A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Border Crackdown Is Smuggler's Dream

Recently, the United States has tightened security on its southern border. More Border Patrol agents have been assigned to the border, along with hundreds of National Guard troops. Fences cover some parts of the border, and new electronic equipment and cameras have been installed.

But what is the result of the border crackdown? In terms of keeping undocumented immigrants out of the United States, it's not very effective. The immigrants keep coming, and will do so as long as there are jobs to be had in this country.

But it has been a real financial boon for one group -- the smugglers. That's right. The biggest effect of the border crackdown has been to help the criminals who profit from smuggling people into this country. These smugglers charge around $1500 for each person they help to enter the U.S., and their business has never been better.

A Mexican-government funded research institution, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, has been conducting surveys about the border crossings for years. They interviewed those who had been caught by Border Patrol and kicked out, and those who had been successful but returned to Mexico. Their survey was analyzed by the Associated Press.

The AP learned that while the illegal immigrants keep coming, the number who hire a smuggler to get them across has increased as border security increased. Here are the percentages of those who hired a smuggler:

2000..........16%
2003..........20%
2005..........47%

The money we are spending to stop illegal immigration is not keeping people from entering our country illegally. But it has increased the business of smugglers by threefold. Surely, this is not the desired result!

The fact remains that as long as there are jobs for the immigrants in this country, they will keep coming. If we really want to stem the flow of undocumented workers, we must crack down on the employers -- not the border.

Until then, we are just fattening the wallets of the smugglers.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Is Texas Going Democratic ?

Are the political winds in Texas blowing back toward the Democrats? If a new poll is correct, that is exactly what is happening.

An Austin Democratic poll says that when 1053 Texans were asked which party cares more about "people like me", 46% said Democrats and 35% said Republicans. I know some of you are saying that's what you would expect from a Democratic poll, but just two years ago this same poll showed Republicans leading when the same question was asked.

Even more significant is the fact that more people are now identifying themselves as Democrats. Here is what the poll showed on the question of party identity for 2004, 2005 and 2006:

PARTY..2004......2005.......2006
Dem......33.9%.....37.2%.....45.1%
Rep.......54.7%.....49.2%.....42.6%
Ind........10.2%.....10.5%.....06.4%

Pollster Jeff Montgomery pointed out that this was a poll of adults, and not specifically a poll of voters. He says, "Clearly, Texas is still a Republican state. But this is the first time people have even shown much interest in calling themselves Democrats."

Cal Jillson, SMU political science professor, was more pointed in his observations on the poll. He says, "There is an attitude change nationally that is affecting Texas. People are increasingly concerned with the results they see from the Republican majority. In Austin, those numbers are playing themselves out in the hanging of Tom Craddick. Republicans have begun to panic that the unease in the public is going to be taken out of their hide."

Texas was a bit slow in joining the new political shift, but it is starting to happen. Too bad it couldn't have happened before last November's elections. I suspect that some of Texas' slowness to join the national shift is because many in the state view Bush as a Texan.

It looks like amid his nearly total incompetence, Bush has been able to accomplish one thing. It took him six years, but he is well on his way to destroying the Republican party -- even in Texas.

Saddam's Execution Changes Nothing

Saddam Hussein is dead. He was executed yesterday by the current puppet government in Iraq. I am not sorry to see him go. He was a criminal responsible for the deaths of many innocent people.

Bush called the execution a "milestone" in history. If so, then it was a small milestone. The Saddam era was already over. It ended the day he was pulled from his hiding place, a hole in the ground, by U.S. troops. That is why his execution will change nothing in Iraq.

The current civil war in Iraq was not about Saddam. It is about who gets to control Iraq once we leave. The current government will not exercise control over Iraq after our soldiers leave. They cannot even control the country with our help.

Control will fall to one of two groups -- the Shiites [backed by Iran] or the Sunnis [backed by Saudi Arabia]. For a short time after the fall of Saddam's government, it was us against the insurgents. But that time has long passed.

It is now a civil war between the Sunnis and the Shiites, with our soldiers in the middle and hated by both sides. The only thing our troops are accomplishing is to prolong the civil war.

It is time to bring our troops home -- immediately.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Looks Like Perry Didn't Fix School Funding

In the last legislative session, Rick Perry shoved through a new school funding plan. He claimed that the plan would not only fix the hated "Robin Hood" school financing [where richer school districts give up a share of their revenue to help poorer districts], but would also significantly reduce property taxes.

We learned right away that there would be no real property tax savings for citizens of Texas. When the local taxing entities learned they could not raise the tax rate, they simply raised the appraisal value of taxable property. The result was that Texans saw no property tax relief.

Now, it looks like the almost universally hated "Robin Hood" school financing plan is alive and well also. Although Perry's plan was not supposed to do away with "Robin Hood" altogether, it was supposed to make huge cuts in the amount of money the richer districts have to return to the state. Now it looks like even that is not going to happen. There are some cuts, but they are not nearly as large as promised by the governor.

There are four school districts in Tarrant county that have been having to pay out money for poorer districts. Here's what their savings are going to look like:

* Northwest ISD payments will be 3.1% less than last year.

* Carroll ISD will be 7.8% less than last year.

* Grapevine-Colleyville ISD will be 10% less than last year.

* HEB ISD is the only district that will see a drop of a significant percentage. Their payment will be 79% less than last year. But HEB's payments were never anywhere near as large as those of the other school districts. They've always been much nearer the break-even point.

So it looks like the governor's much-touted plan is a failure on all counts. He has not solved school financing, and he has not cut taxes. All he's done is piss off a lot of smokers and businessmen by imposing new taxes -- but the problems he was supposed to solve are still there.

Sheehan Arrested Near Bush's "Ranch"

Cindy Sheehan is still being a thorn in Bush's side. Thursday she and four others were arrested for "obstructing a highway passageway" by Texas Department of Public Safety officers.

They had laid down in the road near Bush's "ranch" and refused to move when asked by the officers. They blocked the road for 20 minutes, causing a traffic backup. Bush's evil alter-ego [Cheney] was caught in the backup.

Sheehan told the Waco newspaper that they were protesting the idea that Bush was fixing to send even more troops to die in the Iraq war. Of course, she is right. That is exactly what Bush is going to do -- increase the troop level in Iraq.

Bush claims that he is still trying to determine the future course in Iraq, but he's lying. You don't need a crystal ball to know that he'll be increasing the troop levels. It's the only thing his personality will allow him to do.

He cannot just stay the course and do nothing. The members of his own party would not allow that to happen. So he has only three choices -- withdraw, ask Syria and Iran to help, or increase troop levels.

His own ego will not allow him to do the right thing and withdraw. That would be tantamount to admitting that he was wrong, and he's never been able to do that.

He also can't ask Syria and Iran for help -- that would also be admitting that he's been wrong. So he's left with only one course of action that his personality will allow him to take -- increase the troop levels in the forlorn hope that it will help.

