Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In A Nutshell

This chart captures, in a nutshell, what is dragging down not only the economy, but the spirit of the American public. It illustrates what links together the OWS movement and the Tea Party. However unlikely that pairing might seem, they both share the notion that the tax code, and by extension much of the legislation passed over the last few decades, is primarily for the benefit of special interests.


Now extend the chart to the uncounted pages of legislation and regulations put in place by government bureaucrats and lackeys, and you'll begin to get some sense of the regulatory mountains businesses must climb just in order to survive, much less prosper.

It also makes a very compelling argument for drastic simplification of the tax code (something along the lines of Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan) or better yet the Fair Tax.

We can only hope...

Welcome Home, Boys

It looks like a couple of fellow bloggers out on the left coast will be moving to Texas soon. CD and Paul are the latest in a burgeoning trend of Tex-patriates (I'm proud of that one...) returning home. In another one of those serendipity things, the San Antonio paper recently published a couple of stories on that subject. (Paul - FYI, I read "California" as "left-coast," which includes Washington and Oregon).

The first one is by one of my favorite authors and commentators, T.R. Fehrenbach. A Texas native, Princeton graduate, and Korean War combat veteran, T.R. is a historian by profession. He currently writes an op-ed column for the San Antonio Express-News, and his pieces never fail to make me stop and think. You'll see what I mean from these excerpts of a recent column that touches on the differences between California and Texas, and by extension, between Californians and Texans.
California and Texas today are the most prominent states in the Union. Both are huge, bigger than many countries, and their individual gross product transcends most national economies. If they were sovereign nations, each would rank high. But they are very different places.

I did not understand things bred into me until I went to school in California.

Before World War II, the state was magic country, and I don't mean Hollywood. The coastal climate is among the most pleasant in the world. The topography includes seacoast, desert and mountains: You could surf and ski on the same day. Back then, California grew two-thirds of the nation's fruit and vegetables, and organized marketing let farmers make money. Orange and cherry orchards surrounded Los Angeles. There were only about 4 million people in Southern California, and “aliens” were affluent retirees from the Midwest.

The Texas I came from seemed grossly inferior. The climate was lousy, too hot or freezing. Parts of Texas were a dust bowl. Most farmers were tenants, poor and knew nothing about marketing. Cotton farming at 10 cents a pound was hard scrabble. We had oil, and petroleum millionaires, but oil at a nickel a barrel (in 1935) made us limit production. Houston was becoming a great seaport due to the East Texas field, and Dallas was raising itself by its own bootstraps, but compared to clannish San Francisco, this was yahoo country.

At first I did not like California. Where I was raised, I could go hunting and fishing on our own property. Here I could not even buy BB shot. People played badminton and tennis and never went to high-school football games, which were held immediately after class. Compared to the teeming Gulf, fish were downright scarce.

By the time I left the state, I understood many things. I came from people who had gone to Texas to get land and above all, independence. My (California) classmates had a different outlook bred into them; they seemed content to become (high-paid) hired hands and had no distaste for corporations or primordial fear of government, which could tax and build roads through your land.

At age 16, I decided that Texas had been settled by a tougher crowd, and a lot of the losers in Texas went on to California.

It may be a radical idea, but perhaps California has been too hospitable to losers, whether from Texas or wherever. When I was in school, the big political issue was “Ham 'n Eggs,” state handouts for oldies. California already had a sales and income tax, unknown in Texas. I could understand Louisiana, run by crooks, but why would a rich state need to engage in robbery?

The answer may define the difference between Californians and Texans.
I think he's on to something. I particularly like the part about how California was populated by people who couldn't cut it in Texas. But of course, I'm biased.

Moving on, we have another story that notes an ongoing migration of Californians to Texas. We always have room for people who are willing to work, but hopefully the ones looking for CA-style handouts will stay out there in La-La land where they belong.
Census figures show that more than 363,000 Californians have moved to Texas over the past five years, helping the state grow more than twice as fast as the nation as a whole since 2000.

Texas' relatively strong economy is getting most of the credit — the state's unemployment rate of 8.5 percent is substantially less than California's and below the national average.

As an oil- and gas-producing state, Texas has felt the benefits of high energy prices. In addition, its housing sector has fared better than those in other parts of the country.

For Californians moving to Texas, the state's lower cost of living is another factor driving their decision-making
All of which is a good thing for CD and Paul, as they make their way back to God's country. Sorry for the upheaval in your lives, dudes, but I'm confident things will work out for the best - and hopefully, soon.

Godspeed...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Weekend Update

I feel like a duck in a stream, swimming against the current. On the surface everything seems calm and placid, but underneath the duck is paddling like hell.

Finals time is approaching, which is busy enough by itself. I've also got a couple of papers pending proof reviews, with deadlines in the next day or two. That's a mixed blessing. It's great to get an acceptance notice that the paper will be published, but the nit-picking involved in pre-publication proofing drives me crazy. I'm not a detail-oriented guy. In my previous life, that's why I had a staff. I gave them direction, they took care of the nitty-gritty. But I'll take the trade-off between the corporate world (suits, ties, and button down shirts) and the academic world (I wear Hawaiian shirts to class).

However, the real killer is that we are coming up for re-accreditation. Think of it as an audit or outside review of our program. Getting accredited is like getting the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. It's a big deal in the academic world. Unfortunately, I'm stuck on the committee writing the final accreditation report. It's currently around 150 pages long. Imagine if you can a 150+ page report written by a committee of eight people. Heck, we can't even agree on when to meet, much less on the report's contents.

But enough whining. I started this post to catch up on the drug cartel activity over the Thanksgiving holiday. And there was plenty.
The mission was supposed to be a textbook “controlled delivery” — a routine trap by law enforcement officers using a secret operative posing as a truck driver to bust drug traffickers when their narcotics are delivered to a rendezvous point.

Instead, things spun out of control. Shortly before the marijuana delivery was to be made Monday, three SUVs carrying alleged Zetas Cartel gunmen seemingly came out of nowhere and cut off the tanker truck as it rumbled through northwestern Harris County...

They sprayed the cab with bullets, killing the civilian driver, who was secretly working with the government. An undercover sheriff's deputy, who was driving nearby in another vehicle, was wounded...

For some at the scene, it seemed all too similar to what has been playing out in Mexico, where drug cartels operate with near impunity as they clash with each other and with the military and police.

Four suspects, all believed to be citizens of Mexico, were arrested and charged Monday with capital murder in connection with the shooting.
Sadly, the violence is following the drugs and money north across the border. Even more sadly, local LEOs are doing their best to fight it, as are front-line federal agents. But higher-ups are sitting out this fight, bowing to the prevailing political winds. Hopefully they'll change direction soon.

Closer to home (well, not exactly home, but my home away from home):
A federal wiretap helped police break open a case against a group that allegedly carried out hits for the Zetas drug cartel, a (Laredo) homicide detective testified Tuesday.

... (the wiretaps discussed) violent acts carried out in the U.S. on behalf of the Zetas, as well as drug and weapons smuggling.

