Thursday, June 21, 2018

This tariff business ain't going away

I read Steve Showalter's opinion piece in Wednesday's Sun and I posted a comment in response. If you recall he is qualified as a government professor at Lee College. Seeing that I have a 9th grade education, I quickly ciphered he does not work as a government agent, but actually instructs on how our government works, right? I mean you can't jump to conclusions anymore; that's racist, or misogynist, or something. Oh I'm being intentionally silly, but for a reason and my apologies to Professor Showalter for including him in that nonsense.

He made some astute and accurate assertions and I appreciate that. Tariff's are a sticky wicket, as the Brits say and as old as the ancient trade routes. International rules of trade are almost sacred in some respects and way beyond my understanding for the most part. He cited the negative  impact of raising the tariff on aluminum and steel with Canada and Europe and how prices will rise. I didn't see any comparison on the negative impact Europe and Canada places on the USA when it comes to our dairy and other products. Tariff on milk products coming from the US to Canada is over 250%. To be sure, we have a major trade deficit no matter how it is interpreted by the reader.                             

And speaking of steel, didn't US Steel have a giant facility here until they could no longer compete with foreign steel? You suppose it had something to do with egregious tariff policies? The metal for the Fred Hartman bridge didn't come out of Beach city folks, but if I remember correctly, it was shipped all the way here from Apartheid South Africa after a deal with a Mexican company fell through.

I suggested in my letter to the Prof that all countries drop all tariffs and start over. This of course isn't going to happen and the reason is everything is interconnected and changing one tariff level would cripple other deals and some of them are very old. Remember the delicate balance of trade between India, China, and Japan a couple of hundred years ago? It was all about silver, opium, and tea.

"The structure of the Western trade with China was based on silver and colonial products from India and the Malay archipelago, like silver, cotton, pepper, lead. These commodities were exchanged for Chinese tea, silk and porcelain by the mediation of the so-called Hong trades. As long as the trade structure was kept in balance the Westerners were able to make large profits and commercial relations remained the same. When the trade structure fell out of balance through, for instance, a shortage of silver or the prohibition of opium smuggling, the Western powers resorted to force."

Tariffs can and have led to embargoes and hostilities. It's the old sticky wicket again and sure, adjusting them to favor the USA is going to ruffle international feathers and dip into our wallets. I get it. I am also willing to sweat it out as prices rise and eventually fall back to a safe place. Its going to happen and its going to be uncomfortable for a spell, but if it means a balance in our trade deficit, then I think most Americans would rather eat from the tree every year, than watch the fruit disappear because we gave it all away.

The fat cats that call the global shots and finance wars do not care anything about country borders. They don't give a flip that you have a home in Baytown or that you hold certain ideals sacred. They give you the same amount of consideration as the African bushman or the indigenous people of the Amazon. Their goal is global everything, so a little stirring of the pot is fine with them. Rest assured, world movement of goods will continue. The global economy will survive just like it did when wars, disease, and natural disasters disrupted it. Our world planners are master shape-shifters with a very long range agenda.

I can't help but believe that if the economy would be like it is right now under Obama, the very people who are vehemently screaming foul would be waving his banner and back-slapping each other with rabid abandonment. This is why in my opening paragraph, I joked about Mr. Showalter's government status and his final paragraph that "The real problem facing the American worker is lack of education and training." He adds that tariff's won't fix this very real problem. He is 100% correct on this in my opinion.

Over the last 20 years we have outsourced everything including our knowledge of how to perform certain tasks. Legitimate Mexican immigrants have so many skills Americans lack and unfortunately, we are incarcerating the very people who know how to do things we've forgotten, but that is another subject, isn't it? The answer is trade schools and hands on training for Americans.

This current administration has vowed to make America great again, but it is not going to be handed to us on a silver platter. It sure isn't going to help when the opposition spends a great deal of its time and energy on derailing it. How about we join forces and actually work together to make America great again? There's room for both of us at the table.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

2,000 Immigrant Children Have Been Separated From Parents?

BB's take:  Watching numerous TV news channels this morning, I noticed that they are dropping one word from their reporting which would change the national perception of the separation of family issue. That word is "illegal or illegally".

What is not being reported is mention that the parents have entered the country illegally and this makes the US Government look like the bad guy separating innocent children from their parents. As word spreads people will stop breaking our immigration laws because they will realize they will be treated as a criminal. This especially applies to those who are brought in by coyotes, by crossing a fence, swimming a river, or using a tunnel.

Sorry moms, but this is not really about the children. It is about illegal entry into this country. You do it, you are a criminal and criminals are not allowed to bring their children to jail with them.

Solution? Stop coming into this country illegally.

More misleading news: "2,000 children separated from parents in six weeks under Trump policy"  

The truth?  "To be clear, there is no official Trump policy stating that every family entering the US without papers has to be separated. What there is is a policy that all adults caught crossing into the US illegally are supposed to be criminally prosecuted — and when that happens to a parent, separation is inevitable."

