A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Monday, July 31, 2006

Questionable Political Math In Texas Gov. Race

I'm afraid that I just don't understand some of the political math being quoted by some in the governor's race, especially for Chris Bell. I understand that many left-wing bloggers support Chris Bell for governor. They have every right to do so, and there's no doubt that Bell would be a much better governor than the current one. But some of the figures being thrown out just don't make any sense.

Several bloggers have claimed that all Chris Bell needs to do is hold his Democratic base, and he will win. The percentage of voters that call themselves Democrats is 30-35%. If Bell got at least 30% of the vote, he might well win. The fly-in-the-ointment is the fact that, so far, Bell has shown no ability to do this. The best he has been able to do is about 20%, and that is not a winning number.

One blogger today said Bell has 25% locked up. How can he have 25% locked up when the best he has polled so far is 20%? Where are these numbers coming from - thin air?

None of us know what will happen in November. It is certainly possible that Bell could mount a charge between now and then, and win the race. It is also possible that Grandma or Kinky could do so. But it is silly to give any of the three numbers they have not yet earned.

Maybe these people think if they say it enough, it will come true. However, politics doesn't work that way. Bell, Grandma, and Kinky [my candidate] have yet to show they can push their figures up to a winnable number. If they don't stop sniping at each other, and concentrate on bringing Perry's numbers down, they will all three be losers, and so would the state of Texas.

Is Israel Accomplishing Anything Positive ?

For a couple of weeks now, the Israeli's have been bombing Lebanon. They have also invaded the southern section of Lebanon. The thrust of all this military action is to either destroy the Hezbollah fighters based there, or at least push them back out of range of Israel. A laudable goal, but are they accomplishing it?

After two weeks of fighting, Hezbollah is still going strong, and is still fighting the Israeli soldiers, and hitting northern Israeli cities with hundreds of rockets daily. Obviously, they have not begun to control or get rid of Hezbollah. Even worse, they have increased the popularity of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and probably the rest of the Muslim world as well. Before the invasion, Hezbollah was supported by about 20-30% of the Lebanese population. Now it is supported by over 80%. Yesterday, the Lebanese Prime Minister, Fuad Saniora, praised Hezbollah and thanked them for helping defend Lebanon from the Israelis. It looks like Israel has created more enemies than it has killed.

Yesterday, the Israeli's bombed a building in Lebanon, killing 60 civilians, including 34 children and 12 women. This caused worldwide outrage, and the Israeli's said they would discontinue the bombing for a 48 hour period. Less than 24 hours after saying they would stop, the Israelis again bombed southern Lebanon, saying they were just supporting ground operations. It's as if the Israelis are trying to destroy their own credibility.

Afew days ago, the Israelis bombed a U.N. outpost, killing 4 U.N. observers. Israel said the bombing was an accident, but the U.N. had called them at least 10 times, telling them their bombs were coming too close to the outpost. They kept bombing and finally hit the outpost. Why did they not stop? It has the appearance of an intentional hit on the outpost, and the U.N. is demanding an investigation. Did the Israelis not want any U.N. observers witnessing their actions in southern Lebanon?

Perhaps the most disturbing of all, is wondering if Israel is telling the truth about what started the military action. They have said they were reacting to Hezbollah coming into Israel and kidnapping 3 Isreali soldiers. However, some have said it may not have happened that way. It may be that Israel sent soldiers across the border on a mission, and three were captured. If this is true, then it was not a kidnapping at all, but a capture of invading troops.

It looks like Israel has accomplished a few things, but none of them are positive. They have increased the popularity of and support for Hezbollah. They have damaged their own credibility. With the bombing of innocent civilians, they have created more terrorists. They have turned worldwide opinion against them. Even worse, they have not accomplished their stated goals, and say at least 2-3 more weeks of war is neccessary.

Israel needs to objectively reassess what they are doing. A war that provides only negative consequences is not a war worth continuing.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

U.S. Violates Biological Weapons Treaty

In 1972, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention was created and agreed to. This treaty outlawed the creation of biological weapons. Georgie is now violating that treaty.

Georgie has authorized the creation of the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center [NBACC, pronounced EN-back] at Fort Detrick in Maryland. Every part of the center will be classified as a "highly restricted space". This classification means all activities and conversations occuring in the facility will be top secret. Nothing that goes on in this lab will be available to the American people [or anyone else]. This classification is called a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility [SCIF], and is very unusual for US facilities. Even nuclear labs are not so secret, although their computers do have SCIF classification. The facility will officially open in two years, but has already started to operate in borrowed lab space at Fort Detrick.

What are they doing in this borrowed lab? They are creating biological weapons, a clear violation of the 1972 treaty. NBACC officials have admitted that they will make biological weapons, so they can study them and assess the threat. White House officials say this doesn't violate the treaty "because U.S. motives are pure". This would indeed be a unique treaty if it included provisions for the "purity" of a nations motives, but it doesn't. The creation of biological weapons is a treaty violation regardless of the "purity" of motives.

Tara O'Toole, an advisor to the Defense Department on bioterrorism, believes the extreme secrecy may have negative consequences. She said, "We have no leverage among other nation-states if we say, 'We can do whatever we want, but you can't. We want to see your biodefense program, but you can't see ours'."

Once again, Georgie has shown the world that we cannot be trusted. He seems to think he can do whatever he wants, regardles of treaties, laws, or the Constitution. Is it any wonder that much of the world, including many of our allies, no longer trusts us?

Kinky / Bell oppose The Trans-Texas Corridor

As most of you probably already know, Rick Perry is proposing to let a foreign company build a massive tollway from the Mexican border to the Oklahoma border. For the next fifty years, this foreign company will receive all the proceeds from this tollway, even though Texas will lose millions of acres of valuable agricultural land. This tollway is a ridiculous boondoggle, and opposition to it is growing all over Texas.

Grandma has taken to attending the TTC meetings and voicing her opposition. In fact, if you read or listen to the main-stream media, you might get the impression that Grandma stands alone in her opposition [even though she has supported the TTC in the past]. Well, it is just not true! Both Kinky Friedman and Chris Bell also oppose the Trans-Texas Corridor tollway.

Here is what Democrat Chris Bell has to say about the outrageous tollway project. "Common sense tells us that awarding billion-dollar contracts to major contributers and revolving-door lobbyists just flat out smells. Common sense tells us that it doesn't pay to pave over millions of acres of some of the world's richest agricultural land. And common decency tells us that it's just plain wrong for the government to seize hundreds of square miles of private land and give it to a foreign corporation looking to make a profit on the backs of Texas commuters. 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."

Independent candidate, Kinky Friedman, also opposes the TTC. Here is what Kinky's website has to say about the TTC. "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. The people who will ultimately own that land are the same people who own the governor."

So, if you oppose the Trans-Texas Corridor, and I believe most Texans will as they learn more about it, you do not just have one choice for governor - you have three choices. It is not my intention in this post to push a certain candidate [although my readers know that I support Kinky]. I just want all voters to know that they have options in who to support in the governor's race.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Remembering The Day My Dad Got Shot

My father thought that writing about the day he got shot from my point of view might be a good companion piece to his own version, so that is what I will do. Like him, this is something that isn't exactly easy to discuss, but I believe that the time has come for our family to attempt to put this sad incident behind us.

Last September, I was called into jury duty for the first time in my life. I was told to report to the federal building in downtown Ft Worth. Since I don't have a car, my father was nice enough to give me a ride. A couple of hours into it, we were given a lunch break. My dad met me and we got a couple of Subway sandwiches and ate them in a nearby park. Seeing this as a minor milestone in my life, he was eager to hear how things were going, and I was more than happy to tell him. It was a pleasant, but short-lived lunch.

I returned to the courthouse after agreeing to call him when I was released. He told me that he was going to be at a park nearby, catching up on his reading. About three hours later, I was dismissed. Apparently, my pro-legalization of drugs stance did not impress a court that was about to try a man for possession with intent to distribute. I called my dad on the cell phone I had left with him, only to get my voicemail before it even rung. Obviously my phone had been turned off, so I paged him. Knowing that he would come to get me without bothering to call to say so, I went outside to wait. It was about 2:30 pm at that time. When, after 45 minutes, he still hadn't shown, I went back inside to page him again. Another hour - no dad. Getting mad that he would forget or ignore me, I tried again. And again. You could say I "pager-fucked" him.

