Monday, December 11, 2006

Imam Update

(See my December 5 post under "Latro Ergo Sum #2: 'The Six Imams'" for the story on these guys.)

According to a report by UPI, five of the six imams who were removed from a US Airways flight now want money from the airline for the "ordeal."

The imams are represented by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. CAIR claims the men were handcuffed for several hours, but one of the imams told the Times he was only handcuffed for "10 or 15 minutes" and that the imams were not led off the plane in handcuffs.

So much for CAIR's credibility.

Keep an eye on this one.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Two Views of Global Warming: The Pogrom and the Skeptic's Guide

The Pogrom
"pogrom - n. An organized, often officially encouraged massacre or persecution of a minority group"

A letter, dated October 27, 2006, was sent to ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson. The letter came from John D. Rockefeller IV and Olympia Snowe, both U.S. senators.

If an individual had written and sent such a letter, he would be indicted for extortion and blackmail.

The letter condemns ExxonMobil’s support of scientific researchers and organizations that dispute global warming. The senators actually introduce a word into the argument - climate change "deniers" and "denial strategy." These terms are applied to anyone who disputes any of the following: a) Global warming is happening; b) Global warming will result in catastrophe; c) Global warming is due to mankind’s activities; d) Global warming is a fact, not a theory.

(The use of the term denier is important. It tries to evoke a comparison to the term "Holocaust denier," one of those people who refuse to acknowledge that the extermination of six million Jews ever happened. Obviously there's no comparison between debatable science and photos of corpses. However, setting the terminology is an important part of a propaganda war. Look for the word "denier" to become more prevalent.)

In this letter, the senators insist that ExxonMobil 1) Immediately stop funding anyone who disputes or questions global warming findings and admit that "global warming" is a fact; 2) "Come clean" to the public about its support for these people; 3) Repudiate all the information that has been discovered by these people; 4) Start giving money to the pro-global warming groups.

The senators even go so far as to compare ExxonMobil to the tobacco industry. This is a not-so-subtle reminder to Tillerson of what the government can do to a company or an industry if it so chooses.

Translated from bureaucrat-ese, the letter boils down to this: "Say what we want you to say, and give us your money, or we will destroy you." This letter and maneuver is so outrageous that even some of the Washington inside-the-Beltway crowd is tsk-ing over the sheer gall these senators displayed.

The most frightening aspect of this is that the pro-global warming people don’t even want the debate, and will use the politicians that they have in their pocket to quash our First Amendment rights. They want to completely eradicate those who oppose them.

The Skeptic's Guide

The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works just released a 64-page booklet entitled "A Skeptic’s Guide to Debunking Global Warming." The book is available online for download.

In this booklet, almost all of the major claims of the pro-global warming people are proven to be in dispute or as completely wrong. Some of the claims disputed are the "hockey stick" theory; the statement that "90’s was the hottest decade on record;" that the polar ice caps are melting, and much more. The booklet gives links to all supporting documentation.

The main thrust of the booklet is how the media have chosen the pro-global warming side of the argument, and provide a completely one-sided picture in their coverage. (What a surprise.)

The hero of this little booklet is Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma. The full text of a speech he gave to the Senate is presented.

Senator Inhofe said it best: "The American people are fed up with the media for promoting the idea that former Vice president Al Gore represents the scientific "consensus" that SUV’s and the modern American way of life have somehow created a ‘climate emergency’ that only United Nations bureaucrats and wealthy Hollywood liberals can solve."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Allow me this brief moment of glory


At 8:00 p.m. Wednesday, November 29, I validated my manuscript for the official count of 50,000 words.
Now I can get back to my (semi-)normal life.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Why I Haven't Posted in a While


I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNo WriMo). The objective is to write 50,000 words of new fiction during the month of November.

I decided to dump all of Blood Debt and start over. So far I've written a little over 30,000 words. We'll see how it goes. When December 1 comes, I'll start posting more often.

Monday, October 30, 2006

11-Year-Old Yodeler

I normally hate this kind of video ("Star Search," "American Idol," etc.) but this girl is so good it's ridiculous.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Like Giving a Child a Loaded Gun


This picture was made courtesy of wigflip.com. I'm pretty sure we'll be seeing more of their handiwork in the future.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Since I'm on a Rant - Liability Insurance


I'm willing to be convinced on why, in the state of Texas, we are required to buy liability insurance to protect the other person's vehicle.

Why couldn't each person have the option of purchasing insurance to protect his own vehicle? It would of course be a better practice to carry the insurance, so that you're insured. And of course banks could still require full coverage on any vehicles that are financed. Being uninsured is not the goal. It's giving people a choice.

Even better, what if each person could get an insurance card that he carried with him, so that it protected whatever vehicle he was driving? Coverage on your own vehicles could still be available, in case of theft, etc.

With my proposed system, no one would have to worry about having an accident with an uninsured motorist. And if a person didn't have insurance, then they would not be protected. Unwise, sure, but each person would have that option.

I don't understand how our present system is the best -- other than as a revenue source, a golden goose to fill the state coffers by fining people exorbitantly for not having liability insurance.

I'm willing to be convinced, but it better be good.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Anti-Enthusiasm

My local small-town grocery store is pulling a bait-and-switch on us customers. The grocery circular came out a few days ago, and there are yellow pricetags highlighting the specials everywhere, including the meat department. In the meat department there is a big, bright yellow tag advertising "Chuck Roast - Bone" for $1.99 a pound. Immediately above the tag in the meat case are several packages of "Chuck Roast," but it's boneless. It's also $2.89 a pound. I looked through the meat case, searching for the $1.99 meat, and it's nowhere to be found. I wonder how many people see "Chuck Roast" on the tag, see "Chuck Roast" on the packages of meat, and never notice that they're paying $.90 a pound -- nearly 50 percent -- more than they think they are?

I asked an employee where the $1.99 meat was. He got the meat market guy, who I asked for about six pounds of roast, as I needed four pounds of edible meat for my recipe. Meat Market Guy very willingly went in back to cut some roasts. After several minutes, he comes back with 4.59 lbs. in the form of two roasts. I notice the meat is kind of dark, but I'm cooking in a slow cooker, so no big deal.

However....when I get home, the meat is full of bone -- not just the big bones I expected, but small chards and chunks of bone. There is also sinew and gristle throughout the meat. It's the crappiest piece of meat I've ever bought on purpose. I lost 1.5-2 pounds in waste.

So 1) They put the price tag directly under a similar, but different higher-priced product; 2) The advertised item wasn't available in the meat case at all; then 3) They sell me the worst quality meat ever.

Unless I'm forced to by circumstances beyond my control, I'll never buy meat at the Lowe's Supermarket/Pay-n-Save again.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Enthusiasms

"A man becomes preeminent,he's expected to have enthusiasms.
Enthusiasms...
Enthusiasms...
What are mine? What draws my admiration?
What is that which gives me joy?"
-- Al Capone (Robert deNiro) "The Untouchables" 1987

It was made clear to me recently that not everyone shares my level of fascination with all the things that I'm enthusiastic about. Take, for example, Plochman's Chili Dog Mustard. (September 13, 2006 blog.) To me, it's almost magical. It's mustard.....that tastes like a chili dog! After a couple of days of eating hot dogs adorned with this mustard, my family shrugged and acted like it was no big deal. My brother came to our house to visit, and I insisted that he try it. "Yep, it tastes like chili." I'm surrounded by philistines.

