Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Irrational Iraqi's

The New York Times headline sugar-coated the news this morning: “Iraqi Parliament’s Recess Dismays U.S.” The headline should have read, “We’re Pissed!”

I don’t know about you, but the idea of US and other Coalition troops continuing to put their lives at risk, while Iraqi politicians fiddle as Bagdad burns, really sours my mood.

Do you think maybe the Iraqi’s are patterning some of the more untoward aspects of Democracy a little early? What other elected body takes long recesses in the middle of the year?

Okay, plenty…but during the middle of one of the bloodiest conflicts in recent memory? Hardly time to take a break, boys.

Still on the wish list: figuring out how to equitably distribute oil revenues, while orchestrating some semblance of reconciliation between the primary Sunni and Baathist factions in the country. The ultimate goal is to neutralize the sectarian violence that still wracks the country, so our boys can come home.

Ain’t gonna happen while Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his gang of 275 are out of the state house—or what ever they call their govement building. Bunker?

Their excuse:
Nothing’s happening; there’s nothing to vote on.
That’s your cue, Sahib, to get back to work.

Vacationing while US troops are dodging bullets and RPG’s in 120-degree heat is a travesty that’s more than just dismaying.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Barrelling through

I have an admission to make this morning—
I am O-U-I.

Operating Under the Influence of about four prescription drugs and numerous herbal supplements. But I am in the Studio at the BizRadio Broadcasting Complex & Deli.

I kept looking out for Lindsay Lohan this morning…meeting her in an intersection would have been deadly.

She probably would have just barreled on thru.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hating Hatred

Always remember others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.
--Richard M. Nixon
I don’t understand hatred in American society.
Oh, I get the concept: For whatever reason, a dislike is germinated out of an adverse experience; because of a fundamental difference in beliefs; or out of ignorance, we allow hatred to supplant a more clear-eyed assessment of things to which we take exception.

What I don’t get is how and why we allow hatred to replace rationale as a thinking people. Whether it’s left vs right, black vs white (or another combination of complimentary colors in the rainbow), we have allowed ourselves to be duped into thinking that hatred excuses poor manners and shallow thought about people who are different from us.

There is a place for hatred: we should hate that which makes us hateful. We hate people who would seek to destroy us because of their hatred of our country and our ways. But hatred for the sake of hating—just for the experience of the emotion—that’s a destructive path that does no one any good.

You hate a competitor?
Because he’s a better producer than you?
Because a competing company has gathered more market share than your company?

The point is to not waste your energy, your brain power, your mojo on stoking the fires of hatred. That’s inexcusable, when you could instead channel that intensity into figuring out how to do the job better, how to win back the customer.
How to win.

We sometimes allow ourselves to be deluded into labeling our unhappiness as hatred of a person, place or thing, when in fact we have the power to not only control the hateful emotion, but also to harness that power into turning destructive behavior into an engine of creativity and productivity.

I’ve got no time for hatred.
I think it’s petty, shallow behavior for the lazy.
I don’t believe in getting even.
I believe in getting ahead…and hatred--that just gets in my way.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

BizRadio Bathrobe Broadcast Series

The Bathrobe Broadcast Series from the Studio at The Clanton Hacienda continues Friday morning.

As I mentioned earlier this week, Jack Warkenthien has been filling in for me as I recuperate from some “minor” surgery on Monday, and many thanks to him for doing so.

The difference between minor and major surgery is all in the perspective.

Since I have been unable to sit in a chair, much less leave the house this week, it was needful to ask Jack to fill in. However, things have progressed to the point where I think I can sit through a three-hour show Friday morning. We’ll see how it goes.

I actually do own a bathrobe, and it’s quite dapper.
One of those designer label robes my Bride picked up for me in honor of my last major surgery—which was Major, no fooling.

The robe is a little much to work in, however, unless it’s winter time.
It was great in January, as I was forced to work from home for several weeks, and the mornings were quite chilly.

I think we’ll forego the bathrobe in July, however, and instead be performing the show live in outer wear by Hanes: Cotton shorts and T’s that breathe and stretch with you.

There’s a little alliteration lost, however, shifting from bathrobes to Shorts 'n T’s.

So while I will be comparatively, scantily clad, it’s going to be a Bathrobe Broadcast.

I wonder if I’ll get breakfast on the board?
See you in the morning on the Radio.

