Monday, June 30, 2014

Varmint Permits

 I continue to be sorely disappointed the world has failed to recognize some brilliant ideas I’ve had to solve on-going problems.

For example, even though it’s an idea without flaw, I’ve yet to persuade anybody to open a chicken processing plant in conjunction with an alligator farm.  It would save the cost of feeding the alligators and the cost of disposing of the waste from the chicken plant.  Or my other idea which could have done away with billions of dollars in airport security by simply requiring everyone to fly without clothes.  That would do away with expensive x-ray machines and make it impossible for terrorists to smuggle explosives aboard a plane.

This time, however, I’ve hit upon a foolproof idea.  This idea is certain to please gun owners, the NRA, the Tea Party, tort reformers, hunters, farmers, ranchers and conservatives who want to save money.

A recent article carried on the front page of the Houston Chronicle pointed out that over ten million dollars is being spent by the federal government each year to kill varmints.  It published quite a long list of critters that have been “dispatched” to the Great Beyond by the program.  It included over 7,000 coyotes, 646 bob cats, almost 20,000 wild hogs and an assortment of other varmints that hunters generally take great pleasure in shooting.  While reading the article, I agreed with some conservatives who are protesting the expenditure and question why the federal government should make farm and ranch land safe for the owners.

I know hundreds, maybe thousands, of would-be hunters who cannot afford an expensive hunting lease   where they might demonstrate their prowess as “Great White Hunters” (or even Black or Brown Hunters as the case may be).  I would anticipate the first objection that farmers and ranchers would have is the fear of bad lawyers who would file suit at the drop of a hat for anyone injured while carrying on the endeavor to rid the land of varmints.  I have an answer for that which will please the tort reformers.

Currently, hunters are required by Parks and Wildlife to demonstrate proficiency with a weapon to be relatively sure they will not kill or injure their hunting companions, innocent bystanders or people who happen to live near the hunting area.  I would add to that a simple permit issued by Parks and Wildlife which would require the would-be hunter to commit to respecting the land, taking great care not to injure people or damage property.  Based on that commitment the would-be hunter would  receive a Varmint Permit.  Farmers and ranchers would then open their lands, on an appointment basis, to permitted Varmint Hunters who would be more than happy to perform the task at no pay–only the enjoyment of ridding the world of these wild and noxious creatures.

As for the potential liability, I would make the tort reform groups happy by providing a state law which would give immunity to any farmer or rancher--who opened his or her lands to hunting by permitted Varmint Hunters--for any liability or injury received while engaged in the endeavor of stalking raccoons, armadillos, coyotes and other dangerous critters.

There are other economic benefits to be gained by my idea.  The sale of guns, ammunition, coyote calls and 4-wheel vehicles would probably enjoy a great boost in popularity and sales.  Why, even taxidermists would experience a great off-season boom to mount armadillos, mountain lions and foxes.  These hunters might even want a nice wild boar’s head to go over the mantle, particularly those who have not been able to afford the shoulder mount of a sixteen-point buck. 

Even the anti-immigration folks should be happy with my proposal because many of our Southern states are being overrun with almost 70,000 European Starlings.  I’m certain most of these immigrated to the United States without benefit of a permit or visa. Imagine getting rid of almost 70,000 aliens with no expense to the government.

I’m sure some organization like PETA will protest my proposal, but it seems most of these animals are going to meet their fate at the hands of federal death panels whether my plan is adopted or not.  

One last potential benefit is that some of the gun nuts who sit at home and then decide to go lay waste to people in a theater, church house or school might be able to assuage their frustrations or dreams of grandeur by shooting at these pesky animals rather than us. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Science, Politics & Lawyers

"You dare challenge global warming with SCIENTIFIC DEBATE?"
The conflict between science and politics is nothing new. As far back as the occasion when politicians of the time in league with the church threw Leonardo DaVinci in jail for daring to advocate the fact that the earth revolved around the sun and not vice-versa. 

It seems politicians, officeholders, or those in governmental power will always deny science if it appears to threaten their position or cause them discomfort.  

The same is true today.

