Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Follies Happy Hour 2012.08.31

re: the RNC - Clint Eastwood kicked ass (no surprise there). To follow that up, here's Charlie Daniels performing Red Skelton's version of the Pledge of Allegiance. Words to remember ... and live by.

As an added bonus, here's a follow-up CDB song that pretty much expresses how I feel these days.

Still Swamped

To many tasks, not enough hours.

Anyway, here's a reflection on the recent Mars Curiosity landing.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Too much to do, not enough time to do it all. But I do have one thought on the upcoming presidential election:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

We All Scream For Ice Cream

A little while back I asked the rhetorical question "What has happened to this country?"
In the span of my adult life we've gone from walking on the moon and winning the cold war to a divided, pessimistic, discouraged country that at least to me exhibits all the characteristics of a once-mighty empire sliding inexorably into the twilight of its existence. We've taken a giant leap, all right, but it's a giant leap backwards.
Wiser people than me have asked how this came to be. If there's an answer out there, I'd love to hear it.
While not directly addressing that question, OldNFO may just have provided the answer, courtesy of a third grade teacher.
The most eye-opening civics lesson I ever had was while teaching third grade this year.
The presidential election was heating up and some of the children showed an interest.  I decided that we would have an election for a class president.  We would choose our nominees. They would make a campaign speech and the class would vote.  To simplify the process, candidates were nominated by other class members.  We discussed what kinds of characteristics these students should have.

We got many nominations and from those, Jamie and Olivia were picked to run for the top spot.  The class had done a great job in their selections. Both candidates were good kids.  I thought Jamie might have an advantage because he got lots of parental support.  I had never seen Olivia's mother.

The day for their speeches arrived.  Jamie went first.  He had specific ideas about how to make our class a better place.  He ended by promising to do his very best.  Everyone applauded and he sat down.  Olivia's speech was concise.  She said, "If you vote for me, I will give you ice cream." And then she sat down. The class went wild.  “Yes! Yes! We want ice cream."  She surely would say more.  She did not have to.

A discussion followed.  How did she plan to pay for the ice cream?  She wasn't sure.  Would her parents buy it or would the class pay for it? She didn't know.  The class really didn't care.  All they were thinking about was ice cream.

Jamie was forgotten.  Olivia won by a landslide.

Every time Barack Obama opened his mouth he offered ice cream and 52 percent of the people reacted like nine year olds.  They want ice cream.  The other 48 percent know they're going to have to feed the cow and clean up the mess.
That, in a nutshell, is what's wrong with this country. We now live in a nation overrun by people who think they are entitled to free ice cream.

God help us...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Harvest Moon

So much for the state of journalism today.

NBC, that extension of the obama reelection campaign, can't even differentiate between the first man to walk on the moon and some aging over-the-hill drug-addled rock singer.

(H/T Coalition of the Swilling.)

Follow-up: Geez, I thought I was on top of NBC's screw-up regarding the death of Neil Young Armstrong. But the folks at ThePeoplesCube beat me all to hell and back.
We at NBC strive to earn our public's trust by being the most accurate and reliable news source. Since our regrettable error in reporting on "the death of astronaut Neil Young", we now publish a correction on the controversial career of one of America's greatest hall-of-famers, astronaut Lance Armstrong, who passed away over the weekend at age 82.

Where's The Outrage?

Received this tidbit from the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action. It's outrageous, but don't expect to see it anywhere in the mainstream media.
It seems that BATFE’s William McMahon, who, as the agency's Assistant Deputy Director for Field Operations approved its catastrophic and deadly “Fast and Furious” operation, is being allowed to receive his six-figure federal paycheck for nearly half a year, while working full-time as investment bank J. P. Morgan’s executive director for global security and investments in the Philippines.

As the Washington Post reports, "McMahon was one of five ATF officials recently singled out in a congressional report on the botched gun operation. The report alleged that McMahon knew that no safeguards were in place to prevent a large number of guns from getting into Mexico, but he made no effort to stop them." Fox News says "The [double-dipping, two-paycheck] arrangement allows McMahon to retire [from the BATFE] in December with a full government pension."

Congressional investigators into the "Fast and Furious" debacle, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.), have asked the BATFE to explain McMahon’s situation, but the agency has said only that McMahon is a full-time employee in the agency, in its Office of Professional Responsibility, no less.
"Office of Professional Responsibility." What a joke. That tells you everything you need to know about the ATF and the obama administration right there.
A letter sent by Sen. Grassley and Rep. Issa to BATFE says "Given McMahon's outsized role in the Fast and Furious scandal, the decision to approve an extended annual leave arrangement in order to attain pension eligibility and facilitate full-time, outside employment while still collecting a full-time salary at ATF raises a host of questions about both the propriety of the arrangement and the judgment of ATF management."
Oh my achin' back. This guy should have been not only fired, but indicted as well. He led an ill-conceived, mismanaged, and illegal operation that left an unknown number of people dead, including at least one U.S. LEO. And his reward? He not only gets to keep his job, he's given a sweetheart deal that allows him to go on vacation for six months while working full time for another employer in order to get his pension.

Sounds to me like a "keep you mouth shut and we'll take care of you" deal. And notice where McMahon is assigned. The Philippines - conveniently out of the country.
Meanwhile, the long-awaited report of the Department of Justice's Office of Inspector General, on "Fast and Furious," has apparently been completed, and the DOJ has one month to respond to the report’s findings. At that time, the report should be made available to the public.
Don't hold your breath. The DOJ investigating the DOJ? Can you say "whitewash?"
Thirty years ago, the cover-up of a two-bit burglary of a hotel room was enough to force a U.S. president to resign. In the current administration, though, sins of an incomparably greater magnitude have been rewarded time and again. Reason enough to remember that the presidential election is only 73 days away. And counting.
The big difference between Nixon and obama is that the press was out to get Nixon, while instead they are doing their best to cover up obama's sins.

I'd say it's a joke, except it's too sad to be funny...

Monday, August 27, 2012

What Are They Thinking - Or Are They?