The conversations on the wiretaps led to police breaking up a kidnapping attempt ... and helped police tie (the defendent Nicolas) Sanchez to (at least one murder) ... (the wiretap) also gleaned information that ... Sanchez was working for two high-ranking members of the Zetas in Mexico.

“He reports to ‘42,' who is Omar Treviño, and to ‘40,' who is Miguel Treviño, the No. 2 in command of the Zetas”...

'42' and '40' are well known to Laredo law enforcement. They are wanted on five murder charges ... and have been connected to a pair of slayings the Zetas contracted to the Texas Syndicate prison gang in 2007 and another shooting death in 2009...
Ho hum, just another weekend down here on the border. The local LEOs and the front-line Border Patrol agents do their best, but without higher-level support the outlook is gloomy. And my friends back east wonder why I never leave my apartment without my trusty sidekick...

More Why I Love Living In A Small Texas Town

Excerpts from the local paper's police blotter:
After serving a warrant, the responding officer gave the man a ride to a store to get a $646 money order to pay his fines and avoid a trip to jail.

A mother went to the police station for help installing a child car seat. 'Officer Friendly' provided assistance.

When an officer spied a red Tercel with an expired registration sticker and state inspection sticker in the high school parking lot, he left the owner a voice message to get them renewed.

After sounds of beating and screaming were reported, the responding officer found a woman beating a rug and two children playing nearby.
 Just so you don't get the impression it's like Mayberry RFD around here, we do have a dark side.
A caller reported a neighbor was spreading lies and rumors about her. Police contacted the neighbor and told her to stop.

A man reported his soon-to-be ex-wife was throwing rocks at this car.
Damn those ex-wives, always starting trouble...

In other news, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving we held our annual post-Thanksgiving party (when I say "our" I mean the royal "our," as in a multifamily event - not "our" as in my wife and I). It started off several years ago as a small gathering of friends and family, and has since morphed into an event that rivals Thanksgiving itself.

This year around 80 people showed up. Kids and dogs were everywhere underfoot. A bunch of local pickers took turns playing and entertaining the crowd. There was a day-long washer tournament. Beer, wine, and other adult beverages flowed freely. And there was food. Lord God Almighty there was food.

There was an embarrassment of food. We're not talking Thanksgiving leftovers here. We're talking a fresh batch of over-the-top vittles.

Multiple BBQ teams were each doing their best to outdo the others (the winner by acclimation was the trio that roasted a whole pig in a metal-lined wooden box). At the same time we had a fierce contest of gumbo and jambalaya cooks - or rather, chefs. There were side dishes galore, including a version of mac-n-cheese with lobster(!) in it. And of course, multiple desserts.

It's a very informal, everyone-is-welcome showcase of country living at its finest. At times like that I just stop and give thanks that I escaped from Houston to this little slice of Heaven.

Unfortunately, on Monday I had to saddle up and leave town, heading to my job in South Texas. Oh well, the bills need to be paid.

Besides, in this economy I'm just grateful to have a job...

Monday, November 28, 2011

FOD 2011.11.28

In his never-ending quest to drag down America to the level of the rest of the world - no American exceptionalism allowed here - obama has nominated a slew of unqualified candidates to fill federal judge positions. Who says they're unqualified? The American Bar Association.
The American Bar Association (ABA) has secretly declared a significant number of President Obama’s potential judicial nominees “not qualified,” slowing White House efforts to fill vacant judgeships...
Newsworthy, perhaps, but not especially shocking - or so it seems. But here comes the kicker.
... and nearly all of the prospects given poor ratings were women or members of a minority group...
Affirmative action run amuck. Equal opportunity is not - or at least should not be - the same as equal outcome.
The number of Obama prospects deemed “not qualified” already exceeds the total number opposed by the group during the eight-year administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; the rejection rate is more than three and a half times as high as it was under either of the previous two presidencies, documents and interviews show. 
No further comment necessary.
Administration officials are perplexed about the reasons for some of the low ratings, and in discussions with bar panel leaders, they have expressed growing frustrations, people familiar with those conversations said. In particular, they have questioned whether the panelists — many of whom are litigators — place too much value on courtroom experience at the expense of lawyers who pursued career paths less likely to involve trials, like government lawyers and law professors.
These are supposed to be judges, you idiots. They need trial experience to run a courtroom. Let's not populate the judiciary with people having no real world experience - people who are law professors, or who have worked as community organizers. We all know how well that's worked out for us with obama.
Mr. Obama has made it a policy goal to diversify the bench in terms of race, gender and life experiences.
How about making it a policy goal to nominate the most qualified, regardless of race, gender and life experiences?

In a side note, Harry Reid criticized the ABA for its "tepid" rating of a district court nominee from his state, Gloria Navarro.
Ms. Navarro, a former public defender and government lawyer, had been endorsed by both Mr. Reid and the state’s Republican senator, John Ensign. But the bar group rated her as merely “qualified” — and a minority of the vetting panel had voted to rate her “not qualified.”

Mr. Reid, who said he thought the association had delivered its tepid rating because she had no prior judicial experience, sharply rejected the notion that Ms. Navarro was not well qualified, saying he was upset that Ms. Navarro “is not rated as high as she should be” and arguing that she “has had experience in the real world of government, the real world of law.”
Hey Harry, I hate to break this to you, but government and the law are not the real world.

And that's a big part of what's wrong with the real world. People like Harry, who live in the fantasy world of government and the law, a world where there is little accountability for their actions (or inactions), a world where 'solutions' to problems simply involve kicking them down the road to future generations, are the ones who are responsible for governing the real world.

How did we let ourselves get into this mess?

P.S. Note that the source for this post is the N.Y. Times.

I'm as surprised as you are...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

This Man Belongs In Jail

I thought I was reasonably well-informed about the 'Fast and Furious' mess - the stupidity and incompetence of the ATF that resulted in thousands of guns being allowed to walk across the border into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, resulting in the deaths of Mexican citizens and LEOS, along with the deaths of U.S. LEOs. And of course we've had to endure the subsequent cover-ups among obama administration officials. As it turns out, however, there are things about this mess that I didn't know.

The first is the ludicrous rules of engagement under which the Border Patrol must labor. These include other federal agencies - most notably the Bureau of Land Management and the National Parks Service - denying the Border patrol access to certain federal lands, including wilderness areas and national parks.
This inter-agency conflict might ordinarily amount to a typical bureaucratic turf war -- but it's gotten more attention in recent years as agents have driven illegal immigrant traffic away from urban crossings and diverted a lot of it into the remote, tough-to-patrol federal land mass that makes up more than 40 percent of the southwest borderland.

As a result, large swaths of America's wilderness and park land, hit by a wave of smuggler traffic, have been deemed too dangerous for visitors. Much has been closed off to the public. Border Patrol has nearly doubled its patrol force in the last five years but has run into roadblocks in trying to get better access to the land.

