Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Any Port in a Storm


So now the US Coast Guard is weighing anchor on the proposed acquisition of the Peninsular & Oriental by Dubai Port World and the ramifications on national security at six US ports. The short answer is, they don’t know. Not enough info. Can’t tell.

I admit to first thinking, "what a goofy idea," allowing an Arab-owned company to be responsible for port operations at New York and five other cities on the Gulf and East Coasts. Then I realized that what we’re seeing is an emotional reaction to the news, which is fully understandable, but not wholly rational.

Look at it this way. When you fly to the United States on an air carrier, who checks your baggage? Not Continental Airlines. If you’re on a Russian flight, the US Customs Department clears your bags. If you fly to Texas from France, the US Immigration Service scrutinizes your passport, not the French. And were you to fly from Dubai to Dallas, it would be an American government agency that allows you to pass the checkpoint into the country.

So allowing DPW to operate the Port of New Orleans is no different. DPW is pushing the buttons and pulling the levers, but they’re not clearing or searching for contraband or bombs. That’s still the job of Homeland Security, a.k.a The Coast Guard in this instance.

Could a DPW employee possibly infiltrate security at the Port of Philadelphia, and allow people who do bad things to get into the country? Sure, but so could a swarthy-faced screener at LaGuardia International. Not bloody likely, because now we’re looking for that to happen.

A second point of consideration was brought up on my show by Carl Limbacher, the Editor of NewsMax.com, looking at the geopolitical arena, and what the allowance of DPW to operate US ports would mean to American interests in the Middle East.

Take a look at this map, and recall what’s going on in this part of the world right now. Iran and Russia are cooking up enriched uranium for the Iranian nuclear program.

The leader of Iran is a sworn enemy of Israel, and would love to wipe that country off the map. The enemy of my friend is my enemy, too.

How convenient might it be for the US to have a friend across the Gulf from Iran? Making nice with the UAE makes a lot more sense when viewed through the prism of these issues.

If you want to pick a bigger nit, ask what the Dubai Port World issue says about the practice of outsourcing, and how might that practice impact national security? If you’re bent about Arabs running the Port of Miami, where’s the hue and cry against South East Asians having access to banking information for US citizens? Al Qaida operates in both regions of the world.
Draw your own conclusions.

The real problem with the DPW acquisition of P&O and its impact on America is not the operational ramifications, but how the deal was done. Shame on the middle men in the Administration for not snapping to the sensitivities of the American people and the potential for outcry, and for their failure in short-circuiting criticism by being more open about the process.

The White House should not have been caught flat-footed on this issue, nor should the Coast Guard have been put in the position of saying they’re not sure about it. The glaring weakness of Government still exists, 4-1/2-years post-9/11—a failure to communicate on an inter-agency basis, and a failure to be forthright with the American people.

Frankly, I worry more about some white-bread moron loading up another Ryder rental truck with fertilizer and diesel to park in front of a target of opportunity, than swarthy subversives sneaking evil doers into a port operated by a US ally.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Rainy Days & Mondays


I spent the entire weekend in bed with a cold.
I knew I was getting sick on Friday—that achy, not-quite-right feeling you get just before your body betrays you. Like the pink-orange calm of a late evening sky, just before a thunderstorm sneaks in from the east.

Saturday was cold and rainy in Houston, and I did venture out to breakfast with an aged aunt and uncle to celebrate their birthdays. Then back to bed.

Do you realize what a blessing it is to have the aged among us? We sometimes get caught up in the argument that seniors are draining Social Security, and are a burden on society. I think that’s the kind of wrong-headed thinking that sells short the benefits that this segment of society can still offer.

The historical perspective they can provide is but one facet to be appreciated. My Uncle is part of that “Greatest Generation” that Tom Brokaw wrote about. He served in WW-II. He came back home after the war and raised four kids. He’s buried one son and is now a widower, but he still lives a full, active life between golfing and church activities, and visiting his six sisters.

I honestly believe that each of these amazing siblings all keep each other going, all into their 70’s and 80’s now. That’s the power of strong family ties, and their example has always been an inspiration and encouragement to me.

My aunt was a registered nurse. While retired now, she’s never been far from tending to the afflictions of others in the family, and was regularly checking on my recovery progress. I sometimes worry that she worries too much about her extended family of in-laws, grandkids, nieces and nephews, and great-nieces and nephews. There’s a passel to keep up with. But she wouldn’t be who she is without that drive to nurture and heal.

So I met them for breakfast at The House of Pies, and we shared stories and laughed, and wished each other well. And I went home to disappear into a bottle of Nyquil for the weekend.

This morning, I got up and showered in water as hot as I could stand, steaming my head open for the day ahead. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to be 80, but this morning was a pretty close estimate. I imagine my 80-something uncle may wonder what it would be like to feel 51 again, because I sometimes allow my mind to wander back to how it felt to be 25, the age of my son.