Five o'clock came and went, yet I still sat outside with no ride. I called a co-worker, who said he would be there in a few minutes. I called my grandmother, hoping against hope that she had heard from him. Nope, no such luck. Another 30 minutes went by, and I called up to work again, only to hear another co-worker tell me that the guy coming to get me was actually on his way to the federal courthouse in Dallas. Not good. I called my cousin to come get me.

By the time my cousin showed up at 6:30, I was in a small state of panic. In 24 years of life, my father had never stood me up. Never. Something had to be amiss. I didn't know what park he had planned to go to, so I had my cousin take me to the one that we had lunched at hours before. Not a single person was there. Not knowing what to do, we came back to Euless, hoping (but knowing better) to find him preparing for his beloved Cowboys game. My brother was the only one at home. I informed him of the situation, and the three of us immediately went to our grandmother's house.

When the game started and we still hadn't heard from him, I went into a full state of panic. This went against everything I knew of my dad. He never missed the Cowboys. My cousin started calling jails, while I called local hospitals. We were asking about him by name, and when that didn't help, we asked about any John Doe's. None in jails, none in hospitals.

At a total loss of what to do, I called my boss (and good friend) Roc. When he picked up the phone, I lost every bit of cool I had. Sobbing, I told him what was going on. He told me to see if I could file a missing persons' report. My brother volunteered to walk the block to the police station to see what could be done, while my cousin started calling car impound lots.

At about 8:45, we got a call from a hospital (one that I had already called twice) saying that my dad was doing okay, but was in the ICU. I was so excited to finally know where he was that I forgot to ask why he was there. We waited for my brother to return, and then headed to Harris Methodist hospital near downtown Ft Worth.

As we pulled into the hospital, we noticed 2 TV News crews doing some sort of report. We joked that they must be here about dad. Little did we know, they were really there to report on that incident! When we asked to see our father, we were immediately questioned and ID'd by several police officers, who refused to tell us anything. At 11 pm, we were finally permitted to see him.

I had never in my life seen my father in the hospital, so seeing him unconsious with tubes coming out of him was extremely unpleasant. That was when we were told that he had been shot in the stomach. I hit the floor, my brother excused himself, and my cousin turned white as a sheet.

Could this really be true? How could this happen to the most nonviolent member of our family? This was the man who had talked every one of his children, neices, and nephews out of committing jailable offenses. This was the man who had made sure we had our voter's registrations - and used them. Here, this lump on a hospital bed, was the man who bent over backwards to put food in our mouths, a roof over our heads, and education into our brains.

All over a 1995 oldsmobile. How fucked up is that?

As my dad stated in the post before this, this guy committed many crimes that day. Two other people got the joys of facing his gun, and luckily they suffered no physical injuries. He wrecked into another car, hospitalizing both of the people in it. He fought the police, ultimately getting himself tasered. They found hard drugs, brass knuckles, and the gun he shot my dad with. Oh, and he was already on probation. This asshole made it very clear that he is unsafe to the general public.

The trial is next week, and it couldn't have come sooner. Our family has waited almost a year to put this behind us.

I do want to thank a few people before I end this post. Both sides of our family came through for us like champions, making us realize how lucky we are to have them. My father's co-workers were great. They made it very clear that if we need anything at all, they would get it done. My boss, Roc, and my co-workers came together to create the support network, giving us anything we needed to get through his recovery. Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank my best friend, Jennifer (Little Red), who held us all up throughout the entire ordeal. She's come through for me so many times now that I honestly don't know where I'd be without her.

The love shown by those around us showed how wealthy we really are. I don't think our family will ever forget it.

Remembering The Day I Was Shot

Next Tuesday, August 1st, a member of the Aryan Brotherhood goes on trial in Fort Worth for Aggravated Robbery With Serious Bodily Injury. I was the victim of his crime. I have never really discussed this except with close family members, but with the trial looming, maybe it is time to tell the story. Who knows, it may even be therapeutic.

The date was September 19, 2006 and it was a sunny summer day in Fort Worth. I had taken my daughter downtown, because she had been called for jury duty in a federal case. It was only in the low 90's that day [which is pretty good for Texas in the summer], so instead of driving the nearly 20 miles home to wait for her, I decided to go to a nearby city park instead.

I drove to Oakhurst Park near the Trinity River, found an empty picnic table, and sat down to read the Walter Mosley novel "Big Bad Brawley Brown". I had read for approximately an hour, when this guy comes up to where I was sitting. He was breathing hard and trying to catch his breath, and said to me, "I can't breath." Thinking he may be having a heart attack or something, I picked up my cellphone to possibly call 911. Suddenly he grabbed my car keys, which were on the table beside me. I quickly grabbed them back, and he took a step back, reached under his shirt, and pulled a gun out of his waistband.

He didn't say a thing. He just shot without aiming, and hit me in the stomach. Then he grabbed my keys again and drove off in my car, leaving me lying there on the table. I vividly remember two thoughts that popped into my mind at that time. The first was, "Damn, he's killed me", and the second was, "I thought I would die of cancer like my father had."

I realized if I just lay there, I would die for sure. So, I pulled myself up and started to walk to the street, about thirty yards away. I got about halfway, when my legs just buckled and I fell. At that moment a pickup pulled up and a man jumped out saying, "Are you OK?" I answered, "No. I've been shot." He replied, "I've already called 911 and they're on the way." I learned later that he had been across the park, and had seen the whole thing. This good samaritan stayed with me until the police and ambulance had arrived. I believe this gentleman saved my life.

The Fort Worth police officers arrived a couple of minutes later, and the ambulance was only a couple of minutes behind that. I want to praise both the police and the EMT's. They got there quickly and performed their jobs professionally. When I arrived at the hospital, I was met by a surgeon, who immediately wheeled me into an elevator to take me to the operating room. I asked him, "Am I going to live?" He answered, "I won't know until I see how much damage has been done inside you." Then a nurse stuck a needle in my arm, and I went out like a light. I don't even remember leaving the elevator.

I have never been so thrilled to wake up, as I was a few hours later in Intensive Care. My daughter and my son were there, and they tell me the first question I asked was, "Did the Cowboys win?." The Cowboys had been scheduled to play on the day I was shot. As you can see, I am a huge Dallas Cowboy fan. Since their start in 1960, I have never missed a Cowboys game, either in person, on TV, or on the radio. To this day, I think I resent him making me miss the Cowboys game more than I resent him shooting me. My second question was, "Did they save my book?" I am an avid reader and love all books [except those written by Ann Coulter, of course].

My recovery took about two and a half months, and involved a second hospital stay [the wound got infected]. I returned to work on November 30, 2006. At this point, I would like to praise the Attorney General's Crime Victim Compensation Fund. Without their help, I would have been financially ruined, and probably homeless as well.

I learned later that my assailant had been running from the police. Tarrant County officers had tried to arrest him, and he got into his pickup and left. The officers did not chase him [their car did not have the neccessary siren and flashing lights]. However, he did not know they had broken off the chase. He had wrecked his pickup a couple of blocks from where I was sitting in the park, and was looking for another vehicle when he saw me. He later stole two other vehicles and tried to steal a third. Fortunately, he did not shoot anyone else. Fort Worth police officers caught him later that same day.

Well, that's the story. The trial starts next Tuesday, and I'll have to testify in both the guilt and penalty phases of the trial. The D.A. says the trial will only last 2-3 days. I'm glad. I'll be very happy to get this whole thing behind me.

I Left The Union Today

A few months ago, I joined a state employees union. I'm not sure why. The union doesn't even have the power to strike. The power to strike is the only real power a union has. In fact, I've wondered if it really is a union since it has no power. Is it just a social club that gets to beg the legislature for a raise every two years?

But I joined. I think I felt I owed it to those great union leaders of the past, who did so much good in this country. I'm not anti-union. I believe without unions, this country would be much worse off.

