Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Coincidence or Destiny

by Bill Holmes

It always amazes me how one thing leads to another. One memory leads to another and another. How you can now do a Google search and wind up going on 100 tangents then wonder what the hell were you originally looking for? Something like that happened again in the last few days.

It started over a week ago when somebody posted a picture of the old Imeson Airport on a Jacksonville Florida Facebook page. That got me thinking. Then a few days later a nostalgic Jacksonville website, Vintage Jacksonville, posted a different picture of the Imeson terminal/adminiit'setion building. That got me thinking some more.
Imeson Airport Terminal

I took my first two ever flights from Imeson Airport in Jacksonville. I remember my first two flights but I don't remember which one was first and which was second. They happened about the same time but were completely different experiences. For the purposes of the story flow I'll report my initial scheduled commercial flight first although it may have been second. This flight was from Jacksonville to Newark, New Jersey one summer when I was around 12 years old. I was flying to New Jersey to spend an extended stay with my Northern relatives in NJ and Pennsylvania. Somehow my parents were going to wind up in NJ later in the summer and we would all drive back to Florida. My dad typically had to run conferences and travel several times a year so I suspect he had to be somewhere close to NJ that summer and he and Mom drove together to his conference location then she continued on to where I was. Dad would then fly in or hitch a ride with someone to NJ when the conference was over. There were a ton of people who transferred from New Jersey to Jacksonville with the Prudential. People were always combining business and family travel/vacations with other families. One other summer my Mom and I drove to NJ with another Prudential mom and her two kids. The two dads met us after their business conference. I digress, but it was a cooperative effort in the days when travel was more difficult and flying was expensive. As it turned out, someone from the Prudential was flying to Newark the same day as I was. My dad was the manager of the Conference and Travel department for the Prudential's Jacksonville office. They were essentially the in-house travel bureau for the company. They booked all the plane (and train), car rental and hotel reservations for the employees so of course dad knew who was travelling when I was. So, although I was technically flying as an unaccompanied minor I had an adult chaperon. Dad made sure we were sitting together. I don't remember having any fear of flying or trepidation about flying alone. I suspect my Mom was way more nervous than I was. I was actually excited and probably thinking I was kind of a big shot. Flying wasn't that common in the 1950's and a minor flying alone was really rare. I'm pretty sure dad got a deal on the ticket.

Eastern Prop Plane
I know it was a prop plane and the seats were two by two with one narrow aisle. It was either Eastern or National Airlines, both out of business now. I think I might have gotten some wings from the stewardess, there were no flight attendants back then. I'm not sure about the wings, because dad used to bring those home sometimes along with other airline souvenirs. I seem to remember at least part of the flight was at night. One of my aunts met me at the Newark airport, a big ugly hanger looking terminal. Back then there was no security and no unaccompanied minor paperwork. The stewardesses checked in on me during the flight, but I think that was probably because they knew my dad and knew who I was. I may have been the only kid on the plane too, certainly the only unaccompanied one. It was an uneventful flight and after checking out the plane I probably mostly looked out the window and maybe read a little. I know I didn't nap. A non-stop flight now is about 2:30 so back then it was surely over three hours.

Eastern Airlines L-188
My second flight, or maybe my first, was a public relations new product introduction by Eastern Airlines. In late 1958 Eastern bought their first Lockheed L-188 Electra planes. They were put into service in early 1959. Somewhere around that time and before the planes were put into service at Imeson, Eastern held some take a look junket flights. Since my dad worked in the travel field and funneled a lot of Prudential dollars to the airlines, he was one of the invited guests. He also had enough pull to get his young son on board too. The big deal about the L-188 was that it had turboprop engines rather than the usual piston engines of the time. It's basically a jet engine with a propeller. The L-188 was the biggest turboprop commercial plane of it's time. Not big by today's standards, the plane seated between 60 and 100 depending on the interior configuration. I remember the plane being shiny new. Before the flight people were standing in the aisles with drinks and snacks. I don't remember any other kids on the plane. The actual flight was probably about 45 minutes or less. We flew east out over the ocean and I seem to remember heading south and then circling back to Jacksonville. That is the only time on a commercial flight I took off and landed at the same airport. I've had flights cancelled and a couple of times didn't make it to the intended destination but never had to circle back to the start. Of course we were treated like royalty before during and after the flight. There were Eastern executives and pilots mingling among the Jacksonville politicians and businessmen. There were several stewardess and others keeping the glasses full. My dad had to do some schmoozing too. I was just there for the plane ride. It was very cool and a pretty big deal.

US Navy P-3
Now to the strange part. The L-188 was never a big commercial success. There were a couple of early crashes and a major design change and retrofit. That kind of dampened the demand. Only 170 were built. Also, while a turboprop has some advantages over true jets there are also some disadvantages. Jets were the future of aviation. So, what became of the L-188? With some modifications it became the Lockheed P-3 Orion. A Navy anti-submarine and surveillance aircraft. Over forty years after my PR junket flight my son, a career Navy aviator, found himself in a P-3 squadron. He's logged far more hours in that airframe than I ever did. It's amazing that those model planes are still in service and it's even more amazing that my son would be flying in them. I'm probably one of a small number of civilians who ever flew in an L-188. I'm glad I could check out the air worthiness of the plane those many years ago for my son. The P-3 military version has been much more successful. Over 750 have been built. They have been in service for the US Navy and Japanese, Australian and Brazilian armed forces. The over 50 year old design is finally being replaced by the Navy. The Boeing P-8 Poseidon began testing this year.
US Navy P-8

I never realized the L-188 and P-3 was basically the same plane until I began digging into my first, or maybe second, flight from the old Imeson Airport in Jacksonville. What will trigger the next search and revelation?


Monday, October 28, 2013

Scattershooting 10-27-13

by Bill Holmes

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to the great 

Orlando Cepeda

Sunday's Summary

My incomplete recap of the week

Watched a kind of concert/interview on AXS by Blondie. Never a big Blondie fan but some of their stuff is OK. Debbie Harry, who is now 68, looks great and sounds good too. She admits to having had some plastic surgery. The doctor(s) did a good job. She sounds better now than when I heard her a few years ago. Counting Debbie there are three original members with the group.

  • Desperate Microsoft is disguising web bookmarks as Windows apps. Will this really help or will it piss people off because the "app" is crappy? There is also the deception issue.

I wonder how excited ESPN is to have spent the big bucks on the 0-6 Giants vs the 1-4 Vikings on Monday Night Football? The worldwide leader in sports.

It's almost fixed, only 26 more floppies to load.

I'm looking forward to this documentary series. Five hundred years of Black history in America. According to Professor Gates, the first African to set foot in America was in St.Augustine, FL with Ponce de Leon in 1513. PBS on Tuesdays at 7:00 PM CDT starting tonight (10/22) for the next six weeks. My DVR is set.

The amazing new iPad Air innovation consists of lighter and thinner. That's about it. Pretty underwhelming. Check out the Android alternatives.

I don't have a wife so I do need Google.

Well thankfully the Aledo football coaches were cleared of bullying the Western Hills players because they won 91-0. There was no evidence of taunting during the game, there was a running clock in the 2nd half and the 2nd and 3rd string Aledo players were in the game. To the Western Hills parent who filed the complaint - sometimes you get the hell beat out of you. Don't pour salt into the kid's wounds by whining.

I watched the new Alec Baldwin talk show "Up Late" last night. I liked it. There were only two guests and it was not the usual talk show fluff or the bombastic shouting of political shows. A rather demure Chris Matthews and a NY Times columnist were the guests. The show is on MSNBC which leans left as does Alec, but it was not in your face liberal propaganda. Give it a try maybe especially if you are on the right of center. We all need a little dose of Fox News chased with a little MSNBC to hear both sides of the story. Throw in a little Daily Show and Colbert Report also to see the humor in it all.

