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


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


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.