Saturday, December 31, 2005

Perfect New Year's Eve

In one of my jobs, I have to drive from McAllen to Mission to Edinburg to McAllen and to Mission again. The weather in the Rio Grande Valley is awesome this New Year's Eve. It's t-shirt weather. When I got off from my first job, I smelled barbecue. I drove to the second job to load up and still smelled barbecue. On the way from McAllen to Mission, I smelled barbecue. From Mission to Edinburg, I smelled barbecue. From Edinburg to Mission (I skipped McAllen today), I smelled barbecue. This is such a perfect New Year's Eve compared to other years when we spent the evening huddled inside to keep warm. Everybody is barbecuing! At first, I thought it was fog, as we had fog this morning. I realized, however, that it's smoke from everybody's grills. That's awesome!

I'm going to spend the evening drinking Shiners and chilling out. This is the perfect New Year's Eve. I'll stop blogging now and go out to drink beer. The traditional Tejano drink is Bud Light, but I'm not a traditional Tejano. I've been corrupted by my time in Austin. Shiner Bock, baby!

This is bad

Speaking of mojados

While writing the last post, I was reminded of a recent experience with a mojado I met recently. I occasionally am called upon to give people a ride home. This guy I met, whom I no longer transport, is a mojado. In English, that's a wetback. For the sensitive crowd, an undocumented worker. Anyway, it's a common misconception that mojados are ignorant, stinky, dirty, and ill-mannered peasants. Well, most Mexicans, including the wealthy ones with whom I often mingle, are ill-mannered. However, many of them are well educated, even the poor ones.

So, this guy works in construction. He knows everything about the field. He can roof, lay tile, frame, lay a foundation, set brick, and even make granite countertops. I have a tendency to get to know people; so I got to know him. This guy knew about the bible and about some of the books I've read like Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, and some other similar books. He is living in, shall we say "low-income housing". Yet, he and his wife have an anchor baby in this country. He bought land and built a 6 unit apartment building, which is in his son's name. His son is 13 years old. His wife owns a small store. He visits them on occasion, or they visit him on occasion. He has made good money in the past.

I read a book called Deals on Wheels some time ago. It's about buying and selling used mobile homes. This mojado was telling me about the virtues of building homes and selling them, especially tax lien properties. His problem is that he can't do that because he's here illegally. He needs somebody from here to be his front. I mentioned to him that he could also make money with used mobile homes as described in Deals on Wheels. I gave him the details of how it's done and he really liked it. What is really great about these deals is the low cost of entry into the market and the high demand. He seemed really excited. I have no doubt he will make it happen.

I also shared my knowledge from Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I explained to him that most Americans are educated and trained to be employees. We don't have to hustle and, therefore, don't know how to hustle to make money. In addition, we spend more time saving money on the spending side rather than the investing side.

What really impressed me about this guy is his knowledge of the Bible and books in the genre of Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. He was really interested in The Millionaire Next Door, which I've read. I gave him some of the findings of this book. One of which is that most of our millionaires are first generation immigrants. Sure, there are millionaire Americans, but they are outnumbered by immigrants. I also told him that most millionaires are net savers. They try not to spend, like Sam Walton. I also explained to him that there is a difference between high earners and millionaires. High earners, like doctors, lawyers, and such, spend their money as easily as they make it. They like the good life. Many millionaires, on the other hand, stay humble. This gave him much comfort and inspiration. I have no doubt that he will do well.

Not only that, he inspired me to hustle as well. Since then, I have given my employer notice that I am looking for better opportunities. So, it's my turn to go out and make a buck. I look at the job market and I am disappointed. I think I shall have to make business for myself. I made the mistake of asking friends for their opinion on a business idea I had. They discouraged me. Apparently, it's too much effort for too little a reward. I've decided, it's worth a try. I wish to thank the mojado for his inspiration. I wish him luck in his ventures.

It's amazing

I was amazed that people like this think that building a wall across the border is similar to the Berlin wall. I would agree that it is similar to the Great Wall of China. You see, the Berlin wall was meant to keep people in more than it was for keeping people out. The Great Wall of China was, like the recent legislation's plan, meant to keep people out. Chinese people are not racist for one reason. Everyone in China is Chinese. This is probably mostly true because they had the wall to keep out Mongols and Manchurians.

The biggest argument I hear from people that it's a bad idea to build a wall across our border is because it will not stop people from crossing it. DUH! It won't stop people from entering the country illegally. That is a given. It will, however, slow them down considerably. Well, no, it won't. The problem with the wall is that it's a government project. Let me tell you the reason why it's destined to fail.

You see, the Great Wall of China was not built by one emperor, it was progessively built over generations. You don't expect a project of such a massive scale to be built within a few years. Come on! The Wall is visible from space! That's a lot of rock that has to be shaped and put together to make a wall. Once it was built, it was effective in stopping invasions. But keep in mind, it's a big ass wall!

That is the reason why our wall will fail. You see, Chinese emperors could order the wall to be built. The Federal Government of the United States has to award the project to the lowest bidders. If we could build the Great Wall of America, we would no doubt put a big brake on illegal immigration. Since our government hasn't that authority, the wall will probably hold people off for a couple days before they chisel their way through.

Therefore, all you liberals who are opposed to the wall, forget about it. You make a big deal over something that, by your own admission, won't work. I know it won't work. You know it won't work. So, let the wall be built. Think of all the jobs that will be created for building the wall. I know most of the workers here in the Rio Grande Valley building the wall will be mojados. Are you against mojados getting jobs?

A CAPITOL BLOG: Breaking News: Marching Valley Veterans Successful In Securing Clinic Expansion

A CAPITOL BLOG: Breaking News: Marching Valley Veterans Successful In Securing Clinic Expansion

I wish to congratulate Rep. Aaron Peña and Valley Veterans on their small success in getting a Veterans clinic in the Rio Grande Valley. The Rep mentions that some vets see this move as a "crumb". I urge our vets to see this as a big step forward. Yes, it would have been great to get a hospital, but you have to realize that it's on the way.

First, our local Veterans should realize that government is like cancer, it only grows and grows. You never hear about government cutting back. The cutbacks you hear about are cutbacks on growth, but not real cutbacks. Like your wife telling you she saved you money because she bought stuff on sale. She could have spent more. The same is true with government. Now it's a clinic with a certain fixed budget. Next year's budget will be bigger due to the high demand of Veteran health services in the Rio Grande Valley. Every year will have a bigger budget. Within a few years, a clinic will no longer be adequate for the size of the budget. We'll need a hospital to meet the demand for services. Then will we see the hospital come.

I am sympathetic to our Veterans in the Rio Grande Valley. Recently my father had heart problems and he had to travel to San Antonio for VA care. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, his condition could not wait as long as the VA doctors asked him to wait so that he had to have care here in the McAllen Heart Hospital. The point is, imagine having to wait a month to have heart surgery in a city 250 miles away while you can't work and have no income. I think our Veterans may be able to deal with having to wait, but having to travel for the privilege is insulting.

Good job Aaron and Valley Vets. Your efforts are appreciated.

Friday, December 30, 2005

I forgot ... the tamales

I forgot to write about one of the important traditions in the Rio Grande Valley around Christmas time. Tamales! If you live far from the Southern border, you may have tasted canned tamales. Those things are crap. Please don't judge tamales by those standards. Tamales are great when they are fresh. There are chicken tamales, pork tamales, beef tamales, bean tamales, sweet tamales, and I recently tasted cream cheesa and jalapeno tamales. The Christmas holiday is the best time of year because of the abundance of tamales. Certainly they are greasy and can stain your clothes with the spice and chile coloring. There is no doubt that the carbs and high fat content will put you over the 2 million calorie mark. But who cares? They're delicious. If there is one thing that the Mexican culture has got right, it's tamales.

The beauty of tamales is that they are delicious when they are fresh. If you have leftovers, you can freeze them. Afterwards, you can nuke them or toss them on a comal (a skillet/grill?). If you use a comal, the corn husk will burn and blacken. Just scrape that off and enjoy the tamal. One of my favorite breakfasts is tamales and coffee. That's just heaven.

If you are a traditionalist, like me, you eat tamales with salsa. Mmmm. The tamales are already spicy, but they are often not spicy enough. It may suprise you to know that little Mexicans aren't born liking chile. We acquire the taste. So, the tamales are not so spicy that children won't eat them. This then requires that we add our own comfortable level of "hotness" to the tamales. The taste is up to you. You can use tabasco sauce, picante sauce, homemade salsa, a fresh pepper, or some other hot sauce to give the tamales some kick. Be careful not to overdo it in the morning, however, because if you are enchilado, hot coffee won't help.

I wish to thank God for giving Mexicans tamales. I also want to thank him for making my family Mexican.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

It's still warm

We have had great weather in the Rio Grande Valley. It's cause for frustration amongst some here. It would have been nice to have a cold Christmas. No luck. It was a gorgeous day. We've had temperatures in the 70 and 80 degree range. The weather is expected to continue this great. If you're from up north, you may think that this is a great thing. The problem is this, you can't do hot chocolate and baking very well in warm weather. It just doesn't fit. This is iced tea and sandwich weather. We'd like to pretend this isn't a subtropical region once in a while.

Friday, December 23, 2005

POLITICO: More Corruption -- FBI Wll Be Picking Up Several Individuals Today In The Valley

Politico is right about Omar Guerrero. The lies will be his undoing. If I were caught in the same circumstances, even if the weed weren't mine, rather than deny it, I'd say that I need help with my problem. I'd do this because nobody is going to believe that "somebody" left their bag of weed in my vehicle without my knowing. There's no way. Let's say it isn't his. Who is going to get on the vehicle of the district clerk and just leave his stash behind? I know stoners, they DON'T forget where they put their weed. If it's not his, he knows exactly who left it there.