I know Peyton Manning is a good quarterback although not as good as the media says. Still, I find him aggravating to watch with all his signals, changed calls, directing traffic, etc. Call a damn play and run it once in awhile.

Enough bad beer news. That's bad news about beer, not bad beer. The cost of a 12 pack of PBR went up 40¢ sometime this week. That could cost me several thousand dollars per year. Secondly there was a fire at the Yuengling Brewery in Tampa. That facility used to be the Schlitz brewery and is right across the street from the University of South Florida. My buddies and I consumed many a brew at Schlitz while waiting to go on the tour. We never actually went on the brewery tour. Fellow USF students working as beer maids in the hospitality room were very accommodating and lenient with the consumption rules.

Is this one of the most brain dead fundamentally bad World Series ever? Tied at 2-2, so far no one deserves to win.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Football 2013 - Week 9

by Bill Holmes

My recap of the only football games that matter.

The pro week got off to an early start with a Thursday game between the Carolina Panthers at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Unfortunately the change of playing day did not change the outcome for the Bucs. The teams shared the same digits in their final scores, a 1 and a 3, but Carolina won 31-13. TB has now given up 31 points in each of their last three games. The overall statistics weren't skewed as bad as the score but TB only had 48 rushing yards in another lackluster effort. The Bucs are in a race to futility with the Jaguars, both teams are 0-7 and are the only winless teams in the NFL. Will Greg Schiano be the first NFL head coach fired this season? Next game Tampa Bay travels cross country to play the Seattle Seahawks.   
The only Buccaneer winners
In another Thursday night game, the Bishop Kenny Crusaders beat the Yulee Hornets 42-7. Again Kenny dominated the game with 400 total yards vs 150 yards. The game was 35-0 at intermission and Yulee didn't score until it was 42-0. The Crusaders remain undefeated at 7-0, 6-0. They next play at home against the 7-2, 5-1 Baker County Wildcats for first place in district 3-5A. This should be the toughest test of the season.

Under the Friday night lights in Texas, the LD Bell Blue Raiders got back on the winning track with a 30-8 victory over Irving MacArthur Cardinals. Bell dominated the game with almost 400 total yards to just over 100 yards for MacArthur. The Cardinals did not score until the last quarter after it was 30-0. The Raiders are now 6-2 overall and 4-1 in district play. Next up they are at home against the 3-5 Irving Nimitz Vikings.

The Gators have a bye week to try to figure out what kind of team they are before playing the Georgia Bulldogs at the big party in Jacksonville. Both teams are no longer ranked and have identical 4-3 overall records and 3-2 in the SEC. Neither team is going anyplace this season so the game will be strictly for bragging rights and maybe a recruiting advantage. Florida will be the home team this year at the neutral site. 

First up Saturday was the #20 Louisville Cardinals visit to Tampa to play the South Florida Bulls. USF amazingly went into this game tied for the lead of the new American Athletic Conference (AAC) and actually above the 6-1 Cardinals despite a 2-4 overall record. That will probably turn out to be the high mark of the Bulls season. Louisville completely overwhelmed USF 34-3. Their lone score was in the first quarter. Total yardage was 485 to 133, time of possession was a miserable 41:43 to 18:17. Those same old Bulls from the beginning of the season seem to have reappeared. USF falls to 2-5, 2-1. They next play on Thursday at the 6-1, 3-0 Houston Cougars. That doesn't look too promising.

The once all-powerful Texas Longhorns came to Fort Worth to play a Big 12 game against TCU. Texas has had a couple of down years and came into this game at 5-2, 4-0 off their big upset of Oklahoma two weeks ago. They dominated the Frogs 30-7. It might have been worse except Texas QB Case McCoy threw two interceptions. For their part the Frogs had three turnovers. Their first string quarterback Casey Pachall did return after missing several weeks with a broken arm. Maybe with some more practice time he'll be able to help TCU generate some offense in future games. The Horned Frogs fall to 3-5, 1-4 and next host the West Virginia Mountaineers who sport the exact same record.

