A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Monday, December 31, 2007

Iowa Looks Like A Toss-Up For Democrats


We're just a few days away from the Iowa caucuses, and it still looks like there's no clear favorite there for the Democrats. Both Clinton and Obama have had the lead in polls there, but both have seen their support decline. While Clinton and Obama have declining numbers, three other candidates are seeing their numbers rise in these last few days before the caucuses -- Edwards, Richardson and Biden.

McClatchy News and MSNBC have released a new poll done by Mason-Dixon Polling. It shows Edwards with 24%, Clinton with 23% and Obama with 22%. That's a dead heat, within the margin of error. Richardson is up to 12% and Biden is now at 8%.

The mainstream media has not given Richardson and Biden a chance up until now. They will come out of Iowa looking good if they just grab some delegates -- they don't have to win. If they continue to rise in the next few days and Clinton and Obama continue to fall, then Iowa could propell these two up with the top-tier candidates and make it a four or five-way race going into New Hampshire. That would be good for us here in Texas. The more candidates that are still in it after Iowa and New Hampshire, the more likely it will get to March with the candidate not yet chosen.

This is not outside the realm of possibility. It is not unusual for a candidate to surge in Iowa in the last week. The poll showed 8% have not made a choice, and another 20% say they might change their mind by caucus day. That's 28% of the vote that's still in play.

Right now, Edwards looks to have the best chance to finish first in Iowa. But with 28% of the people still unsure of their candidate, anything could happen. This is starting to get very interesting.

I would love to see four or five candidates come out of Iowa with delegates.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Texas Loses Two Geat Ladies In 2007






To many outside our state, Texas carries a macho image of cowboys, oil-field workers and dog-eat-dog right-wing politicians. But Texas has produced some great progressive political figures, and many of them were women.

Even the legendary figures cannot live forever. In 1996, Texas mourned the loss of Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. Ten years later, Governor Ann Richards left us. Both were giants on the political stage.

In 2007, Texas lost two more of these female political giants. These two never ran for political office, but still had an enormous effect on Texas and national politics.

The first left us early in 2007. Molly Ivins died on January 31st. Ivins was a writer and columnist who possessed a quick wit and mastery of the art of biting political satire. She was the person who dubbed George Bush as "shrub", a nickname that sticks with him to this day (she didn't believe he had the political stature of a full-grown bush). Many politicians regretted their inane actions once they were exposed by Ivin's wit.

The other giant left us on July 11th. She was the wonderful Lady Bird Johnson. While she had a keen intelligence like Molly, her leadership skills were different. She led by example, using grace, manners and kindness. She was best known for her support of civil rights, the underprivileged and our natural environment.

Texas and America are better places because of the contributions of these two ladies.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Literacy And Politics



Every year, Central Connecticut State University compiles a ranking of the most literate American cities with a population of 250,000 or more. In the 2007 rankings, Minneapolis edged out Seattle to be named most literate American city. Seattle had been first in 2005 and 2006.

The 69 ranked cities were judged in six catagories -- newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment and internet resources. The top ten cities were:

1.Minneapolis
2.Seattle
3.St. Paul
4.Denver
5.Washington
6.St. Louis
7.San Francisco
8.Atlanta
9.Pittsburgh
10.Boston

But the thing I found most interesting was their analysis of literacy and politics. They took the top 15 cities that voted for Bush in the last presidential election and the top 15 cities that voted for Kerry. It turns out there is a significant difference between the Republican cities and the Democratic cities.

The Democratic cities were rated higher in 5 of the 6 catagories. When all six catagories were considered, the Democratic cities had an average ranking of 27. The average ranking of the Republican cities was 51.

According to this survey, if a city's literacy ranking is high they will most likely vote Democratic. If a city's literacy ranking is low they will most likely vote Republican.

That's not really a surprise is it?

Republicans Let Corporations Screw Retirees



Time after time, we have seen the Republican leadership in Washington (and here in Texas) favor corporations over people. To the Republicans, corporate profits are always more important than an individual's rights or well-being.

So it really shouldn't surprise anyone that they've done it again. This time it's the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (surely mis-named since the Republicans were put in charge of it).

On Wednesday, the EEOC ruled that employers can eliminate all health benefits for any retiree that reaches the age of 65. They said that once a retiree qualifies for Medicare, the employer has no more responsibility for any kind of health care benefits. Retirees that are under 65 would still qualify for full health benefits.

The EEOC said the rule was not meant to encourage employers to stop providing any benefits they currently provide. But anyone who believes that a corporation will provide anything they are not required to provide for a retiree is out-of-touch with the business world (and the real world).

The AARP believes the corporations will deny the benefits. They say this ruling will affect over 10 million retirees.

The ruling leaves these retirees with nothing but Medicare. The same Medicare that Republicans have tried to destroy since coming to power. The same Medicare that Republicans have gutted so badly that many doctors no longer accept it.

Why do Republicans hate the elderly? First they try to destroy Medicare, and then they make sure that retirees will not be provided supplemental coverage by their former employers.

By requiring coverage for retirees and then allowing that coverage to be completely eliminated when the person turns 65, the EEOC is allowing legalized age discrimination.

Republicans should be ashamed of themselves. First, they deny health benefits to children, and then they cut the benefits for the elderly. What is next -- snatching bottles out of the mouths of babies?

Dallas DA Admits His Mistake


I hope the good people of Dallas County know how lucky they are. They have a District Attorney who is more interested in honesty and justice, than in making himself look good and racking up courtroom victories at any cost.

Since his election in 2006, Craig Watkins (pictured above) has let it be known that the Dallas County DA's office is not interested in convicting innocent people or fighting to uphold past convictions of innocent people.

This may sound like common sense, but it is amazing how many District Attorney's fight the release of inmates when new evidence shows they are innocent. They are more interested in protecting past convictions than releasing innocent people.

Watkins has created a Conviction Integrity Unit, which reviews cases where DNA evidence was not used and investigates accusations of prosecutorial misconduct. His office has exonerated more wrongfully-convicted people (14) than any other county in the country.

Recently, it was discovered that the State Bar had suspended Watkin's license to practice law. It was not for any kind of misconduct -- he had simply forgot to pay his license renewal fee. He has now paid the fee.