Posted with minimal comment (mainly because I'm speechless at this lunacy - do the dems really think this will help obama get re-elected?).
President Obama turned down a chance to have Timothy Cardinal Dolan deliver a prayer at the Democratic National Convention after Dolan told Democrats he would be “grateful” to deliver a blessing in Charlotte.
Cardinal Dolan is generally regarded as the top Catholic official in the country. He will deliver a prime-time benediction at the Republican convention, and wanted to let the dems know that it was not a partisan act on his part: "... he would be just as happy and grateful to accept an invitation from the Democrats as he would to have received one from the Republicans.”

But not to worry. In place of the top Catholic official in America, the democrats have agreed to host an islamic prayer event.
The Democratic National Committee is raising a number of eyebrows after announcing that it will be hosting Islamic “Jumah” prayers for two hours on the Friday of its convention, soon after denying a Catholic cardinal’s request to say a prayer at the same event.

I'm at a loss as to how the dems expect this to help them win in November. WTF are they thinking?

One Giant Leap

Neil Armstrong passed away this weekend. There are plenty of biographical articles and tributes to him out there in cyberspace. My purpose is not to add to that collection, but rather to make a few personal observations.

I'm old enough to remember where I was and what I was doing on that long-ago night of July 20, 1969. I had just graduated high school a few months earlier and was running wild in that magical summer between high school and college. A friend already had his own apartment, so we all headed there for a moon landing party. The drama of that moment was of enough magnitude to grab the attention of a bunch of beer-sodden teenagers. We all gathered around an old tiny black and white TV and watched spellbound as the magic unfolded.

To put it in context, a mere eight years earlier President John F. Kennedy had challenged the United States to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. This came in the midst of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, which at that point had the lead in the space race.

America responded. We roared past the Russians and had a succession of moon landings, at one point even playing a little golf up there.

That was back when we celebrated our achievements, not apologized for them.

Now, a short 40+ years later, under a different president, times have changed.
Walking on the moon is now something that people used to do, in the distant past, like macramé, decoupage and the Hustle. (A moonwalk is just another dance step now, and an old one at that.) Before very long, there will be no one left alive who's walked any ground but the Earth's, and eventually the adventure that was Apollo 11 will fade out of personal human memory. There will just be the pictures, then, as we saw them in the summer of '69, ghostly and blurry, colorless and incomprehensible, an infant's glimpse of a new world.
The United States has abandoned the notion of manned space flight and, in an ironic twist of fate, ceded that domain to the Russians.
The Wall Street Journal notes that the International Space Station now depends solely on Russia, the historic rival to the U.S. in the space race. The U.S. and European Space Agency will depend on Russia’s Soyuz for a lift. In other words, Russia has a monopoly on manned space flight.
Adding injury to insult, that presidential decision meant the loss of jobs and specialized space expertise.

And turning right back around and adding insult to injury, the same president added 'Muslim outreach' to NASA's priorities.
The head of the NASA has said Barack Obama told him to make "reaching out to the Muslim world" one of the space agency's top priorities.
What has happened to this country? In the span of my adult life we've gone from walking on the moon and winning the cold war to a divided, pessimistic, discouraged country that at least to me exhibits all the characteristics of a once-mighty empire sliding inexorably into the twilight of its existence. We've taken a giant leap, all right, but it's a giant leap backwards.

Much as I'd like to, I can't blame it all on obama. He damn sure isn't helping, but he's not the only one at fault here.

Wiser people than me have asked how this came to be. If there's an answer out there, I'd love to hear it.

(Side note: obama commemorated Armstrong's passing by releasing a photo of himself gazing wistfully into the night sky. Further research reveled that it wasn't even one taken for the occasion, but a stock photo taken several months ago. Stay classy, barry...)

FOD 2012.08.27

Here's the best rebuttal I've seen to date of obama's inane "You didn't build that" nonsense.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Funnies 2012.08.26

Still struggling with the damn computer. The situation reminds me of my second ex-wife: hard to live with, but you miss it when it's gone.

 * * * * *

Q:  How is E-mail like a penis ?
A:  It can be up or down. It's more fun when it's up, but that makes it difficult to get any real work done.

 * * * * * 

Q:  Who’s the patron saint of e-mail?
A:  St. Francis of a CC.

 * * * * * 

A husband and wife were taking a vacation to Miami to unthaw from the cold weather in North Dakota. Flights were almost full, so the couple was forced to take separate flights on separate days.

The husband flew first and when the plane landed and he got checked in he decided to send his wife an email. He didn't notice that he made a spelling error on the email address so it got sent to a widow that had just come back from her husband's funeral.

The widow checked her email because she expected to hear from friends and family. The first one she read was the one sent by mistake by teh fellow from North Dakota. After the widow read it she shreiked and fainted. The email said:

To my dearest wife - I have arrived and got checked in, everything is ready for your arrival tomorrow evening at 4:30. Can't wait to see you again.

Your devoted husband.

P.S. It sure is hot down here!

 * * * * * 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

And On The 6th Day God Said "Oops..."

Busy weekend, compounded by 'puter problems and dealing with assholes.

Here's the backstory on that last point:

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Follies Happy Hour 2012.08.24

I had a little Chianti last night. That always makes me think I'm Dean Martin...

Imaginary Horses And Real Horseshit

As many people have pointed out (including the alcoholics at GGDF), the city of Detroit is in a world of hurt.
The Left’s answer to the deficit: raise taxes to protect spending. The Left’s answer to the weak economy: raise taxes to enable new spending. The Left’s answer to the looming sovereign-debt crisis: raise taxes to pay off old spending. For the Left, every deficit is a revenue-side problem, not a spending-side problem, and the solution to every economic problem is more spending, necessitating more taxes. The problem with that way of looking at things is called Detroit, which looks to be running out of money in about one week. Detroit is what liberalism’s end-game looks like.
There are many reasons for Detroit's downfall, not the least of which is the overwhelming influence of unions on local government and businesses.
One lesson to learn from Detroit is that investing unions with coercive powers does not ensure future private-sector employment or the preservation of private-sector wages, despite liberal fairy tales to the contrary...
Here's a perfect example.
Despite having no horses, the water and sewerage department for the city of Detroit employs a horseshoer.

