A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fort Worth To Lose 650 Good Jobs


Fort Worth just got some bad news yesterday. The city will be losing 650 good jobs. Lockheed Corporation just announced they will be laying off 850 engineers from their program to build the F-35 fighter aircraft. Around 200 will be absorbed into other programs, but the other 650 are just out-of-luck.

With our country headed straight for what could be a prolonged recession, this is not the kind of news any city wants to hear.

For years, the Bush administration has encouraged corporations to ship good jobs overseas. Now the recession compounds this problem by starting to cause the loss of other good jobs. This might not be a problem if the economy was replacing these good jobs with other good jobs.

But that is not what is happening. The economic policies of the Bush administration has produced very few jobs. And the jobs it has produced are much lower-paying service industry jobs. That is one reason the recession will be worse and last longer than the Republicans would have us believe.

The Republicans have preached for the last few years that what was good for the corporations was good for everyone, but that is a lie. It is good for the corporations to ship jobs overseas, depress wages and destroy unions. But that is not good for the average worker.

These disastrous economic policies of the last few years cannot be fixed with a one-time economic "stimulus package". There is only one way to begin to fix our economic problems. We must vote the Republicans out of office and stop letting the corporations decide our economic policy.

If we don't, we may find our recession turning into a depression just like it did about 80 years ago. There are those who say it couldn't happen again -- they are wrong.

Ministers Opposed To Bush Library At SMU


Although I am not a religious person at all, I did graduate from a Methodist university (Texas Wesleyan). That's one reason I was so disappointed that a sister Methodist school, Southern Methodist University, has chosen to be the host university for the Bush Library.

The Methodists aren't like some of the other churches that sponsor schools. They allow their students and faculty to have a lot of freedom in thought and action. Academic freedom is valued and not stifled by the church.

It seems incongruous that an open and modern university would forever tie themselves to the worst president ever -- a man known for his secretiveness, dishonesty and inability tolerate a dissenting opinion. It looks like I'm not the only person who feels that way.

A group of Methodist ministers is trying to stop the library from being built on the SMU campus. They feel the library promotes the policies of the Bush administration -- policies that conflict with church teachings. And they have a petition with the signatures of 11,000 who agree with them.

They are asking the school to wait until July, when the 290 delegates of the church's South Central Juristiction meet. They want this juristiction to make the final decision. I doubt if they have much chance to stop the library since the university seems to have made up its mind, but I applaud their efforts.

It's just sad to see this great university tar their reputation by celebrating the dishonest administration of George Bush.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Margaret Truman Dies


On Tuesday, Margaret Truman Daniel died at the age of 83. The AP reports that she died at a Chicago assisted-living facility following a brief illness. She had been at the facility for a few weeks.

She was the daughter of President Harry Truman and his wife, Bess. Mrs. Daniel was the only child the couple had, and she was born in Independence (Missouri) on February 17, 1924.

She had a varied career as a concert singer, actress, radio and TV personality, and author. She is perhaps best known today as a well-respected writer in the mystery genre. She wrote Murder in the White House in 1980, and it was very well-received. She followed up with several other mystery novels, all set in government locations in Washington, D.C.

She said of her years living in the White House, "I feel that I've lived several different lives and that was one of them. Some of it was fun, but most of it was not. It was a great view of history being made. The only thing I ever missed about the White House was having a car and driver."

She is pictured above with her father.

The "Beauty Contest" In Florida


The Florida primary is over, and it looks like it was a good night for Clinton. She got about 50% of the Florida vote. Obama finished with 33% and Edwards came in third with 14%. Of course as things now stand, this really means nothing.

The name of the game is delegates, and Florida Democrats didn't have any delegates to win. They were supposed to have 210 delegates, but the national party took those away when Florida broke party rules by moving its primary into January.

I have to hand it to Florida Democrats. With no delegates at stake and no candidate campaigning in the state, over 1.6 million Democrats came out to vote. The Republicans only had a couple hundred thousand more voters, and they had an exciting campaign and delegates to win.

This poses a dilemma for Democrats. Florida is poised to go to the Democrats in November. Do they really want to anger voters there by refusing to seat a Florida delegation at the national convention? Snubbing Florida could push it back into the Republican column (and the same is true in Michigan).

The national party must enforce its rules, but they shouldn't hurt their chances in the election by doing so. I think the Republicans had the right idea (although it pains me to admit that). They punished these states by taking away half of their delegates -- not all of them.

I believe the Democrats are going to have to seat delegates from Florida and Michigan, but they should not seat the full delegations. They may be able to save face by seating half of those delegations like the Republicans are going to do. They should at least explore the possibility (and then avoid such "death sentences" in the future).

Although Clinton won the election in Florida, it is interesting that she did much better among early voters. Obama increased his percentage among those who waited to vote on primary day. This lends credence to the idea that his popularity is growing. It also makes next week's "Super Tuesday" more exiciting.

Could Afghanistan Become A Failed State ?


"Afghanistan stands at a crossroads. The progress achieved after six years of international engagement is under serious threat from resurgent violence, weakening international resolve, mounting regional challenges and a growing lack of confidence on the part of the Afghan people about the future direction of their country."

Those are the words of the independent and non-partisan Center for the Study of the Presidency. The group tried to examine the Afghanistan situation in the same way the Iraq Study Group did for Iraq.

Frankly the group did not like what they saw. They believe Afghanistan is becoming the "forgotten war", and that the government there may not survive. They say that we are trying to win that war with "too few military forces and insufficient economic aid".

Lest we forget, It was the Taliban in Afghanistan that supported and protected the al-Queda terrorists that attacked America on 9/11. After that tragedy, Bush promised to apprehend Osama bin Laden and destroy the Taliban that supported him. He has done neither.