Such mental meanderings are pointless, unless they provide a perspective from which to appreciate where we are, what we have, and how far we’ve traveled. It also is a good exercise to help keep from taking things for granted…like a family that is a help in everyday survival.

See you in the morning on the Radio.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Gambling on Your Future


The news is all over TV and the papers: eight employees of a Nebraska meat-packing company who parlayed their money to buy Powerball Lottery tickets finally hit the jackpot in last week’s $365-million take. Their share, after taxes, works out to a little more than $15.5-million apiece.

No doubt their stroke of luck (the odds of winning were in 146,000,000:1) will inspire more mathematically-challenged members of society to try their luck at the lottery, either individually, or by pooling their money with friends.

Lottery fever has assaulted American society, ever in the rush to achieve success, feeding the get-rich-quick schemers, and appealing to the get-something-for-nothing dullards. In researching this piece, I Googled “lottery,” and got pages and pages of results for states’ games of chance around the country, a few compilation sites that cover all of these, and more disturbing URL’s popped out promising ways to “cheat the lottery” before you sleep tonight.

Now, that’s socially-redeeming content.

MSN did a story about who plays and who pays. The heaviest lottery players -- the 20% of players who contribute 82% of lottery revenue -- disproportionately are low-income, minority men who have less than a college education.

According to the MSN piece, close to 50% of American adults spend $45 billion annually on 35,000 lottery games. It's not news when someone earning $7 an hour scrubbing toilets parts with a buck for a ticket -- but it's news if she wins.

Or if eight meatpackers pooled their pay to play.

But the reality is that society also pays when the poor play the lottery, according to the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling. What is actually happening is "the government undercutting what government’s role should be,” which is encouraging people in financial straits to be responsible with their money, not snatching it from those least able to afford to lose it.

Sure, there's an argumentm 'Hey, if people want to spend their entertainment dollars on the lottery, who’s to say they shouldn’t?'

Well for starters, each dollar paid into the lottery is a dollar taken out of circulation in the economy—plus no sales tax revenues are generated by the purchase of lottery tickets.

The problem is the culture of getting rich quick is supplanting tried and true methods of creating wealth that have been around since Ben Franklin’s time. This has resulted in a pessimistic outlook on the chances of building wealth, which gives way to the cheap-thrill expectation of someday just winning wealth. The Opinion Research Corporation recently revealed that while 26% of us believe they could build a $200,000 nest egg in their lifetime, 21% think playing the lottery is the best strategy for feathering their nest.

My friend, Eva Rosenberg, the “Tax Mama,” recently dissected the argument for and against dropping money into the lottery after a family in California won $84-million in that state’s lottery. Jack pot? Perhaps, but what about the rest of the poor stiffs who played and lost?

Assuming they spent (squandered) $5/week on lottery tickets, what could have been gotten for $260 over a year? Socking it away in an IRA or Roth IRA not only would be a sure-thing with compounding interest, but there are huge tax benefits associated with that strategy, vs banking on lottery winnings. And after the IRS takes it’s 50% of the cash, most winners are boosted into the highest tax bracket for that year.

That’s a fun surprise the following January.

The politicians who pimp the lottery probably have the most to be ashamed of. In Texas, the state lottery was sold to the public by painting a warm, fuzzy picture of alleged benefits for school children. If lottery sales proceeds are such a boom to school districts, then why are our school systems still scrimping for income, and why have our property taxes to fund public education continued to rise?

Sure there are multiple symptoms of these problems, but the lottery has not been the panacea that the Legislature would have you believe. From the Texas Lottery’s own website are these figures:

Since the first ticket was sold in 1992, the Texas Lottery has generated more than $13 billion for the state of Texas. Since 1997, all Texas Lottery proceeds have gone to the Foundation School Fund to support public education in Texas.
The Texas Lottery has contributed more than $8 billion to the Foundation School Fund, and of that total, over $1 billion was contributed in FY '05.

To put things in the proper perspective, the state education budget for the 2006-07 biennium is a few hundred-million dollars north of $36-billion. So, when you realize that the typical slice of the Lottery revenue pie yields only 28-cents for education for every dollar sunk into the Texas Lottery, and the lottery is really only contributing 1/36th of the cost of public education…it sort of takes the patina off the rationalization of gambling as a boom to education funding.

A final coda to this saga is what’s going to happen at that meat packing company in Nebraska…where the owner is now facing replacing up to eight of his employees. One thing is probably certain: it’d be pretty tough to go back to making sausage with $15.5-million, regardless of how you came into the money.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Strangers in the Port

There is a lot of anxiety being expressed over plans by a Dubai-based company to acquire Britain's Peninsular and Orient company, which has been in charge of port operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Miami, and New Orleans. Remembering that two of the 9/11 terrorists were Dubai-born, and that funds for other terrorist activities have flowed through banks in that country, it's no wonder more than a little outrage is being expressed.

Yet, Washington says they've run all the traps on Dubai Ports World, and the transition poses no threats to national security. Somehow, I'm not convinced, and the melody of an old Frank Sinatra song has started to nag at me.

