Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Meet the New Boss

*“I'll tip my hat to the new constitution. Take a bow for the new revolution. Smile and grin at the change all around”.

Finally! The Democrats have the Houses back and there is a refreshing change in the air! Well, at least that is what some folks are saying. Rack and ruin all around us, they say and Nancy Pelosi and her followers are going to bring integrity back to Capital Hill.

People are mad, folks are angry, we need a revolution…oops, I guess I was getting caught up in the late 1960’s rhetoric of my youth. My bad. I’ll try to behave, Mom.

Somehow, this new generation of politically partisan pundits is going to sweep into Washington with a cornucopia of answers that will finally put an end to the heinous, vile, evil, irresponsible, offensive, arrogant, mismanagement of our government and restore the world’s faith in the American government…just like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton did. Whew!

*“Pick up my guitar and play…Just like yesterday, then I'll get on my knees and pray”.

I’ve long told anyone who would listen that the enemies of this country need to fear it. This would free our government to be benevolent. “Mine Gott, Baytown Bert, are you crazy”? “You are a war monger, Sir”! “Why would other countries need to fear us, if we would use diplomacy instead of the sword”? “That George W Bush…!”

Sheesh! I was only paraphrasing Theodore Roosevelt. “Speak softly and carry a big stick”. It’s not a secret Bin Laden thought we would run like scared rabbits after the WTC was destroyed. We ran from Lebanon and we ran from Somalia. We did nothing when the USS Cole was blown to smithereens. America’s ability to back up its mouth had become a world-class joke.

One reason most martial artists become proficient fighters is so they can choose not to fight. By having the confidence and ability to take the fight to the attacker, it allows the martial artist a great number of peaceful options they would not have, if they were vulnerable. America in a weakened state is not something I ever want to see.

Our Country pumps trillions of American dollars into 70-plus percent of the countries on earth and then most of them turn on us when we require certain economic privileges. They giggle in delight when we hand them giant stacks of greenbacks and then bellow like wild animals to the United Nations that we are being unfair when we ask for cooperation.

Try that strategy at your local loan institution. Take their loan dollars and then tell everyone they are being unfair because they expect repayment. Add onto this scenario the simple fact that the USA gives money away with a small percentage of return expected. Our investments ensure we continue to enjoy the American way of life.

*“We don't get fooled again. Don't get fooled again! No, no! Yeaaah!” (For the Democratically controlled government – my words)

Well-meaning Americans hear these countries whimpering and the United Nations chastising America and the first thing they do is turn on our own government. I’m going to let everyone in on another well known secret: Whoever holds the purse strings is in charge. If our Country is picking up the tab, the other country’s interests should never trump what is ultimately good for America! If we decide to be benevolent in the decision making process, so much the better, but if we do not, we have every right to call in our chits.

Now for the kicker: *“Meet the new boss, Same as the old boss”.

Even after 6 years of being in the minority in the Senate and Congress, these new leaders have very little to offer in way of a plan, other than reactionary politics. Most all of our Senators are rich beyond our wildest dreams, wield power most of us will never acquire and have perks we only dream about. They are basically, the same as their hated partisan opponents. “Which Party are you talking about, BB”? “Both”.

Meet the new boss, who is basically the old boss. For all the posturing and strutting, I’m thinking we are about to enter the next Presidential race with the same people we now have, but with different heads. For the next year and a half, we will hear a ton of promises, but in the end, the American people will get whatever benefits the Washington fat cats the most.

I guess we are truly a Capitalist run country after all.

*Won’t get fooled again – The Who

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Baytown Bert Enters Race for White House

Current Baytown, Texas, Columnist, Webmaster and Blogger “Baytown Bert” Marshall today announced plans to run for the presidency of the United Snakes of America, hoping to carve out a tasty niche in an increasingly crowded field of confused candidates.

The some-time opinioned Philomath, perhaps best known for self-promotion, said he will file papers with the Federal Electoral Redundancy Commission on Monday, which will enable him to legally raise money, but special coffee cups are already going “like hotcakes” on his site.

"People want an authentic candidate who has a proven record of “getting up there and going for it”," he said on IBC's "Meet My Press." "I've concluded that I should take this necessary and vital step to bring a new kind of leadership to the public squares." He added that he has received "strong, powerful support" from friends and family.

