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Posts tagged ‘conspiracy’

Nothing To See Here, or Your Tax Dollars At Work

With all the hoo-haw about body scanners and overly personal airport searches, the Transportation Security Administration has been in the news quite a bit lately. Formed knee-jerk style in the aftermath of 9-11, the TSA is responsible for maintaining security on all forms of public transit in America – although nowhere are they as visible … or reviled … as in the departure terminal at your local airport.

Frankly, I don’t understand what the big deal is – you pass through a scanner that has no camera and no way for the operator to connect the image on the screen to the person being scanned, and you get cleared with no one having to touch you. Seems like a win-win to me, but like everything in our post-9-11 world, it needs a little tweaking.

There are protests and boycotts and petitions going around in an attempt to do something … anything … to improve the system, but I prefer my favorite weapon in such times. I therefore bring you an advance look at the 2010 Girls of the TSA calendar …

I’m sure that’s got your junk tingling … either that, or you’re standing too close to the scanner again. This particular meme has been rolling around the internet in email form for the last few days, and I figured it was time it made it into the blogosphere – props to the guy … and girl … who made it happen.

Your Own Personal Katrina

Has it really been five years since Hurricane Katrina tried to wipe New Orleans off the map? Seems like just the other day that the opposition party was berating the President over his slow response to a disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Or perhaps I’m confusing it with … just the other day, when the opposition party was once again berating the President over his slow response to a disaster in the Gulf of Mexico …

In the aftermath of Katrina, as many residents of the Gulf Coast struggled to survive – and some failed – the federal government came under a lot of criticism for not being better prepared for such a disaster, and for not responding faster once the magnitude of the disaster was clear. After a few days of inactivity and speeches (including the infamous “Brownie, You’re Doing A Heck Of A Job” debacle), the National Guard arrived with food and water and picked up the slack of rescue and relocation. But the damage was done in the perception of the public.

Five years later, disaster has returned to the shores of Louisiana – only this time, it’s strictly man-made. On the night of April 20, the offshore drilling platform DEEPWATER HORIZON exploded, killing eleven crew members. Two days later, the platform sank 50 miles offshore, and shortly thereafter the first oil was found leaking from the cracked drill rig. Blowout preventers should have sealed the well but didn’t, and thousands of gallons of oil were spewing out of the damaged wellhead a mile underwater. An ecological disaster of unmatched proportion was developing, and all eyes turned to the government to evaluate their response.

Give the Obama administration credit – they learned from the barbecuing of their predecessors that perceptions count. From the very beginning, there were briefings and news conferences and a steady stream of Administration representatives heading into the region – they even established their own web site. Like the Katrina disaster, there was a lot of talk of who was to blame and how to best investigate the disaster. But once again, the federal government is showing that while they might be great at making speechs or holding hearings, they suck at action. They talk about holding BP responsible, but where’s the army of people hired to clean the beaches – hell, it’s not like there isn’t anyone unemployed in the region. Where’s the Coast Guard commandeering a fleet of boats to lay boom around the sensitive wetlands and harbors? Where’s the action?

It’s clear that this administration doesn’t understand deepsea oil drilling any more than the last understood the engineering challenges of building a hurricane-proof levee. And frankly, I don’t expect them to know everything about the topic – that’s why you bring in experts to help you craft the proper oversight. But all of that is a discussion for another day. What needs to happen now, as we enter the sixth week of the disaster, is action – positive action to mitigate damage.

There’s a lesson in this for the politicians who would love to use it to make political points, just as there was a lesson in Katrina. That lesson is this: leading the country is hard. Circumstances will jump up periodically and kick you square in the crotch. Whether 9-11, Katrina, Haiti or DEEPWATER HORIZON, the pain will drive you right to your knees. People will forgive that reaction, but it’s what happens next that matters – how do you respond to the pain to resolve the situation. That’s what we’re waiting to see.

Just Chill, Baby …

Never thought I’d live to see the day when Jon Stewart and I’d see completely eye-to-eye on anything, but here it is …. his hilarious take on the whole Apple iPhone/Gizmodo/Drunk-In-A-Biergarden thing …

I almost peed myself I was laughing so hard.

Whaddya Mean I Can’t Have A Trenta Pike With Room?