Herewith a listing of some of my other enthusiasms:

Cigars. I realized recently that I've been smoking cigars for twenty-five years or more. When I say cigar, I don't mean your King Edward or White Owl or any other cigar where "paper" is listed as an ingredient. The cigars I smoke are 100% tobacco. Unfortunately, I don't get to the Bahamas or Costa Rica or even Mexico often enough to buy Cuban cigars. Of the three cigars I have smoked that were "Cubans," only one was authentic; the other two were counterfeits. (Isn't it weird that counterfeiting cigars is a big business?) My stick of choice recently has been the Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur No. 3, with the natural wrapper.

Kitchen gadgets. It would be easy to blame this on the Food Network, and I have to admit that Alton Brown has become one of my heroes. Before I ever had DirecTV, though, I had a bunch of pieces of plastic and metal that were supposed to make food preparation easier. Most of them lasted about one use and then broke. Nonetheless, I still want to make a Blooming Onion at home, or curly fries. Nowadays I'm trying to get good traction out of my kitchen purchases, and AB's book really helped a lot. And ingenuity means something, after all. For instance, when Kathy asked me to slice some new potatoes (those little white ones that come in a can,) I didn't feel like messing around for an hour trying to hold the little devils. So I used our egg slicer to slice them; they were perfectly sliced, and it only took me about ten minutes to do four cans of them. God bless Ron Popeil.

The Bob and Tom Show. I enjoy comedy and comedians a lot. Bob Kevoian and Tom Griswold, broadcasting out of Indianapolis, have been in the radio business for nearly thirty years, and featuring comedians all along. Other cast members are Chick McGee and Kristi Lee, and producer Dean Metcalf. Since I'm up at 5:00 a.m. every day, and that's when their show starts, it's great. Mornings are much more pleasant, and I start my day smiling. Some of my new favorite comedians are Drew Hastings, Greg Hahn, Mike Armstrong, Mike Birbiglia, Augie Smith.....if I ever win the lottery, I'm opening a comedy club in Lubbock. Meanwhile, it's Bob and Tom for me.

Ghosthunters. I've written about these guys before also. (June 1, 2006.) I don't watch much TV, but I've recently tried to carve out 8:00 p.m. on Wednesdays to watch this show on the Sci-Fi network. I'm fascinated by the mysteries of the world, and these guys approach the subject with a hard-headed attitude. Make no mistake, they're believers in the paranormal, but they use gadgets and gizmos to prove their case. And once in a while they show something that....doesn't....quite.....look....right. Good stuff.


.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Clinton's Legacy



I’m anxious and scared, for multiple, complex reasons.


North Korea apparently detonated a nuclear bomb a few days ago. Their leader has been belligerent and pretty clear in his animosity toward the United States. They have ballistic missiles that can carry a warhead far enough to attack other countries, such as Japan. I’m not sure if they have anything that can reach the U.S., and I don’t have it in me to research that particular issue. I’m too full of despair.


While it’s pointless to assign blame for this situation, the Liberal Democrats have been shouting loudly that it’s Bush’s fault. I’ll respond in kind this once, for reasons I’ll mention in a moment.


Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Madeline Albright. The destruction of the world may be on their shoulders. They engineered the 1994 "Agreed Framework," in which North Korea agreed to not build nuclear weapons in exchange for economic assistance from the United States. They were told early on that North Korea was not trustworthy, but went ahead anyway. The economic assistance included aid, food, oil and even a nuclear reactor.


When Democrats boast about the "successful" Clinton negotiations, this is what they’re referring to: a program in which we paid an enemy not to arm himself. Incredibly, we gave him our entire portion up front, and without provisions for anything remotely resembling a method for verification or enforcement. As early as 1997 or 1998, North Korea picked up its nuclear weapon development where it left off. The biggest jaw-dropper of all is that American payments continued in the late 1990’s even after we discovered North Korea was breaking the agreement.


Now the Democrats want to blame Bush for not engaging in bilateral talks with North Korea, and for angering North Korea by naming it as part of the Axis of Evil.


The reason for my running battle against Liberal Democrats is that they are likely to get me killed. This isn’t a political disagreement about economic policy, or welfare, or how big government should be. This is literally life or death.


On this topic, I really, truly do not understand their position. What they have tried in the past has not worked. (That’s typical of Democrat policies: 40 years of Johnson’s unsuccessful "War on Poverty," and of programs designed to help blacks. According to Democrats, blacks still need help. Seems to me like blacks would get the message and try something else.) The old saying is "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." What can you say about the Clinton administration that was fooled over and over and over again? And why in the hell would anyone in his right mind want to follow such a staggeringly unsuccessful example?


With the recent Mark Foley scandal, the Democrats have likely secured the election this November. Democrats will control the House of Representatives, and maybe the Senate. They will engage in activities designed to destroy Bush and the Republicans, and they will ignore the defense of America. They will insist on following Clinton’s example in dealing with our enemies.

Disregarding the facts and history, Democrats will coddle, mollify, placate and appease. They will disarm America and our allies to show goodwill. Despite this, our enemies will continue their belligerence and aggression. One thing has changed now, thanks to Clinton, and this is why I’m pointing the finger: Our enemies now have the capability to destroy entire cities.


The Democrats, for some unfathomable reason, follow a policy that leads to American defeat and destruction. If and when they win in November, we will be on a road upon which my children and grandchildren will have to travel. With a Hillary Clinton presidential victory possible in 2008, we’re looking at a President who would allow (or even abet) an incredible amount of damage. America as we know it will be dramatically altered if that level of terrorism becomes possible.


Mark Foley’s sex scandal is not the deciding factor in a possible Republican defeat, but it’s part of it. Larger is the Republican House and Senate’s unwillingness to fight for Conservative principles, and to govern with strength and conviction. Although the Clinton administration structured the deal which armed our enemy, elected Republicans have, since then, betrayed us almost as much. They behaved in ways that may put lemmings in control of our government.


My children are just now becoming young adults. How do I explain to them that the tribulations they will face - the large, world-destroying ones - were to a large extent the fault of the people that I helped elect?


Republicans take heed. Scared, angry voters bury politicians.

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Home for Decent Democrats

The Democrat party of Harry Truman and JFK no longer exists. Somewhere in the last forty years, the Democrat party has been hijacked by an anti-American cabal. Think about it: whenever there is good news for America, say the economy or in the war in Iraq, Democrats rush out to say how bad it actually is. The message is clear: Good news for America is bad news for Democrats

Which implies that bad news for America is good news for Democrats. On a more personal level, any victory for pro-abortionists or for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexuals is a victory for Democrats. Any court ruling that forbids an expression of Christian beliefs is a victory for Democrats. The granting of constitutional rights to enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay is a victory for Democrats.

All of which means that a pro-life, pro-traditional family values, pro-national security Christian Democrat no longer has a place to go. Either subtly or overtly, that type of Democrat is being urged and persuaded to support candidates who are antithetical to his or her own beliefs. Moreover, decent Democrats are being urged to change their core beliefs.

Republicans certainly don't have a monopoly on decency, just as Democrats don't have a monopoly on immorality. But longtime Democrats, or those who are Democrats because their parents were -- my own mother claimed to the day she died that "Hoover got us into the Great Depression, and FDR got us out" -- have to face the fact that they have been booted out of their own home.

As hard as it is, those Democrats have to think hard about voting Republican. Sure, there may be differences of opinion about how to go about protecting America, or how best to handle immigration, or any number of political topics. In the Republican party those debates are going on. What is not in doubt is that Republicans believe in those traditional American values -- God, family and country -- that today's Democrats constantly undermine and ridicule.

The Republican party needs to ensure that Democrats who want to make that leap have a soft place to land. Regardless of trivial differences in political beliefs, there should always be a place for decent people.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Dems on Security

This cartoon is by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Michael Ramirez from Investors Business Daily.