Citing his experience as a Blogger, Baytown Bert expressed concerns about overuse of senseless promises and slogans. “Because I Must” and “I Don’t Have the Answer” are two slogans he is pushing as honest and “Dadgumit, folks want to hear the message my slogans convey” he is quoted as repeating.

Baytown Bert said his belief in “finding the middle ground and not giving up an inch to the extremists” extends beyond the normal agenda of his political pundits and believes red-blooded Americans want what he wants, regardless of race, color or creed.

He is Pro on the good social issues and Nay on the bad ones. He’s not afraid to speak out against hidden agendas and will develop his campaign promises right along with all the other candidates regardless of how long it takes. “I’m a fighter (just like Pat Nixon) and I will not recess until we have something on the table!”

His platform promises (most likely) to encompass such matters as education, health care, environmental protection and affordable housing — views that Baytown Bert’s supporters see as potentially giving him broader appeal to the general electorate.

“We’ve got to get these kids out of the house and into the work force, before AARP gets a crack at them!”

“We must find a solution to all of America’s problems and find it is what I will do!”

"Bacon on every plate in America! No one left behind, not on my watch!"

“We must stop humanizing the enemy and let our military have their way with them!”

“I promise to use all the campaign funds generated by my coffee cup sales in such a manner that every supporter will feel gratified!”

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I am an uncouth man-oaf!

Being the comfortably masculine man that I am, I find the world of women confusing and frankly, after fifty plus years of observation, they are still a mystery. If I accidentally barge into an elevator with 6 women, it’s like crossing the Sabine River…I’m in a foreign country! I itch in all the wrong places. Gas suddenly starts to build in my guts. I feel a burp coming on. It’s awful.

For some reason, I will feel the need to talk while in this uncomfortable situation, reinforcing my place in manhood and saying stupid and embarrassing stuff women find offensive and course. “It shore is hot tooday, eh”? Burp!

Am I admitting to being a lecher, a masher, a woman predator? Shoot no! I, as a man, can comment on a subject as innocent as the weather (when around a group of women) and somehow (beyond any attempt to the contrary) it comes out as offensive and as something requiring an apology every time.

Just a note here on man-apologies: It takes roughly ten man-apologies to equal one woman-apology. A man-apology goes something like this: I’m sorry I acted like a total jerk. What can I buy you to prove I am sincere? If this apology is accepted, the man will find out in about 3 days and it will cost him about $300, or one hundred dollars per day.

The female version goes like this: “I’m sorry I allowed you to make me mad” or my personal favorite is this one: “Do you want to know what you did, that caused me so much anguish”? This also calls for a $300 “fix” and a 3 day waiting period, minimum.

Most men will commit at least one offensive violation of women-code, while simply standing in a crowded woman-majority elevator. A scratch here, a comment there, here a bump, there a belch…the list of possible violations is endless. It’s confusing to us man-oafs.

On the other hand, I’m perfectly at peace with a group of man-oafs and that includes the liberal use of competitive jibes men espouse. I seemingly cannot really offend men and to be honest, I talk a lot of antagonistic and condescending macho bologna. If a man-code offense is committed, sharing food brings immediate reparation and forgiveness.

After 30 years of marriage to the same woman, I’ve learned to accept that I am a socially coarse and unrefined man. I now realize I have zero female-related social skills and am a constant source of embarrassment to my bride. I’ve decided to simply just avoid women. It’s the easiest solution, since I am doomed to repeat my aberrant behavior.

I live in a world of man-logic and ugly truths. Men for the most part practice a code of behavior that other men understand and in this code, the truth is usually the “in your face” type. Men have trouble tolerating other men who violate this “code” and do not cross this code-line without physical consequences. Men know and honor this “line”.

Here is a man-code example: When entering a public bathroom, men do not violate other men’s space by using the urinal beside another man, unless all other urinals are occupied.

Another example is it is okay to laugh when juvenile humor is exhibited by grown men. It’s funny to us, so we laugh. Bathroom noises are especially worthy of laughter.

Do I inherently dislike women? No, I like women (my mother is a woman). Do I feel that women are equal to men? Yes and they should draw the same pay as men, for the same job. Do I understand how women arrive at the conclusions they routinely draw? Nope, I do not have a clue. Do I understand why women routinely hold men to their woman-code of socially correct behavior? Uh-unh, nada, nope, nine and heck-no!

