Thursday, March 30, 2006

Quote of the Day

"Government is like a baby: An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other."
—Ronald Reagan

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Got Your FEMA Ticket Yet?

I was just about to call FEMA and get mine ... but then I noticed the fine print.


Own a Piece of History

Own a piece of history: buy a formerly flooded school bus from New Orleans! Think I'm kidding? Take a look!
Starved for cash, the New Orleans school district is taking a long shot and hoping to sell its flooded, unsalvageable school buses on eBay.

Some submerged to their roofs in the black flood waters, the yellow school buses were widely photographed in the days after Hurricane Katrina and have become an icon of the city's devastated school system.

School officials acknowledge the sale of the buses on the Internet auction site may puzzle some people used to more traditional school fundraisers like bake sales.
Well, no one ever said New Orleans was a traditional kind of place.

The first bus went up for sale on Tuesday, and sports the following description:
This New Orleans Public School Bus is a 1993 International Blue Bird with 147,797 miles. The bus was substantially submerged for at least 10 days following Hurricane Katrina, and would require extensive repair to return to full working condition. Please see the photos below. Only 147,797 Original Owner Miles. Buyer is responsible for shipping/delivery. This bus is sold "as is". No warranty or guaranty is expressed or implied. Clear title will be provided. Because the Orleans Parish School District is a public entity, your purchase price less salvage value of the bus may qualify as a charitable contribution! Check with your tax advisor.

This is a collector's dream come true.
You have to give them credit. This is probably the most honest public announcement to come out of New Orleans in a long time. Except the part about the "dream come true," of course.

Foreign Readers Welcome

Every now and then I glance at my Site Meter statistics, just to see who has been perusing the various inane thoughts and opinions spouted here at the Texas Songbird. And every time I do, I am surprised and pleased to see that our readership often includes several from outside the Houston area, and even a handful from outside the grand state of Texas. One or twice a week I will even spot a reader from some U.S. military or other government site. (I think that is a good thing...)

What really surprises (and, I must admit, gratifies) me is when I spot the occasional reader from elsewhere in the world. Of course, I can't really say whether our blog is used in such places as France, Belgium, England, China (Hong Kong), Canada, Scotland, Poland and Brazil (all of which have recently browsed to the site) to point out the stupidity and arrogance of Americans and/or Texans, or is actually enjoyed for its content and sleek design. <ahem> But my most recent international visitor really astonishes me.

According to the stats, we had a visitor from the Ministry of Education in Taipei, Taiwan. And the site was viewed using a Yahoo! app that translated it into Chinese. How cool is that? (I never knew I was bilingual.)

I almost feel like I should be wearing my boots and cowboy hat (I wear them frequently!) and talking about the oil well in my backyard (don't all Texans have those?) for the sake of all the recent tourists. Yee-haw!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Call for Recycling

You wouldn't believe the things people will throw away these days.
An investigator sorted through the trash in an Amarillo garbage truck on Monday after workers discovered a human head in the truck's hopper.
If you keep reading, you will undoubtedly agree that this story strained the investigative abilities of the Associated Press' ace team of (unnamed) reporters, as they reported this key piece of information:
Police did not identify the head or a cause of death on Monday.
Now, I'm no Horatio Caine, but my first guess would probably have something to do with the fact that the individual was decapitated!

Remember, we warned you weeks ago about this disturbing trend. I hope this case does not prove us right!

Someone Doesn't Get It

And I am beginning to think I am the one. I always assumed that if you did something that was against the law, then that act was illegal — a criminal offense. Apparently that is not the way it currently works, according to this article.
The bill to be debated by the US Senate this week targets the more than 11.5 million illegal immigrants in the United States by proposing that it become a criminal offense to be in the country illegally.
Someone just doesn't get it, but I am not so certain that it's I.

President Backs Senate Immigrant Proposal

Mexican President Vicente Fox, that is:
MEXICO CITY — Mexicans cheered the proposal approved Monday by the Senate Judiciary Committee to legalize undocumented migrants and provide temporary work visas, and credited huge marches of migrants across the United States as the decisive factor behind the vote.

Mexican President Vicente Fox said the vote was the result of five years of work dating to the start of his presidential term in 2000, and puts Mexico one step closer toward the government's goal of "legalization for everyone" who works in the United States.
So in other words, the United States Senate Judiciary Committee has been hard at work doing the bidding of the government of a country which is striving to infiltrate our borders illegally and, apparently, is actively striving to influence American policy.

Ridiculous, you say? Take a look at the opinions being presented by the Mexican media, which has much less freedom from government oversight than our own beloved media enjoys.
Some Mexican media outlets were even more euphoric, predicting final approval for the committee bill as drafted, and suggesting the weekend demonstrations showed Mexico still holds some sway over former territories which it lost in the 1846-48 Mexican-American War.

"With all due respect to Uncle Sam, this shows that Los Angeles has never stopped being ours," reporter Alberto Tinoco said on the Televisa television network's nightly news broadcast...

Previous posts:

Monday, March 27, 2006

A Religious Moment

A friend just emailed me a link to this news story about Justice Antonin Scalia:
Minutes after receiving the Eucharist at a special Mass for lawyers and politicians at Cathedral of the Holy Cross, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had a special blessing of his own for those who question his impartiality when it comes to matters of church and state.

"You know what I say to those people?" Scalia, 70, replied, making an obscene gesture under his chin when asked by a Herald reporter if he fends off a lot of flak for publicly celebrating his conservative Roman Catholic beliefs.

