

Die, You Bastard!

Horse thief hanging 1900 Wikipedia.com

Horse thief hanging 1900
Wikipedia.com

There’s been quite the focus on the death penalty lately. The drugs used to execute criminals by lethal injection are no longer available. The manufacturer doesn’t want their product used for such purpose. Maybe it’s the first line of the Hippocratic Oath, “First, do no harm.”

The reaction? Try another group of drugs that might work. Bring back the electric chair, the gas chamber, the gallows and the firing squad.

I’ve struggled with the topic, but the most clarifying statement I’ve ever encountered was from the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Gandalf has told Frodo that the creature, Gollum is following them.

Frodo: It’s a pity Bilbo didn’t kill him when he had the chance.
Gandalf: Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.

Add to that the ever growing number of convicted people being cleared by DNA evidence, and you begin to doubt how just the justice system actually is.

So, if it’s not for justice, what is it?

Revenge.

Capital punishment seeks to accomplish the same thing as a gangland hit or a drive by shooting. “You hurt me, so I need to hurt you back.”

I’d like to believe that we’ve progressed beyond the 3rd century Roman Coliseum mindset; beyond the public beheadings and burning at the stake of the middle ages; beyond the gunfights and lynchings of the 19th century.

They’re Baaack!*

hor.

A few thoughts now that Congress is back in session:

  1. The skills and capabilities needed to be an effective elected official have nothing in common with the skills needed to get elected.

    During the campaign, voters are attracted to a combination rock star and rich uncle,

    But a good public servant is closer to a Benedictine Monk (complete with vow of poverty) who is also a Certified Public Accountant.

  1. Our servicemen and women gain our respect because they are willing to die for our nation;

    Our politicians, on the other hand, earn our disdain because they are prepared to sell out the rest of the nation to benefit their own congressional district.

    *and you put them there.

How Do I See the End of 2013?

It is with some degree of sadness that I mark the passing of the incandescent light bulb.

Actually it is for one reason in particular – you could understand, and therefore teach others how a light bulb work. If you run electricity through a high resistance wire, the electric energy becomes heat and light.

You could tell your kids how Thomas Alva Edison knew he needed the resistance, and a vacuum would keep the filament from burning out immediately. How, as he tried different materials for the filament, he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” How Edison then went on to invent many things – how to record sound, motion pictures, medical fluoroscopy and how these inventions spawned whole industries.

How it was this date in 1879 when Edison first demonstrated the light bulb to the public and that one of those basic light bulbs has been glowing almost continuously for 112 years.

How when you add a second electrode to an incandescent light bulb and you have a diode rectifier; add a third, making a triode that can amplify an electric signal – an important step leading to the proliferation of radio and eventually television.

What a great teaching tool!

Gone.

Can you clearly explain how an energy efficient compact fluorescent bulb works? How about an LEDs (light emitting diode)?

Didn’t think so – me either.

I’m Not Paranoid, But…

I thought it was bad enough that governmental agencies were spying on us. I mean, the Chinese, Russians and North Koreans were no surprise, but when you have to worry about Luxemburg and Monaco, it’s a different story.

In any case, I read the other day that a software guru checked his LG television and found it was tracking his viewing habits and sending the information back to the company.

I can’t say I’m surprised.

I’ve been suspicious of my coffee pot for some time.

I know it’s watching me.

SONY DSC

 

Gettysburg

g

It used to be a common requirement for students to memorize Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. If you’re not familiar with it, try this link. http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/gtsburgaddress.htm

The Battle of Gettysburg is generally accepted as the turning point in America’s Civil War. The Confederacy’s Army of Northern Virginia crossed into the Northern states of Maryland and Pennsylvania, with the first engagement on 1 July 1863. On 4 July, General Lee called for the Confederate Army to retreat. Over 50 thousand soldiers – representing both sides – were killed, wounded or missing. It took nearly two weeks to bury the dead. The priority was to bury the Northern dead, so many Confederate soldiers were unable to be moved due to the summer heat and decomposition, so they were buried where they fell. The Union soldiers did not fare much better, originally being buried in shallow graves. A proper cemetery was deemed appropriate.

The National Cemetery was dedicated on 19 November 1863. President Abraham Lincoln’s speech followed a rousing two hour oration by Edward Everett. Lincoln’s speech was barely two minutes.

Few today know who Everett was much less what he said.

Lincoln’s few words are remembered and revered.

Vote for ME!

vote

Election Day is around the corner, and here’s what I want from my elected officials.

You should look like me; as a matter of fact if you’re Polish-German-Catholic-American with greying hair and hazel eyes, even better. In fact, it would probably be best if you had grown up in my neighborhood.

