Friday, December 22, 2006

Have a Bizzy Christmas

Clement Clarke Moore wrote the poem, "'Twas the night before Christmas," also called “A Visit from St. Nicholas," in 1822. It is now the tradition in many American families to read the poem every Christmas Eve…and on this eve of Christmas Eve eve, we thought it appropriate to appropriate the poem to our own purposes, with a rthymic look behind the scenes at The Biz Radio Network Broadcasting Complex & Deli.

So, with apologies to the estate of Clement Moore, and it’s attorneys, we present:

It’s the week before Christmas,
and the nation’s a-flutter
On prices of gasoline, oil, guns, and butter.

Our stockings are made in China with care,
In hopes that trade tariffs will no longer be there.

Wall Street bankers are nestled, all snug in their suites,
With visions of bonuses to spend—oh, what a treat!

Ben Bernanke is in office, the Fed governors, too…in hopes their predictions on the economy come true.

On Capitol Hill, November’s brought such a clatter, but Congress is split over weightier matters—

The War in Iraq, Iran and the ‘Stan’s,
And IM’s and e-mails, and Hillary’s plans.

The landscape is tainted by issues of class
And fencing our borders to let no one pass.

Then, what to our wondering ears should appear,
But a mini-oasis in the midst of confusion and fear.

With a little old Moneyman, an investor accomplished…
You know in a moment it must be St. Frish.

More rapid than tickers, his opinions inflame, he heckles and shouts, and he calls them by name:

“Now Karl! Now Richard! Now Tobin, Janjigian!
Oh, Mit, get Dick Morris! Elisea is missing~

“To the top of the Nasdaq! To the top of the Dow!
The market is moving, into which your money let’s plow!”

There are more elves that make up this merry biz band:
Brent Clanton each morning is waving his hand.

Buddy Cantu leads the Biz Radio Orchestra and Chorus, And Kristina joins in, her voice rich and sonorous.

Michael Norman extols the virtues of being averse, Jack and John continually square off and rehearse

The markets’ numbers, and meaning to those on Main Street, And Ray Lucia's Brain Trust is pretty tough to beat.

Del Walmsley says it’s lifestyle, not money that matters, and Jack Bouroudjian smoothes the nervousness from investors in tatters.

At last in the line up, Daniel Frishberg enthralls,
The protector of the innocent investor, he calls…

So on to the markets, investors pursue,
With a studio full of talkers, and The Moneyman, too.

He’s dressed in polyester from his head to his foot.
His clothes aren’t that tarnished, they just don’t fit really good.

There’s a bevy of beauties surrounding his stand,
Who assist in performing the show he commands.

He scans all the markets with a click of his mouse;
The party is ON when Dan’s in the house.

His eyes -- how they twinkle—his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks are like roses, his nose like a cherry!

He has a longish face and not much of a belly
And he wheezes when he laughs like a fist-ful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
But Keith Klein straightened him out, in spite of himself.

Each afternoon at 4, there’s a gathering crowd
The promo says they murmur, but not very loud.

And when he’s finished each night, after six,
He reads over his notes and the stocks that he picks.

Then he springs to his Benz, and to Elisea gives a whistle, and away they both go like the down of a thistle.

And you’ll hear him exclaim, as he drives out of sight: There’s an old saying about hands in the cookie jar...but it’s Christmas, so good night.

I will be taking time off to be with my family between Christmas and New Year's; there will be a best-of show on the day after Christmas, and Jack Warkenthien will fill the broadcast booth for me the rest of the week.

I'll see you on the year!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

No Doubt About it...

"Doubt 'til thou canst doubt no more...
doubt is thought and thought is life.
Systems which end doubt are devices for drugging thought."
--Albert Guerard

We're ending 2006 with the United States on a fast track to oblivion with poor academics and public school systems unable to produce graduates capable of competing in a global economy.

The President’s “no child left behind” plan was a good concept, but it’s not working…imposing system of accountability that results in teachers orienting their curriculum towards passing the test, not achieving in the real world.

