A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Friday, November 30, 2007

More Good News For Richardson

I just received a campaign update from Dave Contarino with the Richardson for President campaign, and it contained some great news. It looks like things are going well for Bill Richardson in Iowa.

The campaign just heard from their pollster, Paul Maslin. He reports that Richardson is the only candidate whose numbers are still growing. Clinton, Obama and Edwards have all flattened out with numbers in the low twenties, while Richardson has gone up to 15%.

When Richardson started his campaign, he was only polling around 1 or 2% in Iowa. After a few months, he had climbed to 6%. A month ago, he stood at 12%. With the latest poll, he now stands at 15%.

This is starting to get exciting! Richardson now sits just where Kerry did at this time in the 2004 campaign, and is actually ahead of where Clinton was in the 1992 campaign. As you know, both of those men wound up winning the Democratic nomination.

Maslin also reports, "Richardson is the only major candidate who has made significant progress in his popularity in recent months -- he is now viewed favorably by 69% of Iowans and enjoys a nearly 7-1 positive-negative ratio, higher than both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama."

It's time for voters everywhere to give Bill Richardson a fresh look. He is no longer in the "others running" catagory, but is now a major candidate.

The campaign has just sent several vanloads of volunteers to Iowa and New Hampshire, and are planning a big campaign push in the final weeks before those states make their choices. I will be sending the Richardson campaign another check to help with this effort. If you would also like to help, you can donate online by using the ActBlue button in the right-hand column of this blog, or send a check or money order to:

Bill Richardson for President
PO Box 25407
Albuquerque, New Mexico
87125-9755

Songs That Still Kick Ass

Leonard Cohen with Sonny Rollins. Mind blowing stuff.

Songs That Still Kick Ass

Youtube isn't working with me today, so all I can do is link to the kick ass song today.

This song is one of my all time favorites. Leonard Cohen at his best (of course he is always at his best, so that isn't saying much).

Update: Now it wants to post 8 friggin' times...5 hours after I hit the "post" button. Ugh.

I'm leaving the original video I wanted to post up, Cohen with Sonny Rollins, 'cause that one kicks ass as well.

The Stupidity Of "English Only"


Recently, the Republicans have been appealing to the racist base of their party by trying to play off their fear of immigrants -- especially Hispanic immigrants. One of the ways they are doing this is by trying to pass laws declaring that only the English language can be used in official government documents such as court papers, ballots and other documents.

Of course, this totally ignores the Hispanic culture that is a valued part of some states, especially the southwest part of the United States. In Texas, Florida, New Mexico, Arizona and California, Spanish has been spoken for centuries longer than English. Trying to outlaw Spanish in these states is not just silly -- it is a denial of their history and culture.

But the main reason "English only" is stupid is its basic unfairness. It is currently being used as a way to deny access to undocumented immigrants. But it is not just unfair to this group -- it is also unfair to Hispanics who are legal residents with the proper documentation. Why should anyone be punished for speaking and writing the language they grew up with?

Consider this. Let's say you were a legal resident of a non-English speaking country and got arrested. Would you think it was fair if the trial and the legal documents were were in a language you could not understand and translations were not made available to you? You not only wouldn't understand the charges, but you would have no idea what the court and the witnesses were saying about you.

That would be the very definition of unfairness. But that is what the "English only" proponents want to do to Hispanic immigrants. They are not interested in being fair. They are only interested in soothing their own irrational fear of those who are not exactly like them.

These people want us to believe if an immigrant speaks Spanish, then that means he is not trying to assimilate into our culture. Not true. They are simply speaking the language they grew up with and are most comfortable speaking. New statistics by the Pew Hispanic Center show that by the second generation this is a moot point anyway.

While only 23% of first-generation Hispanic immigrants speak English fluently, by the second generation that number has risen to 88%, and by the third generation the figure is 94%. As D'Vera Cohn of the Pew Center says, "The second generation has a foot in each world, and the third has made the transition to English. By the third generation and beyond, English is dominant, and Spanish has faded into the background."

So "English only" is not needed to force immigrants to assimilate -- they are already doing that. It is just a code phrase for discrimination. In fact, Hispanics cite speaking Spanish as a greater source of discrimination in this country than immigration status, income level or skin color.

I have never understood how a person speaking Spanish harms this country or any of its citizens.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Craddick Plays Politics With Texas State Railroad


Few people use politics as a tool to punish their opponents better than Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, and it looks like the Republican lawmaker is at it again.

He is now blocking funds necessary for the survival of one of Texas' historical treasures -- the Texas State Railroad, which runs between Rusk and Palestine in East Texas. A Craddick spokesman says there is trouble with the contract worked out with the private company that is going to run the railroad, but that is doubtful. The state legislature didn't see any problems when they approved it in the last session.

It is far more likely that Craddick is withholding the money as payback to an opponent and a warning to other legislators. The railroad just happens to lay mostly in the district of a vocal Craddick opponent -- Rep. Byron Cook.

Cook says, "This doesn't pass the fairness test. If this railroad was in Midland, they probably would have added another 100 miles of track right now. There is no question that is a subversion of the will of the House and Senate. There is no question that what is being done is not being done in the best interest of Texas."

I would have preferred that the railroad continue to be run by the state, but that is a moot point now. The legislature in the last session turned over it's operation to a private company, and promised that company $2 million dollars for repairs and improvements. Now Craddick has refused to release the $2 million.

It is bad enough that Craddick regularly uses his position to punish his political enemies, but now he is playing politics with a valuable piece of Texas history. His petty political manuever could endanger the future of the railroad and cause Texas to lose another peice of its history.

It is time for this power-hungry madman to go. It would be in the best interests of all Texans for legislators to remove him from his speakership in the next session.

Sometimes Religion Goes Too Far


There are those in many religions who, in their zeal, just take things too far. They abandon common sense and common decency, and make their beliefs more important than the people their religion is supposed to help. That seems to be happening in Sudan right now.

Last Sunday, the Sudanese government arrested Gillian Gibbons (pictured above) -- a British citizen who is a second-grade teacher in a private school there. Yesterday, they charged her with inciting religious hatred. The charge could result in 40 lashes and a prison sentence.