Bedside Observations

Funny thing about being out of circulation for a few days.
Nothing’s changed.

Oh, we’ve had variations in the closing prices of the markets, but really, other than the date on the calendar, nothing’s any different: We’re still at war in the Middle East, gasoline prices are still higher than we’d prefer, and a bunch of grown adults are behaving like Junior High Band Students going to Six Flags—shirking their responsibilities, and promising the moon as they campaign for their party’s presidential nomination.

Exxon disappointed its analysts by turning in a less-than-perfect report card. Exxon blamed its earnings miss on lower natural gas prices and higher costs of doing business. Exxon’s the company everyone loves to hate. If Exxon had met expectations, they would still have been pilloried for something else—like making money selling the oil they pump out of the ground.

Wall Street blamed the past few days’ losses on credit nervousness. That’s code-speak for the fact that because a few mortgage lenders got greedy in the real estate bubble, and a few more investment bankers got greedy in buying up all their skanky loans that subsequently soured, now the whole lot is tainted, and it’s going to be tougher to borrow money—whether it's for a home, a loan portfolio, or a shipment of steel. There’s nothing more pathetic than a snake-bit financier, especially when he’s been injected with his own poison.

Coincidentally, new home sales in June were reported as tapering off again, despite home builder incentives up to, and including, a new car in the garage. Because the numbers the government reports do not reflect contract cancellations, the figure may actually be overstating sales---or understating the problem. Sales are off over 20% from this time last year, and only in the South have home sales shown an increase.

Go figure: There are over a half-million homes on the market right now. The inventory in June slipped only every so slightly, so builders are not making much headway in working through what they’ve built to sell. It is a buyer’s market…if you can find the funding. On Wall Street, it’s the same—only there seem to be more sellers than buyers these days.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Nipped in the Bud

Citizen Clanton, reporting in.
I’ve been off the air and out of circulation for the past couple of days.

Those of you who have been following along at home may recall I had a little run in with Prostate Cancer a while back.
No, it’s not come back.

But I did have some residual scars to deal with, and those have returned.

This time the docs decided to not fool around, so they wheeled me into the surgical suite Monday morning to perform a little nip and tuck.

They also used a little Botox for good measure.

I was surprised to hear about that…although the information has made for a few jokes that cannot be shared in polite company.

I fully expected to be reporting to you live from The Clanton Hacienda and Broadcast Studio by this morning. However, true to the phrase, everything’s bigger in Texas, the supplemental plumbing that’s been temporarily installed has precluded that from happening. Hope to engage a little “plumber’s helper” later this week, and be back with you soon.

Special thanks to Jack Warkenthien for filling in for me the past few days. It is a comfort to know that things can run without you, and that there are team members willing to stand in the gap. Jack’s been a trouper, and Buddy Cantu has been stellar in keeping the machine well oiled.

I should take more time off…but not like this.

See you on the Radio, soon.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Meat of the Matter: Carbon al Carne

From the “Too Much Time on Their Hands” Dept. comes a report this morning that eating meat is harmful to the environment. The PETA people are going to love this one…

Between earthquakes, the techies at Japan’s National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science determined that producing a little over 2-pounds of beef is equivalent to driving your car around, non-stop, for three hours.

So, four average-sized steaks generated greenhouse gases with a warming potential equivalent to 80.25lb of carbon dioxide. I’m sure the Kobe Beef people are thrilled hear about this one.

I’m telling you the world is going kukoo over this carbon footprint nonsense. Mark my words, if this keeps up, we’ll be paying for goods and services in carbon credits instead of Dollars or Euros…and you’ll be faced with the PC-choice of eating meat or running an electric light. Hmmm...does that mean if you have a steak in the dark it would be cheaper?

By the way, the Grassland eggheads figure the energy it takes to produce those steaks would power a 100 watt light bulb for 20 days, mostly in terms of the methane produced by the unfortunate animal that donated the steaks.

Talk about committed to science.
That cow was.

You know, if the Good Lord had meant for man to not eat meat, he’d have made animals out of something else.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Why Johnny MIght Not be Able to Read...

More entertaining tidbits from the pre-pre-pre campaign trail: Presidential Wannabe Barak Obama wants to start sex-ed for kindergarteners, saying providing age-appropriate sex education, science-based sex education in schools is "the right thing to do."

Two questions, Mr. Obamarama—what is age appropriate for kindergarten kids within the context of sex education? And what about leaving that to parents to address with their kids, and let’s devote school time to learning the alphabet and how to read and cipher math.