"That's Sicilian," the Italian jurist said, interpreting for the "Sopranos" challenged.
The friend's email was the expected leftist rant that a "fine, upstanding conservative leader like Scalia was just showing his true colors with this insulting disreguard [sic] for the sanctitude of the church." (Which was pretty hilarious, considering some of the things I have heard this friend say within the halls of our church.)

And while I cannot help but agree with his disdain for the reported gesture offered by Justice Scalia, I must confess that what I find the funniest part of this story lies in the description of the service he was attending: "a special Mass for lawyers and politicians."

Apparently these poor, demented souls require a little extra attention from the clergy these days.

How Many Criminals Does It Take spur the government into actually enforcing our laws?

Click here to see the Los Angeles Times picture gallery of the weekend's protest rally

Apparently more than half a million, which is both the estimated number of people illegally crossing our borders every year, and is also the estimated number of (mostly illegal) immigrants and supporters who participated in protest rallies in Los Angeles over the weekend. (Click on the image above to see more photographs of the demonstration from the L.A. Times.)
A crowd estimated by police at more than 500,000 boisterously marched in Los Angeles on Saturday to protest federal legislation that would crack down on undocumented immigrants, penalize those who help them and build a security wall along the U.S.' southern border.
Imagine, penalizing those who knowingly help others break the law. Can you imagine the public outrage if that paragraph had been written about any other group of lawbreakers? Say bank robbers, drunk drivers, or child pornographers? "A crowd estimated by police at more than 500,000 boisterously marched in Houston last Saturday to protest federal legislation that would crack down on escaped convicts, penalize those who help them and build a security wall around all local and federal prisons." Preposterous! These are people who have already shown a willingness and determination to break our country's laws, and yet we seek to appease and pardon their actions with no repercussions at all.
At a time when Congress prepares to crack down further on illegal immigration and self-appointed militias patrol the U.S. border to stem the flow, Saturday's rally represented a massive response, part of what immigration advocates are calling an unprecedented effort to mobilize immigrants and their supporters nationwide.
A note to anyone who is confused on this issue: Do not believe the "anti-immigrants" spin the media continues to put on this. Proponents of the proposed immigration reform measures are not "anti-immigrants." We are simply against illegal immigration.

And a separate note to those members of Congress (especially so-called conservatives of the Grand Old Party) who are wavering on this issue: Most of the people involved in this protest are here illegally and cannot vote, no matter how much you work to appease them. And of the remainder of this group, the "supporters" of illegal immigration, few if any would vote for you even if you sided with them on this issue. Quit pandering to the left and do what is right for our country!

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has more photos of the weekend's rallies, plus links to several other good posts on the subject.

Rent-a-Kid, Border Style

One of my favorite bloggers, The Independent Conservative, takes a look at the newest trend in illegal immigration schemes:
In a sick and twisted scheme non-Mexican illegal immigrants are "renting" babies from Mexican families, to help them (the non-Mexican illegal) stay in the USA. They know having a baby will keep immigration authorities [from] deporting them and possibly breaking up a "family".

Friday, March 24, 2006

And the Race Is On

This just in from the frontlines of the gubernatorial race in Austin:
Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn sued the Texas secretary of state Friday, claiming he's hurting her campaign by unfairly enforcing rules for independent political candidates.

Strayhorn [is] an independent [formerly Republican, originally Democrat] running against Republican Gov. Rick Perry in this year's November election...

Strayhorn's campaign filed a lawsuit in federal court in Austin over [Sec. of State Roger] Williams' plan to manually examine her petition signature by signature instead of using a statistical sampling method.
I would have to assume that Secretary Williams is applying the same guidelines to Kinky Friedman — the other independent candidate in the race — although the article makes no mention of Friedman's petition status. It does, however, include Williams' response to the complaints:
Williams said no to her requests, and said he was simply enforcing state election law.


Texas' law for independent political candidates is among the toughest in the nation. It took effect in 1905 and has remained essentially the same since, according to the Texas Legislative Reference Library.

No independent has been elected Texas governor since Sam Houston in 1859.
The race is on, the stakes are high, and tempers are already flaring. It's gonna be a hot summer in Austin this year!

No More Sanctuary in Costa Mesa

You would never expect to hear this from me, but Houston's City Council and Police Department could learn a thing or two from authorities in Costa Mesa, California.

A new city policy that would give police the authority to enforce federal immigration law ... would ally Costa Mesa police with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau, making it the first city in the nation to train its officers in federal immigration enforcement. Border security has historically been the purview of federal agencies.
Now stop me if I'm wrong, but is it not the job of police officers to enforce the law? Not just local city ordinances, but state and federal law as well? It would be silly to say that Houston's Mayor Bill White had decided to have HPD give state troopers a hand by enforcing Texas state laws — it is expected. That is their job! What would people think if we suddenly announced that Houston police would no longer look the other way when it came to counterfeiters or kidnappers, even though those are federal offences.

Why is it so commonly accepted that local law enforcement should ignore federal laws pertaining to illegal immigration? The political correctness in today's government and society has become so pervasive that even police departments have begun to choose which laws to enforce and which to ignore on the grounds of who might be offended.

Kudos to the officials of Costa Mesa for their gumption and willingness to stand up for the laws of this nation. I wish authorities in Houston were willing to show such nerve.

Hat-tip: the Drudge Report

Headline of the Day

Must be Spring Break time:

    Six Busted in Wet T-Shirt Contest

I'm guessing maybe that's why they entered the contest in the first place...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Moron Conspiracy Theory Nut Bags

The perspicacity (I love that word!) of Hollyweird intrudes yet again.

