Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year 2012 Predictions

My friends Jazz Shaw and Doug Mataconis have posted their bullshit predictions for 2012, so I feel compelled to do the same.

First lets look on the world stage.  Arab Spring has turned out to be Springtime for Radical Islamists and not at all for liberty and democracy.

1.  Egypt will have a one man (and maybe woman), one vote, one time election and elect the Muslim Brotherhood, with the blessing of the Egyptian military.  The new regime will terminate the peace treaty with Israel, escalating tensions.  Israel threatens to retake Sinai as retaliation.

2.  Islamists solidify power in Libya and Tunisia.  Sharia law becomes the order of the day, and European tourists stay away from popular resorts in Tunisia in droves, as alcohol is banned and women are forced to wear a burqini to the beach.

3.  Obama abandons Afghanistan and negotiates the return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan.  Al-Qaeda declares victory over the the decadent Americans, and moves back in.

4.  Iran has another series of explosions at nuclear sites of unknown origin, and it's bomb building program is set back.  Of course it will be the JOOOOOS  in "occupied Palestine" who are blamed, probably correctly.

5.  North Korea will continue to be a basket case under the latest Super-Dooper Leader.  People will still starve, the military will get fed thanks to the kindness of South Korea and the west.  China continues to prop up the DPRK just enough to allow them to make trouble for its neighbors.

6.  China, recognizing the weakness of the Obama administration, will ratchet up pressure on Taiwan.  There will be several naval exercises in the South China Sea, just to let the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan, just whose property this is.  Obama does nothing.

7.  Islamists in west Africa countries like Nigeria and Cote d'Ivoire continue their jihad on Christians.  The world yawns.

If you haven't slit your wrists yet, here are my predictions for things going on closer to home:

1.  America will be attacked by Islamist terrorists just before the November 2012 election in another spectacular 9/11 style attack.  Obama tells that Americans that Islam is a religion of peace, apologizes for Americas perceived transgressions against Islam and asks for restraint.

2.  Mitt Romney will be the Republican candidate for President, selecting Tim Pawlenty as his VP running mate.  The Dull and Duller campaign will lead to a GOP loss after the successful Al-Qaeda October Surprise attack and a weak Republican response.  The Republicans retain the House, and retake the Senate however.

3.  Obama Care's individual mandate is upheld in the Supreme Court.  Justice Kagan does not recuse, and Justice Kennedy votes with the majority.

4.  The economy remains anemic with only a 2% GDP growth for 2012.  President Obama demands another $500B stimulus package aimed at union and government payouts.  Gridlock in Congress prevents any action on the proposal.

5.  There will be no budget passed in 2012.  Continuing resolutions with threats of imminent government shutdowns start getting old.  Congressional approval drops to a new low.

So there you have it.  I'll leave you with the Happy Happy Joy Joy Song to ring in what will be an eventful 2012.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Is Sharia Law Creeping Into Airline Rules?

I had an unusual experience today.  I was flying on a Delta Connection flight (operated by Pinnacle Airlines) and the flight attendant not only didn't offer alcoholic beverages to passengers, but refused to serve them, due to "religious grounds".  I certainly do respect people's right not to consume certain foods and beverages because of religious principles, but when it creeps its way into mainstream business, it stinks of pandering to one particular religion.  I can easily guess what religion that "Omar Ali" professes to, and I do not doubt his devotion to it, but it has no place business in a secular society and business.

If Muslims do not have to serve alcohol on flights, does this mean that Jews don't have to serve the ham and cheese sandwich served to me on a rare upgrade to first class today?

I've emailed Delta Airlines and Pinnacle Airlines with my concerns, and will post the responses here if they are forthcoming.

UPDATE 2/14/12: I Never received more than a standard boilerplate email acknowledgement, just as I expected.  Still, If the flight attendant was a Mormon who does not partake of either alcohol or caffeine and refused to serve coffee on a 6:00AM plane flight there would be hell to pay, and that employee would most likely be fired. But then again Mormons don't suicide bomb your company when there is a disagreement.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

I just want to wish everyone a Merry, Happy and Blessed Christmas.  Despite all the problems we Americans have at home and abroad, we are a blessed people, with a lot to be grateful for.  Many people around the world live in poverty, destitution, and under totalitarian regimes who hold them as virtual slaves, and are not free to worship our savior, Jesus Christ, on Christmas or any other day of the year and it seems to be getting worse every year.  We are a fortunate and blessed people.

I leave you with this:

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Remember the old childrens' Christmas specials?

For those of us who grew up in the 1960's, we can all remember such classics as A Charlie Brown Christmas and How The Grinch Stole Christmas; but there was a very good one that is seldom seen these days that predates both of those.  Don't laugh just yet, but Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol is a faithful telling of the Dickens classic, along with some good tunes added.  This is a fine cartoon that is appropriate even for the youngest of your family.

This sure beats some of the tasteless garbage we see on TV these days that pass as "holiday specials".

For those readers who aren't quite as old as me, Mr. Magoo was a beloved cartoon character from the early 60's on TV.  He's a very myopic guy who gets lost quickly and always ends up surviving his misdirections.  This particular production is one of my favorites, and belongs on the must see list for Christmas specials.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Through other countries' eyes

Most of us get our news on either the major networks, PBS, and/or cable networks like FoxNews, CNN or MSNBC.  They all have their particular political slant, and they really don't cover much about much about what is going on around the world that doesn't current directly affect our daily lives.  Since I was a kid, I've been listening to shortwave radio, and these days listening more and more to the far more reliable audio streams on the internet.  One place to get a sampling of what is out there without buying a world band radio, a World Radio TV Handbook, and other DX publications is the World Radio Network. They run live streams, as well as on demand audio programs from such diverse countries as Algeria, Australia, and even the official mouthpiece of the Syrian regime, Radio Damascus, all in English.  There are a few great search engines for foreign radio stations out there, and one of my favorite is vTuner

Although most international broadcasting services are either government controlled (China Radio International, Voice of Russia and VOA as examples), or public corporations (BBC, ABC Radio Australia, NHK World), that almost always have a left leaning point of view, it is still interesting to hear what is going on abroad, and to know that the world doesn't always revolve around the USA.  Domestic radio stations are much more revealing, and if you speak a bit of Spanish, or French, you can learn a lot about things happening in Africa and Latin America. 

Shortwave radio used to be the medium for this, but the internet has quickly surpassed it.  I could go on, but It's time to listen to Radio Polynesie.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Travels to Key West: The good, the bad and the ugly

I had a lovely 5 day vacation over the Thanksgiving weekend in Key West, Florida.  For those unfamiliar, it is a relatively small coral island that is closer to Havana than Miami, at the end of the Florida Keys, and at the end of highway US1.  It's a lovely place that suffers from nice weather 10 months out of the year (the other 2 can be very hot and humid), has a great reef for snorkeling and diving, a lot of history, fantastic restaurants, and many museums and art galleries.  The local population is very diverse culturally and politically, and most seem to get along.  Their survival depends largely on the tourist industry.  There are cruise ships most days of the week, filling up the area of lower Duval Street and  tourist haunts such as Sloppy Joe's Bar, Ernest Hemingway's House, and the Southernmost Point in the continental US.  There are trolley tours, the famous Conch Train and any kind of tour you can imagine.

I tend to go there for the more quiet side of the island, as well as visiting the many friends I have made there over the years.  Deep sea fishing is awesome off the lower and middle Keys, with many boat captains offering competitive half and full day excursions.  There's a seaplane as well as a ferry that goes to the Dry Tortugas National Park, 70 miles west of Key West, with it's amazing 19th century era Fort Jefferson.

The bar scene us unsurpassed, with everything from the falling down wreck of my favorite Schooner Warf Bar at the Key West bight harbor to dive clip joints on lower Duval St. to more classy wine bars further from the

Well you get my drift, Key West is a tourist town, and with that you get to meet a lot of different types of travelers.  I've never cared much for the cruise ship passengers.  They are usually in town for 4~6 hours, and tend to push their way to the usual tourist traps, and end up having a crappy burger at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurant and gift shop.  I avoid that part of town when the cruisies are in town, especially if a Disney boat and its stroller brigades take siege on the town.

This past weekend I noticed a lot of European travelers in town, mostly from Germany and France.  The lovely guesthouse where I was fortunate enough to be staying seemed to be largely occupied by folks from abroad.  The good here is that these tourists spend a lot of money.  They eat out, buy lots of stuff, like to party, and explore the place.  The bad is that Europeans are notoriously horrible tippers, when they bother to tip at all; this in an economy where waiters, bartenders, trolley drivers, and tour guides live largely off of tips.

Needless to say, workers in the tourist and food/drink business cringe when a group of Germans, British or French show up.  They know that on a $200 bill, they may get a $5 tip, if they get anything at all.

Occasionally I get the chance to play tourist guide and good Samaritan. While having breakfast on the front porch of the guesthouse where I was staying, I met a very nice young couple traveling from Japan.  They had a million questions, and I'm always happy to help as much as I can.  Unfortunately, the young lady spoke no English, and her husband spoke only a bit, so it took a lot of patience to answer questions, and get them where they wanted to go.  I ended up showing them around for about a half day, introducing them to Cuban coffee, a number of landmarks that are off the beaten tourist track, and finally put them on a Trolley Tour, while gently reminding them to tip generously.  I came back to my room later that day with a nice bottle of wine waiting me and a nice note thanking me for the nice day out.  This is the good part about going on vacation. 

I've seen a bit of the ugly over the years, with one incident that could only be classified as grand larceny.  A number of years ago, I was having a drink and some appetizers at a very nice restaurant near the cruise ship docks, and in came a very large group of foreign tourists, obviously from a boat.  They ran up a bill of over $500, and essentially skipped out on the bill.  They all started leaving a couple at a time, and finally the table emptied, and all that was on the table besides food scraps was a $100 bill.  The server was on the hook for the other $400 because she is responsible for the check.  Not only did she get stiffed on a tip, she had her wages docked.  Of course the boat people were long gone and scattered, so no chance of finding them

That incident may be an extreme one, but it is part of the ugly that goes on in a tourist town.  It's a tough place to live and work, and folks like me who go there a couple times a year for a vacation don't often get to see just how hard folks there work, often for not much money, in a very expensive town.  I've developed a great deal of admiration for those who stick it out, live and work there and operate business there, against very hard conditions at times.

Key West and the Florida Keys remain one of my favorite places in the world, and perhaps one day I'll retire there. There seem to be a lot of older folks who work part time, manage to enjoy the place and make ends meet.  Still living in a tourist town sure does have it's good, bad and ugly sides.  I'm only scratching the surface here, without even getting into the local politics, the bubba system, and ruthless backstabbing that goes on amongst certain tour companies.

I can recommend to anyone who likes the water, history, good food, relaxation, and truly friendly people in a tropical environment, while staying within the safety of the US.  Come on down, bring a smile, a good attitude, and you will have a ball.  I guarantee it!

UPDATE:  I leave you with local musician Michael McCloud performing Schooner Warf Bar Dog, taped by my friend Joe, a retired cameraman and videographer of "Parrots Eye Video":