Here are two possible samples from the Barak Obama Kindergarten Sex-ed Primer:

Use the alphabet to explain the differences between males and females, where XX plus Xy = XY. Or another XX.
Can you get a YY?
Why YY?

What about X’s and O’s?
What is xoxoxo?

Wait until the First Grade.

Use math to demonstrate where babies come from (which is one of the most fundamental queries on the minds of all kindergartners, I’m sure):

One plus One equals Three, except when One and One both have onesies, in which case it takes a team of lawyers to adopt a kid by a gay couple.
Maybe it takes a Village.
Or maybe the Obama's Sex-ed-arama is not such a hot idea.

Senator, you’re way off in the tall weeds from the campaign trail.
Get out of our homes and out of our classrooms, and back on track.

Tell me what you’re going to do to formulate a plausible energy policy, protect America’s borders from people who want to kill us in the name of Allah, and what you can do to make sure we don’t evolve into a nation of broke senior citizens by the year 2045.

We’ll take care of telling Susie and Johnny where their siblings came from, and what is appropriate behavior for 5 and 6 year olds playing together.
Now, go play nice with the other candidates.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Leapin' Lizzards

Just a random observation: have you ever wondered about the wisdom of using a lizard to market an insurance product, when those little buggers are always losing their tails?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Where Credit is Due

I hate credit cards.
I am a reformed credit card abuser.

Abuser might be a little strong, but I certainly used credit cards beyond my ability to pay for them when I was younger. Like most 20-somethings, out in the world for the first time, the allure of tangible things in return for a small monthly payment was too good to pass up.
I was hooked.
I had “stuffitis.”

It took 15-years and a lot of hard work to shovel through the mess I made. By the time I came to my senses, I was married, had two kids in elementary school, and a monthly nut to cut that was growing larger by the month than was my meager paycheck

We were fortunate.
We never got so desperate that we were buying groceries or paying rent with credit cards. But we were stupid… leveraging our purchasing power with plastic, buying things we didn’t really need. Oh, there were real emergencies from time to time, but those just piled up on top of the fluffy stuff.

Finally, choking in a backwash of monthly bills, we turned to the local Consumer Credit Counseling Services office to guidance. Had we known then what we know now, we might have worked through the problem a bit differently—creditors back then perceived a stint with CCCS the “grey” equivalent of filing bankruptcy.
I didn’t know that.
I just wanted to get out from under, pay what I owed, and move on.
And that’s what we did.

I now view credit cards as necessary evils.
I use an American Express to book business travel expenses. I use my checking account debit card for all other purchases, unless I perform the archaic chore of writing a manual check, or presenting a stack of dead presidents to pay the bill.
I use Microsoft Money to manage my checking and savings account balances—I have balanced to-the-penny each month for years, since using the Money software.

While I still laugh out-loud at the antics in those Capitol One advertisements (“what’s in your wallet?”), deep inside, there is a pang of disgust for the credit card industry that has, through its lobbyists, made it tougher for debtors to discharge their obligations in a bankruptcy, while continuing to paper every mailbox in America with all manner of offers and come-ons with easire and easier ways to become submerged in credit card debt.

American Express has been operating a promotion for the past few weeks called The Members Project, where in you can donate $1 to the charitable/social cause of your choice.

They all have worthy notions and noble goals—like “Children Alfresco,” which seeks to inspire kids to enjoy life outdoors (we need an organization to do this??), or a global reforestation effort, “Plant A Million Trees,” and a network of physical therapists to donate a few hours to helping rehabilitate injured soldiers returning from Iraq, called “Treating Our Troops.”

Education is high on the wish list of The Members Project. Sadly, not enough to go far enough, as in the case of “Preserve Music Education in Our Schools,” a special branch of Young Audiences, which notes, “music education is one of the most effective means of cultivating discipline, cooperation, commitment, beauty, and mathematical skills in our young people, yet it is one of the least appreciated.” Amen.

They’re all great premises.
The world would be a better place if our kids were healthier, learned better, and the earth was more ecologically sound.

Cynically, I must question whether a dollar per card holder is enough to really gain sufficient traction in any one of these areas. Does it really matter, or is it another warm-fuzzy, Amex way of asking “what’s in your wallet,” in order to gain market share?