Yet even with a department so bloated that it has a horseshoer and no horses, the local union president said it is "not possible" to eliminate positions.

Union rules have turned the department into a government jobs program, some critics say.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) has a large debt, rising water prices and inefficient services — using almost twice the number of employees per gallon as other cities like Chicago.

A recent independent report about the DWSD recommends that the city trim more than 80 percent of the department’s workforce. The consultant who wrote the report found 257 job descriptions, including a horseshoer. Capitol Confidential sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the department for the salary, benefits and job description of the horseshoer position.

In response to the report, John Riehl, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 207, which represents many of the DWSD employees, told the Detroit Free Press that the department needs more workers.
An independent report says cut jobs by 80%. The union says it needs even more people. Which one do you think is more believable?

The answer to that question can be found by going back to the opening sentence of this article:
"Despite having no horses, the water and sewerage department for the city of Detroit employs a horseshoer."
BTW, the city pays $29,245 in salary and about $27,000 in benefits for the horseshoer position. That's around $57K per year for shoeing non-existent horses.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Now I Understand

This explains a lot about why the Dept. of Justice's actions of late have seemed a bit bizarre.
A DOJ policy instituted May 31, 2012, directed the agency to "affirmatively recruit" attorneys and staff who are dwarfs or who have “psychiatric disabilities” or “severe intellectual disabilities.”
"Affirmatively recruit" means that the targeted groups are given preference in hiring, and in fact can sidestep the normal hiring process.
This DOJ policy does not merely involve prohibitions against discrimination, but rather the documents reveal deliberate recruitment efforts to hire as attorneys and staff for the Department of Justice people suffering from psychiatric disorders and intellectual disabilities.  Moreover, applicants can “self-identify” their disability...
"Self-identify."  That means even though I stand 6'1" tall, I can fill out "Standard Form 256, Self Identification Disability" and declare myself a dwarf, and no one can say boo about it.
Those with “targeted disabilities” may be hired through a “non-competitive” appointment. That means they don’t have to endure the regular civil service competition among applicants, but can be plucked from the stack of resumes and hired immediately instead.

According to the documents, those with these “targeted disabilities” may be hired “before the position is advertised” and even “before the position’s closing date.” Moreover, lawyers with psychiatric disabilities and “severe intellectual” disabilities receive a waiver from the requirement that a new DOJ employee have practiced law for one year before being hired.
I'm all for equal opportunity, but hiring folks before a position is made public, or waiving requirements that other applicants must meet, is not equal opportunity. It's reverse discrimination.

It's seemed to me that the DOJ's recent actions have been stupid and crazy. Now I know why...

(Full memo here.)

Back To School

I've been back at 'work' since Monday. It's been a long three days full of administrative nonsense and time-wasting meetings prior to the actual start of classes. I'll spare you a detailed blow-by-blow account of all the foolishness and instead just pass along a few select tidbits that highlight why America's higher education system is headed downhill.

The first morning was spent in an all-hands meeting where the prez gave us his state-of-the-university speech. It was remarkably similar to last years:
  • You've all done a fantastic job.
  • But times are tough; we have limited resources and are facing budget cuts.
  • Therefore everyone needs to make sacrifices and work harder.
  • Keep up the good work.
Interestingly, the agenda that was distributed prior to the meeting had last year's date on it. Oops...

On a related note, the prez is evidently oblivious to irony (and the fact that people can count). As part of the program, new faculty and administrators were introduced. There was a net increase of 17 faculty members, compared to a net increase of 25 administrators. Here's the breakdown:
  • Total administrative employees - 386
  • Total faculty - 378
And people wonder why the cost of a college degree keeps spiraling upwards.

While I'm at it, take a look at this sobering assessment of the education bubble. Take my word for it, folks, the bubble's real, and the reasons for it advanced in the article below are valid (especially the one about "lowered academic standards").
Just as easy money, lowered lending standards, and political hype came together to vastly overinflate the housing sector, a combination of easy money (federal grants and loans available for nearly every student), lowered academic standards (colleges that readily accept students with pathetically weak basic skills) and political hype (the notion that getting a degree will guarantee a huge boost in earnings) have produced a vastly overinflated higher-education system.

... Whereas college degrees used to be regarded as sure-fire investments, the labor market has become glutted with people who have been to college but can’t find “good” jobs.

Did you know that 22 percent of customer-sales representatives and 16 percent of bartenders have bachelor’s degrees?

Furthermore, at many schools, academic standards have fallen to the point where students can coast through without learning anything worthwhile. As University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds recently wrote, “The higher education bubble isn’t bursting because of a shortage of money. It is bursting because of a shortage of value.”

Read the full story. It's worth it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Headed For The Last Roundup

I take great pride in being a Texan. I could write volumes explaining why being from Texas makes us special, but I'll save that for a later date. For now I'll just note that this is merely one example of having a Texas state of mind.
Last Rodeo Caskets capture the true spirit of the West and serve as a timeless tribute to the Cowboys, Cowgirls, Native Americans, Cattle Kings, Oil Barons, and Pioneers of the West. Handcrafted in solid wood with intricate detail and only the best quality materials.

Last Rodeo Casket Co. offers the ultimate in handcrafted Western and Southwest solid wood caskets. Made from solid American Alder wood, hand-forged custom hardware, and hand-tooled leather and fringe. Last Rodeo Caskets are individually built and handcrafted.
For all you cattle barons out thee, we have the Cattle King model.

And for you cowgirls, there's the stylish Lady of the West version.

Alright, buckaroos, let's saddle up and ride off into the sunset...

Socrates Who?

One of the courses I teach is the capstone class required of all graduating BBA students. It is a class designed to allow/encourage/require seniors to apply everything they've learned to date in a multidisciplinary real-world-oriented context. Case studies and group projects are employed as teaching tools. The class format is discussion-focused and primarily consists of a question and answer dialogue between instructor and student. It's quite a change from the typical lecture format most students are familiar with.

