US vs Them, dive right in

Barton SpringsTonight see’s a major debate about the future of Barton Springs, both the springs itself, and the surrounding area. As has become the norm’ views are polarized, on one side is Save Our Springs alliance who see their original ordinace under threat by the proposed change to the impervious cover rules, as well as other prosals to “Disneyfy” the springs.

In the other corner stands the Friends of Barton Springs, who want to see grounds improvements, a new Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA) compatible entrance, at the back of the pool, along with a paved parking area and many other general site improvements.

I must admit, although a member of FBSP, I’m inclined in this instance to side with SoS Alliance. No doubt though this will be a long, drawn out public hearing. You can read the background and various proposals here.

The meeting will take place: 6:00 pm in City Council Chambers City Hall, 301 W. 2nd Street Free parking in City garage on Lavaca

The Board will allow public testimony, and will vote on the plan tonight. You don’t have to sign up to speak but if you decide to, be prepared. I don’t think I can make it, but will try.


(c) Austin Chronicle

We, me, Wendy and a 1-year old Eloise, moved to New York City in May 1982, and stayed in New York until August 1986; I’ve been back at least twice per year, every year since, until last year.

I was excited to see this film, documentary about Iconic New York Mayor, Ed Koch. There is no doubt, Koch saved the big apple. He had his critics, his sexuality, his racism  or not, corruption, all a huge source of debate. He was the ultimate private, public man right up until his death on Feb. 1st this year.

The film is a brilliant documentary. If you are at all interested in american modern history, fashion, politics, social power, welfare reform and more. This film is a must see.

I will forever remember him rumbling down a a New York city street, maybe 1983 on the front of a tank, you couldn’t hear a word he was shouting, except you knew it was “How am I doin’?”

There is a scene near the end where the 86 year old Koch walks down a hallway and closes the door to his apartment. He never had a partner, in his whole life, New York was his lady. I must admit as some who worked and lived in NY between 82-86, I shed tears as he closed that door, knowing he passed the day the film was released.

TEDxAustin Fear<ess


I have a TEDxAustin viewing party at my place, should be open for business between 10-4:30pm.

Civilians, the Vietnam War, gun control

I didn’t move to America until 1982, the almost 20-year war was well over by the time I got to NY. I worked with a few managers who’d been in various services roles, allegedly my favorite VP was in a navy seal underwater demolition expert. The war was mostly never discussed.

I saw the films, as far as I recall I slept through most of Apocalypse Now not once, but twice. Last night I sat gripped through Zero Dark Thirty, as a docu-drama it was pretty good, didn’t waste time glamorizing the death of Osama bin Laden, and seemed at least to present most of the major talking points.

Afterwards when discussing the film, I said that “it presented a number of legal, social and international issues. Although on balance, I agree with the decision to go assassinate UBL in a foreign, nation state.”

Tonight I got to listen to Fresh Air, a NPR radio series. This show covered in large part the release of a new book, Nick Turses’ Kill Anything That Moves, about the Vietnam War. You can listen to, or read a transcript of the interview here

On balance, the juxtaposition of the film, and the NPR interview, especially with the harrowing description and discussion about the US armed forces killing more than 2,000,000 (yes two million+) civilians during the Vietnam war, that it’s not surprising the reluctance of many to give an inch on gun control.

Perhaps they are worried, not that their own government will be coming to get them, but that a small band of trained, government authorized Vietnamese assassins will fly in under the cover of darkness, come into their homes and assassinate them and their family?

Yes, it’s an extreme view, but you have to wonder with so many in positions of authority, in the government, the NRA and other organizations that were old enough to have served, or to have known first hand, or heard, the harrowing stories of the Vietnam war, why they they are resistant to any form of gun control?

[Update 1/30/12] Apparently this isn’t such an extreme view. Conflicting reports have this Vietnam vet. either defending himself, or assassinating someone for driving into the wrong driveway.

Bye bye American Pie


It’s illegal to unlock your own cellphone from Saturday, reports Mashable.

In many progressive countries where “illegal” monopolies don’t rule the people, selling phones locked to a network is illegal. Here in the increasingly reressive USA, locked, cooked phones that even when unlocked don’t work at full network speed is common place. From Saturday its even illegal to unlock your own phone. It’s hard to know what to say, even harder to prosecute. My t-mobile Samsung Galaxy S3 is unlocked, I did it myself, but how would the “cops” know when, and how would they prove it?

I went down to the sacred store, Where I’d heard the music years before, But the man there said the music wouldn’t play…

Nagin vs Armstrong

oprah-lance-armstrong-interview2[1]I finally managed to catch the 2nd part of the Lance interview with with Oprah tonight. Fascinating stuff. I got press training from IBM back in the early 1990’s, I can recognize many of the points in the interview where Lance is struggling or in trouble emotionally or intellectually. Oprah did a good job, although you could tell the segments were pretty heavily split, or edited.

