Monday, December 29, 2014

Religious fervor

It's not just Islamists;
Hindus also terrorists


SOMEHOW I STUMBLED across a story about Hindu extremists attacking Christians in India.

I thought only Jews were targeted around the world.

An Internet search for anti-christian movement in India turned up a slew of hits, including the following sampling:

  * Behind the anti-Christian violence in India :: Catholic News ... (

  *  India: A saffron corridor of anti-Christian hatred - Spero News (

  *  India's supreme court orders report into anti-Christian violence (

  *  Opposition to Christianity - Conservapedia (

Weed out Christianity, says Hindu BJP nationalist leader (

The copy under the Weed out Christianity heading reads:

Bangalore (AsiaNews) – A Hindu nationalist leader with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) vowed last Sunday to weed out the seeds of Christianity in the State of Karnataka. On the same day, two Protestant clergymen were detained by police. Since the BJP has been in power in the state, there have been more than 200 anti-Christian incidents.

Speaking during India’s Independence Day celebrations on 15 August, Prahlad Remani, a member of the Karnataka State Legislature, said that he would not remain quiet until Christianity was weeded out of his state.

“People must remain aware and watchful about the spread of these seeds of Christianity,” said the lawmaker, who is a member of the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP, which has ruled Karnataka since May 2008. “The followers of any religion, including the Hindus and others, must weed out Christianity”.

The Spero News offered an article titled India: A saffron corridor of anti-Christian hatred reports that

During the past three years it has become evident that more than a thousand anti-Christian incidents have occurred, as there is a "line of extremism" across the states of Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat in central India, but also Andra Pradesh and Karnataka in the southern part of the country.

"There have been more than 100 cases of true martyrdom of Christians, thousands of displaced persons, hundreds of churches, communities and institutions attacked," comments a memorandum submitted to the President of India Pratibha Patil. Orissa is the "crossroads of hatred" and the attempt at "ethnic cleansing" against Christians, the memorandum notes.

Given the Muslim disease of "convert or die" and sometimes "convert and then die" I wonder if what is happening in India is part of the same mental illness.

If it is, is there a way to identify and quarantine people with the malady? Yes, I know quarantine is not "politically correct," but frankly, Scarlett . . .

Sadly, what is happening in the pipe-dream caliphate of the Islamists and the Hindu's prevention of proselytizing is not limited to Islam and Hinduism - we have as many narrow-minded, "I'm-right-you're-wrong" fools in the U.S. It makes no difference if they denigrate from a pulpit in a church or tent or parade around in low thread-count sheets or carry banners promoting hatred.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Murder & mayhem

It just "seems" Miami
Is "Murder Central South"


I LIVE IN BROWARD County, one county north of Dade County which has Miami as its biggest city. We share the same "market area" for the media which means that when a crime happens "down south" we hear about it up in Broward.

I have lived near Washington DC and in an Atlanta GA suburb (Norcross). I am accustomed to hearing about murder and other violent crimes on a regular basis.

It seems as if Dade County is "Murder Central - South."

It wasn't always like that, but then when I grew up in Dade and Broward counties we had far fewer people.

But perceptions can be deceiving.

No. 58 and movin' on up

According to NeighborhoodScout’s Most Dangerous Cities, Miami ranked number 58 in the list of the 100 most dangerous cities. In this case, the HIGHER the number the BETTER. In 2013, Miami was 47, so despite the almost nightly murders and non-lethal shootings and stabbings, Miami ranks better than 57 other cities.

I still try to avoid crossing the county line and about the only time I do venture into Dade County is when I must visit Miami International Airport (MIA).

THAT'S NOT TO SAY there is zero violent crime in Broward County. While Fort Lauderdale failed to make the Top 100 for violent crime in 2014, tiny Lauderdale Lakes made the list at No. 90.


Perhaps the reason Fort Lauderdale failed to "make the cut" - and this is one time when missing the cut is a good thing - is because the statics are violent crime per one thousand (1000) residents in communities of 25,000 population or greater.

According to Neighborhood Scout, Our research reveals the 100 most dangerous cities in America with 25,000 or more people, based on the number of violent crimes per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes include murder, forcible rape, armed robbery, and aggravated assault. Data used for this research are 1) the number of violent crimes reported to the FBI to have occurred in each city, and 2) the population of each city. See our FAQ on how we rank the most dangerous cities

Over the last three years - 2012, 2013, and 2014 - the cities in the Top !0 for murder and mayhem were

Ranking 2012 2013 2014
1 East St. Louis, IL East St. Louis, IL East St. Louis, IL
2 Chester, PA Camden, NJ Flint, MI
3 West Memphis, AR Flint, MI Camden, NJ
4 Saginaw, MI West Memphis, AR West Memphis, AR
5 Camden, NJ Saginaw, MI Saginaw, MI
6 Detroit, MI Detroit, MI Detroit, MI
7 Flint, MI Atlantic City, NJ Bessemer, AL
8 Wilmington, DE St. Louis, MO Chester, PA
9 Atlantic City, NJ Newburgh, NY Oakland, CA
10 St. Louis, MO Inkster, MI Newburgh, NY
Several communities have made the Top Ten all three years, albeit with the exception of East St. Louis IL, in different positions. East St. Louis took the top prize as most dangerous place to live - according to the statistics - in the United States.

For some reason, Homestead, south of Miami, ranked in the national Top 30 all three years, with each year ranking closer to the undesirable Number One spot.

In 2012, Homestead came in at No. 29, a year later it was No. 23, and in 2014 it was No. 18; conversely, Miami proper went from No. 46 in 2012 to No. 58 in 2014.

All of which proves that while it seems as if Washington DC's crime followed me to South Florida, statistically all those murders and other violent crimes are not all that many after all - statistically.

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Media tells only
Half of the story


RECENTLY THERE HAVE BEEN at least two local stories in which the media only reported half of the facts.

Story #1: Preacher feeding the poor at the beach in Fort Lauderdale.

Story # 2: Two brothers in hit-and-run accident; one died.

Feeding the poor

This was a big tv story - old preacher sets up feeding station and is arrested (but not jailed, only cited) for illegally feeding the poor.

And now, as Paul Harvey would intone, "the rest of the story."

Turns out the reason the city fathers created a law banning food give-aways in Fort Lauderdale was because the homeless and destitute congregate in the area. Never mind that they were in the area before.

The city fathers complain that the homeless defecate and urinate on the sidewalks, and sleep wherever they can find clean space.

The council offered to find a place where the preacher could feed the people inside. He refused.

Florida is having a warm winter (so far; January and February are still to come) so dining near the beach is comfortable.

Florida has a law that requires all fixed places that serve food to provide restrooms.

I think the "fixed places" was added to the law when Claude Kirk was governor (1967–1971). It seems a child had a summertime popsicle stand and the local authorities shut it down because, among other things, the stand lacked a restroom. (See the St. Petersburg Times for Oct. 21, 1967 for the details.)

Since the preacher set up the feeding station each day in the same location, it could be argued that the site falls under the "fixed location" requirement of the law.

The tv reporter told everyone that it was a Fort Lauderdale law to have restrooms at places that served food. It is a Florida statute. Read it for yourself at

So, yes, the Fort Lauderdale city fathers want to "clean up" (read "remove the homeless") from a commercial district without driving them into the "better" residential districts (in which the city fathers live), but they also

  1. Have Florida law to enforce and
  2. Offered to provide an indoor site with "facilities" so the food could be served off the street

Granted, "off the street" also is "out of sight, out of mind," but it does satisfy several needs of both the city and the homeless/less fortunate community.

For the record, I am not a Fort Lauderdale resident.

Hit and run

According to news reports two boys were walking home after attending a basketball game at Attucks Middle School when they were streuck by a vehicle that did not stop. The Broward Sheriff's Office said the boys were walking on the right side of Bryan Road and it was dark.”.

Google Maps seems to verify the "it was dark" comment; there appear to be few, if any, street lights on that stretch of Bryan Road; the only lights are on private property.

Click on image to enlarge

HOWEVER if the Sheriff's report is correct, the boys were walking along the east (right) side of the road
  • With their backs to traffic and
  • Not using the sidewalk on the west (left) side of Bryan Road.

This information was missing from every news report I read or heard.

THAT DOES NOT excuse the fact that the vehicle that struck the boys failed to stop.

The Sheriff's Office charged Zachary Vincent Benjamins, 22, with failing to stop at an accident involving a death and evidence tampering, jail records showed. He was being held on $350,000 bond.

Anaee Barbeito, 20, his girlfriend and passenger in the vehicle, was charged with insurance fraud (for trying to get her insurance company to pay to repair the vehicle), tampering with evidence and accessory after the fact.

As it happens, Florida law requires pedestrians to walk on sidewalks when provided and, when absent, to walk facing oncoming traffic; the theory being if the driver fails to see the pedestrian it is likely the pedestrian will see the vehicle in time to move out of the way.