So with appropriate credit--and apologies--to the original creators of the Sinatra classic, we offer this updated version.
Bet you hum it the rest of the day.

Strangers in the port exchanging glances
Wond’ring in the port,
What were the chances
They’d be stealing stuff
Before the night was through.

Something in your cargo container was so inviting,
Something in your bill of lading was so exciting,
Something in my heart,
Told me they might take two…

Strangers in the port, these foreign people
They were dangers in the port
Up to the moment
When they stole their first cargo.
Little did we know
We were just a glance away,
A thermonuclear prance away and -

Ever in the ports, we’ve been in danger
Terrorists in sight, hate us forever.

It’d turn out so wrong,
With strangers in the port..

Dubai doo be doo…
Dubai be doo doo…
Dubai doo be doo…
Dubai be doo doo…


Writer(s): kaempfert/singleton/snyder/clanton

Monday, February 20, 2006

European Perspective on a Common Problem

One of my colleagues at the Network passed this to me in an e-mail. He said he believes this statement out of Germany is worth considering, even if we don’t agree with it. Sometimes an alternative view on a common issue reveals unseen truths.

Mathias Dapfner, Chief Executive of the huge German publisher Axel Springer AG, wrote a blistering piece in DIE WELT, Germany's largest daily paper, against the timid reaction of Europe in the face of the Islamic threat. This is a must read by all Americans. History will certify its correctness.

EUROPE - THY NAME IS COWARDICE
(Commentary by Mathias Dapfner CEO, Axel Springer, AG)

A few days ago Henry Broder wrote in Welt am Sonntag, "Europe - your family name is appeasement." It's a phrase you can't get out of your head because it's so terribly true.

Appeasement cost millions of Jews and non-Jews their lives as England and France, allies at the time, negotiated and hesitated too long before they noticed that Hitler had to be fought, not bound to toothless agreements.

Appeasement legitimized and stabilized Communism in the Soviet Union, then East Germany, then all the rest of Eastern Europe where for decades, inhuman suppressive, murderous governments were glorified as the ideologically correct alternative to all other possibilities.

Appeasement crippled Europe when genocide ran rampant in Kosovo, and even though we had absolute proof of ongoing mass-murder, we Europeans debated and debated and debated, and were still debating when finally theAmericans had to come from halfway around the world, into Europe yet again, and do our work for us.

Rather than protecting democracy in the Middle East, European appeasement, camouflaged behind the fuzzy word "equidistance,"now countenances suicide bombings in Israel by fundamentalist Palestinians.

Appeasement generates a mentality that allows Europe to ignore nearly 500,000 victims of Saddam's torture and murder machinery and, motivated by the self-righteousness of the peace-movement, has the gall to issue bad grades to George Bush... Even as it is uncovered that the loudest critics of the American action in Iraq made illicit billions, no, TENS of billions, in the corrupt U.N. Oil-for-Food program.

And now we are faced with a particularly grotesque form of appeasement. How is Germany reacting to the escalating violence by Islamic fundamentalists in Holland and elsewhere? By suggesting that we really should have a "Muslim Holiday" in Germany?

I wish I were joking, but I am not. A substantial fraction of our (German) Government, and if the polls are to be believed, the German people, actually believe that creating an Official State "Muslim Holiday" will somehow spare us from the wrath of the fanatical Islamists.

One cannot help but recall Britain's Neville Chamberlain waving the laughable treaty signed by Adolph Hitler, and declaring European "Peace in our time". What else has to happen before the European public and its political leadership get it?

There is a sort of crusade underway, an especially perfidious crusade consisting of systematic attacks by fanatic Muslims, focused on civilians, directed against our free, open Western societies, and intent upon Western Civilization's utter destruction. It is a conflict that will most likely last longer than any of the great military conflicts of the last century - a conflict conducted by an enemy that cannot be tamed by "tolerance" and "accommodation" but is actually spurred on by such gestures, which have proven to be, and will always be taken by the Islamists for signs of weakness.

Only two recent American Presidents had the courage needed for anti-appeasement: Reagan and Bush. His American critics may quibble over the details, but we Europeans know the truth. We saw it first hand: Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War, freeing half of the German people from nearly 50 years of terror and virtual slavery.

And Bush, supported only by the Social Democrat Blair, acting on moral conviction, recognized the danger in the Islamic War against democracy. His place in history will have to be evaluated after a number of years have passed.

In the meantime, Europe sits back with charismatic self-confidence in the multicultural corner, instead of defending liberal society's values and being an attractive center of power on the same playing field as the true great powers, America and China.

On the contrary - we Europeans present ourselves, in contrast to those arrogant Americans", as the World Champions of "tolerance", which even (Germany's Interior Minister) Otto Schily justifiably criticizes. Why? Because we're so moral?

I fear it's more because we're so materialistic, so devoid of a moral compass.