It wasn’t my point to dissect the interview here, that’s been done in a zillion places. What caught my eye today was the announcement that Federal prosecutors today announced a 21-count indictment against former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

There is nothing much in common in these two cases, until you take a step back. In fact, in reality, there is not much different between them. If as alleged, Nagin did those things, they both lied, deceived, maintained a lifestyle they didn’t earn honestly, let down their supporters, their family’s, and received money they didn’t earn.

Looking at the proposed punishments, it’s suggested that Nagin faces 15-years in prison if found guilty. Armstrong in the second show of the Oprah interview, refers to his “death sentence” aka his ban from any sport that is a signatory to the World Anti-doping Authority code of conduct, etc. especially cycling and triathlon, aka Ironman.

So, given the history based on Lances confessions, the words attributed to the  Australian Cycling Chief, seem fair. You’d assume the same from Ironman, especially given CEO Messick was formally tour director of the Cycling Tour of California, and must have had dealings with Armstrong both then, and most certainly in his Ironman comeback, where its reported that the WTC through Messick offered the Livestrong foundation “less than a million but more than $500,000”.

Instead of being angry, and being let down badly, based on the Slowtwitch report, and my own notes from the 2/2012 Triathlon America conferenceMessick seems to be trying to find a path and encouraging discussion(1) about how Lance might yet comeback to racing Ironman. Messick, a man who must have had almost as much insight into Lance the cyclist as any race director, rather than resoundingly pronouncing why he can’t, like the Australian Cycling CEO. Which is really difficult to understand.

Strange old world, be careful what type of leader your delegate your trust to.

(1) There are lots of links, I just chose this one as it had the most provocative title.

Gun for sale?

License Some rights reserved by Mike Licht,
License Some rights reserved by Mike Licht,

Friday up the road in Georgetown Texas a man in dressed in camouflage clothes walked through a neighborhood and was openly carrying a rifle. He was duly arrested without incident according to this report in the Austin American Statesmans Blotter blog.

There isn’t much detail, but in the rush to publish, along with lack of likely follow-up, since there was no incident, the Statesman and the other mass media outlets are missing a useful opportunity to inform people about the gun control debate.

I think what would be really useful for gun arrests/incidents now would be the answer to the following questions when it is reported or in follow-up.

1. Was there a license/permit for the weapon?
2. When was the permit obtained ?
3. When was the gun obtained?
4. Where was the gun obtained?
5. Was their a background check?

If the weapons are all obtained legally by people who underwent background checks, obtained permits and bought the weapon at Wal-Mart we have a number of problems that need to be addressed.

If the guns were all illegal, the owner had no permit, and the weapon was bought black market, we have a different set of problems. Any variation of either and the problem is the same, but the solution becomes easier.

Texas, It’s not like anywhere else

austin_bumper_stickerLiving in Austin it’s all to easy to think you are in Texas, but really like it’s often said “Austin is a liberal oasis in Texas“. More often, Austin isn’t in Texas, but you can see it from here!

One of the first things I had to get used to is the Texas Legislator only being in town once every 2-years. That’s right, in what seems a total anomaly  the elected officials of the State of Texas are only in the capital to make/pass law every two years.  I’d guess this stems from the days when they had to ride horses to get to and from their constituents?

So while they work on the bi-annual budget as a key part of their initial work this year, there are a few key things that Texas does differently…

  • The Texas execution machine took a break over the year end, with near-weekly executions scheduled and most carried out. In all, Texas put to death 15 men in 2012. The state will kick off 2013 with the rare execution of a woman, Kimberly McCarthy on January 29th.
  • In all, Governor Rick Perry has presided over 239 execusions, surpassing all modern governors and marking the 478th Texas execution since the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976.
  • While we await the outcome of Vice President Joe Biden to report back on gun control, Texas and Austin resident Alex Jones demonstrated perfectly why people are right to be concerned about “nut jobs” with easy access to legal guns when he “discussed” it with Piers Morgan on
  • Talking of “nut jobs”, over in Lubbock County Texas, Judge Tom Head claimed on local TV that a proposed tax increase would be needed to put down civil unrest and defend the country from invading UN forces should President Obama be reelected.
  • Down the street from me is a closed restaurant, Jovitas. It’s waiting the return of its owner, Amado Pardo. The restaurant was closed when Pardo was arrested by the FBI with 15-others for allegedly running a longtime heroin-dealing operation out of his eatery. What was really surprising was that Pardo was a twice convicted murderer, even more of a surprise was that Pardo was released on bail today, he has terminal cancer. Where’s the tough on crime, three strikes and you are out, when you need it?
  • Not quite as close to home, across Austin, in the Hot Bodies Mens Club, Victoria Perez, 21, was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon following a fight among seventeen women in the dressing room. A Male strip club employee was seriously injured when Perez hit him in the face with a spike heeled shoe and may have blinded him. As Alex Jones might have it, should we ban high heeled shoes? Hell no.
  • As a final vote of confidence, Buzz Bissinger, author of the book, Friday Night Lights about an Odessa Texas high school football team, tweeted that “if Dallas slid into a sinkhole, nation’s IQ would raise by 50 points”.