Just what terrible thing did she do to deserve such a serious charge? She allowed her class to pick a name for the stuffed teddy bear she had as the class "mascot". The class chose to name the toy bear Mohammed -- a common name for men in the country.

Neither the teacher nor the students meant any disrespect, but that's not how some parents saw it. They thought naming the bear Mohammed was disrecpectful to the prophet of Islam. They took the matter to government officials. The officials agreed and arrested the teacher.

They could have just asked her to rename the bear, and I'm sure she would have. She was not trying to cause any trouble. But these people were so wrapped up in their fundamentalist beliefs that they lost their sense of reason and decency.

The government tried to defend its action by saying they would have done the same if the bear had been named Jesus or Moses. This just shows they don't understand the wrongness of their actions. This was a gross over-reaction no matter who the prophet was or what the religion was.

The British government is trying to negotiate on behalf of the teacher, and I hope they are successful. She has done nothing wrong and should be released.

But this is not a muslim problem. It is a problem of fundamentalism taken too far, and it happens in many religions, including christianity.

The purpose of religion is to help people -- not to punish them for imaginary crimes.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Things Are Looking Up For Richardson


While the numbers for most of the Democratic presidential candidates are flattening out, Bill Richardson's numbers continue to climb. Richardson is now in double digits in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Here is how The Nation puts it:

"If the pattern holds, the New Mexican will easily overtake Edwards and could begin closing in on Obama by the time New Hampshire holds its first in the nation primary.

It is worth noting that, according to the polls, Richardson is now viewed as more experienced than either Obama or Edwards by the New Hampshire voters. His numbers are dramatically up in other categories, as well, especially on measures of trust -- the New Mexican now leads Clinton in this category.

Richardson's move into double digits in New Hampshire parallels his under-covered rise in the first caucus state of Iowa. While much of the discussion about recent polls from that state has focused on the news that Obama has moved narrowly ahead of Clinton -- they are actually in a statistical tie -- some of the most interesting movement in the first-caucus state has been toward Richardson."

Many voters are becoming interested in the electibility of the candidates, and this is an area where Richardson can excel. He has the ability to appeal to a large range of voters, especially those independent voters so necessary in a national election.

Clinton has very high negatives and a recent poll shows her losing to several Republican candidates. Many, including myself, believe she is the candidate the Republicans would like to run against -- the one that gives them the best chance of winning.

Obama has yet to overcome the perception that he doesn't have enough political experience for the job, and Edwards has yet to catch fire with the voters (although he is very popular among party activists).

Richardson doesn't have these problems. He does not have the high negatives of some other candidates, and no one can question the depth and breadth of his experience in all aspects of government. Add this to the fact that his popularity is growing, and he has the ability to appeal to a wide range of voters, including non-Democrats, and he may actually be the most electable candidate the Democrats have.

There are still a lot of voters out there who have not yet made a choice -- nearly half have yet to choose and many others are not locked in to their candidate. Regardless of what you may read in the mainstream media, this primary election is far from over.

If you are one of those who have not yet decided on a candidate, give Bill Richardson a close look. He'd make a great president -- one that Democrats and all Americans could be proud of.

More Troubles For The Red Cross

A few years ago, the Red Cross had a reputation that was envied by other organizations. But in the last few years, that reputation has suffered. Because of perceived failures of the organization, they have replaced their presidents after both the 9/11 and the Katrina disasters. Counting the interim leaders, the Red Cross has had 5 different presidents in the last six years.

Yesterday, the Board of Governors of the American Red Cross asked their latest president, Mark Everson, to resign. Everson's resignation was effective immediately.

The organization had learned that Everson was having an affair with one of his subordinates. It looks as though the Red Cross decided they simply could not afford another scandal. Everson is married and has two children. He had only been on the job for six months.

The Board released a statement saying, "The board acted quickly after learning that Mr. Everson engaged in a personal relationship with a subordinate employee. It concluded that the situation reflected poor judgement on Mr. Everson's part and diminished his ability to lead the organization in the future."

I can understand the board's action, but the organization has bigger problems than this. In recent years, the organization has begun to shun many types of donated goods, preferring gifts of cash instead. They have also promised these cash donations would be used for specific disasters, and then used part of the money for other purposes.

This has caused many to lose faith in the altruistic aims of the organization. Is too much of the money being used for administrative purposes? I know I became disillusioned after learning the charity's president makes a larger salary than our country's president.

If the Red Cross is going to remain relevant in the future, it must change the perceptions.

Now I'm Getting Angry !


Most of you who have read this blog for a while know that I'm a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan. The only thing that makes me happier than firing up the TV for a Cowboys game is attending the game in person (and that doesn't happen nearly enough now that I've moved away from the Metroplex).

This week, I learned that I will not be able to see the Cowboys play the Packers. It is arguably the biggest game of the year for the Cowboys -- and it will not be on my television. Why is this happening? Corporate greed!

The NFL and the cable companies are locked in a battle over who will get to make the most money off the normally unwatchable NFL channel. The NFL wants the channel to be on cable's basic tier of channels and they want to be paid 70 cents a subscriber for this privilege. Meanwhile, cable wants to be able to sell subscriptions to the channel so they can make more money themselves.

They have been arguing about this for a while now, with neither side wanting to give in -- after all, dollars are more important than fans or consumers. Both sides show this by holding my Cowboys game as a hostage this week.

I am not taking sides in this stupid argument. Personally, I think both sides already make far too much money. I'm just angry that they would deny me the right to see my Cowboys, so each side can try and pressure the other into giving in. A pox on both their houses!

Thank goodness radio is not involved in this grade-school style argument.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Another Victory For Religious Freedom


The United States Supreme Court has just acted to uphold religious freedom in the United States. Many in this country seem to believe that religious freedom means they have the right to force their particular religion on everyone else.

But that is not what our Founding Fathers thought. To them, religious freedom meant that no one religion would be recognized by the state and forced on those who did not believe in it.

On Monday, the Supreme Court refused to overturn a lower court ruling that it was unconstitutional for Harris County to display the 10 Commandments on a monument on government property.