Yesterday, I received the union newsletter, and it took that tiny tome only seconds to end my affiliation with the union. It seems the union's executive board, composed of 12 not-too-bright individuals, has decided the thousands of union members now "proudly endorses Strayhorn for Governor". I was horrified. I had no idea the union would be endorsing anyone in the governors race. There was no poll of the membership.

I immediately sat down and wrote the union asking, no, demanding that they remove me from their membership roll. I cannot be a member of any organization that would support such a bad candidate. I will not have my name on any list of supporters of Grandma. I find her every bit as incompetent and offensive as Rick Perry.

It was bad enough that the union was powerless. Now they want to be powerless and stupid. It was just too much, so I am no longer a union member. I'm not proud of that. It's just the way it has to be for now.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Repubs Play Games With Minimum Wage

It wasn't bad enough that Republicans refused to allow a vote on raising the minimum wage, while giving themselves raises of thousands of dollars. Now they are saying they want to have a vote on raising the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour. Don't start thinking the repubs all of a sudden want to help ordinary citizens. No, they are just trying to help their rich buddies and save their own skins.

They have tied the minimum wage raise to a cut in inheritance taxes. This is just a back-door way to give their rich donors even more tax benefits. They still will not support the minimum wage unless it is tied to tax give-aways for the rich. A few pennies for working folk - millions for the already obnoxiously rich. I guess they think workers are too stupid to see what they are doing.

But they don't just want to help the rich. They also are trying to help themselves. They have visions of Democrats on the campaign trail comparing Congress' raise to denying workers a decent minimum wage raise. They know that such a comparison will cost them a ton of votes in November.

Democrats should not be fooled into believing this new bill is a good thing. It's only purposes are to help the rich and save repub butts. Democrats should oppose this bill and work to defeat it. After the November elections, newly elected Democrats can pass a minimum wage without the garbage attached.

Secret Service Agent Arrested In Waco

Evidently, this government employee thinks he can act like Georgie, and obey only the laws he wants to obey. At a bar & grill in downtown Waco early friday morning, Secret Service agent John Scott Lewis was being rude to the other customers. Finally, the manager asked him to leave. Scott refused, and began to argue with the manager. It looked to other employees like Lewis was trying to pick a fight with the manager, so they called upon a couple of Waco officers moonlighting nearby.

When the officers arrived at the bar, they also thought Lewis was trying to pick a fight, and finally talked him into leaving. But as he was leaving, he hit the door so hard he damaged it. The Waco officers then tried to arrest Lewis, but he began fighting and ignoring their verbal commands. They finally had to Taser him to get him under control and arrest him.

Lewis was booked into the McLennan County Jail on three charges - public intoxication, resisting arrest, and reckless damage to property. He was released later on $1000 bond. Mark Lowery, in charge of the Dallas office [which oversees Waco], would not comment on the charges, but verified Lewis' employment with the agency. Lowery said, "Generally speaking, we want to emphasize that we take such situations very seriously and it will be investigated."

This is the kind of thing that happens with a lack of leadership, and Georgie has been a really poor leader. He has ignored laws and he has broken laws. In general, he has given the impression that officials can make their own rules. It is only natural that other government employees might start to think they are also immune to the legal system.


Texas Power Plants Among Worst Polluters

Thursday, the Enviornmental Integrity Project released a report on power plant pollution, using the federal government's own emissions data. Texas has lots of plants high on the list. Texas' worst showing was for mercury emissions, which is released into the air when the plants burn coal. Mercury is a powerful nerve poison that builds up in fish and other parts of the enviornment. It is especially dangerous for pregnant women and children.

It turns out that five of the top ten plants with the most total mercury emissions are in Texas. In fact, Texas has the number one polluter - TXU's Martin Lake plant located south of Longview. This plant, and others in Texas with high mercury emissions, burn lignite coal, which has more mercury than coal from other regions.

Texas also has the number one plant in mercury emission rate, which is the amount of emissions per power generated. This was American Electric Power's Pirkey plant, which is also near Longview. This plant produced 219 pounds of mercury for each million megawatt-hour of electricity generated.

But mercury is not the only problem emission from Texas power plants. Five of the top fifty carbon dioxide polluters are in Texas. Carbon dioxide is believed to be one of the major causes of global warming. The number five polluter in this country is TXU's Martin Lake plant, and the number six is NRG Energy's Parish plant in Fort Bend county.

This study only included plants that are already operating. The 16 new coal-burning units that will be built in Texas in the next three to five years are not included. Governor Perry has put these plant on a "fast-track permit", which cuts the review period in half. All three of Perry's opponents in the governors race have criticized Perry's move, and all three have promised to crack down on pollution from power plants.

A TXU spokesman said that TXU would decrease pollution by 20%, even after eleven new power plants are completed near the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Tom Smith, Public Citizen's director in Texas, disagrees. He said TXU and others building coal-burning plants in Texas would dramatically increase emissions of greenhouse gases. He estimated the new plants would increase carbon dioxide emissions by 115 million tons per year. This would equal the emissions from 20 million cars.

Well, there you have it. Texas is already one of the worst polluters, and they're fixing to add 16 new coal-burning plants. I can't believe the companies want us to believe the pollution will go down after adding these plants. They must think we are complete idiots! That's like letting the fox bring some of his fox friends to guard the hen-house, and telling everyone the chickens are safer because there are more guards. More coal-burning plants means more pollution. It is as simple as that.

Did America's Tour de France Winner Cheat?

I am just sick about this. After riding one of the great Tour de France efforts, and coming home wearing the Yellow Jersey, Tour winner Floyd Landis has been accused of cheating. The International Cycling Union has notified Landis and his team, Phonak, that he tested positive for abnormally high levels of testosterone. Team Phonak has suspended Landis.

Landis says he doesn't know why he tested high for testosterone, and denied any cheating. He has requested that his backup sample be tested. If the backup sample also tests positive, then Phonak has said they would terminate Landis' contract, and his Tour win would be taken from him. The second place winner, Oscar Pereiro, would be declared the winner.

Personally, I don't think Floyd Landis took any steriods, or cheated in any way. But I can understand why someone might think otherwise. The sad part is even if Landis is able to clear his name, there will always be some who believe he is guilty. Just look at all the accusations directed at Lance Armstrong, who has never tested positive for a banned substance. For now, all we can do is wait for the results of the second test.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Oil Companies Set Price-Gouging Record

Looking at the price of gasoline at the pump, we should have expected this. Four of the top five oil companies have released their profit figures for the second quarter of 2006, and the figures are outrageous. Here are the figures:

Exxon Mobil.....$10 billion.....36% increase over last year

Royal Dutch Shell.....$7.3 billion.....40% increase

BP.....7.3 billion.....30% increase

ConocoPhillips.....5.18 billion.....65% increase

Remember, these are profit totals. Expenses have already been deducted. And these figures are for only a three month time period. Just to bring the point home, lets break down these figures further. Listed below is the amount of pure profit each of these companies makes in a single minute:

Exxon Mobil..........$77,160 every minute of the day

Royal Dutch Shell..........$56,327 every minute

BP..........$56,327 every minute

ConocoPhillips..........$39,969 every minute

To say these figures are outrageous is an understatement. This is price-gouging. Is there anyone but oil company officials, that thinks these figures represent a fair and equitable profit? With these kind of enormous profits, why is gasoline costing us over $3 a gallon? There is only one answer. The oil companies know that with Georgie and the other oilmen running this country, they can get away with charging anything they want. Fairness doesn't enter the equation. These are old-fashioned, steal every penny you can capitalists.

We have got to get Republicans out of leadership positions, and replace them with people the caliber of David Van Os. The other states might still suffer, but if we elect Van Os and some of his buddies, things can still be set right in Texas. Van Os has already promised that going after big oil companies would be one of his first actions after he is elected. Don't be surprised if the oil companies pour enormous amouts of money into the campaign coffers of Abbott and his Republican friends. They can certainly afford it!

Grandma Loses / Texas Open Meetings Act Challenged

Well, it looks like "Grandma" won't be on the Texas ballot this November. Carole Strayhorn had taken the Texas Secretary of State to court to try and get herself listed as "Grandma" on the ballot. Thursday, Judge Suzanne Covington ruled that she does not have the juristiction to hear Strayhorn's case. The ruling allows the Secretary of State's decision to stand.

