A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Celebrating My Birthday With Kinky And Bell

Today was my birthday, and I celebrated it by going to see Chris Bell and Kinky Friedman speak at the Health Care Forum on the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington. The forum was sponsored by AARP, National Health Policy Council, and National Coalition on Health Care. All of the candidates for governor were invited, but Perry was a no-show [obviously afraid to be on the same stage as Kinky and Bell] and Grandma Strayhorn could not be there until after 4:00pm.

Outside Texas Hall, where the forum was being held, there were three candidate tables set up - for Kinky Friedman, Grandma, and Judge Bill Moody [Democratic candidate for the Texas Supreme Court]. Judge Moody and his wife were manning their own table, shaking hands and passing out literature. They were getting a moderate amount of traffic, and I took the opportunity to meet Judge Moody and his wife. They were both VERY nice people and we had a good little chat. The only thing I regret is that I had a camera with me and didn't think to get a photo with them. Judge Moody is the candidate walking across Texas to meet the voters.

The Kinky Friedman table was buzzing with people buying T-shirts, caps, and buttons. It quickly became obvious that there were a lot of Kinky supporters attending the forum. My daughter braved the crowd and bought me a birthday Kinky T-shirt. I love it, and can't wait to wear it.

I felt sorry for the two women at the Strayhorn table. We were out there about 15 minutes, and I never saw a single person stop by their table. Doesn't look like Grandma has a lot of support in this area.

Going into the forum, I saw Anna of the blog Annatopia. Anna and I don't support the same candidate for governor, but she and her husband are exceptionally nice people, and I really enjoyed chatting with her for a few minutes.

The forum started with a short speech by Patricia Schoeni, National Director of the National Coalition on Health Care. She submitted the following facts for our consideration:

a) Texas has more people uninsured for health care than any other state in the Union.
b) 5.5 million people, 24% of the population, are uninsured in the state of Texas.
c) The United States spends twice as much on health care as any other industrialized nation, and yet is the only industrialized nation that does not have universal coverage for health care.
d) The U.S. ranks near the bottom of the industrialized nations in many health care areas, such as infant mortality.
e) Sub-standard health care is the third largest killer in this country.

Then the candidates spoke. Chris Bell went first, and was immediately followed by Kinky Friedman. Each was given 30 minutes. Bell came out to polite applause from the crowd, even the Kinky supporters applauded. But when Kinky came out, the applause was louder and more raucus. It looked like about 2/3 of the crowd were Kinky supporters.

Bell got the crowd's attention and enthusiastic applause from everyone, when he stated that he was in favor of universal health care coverage. Then he dashed our hopes by saying that it was a problem that must be solved on the federal level. All he could do as governor was use his "bully pulpit" to encourage the federal government to solve the problem.

Kinky, however, had a plan to cover all Texans with health insurance. He wants to institute a Texas version of Minnesota's health care coverage program - Minnesota Care. Under this program, a 1% surcharge would be levied on medical procedures, hospitals, and insurance companies. This would raise about $1.5 billion, which would be used to help all Texans purchase health care coverage.

After the forum, Kinky stayed around and chatted with his supporters. Pictures were taken and will be posted when they are developed. I was able to chat with Kinky, and his right-hand man, Little Jewford. Kinky was also nice enough to sign my copy of "Armadillos & Old Lace".

All things considered, it was a great birthday!

Republican Fear-Mongering Hurts Farmers

According to the Department of Labor's National Agricultural Survey, 53% of the workers helping to harvest American crops do not have the proper documentation to work in this country. Grower's associations and worker advocates think it's closer to 80%. These worker's are crucial to the timely harvesting of our crops.

But with the Republican fear-mongering in this election year, many of these worker's are simply not coming anymore. Republican's have tried to scare Americans with visions of terrorists crossing our southern border in hordes. The truth is, that they can't point to a single incident where a terrorist has crossed our southern border illegally.

But while the increased border security is doing nothing to fight terrorism, it is having other effects. By scaring the agricultural workers away, they are costing our farmer's millions of dollars in profit. No one benefits from a crop rotting in the fields - not the workers, not the farmers, and not the consumers.

Consumers can expect the prices for many items to go up. Whether we want to admit it or not, prices for our agricultural products are kept low because thousands of "illegal immigrants" are willing to come here, and do back-breakingly hard work for meager pay. If they can't come over the border to do this work, consumer prices will climb sharply.

And don't even try to tell me there are Americans willing to do this work. The work is there and the farmers are willing to hire anyone who will do the work. Where are these "willing" Americans?

Once again, Republicans have shown they are willing to hurt Americans to get a few more votes. Grab your posketbooks consumers, cause this nonsense is going to hurt.

Perry Is Afraid Of Debates With Opponents

Rick Perry must be afraid that if the people of Texas see him live in a debate with his opponents, he will lose votes - perhaps enough to cost him the election. Why else would he be only agreeing to a single debate, and making sure that debate happens at a time when the fewest number of Texans would be watching. These are the actions of a candidate sitting on a small lead, and terrified that his opponents will further chip away at that lead.

Perry has agreed to meet his opponents in a debate in Dallas next friday night. According to his campaign, it was the only date and time that he had open. If you believe that, I'd like to talk to you about some ocean-front property for sale here in Fort Worth. This date and time just happen to coincide with friday night football all over Texas, where district play is just getting underway. If you know anything about Texas, and its unofficial religion of football, then you know that a significant portion of Texas' population will be watching high school football - not a political debate.

Making matters even worse is the fact that next weekend is Texas-OU football weekend. There will be thousands of people in Dallas, but they will be wearing burnt orange or crimson and partying their butts off - again, not watching a political debate. If Perry wanted to make sure that the fewest number of people possible would be watching the debate, then he picked the perfect time.

In the latest polls, Perry only has 30%-33% of the vote. This may be just enough to put him over the top. A real debate, with Texans actually watching could cost him the election. He knows that. That's why the debate was scheduled for next friday night.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Texas Senate Debate Is On !

Just received word from Barbara Ann Radnofsky's campaign that her opponent has finally consented to a debate. Kay Bailey Hutchison has ducked scheduling a debate for three months now, but it looks like she has finally been shamed into participating. Can't say I blame her for ducking the debate until now though. It doesn't quite seem fair to make her debate Barbara Ann Radnofsky. I expect Barbara Ann will beat her like a drum.

The debate is sponsored by the League of Women Voters, and will be held in San Antonio in the studios of KLRN. It will be taped at 7:30pm and broadcast at 9:00pm. Both candidates have agreed to the following rules:

a) There will be one nonpartisan moderator.
b) The panel will be nonpartisan.
c) The questions will be provided by the questioners.
d) The speaking order of the candidates will be determined by a drawing.
e) The responses will be timed.
f) There will be no campaigning in the room where the debate is held. Buttons, signs, literature, T-shirts, banners, etc. will be prohibited.
g) The audience will not be allowed to use audio or video recorders during the debate.
h) Audio and/or videotapes of the debate, in part or whole, cannot be used by any candidate or party for any purpose.
i) The candidates can bring to their respective podiums only paper and pen for the purpose of making personal notes during the debate.
j) Water will be provided.

Also, for you supporters of Senator Russ Feingold [which I am!], he will be in Houston on Saturday, September 30th, to help Barbara Ann Radnofsky raise some campaign funds. For further information, you can contact the campaign's communications director, Katie Floyd at 713-858-9391 or e-mail the campaign at katie.floyd@radnofsky.com.

Ranting About Comments

I have enabled the "comment moderation" feature on this blog, and I feel like I need to let my regular readers know why. If you are a reader, you know that I don't mind someone disagreeing with my ideas or opinions. I will continue to allow and encourage comments that disagree with me.