For his policies, Bush risks the fall of the dollar, huge amounts of additional national debt, and a massive and persistent burden on the American economy - because unlike almost all of Europe, Bush realizes what is at stake - literally everything.

While we criticize the "capitalistic robber barons" of America because they seem too sure of their priorities, we timidly defend our Social Welfare systems. Stay out of it! It could get expensive! We'd rather discuss reducing our 35-hour workweek or our dental coverage, or our 4 weeks of paid vacation... Or listen to TV pastors preach about the need to "reach out to terrorists. To understand and forgive".

These days, Europe reminds me of an old woman who, with shaking hands, frantically hides her last pieces of jewelry when she notices a robber breaking into a neighbor's house.

Appeasement?

Europe, thy name is Cowardice.

Ironically, Webster's defines appeasement as "the policy of giving into the demands of a hostile or dangerous power in an attempt to prevent trouble.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Shocking!


You would not believe the junk mail that comes to our mailbox at The Clanton Hacienda. Or maybe you would. A long time ago I made the commitment to conduct as much business electronically as possible, thus making my own contribution to the Green efforts to save trees, decrease alleged global warming, yada yada yada, blah blah blah.


Anyway, I pay as many bills on line as possible.
House payment, gasoline, utilities.
I love it.
A book of stamps can last me at least a half a year.
But there are some drawbacks, when, for example, the online billing doesn’t match the e-mail notice you receive from the company.

I speak from recent experience.

Reliant Energy is our electricity provider, and for years we have been on the balanced billing plan. It’s pretty nice to know that my electric bill is always going to be the same amount, month after month. That figure is determined by looking at the past 12-months’ usage, and figuring the average usage and cost.

This is great in theory…unless the average estimate is mis-calculated. That’s what happened to us. You may recall we moved to the present Clanton Hacienda almost a year ago. Since the house is fairly new, with better insulation factors, and fewer rooms, we figured it would be safe to assume our power usage would remain static at best.
It didn’t.

The problem is that when you receive electronic billing statements by e-mail, you don’t always see the detail that’s included in hard copy statements. Reliant Energy does post in small print a very vital piece of information: The difference between the balanced billing amount and what the power we used actually cost.

It’s there, alright, but not that easy to see--and even easier to miss when you’re paying bills on line. Which is why I was shocked to learn my power bill jumped from a low three-digit figure to an enormous three-digit figure. By the time I got it all straightened out, I ended up dropping a four-digit figure to get back on track.

There’s got to be a better way of notifying consumers they’re way-underpaying on their utilities…like LARGER TYPE, for starters.

I can throw darts…and pass out bouquets.

Kudos to the Supervisor of Reliant Energy’s Web Support Division, Jeff Ceynor, who called me during the day to walk through this issue. While I was not happy with the revelation I owed over $1,000 for electricity, nor was I pleased about being shuffled off to a voice mail box when I first contacted Reliant about this earlier in the week, Jeff’s efficiency in calling me back, and his professionalism in walking through the issue were very much appreciated.

Now, about that small-print issue…

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Where's Waldo (Cramer)?


Many of you have written in to ask what happened to Jim Cramer. Some of you have been very understanding…others’ language has been somewhat more...colorful. It’s always fun to see what new anatomical description can be attributed to our character by some members of our audience.

Here’s the skinny on Cramer. The WOR Radio Network, which provided his show to us, came out on the short end of the stick with Mr. Cramer in negotiations to carry his show. Another network, Westwood One, picked up the show for distribution to it’s affiliates.

The BizRadioNetwork is an affiliate of Westwood One; they’re the ones who provide us with our feeds of CNN News and The Down Jones Money Reports each hour. Westwood One, however, is a division of CBS Radio, which gets first-dibs on Westwood’s programming, especially when there’s a competitive aspect to be considered in a particular market.

So Cramer was taken away from us, and given to a competitor. We did what any business would do—looked for something better.

Enter Del Walmsley, who is every bit as compelling and evangelical in his delivery…and is now a card-carrying, paying client of The BizRadioNetwork. And he’s getting his money’s worth being on the station—on his first day, Del tells me he received 82-responses from his show.

Some of our potential advertisers question the credibility of a station that does not subscribe to a ratings service, and cannot provide any listenership metrics. My response is in the results of shows like Del’s, where the numbers are not arbitrarily assigned by some dark, secret algorithm. Our proof is in your response to the programming we choose to air based on quality content, entertaining hosts, and information you can literally hear in the morning and put to use in the afternoon.

You miss Cramer?

Archives of his stuff are still available on his website.

Meanwhile, we recommend the real-world alternative now available each afternoon from 2-3pm…and I’ll see you in the morning on the Radio.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Things that Make You Go, "Hmmm," Part Deaux

Pumping Expectations

There has been much speculation on what and how much effect Iran’s nuclear ambitions may have on the rest of the world. One thing is clear, given the irrational, over-the-top reaction of radical Muslims to a Dannish cartoon panel, it’s probably not a good thing for a nation with similar sensitivities to have access to nuclear weapons. Can you imagine how they’d react to a full-column editorial?