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Contributing to our city is a group effort

This is a modern day perception of Baytown in general.
Gene Schdrader's letter to the editor is an eye-opener about perception. It is an example of how one Baytown citizen sees our image and how our city stewards spend our tax dollars. "Two hundred and seventy thousand dollars is a lot of money for Baytown to spend on a sign saying “Welcome to Baytown.” I know the state gave us the money but where did the state get the money? That’s right - us taxpayers."

It is indeed a lot of money. I had the same thought and then this one: "Maybe I could have bid $260,000!" However, I believe there is more in play here than a quarter million tax dollars. It's called tourism and our city is working very hard to fulfill the wishes of the Strategic Planning Advisory Committee in that we beautify our city through park improvements, landscaping, adding new roads and widening others, not to mention litter abatement. In many ways I feel like my tax dollars are being well represented. I say this because I ask the right people a lot of questions and move about the city and observe.

Old Baytown Sign from the 1940's.
Mr. Schdrader then goes on with what appears to be unqualified speculation about ownership of certain properties, which if I read it right are in Chambers County and not in the city limits and suggests "some important person" has thrown a stick in the spokes to keep it just as trashy and environmentally unlawful as Mr. Schdrader suggests. "Sounds to me like a safety hazard and an environmental hazard, where does all the polluted water go when it rains – in Cedar Bayou."

We have a good number of dilapidated buildings (like every other city) that would enhance peoples image of Baytown if they were gone. Myself, I contribute daily by picking up trash everywhere I go. Its a start and maybe if each of us spent more time working on what could improve our city, then we would have less time to gripe about what is wrong.

Notice all the trees Texas DOT is planting in the entire Houston area? They are attempting to give visitors a better view than Chemical  Plants, auxiliary services, and tire shops along the highways. It is working in other states also and that is why Texas as a whole is trying to improve our image as more than an oil producing city/state. What our city needs more than angry-sounding letters accusing people of making bad financial decisions and wild speculation about graft, are suggestions for improvement.

Years ago in the chemical industry I embraced, I would identify a problem area and then before I started pointing fingers, I tried to find a plausible solution. I am still doing this with our city government. If you want action on come city problem, create a paper trail. Write email messages to your council person so you can prove you are trying to help. " You can catch more flies with honey..." honey! Be nice. Make suggestions and follow up on them via your paper trail. I ask direct questions at times when dealing with people in charge, but I make sure to write it. They know I will quote them exactly (not interpret what they said and then write that).

It takes a village to run a village. The last thing we need is doubting Thomas' who only sees the negatives. My suggestion to Mr. Schdrader is to photograph said property and do a little research to see if it can be cleaned up. Then and only then will this specific eyesore be remediated. Maybe 10 years ago I published North Main's Dirty Dozen on and it was picked up by the Houston Chronicle. I cited code violations on businesses with descriptions and photos and all involved sign and landscaping violations. Needless to say it got immediate attention and was remedied in every instance.

Let me be clear that I am not criticizing Mr. Schdrader; I am offering a solution to his frustration, which I fully understand. We can baby-step our way into a truly Beautiful Baytown if we work together to solve its many problems or we can angrily question why no one is doing anything right. Its simply going to be a group effort to be successful.

Council response: 

Good Morning Bert,

Thank you for your editorial today.  It was good. 

As an added thought on the gateway, we want to put this there so people entering our city will know where and what community they are coming into.  We have one of these on the west side, south side and now will have one on the east side of town.  In addition, there are a lot of people referring to this corner as being in Mont Belvieu.  Its not Mont Belvieu and Walmart used to announce "Welcome to the Mont Belvieu Walmart", that is until I talked to the Manager to correct him on where he was and who was involved with getting this Walmart location on the ground (it wasn't Mont Belvieu).  So we will now have a nice attractive gateway to welcome people into Baytown.  And by the way, the city limit is the farthest north curb at the intersection on the north side of I-10 feeder road side.  In fact, all of the feeder road on the north side of I-10 is in the City of Baytown (it goes east past the intersection about 100 ft. I believe).

Oh, one other thing.  The BMX did not make the cut for year 2018 list but is still on my list and will propose again in this budget session.

Thank you,
Robert C. Hoskins
Baytown City Council - Distr. 5

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Vacation done good Texas style!

The Gristmill Restaurant in Gruene, Texas! (Pronounced Green)

I recently spent 4 days with my family relaxing near the Hill country. Its a different world and a welcome change from our fast-paced lives. Is Canyon Lake considered the Hill Country? There are hills there. After nearly 50 years of living on the flat, a hill of 20 feet is a challenge to my old legs.

We arrived in Luling on a Sunday and grabbed some authentic Texas grub at Luling BBQ and it was excellent. When we realized City Market was closed, we were going to detour up to Lockhart to Blacks, but stopped in town and we were not disappointed. I like BBQ, but I do not have a discretionary palate, so good tender BBQ tastes like great BBQ to me. This was explained to me years ago by a foodie friend named BBQBob. Only a select few can truly rate top tier food and I am not one of them. Luling BBQ to me was a top tier food stop.

