Monday, July 31, 2006

Away from the Nest

First of all, thank you to all of you who have offered prayers and good wishes through comments and emails. The thoughts and sentiments are felt, and the prayers are appreciated.

Shebird is not doing well, but we continue to hope for the best. I am back home for the day to take care of things on the homefront and wrap up a few loose ends at the office, then the kids and I will be heading back to Virginia. For the time being, we plan to be back in Houston in time for the start of school. Other than that our plans are fluid.

For the short term, blogging will be on hold here at The Texas Songbird. We do not have internet access at the in-laws', and other more important things are necessarily taking priority at this time. I may ask Pops to post an update from time to time, if the absence is extended. I fervently hope that life will return to "normal" (whatever that may mean) before too long.

Again, thank you to all who have expressed their concern. Please accept my humble apologies for the slow response.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Songbird is out...

Dear friends and family, I just wanted to let everyone know that Songbird will probably not be posting for the next few days. "Shebird" is back in the hospital, and all of his time and focus are currently on her, as they should be.

The grand-kids stayed with us over the weekend, and are currently back at home with their Auntie Kay. She will be staying in town for the short term to help out around the house and such.

Please keep the kids in your prayers. I will try to add an update as we get them.



Thursday, July 13, 2006

Getting Huff-y with the 'Stros

Let's hope this is some good news for the Houston Astros:
HOUSTON (AP) - The Houston Astros acquired third baseman Aubrey Huff from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for two minor league prospects Wednesday, hoping Huff can help revive the Astros' struggling offense. [snip]

"This will give us an offense boost which we sorely need," Astros general manager Tim Purpura said.

The 30-year-old Huff, who went to high school and junior college in Texas, hit .283 with eight home runs and 28 RBIs in 63 games for the Devil Rays this season. He has been the subject of trade speculation each of the past three years.

In his sixth major league season, Huff has a career average of .287 with 128 home runs and 449 RBIs.
The 2005 National League champions have struggled the first half of this season, with an offense that has not even been able to keep up with the lackluster performance of the slumping pitching staff. In spite of that, the Astros are actually in a slightly better position following the All-Star break than they were at this point last year, trailing the St. Louis Cardinals by only six games. Astros management hopes that adding Huff to the equation will give the team a boost as they aim for a repeat of last year's performance. Unfortunately, not everyone will be happy about the trade, as adjustments will be necessary to move the new bat into the rotation.
To make room for Huff, Houston will send outfielder Jason Lane to Triple-A Round Rock. Lane has struggled in the Astros lineup, batting only .205 this season.

Purpura said Huff's arrival could also affect third baseman Morgan Ensberg, who has also struggled at the plate. Besides third base, Huff has also played first base and the outfield.

"Obviously it will cut into (Ensberg's) playing time," he said. "We're in a position where we have to start moving forward. We can't give bats to players because they have been in that spot before. We have to get production and performance out of our players."
"We can't give bats to players [just] because they have been in that spot before." Wow, you never expect to find such words of wisdom coming from the sports arena. Sometimes I wish politics were a little more like baseball. I know of a few old-timers that have been allowed to "play the game out" just because they have held that spot for so long, even though they are way past their prime and their usefulness. (And all too often working from the wrong playbook, as well.)

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Oh Thank Heaven for 7/11!

I find myself wishing for those good old days, when every neighborhood in Houston had a 7-Eleven corner store within walking distance and when the biggest decision you had to make each month was whether to blow the monthly allowance on candy and pop or a couple of 12¢ comic books. (The comic books almost invariably won out!)

If you happen to be located somewhere outside of Houston (where the convenience store chain closed its doors several years ago) and you find yourself suffocating in today's repressive July heat — or you just want to enjoy a quick free-bie — swing by the nearest 7-Eleven on your way home from work today.
Every year, July 11 marks the day that the world's No. 1 convenience retailer observes its birthday. This year is 7-Eleven's 79th year in business, longer than any other convenience retailer in the world. To celebrate, participating 7-Eleven® stores across America will serve up 3 million free 7.11-ounce Slurpee® drinks in special "Happy Birthday!" cups to customers as long as the cups last.
Of course, if you happen to be in Delaware, make sure you have at least "a slight Indian accent" or you aren't allowed to enter a 7-Eleven. According to Sen. Joe Biden, that is.

World Cup High Jinks

If you saw any news at all over the weekend, you probably saw this clip from the World Cup Final match, where France's Zidane head-butted Italy's Materazzi and was subsequently thrown out of the game.

Last night Jay Leno had the funniest observation I have yet heard about the incident. According to Leno, Italy...
...won after France's best player got ejected for head butting. That's the closest anyone in a French uniform has come to combat in 60 years. Can you believe that? I mean, the French finally find somebody who's willing to fight, and they kick him out!

