Full coverage: Mayor Pugh's 'Healthy Holly' books, UMMS board deals

Perot feathers his nest at the expense of warblers


Just by its name, you can tell that the golden-cheeked warbler is a really nice little bird. If it weren't, they would have named it the soot-faced croaker or the dung-headed squeaker.

Chances are you've never seen a golden-cheeked warbler. I haven't, either. But it has golden cheeks and it warbles, so that makes it an OK bird in my book.

The reason you haven't seen one is that they aren't as common as crows or city pigeons.

To see one, you would have to go to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras or Nicaragua, which is where the golden-cheeked warblers spend their winters. But you wouldn't want to do that, because if the drinking water didn't ruin your innards, banditos or revolutionaries would steal your wife, or even your traveler's checks.

The only other place to spot a golden-cheeked warbler is Texas. I don't recommend going there, either, but at least the water is drinkable.

Texas is where the golden-cheeked warblers migrate to lay their eggs and hatch another generation. And if you think raising youngsters is hard these days, you should try it as a golden-cheeked warbler.

The tiny birds have to be on the lookout for big, mean cowbirds that are always after their little eggs.

And if those cowbirds aren't enough of a threat, there's Ross Perot.

That's right, the same Ross Perot who says he's the friend of the little man (as well as the medium and extra long), champion of the disgruntled and disenchanted, and prospective savior of truth, justice and the American way. Unless you happen to be a golden-cheeked warbler, in which case you're on your own, tweety.

It seems that Perot's real estate company owns a lovely hunk of wooded land near Austin. It happens to be land where the golden-cheeked warblers build their nests and hatch their eggs. They were nesting there long before Perot started hustling the government computer contracts that made him a billionaire.

Because the birds are rare and nice, the government said it would soon declare them an endangered species.

But Perot's real estate company decided that the wooded land would be more profitable if turned into an office and industrial complex. That's just what mall-crazed Texas needs -- more slabs of glass surrounded by parking lots.

To do this, it was necessary to clear away much of the thick foliage where the golden-cheeked warblers built their nests to hide the eggs and chicks from the cruel cowbirds.

So Perot's company raced to beat the endangered-species deadline. It brought in high-speed equipment and, zip-zap, in a couple of days the nesting places had been hacked away.

Naturally, the local environmentalists were all upset. And someone found that Perot's company had violated a local law that says you can't clear land without a building permit. Not unless you are clearing it to ranch or farm.

Well, you don't get to be a billionaire by being dumb. So the company quickly brought in a herd of goats. That made the land a goat farm, at least for the time being. And it meant that Perot's company had sidestepped the law.

All of which I find disappointing. I was starting to become enthusiastic about Perot. I figured that anybody who could cause such nervousness for George Bush, Dan Quayle, the networks, the Washington press corps and the McGoofy Group had to be an all right guy.

But now I see that he's just another billionaire, part of a social class I've never trusted. There's something about that first $100 million that makes them greedy for more.

You would think that someone who is worth $3 billion wouldn't need any more. Three billion means three thousand million. Or, put it like this: Stick $3 billion in triple-A rated municipal bonds, it will bring you a tax-free income of about $150 million a year. Or about $12 million a month. Or $400,000 a day. Including holidays, weekends and sick days.

(When you look at it that way, Perot's plan to spend $300 million to win the White House isn't that big a deal. For him, it's only two years' pay. I know guys who would gladly give up two years' pay to become a Chicago alderman.)

It's true that his real estate company owns the land where the golden-cheeked warblers nest. And it's also true that as their landlord, he has never charged them rent or presented a tab for all the bugs they eat. I mention that to show that he is not totally lacking in compassion.

But he takes pride in being a family man and in maintaining his family's privacy. So I'm surprised that he has not given much thought to the family instincts of the golden-cheeked warblers and their desire for privacy.

He can hire bodyguards and press secretaries and political gunslingers to protect him. But all those little songbirds had to protect their younguns from the big, vicious cowbirds were the bushes and branches that Perot's company tore down.

Well, it just proves that my old granddad was right when he said: "There are two kinds of people in this world. The golden-cheeked warbler people and the big, mean cowbird people. So if you want to become a billionaire, become a big, mean cowbird."

So now we know. Ross Perot has been flapping along like a bold American eagle. But he's just a cowbird in disguise.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad