Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Who Said What? - Part 3

Another week and another peek at our favorite new game (that doesn’t have the word “poker” in it), Who Said What?
And here are today’s contenders … Vanna?

1) “Don’t you have to be a real ideologue, a real partisan to believe that one party’s more crooked than the other? In terms of - not in terms of ideas or of philosophy, but taking cash home with you and stuff like that?”
2) “The president, like everybody else, is bound by statutes that are enacted by Congress, unless the statutes are unconstitutional, because the Constitution takes precedence over a statute.”
3) “I wish the - not only the Democrats - but the Republicans would - begin to take stock of what they're doing to the family. You know, it’s been over a year now since the presidential election and Republicans have been in power in the House and the Senate and in the White House, and there is very, very little along the lines of what we’re talking about to show for it. There’s very little that has been accomplished that relates to social - conservative social issues: the pro-family agenda; the pro-moral agenda; the sanctity of life. There’s just nothing going on, and I know there are a lot of people out there that are pretty irritated at both parties, frankly, for that.”
4) “To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion … It is increas¬ingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy and did the best they could.”
5) “Most heartfelt, I thank my typewriter. My typewriter is a Hermes 3000, surely one of the noblest instruments of European genius.”

And here are your answers …

1) Commentator Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Jan. 11, 2006

2) Judge Samuel Alito, during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings,Jan. 12, 2006

3) Dr. James Dobson, on his broadcast, Focus on the Family, Jan. 12, 2006

4) 89-year-old Walter Cronkite, during the recent Winter TV Press Tour 2006 on Sunday, Jan. 15, reiterating his famed 1967 telecast editorial about the Vietnam War

5) Texas writer Larry McMurtry in winning the Golden Globe for co-authoring “Brokeback Mountain,” Jan. 16, 2006

Monday, January 23, 2006

Volunteer firemen - the front line of needed defense

When you live in small-town, rural Texas, you depend on your neighbors for many things, including personal protection. The police force often sleeps in a single bed and the local fire engine sits idly until awoken when needed.
The signal is the air siren that calls like the ancient Hebrew shofar during the High Holy Days. Night or day, when the shrill piercing voice of the fire department is activated, men and women from across the town drop papers, utensils and farm implements and race to the local fire house in order to determine the need for their services.
Within moments of hearing the emergency notification from a central dispatcher, lights are flashing, engines are revving and volunteers, not getting a dime and little more than a well-cooked barbecue dinner once a year, are speeding toward that moment’s disaster-in-wait.
As I said, these people don’t get paid for their efforts; it is done out of community service, pride and need. Today, it is your neighbor’s field, or house. Tomorrow it could be you. It is the way of life in small-town, rural Texas; those communities which actually outnumbered the large population centers of Texas. And those rural departments are responsible for more acreage than the far-better-financed units in places like Plano, Frisco, McKinney, etc.
When I owned a community newspaper in such a small-town, rural Texas town, I joined the local volunteer fire department out of sheer professional need. They needed publicity; I needed news. I was never in the proper shape to do things like battle house fires, which requires specific and intense training at places like the Texas A&M Fire School (one of the hidden gems in this state).
But I could stand on the back of a “fast attack” first responder truck that could pour an initial dressing of water on a highway grass fire, while waiting for the big boys to appear. Since my office was 30 yards from the fire house, I was able to get a first-hand report of fire activity.
Of course, back in the day, some of us were younger and better able to handle the rigors of the job. I’m sure today’s standards would preclude any further participation from specimens like me; which is just as well.
One day, the fast attack was dispatched to a major blaze in an open field where the smoke could be seen for miles. In all, we spent four hours fighting the fire until it was gone (or controlled enough to return home). We bounced across fields of broken mesquite stumps, ruts created by mud and cows grazing, and the rocky terrain known as the brush country. Yet it seemed like only a few minutes, going around in literal circles to keep ahead of the fire line and stop it from advancing to homes or other property.
I will never forget the smell; the aroma was like a hindquarter in a South Texas smokehouse, undergoing barbecuing treatment for a week. No amount of showering could erase the memory.
According to the Dallas Morning News, a survey conducted by the Texas Forest Service found that only one-third of Texas firefighters are paid. There are more than 30,000 active volunteer firefighters out there helping their neighbors. But, as seen recently, these are the warriors on the front lines in places most suburbanites have never heard about. All they see is a raging threat and ask for a successful conclusion.
These departments need more financial assistance from the folks in Austin and Washington. The public needs to recognize the contribution and dedication of these volunteers. Their duty is indescribable, their mission is undeniable.
Their equipment must be state-of-the art; their dedication is already state-of-the-heart.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Apples and oranges for coaches pay