I just spotted this bit of wisdom from the eminent Charlie Sheen:
"There was a feeling, it just didn't look any commercial jetliner I've flown on any time in my life and then when the buildings came down later on that day I said to my brother 'call me insane, but did it sorta look like those buildings came down in a controlled demolition'?"
Laura Ingraham had a terrific comment on the radio this morning: The only controlled demolition that's been going on is of Charlie Sheen's brain cells.
UPDATE: Ian of Expose the Left — who has the audio of Sheen's recent radio ramblings — adds the following:
Sheen wants another 9/11-type commission to look into what really happened on that day because the government wants to "pigeon hole" people who think the way he does into a "group of conspiracy theory nut bags". However, to the contrary he doesn't believe that this is a conspiracy theory; he implies that what he says is fact. In fact, he calls the 9/11 story that everyone believes is a conspiracy theory itself. Sheen says his "research" has led him to believe what he does.
I have a feeling Mr. Sheen has been gleaning that research from his good friend and fellow scholar, Sean Penn.

Sign of the Times: Oops!

The New York Times' corrections bin contained this little jewel this morning:
An article in The Metro Section on March 8 profiled Donna Fenton, identifying her as a 37-year-old victim of Hurricane Katrina who had fled Biloxi, Miss., and who was frustrated in efforts to get federal aid as she and her children remained as emergency residents of a hotel in Queens.

Yesterday, the New York police arrested Ms. Fenton, charging her with several counts of welfare fraud and grand larceny. Prosecutors in Brooklyn say she was not a Katrina victim, never lived in Biloxi and had improperly received thousands of dollars in government aid. Ms. Fenton has pleaded not guilty.

For its profile, The Times did not conduct adequate interviews or public record checks to verify Ms. Fenton's account, including her claim that she had lived in Biloxi. Such checks would have uncovered a fraud conviction and raised serious questions about the truthfulness of her account.
Maybe it is just my own inherent cynicism, but it sounds to me like the Times editor is almost more sorry that the original story exposed Ms. Fenton's crimes than he is for getting the story wrong. In today's follow-up story, the Times reporter is quick to point out that it wasn't the paper's fault this woman got caught:
Ms. Fenton was the subject of an article in The New York Times on March 8, more than a month after Brooklyn prosecutors, prompted by suspicious officials at the city's welfare agency, began investigating her.
Hidden on page two of the new story are these paragraphs that show exactly how inadequate the Times' original fact checking really was:
Public records indicate that Ms. Fenton may have used as many as 18 addresses in half a dozen states since 1989, including nearly a dozen in Brooklyn and in Columbus, Miss. She has at least two criminal convictions, for fraud and for grand larceny, and has left behind a trail of creditors and angry landlords.

Public records and interviews also indicate that in December 2001, Ms. Fenton was charged with assault, a misdemeanor, in Valley Stream, N.Y., just across the border from Queens in Nassau County. She failed to appear at a 2002 court date, and a bench warrant still exists for her arrest in Nassau County. Also in 2002, apparently while living in Brooklyn, she received a summons in a dispute with a bank over a $7,814 loan.

Hat-tip: David Benzion of Lone Star Times

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Conservative Small Blog Digest

With all that's been going on in "real life," just blogging with any semblance of regularity has been difficult of late. It has unfortunately been a couple of weeks or more since I have taken the time to browse through my favorite blogs. When I finally did that last night, I got a very pleasant surprise!

Our buddy Dave Craddock — of The Paladin Blog fame — has started up a brand new blog with the purpose of highlighting interesting posts on small conservative blogs. The Conservative Small Blog Digest kicked off in grand style last week with this mission statement:
Welcome to the Conservative Small Blog Digest. This weblog is dedicated to the hundreds of new and up and coming conservative bloggers, and will highlight some of the best posts form around the blogosphere. Stop by often as new content will be added daily!
So far the CSBDigest has lived up to its goal with some great posts, most of which are from blogs I had never visited before.

By the way, guess who was honored as its first "Blog of the Week." You got it: our own very small, very conservative Texas Songbird! Now that's an honor. Thanks, Dave!

He B. Stupid

Sometimes the news is just too funny to pass up.
A 20-year-old alleged murderer and suspected gang leader who several times escaped conviction in Louisiana and later managed to land on the Houston Police Department's most-wanted list in less than six months was captured Monday in Kenner, La.
Nothing too funny about that, until the perp's name is revealed. The gangbanger apparently goes by the name "I. B. Stupid." Luckily for Louisiana police, Mr. Stupid lived up to his name when cornered early Monday morning.
Ivory "B-Stupid" Harris, who was wanted by New Orleans police in connection with a Feb. 28 shooting death during Mardi Gras, surrendered without putting up much resistance at a house filled with a cache of guns and drugs in the New Orleans suburbs.


"When the (Kenner police) SWAT team went in the front door, he went out the back door and NOPD detectives were there waiting for him," said Capt. James Gallagher, a Kenner Police Department spokesman.
Actually, the stupidest thing he may have done was to come to Houston, where he is suspected in at least one murder and connected to another, among other suspected crimes in the area. Apparently Mr. Stupid came down with a false sense of security while running amok in New Orleans, where authorities have not had the best reputation for actually upholding the law.
"What happened in New Orleans is they would arrest someone and in a couple of weeks he was released. People would say why should I be a witness if I had to live in the same (housing) complex with this guy."

He said that people eventually found out that there was a different justice system in Texas and that "you really do some time in Texas jails."
Welcome to Texas, Stupid. I hope you enjoy your stay.

Frequent Blogger Award

I got an email last week from a regular reader congratulating me on our recent induction into the Frequent Flyers Club over at The Right Place. "What?" I said, then I promptly clicked over to take a look for myself.