And how did a Dannish cartoonist’s insensitivity morph into “death to America” chants by irrational rug merchants? Are they that geographically challenged?

Sorry, didn’t mean to demean the carpet industry. I’m floored.

A survey recently revealed that moneyed-people in America assign only a small percentage of risk to the likelihood that a wild-card event would upset the economic equilibrium. We’re more worried about debt—national as well as personal—than the odds of another 9-eleven.

Is that a trained-response, or is there more than meets the eye?

Goldman Sachs forecast a barrel of oil would exceed $100 last year. It didn’t happen…yet. With the U.S. now openly planning contingencies for a nuclear Iran, how much speculative boost do you think that will inject into the price of oil?

A backwards glance to the “Katrina” effect is a clue…but the reality might not be as harsh as imagined. Should Iran pull its oil off the market (or it be blasted off the market), there is ample reserve supply to make up for its 3.92-million barrel-a-day to the global “addiction” to oil, according to the International Energy Agency.

Iran’s slice of the oil supply over the next 18-months would be about 2.1 billion barrels of oil. The IEA member nations have in reserve 4.1-billion barrels. But you’re not being told that. Instead, the saber-rattling is also rattling nerves, and making me wonder if the real market makers in the oil bidness are those who would incite irrational apathy for supply outlooks, thus hiking prices.

Sort of makes you go, “hmmmm.”

UPDATE

Over the weekend I dismantled The Studio at The Clanton Hacienda.

You may recall last week I was forced to drive to the station to do the show when internet service at my home failed. Buddy, Kristina, Justin, Tim and I had such a fun reunion, I decided to see how many days in a row I could hold up, driving to the station.

Made it through the week.

So, Saturday was completely expended reclaiming bedroom real estate, disconnecting cables and wires, and re-boxing and packing equipment. My safety net was furled. While the week was much more tiring than I expected, there was an exhileration from being able to get out and about again.

Things are getting back to normal, with a few minor issues to resolve. I am still unable to get too far away from a facility of convenience, but can at least go to the store and do for myself. Today I am wearing real pants, with belt loops and pockets, with a relative degree of comfort. That's a first.

That's a milestone.

I am cancer-free.
Today I turn 51.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Dog Days of Valentine's


I now host the world’s shortest morning show…at 90-minutes, if you blink, you miss it. 6:00a to 7:30a is not much time, but it’s enough to give you enough information for a head start on everyone else. So while the other guys are re-hashing their weekend antics, or discussing their love lives (or lack of it) we’ll give you insights from Washington and New York, London and Tokyo, or Austin and Dallas.

Okay—fair warning: Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.

Depending upon whom you ask, the average price tag for the day will be $113.00 Not surprisingly, guys spend more than gals this time of year, a ratio of $145:$81. According to a survey by Brand Keys, when you’re young and in love, you spend more moolah. The 18-34 age group is the most generous to their objects d’affection. Brand Keys estimates Valentines Day spending is the third-largest retail date on the calendar, behind Christmas and Easter.

For those of you who’ve been keeping up, we’ve just had an addition to the family at The Clanton Hacienda. My daughter has been waging an all-out, full-court press to wangle a puppy. I said no, not in a million years. She pouted for six weeks. It got pretty sticky.

Over the weekend, she bought her cousin a one-hour massage for her birthday. And to show her appreciation, my niece presented my daughter with a puppy. A Yorkie Terrier, 2-months old, and just enough dog to know one’s around, yet not large enough to intimidate my bride, who has now become the dog’s second-biggest fan in the household.

So my daughter didn’t defy me…but she didn’t say, “no,” when the opportunity was presented.

No Valentines for my niece!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Turning 21


My daughter is 21 today.
That’s a big deal, turning 21, for parents and their offspring.

It’s scary for both halves of the equation, when families are close. Ours is.

Amylynn has always been the organizer, the one in charge, and the ramrod in a group. When she was little, she used to line up her dolls on her bed and conduct “class” in her bedroom. No telling what she taught them, but she was a quick study herself. We learned quickly to watch what we said—or at least how we said it.

I remember during the Clinton vs Bush-41 campaigns, some of the remarks I made in the privacy of our home were picked up by her alert little ears, and made their way into an impromptu stump speech she delivered—to her dolls—on the front porch of a house during a family holiday gathering. The apex of her imitation rant was an exaggerated series of gestures towards a stand-up cut out of George Washington, whom she mistook for George Bush, punctuated by the phrase, “what a crock. WHAT A CROCK!”

I just happened to be surreptitiously capturing her address on video.
I cherish that snippet of tape today.
I can’t wait for her wedding rehearsal dinner.

Amylynn is quite a negotiator. She’s persistent, too.
Her latest campaign has lasted several months, hounding me for a dog. When I returned to the office this week, there were photos of Yorkie puppies taped to my door. There’s a similar one taped to the refrigerator at home.

