Study Hall….

We all at some time in our high school careers, no matter how long ago, remember that part of our day that fell under the heading of study hall. To some it was the only time we even looked at a textbook and for others it was a chance to get a head start on the evening’s homework. Then again it was an even better time to socialize and lob the occasional eraser or spitball. In our lives today maybe somethings never change.

My South African high still has not abated and the sheer volume of things to dwell upon envelop my psyche. Don’t even come near me as I expound upon the geographical, cultural and political issues that I look into with great regard. I studied my National Geographic Guide with a vengeance and felt I had at least a decent handle on what is going on there. Upon further reflection I asked myself if I had the same intellectual curiosity for the issues facing our great country?

I don’t go to an encyclopedic volume to study the US of A, but find myself at the whim of this channel or that, replete with their so called experts. The mantra of today is I am too busy and so jammed that I have to get my knowledge in snippets or sound bytes. Fair enough until I think about how I spend my free time. Over the weekend I spent the better part of nine hours or so watching football. I devoured the college games between The Fighting Irish and Ohio State. Sunday I ensconced myself in my beloved Broncos hoping they would come through and then Monday night praying the Patriots and those arch villains of Brady and Belichek would finally get their comeuppance. Such is life.

But then this morning I was brought back to reality by ISIS and a incredible interesting article in the Wall Street Journal on of all things, demography. I found myself debating my own leanings and was struck by my lack of in depth study of so many things. If knowledge is power I am the 100 pound weakling. Now some may say my admission of guilt is quaint but I had to think to myself, “What the hell could be more important?”

The ISIS thing has so many tentacles it defies understanding. I can have a visceral reaction and curse everything Muslim but hopefully reason will prevail. Bomb the crap out of them seems reasonable until I am faced head on with the reality that I will kill a lot of civilians.Tough call.  I can get pissed at Obama and his professorial detachment or meandering foreign policy but I have to ask myself what are the alternatives? Should I just say I am too busy or it is too complex to understand or I can get to work and in some way, shape or fashion forge my own solution. I have to keep at it. The Donald? Sorry, not my style.

The article on demographics tried to lay out a scenario that the world in its very being has taken some serious turns. Let’s assume for the moment that the world is indeed getting older. Two outcomes are striking. First is that if the populations are getting older they save more. Wonderful you say until you realize we are a consumer oriented world wide economy. Everything we do is based on people buying “stuff”. I have long held that we are running out of stuff and gadgets to buy. We just have too much. The lesser off want to buy stuff but now they are having bills to pay and at least for some eating is more important than a flat screen TV. We want things as cheaply as possible but that means we have to pay as little as we can in wages. Catch my drift?

The second logical outcome is that older people want more services from healthcare to recreation and that does not exactly entail hard goods. The services are expensive and are reliant more and more on government sponsored programs and high priced drugs. Now one of the ways to lower the average age is to have more young people. But the cost of having kids and educating them is soaring. The trend is to urbanize and that means less children as we look to two wage earners instead of the old one provider. There is one solution and that is to attract immigrants but I think you already know the way we look at that. What a kill joy you are TTG and right before Thanksgiving.
This does not portend disaster in the next few years but it is something we have to consider and especially among our millennials and next generations. We have taken our best and brightest and put them in professions while although lucrative are not especially long on innovation. The end result is our planners and administrators are thinking up new ways to merge and acquire or come up with some whippy new algorithm to trade faster. That’s not a shot at their livelihoods but the result is a bureaucratic mediocrity. If we get ticked at the lack of leadership and boldness in our elected officials they are creatures of our own design.

To make a long story short I think we need some serious thinking to go on and the government as well as the electorate has to get up to speed. We can’t say we are too busy or a problem is too complex to contemplate. Leave it to the professionals has left us bereft of understanding long term implications. We have to get out of our quarterly mindsets and look at it as OUR problem not someone else’s.

We have challenges in every aspect of our lives from immigration to foreign policy to infrastructure. We have got some fabulous minds to attack these opportunities. Fantasy Football? What about Fantasy Government where we put together our dream team and then win or lose on how we did our picks. Research their stats and pick the all stars. Me? I gotta hit the books. There is so much to learn.Watch out for spitballs.

As always and Happy Thanksgiving
Ted The Great


Since 9/11 we have spent over $7 TRILLION on defense. We have mismanaged Afghanistan and Iraq from the get go. Up until four years ago we did not know ISIS existed. We have been bombing them for a year but France, pissed off about the Paris bombing, took out the ISIS Command Headquarters on their first bombing runs ??????

The Boston Marathon bombers numbering 2 shut down and held one of our greatest and largest cities hostage for 3 days. Paris is frozen in place by 6 terrorists. Brussels where I only think of Belgian chocolates has been in lockdown and will continue to do so through next week. All because of a handful of terrorists. Kathy and I are going to London for Christmas to visit my son and his family….no matter what. And that is a factoid.

Lastly….Google “Perpetuum Jazzily  Africa”  and just sit back and listen. Very cool. Happy T Day All.

Rubber Meets the Road….