However, I do not allow racist comments on this blog. In fact, I won't allow slurs about a person's race, sex, color, age, ethnicity or sexual preference. These are things a person has no control over. Yesterday, I got a right-winger who thought this was a forum for him to display his racism. He was wrong, and his comment was deleted.

As you probably know, I am a supporter of Kinky Friedman. While I do not think Kinky is a racist, I know that some of you do believe that. I don't have a problem with us discussing this. Kinky chose how he would present himself and the type of satire he would use. It is always permissible to question a person's choices.

I regularly blast Republicans, fundamentalists, etc., but only for the choices they have made for themselves [never for their race, color, sex, etc.], and I shall continue to do so. If someone wants to take me to task for being a liberal, or an atheist, or a Kinky supporter, then you have the right to do so. These are choices that I have made.

I have also been getting irritated recently about all the anonymous commenters. It is pretty gutless to go to a blog and lob bombs under the moniker "anonymous". I'm not asking anyone to identify themselves - just pick a fake name and stick with it. This helps me to know if I have one commenter or several different commenters, and helps me to differentiate between the commenters. Anonymous comments will no longer be allowed.

I hope I haven't run anyone off, or discouraged you from wanting to comment. I love having the comments, whether you agree with me or not.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

New Album Of Kinky's Songs Helps Raise Funds

The Fort Worth Weekly informs us this week that a new album of Kinky Friedman songs has been released featuring some of his friends. The purpose of the album is to help raise funds for Kinky's campaign for governor this year. The title of the album is "WHY THE HELL NOT...The Songs of Kinky Friedman". FW Weekly critic, Jeff Prince, gave the album a very good review. Here is some of what Prince had to say:

"Kinky's serious and poetic side is often overlooked. Cultists who have delved into Friedman's obscure albums realize the level of insight and feeling in his lyrics. Back in the 1970s and '80s, he created an entertaining live showwith leftist honkytonk band The Texas Jewboys, but Friedman's performances were typically held back by average vocals and guitarmanship. Other artists capture the magic of his songs better than he does, as proven on the 1998 tribute album Pearls in the Snow. Four songs from that album are recycled here on Why The Hell Not..., a tribute album whose proceeds will help fund Kinky's '06 campaign, including Willie Nelson's sensitive take on "Ride 'Em Jewboy", Dwight Yoakam's Bakersfield-textured "Rapid City, South Dakota", Lyle Lovett's somber "Sold American", and Delbert McClinton's soul-packed "Autograph".

The remaining tracks are new versions of old songs as interpreted by a handful of Texas Music artists. Charlie Robison delivers a surprisingly tender and kick-effing-ass version of "Wild Man From Borneo". And there has never been a better version of "Homo Erectus" than the brilliance offered by Asleep at the Wheel frontman Ray Benson and Reckless Kelly. Also, it's great to hear the big-voiced Jason Boland & The Stragglers put their down-home stamp on "The Gospel According To John". My biggest complaint is, at 10 songs, Why The Hell Not... is too damn short....the Kinkster can write like a mofo."

Why Won't Ethics Commission Obey The Law ?

Back in August, Representative Lon Burnam asked the Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion on whether state officials must report the amount of cash gifts. In the past, the Commission has allowed officials to declare they received a gift without declaring the amount of the gift. One official received $100,000 in gifts and just put the word "check" on the declaration form without indicating the amount of the gift.

Even former Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff, a Republican who served on the conference committee for the statute in question, has told the Commission that the intent of the law was to require officials to declare the amount of all gifts. Rep. Burnam agrees saying, "I want to commend those Commissioners that stood up for common sense and meaningful disclosure. They understand that there is no reasonable way to describe a cash gift without indicating the AMOUNT of cash. Obviously, it was never the intent of the Legislature to allow public officials to receive cash gifts without specifying the amount."

But instead of making a common sense decision, the Ethics Commission has delayed their decision until at least December 1st. This is a clear violation of state law governing the Commission. Here is what the law says:

"571.092. DEADLINE FOR OPINION; EXTENSION. (a) The commission shall issue an advisory opinion not later than the 60th day after the date the commission receives the request. (b) The commission by vote may extend the time available to issue an opinion by 30 days. The commission may not grant more than two extensions."

I don't think you need to be a lawyer to understand the paragraph above. It is clear that the decision to wait until December 1st violates Texas law. According to the law, the Commission must meet in October, and even if they granted a second extension, it would be about the third week of November, and not December 1st. Rep. Burnam has written to the Commission reminding them of the law. I must agree with Burnam on this issue. It is not too much to expect the Commission to follow the law.

Representative Burnam has issued a press release, in which he states the following, "By refusing to issue a common sense opinion today, the Ethics Commission has left this glaring loophole open for an additional 30 days [the legal limit of an extension]. If they continue to abdicate their authority and insist on a legislative fix, the loophole will not be closed until September of 2007. This is needlessly dangerous. The Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker should call on their appointees to issue an advisory opinion or make a rule to require meaningful disclosure of cash gifts. The Commission has the authority to fix this even though some commissioners continue to insist they are impotent. The Ethics Commission needs to quit stalling and do its job. In a year when Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay await trial, at a time when public confidence in government is at one of its lowest points in history, at a time when the public wants stricter enforcement of ethics laws, the Texas Ethics Commission continues to fail to do its job."

Could Our Hospitals Handle A Large Disaster ?

Many in this country expect terrorists to strike our country again, as was done on 9/11/2001. All of us know that it's just a matter of time before a natural disaster strikes our area. Now we learn that many of our hospital emergency rooms simply could not handle either occurence. How's that for a scary situation?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just released a new report that says between 40% and 50% of emergency rooms experience crowding. In metropolitan areas that figure climbs to around 66%. The findings of this and other reports means these overcrowded emergency facilities are not equipped to deal with a large natural disaster, a disease ourbreak or a terrorist attack.

The report defines an emergency room as overcrowded if one or more of the following is true:

1. If there are so many patients that ambulances have to be diverted to other hospitals.
2. If people in urgent need of care had to wait an hour or more for treatment.
3. If 3% of patients simply gave up and left before being treated.

Using these criteria, the public hospital here in Tarrant County would qualify as overcrowded nearly 24 hours a day. I imagine the public hospitals in most big cities would be the same. The last time I took my son to emergency for breathing problems, we were there for 8 hours. When I complained, I was told he had been expidited service because a breathing problem was considered urgent. Sure enough, there were those who had been there for 12 hours and were still waiting.

The report listed some problems that they cite as causes for the overcrowding, including a shortage of nurses, a shortage of hospital beds [causing a back-up in emergency], and a declining number of hospitals offering emergency services. I'm sure these do cause some of the overcrowding, but I believe they are overlooking one of the major causes - poor and uninsured patients. The poor and uninsured are flooding emergency rooms with non-emergency illnesses because they can't afford to do anything else.

More nurses, hospital beds and more emergency care centers would help, but the biggest thing that would help is to clear our emergency rooms of non-emergencies. The only way to do this is to cover all citizens with health care.

For quite a while now, we have been the ONLY industrialized nation that does not offer health care coverage to all its citizens. It is time to remedy this. It is time to institute a single-payer system in this country. If we don't, when the next disaster occurs we may be in serious trouble.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Blog's First Picture


I'm trying to figure out how to post pictures [I'm so computer illiterate], so I thought ya'll might like to see what I look like. This is me [jobsanger] at my surprise birthday party at work. Do I look surprised? And yes, that is an "over-the-hill" sign in the background. My co-workers thought that was funny.

Sorry to disappoint anyone, but I never was a Rock Hudson. At least now, if you see me at some political function, you'll be able to recognize me [although I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing].