As a result, there are 600 schools in Texas now suspected of fudging their TAKS test scores, and school districts all over the country more focused on political correctness and performance review outcomes than academic excellence—which is ironic because both of the former would be improved by boosting the latter.

Not to tar and feather all schools with the same broad brush, there are some schools in every district in the state with dedicated faculties producing exceptional scholars; the next generation is not in a complete dire situation. But one cannot help but wonder how much better things might be, were educators less concerned with some really stupid stuff.

This week one of my co-workers took a little time off to attend his son’s holiday program at school. Not a Christmas program, though, so as not to be offensive to some; no, this was couched as a “winter festival.”

I think it’s pretty sad that the next generation of kids is being raised without full exposure to the magic of Christmas.
Winter Festival??
C’mon—how antiseptic can you get?

If you need more proof that the education system has run off the rails, last month, a 4-year old pre-schooler in Texas was accused of sexual harassment for hugging his teacher…and this morning I read of a kindergarten boy in Maryland who will now have on his school record a blot of sexual harassment for pinching a little girl on the bottom.

No, children should be taught to not pinch one another, regardless of gender. But, c’mon, a five-year old charged with sexual harassment??
How do you even begin to explain that to the child?

You and I should be full of righteous indignation that our tax dollars are being funneled in-part to the salaries of the educrats that foment this kind of idiotic thinking, at the expense of teaching fundamentals necessary for getting along in life.

Let’s have a little less projection of evil intentions on innocent, ignorant little kids, and a lot more solid, academic building blocks presented in the classroom. A little less worry about ‘infecting’ kids with the idea of Christmas, and a little more influence to ask and question and wonder about the world.

If my grandchildren ever come to me with an invitation to their school’s “winter festival,” I may just have to show up in a Grinch costume to confront the principal.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Doggone it!

Never say never.

A year ago, you may recall, I went on record as saying no dog would be allowed to live under my roof, within the confines of my house. We had just moved into a new home, with fresh carpet and paint, and that clean smell of lemon oil and fresh flowers.

Didn’t want dog poop in the rugs, or pee stains on the carpeting.
Didn’t want chewed shoes and gnawed-on furniture.
Didn’t have a yard large enough for an outdoor dog to be happy, either, and was against that anyway, since I wasn’t too keen on having dog paths rutted along the fence lines.

You may also recall that one year ago, I was facing cancer surgery, so my somewhat pessimistic, intractable nature was forgivable.

Never underestimate the power of a mother-daughter-niece conspiracy, nor the pure ability of a dependant, small animal to melt the coldest resolves.

While I was recuperating from surgery, these women were plotting to overthrow the edict of the king, a prisoner of foley bags and pain killers. They researched, they shopped, they talked to vets and breeders, and on a cold weekend in February they obtained a 2-pound ball of black and gold fur, dubbed “Dazzle.”

My daughter was so afraid of defying me that she took the dog to my niece’s house and spent two nights there. On the third day she meekly came to my bedside with “Dazzle” tucked inside her jacket, with nothing but its furry face showing, and conducted our first introduction.

I’ve had dogs since I was a kid.
My first dog was a mixed-breed with some kind of German Shepherd heritage that we had to get rid of after a few years. She developed an allergy to St. Augustine grass and an affinity for cedar shake shingles siding on the house.

The next dog was a pure-bred German Shepherd pup for which my dad paid $50 and traded a long-bow to the breeder in North Harris County. “Jim,” the dog, not my dad, contracted encephalitis during an epidemic in the ‘60’s, and had to be put down.

“Rommel” was the next German Shepherd puppy, the runt of the litter from a dog owned by a great aunt in Montgomery County. Rommel used to ride around in the car with me, tongue dripping slobber down the side of the car door as he held his face into the wind.

Rommel lived a long happy dog-life at my dad’s house after I moved away from home, and was beloved by the entire family--even my mom, who does not like animals. One spring morning, Rommel laid down under a plum tree for a nap…and never woke up.

