A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bi-Lingual Education Upheld In Texas


Hispanics make up about 16% of the students in Texas schools, but many of them are not doing well in school. There are low test scores and high drop-out rates. Because of this, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the GI Forum filed suit against the state of Texas. They were hoping to force Texas public schools to improve education for its Hispanic students.

But on Monday, they lost that case. A federal judge ruled that Texas' bi-lingual education programs complied with federal law. This means that Texas can continue teaching Hispanics like they have been doing, and improvements in that education will not be mandated.

I wish the ruling had been different, but I do not hold that judge responsible. The federal judge was the Honorable William Wayne Justice (pictured above). Judge Justice has a long record of upholding civil rights, including the desegregation of housing and schools. He has defended immigrant rights and prisoners' rights. He has insured voting rights, and he has always upheld the Constitution. Judge Justice has always been a friend of the downtrodden and the powerless.

The judge did not say the education for Hispanics in Texas should not be improved. Anyone with half a brain can see that it needs to be improved. What he said was that the current system complies with our inadequate federal laws.

Maybe it is time to push for better laws on the federal level, so that we can truly "leave no student behind".

Congress To Get Another Pay Raise


In 1989, the congressional salary was $89,500. Most Americans would be thrilled to make that much today. But that was also the year that Congress pulled a fast one on the American people. They passed a law that automatically gives them a "cost of living" raise each year.

They don't even have to vote on the raise. After all, that could cost them some votes. The raise just comes and they just accept it. Because of this, congressional salaries have risen to $165,200. And they are fixing to get another $4,400. That would raise their annual salary to nearly $170,000. Now that's a sweet deal!

Some congressmen think they deserve the raise because they just raised the minimum wage (it'll be a whole $7.25 a couple of years from now). How's that for bone-headed thinking? They give poor people a salary that no human can live on, and think that entitles themselves to a big raise.

I wish I could blame this one on the Republican party, but the truth is that both parties are guilty in this matter. There are a few members of both parties that are trying to stop the raise, but not many, and I suspect that their efforts will be futile. Most members of both parties will eagerly pocket the raise and act like they deserve it.

At times like this, it is easy to see why Americans have such a low opinion of Congress.

Does Clinton Support Outsourcing Of Jobs ?


Because Hillary Clinton was a liberal activist as a young woman, there is a tendency to believe that she still is very liberal. This is especially true among Democrats who dream of a true liberal taking over and changing America for the good of the ordinary citizens. But just how liberal is Clinton? In economic terms, maybe not so much.

Listen to this quote from the USINPAC website (a lobbying group for the Indian-American community), "Even though she was against outsourcing at the beginning of her political career, she has since changed her position and now maintains that offshoring brings as much economic value to the United States as to the country where services are outsourced, especially India." Are they right?

Well, they believe it enough to have recently held three fundraisers for her, one of them raising over $3 million. I seriously doubt they would be giving this kind of big money to her campaign if they thought she was against outsourcing.

When Lou Dobbs, a vocal opponent of outsourcing American jobs, confronted her on the outsourcing question, Clinton replied that outsourcing does work both ways. She is right in a way.

For corporations, outsourcing does work both ways -- some jobs are sent to other countries and cheap workers are imported into America to fill others. Clinton is also a supporter of increasing visas for foreign workers to enter this country.

Either way, American workers are out of a job and out of luck. Clinton's solution to the problem is more job training programs for American workers. But what good are training programs when foreign workers are being imported and jobs are being exported?

Quite frankly, I believe American unions and workers would be crazy to support Hillary Clinton. We already have a president that supports exporting of American jobs, and that's not working out too good for workers. How would it help to elect another person who supports the same outsourcing?

I think many people support Clinton because they like the idea of a woman becoming president. They think it would be a progressive step forward for our society. I tend to agree that it would be a good thing for America to elect a female president, but it needs to be a woman who supports worker's rights and opposes outsourcing American jobs.

Hillary Clinton is not that woman!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Texas Lags Behind In Younger Voters


According to census data analyzed by the University of Maryland's Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE), there is a promising trend in voting nationwide. In the 2006 midterm elections, over 2 million more young voters turned out to vote than in the 2002 midterm elections.

CIRCLE says that voting among young people (those under 30) climbed from 22.5% in 2002 to 25.5% in 2006. Although older voters still voted in higher percentages, at least these numbers are moving in the right direction.

But while the numbers are up nationwide, Texas did not join in the upward trend. The Texas numbers are downright pitiful. Texas only had an embarrassing 17% of its young people turn out to vote. Only two other states did this poorly -- Utah at 17% and West Virginia at 16%.

What are we doing wrong in Texas? We had a pretty interesting four-way race for governor here in 2006. I would have thought that would have drawn more than 17% of young voters to the polls, but it didn't.

Obviously, we are not doing a good job of convincing young people that politics is important to their future and that they can have a significant voice in shaping that future. We must do a better job of reaching young voters in 2008.

Young people are a rich source of potential votes just waiting to be tapped. This is especially true for Democrats, since 43% of young people now identify themselves as Democrats. This is a 6% increase since 2002. Republicans have shown an 8% decrease since 2002 among young people.

But it would be a huge mistake to wait until next summer to start reaching out to young voters. Democrats have a golden opportunity here, but they need to start now and not let up until election day in November next year.

--------------------

This post is the 1000th post since this blog was started in March of 2006. I guess that's some kind of insignificant milestone.

GOP Proposes Third Option In Iraq


As the 2008 election draws nearer and the Iraq war rages on without improvement or possibility of victory, more and more Republicans are deserting Bush's position on the war. They can see that the president's position is not supported by the American people, and they have visions of voters taking it out on the Republican party on election day.

Their problem is that they have opposed withdrawing our troops so long and so loudly, that to now support a withdrawal would be an admission that they have been wrong all this time (which they have). But it's not in the nature of right-wing Republicans to admit they are wrong, so what are they to do? They cannot continue to support Bush and they cannot agree with Democrats that we must withdraw our troops.

Because of this dilemma, some Republicans are trying to propose a third option. This option would leave our troops in Iraq until the president decides to pull them out, but it would severely restrict their mission there. They would cut out all the street patrols that attempt to keep the peace between the Sunnis and Shiites and subdue the general violence level.

Instead, they would let the civil war rage, while our troops are reduced to hunting for al-Queda and training Iraqi troops. Those who propose this claim it would reduce the deaths of American soldiers (and therefore Republican political liability).