Please, do not get the issues confused between what we pay our teachers and what we pay head football coaches.
The state regulates the base salaries of teachers - including athletic coaches. Texas is fifth from the bottom because the state of Texas wants it to be that way. That is a battle to be fought in the Legislature and will not be won until the current Tom Craddick-Kent Grusendorf anti-education leadership is removed!
Football coaches are supplemented on a local, district-by-district, basis. That is a school board decision, in the same way that superintendents get paid more than $225,000 a year (such as Plano ISD) -- FAR higher than the pay scale just 10 years ago.
As I said, don't confuse the two issues since each has a different battleground.
Of course, in Collin County, since the GOP controls EVERYTHING, including city and school government, there is a tie that binds.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Who Said What – part 2

Gosh, how times flies when you’re having fun. So it is that we once again play America’s most popular game, “Who said what?”
Just identify the quotes with the person, or people, who uttered them, and, as Don Rickles is fond to say, you win a cookie.

1) “Mr. DeLay always makes decisions with the best interests of his constituents in mind.”

2) “What the Republicans need is 50 Jack Abramoffs. Then this becomes a different town.”

3) “The Bush team’s careful and deliberate approach to leadership is the exact opposite of the Clinton team. The feeding frenzy which started even before Clinton was inaugurated, and continued to the final pardon, was perhaps best exemplified by the reckless and unprofessional handling of his responsibility to appoint honorable public servants.”

4) “I know Jack Abramoff. They (Abramoff and another unnamed lobbyist) are Republicans; they were Republicans before they were lobbyists … I think they want to see a Republican re-elected in the White House in 2004 more than anything.”

5) “Do I have K Street friends? Yes, I do. Do I have relationships with them? Yes. And every one of them is an ethical relationship.”

6) “We often turn to God only when we feel like nothing else can be done. And, in the Bible, God rebuked nations who only turned to Him in their most extreme moments of need. That has been our tradition in the United States. When¬ever we find ourselves in a situation where we get to the end of our own resources, we turn to God.”

7) “I will tell you, the contrast between when I was last here and today … is pretty dramatic. It may be hard for you to see, but from when I first came here to today, New Orleans is reminding me of the city I used to visit.
“It’s a heck of a place to bring your family. It’s a great place to find some of the greatest food in the world and some wonderful fun.”

Good batch of quotes this round. And here are the answers:

1) Kevin Madden, Tom DeLay spokesman

2) anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist (quoted by the National Journal in 1995)

3) admitted felon/lobbyist Jack Abramoff, in a May 2, 2001, article in the Hill newspaper, as reported by Melanie Fonder (“Lobbyists Approve of Bush’s Businesslike Style”)

4) Ed Gillespie, then chairman of the Republican National Committee, on an Oct. 15, 2003, CNBC broadcast

5) Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), seeking to replace Tom DeLay as House Majority Leader

6) Rev. Rob Schenck, founder and president of the National Clergy Council? (quoted by AgapePress, a news service operated by the American Family Association, on Jan. 4 after the West Virginian coal mining tragedy)

7) President George W. Bush upon returning to New Orleans for the first time in three months (Jan. 11). However President Bush did not meet with any of the people actually displaced by the hurricane, estimated by FEMA at 2 million.

Did you win? Did you know? Did you connect the dots?
I hope so.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Getting 'Goosed' over Hall of Fame vote