Gonna Start Volunteering

I got a chance to speak with Laura Hinojosa today. She seems upbeat about her campaign, especially with the latest developments with her opponents. She expects to ratchet up her work in January. I think I'll make some time to go visit her campaign office and help out.

Just to remind my readers, I don't really know Laura Hinojosa's views on politics. At the District Clerk level, they are not relevant. It would be stupid to help a Republican seek an office because the Democrats run the Rio Grande Valley. In any case, Candidate Hinojosa is nice to me, so I am willing to return the favor. I won't report any juicy secrets about the campaign, should I hear any. I will simply report my contribution.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Haciendo Chile con el Rabo

There is a Mexican saying: Estan haciendo chile con el rabo.

Loosely translated, it means "they're pretty angry". The literal translation is "they're making pepper with the tail". Something gets lost in translation.

Anyway, the Dems are probably haciendo chile con el rabo over the president's recent rise in approval. GW is kicking butt on two fronts: Iraq and the economy. In Iraq, the recent elections are proof that he was right about the Iraqis wanting to govern themselves. Even the Sunnis turned out to vote.

On the economy, just watch CNNfn, Bloomberg, or other financial networks. Listen to Bob Brinker on the weekends. You'll have known that the economy has been surging ahead like a machine. The only downer on the economy is the President's reluctance to reign in spending by the Republicrats. We have low interest rates, single digit unemployment, and a pretty steady cosumer price index despite fighting a war against terrorism, getting hit by two hurricanes, fuel cost instability, and the constant downplaying by opponents of the president.

I'll grant you that the President of the United States does not have the power to control the economy. He does have, however, the ability to give his country confidence in its own ability to push ahead and win. That has been the President's message all along. We'll find terrorists and kill the bastards. We'll hold accountable those who helped them. We'll grow the economy by letting people keep their money. He said it, and we're doing it. It has not mattered what roadblocks the Dems throw in our country's way, we have been able to overcome them. It's unbelievable that the Dems want us to fail with such passion. When they attack the president, our chief cheerleader, they are attacking us, their constituents. Don't they want us to have a great economy? Don't they want us to finish the mission in Iraq successfully?

The truth is, the dems are as we Mexicans say, "nomas quieren estar chingando." I won't translate that. Although it upsets me, I am glad in a way. I am happy that the Dems are chinge y chinge. For one, we are getting a great look at their character. Another benefit to their anti-victory efforts are that they are targeting the President in their attacks. They are so rabidly anti George W. Bush that they don't realize that he's just a figurehead for a movement. GW didn't get up there by himself. America put him up there. Anybody against GW is against the majority of America. Most of America is Christian. Most of America does not live like what you see on TV or in the movies. Most of America is not the Hollywood, New York, or Boston elite who have no clue what blue collar America is. More importantly, most of America is NOT ASHAMED OF BEING AMERICAN AND PROMOTING AMERICAN IDEALS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. I hope that wasn't too subtle. I'm not so good at nuance. In my book, it's always America First. I have the good fortune to have been born in this country. I enjoy my Mexican heritage, but I know I have little in common with my brethren 5 miles south of me. We share a language, cuisine, and distrust of authorities. Other than that, I identify with American ideals. Our country did not become so great because it follows French, German, Mexican, Cuban, Russian, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Rowandan, Thai, or any other foreign desires. Our country is great because it is founded in fundamental ideals and a can-do attitude that inspires us to achieve all that we can. If you're anti George W. Bush, you are against our national pride and self interest. This is why Dems, despite their constant complaining that we are losing the war, and we don't have enough troop or have too many troops, and any number of complaints, they could not vote to have an immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. If they were so sure that it's what America wants, then why not vote to bring our troops home? Because, they know America wants to win. America supports our troops in deed, not only in word. AMERICA DOES NOT QUIT! Dems on the other hand, when it came time to go on record in their vote to bring home the troops right away, they gave in and voted against the measure they wanted. Quitters!

Our Troops are Thugs

Anybody who supports the McCain amendment is calling our troops thugs. We had a few jerks who stepped out of line. Overall, our troops have not been and are still not torturing people. This is a piece of feel-good legislation that doesn't do anybody any good. Here is my point.

When legislators take on a cause to criminalize some behavior, they have not solved the problem. Let's say that we criminalize drugs, for example. People will still do drugs. The law only applies to those who get caught. If we criminalize torture, it only applies to those who get caught. I've broken so many laws, yet have not been caught. I break the law every time I go 56 in an 55 mph area. I break the law when I sell some crap in a yard sale and don't report the income. I break the law when my insurance expires for a couple days. I am a hardened criminal. The laws were meant to stop me from doing these things that I do often.

More importantly, the fact that such legislation was ever proposed makes the statement that people such as the Senator from Arizona, who will never get my vote should he run for President again (I'd rather abstain), believe that our troops are a bunch of thugs out there torturing people. I say this because legislation generally goes out to address something that the lawmakers believe is wrong. If there is a belief that people aren't wearing seatbelts, pass a seatbelt law. If legislators think that not enough people have auto insurance, pass a law requiring it (we know they're in the insurance industry's back pocket). If legislators believe we have too many weapons, even if we are constitutionally entitled to them, they pass laws. In some states, like New York, God help you if you have a weapon and no permit. Why is this? Because legislators want to make a statement that something is not acceptable and to make us think twice about breaking the law, since we do it anyway. So, McCain and his supporters are saying that our troops are torturing thugs. I'll stop now because I need to step outside and curse.

Happy Holidays

For Our Democrat Friends:

"Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. We also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2006, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. And without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee. By accepting these greetings you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself or himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher."

For Our Republican Friends:
Here's wishing all of You a
Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Monday, December 12, 2005

Cold on the way

Accuweather's Joe Bastardi is forecasting freezing temperatures for the Rio Grande Valley on Sunday and Monday. You can hear Joe on KURV 710 AM radio during the morning drive show. You have time to prepare your plants and pipes for the cold. Make sure you check out your heater early. The fire department gets many calls during this season because of poorly maintained heaters that catch fire. If you have a gas heater, check for leaks and provide adequate ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. And don't forget to bring your pets inside. Make sure you have plenty of Swiss Miss and pan dulce ready.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Season of Joy and Reflection

The Holidays are without a doubt, one of my favorite times of year. I love the cheer and goodwill that permeates the air amongst us. Even when we are older, we try to be good for goodness sake around this time. Then there is also the happiness of being with friends and family. We share food. We share gifts. We spend our time off together. Most people do not decorate their homes throughout the year, but will at least put up a Christmas tree. It's a wonderful time.

I must admin that for me it's also a time of reflection on seasons past. I remember the days of my childhood as a poor migrant and the slow shift to where I am today. I am by no means well off or even comfortable. Thanks to my wife's job, we are officially above the poverty line, although with tons of debt. Prior to this year, our combined earnings were less than $20k per year. I look forward to someday being middle class.

Still, I look back and see how poor we were and I am grateful for what I have. If you ever saw Johnny Carson, you know that you're supposed to ask, "how poor were you?" Well, we always had food stamps. Sometimes we had money, especially after coming back from Wisconsin where we did migrant work. Of course, we'd run out of money as we rounded the corner.

Our house was a wood framed home with painted plywood for the walls. At first, it was just a shell. We had no floor, it was just dirt. The shell sat atop cinder blocks. We filled the gap between the floor and the frame with bricks. We had no electricity, we used an oil lamp for light. In the winter, we had a fire in the middle of the house. We could do that because there were no interior walls and our dirt floor didn't suffer any damage from the heat. That was literally central heating. We didn't worry about carbon monoxide because the house was just a shell without insulation. We had plenty of ventilation, even with the windows closed. Our house basically blocked the wind and kept out the rain. It did nothing against the heat or the cold. Besides the fire, we kept warm by the use of many blankets. When we eventually got electricity, we shivered in the light. We bathed in a shed outside. We used an outhouse. We got water from a guy who would carry water in barrels in his pickup. He would empty his barrels into ours. We bought drinking water in 5 gallon containers. We heated our water on the stove and mixed it with cold water in a 5 gallon bucket. We bathed outside in the shed in hot and cold weather.

One year, I think it was in Junior High School, a Christian Missionary group, I think they were Baptist, helped our family by building a wood floor for us and covering our walls with plywood. This was a big improvement for us. We had walls. We had rooms. There was no insulation, so the summers were still hot and the winters were still cold, although slightly less than before. Eventually, we got indoor plumbing and installed a shower and toilet. We still had to heat water on the stove. Things continued like that until I graduated from High School.

I wound up going to The University of Texas at Austin for one year. I came back, married my girfriend. She and I lived with my mom in the same house. I put in the money to get us a water heater. My wife was pregnant; I decided to go back to UT to continue my studies. She stayed at the University of Texas-Pan American. Next Fall, after the baby was born, we moved to Austin together. Then we came back. We lived in the old house again. Our daughter spent her first two years there. I worked a job and went to school. My wife also went to school.

We helped a friend start up a business, it just never took off. So, I wound up working at a call center. At that time, my wife and mother teamed up and got us a mobile home. We had to move out of the old house because water would not run off in our neighborhood after hard rains. Everybody, of course, raised the level of their properties by filling in with soil. We did the same, but the house wound up being lower than the rest of the property. Consequently, the house would flood in heavy rain. After a few of those incidents, the floors were ruined, pests moved in in greater numbers, and mold was certainly around. So, life got much better with the mobile home. We finally had a warm home. We had proper bathrooms. We had AIR CONDITIONING!

