Sunday, October 31, 2010

More Texas Ghost Stories

The Menger Hotel is one of San Antonio's most treasured historical landmarks, rivaling even the Alamo. It was built before the Civil War, and has hosted such historical figures as Theodore Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, Mae West, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, Lily Langtry, and Sarah Bernhardt, to name just a few. In fact, Teddy Roosevelt recruited his Rough Riders in its historic bar.

More importantly on Halloween night, it's also well-known for its collection of ghosts.
So who are these souls traipsing the halls at the oldest continually operating hotel west of the Mississippi? Aside from a multitude of bumps in the night, kitchen utensils that transport themselves, and the presence of people (with no bodies to accompany them), they're the following stories:

Sallie White, murdered by her husband and buried at hotel expense by the Menger, has been seen walking in the hotel corridors, especially at night, for many years. She is clad in an old, long gray skirt with a bandana around her forehead and is generally carrying towels, which she never delivers.

Captain Richard King, founder of the King Ranch, appears now and then entering his room, the King Suite. He has been seen by many guests and employees of the hotel. The unusual thing is that he does not use the suite door, but goes directly through the wall. There was a door in the location where Captain King entered his suite many years ago.

A guest steps out of his shower and walks into the bedroom of the hotel. Standing by the bed is the figure of a man clad in a buckskin jacket and gray trousers. To further cloud the issue, this apparition is speaking to someone or something else in the room that cannot be seen. Buckskin asks the question "Are you gonna stay or are you gonna go?" three times.

A lady sits knitting in the original lobby of the Menger Hotel. She wears a dated blue dress and a beret with a tassel. Her glasses are small and metal framed. An employee asks "Are you comfortable...may I get you something?" The lady replies "no" in an unfriendly tone and disappears.

Why the Menger for these supernatural escapades? Built just steps from the battle of the Alamo and only 23 years after its bloody conclusion, the land lends itself to folklore.
And if that's not enough...
Many of us don't see dead people unless we're watching the 2010 Dallas Cowboys play. But the Menger Hotel has seen dead people come and go — and stay.

The same can be said about some of the Menger's otherworldly inhabitants. Opened in February 1859, the oldest hotel in San Antonio is also one of the most haunted places in the city, nearly as famous for its ghosts as it is for its mango ice cream, which has been known to make the dead come alive.

The sightings have been reported by Menger guests as well as employees.

Theodore Roosevelt recruited some of his Rough Riders from the Menger bar and is reported to have been seen over the years.

Richard King, founder of the King Ranch, was so fond of the hotel that one room was named the King Suite, and that's where he died in 1885. His funeral service was held in the hotel's front parlor, and he's been seen walking the hallways.

There's also the Lady in Blue who has been seen on the second floor.

Pointing to the elevator, Malacara tells the story of a woman working at the hotel who got on carrying a lot of things and asked a man already in the elevator to press a button for her floor. He disappeared.

The most well-known of the Menger's ghosts is Sallie White, a young chambermaid shot to death in the hotel by her husband on March 28, 1876. The hotel paid for her coffin and grave.

Sightings of Sallie, dressed in a full-length skirt and a bandanna around her head, in rooms and hallways, have been reported for decades.

The hotel's paranormal experiences include seeing images suddenly appear and then disappear; feeling cold spots; experiencing discomfort and fear for no reason; seeing television sets go on and off; and hearing a bell at the front desk ringing by itself even when it was disconnected.

Some images have been captured on film. For years a bust of Countess du Barry from the French Revolution was in front of a mirror on the second floor next to the Renaissance Room. It disappeared in the early 1980s.

Last year, a hotel guest snapped a photo of the mirror. Malacara pulls the picture out of a manila folder. In the mirror is the distinct image of a woman who closely resembles the countess.

In another photo, taken at 2 a.m. in the bar on Aug. 5, 2007, there's the outline of a woman — perhaps Sallie — as well as what appears to be the figures of men sitting at tables.
Well, it is a great bar. I wouldn't mind hanging out there after I've shuffled off this mortal coil...

Sunday Funnies

Happy Halloween!

A cab driver picks up a nun. She gets into the cab, and the cab driver won't stop staring at her.

She asks him why he is staring and he replies, "I have a question to ask you but I don't want to offend you."

She answers: "My son, you cannot offend me. When you're as old as I am and have been a nun as long as I have, you get a chance to see and hear just about everything. I'm sure that there's nothing you could say or ask that I would find offensive."

"Well, I've always had a fantasy to have a nun kiss me."

She responds, "Well, let's see what we can do about that: #1, you have to be single and #2 you must be a Catholic."

The cab driver is very excited and says, "Yes, I am single and I'm Catholic too!"

The nun says, "OK, pull into the next alley." He does and the nun fulfills his fantasy.

But when they get back on the road, the cab driver starts crying. "My dear child." said the nun, "Why are you crying?"

"Forgive me sister, but I have sinned. I lied, I must confess, I'm married and a I'm a Baptist."

The nun says, "That's OK, I'm on the way to a Halloween party, and my name is Kevin."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Devil's Backbone

Just in time for Halloween...

The Devil's Backbone is the the local name for a winding ridge that meanders between a couple of small Texas Hill Country towns (Wimberley and Blanco). It's flanked on both sides by a series of deep canyons and valleys. There's a two-lane state Ranch Road (RR 32) that follows the ridge most of the way.

Fog, mist, winds, and temperature variations are not unknown along the ridge. Rational people believe that these result from topographical and meteorological conditions arising from the sudden and severe elevation differences between the ridge and the canyons. Others, however, have a different explanation.
Residents sometimes hear stallions galloping through the darkened canyons. But no one has ever seen any horses. And when they check the ground later, there are no hoof prints.

Charlie Beatty has heard the horses, and more. He claims to have stumbled upon unexplained cold spots — patches of chilly air — in distant corners of his ranch. This has happened in mid-July.

Dozens of locals and passers-by, meanwhile, have reported ghostly sightings of Confederate soldiers, Apache chiefs and lost travelers on the roadside, in pastures and at their doorsteps. The apparitions always disappear when confronted.
“The legend of this area goes back hundreds of years,” says resident Bert Wall, who has written several books about the Devil's Backbone. “It was known to Apaches and Comanches, who viewed it as a spiritual area.”

The name comes from the Spanish term “Diablo Espinoza,” or “spiny devil.” Wall says it was a nickname given to an overbearing Spanish priest by his workers during the 1750s.

Given the setting and the stories that have been told since then, it appears the name “Devil's Backbone” is a classic example of foreshadowing.

While ghosts are reported all over the place, the Devil's Backbone Tavern, a narrow honky-tonk built on the site of ancient Indian campgrounds and the area's first stagecoach stop, is Spook Central.

Doors and windows fly open and shut, says bartender Melia Walker. Sallie Tate, another bartender, claims a large limestone doorstop rose off the ground by itself. Three weeks ago, when the widow of a regular patron was speaking ill of her late husband, a framed picture of him abruptly fell from the wall and hit her. Twice.
I've spent many an hour in the Devil's Backbone Tavern. Most of the bizarre things I've seen there can be attributed to customers - and the bartenders - being overserved.