Grandma's attorney, Roy Minton, said he would appeal the judge's ruling to a state appellate court. He believes the appellate court will say the judge does have juristiction. Grandma did not discuss the legalities of the case, but said, "I'm not a slogan; I'm Grandma."

Update - The Dallas Morning News is now reporting that Grandma has dropped the lawsuit. Think she figured out she was becoming the joke of the election?


In other legal news, US District Judge Robert Junell heard arguments Wednesday in a case challenging the Texas Open Meetings Act. The law, which was enacted in 1967, is being challenged by Alpine City Councilman Avinash Rangra and former Alpine City Council member, Anna Monclova. The two were arrested in the Fall of 2004 for sending each other e-mails about city business. The law says city business must be conducted in a meeting open to the public. The charges were dropped in 2005.

Judge Junell has given the parties until late September to file any additional pleadings.

This is a tough one. The law may be being interpreted too broadly in some parts of Texas, but prosecutions are rare. In fact, this case was eventually dropped. I hope the law survives the judicial challenge. This law is in the best interests of the citizens of Texas.

Cindy Sheehan Buys Land In Crawford, Texas

Cindy Sheehan says she has used some of the insurance money from her son's death to buy a 5 acre plot of land in Crawford, Texas. The Gold Star Families for Peace will be protesting Georgie's warmongering from August 16th through September 2nd. Sheehan's purchase of the land will give the demonstrators a place to gather.

Last year, the protesters had to stand in ditches around Crawford to demonstrate, until a local citizen, Mark Mattlage, allowed them to use a 1 acre plot of land belonging to his family. Mr. Mattlage did not agree with the protesters, but allowed them to use the land so no one would get hurt using the ditches. Mr. Mattlage is owed a debt of thanks for being a good American and looking out for his fellow citizens.

This year, they are expecting a larger crowd, and the liability insurance rose sharply [from around $800 to around $6000]. Rather than pay the new insurance costs, Sheehan used some of her insurance money to buy the 5 acre plot of land. Sheehan said, "We decided to buy property in Crawford to use until George's resignation or impeachment, which we all hope is soon for the sake of the world. I can't think of a better way to use Casey's insurance money than for peace, and I am sure that Casey approves."

The peace vigil will start on August 16th. For further information, you can go to the Gold Star Families for Peace website.

My Take On The Yates Trial

The second trial of Andrea Yates is now over, and she was found "not guilty by reason of insanity". She will now be sent to a state hospital to await her release. I have heard a couple of people say she will spend the rest of her life in a mental hospital. This is just not true. The presiding judge could send her home tomorrow, if he wanted to. She will be out on the streets again in a few years.

Personally, I thought she should have been found guilty. Many are celebrating now because poor Andrea will get the help she needs. I find this sickening. Andrea Yates is NOT the victim in this case, her children are. This woman brutally and viciously murdered five innocent children. She should never be allowed within arm's reach of another child the rest of her life. I don't care if she's insane or not, she should be locked up for the rest of her life.

But Andrea Yates is not the only one guilty in this case. There is also the matter of her husband. What the hell was this cretin thinking? He knew she had psychological problems after the first child. Shouldn't this have been taken care of before they had four more children? He just kept piling the pressure on his wife, child after child. Then he decides that she doesn't have enough to do, and makes her home school the children. He had chances to lessen her burden and address her illness, but did nothing. He must accept his share of the blame.

I believe the wacko right-wing fundamentalist version of christianity should get part of the blame also. In the last couple of years, about a half dozen mothers have killed their children in this part of our country. All of them were trying to send their children to heaven, including one woman who chopped her daughter's arms off. I'm not talking about mainstream christianity here, but the extremist elements of the religion. Somehow, these groups take the religion of peace and hope, and find plenty of room in it for guilt and hatred.

Maybe I'm just a mean old man, but this is just happening too often in our country. I guess it is good that Yeats will get treatment, but why couldn't we give her treatment AND lock her up for the rest of her life. There are five innocent children dead because of her, her husband, and their extremist view of religion.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Irish Protesters / TABC Screwups

These two items have absolutely nothing to do with each other, but I find them interesting and I'm too lazy to do two posts, so here they are:


A jury in Dublin, Ireland has acquitted 5 protesters who admitted attacking a US Navy plane with hammers and an ax. At Shannon Airport, which is used by the US as a refueling station between the US and Iraq, the protesters attacked and damaged the plane, and then set up a "peace shrine" beside it. They were arrested and charged with "causing damage without lawful excuse". This was their third trial. The first two ended in mistrials.

The five protesters said they were defending Irish neutrality. They believe that neutrality is threatened by the US military using Shannon Airport. The protesters said they thought they could save lives in Iraq by damaging the plane. Under Irish law, property can be damaged to save a life. The jury bought the argument and found them not guilty. As the five left the courtroom, they were cheered by hundreds of supporters. The US Navy said about $2.5 million in damages were done to the plane.

Doesn't look like the US government is too popular in Ireland right now. After 5 confessions and three trials, they still couldn't get a conviction. I bet it would be the same nearly anywhere in Europe. Georgie has made us very unpopular over there.


For the last few years, the Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission has been seizing adult materials from establishments selling alcohol. They believed they were justified, because Texas has a law banning the sale of obscene materials where alcohol is sold. On monday, a federal judge disagreed.

This practice violates constitutionally-protected free speech, according to US District Judge Gray Miller. Miller issued a permenent injunction stopping the seizures. In his opinion, Miller wrote, "The TABC may not simply designate materials 'obscene', and then proceed from that untested premise. The law demands a judicial interpretation that this designation is accurate."

Miller also declared the law unconstitutional, because it is too vague, and may include non-obscene erotic movies and books. Miller said, "It cuts a wide and broad swath across territory covered by the first amendment."

I applaud the decision of Judge Miller. It is time that someone reined in the actions of the TABC.


Grand Jury Slams Texas Ethics Commission

The 390th Travis County Grand Jury has issued a two page report criticizing the Texas Ethics Commission. This Grand Jury has spent the last eight months investigating public corruption. The report says public officials in Texas are able to hide sources of income and conflicts of interest by simply calling themselves "consultants". Because of this, at least one investigation into "obvious misconduct" by a state official was thwarted [they did not name the official].

The Grand Jury said in its report, "We have become aware, then outraged by the 'loopholes' and 'vagueness' which seem to be common for self-serving legislative laws and codes." They went on to say, "It is incredible that the District Attorney's office is thwarted in their efforts to prosecute public officials because they are allowed to hide behind the lax and vague codes of the Texas Ethics Commission. In light of the fact that the oversight power of this commission has been granted, and is in the hands of legislative appointees, we question whether it is really an independent, non-partisan, and effective agent for the enforcement of public officials." The report concluded that the Texas Legislature should seriously consider doing away with the commission. It called the commission a "waste of taxpayers' money".

The unnamed official with "obvious misconduct", told the Grand Jury that the Ethics Commission told him he did not have to list the sources of his income as long as he put "consultant" on his disclosure form. The Executive Director of the Ethics Commission appeared before the Grand Jury and verified that this was true.

I must admit that this confuses me. Exactly what is the point of a "disclosure form" if no one has to disclose anything on it? Was it just a public relations move to make the voters think something had been done? The Grand Jury is absolutely right. If the commission will not require full disclosure, Texas should stop wasting the taxpayers' money and eliminate the commission. As Craig McDonald of Texans for Public Justice said, "Clearly, the [Ethics Commission] is designed to be a toothless watchdog when it comes to enforcement."

Sen. Hutchison Votes With Right-Wing [Again]

Once again, as the campaign season gets cranked up, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's forces are trying to label her as a moderate. They've been able to get away with this in the past by pointing out that Hutchison is pro-choice. At least she says she's pro-choice. Her voting record in the Senate says something else. Every time another bill to restrict abortions comes up in the Senate, Hutchison votes for it. The right-wing realizes it cannot, at this time, overturn Roe v. Wade, so they are restricting the right a little bit at a time.

