A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Some Legal Quick Hits

Norwegian police have recovered the impressionistic existentialist painting by Edvard Munch, called "The Scream". "The Scream", and another Munch painting, "Madonna", were stolen two years ago. Several men had been convicted of the crime, but the paintings remained missing until today. Today, police announced they had recovered both paintings. They did not reveal how they had located the artwork, but it is believed that one of the convicted gave them the location in return for a reduced sentence.

A 29 year-old lawyer in Connecticut has been charged with killing his 58 year-old neighbor. Police said the attorney climbed through the neighbor's window, and stabbed him repeatedly while he lay in his bed. The attorney was angry because he believed the neighbor had sexually molested his daughter. Even if the charge was true, that cannot make what the lawyer did acceptable. His being an attorney makes the crime even worse. He cannot claim ignorance of the law, or of the proper procedures. It's sad that he did not trust his own profession to take care of the matter appropriately.

In Illinois, an 18 year-old girl has been sentenced to 53 years in prison for killing a teenaged friend. She told the judge that she had "no feelings" as she watched her friend die. I think I'm glad this girl is off the street. If she'll do that to a friend, what would she do to a stranger? By the way, she murdered the friend, because the friend had expressed interest in some of the 18 year-old's ex-boyfriends.

Cult leader, Warren Jeffs, is not fighting extradition to Utah. He has been charged in Utah with two counts of "rape by accomplice". He was accused of forcing underage girls to marry older men and submit to them sexually. He could possibly receive life in prison on these charges. Whatever happens, more charges of the same kind await him in Arizona. This fool tried to use religion to cover for his child molestation activities. I hope they throw the book at him.

TAKS Test Attacked By Candidates For Governor

The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, known as the TAKS test, is getting some play in the Texas governors race. The test was passed in 1999 and is given to all students in grades 3-11. It is used to promote students and to rate schools. Governor Perry supports the test, saying that it is just an example of Texas striving toward higher standards. Perry is the only candidate that supports the TAKS test as it currently exists though. All four of his opponents want to either change the test or eliminate it.

Grandma wants to move the test from the Spring to the Fall. She says that teachers could then use the results of the test to address a student's weak areas. To me, this still sounds like they would be "teaching the test", instead of educating the students.

Bell thinks we should not be using the test for promotion decisions, teacher pay, or school ratings. He did not say how he thought the test should be used. What is the point of giving a test that has no useful purpose?

Kinky's idea is the most radical of the major candidates. Kinky wants to do away with the test altogether. Kinky said, "It's not hard to get rid of the test. You do it with a bully pulpit. You do it the same way JFK put a man on the moon." Kinky did not say how he would deal with the requirement of the federal government that the test be given.

Werner, the Libertarian candidate, agreed that the test was a poor substitute for poor learning, but did not say what he would do about it. Generally, he wants to drastically reduce the state's role in education.

So, Perry wants to keep the TAKS as it is, Grandma and Bell want to change it, and Kinky wants to do away with it. Of the three ideas, I like Kinky's best, if he can figure a way for it to not cost the state valuable federal education dollars. Far too often, teachers are just teaching the TAKS test nowdays. We need to take our focus off the test, and put it back on educating our children.

TXU To Build Three Nuclear Power Plants

TXU announced plans thursday to build three new nuclear power plants in the state of Texas. They said they would apply for the licenses in 2008, and expect the plants to be on line between 2015 and 2020. They didn't say where the plants would be built, but speculation is that they could be built on the site of some current TXU plants. TXU plans to add 6 gigawatts of nuclear power at a cost of $8 billion.

Since they won't be even applying for the licenses until 2008, I'm not sure why they decided to announce it at this time. They're starting to get some serious opposition to the "dirty-coal" plants they want to build. Maybe they figure if they scare people with thoughts of a nearby nuclear plant, it will be easier to get the coal plants built, even though they will add to the pollution of north Texas.

I guess if they can't kill us with their pollution, they'll get us with radiation.

Congressional Candidate Investigated By Military

It looks like the Republican dirty tricks have started. I should have guessed that "Smokey" Joe Barton, the congressman from Arlington, would be among the first to reach into that bag of dirty tricks. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is reporting this morning that Barton's opponent in the November election is being investigated by the United States Military. Barton is being opposed in the election by [Major] David Harris - a veteran who returned from Iraq in 2005. Mr. Harris is in the Veterans for Peace movement.

It seems that Harris is being investigated by the military for having a "close and continuing relationship" with a female sergeant from 2003 to 2005. Sergeant Jennifer Vaughan filed the complaint with the U.S. Army after she was demoted for the relationship. She also wrote Joe Barton with her complaints, and turned over copies of her e-mails to the Star-Telegram. Sgt. Vaughan said, "Why do I, as an enlisted person, have to lose a stripe over this while nothing happens to the officer? I'm doing it because I've been treated so bad as an enlisted [person]. And as an officer, he's getting away with it, and now he's running for Congress."

To me, this sounds like it is either a case of a vindictive ex-lover, or the Republicans are now using the military against veterans running on the Democratic ticket - probably both. If this was really such a serious problem, the Army should have dealt with it while Harris was still on active duty. To wait until he is making a run for Congress, just smells of dirty Republican politics. The Harris campaign believes that Rep. Barton was the one to spread this story. They are probably right.

Harris says, "While I have made mistakes in my marriage and personal life, I remain committed to my relationship, my family and moving forward together. These personal attacks against me are an all-time low for the persons responsible for them....I will not engage in a campaign of negativity and I will not tolerate attacks against my family. Everyone makes mistakes, no one is perfect. I believe that the voters understand that."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Concert For Kinky Is Sold Out

Kinky's website is reporting that tickets for the September 19th Jimmy Buffet concert are all gone. The tickets went on sale at 10:00am on August 26th, last Saturday, and in less than an hour they were completely sold out. I hope this means people are excited about helping Kinky's campaign, but who knows? Maybe some of you Austinites can help us out here. Could Jimmy Buffet sell out a concert in less than an hour if it was not a benefit for Kinky?

In addition to this good news, word came out a couple of days ago that Kinky has gained in the latest poll. He just keeps defying the odds. I know a lot of people, especially Democrats, were hoping that Kinky's campaign would either implode or fizzle out. So far, neither is happening. Kinky is ahead of Grandma, tied with Bell, and still moving forward and gaining ground. Kinky will be in this race until the end.

Average Wage Dropping In DFW Metroplex

I'm disappointed in the Dallas Morning News today. They publish an article with some sobering figures on how wages are suffering in the north Texas area, and then seem to swallow the government's ridiculous excuse hook, line, and sinker. These are the figures in question:

1999 median household income.....$47,418
1999 adjusted for inflation.....$55,545
2005 median household income.....$49,740

The government would have us believe that the reason wages are falling in the area, is because of the influx of illegal aliens into the area. Personally, I think that is just racist crap designed to get some Republican votes by scaring workers. Just look at the numbers. If it was due to an influx of new workers [whether legal or illegal], there should be a drop in actual dollars, but there isn't. In actual dollars, the median income has risen by over $2,300 since 1999. It is only when you adjust for inflation, that the median wage shows a drop.

It is far more probable that the stagnation of wages and the inflation pushing it even further down, are results of the last few years of Republican economic policies. These policies have rewarded they super-rich, while punishing workers and the middle-class. Instead of owning up to ruining our economy, the Republicans are trying to blame illegal aliens for their own incompetence.

I expected the Republicans to lie to cover their own economic crimes, but the Morning News should do a better job of finding the real reasons for wages falling, and not just accept the rascist scare-mongering of the Republicans as fact.

Perry Delays Toll-Taking On Texas 121

Is Rick Perry starting to run a little scared in this election? Yesterday, he announced that the toll-taking that was supposed to start friday on the northern part of Texas 121, would be delayed until at least this winter. Perry told a crowd at the official opening ceremony of the toll road, "Today, I've got good news for you. State highway 121 will continue to be toll-free throughout the Fall. That deadline has been extended as the state thoroughly tests the equipment....and to be absolutely sure the equipment has no bugs."

Now, to my knowledge, there has been no problem with the technology or the equipment. I think that with his numbers hovering in the low 30's in most polls, Perry realized that he cannot afford for a toll road to open two months before an election, especially one that has been as unpopular as this one. I'm really surprised that he let it get this close to the election before he delayed it. Maybe he has only recently come to believe that he is in trouble.