Do females have a woman-code they live by? As far as I can tell, they do… I think, but I cannot define it, or I could understand it. I am like partially-refined steel who is always trying to return to its rusty state of iron ore. As a visceral male who instinctively resists refinement and cultivation, I find women behavior downright perplexing. Their thought processes might as well be Egyptian hieroglyphs or an unknown tongue to most of us Neanderthal males.

So, if you are a practitioner of woman-code and we happen to pass each other in the grocery store, grant me forgiveness immediately, because I’m just a caveman.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Make the Child Pay

Our state Representative, Wayne Smith, has introduced a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for a parent to schedule a teacher conference and not show up, or refuse to show up for a conference that a teacher requests. A first offense could result in a fine on conviction, and a second offense could result in jail time.” Thank you Barb Wooster for summing that up so eloquently...

It’s true, in the best interest of all Texans; one of our elected officials has found yet another way to punish the parent of a wayward student.

Kari Griffin, one of my favorite reporters for the Baytown Sun wrote: “Director of student services Al Richard said he would not comment on the possible effects of Smith’s bill, but he has observed the result of making parents legally responsible for their children’s absences.”

One of the oldest misguided statements I’ve heard repeatedly over the last twenty years goes something like this: “Well, if their kid would have been raised better, they wouldn’t have turned out so bad”. I can tell you first hand, that children tend to go their own way, some of it good and some of it bad, regardless of how you attempt to steer them. This is why almost everyone knows of a preacher’s kid or a cop’s child who has chosen the opposite path than the one lived out in front of them.

I pity the well-intentioned and hard-working teacher, who through parental complaint and legal restraints cannot adjust the student’s attitude with a few good whacks of a paddle. It did wonders for a student’s attitude back in the day before senseless lawsuits and progressive thinking banned corporal punishment.

We are now living in the day of “Zero Tolerance”, which on paper is a good idea, but in practice is about the stupidest philosophy to come down the pike in the last century. It removes all judgment calls and decision-making from the school staff and based on prearranged guidelines tries and convicts the student in such a way that no one has to shoulder the blame, thus, they cannot be sued. More times than not, the violation is placed on the parents…just like this new legislation intends to do.

Back in the 1960’s, when this country was in social upheaval, the likes of which we have never duplicated since, my generation thought most of what had happened in the past needed changing. We were right on some of it, but wrong on others and guess what? My generation is for the most part, the ones in charge now. Corporal punishment, or for a more modern translation, paddling (spanking) a child for their transgressions of school policy, is an example of how a child used to be held accountable for their actions.

“How barbaric”! Yes and let me add, effective. Young teenage boys, full of vim and vigor lived under the well justified fear they would get “pops” if they acted out. I received my share I’ll tell you openly and every time, it made a positive adjustment in my attitude. In fact, I lived in fear my parents would find out about the “pops” and I would be punished all over again.

I didn’t skip school very often either, because I knew the Truant Officer would come get me and I could end up in a reform school. Would my parents be fined? Nope, not a penny. Would little Berty learn his lesson? Yuppers, right along with all those other wayward kids living in a reform school of hardened truants.

I quote Kari Griffin again: “Goose Creek Superintendent Barbara Sultis said parents should be keenly involved with their child’s education. “Communication between school and home is essential to a student’s success in the classroom,” said Sultis.” Parents SHOULD be involved in their child’s education and “should” is the key word here.

The new bill, if passed, will once again remove the burden from the student and place it on the parent. Like the zero tolerance policy, it is well-intentioned, but wrongly directed. The student must answer for their own actions and passing the punishment off to the parent is not the solution. The message sent to the student is simple – they are not responsible for their own actions.

Forget fining the parent for a child’s actions or absences. If a child will not come to school, have a Truant officer pick them up and send them to a boot camp (today’s modern reform school). If they misbehave in school, send them to the Principles office and in front of witnesses and camera, apply the wooden force of correction to the seat of learning.

Return the tried and proven corporal punishment corrective method to the teacher and we will see an improvement in our student’s attitudes.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Sleep of the Just

My wife tells me I am asleep before the room gets dark.

