|By: dakine01 Sunday December 1, 2013 7:30 pm|
|By: dakine01 Sunday December 1, 2013 12:47 pm|
I took a bit of a roundabout path to reading this Op-Ed from the New York Times Editorial Board. I am still seething after having first read it a couple of hours ago. It seems whichever member of the Editorial Board that authored this, thinks the military members are not “sacrificing” enough so pay and benefits need to be “on the table.” As I looked through the short bios of the various members of the Editorial Board, it is fairly obvious that few if any of them have actually had much experience of military life beyond the obligatory “I support the Troops” or “Thank you for your service” they may have uttered in an airport somewhere.
From the editorial:
Big-ticket weapons like aircraft carriers and the F-35 fighter jet have to be part of any conversation about cutting Pentagon spending to satisfy the mandatory budget reductions known as the sequester. But compensation for military personnel has to be on the table, too — even though no other defense issue is more politically volatile or emotionally fraught.
After a decade of war, the very idea of cutting benefits to soldiers, sailors and Marines who put their lives on the line seems ungrateful. But America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is over or winding down, and the Pentagon is obliged to find nearly $1 trillion in savings over 10 years. Tough choices will be required in all parts of the budget. Compensation includes pay, retirement benefits, health care and housing allowances. It consumes about half the military budget, and it is increasing.
Pete Peterson would be so proud and I’m sure the Beltway Village Idiots Politicians, Pundits, and Courtiers in Washington are chagrined that they couldn’t get Very Serious People credit for proposing this first.
Proposals like this are in my mind, another facet of the austerity movement seeking to cut back the social safety net for Veterans and the working poor. The people making these proposals see statistics, they do not see human beings. Please let me assure you, all those military members are first and foremost humans. They are sons and brothers, daughters and mothers. As I wrote on Veterans Day 2012, there are almost as many reasons for people serving as there are people serving.
If they really do see a need for cuts to the Pentagon bloat, there are a whole host of areas that should be “on the table” before member pay and benefits is on the horizon. The F35 Joint Strike Force fighter is a good start with its cost per plane doubling from $81M to $162M. There are currently ten Nimitz class nuclear powered aircraft carriers with an operational life of 50 years. The first (USS Nimitz) went online in 1975 so is still within its original operational window for a dozen more years. The tenth (USS George H.W. Bush) was commissioned in 2009. Planned de-commissioning costs for the Nimitz-class carriers is $750M – $900M (versus roughly $53M to de-commission a conventional non-nuclear carrier.)
Then we have the next generation of super-carriers, the Ford class with three scheduled for construction and commissioning in 2016, 2020, and 2025. The current projected cost is $9B for construction of the first of these (USS Gerald R. Ford on top of $5B for original R&D and Engineering.
I don’t know but I just have to think we really do not need a new floating nuclear powered city rolling off the construction gangways every five years from now until 2060.
Since the Op-Ed specified concerns about the costs of health care for military, I googled “military health care costs on the rise.” I admit I am skeptical when the first item shown is from “Third-Way,” our old “friends” pushing the Grand Bargain to cut Social Security. But let’s give them a mild benefit of the doubt. Wouldn’t it be an across the board savings and cost benefit to institute a Medicare for All/Single Payer health care system? After all, a major component of the costs of Health Care is actually the cost of Health Insurance, not treatment costs in and of themselves.
I will make one proposal that will definitely save a fair amount of money in salary and benefits across the board. As I wrote here back in 2010, it would be beneficial on a myriad of levels to cut back on the numbers of Flag Officers and associated staff. That is the ultimate definition of a “win-win” for all concerned.
