Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Circle Flies

I meant to post this on Monday in the spirit of FOD. However, better late than never...
A cowboy from Texas attends a social function where Barack Obama is trying to gather support for his Health Plan. As Obama spoke he kept swatting at some flies that were buzzing around his head. The cowboy says, "Y'all havin' some problem with them circle flies?"

Obama stopped talking and said, "Well, yes, if that's what they're called, but I've never heard of circle flies."

"Well, sir," the cowboy replies, "Circle flies hang around ranches. They're called circle flies because they're almost always found circling around the back end of a horse."

"Oh," Obama replies as he goes back to rambling.

But, a moment later he stops and bluntly asks, "Are you calling me a horse's butt?"

"No, sir," the cowboy replies, "I have too much respect for this country to call its president a horse's butt."

"That's a good thing," Obama responds and begins rambling on once more.

After a long pause, the cowboy, in his best Texas drawl, says, "Hard to fool them flies, though."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stop It

I've written before about the senseless violence in Mexico, but the hits just keep on coming. The cartels are beginning to expand their influence into Texas. Intelligent, talented, and motivated Mexican businessmen - just the type of people that are needed if the nation of Mexico is to have any hope of surviving, much less prospering - are fleeing their homeland and taking up residence in the U.S. Some observers are beginning to question whether or not Mexico can survive the growing influence of the cartels.

And through it all, Americans continue to puff and toot away, oblivious to the ramifications of illegal drug use.


Spring Break Chickens Come Home To Roost

Well, after a nice, lengthy, relaxing Spring Break, all hell broke loose this week. In addition to a couple of papers and reviews due this week, every damn university committee I'm stuck on has decided to meet - with minimal advance notice. There is nothing pressing, no urgent matters that need attention, but I guess the committee chairs feel the need to exercise their power and justify their positions. Meeting times have gone from one to two and a half hours. Accomplishments have varying from nothing to minimal.

Oh well, it still beats working for a living...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

None Of Their Business

Just trashed the census form. I'm okay with a headcount - how many people live in your household, what are their ages, etc. - but when they get into personal information that's none of their business (what's your name? Your wife's name? Your kids' names? What's your ethnic background? and BTW, hispanic isn't considered ethnic, but negro is - wtf?) they can kiss my rosy red All-American Ass.

Fuck 'em all...

Excellent Source

One of the all-time best sources I've found for commentary and facts on the health care debacle is The Whited Sepulchre. In particular, his comparison between the efficiency of Wal-Mart and the U.S. government is a classic, and not to be missed.

Check it out...

Not My Fault

My wife and I have an ongoing argument disagreement discussion regarding the culpability of the male of the species concerning the lasting effect on the male psyche of millions of years of evolution that has conditioned us to breed with as many females as possible.

My (eminently logical) position is that we (males) can't help it - we are genetically programmed to share our seed with multiple receptive females. Her (entirely unreasonable) position is that we (males) haven't evolved since prehistoric times.

Now I finally have unassailable science on my side. As this article explains - written by a feminist doctor, no less - men are hardwired to distribute the fruit of our loins as widely as possible. To (selectively) quote from the article:

"I wish I could say that men can stop themselves... But the truth is, they can't."

So there. It's not my fault!

Having said that, I now feel like a liberal. "It's not my fault. I'm a victim of my background, upbringing, situation, context..."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Oh My Aching Butt

Every time I think that idiot in the White House can't do anything else to trash this country, he proves me wrong. His latest insult to America involves ordering military units in Haiti helping that country recover from the earthquake to stop flying the U.S. flag because it might give the impression that we are there as an occupying force, instead of providing humanitarian assistance.

Thanks to Stilton Jarlsberg at Hope n' Change for the cartoon.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Life Is Still Good

Like many citizens, I am disappointed, disgruntled, and disgusted by not only the vote on the health care bill, but also by the corrupt and secretive process leading up to it. I woke up this morning in a bad mood that went downhill as I waded through the aftermath. Then a couple of things happened...

First, I got a call from the Wyoming Wildlife Foundation. We travel to Wyo every summer to spend some time with friends who have a ranch up there. My wife's father was a rancher in Arizona, and back in the '40s and '50s the Wyo folks used to winter their stock next to her father's place, located in the accurately-named Skull Valley. I grew up in central and west Texas, which can be pretty desolate, but Skull Valley is the most God-forsaken place I've ever seen. Nothing but rock, sand, and cactus.