There were seven games in the SEC. Teams were 3-0 in non-conference games, 7-4 overall. The big contest was between #5 Missouri against #21 South Carolina. The Fighting Spurriers pulled off the only SEC upset 27-24 in two overtimes. The Chickens fell behind 17-0 then scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to tie the game in regulation. The last SC TD in the fourth quarter came with 42 seconds on the clock. The Old Ball Coach pulls another one out. With the exception of Alabama, SEC teams seem to have a letdown once they get into the top ten. There are now no undefeated teams in the SEC East although Mizzou still controls their destiny in that division. Johnny Manziel, who was injured last week, did play in the #16 A&M 56-24 romp over Vandy. He threw for over 300 yards so I guess the shoulder is OK. Using the BCS rankings, Alabama remains #1 by a big margin and only Missouri joins them in the top ten. Overall there are six SEC teams in the top  15.

I must report that the #2 FSU Seminoles easily beat NC State 49-17 to improve their record to 7-0, 5-0. The Noles scored 35 first quarter points and led 42-0 at halftime. They have to travel to #7 Miami next week for an important ACC game. If you've followed the Noles or the Canes over the years, you know anything can happen when these two Florida schools meet. Watch out for that last second field goal attempt. FSU dropped to #3 in the BCS rankings despite the big win over unranked NC State. Oregon leapfrogged to the #2 spot because of a 42-14 romp over #12 UCLA. A win over the #7 Canes next week will certainly help FSU in the rankings.

Sunday's pro schedule starts with a trip across the pond where the 0-7 Jacksonville Jaguars hosted the 5-2 San Francisco 49ers at Wembley Stadium. I guess the Jags are the home team because Jacksonville is closer to London than San Francisco. This is actually a break for the Jaguar season ticket holders. They only have to pay for seven home games and seven loses rather than the usual eight. Jax returns to London again next year too. Apparently the Jaguars can lose in other countries just as easily as in the USA. Final score was 49ers 42 Jaguars 10. The Round trip from Jacksonville is over 8,500 miles. That seems like a long way to go to score just 10 points. The Jags are now 0-8 half way to a perfect season. They didn't play terribly and were close in the statistical game. They just don't know how to score or play defense, a deadly combination. Jacksonville gets a week off now so they can paddle home. They are now a true international loser.
To close out a very bad week, the Atlanta Falcons lost to the Arizona Cardinals 27-13.  This is the most disappointing team of the year. Touted as a Super Bowl contender, the Birds are now 2-5. Future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez must be wondering why he decided to stick around for one more season. Atlanta scored first and last. It was the part in between that was the problem. They go to 4-3 Carolina for a NFC South game next.

My teams went 2-5 with a bye this week. Both wins were at the high school level. That's the norm. There will be no NFL playoffs or BCS bowl games for my teams this year. My NCAA teams may struggle to make one of the several thousand lesser college bowls. My only hope is that Kenny and Bell continue to play well. I'm mostly in the "wait 'til next year" mode. I'm now going to have to maybe celebrate, reluctantly, another BCS trophy for the Crimson Tide. A team and a coach I hate unless they are the SEC representative in the big game. 

I'm really hoping that FSU wins out and gets to the BCS championship game. I would then be fully rooting for the Noles regardless of who they are playing. I have several family members and friends who are Noles fans, I'd like to see them happy and salvage a little self respect for the state of Florida football. 



Old Westerns

by Bill Holmes

I'm a fan of Westerns, movies and TV shows. Since there aren't many new Westerns I watch old Westerns. One of the channels I get on my cable system is Encore Westerns. It's all cowboys all the time. Most of the schedule is old movies but during weekday afternoons there is a block of TV shows. The current list of TV shows is Laredo, Have Gun Will Travel, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Gunsmoke and Bonanza. Every few months they'll change out one or two of the shows although Gunsmoke, both 30 minute and one hour versions, seems to be a constant. I guess because there are so many episodes available from it's 20 year run.

