A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Monday, April 30, 2007

Bush Still Losing Support For Iraqi War


President Bush has already lost the support of 70% of Americans regarding the Iraqi war. He basically is left with only the support of harcore Republicans, and even that is starting to change.

Until recently, Bush could count on the support of two groups - Republicans and the military. But he is now starting to lose support in both groups. There is a growing group called Iraqi Veterans Against the War, modeling themselves loosely on Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

One difference between the Iraqi group and the Vietnam group is the participation of active duty soldiers and National Guard. Where the Vietnam group was composed mainly of veterans who had left military service, the modern Iraqi war group has at least 700 members who are still active in the military.

These members are carrying out many activities opposing the war in Iraq - including attending demonstrations, speaking against the war in schools, doing anti-Iraq war counseling with potential enlistees, and operating anti-war websites.

Recently, Nearly 1000 soldiers, Guardsmen and reserve members signed an Appeal for Redress that was delivered to Congress. It said, "As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases in Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home."

Last week Sen. McCain told John Stewart that U.S. troops supported the war, but clearly that is not true of all the troops. While still prepared to follow orders and do their duty, a growing number of the troops are opposing U.S. policy in Iraq.

Many Republicans are also starting to have second thoughts about the war as next year's election grows nearer. Several Republicans have already jumped ship and voted with Democrats to institute a timetable to end the war.

In an effort to stave off more Republican defections, Bush has imposed a timetable of his own. He has asked General Petraeus to deliver a progress report in early September. That report had better show some real progress or he faces even more Republican defections. Many Republican congressmen are beginning to see the writing on the wall, and it's voters doing that writing.

Bush's surge has not started well. April turned out to be the most violent month of the war. How many people are going to have to die before Bush will admit the truth and bring our soldiers back home?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Cowboys Finish Their 2007 NFL Draft


It's over now. The Dallas Cowboys (and Houston Texans) have made their choices in the 2007 NFL draft. Today they drafted players in the fourth through seventh rounds.

The players chosen in these rounds are not assured of making the team, but we should remember that Larry Brown, who was chosen Most Valuable Player in the Super Bowl, was chosen in the 12th round. Current Cowboy players Oliver Hoyte and Tyson Thompson were not drafted at all, but made the team as free agents.

We really won't know who the new Cowboys will be for next season until after the training camp. But some interesting choices were made in the draft. Here are the draft choices for rounds 4 through 7, with Texan choices in red and Cowboy choices in blue:

103. (4) Isaiah Stanback (WR/QB - Washington, 6' 2", 216 lbs)

122. (4) Doug Free (OT - Northern Illinois, 6' 6", 324 lbs)

123. (4) Fred Bennett (CB - South Carolina, 6' 0", 196 lbs)

144. (5) Brandon Harrison (S - Stanford, 6' 1", 227 lbs)

163. (5) Brandon Frye (OT - Virginia Tech, 6' 4", 305 lbs)

178. (6) Nick Folk (K - Arizona, 6' 1", 225 lbs)

183. (6) Kasey Studdard (G - Texas, 6' 2", 303 lbs)

195. (6) Deon Anderson (FB - Connecticut, 5' 10", 236 lbs)

212. (7) Courtney Brown (CB - Cal Poly, 6' 1", 205 lbs)

218. (7) Zach Diles (LB - Kansas State, 6' 2", 233 lbs)

237. (7) Alan Ball (CB - Illinois, 6' 1", 175 lbs)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

What Happened To General Motors ?


Last week it was revealed that General Motors is no longer the leading car producer in the world. In the first quarter of this year, Toyota sold 2.348 million cars, passing GM for the first time. During the same period, GM sold 2.26 million cars. And it doesn't look like this trend will be reversed anytime soon.

What happened? How could GM have lost the lead it had for so many years? MSN.com has a pretty good article on how this happened.

The article says that the two main reasons are "yester-think" and "bloated union contracts". I disagree about the union contracts. They have re-negotiated many of the contracts, and closed down many plants in this country to shift production to Mexico and other places. It has not helped, because that was not the problem.

But the engagement in "yester-think" was definitely one of the major reasons. GM was fat and happy and continued to build the same product, while Toyota (and other foreign companies) were constantly redeveloping and improving their product. By the time they figured this out, it was too late. Even most Americans now consider Toyota and Honda to be more advanced and more dependable than cars made by GM and Ford.

I think another reason for their downfall was the close ties between American car companies and the big oil companies. For many years, each looked out for the other. Big oil keep their prices fairly low, and the car makers refused to seriously consider building truly energy-efficient cars. When they did build a small car, it was more of an afterthought, and did not meet the quality of its foreign competition.

They were convinced that the world preferred to drive big gas-guzzlers. But then the big oil companies decided to go for enormous windfall profits, and by doing so put a knife in Detroit's back. Toyota, Honda and others never had a close relationship with big oil, and were able to build ever more efficient and dependable cars. When big oil went crazy, they were already in the market with appropriate products. GM and Ford are still trying to play catch-up.

Maybe they have finally learned, you just can't trust the big oil companies.

Draft Day Is Finally Here !


I haven't written anything about the Cowboys in a while. The reason for that, other than it being the off-season, is because I was 100% on board the Bill Parcells bandwagon. I was shocked when he retired, and not really sure what that meant for the Cowboys.

They have a new coach now. Jerry Jones decided to go with Wade Phillips. For me, the jury is still out on whether that was a good decision or not. I guess we'll find out in the coming season. He does come from a good football family though - I had a lot of respect for his father.

The Cowboys, in addition to getting a new head coach, helped themselves in some other areas during free agency. It looks like they have signed very good players at safety and on the offensive line, and these were areas that needed to be addressed. Now we get to see if they can help themselves again via the draft.

The Raiders have opened the draft by making JeMarcus Russell (LSU) the number one pick. Unless they trade up, which we are told is a possibility this year, the Cowboys will be picking 22nd this year.

