Saturday, July 26, 2008


Oh my, Joyce and I have just officially become geezers.

We were visiting on the phone with our son James at Fort Knox, Kentucky and (in talking about the hours the Army keeps) I mentioned how his Great-grandpa James (who lived his entire life on the farm in central Illinois and never served in the military) always got out of bed no later than 5:00. I said, "But of course, the only thing that could keep Grandpa up past his 8:00 bedtime was Lawrence Welk."

There was a long pause ... and then James asked, "Who's Lawrence Welk?"

I tried to explain, but finally we just said, "We'll send you a link to a YouTube clip."

Joyce did that, but then we got to watching those old clips, and it suddenly occurred to me, Here we are sitting in the living room past our 8:00 bedtime, watching Lawrence Welk. Well folks (as much as I hate to say it), the Lawrence Welk Show ain't half bad. So without further ado, here's Bobby Burgess and Cissy King dancing to dat funky beat.

"Tank yoo Cissy'n Bobby! Dat wass a real toeTapper!"

Good Bye Dolly

The animated loop clearly shows the rotation with the eye of the storm still distinguishable in Mexico, just west of Fabens (the southeastern corner of El Paso County).

At least someone got some rain out of this.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hello Dolly

Great news! North Texas has an outside chance of some rain -- and our high might even be less than 100 degrees (for a change).

No rain yet -- but surely God hasn't forsaken us.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Something Different

On July 4, 2005 NASA's Deep Impact probe sent an impactor crashing into comet Tempel One. Deep Impact is now on its way to rendezvous with another comet in 2010, but this past May (from a range of 31-million miles from Earth) it recorded this: the moon's transit of Earth.

Now that's something you don't see every day.

Here's a video of the Deep Impact's shot at Tempel One three years ago:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

... Give Peas a Chance

There we sat, five boys with legs dangling from our chairs -- scowling at the piles of peas Mom had just heaped onto our plates. Sure we had other non-green starches and proteins loaded onto the china, but peas? Bleccchhh!!!

Then Mom left the dining room to busy herself in the kitchen while Dad was still busy in the bathroom.

From across the dining table I saw Roy reach up and pick up a pea with his thumb and forefinger. He then did something totally unexpected. He poked it up his right nostril. Then with his left forefinger he covered his left nostril and with one mighty snort, voila! The pea that had been so recently buried in Roy's schnoz splattered very happily back on his plate.

Without a moment's hesitation four more peas immediately embarked on nasal maneuvers.

Joel: Snort! Splat!

Bobby: Snort! Splat!

Charlie: Snort! Splat!

Bart: Sniff!

Brothers All: "No, no, Bart! You've got to blow it out of your nose, not sniff it in!"

Bart: Sniff! Sniff!!!

Silly two-year-old Bart just couldn't master the proper technique - he just kept sniffing all the harder.

Mom reappeared, "What are you boys doing?"

In unison (just as good children are always supposed to do) we dutifully reported Bart's misconduct, "Bart shoved a pea up his nose!"

Mom sighed deeply and peered up Bart's nose. Then (placing her thumb against the unobstructed nasal cavity) she cupped her hand and commanded, "Now blow! ... No! no! Don't sniff! ... Blow!!!"

It was no use. Bart was now panicked by Mom's panic and only sniffed even harder.

To this day, I'm not sure where Bart's pea went, but one thing I know: My baby brother has survived the ordeal just fine.

Happy birthday, Bart! How's it feel to have have finally turned three - seventeen times over?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fifty Years of Judicial Tyranny

'MARBURY v. MADISON' in 1803 was the first assertion of the Supreme Court's power of "judicial review". The issue of 'MARBURY v. MADISON' had to do with the appointment of 42 Federal judges by outgoing President John Adams just prior to the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson. Upon assuming office, Jefferson ordered Secretary of State James Madison to withhold delivery of these judicial "commissions" (i.e., the signed and sealed paper documents confirming the appointments) - including that of William Marbury. Marbury filed a case directly with the Supreme Court, seeking to force Madison to deliver his judicial commission (by having the Supreme Court issue him a 'writ of mandamus', as prescribed by the Judiciary Act of 1789).

