November 30, 2010

Fareed Zakaria GPS

Always interesting, Fareed's Sunday program really strikes home. The first part of the program deals with the origins of Thanksgiving, followed by Admiral Michael Mullin's analysis of the North Korea situation. The really interesting part comes when he interviews Ronald Reagan's former budget director, David Stockman. This produced something unexpected.


November 29, 2010

Monday Music

Bob Wills my still be the king, but the Texas Playboys was not the first western swing band. That honor goes to vocalist Milton Brown.

James Robert (Jim Bob) Wills was an established musician by 1930 when, along with guitarist Herman Arnspiger, he formed the Wills Fiddle Band, playing dances around Stephenville and Fort Worth, and on a regular, weekly radio program in North Texas. Stephenville native, amateur vocalist and cigar salesman Milton Brown joined the band, which in 1931 changed their name to the Light Crust Doughboys. This was due to the sponsorship of the band and the radio program by the soon to be Texas Governor, Wilbert Lee (Pappy) O’Daniel. O’Daniel was then the vice-president of the Burrus Mill & Elevator Company, which produced the popular Light Crust brand flour.

Does any of this remind you of a popular movie?

In 1931, in an attempt to keep the Light Crust name clean and pristine, the politically astute O’Daniel ordered the Light Crust Doughboys to stop playing at those sinful dances. This removed a rather large source of revenue for the band members, so Milton Brown quit, setting out on his own. Brown’s father was in ill health and Milton was providing support. He gathered together a crew of talented musicians, including stealing his younger brother Durwood from the Doughboys, and formed his own band.

Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies was the first true western swing band, with Wanna Coffman playing standup bass, Ocie Stockard on tenor banjo, Fred (Papa) Calhoun on the jazz piano, and twin fiddles played by Cecil Brower and Jesse Ashlock, both of whom had learned the fiddle from Bob Wills. Brother Durwood played guitar and sang while Milton became known as one of the finest vocalists of his time. Later, in 1934, the band added steel guitarist Bob Dunn, taking the genre to levels never before seen.

From 1932 to 1936, this band produced more than 100 recordings for the Victor and Decca labels while performing live at dances and concerts throughout the North Texas region. They were regulars at the Fort Worth Chrystal Ballroom and had a weekly radio show on Fort Worth’s KTAT AM. Milton Brown and Bob Wills remained friends, and Wills' original Waco-based band, the Playboys, was modeled on the success of the Brownies.

Milton Brown was killed in an auto accident at the prime of his career, in 1936. The Brownies soon disbanded, but not before they helped create a reputation for Fort Worth as the Cradle of Western Swing. Because of this reputation, another musician who would become rather well known and very influential came to Fort Worth to take a job as a disk jockey and write a few songs.

Western music owes much to the influence of Milton Brown.


November 28, 2010

Sunday Funnies

November 25, 2010

Can you imagine an American Pol making such a statement?

Just about anything the Queen of England says in public will find it's way into the news, but this story reported in The Guardian is blockbuster. The Queen, head of the Church of England, told the world that both believers and atheists are equally able to "contribute to country's prosperity." Read the story here, Religious do not have monopoly on virtue, Queen tells synod.

The money phrase...

In our more diverse and secular society, the place of religion has come to be a matter of lively discussion. It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue and that the wellbeing and prosperity of the nation depend on the contribution of individuals and groups of all faiths and none.

Religious extremists in this country and others could take a lesson from Queen Elizabeth ...

... but they won't.


November 24, 2010

Home again, home again... jiggidy jog.

Conference is done and in the books, with most folks headed for home. I left my hotel room to TOTWTYTR and our friend from Iowa, since their flights aren't until tomorrow and I no longer needed the room. Traffic on the IH-35 corridor was as bad as I've ever seen it. Much of the normally under three hour trip was clocked at under 5 MPH, with my average for the 70 miles between Austin and Temple under 25. At Temple I'd had enough, so I bailed out and took the back roads. Thanks to a washed out bridge I added somewhere near 40 miles to the trip, but still made it home quicker than I think I could have had I stuck with the Interstate. The trip took right at five hours.

But now I'm home and get to sleep in my own bed. Blogging should return to normal and in a day or two I'll try to post a few pictures of the conference.


