Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter everyone

 We all seem to "talk the talk" on Easter,
now let's try "walking the walk" the rest of the year.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Easy LIfe

I catch a lot of hell for being a long-time homebuilder who lives in an apartment.  Why would I do that?  "Practice what you preach" they say.  

Well, here's one reason.  We've had several damaging hail storms in the DFW area in the past few weeks, the most recent being just last night, and it was a doozie!

From about 8pm on the only thing on local TV was storm coverage.  North Dallas and the northern suburbs received golf ball-to-baseball sized hail.  In many areas the ground was inches deep in looked like an ice storm in the middle of winter, yet it was in the 80's just hours earlier.

Skylights are tougher than they look, but they DO have their limits.  When they break, it's time to call the fire department for help.  (Thank God for our firefighters, but honestly it wouldn't have dawned on me to call the fire department after a hail storm.)

Now many people will be consumed for the next three or four months calling and being put on hold for hours at a time dealing with their insurance company, arguing with the adjuster, finding (and waiting in line) for a reputable roofer to put things back right, then having to deal with the mortgage lien holder (the bank) to get their check released.  The same goes with damage to autos, dealing with insurance and then body shops.  Ugh!  What a hassle.  Been there, done that!

Living simple has it's advantages I'm tellin' ya.  My cars were safe in a parking garage when the storm hit, and our roof, if it was damaged, isn't my roof.  Let management deal with it. They deal with the landscape maintenance, the pool, the elevator and fire sprinkler inspections, and the painting, etc, too.  I just write a check.  :)

I'll take "The Easy Life" for $500, Alex.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Do as I say, not as I do

Surely there must be a special place in hell for those who hold up a Bible in one hand, quote Scripture, and then proceed to rip people off.  Christians seem to be especially susceptible to the theatrics the TV-evangelist-types use to gain our trust.

Here's a little tip....don't just listen to what they say, but WATCH WHAT THEY DO.

I mean, how could anyone doubt the sincerity of someone who quotes the Bible?

Surely they wouldn't lie to us, right? 
*love the tears, Tammy*

Which brings us to....

Rafael Edward "Ted" Cruz

Texas Senator Ted Cruz is running a hell-of-a-race (pun intended) to become the next President of the United States.  I've watched him rise up (pun intended) as a political creature and take him very seriously.  He's extremely smart, cunning, ruthless, focused, a champion debater, and a master of theatrics.  Half truths spew out of his mouth.

He is the son of a Cuban immigrant who has become in some quarters a prominent Christian evangelist, and he lets us know about it every chance he can. 

Cruz has studied the Tea Party from its inception, has identified their hot buttons, and has used them brilliantly as his vehicle to power.  Of all the original Tea Party candidates, he's the last one standing.  His road map to the White House was to sweep the deep South, rich with evangelicals, and ride that momentum onward and upward.  (They saw right through him, however, causing a major hiccup to his plans. Oops!  Desperate times now call for desperate measures.)

I've watched Ted Cruz for a few years now and found that his sleazy actions don't match his pious words. When he ran for the Senate he won by picking opponent after another, his final victim being the sitting Lt. Governor of Texas.  When caught red-handed he will launch into typical politician double-speak, praising God all the while.  A politician lying is pretty much a non-event these days...we almost expect it, actually...but most don't masquerade behind a Bible, quoting Scripture the whole time.

Case in point:  Several months ago on the day of the Iowa caucus the Cruz campaign spread the rumor that Dr. Ben Carson was dropping out, and asked his supporters to switch their support to Cruz.  Later, of course, Cruz said it was just a boo-boo by one of his staffers and apologized.  Trouble is, by all accounts Cruz is a micro-manager.  No detail gets past him.  

He also sent out a very official looking mailer, so official looking the Iowa Secretary of State had to publicly declare it was NOT from his office, pointing out by name on a precinct-by-precinct basis (which means it was meticulously planned) who had a poor voting record.  To make amends, Cruz shamed many of them into caucusing for him.  Were these dirty tricks enough to give him his slim Iowa victory?  We'll never know.