According to the GAO report, supervisors at 17 of the 26 federal land stations said their access had been limited over land management laws, "resulting in delays and restrictions in agents' patrolling." Often, this meant they couldn't get permission for routine projects in a "timely manner."

In typical government fashion, one agency makes lands along the border off-limits to another agency. Needless to say, drug cartels and illegal alien smugglers take advantage of this. Criminals who have no regard for either laws or environmentaly senssitive lands and species run rampant. As illegal traffic goes up, so does damage to the land that BLM is trying to protect. At the same time, the Border Patrol's job is made more difficult, and American citizens are denied access to our own lands, while those who do go there are put at increased risk.

But the access issue, troubling though it may be, is not the most egregious rule of engagement. That 'honor' goes to the protocol agents must follow when confronting armed suspects.
Northwest of Nogales, AZ, Peck Canyon is a hotbed for illegal drugs and a battleground between illegals coming from Mexico fighting amongst themselves and the US Border Patrol.  At 11:15 PM the night of December 14, 2010 the Border Patrol is watching a “rip crew”, (illegals that prey on other illegals moving drugs into the US). The illegal rip crew was in a position to ambush anyone coming up the canyon.

Border Patrol agents commanded the illegals to drop their weapons. When they did not, the Patrol fired at them with beanbags as required by engagement protocol. The illegals fired back with AK-47s and real bullets.
Beanbags?!? Are you freakin' kidding me? We're asking our federal LEOs to go up against AK-toting thugs armed with beanbags? What imbecile came up with that idea?
When the firefight was over, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was dead. An AK-47 bullet had entered his back some 29 inches below the shoulder.

At the scene were three AK-47 rifles, all part of the 2,000 plus guns that the Department of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) under the Department of Justice (DOJ) had allowed to “walk” into Mexico.
To complicate things, one of the recovered AK-47s has been 'appropriated' by the FBI: removed from the collection of evidence related to the murder of Agent Terry "to protect a “CI” (confidential informant) the agency is working." I wonder what that's all about. Nothing good, I suspect.
A bright, respected, dedicated, well-trained young man, a United States Federal Law Enforcement Agent, dead at the hands of illegal Mexicans using rifles supplied by our own DOJ through ATF.
Read that last paragraph again. Pause and think about it. The government ties the hands of LEOs trying to protect us. It supplies weapons to vicious drug cartels. It does little to stop the flow of drugs and illegal aliens into this country. And the people responsible for this go unpunished.
Do you see anything wrong with this picture?

So much is wrong that it almost defies speech. Everything about this situation rubs against every principle, tenet, belief, ideology or standard that this country stands for.

And, much of what the DOJ and ATF has done and continues to do is in defiance of the law.
Headed, of course, by the criminal culpability of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Forget contempt of congress charges against Holder (heck, I'm guilty of contempt of congress). Forget calling for his resignation. Even forget impeaching him.

Indict the SOB.

To make matters even worse, there is reason to believe that the drug cartels are now engaged in 'search-and-destroy' missions targeting U.S. Border Patrol agents.
A now-sealed federal grand jury indictment in the death of Border Patrol agent Brian A. Terry says the Mexican nationals were “patrolling” the rugged desert area of Peck Canyon at about 11:15 p.m. on Dec. 14 with the intent to “intentionally and forcibly assault” Border Patrol agents.

According to the indictment, the Mexicans were “patrolling the area in single-file formation” a dozen miles northwest of the border town of Nogales and — in the darkness of the Arizona night — opened fire on four Border Patrol agents after the agents identified themselves in Spanish as police officers.

Using thermal binoculars, one of the agents determined that at least two of the Mexicans were carrying rifles, but according to an affidavit in the case by FBI agent Scott Hunter, when the Mexicans did not drop their weapons as ordered, two agents used their shotguns to fire “less than lethal” beanbags at them.

At least one of the Mexicans opened fire and, according to the affidavit, Terry, a 40-year-old former U.S. Marine, was shot in the back. A Border Patrol shooting-incident report said that Terry called out, “I’m hit,” and then fell to the ground, a bullet having pierced his aorta. “I can’t feel my legs,” Terry told one of the agents who cradled him. “I think I’m paralyzed.”

Bleeding profusely, he died at the scene.

After the initial shots, two agents returned fire, hitting Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, 33, in the abdomen and leg. The others fled. The FBI affidavit said Osorio-Arellanes admitted during an interview that all five of the Mexicans were armed.

Osorio-Arellanes initially was charged with illegal entry, but that case was dismissed when the indictment was handed up. It named Osorio-Arellanes on a charge of second-degree murder, but did not identify him as the likely shooter, saying only that Osorio-Arellanes and others whose names were blacked out “did unlawfully kill with malice aforethought United States Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry while Agent Terry was engaged in … his official duties.”

The indictment also noted that Osorio-Arellanes had been convicted in Phoenix in 2006 of felony aggravated assault, had been detained twice in 2010 as an illegal immigrant, and had been returned to Mexico repeatedly.
I'm sure most of you are scrathing your head and wondering why that scumbag wasn't in prison, rather than being subjected to obama's catch-and-release policy. Good question.

If those assholes want a war, let's give them one. As our troops are pulled out of Iraq, let's station a couple of divisions along the Mexico border. Give them drones and manned air support, and declare certain well-known drug smuggling corridors as free-fire zones. We'll see how long this nonsense continues then.

After all, it is a matter of national security...

Sunday Funnies 2011.11.27

Thanksgiving is behind us. Let the shopping frenzy begin!


“Cash, check or charge?” I asked after folding items the woman wished to purchase. As she fumbled for her wallet I noticed a remote control for a television set in her purse.

“Do you always carry your TV remote?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “But my husband refused to come shopping with me, so I figured this was the most evil thing I could do to him.”




Myra was shopping for a new dress. In the store she asked, 'May I try on that dress in the window, please?'

'Certainly not, madam,' responded the salesgirl, 'You'll have to use the fitting room like everyone else.'


Saturday, November 26, 2011

More Serendipity

I posted recently about threats to critical infrastructures such as electric utilities, pipelines, water and sewage systems, and other industrial-type facilities from vulnerabilities in SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems used to monitor and control physical processes. The best example of this is the crippling of Iranian nuclear facilities by the Stuxnet worm.

As fate would have it, a few days after that post it was revealed that there was an ('alleged') attack on an Illinois water system.
Hackers are alleged to have destroyed a pump used to pipe water to thousands of homes in a US city in Illinois.

Hackers with access to the utility's network are thought to have broken the pump by turning it on and off quickly.