10. The Houston Texans picked Amobi Okoye (DT-Louisville). I don't know whether this is a good pick or not. He was rated pretty highly, but he is very young and not huge for an interior defensive lineman. Maybe it's just me, but I don't have a lot of faith in Houston's ability to choose after they passed on both Vince Young and Reggie Bush last year.

22. Dallas trades this pick to Cleveland.
Cleveland uses the pick to get quarterback Brady Quinn (Notre Dame). This gives Cleveland a pretty good draft for this year - they got offensive tackle Joe Thomas (Wisconsin) at the third pick.

In return, Dallas gets Cleveland's first round pick in the 2008 draft, which will probably be a pretty high pick - giving them two first round picks next year. They also get the #36 pick in this year's draft. The player they'll get at the 36 slot will be in the same range as what they would have gotten at 22, but they won't have to pay him first round money.

26. Dallas gets this pick from Philadelphia, and uses it to pick Anthony Spencer (DE-Purdue, 6' 2", 261 lbs). Spencer will be a bookend outside linebacker on the side opposite Demarcus Ware. This will improve the Cowboy defense by giving them a large speedy pass rusher from both sides. I think it was an excellent pick. To get him, Cowboys had to give up picks in the 2nd, 3rd and 5th rounds of this year's draft.

67. Dallas drafts James Marten (OT-Boston College, 6' 7", 309 lbs).

73. Texans draft Jacoby Jones (WR-Lane College, 6' 2", 210 lbs).

That wraps up the first three rounds of the draft. You kind of expect players drafted in the first three rounds to make the team. Tomorrow teams go looking for that "diamond in the rough" in the fourth through the seventh rounds.

At present, the Cowboys have the 103rd, 122nd, 178th, 200th, 212th, 234th and 237th picks still to make.

Does Free Will Trump Prayer ?


A few days ago I printed a satirical "prayer" from skeptic James Randi. He had written it in response to President Bush's comments about a loving God in regard to the Virginia Tech tragedy. Basically, Randi questioned why a "loving God" would allow such tragedies to happen to those he loved.

A certain commenter to this site felt the need to explain to me why his God would allow such tragedies to happen. This is what he had to say:

As far as why God allows things like the Virginia Tech shootings to happen, for better or worse, He created us with free will. He could have created us as mindless automatons without the means to do anything but his bidding, but then He couldn’t have a dynamic love relationship with us that He has always longed for.
Whether you view Adam and Eve as historical figures or merely allegorical characters, the truth is the same: even if there were only one rule to follow, humans would use their free will to disobey God. When Adam and Eve decided they knew better than God, that perfect relationship was broken. Since that decision, God has allowed us to go our own way, and the Earth has never been the same since.
In order for God to totally take back control of His creation from us, two things would have to take place: all of mankind would have to either have to 1) give up its collective free will; or 2) use that free will to be totally obedient to God.

Personally, I find this explanation rather inadequate. Do you really believe that free will trumps prayer? Because that is what the explanation seems to be saying. Evidently you can pray for God's protection, but any nut with a gun that comes along can shoot a hole through you and that prayer, because he has free will.

And what about diseases and natural disasters? Do they also have free will? After a natural disaster, you always hear people saying that God protected them from being hurt by it. Did God not think those who were killed and injured deserved his protection? Were they not good enough God-believers?

The only answer this commenter has is that he has met people who have overcome and learned to live with serious disabilities brought on by disease or natural disaster. So have I, but I've yet to meet one who wouldn't have preferred that it hadn't happened.

The answers provided don't say much for the power of prayer. God can't protect you from humans (because of free will) and won't protect you from diseases and natural disasters (because you either deserve it or need to be tested).

This Guy in the Sky doesn't sound very loving or all-powerful.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Random Thoughts On A Friday

I wasted an hour and a half last night watching that pathetic spectacle MSNBC billed as a debate. What a confusing mess that was! How can you compare the various candidates, when only three or four of the eight candidates got to answer each question?

Isn't the very essence of a presidential debate making all candidates answer the same questions, so you can compare their answers? And what was with the "raise your hand" questions? Good grief!

I think the only thing we learned last night was that MSNBC should NEVER be allowed to hold another "debate".

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The "blame game" is now in full force over the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech. The various "news" networks have brought all kind of so-called experts on to blame the shooting on nearly everything.

If you believe these nutty experts, the shootings were caused by TV shows, movies, video games, rock & hip-hop music, the NRA, our classist society, VTU security, our godless society, and a hundred other things.

I realize these networks have to fill a lot of airtime and they don't want to have to fill it with real news, but it's getting a bit ridiculous. Is it so hard to believe that the only person responsible is a pathetic and very sick man, who is now dead?

For goodness sake, let it go!

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What is driving the Voter ID bill that Republicans are shoving thru the Texas legislature? Is it fear, or just plain meanness?

Are they afraid to let everyone vote? I wouldn't blame them if they were. Their incompetence is exposed more with each passing day, and Texas is turning a little bluer each day. If they actually let all the citizens vote, it won't be long before the Democrats are back in power.

But I suspect the real reason is just meanness. These guys think the only people who deserve to cast a vote are white middle and upper-class Republican men. Anyone else is a second-class citizen to them.

I can hardly wait for these guys to fall from power.

***************

George Tenet, former CIA director, tells us in his new book that they Bush White House never seriously considered any alternatives to the invasion of Iraq. He also says his "slam dunk" quote was taken out of context and misused by Bush, Cheney and Rice.

All he meant by the statement was that it was a "slam dunk" that a case could be made for invading Iraq. But Bush, Cheney and Rice told Americans for years that Tenet said it was a "slam dunk" that Iraq had WMD's.

I don't think this comes as a surprise to most thinking people. Most of us know by now that Bush wanted to invade Iraq from his first day in office, and he was willing to lie to make his case to do so.

***************

Looks like the Castro-haters will have to wait a while longer. A few months ago, they were dancing in the streets as they assumed their "death watch". Now it looks like he's getting much better and may soon assume his official duties full-time.

