Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What America Needs in 2015

What do Americans need in 2015 to win?

Take New Years for instance. How did we manage to come in last on that event? Did you notice that places like New Zealand and Australia got to celebrate 2015 before we did in America? Yeah. They are shooting fireworks off the Sydney bridge and towers in Taiwan while we sit around new year's day waiting for the fun to begin!  Look, its a round planet!  Why should that side of the planet get to start the day first?
                                                          Photo: Fireworks in Sydney, Australia  2015

Obviously, we need to either move the international date line or figure out another way to lead the world! lol.

Ok, if we can't move the international date line the only chance we have of getting the jump on the new year is if Congress actually did things to HELP the economy for the millions of Americans on the bottom half of the economic ladder. Yes, they should begin to focus on everyone except the top 1%.

That plan is laid out in the second half of "Agenda for American Greatness."

China is now the second largest economy in the world - and could pass the USA economy in size by 2015. Russia under Putin has turned the clock back to the bad days of the overly militaristic bully Soviet Union. He grabbed Crimea from the Ukraine and is fomenting fighting in eastern Ukraine. He is sending military flights to break NATO borders and endanger civilian airliner flights worldwide. Europe's "austerity economics" has it sliding into zero growth and is producing riots in places like Greece.

Our own worst enemy? It is us. Well, actually it is our Congress.

For six years the GOP has backed austerity policies like Europe's. It has blocked economic actions that would have put more money in the hands of the 99% who have been left out of the economy before and after the Great Recession. They have opposed raising the minimum wage. They have opposed investing in our ancient bridges, roads and infrastructure that is over 50 years old. We have a national system of oil water and gas lines so old they collapse or blow up under peoples' homes. We have 70 year old bridges on major interstate highways that could collapse any time - costing billions in damages (not including those killed on the bridge when it collapses.) This happened as recently as Minnesota on I 35.

Agenda for American Greatness is a road map of the educational and technology investments we need to win the 21st century. Check it out. Pass it on. It's not about being Republican or Democrat or Independent. It's about making America No. 1 again.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Greece Ferry Fire Lesson _ YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN

The fire on the ferry in Europe (between Greece and Italy) is a lesson in "You are on your own" when disaster hits. Passengers said no one knocked on their door to warn them. There were no alarms. They floors got so hot it melted their shoes as they fled to the top of the ferry in a jungle atmosphere to escape the  flames.

One thing that global traveling taught me was to be creative in finding solutions to all kinds of unexpected events - it comes in handy in cases like this.  You are on a ferry (or a plane, train). Everything is cool. Suddenly smoke is blowing and no one is saying anything. Either you kick in your survival instincts, or you are toast.  In 2004 foreign tourists in Thailand suddenly saw a Tsunami wave roll across a beautiful beach without warning. If you didn't start running for the hills when the water went out, your chance of survival was dim. I saw the videos of people jumping on sinking buses in roiling waters filled with debris - death if they fell into it.

Over 400 people have been rescued from the burning ferry. Unfortunately, the passengers of AirAsia 8501 were not so lucky. Wreckage and bodies have been found six miles from where it was lost on radar. We need to know what the flight recorders say to determine whether it was an avoidable pilot error or something else. It matters because if its a mechanical issue then we know.

When a DC 10 went down in Dallas the investigation found that improper changes of the engines by the mechanics had led to the metal failure that causes an engine to break off during takeoff. They plane would have still survived except that the power was from the left engine only, and that was the engine that fell off. That lack of power led to wing slats retracting, causing the plane to roll despite the pilot's impossible task of keeping it level. It plowed into a hangar as the passengers watched on a video monitor of a camera mounted on the front of the aircraft.

Because of that discovery, all DC 10's were checked - and many had the cracks from the same flawed mechanic procedure (they were using a fork lift to put the new engine back - instead of the bolting procedure in the manual. One hit in the wrong place and it creates a crack, that leads to losing the engine).

SOLUTION: We MUST upgrade the Tracking Technology on aircraft - especially those flying over the ocean. It took 3 days to find AsiaAir 8501 - had there been survivors it is unlikely they would have lived three days waiting for search and rescue.  It should be MANDATORY for all airlines. Let your Congress rep hear from you on this - next time it might be someone in your family that they are looking for. They are still looking for MH 370 and it took two YEARS to find Airbus 447 in the Atlantic.