For the first 40 years of my life, I stayed perpetually tired at work. Heckfire, I was just plain tired most of the time. I was sleep-deprived and didn’t know what to do about it. The “experts” have a little test to find out if you too are sleep-deficient. Sit in a quiet environment for 5 minutes and if you yawn, you need more rest. Uh… hello? I was at the point, that when I closed my eyes, I was dreaming. Perhaps you are too.

The solution to sleep-deprivation is surprisingly simple. So simple in fact that I thought I would share my proven secrets with the many fine Baytonians who nod all day, wishing they could get a handle on their downtime.

The secret to getting up early is going to bed early.

There, I said it. Please don’t scoff and say it is the lack of time in your day that causes you to stay up so late. The real problem for most of us working folks is once we finally lay down, we are in such a hurry to get to sleep… we worry about over-sleeping. We can’t shut down. We stay up later and later and wake up so exhausted, we have trouble the rest of the day.

We are time bombs, ticking till exhaustion finally takes it toll on our job performance, our relationships and our health. We become cranky. We feel yucky. We accept this as normal. We are what Frank Zappa calls “Zomby Woofs”.

Here are my tips for going to bed and falling asleep instantly.

1. Plan your bed time. Promise yourself you will stop your day 30 minutes before bedtime. Thirty minutes just for yourself. No noise, no bright lights, no worries, no problems. If you want to be asleep at 10pm, then shut-down at 9:30pm.

2. No strenuous activity for 2 hours before bedtime. There are a number of factors which can inhibit the wind-down process such as exercising late. Do not exercise too late in the day. You will need a minimum of two hours to wind down after a heavy work-out. Do NOT drink “energy drinks” or caffeinated beverages in the evening.

3. No bright light or loud noise. Stay away from bright light and loud noise a minimum of 30 minutes before retiring. Do NOT turn on a bright bathroom light to wash your face, brush your teeth, then get into bed and expect immediate sleep. Use a night light instead. Bright light stimulates your brain and that is the last thing you want when you are tired.

Note: Violate this rule on bright light and you will not fall immediately asleep.

4. Do NOT watch television while in bed. You are injecting your eyes and ears with bright light and loud noise by repeating the behavior you are trying to eliminate. You need those 30 minutes of peace and quiet, along with the soft light to unwind.

5. Do NOT plan tomorrow. Forget today, tomorrow, your bills and the future, period. This is another mistake people make which keeps their brain active and denies rest. I let tomorrow, worry about tomorrow. You will replace your thoughts with my last recommendation.

6. Read yourself to sleep. Instead of mulling over the day’s activities, or tomorrow’s problems, read instead. I keep a history book on my nightstand and I always read in a quiet environment before I shut off the (dimmed) light. Many folks use this time to read their Bible. Find something you enjoy and keep it on the night stand.

7. End your day happy. The first time, I start to nod, I put the book down and without looking at the light, I shut off the lamp. I finish my day by whispering a prayer for my family and BAM! I’m asleep. I cannot over-stress the importance of each step, but the no bright lights and low noise are very important if you want to go to sleep immediately.

That’s it fellow Baytonians. Practice my methods for a few weeks and you too will sleep the “Sleep of the just”.

Sweet dreams!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Vietnam Veteran speaks out

Bert Marshall wrote an Excellent article in Sunday Jan. 14th, 2007 Baytown Sun (Neo-Patriotic Doublespeak Exposed!). It is great to see some one like Bert speak out for our men and women who have served our country in the military of the past and present in a way that hits home with everyone. He is right on target about the lip service we hear from both Democrat and Republican leaders, and their party followers about how they say they support our troops, but then turn their backs when confronted with Veteran Affair issues. It is sad that in our Government we only have less than 18% of our Government leaders who served in Armed forces; I think you will see change coming on that.

So you can see why many leaders both Democrat and Republican make poor decisions when it comes to troop needs. Like Bert I to have a son serving our country in the military and I am proud of him and all the troops who have taken the Oath for our Country’s Defense. As a Vietnam era Veteran it was very disappointing to see my era Veterans go through a war time with no support and Bert is right on target saying its starting to happen to today’s troops due to the battle going on with our elected leaders and news media hype of negative things against our troops.