This is a ridiculous idea. It amounts to giving up on the war, but leaving our troops in the middle of it anyway. If you're going to leave our troops in the middle of a civil war with targets painted on their backs, then it's sheer suicide to restrict their options. This idea is guaranteed to increase the violence, and as the violence increases, so does the danger to our troops.

Bush's position is untenable, but at least he doesn't restrict our soldiers from trying to defend themselves. This new Republican option is just ridiculous, and would probably result in more American deaths -- not less.

There are really only two options -- put hundreds of thousands more troops into Iraq in the hope of finally stemming the violence (which is not politically viable), or withdraw our troops and let the Iraqis determine their own future.

The only real option is to withdraw our troops -- all of them -- NOW!

Tour de France Transcends Its Problems


The Tour de France had more than its share of problems this year. Three of the top riders were kicked out for doping problems, and one of them was wearing the fabled yellow jersey when he was kicked out.

This spawned many naysayers. Some wanted to stop the Tour before it was finished this year. Others pronounced the Tour to be dead and were ready to bury it for all time. That is just pure nonsense!

In the end, the Tour rose above the petty doping of the cheaters, and showed everyone why it is the world's greatest bicycle race. In fact, I think it rates up there with the world's greatest sporting events -- the Super Bowl in football, the World Cup in soccer, Wimbleton in tennis, the World Series in baseball, the NBA Championship in basketball, the Stanley Cup in hockey, the Masters in golf, and the winter and summer Olympics.

The Tour does have a problem with some of its athletes try to cheat by doping themselves. But unlike some other sports, the Tour is actually trying to deal with those problems -- even if it has to kick out some of its top stars. The fact that top athletes were kicked out of the Tour this year does not signal the death of the great event. Far from it! It shows a sport that is determined to clean itself up and assure the fans that the winners are great athletes and not cheaters. Other sports should step up and do the same.

If you were one of those who stopped watching this year because of the Tour officials cracking down on cheating, then you missed the end of what turned out to be one of the more exciting Tour's of any year. Of course, it had the flat stages with their exciting sprint finishes, and the mountain stages with their grueling heroism, as every year does. But Saturday's exciting time trial was one of the best stages I've ever seen in the Tour.

It was won by American Levi Leipheimer in one of the fastest time trials ever run in the Tour de France, and ended up with the top three individual riders only 31 seconds apart going into the last day. This is the only time in the Tour's history that three riders were that close together going into the final day. Imagine, after 21 days and over 91 hours of riding, these three were only seconds apart!

If you're an American, you should be very proud of how well America's Discovery Channel team did this year. In the individual competition, they placed two riders on the podium in Paris. Alberto Contador finished in first place and Levi Leipheimer finished in third place. But the whole Discovery team (pictured above) did great this year. For the first time, they won the team competition -- leading all the other teams by nearly 20 minutes at the end of the Tour. They were clearly the best team this year.

The Tour had some problems this year, but they transcended those problems and gave us 21 days of great cycling by great athletes. Personally, I think it turned out to be one of the Tour's better years, and I eagerly await the 2008 Tour de France.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Panhandle To Get Second Wind Farm


Many have been asking for electricity to be generated in cleaner ways and using renewable resources, instead of building more dirty coal-burning plants. It looks like Texas is jumping big-time into this market. Soon, Texas may be the nation's leading producer of electricity from wind energy.

And they couldn't have found a better area to do it in -- the high plains of the Texas Panhandle. If there's one thing the Panhandle has plenty of, it's wind. There are few days without wind on the high plains.

Last June, I told you about the Mesa Group's plans to build a wind farm in four counties of the Panhandle (Gray, Hemphill, Roberts and Wheeler). They said this huge wind farm should produce about 3,000 megawatts of electricity. This is slightly more than the energy produced by the nuclear plant at Comanche Peak.

Now, a second wind farm is being planned for the Panhandle. TXU is teaming up with Shell WindEnergy to build a wind farm in Briscoe county southeast of Amarillo. This one will also produce around 3,000 megawatts. Adding a new wrinkle, the group says they are considering the use of compressed air for those few days when the wind doesn't blow in the Panhandle.

This sounds like a good deal for everyone. After they get back their initial investment, the power companies will have plants powered by a very cheap renewable source. Farmers and ranchers will have a new source of income that won't pollute their land. Electric consumers will get the electricity they need without any accompanying pollution. New jobs will also be created for Panhandle residents to build and maintain the systems.

I commend both groups and wish them success. This is the kind of forward-thinking that Texas needs.

Another Embarrassing #1 For Texas


Last week, we learned that Texas was #1 in the amount of teenagers having babies. That was embarrassing enough, but today we learn that Texas is the not-so-proud holder of another #1 record -- child deaths in hot cars!

Texas leads the nation in the amount of children who have died after being left in cars during our brutally hot summers. Since 1998, at least 41 children have died from being left in or becoming trapped in a hot car. That is 12% of the national total.

I have to admit that I just don't understand this. Anyone who has been in Texas for even a few days during one of our summers has to know how hot our cars get inside when they are parked. And it doesn't take long. In 90-100 degree temperatures, a car can become incredibly hot inside it when left for only a few minutes.

Please don't leave your children in your car while you pop in somewhere "for a few minutes". It may be a lot of trouble to take your kids in with you, but it could also save their lives. Our Texas summers are far too hot to take the chance.

This is a #1 rating we can do without!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Pharmacists Sue To Deny Prescriptions

Washington State recently passed a law that says that a pharmacy cannot refuse to fill a patient's legal prescription. If a doctor write's a prescription, then a pharmacy must fill the prescription. An individual pharmacist may ask another pharmacist to fill the prescription as long as the prescription is filled by the pharmacy that same day.

This seems like a very reasonable law to me. It is simply asking pharmacists to do their job (i.e., fill prescriptions). The law just went into effect yesterday, and already, a couple of pharmacists are suing the state. Evidently, they believe their pharmacist degree gives them the right to second-guess a doctor's treatment, and impose their own weird morality on their customers.

Of course, the prescriptions in question concern the so-called "morning-after" pill. These nuts say the law forces them to administer medical treatments they consider immoral. That's just stupid. They don't have the right to administer medical treatment in the first place. That's a doctor's job. Their job is simply to fill prescriptions issued by the doctor (and putting pills in a bottle is not "administering medical treatment").

Frankly, I have no sympathy for these people. All patients should have the right to promptly receive any medication their doctor prescribes for them. If these pharmacists feel they cannot do their job as the state requires, they should resign and find a job or profession that they can do.

Neither their politics nor their religion should interfere with a doctor's treatment or a patient's rights.