Without a doubt the accident is a tragedy that devastated the family. But, like most accidents, it might have been prevented.

And now you know "the rest of the story."

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Airline insider proves
My fears were justified


YEARS AGO, following 9-11-01, the airlines, FAA, and TSA were touting that their collective security would prevent anymore bombs or weapons from being brought onboard an aircraft.

At the time I wrote an article that essentially said those claims were nonsense.

I submitted the article to a magazine; the editors sent the article to an airline's Chief of Security to vet. He returned the article to the publisher claiming my article was not valid.

The other day a couple of current and former Delta Airlines employees proved that I was correct and the Chief of Security either was wrong or simply wanted to suppress my article.

GRANTED, the two arrested for smuggling guns aboard a Delta flight did not attempt to place a bomb on board, nor were the smuggled weapons to be used by anyone on board the aircraft.

But they WERE on board and they COULD have been used to commandeer the aircraft.

I used to fly quite a bit, both domestically and internationally. I've bought seats on a number of difference air carriers, including Delta - which remains one of my preferred carriers - El Al, and KLM. (I also used to fly Eastern, Pan Am, and TWA, "back in the day.")

The premise of my article was that with a little inside help it would be easy to smuggle a bomb or weapon on board almost any carrier except El Al.

True story. On an El Al flight from Lod (TLV) to Miami (MIA) we made a stop in New York (JFK). During the stop, the passengers were herded into a holding area (quarantine) for international passengers continuing on to MIA.

Meanwhile, El Al personnel informed us, the plane was being cleaned and refueled.

When we re-boarded the aircraft a flight attendant - then they were called stewards and stewardesses - asked me "Did you leave a camera under your seat?"

Oops. Indeed I did; a Canon F-1 with a 20 mm lens. Normally I keep the camera strap around my leg when it is on the floor and I was in my seat. Somehow my "anti-theft/don't forget" process failed me.

Bottom line: The cleaning crew found the camera and the "steward" relieved the cleaners of the camera before it could disappear to the streets of New York. (New York's finest can't be bothered with petty theft from a non -resident who lacks political pull. This based on first hand experience.)

As I was heading to my seat, the "steward" shook his finger at me and admonished me not to be so forgetful in the future.

Who has access to the plane?

Consider who has unfettered access to most aircraft.

  • Caterers
  • Cleaning crews
  • Baggage handlers
  • Air crew
  • Some station (airport) personnel
  • Aircraft maintenance crews

Now consider how much any of those people make in a year - figure in local cost of living that can make a $100,000 salary actually worth maybe half that. (I have no idea what catering and cleaning crews, baggage handlers, mechanics, and airport workers make, but I seriously doubt they are top earners in their metro areas.)

Money is a great motivator for people who feel unappreciated and under paid.

Add to my short list disgruntled employees. These people may not need to be recruited with promises of Big Bucks; they might be willing to work against the airline just to "get even" over some real or perceived wrong.

If I want to get something prohibited on board an airplane, I can pay to have someone secrete contraband on board in a place that, if I am a passenger, I - or a confederate - will know where to find the device.

My advice to airlines in the article that was declined by the magazine was to follow El Al's example and keep trusted crew where ever and whenever non-flying personnel are in (caterers, cleaning crews, station personnel) or near (mechanics, baggage handlers) the aircraft.

This is not an absolute, 100 percent foolproof procedure, but it certainly is better than what most airlines have in place today.


Just in case anyone is interested, the Delta is a Douglas Commercial 3 (DC-3) tail-dragger. It would not surprise me to learn some os these planes still may be flying. The El Al craft is a Lockheed Constellation, one o the last, great comfortable airplanes. Lockheed unfortunately got oout of the passenger plane business after the L-1011, another great bird.

Friday, December 19, 2014

President Sneaky

Right action
Wrong method


ONCE AGAIN President Sneaky has made what I consider a correct move but in a, what seems typical for him, sneaky manner.
First it was Obamacare. American needs a national health care system. That the Obamacare needs lots of work to make it usable is another matter, but it was a step in the right direction.
Now, Cuba.
The U.S. has attempted - and failed - to embargo Cuba for more than 50 years. The Castros still are in charge even without their former backers, the now-defunct - perhaps temporarily defunct - Soviet Union.
Obungler saw the embargo failed to benefit the U.S. or the "oppressed" Cubans who remain in Cuba. (There are so many Cubans in South Florida - Cubans who swore they would go back "just as soon as" that if you don't speak Spanish you don't do business in Dade County.)
Nixon (re)opened China to the U.S. - a mistake since China now "owns" the U.S. China it may be recalled was the chief sponsor of North Korea and of what was North Vietnam; in other words, no friend of the U.S.
Reagan saw the Berlin wall come down and lead detent with the former Soviet Union. We have - or perhaps soon "had" thanks to Mr. Putin - business relations with the former enemy. The Soviet Union and the U.S. were combatants in a cold war and a number of proxy hot wars (including Israel and its neighbors) since the end of World War II. Like China, no friend of the U.S.
Never mind that before the guns had cooled in 1945 the U.S. was rebuilding Germany and Japan at a cost U.S. manufacturers still are paying.
Cuba NEVER was an enemy. It never attacked a U.S. operation, and with the Guantanamo base, it had (has) plenty of opportunity.

THE PROBLEM with the president who would be king is that he is trying to rule by fiat, by executive order.
He's not the first to issue executive orders, nor will he be the last.
But he is sneaky about his intents.
The U.S. has a congress and a supreme court that are supposed to be equal with the executive branch. They are supposed to work in concert.
Obungler contends that he can't get anything thorough Congress because of the nasty Republicans.
Granted, the two parties probably have never been as diametrically opposed as during the current administration, but past administrations with a congress controlled by the opposing party HAVE made great progress.
Obungler acts like a thief in the night, sneaking his desires into law by either by-passing Congress or by inundating Congress with bills of thousands of pages and demanding immediate passage - don't bother to READ the bill, just pass it - which is how we got the Obamacare kludge. (Again, IMO the U.S. needs a better social welfare program.)
The U.S. can afford this if it will stop sending money - and jobs - across the border and overseas to countries that should stand on their own financial feet. How many American dollars go into foreign rulers' pockets rather than to the people for whom the money is intended?
I agree with President Sneaky - we should deal with Cuba as the U.S. deals with other countries. There may NOT be an immediate improvement in what Americans term "basic rights," but there also won't be a degradation of what rights are extent now. Over the long term I think - I hope - that commercial and social intercourse with the United States will benefit the average Jose Cuban.
It may LOOK as if the U.S.-Cuban detent is one sided, with the U.S. giving up everything and getting very little in return, but in time, the Communist influence will diminish as even the (aging) government will once again realize the benefits of democracy.
TO THEIR CREDIT, the Cubans of South Florida have so far kept their expressions of their pro or con opinions of Sneaky's latest fiat to verbal sparring; let's hope it stays that way.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Only in Florida

Divorce OK,
Marriage not


An interesting bit of news from Broward County (where this scrivener resides).

Florida, where the State government is making every argument in every court to follow its citizens' desires to prohibit same-sex marriages has managed to allow same-sex divorces.

It made the tv "news" and the few surviving newspapers.

The Miami Herald headlined Broward judge invalidates Florida’s gay-marriage ban, grants divorce to lesbian and same-sex partner while Miami's CBS4 broadcasts Lesbian Asks Broward Judge To Grant Divorce., Circuit Judge Dale Cohen on Wednesday dissolved the marriage of Heather Brassner and Megan Lade in a brief hearing. They were united in a 2002 civil union in Vermont but Brassner was unable to obtain a divorce in Florida for five years since their relationship ended.

The MSN article continued: Cohen ruled in August that Florida's gay marriage ban is unconstitutional because it violates the Fourth Amendment's guarantees of equal protection and due process. Because the ruling came in a divorce case, it has the effect of also declaring that out-of-state gay marriages should be recognized in Florida. It does not mean same-sex marriage licenses can be issued in Broward County.

"This is a historic day. This is the first divorce for a same-sex couple. It will not be the last divorce," said Brassner attorney Nancy Brodzki

Will Florida become the Nevada (Divorce Capital) for homosexual divorces?

Certainly our climate is better: today the high in Fort Lauderdale is predicted to reach 71 (the low was 59). Compare that to Las Vegas NV.

Florida divorce laws are pretty casual.

According to the Florida Bar site: Florida is one of the many states that has abolished fault as a ground for divorce. The only requirement to dissolve your marriage is to prove that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Either spouse can file for the dissolution of marriage. You must prove that a marriage exists, one party has been a Florida resident for six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition, and the marriage is irretrievably broken. Fault, however, may be considered under certain circumstances in the award of alimony, equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities, and determination of parental responsibility.

For a person such as this scrivener who opposes same-sex marriage only because of the term "marriage" - call it a "union" or "joining" or almost anything other than "marriage" - dissolution - the name du jour in Florida for divorce - probably also would need a new term; something "neutral" to cover both "friendly" and "bitter" break-ups.

Judge Cohen ruled in August that Florida's gay marriage ban is unconstitutional because it violates the Fourth Amendment's guarantees of equal protection and due process. Because the ruling came in a divorce case, it has the effect of also declaring that out-of-state gay marriages should be recognized in Florida. It does not mean same-sex marriage licenses can be issued in Broward County.

The MSN article continued: Brodzki said she expects Attorney General Pam Bondi to appeal the decision, just as she has several other rulings against the gay marriage ban by state and federal judges.

"We expect the state to continue to fight until there is no longer any possibility of them waging a fight," Brodzki said.

A spokeswoman for Bondi's office said the decision would be reviewed. The attorney general has been battling on several legal fronts in support of the same-sex marriage ban enshrined in the state constitution by voters in 2008.

Maybe Florida's Gov. Rick Scott should tell his Attorney General to simply ignore the same-sex divorce issue since he wants to expands Florida's economy; tourism brings Big Bucks to the state and a six-month residency requirement plus attorney's fees and court costs, even in uncontested splits, could be lucrative for the state.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

John McCain not withstanding

Deal with enemy
On enemy's terms


The following may not be considered "politically correct."

Torture and the Geneva Conventions

The Geneva Conventions concerning torture apply to members of uniformed armed forces.

They do not apply to terrorists wearing black pajamas or galabias (masked or not), or hoodies, or any other apparel not recognizable as a military (or naval) uniform. That rules out Al Qaeda in all its representations, ISIS or whatever its name-of-the-day, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, PLO and its "children," Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and similar organizations. It would exclude - if they still were around - the Black Panthers, Weather Underground, The Socialist Workers Party (SWP), and The Youth International Party (YIP); the KKK is a "uniformed" terror group, the uniform being sheets and pillow cases.

(A list of terrorist organizations, Islamic and otherwise, is provided on the Terrorist Organizations Fpage.)

Terrorists do not abide by any "humane" convention.

John McCain

I personally like Senator McCain; I would have liked to see him in the White House at one time. Despite that, Sen. McCain and I part company over treatment of terrorists.

On December 9, 2014, Sen. McCain in a floor speech said the following (excerpted from the speech)

    “I have long believed some of these practices amounted to torture, as a reasonable person would define it, especially, but not only the practice of waterboarding, which is a mock execution and an exquisite form of torture. Its use was shameful and unnecessary; and, contrary to assertions made by some of its defenders and as the Committee’s report makes clear, it produced little useful intelligence to help us track down the perpetrators of 9/11 or prevent new attacks and atrocities.

    “I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering. Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored.

    “The knowledge of torture’s dubious efficacy and my moral objections to the abuse of prisoners motivated my sponsorship of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibits ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’ of captured combatants, whether they wear a nation’s uniform or not.

Emphasis above mine.

Then again, consider:

Orde Wingate

Wingate's basic philosophy toward the enemy was "There is only one way to deal with the situation, to persuade the gangs that, in their predatory raids, there is every chance of their running into a government gang which is determined to destroy them."

Wingate was referring to the English Mandatory goverenment, not a Jewish, government.

In the "some things never change" department, Wingate has been criticized for the harsh methods his force used against the enemy and those who assisted them. Cruelty and punitive humiliation provoked negative comment from some of the Haganah people and from Moshe Sharett (Shertok) who was otherwise a friend and admirer of Wingate. However, Wingate's methods were no worse than the brutal tactics employed by other British forces in Palestine in putting down the revolt, and the Arab gangs they were fighting were killing civilians mercilessly.

Legend has it that Wingate captured two Arabs who, he was convinced, knew where arms were cached. He asked one Arab the cache's location. No reply. He took out his service revolver, put it to the Arab's head and asked again, telling the Arab the result if he failed to provide the information. Again, no answer.

He shot the Arab and went to the second Arab, pointed the revolver at the man's head and asked the question again. This time he got his answer.

Torture? Perhaps. Contrary to Sen. McCain's contention of "torture’s dubious efficacy", Wingate's tactic proved its worth.

Col. Allen West in Iraq

Then Lt. Col. West was cashiered for convincing an enemy he would die if he failed to provide needed information. There are two at variance stores about this incident on the Web:

  1. Dealing With Muslims and
  2. Allen West
Take you pick; both entries show West did what he felt necessary to protect his troops.

Caveat: I have had personal dealing with West and he has my respect.

In the Philippines

In a Snopes entry that works very hard at being "politically correct," the undetermined status story about U.S. troops putting down Muslim terrorism by executing captured terrorists with pig-greased bullets and then burying them with porcine entrails. One of the captured terrorists was allowed to return to his associates; Muslim terrorism allegedly ceased in the Philippines for the next 50 years.

Bet Shean, Israel

Some terrorists crossed the border from Jordan many years ago and entered the Israeli border community of Bet Shean. Most of the residents of Bet Shean are refugees from North Africa, people who are familiar with Muslim belief and customs.

The terrorists, after managing to murder a few locals, were killed by the army. The residents doused the terrorists' bodies with kerosene and set them afire. Muslim belief holds that a burned body cannot go to heaven; no 70 virgins.

No terrorist returned to Bet Shean for decades; when one did, he was stopped before he got to the community. His fate was a short stay in an Israeli prison.

Caveat: I have relatives in Bet Shean.

Bottom line

Does dealing with the enemy on OUR (Western) terms work?

In a word: No.

Does dealing with the enemy on the enemy's terms work?

In two words: Apparently, yes.

If the enemy deals with us on "Geneva Convention" terms, then we should respond accordingly.

Unfortunately, only the leftist bleeding hearts fail to understand that simple truth.

Perhaps Sen. McCain is correct: the U.S. should abandon physical torture. In it's place let the enemy know we will follow the lead of Orde Wingate, Allen West, the officer in the Philippines, and the good people of Bet Shean. But we MUST make good on the psychological threats; if we bluff even once, we are lost.

Since Al Qaeda et al still terrorize the world, obviously the left's approach doesn't work.

Monday, December 8, 2014

"Day of Infamy"



Sunday was December 7.

I failed to hear or see any mention of what occurred on that date in 1941.

Not a word. Not a picture. Not a lowered flag.

Perhaps it's been "rolled into" 9-11 (2001), another sneak attack on American shores that took more than 3,000 lives.

Or maybe because the December 7th memorial is beneath the waves while the 9-11 memorial is visible is the reason December 7th went unobserved.

Or perhaps because America's young adults can only accommodate one national disaster at a time, and Pearl Harbor was the "old folks'" disaster.

I'm sure that somewhere someone recalled the historic event, someone probably in the ranks of "Senior Citizens."

Maybe Americans are tired of memorials, of remembrances of those who died for their country - and a number of men and women who died for a country that was not yet theirs. Those who died in declared wars, in "police actions," and those murdered at the hands of terrorists. After all, we have Memorial Day and Veterans' Day, we have Gen. Lee's estate, and local monuments.

Maybe we don't remember why November 11th is a day of remembrance - a reminder of Armistice Day, when the "War to end all wars" ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, a day we now call Veterans' Day.

Unlike the English and Canadians, we don't generally write poems about our servicemen and women, we have no In Flanders Fields by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae or Our God and Souldiers we alike adore - credited to Englishmen Francis Quarles (1592–1644) and reworked into modern English by Rudyard Kipling as A Time For Prayer

Perhaps 1941 is too far removed from 2014. A person born on the day Pearl Harbor was attacked would be 73 on the date's anniversary this year.

Maybe, despite - or because of - the constant conflicts in which the U.S. has been involved since the end of the Second World War, Americans don't want to think about those who serve or served their country.

Then again, December 7th may be "just another day" for so many since they never put on a uniform and have no concept of what serving their country means.

No matter what reason or excuse is given, the absence of any notice of the seventh day of December 2014 is a sad state of affairs.

To quote Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"


Profitability linked
To risk management


Headlined ‘Ground-breaking’ link between risk management and profitability, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, includes “ground-breaking findings about links between board’s oversight of risk, financial performance and the volatility of a company’s share price,” the insurer Aon, which sponsored the effort, said.

Aon released its latest Risk Maturity Index Insight Report and it reveals a direct link between profitability and advanced risk management practices.

According to the article in Insurance Business, Marcus Vaughan, regional lead of the Aon Risk Maturity Index for Australia said of the findings: “The evidence is clear: there is a direct positive correlation between advanced risk maturity, an organization's understanding of risk management practices, and enhanced financial performance when considering key metrics such as Return on Equity and Return on Assets. This in turn speaks directly to directors’ obligations to maximize shareholder value.”