My wife and I realized that we had to try to make it on our own, so we moved out. We first moved into a duplex not far from my mother's house. It was made of cinder blocks and basic finishing. It was extremely hot in the Summer and warm enough in the Winter. We stayed there for almost a year. My wife graduated from Pan Am. She could not get a job doing anything. She was overqualified for minimum wage jobs and did not have experience for other jobs.

Then we moved to a mobile home between Mission and McAllen. We went there because there would be no lease like we had in the duplex. It was basically month to month. It was cool enough in the Summer, but freezing in the Winter. It really needed a lot of work. Around this time, we decided we needed a better place.

My wife found an apartment complex that was just built north of Mission. We have been here since. It's comfortable. It's more expensive than the other places where we lived, but we don't swelter in the Summer and don't freeze in the Winter. We have plumbing and hot water. We have electricity. We could have cable, if we want. Soon after moving in, my wife started working. She has had three promotions in less than a year. So, now we are out of poverty.

Despite the hardship, the slow and difficult path we have had to get to this far, I feel fortunate. I have learned a lot. We have had family help us on our way. We have had friends. Government has been a mixed bag. Food stamps are a waste of time. If you don't make money, you get them. If you start to make money, they take them. If you are working full-time, it's not easy to get a day off to go see your case worker. Suffice it to say, food stamps suck. Medicaid is a big help and worth the effort. You will sleep better knowing that your children are covered, even if you aren't. Income sensitive apartments are good, except if you start to earn more. Then from one lease year to the next your rent can possibly go up considerably. Suffice it to say, rising out of poverty is a process of taking two steps forward and one step back. Every time you do a little better, you lose some kind of help. So, your net gain is very little. But you have to keep going, little by little. Our next step back will be having moved up a tax bracket. We earn more, the government takes more.

Student loans are good, but you have to keep in mind that once you are on them, you have to keep going to school until you finish. Don't take out loans and then drop out of college. It will be really difficult to pay them back without a degree, unless you find a very well paying job that does not require a degree. I'm not so fortunate. I need to get back in school to finish. For now, my wife and I need to save money to get me a degree. That's another thing. Now we can save money. We don't have to put all of our time and energy into mere survival.

So, I remember these things around this time of year. Another five years and the first quarter of my working life will be over. Will I come out with points on the board? We'll see. What ultimately matters is that I have points by the end of the game. I have a good family. I have prospects for the future. Even though we are no longer poor, one thing lingers. I still feel poor. I don't feel equal to those who have achieved middle class or higher. I need to stop feeling poor. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the season and reflect on our good fortune.

Caldito Weather

Listening to radio statioin KURV, you may hear Sergio Sanchez refer to the weather we had recently as "caldito weather." Mmmm, caldo. I have to agree with Sergio. Caldo is awesome in cool weather.

For the uninitiated in Rio Grande Valley culture, caldo is soup. It can be chicken or beef soup. Caldo generally has cabbage, carrots, potatos, corn on the cob, and chayote, a kind of squash. Some people add some celery or other greens. You garnish the soup with cilantro. You also squeeze some lemon into the soup. In the Valley, we hardly use yellow lemons, we use limes. We just say lemons because we don't use lemons and the only thing close to one is a lime. Geez, my mouth is watering while I write this. If you just have the soup by itself, it's not really filling. You need to eat caldo with a rolled up tortilla in the same way most people eat food with a roll or a biscuit. This may be enough to introduce you to one of our favorite dishes. To really make your caldo complete, you need sopa de arroz, which is known as Spanish rice. Just add some sopa to the caldo and your favorite salsa (don't desecrate it with Pace, picante sauce is not the same as salsa). That's heaven right there.

When shopping for caldo ingredients, you are fortunate if you live in a market where there are Mexicans. Our local HEB grocery stores and others have pre-packed caldo vegetables. Just add meat and water. I even saw frozen caldo vegetables. If you don't live in the Rio Grande Valley or have the good fortune to have a Mexican population, the ingredients are easy to find anywhere. Simply substitute chayote with zucchini and make do without tortillas.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

It's Cold in the Rio Grande Valley

This morning, the temperature was 37 degrees. It has gone up into the 40's today. Things will get better later in the week. I can't wait. I had a low tire, which was a bit worn out around the edge anyway, so I went to a tire shop and had the two front tires replaced. It was on my list of things to do, so I can pass the state inspection. So, for $50, I got two front tires with mounting included. Used, of course. It was damn cold out there. It must be tough for the guys changing tires. I had a quick trip to HEB down the street to get cash. My face, ears, fingers, and brain were almost frozen stiff. I can't imagine what it must be like to work outside in the cold all day like that.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A CAPITOL BLOG: Mexican Special Force Agents Modeled on FBI Under Investigation

Just want to post a quick, see, I told you so. The Mexican AFI, their version of our FBI, has agents under investigation for "probably committing crimes." Come on, probably? Let me tell you that drug cartels are much better financed than the federal government in Mexico. There is no way the government can afford to pay agents better than drug lords. In addition, there is no way the government can protect agents and their families from drug lords.

The irony, as mentioned previously, is that we pay for all this. When we reduce supply on the streets, it increases the price of drugs. This is more incentive for cartels to do everything in their power to bring their stuff in. The additional money also gives them more options by allowing them to pay off officials in both countries and to afford better logistics.

Vicente Fox and the succeeding presidents of the Mexican Republic simply cannot win so long as there is poverty in Mexico. Easy money is just too much of an incentive for people who have a tough time getting ahead. Money pays for workforce for the cartels. Money pays for corrupt officials. Money pays for transport. Money pays for American officials. Our problem is not the agents, the street dealers, the smugglers, or the cartels. Our problem is the money we shell out for drugs. If cartels couldn't make money, they would not exist. The harder we fight them, so long as we fiddle around with the pipeline rather than the supply, the more money they make.

We could blame the dealer down the street. But he's in it for the money. If that guy down the street doesn't have drugs, somebody else will. If you have the money, you will find a seller. The buyer is the problem. We have one of the most productive countries in the world. Our workforce is bent on blowing cash on drugs. You would think that with all the workplace drug tests that the demand would be squelched. If you don't do drugs. Good for you. Now, go watch your kids, they probably do, or know somebody who does. Quit screwing around with your career and pay attention to your family. Americans have the power to kill the demand simply by being there for the family. That is, unless you do drugs yourself. In that case, try to cut back.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Grits for Breakfast: Mexican border wars: "The only leaders who can contain the violence are the ones who are in jail"

I once had a research paper regarding the drug trade. The way things are now, we can only expect one result: increased violence. You have to know some people in the business to understand that it's business. Take away the profit and you've got no incentive.

I don't know when the drug war started. I'm sure it was back in the 60s or 70s sometime. In the Reagan years, our country began to crack down on drugs (pun intended). Then George Bush, the father, had his turn to defeat drugs. Bill Clinton did his best. I haven't seen any evidence that the current Bush puts fighting drugs as a priority. On the other hand, by adding more people to the Border Patrol and Customs, it's likely that more drugs are interdicted.

It seems like the more our country fights drugs, the richer and more powerful the cartels become. It's simple supply and demand economics. The more we restrict the flow of drugs into the country, the more valuable the drugs that get through become. The increased profit is then sufficient incentive and capital to bring more drugs into the country. If you lose some drugs, that's a cost of doing business. You expect some loss. Of course, you reduce your losses by holding the caught smugglers responsible for repaying the loss.

Here is another thing to consider. The cost of entry for new Cartels is too high. In order for a new cartel to enter the market, they would have to buy drugs wholesale, obviously. Can a new market entrant get the same price breaks that the current cartels do? In addition, the larger cartels can afford their own highly trained security and enforcement personnel. New cartels would have to pay a premium to attract talent. You also need to consider that when you buy a corrupt official, you need to ensure that he does not help the competition.

How do you ensure loyalty from a corrupt official? Well, it's simple. You pay him well, and you protect him and his family from rival drug cartels while making it clear that you would not hesitate to kill his family should he step out of line. Obviously, he has no choice in the matter. The decision to be corrupt is not his. He either is corrupt, or he will be honest and dead. So, for a new cartel, the pool of available officials to corrupt is small. All the good ones are taken.

So, on the Mexican side, we have no influence. The whole network is bought and paid. The federal government, despite heroic efforts to contain the situation, are inadequate against a well-financed enemy.

On the U.S. side, we have raised the price of the goods so that substitute products are an attractive alternative. This is similar to when gas was really expensive. Suddenly, bike riding became a viable alternative for transport. So, by raising the price of traditional drugs, we have created a market for meth. Now we have to fight the drugs coming in from abroad AND the ones being manufactured here at home.

Every time we escalate the war on drugs, we are subsidizing the existing cartels by making it more difficult for new market entrants and by decreasing the supply, resulting in higher profit. Not only that, we have created enough incentive for our own people to manufacture drugs.

My solution? None. It can't be fixed. The only way to win the game is not to play it. We should just stop fighting. Let the drugs hit a price floor and end the market. At the very least, legalize marijuana so that it can be grown by every stoner in the country. Why pay for it when you can grow it? Heck, license, regulate, and tax pot so that we can use that money to pay for the drug war (ironic, isn't it). That will effectively put an end to that market. Then, we can focus on the other drugs that aren't made here and keep them from entering the country. But it won't happen. Every respectable politician is going to be against drugs. It's as inevitable as being for clean air, clean water, and wanting to help children. It just sounds good and polls well with voters. So, don't expect our government to solve the problem. After all, Government is subsidizing the kingpins. If I were a kingpin, I would contribute to rabidly anti-drug politicians. Sure, it would hurt my exports, but it also hurts the competition. We are the only ones who can solve the problem. We simply have to stop using drugs. But that won't happen.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Hidalgo County Christmas Party

Listen to Rio Grande Valley news as recorded live.