But Watkins did not try to blame others or make excuses. He just owned up to his mistake. Watkins said, "As I have always maintained, this office is going to be open and up front about everything, including mistakes. I apologize to the citizens of Dallas County and accept full responsibility for this payment oversight, and I will make sure that this does not happen again."

It almost makes me wish I lived in Dallas County, so I could vote for this honest man when he runs for re-election.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Success In Iraq Is Just An Illusion


The Bush administration is trying to convince Americans that they are finally turning the corner in Iraq. They want to convince us they are winning this war before it takes a serious toll on Republicans in the coming election.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Phil Reeker told the media, "It is pretty clear that 2007 comes to an end in Iraq with Iraq as a substantially better place than where we began the year." Administration spokemen are now predicting that Iraq will be a less violent place next year.

That sounds pretty good -- until you look at the casualty figures. These figures show that there have now been 3900 American soldiers killed in Iraq. Another 19 Americans were killed in December. This is in addition to 1 British soldier and 460 Iraqis.

It is hard to see Iraq as a success, when at least 120 people are being killed there every single week. But the oil production figures are up. I guess if you consider oil production more important than human life, you could claim we are successful over there.

The Bush administration says that one reason for this "success" is the arming of 70,000 Sunnis to fight al-Queda (never mind that al-Queda has never been the primary enemy in Iraq). Most killings in Iraq are not done by al-Queda, but by Iraqis -- both Sunni and Shiite.

The arming of these civilian Sunni groups has done nothing but set up future violence in Iraq. The current puppet government (mostly Shiite) has already said they will seek to disarm these Sunni groups, although they have said nothing about disarming any Shiite groups.

Anyone who believes the Sunnis will peacefully disarm is living in a dream world. They are not about to leave themselves defenseless against the Shiite militias. All we are doing is arming both sides in the Iraqi civil war. It seems like Bush wants the violence to continue.

As long as the violence continues, Bush believes he has the excuse to keep our troops there. And as long as our troops are there, we can force the Iraqis to sell their oil to American corporations.

But this oil comes at a high price -- the deaths of hundreds of people each week, both Iraqi and American. Isn't it time we stopped arming their civil war and brought our troops home?

The killing will not stop as long as we occupy their country.

Air Force Too Short Of Fighters To Defend U.S.


As Americans, we have become accustomed to believing that the United States Air Force has plenty of fighter aircraft available to defend America anywhere and anytime. In the past, this has always been true.

But since last November, this has not been true. The Air Force simply does not have enough planes to do the job at this time. Two events have converged to make this happen -- the Iraq war and the grounding of America's entire fleet of F-15 fighter aircraft.

Last November 2, an F-15 fighter crashed in Missouri. It was determined the plane crashed because of structural problems, and the same problem probably existed in many other F-15 fighters. This caused the Air Force to ground around 450 of the aircraft.

Normally, these aircraft would just have been replaced by F-16 fighters, but it turns out that the F-16's are the fighters carrying the load in the Iraq war. They can't do duty in both places at the same time. This meant the Air Force didn't have enough airworthy fighters to defend America.

The Air National Guard (ANG) from several states has been called up to plug the holes in our air defense. The California ANG is now covering the entire West Coast, while the Vermont ANG is covering the whole Northeast. The Minnesota ANG has been sent to Hawaii, and the Illinois ANG is now in Louisiana.

For three weeks, there were no American planes to cover Alaska. During this period, Canadian CF-18 fighters (pictured above) covered Alaskan airspace. There is now a squadron of the new F-22 fighters in Alaska.

The Air Force had just begun the process of replacing the F-15's with F-22's, but they are not being built fast enough to replace all of them quickly. The Air Force has not said how long they expect the F-15's to be grounded, but since it is a structural problem it could be quite a lengthy period of time.

The grounding of the F-15's couldn't have happened at a worse time. This is just one more example of how we'd be much better off if we weren't fighting Bush's dirty little war in Iraq.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Outsourcing Hurts Workers In Two Countries


In the last few years, American corporations have laid off millions of American workers and sent their jobs to lower-paid workers in foreign countries. The corporations can make even larger profits by selling their products in this country, but shipping their jobs to other countries.

It goes without saying that this is harmful to workers in America. Now we learn that it may also be harmful to the foreign workers also.

More than 1.6 million of these jobs have been sent to India. Most of the jobs, such as in call centers, are filled by young people in their 20's and 30's. They make a little more than many others in India, but they are beginning to experience health problems related to the work.

According to many Indian doctors (and several industry surveys), these young people are facing sleep disorders, strokes and diabetes, depression and family discord. These already cost the Indian economy $9 billion, but it is believed the outsourcing jobs could push this to over $200 billion in ten years.

It's time to put a stop to outsourcing. It's not good for anyone but the corporate billionaires.

X-Mas Cards From Heaven


Thirty-four people received handwritten and signed christmas cards from Chet Fitch of Oregon. That wouldn't be unusual, except that the 88 year-old man died last October and the return address on the envelopes was "Heaven".

The cards pictured Mr. Fitch square-dancing with his wife (who died in 1995), and the hand-writing inside said:

"I asked Big Guy if I could sneak back and send some cards. At first he said no; but at my insistence he finally said 'Oh well, what the heaven, go ahead but don't [tarry] there.' Better get back as Big Guy said he stretched a point to let me in the first time, so I had better not press my luck. I'll probably be seeing you (some sooner than you think). Wishing you a very Merry Christmas."

Turns out the cards were written by Mr. Fitch, but not from heaven. Evidently, he enjoyed playing tricks on his friends, and he'd been planning this one with his barber since 1987. He told the barber a week before he died that it looked like this would be the year to mail the cards.

Fitch's daughter said the card was "sweet and funny. So much like him".

Castro Will Run For Re-Election


In July of 2006, Fidel Castro turned the running of the Cuban government over to his brother Raul. He did this because he was very ill and needed intestinal surgery.

At that time, there were celebrations among the conservative element in this country. They were sure that Castro was dying and there would very soon be a revolution in Cuba that would install a pro-United States government. They were wrong.