But it won't help. The only thing it will do is provide more American targets for both sides in the Iraqi civil war. Bush has gotten our soldiers into a real mess, and his inability to admit he screwed up will get a lot more of them killed.

Nothing will change until he is booted from office. It's time to start the impeachment proceedings.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Euless Denies Religious Freedom To Resident

Normally, you read only good things about city government in Euless [Texas] on this blog, but I'm afraid they have dropped the ball on this one. A federal lawsuit has been filed against the city for denying religious freedom to some of it's citizens.

Jose Merced, a Santeria priest since 1979 and president of Templo Yoruba Omo Orisha Texas, has filed the lawsuit claiming that city officials will not allow the religious sacrifice of chickens and sometimes goats. Merced says the sacrifices are neccessary in the Santeria religion to initiate new members, consecrate sacred shells and conduct healing rituals. He says the animals are killed humanely and the meat is eaten.

Euless police have stopped Merced from conducting the sacrifices without a city permit. Yet, when he has tried to get a permit from the city it is always denied.

Merced wrote in an affidavit to the lawsuit, "We do not want to break the law, and yet we are entitled to practice our religion. Santeria cannot continue to function, much less exist, without animal sacrifice."

I believe the city is wrong on this issue. The Supreme Court decided in a Florida case in 1993 that animal sacrifice is a form of religious worship that is protected by the United States Constitution. Merced and other followers of Santeria have the right to practice their religion without interference from city officials, even though the rituals may involve the sacrificing of animals.

According to Merced, the rituals are performed indoors and people outside would not be able to see or hear them. The city should just give Merced his permit and ask him to keep the rituals low-key so neighbors are not disturbed. In light of the 1993 Supreme Court decision, it would just be a waste of time and taxpayers' money to try and fight the religion in court.

State Pays 31 Cents To Collect 25 Cents In Tolls

The Texas Department of Transportation [TxDOT] looks silly again today, but considering their actions over the last couple of years, they're probably used to that now.

Last month, they started collecting tolls on the new toll road just north of the DFW metroplex -- Texas 121. The new toll road does not have collection booths. If you don't have a toll tag, the system just takes a picture of your license plate and then mails you a bill. I guess this might work out for people who drive a good distance, but what about those who drive only a short distance on the toll road?

Recently, 72-year old Don Ferguson received his bill from TxDOT for using the toll road -- it was a bill for 25 cents. The problem with this is that it cost the state 30.8 cents to mail the bill, and Mr. Ferguson is not the only person this has happened to. Several people have complained of receiving a 25 cent bill in a metered envelope costing 30.8 cents to mail, including TxDOT spokesman Mark Ball. When these people pay their fee, the state of Texas will have lost nearly 6 cents on each transaction.

Just think, what if most drivers on Texas 121 go only a short distance? Could the state actually lose more in postage than it collects in fees? Even worse, is this the level of competence we can expect on other toll roads being planned?

Does Israel Really Want Peace With Palestinians ?

I have to wonder if Israel really wants peace with the Palestinian people. Israel tries to present itself as the innocent party in the Mideast conflict, even as it is making plans to violate international law.

Israel announced recently that it will be building a new settlement on the West Bank. The approximately 30 houses to be built in the Jordan Valley will be resided in by former Gaza Strip settlers.

This is not only a violation of international law -- it is also a violation of the 2003 Roadmap for Peace. In fact, this violation is so egregious that even the Bush administration sees it as wrong and destined to provoke the Palestinians.

United States State Department spokesman Gonzo Gallegos said, "The establishment of a new settlement or the expansion of an existing settlement would violate Israel's obligations under the roadmap. The U.S. calls on Israel to meet it's roadmap obligations and avoid taking steps that could be viewed as predetermining the outcome of final-status negotiations [with the Palestinians]."

The European Union has also expressed it's "deep concerns" with the Israeli announcement.

Israel has also said it might release millions of dollars collected in taxes for the Palestinians. Why have they been keeping this money in the first place? This is not their money -- it belongs to the Palestinians, and the Israelis had no right to withhold it.

If Israel wants the world to view them as the innocent party in the Mideast conflict, then they must stop breaking the rules themselves. They cannot accuse the Palestinians of failing to live up to their obligations, if they are unwilling to live up to their own obligations.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Cowboys Seem To Be Headed Downhill

A couple of weeks ago, I had such high hopes for the Dallas Cowboys. After installing Tony Romo at quarterback, they began to play better and were climbing that mountain to playoff success. But in the last three weeks, they've been sliding back downhill.

Three games ago, the Cowboys had their heads handed to them by the New Orleans Saints. Last week, they were barely able to beat the Atlanta Falcons [a team that is going nowhere this year]. Then, on Christmas day, the Philadelphia Eagles gave them a sound thrashing. The score in the Eagles game was only 23-7, but the game was not as close as the score might indicate. The Eagles controlled the game from start to finish.

I had hoped that the beating the Cowboys took from the Saints was an anomaly, but after the last couple of weeks I can no longer think that. This is simply not as good a team as I had thought it was -- how very depressing.

The Cowboys will still be in the playoffs -- mostly due to the poor play of some other teams. But I seriously doubt they will go very far in the playoffs [although I hope I'm wrong]. The offense is hit-and-miss at best, and the defense just doesn't seem to know what to do with a playoff-caliber team.

I'm not yet ready to hit the panic button, but my hand is hovering over it! If they don't improve their play quickly, we're just a couple of weeks away from talking about next year's draft.

Small-Businesses In Favor Of Raising Minimum Wage

The Republicans main argument for refusing to raise the minimum wage in the United States has been that it would hurt small businesses. I never thought this was a valid argument, and now it looks like most small businesses agree.

Discover Financial Services LLC recently conducted a survey of small businesses, including those businesses with five or fewer employees. They found that 70% of small businesses approve of raising the minimum wage, and say it will have no effect on their labor costs.

Democrats promised during the last election campaign season that they would raise the minimum wage if elected. Since voters gave them control of both the House and the Senate, it is time for them to make good on their promise. Raising the minimum wage should be their first order of business when the new Congress convenes in January.

Polls have shown that a huge majority of people in this country favor raising the minimum wage. Now that small businesses are also on board with a raise to $7.25 an hour, that leaves only a few die-hard right-wing Republicans opposing it.

Personally, I would like to see it raised even higher than $7.25 an hour, but I'll take what I can get. It's a lot better than $5.15 an hour.

Pipeline Rupture Dumps Oil Into The Gulf

It looks like the oil companies are trying to create an Exxon Valdez type disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, but in this part of the world we don't even need a ship to do it. That's because we have oil pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico.

Yesterday, the Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline experienced a rupture in their High Island Pipeline System, and dumped at least 21,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The company is currently trying to limit the spill and suck the remaining oil out of the pipeline.

We are lucky this time. The tides seem to be carrying the oil away from shore, and maybe it can be cleaned up before it does too much damage [except to sea life in the area, of course]. This ought to give Texans and the residents of the other Gulf states cause to rethink Gulf drilling.

