Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Ironic Blotter: Robbers kill Osama's brother

Jamal Khalifa, brother of Osama bin Ladin, was murdered in his Madagascar home by unidentified intruders who came to rob him, Reuters is reporting today.

Osama's bro was a big gemstone magnate who had apparently fallen out of contact with his terrorist kin.

I am reluctant to celebrate such a death, but my reluctance is evidence of why the terrorists seem to be winning this war right now: They aren't reluctant at all to celebrate deaths of anyone, especially their own misguided "martyrs." Chances are I've wasted more time thinking about Khalifa's death than his brother will.

So what the hell, I'm glad there's one less bin Ladin to worry about. I'm not sorry he misses out on the virgins. I lift a toast to Sweet Irony.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Line of the Week
Return to Eel Pie Island

Just getting back from a long weekend celebrating my L birthday (check your Roman numerology) but regrettably not at Eel Pie Island in London's Thames River. In a story about Eel Pie on BBC News, there was this unforgettable and intriguing line:
"When you approached it you could see sex rising from it like steam from a kettle. It suited us randy young musicians. It was very difficult not to get laid on Eel Pie Island."

Yeah, I know: You want to read the rest of the story, don't you? Click here, you guttersnipe.

(I did.)

Friday, January 26, 2007

'N-word' is safe in Brazoria

The mayor of Brazoria, Texas, has dropped his effort to outlaw the aggressive use of the word "nigger" in this little town of 2,800, according to the Houston Chronicle. After only a few days of campaigning for fines up to $500 for anyone convicted of slinging the word around in a malicious way (using it casually would have been legal), Mayor Ken Corley, who's white, has punted the idea.

A couple days ago, I admitted to a small conflict about the proposal. While it was praiseworthy that Corley had tried to address a social ill, I believe he attacked it wrong by outlawing a form of free speech. Claude Foster, the NAACP's regional director in Houston, agrees. He told the Chronicle he "applauds the intention of the measure," but doesn't think curbing speech is the best way to fight racism. "Education is the answer," Foster said.

My hat's off to Corley for his courage to do something. I don't think he's truly a censor, just a guy who had the urge to help. I hope he finds another, more constitutional way to confront the symbol of this word.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Brazoria, Texas, wants to outlaw 'N-word'

An attempt to legislate civility ... or another attack on free speech?

The white mayor of Brazoria, Texas -- a small town of 2,800 -- wants to make it punishable by a fine up to $500 if you say "nigger" with any hint of anger or intimidation, according to today's Houston Chronicle. If it's a successful effort, he might even like to expand the law to include other racial slurs. (It's important to know that merely saying the word "nigger" would not be illegal under the proposed law. To be criminal, it must be said "in an offensive or aggressive manner.")

It's laudable that somebody -- especially a white Southerner -- is standing up against one of the most blatant symbols of racism in America today. The word is mostly used today openly by black rappers and as a term of affection among black folks, confusing matters greatly, but its disappearance from our common vernacular will be an essential step toward racial harmony in America.

But a small-town ordinance -- or even a big-city ordinance, such as one proposed in Queens, N.Y. -- outlawing a word is not the right approach. As one black minister told the Houston Chronicle, people "have a constitutional right to be stupid."

Imagine laws that prohibit any word that might be considered offensive to someone ... anyone. You could no longer holler that the idiot driver in front of you was, well, an "idiot" without offending the mentally ill.

Part of me wants to stand up and applaud the mayor of Brazoria for his urge to do something. But the greater part of me wants to chalk this up to the insidious powers of political correctness and those who think that limiting free speech is a solution to our woes. Our First Amendment wasn't established to protect speech with which we all agreed and made us feel warm and fuzzy ... it protects speech that makes us terribly uncomfortable.

I'm terribly uncomfortable with "nigger" ... and "cracker" and "spic" and "hymie" and "towel-head" and "chink" and "squaw" and many, many more. But our goal should be a culture where we don't want to use those words, not one where they are merely forbidden.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A temporary fix for recyclers

Last weekend, I had a book event in Houston ... so I hauled my glass and plastic recyclables to the West University Recycle Express station at 5004 Dincans (1 block west of Kirby, between Westpark and Bissonnet, very close to Hwy 59.)

Talk about convenient and easy to use! You simply drive up, put your recyclables of all kinds through slots in designated stalls, then drive off! It's that easy. No proof that you live in Houston, no scary attendants. Just an efficient drive-up experience.

