Thursday, March 29, 2007

True Confessions

“You didn’t ask a question I wanted you to ask,” said a caller after my show this morning. “You didn’t bring up a point I would have brought up.”

Sorry, I forgot that in addition to hosting a show, leading a guest through an interview and trying to make an interesting segment, I needed to also be a mind-reader.

“Where were you ten minutes ago, when the guest was on the line?” I replied.
“I want you to ask more probing questions, dig deeper with your guests,” said the caller.
Point taken.
Here’s another one: be a participant, not an arm-chair quarterback.

Radio is at its best as a participatory medium, especially when the audience is engaged. Maybe for some of you, I am asking all the questions you would ask.
Obviously for this one listener, I didn’t.

Newsflash—I am not omnitient.
I’m not a mind-reader, either, and some mornings, a call into the show during a guest segment would be a wonderful addition to the show.

If you call during a conversation and have an intelligent comment or interesting question, we’ll bring you on; I think alternative or additional points of view always add depth to any subject.

Bottom line: Don’t be a Marcel Marceau, and don’t be a Monday- (or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday) morning quarterback. As Jim Rome likes to say, “have a take and don’t suck.”

I welcome your feedback.
I relish your participation.

E-Thoughts

E-mail is so much fun.
You love it or you hate it.
I love it.
E-mail leaves a trail, a sequence of thought, of give and take, that can be followed, reviewed, and either adopted or corrected. I know people who hate e-mail because it requires them to crystallize their thoughts to a level of completion in which they can be communicated.

They should be thankful for the process.

Did you ever receive an e-mail that was not intended for your eyes? A juicy piece of gossip, a revealing phrase from a competitor at work, or a memo about you.

That’s what happened to a journalist for Wired Magazine, who inadvertently received an e-mailed memo from a PR firm working for Microsoft on how to "manage" that journalist as he did his job, interviewing Microsoft execs.

Let's just say it was an eye-opener.

One caveat about e-mail: the trail it leaves can be as damaging as helpful when the message is not thoughtfully crafted. Never answer an e-mail in anger or haste; and remember to write it in such a way that the CEO of your company—or the Drudge Report—would not find tantalizing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Busting Chops and Burger King

Nothing like a spittin' match and some rumor-mongering to rile up investors' moods, raise shorthairs on neckbacks, and make folks generally nervous.

Crude futures rocketted over $5 a barrel last night just on the rumors that Iran had fired on U.S. Navy warships. Of course, after the story was debunked, oil prices fell just as quickly…

As I have said repeatedly this Spring, we're just one international incident away from $70/bbl oil.
Again.
There were two on the burner last night, with the false report plus the Iran vs UK dynamic continuing, and after the dust settled, oil still jumped another $1.47 above Tuesday's closing price on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Meanwhile, Iran refuses to budge as it holds 15 British sailors hostage for allegedly violating Iranian international waters. The UK is now prepared to release the GPS coordinates of the sailors when they were detained, embarrassing the Iranians on the stage of world opinion.

I say, what are they waiting for?
Bust their chops in public and expose them (yet again) for the thugs the Iranian goverment is.

Here at home, Burger King will begin buying supplies from meat and egg vendors who do not keep their livestock caged or crated. Some of those suppliers are already yielding to animal rights activists' calls for more humane methods of anesthetizing pork and fowl prior to slaughter.
What's next--voting rights for animals?

So chickens and pigs will soon be sent to the Tyson Countryclub for fattening and "processing." Why does the theme from "Born Free" keep looping in my head?

I suppose if range-fed beef can be a selling point in restaurants, so can free-roaming fowl. I'm not sure how well this might be interpretted on Burger King's menus, however.
Does a Yardbird Croissandwich spark your appetite?

Not all specialty sandwiche ideas inspire consumer loyalty.
This is an actual Burger King markee that was captured and sent to me...bet this sandwich tastes like crap.

Supersize that?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Throwing Softballs and Rocks

The final segments of this morning's show featured the Imminent Ambassador of Mexico, Andres Rosenthal, who is in Houston speaking today for the Houston World Affairs Council.

We discussed the agenda for the administration of new Mexican President, Felipe Calderon, and some possible solutions for issues common to the US and Mexico. Immigration was tops on the list, but the connective tissue of the conversation naturally included the economic and educational policies of Mexico.

Just after closing the show, I received a phone call from a listener (who remains nameless) asking why we were “throwing softball questions” to the guest, and why we weren’t tougher on the Ambassador.