I enjoy teaching it, and most students seem to enjoy taking it. Sadly, that's not always the case.
Some students didn't take well to Steven Maranville’s teaching style at Utah Valley University. They complained that in the professor’s “capstone” business course, he asked them questions in class even when they didn't raise their hands. They also didn't like it when he made them work in teams.
Boy, are they in for a shock when they get a real job. Most professional positions have bosses that ask questions, and require some form of teamwork.
Those complaints against him led the university denying him tenure – a decision amounting to firing, according to a lawsuit  Maranville filed against the university this month.

Maranville and his attorney did not return phone calls, but the allegations in the lawsuit raises questions that have been raised and debated about the value of student evaluations and opinions, how negative evaluations play into the career trajectory of affected professors and whether students today will accept teaching approaches such as the Socratic method.

Maranville followed the Socratic teaching style and described his way of teaching as "engaged learning," according to court documents. Those records describe teaching approaches designed to go beyond lectures. He would ask questions to stimulate discussion. He divided his students into teams and gave them assignments outside class.

Supporters of the method see it as "a process by which you try to make the best logical argument and you focus on process as much as content” ... (but) not that many faculty members use it these days. "The reason for its unpopularity sometimes is because we are in a test-based education system. Students can be increasingly impatient where the answer is not clear and when the professor is not giving it to them immediately."
Ah yes. Short attention spans coupled with the desire for immediate gratification are typical of today's students. And don't get me started on the damage resulting from our test-based 'educational' system.
The advantage of (the Socratic method) of teaching is that students learn how to think on their feet, said Patricia King, a professor of education at the University of Michigan.

“But it requires hard intellectual work,” she said.
Students today remind me off Maynard G. Krebbs (from the old TV show Dobie Gillis).
"Whenever the word "work" is mentioned, even in passing, he yelps "Work?!" and jumps with fear or even faints."

In Maranville’s case, students did not see the value of his approach, the court records suggest. "Some students were quite vocal in their demands that he change his teaching style, which style had already been observed and approved by his peer faculty and administrative superiors,” according to the lawsuit. Students did not want to work in teams and did not want Maranville to ask questions. “They wanted him to lecture.”

The department chair – Scott Hammond, who is named in the lawsuit – apparently agreed with how Maranville taught his courses and called him a “master teacher,” according to court documents. Hammond visited his class, and so did an associate dean.

But a few months later, during the spring semester, Maranville received a letter from university president saying that his classroom behavior was not suited to his being granted tenure.

John Curtis, director of research and public policy for the American Association of University Professors, who was not specifically speaking about the Maranville case, said such situations might reflect a growing trend to give weight to student evaluations when it comes to promoting professors and even in their retention.

"These kind of situations might become a real threat to academic freedom. We have heard from professors who are afraid to be tough with their students because of the possibility of negative evaluations leading to them being let go," Curtis said.

As a result, he said, it might be tempting for a faculty member to make classes easy just to garner positive evaluations.
In our particular case, we receive funding from the state under a complex formula that in part is based on the university's student retention and graduation rate. In this era of tight pursestrings and budget cuts we are under tremendous pressure to improve those rates. That has resulted in increased emphasis on student evaluations as part of our overall evaluations, with subsequent consequences for raises, promotion, tenure, and even continued employment.

Some faculty go along to get along. Others insist on maintaining standards, with predictable results. They get assigned to less desirable courses. They are saddled with less desirable service and administrative duties. They are increasingly isolated and marginalized. This is most definitely not the way to improve the quality of our colleges and universities.

But it's what's happening in higher education today.

I can't decide which of the following is the best way to describe the situation:
the tail is wagging the dog; or

the inmates are running the asylum.
Either way, I'm not sure how much more of this I can take...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Followup To Yesterday's Post

In commenting on yesterday's post, OldNFO stated that (paraphrasing here) as part of his campaign strategy, obama would continue to blame Bush for so poisoning the economy that no one could be expected to turn it around in a mere four years.

OLDNFO was more prescient than he knew.

Obama worried that Romney might take credit for turning economy around
At an off-the-record lunch at the White House in June 2012, President Obama explained that he had to win re-election or Mitt Romney would get credit for an inevitable recovery during what would be his second term.

“I’m not going to let him win … so that he can take all the credit when the economy turns around,” Obama said...

... Obama’s advisers knew by 2011 that a positive campaign based on the improving economy “just wasn’t in the cards” and planned early to hit Mitt Romney with a negative campaign.

“You can’t run on the economy ... You can only tell people that you’ve saved them from something worse.”
Give 'em credit. They're following that game plan to the letter.

They're All Out Of Touch

obama claims Mitt Romney is out of touch with middle America. Romney responds by charging that obama is the one who is out of touch.

From where I sit both of them, along with the whole damn congress, is so far out of touch that they can't see how we live with the Hubble telescope.

Here's just one example.
America’s most distinguished leaders get their hair cut at the Senate barbershop, but taxpayers are the ones really getting clipped.

The barbershop ran almost $300,000 in the red last year but received an infusion from Senate coffers that is keeping it in business...
"an infusion." That's congresscritter speak for "bailout." It's particularly disturbing given what the barbershop charges.
A shampoo, cut and blow dry is $27 and highlights are $105, according to the barbershop’s website. A trim costs $20...
For comparison purposes, I go to Larry's Barbershop in beautiful downtown Boerne, Texas. Larry charges me $10 for a haircut and beard trim. Granted, I don't have a full head of hair, but what I lack on top I make up for with my beard. so it all evens out. Toss in a $2 tip and we're both happy.

The sad thing is that many senators didn’t even know that the shop couldn’t pay its bills. That sort of astute fiscal awareness is one reason why this country is in the mess we're in.
Former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., blames the money woes on the stylists, who are federal employees. He contends they’re overpaid compared to their private-sector counterparts.
Barbers are federal employees, and union members? Barbers!?!? YGTBSM. The barbers who cut my hair when I went through Basic Training at Ft. Polk damn sure weren't federal employees and union members. They were moonlighting sheep-shearers.
“They are using union labor, and so their benefits and wages are higher than those of many jobs,” Fitzgerald said.