Saturday Is Big Day For David Pillow In District 94

Just heard from the David Pillow campaign, and it looks like he's got a full schedule for next Saturday [September 30th]. David is the Democratic candidate for state representative in District 94.

In the morning, David needs volunteers to help him do some block-walking. He is asking those who want to turn District 94 blue to meet him at 9:30am at the Taking Back Texas Voter ID Center, located at 801 East Abram in Arlington. A reporter and photographer are scheduled to be there, and it sure would look good if lots of volunteers showed up. This is a great opportunity to get David Pillow and the TBT Voter ID Center some good publicity. The Pillow campaign will be providing maps, lists, training, coffee and donuts. To volunteer or get more information, you can contact the campaign at keith@electpillow.com.

In the afternoon, David will be at the TAKE THE TRUTH TO THE STREETS DEMOCRATIC FESTIVAL on the University of Texas at Arlington campus. The event is free and will be held from 1:00-6:00pm. There will be a free concert by The Ackermans of Texas and String Theory, and a performance by Ballet de Folkloric de Fort Worth. And David is not the only candidate appearing at the festival. The following candidates will also be there:

Maria Luisa Alvarado, Lt. Governor
Chris Bell, Governor
Fred Head, Comptroller of Public Accounts
David Van Os, Attorney General
Hank Gilbert, Agriculture Commissioner
Judge Bill Moody, Supreme Court Justice
David T. Harris, U.S. Congress Dist. 06
Christopher Youngblood, Texas House Dist. 95
Terri Moore, Tarrant County D.A.

The festival will be held in UTA parking lot #50, one block south of Mitchell and one block east of South Cooper.

If you're ready for a change in Texas, these are the people who can deliver it. Drop by the festival and have a good time, and meet some of the best candidates appearing on the November ballot. I'll be there, and I hope to see you there also.

School Says No To Cell Phone Drivers

The Star-Telegram had an interesting tidbit this morning. The Southlake-Carroll Independent School District is asking parents and others who drive near the school, to not use their cellphones when near school property. Soon they will be putting up signs around the district's 11 schools asking drivers to hang up.

Last year, a teacher was hit by a cellphone driver, and had to be hospitalized. A cellphone driver also narrowly missed hitting a student at a different school. A spokeswoman for the district said, "We're asking them to be more safety-conscious. There are lots of people around, and you need to be more alert."

No one will be fined or have their cellphone confiscated. They are just trying to remind people of how dangerous it is to be driving in a school zone while distracted by talking on a cellphone. As the Carroll spokeswoman says, "The cellphone police are not coming out. The signs are going to serve as reminders. Cellphones are a part of our lives. We are not asking anyone not to have them."

This sounds like a reasonable request from the school district. After all, who wants to be the person who ran over a child because they were too distracted by a cellphone conversation. Actually, people shouldn't drive at all when chatting on the cellphone. Several studies have shown that cellphone drivers are as dangerous as drunk drivers. I have to admit some of you cellphone drivers scare the hell out of me on the freeway. But if you must continue your addiction to the cellphone while driving, hang it up or put it down when in a school zone. Our children are more important than your conversation.

T.O. Attempted Suicide ?

This year, Dallas Cowboys football is starting to look as much like a soap opera as an athletic endeavor. First, Terrell Owens misses most of training camp with a pulled hamstring. After the furor died and he began to play, he then breaks a finger in a game, and had to have surgery on the hand. Yesterday, he told reporters that the swelling was going away, and he even caught a few passes thrown by teammates. It looked like maybe everything was going to be OK in the Cowboy's kingdom.

Today, we hear that T.O. was rushed to the hospital last night, where doctors tried to induce vomiting. The the Dallas Morning News tells us that T.O. had tried to commit suicide, and linked us to the police report. The report says that T.O. admitted taking an overdose of pain killers in an attempt to harm himself. I guess it shows that money and fame are not necessarily the keys to a happy life. T.O. is going to be OK, but I wouldn't expect him to play this coming weekend.

Of course, all this comes on top of the news a couple of days ago that the other starting wide receiver, Terry Glenn, had cut his hand and had to have stitches. For a couple of days, it looked like the Cowboys would be starting two rookies at wide receiver this weekend. Now it looks like that won't have to happen. Glenn's hand is healing, and he is back practicing with the team. Looks like he will be OK to play this weekend.

We're only three weeks into the season, and already it seems we've had a season's worth of drama. Be sure to tune in later for more drama on "As The Cowboy's World Turns".

My Apology

Yesterday, I quoted from and linked to Liz Smith's column in which she stated that Ann Richards would have supported Kinky. I should not have done so. At the time, I thought she would not have said something like that unless she had talked with Ann about the race before she died. Today I learn that was not the case.

This is what Liz Smith now says, "I've heard from Ann's family, and they assured me that she'd be with the Democrat no matter what. I stand rebuked. I should never have attempted to speak for Ann. I've caused pain to her family, and I'm sorry. I just tried to draw a parallel between Ann and Kinky, the way they use humor and one-liners to make their point."

I apologize to Ann Richard's family, to Democrats and to my readers. I screwed up. While many may disagree with my opinions, I have always tried to keep the facts straight. Today I am embarrassed. I will try to do better in the future.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Kinky Gains Support Thru Trying Times

Kinky Friedman, independent candidate for governor of Texas, said he thinks the recent controversy has actually helped his candidacy. Appearing with Jesse Ventura, former governor of Minnesota, Kinky said, "In a strange way it's clearly helped us. I think the electorate is more alert, I think they're smarter than they've been in the past. I think they're seeing that you do tackle the guy with the ball." To prove his point, he showed a $25,000 check he just received from a New Orleans woman. Ventura remarked, "Obviously they're scared or they would ignore him."

According to Kinky spokeswoman Laura Stromberg, "They've helped us reach record days of online merchandise sales and contributions coming into the campaign, and we've seen more volunteer sign-ups last week than any week since Kinky announced his candidacy in 2005. Their spin has backfired."

But perhaps most interesting is that Liz Smith, nationally syndicated columnist [and a Texas girl], has now come out in support of Kinky's candidacy. She also says that her friend Ann Richards also supported Kinky. Here is some of what she had to say, "I agreed with Kinky that he is no racist, having suffered plenty himself for being a Jewish boy growing up in Texas. It occurred to me that Kinky and Ann had a lot in common. She told truth to power but with humor so people could absorb it. Kinky does the same thing. I hope he can beat the odds against weirdness. Now you may not care who becomes the governor of Texas but as this great state has sent three men to the White House, maybe you should. And if you were an Ann Richards fan, you could memorialize her by endorsing her own candidate -- Kinky. And if you are a real Democrat, a populist or a liberal-thinking person, I'd say Kinky is your man. I hope he wins."

I expect his opponents will continue attacking Kinky. After all, as Kinky says, you attack the man with the ball. But the attacks may not be having the desired effect. They may actually help Kinky by showing him as the only non-politician in the race.

Health Care Insurance Still Rising

There is more bad news on the health care front. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care research organization, health insurance has risen by an average of 7.7% this year. The insurance industry is touting the rise in cost as the smallest increase in years. This is small comfort to workers, because the rise is twice the rate of inflation [and most workers are not even keeping up with inflation].

Dr. Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, says, "To working people and business owners, a reduction in an already very high rate of increase just means you're still paying more. Yes, the rate of increase is down, but I don't think anybody is celebrating."

Since 2000, the cost of health insurance has risen by 78%. It now takes $4,242 to cover an individual, and $11,480 to cover a family on average. Is it any wonder that 1.3 million people were added to the roll of the uninsured just in the last year?