The answer is, to those people who are touched by these programs, indeed, there is a difference to be made.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sneaking Around in Iraq

I must have missed the phone call from the 9/11 terrorists who called ahead to say they were going to smack two fully-loaded aircraft into the World Trade Center. My answering machine must have been turned off that day.

Japan’s Emperor Hirohito just-missed Harry Truman's messenger in August 1945, letting him know the US was about to evaporate the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I’m pretty sure the Imperial Phone Line was just busy when Jimmy Doolittle tried to place a courtesy call to say he was on his way with a flock of B-25’s to fire bomb Tokyo in response to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

It’s just as well, because America was out doing weekend things when the Japanese phoned ahead to let us know their attack fleet was about to swarm the island of Oahu, sinking or destroying most of the US Pacific Fleet in December 1941.

Obviously, those assaults were pre-meditated, and their execution relied upon the element of surprise. So would someone please explain to me why the United States Military feels compelled to telegraph its every move to our sworn enemies in Iraq?

The Joint Chiefs of Staff are honking like geese about their deliberations over additional increases to the current troop surge in Iraq. Which is one reason we haven’t caught Bin Laden yet. Who needs intelligence-gathering when all the enemy needs to know is spewed into the ether by the major US media outlets?

On eBay this week is a posting, “A Solution to the War in Iraq,” which is accepting bids thru this Monday (7/22). Army Military Intelligence Capt. Thad Krasnesky has it all boiled-down to five pages of text. You can Buy it Now for only $99.

The essence of Krasnesky's plan calls for a deftly wielded scalpel, not a broadsword approach.
He may be onto something.

But if Bin Laden’s people buy it online before the bidding ends, the jig is up.
I say, what ever our future plans are, put a sock in it, and let the bad guys guess what’s happening next.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What Weekends Were Made For

I spent the weekend preparing for an annual exam my doctors recommended I have as a cancer survivor. I am not going to bore/gross you out with the details, but if you absolutely must know, read Mark Cuban's recent posting of his experiences. I expect my doctors will have a slightly tougher time performing my procedure, as I understand they'll have less room within which to work than Mr. Cuban's doctors.

On Friday, I was pressed into service at the last minute to host the 6-7pm hour. I've been asked to share the comments with which I closed the show. Caveat: not all of these thoughts are original (are anyone's, really?) When you're scrambling to pull together material, you use a lot of sources. Here's the result.

I want to close the hour with a few observations I’ve been mulling over this afternoon. The markets are closed for the week—you either made your nut or you didn’t. There’s nothing you can do about it until Monday, so let it go.

What I want to address with you is this: Why do you do what you do?

Oh, I know all the standard answers to a question like that: I want to make lots of money—and we’re all about that here at The BizRadio Network. We live—we exist solely—to help you make money: We do it through information, through research we provide, or through the wisdom of special guests we book on our shows that you’re just not going to get any where else. We want you to become rich…

But richness has many definitions…many criteria.

So the standard answer to “Why do you do what you do?” –to make money—is really a pretty shallow answer. If you do what you’re doing to make money, then why aren’t you doing something else that pays you more money than you’re making now?

So, I’ll ask you again…especially if you’re sitting there in late evening traffic on a Friday…wouldn’t you rather be somewhere else? Why do you do what you do?
Is it for happiness?
Is it for fame?
Is it for another purpose?

Helen Keller once wrote, "Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose."
I want you to think about that this weekend as you go through your down time routine.

It’s important that you have downtime.
There’s a cycle we all go through…and for most of us, the weekend is that part of the cycle in our lives where we recharge, replenish, and refresh our minds and bodies.

You really have only two kinds of days in your life: Productive and un-productive.
At the end of the day, you’re finishing either with a net gain or a net loss on your efforts, energies and activities. Just like the stock market…up one day, down the next. Even when the markets are flat, there’s still positive or negative movement. Same thing with you, too. We all have good days and bad days.
Productive and non-productive.

Of those productive days, there are three kinds of activities you will have: Planning, doing, or resting.
Think about that: In your work—in your life—whether you’re a CEO, a factory worker, a house wife or a kid going to school—you’re going to be involved in one of three activities on the days you’re productive.

“I’m always doing,” you might say.
No, you’re not.

Before you Do, you must prepare to do.
You must plan, research, verify, theorize, hypothesize, check and recheck. That’s work—activity—but it’s not Doing.