The FBI and Department for Homeland Security (DHS) are investigating the incident as details emerge of what could be a separate second attack.
In true fed fashion, the FBI and DHS are doing their best head-in-the-sand routine, denying that the Illinois incident was caused by a hacker penetrating the water utility's control system
"At this time there is no credible corroborated data that indicates a risk to critical infrastructure entities or a threat to public safety," (a DHS spokesman) said.
In response, another hacker posted information online showing how to gain access to the industrial control systems for a second water utility, this one located in Houston.
The attacks are the latest in a series in which different hackers and groups have targeted so called Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. These specialised computer systems are used to control equipment used to filter water, mix chemicals, distribute power, and route trains and trams.
As I posted previously, SCADA attacks have been used to cause physical damage to Iranian nuclear facilities. People in the cyber security field have known about SCADA vulnerabilities for years, but until recently have discounted the possibility of widespread damage to this country's critical infrastructure. However, that mindset is slowly changing.

Perhaps the best indication of how seriously the feds are taking these threats can be seen in the response of DHS. While publicly pooh-poohing the risk, behind the scenes DHS is trying to manage the flow of information about SCADA exposures.
Stuxnet-style SCADA attack kept quiet after US gov tests
Security researchers decided to cancel a planned demonstration of security holes in industrial control systems ... following requests from ... a (DHS) security response team.

(The researchers) agreed to delay their presentation. "We were asked very nicely if we could refrain from providing that information at this time..."
Both the researchers and the conference organizers state they weren't pressured to cancel the presentation. The skeptic in me doubts that. I know how much time and effort I put into my research projects. In the academic field, the primary reward we get from such research is the opportunity to present our findings to our peers. To voluntarily give that up would require some serious 'persuasion.'

Here's the abstract from the cancelled presentation:
SCADA exploits have recently taken center stage in the international community. These types of vulnerabilities pose significant threats to critical infrastructure. Combining traditional exploits with industrial control systems allows attackers to weaponize malicious code, as demonstrated with Stuxnet. The attacks against Iran’s nuclear facilities were started by a sequence of events that delayed the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

We will demonstrate how motivated attackers could penetrate even the most heavily fortified facilities in the world, without the backing of a nation state. We will also present how to write industrial grade malware without having direct access to the target hardware. After all, if physical access was required, what would be the point of hacking into an industrial control system?
Trust me, the exposures in SCADA systems pose a very serious threat. And also trust me when I say that there is more going on here than meets the eye...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Follies Happy Hour 2011.11.25

This starts off as some weird mix of rap, hip-hop, and country. Sounds strange, but it works. Then at about the 2:40 mark, the whole Twilight vampire-werewolf thing comes into play.

Something a little different to start your weekend with...

Catching My Breath

Today is dedicated to ... nothing. Wonderful, blissful, much-need abso-friggin'-lutely nothing.

The last several days have been a whirlwind of grading, prepping for Thanksgiving, cooking, cleaning, and other assorted activities. To top it off, early Thanksgiving morning we found out there would be five additional people (big, hungry people) showing up for dinner. The turkey we had already bought was on the small side, so I was a little worried that there might not be enough to go around. Fortunately, I had just enough time to dash to the store and buy a fresh turkey breast. There wasn't time to do anything fancy with it so I doused it with soy sauce, liberally sprinkled it with Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning, wrapped it in bacon, and threw it on the grill.

It was fabulous.

I wish I'd had the time to take pictures, because in the beginning it looked like a bacon-wrapped football. Then the bacon began sizzling and popping, those yummy bacon juices began flowing, and the smell ... oh my God, the incredible, tantalizing, stomach-attention-grabbing smell of turkey and bacon juices dripping onto hot coals ... it could have tasted like shoe leather, but the smell had everyone so ravenous that they would have devoured it and pronounced it the best meal of their life.

About 45 minutes before it was done I took the bacon off so the breast would brown. It was like walking into the middle of a pack of starving wolves carrying raw meat. The struggle to snag a piece of that grilled bacon was flat-out scary. Strong men trampled women and children underfoot in an uncontrollable frenzy to grab some. I just tossed the bacon at the mob and fled for my life (of course, I had already sampled some in the interest of quality control).

Anyway, everyone went away full. The clean-up is over. My plans for today consist of settling down into my easy chair, turning on the football game, and napping the afternoon away.

There is even some beer left in the keg.

Life is good...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Day For Thanks



May your stuffing be tasty,
May your turkey be plump.
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize.
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Done At Last

I just finished grading 126 student projects. I may post a more reflective commentary on them later, but for the moment I'll just provide a few gems.
This article oozes out information...
I feel a little intimated when I picture no one talking or moving...
Now in days we have a great technology that let us make our daily duties faster and easier...
The introduction of technologically advanced devices at retail stores will levitate shopping...
Could Google Music be the one to finally take down Apple from that once radiant pedestal...?
Myspace stopped being the popular social site of the decade and fell into a slippery slope of oblivion...
And my personal favorite:
Hello Dr. CenTexTim,
I am in your class and I was just wondering if I could possibly meet with you? I just started a new job for (Multi-Level Marketing firm) and I wanted to see if I could set up an appointment at your office or home to show you a demo? It is real short and all you have to do is be willing to listen.
I would supply some no-doubt entertaining fisking of these, but it's late and I have to get up early tomorrow to work on our Thanksgiving meal (not to mention that I desperately need a beer), so I'll close for now by wishing you and yours a Merry Thanksgiving - no, wait, that's not quite right...

That Giant Sucking Sound You Hear...

... is congress and the president sucking the cash and hope out of the American people.

A follow-up to yesterday's post regarding the failure of the so-called super committee to reach any agreement on deficit reduction: David Gergen and I share many of the same thoughts.
Have they gone nuts in Washington?
In a word, Yes.
Last summer, as the debt ceiling debacle ended, our political leaders held out high hope that a "super committee" would meet for 10 weeks this fall and forge a bipartisan agreement that would do far more to bring down the nation's deficits.
Anyone with half a brain - which excludes 'our political leaders' (*snort*) - harbored serious reservations that a committee with such deep ideological divides would reach any sort of consensus.
Republicans complain that federal spending under President Obama has gone up dramatically and cuts should come there before any new taxes.

Democrats say that the rich have increased their wealth much more rapidly than the other 99% of Americans, while their taxes have gone down, so that the first order of business is to raise taxes on them.

But such contentious disagreements have characterized our politics since the dawn of the republic, and in almost all crises of the past, political leaders have worked out compromises. As Thomas Jefferson put it in 1790, "In general I think it necessary to give as well as take in a government like ours." George Washington agreed and pushed continually for what he called "a spirit of accommodation."
Unfortunately, the empty suits currently wasting oxygen in the halls of congress don't have anywhere near the integrity, wisdom, and just plain common sense of Washington, Jefferson, and the other Founding Fathers. Today's congresscritters are much more concerned with pandering to their base and getting reelected than with solving the serious problems that confront our country.
... this failure of the super committee represents a reckless, irresponsible gamble by our "leaders" in Washington. It's difficult to remember a Congress that has put the nation so much at risk in the service of ideology and to hold onto office. Partisans on both sides are grievously failing the country.
An honest assessment would lay blame on the White House doorstep, too ... (obama) has been exercising the most passive leadership imaginable. Nor have the Republican candidates for president been any more engaged. Why are their campaigns so focused only on 2013 and so detached from a crisis that continues to deepen in D.C. right now?