OK, so only reliever Bruce Sutter was elected into the Hall of Fame (only the fourth relief pitcher) and Rich “Goose” Gossage is pissed off.
Good, he should be … because he belongs. As does Jim Rice and Andre Dawson.
What is puzzling to us die-hard baseball fans over 40 is HOW the 10-year members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, the group that decide this thing, can actually keep some of the deserving men out of the august shrine.
Here’s one answer: bias. Gossage played for San Diego and the White Sox but made his biggest splash with … the Yankees. Rice was a lifer with … the Red Sox. Dawson starred for Montreal but was Most Valuable Player for … the Cubs.
Could there be a backlash against these teams by West Coast and Midwest/Southern writers? Sure, in the same manner as there is an obvious bias against Dallas Cowboy nominees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and FOR San Francisco and Pittsburgh. It’s not admitted but it is there.
So when will Rice, Dawson and Gossage have a chance? In 2-3 years, but not in 2007.
Here are the HOP eligibles for the next four years:
2007: Harold Baines, Derek Bell, Dante Bichette, Bobby Bonilla, Jeff Brantley, Jay Buhner, Ken Caminiti, Jose Canseco, Eric Davis, Tony Fernandez, Tony Gwynn, Darryl Hamilton, Pete Harnisch, Charlie Hayes, Glenallen Hill, Ken Hill, Stan Javier, Wally Joyner, Ramon Martinez, Mark McGwire, Paul O’Neill, Gregg Olson, Cal Ripken Jr., Bret Saberhagen, Jeff Shaw, Kevin Tapani, Devon White, Bobby Witt
2008: Shawon Dunston, Travis Fryman, David Justice, Mike Morgan, Tim Raines, Randy Velarde
2009: Mark Grace, Rickey Henderson, Dean Palmer, Dan Plesac, Matt Williams
2010: Andres Galarraga, Edgar Martinez, Robin Ventura.
Out of all those players, only Ripken, Gwynn and Henderson are shoo-ins. McGwire SHOULD be elected, but there will be a tremendous backlash against him for his (perceived) misleading comments about steroid usage although no one has proven a Goddamn thing. He might have to wait until 2008.
You could argue over beers about whether Saberhagen belongs (if HE does then Bert Blylevan does), or whether a steady player like Paul O’Neill, Harold Baines or Edgar Martinez should be elected. If any of those players get in, then the voters need to immediate induct the likes of Dawson, Rice and Dale Murphy – no questions asked. How can you keep a back-to-back MVP out (that’s Dale Murphy, as dominant and feared a power hitter in the day as there was)?
The preceding conversation is why baseball is such a wonderful fan’s sport. And pitchers and catcher report in a month …
Life will begin again.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

It's time to play 'Who said what?'

Hello, boys and girls. It’s time to play “Guess who said what?”
Here are today’s quotes and you need to guess … who said what?

1) “You can support the troops, but not the president.”

2) “Well, I just think it’s a bad idea. What’s going to happen is they’re going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years?”

3) “Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?”

4) “[The] President … is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation’s armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy.”

5) “American foreign policy is now one huge big mystery. Simply put, the administration is trying to lead the world with a feel-good foreign policy.”
6) “If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy.”

7) “I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning ... I didn’t think we had done enough in the diplomatic area.”

8) “I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our over-extended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today.”

9) “Victory means exit strategy, and it’s important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.”

OK, who said what? Here are the answers:

From the mouth for former GOP House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) were uttered quotes 1, 5 and 8.
Quote number 2 was said by then-Republican congressman Joe Scarborough, now a host of his own cable TV talk show on MSNBC.
The third quote was said by Sean Hannity, on his Fox News Channel talk show.
Number 4 was said by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.), who is seen by some as a possible Republican presidential nominee in 2008.
Number 6 was said by Karen Hughes, when she was working for then Gov. George W. Bush and who is now part of the U.S. State Department and a key Bush strategist.
Number 7 was spoken by former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.).
Number 9 was George W. Bush, when he was governor of Texas.

All quotes were made during the Clinton Administration when he formally committed troops to Bosnia.
Hypocrisy anyone?? Interesting when the shoe is on the other foot, no?
And that’s who said what!

