March 20th, 2019

Bob Seger!!

Bob Seger was in Tampa as part of his farewell tour. He may be pushing 80, but he still knows how to put on a show. One of Debbie's brothers was there with his wife and son, and one of my cousins came with us as well. We were laughing that it was a good thing Debbie's nephew came along so we wouldn't be the youngest people in the crowd. We had a great time and it was good to see some family we don't get to see very often. One thing with a crowd made up of old people is that everyone was pretty mellow. Not a lot of pushing and shoving, nobody puking, no fights, etc. The layout of the Amalie Arena makes it easy to get around in and find your seats. We were a little surprised by the lax security: we never had to show anyone that we had tickets. I put my ticket in my pocket when we got out of the car and never took it out until we got home. I used to work for the company that provides security; we checked tickets at the screening area, again when you went into the door, then again when you got to your section. It kinda pissed me off a little; I paid $125 for a ticket that never saw the light of day. But bottom line; awesome show. As always.

Tax season is in full swing and boy is it swingin'. I've already done more returns that I did last year and just with the returns I know are coming my way, I will be doing at least that many more. The phone is ringing off the hook and there is a steady line of people walking up on our porch. We always laugh about how nobody ever comes back to our out-of-the-way corner of the park, but we sure are getting company this year.

In medical news, I've gone from having no insurance to having two different insurances. I need to go through the foot-thick file of bills that have been sitting in the file cabinet since January and try to get some of these people off our backs. My pitch to them will be simple: No job, no money, whatever Florida Medicaid is willing to give you is all that you are ever going to get, so take it and be happy. Anyone want to take bets that will work? Heh.

In our continuing series documenting TEOTWAWKI:

The whole Russiagate thing started with Russian hackers supposedly breaking into the DNC's e-mail server, revealing that the entire Democratic Party apparatus conspired to ensure Hillary Clinton was the Democrat's 2016 presidential candidate. At the time I and many others said that it was complete BS; the e-mails had been copied onto a flash drive by someone working at the DNC who was probably sickened by their chosen party. Well, we were right:

We veteran intelligence professionals (VIPS) have done enough detailed forensic work to prove the speciousness of the prevailing story that the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks came from Russian hacking. Given the paucity of evidence to support that story, we believe Mueller may choose to finesse this key issue and leave everyone hanging. That would help sustain the widespread belief that Trump owes his victory to President Vladimir Putin, and strengthen the hand of those who pay little heed to the unpredictable consequences of an increase in tensions with nuclear-armed Russia.

The article goes on at length showing how that conclusion was arrived at. It is written by geeks, but in non-geek plain English. Long but worth the time if you care at all about that little thing called "truth".

David Holmgren is a permaculture guy from Australia. He recently published an apology from the Baby Boomers to the Millennials and whatever we end up calling GenZ. The entire thing is loaded with good stuff, but this bit caught my eye:

While our parents’ generation experienced the risks of youth through adversity and war we used our privilege to tackle challenges of our own choosing. Although some of us had to struggle to free ourselves from the cloying cocoon of middle class upbringing, we were the generation that flew like the birds and hitchhiked around the country and the world. How strange that on becoming parents (many of us in middle age) we believed the propaganda that the world was too dangerous for our children to do the same around the local neighbourhood. Instead we coddled them, got into the chauffeuring business, and in doing so encouraged their disconnection from both nature and community. As we see our grandchildren’s generation raised in a way that makes them an even more handicapped generation, we must be truly sorry for the path we took and the disease we created.

Gen Handicapped. I like it; has a certain ring to it.

One of the indications of a nation in decline is loss of faith in its institutions. For example, every nation in the world has always accepted that any plane deemed airworthy by the FAA did not need to go through whatever equivalent system that country has in place. Now, thanks to the 737 MAX debacle, that will surely change:

With the 737 Max 8 grounded worldwide, the MCAS system is now under scrutiny. A Boeing spokesman said on Sunday that the system met all of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) certification requirements, but a group of anonymous Boeing and FAA engineers told the Seattle Times that the FAA delegated much of the safety analysis to the company itself, which cut corners to deliver the plane on time.