Last week he met with Chinese officials and negotiated a new agreement. Now it looks like doctors will pronounce him fit enough to preside over Cuba's May Day celebrations. It looks like his recovery is going very well.

Rice Refuses To Testify Before Congress


On Wednesday the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted 21-10 to subpoena Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. They want her to testify about the false claim of the White House that Saddam had WMD's and was trying to buy uranium from Niger to build more bombs.

Both claims have turned out to be false, but it looks now like the Bush administration knew they weren't true and lied to Americans to build a justification for the invasion of Iraq. However, it seems like "Condie" will duck her opportunity to step up and tell Americans the truth.

Rice said on thursday that she would be happy to write the committee a letter, but would NOT be willing to testify under oath. She obviously knows that she could not repeat the same lies under oath without getting herself into serious trouble.

How can she duck the Committee's subpoena? It seems the White House has just discovered this country has a Constitution. Rice is now claiming that it would be a violation of the Constitution for her to testify!

Rice claims that since she was Bush's National Security Advisor at the time, and not confirmed by the Senate, she can't be compelled to testify under the doctrine of "executive privilege". She said, "This all took place in my role as national security advisor. There is a constitutional principle. There is a separation of powers and advisors to the president under that constitutional principle are not generally required to go and testify in Congress."

What a load of crap! Bush has signed hundreds of statements he tacked onto new laws saying his administration doesn't have to obey them, even though he is constitutionally required to do so. He was perfectly willing to throw the Constitution out the window so he could spy on American citizens. He seems unable to locate that Constitution (or the 14th amendment to it) when women, minorities and gays demand equal rights.

But when he and his cohorts are caught in their lies and asked to testify under oath, all of a sudden they want to use the very Constitution they have spent years trying to destroy.

This has nothing to do with "executive privilege". The simple fact is they have been caught in their own lies, and don't want to testify under oath, where they would be subject to the penalties of perjury if they kept repeating them. Rice and her White House cohorts are taking the coward's way out.

Bush and his cabal just cannot tell Americans the truth. It is not in their nature to do so.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Americans Think Bush Is Wrong On Iraq


It looks like the congressional Democrats are going to send Bush an Iraq war bill with timetables for withdrawal in it. Bush is still saying that he would veto a bill like that. A new poll shows that a solid majority of Americans think Bush is wrong.

Results of a new NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll taken April 20-23 shows the Democrats to be on solid ground in demanding a timetable for withdrawal. The poll, which has a margin of error of only 3.1%, shows that a full 56% of Americans agree with Democrats and say that a timetable for withdrawal should be set.

About the same amount (55%) now believe that the war in Iraq can no longer be won, and 49% believe that things have gotten worse in Iraq in the last three months. Americans just don't have any faith that Bush's "troop surge" will work. Here are the full results on the three questions:

Should there be a deadline for withdrawal?
Yes (56%)
No (37%)
Others (7%)

Is victory still possible in Iraq?
Yes (36%)
No (55%)
Others (9%)

Has Iraq gotten better or worse in the last 3 months?
Better (12%)
Worse (49%)
Stayed Same (37%)
Others (2%)

Only 12% of Americans believe the "troop surge" is working. It would behoove Bush and Republicans to pay attention to this poll, as it looks like they could pay a political price for their continued support of the war in Iraq.

Bush says we must continue the war because if we withdraw a regional conflict would break out in the area and a bloodbath would occur inside Iraq. But not even everyone within the Bush administration believe that anymore.

Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey, writing for Newsweek, quote an anonymous senior official in the White House who doubts that either scenario would occur. Far more likely is a scenario that says there would probably be little difference whether American troops are there or not.

If that is true, and I believe it is, then we should immediately withdraw our troops. Staying in Iraq only costs more American lives without accomplishing anything.

At the very least, we now know that Democrats are on solid political ground in their efforts to establish a timetable for withdrawal. The majority of Americans support them. If Bush does veto their bill, they need to continue their efforts and not give in to his empty threats.

The American people no longer believe in the war, and want our troops to come home.

Bush Administration Protecting Terrorist Bomber


After 9/11, the Bush administration proposed a U.N. resolution that stated U.N. member states should "ensure that anyone who has participated in the financing, planning, preparation or perpretation of terrorist acts...is brought to justice". The U.S. supported the passing of this resolution because it didn't want members of the United Nations protecting terrorists.

But evidently the Bush administration thinks that resolution applies only to other countries, because they are now in the process of protecting a terrorist.

In 1976, Luis Posada Carriles planned the terrorist bombing of an airliner that cost the lives of 73 innocent people. But Posada is not a member of any terrorist group that Bush disapproves of. Instead, he is an ex-CIA Cuban, militantly anti-Castro, and a naturalized citizen of Venezuela.

Both Cuba and Venezuela believe he is the terrorist responsible for the airliner bombing, and have asked the United States to extradite him to stand trial for the murders. The Bush administration has refused to do that. Instead, they charged him with lying to immigration officials to enter the country - a charge that allowed him to post bail. He is now staying with his family in Florida.

Once again, Bush and his cronies show that they don't believe that laws apply to them - not Constitutional law and not international law. If Posada were an Arab and in another country, Bush would be raising hell wanting him extradited. But since he is accused of terrorism against countries Bush doesn't like, his crime is ignored by the administration.

Cuba and Venezuela have now taken their case to the United Nations in an effort to bring Posada to justice. They believe the United States should obey the same rules it expects other countries to obey, and they are right.

The U.S. should take Posada into custody and send him to Venezuela to stand trial for his crimes. A terrorist is no less a terrorist because his innocent victims were Cuban or Venezuelan rather than American. There should be no double standard when it comes to terrorists and their victims.

Posada should pay for his crime, just as al-Queda must pay for theirs.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dog Owners Must Accept Responsibility For Attacks


Current Texas law says that an owner of a dangerous dog cannot be convicted of a crime, unless that dog has already attacked once and been declared a dangerous animal. This law has been known as "one free bite". But Rep. Dan Gattis (R-Georgetown) wants to change that.