What I was trying to convey here was that my wife and I attended the Hidalgo County Christmas Party, hosted by Judge Ramon Garcia. Also in attendance was Eric Cardenas. The party included live music and brisket dinner. It was held at the Pharr International Convention Center, which is located right off Hwy 281, North of the Sioux Rd Exit. Towards the end, there were prizes awarded to lucky ticketholders.

Compared to last year, the location was much roomier with more parking. Last year's party at Nellie's Ballroom was great, but a little crowded. Last year's party also had a better band, Latin Beat. In any case, it was fun.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Laura Hinojosa's Open House

Join the Laura Hinojosa for District Clerk of Hidalgo County Campaign Open House on Saturday December 3rd from 10 am - 5 pm. The campaign headquarters is located at 120 N. 17th St in McAllen, on the Nortwest corner of Bus. 83 and 17th St. There will be food and refreshments available.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Behaviour in Politics

I've been pondering the political scene lately and am seeing discrepancies. Call it ying yang, dichotomy, or just plain contradiction. What I mean is, there are opposites in play. This goes beyond just the Republican v Democrat fight. At the moment, they are like an old couple that likes to argue for the sake of arguing rather than trying to solve anything. But this is not what I mean. Let me point out some things and perhaps you can help me explain it better.

Hillary Clinton. We know she will run for President in the next election. As a senator, she could stay liberal and remain in office in New York indefinitely. Yet, you see her moving her position to the center. Today, she is advising against an Iraqi pullout. Of course, she has been known to criticize the current administration of lying to the public and the regular slew of anti-Bush talking points. Here is the opposing point. Her husband, the notorious Bill Clinton, recently told students in the Middle East that going to Iraq was a mistake. Dick Morris, Clinton's former political advisor, the one responsible for Bill's re-election, has pointed out that this is a team effort between Bill and Hillary to win back the white house. She can say that she is a moderate while Bill is out there appealing to the liberal base. She is presenting her game face while Bill is out expressing her true beliefs. This way, she can stand on two sides of the issues. She can be moderate and Bill can shore up the base. They are playing both sides of the fence.

Democrats jumped at the opportunity to back a Republican, Jack Murtha, who called for an immediate troop pullout. This is what they want, the Democrats, but they don't have the guts to make it an agenda item. They can't officially make it their position unless a Republican says it. Of course, this is great for Hillary because the Dems can swing left to give her the opportunity to appear to be in the center. As the election comes closer, I think this will become more prominent. The Dems will become super leftists to make Hillary appear like the best choice.
The recent "political stunt" the Republicans pulled to force a vote on whether or not to have an immediate withdrawal was genius. This forced the Dems to take a stand on the record. I once experienced a similar position. A friend and I were lost in the Da Vinci airport in Rome. I was complaining that we were jumping from country to country without a plan. So, my friend tells me, "OK, then you take over. Tell me what we should do." Of course, I had no plan. I was just as lost. So, I stopped complaining. We eventually found a place to stay. In essence, that is what happened to the Democrats and will continue to happen. I was being a whiny little bitch, and and they are being it now. They have no plan. Some have said that they don't need a plan as they are not in power. Of course, this is bull. If they have no plan, then they can't get back in power. Who is going to vote for somebody who doesn't know what to do? At least now they can go around saying that they support the troops AND.... voted to keep them deployed.

Another instance is that Republicans have the power of Government. They have been put there by the socially and fiscally conservative "religious right". Obviously, the thinking is that a Republican in office is better than a spend happy Democrat. Well, no. The Republicans are behaving like Democrats. They are spending money as fast as it comes into the treasury. They also support conservative issues, but run away from any criticism for supporting what their constituents want. Opposite of the Democrats who can't say what they truly represent in order to get elected, the Republicans can't do or support what they truly represent and aren't afraid to say. Dems can't say what they'll do; Republicans can't do what they say. I think both stem from lack of conviction from our elected officials. I don't know which is worse.

There are plenty of contradictions out there. I'm sure you know of some. These are just two that come to mind at the moment.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Unusually cold

Can you believe we were in the upper 40s last night? It rarely gets that cold in the Rio Grande Valley. That's getting close to freezing. Once in a while, we'll have freezing temperatures. Those last a day or two, and only at night. Last year was a freak event, we had snow! That was a real Christmas treat. Global warming my....

Anyway, the RGV really has only two seasons, summer and not summer. Or, similar to white, there is summer and off-summer. Things are warming up today. We'll probably have a warm Thanksgiving day.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Clarification of gay marriage position.

I have got more comments about the Prop 2 post than any other. I don't think I made myself clear. I will address a couple items and then clarify my position. Just to make it known, I don't see how gay marriage is anything other than a property rights issue. I will give reasons why. So, put your politically correct bigotry aside and read ahead with a true open mind. And, so you don't get lost, my main point is, work with what you've got.

First, why are politically correct people so intolerant of bible thumpers? Just because they are different from you? Why don't bigots get the same protection and respect as politically correct people? How is it that it's OK to hate some closed-minded people and not others? Radical muslims (Koran-thumping) who are bent on killing you and your family somehow cause PC people to bend over backwards to show that Islam is accepted and celebrated. There are many other religions out there that don't raise a stink about Christianity. They just go about their business. If it weren't against Christian values, you'd see people lined up to strap on bombs to destroy people and things with which they disagree. Of course, it's not the Christian thing to do, especially for the bible thumpers. The reason why there is such hatred towards Christianity is because it is winning in the arena of ideas and values. Most of the hatred comes from the inside, people who disagree with a few minor points like gay marriage.

I don't know about other denominations, I'm Catholic. The Catholic church is not a democracy. You believe the doctrine and are Catholic, or you don't and are not Catholic. There is no voting or propositions made about what the church believes. When the church does change something, it is after it is clearly evident that its position was in error. Many many years later. The world has to change before the church does. I looked up the church's doctrine on this issue. It is, love gay people with the same respect and dignity as anybody else. They can't help being gay. They are still expected to avoid sin. So, being gay, according to the Catholic church, is NOT a sin. Some gay behaviors, however, are sins. This is what the church opposes. Your bigoted mind is probably thinking: WELL THE CHURCH IS WRONG! Again, who are you to decide what a group of people ought to think? Especially a group of people who outnumber you and outvote you? Shouldn't you be thinking about winning their hearts and minds rather than force them to oppose you? If you oppose a majority, you'll get stomped. That's what's happening to the gay community. They are trying force people to accept too much too soon. It's been less than a century since being openly gay is generally accepted. In time, it may not be a big deal.

It used to be that teen pregnancy or having kids out of wedlock was a cause for shame. The reason behind the cause for shame hasn't changed. However, the social stigma is not as bad. The reason for teen pregancy or having illegitimate children was and is bad is because it is tough for a single woman to bring up a child on her own. It is a hardship that the mother and her family must bear. Traditionally, it's something that the mother and father endure together. Women were not able, until last century, earn as much as men. It was just stupid for a girl to have doomed herself to a life of poverty and dependence on others by getting pregnant. In the present day, women have better opportunities to succeed despite being a single mom. Therefore, the stigma is not as bad as it used to be. Sure, life is not easy. But things aren't as bad as they used to be. A woman's chances of survival being unwed with children are much better now. Our ideas and hearts changed. There are so many unmarried women that it's not a big deal. Of course, women who sleep around and have kids with different fathers don't garner any respect. A single mom can still redeem herself by raising a good child and contributing to society in a positive way.

Similarly, being gay still has some social stigma. It's not the right time to be trying to force things. This will only harden minds and hearts against you. Gay people should go to work, get a hobby, live a decent and stable life as an openly gay person. In time, they will become accepted by the community. When nobody cares about sexuality, that's the time to ask for changes. Nobody will care because you have been an outstanding citizen. Just like with the slut in the previous paragraph, if you are gay and sleep around with different people all the time, don't expect the community to respect you. For every decent gay or lesbian couple that exists and is accepted, there are a bunch of jerks who undermine the positive influence with their in-your-face militancy.

Seeking black rights was not the same as seeking gay rights today. This is a bad comparison. Gay people are not denied voting rights, education, justice, or the right to work amongst other things. Gay people have not been treated as less than human. Last I checked, gay people have always had all of these fundamental rights. I'll be the first to tell you that racial discrimination was wrong. I'll also point out that discriminating against gay people is unjust. But this is an apples and oranges issue. A majority of Americans wanted to guarantee equality for all African Amerians on the basis that they are human beings who deserve the same respect and dignity. A majority was necessary to be able to force the stalwarts to go along. And we did.