Anyway, my wife's parents and the Wyo ranchers became friends, and my wife's family began to visit the Wyo ranch in the summer to avoid the Arizona heat (this was before air conditioning became widespread). When I married into the family it was expected that I would become part of the "it's summer, time to visit Wyoming" tradition. To make a long story short, it's been great. Great country, great people, great times. I liked it so much I began going up there during hunting season whenever I could draw a tag.

So back to the Wyoming Wildlife Federation call. They have an annual fund raising raffle that offers an assortment of merchandise, including several firearms. They called me this morning to tell me I won a Weatherby .300 Win Mag. I've been contemplating an elk hunt, but have held off because my 'old faithful' rifle is a sweet-shooting .270 Remington BDL that I've had for 35+ years. It's been accurized by Hill Country Rifles to where I can cover three shots at 100 yards with a nickel (from a rest, of course - unfortunately, now I don't have an excuse for missing). I've used it to take whitetails, muleys, and pronghorns, but I've been a little reluctant to go after elk with it.

Some of my Wyo friends use .270s to hunt elk. They assure me that it's enough gun, but I still feel a little under-gunned. And yes, I know that bullet placement is the most important factor in hunting, but confidence in your rig is a close second. I just feel more confident with a heavier caliber than a .270 when hunting what I consider truly big game. Plus if I ever get to go to Africa I'm now prepared.

So to make this long story short, after the bitter bile of the health care debacle, my mood was brightened by the raffle results. Building on that, as part of my schedule Mondays are the day I drive from central Texas to Laredo, where I teach at the local university three days a week. I spent the last 10 days at home in CenTex for spring break, so I was a little bummed to have to leave. However, the weather today was wonderful - clear blue skies, comfortable temps, all that good stuff. Once I got about 30 miles south of San Antonio I found that Spring had come to south Texas.

All the plant life was green , and there were wildflowers everywhere. I'm not a flower guy, but there were Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, and a bunch of other flowers dressed in pink, purple, violet, yellow, and white, all shimmering in the sun and rippling slightly in the breeze. Buffet and Bonnie Raitt were serenading me, and after the first 100 miles I yielded to the temptation and popped a brew.

Yeah, I know that drinking and driving is not cool, but I was only about 40 miles from my destination. I figured by the time the alcohol kicked in I'd be there. Besides, it's not like I was talking on a cell phone or anything.

Bottom line - take a step back from the nonsense in D.C. Gain a little perspective. Life goes on, and it's not bad. In fact, it's pretty damn good...

In Response to obamacare...

... a picture is worth a thousand words.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Vote Is In...

... we are fucked.

Let's all pray for a glimmer of hope... (thanks to Harper at Passed Up Strange)

Health Care Debacle

I haven't posted much on the health care debacle that's currently being played out in congress. Others have done so more extensively, more passionately, and mo' better than I could. My little $.02 worth is that IMO a very basic and fundamental principal has been obscured by all the sturm und drang over specific provisions of the bill and the corrupt legislative processes being used to advance it. What is it, you ask...

Simply this. We supposedly live in a free country. Now, if this abominable bill passes, we will be forced under penalty of law to buy health insurance. No freedom of choice, no other options - either buy health insurance or go to jail. That is so, so wrong. The government is forcing me to spend my money on something I may or may not want. But either way, it should be my choice, not some faceless, soulless government entity.

What's next? Is the government going to force us to buy life insurance? Or a car? Or a house? Or something to support whatever cause the liberals next 'deem' worthwhile? The idea of being forced to buy something by the feds is so abhorrent that my stomach literally churns whenever I contemplate it.

And please don't trot out that tired old analogy about liability insurance for cars. That is so flawed. First, you only need liability insurance if you register a car to drive on public roads. If you don't have a car, like many city-dwellers (for example, according to the 2000 census over 1/2 the households in New York city do not own a vehicle ) you aren't required to purchase liability insurance. Similarly, in my neck of the woods, many people have ranch or hunting vehicles that aren't driven on public roads. No insurance necessary for them. Second, liability insurance is priced according to risk factors. Drive carelessly, as evidenced by citations or accidents, and you pay more. Will health care premiums be higher for people who are overweight, sedentary, abuse drugs or alcohol, or indulge in other self-destructive behavior? Of course not. That would require holding individuals accountable for their actions, something liberals find repellent.

The moral argument advanced in favor of universal health care insurance is equally flimsy. I'm all in favor of helping those in need. But any moral justification for doing so vanishes once it becomes mandatory. Would it be moral to require me to contribute to charity? Or tithe to a church? Or help little old ladies across the street? Of course not. So how is it moral to require people to buy health insurance?