November 19, 2010

Now on to Austin

The little feed went well enough. AD did right smart damage to the brisket and beans, and he seemed not to be allergic to the sweet potatoes either, mindful as he is of that girlish figure. 

Valerie and Bob dined with us. I'm always nervous cooking for Bob, since he is a damn fine cocinero himself, with a much wider repertoire. 

TOTWTYTR and Limey friend Stephen cut a fair swath themselves. Later on the only snoring heard was my own, but there were reports of an occasional barking spider. The musical fruit got off to an early start, I guess.

Stephen was very happy when his lost baggage finally turned up at the house, and I was pretty glad of that too. Stephen arrived bearing gifts. He presented me with six beautiful amber bottles of a lovely lager. About two years ago when he last visited he brought some of this delightful brew, by the name of Old Tom." The British have a few pretty good beers, but this Old Tom is the best I've encountered. Not only is it very tasty, at 8.5% alcohol it is also rather strong. I'll definitely enjoy them.

Los Tres Amigos were last seen in search of Cabellas to find some last bits of hunting gear, including batteries for the LED's on AD's camo cap. I'm wishing them good luck in the Great Hog Hunt of 2010, since my freezer will likely benefit and this winter's chili will be so much tastier.

I was down the driveway at about the same time, hitting the southbound lanes of IH-35W as they were steering north. Austin and another Texas EMS Conference beckon.

Be there or be square!


November 18, 2010

If not bigotry, then what is it?

In our early history, the “Curse of Ham” was used as the biblical justification for slavery in the United States. Most Americans are familiar with the tale of Noah and the flood, but many do not know that Noah’s story continues after the ark arrives on Mount Ararat. If we follow Genesis a bit further to chapter 9, verses 20-25, we learn that because of a faux pas by his son Ham, Noah cursed his own grandson, Ham's son Canaan, to become the “lowest of slaves.”

Thus the Bible authorizes slavery, and because America is a “Christian nation,” and Christian preachers were willing to rationalize slavery by using that “curse," the practice became palatable to a God-fearing nation. Hundreds of years of suffering ensued before this nation discovered it's conscience.

From the pre-revolutionary days of this nation, American Protestants preached that blacks were inferior, and that slavery was sanctioned by God; which white people swallowed hook, line and sinker. Those thoughts became part of the fabric of this nation and to this very day the practice of racism, although whispered, remains a part of American life. One wonders if we will ever outgrow the blatant bigotry.

Racial bigotry and segregation didn't succumb easily. It wasn't until 1998 when the state repealed its anti-miscegenation law that interracial marriage ceased being a crime in South Carolina. The repeal of the prohibition was supported by a majority of voters, but there were still almost 40 per cent of the voters in  opposition.

Although I think we can assume there was strong religious opposition, at the time the repeal was being debated the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention admirably stood with the majority, saying that "to wrap our prejudice in the Scripture is a sinful thing to do."

Three years earlier, in 1995, the SBC offered a public repentance for the role 150 years earlier that slavery played in the formation of that convention. The SBC's belated apology to black Americans for "condoning and/or perpetuating individual and system racism" came only 133 years after slavery was abolished.

I pick on the Baptists, but they were not the only Protestants preaching that slavery was sanctioned by God. Stephen Haynes, in his book Noah's Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery, tells about a time in 1864 when the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America affirmed it was the church’s mission to conserve the institution of slavery, and to "make it a blessing both to master and slave."

In short, the Bible has been used throughout American history as a teaching tool for bigotry, and if the book is to be held with any esteem, the bigots are correct. There are no fewer than 29 biblical passages overtly justifying the practice of slavery, and many more indirectly sanctioning the practice.  Yet here in more enlightened times we seem to have come to our senses and now condemn the practice.

Since racial bigotry is no longer vogue, the modern religious bigot has dug into his bible to find something new to hate, and has centered his attention on a new target… homosexuals.

From what I can tell, there are maybe seven biblical passages that could arguably prohibit homosexuality. Genesis 19:1-13; Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; and Romans 1:26-27. Romans 1:24-27 doesn't expressly condemn gays, telling us that God doesn’t create faggots… you have to sin first to become one.