Sure enough, fellow blogger Mr. Right added a whole horde of regular linkers and correspondents to his "upper echelon" blogroll that he has dubbed his Frequent Flyers Club. And right there, smack dab in the middle of a host of really good blogs (several of which are favorite reads of my own) sits li'l ol' me and The Texas Songbird.

Thanks to Mr. Right for this great honor. I truly believe that one of the best honors a blogger can have is to be linked by a fellow blogger — not just for one article, but actually pointing readers to the "front page" on the merits of the blog as a whole. Thanks also to our longtime reader Daffyd for pointing me to the post in the first place! (Or The Right Place, as the case may be.)

And since I know I haven't said it in a while, thank you to the several blogs that have added me to their own blogrolls or pointed out The Texas Songbird to their readers. It is much appreciated, and I hope I have returned the favor appropriately.

(By the way — if this post seems a little "after the fact," please forgive. This is a rewrite of one of the posts that mysteriously disappeared during the posting problems we were having last week.

Democrat Visits US Military Post

There's a great new post at Those Wacky Iraqis about a late night visitor to the compound.

While you are there, read on down through the various blog entries. FlyTheMig29, who just returned to Iraq last week from a well-deserved R&R stateside, has a great blog with some wonderful insight into the lives of our military personnel currently serving in the Middle East. Don't miss one of my favorite recent posts by FtM29, A Khaki World. Life over there is far removed from our easy existence here in the states. Remember to thank a serviceman or veteran today for the freedom, liberty and security we so often take for granted.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Songbird's Razor

A person's worth to society is indirectly proportional to their ability to change industries without changing occupations.

I got an email from an old college buddy this morning, informing me of his new job and contact information. Sam (we'll call him that so I don't lose the annual Christmas cards and occasional semi-funny emails we still exchange) has recently changed jobs for the twelfth time in the last twenty-or-so years, and while he is has roughly the same job as before (albeit with a different title and most likely a comfortable increase in salary), he has made an incredible leap in industry: from office manager of a large law firm to department manager in a very large hospital. As far as I know, this is at least the ninth different industry in which Sam has worked in his professional career. His past jobs (all managerial) have been in such diverse industries as the restaurant business, computer manufacturing, school administration, structural engineering, auto sales and insurance.

Sam and I were both business majors in college. But while I specialized in IT (basically, I'm a programmer with some training in business principles), Sam specialized in ... nothing. That is to say, his specialty is simply business. And over the past twenty-some-odd years he has manipulated that specialty to switch from job to job, company to company and industry to industry. Always climbing the ladder, always increasing his managerial status, but never really learning anything other than business. I have to assume he is a decent manager, but what does he do? I've asked him that in the past, and all he does is laugh and shake his head. I get the feeling that even he doesn't really have an answer to that question.

So what is Sam's worth to society, at least in terms of his productivity? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Nothing against him personally, but his chosen profession is not really a profession at all. It's a con. He can change industries and positions over and over without ever really learning any useful skills, other than how to work the system. And businesses are full of people like Sam these days — people with no knowledge or skills but lots and lots of experience.

On the other hand, look at skilled workers such as a carpenter, a plumber, a fireman or a doctor. All valuable to a productive society, but all with jobs tied to a specific industry. A doctor can change industries from medicine to plumbing (he might even get a raise by doing so), but his occupation will change. A carpenter who switches to the computer industry will have to learn a new vocation, a new set of skills. But a strictly business manager like Sam seldom does anything related to the industry — it is a self-promoting and self-promulgating vocation in and of itself.

Now that is not to say that all managers are useless. Few businesses of more than five employees would run smoothly without management. Without restaurant managers, MacDonald's would quickly run out of napkins and lids for super-sized drinks. Without store managers, Kroger would likely forget to restock those little white powdered donuts that I wasn't supposed to be snacking on at midnight last night. Without site managers, road construction crews would never accomplish anything because all those shovels would keep falling over and getting in the way of the one guy who actually knows how to dig.

Specialized managers are a must in a productive society, but the requirement there is that the manager knows the industry and the job intimately. Someone like Sam would only complicate the problems, never bringing reasonable solutions to the table.

I guess that is the reason people like him seem to move up the ladder so easily. If they cannot contribute to the solution, then promote them to get them out of the way. Especially if the manager in question is a good schmoozer. Schmoozers never die, they just get promoted.

The sad thing is, I fully expect to hear one day that Sam is running for political office. What else is he good for, other than passing old jokes around the Internet from time to time?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Site Testing

Well, let's see if the blog is working again yet...

Late last Thursday evening the BlogSpot site was down for maintenance for a while. Once it came back up, I was unable to post anything. I kept getting a "site is full" message, basically stating that I had run out of archive space. According to everything I read when moving The Texas Songbird to BlogSpot, there were no restrictions on the number or size of posts, so I am not quite sure what is going on.

Anyway, if this shows up I guess things are working again. If not...

Friday, March 17, 2006

Just Checking In

Songbird's out of town through the weekend, and Tiffany and I just got back from the hospital (she had minor exploratory surgery this morning). There's lot's going on in the world, but it will probably have to wait a bit longer on our account.

Hope you're having a good Friday. If not, turn on the boob tube — it's March Madness time!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Pic of the Day

Ever feel this way about our elected "representatives"?

UPDATE: It looks like the citizens of Travis County (Austin, Texas) are feeling it right now!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Texas' Cornyn Takes On the Taliban

Texas' own Senator John Cornyn took a bold step in the right direction Tuesday with this letter [PDF file] to Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff:
Dear Secretary Chertoff:

I write to you regarding Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, the former Taliban spokesman currently attending Yale University on a student visa.