Congress has recently tryed to open more vast tracts of the Gulf to the oil companies for new drilling. It was the lame duck Republican Congress and they couldn't seem to tie their own shoes, but that doesn't mean the oil companies won't keep trying to get this done.

Do we really want more drilling in the Gulf of Mexico? I can assure you that any clean-up for an oil disaster will be born by the American people and not by the oil companies. Look at Exxon. They have still not paid a penny for the Alaskan clean-up, even though it happened years ago, and there's a court judgement ordering them to pay. Recently, they got the judgement cut in half, and it'll probably be years before we see any money from that half, if at all.

The oil companies don't care about the enviornment or the American people. The only thing they care about is getting into your pocketbook for more and more money to create ever bigger windfall profits for themselves.

So I ask again, do we really want more drilling and pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico? I say no, at least until the oil companies show they will be better stewards of the enviornment they are affecting [and Exxon pays what it owes].

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Another Lawsuit For Farmers Branch

A couple of months ago, the city of Farmers Branch [just north of Dallas] passed some bigoted ordinances that were like a slap in the face to over 37% of its population -- Hispanics. The ordinances make it a crime for landlords to rent to undocumented immigrants, make English the official language of the city and directs it's police department to enforce federal immigration laws.

Of course, the bigoted ordinances totally ignore some realities about the state of Texas. Not only were Hispanics in Texas for hundreds of years before white settlers came, but many Hispanics fought with the rebels who won Texas' independence from Mexico. You just need to look at the names of many Texas counties and cities to see the large number of Hispanic heroes in the state.

Hispanics have always been a valuable part of the population, history and culture of Texas, and they always will be. The ethnic bigotry shown by the Farmers Branch city council cannot change that fact.

The ordinances are bigoted because while they are aimed at a specific portion of our population, they really do not address the one issue which could really have a dramatic effect on illegal immigration -- the employers who take advantage of undocumented workers so they won't have to pay a decent wage.

It won't matter how many ordinances are passed or fences are built, the illegal immigration will continue as long as there are jobs for them to fill. All these ordinances will accomplish is to make life harder for all Hispanics -- even those who are citizens and legal residents.

It also is going to cost the citizens of Farmers Branch thousands of dollars to defend the silly ordinances in court. There has already been one lawsuit filed by a real estate broker and Farmers Branch resident, saying the city council violated the state's open meetings law in passing the ordinances.

Last Friday, three apartment houses joined together and filed another lawsuit against the city. They are asking a federal court to declare the rental ordinance to be unconstitutional. They are also asking the court to stop the ordinance from going into effect on January 12th.

A petition has been submitted to the city council with 1400 signatures demanding a vote on repealing the ordinances. Only 726 signatures were needed for the election to be held -- probably next May.

The ACLU and several Hispanic organizations are also considering lawsuits. Some may consider this as "piling on". I say the more the merrier. The city has embarrassed themselves, the Metroplex and the entire state of Texas. They must either withdraw the ordinances or pay the price for their bigotry.


UPDATE -- Well, that didn't take long! Today, the ACLU and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund have filed suit against the city of Farmers Branch. The plaintiffs are a couple of landlords, some Hispanic citizens, and some children who are U.S. citizens, but fear the ordinances will force them to seperate from their parents.

This makes three lawsuits and a repeal petition now. Looks like Farmers Branch bought themselves a lot of trouble with their bigoted ordinances.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The "Godfather Of Soul" Dies


The legendary James Brown, the Godfather of Soul Music, died at 1:45am today in an Atlanta hospital. He had been admitted to the hospital suffering from pneumonia, but it is not known what caused his death.


Born in 1933, Brown went from reform school to being one of the world's most respected and honored entertainers. His songs included:


"Please, Please, Please" [1956-his first hit]

"Out of Sight"

"Sex Machine"

"I Got You (I Feel Good)"

"Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" [1965 Grammy winner]

"Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud"

"Living in America" [1987 Grammy winner]


The great James Brown also won a Grammy in 1992 for lifetime achievement, and was one of the initial inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


I grew up with his music and loved it, and to this day I refuse to say his name without preceding it with another word such as "legendary" or "great". I will miss him, but his music will always live with me. Rest in peace JB, you've earned it.

Happy Holidays !



All of us here at jobsanger wish you a very happy solstice season, whatever your religion or lack thereof.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Bend Over Texans -- Full Deregulation Is Near

I'd warn you to grab your wallets and hang on tight, but that won't do any good. You might as well just bend over, because you're fixing to get screwed and there's nothing you can do about it. On January 1st, the electric producers in Texas will be fully deregulated.

That means they will no longer have to get approval of the Public Utilities Commission to raise your electric rates. We already have some of the highest electric rates in the nation, and that's with the companies having to get approval from the PUC. What do you think will happen now that they can charge whatever they want without asking anyone for permission?

I still can't believe the dunderheads in our Texas legislature actually thought deregulation would bring lower prices. Here in North Texas, TXU has a virtual monopoly in electric production. That means they can keep the wholesale price of electricity abnormally high for it's competitors.

Since the competitors must buy their electricity from TXU and resell it to consumers, this gives TXU not only a monopoly in electric production, but also a monopoly in the sale of electricity. All our mentally-challenged legislators have done is give a monopoly the right to set it's own prices. And it's pretty much the same in other parts of Texas.

I know there are some legislators making noise about doing something about our high electric rates, but you'd be making a mistake to hold your breath waiting for this to happen. For one thing, legislators have already said that re-regulation is "off-the-table". For another, electric companies will flood Austin with more lobbyists than there are legislators. If you really think our brain-dead legislators will bring down electric rates, I've got a few bridges I'll sell you real cheap.

Anything as important to modern life as electricity should be controlled, if not actually owned, by the government. Yes, I know that is a socialistic idea. But it is also the only way to keep electric rates down to reasonable levels. The only alternative is to allow a monopoly to charge whatever it wants.

TXU made over a billion dollars in profit last year. Just imagine what that profit figure is going to be for 2007!

So bend over and grab your ankles Texans -- I doubt if they'll even bother to break out the lube.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Ex-Cowboy To Give Kidney To His Teammate

This is a story about true friendship. With all the bad news in the world today, it is good to see a story that highlights the good done by one human for another.

Ron Springs and Everson Walls were teammates on the Dallas Cowboys [and both are respected and loved by many Cowboy fans, including me]. During their stay with the Cowboys, they became very close friends. That friendship grew over the years and came to include their wives and children. The families have vacationed together, and Springs even spoke at the funeral of Wall's father-in-law.

But in recent years, Ron Springs has had some medical difficulties. He has diabetes, and has had to have his right foot and some toes on his left foot amputated. The disease has also attacked and destroyed his kidney. For the last two years, he has had to have dialysis treatment three times a week. The disease has also put him in a wheel chair.

But all that will soon change. Everson Walls is donating one of his kidneys to his friend. The transplant will allow Springs to return to a normal life, abandoning the wheel chair and the painful dialysis treatments. The operation will be performed next March.

