Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Mouse in the House

We knew we had one. We had seen it scurrying in the shadows. We never had a clear view of him. We knew he was there. We tried several ways to get him to leave, but they did not work.

This guy was brazen. He did not just come out at night to forage and feed. He was a mouse in the house — in OUR house.

Today, he got his comeuppance. He made his move and we saw him. We moved in front of him and behind him. He had nowhere to turn. The coffee can was ready.... Got him! We dropped the can over him! We slid a piece of cardboard under the can and turned the whole thing right-side up. There he was...

Before he righted himself, we could see that he definitely was a he. We took him outside to the fence between the main and back pastures and dumped him, very unceremoniously, on top of one of the fence posts. He righted himself, again, and glared at me, as if to say, "How dare you to evict me, without any recourse to the courts..."

After standing there for a minute or so, he turned his back and ran down the back side of the fence post. With that, he was gone...

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Monday, September 05, 2016

Devastation at Standing Rock

I just read of the wanton vandalism of the Native American graves at Standing Rock. According to a Fox News report, on Saturday, September 4, construction crews working for Energy Transfer Partners

removed topsoil across an area about 150 feet wide stretching for 2 miles.

"This demolition is devastating," Standing Rock Sioux chairman David Archambault II said. "These grounds are the resting places of our ancestors. The ancient cairns and stone prayer rings there cannot be replaced. In one day, our sacred land has been turned into hollow ground."

Energy Transfer Partners is building The Dakota Access petroleum pipeline across the Dakotas and Iowa and terminating in Illinois. The permit request to the Army Corps of Engineers failed to mention that the path of the pipeline crossed graveyards and other culturally sensitive sites.

The Standing Rock Sioux have filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to stop construction. The Tribe says it was not properly consulted before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers fast-tracked construction approval. (Indian Country Today)
The Tribe filed court papers on Friday, September 2, stating that there were
several sites of "significant cultural and historic value" along the path of the proposed pipeline.

A federal judge will rule before Sept. 9 whether construction can be halted on the Dakota Access pipeline.

The next day, the graves were desecrated.

“We’re days away from getting a resolution on the legal issues, and they came in on a holiday weekend and destroyed the site,” said Jan Hasselman, attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “What they have done is absolutely outrageous.” Read more at Indian Country Today

If this type of desecration was was done to a Jewish cemetery or a Veterans' Cemetery, the news news media would be covering this story with daily reports and constantly asking when prosecutions would begin. They would scream "HATE CRIME" loud and long. The local police would be arresting the members of the construction crew, along with Energy Transfer Partners officials who ordered the desecration.

This was a Hate Crime. There is no doubt about it. There is absolutely no excuse for the heinous actions taken by Energy Transfer Partners and they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Fort Scott, Kansas

As I said in an earlier post, we planned to do a little sightseeing. Today, we stopped and explored Fort Scott National Historic Site in Fort Scott, Kansas. Established in 1842, this fort was one of a line of forts that was supposed to separate the white American settlers from the territories reserved for the Native Americans, a "permanent frontier" at the edge of the "civilized" lands. Named after General Winfield Scott, this fort was typical of the peace-time forts of the day, with no palisade or earthworks to defend it.

When the first Army units arrived, the site was nothing more than open prairie. Captain Thomas Swords, the new post's quartermaster, was tasked with the job of building the fort. Of course, he started with the five buildings that would house the fort's officers. Four were duplexes, each providing a six room home to two officers. The fifth was the post commander's home. The hospital and powder magazine were also built in 1843. Wood, other building materials, skilled masons and carpenters, and construction equipment, the erection of the fort was slow. 1843 saw the construction of the Dragoon stables, with their barracks being built the following year, along with the infantry barracks. Political events, including the Mexican-American War, mounting pressure from Americans moving west, and the resulting Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 which opened the lands west of the "permanent frontier" rendered Fort Scott obsolete by 1850. It was abandoned by the military and sold, at auction, to the settlers.

The 1850s, saw Kansas was the site of numerous clashes between the pro-slavery, anti-slavery and abolitionists. The pro-slavery group wanted Kansas to be a slave state. The anti-slavery and abolitionists wanted Kansas to be a free state. The clashes were numerous and bloody, earning that period of time the name "Bleeding Kansas." During this period, the Army returned periodically to keep and restore the peace, but they did not stay.

