Monday, February 28, 2011

Welcome To My World

Less than five miles from my home away from home...

Beheadings Shock Nuevo Laredo (transcript of tonight's TV news)
"Our top story comes out of Nuevo Laredo--that's where a gruesome act intended to send a message to opposing cartels shocked people throughout the city. The decapitation of four men put on display for all to see. We warn you what you are about to view is graphic."

"The bodies of four decapitated men, nude, with their heads left on one of Nuevo Laredo's memorialas dedicated to Mexico's Independence. This is all we can show of the video taken on the streets of Jesus Carranza and Paseo Colon, a busy area area in the Sister City. We can tell you that, according to Mexican reports, the men had a finger placed in their mouths and they were laid on top of a narcomanta, a banner with a message sent to opposing cartel members. We're told members of the state police are investigating the incident, along with the members of the Mexican Military."
I wander around the streets of Laredo carrying a pistol and fooling myself into thinking I'm safe. But this was the lead story on tonight's news. I feel confident about taking care of myself in 'normal' circumstances, but this crap ain't normal.

Street crime or materialistic aggression is one thing. Ditto for one or two drug-addled thugs, or even relatively level-headed muggers. Like I said, I'm comfortable with taking my chances in those circumstances. However, I'm not as confident when pitted against multiple carloads of cartel thugs. This is why I am so adamant about the federal government securing our borders.

Especially the one less than five miles from here...

More FOD 2011.02.28

If this is true - and I haven't seen any denials yet - the hypocrisy boggles the mind.
With a schedule as hectic as President Obama's it must be hard to stick to a training regimen without help -- but why does he insist on having his old trainer fly out from Chicago to D.C. regularly when Obama and his wife exhort the rest of us to drive less? And in a recession? According to Ashley Parker at the New York Times, Obama's fitness czar Cornell McClellan comes out to D.C. every week:
McClellan ... now spends part of his week in Washington at Mr. Obama’s request.

... but that comes at a steep cost for those as environmentally minded as the Obamas: 50,000 lbs of carbon emissions. That's how much carbon emissions are involved in McClellan's flying back and forth every week for a year (according to TerraPass.com).
Couldn't they have just hired someone in D.C. to take over the training? The Yellow Pages provides over 56 entries under "Personal Fitness Trainers" alone, most of whom would have been able to reach the White House by bike.

Doing so would have at least been consistent with Obama's statements about the need to reduce emissions. Last July, Obama announced that he wanted federal workers to cut down on business travel and commuting by car in order to reduce emissions produced by the federal government:

Even if Obama were to put his money where his mouth is and purchase (carbon) offsets for McClellan's Chicago-to-D.C. commute, the message is pretty clear: If you're an average federal employee or your everyday taxpayer, stop driving and be careful of your carbon footprint. If you're in the White House and you want some toned arms and a firm buttocks, fly your trainer out from Chicago every week.
Of course, with gas prices skyrocketing as they are, thanks to obama's war on the domestic energy industry and inept foreign policy, most of us will have to cut back on our driving. We can't afford to do otherwise.

Do as I say, not as I do. What a hypocritical asshole.

Is anyone really surprised?

FOD 2011.02.28

Is obama a liar or an idiot? That question has been raised due to his response when asked what happens to Social Security if the government shuts down when the current budget expires in early March.
"People don't get their Social Security checks." That was President Obama at a press conference last week.

And this is Harry Reid, the top Democrat in the Senate, in a statement on Tuesday: "A shutdown could ... mean no Social Security checks for seniors."
The only problem with those statements is that they are not true.
"I am absolutely sure the checks would be sent out," said John F. Cooney, a partner at law firm Venable who designed shutdown plans for the government while employed at the Office of Management and Budget.

Robert Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute and a trustee of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, backed that view, saying claims that benefits won't be paid are "not true."

The legal case is pretty clear. In 1995, President Clinton's lawyers in the Department of Justice laid out how federal agencies should operate if Congress failed to appropriate funds.

At the time, Clinton's lawyers pointed out that Social Security checks could be mailed during a shutdown, because the program doesn't need Congress to authorize funds for it each year. Instead, Social Security benefits are paid from the program's trust fund.

"The shutdown refers to discretionary spending, and Social Security is mandatory spending. It doesn't need an appropriations bill to go forward," Reischauer said.

And because Social Security benefits -- which go to roughly 60 million Americans -- are paid out of the trust fund, the agency has the implied legal authority to keep paying staffers who administer them.

That's exactly what happened in 1995-1996. While some Social Security Administration employees were sent home, the agency's official written history notes that essential staff stayed on to make sure benefits were paid.

According to Cooney, that legal interpretation has been supported by both Republican and Democratic administrations.

The White House, Majority Leader Reid and the Office of Management and Budget did not respond when asked by CNNMoney for clarification.
Gee, what a surprise. When caught in a bold-faced 'misstatement,' obama and reid just kept quiet and counted on their lackeys in the lamestream media to cover for them. And, for the most part, that strategy has worked.

Do you think obama and reid made those statements to scare seniors into urging their republican congresscritters to pass the obama budget? Of course they did.

So the only question left is whether obama and reid are liars or idiots?

Or both...

UPDATE: Be sure and check out today's Hope n' Change cartoon - especially the engraved invitation at the bottom. Outstanding!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Funnies 2011.02.27

In the midst of scuba certification. I'm tired, waterlogged, and sore. More of the same tomorrow.

I'm too old for this...



One day, a diver was enjoying the aquatic world 20 feet below sea level. He noticed a guy at the same depth he was, with no scuba gear on whatsoever.

The diver went below another 10 feet, but the guy joined him a minute later. The diver went below 15 more feet, a minute later, the same guy joined him.

This confused the diver, so he took out a waterproof chalkboard, and wrote, "How the heck are you able to stay under this deep without equipment?"

The guy took the board and chalk, erased what the diver had written, and wrote, "I'm drowning, you moron!"

 * * * * * * * * * *
A tourist in a bar in Florida asks an Irishman sitting at the bar, "Why do Scuba divers always fall backwards off their boats?"

To which the Irishman replies, "If they fell forwards they'd still be in the damn boat."

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sink Or Swim

I'm (hopefully) getting scuba certified this weekend. Just how I wanted to spend my days off. A one-hour drive to the instructional facility, 8 hours of class and practice dives, and a one-hour drive back home. Repeat on Sunday.

The things I do to keep my wife and kids happy...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Follies Happy Hour 2011.02.25

My birthday is sometime this weekend. This song sure seems appropriate...

Follow-Ups

A couple of quick follow-ups to recent posts:

I told the story yesterday of how, during my morning walk, I counted 14 city employees in the park, and only 1 was actually doing something. Today I walked along the same route. There were 10 city employees present, and 4 of them were being productive. Well, sort of.

Two of them were busy picking up trash and trimming brush. No complaints there. The other two were painting a metal railing on a bridge that spans a drainage basin. At first glance all seemed well. But ...

The bridge and railing are less than a year old. There didn't seem to be anything wrong with the existing paint job on the railing - no rust, no flaking, no wear and tear, no fading - just some bird crap along portions of it.

The workers were merrily slapping paint on and around the railing. No prep work - no sanding, no cleaning, no priming. They were also just painting over the bird crap. So in a little while when the bird crap dries up and flakes off, the paint will flake off along with it.

That's the public sector in a nutshell. Performing totally unnecessary work in an incompetent manner.

Sigh...

Two days ago I was ranting about the failure of this country's energy policies over the last several decades. Harper suggested, tongue firmly planted in cheek, that I run out and get an electric car. Coincidentally, there have been a few recent articles pointing out that electric cars aren't necessarily the solution to our energy woes, and in fact might even exacerbate the situation.

Watchdog says electric cars 'are as dirty as diesel'
Electric cars may portray themselves as 'zero emissions' but the overall pollution they generate can be almost as great as a frugal conventional diesel car, consumer watchdogs said today.

The amount of carbon dioxide - the so-called 'greenhouse gas' blamed by scientists for global warming -  created to generate the electricity powering an electric car, can be just as great as that created by the internal combustion engine

The main  difference is that  while a conventional car's emissions come out of the vehicle's exhaust pipe, those created by an electric car are generated at the power station which supplies the electricity.
The article does point out that electric cars are much greener than cars powered by internal combustion engines when it comes to localized emissions, which could be significant in improving air quality in large cities.