Sometimes, when bartender Mary Johnson is closing the bar for the night, she says invisible hands will brush against her hair while she's sweeping.

“Will you guys knock it off?” she'll snap.

And, she says, they do.

At least until the next night.
It's easy to dismiss this as spiderwebs. In fact, given the age of the place and its general level of cleanliness, that's quite probable. But then again, alone in an eerie old place late on a dark moonless night, who knows...

Ghost Hunters of Texas has a short report and video, for what it's worth. 

For a slideshow that captures the essence of the Devil's Backbone Tavern, go here. In particular check out slides 10 (repaired bullet holes in the ceiling) and 13 (a hole in the floor where a bunch of drunks poured the ashes of a dead friend).

I'm not sure one way or the other. I think ol' Willie Shakespeare got it right:

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

"Hamlet", Act 1 scene 5

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Follies Happy Hour

It's been an absolute beast of a week - and I do not mean that in a good way.

But Friday's here at last, and I've got a feelin' I'll be spending some time in the ozone this weekend.

I couldn't find a decent video of Commander Cody and the band in their heyday, but at least the album cover will give you a flavor of what it was like back in the day.

For those unfortunates who never got to experience a Commander Cody concert live and in person, well, you have my condolences. As the old saying goes, you had to be there...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fat Drunk and Stupid

Dean Wormer famously proclaimed in 'Animal House' that "fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life." 
A local San Antonio radio station has noted that San Antonio has been labeled as too fat, too drunk, and too stupid.
San Antonio is the seventh drunkest city in America. In Texas, it is behind only Austin (#5) and well ahead of Houston, Fort Worth, and Dallas.
Finally, the Alamo City comes in as the second-most stupid city in the nation, again leading all other Texas cities.
Once the results for fat, drunk, and stupid cities are tabulated, we have the following.
Fattest in the Country (must be all that good Mexican food and BBQ)
  • San Antonio - 3
  • Fort Worth - 4
  • Dallas - 6
  • Houston - 10
Drunkest in the Country (Shiner beer and Tito's Vodka - not to mention Republic Tequila)
  • Austin - 5 (gee, there's a surprise)
  • San Antonio - 7
  • Houston - 47
  • Fort Worth - 55
  • Dallas - 77
Stupidest in the Country (I can't speak to DFW - the Dallas mayoral election does not specify a party affiliation - but San Antonio and Houston have democrap mayors. Just sayin' ...)
  • San Antonio - 2
  • Houston - 4
  • Dallas/Fort Worth - 15 
 In short, there's no doubt that San Antonio wins the Homer Simpson trifecta. Woo-hoo!!!

At this point I'd like to make it clear that I do not live in San Antonio. I merely drive through it to/from work and home. I live in a small town that without a doubt would not rank anywhere near the fattest, drunkest, and stupidest cities in the country. At least not when I'm working out of town...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fall Fail

Down here on the Texas-Mexico border where I work the high temperature yesterday was 95. Today it hit 97, and the forecast for tomorrow is 97.

My air conditioner has been working overtime and the little wheel on the electric meter is merrily spinning away.

By contrast, where I live in the Texas hill country (about 200 miles north of here and about 1000' higher in elevation) the high temperature for those same three days was in the low 80's. Who woulda thunk a couple of hundred miles would make such a big difference.

I'm sure that after Nov. 2 the climate will be much better.

And don't forget to recycle...

Booby Traps

A GGD post picturing a NSFW birthday cake triggered a faint memory about something I'd seen several months ago and set aside for a rainy blogging day. A little digging through my "use-in-case-of-brain-lock" file led to this.
Female suicide bombers are being fitted with exploding breast implants which are almost impossible to detect, British spies have reportedly discovered.
"Bond ... James Bond."
The shocking new al-Qaeda tactic involves radical doctors inserting the explosives in women's breasts during plastic surgery — making them "virtually impossible to detect by the usual airport scanning machines".
Hmmm ... "virtually impossible to detect by the usual airport scanning machines" ... that leads one to believe that some sort of manual search would be necessary ... volunteers, anyone?

MI5 has also discovered that extremists are inserting the explosives into the buttocks of some male suicide bombers.

Never mind.
Terrorist expert Joseph Farah claims: "Women suicide bombers recruited by al-Qaeda are known to have had the explosives inserted in their breasts under techniques similar to breast enhancing surgery."

The lethal explosives ... are inserted inside plastic shapes during the operation, before the breast is then sewn up.

... Britain's intelligence services began to pick up "chatter" emanating from Pakistan and Yemen that alerted MI5 to the creation of the lethal implants.

A hand-picked team investigated the threat which was described as "one that can circumvent our defence".

Top surgeons have confirmed the feasibility of the explosive implants.

One claimed: "Properly inserted the implant would be virtually impossible to detect by the usual airport scanning machines.

"You would need to subject a suspect to a sophisticated X-ray.

"Given that the explosive would be inserted in a sealed plastic sachet, and would be a small amount, would make it all the more impossible to spot it with the usual body scanner."

Explosive experts allegedly told MI5 that a sachet containing as little as five ounces of PETN could blow "a considerable hole" in an airline's skin, causing it to crash.
Well, at least this gives a guy an excuse to eyeball the babes as we board a plane.

And the gals can check out the men's tushes in the name of security.

Something for everyone...

Monday, October 25, 2010

No End In Sight

On Saturday it was reported that the obama administration is halting construction of the virtual border fence between Mexico and the U.S.
The Obama administration is preparing to scrap plans to extend the high-tech "virtual" border fence along vast stretches of the 1,969-mile U.S.-Mexico border, ending a troubled and politically contentious security measure inaugurated in 2006 by then-President George W. Bush....
The project has been afflicted with management problems repeatedly spotlighted by the Government Accountability Office.

The watchdog congressional agency recently concluded that Boeing, the prime contractor for the Secure Border Initiative network, had not provided accurate updates on progress to the administration and the DHS had provided inadequate oversight of Boeing, leading to "costly rework" efforts.
I don't doubt that the project has been mismanaged by both the vendor and the feds. What is troubling, however, is that there are no plans to do anything else to secure the border. This is not an immigration issue - it's a security issue, especially for those of us who live and work along the border. For example, last week I could see the smoke and hear the explosions of yet another shootout across the Rio Grande.
Mexican soldiers battled gunmen in two cities across the border from Texas on Wednesday, prompting panicked parents to pull children from school and factories to warn workers to stay inside. Assailants in a third city threw a grenade at an army barracks.

The U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo warned American citizens to stay indoors. The statement said there were reports of drug gangs blocking at least one intersection near the consulate in the city across from Laredo, Texas.

Shootouts also erupted in Reynosa, across from McAllen, causing a huge traffic jam in the highway connecting the city with Monterrey and Matamoros.

Mexico's northeastern border with Texas has become one of the most violent fronts in an increasingly bloody drug war.
Unfortunately, there's more.

On Saturday thirteen people were killed and 20 wounded in a massacre at a 15-year-old's birthday party across from El Paso.
Gunmen stormed two neighboring homes and massacred 13 young people at a birthday party in the latest large-scale attack in this violent border city

Attackers in two vehicles pulled up to the houses in a lower-middle-class Ciudad Juarez neighborhood late Friday and opened fire on about four dozen partygoers gathered for a 15-year-old boy's birthday party.