The beating of Tom-Tom

Saturday’s not-so-surprising announcement by Republican Congressman Tom DeLay that he would abandon all hope of regaining his position as House Majority Leader is just part of the continuing self-destruction of one of this country’s political leaders. His reign of legislative terror is essentially over as the man called “The Hammer” who loved posing on the Capitol steps cracking a bullwhip.
The announcement did not mean he was quitting the House – far from it. He is running for re-election, but with four Republican challengers in the March primary and a major Democratic challenger, former Congressman Nick Lampson who got gerrymandered by DeLay and his cronies out of office two years ago.
This is the case of a big oak tree being whittled down a branch at a time and now the lumberjacks are going for the base to knock it down all together. And DeLay, through his arrogance and action, have brought the saws upon himself. He was once the GOP’s bastion of moral conservatism, but like all things, and people, who put themselves on pedestals, they become targets to be knocked down.
And no one was holier than thou than Tom DeLay.
I’ve heard far too many talk show hosts, politicians and read too many columnists who think the DeLay brouhaha, and the guilty pleas and revelations from lobbyist Jack Arbamoff, are a tempest in a tea pot. Oh how wrong they are!
If I were a Democratic strategist, I would construct a simply 30-second commercial to be run in every market where a Congressional seat or U.S. Senate seat, held by a Republican, is being contested. I would put Abramoff’s mug on screen and then the Republican in question on the other side and just start listing contributions made from one to the other.
“What did he buy and when did he buy it?” I would ask. I’d smack the incumbent with the flypaper that is Abramoff and make them disprove a negative – the hardest thing to do in politics. In Louisiana, former Gov. Edwin Edwards (himself serving time for accepting bribes), “The only rule in politics is not to get caught with a dead woman or a live boy in bed with you.” Add Mr. Abramoff to that list.
I usually dismiss what conservative commentators have to say because of their self-serving interests, But, Here are the words of a conservative I respect, Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News, off that newspaper’s editorial board blog last week:
“Some of my colleagues over at National Review’s blog think the Abramoff scandal is a big snooze. Not me. I think Abramoff is a very big deal, and I believe Republicans, and conservatives, dismiss or downplay it at our peril. What this guy did was disgusting, as I’m sure we all can agree. But it’s important morally and politically because Republicans came to power in 1994 largely because the public was sick and tired of the way the Democrats used their institutional power for corrupt ends. Andy Ferguson identified the importance in this Weekly Standard article, especially in this passage:

The Republican takeover--which is to say, political success--dealt the mortal blow [to reformist, idealistic conservatism]. Conservative institutions, conceived for combat, have in power become self-perpetuating, churning their direct-mail lists in pursuit of cash from the orthodontist in Wichita and the Little Old Lady in Dubuque, so the activists can continue to fund the all-important work of . . . churning their direct-mail lists. The current story of Jack Abramoff’s lucrative self-dealing, involving as it does such movement stalwarts as Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist, may seem lunatic in its excesses, but the excesses aren't the point. The point is the ease with which the stalwarts commandeered the greasy machinery of Washington power. Conservative activists came to Washington to do good and stayed to do well. The grease rubbed off, too.

Translation: the people we conservatives advocated for and voted for got to Washington and in many cases became just as corrupt as the bums they replaced - though the scale of Abramoff’s operation suggests that the Republicans were even worse. Somewhere along the way, Republicans got more interested in maintaining power than in standing for anything - I vote for the moment that Tom DeLay conceived the K Street Project, which in its wretched amoralistic excess recalls the phrase attributed to the Medici pope of the Renaissance Leo X: “God gave us the papacy; let us enjoy it,” (and we know how well things would soon turn out for the Church because of that attitude).
If I were a Democrat, I would flood Red State media markets this fall with the following quotation - yes, I quoted it yesterday, but I just can't get enough of it -- from a memo by Abramoff partner and former DeLay aide Michael Scanlon, explaining how he and his fellow wiseguys made useful idiots of Christian conservatives to serve their clients' interests: "Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them. The wackos get their information form [sic] the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet, and telephone trees."
If conservatives cannot work up some authentic moral outrage over what this sorry lot we've helped get elected has done with the public trust and our own trust, then we deserve to lose this fall. Might as well lose public office, as we will have already lost our souls.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.
DeLay is no shoo-in to win re-election in his Sugar Land district outside of Houston. But his career is essentially over and it’s HIS fault. He asked the lumberjacks to chop him down … like termintes.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Wal-Mart at it ... again