So here is an interesting quandary. The bible thumpers will tell you that the Word of God is inerrant. 29 biblical passages tell us it is okay to keep slaves, yet we have condemned the practice with every civilized nation passing laws making it illegal. Every major Christian group and a majority of their adherents agree (overtly, at least) that the practice of slavery is an abomination.

29 passages permit slavery, yet only seven (maybe eight) call homosexuality a sin, and the bigots stick to that like glue because the Bible is inerrant. This causes my head to spin. Is the book inerrant or not?

A better question might be how long do you suppose it will take before we get past this hypocrisy du jour, and the bigots-by-nature wearing Xtian clothing find someone else to hate? 


November 17, 2010

The beginnings of a simple meal

A cold front is coming into the area, bringing with it not only cooler temps but some gusty winds. Those winds are stoking the fire in my little pit and producing copious amounts of mesquite smoke. This is a good thing.

Because there is a nice piece of beef inside.

Beans and baked sweet taters make up the rest of the menu.

Now this probably isn't all that interesting to most of the folks who might read this blog, but I know two fellow bloggers and a particular Limey who will be interested. They'll be showing up right about dinnertime tomorrow. One of them is a coonass, so I guess I ought to boil a pot of rice too.


Interesting results on a FOX News poll

San Antonio's FOX 29 has posted an online poll on their website, asking "Do you think the Ten Commandments should be posted in public school classrooms?"

The latest results?

          1.14%  Yes
          98.82% No

How interesting. San Antonio has a high Catholic population, so we would not expect to see such results. Some of the comments are interesting as well.


November 16, 2010

Submit to porn or be groped... your choice

The Fourth Amendment guarantees the people a right against unreasonable searches and seizures, but because of the special risks inherent to air travel, and because we have the option not to fly, U.S. courts have allowed a gradual relaxing of 4A protections at airports.

Lower courts have approved the use of metal detectors on individuals wishing to board an airplane, and the use of x-ray machines for carry-on luggage. These are ruled as being consistent with 4A, and SCOTUS has indirectly suggested agreement. The camel’s nose is Chandler v. Miller, in which the Court stated:

"where the risk to public safety is substantial and real, blanket suspicionless searches calibrated to the risk may rank as 'reasonable' - for example, searches now routine at airports and at entrances to courts and other official buildings."
Since I find myself on airplanes probably no more than three or four time a year anymore, these enhanced security procedures haven’t really bothered me all that much. Sure, I hate having to pull my shoes off, but it is something with which I could live.

The newest set of security procedures, I must admit, has me a bit piqued. The new requirement of either full-body screening (porno-scanning) or “enhanced” pat-down, is going too far.

Most of us will suffer from at least some mild discomfort knowing some random person is peeking at our naked body. It is an invasion of privacy that I don't appreciate.

When they first started showing up at the airports, and because they were being used randomly on an opt-out basis alongside the standard metal detectors, the backscatter scanners were not much concern. Now however, the choice is between being digitally stripped searched or being physically molested by a low-wage security guard employing the same sort of “frisking” once reserved for certified peace officers (with probable cause) searching a criminal suspect.

This pisses me off. I am not a criminal and they have no probable cause to search me. For over 4 more than decades I’ve flown at least a couple times a year. Over a 13-year period between 1992 and 2005 I averaged 100,000 air miles annually. Until 9/11 happened I carried tools in my carry-on, including a pocketknife. Seems to me that if I posed any threat they could have figured it out by now. 

The checks are part of an unsustainable strategy. How in the world do we think that inspecting everybody and all of their belongings for every possible kind of weapon, and treating ever passenger as a potential terrorist, including infant children, elderly females and uniformed crewmembers, is actually making us any safer?

It doesn’t... plain and simple, and given the lack of evidence to suggest that these searches will have any positive benefit at all it all seems "unreasonable" and therefore contrary to 4A to inflict them upon a generally innocent travelling public. TSA is successfully proving that it is quite possible to diminish privacy without enhancing safety.

The scanners raise health issues as well as constitutional privacy issues, and the pat-downs are simply invasive. Those however are the least of our problems. The false sense of security engendered by these checks may cause otherwise vigilant passengers to be lulled, removing the so far most effective security mechinism we have found. 