In the meantime, be ready to survive on your own in a tight spot...as I did in  many tight spots described in"Better Times Ahead..."
www.BetterTimesAheadAprilFool.com

Monday, December 29, 2014

AirAsia 8501 - A Series of PILOT Errors? MH 370 was Pilot Malfunction. Was This?


Although I made a career as a global business negotiator/attorney, I have held a pilot's license since I was 17 so the loss of Air Asia 8501 interests me both as someone who has flown in that part of the world in the back of the plane and as a pilot trying to figure out what caused the accident.

Unfortunately, this could be yet another case of PILOT error instead of mechanical failure.

It is still too early to know what happened but AirAsia is somewhere at the bottom of the sea.  One thing I heard today, if true, was that the craft may have been flying about 100 miles per hour too SLOW for the weather and attitude, according to someone with access to a radar report. If that is the case, it could have "stalled" like the Airbus 447 that went down in the Atlantic in 2009.

In that case an instrument iced over and the pilots had to fly on manual. Because the control stick on an Airbus is on the side of the seat next to the outer wall --unlike the Boeing where it is front and center --it would be hard for the chief pilot to know that the co-pilot had pulled it BACK, which at a slower speed causes you to stall and lose attitude. At night, they never saw the ocean coming. They were too busy to actually look at what one pilot was doing that led to the crash.

The good news is that unlike the missing MH370 that disappeared over the Indian Ocean -- at depths of 10,000 to 20,000 feet, the Java Sea is only about 150 feet deep, making it easier to pick up its emergency beacon signal.  Air Asia had been upgrading planes for real time tracking but this aircraft did not yet have it installed.  It is a matter of time before it is found.

Unlike MH370 I do not think this was pilot hyjacking, but either a mechanical malfunction or a pilot error or even a combination - if the pitot tube iced up as happened on the Airbus 447 incident over the Atlantic in 2009.

I had my own experiences with night flights over Asia and malfunctioning aircraft (in Texas) which is covered in "Better Times Ahead April Fool."

I also have direct experience with flying a small aircraft into a thunderstorm. It happened when I was about 18, a newly licensed pilot. I belonged to a flying club that owned a four passenger Mooney Super 21 like the one on the photo below:
I was waiting on my parents as a front approached the airport. I was hoping we could get off the ground soon enough to go around it. By the time they arrived and we were cleared for takeoff the clouds were over the airport. As soon as we lifted off and started climbing I knew we were in serious trouble. The wings were shaking violently. I realized that if we got any higher and went into the clouds we were done. So I stayed as low as possible - hoping not to run into any ground obstacles and called the control tower to inform that that we were coming back to land. It was dark and the plane was still shaking as we touched down.

The rain by then was falling heavily.  We taxied back to the hanger and parked the plane. The next morning the sun was out and we flew the thousand mile trip without incident (on one of those trips we were buzzed by military jets near a restricted zone but that's another story for another day). I had learned a valuable lesson - never never fly anywhere near a thunderstorm.  The big jets have radar to pick their way through a storm but even they avoid the "red" areas that indicate hail and sharp downdrafts and updrafts that can tear wings from an aircraft.

Stay tuned for updates.



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

We Will Soon Have the Medical Technology to Live 200 years - Don't eat that!

For the first time in human history, people living today could have a life expectancy of 200 years, if they do certain common sense things outlined in this video and take advantage of the technologies becoming available.

What i found fascinating is that we are reaching the point where a human brain and its memories could be uploaded to a computer and transferred to the Internet. It gives a whole new twist to the idea of "immortality" if my brain is still on the Internet 200 years from now, raising hell on Facebook. LOL. Umm. We could have the spiritual hereafter and perhaps a mortal one as well. It's not science fiction but it is science, and stem cells --and not eating yourself to death.
                         Photo: From the article on Robots in the future taking care of old people...

Think about that...!

Explore future technologies that will change our world in more details at Global American values.
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Click on this ExplainingTheFuture.com Video on Medical Advances that could result in 200 year old people in our lifetimes.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHR3dKNq4xw

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

ALL Lives Matter – Time to Start Treating Each Other with RESPECT



23 December 2014

It’s time to recognize a basic human right, a right that is also an American value—that ALL lives matter.  Not just some lives. Not just rich lives.

In America “all men are created equal” under our Constitution. That means that ALL lives matter in America, whether they happen to be Male, Female, Gay, Straight, Black, White, Hispanic,  Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Pagan or Police on the beat – ALL lives matter.

NO one deserves to be killed by unnecessary excessive police force or by wonton criminal act.  