'Nuff said.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Jihad, As I See It

We have to understand the radical Muslims, either to be able to get along with them, or to more efficiently destroy them. A core feature of their belief is the concept of jihad, or holy war.

I approach topics like this systematically. Let me explain my thinking.

1) Not all Muslims want to kill us. Just as not all Texans are cowboys, and not all lettuce is iceberg, we can be wrong in our perceptions. I will say this, however: Those Muslims who do NOT want to kill us are very quiet people.

2) There is a Christian parallel to the view the radical Muslims have. It's the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah. According to the bible, the two cities were so wicked that God didn't want them to exist, so he destroyed them. Radical Muslims consider western society so wicked that it must be wiped out.

3) I can see their point. Music, movies, dancing, television -- they are all very coarse now. I'm a crude person from a crude background, yet I'm occasionally shocked at what I see or hear. People with more delicate sensibilities must be really suffering. Additionally, for the last sixty years the United States has gone about its business, poking its nose in some places it didn't belong, neglecting other places where we could have done some good, basically doing what nations do.

4) Having said that, I'm not willing to be killed for the sake of understanding; I don't want my children to die; I don't want my way of life wiped from the face of the planet. And that seems to be the purpose of the radical Muslims.

5) With completely opposite goals -- radical Muslims want Americans dead, and Americans don't want to die -- there is no middle ground, no chance for compromise. Any sort of
rapprochement the radical Muslims advance before they are defeated into submission is a distraction. They can not afford to compromise on this fundamental belief that has become so central to their lives.


6) The only original theory I've ever had is this ("original" in that I don't remember hearing it anywhere else): A conflict will be conducted at the lowest level to which either side is willing to go. If I'm arguing with my neighbor, and he begins to punch me in the stomach, I will have to react physically in some way or I won't survive. (Yes, I saw "Gandhi." There are exceptions to the rule.)

7) We need to win in several ways. First, we must inflict such damage and pain to their side that the cost to them is too great to continue. Second, we must convince them that all they have to do to stop the pain is to walk away, go back to their lives, and not kill people. Third, we must influence their society in such a way that they can live in harmony with other societies and religions. (Muslims are killing Buddhists in southeast Asia.)

8) Conversely, anything less than complete American victory, such as leaving Iraq and the rest of the Middle East prematurely, will be perceived as weakness by radical Muslims. This weakness will embolden them, encouraging them to be even more aggressive. This is exactly what Osama bin Laden claimed in an interview, referring to the American withdrawal from Somalia.

The military might of the United States -- Schwarzkopf's "Thunder and Lightning" -- must be brought to bear on the radical Muslims. When a terrorist is in his home, he should be jumpy, listening for the sound of the drone bomb that is seeking him out. His fear of America must override his desire to destroy it. Only then can we move the level of the conflict upward, and eventually eliminate jihad altogether.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Lifeskills

I wish I could take credit for the following, but it originally appeared a few years ago in one of the Sunday supplements. I apologize to the person who wrote it for not giving proper attribution.

It Would be Great if by 18 every young person could do the following:

Domestic Skills

Cook (don't just open and pour!) a traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Wash and iron clothes without ruining them (plus, removing spots.)
Replace a button, baste a fallen hem, and polish your own shoes.
Extra credit: Make a loaf of bread (without a machine) or bake a cake from scratch.

Physical Skills
Throw and catch balls of all sizes without breaking your fingers.
Swim half a mile, tread water for half an hour, and float for an hour.
Ride a bike with confidence.
Extra credit: Be able to get a kite up in the air, keep it there and bring it back down in one piece.

Handyman Skills
Hang a picture straight without making extra holes in the wall.
Paint neatly, including cleaning up the mess.
Know which tools perform what functions and how to use them around the house.
Extra credit: Sharpen a knife without cutting yourself.

Outdoor Skills
Hike with friends all day without getting lost, bitten or covered with a rash.
Bait a hook, catch a fish, reel it in, remove the hook, then clean and cook the fish.
Plan and manage a weekend camping trip with friends.
Extra credit: Know enough about the wildlife in your area to recognize and feel like a friend to the animals.

Practical Skills
Type well with both hands in the normal manner.
Set up your own computer system without help from anyone.
Drive a car, including one with a manual transmission, and maintain it properly.
Extra credit: Change a flat tire.

Organizational Skills
Create a budget. Note: It takes longer to earn money than to spend it.
Balance a checkbook manually, even if you bank online.
Maintain an address book and a personal appointment calendar.
Extra credit: Set up a filing system to keep all of the paperwork in your life in one place.

Social Skills
Carry on a conversation for 15 minutes with a person you don't know.
Speak before a small group of friends for a few minutes.
Tell a joke well enough so that everybody gets it and maybe even laughs.
Extra credit: Learn enough ballroom dancing so you can have fun at parties. (Trust me on this one!)

Artistic Skills
Draw an illustration at least well enough to get your point across.
Have enough confidence to sing aloud, even when everyone else can hear you.
Know how to play a musical instrument well enough to enjoy playing in a group.
Extra credit: Learn how to take a decent photograph, so you won't be disappointed later, when it's developed. For example, you can't shoot fireworks with a flash!

Human Skills
Care for a dog, cat or other animal, including when it's sick.
Baby-sit for children ranging in age from 6 months to 6 years.
Aid elderly or handicapped people without looking superior.
Extra credit: Help a person in need without exposing either one of you to danger.

Orientation Skills
Get around town on a bus, even if you usually walk or drive.
Read a map, including roadmaps.
Know what to do if you find yourself in a bad neighborhood.
Extra credit: Know which direction is north, south, east and west (without a compass) whenever you're outside.

Recreation Skills
Play a team sport instead of just watching.
Maintain a fitness regimen.
Learn a game (like bridge or chess) that you can play with friends for life.
Extra credit: Know how to ride a horse, handle a boat or enjoy a snow sport.

Survival Skills
Know basic first aid and maintain a complete first-aid kit.
Know what to do if you get sick, especially if you're alone.
Know when to defend yourself, then know how to be effective.
Extra credit: Know CPR. The life you save may be your father's or mother's.

The Light and the Truth

While discussing the role of money in Texas politics -- as though it were new and a surprise -- Brownfield News editor Lynn Brisendine said the following on August 20, 2006:

"The Republican candidate for the Texas House of Representatives for District 85, Jim Landtroop, a Plainview insurance agent, received thousands of donated dollars for his campaign from a big builder in Houston and a doctor from San Antonio. Both of these guys are major players in Austin and both have their own agendas. I think it a legitimate concern that neither have much in common with West Texas and especially District 85. But, it would seem their money talks in Austin, and soon perhaps in District 85."

Interesting. Here's what another local newspaper editor thinks:

View From The Lamplighter by Ken Towery
February 16, 2006

"...former State Representative Pete Laney, having given up on West Texas and moved down to Austin to live off his $100,000 state pension, is advising local citizens (via the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal) how they ought to vote on who might replace him. There are many ironies in the Pete Laney thing. Within our own memory of Speakers of the House, which goes back to the 1950s, there has never been a Speaker so beholden to what we might call "special interests", or the "lobby", as Pete Laney. Pete was very successful, over the years, in playing all sides of every issue. In that sense he was a good politician. Much better than most. The only problem was, one never quiet [sic] had complete trust in him, He claimed, for instance, to represent West Texas, but everyone in politics knew his political base, as far as the lobby was concerned, was in the big cities. That's where the votes for Speaker were, and that's where he had to go to get the votes necessary to become Speaker. And that's to whom he had to make his commitments."