And now there are only three...Trump, Cruz, and Kasich.  It's crunch time, winner take all, and I look for Cruz to dig ever deeper into his bag of dirty tricks.  No lie will be too outlandish, no slander will be too wrong.  

With most candidates you know exactly what you're getting.  When they turn out to be crooks, we barely even give it a yawn.  Not so with Ted Cruz.  He is NOT what he professes to be.  Watch him.  Don't "TrustTed".  He's dangerous.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Turn out the lights, the party's over....

Watching our government operate these days is like watching a slow-motion train wreck.

Ever since Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away the Republicans and Democrats have been dragging up old videos of each other saying they would not have hearings or take a vote on any Supreme Court nominee until after the next election.  One side hopes their party will gain control of the White House and they can fill the vacancy with one of "their own", and the party in power wants to confirm one of "their own" to the court in case they lose the White House in the next election.  What a bunch of CRAP!

Did you ever see a statue of Lady Justice?  She is supposed to personify the moral force in our judicial system.   Her attributes are a blindfold, a balance, and a sword. 

Why can't our political parties understand that Supreme Court Justices are NOT supposed to be Left or Right leaning?  There should be no "litmus tests" to see if they are pro or anti anything.  Justice should be blind, hence Lady Justice's blindfold.  She/they should make a decision based solely on the facts presented, without bias.  No exceptions.

I know nothing about the candidate President Obama has nominated to replace Justice Scalia, but from what I've heard and read he seems to be a widely respected judicial scholar....until now.  Now the Republicans are saying they want to wait until their man (Big Donnie Trump?) is elected so they can put another conservative on the High Court.  They don't want "blind" justice, or "fair" justice, they want "their" justice.

Our Congress betrayed us years ago, the office of the President is about to be perverted, and now the Supreme Court is slowly but surely becoming hopelessly partisan, too.  Thanks Founding Fathers....we've had a nice run, but I'm afraid I hear the Fat Lady singing.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

My home town

OK, so I'm not fan of the NFL, aka The National Felon League.  *heehee*


If you were to try and give a prospective new resident to your town/city some idea of what to expect, what would you tell them?  Here's what I would tell people about Dallas:

First of all, when someone (me) says "Dallas", they usually mean Dallas and Ft Worth and suburbs....and there are LOTS of suburbs.  They total about 6.5 million people, and when you try to drive across it, you'll find it's just one large mass, generally with no open spaces between cities.  Because of all the open acreage in every direction, I think we invented "urban sprawl".  The area really began to boom back in the 1980's when the old, cold northern states seemed to hit an economic wall and packed up and moved south.  Because of this sudden influx of humanity, and the building boom necessary to accommodate them, most of north Texas is new and modern and very clean.  

Cities seem to grow north, and we're no exception.  The area south of downtown Dallas is generally old, not very affluent, and minority.  There is little new growth there, and unemployment and crime are above average.  North Dallas (including suburbs), is just the opposite.  Fair?  No, but it is what it is.

Our economy has become very diversified in recent years...we're no longer dependent on the oil industry.  We do still have a large presence of petroleum industry headquarters/offices, but only a little natural gas drilling, and no oil drilling in our immediate area.  Basically we're a region of paper pushers...we have very little blue-collar manufacturing.

We do have LOTS of intermodal transportation and warehousing as we are right on the prime route into the US from Mexico and South/Latin America.  This, along with construction and burger flipping, provides jobs for the less well educated.

Basically we've become a magnet for high tech industry and money.  For example, Texas Instruments is HUGE here, along with an incredible number of companies who hire boatloads of techie types and scientists.  We also have lots of banker crooks, insurance companies, telecommunications, a large medical science industry, and aerospace.  And shopping...we put up retail centers and high-end malls like some cities put up gas stations.  Oh, oh...and restaurants.  No one here can cook, but we are great at making reservations.  I've heard it said we have four times as many restaurants per capita than does New York City.

Our cities have done a fairly good job of staying ahead of the growth, constantly building new highways.  Our mass transit system is expanding, but is still fairly modest compared to congested northern and European cities systems.