It's also gratifying to see so many people using the service and so much material staying out of the landfill. You don't get paid for your recyclables at Recycle Express, but you have the comfort of knowing it's helping the community and the environment.

It also stands as an example of how recycling needn't be curbside-or-nothing. Convincing an existing private recycler or recruiting a new business to Southeast Texas to do this kind of one-stop recycling might be the way to go.

Coming to a radio near you ...

As part of my new book FALL's national launch, I will be interviewed by several radio stations all over the USA. More will be added as shows are scheduled. If you're within broadcasting range of any of these stations, tune in!

(All times at Central Standard Time)

Wednesday, Jan. 3: 8:25 a.m. on KFRU-AM in Columbia, MO
Thursday, Jan. 4: Big Chuck's Morning Show on WDOS in Oneonta, NY
Thursday, Jan. 4: 7:40 a.m. on KYMO-AM/FM in East Prairie, MO
Thursday, Jan. 4: 3:15 p.m. on KOLE-AM in Beaumont, TX
Sunday, Jan. 7: 6:30 a.m. on WIP-AM in Philadelphia, PA
Monday, Jan. 8: 7:10 a.m. on WMJI in Cleveland
Monday, Jan. 8:
8:10 a.m. on Cable Radio Network with Jack Roberts
Tuesday, Jan. 9: 9:30 a.m. on KBUL-AM in Billings, MT
Wednesday, Jan. 10: 9 p.m. on XM Radio with Jan Summers/It's About Life
Monday, Jan. 15: 11:05 a.m. on WRVC-AM in Huntington, W. Va.
Wednesday, Jan. 17: 7:40 a.m. on WCBQ-AM in Raleigh, NC
Wednesday, Jan. 17: 4:20 p.m. on WKCT-AM in Nashville, TN
Wednesday, Jan. 24: 9:05 a.m. on KYW-AM in Philadelphia, PA
Thursday, Jan. 25: 9:50 a.m. on KCMN-AM in Colorado Springs, CO
Friday, Jan. 26: 6:04 a.m. on WIOJ in Jacksonville, FL
Friday, Jan. 26: 7:40 a.m. on KUKA-FM in Corpus Christi TX
Tuesday, Jan. 30: 11:20 a.m. on nationally syndicated Lifestyle Talk Radio
Thursday, Feb. 1:
8:30 a.m. on WABJ-AM in Toledo, OH
Thursday, Feb. 1: 11:40 a.m. on WSDE-AM in Albany, NY

Thursday, Feb. 8: 7:30 a.m. on WWOW-AM in Cleveland OH

Friday, January 19, 2007

Gee, I wonder why?

Muslims are protesting -- again -- that radical Islamic terrorists are the bad guys in the hit TV show, "24."

"The overwhelming impression you get is fear and hatred for Muslims," Rabiah Ahmed of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the Associated Press. "After watching that show, I was afraid to go to the grocery store because I wasn't sure the person next to me would be able to differentiate between fiction and reality."

Yet, where is the lobby for innocent people everywhere when radical Islamists stand up, as extremist Muslim Omar Brooks did recently in an event at Dublin's Trinity College, and say:

"We are the Muslims. We drink the blood of the enemy, and we can face them anywhere. That is Islam and that is jihad."

Brooks went on to say Prophet Mohammed's message to nonbelievers is: "I come to slaughter all of you."

Sounds like he makes a pretty good bad guy for most Westerners, doesn't it? Sheesh, Muslim moderates wonder why they get suspicious looks on the street. It's unfair stereotyping, whci humans are very good at doing, but radical pronouncements like "I come to slaughter you" don't exactly inspire friendliness.

As media critic Jeff Jarvis once observed, "The cardinal sin today is to offend (and) the clearest badge of victimhood is to be offended." Moderate Muslims must begin to put down the radicals who do more to harm them than the non-Muslims who glance sideways at them ... or they will find themselves in a deadly cultural crossfire.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dr. Alvin Augustus Jones and me

In the midst of a 20-city radio tour, I have come to one conclusion only: Some talk-show hosts are very smart and very eloquent. Not all, but some. (Some of them -- horrors! -- don't even read the books before the interview!)