One only has to look at the current debate over global warming--which 90% of the scientists say is caused, in large measure, by human activity. The basic problem is twofold. Those who see their profits jeopardized by addressing the problem of climate change are hell-bent on denying the problem exists. Unfortunately, those folks are well-heeled and apparently have a bottomless bucket of money to maintain the status quo.   

A case in point is recent news revealing that some billionaires have joined the fray. A hedge fund billionaire out of California, Tom Steyer, has pledged $100 million dollars to support politicians who stand firmly on the side of addressing the problem of global warming. In response, the Kochbrothers--who have various refining, coal and other interests which clearlycontribute to global warming--have responded with a pledge of $290 million dollars to support politicians who deny the existence of global warming.

Anyone familiar with the history of the workplace and industry should immediately see through those politicians who cater to the Koch brothers--in hopes of becoming beneficiaries of their political largesse--who cling to the false hope that there are scientists who deny global warming. 

A most glaring example of when and why profiteers from dirty industries resist recognizing scientific fact is the issue of asbestos. For over thirty years industry denied that asbestos was harmful.  Many industries even went to great lengths to have doctors give false diagnoses of people with lung problems.

More recently, an industry right here in Jefferson County had a doctor proclaim that employees working unprotected with sandblasting had developed tuberculosis, attempting to cover up the facts of silicosis in the lungs.  This is a familiar path.  Even though industries like Johns Mansfield had known for years that asbestos would cause asbestosis--or, even worse, lung cancer--yet they tried their best to keep it a secret. They even had scientists on their payroll to proclaim that the element of asbestos was not dangerous.

And, how long, if you remember, did the tobacco industry produce studies from physicians on their payroll to the effect that smoking was not harmful?  Today, in hindsight, those physicians of phony science seem not merely ridiculous but almost criminal.

Hopefully, average citizens will recognize the current doctors of phony science--conjured up by the Koch brothers--and vote accordingly.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


I’m constantly in awe of how the Republicans in Congress cannot find anything that President Obama does right.  I’m reminded of the corny old story about the overbearing husband who directed his wife to get out of bed and fix him a really nice breakfast.  He ordered eggs, sunny-side up with all of the accompaniments.  Having been abused, and wishing to avoid further abuse, the dutiful wife arose from bed and fixed the breakfast as ordered.  She determined  this time she would please her husband who seemed never be pleased.  She placed before him eggs sunny-side up as ordered.  Immediately, the overbearing husband picked up the plate and threw it against the wall.  “What’s wrong,” asked the wife.  He said, “You’ve put the wrong side sunny side up.”

I agree that our President should have strictly adhered to the law requiring notice to Congress before a prisoner exchange was accomplished--and it also would have been the smart political thing to do.  Had he submitted the issue to Congress, then Congress would be faced with reversing their former position that we should never leave an American soldier behind--or quickly pass a measure to prevent the exchange.  The reason I think it would have been the politically smart thing to do is that it would have put the onus on Congress to debate the issue. And had Bergdahl been assassinated by some element of the Taliban or died in captivity due to a serious illness, it would have been fodder for the Democrats to criticize the Republican Congress for having played politics and caused the death of an American serviceman. 

Apparently, as an humanitarian act, our President chose to take emergency action rather than play politics with the life of an American soldier.

If examined closely, I also feel many of the arguments of the President’s critics would not hold water just because they are espoused by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing crazies.  First comes the argument that we should not care about Bergdahl because he might have committed an offense against the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The fact is, he is ours. He is our soldier. What parent would not be mad as the dickens were some stranger or some other person to punish their children, even for some serious infraction?  Bergdahl is American.  If he is to be punished, he should not be punished by imprisonment by the Taliban but in a military court for violating our Uniform Code.

The next argument is that we have turned loose five dangerous combatants and have encouraged terrorist groups to kidnap more American soldiers.  This argument is almost silly, if you consider the fact that thousands of Jihadists exist in the world today focused on and desiring to destroy America and kill Americans.  Does anyone really believe five more will make a great deal of difference?  The argument that it will encourage terrorist groups to take American soldiers captive is almost as silly.  What terrorist, if he had the chance, would not kill or capture an American soldier today–with or without encouragement?