The operation was successful, and Castro has had a slow but sure recovery from the illness. Raul says Fidel continues to get stronger and gain weight, and exercises for two hours each morning and evening.

As recently as a couple of weeks ago, there were those who said Castro would not stand for re-election because of his health. Raul says that is not true. He says Fidel will be running for parliament in Santiago. That would be the first step in his returning as Cuba's leader. If he is re-elected to parliament, the chances are very good that he would again be chosen President.

It looks like his detractors will have to wait a while longer for Cuba to replace Fidel Castro with another leader. Even then, there is no reason to believe that Cuba would replace him with a leader that would change Cuba's current policies.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays


Whatever your religion or lack thereof, we here at jobsanger would like to wish all of you and your loved ones a safe and very happy

Solstice Season Holiday !

Monday, December 24, 2007

Stewart And Colbert To Return To The Air


I don't know if this is good news or not. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report are going to go back on the air with new episodes in January -- without their striking writers.

These are two of my favorite TV shows, and I have missed them since the writers went on strike. But I understood, since I do support the writers strike. I also respected Stewart and Colbert for supporting the strike.

Now, I don't know what to think. I can understand how Leno, Letterman and shows of that kind can return to the air. They can just rely more heavily on unscripted interviews with guests. They won't be as good as they were, but I can see how they could get by.

But the shows of Stewart and Colbert rely much more heavily on scripted elements for their laughs. How are they going to get by without their writers? Both are talented comedians, but I'm not sure I want to see them trying to "wing it" without a script. I just don't think it would be the same high quality I have come to expect from these shows.

Neither the shows nor the network will comment on how this will be done. I sincerely hope the shows are not planning to use "scab" writers. That would be extremely disappointing, and I would not watch the shows -- even after the strike has ended.

Much of the audience for both shows is composed of liberals who are union sympathizers, if not members. Stewart and Colbert owe it to their audience to explain exactly what they will be doing.

Small Back Plays Like A Giant


Last Saturday, the Euless Trinity Trojans played in the class 5-A championship game for the third time. On all three occasions, the opponent has been the Converse Judson Rockets. The Rockets (7-time state champions) won the first meeting, but the Trojans have won the last two.

On Saturday, Trinity held on to win a very close game 13-10. To win, they depended on the metroplex's best defense (allowing an average of only one touchdown per game). The defense gave up a touchdown and a field goal in the first half, but didn't allow the Rockets to get anywhere near the goal line in the second half. They were magnificent.

On offense, Trinity relied heavily on their senior running back, Samir Baker (#20 in picture above). Baker is only 5' 6" and 177 lbs., but he plays like he's much larger. In Saturday's game, he carried the ball 40 times for 229 yards. In the final quarter, when Trinity needed to keep the ball and keep making first downs to run out the clock, they just kept giving the ball to Baker -- and he delivered big-time. Of course, it didn't hurt that he was running behind one of the biggest and best offensive lines in the state.

During the regular season, Baker shared running back duties with Dontrayevous Robinson. Baker ran for 1102 yards and Robinson ran for 876 yards. The two-back tandem worked well for the Trojans.

But Robinson was injured and played very little in the play-offs. It was up to Baker to carry the load during the play-offs, and he did it very well. In the six games of the play-offs, he carried the ball 181 times for 1095 yards (averaging over 182 yards per game). He may be small in stature, but he played like a giant.

I imagine many of the major colleges will probably consider Baker too small. If so, they will be making a big mistake. Baker has a big talent, a determined work-ethic and the kind of huge "heart" that coaches pray for in their players. He's going to make some college coach a very happy man.

Congratulations Trinity Trojans --Class 5A-Div.I State Champions for 2007!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Skilling Asks For Appeal Bond


Jeffrey Skilling was one of the leading players in the Enron scandal. Along with other company executives, he helped to "cook the books" and inflate the perceived value of Enron. This allowed him and others to bank millions of dollars while at the same time bilking employees and investors of money. Many lost their life-savings in the debacle.

In October of 2006, Skilling was found guilty and sentenced to 24 years in prison. He started serving that sentence in December of 2006 after a judge denied his request to stay free while appealing the verdict.

Evidently, Skilling doesn't like it in the Minnesota federal prison where he is serving his sentence (good!). Through his attorney, he is again asking to be freed on an appeal bond while the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals considers his appeal of the trial verdict. In the request, his attorney wrote, "Mr. Skilling is not a flight risk or danger to the community."

I hope the appeals court doesn't grant this ridiculous request. Skilling is right where he should be -- serving a long prison sentence. He might not be a flight risk, but he caused serious damage to the lives and fortunes of millions of people.

There is no good reason to release this criminal from prison. He has earned every minute he spends in a federal prison.

MPP Challenges Candidates


The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) has been trying to get all of the presidential candidates to support the legalization of marijuana for medical use -- or at least not to tell lies about medical marijuana. They've been pretty successful in that effort.

But there are three holdouts -- naturally, all three are Republicans. Rudy Guiliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney still say that medical marijuana is not needed, that there are adequate substitutes for it and that marijuana is a dangerous drug. Of course this is nonsense. Just ask the sick people who are helped by the medical use of marijuana.

So the MPP has now issued a challenge to these three candidates, and they've even put the challenge on a truck billboard (see picture above). They say they will donate $10,000 to any of these three campaigns that can prove the lies they are telling about marijuana and its medical use. Here's what MPP has to say:

Last week, MPP offered the campaigns of presidential candidates Rudy Guiliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney $10,000 apiece to back up their statements regarding medical marijuana.

The challenge was accompanied by a massive billboard featuring the three Republicans with Pinocchio noses. Details are available here.

We’ve made great progress in New Hampshire this year in pressuring the presidential candidates to take strong, public, positive positions on medical marijuana: Our efforts have led to 10 of the 17 major Democratic and Republican candidates pledging to end the DEA’s raids on patients and providers in the 12 states where medical marijuana is legal.

During the past nine months of this campaign, the three clowns on the billboard persistently made patently false statements in response to questions from patients who have benefited from medical marijuana — insulting seriously ill people and flouting a huge body of scientific evidence.