Tuesday, they did it again. The Senate passed a bill that would make it illegal to transport a girl across state lines to get an abortion, without first notifying the girl's parents. This must be done, even if the parents are abusive or neglectful. Democrats tried to get an exception for clergy, grandparents, or confidants that a girl with abusive parents might turn to, but were unable to do so. Sen. Hilary Clinton [D-New York] said, "We're going to sacrifice at lot of girls' lives." Sen. Edward Kennedy [D-Massachusetts] agreed saying, "Congress ought to have higher priorities than turning grandparents into criminals."

So how did our "pro-choice" Senator Hutchison vote? Against the pro-choice position, of course. Only four Republicans voted against the bill, and she was not one of them. When are Texas voters going to realize that Kay Bailey Hutchison cannot be trusted. She may sound like a moderate when she's campaigning, but she always votes with the radical right-wing.

The sad part is that it looks like she may get re-elected, even though her opponent, Barbara Radnofsky, is an excellent and highly qualified candidate. According to the latest Rasmussen Poll, Radnofsky is traling Hutchison by a whopping 27 points. Here is the poll:

Kay Bailey Hutchison...............58%
Barbara Radnofsky...............31%
other/undecided...............11%

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

New Poll Confuses The Issue In Texas

The Burnt Orange Report has the results of the newest Rasmussen Poll on the Texas governor's race, and it does tend to confuse the issue of just where the candidates stand right now. This poll puts Grandma in second place and drops Bell down to fourth. The Zogby Poll, released a couple of days ago, put Bell in second place and dropped Grandma to fourth. The two polls pretty much agree on the figures for Kinky and Perry. Here are both polls:

Rasmussen Poll
Perry....................40%
Grandma....................20%
Kinky....................19%
Bell....................13%

Zogby Poll
Perry....................38.3%
Bell....................20.8%
Kinky....................20.7%
Grandma....................11.0%

Once again, Perry's numbers are way too high. If they don't start coming down pretty soon, this race is over. It's time for Kinky, Bell, and Grandma [and their supporters] to stop attacking each other, and concentrate on getting Perry's numbers down. After all, there are no awards given for second place in this race.

I am hoping the Trans-Texas Corridor boondoggle will put a dent in Perry's support [nothing else seems to]. All three of his opponents need to hammer on this and see if it can get some traction, since all three have come out against the TTC. Opposition to the TTC is growing. We must make sure this translates into opposition to Perry.

Is Grandma Ethically-Challenged ?

The Austin American-Statesman has a story today about questionable donations to Comptroller Grandma Strayhorn's campaign for governor. Back in June, an attorney, Mark Eidman, and a tax consultant, G. Brint Ryan, met with an official in the state Comptroller's office. It is not known for sure what was discussed, but both men represent clients challenging state taxes collected by the Comptroller's office. By the end of June, these men and their cohorts had given $404,500 to Grandma's campaign.

The official who met with the generous duo, Tim Mashburn, was quick to say campaign donations were not mentioned in the meeting. Mashburn said, "It was kind of an innocuous meeting. I have an open-door policy. Anyone who calls and comes by is going to get to talk to me."

The Chris Bell campaign had a different take on the matter. Bell thinks the meeting and subsequent donations may point to political abuses in the Comptroller's office. Bell campaign spokesman, Jason Sanford, said, "Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's right. You shouldn't take money from people you regulate. It's unethical."

The Texas State Auditor's Office has reported that more than 750 taxpayers received $461 million in tax credits and refunds from the Comptroller's office less than a year after they donated to Grandma's campaign. Is Grandma financing her campaign with taxpayer dollars? It sure looks that way. This may just be innocent coincidence, but it has the rancid smell and appearance of graft. The Auditor's have recommended that lawmakers should prohibit any donations to the Comptroller or Comptroller candidates by anyone who represents taxpayers. This sounds like a good idea to me.

This couldn't come at a worse time for Grandma's campaign. Just yesterday, a poll came out that showed she had dropped to 11% support. These kind of ethical questions could destroy her campaign.

Texas: 1st In Wind Power / May Get New Coal Plant

The American Wind Energy Association is announcing today that Texas is the leading state in wind energy production. California has led the nation for the last 25 years, but this year Texas' wind energy production capacity went up 19%, making it the leader. Wind energy in Texas currently produces 2370 megawatts, or enough energy to power 600,000 homes.

The AWEA said four wind projects were built in Texas this year, and three more are under construction. The completed projects are in Taylor, Borden, Garza, and Scurry counties. Most Texas counties are pleased to get wind power projects, but not all. Many folks in Cooke County are opposing the plan to build a project near Muenster. They say it would change rural views and create an "industrial junkyard".

A wind-powered plant costs more to build per megawatt hour than coal or gas plants, but the fuel is free, so it costs much less to run the plants.


Coal-fired power plants are also making Texas news. The U.S. Department of Energy today picked 4 sites as finalists for building a $1 billion prototype of a clean-burning coal-fired power plant. Two of the finalists are in Texas, and the other two are in Illinois. The Texas sites picked as finalists are Odessa and Jewett. A final decision on a site is expected next year, and they hope to have the plant operating by 2012.

The 275 megawatt power plant will have technology that converts coal into enriched hydrogen gas, which burns cleaner than coal. They also plan to capture most of the carbon dioxide and "sequester" it permanently in underground reservoirs.

So far, Texas has spent $2 million choosing its sites. Texas has offered another $20 million to help with infrastructure or development.

More Proof Of A Poor Economy

The US economy is growing. Corporate profits are outrageous, and we are told unemployment is low. Why then, does a large majority of Americans disapprove of the way Georgie is handling the economy? It's easy to understand why the working-class is unhappy. There has not been a raise in the minimum wage in ages. While many of these salaries are above the minimum wage, all of them are based on and affected by the minimum wage.

But what about the college-educated workers? Aren't they doing great? In a word, NO. White House economists now admit that wage stagnation is hitting those with bachelor's degrees. After adjusting for inflation, earnings for workers with a four-year degree have fallen 5.2% between 2000 and 2004. About 30 million Americans have four-year degrees.

The Economic Policy Institute says degreed workers have not seen a prolonged slump in wages since the 1970's. In fact, between 1995 and 2000, wages for degreed workers rose 12%. When wages declined in the 1970's, it was because of the flood of baby-boomers entering the job market. Now the causes are different.

One major cause is outsourcing. Companies are shifting many white-collar and salaried jobs overseas to countries like India. Northeastern University economist, Paul Harrington, says this is what has happened to nearly half of the 6.5 million jobs created since 2001. Harrington also looked at the growth rate of salaried jobs. During the last five economic recoveries, there was an average increase of degreed jobs of 11.5%. The current job growth is 2.5%. Currently, about 15% of degreed workers are working "gray collar" jobs, beneath their skill and education level. Prior to 2001, it was 10%.

But the news gets worse. Some economists believe wage stagnation could be permanent for degreed workers. Richard Freeman, Harvard University economist, says degreed workers will continue to experience wage erosion because of the global labor market.

The corporations have to be loving this. Even the jobs they don't outsource have the threat of outsourcing and therefore the wages are kept artificially low. In Georgie's America, the rich are making more money than ever before, while the poor and middle-class make less. Many today are spending thousands to get a college degree, only to find that the job they were training for has been outsourced to another country.

Here are the current average salaries for the different education levels:

College graduates....................$51,206
High school graduates....................$27,915
No high school diploma....................$18,734

Monday, July 24, 2006

A.B.A. Says Georgie Violated The Constitution

Since he assumed office, Georgie has been adding attachments [or bill-signing statements] to the bills he signs into law. The attachments say Georgie reserves a right to revise, interpret or disregard altogether the laws he signs, on either national security or constitutional grounds. Georgie has issued some 800 of these attachments [all other presidents put together only had 600].