Australia leads the way internationally when it comes to understanding and managing risk at the appropriate level, the report found. the report continued.

The Aon/Wharton School report puts a value on risk management by comparing organizations with high risk ratings to those with low rating, both on price volatility and return on equity performance.

The article states that The report found that companies with the highest rating on the risk maturity index, a 5.0, experienced share price volatility 34% lower than those with the lowest score available, a 1.0.

The highest rating also resulted in a 42% return on equity performance compared with a negative return of -23% for companies at the lowest end of the spectrum.

The entire article may be read at

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Data breach still
Costing Target

Banks want to recover $$


From the Minneapolis (MN) Star-Tribune A federal judge in St. Paul refused Tuesday to throw out claims against Target Corp. made by several banks that say they lost money because of the company’s data breach last year.

U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson dismissed one of four claims argued in the lawsuit, which claimed “negligent misrepresentation by omission” related to Target’s ¬security system. But Magnuson, in his court order released Tuesday, wrote that the plaintiffs presented a plausible case for the first three counts against Target: negligence, failure in providing sufficient security against data hackers and violation of Minnesota’s Plastic Security Card Act.

Unmitigated risk continues to be costly

The case involves all piurchases made at Target stores between Nov. 1 and Dec. 19, 2013, using credit or debit cards.

Target's lawyer contends that because a third-party firm handles all credit and debit card payments the store is not liable.

Target currently is contestng two multi-plaintiff suits: one from the banks and one from consumers.

In the meantime, Target is spending to try to restore it image.

It has put up several Web sites:

These sites are designed to give credit and debit card shoppers and stockholders a level of confidence that the 2013 breach won't happen again.

In the end, Target must reduce its bottom line

    To restore the customer base

    To restore customer confidence

    To put into place stronger security practices

    To fend off the banks

    To fend off injured consumers

Hopefully Target also will revisit its Enterprise Risk Management plan and this time make a thorough search for ALL threats, both the obvious and the "off the wall" threats overlooked in the previous exercise.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Share safety information
With community, responders


Five DuPont workers - four of them already dead or dying - had been trapped for an hour by poisonous gases inside a pesticide plant when another worker called 911 to report an emergency at 4:13 a.m. read the leed of a Houston (TX) Chronicle article heded Deadly DuPont leak exposes safety, response failures. The Chronicle's sub-hed read: Chemical plant officials slow to react to disaster, minimized risk to fire crews, public in first 911 call.

The Chronicle article was carried by other media including the Austin (TX) Statesman that headlined Report: plant's chemicals not listed in 911 call.

Four workers killed by poisonous gas during a recent chemical leak were trapped inside the Texas pesticide plant for an hour before anyone called 911, and no one told dispatchers what substances were inside.

The DuPont plant in La Porte typically housed as much as 250 tons of highly flammable methyl mercaptan, the Houston Chronicle reported Sunday.

But it also contained at least some methyl isocyanate. That's the same chemical that escaped a Bhopal, India, pesticide plant in 1984, killing more than 2,200 people in the world's worst industrial accident.

And now the problems begin.

According to newspaper accounts, when the event finally was called in to 9-1-1, the caller from the plant allegedly

    (a) Failed to tell the 9-1-1 duty person that there were at least two dangerous chemicals at the plant (methyl isocyanate and methyl mercaptan), and

    (b) That the accident did not endanger the people near the plant.

I once worked for a company that made automotive airbags. The company used Class A explosives to activate the airbags and consequently had the explosives on hand in quantity.

The local fire brigade was aware of the explosives and any hazardous materials on the grounds.

Later I lived in Charleston WV downwind of "Chemical Valley."

Everyone, not only Emergency Services, but the community as well, knew what was manufactured by the local chemical plant and they knew what to do if something went "bump in the night." Even local buses bore signs on the sides telling residents what to do if an emergency was declared.

In both instances, the local fire brigade had copies of the (then) Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for each chemical that could put responders in harm's way. The MSDS - now simply Safety Data Sheets (SDS) - contain information about the chemical and how to stay safe - is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needed? If so, what type; it's all in the SDS.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires chemical manufacturers, distributors, or importers to provide Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) (formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets or MSDSs) to communicate the hazards of hazardous chemical products.

There was a relatively recent event - I don't recall where or what substances were involved - that required the surrounding community to take action.

The company held annual exercises with the local fire brigade and included the community in its safety effort.

This paid off when there was a fire at the facility.

Everyone knew what was on site and how to extinguish the blaze (in this case, with chemicals, not water which would have worsened the situation).

All because everyone knew what was on hand and what had to be done to protect people and property.

While no one would suggest using "scare tactics" on the neighbors, a well-planned, honest public relations effort letting the neighbors know what is on site and what to do if something goes amiss will go a long way to preventing illness, injury, and death - and the resulting legal action against the company.

Making certain local emergency responders know what is on site, and what PPE they may need is simply good common sense, but (apparently) some management needs to be reminded and some community governments need to insist that organizations share their knowledge of dangerous materials.

Risk Management practitioners should diplomatically point out the impact of failing to

    Advise local responders what is on site and how to deal with the on-site materials (share SDSs with the responder organizations) and

    Develop and implement a community education program (PR program) to let the neighbors (a) know what is on site and (b) what to do if there is an accident: how will the neighbors be alerted, what they must do.

Pointing out the risks may not be sufficient to get action from Very Senior Management and Line Managers, but pointing out the IMPACT for failing to act may - may - make an impression resulting in the desired reactions.


There are a number of sites on the Internet where, according to the Interactive Learning Paradigms, Incorporated (ILPI) Web site, SDSs can be accessed for free.

The Curmudgeon writes

Endless loop
& flight delays


Turkey day was Thursday, but for me, the turkey's dropped in early and hung around through Cyber Monday.


I was to fly from FLL to TPA, a point to point trip of about one hour.

The flight was scheduled to leave FLL at 8:55 which means I needed to be at the terminal at 7:55. Because I knew Cheapskate parking would be packed, I left a little early to accommodate getting a space and then catching the shuttle to the terminal.

I checked to confirm that flight's ETD still was 8:55; it was not. Now it was 10:55, with an ETA in Tampa of 11:55 - call it midnight. BUT, checking Spirit's web site I read that even if a flight delay is posted the traveler must still report inas if the flight was on time - just in case the delay is shortened? Does that ever happen?

The Cheapskate lot was, as I anticipated, pretty full; I was directed to the Back 40 where I was ushered into a space for the flivver.

The shuttle was waiting at the stop,

So far not just "so far, s good," but "so far, so Tony-the-tiger great." FLL has its act together.

Since I had my boarding pass, I went straight to the TSA lines - which were moving along very nicely. After collecting my "stuff" and putting on my shoes, I made the  l_o_n_g  trek to my gate. (My gate always seems to farthest from where I came in.)

As I was making my way to TSA I heard the announcement that my flight now is delayed until 11:55, meaning I will - if there are no more delays - arrive at TPA at 1 a.m.

UNLIKE another airline that had me waiting for a much delayed flight, Spirit didn’t bother to make the wait easier. The other airline brought out soft drinks and junk food to mollify the masses; no so Spirit. Granted Spirit is a "cheap ticket" airline - as long as you don't have a bag or want a specific seat - but what it didn't do at FLL Wednesday night did not win it any friends.

To be fair, the trip from TPA to FLL went off on time and arrived on time. And TPA's TSA people allowed me to keep my shoes on. (Why one place and not another? Only the folks at TSA know.)


I got a call from my "until December 31" Medicare Advantage provider.

It's recorded message/interactive voice response system asked me several questions, to which I was to answer with a number from 0 to 10.

I answered the first several questions and then I was asked if I would recommend the company to others. On a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being highest, how would I rate my willingness to recommend the company.

I said ZERO.

The response: I didn't understand; let me repeat the question. And it did.

Again my answer was zero, but this time I pressed the "0" key on the phone's dial pad.

The response: I didn't understand; let me repeat the question. And it did.

Same answer, same response.

After the fourth time I realized the machine would continue to ask the question until it got the response it wanted.

In truth, the company's service was "pretty good." The reason I will not recommend it is because of something clients don't learn until it's too late. The company's Primary Care Physicians (PCP) are "capitated."

The company has a wealth of specialists listed in its practitioners' guide, but they are not available to all insureds.

"Capitation" means that a particular PCP is allowed to refer only to a very few selected specialists, even if other specialists are on the company's list.

I tried to get the company to tell me which PCPs could refer me to my specialists, which I identified for the company, but I was told to ask the PCPs.

There are 108 PCPs listed for my county. Did the company really expect me to call each of the 108 PCPs and ask: "Can you refer me to Specialist A and Specialist B?"

Not my job.

For kicks I surveyed seven competitors; only one had "capitated" PCPs and that one told me it had a list of non-capitated PCPs that it would provide on request.