Another overlooked point regarding electric cars is the increased demand they place on an already overburdened power grid. Here in Texas we had rolling blackouts last summer due to heat-related increases in energy consumption to run air conditioners, and more rolling blackouts this winter due to increased demand during cold spells. What happens when a large number of electric cars are plugged in? Either more blackouts, or more people walking or staying home (or, more likely, hitching rides with their neighbors with gas-powered vehicles). Alternatively, we build more power plants, which are expensive, require an exhaustive and convoluted approval process, and a long lead time. By the time the new plants are on-line demand will again be surpassing supply.

Finally, we have an excellent example of the law of unintended consequences. As more people drive electric cars and hybrids, revenue from gasoline taxes plummets. So naturally, enterprising politicians have come up with innovative ways to increase taxes on fuel-efficient vehicles.

Electric vehicle drivers won’t be getting a free ride when it comes to paying for Oregon’s roads, if advocates of an odometer fee have their way.
Under House Bill 2328, those drivers would pay a “vehicle road usage charge,” starting with model year 2014 electric vehicles and plug-in gas-electric hybrids.
The bill sets the rate at 0.6 cents per gallon, with the actual tax due to be calculated based on how many miles the vehicle is driven and using 48 mpg as the mileage equivalency rate.

The bill is based on an experiment Oregon conducted in 2005-07. Gas tax revenues were falling because of increasingly fuel-efficient cars, so the state convinced volunteers to install GPS-based on-board transmitters that tracked their miles driven. 
Public concern surfaced, though. Some criticized the potential for an expanding bureaucracy. Others said the per-mile fee was too high and exceeded what a similar vehicle would pay in gas taxes.
The bill also requires the development of an option of tracking and reporting miles driven to protect drivers’ privacy by avoiding the use of “vehicle location technology.” Instead, that option is likely to rely on technology to transmit remotely miles driven as recorded by the vehicle’s odometer, Whitty said.
Those drivers would need to use a log book or other method of documenting miles driven off of Oregon roads — for example, in other states — so they can seek a refund for the fee paid on that travel.

So drivers will need some sort of technology installed in their vehicles to record and transmit mileage driven, plus a manual system to record out-of-state miles driven. Of course, the technology will be foolproof and the manual system won't be subject to 'inaccuracies,' right? And the new state bureacracy to keep track of all this, compute the tax owed, and collect it will be as efficient and effective as other government agencies, right? And the tax rate and mileage equivalency rate won't be raised or manipulated, right?

GMAFB.

(H/T to Peter for the links.)

P.S. - One week ago gas was $2.99 per gallon. By Tuesday it was up to $3.09, and yesterday it was anywhere from $3.19 to $3.29. Of course, according to the media this is all Libya's fault. Obama had nothing to do with it, right?

GMA Great Big FB...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Federal, State, Or Local - It Doesn't Matter, Because We're Getting Screwed At Every Level

There's been quite a bit posted about the mess in Wisconsin (and now spreading to other Midwestern states). I don't have much to add, other than I'm on the side of the angels (read: Scott Walker et al.). But I would like to offer some anecdotal evidence regarding the productivity of public sector employees.


I went for my semi-regular morning walk today. I usually follow a path through a park near my apartment down here in South Texas. Over the past few months the city has been upgrading the park - extending the path, landscaping it, adding irrigation systems to keep the new plants alive, and so forth. To give credit where credit is due, the city has done a nice job on the path. It's now a three-mile loop with a fresh asphalt track. (I'd prefer a softer surface, such as crushed granite or mulch, but there are elderly people and bikers who use it, so asphalt might be the best all-around surface.)

Anyway, today as I huffed and puffed my way around the loop, there were three clusters of city 'workers' out and about. The first cluster consisted of three men standing around a bike rack that they were evidently installing. I say 'evidently' because two of them were sitting on it, while the third stood off to the side talking on his cell phone.

A few hundred yards down the trail five city employees were taking turns looking down a hole. No one was doing anything, other than peering into the hole. I have no idea what was so fascinating about that particular hole, but it was keeping a quintet of public sector employees occupied for as long as I could see them.

Finally, as I rounded the turn and headed for home I came across the last group. Six of them were surrounding a truck with a load of topsoil. Five of them were leaning on their shovels while a single solitary individual was spreading the dirt over newly planted bushes and trees.

(Reminds me of the old story about a truckload of city employees who went out to fill potholes. When they got to the job site they realized that they had forgotten their shovels. One of them called the dispatcher, who said he'd send some shovels right out. "In the meantime," he told them, "just lean on each other until the shovels get there.")

Bottom line - I saw 14 public sector 'workers' today. Out of the 14, only 1 - ONE!!! - was actually working. The other 13 basically stood around with their thumbs up their butts. Tell me one private sector firm that could stay in business with only one out of fourteen employees being productive.

That's one reason why public sector unions are so opposed to privatization. They would actually have to be productive, or else kiss their feather-bedded jobs goodbye.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WTF?

Would someone please explain to me why the stock market has cratered because of turmoil in Libya?

Yes, I know it has something to do with the supply of oil. But Libya produces less than 2 percent of the world’s oil, and exports little to the United States. Yet oil prices broke the $100 per barrel barrier today. In my neck of the woods, gasoline prices jumped $.10 per gallon in one day.

Why?

And why the hell haven't we (the U.S.) done more to make ourselves less dependent on imported oil? We have enough proven reserves, whether in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, or shale oil in western states.

This is plain and simple a failure of multiple administrations, both D and R, going back to Jimmy Carter and beyond. Not only have we left ourselves vulnerable to our enemies, we have fattened their purses by refusing to take advantage of our abundant natural resources while depending on theirs.

And don't even get me started on ethanol...

FID 2011.02.23

Two news articles that illustrate the gulf between us and them:

Muslim pupils learn to cut off hands of thieves
Muslim children are being taught how to chop off thieves’ hands and that Jews are plotting to take over the world at a network of Islamic schools...

Up to 5,000 pupils attending weekend schools across Britain are being exposed to textbooks claiming that some Jews were transformed into pigs and apes, and that some offences could be punished with stoning. One book for six year-olds warns that those who do not believe in Islam will be condemned to “hellfire” in death.

Another text for 15 year-olds teaches that thieves who break Sharia law should have their hands cut off for a first offence and their feet amputated for a subsequent crime. Teenagers are presented with diagrams showing where the cuts should be made.
 A diagram from one of the text books
For acts of sodomy, children are told that the penalty is death. A textbook says there are different views on whether this should be done by stoning, or burning with fire, or throwing over a cliff. Textbooks for 15 year-olds revive the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” which teach that Jews want world domination.
Can you imagine the homework assignments from that class? I'll give them credit for one thing, though. I doubt if any of their teachers will go out on strike.

Closer to home, we have this nonsense.

Muslim Extremists attempting ‘Day of Rage’ in U.S. on March 3
...Muslim extremists Anjem Choudary, Abu Izzadeen and Sayful Islam ... are planning to stand on American soil in front of the White House on March 3 and proclaim a “call to arms” in which they will “call for Sharia law to be established across the U.S.,” according to the Daily Mail on Sunday.
Oh please stand on my front lawn and proclaim a muslim "call to arms" - please, please, please. There'll be a call to arms, all right, but it won't be the one they're hoping for.
Anjem Choudary is the same extremist who has insisted that the Islamic flag will one day fly over the White House.
What the hell more does he want? It's damn near flying there already.
It would seem that Brigitte Gabriel’s warning about the attempt of Muslim Extremists to force an Islamic government into power in the United States is beginning to manifest.  The Arab Christian is the founder and president of ACT! for America and has written a bestselling book entitled They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It.  She told One News Now earlier this month that, “I actually dedicate a chapter to the Muslim Brotherhood's project for North America -- not only to what they have done in the Middle East and their goals of bringing back an Islamic government totalitarian regime worldwide, but their plan to the United States as well.”