As an example of tastes, I eat my fried chicken from Hartz over Popeye's because it tastes better to me. If it is actually better is a personal choice, but I question if Hartz would be on a foodies list of the best tasting chicken in Baytown. Speaking of amazing tasting food, we ate twice at a Mexican restaurant in Canyon Lake named Las Barcus Tex-Mex Grill and yes, it was delicious. I think my dearly departed foodie friend BBQBob would agree.
Deer were everywhere and we spent hours watching them feed. This activity kept the attention of my 4 year old grandson to the point that he and I sat of the back porch of our rented house for over an hour and neither of us spoke a word. It was dead quiet as they ate the corn we provided and when the central A/C unit kicked on below us, it caused us both to jump. We laughed for 5 minutes over our unexpected scare and we continued our silent vigil. It was a magic moment of bonding. A 65 year old man and a tiny child of 4 laughing over a shared malady is truly a magical memory. Incidentally, my 49 inch tall 4 year old turned 5 while we were there. I'll be 66 in about a week or so.

I've never drove a jet ski until this trip and at first, I had to unlearn how to drive a motorcycle in order to be successful. A jet ski steers by turning the handlebars – a real no-no on a motorcycle. I kept trying to lean the machine like you do on a motor bike. Nope, it doesn't work. By the time I figured it out, I was going airborne at 40 miles per hour in the middle of the lake. What a hoot!

The Guadalupe River was at a very low flow rate, but we still floated the Horseshoe Loop and it took 2 hours, for those who have done it in less than an hour. It was wonderfully peaceful and the temperature of the water wasn't as brutal. The giant bald cypress trees above us were magical. Just incredible feathery foliage towering above us for our viewing pleasure.

My grandson and I even found time to locate a few geocaches in Gruene! He turned 5 while we were there and we kept it a secret so we can give him a big party back in Baytown!

Back at our rental house, we continued to deer watch and believe it or not, in 3 days, we fed them over 100 pounds of corn. Some may think this is not a good idea, but it is a common practice here. All we knew was they gave us endless hours of entertainment. It is a good thing to kick back and relax in a different environment. Hopefully it is just one of many adventures in store for us this weekend and all of them will be in Texas.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

You can't get there from here?

Who would believe it could take almost 30 minutes to drive from Toys Are Us to my dentist on Ward Road? Its a true story. Maybe this is why on the customer survey, transportation ills are at the top of the list. Now I won't blame Garth Road entirely for this particular trip, as it was an unfortunate mixture of mishaps and traffic lights that caused it, besides, there is no direct route to our destination.

I've been an aggressive soul all my life and like I've mentioned many times, the fastest way to attract my unwanted attention is to do something in a car that is... well, stupid. I could say the offending driver is unintelligent, ignorant, dense, foolish, dull-witted, slow, simpleminded, vacuous, vapid, idiotic, imbecilic, obtuse, doltish... or just plain distracted. Incidentally, I have used every one of these words to describe said offenders at one time or another. I was forced to because I don't curse, swear, or use profanity, but believe me, my passionate description borders on those.

I even got very self-righteous when we were on a road trip with a semi-truck congested superhighway. I banged the steering wheel and yelled out to my bride, "They are using our roads for commerce!" I wanted all those trucks to get off the road so I could use it for vacation travel. Of course I wasn't serious... not completely. Have you ever noticed the amount of trucks on I-10? Its astounding and sometimes scary. I think the midday traffic is worse in this regard because the vehicles are usually moving faster.

The other morning we left for the gym and I swear we observed 3 different occurrences of stupid behavior before we got out of our subdivision. One car ran the stop sign. The next drove below the speed limit down E. Baker to Barkuloo Road on the wrong side of the road. The third tail-gated us the distance the car in front of us took to get from point A to B.

My bride appears to not notice these details and maybe that is why she has perfect blood pressure. Never mind, I am happy to expound on each and every one of them. I assure her, I do it for educational purposes only. Let me make it clear that I am not in rage and the one reason is I live a controlled life, but the real reason is I do not understand why people are driving so poorly. Are they simply distracted, or just sloppy in most other ways they live life? I have the same conclusion about litter bugs. Does the inside of their house reflect their trashy ways? I don't want to find out. I just want them to stop.

A real downside to living in Texas is almost all of it is private property. There is no place to take a relaxing drive. You can't just pull off on some dirt road and drive your ATV, side by side, 4-wheeler, dune buggy, or Jeep for fun, so the public roads become our playground. Modern Sunday drivers are everywhere either doing 80 mph, or tail-gaiting you at 35.

Now gas is creeping up and probably won't stop at the $3 mark. My solution is to not drive as much. I am boycotting the higher prices and we've collectively done this in the past until there is a glut in the market. I do predict that the cost of gas will have no effect on the distracted drivers and with my reduced driving, I won't see them as often.

My next question is how come there are so many people on the road during normal business hours? It seems like back in the day after the morning traffic ended, the roads were fairly open. When did that stop? I made an error in judgment when I drove down to Crystal Beach a couple of Sunday mornings ago to geocache and to look at some of the Jeeps that were attending the yearly top off event.

