Friday, October 27, 2006

Familiar ring to Trans-Texas Corridor stories

This story from The Guardian, off Farringdon Road in London, reports of unhappiness with growth in southern Spain. This is only the first few graphs of the story.

Spanish town goes on strike over development

Dale Fuchs in Madrid
Friday October 27, 2006
Guardian Unlimited

An entire town on Spain’s cement-clogged Costa del Sol went on strike for a day to protest at the planned construction of two golf courses, 800 luxury homes and two hotels.

The 1,853 residents of Cuevas del Becerro, outside Malaga, closed shops, bars, the town’s only petrol station and even the elementary school this week, part of a mounting popular backlash against rampant building throughout the country.

Residents fear the development, by Promociones Club de Campo y Golf de Ronda, will usurp, and possibly taint, the town water supply. More than 600 parents and children marched with signs that read “Water is our best friend” and “Speculation threatens the aquifer”.

Yoakam finishes strong in Laredo show


Some opening acts are quickly forgotten, some eventually become stars and some make a difference.
Austin's Keith Gattis added balance to the show and drew admiration for his largely one-man effort to please the restless crowd.
Gattis' opening for Dwight Yoakam in the Laredo Entertainment Center's first Country Music concert on Oct. 16 doubled the usual 30 minutes allowed most openers with the star's delay in transit from Houston.
Gattis filled in singing and playing by himself -- with the exception of one number with singer-songwriter Ashley Monroe – switching up and low tempo songs in a Country, Rock and Blues mix.
Gattis and Monroe sang a duet in one of his final songs, upping the performance level another notch, harmonizing and alternating at the mic with blonde Tennessee native Monroe whose voice sounds somewhat like Reba McEntire and the late Tammy Wynette.
Gattis wears long blond hair and brought his sense of humor, which he threw in pinches of between songs and enjoyed some cool ones, thanking one fan for donating a large one after foaming one onto the stage.
"I've done this before: waiting on Dwight," Gattis said, who noted that he played in Yoakam's band a few years ago, demonstrating some electric guitar lines from his songs. "I'm just winging it here. I don't know what I'm going to do.
"Normally, I got a band up here with me – but, I don't tonight."
Gattis added a Bob Dylan-style harmonica while assuring the audience that Yoakam was on his way.
"He's coming," Gattis said.
"I've got to get my son to school in the morning," groaned a woman in the front row.
KRRG Disc Jockey Gino stepped on stage an hour into Gattis' performance, saying that Yoakam was on his way in a bus. Gattis played a few more songs before Gino was back at 9:50 to quickly introduce Yoakam and the main event was on before some 3,200 in the seating arrangement set up for 4,500, apologizing for running late while kicking right into some up tempo numbers from his various albums and fans wasted no time getting into his music, too.
Yoakam and his four-piece band's highly electric sound proved worth the wait.
Some couples danced and many kept beat and rhythm standing at their seats, moving hips, feet, arms and necks to familiar songs like the late Buck Owens' "Act Naturally," "Crying Time," "Together Again" and the Tejano-sounding "The Streets of Bakersfield," which he and Owens recorded together.
Yoakam’s band kept the crowd looking and listening closely with a unique blend of instruments.
The four behind Yoakam strayed from standard guitar and drum music using an electric piccolo, “stand up” base – usually found in Jazz bands -- and the accordion. The Yoakam group’s diversity ranged in appearances from his Cowpunk outfit to tuxedo and silk Rock-style jackets to a casual men’s suit and extended to some 1950s doowah-style in “Pocket of a Clown.”
Yoakam threw in Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” but moved toward the end with his original works. The crowd also responded well to Yoakam’s “Honky Tonk Man,” “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere,” “She Wore Red Dresses,” “It Only Hurts When I Cry,” “Little Ways,” “Guitars, Cadillacs” and “Fast As You” to close out the regular session, but the crowd stood firm for two minutes, getting him to return with two encore numbers.
The show ended a few minutes before midnight with Yoakam and accompanists Eddie Perez, Kevin Smith, Josh Green and Nick Morin disappeared.
Tour Manager Tim Aller noticed that the LEC’s ice hockey floor arrangement was much what the “Watch Out” Tour saw in several Canadian cities, but said Yoakam thought he was entering a theater because of the configuration of the seats and stage. Aller noticed the crowd responding to Yoakam’s performance, too.
“The people seemed to really love it,” he said. “I don’t know if it was just Dwight, but they seemed to know the words to the songs.”