It is not as if Congress and the White House are working productively together to solve other problems. They have done almost nothing in recent months to create more jobs and to shore up most homeowners. Hope is not a strategy, as we know, but it seems to be ours right now.

Sorry, our noble leaders tell us, we have to focus now on election 2012.
Well, my focus on election 2012 is to throw every Goddamn one of 'em out and start over. Hell, we could just grab 535 people at random and be better served than we are by the current gaggle of mouth-breathing booger-eating morons presently befouling the air in D.C.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Never Mind...

Life in this particular pocket of Central Texas is often chaotic, but seldom boring. Case in point: this news flash popped up on local media outlets about an hour ago.
Three Tigers Reported Loose in North Bexar County: Elementary School Locked Down
That prompted a flurry of anxious parents calling schools, local hunters locking and loading their deer rifles, and a few yahoos grabbing guns and six-packs and piling into their pick-ups to go all Hatari on us.

Thankfully, it all turned out to be a false alarm.
Bexar County deputies are saying false alarm after investigating a report of loose tigers in north Bexar County that prompted the lockdown of a nearby elementary school.

Deputy Chief Dale Bennett said three tigers were reported loose at a home in the 27000 block of O'Kent drive around 9:21 a.m. He said the homeowner does own a number of large exotic cats, but that all the cats were inside their cages when deputies arrived.

Deputies said the owner of the cats was confused and that they were concerned for his mental health.
That last sentence is not exactly comforting. We have a 'confused' person who keeps several large cats at his place in close proximity to at least one elementary school. The picture below is of his house.


That's frighteningly reminiscent of the loon in Ohio who turned his menagerie of lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) loose and then shot himself.

On the other hand, my inner Bubba secretly yearns for the chance to try out my new .300 Win Mag, which I won in a raffle last year but have yet to shoot, mainly because it's massive overkill for just about every game animal in North America, with the possible exception of brown or grizzly bears.

Oh well, I guess I'll just have to save it for the coming zombie apocalypse...

Serendipity

Serendipity: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for

Example: Yesterday I posted about NBA players organizing a fund-raising basketball game for the hoopster-in-chief. Today I came across this video about NBA players and people in need. (H/T Mostly Cajun)

Please take one minute - 60 short seconds - out of your busy day to watch this special video. It will be worth your while - I promise.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Forget FOD - FTA

There is an old soldier's song that as near as I can tell originated in the British army around the time of the Napoleonic Wars. It functioned then, and continues to function, "as an informal channel of protest against circumstance and against oppressive, incompetent, unpopular or overbearing military and political authority."

The chorus goes something like this. 
F*** 'em all
F*** 'em all
The long, the short and the tall...
That seems particularly appropriate today as the news comes that the congressional 'super committee' tasked with reaching a deficit reduction agreement announced that it has failed to do so.
Facing harsh reaction from financial markets and a frustrated public, the congressional "super committee" negotiating a possible deficit reduction agreement announced Monday it has failed to reach a deal.
Not surprising, really, especially in light of the ongoing failure of congress and the president to behave like mature responsible adults and do their duty.
Our nation’s total debt is now larger than our entire economy. Unemployment is painfully high and growth is painfully slow. Since taking office, the president has accelerated Washington’s reckless spending spree, has added trillions of dollars to the debt, and has refused to present a credible plan to put Washington’s fiscal house in order.

Meanwhile, Congress is divided. Republicans control the House, Democrats the Senate. As required by law, House Republicans presented a budget in committee, brought it to the floor, and passed it earlier this spring. It was an honest, detailed, concrete plan to put our budget on the path to balance and our economy on the path to prosperity. But Senate Democrats, during this time of national crisis, failed even to present a budget plan — in open defiance of the law and the public they serve.
It is now over 900 days - almost three years - since the senate has passed a legally mandated formal budget. In that same time period, the president has likewise failed to propose anything remotely resembling a meaningful budget or budgetary plan to restore fiscal sanity. One can certainly build a compelling argument that this is primarily the fault of the democrat party. After all, they control the senate and the presidency. Yet we are certain to be deluged by the legacy media with a torrent of headlines and stories spinning the failure of the super committee as the fault of obstructionist republicans, who stubbornly refuse to make the evil rich pay their fair share.

In my opinion, however, there is ample blame to spread among members of both parties. I would argue that long-term members of congress have for years put their own personal desires to get reelected and amass power and wealth above the best interests of our country.
250 members of Congress — or 47 percent — have a net worth of more than $1 million
... (for comparison purposes, the percentage of millionaires in the general U.S. population is 1%)
Last year, the combined net worth of Congress skyrocketed to more than $2 billion — a 25 percent increase from 2008...

Meanwhile, the average U.S. family lost 23 percent of its net worth between 2007 and 2009, according to figures released by the Federal Reserve this year...
As far as I'm concerned, every damn one of them, with the possible exception of those elected in 2010, should be tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail.

They are the true 1%...


FOD 2011.11.21

From Nice Deb via Boned Jello:

The Obama Christmas Classic Basketball Game to Benefit…. Inner City Youth Obama
Just when you think it’s impossible for this President to demonstrate  any more hubris than he has already….
Fox News reports Obama’s re-election campaign is bringing together more than two dozen National Basketball Association stars for a fundraising basketball game, named after himself – the “Obama Classic Basketball Game” on Dec. 12 in Washington….to benefit his re-election.

With the NBA season in jeopardy because of the lockout, the game will serve as a fundraising All-star game. Others confirmed to play include Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul and Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard.

Tickets range from $100 to $5,000 for courtside seats. The money will go to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising account by the Democratic Party and Obama’s re-election campaign.
For up to $5,000 a ticket, the target audience must be the 1%.
That news pretty much killed any last remaining vestiges of give-a-damn I might have had about the possibility of no NBA season this year...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

License And Registration, Please

A new Texas voter ID law that requires voters to show a Texas driver's license, a Texas concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, citizenship papers, or a military identification card in order to vote has been put on hold by the U.S. Justice Department.
Texas Republicans expressed dismay Thursday after Justice Department officials said they need voter information about race and ethnicity before they can approve the controversial law, which is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.

State election officials don't track voters by race or ethnicity, said Rich Parsons, spokesman for Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade.
Why? Because the U.S. Justice Department would get its panties in a wad if the state started requiring voters to identify their ethnicity when they registered or voted.
“So there's no accurate way to provide a racial breakdown of voters,” (Parsons) said.

The new law would require voters to show a Texas driver's license, a Texas concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, citizenship papers, or a military identification card before they could cast a ballot.
In this day and age, how many people legal citizens don't have one or more of the above means of identification? How else can they open a bank account or cash their social security, unemployment, or welfare checks? Or get a student loan? Or legally drive a car? Or perform any of the other myriad functions necessary to exist in modern society?
Because of past discrimination, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires Texas and other Southern states receive preclearance by the Justice Department for changes to existing voting laws or redrawing of political districts.
1965. That's almost half a century ago. How long will this relic from another time be used to help demorats steal elections? (Answer: When's the last time a federal law was repealed? Once they're passed they become set in stone. That bodes ill for obamacare, unless the republicans get overwhelming majorities in both the house and senate, AND capture the White House. That's a long row to hoe.)