Doing is what happens with the plans you’ve laid.
Execution of the plan.
A turning of the wheel—applying the electromotive force of your brain to the task at hand, moving towards the goals you have set.

And once you’ve laid out your plans and executed perfectly your intensions…it’s time to rest.

Take a free day—take the weekend. Do nothing involving your job, or work, allowing your brain to float un-tethered from those cares.

That clears your head so that you can start the cycle over again on Monday…planning your week, executing your plans…which makes resting afterwards so rewarding.

Which gets us back to the primary question—why do you do what you do?

If you’re not doing it for the love of doing what you do—you may be in the wrong job. You are mis-cast on the stage of life, suited up for the wrong game—pick a metaphor, but deep down inside, you’re a fish out of water.

So what’s the point? How do you take this muddy nugget of wisdom and turn it into a pearl of great price? What’s it mean to you?

IS what you’re doing a worthy cause?

Albert Enstein said, "Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value."

Is what you’re doing really worthy of your time and efforts—and I think another important aspect of this question is whether or not what you do is beneficial to others?

We all have people who are downstream, of us, and you are down stream of someone else. Seems like we’re all swimming upstream, doesn’t it?
Doesn’t have to be that way.

That’s why we’re here for you at The BizRadio Network…and I’m not saying we have all the answers, but we do have the people with the passion—and a purpose—to help you become truly successful, truly happy, truly valuable to yourself and those around you.

If you’re not happy where you are—what are you waiting for?
Make the change—bust the move—do something that will positively impact yourself and those around you.

Jonas Salk gave only one major interview in the final decade of his life…but from that conversation emerged a simple, two-word formula for getting where you want to go: "Study success."

Succeeding in business without really trying happens only on Broadway. Coach Woody Hayes once warned, "Success comes before work in only one place -- the dictionary."

Aside from work, other elements emerge – a little luck, the ability to work with others, a dose of perseverance and more than a dash of discipline. You must also have that unique combination of goals and vision-- Allegheny Technologies former Chairman Dick Simmons once identified this as innovation. In order to achieve or succeed, you have to have an image to pursue. A better way.

Why do you do what you do?
How will you know if you’re successful?
How clear is your vision for the way ahead?

This is what the weekend is for: so dust off the road map, clean off the windshield…and we’ll see you on Monday on the Radio.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Darwinian Logic Exposed

There’s a mis-guided group of people who band together under the moniker of “Atheists for Human Rights.”

Atheists, by definition, deny the existence of God, or any other “higher power” in the universe. Personally, I think Atheists must be the most pathetic of all God’s creatures, because they have no hope.

Consider, in which group would you rather find yourself:
1.) Those who believe in God and discover there is no god
2.) Those who believe there is no God and discover there is

I checked out the website for these people, and it’s truly disturbing. They proclaim homosexuality to be a natural orientation (okay, then get your buddy Charles Darwin to explain that one), and that children do not necessarily need parents of both genders (be sure to check with Chuck on that one, too.)

Unbelievably, this group also states, “no harm is done” in an abortion. Guess that’s not too surprising about people who also proclaim no moral dimension to the issue. Did you ever wonder why proponents of abortion are never represented by anyone who's ever been aborted?

Ironically, Atheists for Human Rights should be thankful for their God-given, inalienable rights as rendered by the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, which allow all free men and women to express themselves freely, regardless of the stupidity quotient.
After all, it’s a free country.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Money Mensa's--NOT.

I just heard the most amazing, idiotic sound bite from CNN, in the middle of a story about the Dow's 238-point spike Thursday. This mensa was telling folks, hey, if you're not in this market, better talk to your 401-K administrator about "moving your money around to take advantage of this up market."
What a dork.

What a pimp for the industry that makes its money on transactions just like this, as people running to jump on the train, try to chase market performance.
Here's a dirty little secret: If your money wasn't in the markets before the Dow's 2% jump, you're too late.
The train's left the station.
What goes up, will come down, and buying stocks or stock funds when the market is at a record HIGH is not a smart move.
The smart thing to do is take your profits off the table, move some of those gains into cash, and place your bets on stocks that that are beaten down--that are effectively cheaply-priced--because they're the ones positioned to gain.

Shame on CNN for allowing this aggregious gaffe to make it on the air.
Shame on you if you buy into the lie.

Less of Moore

Michael Moore is in the crosshairs of Arkansas Gov/Presidential Wannabe Mike Huckabee, in the wake of the slack debut of Moore’s movie about the US Healthcare system, “Sicko.”