In 2003, U.S. District Judge Sim Lake ruled that the monument must be removed. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld the ruling. By refusing to accept the appeal by Harris County on Monday, the Supreme Court is letting Judge Lake's ruling stand.

Randall Kallinen, the attorney for the lady who originally brought the lawsuit against Harris County, said, "The ruling by Sim Lake was a very accurate ruling and actually depicts the law. This case has always been about religious freedom. In the United States, we are a nation of many religions. And to stick with one sect of Christianity, that one represented by the King James version Bible only, is not what America is about."

In America, the majority cannot be allowed to force their religion on others who believe differently. Yesterday, the Supreme Court agreed.

Saving The Prairie Chicken


The prairie chicken has been on the endangered species list for quite a while now. It is believed that there are less than 5,000 left of the species native to Texas. Hopefully, that is going to change now.

The Nature Conservancy has purchased a 6,000 acre ranch on the South Plains near Lubbock. The lesser prairie chickens that are left are found in a 16 county area in the southwestern and northeastern areas of the Panhandle. The ranch is believed to have at least 300 of the chickens.

This is the first purchase in this area for the Nature Conservancy, and they plan to use the ranch as a haven for the prairie chicken. They want to protect and increase the population there in an effort to keep these birds from becoming extinct.

I applaud the Conservancy's action, and I appreciate their efforts to save this native Texas bird. I hope they succeed in their noble quest.

Bush/al-Maliki Agree To Long-Term Stay Of Troops


We've known for quite a while that Bush had no intention of removing our troops from Iraq before the end of his term. Now he is trying to force that same decision on the next president.

Yesterday, Bush and the Iraqi leader al-Maliki signed an agreement that would leave a substantial amount of U.S. troops in Iraq for many years. The Iraqi leader said at least 50,000 troops would be left in the country to protect his government and the constitution that created it, even after the fighting has subdued (if it ever does).

Both men know that the puppet government that Bush has installed in Iraq would not last a week after all the U.S. troops have been withdrawn. While both the Shiites and the Sunnis disagree on the government they want in Iraq, both sides would like to see the current puppet government gone. That may be the only thing they agree on.

But political reality has never been Bush's strong-suit. He is determined to force this government on the Iraqi citizens no matter how long he has to let American troops die there. It has nothing to do with Iraqi self-determination -- it's all about Bush's pride and his unwillingness to admit he made a mistake.

However, even a C-student like Bush can see that it's very likely that the next president is probably going to be a Democrat. I think that's a major reason he signed this new agreement. It is an attempt to force the new president to leave troops in Iraq and protect his puppet government.

It might even work with Clinton and Obama. Both have said they would leave some troops there. But if the new president is Richardson, Edwards, Kucinich or Dodd, then this new agreement was an exercise in futility. All four of them have pledged to remove ALL U.S. troops from Iraq.

I think Bush has forgotten the root cause of the 9/11 attacks (if he ever understood it at all). The terrorists have been quite frank in telling us that they attacked America because American troops are stationed in Saudi Arabia and other places in the Arabic world. Leaving troops in Iraq will not solve this problem -- it will only exacerbate the problem, and set us up for more attacks in the future.

This ridiculous new agreement makes it even more important that either Richardson, Edwards, Kucinich or Dodd be elected in 2008. They are the only candidates that really understand the situation in that part of the world.

Monday, November 26, 2007

No True Frontrunners In Presidential Campaign


The mainstream media would like us to believe that the primary election is coming down to a couple of frontrunners in each party. To further this notion, they given us poll after poll that seems to back them up. But this simply isn't true.

What the polls actually show is that most of the voters have yet to make up their minds. Many of them say they won't make their choice until they enter the caucus or the voting booth. This is especially true in the first two states -- Iowa and New Hampshire.

According to the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, only 14% of Republican voters have made up their minds. About 29% are leaning toward a candidate, but might change their mind. A full 57% have not made up their minds at all.

The same thing is true of Democrats, where only 24% have made their choice. Those leaning toward a candidate compose 29%, and 47% say they haven't made a choice.

This means there are no true frontrunners. Far too large a percentage of voters in both parties simply have not chosen a candidate, and probably won't until the last days or hours of the campaign.

An ABC/Washington Post poll taken in November shows the same thing is true about voters in Iowa. Most of them have not made up their mind for sure who they are going to support at the caucus.

Personally, I believe this is also true outside of Iowa and New Hampshire. The election is still in a very fluid state all over the country.

This is not a totally new phenomenon. Candidates in the past have emerged from the pack in the last days or hours of the campaign. But it seems to be even truer of this election.

So don't let anyone tell you that your candidate doesn't stand a chance. In this presidential campaign, there won't be a true frontrunner until the first few states have voted.

Russian Chess Champion Jailed


George Bush may have looked into Putin's eyes and found a democracy lover, but all those who head the democracy movement in Russia see is an ex-KGB officer who wants to hang on to power.

The Russian constitution prohibits Putin from running for another term as president, but that doesn't mean he's willing to give up power. He's just going to move his base of power from the president's office to the Duma (the Russian version of a parliament).

It looks like Putin will hand-pick the next president, and install himself as leader of the Duma. To the world, it will look like Russia has new leadership, but it will still be Putin who is calling the shots. Fact is, this fledgling "democracy" looks more and more like an old-style Russian dictatorship every day.

One of the leaders of the pro-democracy movement in Russia is former world chess champion Garry Kasparov. Kasparov and other protesters were arrested after they tried to deliver a resolution to the Russian Central Electorate demanding a fair election. He was sentenced to 5 days in jail for the democracy protest. As bad as that was, he's probably lucky that he's still famous and popular or it could have been worse.

One of Kasparov's cohorts is Boris Nemtsov, who says, "We are absolutely against Putin's plan and his political course, because it leads us to the Third World. It leads to abuse of power, lawlessness and bureaucracy, uncontrolled corruption."

Unless a miracle is in the offing, it looks like Russia's flirtation with democracy may be ending.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bush Pardons His 2nd And 3rd Turkeys This Year


This seems to be George Bush's year for pardoning turkeys. On Tuesday, he pardoned his second and third turkeys for 2007. These two turkeys were named "May" and "Flower" (one of whom is pictured above).