In 1861, the Union Army did return to stay. Here, they trained soldiers – white, black and Native American – for fighting in the Civil War. The post was enlarged, adding the commissary, the quartermaster and several troop barracks. At the end of the Civil War, the Army again sold the fort, at auction. to the settlers. Many of the buildings were converted to civilian use.

The surviving buildings include two duplexes, which housed four officers and their families, one dragoon's barracks, two infantry barracks, a hospital, guardhouse, dragoon stables, ordnance and post headquarters, quartermaster stables, bake shop, flagpole, and magazine.

The historic site also includes five acres of tallgrass prairie restored as part of an ecology-restoration project.

We definitely enjoyed this stop, although most of the buildings did not have good handicap accessibility. The stairs in the Dragoon Barracks and the Officer Housing are steep, thus being rough on my wife's knee and hip.

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

On the Road to MidAmeriCon II - WorldCon 74

Well, we are on the road again — Hey, that sounds like a Willie Nelson song..... This time we are headed for Kansas City, Missouri, the site of MidAmeriCon II. MidAmeriCon II is the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, or "WorldCon." Each year, it is held in a different city – last year, Sasquan was held in Spokane, Washington and next year, WorldCon75 in Helsinki, Finland.

We left the ranch last night, planning to drift our way north. We are not expected in Kansas City until Tuesday, at the earliest. We hope to do a little sightseeing along the way. Last night, we laid over here in Texas. We plan to drive north into Oklahoma later this morning.

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Friday, August 05, 2016

Farmers and Ranchers Must Be Optimists

Julie Tomascik posted a blog entry yesterday, entitled "Farmers: The eternal optimists", on Texas Ag Talks. In it, she points to the insanity of those of us who grow the food that we serve on our tables. She wrote:

Farming and ranching is a gamble. Every year. And 2016 has been a mixed deck at best.

It flooded. Then the rain shut off. Drought now steadily creeps back in.

Anti-agriculture crowds continue to attack farmers and ranchers, while regulations are piled on. Increased costs for inspections, fees and certifications add to the growing list.

Commodity and livestock prices are down. Net farm income keeps dropping. And it’s forecast to be down 3 percent this year at $54.8 billion, the lowest since 2002.

Most would walk away. Throw in the towel and find a less stressful, more predictable career.

The sad fact is that many of us have walked away. But, we all need to eat. We do not want most of our incomes to go toward the cost of food. This means that either we import more food from abroad or we hire low-cost labor to grow and harvest our food. Actually, we are doing both.

We are importing beef from Argentina, fresh vegetables from Mexico, fresh fruit from Central America and packaged foods and beverages from just about every major nation. Importing food makes us vulnerable other nations' problems &ndash political, economic, climate and natural disasters. How do we, as a nation, stand up to another nation who provides a significant amount of our food? The answer is that we cannot, for if they decide to cut us off we are going to pay more to get our food from elsewhere or go hungry.

Farmers and ranchers are also hiring workers, when they can get them. Few Americans want to work in the hot sun, tending to and harvesting our fresh fruits and vegetable. To be honest, it is hard, sweaty work. If you are tending to livestock, it can be dangerous, as well. The price the farmer or rancher receives for what they produce is set by the buyers for supermarkets and processing plants. From the amount the buyers pay, the farmer must pay for the seed, the fertilizer, the water, the pest managers and the harvesters. Precious little, seldom more than pennies per pound, is kept by the farmer.

Think about it. For a farmer who grows melons exclusively, take a minute and calculate how many melons must be sold to earn a reasonable "paycheck." Yesterday, cantaloupes were selling for $0.95 each and honeydews for $1.19. Of that, the grower may get $0.35. When you subtract the grower's costs to grow and harvest that melon, the grower gets to keep about 7 cents. If the grower wants an income of $40,000, that takes about 571,500 melons! More than half a million melons! That is a whole lot of melons! You can do a similar calculation with any food item.