Muscular dystrophy patient Clayton Holton was rebuffed by this trio at three separate events in New Hampshire this fall. Video footage of Gov. Romney’s snub was widely seen on CNN and YouTube.

Indeed, the candidates had the gall to claim to Mr. Holton and other patients that marijuana is too dangerous for medical use or not needed because adequate substitutes exist — claims that are refuted by the patients themselves, not to mention published scientific data.

Since appeals to science, compassion, and common sense haven’t worked, we’re speaking to these candidates in a language we know they understand — campaign contributions. If they can back up their claims, we’ll donate to their campaigns. But if they can’t, they need to stop lying.

But we don’t expect to have to pay. A panel of medical experts is ready to evaluate any responses we receive from the three campaigns, and we’re confident the candidates won’t be able to support their baseless claims.

Indeed, we’re still waiting for the campaigns to respond at all. Will you please make a donation to MPP today so that we can continue to pester these three candidates through the end of the New Hampshire primary season?

Rob Kampia
Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Songs That Still Kick Ass

Muddy Waters.

Brutality Against Defenseless Animals


I've worked in some branch of law enforcement or another since 1976, but I must admit there are some crimes that I still don't understand and probably never will. One of those crimes is brutality to defenseless animals.

The mystery is the motive for such a senseless crime. It doesn't get you money or any other valuable. It's not for revenge or sex. None of the normal motives fit this type of crime. The only thing I can figure is that the perpetrator just enjoys making a living thing suffer. Fortunately, this is not a behavior normally found in most humans.

But it happened in the tiny West Texas town of Iraan recently. The town of about 1200 is located about 115 miles southwest of San Angelo. Four high school students there -- ages 15-17 -- recently found a deer trapped on the school's baseball field. But instead of helping to free the animal, the four youngsters beat it to death.

It is not known what instruments were used to beat the helpless animal. They didn't even bother to remove the carcass of the dead animal, but left it on the baseball field to be discovered the next morning by others.

The school's superintendent said he was very surprised because "These are good kids." He is wrong. Good kids don't beat a defenseless animal to death just for the joy of watching it suffer and die. At the very least, these students need some psychological help. They also need to be severely punished for the crime.

The Parks and Wildlife Department is charging them with "hunting deer with illegal means" and "hunting deer in closed season" (the deer was killed at night which is not legal). Both of these charges are class C misdemeanors and are punishable by up to a $500 fine. That just doesn't sound like a harsh enough penality for this brutal crime.

But these youngsters are not alone. Similar crimes are being committed now in Van Zandt County. Some person or persons there have been shooting defenseless farm animals with a bow and arrow, and then leaving them to suffer.

So far, two llamas and two dairy cows have been shot. One of the llamas is dead. This is certainly not hunting. Anyone who has been around a dairy cow knows how slowly they move and how defenseless they are. Once again, this is someone who enjoys making an animal suffer, and I hope he is soon apprehended.

These are both pretty scary crimes. If they would do this to a defenseless animal that had done nothing to them, what would they do to a human that really made them mad?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cornyn Wants Guns In National Parks


A few years ago, I made a trip to the Banff National Park in Canada. As with many national parks both here and in Canada, it was a beautiful place. At one point, we had to stop and wait for about 15 minutes until a group of mountain goats decided they wanted to get out of the middle of the road. A little further along, a moose emerged from the forest and loped along beside our car for about a quarter mile until he got bored and disappeared back into the foliage.

These were magical experiences and made our visit to the area much better. The animals in the park were obviously not afraid of humans, and therefore did not try to hide from them.

The reason for this is because the government there is very serious about keeping guns out of their parks. Guns must not only be unloaded and packed away, but they are put in a bag with a special seal. If the seal is broken when you leave the park, you are in a lot of trouble. They do this to protect the animals and make the park experience better for visitors.

Although they don't go to those lengths, many U.S. National Parks also prohibit guns. But our Texas senators, Cornyn and Hutchison, would like to change that. They want to change the law to allow Americans to carry firearms into our National Parks. Fearing a possible Democratic landslide in the coming election, they are trying to save themselves by pandering to the large number of gun owners.

Now I am not one of those who think we should outlaw gun ownership. I can read, and I know the Constitution guarantees the right of the people to own and bear arms. But allowing guns in our National Parks is just a very bad idea.

There are too many nuts among us that would think it funny to use protected animals as target practice. They would not only drive the animals away and ruin the park experience for everyone, but they would make a park visit much more dangerous. We'd have to worry about dodging stray bullets because some jerk thought it was cool to take potshots at a park animal.

There is no legitimate reason to allow guns inside our National Parks. This is just one more reason we must see that Cornyn is defeated in the upcoming election.

Republicans Subverted And Misused Justice Dept.

Traditionally, presidents have allowed the Justice Department to operate as an independent entity. They have staffed it with non-partisan professionals and allowed these professionals to do their job without interference. The result has been a Justice Department that treated all political parties equally in general, regardless of which political party was in power.

While this wasn't a perfect system, it had worked pretty well for the American people for the last 200 years. But the Bush administration doesn't value tradition, nonpartisonship or fairness. Since this administration took power in 2000, they have done their best to turn the Justice Department into an avenging arm of the Republican Party.

One example of this is the unparalleled access to Justice Department information about ongoing investigations that Bush attorney generals have given to the White House. Over 400 officials of the Bush White House were authorized to request and receive this information. Compare this to the number of people in the Clinton administration who had access -- seven.

With this many White House officials having acces to records of Justice Department investigations, it is easy to see how even nonpartisan professionals could feel pressured to toe the Republican party-line. Add to this the leadership of men like Alberto Gonzales who were concerned only with furthering the Bush agenda, and the hiring only of Bush loyalists from places like ultra-right-wing law school Regent University, and you have the recipe for the co-opting of the Justice Department for political purposes.

There is evidence now that while Republicans were urging the Justice Department to file any kind of case against Democratic candidates and activists (and firing attorneys who wouldn't do it), Justice Department officials were also delaying investigations into criminal activities by Republicans.

