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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The T-Word

Perhaps to most, this isn’t earth-shaking news, but it does testify to the fact that sometimes the little guy can eke out a win over the big boys.
Seems like down in San Antonio, Domonique Ramirez, the winner of the Miss Bexar Beauty competition had her crown stripped for chowing down on too many tacos.
According to Ryan Owens and Jessica Hopper of ABC News, Miss Ramirez was told to lay off the tacos or else she would lose her crown.

Obviously she didn’t, and she did.

She sued and got her crown back.

Sort of a flaky story, but stay with me.

Lay off the tacos! Saying that to a Hispanic is like telling Hermie Swartz he has a nose that looks like a bagel or Joe Nyguen to stop smoking the Lotus leaves.

The entire argument between Ramirez and the pageant was a typical ‘she said,’ ‘he said’.

She claims she was ousted because of her weight in her bikini pictures. Said Ramirez, “She (the president of the organization) told me I need to drop thirteen pounds and I needed to lay off the tacos.”

The president of the Miss Bexar County organization testified the bikini pictures were ‘unusable.’

Now, I don’t know what ‘unusable’ means here. I saw the bikini picture. She looked okay to me although she did have a little pooch-out on the outside of her thigh. What I’ve heard called ‘saddleblankets’. I’ve seen better pictures, and I’ve seen worse.

The president added that the committee did not believe Ms. Ramirez would represent San Antonio well. (talk about flaky excuses)

There are many arguments for beauty competitions, and I know their proponents can rattle off a list of benefits. Still, what those contests boil down to is the measure of physical beauty and charm, paying little attention to the inner strengths of some young women.

Now, I know I offended someone there, and yes, I know many beauties have inner strengths. Don’t all beauty competitions have questions involving moral vigor and inner strength? You’ve heard the questions, and all seem to have the same perceptive answer, ‘World Peace.’

But can you honestly tell me that if Joan of Arc was as ugly as me and competed in a beauty contest, she would win—or even place—or even be allowed on the boardwalk?
I doubt it.

I’m sure the Bexar County pageant officials are all nice folks, but they’ve got to be a couple pickles shy in that barrel of political correctness so prevalent in our namby-pamby society for telling a Hispanic to lay off the tacos.

The courts obviously agreed.

Does this mean we can’t say taco? Will it become the T-word to go along with the N-word and S-word. I even heard some dude mention a ‘D-word’, whatever it might be. Surely we have not outlawed the obsequious ‘damn’. If that’s the case, I have several friends who will go mute.

I was teaching a writing class a couple weeks back and our discussion turned to the flap over Mark Twain’s classic novel, ‘Huckleberry Finn’ and its use of words prevalent back in the Nineteenth Century.

Seems some over zealous reformers with nothing better to do want to replace words in books they’ve never read. They’re probably on the Miss Bexar County Beauty Competition Board.

I grew up in another time and culture. Expressions I heard from my birth on were part of my vernacular, a vernacular I have over the years modified to conform to present expectations.

When I first heard it, I was amused at the expression, N-word, for to me it personified the abysmal ignorance and lack of historical significance to those demanding the use of the term.

The only time I hear the word today is among those of the culture it identifies. And when I hear it, the word is always a slur.

Yet, among other groups, Caucasians are often referred to as crackers and honkys.
What I propose is establishing an integration of vernacular among various cultures. If the expression ‘N-word’ is acceptable, then I say let us also accept ‘C-word’ and ‘H-word’ for cracker and honky.

Turn about you know.

Oh, yeah, and let’s don’t forget to put in the ‘T-word’. Can’t leave out our neighbors to the south.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How Long is Too Long?

I’m sure everyone is overjoyed to know that in another few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to vote once again in local elections.

What’s that, you ask?

Local elections. You know, where you have the opportunity to decide who will shape the future of your city and school district.

That’s right. Come May 14, you can waltz right down to the ballot box and with no one looking over your shoulder, make your own statement regarding who you want to direct the path of the two most immediate governments in your life, your school district and your city.

Have you ever noticed how here in Southeast Texas some school board members or city councilmen—whoops, excuse me, councilpersons, have served multiple terms?
In some cases, I don’t mean simply multiple, but multiple multiple. I’ve always admired those individuals’ dedication to public service.