You can read Mr. Towery's qualifications in an earlier blog.

In his last three campaigns -- 2000, 2002, 2004 -- Pete Laney raised $2,153,462. In his 2004 campaign, Laney self-financed $238,379. That means that about $1.9 million was in political contributions. In another blog ("Fish to Fry," June 13, 2006) I detailed the top zip codes from which contributions were given to Laney. Except for his own 2004 contribution to himself, none of the top contributing zip codes were within his district. Of the 45 "down-state" contributing zip codes, Austin had 17 spots, Dallas/Fort Worth had 11, and Houston had 5.

If "out-of-district" contributions are going to be a source of concern for the election, it’s important that we realize that for over thirty years, District 85 elected a man who, for the last three elections anyway, was beholden to money from Austin, DFW and Houston.

It's admirable that Brisendine posted his comments under commentary, rather than as actual news. When a spotlight is focused, however, the light can illuminate things that he might prefer to remain hidden. Pete Laney's romance with down-state money is public information, and only the ignorant or extremely partisan would hold out-of-district contributions against anyone wishing to replace him.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Shameless Plug

My brother Mtch recently took a job at the Hockley County News-Press as the sports editor. Although they don't have a website that I can link to (yet), if you get the chance, pick up a copy and read what the second-best writer in the family can do.

Congratulations, MW.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Times Change

When I was young, we lived in a small west Texas town that received 2 1/2 TV channels. We got CBS (Channel 13), NBC (Channel 11) and sometimes we could receive ABC (Channel 28.) To get good reception, my dad had to go outside and use a pipewrench to turn the antenna the right direction to get a better signal. In addition to the school library, we had a bookmobile, a panel van that occasionally came to town with books that could be checked out. You could say we lived out in the boonies.

Last week I went online to The Mustard Museum and ordered three jars of Plochman's Chili Dog-flavored mustard. They arrived yesterday, and upon tasting, the mustard does indeed taste like chili. We had hot dogs for supper last night, and it was like eating chili dogs.

I asked around, and chili-flavored mustard is not available locally, even at Market Street. Forty years ago my family would not know about such things. If you wanted mustard, you got mustard; there were no flavors or varieties, only what was available at the local grocery store.

Now when I need to find something I look online before I look anywhere else. The world has exploded into view for me. I'm reminded of Robin Williams' character in Moscow on the Hudson. A Russian refugee, he wanders into a grocery store and is so overwhelmed by the variety of products available that he passes out.

While I'm not quite that overwhelmed, I am aware enough to realize that I have lived in a transitional era. Like Henry Adams, I often find myself unprepared for the scope of the changes that have occurred and continue to occur. Like Adams, I have had to continually educate and re-educate myself in order to cope and take advantage of what the brave new world has to offer.

It doesn't take a lot of self-awareness to realize that my parents -- who didn't have indoor plumbing until they were nearly adults -- lived a different life from my children, who have never "dialed" a phone. My job is to ensure that my children realize that there is a connection between the generations.

And so we sit back and eat our chili-flavored mustard dogs, and I explain to my kids what a test pattern used to look like on a black-and-white TV.

As It Happened - 9/11

The video says it all


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Crikey

Yesterday was a sad day around our house. I was online early and read the news that crocodile hunter Steve Irwin had died from a stingray's barb. It was too early for me to wake Kathy and tell her, so I read the details of the story (some of the early information was incorrect, as it turns out.)

Last year Kathy and I were discussing what made Irwin so appealing. We decided that it was his enthusiasm for what he was doing -- educating people about animals and preaching conservation. I've never been that enthusiastic about anything.

Kathy was sort of in shock all day. We have been fans of Irwin's for years, and learned a lot. In addition to the wildlife knowledge we gained, we also knew why he named his daughter Bindi (after a crocodile) and celebrated the birth of his son Bob. We laughed at his occasional misadventures, and we even watched the horrible movie he made, The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course.

There are not enough genuine, caring, sincere, enthusiastic people in the world. Losing one like Steve Irwin hurts. Our family extends condolences to his wife Terri, Bindi and Bob. We share their sorrow.

Cheers, mate.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Bush Assassination?

The photo above is a scene from a docudrama that is scheduled to premier at the Toronto Film Festival. The film, entitled D.O.A.P., takes the form of a historical "look back" at the consequences of Bush's assassination (which, in the film, takes place in Chicago in October, 2007.)

If you follow the D.O.A.P. link above, note the languages the film is being released in.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Class of '08

In political time, eons will pass between now and the 2008 presidential elections. Events have a way of changing any political forecasts. However, barring any major catastrophes or upheavals, the next Republican presidential nominee will be Newt Gingrich.


The Democrats probably will seize control of one or both houses of Congress in November. They will use that status to cause President Bush a considerable amount of grief over the next two years. Several Democrats have indicated that they will seek impeachment for either Iraq or the FISA wiretaps. (The real reason is retaliation for Bush’s winning the election in 2000.) Democrats will also seek to curb the President’s ability to wage the war on terrorism, as well as his appointments to the judiciary.


Republicans cannot win elections without the support of conservative voters. While not actually applauding the Republican defeats, conservative voters will sit by with their arms folded, nodding and saying "Uh-huh. I told you so." The Republican party is paying the price for neglecting its conservative base. Under Republican control, government spending has exploded; Congress is unable and unwilling to pass conservative legislation, national security is compromised by open borders. The reason for voter disdain is the Republican reluctance to fight Liberal Democrats for the things that are important to Conservatives. The Republicans have not demonstrated the backbone that the conservative philosophy requires.


President Bush’s low poll numbers reflect the dissatisfaction that Conservatives have with his lack of conservative governance. They have also been disappointed by the lack of decisive action and results in Iraq. Many respondents in polls who are unhappy with how Bush is handling the war don’t want America to leave Iraq. They’re unhappy because America is not hitting our enemies hard enough.


Given these circumstances, Conservatives feel they have been abandoned in Washington by both Congress and the President. Although we have had six years of Republican dominance, the Conservative agenda has not been served. If anything, it has taken a battering as the Democrats - united and staying on message - use the media to tear down religion, family values and other core Conservative beliefs. The Republicans have not fought well, despite having every advantage.


In 2008, however, Conservative voters will have a chance to start fresh with a new candidate. Rudy Giulani and John McCain are the frontrunners for the Republican nomination. However, Giulani is pro-choice and supports abortion rights, and John McCain has shown a willingness to compromise rather quickly. Neither of these candidates meets the smell test that Conservative voters will apply.


The two candidates who most closely match the job description are George Allen and Newt Gingrich. Allen is perhaps the most conservative of the bunch, and could be the darkhorse in the presidential race. The election is a long way off, however, and he may not make it through the primaries without a gaff that could cost him dearly in the media frenzy that would surely follow. He also lacks the name recognition nationally that Gingrich enjoys.

Newt Gingrich, despite his negatives, is the leading candidate who meets the criteria. His negatives are powerful indeed, including his failed marriages and accusations of corruption. However, on many fronts he is dominant.

1. Name recognition. Gingrich brought the Republicans to the majority in Congress in 1994. He led a conservative Congressional agenda for several years. He had a best-selling book in 2005. While promoting his book he has had the chance to keep his name on voters’ minds. Best of all, the mention of his name produces knee-jerk screaming by Liberals. Frustrated Conservatives who have been itching for a showdown will find this appealing.

2. Organization. Besides the traditional Republican machine, Gingrich set up a website and organization in connection with his book. Using this method, he built his own network that is ready to move when he gives the word. His opponents may lack this type of well-run political organization.