When my father found him, he was still laying under that tree with pink plum blossoms littering his dark coat.
I cried when I got the news from my mom.

But they were all outdoor dogs.
We never had indoor animals.
When our kids were in Junior High, we acquired a black Chow puppy with a little purple tongue. Two years later he was joined by a curly-haired black Cocker Spaniel named Duke, and the two frolicked together in our large back yard. When I began to come home in the evenings and regularly find the water and food bowls empty, I gave the inseparable pair to a co-worker who agreed to accept them as a package deal.

No more animals, I vowed.

Now you know why I was adamant about no dogs.
Too much trouble, I feared, suspecting I would again be the final buffer between a pet and starvation. And to myself, I admitted, I feared another emotional attachment to an animal I knew I would immediately love.
That was what these scheming, conniving women were counting on.
They were right.

So when my daughter entered the room with a tuft of black fur and two gleaming eyes peeking out of her jacket, I melted.

“Dazzle” completely captivated us all, and now will frequently bound onto our bed and snuggle under the covers between my bride and I, with a small, satisfied sigh signifying she’s completely contented.
So are we.

When our daughter announced she would be moving into a house in February, my wife was shattered. We assumed Dazzle would stay with us, since our daughter would otherwise have to keep the dog in a kennel during the day while she worked.
The dog goes with her.

To avert an emotional crisis, we initiated a search for a temporary companion for Dazzle and my bride, and a permanent replacement pet when our daughter moves away.

So on a lazy Saturday afternoon in the back of a dusty blue van at a gas station in Central Texas, we met the next melter of hearts, another fur ball of energy and wonderment—and if our kids don’t get on the stick, our next grandbaby.

“Sophie” rode home in the arms of my wife, who has already bonded with the animal, and the animal with her. They are inseparable... and Dazzle has gotten used to the idea, too.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Texas Trekking

4:30p Saturday
Caldwell, Texas--She drove up in a faded blue Ford Aerostar with no seats in the back, and a carpet remnant covering the rear floor. A half-dozen mini-dust devils danced in the wake of the van as it rolled through the parking lot, wheezing to a stop on the shady side of a gas station convenience store at the intersection of HWY 21 and some nameless farm-to-market road, 4-miles west of town.

We didn’t mind the dust, or the relative heat, although the shade from the relentless December sun was a relief. Where else but Texas can you run in your shirtsleeves a week before Christmas? We took advantage of the mild weather to take “the scenic route” to see a woman about a dog.
No euphemism here—that was the business at hand.

The transition from Texas Prairie to Hill Country is gentle in the rolling hills between Hempstead and Brenham. We chose a different route that trekked north from Magnolia to the Plantersville junction on HWY 105. That rolling ribbon of bleached asphalt gently snakes its way west to the historic town of Navasota, takes a dog-leg along HWY 6 for a mile, then westward towards Brenham.

This country is the birthplace of Texas.
The road signs proclaim it in no uncertain terms, and the highway flirts with Washington-on-the-Brazos, just a few miles to the south. Just before Brenham, there’s a turn out for HWY 390, “La Bahia” scenic highway. That’s where we separated from the Saturday afternoon parade of pickup-trucks with horse trailers and flatbeds loaded with hay.

North on 390 through more undulating hills with higher tops and deeper valleys, we took a 90-degree turn to the west, towards another historic little town, Independence, Texas.
There are several old stone buildings here, and out a ways from town, a few genteel houses with soaring columns and white picket fences. You can almost hear a stage coach team rumbling towards you over the crest of the next hill…but it’s only a Dodge Ram pickup with a Cummins Diesel, spewing dark smoke from more horses than a stage coach team ever conceived possible.

Just west of the intersection of HWY 390 with HWY 50 are the ruins of the original Baylor College. Four stone columns stand at attention on a windy hill top, dotted with giant live oaks shading the ruins of a kitchen and a couple of outbuildings. The scenic route lives up to its name, winding and rolling west towards HWY 36, where we re-join the mainstream weekend traffic heading north to Lake Sommerville.