If there has ever been a terrorist discovered by any TSA security check it has never made the news. Since 9/11/2001, even including United flight 93 on that very day, every terrorist incident on board an aircraft has been discovered and terminated by the passengers.

The cost of these scanners and pat-downs is not worth the price we pay in dignity. There is not an iota of documentable evidence that the violations of our 4A rights serve any claimed purpose, yet the proponents of assert otherwise... and plan to subject people to something that in any other context would constitute sexual assault.

In England, where they also use the machines, there is broad concern that images produced by backscatter scanners may be in violation of that country’s pornography laws. Has TSA considered that the same might be true here? Would using them on children constitute a kiddie-porn violation? If we pat-down instead, what about the potential effect on child sexual abuse victims? Breast cancer survivors? Sufferers of PTSD?

The purpose of the terrorists on 09/11/2001 was to instill fear and to destabilize our economy. Homeland Security has played into their hands on both counts, and We The People have behaved as sheep. As a result, either we non-suspect citizens submit to porno-scanning, or to the nonconsensual touching of our breasts and/or groins, or we refuse both we will be terrorized by our own authorities, sued and fined (note that this link has over 5,000 comments)... all as a condition for simply being allowed to travel…

It seems to me that it is possible to enhance safety without diminishing privacy, but Homeland Security and TSA seem not to be interested in exploring that avenue. All either has accomplished is to cost us a hell of a lot of money, waste a hell of a lot of our time, and serve up a healthy load of fear and mistrust.

Osama must be chortling.

H/T EBM, Marco, TCP, and a host of others.

UPDATE, via Wing Nut Daily and courtesy of TUX.
Former TSA Asst. Administrator says that the scanners and pat-downs are a 4A violation.


November 15, 2010


This is one of those stories where you keep hoping Paul Harvey will pop out, saying...

"and now... the rest of the story..."

Student sues after being cut by coach over pink cleats
JACKSON, Miss. — A Mississippi high school student has sued his school district, claiming his football coach dismissed him from the team for wearing pink cleats during October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
According to the suit, filed last week in Simpson County Chancery Court, Mendenhall High School football coach Chris Peterson dressed down Coy Sheppard, a 17-year-old senior kicker, during an Oct. 8 football game for wearing the cleats.
When Sheppard arrived at practice the next week wearing the shoes, Peterson cut him from the squad, says Oliver Diaz, a former state Supreme Court justice representing Coy.
Because students in the Simpson County School District earn academic credit for sports, Diaz said, Coy's "graduation may be in jeopardy."
District Deputy Superintendent Tom Duncan said the problem isn't the color of Coy's shoes but that the student ignored the orders of his coaches to take off the shoes.
The school board announced Wednesday that it will hold a news conference Thursday morning to discuss Sheppard's case.
"It had absolutely nothing to do with lack of support for breast cancer awareness," Duncan said. He also said the coach told Coy he would be allowed to make up his lost PE credit and graduate on time.
The shoes were a present from Coy's 82-year-old great-grandmother, and he wore them in honor of his grandmother and step-grandmother, both cancer survivors, said his mother, JoAnne Sheppard. She said her son, who also plays soccer and works part time, has never been in trouble before.
Busy with soccer practice and his after-school job, Coy was not available for comment, his mother said. The coach, she said, "belittled" her son. "That's hard from someone you look up to," she said.
Diaz said Coy has apologized and promised to leave the pink shoes at home, but school officials have not budged. School board President Larry Cockrell said he hopes the dispute can be worked out.
"I wish it could have been handled differently, where there could have been some compromise," he said. "I think all the kid wants is to play football and finish out the year."
Coy's lawsuit asks the court to reinstate him to the football team, clear his record and for any monetary damages to go to the American Cancer Society.
The school district has 30 days from the Nov. 4 filing to respond.
The lawsuit is the latest legal action by a Mississippi student challenging the decision of school officials. In March, Itawamba County Agricultural High School senior Constance McMillen filed suit after she was told she could not bring her same-sex date to the school prom. The school district eventually settled the claim, paying $35,000 in damages and $81,000 in legal fees.
In August, Ceara Sturgis, another lesbian teen, sued her high school in Wesson over its refusal to allow her to wear a tuxedo in her yearbook photo. The suit is pending in federal district court.

November 14, 2010

Sunday Funnies