Monday, September 15, 2014

War is Politics by Other Means (von Clausewitz)

I was born 6 weeks before the end of WWII. June of 1945. After VE Day and before the Japanese surrendered in August. There was dancing and kissing in the streets all over the world because war was over.

It wasn’t…

We had advisors and flyers and boots on the ground for the Nationalist Chinese against Mao, until the Mao beat them and the nationalists retreated to Taiwan in 1949.

After the surrender of Japan the US sent a Military advisory group to Korea in 1945. In 1950 the Korean War started. At the same time we had a Military advisory group in Vietnam to work with the French. The French lost in 1956 and Viet Nam was partitioned into North and South like Korea. At that point we upped the number of advisors and supported corrupt politicians in the south.

In the early 60’s we had the Cuban Missile Crisis, our first intervention into Lebanon, intervened in Egypt, troops in the Dominican Republic all before the Vietnam War escalated. The Vietnam War ended in 1975 after 58,000 Americans were killed and tens of thousands were wounded. Things calmed down for a few years and then in 1979 we began assisting the Afghans against the Soviet Union. We got involved in the Congo and Liberia and other African countries. In the 80’s we backed Saddam’s Iraq against the Iranians. Then sold the Iranians arms to have the “off the books money” to supply the Contras in Nicaragua. We had another disaster in Lebanon and 247 Marines were killed. We attacked Libya a few times. We invaded Grenada and backed Britain against Argentina in the Falklands War and poked around some more in South and Central America. (we’d been doing that since the end of WWII)

In the 90’s we invaded Panama, got involved in Somalia and the Balkans. And had the First Gulf War, shot down an Iranian airliner filled with families and businessmen.

At the turn of the century we invaded Afghanistan and then went to war in Iraq under false pretenses. We’re still there. And we are blowing the trumpets and beating the drums for more war.

I’m 69 years old and I’m hard pressed to come up with 5 years of my life when my country wasn’t at war, threatening war or assisting other countries in making war and I’ve almost forgotten about spending most of my life under the threat of nuclear annihilation. 


Friday, September 12, 2014

Thoughts from the World of “Bidness and Munny”

When I started my little company four years ago, I invested in a website. When the site went live, I was inundated with phone calls from media companies. In addition to local media, TV, cable, a few radio stations and the papers the most insistent companies were the on-line sales organizations. One was a local company, ValueClick based in Westlake Village. The sales people were terrible, they were scripted, they were young and couldn’t deal with or answer questions, but they pounded the phones. One would call me every other day for a couple of weeks, if I didn’t buy one of their “packages” I’d be assigned another rep and the process would repeat. About a year into the process ValueClick changed their name to Conversant. Nothing else changed. I read this morning in the business section of the LA Times, Conversant was purchased by a Dallas based marketing company, Alliance Data, for 2.3 billion dollars.

AT&T recently distributed their new local phone books. No residential listings in the book, just business and professional listings. AT&T still charges for “unpublished numbers” and they charge if you would like a published listing.
BTW,The government has a free service that keeps your number out of the hands of telemarketing companies. You can list your cell and land line numbers…FREE.

A developer (handbag magnate, Bruce Makowsky, 9 West and endless appearances on QVC) has a spec house on the market in Beverley Hills for 85 million dollars. Think about that for a minute 85 million, built on spec, built and furnished without a buyer. 23,000 square feet, it has a banked 18 seat theater, a 2500 bottle wine room, a candy bar (?) and a vodka bar. The house has a 54’ foot curved glass door overlooking the infinity pool. Housing experts say his timing couldn’t be better. Apparently today’s Global Billionaires want new, ready to go homes all over the world. Here’s another thought, in the same neighborhood a house was recently purchased for 36 million and torn down.

On Sunday there was an ad touting a special lease for a new Bentley sedan, 27 hundred and change a month plus applicable taxes, 8 thousand miles a year for three years with a $12,000 down payment.

The Wall Street Journal did a long story last week on how hard it is for a family of 4 to live on $400,000 a year.