The caller wanted to know why we didn’t bring up the issues of undocumented Mexicans “stacked six deep in a cheap apartment, eating rice, and sending all their money back to Mexico.” The caller knew this because he operates Class-C apartments, which he upgrades to Class-B, but says “the Mexicans” will roach-out his units by allowing too many people to live in space designed for far fewer.

His rant continued; why didn’t we ask about American workers--like the caller’s son, a chef, who must work for a job at $20/hour because of the influx of chefs from Acapulco, who force down the median wage because of their willingness to work here for less pay.

After his clock un-wound, I simply asked, “why didn’t you call-in to ask him yourself?”

That’s the thing about Radio.
It’s only as good as the participation.
I have always encouraged you to be a part of the show.
Some days we get takers, and some days we don’t.
Matters not to me—I will always have content for you, with or without calls.

This listener’s comments were a little like hearing from an armchair quarterback…after the game is over.

I took the man to task, too—I take offense at stereotyping, and his description of a bunch of Mexicans clustered in a small apartment eating rice so they can send money back home, while rooted in truth, was offensive in its depiction. The reason the US and Mexico have an immigration problem is simple economics: there’s more work here than there; there’s better pay here than there.

Like membrane osmosis, where higher concentrations diffuse across to weaker concentrations, Mexican workers are simply going where the jobs—and the money—are more plentiful.

If the caller had been listening, he would have recognized solid answers to the question raised about how Mexican President Calderon was addressing the issue of immigration: Better education, better jobs, less corruption south of the Rio Grande, and a fostering of an economic environment that retains talent in Mexico.

Yeah, I got that answer with a “softball;” imagine what the Ambassador might have said, had we tossed him a rock: “What are you going to do about Mexicans coming here and taking our jobs?” which was how the caller posed it to me.

The guy's question was mis-directed, actually.
It’s not Mexico’s responsibility to address US wages.
It’s not Mexico’s responsibility to tell cooks from Acapulco to not go to the US for better pay.
It’s not Mexico’s responsibility to tell expatriates, don’t you go up there to Texas and stack a half-dozen of you in a one-bedroom apartment.

The immigrant issue is not going to be easily solved—not while xenophobes like this guy promote harmful stereotypes, and address the problem emotionally. The reality is that while there are 11.5-million illegal immigrants in the US, most of them are, in fact, contributing to the economy and our tax base as they spend their earnings here.

There isn’t enough manpower—or busses—to physically round them all up and send them packing across the border. That's just not a realistic answer.

Just as the problem really is one of economics, the best solution will likely also be economic in nature:
Create a mechanism to harness the earning power of such immigrants.
Create a mechanism to tax dollars remitted to families in Mexico.
Create financial penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegal foreigners—and put it into a fund for enforcement of whatever US Immigration Policy ends-up being.

The other reality that my stone-throwing caller failed to acknowledge is that most of the immigrants from Mexico (excepting the criminal element) are the cream of that culture, driven by a higher desire to achieve and excel.

They can't do that there, so they come here to realize their dream.
I think it's something called "the American Dream..."

That is the element we want woven into the fabric of our country, which derives its strength from the diversity of our conjoined cultures and heritages.

Monday, March 26, 2007

In a Dither for Twitter

Silicon Valley is in a dither over a new mini-blogging service for mobile phones predicted to be a mass-market hit with the reach of a YouTube or MySpace. It’s called “Twitter,” which allows you to post short messaged—up to 140-characters—that can be viewed on a web site or mobile phone.
Don’t laugh.
YouTube turned out to be worth $1.65-billion…which adds new meaning to the phrase, “I’d like to buy a vowel.”

Are you ready for a million-dollar laptop computer?
Luxury goods creator Luvaglio’s laptop will include a 17" widescreen LED screen, 128GB of disk space, and a Blue-Ray drive. A diamond piece of jewelry will activate the power button when placed into the laptop, and also doubles as security identification.

Venezuela is getting cozier with China in a series of oil deals structured to wean that country away from exports to the US. The China National Petroleum Corp. is looking to develop production in the Orinoco Belt, and will cooperate with Venezuela in building three refineries in China, and a matching set of "super-fleet" crude tankers.

Meanwhile, President Hugo Chavez is moving to expropriate large ranches in his country, creating “collectives” to redistribute land to the poor.
Not much of a history student, are you, Hugo?
Might want to take a look at the performance of that idea in what used to be The Soviet Union. Yeah, that worked out really well for those people…

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Truckin' thru the Weekend

The proceeding comments are not a paid endorsement.
The writer was not compensated in any way for his assessment of the vehicle…although he did drive it around for a few days in Houston in the springtime, which could have mind-altering effects on anyone.