And because I can:
Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
|By: dakine01 Saturday November 30, 2013 7:30 pm|
|By: dakine01 Saturday November 30, 2013 11:34 am|
Well, here we are, the Saturday after Thanksgiving and the shopping season is upon us. Of course, some stores have had Christmas decorations up since before Halloween. Remember when the shopping and calendar years had distinct seasons? I do understand the desire of retail stores to push the envelope since for oh so many retail stores, the Christmas sales are the difference between an annual profit and loss for the year. While the term “Black Friday” did not originally have this definition, the idea that the Friday after Thanksgiving is the day where a business passes from the red (loss) into the black (profit) has gained some credence.
I started working in a men’s clothing store (M. Goldberg, Inc) as a sales clerk/stock clerk/janitor when I was thirteen years old until I was twenty. During most of the year, we opened at 8AM Monday through Saturday, closing at 5:30 M – F and at 6PM on Saturday. After Thanksgiving though, we were open until 8PM, all six nights a week until Christmas Eve when we would close at 5PM. Even as I attended military high school and college, any weekends or holidays I was home and most summers, I would be put to work. We didn’t have or need special sales to get people to come into the store. The big sale was always post-Christmas with the “January Clearance.” We also had a “July Clearance,” conveniently enough after Father’s Day. Most years, the day or two before Father’s Day in June, we would have daily revenues comparable to the days in the week before Christmas.
During the years I worked at the store, my small hometown of about 5500 people (with surrounding county total population of about 15,000 or 16,000 people) could and did support two fine men’s stores (Gordon and Smith was the other men’s store), four or so fine ladies shoppes, two or three jewelry stores, two locally owned hardware stores, two “five and ten cent stores,” a Dollar store, a sporting goods store, a couple of department stores, a couple of furniture stores, and a Sears & Roebuck catalog store. In multiple cases these competitors would be side-by-side, directly across the street from each other or on opposite street corners. Although Cincinnati was 60 miles north and Lexington was 35 miles south, few people would drive to those cities as it was seemingly a l-o-n-g trek to do so. They pretty much shopped locally or not at all. The reality is, most people could park their car somewhere downtown and do a days shopping and not walk as much as they do today when they go to a mall.
I’ve always felt that those days could have served as a Master’s class in micro-economics. Each of these businesses had been in town for decades. Each of them carried good, name brands. The men’s store I worked for started from a bit of a disadvantage as we did not carry boy’s clothing at all (which kind of made it difficult for me when I started working there as I was not quite large enough to fit small men’s sizes so my options in purchasing good clothing were initially limited.) In those days, there was parking on both sides of most streets plus the traffic flowed in both directions and the downtown area was vibrant with cars and people on the street. I do not know how the other businesses operated but we had a section in one back corner of the store where all the lay-aways were kept for the people who wanted to hold something and pay for it as they went along. We also had two thick “credit books” (A – L, M – Z) with each book being 3 to 4 inches thick. I was “trustworthy” so would charge most of my clothing and that’s where most of my earnings went – to pay the clothing bill.
The day after Christmas (and the Monday after Father’s Day) usually had quite a bit of traffic in and out of the store but maybe not so much in the way of sales as those were big exchange days. Wrong size, wrong color, damaged, etc. When we were doing exchanges, we always tried to find the identical item in the correct size as that made it so much easier all the way around. Then we would close the store for a couple of days to get ready for the big sale, with all the mark downs on that season’s men’s fashion (even though most of the styles did not change in men’s clothing that much).
As a kid, we always were looking forward to receiving that year’s Sears & Roebuck Christmas catalog (also known as the “wish book.”) I remember looking through that catalog every year. First time through it was always, “I want that and I want that and I want that…” on and on with all the toys I wanted. Sometimes it might even be a toy that had been “as seen on TV!” A couple of years, I even received some of the things I had wanted from the catalog!
Now of course, it seems that every child’s television show has the marketing tie-ins for just about any product you can imagine. So Toys “R” Us opens on Thanksgiving with special deals already gone hours after the stores open.
I’m thinking progress has been a bit like a regression in some ways.