If you're looking for a Medicare Advantage plan - they are wonderful things - and if you have specialists you want to keep, ASK all prospective PCPs if they can/will refer you to those specialists.

Also ask about the referral process. With the company I am leaving, the request went from the PCP to the company for approval. With most other companies, the PCP makes the referral and notifies the company that a referral has been made - this greatly expedites the patient being seen by the specialist.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Rule of law trashed

Don't like ruling?
Set fire to stores,
Attack police, firemen

For two nights in a row, Ferguson MO has been lit up by burning buildings.

Streets in major metro areas are blocked by mobs.


Because some rabble rousers did not agree with a Grand Jury's decision to return a No Bill (no indictment) against a cop who shot a criminal.

This despite the fact that the parents of the dead youth appealed for calm.

Did those rioters hear what the Grand Jury heard? Did they see what the Grand Jury heard?

In a word, No.

BUT, the rioters decided that, even sans evidence, the cop was guilty of murder and the cities must be punished . . . cities such as New York, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Oakland (CA).

Burn own neighborhood

In Ferguson rioters are looting and burning stores, stores on which they depend or, perhaps, "depended" upon in the past.

How many store owners will elect to collect their insurance payment and walk away, leaving an empty, burned out store. A store that perhaps employed people in the community, that served people of the community, that was part of their community.


There is no positive aspect to looting and burning stores in your neighborhood.

When the fire department arrives, some fool started shooting, Firemen are paid to risk their lives fighting fires, not dodging bullets. They packed up their hoses and went back to the station.

So far, the cops and Guard has shown considerable restraint in face of attacks on them, even when guns were fired. So far, no rioters have been killed or seriously injured, and no one has been sufficiently frustrated to run over protesters lying down in the street to block traffic - largely because the police, who are being maligned by these people, protect them.

This "taking to the streets" isn't new, but violent demonstrations are relatively new; from the Viet Nam era, although I am certain historians can find a few earlier occurrences.

Would people be looting and burning if a black cop had shot a white youth in the same circumstances? If a black cop shot a black youth? If a white cop shot a white youth? Seriously. Would the professional rabble rousers, the Al Sharptons, Jessie Jacksons, et al, show up for anything other than a white cop/black criminal confrontation.

The Ferguson youth was a criminal; there is a store video that proves this.

Was deadly force necessary to subdue the youth? The Grand Jury apparently, after hearing both prosecution AND defense evident - the latter unheard of in a Grand Jury, determined that deadly force was appropriate, albeit unfortunate.

Could the shooting have been avoided? Certainly; all the youth had to do was surrender to the cop. Instead he fought with the cop (no one argues that point) and in the process the cop shot the youth.

Unfortunately, the "facts are not important" idiots who are looting and burning Ferguson, who are lying in the streets of Washington, Philadelphia, and elsewhere are having a holiday for which - for most of them, anyway - there are no consequences.

Except that maybe, in Ferguson, some stores on which the rioters depended will be gone for good.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Flagging interest

This is
A Test

(& we failed)


This morning my Spouse was frothing at the mouth about something she saw on the Internet - her main source of information is Yahoo and that will explain a lot.

Seems a person - I was told a Jewish professor - was waving an ISIS flag on the UC Berkeley campus. The flag waver was getting some "at'ta boy"s from the passersby. Then someone waved an Israeli flag and the flag waver, she told me, was verbally abused.

As a former honest (=print) journalist I decided to find out what really happened. With a little help from Google, this is what I discovered:

The flag waving was a test to see reactions to the ISIS flag and someone promoting the organization.

The person waving the flag also was telling people that ISIS was a good organization, that all it wants is a nation of its own; can anything be wrong with that?

Most of the people walked by the flag waver without comment; most ignored him - just another kook on the known-for-radicalism campus. A few students - male and female - an a grown up or two gave literal or verbal "thumbs up" to the flag waver, but the majority simply "ho-hummed" their way to wherever they were going.

Watch the Ami Horowitz short, Berkeley student reacts to ISIS flag (Ami on the Street) at or at

The flag waver disappeared for a moment and returned waving an Israeli flag and challenging passers by that the problems between Gaza and Isabel are because of Hamas.

This brought more negative response from the passers by, but still not a significant amount of push back to the flag waver's remarks.


UC Berkeley went to pot in the 60s, so being "out of step" with the rest of the country is about par for the course.

The support for the ISIS flag waver was probably greater on campus than it would have been in downtown San Francisco across the Bay - and San Francisco has a well-served liberal reputation of its own.

The negativity toward Israel also doesn't surprise me. College age is the "against everything my parents stand for" age. ('Course in some places, that would mean some Jewish kids would be staunch conservatives and pro-Israel.)

What DID surprise me was the LACK of response. Most of the passers by seemed as if they were in another world - hopefully one with exams in the immediate future rather than ones bordering on hallucinations.

The nearly total lack of enthusiasm for either side tells me that America's future may be in the hands of a generation of people who simply don't care.

That attitude is not limited to UC Berkeley or even California. The "I don't care" attitude also is not restricted to collegians.

The "failure" to which I referred in the hed is not about either flag; it is about the lack of interest in the ever shrinking world. Some say ISIS already has landed on our shores; I don't doubt it. Something needs to be done to pull our young people from their apparent lethargy, to get them excited about the world around them. Will it take another Viet Nam - but this time in our cities?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Repairing America

Use foreign aid $$s
To fix infrastructure


I heard on 60 Minutes last night (November 23, 2014) that roads, bridges, air ports, and sea ports are outdated, inefficient, and in many places down right dangerous.

According to the program, the infrastructure is supposed to be maintained and expanded by user fees - a/k/a taxes on fuel, airplane cruise ship, and train tickets, and cargo passing through air and sea ports; my list probably is NOT "all-inclusive."

Several of the people interviewed claimed that they had been promoting an increase in gasoline taxes for several years, but the cowardly congress - both houses - refused to bite the bullet and put forth bills to raise the federal gas tax.

The vehicle fuel tax currently stands at 18.4 cents/gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents/gallon for Diesel. (See How much tax do we pay on a gallon of gasoline and diesel fuel?.)

The push back is that a higher fuel tax would hurt low-income families. It also would raise the cost-per-mile to move freight from point to point.

There is an alternative

The U.S. government has an interactive page titled Foreign Assistance by Recipient Country that identifies where U.S. tax dollars are flowing.

Everyone knows that Israel, Egypt, and Jordan get the lion's share of the foreign aid budget. Cutting back on the dole for these three countries might be possible, but given those countries' neighbors, this might be short-sighted. Still, there are those in Israel, at least, who would gladly forego U.S. aid dollars, thinking in the end Israel would be stronger.

But how many people know that Saudi Arabia (!) is on the U.S. dole. Granted for only a pittance, a mere US$10,000.

Is it really necessary to give

  • Afghanistan more than $1.5 billion

  • Cambodia more than $78 million

  • Pakistan more than $861 million

  • Turkey nearly $5 million

None of the above are particularly "pro-U.S."

India, which is taking jobs away from Americans, only wants a tad less than $88.5 million.

Almost $113 million is requested for Vietnam, but Vietnam to the U.S. is like Israel to Germany; it's reparations.

I'm certain someone somewhere - probably at the State Department - can justify the billions going overseas, but maybe it's time to let someone else pick up some of the financial load. Russia wants to be a superpower again; does Putin have the rubles to spare (or is he willing to further deprive his own countrymen)? China is buying up everything everywhere; surely it can assume some of the world's welfare load.

Not only is the U.S. infrastructure falling apart, we have people who, because they lack jobs, are homeless, people who are hungry, people who are in dire need of medical attention (including a number of military veterans). We need training programs to train people for real jobs - jobs that will be created by repairing or replacing the aging infrastructure. Any person who can work, should work; if the person cannot work, we need to provide for that person; if the person will not work then let the person fend for him/herself.

The U.S. government was the "employer of last resort" during the Great Depression (thanks largely to Eleanor Roosevelt); given the condition of the country today - aging infrastructure coupled with unemployment - perhaps the Federal government should once again become the employer of last resort.

Pay for this by cutting the amount of foreign aid. (Yes, I know some of the foreign aid really is to prop up U.S. companies making military goods; "We'll give you "n" millions providing that you buy U.S. military gear with some of that money."

It may be selfish, but the U.S. needs to take care of the U.S. first; if it fails to do this, it will not be able to help others.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Where are they

Loudest voices disappear
When criminal is black


A black lawyer enters a university library and starts shooting; wounding three people before committing "suicide by cop."

Black children and young adults shoot other black children and young adults.

Black on black violent crime is rampant in all major metro areas of the U.S.

But you don't see Al Sharpton, Jessie Burns (alias Jessie Jackson), or Barack Hussein Obama railing against blacks who commit crimes, violent or otherwise.

But if a white person insults a black person or acts violently against a black person, our heroes are both visible and vocal.