To support his argument, Fitzgerald contrasts the salaries and benefits of the Senate’s stylists to what is offered by Capitol Barber, three blocks away.

Capitol’s four barbers and stylists made $22,000 to $30,000 last year with no benefits, manager Lynn Dang said. At the Senate barbershop, formally called Senate Hair Care Services, the top four barbers and stylists made more than twice that — $54,761; $70,349; $73,658; and $81,641 — plus they have a generous 401(k) plan, health care and paid vacation. In all, the government contributed $230,000 in benefits for the barbershop, the Senate Appropriations Committee said.
$70, 000+ for cutting hair?!? Plus a 401(k), health care, and paid vacation? I'm in the wrong line of work
(Senate sergeant at arms Terrance Gainer) acknowledged the barbershop’s staff members “are well paid, and it gives them a leg up on their nongovernment counterparts.”
No shit.
After struggling to stabilize the barbershop’s finances for the five years he’s been on the job, Gainer has decided privatization is the only answer.

",,, it’s costing the government money, and that includes taxpayers like you and me...”
That's true not only of the barbershop, but of many other government-provided 'services.'

And if it's so obvious that privatizing the barbershop is the answer to its fiscal woes, why isn't that being considered in other areas?

Just askin'...

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Home Away From Home

Well, here I am in the beautiful moderately attractive hellish city of Laredo. I'd forgotten how much I hate this place. There are a number of reasons.

It's not just hot - it's HOT! The average high down here for August is 101 F. Last night it was still in the 90s after 10:00 p.m. The sun is a physical presence. It literally beats you into submission. Forget doing anything outside. Just walking from my truck to my office leaves me sweating like a hooker in church.

This place is on the Texas-Mexico border. That means the vast majority of the people around here are Hispanic. Not that this is a problem per se, but there are some cultural differences between South Texas and Central Texas. For example, I went grocery shopping today. The store was full of large, heavyset women speaking Spanish, with swarms of under-school-age children in tow. The concept of staying to one side of the aisle and not blocking access to shelves or other parts of the store is unknown. Also unknown is the practice of putting shopping carts in their little corrals in the parking lot. It's evidently much more fun to let them roll loose and bang into other people's vehicles.

I'm used to living out in the country, with plenty of elbow room. Here I'm cooped up in a little one-bedroom apartment. The good news is that I have a corner unit on the top floor, so I don't hear too much noise from my immediate neighbors. The bad news is that I'm located right next to the pool, which attracts hordes of yelling screaming kids in the afternoon, and a plethora of loud drunks playing even louder music later in the evening. Fortunately they're pretty good about observing the 10:00 p.m. curfew during the week. Weekends, however, are a different matter. Thankfully I'm usually home then, so it doesn't affect me too much.

Today I got a serious case of cabin fever. I just had to get out and about, regardless of the heat. I decided to take a short hike along the Rio Grande. To my shock, I saw a member of Los Zetas, the Mexican drug cartel that controls these parts, trying to cross the river. He was struggling to stay afloat because of the large backpack of drugs that was strapped to his back. If he didn't get some help he would surely drown.

Being a responsible Texan and raised by my parents to help those in distress, I immediately notified local police, the Border Patrol, and the DEA.

It's now over an hour later and no one has responded. The unfortunate drug smuggler has drowned.

I'm starting to think I wasted three stamps...

FOD 2012.08.20

I'm a soft-hearted person. Sometimes too soft-hearted. For example, if obama getrs re-elected I'll feel sorry for him.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Funnies 2012.08.19

The Fall 2012 semester starts tomorrow. I'll resume my weekly commute between Laredo and Central Texas. That's bad enough, but the worst part is getting back on that endless treadmill featuring ungrateful and unprepared students, ignorant administrators, and a mind-numbing routine.

Oh well, at least it pays the bills ... sort of...

Last semester I had a student who was habitually late to class. I finally decided to teach him a lesson. Near the end of class I went around the room asking students some questions about the day's lecture. When I got to the tardy student I asked him about a topic that was covered early in class before he arrived.

His response: "I don't know."

"Perhaps if you came to class on time, you would know the answer," I pointed out.

"I doubt it," the student replied. "I never pay attention anyway!"

A friend of mine who teaches physics was discussing a particularly complicated concept. A pre-med student rudely interrupted to ask, "Why do we have to learn this pointless information"

"To save lives," my friend responded, and then continued the lecture.

A few minutes later, the same student spoke up again. "So how does physics save lives?" he persisted.

"It keeps the ignoramuses like you out of medical school," replied my frined.

Q:  What do you call a person who keeps on talking when people are no longer interested?

A:  A college professor

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Horse Is A Horse Of Course Of Course...

The obama campaign is using the fact that Ann Romney owns a show horse to try and paint the Romney's as members of the evil rich 1% who are out of touch with the middle class.

They are, of course -- much like barry and michelle -- but that's beside the point. It's also a tactic that won't be as effective as the obamamaniacs hope.
The hoo-hah over Ann Romney’s part-ownership of Olympic dressage horse Rafalca will backfire on the liberal critics. She began riding to help with her multiple sclerosis — admirable, gutsy.
The best response I've seen comes from Roger the real King of France.
So the Romneys are selfish for keeping a horse?

And employing a groom with a family to support.

And paying for feed that’s sold by someone with a family to support

And  transported in trucks by someone with a family to support

And manufactured in a factory by people with families to support

And made from stuff that’s grown by farmers with families to support.

And having a barn built by construction workers with families to support with  materials trucked by drivers with families to support

And made with materials from factories with workers with families to support.

Sounds to me like Mitt Romney's one horse has already done more to put Americans to work than that horse’s ass in the White House.
Words straight from the horse's mouth...

High And Dry

There's a saying in these parts that goes something like this: whiskey's for drinking, water's for fighting over. That's becoming more evident daily.