Of course, Perry is saying he had nothing to do with it. He said it was purely a TxDOT decision. I don't believe it. Do you?

Perry Trying To Sell Off Tarrant County Park Land

Back in 1980, the state of Texas paid nearly $4 million for 400 acres of undeveloped land around Eagle Mountain Lake in northern Tarrant County. The state planned to make improvements and add it to the state park system. However, at the time the budget was very tight, so money was not budgeted for the improvements.

When the Republicans took over Texas full-time, they began slashing the parks budget, and the improvements needed at the Tarrant County property again had to take a back seat. The land remained undeveloped, and soon began to catch the eye of residential developers. That's when things started to happen. In 2005, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson designated the land as "unused" and recommended the state of Texas sell the land.

If it were not for the incompetence and greed of the Republicans, the park would have been developed and open to the public. But since it is not, they now believe they can sell it to their rich friends. The rich get richer, and Tarrant County loses valuable park land.

Now, we learn from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram today that while Rick Perry was smiling and telling Tarrant County residents that it wasn't him who wanted to sell the park land, he was lying. All the time this controversy has been going on, his office has been working behind the scenes to get the land scheduled for auction and sold as quickly as possible. Evidently Perry has become quite good at lying to Texans, while behind closed doors he sells us out.

For the life of me, I cannot understand how any Texan could even consider voting for Perry in the upcoming election, especially since he has shown us his ethical shortcomings time and time again.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Issue Is Molestation - Not Polygamy

Warren Jeffs has finally been arrested. Jeffs is the leader of a Mormon sect believing in and practicing polygamy [Jeffs is believed to have 40 wives himself]. He has been on the run from the law and was placed on the FBI's Most Wanted list last May. He was arrested by a Nevada trooper just north of Las Vegas on a traffic stop.

I'm glad he was arrested. What I'm not looking forward to is the way it will be covered in the news media. When he went on the run, all the media could talk about was polygamy. They will probably do that again. That's sad, because this is not about polygamy. It is about child molestation. If all the marriages he arranged and facilitated were with adult women, he would not be in legal trouble. He has not been charged with bigamy. Personally, I don't care how many women he or his followers marry.

I do care about child molestation though, and that is basically what he has been charged with. He arranged and facilitated marriages between older men and under-age girls. That is and should be a serious crime. Child molestation is a crime, whether it happens in a church or not.

So please major media, do not cover this story as one of polygamy. It is not.

Consumer Confidence In The Economy Drops

This is good news for the Democratic Party, and couldn't come at a worse time for the Republican Party. The Conference Board, a New York research group, released their consumer confidence numbers today. The confidence index has fallen to 99.5. That number has not been this low since last November. Obviously, Americans are not buying the Republican mantra of "what a great economy we have". Here are some of the numbers the Conference Board released today:

Consumer Confidence
July 2006....................107.0
August 2006....................99.6

Expectations Index [confidence for the next six months]
July 2006....................88.9
August 2006....................83.8

Those Saying Jobs Are Plentiful
July 2006....................28.6%
August 2006....................24.4%

Those Saying Jobs Are Hard To Get
July 2006....................19.6%
August 2006....................21.1%

Those Saying Overall Conditions Are Good
July 2006....................27.3%
August 2006....................26.1%

Those Saying Overall Conditions Are Bad
July 2006....................15.0%
August 2006....................16.7%

Those Expecting More Jobs To Open
July 2006....................14.3%
August 2006....................14.0%

Those Expecting Fewer Jobs To Open
July 2006....................16.5%
August 2006....................18.3%

It's only about two months until the election, and as you can see from the figures, Americans are not confident about the ecomony and the job situation. It looks like the people are losing faith in the Republican's ability to handle the economy. Coupled with Iraq and the already bad poll numbers, this could be the last nail in the Republican electoral coffin.

Republicans still seem to believe that if you give rich people more money, it will "trickle down" and benefit everyone. This has now been exposed as a lie. Republicans have fixed it so the rich are now making obscene profits, but nothing is trickling down. American workers are being squeezed tighter each month. It is time to turn things around. It is time to vote the Republicans out of power. That is the only thing that will improve the economy for everyone.

Youth Engage In Dating Violence

The Texas Council on Family Violence and the Texas Attorney General's office recently conducted a study of dating violence among young people. What they found was rather troubling. The survey showed that among young people aged 16-24, 20% have experienced verbal violence, 25% have experienced physical violence, and 20% have experienced sexual violence. Overall, nearly half have experienced daing violence, either as the victim or the abuser.

Attorney General Greg Abbott said, "Dating violence is a pervasive problem that affects young Texans of all ethnic and educational backgrounds. It is imperative that we prevent further teens and young adults from having these experiences while offering help and solutions to those who are currently in unhealthy or dangerous situations." A public awareness campaign has been launched called Red Flags. It seeks to teach youth to deal with the early warning signs of dating violence before they escalate.

It is bad enough when adults engage in domestic violence, and absolutely apalling that youngsters are now following suit. What are these kids being taught by their parents? I remember the only advice my father ever gave me about dating. He said, "If you're going to date a girl, then treat her right. If you can't treat her right, get the hell out of the way and let her date someone who will." This advice stuck, because he not only preached this message, he modeled it.

With the advent of rising adult domestic violence, I guess we shouldn't be surprised that young people would follow their example. After all, we learn most of our behavior from our parents. I hope the awareness program helps, but the best thing would be to have more really good parents. Somehow, we have got to convice our children [and adults] that violence is unacceptable - whether it is physical or verbal. Our society depends on it.

Grandma Sued By Former Camp Director

The troubles just seem to be piling up for Grandma. In the past few weeks, she has been accused of using state employees to work on her campaign during state work hours, and tying tax refunds to campaign donations. Now she is being sued.

Betty Lou Gaines was the director of a Texas camp for troubled youth, until a state investigation closed the camp. Grandma put out a report in 2004 that was critical of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. In the report, Grandma mentioned the Woodside Trails Therapeutic Camp in Bastrop County, accusing a counselor of sexually abusing a camp resident. The resident later recanted his accusations, but Grandma left the accusations in her report anyway.

Last month, two administrative law judges ruled that the state had no evidence of sexual abuse at Woodland Trails. Last week, Ms. Gaines filed a lawsuit in an Austin federal court. The suit claims, "The closing of Woodside Trails was the culmination of the extensive and relentless political pressure exerted against the agency and the facility by Defendent Strayhorn....Had a proper investigation been conducted, free from politics and bureaucracy, the allegation of sexual abuse and the allegations of neglect against [Gaines] would have been ruled out by a preponderance of the evidence."

It looks like the plaintiff may have a point here. It certainly looks like Grandma went off half-cocked, and issued a false report for her own political gain. Now it's coming back to bite her in the ass. Grandma didn't need any more trouble. Yesterday, a Zogby poll was released that showed Grandma had only 9.6% support in her race for the governor's office. This new problem certainly won't help her in the polls.

I believe it is time for Grandma to leave the governor's race. But whether she leaves or not, it is certainly time for those who were considering voting for her to reconsider. There are too many candidates in the race to support a troubled and failing campaign like Grandma's.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Kinky / Bell Gain In New Zogby Poll

A new Zogby poll has come out regarding the governor's race here in Texas. Kinky and Bell have both gained ground in the new poll, gaining about 3 points each. Perry remains around 35%. It looks like the big loser in this poll is Grandma, who is now polling less than 10%. Here are the numbers in the new Zogby poll:

Perry....................34.8%

Bell....................23.1%

Kinky....................22.7%

Grandma....................9.6%

Kinky and Bell are the only two candidates that have gained ground since the last poll. Perry showed a 0.2% decrease, but that is within the polling margin of error, and may not be a decrease at all. I hope the decrease for Perry is real, because his numbers have to come down for someone else to win.

It looks like Grandma has been hurt by the charges of her unethical misuse of her office, and her flip-flopping on the Trans-Texas Corridor. If these numbers are right, then Grandma is no longer a viable candidate. However, Zogby has been rating Grandma lower than Rasmussen has, so the drop may not be quite as steep as Zogby says.