Springs says, "This man has got to love me in order to give up something. He's taking some risk. It's something you can't explain, but something I will always think about every day for the rest of my life. It's like getting a new battery in a car. I'll be able to be back to basically almost 100% normal."

Walls counters, "A piece of me is going to be inside him and hopefully giving him a lot more life than he would've had otherwise. To me, friendship is unconditional."

Friendship is unconditional -- what beautiful words! And what a wonderful example of friendship these two men show the rest of us. I wish them both a speedy recovery from their coming operations, and a long and bountiful life. They deserve it.

"Grandma" Gives State Jobs To 7 Campaign Aides

It looks like the time-honored and ethically-questionable practice of political patronage is alive and well in Texas. Candidates winning state-wide office often reward some of their campaign aides with lucrative state jobs [and you know these aren't entry-level positions].

The tradition continues this year among the winners --

* Governor Rick Perry has hired 5 of his campaign aides to fill state jobs.
* Incoming State Comptroller Susan Combs has rewarded 2 of her campaign staff with state jobs.
* Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson has hired 2 of his campaign staff.
* Attorney General Greg Abbott has found a state job for 1 member of his campaign staff.

But you know the practice is getting out of hand, when the losers in the November election also start handing out state jobs to their staff. One Tough Grandma, Carole Strayhorn, was defeated in last November's election. But that did not stop her from hiring 7 members of her campaign staff to be state employees.

The 7 staff members hired by Strayhorn will be making a combined salary of $40,000 a month. If my math is correct, that's an average salary of over $5,700 a month for each employee. And you, the taxpayer, get to pay for Strayhorn's largesse. Aren't you proud?

Tom "Smitty" Smith, head of Public Citizen's Texas branch, is not so proud. He says, "This is outrageous. The outgoing comptroller shouldn't be hiring new employees, especially from her campaign. This is a time when she needs to be winding down her activities as the comptroller rather than padding the payroll."

I agree with Mr. Smith. It's bad enough that we taxpayers must pay to reward campaign staffers of the winners. For us to have to also reward campaign staffers of the losers is just plain ridiculous!

Is The Texas House Speaker's Race Still Open ?

Right after the election, most people thought Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick [R-Midland] was a shoo-in for re-election to his post in the House. Speaker Craddick bragged of having over 100 signed pledge cards of support from members of the Texas House. Only one House member, Rep. Sefronia Thompson [D-Houston], has made it known publicly that she is running against Craddick, and most people think she has no chance to unseat him.

But now the dynamic of the Speaker's race seems to be changing a bit. Many members are not saying who they will vote for, and those pledge cards are not binding on the House members. It looks like many members want to wait and see if enough support comes together for a candidate that could unseat Craddick.

It's understandable that members would not want to make their opposition public yet. Craddick is known for punishing House members who oppose him. A member who votes against him could lose a choice committee seat, or find that a bill he introduced has no chance of coming up for a vote. That is how he got the signed pledge cards in the first place.

But there are now murmurs of opposition, and some names of other possible contenders are coming out -- names such as Rep. Robert Talton [R-Pasadena] or Rep. Brian McCall [R-Plano].

Perhaps most interesting is a proposal by Rep. Tommy Merritt [R-Longview]. Merritt wants to change the rules, and allow House members to choose a Speaker by secret ballot. This is an excellent idea and should be done.

If the Speaker was chosen by secret ballot, then members could vote for the best candidate instead of the one they fear. But Craddick will fight the secret ballot -- he knows he would be defeated in a heartbeat if he could no longer threaten the other House members.

I still think Craddick is the probable winner, especially with the system that is in place. But I hope for a better outcome.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Texas Population Growth Leads The Nation

The United States Census Bureau released new data yesterday showing that Texas gained more people in the last year than any other state. Florida and California used to be the fastest-growth states, but Texas has overtaken them in both total population growth and in percentage of population growth.

Between July of 2005 and July of 2006, Texas gained 579,275 new people. Approximately 120,000 to 160,000 of the new Texans are a result of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. But even if you subtract the Hurricane Katrina immigrants, Texas still leads the nation in population growth. Here are the figures:

TOTAL POPULATION GROWTH
1. Texas...............579,275
2. Florida...............321,697
3. California...............303,402
4. Georgia...............231,388
5. Arizona...............213,311

GROWTH PERCENTAGE
1. Arizona...............3.6%
2. Nevada...............3.5%
3. Idaho...............2.6%
4. Georgia...............2.5%
5. Texas...............2.5%

HOW THE INCREASE IS HAPPENING
Natural [births minus deaths].....235,558
Domestic immigration.....218,745
International immigration.....125,770

I don't have any problem with our new citizens, but I do wonder if Texas has the water resources to sustain this kind of growth. Because of global warming, our droughts are occurring more often and lasting longer. Many of our aquifers have a water level that is dropping.

It is urgent with this kind of population growth, that our officials in Austin address the water issue. If we put it off any longer, we won't be able to sustain the population we have, let alone the huge population increases.

Texas now has 23.5 million people. By 2010, there will be 25 million Texans.

Ex-Cop Makes Video To Help Marijuana Users

Barry Cooper used to be a drug-enforcement officer for police departments in Gladewater, Big Sandy, and for the Permian Basin Drug Task Force. He made over 800 drug arrests, seized more than 50 vehicles, and confiscated over $500,000 in cash and assets.

Cooper was an excellent officer -- some believe he was as good as they come. His ex-boss on the drug task force says, "He was even better than he says he was. He was probably the best narcotics officer in the state and maybe the country during his time with the task force."

But Cooper has become disillusioned with the failed War on Drugs. He has made a new video titled Never Get Busted Again. Cooper says the video will show drug users how to:

- "conceal their stash"
- "avoid narcotics profiling"
- "fool canines every time"

Cooper now favors the legalization of marijuana, and believes the War on Drugs is simply wasting our resources and filling our prisons with non-violent offenders. He told the Tyler Morning Telegraph, "My main motivation in all of this is to teach Americans their civil liberties and what drives me in this is injustice and unfairness in our system."

Cooper is creating a web site to promote his video which he says should be up by next Tuesday [sorry, I don't have the URL], and is ready to start selling the video. He also plans to buy space in at least one national publication to promote the video.

Barry Cooper is right. The War on Drugs has been a miserable failure. It is draining the resources of our country without so much as putting a dent in drug production and sales. It has created new and dangerous gangs, who are willing to kill for control of the lucrative new black-market [just as prohibition did in the 1920's].

The huge amounts of money the black-market in drugs generates is a corrupting influence on law enforcement, and distracts them from their primary job of protecting the people. It is filling our prisons with non-violent offenders, and forcing the early release of many violent criminals because of overcrowding. The War on Drugs has made our country a more dangerous place for everyone.

I applaud Barry Cooper for the brave stand he has taken. It is time to legalize marijuana, tax the hell out of it to ease the burden on ordinary citizens, and remove the lucrative profits from the hands of the criminal element.