In other news this morning…

Do you have any idea how much money those greedy school teachers pull down a year? How about the pension plans for public employees like cops and firemen. Let’s move the retirement age up to 70…blah, blah, blah…


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Viva Las Vegas

The Executive Wife is in Las Vegas for the big Baby Show. Every day for the last two weeks she told me how much she is dreading it. 9 to 6 on the Convention Center floor in heels for 4 days, she wore flats on Saturday the ‘set-up”. I’m sure she’ll be in a really good mood when I pick her up Wednesday night at the airport.  Then she’s got another one next month in Highpoint, N. Carolina.

Thinking about Las Vegas, in SoCal we get inundated with print, on-line and television advertising for Vegas. There’s even a special advertising section in the Sunday Times on what’s happening in Las Vegas…what’s weird is that all the marketing shows 30-somethings and younger all dressed up in designer clothes having a wonderful time at the casinos. The reality is the casinos are filled with people who pretty much look like Walmart shoppers and the only designer clothing you see is in the overpriced stores in the hotels.

We were guests at a wedding in Vegas a few years ago…the minister looked like Wayne Newton and sounded like a ‘70’s era TV game show announcer. The wedding was in a decent hotel not a chapel! Hell, if you’re going to get married in Vegas at least have an Elvis look-a-like marry you…live a little.

The round trip to Vegas from LA is exciting, average left lane speed just under 90, so it takes no time at all out and back. You know when you’re close to Vegas at night when you see all the deserted housing developments without lights. You catch a glimpse of them by light of the billboards telling how much fun you’re going to have in Vegas. In the daytime you see all those nice, new houses baking in the desert sun, empty.

Looking at the billboards on the drive you start to wonder if any of the casinos have “tight” slots.

My brother asked me when we were at the above mentioned wedding “If I knew why all the strippers in Vegas look so happy?” I said “I didn’t.” He said, “It’s because they all make more money than you do.”
I used to go to Las Vegas almost every year for the broadcaster's convention. The last time we stayed at the Bellagio. It was very nice, very expensive as in 9 bucks a glass for house wine expensive. Don't even think about using the mini-bar in your room either.

It's easy to be cynical about a place as cynical as Las Vegas.

A side note,Donald Trump's casino operations are bankrupt in Atlantic City, The Riva is closed and another casino is closing in November.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Good Bust?

The phone rang late yesterday afternoon at our little Blog Cabin in the Hills of Agoura, when the call was over, I was angry and upset in so many different ways. I was so bothered by the call, I spent 2 hours (from 2am to 4am) doing's the story.

A friend of ours, Cake's mentor during her time at the Ad Agency, was arrested on "suspicion of DUI". Had she been drinking, yes. Was she over the .08 limit in California? Don't know.

Here's how it played out:

Friend leaves cook out a friend's house. Her two kids drive home in son's car, she came from work and has her car. Shares a bottle of wine before during and after dinner. Eats a grilled burger, baked beans and potato salad on top of cheese and crackers (before dinner) with her share of the wine. Friend has one more glass with her hostess and says good night.

Dark, curving suburban road in Thousand Oaks not far from her home. Friend misjudges a curve and runs over a concrete marker pylon on edge of road, minimal damage to front bumper of car. Car won't move because it's hung up on pylon. Hitting the pylon made some noise and lights go on in the neighborhood. Friend calls AAA and walks across street and talks to one of the neighbors and tells them what happened. They chat for 20 minutes. The pylon wasn't damaged and her car has less than $500 in damages. No requirement to inform police at this level in California.

AAA truck arrives, hooks car up and begins to lift it. TO cop shows up and stops process. Friend says what? Cop says "I need to investigate the accident scene." Cop sends AAA away. Cop starts a dialogue with our friend asking her what happened. Friend is upset, asks cop why he sent the tow truck away, she tells him she needs to get home, she has a meeting with a client at 7:30 in the morning. Friend doesn't yell or get nasty but asks questions of the cop. Asks him if he's going to give her a ticket. Another cop arrives, observes the scene and apparently calls for back up. Within minutes there are 5 cops surrounding our friend, 5 cop cars with lights flashing in the middle of this neighborhood where the minimum price of admission is well over a million dollars. people are standing in their yards watching. Cop has said nothing to our friend about drinking or why she is being detained. Cop finally asks if she has been drinking and shines a flashlight in her eyes. Friend says she had wine with dinner. Cop then turns her around and cuffs her. Does not perform road side sobriety test or ask her to blow a portable breathalyzer. Cop asks where she had dinner and drinks, friend tells him and he dispatches one of the cops to the home where she had dinner and cop interviews her hostess.