Football Is Back !


The long wait is over -- FOOTBALL IS BACK!

The Dallas Cowboys reported to training camp on Tuesday, and had their first practice on Wednesday. They put on the pads Thursday for their first two-a-day practices. I think I'm in heaven.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm a die-hard Cowboys fan. Since their inception in 1960, I have only missed one game. I have caught all the others, either on TV, on the radio or in person. The only one I missed was the day I got shot, and I was being operated on while the game was being played. Even then, my daughter tells me that my first question on waking up was "Did the Cowboys win?"

But enough about me. The Cowboys are in camp, and this year they have a new coach. I'm not thrilled about this. I was a big Parcells fan and had hoped he would stay a couple more years. But I'm willing to give new coach Wade Phillips a chance. At least he's a Texas boy with a good pedigree. I thought his father, Bum Phillips, was a great coach for Houston during their "luv ya blue" days. It was good to see Bum at the first practice.

Everyone seems to have come in with a good attitude. Even T.O. admits he was not an "impact player" last year, and is aiming to be better this year. Jason Garrett is back as the new offensive coordinator. He promises to have a less predictable offense this year. I certainly hope so.

Right now, the big worry about the offense is the line. They must be better than last year if the Cowboys are to be successful. It doesn't help that two starters are beginning training camp on the sidelines recovering from off-season surgery. Neither does the fact that 3rd round lineman Martens is still a holdout. I hear the Cowboys want him to sign a contract that would take a couple of years before the big money kicked in. Naturally, he wants the big money now. I hope they can work this out soon. If he doesn't get to camp soon, he will be useless to the Cowboys this year.

It looks like the defense will be OK if they can avoid injuries. Ellis' achilles injury is still a little worrying. At least it looks like first round linebacker Spencer has agreed on a contract and will be in camp soon. If Ellis can't play, he will be needed.

It also looks like the defensive backfield will be better. The cornerbacks are pretty good, and we got a little more help at safety during the off-season. But the biggest help they could get is an improved Cowboy rush. Spencer and a healthy Ellis could really help with that.

But this is just the first week of camp and there's a long way to go. The first pre-season game is a couple of weeks away (August 9th). That will be our first opportunity to see some of the new players, and judge for ourselves how things are working out.

I can hardly wait!

Christian Church Opposes Iraq War


Bush could once count upon religious Americans in general to support his going to war in Iraq, but not anymore. It is another sign of the dwindling support in America for Bush's war in Iraq.

This week, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have been having their biennial convention at the convention center in Fort Worth. The Christian Church is not generally regarded as a wild-eyed liberal congregation, but you wouldn't know that to look at the resolution the thousands of delegates passed this week.

Two years ago, this moderate group supported the president on the Iraqi war, out of respect for the soldiers fighting the war. But after seeing no progress made in the last two years, they are no longer willing to support the endless war.

Rev. Tom Plumbley of First Christian Church of Fort Worth (pictured above) said of 2005 "we did not speak out because our sons and daughters were on the battlefield and we were told they could not bear to hear anything but the most glowing assent to the nation's sacrifice of them. But they are still there -- and the church has allowed itself to be bullied and fear-mongered into silent submission."

But they are no longer silent. The delegates passed a resolution saying the war in Iraq was contrary to the teachings of Jesus. Then they went even further. They also gave their support to military personnel who refuse to be deployed to Iraq because of their christian principles.

This has to be a devastating blow to Bush. The support of American christians is something he has always counted upon. The Catholic church and liberal churches like the Episcopalians had already jumped ship. Now the moderate churches are also beginning to withdraw their support.

Bush is left with only the ultra-right "fundies" who think the Bible tells them to vote Republican, and some of them are beginning to feel uneasy about the war. If Republicans insist on supporting Bush's occupation of Iraq, they may find they don't have much of a base left in the next election.

It is time for Democrats to step forward and force Bush to end this horrible war and bring all of our troops home. If they do, they will find that they are supported by a large majority of Americans.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tour de France Leader Withdrawn From Race


I must admit that I'm a huge fan of the Tour de France bicycle race. But this year's Tour has been rocked by one scandal after another. First, one of the pre-race favorites, Alexandre Vinokourov, was kicked out of the race because testing showed he had an illegal blood transfusion (adding blood increases the body's endurance), and his entire team, Astana, was withdrawn.

Then the French team, Cofidis, was kicked out of the race, again, because of some form of illegal doping. One would have thought that was enough scandal for this year, but the biggest shock came Wednesday.

A Danish rider, Michael Rasmussen, has been leading the Tour for several days. On Wednesday, he won another leg of the Tour and increased his lead over second place to about 3 minutes. Most people, including myself, thought this would be enough of a lead to make him the winner when the Tour ends in Paris on Sunday.

But that is not to be. After the race on Wednesday, Rasmussen's team sponsor (Rabobank) withdrew him from the race and sent him home for "violating internal rules". All cyclists are supposed to keep the dope testing organizations abreast of their location, even when they are not competing. Rasmussen did not do that, and missed at least two tests.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme said, "We cannot say that Rasmussen cheated, but his flippancy and his lies on his whereabouts had become unbearable."

While this scandal may hurt the Tour, it is good news for America's Discovery Channel team. The team was already in first place in the team competition by 16 minutes, and looked good to win their first team championship. Now they also have one of their team members in first place overall in the individual competition, and another in third place.

Spaniard Alberto Contador, a Discovery rider, is now in first place by nearly two minutes. American Levi Leipheimer is in third place, and only 56 seconds behind the second place rider. If the other Discovery riders can protect them until Saturday's individual time trial, and they do well in that time trial, they could both be on the podium Sunday in Paris.

The American team has had an individual winner before (Lance Armstrong), but it has never won both the individual and team championships. Sunday might be the day that happens.


-----------------


CC McGoon here. With jobsanger's permission, I just want to expand on a few things regarding this years Tour.

Vinokourov, of the Astana team, first caught my attention in the 2005 Tour de France riding for the T-Mobile team with Jan Ullrich. He gave such a memorable effort in that year's race that, even though we were rooting for Lance, we wanted to see Vino place high in the final standings as well. As it was Armstrong's last year competing, I really looked forward to seeing what Vino would do in 2006.

When the next year rolled around, Vino was robbed. A couple of days before the Tour began, the new team he was cycling for, Astana-Wurth, withdrew from the race. Five of their team members were implicated in a doping scandal. The four remaining team members who were not themselves implicated, including Vino, were left with not enough riders to meet the minimum requirement to enter the race. My high hopes were dashed. Those who were cheating had robbed him of any chance he had that year.