Texas is just one of a number of states whose recently-enacted voter ID laws are under attack.
The NAACP is joining with minority and labor groups for a series of protests around the country meant to move discussion of voter identification laws out of policy circles and onto street corners, the organization’s president said Tuesday.

Benjamin Todd Jealous appeared on the steps of New York City Hall with the Rev. Al Sharpton, U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel and community and labor leaders to announce plans for nationwide protests on Dec. 10 and across the South in the following weeks, decrying what they described as a nationwide voter suppression effort.
I fail to understand how requiring an individual to provide a valid form of identification before casting a ballot is voter suppression.

But then, what else can we expect from an Eric Holder-run DOJ...?


Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Follies Happy Hour 2011.11.18

Lots of papers to grade this weekend. I'll be Takin' Care of Business... (R-rated version)

You Can Find Anything On The Internet

... but some of the stuff you find out there just makes you ask "Why?"

I've been having a little problem with my foot so I did some searching on the 'Net. I came across this site.
"wikiFeet hosts pictures and embedded youtube videos featuring feet of celebrities"
Go wild, all you foot-pervs...


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tis The Season - Huh???

I've heard it all now...

Pamela Anderson will play the Virgin Mary in an upcoming Christmas special.
Sex-tape veteran and frequent "Playboy" Playmate Pamela Anderson is reclaiming her virginity -- at least on Canadian television.

The former "Baywatch" babe will play the Virgin Mary -- yes, the chaste mother of the Son of God -- in CTV's "A Russell Peters Christmas," the Canadian network announced Monday.

The special, which will be hosted by comedian Russell Peters, will deliver "an irreverent twist on the Christmas special making it unlike anything viewers have seen before."
No kidding. What, Ron Jeremy wasn't available to play Joseph?

Boy, talk about going against type...

Self-Reliance

One of the coolest things about being a professor is when, out of nowhere, a bunch of separate pieces all of a sudden come together in an unexpected way. Case in point:

My capstone information systems class is in the midst of a module on cybersecurity. Part of this is a couple of lectures on SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems. SCADAs are industrial control systems that monitor and control automated and distributed equipment (e.g., generators, motors, pumps, valves) used in power generation, pipelines, water and sewage systems, and so forth.

In order to make the lectures more interesting, I use the example of the Stuxnet worm that infected the Iranian nuclear program, setting it back for years.
The original Stuxnet malware was the culmination of a vast technical and espionage effort that had only one target in mind: the Iranian nuclear program. And is widely believed to be the work of the United States and Israel. Experts who looked at the program were amazed at its ability to penetrate Iran’s secure, highly protected security system and destroy it without being detected.
Here's the cool part - actually, parts.

As I was updating my notes for today's lecture I came across a recent story about a new infection.
Iranian officials admitted Sunday that they had uncovered evidence of the Duqu computer virus -- labeled "Son of Stuxnet" by cyber experts -- at the Islamic Republic's nuclear sites, state-controlled IRNA news agency reported.

Duqu is the second major weaponized virus to turn computers into lethal weapons with devastating destructive power.
That may not sound too exciting to most folks, but to people in my field it's like a sequel to a hit movie. As I dug into it a little more I found some related material that makes the story really intriguing - a parallel series of assassinations executed (sorry...) against Iranian nuclear scientists apparently in conjunction with the release of the viruses.

Nov. 2010:
An Iranian nuclear scientist has been killed and another wounded in two separate but similar attacks in the capital, Tehran.

The scientists were targeted by men on motorbikes who attached bombs to the windows of their cars as they drove to work, officials said.

Another scientist was killed in a bomb blast at the beginning of the year.
Nov. 2011:
Iran today buries a senior commander of its missile force, amid claims that the huge explosion that killed him and at least 16 others at a Revolutionary Guard base on Saturday was the work of Israeli agents.

The blast Saturday, 30 miles west of Tehran, was so large it could be heard and felt in the capital.
Sounds like something out of a James Bond film, doesn't it.

But wait! There's more!

I took a closer look at the viruses and found a couple of Easter Eggs. (I didn't actually find them. People far smarter than me, in deconstructing the virus used in the first cyber attack against the Iranian nuclear facility, found them. I just found the published results of that deconstruction.)
  • The Stuxnet virus will not infect a system that contains the code "19790509".
On May 9, 1979 (1979-05-09) a man named Habib Elghanian was executed by the Iranians. Elghanian was a leader of Iran's Jewish community. He was one of the first victims of the 1979 Iranian revolution, which brought the fundamentalist Islamic leader Ayatollah Khomeini to power. Khomeini, of course, went on to orchestrate the kidnapping of American hostages that helped lead to the defeat of Jimmy Carter and the election of Ronald Reagan.
  • There is a software path in the Stuxnet virus that reads, in part, "...\myrtus\src\objfire_w2k_x86\i386\guava.pdb"
Myrtus is the scientific name for myrtle, a family of flowering plants. Guava is a plant in the myrtle family, The Hebrew word for "myrtle" is "Hadassah." "Hadassah" is the birthname of Esther, a Jewish queen who ruled in ancient Persia - now Iran - and subject of the Book of Esther, one of the books in the Hebrew Bible.
Call Spielberg. Call Ron Howard. This would make a terrific movie.

The Israelis are doing everything they can, short of direct military action, to dismantle the Iranian nuclear program. And they're doing it with flair and panache. Good thing, too, because if they waited for help from the current weasel-in-chief occupying the White House they'd soon be nothing but ashes glowing in the dark. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Theory Meets Reality...

... and theory loses big-time.

From The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism:
"The central purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with accurate and reliable information they need to function in a free society."
From the real world: (H/T Mostly Cajun)


You Scratch My Back And I'll Scratch Yours

As many of you know, I live in Central Texas but work in South Texas. During my weekly to-and-fro commutes I pass through the Eagle Ford oil shale region, the Texas equivalent of the Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada. The Athabasca Oil Sands are the originating point of the proposed Keystone Pipeline, an ambitious project to build a 2000+ mile-long pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. If you've been paying attention, you know that the Keystone pipeline (or, as oil folks call it, the KXL) has been in the news lately.

But first, let's take a look at the economic impact of Eagle Ford.
It's lunchtime at Lee's Steakhouse (in Carrizo Springs, Texas), and the restaurant has few empty seats.

At a nearby convenience store, there are long lines at the two registers, and there's a wait to fill up at the gas pumps. Roads are clogged as tankers barrel through to deliver equipment to remote oil rigs.

Last year, the Eagle Ford shale generated 6,800 full-time jobs and paid $311 million in salaries and benefits...

When spinoff jobs are included — from wholesalers to waiters - the study found the development in the shale play supported 12,600 jobs and paid $512 million in salaries.