Although it is not politically wise for them to admit the fact aloud for fear of offending their constituents, public service is a thankless job, demanding time, energy, and usually a considerable loss of hair.

Please understand, there is nothing curmudgeonly intended, but I often have wondered just how effective these dedicated individuals are after three or four terms. With rare, rare, rare exceptions, constant power subtly insinuates arrogance into the blood of elected officials. At first, they’re fresh and eager. After a few years, six or seven, they begin to feel a sense of entitlement to the position. Another few terms, and there is no way on earth you will ever convince them that their methods, their ideas, and their beliefs are not the ones that are best for their constituents.

Now, I could get into Ford Park all over again. You remember that fiasco when county officials took it upon themselves to dig that hole to pour tax money down. If we had a law holding such idiocy financially responsible for boondoggles like that, what do you want to bet they would cool their heels in a New York minute?

But, let’s don’t talk about that. Let’s talk about how Beaumont wasted tax money by stubbornly refusing release of public information about the firefighting situation. The council knew better. They knew they could not hold onto the information, but they did and the state jumped them. Now, they’ve wasted more time and money because they ‘knew what was best for the city’.

In a pig’s eye.

Somewhere along the way in that exhilarating ride of power and influence, they forget that ‘myself’ is not how you spell ‘constituent’.

Before I talk about my own city council, let me stay with Beaumont a few moments longer. Actually, we could stay with them for weeks and not run out of the foolish ways they waste taxpayer money.

You know about the lake under construction. I can tell you right now, hundreds of drug dealers, homeless people, rapists, muggers, and those other denizens of the dark are panting at the opportunity to explore the dark shores of Thomas Lake.
Wise choice of the city council, a haven for undesirables instead of good roads for its taxpayers.

Sometime back, Port Neches came up with a long-term plan to develop the riverfront. They built Tugboat Island and then a splash park.

Great venues. I take my grandkids there often. I don’t even complain about visitors from everywhere utilizing the either spot. It’s for kids, and they enjoy it. Our city did a super job there.

Initially, they toyed with a venue much like Kemah, but finally let it drop (I thought) because of lack of easy access and absolutely no drive-by drop-in possibilities.

Now, word has surfaced they’re considering dumping more funds into the proposed scheme. I tell you folks, the scheme is a fool’s errand. They can spend millions upon millions and a solid hit from a hurricane will wipe it out. And don’t say it can’t happen.

These are just two or three situations where voters should consider perhaps new blood. Some of the long time incumbents think they know what is best for us if even we disagree.

So, throw the old ones a party, give them a gold watch, and show them the door.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

World's Greatest Lie

“The check’s in the mail’ is the world’s second biggest lie. The first is the government’s patronizing remark, ‘trust me, I’m here to help you.’

Now, we know the government is said to be ‘of the people, for the people, and by the people’, but too often those little prepositions, of, for, by, are supplanted with the possessive pronouns, me, my, mine by the politicians in Washington.

In their Quixotic quest to help us, they end up hurting us much more than if they’d just picked up a club and bopped us on the noggin.

Look at the automobile industry. Over the years, administrations have constantly made new regulations regarding transportation. Now, I’m kinda like Fox News, fair and balanced, so I’ve got to say in all honesty, some good has come of Washington’s regs.

But, with the good also comes a bad side.

You remember how automobiles had to be maintained decades back. Unless you were well heeled, tinkering with your car was a given if you wanted to keep it in running condition.

With automobiles of the last decade or so, we’ve not had to face that problem. That’s good.

So what’s bad about that? To butcher a Lewis Carroll warning, ‘beware the Jub-Jub bird’ of the nanotech convenience of sophisticated technology for it brings higher repair bills.

Technologically superior vehicles are a two-edged sword. Other than regular maintenance, they require little, if any under-the-hood work from the average Joe Car-owner, but the work they require costs a pretty penny and a sophistication far beyond our puny grasp.

The only time I look under the hood of my cars today is to replace a battery or add a special mix of liquid to the water reservoir. I have the oil and fluids changed regularly.

