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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gun Violence - ongoing debate

Have we really decided that we can NEVER solve this problem?  Do we not wonder why it continues to occur here but not in countless other countries?
As I have previously said too many times, the incidents like the latest Fort Hood shooting (following the previous Ft Hood incident by a mere 5 years) finds no political will for doing anything important or substantive to address causes and prevention.  The Republican candidate for governor of TX today was interviewed on the topic and, of course, saw absolutely no need for "mental background checks" for those seeking to purchase semi-automatic handguns at TX gun dealer stores.  He would apparently rather accept the inevitability of a continuation of these incidents than dare to place any impediment in the way of any Texan no matter how impaired from exercising his 2nd amendment rights.  Sad, sad. (April 2014)

(December 2012)  I find oddly amusing the declarations by the spokespersons for the NRA as to what lessons have been learned and what ought to be done next to reduce incidence of gun deaths and shootings. My interpretation and recollection of what they have said is that none of the "blame" for the bad things that happen can be laid at their feet. None are the result of policies and actions taken at the insistence of the NRA. None are due to the requirements they have placed on elected politicians to make the 2nd amendment protections the most important protections, trumping other "rights" such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for those whose rights are cut short by gun violence. They don't want to allow consideration of renewing the ban on semi-automatic assault weapons. They don't want to consider the need for reducing the capacity of magazines. They don't want to allow discussion of "cop killing" bullets vs. shells appropriate for hunting most game. But these three possibilities are vitally needed and necessary now. No, I don't believe they necessarily would have totally eliminated the possibility of all bad school and public shootings. But they would reduce the annual death toll from such future events. Instead, the NRA says we should arm Barney Fife and place him in every school. Who would pay for this? Local school taxpayers, of course, who likely would not pony up the funds to accomplish this. And the NRA talks about doing something about those who are mentally incapable of handling firearms. This part of their solution, however, is only vaguely addressed. Not much of a helpful approach there, NRA.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Les Miserables

I admit, this screed is born of a desire to focus momentarily on something other than the 20 precious children and 6 adults murdered at Sandy Hook last week. But I’m sure my mind will return to it in due course. Today I question the editing/selection skills of the advertising people who are promoting “Les Miserables”. The full trailer as seen in the movie house as a preview is quite powerful and makes one eager to see the film. The TV commercials, on the other hand, are insipid and fail to command attention or elicit interest. Yet the TV commercials use the same cuts as was used in the full preview. They simply move way too quickly from one snippet to the next scene. And the voice over does nothing to encourage the public to want to watch this movie. Don’t be mistaken, I will be seeing this film probably the first week it is out. (Noon-time “senior” matinees are usually not too crowded.) But were I financially invested in the success of “Les Miz” I would be thinking about changing publicists/editors.

Friday, December 14, 2012

School Shootings -- Gun Violence

Multiple deaths similar to the Aurora movie house massacre are the price we pay as a society to underwrite the Second Amendment “rights” for “lawful gun owners.” I normally abhor redundancy. But this is posted immediately following news reports of the multiple killings in Wisconsin in the Sikh house of worship. I intend to repeat this declaration following every senseless criminal action that is exacerbated by our toothless laws addressing automatic weapons and ease of obtaining ammunition. I last posted this in August, 2012. It obviously bears more attention today as the news reports on the horrific shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut are filling every second of cable news channels today. It is time, it is passed time for those who can no longer stomach this repetitive trend to tell the NRA, our elected politicians and the US Supreme Court that the time has come. THE TIME IS NOW! Without infringing on any law abiding hunter or home protector's "right to bear arms" the time has come to restrict the sale of assault weapons, semi-automatic and automatic handguns & rifles and the ammunition that makes them so terrible. There are many actions that can be taken and should be taken. But first the NRA needs to be rendered less powerful. Congress needs to know that strategic votes won't end their careers. Americans who believe their innocent children do, in fact have an incontrovertible RIGHT to safety in the schoolhouse must communicate this right as surpassing the 2nd amendment "rights". The NRA and gun supporters must admit that the they don't really need current lawlessness to ensure that the federal government won't invade their homes & force unpalatable political decisions on them.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It can’t be just me. I doubt that I’m the only consumer/TV watcher who hates their commercial. They must figure that that which makes their commercial stand out, by grating on my nerves, affects others differently so that it becomes memorable. And all the creator wants is for the sponsoring company to be remembered. I’m talking about the Discover Card commercial where the narrator does a sing-song rhyme for seven or fifteen lines and then on the last line goes off-meter by adding at least one extra syllable. The last line always states, “Five percent cash back”. To me it’s like a fingernail scratching down the old blackboard in school. It’s almost enough to make me cancel my credit card with them.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Self-Service" Checkout