Of course, the first turkey he pardoned in 2007 was White House insider, "Scooter" Libby, who was convicted earlier this year. Unlike this first turkey, rumor has it that "May" and "Flower" were actually not guilty of any criminal activity.



HAPPY THANKSGIVING YA'LL !

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Eye

Today, at work, I was in the restroom that we share with several other businesses. I'm in the last stall doing (and minding my own) business when I notice a blue eyeball, no more than 3 feet high, staring at me through the crack in the stall door. A kid's voice then shouted, "Hi!"

Now this isn't something that happens to me every day, so I was at a loss for words. Apparently, the expression on my face told the kid that I did not hear him so he tried again, only much louder this time, "HI!"

Yep. He wasn't planning on leaving any time soon.

Then, from the stall next to me came a woman's voice, "Oh...my...God! GET HIM OUT OF HERE!" I assume this voice belonged to someone who must be obeyed, cause the eyeball disappeared in about a nanosecond. I heard the door open and close and suddenly I was able to breathe again.

After finishing up and washing my hands, I step out of the bathroom and who do I meet? My new blue-eyed toddler friend. He stood there looking up at me and decided to give it one more try.

"Hi!"

This time I returned the greeting.

Here's to hoping your holiday weekend didn't start out as wierd as mine did.

I wish you all a happy, peek-a-boo free Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Message From Rick Noriega


As a contributor to his senate campaign, I wasn't surprised to get a holiday greeting from Rick Noriega yesterday. That's just the kind of class individual that he is. But what made me feel even better was to learn that he is thinking of others on this holiday -- our brave soldiers serving their country in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is what he had to say:

"As you enjoy this Thanksgiving holiday, we hope you'll also take a moment to extend your support, encouragement and a warm greeting to our men and women in uniform, who are separated from their families as they serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An easy way to let them know they're in our thoughts and prayers is to send a text message. You can either click on this link http://ga6.org/ct/FpsfLS61MP9P/text or send a text message to 89279 (TXASY) before Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 22.

As one who knows the sense of longing and homesickness when serving abroad, messages from home help our troops get through the more challenging times, and lets them know their sense of service and sacrifice pay tribute to the best of American values.

We wish you and your family a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving."

Rep. Noriega is absolutely right. We should all be thinking of those who are serving our country in the military on this holiday. We should be thankful to have such brave men and women putting their lives on the line for us.

Whether we oppose the war in Iraq or not, it certainly wouldn't hurt any of us to take a few minutes to let these soldiers know that we appreciate them.

David Van Os Blasts Corporate Robber Barons


The following is a letter from David Van Os to the voters of Texas. I don't need to say any more, as he makes himself very clear (as usual):



Mainstream journalists are beginning to notice that $3 per gallon gasoline now looks routine and that it won't be too long before we routinely see $4 a gallon.

Hmmm. Which candidate for Texas Attorney General said a year and a half ago that the 2006 escalation in gasoline prices was not a temporary up-tick and that the price at the pump would keep going up?

For approximately 20 years, from the late 1970s to the late 1990s, gasoline prices were relatively stable.

But in the late 1990s, the biggest of the giant Big Oil companies began to merge and create even more gigantic companies in a series of mind-staggering mergers. Exxon and Mobil; Shell and Texaco; etc. The continual escalation in gasoline prices of the past 9-10 years began with the beginning of the Gigantic Oil mergers and corresponds with the series of mega-mergers that took place over a few years' time.

These mergers naturally decreased competition. That was their purpose. When competition decreases, robber baron monopoly power increases, and unless there is government price regulation, prices go up. It is a rule of economic power as old as time. Instead of a free market, we end up with a monopoly market and a robber baron economy. It wasn't an accident that we ended up here. It is the very reason for the mergers.

Today, under the Clintonite-Bushite economy (sorry folks, some may find it hard to admit, but Big Bill opened the floodgates to the runaway monopoly economy), our government institutions protect monopolies from the people instead of protecting the people from monopolies.

As long as our public institutions continue to protect the monopolization that is at the root of the robber baron economy, there will be no end in sight for we the people from ever-worsening Giganto-Oil price squeezes - not to mention from the similar depredations of the Big Insurance, Big Health Care, Big Pharmaceutical, Big Toll Road, Big Banking, and other Big Robber Barons. And as long as we the people stand back and fail to take control of our public institutions, then those institutions will continue to protect the robber baron economy.

Isn't it time we get serious about taking control?

David Van Os

Crucifixes Made In Sweatshops


It seems odd that one of the most revered christian symbols would be made in a non-christian country, but it gets even worse than that. It seems that many of the crucifixes being sold in America were made in a very non-christian way.

Charles Kernaghan, director of the National Labor Committee, says the crucifixes are being made under horrible conditions in Chinese sweatshops. He says some workers recently smuggled out photos and documents detailing the terrible conditions they must work in.

The workers are mostly young females who work from 8:00am until 11:30pm for 26 cents an hour. They must work seven days a week with no sick days or vacation. They live in filthy dormitories and are fed a watery "slop", according to Kernaghan.

This is not an uncommon thing when work is "outsourced" to foreign countries to save corporations a few pennies. But it does seem particularly offensive when the making of christian symbols gets outsourced to foreign sweatshops. It seems like it would be hard to preach of love when supporting such atrocities.

Cowboys Start Selling Seat Leases


The new stadium for the Dallas Cowboys is going to cost about $1 billion, and it looks like Jerry Jones wants to make that money back quickly. Today, they announced prices for seat leases and tickets for the "club seats".

The club seats are those in the lower bowl of the stadium near the field. In other words, the good seats. There are 15,000 of these seats, and if you want one you'll pay a premium price for it.

Just to buy a seat lease, which gives you the right to buy a season ticket in this section, will cost a minimum of $16,000. If you want it near the 50 yard-line, expect to pay even more. The lease is good for 30 years, and can be financed with 8% interest for that time period.