Our schools are generally suburban schools are sprouting like weeds.  Our public inner-city schools are actually pretty good, too, their abysmal test scores more due to lack of parental involvement and encouragement at home than poor educators in the classroom.  For higher education we offer SMU and TCU (both very pricey), the Universities of Texas at Dallas and Arlington, and North Texas (reasonably priced state universities), several other smaller, excellent private colleges, and a thriving community college system.

We're a populace who is very adept at conspicuous consumption (and maxing out credit cards)...big cars, big trucks, big houses, and big hair everywhere.  If it wasn't for pickup trucks and big SUV's, Chevy and Ford dealers would close shop.  By contrast, Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, and Audi dealers are thriving.  Thank Gawd for 96 month financing!  *wink*  And of course, I've managed to put food on the table for many years now by building McMansions, so thank you Big Spenders!

Yes, you can still see a few people walking around wearing cowboy boots and hats, much more so towards Ft Worth (which still touts their "Cowtown" heritage), but we've overwhelmingly embraced the 21st Century.  

Country music still reigns, but we also have a thriving Arts District.  

Not surprisingly considering our location, we have a large Hispanic population who IMO are by-and-large decent, hard working people.  Race relations are sometimes tense, but not explosive, in a 3-way power share between the Hispanics, African Americans, and Whites.  We also have many Asians and Indians who staff many of our high-tech companies.  I'm increasingly amazed to hear so many foreign languages spoken here...we've become quite cosmopolitan.

Our weather is great, or it sucks, depending on your point of view.  For those Yankees who have no use for cold weather and think "the hotter the better", Dallas is your place.  For this native Texian, hot sucks!  Our winters are mild (we don't have to shovel sunshine), and our spring and fall seasons are spectacular, but our summers are to be only tolerated, preferably while indoors.

We're very child oriented here.  Our kids are all heavily involved in sports, and our autos get lots of miles ferrying chirren back and forth to one practice or game after another, year 'round.  Been there, done that!  Here FOOTBALL RULES, with those other games that require balls *snicker* down the popularity list.  

Many of us have a love/hate relationship with our Dallas Cowboys...we love the home town team, but detest the ownership.

To see any pretty scenery you'll have to make your way to DFW International Airport, get on a plane, and go elsewhere.  Beaches or mountains are a days drive away, at least.  It's a great place to make money, but not so great for enjoying the outdoors.  It's so flat here you can watch your dog crawl under the fence and run away...for days.  

We have some nice recreational lakes, but they can get pretty crowded on weekends.  We have the usual NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL teams, all in some spectacular venues.  Just be sure to bring a sack full of large denomination bills if you want to buy a beer or a pizza.  OK, slight exaggeration.  For now at least, our cost of living is slightly below the national average.

Other miscellany:  Yes, we have lots of guns.  No, I haven't seen any open-carry of firearms yet.  Yes, the women are beautiful.  Yes, our Tex-Mex cuisine is the best.  It should be...we invented it!  Ditto for steak houses...we're big-time carnivores.  Our seafood is...meh.  Its freshness depends solely on how fast the truck can make the 300 mile drive north from the Gulf Coast. 

Yes, we are very polite and friendly...we still open doors for ladies, say please and thank you, sir and ma'am, and greet strangers we meet with a smile and a hello.  (Don't worry new Yankee residents, we aren't setting you up for a mugging.)  

Yes, you can still see cattle grazing on land worth $$$$$ per acre in the shadow of tall buildings.  That's so land owners can qualify for an agricultural tax exemption which can dramatically reduce property taxes.  No, we don't have a state income tax, but we do have steep property taxes, sales taxes, etc, and LOTS of "fees".   (Since our Tea Party politicians are loath to do anything but lower taxes, when they need more money they just tap into our wallets and call it a "fee".)  And no, I don't exaggerate when I write about our World-Class sleazy politicians.  I'm sure the ghost of LBJ is looking up and smiling.  :)

Now you know.  Welcome!