Texas is Truck Country.
At least that’s what the Ford people
would have truck buyers believe in their TV ads. I don’t think Ford ever counted on Toyota building a truck assembly line in San Antonio…nor did they ever dream Toyota’s truck line would challenge Ford’s heritage as the first choice among pickup truck owners. Bob Dylan once sang “the times, they are a-changin,’” and but I doubt he’d ever seen a Toyota truck when he wrote that line.

The new 2007 Toyota Tundra is the challenger.
The contender.
It could very well emerge as the gold-standard for full-size pickup trucks when the dust settles, because this is not your father’s Cowboy Cadillac.

Tundra must be an Indian word for “head turner.” It has versatile usages in everyday conversation, for example:
“Tundra truck around, I want to go back.”

If nothing else, the new Tundra is a head-turner.
And a neck-snapper, too.
The 5.7-Litre V-8 has plenty of torque, and lots of sizzle from a standi
ng stop.
The fuel gauge does quiver each time you test the off-the-line performance, but no one’s buying this truck for its outstanding fuel economy (which is nothing to sneer at: 15-to-18-mpg from an
engine this large in a truck this nice is something you can swallow.)

During the few days I drove the Texas Edition Double-cab, people stopped to ask about the truck. Older guys, who had been thinking about getting another truck again…and young bucks, hankering for their first, serious truck.
It inspires the imagination to ask, ‘what if?’

Growing up in the city, most folks would think there’s not much need for a truck (present neighbors excepted; this is, after all, Texas.) But even in the ‘burbs, there’s always an errand to run, a chore to be done that can be accomplished a little easier when you’ve got a truck.

“Handy as a pocket on a shirt,” as my Dad used to say.
Our first truck was a 1969 Datsun. I think it might have had a 1.2-litre engine; it had a four-speed manual transmission, and no A/C, and I know he paid $1,200. for it, cash, brand new. I rode home
with him from the dealership, and it smelled of fresh paint and epoxy sealant, and that oily new-engine odor. It fit in our garage with what seemed like yards to spare on all sides, dwarfed by the family sedan (a '56 Chevy 4-door).

I learned to drive (and how to shift a manual transmission) on that truck.
So did one of my brothers.
My little truck was notorious around campus: it was one of the few vehicles on campus that a team of 8 strapping high school flat-bellies could lift from its parking space and place strategically atop a speed bump (effectively blocking a key connecting lane between parking lots, and guaranteeing a summons to the principal’s office.)

By the time I graduated high school and was commuting to the University of Houston, I’d “tricked-out” the Datsun with wide tires, aluminum rims, and a kickin’ 8-track secreted in the glove box. (Hey, we’re talking mid-70’s here…)

My first, new truck was a 1978 Plymouth (built by Mitsubishi, the people who brought you WW-II.) It was metallic black, with a yellow-orange-red striping package, and tricked out in the showroom with chrome rims, wide tires, a roll bar and a sunroof.

I once lost a pet boa constrictor in that truck.
Drove all the way from Houston to Tulsa, not knowing if the serpent was here or there, dead or alive. I pulled into a gas station when I arrived in Tulsa and raised the hood to find my pet coiled comfortably atop the air cleaner housing.

So even though I now drive a two-seater rag top that barely has room for two day’s worth of clothing and a computer case, I have a keen appreciation for a fine truck.
The Tundra is one, fine truck.

And, like a well-designed shirt, it has numerous pockets of ingenuity: the built-in cargo tie-down tracks were perfect for hauling-in my lawn mower for servicing. If you work out of your vehicle, like many do, there are compartments large enough for clip boards and a set of hanging files, if necessary. I’m pleased I can plug my iPod into the aux-input of the JBL sound system.

The rear view mirrors are more than ample, and telescope on their arms for trips involving towing boats and trailors. A truck this large has plenty of blind spots; Toyota thoughtfully integrated convex mirrors into the side rear-views to compensate.

There are reams of statistics and numbers and specifications on the Toyota Tundra, which comes in three basic configurations. I won’t repeall that here. Go get your own Tundra brochure if you must.

The bottom line is how a vehicle drives and feels and looks.
TheTundra looks great, especially with 20-inch rims.
It runs great, and stops on a dime with giant, four-wheel disc brakes.
The interior is fit for a king...or a crew of four of the king's workers and their gear.

The Toyota Tundra is destined to be a great truck.
In Texas, that’s saying something.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Immaterial Thoughts

In politics, absurdity is not a handicap.
--Napoleon Bonaparte
The title of first to influence national politics now belongs to the state of Florida, setting a new Presidential Primary election date of January 29.
California’s primaries have been moved to February 5, and other states are considering stepping up their polling schedules.
Just like the car makers, who will sell you next year’s model today; if this keeps up, the 2012 Presidential winner could be decided in 2011.