Rep. Gattis has introduced a bill (HB 1355) that would eliminate that "one free bite". Gattis' bill would make an unprovoked dog attack a third-degree felony the first time, punishable by 2-10 years in prison and a possible $10,000 fine. If the victim dies, it would be elevated to a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

This may sound like overkill to some, but I find myself in agreement with this bill. There are far too many owners of dangerous dogs who simply refuse to take responsibility for controlling their animals. Many of these animals (such as pit bulls, dobermans, etc.) are too dangerous to let them run loose, especially in an urban enviornment.Innocent victims should not have to pay the price for an owners neglect.

Understand, I am not talking about all dog owners, nor am I saying you don't have the right to own any kind of dog you wish. This bill is not aimed at any particular breed nor is it aimed at responsible owners.

But the irresponsible owners are posing a serious hazard to innocent people. They should be held accountable for their unwillingness to control their dangerous animals. They do not have the right to place their fellow citizens in danger.

I don't know if this law has a real chance to be passed by both the House and Senate and be signed into law. So far, it has only been passed by the House. But I do hope it becomes law. "One free bite" is a ridiculous and dangerous concept.

Rove's Political Activity Being Investigated By Feds


It looks like Karl Rove is in trouble again. Until now, he has been the "teflon" man, with none of his criminal activities "sticking" enough to get him booted out of the government. Maybe this is the investigation that finally gets him!

The Office of Special Counsel verified yesterday that it is investigating the actions of White House aides in the last election. The head of the agency verified that Rove is a central figure in the investigation. This small federal agency has repsonsibility for investigating violations of the Hatch Act, which prevents the coercion of federal employees.

During the time leading up to last year's election, White House aides made presentations to several federal agencies, asking them to find ways to support Republican candidates. Some members of the General Services Agency complained this was coercive, thus kicking off this official investigation.

Scott Bloch, head of the U. S. Office of Special Counsel, promises, "We will do a thorough job. We will not leave any stone unturned. We will be fair, we will be impartial, and we will be thorough."

Bloch says they are investigating whether the Republican actions by Rove and other White House aides violated the Hatch Act by using government resources for partisan political activity, coercing government employees to engage in political activity, or using "official authority or influence" to affect the outcome of an election.

While I am hoping this is the investigation that finally nails Rove for his criminal behavior, I suspect that he will once again put the blame on a subordinate, and survive yet again to commit future crimes.

Also, although Bloch has assured us the investigation will be thorough, he is a Bush appointee and Republicans have never been very good at investigating themselves.

But until Rove slithers his way out, I can always hope and dream.

Will Katie Awards Be Continued ?


It looks like Elizabeth Albanese may have done more damage to the Katie Awards than originally thought. The Katie Award was once regarded as a prestigious accolade for those lucky enough to win one, but now many respectable news organizations in the six-state area (Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana) are wondering if the awards even have a future.

Winners at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram are planning to return their awards, and the Associated Press is considering doing the same thing. The managing editor of the Houston Chronicle says a recent Katie is not something their reporters would put on a resume.

Other large news organizations such as the Austin American-Statesman, The Oklahoman and the Arkansas Democrat are considering withdrawing their participation in the annual awards event.

This is very bad news for the Katie Awards, given annually by the Dallas Press Club. If these large news organizations refuse to submit entries, the future of the Katies would be very much in doubt. In fact, the Dallas Press Club has not decided whether to hold the 2007 awards or not.

It seems that Ms. Albanese may have rigged more than just the 2006 awards. The Dallas Press Club is now also investigating whether the awards were also rigged by Albanese in 2005 and possibly 2004 also. So far, they have been unable to find who the judges were for any of these three years.

As for Albanese, it seems that she received as many as 10 Katie Awards over this three year period! Is there anyone out there who believes she won 10 of the awards in a fair and impartial judging? I doubt it.

It also now comes out that she had used for personal purposes about $10,000 of the Dallas Press Club's money, which she has now paid back. It has also been confirmed that she has a criminal history of fraud and theft. She has claimed to have a Harvard degree (not true) and claimed to be a former New York Times reporter (also not true) among numerous other false claims.

I have to wonder just how she came to be in such a position of power with the Dallas Press Club. You wouldn't need to be a great investigative journalist to find these things out - most of them could have been uncovered with a few phone calls.

But that aside, she was put in that position of power, and her self-congratulatory dishonesty may have destroyed a once honored and prestigious award. It's just a damn shame!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Huh?

The winds in Amarillo are once again making me wonder why I moved up here. I'm about sick and tired of eating my hair (why does it always go straight for my mouth?). Two weeks ago, we had an evening of 90 mph winds, uprooting trees and de-roofing some homes. Last Sunday, the thunderstorms made their windy contribution to our little city. Today, they are blowing at a steady 30 mph with gusts up to 42 mph.

I went outside a few minutes ago for a smoke break. While attempting to find the perfect position to stand in without having dust and bugs fly into my eyes as well as trying to keep my cig lit and my hair out of my mouth (not an easy position to find, let me tell ya), I see a man walk around the corner toward me. He has one hand on top of his head keeping his hat in place, and in the other hand...a leaf blower.

After doing a double take, I look at jobsanger and said, "Did I just see a guy carrying a leaf blower on a day like this?"

He looks at the man and laughs, "Talk about a exercise in futility!"

"Um, yeah!"

Thinking that he couldn't possibly be using it, I quickly forgot all about it.

I'll be damned if the same man didn't come arount the other corner a couple of minutes later, aiming his now turned on leaf blower at the sidewalk, which had not one single leaf on it.

Okaaaaaaay.

College President Asks Students To Commit Suicide

Paige Patterson is the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. I knew he wasn't the brightest bulb on the college president christmas tree, but now it looks like he's completely lost his mind.

At last Wednesday's chapel service, he told the SBTS male students that if something happened on their campus like the shootings at Virginia Tech, he expected them to "charge the shooter", sacrificing their lives if neccessary.