For those of you wanting to vote against the Trans-Texas Corridor, and those who are tired of the buying and selling of influence in Austin, you have two candidates to choose from [and both are gaining ground] - Kinky Friedman and Chris Bell. Both oppose the TTC, and both would bring more honesty to our state government if elected. As most of you know, I support Kinky Friedman, but I believe Bell would also make a good governor. The people of Texas finally have a choice between two great candidates. If you are a Grandma supporter, I urge you to look closely at Kinky and Bell. Both have a better chance to beat Perry than Grandma.

Mexican Court Says No Fraud In Election

The right-wing candidate just got a little closer to becoming Mexico's next president. The highest electoral court in Mexico has thrown out allegations of widespread fraud. They did this even though they had thrown out the votes of dozens of polling stations because of irregularities. Judge Jose Luna said, "Based on the annulments that were deemed neccessary, all the parties lost a considerable amount of votes but that did not affect the results."

So, even though votes of dozens of polling places were thrown out, and all parties lost a considerable amount of votes, no fraud was detected. Is this really believable? Remember, they only recounted 9% of the total vote. If they had to annul results at many stations in the 9%, how many polling stations outside that 9% were seriously flawed? It looks to me like the court did a good job of covering-up the fraud they were supposed to expose.

When President Fox was elected a few years ago, I'd hoped that Mexico had finally morphed into a real multi-party system. Now I believe they have just traded one party that used fraud to retain power, for another that does the very same thing. A full recount should have been done. The fact that a recount was not done, lends credence to the fraud charges.

Worker's Wages Are Still Falling

The Republicans keep telling us that our economy is great, and new jobs are being created. They don't tell you though that those new jobs are poorly-paid service jobs, while the good-paying jobs are still being sent overseas. But if you are already rich, then this probably is a good economy for you. After all, the corporate profit share of the Gross Domestic Product is at its highest since the 1960's. The rich have definitely gotten richer since the Republicans came to power.

But if you're a worker, the great economy does not extend to you. Currently, wages make up the lowest portion of our Gross Domestic Product since 1947. In fact, the median hourly wage, after accounting for inflation, has dropped by 2% since 2003. This drop has occurred even though worker productivity has steadily risen over the same period. Making matters even worse, the value of worker benefits is also now falling. Workers have definitely gotten poorer since the Republicans came to power.

The minimum wage is at its lowest point in buying-power since the mid-1950's. Republican's like to point out that most people work for more than minimum wage. What they don't tell you is that most hourly wages are affected by the minimum wage. With wages falling, and the price of nearly everything rising, workers are getting squeezed harder every day.

I can understand the rich voting for Republicans this year. The Republicans have allowed them to make outrageous profits at the expense of the rest of us. But if you're a worker, you should not even be thinking of voting Republican. Republicans showed what they think of workers, when they refused to raise the minimum wage, and then turned around and gave themselves a nice fat raise.

Do something good for yourself and your family this year. Vote for Democrats.

Iraq War Gets Even Deadlier

Over the weekend, the current Iraqi prime minister told us how the war is starting to wind down. He said they were beginning to get a handle on the situation. Today, 50 people were killed in Iraq. It seems like every time some official starts bragging about how well things are going, it all blows up in his face.

The truth is that the violence is not dying down in Iraq. It just got off the front pages for a while, because of the Israeli incursion into Lebanon. On Sunday, 60 people were killed, including 8 American soldiers. Their have now been over 2600 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. July turned out to be the bloodiest month yet. The body count has risen each month, and in the last four months, over 10,000 Iraqi citizens have been killed. This civil war is not dying down, it is still revving up.

I hear many people saying that we cannot immediately withdraw from Iraq, including many people who believe the war was a mistake. They say that if we left, there would be an all-out civil war, creating an even more dangerous situation for the civilians there. I would ask these people to tell me what is being accomplished by staying. The truth is that we are not accomplishing anything. We're not protecting the Iraqis. If we are, then we're doing a terrible job. They are averaging 2,500 deaths each month, and the violence is still rising.

The puppet government we installed in Iraq will not last. It doesn't matter whether we leave tomorrow or ten years from now. As soon as we leave, that government will fall. The Iraqis will wind up determining their own fate and their own government. To keep our forces in Iraq, is to keep our soldiers in harm's way to only delay the inevitable. Withdrawing may not help Iraqis, but it will sure help the U.S. soldiers - they can stop dying and come home.

This was an ill-conceived, ill-planned, and poorly-conducted war. It is time to end it by withdrawing. Let the Iraqis have true self-determination, and bring our soldiers home to their families - NOW.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Is A Teacher's Sex Important ?

Thomas Dee is an associate professor of economics at Swarthmore College, and a visiting scholar at Stanford University. He is also the author of one of the silliest reports released by an academic recently. Dee is telling the world the earth-shattering news that boys learn better when taught by a man, and girls learn better when taught by a woman.

What does he expect the world to do with this information? Are we supposed to seperate the boys and girls and send them to different schools? This is just a silly idea. Anyone could have figured out that we learn better from someone like ourselves. This is not news. I'm sure you could probably come up with a report that tells us that we learn better from a person of our own race, or our own sexual preference, or our own social class. But that would also be silly and useless information.

Our Supreme Court has already told us that "seperate is inherently unequal". In other words, the very fact that you seperate people into groups because of something they could not control, creates an unequal situation. The court was right. This is not the kind of thing a free country should endorse.

I can't imagine trying to tell my father that I would learn better if I had all male teachers. He would have probably punished me for being stupid. He knew that education is a personal thing, and does not depend very much on who the teacher is, as long as the teacher is qualified. The only way to become truly educated is to become serious about educating yourself. Teachers are only guides to help you navigate the world of knowledge. A teacher's sex, race, ethnicity, sexual preference or age is of no importance.

You can be taught by any teacher if you want to learn, but no teacher can force you to learn. Whining about the teacher is just another way to say you don't really want to learn. We must instill a desire to learn in our students, and stop giving them excuses for failure.

Coach vs. Teacher Salaries

I have known for a while that athletics, even high school athletics, is big business in Texas. While school districts have to struggle to find the money to buy supplies or build new schools, they never seem to have much trouble building a new weight room, buying new uniforms or equipment, or building a new stadium. There is always money for sports, but seldom enough for education.

An article in the Austin American-Statesman today points out another aspect of the sports vs. education argument - salaries. It seems that many high school coaches are making salaries double that of many teachers. The average discrepancy is $31,000. The newspaper even included a chart of 4A and 5A coaches salaries. Most coaches at the larger schools are making salaries in the $90,000 to $105,000 range.

Don't get me wrong. I love high school sports. But I do wonder if we're being smart in how we're spending our education dollars. Is a coach really worth twice as much to our community as a math or english teacher? Are new sports stadiums really more important to our community than adequate schools and supplies? Three decades ago, American students led the way in math and science. In these areas today, our students are falling behind those in other countries. It's too bad math and science aren't as important to most people as high school athletics.

In our effort to provide fun and fulfilling extra-curricular activities for our students, we have let things get out of whack. Somehow we have elevated the extra-curricular above the real education activities. With education dollars at a premium these days, it is time to rethink how we are spending them. The schools were not created so we could have high school football. They were created to educate our students.

'Hot' Gasoline Costing Texans Millions

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has an excellent article today about another sneaky way the oil companies have to get into your wallet. It seems that gasoline, by agreement between the oil industry and regulators, is supposed to be sold at 60 degrees. Years ago, that was considered to be the average temperature in this country.

One gallon contains 231 cubic inches of gasoline. However, gasoline is a liquid and will expand when it gets warmer. The same amount of gasoline that takes up 231 cubic inches at 60 degrees, will expand to 235 cubic inches at 90 degrees. So if you fill a gallon jug at 90 degrees, you are buying less energy than if you filled the jug at the standard of 60 degrees, even though you are paying the same price.

Of course, with our extended and extremely hot summers here in Texas, we are usually buying gas at temperatures even hotter than 90 degrees. It has been estimated that Texans have lost hundreds of millions of dollars by buying "hot" gasoline. When gasoline was cheap, this might not have mattered as much, but gasoline is not cheap anymore. With prices as high as they are, Texans should be getting a full gallon's worth of energy when they buy a gallon of gas. Currently, they are not.

This is a problem easily fixed with modern technology. Pumps could be fixed to account for gas temperature, and adjust the price accordingly. But it's not a question of technology. The oil companies do not want to fix the problem. They are making too much extra money - money that should be staying in the pockets of ordinary Texans.