The whole Bergdahl mess is a glaring example of what’s wrong with our Congress and the operations in Washington today.  There is almost nothing that takes place--even critical issues to America in its relationship with other nations--that is not politicized. And yes, I fault both parties.  It’s time we come together as Americans and take care of our own, even if they have sinned and come short of the standards we believe they should adhere to.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


During my involvement in politics I have met and developed a deep dislike for folks I call chicken hawks and know-it-alls.  Two current examples come to mind.  Our new Senator Ted Cruz and the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.  Their know-it-all attitudes and their rush to have someone else go enter into a fight remind me of lessons I learned at Franklin school.

I started school in the friendly confines of what was then more or less a rural school, Groves Elementary.  By the third grade my family had moved into town to accommodate my dad’s work at the refinery, and I entered Franklin school.  I have often jested that when I went to Franklin there was a sign on the playground saying, “If you can’t fight, help tote off the dead.” 

Franklin was a wonderful school--built in 1929, the state-of-the-art.  It contained an olympic-size swimming pool, two gymnasiums, a wood shop, an auditorium, and a third-floor art atrium with natural sky lights and greenhouses on either end of the school.  In addition to the fine facilities, the teachers at Franklin were excellent.

The worst thing about Franklin was that, among boys, fist fighting seemed to be the favorite past time.  Hardly a day would go by but that a gaggle of boys would go en masse across the playground, through hedges, and congregate on the median of Thomas Boulevard.  That was our favorite arena for fisticuffs.

Along with the combatants at Franklin there were always several loudmouths who were always willing for someone else to fight.  They would egg it on, even push boys into one another trying to start the melee but never take part themselves. 

Most of these guys who always wanted someone else to get into a fist fight were the ones who had all of the answers.  They always knew how things should be and were very free with their opinions.  This experience leads me to believe that chicken hawks and know-it-alls are good names for some of our current so-called leaders.  

Without a doubt, George Bush’s father helped him stay out of the Vietnam conflict by using his influence to allow him to join a special Air National Guard unit out of Austin, Texas.  The vast majority of Bush’s administration, including his vice-president, had also gone to great lengths to make sure they were never tested in combat.  The current nominee for Lt. Governor on the Republican side, Dan Patrick, touts his patriotism and zeal for America, but woe be him.  He could not serve because he says he had a bad leg.

Ted Cruz’ recent rants about exchanging prisoners to return an American soldier home reminds me why I think chicken hawks and know-it-all fits him perfectly.  When asked by a reporter whether or not he would have simply left the soldier there to the tender mercies of the Taliban, Cruz hedged in his usual manner saying there are many other ways we could have rescued him.  “We could have employed the military.”  It seems odd that someone who never served the military or carried a weapon in defense of this country could be so quick to surmise how easy it would be to invade a foreign country and rescue a soldier without loss of life.

Were it not so tragic, it would be amusing to listen to the Republican members of Congress criticize President Obama for not being tougher with Russia, and perhaps even sending the military to the Ukraine to offset Russian troops amassed on the border of that country.  They apparently completely overlook the fact that we might engage ourselves in World War III by doing so.  I daresay if these members of Congress had children or grandchildren serving in the military and were likely to go and be engaged in such a war, they would never condone the ultimate consequence of urging the President to get much tougher with Russia.  Instead, they simply will criticize our President for not being tough enough--or, if he takes action, criticize him for engaging America in another war that we could ill-afford. 

Politicians like Cruz are very adept at not answering questions.  Like the one he was asked, “What would you do to free an American soldier held captive by the Taliban?”  He does not give specific answers, but simply says, “There are many options available.”  This is a lot like the promoter who says it would lead to greater tourism if we simply built a highway from California to the Hawaiian Islands.  When asked how he would go about doing that, he said, “I’m an idea man, not an engineer.”  

Unfortunately, too many of the critics in our Congress have great ideas, but no idea whatsoever about how to implement them.  We need to pay more attention as citizens and make our elected officials more accountable when they choose to be critics rather than builders.