And because I can:
Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
|By: dakine01 Saturday November 30, 2013 5:05 am|
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
If you have read Frank Herbert’s book Dune, you will most likely recognize the quote as the Bene Gesserit Litany against fear which seems a good starting point for discussing Herbert and his works and influence. From his wiki:
Franklin Patrick Herbert, Jr. (October 8, 1920 – February 11, 1986) was a critically acclaimed and commercially successful American science fiction author. Though also a short story author, he is best known for his novels, most notably Dune and its five sequels. The Dune saga, set in the distant future and taking place over millennia, deals with themes such as human survival and evolution, ecology, and the intersection of religion, politics and power. Dune itself is the “best-selling science fiction novel of all time” and the series is widely considered to be among the classics in the genre.
While I have read all six of Herbert’s Dune Chronicles, my introduction to his work was in the first of his two book ConSentiency Universe, titled Whipping Star. As always, an interesting premise for a book or series of books can rope me right in and keep me entertained. It was after I mentioned this book to someone that I was pointed toward Dune and devoured the first three books in just a few weeks of reading.
Herbert’s wiki has a good discussion on the Ideas and themes Herbert explores in his fiction. The New Yorker magazine just this past July had this article discussing why Dune still resonates with people so many years after it was first published and even now, twenty-seven years after Herbert’s death:
Like the best science-fiction and fantasy novels, “Dune” creates for the reader a complex, fully-realized universe. Set more than twenty thousand years in the future, the book focusses on the battle to control Arrakis, the source of melange, or spice, an addictive substance that prolongs life and, in some cases, gives the user glimpses of the future. Melange is also essential for interstellar travel, allowing starship pilots to look across vast distances to plot their courses. Imagine a substance with the combined worldwide value of cocaine and petroleum and you will have some idea of the power of melange.
While Dune and its sequels are far and away Herbert’s best known work, he has many other books that are interesting. As I mentioned above, the ConSentiency Universe is interesting as are Hellestrom’s Hive (queue up the Japanese sci-fi movies from the ’50s with irradiated insects) and The Heaven Makers:
Immortal aliens have observed Earth for centuries, making full sensory movies of wars, natural disasters, and horrific human activities . . . all to relieve their boredom.
I do know that there are many people who struggled to read Dune and probably as many more who could not enjoy the sequels. I enjoyed all six of the original Dune series but then, I actually enjoyed most of David Lynch’s movie version though as always, I had to separate my knowledge of the book from the viewing of the movie or I would spend too much time dwelling on the inaccuracies such as stillsuits operating without head covering even as massive amounts of moisture would be lost through the head without cover. Yes, I can be a geek sometimes. The Lynch version is a disappointment as it had a stellar cast including folks like Patrick Stewart, Jose Ferrer, Linda Hunt, Sting, Virginia Madsen, Max von Sydow and many others in supporting roles. The then Sci-Fi network (now SyFy) did a three part TV mini-series in Y2K with far fewer “names” but truer to the actual story. A run time of 4 hrs and 52 minutes for TV versus 2 hrs and 17 minutes for the theater does allow things to develop a little more fully. I have not seen the subsequent Sci-Fi presentation of Children of Dune, combing the next two books, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune.
Herbert’s wiki offers a section on his Status and impact on science-fiction. For me, Dune and its sequels offer a broad ranging “what-if” cautionary tale for the unintended effects of ecological manipulation that seemingly starts folks in one direction but in the end pulls them 180 degrees away.
|By: dakine01 Thursday November 28, 2013 5:05 am|
A couple of years ago, I wrote this post covering just a few of the things for which we should not be thankful for on Thanksgiving. Here we are two years on, and there are still a large number of things not to be thankful for and the list does seem to get a bit larger all the time. Retail stores are opening earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving Day, no longer content with opening in the early AM hours of the day after Thanksgiving. My guess is we might see a move to ban Thanksgiving retail store openings in the next few years, following Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Of course, we all know that such a move will be opposed by the Chamber of Commerce and other representatives of the retail industry.