She also stated that, “We not only have the fox watching the hen house; we have the fox inside the hen house right now," she notes. "This is why Obama is being wishy-washy on what's happening in Egypt, because the Obama administration right now is basically taking advice on Middle East policy from the Muslim Brotherhood front organizations in America."
I guess it's too much to expect that osama-oops-I-mean-obama would turn his attention from the War on Wisconsin and focus instead on the muslim pirates killing Americans.
Pirate leader Farah, speaking from Bayla, a pirate haven in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in northern Somalia, vowed to avenge the deaths and capture of his comrades.

"I lost the money I invested and my comrades. No forgiveness for the Americans. Revenge. Our business will go on," he said, adding he had spent $110,000 so far in the hijacking, including on weapons and food and salaries.
Let me see if I've got this straight. We know who the pirates are, we know where they're located, and we're (read: obama) not doing a damn thing about it!?!?! Where the hell are Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan when we need them? Instead, we've got a Jimmy Carter clone cowering in the White House while our enemies around the world are laughing out loud at us (and our friends are quietly snickering and sadly shaking their heads).
"The intent always had been that this would be a negotiated process and not ever go into a point where we actually had gunfire," said Vice Admiral Mark Fox, the head of U.S. naval forces in the turbulent region.
The only thing that will stop those animals from continuing is if the cost exceeds the benefits. That does not mean a 'negotiated process.' It means gunfire, and lots of it, plus explosions, flames, knives, spears, arrows ... you get the point.

And so will they, if anyone in the federal government ever grows a pair of cojones...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This Says It All



(From BMEWS)

I Have A New Man Crush

Scott Walker is my new hero. He ranks right up there with Chris Christie.

GOP Governors Strike at Heart of Democrats
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie  and other members of a new class of combative Republican governors are fighting pitched battles over painful budget cuts that affect issues that once were thought to be untouchable such as teacher tenure and collective-bargaining rights.

These showdowns in the states — expressed most spectacularly this week in Wisconsin’s capital — have brought to life a long-standing cliché of government: The most consequential political action and the most serious policy debates are not taking place in Washington, which appears unlikely to tackle any big-ticket items but, rather, beyond the Beltway, in the state capitols, which Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously labeled the “laboratories of democracy.”

With a budget-cutting and reform zeal unseen since the mid-1990s, a group of Republican chief executives are using difficult economic times to press an ambitious policy agenda that makes their GOP counterparts in Washington seem like timid incrementalists.

Their goal: to shatter a bipartisan consensus on public labor that’s shaped politics in the West, the Northeast and the Upper Midwest since the 1960s.

If Walker, who is trying to curb collective-bargaining rights, and Christie, who is attempting to overhaul teacher tenure, manage to succeed, they’ll only embolden their counterparts elsewhere — and potentially do grave damage to what is one of the Democrats’ most important financial and grass-roots constituencies. Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, among other Republicans, are watching carefully, bracing for similar showdowns.

Much of the attention in Wisconsin is devoted to Walker’s proposal to strip state employees of the right to bargain collectively for anything besides their pay and to make them pay more for their health care and pensions.

Yet another element of the legislation could have even greater political consequences. The Republican would end the automatic deduction from their workers paychecks and make the unions collect the dues themselves, a move that would almost surely result in less cash flowing into labor coffers. It would block unions from collecting money from consenting wokers’ paychecks for political operations, and it would force annual elections on whether state workers even want a union, a lethal threat to public-sector labor.
We can only hope.

But before we get too excited about a Christie-Walker ticker in 2012, let's keep a few things in mind.

Scott Walker or Chris Christie for President? No way
Many conservatives are understandably fond of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who are fighting the good fight in the face of powerful entrenched special interests. Partly because any successful and conservative governor is considered a candidate for President, and partly because the current 2012 field is considered lacking, conservatives are already dreaming about Walker or Christie running for President.

But the trait that makes these two men attractive as presidential candidates -- the appearance of serious dedication to the painful task of saving a state from fiscal ruin amid corruption and cronyism -- is the same trait that precludes them from running.

Liberals charge Christie and Walker with being politically motivated opportunists. I'm pretty sure they're mostly wrong about Christie. I don't know about Walker (his excluding firefighters from his proposed limits on gov't-union collective bargaining  does smell to me of opportunism). Whatever their true motives, if either man runs for President he undermines his own work in two ways:

1) He makes the liberal charges look true.

2) He looks a bit like Sarah Palin, quitting his job so early on. This is made worse by the fact that they would still be leaving with their states in very bad shape.
 Sure, both men should be considered in 2016, but for now, they should -- unlike President Obama these days -- tend to their own jobs and mind their own business.
That leaves unanswered the question of just exactly who should run against obama in 2012. Palin and Gingrich have too much baggage. Romney is the presumptive front runner, but IMO his connection to RomneyCare, the universal health care law he supported in Massachusetts, is enough to eliminate him. Jindal flopped badly in his national address at the 2010 GOP convention. Jeb Bush is handicapped by the family name. Giuliani, Petraeus, and Graham have to be considered long shots. I really, really like Allen West, but he needs more seasoning.

That leaves ... who?

Mike Huckabee.

He's not perfect (who is?) but I like him a lot. I like his stance on the issues, his personal principles, and especially his bass-playing with the band Capitol Offense. How can you not like a guy who covers artists like Charlie Daniels, Willie Nelson, Chuck Berry, and Grand Funk, among others?

Houston Sucks

I lived there for around 20 years, from the early 1980's to 2001. When I finally escaped from that God-forsaken place I swore never to return. I was faithful to that oath until last weekend, when fate forced my hand.

How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

Houston is the poster child for urban sprawl - on steroids.
  • When I left the city was overrun with hypercongested 8 lane freeways. Now they have hypercongested 12-lane freeways - plus toll roads.
  • When I left there was construction on the Katy freeway (IH 10 west of town). When I returned 10 years later there was construction on the Katy freeway.
  • Houston is the largest city in the United States without formal zoning regulations (like fire and freedom, that can be both a blessing and a curse). One consequence of this is the emergence of multiple business and commercial districts, rather than one central downtown like most cities. This just reinforces the sprawl.
When we lived there, our representative (Sheila Jackson Lee) was the dumbest member of congress. She still is.

Throw in the relentless heat and humidity, the 747-sized mosquitoes (the place was built on a swamp, for God's sake), occasional hurricanes, the high crime rate, the lousy sports teams, and much, much more, and you have the recipe for a giant FAIL of a city.

The only two things I miss are some good friends we made during our exile there, and the world-class restaurants. But our friends have a standing invitation to visit us (which several of them do on a regular basis), and we have a few decent eateries where we live (plus my wife and I can fumble our way around the kitchen fairly well).

I guess the recent trip was worthwhile. It reminded me of how lucky we were to get out of that town with our health and sanity (mostly), and how fortunate we are to live where we do.

Monday, February 21, 2011

FOD 2011.02.21

Happy President's Day!


(graphic from here.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Funnies 2011.02.20



Q: Did you hear about the Bill Clinton sale at clothing stores on President's day?
A: All pants half off.

 * * * * * * * * * *

A lobbyist, on his way home from work in Washington, D.C, came to a dead halt in traffic and thought to himself, "Wow, this traffic seems worse than usual."

He noticed a police officer walking between the lines of stopped cars, so he rolled down his window and asked, "Officer, what's the hold-up?"

The officer replied, "The President is depressed, so he stopped his motorcade and is threatening to douse himself with gasoline and set himself on fire. He says everyone blames him for the worsening deficit and economy, the turmoil in the Middle East, and the problems along the Mexican border. So we're taking up a collection for him."

The lobbyist asks, "How much have you got so far?"

The officer replied, "About four gallons, but a lot of folks are still siphoning."

* * * * * * * * * *

For Presidents Day, Barack Obama's daughters told him they will take the same responsibility for the dog that he is taking for the economy. That way, if the dog leaves a mess in the White House, it'll be cleaned up by future generations.

Bittersweet Weekend

I'm spending the weekend in Houston. I escaped from this hellhole ten years ago, and haven't been back since (except to change planes at the airport, which doesn't count).

I'm here to see two people who are very close to me, and who are dying.

One is the father of a close friend of mine. Years ago we all spent a lot of time together, most of it hunting and fishing. His father is about the same age as my father - 90+ - and shared many of the same experiences growing up in the Depression and fighting in WW II.