Ted’s Head was fried last week. After a 22 hour plane ride from South Africa and a bunch of time zone changes my fragile brain needed awhile to get back into equilibrium. I had hoped to revel you all with tales of wild animals and deep philosophical insights I had gleaned from the African continent. I was incredibly moved by so many things but my local Trader Joe’s was fresh out of locusts and honey and Brooks Brothers no longer sells loin cloths….and also a thing called Paris occurred.

One of my title’s for this week’s missive was going to be “Reality Sucks”….and sometimes it does. We all have our cave of some sort. We may roam our estates, find a niche at that perfect little cafe or just curl up and veg out in front of the TV for about nine straight hours of football. We have gotten good at avoiding conflict or bad news. We live in a fantasy world. I am not trying to burst bubbles but we have developed this great facility to explain away things.

The Irish have a great saying about Uncle Joe who arrives shit faced for the family celebration of one sort or another. He slurs his words, becomes argumentative at the table and then either falls over a chair or hurls on the brand new living room rug. The mother or wife looks on forlornly at the debacle and announces in a soft voice,”You know, he has the weakness.” Code words for we know there is a problem but we are not going to address it.
ISIL’s massacre was as wanton and heartless as you can get. I found myself agreeing with Hollande for a change as he put his French savoir faire aside and declared war with righteous indignation. Although I hate war it was appropriate. I found myself cursing out Obama for saying hours earlier how we had the zealots contained. Just like when he had called them the Junior Varsity and Bush had proclaimed triumphantly, “Mission Accomplished”so many years earlier. Arrogance or ignorance? Name your poison. Just SHUT UP!

We live in Fantasyland whether we shop on Rodeo Drive or Walmart.We buy stuff for the sake of stuff. Our kids are spoiled rotten. We dream of more and more wealth and riches when what we have already goes beyond the pale. I am not trying to talk down the commonweal but man couldn’t we be a little more tasteful about it?

In South Africa I watched people dealing with life straight on. Funny how 25% unemployment, HIV/AIDS and living in a cardboard container in a township can do that to you. Walk 5 miles each way to school and sometimes you can’t study because there is no electricity. Just a ride means so much. Forget about whether or not it is an ox cart or truck. BMW, Mercedes? Are you kidding? My first Monday back I opened the Wall Street Journal to an ad about privately leased jets. They were going to redo all their fleet by some famous designer to give you the ultimate in luxury. As if the non hassled ride was not enough?
Look at where we are today. As a country we have to address illegal immigration, tax reform, the deficit, entitlements and foreign policy. We have to meet end of life head on and realize that we can’t afford to give people an extra three months of lousy quality of life for $250,000. We have to address our addictions for food, booze and or drugs and not rely on some sort of rehab or pill to bail us out. We always think it is the other guy to blame but if we are honest we see it in our own lives every day.
In days gone by we used to identify in our cities by a neighborhood or a parish. Then we went beyond to a state or region. Soon it was by country and then a hemisphere. Sorry kids but today we are a world. Jet travel and the internet have made us one. You may not think Syria affects you but it does. Warfare begets refugees that wind up somewhere. I can play it cool and say not in my backyard but that creates a whole new set of problems. Globally there are vast numbers of unemployed 16-25 year olds. They have no jobs and no hope. All of a sudden 5 seconds of recognition as a suicide bomber doesn’t look so bad. You think it is an exaggeration to say it involves all of us. Think again.

I don’t want to spoil the party or rain on the parade but yes, reality does suck. I want to have as much fun as the next person but this horrible thing called pragmatism keeps jumping in the way. The crazy thing is I am not campaigning for total withdrawal nor absolute sobriety. I am talking about a sense of propriety and yes civility. We are going to have terrorists. They are fact of life and we are easy prey because of our shallowness in understanding and dealing with today’s problems. Dunno doesn’t cut it anymore.

In these presidential debates, however laborious they are, there are answers. Not from one side or the other but both.It is not an either or but all of us collaborating and yes giving up some our treasured goals and sacred cows. We all have the weakness. We better get working on getting rid of it…before it is too late.

As always,
Ted The Great


The number of followers of ISIS range between 30-100,000. They are trying to hold the 7 billion or so inhabitants of the world hostage and doing a fair job of it. That’s about one creep for every 700,000 of us. Terror thrives on fear. How comfortable do you feel today? This is the only factoid we need.

Chilling in Cape Town…..

Posted from Cape Town, South Africa.

We have just arrived in Cape Town, the last stop on our whirlwind tour. We have probably covered over two thousand miles as we have wound our way from the top to the bottom of this wildly diverse country. The parched and drought ridden landscape of the north gave way to spectacular vistas of wheat fields, vineyards and the Indian Ocean coastline. You could feel the bustle come out of the air as the sea seems to round off rough edges. Of course my water fix is a remedy for all that ails.