Like Bert I have had the Honor to visit military bases to see our men and women who serve our country, I get e-mails from military friends and family serving our country and they are all TOP GUNS 2nd to None Americans. I am a very active person in Veterans Affairs and I see who supports the troops and who doesn’t. In Baytown Texas and the surrounding area we have many businesses and neighbors who come forward to help Veterans and family’s and I hope they continue to do that for our troops. Many Veteran organizations have joined forces to support today’s and yesterday troops and we now have a combined Veteran Center in Baytown Texas at the VFW Post 912 location, it consists of Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, American Legion, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans. We are there to help and assist all Veterans, if you served, you deserve to know and get your benefits.

Bert it would be an Honor to have you and your son and all our Veteran neighbors join us anytime, you and others should come by and see how we fixed the VFW hall up with military flags and pictures that show who Veterans are and what we stand for. I was very impressed and proud to read your article about one of our area hero’s who made it home Sgt. Nick Marshall.

Also Bert the military of our day was made up of some the best people from all walks of life from the draft, northerners, southerners, many different type individuals who were not blinded by colors but were all brothers serving this great country. Today’s military is awesome in their high tech developments and being a volunteer for military service does make for few weak links in the chain due to a more positive attitude doing your duty. Many of our era lost great friends and warriors, and we will never forget them. The same goes for todays warriors they know our era of Veterans will stand up for them always and we like their familys are ready to always support them. They call us their older brothers and sisters who care about them and know we are all in the same Fraternity of warriors for life. The best thing that came out of Nam and Korea was “Life Flight” many life’s today are saved due that great skill of helicopter pilots and rescue teams. Thanks Bert maybe you will open some eyes to reality.

W.G. Fitts Vice President of Vietnam Veterans of America.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Neo-Patriotic Doublespeak Exposed!

I just came back from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, home of Army Artillery and the arrival of the 1/17th Field Artillery, Alpha Company Battery. My son, Sergeant Nick Marshall, is finally home from Iraq after a one-year deployment. It’s been a long year for my wife and I and all those who have prayed for his safety, not to play down Nick’s own discomforts and danger. ”Sarnt” Nick now wears the Purple Heart, an Army Commendation medal, Combat Action Badge and a couple of scars as a reminder of his year in Iraq. He is a hometown hero, just like every Baytown Soldier, Marine, Sailor or Airman who is serving/served his or her country with honor.

What I saw at Fort Sill was a military that is second to none. All around me were soldiers of the highest standards, who exhibit professionalism I did not (by a wide margin) experience in my Vietnam-era service. Men and women wear their uniforms with pride and carry themselves in a manner that should make every American proud. I was in awe.

The bumper sticker proclaims: I support our troops!

For the most part, Fort Sill soldiers are not Airborne, Rangers, Special Forces, or anything specifically commando qualified. They are however extremely well trained and act accordingly and the soldiers I came in contact with represent our overall level of military standards and expertise. Our military believes in the mission. They take their service to our country seriously and do not appear soft or cowardly in any way.

I want to add a sidebar here: Every person serving in our Country’s military is there by choice. I’m not sure we will have this level of quality, if the Draft is reinstated.

The Neo-Patriot Doublespeaker proclaims: I hate George W. Bush! Worst President ever…but I support our troops!

Something has changed recently here in our country and I find it very disturbing. It reminds me of an attitude I experienced during the last of the Vietnam War days. I’m seeing a shift of opinion that left unchecked, will ultimately harm our military and it’s systemic and cancerous. In fact, I don’t think most people even realize it is happening. It’s what I’m calling neo-patriotic doublespeak.

Angry politically partisan people are bombarding every avenue of communication over the supposed ineptitude of George W. Bush, calling him “the worst President ever”, a criminal, an idiot, a fool, and every imaginable negative thing and then, they throw this on the end but… “I support our troops!”

George W. Bush has become the villain in their eyes. George Bush is their enemy. He is the reason everything is wrong. He can’t do anything right. Every decision he makes only makes them madder, but…”I support our troops!”