I want all the people who earn more than I do to pay more taxes, but index it so if someday I earn more, those taxes won’t affect me.

And while you’re at it, stop giving food stamps, unemployment, health care or any other kind of help to those who earn less than I do. They should just drag their respirators and dialysis machines and get back to work.

I want my taxes to go down, the school where my kids are to get more money and we need better roads – at least the ones that I drive on a regular basis. Oh, and no tolls on the roads, bridges or tunnels that I use.

You know my views on global warming, abortion and gun control, so don’t screw those up.

Now, remember, that this election isn’t a biggie, so if it’s raining, or windy, or I just feel like sleeping in, I may not make it to the polling booth. Even so, I expect you to bend over backwards to represent me.

After all, I’m a voter, and you need me.

Early Morning Thoughts

untitled

I am working on a story to tell, but a few other things popped into my mind this morning.

  1. I turn the local CBS station on the television in the bedroom as I get dressed to check on weather and traffic. It is peppered with commercials for local businesses, etc. Although we stereotypically tend to look down on car salesmen with regard to integrity, when their ads interspersed with negative political ads – well, just say I’m really starting to like the car guys and their ads.
  2. Progress on Windows 8.1? This morning I was greeted by the Blue Screen of Death. All I need is enough time to back everything up and re-install Windows 7.

I know – get back to work on a story!!

Bob Peters, Teabag Congressman, and a Really Great Guy

Hi, I’m Congessman Bob Peters, and represent the third district of Pennsyltucky.  I’m here today to remind you that I’m proud to be a teabagger and am fighting for you by fighting against big government and government spending.  This is no game.

Speaking of games, what about those Red Dogs?  What a great game last Sunday. I sat there in a beautiful loge with some lobbyists and Political Action folks eating a gourmet meal and the finest bottle of wine I’ve ever tasted.  I love sharing the benefits of the upper 1% and am committed to keeping their taxes as low as possible.  No sitting on cold bleacher seats for me!

The stadium is beautiful and a benefit to the community, which is why the city used taxpayer money to build that stadium and subsidizes our football team.*

I left the game and drove miles on our federally funded interstate system on my way to the airport, which is also built with taxpayer dollars.  Government funded Transportation Security Agency people checked me through while others x-rayed the baggage to be loaded in the cargo hold.  Soon I was boarding my flight.  That airplane and the pilots are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, and our entire flight was tracked and directed by Federal Air Traffic Control.  We were delayed in taking off because the federally funded National Weather Service predicted some turbulence after an Air Force Reserve stormhunter plane flew through a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico and reported its findings to the federally funded National Hurricane Center.

Our arrival into Reagan National Airport – an airport maintained primarily to make life easier for us members of Congress was almost delayed as federal authorities checked a suspicious package left in the terminal.  I got into my car, parked in the special ‘reserved for Congress” section of the parking lot and drove over taxpayer supported streets to my office in the federally funded Sam Rayburn Office Building. I picked up a few things and took the federally funded Capitol Subway System to the US Capitol. This special and exclusive subway system helps me be more efficient.

I walked into the hallowed halls of the Capitol and headed over to the Congressional gym for a quick workout and a shower.  Thank heaven that the gym is essential and kept open during the government shutdown.

Now I’m ready to make my next speech against government spending.

* Incidentally,thanks to Congress, the National Football League is considered and taxed as a non-profit philanthropic organization.  http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/62280950/

Worse Than A Zombie Apocalypse!

Walking Dead

Walking Dead

The government shutdown has done more than close parks and furlough workers. Thousands of lobbyists are roaming like zombies throughout the streets of Washington DC trying to impact decisions when no decisions are being made.

Fortunately, since zombies primary food is brains, most will starve to death inside the beltway before they can cause problems more serious than their normal activities.

Thinking Out Loud

balloon

Sometimes ideas in my mind sound totally different when I say them out loud.

Often, I’ll have a great idea when in the shower, and after getting to work I excitedly share it with someone.

But once I say it out loud, it sounds like the stupidest thing I could have ever said.

That’s why I like working as part of a team. Bad ideas can be dispensed with quickly, or better yet, someone will respond with something like, “That’s stupid, but if we turn it sideways and paint it blue, it just might work.” That’s how ideas grow.

Yesterday on my way home from work, I was talking with my father on the telephone. Like everyone else who works for the government, I’m less than enthralled with Congress. As we were talking, I blurted out that even though it was disruptive to be furloughed again, I’m still blessed to have a job when many of my chronological peers are not so blessed.

It’s easy to forget the good stuff.

My advice – Don’t.

The Government is Shutting Down!