American troops made a very good start in Afghanistan, and it looked like Bush might actually keep his promise. But then he decided that Iraqi oil was more important than getting the terrorists that had attacked the United States. He pulled most of the troops out before the job had been finished, and started a totally unnecessary war in Iraq -- a war that quickly became a never-ending quagmire.

Because Bush failed to keep his promise and finish the job, the situation has gotten steadily worse in Afghanistan. The Taliban and their al-Queda allies are getting stronger every day. In fact, they now are even taking control of border areas in Pakistan and putting that country in danger of disintegrating into tribalism.

The situation in Afghanistan clearly needs more troops and money, but that will be very difficult to do. The failed and unnecessary invasion and occupation of Iraq has already stretched our military too thin and ballooned our national debt. We may now be in a position where we cannot win either war.

This is an amazing display of incompetence by the Bush administration. And by the way -- WHERE IS OSAMA? Shouldn't he be dead or in jail by now?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Court Approves Anti-Abortion License Plates


Back in 2002, a group called the Arizona Life Coalition asked the Arizona License Plate Commission (ALPC) to create a speciality plate that contained the phrase "Choose Life". The ALPC didn't want to get involved in the politically-sensitive abortion fight, and denied the request.

But the anti-abortion group wasn't happy with that decision, so they took the matter to court. On Monday, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor.

The judicial panel said, "Nowhere does the statute create objective criteria for limiting 'controversial' material, and nowhere does the statute prohibit speech related to abortion. The commission ignored its statutory mandate and acted unreasonably in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution."

But now that the anti-abortion folks get to put their phrase on the plates, doesn't that mean that a pro-choice organization could do the same? Since "abortion" speech is permitted, wouldn't it have to be permitted for both sides?

Iraqis Can't Even Agree On A Flag


The Bush administration would like Americans to believe that we are actually accomplishing something in Iraq, and victory there is now possible. But something as simple as a flag shows us that is just not true.

After months of wrangling, the puppet government that Bush installed in Iraq still can't even come up with a flag for the country. The best they could do was to redesign the old flag a bit and install it as a temporary flag until they could agree on a new flag. At least they thought they had.

The two flags are pictured above, with the new temporary flag on top and the old flag on the bottom. The Kurds were thrilled with the change. They had considered the old flag to be "Saddam's flag". But many Iraqi Arabs are not so happy.

They say that many Iraqis fought and died under the old flag, and it is disrespectful to them to replace it with something else. Fallujah (in Anbar province) is refusing to fly the new banner. The city is still displaying the old flag. Also, many Arabs in Baghdad are flying the old flag.

No wonder the puppet government is not accomplishing anything. The people only respect their decisions when they agree with them. After months of wrangling, they are unable to even get the people to agree on a flag. How on earth are they ever going to accomplish anything of substance?

Meanwhile, the victorious "surge" seems to have been a one-month wonder. Bush had bragged that the American death toll went down to only 24 dead soldiers in December. It is now climbing again. With three days left in January, the number of US soldiers killed has climbed to 36.

The only thing we are accomplishing in Iraq is to cause more Americans to be killed. It is time to bring our soldiers home and let the Iraqis determine their own fate. We cannot do it for them.

Stimulus Package Sounds Good - Won't Work


With our country rushing headlong into a recession, both the Republicans and Democrats in Washington are showing how little they understand about the economic mess the country is in. Do they really think all the economy needs is a one-time stimulus to perk up buying, coupled with some new money for corporations?

The economic stimulus package sounds more like a measure to make voters feel good in an election year, rather than a solution for our economic woes. I'm not even real sure it would work as a stimulant to the economy.

Elderly people and poor people will get very little, and these are the two groups that would have to spend any money given them. Most of the money is going to the middle-class, the group most likely to tuck it away and save it.

As for the money going to the corporations to invest in "new plants", is there anything in the bill that would make them invest the money in new plants in this country? If not, it will help only the rich owners.

Personally, I think they should keep the pittance they are proposing to give citizens, and do some things that will really help the economy.

They should do away with the tax cuts for the wealthy instituted by Bush. The rich don't need help. They are doing better than ever.

They should penalize companies that ship American jobs overseas to exploit cheap labor in other countries.

They should put a cap on the interest rates credit card companies and others can charge. It used to be considered that any rate 20% or more was "loansharking" and was illegal. It still should be.

They should cap executive salaries at no more than 25-30 times the salary of the lowest-paid worker in the company.

They should immediately raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation.

They should get serious about weaning the country off fossil fuels, and create millions of new "green" jobs. The energy bill just passed was little more than a joke.

They should limit tax breaks to corporations to investment in THIS COUNTRY.

They should strengthen unions and make it easier for workers to join them.

They should eliminate the income tax for anyone making less than 35,000, and raise the rate on those making more than $1 million.

They should fully fund Medicare and extend it to all American citizens.

They should end the Iraq war, bring our soldiers home, and drastically cut the military budget. Terrorists should be dealt with as criminals -- not soldiers.

Marijuana should be legalized and heavily taxed. Stop the costly and ineffective "war on drugs".

They should tax capital gains as income.

They should offer a free college education to anyone who qualifies.

I know that many will run in circles screaming "socialism" after reading these suggestions. I don't care -- call it what you want. The point is that we must stop punishing the ordinary citizen while rewarding corporations.

The best times we've had in this country is when the ordinary citizens have had the money to live decently. When ordinary Americans do well, everyone does well -- even the corporations and the rich.

But I don't expect this to happen. Most people in both parties have bought into the corporate lies. And it's a lot easier to just placate voters with a few hundred dollars in an election year.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Congress Screws Up - Who Would Believe It ?