The War on Drugs is an abject failure. Let's admit it and move on.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Rep. Burnam Wants To Limit Use Of Tasers

Well, there goes Rep. Lon Burnam [D-Fort Worth] again -- making far too much sense to be a Texas legislator. Burnam has filed House Bill 418, which would limit the use of Tasers by law enforcement officers here in Texas.

Tasers are being used far too often these days. In 2002, Austin police used a Taser only 3 times, but in 2004, they used a Taser 265 times. Houston police have used a Taser 892 times in the last two years. Tasers are not only being used too often, but they are being used in situations in which they are not warranted.

Rep. Burnam's bill would limit Taser use to those situations in which "deadly force" is justified, as defined by the Penal Code. Rep. Burnam says:

"The number of incidents in which officers use Tasers on unarmed people is truly alarming. There are currently 16 documented deaths due to Taser use by police in Texas. There is a perception out there that Tasers are safe and generally harmless. That perception is dead wrong. Tasers have proven to be lethal and that's why they should only be used in situations in which deadly force is justified.

All my bill says is that if you're going to shoot someone with 50,000 volts, it should only be done when the officer is in grave danger. If a suspect is unarmed or does not present a deadly threat to the officer, they should not be tased.

Tasers are being used on minorities with impunity. It needs to stop."

Women File Suit Against UTA Over "Religion"

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram this morning, and attorneys from the Liberty Legal Institute, the University of Texas at Arlington has fired two women for praying at their work location after work hours.

The Liberty Legal Institute is a right-wing fundamentalist organization dedicated to trying to force fundamentalist christianity into our schools, workplaces and other public venues. I would expect their attorneys to tell only the part of the story that fits the needs of their clients, as many attorneys do. But I am disappointed in the reporting of the Star-Telegram.

Do they really believe that these two women were terminated for having an innocuous prayer after work? I certainly don't. I can't believe that UTA would fire anyone simply for praying with a co-worker. There has to be more to this story, and the newspaper should have dug deeper and gotten both sides before they even printed this story.

Going into the reader's comments section of the story, we are able to learn a little more. It seems these women weren't simply praying. They were making a public display of their religion, harassing employees [probably repeatedly], and even admitted themselves that they performed an "exorcism" on another worker's cubicle, spreading oil in it and claiming he was demon-possessed. This kind of behavior is over the line.

You do have the right to pray unobtrusively at or after work. But you do not have the right to harrass co-workers who do not agree with you. You also don't have the right to enter a co-workers space without permission to spread oil around. I'll bet these women were repeatedly warned to stop bothering their co-workers by trying to force their religious beliefs on them.

You have the right to pray. You do not have the right to try to force your religious views on your co-workers.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Migrant workers finally getting paid

I haven't mentioned it before (though jobsanger has), but I love the Southern Poverty Law Center. The wonderful people in this organization work tirelessly to help those who need it the most, in this case, forestry workers who were cheated out of money they had earned by their employers.

These workers, here as part of the HB-2 "guest worker" program, "were paid less than minimum wage, didn't receive overtime pay and worked upward of 70 hours a week planting trees."

"The abuses were not limited to violations of federal wage and hour laws. The company also threatened workers in an attempt to intimidate them into withdrawing from the suit, which was given class-action certification in February."

Some of these workers had to pay several thousand dollars to secure these jobs to begin with. This is sickening. How do their employers sleep at night?

As many as 300 migrant workers will now (once the court approves it) receive a settlement of $200,000, after getting help from the SPLC's Immigrant Justice Project. The SPLC will not keep one penny of this money (they work entirely off of donations, never keeping money from settlements won in the cases they take on - another reason I love this organization).

I'm happy to see these workers finally get some justice. As someone who makes only pennies above this country's pitiful minimum wage, I understand how hard it can be to get the bills paid. I can't possibly imagine what it feels like to be cheated out of money earned in a foreign land, where I'd be a lot less likely to know that country's wage laws. I'm glad that these workers found help in such an admirable organization.

SPLC, I raise my glass to you! Cheers!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Snakes are not my friends

A couple of years ago, my best friend Red, my cousin J, an old friend C, and I were walking through a small wooded area in the wee hours of the morning (trying to find a short cut home that ultimately got us lost), when C went into absolute freak out mode. He screamed at the top of his lungs, repeatedly smacked his face and arms, and shortly thereafter began to remove his clothes. Red, J, and I just stood there watching him with amused looks on our faces.

We had all been walking in a single file line down a trail, with C bringing up the rear, so it didn't occur to us that he, being the tallest of us all, had found a spider web that the three of us were lucky enough to miss. C is terrified of spiders after being bitten by a brown recluse many years ago, so every time he comes into contact with anything that might be a spider web, he is convinced that he is being attacked by the nasty little fiddlers again.

It took a half hour for him to be convinced that he wasn't dying, but there was no way in hell he was going through the rest of the wooded area not crouched to the point that he was shorter than us.

That is how I act when anywhere in the vicinity of snakes. I cease to be human. I spent quite a few years living in the country and was told many times how to act when I come into contact with snakes, but my few encounters with them have proven that the advice is useless. This doesn't apply only to poisonous snakes either. My step-father loves to tell the story of my meeting with a grass snake that was no longer than his foot. That little fucker made me afraid of our own back yard for months. I didn't care that it couldn't kill me. It was a snake, and that was all I needed to know.

This is why I have absolutely no desire to see "Snakes on a Plane". This is also why I will never likely visit the Everglades - at least willingly.

Apparently,there are quite a few Burmese pythons roaming around out there. They are not native to the area, but due to some Americans love of exotic pets, they have been able to call the Everglades home for a few years now. It seems that some people like the idea of owning a Burmese python until they realize that they can grow to over 20 feet long and get to over 200 pounds.

Eek! Little facts like that make it not matter that they don't have fangs! They actually have the ability to wrestle around with an alligator and not lose. The article talks about a dead python found with a six foot gator's legs and tail protruding from it's split open guts. The python was only 13 feet itself!

That tells me that I could easily be swallowed by one! There's an idea I'd rather not entertain!

It is thought that these not-so-little buggers were released into the wild by people who bought them when they were babies, only to realize that they don't stay babies forever. Now they are multiplying. The article interviews a man whose job it is to remove as many as possible from the Everglades. He has removed over 150 this year alone.

I really can't get too mad at people who own wierd pets. I myself have 3 hermit crabs. However, my babies will not get any bigger than my hand, and the worse pain they can give is to make me feel like I didn't wear green on St Patty's Day. Burmese pythons, on the other hand, can eat you. Why on earth would someone want to call one a pet?! And if someone absolutely has to have one, why not take it back to the pet store when their mind is changed?

I see no need to give those of us who are already terrified of snakes a new one to watch out for!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Going Out Of Town

Just wanted to warn my few readers that I'm being sent out of town on business for the next three to four days. I don't know if I'll have access to a computer, so the blogging may be spotty or even not at all, but that can't be helped.