Eric Gardner died due to a chokehold that violated department rules because he was selling cigarettes.  This should have been a fine or a ticket at most, not a violent take down requiring several officers. He wasn’t Al Capone. Then two NY police officers were assassinated by a career criminal with mental health issues who claimed he was acting in revenge, who had easy access to a gun -- thanks to the NRA.

These are only two of a series of events of recent violent confrontations between the police and the public that were not necessary and could have been avoided had we treated each other as equals and with respect.  Not every act is a felony or requires tossing American citizens on the ground.  The vast majority of our police and citizens “get it.”  It is the rotten few that don’t.

Being equal carries with it the inherent obligation of treating each other with RESPECT. This too is a basic American value.  In America we are all due equal justice and respect, regardless of our color or bank account. 

Equality and respect.  It’s a Global American value.  If we can adopt it, nothing will stop us in a world where there is too little of either virtue.

Those values smoothed my journey around America and the world, described in “Better Times Ahead April Fool”

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North Korea's Internet - 1024 Users! It's the N Korean elite

North Korea - the ENTIRE country -- has only 1024 ISP addresses. That is, a little over 1,000 of the Korean elite. We have more than that in 1 apartment building in Houston !

This guy killed is own uncle. He does have access to nukes - despite their Mickey Mouse internet. Pay attention to my Global American Values blog because they could do bat crazy stuff.

I have been in South Korea next door...its where i found cheap add-ons for international communications when the first Apple computer came out....details at:
www.BetterTimesAheadAprilFool.com

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Cuba: The End of 50 years of Isolation: Same as China?



21 December 2014
Global American Series

Cuba: The End of 50 years of Isolation: Same as China?

In 1972 President Richard Nixon went to China, which had been an isolated country that had suffered under the leadership of Chairmen Mao.  In 1982, I was one of the first negotiators sent to China by America’s Fortune 500 to try to sell pollution control technology for coal fired power plants.  When I arrived, China had nothing; it was as backwards as Cuba is today. Thirty years later when I went back China had transformed itself because of the market economy. And it still has a Communist one-party government.

When President Obama decided to end the embargo of Cuba, I look at it through the eyes of someone who saw the same thing happen in China, a country that we have traded with ever since Nixon’s historic trip—despite their involvement in the Korean war.  The Chinese in 1982 had a few cars that were 1950’s models (that is what they drove us in to see the Great Wall). In 2012 when I went back they had ten lane highways clogged with new cars and creeping traffic.  They had an Internet but I could not access Facebook or my own corporate email.  I was startled to see huge crosses on churches, many of which have been pulled down in the last couple of years.

So, when I view today’s Cuba and its leadership, I see the same system China had – one party rule and ancient cars.  I don’t expect ending the embargo will change its politics any more than trading with China has changed its politics the past thirty years. But if we can trade with Communist China as we did with the former Soviet Union and as we have done with Russia (both of whom have missiles pointed at us), then I see no reason why we should not trade with Cuba.  What’s the difference?

Opening China has exposed millions of young Chinese to the west. Many of them have come to America for education, where they have received a taste of American values and openness. Sooner or later that will have an impact on a closed political system that wants to hammer down any head that rises above the crowd, as it did when the young students in Hong Kong filled the streets demanding the right to choose their own leaders.  The Chinese government beat them down, but that desire for freedom has not gone away. Sooner or later the Chinese that have gained the comforts of material wealth will then want political freedom. Call it Maslov’s hierarchy -- or human nature.

I believe that Cubans will want the same political and economic freedoms we have once they are able to get an Internet and see how the rest of the world lives.  Fifty years of isolation has only given Castro the means to stay in power because the people know nothing else. America has always been Castro’s excuse for their rotten economy. That excuse is no longer available. Recently, they have allowed small businesses to open. Removing the embargo will encourage more Cubans to open small businesses that cater to tourists, etc.  The days of everyone working for the government is over in Cuba.

I say to the skeptics that oppose this move by President Obama that they are on the wrong side of history. Isolationism didn’t work in Cuba for over a half century. Continuing the same policies that have failed --and expecting a different result-- is the classic definition of insanity. It was time to try a new strategy: engagement with Cubans.

I don’t expect Cubans to suddenly become democrats but the real winners will be the ordinary people of Cuba. For the first time, they will be able to engage with Americans; they will be able to see more of their families that now live in the United States. They will be able to buy new parts for those 1950s cars – which could be snapped up by American collectors and replaced by newer, more fuel efficient cars. Farmers in the Midwest will now be able to sell grain to Cubans who can sell cigars and rum to Americans.  Trade lifts all boats.