Note: A print version, similar to this story, is available wherever distributed in Laredo in the October 2006 edition of LareDOS. A pdf version can be found online at

What would this wall bring?

President George W. Bush signed onto the law making a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border from coast-to-coast legal. Now it just faces funding obstacles.

What obstacles to the environment, good relations with Mexico and so on might this wall bring on?

It is an issue with many, many questions.

Walls don't seem to work totally, but maybe that's not what its builders would be concerned with, anyway. The Berlin Wall, pictured here from the Newseum in Washington, DC, the Maginot Line and Great Wall of China weren't complet deterents to invasion, or escape. The East Germans had snipers posted to cut down would be escapers into West Berlin. I hope this thing isn't carried that far.

It's OK to work to keep out terrorists and undesirable illegal aliens, but very expensive walls are far from the only, or probably main thing, that such duties will require. Virtual -- electronic -- walls are possible, as it is too.

We will keep an eye on this thing.

The flag raising that stays up

The U.S. Marine Monument, also called the Iwo Jima Monument, is one of the most reproduced instances in history, and photographer Joe Rosenthal didn't even see it until sometime after it had been printed on almost every front page in the United States.

Rosenthal photographed the second flag raising on Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945 -- the fifth day of fighting there, but there were 30 more days to go, which would claim three of the six in the picture, which became the monument seen here in Arlington, Va., adjacent to the national cemetery.

The survivors were last together here in 1954 when this monument was formally dedicated. Ira Hayes would be dead three months later.