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Yes sir, thank you sir, may I have another

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his Primary Posterior Appendage, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX).  (Where exactly is Cornyn's right hand?)

As an amateur political scientist I'm just giddy every morning when I get up and turn on the news and find out what dumb thing one politician or another said/did overnight.  It's just so knee-slapping funny!  How any politician can look us in the eye and say with a straight face "I'm here looking out for your best interest" shows the absurdity of our political system.

My topic here is, quite simply, that we need TERM LIMITS.  I've known some fairly big-time politicians in my time, and politics from the county level on up is simply a finishing school for liars and thieves.  It's all about building up credits with party elites, and this applies equally to BOTH parties.

Precinct chairmen are urged to hold neighborhood meetings to drum up support and raise money for their parties' candidates.  If they consistently do well they are "invited" to run for a county position, or are appointed to a springboard bureaucratic position. More ass kissing, and they're told they'll have party support (access to money) to run for a seat in the state legislature.  Still more ass kissing and a decade later, they might rise up the ranks to a leadership position.

Here's where the men are separated from the boys:  The most cunning and ruthless are pushed towards running for Congress.  When the party anoints a candidate, he's on the fast track to lifetime employment and "the good life".

When he arrives in Washington he's pulled to the side and essentially told that party loyalty and fund raising are paramount (which he already knows).  Do what you're told, vote how you're told to vote, and you'll have access to the most lucrative special interests, the most prestigious committee assignments, the best office space, the most exotic/high profile travel junkets, etc.  Buck the leadership, and you'll be working from a coat closet in the basement, and you'll be the junior member of the Pencil Sharpening Committee.  Oh, and next election cycle, good luck!

If they don't "go along to get along" as Ted Cruz or Bernie Sanders have consistently chosen not to do, they'll get no endorsements or party support.  Only because those two have some strong, pissed off, anti-establishment popular support back home can they get away with their waywardness.  Such rebels are few and far between.

Perks come from power, and power comes from longevity.  The longer they're there, the more favors they can toss out.  Whenever I see McConnell and his posterior appendages or Harry Reid and his butt kissers, I know that I'm seeing the crookedest of the crooks.  When faced with a choice between doing what's right for US or doing what's right FOR THE PARTY, we'll lose.  Of course they'll spin it to look like they're our champions, and this is where their "liars finishing school" comes in.

Bottom line:  To be able to sit at the cool kids table, they first have to get elected, and then consistently get re-elected.  If we could ever get term limits in place, then we'll have a chance to break that corrupt lifetime employment contract.  It will be an up hill battle, for sure.  The possibility is what gives special interests and established politicians sleepless nights. 

If politicians know they can't get re-elected due to term limits, they'll have no need to spend half their time fund raising and ass kissing.  If they know there is no reason to betray their constituents and kiss up to the party hierarchy, we just might have a chance to get some competent leaders.  Sure, we'll be throwing out a few babies with the bath water, but we'll be getting rid of an ocean of nasty pollution, too.  I think it's a fair trade.


Friday, March 4, 2016

Three Stooges + one

The Final Four....Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich

Did you watch the Republican presidential debate from Detroit last night?  Are you hoarse this morning from saying "Oh My God, Oh My God", over and over?  Is your neck sore from shaking your head back and forth while thinking "No!, No!, No!"?

Marco Rubio is obviously desperate, his Waterloo just over a week away.  Did anyone notice his claim that Donald Trump is rich only because he inherited $100 million dollars from his father, when at the last debate he said Trump inherited $200 million dollars?  Obviously he's making stuff up, and this is just the tip of his un-truth iceberg. 

Donald Trump might make a pretty decent dictator, but he has no idea how our government really works.  Try as he might want to, he can't build a thousand mile (?) long, 20' tall wall along our southern border.  The logistics are imposing, the costs immense, and he can't make Mexico pay for it.  He just can't.

Mexico won't do it, and he can't unilaterally impose a 35% tariff as punishment on products made there and imported here.  Many of those products are actually made by American companies who have (shamelessly) moved their production south to take advantage of cheap labor.  These same companies through their lobbyists give millions of campaign dollars to American politicians of both parties every year.  Congress, whose support a President Trump would need, would cave in a nanosecond.