Germany’s weekly Die Zeit is running a headline, “Madonna would vote for Al Gore over Hillary.”
Who cares?
What Madonna thinks is immaterial.
Why do these people print this stuff?

In a stunning episode of finger-pointing, tourists are now being blamed for global warming. The World Tourism Organization says air travel and the use of air-conditioners by vacationers are among the excesses that are polluting the air “on par with heavy industries.”


The WTO reports that 842-million people took a holiday in a foreign countryin 2006, 40% of them flew to their destinations-- that's more people than the population of the United States, taking trips.
So go ahead, relax, you polluting slacker.

Attention, Wal-Mart Associates: your bonus is ready on Aisle Three. The company the world loves to hate is splitting over $500-billion among 80% of its employees—819,000 of them.

Work the math, and the average bonus for a Wal-Mart hourly employee comes to about $650 per worker; and many will receive much more than that. This year Wal-Mart will also be paying associates with more than 20-years’ service a bonus equivalent to a week’s pay. 13,400 qualify for the extra pay as Wal-Mart struggles to improve its corporate image.

CEO Scott Lee last year was paid $15.7-million + stock awards.
That's that's gotta be where the low-price leader smiley face comes from.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Back in The Saddle

(Houston) My thanks to Karl Eggerss and Jack Warkenthien for standing in the gap during my trip to Washington D.C. this week. We did some important work for cancer research funding…and I appreciate Karl and Jack’s help that enabled me to get away.

What a fun place D. C. can be…yesterday the Al Gore rock 'n roll Global Warming tour chugged through Congress and across the Washington Mall (which, I had to gently tell my bride, is not a shopping center), where the global warm-mongers were in full force with an inflatable planet earth sitting atop a glowing pyre…

I spoke with a doctor about this during our visit…and mentioned my global warming theory—that is, the instrumentation and measurements we’ve taken in the past 20—years are much more precise, and what we’re actually seeing is a comparison of more accurate data against less precise measurements of the past. What Mr. Gore and his disciples are ignoring are the cyclical patterns of global temperature variations…and, I suspect, most of the hot air contributing to certain atmospheric gasses, in fact, are emanating from the mouths of politicians.

You’d never know there’s an energy crisis on right now. Talk about global warming—every building in Washington D.C. was running heat at 85-degrees. A beautiful day in Washington on Tuesday—clear skies, brilliant sunshine, temps in the 60’s…and every building in town was blast-furnace hot.
Want to melt an icecap or two?
Just leave the door open to any government building…

On the other side of the capitol, on the steps of the Supreme Court, the argument was over First Amendment rights for students. There were kids out on school break, demonstrating by taping their mouths shut. In most school districts, teachers can lose their jobs for that.

This argument is a waste of the Supreme’s time.
Students don’t have rights.
You go to school on the public dime, then go to class.
Learn.
Accel.
When you graduate, then you can exercise all those rights you’ve learned about in Civics class. In the meantime, sit down, shut up, and get the lessons done.

We walked all over Capitol Hill, and last night, as my legs and feet were recounting the mileage travelled, the thought struck me that Nike is missing a real opportunity: Why not create a dress-sneaker?

(The sneaker industry already creates some of the most hideous shoe designs known to mankind. You’d think that with that kind of mis-guided creativity, they could partner with a main-stream dress shoe designer to come up with something that looks classy, wears like iron, and is kind to feet that daily pound the pavement.)

In Washington (and New York, and I suspect all major cities), the ladies in particular wear sneakers to commute, carrying their dress shoes (heels, pumps, whatever) in a bag. After negotiating trains, busses, cabs and curbs, they discretely change into their fashionable shoes, tucking the sneakers away until the afternoon commute.

So why not a Nike (or Reebock or Brooks) sneaker that looks great with a suit (men’s or women’s) is easy on your feet, and will take the pounding of a daily commute?

On second thought, it’ll likely never happen. Why would shoe manufacturers sell a product that cuts their volume sales in half?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Mr. Clanton Goes to Washington

(Washington, D.C.) If you’ve thought this corner of the blogosphere has been a little quiet this week, well, you’re right. I’ve been a little busy.

This posting comes to you direct from Gate 14 at Reagan National Airport, just across the Potomac from our Nation’s Capital. The past three days have been spent in preparing and presenting research on behalf of the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society.

This is a lame-duck year in Congress.
Although there’s a “new” Democrat majority in control, they are rapidly reaping the whirlwind of their own stalling tactics of the past six years.
Republicans are fast learners.
Well, maybe not, but they have taken good notes on how the Dem's managed to delay action on stuff they didn’t like.
Now it’s the Republicans’ turn.