'Flags' flies high with deep impressions


It’s the sign of a very impressive movie when most of its viewers sit quietly afterward to see the still photos and read the end credits.
Most moviegoers seeing “Flags of Our Fathers” did that the night it opened, mesmerized by a combination of gutsy, eye-beckoning cinematography, powerful career-level acting from Adam Beach as the troubled Ira Hayes, and Clint Eastwood’s direction, which served to push plenty of buttons. The more personal links one has to World War II in the Pacific, that war, any war, combat, or just living with a combat veteran – the more buttons pushed inside by “Flags.”
“Flags” also serves as further proof that a photograph can hold strong powers, centered on the famous Joe Rosenthal Associated Press photo of the flag raising on Iwo Jima’s Mt. Suribachi by six Marines on Feb. 23, 1945.
A lesser movie would have simply had tears rolling down cheeks, accompanied by some sniffles, but “Flags” stands a little higher with its pensive effect on the viewer. Although any tears or sniffles wouldn’t draw much of a glance from anyone else watching “Flags” for the first time, as this is probably one we’ll be watching from time-to-time for many years to come.
Ryan Phillippe, playing Navy combat medical corpsman John “Doc” Bradley, opens the movie in a surreal flashback quest for buddy Ralph “Iggy” Ignatowski on Iwo Jima’s black sands at nighttime – with Iceland serving as Iwo Jima because of its similar black sands and moon-like appearance. A much older Bradley, near the end of his life, awakens from the dream in a wide-eyed sweat.
Those close to combat vets might have seen such things before and the cinematography helps bring in those from veterans’ families through its unique ability to appear like moving black and white still photos, without the frames – much like those a WWII vet might have had around the house somewhere.
Constant flashbacks to Iwo Jima leap off and on the screen throughout – much as they do for combat vets throughout the remainder of their lives.
Hayes, Bradley and Rene Gagnon, played by Jesse Bradford, are the only three of the six flag raisers to survive the hellish 35-day battle on that 7 ½-square mile island. They are whisked back to the United States, narrowly escaping going ashore in the Marines’ next battle at Okinawa, to serve as war bond sellers in a crucial drive which netted billions for the effort.
Fresh off the battlefield, they could not forget fellow flag raisers Sgt. Mike Strank, Harlon Block and Franklin Sousley, despite little mention of them by civilians. Strank was played very ably by Barry Pepper, who played the sniper in “Saving Private Ryan,” which also had very realistic and sometimes horrifying battle scenes.
The tour experience is belittling and bitter for Hayes and Bradley, climaxing in the climb up a paper mache Mt. Suribachi before 100,000 at Chicago’s Soldier Field, which was emotionally a tougher climb than the real thing. An angry Hayes bolted from rehearsal to go drink, only to be found by Bradley – angered further by one bar’s refusal to serve liquor “to an Indian” -- just in time to make the show at Soldier Field. Bradley is hit with several flashbacks during the short climb up the paper mache Suribachi.
Gagnon and his girlfriend, soon to be wife, aren’t troubled by the attention and take to it, but he admits that he is no hero because the real heroes are back there on Iwo Jima. Dead. He tells the crowd he was only a runner and helped in the flag raising because the pole was so heavy.
The movie doesn’t skip the fact that the celebrated raising took place on the fifth day of the battle and that what Rosenthal photographed was from the second raising. A big shot wanted the first flag for his private collection and had it sent to him straight off the top, but a replacement was run up by Gagnon right away and photographed as it was raised – sticking in the American consciousness for decades and raising hopes to win the conflict when the country had grown war-weary.
Ironically, Rosenthal didn’t see the photo until sometime later. There was no digital photography in those days and it lacked any faces, which again surprised him. It was just one of several photos he snapped that day.
Hayes’ story of problems with alcohol and unable to deal with the deaths of his friends, weaves throughout the movie, adding an instant of focus on South Texas with his trip to Weslaco to speak to the father of Marine buddy Harlon Block, confirming that it was Block at the bottom of the photo. Hayes left that brief scene, walking north-bound on U.S. Highway 83. Block was initially mistaken for Sgt. Hank Hansen who was in the first group to raise a flag on Suribachi, but the war bond trio was told to say it was Hansen in the photo, which added to their anger. That lie didn’t help when the touring trio met the mothers of Strank, Sousley and Hansen.
Anyone who watches “Flags of Our Fathers” will probably find their own connections even if they didn’t have any direct links. Similarities to the public and its relations to other wars can be seen through various things and this need for heroes is noted at the end, which book co-author James Bradley, son of “Doc” Bradley, discusses in his narrative. We manufacture heroes because we need them, he says.
Flaws are more than exceedingly difficult to spot in this one. Possibly a few lines could have been better said, but in the genre of war movies, and probably beyond, it’s a good 10 of 10 habaneros.

Note: A print version of this review can also be found online at, in pdf, and a print version in the October issue of LareDOS here in Laredo.

A Quiet Place on the Mall

Clint Eastwood's new movie, "Flags of Our Fathers" runs deep with most who see it, prompting some last minute looks and credit readings before quietly leaving. Those that don't leave later with the rest, generally file out like they were leaving a very personal church service.

This one employs some of Eastwood's best cinematic work ever, which is saying a lot for the 76-year-old entertainer.

Eastwood said the movie is about those who made the sacrifices, but it shows much more with its very fine cinematography and screenplay. It is one we will probably be watching off and on for a very long time.

These images are from the World War II Monument in Washington D.C.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Selling the roadway to dissent