The movies date from the 1930's to those that are just a couple of years old. Want to see Gene Autry and Roy Rogers? This is the place. They have some of the old John Wayne B movies from when he was just starting out. Audie Murphy, a real WW II hero, is the star of several movies. Many of the old time Hollywood stars who you don't think of as cowboys are in these movies too.
Roy & Gabby

The old classic sidekicks are all over the place. Great character actors and comedians like Gabby Hayes, Smiley Burnette, Al (Fuzzy Q. Jones) St. John, Pat Butram, Pat Brady and many others. For a couple of decades it was required that the hero have a comical and inept sidekick. That trend even spilled over to some TV westerns. Remember Chester and Festus on Gunsmoke or Pancho on the Cisco Kid? Although these sidekicks played buffoons they were often very talented actors and comedians. Al St. John was an integral part of the old Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton silent film productions before becoming a cowboy sidekick.

Morgan Woodward
Whether it's the old movies or TV shows, it's amazing how many big stars show up in them, often in minor rolls. It's also funny how some of the stars of the TV shows faded almost completely after their series ended. Does anyone remember anything of consequence Hugh O'Brian did after Wyatt Earp or Gene Barry after Bat Masterson? They were both extremely popular in their day. Another constant is the stable of character actors that cycled through the TV shows. There was a revolving door of these folks. They would alternate between bad guy and good guy often on the same show. The women were a little less durable unless they played the older spinster or mother. Here's just one example of a regular player in the old westerns, Morgan Woodward. You may not know the name but if you are of a certain age you certainly will recognize him. Morgan was a regular on Wyatt Earp for a couple of seasons. He also appeared on Gunsmoke 19 times and countless other shows and movies. Last I heard, the now over 90 year old Morgan is alive and living in the D/FW area. Even some of the old B western movie heros like Lash LaRue or Bob Steele would show up in minor rolls on TV. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Burt Reynolds was once a regular on Gunsmoke and Steve McQueen was the star of Wanted: Dead or Alive. I wonder what became of them?

Since Westerns were so popular, a lot of movies had big name stars that didn't exactly come across as real cowboys. Many looked far more at home in a nightclub wearing a tux or tails than in a saloon wearing chaps and spurs. A rather foppish Errol Flynn with his British sounding accent never convinced me that he was a rootin tootin wrangler. Several major stars looked like they would fall off their horse at any minute.  It would be like today if Jim Parsons, Neil Patrick Harris or Woody Allen suddenly showed up on horseback wearing a ten gallon hat and a six shooter. Of course there were some stars who were made for Westerns. I guess John Wayne is the most famous but many others looked the part too. I think my favorites are Randolph Scott of the old timers and James Garner in more recent times.
Rough & tough Errol Flynn

Now, let me critique these old TV shows and movies. Remember, I said I am a fan. For the most part the scripts were bad. In the case of the B movies and some TV shows they were terrible. Often the acting didn't even live up to the bad scripts. The plots are cut and dry, no twists or turns or surprises. All the characters are one dimensional, either good or bad. The females are mostly helpless. Even the few strong women eventually melt in the arms of the hero and learn their place. Story and time continuity is not a requirement. Terrible theme songs and background music for the TV shows was a staple. Almost every shot fired that didn't hit somebody ricocheted off a rock or hit the watering trough. If someone was inside a building they had to break the window glass before firing, opening the window was apparently forbidden. Six shooters could hold dozens of bullets but when you did run out of shells you threw the gun at your opponent. The special effects were often laughable. Some of the scenery was just a poorly painted backdrop with some paper mache rocks. The background film that was shown during closeups of the actors while they were riding horses or buggies was sometimes a too short loop that repeated during the scene. That exact same tree, mountain, sign or house would show up two or three times in the background. The stunt doubles often didn't look anything like the star they were doubling including rather large men doubling for petite females. The size and hair were often different and they seemed to have no problem during the fights scenes showing the face of the double as long as it wasn't a closeup.

