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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

New Indian in Town

I’m proud to announce a spanking brand-new Indian has joined the reservation at Port Neches, Class of 2030.
My little grandson, Noah David Wood, was born August 21, 11:37 a.m. to Susan, Gayle and my elder daughter. Mom and son are doing fine. Dad is a wreck. Siblings are both puzzled and curious and feeling a little left out.
The little guy has ten toes, ten fingers, and he is healthy. What more can you ask?
We held him within two or three hours of his birth, and what surprised me most was that he was pink—a healthy pink. He wasn’t yellow with jaundice, red and wrinkled from being so scrunched up in his tiny abode of nine months, but pink and smooth.
Now, all babies are precious, a gift to us from God to nurture and rear to be a decent human being. But the truth is, and if you’ll admit it, most infants fresh into this big wide world don’t look exactly like Gerber babies.
Once when Bill Cosby was talking about the birth of his children, he claimed when he saw the first one, he thought his wife had given birth to a lizard.
Think back. Remember?
But Noah was different.
I held him for about twenty or thirty minutes all swaddled in his blankets and cap. He slept the whole time while I marveled at his color. Most infants take a couple days to pink out.
His brother, Mikey, is six, heading off for kindergarten this year at Taft Elementary in Groves. Mikey takes after his Dad, Big Mike, euphemistically called such because of his height, one so lofty he has to duck to come in the door.
Mikey comes to about my chest and probably scares the dickens out of ninety pounds. The Peewee football coaches love him.
His older sister, Hannah, is in the sixth grade at Groves Middle School.
I have a feeling Noah might take up acting or some sort of drama because for the last few weeks, he kept us all in suspense. Just like the consummate actor, he has a sense of perfect timing. Hold off until the last second to milk all the tension possible from the audience.
You see, Susan had a feeling the little fella might come early, so each day for the last few weeks, we halfway expected him to put in an appearance.
Day after day, he was a no-show. Day after day, we waited, holding our breaths, keeping our fingers crossed. And day after day, he just remained warm and snug.
Gayle and I laughed about it. Who could blame him? What kind of sense does it make to leave a warm abode with all its security for the world outside where nobody knows what might happen in the next moment?
His due date was August 15.
August 15 came and went. By now, Susan was—how do I put it. Susan was somewhat peeved at her recalcitrant infant who was already in position.
She contacted her doctor for an exam. All he could do was shrug and report the obvious. Noah was playing hard to get. Give him another day. If he hadn’t stuck his head out by then, they’d take steps to help the stubborn little squirt make up his mind.
So Tuesday the 21st,at 6:30 a.m., they gave the feller a nudge.
I couldn’t help imagining little Noah there, upside down, his tiny arms stuck out in a last ditch effort to hold back the inevitable. I even imagined him shouting “No, no. I don’t want to go out there.”
But he did, and he is, and we’re all tickled pink that he’s out here with his family, both families.
Mike’s mother and grandmother live in Beaumont. Wonderful folks. Judy, Mike’s mom, took care of Mikey while Susan and Mike were at the hospital. Noah and his big brother, Mikey, and their sister, Hannah, are lucky. On their Daddy’s side, they have a great grandmother, Marie, a remarkable woman herself who served in the U.S. Navy Waves in World War II.
And they have us on the other side.
Noah got a break, a special break. Unlike so many million other babies, he was born in the U.S.A., where, despite all our problems, we still live in the greatest country in the world. Unfortunately, you’ll be one of those helping straighten this out in the years to come. But that all comes later. You just sleep and eat and grow. You’re in good hands.”
Sleep tight.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Stinking Gift