This would all be very entertaining, were there not some real life and death issues at stake.
No, not the Iraq War funding bill.
But appropriations for continuing funding for blood cancer research at the National Cancer Institute, the Department of Defense, and the Geraldine Ferraro Blood Cancer Research Education Program are three key areas in which we really can’t afford to cut corners.

Research funding has actually shrunk in recent years, despite a doubling of efforts and appropriations. Even when funding remains flat, it’s a step backwards because of the effects of inflation. The fear is that because the researchers who are doing the serious work of identifying how cancer works and identifying the compounds to counter it, are like you and me, they go where the money is.

Doing rewarding science work doesn’t always pay the bills.
And as federal funding wanes, there’s a “brain drain” effect in this area of science.
That also creates a loss of momentum in the work and progress that has been achieved so far by these brilliant researchers.

So I and 300 of my cohorts in the Leukemia Lymphoma Society mounted another annual Mission Day to preach the gospel of Gleevec and promote the idea that with more money to pay researchers, the final key to curing all cancers can be obtained. We’re close.

On Monday I lunched with Dr. Robert Newell, who 40-years ago had an idea that cancer might be the result of a genetic flaw. He was right—and determined how chromosomes which are mis-stacked cause cells to mis-fire internally. Based on his work, Gleevec was developed which completely corrects the genetic flaws which cause Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) in the majority of patients which use it. A secondary benefit of this medication is its use in the treatment of Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors.

There are more developments to be made…but it takes money.
And time.

Wars come and go.
Parties rise up and decay.
Power shifts.

Cancer, however, respects neither race, gender or party lines.
The congressmen we talked to this week said they get that.
I hope they do.

You might want to drop your congressman a line this week, and encourage them to support more funding for blood cancer research at the federal level.

You may thank yourself later, when a friend, family member…or you…discovers you have a personal need for the results of that life-saving work.

Friday, March 16, 2007

If He Did It?

So Khalid Sheikh Mohammed says he’s The Man behind 9/11 and other heinous acts of terrorism, including the first World Trade Center bombing, a plot to assassinate the Pope, personally beheading journalist Daniel Pearl, the Bali nightclub bombing, and numerous other nefarious deeds?

That’s a pretty bold claim…Sounds like he’s trying to be the Al Capone of the Middle East.
A braggart in a keffiyeh.

If he did it, there’s no punishment too severe.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Great Moments in Human History

Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.
--Thomas Sowell


I’ve got an idea:

Let’s build the biggest ship ever made. We’ll make it water tight, and we’ll separate it into compartments so that if it should spring a leak in one place, the rest of the compartments will keep it afloat. And because it cannot sink, we won’t need to take up as much space with useless life boats, so we can put more passengers on board. Thus by selling more tickets, we’ll be fabulously rich!
What could go wrong?

No, wait. Here’s an idea:

There’s this thing called the Internet.
You may have heard of it.
Dot-com, or Dot-net, or something like that.
The government and universities have been working on it for years, and it’s going to be all over the place, and people are going to be able to watch movies on their computer, and this thing called e-mail will replace the postage stamp, and anybody who’s anyone will all have things called web pages and blogs and you can buy stuff over the internet.

So we’ll just put a dot-something after our name, throw a website up, and people will drop money in our laps, and it’s all upside.
What could possibly go wrong?

No, I’ve got a better idea.

Let’s build a series of dikes and levies around the Mississippi River Delta so that we can expand the usable land in New Orleans. Everyone wants to live there, and we can keep the water out, and build quaint, French-flavored neighborhoods, and people will flock there to live and work and play, and our City will become the Crown Jewel of the Gulf Coast.
What could possibly go wrong?

Ooh—ooh—I’ve got it; I’ve got it:

You know those people that didn’t jump on board for that internet thing? Some of them had grandparents that came to this country on steamships. Some of them were living in New Orleans when that little storm hit.

They need places to live…and there are a lot of guys who did cash-in on that internet thing, they’re doing pretty well now, and they’re wanting to buy bigger places in California…spread all that money around. Let’s get these groups together and lend money to people to buy homes they really can’t afford. But we’ll do it with loans that offer really low rates at first.

Everyone will jump on board, and because there’s plenty of funding to go around, everyone’s going to be buying houses—even speculators who like to buy rental property. And home values are going to go up, so there’ll be lots of equity to tap into, and people will take out loans on their homes for new boats and cars and vacations, and it’s really going to create a positive ripple effect in the economy—you know, that trickle down thing.
I read about that on the Internet.
What could possibly go wrong?