Damn, just when you thought it was save to back out in public, you discover that your favorite business in the entire world - Wal-Mart – is at it again.
It seems that, according to the Associated Press on Thursday (Jan. 5), Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has stopped the system that makes (and creates) the movie recommendations on its shopping Web site. Why do you ask should I care? Well, it seems that the pride of Bentonville, Ark., in the cradle of the Southern mentality, linked a “Planet of the Apes” DVD to films about … famous black Americans, including the late Martin Luther King Jr.
According to AP, “Wal-Mart said it had removed what it called the ‘offensive combinations’ from a walmart.com page advertising a boxed DVD set, Planet of the Apes: The Complete TV Series. Under a ‘similar items’ section, the DVD set’s page linked shoppers to four films about the lives of King, actress Dorothy Dandridge, boxer Jack Johnson and singer Tina Turner. Wal-Mart later altered the page to link with television show DVDs.”
Smart move. And no one in the company can figure out how it happened. Does the word, “Arkansas,” offer a clue?
“We are heartsick that this happened and are currently doing everything possible to correct the problem,” Wal-Mart spokeswoman Mona Williams said in a preapred statement. “Walmart.com’s item mapping process does not work correctly and at this point is mapping seemingly random combinations of titles. We were horrified to discover that some hurtful and offensive combinations are being mapped together. We are deeply sorry that this happened.”
“To further illustrate the bizarre nature of this technical issue, the site is also mapping movies such as Home Alone and Power Puff Girls to African-American-themed DVDs.”.
This is the same Website that has, in the not-so-distant past, sold books that expound white supremacist and neo-Nazi themes.
A little salt with that, cracker?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Hey Vince! Stay in Austin for another year!

Based on his Rose Bowl performance, Texas quarterback Vince Young will be feeling the pressure to leave UT-Austin and head to the National Football League.
Some advice from an armchair observer (not quarterback, mind you)? Stay put for one more year, young man. You aren’t quite ready for that leap.
Young was past spectacular in his team’s 41-38 national championship victory over Southern Cal; he was everything that was advertised - elusive, quick, accurate and deceptive. If anyone was honest to themselves, they knew Young was going to win the game with two minutes remaining after USC failed on a fourth down and 2 play at the 50. You had to know deep inside you what was coming and so did USC coach Peter Carrell. It was the reason for the gamble, instead of punting, in the first place. He who had the ball last was going to win.
And it was just Texas’ turn to win. It looked like destiny. USC played more than well enough to win. The Trojans were also brilliant and the second half duel between Matt Leinart and Young was a thing of beauty.
Many ill-thinking fans will want to know why Young didn’t win the Heisman Trophy as college football best player. Because USC’s Reggie Bush deserved it more for the entire season. There were some Saturdays when Young took a small snooze (A&M, Oklahoma State) and Bush played unbelievably as the season ended, making the strongest impression.
But as a practical matter, Young is not an NFL quarterback … yet. He lacks one VERY important component to his game – he must learn to play under center. The Longhorn offense has his taking shotgun snaps 100 percent of the time. NFL offenses aren’t constructed for that and unless some team is willing to draft Young and then completely restructure their game to his talents, it isn’t going to happen.
Young must learn to play the position closer to the line of scrimmage and hence develop a drop back style to be honed to his abilities. That is what he will spend his senior year in Austin doing to best prepared himself for his future … and winning the Heisman along the way (it won’t even be close in 2006).
Not only should Young stay in school, he needs to stay in college for one more year to learn new things. Let’s see if that happens.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Fox compounds coalmining tragedy with distortions of truth

Aside form the obvious sorrow felt by the nation over this tragic story of the 12 dead coalminers in West Virginia, there is another crime being committed - the TRUTH as told by Fox News Channel.

I feel asleep last night earlier than usual (us retired journalists DO that ... more often than before), so I missed the initial excitement that was spread all over cable TV news (including Fox) about an apparent discovery of trapped miners being alive. For three hours, that was the report that stuck with everyone.

It just so happened that the "break" took place at deadline for newspapers in the Eastern and Central time zones. They went with what we being reported worldwide (including on FNC). It is the nature of the business and little can be done to prevent it (although how a newspaper is actually produced is a process of little knowledge among the general public).

Many, MANY papers, including my hometown Dallas Morning News, went with what was "known" at deadline time. As it turned out sadly, it was just the opposite. Many papers probably stopped their presses and rebuilt the affected pages to reflect how the story changed.

But this morning, as I watched and surfed through cable news, there was FNC slamming its two favorite whipping posts - the New York Times and USA Today - over their "erroneous" reporting and openly asking the question of whether the editors of those papers should have waited to print such headlines prior to confirmation. And when some bubble-headed bleached blonde is saying it, it just adds more salt to the wound.

However, want to bet on which cable network tried to be FIRST with the original story and shouted it to the mountain tops? Did you say "What is Fox News Channel?" Correct Jeopardy answer.

Nothing could more clearly demonstrate the hypocrisy, audacity and attitude of FNC than that. To anyone confronted by FNC viewers who actually believe the "fair and balanced" baloney, just cite this purified example of bullshit.