We lose nothing by this change. Fidel Castro is 88 years old and not long for this world. It’s time America looked past our old conflicts and treated Cuba like Nixon treated China so we can put aside cold wars and failed policies and replace them with trade and tourism.

Michael Fjetland
Author, Better Times Ahead April Fool
including “Agenda for American Greatness

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Friday, December 19, 2014

A Nation of Cowards? Meet the New CEO of Sony Pictures: Kim Jung Un



A Nation of Cowards? Meet the New CEO of Sony Pictures: Kim Jung Un

19 December 2014
Global American Series

Have we become a nation of cowards?  This week marks the death of courage and common sense in America. Kim Jung Un, the leader of North Korea is apparently the new CEO of Sony Pictures since he wanted to bar release of “The Interview” -- and Sony complied.  It is a victory for malicious hackers who can now censor what the rest of us see, even if it is another mindless flick that uses the same “shoot ‘em up” Hollywood formula that has become stale standard movie fare.

This mess was self-inflicted. The decision by Sony to make a movie about an existing leader as an object of an assassination by American CIA operatives was beyond stupid.  Can you imagine how Russia’s President Putin would react if he were the subject?  Who in their right mind thought this was clever?  It was basically “Dumb and Dumber Go Global.”

Couple that with the fact that Sony was warned to improve its computer defenses but took no action despite countless reports of global hacks by Russians, Chinese and even North Korea.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Sony was asking for trouble.  It was poor judgment plus reckless disregard of its proprietary information that led to the exposure of social security numbers and embarrassing, private emails.  Their CEO should be fired for gross negligence as well as cowardice.

But it gets worse. When the hackers (which the U.S. thinks was North Korean but private experts believe that they had inside help from disgruntled Sony employees) demanded that the movie not be shown, and invoked “9/11” Sony caved and pulled it from theaters. Never mind that the prospect of a North Korean actually attacking a theater is about as remote as Ted Cruz becoming the King of England. 

American theater owners who were afraid to show the film – and Americans who said they would be afraid to go see it -- make me think we have become a nation of cowards who are easily intimidated by these criminals.  It will only encourage the bad guys to do it again, and demand even more. We have made ourselves an even more inviting target.

Even if Sony had chosen to release this mindless “C” movie online (which is about all they produce these days) —which would have threatened no one--it would have made the point that we will not be bullied into submission.

As for retaliation against North Korea, there are few options as they are already under sanctions. Military action would be insane since North Korean artillery could level Sourth Korea’s capital instantly. In fact, they would invite a reaction since that would prop up Kim Jung Un, whose people lack electricity and food, but would support their “dear leader” in event of a U.S. reprisal.

Sony dug itself into this hole. It will have to live with the consequences. The message to other companies is simple: Upgrade your computer security and don’t make mindless movies depicting the death of real people who can strike back. Because they will.

Next: Looking at the lifting of Cuban sanctions after 50 years….

Michael Fjetland
Author, Better Times Ahead April Fool

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Friday, December 5, 2014

How a Bad Meal Probably Saved My Life - My experience with America's Healthcare System

It all started with a bad meal in the middle of November.  That led to my girlfriend and I throwing up at the same time starting about noon on a Sunday. Because we split meals it was obvious we had the same thing. The only difference was that after a couple days she got better and I didn’t. My stomach remained swollen.

Finally, on Monday afternoon we got a referral from my general doctor (Dr. Dolle) and went to an emergency center. They looked at me and before I knew it they were taking me by ambulance to a local hospital.  It was a brand new hospital in Clear Lake with a great staff – and I spent a few days on IV while they waited for my system to “fire up” again. It didn’t.

Since I had not eaten it over a week they put me on a “TPN” which is basically food in a bag that goes into a large opening they put in my veins (called a “PIC” line). They put everything into it, including the pain meds. I felt like a dummy with a slew of tubes dripping “lipids” etc.

So at midnight nearly a week after this episode started the surgeon came in and we agreed the only thing left to do was to operate to find out the source of the blockage.  It turned out to be the right decision. The surgeon (with the cool name a TV weatherman would love to have, Dr. Fairweather) discovered that my intestines were all rolled into a ball. He had to unravel them and splice together sections. Some parts of my system wasn’t even working! Apparently, there was scar tissue from an operation I had 35 years ago after a trip to Egypt. Parts of my intestine were 7 inches wide--causing a slowdown like a 4 lane highway that suddenly narrows to 2 lanes!) It’s amazing it was working at all. 