I know this is going to be hard for anyone to believe, but the United States Congress seems to have screwed up. That screw-up has caused the cost of drugs, especially birth control pills, to go way up for college students. Birth control pills now cost college students up to 8 times as much now as they did in 2005.

The pills that once cost college students $5-10, are now costing them $40-50. The reason for this is because of a bill passed by Congress in 2005. Before this bill was passed, college's could get discounted drugs from the drug companies, and these savings were passed on to the students.

This was a good thing. With the high cost of even state colleges, many students are doing good just to meet the bills for tuition and books. They don't have the extra money to spend on other things, such as birth control. Since no one, not even pro-choice people, want to see more abortions, the cheap birth control pills were a boon.

But the deficit-reduction bill of 2005 included a section that prevented colleges from getting the discounted drugs from the drug companies. No one seems to know why they did it, but it was done. Now the cost of the pills has sky-rocketed on campuses, and many can't afford them -- especially those without insurance.

Senators Barack Obama and Claire McCaskill say this was a legislative error that Congress never intended. They have introduced a bill to fix the problem. So far, there is no real opposition to their bill.

McCaskill hits the nail on the head when she says, "Allowing drug companies to give away drugs at a cheaper price is something we should be encouraging everywhere. I don't think there is significant opposition because it's a technical fix. If they call, I'd say, hey, this is one we ought to agree on. We're not talking about providing birth control in grade school, for gosh sakes. We're talking about women who are old enough to lose their lives for us in Iraq."

Where It Will Fall Nobody Knows


On the old TV show Northern Exposure, there was a female character who's husbands kept dying. One of them was killed by a satellite falling on him. At the time, it just seemed like a funny way to kill off a TV-show character -- now it looks like it could really happen to someone.

There's a 10-ton piece of space junk (the size of a small bus) that will fall out of the sky about a month from now -- around the end of February or the first part of March. It's one of our own spy satellites that lost power and is now in a degrading orbit.

The bad part is that no one knows where it's going to fall. The scientists can predict the approximate time it will fall, but they don't have a clue as to where.

Fortunately, most of the earth is covered with water, and past "falling junk" has landed harmlessly. But there's always the chance that this one will conk one or more of us on the head.

But even if it doesn't hit anyone, it could still be dangerous. That's because this satellite contains hydrazine -- a poisonous rocket fuel that could harm anyone it comes in contact with.

It's not too comforting to know our government is sending large poisonous metal objects into space, that will one day come hurtling back down toward us. Maybe they should have thought of that before they did it.

I feel like we're all part of a giant lottery -- only this is one you don't want to win.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Caroline Kennedy Endorses Obama


There are those who believe the candidacy of Barack Obama is reminiscent of the candidacy of President John Kennedy. They say he is a younger man who offers a new vision of hope and unity for the United States, much like Kennedy did.

Interestingly, it looks like one of those people is Caroline Kennedy -- daughter of President John Kennedy. She has written an op-ed piece for the New York Times, in which she parallels Obama's candidacy to her father's. She goes on to endorse Obama for the presidency. It's a great editorial, and I recommend you go to the NY Times and read the whole thing. Here is some of what she says:


OVER the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.

My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.

Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.

We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn’t that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960.

Obama Routs Clinton In South Carolina


The South Carolina primary is over and Barack Obama scored a smashing victory. With 99% of the votes counted, Obama has 55% of that vote. He won in every age group except the over-65 group, and it looks like he appealed to voters in all racial groups. Clinton finished with 27% and Edwards had 18%.

I think Clinton probably expected to finish second in South Carolina, but I don't think she expected Obama to double the number of votes she received. There's no other way to put it -- this was an old-fashioned "butt-kicking". It's also the first time any of the candidates has gotten more than 50% of the votes in the multi-candidate field.

Edwards finished third, but at least he wasn't embarrassed and shut out like in Nevada. His 18% is probably enough to let him continue his campaign, and he did grab some of South Carolina's delegates.

At least prior to last night, the mainstream media would have us believe that Obama was struggling to stay up with supposed front-runner Clinton. But that's not how things are playing out in the primaries (at least so far). Obama has done better than expected in every one, except maybe New Hampshire, and even there he wound up with the most delegates.

In the four states where delegates have been awarded by vote or caucus, Obama has the lead. Obama has won 63 delegates, Clinton has won 47 delegates, and Edwards has won 23 delegates.

The delegate count is really the only thing that matters, and so far, 439 delegates have been decided, including superdelegates. It is only after you add the superdelegates that you see a lead for Clinton. In overall delegates so far, Clinton has 230, Obama has 152 and Edwards has 61. The superdelegates will lose a lot of the clout they currently show in a few days -- on Super Tuesday.

Clinton expects to regain her momentum on February 5th -- and she might. But I suspect that Obama may well out-perform mainstream media expectations again. I'm also not yet ready to count Edwards out.

It should be interesting, and there's even still a chance that the Texas and Ohio vote in March might actually mean something. That prospect is kind of exciting.

But once again, the biggest winner of the night was the Democratic Party. In 2004, around 200,000 people voted in the South Carolina Democratic primary. Last night, over 500,000 voted in that primary. In every state so far, people have been flocking in huge numbers to support Democratic candidates. If this trend continues, it could mean a very nice November for Democrats.

Nolan Ryan May Return To The Rangers


I have not been a big fan of Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks. The one good thing I can say about him is that he seems to be willing to spend the money to try and make the Rangers better. The problem is where he's spent the money.

Using my 20-20 hindsight, it's not hard to say that giving "A-Rod" a quarter of a billion dollar contract was a huge mistake. It not only tied up a lot of money in a player who turned out to be very divisive in the clubhouse, but had the Rangers paying the Yankees to take him off our hands. The money would have been much better spent on young hopefuls.