The American Bar Association created a task force to investigate the practice. This task force was composed of a blue-ribbon panel, and included:

* Neal Sonnet - former Miami prosecutor
* William Sessions - former FBI director
* Patricia Wald - former chief judge of US Court of Appeals for District of Columbia
* Mickey Edwards - former Republican representative
* Bruce Fein - former Reagan administration lawyer
* With several other attorneys and law school professors

The task force said Georgie had overstepped his authority and violated the Constitution by signing these attachments. These attachments give the impression that the president will not enforce all laws, but only those with which he agrees. ABA president, Michael Greco, said, "The report raises serious concerns crucial to the survival of our democracy. If left unchecked, the president's practice does grave harm to the seperation of powers doctrine, and the system of checks and balances that have sustained our democracy for more than two centuries."

The report said that President Reagan was first to use the attachments as a "strategic weapon". He was encouraged to do so by an administration lawyer named Samuel Alito, who Georgie put on the Supreme Court.

The ABA said they would decide what action they would take on this matter at their annual meeting in Hawaii next month. I really don't know what there is to decide. If he violated the Constitution, there is only one remedy. HE SHOULD BE IMPEACHED - NOW!

Kinky Does Well In New Poll - Grandma Doesn't

The Wall Street Journal published a new Zogby Poll on the Texas governor's race today. I said about a month ago that I thought Grandma would start to fade in the polls, and it looks like it is happening. I'm just surprised at how fast and far she's already falling. Here are the new Zogby numbers:

Rick Perry...............38.3%

Chris Bell...............20.8%

Kinky Friedman...............20.7%

Carole Strayhorn...............11.0%

Undecided...............9.2%

Of course, these numbers were probably gathered before the Trans-Texas Corridor fight started to make news in the last few days. Strayhorn has been hitting this topic hard, but we'll have to wait to see if it will help her. After all, Kinky and Bell are also opposed to the TTC.

The worry is that Perry's numbers are still too high. In a four-way race, 38.3% is very probably a winning margin. I believe as opposition to the TTC grows, Perry's numbers will start to shrink. I certainly hope so.

Bell and Kinky are running neck and neck, and have been for about a month. And they're doing it on a shoestring budget. Grandma has raised huge amounts of money, but only comes in with 11.0%. How embarrassing.

Olbermann Has A New Bitch

We all know how Bill O'Reilly loves to attack his opponents on his show, especially if they are not there to fight back. I've often wondered if he was that gutless away from the cameras. I now know. Little Billy is a coward whether on camera or not.

It's no secret that Keith Olbermann of MSNBC and little Billy have an on-air feud going. Little Billy has attacked Olbermann with lies and distortions, and continues to do so. Olbermann fights back with truth and humor. At least 15 times, Olbermann has declared in a humorous segment, that little Billy is the "worst person in the world." I would have thought that by putting these two in the same room, a fight would have to commence, at least verbally. It looks like I was wrong.

When Olbermann met with television critics at their summer meeting, he was asked about an event last November where he and little Billy attended the same function. They both attended a charity fundraiser hosted by New York Yankee's manager Joe Torre. Olbermann told the critics, "He never got within twenty feet of me. I swear to God, every time I looked up, he would suddenly look down. He was staring over at me. But we're about the same height, so I really don't think he's going to come talk to me. If I were about a foot shorter, I'm sure there would be a confrontation of some sort."

Looks like little Billy is too cowardly to face an opponent. On the street, they'd say little Billy "got punked" and is now Olbermann's "bitch". Treat him gently, Keith. He's got three strikes against him - stupidity, dishonesty, and cowardice.

Now I must go wait for my call from Fox's Security Department!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Kinky's Donations Are Small But Many

Paul Burka over at Burkablog has an interesting post on Kinky Friedman's list of large contributors. It turns out that Kinky only has three people who have given him substantial donations, and two of them are his long-time friends. The donors and their amounts are:

Barbara H. Bowman, San Antonio, medical research, $75,000
John McCall, Spicewood, beauty supplies, $225,000 [old friend]
Mark Shurley, Fredericksburg, attorney, $51,200 [old friend]

Kinky raised $1.55 million in the last election reporting period, almost all of it in small donations. About half of the donations came via the internet:

sales of merchandise [T-shirts, bumper stickers, etc.] - $515,000
online donations - $241,000

Burka quotes a Kinky staffer as saying, "The other candidates get thousands from a special few. We get a few dollars from thousands of special people."

Later in the year, Willie Nelson , Jimmy Buffet, and others will be giving concerts to raise money for Kinky. Kinky is not tied to any corporate or monied interests. The support he gets comes from ordinary citizens, and they are the only people he must answer to. If you would like to donate to Kinky, you can access his website here, or on our blogroll.

The Victoria Advocate online newspaper is currently running an unscientific online poll asking the question, "If you had to decide between Rick Perry and Kinky Friedman for Texas governor, who would you vote for?" Here are the results so far:

Rick Perry..........16%
Kinky Friedman..........84%
1456 total votes

Doesn't look like Perry has much support down south. I think with the Tran-Texas Corridor opposition picking up steam, we're going to start seeing Perry's numbers going down all over the state. I believe Perry has misjudged the public's adamant opposition to his tollway boondoggle. This issue may well change the dynamics of the race, and give Perry's opponents a boost. I think Kinky will come out on top. What do you think?

American Wins 2006 Tour de France

The 2006 Tour de France is over, and for the eighth year in a row, the winner is an American. This year it's Californian, Floyd Landis. Landis entered Paris with a 59 second lead, and just played it safe by staying at the front of the Peloton. The actual winner of today's stage was Thor Hushovd [Norway-Agricole], while Robbie McEwen [Australia-Lotto] finished second, and Stuart O'Grady [Australia-CSC] finished third.

Here are the final winners of the 2006 Tour de France:

American Floyd Landis won the Yellow Jersey as the best overall rider. Floyd rode for the Swiss team Phonak, and finished the 3657.1 kilometers in 89 hours, 39 minutes, 30 seconds. Congratulations Floyd!!!!!!!!!!

The German T-mobile team won the team championship, finishing over 17 minutes ahead of the second place team.

The Polka-Dot Jersey, given to the best climber, was won by Mickael Rasmussen from Denmark. He rode for team Rabobank.

The Green Jersey, given to the best sprinter, was won by Australian Robbie McEwen, of the Davitamon-Lotto team.

The White Jersey, given to the best young rider, was won by Damiano Cunego from Italy. He rode for the Lampre-Fondital team, and finished the Tour in 89 hours, 58 minutes, 49 seconds.

Well, the 2006 Tour de France is over now, and it was a great one. It went down to the next-to-last day before we knew who would be the winner. I appreciate you readers putting up with my Tour posts, as it is a weakness of mine. The good news is it'll be a year before I do it again.

TAKS Test Cheating Probe Not Going Well

Last year, a consulting firm named Caveon was hired by the Texas Education Agency to check for cheating on the state's TAKS test. They ran all the test scores through a sophisticated computer program. This resulted in a list of 442 schools being labeled as possible cheaters in a report given to the TEA. The TEA notified the 442 schools and asked each school to investigate.

Many principals have since complained, saying they have not been given enough information to base an investigation on. They want information on what classrooms and what individuals are suspected. The TEA has told them that they do not have that information. They said it was never given to them by Caveon. Caveon received at least $500,000 to do the survey, and their contract expired in February. Caveon said they had met their obligations, and any further information provided would require a new contract.

The Dallas Morning News did some really good investigative work, and came up with the contract between Caveon and the TEA. The contract says, "Consultant agrees that all Works are, upon creation, works made for hire and the sole property of TEA." The contract went on to state, "Consultant hereby assigns to TEA all worldwide ownership rights, including the Intellectual Property Rights, in the Works, without the neccessity of any further consideration."

Surely the TEA has a copy of this contract. Why haven't they demanded that Caveon live up to the contract, and provide the neccessary information? Take them to court if they refuse. After all, the people of Texas have already paid for the information, they should be able to access it.

But that's not all the Dallas Morning News discovered. They have found evidence that the actual number of schools suspected of cheating was 609 and not 442. None of the extra 167 schools have been notified. Why? Because the TEA did not know about them! They said they were unaware of the additional schools and did not receive that information from Caveon.

It looks like the TEA screwed up by hiring Caveon. It is turning out to be a waste of the taxpayer's money, since the TEA won't require Caveon live up to the contract.