It ain’t going to happen, though. No dogs in the house.
Not while she's living there rent-free.
I'm not charging my kids rent.

I am proud of her tenacity, though.
You should see her negotiate with used car dealers.
She and her mother discovered a very clean 2001 Olds Alero coupe a couple of years ago. She haggled and haggled with the salesman. At one point, we even walked out of the office and said, “no deal.”

The next day, Amy drove back over to the dealership, called the salesman out of his office into the showroom and very clearly—and loudly—told him that "he’d better sell her that car for the price we were willing to pay," because she "really wanted the car and knew that her daddy wasn’t going to let her pay a penny more for it, so he might as well just sell it to her."

I got this all from a reliable source—my bride—who was trying to hide behind a floor lamp in the showroom as the scene went down.

She got the car for the asking price. Paid cash.

Amylynn has worked around radio stations, schools, and offices. She always wanted to be a cosmetologist, and recently completed her certification for that goal. She now works part time in the business office of The BizRadioNetwork, and part time for a very nice boutique in our neighborhood, where she is building a clientele.

Funny, they all come out of there looking like dolls.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Trick Ponies and Horse Operas

Category: Jobs I would not like to have.
Description: Comic Book Store owner in Baghdad

Just a random thought this morning…I wonder how many of these homicide bombers would push the plunger if they knew that instead of 72-virgins and immortality they were really going to become cartoon characters after the blast?

Reminds me of a line from "Roger Rabbit," when Jessica Rabbit proclaims, "I'm not really bad, I'm just drawn that way."

There is a circus performing on a plot of land next to our offices in Houston. Cavalia is for all practical purposes, a horse opera.

Exquisitely trained horses and performers have been rehearsing for weeks on the grassy knoll across the street, juggling bowling pins, jumping somersaults, and who knows what else…and what was once a beautiful plot of green is now a horse corral, complete with fencing and…methane sources.

I hear it’s a good show…but with my personal saddle sores, I have not been inspired to spur myself to see the show. I also duck punches and wince in fight scenes in movie theaters.
Drives my wife nuts.

I understand they’ve extended the Cavalia show for a 4th week of performances. What would really be interesting is to hold them over until the Livestock Show and Rodeo hits town…and let’em compete.

Now that's entertainment!


Today is Kristina Ramirez' birthday.

I won't say which one, but she can rent a car today... legally.

While I was working from home for the past few weeks, Kristina kept working away, by herself in the studio, all alone, but kept her great attitude.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Behind Behind the Scenes

The internet at my house is out.
I am posting this from a "foreign" computer.

Internet outtages happen.
They're a fact of life.
It matters not who you get your internet service from--mine's Time Warner's impressive RoadRunner service--sooner or later, the modem's going to give you that slow-blink display indicating you've got big problems.

Like the look of a 5-year old who just smashed something...once, twice, three slow blinks on an expressionless face: "What, ME?"

If you lose cable, you can always pop in a DVD for entertainment.
If you depend on cable to do your job...well, that's a horse of a different color.
A tiger of a different stripe.
A problem that goes beyond the pale of normal electronic emergencies.

And if you are dependant upon that connectivity because you can't get out of the house, man you are really in deep.

Welcome to my world.

For the past two months, I have risen at 4am and turned on three computer screens, to get ready for the show. By the time I've gotten my robe on and staggered back from the bathroom, they're all brightly glowing in the darkness of the bedroom, and ready to log-in for the morning's businsess.

Not today.

At 4am, you have few choices.
Mine was to take a quick shower, suit up in something non-binding, and skedaddle to the Radio station studios, 20-minutes from the house.
Hey, at 4am, there are some benefits to take advantage of.

So, un-shaven but showered, and un-fed but frantic, I arrived at the studios around 5:30 to prepare for the day's show. Fortunately, the internet here works.

The ISDN and phone lines have been burpping all morning, though.
That's another call.
For my crack team of technical engineers.

See you in the morning on the Radio.
One way or the other.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Things that Make You Go, "Hmm..."

European leaders are trying diffuse this cartoon crisis.
The Swedish government has gone to the point of issuing travel alerts… characters like Popeye and Olive and the Seven Dwarfs have been advised to stay home.

Meanwhile, Texas Governor Rick Perry wants to delay school reform until next year, making property tax cuts the main thrust of his re-election campaign. Did he think this up on his own, or is he just getting bad advice?

The things in the news these days that make you go, “hmmmm….”

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is looking for foreign aid help in rebuilding, thanks to funding shortfalls from the US government. Mayor Nagin has hosted a parade of foreign dignitaries through what's left of his town since Hurricane Katrina hit in August. Jordan's King Abdullah was in town last week.

New Orleans was founded by the French in 1718…a delegation of French government and business officials visited on Friday to explore potential business partnerships. The leader of the French delegation, Transport Minister Dominique Perben, said the “catastrophe has deeply upset the French people and the French government."