That is why I an so broken-hearted that he has now been caught doping. Not only has he lowered himself in my estimation, but he has cheated his Astana teammates this year in the same way he was cheated last year. My heart goes out to Andreas Kloden, who was in 5th place a couple of days ago. Now, thanks to Vino, he will not place at all.

Rasmussen is also a great rider who has not only embarassed himself, but the Tour and the entire sport as well. Last Thursday, the Danish national team announced that he will no longer be allowed to compete in international races representing the team. He may not have failed any drug tests, but making himself unavailable to be tested does not look good for him at all. Personally, I think he should not have been allowed to compete in this year's Tour, seeing as how this information was available at the end of June. I do, however, understand his removal at this point in the race. Now that the Astana and Cofidis teams have withdrawn due to one member of each team failing drug tests, it would not look good to cycling fans if someone else who is dodging his own drug-testing allegations were allowed to remain in, and very well win, this race.

It is time for cycling to clean house, and there is no more important place to start than in the most watched race of the sport. I whole-heartedly support the actions being taken to combat what is scarring such a great sport, and I send out much love to those riders who are competing in an honest manner.

One more small thing:

GO TEAM DISCOVERY!

Is Bush Trying To Hide Criminal Acts ?


Congress and President Bush moved closer to a legal showdown this week. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee approved contempt citations by a 22-17 vote. The citations are for ex-White House attorney Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten.

Congress had issued subpoenas for the two of them to testify about the political firings of several federal prosecutors. Bush told both of them not to testify, claiming they had immunity from testifying due to "executive privilege". Neither testified, thus prompting the contempt citations. The citations will now go to the full House to be voted on -- probably in early September.

Since Democrats have a large majority in the House of Representatives, it is almost a foregone conclusion that the citations will be approved by the full House. Normal procedure would then dictate that the citations, punishable by a $100,000 fine and a year in jail, be sent to the Justice Department to be enforced.

But Bush has done more than order his flunkies not to testify. He has also ordered the Justice Department not to enforce the citations. His political appointees in the Justice Department say they will honor his wishes and refuse to enforce the citations.

Bush cannot be allowed to get away with this kind of behavior. If he gets away with ordering the Justice Department not to do their job, it would effectively be the end of any congressional investigations of his rotten administration. He would be able to break any law he wished and then block any investigation that arose.

Bush has claimed for himself more than presidential powers. He claims the powers of an absolute monarch. Congress has the right to investigate presidential wrongdoing. To deny them this right is to place the president above the law. In a democracy, no man is above the law -- not even the president.

There is only one reason why Bush would go to such lengths to keep his underlings from testifying -- he is trying to hide something (probably criminal behavior). His plea for "executive privilege" is just a ploy to hide his own criminal behavior.

If the Bush appointees in the Justice Department refuse to do their job, Congress should bypass them, and instruct their own attorneys to go to court to enforce the citations. Bush cannot be allowed to thwart the law to protect his own criminal actions.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

U.S. To Stay In Iraq Until 2009


The truth is being revealed about the war in Iraq. A new military report reveals that Bush expects to still have a large U.S. military presence in the summer of 2009. Even then, it is not known if the Iraqis will be able to take over their own defense of the current puppet government.

The summer of 2009 is the optimistic view in the military report. It could take much longer. It looks like Bush really is planning a never-ending war! I guess Halliburton and its subsidiaries haven't made enough money yet off their no-bid contracts, and the big oil companies haven't finished putting in place their theft of Iraqi oil reserves.

Halliburton and the oil companies are the only ones who will benefit from extending the war. The Iraqi people won't, and the American people won't.

Some say that it would be bad for the Iraqi people if we were to leave. But the fact is that we're currently doing nothing to protect the Iraqi people. Our soldiers are having a hard enough time protecting themselves. Extending the war just means that more Iraqis and Americans will die before Iraq can work their way to a settlement of the issues (which they can only do after we leave and our puppet government is replaced).

We have already lost 3,637 U.S. soldiers in the Iraqi war, and are currently averaging the death of 3 U.S. soldiers each day. Spending another two years in Iraq means the U.S. death toll would approach, if not pass 6,000 deaths. It really seems like Bush doesn't care how many Americans die as long as his buddies at Halliburton and big oil get their windfall profits.

If we cannot withdraw our soldiers now (as we should), at least let us elect a president who will remove ALL of our troops. We should not leave a single American soldier in Iraq. Some of the Democratic candidates would do this (Richardson, Kucinich, Gravel, Edwards). But there are some who want to leave some soldiers there indefinitely (Clinton, Obama). We must make it clear to these candidates that this is unacceptable.

ALL American soldiers should be brought home, and it should be done as soon as possible.

Clinton, Obama & Chavez


After the so-called debate last night, it seems that a big brouhaha has developed between the Clinton and Obama camps. Obama said he would be willing to talk to leaders such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. Clinton says Obama is wrong, and that to talk to such "dictators" is to be used by them.

What nonsense! I'm going to have to agree with Obama on this one. How can you ever settle your differences with someone if you're not willing to talk to them? Clinton sounds like George Bush, who's the king of refusing to talk to anyone who disagrees with him.

It's time for us to stop demanding that every country agree with us or be treated like an enemy. That kind of thinking will never get problems solved, but it will create a whole host of enemies. Whatever happened to diplomacy and good old-fashioned decency?

And while I'm on this subject, what's the deal with everyone calling Hugo Chavez a "dictator"? He was elected and re-elected by a popular vote of the people of Venezuela. Furthermore, he was elected by an overwhelming majority, which is more than George Bush (who didn't even have a majority in 2000) can say!

The people of Venezuela have the right to elect whoever they want, whether we like it or not. Just because they elected someone a lot of Americans don't like doesn't give us the right to call him a "dictator".

For our leaders to now refuse to talk to him sounds a lot like a kid who takes his ball and goes home because he wasn't allowed to be quarterback. Maybe it's time for Bush and Clinton to start acting like adults.

Talking with those who disagree with you is not a bad thing -- it's called diplomacy, and it works!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gonzales Still Hanging On


Evidently Alberto Gonzales thinks the American people are stupid. He's preparing to once again go before a congressional hearing because he politicized the Justice Department, and fired several attorney's so he could replace them with loyal Bushites. So what does he say?

Instead of resigning, as anyone with an ounce of morality or dignity would do, he says he's "decided that the best course of action was to remain here and fix the problems." Can you believe that? The man most responsible for trying to destroy the Justice Department (outside of Bush), now wants us to think that he's going to "fix" it. Obviously, this guy has no sense of shame.