A majority of Americans do NOT want gay marriage. The only way to change this is for gay couples to show the country that there is injustice. Simply stating that so and so can do something and we can't is not an argument. Native Americans can legally grow and use peyote and I can't. Congress can vote themselves a pay raise, and I can't. Rich people can invest in private offerings and I can't. Many things are unfair. I accept them and do my best with what I have. If I can't have peyote, I'll have to continue drinking beer. If I can't vote myself a payraise, I'll have to work more. If I can't invest in private offerings, I'll have to look for other investments. If I were gay and couldn't marry, I would just live with somebody. If I wanted a ceremonial type thing, I'd invite my friends and family to attend a public announcement of my lifelong love and commitment to my partner and a chicken dinner. If the state doesn't recognize it, so what? Everybody who would matter to me would have witnessed my promise. I would do it out of love. You don't need a license to love. Everybody who cares about me would then know that I am exclusively committed to my partner. Do the best with what you have. If all you have is contracts, power of attorney, wills, inheritance through children, business partnerships, and other legal remedies, use them. Eventually, a good lawyer will win a case to establish precedent to ensure the same rights and courtesies if not marriage itself.

You want the church to recognize it? Tough luck. Start your own church. You either accept what the church is, or you don't. You can't say that you accept what it is and expect it to be something else. Otherwise, everybody would define what is and isn't right or wrong for themselves. Then why bother having a church? You can't argue that God wants you to be happy. If you are gay, you'd have been born female; if you are lesbian, you'd have been born male. God had different plans for your anatomy. I think we are expected to be humble, accept what God gives us, and do the best with what we have. If you say that God is wrong, they why bother with church?

The easiest explanation for being against gay marriage is this. There are cats and there are dogs. If we pass a law that cats are now dogs, that doesn't make cats into dogs. We must treat cats like dogs, but cats won't act like dogs. They will act like cats. They will eat like cats. And they will still be cats even if we call them and treat them like dogs. The same is true for gay marriage. We can pass a law that gay couples can marry. There is already a definition for marriage. Gay couples would be treated like married couples, but they would not be the same as the previously defined marriage. There will be many similarities between a traditional marriage and a gay marriage, just as cats and dogs have similarities, but they won't be the same. So, it's pointless.

If gay marriage is about love, you don't need laws. The government does not give rights, God gives us rights. The Government only takes rights away, even when it intends to do the opposite. Make up your own marriage and certify it through some organization that you create. This way, you can rack up statistics and show the world that you aren't that much different. That could help the argument.

Finally, a point that just occurred to me as to a difference between gay marriage and traditional marriage. Homosexuality is not reproducible. A gay couple cannot give birth to or knowingly adopt a gay child. It's statistically improbable, but not impossible. Married couples are likely to have straight children with the small chance of having a gay one. A straight man or woman probably will be at a loss when trying to help a gay child deal with the difference. It's much easier to teach a boy traditional boy things and a girl traditional boy things because we have millenia of tradition from which to draw. The same holds true for gay couples helping a gay child cope. They are better suited. Fortunately for gay couples, they are far outnumbered and were raised in traditional households so that they can know normal and customary behavior for non-gay boys and girls. It would be ideal if gay couples had gay children for the sake of continuity of the culture. You know, actions like passing on family traditions and customs are what marriage provides. In this way, we could treat the gay community like a people or culture much like we treat people of a certain religion or country with their set identity and customs. The gay community is not the same, however, due to the erratic origins of all its members. All with different customs and cultures. They lack the continuity that traditional couples have. As it is, being different from the majority, there is a tendency to want to do away with most customs. You cannot eat your cake and have it too. Gay couples need to accept that they are different and have different challeges. Even if they could marry, they would still be a minority and would face bigotry. They would still not be able to have children with each other, they'd need the intervention of a third person or would need to adopt. There is nothing normal about the whole idea. The best that can be achieved is some acceptance.

I accept that if two guys or two girls fancy each other and want to live together forever, it's their decision. Do it. With the challenges of everyday life being gay, marriage is the least of their problems. They are better off paired up to help each other through the challenges than toughing it alone. I am sympathetic to their plight. I just don't accept that a gay marriage is the same as my marriage with my wife. Now, you can get upset and hate me, somebody who wouldn't mind inviting a gay couple to dinner if they were good friends. By hating, you alienate me and others who would treat gay couples with dignity and respect. You basically lump me and people like me with the zealous bigots. If you do that, how can I respect you? I am offering acceptance of who you are and your desire for love and companionship. I simply don't agree that it should be called marriage. Such a minor point of disagreement surely can't outweigh my compassion? But that's the way liberals work, you either agree or you're a bigot. Why help people who are ungrateful for what they already have?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

County Judge Seeking Second Term In Office

Here is an article from the Progress Times in Mission, Tx. This is about County Judge Ramon Garcia's announcement to run for office.

There will be an Hidalgo County Christmas Party on December 2nd by another County Judge. My wife works for Hidalgo County, so I have the opportunity to attend. Last year's party was a blast. The band, Latin Beat (668-9609) was very entertaining and energetic. We'll go again this year. Hopefully Latin Beat will be playing again.

Brownsville to Create a Hike and Bike Trail

I love walking and biking, so this is welcome news. The Rio Grande Valley needs more public areas like this to encourage our citizens to get out and do something. Our heavily Hispanic population is prone to diabetes. Anything that can be done to get people out and exercise is a benefit.

Personally, I can't wait to go try out the hike and bike trail when it is completed.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Dem Doublespeak

I was just watching some Democrat Doublespeak on video. Disappointing. Click here.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Proposition 2 Aftermath

I was just reading an article in The Monitor related to the recently passed amendment known as Proposition 2. My reaction is, shut the heck up. This is complex, so I will have to take it one section at a time. I am not anti-gay, I just think the gay community is being stupid about this.

First, let's establish this. I supported Proposition 2. This amendment basically cements the definition of marriage in the state of Texas as a union between a man and a woman. I have reasons for this. I am a bad Catholic, so I won't use that as a reason. I will use history as an argument. Long ago, a man chose a woman as his wife and if her parents agreed, she was his. That was it. That was marriage. Then, the whole thing was formalized to protect children. If a man married a woman and fathered children, his property was passed to them. If there was a mistress, she did not count, nor did her children. That is all that official marriage is. It protects the rights of official offspring to inherit the wealth of the deceased. If it weren't for marriage, if you were a widow, your father-in-law could take all your husband's property and you would be either cast out or subject to his whims. This is why you go to the courthouse to get a wedding license. Getting married isn't complex. The priest, minister, judge, or official does all the work. Why would you need a license? The reason is, you need to record whom you are marrying so that any legal disputes over inheritance can be resolved. If you die intestate and are married, all your property will go to your wife or husband and children. If there is a testament, things will be divied up according to the will.

Gays and lesbians have the wrong idea about marriage. The ceremony is not the marriage. That's just a publich show. The marriage happens when the papers are filed. Those of us who follow the tradition, even unknowingly, have reason to have supported proposition 2. Marriage is basically an official way to establish lineage and, by extension, inheritance. If you are gay or lesbian, tell me where this is necessary. Your child will be a bastard unless you married in the traditional sense. If you are gay, you need a woman to carry your child. If you are lesbian, you need a sperm donor. Either way, you are involving a third party. If you are truly interested in making an event of your union with your gay or lesbian parter, have a huge event and put an ad in the paper. It may not be legally recognized, but it will be socially recognized. Nothing in the law prevents you from wearing a wedding ring to show your bond.

Let's say that your child is a bastard child. You can still leave a will that gives all your possesions to your child or children (if you are gay). If you are lesbian, as the mother your stuff goes to your children unless your will divides your possessions otherwise.

What about recognition by other entities like insurance companies, hospitals, and such? There is a legal function known as power of attorney. This won't help you with insurance unless the insurance company recognizes "domestic parters". If the state doesn't recognize gay marriage, nothing prohibits private companies from doing so. Their recognition simply won't have legal status in court. However, if your insurance company is willing to accept your significant other as a spouse or dependent, why do you need the state to recognize your union? After all, companies now offer their employees pet insurance. Why wouldn't they try to accomodate gay or lesbian employees?

The same goes for hospitals. If you are listed as power of attorney and are responsible for paying the bills, why wouldn't the hospital allow you to visit or make decisions for your partner? You can pre-shop for hospitals, you know. If I were in the hospital or insurance business, I'd have a niche as the Gay Friendly company. I don't want you to be married like I am, but I don't see why your dollars are worth less than mine. If you want to include your lover in your health insurance, that's fine. If you want your sigificant other to make health decisions for you, I'd have a lawyer on hand to help set up power of attorney. My point is, there are opportunities for those companies willing to accomodate the gay lifestyle regardless of any laws. That ought to be your focus rather than forcing the rest of us to accept a redefinition of the law and tradition.

What I'm saying is that if you are gay or lesbian, you don't need to change traditional marriage. There are ways around the obstacles you face if you really try to find them. I have made some suggestions. Even if you are unsuccessful, will that diminish the love you have for your significant other? Will this prevent you from living a full and happy liffe? I recognize that you face challenges that straight people don't. I hate to give cliche advice, so I'm hating when I say, "take lemons and make lemonade".

If you are truly intellectually honest, by allowing gay marriage or similar arrangements, you are asking 98% of the population to accept the dictates of 2%. Come on, be realistic. When the population is sympathetic to your plight, we will agree. When you try to force it upon us, two letters suffice. F.U. My crudeness is for dramatic effect.

My advice to our homosexual population, don't worry. You're just as gay as you were before Prop 2. You probably still love your partner. You haven't lost anything. Nothing has changed for you that you did not already face. If you are upset, it really is about nothing. You are still free to live your life and love as you wish. The only difference is that you can't force the the rest of Texas to change the definition of marriage. I sincerely wish you good luck and recommend that you set up legal documents to give your partner as much say over your welfare that the rest of us enjoy with our spouses. Most of all, I recommend that you don't be haters. Hating works two ways.

Obstacles to Excellence

Being smarter, better, or different are not celebrated in society. Oftentimes, if you are unusual to your approach to things, you are ostracized. Often as a child, I had teachers tell me, "that's not the right answer, we haven't learned that yet". I also heard plenty of "don't get ahead of the rest of the class". I also heard "give the other kids a chance to answer questions".

My wife, received a BA in History. She never took an education course. Unfortunately, she needs to take a few courses to become a teacher. Fine, she'll jump through that hoop. As a HeadStart teacher for Hidalgo County, however, she is facing obstacles. She has a different approach to education that works for her and her students. Yet, the system starting from her aide to administration keep telling her that "we don't do things that way".

My daughter, a young nerd in her own right, faces the same challenges I did as a child. She has enough sense not to make the teacher look stupid in front of the class. She has accepted that she must work with the system handed to her.

Education suffers from this shortsightedness. I have been critical of the President for instituting the TAAKS and the No Child Left Behind initiative. Teachers and school administrations have taken these to be the gold standards for education. If students pass the TAAKS and meet the standards set by No Child Left Behind, they have done their job. I have realized the error of my thinking. Yes, I was wrong. Four words come to mind, and they are very rude.

I completely missed the point of the President's demand for standards. Now, I am more upset at public schools for their soft bigotry of low expectations. Before I start complaining, let me tell you how I realized my error.

I work in retail. I sell stuff. Often, when vendors want to make a point about he quality of their product, they will mention that they "meet or exceed government standards". Most recently I heard this on KURV for Noni Juice at Hector's Health Co. It clicked today that the TAAKS and No Child Left Behind are federal government MINIMUMS. That is to say, the student must master these things or better to pass to the next grade. Obviously, a child who has high aptitude and ability will breeze through the tests. What about the others who have average aptitude and ability? Teachers are spending so much time teaching these average students to meet the MINIMUM standard. Did I mention MINIMUM?

Here is how you should see it. If you know that you will work as a dancer and need to be able to do the splits when you get on stage. When you stretch, will you try to stretch more than your current ability or try to stretch beyond your current ability? There are some people with a good aptitude for stretchy things and will be able to do the splits on the first day or in a short time. There are others who have to work on the ability over a few weeks. Those who need to work on it can't simply stretch their muscles to the minimum if they expect to do the splits. They need to stretch as much as possible without injury. The same goes for our children's brains.

Yet, we don't see teachers or administration telling us that they want to "meet or exceed government standards". They are simply trying to meet the "MINIMUM" standards. Are you getting the picture? They are trying to convince us that if their students pass the TAAKS, they have done their job. Expletives withheld.

We need to demand more from teachers. For a while there, I felt sorry for teachers for all the crap they deal with from Administrators, parents, and government programs. Now I realize that they are not working to make a difference. They are working to preserve their jobs. If you are a teacher and that is you main motivation, you shouldn't be a teacher.

Before you give me any lip about this, my wife likes being a teacher. She likes pushing the 4 year olds beyond expectations. She wants them to give her everything they've got. She doesn't worry about her job because she knows that she can get a better job. I make sure to remind her of that. She knows that if she can't find a job, she can make a job. She knows human resources, payroll, history, childcare, reasearch, catering, sales, and so many other things that we have done together. If you are a teacher and are afraid to lose your job, get over it. Try to "stretch" beyond what you know and push the limits. If you believe that you will not have a job as good as teaching, you are in the wrong job. You are hindering our students. If you know you can do better and are not afraid of pushing the limits, you are definitely a teacher. My best teachers were the ones who expected more from me. My worst teachers were the ones who expected the least (spelled M-I-N-I-M-U-M). What kind of teacher are you?

To sum up, I'm sorry Mr. President for doubting your wisdom. I have seen the error of my ways and will now work to enlighten others.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Valley Veterans Protest Walk to San Antonio

Valley Veterans are conducting a 6 day, 225 mile walk to San Antonio. The walk is a protest to show how far our local Veterans must travel to visit a VA hospital. State Representative Aaron Pena, Jr. has joined the walk on a spur of the moment. The Rep has posted news about his first day on the walk.

I must say that I identify with the plight of these Veterans. My father recently had to have heart bypass surgery. He had to visit the VA Hospital in San Antonio. Unfortunately, his scheduled surgery date was too far and he had to have the surgery done here at the McAllen Heart Hospital. Still, while disabled from his heart condition and the ensuing recovery, it was a hardship for him and for us to travel to San Antonio. I am sure that other Veterans and their families have similar difficulties.

I wish the Veterans luck and good luck to the state rep. Write your Congressman and Senators about this if you wish to help. Let them know that a closer VA hospital would make a world of difference.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Problem with Administration

I was just reading an article by Chris Ardis at The Monitor. Chris mentions how teaching is no longer an enjoyable job and how the stress of teaching makes people sick or want to quit. I know exactly what the problem is and I know that it can only get worse. Public education needs to be reformed. Let me give you an example about why teachers are in the position they are in using my own experience.

I helped open up a store, almost 3 years ago. I've been a central figure in establishing operations there. At first, none of us knew what to do. We opened for business, but none of us had worked in the type of business we operate. We had great lattitude and freedom in what we could do because there were no rules. Basically, it was help the customer find what he or she needs and check them out. With time, we noticed that some actions were time consuming and if continued would cost more than we would earn. So, we made a rule. Don't do that unless certain conditions exist. Then, we had problems remembering delivery fees and a problem with an employee giving free delivery in exchange for favors. So, we created a form and required attaching a receipt to show that a delivery fee was charged. Then there were issues with charging customers a certain way and providing refunds. We had issues with employee behavior. Add more and more rules.

I'm good at making rules. I'm not necessarily good at following them. The reason is that there are so many damned rules and so many things to execute for certain types of sales. I have made most of the rules or contributed to their creation. There is a reason why we made them. We want to be sure that certain things get done and have proof that they were done right. This is a microcosm of the publich school system.

Public school is in actuality much worse. You have teachers who are constrained by the department chair, by the school district, by the state, by the federal government, and by parents. Each one has procedures that they want the teacher to follow, which may even be contradicting. On top of that, the teacher is fed a bunch of socialist boloney in college about the "right way" to educate a student in a perfect world with an unlimited budget. If a teacher messes up, a whole bunch of people come down on him or her about it. I don't blame teachers for documenting things and spending so much time jumping through administration hoops just to keep their jobs.

There are just too many people with too many rules with their hand in the process of educating a child. At the store, if it were me alone with no employees and no owner, it would be simple. If I have it, I'll sell it if you want it. Give me the money and I'll give you the goods. Teaching is just as simple. If there is material, the teacher can teach it if the student wants to learn it. The student does the work and the teacher will evaluate. If you want proof of this, look at home schooled students. They often have higher test scores than public school students. One teacher with a lesson plan and one student is all that is involved.The parent's main concern is getting the child to master the material and move on to the next lesson. In home schooling there is no documentation, conferences, training, meetings, or other administrative overhead that public school teachers have to endure.

So, if we really want to reform public education, we should do the total opposite of what we are inclined to do. Instead of going in there and busting heads with new requirements and regulations that will require even more administration to keep track of all of that, we should step back and give some slack. In one way, this is the fault of teachers too. Teachers need to root out bad teachers by pointing fingers at them. If teachers had not abdicated this responsibility to students, they would not have all these requirements heaped upon them. It's the same idea when there is a substitute teacher in class and one or two kids misbehave. The whole class gets punished.

Teachers, you need to give up some stuff. Give up on the idea of job security. Schools need to get rid of bad teachers when it is apparent that a teacher is one. One bad teacher means that the next year's teacher has to teach remedial material on top of the current year's material. Yours is not an elite fraternity. You don't have to cover for each other. If you police yourselves and set your own high standards, you won't need as many administrators all over you. Most of the rules I made at the store were to keep employees in line and to standardize their actions. If I could trust that they would always do what was best for the business, I wouldn't have to rely on rules. Unfortunately, too many bad teachers have ruined the profession for everybody. So, I suggest looking at charter schools or private schools. Unlike public schools, they have to turn a profit. If you are dead weight, you are out. In addition, private schools and charter schools can't afford layers upon layers of administrators.

GW is a rising star

I was just reading a short piece by William Kristol from the Weekly Standard. He mentions how October 2005 had been a tough month for the President. Something that had come to mind last month when the President's popularity rating was at an all time low and we had Harriet Miers as the prospective SCOTUS Justice was that GW was at his most popular and strongest when he didn't give in to the Dems. In fact, whenever he goes against the grain is when I like him the most. When he wimps out and gives in to the Dems, I lose a little respect for him. I know he wants to be a uniter and not a divider, but they don't play that game. Working with the Dems is like working with the devil. Ted Kennedy, for instance, used the President to get his education bill passed. Once that happened, Kennedy has become one of the President's worst critics. The Dems in Congress have no interest in getting along with the President. Whatever it is that he and the spineless Republicans in Congress propose, they're against. So, it's better to just give them hell and put the Dems on the defensive.

Here is my thinking, the Dems owe so many allegiances to so many disparate groups that they have little room to maneuvre. This is similar to a liar who has to remember each lie he ever told in order to keep the lie going. The elite like to call this a "nuanced position". It's just verbal acrobatics to be able to please a bunch of special interest groups with little in common other than that the Dems are the messenger boys. Put the Dems under stress by attacking them, and they become shrill and unsubstantive. They can't fight back without offending one of their allegiances.

Credit Card Companies Raise Minimum Payments

Click here for audio story.

It is a good thing that credit card companies have decided to raise minimum payments. They have been trying to find ways to reduce minimum payments so that you can stay in debt to infinity. A new Citibank card, for instance, lets you skip a monthly payment so long as you charge at least one item per month. Can you believe that?