The dead identified so far were 13 to 32 years old, including six women and girls, Chihuahua state Attorney General Carlos Salas told reporters at a news conference at the crime scene. The majority of the victims were high school students, a survivor said.

Salas said a total of 20 people were wounded, including a 9-year-old boy.

... in January, gunmen massacred 15 people at a party in a house not far from the site of Friday's killings. Most of the victims were teenagers, students and athletes.
Then on Sunday a gunbattle in northern Mexico killed 3 bystanders.
Three bystanders died in the crossfire of a shootout between gunmen, police and soldiers in northern Mexico on Sunday.

The victims were a 14-year-old boy and two women aged 18 and 47.
A birthday party for a 15-year-old. Thirteen dead. A 9-year-old child wounded, a number of teenagers dead. Three innocent people killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, including a 14-year-old and two women.

Ho-hum. Just another weekend in Mexico. 

And following up on the recent murder of an American citizen on Falcon Lake:
Officials on the US side of Falcon Lake, where David Hartley, a US tourist, was shot on Sept. 30 while Jet Skiing, are giving some credence to a theory that Mr. Hartley and his wife were mistaken as drug cartel spies by "pirates" linked to another cartel, setting in motion a tense, and ongoing, international incident.

US and Mexican authorities so far have no official explanation for the shooting of Hartley, but a report by a global intelligence firm posited this week that Mr. Hartley and his wife, Tiffany Hartley, stumbled into an ambush engineered by lower-level cartel members – perhaps teenagers – who made an unauthorized decision to confront and fire upon the couple.

According to the anonymously sourced Stratfor report, the beheading this week of a Mexican investigator looking into the attack, Rolando Armando Flores Villegas, was roundly seen as a stern message to both Mexican and US authorities "that no body will be produced and to leave the situation alone." 
A narcoterrorist tells authorities of two countries to back off - and they do. The day after Flores' head was delivered the Mexican government announced it was suspending the search for Hartley's body. U.S. LEOs have likewise, but less publicly, throttled back their investigation. Who's in charge here? I think we all know the answer to that one.

Over the last four years  more than 28,000 people have been killed in drug gang violence in Mexico. For comparison purposes, around 77,000 Iraqis were killed in a four-year period from 2004-2008.

We have a nation to our south that cannot control terrorists within its border. Violence, drugs, and human smuggling are spreading northward. And outside of those who work and live along the border, no one cares. Hell, no one else is even aware of the situation.

It's getting worse, and there is no end in sight.

That frightens me...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Disillusioned and Thirsty

This weekend I graded mid-term exams for two of my classes. One is the capstone course that all graduating seniors must take, and the other is a graduate course in managing the information systems function in an organization. Both courses focus on strategic management, as opposed to technology.

The format of the exams was mixed: a few short-answer questions, mostly asking about concepts; a few short essay questions asking the students to apply material from the lectures to case studies we discussed in class; and some multiple-choice questions to assess their knowledge of significant details.

The questions weren't that hard. If a student came to class and stayed awake he shouldn't have a problem with any of them. The results:

Most of the students did well on the multiple-choice questions.

About half did okay on the short-answer questions, while the other half had difficulty.
(Sample question:  What is an information system? List and briefly describe the components of an information system.)
Almost all of them struggled with the short essay questions.
(Sample question: In the Maine Medicaid case the state of Maine was attempting to implement a new web-based information system to process Medicaid payments and help improve HIPPA compliance. Evaluate the risks of the project and the key risk factors. Describe the steps you would take to control the risk.)
These are not exactly rocket-science type questions. They simply ask the students to apply what they have (supposedly) learned to a specific context. Isn't that what happens in the real world?

We had a review session before the exam. I gave them examples of the type of question on the exam. I even dropped a couple of great big hints about what to study. And yet their collective performance was very disappointing. All I can conclude is that 12 years of public schools and 4 years of college have taught them how to take multiple-choice exams, but not much else.

Did I mention it was an open-book exam?

Sigh ... I feel the need for a Shiner ... many, many Shiners...

Sunday Funnies

In honor of the Texas Rangers eliminating the Yankees in the ALCS...

Bill Clinton was at a baseball game. Before the game began a secret service man came up to him and whispered in his ear.

President Clinton suddenly picked up Hillary and threw her out on the field.

The secret service man came running up to him and said, "Mr. President Sir, I think you misunderstood me; I said they wanted you to throw out the first pitch."

 * * * * * * * * * *

A recent Scottish immigrant attends his first baseball game in his new country and after a base hit he hears the fans roaring "!"

The next batter connects heavily with the ball and the Scotsman stands up and roars with the crowd in his thick accent: "R-r-run ya bahstard, r-run will ya!"

A third batter slams a hit and again the Scotsman, obviously pleased with his knowledge of the game, screams "R-r-run ya bahstard, r-r-run will ya!"

The next batter held his swing at three and two and as the ump calls a walk the Scotsman stands up yelling "R-r-run ya bahstard, r-r-run!" All the surrounding fans giggle quietly and he sits down confused.

A friendly fan, sensing his embarrassment whisper, "He doesn't have to run, he's got four balls."

After thinking for a moment about this explanation the Scotsman stands up and yells "Walk with pr-r-ride man! Walk with pr-r-ride!!!!"

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What A Way To Go

It's kind of sad when the manner of your death overshadows the life you led, but oh well, that's life...

Ex-milkman drowned in his dog's water bowl following an epileptic fit
A former milkman may have downed after he fell face down into his dog's water bowl following an epileptic fit, an inquest heard.

Kim Cinderby, 51, had not been taking his epilepsy medication in the days leading up to his death.

Pathologist Dr Linmarie Ludeman told the Gloucestershire inquest: 'There were signs of drowning and he was found face down in a bowl.'

Mr Cinderby was found dead at his home in Littledean, Forest of Dean, by his friend and neighbour Robin Lancet.

He told Coroner Alan Crickmore that they had been friends for the past 18 years and used to drink together in local pubs.

Mr Lancet said: "For five years I have checked on him every morning and night because of his epilepsy and I have a key to his front door.

'On June 8, I saw him at 8pm and he seemed fine. The next morning I went to check on him at 8am and could not get front door open because his key was on the inside.

'I heard his dog barking and took the emergency key kept in a keybox to go in through the back door.

'Kim was in the kitchen face down on the floor with his face in the dog's drinking water bowl. I tried to move him but realised he had died.'

Pathologist Dr Linmarie Ludeman said: 'Tests showed there were no drugs or alcohol in his system.

'Death could have been caused by sudden death in epilepsy, or by a sudden heart arrhythmia either of which would be a natural cause.

'There were signs of drowning and he was found face down in a bowl which could have occurred as part of a fit.'

The coroner was told that nothing suspicious had been found at the house and police were satisfied no-one else had been involved in the death.

Mr Cinderby's GP Dr Hannah Deer said he had reduced his medication himself this year and it was then changed, with a prescription for tablets to be taken morning and night.
Moral of the story: take your meds.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Follies Happy Hour

Some eye-candy for the guys ... country-western meets funk.

Crank up the volume, add some Shiner, and enjoy.