You can bet the problem would be quickly fixed if it cost the oil companies, instead of providing windfall profits. In fact, this did happen a few years ago in Canada. There, the oil companies were losing money because the gasoline was being sold at temperatures less than 60 degrees because of the long and hard winters. They lobbied the Canadian government, and got the right to adjust prices according to the gasoline temperature.

If the "hot" and "cold" gasoline issue is important when it causes the oil companies to lose money, then it is also important when it causes ordinary Texans to lose money. We must not let the oil companies get away with this. The price of our gasoline is not going to get any cheaper. In fact, it will probably rise even further, which means Texans will lose even more money to "hot" gasoline.

I don't expect the current Republican regime to do anything about this. They showed us long ago that they are in the pockets of the greedy corporations. This problem will have to be solved at the ballot box next November. If we elect a new governor, and great Democrats like David Van Os, Hank Gilbert, and VaLinda Hathcox, we will be well on our way to stopping this back-door thievery.

Cowboys Win Third Pre-Season Game

Three of the four pre-season games have now been played, and the Cowboys still look good. Last night, they played San Francisco in Texas Stadium. Although the score was Cowboys 17 and Forty-Niners 7, it really was not that close a game. The Cowboys started strong, and controlled the entire game.

The defense looked very good. Greg Ellis is starting to figure out the outside linebacker position. He and Demarcus Ware are going to be one of the most formidable outside linebacking duos in the league. Anthony Henry also looked good. His coverage was excellent, and he got the Cowboys their first interception of this year. The first-string defense looks really awesome.

For the second game in a row, the Cowboy offense also played well. The offensive line is still coming together, but played pretty well last night, even without starter Flozell Adams [out with a strained calf muscle]. Terrell Owens did not play either, but the other receivers picked up the slack. Terry Glenn and Jamaica Rector looked especially good. All three running backs also performed well. It looks like the offense is improved over last year, even without T.O.

Of course it was just a pre-season game, and it was just San Francisco. If last night is any indicator, the Forty-Niners are going to have a long and difficult season. Even so, the Cowboys played up to expectations, and it looks like they may be building something special here. One more pre-season game to go. The Cowboys will play Minnesota next Thursday night. This will probably be a more serious test for the Cowboys.

Not that anyone cares, but I will give my prediction for the Cowboys 2006 record , after the last pre-season game.



UPDATE - The Star-Telegram is reporting this morning that the Dallas Cowboys have fined Terrell Owens $9,500. He was fined for missing a team meeting, missing a rehabilitation session, and being late to a meeting of the offense. This happened last friday. This is not a good sign. Is T.O. going to blow this opportunity?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Rockwall County Schedules Prayer For Rain

A couple of weeks ago, it was Lubbock that made news with their prayers for rain. Now the superstitious thinking comes to the Metroplex area. Several community officials in Rockwall County have designated September 3rd as the day for the community to pray for rain. These county officials are:

Rockwall Mayor Bill Cecil
County Judge Bill Bell
Fate Mayor David Hill
Heath Mayor John Ratcliffe
Mayor of Rowlett
Mayor of Royse City
Mayor of McLendon-Chisholm

Texas is in the middle of another of its many droughts, but this is no reason for county officials to abandon reason and logic. They are substituting their religious beliefs for appropriate community actions. These people were elected to run county governments, not to further their own religious beliefs. They have a right to their religious convictions, but they don't have the right to use their governmental offices to promote that religion. These officials are an embarrassment to Texas. What's next - a rain dance?

TXU Donates To Perry - Gets Fast-Track For Plants

Governor Perry has recently accused Grandma of using her state office for her own political gain. Maybe he should have been looking in the mirror. It now looks like he has some questionable political donations himself. TXU made some donations to Perry's campaign around the time they were wanting the governor to fast-track approval of several new power plants, and some are wondering if a quid pro quo existed.

Tom "Smitty" Smith, Texas director of Public Citizen, believes TXU is trying to rush approval of the new plants before they can be forced to consider cleaner [and more expensive] technology. Smith says, "The fast-tracking of these plants is due to a secret deal between Gov. Rick Perry and TXU last October."

Here is how it all came down:

Perry receives $16,000 from TXU in years of 2002 and 2003.

On October 27, 2005 Perry signs the order fast-tracking the new power plants, and receives $2,000 from Erle Nye, ex-TXU chairman, who had retired in June of 2005.

In November 2005, TXU donates $5,000 to Perry campaign.

In April 2006, Perry and TXU jointly announce the building of the new plants, and Perry receives $25,000 from TXU.

Of course, the Perry campaign claims the donations and the fast-tracking had nothing to do with each other. For me though, this just doesn't pass the smell test - smells like corruption to me. The Republicans are so used to corruption being "business as usual", that they don't even try to hide it anymore. Hell, they even let corporations write the bills that affect them.

Remember, a vote for Republicans in November is a vote for the continuation of the corrupt corporate gravy train. The only way to cut corruption is to vote the Republicans out of office. Let's start with Rick Perry.

Texas A.G. Says Republican Cuts Will Hurt Kids

Once again, Republican budget cuts will result in hurting the children of Texas. This time its the attorney general's office. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says proposed state and federal budget cuts would take nearly $250 million out of the Attorney General's Child Support Enforcement Program. He says the program would have to lay off 1,800 of its 2,709 current workers.

Governor Perry has asked all agencies to cut 10% from their last budget. This would translate into a loss of $43.7 million for the program. The federal government, through the Deficit Reduction Act passed last February, would cut $196.6 million from child-support enforcement. The program currently serves 900,000 Texas families, and last year collected nearly $2 billion dollars for Texas children.

What are the Republicans thinking? This is a program that normally saves the state millions of dollars each year. If these children cannot get their court-ordered child support, many of them will have to go on welfare and other state programs. This ridiculous budget "cut" may actually turn out to cost the state more money. They are cutting more than 66% of the program's employees, so the program will not be able to collect as much as in the past. If the $2 billion in collections is cut in half, then the state will lose money. It would mean the $250 million cut would cost Texas children a billion dollars, most of which would have to be replaced with state-funded services.

The only reason we are in this mess, is because of the Republican penchant for kissing corporate ass. If the Republicans hadn't given corporations and the super-rich several outrageous tax breaks, we wouldn't have to be cutting programs that affect children [remember that last year thousands of children lost their health insurance coverage thanks to Republicans]. Evidently, Republicans believe that corporate greed is more important than American children. How long are we going to put up with this nonsense?

$2.5 Billion To Be Wasted On Southern Border

Republicans used to tag Democrats with the "tax and spend" label. Who knew it would be a Republican administration that would set new records for spending and wasting the taxpayer's dollars? Now Republicans are about a month away from spending another $2.5 billion on a huge boondoggle that is destined to fail.

In an effort to try and turn the coming election around, Republicans are in the middle of a ridiculous fear campaign. They hope to scare enough voters with fear of terrorists, so they won't be voted out of power in November. Part of that effort has been to give the false impression that terrorists are crossing our southern border. The $2.5 billion boondoggle is part of that effort. It will be spent on a fence and high-tech gadgets to "secure" our southern border.

The Star-Telegram is reporting today that there are five bidders left that are competing for the huge contract. It is unknown exactly what the money will buy, because rather than explain exactly what is wanted, the government is letting each contractor decide how to best spend the money. Each company is coming up with its own mix of fences, cameras and sensors. The remaining five companies are:

Boeing
Lockheed Martin
Northrop Grumman
Raytheon
Ericsson [Swedish]

Republicans are also trying to scare Americans into believing that our economic woes are due to illegal immigrants. Otherwise they would have to admit that they have grossly mishandled the economy by giving tax breaks to the rich, putting more tax burden on the middle-class, exporting good-paying jobs and creating poor-paying jobs to replace them, cutting college financial aid, NAFTA, CAFTA, allowing unrestrained graft and corruption, and throwing money down the bottomless pit called the Iraq War. Before you let them blame their own incompetence on the illegal immigrants, here are some facts you need to know.

Terrorists do not enter our country by crossing the deserts of our southern border. Not a single foreign terrorist has entered our country that way. Why should they? They have the money and technology to create false identification, so they don't have to brave the dangers of our southern border. They just hop on an airplane, or drive down from Canada. The only people crossing our southern border are the desperate people - the ones who have no other choice. Dozens of them die each year trying to cross these southern deserts.