Considering his past actions, I don't want Gonzales trying to "fix" the Justice Department. He will only wind up causing further damage. He needs to resign, and let someone with a much better sense of justice and ethics try to fix the mess he has made.

Senator Schumer hit the nail on the head when he said, "There are probably only two people on Earth who think the attorney general ought to stay: Alberto Gonzales and President Bush. As long as he's in charge, the Justice Department, the rule of law and America will suffer."

Will Texas Have Clout In The Primary ?


I guess some people just choose to live in an optimistic world rather than face the real world the rest of us inhabit. Recently, a number of states, including some very big ones, moved their primaries up to the first part of February 2008. The idea was to give them more clout in the choosing of a presidential candidate. It will probably work.

But Texas was not one of these states. Our short-sighted lawmakers decided it would be too much trouble to move up our primary and make sure Texas has a voice in choosing a candidate -- before most of the candidates dropped out.

Parag Mehta is one of those who live in that optimistic world of make-believe. The Democratic National Committee training director and Temple native says he believes that Texas could still have an impact on the choosing of the Democratic candidate. Here is his reasoning.

He says the four current frontrunners have their strength in different regions -- Edwards in the South, Obama in the Midwest, Clinton in California and New York, and Richardson in the Southwest. He says if each of these candidates does well in his specific region, Texas could play king-maker.

There are a couple of things wrong with this logic. First, it assumes that the field will at least be cut in half when it gets to Texas. So if you are a supporter of Kucinich, Dodd, Gravel or Biden -- tough luck. I hope you have a second choice.

The other thing is that it's very unlikely that even four candidates will come to Texas with a real chance of winning. Far more likely is the real chance that only one or two candidates will have such a large delegate lead that Texas, being a proportional state and not a winner-take-all, will just add to that lead.

I once had a dream of being able to choose between all the candidates, but our stupid and short-sighted lawmakers have seen to it that we won't have that opportunity.

Setting A New Standard For Stupid


This story was just too good to pass up. This guy seems to be trying to elevate stupidity to an art form. We know the 18-year-old is pretty stupid to begin with because he's a gang-banger. But this Fort Worth teen is not content to leave it at that.

He's got to show how macho he is by standing in his front yard at 10:00pm and flashing gang signs at the passing cars. He doesn't know who is in these cars -- it could be rival gang members who are armed. But as luck would have it, one of the cars he flashes the gang signs at contains undercover Fort Worth gang officers.

They call for uniformed officers to come and arrest the youth for disruptive behavior. But the teen's stupidity doesn't stop there. When the uniformed officers pat him down, they find a bottle of Xanax. The 18-year-old does not have a prescription for the pills and cannot explain why he has them.

Even then, the young man is not ready to stop being stupid. When the officers ask him for ID, he tells them it's in his bedroom and invites them inside to retrieve it. When they go inside, the officers find a small bag of what appeared to be cocaine. They then get a search warrant.

Upon searching the house, the police find 3.6 kilos of cocaine, a pound of marijuana, an Uzi, an AR-15 rifle, a 44 magnum pistol, a 12 guage shotgun, several other pistols and $65,000 in cash. Now the young man is looking at many years in prison. He also probably has his fellow gang members very angry with him. After all, he just lost thousands of dollars in gang cash and drugs, along with their armory.

I believe this teen has to be a great candidate for stupidest person of the year!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Maryland Judge Releases Rapist


This case is clearly a travesty of justice. Last week in Maryland, Montgomery County Circuit Judge Katherine Savage dismissed all charges against a man accused of raping and repeatedly molesting a seven-year-old girl. She said he had been denied his right to a speedy trial.

The man had been arrested in August of 2004. Why had his trial not been held? It turns out that he is a Liberian immigrant, and his native language (Vai) is only spoken by about 100,000 people in a small region in Liberia (and part of Sierra Leone).

Even though the man had attended both high school and community college in the United States, and had spoken english to the police who investigated the crime, a court-appointed psychiatrist recommended that an interpreter be found for the man. The court agreed.

The court clerk said she had contacted the Liberian embassy and courts in all but three states. The first interpreter left the courtroom in tears because she couldn't take the graphic details of the horrid crime. A second interpreter was dismissed for faulty work. A third couldn't show up at the last minute because of personal family problems.

Finally, a suitable interpreter was found, but the judge ruled it had taken too long and dismissed the case. I believe her ruling was in error, and I hope the prosecutors can get it overturned on appeal.

The Constitutional guarantee of a speedy trial was to prevent prosecutors from jailing someone for a long period of time while they continued to search for evidence. That does not apply in this case.

The prosecutors have been ready to go to trial for three years, but have been prevented from doing so by a defense request for an interpreter. I have doubts that an interpreter was really needed in this case, but if one was, it was to help insure the defendent got a fair trial. It was not a prosecution attempt to delay the trial while they searched for evidence.

The defense should not be allowed to make demands that delay a trial for years, and then profit from that delay by having the case dismissed for lack of a speedy trial. Furthermore, this defendent has not been incarcerated during this wait for his requested interpreter. He only spent one night in jail, and then was released on $10,000 bond (another travesty).

This judge was wrong. She allowed the defendent to delay the trial and then rewarded him for it. She should be ashamed of herself for turning this child molester loose on society!

$100 Laptops Ready To Start Production


The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organization says it is now ready to mass produce their $100 laptops. They have instructed their hardware producers to ramp up production, and hope to have many computers ready for sale in October of 2007.

The computers are meant for poor children in emerging nations. OLPC says the main purpose of the computers is educational, but they will also be able to connect to the internet through WiFi. OLPC is hoping to connect children all over the world through the tiny green and white 1GB computers.

The computer is a pretty stripped down model compared to the computers we in the developed nations are used to. They really wouldn't be able to perform modern office functions, but they should be very functional for the educational and communication needs of these children.

The computers have a rugged plastic water-proof case and have been engineered to be very energy-efficient. They don't even need to have electricity available, since they are designed to run off solar-power, a foot-pump or a string-pull charger. The machines use a stripped-down version of open source software.

The machines have been successfully tested in Nigeria and Brazil. Curently they cost $176, but OPLC believes that with mass production and bulk sales they believe they will get the cost down to $100 (they need to sell 3 million to get this done).

Even though the machines were meant for sale to the governments of emerging nations, there is now talk of selling the machines to the public at large. One idea is to require the consumer to buy two (with the second going to a child in a developing country). So far, orders have come from the governments of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Nigeria, Thailand, Libya and Pakistan.