Good highways are like computers – great when they work, but absolute horror and frustration when they don’t.
The proposed Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), part of the proposed North American Supercorridor, has raised red flags and battle flags up and down the length of the possible routes. This possible superhighway toll road works for some, but not for others.
The TTC could serve to widen or parallel Interstate Highway 35, and activists continue organizing against it while Gov. Rick Perry spearheads the drive to make it a reality.
State government’s connection to the Spanish-partnered Cintra Zachry consortium to construct the big wide road, which could cover 1,200 feet from side-to-side, are two key points of contention. The loss of private lands, property, businesses, and expected high costs also spark considerable comment and dissention.
Tentative TTC plans include a 600-mile freight-rail line from Dallas to the border. The Texas Department of Transportation says that could pull one million trucks per year off of Interstate Highway 35, and it would be the most extensive addition to Texas’ rail system since the early 1900s.
Some local governments, utilities, and school districts have taken formal stands against the road, but others are waiting to see if the road will ever be built. Several believe legal action to protect homes, businesses, farms, schools and cemeteries in the TTC path could put a permanent hold on the road’s construction.
“It’s controversial and not the solution to any problems we have, and it takes up a large amount of land,” Linda Stall, founder of Corridor Watch, said by phone from Austin.
Laredo activist Enrique de la Garza has heard that the TTC might never be built -- or at least not until some time after lawsuits cast the project up in the air “until the time mankind learns to levitate” -- but he notes that the state has already invested plenty of money in its relationship with Cintra Zachry.
“I don’t know if they’ll go for the whole enchilada,” he said. “It’s not right, and they may be messing up aquifers along the way.”
De la Garza believes the TTC will stop at Encinal is also concerned about water. He says three major and six minor aquifers could be affected.
“Laredo has voted Democrat since the party was invented. Only Webb County votes Democrat many times and who is in power?” de la Garza asks.
Del Rio activist Jay Johnson notes that House Bill 578, passed last year by Texas lawmakers, orders the Texas Water Development Board to design a pipeline system with reference to the TTC.
“On completion of the map and using existing water pipelines and other facilities, the board shall design a complete pipeline system that provides each region of the state access to an undepletable emergency source of water,” HB 578 reads. “The design may be coordinated with the design and implementation of the Trans-Texas Corridor.”
Texas Department of Transportation spokesperson Gaby Garcia argues from Austin that proposed TTC routes are only mapped out in study areas on TxDOT’s Web site at and any assumption that it would stop at Encinal is incorrect. Garcia and the site also say the TTC will only use water for regular roadside purposes.
The related Laredo-area map shows the local TTC extension passing Encinal to the Callaghan Ranch-area, some 25 miles north of Laredo.
“We don’t know where it will stop,” Garcia said.
“Laredo and TxDOT are in discussions. A map during the summer had Laredo in a big gray area,” city spokesperson Blasita Lopez said. “I don’t know.”
TxDOT attempts to answer many of the numerous questions about TTC online on that Web site, including those around increasingly important water issues, which could seem related to the project.
“TxDOT will pump groundwater located under the Trans-Texas Corridor and transport it to other parts of the state,” says a myth in the Web site’s Get The FAQs section, listing myths against reality. It answers: “TxDOT is not in the business of selling groundwater. Furthermore, it does not have the authority to transport water. The only reason that TxDOT may access groundwater beneath state property is if it is needed for the transportation facility, such as a restroom or customer service center.”
Stall says more legal action is more likely north of Laredo because it would be affected first and could involve more landscape change, including quality agricultural turf. The San Antonio to Laredo segment serves to widen Interstate Highway 35 and little more.
Stall says Cintra Zachry has already drawn some attention through work in building part of a loop around Austin – the State Highway 130 project – which is likely to be part of the eventual TTC.
The expected 1,200-foot width of the TTC has activists seeing properties and communities chopped up in a very different concrete and asphalt Texas – drastically different from the one they grew up in.
“It is a lot of land,” Stall said. “It looks like the state is in the land speculation business.”
Stall and de la Garza both note the concern over future eminent domain rulings after the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling for the city in Kelo v. New London, Conn.
LaSalle County Judge Joel Rodriguez says concern there eyes the loss of ranchland, but he is comfortable with the proposed widening of I-35. Rodriguez says LaSalle County became interested in the project two years ago when the matter was first visible.
“We resolved not to grant cutting anymore ranchland,” Rodriguez said by phone from Cotulla. “For a while they planned to go through eastern La Salle County, and we would have to support it, furnishing ambulance, fire (department), and water. Smaller counties can’t support it.”
Rodriguez says LaSalle County has also met with TxDOT.
“It is very hard to predict the future, but people do like to leave something for their kids,” he said.
LaSalle County is listed among 30 counties, which have resolutions against the Trans Texas Corridor on the Blackland Coalition Political Action Committee’s Web site. Those counties range from tiny Rains in the northeast to Brewster in the southwest around the Big Bend National Park.
Blackland’s Web site also lists 12 cities, eight utilities and four school districts – all in Central Texas -- also filing resolutions against the proposed superhighway.
The organization meets in rural Bell County, but played host to gubernatorial candidates Chris Bell, Kinky Friedman, and Carole Keeton Strayhorn in a political gathering on March 24. Blackland’s Web site says incumbent Rick Perry was invited, but declined to address the group based midway between Waco and Austin.
“Everybody wants traffic to go faster, but it’s extremely controversial,” U.S. House District 28 Representative Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said. “There are some big property concerns.”