You’ve reached the United States Government. We’re closed right now.  If you receive this message during regular working hours, it means that we were not funded. Please try your call later. Thank you.

It’s the lead story on the news, it’s the end of life as we know it! (Details at eleven) And, of course, it’s someone else’s fault.

What will we do? What will we do?

Unless God wills otherwise, tomorrow, the sun will come up.

Most of those with a job will go to work. Children will go to school.

People will eat and sleep. Children will play at recess. Babies will be born. And yes, someone’s grandpa may die.

So what will be different?

If you were planning a luxurious trip to some exotic island, your passport may be delayed.

Your government grant for studying the nocturnal feeding habits of black footed ferrets in the high plains won’t be funded just yet.

Our lives will go on.

And maybe some people will realize that the politicians are neither as important nor as powerful as they’d have us believe.

On the other hand, God is.

Congressional Update

visitingdc.com (And it is a great place to visit)

visitingdc.com
(And it is a great place to visit)

Sources who declined to be identified have provided the following information.

In the hallway of the Capitol Building, several Tea Partiers demanded Harry Reid’s lunch money. This was their 42nd unsuccessful attempt.

Meanwhile, Senator Ted Cruz threatened to hold his breath until he passed out, if they didn’t promise to keep trying.

Speaker John Boehner when asked about the incident, replied, “The devil, I mean Ted Cruz, made me do it. I didn’t want to but he made me!”

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi yelled, “Will you all be quiet! I’m still trying to read this Affordable Healthcare Act to see what’s in it!”

Other sources have indicated that President Obama responded with, “As the highest elected official, and the spiffiest dresser since Harry Truman, if I do say so myself, I’d like to say nyaa nyaa nya nyaa nyaa!”

Unfortunately, when Ted Cruz passed out, no one seemed to care.

Time for a Little Political Philosophy

It’s a bit long – sorry.

After the Civil War, the South had a habit of avoiding Republicans. Lincoln was a Republican. After the war, the radical Republicans in the US Congress wanted the “Reconstruction” of the South to be as long and painful as possible. Oh, and profitable for them and their cronies.

Until the mid-1960s – literally a century after the war, elections in the South often dispensed with any Republican candidate in the general election leading to a runoff between the Democrats. The “Solid South” could thus be counted on to elect many Democrats to local, state and federal offices.

Not all Southern Democrats were alike. There were radical conservatives like the Dixiecrats, who were anti-black, anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic and some say the political arm of the Ku Klux Klan. However, most Democrats were moderates or liberals.

This was an advantage in politics. If two people or two parties are going to strike a deal, they have to negotiate an arrangement that each finds acceptable. With Democrats representing a range of attitudes, it was the idea that drove political negotiation, not the political affiliation. This was repeated to a certain extent in the mid-1990s, when conservative Democrats caucused as “Blue Dog” Democrats. Once again this provided the opportunity for successful negotiations within the Congress.

Today, too many politicians – screaming liberals and the ultra-conservative Tea Partiers alike – are so focused on performing political theatrics for their political base that they ignore their duty to do what is in the best interest of the nation as a whole.

Why do I bring this up?

I’m seeing a trend among both voters and candidates who are leaving the Republican Party in favor of becoming moderate or even conservative Democrats. In discussions with them, I am led to believe that these are critical thinkers. This is a key point.

In our system our system of government, correctly called a democratic-republic the people vote for their representatives who go to Washington DC to, well, represent. When we elect these people, some voters will never waver from their position; they are loyal to the party or position regardless of any other circumstances. This may be due to a single issue (abortion, gun rights, marijuana) or to an overall stance (think Archie Bunker.)

The decisions, therefore, belong to those “swing voters” who make a decision based on other factors. They are the key to winning, which is why, during the last presidential election, both the candidates and the media focused to an extraordinary degree on the swing states. The Democrats didn’t worry about New York and the Republicans didn’t worry about Texas. Instead, everyone focused on the swing states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

We may be seeing the emergence of swing voters who are moving from the Republican Party to the Democrats but representing a more rational than ideological position.

Could be interesting.

Fresh Sets of Eyes

The comedian Gallagher pointed out that to really understand something you need a fresh set of eyes.  He’d use examples of his daughter’s description of things, such as calling a restaurant a “dinner store.”

We’re in Washington, DC.  As our nation’s capital, it is somewhat surprising to see how cosmopolitan it is.  Take every dialect, every style of clothing, evidence of every religion, mix thoroughly and you have the District.

I’m not naïve, and have seen parking lots covered with the cones the police use to mark bullet casings and other evidence.  That happens with every large city.