Then you must buy the ticket. Club seats this year cost $129, but don't expect to get one in the new stadium for that price. A club seat ticket in the new stadium will cost $340, and that doesn't include parking. A premier season parking pass will cost you another $750.

With these new prices, I'm afraid to ask what a hot dog will cost.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

GOP Healthcare Proposals Are A Joke


One of the most important issues in the current campaign for president is healthcare. It has become obvious that our healthcare system is not just broken -- it has become the laughingstock of the civilized world.

In the richest nation on earth, over 40 million people have no healthcare insurance at all, and millions that do have insurance are just one serious illness away from bankruptcy (medical expenses not covered by insurance are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S.).

This has become such a serious issue with voters that even Republican candidates are touting plans to "solve" the problem, even though they have traditionally not recognized a "right" to healthcare. They now recognize they cannot get elected unless they at least appear to care about healthcare.

But the plans the Republican candidates have come up with don't really solve the problems. They are little more than welfare for the big insurance companies.

Three of the candidates have had cancer themselves -- McCain, Thompson and Guiliani. Sadly, their silly plans would not even allow themselves to get healthcare coverage, if they were not rich or already covered by government-provided insurance (government insurance seems to be OK for them, but not for others).

Their plans are nothing more than providing tax breaks to help people to buy private insurance. But they don't want any rules that would force these insurance companies to accept those with pre-existing conditions (such as a previous bout with cancer).

Their plans would also still allow the insurance companies to refuse to pay for medical procedures they deem too costly or unnecessary. In other words, the insurance companies would still be making the medical decisions -- not the doctors.

These plans would do little or nothing to actually solve our nation's healthcare problems, but it would pump billions of dollars into the coffers of the already wealthy insurance companies. Once again, the Republicans are willing to ignore the problems of the citizens, while they help their corporate buddies to get richer.

Their is only one real solution to our healthcare crises. We must get the insurance companies out of healthcare, and institute a single-payer government system that covers everyone and puts doctors back in charge of making medical decisions.

Anything less is unacceptable.

Villagers Fight Elephants With Hot Chilies


Villagers in India have a problem with marauding elephants. They not only destroy homes and crops, but in the last 16 years they have killed over 600 people. Some villagers have killed the elephants to the horror of conservationists.

But villagers have a new weapon to use against the elephants now, and it's a weapon that drives the elephants away without harming them. This new weapon is the hot Indian chili called the "ghost chili". It's real name is the bhut jolokia, and it's the hottest chili in the world -- about twice as hot as the habanero.

The villagers are using the chilies in a couple of different ways. They make a paste from it and smear the paste on their fences. They also dry the pepper and mix it with straw and burn it. The very strong odor of the smoke drives away the elephants without harming them.

Oddly enough, this same pepper that is too strong for elephants, is one of the most sought-after peppers by humans for use in cooking. Just goes to show, there's nothing humans won't eat.

Hate Crimes Up Nearly 8% Last Year


According to FBI statistics, America has a continuing problem with crimes. In fact, those crimes rose nearly 8% last year. In 2005, 7,163 hate crimes were reported in this country. In 2006, that number rose to 7,722 -- a jump of 7.8%.

More than half (51.8%) of these crimes were racially motivated. The Rev. Al Sharpton said, "The FBI report confirms what we have been saying for many months about the severe increase in hate crimes. What is not reported, however, is the lack of prosecution and serious investigation by the Justice Department to counter this increase in hate crimes." Sharpton called for new Attorney General Mukasey to meet with civil rights groups to discuss federal action to curb the hate crimes.

Another 15.5% of the crimes were aimed at gays and lesbians. Sexual orientation is a growing target of hate crimes. That is why we must include sexual orientation as a catagory of hate crimes. Sadly, this is a catagory of hate that is encouraged by many in the religious community, especially fundamentalist christian and muslim congregations.

A third group of hate crimes is aimed at religion. This compromises about 18.9% of the crimes. Another 12.7% is aimed at ethnic or national origins. The backlash from the 9/11 attacks has caused crimes against these groups to increase.

I can understand why a person's actions could cause someone to dislike them. After all, we can control our own actions, and must be responsible for them. But how can a person hate another for a reason they had no control over? No one can control their race, sex, national origin, color or sexual orientation. It takes a pretty sick and depraved person to hate another person because of reasons like this.

The problem is actually larger than the 7,722 crimes listed by the FBI. These statistics are based on reported hate crimes, but many police departments don't report how many of their crimes were hate-based.

There are those who don't believe that hate-based crimes should be singled out for special punishment. I don't agree. These crimes are particularly vile, and will not be stopped by ignoring their cause. Hate crimes deserve and should receive special treatment.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Richardson Nominated For 2008 Nobel Peace Prize


It was recently announced that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has been nominated for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize. He was nominated by Rep Bart Gordon of Tennessee for his work in Darfur and in North Korea. The nominating letter was signed by 12 members of Congress. They are:

Bart Gordon (Tennessee, 6th Congressional District);
Joe Baca (California, 43rd);
Xavier Becerra (California, 31st);
Eliot Engel (New York, 17th);
Bob Filner (California, 51st);
Charles Gonzalez (Texas, 20th);
Grace Napolitano (California, 38th);
Solomon Ortiz (Texas, 27th);
Jim Ramstad (Minnesota, 3rd);
Silvestre Reyes (Texas, 16th);
Ciro Rodriguez (Texas, 23rd); and
John Tanner (Tennessee, 8th).

This is the fifth time Bill Richardson has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Previously, he was nominated in 1995, 1997, 2000 and 2001.

This comes as no surprise to those familiar with his diplomatic work. Much of it has been nothing short of miraculous. Richardson has the ability to talk with and get agreements from leaders and regimes that others cannot communicate with.

That is one reason I think he would make a great president. George Bush has trashed our relations with many other countries and our reputation on the world stage. Bill Richardson is the one man who can re-establish those relationships and rehabilitate America's reputation.


NOTE -- I want to wish Bill Richardson a belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY! His birthday was on November 15th, and I apologize for the lateness of my birthday wishes.