Fortunately, that is now in the past. The question is how to help the Rangers now and in the future. Last Friday, Hicks may have taken the first step toward improving that future for the Texas Rangers. He met with Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan for a 90-minute discussion. Rumor has it that he was feeling out Ryan to see if he would be interested in becoming the Ranger's new club president.

That's an idea that I like a lot. Ryan currently is working with the Houston Astros organization. He took that job because it's closer to his home in Round Rock, and he has a lot of fans in the Houston area that remember his years with the Astros very fondly.

But Ryan also has some strong ties to the Texas Rangers, and he is revered by baseball fans in North Texas. He pitched for the Rangers for five years, and he sports a Ranger's cap in his Hall of Fame plaque. He got his 5,000th strikeout as a Ranger, as well as his sixth and seventh no-hitters.

Would Ryan be interested in the presidency of the Rangers? I believe he would, especially if Hicks offers the right salary and an assurance that Ryan would have the authority to do the job his own way. And I believe Hicks would offer that. He is not a "stingy" owner, and does have a reputation for being a "hands-off" owner. He tends to hire people and then turn them loose to do their job.

Would Ryan help the Rangers? That's the big question. He's more than just a great ex-player. He's smart, and he's a student of the game. There is no doubt of his love for and knowledge of the game. Combine that with his reputation, and we may actually see more free agents, especially pitchers, that would be willing to come to Texas.

While no one knows whether he (or anyone else) could make winners out of the Rangers, there is one immediate effect he would have. He would sell tickets. He would give the Ranger's "beaten-down" fans a new hope, and that's a good thing.

I hope it happens. The Texas Rangers need Nolan Ryan.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Friday, January 25, 2008

Surge Providing No Victory In Iraq


Last month, 24 American soldiers were killed in the Iraq War. Bush and Republican apologists jumped on this decrease in American deaths as proof that the "surge" was working there. They would like for Americans to believe that a corner has been turned there, and we are now on the way to victory.

This illusion is helped along by the fact that the major media outlets aren't saying much about the war these days. They are more concerned with the primaries being held and the bad economic news. It's kind of ironic that the failure in Iraq by Bush is being covered up by his failure in economic policies.

But in spite of the lack of coverage, the war still goes on and victory is still an impossible goal in Iraq. And the killing continues. In the first 22 days of this month, 27 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq. The American death toll now stands at 3931, not counting the soldiers that died after being evacuated with critical injuries.

In addition to this, 460 Iraqis were killed this month. That means that 1 American and 20 Iraqis are killed in Iraq every single day! That may look like victory to Republicans, but to me it looks like the same old quagmire of death that's been going on for years and has no end in sight.

There has been no real progress either politically or militarily in Iraq. Rather than helping the Iraqis to solve their problems, we have been nothing but an impediment. And every day more Americans and Iraqis lose their lives in the continuing violence.

It is time to admit the truth, and bring ALL of our soldiers home.

ICE Detaining American Citizens


Most people have already heard the story of Pedro Guzman. Mr Guzman was a mentally-disabled man who was deported to Mexico by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. The problem was that he was an American citizen born in Los Angeles. The mentally-disabled man wandered around northern Mexico for three months before his family found him and brought him back.

Now we hear about Thomas Warziniack. Mr. Warziniack is an American citizen who was born in Minnesota and raised in Georgia. He is also mentally ill and tells wild tales of being a Russian Colonel (even though he speaks with a southern accent and cannot speak any Russian).

Mr Warziniack got in trouble in Colorado, and was sent to prison there. Prison officials believed his wild stories and turned him over to ICE, even though the Colorado court that convicted him had already declared him to be an American citizen.

Warziniack's sisters tried for weeks to get him out of ICE detention, but were ignored by the government agents. These agents claimed they were unable to verify he was a citizen. Evidently, these agents are totally incompetent. It took a reporter only minutes to find his Minnesota birth certificate and verify his citizenship.

ICE would like for us to believe these are rare and isolated cases. ICE spokeswoman Ernestine Fobbs says, "We don't want to detain or deport American citizens. It's just not something we do." But it looks like she's trying to put a good face on a bad situation. There is evidence that many more American citizens are being detained and possibly deported.

In 2006, the Vera Institute of Justice (a nonprofit institution) did a study in which they identified about 125 citizens being held by ICE. The study only surveyed six detention facilities. They are now trying to examine all facilities, but that's a huge job. There are 15 federal detention facilities and about 400 state and private facilities. That means the number of citizens wrongly held is probably much higher.

One problem is that once you are pegged as illegal and placed in a facility by ICE, you do not have a right to an attorney. Couple this with incompetent or uncaring ICE agents, and it can be very difficult for a citizen to prove his status.

This is a by-product of the Republican fear-mongering of the last few years. Their demonizing of immigrants has caused a lot of pressure to be put on ICE, and the organization now seems to consider deportation more important than the protection of citizen's rights. These illegal detentions and deportations will continue to happen as long as the Republican leadership continues their racist scare tactics.

Hopefully, the people will boot these fools out in the next election and we can restore some sanity to our government and our country.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

More Texas Supreme Court Unethical Behavior

Are there any honest Republicans on the Texas Supreme Court? I'm beginning to wonder. Last week it was David Medina. He and his wife were indicted in the arson burning of their home in the Houston area -- his wife for arson and he for tampering with evidence. He was saved from that charge by the ethically deficient District Attorney of Harris County, who threw out the indictments.

Then it was learned that Medina was using thousands of dollars a month from his campaign funds to reimburse himself for commuting to and from Austin. You'd think a Supreme Court Justice would know better, since the Ethics Commission declared this verboten back in the 90's. Medina admitted his ethical lapse, and is in the process of repaying his campaign fund supposedly.