This was a mistake on my part because there must have been 10,000 vehicles trying to get across the Boliver ferry, or make their way back to SH-124. After finding the last geocache 22 miles down the peninsula, it took me 2.5 hours to get to the High Island metroplex. Other than being speed throttled, it was a peaceful 8 mph hour drive. Driverless cars are the only answer outside of a catastrophe of some sort. Its inevitable and my blood pressure will welcome them with open arms. If you can think of a viable solution to all of this craziness, I am all ears.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Weather, whether, wither, or whatever

Is there anything more consistently misrepresented than the weather? For ages it has been asserted that the weather person has the most secure job in the world. The reason being is they almost never get it totally right for where we are and yet, they remain employed. A 50% chance of rain could either mean it will be sunny all day, or bring a deluge worthy of Noah and his big wooden boat full of animal pairs.

In a grocery line the other day I was reminded that the weather has been unpredictable for as long as history has been recorded and also possibly predicted impending doom or even the end of the world. I wonder if the folks in Hawaii are thinking this very thing right now. Or how about the incredible fires that swept through California this past year?

I don't want to get into the whole hurricane flooding thing, as for many are still living in a cardboard box in our driveway, or a van down by the river. The weather really uckedsay this past year for many, if you will forgive my Pig Latin.

I hate hurricanes and tropical storms. I remember after Hurricane Ike, I drove west on I-10 and it wasn't until I got to Columbus 100 miles west that I didn't see evidence of its fury. I remarked that this would be a great place to live. Of course I would never move there as they simply do not need or want a Columbus Bert disturbing them. Besides, I love it here, whether I wither in the heat or whatever.

The weather predictors actually do a good job of predicting Houston's moist weather, but not ours. They cannot accurately predict the effect our 7 bays is going to do here, unless a storm is so big that it blankets the entire large area surrounding Houston. This has become a joke with my friends who drive to Baytown for a geocaching event. The weatherman predicts severe storms in the Houston area and they stay home. Meanwhile, those of us who assemble to hike in the woods or whatever, enjoy sunshine and little or no rain.

I tell them Baytown has a micro-climate due to the waterways around us. Storms come in out of the Gulf and hit Alvin and head west toward Sugar Land and abruptly turn north straight for Jersey Village. For some reason, it turns for Greenspoint and heads east passing north of us on I-10 before hitting Winnie in a boomerang movement. It has happened so many times that I don't understand why it hasn't been noted. This is how tropical storm Allison did H-Town. Some places on the west side got 36 inches of rain and here at the Orbiting Command Ship Central, we only got 9 inches.

Another issue I have with the way weather is predicted, or explained to us is RealFeel. "The RealFeel Temperature is an index that describes what the temperature really feels like. It is a unique composite of the effects of temperature, wind, humidity, sunshine intensity, cloudiness, precipitation and elevation on the human body--everything that affects how warm or cold a person feels". I reckon we are all too stupid to do the math that 95 degree heat and 90% humidity is going to really feel yucky.

When did we educated American people become too mentally slow that we need everything interpreted for us? It has reached the point that a lot of people believe we have 100% humidity all the time, which is simply not true. I would rather they gave us the real temperature and the humidity factor, or pushing the envelope, the dew point. While the way they arrive at the dew point is complicated, the scale is not.

If the dew point goes above 61, it starts to become sticky and by 66 it is going to be uncomfortable. 71-75 is our normal hot Summer mornings when the air feels oppressive, even though it is 75 degrees outside. 76+ DP is miserable. There. That's all it takes and if the weather people began pushing this scale, it would give us a better understanding than them trying tell us how we RealFeel. RealFeel is a poor attempt to explain how we will feel outside in my opinion. Anyway, the next time someone complains about the weather, just nod in agreement. How do they know how it makes you feel anyway?


Thursday, May 17, 2018

What is all the fuss about?

I am seriously scratching my head over the state of our country and the political warfare between not only the 2 parties, but among my fellow voters. Yes, I know discussing politics in public is taboo... or it was until the last decade, so please bare with me a bit.

I didn't vote for Bill either time or Barack, because I did not share their vision for America. I never cursed them while in office and don't intend to do so now. When they were elected, I accepted that as fact and continued my life as before, working to help my family prosper. I did not waste time or breath lambasting or plotting to derail them. I simply accepted them as our President and watched, hoped, and prayed that our country would get the leadership and direction we needed.

Even when things appeared to be changing in what I felt were the wrong direction, I continued to pray for the President and use every opportunity to help my family prosper, as any husband or wife should. I read the Baytown Sun letters to the editor and shake my head over the acerbic and vicious attacks on the mental health of voters who were stupid enough to vote for or against Trump. I truly wonder what inside information Robert De Niro and Stephen King have that they feel compelled to take a podium and spew blistering accusations.
Instead I wonder who is pulling Hollywood's puppet strings. I've read more than one account how Hollywood controls the livelihood of actors who don't take the blue pill. Conservative actors are ridiculed if they speak out against the liberal agenda and those who march to the One Ring are hateful toward Trump and all who disagree with them. However, there is something new on the center stage and it came out in this week's news on Monday.

Remember when Mel Gibson was figuratively shot to pieces when on a drunken rampage he claimed a certain group were controlling everything? “The (redacted) are responsible for all the wars in the world!” the Hollywood star spouted at the time, according to the 2006 arrest report. The reason this simple opinion was blown out of proportion is because in truth this particular group does indeed control a lot of the worlds commerce and media, along with funding, diamonds, and precious metals. Its fact and I have no problem with that at all. It does explain why things are changing.