Things should be back to normal on Thursday or Friday. I'm sorry for the inconvience.

Dallas Cowboys Win -- Quincy Carter Loses

The Dallas Cowboys beat the Atlanta Falcons last night 38-28, but it was not easy. The game was a real dogfight between two teams who both needed the win.

The Cowboys jumped out to a first quarter lead of 14-0, but the momentum switched to the Falcons in the second quarter. The defense didn't seem to know how to stop the Falcons in the second quarter. I think the Cowboys were lucky to go into halftime tied with the Falcons at 21-21.

Once again the Cowboys' weakness in coverage of passes by the safeties was exposed, as the Falcons burned them with several long passes last night. Roy Williams, know for his hard hitting and tackling, is not a great cover safety. On the other side, rookie Pat Watkins may someday be a good cover safety, but he is not there yet.

When the third quarter started, the Falcons scored again and it looked like their momentum would continue. But the defense of the Cowboys finally started shutting them down. They were not to score again in the game.

The fourth quarter belonged to the Cowboys, even though the game was still in doubt until they scored their final touchdown with less than 3 minutes left in the game. I hope the final two games are not as tough as this one turned out to be.

Last September 1st, I predicted the Cowboys would finish the season at 11-5. I'm usually very bad at predicting these sort of things, and after the first few games of the season, I was beginning to think I had been far too optimistic. But now they are 9-5. The final two games are against the Eagles and the Lions, and both are very winnable [and both are home games]. I may have accidently been right this time.

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On a sadder note, Quincy Carter was arrested a couple of days ago on a class B charge of possessing less that 2 ounces of marijuana in Irving, Texas.

He sat in jail for 12 hours without being bailed out, even though the bond was only $500. I don't guess he has any friends left on the Cowboys -- at least none who would post a small bond for him.

Finally, newspaper columnist and radio personality Randy Galloway, who has been very critical of Carter in the past, called a bondsman and said he would be responsible for the bail. In the end, Cowboy Bail Bonds in Garland posted the $500 and waived the fee.

New Plant To Produce Gas From Cow Patties

There are over 13 million head of cattle in the state of Texas. Each cow will produce about a ton of manure a year. Instead of being a waste product, some are now considering this 13 million tons of manure, or cow patties as we call them here in Texas, to be a valuable resource in the search for clean and renewable energy.

This is not such a crazy idea. For thousands of years, animal dung has been burned as a fuel to cook and to heat homes with, especially in under-developed parts of the world. Now this old idea is being given a modern twist. There are thousands of plants in Europe that produce "biogas" [methane] from animal dung, and use this biogas to produce electric power.

Now this idea has finally come to Texas, where we have an abundance of the natural resource needed -- cow patties.

Microgy Inc., a Colorado-based energy company, is building a plant in Stephenville to convert cow patties into natural gas, which will then be sold to gas-burning power plants. They already have a contract to sell the gas produced in Stephenville to the Lower Colorado River Authority in Austin.

The plant will process about 10,000 pounds of manure a day, and produce enough gas provide electric power for 6,000 homes. The best part is that this power will be produced without adding to the pollution problems in Texas.

Of course, this is just a drop in the bucket when you consider the enormous power needs of Texas. But you have to start somewhere, and Microgy would like to build more of the biogas-producing plants.

Biogas plants will never produce enough gas for all of Texas' energy needs, but combined with other clean forms of energy, such as wind-powered generators, it could be a significant factor in the energy equation.

To me, this makes a lot more sense than just continuing to build coal-burning and pollution-producing power plants. A recent poll shows that a large majority of Texans agree.

Texas has a problem with meeting EPA clean air standards. It is time for us to consider new and innovative ideas such as biogas.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Sometimes Santa's Elves Ride Motorcycles

I'm not a christian, so I have no use for the religious aspects of Christmas. But I love the idea of a secular Santa Claus delivering toys to the good boys and girls all over the world. Of course, as an adult, I know that Santa can't do the job alone. He needs the help of good people everywhere.

Each year about this time, a few thousand of Santa's best elves climb aboard their motorcycles and deliver an amazing amount of toys for the children of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

For the last 21 years now, Bikers from all over the area gather for the annual Big Texas Toy Run. Because of the good weather, this year's toy run may include as many as 50,000 motorcycles. On Sunday participants will gather in Dallas, Fort Worth and Grapevine, and at 1:00pm they will all head for the Arlington Convention Center to deliver their toys.

They will be coming down I-30 from Dallas and Fort Worth, and down Hwy. 360 from Grapevine. Let me tell you, it is an impressive thing to see.

Event chairman Nick Taddonio says, "We've got a lot of people from out of state coming, folks who said, 'This is the biggest one in the country so what the heck, let's go.' That's good for the kids."
The toys will be given to the kids in Mental Health Mental Retardation of Tarrant County and several other charities.

I'd like to give a big pre-run "thank you" to the Biker elves. You guys and gals are doing a wonderful thing. And if any of you readers of this blog have a bike and are feeling a bit elvish, join the fun. You'll be glad you did.

Diabetes Reversed In Mice By Researchers

U.S. and Canadian researchers believe they have made a breakthrough in researching the cause and possible cure of diabetes. They have known for quite a while now that sufferers of diabetes have damaged nerve ends in the pancreas. It has been thought that the damage was the result of the diabetes, but these researchers think the damaged nerve ends may actually be the cause of the disease.

They believe the defective nerve endings may attract proteins from the body's immune system which attack the pancreas and destroy it's ability to produce insulin, thus causing diabetes.

The researchers have taken mice with type-1 diabetes [also known as juvenile diabetes], and injected a peptide into the defective nerve endings. According to Dr. Hans Michael Dosch of the University of Toronto, the mice were cured of their diabetes "overnight". He said, "It is very effective in reversing diabetes."

Dosch said the nerve endings in the diabetic mice were not secreting enough of the peptides to keep the insulin flowing. According to the researchers, injecting the peptides lowered the body's resistance to insulin, allowing it to carry glucose to the cells.

The next step is for researchers to study people whose family history shows them to be at high risk for type-1 diabetes. If they are found to have the defective nerve endings, then tests will be conducted on the at-risk group and on diabetics. The study and testing will take several years.

The procedure may also be of help to those with type-2 diabetes [also known as adult-onset diabetes], but the reaction in mice so far has not been as strong as with the type-1 diabetic mice.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Rep. Burnam Files Bill To Investigate Deregulation

I do love Rep. Lon Burnam [D-Fort Worth]. When the people of Texas are getting screwed and most politicians are too busy trying to cover their butts to care about it, Burnam is not afraid to step forward to fight for the citizens of Texas. Now he has done it again.

Before electric rates were deregulated in 2002, the rates in Texas were at or below the national average. Since deregulation, the electric rates in Texas have increased by over 80%. Frankly, the power companies have taken advantage of deregulation to fleece Texans and give themselves huge windfall profits.