Of course there was no CGI back then so any stunts had to be done with camera tricks or by actual stunt people. All those Indians and cowboys that fell off their horses or went flying out of a wagon were real stuntmen. They were tough guys. There are some amazing stunts on film. A few of the big western stars started as stuntmen others started as singers.
Stuntman Yakima Canutt in Stagecoach

Stereotypes are everywhere. Besides the weak and incompetent women we have the intellectually inferior Mexicans and the savage Indians. The Chinese hotel worker in Have Gun Will Travel was named Hey Boy (Hey Girl one season). Any other Chinese around did laundry. All country folks were complete backward idiots. There were hardly any Blacks in the old Westerns but when there were they were either completely subservient or overly competent. No middle of the road. The Indians were treated particularly bad. They were almost always portrayed as the bad guys. I think maybe more TV and movie Indians were killed than real Native Americans during the US western expansion.

The other major problem is the total disregard of history. Famous 1800 personalities show up in the wrong era in the wrong place and doing the wrong things. The Pony Express shows up all over the place in several different decades, it actually only lasted 18 months in 1860 and 61. Indian tribes raid settlers and forts thousand of miles from their tribal territory. Gold and silver mining towns sprout up in the wrong place at the wrong time. I've seen a dozen different depictions of Wyatt Earp and the gunfight at OK corral. A couple might be close, but most are complete fiction. Wild Bill Hickok, Jesse James, Buffalo Bill, Geronimo and dozens of others suffered the same fate. It's amazing what script writers, producers and directors could get away with before Google.

One thing that has always bothered me about the B movies of the 30's and 40's is the mixing of the old west with the then current times. Many Gene Autry or Roy Rogers movies have telephones, radios, cars and other "modern" items but Gene and Roy still ride their horses and carry a six gun. They are still chasing rustlers, cattlemen are fighting sodbusters and barbed wire. Horses regularly outrun cars and trucks.

Most of these faults don't bother me although sometimes the acting is so bad, the stereotypes so brutal or the history so wrong that I can't ignore it. That's OK, there are plenty that are still entertaining and it's always fun to see who is going to show up in the cast.

It will be interesting to see how our current movies and TV shows hold up. What is acceptable and what is politically incorrect changes. We no longer demonize Native Americans, those inferior Asians are now often the valedictorians . Will we look with dismay at how some are now depicted? A few shows and movies that are only five or so years old seem dated. Some of it is because of changing technology used in the presentation. The old Westerns didn't have to worry too much about that although I'm sure the railroad showed up in places before its time on occasion or a gun model was in the wrong decade.

I'll continue to watch Paladin overact in his 30 minute morality plays, John Wayne triumph over the bad guys and a dozen different depictions of Jesse James or Wyatt Earp. I will continue to look for big stars in their early roles. I will continue to marvel at how the technology and social mores change. It's mostly fun and if it isn't I can change the channel. It's a mindless guilty pleasure and we all need some of those. What we need are some new Westerns on TV and at the movies.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Is the Executive Branch as Broken as Congress?

by Bill Holmes

I think we can all agree that the Congress of the United States is completely broken. We have a Democratic controlled Senate and a Republican controlled House of Representatives. They can't agree on anything except maybe when to go into recess. To make it even more complicated the Republican Senators and House Republicans rarely agree either. Then we have the Tea Party faction. It seems a few radical obstructionist are intent on seeing that no meaningful legislation is passed.

I submit that the Executive branch of our government is also completely broken. I'm not talking about the roll the president plays in the legislative process, although that too is a mess. I'm talking about the day to day running of the country. The latest cluster fuck is the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, rollout or should I say lack of rollout. This is just the latest in a continuing story of government employees and departments that are incompetent or criminal. Let's outline a few examples.