The other day a black man, a graduate of Florida State University and a graduate of a Texas law school, a practicing attorney, walked into an FSU library with a semi-automatic pistol and pockets full of extra ammunition and started shooting, apparently at random targets.

There is some suggestion that the shooter was deranged. Silence from the trio of "rush to condemn" leaders.

Black on black violent crime is rampant; there is not a day that a black person is not attacked by another black person, often the attack is with a gun and often there seems no reasoning behind the attack. Drive by shootings are all too common; innocent children - kids who have yet to reach school age - are wounded by wild shots from automatic weapons.

But the voices of Jackson, Obama, and Sharpton are quiet.

Maybe the daily events are not as newsworthy - that is to say, not as likely to get the trio as much ego air time on the tv news (and rehashing of same ad nauseam).

But let a white person shot a black person and suddenly there is a great gnashing of the teeth and wailing even before any evidence is available to explain WHY the incident occurred. Never let an absence of facts get between one of the trio and a tv camera.

It's a bit like the "Palestinians" in Israel. An Egged (Israeli bus company) hangs himself and the rock throwers hit the streets and the knife wielders go after Jews at prayer, never mind that even a "Palestinian" doctor witnesses the bus driver's autopsy and agreed that the cause of death was suicide.

I am NOT condoning white-on-black or Jew-on-"Palestinian" crime; I'm not condoning crime period.

I am criticizing the trio of mouths - they make Cassius Clay/Mohammed Ali seem like a silent Cistercian monk by comparison - who seem to limit their comments to those issues that get the most tv time.

Since black-on-anyone crime is, alas, not a novelty, there is no tv fame to be gained by railing about the violence. (Likewise, "Palestinian" attacks on Jews in Israel usually are ignored by the UN and EU and misreported in the media, but let an Israeli act against a "Palestinian," then the world takes umbrage.)

I don't see the trio of mouths taking to their soap boxes when a homosexual is abused, nor do I see Jackson and Sharpton standing on courthouse steps in support of illegal - let's not play semantic games and call them "undocumented" - aliens.

Not enough tv cameras around to tempt they preachers. (Obama can get the cameras on a whim; the selectively used perks of the office.)

FOR THE RECORD, I think Cassius Clay/Mohammed Ali still is the greatest boxer of modern times. Class act.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


If the mountain .    .


I have been trying, unsuccessfully, for some time to buy netTALK's DUO WiFi VoIP adapter via the company's online order form.

I tried a number of different ways to contact Customer Support - phone, web mail, trouble ticket, Chat - all to no avail.

It turns out that netTALK's operation in Miami Gardens, FL, is just a little more than 10 miles from my home in Hollywood FL. It's probably closer as that proverbial crow flies, but my Hyundai is neither a crow nor a helicopter.

Into the flivver, turn on the GPS (to supplement my written directions), and off to the netTALK "mountain."

The netTALK-in-Florida operation is bare bones; absolutely nothing fancy.

netTALK's Florida Operation

I was greeted, after ringing the doorbell (Windsor chimes if anyone cares) by a businesslike woman who challenged me, albeit politely, with "What do you want?"

I need to see someone in Marketing or Customer Service.

With that I was ushered inside and the Keeper of the Door went off in search of a customer support person. What seemed like a l_o_n_g few minutes later a fellow came around the corner and introduced himself as Customer Service. (I never did get the guy's name; in keeping with the barebones operation he lacked a business card.)

I handed him a written history of my attempts to buy netTALK's DUO WiFi.

Mr. Customer Service conceded there have been some communications hiccups lately, adding that a glitch between Discover and netTALK had prevented me from completing my order on line. He said I was not the only one who had problems using a Discover card for a netTALK transaction.

He took the card information to the order entry person who tried to enter the order using the Discover information; she had no better luck than this scrivener.

Interestingly enough, the card works fine with other vendors.

In the end, I bought the DUO WiFi with a different card (since this no longer was an "over-the-Internet" purchase and I had slightly fewer security concerns) and now I await its arrival in two or three days. (Apparently the warehouse and the building I visited are two separate locations.)

All my exchanges with netTALK's Technical Support folks, save for the last when I asked them to forward a message to Customer Support - I guess Customer Support hides from them, too - and my face-to-face with Mr. Customer Support today makes me feel better about the company and the product.

It is the only affordable VoIP option - and as far as I know the only WiFi option - that allows me to use all three of the home phones: two Uniden cordless (base and extension) and one corded phone. Since the VoIP adapter is wireless, the modem and router can stay in the home office along with the wireless extension, the wireless base can remain in the kitchen, and the corded phone can, connected to the WiFi device, stay in the bedroom. I'll have to forego connection to the telco, but I have a cell phone available if the power goes off (rare, Florida Power & Light is really pretty good) or if the ISP hiccups (as it sometimes does then it rains cats, dogs, and small elephants here in otherwise sunny South Florida.

One other benefit of my trip to the "mountain": I collected email addresses of the company's top executives as well as It's nice to know you can contact people who (ought to) care.

Will it work as I intend? Stay tuned.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Business not wanted

Technical support is great,
Customer support is not


It's a funny thing: a company with which I want to do business has an excellent and responsive technical support group.

But its Customer Service group must be non-existent.

The company is netTALK, located "down the street" from my address. It markets a product called the DUO VoIP device.

I'm interested in, and have "bugged" netTALK's tech support folks about the company's netTALK DUO WiFi. All my questions, submitted via email, were answered in good time.

But I can't seem to order the product.

The netTALK equipment seems to be the most economical device to do what I want done: a wireless network that includes

  1. Modem and wireless router
  2. Wireless VoIP adapter
  3. Corded (POTS) phone connected by wire to the adapter (#2)
  4. Cordless base unit (in kitchen)
  5. Cordless extension in the home office

The problem

Ordering the DUO WiFi VoIP adapter on line (online? on-line?) requires a credit card. I have one I use for on line purposes.

When I tried to use it with netTALK, the vendor's computer kept telling me the address for the card and the billing address I entered were at odds.

I tried a couple of times then gave up.

I tried again the following day. Same results, same message. I sent an email to netTALK Customer Support. So far, no answer.

I tried calling netTALK's number - the Live Chat was off line at the time.

I got the usual recorded Push this button for … The button for Customer Service routed me to an announcement to try Live Chat.

The following (third) day Live Chat showed it was on line. I tried it. After 3 minutes I gave up and sent a second email to Customer Support. Still no answer.

MEANWHILE, I ordered a product from a different merchant using the same card; that purchase went through without a problem. The suggestion now is that netTALK's computer hiccupped - repeatedly. (Is it just me or are all prospective customers blocked from buying?)

netTALK brags about its TECHNICAL SUPPORT with numerous customer testimonials, and that's encouraging. But if I can't get CUSTOMER support's attention, how can I order the VoIP adapter in the first place?

Customer support in general - not just netTALK, but many other organizations as well - seems almost non-existent. If I was trying to sell product, believe me, I would make it VERY easy for a person to contact customer service, and I would make certain that Customer Service provided service.

Maybe netTALK's building "down the road" is just a façade; the tech support folks live elsewhere.

Funny way to run a business.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sailors attacked in Istanbul

Where were Turkish cops?
Anchor at safer ports of call


Take your choice of Web sites that recorded America's - and Turkey's - loss of face.

    Newsbusters Nets Ignore Far-Left Agenda of 'Fringe' Mob's Attack on U.S. Sailors in Turkey -

    Washington Post In new video, U.S. sailors attacked in Istanbul by Turkish mob

    CNN U.S. sailors attacked in Turkey, have bags placed over heads

    Fox News US Navy sailors harassed, assaulted in Turkey

    Daily Mail (UK) 'Yankee, go home!': Moment US sailors were attacked by angry mob of Turkish nationalists who pelted them with rocks and put white bags on their heads in Istanbul

    Arutz 7Turkish Mob Attacks US Sailors

This wasn't a "flash mob" that just gathered at a moment's notice.


    a)   Where were the Turkish police?

    b)   Where was the U.S. Navy's Shore Patrol?

Given the nature of Muslim controlled countries, isn't an attack such as occurred in Istanbul to be expected and if it is to be expected, why did Turkey allow it to happen? (The only thing the Shore Patrol might have been able to do was show presence and call for civilian authorities.)

The USS Ross (DDG-71) is not a small "boat" that would go unnoticed.

USS Momsen, DDG-92
Similar to USS Ross, DDG-71

Do we REALLY need Turkish ports of call?

Istanbul may have been, at one time, a desirable port of call for U.S. interests. But since the rise in power of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the country has turned from a Western-oriented semi-democracy to a pro-Islamist near dictatorial state.

There are many other port-of-call options around the Mediterranean and Black Sea ports that would welcome U.S. sailors (and their money).