Time Magazine has this story about Thanksgiving shopping:
This year, stores including Best Buy, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s and Toys “R” Us, will open their doors just after the sun goes down on Thanksgiving, betting that consumers will be done with dinner and ready to cross some gifts off their shopping lists. Meanwhile, Nordstrom, Costco, BJ’s Wholesale Club and others have put out statements saying they will remain closed, as they always have, out of respect for the holiday and for employees who want to spend it with their families.
But is either camp really coming out ahead? It’s a wash, Wharton experts say, while predicting that as an increasing number of retailers decides to add Thanksgiving hours, it is only a matter of time before almost everyone joins in. “[Opening earlier and earlier] is not going to lead to more retail sales, and there is not much of a competitive advantage,” notes Wharton marketing professor Stephen Hoch. “At the same time, there is no benefit to not opening on Thursday; the higher moral ground really doesn’t matter.”
So even though opening on Thanksgiving Day seems to be a zero sum game, it will continue and grow because everyone is doing it.
Now one of the realities of life is, there have always been groups of people who have to work on any holiday. There are restaurants that advertise their Thanksgiving Day specials. Servers, cooks, clean up staff all working to serve those who for whatever reason are not cooking for themselves or their families. I know I have eaten out on Thanksgiving and Christmas a couple of times over the years so I can’t claim any moral superiority in this. Of course, emergency service personnel, hospitals, police, and firefighters all work. Many newspapers around the country will not have a Thanksgiving edition on Thursday morning but the reporters and editors will be on the job Thursday evening so that the paper will be available first thing Friday morning as usual.
Folks who have read my posts over the year know that my life has not always traveled an easy path yet I do have quite a bit to be thankful for, even with all the bad. Just this past July, I wrote that I was Homeless and within a day, I had an offer of a room for Dan’l and myself. I also received an offer from a couple of friends and former co-workers if I could reach them in upstate NY. I have family and friends who are almost always willing to offer various levels of support to help bridge the bad times.
I see reports in the news about how people see a story on the news or hear about someone whose live has been devastated through illness, loss of jobs, accidents, fire or whatever then people take a collection or crowd fund some support and wind up raising thousands of dollars to help. Seeing those stories and knowing how I have been helped will always move me. Even as we read about how a WalMart store in Cleveland has set up an internal food drive for employees to help other employees, it brings mixed emotions. I am sure the WalMart employees will contribute to help their fellow workers so in that sense, the food drive will succeed. Yet I have to question how things reach this case where working people do not make enough to support themselves in the holidays. I wind up with a sense of mixed emotions similar to how I feel watching a TV show like Undercover Boss – bravo I guess for doing something but where’s the responsibility that leads to this having to be done in the first place?
As we sit down to our various Thanksgiving Day feasts across the country, please do give thanks for the plenty that we experience. But please also keep in mind the folks around the country and around the globe, struggling for food, for shelter, for clean water and clean air. We only have the one earth available to us and there is no Plan B available.
And because I can:
Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
|By: dakine01 Sunday November 24, 2013 7:30 pm|
|By: dakine01 Sunday November 24, 2013 5:05 am|
Author’s note: This diary was originally published December 5, 2010
I probably should have provided this recipe a couple of weeks ago as it is a good use for leftover turkey but at least it will be available to folks going forward through Christmas and on into next year.
I’m deviating from my normal Food Sunday posts and bringing in something I have never eaten in my life. Why have I never eaten this? Well, I don’t like cheese and cheese is a major component in a Hot Brown. But most Kentuckians and Kentucky related cookbooks have some variation of the Hot Brown as part of their cooking repertoire so I’m just going to link to a number of Hot Brown recipes and you can look through them all and find the one that most fits your taste or level of effort.
The basic ingredients are turkey or chicken, cheese, sliced tomatoes, bacon, flour, butter, milk, whipped cream, and bread. . . .