Will This Nonsense Ever End?

First it was the government sticking its nose into our bathrooms by requiring low flow toilets. Never mind that the unintended consequences of this are toilet smuggling and multiple flushes that result in just as much water usage as with the old toilets that worked. 
(Dave Barry's comment on the topic: "They work fine for one type of bodily function, which, in the interest of decency, I will refer to here only by the euphemistic term "No. 1." But many of the new toilets do a very poor job of handling "acts of Congress," if you get my drift.")
Then it was the government-mandated switch from incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent ones. More unintended consequences followed in the form of toxic mercury in landfills and American jobs lost to foreign countries.

Now it's street signs. Thousands of perfectly good street signs must be replaced because (1) they are all upper case or (2) use the wrong font.

These examples are, of course, just the tip of the governmental-intrusion iceberg. It brings to mind two quotes - take your pick.

"When will it ever end" (Peter, Paul, and Mary)

"Stop the insanity!!!" (Susan Powter)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

San Antonio Doesn't Dick Around Either

Yesterday Kerrcarto posted a story about a Kerrville resident shooting at a pervert on her porch. Unfortunately, she missed, either by accident or design.

Today there was this story in the San Antonio media about some dirtbag who broke into a woman's bedroom in the middle of the night. She put a couple of rounds right in the 10-ring and he bleed out in her front yard.
Investigators say 28-year-old Guadalupe Valenzuela broke into a 50-year-old woman's home in the 4800 block of Castle Path around 4:00 a.m. Tuesday. The woman said she heard someone breaking in, but before she could call for help, Valenzuela had already made it inside and kicked in her bedroom door. The woman pulled out a revolver officers said she kept under her pillow and fired four shots at him.

"It was obvious...He was coming for her or to attack her," said Sgt. Chris Benavides of the San Antonio Police Department.

Police say Valenzuela ran out and collapsed in the front yard of Guzman's house.

Valenzuela had a criminal record that included charges for possession of drugs, disorderly conduct, and driving while intoxicated. The woman who shot him will not be charged because police say she had a right to protect herself and her home. 
Just another reason to thank God I live in a state that recognizes the right of people to defend themselves, their families, and their homes. 

While I'm at it, let me slip in a plug for the Texas State Rifle Association, a pro-second amendment group that operates like the NRA, but on a state level. I've been a member for several years, and I'm here to testify that they do an excellent job of protecting and expanding our 2A rights. They were instrumental in getting the concealed carry and castle doctrine laws passed, and are currently working on legislation that is very near and dear to my heart - allowing qualified individuals to carry firearms on college campuses. If you live in Texas and support our right to keep and bear arms, please consider joining.

Quick Hit

From the Huffington Post:

"The President is Killing Democrats"

He's finally doing something that most of the country will support...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More FUD

I've commented before (here and here) on how, under obama and the democrap-controlled congress, FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) is hamstringing any potential economic recovery. Now those comments are echoed by no less a luminary than Ken Langone, co-founder of Home Depot and former director of the New York Stock Exchange.

Langone is the grandson of (legal) immigrants. His father was a plumber and his mother a cafeteria worker. His first job was as a day laborer. He's also a military veteran.

In 1979 Ken, along with several other people, started Home Depot. Today, Home Depot employs over 325,000 people. It's a classic American success story.

However, in a recent open letter to obama, published in the WSJ, Langone flatly states "If we tried to start Home Depot today, under the kind of onerous regulatory controls that you (obama) have advocated, it's a stone cold certainty that our business would never get off the ground..."
(Your) short-sighted wavering—between condescending encouragement one day and hostile disparagement the next—creates uncertainty that, as any investor could tell you, causes economic paralysis. That's because no one can tell what to expect next.

If we tried to start Home Depot today, under the kind of onerous regulatory controls that you have advocated, it's a stone cold certainty that our business would never get off the ground, much less thrive. Rules against providing stock options would have prevented us from incentivizing worthy employees in the start-up phase—never mind the incredibly high cost of regulatory compliance overall and mandatory health insurance. Still worse are the ever-rapacious trial lawyers.

Meantime, you seem obsessed with repealing tax cuts for "millionaires and billionaires." Contrary to what you might assume, I didn't start with any advantages and neither did most of the successful people I know. I am the grandson of immigrants who came to this country seeking basic economic and personal liberty. My parents worked tirelessly to build on that opportunity. My first job was as a day laborer on the construction of the Long Island Expressway more than 50 years ago. The wealth that was created by my investments wasn't put into a giant swimming pool as so many elected demagogues seem to imagine. Instead it benefitted our employees, their families and our community at large.
Remind me again how many business people obama has as advisers ... Go ahead, I'll wait. [*crickets chirping*]

Only In Texas

Things like this are part of the reason I love living in Texas.

Hats Help Uncover Cowboys' Stories
It was sometime back in the late 1980s that Stewart Martin, owner of Ben's Western Wear on Front Street (in Cotulla), hung the first beat-up old cowboy hat in a place of honor, high up on the wall among the pale trophy-buck mounts.

No one now recalls which hat was first, but it proved to be a good idea. Customers would remark on the cowboy who had worn that hat, the horses he had ridden and the work he had done. And other hats soon followed.

“Stewart was real proud of the hats. His theory was that everyone's hat was important to them. His goal was to write a story every month about a person whose hat was hanging on the wall, but he passed away in November of 2006,” said his widow, Jill, who runs the store.

“He was a people person. He used to tell me, ‘I maybe didn't make a lot of money in my life, but I can measure my wealth in my friends.'”

Now there are more than 400 hats on the walls, mostly battered Stetsons and Resistols, each with a name tag. An additional 100 hats are waiting in storage because of a lack of space. And if all their stories were told, it would make a nice history of this part of South Texas.

A few hat stories did get written. One of the favorites was provided by Scott Reese, a rancher from Encinal, who donated an old chewed-up gray Resistol. In 1975, Reese had given it to his ranch foreman, Mario Rodriguez.

“Mario wore it every day and made repairs on the hat as needed. On one occasion, while he was plowing a field, a gasket blew out on an old Ford tractor. With South Texas ingenuity, he cut a piece of felt out of the back of his trusty old hat and used it for the gasket,” Martin wrote.

“The repair was done over 15 years ago, and it still works today,” he concluded.

Among the many hats are a handful donated by politicians, country music stars, Texas Rangers and other celebrities, including one by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who once hunted around here.

Hats bearing the names of George Strait, Rick Perry and Nolan Ryan are on the wall above the Jockey underwear display. And Dolph Briscoe's cracked old straw lid is right above the Carhartt work jackets.
I used to go hunting on a lease near Briscoe's ranch in Uvalde. We'd see him in town once in a while. He looked like any other rancher, not like a governor of Texas. And certainly not like Captain Perfect-Hair, pretty boy Rick Perry.
And while a few other names are recognizable to anyone who spent a few years roaming South Texas, most of the hats belonged to ordinary working men known only to their families, friends and fellow cowpokes.

“Most of these guys worked on ranches all their lives. These are the real cowboys from the old days. You can tell by the way their hats are all creased and sweaty and wore out,” said Carlos Gonzalez Jr., 55, who has worked here for two decades.