On Monday, I read that the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem has the Israeli premier praising Donald Trump for keeping the promise no other president could and that was to support Jerusalem as a Jewish capital. A Jewish soccer team has even changed their name to Beitar Trump, " in honor of the US president’s recognition of Israel’s capital and moving his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv". "Today's historic event is attributed to the vision, the courage, and the moral clarity of one person to whom we owe an enormous and eternal debt of gratitude -- President Donald J. Trump," Friedman said to a standing ovation at the ceremony."

Now enter Trump caustic critic Jimmy Kimmel the very same day and he has a sudden revelation. " Late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel says that the American people have had enough of the type of anti-Trump humor that he regularly spews and that it is now time for him to “make fun of ourselves.”

Roseanne Barr has a new hit show and it's pro-Trump. Imagine that. Saturday Night Live is back-sliding away from politics, as even the cast's own mothers are urging them to "do something besides political jokes". Gee, I wonder why the sudden change. Will Alec Baldwin become homeless? Who is next, Stephen Colbert? Will Hillary suddenly have an epiphany? Will Nancy Pelosi all of a sudden see the Trump train as a great ride? The lady politician can barely finish a sentence as it is. Let's wait and see.

Now I've always heard that whoever carries the purse, they are de facto in charge. Do the math with me. If I own you, you will do as I say and this goes all the way to the top. Over the next few months let's watch this political spectacle for a major change and I hope and pray it benefits the average American.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Information overload is working against us

The recent school bond proposal had a dismal turnout, wouldn't everyone agree? The projected cost of implementing it and the debt it would incur scared a lot of people. It appeared to me to have a lot of "wants" inside it, but the idea of boosting education and facilities (read amenities) seemed plausible enough to cause division also.

On my forum, the subject was dissected daily with a very negative view by some very bright people. The points brought out against it seemed very valid and the reluctance of the contributors was reinforced by not wanting to get us in major debt. I read with interest David Bloom and Bob Hoskin's support of the bond and both appeared to justify its passing, so why didn't more people vote? I can sum it up in one sentence.

No one knows who to believe anymore.

There are simply too many "expert" opinions available. Never mind that many of them are nothing more than talking heads, or athletes, or movie personalities. If Oprah or Steven Colbert are for or against something, many will follow suit and not bother to research anything. We all tend to watch or read the news sources we trust and you have the Huffington Post people over the Drudge Report folks and both groups only read the one they like.
The "news" channels are devoid of actual news and have become entertainment opinion venues with more commercials than actual live news content. Depending on these sources to set you straight on any hot issue is akin to trusting the weather report or thinking the roads are not going to clog up after you leave for work. Never mind that the traffic girl and the guy in the bow-tie said everything was peachy.

I've made the claim before that our ability to pull up any subject at any time on our Smartphone is not necessarily a good thing for our mental growth or stability. In fact, I've claimed the phones are making us stupid(er). And I'm a heavy user. The reason for this is using this device becomes a crutch and a bite-size info tool at that. Everything is served to us on a tiny screen and in short sentences. What could go wrong? Let me make a short example. Texting or talking while driving is stupid and we all know it, but we do it anyway because our usage is important and justified, even if yours is not.

Getting tiny bits of info on our phones makes us jack of all trades and master of none. We are like hummingbirds eating. For every byte that goes into our brain, an equal amount drops out the pooper because we no longer use anything more than short term memory. "What time is it? I don't know, let me check my phone." One minute later we can't remember the time.

No one memorizes anything anymore because we can simply use a search engine to grab a snippet and that is what we do. Now looking back at the bond that failed, I believe the reason many didn't vote is not because they want innocent baby Johnny or Jenny to have a substandard education. The reason was they didn't know what to believe or who to trust.

No one knows who to believe anymore.

In the past, voting on most political issues has been easy. You vote Republican or Democrat and let the chips fall where they may, but now even that is becoming cloudy. We, as American voters are now realizing the real collusion in the news is not Trump with Russia; its career politicians on both sides of the fence ganging up to stay in power. Conclusion by most voters? They are all corrupt and in bed with each other. We cannot trust them to represent us. One fellow even suggested this was true of the school board.

Ex-chief of police, Charles Schaffer once told me that everyone seeking something big or some change has personal profit as a motive, regardless of how they present themselves. I am not quoting him here, but it is a good representation of what he said. By the time a person gets high enough in politics in this country, they are most likely no longer serving those who voted for them. Our city council has openly been accused of this on my forum.

An equal number of people on both sides of any issue will swear they are giving the public "the facts", so what do we get? Confusion or blind faith. I'm a bibliophile and spend as much as 6 hours a day reading and I don't know who to trust or what to believe. The sad future is not that this will remedy itself, but get worse. I'm afraid we are setting ourselves up for a great leader to rescue us. I hope not even though it is a prophesy in the Bible.

No one knows who to believe anymore.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

What's the big deal with tariffs?

Tariffs are used to restrict imports by increasing the price of goods and services purchased from overseas and making them less attractive to consumers. A specific tariff is levied as a fixed fee based on the type of item, for example, $1,000 on any car.