Illegal immigrants are NOT a drag on our economy. Some say they don't pay taxes, but use our services. This is not true. They do pay taxes. Anyone in Texas must pay the sales tax [as well as cigarette tax, gas tax, etc.] whether they are here illegally or not. They also pay property taxes through rent or house payments. While it is true that some get paid with unreported cash, these people are paid so little that they wouldn't owe taxes even if they filed a tax return. Most undocumented workers are working under a fake social security card. This means the taxes are taken out of their check [medicare and social security taxes are also taken out], but at the end of the year, they cannot get any money back by filing a return. This means they actually pay more taxes than an American would.

No one knows how many illegal aliens are in the United States. They have never been counted. How could they be counted? They certainly don't participate in the census, since they live their lives trying not to be discovered. The U.S. government throws all kinds of figures around, but even they admit that their statistics are just ASSUMPTIONS. Remember this as the Republicans try to scare you with huge numbers - the numbers are not real.

Illegal aliens are not the reason our economy is not doing well. Republican policies are the reason. They have given the corporations a free hand, and left the rest of us to fend for ourselves. There is only one cure for our ailing economy, and it has nothing to do with illegal aliens. We must vote the Republicans out of power. Anything less would be like putting a bandaid on a bullet wound.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Lieberman Still A Democrat ?

After he announced he would be running for senate as an independent, a group of Connecticut Democrats asked the state party to revoke Lieberman's membership in the state Democratic Party. Connecticut state law allows someone to be thrown out of the party if they run on the ticket of another party. These Democrats say that the independent "Connecticut for Lieberman" organization constitutes a new party, since it is running a candidate against the Democratic Party candidate.

Registrar Sharon Ferrucci disagreed, and refused to remove Lieberman from Democratic membership rolls. She said the authority to remove a member "should be rarely and cautiously exercised. The Democratic Party is founded upon principles of inclusion and diversity of opinion and the diversity of debate. I do not intend to summon anyone enrolled in my party to defend the good faith and bona fide nature of their affiliation with the Democratic Party."

With respect, I have to disagree. The people of Connecticut have put up with Lieberman voting Republican for far too long. The minute he declared his independent candidacy, he ceased to be a Democrat. Democrats do NOT run against other Democrats in the general election. Connecticut law allows for his removal, and he should be removed.

I would even go further. If by some miracle Lieberman is elected, he should not be allowed back into the Democratic Congressional Caucus. Since he votes like a Republican, let him sit on their side of the aisle.

Lieberman is just a pathetic loser who can't accept the will of the people. He is not a Democrat.

Israeli Citizens Unhappy About Lebanese War

Last week, I stated that the only thing Israel got out of the Lebanese invasion was some bad publicity. It looks like the majority of Israeli citizens agree. An Israeli newspaper today released a poll showing that 63% of Israeli citizens would like for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign, because of his mishandling of the Lebanese war. The people are unhappy because Hezbollah's leadership is still intact, and the two captured Israeli soldiers have not been released.

Unless something happens soon to change things, this could result in the fall of the current government. Those polled show that only 16% would vote for Olmert, if an election was held now. Many citizens are demanding an investigation into the mishandling of the war. If the government does fall, and a new election is held, it looks like Likud would return to power, making Netanyahu the prime minister. This is what the changes would look like:

Likud Party would win 24 seats [they currently have 12]
Kadima Party would win 14 seats [they currently have 29]
Labour Party would win 9 seats

It looks like all the Israeli government has accomplished is to undermine its own credibility, even among its own citizens. I will be very surprised if we don't see new elections soon in Israel.

Gov. Perry Declares Calderon 'President-Elect'

Governor Perry must enjoy putting his foot in his mouth because he does it quite often. Yesterday, it happened again. When speaking at the border governor's conference yesterday, Perry said he had talked with "President-Elect" Felipe Calderon of Mexico. After the statement, a reporter from Mexico asked Perry if that meant he recognized Calderon as the winner of the Mexican presidential election. Perry replied, "When we have an election in the United States and the individual who gets the most votes, we refer to them as the president elect."

That statement might not seem as stupid as it is, if it wasn't for two facts that Perry either doesn't know, or is ignoring. First, it is just not true that this happens in the United States. A person in the U.S. is not designated as "president-elect" until it is determined that he has been elected. Otherwise, Al Gore would have been our "president-elect", because he got the most votes.

Second, the United States and Mexico have different election laws. Using U.S. law to comment on the Mexican election is disrespectful to the citizens of Mexico, especially since he got the U.S. law wrong. Maybe Perry should just keep his mouth shut, since he doesn't seem to understand the election laws of either country.

We have got to vote this fool out of office in November. He is a continuing embarrassment to the state of Texas.

Lockheed Martin To Punish Its Smokers

Fort Worth's Lockheed Martin has announced it will ban smoking at all of its facilities. Currently, there are designated outdoor smoking areas, but now smoking will be prohibited on all company property. The smoking ban will also apply to visitors. Any violations of the smoking ban will result in disciplinary action against the employee.

The company says it is doing this in an effort to lower insurance costs. They currently pay around $800 million a year for employee health insurance. Even though the ban does not cover what employees do in their off-time, company officials hope this will encourage workers to quit smoking. Lockheed believes that unsafe worker lifestyle choices accounts for nearly half of the large insurance premiums. The smoking ban will go into effect on January 1st.

Of course, of the many unsafe lifestyle choices, smoking is the one they would choose. All of the government propaganda in the last few years has made it easy to pick on smokers. No one minds spending all the tax money received from smokers. In fact, Texas has just passed a new cigarette tax that will raise the price of cigarettes by 25-35%. But no one wants to give smokers any rights.

This is not even a second-hand smoke issue. Current smoking areas are outside and away from other workers. This is a company trying to dictate the private choices made by their employees. What will be next? There are many choices a worker could make that might affect his/her health. Are they going after worker's who don't make "company-approved" food choices? Are they going after worker's that drink alcohol? Are they going after workers that have unsafe or unprotected sex? Are they going after bad drivers? Are they going after workers who don't exercise? How about workers whose families have a poor health record?

All of these things can affect a person's health as much, if not more than smoking. Government and employers have the right/duty to tell workers what choices are the healthiest and safest, but they do not have the right to make the choice for the worker. In a free country, everyone should have the right to make their own choices, even if those choices are poor ones. In a dictatorship, you can save money by forcing choices on people. In a free country, you can't.

Do we still want to live in a free country, or do we want Big Brother making our choices for us? It starts with the smokers. Where will it end?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

FDA Approves The 'Morning-After' Pill

The contraceptive method known as the "morning-after pill" has now been approved by the Food & Drug Administration. Barr Pharmaceuticals has been notified by the FDA that its pill, also called plan B, may be sold in pharmacies without a prescription, but can only be sold to women who are over the age of 18. The pharmacies will be required to check identification before selling the pill.

The FDA said Barr had proven the pill was safe for use by adult women. They said that it still has not been proven safe for teenagers, and that is why only those over 18 can purchase it without a prescription.

The "morning-after" pill contains the same ingredient that is in regular birth control pills. It is just a much higher dosage. If it is taken within 72 hours of having sex, it has been shown to be 89% effective in preventing pregnancy. It has no effect on a woman who is already pregnant.

Are The 'T.O. Problems' Starting For The Cowboys ?

I was one of those Dallas Cowboys fans that quickly got on board after Jerry Jones signed Terrell Owens in the off-season. I am well aware of the problems that T.O. has caused in some other cities. However, I thought maybe T.O. realized that he was running out of teams that would accept his troubled past and still be willing to pay top dollar. Surely, I thought, we can at least get a year or two of solid play before he went crazy again. I may have been wrong.

Even though two pre-season games are behind us now, T.O. has yet to play a down for the Dallas Cowboys. He has been rehabbing a hamstring muscle by riding a stationary bike on the sidelines during practice, even though an MRI showed no damage. Last week, he came back and practiced for one day. Then he found out he would not be playing last Monday night, and wouldn't you know it, the hamstring was re-aggravated on the same day. How's that for timing?

Now T.O. is back on the stationary bike during practices. When the media asked if the coaches needed to see him on the field before the season starts, he replied that they have several years worth of film they can watch. That kind of remark makes it look like T.O. doesn't really appreciate the opportunity he has been given with the Cowboys. He has also indicated that he probably won't play in any of the pre-season games. He has taken a second MRI, and it also showed no damage.