In 2005, Congress passed the REAL ID Act and expanded the terror-related grounds of inadmissibility. Under current law, an alien is inadmissible or removable on terror-related grounds if he is a representative of any designated or nondesignated terrorist organization. Further, an alien is inadmissible or removable if the alien endorses or espouses terrorist activity or persuades others to endorse or espouse terrorist activity or support a terrorist organization. The REAL ID is clear that the grounds of inadmissibility and removal apply regardless of when the conduct in question occurred.

Mr. Hashemi was an official spokesman for the Taliban, which gave safe haven and other material support to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and continued to do so even after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Yet the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) admitted him into the United States on an F-1 student visa. I would like to know what steps the Department of Homeland Security is taking to determine whether Mr. Hashemi was properly admitted and whether the Department of Homeland Security will seek to deport Mr. Hashemi under one of the terror-related grounds of removal.
Way to go, Senator! (Click here to read the entire letter in PDF format. Also, Power Line Blog has more on the Yale Taliban issue.)

Now if we can just get Mr. Cornyn and his honorable compatriots in the United States Senate to take a similar stand on the millions of illegal aliens flooding our borders — including the narco-terrorists who have declared war on our southern border law enforcement officials — maybe we will have a chance to save this great country of ours.

Hat-tip: Rorschach

Cuppa Joe, for FREE!

As always, I seem to be the last one to know. But just in case I'm not, I'll pass the word along.

Starbucks is giving away FREE COFFEE this morning in its stores across the nation!

Our local ABC News outlet reports the deal is scheduled to take place from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, but the ever-vigilant reporters from blogHouston tell us that at least some Houston area Starbucks started the freebies early:
(7:15 AM): My favorite baristas at the Starbucks at Shepherd/Greenbriar (by the 59 Diner) were giving away coffee at 7 o'clock this morning, so other Houston-area Starbucks stores might already be doing it as well.
It's not too late to pile the office crew in the closest SUV and head to Starbucks for a nice morning coffee break, on the house!

Hat-tip: Matt Bramanti of Lone Star Times

Monday, March 13, 2006

Give That Man a Cuban

Great update from Hamous on Cuba's reaction to free speech. Only problem is, it happened in U.S. protectorate Puerto Rico, where free speech "is a protected constitutional right, a law." Great post!

Kinky Took a Drinky

Kinky took a drink-y. Will he end up in the clink-y? No, according to Dallas police.
Gubernatorial hopeful Kinky Friedman rode in a St. Patrick's Day parade car Saturday with his trademark black hat and burning cigar -- plus a beer in his hand, an apparent violation of the state's open container law.

A spokeswoman for Friedman, the author and musician running as an independent, acknowledged that the candidate drank from a can of Guinness handed to him. State law prohibits opened alcoholic beverages in the passenger area of a motor vehicle. The Class C misdemeanor carries a maximum fine of $500.


Dallas police didn't cite Friedman, and Lt. Rick Watson said Friedman can't be ticketed after the fact because it wasn't witnessed by an officer.
But expect to see more about this little incident when Election Day gets a little closer. Especially as Kinky and fellow independent (formerly Republican, originally Democrat) Carole Keeton Strayhorn fight it out for the votes of non-partisan (or party disenchanted) voters. I fully anticipate a bitter, bloody battle for the Texas Governor's mansion this fall, and Mr. Friedman's outspoken, "let-it-all-hang-out" nature should offer plenty of fuel for an entertaining campaign season between now and then.

Good Grades for Texas

This just in from Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams:
For the second year in a row "Site Selection" magazine has ranked Texas as the number one state in the union for business creation. With 842 expanding or new facilities Texas far outpaced all other states. The state's business friendly tax climate also puts the state among the leaders according to a new study by the Tax Foundation. [PDF file]

Texas would have finished even higher than seventh overall but for the state’s heavy reliance on property taxes which will be resolved when Governor Perry calls the legislature back into special session.
Let's hope the commissioner's crystal ball is not on the blink. Personally, I never tend to expect much from a lame duck session, especially with legislators who have worked so hard in the past to disappoint the electorate.

Marvel Comics Against Racism and Bigotry

I just spotted this really interesting post over my pal Brainster's secondary blog, Silver Age Comics. Growing up, I always had trouble deciding what to spend my meager allowance on each month: the latest Avengers comic or whatever military/war comic looked the most promising. There were usually a few to pick from — Sgt. Rock, Men of War, Our Army at War, Our Fighting Forces — but one of my all-time favorites was always Sgt. Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos of Easy Company. Although I don't remember ever reading this one, the story Pat reviews is the type that kept me coming back to Easy Co. and to Marvel Comics in general, time after time after time. Well, that and the outstanding characters, stories and artwork that defined Marvel's mags in the 60s and 70s.

'Nuff said!

Texas Machete Massacre

Everyone laughed when the "progressive" minded Massachusetts legislature recently introduced a bill requiring citizens to register and license all machetes.
Any individual who requires a machete for the purposes of cutting vegetation shall register the machete with the local police department on an annual basis and, upon payment of an appropriate annual registration fee as determined by the local granting authority, shall be issued a permit authorizing him to possess the machete solely for the purposes of cutting vegetation.
Machete owners across the Bay State will have to find other tools for hacking up annoying neighbors, as this act is now forbidden.

After last night, perhaps Texans should be expecting similar measures, as the Houston machete murder rate rose dramatically in one weekend. (That's an unconfirmed claim, but I'm pretty sure we didn't have a single machete-related killing in the preceding year or two.) Citizens across the state will soon be rising up to demand our own lawmakers do something about this horrible, violent trend. Machete control cannot help but lead to a safer, more peaceful society for all.

Machete owners beware!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Who Says the Media Is Biased?