I'm not necessarily opposed to the idea of establishing a social safety net. But the devil's in the details. Medicare and Medicaid are supposed to provide health care for those unable (or unwilling) to provide it for themselves (we'll save a discussion of Social Security for another day). Why not fix what's wrong with those programs, rather than cramming a new, monstrously unpopular, and fatally flawed federal program down the throat of an unwilling public? Why not? Because that would require congresscritters with intelligence and fortitude, something that's sadly lacking in the vast majority of the assholes currently populating congress.

Another argument against obamacare is the status of existing government health care programs. The VA does a terrible job of providing health care for those who deserve it the most - our veterans. Medicare and Medicaid costs consistently exceed expectations and place bureaucratic obstacles in the way of service delivery. It's reached the point where doctors and pharmacies are refusing Medicare and Medicaid patients. If the governement has proven incapable of managing health care in the past, whatever on God's green earth makes anyone think it can do so in the future?

Finally, consider the basic economics of supply and demand. obamacare would add somewhere around 32 million new patients to the nation's health care system. Where will the doctors and nurses come from to meet that staggering increase in demand? How difficult will it be to get an appointment in the future? The imbalance between supply and demand will result in de facto rationing, no matter what those lying assholes in D.C. say.

We can only hope and pray that this detestable bill goes down in flames. Failing that, let's hope the repubs come up with enough delaying tactics to stall things until the Nov. elections, when hopefully the balance of power in congress will change and the evil axis of obama-pelosi-reed will be stymied.

Friday, March 19, 2010

more 'Victimless'

The drug cartels in Mexico have become so powerful and brazen that they are now closing major highways near the U.S - Mexico border.

Imagine if gangs in the U.S. shut down the interstate between Dallas and San Antonio. That's what's happening to our neighbor in the south.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I've said it before. Drug use is not a victimless crime. If you use drugs - including marijuana - you share responsibility for the killings, torture, and terrorism that gangs and cartels inflict on innocent people.

More Spring Break

Okay, so maybe us professors do have a little fun on Spring Break. In the past we've done the skiing thing, the beach thing, and the roadtrip thing. Of course, with our kids along we're a little more restrained than the typical college student (usually...). However, yesterday and today were hard to beat.

Yesterday we went kayaking in the upper Guadalupe River. If you're not familiar with Central Texas that probably doesn't mean much to you, but to folks from around here the Guad-a-loop, as it's usually pronounced, is pretty close to holy water. The sky was that deep, deep bluebonnet blue of spring, unsullied by clouds. The air was crisp, the sun was warm, the water was cool, and the beer was cold. Almost heaven...

Today was almost as good weather-wise. I got in a leisurely round of golf, played better than usual, and won $10. Oh yeah, the beer was cold...

Skiing et al. are fun, but a nice, relaxing week at home with great weather, good friends, excellent food (I left out all the home cooking and barbecuing stories), and the family is what life's all about. It makes it worthwhile putting up with all the crap that resumes next week. Actually, some of the crap has spilled over into this week, but I haven't said anything about it because I'm practicing denial...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring Break - Continued

Despite my earlier post, Spring Break is not all fun and games for faculty. We have grading to do, papers to write, journal articles to review, grants applications to submit, and miscellaneous (and totally unnecessary) committee and service work to do.

On the plus side, we can do all this when and where we want. At home in sweats with either a cup of coffee or a beer, depending on the time of day, is my preferred dress code, time and place, and beverage of choice.

That's a synopsis of faculty life in general (excluding, of course, regularly scheduled classes and assorted administrative nonsense). Even when classes are in session it still beats the corporate world. I took a 30% pay cut when I transitioned from corporate America to academic America. I also work approximately the same number of hours - anywhere from 40 to 60 per week, depending on what's going on.

There is still administrative and bureaucratic b.s. to put up with, and academic politics make corporate politics tame by comparison. An old saying goes "Politics in academia are so vicious because the rewards are so small." I'm here to testify that there's a lot of truth in that.

Still, my schedule is pretty flexible (outside of the aforementioned classes). I traded in my suit and tie for my standard teaching uniform of khakis and Hawaiian shirts. Students can be a pain, but it's also incredibly fulfilling when you have kids that really want to learn, and when you see the light come on over their heads when they get it. And I'm much more relaxed and less stressed-out. I also get to spend more time with my wife and kids. So all in all, I'm glad I made the move.

As one of my mentors said, "The three best things about the academic lifestyle are June, July, and August."

And speaking of Spring Break, it is Spring Break, Hump Day, and St. Patrick's Day. Somewhere out there a beer is calling me...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Victimless? Bullshit!