In New Hampshire in the 2002 election, Republicans jammed the phone lines of the Democratic Party's get-out-the-vote effort. The responsibility for this stretched not only to the state Republican party leaders, but to at least one official of the Republican National Committee -- James Tobin.

A Justice Department prosecutor was ready to file charges all the way up to Tobin before the 2004 elections. But Justice Department officials delayed the investigation and the filing of charges until after the 2004 election. This prevented the exposure of state and national party involvement, and allowed Republicans to claim it was just a local "dirty trick" that they had no control over. It may well have affected the outcome of the election.

This is why we can no longer count on the Justice Department to fairly investigate the many crimes of the Bush administration. The Department is now little more than a partisan arm of the Republican Party. By subverting and misusing the Justice Department, the Bush administration has harmed all Americans -- regardless of their party affiliation.

It has always been in the best interests of all Americans to have an independent and nonpartisan Justice Department so that civil and human rights can be protected.

This is just one more reason to impeach Bush and Cheney.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Could Texas Matter In Presidential Primaries ?


During the last legislative session,there were those who wanted to move the Texas primary date up to February 5th. The thinking was that this would give Texas a strong voice in picking the 2008 presidential candidates. But they could never get enough support and the effort died when the legislative session ended.

Conventional wisdom (including mine) was that once again the race to pick a presidential candidate would be over by the time Texas voted. After all, by February 5th, around 40% of the delegates will have been chosen. Traditionally, by the time this many delegates are chosen there is a clear frontrunner who will go on to grab the nomination.

I can't even remember the last time Texas mattered in the presidential nominating process. For Republicans, Texas was able to give Ronald Reagan a big boost in 1976. But since I have never voted in the Republican primary, that means little to me. For us progressives, it has been a lot longer. We have become used to supporting candidates chosen by other states.

But Richard Dunham of the Houston Chronicle thinks that could change this year. He believes that Texas might accidently become a player in presidential politics this year -- maybe even for both parties.

Could this possibly be true? Maybe. While the major media outlets would like us to think there are clear leaders in the race, it is not really true. Around half of the voters in both parties have yet to finally decide on who they will support -- especially in the early voting states. Of those who have picked a candidate, around a third of them say they could still change their minds.

That means there really is no leader in either party -- yet. There is a possibility that after February 5th, the delegates could be pretty evenly divided between about four candidates in each party. If that happens, then Texas and Ohio (who both have early March primaries and lots of delegates) would become heavyweight players in the presidential contests.

Of course, this is a situation Texans hope for in every primary before our hopes are dashed by the early voters. But there is an extraordinary fluidity in this election. That gives Texas its best chance in many years to actually make a difference in who the nominees will be.

I doubt it will actually happen, but I hope I'm wrong. It's kind of exciting to think my vote might really matter.

Bush Makes New Enemies


After the tragedy in September 2001, most of the world was behind us. It took Bush less than two years to squander all that good will. By the end of 2003, most nations were looking at us as agressors who had unjustifiably invaded another country. This was true even of countries that had long been our friends.

Even when governments such as England supported us, the vast majority of their population didn't. In Iraq, Bush wound up putting our soldiers between two warring faction, both of whom hated us -- the Shiites and the Sunnis.

But there was one group that liked us. The Kurds of northern Iraq had been oppressed by Saddam for many years. They were among the few groups in the world that appreciated our invasion of Iraq. The invasion not only removed their oppressor, but allowed them to set up self-rule in northern Iraq. They were the only Iraqi group that our soldiers could really count as friends.

But evidently, having friends in Iraq is not something Bush cares much about. It looks like he has now turned even the Kurds against us. Yesterday, the president of the Kurdish regional government in Iraq refused to meet with Condi Rice.

The Kurds in Iraq are angry with the Bush administration for siding with the Turks against them. They say Bush has allowed the Turks to indiscriminately bomb innocent Kurdish civilians. They know the Turks could not invade Iraqi airspace to do this unless they had Bush's blessing.

The Kurds should be used to being sold out by a Bush. The first President Bush encouraged them to revolt against Saddam, and then would not act to help them when they did. He allowed Saddam to brutally quash the revolt.

When the second President Bush freed them from Saddam, they thought they finally had a friend. They were wrong. All it took was a little noise from the Turks, and Bush II quickly sold them out.

The Kurdish president is absolutely right. No plane can fly in Iraqi airspace (especially performing military missions) without the blessing of the Bush administration. Any planes not authorized by Bush would be quickly blasted out of the sky.

The longer we are in Iraq, the clearer it becomes. Bush is there for the oil. Nothing and no one else matters.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bush Loses Another Court Fight


In an effort to keep secret the visitors who have access to the president, President Bush had ordered the Secret Service to turn the visitor logs they kept over to the White House. He then declared those logs to be presidential papers and thus not subject to public records requests.

He used this ploy to deny requests of records of visits to the White House by conservative evangelists and lobbyist Jack Abramoff. It is believed these records would show the White House has been lying about the number of these visits.

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth shot down Bush's flawed argument. He ruled that the visitor logs were not presidential papers, but were instead Secret Service documents. Secret Service papers and logs are subject to public records requests.

The judge, a Reagan appointee, ordered that the records regarding the evangelists' visits be released. The request for the Abramoff records is still pending, but they cannot be destroyed since they are also Secret Service records. Judge Lambreth will also be presiding over that case, so it is expected the White House will also be ordered to release those records.

The White House is considering an appeal, but after this decision by a conservative judge it is doubtful the decision will be overturned.

Bit by bit, the courts are starting to rein in the lawless behavior of the Bush administration.

A Nursing Shortage In Texas


Texas has a serious shortage of nurses. This is not a new problem, but it is getting worse instead of better. In 2007, there were 19,243 nursing jobs that went unfilled, because there simply weren't enough qualified applicants to fill those positions.

At the current rate, by 2020 (only 13 years from now) the shortage will climb to 70,628. Even in a state as large as Texas, this cannot help but affect the quality of care that patients will be receiving.

Some hospitals are already having to turn away patients, even though they have unused beds available. They just do not have enough nurses to care for those they turn away. In many places, nurses are working longer hours and extra shifts and caring for more patients than is recommended.