I just don't see it. I mean ... sure, every now and again a media photo pops up that looks a little questionable. Take this recent Reuters photograph for instance:

I am sure this shot was chosen by the news service solely on the basis of its newsworthiness. The cropping and composition were entirely coincidental. No bias at all.

Uh-huh. Kind of like this one. Or this one. And on the other side of the aisle there are presidential wannabees Hillary, John, and Al. (Actually, I think that last one is from an Internet dating service...)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Religious Insensitivity vs. Freedom of the Press

[Warning: The linked cartoon WILL be found offensive to many, as it was to me.]

You know, I am young enough to still remember my college daze, and the honest belief that so many of my friends bought into of intellectual superiority to anyone older than age 29. But as delusional as we all were at one point or another, I don't think I ever encountered anyone as brazenly stupid as this. (Okay, so maybe that's an exaggeration — I knew quite a few brazenly stupid folks when I was in college.)

The latest edition of The Sheaf, the 94-year-old student newspaper of the Canadian University of Saskatchewan, contained a cartoon that seemingly conflicted with the paper's stand on religious sensitivity. Just last month, the paper's staff made an almost unanimous decision to not publish the Prophet Muhammad cartoons that have caused so much controversy in Europe and around the world in the last few months. The stated reasoning behind their decision was apparently two-fold: respect for the Muslim community, and because publishing the cartoons would not gain the paper anything.

First of all, I have no problem at all with that decision. I have not posted on this subject to date, simply because I have very mixed feelings about the entire issue. I do believe in freedom of the press, although that freedom absolutely must come with a large degree of responsibility that is rarely demonstrated by most of the mainstream media. I believe that the media should have every right to publish such cartoons, even though they are offensive to so many. However, just because you have the right to do something does not necessarily mean that it is right to do it. There is a difference between being politically correct — attempting to never offend anyone — and being sensitive of potentially offensive racial and religious issues. On the other hand, no matter how offensive the cartoons were to the Muslim people, I cannot see any way that the riots, threats, killings and property damage inflicted as protest and retaliation can be acceptable.

What makes the Saskatchewan paper's circumstance stand out, however, is not simply their stance on the Muhammad cartoons. Only a week or two after the decision was made to forego publishing those cartoons out of "religious sensitivity," the same staff published this cartoon [Warning: offensive material] portraying Jesus... well, servicing a "capitalist pig." Respect for one religion (Islam) and disdain for another (Christianity) seems to be a common failing in the diversity and politically correctness of the liberal mindset.

The reason this particular cartoon was published? According to the cartoonist himself, it was again two-fold: first, the cartoon (in his opinion) is just pure funny; second, Christians need to be taught a lesson about how Muslims feel about the Muhammad cartoons. [Emphases added by Songbird.]
My question now is this: how is this blasphemous, deviant, offensive, or worthy of such attacks? Unless you view the actions portrayed in the comic as representative of characters of ill repute, then I see no problem with the joke. And if you see homosexuality, the attempts to adhere to a kosher diet, or being an eager-to-please corporate intern as fiendishly negative, then it seems an open mind and a light heart is the next thing we should all try and look for in our classes. After all, people, I'm sure Jesus had a sense of humour.

Now on that point: did Muhammad the Prophet have a sense of humor? I bet he did. The difference between these two comics (you know the other one) is that the other one was dumb. Yes, that's blunt, but it had no punch line, it had no style, and it was just plain hateful. Bombs are bad, that's pretty straightforward. ...

Further with the comparisons here. One of the points of the recent “Capitalist Pig” comic was this: How many of you thought “Why are those people getting so worked up over that comic? It's only a comic, we Christians wouldn't have done that, no way.” ...

Sometimes we need something to point out to us how others might feel. Racism is a skill we unfortunately learn everywhere, but empathy is harder to come by.
Biggest problem I see with that last argument is this: I have not seen a single report of murdered artists, threatened editors or politicians, demolished property or other riotous activity as a result of this cartoon. A lot of anger and protest, yes. The same can be said for recent cartoons that were equally offensive to Jews. But our reactions have not been violent or destructive. And, luckily for the former Sheaf editor, Canada hasn't yet adopted this type of penalty for such offense.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Muslim reactions over the Muhammad cartoons, and the violence has not been limited to a few extremist individuals.

Almost makes you want to go to France and torch a bunch of cars, doesn't it? Actually, no it doesn't. It just makes me want to weep.

Hat-tip: Pat at Brainster's Blog

Time Is (Not) On Their Side

The Rolling Stones: the ghosts of concerts past
In case the recent attempted revival at the Super Bowl of Mick Jagger and the (barely) Rolling Stones didn't convince you, there is new evidence of the horrible ravages that a life of booze, drugs and never-ending parties will inflict on your body.

Eddie Van Halen: dead or alive?
Former rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen apparently climbed out of the grave last Sunday to appear at one of the many star-studded Hollywood parties surrounding the Oscar weekend.