His son, who was a pretty fair roper, has his hat on the wall.

Some of the hats are probably 50 to 60 years old. And while Jill Martin says she has a good idea of where most of them came from, sometimes she doesn't know much about all their owners.

“We have never turned a hat down. I wonder about some of them. I'm not vouching for their character, they've just got their hats hanging up here,” she joked.

One of the oddest is one painted orange on the top, and not as an expression of humor.

“That one belonged to Bob Davis. It was his hunting hat. And he didn't want to get shot,” Martin said.

Business was slow Friday afternoon, and customer Darrell Burnett, 47, of Van Alstyne took his time looking through the hat collection, finding names of cowboys he had known of in North Texas and elsewhere.

“There's Jim Wright of the American Quarter Horse Association. He was a field inspector for 50 years. Harry Thompson, a PRC bull rider. And Phil Lyne, the greatest cowboy ever,” he said.

“A lot of history. It's just cool,” he said.

Elsa Ayala, who has worked at Ben's for 30 years, said people still come back to show friends and family members a favorite hat. Sometimes they ask that it be lifted down from the wall so they can take their picture with it.

But then the hat always goes back to its place of honor.

“Stewart always said that anyone is more than welcome to take a hat back, anytime, but no one ever has,” she said.
My first - and only - custom cowboy hat was made for me by Manny Gammage of Texas Hatters, back when I lived in Austin. It's a great hat, but unfortunately my head has grown since then, so it doesn't fit right anymore. Maybe one of these days I'll get around to seeing if it can be stretched (the hat, not my head).

Monday, October 18, 2010

For My Aggie Friends

Back in 2002 when R. C. Slocum was fired as the Aggies head football coach I told anyone who would listen that A&M was making a big mistake. Much like my wife, everyone ignored me. Today I am officially saying "I told you so."

For those of you whose memory might be a little cloudy, here's the details of RC's tenure as head coach (from here).
In December 1988, R.C. Slocum was named head coach at Texas A&M. During his 14 years as head coach, Slocum led the Aggies to a record of 123–47–2, making him the winningest coach in Texas A&M history.

During his career, Slocum never had a losing season and won four conference championships, including the Big 12 title in 1998. Additionally, he led the Aggies to become the first school in the Southwest Conference history to post three consecutive perfect conference seasons.

Slocum reached 100 wins faster than any other active coach. He has the best winning percentage in SWC history, one spot ahead of the legendary coach Darrell Royal. Slocum helped make A&M's Kyle Field  become one of the hardest places for opponents to play, losing only 12 games at home in 14 years. For over a year, A&M held the longest home-winning streak in the nation, losing in 1989 and not again until late in 1995. In the 1990s, A&M lost only four times at Kyle Field.

Slocum was named SWC Coach of the Year three times during his tenure as head coach. His "Wrecking Crew" defense led the SWC in four statistical categories from 1991 through 1993 and led the nation in total defense in 1991.

Slocum was well known for being unwilling to bend the rules. He inherited an Aggie football program under severe NCAA sanctions, and cleaned it up quickly. He was quoted in 2002 as saying "I wouldn't trade winning another game or two for my reputation as a person. I've said from day one I'm going to do things the way I think they should be done. There were those who said, `If you don't cheat, you're pretty naive. You can't win that way.' Well, we're going to find out. That's the way we're going to do it. I can walk away and look myself in the mirror and say, 'We did it the right way.'”

The critics of Slocum cited his below .500 bowl record. Slocum went only 3–8 in bowls, and 0–4 in major bowls (The 1999 Sugar Bowl and the 1992, 1993 and 1994 Cotton Bowl Classics, which were then considered major).

Slocum continually pressed Texas A&M to update the athletic facilities so that the university could compete with rivals Texas and Oklahoma in football recruiting. Officials finally listened to his pleas and began a large facility expansion project. This was too late to save Slocum. He was fired in 2002 after a 6–6 season, which included a win over number-one-ranked Oklahoma. He was succeeded by Dennis Franchione as head coach.
Not to pick on Sherman, who most agree is a good guy and understands what A&M is all about, but, well, let's see what the Aggie school paper has to say.
In over two years, Sherman is 13-18 - the worst start to a coaching career since A&M began allowing women into the University. Sherman is now 3-15 against teams with winning records.

Those wins?

Texas Tech, Iowa State and Louisiana Tech. Sherman's biggest home win was over an eventual 7-6 Iowa State team on a forgettable Halloween afternoon. Sherman is 5-13 in conference play. Sherman's teams have lost 12 consecutive games on television.

And, with the rough part of the schedule still to come, Sherman is on the verge of his third consecutive losing season.

Fun fact: the last Aggie coach to have three consecutive losing seasons and keep his job was Jim Meyers in 1960.
So who's next for A&M? Well, it's too late for them to get Tommy Tuberville, who IMO would have been a great fit. The only logical choice now is Mike Leach... 

(you have to be an Aggie fan to get this)

Obama Myths Busted

President Barack Obama will appear on an episode of "Mythbusters," a television show that uses science to determine the truth behind urban legends.
Gee, what a set-up line.

Unfortunately, I'm short of time this morning, so I'll have to use a little trick I do in class whenever I don't feel like lecturing.
"Students, we're going to do an in-class exercise. I want you all to form small groups and discuss today's topic, and then make a brief presentation of your conclusions at the end of class."
The same trick is handy for whenever I don't have the time or inclination to write a complete post.

So, dear readers, your assignment is to think up your own jokes about obama and debunking myths.

Ready, begin...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Back In The Hole

Life underground may be safer for one of the rescued Chilean miners. We already knew that Johnny Barrios had both a wife and a mistress waiting for him when he poked his two-timing head above ground. Now it turns out he had not one but two mistresses.
The married Don Juan of the trapped Chilean miners dug himself into a deeper hole when it was revealed that he had not one, but two mistresses.

Susana Valenzuela, Johnny Barrios' mistress who greeted him after his rescue on Wednesday, reportedly said her man was also romancing a 25-year-old woman. But Valenzuela, 52, squashed the relationship between Barrios and the younger woman.

When the younger paramour visited him at the hospital treating the rescued miners, Valenzuela barred her entry, according to Columbia radio station La FM.

The Latin Lothario's wife, Marta Salinas, refused to show up when her hubby was hoisted up.

"If he wants to see me or talk to me he can come find me," Salinas told the Daily Mail of London at the time. "Otherwise we can talk through our lawyers." 
Who does this guy think he is, Tiger Woods?

Usually I take the guy's side, but I'm with the wife on this one.

In related news, Mining Reality Show "Coal" Headed to Spike TV.
Spike TV has reportedly picked up a reality show about the harsh world of coal mining.

"Coal," which will be produced by the same team that brought forth "Deadliest Catch," will be a docuseries chronicling the lives of coal miners in West Virginia, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
It'll never match my favorite reality TV series about people struggling to survive and prosper in a dank, muck-filled environment (no, it's not about politicians...)

Sunday Funnies

The Morning After...

Marty wakes up at home with a huge hangover. He forces himself to open his eyes, and the first thing he sees is a couple of aspirins and a glass of water on the side table.

He sits up and sees his clothing in front of him, all clean and pressed.