Huckabee said, "Frankly, Michael Moore is an example of why the health care system costs so much in this country. He clearly is one of the reasons that we have a very expensive system.”

Huckabee knows wherof he speaks.
He dropped more than 110 pounds and became an avid runner after being diagnosed with diabetes.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Claudia Taylor "Lady Bird" Johnson


A brief note in passing on the passing of Lady Bird Johnson…she leaves behind a rich heritage in the history of Texas and our nation.

I remember when Lady Bird's Texas Beautification plans were first rolled out, and some of the eye- rolling that went on.
Planting flowers?
A shrub here, a tree there?

The Legacy of Lady Bird blooms anew each spring all over the state, and will continue to do so, so long as the planet spins.

God bless the Johnson Family.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sprint's Flottsam and Jettsom

Yesterday we mentioned on the show Sprint’s jettisoning of some "problem customers" who the carrier felt were calling into its customer service centers a little too often. Last month, the company sent a letter was to 1,000 customers notifying them that their contracts would be terminated because "the number of inquiries you have made to us ... has led us to determine that we are unable to meet your current wireless needs."

It gets worse.

Sprint is also “excommunicating” people who roam out of network too often to suit the company... Apparently when you’re home on the range, the deer and the buffalo can range a little too far. Problem is, Sprint’s cutting the cord on about 200 soldiers who’ve just returned stateside from Iraq.

When one unit returned from Iraq, and were redeployed at West Point to train cadets, about one-third of the unit, who were Sprint customers, discovered they were roaming off-network, nevermind the fact they were told by the carrier that West Point was in an area of "best coverage."

They received letters from Sprint notifying them that their contracts would be cancelled because of the excessive roaming they were doing. West Point is a temporary stopover for these guys before they return to their home stations, where they'd use Sprint regularly, on the network, with no problems. Now they're returning home without a cell phone provider.

I smell a huge PR gaffe here, because the soldier also says that many of his unit members shelled out to buy new Sprint phones when they returned. Apparently, while they were away in Iraq, and their phones fell behind the technological advances.
What a way to reward loyalty. Some soldiers actually received their cancellation letters from Sprint the very same day Sprint sold them new phones.

I am told Sprint lost 220,000 customers in the first quarter of this year. Guess it didn't take long to figure out how easy it is to get out of your Sprint contract if you're unhappy--and bonus: you don't have to pay a cancellation fee.
Simply nag the customer service lines and you’re dumped in no time!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Viva Vegas Economics

There are two very emotional issues dividing the country as we head into the pre-pre-pre-election season.

I imagine by the time the last primary (post-ary?)
is held, we’ll either have all the nation’s problems solved, or be sick to death of them.
I fear it will be the latter.

The most emotional issue is the war being prosecuted in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the US’ global war on terror.
I know that’s not PC to say--certain media outlets have banned GWOT from their publications.
Reality bites, and there are teeth marks all over us from this one. No easy solutions here, but leaving is not an attractive option.

The second-most emotional issue has to do with people who live here but aren’t from here.

Illegal-aliens--another un-pc label, which always reminded me of little beings from another galaxy. Undocumented Immigrants—which for some is the same as calling a burglar in your home an uninvited house guest.

There is a conflict between being a proud citizen of a country that has continued to populated for over two centuries from people from somewhere else, and those who would throw up fences, post guards, and unleash dogs on anyone else behind them in line.
I think it’s all wrong headed.
I’m not running for office.

I have long believed that the immigration issue is one that is fundamentally a puzzle of economics, and the solution to managing (not controlling) immigration to the US would also be based in economic terms.

Why to people want to come here from there, regardless of where there is? Because better opportunities exist here than anywhere else. Should we penalize employers for hiring folks who just want to work here?

I don’t think so.
Why not, instead, help the countries from whence come these wannabe Americans, so that there is as much incentive to stay put as there is to come to the US?

What happens when business move their operations out of the US? Labor rates go down for the company, and wages go up for the locals in the new base.
This is the appeal of “off-shoring.”
So, instead of erecting fences to keep folks out, why not instead erect facilities in their homelands to create incentives to stay: steady work and a good wage.

In Las Vegas last week one thing that truly amazed me was the openness with which “services” were offered to the general public.
It was everywhere.
There were boxes and boxes of newspaper vending machines—accepting no money—that freely offered publications that portray things that should make us all blush.
Not in Vegas.