As a result I got a whole “new” system.

Basically, I can’t be too upset about the bad food although my lousy non-ACA compliant insurance policy from United Healthcare with a $10,000 deductible made it a very expensive meal and ordeal. However, without that bad meal, I never would have known that I had a latent defect in my digestive system that could have killed me when it failed – either here in the U.S. or on a trip. I had caught it in time.

It was the first time in over 30 years I had been in a hospital. Thankfully I had a private room since there is nothing more miserable then to be miserable with someone else in the same room. The beds were brand new "Stykers" that cost something like $15,000-$20,000. They put me into a thin green gown and I froze as the temperature swung wildly from too hot to too cold (it is a new building and they are still trying to get the kinks worked out of the system.)  However, the staff were excellent and took great care of me as they worked 12 hour shifts.

It was also a stressful experience – after ten days I was lying there, wondering “if this is it” as I waited for my system to begin functioning again.

What helped make it work was something I did. I got up and walked up and down the halls for a while – that action started my insides rumbling! I can’t tell you what a relief it was when I finally had a BM (bowel movement) which graduates one from the IV to eating clear liquids (before going to soft food, etc.) I can tell you I was craving eating even red jello towards the end - anything but more IV feeding.

It proves that you just never know what is around the corner. We missed a planned 7 day cruise as a result (more money lost since we didn’t have trip insurance.)  But that was OK too. Health comes first. Without it, what do you have?

I did kick myself for not having an Obamacare policy which would have had a smaller deductible and smaller premiums.  That changed on December 1 when I became eligible for Medicare – dropping my premium costs substantially.

I remember how Dr. Fairweather would drop me every day to check on me, even if it was at 1:30 a.m. or 4 a.m. in the morning. One night at midnight we had a long political conversation – it was as if we had had a 'mind meld.' What he was saying was similar to what I had written in my book chapter “Agenda for American Greatness.”  After about 20-30 minutes he suddenly gasped, “I have to go!” and he was on to the next patient, running on less than six hours sleep. No doctor had ever spent that much time with me before.  It may never happen again.

I can’t say enough good things about the staff at the Bay Area Regional Medical center and Dr. Fairweather.  Now that I am out it is a slow recovery to keep from damaging my internals as they heal. But I can feel the progress. It comes at a good time when things are slow in my business. 

Yet I think of those not so lucky as me who get sick and do not have insurance or a doctor like Dr. Fairweather. Had I not been able to pay the substantial premiums this past year I could have ended up lying in an emergency room at Ben Taub for hours - perhaps not even surviving the ordeal.  It is too scary to even think about.

It proved to me that Obamacare was just the first necessary step in making affordable healthcare available to ALL Americans--no more rejection for pre-existing conditions, etc. Personally, I favor Medicare for all. All Europeans have better access to medical care then American citizens, especially the working poor.

Maybe it has to happen to you personally to understand its importance. Having been on the brink, I can tell you that there is nothing more valuable than access to quality healthcare. I would have been turned away from a fine hospital if I had been carried in without an insurance card in my pocket. That should not be part of the American experience...

Sunday, November 16, 2014

America's Booming Hispanic Population and Diversity That is Coming to America

I just saw Stephen Stephen L. Klineberg with Kambrell Khambrel Marshall on Houston TV's Local 2 talking about Hispanics in Houston. He presented EXCELLENT facts, as always.

(1) Houston is the Most Diverse city in America. Within 20 years the rest of America will look just like us.

(2) We have about 1.6 million Hispanics in the Houston area.

(3) The ones coming from Mexico have a LOWER education than white kids in U.S.

(4) Hispanics coming from South America and Cuba have a HIGHER education level than White Kids in Houston! (Didn't expect THAT did you?)

(5) Only 6% of Hispanic kids graduate from high school college ready. yet 7=87% of their parents WANT their kids to go to college (hence need for pre-K, etc.).


All of these facts bring me back to my Global American values blog post yesterday on the need for immigration reform. Let's be honest, Americans won't do the low end jobs so we should issue work permits.
My personal example: On NASA Parkway I saw a service station and a tire store being built. How many white Americans do you think were standing in the rain yesterday pouring cement? NONE...