This is nothing more than asking his students to commit suicide. A committed shooter with two loaded semi-automatic pistols can easily take out a whole classroom charging at him. A college president does not have the right to demand his students act in a suicidal manner.

Many students at Virginia Tech did act bravely and saved classmates, by blocking doors and kicking out windows to help classmates escape. I applaud their actions. But no one has the right to demand someone charge a loaded gun.

Patterson should resign immediately. If not, then if a shooter ever comes on his campus, Patterson should put a bullet thru his own empty head. It is only right that we should expect him to commit suicide as he has demanded that his students do.

What a moron!

Wiccan Religion Wins Battle Against U.S. Gov.


The Wiccan religion has won its court battle with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The Wiccans had sued the VA to allow its believers in the U.S. military to have the symbol of their religion placed on their headstones when they died. The American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State had backed the Wiccans in their court battle.

The VA said they had agreed to the court settlement in the interest of the soldier's families, and to save the American taxpayers the cost of further litigation. This means the Wiccan symbol, a five-pointed star, will join 38 other symbols that have been approved by the VA to put on the graves of American soldiers.

Rev. Barry Lynn, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said, "This settlement has forced the Bush Administration into acknowledging that there are no second class religions in America, including among our nation's veterans."

There are currently 11 requests pending for the Wiccan symbol to mark the graves of American soldiers. The VA says these requests will be honored within 14 days.

This is a victory for religious freedom in America. In a truly free country, citizens should be allowed to practice the religion of their choice, or choose not to practice any religion at all. The government should not interfere. It has no business telling Americans that any religion or religious symbol is not approved.

These soldiers honored America with their military service. It was wrong for the U.S. Government to dishonor their memory by denigrating their religion. The VA was right in its decision to stop the court battle and recognize the Wiccan symbol.

This small victory for Wicca is a huge victory for all Americans.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Texas 3rd In Donations For 2008 Presidential Race



Even without a home-grown candidate in the race, Texas is proving to be a contribution-rich place for donations to those in the race for the 2008 presidential nomination for both parties. So far, Texas is the third largest contributor.

In the recent past, Texas donations have leaned heavily in favor of Republican candidates, but that is not true this year. Republicans have raised about $4.1 million, but Democrats have nearly equaled that by raising $3.9 million.

This is how the top five states break down according to the Center for Responsive Politics:

California.............$19,794,009
New York.............$18,205,240
Texas....................$8,076,240
Florida.................$6,625,101
Illinois.................$5,860,058

There are four Democratic candidates that are doing much better than the rest of the field here in Texas according to the CRP. This is how Texas donations look for Democratic candidates:

John Edwards..........$1,495,075
Hilary Clinton..........$1,233,254
Barack Obama..........$695,289
Bill Richardson........$396,946
Christopher Dodd....$53,525
Joseph Biden............$35,647
Dennis Kucinich.......$2,480
Mike Gravel..............$135

As you may know, I am a Bill Richardson supporter. While I am gratified that he is in the top four and getting some good money from Texas, the West Texas numbers look especially good for Richardson. In the areas of Texas that know him best, Richardson is leading all candidates in donations.

This makes me think that Bill Richardson has a really good chance of making up a lot of ground when the debates start, and he is able to get his message out to a wider audience. Here are the combined totals from the West Texas cities of Abilene, Amarillo, El Paso, Fort Worth/Arlington, Lubbock and Midland/Odessa:

Bill Richardson........$127,996
John Edwards..........$50,880
Hilary Clinton..........$18,775
Barack Obama..........$10,514
Dennis Kucinich......$205

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A "Prayer" From James Randi

I submit the following "prayer" from skeptic James Randi in response to President Bush's prayer to a "loving God", regarding the massacre of 32 innocent people on the campus of Virginia Tech. This response can be found at Randi's own website, dedicated to exposing fraud and foolishness.

I agree with every word Mr. Randi has written.

To God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, God of Abraham, Jehovah, whoever or whatever:

God, You in Your omniscience – You know everything, past present and future – and also in Your omnipotence – You can do anything You want to do – why, 23 years ago, did You create this deluded man Seung-Hui Cho, then allow him to buy the guns, go to the Virginia Tech campus, and slaughter all those students and faculty? That took long-term planning, determined intention, and careful nurturing of Cho’s delusions and hatred, by You. God, what’s “loving” about that? Our President may labor under the delusion that such an act somehow shows Your “loving” nature, but in my admitted ignorance, I cannot see that. Help me to understand.

Or was this – forgive my suggestion, God – yet another failure of Your Intelligent Design, along with tobacco, cancer, spina bifida, and Crohn’s Disease?

A better plan, God – in my humble opinion – would have been to prevent that horrendous, senseless, slaughter, and then You would have had no reason to have to “comfort” those parents, friends, fellow-students and so many others who will now have to do without the delight of knowing these beautiful people. You see, God, You could have saved the lives – and futures – not only of those 32, but of Mr. Cho, as well! This deranged young man, angry and desperate, reacted to a society he felt was opposing him. He murdered 32 persons because he felt he had to, in answer to impulses he could not control. But You, Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, etc., etc., could have intervened – “omnipotent,” remember? – and there would be far less sorrow in our nation today.

Why did You do this to us? The figures show us that most of us believe in You, believe in Your loving nature, and appeal to You for Your comfort even after You have decided to allow tragedies such as this to happen; doesn’t that count? Personally, I don’t believe in You, but don’t the numbers count?

God, I’m sure that Dr. Richard Roberts, president of Oral Roberts University, speaks for You when he says, “…there’s no doubt that this act was Satanic in origin." He calls Cho's recently-revealed writings, “just words,” which he says are “one of Satan’s tools to bring about Man’s destruction.” Now, this fits the Christian idea of demonic possession, which says that human existence is predicated on the narrative of Man’s Fall from Grace in the Garden of Eden, and that wherever there is good, Satan is trying to destroy it.