Dr. Altman says, "The long-term trend is very clear, and it's the slow unraveling of coverage in the employment-based system, especially among smaller employers." He says that over 155 million people get their insurance through their job. However, since 2000, the number of employers offering health insurance has fallen from 69% to 61%. With costs rising each year, there is no reason to believe this trend will not continue.

It might be different if all this money went to pay for health care received by Americans, but it doesn't. Much of it goes into the pockets of the insurance company's owners. After all, those mansions and cadillacs don't grow on trees.

It is time to cut the fat out of the health care system, and the fat is the obscene profits of the insurance companies. Let them make their enormous profits in some other field. The health care of Americans is too important to be left in the hands of ever more greedy capitalists. It is time for our government to step up and assume its responsibility for the health of its citizens. All of our citizens need, and have a right to adequate health care. The only thing that can provide this fairly to all citizens is a single-payer system run by the government.

Call it socialism, or whatever you want. I say it's neccessary and long overdue.

Class Trip To Museum Costs Teacher Her Job

It looks like Frisco, a rapidly growing city located just north of Dallas, is firmly in the hands of the right-wing fundamentalists. At least their school board is. Monday, the board voted not to renew the contract of art teacher, Sydney McGee. She had already been reprimanded and suspended. What was the terrible thing this teacher did to receive all this punishment? She took 89 fifth graders to the Dallas Museum of Art.

Most of us would think it was a good thing to expose these youngsters to some of the world's great art. But not the fundies controlling the Frisco schools. It seems that a parent had complained about the trip. The child of this parent had seen a nude sculpture while at the museum. Oh, the horror!

Now that innocuous field trip has cost the teacher her job, even though she says the principal suggested she make the class trip. Rogge Dunn, the teacher's attorney said, "If they had good reason to fire her, they would have, but they don't. It's mind-boggling."

If this is how they react to great art, it makes me wonder what they are teaching as science. Would a teacher also be terminated for mentioning evolution? But Frisco is not alone. There are many school districts in Texas that would have acted in the same manner. And now that Attorney General Abbott has given even more power to the state education board, it will probably get even worse. Expect new textbooks to reflect more of the views of fundies.

Instead of proudly stepping into the 21st century, Texas seems to be racing back to the 19th. And as long as the right-wing Republicans are in power, that's the way it will be.



Monday, September 25, 2006

Large Donors Having Impact On Governor's Race

The Houston Chronicle has an excellent article today about "mega-donors" in the race for governor of Texas. They tell us that 40% of the $25 million donated to the candidates in the first six months of this year comes from less than 125 people. These people contributed amounts ranging from $50,000 to $850,000. Of course, Texas is one of the few states that has no limit on the amount of money a donor can give a candidate for state office.

Governor Perry has raised $13 million in the last two years. One third of that came from 75 donors who gave $50,000 or more.

Grandma Strayhorn has raised $7 million, with half of that total coming from 29 people. Two of those donors were attorneys who received a $3 billion fee for representing Texas in litigation against the tobacco companies. These two attorneys gave a total of about $910,000.

Chris Bell has raised about $2 million. About one-third came from seven individuals and an attorney's PAC.

Even Kinky Friedman has a large political donor. It is his personal friend of 20 years, John McCall. McCall made his fortune selling beauty supplies. He currently lives on a 10,000 ranch in Uvalde. McCall was willing to talk about his donation. He said, "I don't want the state to buy any of my shampoo. I don't want them to buy any of my cattle." He said if he hadn't given Friedman close to $850,000, "his voice would not be heard".

Several groups have called for a limit on political contributions in Texas. I think we need to go even further. Maybe it is time for publically financed campaigns, and cut the big donors out altogether. This would be much fairer for those battling an incumbent, since one of the perks of incumbency is the ability to raise large amounts of money, usually from those who want something from government. Simply capping donations at $100,000 or so would do little to change the current situation.

Intelligence Report Skewers Bush On Iraq

The Washington Post informed us Sunday of a National Intelligence Estimate completed last April by U.S. intelligence analysts. I can see why Georgie and those in his administration did not want to release the report. It exposes his policy on Iraq as a sham and a failure.

The 30-page report says that rather than contributing to victory against the world-wide war on terrorism, the situation in Iraq has just made things worse. In fact, the report states that the Iraqi war is used as a recruiting tool for Islamic extremists, and says the number of extremists is growing faster than the U.S. and its allies can deal with them. In short, terrorists pose a greater danger to the United States today than before we invaded Iraq.

The report did say we have significantly damaged Al-Queda's leadership, but all this has done is to decentralize extremists networks, making them much harder to find and deal with. Remember, this is a report released by Georgie's own intelligence analysts.

None of this comes as a surprise to many on the left. We have been saying for a while now that the war has made no one safer, especially our soldiers. Georgie invaded Iraq without cause, since they posed no danger to us. Georgie invaded Iraq without sufficient preparation and without sufficient forces to complete the job. And Georgie continues to sacrifice our soldiers without any plan for winning or withdrawing.

Two things need to happen as quickly as possible. Georgie needs to be impeached and our soldiers need to be brought home immediately. Leaving them in the middle of Georgie's Iraqi mess will only get more of our brave soldiers killed and make the world more dangerous for all Americans.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The "Stealth" Democrats

Looking at the plummeting numbers of Georgie and his fellow Republicans last Spring, I had visions of good Democratic candidates taking back the state of Texas, and restoring good government here. Now I am not so sure this is a possibility. In a very unscientific little experiment of my own last week, I decided to see how well the Democratic candidates are doing. I asked some of my co-workers if they knew who the following people were: Barbara Radnofsky, David Van Os, Hank Gilbert, Maria Luisa Alvarado, Fred Head and VaLinda Hathcox.

I was not pleased with their answers [and these are people who WILL be voting in November]. I did not ask these people who they would be voting for, but only if they knew who these people were. Barbara Radnofsky fared better than the others. Most knew that she was Kay Bailey Hutchinson's opponent. They were familiar with the names of David Van Os and Hank Gilbert, but had no idea what office they were running for. None of them had any idea who the others were. It's possible that I just happen to work with unknowledgeable people, but I think they are pretty representative of many Texas voters. How can this be with only six weeks left until election day?

I think it began at the Democratic Convention last June, when the party shoved Alvarado, Head and Hathcox out of prime time, so they could argue over who would lead the state party. While this is an important issue, most Texas simply do not care. Democrats would have been better served to put their candidates in prime time, and save the party fight for later. The state party has not done much better since the convention. It is almost as if they are running two candidates - Radnofsky and Bell. The others are forgotten. But the party is not the only one responsible for the creation of "stealth" candidates.

The mainstream media must accept their share of the blame. TV and newspapers have focused almost entirely on the governor's race, with some coverage of the senate race [but not much]. Van Os and Gilbert get a little coverage, but only because they kick up a fuss and refuse to be totally ignored. But when was the last time you read a story in the main-stream media about Alvarado, Head and Hathcox. I've seen them ignored even when they are in town campaigning.

We bloggers are not immune to blame either. Many of us are so tied up with the race for governor, that we tend to ignore the other races. I am guilty of this, and so are many others.

The candidates themselves must also shoulder some of the blame. I'm not sure that all of them are doing everything they can to get their name before the public. As an example, shortly after the convention I asked each candidate to put me on their e-mail alert list. Since then, I have heard regularly from Van Os and Gilbert [as I said, these men refuse to be ignored, even by a small blog]. But I have received nothing from any of the other candidates, and that surprises me. I would think that an unknown candidate would be jumping at the opportunity to get their name out there in any kind of media.