Among the best radio talk-show hosts is Dr. Alvin Augustus Jones, who has interviewed some of the most provocative figures in modern American literature, sports, politics and entertainment ... always with an eye toward messages we can all glean from their experiences. Listen to my interview with Dr. Alvin Augustus Jones on WCBQ-AM in Raleigh. N.C., recorded on Wednesday, Jan. 17.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Five minutes to Doomsday

Today, scientists inched the minute-hand on the so-called "Doomsday Clock" two minutes closer to midnight -- Armageddon -- reflecting their growing worry that the global nuclear threat is slightly more perilous than it was yesterday at this time.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists says the "leap" minutes are because of Iran's and North Korea's nuclear ambitions and an unsettled Middle East, although Britney Spears' decision to stop wearing underwear played a small role, too. They further said (OK, this part is true) that global warming is not as dire a threat to the world as nuclear weapons, which immediately caused an escalation of conflict with the Union of Global Warming Professors, who raised their symbolic Universal Meat Thermometer by four degrees.

Just how is Two Minutes Closer to Radioactive Death supposed to feel? Should I wear something special? And what happens if the Homeland Security Danger Kaleidoscope is orange, and it's five minutes to Doomsday, and my car's Check Engine light comes on? Do the terrorists win?

The clock, which hangs at the University of Chicago, was last adjusted five years ago, when the scientists decided we were seven minutes from the Fatal Hour. Now we're five minutes from the Fatal Hour. Hoo-boy, those last two minutes seemed to last about five years, and that's good. At this rate, it'll take about 12 years until somebody blows us all up. And if these guys are so smart, how come a few months after Sept. 11, 2001, they couldn't see events unfolding this way by 2007?

12 years. Sorry, I gotta run. I have dry-cleaning to pick up.

Global warming? Tell my dog

Monday, January 15, 2007

Southeast Texas needs active recycling

I believe in recycling. It's good for the economy, for America ... for the environment.

But I'm up to my ass in glass and plastic that I cannot recycle because Southeast Texas has yet to see the wisdom in protecting our already fragile environment here.

Alas, here in Beaumont, Texas, opportunities to recycle are limited. That's hard to imagine for a city of over 100,000 in a region of almost a quarter million people. One may take aluminum cans and waste paper to private local recyclers, but there are no recyclers who'll take glass or plastic. The City of Beaumont flirted with curbside recylcing a few years ago, but it failed miserably. And the City of Houston has an active recycling program ... but unless you can prove you live in Houston, you can't even donate your recyclables!

A little recycling is better than NO recycling, but glass and plastics are among the most plentiful and longer lasting materials we're plowing into our landfills. How much tax money could we save (or better yet, earn) if we could take glass and plastic out of the waste stream in Southeast Texas?

Well, here's some math: A typical family generates about 60 pounds of recoverable newspaper, cardboard, glass, plastic, tin, and aluminum every month. That means the roughly 140,000 households in Jefferson, Orange and Hardin counties are generating about 8.4 million pounds (4,200 tons) of recyclable waste every month. That's 50,000 TONS of recyclables a year, most of which is going into our landfills (or onto our deplorably dirty roadsides or beaches.)

Are we serious about energy independence in America? Well, recycling one plastic bottle can conserve enough energy to light a 60W lightbulb for up to 6 hours. One plastic bottle. Recycling one glass jar saves enough energy to light a 100W light bulb for four hours. Recycling glass requires less energy to make new bottles or jars, too. Can we ever hope to sever our ties to the Middle East if we can't even keep one plastic bottle out of the dump?

Well, we can't do it in Southeast Texas. We talk big about a lot of things, but we appear to the outside world that we don't care about our environment or our country's future. Worse, those of us who are intent on recycling must waste gasoline to take our recyclables to distant cities where they can be processed, usually donating the materials simply to a church or school because we believe in it.

Beaumont's city fathers are now canoodling about a new slogan for the city and whether it takes three or four friefighters to drive a truck.. Now, I'd love for them to be spending their time on more substantive issues -- like recycling -- but it seems unlikely. Polticians don't "do," they only talk. Maybe it's time for the citizens who really believe in America's energy independence and our environment to take charge.

Southeast Texans, what can we do?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Signing 'FALL' at Beaumont B&N Saturday

Consider this a personal invitation to all my Beaumont friends and friends-to-be to drop by the Parkdale Barnes & Noble 2-4 p.m. on Saturday to say hello and, if you wish, buy my new book "FALL." I'll even sign it ... just for you!

Can't make it? Don't worry. Next weekend, Jan. 20, I'll be signing at Houston's popular Murder by the Book from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The bookstore -- which caters to readers who love crime fiction and nonfiction -- is at 2342 Bissonnet in Houston.