Please, God, try to get Your act together, or there may be fewer people out there willing to appease a jealous, callous, vindictive, cruel, obviously insecure deity such as Yourself. And what would You do then?

God only knows…

Airline Unions Deserve Our Thanks



American Airlines followed through on their promise to screw their rank-and-file employees last week. While their employees work for reduced pay (which they agreed to in an effort to save the airline from bankruptcy), American rewarded these employees by using their reduction in pay to finance huge bonuses for management.


The five top executives at American Airlines split about $20 million, while 874 other executives and managers split another $160 million. This is a real slap in the face for the employees who sacrificed to save the airline by agreeing to work for severely reduced pay.


Now the airline wants these workers to continue working for less while management gets richer off their sacrifices. It's no wonder that the airline unions are protesting this outrage! If they let the company get away with this, they will be marginalized forever and forced to work for ridiculous wages.


But these unions are fighting the corporation, and I believe they will continue the fight when union contracts start coming up for renewal next year. That is why I say we owe these unions our thanks. The airlines are not the only corporations trying to get away with this kind of selfishness.


Corporations all over America are treating their workers like crap while rewarding management with ever larger bonuses. Corporations seem to think there are two classes of people in their organizations - the "real" people in management who deserve to get rich, and the "peons" who do the work and deserve as little as management can get away with paying them.


The airline unions are taking a stand not only for themselves, but for all of America's working people. We need to remember this next year if the unions decide they must strike. Workers all over this country need to step up and back these workers when the time comes.


We need to take what the airline unions have started, and spread it all over this country. It is time to let the corporations know that workers are not going to stand for the abuse any longer!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Scandal Brewing With Katie Awards ?



For the last 48 years, the Dallas Press Club has been honoring the best journalists in a six-state area (Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana) with an award called the Katie. It's kind of like a regional version of a Pulitzer.


In the past, this has been considered a very prestigious award and can result in a career boost for those receiving the award. Now it looks like there may be a scandal brewing over last years awards.


Tom Stewart, current president of the Dallas Press Club, says, "I am now of the opinion that the 2006 judging was bogus." Stewart believes that past president, Elizabeth Albanese, didn't bother to appoint impartial judges, but just gave the 2006 awards to whoever she wanted (including 4 awards to herself).


Albanese wound up with Katies for:


Best Speciality News Reporting

Best Investigative Reporting

Best Business News Story

Best Business Feature Story


It does look kind of strange that the person who organized last year's banquet and awards, and was responsible for picking the judges, wins more awards than anyone. But it doesn't stop there.


The Dallas Press Club has commissioned a group of former reporters, headed by Hugh Aynesworth (former bureau chief of the Washington Times). They asked Albanese for a list of all the judges, but only received seven names and e-mails. No one recognizes any of the names, and e-mails to them have not been answered. Aynesworth said, "We've never heard of them. We've e-mailed them. We've tried to call them. We've Googled them. They are suspect, let's put it that way."


Albanese has been unable to come up with the names of any judges that can be contacted. She said she sent entries to the New York City and Washington, D.C. press clubs, but both say they never received any entries to judge. She was also unable to come up with any UPS receipts showing she sent the entries anywhere. What was her excuse? "I guess I was sloppy."


But it's now looking like it goes much farther than sloppiness. Many members now believe she didn't send the entries to any judges, but just chose the winners herself (including her own four Katies). She has put a black mark on the organization and their awards.


This is a real shame. Most journalists don't get paid all that much, and a Katie means an awful lot to the recipients. I feel sorry for the rest of 2006's winners. Their award will be suspect now, whether they deserved it or not.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Going Out Of Town

My employer is sending me out of town for the next couple of days. I won't have access to a computer, so I won't be able to do any posts until at least Saturday.

But this is only temporary! Should be back to regular posting this weekend.

Bush To Veto Cheaper Drugs For Elderly



Why do Republicans hate old people?


Democrats were set to begin a debate Tuesday on allowing Medicare to negotiate cheaper drug prices with drug companies. I can understand why the huge drug companies don't want this to happen - it would cut into their exorbitant drug profits. After all, they can now charge the elderly whatever they want. They don't seem to care whether the elderly can afford their overpriced drugs or not.


But why are Republicans opposing a move that would result in cheaper drugs for America's elderly? Do they just not care whether the elderly can afford to buy their medication or not? Or is it that they have sold their souls (and their votes) to the huge drug conglomerates.


Bush has threatened to veto the bill if it survives the Senate. He says that's because it would make little difference in the price of drugs. Once again he shows that he thinks that Americans are stupid. Does he really believe that if Medicare could negotiate cheaper drug prices, that drug prices would not be cheaper? No one could believe that - he's just trying to protect the outrageous profits of his corporate buddies.


Other Republicans say it is not neccessary because the current Medicare drug plan is working so well. If you believe that, then you don't know anyone who has to depend on Medicare. Just ask those on Medicare if the program is working well. They'll tell you the program is a mess and almost impossible to understand.


We used to respect the elderly in this country and tried to help them. But since the Republicans came to power that has changed. All they want is ever larger corporate profits, and the elderly be damned.


Personally, I don't think allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices goes far enough, but it is a good start and would lead to cheaper drug prices.


I would have thought the Republicans were in enough trouble in the upcoming election with their support of the war. It's certainly not going to help them to now oppose cheaper drugs for the elderly.


Do you suppose they're making so much from the drug companies that they don't care about getting re-elected? Or maybe they're making so much they think they can buy the election?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Bush Still Refuses To Accept Reality About Iraq



Bush and Cheney are evidently still unwilling to accept the reality of the situation in Iraq. Bush is still threatening to veto the Iraq spending bill that sets a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. He wants another $100 billion to conduct an unpopular and open-ended war.


Bush says he is willing to talk to Democrats about the bill, but will not negotiate. He says he will not talk about a timetable and will not discuss the extra funding in the bill (much of it concerning improved benefits for veterans).