This was not a short cut.
But with a brilliant sky and temps flirting with 80-degrees, dropping the top on my “red sled” was a no-brainer as we soaked up the Texas countryside in our 187-horse open sleigh. No snow to dash through, thank goodness, and we arrived in Caldwell early enough to have a little daylight in which to make our meeting.

What was in the back of that blue Aerostar?
Tell you later.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Get Well SOON

South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson is recovering from emergency brain surgery, while the incoming Democratic-controlled Congress is burning candles, reciting rosaries, and earnestly praying for his full recovery. They have a vested interest in the outcome.

The Senate Democrats have a razor-thin 51-49% majority…and if Senator Johnson cannot complete his term, his senate seat would be filled by gubernatorial appointment.

The governor of South Dakota, Mike Rounds, who is a Republican, would most likely appoint a politically-kindred spirit as Sen. Johnson’s replacement, evening the Senate scoreboard to 50-50 Democrat to Republican.

With Vice President Dick Cheney holding the tie-breaker vote, control of the Senate would revert to the Republicans.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wax-on, Wax-off

We are back on the air in Dallas this morning after a bit of an interruption yesterday….those of you watching Channel 4 last night saw the story of Copper Thieves who struck the transmitter site of our Dallas-Ft. Worth Affiliate, BizRadio1360 on Tuesday night…

Our special thanks to Multicultural Radio Broadcasting Inc’s Market Manager Ted Sauceman, his Engineer, Juan Benitez, and the crew from Broadcast Tools who worked tirelessly to get our affiliate back on the air by midday yesterday.

According to Sauceman, here's the chronology of the crime:

4:50 AM: The cable thieves cut the telephone cable killing the audio to the transmitter.

5:00 AM: A Silence Sense unit activates and starts playing the Biz Radio backup disk.

5:10 AM: The Spanish board operator on duty cannot figure out why he's hearing an English-language program, and calls Benitez, who discovers he has no telemetry control of the transmitter (because the phone lines have been sliced); Benitez sets out for the transmitter site to effect a manual change to the Spanish-language back-up audio disk.

5:25-5:35: Benitez drives to the transmitter while simultaneously calling Sauceman at home. During this period, the Mensa's cut into a 440-volt power cable feeding the A/C unit and, in addition to getting the shock of their life, blow the main breaker, killing all building power, and knocking the station off the air completely.

5:40: Sauceman heads to the KMNY studios in Duncanville to turn on a backup studio-to-transmitter link to get live audio on the air.

5:50: Benitez calls to say that the power is now off at the transmitter building. Only the equipment in the racks is working on the battery backup unit.

5:52: Sauceman reports the outage to Broadcast Works who sends an engineer (later 2) to work on the problem.

The perps had cut all cables leading to the generator, but could not get them disconnected from the generator end because of the arrival of Juan Benitez on the scene. They carved out about 80- feet of the 100-pair telephone cable, but because they were interrupted, left it coiled on the ground near Tower 4, along with the copper feed line to tower 4.

Thanks to the timely arrival of Benitez...and most likely someone getting the shock of their life from the 440-volt line...they left their bolt cutters and a saw that they were going to use to cut the conduit holding the cable to the generator.

All they got away with was about 50 feet of copper strap from Tower 4, the lightening-arc-ball unit, and the ground wire from the building to earth ground. They were stripping the cover from the ground wire when they were interrupted.

Sauceman suspects these people will return to get the rest.
There's a welcoming committee waiting for them.
MRBI has hired an armed guard from 6PM to 6AM, who will sit at the site with the Safety off.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Earning Parity

Goldman Sachs posted a 93-percent increase in net income, outperforming analysts' expectations with a $9.4-billion in profit on revenue of $37.6 billion for its fiscal year.
93% increase in net income??
That's a lot of starch.

Where are the calls for congressional investigations?
Where are the demands for windfall profit taxes for brokerages?