Okay, let me lay this out in plain old minimally educated logic and see if it adds up. Let’s say I sidle up to your children every day and tell them everything you do is stupid, ignorant, criminal, and do my dead level best to undermine you in every way possible and when I’m done, I yell out…”I support you kiddos, though! Have a nice confident day and go off and be productive, cause I’ll be back tomorrow to give you another helping! Oh! I forgot to tell you, you might be killed out there, because those idiot parents of yours don’t have a clue what they’re doing”.

Our troops take their orders from the Commander in Chief, who just happens to be the President of the United States.

Osama bin Laden, in his 2001 “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places” proclaimed “We have seen in the last decade, the decline of the American government and the weakness of the American soldier who is ready to wage Cold Wars and unprepared to fight long wars. This was proven in Beirut when the Marines fled after two explosions. It also proves they can run in less than 24 hours, and this was also repeated in Somalia”.

The bottom line is this. Broadcasting, bickering and eye-gouging with our current Administration and ultimately the troops confidence in the Mission will suffer. Undermine the effectiveness of the President, ridicule his every decision, and finally forget the Jihadists declaration of war in favor of partisan politics and the only thing that will be accomplished is our military will become infected with doubt. Ultimately, they will see themselves the same way returning Vietnam Veterans did. Baby-killers.

American Neo-Patriotic Doublespeakers who claim they are supporting our troops, while on a hell-bent for leather mission to tear down our current government are playing directly into the hands of the Jihadists. Our Country’s status as a Superpower is not guaranteed. It can be lost overnight. The whole world is watching and we need non-partisan politics more than ever.

Friends, the next time the words “I support our troops” rolls off your tongue, make sure there are no strings attached.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Greatest Southern Rock Band?

Which band truly deserves the title “Greatest Southern Rock band of all time”? I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am going to get drug over the coals for this column, but I’m going to tackle this difficult subject anyway. Looking through an Internet list of eligible “Southern Rock bands”, which includes Michigander Kid Rock and Los Angeles’ Creedence Clearwater Revival, I narrowed it down to eight contenders.

Allman Brothers Band, Black Oak Arkansas, Charlie Daniels Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker Band, Molly Hatchet, The Outlaws, & Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. If Creedence Clearwater Revival wasn’t from LA, they would probably be number one just on lyrics alone.

The eight bands I chose are based on my individual listening observation and not on a book or a Rolling Stone Magazine poll. I’m sure I’ve left a band off that for the moment escapes me and for that, I ask forgiveness. ZZ Top was not considered because they are straight up Texas boogie. No argument there.

For me, the Southern Rock genre has to have a blues influence, slide guitars, and the ability to relate to the Southern laid-back, but Rebel lifestyle and above all, great musicians. They have to be versatile and play bluesy-folk ballads.

Each of these eight bands have left a serious impression on Southern rockers and just a few cords from their unique music styles, will cause memories to rush into our minds. Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd has to be one of the all time greatest sounding songs to bless the airwaves, even though it bashes hard-rockin’ Neil Young. He’s the Canadian rocker who chastised the “Southern man” for his abuse of the black man.

I saw Jim Dandy and Black Oak Arkansas at Hofheinz Pavilion in 1975, if I remember correctly (for some reason, it is a little fuzzy) and for a live band, they were truly amazing. Their records don’t seem to convey their stage presence though and they were more of a flash in the pan.

Charlie Daniels and Marshall Tucker both have such rich history that I was compelled to add them. My quest for the greatest Southern rock band just cannot have fiddles as a staple, so even though I love these bands, I have to count them out. Sorry Charlie.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have done it for me many an hour and are second to none when it comes to their unique sound. Tom and his band are at the top of my list. He is a true Southern rocker, hailing from Gainesville, Florida. If it wasn’t for a couple of super strong contenders, the Heartbreakers would get my vote. Molly Hatchet and The Outlaws can jam with the best with their hard driving guitars and pounding Southern boogie beat. Both are very good Southern Rock bands.

This brings us down to two bands, Lynyrd Skynyrd (LS) and the Allman Brothers Band (ABB) and where it might get ugly. My friend Keith Westfall, a lanky drink of water from Georgia, tells me LS is easily the better band and he makes a strong case, being a seasoned concert veteran.

Both bands are versatile, playing folk ballads, blues and hard-driving Southern R&R. Both have great lyrics. Both have endured the test of time and both have loyal followings. I looked for a tie-breaker and the answer wouldn’t come. LS has more air-time history and better known to the masses. Both bands tragically lost members who most likely would have made the bands even greater, had they lived.