We had a record drought here last year. This year started off with average amounts of rain, but the last few months have been hot and dry. Rivers and lakes are still down about 50%. Wildfires are becoming more and more of a concern. With that as a background, here's some disturbing news.

We have a small vacation house on a lake about 90 miles north of here. Since we only use it occasionally, our utility bills are usually pretty small. So it came as something of a shock when the most recent water bill was around $150, approximately four times normal. We called the local water utility and requested a meter re-read. They went out and confirmed the reading. Our next thought was that there was a leak somewhere, but that didn't make sense because I turn the water off at the meter when we leave to prevent water damage in case of a leak. We were stumped ... until we got the following email from the president of the neighborhood Property Owners Association.
____________ reported that person(s) unknown apparently stole several 1,000's gallons of water from their house over the past month. The theft was discovered when the bill, which is usually the minimum, was received for the last billing cycle and was in the $800 range. The owner is working with (the utility company) and the County Sheriff is investigating. If anyone has any information, particularly of vehicles pulling water trailers, etc., please call it in to the Sheriff's department.
So yesterday I drove up there, double-checked the meter reading (it was correct), confirmed that there was no leak, and discovered that the water cut-off valve was in the on position. The only possible conclusion is that someone stole 15,000 gallons of water from us. That's how bad the water situation is down here.

And just to top things off, the back yard was torn up; big, long furrows, about 6 to 12 inches deep. The culprit? Feral hogs.

For those of you not familiar with feral hogs, here's a short primer.
Feral hogs were imported into Texas over 300 years ago. The “Russian Boar” was imported into Texas by ranchers and sportsman in the 1930’s. It is the cross breeding of these two that give us the feral hogs that we have in Texas today. These feral hogs are growing in numbers that are very alarming. Hogs can reproduce twice a year with a litter of 4 to 6. These animals destroy crops, uproot fields, destroy and contaminate watering holes, carry diseases, and kill other animals, such as deer, cattle, goats, quail, turkey and other livestock.
They are nasty, dangerous critters. Here's some more info.

The water theft problem had an easy fix. I padlocked the water cut-off valve in the off position.

The hog problem is going to be a little tougher.

Where's Krystal Campbell when I need her?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Follies Happy Hour 2012.08.17

For all you folks out there who like Hank Williams Jr. and honky-tonk music ... enjoy!

You Can Bank On It

This is a long and somewhat convoluted post, but the payoff comes at the end. Make sure you have a full cup of coffee (or other beverage of choice) and slog through it. I think (hope) when the pieces come together you'll be glad you did.

In a previous life I worked for about 20 years in the financial industry - banks, and savings & loans (if you remember S&Ls then you're a greybeard just like me). I've lived through all the changes to our banking system, and suffered through the resulting carnage.

Back in the old days, a fundamental concept of our financial system was separation of functions. Savings and loans took deposits and made mortgage loans (the old-fashioned kind where people had to have a down payment and a job, and the S&L held the mortgage and didn't sell it off to some Wall Street institution). That was about all they did. No checking accounts, no commercial loans, just a simple, straightforward, low risk business model.

Commercial banks, on the other hand, could offer checking accounts and make commercial (i.e., business) loans. That was a riskier business model, since companies went out of business more often than people defaulted on their mortgages, but the banks made up for it by charging higher interest rates. The key for both S&Ls and banks was that, for the most part, they lived with the loans they made, so there was a significant degree of self-interest involved in making good loans that had a high likelihood of being repaid.

But that wasn't enough for them. Back in the 1980's the distinction between S&Ls and commercial banks was erased. Both types of institutions could make both types of loans. Predictably, S&Ls got in over their heads when making commercial loans (lack of knowledge and experience) and banks started making mortgage loans. But mortgage loans are long-term (usually 30 years) while most business loans are for much shorter terms. The banks quickly found out that they didn't like waiting for the principal to be paid back, and pressured the government for the ability to package and resell their mortgage loans. This eventually led to repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which separated commercial banking and investment banking (investment banks, which underwrite the issuance of securities, arrange financing for mergers and acquisitions, IPOs, and the like, aren't really banks in the traditional sense, but rather brokers for large institutional customers and complex transactions).

It's that last sentence above that's key - repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. The end result is that the large Wall Street banks are now gambling with depositors' money, not their own. If Bank of America underwrites enough investments and ventures that ultimately fail, the federal government (i.e., the taxpayers) has to bail out the bank in order to protect the depositors - you and me.

Another end result was consolidation among banks, so that today we have 10 or 12 huge banks that dominate the market, leading to the notion of 'too big to fail.' If a bank knows that there are no negatives consequences to its actions -- that the feds will bail it out because it's too big to fail -- then there is no downside to making risky investments. And that's where we are today.

The most recent example is the billions of dollars in losses by JPMorgan Chase on financial derivatives. The derivatives (high-risk, highly leveraged speculative transactions) are on the books of FDIC-insured megabanks, which means that you and I are on the hook if anything goes wrong.

All of the above is a long-winded way of saying that Joe Biden actually had a valid point when he spoke about banks and chains (actually, the lack thereof) that bind Wall Street banks. Of course, he bungled the message, but that's another story.

I'm for the most part a free market guy, but this is an instance where a little reasonable regulation would go a long way. Re-institute Glass-Steagall. Let the Wall Street boys play with their own money, not that of their depositors. That will make them evaluate the investment risks more thoroughly, and shrink the number and size of the megabanks so that 'too big to fail' doesn't come into play anymore.

On a personal note, back in the 1980s I worked at Lamar Savings Association, an Austin-based S&L that failed. Its chairman and several officers were eventually convicted on a number of bank fraud charges and served time in prison.

After that I went to work for First City, a Houston-based bank holding company (a bank holding company is a shell corporation that own a number of banks - in our case we owned over 60 banks). As fate would have it, First City failed not once but twice, a record that will hopefully never be broken. And continuing my personal streak of choosing wisely, several of First City's top officials were convicted on bank fraud charges.