Still can't make it? Well, you can still drop by the Alabama Theatre Bookstop in Houston 2-4 p.m. on Feb. 17 for a little post-Valentine's Day gift-buying.

See you there! ... Well, one of those places....

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

No Mama, no Papa ... no FEMA

This email allegedly came from an emergency management official in the Denver metro area, which has been walloped by three major blizzards in recent weeks. It's actually an email that's been circulating since at least 2005, according to myth-busting While some of its sentiment misrepresents the current situation slightly (for example, government helicopters helped feed stranded cattle), the author is expressing a widely held opinion that some American communities are more self-sufficient than others ... while some demand and get more attention in crises than others.

Up here, in the Northern Plains, we just recovered from a historic event; may I even say a "Weather Event" of "Biblical Proportions" -- with a historic blizzard of up to 44 inches of snow and winds to 90 MPH that broke trees in half, knocked down utility poles, stranded hundreds of motorists in lethal snow banks, closed ALL roads, isolated scores of communities and cut power to 10's of thousands.

FYI: George Bush did not come.

FEMA did nothing.

No one howled for the government.

No one blamed the government.

No one even uttered an expletive on TV.

Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton did not visit.

Our Mayor did not blame Bush or anyone else.

Our Governor did not blame Bush or anyone else, either.

CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX or NBC did not visit.

Nobody demanded $2,000 debit cards.

No one asked for a FEMA trailer house.

No one looted.

Nobody - I mean Nobody demanded the government do something. Nobody expected the government to do anything, either.

No Larry King, no Bill O'Reilly, no Oprah, no Chris Matthews and no Geraldo Rivera. No Sean Penn, no Barbara Streisand, no Hollywood types to be found.

Nope, we just melted the snow for water. Sent out caravans of SUV's to pluck people out of snow engulfed cars. The truck drivers pulled people out of snow banks and didn't ask for apenny. Local restaurants made food and the police and fire departments delivered it to the snowbound fa mil ies.Fa mil ies took in the stranded people -- total strangers. We fired up wood stoves, broke out coal oil lanterns or Coleman lanterns. We put on extra layers of clothes because up here it is "work or die." We did not wait for some affirmative action government to get us out of a mess created by being immobilized by a welfare program that trades votes for "sittin' at home" checks. Even though a Category 5 blizzard of this scale has never fallen this early, we know it can happen and how to deal with it ourselves.

In my many travels, I have noticed that once one gets north of about 40 degrees North Latitude, 90% of the world's social problems evaporate. It does seem that way, at least to me. I hope this gets passed on. Maybe SOME people will get the message: The world does not owe you a living.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Global warming, indeed

(Rocky Mountain News photo)

So it warms up in New York and everybody is hollering that it proves "global warming."

Meanwhile, Colorado gets blitzed by three successive blizzards, triggering a monster avalanche that sweeps people off a mountain road ... and people still holler "global warming"! If Manhattan is warm and it proves global warming, what does a sub-zero, snowbound Denver prove?

Aw, hell, I don't dispute the phenomenon of "global warming," and I won't even argue that man isn't playing a villainous role in it. But I will submit that too often in our culture, "news" is defined by what's happening in New York City, and not often enough by what's happening to everyone else.

There goes the neighborhood ...

Nobody is spared the modern nuisance of undesirable development in your backyard. Not even the first and only California settlement governed, financed and operated by black people, which was founded in 1908 and abandoned in the 1920s. The San Francisco Chronicle reports, in part:
Col. Allensworth State Historic Park, a neatly preserved settlement started by black people in California's San Joaquin Valley in 1908 that has been in the spotlight since residents learned of plans to build two mega-dairies on neighboring land. Park advocates say Allensworth's most important monument to black culture and self-sufficiency will change irrevocably if thousands of cows move in across state Highway 43.

The long-empty ghost town became a state park in 1976 and now advocates for black history say the dairy cows -- with their flies and stink -- will shoo visitors away from the park.

When Progress goes head-to-head with History, Progress usually wins. It's like the Monopoly player who has most of the money.

A reptile dysfunction

From the Australian Associated Press:

A POLICEMAN'S wife rescued her husband after a monster crocodile clamped its jaws around his head and shoulders while he snorkelled in the Torres Strait.

Friday, January 05, 2007

It's official today: 'FALL' is launched

Launch Day is an anxious moment for most authors. The great bulk of reviews are still out, readers will be getting their first looks at the new book, which has its whole life lying ahead ... and the author who likely spent three years (or more) getting to this day will either continue forward on his creative path by the public's embrace or unceremoniously diverted by a lack of interest. Imagine dedicating three years of your life to one project, only to send it out into the world for people to judge in a matter of minutes. This one day embodies all that angst.