On the one hand, I’d say about bloody time, since if it weren’t for the United States, they’d be speaking German in Paris instead of French. Please pass the pate…and let's see if they put up.

Mayor Nagin already has the assignments made.
According to the Associated Press, Nagin reportedly said, "France can take Treme. The king of Jordan can take the Lower Ninth Ward."

My producer, Buddy, this morning made a vew good suggestion: Why not just sell corporate naming rights, and allow development by Disney or Universal Studios…how about a corporate sponsorship with Hershey’s?

Look what Disney did for the Florida swamps—could the Mississippi Delta be any worse?

Mayor Nagin says New Orleans needs Washington’s "undivided attention" over the next six months. News-flash, Ray Ray—it’s election year. They’re going to be looking after their own for the next six months, and the only help you’re going to get are from the guys that got you where you are—the esteemed Representatives and Senators from the great state of Louisianna.

Politicians got New Orelans into the mess it is in…and it is in their power to help get the city back on track. I would think that if I were an incumbent, this being an election year, such an issue would be a perfect entrĂ©e for glory.
Only no one seems to have the guts.

In September President Bush pledged that the government would do what it takes and stay as long as it takes to rebuild. What the displaced people of New Orleans, and Mayor Nagin, seem to have forgotten is that we/they are the government.

Here’s a starting point, Mayor Nagin: put your people to work.
You’ve got New Orleans transplants living on the government dole in Houston and Dallas and who knows where else, while $15/hour and-up jobs to rebuild your city are going to people from Texas, Arkansas and Mexico.

I’ve got a bit of a problem in supporting folk who can do nothing but complain about what the government isn’t doing for them, who say they cannot find work, when there is plenty of work to be done back home.

I’ve got a bit of a disagreement with folk who say “why me, Lord, oh why me” instead of asking “why not me” as an answer to the problems in New Orleans.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Start Me Up, baby!


Superbowl-40 just proved the mantra, “you’re never too old to rock and roll,” as the Rolling Stones (average age = 62+) whipped the crowd in attendance into a frenzy on a Yah-yah tongue-shapped stage at Halftime.

Thankfully, the Superbowl sales team had the presence of mind to sell the sponsorship to Spint instead of heading off into a tasteless direction.

(After all, Boomers still represent the bulk of discretionary spending in our economy.)

Two out of the three songs the Stones performed last night caught the 5-second delay editor’s trigger finger. In "Start Me Up," the word referencing a woman's sexual sway over a dead man was killed. And in “Rough Justice,” the lyrics’ synonym for a rooster also was electronically excised.

The closest thing resembling a "wardrobe malfunction" was Mick Jagger’s hip-hugging pants slipping dangerously low as a robot cam followed when he bent over to address fans on the floor of the stadium. Shades of Plumbers’ Helper!

The sound of the halftime show was raw and precise…like I like live performances. You could hear what was there. You could hear a couple of wrong notes…you could hear a missed downbeat…but it was real. Actually, there was more passion in their performance Sunday night than you hear on their most recent album, “A Bigger Bang.”

Maybe it’s worth a listen on the roadshow tour. According to Wilkipedia, since the end of the year (2005), the Stones’ A Bigger Bang tour had made $162 million, so a lot of people are liking what they hear…or at least want to catch the band while they can.

By the way, the Stones have broken their own North American touring revenue record, which they set during their 1994 Voodoo Lounge tour, which grossed about $120-million. The North American leg of the A Bigger Bang tour still has fifteen confirmed show dates remaining. Ticket prices are averaging about $200.00 for a single seat.


My favorite Superbowl ads last night were from Ameriquest, (we won’t judge you too quickly) Budweiser (cleaning the gutters) and General Motors’ Hummer division (Roboto + Godzilla).

So that’s where H-3’s come from!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Mixed Bag


Winding down to the Superbowl this weekend…and the name calling between the Steelers and the Patriots sounds like a speech by Julian Bond, Chariman of the NAACP…

Bond made some pretty incredible comments Wednesday at a state college in North Carolina, in which he compared the Republican Party with the Nazi Party, saying Republicans would fly the swastika alongside the stars and stripes. The Chairman of the NAACP described Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, as "tokens."

What, no "plantation" mentions, too?

Honestly, Bond’s comments this week have done more to reverse race relations in this country than ever than the years of progress initiated by Dr. Martin Luther King.

How can an organization, established and dedicated for the advancement of its members, tolerate leadership from such a myopic and inflammatory chairman?

Back to the Superbowl, where at least you know which team to root for, and real men back their name calling with brawn and brains.
I don’t have a pick.
If I watch the game at all, it will be to see the amazing TV commercials, which are generally the best of the year. I’m the only guy in my neighborhood with a reverse TIVO, altered to catch just the breaks.

I can always buy the series’ Season-boxsets at Best Buy.

Many of you have inquired about my progress following Prostate Cancer surgery in December; thank you for asking.