The stealth airplane is a good idea. It's stealth allows it to survive in a war zone. But a "stealth" candidate is a terrible idea, because most people simply will not vote for a candidate they do not know. By focusing only on the governor's race, we are in the process of blowing a golden opportunity.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

LEAP Wants Common Sense Drug Laws

"Alcohol was legalized because it only took us 13 years to learn the lesson that alcohol did not create Al Capone. Prohibition of alcohol created Al Capone." These are the words of retired police captain Peter Christ. Christ says that banning the possession, sale and manufacture of drugs has not been any more successful than the prohibition of alcohol was between 1920 and 1933. Disappointed with the total failure of the War on Drugs, Christ founded Law Enforcement Against Prohibition [LEAP] in 2001. The group was modeled on the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Christ says, "Whether you agreed with them or not, you couldn't dismiss them because they were veterans who fought the war. I thought a group of people from law enforcement would have the same impact. You may not agree with me, but don't tell me I don't know what I am talking about."

The current executive director of LEAP [and former New Jersey State Police undercover narcotics officer], Jack A. Cole, puts it this way, "When I arrested a drug dealer, all I was doing was creating a job opening for hundreds of other people willing to take a chance for these obscene profits. We've spent over $1 trillion in 36 years, and all we have to show is that every year we arrest 1.7 million people for non-violent drug offenses. We currently have 2.2 million people in prisons and jails in this country, far more per capita than any other country in the world, and the majority of them are non-violent drug offenders. All we're doing is stirring the pot, and it costs us $69 billion to stir it. No wonder building prisons is the fastest growing industry in the United States."

LEAP believes all drugs from marijuana to herion must be government controlled. They believe this is this only way to control the crime and violence that comes with the prohibition of drugs. Christ says, "When you institute a blanket prohibition, you turn that regulation and control over to the gangsters and terrorists that roam the streets. They're the ones that set the purity, the age limits, the distribution points. What we want to see is a regulated and controlled marketplace. The only way you can do that is to have it be, in some form, legal."

LEAP is right about the drug war. We have already lost it. But it is an industry sucking up billions of our tax dollars every year. It doesn't matter that we are accomplishing nothing, the people receiving this money are not going to want to give it up. That is one reason it is going to be very difficult to stop it. With our ridiculous drug laws, we have created a whole class of drug super criminals, who are even more violent than the Capones spawned by the prior prohibition. Some form of legalization is the only way to do away with the obscene criminal profits, and put the government back in control of our streets.

Go check out their web site and read what they have to say. You may find that you agree with them more than you thought you would. They're just talking common sense.

Jesse Ventura To Campaign With Kinky

Kinky Friedman, independent candidate for governor of Texas, will get a little help from out-of-state in the coming week. Former Minnesota governor, Jesse Ventura, is coming to Texas for three days to help Kinky campaign. The duo will be visiting and campaigning at several college campuses. Here are their scheduled appearances:

September 25

University of Texas at San Antonio
Retama Auditorium - 3:00pm

City of San Antonio
Flying Saucer - 5:00pm

September 26

Trinity University
Stieren Auditorium - 11:20am

Texas State University
Evans Auditorium - 1:00pm

City of Houston
Flying Saucer - 6:00pm

September 27

University of Houston
Houston Room - 1:00pm

Texas A & M University
Memorial Student Center, room 101 - 5:30pm

Local Immigration Enforcement Is Bad Idea

There is a bill pending before the U.S. Congress that would put the burden of immigration enforcement back on state and local law enforcement agencies. As an abstract idea this may sound good, but in reality, this would put a real burden on on our city governments and our police departments.

In a time when most cities are already having trouble adequately funding our law enforcement needs, this would raise the financial burden. Our jails are already overcrowded. Here in Tarrant County, we already have three county jails and money has been approved to build a fourth. If the immigration enforcement bill is passed, even more jails would be needed, and also more police officers would be needed. I believe it is an understatement to say it would increase the tax burden on citizens.

It would also hamper law enforcement in their efforts to control other crimes. Where are you going to put the criminals if the jails are full of illegal immigrants? It will also take time and manpower from criminal investigations and community police patrols. Officers arresting illegal aliens and processing the paperwork for that required by the federal government, will not be on the street protecting us from real criminals.

The bill would also create an unprotected underclass in our country. Those who are here illegally would no longer be able to call on police when they are the victims of crime - even violent crime. If these victims did call, they are the ones that would be treated as a criminal. The real criminals would have a whole group of people to victimize with little worry that police would be called.

I am not alone in believing that this local immigration enforcement bill is a really bad idea. Here is what some Tarrant County law enforcement officials have to say on the matter:

Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson
"I don't have the jail space to start rounding up people innocently walking down the street who are in the country illegally but aren't otherwise doing anything wrong. This is a very sticky, controversial issue that law enforcement is going to have to step backand determine what our role is locally. I don't see us swinging back to the old ways in the near future of just seeing someone from another country and locking them up."

Fort Worth Police Chief Ralph Mendoza
"The pot has a hole in it, and it keeps leaking. Once they secure the border, then they can deal with the illiegal immigrants already here. They're [immigrants] not going to feel secure or safe enough to call for help. It was a problem years before, and it would be a problem again."

Grapevine Police Chief Eddie Salame
"I'm concerned that enforcing the federal law would set us back in the minority communities. We would create a group of people who would not be calling police anymore."

This is just a bad bill. If the federal government wants stricter enforcement of immigration, they need to fund and do it themselves. Our local communities and police agencies already have all they can handle. Another unfunded federal mandate would just make the situation worse, not better.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Democrats Continue Kinky Attacks

Spurred by fears that their own candidate could well finish third in the governor's race, Texas Democrats are still trying to make the argument that Kinky Friedman is a racist. This time they have gone back 26 years and found an old comedy routine in which Kinky makes fun of Texas' racist attitudes. It seems that he used the "N" word in telling the joke. Of course, in the eyes of Chris Bell supporters, this makes Kinky a racist.

Fortunately, I believe Texans are starting to see this as the nonsense that it is. Today, Bob Ray Sanders stepped up to defend Kinky against these attacks. Sanders is probably the most liberal of all the Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnists, but he sees this act of desperation for what it is - a brazen and untrue political attack. Here is some of what Sanders has to say, "Come on, ya'll. There may be plenty of reasons not to vote for Kinky Friedman, but him being a racist is not one of them, namely because he is not. He may be -- he is -- a lot of things, but not a bigot. I know satire can be hard to comprehend and, even if one understands it, hard to follow. But that's what the man does....To his credit, he doesn't backtrack on the things he says, even if it may cost him some standing in the polls and ultimately some votes....How you vote is up to you, but by all means vote based on some authentic issues facing this state -- not because a humorist refuses to be politically correct."

Sanders is right. Kinky is not now, and never has been a racist. However, he is a satirist who uses humor to attack the evils in our society. As an example, Kinky has a song titled "Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns in the bed". But you don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that Kinky is not opposing women's rights, but instead making fun of those who do oppose women's rights.

Even the Libertarian candidate can see through this nonsense. James Werner says, "It seems like an unpleasant remark, but I have seen nothing to indicate that Kinky is a racist or a bigot. People say stupid things all the time - but they don't always have Republican attack machines scrutinizing their every utterance." Of course, this time the attack machine trying the hardest is a Democratic one.

Kinky's campaign spokeswoman, Laura Stromberg, sees it like this, "The latest political assassination attempt takes completely out of context a controversial word that Kinky was using in a 1980 stand-up performance to lampoon racists. Kinky was onstage opposing bigotry through comedy and satire. It's pathetic that the major-party candidates have sunk to this, trying to paint Kinky as a racist when, in fact, he was poking fun at racists....While Rick Perry was cheerleading in college and Chris Bell was being potty trained, Kinky Friedman was picketing segregated resturants in Austin to integrate them. Now that Kinky's in second place and a serious threat to the two-party system, Perry and Chris Bell have paid political assassins digging back 30 years through fictional books, comedy shows and song lyrics, desperately seeking to paint Kinky as a racist."