Cuellar also believes the TTC could take a long time to happen with legal action halting, or slowing construction. He noted serious opposition in his district in the Seguin-area.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in its Sept. 28 edition that parts of the toll road — 260 miles’ worth — would be under construction within five years and open by 2014. Tolls would be about 15 cents a mile for cars, 59 cents for trucks.
Star-Telegram figures have total cost of designing and building the corridor at $8.8 billion. Private companies would pay that cost, plus fees totaling $1.9 billion, for the right to collect tolls for 50 years. The state Transportation Department would use that money on other work.
Perry defends the project, despite serious opposition, through a page on his re-election-related Web site and devotes an entire page to the issue at
“The Trans Texas Corridor is a new way to move commuters and cargo, remove hazardous cargo from city centers, reduce air pollution, and expand economic opportunity,” Perry’s site says. “It is a major project that ensures needed infrastructure gets built sooner and at less expense to Texas taxpayers. Like any major infrastructure project, it generates a lot of questions, and even criticism, that warrant a response.”
Candidates Kinky Friedman, Chris Bell, Carole Keeton Strayhorn and James Werner all oppose the TTC and point to other factors around it.
“Kinky is opposed to the Trans-Texas Corridor since it relies on toll road construction. He feels that the TTC is a land grab of the ugliest kind, with land being taken from hard-working ranchers and farmers in little towns and villages all over Texas,” Friedman’s site says. “The people who will ultimately own that land are the same people who own the governor.”
Democratic nominee Chris Bell is less polite in his online posted stance.
“The Trans Texas Corridor is a case study in corruption and cronyism, and one of my first acts as governor would be slamming the brakes on the whole plan and dragging it back into the public light. This deal would never hold up in the light of day. This is corruption you could see from space. Rick Perry just can’t justify giving billion dollar sweetheart deals to his largest contributors,” Bell said.
Wes Benedict, Austin-based executive state director for Werner’s Libertarian Party says Cintra Zachry will get a monopoly because local governments will be prohibited from constructing competing toll roads.
Benedict says that will be a major problem for the capital city.
“The Austin-area is going to have more toll roads than anywhere in the state and toll roads cost more to put up, so they are not cost-effective – running them, constructing toll booths and all that,” Benedict said. “There are better ways to improve public transportation.”
Strayhorn favors using more existing structure to deal with the expected heavy growth Texas faces.
“Texas property belongs to Texans, not foreign companies,” Strayhorn says online. “To meet our transportation needs we need freeways not toll ways, and we must use existing rights of way and increase efficiency of existing roadways and ports. We must not destroy our precious farm and ranch land.”
Strayhorn's site says her plans would expand IH-35 using existing rights of way, implement the ports to plains initiative, increase efficiency and use of existing rail lines and appoint an inspector general to oversee the agency and a transportation ombudsman to talk to Texans.
Strayhorn calls it the Trans-Texas Catastrophe -- the largest land-grab in Texas history under a still secret agreement to let a foreign company control and “toll our roads for a profit for over fifty years.”
District 13 State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, agrees with Strayhorn’s secrecy assessment and is concerned over rural lands, but believes Perry has heard the public’s concerns and hopes he would adjust if re-elected on Nov. 7.
“None of us have ever seen the contract. What have we agreed to?” asks Kolkhorst by phone, driving through rural Grimes County in the Houston-area. “I’m for Gov. Perry, but this issue, he and I don’t agree on. I have faith in this governor. I don’t think it’s my way or the highway, pardon the pun.”
Kolkhorst says she will be at the doorstep of whomever wins the election with her concerns. She says her four-county district counts 70 churches and cemeteries that would be affected by the width of the project.
Kolkhorst echoes Strayhorn’s desire to see more transportation work by Texans, but recently attended an anti-TTC rally in Walker County.
“They would just as soon not have it,” she said. “Texas is growing and we want a good highway system, but when you dice up old, developed farmland -- and we have some very historic sites here in Texas history -- people don’t give up easily.”
Kolkhorst knows that all of those factors generate the passion the TTC’s opponents exhibit. She says she has talked to several South Texas ranchers and knows their worries, too.
Kolkhorst believes there is more to the TTC than simply a big highway and rail line.
“I’m not convinced this is for us. I’m not sure that NAFTA and CAFTA are good,” she said, seeing where we might be stooping to benefit the economies of other countries through the TTC. “It could be about blurring borders and our national sovereignty. It’s bigger than Texas.
“Tell Texans the truth and they’ll make good sense of things. I think power should be from the ground up and not the other way.”
Texas A&M International social sciences professor Michael Yoder would agree with Kolkhorst and sees TTC connections to economies in Asia, Latin America, the container ship business, unions, the Panama Canal and he sides with Cuellar, believing it will never be built.
“It’s too big, too expensive, too many people fighting it, too many interests against it,” Yoder said. “The TTC seems to rely heavily on the Mexico connection.
“One plan that seems sleazy is to use Mexican truck drivers to kill the unions and it would hurt the independent truckers, so I think that part of it stinks. Meanwhile, they’ll charge exorbitant prices for people to use it.
He doubts that current hotbed economies like those in Asia will maintain their pace and doesn’t see Mexico’s toll road offerings strong enough to help support it.
“It could be too ambitious. If they have the idea that it will pay for itself I think they will find themselves disappointed,” Yoder said. “They are banking on trade with Mexico and stuff from China. It’s overkill.”
The TTC’s value would also weaken – and Mexico’s Lazaro Cardenas port -- through a wider Panama Canal for larger container ships. Serious discussions have also risen in Nicaragua and Honduras for proposed freight-oriented transportation plans for canals, bigger highways and increased rail service between the Pacific and Caribbean.
And Panamanian voters stumped some experts by voting on Oct. 21 to widen that canal, too.
The TTC and its connected 4,000 miles of North American supercorridors don’t look cost-effective in Yoder’s book. It does not work in his computer.
“There’s not enough to justify what they are talking about at $184 billion,” he said.
At least, if this particular roadway is to be built it could certainly use a stronger selling job.