I’m not going to lie to you – my daily existence depends on coffee. Remember that old Monsanto commercial tag line – “Without chemicals, life itself would be impossible”? That’s my morning in a nutshell. Ants leave a chemical trail to follow … my trail is defined by the location of the nearest Starbucks, Coffee Bean or McDonalds to insure ready access to a refill.

Considering what you now know, you can imagine my joy when I learned Starbucks was going to introduce a new size of coffee even larger than a Venti – until I learned the Trenta size was only for iced drinks!!!

The new 31-ounce Trenta is being tested in Phoenix and Tampa. The iced coffee version sells for $3.30 and the iced tea for $2.60.

Starbucks says unsweetened Trenta drinks have fewer than 5 calories, while sweetened versions have less than 200 calories.

There was no word of the potential impact on nerves.

Dammit all, I don’t need some watered down ice-with-a-hint-of-coffee crap, I need my medicine! This has me more irritated than when they pulled my chain for April Fools

The Joke’s On Them

Shh … here that sound? It’s Johnny Carson spinning in his grave …

It’s hard to believe, but it was not that long ago that NBC was the leading broadcast television network in America.  My, how the peacock has moulted.  Nowhere is the lack of vision at the network so obvious as in their handling of Jay Leno and the iconic late night vehicle “The Tonight Show”.  It’s quickly turning into a classic example of how not to handle the succession of leadership – or leadership in general.

Throughout its long history, the Tonight show has seen old hosts go and new ones come.  Most people remember the classy way Johnny Carson departed nearly 20 years ago to make way for Jay Leno, and assumed there’d be something similar when Leno’s time came.  Behind the scenes, things were not nearly so smooth.  When Carson left, NBC has more hosts than timeslots, and when Leno was given the Tonight Show, David Letterman (who at that time followed Carson) bolted to CBS and direct competition with Leno.  No doubt fearing a similarly messy future, NBC promised Letterman’s replacement – Conan O’Brian – the Tonight Show slot once Leno retired.  They even went so far as to identify the point five years in the future when that transition would occur.  Apparently, thought, Leno either didn’t get the memo or simply didn’t sign off on it.

Last fall, as the five-year window approached closure, Leno began to grumble about leaving, indicating that he was being pushed out the door rather than retiring.  He even intimated that once he was off “Tonight”, he might bolt to another network and continue his late-night career.  Suddenly, NBC once again found themselves with an embarassment of riches.

We all know the old fable of the dog with two bones, and what happened to him.  Actually, I guess everyone knows the story other than NBC’s Jeff Zucker, who wanted to keep both bones.  His genius move?  Scrap the expensive, unwatchable 10PM lineup and give the slot to Jay!  It’s perfect, he must have thought – we get old Tonight Show followed by the new Tonight Show!

Well, that worked about as well as you might imagine.  Leno bombed at 10, angering affiliates who lost their vital viewer lead-in to their local newscasts.  Conan, meanwhile, who was a tenuous fit at best for the Tonight Show, lost all the Leno fans who simply got to sleep a little earlier now.

For those wondering how long the experiment – and the pain – would last, the answer is apparently February.  Multiple sources are reporting that Leno’s show has been cancelled and will be off the schedule once NBC ends their coverage of the Winter Olympics.  O’Brian, meanwhile, was asked to accept having the Tonight show pushed back a half-hour to make room for a new half-hour Leno show at 11:30 and suggested NBC go pound sand, claiming he was “defending the franchise”.  NBC looks like fools, Leno looks like an ungrateful bully, and O’Brian looks for a new network.

What amazes me is that whoever owns NBC/Universal/General Electric/Comcast, or whatever they are, will allow the good soldier O’Brian to be shown the door while Zucker and Leno both keep their jobs.

More to follow, no doubt …

Well, That Didn’t Work … Or Did It?

He’s done it again. Paul Watson, the Sea Shephard Conservation Society’s human publicity machine, is in the news once again – and this time, it’s not just a stunt to hype his “Whale Wars” series … I think.

Watson, a co-founder of Greenpeace who left the group decades ago in a beef over tactics (his were a little too intense) has led his team through Antarctic wars in defense of the whales that populate the region. Japanese whalers are the enemy, and Watson is willing to put his team literally between the whalers and prey in an attempt to defeat them, one whale at a time.