... by 2020, 5,000 new wells will be drilled, and the Eagle Ford will support almost 68,000 full-time jobs, account for almost $21.5 billion in total annual economic output, and add almost $1.2 billion to Texas' revenues.
The level of activity is astonishing. In order to support the drilling, there is a frenzy of infrastructure development (roads, rail lines, utilities...) and secondary support (grocery stores, restaurants, housing...). Most of this activity is 24/7. Employment is up, property values are up, levels of prosperity and quality of life are up. It's all good.

Now let's consider the Keystone Pipeline.
The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline offers nothing but promise: tens of thousands of desperately needed jobs, and a big step toward ensuring North American energy security.

But last week, promise gave way to politics when U.S. President Barack Obama punted on the pipeline permitting decision, delaying it until after the November 2012 election.

What could make more sense than approving a project that means 20,000 new jobs in the U.S.? These jobs come as the United States is struggling to recover from a deep recession, with unemployment continually exceeding nine per cent. Add to this that only last month, the president’s own White House Jobs Council cautiously supported the KXL project, and the environmental impact statement found the pipeline would not cause undo harm...
But cancelling the pipeline will definitely cause undo harm...
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Sunday that he was looking at exporting more oil to China after the United States delayed a decision on a controversial pipeline.
The conservative Canadian leader, taking part in a summit in Hawaii hosted by Obama said the pipeline decision had produced "extremely negative reactions" and that he discussed oil exports with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

"This does underscore the necessity of Canada making sure that we are able to access Asian markets for our energy products," Harper told reporters. "I indicated that yesterday (Saturday) to President Hu of China."
So we are (potentially) losing jobs and strategic resources to the chicoms, all because of politics. At least that's what the conventional wisdom would have us believe.
... last week, promise gave way to politics when U.S. President Barack Obama punted on the pipeline permitting decision, delaying it until after the November 2012 election.

Environmental radicals in the U.S., which include the various “Occupy” protesters and Hollywood hipsters, stung by a series of environmental disappointments the last two years, decided the KXL pipeline was their cause célèbre.

As a result, the more strident environmentalists were demanding a victory and what was a “no-brainer” pipeline project approval, became a “no way!” for a portion of President Obama’s base who demanded tangible proof of his fidelity to their cause.
But remember, this is Washington D.C., where nothing is as simple as it seems, and everything (and everyone) is crookeder than a dog's hind leg.
... President Obama is doing everything he can to indirectly kill the Keystone XL Pipeline  project, which was to bring millions of barrels of oil from Canada's tar sands region into the United States, creating jobs and growing our North American energy supply.  Canadian leaders are now talking up an alternative pipeline to their western ports to ship all that oil to China.  That may not be so easy though, as such a pipeline would be very expensive, having to cross the Canadian Rockies, and it faces its own enormous environmental opposition.

However, there is a quick and easy, but not so cheap, solution at hand: railroads.  Railroads are often called on to transport oil when pipeline capacity is maxed out. Much of the giant Bakken Field in the North Dakota is now being rail served while waiting for new pipelines to be built. Shipping oil by rail costs more than a pipeline, but is more flexible, allowing shipments to wherever oil is priced the highest, and can be started almost immediately, compared to a pipeline which can take years to permit and build.

BNSF Railway is the major oil player in North Dakota, and its extensive lines into Canada make it the logical choice to ship most of the Canadian oil when all the alternatives are ruled out.  Railroads typically charge several thousand dollars just to ship one tank car from the Dakotas to the Gulf, which move in 100 car unit trains.  Canada could potentially supply many dozens of these trains daily if it totally committed to rail shipments, providing many new billions of revenue for BNSF.

Oh, by the way, you may know the guy who just bought BNSF; Warren Buffet.
Yes, the same Warren Buffet who supported obama's 'tax the rich' proposal.

Is this the quo of that quid pro quo?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

More Why Professors Drink

From a student paper about e-book readers such as the Amazon Kindle:
"But say you need to check out several books, now that is a problem to where books have plenty of information and it could get heavy, especially for girls."
. . .
"Although, it may seem that the e-book reader are heading to an extension, it’s probably wrong there just improving by combing there interests with consumers’ devices like the cellphones."
This is a course for sophomores and juniors - COLLEGE  sophomores and juniors.

I don't blame the students. I blame the public school system for allowing kids lacking in basic communications skills to graduate. I blame the higher education system for allowing - nay, not just allowing, but encouraging - kids without those basic skills to not only be admitted, but to progress upwards.

And I guaran-damn-tee that these same kids will graduate from college without acquiring those same skills.

What's that? Why, you ask, do I allow these students to pass my course? Good question.

I used to insist on high standards. That was way back when I was young (well, relatively young) and idealistic. Then I found out that the university where I was employed - the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) - could care less about the quality of their graduates. All they wanted was a steady stream of bodies crossing the stage to grab their sheepskins, so that the university could fatten its coffers from tuition and formula funding. Since I was adamant in not passing students who couldn't demonstrate mastery of basic skills, I was a threat to UTSA's revenue stream.

So we parted ways.

Now I'm at another Texas public university. And I'm faced with the same dilemma.

I may be slow, but eventually I learn. I have gone mainstream and lowered my standards to conform with expectations. I'm not proud of it, but my family comes first. Food on the table, a roof over our heads  - these are more important to me than making a futile stand.

It does, however, drive me to drink - for which I am exceedingly grateful. It dulls the pain, and it makes grading much more tolerable...

Why Professors Drink

From a student project on the technology used in robotic exoskeletons:
"The injured and sick patients that have had their legs capacitated will have another chance to walk and feel worthy once again. "
The video below is entitled "One Professor's Fantasy." Trust me, more than one professor would like to respond like this. We've all been there.

They Told Us

I'm facing yet another week from hell. It is filled with seemingly endless administrator-mandated meetings to resolve discuss yammer endlessly about trivial matters. Imagine a room full of pompous, egotistical academics who love to pontificate ad infinitum on topics about which they know nothing, but have strong opinions. Now throw in prickly personalities who are quick - nay, eager - to take great personal offense at the tiniest imagined slight, and you have some small notion of what I'm condemned to this week. As the old saying goes, “academic battles are so vicious because the rewards are so small.”

Top that off with 120+ individual projects that are due this week, necessitating a dreary grading slog that is the academic equivalent of the Bataan Death March, following by the inevitable complaining, whining, and threatening ("It's not fair." -- "I don't understand why I got a 60 on my project. I tried really, really hard." -- "I'm going to talk to the dean about this.").

Bottom line - original blogs may be light this week. Case in point: today's commentary is borrowed from a Doug Ross post of a couple of months ago. I thought it was so profound that I saved it for a day like today.
They told us that allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons would turn our streets into rivers of blood.

They told us that taking trillions of dollars and giving it to those "who truly needed it" would cure poverty.

They told us that giving home loans to those who couldn't afford them would make the American dream achievable for all.