Concerning raising tariffs on China and the trade deficit, we are about to see some changes in how far our money will go and a lot of us are going to be very mad, but let me tell you why it is a good thing.  The historic imbalance the US has over importing much more than we export, is changing right now and what it will mean, at least for a few years, is the rising cost of goods, especially those manufactured by new American companies. When the pendulum swings back and healthy Capitalistic market place competition finally arrives, the price of goods will once again be driven down.

Remember years ago when hamburgers were roughly the same price as they are now? Its because of competition. If this town of (who knows how many are here every day) many people only had one burger joint, the business could get whatever people are willing to pay.

Look for a lot of griping and finger-pointing as the cost of correcting the trade deficit consumes our funds. If the Republicans are still in the majority, they will be demonized by the Democrats and if the Democrats are now in power, they will blame Trump. Any thing but the truth will be offered to explain why it is happening. If eye-gouging were legal, our politicians would all be wearing full-face helmets.

It is vital to understand why prices are historically low, but if you consider the near pass our government has made to other countries via generous tarrif, then you can see why raising the tariff, will retard the profits of a distant enterprise. At the same time, it gives a US venture the time and profitably to start that identical business here, whereby putting people to work, and those people paying taxes. Who will pay for these new ventures? We will, by paying higher prices. The Chinese and other countries will be forced to also raise prices to remain profitable.

Think about this when you see the American version of a Chinese offering on the store shelves. Initially it will cost twice as much for nearly the same thing. I say nearly because Chinese knockoffs on many products are inferior in design and materials. Americans in 2018 are very cognizant not to offer or purchase junk. Its no longer profitable for a company to get bad feedback. The American version will most likely be more expensive, but better quality. As "cheap" Chinese goods disappear off the shelves, the new American made item will be there to replace it. This will take a few years and in the meantime the finger pointing will escalate.

"I have sat in the airport in Anchorage, AK many times and watched one gigantic Chinese jet full of goods land - one right after another, all day, every day. It is astounding and disturbing. No jets leaving going from AK to China that I ever saw." My Air Force veteran sister wrote me this concerning her numerous years working there. I agree with the decision to try to balance the trade deficit and I don't care which party is in control (it doesn't appear to make a difference).

"A sign of the huge trade imbalance for global commodities: 45% of ships travel empty. Furniture, toys and footwear were the top three items transported by container last year to the United States from China, according to Piers, a U.S.-based research company. In the other direction, waste paper and other paper products were by far the largest commodity shipped from the United States to China, followed by scrap metal and raw cotton. In other words, the United States received millions of new manufactured goods and sent back tons of trash and raw materials." According to

Navy veteran Joseph Dykehouse told me, "I made the same argument with some people last week. Let capitalistic competition right here in the US do what it is supposed to do and everyone will benefit. This whole globalization concept has raised everyone else's standard of living and lowered ours. We shouldn't have a trade deficit with every country in the world, especially when we feed, educate, and take in the rest of the world."

Most Americans already have 2 of everything and we are accumulating more everyday in our pursuit of the Capitalistic dream. Evidence of this is when you try to give stuff away and have no takers. Take a peek in your neighbor's garage for a good example. Personally I want to see quality replace cheapness and the first step is to raise tariffs and bring back American ingenuity in available products.


Wednesday, May 02, 2018

What does my geocaching hobby say about me?

Geocachers come in every size, color, nationality, gender, and education level which in itself is not peculiar for a hobby. What is peculiar is we all have a strong sense of curiosity mixed with adventure. How else can you explain a 55 year old grandmother in rubber boots and dress wading across a muddy ditch to find a small box in the woods behind a superstore? That is odd behavior considering she's a court reporter or dentist, or professor. What could possibly motivate this normally prim person to step over blown debris, broken glass, through thorns and poison ivy to possibly wander around "back there" for 20 minutes swatting mosquitoes by the hundreds?

Normal hobbyists do not put themselves through this much abuse for so little return. In fact, this woman's husband, who is an avid golfer, sits in the air conditioned car in the back of the parking lot and watches a YouTube golf match while his obsessed wife side-steps a snake 80 feet away. Normal husbands would be worried for her safety. He's just glad she didn't ask him to join her.

When this normally well-coifed lady kicks off her rubber boots and slips back into her heels, she rattles on enthusiastically describing in great detail the container, location, degree of difficulty, and the many hazards she experienced. He looks at her smile and the sticks in her hair and nods. He doesn't see the allure and fascination of the game, but if it makes her happy and he can stay in the car and out of the woods, he is more than happy to go with her.

My observation as to what common traits we appear to have is elusive at best and I pride myself on paying attention to detail. Wait, that is another item we tend to share. We are detail people. I've often wondered why the police departments don't ask geocachers to a crime scene to find out what they see. We not only look, but we see, if that makes sense and the sooner you develop this observation skill, the quicker you will find the containers or boxes.

Here in the Houston area, it appears to be an equal number of men and women who play the game, which I think qualifies as being peculiar. On top of that, most married people play the game sans their mate. That is also odd for a hobby. Geocachers tend to be more outdoorsy than most other hobbyists. Geocachers are the new outdoorsmen, as we spend more time in the woods and out of the way places than hunters. We are more likely to be in some remote place than any other mainstream hobbyists also.