In writing the unanimous opinion, Chief Justice John Marshall concluded that, in propounding the Judiciary Act of 1789, Congress had overstepped its authority and granted the Supreme Court power to "issue writs of mandamus in cases ... [relating] to any persons holding office under the authority of the United States." According to this decision, the Constitution did not grant the Supreme Court original jurisdiction over judicial appointments and therefore, the Supreme Court was obliged to declare the Judiciary Act of 1789 "unconstitutional".

Thus in this single decision, the U.S. Supreme Court simultaneously refused to accept a jurisdictional authority (which it had been duly granted to it by Congress and the President) while at the same time it assumed the power of "judicial review", a power so overreaching that Congress would never have even contemplated granting such authority. Jefferson (an Anti-federalist) was trapped. He could either accept the ruling of the Court (and so concede to the the federal courts the terrifying power of judicial review), or he could challenge the Court's decision which would entail ordering Madison to deliver the judicial commissions (and thus let Adams' appointees become Federal judges). Of course, Jefferson did what politicians do: he took the path that gave him the short-term political win despite the long-term consequences. Hence Jefferson, in order to gain the executive power to ignore the Judiciary Act of 1789, ceded to the Supreme Court even greater autocratic power, the power to void any legislative Act through the simple expedient of labeling it "unconstitutional".

Perhaps the obviousness of its hubris in assuming such unbridled power explains why the Court didn't again assert this newly discovered power of "judicial review" until decades later. And even when it again did so, it was generally assumed that all three Branches (being sworn as they were to uphold and defend the Constitution) had an obligation to disregard laws that clearly violated the U.S. Constitution. But it wasn't until 1958 in the case of
'COOPER v. AARON', (which arose in the wake of Arkansas' refusal to enforce the Court's 1954 'BROWN v. BOARD OF EDUCATION' Little Rock school desegregation decision) that the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted 'MARBURY v. MADISON' as giving the federal judiciary a monopoly in all matters of Constitutional interpretation.

Note: Chief Justice Warren's claim in the 'COOPER v. AARON' decision, "It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is" was not required for the Court to uphold its decision. Protecting the rights of all citizens did not have to entail projecting judicial power beyond all reasonable bounds. The Court was not obligated to claim the exclusive power to strike down any law it didn't like. The Supreme Court grabbed that power simply because it "saw that the tree [of knowledge of good and evil] was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise."

Thus, the equating of the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution with the Constitution itself dates only to September 12, 1958. But since 1958, the Court has cited 'MARBURY v. MADISON' no less than ten times to assert its exclusive authority to interpret the Constitution, and each time its assertion of this new dictatorial power has gone unchallenged by both the President and Congress. Of late, even lower Federal courts have grabbed low-hanging fruit from the "tree of knowledge of good and evil" and have begun appointing themselves as legislators and governors.

Thus, there is no longer any effective check on the power of federal judges. All that's required for any court to strike down any constitutionally protected right (whether to pray in public school, to own property without fear of government siezure, to bear arms, or to use ones money to promote a message that's critical of the government) or for the court to enact new law (without the bother of any legislative action whatsoever) is a complainant willing to file a lawsuit.

The 2004 case of
'ROPER v. SIMMONS' dealt with the question of how old a person has to be in order to be given a death sentence. The decision in this case is a particularly egregious abuse of judicial power, going far beyond asserting that the opinion of five unelected justices is superior to an Act of the duly elected Missouri Legislature. By citing the decisions of foreign and international courts, The Supreme Court has declared that the decisions of those foreign courts are more binding than the Acts of any State Legislature. See Section IV of the 'ROPER v. SIMMONS' ruling. Antonin Scalia's superbly argued dissent is particularly compelling.

Now that the Supreme Court has openly declared that the rulings of European courts bear more weight than the acts of our own elected representatives, we have entered the realm of complete judicial chaos. The Court's recent decision (by a mere one vote margin) in
'DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. HELLER', which affirmed that the Second Amendment is part of the Constitution, has been touted as a great victory by original constructionists. But such victories are pyhrric if we've already conceded the argument that the Second Amendment means nothing except what five justices of the Supreme Court say it means. Rather than celebrating this "victory", perhaps we who believe in the words "We the People ..." should now be even more concerned. In the fifty years since the Supreme Court threw the farmer out of the farm house, hasn't the writing on the barn of this judicial "Animal Farm" already proven eerily mutable?