They told us that paying into the Social Security "Trust Fund" would guarantee a comfortable retirement for everyone.

They told us that allowing teachers to unionize in public schools would help inner city students reach for the stars.

They told us that the federal government could run a guaranteed, affordable health care program for seniors forever.

They told us that the new employment paradigm consisted of millions of "green jobs".

They told us that their support for immoral and criminal behavior wouldn't result in the breakdown of the two-parent family.

They told us that spending trillions on Stimulus programs would heal a damaged economy.

They told us that raising taxes on corporations and "the rich" would create more jobs.

They told us that our borders were "as secure as they've ever been".

They told us that intentionally restricting access to our own sources of energy would reduce dependence on foreign oil.

They told us that spreading unemployment benefits and food stamps far and wide would help the economy.

They told us that, despite other failed government health care programs, they could successfully take over the entire medical system.

They told us that their record-breaking borrowing could never result in a downgrade of the United States' AAA credit rating.

They told us that "the Constitution doesn't matter".

They told us that anyone who opposes their unconstitutional, un-American, reckless and failed policies are racists.

Well, I'm here to tell you:

Everything they told us was a lie.

Everything they told us was wrong.

Intentionally, diabolically, criminally wrong.

And if we don't vote out every Democrat politician -- at every level of government -- in 2012, this beautiful Republic, this magnificent country, this bastion of free enterprise and private property rights, this shining city on a hill... well, it will be finished.

Monday, November 14, 2011

What Are they Thinking?

First I-69 signs go up
The quest to create an interstate between the Lower Rio Grande Valley and the rest of Texas reached another milestone on Thursday, when the Texas Transportation Committee gave the Texas Department of Transportation permission to add “Interstate 69” to the state highway system.
Are TxDOT and the Federal Highway Administration really this clueless? Can't they see all the jokes coming their way?
As a result, the TxDOT will add the “I-69” designation to a 6.2-mile stretch of U.S. 77 between the I-37 terminus at Corpus Christi and Texas Highway 44 at Robstown in Nueces County, a portion of roadway that already meets interstate standards. Eventually, once the remaining pieces of U.S. 77 are brought up to interstate quality, I-69 designation will extend all the way to Brownsville. A Dec. 5 ceremony in Robstown will coincide with the posting of the first I-69 shields on U.S. 77.
How can it be an interstate highway when it stays within the boundaries of the state of Texas? I don't know for sure, but I suspect this will be the nation's shortest interstate highway.

I also suspect that the IH-69 highway signs will disappear from the roadway at a much higher rate than other highway signs...

FOD 2011.11.14

The downgrader-in-chief, speaking at  the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Conference in Hawaii, called U.S. business leaders "lazy." He went on to claim that, under his administration, it isn't the federal regulatory environment that is to blame for stagnant economic growth. In obama's view of the world, we would all be better off if the states would get out of the way and let the feds run things. From Jammie Wearing Fools:
“Because of our federalist system, sometimes a foreign investor comes in and they’ve got to navigate not only federal rules, but they’ve also got to navigate state and local governments that may have their own sets of interests. Being able to create if not a one-stop shop, then at least no more than a couple of stops for people to be able to come into the United States and make investments, that’s something that we want to encourage,” Obama said.

Yeah, just ask Boeing how that works for them. They built and then wanted to staff a plant in South Carolina until the union griped and Barry O unleashed the hounds at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and now two  years later South Carolina is still trying to open the plant. How about that oil pipeline that just cost us 2000 jobs because the State Department stepped in and decided at the last hour that the pipeline needs to be routed differently? How about workers in Charlotte being told to move aside during the Democrat convention for outside union labor to be brought in?
It's painfully obvious that obama has absolutely no clue how the real world works.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Funnies 2011.11.13

Bar puns today...


Two strings walk into to a bar. The first string orders a beer. The bartender throws him out and yells "I don't serve strings in this bar."

The second string curls up into a ball, scrapes himself on the street a couple of times, then goes into the bar and orders a beer.

The bartender says, "Hey, didn't you hear what I told your buddy?"

The string says "Yeah, I heard."

The bartender says, "Aren't you a string?"

The string replies, "No, I'm a frayed knot..."




A bear walks into a bar. He bangs his paw down and demands a beer. The bartender approaches and says, "We don't serve bears in here.

The bear, becoming angry, demands again that he be served a beer.

The bartender tells him again, more forcefully, "We don't serve bears in this bar."

The bear, very angry now, says, "If you don't serve me a beer, I'm going to eat that lady sitting at the end of the bar."

The bartender says, "Sorry, we don't serve bears in this bar."

The bear goes to the end of the bar, and, as promised, eats the woman. He comes back to his seat and again demands a beer.

The bartender states, "Sorry, we don't serve bears - especially bears that are on drugs."

The bear says, "I am NOT on drugs."

The bartender says, "You are now. That was a barbitchyouate."


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fresh Air

Yesterday was a breath of fresh air, both figuratively and literally.

Figuratively, because we had some of our favorite relatives that we hadn't seen in a long time come to town for a quick visit. We spent the day touring the Texas Hill Country and reminiscing. Politics, the economy, Occupy Whatever, the Penn State mess ... all were forgotten for a short while.

Literally, because one of the things we did was climb Enchanted Rock on the most gorgeous, picture-perfect day we've had around here in a long, long time. Crisp cool temperatures and an incredibly clear blue sky did wonders for the psyche.
The Rock is a huge, pink granite exfoliation dome, that rises 425 feet above ground, 1825 feet above sea level, and covers 640 acres. It is one of the largest batholiths (underground rock formation uncovered by erosion) in the United States.

Tonkawa Indians believed ghost fires flickered at the top, and they heard weird creaking and groaning, which geologists now say resulted from the rock's heating by day and contracting in the cool night. A conquistador captured by the Tonkawa described how he escaped by losing himself in the rock area, giving rise to an Indian legend of a "pale man swallowed by a rock and reborn as one of their own." The Indians believed he wove enchantments on the area, but he explained that the rock wove the spells. "When I was swallowed by the rock, I joined the many spirits who enchant this place."
Approaching the granite dome (click to embiggen).


A couple of views from the summit.



There are some unusual rock formations on the Rock, along with several examples of how persistence and determination can overcome a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.



After climbing the granite dome, we looked around for more mountains to conquer. We found one.

We came, we saw, we climbed.


After all that climbing we were in desperate need of something to offset the good influences of fresh air and exercise. So off we went to the Fredericksburg Brewing Company for some giant soft pretzels (still warm from the oven), plates of tasty, juicy German sausages, and of course a few mugs of fresh-brewed beer.  

Then we returned home and started fixing dinner (didn't even take a nap).

Dinner was barbequed brisket, accompanied by more sausage, a pot of borrracho beans (FYI, "borracho" is Spanish for "drunk"), potato salad, and of course a bucketful of Shiners. Afterwards there was fresh peach cobbler topped off with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream, followed by coffee and Kahlua.

I slept like a baby...