Kinky himself says, "...of course I don't want to apologize. When you're doing a stand-up act satirizing racism, you don't apologize for it....I've always been an equal-opportunity offender....You can't stop being an author and just become governor. The salient point here is the truth flows from the music, through the books...people that are offended by anything like that, they definitely got other choices, and that's a good thing."

Kinky offers no apologies. I'm glad, because none are needed.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Jimmy Buffet Concert Big Success For Kinky

It never hurts to have a friend supporting your campaign that can help you raise some big bucks. For Kinky Friedman, independent candidate for governor of Texas, that friend was Jimmy Buffet this week. Tuesday night, Buffet brought his act to Austin to help raise some much-needed cash for Kinky's campaign. After expenses, the concert raised about $300,000 [the concert had sold out only a few hours after tickets went on sale].

Kinky said, "It's going to be absolutely great to throw the politicians out of politics and the money-changers out of the temple. We're going to sweep them. If the people show up at the polls to vote it's a landslide for us and everybody admits that."

Kinky supporter Jim Krueger put it this way, "Why Kinky Friedman for governor? I'll tell you exactly why. The difference between a politician and a statesman is a politician thinks about the next election, a statesman thinks about the next generation. And Kinky thinks about the next generation, he's not worried about being a politician."


In other campaign news, Democrats are still lobbing charges of racism at Kinky. Bell supporter, Rep. Garnet Coleman referred to Kinky as a "class clown" and "the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan". Kinky's campaign spokeswoman Laura Stromberg answered the charges yesterday. She said, "Texans who know anything about Kinky know that he's not a racist, and they're going to see through all of this political correctness very soon. The re-emergence of an old interview just weeks before the November 7 election indicates Mr. Friedman's opponents feel threatened by him. This is what they've got? Bring it on. Texans can see right through."

Grandma Wants To Eliminate Primary System

Evidently Grandma Strayhorn has not been reading the polls that show she is dropping fast. It looks like she still believes that she could finish as high as second in the November election, because she has now said she wants to do away with Texas primaries and let all candidates run in the general election. If no candidate gets 50% of the vote, she would then have a runoff election. Currently, the top vote-getter wins the election whether they get 50% of the vote or not.

Grandma's plan would put Democrats, Republicans, third-parties and independents all on the ballot together, possibly resulting in a double or triple-digit number of candidates for many offices, and ballots that are several pages long. I don't think she has thought this one through. It is hard enough to get people to the polls without a ballot that looks more like a book, and an amount of candidates that would rival the population of some smaller cities. Even political scientists think this plan would just create chaos.

Of course, Grandma is just trying to position herself as the reformer in the race. Her second idea for reform makes a lot more sense. She wants to ban lawmakers from accepting a lobbying job for four years after they leave office. This is a good idea, and I personally wouldn't mind if the ban was much longer than four years. Too bad for Grandma, that Bell and Kinky came out with this proposal weeks ago.

Grandma's third idea is to eliminate lobbyists giving gifts to lawmakers. [Currently, lobbyists can give gifts valued at less than $500 per year.] Fourth, she wants to make all state contracts open for public review. [Such as the contract to build the TTC, which has been declared secret and is not available for public perusal.]

The primary elimination is silly, but the other three proposal have merit, and should be considered no matter who gets elected. It just seems kind of weird to hear ethics proposals coming from grandma, who has had some ethics problems of her own. She has been accused of putting state employees to work on her campaign while they were on state time. Also, there is some question as to whether some tax refunds were tied to contributions to her campaign.

Her ethics reform package, however good some of the proposals are, are simply an effort to gloss over her own ethical challenges. Even if she could get elected, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for any of these proposals to become law.

No Loud Music During Deer Season

I didn't even know there was a Sportsman's Rights Act, and I doubt that many Texans who are not avid hunters do either. But Tuesday, an Ellis County man was found guilty of violating that law. It seems that his kids were upsetting hunters on an adjacent property by driving four-wheelers and playing loud music. Even though the kids were just having fun ON THEIR OWN PROPERTY, the hunters thought it was driving away deer on the adjacent property.

Galen Morris, of Italy, was fined $250 and placed on probation for a year. In addition, a judge has ordered that Morris not let his children drive their four-wheelers and play loud music on his own property before noon or after 4pm during deer season. Morris' attorney, Mark Griffith of Waxahachie, said he has advised his client to appeal. Griffith said, "This is just unbelievable to me. This is really about what rights do you have on your own property." After the trial, Morris said, "I kind of got mixed feelings out of it. Basically what their saying is, during deer season you got to keep your kids indoors. You could sneeze and scare a deer off."

I suspect the law was originally passed in 1985 to prevent groups such as PETA from interfering with lawful hunting. The law makes it a class B misdemeanor to "interfere with another person lawfully engaged in the process of hunting or catching wildlife." I have to wonder though if the law was meant to deprive owners of the lawful use of their own property.

I hope Mr. Morris does appeal. This case has pitted hunter's rights against property owner's rights. It would be good to have an opinion from a higher court on this one.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lou Dobbs On Electronic Voting

I'm not normally a big fan of Lou Dobbs. In the past, I've only found one thing that he and I agree on - outsourcing of U.S. jobs to foreign countries must be stopped. Now we are in agreement on a second thing - electronic voting. The idea of agreeing with a right-winger like Dobbs kind of bothers me, but he is right on target on this issue. Here are some of his thoughts on the issue:

"...there is additional uncertainty about the outcome of our elections that is intolerable and inexcusable, and which could make the contested 2000 presidential election look orderly by comparison. As of right now, there is little assurance your vote will count. As we've been reporting almost nightly on my broadcast for more than a year, electronic voting machines are placing our democracy at risk.

Across the nation, eight out of every 10 voters will be casting their ballots this November on electronic voting machines. And these machines time and again have been demonstrated to be extremely vulnerable to tampering and error, and many of them have no voter-verified paper trail.

There is simply no way in which election officials and their staffs of thousands of volunteers with limited experience and often poor training can possibly carry out reliable recounts.

Princeton researchers found that "malicious software" running on a single voting machine can steal votes with little, if any, risk of detection, and that anyone with access can install the software. The study also suggests these machines are susceptible to voting-machine viruses.

A 2005 Government Accountability Office report on electronic voting confirmed the worst fears of watchdog groups and election officials. That report said, "There is evidence that some of these concerns have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes.

That is simply unacceptable.

When voters lose confidence in our elected representatives, we can vote the bums out. But what is the recourse if American voters lose confidence in our electoral system?"

What do you think? Do you trust the electoral system in your county? I do believe that most election officials are honest, but with electronic voting it only takes a couple of dishonest people to screw up the voting of an entire county? After the primary election debacle here in Tarrant County, where the machines tallied 100,000 extra votes that had not been cast, I'm afraid I no longer trust the system. I'm still going to vote, but I have no confidence that my vote will be counted.

The "Swift-Boating" Of Kinky Friedman

Normally in a Texas statewide election, Democrats can count on at least holding their base of around 30-35% of the electorate. That's about the number of people who call themselves Democrats in this state. But in this year's race for governor, the Democratic candidate is so weak that he has yet to show he can hold the Democratic base, let alone win the election. The best he has been able to do in the polls this year is around 23-24%. That means 7-12% of those who call themselves Democrats are saying they will vote for someone other than the Democrat.