I am still working from home for the most part, doing the show each day from my studio in The Clanton Hacienda.

I returned to the hospital in January for two quick operations to correct scar tissue blockages, which set me back a couple of weeks.

The good news is that my PSA count was zero.

The challenge is to continue to work through the aches and pains of the recovery process. Meanwhile, I remain, “The Man in The Radio Box." Talk to you Monday morning on the Radio.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Blown Away


One of the themes President George W. Bush’s State of the Union message Tuesday night was the need to act in a “spirit of goodwill towards one another.” Did you notice how that phrase resurfaced again and again?

President Bush said, “We are measured by who we are, how we treat one another,” and he called for a “Revolution of Conscience” in which a life lived with personal responsibility is a life lived with fulfillment.

That was in part his acknowledgment of how the government had mis-served the storm victims on the Gulf Coast…But even in America's darkest moments can be found postitive stories that should provoke and inspire us. I found one of those this week--a wonderful perspective I want to share with you here.

Dennis Germenis has been a friend of mine since Junior High, and recently e-mailed to me a series of photos taken of a group of Texas A&M Students (whoop!) who decided to put their “winter break” time to good use, helping out in New Orleans.

This shatters the mold of the typical college student on break, and these photos are going to blow away the typical image of the rowdy and rebellious undergrad on break in sunny, southern climes.

Dennis is an independent insurance agent in College Station, Texas, but is also quite an accomplished musician. Through his service as Associate Music Minister at the First Baptist Church of College Station, he accompanied a group to New Orleans to lend a helping hand. The Expressions College Ministry has a website chronicling their trip.

Dennis’ first e-mail to me simply said, “I walked around this neighborhood in New Orleans recently…” and a subsequent e-mail described the trip as doing “some volunteer hurricane clean up work,” which may be as understated as calling Katrina a “heavy rain and high tide.” The photo he sent was just dumbfounding.

Dennis joined me on the show today, and shared a few anecdotes about the week and the accomplishments of his group. Since he does not have a blog, I told him I wanted to share his story with you on mine…to which he agreed…and I’ll let his words provide the narrative from this point.

We saw thousands of homes that looked like this. The house was 1/2 way underwater, it's empty, without power, and unoccupied. There usually weren't even working traffic lights in the neighborhoods. At night, the entire neighborhood was dark, with an occasional street light. And, there weren't any people!

Most of the week was spent gutting houses. We would take everything out of the flooded house, and put it at the curb. Then we removed the floor (usually carpet or linoleum), the baseboards, door frames, doors, sheet rock, insulation and ceiling. The only thing we would leave is the studs and the exterior wall. At the end of the day, we would have a pile at the street almost as big as the house. Then the city would come by and pick it up with bulldozers and dump trucks.

This was the most dangerous job we did all week. The wind had blown over 2, 35 year old pine trees onto a garage. The garage was leaning. I really thought we were going to have trouble finishing this job. We saved the homeowner about $5,000.00 doing this job by removing the 2 trees.

I accused Dennis of not actually having gone on this adventure, since he is in none of the shots...so far. You'll see him in a minute.

Remember the phrase President Bush repeated over and over in his Union Address about "acting in a spirit of goodwill toward one another?" That spirit is alive and well in the people that went to New Orleans to help...and in the hearts of the people being helped. As Dennis describes this scene...

"The best dinner during the week was not at a restaurant. It was at James and Linda Mason's (couple in front row) house in New Orleans. We met the Mason's at church. They were visiting First Baptist New Orleans just as we were. They weren't even members of the church. They invited all of us over to their home for dinner - we were complete strangers! James cooked a huge pot of Jambalaya and salad. It was so good! James and I had fun listening to his record collection. He even gave me an album. Coincidentally, they lived next door to the house where we removed the 2 pine trees!

And here is proof positive how Dennis Germenis spent his "winter break," 2006. He wrote, "At one point, I had about a tablespoon of sweat in my googles. It would slosh from side to side when I walked."

There is a final, haunting photo from Dennis' travels to New Orleans that really expressed the scale of destruction, and demonstrated the awesome nature of Nature that was unleashed at New Orleans. It wasn't the shot of thousands of blue tarps marking the roofs of damaged houses, dotting the landscape for as far as his camera could see, nor even an image of an upended car resting between two ruined houses. The image that says "Katrina Hits New Orleans" is that of a large, flat barge dwarfing structures near the levee it breached during the storm. Dennis described it simply as the "barge [that] was responsible for breaking one of the levee's."

There are thousands of ways to pupt into practice the principles in the President's address. Thousands of people just like Dennis Germenis and the participants in this trip are but one example. It really shouldn't take a Category Five Storm to motivate us...hopefully these photos help. And if you'd like to help, they could use you. Here's the contact in New Orleans Dennis passed along to me...and I promised I'd pass along to you:

First Baptist Church, New Orleans Contact person: Travis Scruggs @ (504)994-9208