Then we learn that another Justice on the court was guilty of the same thing -- Justice Paul Green. But Green is not being so honest about his ethical blunder. He is still trying to justify the payments from his campaign fund. He says the trips between Austin and San Antonio were for "business purposes". Looks like he wants to keep the illegal payments.

Now we learn that a third Justice has been dipping into the campaign funds for personal use -- Nathan Hecht. Hecht (pictured above) admits using campaign funds to pay for dozens of plane trips to his hometown last year. Hecht also wants to keep the cash, because he's claiming the trips were "campaign trips". That's kind of hard to believe since he's not up for re-election until 2012.

This is not Hecht's first trip into unethical behavior. He is still being investigated for soliciting and accepting funds from people who appear before the court. How's that for giving an impression of "justice for sale"?

I'm almost afraid to read the paper tomorrow, wondering who'll be next.

Davis Wins The First Battle Against Brimer


Democrat Wendy Davis resigned her Fort Worth City Council seat last August, and announced her intention to run against Republican State Senator Kim Brimer in the 2008 election. Brimer has done very little with his senate seat, and most of his own constituents don't even know who he is. Many believe that the popular ex-councilwoman has an excellent chance to beat him in November.

Evidently, Brimer thinks she can beat him also, because he had his campaign representative, Bryan Eppstein, try to pull a fast one and get Davis disqualified. Eppstein also represented the Fort Worth Fire Department in a fight against the city, so he got three "Democratic" firemen to write a letter to the Tarrant County Democratic Party claiming Davis was not eligible to run for the senate seat.

Even though Davis had resigned in August, the law said she had to continue to serve in that position until her replacement was sworn in. This is so her district would not go without representation. The three "Democrats" used this to try and disqualify her.

The Attorney General and the Tarrant County Democratic Party disagreed, so the three "Democrats" took the matter to court. On Wednesday, the Second Court of Appeals ruled that the three "Democrats" had no standing in the matter and dismissed their case.

Brimer must really be scared of Davis in the upcoming election to have pushed the matter this far (and don't even try to say he wasn't involved -- the connections are just too clear). It wouldn't surprise me if this little cabal didn't try to appeal this decision all the way up to the Texas Supreme Court. After all, it's packed with ethically-challenged Republicans, and it's a lot easier to get your opponent disqualified than to beat her in a fair election.

Brimer can't run on his record. His record is pretty dismal and he has some ethical problems himself -- something about using campaign funds to pay rent to his wife. That is why he's trying to win the election in court rather than at the ballot box.

He's afraid the voters in Fort Worth might actually vote for the better candidate -- Wendy Davis.

It Wasn't Alien UFOs After All


Last week, Texas made the news everywhere because some folks around Stephenville decided they had seen some UFO's. Some of these people had some outrageous descriptions of what they had seen. "It was a mile long". "It had flashing lights of different colors". "It was faster than any plane could be".

Rather than search for a rational explanation, or admit they may have witnessed an optical illusion of a perfectly natural thing, many immediately jumped to the conclusion that they were witnessing ALIEN UFOs. We even had UFO organizations coming to Texas to interview those who thought they'd seen the aliens coming.

The TV and newspapers didn't help the situation. They played up the sightings and even started running stories of past UFO sightings. Of course the name of the game for them was circulation or viewership. They'll do any story that people will watch or read, regardless of how silly it is.

Fortunately, we now have a rational explanation for the event. The Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth revealed yesterday that they had 10 F-16 fighters on a training mission in that area on the date in question. This has to be what the people saw. If there was anything else, the F-16 pilots would have seen it.

I'm sure the UFO nuts will never accept any rational explanation. A certain segment of the population will always believe the aliens visited Stephenville that night (although why an alien would want to go to Stephenville is beyond me).

But the rest of us now have a rational explanation for what was seen.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Farmers Branch Does It Again

The racists in Farmers Branch (Texas) just won't give up. Last year, they passed an ordinance that prevented home and apartment owners from renting to undocumented immigrants. Saying the ordinance was illegal, a judge issued a restraining order that prevented the city from implementing the ordinance.

But the city council wasn't happy with embarrassing themselves once -- they have now done it again. The city council just voted unanimously to approve a new ordinance they hope will accomplish what the last ordinance couldn't -- preventing undocumented immigrants from renting within the city limits.

The new ordinance would require all landlords to get a license from the city before renting a home or apartment to anyone. The city would then check against a federal database to determine if the renter was in the United States legally.

Of course, the new law is probably just as illegal as the first one, and it looks like the city council knows it. Councilman Jim Smith said, "This may [be] in the courts forever. I hope not, but the decision is: let's go for it."

But as stupid as that is, they did something even dumber. They forgot to check and see if there was a federal database available for their use. There isn't! Maria Elena Garcia-Upson, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, says, "...there is no database where the city or anyone can pick up the phone and give alienage, like yes this person is legal or no that person isn't legal, there is no such database."

What a bunch of racist morons!

Eight Flags And Counting


Archie Mayes of Bedford (a Fort Worth suburb) is a patriotic guy. To demonstrate that patriotism, the 87 year-old Army veteran has been flying an American flag on his front porch.

Now this may surprise some right-wingers, but as a liberal I like this display of patriotism. It wouldn't hurt if more Americans did the same. But evidently, there is a "grinch" in Mr. Mayes' neighborhood.

Last Monday about 3:30am, someone stole the flag, and that wasn't the first time. Since last February, the thief has stolen eight flags from Mr. Mayes. Mayes said, "I don't know if it's a fixation on me or the flag. Or it's plain mean."