Not too many years ago the local Walmart and the huge grocery chain in this part of Texas, HEB , both instituted “Self-Checkout” counters where a person could scan all their own products, pay through an ATM type machine, bag the products and leave without direct involvement of and clerks or checkout persons. As of November, 2012, however, both these retailers have abandoned these efforts. We are back to “full-service” checkouts or “Express” aisles where those with less than 10 or 15 or 20 items can go. So, what happened to this great technological leap forward? Were the big box companies just too far ahead of their times? Were the customers too inept to handle the multi-tasks involved? Were the exceptions to the rule too much of a challenge? Or did the customers miss the smiling faces and interesting conversational exchanges with the store employees? I have at times used the Self-Checkout without incident. At other times if the scanner didn’t work or the instructions on the screen for paying got too cumbersome, I’ve experienced the frustrations of an unsatisfied customer. Final analysis, I used the Self-Checkout when the manned lines were too long and the Self-Check kiosks were empty. Given an even choice of letting the store employee handle my transaction or doing it myself, I most often opted for the Full-Service. Maybe it’s telling that the only chains that still cling to Self-Checkout are Home Depot and Lowes. Guess the DIYers are less put off than those buying chicken wings & Twinkies.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Where’s the Outrage? One would think that somewhere in this interminable election season that one of the news networks or cable news outlets would spend the time it takes to produce (and the public to consume) one tiny article or editorial on the “Swing State Phenomenon”. But no one has. Perhaps because there is no chance of it being changed in the short term and apparently little evidence that the parties who could change it show any inclination to do so long term. The impacts of the status quo are obvious and given. The major party candidates campaign only in six or eight states where the competition is extremely close. They virtually ignore (except for money raising efforts) the 40+ states that are thought to be safely in one party’s column. The parity that those 40+ states produce is interesting. Two of the three largest states historically favor the Democratic Party & its candidates. When California with its 55 votes and New York with 29 votes are combined they represent over 31% of the total number of votes needed for a candidate to reach the 270 total for election by the Electoral College. This is balanced, of course, by Texas’ 38 votes that have recently been safely Republican. Several dozen small (votewise) states join Texas in being solidly “Red”. This all makes the contest come down to the more competitive, closer races in the “swing” states of Florida and Ohio plus five to seven other states that Obama and Romney both think they could win if everything falls right for them by election day. Most news readers and pundits and most of the country believe that the way it is must be “Constitutionally mandated”. And parts of it are. The Electoral College formally electing the president is, indeed, constitutional. What is not required, however, is that states cast all their Electoral votes for the winner of the popular vote in that state, even if that winning total is only a mere plurality. (Those years where the Green Party or Libertarians or other third parties garner a few votes, some states end up being “won” by a major party candidate who falls short of a majority total.) But the “unit rule” that is employed by 48 states is not required by the constitution. States could decide to cast their Electoral votes proportionally, reflecting a closer approximation to the popular vote their state produced. In a “proportional” world rather than one controlled by the unit rule, California in 2008 might have awarded 40 votes to Obama and 15 to McCain. Conversely, instead of winning all 34 Texas Electoral votes, McCain might have earned 20 to Obama’s 14. When tallied individually by states, the result would still have been an Obama win, but not, perhaps, the “landslide” it appeared to be. Were the “unit rule” to be mothballed one result would be a nationwide presidential election campaign instead of one limited to the swing states. As a voter who has not lived in a swing state perhaps ever, I for one would love to see the candidates attending rallies and campaign events in my state. I would drive two or three hours to see a candidate in person at a stadium rally. But alas, the only candidate I’ve ever seen live was Hubert Humphrey in 1968. (Oh, I did see Obama live in Feb. 2008 prior to his losing the TX primary to Hillary Clinton.) But this year, since the 2012 nominating conventions I don’t believe voters in any of the nation’s eight or ten largest cities have seen either candidate live and in person. Their VP mates or surrogates may have campaigned at fund raising events, but no presidential candidates. Why? No real need. But if a candidate stood to win as many Electoral Votes in a losing effort in Texas as he can in Iowa or Colorado, he well might reallocate his resources more evenly across the country. I understand why states and the major parties prefer the “winner take all” effect of the status quo. A true nationwide campaign would become infinitely more challenging. But it would be infinitely more democratic and fair. And I assume this one change would produce a huge jump in voter turnout nationwide. Of course, this is one reason Republicans likely will never give it a reasonable chance. By the way, were you aware that Maine and Nebraska do not use the unit rule. They allocate Electoral College votes by House Congressional Districts (with the popular vote winner statewide also getting the two votes representing the Senators in their state). Nebraska has used this for only one presidential election, and Maine several more. It has resulted in Maine still allocating all its Electoral votes to the popular vote winner. In 2008 Nebraska cast one vote for Obama and the rest for McCain. Maybe in 2016 I’ll attend a presidential candidate rally. Bet I’ll need to plan to visit a distant cousin in Ohio, though.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Big Bird