So has the time now come for a Constitutional Amendment that gives Congress the power to block judicial rulings of "unconstitutionality"? (I don't mean reviewing the decision itself; Congress is already conducting far too many political trials in the name of "hearings".) I'm asking if we ought to check the judiciary's power to arbitrarily void any law it thinks some foreign court might not like.

What do you think?

To Meme the Impassable Meme

Piper has tagged me with a meme that has the following rules:
1 - Write the title to your own memoir using exactly six words.
2 - Post it on your blog.
3 - Link to the person who tagged you.
4 - Tag five other bloggers.

The title of my memoir: The El Paso Wind Starts Here

My Hit List includes:
1) The
2) Lost
3) Fart
4) of
5) Blogging

(Gee, looks like all these guys have already done this meme.)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Wright Reverend

No doubt you were disturbed by the words of Reverend Wright, but I for one believe it's high time the clergy stood up and openly acknowledged America's sins. After all, it is the responsibility of Christians to speak boldly, regardless of which politicians are offended or embarrassed by it.

So when Joe Wright was asked to offer the opening prayer of the 1999 Session of the Kansas House of Representatives, I believe he was dead on in his analysis of where America has wandered from the path of righteousness.

Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Yourforgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe on those who call evil good." But that's what we've done.

We have lost our spiritual equilibrium. We have inverted our values. We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word in the name of moral pluralism. We have worshiped other gods and called it multiculturalism.

We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.

We have exploited the poor and called it a lottery. We've neglected the needy and called it self-preservation. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. In the name of choice, we have killed our unborn. In the name of right to life, we have killed abortionists.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it political savvy. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it taxes. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, O God, and know our hearts today. Try us. Show us any wickedness within us. Cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of the State of Kansas, and who have been ordained by You to govern this great State.

Grant them your wisdom to rule. May their decisions direct us to the center of Your will. And, as we continue our prayer and as we come in out of the fog, give us clear minds to accomplish our goals as we begin this Legislature. For we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

What? You thought I was talking about Jeremiah Wright, that hate-filled bigot who never misses a chance to blame America for everything wrong with the world?

Nah! That guy's just an asshole.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Advice to Men

The ladies have helpful hint columns in almost every newspaper, but where are the "Hints from Hank" or "Dear Andy" columns for us guys? So as a service to you guys among my vast readership, I offer the following household tips.

1. Avoid cutting yourself when slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold the vegetables while you chop.

2. Buy your wife a complete set of Snap-On® pneumatic tools for her birthday. When she starts bawling (as women always do), look exasperated and say, "But you said, 'I don't want anything with a power cord'!"

3. Never have to do laundry again. If you're married, simply don't bother sorting whites from colors, and be sure to add powdered bleach to every wash load.

4. To avoid arguments with the woman of the house about the toilet seat, use the sink.

5. To get rid of your wife's yapping Pekinese, praise it and feed it liver whenever it relieves itself on her shoe rack.

6. If you want to avoid ever having to take your girlfriend back to some expensive restaurant, just crack the door of the ladies' room and throw in a rat.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Wisdom Through the Ages

"To Do Is To Be" ------ Socrates
"To Be Is To Do" ------ Plato
"To Be Or Not To Be" -- Shakespeare
"To Think Is To Be" --- Descarte
"Do Be Do Be Do" ------ Sinatra
"Ya Ba Da Ba Do" ------ Flintstone

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Dining With Swarthy People

The South Sea Flyer has posted a great story about a local coffee shop there in the South Seas. Go read it. Sadly, he hasn't enabled comments on that post, so since I can't tell him so in his comments section, I'll use my own post to let him know, "You very well. You really put the reader in the scene."

In fact, though I've never been to the South Seas, I can somewhat identify with the Flyer's story. The barrista he describes could be any El Paso tortilla/tamale vendor who peddles menudo on Sunday morning. If you take away the humidity, and the change the local language to Spanish, and replace the street minstrels with a mariachi band, and substitute menudo for coffee ... I have been in that very restaurant.

Speaking of menudo (the stew, not the Puerto Rican boy band), it was my older and bolder brother Roy who first introduced me to menudo back during our high school years. Though I never became a huge fan of the stuff myself, Roy apparently has a congenital deficiency that only menudo can satisfy. He's a regular menudo gourmand. For the benefit of those who may not know what menudo is, allow me to explain.