Novak Spreading Lies About Democrats


It looks like columnist Robert Novak is up to some more Republican dirty tricks. He has never minded being a tool for the Republican's to use when they don't want to dirty their own hands. After all, he's the one who outed a CIA agent on orders from the White House, because the agent's husband was embarrassing the Bush administration by telling the truth.

Now he's trying to spread lies about the Democratic frontrunners in the presidential race -- probably again on orders from his Republican masters.

In a recent column, Novak wrote, "Agents of Sen. Hillary Clinton are spreading the word in Democratic circles that she has scandalous information about her principal opponent for the party's presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama, but has decided not to use it." Of course, he would not reveal the "scandalous" information.

Upon hearing of the column, Obama demanded that Hillary either reveal what she thinks she has, or "renounce these tactics". The Clinton campaign denied the accusation, and labeled it a "Republican trick". That is exactly what it was -- an attempt to smear both Democrats.

I have to hand it to Novak. For a Republican dirty trick, it's a pretty ingenius one. He not only spreads the rumor that there is something "scandalous" out there to be learned about Obama, but he also makes Clinton look bad by painting her as the one spreading the rumor. He was trying to kill two birds with one stone.

We must remember that it is highly unlikely that Novak would be privy to anything happening in Democratic circles. It is no secret to Democrats that he is a tool of the White House and the Republican Party.

Anything that Novak says about a Democrat must be taken with a grain of salt, and the knowledge that it is most likely not the truth.

Texas Fares Well On "Dangerous Cities" List


A division of Congressional Quarterly has released their list of the most dangerous cities in America. The list rated the cities with a population of over 75,000, and was compiled using FBI statistics. The report included 378 American cities. Cities in Minnesota and Illinois were not in the report (including Chicago) because of incomplete data.

The cities were judged by their per capita rates for homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and auto theft. Each crime was weighted according to seriousness, and a score was given each city. A zero score was the national average, with minus scores being less than the national average.

The city of Detroit (pictured above) was given the dubious honor of being rated the most dangerous city in the United States. They beat last year's winner, St. Louis, by a single point. Dallas was rated the most dangerous city in Texas, ranking 34th nationally. Here are the top 15 most dangerous cities, followed by the ranking of Texas cities:

1. Detroit (MI)..........407.15
2. St. Louis (MO)..........406.15
3. Flint (MI)..........380.98
4. Oakland (CA)..........338.87
5. Camden (NJ)..........323.81
6. Birmingham (AL)..........268.82
7. N. Charleston (SC)..........254.25
8. Memphis, (TN)..........245.56
9. Richmond (CA)...........245.07
10. Cleveland (OH)..........244.41
11. Orlando (FL)...........237.38
12. Baltimore (MD)..........236.73
13. Little Rock (AR)...........233.84
14. Compton (CA)..........223.58
15. Youngstown (OH)...........221.96


34. Dallas (TX)..........154.58
44. Houston (TX)..........141.34
79. Longview (TX)...........91.60
83. Beaumont (TX)..........88.11
107. Killeen (TX)..........74.09
123. Waco (TX)..........60.28
137. Lubbock (TX)..........52.43
150. Amarillo (TX)..........46.88
152. Fort Worth (TX)..........44.03
163. San Antonio (TX)..........38.22
171. Arlington (TX)..........34.89
174. Corpus Christi (TX)..........34.07
177. Laredo (TX)..........30.76
187. Wichita Falls (TX)..........20.27
206. Austin (TX)..........8.79
210. Abilene (TX)..........7.03
211. Grand Prairie (TX)..........6.81
215. Tyler (TX)..........5.64
225. San Angelo (TX)..........1.65
236. Midland (TX)..........(4.64)
239. Irving (TX)..........(6.94)
249. El Paso (TX)..........(11.97)
250. Pasadena (TX)..........(12.06)
251. Brownsville (TX)..........(13.43)
259. Odessa (TX)..........(16.53)
267. Mesquite (TX)..........(19.49)
285. Lewisville (TX)..........(27.23)
290. Denton (TX)..........(29.65)
293. McAllen (TX)..........(30.99)
296. Garland (TX)..........(32.18)
309. Carrollton (TX)..........(39.61)
310. Richardson (TX)..........(39.90)
313. McKinney (TX)..........(41.02)
324. Plano (TX)..........(45.75)
366. Round Rock (TX)..........(69.44)
374. Sugar Land (TX)..........(75.43)

Although Texas didn't have a city in the top 33, it did have quite a few with crime above the national average. So, there's still work to be done.

One interesting thing shows up. Republicans have tried to paint undocumented immigrants as criminals who are causing our crime rate to rise. These figures don't bear that out. Most of the cities with large Hispanic populations (and presumably large undocumented immigrant populations) had very low crime rates. Another Republican lie is exposed.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Toxic Waste To Be Dumped Over Ogallala Aquifer


We are blessed here in the Estacado region of Texas (southern plains) to have access to one of the largest underground water deposits in the country. The region sits over the southern part of the Ogallala aquifer, which stretches all the way up to Nebraska.

With all the water problems that Texas is experiencing, and with the growing need for fresh water that Texas has, I would think that the state would be going out of its way to protect the valuable resource contained in this aquifer. But that does not seem to be the case.

In May of 2009, tons of toxic waste dredged from a 40-mile stretch of the Hudson River in New York, will be shipped to a dump site in Andrews county to be buried. (Andrews county is marked by the black dot on the map above. As you can see, it sits over the southern edge of the aquifer.) This waste is full of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

PCB's are known to cause lung and liver damage and are also carcinogens. General Electric is shipping the toxic waste to Texas, where it has hired a Dallas-based company, Waste Control Specialists, to do the actual burial. A spokesman for Waste Control Specialists says, "What gives this site a position of strength for this type of disposal is that it's sitting on a very solid, thick clay formation that holds the waste in place."

I would like to believe what he says, but I'm old enough to remember that the residents of Love Canal were assured they were building in a safe place too -- until one day they woke up to the fact they were living in one of the most toxic places in America. Are we going to wake up a few years from now to find our water has been poisoned with PCB's?

To make matters even worse, that's not the only kind of waste destined to be dumped in Andrews county. It will not be long before they also start dumping radioactive waste there. Wouldn't that be a fine addition to our water!