Mediterranean and Black Sea ports

Greece, given its relationship with Turkey, probably would be delighted to have a Ross-class ship dock at one of its ports. A US flag flying in Odessa's port - is it a Ukrainian or Russian port today? - might be problematic, but calling at Israel's Haifa would put the sailors at a friendly port. Egypt's Alexandria might be similar to Istanbul except that I suspect the Egyptian government would not tolerate an attack on American sailors as Erdogan and friends permitted.


A bit of trivia. The USS Momsen (pictured above) is named for Vice Adm. Charles Bowers "Swede" Momsen, the inventor of the Momsen Lung, a breathing device that allowed submariners to escape their boats when surfacing was impossible.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Random Thoughts

Of warranties
& global warming


We recently bought two things for the kitchen:

    1. A Samsung side-by-side refrigerator from BrandsMart

    2. A made-in-China no name coffee urn from Wayfair, a Walmart vendor

The refrigerator cost substantially more than the coffee urn - total price of the latter, including shipping, was just a tad more than $20.

The fridge has an icemaker that is supposed to dispense ice via the freezer-side door.

It failed to dispense ice.

I contacted BrandsMart via its web site and laid out the problem and solicited a call from tech support to set up a visit.

No response.

I contacted BrandsMart Customer Service via telephone. The Customer Service Representative (CSR) told me she could not enter my complaint into the computer since it was "being updated" - in the middle of the business day.

I asked her to take down my information and to enter it into the computer when the "updating" was completed. She assured me she would do this.

Since then, no response.

I tried again via the BrandsMart web page.

No response.

For the record, we have a three-year warranty on the box. Of course if BrandsMart won't honor a warranty within 30 days of purchase . . .

ON THE OTHER HAND when the coffee urn broke on first use, I called the number listed on the "DON'T RETURN TO STORE" card that came with the coffee urn, the one that clearly states on the reverse
For repair or replacement contact Customer Service
I was told to contact the retailer.

Is the retailer Walmart? It advertised the product on its web page and in smaller print said it was sold by Wayfair, or was the retailer Wayfair?

I had an email address for Wayfair so I started there.

I wrote an email setting forth my complaint and what I wanted from Wayfair.

Within short order I received an email from Julia J. (for) Wayfair on Walmart Marketplace telling me that she would take care of the matter and issue a refund for the purchase price and shipping. Walmart advised us this morning that our account had been credited for the full amount.

Will I buy from Wayfair in the future? If it has something I want at a decent price and the product is not made in China, the answer is "very likely." Based largely on Julia J. of Wayfair on Walmart Marketplace handling of my complaint.

Will I buy again from BrandsMart?

Maybe. Reluctantly. But only products that are warranted by the manufacturer.. As far as I am concerned, a BrandsMart guarantee is of no value.

Incidentally, I read the manufacturer's troubleshooting guide and fixed the problem myself. That does NOT forgive BrandsMart customer treatment.


There are those who contend that the earth warms up and cools down in cycles. I'm inclined to agree with that contention. Likewise El Nino and La Nina come in cycles.

As I look at the temperatures for November 12, 2014, I see that many places are unseasonably cold.

Butte and Livingston, Montana, have, as this is keyed, a temperature of 15 BELOW zero. Gillette, Wyoming, where I once lived, has a balmy minus 4, while Casper, in the center of the state, is a chilly minus 17, colder by 2 degrees than Butte and Livingston across Wyoming's northern border. Ely, Nevada, another place I once hung my hat, has an almost summerlike temperature of 16 ABOVE.

The Jaycees of Ely, when I lived there, used to string holiday lights in early November, well before Thanksgiving, because it simply was too cold to install decorations after Turkey Day. For the Jaycees' sake, I hope they got the decorations in place before Halloween.

If this is "global warming," I'd hate to think about "global cooling."

Incidentally, and I DO enjoy "rubbing it in," the low temperature outside my door today was 65 while the anticipated high for November 12, 2014 is 83; not a bad day at the beach in Hollywood - Florida, that is.

Al Gore may be right, but it's hard to agree with him when I know my friends and acquaintances in the north (that means any state north of Florida's borders with Alabama and Georgia) are shivering or huddling close to the Franklin stove.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Made in China

One cup coffee maker
With 30-cup capacity


Our aging West Bend 36-cup coffee maker that we used as a hot water urn finally gave out.

The Spouse went on-line and found a 30-cup replacement unit apparently is

  * Imported by Buffalo Tools for its AmeriHome brand

  * Sold by Wayfair

  * Ordered via Walmart

The Spouse made the selection based solely on price - it was cheap.

It turns out that the 30-cup coffee maker was able to produce only one-cup.

After the first cup, the spigot handle broke and no more water could be released. I suppose that's better than having the spigot stuck OPEN, dumping 85o F water on my feet and the floor.

Broken spigot handle - failed after one use

A coffee urn has a hard life at our home. It sometimes runs 72 hours at a stretch.

The made-in-America West Bend not only survived the extended use, but was quiet about it. The replacement made-in-China unit not only failed at first use, but it also was noisy. The Spouse likes quiet.

An equivalent capacity West Bend unit costs roughly $12-$15 more than the Chinese urn. Target is listing a West Bend 30-Cup Polished Aluminum Urn - 58030 for $32 plus tax but with free shipping. Walmart is advertising the same unit, sold by one of its partners, for $43.30 plus tax and plus shipping. A West Bend 42-Cup Polished Aluminum Urn - 58002 at Target is $46 plus tax.

Somewhere along the line the made-in-China urn allegedly went through "QC" - Quality Control - there's a sticker on the bottom of the unit that says so.

What the bottom of the unit omits are

  * Name of manufacturer

  * Name of importer

  *  Underwriters Laboratories (UL) approval

Underside of failed urn

Back in the day, Japanese products had the same reputation that Chinese products have today - shoddy workmanship using shoddy parts to sell cheap and still make a good markup for the owners.

In 1970 I bought, for a $125 advance from my employer, a Honeywell Pentax H3v 35mm SLR. The camera was manufactured in Japan and imported by Honeywell. Because Honeywell's association was advertised, Honeywell inspected each Asahi Pentax camera before it was released to the retail market. The bare-bones camera served me well for many years; I gave it to a friend who used it for years than gave it to his son-in-law. No problems were ever encountered with the camera. (I later [c 1972] bought a brass Canon F-1 - with Speed Finder - and a used Canon FtB, both of which served me well until I reluctantly went digital due to the cost and environmental impact of buying and processing film.)

This is NOT to say that everything that comes from Japan today has the QC of my cameras, just as there are made-in-America products that are less than they could/should be (auto recalls for example), but China's reputation is well-deserved: dry wall, tires, and toys to name just three imports.

The next coffee urn we buy will be a West Bend; it's one of very few brands still made in the USA. Others include Colony Coffee Urn, and at least some Focus Regalware urns.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Of products
& warranties


We recently acquired some new "things," including a dish washer, a refrigerator, and a coffee urn.

The dishwasher is pretty simple and carries a lot of brand labels. It was installed by a guy who new his business and made sure everything worked before he asked me to sign off on the installation.

The fridge, a huge Samsung side-by-side that looks impressive - icemaker and water through-the-door distribution, yah-dah, yah-dah. It's bigger than the old unit, but, frankly, I don't think it's any easier to access "stuff" inside. I want to assume the box was made in Japan or in the US for a Japanese company, but I suspect most of the box came from China.

The coffee urn, made in China - only West Bend is made in the USA - replaced a West Bend that served us well for about 4 years. The new, cheaper than West Bend, urn was used for one - ONE - cup of coffee before it broke.

Of the three things, only one - the dishwasher - has served us well, although to be fair it's only used once-a-week or when we have company.

The coffee urn will go back Monday.

But the fridge . . . that's another story.

My wife and son bought the box from BrandsMart. It turns out that it is BrandsMart not, as I mistakenly thought, BrandSmart. The wife also bought a 3-year extended warranty.

When the box was first installed everything seemed to work OK.

Then the icemaker stopped making ice. This was discovered when the Spouse burned her hand I wanted to put ice on the burn.

SO, I dug out the warranty information and, since I am a Web-junky, I used the Web to contact BrandsMart to complain and ask to have a tech call me to set up an appointment.

No response.

Although I loathe the telephone, I called the BrandsMart warranty number. A woman answered and when I told her I needed tech support she informed me the computer was being updated.

Updated in the middle of a normal workday? Incredible. Unbelievable.

I insisted that the woman take down my information with pencil - maybe crayon - and paper and then, when the software was updated, transfer the information into the database. I several times asked if the Customer Service Representative "got" the information and the response always was "Yes."

And the response was: Silence. No calls from tech support to set a time to fix the problem.

I went back and read the box's troubleshooting guide and thought I found - and fixed - the problem.

Tried the ice maker. No change - no ice.

Waited an hour and tried again. No change - no ice.