Note: This is the blog version of a very similar story, which appears in the October 2006 issue of LareDOS, available at the paper's office at 1812 Houston, in Laredo, and other sites around Laredo. Also available online, in pdf, at

Sunday, October 22, 2006

That festive time has arrived

Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, has arrived for the better part of a week. says Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs in India and all over the world. It is a five-day celebration occurring in October or November. Diwali was Saturday, Oct. 21 this year. It is on Friday, Nov. 9 next year.

I hope you are invited to a festival near you, or even very far away, sometime soon.

This image is the handiwork of skilled Mumbai photographer and media arts artist Amal Batra.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Thinking about that camino

The fact that I wanted to crop out the bottom of this photo says there might be serious validity in considering ways to get the time to walk Spain's Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James), or trek England's walking trails, or those found anywhere else.

This Patty Kirby photo is proof that I really do work, seen here interviewing U.S. House Representative Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, at Texas A&M International University, and proof that -- like too many other in my line of work and in the U.S. -- I need to get serious and sweat it off. So, my mind keeps floating to northern Spain where I have walked off plenty of pounds in previous vacations while enjoying that fantastic, flavorful, healthy Basque cuisine, great wines, seafood, fresh vegetables and eye-dazzling scenery while improving my Spanish. Anyone wanna go with me?

I'll keep the photo around and might use an uncropped version for one of those before shots. After? Well it could be as fine as my finest in previous decades, or just a whole lot better than now. Either way, the mind is turning toward serious self-improvement and getting there could be a matter of good taste, too.

My feet were a problem for a while, but they're not now, so the only barrier is time. I walked a few miles of that Camino several years ago near Pamplona and have seen many others out on the trail, so my mind's already got a picture of the adventure. The bottled mineral water tastes very good along that ancient trek as well.

Austin's eagle eye for the story in transition

Longtime television reporter Jim Swift plans to stay with KXAN in Austin, despite the major reshaping of his popular features on that station's news programs. They are moved to a Sunday night slot instead of each night.