If you’ve been following the news, you are well aware the political fur is flying. One accusation after another is being hurled by all sides at each other.
More than once in the last few weeks, my jaw has hit the floor upon viewing various political advertisements.
Who or what can we believe?
All I can suggest is take it all with the proverbial grain of salt. It is difficult to pin facts to the mat, a heck of a lot more difficult than trying to give a cat a bath.
When I ask myself if I’m better off now than I was four years ago, I have to say ‘no way’.
Why? Basically, the economy.
I base it on my own personal and family expenses.
Four years ago, my weekly trips to Walmart averaged about $90. Today, the same items hit almost $120, a $30 increase. And if you’re on a fixed income, that $30 takes away from some of your other ‘like to dos’. The same type of increases hold true all other areas.
Fast food is up; medical expenses are higher; insurance costs more; autos are outrageous; and on and on and on.
When prices increase, most families, me included, look for ways to shave our own spending so we can balance our budget.
Let’s forget politics for a moment. Let’s forget that some fanatics bleed blue or red--Libertarians? I don’t know. Maybe they bleed pink. But let’s forget about the color of our blood and concentrate on putting the American budget back in shape.
Unless you are a welfare cheat—no, I shouldn’t have said that. Welfare cheats don’t read columns like this. They’re too busy spending food stamps on lobsters and beer.
There isn’t a concerned citizen who doesn’t know the ultimate fate of our country if such spending continues.
With all its moles and warts, the Ryan tax plan addresses the issue. At least it is a start on winnowing the chaff from the grain.
I know, I know, there are hundreds, yea, thousands of questions, but we have to begin somewhere. The House has sent a couple budgets to the Senate where they died and long and painful deaths.
I found a list of items the Republican side of Congress wants to cut.
After reading them, you’ll be as shocked as I was not only by their number, but by the way obscene amounts of tax monies are spent.
Right up front, the plan doesn’t cut Social Security nor Defense. What I read is that while it does make an effort to reform SS, those citizens over 55 are not affected.
There are fifty-four items on this list. They range from eliminating taxpayer subsidies to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for a $12.5 million annual savings to repealing the eighty-one year old Davis-Bacon Act for more than $1 billion annually.
Some of the other programs on the list to be either required or eliminated are:
Eliminate Presidential Campaign Fund. 775 million savings over ten years.
Eliminate Intercity and High Speed Rail Grants $2.5 billion annual savings
IRS Direct Deposit: Require the IRS to deposit fees for some services it offers (such as processing payment plans for taxpayers) to the Treasury, instead of allowing it to remain as part of its budget -- $1.8 billion savings over ten years.
Require collection of unpaid taxes by federal employees.$1 billion total savings.
Prohibit taxpayer funded union activities by federal employees $1.2 billion savings over ten years.
Eliminate Mohair Subsidies $1 million annual savings.  
Sell excess federal properties the government doesn’t use. $5 billion total savings
No funding for federal office space acquisition. $64 million annual savings. 

A perfect example of just how careless those jokers are with our taxes is clearly illustrated in the two previous examples.
One wants to sell unused government properties and the other wants to eliminate funds for federal office space acquisitions. (only in Washington can they justify spending money by working against each other)
Here are only ten examples of the list, which contains forty-four others.
They are all as wasteful as these next two.
For example, we could save $1.565 billion by eliminating Amtrak subsidies and $17 million by getting rid of the International fund for ‘Ireland’ (whatever that is)
One last example of Washington’s obscene spending is the Congressional Death Gratuity.
When a member of Congress dies, his family is given his yearly salary as a death benefit. In addition to insurance.
Some deal, huh?
The list totals $2.5 trillion savings over ten years.
Will Congress follow these suggestions?
I doubt it.
While the alternative is unthinkable, we best think about it or we’ll end up like Greece.
Like I said, we’ve got to start somewhere.
If we do, then in six decades, our kids and grandkids can have it all paid off. That’s some stinking gift we’ve left them, huh?
If you should want the entire list, e-mail me. Happy to oblige.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I Told You So!

Over the last few years, I’ve ranted and raved about the folly of Obamacare. From the beginning, I claimed it was being jammed through without enough time to peruse thoroughly the 2700 pages. That was enough to make me skeptical.
And then when you turn around and realize the document is written in such a manner as to be open to interpretation depending upon the mindset of those making the final decisions.
I caught some flak from those who disagreed. Nothing wrong with civil discourse. Some wasn’t quite so civil, but you and I both know that’s the level to which ignorance stoops when it is backed into a corner.
I’m just an average guy trying to make it from day to day, hoping for the best. Neither Democrat nor Republican, I want what is best for my family and our country. And I have always believed that the health bill, as written, is not good for us.
Before you pull out the tar and feathers, I hasten to add there are parts that are super for all of us. You know them, no one will be denied insurance; folks get help on medicines; and many others. There are those who need help, and in all decency, we should help.
No, what I’m talking about is the errors brought about by a fanatical rush to pass the law without proper discourse. Sometimes, maybe we can discuss our president’s true motives for jamming it through Congress, but now, let’s talk about a couple mistakes in the monster bill that could make the ‘affordable’ ‘unaffordable’ or that would permit couples making up to $60,000 eligible for Medicaid.
Yep, I said Medicaid, M-E-D-I-C-A-I-D. You know, that federal insurance designed to aid the less fortunate.
The New York Times, a predominant liberal newspaper, stated “a glitch in the language of Obamacare could make the “affordable” health plan unaffordable for millions of American workers.”
Let’s take a look at the ‘glitch’.
Of course, where Obama is concerned, even a full-fledged disaster is only a ‘glitch’.
But, let’s get serious. Obamacare says insurance provided by an employer is not affordable and thus eligible for subsidies if the employee’s premium is more than 9.5% of the household income.
So far, so good, Right?
Now, here’s how the bill sticks it to the average American.
IRS (and remember, the government hired 16,000 more agents to handle Obamacare), states this 9.5% is based solely on the individual coverage of the employee, not the cost of covering his family. I shouldn’t have to explain to anyone family coverage is considerably more.
For example, a family has income of $40,000. The employee’s premium is $200 a month, $2400 annually, but his family’s premium is another $2,400. That’s $4,800, around 12% of the family income. On the surface, they are eligible for help with premiums.
Now, here is the glitch.
Since the employee’s premium is less than 9.5%, he is not eligible for subsidies, but what about the additional $2,400 for his family? That puts him over the 9.5%. His family should be eligible for subsidy, but he is, according to Obamacare, not eligible for subsidized help on his premiums.
If you remember, last week I wrote about how complicated the bills were written, and now you can see why. The more confusing, the more lawyerish, the less the average Joe Sixpack wants to mess with them.
Hey, and there’s more.
The Mail Online’, a political watchdog, reported that up to three million people could qualify for Medicaid in 2014 because Obamacare includes a clause that Social Security benefits would no long be counted as income for determining eligibility for the program.
For Medicaid, the law states an eligibility of 133% of poverty level ($22,350.), which comes out right at $29,700 for a family of four in 2011. Say the retired husband and wife have a sum total of 2,500 SS benefits. That’s another $30,000 for a grand total of almost $60,000.
Extreme case? I hope so, but can you imagine the games the welfare cheats will play with this?
In all fairness, The House of Representatives passed a bill to rectify this mistake and sent it on to the Senate where nothing, as far as I can discover, has happened except they’re all on five weeks vacation now.
Doing nothing must be mighty tiring.
In forty-one years of teaching, I worked with thousands of youngsters. I tried to teach them to think for themselves, avoid dogma, and to always think though their decisions.
I wish those folks in Washington had done the same thing.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Time to Speak Out