Once again to BrandsMart's Web site and once again I defined my problem and what I did to resolve it, along with the notation that the ice maker STILL was not producing ice - neither chips nor cubes. Hit "Send" and continued waiting.

Three days later I STILL am waiting to hear from BrandsMart.

Mind, the box is less than a month out of the box. We are NOT talking about the end of the three-year extended contract so there is no question that BrandsMart is trying to stretch out the problem until the warranty expires.

AS IT HAPPENS, what I did to the ice maker eventually fixed the problem and I was - and still am - waiting for a call from BrandsMart to tell them to cancel my three requests for technical support.

I am, however, curious to know why BrandsMart sells a product with a guarantee it apparently has no intention of honoring. The warranty is very clear that it is with BrandsMart and NOT with Samsung. Perhaps BrandsMart is the "China" of warranties - looks good but has no value.

Extended warranty or not, if we have any more problems with the Samsung box I will contact BrandsMart and cc Samsung so at least the company that brands the box will know that it's vendor's warranties are not worth the paper on which they are printed.

What's happened to American pride? Does anyone take pride in their work any more? Does anyone even CARE any more? Based on the inaction of BrandsMart and the Made-in_China coffee urn, I guess the answer is a resounding "No, no one cares."

What did I expect from the importer of the Chinese urn? QUALITY CONTROL, sampling of incoming product. Is my defective urn one out of 10? One out of 100? One out of 1,000? My guess is that the importer has no clue and probably doesn't care - it's probably cheaper to refund a customer's purchase price that it is to do any QC on Chinese products.

Which is why we will order a new West Bend urn tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Cutting the cord

Trying to connect
On the VoIP line


It's been awhile since I first used a telephone. Phone booths, when not in use by Superman as a dressing room or Dr. Who as a pre-Star Trek transporter, used to allow me to make a call for a dime.

But I've "kept up." I reluctantly gave up - there was no choice - classy phone numbers that included words - Pennsylvania 6-1000 (PA6-1000), Cherry 9-1674 (CH9-1674), etc. At one point in my brief military career, I used a "plug board" - think of the great Lily Tomlin's Ernestine and you will see her with a plug board. Now I have, in addition to copper (landline), a cellular phone - just a "dumb" one, but mobile none-the-less.

Over the course of my tech pubs career, I documented PBXs for the Japanese (OKI) and the Israelis (Tadiran).

But "Voice over Internet Protocol," a/k/a VoIP, has been avoided.

CAVEAT: In reviewing customer comments on the MagicJack/Sentiment/Cons, at least one customer complained that the telco providing internet connectivity cut off internet access when the customer canceled the telephone service. It might be a good idea to either talk to the phone service provider BEFORE cancelling landline service or to have an alternate internet service provider (ISP) in place before cancelling the landline.

VoIP has its problems, especially if you need emergency services "stat" - right now! Until recently, there was no way for emergency services to locate a VoIP caller; it still can't be accomplished in many communities.

On top of the 9-1-1 problem, when the AC is interrupted, VoIP service in interrupted - unless the user has an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) providing backup power to a modem/router and the VoIP adapter..

But, since almost everyone now is chained to someplace with a cell/mobile phone, maybe the absence of a landline can be tolerated.

There are a couple of remaining problems.

Sometimes cell reception is "if'fy."

Worse, my wife prefers to use the cordless handsets or even the corded phone's handset, to the tiny cell phone. Gone are the days when a mobile phone either had a telephone handset attached or looked like a military PRC-6.

Still, the monthly bills seem to be inching up, cent by cent. It's a double hit. As the telco raises its rates, the tax bite also climbs. What started off as a reasonable rate for the time has now inched up sufficiently that we are considering VoIP.

We already have Internet connectivity (obviously) and daily overseas calls are via Skype - great when it works from point-to-point (meaning that all problems encountered could be the result of an ISP at either end, or the WWW, or Skype. There is an alternative - TinyChat, similar to Skype but accommodating many more participants for free at one time. It is a little less "user friendly" than Skype so computerphobes won't use it.)

There are several "click-n-go" VoIP systems out there. I've been looking at five:

  1. Axvoice

  2. BasicTalk by Vonage

  3. MagicJack

  4. netTALK

  5. VOIPo

My current phone population consists of:

  • Cordless base station

  • Cordless extension

  • POTS (corded) station

The POTS (Plain Ol' Telephone System) station is the odd-man-out, so to speak.

Each product has its pros and each has its cons.

Axvoice This company has several plans. All start off with a $20 initial fee to ship the free VoIP adapter, but then the annual fee kicks in. For the Axvoice basic plan, the user pays $118/year; this includes an $18 "911" levy. The company's world plan, which includes international long distance to select phones, comes in at $218/year. For most destinations - including the one we call most often, that is for landline (corded phones) only; mobile/cell phones are not included. Number porting is free. The service currently works only with wireless phones; corded phones are not supported, nor is there a WiFi option currently offered.

BasicTalk One of the two well-advertised companies, BasicTalk is $10/month ($120/year) plus taxes and is paid monthly by credit card. According to BasicTalk tech support, the equipment works with both corded and wireless phones. However, there is one caveat: The telco line (the wire from AT&T, Verizon, etc.) must be disconnected if BasicTalk is to work with a corded phone. If DSL is the connection to the Internet, then the options are:
(a) toss out the corded phone or
(b) dump DSL and get Internet via cable; wireless (dish) Internet service is not recommended.
If your home setup is similar to mine, the modem and router are on one side of the house and the corded phone is on the other. Number porting is free.

I thought BasicTalk had a WiFi version similar to netTALK; BasicTalk support reports that it does NOT have a WiFi option.

netTALK There are two - actually 3, but two are almost twins - versions available: Duo WiFi and Duo II.

According to netTALK tech support, Duo WiFi solves the corded phone issue (see BasicTalk, ibid.) by allowing the user to put the WiFi adapter wherever convenient; in my case, next to the corded phone. My TP-Link router reaches all corners of the relatively compact residence. Since the corded phone is plugged into the adapter, not the phone line, there is no problem with keeping DSL. netTALK Duo WiFi has the second highest up-front cost of $65, but that includes one year of service ($30 for the least expensive plan). By comparison, Duo II is $35 for the equipment and first year, with three months free, then $30/year thereafter. Number porting is free.

netTALK won't let me automatically route my international long distance calls via Telna, my LD service. Now, with AT&T and Verizon, when I dial 011 (the international gateway code), AT&T/Verizon routes the call directly to Telna. Convenient; out of sight, out of mind. The cells, with free long distance in the U.S. and Canada are programmed to dial Telna's toll number, pause, then dial the destination number. Worst case, with netTALK, I will program Telna's toll number into the handsets and wait for Telna's prompt, then manually dial the destination number. (For all that, netTALK's international rates are competitive.)

MagicJack probably has been around the longest in the residential market. While it seems to be the least expensive option, it has it's "got-cha's."

MagicJack will port (transfer) a current number for a fee: $20 the first year and then $10 every year thereafter. That's on top of its $35 annual fee. That seems to me unreasonable since a "Number Portability Fee" (tax) is included in my monthly phone bill. Moreover, why an annual porting fee - it is a one-time process? It "does not compute."

MagicJack connects directly to a computer, modem, or router; as with all but netTALK, there currently is no WiFi option.

MagicJack is not without its detractors. (None of the VoIP candidates are "complaint free.") WikiBooks MagicJack/Sentiment/Cons lists a litany of woes.

VoIPO At an initial fee $150, VoIPO has the highest up-front costs and the second highest ($150) annual cost, but it does offer 60 minutes-a-month free international calling … but, like netTALK, calls to most mobile phones are excluded from the free minutes.

VoIPO tells me I can connect the corded phone to the adapter, but the phone must be within cable distance to the modem and router; there currently is no WiFi option. I suspect that, as with BasicTalk, I must either forego the corded phone or switch to a cable ISP. As with netTALK, Telna is not a (direct) option.

There are a number of other VoIP options, but almost all have higher initial or operating costs than the ones I've researched in some depth.

Is it worth giving up your corded phone?

Two things to consider:

  1. What will you do in the power is off and there is an emergency? The corded phone will work, but so will a charged cell phone - assuming your area has good reception.
  2. Do the math (and don't forget taxes and 911 charges). How much does the landline cost per year, without long distance. (You always can get a long distance carrier such as Telna to lower your long distance charges.)

We did the math. Our cell phone reception is reliable.

One extra item to consider, but this has only peripheral interest to VoIP: a small Uninterruptable Power Supply, a/k/a UPS. Affordable ones won't keep you talking for more than a few minutes, BUT they help protect the connected equipment - computer, modem, router, VoIP adapter - that is plugged into them from power dips and spikes; very little offers 100% protection from lightening strikes. Let calls to the VoIP system go to the provided voice mail and get them when power is restored.