Anyone who thinks smoking marijuana is a victimless crime needs to read this.

FWIW, I'm not rabidly anti-drugs. I don't believe that smoking marijuana leads to using hard drugs. Nor do I believe that recreational tooting makes one a slack-jawed drooling pothead. I do, however, believe that actions have consequences. Anyone who chooses to smoke marijuana has some degree of moral culpability in the deaths of not only Lesley Enriquez and Arthur Redelfs, and the orphaning of their baby, but also the deaths and downstream impacts of everyone else killed by the drug cartels.

I work three days a week in a Texas border town. Things happen down there that aren't reported outside of the local media, and often aren't even reported there. The cartels torture and murder government officials, law enforcement personnel, journalists (link1; link2 - note the quote "The Inter-American Press Association says a fifth [journalist in 2010] was recently killed in the border city of Reynosa, but media outlets there are too afraid to file a police report." - link 3), and even social workers and priests in the most gruesome ways imaginable, with no regard for innocent bystanders or collateral damage (11-month-old shot in the head; summary) .

Many of my students, and some of the faculty, live across the border and come to the U.S. to study or teach. They tell stories of hour-long gun battles in the streets, grenade attacks on police stations, and road blocks by cartel members - not police - for purposes of kidnapping, extortion, and intimidation (BTW - we can hear the shots and explosions from our side of the river). Once they cross the border into Mexico they go straight home and stay there until it's time to return for class. All their shopping and socializing is done on the U.S. side. It sounds like life in Baghdad or Kabul, not in a city that is literally a stone's throw from the United States.

So what's the solution? Well, to me it seems a lot like Prohibition. Organized crime got a big boost when alcohol was criminalized. Once it was legitimized the sale and consumption was regulated and taxed (God knows the government could use the income, the way obama and the dems are bleeding us dry - and I'll take the IRS against even the toughest, most vicious cartel), and the gangs turned to other sources of income (prostitution, gambling, loan-sharking, unions...). IMO we should learn from history and give legalization a try. It can't be worse than what's happening now.

And if you use drugs, you share in the responsibility for the abhorrent and cowardly violence that is desecrating Mexico and spreading northward...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring Break...

... isn't just for students. Woke up this a.m. with a pounding head, a dry mouth, and a fuzzy memory of running out of beer and moving on to wine. Water, aspirin, and a nap, in that order, are on the agenda - immediately!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Heal Thyself

At the most recent of an innumerable, interminable, and totally unnecessary string of committee meetings one of the attendees hacked, coughed, sneezed, and sniffled throughout our little get-together. I guess she thought she was so indispensable that we couldn't manage without her. Of course, like most of these damned meetings, we didn't accomplish much with or without her. But that's another story.

Two days later my throat was raw and my sinuses were both congested and dripping (how can they be both at the same time?). Why the hell didn't she just stay home?

Anyway, today I'm subsiding on cough drops, decongestant tablets, and Shiner. Who needs health care reform when one can self-medicate?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The More Things Change...

We spent a large chunk of yesterday visiting my 92-year old father and my 84-year old mother. They lived in their own place until Nov. 2009, when they moved into an assisted living facility. Mom has an advanced case of dementia, and Dad just couldn't take care of her by himself anymore, so that seemed the best solution.

It's worked out well so far. The place where they live now is quite nice, and staffed by people who seem to genuinely care abut the residents. Mon and Dad have adjusted well.

One of the nice things about the facility is that they have daily shuttle bus serve to local grocery stores, doctor's offices, Wal-Mart, etc. My sister and I usually get by there at least once a week to bring them things they need (I usually slip Dad a six-pack or a bottle of wine), take them out for meals, and so forth.

As a result, Dad has realized he doesn't really need to drive anymore, so he's passed on his 1995 Crown Victoria to our 15-year old son. The car's in great shape - clean, well maintained, and with less than 115K miles on it (my truck has more than that). It also has a top-of-the-line sound system (well, it was top-of-the-line in 1995). Son was quite mystified at the slot in the dash labeled "cassette player."

The boy is all excited, and very possessive, about the car, even though he only has his learners permit (he won't be old enough for his full license for 3 more months). He was quite put out when neither my wife or I would give up our garage spots so he could park his car indoors, instead of leaving it outside exposed to the elements.

It brought to mind the time when I got my first car. It was a 1962 Rambler station wagon, with well over 100,000 miles on it. No A/C, a 3-speed on-the-column manual transmission, and an AM radio. My father 'gave' it to me (in exchange for a summer's worth of above-and-beyond chores). It wasn't until many years later that I found out the new car dealer only offered him $50 as a trade-in allowance.