3. Record. Gingrich’s history is in actions, as well as words. He walks the walk. He received credit for the 1994 Republican victory, as well as much of the success Republicans have had since then. Gingrich’s adherence to conservative principles has been consistent.

4. Ideas. Gingrich outlined his thoughts in his 2005 book, Winning the Future. He addresses the key issues that resonate with Conservatives - the war on terror, religion, immigration, patriotism and personal responsibility. Gingrich is also articulate and a brilliant debater; he can present his arguments coherently in either public debates or soundbites.

After two terms of seeing how the blind (and unsuccessful) pursuit of "compromise" and "bipartisanship" has served their interests, Republicans are in the mood for a tough, smart, articulate Conservative who will fight for what they believe. Courage, loyalty and victory are what they want. I believe Newt Gingrich is the candidate who can deliver.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Pulitzer Prize Winner

Some of the best writing for a local newspaper is by Ken Towery in the Floyd County Hesperian-Beacon.

From his bio:
Ken Towery is a Pulitzer-Prize winning Texas newsman. He broke the Veterans Land Scandals that eventually saw the state's Land Commissioner go to prison. He is also a Purple Heart veteran, having been wounded on Corregidor, in the Philippines, during the early part of World War II, and was a Prisoner of War of the Japanese for some 3 1/2 years. He was Deputy Director of the United States Information Agency during the latter days of the Cold War, and was appointed to two five-year terms on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting by former President Ronald Reagan and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate. He is author of the book, The Chowdipper, a political and military memoir. He has owned the Hesperian-Beacon since 1983.
Not bad for a small-town newspaper, eh?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Original Ugly American

Here's the setup: Marvel Comics has been around for 50 years or so. A lot of their characters are stale, and keeping all the storylines and continuity were eating up current writers. They remedied this by coming out with the "Ultimates," new versions of old characters.

The Ultimate Avengers -- Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk, Black Widow, the Wasp, Thor, and Giant Man -- fought aliens who had been around since World War II, where they posed as Nazis.

At one point, Captain fights an alien, struggling not only to win, but to survive. The alien asks Cap if he wants to surrender.

Captain America's response does us all proud:





Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hallmark Doesn't Make a Card for This

"They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." -- Civil War General John Sedgwick, shortly before being killed by a sharpshooter's bullet.
August 15, 2006: The UN negotiates a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

Headlines from the morning:
"Hezbollah holds 'banner of victory'"
"Iran, Syrian leaders laud Hezbollah ‘victory’"
"Iran president hails Hezbollah victory"

Headline from the afternoon:
"Israeli forces kill Hezbollah leader"

"Too bad Hallmark doesn't make a "Sorry your dodgeball coach got killed by two tons of irony" card. -- Peter La Fleur, Dodgeball (2004)

It's Not Easy Being Green

"When green is all there is to be,
It could make you wonder why...."
-- Kermit the frog, It's Not Easy Being Green

Through no fault of my own, I'm becoming sort of an "anti-Global Warming theory" expert and spokesperson. I didn't start out with that in mind, but the global warming proponents keep posting and printing and putting out their side, so I'm forced to rebut them and their illogic on an "as needed" basis.

Luckily, there are people more qualified than I to argue my points. The latest salvo was an editorial by Peter Schweizer in USA Today on August 10. In his column, Schweizer illustrates how Al Gore, while telling the rest of us that we should live a "carbon-neutral lifestyle," lives a luxurious carbon-filled life of his own. Three mansions, including a 10,000 square foot home in Nashville, suck up energy. Also, utility companies in his areas offer alternative energy generated by "clean" wind power -- at a cost of a few cents per kilowatt hour in addition to the usual rates. Clean energy that Gore has decided not to pay extra for. Read Schweizer's column for details.

I'm not actually anti-Global Warming, per se....but I am against someone telling me what I should do (and trying to pass laws to force me to do it their way) based on bad science and bad thinking.

All I'm trying to do with these tidbits is to arm you with information so that you can defend yourself when you're confronted by enviro-Nazis. Fight the good fight.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Friday, August 11, 2006

Great trick football play

What every guy wishes his team had done while he was playing.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Quiz: Life Masks

A life mask is a mold made of a living person's face or head (as opposed to a death mask -- despite how creepy they look, the masks below were cast on living people.) For years movie makers have used life masks to create special effects makeup. The website of the Society of Amateur and Professional Special Effects Makeup Artists (www.sapsema.org) links to a collection of life masks belonging to "fxman." As I browsed the photos, I realized that I could hardly tell who some of them were, even though they were famous. Goes to show how much lighting and makeup can change a person's appearance.

Here's a quiz to see how well you can do. How many of the celebrities below do you recognize? Answers at the bottom of this post.

1. 2. 3.
4. 5. 6.

7. 8. 9.
10. 11. 12.


ANSWERS

  1. Muhammad Ali
  2. Humphrey Bogart
  3. Robin Williams
  4. Keifer Sutherland
  5. Julia Roberts
  6. Danny Devito
  7. Mel Gibson
  8. Robert DeNiro
  9. Bob Hope
  10. Jim Carrey
  11. Sean Connery
  12. Tommy Lee Jones


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Another Gang of American War Criminals


There's a video of an ugly incident involving American soldiers again. So far it hasn't been in the headlines, but the mainstream media can't be far behind.

Apparently the story goes like this: the American government recruited a gang of thugs and criminals whose assignment was to go on a murderous rampage. The military was even afraid to use regular soldiers for the crime. Assassination was the mission the entire time.

The mission was discovered and several of the American soldiers were killed....but not before they committed the crime which was captured on film.

A group of unsuspecting partygoers, including women and civilians, were locked in a room, and explosives detonated in and around the room, killing all inside. The victims' panic and fear were captured, as well as the offenders making their getaway.

The video of this incident may be available to you.

It's called The Dirty Dozen, starring Lee Marvin.

This movie was made in 1967, and any guy of the proper age will still get choked up describing the scene where Jim Brown runs for the getaway truck, dropping grenades into the vent pipes. You strain each time you see it, hoping that maybe this time.....

The movie was set in World War II, but in the 1960s we still accepted this scene without qualms, even cheering for the guys to get away.

If this scene were to happen today, all the Americans would be accused of war crimes, and probably convicted and punished. Americans don't accept civilian casualties anymore.

But in 1967, we cheered for American soldiers. We cheered for them to win, because that's what Americans did. Nowadays, there is a huge chunk of the American citizenry who want war -- if it's necessary at all -- to be precise, perfect and limited. Mistakes and "collateral damage" are not permissible.

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces endured approximately 9,000 casualties, of which about one-third were fatalities.

From 1940 - 1945, there were over 400,000 U.S. military deaths, and another 700,000 non-mortal wounds.
http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0004615.html

Looking at these numbers, you don't conclude that everything went according to plan. And while these are military casualties, I haven't seen any investigations into the numbers of civilians that got caught in the crossfire. That number would probably shock all of us.

Of course, "Any man's death diminshes me, for I am of mankind," so I'm not making light of any of the numbers I've mentioned.

But what has happened to American guts and backbone since 1967? Do we understand winning anymore? Do we understand about paying the price?

Are we supposed to be ashamed of Lee Marvin?

Chick Saga Continues

Several concerts on the Dixie Chicks'"Accidents & Accusations" tour have been canceled after slow ticket sales, according to this Associated Press story .

The album's done okay, and there's a documentary coming out on them, so I guess they're not hurting for money. But it's nice to see some lingering effects of their hubris.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Yes, the video below is a repeat

Better Than Qui-Gon Jinn vs. Darth Maul

I finally was able to post the video itself rather than a link. I've gotten a lot of good suggestions for other videos. Thanks to all who contributed.