This has Texas Democrats running scared. Their first tactic was to try and "Naderize" one of the opponents - Kinky Friedman. Kinky has been running much better than many political experts expected him to, and in the latest polls is tied with the Democrtic candidate. They believe the missing 7-12% of Democrats are currently supporting Kinky. Shortly after Kinky made it onto the ballot, Democrats began trying to lay a guilt trip on Kinky's supporters, by telling them a vote for Kinky would be like voting for Nader. They want us to think that Nader cost Democrats the last two presidential elections, and Kinky would do the same for the Democratic candidate for governor. This tactic has obviously not worked, since Kinky is still climbing in the polls.

Since the "Nader guilt trip" did not work, they have moved on to more vicious tactics. Now they are trying to smear Kinky by labeling him a "racist". To the Democrats, this is just about the worst thing you can call a political candidate. I agree, and if I thought Kinky was really a racist then I would not vote for him, but he's not.

As "proof" of their ridiculous charge, they point to two incidents. The first is from an interview about a year ago where Kinky used the word "negro", and the second is when Kinky labeled the criminal element of the Katrina evacuees in Houston as "crackheads and thugs". They have taken both incidents out of context and are trying to make them mean something that they do not mean. This might work with some younger voters who don't know Kinky well, but us old-timers who have known and loved Kinky for many years, know it is a vicious lie.

Yesterday, Kinky said, "Anybody who feels that anything is offensive about this should definitely vote for one of the other three candidates. If I've got to lie to people, sweep the truth under the rug and worry about offending people, I'm not going to be very effective."

In the 2004 presidential election, the Democrats were on the receiving end of lies and half-truths, when John Kerry was "swift-boated". That's what makes it so disappointing that they now use the same dirty and underhanded tactics as the Republicans used on them. I know several people already, that are so angry with the Democrats over the "swift-boating " of Kinky, that they will not vote for a single down-ballot Democrat. I have not reached that point yet, but I understand how they feel.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Dallas Has Highest Crime Rate For Large Cities

Just more great news for the Metroplex area. The FBI has released its most recent crime statistics, and among the 10 largest cities in the United States, Dallas has the highest crime rate. Not only that, but the crime rate in Dallas is significantly higher than in many other large cities, including New York. Below are listed the ten largest cities in order of their crime rate [one crime per X number of people]:

1. Dallas.........11.79
2. Phoenix..........14.10
3. San Antonio..........14.12
4. Houston..........14.17
5. Philadelphia..........17.96
6. Chicago..........21.90
7. San Deigo..........24.09
8. Los Angeles..........25.97
9. San Jose..........34.46
10. New York..........37.38

But Dallas is not alone. Houston and San Antonio are also in the top four. Most Texans would probably have picked New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia as having the highest crime rate, but all of these cities have a much lower crime rate than any of the three Texas cities. Dallas, Houston and San Antonio have rates that are over twice as high as New York. How can this be?

It might be time for the three Texas cities to send someone to New York and Los Angeles to find out why their crime rate is so much lower than ours. What are we doing wrong? What are they doing right? We need to find out. These current figures are not acceptable.

Kinky And Bell Gain In New Poll

The first new poll from Survey USA since June has just come out regarding the race for governor of Texas. Since it was June that the last poll came out, you would expect to see some movement, and there has been some. The only candidates who gained in this new poll are Kinky Friedman and Chris Bell. Kinky gained 2 points and Bell gained 3 points. They are now tied in this poll at 23% each.

The Survey USA poll tends to support what we saw in the last Zogby Poll. Both show Kinky and Bell gaining, and Grandma dropping like a rock. Survey USA shows Grandma losing 4 points since their last poll, and now sitting at 15%. But while Zogby showed Perry also with declining numbers, Survey USA has him neither gaining nor losing since their last poll in June. Here are the poll results for the Survey USA poll taken between 9/16/2006 and 9/18/2006:

Perry...............35%
Kinky...............23%
Bell...............23%
Grandma...............15%
Werner...............2%
Undecided...............2%

Citizens Favor Tax Increase For Mass Transit

Mass Transit has been needed in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex for many years now. The streets and freeways are clogged and more cars hit the road every day. State and local officials know the problem well, but have been afraid to do anything about it because the solution would involve some kind of tax-raise. These officials thought a raising of taxes would anger voters and cost them their jobs.

It looks like that view may not be true any longer. The University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Dallas have conducted a scientific poll asking area residents if they would favor a 1/2 cent sales tax increase to build a regional commuter rail system. The telephone poll was conducted in the following counties: Tarrant, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall, Collin and Dallas.

Evidently, citizens in the Metroplex are tired of the clogged roads. 75% of the poll's respondents were in favor of raising the sales tax to build the commuter rail system. In Tarrant County 78% approved of raising the tax.

Many cities in the area are maxed-out at the state cap of 8.25%, so the legislature would have to authorize the increase. Perhaps this can be done now that it can be shown that the people approve of the idea. I hope so. North Texas has already waited too long for real mass transit.

State Fair Sues Document-Disposal Company

The State Fair of Texas has filed suit against its document-disposal company - Iron Mountain, Incorporated. This is the company that was contracted to destroy all of the unused 50 cent food and ride coupons each year after the Fair ends. It seems that instead of being destroyed, many of the coupons were sold on the black market by Iron Mountain employees.

If a person is left with unused coupons after the Fair closes, the State Fair of Texas allows the customer to use those coupons at the next years Fair. However, at last year's Fair, officials noticed they were getting a huge amount of coupons from 2004 - far more than normal. They notified Dallas police and hired private investigators. That is when they learned that many of the coupons were being sold rather than destroyed. The Fair believes they lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

After investigating, Dallas police said they believed that no laws were broken, and told the State Fair officials that it was a civil matter. The Fair is sueing Iron Mountain for $1.5 million for losses, attorney fees and punitive damages.

The Fair has hired a new document-disposal company. This company brings mobile shredders to the State Fair site, and destroys the coupons as Fair officials oversee the operation. It is hoped that this procedure will stop the coupon scam.

I applaud the new system the State Fair has instituted, but I still don't understand the police decision that no crime was involved. This was a scam to steal from the State Fair. Isn't stealing still a crime in Texas?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Louisiana Police Cite Willie For Marijuana

Is there anybody in the world that doesn't know Willie Nelson smokes marijuana? The Louisiana State Police would like us to believe they were surprised when they stopped Willie's bus for a traffic violation and smelled the demon weed. They said they then performed a "commercial vehicle inspection" and found one and a half pounds of marijuana and a small amount of mushrooms. Willie and the others in the bus were written misdemeanor citations and then released.

Sounds kind of like shooting fish in a barrel to me. But I do have to question the "commercial vehicle inspection". Since when is a private vehicle deemed to be a commercial vehicle? Willie doesn't sell tickets to the general public and try to make money off his bus. It is just a mode of transportation to get Willie and his band to their place of work and back. If this makes it a commercial vehicle, then the car you drive to work in would also be classified as a commercial vehicle. Ridiculous.

Why don't they admit they saw an easy target rolling down the road and decided to pad their stats and get a little publicity. Being surprised that Willie has pot is like being surprised that the sun rises in the morning.

El Paso Judge Walking Across Texas

El Paso District Judge Bill Moody is running for a spot on the Texas Supreme Court in the November election. He may not be the candidate with the most money, but he has to be the candidate with the most creative campaign. Moody started in El Paso on August 7th and is walking his way across Texas to Orange at the Louisiana border. His walk will cover 1,017 miles, and he is now halfway done.

Why is he doing this? Here's what Judge Moody says, "One of the reasons why I'm walking is that I think the politicians and the people are losing connection. You fly into the cities and get off the airplane looking for the TV cameras and the $5000 check and that's about it. Everybody gets left out. There's a lot more to it than this."