UPDATE: Here is another video of the confrontation from a different camera angle, close-up and at field level.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Calling the Kettle Black

President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" education reform has had its share of opponents since it was passed by Congress in 2001. Few individuals or organizations have been more vocal in its opposition than the NEA, which holds that the law is "fundamentally flawed," and which has hounded the president and supporters of the law steadily over the past five years.
The law's critics cried foul in 2005, when documents revealed that the Bush administration paid TV and radio commentator Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote it on his syndicated programs. The revelations led to a government-wide inquiry.
Interestingly enough, it turns out the administration is not the only party to put its money into swaying public opinion.
A report to be released today by the group Education Sector says the National Education Association (NEA) has given at least $8.1 million to education, civil rights and policy groups that have opposed or criticized No Child Left Behind, Bush's far-reaching and controversial effort to reform public schools.
Now that's the pot calling the kettle pitch, sable, ebony and as many other forms of black as Mr. Rogett could ever dream of.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Celebrating Independence

I just read the best 4th of July post I have ever seen, and wanted to share it with my own friends and readers. Blogger "FLYTHEMIG29" of Those Wacky Iraqis has been there, done that, and really understands the reason we celebrate Independence Day. Please take the time to give this post a good read.
To me the 4th of July has become intensely personal. ... It was the best 4th of July I could imagine. Nothing public, just the back yard. Everything I need in the world was in that back yard. Everything our founding fathers dreamed of was in that back yard. The reason we are in the fight in Iraq was in that back yard. Yep, it was the 4th of July all right and it was just what I needed.
An intensely personal and exremely educational post, I have already emailed it to the several employees and co-workers who expressed dismay at the simple, private holiday celebration I described from the Songbird household this year. No parades, no fireworks, no loud parties or raucous houseguests. Just family, homecooked food and a lot of good ol' togetherness, with a rash of thankful prayer mixed in for seasoning.


Some Days You're the Frog

Ever have one of those days?

Photo by Pawan Kumar, Reuters

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Queen Moonbat Shrieks Again

While she looks no worse than usual, her ongoing hunger strike is obviously taking a mental toll on "America's most outspoken anti-war activist," Cindy Sheehan. The Moonbat Queen appeared on MSNBC last night, where guest Hardball hostess Norah O'Donnell grilled her over views which even the liberal media often find a bit extreme.

Here are some of the better exchanges from the interview:
O'DONNELL: Americans may hate the war, but they don't necessarily hate the president. How do you expect to get change by going around the world and trashing the president of the United States?

SHEEHAN: Actually, I don't hate the president, either. And I don't trash the president; I trash the president's foreign policy, which is fundamentally and inherently wrong and immoral. ...

O'DONNELL: But you called him "the biggest terrorist in the world." So you are trashing the president.

SHEEHAN: Well, you know, he says a terrorist is somebody who kills innocent men, women and children, and there have been over 100,000 innocent men, women and children killed in Iraq on his orders.

O'DONNELL: Cindy, you have just begun a two-month hunger strike. Isn't this really just more of a publicity stunt?

SHEEHAN: No, actually it's not. It's a moral reaction to an immoral war. Thousands of people all over the world are joining us. And hunger strikes have proven to be effective tools in civil disobedience and changing policy.

O'DONNELL: But do you honestly expect Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or the president of the United States to say, "Cindy Sheehan is going on a hunger strike and so I'm going to end this war?"

O'DONNELL: Would you rather live under Hugo Chavez than George Bush?

SHEEHAN: Yes. You know, Hugo Chavez is not a dictator like you introduced him. He's been democratically elected eight times, and he's not anti-American. ... He has helped the poor people of America. He has sent aid to New Orleans. He has sold heating oil to disadvantaged people in America, in the United States of America at low cost, and he — the people of this country love him.
O-kaaaayyyy. Thank you, Cindy. (Where are those men in the pretty white coats when you really need them?)

You can watch the entire segment at Expose the Left; those who tend to suffer from migraines or weak stomachs may prefer to browse the transcripts instead.

Expose the Left also has video footage of Sheehan's patriotic Fourth of July outing, at which she labeled American troops as rapists and war criminals:
We are here to declare independence from war and occupation and oppression. We are standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the American coalition, and Iraqis don't have enough water to drink, who don't have enough food to eat, who can get killed when they go to the marketplace to shop for their families, who can get raped by our soldiers just living, whose families can be killed. This war is a war crime and soldiers trying to survive are committing war crimes.
I for one am hopeful that Sheehan's dedication to her "moral reaction" hunger strike is as unwavering as her hatred of President Bush and the American military.

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Teaching an Old ISD New Tricks

As amazing as it seems, it appears someone at the TEA was actually using their brains for once this week.
A Katy teacher fired after Scotch taping the mouths of her students must be reinstated or paid her $40,000 annual salary, a Texas Education Agency official ruled in a case that raised questions about how teachers discipline their students.
In case you don't remember the facts of the case, elementary school teacher Jennifer Silva was disciplined and dismissed earlier this year for placing scotch tape over the mouths of several garrulous members of her second grade classroom.
Silva admitted taping the mouths of a handful of students after trying several other methods to get them to work quietly. She appealed to the students to control their own behavior, marked some discipline cards and issued repeated reminders to quiet down.

Some parents praised Silva for being creative in her discipline approach, saying the district overreacted in firing her.