Meanwhile, in a massive tent pitched upon the distant sands of the Middle East, a group of robed Bedouins and Sheiks gathered to contemplate their new-found wealth from deposits of oil located beneath their feet.
What to do? What to do?

“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” said one of the leaders.
“Let’s sell our oil to the Americans. They’re always creating and engineering new ways to do things, and seem pretty successful at it. Remember that D-Day thing a few years back? The French loved it.

"What could possibly go wrong?”

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Spitting, Squatting, and Subbing


The biggest spitting match of the week: Viacom suing Google for $1-billion over copyright infringements on the YouTube website.
We were going to post the story on ours, but our attorneys told us not to.

Meanwhile Microsoft is preparing to go after cybersquatters---companies or individuals who have claimed internet domain names that include combinations of X-box or Microsoft.
Does that make them cyber-sooners?

A national restaurant chain is taking advantage of the slump in the mortgage market by offering an entrĂ©e that would not otherwise be served to regular customers…only those who have in the past failed to pay the tab after a meal, or who tip poorly.
You guessed it—the sub-prime rib.
Look for it on a steakhouse menu near you.
It’ll be 90-minutes late when you order, though.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

TXU and Global Warming in Hot Water

The Public Utility Commission says TXU made $19.6 million in 2005 by withholding electricity from the wholesale market when it was in greatest demand.

Seems TXU received excessive prices for electricity as many as 554 times from June through September of 2005, according to Potomac Economics, the independent watchdog for the Texas power grid.

TXU inflated prices by 15.5%, costing its customers $70 million.

I believe there are former Enron employees now doing jail time for this very thing.

Speaking of power problems…Iran’s nuclear program is having a hard time building steam because the Iranian government hasn’t paid the Russians yet.

Atomstroiexport, the Russian contractor, says Tehran hasn’t paid for the nuclear fuel yet.

By the way, Iran is complaining that this weekend’s box office blockbuster, “300,” which tells the story of the Battle of Thermopylae, is insulting to the Persian Civilization.

Since when did those guys care?

Last time I checked, Iranian Uberfuher Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had relegated Western Civilization to the trash heap.

Does this mean one of them went to one of our movies??

Did you hear about the North Pole expedition, meant to bring attention to global warming, that was called off after one of the explorers got frostbite? If that weren't enough, the explorers called off their 530-mile trek across the Arctic Ocean after extreme cold temperatures drained the batteries in some of their electronic equipment.

The New York Times has an interesting piece in today’s edition refuting some of the hype and hysteria that’s been whipped up by most-favored earth boy, Al Gore, in his “Inconvenient Truth.”

Last week we shared with you another inconvenient truth—that Gore’s home in Tennesee typically burns up 20-times more electricity than the average American dwelling, which would case the former VP somewhat hypocritical in telling the rest of us how we ought to live our lives.

The Times today quotes several scientists who say Gore is ignoring the scientific record of planetary cycles in making claims that mankind is irrevocably ruining the climate.

Robert M. Carter, a marine geologist at James Cook University in Australia, is quoted as saying, “Nowhere does Mr. Gore tell his audience that all of the phenomena that he describes fall within the natural range of environmental change on our planet, nor does he present any evidence that climate during the 20th century departed discernibly from its historical pattern of constant change.”

Dr. Don J. Easterbrook, an emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University, also disputes Gore’s claim that “our civilization has never experienced any environmental shift remotely similar to this” threatened change.

Dr. Easterbrook says that’s nonsense if you look at temperature trends for the past 15,000 years, which included 10 large swings along with the medieval warm period. The shifts were up to “20 times greater than the warming in the past century.”

Dr. Easterbrook also mocked Mr. Gore’s assertion that scientists agreed on global warming except those industry had corrupted.

“I’ve never been paid a nickel by an oil company,” said Dr. Easterbrook, “and I’m not a Republican.”

Nuff said.

Monday, March 12, 2007

DST Holiday


Whereas the annual shift to Daylight Saving Time causes great personal upheaval, lost productivity in the workplace, and shortened tempers and frayed nerves due to the loss of an hour’s sleep;

Whereas the net gain of "springing forward" clocks one hour is essentially negated by the time consumed to reset said clocks;

Whereas the increased use of electricity during pre-dawn hours negates the positive effects of burning the lights an hour less in the evening;

Whereas it is unnatural to get up an hour before the chickens do;

Be it therefore resolved to establish a National Holiday on the Monday following the conversion to Daylight Saving Time each year, in order to establish a more gentle transition to the earlier time, lessen the emotional and physiological shock to the population, and provide for a more orderly, productive start to the work week of the people by the people.