Cyrus Reed, a a lobbyist for the Sierra Club, says the state has not adequately studied just how suitable the site is for dumping. He says, "We believe if you're going to grant permits for additional waste to come in, you better make darn sure that none of this stuff ever reaches the aquifer below. We're not sure there's sufficient monitoring to make sure that doesn't happen."

I would go even further. Monitoring isn't going to do any good if those poisons do start leaking through to the aquifer. The only way to assure the safety of the water in the aquifer is to NOT DUMP TOXIC WASTE ON TOP OF IT! This whole idea is sheer insanity.

Lest any of you think this is just a West Texas and Panhandle problem, remember the little 3-person election that was just held out here creating a new water district? That was so millions of gallons of water from this same aquifer could be sold to other parts of Texas. This could well be your future drinking water that is being put in danger.

Once again, our state Republican leadership has put corporate dollars over the future health and safety of the citizens of Texas.

Bush Demanding Even More Debt For U.S.


The figure above is the national debt of the United States on November 18, 2007. When this debt is divided by the number of people in the U.S., it comes out to $30,031.50 of debt for every man, woman and child in this country. Even worse, the debt is growing by $1.47 billion per day.

That's why I find it amazing that Bush is now demanding that Congress create another $80 billion of debt. He has already created more debt than any other American president ever has, and he still wants more. There seems to be no limit to his financial incompetence.

Congress is in the process of crafting a tax bill that would fix it so middle class taxpayers would not have to pay the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) on their earnings. The AMT was created in 1969 to keep the rich from using loopholes to avoid paying any taxes at all. It was never meant to apply to the middle class.

But because of inflation in the last forty years, the AMT could hit some 20 million middle class taxpayers this year. Both Democrats and Republicans think this is unfair, and want to change the law to eliminate this burden on middle class taxpayers. Doing this would mean that about $80 billion less in taxes would be collected.

Democrats, in an effort to be financially responsible, want to make up this $80 billion by closing tax loopholes for the richest Americans. That only makes sense. Those who can afford it the most should pay their fair share of the tax burden.

But Bush and the Republicans cannot abide such a remedy. They have been cutting taxes for the richest Americans since they took office, and are not about to change that now. Of course, if the shortfall is not made up, the debt will increase and the burden will once again fall on the middle and working classes.

Republicans like to claim that Democrats are financially irresponsible, but in their zeal to protect their rich corporate buddies, it is the Republicans who are creating an ever larger financial burden for Americans. Someday, someone is going to have to pay this debt.

It is time to boot the Republican corporate lackeys out of office, and elect some financially responsible Democrats.

Where Is The Outrage Over Saudi Repression ?


This story is just sickening, and shows us just how skewed the priorities of the Bush administration are. Remember as you read this that the Bush family are close friends with the Saudi Arabian royal family, and although women have almost no rights in Saudi Arabia, you never hear a harsh word from the Bush administration about that country.

Last year a 19 year-old Saudi woman met with an unrelated male friend just to retrieve some pictures he had. The two were attacked by seven men, who raped both of them. The men were apprehended and given sentences ranging from 10 months to 5 years. Most of us would think that was an injustice by itself, but it gets worse. The woman was sentenced to receive 90 lashes for meeting with her friend.

Her lawyer appealed the sentences of the rapists, saying the sentences were too light for their horrific crime. He was successful in overturning their sentences and new sentences were passed of 2 to 9 years in prison. Then the court upped the sentence of the female victim. It is now 6 months in prison and 200 lashes. It was upped for "embarrassing" the courts. They also barred her attorney from defending her any further.

They have, in effect, punished her and denied her an attorney because she was female. If she had been a male, she would not have been punished. This is how the court system operates in Saudi Arabia, who just happens to be our friend and ally (at least as far as the Bush administration is concerned).

Add to this the fact that women cannot vote, drive, or testify in court in Saudi Arabia. They also need a man's permission to travel or have surgery, and are subjected to a very strict dress code. How can we, as a nation who supposedly believes in human rights, be a close friend and ally to such a country?

Compare this to how we treat our neighbor, Cuba. They have equal rights, free education and free healthcare for ALL of their citizens. Yet, we treat them as an enemy, while we embrace Saudi Arabia. It shows just how screwed up the priorities of the Bush administration really are.

They are not interested in human rights -- only money and oil.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Songs That Still Kick Ass

Danzig makes me happy.

Bell Sues Perry Over Illegal Donations


Democratic candidate for governor in 2006, Chris Bell, has filed suit against Governor Rick Perry. The suit accuses the Perry campaign of failing to properly report some very large campaign donations ($1,000,000) in the last month of the 2006 campaign.

In October of 2006, the Republican Governor's Association (RGA) gave two $500,000 donations to the Perry campaign. The Perry campaign reported the donations as coming from a PAC. The problem is that the RGA is not a PAC, but a 527 group. There are stricter reporting requirements for a 527 group, which the Perry campaign did not comply with.

Perry's spokesman called it a simple paperwork error, and referred to the lawsuit as "sour grapes". Bell's spokesman replied, "What a load of hokum, hooey and balderdash. Obviously, they can't explain this obvious violation of state elections law and have to resort to the same 'shoot the messenger' tactics that didn't work for Tom Delay and won't work now."

The reason for the stricter requirements for 527 reporting is so the public can know who is giving large donations to the candidates. It is to keep the candidates from hiding the source of huge donations. And it looks like that is exactly what has happened with these two donations. Perry's campaign tried to hide the source of the two $500,000 donations.

The source was Houston homebuilder and Rick Perry supporter, Bob Perry. On October 6, Bob Perry sent the RGA $1,000,000 and the RGA sent Perry a check for $500,000 20 days later. On October 31, Bob Perry sent the RGA another $550,000 and one day later the RGA sent Perry another $500,000 check.

I doubt if this made much difference in the outcome of the election, but that makes little difference. The way the Perry campaign handled these huge donations was illegal. They obviously didn't want the public to know where the money came from. Of course the Perry campaign says it was just an odd coincidence. Sure it was!