But it's all part of the beauty of storytelling. It likely wasn't much different for Homer, certainly not for Hemingway, that first time you tell a story to a large group of people. Today, I feel a part of a very exclusive club of people who know this exact feeling, and it feels like belonging.

And two new reviews today make it a little easier. One is from a leading book-review site on the Internet, the other from a leading newspaper-industry trade magazine. Here are some excerpts:

"In a style similar to “In Cold Blood”, Mr. Franscell captures, from start to finish (if there is ever a finish), this terrible saga. He went to enormous lengths to provide vivid and unforgettable narrative. ... The end will floor you. If it was fiction, no one would believe it could happen."

"FALL is a heartbreaking story but is also dynamic, which makes it an extraordinary book. Franscell has imbued every page with exquisite Didionesque prose, perceptive analyses of the events and the persons involved, and thorough interviews and research, drawing readers intimately into the vortex of a hideous crime. ... Ron Franscell takes readers on a journey into the nature of evil and the pain of survival."
Barbara Gershenbaum at

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Allah Cart
Muslim cabbies leave booze and dogs at the curb

Up in Minneapolis, Muslim cabbies at the airport have been refusing service to passengers carrying any liquor or dogs -- including service dogs. Why? Well, Hassan Mohamud, imam at Al-Taqwa Mosque of St. Paul and director of the Islamic Law Institute at the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, told the AP that transporting alcohol "is a violation of their faith. Muslims do not consume, carry, sell or buy alcohol, and Islam also considers the saliva of dogs to be unclean."

About 675 of the airport's 900 licensed cabbies are Somali Muslims, and about 100 passengers are denied service every month, the airport says. So the airport is upset, naturally. Somebody wants to suspend the airport licenses of cabbies who refuse service for any reason other than safety.

Carrying a bottle of wine from California? No ride. Traveling with your seeing-eye dog? No ride. Wearing a suicide-bomber vest, a bloody scimitar in your suitbag, and carrying a dirty-bomb in your briefcase? No problem.

Why would anyone whose religion prohibited them from transporting liquor or animals become a cabbie at an airport anyway? If you can't work on Sundays, you don't dream of being an NFL football star. If you are allergic to pollen, you don't raise alfalfa. If you dropped out of the third grade, you can't bitch because they won't let you be a brain surgeon.

Come to America. Find your bliss. Seek a niche where your special skills will earn you a living and contribute to the society ... but don't change countries with the expectation that your new country should change for you.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Semper fi, MF

Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Anderson Cooper, and a tough old U.S. Marine Sergeant were all captured by terrorists in Iraq. The leader of the terrorists told them that he would grant them each one last request before they were beheaded.

Dan Rather said, "Well, I'm a Texan; so I'd like one last bowl full of hot spicy chili."

The leader nodded to an underling who left and returned with the chili. Rather ate it all and said, "Now I can die content."

Peter Jennings said, "I am Canadian, so I'd like to hear the song "O Canada" one last time."

The leader nodded to a terrorist who had studied the Western world and knew the music. He returned with some rag-tag Musicians and played the anthem.

Anderson Cooper said, "I'm a reporter to the end. I want to take out my tape recorder and describe the scene here and what's about to happen. Maybe someday someone will hear it and know that I was on the job till the end."

The leader directed an aide to hand over the tape recorder and Cooper dictated some comments. He then said, "Now I can die happy."

The leader turned and said, "And now, Mr. U.S. Marine, what is your final wish?"

"Kick me in the ass," said the Marine.

"What?" asked the leader. "Will you mock us in your last hour?"

"No, I'm not kidding. I want you to kick me in the ass," insisted the Marine.

So the leader shoved him into the open, and kicked him in the ass.

The Marine went sprawling, but rolled to his knees, pulled a 9mm pistol from inside his cammies, and shot the leader dead. In the resulting confusion, he leapt to his knapsack, pulled out his M4 carbine and sprayed the Iraqis with gunfire.

In a flash, all the Iraqis were either dead or fleeing for their lives. As the Marine was untying Rather, Jennings, and Cooper, they asked him, "Why didn't you just shoot them in the beginning? Why did you ask them to kick you in the ass first?"

"What," replied the Marine, "and have you three assholes report that I was the aggressor?"

(A tip of the boonie to a Marine friend of a friend ...)