I think this is a brilliant idea, and I hope that governments and charitable organizations all over the world will purchase millions of them and put them into the hands of poor children. It's just a fact of life today that both computer and educational literacy are a must if we expect these people to join the modern world.

I hope they sell many millions of the little green and white machines.

Friday, July 20, 2007

FEMA Still Harming Katrina Survivors


I can remember when FEMA was one of the most respected agencies of the federal government. We all knew that wherever disaster struck in our country, FEMA would be there to take care of the situation and lend a helping hand to those in need. But that was before Bush was elected and placed his sycophants in the agency's leadership positions.

Their total and utter incompetence was exposed when Katrina struck New Orleans. Even though there were repeated warnings of the impending disaster, FEMA was caught totally unprepared. They finally arrived far too late with far too little and generally screwed up what little help they were able to offer. Even Republicans were embarrassed by the agency's shortcomings.

There was some hope that after the humiliating Katrina debacle, the agency would make necessary changes to restore its competence and its good name. But those hopes were in vain.

FEMA finally did provide 120,000 trailer houses to the Katrina survivors, but even this turns out to be a blunder. Many of these trailers were inundated with formaldehyde fumes. When people complained of the fumes, FEMA's answer was to tell them to open all the doors and windows. Anyone who's experienced a southern summer knows this is not a real option -- air conditioning is a necessity in these stuffy trailers.

Breathing formaldehyde fumes can cause respiratory problems and even cancer in high doses. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health requires workers to use respirators if they work in conditions where there are 0.016 parts per million of formaldehyde.

FEMA tested one trailer after hearing many complaints. They found 1.2 parts per million! Did they warn these thousands of survivors that they were in danger and immediately test all the trailers, removing those who were being dangerously exposed?

That's what they should have done, but it's not what they did. No, they stopped the testing on advice of their lawyers (it might provide legal liability problems) and tried to hide the testing results. Now it looks like some people have died and many others were injured as a result of living in this toxic environment.

As far as I'm concerned, this goes beyond legal liability. The agency that's supposed to help and protect victims of disasters actually put them in mortal danger and then tried to hide and cover-up that fact. This was a criminal act and should be prosecuted as such.

Good job, Brownie!

Home Foreclosures Up In Metroplex


The Dow-Jones stock market index topped 14,000 a couple of days ago, setting a new record for the stock market. The talking heads on the news were all gushing about it, saying it was a sign of our "great" economy. I have to wonder whether these people ever took an economics class.

The stock market is not a real indicator of how the economy is doing. It is simply a gambling game played by the rich. If you really want to know how the economy is doing, a much better indicator is housing -- and that is painting a much different picture.

Housing sales are slumping all across the country. Even worse, foreclosures are close to their all-time highs set in the 80's -- the last time the real estate bubble burst. In Tarrant county, foreclosures scheduled for auction in August have reach 1,348 (as compared to only 897 last August). It is the first time since the 1980's that foreclosures topped 1,300 in Tarrant county.

In the Metroplex as a whole (Dallas, Tarrant, Denton and Collin counties), this months foreclosures sit at 3,870, a 31% increase over this time last year. It wouldn't surprise me if the figures across Texas and the nation were very similar to the Metroplex figures.

The economy may be great for the corporations and the rich. After all, those are the people the Republicans have been looking out for since they came to power. But there are a lot of middle and working-class people in our country that are hurting. Just another reason why we need to elect a lot more Democrats next year.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Carding Granny

This article is about the growing trend of ID'ing everyone who wants to buy alcohol, no matter what age they look. We already have a state law which basically says that anyone who looks even near the age of 21 must be ID'd. I don't have a problem with that. I do, however, think asking to see identification from someone who is obviously a senior citizen is taking things a bit too far:

These days, more and more stores are demanding identification from anyone buying beer and wine, and some customers — including Cantrell — are unhappy about it.

“That’s the way most retailers are going,” said Sgt. Charlie Cloud of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s enforcement division. “They’re trying to be cautious and make sure the law isn’t violated, and their people are checking IDs.”

Getting snagged in the paranoia are folks such as Cantrell, who has degenerative arthritis, an ever-present pair of glasses on a chain around her neck, little patience for fools — and 72 years under her belt.

There is a picture of this woman at the link provided above. Though she looks great for being 72 years of age (she could easily get away with saying she's a decade or two younger), any person with eyes could see that she is well past the legal drinking age.
Funny thing is — the store was within its rights, if nowhere near what would seem reasonable to most folks.

“The store has a right to refuse service to anyone, and they have a right to request your ID,” Cloud said.
Yes, they most certainly do have the right to refuse service to someone who is unwilling to show their identification. In cases like this, however, it really isn't good business. I'm still young enough that all I have to do is think about alcohol and I get carded, and that's okay. I can't reasonably expect a clerk to assume that they aren't breaking any laws by selling me alcohol without carding me. The same thing can't be said about millions of other consumers though, and in cases like this, a clerk will only offend a customer by asking for ID when the tiniest bit of reason shows that there are no laws being broken.
The trend toward universal carding and tightened store policies is leading to confusion and misinformation about the law, TABC spokeswoman Carolyn Beck said. “I get phone calls and e-mails from people saying they’ve been told it’s the law,” she said. “People are frustrated because they don’t want to be carded, and they don’t want to be given wrong information.”

The confusion might have been prompted by Tennessee’s law change, which went into effect this month, requiring universal carding of anyone buying beer in retail stores. Tennessee is the first state to enact such a law, and supporters say it will prevent clerks from having to guess the ages of customers, thereby reducing underage drinking. After the law was passed, Comer Wilson, a 66-year-old Tennessean with a long white beard, was carded while buying beer. He told the Associated Press, “It’s the stupidest law I ever heard. You can see I’m over 21.”

Guessing the age of customers shouldn't be a problem with people who are several decades older than the drinking age. I don't understand how we've become so paranoid about selling alcohol to minors that we feel the need to card senior citizens. Like I said, I have no problem with laws that say anyone who looks to be within a certain age range should have to show ID to purchase alcohol, but carding everyone under the sun is over-kill.

Richardson Tops Edwards In N. H. Poll


It's not happening fast, but Bill Richardson looks a little better with each poll and each passing day. On the 17th, a new CNN/WMUR poll was released on the race in New Hampshire. The poll was conducted by the University of New Hampshire, and surveyed 333 voters who said they were voting in the Democratic primary.