Given these statistics, and the fact that each crop is a big gamble, why do we choose do it? Each of us has our own answer. Would you city dwellers or suburbanites do it? Probably not. You would rather fight with traffic, put up with noise and crowding, than take on our risks. Most of you cannot even be bothered to raise a garden &ndash "It's too hard." "I haven't got time." "It's too much work."

Your garden would be measured in square feet. Our "gardens" are measured in acres and square miles. Feeding you sure keeps us busy!

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Friday, July 29, 2016

The National Political Conventions

I have just spent my evenings for the past two weeks watching first, the Republican National Convention and second, the Democratic National Convention. I find that I cannot, in good conscience, support either candidate nominated by their party. I have been watching national political conventions since Margarete Chase Smith took on Barry Goldwater at the 1964 Republican National Convention and this year's were the worst.

The Republicans

I found the Republican convention to be amateurish and insipid. There were too many speeches by little known to unknown people and too few speeches by those who I would expect to be the rising stars within the party. Watching the convention on television, it seemed as if all of the experienced party members had abandoned Donald Trump and his campaign, going into hiding instead. Even the host Governor, John Kasich, did not show up to welcome the delegates.

The speeches sounded too many sour notes. Of course, this country has problems: that is obvious for all to see. The speakers spent lots of time listing them. What I did not hear, however, was how Donald Trump, if elected, and the Republican party is planning to fix them. Their ideas: law and order, build a wall, create good jobs, renegotiate trade deals, destroy ISIS, block some immigration, grow the military, support the Veterans and so forth, were just that – ideas. How to do this and, more importantly, how to pay for these solutions was never seriously addressed.

For me, the highlight speech was by Ted Cruz. He was the only speaker who talked about what America is ALL about, referring to our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution and our Bill of Rights.

Donald Trump's speech had too many "I will" and not enough "We will," sounding like he was a one-man party. It sounded to me like a vain man's ego trip, not a serious speech by a Presidential contender. HE must learn that at all times, the President of the United States and by extension, those running for President, are more than national figures; they are world figures. His choice of words gave me the impression that he forgot that many, if not most, of his world-wide audience do not speak English as their primary language. For this audience, humor and sarcasm falls flat. Talk about working with one of our allies may, in another country, be seen as lining up with their enemy.

He said that HE will fix this, fix that, and fix the other thing. HE will make America great again. HE will create good paying jobs, bring back jobs outsourced overseas, and punish companies that send jobs abroad. He has conveniently overlooked the fact that many so-called "American" companies are no longer just American – they are global companies, headquartered in London, Frankfort, Dublin and hundreds of cities scattered around the world. The "American corporation" part that does business in the United States is just one subsidiary of many.

Missing from the convention, were the speeches extolling what the Republican Party stands for, the goals and aspirations of the party, and the vision of the future, not just for the next four years, but for our children and our children's children. Instead, it sounded like a meeting of "Whiners Anonymous." Do you what cheese with your whine?

The Democrats

I found the Democratic convention to be better orchestrated than usual. There were the usual gaggle of protests outside the convention site. This year offered LGBTQ rights, Black Lives Matter, and a dozen others. Inside the hall, the Bernie Sanders delegates showed a surprising amount of spunk before they were steamrollered by the Hillary Clinton juggernaut.

The speeches were far more optimistic. Yes, the country has problems: poverty, shootings by police and at police, terrorism, to name a few. Again, the speakers said that Hillary Clinton, if elected, and the party would fix them. They added, however, that ALL Americans must work together to fix these problems. They also put forward an ambitious social agenda – free college tuition, higher minimum wage, affordable day care, affordable medical care, justice system reform and so forth. Again, details were lacking and no serious proposal on how to pay for it all was given.

Several speakers extolled the virtues of the United States, pointing to our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution and our Bill of Rights. In fact, if you closed your eyes, you could easily imagine that you were listening to the Republicans speak. Hillary Clinton gave lie to everything they said with the words "I am a Progressive." For my generation, Progressivism is the "Brave New World" of Aldous Huxley, with the "Big Brother" surveillance state, enforced political correctness of word and thought, hypervigilant policing and many other dystopian ideas.