Handcuffed and surrounded by 4 cops asking her the same questions over and over, friend watches cops make un-authorized search of her car and purse. Cop who interviewed her hostess comes back and discusses what he found out with the first cop. Cops confer for 10 minutes. She has yet to be charged with anything and has not been given her Miranda rights. Cops don't have to give you your rights until you're charged and they have 48 hours to charge you. Until you're charged, you have no rights at all.

Sgt. shows up at midnight marches into the circle of cops and says, "we can do this the hard way or the easy way." Friend says what are you talking about?" Cop says, "we can take you to the county jail or take you to the hospital for a blood test, either way you're going to get one." Friend says, Am I being arrested?" Sgt.says nothing and asks her the same questions for another 15 minutes while she stands in the circle of cops, 6 of them now. Leaving three cops to guard our friend, the Sgt. confers with the original cop and the cop who went to the hostess's house, this takes about ten minutes.

Friend is loaded into the backseat of a cop car and taken to local hospital for blood test. When she arrives with the original cop they are joined by two more. She is frog marched into the emergency room and taken to the lab guarded by two cops, she is not allowed to sit down, the cops do. She stands and waits for a lab tech to take her blood. While she stands, handcuffed, the cops sit and shoot the shit about the Dodgers and the NFL. She has to take a pee and asks the cops if she can, they say "No" and go back to baseball. The first cop comes in and joins the discussion, she asks again if she can go to the bathroom. "No" again. She says, "I have to go so badly that you can come to the bathroom with me or one of the women from the emergency room can." Cop says, "No." Friend is convinced they want her to piss herself.

Lab tech shows up takes the blood. Friend is frog marched back through the waiting room and put back in the cop car, she is driven to the county jail annex in Simi Valley. She is put into a holding cell still handcuffed, asks if she can go to the bathroom again is told "No." She does get to sit on a bench in the holding cell. Asks cop if she can call home and tell her kids where she is, cop says "No." comes back 5 minutes later and asks how old the kids are, she says 10 and 17, cop says nothing and walks away. Friend figures the cops just wanted to cover their asses or if the kids were younger charge her with child endangerment.

She's told she is going to be held over night, she is un-cuffed, searched and given a jumpsuit and locked in a cell. She asks again if she is going to be charged, cop says, "depends on the result of your blood test." In the cell she finally gets to take a pee. Lays down on bunk, cries her eyes out until 7am

She is released on her own recognizance after being charged with 'suspicion of DUI" and finally told of her rights. Cops keep her driver's license and give her  paper permit and her clothing and personal belongings back, they tell her she will have an initial court appearance in 30 days, the court will contact her. Cop now says she can make a phone call. Friend calls her kids. 10 year old daughter is crazy with worry, 17 year old says he'll stay home with sister until she gets home. Friend asks cop if they have the results of her blood test, is told "No." Asks where her car is? Cop hands her the business card of a tow lot. Cop tells her to "have a nice day".Friend takes the card, gets a cab, pays $425 dollars to get her car out of the lot. Calls her boss, tells her she is sick and won't be in.

Gets home and comforts her daughter. Calls DUI attorney, pays $1600 deposit for his initial services.

Her attorney thinks the cops waited too long to blood test her and the result of the test will be under the limit. He also thinks they were very indecisive in the way they handled her in the beginning because they didn't feel they had solid evidence. He said they seldom do the Road Side test anymore on adults because it gets tossed because it's designed for anyone, drunk or sober to fail. The Portable Breathalyzer is generally used only on teens because it is notoriously inaccurate and is easily challenged in court. He thinks there was so much discussion between the cops at the scene was they needed to get their stories straight. Before she left his office she asked him if he thought she was treated badly, he said, 'No, what happened to you is what happens to everybody in one way or another." She said, "Really?" he added this final note, "If you were black or Hispanic they would have said you resisted arrest and then roughed you up a little just because they can. You're lucky you're a 50 year old, nicely dressed white woman driving a nice car in a nice neighborhood."