Bill Richardson is now sitting at 11% in the poll. But even more remarkable is the fact that he's now sitting in third place among the Democratic candidates. A month ago, John Edwards was in third place with 14% support, but his support has slipped since then. Edwards is now sitting at 9%, putting him in fourth place behind Richardson.

And the poll had some great news for a candidate like Richardson, who has had to claw his way up from the bottom (he started with less than 3%). It seems that most New Hampshire voters are not locked in to a particular candidate.

Only 10% of primary voters say they have definitely decided on who they will vote for. Another 26% say they are leaning toward a particular candidate. But a full 64% of New Hampshire Democrats say they are still trying to decide who to vote for in the upcoming primary. With nearly 6 months left, it looks like New Hampshire is still up for grabs.

Here are the results of the latest poll:

Clinton...............36%
Obama................27%
Richardson........11%
Edwards.............09%
Biden.................04%
Kucinich............03%
Dodd..................*
Gravel................*
No opinion........09%

Florida To Resume Legal Killings


There is some bad news for those of us who don't think our government should be killing humans (even bad humans). The right-wing governor of Florida has decided that his state can't get along without executing some people. Yesterday, he ended a seven-month moratorium on the death penalty by signing his first death warrant.

Last December, Florida badly bungled an execution. They were trying to kill convicted murderer Angel Diaz by lethal injection. In a lethal injection, the victim is supposed to be unconcious after about three minutes, and the entire killing should be over after fifteen minutes.

But the killing of Diaz didn't happen like that. Diaz was still moving around and trying to speak after 20 minutes. He had to be given a second dose of the killing drugs, and was not dead until at least 34 minutes had elapsed. It more closely resembled a torture session than a modern execution. The execution was botched so badly that Republican Jeb Bush declared a moratorium on state-sponsored killings.

But Florida, like Texas, is currently run by right-wingers, and these people must satisfy their bloodlust. So Governor Crist has sent his executioners back to killing school, and says they now know how to do it right. Florida will resume its legal killings in November.

Maybe someday our country will progress beyond vengence, but I doubt it will be soon.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Do Candidates Understand Healthcare Problem ?

After seeing the healthcare plans of several of the presidential candidates, I am beginning to wonder if they really understand the medical care crises in the United States. Most of the plans that I have seen are very superficial, including that of my own candidate, Bill Richardson.

The candidates seem to think that the only problem we have with medical care is that the poor do not have medical insurance. But the truth is that this is only a small part of America's healthcare crises. The fact is that only the rich have adequate healthcare coverage in this country.

A lot of the middle-class think they have adequate coverage, but that is only because they have not had a truly serious and longterm health problem. When they do, they'll quickly learn that their insurance is not nearly as good as they were led to believe.

The real problem with medical care in this country is that we have put the insurance companies in charge of making our healthcare decisions, and these companies are not guided by altruism. The sad fact is that the less an insurance company pays out for medical care, the larger their profits are, and profits are the name-of-the-game with these companies.

Most of the candidates' plans would just extend private insurance coverage to poor Americans. That would mean a lot more money for the insurance companies, but it would not solve our country's medical care problems.

There is only one way to really solve our healthcare crises. We must get the insurance companies out of healthcare completely. The only people who should be making medical decisions that affect our health are DOCTORS -- not insurance company executives trying to maximize their profits.

The only rational answer to our healthcare crises is institute a government-run single-payer system. Anything less is just putting a bandaid on a gaping and festering wound.

Republicans - Scare People Or Lose In 2008


The Bush administration released another intelligence report today telling us that we should be terrified of another al-Queda attack on American soil. They are obviously trying to revive the fears that Americans had after the attacks of 9/11.

They want us to believe that Osama and his cohorts are once again growing stronger and targeting our country. But if you read a little deeper into the intelligence report, you'll see that it admits that no specific threat has been uncovered and there is no evidence of terrorist infiltration into the United States.

Personally, I'm more than a bit tired of Bush and his Republican cronies crying "wolf", but I understand why they're doing it. They're in a lot of trouble and they know it. The American people are mad. They're mad because the Republicans got us into a war for no good reason.

The people are overwhelmingly against the futile quagmire of the Iraq war. They understand that American soldiers are dying every day in that useless war, and absolutely nothing is being accomplished. The people are ready to take their anger out on Republicans in the coming election.

The Republicans are running scared. Even Republican districts that once were considered safe are now coming into play, and may actually be won by Democrats. Even the few Republicans that are trying to distance themselves from Bush are not doing themselves much good. They're still not willing to withdraw our troops from Iraq, and that is what the American people want.

This leaves the Republicans with only one tactic -- the scare tactic. They hope to scare the American public into voting for them. They want to once again portray themselves as brave warriors against the terrible terrorist menace. They hope that if they yell "9/11" loud enough and often enough they can be re-elected.

But I don't think the scare tactic will work this time. Americans are beginning to see through it, and they're beginning to ask some questions. If Republicans are such great protectors against terrorism then-

Why hasn't Osama been caught and brought to justice?

Why are al-Queda and the Taliban growing stronger?

Why did they make such a bloody mess of the invasion and occupation of Iraq?

What has the "war on terrorism" accomplished?

The Republicans can't answer these questions. That's why they are running scared. That's why they are going to lose big in 2008.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Richardson Also Getting Celebrity Funding


In the last few weeks, much has been made of celebrity donations to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. In fact, to read the mainstream media, a person would think that those are the only candidates that are receiving any celebrity funding. But that is just not true.

It turns out that other candidates are also receiving their share, although the money is largely going only to Democratic candidates. Bill Richardson, who is fast fighting his way up to join the "big three", is also beginning to receive some celebrity support. This is the list of celebrities who have seen fit to give Richardson some financial support:

* Michael Douglas, actor: $3100
* Val Kilmer, actor: $2300
* Paul Newman, actor: $2300
* Edward James Olmos, actor: $2300
* Wendie Malick, “Just Shoot Me” actress: $500
* Steven Spielberg, director: $2300
* Kate Capshaw, actress, wife of Steven Spielberg: $2300
* Jodie Foster, actress: $1000
* Christie Brinkley, self-described as “Model/Mom/Environmental activist”: $500
* Bette Midler, actress/singer: $4600
* Sherry Lansing, former film executive: $2300
* William Friedkin, director: $2300
* James L. Brooks, producer/writer: $1000

Bill Richardson raised over $7 million in the second quarter of this year, most of it in small donations from "little guys" all over this country. I'm sure that will remain the major source of his campaign funds, even as his candidacy continues to grow.