The tone of many of the speeches gave me the impression that Hillary Clinton was entitled to be the nominee and to be elected President.

Common Themes

There were a few common themes of both conventions:

  • Crime and Justice
  • Schools
  • RobTax the Rich
  • Destroy ISIS

Crime and Justice

Both candidates agree that crime is a major problem, citing urban murder, unjustified police shootings, and police being ambushed. These topics were all flavored with race relations and racism. Donald Trump wants more policing and faster prosecution. Hillary Clinton wants to overhaul the entire criminal justice system. Neither can do what they want. Criming and policing are handled on the state and local level, thus out of reach of the President.

The President can, however, set the tone and use Teddy Roosevelt's "Bully Pulpit" to push the states for change.

Changes in policing and prosecution are not enough. We need to find ways to prevent the senseless (to us) "drive-by shootings" and "gang violence" of many of our inner cities. We need to seriously research the causes of this behavior. The liberals point to poverty and poor housing. That, for sure, may play a part. But, there are many poor areas with bad housing that does not produce violent criminals and gangs. Others point to drug abuse. Again, drug abuse is not just an urban phenomenon any more and not all areas where drug abuse is rampant have this problem with violence. I do not believe that social scientists actually understand why certain urban neighborhoods spawn this type of violence and other similar neighborhoods do not.

Schools

Both parties point to problems with our school systems: too many are academically below where they should be, too many are dropping out, too many going to college incur too much debt, and too many graduates are not ready for the workforce. Hillary Clinton says raise teacher salaries and throw money at the public schools. Donald Trump says let parents choose where to send their children. Both, again, are wrong. Public education, whether elementary, secondary or college, are state and local issues. Private schools and colleges are also governed by state rules.

Bernie Sanders fought for the inclusion of free college tuition into the Democratic platform. Great idea! But will Hillary Clinton push for it, if she is elected, and where will the money come from to pay for this?

The Federal Government can, using the powers of the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, other Federal banking regulators, the Security and Exchange Commission and the GI Bill of Rights, can place controls on student loans. Lenders do not want to risk their own money, thus, they want to bundle the loans and use them as collateral to borrow more money to lend or sell the bundles and use the proceeds to lend more money. Both these processes are subject to Federal rules. The Veterans Administration can, under the GI Bill, can simply set rules for lending to Veterans.

Tax the Rich

Both parties are saying "tax the top 1%" to pay for new programs. Let us look at the math:

  • Let us assume 350 million people in the United States.
  • The top 1% is thusly 3.5 million people.
  • If we tax them an additional $1,000, the take is only $3.5 billion dollars. A lot of money, to be sure, but just a drop in the bucket when measured against the annual Federal deficit. Taxing the top 5% would only raise only $17.5 billion – again, just a drop in the bucket.

To raise the money needed to pay down the national debt or to cut the deficit, you cannot just tax the rich. There just are not enough of them. You have to go where the money is: business community and the middle class.

Destroy ISIS

Everyone agrees that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) needs to be stopped. They wrap themselves in the cloak of Islam, but their actions are not Islamic, or for that matter, within the beliefs and philosophy of any major religion. Insults and perceived insults to Islam and Islamic leaders only act as recruitment posters.

As Harriet Tubman once said, "You cannot conquer an idea with an army." We need better ideas within the Islamic community to lead people away from ISIS. This is largely out of American hands.

In Closing

I will post this for now. I will review and rethink it and may revise this in the future.

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Vacation Time!!

It has been a while,again. Life gets so busy and I just forget to take notes... This weekend, we are heading south to San Antonio. Six Flags, later today, then Sea World tomorrow. Of course, the weather report says rain for both days.

Tonight, Six Flags is doing fireworks - their Sprint Blast! Their water park is supposed to be open, too.

Sea World is previewing their new Discovery Point area. This replaces the old dolphin pool. The new facility will allow visitors to interact with the dolphins in the water. In another area of the tank, visitors can watch the dolphins under water. It should be interesting. Tomorrow is also the last day for their annual Seven Seas Food Festival. We went to Sea World about a month ago and bought passes for the Food Festival and sampled some of the fare. Tomorrow, we will sample the rest.

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