I can remember decades back how surprised I was when I discovered how political parties, unlike leopards, have changed their spots over the last couple hundred years. Their political philosophies did an almost 180 degree turn.
At first I puzzled over it, then I realized such is the natural course of any endeavor in which individuals participate for their beliefs and philosophies will affect their decisions involving the venture.
That’s one reason you often hear remarks such as ‘this is not the Democratic (or Republican) party of my grandfather’.
You’ve heard similar comments.
So it is no surprise that over the last three years, the current administration has been changing the philosophical premises of the Democratic party. Some of these changes, however, are so subtle as to have slipped past many of us. While I was aware of some of the obvious changes, others passed by me like the proverbial ship in the night.
What opened my eyes was an article by Steve McCann on The American Thinker, an online political site with conservative views. I repeat, ‘conservative views’, not Republican, not Democrat, but views held by a majority of Americans--the same kind of Americans that stood up for Chick-fil-A.
I, as Mr McCann and just about everyone I know, recognize the upcoming election as one of the most important in the history of our country. I firmly believe if Obama is re-elected, America will change dramatically in that it will no longer be the dominant country in the world.
And what is wrong with being dominant?
We are dominant because of the free enterprise system. Free enterprise and capitalism has made America a world leader. Work you butt off and you succeed.
But if you are one of the ignorant who believe we should lower our own standards of living so those who take advantage of welfare won’t feel slighted or have their poor feelings hurt, then while I wish you no harm, I hope that your car breaks down, or the bus doesn’t run, or a wheel falls off your bicycle when you go to vote in November.
Obama, during his first term, put in place, says Mr. McCann, executive powers that enables him in his second term to fulfill the campaign promise of transforming America, regardless of which political party controls Congress.
During his first term, he has made Congress irrelevant.
Don’t believe me?
Look what Congress has done. Nothing.
Cleverly exercising executive orders, Obama continues making decisions that alters the direction we are going, and Congress sits on its collective thumb.
During his election honeymoon, he was clever enough to pass a wide variety of laws that transferred vast, almost unlimited powers to the executive branch.
If you say, ‘so what?’ then please don’t vote.
You see, the Executive Branch (Obama), the Judicial Branch (Supreme Court) and the Legislative Branch (Congress- ha, ha! What a joke!), by our Constitution have equal power.
He has taken those powers and established them in the Executive Branch
Why do you think the health care plan was 2700 pages long?
A Chicago political move, it was deliberately written in vague terms so that Obama’s bureaucrats appointed to interpret the laws could place just about any interpretation they wanted on them.
No? Then why did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi imploring the House to pass the bill  screech out to pass it ‘so we can read it and see what is in it.”?
In this 2700 pages, the Secretary of Health and Human Services is referenced 2,500 times; he is instructed he ‘shall’ do something 700 times; he ‘may’ take some action on his own discretion 200 times; the law states ‘the Secretary ‘determines’ 139 times.
In essence, Mr. McCall concludes, one person, appointed by the present, will be in charge of the health care of 310 million Americans once Obamacare is fully implemented in 2014.
Look at the way the Secretary of Health and Human Services is ordered to be in charge. He ‘shall’; he ‘will’; he ‘may’; he ‘determines’.
Where, I ask, is there room for our input, for our doctor’s input?
Are we back to the Middle Ages where a landlord ‘shalls’, or ‘wills’ or ‘determines’ what we do?
And if that isn’t enough, the same holds true for the 2,319 pages of the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act, which confers almost unlimited power to control financial, banking, and investment sectors; and create new agencies not subject to any control by Congress.
“This overall process,” concludes Mr. McCann, “Was repeated numerous times with other legislation all with the intent of granting unfettered power to the executive branch that is controlled Barack Obama and his radical associates.
It’s time for America to stand up and reclaim the inalienable rights guaranteed us in the First Amendment.
I can’t help thinking of that mournful soliloquy regarding the holocaust.