Don't expect this investigation of cheating to get very far. The schools don't have the information neccessary to do the job, and the TEA is either unwilling to or incapable of, providing that information. What a mess!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Texas Rejects Insurance Rate Increase

Citing the rising cost of homes and rising hurricane damage, State Farm Insurance had asked the state for a 21.8% increase in their homeowner's insurance rate. State Farm has about 30% of the Texas market. But Friday, the Texas Department of Insurance rejected the request.

Can you believe it? Our state government actually did something to help the citizens of Texas. It must be an election year!

Texas Insurance Commissioner, Mike Geeslin, said the company's costs did not justify the rate increase. Geeslin went on to say that the provision for expected expenses and the profit margin sought were both excessive. He said the hurricane risk cited by the company was improper because "non-hurricane losses represent the vast majority of expected company exposure and are less risky, resulting in an overstated rate of return."

Alex Winslow, from the consumer group Texas Watch, says State Farm paid out in claims last year only 50 cents of every dollar it received. The average payout of all Texas insurance companies last year was 56 cents of each dollar received. Winslow believes the regulators should force State Farm to roll back its rates and return money to policyholders, because of excessive fees in recent years.

I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for an insurance company to return any money, but I do applaud the action of the Texas Department of Insurance. I'm just hoping they don't flip-flop after the November election.

American Will Ride Into Paris Wearing Yellow

American Floyd Landis has made one of the gutsiest Tour de France efforts that I've ever seen over the last three weeks, and today he capped that effort by finishing third in the stage 19 time trial. This third place finish was good enough to put him in the overall lead by 0:59 seconds. This means he will be wearing the Yellow Jersey tomorrow when the riders enter Paris in the final stage of this year's Tour de France. It also means he will win this year's Tour, barring unforeseen circumstances.

It is wonderful when a country produces a great rider like Lance Armstrong, but to follow it up with another great rider like Floyd Landis, speaks well of the state and future of cycling in America. Thank you for the great effort this year, Floyd. We are very proud of you.

Serhiy Honchar [Ukraine-Tmobile] won the time trial today, and Andreas Kloden [Germany-Tmobile] finished second. Tomorrow, the riders will cycle into Paris and do a little racing on the cobblestones, but it is not likely to affect the overall standings.

Overall standings:

1. Landis [USA-Phonak]...........Yellow Jersey
2. Pereiro [Spain-Balears]..........0:59
3. Kloden [Germany-Tmobile]..........1:29
4. Sastre [Spain-CSC]..........3:13
5. Evans [Ausralia-Lotto]..........5:08

Team standings:

1. T-mobile
2. CSC..........17:20
3. Rabobank..........23:26
4. AG2R..........33:29

Polka-Dot Jersey [climbers]:

1. Rasmussen [Denmark-Rabobank]..........163 points
2. Landis [USA-Phonak]..........131 points
3. DeLa Fuente [Spain-Saunier]..........113 points

Green Jersey [sprinters]:

1. McEwen [Australia-Lotto]..........254 points
2. Zabel [Germany-Milram]..........175 points
3. Hushovd [Norway-Agricole]..........160 points

White Jersey [youth]:

1. Cunego [Italy-Lampre]
2. Fothen [Germany-Gerolsteiner]..........0:36
3. Sprick [France-Telecom]..........1:28:51

Drugs

The subject of drugs came up a couple posts back. Good time to introduce a geeky, but fascinating feature of our business, especially our healthcare, environment. You see, health care in this country is bafflingly under-technologized. I don't mean the fancy machines occupying entire rooms that can peer inside your brain or dissect your kidney with laser beams. These are ubiquitous, and the reason is that they drive up the cost of treatment.

Not so for the less-sexy technologies, e.g. keeping clean databases of patient records and making sure that all sorts of applications can read this information. The reason is simple and, I think, clear: this kind of infrastructure only increases the quality and reliability of patient care -- it does almost nothing to pad the bill.

This has perverse consequences. According to the Institute of Medicine, a non-governmental organization in Washington, D.C., preventable medical errors -- from unplanned drug interactions, say -- kill between 44,000 and 98,000 people each year in America alone. This makes medical snafus the eighth leading cause of death, ahead of car accidents, breast cancer, and AIDS
Economist. "The no-computer virus", April 30, 2005.


Now: as a part-time database-designer, I can assure you the technology to solve this problem is simple. But revamping the healthcare IT infrastructure is costly, and practices (especially small ones) need subsidy to undertake it, because they do not recoup all the benefits of streamlined information flow. A great deal accrues to the insurance companies, and to the employers or individuals who buy the insurance.

There is a new governmental office working to address this issue and their assessment of the barriers to adoption is a brief but haunting catalog of deeply-ingrained problems that are killing people.

"It's like crashing two 747s a day," says Mark Blatt, who was a family doctor for 20 years before he joined Intel ... There should, he says, be more outrage


What do you think? If two airplanes a day crashed for preventable reasons, how many weeks would it take for someone to fix this?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Marijuana Inhibits Growth Of Tumors

In the current online issue of the British Journal of Cancer, they have a pretty interesting little article. They report that tetrahydrocannabinol [THC], the active ingredient in marijuana, has been shown to inhibit the growth of tumors in animals. Because of this, a pilot phase 1 trial of the treatment was done on 9 human patients with recurring brain cancer. All other treatments had failed on these 9 patients, and their tumors were showing aggressive growth. THC was injected into the tumors. The THC inhibited the growth of tumors in two of the patients. The article ended with this statement, " The fair safety profile of THC, together with its possible antiproliferative action on tumor cells reported here and in other studies, may set the basis for future trials aimed at evaluating the potential antitumoral activity of cannabinoids."

But don't expect the U.S. government to climb on board this bandwagon. This was a Spanish pilot program printed in a British journal. Any honest research done on marijuana will have to be done outside of this country. Even though most people know that marijuana can produce medical benefits for glaucoma, and for relieving the nasty after-effects of chemotherapy, the U.S. government is still trying to convince people that marijuana has no medical benefits. This is the same old tired lie they have been telling since the sixties.

I know that our government sees only evil in marijuana. Thank goodness other governments are not so closed-minded. With some honest research, the gentle herb may turn out to be a medical miracle.

American In Good Position After Tour's 18th Stage

Several riders did an early breakaway in today's Tour de France, but they were too far out of the lead for riders in the Peloton to worry about. The Peloton let them go, and finished 8 minutes behind the stage winner. The race leaders were all in the Peloton.

Stage 18 was won by Matteo Tosatto [Italy-Quickstep]. Second place was taken by Cristian Moreni [Italy-Cofidis], and third place was awarded to Ronny Scholz [Germany-Gerolsteiner]. The overall standings for the race leaders did not change.

The 19th stage is a 57 kilometer [35.6 mile] time trial that starts in Le Creusot and ends in Montceau-les-Mines. American Floyd Landis is an excellent time trial rider, and this is his chance to win the Tour. Just two more stages. Tomorrow is the time trial, and sunday, they will ride into Paris.

Overall standings:

1. Pereiro [Spain-Balears]..........Yellow Jersey
2. Sastre [Spain-CSC]..........0:12
3. Landis [USA-Phonak]..........0:30
4. Kloden [Germany-Tmobile]..........2:29
5. Evans [Australia-Lotto]..........3:08
6. Menchov [Russia-Rabobank]..........4:14
7. Dessel [France-AG2R]..........4:24
8. Moreau [France-AG2R]..........5:45
9. Zubeldia [Spain-Euskadi]..........8:16
10. Rogers [Australia-Tmobile]..........12:13

Team standings:

1. T-mobile
2. CSC..........10:03
3. Rabobank..........12:31
4. AG2R..........19:06
5. Lampre..........47:06

Polka-Dot Jersey [climbers]:

1. Rasmussen [Denmark-Rabobank]..........163 points
2. Landis [USA-Phonak]..........131 points
3. De La Fuente [Spain-Saunier]..........113 points
4. Sastre [Spain-CSC]..........99 points
5. Schleck [Luxemburg-CSC]..........94 points
6. Boogerd [Netherlands-Rabobank]..........93 points

Green Jersey [sprinters]:

1. McEwen [Australia-Lotto]..........254 points
2. Zabel [Germany-Milram]..........175 points
3. Hushovd [Norway-Agricole]..........160 points
4. Eisel [Austria-Francaise Des Jeux]..........157 points
5. Paolini [Italy-Liquigas]..........152 points

White Jersey [youth]:

1. Cunego [Italy-Lampre]
2. Fothen [Germany-Gerolsteiner]..........0:05
3. Sprick [France-Telecom]..........1:23:08

Halliburton Profits Rise Sharply

The Iraq War and ridiculously high gas prices may be hurting most Americans, but for Halliburton, these are contributing to enormous profits. The company released figures on Thursday showing their second quarter net income has nearly doubled over the same period last year. This year's second quarter net income was $591 million, compared with $392 million for the second quarter of 2005. The overall revenue for this quarter was $5.5 billion, up from $4.97 billion a year ago.