Recently Cali was diagnosed with amyloidosis. It's a blood disease that produces too much protein, which coats the organs of the body and eventually causes them to fail. He's gone downhill pretty fast, as his kidney function is failing, with a resultant effect on his heart. The short term treatment is dialysis to handle the fluid build-up. If that works then the doctors will address the other problems.
The second person I'm here to visit is someone who is the closest thing to a mentor I ever had. He hired me once I finally graduated from college (it took me ten years from start to finish, but there were a lot of things that happened in that decade, including military service, one marriage, and 'finding myself' - but that's a story for another time).
Anyway, Bob recognized a gem in the rough, hired me, groomed me, and dragged me kicking and screaming from Austin to Houston to take my place in the corporate headquarters of an international financial holding company. It was a very beneficial professional move for me, but it had some interesting personal implications (the law of unintended consequnces - again, a story for another time).
Bob was diagnosed a few years ago with brain cancer. He underwent chemo and radiation therapy, which put it into remission for a while. Sadly, it has reoccurred and seeded nodules into his lungs. He is now down to 108 pounds, and breathes with the help of an oxygen tank. However, he has maintained his love of golf and sense of humor. We are having a golf outing tomorrow in his honor. He'll be there, driving around in a golf cart with his oxygen tank observing what he calls the "pre-funeral festivities."
I'm glad to be here this weekend to spend time with both these fine men. I was blessed to have them in my life. The country was blessed to have them as well. I hope and pray that those of us coming up behind them can maintain the high standards they have set.
I'm not very good at expressing myself, but I spent time this afternoon with Bob's friends and family, and went out tonight with Cali's son and daughter-in-law. We laughed, we cried, we hugged, and we're going to do it all over again tomorrow.
It's going to be a long drive home...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Follies Happy Hour 2011.02.18

Sometimes I feel guilty because I don't go to church as often as I should. Then I run across a song like this...

Let's Kill All The Lawyers

On Thursday, Feb. 10, the California Supreme Court ruled that retailers asking for a customer's ZIP code during a credit card purchase are violating a California consumer privacy law.

By Tuesday, Feb. 15, over a dozen national retail chains operating in the state have been hit with a flurry of lawsuits.
Among the retail giants facing lawsuits for requesting ZIP code information during the past year are Williams-Sonoma Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp., Macy's Inc. and Cost Plus Inc.
Regardless of where you stand on the legal issue - and I have a hard time understanding how asking for someone's zip code violates their privacy or increases the risk of identity theft - if there is a perceived risk, then simply halt the practice. And also note that the zip code information was requested, not required.

A gaggle of lawsuits that will inevitably be consolidated into one or more class actions will hurt businesses, won't significantly benefit consumers, and will only enrich sordid ambulance-chasing maggot-infested lawyers.

If you think that description is a tad harsh, stay home sometime and watch daytime TV. The slimy ads of personal injury lawyers trolling for clients is enough to make you take hourly showers in a vain attempt to wash the sleaze off.

All this nonsense brings to mind the famous line from Shakespeare's Henry the Sixth: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

Putting that line in context, the speaker is supporting another character who is proposing a social revolution during the War of the Roses. The premise is that all lawyers do is shuffle parchments back and forth in a systematic attempt to ruin the common people. The line is a summarization of the general populace's desire to simply be left alone.

Some things never change...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

May They All Rot In Hell

This is a long post, and in many regards a disturbing one. It's something that's always in the back of my mind, given my work and home locations in proximity to the Mexican border. It was prompted by a couple of things. One, an ICE agent killed yesterday in Mexico was assigned to the Laredo office. I happen to work in Laredo. Special Agent Jaime Zapata's death has had a significant community impact.

Two, JammieWearingFool had a post on a related topic. Excerpt printed below.

Obama Really Serious About Border Enforcement, Slashes OT for Agents
He manages to find an 11% increase in education spending and $451 million for NPR and PBS, but when it comes to securing our borders, suddenly the president is a spendthrift.
Border Patrol agents would lose money under a change in the overtime pay proposed in the $3.7 trillion budget President Barack Obama sent Congress Monday, the agent's union said Wednesday.

The proposal is an attempt to save $110 million by changing the overtime system for Border Patrol agents, who are paid time and a half for their first ten hours of overtime per week, and half-time for any additional unscheduled overtime hours. The president's budget proposes to pay agents straight-time for their first ten hours of overtime per week, and no compensation for any additional, unscheduled overtime hours.
That ought to provide a great incentive for agents to work harder. They bust their asses with little reward and now have even less. Maybe they ought to look into getting a job at NPR.
What is obama and the federal government doing to keep us safe? With apologies to my border patrol neighbors, I have to say that overall the answer is zip, zero, nada. Individual agents and officers do their best, but the government's overall efforts don't amount to a hill of beans.

Now settle back, pour yourself another cup of coffee or an adult beverage, and read the following excerpts from a lengthy piece in Vanity Fair, of all places. While you're reading this keep in mind that hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens who live and work along the border are exposed to this on a daily basis.
During the past several years, drug-related violence in northern Mexico has soared to unprecedented levels as drug cartels wage war on one another—and on anyone deemed uncooperative, unfriendly, or otherwise inconvenient. There have been more than 28,000 killings since 2006. And, inexorably, the violence is spreading northward, into the United States—whose appetite for drugs is largely responsible for the present tragedy.
There is a method of sorts to the madness. Each different mutilation leaves a message
  • If the tongue is cut out, it means the person talked too much—a snitch, or chupro.
  • A man who has informed on the cartel has his finger cut off and maybe put in his mouth. This makes sense: a traitor to a narco-cartel is known as a dedo—a finger. 
  • Castration means that the victim may have slept with or looked at the woman of another man in the business. 
  • Severed arms mean that you stole from your consignment.
  • Severed legs mean that the victim tried to walk away from the cartel.
In some cases the message is very blunt and all too clear, such as the message delivered by the 12 festering bodies lined up outside the Valentín Gómez Farías elementary school, in Tijuana, one morning in September 2008. The victims were naked, or partially dressed, and all of them had been tortured. Most had their tongues cut out. This was a message sent directly to children, something for them to think about as they consider their future lives in the community: Don’t talk too much. “It was a warning, and it means what it means,” said the head teacher, Miguel Ángel González Tovar.
Murder extends to family members, even children. This is not entirely new: during the 1980s, the original Mexican godfather, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, needed to deal with an encroachment into his Guadalajara turf by an interloper named Hector Palma. Gallardo tasked one of his operatives to seduce Palma’s wife and run off with the wife and the children—which he did. One day, Palma received a package by courier: it contained his wife’s severed head. Palma learned later that his children had been pushed to their deaths off a bridge. In Ciudad Juárez, in August 2009, a seven-year-old was shot dead while cleaning windshields at a traffic light. Last January, 16 young people at a party in Juárez were trapped and summarily executed.
There used to be honor among thieves, of a sort. Families were off limits. Now they're targeted. And what kind of sick human being can commit acts like this on kids under the age of ten? Sick, sick, sick...
The killing in northern Mexico has become qualitatively more grotesque. “Bone tickling” involves scraping the bone with an ice pick sunk through the flesh. Doctors are employed to ensure that those questioned or tortured do not lose consciousness. Bodies turn up with the phone number for emergency services carved into their skin—in effect, “Call 911.” One cartel, La Familia, made its “coming out” known in a famous episode: bowling five severed heads across the floor of a discotheque. In Sonora in 2009, a white S.U.V. was found abandoned, and inside it a butcher’s display of mutilated bodies—hacked, chopped, castrated, decapitated. It was a carful of human cutlets, with no apparent relationship of one piece to another until they were matched by forensic authorities. Earlier this year, 36-year-old Hugo Hernandez was abducted in Sonora; his body turned up a week later in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, but not in a single piece. His torso was in one location, his severed arms and legs (boxed) in another. The face had been cut off. It was found near city hall, sewn to a soccer ball.
If the violence was confined to Mexico there might be some rationale for Americans to overlook it. Not morally justifiable, but perhaps understandable. However, the violence is spilling over the border at an increasing rate. How long before our schoolkids are exposed to and affected by it?
Mexico’s violence has crossed the border in many ways and many places. The Zetas have been linked to killings across the Deep South. In August 2008, five men were found with their throats slit in Columbiana, Alabama, after being tortured with electricity. The F.B.I. says the victims owed a debt of $400,000 to the Gulf Cartel. In July of that year, Atlanta police had shot and killed a Gulf Cartel operative arriving to pick up a $2 million kidnap ransom. In the summer of 2008, police found a citizen of the Dominican Republic bound, gagged, and chained to a wall—but alive—in the Atlanta suburb of Lilburn; he owed $300,000 to the Gulf Cartel. To give some idea of the degree to which Mexican cartels are operating inside the United States: a government sweep called Operation Xcellerator, which ended in February 2009, rounded up more than 750 members of the Sinaloa Cartel throughout the country, from California’s Imperial Valley to Washington, D.C. In the process, the authorities also seized 26,000 pounds of cocaine and some $59 million in cash.