I don't know if Owens is really hurt or not. I hope he is, because if he isn't, then the troubles are starting much sooner than expected. If he does sit out the entire pre-season, he may find himself sitting out game one as well. Parcells doesn't have a track record of starting players who did not practice. I agree with "the Tuna" on that. If you didn't practice, you shouldn't play.

Maybe I'm wrong, and this will all be settled before the season opens. I hope so. The alternative is too horrible to think about.

TXU Plant in Robertson County Rejected

TXU wants to build 11 new coal-fired power plants in north Texas. In an effort to get the plants on-line quickly, Governor Perry has fast-tracked the building of the plants. It looked for a while like the plants would be quickly built in spite of protests from enviornmentalists. Now that is in doubt. Judge Carol Wood and Judge Thomas Walston, from the State Office of Administrative Hearings, have rejected the proposal to build the proposed Oak Grove plant, located in Robertson County.

The Oak Grove plant was the first of the 11 proposed plants to reach the administrative hearing of the state's permit process. TXU claimed they were using clean technology, and pollution levels would be cut by 20% after these plants were built. The judges did not buy the argument. They found that the new plant would emit 60% more nitrogen oxides that the last two plants approved. They said the type of coal to be used [lignite] produces a lot of ash and would clog the proposed pollution controls. They also said the proposed lignite has three times as much mercury as other types of coal.

The request to build the new plant now moves to the Texas Commission on Enviornmental Quality. TXU has until September 12th to file their arguments against the proposed rejection of the plant.

Thank goodness someone has stepped forward to call TXU on its latest lies. TXU has turned down the cleanest technology available, and wants to use the dirtiest coal available. Then they expected us to believe the plants would not be polluting our air. New plants are needed, but not plants that will pollute our air and cause health problems for north Texas residents. Hopefully, TCEQ will uphold the rejection and require TXU to clean up their proposed plants.

The Angriest Cities In Texas

I've known that I'm an angry person, but it looks like I have plenty of company. Men's Health magazine has assembled a list of the "angriest cities" in America. Considering the internet name I have chosen to use, how could I ignore a list of angry cities? According to the magazine, the three angriest cities in America are:

1. Orlando, Florida
2. St. Petersburg, Florida
3. Detroit, Michigan

In compiling this list, the magazine used factors such as percentage of men with high blood pressure, FBI rates of aggravated assaults, traffic congestion, number of speeding tickets issued, and workplace deaths from assaults and other violence. Texas may not be in the top three, but it placed several cities in the top 100. Here are the rankings for the Texas cities [the higher the ranking - the angrier the city]:

16. Dallas
17. Houston
29. Fort Worth
31. Lubbock
35. Arlington
60. San Antonio
81. Austin
92. El Paso
97. Corpus Christi

Well, the top three are no surprise. I think we all would have expected Dallas, Houston, and Fort Worth to be the leaders, but what's up with Lubbock? Is Lubbock really the 31st angriest city in the United States? I would have thought all the other Texas cities listed would have been ranked higher than Lubbock. I guess you just never know.

Maybe you folks in Austin, El Paso, & Corpus Christi can teach the rest of us how to "chill out".

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Jimmy Buffet To Give Concert For Kinky

As the election draws nearer, Kinky's friends are stepping forward to help with his campaign for governor. Texas Cable News is reporting that Jimmy Buffett is coming to Texas to give a benefit concert to raise money for Kinky Friedman's campaign. The concert will be held in Austin at the Paramount Theatre on Tuesday, September 19th, at 8:00 pm. Tickets will go on sale Saturday. You can get tickets online at www.gettix.net, or you can call 1-866-443-8849. There will be a limit of four tickets per customer.

If you're a Parrothead, this is a great opportunity to see Jimmy Buffett, and help Kinky while you're at it.

Henson Won't Make Cowboys Roster

The Dallas Cowboys acquired Drew Henson in 2004 in a trade with the Houston Texans, and signed him to a huge contract. At the time, he was thought to be the Cowboys quarterback of the future. Things just haven't worked out though. Even after sending him to Europe to get some playing time, he's just not making the grade. Henson did not play in either of the Cowboys first two pre-season games.

Today, Bill Parcells told the press that Henson would not be on the Cowboys 53-man roster this year. Parcells said, "I just didn't see enough. We tried very diligently with this guy." When he was asked if Henson would be waived, Parcells said, "I'm really not at liberty to discuss the situation because I'm not privy to that information. He's not going to be on our roster. That's all you need to know. I don't keep players that I don't think can play for us." Henson will still count $3 million toward the Cowboy's salary cap this year. This makes free-agent rookie, Matt Baker, the Cowboy's third string quarterback.

In other Cowboys news today, they have released four players. The players are guard Steven Peterman, linebacker John Saldi [son of former Cowboy Jay Saldi], cornerback Quincy Butler from TCU, and tight-end Erik Jensen. The Cowboys have also traded linebacker Scott Shanle to the New Orleans Saints for an undisclosed draft pick in 2007.

Next game is saturday night against San Francisco.

Will Dallas Outlaw Sagging Pants ?

I guess all the real problems in Dallas must have been solved, because today, they are discussing whether to ban sagging pants in the city. School Board member Ron Price, who is rumored to be seeking a city council seat himself, will appear before the Dallas City Council to ask them for an ordinance that would prohibit pants that hang well below the waist. Price said, "To me, it's disrespectful and dishonorable to women for men to walk around with their bottoms showing." Several council members back the proposal.

Councilman Bill Blaydes said, "It's an embarrassment to our city if we can't keep our pants up." Councilwoman Maxine Thornton-Reese said, "I would like to support any ordinance or anything that would help them not to expose themselves." Jesus Toscano, Assistant City Attorney, was unsure of the legality of such an ordinance, and said the city would have to research it.

When asked about the issue, Texas ACLU Director Lisa Graybill said, "Is it a civil liberties issue? I don't know. It's a silly issue, I know that. Why can't people just look away?"

I have to agree. This is a very silly issue for the city council to be discussing. These young people are not exposing themselves. The worst thing you have to see is the color of their underwear. In fact, I don't doubt that many people are exposing themselves more in the Texas heat that those who wear their pants low. Texans traditionally don't wear a whole lot in the summer.

Dallas has many problems more serious than how low a person wears his pants. The city council needs to stop this farce, and get back to solving real problems.

US Government Deports American Citizen

This is just another case of incompentent and uncaring government officials. The bad thing is that it is our government and officials. In 1994, Duarnis Perez was convicted of drug possession. He was deported to the Dominican Republic, his birthplace, because of the drug conviction. In 2000, Perez tried to reenter the U.S. and was arrested and incarcerated. After being incarcerated for three and a half years, Perez faced a second deportation.

While preparing for the second deportation, it was discovered that Perez was a United States citizen. It seems that he became a citizen in 1988 when his mother was naturalized - he did not know it though. To make matters even worse, the U.S. officials tried to keep Perez in jail even after discovering he was a citizen. They argued that Perez was at fault for not knowing he was a citizen.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn released Perez saying, "In effect, the government is arguing that an innocent man who was wrongly convicted should not be released from the custody of the United States." Judge Kahn ruled that Perez should not have been deported the first time.

I don't understand the thinking of the federal officials. How can you fight to keep a person incarcerated after learning he is not guilty of your charges? I wonder if this is not an example of officials so worried about the rules, that they can no longer tell right from wrong. Rules should be enforced, but that enforcement must be done with ethics and common sense.

Perez is now trying to sue the government for his deportation and incarceration. I hope he wins a nice fat monetary award. The government actions in this case were ridiculous and unacceptable. Controlling immigration should not include abusing U.S. citizens.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Charter Schools Lag Behind Public Schools

Much of the talk about education in Texas in recent years, has centered on the question of private and charter schools being better than public schools. Now, it looks like that may not even be true. According to a new government report, public schools are actually outperforming charter schools. The report studied student performance on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress test given to fourth graders.

The report says the public school students scored higher on both the math and reading portions of the test. Public school students scored an average of 5.2 points higher in reading, and 5.8 points higher in math. The report was done by the National Center for Education Statistics, a part of the U.S. Department of Education. They compiled data from 150 charter schools and 6,764 traditional public schools.