Marty looks around the room and sees that it is in perfect order, spotless, clean. So is the rest of the house.

He takes the aspirins and notices a note on the table "Honey, breakfast is on the stove. I left early to go shopping. Love you."

So he goes to the kitchen and sure enough there is a hot breakfast and the morning newspaper. His son is also at the table, eating.

Marty asks, "Son, what happened last night?"

His son says, "Well, you came home after 3 A.M., drunk and delirious. Broke some furniture, puked in the hallway, and gave yourself a black eye when you stumbled into the door."

Confused, Marty asks, "So, why is everything in order and so clean, and breakfast is on the table waiting for me?"

His son replies, "Oh that! Mom dragged you to the bedroom, and when she tried to take your pants off, you said, "Lady, leave me alone, I'm married."

Saturday, October 16, 2010


As a former U.S. Army junior enlisted man, I never tire of tweaking the NCOs and officers that made my life miserable way back when.

Of course, looking back on it now I realize that, for the most part, they weren't that bad. They were trying their best to deal with a bunch of 18-20 year old kids. Now that I teach that same age range I can sympathize with them somewhat.

Still, I do enjoy a little payback every now and then, as evidenced by here, here, and below.
Al was a recent retiree. He was hired as a greeter at WalMart.

He was a really good worker, exceptionally tidy, clean-shaven, sharp minded and a real credit to the company. The only problem was he just couldn't seem to get to work on time. Every day he was 5, 10, even 15 minutes late.

One day the boss called Al into the office for a talk.

"Al, I have to tell you, I like your work ethic, you do a bang up job. But being late so often is quite bothersome."

"I know boss, and I'm working on it."

''Well, good. That's what I like to hear. It's odd, though, your coming in late. I know you're retired from the military. What did they say if you came in late back then?"

''They said, 'Good morning, General, can I get you some coffee?'"

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Follies Happy Hour

Delbert McClinton is a Texas classic and a Texas icon. He ain't Nashville smooth or polished, but by God he's ours.

Pop open a cold Shiner, lean back, and enjoy.

Fog Of War

Goodness knows I have no fondness for much of the nonsense that goes on in military units. At the same time I acknowledge that this is based on my limited personal experience from 40+ years ago. Today's military is a much different beast from the one I was a part of in the Viet Nam era.

I have the utmost respect for those individuals who choose to place themselves at the sharp end of the spear. In this particular case I'm speaking of the U.S. Navy Seals who were involved in attempt to rescue British hostage Linda Norgrove from terrorists.

Yes, an error - a tragic, tragic error - was made. And yes, there was some confusion in reporting the events. But unless you've been there and experienced the fog of war, the pressure to make an instantaneous life or death decision, then don't second-guess the people in that situation. Have the decency to withhold judgment until all the facts are known, and then temper any judgment with the realization that it's easy to play back the video in super slow motion, but when you have split seconds to make a decision it's a totally different situation.

Here's some excerpts from a pretty detailed account of the rescue operation. (Here's a second account.)
The only realistic option was for the US special forces to descend on the target compound out of the night sky, sliding down ropes, guns blazing. Far away, in the taskforce headquarters, the operation was being watched on six big screens, each showing a live feed from a different source — the drones, the helicopters and even the Seals' helmet cameras. It was not the sharp green clarity as portrayed Hollywood films – sometimes a feed would be lost as an aircraft made a turn for example – but the unfolding action was clear enough.
Sliding down ropes from a helicopter into a hostile encampment. Senior officers watching on video screens far, far away. This is not a Hollywood movie. This is real-time real life. If you hesitate you're quite likely dead.
In the first few violent minutes, the plan seemed to be working. The six abductors holding Norgrove stumbled out of their huts into the central compound and were shot and killed. What the Seals did not see however, was one of the insurgents dragging Linda Norgrove out of a hut with him.
She managed to break away and lay down, hunched up in the foetal position – the safest thing to do given the hail of gunfire around her – but on that moonless night, the Seals did not spot her, even with their night vision goggles.
Fog of war...
To the horror of the senior officers watching back at headquarters, the six big screens were lit up by a blast that seemed to come from the vicinity of Norgrove and the insurgent closest to her, and soon afterward word came from the returning helicopters that Norgrove was mortally wounded. The operation had failed.

The immediate assumption was that the blast had come from a suicide bomb, as it is not unusual for insurgents to slip into suicide vests if there is a risk of attack.

Late on Sunday, however, the taskforce commander acted on a hunch and asked to see the video of the assault stored on the computer hard drive at its headquarters. Running through it again, he spotted one Seal, standing on the roof of one of the huts, toss something underhand into the compound. Four seconds later the screen went bright from the explosion. He called the team in and asked who had thrown a grenade. One man stepped forward.
Let's not lose focus here. An unarmed civilian aid worker was kidnapped by terrorists. Based on history and intelligence intercepts her fate was dismal at best, fatal most likely. The best option to save her was a military strike. Limited time and geographical constraints dictated who would make that effort. Would it have been better to have stood down and done nothing, accepting that Ms. Norgrove would most likely be killed or moved to a location where rescue would have been impossible.
By late last week it was clear, according to sources, that Norgrove's life was in very grave danger. One group of local elders was calling for her execution, talking of killing her like "the Russian" some years before, an apparent reference to the long war with the Soviet army, in which captured soldiers were often slaughtered in horrifying ways.

The other option her captors were debating was shipping Norgrove to North Waziristan, the tribal territory in western Pakistan, which is almost entirely outside the control of government forces, and where it would be virtually impossible to keep track of the British woman and her abductors.
I'm not condoning any failure to follow orders or procedures. But I'm also not second-guessing the people who slid down those ropes into God-knows-what. Imagine leaning out of a helicopter and staring down into the darkness, knowing that armed men are waiting for you down there. And then leaning forward even more and falling into the great unknown.

We should thank those people, not pillory them.

If I'm ever in the position that Linda Norgrove was in, I'd much rather take my chances with a rescue attempt than abandon myself to the tender mercies [*snort*] of a gaggle of raghead camel-fuckers.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

An Asshole And An Idiot

Eugene Robinson is a columnist for the Washington Post. He's also an asshole and an idiot.

I won't go into his asshole-ery. Just browse some of his past columns and you'll figure that out for yourself. But I will make a few brief comments on his idiocy. His most recent column addresses the 'exhaustion vs. enthusiasm' gap between democraps and repubs. (Remember Velma Hart? She's the lady who was an obama supporter, but who has grown "exhausted" trying to defend him since he took office. She's the poster child for the exhausted democraps.)

In his column, Robinson discusses how obama changes his message depending on which segment of his supporters he's addressing.
For progressives who have criticized his administration from the left, (obama) has a stern lecture that might be paraphrased like this: "Come on, people, give us a break. Have you noticed that we don't exactly have a liberal majority in Congress?"
Excuse me? When he took office his party had firm control of the house and a supermajority in the senate. There was absolutely nothing to stop him and his cronies from ramming their liberal agendas down this country's throat, and boy did they take advantage of that. Stimulus bills, obamacare, cash for clunkers ... the list goes on. He and his ilk are now experiencing the backlash from those ill-conceived, foolish, and failed initiatives.
For centrist Democrats who might have wanted him to spend more time on jobs and less on health care, Obama's message is essentially apocalyptic ... "You're right, things aren't as great as we'd like. But just imagine the disaster if the Republicans take control of Capitol Hill."
Yeah, I'd hate to go back to those days.