Amazing, isn’t it—that both the oil business and the finance industry produce the lubricants of commerce—oil and money.
Both are vital for national defense.
Yet, why are companies like Exxon-Mobil and Conoco-Phillips targeted for congressional scrutiny of their books when they have positive earnings, while Goldman Sachs and its bretheren on Wall Street are impervious to the same criticism?

Oil companies in the S&P 500 last year had earnings increases of only 48%...working in some pretty skanky parts of the world, I might add.

Notice there are no Goldman Sachs branch offices in Nigeria…and when was the last time you heard about a brokerage executive being kidnapped?

Exxon’s people are producing a vital product while being shot at.

So why no retributions for profits of 93% in the financial sector?

I’ll tell you why—it’s because the oil companies are cheap targets for attention grabbers and headline framers. It's easy to sell papers and pump audiences when you're beating up on Big Oil:
Oooh—Big Oil, always out to gouge the little guy.
They’re charging too much at the pump, and it must be a conspiracy!

What about Big Money?

And there’s the good ol’ boy connection between Wall Street and Washington that cannot go ignored: Do you believe it’s an accident that Treasury Sec’y Hank Paulson made the leap from Goldman’s executive floor to Pennsylvania Ave. on his good looks alone?

The Treasury Dept. functions to formulate and recommend economic, financial, tax, and fiscal policies, and serves as the financial agent for the U.S. Government.
Paulson is imminently qualified for the role.
He probably took a cut in pay to take the job.
The continuing connection from Washington to Wall Street cannot be ignored.

Meanwhile, the financial brokers on Wall Street do everything they can to relieve you of your money with fees and schemes and methods for extracting their pound of flesh in every transaction that occurs…so much so that they amass obscene (93%) profits and heap bonuses upon themselves that would make the rest of us blush.
Or should.

But there are no investigations.
A few wrist slaps here and there…and when one of their own steps way out of line at the pay window—like Dick Grasso—a few face-saving measures are taken.

I don’t think we’re going to see Dick Grasso standing in a soup line anytime soon, however. Nor will Lee Raymond be worrying about holes in his clothes this winter, either.

But there is a double standard about success in this country—and apparently there are acceptable levels of performance for one industry that are worthy of reproach when achieved by others.

KMNY Off the Air?

If you've been trying to listen to The BizRadio Network in Dallas or Ft. Worth this morning, you're having troubles. That's because the KMNY transmitter is off the air, thanks to copper vandals striking the site once again.

Copper has been selling for over $3/pound lately, and that's too much of a temptation to some thieves. They've targeted construction sites, air conditioner units...and radio transmission cables. The last time this happened, all it took was a step ladder and wire-cutters to snag a length of multi-strand cable near the transmitter site.

I hope the thugs who knocked the transmitter off the air this time sustained some bodily injuries, because they also killed the power supply to the site. A few electrical burns would be just retribution, perhaps some IR burns, too.

Might be easy to catch these guys--most likely, they're still glowing in the dark.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

International Intelligence

Here is a story that should chill you to the bone as a global investor: Watch for the outcome as Shell is forced by the Russian government relinquish its share of the world's biggest liquefied gas project.

What does this say about the Kremlin's willingness to use the country's natural resources as a political weapon?

You can only imagine the pressure Moscow put on Royal Dutch Shell to cut its stake in the Sakhalin-2 gas pipeline in eastern Russia in favor of the state-owned energy group Gazprom.

Obviously, Russia is not above poisoning its relationships with multi-national companies, as well as dissident ex-spies.

The new chairman of the Intelligence Committee does not have a basic working knowledge of the players in the Middle East conflict…

Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, chosen by incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to head the Intelligence Committee, is showing a shocking level of ignorance on basic questions about al Qaeda and Hezbollah

When asked whether al Qaeda is one or the other of the two major branches of Islam -- Sunni or Shiite -- Reyes said "they are probably both," then ventured, "predominantly -- probably Shiite."

(Buzzer) Nope.