Geocachers appear to have a nerd gene despite all appearances to the opposite. They also tend to talk to themselves when on the hunt. They say stuff like, "The hint says small rock," or "I see you Mr. poison ivy!" They purchase all kinds of stuff and accouterments to aid them caching and then forget to bring it or leave it in the car. Why is this so and why do I still do it knowing it is stupid? There is an unwritten law which states we must forget one important item when we go out caching.

For the most part, geocachers are friendly and like to eat. They are also generous and will share anything at any time. Cachers are opportunists with the hobby always lurking in the background. Otherwise how do you explain our curious tendency to find a cache in the cemetery after a funeral? I clearly remember the first time I did that.

Geocachers have photographic memories of where a cache is located, but can't remember what they ate for lunch yesterday. They point at various locations whenever they travel about town with their muggle mate and announce, "There is a geocache right there," and always get the same silent response. We will jump through hoops to add a souvenir badge to our profile, or dash like a lunatic to get a FTF on a cache. Never mind that it looks idiotic to everyone who doesn't play. "What? You went where at 3:30am to do what?"

I'm omitting a number of the traits that make us a peculiar bunch, but I think its safe to say there is a very common thread that unites us happy adventurists. Maybe you can write me to add them to this list.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

April Showers bring...what?

Cedar Waxwing birds migrating north

Holy Toledo, have you ever experienced an April with these temperatures? I've been living in Texas since 1970 and I can't recall it being this cool. I've almost broke out my long handles. In a confession to my advanced age, I have actually owned long handled underwear with the flap in the back. I am not old enough to have wore the red wool variety though. I had a couple pair as a kid living in Michigan. Looking at the weather in the north, I imagine a lot of folks there are wishing they had a pair.

Even though we are having much cooler temperatures than we normally experience, seeing the snow still falling in Colorado, the Dakotas, and Montana makes me appreciate living on the Gulf Coast all the more. One reason I love our current cool days is because for the most part, we are experiencing humidity below 50%. On top of that, who can remember temperatures in the 40's in April? Where are the April showers that bring May flowers?

Don't get me wrong, I am loving this weather - much of the time. I feel like a caged animal if I am stuck inside and for the most part, unless I'm working on one of my many projects, I am outside on the patio or working in the yard. Our yard is showing how much it enjoys these better temperatures also. Seeing everything is growing very fast, my chipper/shredding machine has already paid for itself. Everything I trim goes through it, cutting and chipping the green and brown refuse to look like oatmeal.

I put it right back in my beds and hit it with a liberal amount of 10-10-10 fertilizer. Of course I would like Mother Nature to lend a helping hand so I don't have to use drinking water to wash it all into the ground. Question: does it bother anyone else to use precious potable water to feed our shrubs and lawn? When a large population of earth have little or no drinking water and we throw it on the ground and simply pay extra, it seems terribly wasteful.

My neighbor collects all of his A/C condensate in a large tub and uses it to water his many container plants. I'm thinking of doing the same. All you have to do is plug the drain hole in the A/C pan and let it overflow out the side of the soffit. He extended the drain pipe with PVC to direct it into a 50 gallon poly tub. It makes me wonder how many other little projects we could do that will recycle waste. Maybe we just have to let younger generations handle it, right? Scratch it off the list as a old dogs, new tricks, kind of thing. Anyway, its just a thought and probably a paradigm shift we all should make.

I like to keep the house cool and it stays on 69 degrees most of the time. In winter, we let the house temp fall to the low 60's or even the high 50's before we fire up the furnace. Now, I'm trying to wean us off the 69 by raising the thermostat to 71. I know. Its hard and a true sacrifice. After all, we are Americans. We want what we want and that is that. Come take my guns, just leave my thermostat alone! Yes, that is an unrealistic compromise, but just as passion-filled.

All too soon, these perfect temperature days will give way to high humidity and a sun that will bleach our bones. Then we will be back in hurricane season and torrential downpours and these days will be forgotten. However, they are not gone yet and if you love being outside as much as I do, please take advantage by eating outside and just sitting on your patio and basking in our great outdoors.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

I am old school

 I remember 78 RPM records. We had an "ice box" and at my grandfather house in Dundee, Michigan you could get a bottle of Coca-cola for a nickel at the granary. I remember walking to the dairy in Morgan, Utah and the man asking me if I wanted "Butta, Chackalate, or sweet milk. I wore Redball jets over PF Flyers and they were black high-tops that stunk like a pig sty.

Gina Lollobrigida was the most beautiful woman I had ever imagined and a new sling shot was the closest thing to heaven I had ever experienced. My 3 brothers and I skinny-dipped in what would now be considered lewd behavior. Geewillikers, we were just having fun. I shot marbles in what was considered MMA fighting back in the day. I snuck a cig from my parents pack! Maybe I snuck one more times than once?