My first car was a 1949 Ford convertible, baby blue. It was a good, dependable car. I worked on it, tuning, repairing—all the requisite maintenance.

Since then, with two exceptions, an MGB and Ford Fairlane, I’ve driven General Motors products.

Up until my current automobiles, I worked on them.

Today, I wouldn’t dream of it.

One night, I was coming back from the library in Beaumont when the ‘service engine soon’ light came on in my Chevrolet Silverado.

Now, I had run into that once on our Pontiac (General Motors). It turned out to be the gas cap wasn’t on tightly enough. (that was a first for me—I can remember driving with just a rag in place of a missing cap)

I wasn’t as lucky this time.

The service man plugged it into the computer. I learned the thermostat was stuck. The engine wouldn’t heat properly. I also found out the reason I was adding water to the reservoir that both the manifold gasket and the water pump leaked. And I also discovered that the water system was under pressure, which meant it would have to be drained, refilled, and all the air siphoned from it.

“Eleven-seventeen,” the service man said nonchalantly.

I blinked once or twice. “Eleven seventeen?” That seemed awfully cheap to me.

“Eleven hundred and seventeen,” he explained.

After fighting off a heart attack, I replied. “I don’t want to refinance it, just fix it.”

I have to give my purple face and gasping for breath credit for the ten percent customer request discount.

I can remember the time when I bought a thermostat for five bucks, yanked off the input water hose, jerked out the old stat and stuck in the new, then topped off the radiator. Total cost plus one beer, $5.75. Gaskets and water pump? A few bucks, my labor and grease, and I was done. Total time for whole job, an hour.
Not today.

Eight hours, nine hundred and ninety bucks including labor, which was six sixty-five. (And I was a teacher. I should have been a mechanic.)

When I look at all the whistles and bells on the newer automobiles as well as the prices, I figure I’ll keep my little Chevrolet pickup as long as I can afford it.

And my Pontiac. After that—I don’t know.

Yeah, yeah, I know. That’s progress, but dadgum it, sometimes progress hurts.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How Much is Your Government Helping You?

Feel like taking a little true and false quiz today? It is a simple one based upon the conservative Heritage Foundation and the liberal Huffington Post.(like Fox, fair and balanced) It just measures how much you know about how our government is helping us. By government, I mean all parties and all administrations for the last several decades.

I think you’ll be surprised at the results.

1. Since 2000, the amount of money the federal government spends per household has risen by twenty-five percent to a staggering $20,000.00 per family.

2. In the next six years, interest will double on our national debt.

3. In 2009, 64.3 million Americans—almost one of every five—depended on government for their daily housing, food, and health care.

4. Congress passed a law that will force you to replace all your old reliable light bulbs with more expensive ones—bulbs that don’t work as well and include chemicals dangerous to your health

5. New federal standards on auto emissions will add about $500 to the sticker price of a new car!

6. When Washington passes a regulation, it is not legally required to estimate the financial cost of the new red tape on families, individuals, or businesses.

7. A former Obama official accused current administration of being indifferent to immigration problems.

1. False. $20,000 per household is the amount Washington politicians spent back in 2000! Today, they are spending $31,000 for every household, and increase of 33%.

2. False. In the next six years, interest will triple! Imagine your own personal debt tripling. If you’re like me, that would be catastrophic.
No wonder more Americans predict that their children’s lives will not be as prosperous or free as their own. But there is still time to act. Cutting federal spending, cutting regulations, and lowering taxes will unleash America’s economy and help reduce annual deficits and our total national debt

3. True. You tell me. Should one out of five Americans totally depend on the rest of us for all of their housing, food, and medical bills? Government welfare has created a class of dependent people. And unless steps are taken, this class will continue to grow. Right now, we’re into the third generation of welfare with the fourth baking in the oven.

4. True. In 2007, Congress imposed energy standards that effectively banned the traditional incandescent light bulb invented by Thomas Edison, which had faithfully served Americans for decades. The last American light bulb factory, in Winchester, Virginia, has closed. Soon, Americans will be forced to buy more expensive compact fluorescent bulbs, mostly made in China, which have higher malfunction rates and can expose you to dangerous amounts of mercury when broken.