And they all seem to think they can just go to and pick up 25,000 new Border Patrol agents overnight.  Any law enforcement recruiter will tell you that it's like pulling teeth to find candidates who can pass a background check, psychological and physical exams, etc, and be willing to put their lives on the line every day they go to work.  Not gonna happen!

Ted Cruz is a weasel of the lowest order.  I watched his campaign for US Senate several years ago and saw/heard documented evidence of his lying and cheating.  (He rivaled the all-time Texas weasel politician, former congressman and state attorney general Jim Mattox.)  He is cunning, a master debater, and the king of gestures and silly drama.  His quoting of Scripture is blasphemous considering how different his true actions and deeds are from his pious words. 

There you have it, our Republican choices for president, Larry, Curly, and Moe.  *sigh*

Oh, wait....there's one more, John Kasich, the "adult on the stage" as he likes to say about himself.  His posture is worse than mine, he doesn't wear his clothes well, his hair is sorta funny looking, he makes this funny pucker when he talks, he's not a smooth orator, and he is definitely NOT charismatic.  But his pragmatic mind, and what he has accomplished both as a congressman and as a governor, is head and shoulders better than anything put forward by any of the Stooges.

Are we Americans so shallow that we can be seduced by liars and cheats and absurd promises while overlooking someone who might actually be able to LEAD?  Don't forget, once Cinderella cleaned up, she was pretty special.  I know he barely shows up as a blip in the polls, but we'd be wise to give John Kasich a second look. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

I'll get the coat hangers, you get the marshmallows

I think many of us are scared to look over our shoulder, afraid of what we might see.  And as more evidence of the denial we are in (IMO), here's what nobody dares say out loud:  Our country is crumbling before our very eyes.  And worse, violence may not be far behind.

Things are near a boiling point.  For years the approval rating of Congress has been less than 10%.  Republicans and Democrats will almost never sit down and find common ground.  Republicans say "no" to President Obama before even hearing what he has to say, and if a President Trump is in our future, I'm sure Democrats will treat him the same.

African Americans feel they are being profiled and abused by the police, and many are quick to take to the streets.  The Donald has said, and apparently many agree, that Mexicans are thieves and murderers and rapists and should be kept out by a tall wall.  The threat of Islamic terrorism has us willingly (?) giving up our civil liberties.  Remember the Occupy Wall Street movement? 

Police are ambushed and killed somewhere almost every day.  It is becoming increasingly difficult for them to protect us when they must first think of protecting themselves.  There is little respect left for "law and order".  "Patriots" are occupying Federal property at gunpoint in Oregon.  The Second Amendment is sacred; guns are bad, blah, blah, blah.  There is no tolerance, and the chasm is getting wider.

Americans don't normally think in terms of armed revolutions.  Those things only happen in Argentina, Eastern Europe, and some of those far-away countries that end in "stan".  We're above all that, right?

I say "don't be so sure."

"Oh Scott, you're paranoid.  You watch too much TV, and you know how the media sensationalizes."

Really?  I live in Ted Cruz country, where 1.2 million people voted for him just yesterday.  He's brilliant and totally without scruples, I don't care how much Scripture he quotes.  I'm around many of his believers every day, and I can tell you that far too many of them are pissed-off knuckle-dragging zealots.  They are emblematic of the underlying anger simmering everywhere.

While it might be good politics to preach love and tolerance, it's unlikely to dissuade the guy hurling a Molotov cocktail at you or taking pot-shots at your car.

Sure, most of us just put in our 40 hours at work, watch a little TV, and coach the kids little league team.  We're not the problem.  But there seems to be no shortage of anger across the country, and it doesn't take many malcontents to set a few fires, randomly kill a few innocents, and intimidate the majority to send our society into a tailspin.  (Then multiply by 10 when you figure in the copycats and the publicity sicko's.That's what mobs do, and it works!

I'm just advising you to stay alert and take nothing for granted.   And hope I'm wrong.