Years ago when I was overseeing construction at a power plant near Waco, the crew insisted we just had to go into Bellmead for lunch and get some "hang down". As often as they repeated the words "hang down", I knew I was being set up. After they'd assured me over and over that this place sold the best "hang down" in all of central Texas, I finally agree to try it. But as we piled into the trucks I hazarded to ask, "So just exactly what is this "hang up" or "hang around" you like so much?

They laughed heartily in anticipation of their long-awaited punchline. "No, no. It's 'hang down'. Hang down is barbeque, but barbeque can be made either from the best cuts of meat (the chuck, the rib, the surloin, the tenderloin,...) all on the upper side of the cow, or it can be made from from the parts of the cow that ... 'hang down'."

Well, menudo is neither top cut nor "hang down". Menudo's bovine ingredient is that portion of the cow that's usually hosed off the slaughter house floor and shipped to the Alpo factory. Menudo is boiled cow tripe mixed with chili peppers, chili powder and hominy. Now if you're one of those squeamish pansies who can't stand the spongey feel of the cow gut in your mouth, fret not. Just eat a few bites of menudo and the peppers will numb your mouth to the point that you won't feel the squishiness (or anything) anymore. But even better, Menudo is purported to be a sure-fire domingo manana cure for your sabado noche hang-over.

But menudo is more than a hang-over cure, it's also the truest test of a wife's devotion. Though Joyce and I have now been happily hitched for over thirty years, my brother Roy and his wife Sally have a couple more years on us and an assuredly much more secure relationship than Joyce and I do. Their marriage has already withstood the ultimate test. You see, about ten years into their union (while they were living in Montana), Roy (who'd gone nigh three years without a heapin bowl of menudo) asked Sally to make him some. Sally (who still took the words "love, honor and obey" to heart) foolishly agreed to make Roy some of his special stew before she fully grasped how much this would test those vows. (I'd say Sally was pretty gutsy, but that would just be teasing.)

Anyway, long about a half day into Sally's tripe preparation, the fumes drove her to swear that she would never again fumigate her house with the sulphurous essence of Elsie's insides. She finished the task at hand and served Roy his ambrosia, but to date she has made good her promise to never again use that method to strip the paint from her kitchen walls. Luckily, Roy and Sally have moved back to Texas since he got out of the Air Force, so nowadays Roy only has to go find some wife-beater-shirted barrista to serve him his menudo fix.

I wonder if Roy's ever tried kimchee.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

On the Evening News

I'm sure you all saw this re-enlistment ceremony at Saddam's old palace on all the network news programs yesterday evening. But anyway here it is again:

What's that? You mean to tell me the Mainstream Media missed it ... again? Well if that don't beat all.

Friday, July 4, 2008

That's a Bozo Go-Go ... Gone

There's tragic news out of Hollywood. Larry Harmon (the licenser of the Bozo the Clown trademark) has died. Among those whom Harmon licensed to play Bozo were Willard Scott in Washington, D.C., Frank Avruch in Boston and Bob Bell in Chicago. But for those of us who grew up in El Paso, Bozo will always be that renowned celebrity Howell Eurich, the local weatherman on channel 4, KROD-TV (now KDBC-TV).

El Paso (due to its geographical isolation and large hispanic audience) is probably the strangest TV market in America. Celebrity status in El Paso is generally a terminal condition. Sure, a few El Pasoans have gone on to become semi-famous (e.g., silent movie cowboy Tom Mix, night club singer Vicki Carr, roundballer Nate Archibald, newsman Dan Rather, etc.), but achieving celebrity within the El Paso area seems to bestow world-wide anonymity; e.g., Steve Crosno of Crosno's Hop, Red Brown and Anna Lee of Saturday Circus, Marlin Haynes (a.k.a. Marlin the Magician) of the afternoon news and Saturday morning cartoons, Ted Bender of KTSM-TV Channel 9, Barefoot Baker, etc. And such was the case of Howell Eurich. I remember well when he hit the El Paso market with a big splash around 1964. He was not just the new Channel 4 weatherman, he was the premier announcer on all locally produced commercials. You couldn't listen to any radio spot without hearing his excited voice nor watch any television ad without seeing his grinning face.