5. False. It’s actually worse! Experts estimate those new emissions standards will actually add a thousand bucks to the price of a car! That car will now also be harder and more expensive to fix. And will this cut down on air pollution from autos? Not likely, because research indicates the regulation will force more people to hold on to older cars that pollute more. It’s another example of big government making things worse all around.

6. True. Incredibly, Congress enacts suffocating regulations without any requirement to identify the costs they impose on people like you and me.

7. True. According to Andrew Becker in the liberal ‘Huffington Post’, Roxana Bacon, who served as an Immigration Official for the current president claims the administration has shied away from vision and practical leadership on immigration because they were both indifferent and timid.

I hope you did better than I did. I missed three out of seven. Scary.

As far as I’m concerned, the kind of help the government is providing is help we don’t need. On the other hand, I don’t see any major change coming about despite all the hoopla in Washington. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m afraid Washington is going to help our country into the grave.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Was Bowie the Last to Die at the Alamo?

One hundred and seventy-five years ago, last Saturday, March 6, around 1500 (by most counts) Mexican soldiers overran the Alamo, killing every combatant.

Most accounts of the battle place Bowie in a back room of the low barracks, sprawled on his bunk with two pistols in his hand and his knife between his teeth.

Battering rams slam into the door to his room, smashing it open. Mexican soldiers, teeth bared in feral savagery, charge him, bayonets gleaming.
He kills two with his pistols, another with his knife before dozens of bayonets penetrate him.

Sound familiar?

Whether the story is true or not is uncertain, just as many of the legends that surrounded Bowie and his famous knife, which incidentally was designed by his brother, Rezin.

The Bowie brothers wore many guises, among them land speculators, slavers, gamblers, and devil-may-care ruffians, caught up in adventures from the Sand Bar Fight to the Alamo.

This thirst for adventure probably came from their Scot ancestry and their most famous ancestor, Rob Roy. Jim’s Pa, Rezin Sr, according to Jeff Lee, rode with Swamp fox Francis Marion’s dragoons during the Revolutionary war.

Bowie settled in Mexico in 1828, married, and became a respected citizen of the community despite some shady dealings. In 1830, he answered the call for Texas Volunteers.

When the siege of the Alamo began, Bowie was forty, a seasoned frontiersman and Indian fighter. As researcher Jeff Lee states, Bowie was absolutely fearless. He commanded the volunteers in the Alamo.

Twenty-six-year-old Travis, sometimes moody, commanded the regulars with stern discipline

The difference in their ages and philosophy of discipline portended angry and violent disagreements concerning command of the garrison.

That he was bed-ridden that last day is fact, but what brought about the incapacitation is still argued.

One story is that while helping construct a gun garrison, he fell off the scaffold and broke either his hip or leg.

Others have called this story ‘hogwash’ says Mister Lee.

Some say he suffered from tuberculosis, diphtheria or typhoid-pneumonia.
He went to his sick bed around February 22 or 23 in the Low Barracks.

One fact on which most agree is that he was killed in his bunk except for his nurse, Madame Candelaria. She claimed he died the day before the final onslaught. However, years later in a newspaper interview, she contradicted her initial story when she showed two wounds on her back, swearing she received when she threw herself over Bowie to shield him from the Mexicans.

Bowie, most agree, must have lived until the end of the battle because the Low Barracks was the last to fall. Was he killed in his bunk? Most believe so.

But, according to Jeff Lee, one of the most chilling reports “claimed that as the funeral pyres blazed high and soldiers heaped dead Texans on the pile, some soldiers carried out a man on a cot, a man the captain of the detail identified as "no other than the infamous Bowie." Although the man was still alive, Santa Anna ordered him thrown into the fire along with the rest.”

Would Santa Anna be so cruel?

Probably, if the man were a Mexican citizen fighting in the Texan army. And Jim Bowie was a Mexican citizen, having married nineteen-year-old Ursula Veramendi in April 1831, the daughter of Don Juan Veramendi, the vice-governor of Coahuila-Texas.
In Santa Anna’s eye, Jim Bowie was a traitor. And as such deserved no mercy.

And for most of us, his place as the last to die at the Alamo is firmly entrenched in our beliefs.