Ryan vs Dorkman

RYAN WIEBER VS. MICHAEL "DORKMAN" SCOTT

What began as a friendly rivalry between two effects artists explodes off TheForce.Net's FanFilms Forum and into the real world in a lightsaber battle royale.

Originally created for the forum's lightsaber choreography competition, this fight to the death will decide once and for all who is truly most skilled with a saber.

There can be only one.

See the 5 minute epic for yourself.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

All Celebs Should Be This Cool


In a letter on their website, rock group Steely Dan accused actor Owen Wilson of stealing the idea for his recent bomb "You, Me and Dupree" from their Grammy-award winning song "Cousin Dupree." They cite a couple of similarities and then ask him for an apology.

In the coolest response ever, Owen responded with this press release:

"I have never heard the song 'Cousin Dupree' and I don't even know who this gentleman, Mr. Steely Dan, is. I hope this helps to clear things up and I can get back to concentrating on my new movie, 'HEY 19.' "

"Hey Nineteen" was a hit off Steely Dan's 1980 album Gaucho. And Steely Dan is a group, not a person.

Friday, July 28, 2006

A Zero-Sum Wage

Recently, the Chicago City Council singled out "big box" stores for a special minimum wage: $10.00 an hour, with another $3.00 per hour in benefits. Applying only to companies with stores of at least 90,000 square feet and with more than $1 billion in annual sales, the Chicago City Council ruling effectively shuts out Wal-Mart from within Chicago city limits.

Wal-Mart has historically displayed a willingness to fight. I don’t see a situation where Wal-Mart will quietly acquiesce, paying union-level wages for what is essentially low-skilled labor. The unfortunate thing is that Chicagoans will be the ones to suffer:

1) Wal-Mart will more than likely locate near, but outside, the Chicago city limits; therefore, the city will miss out on any tax revenues from the store.
2) Chicagoans who wish to shop at Wal-Mart will have to travel farther to do so. With lower-priced goods available, many working-class families depend on retailers such as Wal-Mart for school supplies, clothing, and other essentials.
3) Chicagoans who might have worked for Wal-Mart if it were closer will not be able to, unless they want to travel. Many people who would have been earning Wal-Mart’s "low" wages and benefits will now have to do without completely.

What did the Chicago City Council gain? A feeling of "doing something good" for those they consider less fortunate?

This strikes me as one of the worst features of being a Liberal in America today. If you feel good, then it doesn’t really matter who else has to pay for that feeling, or how much they have to pay.

A phrase I read recently in a paper by the Texas Public Policy Foundation struck a chord: ".…Everything a government does is funded by denying property and wealth to private individuals…."

When the government - federal, state, county or city - provides money, goods or services to individual citizens, then other citizens are being deprived of money, goods or services. While the larger economy in a capitalist society is not a zero-sum game (wealth can be created), government spending is zero-sum - if you win, I lose, because the government does not create wealth, it can only redistribute it.

That’s one reason that the Social Security problem must be resolved by turning to the private sector. Only the market can create enough wealth to cover the needs of future Social Security recipients. If we stay in a government-controlled system, it will collapse under its own weight, as fewer earners support more and more recipients.

Business is the same way. If the government forces a company to pay a higher wage to lower-skilled workers, the company has few choices, none of them good:
1) Accept lower profits (unfair to owners and stockholders);
2) Raise prices (unfair to customers);
3) Hire fewer workers to do the same amount of work (unfair to the workers); or
4) Close the doors (unfair to stockholders, customers and workers.)

The choices are restricted because the government can’t legislate increased business for the company to offset the higher expense. Again, with the government involved, the game becomes zero-sum.

"Artificial minimum wages create unemployment, mainly among lower-skilled workers, younger and inexperienced workers, and workers from minority groups….This should not be surprising. Making anything more expensive almost invariably leads to fewer purchases. This includes labor."

This comes from Dr. Thomas Sowell, a PhD in economics and senior fellow at the Hoover institute.

According to the Census Bureau's 2006 Statistical Abstract, there are more than three times as many workers below the minimum wage as are at the minimum wage. Many businesses do not meet the requirements that would force them to pay the federal minimum wage.

Unless the government adds stipulations (e.g., stores with at least 90,000 square feet, businesses open on Sundays, businesses that have the letter "R" in their name), most workers won’t benefit at all from an increase in the minimum wage, and many will suffer. Meanwhile, businesses will be forced into the undesirable choices listed above.

The French phrase laissez-faire -- loosely translated as "hands off" -- historically is used in economics as a warning for the government not to interfere with trade.

The government should, in this case, keep its hands off the wages a company pays its employees.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Monday, July 10, 2006

Gerrymandering Texas

There is a clear and concise explanation by Gina Parker (People Win in Texas Case) of the situation regarding the recent US Supreme Court decision on the gerrymandering of Texas voting districts to favor Republicans.

Since Texas politicians manage to mangle, confuse and complicate nearly everything they touch (see School Finance), it's nice to see the issue spelled out simply.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Framing the Argument

One trick often used in debate is "framing the argument." To frame the argument is to take a position that assumes certain facts, then building on those. The old trick question of "How long has it been since you quit beating your wife?" fits into this category.

Many times when I’m arguing a point with someone, they will use this tactic, and when I challenge the basic assumption, they act outraged, resorting to epithets, comments on my intelligence, etc. I’m a chessplayer, however; I understand that my position, whether in a game of chess or a debate with a political foe, must be as strong as possible if I am to win.

Which brings me to global warming - or more precisely, climate changes caused by mankind that carry negative consequences. (When I use the term "global warming" from here on out, this is the definition I mean.)

In his movie "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore says (or so it has been reported; I haven’t seen the movie, and don’t think I will.) that "the debate in the scientific community is over."

Not true. As former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."

A key point to remember, regardless of what you hear or read: Global warming is a theory, not a fact, and it has been disputed by many, many qualified scientists. One example is a petition organized by Frederick Seitz (
http://www.oism.org/pproject/)

Global warming alarmists want to start the debate just after the "no longer a debate" comment. I move the debate back one step - and make them admit that their whole stance is based on a disputed theory.

The proponents of "global warming" insist on tighter governmental controls on even more aspects of our lives. I oppose this. Contrary to what has been suggested, this does not mean that I’m for dirty air, dirty water, or that I want to kill the planet.

However, what is happening is that someone else’s eccentricities are being forced on me, in the name of an unproven theory. I reject this outright, and insist that those who would impose themselves into my life provide a more convincing argument.

The environmentalist whackos’ position is hypocritical. They insist on doing away with our use of fossil fuels in favor of so-called "clean" energy, while on the other hand they oppose nuclear energy, a proven clean energy source. How do they reconcile these two opposing stances? Could it be that their goal is not a clean environment after all, but is instead to force me to alter my lifestyle in favor of theirs?

I challenge their basic assumptions, and every point after; however, I’m open-minded, and willing to change my position.

But they better have a good argument.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

When You Hate Your Own Dog

In the political debates I engage in, I've chosen a side and stay pretty consistent with it. This side normally aligns with the Republican party. But I disagree with President Bush's immigration policy, and the Senate version of an immigration bill.

I just listened to Sean Hannity interview Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and caught myself screaming at the radio. Here's why:

There are basically three parts to the immigration debate.
1) Securing the borders.
2) Dealing with those illegal immigrants already in the United States.
3) Providing a streamlined way for citizens of other countries to come into the US to work.

There is almost no disagreement between the warring factions about #1 and #3. We all want secure borders, and we all would like to find a simple, legal way for non-citizens to come here. There is some disagreement about #2 -- the "amnesty" question.