Howell Eurich's career peaked with his casting in the title role of KROD's afternoon "Bozo's Big Top" cartoon show in 1967. The format was similar to the Howdy Doodie show of a decade earlier -- interviews with the peanut gallery and all -- but the old format that had worked well for us well-behaved post-war boomers was ill-suited to the impudent late boomers.

One afternoon (sometime in 1968 or 1969) I came home from high school, plopped down in front of our black-and-white television, and watched Eurich (a.k.a., Bozo) interviewing the grade-schoolers of the peanut gallery. He shoved his microphone in the face of this one scowling ten-year-old and asked him, "So what's your name?"

Satan's spawn hissed back, "Chris."

"So tell me, Chris, how did you like that cartoon?"

Chris sneered, "I thought it sucked!"

Eurich pulled back and said, "Oh Chris, that's a Bozo No-No."

Chris fired back loud enough for the mic to pick it up, "Aw, cram it clown!"

Eurich quickly turned to the camera and said, "Well, it's about time we went to a commercial break."

Now I know you're thinking, Hey, I checked out that story on Snopes and it says that the "Cram it clown" bit is an unconfirmed urban legend.

Well, I can easily understand why it would be unconfirmed. There was no video taping in those days, so if you didn't happen to see it (as I did) you'd just have to take someone elses word for it. I have no way of knowing what happened at the KROD studios, but I can easily envision old man Roderick (fearing FCC scrutiny) immediately putting out the word that no one was to ever mention the incident publicly.

Sadly, Howell Eurich is no longer around to address the issue. In 1982 while he was still working as Channel 4's local weatherman, he committed suicide following his very painful divorce from Gail Gordon (not to be confused with
Gale Gordon who played Lucille Ball's boss), Howell's fellow Channel 4 meteorologist whom he'd married just five years earlier.

This post won't settle the issue to Snope's satisfaction, but I know for a fact: Yes, Virginia, there was a "Cram it, clown" incident.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Chuck Chat

Over the years through email I've stayed in touch with Chuck, a colleague I once worked with. Here's an email exchange that occurred over the course of the day a few days ago. This meandering dialog was precipitated by his sending me a blonde joke. (Please note that Chuck's wife "Miss Sally" is a blonde.)

Bob: That's a good one. Be sure to send it to Miss Sally! She loves blonde jokes, right?

Chuck: [copying me on his email to Miss Sally] Darlin', you'll notice I didn't include you on the first mailing. It was not an oversight on my part. It was good judgment. But I can't disappoint my friend Bob, so here it is.

Bob: Please quit calling me darlin'.

Chuck: That would be a terrible misunderstanding indeed. I hope you're happy, now Miss Sally won't be speaking to either of us.

Bob: You talk to your wife? I gotta try that.

Chuck: Try small words, like "yes", "but", "right away", etc. Then you can work up to "yes dear", "I'll get right on that", etc. They're slow learners. Cute, but slow.

Bob: "Huh?" has always been my best line, but thanks for the tips. (You know, you could fill in on "Dr Phil".)

Chuck: I definitely have the personality for that. I could sit there, listen to some bed-wetter's self-inflicted misery, pat him on the head, tell him I understand... I could do that.

Bob: Yeah, you definitely have the knack. It'd be just like old times at the coffee break.

Chuck: Yeah. We'd eat some Nestle' Drumstick Ice Creams and solve the worlds problems. We did a good job solving all the problems, I believe. But we kind of fell down on implementing those solutions. Wasn't that your department?

Bob: Well, I was making great progress straightening the world out, but then Bush got elected and ...

Chuck: Say no more...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cat Blogging

I'm torn. The man who lives in my house is sitting here in the livingroom with me -- he sitting on the lower section of my armchair scratching my ears, I strolling across my laptop's keyboard. But hark -- I hear a stirring in the kitchen. The lady who lives with me is putzing around, making those rustling sounds reminiscent of my food packets. I have an endless supply of that dry crunchy food in my bowl, but every once in a while the lady (or sometimes even the man) will rattle one of my pouches and the best-tasting little semi-solid food appears -- "Greenies" they call them. So as I said, I'm torn. Will it be more ear scratching or kitchen investigation? What shall I do? What shall I do?

Well, enough of the chit-chat and scritch-scratch. Tootles! Gotta go now -- Off to my kitchen. I'll write more later! (... if I feel like it.)