I've become a fan of the Dave Ramsey approach to debt. The approach is to not have any. Pay for what you need in cash. The only plastic you need is a debit card. Just pay off everything you owe. So, I am working on that as much as I can now. By raising the minimum payment, credit card companies are giving debtors a way out of the hole in which they are. Of course, it doesn't address the real problem, overspending. This doesn't mean spending more than you thought you would. Overspending means spending more money than you make. I am a financial sinner, but have seen the light. Credit cards will not be a part of my future. I will use the money save in finance charges to invest in my future.

If you are one of those affected by the raise in minimum payments, be glad. You should also not put any more stuff on credit. Stop it. Bad shopper.

Lawsuit Demands Refunds on Cell Phone Insurance

A report from NPR News this morning talks about a lawsuit agains cell phone insurance companies. I used to work at T-Mobile as a customer service representative and sold the insurance provided by Asurion. Here are some things you need to keep in mind when you buy cell phone insurance:
  1. Your $4 to $5 per month will total up to $60 a year.
  2. Most companies will give you a free phone as you get closer to the end of your contract.
  3. T-mobile, I can't say about the other companies, will repair your phone for about $70 or give you a new for $70 if yours is irrepairable. You will get the same model or one of equal value, which will be refurbished. If it is defective, you'll get another at no charge.

So, if you break your phone, or drop it in the water, or somehow damage it so that the warranty is voided, you'll spend $70 using T-mobile warranty. Using the warranty, you do need to send in the poor phone. With insurance, you'll spend the $60 per year in premiums, plus a deductible. You can use the insurance if you lost your phone or had it stolen. So here are your options.

If you had a cheap of free phone, forget the insurance. The warranty will cover most problems anyway. If anything happens to your cheap or free phone, you won't spend so much to replace it. In fact, you can probably get one off of ebay.

Insurance is worth the premiums if you have one of the expensive $300 to $500 handsets. This is because the handsets are worth many times what the premiums will cost. You get about 3 or 4 claims per year. So, if you have a blackberry, pocket pc phone, treo, or sidekick, go for the insurance. I used insurance and warranty, which you are allowed to do, as an employee at T-mobile for my treo. I never would have paid insurance for my cheap Nokia 3595. Now, I use Virgin prepaid, so I can get another phone for as little as $40.

So, the idea is simple. Cheap phone, no insurance. Expensive phone, get insurance. Even if you get a refurbished replacement phone from the insurance, you're better off than being left without a phone. If it's defective, it's covered by warranty.

Logical arguments

I was just reading more about how to argue. I did not realize it, but this guy is a coauthor of the Copi book, Informal Logic. This was the textbook I used for my Logic class years ago. I have to admit that I have not maintained my logic skills nor my ability to form a consistent argument. One thing that is most poignant for me is his suggestion that I must tailor my arguments to the audience in question. Writing this blog, I have a "general audience" in mind. What the hell does that mean? This blog currently has no core direction. I write about living in the Rio Grande Valley. I write about politics. I write about local news. I'm all over the place.

I need to rethink this setup. I want to report and opine about what happens in the Rio Grande Valley. I also want to pursuade my audience to join me on the right side. It is their destiny. How do I go about it? Aw, geez.

In agreement on Prop 2

I was just reading a post on about Proposition 2. This guy is pretty smart, judging by the degrees he has. In an earlier post, I wrote that we should just go ahead and vote for the proposition to become an amendment to the Texas Constitution. If at a later time it is judged that society would be severely impaired by this amendment, we could always repeal the amendment. Keith Burgess-Jackson further argues that by leaving the issue to simple legislation, we would argue the issue over and over. By letting Texans decide on the issue, it will not be up for debate by politicians or struck down by courts.

As a nation, we ought to take up amending the U.S. Constitution to prevent politicians from meddling with issues that are obviously over their heads. Amending the constitution also keeps the Supreme Courts of Texas and the U.S. from legislating from the bench. They would both be bound by the Constitutional amendments. Just my two cents.

The Monitor's Lone Conservative

If you live in the Rio Grande Valley, you can forget about supporting a Republican for office. The Democrats run the show here. If you are conservative, your only hope is to run under the Democrat party. Even so, you need to mask your beliefs well. You have the local newspapers against you. Our reporters may not admit to it, but they vote Dem. About the only conservative voice you will read in The Monitor is Michelle Malkin, a syndicated columnist not from the RGV. Her column runs in the Opinion section. The other leftward slanting articles are not in the Opinion section; they make front page.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Man Has Redeemed Himself

GW was wussing out by nominating Harriet Miers to the SCOTUS. I'm sure she is very talented and accomplished. Knowing Bush's track record on judicial nominations, she was probably "The One". The only issue that most conservatives have is that she has no track record as a judge, which makes everybody squeamish because they've been burned before (See Justice Souter). Now, GW has gone to the other end of the spectrum, he has nominated somebody with a well known track record, judge Samuel Alito. You know that he's a great judge because the Democrats are screaming bloody murder about him being an "extremist".

I am pleased with the President's choice. I wanted to see a good dust-up in congress. The more time they spend arguing over this, the less time they have to reach into our pockets and curb our rights. That segues nicely with the next topic. Yes, it does.

The reason that we should like judges like Scalia and Alito is that they follow the intent and letter of the constitution. Things like abortion should never have gone to the Supreme Court. Abortion is THE issue that has raised hackles against Alito. Prevent Parenthood has already called for his rejection. Nobody really cares so much about other issues, coming from the left. On the right, we want a constitutional originalist. The fact that he is not pro-abortion is the icing on the cake. I say that this issue should never have gone to the Supreme Court because there is no article or amendment in the U.S. Constitution that addresses abortion. All powers NOT enumerated by the constitution are reserved for the states. Abortion should be a state issue. We may well end up having states where abortion is legal and others where it isn't. That should be for us to decide locally.

This is where I agree with the Supreme Court on their recent decision with respect to Eminent Domain. This is something that the states should handle, and they have. Many conservatives believe that the decision was one in which our rights were eroded. I believe that the decision empowered state and local officials to make the decision for themselves.

So, a judge who sticks to what is in the Constitution is a brake on the runaway enthusiasm of the lawyers in Congress. Remember, it is not government that gives us our rights. The Constitution is not a document that gives us any rights. Our rights come from God. The Constitution is a document that LIMITS government's powers. All the rights that the lawyers in congress tell us that they want to give us is a bunch of spin. They can ensure our rights be not meddling with them. This also applies to the lawyers on the Supreme Court. Judicial activism is not a Constitutional authority for the SCOTUS. If the brakes give out on the them, we have nothing to stop the U.S. Government from meddling in anything. Every law made somehow always ends up limiting our freedom, even the ones that "guarantee" our freedoms. Those are the worst because in order to exercise our freedom, we need to do this, and fill out this form, and pay this fee, and get this certification, and on and on. My right to bear arms, for instance, requires a background check, a permit, a course, and who knows what else. It's a right that I can't exercise freely. I'm sure you can think of other rights that aren't.

I look forward to the bloody battle in Congress to get judge Alito confirmed. It is reassuring that GW is doing something we asked him to do when we voted for him. Let's keep this government from granting us any more rights by limiting the government to doing what is in the constitution. So, from the bottom of my heart, "Thank you, Mr. President".

Sunday, October 30, 2005

No Excuses for Texas

I was just reading Steve Urquhart's blog. He proposed some changes that the Utah Education Monopoly could make to improve education in that state rather than the union's effort to get more money. The teachers think that by spending more money students will learn better.

He proposed some things that the Utah Education Monopoly should rally behind if they really care about students. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently interviewed on a similar issue. The unions talked about tenure, pay raises, benefits, and other topics. According to Arnold, they never once mentioned what was good for students. Steve's suggestions are these:

1. Increased pay for the best teachers.
2. Increased performance in math for grades 4-6.
3. Increased ability to terminate the worst teachers.
4. Increased pay for starting teachers.
5. School choice.

Obviously, the Education Monopoly of Utah won't support these things.

My problem with the Education Monopoly is as follows. Essentially, public schools take our money and put out poor quality. They take more and more money with the same or worse results. When we call them on it, they respond that they need more money. They need more money because kids can't think on an empty stomach, kids can't learn in hot classrooms, kids can't learn if a teacher does not have an overhead projector, kids can't learn if they don't have books, kids can't learn if their self-esteem is low, kids can't learn if they don't get enough sleep, kids can't learn if they don't get rewards, kids don't learn if this or that. There is no end to the things that prevent kids from learning. Here is a novel idea, kids can't learn if a teacher isn't cut out for the job. If the teacher can't perform, get rid of the teacher and hire somebody who will.

I am upset about the TAAKS. This isn't the Education Monopoly's fault, it's George Bush's. Here is my problem with that. The TAAKS has minimum standards that students should meet to pass to the next grade. I repeat, minimum. Teachers put a lot of time and effort teaching kids how to meet a minimum. Principals and school districts require teachers to set this time aside to prepare for the test. Rather than teach kids more than is necessary for the test, they aim for the minimum. GW talks about the soft bigotry of low expectations. The TAAKS merely guarantees it, except that it establishes an acceptable low level. If GW could run for president again, I'd vote for him again. The TAAKS, however, is his most glorious brain fart as governor. I wish the TAAKS would die.