If we can celebrate the birthdays of dead presidents once a year, we can surely make allowance for the precedent that makes us feel dead with the onset of DST.
Pass this along to your favorite Congressperson.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

It's About Time

I am on record as a non-supporter of the return to Daylight Saving Time.
Not just the three weeks earlier version we just went through this weekend. Ever. I don’t buy it—the idea that you save energy by spinning your clock forward one hour, so that you’re getting up an hour before the chickens still do.

Here’s why: Most of us burn a lot of juice just getting ready for work each morning. Now that more of you are doing it in the dark, you’re running the lights earlier, right?

We’re still going to run the TV, dishwasher, and clothes dryer, and I don’t know a soul that’s not going to still stay up late enough to catch David Letterman’s Top Ten List.
So no gains are made in that department.

Gasoline prices have jumped again at the pump.
Know why? More demand, as the "longer dyalight" hours provide more time to drive around in your car.
Sheesh.

Instead of an energy conserving policy, we’ve been inflicted with another government mandate about how we should live our lives, including when to get up the morning.

It took me an hour to adjust all the clocks in the house and cars yesterday…about what I “gained” by springing forward.

In three weeks, we’re going to have to double check our computers to make sure the “fix” we were given for this weekend holds through that weekend. More wasted time and concern.

One of my more anal employees actually wanted to get up at 4:30a this morning, just to be sure things were working when we signed on. I applaud the zeal; I deplore the exploitation of her anal retentiveness.

There are lots of stories in the news this week about how the world is going to hell in a handbasket because of alleged global warming, a feared global drought, and the extinction of species because mankind is messing with Mother Earth.

I shudder to think what’s going to happen if we don’t stop screwing with Father Time.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Liberty Belle

Buddy Cantu and I took a trip back in time yesterday afternoon, courtesy of the 309th Bomber Group.

We flew in a restored Boeing B-17-G bomber.
It was amazing.

The strategic bombing of German manufacturing and refining capacity in 1944 and early 1945 were essential for the success of the D-Day invasion. Once air superiority was achieved over Europe, the end of the war was just a matter of time. The B-17 was an integral part of that story, because the raids completely demolished the Nazi ability to wage war.

The 390th Bomber Group flew over 300-missions in WW-2--dropping over 19,000 tons of bombs. 179 of its aircraft were lost, with a total of 378 enemy aircraft destroyed, 78 probably destroyed, and 97 damaged.

The 390th garnered many commendations and a reputation for bombing accuracy that was reported to be the best in the 8th Air Force. The Group’s aircraft losses the lowest per mission flown/bombs dropped.

This weekend, a piece of history will be in the skies over Texas, with the 390th Group’s Liberty Belle B-17-G bomber paying a visit…and offering you an opportunity to capture the nostalgia of this magnificent war bird.

Buddy Cantu and I had the honor of meeting Don Brooks, a member of the Board of the 390th Memorial Museum, as he flew the Liberty Belle into Houston yesterday for a weekend round of warbird flights for the public. With only 14 B-17’s still flying, this was a special event.

Liberty Belle is especially significant to Brooks: his father was a tail gunner on the original B-17 dubbed Liberty Belle, based out of England. The restoration of this airframe was re-named after his dad’s plane. Imagine flying an aircraft your father fought in.

Brooks has spent the past 14-years and $3-million dollars making the ship airworthy.
She is a work of art.

Many men have passed through the hatches of this B-17; they're all veterans of other flights in other planes. This airship never actually saw combat. Everywhere Liberty Belle has flown, she has drawn the curious, the nostalgic, the appreciative.

Many of them have left their names behind on the inside surfaces of those portals, even guys the B-17's fought against. I noted a German flyer, Hermann Hoppe, left his moniker on the inside of the rear hatch on one visit.

Liberty Belle is providing warbird flights this weekend out of Hooks Airport, in Tomball, north of Houston.
Call Scott Maher at 918.340.0243 for arrangements.

If you're reading this from afar, Scott will also be able to tell you where else you may next see Liberty Belle.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Reality


Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
--Philip K. Dick


Many people like to suspend their recognition of reality, and pretend that it’s somewhere else, or that the the place where they are is safe and insulated from reality, simply because they're there. That is no reality.

No—the best way to deal with reality is to confront it head on: no pretense, no sugar-coating, no dancing around the issue. Deal with your realities today; disbelief is a temporary narcotic against what must eventually be done.