Anthropologists and medical schools worldwide are reportedly clamoring for the rights to study the musician's mummified remains.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Voters Have Spoken

Well, the primary results are in, and it looks like Republicans have voted for change in Austin. Of the three local state senate races, each had a Republican candidate dedicated to working toward property tax reform (including the lowering of appraisal caps), heightened border security, and the elimination of the blocker bill in the Texas Senate. All three of these candidates won their primary districts handily, without any need for a run-off:

Texas Senate District 7 (NW Harris County)
      Dan Patrick68.82%
Peggy Hamric16.45%
Joe Nixon8.65%
Mark Ellis6.07%
Texas Senate District 3 (Montgomery County)
Robert Nichols54.19%
Dave Kleinman17.98%
Frank Denton15.28%
Bob Reeves12.55%
Texas Senate District 18 (Fort Bend County)
Glenn Hegar54.92%
Gary Gates35.63%
David Stall9.44%

Embattled incumbent Representative Tom DeLay also surprised some pollsters in his overwhelming victory in a four-man contest:

U.S. Representative District 22
Tom DeLay73.45%
Tom Campbell21.44%
Mike Fjetland4.67%
Pat Baig3.36%

And of the four propositions put before all Republican primary voters across the state, all four passed by a landslide!
  • Prop 1: Proposes requirement of photo ID to vote in any Texas election — Yes — 87.76%
  • Prop 2: Prohibit takings of private property — Yes — 93.80%
  • Prop 3: Limit government spending increases with some exceptions — Yes — 89.59%
  • Prop 4: Reduce property tax increase rate to 5% or less — Yes — 91.69%

It will be interesting to see what this summer's lame duck special session will do in light of these results.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Vote Early, Vote Often

Well, not really. But vote nonetheless!

It's Primary Day here in the grand state of Texas! This is the day when your vote counts the most, as voter turnout in primary elections is historically MUCH lower than in normal elections. As a result, each primary vote often counts like anywhere from 12 to 40 votes in a November election. And this is the time that we actually get to make an impact on which candidates will be presented to the voters during the regular election.

If you are still not sure for whom to cast your ballot, check out a few of these links:
  • The Patrick Factor — my recent post about the Texas Senate District 7 race
  • CLOUT Texas — Republican primary endorsements from Citizens Lowering Our Unfair Taxes
  • The Link Letter — candidate interviews, profiles and endorsements by local conservative radio host Terry Lowry
  • Paul Bettencourt — the Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector's endorsement of Jacqueline Lucci Smith
To find out where to vote today, visit the Harris Votes! web site and select which primary you plan to participate in.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Lurch Goes to the Oscars

Lurch and George Clooney: Separated at birth?

During the Academy Awards last night, host Jon Stewart berated everyone equally, including the liberals of Hollywood.
"A lot of people say Hollywood is too liberal... a pleasure dome... a moral black hole... a Sodom and Gomorrah... out of touch with mainstream America.
A little while later, actor George Clooney bounced up on stage to accept an award for Best Supporting Actor, and he took umbrage with Stewart's comments. As always, Ian of Expose the Left has the video, as Clooney expounds on the virtues of "out of touch" Hollywood:
"We are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while, I think. It's probably a good thing. We were the ones who talked about AIDS when it was being whispered. We talked about civil rights when it wasn't really popular. ... This Academy, this group of people, gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theatres. I'm proud to be part of this academy, proud to be part of this community, proud to be out of touch!"
Now to be totally honest, maybe we should point out that Ms. McDaniel's Oscar was for Best Supporting Actress for her role as a plantation slave in the film Gone with the Wind. And perhaps we should ask why such a progressive academy should then wait until the year 2002 to award a black actor or actress the coveted title of Best Actor/Actress, when Halle Berry took home an Oscar for Monster's Ball. And on the issue of Hollywood and the Civil Rights movement, a reader at Captain's Quarters pointed out what Clooney seems to have forgotten:
Who in Hollywood "talked about Civil Rights," and marched with Dr. MLK Jr. in the South, stood in the crowd behind of Dr. King at the "I have a Dream speech" in 1963, like Cloony says, "when it wasn't popular"?

Charlton Heston.
Pretty sad when the liberals of Tinsel Town have to lean on their rejected right wing extremists to prove a point about how progressive they are.

Remember the Alamo!

The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas
Today marks the 170th anniversary of the fall of the Alamo, one of the major milestones in Texas' fight for independence from Mexico.

Some great sites with historic information on the famous Battle of the Alamo:
Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!

1836 Out, Dynamo In

Anyone who lives in Houston and the surrounding area has probably heard more than they want to about the short-lived name of 1836 that was initially selected for the city's new Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise. Anyone who doesn't hasn't really missed anything.

But just to review... Back in December of 2005, the MLS announced the former San Jose, California, team would be moving to Houston with the new moniker 1836, named for the year the city of Houston was founded. Almost immediately, cries of "foul" arose from LULAC and other like-minded racial activist groups, who claimed the name was offensive to locals of Mexican ancestry (or current citizenship) because 1836 was also the year that Texas declared her independence from Mexico.

Quickly caving to the pressure for political correctness, the team announced it would soon be changing its name to something that more closely reflected the diverse nature of its new home city.

Well, after weeks of agonizing over possible names that would be as inoffensive as possible — weeks in which such names as the Toros, the Gatos, and other lame choices were rehashed and reconsidered) — a decision has finally been announced:
It's Dynamo, as in full of energy, a tribute to the city's ties to the oil, gas and other energy industries.

"Dynamo is a word to describe someone who never fatigues, never gives up," franchise president Oliver Luck said.
Doesn't sound like the description of a Houston-based pro sports franchise to me, but...

Initial reactions from Houston fans seems somewhat less than enthusiastic. Blogger Laurence Simon sums it up quite well:

"Developing a brand name and identity for a professional sports team is a pretty detailed process," MLS spokesman Dan Courtemanche said. "It can take a little longer than you expected, especially the legal process."

Apparently, one of the details in the process isn't "Figure out the demographics of your potential fan base and then test-market the name among civic leaders and focus groups to make sure it isn't patently offensive to them for some wacky revisionist-historical reason."

Friday, March 03, 2006

Local Politics: The Patrick Factor

Today marks the last day of early voting before the Texas State Primary Election Day next Tuesday, March 7. If you have not yet participated in the primary, I urge you to either go by an early voting location [PDF file] on your way home from work today, or make plans to vote on Tuesday.