Houston has become the new hub for cartel criminality north of the border, replacing Los Angeles. The F.B.I. in Houston describes how two generations of gangs have put themselves at the service of the Gulf Cartel in particular: the older Texas Syndicate, with its tight structures, life membership, and culture of what the Italian Mafia calls omertà, or silence, and the younger Houstone Tango Blast gang, which one agent told me was “more like Facebook—the gang changes according to what you need that day.” A reporter for the Houston Chronicle, Dane Schiller, has been writing for years on the internecine killings organized by Mexican cartels in Houston. For instance, there is the case of Santiago “Chago” Salinas, a Gulf Cartel operative shot in the head at point-blank range at the Baymont Inn & Suites on the Gulf Freeway, in 2006. There is the case of the married couple found tortured to death in their home on Easingwold Drive, in northwest Houston, with 220 pounds of cocaine stashed in the attic. And there is the case of Pedro Cárdenas, the nephew of Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, founder of the Zetas, who was murdered and dumped in a ditch near Fort Bend County.

The degree to which American law-enforcement agencies have themselves been penetrated by the cartels is a subject of debate—but no one doubts that they have been. One longtime customs special agent, now retired, told me, “While it gets harder for us to infiltrate them, they’ll use relatives and friends to infiltrate us.” Another former special agent, Butch Barrett, who lives in Douglas, Arizona, observes, “There’s going to be a situation where you have a guy in law enforcement and his cousins are across the border. And he’s going to get a call saying, ‘Hey, we’d like you to join the customs service and do as you’re told’—let this car through or turn a blind eye there. And that’s going to be said by your cousin on the other side, and it’s going to be an offer you can’t refuse. And that’s happened, because I know it has.”
How can we stop this? One way, one obvious and effective way, is the simple adage: just follow the money. So why isn't that being done? Well, when's the last time a really rich person was convicted of anything? Yes, I know Bernie Madoff is in prison, but that's primarily because he ripped off a bunch of other rich people. If it was just us common folk that got hammered do you think he'd be serving time? How many people from Wall Street or Freddie and Fannie - or congress - are behind bars as a result of the mortgage scandel and meltdown?
The Mexican cartels now supply some 90 percent of the cocaine and a substantial portion of other drugs entering the United States. It is a business estimated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (D.E.A.) to be worth roughly $323 billion a year.

Where does it go? How does it travel from the cartels back into the economy? What financial institutions are helping to launder these dollars? Former customs special agent Lee Morgan said to me, “Kinda strange, ain’t it, how Washington’s got all this technology, but never goes after the money?”

Last March, the Bloomberg financial-news Web site reported that Wachovia Bank, now owned by Wells Fargo, had admitted to federal prosecutors that, in the years 2003–8, it had failed to prevent the laundering of at least $110 million of drug-cartel money through the exchange houses it operated in Mexico. The bank also admitted that it had failed to monitor $420 billion in transactions through these same exchange houses. Wachovia agreed to pay $160 million to end the criminal investigation, acknowledging “serious and systematic” violations of the Bank Secrecy Act. Jeffrey Sloman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, stated that the bank’s “blatant disregard for our banking laws” had given the international cocaine cartels “a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations.”
Again, how many of those bankers are in jail?

So yeah, obama, cut the Border Patrol's funding. Spend the money on crap like NPR or obamacare or high speed rail. That's a much better 'investment' than protecting this country's citizens.

Screw you and all your politician buddies who go along with this farce.

I hope that someday you will all reap what you sow...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Crap Like This Makes All Professors Look Bad

Lara Logan, a CBS correspondent, was brutally beaten and raped by part of the 'freedom loving' protesters in Egypt. 
Logan was with a CBS crew in Tahrir Square last Friday when they were surrounded by, a network statement said, “a mob of more than 200 people whipped into a frenzy. In the crush of the mob, [Logan] was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers.”

The New York Post reported today that a network source reported that her attackers screamed, "Jew! Jew!" during the assault. A day earlier, Logan told Esquire.com that Egyptian soldiers who had hassled her and her crew accused them of being Israeli spies. Logan is not Jewish.
Nir Rosen, a research fellow at NYU's School of Law, had this  - and more - to say about the attack.
*“Lara Logan had to outdo Anderson. Where was her buddy McCrystal." (That is a reference to CNN journalist Anderson Cooper, and to retired Gen. Stanley Allen McChrystal, who was forced to resign as commander of troops in Afghanistan by President Obama for unflattering comments about administration officials attributed to McChrystal in a Rolling Stone article.)

*“Yes yes its wrong what happened to her. Of course. I don’t support that. But, it would have been funny if it happened to Anderson too.”

*“Jesus Christ, at a moment when she is going to become a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger”

*“Look, she was probably groped like thousands of other women, which is still wrong, but if it was worse than [sic] I’m sorry.”
To review: He made a joke of a brutal beating and sexual assault; he suggested that perhaps she concocted the sexual attack; he called her a warmonger; he said it would have been funny if Anderson Cooper had been attacked, too.

When the backlash against his disgusting remarks began to build, NYU finally took bold and decisive action.

They allowed the asshole to resign.
New York University’s Center on Law and Security allowed one of its fellows, Nir Rosen, to resign after he tweeted vile things about veteran CBS war correspondent Lara Logan, who sustained a brutal sexual assault and beating in Cairo during pro-democracy celebrations.
Reality TV shows are tougher on the people who don't make the cut than NYU, a supposedly prestigious institution of higher learning, was in reacting to Rosen's vile comments. 

Crap like this tars all universities and all faculty with the same brush. In defense of my colleagues and my profession, I can only say that I have never encountered anyone in academia who is remotely this warped and insensitive. Political and professional disagreements, sure. But nothing like this.

Maybe if Rosen was beaten and gang-raped he'd have a little more empathy...

(Source for much of the material here.)

FID 2011.02.16 - Great Minds Think Alike

In an earlier post I commented on how influential figures in Great Britain and Singapore were finally recognizing the folly of expecting muslims to assimilate into an existing culture. Now we have the French piling on.  

Sarkozy Joins Cameron, Merkel, Condemns Multiculturalism
French President Nicolas Sarkozy agrees with other European leaders who say multiculturalism has failed.

Speaking on a French television program, Sarkozy echoed the remarks of British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Last week, Cameron flatly declared multiculturalism a sad failure, and Merkel said as much in October.

"My answer is clearly yes, it is a failure," Sarkozy said, adding...

If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single community, which is the national community, and if you do not want to accept that, you cannot be welcome in France....

We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him.
Amen to that, brother. Who ever would have thought that the French, the British, and the Germans would agree on something?

The story goes on to point out:
Thanks to Islamic immigration, France is a literal mess. Outside Paris, Muslims have established what the French call no-go zones, in which native French and police dare not set foot.
Don't hear that mentioned in the lamestream press, do we?
In August 2009, the French no-go zone of Bagnolet went up in flames thanks to Muslims rioters, a reprise of the major Muslim attacks in 2005 that paralyzed the city and the nation's politicians.
(The French government's) response to the unrest was to offer more welfare to African Muslims and blame themselves for not doing their part in making the Muslims feel welcome in the City of Lights.