I vote for mean. Why else would someone keep stealing the poor man's flag? After the seventh one was stolen, Mayes put up a video camera. Hopefully, the police can use the image it captured to nab the suspect.

Mayes says he's going to get another flag and continue to fly it. However, he said he's no longer going to fly it at night.

I do have to wonder though -- why didn't someone remind Mr. Mayes last February that the flag is not supposed to be flown at night? That could have saved him at least seven flags.

Drug Halfway House Proposed For Amarillo


I attended a public hearing in Amarillo last night. The hearing was called to get public reaction and input on a new transitional drug facility that the Aware Program is trying to establish.

The Aware Program, located at 1201 West 8th Street, already does some good work in Amarillo. They offer drug counseling and case management, operate a small food bank, provide HIV testing and counseling, and conduct Positive Choices classes for juvenile offenders.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must say that some of my clients receive some of the free services offered by Aware. I like the program, and I think they do an excellent job with the services they provide.

Aware is now attempting to expand and establish a transitional living facility for 30 addicts who are being released from a law-enforcement mandated "Therapeutic Community" drug or alcohol treatment program. The new facility would allow the clients (who are on probation or parole) to gradually transition back into the community and find a job, while living in a safe place and continuing treatment.

This is something badly needed in the Amarillo area. Currently, the closest program is in Lubbock. That's over two hours away and makes it very difficult to transition back into their home community of Amarillo.

The fact is that these clients are going to return to the Amarillo area whether the program is established or not. Personally, I would rather they have access to treatment and counseling, and receive help in finding a job. The alternative is just dumping them back in Amarillo without help -- that would almost guarantee a return to a life of crime.

I was afraid there would be opposition to the proposed program at the public hearing. But the people who came asked intelligent questions, and wound up supporting the new program. I was pleasantly surprised by the community reaction.

This is a good program. I believe it will not only help the clients who go there, but will make our community in general a safer place to live. Now that the public hearing has been held, Aware must wait to see if the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will complete the final step and fund the program.

Like the good folks at Aware, I hope that TDCJ will come through with the funds.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Debate Over Drug Programs


In the last state legislative session, $2 million was set aside for a new drug program to fight methamphetamine addiction. Since that time, a serious debate has risen about whether the program has been proven to be effictive or not.

The program involves the combination of a new drug, Prometa, with nutritional supplements. One side of the debate is pushing the Prometa program as a more effective method of fighting meth addiction than other programs. The other side argues that money is being wasted on an unproven program. I think the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

This is an issue that I do know a little about. Due to my job, I have worked with drug users for many years. I am familiar with many different drug rehabilitation programs. I have seen all of them work. I have also seen all of them fail.

When I was younger, I fell for the argument that some programs were superior to other programs. I no longer believe that. I now believe that if a person really wants to quit drug use, any program will work. If a person is not ready to quit, no program will work.

This is the major failing of court-ordered drug programs. You simply cannot mandate that a person quit drug use. If that person does not really want to quit, they will simply return to drug use as soon as the program is over.

I believe we don't give nearly enough money to drug education. And this education effort must be a two-pronged program. We must educate young people so they don't ever start drug use. But we must also try to reach users and educate them to what the drugs are actually doing to their lives and futures. Too often, the negative effects are not realized until it is too late.

While we cannot make someone quit drug usage, maybe we can make them want to quit. Once they want to quit, then they are ready for a drug program. Until then, it is just a waste of money to put them into a program.

There simply is no "magic bullet" drug or program for rehabilitation. Quitting drug use is hard work, and a person must really want to do it.

Racists Gather In Jena


While millions of Americans of all races celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King yesterday, we were reminded that old-fashioned in-your-face racism still exists in this country.

The Mississippi-based racist group, Nationalist Movement, held a demonstration in Jena (La.) yesterday. About 50 supporters of the racist group showed up for the rally. Twice as many counter-demonstrators were there.

Evidently, the group thought they would have some support in Jena (which gained national notoriety because of the racial-insensitivity of their police and District Attorney in the case of the Jena 6). However, to their credit, the people of Jena did not show up to support the racists. In fact, they tried to prevent the rally by charging the group $10,000 (but had to back down when threatened with a lawsuit).

The racists have to be embarrassed at the pathetic turnout they had. The only thing they accomplished was to remind the rest of us that they still exist and must be opposed.

In a country that prides itself on free speech, these jerks have the right to meet and to speak. But the rest of us also have the right to label them as the scumbags that they really are.

Both Clintons Take The Low Road


Clinton must be getting scared of the strength that Obama has shown in the primaries and caucuses that have been held so far. I say that because both she and her husband have started to resort to "attack politics". Now I have nothing against attack politics, as long as the attacker sticks to the truth and doesn't try to mislead voters. The Clintons have not done that.

On the campaign trail, Bill Clinton has gotten in trouble by labeling Obama's opposition to the Iraq War as a "fairytale". That's not just untrue, it's patently ridiculous. It's a matter of record that Obama has opposed the Iraq War since before the ill-fated Bush invasion of that country.

Mr. Clinton tried to backtrack on some radio shows and say he was just referring to Obama voting to fund the war in recent votes. If that's really what he's referring to, then both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama are guilty of that. In fact, ALL of the Democrats in the U.S. Congress should be ashamed of themselves for failing to cut off funds for the Iraq War.

Bill Clinton also accused Obama of admiring Ronald Reagan and his policies. Hillary Clinton followed this up at last night's debate by accusing Obama of admiring Republican policies. Neither charge is true. Barack Obama has never said he admired Ronald Reagan or agreed with Republican policies.