But with Washington, the thing that has struck me this trip is talking with the people who are first generation Americans.  There is a common theme.  They came to raise their children – many who were not yet born when they arrived. How they learned the language.  How they learned to coordinate – to fit in without losing themselves and their heritage.

I guess as a melting pot America does not reduce its people to a homogenous consommé, but instead to a rich collection of flavors that contrast with one another.  The spicy with the tart; the savory with the subtle in a wonderful blend.

But the best part is that as we’ve talked to people, so many have expressed a common theme.  They came here – they became Americans because of opportunity.  Not a guarantee or a promise – but a chance.

And then I remembered being told that my own great-grandfather came here from Poland in the 19th century for the same reasons, with the same challenges, and the same dreams.

Phone Transcript from the NSA

tapping

 

(Ring) “Hello?”

“Bob, it’s Sam. How are you enjoying your vacation?”

“Sam! My esteemed colleague and fellow member of Congress. Good to hear from you.”

“Thanks, Bob. Before I forget, I need a little favor from you. If you should happen to speak with my wife, you and I were fishing yesterday.”

“Sam, you dog. What did you catch? A blonde?”

“Actually a redhead, Bob. She was wild! She had tattoos in places I didn’t know they could put tattoos.”

“Whoa, Sam! No details! If I don’t know nothin’, I can’t spill nothin’! However, we do need to talk business. You got any hot issues we need to look at when we get back in session?”

“Nothing major, Bob. I owe the environmental lobbyists a bill to celebrate ‘National Snail Darter Day.’ The bankers want another bailout so they can give each other big bonuses. Just the usual.”

“Now tell me honestly, Sam, are you planning on doing anything about the budget?”

“Hahahaha! Bob, you slay me. Why in hell would I want to do that? The stalemate has made my base solid. You’ve never seen a happier bunch of cranky old white guys. The campaign contributions are rolling in and the PACS are already working on new issue ads. I sure don’t want to derail that gravy train.”

“I hear you, Sam, but my party needs to make it look like we’re really trying to solve the financial crisis. I going to have to lay it on thick that your party is only capable of saying,’No!’”

“Bob, we’re big boys. We both know how the game is played. I don’t take it personal any more than you do when I accuse you of being a ‘Tax and Spend’ advocate. The battles aren’t important. It’s the war we want to win and when both sides are after the same end, it’s a wonderful thing. Everything else is just showmanship!”

“Great, Sam. I hate to see my vacation come to an end, but I guess that’s the way it is.”

“And don’t forget that we were fishing yesterday.”

“Right, Sam. I won’t tell your wife what you caught – only the one that got away.”

(Connection terminated)

Let’s Fix the Post Office

It's Mr. Zip! He'll fix it!

It’s Mr. Zip! He’ll fix it!

 

We really need to do something about the United States Postal Service (USPS).

1. Their business plan has been to focus on junk mail because it is more profitable in the short run. Never mind that the junk mail goes immediately from the mailbox to the trash or recycling 99% of the time, and eliminating it might be the single largest contribution to solving global warming. Think of all the carbon released making paper, delivering paper to the printer, printing the junk mail, delivering it to the post office, forwarding it from there to the receiving post office and delivering it. Oh, and don’t forget the exhaust from garbage or recycling truck that then takes it away.

How many big businesses went under because to focusing on the short term?

2. The Postal Service is closing facilities in the name of efficiency while sacrificing effectiveness. A birthday card from my house to a neighbor no longer goes 6 miles to downtown Norfolk and back in one day. All that mail now goes 105 miles to Richmond and back in two days. Did I mention how all this transportation by the USPS contributes to global warming?

Plus it takes longer to deliver.

3. The latest brainstorm for the USPS is to compete with FedEx, UPS, and the other successful package delivery systems. So how’s that going?

  • I ordered an item from Mumbai, India on August 15. The Indian postal system showed the item dropped off at the Mumbai Airport Sorting Office on August 17 and arrived in New York (7809 miles) on August 18, at which point it:
    • was handed off to the USPS
    • status on its progress is no longer available
  • I ordered another item from Ames, Iowa, USA on August 13. This item was put into the mail on August 14 and sent to the USPS sorting facility in Des Moines, IA the same day (distance, 34 miles). This morning (August 21) it departed the Des Moines, IA sorting facility after a fun-filled, all expense paid week there.

Mind you, when I ship something, I use the USPS whenever possible. If I sell something on eBay, I send it Priority Mail (2-3 days) in a “if it fits, it ships” box. I purchase the postage on-line and print out an official USPS barcoded label. I’m trying to do my part.

So, c’mon guys. Dump the junk mail and compete like you want to win.