When Muslims across Gaul erupted into that mad rage in 2005, French President Jacques Chirac rushed to blame his countrymen. 
Geez, does that sound like some of our 'progressive' politicians?
... Chirac said Muslims rioted because of the “ghettoization of youths of African or North African origin” and “the incapacity of French society to fully accept them.”

Chirac also thought his country “has not done everything possible for these youths, supported them so they feel understood, heard and respected,” citing high unemployment among the African immigrants.

Unsurprisingly, French law began to reflect that view. It now punishes those who criticize Islam. Authorities have prosecuted actress Brigitte Bardot five times for comments about the Muslim invasion and the grisly practices of Muslims when slaughtering livestock.
Prosecuting Brigitte Bardot? She's a whack job, but only to the extent of being firmly on the side of the animals. She could care less about the religious leanings of whoever is swinging the sledgehammer.
France, however, may have wised up. It recently banned the burqa, the medieval head-to-toe covering that strict Muslim men expect their women to wear, as well as other face-covering veils.
Who ever would have thought that the French, of all people, would lead the way in defending the roots of Western culture?
Sarkozy is the third European head of state to admit the truth about multiculturalism, which for all intents and purposes means admitting the truth that Muslims are not assimilating, and that native Europeans are tired of listening to their ridiculous demands and caterwauling about rights.
Muslims are not assimilating - who woulda thunk? Only several centuries of world history have provided a hint.
We need to think much harder who it’s in the public interest to work with. Some organizations that seek to present themselves a gateway to the Muslims community are showered with public money despite doing little to combat extremism.…

So let’s properly judge these organizations:

Do they believe in universal human rights — including for women and people of other faiths?

Do they believe in equality of all before the law?

Do they believe in democracy and the right of people to elect their own government?

Do they encourage integration or separatism?
The answers to the above questions are, as the saying goes, "intuitively obvious to even the most uninterested observer.'
Problem is, the immigrants they invited in are demanding sweeping changes in laws that would allow them to carry on as if they were a separate society. In Britain, for instance, as The New American has reported, Muslims have been agitating for and receiving special treatment. Swimming pools in London accommodate Muslim sensibilities in bathing attire. Schools serve halal food. Prison guards have been forbidden to wear St. George’s Cross because it supposedly offends Muslims prisoners sensitive about the Crusades.
Pardon my French, but to quote the old ballad:

"Fuck 'em all, fuck 'em all, the long, the short and the tall..."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Unanswered Questions

As I've said before, I live in Central Texas but work in a Texas-Mexico border town. When I'm down here I stay in a small apartment. Many of the other renters in this complex are Texas DPS (Highway Patrol) troopers or border patrol agents. One of my close neighbors is a K9 officer. I see him frequently walking his German Shepherd around the grounds.

The troopers and agents are all very nice, very polite young men. Many of them are married, and several have young children. It's a family-oriented apartment complex. In fact, tonight some of them were having a small barbecue near the pool. It was a typical gathering - some food, some beer, kids running around, a little music. I said "howdy" as I walked by after class. They invited me to join them, but I had papers to grade so I said "no thanks."

Then things changed...

Breaking News:

2 ICE agents shot while driving across Mexico
Two American immigration and customs officers driving across Mexico on Tuesday were shot and "seriously wounded" by unidentified gunmen, according to U.S officials.

The attack occurred somewhere on the road between Monterrey and Mexico City on Monday afternoon, according to a statement released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The identities and precise conditions of the two officers is unknown. However, an ICE official speaking on the condition of anonymity said both agents were "seriously wounded." 
"ICE is working with the U.S. State Department, Mexican authorities and other U.S. law enforcement partners to investigate the shooting," the agency statement read "Our thoughts and prayers are with our colleagues."
(More here.) 

When I heard the news I went down to tell the officers. They had just heard as well - all the cell phones were going crazy. At this point there are few confirmed details, although the general consensus of the officers' network was that this was the work of the Los Zetas cartel, a heavily armed and highly trained organization composed mainly of ex-Mexican Army Special Forces members who are fighting with other cartels to control lucrative smuggling corridors.

Needless to say, the mood at the barbecue was drastically altered. The males stalked around, tense and angry. Their wives and girlfriends were very quiet, alternatively clinging to each other or their men. The news was an unwelcome reminder that their men worked in a violent and unpredictable profession. It's trite, but it's true - when the husband walks out the door in the morning there's no guarantee that he'll come home again that afternoon.

This comes on top of the news that one of the most dangerous people in the country is tonight out of jail, a free man, after being caught just a few months ago
A district judge approved bond for 23-year-old Joseph Allen Garcia. That despite the fact he was arrested on charges including flight to avoid prosecution, not to mention murder.

Bond was set for $1.25 million after his attorney was able to provide proof to the Webb County sheriff’s office that he was worth double that amount. 
Gee, how does a 23-year-old become worth more than $2.5 million?  Overtime? Or perhaps he's a government employee. In any event;
Garcia was returned to the United States to face justice for the murder of two individuals and four aggravated assaults with a deadly weapon.

This fugitive had been avoiding the authorities for approximately five years and was even featured on Americas Most Wanted. 
Mexican judges, district attorneys, and law enforcement agents are routinely gunned down. U.S. law enforcement agents are likewise assaulted. The violence is spreading across the border. Is it any wonder that a violent predator who was already been on the run for five years, and who has an 'unexplained' multi-million dollar net worth, is released on bail?

Where is the federal government in securing our borders? Why can't I go armed to protect myself and my students on campus, like I can just about anywhere else in town? Why does our government fear me more than it fears criminals who have repeatedly demonstrated their contempt for and disregard of our laws?

Why do I waste my time asking these questions...?

Dead or Employed by the Government - Who Can Tell?

The gang at GGD have a rant going on regarding the worthlessness of the public sector. Here's a little more fuel for their fire.

L.A. County Employee Dead in Cubicle a Day Before Being Noticed
An L.A. County employee apparently died while working in her cubicle on Friday, but no one noticed for quite some time.
(The employee) was found by a security guard ... slumped over on her desk...
Her co-workers probably thought she was asleep. Most government workers either nap or surf the 'Net after lunch. Unless they work for the DMV. Then they just stand around and gossip while ignoring the long, long lines. 


Monday, February 14, 2011

Confused

I left the South Texas border town where I work last Fri. to go home in Central Texas. The low temperature that night was below freezing, so I dressed warm and left the heater on in my apartment. When I returned today (Monday) I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. It was 85 degrees and people were sunning themselves by the pool. I immediately cranked up the A/C. 

There are a lot of things in this world that confuse me. The weather shouldn't be one of them...

FOD 2011.02.14

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Funnies 2011.02.13

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Accordingly, we present the following.

This one reflects the extremely cold weather we've had this winter.



This one captures how most guys feel about the holiday.


And this one is dedicated to my lovely wife, who puts up with more than she should as a consequence of being married to me.



Speaking of wives, this quote is painfully true (twice ... some people are slow learners).

"Instead of getting married again, I'm going to find a woman I don't like and give her a house."
 ~Groucho Marx


When a woman at the the school where I worked became engaged, I offered her some advice.

"The first ten years are the hardest."

"How long have you been married?" she asked.

"Ten years," I replied.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Weekend Update

Finally, a gorgeous day. Sunny and warm - high temps near 70. I snuck in a round of golf. Played lousy, but it was great just to finally be outside without bundling up. We have a little 9-hole Valentines Day special scheduled for tomorrow. The wives can ride with us, and we'll let them (!) putt. Champagne will be provided with the carts.

Damn we're good to our women...

Food Porn



From here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Follies Happy Hour 2011.02.11

That most romantic of holidays, Valentine's Day, is just around the corner. With that in mind, I'd like to dedicate this post to my two ex-wives...

High Education Hi-Jinks

We have professors pissing on other professors (well, just their office door, but close enough).

We also have students graduating with a Masters degree in Beatles music.
A Canadian woman has become the first person in the world to graduate with a Masters degree in Beatles Studies.

Former Miss Canada finalist, Mary-Lu Zahalan-Kennedy was one of the first 12 students to sign up for the Liverpool Hope University course on the Fab Four when it began in 2009 and was the first to graduate, the university said on Wednesday.