Victim or martyr?

Victim or martyr?

Watson is a media savvy sort, knowing the impact of a good image. He’s quick to court favor with press and celebrity, and several big-name actors and musicians have publicly supported his efforts. For the current campaign, the Society’s primary vessel, the STEVE IRVIN (a nod to support of their efforts by Australians) was to be joined by two new boats, each named for main benefactors to the Society’s efforts – the BOB BARKER, and the ADY GIL. The GIL, in particular, was to be an interesting addition. Under a previous name, EARTHRACE, the sleek trimaran acer set a new circumnavigation speed record in 2008, knocking nearly two weeks off the old mark – it even merited a discussion over in the Marlin Club. Watson’s plan was to use the IRWIN and BARKER to track the whalers, then set the much faster GIL out to pester and slow them down.

Unfortunately, that plan took a disastrous turn for the worse on Tuesday, when the GIL was dogging the whaler SHONAN MARU NO 2.  In a collision between the two vessels – totally unprovoked, in the eyes of the Society – the bow was torn off the GIL leaving it disabled and seriously damaged.  Of course, the trusty “Whale Wars” crew was right their to capture all the action, so you can expect a big ratings bounce.

As you might imagine, the press releases are flying.  The Society is blaming the whalers, while the whalers blame Watson’s warriors.  The New Zealand government has backed the whalers, making them a target for the Society as well, since 4 of the GIL’s 6 crewmembers were Kiwis.  There are accusations of oil spills and conspiracies to murder whalers, and photoshopped pictures on both sides.  Grab your popcorn – this is gonna be good.

I respect Paul Watson’s dedication to the environment and his concern for the planet and its species – after all, this is a billfish conservation website you’re perusing right now.  I even respect his willingness to take action where others sit on the sidelines.  But my fear is that much like an an green Pied Piper, he’s leading a band of college kids and societal dropouts to their doom.  He gets everyone fired up to put themselves on the firing line, but when someone’s live is really on the line it’s not his – he’s hundreds of miles away on the mother ship.  One of these days, he’s gonna get one of those kids killed – and much like the sinking of the ADY GIL, will reap maximum publicity out of the tragedy.

As it is, they’ve already raised a million dollars for a replacement vessel …

No Big Deal Or Really Big Deal?

Ever notice how history has a way of making people look silly? Like all those coaches, for example, who proclaim their love for their current “perfect job” only to reverse course on a dime when the money is waved under their noses? Facts and data can show things that mere words just can’t support.

Earlier this week, Northrop Grumman announced that they were moving their corporate headquarters from LA to Washington DC, ostensibly to better support their primary customer, the US Government. As you might imagine, this was met with consternation and concern by LA business leaders, but NG talking heads quickly threw cold water on any economic worries.

“We don’t really expect it to have a big impact” on South Bay operations, Northrop spokesman Dan McClain said. “The objective is for us to more effectively engage with customers, protect the jobs we have and grow new jobs. So, our goal is for this to be a positive for California.”

Now, Northrop was founded at Hawthorne Airport back in the ’30s, and has a huge footprint in SoCal with major facilites in both El Segundo and Redondo Beach.  It’s possible that this move will have no impact on a company so closely tied to the region.  But, as they say, let me tell you a tale about another little company …

In 1917, a young engineer in Seattle changed the name of his year-old company to one that would include his last name:  The Boeing Airplane Company.  Boeing grew in the northwest and, much like Northrop in SoCal, developed a significant business base around Puget Sound.  Major aircraft production lines were established in Everett and Renton – in fact, every commercial airliner built by Boeing over the years has rolled out of one of those plants.  But Boeing also felt a need to have a less regional presence, and in 2000 decided to move their corporate headquarters to Chicago.  Again, it was a significant event to the politicos of the Northwest, who had frankly taken Boeing – and the huge employment base it represented to their districts – for granted.  Even with the move, they knew Boeing would retain a large business segment in the greater Seattle area.