Remember this study the next time someone starts touting school vouchers. Giving someone a voucher to attend a private school does not mean they will get a better education. It may even mean they won't get as good an education as they could have gotten in a public school.

Cowboys Monday-Morning Quarterbacking [On Tuesday]

The Dallas Cowboys played their second pre-season game last night. They played the New Orleans Saints. Now the Saints are not a great team, so I don't know if last night meant much. However, it went very well for the Cowboys. They seemed to dominate the entire game, whether the first-string was in or the second-string.

The defense looked especially good. It's bigger and faster than last year's defense. The defensive backfield is in better shape than it's been in for many years. It has quality players, and it has depth. Same situation for the linebackers and linemen. Both show improvement and depth.

The offense also looked good. Bledsoe started, and did very well. Maybe this will end the ridiculous talk of a quarterback controversy. Although Romo did well last week , and in the second half this week, Bledsoe is the starting quarterback this year. It is nice to know that the backup is competent though. Running backs all looked OK, but not spectacular. Terrell Owens did not play, so we still haven't seen the starting offense. Other wide receivers did pick up the slack last night. Terry Glenn had a great night, while rookies like Sam Hurd, Jamaica Rector, and Miles Austin made some really nice catches.

Overall, the team seems to be progressing well. The next game should tell us even more. They will probably use the next game as a dress rehearsal for the season. The Cowboys next game will be against San Francisco on Saturday night in Dallas.

Mexico To Teach Sex Education In Its Schools

This year, Mexico added sex to its school curriculum. This is not the American "abstinence only" program which has been proven not to be effective. This is the real thing. This is part of Mexico's effort to reduce sexually transmitted diseases and lower the incidence of teen pregnancy. Currently, one of every five children is born to a teen mother.

The new biology textbooks discuss sex in a more honest and open way. Masturbation and homosexuality are even discussed. The book says both are normal, and nothing to be ashamed of. Of course, this has upset the Catholic Church, and other conservative groups in Mexico. They say the new book encourages promiscuity and "abnormal" sexual activities. Mexico's largest parent's association disagrees. Its president, Jose Luis Perez, says, "It is scientifically proved that information does not lead to promiscuity. On the contrary, it helps protect our youths, particularly at such a vulnerable age."

Mexico has decided to go with common sense and rational thought in it's schools, instead of religious orthodoxy. I applaud their action. I just wish we had this much common sense on this side of the border. While the Mexican students will be taught about sex, many of our own schools continue to lie about it. It's almost as if they believe their children won't discover sex, if no one talks about it. But children are not stupid. If it's not taught in the schools, then it'll be learned on the streets. It's time for American adults to grow up. Our children are capable of handling the truth. Let's give it to them.

Dallas Considers Swapping Commercial License Of WRR

For years, WRR, the radio station owned by the city of Dallas, has been playing classical music for its thousands of fans. The station has a commercial radio license, and has been making a modest profit each year. Now some in Dallas think they can make even more money by swapping their commercial radio license for a non-commercial license. Last night, a committee appointed by the city council recommended this plan. They believe they could get millions of dollars by swapping licenses with another radio station.

So far, only one station has expressed a desire to swap with WRR. That station is KVTT [91.7], a non-commercial christian broadcasting station. In exchange for its commercial license [which lets the station sell advertising], WRR would receive a non-commercial license and a large sum of money. WRR could have "sponsorships" then, but could no longer sell advertising.

I'll have to agree with the opponents of this plan. Why mess with success? The city station has a significant and very loyal audience, and it is making money each year. It seems short-sighted to sell the license. While it would mean more money to the city right now, it would mean less money in the future. Leave the station alone. Let it continue its valuable service to the north Texas area.

Texas Parks Funds Not Getting To The Parks

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has exposed the travesty going on in our state parks is the last few weeks. Our parks are rapidly falling into disrepair, and many are in danger of closing. This is all because of a lack of funds at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It's not that the funds are unavailable. Our officials have just fallen into the habit of taking the money and spending it on something else. We have already heard about funds from the sale of speciality conservation license plates and from a sporting goods tax. Both were supposed to be dedicated for use by TPW, but most of the money never got to them.

Now we learn that those weren't the only parks dedicated funds that went awry. Now we learn of a state fund composed of money from hunting and fishing licenses, boat registrations, and federal taxes on hunting and fishing gear. This fund receives about $90 a year, but only about half is actually given to Texas Parks and Wildlife. The other half has been used by the governor and the Texas legislature to help balance the state budget. Instead of adequately funding neccessary state projects and activities, our state elected officials have been robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Instead of seeing that government is fully funded in Texas, Texas officials have played politics with the future of Texas. They have used money for purposes it was not meant for, and they have cut taxes for votes, without regard to what they are doing to Texas. It is now time to pay the piper. Our state parks can wait no longer. They must be adequately funded or we will start to lose them. Once the parks are closed, they stand a chance of being sold off by the Republicans, as they are trying to do with several pieces of state property right now.

I believe we are going to have to vote the Republicans out of office to solve this problem. They are far too used to playing games with our money, and at this point their stewardship must be questioned. Sadly enough, the Parks and Wildlife Department is not the only state agency being hurt by these policies. All state agencies are currently operating on a shoe-string budget, and have been asked to cut another 10% in the coming biennium.

There is a bit of good news. The state is delaying the sale of its 400 acre tract of land around Eagle Mountain Lake, north of Fort Worth. Hopefully, this 120 day delay will allow opponents of the sale time to organize their efforts to turn the land into a new state park. The state had wanted to sell the land "because it wasn't being used." Using this logic, they could sell off any state parks that have to be closed by the faux budget crunch.

Instead of selling off state land and giving the rich more tax breaks, our government should be adequately funding public activities for the good of all the citizens of Texas. Doing anything less would be a betrayal of all Texans.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Church Dismisses Teacher Because She's Female

For the last 54 years, Mary Lambert has been teaching Sunday School at the First Baptist Church of Watertown, New York. On August 9th, that ended abruptly, simply because she is a woman. Ms. Lambert received a letter from the minister of the church, Reverend Timothy LaBouf, which quoted the Bible [1st Timothy] as saying, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, she must be silent." Ms. Lambert said she had no warning that this was about to happen.

I've got to admit that this one has me confused. Is the minister saying the church has been operating in sin for the last 54 years? How can something be biblical for 54 years, and then all of a sudden it's not? The words in the Bible have not changed. The only thing that has changed is that the church has a new minister - one who believes his interpretation of the Bible is correct and that of the church has been wrong for at least 54 years.

To make matters worse, this same minister is on the Watertown City Council, which incidentally has a female town manager. LaBouf has said, "I believe that a woman can perform any job and fulfill any responsibility that she desires to outside of the church." The city's mayor is bothered about LaBouf's views, though. Mayor Jeffery Graham said, "If what's said in that letter reflects the councilman's views, those are disturbing remarks in this day and age. Maybe they wouldn't have been disturbing 500 years ago, but they are now."

It is indeed disturbing. If a church wants to operate with a 1st century mentality, that is fine. But we must make sure that this 1st century thinking does not interfere with our 21st century lives and government. Women have struggled hard to win their equality. They must not lose it to archaic thinking.

Kinky Won't Apologize To Grandma

Last week, Kinky's campaign manager, Dean Barkley, asked the Travis County District Attorney to investigate Grandma for using state employees on state time to work on her campaign. When Kinky found out what Barkley had done, he disavowed any knowledge of the action. As punishment, Kinky barred Barkley from his favorite bar for two weeks - the Star Bar in Austin.

That wasn't good enough for Grandma. Her people are now asking for an apology from Kinky. Grandma's campaign spokesman, Mark Sanders, said, "Mr. Friedman needs to apologize for his campaign manager's action, and he needs to get control of his staff and have them withdraw the complaint he does not think is valid."

It doesn't look like Grandma is going to get that apology though, or the withdrawal of the charge. Kinky said his manager believes the law was violated, and he won't ask him to withdraw it. Kinky said, "I'm not totally convinced the charges aren't true, by the way. I'm just saying I did not want to be the one that's picking at the other candidates. I don't want this picking on each other, back-biting stuff to go on. It's not the cowboy way. I don't want to be the one piling on, because that is not the cowboy way. Dean's from Minnesota; he doesn't know the cowboy way."