Taking that one step further, the chairman, vice chairman, and several of their their cronies were from Chicago, and did business the Chicago way. For example, they arranged for the bank to loan money to Calumet Farms, a Kentucky thoroughbred racehorse operation. Triple Crown contender Alydar was part of the collateral. When the loan went bad, they paid a security guard to break Alydar's leg so that the horse had to be put down. The life insurance policies on the horse were more than enough to cover the loan. Thankfully, they were also convicted and sent to prison.

Now we have the president of the United States coming from Chicago. As the French would say, "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose."

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

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Don't Quote Me

Is anyone really surprised that a liberal commentator/columnist has no ethics?

Time, CNN Star Fareed Zakaria Suspended for Admitted Plagiarism

Star?!? I'll let that one pass for now. In the meantime, here's the story about the 'star.'
When CNN host and Time editor-at-large Fareed Zakaria wrote a new piece called “The Case for Gun Control,” it ended with a bang: “So when people throw up their hands and say we can't do anything about guns, tell them they're being un-American--and unintelligent.”

Here’s something that suggests a lack of intelligence: plagiarism. Cam Edwards at suggested to me that Zakaria seemed to plagiarize a paragraph from an April article in The New Yorker magazine -- with a modicum word-usage changes and interjections (Texas!) in an attempt to paper it over.

It's not the first time Zakaria's been accused of lifting things.
Zakaria's cover story today on Iran contains the following sentence: "In an interview last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the Iranian regime as a 'messianic, apocalyptic cult.'"

In an interview with whom, exactly? Zakaria's wording makes it seem as if the interview was conducted by, oh, Fareed Zakaria, but as best as I can tell, the interview was conducted by yours truly, for The Atlantic. And not, by the way, "last week," but in March.

A few paragraphs later, Zakaria writes, "One of Netanyahu's advisers said of Iran, 'Think Amalek.'"  Said it to whom? Again, yours truly, for a New York Times op-ed piece that did, indeed, run last week.
Are these people so stupid that they think no one can do some basic research? Do they take us for complete idiots? (Rhetorical questions - don't bother to answer.)

At least Time and CNN are pretending to have some semblance of journalistic ethics.
Time has suspended Zakaria, saying in a statement:

TIME accepts Fareed's apology, but what he did violates our own standards for our columnists, which is that their work must not only be factual but original; their views must not only be their own but their words as well. As a result, we are suspending Fareed's column for a month, pending further review.

CNN has also suspended Zakaria.

In a statement released to the press, Zakaria has admitted his plagiarism:

Media reporters have pointed out that paragraphs in my Time column this week bear close similarities to paragraphs in Jill Lepore’s essay in the April 23 issue of The New Yorker. They are right. I made a terrible mistake. It is a serious lapse and one that is entirely my fault. I apologize unreservedly to her, to my editors at Time, and to my readers.
Of course, if Time, CNN, and Zakaria were really sincere, he would be fired/resign, not just settle for a slap on the wrist.

Oh well, I guess that's what passes in the liberal press for integrity these days...

Dog Daze

In an earlier post I briefly mentioned that one of our flea-bitten freeloaders beloved pet canines had suffered the doggie equivalent of a torn ACL. Yesterday we had it surgically repaired. The process involves replacing the shredded ligament with, of all things, high-test fishing line. It also involves putting the animal under general anesthesia, shaving her leg from hip to toenails, and cutting a four inch incision along her leg.

The procedure went well, at least according to the vet. She's on pain meds and is pretty well doped up for the next few days. She's also not able to walk on it for a couple of days, which means you-know-who gets to carry her outside when it's time to take care of business. Funny how the we-promise-to-take-care-of-them brigade vanishes around that time.

She doesn't weigh that much - around 40 pounds or so. That's about the same weight as the duffel bag I lugged around on our recent trips. The difference is the mutt doesn't have handles or wheels, so it's a little more awkward. I also get to hold her up while she 'performs,' something I never had to do with my luggage.

The bandage stays on for 10 more days, then it's two more weeks of restricted activity. Finally, about four weeks after the surgery, she'll be allowed to resume normal activity.

Here's what she looked like right after surgery. She was still pretty groggy, so we held off putting on her Cone of Shame until she's a little more awake.

On a related note, both of our flea-bitten freeloaders beloved pet canines have long hair. We give them haircuts in the summer to help them cool off and to reduce the amount of shed hair floating around the house. I get a kick out of it because I swear they're embarrassed the first few days after they get trimmed. Here's the before and after pictures.

Okay, enough about the dogs. Normal blogging will resume shortly.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Definition Of Irony

Hearse driver dies while taking body to funeral
Beverly Hills police say a hearse driver who was found dead with a body in the vehicle died while taking the casket to a funeral.

Lt. Lincoln Hoshino says authorities were alerted that a body was slumped over in the driver's seat of a hearse parked near the Beverly Hills Hotel at about 3 p.m. Monday.

Hoshino says the investigation is in its early stages but the woman appears to have died of natural causes, with no weapons or evidence of violence discovered.
Poor woman. She was just trying to urn a paycheck...

Maybe the funeral home was having a 2-for-1 special...

Also known as a dead giveaway...

I guess that's better than a layaway plan...

Fly The Friendly Skies

I'm back home physically, but mentally I keep thinking about going on another vacation. Here's what sent me daydreaming this morning.
... a Vietnamese carrier has taken its entertainment offering to a stratospheric level by serving up a mid-air beauty pageant.

None of the male passengers appeared to be dashing for the emergency exits when a string of women in Hawaiian bikinis trooped through the cabin on the inaugural VietJetAir (VJA) flight from Ho Chi Minh City to the coastal holiday destination of Nha Trang.

Instead they reached for their phones to record the scantily-clad women, who had all been contestants in a local beauty contest, performing a three minute hip-shaking dance in front of them during the night flight last Friday.

Leave it to government flunkies, however, to spoil a good thing
However the airline has now been fined after a video showing the unusual high-altitude antics was posted on YouTube and became a hit on social network sites.