Al Qaeda was founded by Osama bin Laden as a Sunni organization and views Shiites as heretics.

Sen. Reyes could also not answer questions about Hezbollah, a Shiite group on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations that is based in Southern Lebanon.

Would you not expect the Commissioner of Baseball to know the difference between the Rangers and the Astro's? Why not the same, basic level of working knowledge about the terrorism game, as head of the Intelligence Oversight Committee?

How can you have the respect of the people you work with…or how effective can you be in providing leadership without a working knowledge of not just the basics, but also the myriad nuances of the international terrorism players?

Those of you who were dissatisfied with the performance of the Republican leadership in Congress…and wanted change:
Gotta be careful what you ask for.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Middle East Thirty-Years War?

It is somewhat oxymoronic that in this period of “peace on earth, good will towards men,” 42-US soldiers have already given their lives this month in the conflict in Iraq, and the leaders of the Arab world have grave concerns any peaceful outcome to the regional conflict is near.
We discussed this morning with Christoph Amberger the stark reality that the United States military complex may have gone after a hornet with a flyswatter in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Thousands of tanks, Humvees, personnel carriers and mechanized artillery pieces—vestiges of battle planning from a different era—now await repairs or rebuilds at Army Depots all over the country.
These casualties are the survivors.
There are other, untold hundreds of similar machines that have been immolated by IED’s and artillery hits…and still, the fighting rages on with no resolution near.

The usual players—Ratheon, Northrop-Grumman, General Dynamics, and Stewart & Stevenson, et al, will be kept busy fixing this inventory of The Broken Battalion, either for redeployment by the US Military, or sold off to buyers on the surplus market, only to fight another day under another flag. Even if the U.S. pulls out the majority of combat troops and materiel from Iraq in 2008, the fighting will simply continue on a different scale, under different flags, weapons supplied from different sources.

Saudi King Abdulla told a congress of Gulf Leaders over the weekend that their world is “on the brink of exploding” because of the continuing strains between various factions in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Territories.

He correctly identifies the makings for more war on a broader scale, one that could envelope not just the U.S., but also the U.K., Russia, and the Chinese interests in the region. There is also a real fear that some opportunistic, nouveau head of state could enter the fray in any of the possible theatres of the middle eastern war--not as a problem solver, but a profiteer--leaving the region less stable, less willing, and less able to reconcile with its neighbors.

This inability for the Middle Eastern Hatfield’s and McCoy's to reconcile is a weakness that could be exploited by a more ruthless conqueror, one who recognizes that the only common denominator understood by jihadists is complete annihilation, and willing to accommodate all factions in achieving their martyrdom. In the vacuum that would result, what new leadership might emerge?

Amberger describes the ongoing situation centered in Iraq as the 21st-Century equivalent to the Thirty Years War that engulfed Central Europe. Quoting from one of my favorite resources, Wikipedia:

"The Thirty Years' War was fought between 1618 and 1648, principally on the territory of today's Germany, and involved most of the major European continental powers.
Although it was from the outset a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics, the rivalry between the Habsburg dynasty and other powers was also a central motive, as shown by the fact that Catholic France even supported the Protestant side, increasing France-Habsburg rivalry.

The impact of the Thirty Years' War and related episodes of famine and disease was devastating. The war may have lasted for 30 years, but the conflicts that triggered it continued unresolved for a much longer time.

Sound familiar?
The Thirty Years' War ended with the Treaty of Westphalia, which also ended the Eighty Years War, and is often cited as the point or origin for modern principles of states’ sovereignty and the fundamental right of political self-determination.

I’ve often wondered what, if directed in a positive fashion, the collective energies being expended in the Middle East for killing cousins, could achieve, if directed for peace, collaborative industry, and mutual assurance of safe, free trade in the region.

Could it ever be possible that with commerce breaking out, instead of killing, the peoples of the region would be kept too busy doing business to build bombs?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

'Tis the Season...