Obama did say that Reagan had brought many Americans together, including many Democrats, to create a unified coalition. That is undeniable. Obama said he would like to build the same kind of unified coalition behind a liberal vision. I hope some Democrat can do this, because if you can't appeal to folks outside the party, then you can't get elected.

If the Clinton's want to engage in attack politics, that is their right. But they need to stick to the truth or they will find themselves losing votes. Sen. Clinton found a little of that backlash last night when she was booed by the audience after accusing Obama of representing a "slum lord" while a practicing attorney, and of not taking responsibility for his past votes. It was untrue and below the belt, and the audience knew it.

Clinton has also accused Obama of violating the Democrats' pledge not to campaign in Florida. It seems like a strange accusation since Clinton has three fundraisers in Florida this week. In truth, Obama did not violate the pledge. What he did was run an advertisement on a national network (CNN). It is silly for the Clinton campaign to consider this a violation since there was no way the ad could be blacked out in a single state.

I don't doubt that Clinton has opposed many Republican policies. I just think it's sad that she's embraced their campaign tactics.

Monday, January 21, 2008

An American Hero And Fixing A Flawed Vision


I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"



Last Saturday night, I heard one of our modern politicians say that our Founding Fathers "had it right". That is a popular notion these days. It is also wrong. While they had the vision to create a new Republic and set it on the path toward justice and freedom, we must admit that their vision was seriously flawed.

Among other injustices, their flawed vision allowed for the existence of slavery and counted these slaves as only three/fifths of a person. Fortunately, through the efforts of great American heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we have been able to correct their flawed vision in many ways. But it is still a work in progress.

Maybe someday, with a little luck and a lot of hard work and sacrifice, we can truly make that flawed vision "right".

More Chavez Accusations By U.S. Official


Venezuela is a fairly small country that poses no danger to the United States. But that hasn't stopped the Bush administration from picking on Venezuela every opportunity they get. It really bugs Bush that there's a Latin American country that won't kiss his ass and do whatever the U.S. wants -- even if it's not in their best interest.

The Bush administration pays lip service to democracy and self-determination, but they don't really mean it. For rational people, self-determination and democracy means the people of a country have the right to choose their own government and leaders. But for Bush, it means they must choose leaders who will follow the policies and wishes of the United States.

Venezuela isn't playing that game any longer. They have elected a leader who does what is good for Venezuela -- Hugo Chavez. In fact, Chavez has been elected twice by large margins.

But that hasn't stopped Bush from trying to label Chavez as a dictator. Bush has made all kinds of false accusations against Chavez because he won't climb on the American imperialistic bandwagon. Since the "dictator" accusations aren't working, the Bush administration is now shifting the accusations against Chavez.

They now want to tar Chavez with the "drugs" brush. U.S. director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, John Walters, claimed recently that Chavez is aiding drug traffickers by allowing them to use his country to ship Columbian drugs to Europe and America. Walters said, "It goes beyond 'I can't do it' to 'I won't do it'. And 'I won't do it' means that 'I am colluding'."

The BBC's South American correspondent, Jeremy McDermott, says the accusation serves two purposes. The first is to show support for Columbia's president, who doesn't like Chavez. He was recently embarrassed by Chavez getting Columbian rebels to release some hostages they were holding.

The second is to pressure Chavez to cooperate with U.S. Drug enforcement policy, although I'm not sure what that's supposed to accomplish. The Columbian president has fully cooperated with U.S. drug agents, but it hasn't seemed to slow up the Columbian cocaine traffickers at all. Why would we think they could accomplish in Venezuela what they can't accomplish in Columbia?

I'll bet the U.S. government would get a lot more cooperation out of Chavez if they would stop the wild accusations and support for Chavez's opponents, recognize the right of Venezuelans to choose their own leaders, and make a real attempt to get along with the Venezuelan government -- without trying to strong-arm it.

Bush's Spiritual Advisor Endorses Democrat


The Reverand Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church, has been a spiritual advisor to President Bush since he was governor of Texas. He introduced Bush at the Republican National Convention in 2000. He also gave the benediction at both of Bush's inaugurations.

One might think that as close to President Bush as Rev. Caldwell is, he would be supporting a Republican for president -- or at least remaining neutral. But not this year.

Rev. Caldwell has announced that he is endorsing Democrat Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race. He says that Obama is not only electable, but "would do a wonderful job to bring people together to pursue a common vision we all have".

Caldwell says his support for Obama is his personal choice, and is not connected to his work with the church. He did say that he hopes Obama will appear in person to speak at the church though.

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On a personal note, this is exactly why I have yet to make a decision on who to support now that my candidate (Bill Richardson) is out of the race.

John Edwards has some impressive progressive and populist credentials. He is saying the right things and would take our country in a direction that I would like.

While not as specific about a progressive agenda, Barack Obama seems to appeal to a broad range of people and inspires hope in the future. He might truly be the person who could unify our country behind a liberal vision.

I admire both men, and that makes it a very difficult choice.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

More Trouble For Republican Justice Medina

It looks like Justice David Medina just can't stay out of legal trouble. It was bad enough that he was indicted by a grand jury last week for tampering with evidence. He intefered with the investigation of arson (the burning of his home by his wife).

Medina was lucky that time. The indictment was in Harris County, and Houston has a Republican District Attorney who isn't bothered with trivial things like ethics. The DA quickly moved to protect his fellow Republican and had the charge dismissed. But his ethically-challenged Republican buddies may not be able to get Medina out of his new mess.

It seems that Justice Medina has been commuting from Houston to Austin several times a week for his job on the Texas Supreme Court. That may be silly, but it's not criminal. The criminal part is that he's been reimbursing himself for the commuting from his campaign donations. These reimbursements totaled $17,000 in 2005, $26,400 in 2006 and $13,500 in 2007.