I am disappointed, though not surprised at the amount of media attention and Twitter activity devoted to Romney’s declaration that he would eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting since we essentially borrow that money from China. What annoys me is that Romney could and did get away with making so much political hay out of such a straw man. The CPB “subsidy” isn’t big enough to be called a drop in the bucket. It’s more like a drop in a swimming pool.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Little League Baseball

I’ve been watching young boys try to learn how to bat a baseball for the last 5 or 6 years. It started with my eldest grandson who was about 8 when he began. He is now 14, and his younger brother is 11. Down here in south Texas, the little league kids get to play at least two seasons a year, "Fall Ball” and Spring or Summer ball. Sometimes the summer season gets extended by “AllStars”. So the boys have had a number of different adult coaches and teachers offering advice, admonishments and coaching on all aspects of the game. Often, maybe even usually, the various coaches support and reinforce each other, even over time. Coaches from Fall Ball generally do not offer totally different insights into skill attainment than the Summer Coaches do. (And in fact, several coaches are involved in both Fall and Spring ball, anyway.) And even when different coaches suggest somewhat different strategies, these still tend to mesh well into the development of overall skills for the boys. And, of course, the two lads compare notes and evaluate what they are told, discarding what doesn’t work for them unless specific coaches are adamant about certain points. And then I personally end up analyzing all I see and hear through the lens of memory. I was a decent little league player myself. And I compare what I hear to what I recall working for me and what we were told several decades ago. This essay is addressed not at all aspects of hitting, getting on base, and contributing to a team’s offense. It will be limited to one narrow aspect. Both my grandsons have developed a preference for “taking” the first pitch. This is not a 100% tendency, but probably does surpass 67%. That is to say, most of the time, they go to the plate intending to watch the first pitch without swinging at it. They have indicated that even if the first pitch is a called strike that their confidence grows after seeing the first pitch. What I find puzzling is that this approach is apparently the preferred method offered by most of their coaches. On those occasions where I’ve discussed it with the boys one of the answers to “Why do you do that?” has been that that was the sign they got from the coach. They were told at times to “take” certain pitches. And often it is the first pitch. They, therefore, develop little desire to defy the coach. What if after getting a “take” sign they swung at the first pitch and missed it or dribble the ball back to the pitcher? I do not recall ever as a player years ago getting a “take” sign on the first pitch. But it’s been enough years, I could easily be mistaken. Nevertheless, my generally memory is that I was usually empowered to decide on the first pitch on my own. Not to be misinterpreted, I am not offering these thoughts from any position of disappointment in the play of my grandsons. They have both developed into quality members of their teams, good players who get good hits and play the game well and hard. Both have been selected to All Stars, which ranks them in the upper echelon of players in their programs. But to be clear and honest, I now think that the average young ballplayer and my grandsons in particular would be well advised to abandon the mindset or intention to take the first pitch. Most little league players should go to the plate thinking they hope the first pitch is hittable so they can smack it. Coaches should reserve any “take” signs for those games and occasions where they are reasonably certain a pitcher needs to be forced to prove he can throw strikes before we help him out. My reasons are as follows: 1. Most young pitchers intend to make the first pitch a strike. They do not possess the confidence in their abilities sufficient that they will purposefully offer up the first pitch outside the strike zone. That obviously doesn’t mean they will successfully throw a strike. But it probably increases the odds slightly. Not only do they try to throw a strike, they will probably make it their fast ball. Knowing this, a batter can plan on the pitcher being successful. 2. The mathematics of the issue comes into play. Batters are given three strikes. If one deliberately gives away the first strike, that reduces the odds of hitting the ball from three shots to just two. And after having passed on a first strike, the pressure then rises on the next two. Should a batter miss or foul off the second strike, giving him two, both the pitcher and the batter are then in a position of enlarging the strike zone for the last strike. The batter has to swing at anything reachable. And the pitcher, knowing that, can offer pitches that are anything but reachable. So, my belief is that most young little leaguers would be well advised to go to the plate looking for the “First Ball, Fast Ball”. This obviously still allows for batters to exercise their instant judgment and lay off of balls that are not hittable or of the speed they were expecting. But it removes those occasions where the batter withholds a swing on a pitch down the center of the plate simply because coach told him to or he had no intention of swinging regardless. Let me close with this declaration that those men and parents who devote their spare time to coaching these lads are, indeed, saints. Thank you! Thank you!