We do not believe if we do not live and work according to our belief.
--Heidi Wills


You may espouse a certain set of ideals, a level of operation, a standard of performance. But unless you live it—follow those ideals, operate at the level you know you should, and maintain that standard of excellence, you’re only fooling yourself, and no one else. The rest of the world sees and observes and notes those who say one thing and do another. It will ultimately show in your work and resonate in the reputation you must carry with you, regardless of where you are.

No one can build his security upon the nobleness of another person.
--Willa Cather


We all have mentors who help us through our careers…and in a very real sense, our personal friends are mentors, too; guiding, sustaining, even daring to accurately criticize those things within us that need correction from time to time. But ultimately, our destiny, our success must rest in our own laps, be carried upon our own backs.

We cannot depend upon the goodness (or badness) of others in order that we might move forward. It is up to each one of us as individuals to shoulder the responsibility for where we go in life, what we achieve, and what our legacy will be. We can watch, and listen, and learn from others, but the final scorecard is our own, and there are no mulligans in real life.
That is reality.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Libby, Labels, and Liabilities

A slight revision to the Libby’s soup jingle from a few years back might be appropriate following yesterday’s conviction of former Vice Presidential helper, Scooter Libby: “If it says Libby Libby Libby on the label label label, it’s guilty guilty guilty…for lying and obstruction of justice in the Valerie Plame CIA leak investigation.

Can’t wait for the DVD of this one…

Did you see all the dour-faced talking heads on the network last night with their “reaction” stories and pontification about what’s next for The Bush Administration in all this. Katie Couric could barely hide her glee, despite the strained expression of concern on her face, and Bob Shieffer was intoning how bad this would be for the White House.

Folks, there’s a whole lot of more important issues on the President’s plate this week…there’s a war (both in Iraq and in Congress) as well as other foreign and domestic issues that truly matter a lot more. The president's plate looks more like a buffet tray.

The political arena is truly becoming a multi-ring circus, with Hillary faking a southern accent as she addressed a church in the south over the weekend…and on the front page today’s New York Times is a piece describing the financial shenanigans of Sen. Obama Barak, who apparently bought stock in two speculative companies who stood to gain from legislation he pushed through Congress…

The Times says Barak apparently purchased more than $50,000 in stock in a satellite communications business whose principal backers include four friends and donors who had raised more than $150,000 for his political committees.
Man, I want the back-scratcher concession business on Capitol Hill…

What would Wall Street be without a soap opera?

A spitting match between Microsoft (MSFT) and Google (GOOG) kept traders entertained... . Like a couple of 5th grade girls competing for attention on the playground, a lawyer for Microsoft accused Google of being one of the "companies that create no content of their own, and make money solely on the back of other people's content, are raking in billions through advertising and initial public offerings."

I’d like to see both attorneys on that new FOX Show, "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grade Student?”


UnitedHealth Group says options backdating issues will result in a $1.5-billion dollar hit to previously reported earnings. Seems some Einstein in the accounting department thought it would be a swell idea to re-price the stock options based on events already transpired.

To me, this is like betting on The World Series outcome the day after the game.


Actually it’s more sinister than that: UnitedHealthGroup was one of a half dozen companies that back-dated stocks to October 2001, so that insiders could profit from depressed markets following the 9/11 attacks. KLA-Tencor is another company that has emerged as an abuser of the system by backdating stocks to take advantage of the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on civilized society.

Speaking of transparency…


Did Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin not tell the whole truth to Congress in testimony meant to gain approval for his bid to merge Sirius and XM Satellite Radio channels? The New York Times says the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Kevin J. Martin, is questioning how Mel said what he said about the proposed merger of the nation’s two satellite radio companies, and that subscribers would both pay the same monthly rate and receive significantly more programming.

Mel promised last week that prices would not be raised and the advantage to listeners would be the combining of the best programming from both satellite radio operators.

Ain’t necessarily so.


You may actually have to pay more than the current monthly rate of $12.95 if you want all the Major League Baseball feeds, which are now only on XM, plus all the pro football broadcasts, which are available only on—surprise!—Sirius.

Mr. Karmazin backpedaled yesterday and said his testimony was not misleading, what he meant to say was two things: a.) subscribers wanting to keep their existing service would not face a price increase—and—b.) listeners who wanted the best of both services would pay less than the combined rate of $25.90.
Smells like a rate increase to me.

FCC Chairman Martin says those nuances of detail were not clear from Mel’s testimony, and that the commission will “need to determine the benefits to consumers of this deal, and in doing that, we will need to carefully look at what price will be frozen and what consumers will be getting for that price.”

So a combined XM and Sirius operation really would be to Radio what Cable has been to TV: Greater choices, yes.
Greater expense, definitely.
Getting what you pay for from Cable and Satellite Radio—priceless, so far…because no one has a clear picture of the structure.