You'd think a judge, especially a Texas Supreme Court Justice, would know that the Texas Ethics Commission declared in 1993 that this was a violation of campaign law. But in the last few years, Republicans haven't paid much attention to the law. It looks like Justice Medina is one of those Republicans.

He may have a little more trouble getting out of this one. This kind of violation falls in the juristiction of the Travis County District Attorney, who is neither a Republican nor ethically-challenged.

It might be time for Justice Medina to "pay the piper".

Was Nevada Really A Win For Clinton ?


Clinton wins in Nevada! That was the story (and headline) for all of the major media outlets yesterday. They made it sound like Barack Obama really took a beating, and left the state with his tail between his legs. Of course, that's not really what happened at all.

If all you care about is the "beauty contest" part of the Nevada caucuses (the number of caucus members that turned out for each candidate), then I guess you could say that Hillary Clinton won. She did have slightly more. But is that really the important thing that came out of the Nevada caucuses? No.

The only thing that matters is who won the most delegates to the national convention -- and that was a tie. Both Clinton and Obama won 14 delegates in Nevada yesterday. With Clinton being 24 points ahead in the polls there a month ago, I think the fact that he was able to split the delegates evenly made it a very good night for Obama.

While the major media outlets would have us believe that Clinton is doing better than Obama in the primaries, the number of delegates each has won in the primaries and caucuses show something different. Obama actually leads Clinton in the number of primary and caucus delegates by 38 to 36. Edwards has 18.

There was a big loser in Nevada though -- John Edwards. The polls showed him nearly equal to the other two in Nevada, but he was unable to win a single delegate as a result of the caucus. That is a devastating result for him. This makes South Carolina a very important primary for Edwards next week. He was born there and if he doesn't at least make a respectable showing, this could quickly become a two-person race.

It is only after adding in the super-delegates, that Clinton shows a lead in the delegate count. And most of these super-delegates picked their candidate weeks ago, before any primary or caucus had been held (and at that time, it looked like Clinton would easily win).

Counting both super-delegates and pledged (primary and caucus) delegates, there have still only been 386 delegates out of 4,049 total delegates that are in the camp of any candidate. There is still a long way to go and anything can happen. Here is how those 386 delegates stack up:

Clinton.......210
Obama.......123
Edwards.......52
Kucinich.......1
Gravel.......0

Friday, January 18, 2008

Why Won't Lou Dobbs Tell The Whole Truth ?


Last year, two Border Patrol agents were convicted of breaking the law, and were sentenced to 11 and 12 year terms in a federal prison. Since that time, CNN commentator Lou Dobbs (pictured above) has taken up their cause.

According to Dobbs, these were "two outstanding Border Patrol agents" who were just doing their jobs when they got into a gun battle with a smuggler. He says they are being punished by the United States government for just doing their jobs. He has used part of 131 different shows and one full-hour show to spread this message.

He has even gone so far as to call President Bush "gutless" for not immediately pardoning the two agents. I'm not usually a defender of Bush as you regular readers know, but I really don't see that Bush could have pardoned these two men. Dobbs is not telling the whole story. He is only telling a very slanted version.

Here is how the SPLC describes what really happened:

Border Patrol agents Ignacio "Nacho" Ramos and José Alonso Compean attacked an unarmed border-crosser who was trying to surrender, shot at him 15 times and wounded him as he fled, then tampered with the crime scene and failed to report the shooting as required to their supervisors. For their crimes, a federal court in Texas sentenced the men last year to terms of 11 and 12 years in prison.

Why are so many associated with the law-and-order right singing the praises of these two felons? Because the man who was shot turned out later to have been part of a marijuana-smuggling operation. Ramos and Compean didn't know that at the time — the man was on foot and tried to surrender, and the agents only found the drugs in a van after he managed to flee on foot back to Mexico, badly wounded.

Once you know the truth, these agents don't sound so outstanding. They are neither innocent nor heroic, as Dobbs would have us believe. They are criminals who belong exactly where they currently are -- in prison.

So why is Dobbs not telling the whole truth? I think it's because this incident doesn't fit in with his simple black and white view of the world. He's spent the last few years trying to demonize undocumented immigrants and lionize Border Patrol agents.

But the truth is a bit more complicated than that. Sometimes undocumented immigrants are just men and women trying to feed, clothe and provide a better future for their families. Sometimes even criminals are unarmed and surrender peacefully. And sometimes law enforcement officers break the rules and are unnecessarily violent.

Personally, I just don't see how anyone, even someone opposed to illegal immigration, can defend the criminal actions of these agents.

Another Republican In Criminal Trouble


This is starting to get ridiculous. It seems like almost daily that another Republican turns up with sexual, ethical or criminal troubles. A couple of days ago, we heard about a former Michigan Republican Congressman and U.N. delegate that was indicted for taking $50,000 to lobby for terrorists and then lying to the FBI about it.

Yesterday, we learned that Republican State Rep. Phil King of Weatherford is receiving corporate help in his campaign that is unethical, if not downright illegal.

Now we've got another Republican in trouble. Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina (pictured above) and his wife have been indicted on criminal charges. Terry Yates, the judge's attorney, said Justice Medina was indicted for tampering with evidence and Mrs. Medina was indicted for arson.

The couple's Houston-area home was destroyed by fire last June and some neighboring homes were damaged. Although the fire was labeled as arson, the Medinas denied any responsibility and said at the time they were cooperating with authorities.

Medina was Rick Perry's attorney until Perry appointed him to fill a vacancy on the Texas Supreme Court in November of 2004. He was elected to the position in 2006.

There have been so many Republican officials getting in trouble that it's hard to keep up with them without a scorecard. I wonder who will be the next one to fall?