In discussing this with an Alabama-native friend of mine I call Tomcat, I remarked LS is not the caliber of band the ABB are and it started an argument. I claimed the Allman’s music has sophistication and depth Lynyrd Skynyrd never acquired and I stand on that to this day. Both bands are great no doubt and I enjoy both, but time and time again, I go back to the Allman Brothers when I have a need and that need is for old school Southern Rock and Roll.

My vote goes to the Allman Brothers Band as the greatest Southern Rock Band of all time.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Don't celebrate with gunfire

Fact: A 7mm Magnum bullet launched under optimum conditions will travel almost 5 miles.

This New Year’s Eve, someone in the Baytown area decided, for some ignorant reason, to celebrate the incoming year by firing a gun into the air, maybe more than once. I guess they never gave it a serious thought, or the probability the bullet would not land harmlessly in a field somewhere.

Maybe the next time that character decides to celebrate a holiday by firing a gun into the air, the bullet will fall through their windshield and then they can “figger it all out.”

I do not want anyone hurt, even the uneducated person firing the gun. I’m giving this person the benefit of the doubt, calling them ignorant and uneducated, because no educated person would willingly fire a bullet into the hemisphere where people live.

Fact: A .22 long rifle bullet can travel up to a mile and a half when shot into the air.

A couple of years ago, I found a 9mm bullet stuck in a shingle on my roof. It must have been fired around the Fourth of July to stick in the shingle like that. I have it in my lunchbox and occasionally, I’ll pull it out when the subject of shooting into the air comes up. Based on the angle of the embedded bullet, I could figure the trajectory. It came from my own neighborhood.

Joe Foster, a buddy of mine, told me he found a bullet in the hallway of his trailer. Looking up, he saw a hole in the roof where the bullet had came through. It was a 9mm.

Mythbusters aired an episode on whether a fired bullet still has enough energy to actually kill a person when it falls from the sky and they felt it most likely could not. It was an interesting episode, but it could happen, as the victimized lady in Baytown proved.

Fact: Hunting ammunition is more lethal than military “full-metal jacket ammo.”

While hunting, numerous times I’ve heard a shotgun blast in the distance and had lead pellets fall all around me. One time while hunting in Central Texas, I heard both a rifle shot and a ricochet sound that could have came straight out of Hollywood. I ducked, but it would have been too late.

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, I watched Saddam Hussein fire a rifle over the heads of his countrymen. Each time I saw it, I remarked how stupid, dangerous and inconsiderate it was. It appears that anywhere people can get their hands on an assault rifle, they feel compelled to “rip off a clip” of ammo into the air. Somewhere, someplace there are innocent people with bullet wounds from this activity and now we have one in Baytown.

I’m hoping against hope the police department will declare what caliber of firearm was used for this crime and it is a crime. Maybe someone will come forward and make restitution to the poor lady. It’s the only responsible thing which is acceptable.

Fact: What goes up must come down. It’s called gravity.

I was shown a pump shotgun by a Hunter Education Instructor, which had a large dent in the barrel. It seems the owner had been duck hunting from a small skiff when he spotted a large fish swimming by. Since there were no ducks around, he figured the fish was a suitable target and sticking the muzzle of the shotgun under the surface, he pulled the trigger. I know. It defies even basic logic. The water acted as a barrel obstruction and blew a hole in the side of the barrel.

Another duck hunter fell down while going to his blind. The muzzle of his Browning over and under shotgun stuck in the mud. No problem, he thought, I’ll just shoot it out. BLAM! No more expensive shotgun.

This year, more than anytime I can recall, it did indeed sound like World War III in Baytown. I asked a buddy at work about the fireworks available and he told me there are “mortars” available that really put off a boom. I don’t know, but I kept thinking my ERT beeper was going to go off. Surely some plant was going up in smoke!

New Year’s Eve was a beautiful cool night with stars shining brightly. I, like the lady in Meadow Lake Village, stood in my front yard looking up in the sky, my little doggie scampering around my feet. “Muffin” was afraid of the cacophony of sounds, the star-bursts and whistling thingamajiggies.