But it is nice to see that he's beginning to tap the celebrity funding well just like the others. For a complete list of celebrity funding click here.

Campaign Giving Down In Texas For 2nd Quarter


The campaign donation numbers are in for the second quarter of 2007. Here in Texas, those numbers have gone down for all but three candidates. During the first quarter, Texas gave $8.4 million to the presidential candidates combined. In the second quarter, the donations fell to $6.3 million.

During the first quarter, the candidates were actually coming to Texas to tap what has traditionally been a very generous state. But a couple of months ago, our state legislature refused to move our primary up to February as many other states did, including some large and rich states. Since that time, candidate sightings in the state are becoming pretty rare.

Since the candidates are focusing their attention on the early primary states and not visiting Texas much, Texans have toned down their giving. But there were three candidates that bucked the trend of less giving here in Texas -- Republican Ron Paul and Democrats Barack Obama and Bill Richardson.

My favorite candidate, Bill Richardson, collected $394,696 in the first quarter. In the second quarter, he collected more totalling $560,234 (about 47% more). With any luck, Texas will give him even more in the third quarter. He's looking more and more like a viable candidate since hitting double digits in both Iowa and New Hampshire polls.

Barack Obama raised his contributions from $699,370 to $717,669, and Ron Paul raised his from $62,777 to $272,892. Paul got a definite bump from his performance in the early debates.

Nationally, campaign giving is still on a record-setting pace. Together, the candidates have raised over $265 million and it's still six months until the caucus' and primaries begin. Here's how the candidates are doing. Democrats are in blue and Republicans in red. The figures are in millions of dollars.

CANDIDATE......... 2nd Q......... TOTAL
Clinton..................27.0.............63.0
Obama...................33.1.............58.9
Romney.................20.9............44.4
Giuliani.................17.6.............35.6
McCain..................11.5.............25.3
Edwards................9.1..............23.1
Richardson...........7.0..............13.3
Dodd.....................3.2..............12.0
Biden....................2.4..............6.4
Brownback...........1.4...............3.3
Paul......................2.3...............3.0
Tancredo..............1.4...............2.8
Hunter.................0.8...............1.3
Huckabee.............0.7...............1.3
Kucinich..............0.7...............1.1
Thompson...........0.4...............0.8
Gravel..................0.1...............0.2

Justice Hecht Shows New Ethical Lapse


Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht got himself in some legal and ethical trouble a while back. He used his position on the state court to back his one-time girlfriend, Harriet Miers, for a position on the United States Supreme Court. Turned out that wasn't exactly kosher, and he racked up over $300,000 in legal fees defending himself.

He tried to get the legislature to pay his legal fees for him, but when the legislature found out what else he was doing that turned out to be too much even for the Republicans. The legislature dropped the bill.

What was he doing? He was begging for donations from private sources. This might have been alright, except those private donations came in large part from huge law firms -- law firms that regularly appear before the Texas Supreme Court.

Amazing! Did it never occur to him that at the very least, this had the appearance of serious impropriety? How can he hear cases presented by attorneys who have donated thousands of dollars to get him out of trouble?

It certainly looks like he is covering one ethical lapse by creating another. Judge Hecht is an embarrassment to Texas and to its Supreme Court.

It is time for Judge Hecht to resign before he damages what little credibility the Republican-controlled court has left.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Bus Driver Is Sexist Prick

I'm going to try not to go into a cursing fit in this post, but this German bus driver piece of shi...um...turd-brain is making that very hard for me:
A German bus driver threatened to throw a 20-year-old sales clerk off his bus in the southern town of Lindau because he said she was too sexy, a newspaper reported Monday.

"Suddenly he stopped the bus," the woman named Debora C. told Bild newspaper. "He opened the door and shouted at me 'Your cleavage is distracting me every time I look into my mirror and I can't concentrate on the traffic. If you don't sit somewhere else, I'm going to have to throw you off the bus.'"

Cause, you know, it is ever so hard to concentrate on your job when a pair of boobs have the audacity to be present at the scene. A considerate woman would do everything in her power to hide them under multiple layers of clothing (summer be damned), or even better, just leave the dirty pillows at home.

The driver evidently feels that his attraction to this woman is her own fault. Not only that, but he seems to feel that she should know it (you know, with her womanly psychic powers) and immediately remove herself from his delicate vision.

Gawd forbid he actually do his job and keep his eyes on the friggin' road!

In a move that makes me wany to choke someone, the driver's bosses applaud his jerk-tastic move:
A spokesman for the bus company defended the driver.

"The bus driver is allowed to do that and he did the right thing," the spokesman said. "A bus driver cannot be distracted because it's a danger to the safety of all the passengers."
Sheesh. What next? Someone with a foot fetish threatening to boot anyone who wears flip-flops?

Update: Jeff Fecke has a good post about this story at Shakesville.

Republicans Give Away Bit Of Texas History


Once again, Republicans show that they care nothing about the people, history or valuable landmarks of the state of Texas. In their zeal to save a few more pennies to refund to the rich, they are now going to give away a piece of Texas' heritage.

On September 1st, our Republican-controlled state government will give away the Texas State Railroad, which runs between Rusk and Palestine in East Texas. They are turning the railroad over to a private company -- American Heritage Railways. AHR is paying the state NOTHING! If AHR runs the railroad for the next eight years, then the state will turn over ownership of the railroad to the private company, including its vintage fleet of locomotives.

The railroad has been closed since July 8th, when a storm washed out a section of track. But adding insult to injury, the state government is going to spend $2 million to help repair the tracks before it gives away the railroad.

Why are our Republican state leaders wanting to give away this valuable bit of state history? They say it costs too much, and the state can't afford to keep it. That's just sheer nonsense!

Last year the railroad generated $1 million in income, but its upkeep and running costs are about $2.3 million a year. Texas Parks and Wildlife officials say the only way to "save" the railroad is to give it to a private company that has more "business savvy". I say maybe it's time to replace these Parks officials with people who have more "heritage savvy".

Our parks, landmarks and historical possessions are not and were never meant to be "for-profit" businesses. Their purpose is to save our historical heritage and provide recreational opportunities for all Texans. If they provide some revenue that is a plus, but they are too important to the people of Texas to give away -- even if they don't completely pay for themselves.

Republicans have just given several billion dollars in tax cuts, mostly to the rich (I bet if you were middle or working class you didn't see much of a cut). They have also set aside several billion dollars to give more tax cuts to the rich. But they want to give away part of our heritage because it would cost a tiny fraction of that money.

Texas Republican leaders should be ashamed of themselves!