"Mary-Lu now joins an internationally recognized group of scholars of Popular Music Studies who are able to offer fresh and thought-provoking insights into the discipline of musicology."
"Internationally recognized group of scholars..." GMAFB. Fluff studies - the university equivalent of a toy store. At a time when universities - American and European, among others - are hemorrhaging red ink, they are still expending resources on topics like Beatles Studies. How does that help feed people, or cure cancer, or stop global warming climate change global weirdness? How does it even help Mary-Lu get a job? (Well, at least a productive job.) "Higher" education indeed.

With all this strangeness percolating through the academic world, is it any wonder that one teacher vented off a little steam?
School officials in a district near Philadelphia say a high school English teacher posted profanity-laced rants online that labeled her students "out of control" and "disengaged, lazy whiners."
Central Bucks School District suspended Natalie Munroe with pay Wednesday after parents complained about the posts, which also targeted co-workers and administrators.

District spokeswoman Carol Counihan tells the Bucks County Courier Times that Munroe admitting writing the posts. Superintendent Robert Laws says the posts should result in termination but the district is still investigating.
I don't understand what all the fuss is about. I don't doubt that her students, like so many today, are in fact "out of control, disengaged, lazy whiners." I also don't doubt that she works with idiots and assholes. They are plentiful in academia. Unless she identified people by name, she shouldn't be punished for speaking the truth.

Munroe posted her statements in a blog, which could mean trouble for yours truly. I might get fired if my bosses figure out my secret identity.

Did I mention that my name is Barack Obama and I teach law at the University of Chicago...?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Failure Is Not An Option...

... unless you're the History Channel.

I'm working from home today. As I sometimes do, I flipped on the TV to give me the illusion of company in my empty apartment. It was set to the History Channel, so I turned down the volume and got to work. I wasn't really paying attention to the show at first, but gradually it began to capture my interest.

It was a documentary about NASA's Apollo missions, told from the perspective of the mission control room and personnel. They used a series of original film snippets from back then, interspersed with present-day interviews of the astronauts, controllers, and engineers, to tell the story of the events leading up to and immediately following the moon landings.

I'm old enough to have lived through that time. I remember sitting in grade school as they wheeled in TV sets so we could watch the Mercury and Gemini launches live - in class! That was almost as good as recess.

A few years later I sat glued to the TV watching Neil Armstrong step on the moon. That was followed by a moon-landing party of epic proportions (I was in my late teens by then. Any excuse for a party.).

But the most gripping, most intense mission of all was Apollo 13. Watching the events unfold live, first not knowing what was happening, and then not knowing if the astronauts would make it back alive, is to this day the most singular thing I have ever seen on television. Talk about reality TV - that was it in spades.

So back to the History Channel. The show this morning was titled "Failure is not an Option." It was outstanding. It is the most riveting documentary I've seen in a long, long time. I highly recommend it. In fact, I was so impressed that after the show was over I immediately went to the History Channel website to order the DVD. That's when the failure began.

There is no record on the website of that particular show ever existing. After wasting time searching for it, I did what I should have done in the first place and went to Amazon. Sure enough, up popped the DVD - with a notice saying "This product is no longer available." A search of eBay was likewise fruitless. Back to History.com...

I finally found a two-DVD set that I think contains the show I want (the product description is a little confusing). I went ahead and ordered it, figuring that I can always return it if necessary. If you're interested, the link is below. (Be careful. There is a "Failure is not an Option 2" dvd, which chronicles the struggles of NASA after Apollo - the Hubble telescope, the Challenger disaster, etc. It may be worth watching, but I haven't seen it, so I can't comment on it.)

http://shop.history.com/detail.php?p=105853&v=aetv 

I don't know what it is with the History Channel. They produce some of most intriguing shows around (I'm an Ice Road Truckers junkie), but their website is one of the most user-unfriendly around, with a terrible search engine.

Here's something else of interest I found (by accident) on the History Channel website:

Beer from 19th-Century Shipwreck May Be Brewed Again
Divers exploring a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea stumbled on a precious cache of 185-year-old Champagne, along with several bottles of what may be the world’s oldest drinkable ale. Now, Finnish researchers hope to unlock the brew’s original recipe and recreate beer that tastes just like what 19th-century drinkers may have savored.

Golden and cloudy, with hints of seawater and a sour odor that expert tasters likened to French cheese, the resurrected ale may be the oldest drinkable beverage of its kind. And if Finnish scientists can crack its original formula, it may also serve as the template for the most faithful beer reproduction in history.
Just what I'm looking for in a beer - seawater and sour French cheese. Sounds like Olde English 800...
Working for Finland’s VTT Technical Research Center, which recently commissioned a study of the beer, researchers have already discovered yeast and bacteria cells in the liquid extracted from the bottles. Still, they have yet to identify the specific type of yeast or to determine whether the microbes survived two centuries in icy waters at depths exceeding 150 feet. They also hope to reveal whether hops were among the brew’s ingredients and to gauge the quality of drinking water used in its preparation.
At last. A government research program that makes sense.

Below is a picture of one of the bottles of beer recovered from the Baltic Sea shipwreck.



Fun fact: Beer dates back at least 6,000 years to ancient Sumer. It was a preferred beverage for the Sumerians, who even worshiped a goddess of brewing.

Goodness knows I've worshiped many goddesses after an evening of appreciating the brewmaster's finest...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

FID 2011.02.09

When will we come to our senses?

They're starting to wake up in Great Britain and Singapore.

When will we?

We need to be a lot less tolerant towards Islamic extremists
(British Prime Minister) David Cameron today pledged to make Britain ‘a lot less’ tolerant towards Islamic extremists who whip up hatred against the West.

Mr. Cameron said Britain needs to be less tolerant and more judgemental when faced with ideologies that threaten the country’s basic values.
That's not only common sense, it's a matter of national survival.
... he suggested that to ‘belong’ in Britain, individuals must sign up to core values such as freedom of speech, the rule of law and democracy.
Amen, brother. In this country that applies to liberals as well as immigrants.
The Prime Minister pledged to end all public funding for groups which give succour to extremist views. And he called for action to ban extremists from radicalising young people in universities, prisons and internet chat rooms.
Can we get Cameron to run for President here? After all, we currently have a president whose nationality has been questioned. The precedent has been set.
His warning comes just days after Britain’s independent reviewer of anti-terrorism laws, Lord Carlile, said that human rights rulings had made Britain a ‘safe haven’ for suspected foreign terrorists.

The Prime Minister also hit out at Labour’s experiment with multiculturalism – calling it a failure. He says society has failed to provide a strong sense of what it means to be British, making it easier for extremists to prey on youngsters seeking something to identify with.

He added: ‘We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values.

‘So when a white person holds objectionable views – racism, for example – we rightly condemn them.

‘But when equally unacceptable views or practices have come from someone who isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious, frankly even fearful, to stand up to them.’
Can you imagine the uproar on the left and in the mainstream media (redundant, I know) if an American politician said that?

As for Singapore, "we can integrate all religions and races except Islam."
Lee Kuan Yew ranks as one of the most successful statesmen of the 20th century, having led Singapore to independence, and built a thriving prosperous mini-state with a world class economy, out of an ethnically diverse population. He retired as the world's longest serving prime minister, and at 87 years of age, has little to lose in speaking his mind.

Thus, his candor in discussing the assimilation of Muslims is perhaps understandable, but still startling in a world of political correctness and compulsory sensitivity to Muslims, who are never expected to reciprocate.

Now, Lee has published a book on Singapore's future, and he is speaking his mind:

"I think we were progressing very nicely until the surge of Islam came, and if you asked me for my observations, the other communities have easier integration - friends, intermarriages and so on, Indians with Chinese, Chinese with Indians - than Muslims.

He added: "I would say today, we can integrate all religions and races except Islam."
It's a sad day when Brits and Asians speak the truth while American politicians cower before the alter of political correctness. God I wish we had one or more officeholders with a set of balls (with the notable exception of Allen West).

When I visit other countries or other peoples' homes, I try to respect their customs and beliefs, and conform to them as much as possible. I don't expect them to adapt to me. Sadly, that doesn't seem to be the case with muslims. In fact, they carry the opposite to extremes, as evidenced by the following story.

One-legged Afghan Red Cross worker set to be hanged after converting to Christianity
An Afghan physiotherapist will be executed within three days for converting to Christianity.