The ultra liberal Austin publication The Texas Observer this month features an article about the Republican primary candidates in the Texas State Senate District 7 (SD7) race, a race which they label "a battle for the soul of the Texas Republican Party."
In a season with no significant contested statewide races on the Republican ballot, the race for the seat vacated by retiring Sen. Jon Lindsay is emerging as a bellwether election. The winner will help determine the direction of the Texas GOP and, since Republicans rule the roost in the Lone Star State, the trend of state politics and policy.
As Songbird has reported in the past, one of the candidates in this race is local talk show radio host Dan Patrick. The Texas Observer article gives what I feel to be a fairly honest and (in my conservative view) very positive description of Candidate Dan:
He combines a take-no-prisoners stance on pocketbook issues — railing against rising property taxes, public subsidies of sports arenas and ballparks, and what he depicts as out-of-control government spending — with an aggressive, born-again Christian message on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. [...snip...] He promises to put an end to politics-as-usual in Austin, attacking the power of lobbyists as well as the clubby atmosphere of the Texas Senate. Taking a stand that sounds uncontroversial here but is jolting to Austin insiders, he calls for elimination of the Senate’s two-thirds rule, which requires the consent of 19 of 31 senators before a bill can be considered on the Senate floor.
Dan's Patrick Pact With Texas outlines his campaign platform and agenda, several points of which have since been adopted by the Texas State Republican Executive Committee. The Executive Committee has since come out in support of Dan, as have upwards of 100 of the Republican precinct chairs in SD7.
At the same time, however, his candidacy is loathed by a significant segment of the party regulars, as well as by powerful business interests. The voters who used to be called “rock-ribbed” Republicans, the party stalwarts who once were the backbone constituency for the late Senator John Tower and former President George H.W. Bush, now find themselves disdained by Patrick as “RINOs,” shorthand for “Republicans In Name Only.”
Of course, two of the most compelling arguments for Dan's candidacy are the non-endorsements of both The Houston Chronicle and the incumbent Senator Jon Lindsay, who is vacating the District 7 post. Both parties are backing candidate Peggy Hamric, but neither endorsement is necessarily a positive thing for Republican primary candidates. The Chronicle is a very liberal-leaning rag, and Sen. Lindsay has been tepid at best on the topics that seem to be at the top of Republican voters this year. He was a major hindrance in last year's fight for property tax reform and appraisal caps, and his record on border issues is lackluster.
“I think he would be terrible in the Senate,” Lindsay says of Patrick in a candid telephone interview. “...I don’t think his agenda would be good for the state of Texas.”
That agenda, of course, includes securing the Texas-Mexico border and providing relief to Texas homeowners through reining in the swelling state budget and lowering property tax appraisal caps to match the normal growth of inflation. (Most Texas homeowners currently average a 10% growth in their appraisal values for property tax purposes, even though the market appraisal values are much lower than that.)
It also galls Lindsay that Patrick has made illegal immigration a front-and-center issue in the campaign. “This is really not a state issue,” Lindsay says, “and you don’t hear him explain how he’d fund it. He’s misleading folks into thinking it’s a black-and-white issue that’s easy to fix, but it would be expensive.”
Unfortunately, this must become a state issue as the federal government and the Office of Homeland Security continues to refuse to offer any solutions to the skyrocketing problem if illegal immigration and the multitude of crimes associated with it.

As the Texas Observer reporter notes,
It's just one seat in the Senate, but the stakes are high for Republicans.
In our eyes, the stakes are high for all Texans. Please exercise your right and power to participate in government by voting for Dan Patrick in this primary election, and please encourage others to do the same.

UPDATE: Lone Star Times highlights an article in yesterday's Dallas Morning News that covers the District 7 race.
It is perhaps the most competitive and expensive legislative race in the state this year — and it’s being watched closely by political experts because of its stable of strong candidates vying to win a seat in the Legislature’s upper chamber. [...snip...]

"It's a nice slice of the modern Republican Party," said Richard Murray, a political science professor at the University of Houston. "There's an insurgent, anti-tax outsider; two established members of the Texas House; and a city councilman who has tried to turn emotional issues like immigration to his advantage."

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Happy Birthday, Texas

Today is Texas Independence Day, the 170th anniversary of the day way back in 1836 when Texas declared her independence from the dictatorial Mexican government led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Less than two months later, Gen. Sam Houston's Texas army defeated the Mexican forces at the Battle of San Jacinto. Santa Anna was captured and within weeks treaties were signed that ceased hostilities and in effect granted independence to the new Republic of Texas. Texas remained an independent, sovereign nation for almost ten years, until her request for annexation to the United States of America was accepted by the Texas and U.S. congresses and ratified by an overwhelming majority by the citizens of Texas. In December of 1845, Texas became the grandest state of this great nation, the only one to have entered as an independent republic.

Happy Birthday, Texas!

For more insight on the wonders of Texas, see Songbird's A Tribute to Texas, or for details on Texas history visit the Handbook of Texas (or here for information specific to the Republic of Texas).

A Little Late

Obviously the "little help from a friend" was even littler (yeah, I know it's not a word) than expected, but I'm finally here. My apologies for the late entrance. Whether it was a miscommunication (as in, I just wasn't listening) or an unexpected absence, I had it in my head that Songbird would not be out until next week. Hopefully this will not be a foreshadowing of the sort of help to be expected in the future.

Anyway, thanks to Songbird for the very kind words, and for the opportunity to contribute to this excellent blog. In spite of the slow start, I will do my best to fill in as needed during Songbird's absences.