It’s a good thing I had my safety glasses on. Next year I’ll bring home a hardhat and face shield.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Saddam - Osama Connection

Radical Islam is after world conquest and Bin Laden is at the top of the leadership structure. Anyone not of his/their flavor of Islam is the enemy or helping the enemy pollute Islam. This is why Islamic Jihadists attack other Moslems and even the Arabic leadership structure. The World Trade Towers were the epitome of Globalization and Capitalism, something the radicals view as Satanic. It was a natural target. The Taliban government in Afghanistan openly supported and trained insurgents and that is why we attacked their country. We gave them an ultimatum after 9-11 and they snubbed their nose at us.

Saddam Hussein wasn't religious and openly persecuted Shiite Moslems and Kurds. He was a thug and a criminal, using his power as a warlord. The Sunni Moslems embraced his Baathist government and since they are not fundamentalist in the practice of their religion, he did not perceive them as a threat. He persecuted Iraqi Shiites, claiming they followed Iran’s religion.

He did however actually have WMD’s and it was proven over and over, plus he actively sought the making of an atomic bomb for many years. The U.N. inspectors uncovered whole warehouses full of dirty bomb components, but since they were not assembled, they reluctantly had to say the ingredients could be used for other causes. I watched it myself on a CNN broadcast.

Aside from Saddam's minders playing footsie with the UN Inspectors, the danger of known WMD components inside Iraq escaping through it's porous borders was justification enough to attack Iraq, as it posed and still does a very real threat against America. Our troops are still uncovering caches of arms, bombs and weapons buried inside Iraq and Afghanistan, as bizarre as that sounds.

The connection between Osama and Saddam is in the very real possibility that some of the WMD’s that Saddam shuffled all around the U.N. Inspectors will make it’s way into the hands of Al Qaeda sleeper cells to be released inside our country. The common lament that Iraq never had WMD’s is as false as the claim that the Holocaust never took place. The reason our government can not claim victory in that area is because of the legal U.N. definition of WMD’s and has nothing to do with the fact that they did in fact exist.

Here’s an example: You go into a kitchen and on the table is a carton of eggs, a slab of bacon, a loaf of bread, some coffee grounds and filters and you are looking for “a breakfast meal”. There’s no breakfast, only the ingredients, so guess what? No breakfast here…

Next is the very real possibility that the volatile situation involving radical Islam would render Saddam persona non grata, or dead anyway. With the increasing violence caused by radical Islam, even Saddam’s oil refineries were a target and America’s security and future depends on stability in the Middle East. With China looking every which way for oil and Russia desiring to be back in Superpower status, it was only a matter of time before one of them had Advisors either in Iraq, or Iran. America could not let this happen.

America leadership decided this was the perfect time to give Saddam an ultimatum and the rest of the world’s main opposing powers (Russia, China, France, etc.) threw a U.N. fit. The reason they did not want to go along with George is two-fold. One, they will do anything to minimize America’s power. Second, they were all double-dealing under the table with Saddam against the rules of the sanction.

Saddam was playing both sides against the middle. America cut off the illegal oil pipeline after we invaded and this caused oil prices to skyrocket. Russia, China and France had to buy oil on the open market now and in competition with everyone else.

Now the dust has partially settled and we are sitting quite pretty on both sides of Iran, below it and above. The Iraqi-Sunni-Baathists want “their” country back and are fighting their ancient enemy, the Shia (Shiites), which are fundamentalist Moslems, albeit not of Osama’s ilk. The Shia’s want revenge for the abuse they took under the Baathist’s. Al Qaeda is indiscriminately killing everyone, as they hate all infidels, Shia, Sunni, Jews, Kurds and all polluters. In the middle of all this is the new Iraqi government trying to settle all these people down so they can resume normalcy.

The bulk of Iraq’s population is caught in the middle. We cannot leave, or the void will instantly be filled with Russian or Chinese advisors (mark my words) or the country will fall into absolute anarchy and then everyone on earth will be screaming about the oil. So, what business do we have in the Middle East? All and everything, period. Given time, America’s presence will stabilize the whole area and in the meantime, the killing will continue. The stakes are so high we, as a country cannot afford to let anyone else decide the future of the Middle East.

We don't know our left from our right.

I got my first real lesson on what being out of step means when I in was in Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, in ...