PASS IMMIGRATION REFORM CONGRESS.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

What America SHOULD Do in 2015 with Divided Government

It's official. The people have spoken for divided government.

So here is the next big question: WHAT should a Republican Congress and Democratic President do for Americans in 2015?

We need three things:

(1) FIX our BROKEN Immigration System.  Do you leave a broken car in your driveway? We don't have a functioning system.

(2) INVEST in American Infrastructure (roads, bridges, etc) which is falling apart. Doing so would create JOBS. AND, since doing infrastructure takes awhile to gin up, we should juice wages NOW by immediately RAISING the minimum wage to 1968 parity. I made $1.60 in 1968 - minimum wage. That is over $10 today in 1968 dollars. We should keep that parity.

(3) Make American Education No. 1 again so we can compete in a space age, global economy

The GOP Congress is sitting on an Immigration Bill. The Senate has passed one. The House just WON'T VOTE on its bill! Why? Because it would pass!  It's been sitting there for over two years. How long does a guy wait before a lifeline gets thrown?

If they don't pass one the President has NO CHOICE but to take Executive Action just as President Reagan and Bush have done in the past.  We have millions of people in limbo and that is not right.  Failure to act by Congress for YEARS on critical issues like this is administrative negligence that a sane President and the American people cannot allow. 

The GOP dominated Congress has also failed to invest in American infrastructure. Instead they spent over $1 trillion on Afghanistan and Iraq infrastructure. It was a poor investment. Meanwhile we have 60 year old bridges collapsing from old age, and nothing is being done.  While China builds new everything we don't even fix our old. It's short sightedness to the point of blindness. It's nuts. We are throwing away our lead.

American education has fallen far from No. 1 due to the same lack of investment and interest by leadership.  Texas is still over $3 billion short in its education funding, and is not investing for the growth of 70,000 new students coming every year.  It has no full day pre K school program which has been shown to make tremendous different in kids succeeding in school (even Mississippi is ahead of us on that!)

America as a whole has a SKILLS GAP--and people in denial about that as well.

We have over 2 million high tech jobs that Americans don't have the job skills to fill. These jobs pay over $70,000 a year. Other countries have people with those skills, which gets us back to item (1) since we have to bring in high tech workers as part of a comprehensive immigration reform bill until we can train up our people. I say we help Americans upgrade their skills for them to get these jobs! What say you?

This is what our divided government SHOULD be doing to advance American interests. We have to do this while dealing with the latest foreign nuisance -- be it ISIS, Ebola or a Russian President who has become the World Bully knocking over the furniture at the party.  God knows what else we will be dealing with tomorrow--it invariably changes. We can't ignore the world that will bite us again (like 9/11) if we don't pay attention.

Congress could easily pay for this by reforming the tax code so that companies like GE who make $40 billion don't pay ZERO taxes when hard working average Americans are paying their fair share.

A more detailed plan for making America No. 1 again is in Agenda for American Greatness 

Lets get moving!  We have fallen behind. The good news is that we do have the potential to lead the world again if we put our collective minds to it. This isn't a partisan needs. Its a national requirement to avoid losing our country's unique leading role in a dynamic world.

 It's up to each of us to pitch in. But Congress must start ACTING and earning its paycheck -or be fired!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Amsterdam Closes Pot Shops - The Day I Visited "The Grasshopper" coffee shop

Near the central rail station in Amsterdam is a huge place called the "Grasshopper." It is a coffee shop (at least it was there in 2002). On one floor they sold pot and coffee/soft drinks - NO alcohol allowed.

On a separate floor they sold alcohol. I tried both floors.
                                         The lit building in the center was the Grasshopper

On the pot floor a guy said to me: "push that button." I did. A machine lit up with a bunch of patches of different colored grass with different names i did not recognize - no Acapulco Gold or Panama Red. I had no idea what to say so I put down ten Euros, got a small bag and some coffee, rolled one -- and watched people. People sat around smoking, sipping coffee and having quiet conversations. I could have been in Starbucks back home.

Then I went up to the alcohol floor (separate entrance in the back.) As I approached the door, the walls were vibrating and thumping from loud music. As I reached the door a drunk guy came staggering out, followed by deafening noise from whatever was playing. He almost fell on top of me.

I didn't bother going in. I had already seen the difference.

Besides, I was investigating a million dollar fraud and wasn't done yet. I still had to go undercover to keep from being killed...

Oh yes, I just found out that they have closed the Grasshopper!

More details in my book:
www.BetterTimesAheadAprilFool.com