Hannity believes, as do I, that each aspect of the question should be considered in separate legislation. Legislation (if needed; I'm not sure we need any more laws than we have already) could be passed tout de suite on those parts that are in agreement.

Attorney General Gonzales, on the other hand, defended the President's plan, which is similar to the Senate plan, saying that "it would be wrong to consider only one point while we let the other points fester." [Paraphrasing mine. - kw] Therefore, according to his argument, we must have the "comprehensive" immigration bill which would encompass all facets of the immigration issue.

So the "comprehensive" bill passed by the Senate collides with the more conservative bill from the House, and nothing gets done because no compromise is possible. I repeat, nothing gets done. (Sidebar: Why do we let Congress vote for their own pay increases?)

The solution is clear, at least to me: Introduce three separate bills simultaneously, each dealing with a single part of the immigration issue. The only delay then would be on the bill over which there might be an honest debate. Meanwhile, the other bills would pass quickly, and the immigration issue could be addressed properly.

I'm not so naive as to imagine that those folks have not thought of the idea. There are obviously other reasons that the politicians on my side of the aisle -- my dogs, so to speak -- don't really want anything to happen on immigration. I wish I knew what those reasons are.

And just like having a mean dog, you want him to win the fights against other mean dogs, but you want to make sure that he doesn't turn around and bite you.

Maybe all politicians should be put on a leash.

Making Fun of the A-J #1

From the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal:

"Helicopter called to duty on air conditioning units" In related news, a B-52 bomber was called in on an oven, and F16 fighter jets were contacted about installing cable.

"Lubbock residents get one-on-one with mayor" But they get to bring a friend to see the Chief of Police.

"Florida medical examiner may take post in Lubbock" There's apparently a post shortage in Florida.

"Texas Tech plans crackdown on unauthorized use of school logo" The fad of branding donkeys with the logo is causing confusion among those who use the common phrase "Texas Tech jackass".

"Simple scheme put perpetrators through college" They claimed they were All-American running backs and illegal immigrants.

A Reversal of Fortune in the NBA

While I'm not an NBA fan, I will occasionally look at the headlines during the playoffs to see who won. This year, with the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals, I was a little more interested. I even watched part of a game...the last five minutes of Game 3, where Dallas blew a 13-point lead.

So I went back to just reading the headlines.

Last night Miami won Game 6, giving them the title. There have already been accusations that the Finals were "fixed" by NBA officials (both on and off the court), with proper counter arguments. The conspiracists say that certain larger markets, say Los Angeles, New York (or Miami,) are preferable over smaller markets to be the NBA Champions. This is either for ratings, advertising revenue, merchandise sales, or similar notions, depending on which crackpot theory you want to believe. In this particular case, I think it's reasonable to say that NBA executives really, really don't like Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who is wealthy enough to say exactly what he thinks -- and he does -- and absorb a $250,000 fine.

I personally believe that there is something to the theory that the NBA chooses a team to win, and officiating plays a huge part in it. In the late 90's the Lakers received a huge number of favorable calls. (I'm not even a fan, but I grit my teeth remembering a Game Six against Portland....the Trailblazers were robbed.)

While I'm not saying this series was fixed, an interesting statistic came up. Look here:

TOTAL FREE THROWS ATTEMPTED FOR THE WHOLE SERIES:
Miami 207, Dallas 155.

Okay, nothing really unusual about that. Miami's Dwayne Wade drives to the basket a lot and draws more fouls, Dallas is a physical team, etc., etc., so Miami's going to get more chances at the free throw line.

But let's look at how it broke down:

FREE THROWS ATTEMPTED BY GAME:
Game 1 Dallas 26, Miami 19
Game 2 Dallas 28, Miami 32
Game 3 Dallas 26, Miami 34
Game 4 Dallas 27, Miami 36
Game 5 Dallas 25, Miami 49
Game 6 Dallas 23, Miami 37

While starting out slow in the first couple of games, Dallas "learned" how to foul in the last four. In the first two games, Miami shot 49% of the free throws. In the last four games, after Dallas took a 2-0 lead in the series, Miami shot 61% of the free throws.

While not excusing the Mavericks's horrendous choke in Game 3, I find it at least curious that there was a reversal of 24% in the allocation of free throws comparing the first two games to the last four. Note that it's not the fact that Dallas might foul more that's curious (see above), but the reversal in such an important statistic.

A suspicious person might say NBA officials panicked after Game 2 and instructed the refs to do something about it. ("Anything to keep Cuban from winning a championship")

I don't think it would be the first time such a thing has happened. But I'm not really a fan, so what do I know?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Chicks with Shovels

Either they are profiting from the most fantastic marketing campaign* since the introduction of New Coke, or the Dixie Chicks continue to dig a hole for themselves that is almost to Shanghai.

An excerpt of an article on the Dixie Chicks from the UK Telegraph:

The Chicks can't hide their disgust at the lack of support they received from other country performers. "A lot of artists cashed in on being against what we said or what we stood for because that was promoting their career, which was a horrible thing to do," says [Emily] Robison.

"A lot of pandering started going on, and you'd see soldiers and the American flag in every video.
It became a sickening display of ultra-patriotism."

"The entire country may disagree with me, but I don't understand the necessity for patriotism," [Natalie] Maines resumes, through gritted teeth. "Why do you have to be a patriot? About what? This land is our land? Why? You can like where you live and like your life, but as for loving the whole country…
I don't see why people care about patriotism."

***

In other news, astronomers and astrophysicists have discovered that the entire universe revolves around the Dixie Chicks.



* (It should not be forgotten that the Chicks have a new album out, and they apparently are now trying to appeal to a different audience. Hence, their outrageousness may be a conscious maneuver to be more "punk" -- in which case Sid Vicious is spinning in his grave as much as George Washington.)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Really Inconvenient Truth for Al Gore

The Canadian Free Press posted an article online, "Scientists Respond to Gore's Warnings" It details the arguments against the global warning theories that Gore espouses.

Turns out that "global warming" is not universally believed by scientists at all. Don't trade in your SUV yet.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Frying Fish

A local newspaper editor, who will remain nameless, sang the praises of Pete Laney, longtime Speaker of the House from Hale County. "Bipartisan," "representing West Texas," etc. The editor then went on to take a shot at those politicians who receive political contributions from "downstate."


Being the troublemaker that I am, I used the internet to do some research on political contributions in Texas, specifically those to Pete Laney.


From the website www.followthemoney.org I found the following information on the political contributions that Pete Laney received in 2000, 2002, 2004:


ZIP Codes for Top contributions to Pete Laney in 2000:


Code (Location) Amount
78701 (Austin, TX) $326,601
77002 (Houston, TX) $55,000
78767 (Austin, TX) $51,900
78768 (Austin, TX) $32,200
75201 (Dallas, TX) $31,000
76102 (Ft Worth, TX) $29,000
78704 (Austin, TX) $28,000
75202 (Dallas, TX) $20,525
78761 (Austin, TX) $20,250
77046 (Houston, TX) $20,000
78204 (San Antonio, TX) $20,000
20005 (Washington, TX) $16,000
75219 (Dallas, TX) $15,525
77010 (Houston, TX) $15,000
75221 (Dallas, TX) $14,500


You'll notice an absence of West Texas zip codes there. Let's look at 2002:


78701 (Austin, TX) $204,350
78767 (Austin, TX) $70,000
75201 (Dallas, TX) $32,700
78333 (Alice, TX) $25,000
78768 (Austin, TX) $21,550
77002 (Houston, TX) $21,500
76102 (Fort Worth, TX) $16,551
78704 (Austin, TX) $15,500
79762 (Odessa, TX) $15,150
75202 (Dallas, TX) $15,000
20005 (Washington, TX) $14,000
78761 (Austin, TX) $12,000
78757 (Austin, TX) $12,000
77478 (Sugar Land, TX) $11,200
78204 (San Antonio, TX) $10,000


Finally, a West Texas zip code shows up, way down the list. Let's look at 2004:




78701 (Austin, TX) $22,650
75201 (Dallas, TX) $4,750
77010 (Houston, TX) $3,500
77701 (Beaumont, TX) $2,500
76101 (Fort Worth, TX) $2,500
78704 (Austin, TX) $2,100
78723 (Austin, TX) $2,000
88210 (Artesia, NM) $2,000
78768 (Austin, TX) $2,000
75505 (Texarkana, TX) $2,000
78731 (Austin, TX) $1,750
78703 (Austin, TX) $1,600
79170 (Amarillo, TX) $1,500
79106 (Amarillo, TX) $1,500
76102 (Fort Worth, TX) $1,500


A couple of "west Texas" contributions show up, near the bottom of the list.