Typical corporate short-term thinking; rather than risk being "late to market" and lose sales, rush the process, kill customers, and lose even more sales than you ever would have had you just taken the time to do it right. It's the Flaming Pinto all over again, only this time, both a major corporation and a federal regulatory agency will be gettin' an ass whoopin'.

Last but certainly not least, we have a Matt Taibbi two-fer. I knew he had something big brewing when he went into radio silence for nearly three weeks. It was worth the wait. By now, everyone has heard that the Pentagon failed its first-ever audit. The problem is that they really didn't fail so much as make such a hash of their books, teams of accountants were unable to even offer an opinion:

At the tail end of last year, the Department of Defense finally completed an audit. At a cost of $400 million, some 1,200 auditors charged into the jungle of military finance, but returned in defeat. They were unable to pass the Pentagon or flunk it. They could only offer no opinion, explaining the military’s empire of hundreds of acronymic accounting silos was too illogical to penetrate.

When I was a kid, Senator Everett Dirksen allegedly said, "A million here, a million there; pretty soon, you're talking real money" in reference to federal spending. This was later inflated to "A billion here, a billion there...". What Taibbi dug up goes far beyond that:

...the Defense Department a few years ago found about $125 billion in administrative waste, a wart that by itself was just under twice the size of that $74 billion Enron bankruptcy. Inspectors found “at least” $6 billion to $8 billion in waste in the Iraq campaign, and said $15 billion of waste found in the Afghan theater was probably “only a portion” of the total lost.

My favorite bit of the entire article:

Meanwhile, the Air Force, which has a $156 billion annual budget, still doesn’t always use serial numbers. It has no idea how much of almost anything it has at any given time. Nuclear weapons are the exception, and it started electronically tagging those only after two extraordinary mistakes, in 2006 and 2007. In the first, the Air Force accidentally loaded six nuclear weapons in a B-52 and flew them across the country, unbeknownst to the crew. In the other, the services sent nuclear nose cones by mistake to Taiwan, which had asked for helicopter batteries.

When I read that, the first thing that popped into my head was an episode of M*A*S*H with some high-ranking dude explaining that, no the unit could not have some badly needed piece of medical equipment, but they could have a popcorn machine. Just use form blah-blah-blah-stroke-J, cross out "Machine Gun" and write in "Popcorn Machine". I guess whoever wrote that bit was closer to the mark than they knew, only it was form blah-blah-blah-stoke-H, and you cross out "Helicopter Batteries" and write in "Nuclear Missile".

And we trust these people with essentially unlimited firepower. And a trillion dollars a year.

Speaking of a trillion dollars, some people are trying to say Sanders is full of it when he talks about the big banks getting a trillion dollars in bail-outs after nearly wreaking the entire world economy. And it's true that the number is probably no where near a trillion dollars. Taibbi shows that more likely, it's somewhere between $7.7 trillion and $29 trillion. As he points out in the article, the bail-out went far beyond just TARP. There was TAF, TALF, TSLF, TOP, PDCF, Maiden Lanes, interest on Fed Reserve balances, and much more.

Meanwhile, we got the shaft. And the bill.

I think that I posted this before, but I figure that if you made it this far, you could use some suicide prevention. I thought of this video because Debbie is training for her new job, which comes with the possibility of getting a phone call from someone famous. The trainer was talking about treating them like anyone else and not squee-ing in their ear. Sort of the opposite of this:

I think what makes me laugh about that clip more than anything is that in a poll of the 7.7 billion people on planet earth, more would likely recognize Mayim Bialik than Mark Hamill.

And I will close with Dr. Jerry Pournelle's admonition: Remember that despair is a sin.

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