Said Musa, 45, has been held for eight months in a Kabul prison were he claims he has been tortured and sexually abused by inmates and guards.

Mr Musa, who lost his left leg in a landmine explosion in the 1990s, has worked for the Red Cross for 15 years and helps to treat fellow amputees.

Defense lawyers have refused to represent him, while others have dropped the case after receiving death threats.
Tolerance? Respect for others? GMAFB. For muslims it's "my way or the highway" (or "my way or the scaffold").

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Late FOD, Early FID, And Bonus FDOED

Yet another reason to abolish the Dept. of Education:

Mandatory Arabic Classes (link from Drudge)
Some students at Mansfield ISD schools could soon be learning Arabic as a required language.  The school district wants students at select schools to take Arabic language and culture classes as part of a federally funded grant.
That's Mansfield, Texas - near Ft. Worth.
The Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) grant was awarded to Mansfield ISD last summer by the U.S. Department of Education.

As part of the five-year $1.3 million grant, Arabic classes would be mandatory at Cross Timbers Intermediate School and Kenneth Davis Elementary School.  The program would also be optional for students at T. A. Howard Middle School and Summit High School.
Mandatory?!? MANDATORY?!? I'd yank my kids out of that school faster than a democrat voting for a tax increase. Then I'd go hunting for the idiots on the school board.
Parents at Cross Timbers say they were caught off-guard by the program, and were surprised the district only told them about it in a meeting Monday night between parents and Mansfield ISD Superintendent Bob Morrison.

The DOE has identified Arabic as a ‘language of the future.’ But parent Joseph Balson was frustrated by the past.  “Why are we just now finding out about it?” asked Balson.  “It’s them (Mansfield ISD) applying for the grant, getting it approved and them now saying they’ll go back and change it only when they were caught trying to implement this plan without parents knowing about it.”
Get out the ropes, boys. There's a school board that needs lynching - and to hell with all that 'civil discourse' crap.
Trisha Savage thinks it will offer a well-rounded education.  “I think its a great opportunity that will open doors. We need to think globally and act locally.”
Hey Trisha - act locally on this...
Kheirieh Hannun was born in the Middle East but raised in the U.S.  She believes giving students the option to learn Arabic will give her son and others like him the option to learn more about their culture.  “It was surprising, but I think it’s okay, and it will help come down on the stereotype.”   Hannun says she is hopeful the class could broaden the minds of not only students, but also parents.
If it was optional then the only thing I'd be upset about was wasting tax dollars. But to make it mandatory, while hiding it from parents, just pegs the "Wrong" meter.

That's what happens when there's a muslim in the White House...


Only In Texas

I like football.

I like football a lot.

I played through high school.

I'm a big college football fan. (I was a lot bigger fan pre-BCS.)

I'm a big pro football fan. (I was a lot bigger fan pre-Jerry Jones.)

But the following two stories are over the top, even for Texas, where football is more of a religion than a sport.

I received the following email this morning. This is not a joke or a spoof. It's a real email for a real 3-4 year old football league.
-----Original Message-----
From:
Sent: Sun 2/6/2011 11:33 PM
To:
Subject: city wide 3-4 year old football league registration

The city wide 3-4 year old league is currently registering for the upcoming season. 

The season starts in March. If you know of anyone that may be interested in registering, please forward this information. 

Registration will be held at ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­________ on Saturday from 2pm-3pm and on Sunday from 3-4pm.
Shouldn't they be weaned first?

Next, we have an article from no less an esteemed media outlet than the New York Times (for once, I find myself somewhat in agreement with that bastion of the left).

A $60 Million Palace for Texas High School Football
From his office window, Steve Williams surveyed the chaos of construction. His view consisted of rocks and dirt beneath bulldozers and cranes, but where others might see excess, he saw something brazen, bold and gloriously Texan.

The $60 million football stadium at Allen High School, where Williams is the district athletic director, was starting to take shape.
$60 million dollars for a football stadium - at a time when the state is undergoing massive budget cuts. The mind boggles.
This is no ordinary stadium, in no ordinary state, where football ranks near faith and family. Super Bowl XLV will take place a short drive southwest next Sunday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, but while the “big game” will repeatedly highlight football’s oversize importance in Texas, the folks in Allen need no reminders. Here, every game is big.

Williams — Bubba to his friends — arrived long before the boom, when Allen was more speck than sprawl, and now he cannot fathom all the fuss over this stadium, the calls from England, the Pacific Northwest, New York.
Bubba ... need I say more?
“Well, I’ll tell you,” Williams said Friday. “We got a lot more interest than we thought we would.”
Candidate for Understatement of the Year.
On football Friday nights ... cars park for miles down the street, where the aroma of barbecue is the local perfume. The scene is straight from “Friday Night Lights,” the overcrowded version.

“It’s controlled chaos,” said Anthony Gibson, the school’s fine arts director. “There’s an energy you can’t describe. When they say football is like religion in Texas, it’s true. From little kids all the way to the Super Bowl, we do football right.”
Too bad we don't do education right.
This big town started small, with one street, Main Street, and an annual parade that marched up, turned around and marched back. Bob Curtis, who recently retired as the district’s facilities director, was born in Allen, lived here all his life. As a teenager, he delivered groceries, and the customers left their doors unlocked and money on the kitchen counter. He stocked the cupboards and left change.

When Curtis played football in the early 1960s, Allen’s population hovered around 650, 18 of whom were in his high school graduating class. Williams arrived soon after and found a small community that farmed cotton and was centered on the high school.

These days, Allen is a relatively affluent suburb north of Dallas, with a professional hockey team (the Americans of the Central Hockey League), a church seemingly on every corner, several strip malls and rows and rows of brick houses, which line the subdivisions that dominate the landscape.

The high school, which more closely resembles a small college, remains the centerpiece. Its athletic center contains the football team’s offices, an indoor practice field, a weight room, a film room and separate locker rooms for football, soccer, basketball and track.

(The current stadium has) artificial turf and portable bleachers that bring its capacity to 14,200...
But that's not good enough. They need new turf and more seating - $60M worth of new turf and seating....
Parking and season tickets rank as the current stadium’s biggest challenges. The builders could have never anticipated Allen’s growth, the 8,000 fans who travel to away games, the 3,000 students who participate in home games, in football, in band, as spectators.

Some families have held season tickets for 25 or 30 years. Their children graduated, moved, had their own children, but the families kept the tickets for the town’s marquee Friday night events. New residents scramble for season tickets. Before this season, roughly 400 families entered a lottery for 70 available seats.

Even parents of band members complain about the seating. About 100 of them are volunteers, in part because they receive sideline access for games. And the team, the band, the spectators continue to grow. Band members alone consume 2,000 bottles of water every game. Imagine the bathroom lines that result.

Williams believes the new stadium will solve those issues. It will hold 18,000 spectators in a sunken bowl designed to improve sightlines. The stadium will include a two-tier press box, an indoor golf practice area, a high-definition video scoreboard, a practice room for wrestling, and enough parking for every car in Dallas, or close.
An indoor golf practice area?!?!? A hi-def video scoreboard?!?!? For a high school?!?!? Jesus H. Christ, I'm glad I'm not paying property taxes in that district.
“Look, football has always been a big deal here,” Williams said. “This is Texas. But this bond project is about much more than football. It’s about our school, our community.”

“It’s about tra-di-tion,” he added, accentuating the syllables.

To some, however, the stadium project will always embody excess simply because of its size and cost. In fact, with significant education cuts looming across the state, Allen anticipates an increasingly negative reaction as the stadium nears completion, with its first game scheduled for August 2012.

Most here are Cowboys fans who plan to participate in the Super Bowl festivities, if only because this is football, and this is Texas. Their monument to their favorite sport is a smaller version of the Jerry Jones-built palace that will host the Super Bowl next Sunday between Pittsburgh and Green Bay.
We all know how well that turned out.
Up the road, in a state known for and defined by size, Allen is building perhaps the most impressive high school stadium. But it will not be the state’s biggest. At least four high school stadiums are larger.

Which makes perfect sense, at least in Texas.
It's all about priorities. God forbid we should spend $60M on libraries, classrooms, or teachers. That would be a waste of money...