Ah, the spirit of Christmas!
When a Jewish Rabbi complained about Christmas Trees on display at the Seattle-Tacoma airport, and demanded a Menorah be displayed for religious balance, the airport responded by taking down the trees.
There’s your religious balance.
Merry Stinking Christmas.

Meanwhile, Iran is hosting a two-day conference on The Holocaust, ostensibly to determine the validity of history.
So, if Iran determines the Holocaust never happened, what will they call it?

Speaking of hatred, embattled, out-going Georgia Rep. Cynthia “Slap-gate” McKinney ended her inglorious term in Congress by filing a bill to impeach the President.

This is the same congresswoman who also lead panels to investigate whether 9-Eleven was conspired by President Bush, and sought disclosure for any government records related to the shooting of rapper Tupac Shakur.

She was most-recently considered as a contestant for WWF "Raw" when she slapped a government security worker who failed to recognize her--and grant access to her office building-- without her badge.

Congress is a better place with the exit of Cynthia McKinney.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Thanks for Nothing

A Government Accounting Office estimate that $1-billion in improper FEMA payments were made in the aftermath of last summer’s storms may be understated…and most of the money is unrecoverable.

Examples of the abuse/obliviousity include the loss of 42 out of 145 laptops bought to help with FEMA operations during the hurricanes. These are now presumed lost or stolen. Many Global Positioning System tracking devices were also lost or stolen.

FEMA gave $17 million in housing assistance to people who had already obtained free trailers or apartments, and $20 million that went to those who improperly claimed for help for both storms. Perhaps Congress, always in the mood to tax someone else's windfall profits, could tap double-dippers from Texas to Florida for their ill-gotten largesse at taxpayer expense.

Speaking of parasites …guess where the latest crop of entitlement spongers has been incubating: Iraq.

When the Iran Study Group released its report this week urging US combat troop withdrawals by 2008, you’d have thought someone was trying to steal Al Sharpton’s food stamp allotment.
Iraqi parliamentarians are crying foul, saying the US as an occupying force is responsible for their country’s well-being…

The issues in Iraq are dire enough without home-boy politicians in that country criticizing our behavior, while failing to curb the enthusiasm of Sunni and Shi’ite death squads.
There is a corollary to the give a fish/teach to fish parable: give an Iraqi a US soldier, and you protect him for a day; teach the Iraqi how to fight like a US soldier, and he can protect himself for life.

There are few things more reprehensible than ingratitude, especially when the good that has been done was paid for with the blood of men and women patriots in American uniforms.

Color Me Confused

Vice-presidential Lesbian daughter Mary Cheney is with child…she and her partner will soon be moms. I am curious—in a situation like that, do you get things in pink or blue…or lavender?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Happy Anniversary

One year ago today I became cancer-free.
The experience has been a sobering one, and I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for many things in life once taken for granted.

Sure, you hear the usual litany and lists of rediscovered sunrises and smelling the flowers and finding time to do things we ought…and I totally agree with that. I discovered walks around the pond behind our house, sunlit afternoons in a porch swing, and saw parts of my home in a whole new light—because I usually leave the house when it’s dark, and some days don’t come home again until long after sunset.

I also gained a new appreciation for baths.
Baths are very therapeutic, whether you’re recovering from major surgery, or just a tough week at the office.
I’d forgotten that.
I now have webs between my toes.

I learned that gravity is not your friend (women over 40 have known this for generations), not because of the pull on tender tissue healing, but because gravity has the annoying habit of pulling everything to it, most of which eventually winds up on the floor. That requires either stooping, bending, or in some extreme cases, rolling to a prone position to retrieve an errant item, food substance, or article of missing clothing.

Cancer is a release in many ways.
We lose our inhibitions about discussing once-taboo subjects—like Cancer—and learn to develop more healthy attitudes about discussing life, death, and options. Having Cancer also releases inhibitions about your body, while creating other levels of modesty, even around your spouse.

By the way--there is no way I could have possible survived any of this without my bride. She cared for me, sustained my hope, and nurtured my spirit, and never allowed me to doubt her love and devotion to me, even when it appeared I would be a good candidate for replacement on a plumbing defect warranty.