I have to ask, what is the point of having the talk at all? If he is not willing to discuss any of the points in contention, then the talk would be pointless. But this is what Bush always does. It is how he tries to conduct "diplomacy" as well. He says he is willing to talk, but only if you first agree with him on all points. That's not discussion, negotiation or diplomacy - it's a demand for unconditional surrender!


It's time Bush, and his cohort Cheney, realized that his support is almost non-existent. A huge majority of Americans now oppose our involvement in Iraq's civil war (even if it was started by Bush). A huge majority of people outside this country also agree that it is time we withdrew from Iraq. They consider our misadventure in Iraq to be one of the greatest threats to world peace.


I'm not even sure why he wants to stay in Iraq anymore. It's certainly not to protect the Iraqi people. If that is the supposed reason, then we're doing a very poor job of it. The Iraqis know we're not there for their protection, and they want us to leave.


The Sunnis have always wanted us to leave, and now the Shiites agree with them. This may be the only thing they can agree on, but both groups want us out of their country. The most popular Shiite leader in the country has withdrawn his support of the government in an attempt to get America to set a timetable for withdrawal.


So if we're not there for oil (as Bush and Cheney claim) and we're not there to protect the Iraqis (as the Sunnis and Shiites both believe), then why are we still there? Evidently we are there just to prevent further embarrassment to Bush and Cheney. They know that Iraq will go down in the history books as a black mark against them unless they can either pull off a miracle (extremely unlikely) or pass the problem to a new president (and hopefully the blame also).


Personally, I don't think Bush's attempt salvage his reputation is worth the life of a single American soldier. The Iraqis want us out. The world wants us out. The American public wants us out.


It is time to get out of Iraq!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Thinking Of Virginia Tech

Tonight our thoughts are with the students, staff and teachers of Virginia Tech University. Today their campus was attacked by a depraved coward. This coward killed 32 people and wounded many others.

I call him a coward because that's what I consider him to be. It certainly takes no courage to attack unarmed, innocent and defenseless people with a firearm. Then after the attack, he again showed his cowardice by committing suicide.

As a gunshot victim myself, I can understand the pain and terror experienced by the victims of this senseless crime. I wish the suvivors a speedy and full recovery, but I know they will be haunted by this terrible experience for many years to come.

I have seen today that some are already parceling out blame for this horrible crime. That is wrong. The administration of VT is not responsible for this crime. The security department of VT is not responsible. The gun laws of Virginia are not responsible.

There is only one person responsible - the craven coward who did the shooting. It would be nice to know why he did it, but personally I'm just glad he's dead.

Our condolences and best wishes go out to the good people of Virginia Tech University.

Dallas Morning News Opposes Death Penalty



Opponents of the death penalty have just gained a powerful new ally. Yesterday, the Dallas Morning News changed its editorial opinion and came out against the death penalty. This is important because the Morning News is not only one of the largest newspapers in the state, its editorial board is generally regarded as one of the most conservative.


This new and important voice against the death penalty does not come from the liberal end of the political spectrum (where there are many death penalty opponents). No one could accuse the Dallas Morning News of having any liberal tendencies. In the past, the Morning News has been one of the staunchest supporters of the death penalty.


Why did they change their position? It has to do with the imperfection of our system of justice. While we may have one of the better systems of justice in this country, it is far from perfect.


We have always known that innocent men (and women) are sometimes convicted and sent to prison. But with the advent of DNA evidence, we are finding that it is far more common than we once believed. It is no longer an unusual occurrence to hear about an innocent man being released from prison.


The DMN points out that at least 13 innocent people have been released from Texas prisons in the recent past. They also point to the case of Carlos De Luna, who was executed even though the evidence now shows he was probably innocent.


The DMN believes (as I do) that the state has the obligation to protect its citizens from violent offenders - especially those who may re-offend in a violent way. But since the passage of "life without parole", we now have an option other than the death penalty.


The DMN points out that the death penalty is not reversible once it has been carried out. They also point out that any system of justice run by human beings is going to be imperfect, because humans are imperfect. That means there will always be instances of innocent people being convicted. Because of these two facts, they have come out in opposition of the death penalty.


I agree with them, but I would also point out that it is not just the imperfection in humans that is at fault - it is also the glaring imperfection of our society in general. Like it or not, the following facts are true and have an effect on our system of justice:


Rich people and poor people are treated differently.


White people and minorities are treated differently.


Men and women are treated differently.


Straights and Gays are treated differently.


Natural-born and naturalized citizens are treated differently.


As long as the above facts are evident in our society, we have no business executing people. Our justice system is not only imperfect, it is inherently unfair. The Dallas Morning News editorial is right - it is time for Texas to stop using the death penalty.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Employees Picket American Airlines


Yesterday, the American Airlines flight attendants union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), picketed the headquarters of American in Fort Worth. This kicked off a series of demonstrations that will take place in at least 15 airports. On Wednesday, the AA pilots will join in the demonstrations.

Why are they unhappy? It seems that they just found out that they are being screwed by American Airlines again. Four years ago, the rank-and-file employees of the airline agreed to a pay-cut to help save the financially-troubled airline. Now that the airline is back on is back on a firmer financial foundation, it is proposing to reward some of its employees.

But the financial rewards are not going to the employees that sacrificed to help save the airlines. The unions have recently learned that American Airlines is scheduled to give over $200 million to airline management next week. The head of American Airlines, Gerard Arpey, is scheduled to receive around $7 million.

This is a slap in the face to attendants, pilots and other employees who are still working for the reduced salaries agreed to in 2003. I don't blame them for picketing the airline! Why should they continue to work at reduced wages, while airline executives receive exorbitant bonuses?

Once again, an American corporation is shafting its workers while making its executives and management rich. This is just wrong!

Management should not receive a single dollar in bonuses until full wages have been restored to all employees. These bonuses have not been earned. They are coming straight out of the pockets of rank-and-file employees.

This is not a very smart move by American Airlines. I doubt if the unions can stop management from getting rich at their expense right now, but contract negotiations will begin next year for some of the airline's unions. You can bet the unions will not have forgotten how they were treated this year.