Best case scenario, case dismissed, It will cost her about 3-4,000 dollars. Worst case, conviction, total costs somewhere between 10 and 12k with the increase in insurance. Loss of license for 12 months, maybe 48 hours in jail, community service and AA meetings for a year.

Ugly huh?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

CHP Punked

Being a cop is a tough job on the other hand it pays really well in California and the retirement is terrific. Being a cop, tough as it is doesn’t mean you get to be an asshole, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to follow the rules. Ever since we’ve lived here I’ve bought gas and coffee at the same gas station/car wash/convenience store. They have a nice, little deli-cafĂ© inside and serve my favorite Peet’s coffee. It’s a daily stop of our area Sheriffs Deputies and California Highway Patrol officers. About 5 of them are regulars and 4 of the five are good guys, one is an asshole. He is a CHP patrolman. He’s what gym operators call a “lightbulb”. His arms are huge, so are his shoulders and chest. He does nothing but upper body workouts because he has no ass and his legs are matchsticks. A lot of cops seem to favor this look.
I generally shoot the shit with the cops. We see each other all the time, know each other by name and we get along. Nobody gets along with the “lightbulb” because not only is he an asshole to civilians, he’s the same way with his fellow cops.

One morning I was waiting at the light. I saw “lightbulb” blow a red light by the skin of his ass, stop in traffic to make a left hand turn across a double yellow into the gas station, he grew impatient and hit his lights and his whooper siren to stop traffic so he could make his illegal left and pull into the gas station, he parked his cruiser and sauntered into the store to lean on the counter by the coffee maker and scowl at the customers. I came in to buy coffee and a bagel, while I was getting my coffee, I asked him if it did any good to call the special number to report traffic violations 1-800-call-aCHP. “Lightbulb” said “it depends what it is and if there is an officer in the area. What did you see?” I told him, “Red light violation, illegal left hand turn.” He asked if I got the plate number. I said, “I did, a blue plate, Official Vehicle.” I gave him the number. His face got red and he took a step toward me and said, “What are you, a fucking asshole? You better not fuck with me.” Suddenly he stepped back, picked up his coffee and walked out. I was relieved since I thought he was ready to tase me. I watched him march out without paying and then I looked around and saw a CHP Sgt. getting coffee. The Sgt. said ‘what was that all about?” I told him and he said, “Don’t worry about it. Everybody knows he’s an asshole. I’ll talk to him.”

I don’t see him at the station anymore, maybe he got transferred to another part of the district.

Communication at the Speed of Light...

There was a story in the LA Times this morning about the beginning of WWI in 1914. A steamship arrived at a Pacific Island with the news the war had started three weeks before. The English and the French living on the island were surprised to find out that they were now the enemies of their German friends on the island. And had been for three weeks. Slow communication.

A book came out a few years ago about the change radio brought to every corner of the country and the world. It wasn't a very good book, but it opened something like this...

"Imagine you are living on a farm in a remote corner of one of the western states, it takes you a full day to go to town and back. When you go, maybe two or three times a month, you get things you need for the farm and your family, you haven't any idea what's going on in the world until you get to town. You get your mail, you see the local paper, you talk to friends and shop keepers. At the end of the summer you travel to the state fair and you see for the first time something called a radio. It requires electricity to operate, you have none. But this radio has a wind powered device that makes electricity to charge the radio's batteries. You buy the radio and take it back to the farm."

What changed for this farmer and his family in their little, remote corner of the world? Everything. Grain prices in the morning, national and local news and baseball. Late Saturday afternoon Standard Oil brought the New York Philharmonic to the farm. For the first time in your life you heard the voice of the President. You had music to listen to anytime you wanted it and you had weather forecasts. What's more important to a farmer than the weather?

When we built our lake cabin in the 50's we had a 30's era Zenith (my grandfather bought it new) console radio with a cat's eye tuner in the corner of the living room. The big old Zenith had AM, something called FM and multiple bands of shortwave. My grandfather ran the antenna wire to a window screen and the old set was ready to go. The Zenith had push buttons below the dial just like a car. The buttons were labeled with the call letters of the big clear channel stations of the time. WCCO, WGN, WLS, WLW, WBBM, KMOX and of course, North Dakota's first radio station WDAY. I listened to the sinking of the Andrea Doria as it happened on that radio. The radio played rock and roll and it made me despise Patti Page. The first time I heard the BBC World Service was on the old Zenith. I heard short wave broadcasts in foreign languages, including I suppose Russian propaganda and our propaganda on Radio Free Europe

The old Zenith had a "eye" it looked like the eye of a cat when you tuned it perfectly on the station you wanted to listen to. Still a good idea.The sound quality was great on the old radio, better than the car or the little Arvin I had in my room. The radio in those days was a window on the world. Then I got my first 6 transistor radio, it fit in my pocket, it had a little speaker and ear buds. I could ride my bike and listen to Little Richard and Gene Vincent. I could listen to R&B played by John R "Way Down South in Dixie if I turned my little radio in the right direction at night.

Early in my career I worked with a guy named Lem Hawkins. Lem was from Oklahoma and had started as a radio musician on a station in Oklahoma City. The station was owned by the publisher of the newspaper, the publisher also owned a farm. Lem and his band mates worked on the farm, got in a truck at noon drove into the station and played hillbilly music on the radio from 12:15 to 1, Got back in the truck, drove back to the farm and went back to work. Lem started announcing full time and quit the farm. When I worked with Lem he had been in radio one way or another for 35 years. Lem should have written a book, he was definitely not the guy he "played" on the radio.

Today's instant communication and information would amaze my grandparents. They were born before radio existed. My parents grew up with radio and adapted quickly to Television, I grew up with both and I've adapted to the instant communication/gratification of the internet. I suspect my grandchildren will read this post with skepticism, shake their heads and they sit at their 3 screen computer set ups with an I-Phone in their hand. Keep in mind kids all of this has happened in less than a 100 years, TV wasn't common outside of the big cities until the early 50's and the web since the late 80's and it didn't start to work very well until 10 or 12 years ago. Until the telegraph came along in 1837 people in Boston had no idea what was going on in New York for days, the telegraph, the first mass electronic communication system prompted massive changes in society including the adoption of standard time zones.

20 million people still listen to Prairie Home Companion on the radio, the replays and the web...a good show is a good show. Always has been no matter where you find it. And I still read the newspaper too. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Moving Back into the old Place.

Some thoughts while the vacuum I'm pushing sucks up the dust that's gathered around this dump...the door creaked when I unlocked it and it smells musty in here, been a while.'s strange to realize the business you spent (maybe wasted?) your life in is irrelevant. If I could start over again, would I do something else? Damn right I would.

...I feel bad for the parents of the Navy Seal killed when that Chinook was brought down, but getting hooked up with a grifter like Larry Klayman and suing the President for your son's death? Your kid was a Navy Seal, he knew what he signed up for, even if you didn't. You won't win, but Larry Klayman will. BTW there is no record, written or recorded of any of the people being sued uttered the words "SEAL TEAM 6"

...ever wonder about those web ads asking "SHOULD WE FIGHT OBAMA ON GUN CONTROL?" or "IMPEACH OBAMA?" Here's what happens when you click on them: if you agree with the message you'll be asked for your name, address and e-mail. The next thing you know you'll start getting all kinds of "important news" from "important" groups. You'll think you're smart, popular and your opinion is very, very important. You're not, you've been sold. The grifters need as many "like minded" people's names as possible, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of them. What they want after you give them your name is your money. long before a Border Patrol Agent shoots and kills one of those militia men on the border in Texas? The Border Patrol doesn't want them there nor do the local cops.

...wonder when the accountants who run Clear Channel Communications will have the meeting where somebody says, "why the hell are we still paying Rush Limbaugh all this money?"

...seems interesting that Navy Seals really love to talk about Seal Team Six and members of the similar Special Operations organization Delta Force say little or nothing about what they do for a living. A friend of mine, a Colonel in the Army, says the Seals are cowboys. That statement could start a fist fight in a bar in San Diego.

...Americans go nuts when ISIS or what ever they are calling themselves today publicize the beheading of an American journalist. For a little perspective, our good friends and allies the Saudis have beheaded 19 people since August of 2013.

...speaking of the Saudis do they have any actually plans to use their large well equipped military against the enormous threats the King spoke so eloquently of last week?

That's it, I have to change the bag on the vacuum. As Charles P. Pierce always sez..."play nice yah bastids.