I have been probed, inspected, irrigated and invaded in places and ways that I never dreamed. I still dream about them, too, only they’re not pleasant experiences to recall.

I’ve also become more self-conscious of the lasting imperfections resulting from invasive surgery. Still don’t like having my scar examined, and am now more inquisitive before allowing anyone to come near me with any chrome, plastic, or gleaming instrument or appliance.

Am I glad to be alive? You bet.
Are there still issues unresolved? Certainly.

Each day that we live alters us physically.
Cancer just fast-forwards the process, but knowing you’re cancer free has a redeeming value.

The Apostle Paul wrote fellow Christians at Ephesus to redeem the time that they had for good things.

Being Cancer-free is like a new lease on life, with a better appreciation that the lease is good only one day at a time.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Healthy, Wealthy & Wise (guy)

"The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none."
--Thomas Carlyle
Texas is the 37th-healthiest state in the country in which to live. I’m sure you’ll see that little factoid in the next edition of Texas’ Chamber of Commerce merchandise.
"One in thirty-six American's choose Texas..."

The United Health Federation survey says one in four Texans do not have health insurance—that’s the highest rate in the country—and more than one in four Texans are obese, doubly fattening the rate we had in 1990. Texas has about 26 cases of infectious disease for every 100,000 people…and we face unique challenges because of the high numbers of illegal immigrant workers, and poor and unhealthy communities along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Most-healthy state in which to live? Minnesota.
If you're a penguin.

LULAC is suing Friendswood over its plans to impose English-only ordinances in that municipality.
Wonder in which language the lawsuit was filed?

UN Ambassador John Bolton’s resignation has been reluctantly accepted by President Bush, both men realizing Bolton’s chances for confirmation were slim following November’s congressional elections…
I was reading the complaints against Bolton--a reputation of bullying his colleagues, taking facts out of context and exaggerating intelligence—sounds like a description of many members of congress, so what’s the problem?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

All Choked Up...

You know the feeling—gasping for air, trying not to panic because it will only make things worse. There’s a lump lodged in your throat that feels like the size of a golf ball, only with sharper edges, and it just…won’t…go…down.

The room starts to close-in, the lights begin to blur, and the realization you’re choking to death becomes more than a possibility.
It’s happening.

I wasn’t in a restaurant.
I was alone.
And it scared me.

Part of the post-operative regimen I’ve been following (tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of my cancer surgery) has included all manner of capsules, tablets, and what I call “horse-pills:” Medications obviously designed for dosing elephants, not humans.

One of these is a little larger than the diameter of a quarter, and twice as thick. Thoughtfully, the manufacturer provided scoring so that the tablet can be broken in two before ingesting.
I break them into four pieces.

Normally, I can slam down a whole handful of pills.
Take ‘em with a single swallow of water or juice with nary a cough.
But Saturday night, one of those four pieces of broken horse tablet decided to fight to the finish, and lodged in my upper esophagus.

I blinked.
Tried to swallow.
It hurt.
Then the gag-reflex kicked-in, and for the next ten minutes, my body played pushme pullyou with that quarter of a horse pill that would not budge.

I retched.
I choked.
I took deep breaths—which only hurt worse.
I heaved.
I hove—and discovered I could get water down my throat.
At least I could breathe.

Finally, the wedge of horse-pill shimmied down my gullet, complaining the entire way. I was exhausted…ribs aching from the exertion, muscles in my neck screaming from the exertion.
And my voice was shot.

Raw, gravelly and tired, the exertion left me with no strength in my larynx with which to carry on a conversation.

An aunt who is a nurse said I had esophagitis—inflammation of the esophagus. My otolaryngologist on call over the weekend said to just rest my voice and take it easy. The muscles in my throat were tired and needed a rest.

I’ve learned my lesson on ingesting those horse pills…think I’ll crumble them up in a glass and add water.
That way I can avoid becoming a hoarse whisperer.