Patient care is now being affected and it will only get worse. This used to be just a problem for rural areas, but now it is fast becoming a problem all over the state. It is not unusual for good hospitals that offer excellent salaries to still be short dozens of nurses.

The problem is even more critical in nursing homes because they cannot compete with the salaries offered by the hospitals. Currently, the turnover rate for Registered Nurses in nursing homes is 97%. There is no way that can not be affecting the health of nursing home patients.

Why is this happening? Do people just not want to enter the nursing profession? Not at all. There are plenty of people that would love to be nurses. In 2005 alone, nursing schools turned away 11,000 qualified applicants. They turned them away because the schools don't have the money to hire enough faculty to teach these applicants.

This is a problem that can be solved. It can be solved by adequately funding our state's nursing schools. But it won't be done by wishful thinking. It's going to take some leadership in Austin.

It's time for our state leadership to stop pandering to corporate interests and solve some of our state's problems. The nursing shortage would be a good place to start.

Romney Got Rich Off "Island" Tax Shelters


Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is by far the richest candidate in the race, regardless of party. He is worth approximately $250 million, qualifying him as one of the "super-rich".

He likes to brag about his business acumen, and how that sharp business sense helped him to take his company (Bain Capital) to the top. But you won't hear him talk much about exactly how he accomplished this feat. That's because most Americans probably wouldn't like it.

Most Americans pay their taxes, and don't like it when others use tax shelters and other loopholes to avoid paying the taxes they owe. It doesn't look like Romney broke any laws, but he did set up shell companies in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. These companies were used to allow investors to funnel money through them and into Bain Capital.

This allowed the investors to completely avoid paying any United States income taxes. By using these tax-avoidance schemes, Romney was able to draw billions of dollars of investments into Bain Capital, and not a penny of the money his investors earned were subject to income taxes.

It was legal, but not very ethical -- not when you consider that these tax shelters force a larger part of the tax burden on the middle and working classes, who actually pay their taxes.

Romney likes to brag about how religious he is, but this doesn't sound very "christian" to me. Didn't Jesus say to render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar's? In other words, pay the government that which it is due. I don't remember any addendum that said "unless you can create a loophole and avoid that rendering".

Once we know about the Island shell companies, who have no employees -- only a mail box, it is easy to see how Romney amassed his vast fortune. He did it on the backs of American workers.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sullivan Makes it Official

From his endorsement, which I highly anticipated and now celebrate:

Let's be clear: we have lost this war. We have lost because the initial, central goals of the invasion have all failed: we have not secured WMDS from terrorists because those WMDs did not exist. We have not stymied Islamist terror - at best we have finally stymied some of the terror we helped create. We have not constructed a democratic model for the Middle East - we have instead destroyed a totalitarian government and a phony country, only to create a permanently unstable, fractious, chaotic failed state, where the mere avoidance of genocide is a cause for celebration. We have, moreover, helped solder a new truth in the Arab mind: that democracy means chaos, anarchy, mass-murder, national disintegration and sectarian warfare. And we have also empowered the Iranian regime and made a wider Sunni-Shiite regional war more likely than it was in 2003. Apart from that, Mr Bush, how did you enjoy your presidency?

More Evidence Lieberman's Not A Democrat


I hate to say I told you so, but last August 8th I predicted that Joe Lieberman would support a Republican for president in the 2008 election. It just made sense because he votes with the Republicans far more than he does with the Democrats. He has also supported Bush's war in Iraq as well or better than any Republican has.

Now, it looks like that prediction is going to come true. Lieberman is scheduled to announce today that he is supporting Republican John McCain in the presidential race. He couldn't even wait for the general election. He's jumping right in the middle of the Republican primary race.

One of his advisors said that Lieberman believes that McCain "has the best chance of uniting the country in it's fight against Islamic terrorism." The advisor went on to say that Lieberman will continue to caucus with the Democrats.

I must admit that this situation has me confused. Why do the Democrats allow this turncoat to caucus with them? I think immediately after the last election, Democrats thought if they allowed him back in their caucus, he might actually vote with them once in a while. But he dashed those hopes quite a while ago.

Lieberman is not a Democrat. He is a Bush loyalist. Both his beliefs and his voting record show he would be much more comfortable in the Republican Party. The only reason he has run as a Democrat is because he represents a heavily Democratic state (Connecticut).

Now that he has involved himself in the Republican primary, it is time for Congressional Democrats to face facts. Lieberman has no business caucusing with the Democrats, and they should withdraw that privilege.

Let him caucus with his Republican brothers.

Iraqi Oil Production Above Pre-War Level


Bush would like for us to believe that he invaded Iraq to bring democracy to the people of Iraq. Especially since his first excuse has been proven to be a lie -- that Iraq was connected to the 9/11 tragedy. But recent events show the second excuse is also a lie.

There was only one reason for the invasion and occupation of Iraq -- OIL! The International Energy Agency says the production of oil in Iraq is now exceeding pre-war levels. Before the United States invaded the country, Iraq was producing less than 2 million barrels a day. Iraq is now producing 2.3 million barrels a day.

How is this happening? The IEA says it is happening because of improved security of oil production facilities and pipelines. At the beginning of this year, production was only 1.9 million barrels a day.

Deaths of American soldiers has fallen largely due to the decision of Sadr's Shiite militia to stop attacking the American military, so just what has the surge accomplished? Obviously it was not done to protect the Iraqi civilians -- they are still dying in large numbers. Just a few days ago, car bombs killed 39 and wounded about 100.

But oil production is up. Now the true reason for the surge is readily apparent. Obviously it is more important to Bush to protect the oil rather than the civilian population. Bush won't end this madness because his corporate friends are making too much money off the oil and the no-bid contracts.

American and Iraqi lives are a secondary concern at best.

Craddick Claims Victory He Didn't Really Get


During the last legislative session here in Texas, there was a movement among house members to remove Speaker Craddick from office. Many believed the votes were there to get it done. Craddick took no chances. To protect his position in the final days of the session, he refused to recognize any representative he believed might introduce such a resolution.

Several representatives thought this was an abuse of the Speaker's position, and asked the Attorney General for a ruling on the legality of the speaker's actions. Last Friday, the Attorney General issued a muddled opinion that really didn't settle anything.