If you believe that , I've got some oceanfront property in Amarillo I'll sell you real cheap.

Texas Leads Nation In Power Plant Pollution


Well, Texas has another first place -- that is, another first place it should be ashamed of. It seems that Texas power plants produce more carbon dioxide pollution than those of any other state. In fact, Texas plants produce about twice as much pollution as the number two state -- Florida.

And who is one of the worst Texas polluters? Luminant Power, formerly known as TXU, owns three of the largest polluting plants in the state. That would be the same TXU that charges among the highest prices to consumers in the nation (thank you Republicans, for deregulation).

That would also be the same TXU that wants to build multiple new coal-burning power plants in Texas. Knowing that they are already one of the state's largest polluters makes it hard to believe the new plants will be any better, even though the company has downplayed the amount of new pollution these plants will produce.

They have already refused to use state-of-the-art gasification techniques for these new plants. I guess doubling Florida's pollution is not bad enough -- are they trying to triple it now?

Of course the company wants us to think they are trying to clean up their act. They point out that they gave $1.8 million to the University of Texas for research. What they don't want you to know is that's just a drop in the bucket alongside their huge windfall profits.

But they needn't worry. I'm sure our state Republican leadership will see to it that they get their new pollution-producing plants. After all, dollars are much more important to them than global climactic change, or the health of the citizens of Texas.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Good For The Goose But Not The Gander


Until now, my only complaint about the Obama candidacy has been his lack of experience. I just thought he's making a run for the presidency a few years too soon. But this lastest incident has me wondering if he's not trying to hide something -- something he doesn't think voters would like or understand.

For a while now, Obama has been after Clinton to release all of her records for inspection. He has made it seem as though she's trying to hide something by not authorizing the release of the information (and maybe she is). She says the matter is out of her hands and the info can't be released until it has been gone through by the National Archives.

That is troubling enough, but now it looks like Obama himself is not wanting to release records. When he was asked to release his own political records, Obama said he doesn't have any records from his time as an Illinois state senator -- even though he only left that position in 2004.

Obama said recently, "I don't have - I don't maintain - a file of eight years of work in the state Senate because I didn't have the resources available to maintain those kinds of records. It could have been thrown out. I haven't been in the state Senate now for quite some time."

I find that very hard to believe. He doesn't have any records at all? It stretches the bounds of believability that a politician wouldn't keep any records -- especially records of his successes.

It would also be more believable if his campaign spokesman hadn't earlier this year asked someone to narrow their request for information on whether Obama had ever requested clemency for a convicted criminal, inferring that the request covered too much material.

I agree that Clinton should release her records, but so should Obama. After all, what's good for the goose is also good for the gander. It's rather disingenuous for Obama to ask for Clinton's records when he's unwilling to provide his own.

Meanwhile, John Edwards is authorizing the release of his own records. His campaign spokesman says, "Senator Edwards will release the records for his Senate office and is committed to getting this done as quickly as possible."

Personally, I am still supporting Bill Richardson, and if you haven't made up your mind, I urge you to consider supporting him. However, if you feel like you must choose between the three frontrunners right now, it would seem to me that Edwards is by far the best choice.

U.S. A Haven For War Criminals ?


"More than 1,000 people from 85 countries who are accused of such crimes as rape, killings, torture and genocide are living in the United States, according to Department of Homeland Security figures." (Renee Schoof, McClatchy Newspapers)

Those are some pretty shocking numbers, especially coming from the Bush administration. Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) believes the United States is becoming a haven for the world's war criminals because we don't have the appropriate laws to punish them.

Durbin says, "This is unacceptable. Our laws must change and our determination to end this shameful situation must become a priority." Durbin and Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) have introduced a bill to allow the United States to prosecute those guilty of genocide, human trafficking and recruiting of children as soldiers.

Oddly enough, torture is already prosecutable in this country, even though our own president and vice-president are themselves guilty of authorizing its use.

I do support Durbin's efforts. It is horrifying that our country has become a hiding place for the world's war criminals. It is an embarrassment for all Americans that these criminals feel they are safe from being prosecuted here.

But I have to wonder if we still have the moral authority to do otherwise. What would the world think if we prosecuted these criminals, considering the crimes that the Bush administration has committed (starting an illegal war, torture, holding prisoners indefinitely without charges, denial of habeas corpus, etc.)?

It just doesn't feel right for one set of war criminals to be prosecuting another set of war criminals.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Black-White Income Gap Is Wider Now


Believe it or not, there are those who actually believe we have solved our racial problems in this country. You only have to look at the widening gap between Blacks and Whites in this country to know that is not true.

In 1974, the median income of the typical Black family was 63% of the median income of the typical White family. This was only a few years after the civil rights laws were passed, and to some extent that was to be expected. You would expect that 30 years later things would be better, but instead it is worse. The median income of the typical Black family is now only 58% of that of the typical White family.

As National Urban League president Marc Morial says, "Too many Americans, Whites and even some Blacks, think that the playing field has indeed leveled. It has not."

Figures show that the income for both Black and White families have increased, but don't celebrate that. It is only because more women have entered the workforce. The only way these families have increased their incomes, regardless of color, is because wives have joined their husbands in working.

Wages for White men have actually been stagnant for the last 30 years after adjusting for inflation. Black men have not fared so well. Their income has actually dropped by 12% when adjusted for inflation. Women have had to enter the workforce just so families can keep up with the rising costs of everything.

This is the legacy the Republicans have given to working class Americans. They have not only failed to forward the cause of racial justice, they have put families of all colors in a worse financial position. But even though both are suffering, Blacks have been hit even harder than Whites.

Republicans have turned our society over to the corporations and given them a free hand. The rich are doing better than ever, but most Americans are not. Recently, it has even started to affect the middle class.

Most Blacks understand this, and they usually vote as a block against the Republicans. It is Whites that I don't understand. The White working and middle classes have voted against their own economic interests for years now. Whites bought into the ridiculous "trickle down" theory, and as a result working Americans have been devastated. It is time they woke up and booted the corporate lackeys from office -- for the good of everyone.

The Democrats aren't perfect, but they do tend to believe in racial and economic justice.