In their race to make themselves rich through bonuses this year, the American Airlines management have just made their next round of employee negotiations much more difficult. These unions will no longer be willing to make sacrifices just so the bosses can get richer.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Various Thoughts On A Friday

There's been a big furor over the latest idiotic and racist statements from the now former radio personality, Don Imus. Of course he's claiming he's not a racist - he just made a terrible mistake. Nonsense! The statement he made on nation-wide radio and TV speaks for itself.

Imus supporters would have you believe this is an isolated incident that he's being crucified for. That also is nonsense. This guy has been a slimeball for many years. I certainly won't be sorry to see him disappear from the airwaves.

But one of the most ridiculous stories on the Imus affair was on the LA Times website yesterday. It said the Democrats have lost a valuable resource by Imus being kicked off the airwaves - that he gave them a place to appeal to white males in this country. That is a ridiculous statement, and little more than an attempt to smear the Democratic Party. I'm sure Democrats can do just fine without Imus and his ilk.

***************

I have not remarked before about the TYC affair. Others have covered it very well - sites like Capitol Annex & Grits for Breakfast. But the Texas Senate has now proposed a couple of changes that I really think are needed and will help the agency to fulfill its mission.

First, they are proposing to cut the age of offenders committed to the agency. TYC would no longer accept 19 and 20 year olds as they currently do. This is a very good change. Like it or not, 19 and 20 year olds are adults, and are not likely to be helped by the youth-oriented programs of the Youth Commission.

Second, they propose to separate younger and non-violent offenders from the older and more violent offenders. This is another good change. Back in the seventies and eighties, the Youth Commission did this. I don't know why they changed the policy, but it will be good to get back to it.

Finally, let me say this. There are thousands of decent hard-working people working for the Texas Youth Commission, who are doing their best to protect and rehabilitate the young offenders committed to their care. Abusers must be flushed from the system, and changes need to be made to the system, but people should take care not to demonize the thousands of decent and innocent workers in the system. Most of these workers are happy to see changes are finally being made.

***************

Ten more American soldiers were killed over the last weekend in Iraq. Yesterday, a bomb blast went off inside the Iraqi Parliament, and insurgents blew up a bridge inside Baghdad. A few days ago, the most popular Shiite leader (Al-Sadr) called on his followers to attack American soldiers.

Is there anyone besides Bush, Cheney and McCain that thinks this new "troop surge" is accomplishing anything other than destroying our own military capabilities? How many more will have to die before our leaders come to their senses and bring our troops back home?

***************

I applaud the recent move by the University of Texas to honor two great Americans. By this Fall, they will be unveiling a statue on campus of Cesar Chavez. They are also in the process of choosing a likeness of Barbara Jordan, which will then also be made into a statue for the campus.

They couldn't have chosen two more worthy people to honor. These are the kind of American heroes I would like my children to emulate.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

McCain Is Fading Fast In Race For Prez




You might as well wave goodbye to John McCain, because he's fading fast in the 2008 presidential race. But do it quick because he may not survive much longer as a viable candidate.

After the 2004 election, most people had McCain pegged as the favorite for the Republican nomination. But evidently that wasn't good enough for McCain. Since then he's made some really bone-headed decisions, and thrown most of that support away.

I guess he believed the idiots at Fox who said he must appeal to the far-right of the Republican party if he wanted to win. So several months ago he began to move to the right and pander to the nut-wing of the party. But the ultra-right just doesn't like McCain - they didn't like him when he opposed them, and they don't like him now that he's kissing their butts.

Instead of gaining votes by pandering to the right, he has just lost the votes of many moderates. In an effort to regain his lost momentum, McCain then makes an even worse decision. He decided to pin his hopes on rabid support for the war in Iraq. I can't believe that someone in his campaign didn't point out to him that 70% of the American people now oppose the war.

I'm glad he's fading fast, because I'd hate to have a president that makes such poor decisions. It would be like replacing Bush with his own clone!

The Los Angeles Times tells us that in a new LA Times/Bloomberg poll conducted recently, McCain finished third behind Giuliani and Fred Thompson (who is not even in the race). Romney finished a poor fourth. Here are the numbers:

Giuliani.............29%
Thompson.........15%
McCain..............12%
Romney.............08%

While McCain is dropping like a rock, Romney is not doing very well either. He may be a whiz at raising money, but it's not being translated into real popular support. And frankly, Giuliani's 29% is not all that impressive either. I'm starting to think that Republicans are not too happy with any of the three (and I don't blame them).

I think any of the major Democratic candidates (Clinton - Obama - Edwards - Richardson) could beat any of the three major Republican candidates. But there is one Republican that comes out of this looking good - Fred Thompson. He got 15% and he hasn't even said he wants to run.

Thompson is the only one of the Republicans that kind of scares me as a Democratic supporter. He has a lot of built-in name recognition after being both an actor and a senator. He also has a kind of homey grandfatherly image that makes you want to trust him. He is liked by those on the right and could easily be accepted by moderates. Personally, I hope he stays out of the race.


In other news, Bill Richardson continues to impress with his diplomatic abilities. He has just returned from North Korea, where he helped in the return of the remains of six American soldiers who had died in the Korean War. While he was there, he had high-level talks with the North Koreans, and now it looks like they will be shutting down their nuclear program.

In a letter to his supporters, Bill Richardson had this to say:

"The bottom line is that diplomacy works - there is no other lesson to draw from this monumental breakthrough. And we desperately need someone in the White House who understands this and can restore American international leadership.

In today's world, we have to be willing to engage our adversaries in tough and direct talks that lead to resolution, not more confrontation and isolation. I don't have to tell you that there are trouble spots all over the world that could use some of this tough and smart American diplomacy.

I'm running for President, in part, to keep our country safe and secure. I'm proud that yesterday in North Korea I was able to make a contribution to real progress toward that goal."

We need more of Bill Richardson's miracle-working diplomacy. Wouldn't it be nice to have a truly competent president?