In regards to Obamacare, the first clue of problems was when the executive branch delayed implementation of the part where businesses that have more than 50 full-time employees must provide health insurance or pay a fine. That deadline was pushed back one year because the Department of Health and Human Services wasn't ready. Now we have the individuals side of the implementation at a near standstill because the technology put in place for shopping and signup is total crap. The blame is being placed on a bad website. The website may be bad, but that should be relatively easy to fix. The real problem is the underlying architecture and design of the whole system. If the database and processing behind those web pages we see is bad then the data displayed on the screen will be slow, wrong or not displayed at all. Now that the bad system has been deployed, technically competent people outside the government have had a chance to see it. I haven't read a single review that gives the government any grade higher than an F. Many are saying that the system needs to be completely rewritten from the ground up. Obama has said he is calling for a tech surge to fix the problems. Seems he may be about a year or so late. It appears that Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius barely knows what a computer is nor is she a health expert. She's a politician and former governor of Kansas. Seems like the perfect choice to head up the implementation of a very large health and technology endeavor. She has no idea when the signup process will be fixed. 

There are plenty of other examples of executive branch incompetence. The National Security Agency (NSA) is regularly being caught breaking the law and internal policy. They collect personal data without warrants, they hire contractors and don't do adequate background checks. The NSA and/or other agencies have been caught spying and eavesdropping on countries and leaders of our allies. Seems like the administration is apologizing weekly.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has run amuk both by introducing politics into the tax code enforcement and spending exorbitant amount on parties, videos, travel and entertainment.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is constantly changing the rules of what you can and can't take onto a plane. They also have serious problems with TSA employees being involved in theft, fraud and smuggling. What do you expect when you hire almost minimum wage people and give them some authority? 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) both regulate and inspect parts of our food supply. The boundaries of jurisdiction are not always clear. One thing that is clear is that neither agency does a very good job. They have too few inspectors and are too much in bed with the food suppliers. The USDA Secretary is a politician and former Democratic governor of Iowa. The FDA is a part of Kathleen Sebelius's Health and Human Services empire. 

The Justice Department and it's various enforcement agencies have been accused of supplying the bad guys with guns, drugs and immunity among other things. Attorney General Eric Calder was held in contempt of Congress although that could mostly be political. 

The Department of Defense and various branches of the armed forces have had multiple problems. Sexual harassment and assault, security leaks, internal attacks on bases and facilities, bribery and of course major cost overruns on every project they undertake.

The State Department is run by a lifelong politician, ex-senator John Kerry, who succeeded ex-senator Hillary Clinton, not professional diplomats. They have their Benghazi issue among others. 

I'm sure there are many more examples of government incompetence. It's systemic and not new since Obama took office. Just like private enterprise, you can not successfully run an organization by continually promoting the best schmoozer over the most able. The president is held responsible for screw ups by the executive branch as he should be. He can blame the previous administration for a couple of months but after that it's on him (hopefully her someday). Now after five years they are all Obama's problems. New ones are of course his and any old ones that haven't been fixed or are being fixed are now his too. You can't blame Bush anymore.

My opinion is that the world, country and government are far too complicated to be left to the politicians. Maybe we can leave it to them to set the direction and pass the laws but not to implement them. Regardless of party affiliation and favors owed, the president and his advisers need to fill the top spots in government with competent experts. If you are going to try to implement a major health initiative that requires a significant technology effort maybe that should be led by a health expert with tech knowledge or a tech expert with experience in the health/insurance field. An ex-governor that didn't even help you carry her state is not the ideal choice. Although Iowa is a farming state, their ex-governor and current Secretary of Agriculture is a lawyer, not a farmer. 

Of course the president can't micromanage the entire executive branch of the government. What he can do is appoint competent leaders of the major departments and set the tone that competence is required. Then he can expect those cabinet secretaries to appoint competent people to run the various departments and agencies and so on down the line.  