January 3rd, 2007 was the day the Democrats took over the Senate and the Congress. At the time:
  • The DOW Jones closed at 12,621.77
  • The GDP for the previous quarter was 3.5%
  • The unemployment rate was 4.6%
If you don't believe it, go look it up.
With African Americans, his appeal has been simpler and more direct: "I need you."

The president's overall approval rating, according to the latest Gallup survey, is a middling 46 percent -- not great, but roughly comparable to that of Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton at this stage of their presidencies. His approval among African Americans, by contrast, is a stratospheric 87 percent.

This despite the fact that black people have suffered disproportionately from the subprime mortgage meltdown, the tidal wave of foreclosures and evictions, the worst recession in decades and the agonizingly slow "jobless" recovery that economists say we're experiencing -- problems that have their roots in prior administrations, but that many other Americans seem prepared to blame on Obama and the Democrats.
Oh, right, back to the old "It's all Bush's fault" theme.
The national unemployment rate is 9.6 percent. For African Americans, it's a punishing 16.1 percent -- yet African Americans remain the president's most enthusiastic and loyal constituency.

There are two reasons. For at least two generations, black Americans have been faithful supporters of the Democratic Party in general. And specifically, their high regard for Obama has to be because he is the first African American president of a nation that not long ago consigned black people to second-class citizenship.
Of course. When whites don't support obama it's racist. When blacks do support him, it's justified.

I'm so tired of all this crap. obama is inexperienced, incompetent, and incapable of understanding the Constitution and basic economic principles. His own party is fleeing from him like Europeans from toxic sludge. Yet it's all the fault of Bush and a bunch of us right-wing racist obstructionists.

Can't we all just get along...?

How liberals perceive getting along.

How Texans perceive getting along.

How men perceive getting along (click to embiggen).

Getting along in reality.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

That Didn't Take Long

I've been holding off posting this until all the Chilean miners were rescued so I didn't jinx them. At this point in time there are still several rescue workers waiting to be brought up, but I think it's safe now. At least I hope so. I'd hate to have to live with any negative consequences.
This country, and in fact the entire world, has demonstrated an amazing capacity for untimely and inappropriate jokes during times of stress and tragedy. There are some who would argue that humor is a coping mechanism (count me in that camp), but still, there is a fine line that must be walked. I don't think any of the following cross that line, but even if they do, so what?
  • When will they get those poor, desperate men out of the hole they’re in? But hey… enough about the Dallas Cowboys.
  • “Chilean miners haven’t seen sunlight in over 70 days” – Big deal. They should try experiencing a British summer.
  • I watched CNN as the miners were brought up ‘Juan by Juan.’
  • It’s a shame my wife isn’t trapped down that mine with those Chilean miners. They’d have dug themselves out by now.
  • I don't know who's screwed more minors, that Chilean mining company or the Catholic Church.
  • Upon receiving a pitch for a movie script about the story of the Chilean miners, director/rapist Roman Polanski said, "Okay, you had me with minors."
  • When the first miner came out I was upset to notice that it was sunny and he saw his shadow. That means six extra weeks of winter.
If any of the miners take offense to these, I will not debate, argue, or fight with them. I refuse to sink to their level...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

And You Think You've Got Problems At Work

Man Survives Mile-Plus Trip Through Sewer
A worker who descended into a city sewage system on Tuesday became unhooked from his safety line and was pushed through a 27-inch-wide pipe for over a mile before his calls for help were heard and he was rescued.

Daniel Collins, of Collins, Mo., was listed in critical condition Tuesday night at Saint Luke's Hospital in Kansas City.

South Metropolitan Fire District Chief Randy Adams said Collins was being treated for hypothermia and had been administered antibiotics because he may have swallowed sewage.

Collins disappeared shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday after descending into the sewage system in the town of Raymore. Adams said crews frantically searched manholes along a 1.5-mile route near a golf course.

After about 90 minutes, firefighter and paramedic Antonio Smith heard Collins calling out, "Guys, I'm down here. Can you help me?"

Smith was lowered into the sewer chamber and found Collins about 12 feet down. Collins appeared to have some bruises but was able to speak, Smith told KMBC-TV.

"It was a miracle to find him in that condition," Smith said.

He said that he put Collins over his shoulder, and crews topside helped lift him out. Firefighters covered Collins with coats while waiting for an air ambulance.

Adams said Collins "was not totally coherent. He was basically in and out, and he was very weak."

Collins was tethered when he descended into the sewer and was still wearing the harness when he was found. It was unclear how he became unhooked, which allowed him to be pushed through the pipe by rushing water.
I often complain that I have to put up with a lot of crap in my job, but at least it's figurative, not literal. The only two jobs more disgusting than this guy's are lawyer and politician.

Choose Wisely

While walking down the street one day a senator was hit by a car and died.

His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

"Welcome to heaven," says St. Peter. "Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you."

"No problem, just let me in," says the senator.

"Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from the higher ups. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose  where to spend eternity."

"Really? I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven," says the senator.

"I'm sorry, but we have our rules."

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.

The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.

Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people.

They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and the finest champagne.

Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy. He's having a good time dancing and telling jokes.

They are all having such a good time that before the Senator realizes it, it is time to go.

Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises...

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens in heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him, "Now it's time to visit heaven."

The next 24 hours pass with the senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a nice relaxed time. Before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

"Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity."

The senator reflects for a minute, then he answers: "Well, I never would have expected this. I mean, heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell."

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell...

Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.

The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulders.

"I don't understand," stammers the senator. "Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?"

The devil smiles at him and says, "Yesterday we were campaigning, Today, you voted..."

Choose wisely on November 2, 2010.

(Thanks and H/T to Bots.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

End of an Error

In honor of FOD - it's never to early to plan ahead...

The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions

The city of San Antonio, in conjunction with the downtown business community, has opened a facility for the homeless called Haven for Hope.

It's stated intent is "to reintegrate San Antonio’s homeless population back into the community through a structured transformation process." This includes providing food, shelter, and "a wide array of social services to combat the root causes of homelessness in a convenient central location."

Sounds like a good thing, right? Government and business uniting in a common cause to address a pressing social need. That should make liberals, conservatives, and even libertarians happy. Hallelujah! Cue the rainbows and chorus of angels.

However, since Haven for Hope opened there have been a few small problems.

There are many in the homeless population who say they are reluctant to use the services or stay in the dorms.
"Haven for Hope is built like a jail, it's operated like a jail and so it's the last thing these people want to do is return to that type of environment," said (homeless person) Edward Rodriguez.
The food offered by the shelter is less appealing than what the homeless can obtain on the streets.
When Haven for Hope opened its gates to the homeless this year, officials cast the lure of food as the center's primary enticement. 
Their philosophy: Eliminate feeding in the streets, and the homeless would seek meals at Haven's Prospects Courtyard.