So, much for calm, rational people with legal access to guns. It’s interesting now that Texas has stricter controls over a womans uterus than guns. Texas now prescribes invasive gynecological procedures for Texas women, while at the same time making even harder for many thousands of Texas women to even visit a gynecologist.

And finally, it looks like the governor and the legislator don’t read my blog, otherwise they might have focused on what’s going to happen to all those children that are going to escape an unwanted death in Texas. The Governor continues to make it clear he is diametrically oppossed to any expansion of Medicaid in Texas, that pays for most of these births, and will do everything in his power to undermine national health care in Texas.

@pointaustin, writer and Editor Michael King points out that in Governor Perrys political universe, “Fetal pain” has an expiration date. Once that new Texas citizen takes his or her first breath, they are on their own. Writing in the Chronicle, King says “When the Governor says Suffer the little Children – he really means it.”

The Law of Unintended Consequence

“”The fetus is the property of the entire society,” he proclaimed. “Anyone who avoids having children is a deserter who abandons the laws of national continuity.””

This month marks 40-years since the 1973 Roe vs Wade landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court, legalizing abortion. As some states are now trying us back to pre-1973, with little fanfare, Virginia and Michigan Republican governors recently signed new abortion bills into law. There are issues other than simply obvious one of abortion.

It’s possible to draw a lot of parallels between the former President of Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu, and the Tea Party, also with a number of recent issues and topics that have come up in Texas, for example the teaching of Sex education in schools, abortion rights etc. It would behoove those that espouse the same policies, to note what became of Ceausescu. He was executed after a short show case trial by his own people, long before the Arabic Spring.

[from] “Ceausescu made mockery of family planning. He forbade sex education. Books on human sexuality and reproduction were classified as “state secrets,” to be used only as medical textbooks. With contraception banned, Romanians had to smuggle in condoms and birth-control pills. Though strictly illegal, abortions remained a widespread birth-control measure of last resort. Nationwide, Western sources estimate, 60 percent of all pregnancies ended in abortion or miscarriage.”

Freakanomics authors Dubner and Levitt posit that the data proves that this was partly responsible for the huge rise in social unrest in Romania some 15-20 years later; as recently as 2009, the BBC uncovered the still appalling state of some of Romania’s orphanages, some 20-years after the fall of Ceausescu. This growth, the number of babies and children in orphanages and in need adoption and fostering, should have been an obvious consequence.

Law of unintended consequences

  1. The subsequent rise in crime was an unintended consequence. Ceaucescu expected these “forced birth” babies to grow and become part of his mass people automation workforce, instead, the grew up in a suboptimal environment and many turned to anti-social behavior and crime
  2. The demands of this growth in unwanted babies places a huge additional demand on their society, which Romania at the time never lived up to, or only minimally tried; in the early 1990’s Save the Children started compiling dossiers and records of the children from as many as 600 Romanian orphanges, only to find many had simply vanished without trace. “”We never found out what happened to them. Some could have ended up on the streets, or been trafficked to other places. No one knows,” said Silvia Boeriu, the head of Save the Children in Romania.
  3. You can’t hide the societal effect of such actions, it cost Ceaucescu and his wife their lives. While I’m not suggesting the same will happen in the USA, it’s safe to assume that none of the current politicians will be remembered or looked on positively in years to come if they persist in this direction..
  4. If Dubner and Levitt are indeed right, that Roe vs Wade and the legalization of abortion in the early 1970’s had a direct correlation to the drop in crime in the 1990’s because there were significantly less “unwanted” babies that had matured to the peak age for committing crimes, and especially violent crimes; should this push to either rollback the clock, or make it seemingly impossible to offer abortion services, we better be ready for 2032 and all that will come.

These are all unintended consequences that can be proven by data, except #4, which is supposition, supported by historic data and trends. What is really a logical side of the Dubner/Levitt research, was in fact that the majority of women who were given the choice, later went on to have  “loved” babies in what todays passes as stable homes. Obvious really.