I'm not naive enough to think this will happen in my lifetime but maybe someday the cabinet and agency head positions will be completely honorary posts or will be devoid of politics. Either way it will open the door for real leaders and experts to actually run the departments. Some of the organization has to be simplified too. Decide who regulates food, the USDA or FDA. Eliminate a bunch of federal police agencies. There are dozens of enforcement agencies. We have the FBI, DEA, ATF, US Marshals, Customs, CIA, Treasury (Secret Service) and probably several more. It may not be so bad that we have so many focused police agencies but it is probably bad that they are spread out among so many cabinet level departments. That's a lot of supervisors and chiefs, all with authority, turf and big egos. The president is the only common boss of our national police. 

A couple of ideas would be to require some experience or expertise in the business of the department by the nominated head. Another would be to stagger department head terms so they don't line up with presidential terms. Change cabinet positions into honorary positions or require some competence for the appointees.

I realize that the political winners need to have some trophies to hand out to their supporters. How about we limit those positions to the ambassadorship of Luxenbourg or Monte Carlo and a couple of other places that don't matter but are fun to live in.

Until and unless we have exceptional leaders who know the area their department administers or regulates we are doomed to a never ending cycle of failures, apologies, sacrificial resignations, limited fixes, more failures, more apologies, more sacrificial firings/resignations, new administration. Rinse and repeat. 

It's obvious that Obamacare is just the most recent and most public failure of the executive branch. There appears to be many other failures that don't percolate up to the national stage. Don't we deserve better from our government?  

I am extremely disappointed with Obama. I expected much better and instead got much worse. He is not a leader. Unfortunately, I think when the numbers are in and the historians write the history of 2009-2016 Obama will be judged harshly. I also think they will find that at most minorities barely kept pace. I actually expect to see that they lost ground both economically and socially. Very sad. That's another issue for another day's post. 


Monday, October 21, 2013

Scattershooting 10-20-13

by Bill Holmes

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to the great 

Hoyt Wilhelm 

Sunday's Summary

My incomplete recap of the week

This seems more than fair. If you filed a federal income tax extension in April, your tax return and payments are due today (10/15). Problem is there are no IRS employees available to help you and no refunds are being processed due to the government shutdown. Our government NOT at work.

A hungry visitor on a rainy day. (10/15)

Shelter from the rain. (10/15)

Yes, technically the US government is open for business. Mark your calendars though because it's only temporary. Congress kicked the budget can all the way down the road until January 15th and the debt ceiling can until February 7th. So enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas then get ready for the BS again in 2014.

Sad day (10/17) - Nolan Ryan resigns as CEO of the Texas Rangers and sells his minority stake in the team.

According to CBS Evening News one of the most important results of the government reopening is that the DC Zoo Panda Cam is back online. FYI the newest cub gained 2 lbs. during the shutdown. Vital stuff.

Did you forget you had that small cut on your hand? Just get some lemon juice on it. You'll remember that cut immediately.

Saw a hot chocolate vendor in the stands at Fenway. That's not a big seller at Rangers Ballpark. Temp 59 in Boston.

Looks like an all red world series. Cardinals vs Red Sox.

Congratulations to all my family and friends who are FSU Seminole fans. The Noles are ranked #2 in the first BCS poll of the season. Is there a national championship game in their future? I'll be pulling for them now that the Gators are toast this year. Gotta support the home state schools.

Go Noles!

Just watched "Frontier Marshall" a 1939 movie starring Randolph Scott as Wyatt Earp. Historical accuracy was not the film's strong point. In the movie Doc Holliday (renamed Halliday) was an MD, not a dentist. He was killed in Tombstone before the gunfight at the OK corral. The gunfight took place at night with just Wyatt against a bunch of bad guys. None of Wyatt's brothers were anywhere in the movie. I like old westerns and Randolph but it's sometimes hard to overlook the complete disregard for history.