But that approach in some cases has proved less than alluring, officials say.
More than three months after opening, the facility is operating at less than 50% capacity. One reason given by the homeless is that they can eat better on the streets.
(Assistant City Manager) Zanoni said he has grown concerned about complaints among the homeless in the streets about the cold food in the courtyard and that he encouraged Haven to change its policy.

“The homeless went from three, four hot meals a day (on the streets) to one bologna sandwich,” he said. “That's not going to cut it.”
Concerns about security inside the shelter are surfacing.
The Haven for Hope has been operating for months on the near west side of downtown. Now, reports are surfacing that life inside the mega-homeless shelter can be dangerous.
Haven for Hope has its share of the mentally ill, those in withdrawal and others with a multitude of problems. And some said this population tends to be violent at the shelter.

"They're not helping you,” said John Humphrey, a homeless man who left the shelter. “And it's a dangerous place to be in my opinion."
Let's review. The food is worse than the homeless can get on the streets, it's more dangerous than the streets, and it's run like a prison. What's not to like?

Granted, some of these problems might be attributed to the newness of the facility. A period of appraisal and adjustment is not uncommon nor unexpected in new ventures. That's why new ships have shake-down cruises.

In this case, however, there seem to be more systemic issues prowling under the surface.

Existing charities are being squeezed out or pushed aside.
The efforts to help more people in need could actually lead to fewer people being helped. The expansion of SAMM Ministries to Haven for Hope has made their costs so high, they say they can't afford it.
SAMMinistries is an interfaith ministry dedicated to providing shelter and care to the homeless of San Antonio. Until Haven for Hope opened, SAMM was the largest provider of food, shelter, and social services to the homeless in San Antonio. As a reward, SAMM is now being marginalized by the government/business mega-shelter.

Next came the food police.
Robert Smith sat on the porch of Catholic Worker House on Wednesday morning, hungry and sipping a cup of coffee.

The nonprofit, close to downtown, had been a reliable source of free, hot meals for hungry people for 25 years until the city's health department showed up in August and warned it to shut down because it lacked a licensed kitchen.

Metro Health officials paid a visit Tuesday evening to those handing out food under U.S. 281 at Ninth and Austin streets ... a popular feeding spot at which hundreds of the homeless and the merely hungry gather throughout the week for free, hot meals.

“They told me next time we serve a meal, we must have a permit, and it cannot be home cooking,” said Red Simpson, director of operations for Church Under the Bridge.

A city ordinance prohibits the distribution of food not prepared in a licensed kitchen.

Another ordinance requires anyone who sells or gives away food on downtown streets to possess a “special event” permit. But requiring such a permit now is akin to shutting an operation down — the city makes only 27 of them available at a given time, and all are currently in use, said Melody Woosley, assistant director of city initiatives.

“In order to get one, somebody would have to give one up,” Woosley said.

City officials for months have been fine-tuning a plan to relocate the homeless population to the new Haven for Hope campus, in part by moving clothing and feeding programs there. But officials deny that Tuesday's warning or the city's August visit to the Catholic Worker House is related to that effort.
Yeah, right. We're from the government and we're here to help.
Jim Grossnickle-Batterton, house coordinator for Catholic Worker House, is suspicious.

About two months before the health department showed up, he said, the number of visitors to the nonprofit more than doubled, rising from about 60 to 140 a day.

The increase occurred around the same time Haven for Hope opened.

“Most of the folks were coming from Haven,” Grossnickle-Batterton said. “They were tired of the cold food over there in the courtyard. So it obviously made us a much bigger target.”
“The city has found a way to decide where people can be by food availability,” he said. “I think that using food in general to make people do anything is just really bad.”
Perhaps the best capsule summary of the situation can be found here.
David is on the streets in San Antonio, Texas. He works day labor jobs to survive. It didn't used to be so bad in town, but then Haven for Hope opened, he says.

Close to 80 local organizations collaborate to provide services at the massive Haven For Hope shelter. I only spent a little time there. Although the facility is impressive, their solution seems more like institutionalizing homelessness.
I don't mean to belittle the individuals and organizations involved with Haven for Hope that are truly motivated by the desire to help the homeless. But in the back of my mind lurks a teeny tiny suspicion. 

The majority of the homeless population was/is centered on downtown San Antonio. The new facility is located on the western outskirts of downtown. Could the underlying purpose of the new facility be to move the homeless presence away from downtown, with its tourist attractions (the Alamo, the Riverwalk, etc.) and businesses to a more remote location?

Naw, government never has ulterior motives ... does it ...?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Funnies

A man staggers into an emergency room with two black eyes and a five iron wrapped tightly around his throat. Naturally, the doctor asks him what happened.

“Well, I was having a quiet round of golf with my wife when she sliced her ball into a pasture of cows. We went to look for it and while I was rooting around I noticed one of the cows had something white at its rear end. I walked over and lifted up the tail and sure enough, there was my wife’s golf ball… stuck right in the middle of the cow’s butt. “That’s when I made my mistake.”

“What did you do?” asks the doctor.

“Well, I lifted the tail and yelled to my wife, ‘Hey, this looks like yours!’”

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ethical Freeloading

I seem to recall the days when food stamps and similar government programs (anyone remember surplus cheese, peanut butter, and crackers?) were intended as a safety net to ensure that no one starved. Somehow they have morphed into give-aways where recipients can use our tax dollars to purchase all sorts of items that have little or no relation to basic nutrition. In fact, there is no resemblance between America's grossly obese freeloaders waddling down the aisles of stores filled with all manner of edibles, and those emaciated stick-figures from third-world hellholes that are literally starving to death.

We have now reached the point where some people object to even the mildest of restrictions being placed on government give-away programs.

Is it Ethical to Ban Food Stamp Users From Buying Soda?
In another move aimed at improving New Yorkers' health by regulation, mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced  a proposal to bar food stamp users from buying sodas with city funds. The proposed two-year ban, which is currently under consideration by the Department of Agriculture, is intended to combat obesity and diabetes. The mayor, who already banned trans-fats from restaurants and lobbied against excessive salt in foods, says the "initiative will give New York families more money to spend on foods and drinks that provide real nourishment." Though 57 percent of the city's adults are overweight or obese, the plan has met with skepticism from critics who it see as a paternalistic gesture.
I share the paternalistic concern to some extent, in that I don't think the government has any right to restrict what vendors sell or consumers purchase, as long as there is full disclosure of the contents. But it's one thing to be concerned about government interference with a private transaction between two consenting entities. It's another thing altogether to place reasonable restrictions on people receiving governmental largess.
Is This Really the Best Way? Time's Meredith Melnick details the opposition to the ban: "Not everyone agrees that restriction is the best solution. Advocates for the urban poor suggest that such a move would patronize and alienate an already stigmatized population. In 2004, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) rejected a similar Minnesota proposal to bar people from buying candy and soda with food stamps, because it perpetuated the stereotype that food stamp-users make bad food choices."

We can't prevent food stamps from being used to buy candy and soda because it might hurt someone's feelings? What a crock of shit. And the fact that those porkers do in fact use food stamps for that purpose is not 'perpetuating a stereotype,' but rather confirming the notion that they do make bad food choices.

If people in a public program continually and demonstrably make poor choices, then it's time to limit those choices.

I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but for God's sake whatever happened to common sense?