When arguing for deregulation, the power companies along with Republicans, kept saying that deregulation would result in savings for Texas consumers. This was obviously a lie. Electric rates have never been higher.

Today, Rep. Burnam filed House Bill 395. This bill would require the Public Utility Commission to present alternatives to the present system, if electric prices are not at or below the national average in the summer of 2008. The PUC report would be due on the first day of the 2009 legislative session.

Rep. Burnam says:

"My constituents, like millions of others across the state, are paying significantly more under deregulation, regardless of whether they have switched to a new provider. Electric deregulation in Texas has been incredibly one-sided; big companies are making billion dollar profits while households are paying record high electricity prices. While we need real reforms to the electric market now, it is essential we explore alternatives for the longer term. This bill would direct the PUC to do exactly that.

The Legislature needs to act now to protect consumers. I talked to a doctor just today who told me he's never had so many patients report that they are choosing between medication and electricity than he has this year. This bill helps prepare Texas to change direction if we continue down this road of ever increasing prices."

Hunger & Homelessness Rise In U.S. In 2006

We have more proof of the abject failure of the Bush administration. Most people know of the failures in foreign policy, but Bush and his cohorts are also failing in their domestic policies.

The U.S. Council of Mayors has just released a report that shows this failure in stark terms. The report says that both homelessness and hunger have risen in this country in the last year, as they have been doing since Bush took office in 2000.

Here are some of the findings of the Mayors' report:

- requests for food have risen by 7% in the last year
- requests for shelter have risen by 9% in the last year
- requests for shelter by families with children rose by 5%
- children make up a quarter of those in homeless shelters
- families often have to split up & stay in different shelters
- 23% of food requests went unfulfilled
- more than a third of adults asking for food aid are employed

The Bush administration was quick to point out that food requests were actually down in a few cities like Cleveland. What they don't tell you is that the demand for food subsidies in up by 29% in Cleveland since 2000, the year that Bush took office. Food subsidies and food stamps now make up 60% of the budget of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This is a shameful situation. The Bush economic policies have helped only the rich, who are making larger profits than ever. But the poor and working class are losing ground every day, and the middle class is now being put in jeopardy. Many middle class families are only a paycheck or two away from disaster.

Bush seems to think that whatever is good for his rich buddies is good for all Americans. The above-stated figures show that to be a big fat lie! The Bush economic policies have been an unmitigated disaster for most Americans.

When you combine Bush's domestic policies with his foreign policy failures, we can see that Bush is truly the worst president ever.

TTRS Is Considering A Risky Investment

"They should not gamble with the money they are charged with protecting not only for the retired teachers of this state, but for all of those active teachers who are contributing to the fund with every paycheck." These are the words of Linda Bridges, president of the Texas Federation of Teachers. She is talking about a risky investment being considered by the Texas Teacher Retirement System [TTRS].

The TTRS is discussing at this time whether to sink part of its multi-billion dollar portfolio into the Emerging Technology Fund, established in 2005 by Governor Perry to make investment capital available to companies in Texas who are trying to get a foothold in the high-technology market.

I'm all for the TTRS making good safe investments to grow the retirement fund established for teachers. But this sounds more like gambling than the making of a sane investment for teachers' retirement. Especially in light of a TTRS staff memo that states, "The historical returns for venture capital investments possess substantial volatility. It is not uncommon for an early-stage venture capital fund to have nine losses for every home run investment."

This means they are considering an investment that has a 90% chance of failure. What the hell are these guys thinking? The TTRS is charged with growing and PROTECTING the teacher retirement fund, not gambling it away with high-risk investments [even in a fund created by the governor of Texas].

I have no problem with the Emerging Technology Fund. In fact, it is probably a good idea that could help Texas gain a larger share of companies in the high-tech marketplace. But it is far too risky to fund it with money earmarked for teacher retirement. And while I'm on this subject, it is also too risky a venture for the retirement fund of state employees.

There is the possibility of enormous profits from investing in high-tech firms, but it must be done with money that we can afford to lose, since the chance of failure is far greater than the chance for big profits. We cannot afford to deplete the retirement funds of teachers. This would endanger the future of our Texas teachers, and therefore our schools.

The TTRS should not even be considering this kind of investment.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

City, County & State Want New Toll Lanes On I-35W

Anyone who lives in or near Tarrant county knows that Interstate 35W north of downtown has been inadequate for the traffic it carries for several years now. It only has two lanes, and it needs to have at least two more [making a total of four lanes going each way].

When Tarrant county got a huge multi-million dollar bond proposal passed earlier this year, they said part of the money would be to "fix I-35W". I thought at the time this meant they would widen the freeway, and I'm sure a lot of others thought the same. After all, that is the "fix" that is needed. But we were wrong. Evidently the money was just for repairs and not for widening the freeway. I still think they were misleading when trying to get the bond proposal passed.

Now they are doing something even worse. Fort Worth and Tarrant county officials have joined with state officials to push a proposal that would widen I-35W and Loop 820 with new TOLL LANES! It's not bad enough that these officials support that boondoggle called the Trans-Texas Corridor, now they want to build new toll lanes inside the county.

It seems like these officials never pass up an opportunity to squeeze another dollar out of their constituents. What do they have against poor and working folks? Do they just not like us, or just can't be bothered with thinking about us?

I'm sure these officials have plenty of money to throw around and spend on taking a toll road. After all, you pretty much have to be well-off to even run for political office these days. But there are lots of working people who really can't afford the extra expense of taking a toll road to work and back. They're still going to be crammed into the two existing lanes, while the rich speed by in the new toll lanes.

The working people pay most of the taxes, and they deserve to have a decent way to get to and from work. But it seems that everything the city, county and state does nowdays is geared toward helping the rich. Widening I-35W and Loop 820 is badly needed, but it is ridiculous and unfair to do it by adding toll lanes.

If we need to raise the gas tax a little to pay for new and improved roads, then we should do it. That would be a lot cheaper for most people than toll roads. This is just a bad idea, and it should be stopped before it gets any further.

Petition Submitted For Vote On Anti-Immigrant Ordinance

A few weeks ago, the city of Farmers Branch passed an anti-immigrant ordinance targeted at the Hispanics living in the city. The ordinance has come under fire from Hispanic and civil rights groups, and at least one lawsuit has been filed to overturn the ordinance.

Residents of Farmers Branch have also been trying another way to get rid of the ordinance. They have been collecting signatures on a petition calling for a vote by the citizens on whether to overturn the ordinance or not.

The anti-ordinance citizens needed 700 signatures to force the city council to call the election. The group has now turned in the petition to the city council. The petition has over 1400 signatures. Now the city has 15 days to verify that at least 700 of the signatues are from registered voters living in the city.

Of course some of the ordinance supporters are claiming that many illegal immigrants may have signed the petition. But William Brewer, a petition organizer, answered that charge saying, "That was all a bunch of silliness. The petition was signed by registered voters."