I thought Roy Orbison, Lou Christie, and Jimmy Dean were incredibly talented. I collected baseball cards and listened to games on a tiny transistor radio. I discovered the fairer sex at 13 and it opened up a mystical and magical world that sill confuses, pleases, and amuses me. I learned to pop a wheelie. I mowed a lot of grass with a push mower. I went to church camp and swam in the lake trying to impress the girls.

I got my arm caught in a washing machine roller. I ate a lot of fruit cake the rest of the family disliked. I played Army in post-WWII and Korea with my 3 brothers. We showed the Huns no mercy. I played baseball like they did in the movie "Sand lot". I hate hotdogs, not hamburgers. I drank soft drinks with "cyclamates" and drank water off of water hoses.

I witnessed women becoming blonds over night and the introduction of the Corvair, Pinto, and Vega. I watched the muscle cars of the 1960's pop wheelies and do massive burn-outs. Twiggy, the Vietnam war, civil rights, assassinations, Laugh-in, the beginning of the drug revolution, protests, and the Planned parenthood movement of eliminating us as a species evolve.

Christmas evolved into opening presents day early because no one had the patience to wait. We raked and burned leaves. Everyone did. I cuffed my blue jeans, but wasn't allowed to wear them to school.  Tennis shoes were for gym class only. Teachers paddled us when they decided we needed correction... and our parents backed them up. Playing outdoors was serious business and we always felt deprived when we had to come inside.

Mom cooked and we ate it. We got paddled and more times than not it was mom who administered it, because dad was at work. We had chores and got allowances. We got grounded. We fought sleep and had trouble waking. We did bicycle maintenance and learned about over population. We practiced against nuclear fall-out. We have the scar from the measles inoculation.

We've lived and witnessed many outhouses, rotary phones, hand pump wells, houses without electricity, no A/C, taking my 12 gauge shotgun on my first squirrel hunt by myself and I was 14.  Rampaging everywhere we went as 4 brothers and no one thinking we needed to be on corrective drugs.

Knowing all our neighbors by first names, recognizing every make, model, and year of all the cars on the road, The Twist and Limbo. Maynard G. Krebs and Dobie. "Work!" Sputnik. Bay of Pigs and much later, Baby Jessica. The JFK Assassination. Desoto and Packard. Melmac. Plastic-wrapped furniture.

Climbing huge trees, eating sardines and thinking it was camping out, Hollywood candy bars, blowing in a Milk Dud box at the theater to make noise, banana bike seats and high handle bars, Chef Boyardee pizzas, 3 on the tree, fist fights, Hai Karate cologne, Beatle Mania, and saying the pledge of allegiance in school before class started.

Yea, I am old school and I do not apologize.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Its always sunny in Baytown

Nurture Nature Festival 2017 by Larry Houston

 Did you know that Baytown has a micro-climate? It does. Our 7 bays wrap around our town and keep a lot of bad weather away. If you have ever drove over the Fred Hartman bridge and noticed that it is a different temperature on this side of the bridge, then you are getting the message. Very often the Houston weather doesn't apply to us. For a long time I've observed a storm blowing in from the Gulf toward us, only to go into League City. It then makes its way toward Sugar Land and then turns north for Jersey Village pounding them with torrents of rain.

At this time, the storm will turn east and head for the north side of I-10 eventually dropping copious amounts of water on Winnie before it heads toward Beaumont. It has happened so many times, I fully expect it each time a storm comes in. The only variation is when the storm is so big that nothing can stop it. So, if its been raining a lot here, everyone else is getting it too. Quite often I stage geocaching events here in Baytown for various reasons. A standard event is to simply meet and eat and trade idea, etc. I like to have my event coincide with actually doing something... outside.

We may hike to find geocaches, or have a workshop to learn various stuff about the game. I've been involved in geocaching since 2003, teach classes on it, and yet, it seems I learn something I didn't know. The point of this is my events prove my theory that Baytown has a micro-climate. It can be a 90% chance of rain in the Houston area and folks will arrive for my class with the sun shining over their shoulder. I'm accused of "having a rapport with the big guy" but truthfully, not anymore than anyone else.   

Our tourism department with Anna, Sheree, and Sabrina have been very active in getting activities going in Baytown. The old whine that "there's nothing to do in Baytown" just ain't true anymore. Market square on Texas Avenue if you haven't noticed is roiling with activities. There is so much happening that I can't even keep up with it. This next Saturday is the annual Nurture Nature Festival at the Baytown Nature Center at 6213 Bayway Dr. It is KID FRIENDLY, so grab the kiddos and some cash for vendors and come on out. Say hey to Christina Butcher and Tracey Protho while you are out there for extra sunshiny mojo.

There is plenty of parking the park staff is everywhere with Snake Bracelets, Crab Marsh, Seed Cups, TX Geocaching Society, Watering Hole Golf, Angler education, Backyard bass, archery to name just a few of the booths. The festival is set up to educate kids and adults on the great outdoors, but in a very festive environment. If you want them chiren to get off the couch and do something besides exercise their thumbs, then make sure you facilitate getting them there. Oh, you will find me in Tent 4 next to Baytown Tourism doing my geocaching thing!

This tariff business ain't going away

I read Steve Showalter's opinion piece in Wednesday's Sun and I posted a comment in response. If you recall he is qualified ...