The Vietnam Aviation Authority has ordered the airline carrier, which was only launched last year, to pay £600.

Nguyen Trong Thang, chief inspector of the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam said he thought the airline made a serious error of judgement in giving the go ahead for the sky high show.

A VietjetAir official offered a diplomatic response.

He said: ‘It was the first flight to a beach town, so we came up with the idea of getting a number of girls in bikinis to dance and make passengers happy...
If the above picture is any indication, there certainly were a lot of happy passengers (most of them male).

Reminds me of the old days when Southwest Airlines hostesses wore hotpants...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Letter To The Editor

From the San Antonio Express-News Letters to the Editor section:
The Kennedys inherited their wealth and John Kerry married into his wealth, and both are loved.

However Mitt Romney, who earned his wealth, is loathed and scorned.

Go figure.
What a sad -- and insightful -- commentary on where we are as a people.

Vacation Wrap-Up

After 10 days of no TV, Internet, or newspapers, I came back to find that:
  1. Romney hasn't paid his taxes for 10 years.
  2. Romney caused some guy's wife to die from cancer.
  3. Romney picked Paul Ryan as his running mate (great choice, btw).
  4. The media has declared Paul Ryan to be the second coming of Satan himself.
Expanding on that last point, the various media hacks are pontificating that Paul Ryan is unqualified because he lacks significant private sector experience. (Remind you of anyone...? Double standard...?). On the other hand Romney isn't fit to be president because he's too closely tied to the private sector.

I've been back less than 24 hours and I'm already sick of this crap. It's enough to drive a man to drink.

Or at least make him want to go back on vacation...

 From our earlier trip. This is the beach at Punta Cana.

Same beach, different direction.

 The villa where we stayed.

 From our most recent trip to Wyoming, here's the view from the foothills approaching the mountains. The ranch where we stayed is about a 30 minute ride from here, and the mountains another 15 minutes (that's on horseback, not in a car).

 The view looking the other way, from up in the mountains looking back at the foothills. We were at about 6000 feet when this picture was taken. That faint ridge line in the far distance is Montana.

 Sunset on the ridge overlooking the horse barn and corrals. We stayed up there a little too long and just barely got down before it was totally dark.

 The ranch cabins are old, and the windows don't always work right. In this case we had to resort to field expediency in order to keep the window open.

Monday, August 13, 2012

FOD 2012.08.13

We got home last night (actually, this morning) around 1:00 a.m. I'm still wading through emails from the past 10 days (1000+) but here's a quick tidbit.

While we were at this isolated ranch in the Wyoming mountains, barack obama paid us a surprise visit. Security was tight, but I managed to snap the quick picture of him posted below.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

On Vacation

Internet access has been iffy. I've been seduced by the vacation lifestyle. Consequently, there won't be anymore posts until Tuesday August 14.

I hope you come back then, and in the meantime enjoy yourself as much as I intend to enjoy myself...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Of Wolves And Men

The foothills and mountains we ride daily here are constant reminders of the beauty and bounty Mother Nature provides. There are chokecherry bushes, wild plum and apple trees, and wild sage in abundance. We’ve seen numerous whitetail and mule deer, pronghorn antelope, and even two moose. Wild turkeys are everywhere, along with some grouse and partridge. The creeks teem with trout. If you go hungry here it’s your own fault.

With all that game, it’s only to be expected that predators will be found here as well. The smaller ones such as bobcats, coyotes, and foxes prey on the smaller animals; cottontails, squirrels, field mice, and the like. The larger ones – mountain lions, bears, and wolves – are drawn to larger animals; the deer and antelope. We’ve seen cougars and bears here in the past, but not wolves – until this year. And that’s when the story begins.

It’s ironic that of all Mother Nature’s creations, only one has seen fit to decide he is better suited than She to manage the land and the beasts. I speak, of course, of man.

Back near the start of the 20th century man decided to eradicate the wolves around here to protect the cattle herds. About 100 years later man decided to reintroduce wolves to the same areas where they had been eliminated. In this particular instance, it was Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone sits in the northwest corner of Wyoming, near the junction of the Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana borders. It’s about 200 miles from here. The powers that be – in this case the Department of the Interior – thought it would be a good idea to place a few wolves in the park to help restore the natural balance by controlling the deer population, which was getting out of hand. Armed with good intentions and an inability to see the inevitable long term consequences, the Dept. set loose several breeding pairs.

Like the people in charge of this program, wolves are both dumb and smart. They are too dumb to read a map and understand they’re supposed to stay within the park boundaries. Yet they are smart enough to understand that deer are fleet and evasive, making them difficult to catch. The elk and bison roaming the park are slower, but can do serious damage with their horns and hooves. But cattle … ah cattle. They are slow, dumb, and basically defenseless. Just the thing for a hungry wolf pack. The fact that the cattle all live on the other side of that invisible park boundary matters not to the wolves.

But it matters quite a bit to the ranchers.

Wolves are at the top of the food chain in these parts. They have no natural predators to keep them in check. Bears and mountain lions are solitary creatures and no match for a pack of wolves. So as the wolves in Yellowstone multiplied and spread it was inevitable that some would leave the park and prey on cattle. However, the government refused to allow any sort of control over the wolves, maintaining them as an endangered species. In reality, of course, it was the cattle that were now endangered.

As I said, this ranch is 200 miles from Yellowstone. But last month it suffered its first confirmed wolf kill. The cattle here represent a sizable portion of the ranch’s income, and any lost animal is a reduction in that income.

In the local bars ranchers speak of their ‘three S’ approach to wolf control: shoot, shovel, and shut up. It’s not that they go out hunting wolves. But when they come across one threatening their herds they do what they must to protect them.

For this the government brands them as wrongdoers and imposes hefty fines.

The states have appealed to the feds for relief, in terms of allowing some form of predator control. To date those pleas have fell on deaf ears, although there appears to be some softening of the feds’ position as of late. Until then, things will be much as they have been in the west.

Take matters into our own hands and don’t expect much help from the government.

There’s a lesson for us all in there somewhere…