These are serious charges, and I'm glad Kinky won't ask Barkley to withdraw the request for an investigation. Even if it has to wait until after the election, the investigation should be conducted. Just because Grandma has state employees working for her, doesn't mean she gets to misuse or abuse them. If they want to work for her campaign, they should do so on their time off. While at work, they are being paid by the people of Texas, and should be doing the business of the people of Texas - not a campaign for their boss.

Farmers Branch To Debate Anti-Immigrant Ordinance

The northern Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch is jumping into the immigration debate. City councilman Tim O'Hare has introduced a new ordinance, which will be discussed at monday's council meeting. Mr. O'Hare seems to blame most of the city's problems on undocumented workers. He said, "The reason I got on the city council was because I saw our property values declining or increasing at a level that was below the rate of inflation. When that happens, people move out of our neighborhoods, and what I would call less desirable people move into the neighborhoods, people who don't value education, people who don't value taking care of their properties."

The ordinance introduced by O'Hare would:

1. Prohibit landlords from renting to illegal immigrants.
2. Penalize businesses that employ undocumented workers.
3. Make english the city's official language.
4. Cease publication of any documents in spanish.
5. Eliminate subsidies for illegal immigrants in the city's youth program.

According to O'Hare, this is all that is needed to solve all of Farmers Branch's problems. Just get rid of the brown people and everything will be fine. This is nothing but naked racism. The saddest part is that someone this obviously racist actually got elected to a Metroplex city council. Fortunately, much of the council opposes this kind of behavior.

Speaking for sanity, Mayor Bob Phelps said he feared they would get sued if they passed the ordinance. He said, "We have a council member or two that want to push this, but I don't think now is the time. Until we get some clear understanding of what can be done, or what the United States is going to do, it's hard for us in Farmers Branch, being a little town of 27,000, to do anything."

Hector Flores, with the League of United Latin American Citizens, says, "I'm sure the Statue of Liberty must be crying right now, knowing some of our subjects in this great democracy of ours are conjuring up to make life more miserable for those who are here trying to eke out a living, contributing to our great country through their sweat and tears, only looking for what our forefathers were looking for when they came here."

This is a ridiculous ordinance for a city to be considering. Immigration is a federal concern, and should be left to the federal government. For each city to dive into this mess, just opens opportunities for racist and unconstitutional activities. Farmers Branch would do well to reject this ordinance as quickly as possible.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

U.S. Inteferes In Nicaraguan Politics

It seems like Georgie just never learns. He still seems to think we can force the rest of the world to select politicians/leaders that he approves of. It doesn't seem to matter that this has not worked in the other Latin American countries. Most of them now have leftist leaders. Even Mexico would have a leftist leader, if their election hadn't been stolen by the right.

Now we are interfering in the internal politics of Nicaragua. The American Ambassador to Nicaragua, Paul Trivelli, has made it clear that the US supports the right-wing pro-American candidate, Eduardo Montealegro, who is an investment banker. He is being opposed by Daniel Ortega. The US is scared of Ortega, because he used to be a Sandinista leader, and is currently a friend of Venezulan President Hugo Chavez.

Ambassador Trivelli said Ortega was anti-democratic and "a tiger who hasn't changed his stripes." American officials have also warned that if Ortega wins, "Nicaragua would sink like a stone."

Ortega said, "Even in the worst of times during the Reagan administration, the US envoy was careful with his words. But the current ambassador acts like he is the governor of Nicaragua."

The US needs to stop taking sides in foreign elections. For one thing, we don't have the right to interfere. For another, if the guy the US doesn't like actually wins, then we have already destroyed our ability to get along with him. You know that the same guys who want us to interfere in foreign elections, would be horrified if another country tried to interfere in our elections. It's just more Republican do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do philosophy.

The US used to be respected in most parts of the world. Georgie has destroyed that with his policies. We cannot regain that worldwide respect, unless we stop trying to interfere in the politics of other countries.

Hurst Police Department Switching To Chargers

The Hurst Police Department just received their first hemi-powered Dodge Charger. Hurst is located in northeast Tarrant County. Within the next two months, they will be receiving three more Chargers. This is the beginning of Hurst's effort to replace their Ford Crown Victorias. The Hurst PD will also receive 4 new Chargers next year.

Assistant Police Chief, Richard Windstanley, said he believes the Chargers "are slightly faster. But safety is the main concern." He said the Chargers are a little easier to handle in agressive driving situations. They also have their gas tank nearer the middle of the car. The old Crown Victorias were prone to have a gas tank expolsion when rear-ended.

The Chargers cost the city $24,000 each. Hurst currently has 22 Ford Crown Victorias, and hope to eventually replace all of them.


Hurst's next door neighbor, Bedford, is currently considering installing red light cameras at several intersections in the city. According to Police Chief David Flory, the program shouldn't cost the city any money. Usually a private company will put up the cameras and operate them, and split the proceeds with the city. Chief Flory said they are not after revenues, but are trying to make city intersections safer.

Bedford is also considering passing an ordinance to allow police to impound the cars of uninsured drivers.

Rep. Kenny Marchant's Latest Junk Mail

I live in Texas' 24th U.S. Congressional District, which means that from time to time I get political junk mail from Rep. Kenny Marchant. Since it is usually filled with lies and half-truths, I normally toss it into the nearest trashcan. Yesterday, his latest propaganda tome arrived in my mailbox. Since we do have an election coming up, I thought I'd see what he's got to say. Surely, he's ready to apologize for the many Republican screw-ups since his election.

So I held my nose and read the brochure. Seems Kenny thinks Republicans are about one election away from saving the whole world! He starts painting his rosy picture with strengthening the economy. Kenny thinks the economy is just great. He says that 5.4 million new jobs have been created since August of 2003. What he doesn't say, is that most of these jobs are low-paying service-oriented jobs, while high-paying manufacturing and computer jobs are still being outsourced to foreign countries. Kenny then tells us how lucky we are to have only 4.6% unemployment. He seems to ignore that the unemployment in the DFW area, where his district is located, is more like 5.5%, and it is even higher in many parts of Texas. He also doesn't mention that this figure only counts those applying for or receiving unemployment benefits. Those who have exhausted their benefits are not counted.

Kenny then wants us to know that because of Republican tax cuts, tax revenues have grown this year, as if the two had anything to do with each other. What he doesn't want you to know, is that tax revenues are up slightly because the economy has shown modest growth. He also doesn't tell you that a larger share of the revenue is being paid by the middle and working classes, and a smaller part is being paid by the rich. If the Republicans had not given the rich those tax cuts, the revenue could have been up even more, and maybe we could begin to pay back some of the enormous debts that Georgie is creating.

Of course, Kenny has found a magic bullet to fix whatever might be wrong with the economy. He wants to restore the line-item veto. I guess he thinks Georgie has been so competent and responsible, that we should give him even more power. Kind of makes me wonder if Kenny has ever taken an IQ test.

Then Kenny moves on to energy independence. He thinks we'll be fine if we just drill for oil in the Arctic National Refuge and the Gulf of Mexico, and then reduce restrictions on building of new refineries. I found it hard to believe he actually called for these measures. Obviously, protecting the enviornment is not something very important to him.

On securing our borders, Kenny has climbed on board the racist right-wing anti-immigrant bandwagon. He makes it clear that he is not in favor of "amnesty" for anyone. He even goes so far as to refer to undocumented worker's as criminals. And of course, he's in favor of a fence and other technologies that won't work. After all, it's just money, and scaring voters will bring him votes - at least that's what he thinks.

Then Kenny says he wants to increase access to healthcare, but he didn't really mean it. All he wants to do is increase access to healthcare savings accounts, make it harder to sue a doctor, and increase small business access to healthcare plans. Even if all three were done, this wouldn't even make a dent in the 40 million uninsured Americans. I guess Kenny doesn't want to talk about those Americans.

Kenny finishes his fictional tract with supporting the troops. Somehow he gets through this whole topic without mentioning Iraq a single time [or Afghanistan]. Could it be that he doesn't want to draw a voter's attention to the mess the Republicans have created in the Mideast?

Thank goodness we have a choice in District 24 this year! Kenny is being opposed by Democrat Gary R. Page. I'll be voting for the candidate who understands reality and logic. I'll be voting for Gary R. Page this year. Please join me, and let's get rid of Kenny Marchant.