But none of that mattered. It was MY car. It gave me freedom, or so I thought. I conveniently overlooked the parental requirements that I would now drive my younger sister to her appointments and events. I also overlooked certain operational details like paying for gas, insurance, maintenance and repairs, registration...

I see the same thing happening all over again, but this time from the perspective of a parent. I'm trying to tell him the same things my father told me, but I can see it going in one ear and out the other, just like 40-some years ago. I only hope he doesn't repeat ALL the mistakes I made when I was his age.

The more things change, the more they stay the same...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Jumping Through Hoops

The university where I work recently went through a search process to hire a new faculty member in my department.

My discipline is Information Systems, a field in which there is a disproportionate ratio of non-U.S. citizens to U.S. citizens (regrettable, but a subject rich with issues for discussing at another time).

We posted an appropriate ad in an appropriate venue (thank you, HR [sarcasm]). After reviewing the responses, conducting phone interviews, and bringing the short-list survivors in for a campus visit, we hired the person we felt was most qualified for the job. He turned out to be a non-U.S. citizen. Not a surprise, given the previously mentioned imbalance of us vs. them (not being judgmental, just categorizing contestants like the Olympics) .

Anyway, the USCIS (gov't. agency that used to be the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or INS) requires that the hiring institution conduct an assessment to determine that a non-U.S. citizen is hired only if there is not an equivalently qualified U.S. citizen. So it would seem logical that all we need to do is go through our pool of applicants and compare the U.S. citizens to the person we eventually hired - right?

Not so fast, Kemo Sabe.

Seems there's another government agency, the Dept. of Labor, that feels it must justify its existence by getting involved. The DOL insists that we go back and review ALL the applications - all 100+ of them - and document why the selected applicant was better-qualified than each individual non-selected applicant. Which is what we did as part of the search process. But does that satisfy the DOL? Noooooo...

Because we are re-assessing the candidates to satisfy the USCIS, the DOL considers that a new search, and therefore we must go through the entire evaluation process again. (Bang head against desk repeatedly.)

Bottom line - we are complying with DOL requirements and thoroughly, meticulously, and painstakingly reviewing all the applications (wink, wink).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Celebrate Texas Independence

On March 2, 1836, Texas declared its independence from Mexico and became a free and independent republic. About ten years later Texas annexed the United States.

Sam Houston, commander of the Texas Army, later president of the Republic of Texas, also a U.S. Senator from Texas and the governor of Texas, offered this timeless advice that makes even more sense today.

"Govern wisely, and as little as possible."

So celebrate Texas Independence Day with a cold Shiner, Lone Star, margarita, or other beverage of your choice. And while you're at it think a good thought about all those who sacrificed to make it possible.

Ungovernable? Nonsense

It's become chic these days to say that government is broken, that the country is ungovernable. Well, Charles Krauthammer delivers an excellent counterargument to that premise, reminding us of earlier times when the same claim was made. Excerpt below.
In the latter days of the Carter presidency, it became fashionable to say that the office had become unmanageable and was simply too big for one man. Some suggested a single, six-year presidential term. The president's own White House counsel suggested abolishing the separation of powers and going to a more parliamentary system of unitary executive control. America had become ungovernable.

Then came Ronald Reagan, and all that chatter disappeared.

The tyranny of entitlements? Reagan collaborated with Tip O'Neill, the legendary Democratic House speaker, to establish the Alan Greenspan commission that kept Social Security solvent for a quarter-century.

A corrupted system of taxation? Reagan worked with liberal Democrat Bill Bradley to craft a legislative miracle: tax reform that eliminated dozens of loopholes and slashed rates across the board — and fueled two decades of economic growth.

Later, a highly skilled Democratic president, Bill Clinton, successfully tackled another supposedly intractable problem: the culture of intergenerational dependency. He collaborated with another House speaker, Newt Gingrich, to produce the single most successful social reform of our time, the abolition of welfare as an entitlement.

It turned out that the country's problems were not problems of structure but of leadership. Reagan and Clinton had it. Carter didn't. Under a president with extensive executive experience, good political skills and an ideological compass in tune with the public, the country was indeed governable.

Mr. Krauthammer makes the point that the liberals and mainstream media can't believe - or bring themselves to admit - that the current situation is in any way a result of deficiencies in obama. Instead, it must be a failure of 'the system.'

Au contraire. The system is working just fine. The checks and balances slowed highly questionable and flawed legislation long enough for the will of the people to make itself felt.

Please do yourself a favor and read his entire column.