Other parents criticized Silva, saying she overstepped her authority as a teacher. They called for her immediate removal from the classroom.
As a parent, I can say that I whole-heartedly support Ms. Silva both in her attempts to regain her teaching position and in her original endeavors to discipline and educate her students. By placing two strips of tape over the children's mouths, she neither injured nor endangered the students. (I know this because my own children have on numerous occasions applied tape to their own skin for one silly reason or another, and have attempted to use the tape-over-the-mouth routine to try to silence annoying siblings. It doesn't usually work, but it also doesn't hurt.)

Instead, what she attempted to do was to draw attention to the recurring problem in a way that was both humorous (assumedly to both the offending chatters and the rest of the class) and at the same time demonstrative of the problem and the solution. In the Songbird household, if we discovered that a teacher of one of our "little angels" had to resort to such an action, the entire family would have gotten a good laugh about it. After a little home disciplining was applied to discourage a repeat offense.

But in too many households in today's overly permissive society, parents disdain any actions by teachers or school administrators that might threaten their child's self esteem. And the school administrators seem to agree with such a stance. Not only is classroom discipline expressly forbidden, but many are pushing to remove such atrocities as grades, scores (showing winners vs. losers) in athletic events, and anything else that might set one child above another as a result of effort, talent or intelligence.

Not surprisingly, these same parents who refuse to allow the education system to discipline their kids are all too often the very same ones who seem to rely on the schools to teach morals and values to their children, blaming teachers when their little angels fail to succeed or grow up with major behavioral problems.

Perhaps if more teachers were allowed to apply a little scotch tape in class, our classrooms might be a little more productive and might maintain an atmosphere more conducive to education. I wonder if Ms. Silva would be willing to expend a few strips of that tape to the parents, as well.

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Another Delay on Texas Ballots

Or more accurately, the same DeLay. And his name is Tom.
The Texas Republican Party cannot replace former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay on November's ballot, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled today.

The Texas Democratic Party sued to keep the indicted Sugar Land Republican on the ballot because party officials believed that their candidate Nick Lampson could more easily defeat DeLay instead of a GOP replacement.

Sparks' order prevents state Republican Chairwoman Tina Benkiser from completing the process of naming a DeLay successor.
The entire issue revolves around state and federal election laws, and just exactly where (and when) DeLay's legal residency is established. According to the Statesman, "Under state law, a political party cannot replace a nominee who resigns in mid-election."

State Republicans argued that DeLay had changed his legal residency to Virginia, making him ineligible to run and bypassing the above prohibition, but District Judge Sparks ruled that the U.S. Constitution only specifies the residency requirement as of election day. (Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that "No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.") And since that date is still in the future, no legal ruling regarding DeLay's residency as of this November's election day can be determined at this time.

Of course, it didn't help that the DeLay family still owns and maintains their "former residence" in Sugar Land, Texas.
Lawyers for the Democratic Party ... noted that DeLay testified his wife was still living at their Sugar Land residence and that they subpoenaed him for his court appearance at that house.
D'oh! Note to DeLay: in the future, please disregard all mail and other correspondence received at former address.

The state Republican Party is expected to appeal Sparks' decision to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, but if that fails then DeLay will remain on the ballot this November. In that case, let's hope he will actually put forth some effort to campaign. It likely would not take too great an effort for the former House majority leader to beat Democrat Nick Lampson (who does not even live in the disputed House district), but an indifferent showing might tip the scales in the Democrat's favor.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Kentucky Guards the Border

The Associated Press reported last week that the governor of Kentucky has agreed to send a contingent of the Kentucky National Guard to help patrol the southern border.
Kentucky will send up to 650 National Guard troops to patrol the U.S. border with Mexico under an agreement signed by Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

Fletcher said the soldiers could be deployed by July under a memorandum of agreement with several other states.

Fletcher said the troops will not be permanently used for immigration patrols. "It will be on a rotational basis for a short period of time — maybe for several weeks," Fletcher said. "Then they'd come back and we'd have another group go down."
There is no word yet on whether the Guard troops being deployed will include canine units utilizing the state's prized breed of hunting dogs.

Kentucky National Guarddogs

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A Rocky Ending a long, drawn out story. Close one chapter to the Enron saga:
Former Enron CEO Ken Lay has died of a massive heart attack in Aspen.

He was there with his family awaiting sentencing for his fraud and conviction.
According to the Houston Comical, Lay and wife Linda were vacationing at their Colorado property near Aspen when "his heart simply gave out." (Many Houston residents have since expressed surprise and dismay that he even had a heart.) No one in the local or national media seems to be asking the obvious question yet: If the Lays are as broke as they have been whining about for the past year or so, how is it they are still able to vacation in Aspen?

Of course, as recently as six weeks ago Lay was still professing his innocence of the fraud and conspiracy charges.
"I firmly believe I'm innocent of the charges against me,'' Lay said outside the courthouse [immediately following his conviction]. "We believe God is in fact in control and indeed he does work all things for good for those who love the Lord.''

Both men were expected to receive lengthy prison sentences in an Oct. 23 hearing before U.S. District Judge Sim Lake.
Lay had said more than once that he believed he would not spend a day in jail. One has to wonder if perhaps this is not quite what he had in mind.

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