The attitude is so pervasive, it carries over into the dress code. Everywhere I looked, there were women dressed like skanks—except, because they ALL skankily-dressed, they just all sort of fit-in.
Figuratively speaking.

As a practical matter, they barely fit into what they were wearing.
I commented to my Bride, as a trio of slinky girls slithered past us on the sidewalk, it was like “Boobs in Toyland” on the Vegas strip.

Along the street, there are certain public hawkers up and down the strip, distributing printed material that could qualify most anyone for a 1st degree license in practical gynecology, or at least an internship as a mammography technician. They snap the pieces from their stack of cards, and flip them under your nose.
They don’t say a word.
They’re known as “porno boys.”

The less-secure males in the throngs of people merely accept their offerings with a cursory glance, and drop them to the ground.
The sidewalks are literally papered with this detritus.

On the corners are a slightly better-class of such pitchmen and women. They’re pimping show tickets and tours. I sidled up to one of them and boldly asked what the pay scale was for the two classes of street people.

“Porno-boys” are typically undocumented workers, paid in cash, and under the table at that. There are no taxes withheld, and no regulation on their hours, which sometimes can tally in excess of 14 a day. They are delivered food and water, so there’s no reason to abandon their post, under a construction awning, or lining the traffic barriers along the street.
They can take home $600 a week.
Tax free.

The ticket- and show-pitchmen are employees for whom taxes are withheld, and no overtime is paid. They might clear $300 a week, if they’ve held onto the job long enough. The fella telling me all of this was obvioiusly an American citizen—Caucasian male, dressed well enough for Friday night on the strip. Quite a contrast to the foreign-born porno-boys who really had only stand on the sidewalk, slapping cards in the faces of passersby.

How does this fall into our economic theory of offering as good as opportunities at home, making the lights of America seem less attractive? That’s a tough one to answer, when you’re barely 20-years old, passing out porno trading cards, and making $600 a week tax free. I’m not sure the economic theorists factored that variable into the equation.

Meyer Lansky proved that if you built a big enough attraction in the desert, people would come. Maybe that’s the answer—but viva Las Vegas has a whole different meaning here than anywhere else in the world.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Brent's Travelogue

I am glad to be back home in Texas.
Nevada is an interesting place to visit, but living in an oven is not my ideal for quality of life.
We unloaded the car about three minutes before a Texas dew hit, and I nearly walked out into the yard for a thorough soaking and cooling, nature’s way.

I see the general nuttiness in the world didn’t ease up while out of town…

Former Bush-bashing neighbor Cindy Sheehan is reportedly considering competing with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi…I think the role of Wicked Witch of the West was filled a few years ago when the Wizard of Oz was first filmed…

Presidential wannabe Rudy Giuliani says the present tax structure in America is necessary for our economy to operate…and commented over the weekend he’s not in favor of a flat tax. Wonder if Steve Forbes will be re-thinking his endorsement of Hizzoner.

An AP story that ran last week during the holiday noted that the US has lost billions of dollars—and an immeasurable amount of good will since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks nearly six years ago—because of a decline in foreign tourists.

Visits to the United States from countries outside of Canada and Mexico totaled 21.7 million in 2006, down 17% from a peak of 26 million in 2000, according to Commerce Department figures. Meanwhile, cross-border travel around the rest of the world was up 20%. People are going places, just not here.

Several senators are now trying to get the government involved in bringing those visitors back.
I’ll tell you the first place to start: The stinking security lines at the airports.

I get mad everytime I have to go through one of those ridiculous charades. No other country on earth makes you go to the ridiculous extremes you must endure to fly in the US. No wonder foreign tourists have stopped coming.

Okay, so we don’t exactly roll out the welcome mat for folks from parts of the world where the people really hate us. Too bad if you look like one of them.

But I don’t, and my bride doesn’t sport a burqa when she travels, so I really have a hard time swallowing the stupid routines that are required when flying. That’s why I’d rather drive up to four hours in any direction—it’s just less hassle than flying there.

The Senate Commerce Committee wants to establish a nonprofit public-private corporation to promote the United States as a tourist destination, and create a new office in the Commerce Department to work with other agencies on fixing visa policies and entry processes that discourage visits.

This could be a colossal waste of our tax dollars.