First they came for the communists,
And I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
And I didn’t peak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
And I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
And there was no one left to speak out for me.

Right now, folks, there’s enough of us left to speak out. It’s time.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dog Heaven on the Neches

Dog Heaven on the Neches

I heard about an old East Texas bachelor who had a small cabin on a few acres near the Sabine River. Seems like the last two fingers on his left hand were frozen shut from a boyhood accident. His only companion was an old mongrel hound, Barney.
Well, the old boy was out hunting one day when he got snakebit by a fat cottonmouth. After tending the bite best he could, he headed home, but along the way, he grew dizzy and sat to rest, He closed his eyes. His old hound lay at his feet.
When he opened them, he struck out for home once again, but the trail was different. Puzzled by the changes about him, he paused at a strange road with a fancy gate. Up the road a piece sat an elegant two-story house with music coming from the windows. A well-dressed gent opened the gate. “Welcome. Come in.”
The old bachelor asked where he was. “Things look different. And I feel different.”
“Why, you’re dead. Remember? The cottonmouth?” He smiled. “Don’t believe me. Look at your crippled hand.”
The old gent wiggled his frozen fingers in surprise. He looked up at the man. “Is this heaven?”
“What do you think?”
He reached down and patted his dog. “Come on, Barney. Let’s go in.”
But the well-dressed man stopped him. “No dogs allowed. Only humans.”
“Then I ain’t going in. If heaven ain’t good enough for my old hound, it ain’t good enough for me.” So he struck out along the unfamiliar road.
Around the next bend, he came upon another road that led up to a plain log cabin like his own. A jasper dressed in overalls sat on a fallen log. “See you didn’t take old Luke up on his invite.”
With a snort, the old feller replied. “Not without my hound.” He nodded up the road behind the smiling man. “What’s this place?”
“Why, this is heaven.”
“Heaven?” He eyed the undistinguished road curving through the forest. “What was that place back there with the fancy house and loud music?”
The grin on the younger man’s face grew wider. That was Hell.” He nodded to Barney. “Come on in. And bring Barney with you.”
Now, there was no sign on the second road, but if there had been, I figure it would have read ‘Port Neches,’ for our little city welcomes dogs of all breeds.
A regular dog heaven.
No, I didn’t know it either, and I’ve lived in the area for over forty years. I’m just dumb, I suppose.
Even before we built our house, we constructed a fence for our little dog, Cim. That was what we had been told the city required. Fences for dogs. So we complied.
But I kept seeing loose dogs. I’d call about them, thinking the city would appreciate knowing about the canines. Nothing.
I puzzled over it while I kept seeing more and more of various breeds roaming the neighborhoods--free and unhindered, chasing cats, eating garbage, and leaving ample evidence of their cavorting behind to help fertilize our yards.
Then it hit me, like the proverbial ton of bricks. A dog heaven. The city wanted to keep it a secret so Nederland and Port Arthur wouldn’t take credit for the idea.
But why the idea in the first place?
The only answer was that previous city fathers wanted to lessen the stress on its hard-working citizens so they decided to provide a entertaining service not offered by any other community, a haven for dog owners to give their beloved pets free rein and let the citizenry enjoy the frolicking of the happy animals.
What better way to wake up each morning than to see the different breeds of canines running the street and yards. Just the other day, I saw a Jack Russell terrier gamboling with the rare and elusive Basenji, but that was nowhere as memorable as watching a rare Bearded Collie and a Boston Terrier chase cats up my neighbors’ pecan trees.
Our city fathers have come up with a remarkable idea to help the city grow with this dog heaven business. They ought to change our city sobriquet from ‘Sapphire City of the Neches’ to ‘Dog City of the Neches’ or maybe ‘Canine City of the Neches.’
Visitors will flock in, and we won’t have to bother with a riverfront park project that’ll put Kemah to shame.
At the base of the sign, we should inscribe the words, "Give me your Rottweilers, your Malamutes, your Yorkies, your huddled mongrels yearning to breathe free."
A catchy slogan might be “A Dog in Every Garage!”
Who says our city doesn’t have vision?