Moody, a Democrat, carries a cell phone with him as he walks so he can keep in touch with supporters, plan meetings in the next town, and do interviews. He says he has lost 37 pounds so far on his walk. He said he likes to tell people, "When I started this thing, I was 6'5" and weighed 335 pounds. I'm a little fearful of what I might look like when I get to Louisiana." He is really 5'4" and weighs 157 pounds.

I will have to admit, I don't know much about Judge Moody or his Republican opponent, but if Moody finishes his walk [and I don't know why he wouldn't], then he deserves at least our consideration. Could you vote against a guy who walked over a thousand miles in the Texas heat for your vote?

Controversial "Assassination" Film Wins Award

The very controversial British film "Death of a President" has won the International Critics Prize at the 31st Toronto International Film Festival. The critics said they liked the film because of the "audacity with which it distorts reality to reveal a larger truth". The film, made by British director Gabriel Range, ignited a storm of protest even before it was shown. That is because the film depicts George Bush being assassinated in October of 2007. Archival footage of President Bush is blended with fictional scenes, and actors have been digitally inserted into some footage of Bush and his entourage.

The movie shows Bush being shot by a sniper on a visit to Chicago, and the investigation of the fictional shooting. The film is slated to be shown on British TV on October 9th, and then it will be released to theaters.

Range said, "I'm thrilled that the film is going to be shown in theaters both here and in the U.S. in the near future. That's proof that people can see beyond the premise and see that it's a film about this post-9/11 world that we live in."

Range may be thrilled that his film is going to be shown, but he has no idea how the right-wingers will scream and carry on when the film reaches America. I don't know if I'll watch this film or not, but it sure should be fun watching the wingers reaction.

Cowboys are 1-1 After Defeating Redskins

The Dallas Cowboys got back on track last night with a 27-10 victory over the Washington Redskins. They looked much better last night than they did a week ago against Jacksonville.

The defense really looked awesome. They held the Redskins to only three points [the only Redskin touchdown was a 100-yard runback against the special teams on a kick-off]. Getting a couple of interceptions and several quarterback sacks, they totally dominated the Washington offense. Watching the game, I never had the feeling the Washington offense was going to be able to do much.

The game stayed close until the fourth quarter, but Washington was never able to take advantage of that. The offense looked much better last night. They were able to move the ball consistently against a pretty good Washington defense. The offensive line seems to be coming together. They only allowed one sack last night. The only problem the offense really seemed to have was penalties. The large number of penalties killed several drives. It is still early in the season though and I think Parcells can deal with this.

The other problem the offense had last night was an abnormally large amount of dropped passes. I console myself with the thought that it was a rainy night and surely this contributed to the dropping of passes. Another factor was T.O. breaking his finger on the second or third play of the game, but not telling anyone until the fourth quarter. He dropped at least 3 passes. He will have his finger operated upon today or tomorrow, and will be out 2-4 weeks.

The Cowboys have a bye next week, and then they go to Tennessee on October 1st to play the Titans. Here are the current standings in the NFC East:

Cowboys.................1-1
Eagles.....................1-1
Giants.....................1-1
Redskins.................0-2

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Kinky Is Coming To The Metroplex

If you live near the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, and you've been wanting to meet and hear Kinky Friedman, candidate for governor of Texas, you will soon have your chance. Kinky is coming to Arlington on September 30th. Kinky will be attending a Candidate's Health Care Forum at the University of Texas at Arlington.

The forum is going to be in Texas Hall on the campus of UTA. It starts at 2:00pm, and Kinky is scheduled to speak about 2:45pm. The forum is open to the public and is free, but tickets are required to be admitted. You can go to this link to ask for tickets, which will be e-mailed back to you. If for some reason I screwed up the link, just go to Kinky's web site, which is on my blogroll.

September 30th also happens to be my birthday [not gonna tell you which one]. I'm giving myself a present by attending the event. If any of you readers do attend, please stop me and say hi. I'd love to meet you. I'll be the old guy with the gray beard and long hair.

Lopez Obrador declared "Presidente"

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of Mexican citizens flooded into Mexico City's central plaza, or Zocalo, to form a National Democratic Convention [some estimated the crowd had over a million people]. The convention then declared Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to be President of Mexico, and set the date for his inauguration as November 20th, 10 days before Felipe Calderon's inauguration on December 1st. The convention also authorized Lopez Obrador to set up a government to challenge Calderon. They hope to prevent Calderon from taking office.

Lopez Obrador spoke to the crowd saying, "I accept the charge of President of Mexico. We don't act out of capriciousness. We act out of dignity. We want a truly just society, built on the base of a true democracy. For the good of all, but first the poor."

The Mexican tribunal that oversees elections had declared Lopez Obrador the loser in the recent election despite admitting widespread election violations. They refused to order a recount, even though the "winning" margin was less than 1% out of over 40 million votes.

Rather than dying down as many officials had hoped, it looks like the opposition to Calderon's flawed election will continue. The electoral tribunal made a serious mistake in validating this election. In an election this close, with a multitude of election irregularities, a recount should have been conducted. In blocking the recount, the tribunal has just made it appear as though the election was stolen, and maybe it was.

If you would like to know more, Para Justicia y Libertad! provides excellent coverage and intelligent insights on the Mexican election.

U.S. Imprisons AP Photographer Without Charges

According to the Associated Press, there are "an estimated 14,000 people detained by the U.S. military worldwide - 13,000 of them in Iraq. They are held in limbo where few are ever charged with a specific crime or given a chance before any court or tribunal to argue for their freedom." One of these prisoners is a photographer who has worked for the AP since 2004 in Fallujah and Ramadi - Bilal Hussein. Hussein has been detained by the U.S. military without charges since April 12th.

The AP's president and CEO, Tom Curley says, "We want the rule of law to prevail. He either needs to be charged or released. Indefinite detention is not acceptable. We've come to the conclusion that this is unacceptable under Iraqi law, and the Geneva Conventions, or any military procedure."

In a letter to the AP, U.S. Army Major General Jack Gardner says, "The information available establishes that he has relationships with insurgents and is afforded access to insurgent activities outside the normal scope afforded to journalists conducting legitimate activities."

AP executive editor Kathleen Carroll says, "Journalists have always had relationships with people that others might find unsavory. We're not in this to choose sides, we're to report what's going on from all sides."

It looks like the only "crime" that Hussein has committed is to try and do his job as a journalist. Instead of sitting around a hotel and treating military press releases as though they were news, like many American reporters do, Hussein actually went out and tried to find out what was really happening. He must have been pretty good at it, because one of his photos was included in a group of AP photos that won the Pulitzer Prize.

The military doesn't want the truth about what is going on in Iraq to be told. This is nothing more than an effort by U.S. officials to suppress the truth, and to control efforts by the press to learn the truth. The military should either charge and try Hussein, or release him and let him get back to work. Didn't we decide a couple of hundred years ago, in the Zenger case, that journalists should not be jailed for telling the truth?

The other 14,000 should also either be charged and tried in a court of law or legal tribunal, or immediately released. Until Bush came along, Americans believed it was wrong to incarcerate a person without charges and a trial. We believed this so strongly that we even wrote it into our Constitution. There is no exception to this for people we don't like.

I know that some on the right will bleat that these prisoners are not American citizens. So what? The world is watching our actions in Iraq and other places. Do we really want to tell the world that only Americans deserve to be treated fairly? With this kind of message, is it any wonder that many in the world no longer trust us?

The world once viewed America as a beacon of freedom and justice and the rule of law. Now we are just viewed as a bully eager to trash international legal standards.