Fast forward a few years, and Boeing is developing the new 787 Dreamliner.  Like most large aerospace concerns, Boeing has learned that you need to spread the work around to keep people happy, and much of the 787 is being developed by foreign firms selected to ensure their countries’ desire to purchase large numbers of Dreamliners.  Even with foreign ownership, though, much of the work was being done at purpose-built facilities in South Carolina.  When the foreign firms had trouble meeting schedules, Boeing stepped in and first assisted and then supplanted the foreign companies, taking over the facilities and work.

Meanwhile,  back in Seattle, Boeing had established the final assembly line for the 787.  Sure, it would just be bolting together big pieces made elsewhere, but at least Seattle could still take credit for finishing the plane and sending it into the sky.  But a bruising strike put the program behind schedule, and politicians refused to give Boeing any kind of breaks, knowing they’d never take their business elsewhere.  Or would they.

Last year, as orders for Dreamliners skyrocketed, Boeing looked for sites to build a second 787 production line.  Washington knew every Boeing jetliner had been built in the Pacific Northwest, and was confident the new line would be built there.  But down in South Carolina, where Boeing’s new facilities included a flightline with airport access, local politicians had a full-court press in play to get that new assembly line.  Imagine the shock in Seattle when Charleston was announced as the site for the new 787 production line …

Sure, Northrop Grumman has a proud Southern California heritage, but when it comes to corporate decisions, it’s “out of sight, out of mind”.  It’s hard to close a facility when it’s within driving range of your headquarters, but not so hard when it’s all the way across the country.

NG employees, don’t say you weren’t warned …

Have Fun Flying That Desk …

Well, that didn’t take long …

While the airline and the union and the media continue to debate the actions of the pilots of Northwest Flight 188, who lost track of time for an hour and a half and missed the airport in Minneapolis last week, the FAA has stepped in and revoked their pilot’s licenses.

It’s clear from the letter sent to Captain Timothy B. Cheney and First Officer Richard I. Cole that the FAA isn’t screwing around, either …

“Not only did you not comply with … [air traffic controller] instructions, you did not even monitor the aircraft’s air-ground radios,” the letter said. “You were disengaged and impervious to the serious threat to your own safety, as well as the safety of people for whom you are responsible. This is a total dereliction and disregard for your duties.”

While a lot of new details came out in the letter, such as the location when they first lost contact with the plane (Denver, CO), the amount of time they were out of contact (91 minutes) and where they were when they finally got their act together (Eau Claire, WI), you can’t help but believe there’s still more to learn.

I still find it hard to believe that two experienced pilots would get so engrossed in a conversation about something so seemingly mundane – the new scheduling tool they inherited in the merger with Delta Airlines – that they’d flaunt company and FAA policy by whipping out their personal laptops to debate its merits. There just has to be more to this.

Ironically, had they just fallen asleep, they’d be hailed as innocent victims of a cruel and overburdened system, and be the poster children for reform – not to mention still be employed … :-)

What’s The Deal With The Hooker Dress?

You’d think if there was anyone who doesn’t need any more publicity right now it’d be ESPN’s sideline reporter Erin Andrews.  She recently learned the hard way that 1) peephole cameras really do exist and 2) if you threaten to sue every website running a video they claim is you skipping around your hotel room naked, you pretty much confirm it really is you in the video.  Live and learn, I’m sure she’s thinking.  OK, maybe not, but it doesn’t help that she’s now being dragged into a fresh controversy by choosing to attend the recent ESPY Awards in … dum DUM dum … that dress.

I’m not going to pretend that I know much about women’s fashion.  I know what I like, of course, and I know that it’s seldom what they want to wear.  But I’m the last guy you want to ask for advice on how a woman should dress.

There’s one thing I do know about women and fashion, though – that’s it’s a mortal sin to be caught wearing the same dress as someone else.  The magnitude of the crime increases as you rise in social standing, becoming felonious once you reach the celebrity ranks.  It doesn’t matter how nice the dress is, how wonderful it looks on your or how seemingly exclusive it might be.  A celebrity would rather be caught in a burlap sack than have  someone say, “Isn’t that the number I saw (fill in the blank) wearing last week?”

So I was left scratching my head when I saw the same dress popping up over and over on the red carpet in recent months (hey, it’s research, OK?).  At first, I thought I might be imagining things, but then other bloggers noticed it and began to comment as well.  It’s not so much that the same dress keeps reappearing as much as the nature of the dress itself.  How do I describe this tastefully … OK, it’s a hooker dress.