This country continues to amaze me. In one or two weeks I have walked with a lion and petted elephants if that is something you can really do. We have come upon white lions no more than ten feet from our jeeps. Thereafter we had an exquisite formal lunch prepared by a young black man of 22 years and he has already been at his trade for three of them. In Durban we lunched in a burger shack on the beach and the boardwalk revealed only one or two whites among a large throng of black bathers. It was uncomfortable being a minority and the experience was more than unsettling.

We stayed two nights in a picture postcard seaside colony named Knyzna (Nizena) where one night we did a cocktail cruise on a boat shucking oysters and drinking champagne. How decadent! What country are we in? That day we were escorted around the cliffside nature preserve by a young gal from the UK by the name of Allie. We descended from high up on a steep rocky trail leading to the landing. On the way down we chatted and she said was engaged to the young lad that tended to the boats and Unimog that had hauled us up the hill. She was uncertain of the date of the vow taking in as much as they had to save 40,000 rand which is about $3,000US. We suddenly came back to reality.

There is the black and white thing in this place and it is still pervasive.It is not an annoyance but rather a problem that has to be faced. They have such vast riches but are embroiled as to who gets what and a lot of things go undone. The ANC which is de facto black, rules the roost right now. They are the children of a sort of Nelson Mandela. He became a symbol of the plight of blacks as he sat rotting in a cell on Robben Island. Please understand this country is 80% black,10% whites and 10% others known as coloreds. Mandela forgave his captors and truly believed all he wanted was for the blacks to be on an equal playing field. Nice thought but much more difficult in application. His political descendants liked the whole idea of power. They fed upon the feast of corruption because it felt good and properly used it could keep them in power. They gave everything from housing to schooling at no cost. We all know that when we don’t have to earn things they somehow become an entitlement. But then coffers run dry and people begin to turn.

This is taking place all over the continent. Enter the super power and in this case China. The despots are open for business. The nations are laden with all manner of energy and ore of strange names and many utilizations. The voracious monster needs these and trades that for infrastructure of all sorts from new airports to railways to roads to nowhere. This is right up the alley of the war lords because infrastructure proves they are doing a good job and an obvious need for reelection. Sounds like a marriage made in heaven but somehow the people are catching on.Wonder if we in the US ever will?

Here in Capetown they actually have. The West Cape province is running like a decently oiled machine. The streets are clean which is unusual for SA. There are construction cranes everywhere. The townships aka slums are being transformed slowly. The sheer irony is that after 1992 the cheapest housing which some middle to upper class blacks were finally allowed to buy were in the working neighborhoods. These were the “Joe six packs” who were the most conservative apartheid loving dudes in the country. But somehow they have made it work.

Over the centuries Capetown has been an amalgam of peoples. Whites. Blacks, Dutch, English, Malays, you name it. There are vested interests but they seem more muted. Walking on the oceanfront promenade you see mixed couples of all sorts and yes on our walk yesterday we saw a black and white lesbian couple. C’est la vie. I think the city’s relative sophistication makes it more open to political concepts and God forbid cooperation. One can say they are an aberration but maybe they are a true hope for the future.

We have seen abject poverty on our little adventure. Hovels made of scraps of tin and cardboard. The people in these townships think trash is a sign of affluence. You actually have something to throw away. All of this is affectionately called “poverty porn.” Humorous in a perverse way but incredibly sad. The problem is enormous as there is over 25% unemployment here. Even worse among them 50% of the population is under 24. That literally have nothing to do.The townships are homes to millions. It would be easy to throw up one’s hands and move on.Or if we were the Donald we could just ship 10 or 15 million somewhere else.

If I have even figured out 1/10 of this country I wouldn’t have even put a dent into the entire continent. It is the second largest geographically as well population wise being home to well over a billion people. 
There are 55 countries and it almost impossible to believe we are in the same location as Cairo, Algiers, Tripoli and Nairobi. There is so much promise and at the same time problems of astronomical proportions.

There is one thing I have learned. Polar opposites don’t attract and they get nothing done. You may have proved whatever extreme you purport to believe in but the overall and by that I can only mean the common good is left to flounder.They came incredibly close to civil war here in the mid 90’s. We can’t give without responsibility and requiring personal accountability. In the same breath we can’t keep padding our personal vaults and think the rest will somehow make it.We are in this together and I think we have to get our act in some sort of unified fashion. No man is an island was never more true.

As always
Ted The Great

City Populations in SA:
Johannesburg 15 millón
Cape Town 5 million
Durban 3.5 million

Nelson Mandela remained in prison for 26 years. He worked in a limestone quarry 365 days a year.With other inmates he taught the illiterate members of the chain gang as they worked and several received degrees from their work. They were allowed two letters out (no more than 500 words) and two letters in per year. They were only allowed to wear shorts and short sleeved shirts regardless of the weather.

In South Africa if someone puts any sort of a permanent building on a site for 48 hours they are considered to have squatter’s rights.

The flip side. Trevor Manuel as the Finance Minister of South Africa has been recognized worldwide as a leading banker and financial expert. He was overlooked in lieu of Christine Legard as the new head of the IMF. The unofficial reason was that he was black and the free world could not have that.

Sorry to be so long but I could continue on this whole topic for hours if not days.