In the first six months of 2006, Halliburton has reported net income of $1 billion. In the first six months of 2005, they had a net income of $757 million. Halliburton officials said the rise in net income was due to the strong demand for, and the higher prices charged for oil and gas. While many Americans are forgoing many things just to be able to put gas in their car, Halliburton is recording outrageous profits. Somehow, this just doesn't seem to be right. The
energy services division of Halliburton shows revenue of $3.1 billion, an increase of 26% over a year ago.

Halliburton has also been awarded $10 billion in government contracts in Iraq. Many of these contracts were handed out on a no-bid basis. It obviously helps to have your ex-CEO elected to be vice-president. Halliburton has around 50,000 employees working in the mideast, providing food, water, shelter, laundry services, and other logistical support.

Evidently, it is finally sinking in to this administration, that it may not have been smart to award such large no-bid contracts to a company with ties to the White House. The Army has announced that after years of complaints, they are going rebid the multi-billion dollar contract. Does anyone believe that Halliburton won't again wind up with the contract? They are just too good at making money off the misery of others.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Doctor / Hospital Drug Mistakes Injure 1.5m Yearly

The Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, has issued a rather frightening report about injuries caused by drug mistakes. As someone who has been hospitalized in the last year, this report scared the hell out of me. Here are some of their findings:

1.5 million Americans are injured each year by drug mistakes in hospitals, nursing homes, and doctor's offices [this does not include screw-ups by the patient].

On average, a hospitalized patient is subjected to one medication mistake per day.

This report did not say how many medical mistakes cause serious injury or death, but a 1999 report put the number of deaths at around 7000 a year.

A preventable drug mistake can raise the hospital bill of a single patient by more than $5800.

There are 10,000 prescription drugs and 300,000 over-the-counter drugs on the market.

Michael Cohen, co-author of the report and president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, said, "The numbers are big. The injuries are big. This is a problem, it's serious and it continues." The report goes on to say that a quarter of the mistakes are preventable, and toward that goal, recommended that all prescriptions be written electronically.

I would like to think that a lot more than 25% are preventable. After all, if you prevent 25%, then 1.125 million Americans would still be injured each year. Is this an acceptable number? There is very little incentive to fix this problem. After all, fixing the problem might reduce profits. This is the drawback to having a "for profit" system instead of a "for the patient" system. Medical care should not be controlled by the profit-whores of corporate capitalism.

American Wins Tour's 17th Stage

Yesterday, I thought American Floyd Landis was all but out of this year's Tour de France after his disastrous 16th stage. He had wound up over 8 minutes out of the lead. But one day can make all the difference in the Tour de France. Today, Landis [USA-Phonak] attacked on the first of the five climbs, and never looked back. He finished the stage in first place, and is now only 30 seconds behind the overall leader, bringing himself back into contention for the Yellow Jersey. Carlos Sastre [Spain-CSC] finished 5:42 behind Landis, and took second place in stage 17. Third place for the stage was won by Christophe Moreau [France-AG2R].

Tomorrow, stage 18 is run from Morzine to Macon. This stage is not as difficult as the last three stages. It is 197 kilometers [123 miles] long and has three rated climbs - a catagory 2, a catagory 3, and a catagory 4. Only three stages to go in this year's Tour!

Overall standings:

1. Pereiro [Spain-Balears]..........Yellow Jersey
2. Sastre [Spain-CSC]..........0:12
3. Landis [USA-Phonak]..........0:30
4. Kloden [Germany-Tmobile]..........2:29
5. Evans [Australia-Lotto]..........3:08
6. Menchov [Russia-Rabobank]..........4:14
7. Dessel [France-AG2R]..........4:24
8. Moreau [France-AG2R]..........5:45
9. Zubeldia [Spain-Euskadi]..........8:16
10. Rogers [Australia-Tmobile]..........12:13

Team standings:

1. T-mobile
2. CSC..........8:41
3. Rabobank..........12:31
4. AG2R..........19:06
5. Lampre..........40:09

Polka-Dot Jersey [climbers]:

1. Rasmussen [Denmark-Rabobank]..........163 points
2. Landis [USA-Phonak]..........131 points
3. De La Fuente [Spain-Saunier]..........113 points
4. Sastre [Spain-CSC]..........99 points
5. Schleck [Luxemburg-CSC]..........94 points

Green Jersey [sprinters]:

1. McEwen [Australia-Lotto]..........252 points
2. Freire [Spain-Rabobank]..........207 points
3. Zabel [Germany-Milram]..........172 points
4. Hushovd [Norway-Agricole]..........159 points
5. Eisel [Austria-Francaise Des Jeux]..........152 points

White Jersey [youth]:

1. Cunego [Italy-Lampre]
2. Fothen [Germany-Gerolsteiner]..........0:05
3. Sprick [France-Telecom]..........1:23:08

U.S. Official Bribed With Texas Buffalo ?

Well, it looks like another Republican official has created a scandal for himself. However, this time the alleged payoff was not cash, but a buffalo! David P. Smith, a senior official in the U.S. Department of the Interior, resigned last week amid speculation that he had given favored treatment in exchange for the right to shoot a buffalo.

Smith has been with the Interior Department since Georgie took office in 2001. In December of 2004, Smith was at the 5000 acre ranch of Texas billionaire, Dan Duncan, when Duncan offered Smith a chance to "hunt" a buffalo. Smith drove to within 100 yards of the ranch-raised buffalo, and then shot him with a high-powered rifle. Smith then kept the buffalo's shoulder mount, skull, hooves, tanned hide, and 20 pounds of meat. He later had the hooves made into bookends.

A month later, the Interior Department designated Houston as an officially designated port to bring in exotic animals and trophies. Duncan just happens to be an importer of these items, and it was in his interest to have Houston as a designated port. Smith says the gift of buffalo had nothing to do with the port designation. Smith said, "Every time I've ever been on Dan's ranch, Dan has never asked me to do anything for him or for anyone else."

The Interior Department's Inspector General's report on this matter was obtained by the U.S. News & World Report through the Freedom of Information Act. The report says, "Smith's involvement, given his personal relationships with individuals who benefited directly from the port's designation, was inappropriate and violated the appearance standard."

Of course, nothing was done until the matter became public. It seems that in Georgie's administration, breaking the rules doesn't matter until the public finds out.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Georgie Vetos Stem Cell Research

Well, Georgie told us he would do it, and now he has. Nearly six years after taking office, Georgie cast his very first veto. We should have known that he would use it to try and force the entire nation to follow his pathetic view of morality. Our Pretender-in-Chief vetoed the stem-cell research bill, saying it had crossed the line morally. What a load of crap!

When did protecting the morals of American citizens become a presidential duty? He took an oath of office to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution [and has failed in that task]. But, I don't remember any part of the oath pertaining to morality. In fact, I don't believe morality is even mentioned in the Constitution either. If I did want someone overseeing my morals, it would not be Georgie, who has done more illegal and immoral things than any president I can remember.

There are many ill and handicapped people who could possibly be helped by stem-cell research. Georgie told these Americans today that it would be immoral for him to help them. They must suffer because Georgie's religious views are stuck in the first century. Now, I don't really care what weird beliefs Georgie has, but he must stop trying to shove his beliefs down our throats.

There are two things that must be done to rectify this situation - vote Democratic in November, and then demand Georgie's impeachment. Let him go cut brush on his pseudo-ranch.