Monday, August 13, 2012

LONDON 2012 (Part III)

It appears to me that Americans just didn't quite have 17 days of interest in the Olympics. The first 10 days we hung on every new event, heat, round. By this past weekend we had moved on to the PGA tournament, "Big Brother", and who knows what. I'm guessing the TV ratings on the closing ceremonies will pale in comparison to the opening ceremonies, in spite of the Spice Girls. Much of what we "learned" from this episode of the Olympics is that political & social correctness has progressed so much and is so rampant as to be almost stifling. Don't tell us that Olympic athletes are randy in the village. And don't be allowing silly athletes to Tweet prior to their message being checked by an agent/guardian/spokesman. But now that the games are over, let the wars resume!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Auroro Shooting: National Tragedy (Part III)

"Multiple deaths similar to the Aurora movie house massacre are the price we pay as a society to underwrite the Second Amendment “rights” for “lawful gun owners.” I normally abhor redundancy. But this is posted immediately following news reports of the multiple killings in Wisconsin in the Sikh house of worship. I intend to repeat this declaration following every senseless criminal action that is exacerbated by our toothless laws addressing automatic weapons and ease of obtaining ammunition. Wake up, DEMOCRATS! Ditto, REPUBLICANS! Gun control is not the slippery slope the NRA would have you believe.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Texas politics

Republicans want Ted Cruz. Really?? What quality "growth" would the Club for Growth desire for us?

Monday, July 30, 2012

London 2012 (Part II)

The media would have us believe that the Olympics are a microcosm of the human experience, that people of different nations and cultures share much more in common than in differences. I think I reject that notion. The "common man" does not adopt a four-year schedule pointing toward important life-events. We do not ignore 90% of what is happening around us in favor of focusing on our "training" and minute improvements in high-level skills. We don't subvert our supporting family members and friends to a lesser status as they show deference to our heightened needs for attention and accommodation. And we do not attempt to parlay celebrity status emanating from our peculiar skill to general overall expertise in world affairs or the human condition.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

London 2012

An exciting new egalitarian twist has been announced by the IOC for the Olympics. They have decreed that they are eliminating all discriminatory medals - gold, silver and bronze - for all events in favor of participation ribbons. This way small nations like Djibouti, Mali, and Tuvalu will not feel out of place and will return home with appropriate self-esteem. As part of this change, all nations will be allowed to enter participants in all events they wish. As a result, preliminary heats in each involved event will triple the duration of the Olympic Games. As a result, the American presidential party conventions will be postponed until late September. Preliminary polls indicate American voters support this shortened official campaign season.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Aurora Shooting: National Tragedy (Part 2)

I so hate it when I'm right on those occasions where I wanted to be wrong.  None of the national politicians who could effect a change are willing to risk any political capital reducing the likelihood of the next mass shooting similar to Aurora.   And I fully understand,  people, that the actions I endorse and support would not end gun violence in America.  But I would rather the shooter not have easy access to automatic assault rifles and magazines with hundreds of rounds of ammunition.  They just ain't "sportin'".
But Romney is totally in the NRA camp and Obama lacks the cajones. “Multiple deaths similar to the Aurora movie house massacre are the price we pay as a society to underwrite the Second Amendment “rights” for “lawful gun owners.” I believe, based on when it was passed, that the Second Amendment guaranteed each of us the right to single shot muzzle-loader or a small single shot pistol. That would have been "the right to bear arms" in the late 1780s.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tragedy in Aurora_Political tragedy in America