Craddick immediately claimed victory -- obviously a public relations effort aimed at trying to convince voters that he was in the right. But the Attorney General's ruling really didn't say Craddick was right.

The Attorney General stated that the Speaker was a statewide official (a dubious position), but then said he respected the division of powers and the House could make it's own rules regarding the matter. He did not rule at all on whether the Speaker had the right to not recognize his opponents.

The House has the right to remove the Speaker whenever it desires to do so. But if the Speaker still believes he has the power to recognize only his supporters, then the House would be unable to enforce it's own rules. That makes it more important than ever to remove the despotic current Speaker.

The ball is currently in the voter's court. They could settle this matter by refusing to elect or re-elect those who support giving the Speaker such broad powers as Craddick claims to have. Find out if your representative is a Craddick supporter. If he is, then vote for his opponent.

While most Democrats oppose Craddick, this is not strictly a party-line thing. Several Republicans oppose Craddick and some Democrats support him. Instead, this is a matter of trying to restrict the very broad powers claimed by the Speaker.

It is undemocratic for a Speaker to refuse to recognize those with whom he disagrees. That gives the Speaker the power to defeat any measure he doesn't like, even though a majority of representatives might support the measure. That's just not right. Even opponents of the Speaker should have the right to have their measures debated and voted upon.

Vote for democracy in 2008. Vote against Craddick.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bush Tries To Stop Tape Investigation


It was learned recently that the CIA had destroyed some tapes. The tapes contained hours of the torture of two suspected terrorists. It's obvious that the tapes were destroyed so they wouldn't embarass the Bush administration.

But it's even worse than that. The tapes were destroyed 5 months after US District Judge Henry H. Kennedy issued an order telling the government not to destroy any evidence of the torture of terror suspects, especially those in Guantanamo.

Now, not only is Congress going to investigate the destruction of these tapes, but Judge Kennedy is considering his own investigation. Naturally, the Bush administration doesn't want either of these investigations to continue.

The Justice Department has refused to provide information, and has entered a brief in Judge Kennedy's court that says the destruction didn't involve a violation of his court order. Their justification is that the torture didn't take place at Guantanamo. They say the torture happened at a secret location (think rendition) and the two were transferred to Guantanamo after the torture had been completed.

Sounds to me like they're splitting some hairs to try and stay out of trouble. I think the judge, as well as Congress, has every right to investigate the destruction of the tapes. Both entities should issue contempt citations if the administration continues to refuse to provide information.

The Bush administration would like everyone to let the Justice Department do the only investigation. That might be OK if we actually had an independent Justice Department staffed with non-partisan professionals -- but we don't. What we have is a department staffed with Bush loyalists and led by an attorney general who can't figure out whether waterboarding is torture or not.

So basically, the Bush administration wants to be in charge of investigating themselves. That's like putting the fox in charge of henhouse security precautions. Is there anybody left in America that thinks that would be a full and impartial investigation?

After all the failures and lies of the Bush administration, there is no way they can be trusted to investigate themselves.

My Blogging Space


I was challenged by PSoTD to show the world the physical space that I write most of my blog posts from. It's not anything impressive, but here it is. You even get a picture of me in the deal (and I know that's something most of you could have done without).

Traveling With Celebrities


Last Friday afternoon, I flew back to the Panhandle from Austin. On the Austin to Dallas leg of the flight, I had the privilege (or misfortune, depending on how you look at it) of flying with a celebrity (of sorts).

The dignitary sharing my flight was old "37 per cent". That's right -- the inept and unpopular Governor of Texas was actually taking a commercial flight. Of course he was allowed to board from the tarmac, even before those normal pre-boarders.

When the rest of us were allowed to board, he and his aides/bodyguards had already filled the first two or three rows. The stone-faces on these men let us know quickly that the governor wasn't interested in shaking hands or talking to us plebians, although my female seat-mate said Governor Goodhair did wink at her as she passed.

Amazingly, the flight was late in taking off. It seems that Southwest Airlines can't be on time even when the governor is on board.

Of course, when we arrived in Dallas, Perry was hustled off the plane and into waiting vehicles before anyone else could get off. He was long gone by the time I de-.planed.

A few months ago, I had the real honor of flying from San Antonio to Dallas with an even bigger celebrity. It was the legendary Dallas Cowboys running back, Tony Dorsett. He was a lot nicer and much more accessible.

What about you? What celebrity have you traveled with? Was he/she nice?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Songs That Still Kick Ass

Cypress Hill ain't goin' out like that.

Major League Baseball Should Be Ashamed


"For more than a decade, there has been widespread and illegal use of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances by players in Major League Baseball in violation of federal law and baseball policy.

Everyone involved in baseball over the past two decades -- commissioners, club officials, the player's association and players -- shares to some extent the responsibility for the steroids era. There was a collective failure to recognize the problem as it emerged and to deal with it early on."

Those were the words of Senator Mitchell as he released the results yesterday of his investigation into drugs and baseball. According to the report, some of the biggest names in Major League Baseball are guilty of cheating by using performance-enhancing drugs -- players like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and many others.

There are those who believe that these players should have an asterik beside their names in the record books. I disagree. I don't think they should be allowed in the record book at all. They would not be there if they had cheated in a different way. Why should cheating with drugs be any different? Frankly, it's unfair to the players of the past, who competed fairly.

But this is not just a matter of some players cheating. It's a health issue. These players are destroying their future health for glory and big money. I know they think it's worth it right now, but I wonder what they'll think a few years after they retire and the problems begin.

Even more important is the fact that these men are role models for thousands of children. Not only are they teaching them that cheating is OK, but their behavior encourages young people to mimic their drug use in the hopes of getting some of that glory and money for themselves. Sadly, the health effects are even more dangerous when young people use the drugs.

Major League Baseball needs to clean up its act. They should start by banning these players and instituting a serious drug testing policy. But I doubt that will happen -- there's just too much money involved, and far too many owners and players are afraid they might lose out on some of that money if the game were cleaned up properly.

Major League Baseball should be ashamed.