According to City Attorney Matthew Boyle, if the petition is found to have 700 valid signatures, the city council will have to choose between repealing the ordinance or scheduling a city-wide vote for May 12th.

I seriously doubt the city council will repeal the ordinance, so it looks like the voters will get their chance to speak on the matter next May. I hope the decent citizens of Farmers Branch will overturn this bigoted ordinance. The city council has given their city a lot of bad publicity by passing it, and set them up to spend thousands of dollars trying to defend this obnoxious ordinance.

It's up to the voters now. The election next May will tell the nation just what kind of city Farmers Branch is -- bigoted or progressive and accepting. It will be interesting to see what choice they make.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Business Leaders To Fight TXU's New Coal Plants

Things don't seem to be going all that well for TXU these days. They already had several enviornmental groups and several Texas mayors, including the mayors of Dallas and Houston, opposing their building of 11 new coal-powered plants. Now there is another group coming out in opposition to the coal-powered plants.

The Dallas Morning News tells us today, that a group composed of at least 20 of the most powerful business leaders in the North Texas area, have formed a PAC called Texas Business for Clean Air. The PAC was formed to oppose the building of TXU's 11 new coal-fired power plants, at least with the technology TXU is currently planning to use. These businessmen think that more pollution in an area that is already failing to meet EPA standards, could hurt economic development by boosting health care costs and making the area unattractive to workers.

David Litman, chief executive of Consumer Club Inc., said, "We are not against TXU. We are all for companies making money. But you've passed off some of your costs on the public in terms of dirty air, in terms of kids showing up at Children's Hospital. We think the plan TXU is proposing is irresponsible and is being crammed down our throats. We intend to lobby the legislature, and we intend to use whatever prestige and influence we have."

In the recent past, it has been easy for lawmakers, especially Republicans, to ignore activists and enviornmental groups. But this is a group they cannot ignore. These are powerful men. These are some of the men who fund political campaigns. They have access and will be at least listened to.

TXU needs to take another look at its current plan for the 11 new plants. There is better technology available. They would be better served to take the money they are spending on lobbyists and court costs, and invest it in cleaner technology for the new plants. Think of the good will and good public relations they could build by being a leader in the use of clean technology, rather than the polluter they are now perceived as being.

As Garrett Boone, chairman of The Container Store, said, "There's a myth out there that clean air and business are somehow at odds. This really is going to affect more than Texas. What TXU does could be a pattern nationwide."

Here are the leaders endorsing Texas Business for Clean Air:

Trammel S. Crow, founder, Crow Collection of Asian Art
Garrett Boone, chairman, The Container Store
David Litman, chief executive, Consumer Club Inc.
Wick Allison, publisher, D Magazine
Dick Bartlett, vice chairman, Mary Kay Inc.
Randy Best, chairman, Best & Associates
Stephen Butt, senior vice president, Central Market
Hal Brierley, chairman, Brierley & Partners
Edwin Cox, chairman, Edwin L. Cox Co.
Steve Durham, co-chairman, American Strategic Alliances
Roger Enrico, chairman, Dreamworks Animation
Howard Hallam, president, Ben E. Keith
Bill Hutchinson, chief executive, Dunhill Partners
Tom Lardner, Bright Sun
Aubrey McClendon, chairman, Chesapeake Energy Corp.
Liener Temerlin, Temerlin Consulting
Jay Wagley, managing director, CBRE Melody
Sam Wyly, founder, Ranger Capital

Another Republican Congressman Is In Trouble

Rep. Gary Miller [R-California] coasted to victory unopposed last November in the heavily Republican 42nd District. He will be returning to the U.S. House of Representatives for his fifth term as a congressman.

But now it looks like the people of California's 42nd District may be sending a corrupt politician back to Washington. Four of Miller's ex-aides are saying that Miller used his government position for personal gain, and they have e-mails, handwritten notes and letters on Miller's congressional letterhead to prove it.

One of the former aides said, "There was never a clear line in the office between what was congressional business and what was just business. The expectation was that you would do both."

Here are some of the things he is accused of doing:

* While Miller was asking the Monrovia City Council to purchase 165 acres from him for $12 million, he asked his aides to find a way to place one of the councilmen on the National Park System Advisory Board. He ignored his staff when they told him this would look like bribery, and told them the sooner they could get it done the better. The City Council bought the land, and the councilman in question voted for the purchase.

* Miller routinely had his staff handle his personal errands such as helping his kids with their schoolwork, searching for rock concert tickets, sending flowers to friends and family, helping his son enroll in college, and checking on his stock prices. This is a clear violation of federal law. Gary Ruskin, director of the Congressional Accountability Project, said, "We taxpayers trust that our members of Congress will not turn their staff into butlers. That's not what they're paid for. It's a misuse of funds and an abuse of power."

* Miller allocated funds for street improvements near a development he co-owned, and in the same bill, he closed down an airport used by private pilots and emergency medical personnel. This opened the land up for development by the Lewis Operating Corporation, one of Miller's largest contributors.

* Lewis Operating Corp. also helped Miller hide $10 million in real estate profits from capital gains taxes. A complaint has been filed with the Internal Revenue Service over this one by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

* Miller has collected $25,000 a year in each of the last three elections, by using his own real estate office as his campaign headquarters. This is another violation of federal law, since no real campaign activity took place there.

You'd think after the troubles of DeLay, Cunningham, Ney, and Abramoff, the Republicans would pull back a little from the corruption. But not this guy. Miller must think he's bulletproof. Either that, or he's been playing fast and loose with the rules so long he doesn't know how to be honest anymore.

How do the Republicans keep coming up with these losers?

EPA To Fix Discrepancy In M.P.G. Figures

Did you ever wonder why you would buy a vehicle that the EPA said gets 25 miles per gallon, but the best you could get driving it was about 21 miles per gallon [or less]? I think we've all had this experience.

The EPA itself admits that in normal driving conditions, most cars will get 8-12% fewer miles per gallon than the EPA estimate on the price sticker. Edmunds.com, an auto information website, believes the figure is closer to 14%.

That's because the EPA has not been testing cars under normal driving conditions. The current EPA test, which has been the same since 1984, does very little stop-and-go driving, does not include rapid acceleration, does not turn on the air conditioner, and tests in a 70 degree enviornment. There is no way the normal driver can meet all of these conditions.

Fortunately, the EPA is preparing itself to test cars and light trucks under more normal conditions. This will start with the 2008 models that will come out next year. Surprisingly enough, both enviormental groups and carmakers agree that the new testing will be better for everyone, especially the consumer.

The new EPA test will do more high-speed driving, use the air conditioner part of the time, include rapid acceleration, use more stop-and-go driving, and test partly in 20 degree cold. This new test should produce a more realistic mpg number, one that the consumer can actually attain in normal driving.

I have to wonder if Bush knows about the new test. It's not like his administration to do something that makes sense, and will actually help the consumer. I hope no one tells him about it. We could use a little truth in the marketplace.