Who cannot be saddened by the events last week in Aurora, CO? Such events continue unabated. From last year's Arizona shooting to the massacres at Virginia Tech, Columbine, Jonesboro AR we have witnessed similar events. Some of those involved perpetrators who it could be argued might have been identified and targeted. Others, not so much. Nevertheless, in every instance the events have prompted calls for more "gun control", for making it more difficult for crazed shooters to obtain their weapons of choice. This always produces righteous protest from the NRA and 2nd Amendment defenders. They always assert (usually eloquently and with a flag waving in the background) that restrictions are not the answer. And politicians from both major parties have come to accept the NRA declarations that one can't get elected if one appears to wish to weaken or abrogate the 2nd Amendment. What Romney said to the recent NRA convention: “We need a president who will enforce current laws, not create new ones that only serve to burden lawful gun owners.” It sure makes one wonder what existing laws were not enforced last week in Colorado which, if they had been enforced, would have prevented a dozen senseless executions. This argument would make more sense if the shooter had perchance been an illegal immigrant. Then the blame could have been laid squarely at the feet of Romney’s opponent. But alas, the shooter was not an illegal. The weapons were not illegally obtained. The 6,000 rounds of ammunition were legally sold and bought. What this must mean in spite of any subsequent contrary declarations?: “Multiple deaths similar to the Aurora movie house massacre are the price we pay as a society to underwrite the Second Amendment “rights” for “lawful gun owners”. Meanwhile, President Obama’s statements and positions are similarly toothless. He has assured gun owners and those who oppose any and all gun control that he supports “common-sense measures that protect Second Amendment rights of Americans, while ensuring that those who should not have guns under existing law do not get them.” Unfortunately, there is no indication that the Colorado shooter was not one of the “Americans” who should have been denied the weapons he obtained and used. The inevitable meaning of Obama’s campaign position is that “Multiple deaths similar to the Aurora movie house massacre are the price we pay as a society to underwrite the Second Amendment “rights” for “lawful gun owners.” So, as you hear politicians declaring that we must make sure this “never happens again”, don’t believe them. They just don’t mean it. What they mean instead is that “Multiple deaths similar to the Aurora movie house massacre are the price we pay as a society to underwrite the Second Amendment “rights” for “lawful gun owners.” Note: I acknowledge that this published screed means I will never be elected as a legislator on any level. That’s the price I’m willing to pay to underwrite the rights I think are even bigger than our 2nd Amendment rights -- the right to LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Great Advertising Slogan

On several occasions I've railed against advertisers and commercials that I find inane. It's only right to highlight a brilliant advertising line. Yesterday my wife & I took a drive & ended up in Brenham TX at the Blue Bell Creamary. On their flyer they make the following statement - (paraphrasing) - "our ice cream is so good that we eat all we can and sell the rest." LOVE IT!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Armageddon by Leon Uris

I just finished reading Leon Uris’s 1964 work, Armageddon. It described post-WWII Germany, the Berlin Airlift and the Marshall Plan. It makes me believe that the type sacrifice and clear headed statesmanship that allowed the Air Lift and the Marshall Plan to succeed would likely not be possible today. There is no way the two major American political parties could agree cooperatively to pay the costs, seek the solutions to our challenges the way Americans did (and British and French) in 1946-48.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


I must be missing something, maybe several somethings. Why do so many of my peers & friends detest and oppose the Affordable Care Act? Many people who are either Medicare eligible or federal retirees or both have, if they will admit it, benefited from aspects of “socialized medicine” for significant portions of their professional lives. Yet they now lambast the decisions taken by the country in 2009 and subsequently to extend the availabililty of medical care to large portions of the populace. Why? I do regretfully understand the position taken by some in the 20s – 30s age groups who prefer to roll the dice on their current state of good health and avoid the cost of insuring that it continues. That is and should be their “right”, perhaps. Except that the whole concept of insurance has always been that resources are produced by large portions of a population for concentrated use by isolated individuals when unplanned needs arose. And while a person may choose to go without automobile insurance coverages that address replacement or repair of their car if damaged, they cannot likewise decline liability coverages for dealing with what happens if their wreck damages someone else’s car and injures others. In this vein, I could agree with the libertarians that people should be free to pay or not pay for health insurance. If . . . and only if the hospitals and “the people” were free to decline to treat the uninsured. I also am totally missing the argument in the news the last few days that the ACA represents such a huge “tax”. Which specific taxes are set to rise?? And by how much? The “penalty” or “tax” for those who opt out of the “mandatory” coverage would affect a fairly small segment of the population. But what other taxes besides that will be exploding?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

FATHER'S DAY Just glad that my first two kids have memories of Grandpa Delbert. I know he's looking down proud of all 7+ great grandkids (from our progeny) and the other "greats" from my sibs. Fond memories of both Dad and Mom on this Father's Day.

Thursday, March 29, 2012