A Message From Martin Sheen


Last week, Barack Obama enlisted the help of Oprah Winfrey in his campaign for the presidency. But he's not the only candidate with a little star-power on his side. Movie star and political activist Martin Sheen has joined the Bill Richardson campaign. The following is a message from Sheen in support of Richardson:



There comes an instant in every movement when people of conscience must act.

For those of us who believe America absolutely needs Bill Richardson as our next President, that instant is RIGHT NOW!

That's why I'm getting on a plane to go to Iowa and campaign for him. I'm ready to do whatever is needed to help him win. I'll speak at rallies ... shake hands ... knock on doors ... or, if it'll help, I'll even drive the campaign bus!

Other campaigns have approached me about supporting their candidates, but I believe Bill Richardson is our best hope for healing the nation. I also think he's our best hope for winning the White House from the Republicans.

Because if we nominate the wrong candidate and the Republicans win again, America will continue its dark spiral under the influence of the Far Right.

I follow politics very closely and I see the steady movement toward Bill Richardson in Iowa and New Hampshire. He has the momentum and the message -- and I believe the growing number of pundits who are calling for a "Bill Richardson surprise" in Iowa and New Hampshire have it right.

And after the criminal presidency of George Bush, WE CANNOT AFFORD TO GET THIS ELECTION WRONG!

George Bush will leave his successor with a war that is bleeding our country dry and making us the world's pariah. He'll leave a health care system that is in shambles. And he'll leave an environmental crisis he has ignored in favor of Big Oil profits.

Bill Richardson is the only candidate with the experience and the vision to lead in the midst of these challenges.

That's why I endorse him to be the next President of the United States and why I intend to support his candidacy right through the primaries.

I'm somebody who believes that if you support a cause or a candidate passionately, you have to give it your all. I hope you feel the same way.

Because right now ... today ... this instant -- is Bill Richardson's chosen hour.

And those of us who believe ... must act.

Please help.

Martin Sheen

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Late Post


I'm sorry I wasn't able to post earlier today. I'm going to blame Southwest Airlines. I had to catch a flight after work, and wound up spending much of the night waiting for Southwest to cure some mechanical problems and get a plane to Amarillo. By the time I got to my destination, it was too late to do anything.

My destination was Austin. That's one of the perks of my job -- they send me to Austin every now and then. I do love Austin. I believe it's one of the best cities in the country. The bloggers attending Netroots Nation next summer are going to find that out for themselves. I'll bet most of them will want to come back. Austin has that effect on many people.

I had some great Mexican food after work today. The truth is that you can find great Mexican food nearly anywhere in Texas. But for some reason, it just seems to taste better in Austin. Must be the ambiance.

But I do have one complaint for you Austinites -- your traffic. It seems to get worse every time I come. You have the traffic problems of a much larger city. As much as I love Austin, I must admit the awful traffic is starting to detract from the city's magic.

I hope you find a solution to this problem soon. But who the hell convinced you that toll roads were a solution? Whoever it was, you should run him out of town.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Senate Butchers Energy Bill


Last week, the House of Representatives passed a decent energy bill. It would mandate an increase in auto fuel efficiency, and also force utility companies to generate 15% of their power with renewable energy sources. It wasn't perfect, but it was a good start on solving our energy and pollution problems.

But Bush and the Republicans did not like the bill. They thought the bill was too hard on the poor utility companies. Bush threatened a veto, and Republicans killed the bill in the Senate.

Now it looks like the Democrats are getting ready to give in to the Republicans one more time. This is getting old. Why don't they stand up to Bush and the Republicans?

But they're not going to do it. They are getting ready to bring the bill back, only without the provision relating to the electric utilities and renewable energy. It looks like they believe a bad bill is better than no bill at all. I disagree.

They need to stick to their guns. If the Republicans kill or veto the good bill, don't give in and let them have a bad one they like. Take the matter to the voters in the upcoming election, and tell the voters you're tired of giving in to Bush and you're not going to do it anymore.

If Democrats would just stand up for what they believe, I think they'd find the voters would appreciate it and get rid of some of the obstructionist Republicans.

The reason voters rate Congress so low in the polls is because they don't like what the Republicans have done, and they don't like the Democrats for continuing to give in to them.

Come on Democrats -- show the voters you have a spine!

The Criminal Side Of KBR/Halliburton


It's been obvious for a while now that many corporations don't care about people, laws or anything else -- except money. That is especially true of Halliburton and its subsidiaries like KBR. Halliburton got a sweetheart deal from the White House to reap windfall profits from the Iraq war, and they're not about to let anyone or anything interfere with those profits.

In 2005, a young lady from Conroe, Jamie Leigh Jones, was working for KBR in Iraq. At that time, KBR was still a subsidiariy of Halliburton. In July of that year, Ms. Jones was drugged and raped repeatedly by a group of KBR and Halliburton firefighters.

When she tried to go to the authorities, the company locked her in a shipping container without food, water or medical help. Who knows what would have happened to her if one of the company guards hadn't felt sorry for her and let her use his cell phone.

She called her father, who called his congressman, Ted Poe. Poe called the State Department and demanded they rescue her. The State Department sent investigators, who rescued her and got her medical treatment, where a doctor verified she had been raped.

Now, Halliburton could have done the right thing. They could have reported the crime and gotten Ms. Jones medical help. They could have seen the rapists were apprehended and punished. But they chose not to do that. They were afraid that might interfere with their windfall profits.

In May, Ms. Jones filed a federal lawsuit against Halliburton and KBR. These companies are still acting to protect their unending supply of government money. They are now trying to force her to submit to a secret arbitration hearing, rather than an open trial in federal court. They claim her contract calls for arbitration. I have a feeling that arbitration for was civil disputes with the company -- not criminal action by the company.

I hope Ms. Jones has an excellent attorney. An attorney good enough to get this case into open court where the truth can be heard, and where she can be adequately compensated by a jury for the companies' actions.

And where has the federal government been for the last two years? They know who the rapists are, so why haven't they been arrested and punished? The companies are also guilty of crimes -- kidnapping and trying to cover up a crime. Why hasn't the government taken action against Halliburton and KBR?

Is the Bush administration trying to protect Halliburton and KBR?