It is a shame his creativity is not shared more throughout the state and beyond. We would all get more out of the news and the world around us we too often overlook.

Jim Swift is a serious pro, even if the bearded appearance might make you think otherwise for an instant.

They kept the right guy

Austin television station KXAN and reporter Jim Swift are staying together, reports Diane Holloway of the Austin American-Statesman, and this blog is glad to hear it -- even if his reports are not seen regularly down here in Laredo.

Jim and I worked together back in the mid-1970s at Radio Central in Brenham, Texas when his appearance was much more conservative, but his keen eye for the story wherever and however it might be was a learning tool for me.

Most of Holloway's story follows --

By Diane Holloway
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Jim Swift is still here, but his trademark "On the Porch" features for KXAN's news are gone.
For nearly a quarter century, Swift has been spinning out yarns about offbeat, inspiring, tragic and just plain weird people and happenings in Central Texas. From attack squirrels to zombie musicals and disabled artists, Swift has capped off KXAN's 10 p.m. news several times a week with the two-minute features designed to smooth the rough edges of the day's news.
"On the Porch" departed without an official goodbye. After a four-week medical leave, Swift learned that his "Porch," which had been cut back to a Sunday-night-only schedule, was closed.
"It wasn't my idea, but I'm not broken up over it at all," said Swift, 58. "Life changes, and you can either fight it and get tired of swimming upstream, or you can relax and stay off the rocks."
Swift, who joined KXAN in 1977 as a news reporter, has chosen to go with the flow. He will redirect his energy toward general news, with a focus on South Austin. He also will continue to do "perspective pieces" about the broader issues surrounding daily stories.
"I'm totally OK with that," the laid-back reporter said. "They want to concentrate more on hard news and less on features."
Bill Seitzler, KXAN's news director, says the change should not be interpreted as a slap at Swift.
"We just don't want to use that 'On the Porch' title anymore," Seitzler said. "Jim's work is fabulous. He's got his own unique storytelling ways that we're not about to change. We just want to change the focus a bit."
Swift, who grew up in Dallas and has a degree in intellectual history from Southwestern University in Georgetown, said he has signed a new contract and received "nothing but positive comments" about his future at KXAN. In fact, he's hoping to retire from the station with a full pension at 65.
"That just doesn't happen any more, especially in TV, and I'd very much like to do it," he said.

Conduct makes a world of difference

Bob Bavasi's reports through a Japanese newspaper story how an announcer lost his job after too many drinks and the resulting loss in judgment. The story, most of which follows, speaks for itself.

Top baseball commentator latest fired in NTV's string of sex scandals

From the Daily Mainichi:

Just a couple of months after NTV announcer Sosuke Sumitani was fired for using a hidden camera to film up a woman's skirt, a baseball announcer is out.

Masashi Funakoshi covered the Yomiuri Giants for NTV, probably the most appealing job in Japanese sports broadcasting.

His downfall occurred when the Giants played one of their countryside games, with the regional affiliate throwing an after-game party for the NTV crew. At the party, Funakoshi, 44, sat next to a young woman working for the regional station.

"She's cute and looks pretty wholesome. Pretty enough to have been a beauty contest finalist during her college days," says an affiliate insider.

Funakoshi began drinking heavily, boasting about how he was destined to rise up through the network's ranks.

The party continued at a karaoke bar where Funakoshi grabbed the woman, hugged her, and wrapped his arm around her waist while he sang.

When the singing ended, Funakoshi asked the woman to accompany him to his hotel, told her he was friends with NTV executives and promised to find her a job at the network.

"The woman was forced to accompany Funakoshi on a cab ride back to his hotel. Once they were alone, he roughly squeezed...," the affiliate insider says.

She reported the incident to her bosses, who filed a protest with NTV.
Funakoshi initially denied the allegations, saying that he had been too drunk to remember anything. But then more stories of his actions began to surface prompting NTV to act.

"We are not talking about the details of the case," an NTV spokesman says. "However, one of our employees violated the employee code of conduct and has been punished accordingly."

Other professions have strong codes of conduct, too, with firing usually the result when that line is crossed by such a wide margin.