Hmm ... where have I seen that dress before?

Hmm ... where have I seen that dress before?

That's right - it was on Doutzen Kroes ...

That's right - it was on Doutzen Kroes ...

... and that chick from MTV ...

... and that chick from MTV ...

... and that other chick from MTV ...

... and that other chick from MTV ...

... and that Dancing chick ...

... and that Dancing chick ...

... and Heather Graham.  Yum.

... and Heather Graham. Finally - someone who looks like they'd actually have this in their closet. Yum ...

For the record, it’s a “Black Strapless Minidress with Suntan Inserts,” from Herve Leger Spring Collection. Retail price is $1,900, but you can get it for $1393.60 from the kids at Milk in WeHo. Of course, with the rise in relevance of people who shop and dress celebrities, maybe it’s actually the same dress, handed off from one star to another. Hate to pay that dry cleaning bill …

Oh, the decisions women have to make, and knowing there are knuckleheads like me waiting to criticize them can’t help.  All I have to do is make sure I’m zipped up … :-)

Cycling Conspiracy Theory?

Next year's TdF colors?

Next year's TdF colors?

I like that Lance Armstrong is a cycling god, but I love the fact that he’s a tech guy. As we mentioned earlier, he was one of the guys who helped introduce the new electronic age to the Tour de France, and he’s a tech junky. Don’t look for a press release or interview from Armstrong – all the good stuff comes via his Twitter page. Heck, he even tweeted the birth of his new son.

Knowing that he likes to release the best details to his Twitter followers first, everyone’s collective ears perked up when this came across the stream this morning after the day’s TdF stage was complete:

lancearmstrong: Making a very cool announcement on Thursday re: a new American partner for our team in 2010 (and beyond). Stay tuned!

Notice that Lance is making the announcement, not the Astana leadership, and it’s an American partner. Could be very interesting, particularly considering the relatively fragile condition of the Astana team right now.

Astana is a Kazakhstan-based cycling team with a checkered past. Once known as “Liberty-Seguros,” the team took on the Astana name in 2006 after Kazzakh native Alexander Vinokourov was able to secure funding from his country’s government (“Astana” is the capital of Kazakhstan). The team’s financial ties through Vino became problematic when he was banned from cycling for two years in a doping scandal following the 2007 edition of Le Tour. At about the same time, the former Team Discovery folded, leaving their management and riders in search of a new home. Out of the rubble of the two came the new Astana, featuring defending TdF champion Albert Contador as their leader.

Unfortunately, the baggage of the doping scandal under the previous regime kept Astana from riding in the 2008 Tour, providing more than enough motive for Contador and Astana to win both the Giro d’ Italia and the Vuelta a Espana. Things were rolling right along, until first Armstrong announced his intention to return to professional cycling with Astana and Vinokourov’s declaration that, as the former Astana leader, he expected to reclaim his rightful position when his ban ended in 2009. Even though Astana is poised to win Le Tour and place three riders in the top five, turmoil abounds.

So what does this all mean? To me, the sponsor is obvious – the same multi-national conglomerate that has funded the production of all those yellow armbands and other products for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. I feel quite comfortable predicting the team will be Nike-Livestrong, kitted out in black and yellow.

But what team will it be? Will Astana simply be renamed, or will Armstrong start from scratch? Does he pluck another struggling team from the ranks and, injected with all that Nike cash, turn them into a recreation of USPS/Discovery? How about High Road or Slipstream, the two American-based teams racing in this year’s Tour – does he make a deal with one of them? It should be very interesting.

This much we know – if cycling is to grow in America, Armstrong must be involved – he’s too personally invested in the success, and too closely tied to the sport in the minds of most casual fans. By forming his own team, he can ride Le Tour next year as a finale, then sit back and savor the success as Team Nike Livestrong rolls on into the future.

Stay tuned …

Thursday morning update:  They just  made the announcement – it’s “Team Radio Shack,” and it’ll be a brand new team.  OK, maybe the Nike thing seemed a little bit too easy – at least Radio Shack is Texas-based.  And the geek in me can’t wait to see the first team bike – the Trek Radio Shack TRS-80!  :-)