I want to emphasize that this is not an indictment of any kind of Pete Laney, the job he did for our area, or the type of man he is. But let's face it, his major contributors were nearly all from "downstate." This is an observation that the local media -- in this case, a smalltown newspaper -- have their own fish to fry, just as much as the New York Times or CBS. An editor's biases show up in his arguments, just like anyone else's. In an editor's case, however, it carries the weight of being distributed to hundreds or thousands of people, who believe that they're hearing the "truth."


If we all take the time and effort to do a little investigation, a little fact-checking, and take what the media say with a huge grain of salt, we can be better informed as to what's really going on.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

An Inconvenient Rumor


The Fire and Ice Report from the Business and Media Institute shows how so-called experts have been predicting dire climate changes for over 100 years. The problem is that they haven't been able to decide if it's getting hotter or colder. According to the report, in the 1890's the world was getting colder. In the 1970's there was another Ice Age coming, and we were all doomed. In the 1980's there was a major comeback for global warming, and it's been the undisputed champion of climate change theories since.

There is a lot of junk science out there, and it seems that every "expert" has a dog in the hunt -- grant money, political power, prestige -- so that it's impossible to trust anyone's opinion completely. Al Gore has based almost his entire political career on environmental issues, most recently in his documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth."

JunkScience.com is a website that goes into detail about some of the fallacies regarding science, global warming theories in particular. For a skeptic like myself, it's a great source of information on various aspect of the popular media's coverage of scientific issues.

Lest anyone think I want dirty water and air pollution, I am against both of those. I also think that it's prudent to conserve resources whenever and wherever possible. In fact, my "dream home" will -- if all goes according to plan -- be almost entirely off the grid. I have a few years before I actually have to pull the trigger on it, but I'm already looking at solar alternatives, and other ways to be more self-sufficient. We are stewards of our world, and need to do what we can when we can.

That does not mean the government needs to do anything. It's each person's individual choice, and as an individual I want to be a good steward.

But it's not because of Al Gore.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Ghost Hunters

I don't watch a lot of television, but I've certainly got hooked on Ghost Hunters on the Sci-Fi network. TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) investigates claims of paranormal activity in private homes and public buildings. Roto-Rooter plumbers by day, ghosthunters by night, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson are two of the best personalities on TV.

By the way, this is a reality show, not a sitcom. TAPS actually exists, and Jason and Grant are real guys. And they come across as two of the nicest guys you'd ever hope to meet. Have you ever had to comfort someone when they found out that their house wasn't haunted?

While not a big believer in the paranormal, I still find it fascinating to see some of the things these guys capture on video. Watch their show or visit the TAPS website.

Recent Reading List

I've been busy with both research and reading for pleasure. Here are some of the books I've been into lately.

Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History by William Safire. Amazing how many situations that we're dealing with now have been discussed in the past.

The Big Book of Noir edited by Ed Gorman, Lee Server and Martin H. Greenberg. Part of the research for my novel. A collection of articles on noir films, stories, radio and television. One of the best noir writers, Charles Williams, was from San Angelo, Texas. Go figure.

How To Talk To a Liberal (If You Must) by Ann Coulter. A humorous, sharp-tongued collection of her columns.

The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce. Not what my 13-year-old daughter thought it was. Bierce was H.L Mencken before Mencken was.

The Abs Diet by David Zinczenko. Because I recently turned 48 years old, and hope springs eternal.

Life Matters by Roger and Rebecca Merrill. Trying to get a handle on life. I mainly bought this because The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey rocked my world, and I thought this would add to that.

How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren. An odd choice maybe, but my reading habits have gotten sloppier as I get older, and this book is a big help in being a better reader. A key passage: "It is true enough that many people read some things too slowly, and that they ought to read them faster. But many people also read some things too fast, and they ought to read those things more slowly. A good speed reading course should therefore teach you to read at many different speeds, not just one speed that is faster than anything you can manage now. It should enable you to vary your rate of reading in accordance with the nature and complexity of the material." True dat, as my kids say.

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. Because of the type of story I'm writing, I googled the term "Texas noir" and this book came up. This story set in west Texas by an award-winning author will break your heart. Read it at your own risk.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I first read this book a couple of years ago, and didn't think much of it. It's as though a puzzle geek put all these different puzzles and codes into a sub-par short story. Now that it's sold a zillion copies and been made into a bad movie, I read it again, and my opinion hasn't changed. A travelogue through Christian symbolism and conspiracy theories.

The Western Guide to Feng Shui by Terah Kathryn Collins. If you don't know a bagua map from a cheese log, then this book is for you. Forget any mumbo-jumbo you might have heard about feng shui; this book gives practical guidelines like: 1) Live with what you love. 2) Put safety and comfort first. 3) Simplify and organize. I read this book while working on the design for the dream home Kathy and I hope to build when we turn 60.

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein. Because I'm a compulsive buyer and reader of books on writing. This book has a lot of good stuff, but one page is marked because of this passage: "When I ask a group of professional writers to state the essential difference between nonfictionand fiction, most are unable to do so.... Let us state the difference in the simplest way. Nonfiction conveys information. Fiction evokes emotion." Strunk and White couldn't have said it better.

Speaker's Sourcebook II by Glenn Van Ekeren. Because I had a presentation to do, and needed a quick quote about risk. (The quote I chose: "You've got to go out on a limb sometimes, because that's where the fruit is." - Will Rogers)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Laws, Shmaws

The latest uproar over the illegal immigration/border security issues causes many people to become hot under the collar. Although there is a lot to discuss on the issue, I want to address only one point.

The comprehensive bill passed by the US Senate provides a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. Five years residence, paying $3,200 in fines, etc. etc. Blah, blah blah.

What do we do with those who don't follow the path?

I don't pretend to have an answer. It's a complex question, where we need to show compassion along with some reasonable expectations. That debate could go on a long time.

If the new law passes, many illegal immigrants will participate in the process. I predict, however, that most will not. They have been used to living outside the system, and there is no real motivation to change their way of life.

So in a few years, when we have millions more illegal immigrants, we'll be having this same debate again. There will be protests, nasty epithets hurled, and the government will once again announce that it has to "do" something.

Enforcement and consequences need to be addressed now. Putting off the discussion because it's uncomfortable is not an option. The problem will only get worse. Now is the time for someone with an ingenious solution to step up. Otherwise, we will have the beginnings of a war -- not a civil war, but a gang war, with those on the outside of the law having the advantage of sheer numbers, and the willingness to go outside the rules.