Oxford Economics says the 17% drop in visits since 2000 has cost the United States $100 billion in lost visitor spending, almost 200,000 jobs, and $16 billion in lost tax receipts. The United States is the only global destination without an ongoing program to promote itself.

Greece spends $150 million a year, Australia $113 million and Britain $90 million. It would be best if any increased advertising about the wonders of Broadway or the Grand Canyon be accompanied by changes in the visa and entry systems that keep people away.

Ever since that moron from Britain, Richard Reid, tried to light his Nike on a flight from Paris to Miami, you’ve got to pad about the airport in your stocking feet if you’re flying from Houston to Dallas. Reid’s getting three squares a day, no death and no taxes, and we’re all shucking shoes, belts, hats and coats, like lemmings in line at the airport.

The Discover America Partnership says 70% of foreign visitors have a great experience in the USA, once they get beyond the airport. 745 return from visits with favorable views.
The Oxford study recommends expanding the visa waiver program, and applying the $10 visa waiver fee to promotion and entry security improvements--like hiring more border and customs officers—to increase overseas travel to this country.

If we could boost that by nearly 1.6 million visitors a year, we’d yield $8 billion in new visitor spending and $850 million in federal tax revenue.

And maybe we could keep our shoes on.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Breakfast in America

Getting something to eat in the city that never sleeps is harder than you think.

For the past couple of mornings, I’ve been originating the show from Las Vegas.

Because Vegas is on Pacific Time, and does not observe Daylight Saving Time, and Texas is on Central Daylight Saving Time, there’s a two hour difference.

In order to start my show at 6am CDT, I have to be logged-on to our network by 4am Vegas time. When you factor in equipment schlepping, set-up and testing, plus a little pre-show prep, I’ve been getting up at 2am.
Vegas Time.
Thank goodness for hotel wake up calls.
They’re automated these days, so it doesn’t put anyone out.
Getting food at that hour is another challenge.

Yesterday morning I was told Room Service closes at Midnight.
Are they kidding?
Have you seen the activity in the casinos at that hour?
What if you're hungry?
No dice.

This morning I got creative.
I got the hotel operator to connect me with the Catering Division, whose crews were busily setting up the various exhibit rooms for today’s first sessions of Freedom Fest.

Eddie Bunch is the Chief at this hour, and did he ever come through.

Shortstack of buttermilk pancakes, big ol’ glass of cranberry juice, scrambled aiggs, and some pretty good bacon.

Las Vegas is where anything can happen.
Even breakfast at 5 in the morning when Room Service is closed.
Thanks, Eddie.
You do the Bally’s proud.

Viva Las Vegas

We’ve been broadcasting live from Las Vegas the past two days. FreedomFest is in full-swing at the Bally’s Hotel Convention Center, in the middle of the fabulous Las Vegas Strip, at Las Vegas Blvd. and Flamingo Drive.

The Big Story in Las Vegas is the heat.
Record-setting 116-degree temps yesterday and Wednesday…forget those frying an egg on the pavement stunts to demonstrate how hot it is. In Vegas, they bake pot roasts on the pavement. It’s that hot.

Most Las Vegans drive with just two fingers on the wheel…and the bicyclists’ biggest fear is that if they get knocked off their bikes by a car, they’ll cook to death on the pavement before help arrives.

I still can’t get over the fact that there are people up, slugging slot machines at 4am here (6am Houston time). Actually it’s a little pathetic—you see these little old men and women who can barely hobble from one electronic game to the next on their walkers, puffing on a coffin nail, slammin’ coins into the slots. And they look so…hopeless. I don’t get it.

Apologists for the Gaming Industry will tell you this is their choice, and people are going to do it anyway, so the Casinos are providing a “service” in setting up their games so folks can play. I’m not sure I buy that.

Obviously, there's lots of money in play. You think the casino operators are building these fabulous facilities and giving away boatloads of money? I don't think so, Tim.

It’s a moral conundrum I’ll tackle when the temperature’s not quite as torrid, in which it’s an effort to think or blink your eyes.

Vista of the Day: Next door is the Bally’s Paris Hotel, replete with an Old World hot air balloon, and a scale model of the Eiffel Tower.

Along the blistering sidewalk was an iron rail fence, with misters billowing their cooling fogs into the faces of passersby. And up through the trees, a view of the Tower that’s a little out of place in the Nevada desert.

Meyer Lansky would be proud, though.