I would support school choice. Actually, I do support school choice. As I think about the model, I am discovering some logistical and other problems. So, I need to think about school choice a little more. The whole problem that I am finding is related to the economic concept of scarcity. Schools can only accept so many students. Obviously, top schools would want top students in order to maintain their reputation as top schools. If you recruit only the best and the brightest, you will undoubtedly BE the best and the brightest as an organization. What about the slow and the challenged? Where do they go? Who will teach them if their best isn't good enough for the best or second or third best schools? What motivation do you have as a teacher if the deck is stacked against you with "challenged" students? Maybe I misunderstand how school choice is supposed to work. I'll look into the issue.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

I'm Against It!

There is some cheating going on about Proposition 2. You've probably heard the news about how a former legislator is heading a group opposing the proposition with deceptive recorded phone calls. The opposition line is "Don't risk it, vote against it". It reminds me of Horse Feathers, a Marx Brothers movie (reminds me of the Dems in Congress too).

I don't know what they have to say,
it makes no difference anyway -
whatever it is, I'm against it!
No matter what it is or who commenced it,
I'm against it!

Your proposition may be good,
but let's have one thing understood -
whatever it is, I'm against it!
And even when you've changed it or condensed it,
I'm against it!

I'm opposed to it.
On general principles I'm opposed to it.

For months before my son was born,
I used to yell from night to morn -
"Whatever it is, I'm against it!"
And I've kept yelling since I first commenced it,
"I'm against it!"

You can also see UT-Pan American peppered with signs with the same cryptic message "Don't risk it, vote against it." They don't tell you what "it" is. The whole campaign is based on the premise that the proposition is flawed and will end up changing traditional marriage. Of course, this is a bunch of horse feathers. The campaigners have no interest in preserving traditional marriage. They simply want to leave the door open for gay marriage. If they have to lie, obfuscate, deceive, or mislead to attain that effect, it's being done. The AG Greg Abbott had to step in and rule against the deceptive phone campaign.

I was reading an article that claims that the issue has traction with the under 30 crowd. Amendments usually get votes from an average age of 58, it states in the same paragraph. Much opposition comes from under 30. I used to be 30 or younger as of a year ago. I'm 31 now. Let me tell you about the under 30 crowd. They don't vote. Sure, you'll have the occasional voter in their twenties. As a core constituency, under 30s are a waste of campaign resources. They talk a good game, but they don't vote. What happened in the last presidential election with all the Hollywood stars, musicians, and other celebrities siding with John Kerry? The celebs were going to "Rock the Vote" to get young people to vote Democrat. If you listened to MTV, you would have thought you were listening to a campaign arm for the Kerry people. Did the youth show up? No. It was a waste of time and money.

Gen X, my people, and Gen Y don't buy into the marketing. We tend to be a bit more cynical. We'll go to the concert to hear music. We don't care what Ashton Kutcher thinks, we just like to see him act like a dumbass. I liked one Dixie Chicks song, "Landslide". Then the fat one decides to disrespect the President. Laura Ingraham says it best, "Shut up and sing". I could go on about some of the nitwit entertainers out there like Bruce Springsteen, Kanye West, Barbara Streisand, Leonardo Dicaprio, Donald Sutherland, Cameron Diaz, and many others. If you hear the dribble they speak when they talk about politics, you feel embarrassed FOR them. Who the heck cares what they think? Just entertain us. Take my money and perform. To quote Kurt Cobain, "here we are now, entertain us".

So, not only are the opponents of Proposition 2 wasting their time on a skimpy voter base, they are misleading the very same voter base. That's real genius.

What you should do.

You should vote for Proposition 2. The reason for this is that it only formalizes what already is. To be dramatic, it's like a Proposition that requires the State of Texas to recognize male children as "boys" and females as "girls". Similarly, this proposition codifies marriage as being between a man and a woman. It rules out any other variations of the concept and rules out any laws that result in similar recognition. In English, it means it can't be a marriage between a man and a man, a man and a goat, a man and his two roomates. In addition, also in English, there can't be a "civil union" type of status or recognition because it results in something similar to marriage. If you are against the proposition, don't worry. This is just for an amendment. The Texas Constitution can be reamended if sometime in the future Texans decide that we simply can't continue civilization without the ability to marry our livestock, a friend of the same gender, or group marriages. If future Texans decide that these types of unions are absolutely necessary for the good of Texas families, you'll see legislators running to Austin to propose the next amendment. In the meantime, let the pro-family crowd have their way. Or, are you anti-family?
Listen to Rio Grande Valley news as recorded live.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Leave them alone

People are up in arms because oil companies are reporting record profits. Leave them alone. We are paying high prices for gasoline because of legislators. They have regulated refineries so much that oil companies won't build new refineries. There is plenty of oil, but little capacity to refine it. It's funny that Congress acts like the oil companies are some kind of monster that just cropped up. They created them! Just leave the oil companies alone. These record profits don't just disappear never to be seen again. The money gets paid out in dividends, capital gains, salaries, bonuses, and capital expenditures. With the United States being such a financial powerhouse, the money will come back to us. Corporations don't just "pocket" money. The money gets paid out. Consequently, it gets spent or invested. It is my hope that oil companies will use some money to lobby for relaxed refinery legislation. If law makers really want to reduce gas prices, they'd reduce the taxes on gasoline and other fuels. For every 10 cents an oil company makes, the government makes 50. Don't worry about the oil companies. Worry about the lawmakers.


DiCaprio is a Moron.

Geez, these educators

This is an issue that I have with the whole Education monopoly and specifically a few people. I applaud Arnold Schwarzenegger for his work on reforming education in California. I think that Texas could use a little reform too. Here are my issues with education in Texas.

The first point is that people who go through the Education department rarely pass their EXCET. We've all heard, "those who can do. Those who can't, teach. (Those who can't teach, teach gym)." Most of the people who go through the education department at UTPA tend to embody this saying. They don't pass the EXCET! On the other hand, people who go through other majors: business, biology, math, and whatever, have no problem getting certified. How is this possible? Why does't UTPA do something to fix the problem? They should do it as a matter of pride.

Next issue. The TAKS test. I think I have GW to thank for this. The TAKS is such a colossal waste of time. Teachers spend a lot of time teaching kids how to pass the damn test. They don't just educate kids like they should. Learning builds on previous learning and from prior context. For example, if I teach you what a fruit is, I can then proceed to teach you the different types of fruit. The same with education. Yet, teachers spend so much time teaching kids specifically how to pass the test rather than just building on older lessons. Once you know what a fruit is, exposing you to different types of fruit won't allow you to forget what a fruit is. Don't tell anybody this, schools are now beginning to seek people with majors OTHER THAN education. They want fresh blood and fresh perspectives, not somebody who has been indoctrinated in failing practices. Teachers, you know that professionals can usually walk in, go through alternative certifiation, and pass the EXCET on the first try. Don't even try to deny it.

This brings up a situation that happened to my wife when she visited our daughter's principal at Leal Elementary in Mission, Tx to find out if after-school tutoring is required. Our daughter brings home straight A's, usually. Once in a while she will slack and bring home a B. She's the top reader in the entire school, including grade levels above her. Just today she read through Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in about an hour and a half. She read through the last Harry Potter book on one Saturday, the day after it was released. In addition, she scores in the 99 percentile on her tests. So, this principal, who knows who she is. Her name is Tien, which is Chinese for "sky". She stands out and he knows her by name. My wife asked if the tutoring was really necessary. He tells her that it's to ensure that she'll pass the test. So my wife asks if it's mandatory. He tells her it's recommended. She reminds this guy that it's Tien Mata. He tells her that she should stay to make sure that she passes the TAKS. She reminds him that this is Tien Mata, is it really necessary. So, he tells my wife that if we don't want her to stay after school, we can provide a written request that she go home after classes are over. Then, he has the gall to tell her that not staying after school will probably affect her TAKS score. Such arrogance! If it weren't a crime to touch him, I'd go bitch slap the principal. Geez these educators. Go Arnold!

Here's another thing that gets my goat. Teachers complaining about pay! Yes, you heard me right. I can write about this because my wife is a teacher. Do you know why teachers are broke all the time? Cashflow management. Teachers graduate and start making $30k in their first year. $30k! It's not a huge windfall, but it's enough to provide a decent life and, if managed right, make a teacher wealthy. What kills teachers is financing cost. They'll get the $80k home with a 30 year mortgage that will end up costing them $170k. They finance $20k for the car over 5 years, which costs $40k. Of course, there is also the student loan payment, the ballet classes for the princess, little league for jr, and weekend trips to San Antonio and Austin. Living the high life is what kills teachers. They want to keep up with the Jones's. I have news for teachers. The Jones's are broke. If you are a teacher, go to and get your act together.

This segues well into the next issue, merit. Why do teachers get an annual pay raise? Just because the have not quit or because they did a good job in educating? It's for not quitting. Whether they teach little Johnny or not does not matter. There is no meritocracy built in to education. It's all based on how long a teacher stays. There are many stories of principals wanting to fire teachers, except that it would cost the district more money to fire the teacher than to allow them to continue doing a lousy job. There are so many stories of good teachers leaving the public school system because lousy teachers earn more simply because they can work the system better. I can identify with this. I've worked with people who have advanced ahead of me because they lie and cheat. This isn't to say that teachers lie and cheat. I merely want to reenforce the fact that many good teachers stop teaching because merit doesn't matter.

I have more issues. Most of them with specific teachers, so I won't go into that here. Just keep in mind that legislators give teachers far more consideration than they probably deserve. Yes, I said it! You were thinking it, but don't have the guts to say it. Get rid of the TAKS, don't worry about teacher pay raises, and institute some meritocracy into the education field.
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