Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bush Wants Long-Term Troop Presence In Iraq

The White House is finally beginning to admit the truth. Bush has no intention of withdrawing all our troops from Iraq. Even if by some miracle, we were able to quell the civil war in Iraq, the Bush-Cheney gang would leave a large contingent of U.S. troops in the country.

Tony Snow compared this to the U.S. troops that have been in South Korea for over 50 years. Snow said that even after Iraqis are able to handle their own security, U.S. troops will remain in the country to deter threats and handle potential crises.

But this comparison to South Korea is rather disingenuous. South Korea has a hostile and well-trained army just north of its border that has already invaded it once. There is no such threat to Iraq.

The truth is that we would be leaving our troops in Iraq to protect the commercial interests of the big oil companies. The two situations are not analogous in any way.

Personally, I don't believe the profits of big oil companies are worth the life of a single American soldier. It is unacceptable to withdraw only a portion of our troops from Iraq. We must demand that Bush withdraw ALL of our troops from Iraq and do it now.

It is time for the Democrats to grow some balls and do what the American people elected them to do -- get all our troops out of Iraq!

Boeing Aided in "Extraordinary Rendition" Flights

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit yesterday against a subsidiary of Boeing Commercial Aviation Services in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. They are accusing Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. of helping the CIA in its "extraordinary rendition" flights to take prisoners to other countries so they can be tortured.

Executive director of the ACLU Anthony Romero said, "American corporations should not be profiting from a CIA rendition program that is unlawful and contrary to core American values. Corporations that choose to participate in such activity can and should be held legally accountable."

The ACLU said Jeppesen was a "main provider of flight and logistical support services for aircraft used by the CIA in the U.S. government's extraordinary rendition program". The lawsuit was filed under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows aliens to bring claims in U.S. courts for violations of international law or treaties.

I applaud the ACLU for this action. Just like individuals, corporations are responsible for their actions. These rendition flights to enable the torture of people the Bush administration doesn't like, are both morally and legally wrong.

I'm sure there are some who would argue that Jeppesen was just trying to make a profit, and shouldn't be held responsible for decisions made by the government. But that argument doesn't hold water.

During the Nuremburg trials at the end of World War II, the Allies, including the United States, made it clear that all major participants in violations of international law are guilty -- not just the decision-makers.

The Boeing subsidiary violated both legal and moral laws by their participation in these foul deeds. They must be held responsible.

Rep. Turner Wants To Become Speaker

Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) has tossed his hat in the ring for consideration to become the next Speaker of the House in Texas. He's joins a half dozen or so Republicans that have announced their plans to seek the office.

Now I'm starting to believe that Speaker Craddick may really be in trouble. Turner is a true Craddick loyalist, and has been so for several sessions now. He even helped to author the bill that ensured the last election for speaker would be by roll call vote, and not by secret ballot.

When loyalists like Turner seek to become speaker, then there is an excellent chance that Craddick's reign is over. His candidacy is a good omen for the people of Texas.

But I cannot bring myself to support Turner's candidacy. He has been too close to and supportive of the dictator Craddick. In fact, if it weren't for a few Democrats like Turner throwing their support behind Craddick, we could have already been rid of him. What the heck was Turner thinking?

I really can't see good House Democrats voting for Turner. He's just too closely tied to Craddick, and Craddick has never treated the Democrats fairly in his long tenure as speaker.

However, I do believe the Democrats should solidly support a representative from Houston, and there is one who's declared her candidacy. Of course, I'm talking about Rep. Senfronia Thompson. She has had the courage to stand tall and oppose the Craddicks of the world, and she has the intelligence, passion and experience for the job. She has earned the support of all true Democrats.

I urge House Democrats to vote for a terrific Democrat, and turn their backs on all the members of the Craddick cabal. Vote for Rep. Senfronia Thompson!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Obama & Edwards Are Wrong On Health Care

On Tuesday, Barak Obama released his plan to provide health care for all Americans. It turns out to be similar to the plan of John Edwards. Both want to extend private insurance coverage to all citizens with the government helping to pay for the insurance of the poor.

They have both come up with feasible plans to pay for this. Let me say, I like both men and think either would make a much better president than the one we currently have. But there is a serious flaw in both of their healthcare programs.

Both men seem to think that the only thing wrong with our current healthcare system is that over 45 million people do not have insurance coverage. That is only one of the problems with our system.

The biggest problem with our system is that our health determinations are in the hands of for-profit insurance companies, rather than medical professionals. It is the insurance company that decides whether you get the treatment you need or not. And the more coverage they deny, the more money they make.

Many of the middle-class think they have good coverage, until a really serious illness strikes and they find themselves financially devastated because their "good coverage" doesn't cover the medical procedures that they need.

The only way to solve the serious problems of our healthcare system, is to create a government run single-payer system that guarantees all citizens health care coverage -- not insurance coverage.

We must eliminate the for-profit insurance companies from our system. Just doing this one thing would drastically reduce the costs of the system and at the same time increase the health care that could be given.

We must also put health care decisions back into the hands of medical professionals. It is a serious mistake to let insurance executives make our medical decisions.

Bush Imposes Sanctions On Sudan

"For too long, the people of Darfur have suffered at the hands of a government that is complicit in the bombing, murder and rape of innocent civilians. I promise this to the people of Darfur. The United States will not avert our eyes from a crises that challenges the conscience of the world".

It's hardly believable, but those are the words of George Bush, our very own president. The man that is so good at creating a crises is now trying to stop one. On Tuesday, Bush announced sanctions against 30 companies and three individuals in Sudan, that would ban them from using the U.S. Banking system.

He has also directed Sec. Rice to push the matter in the United Nations. He wants the UN to continue to fund the ineffectual 7,000 man African peacekeeping force already in Darfur, and create a no-fly zone over contested areas in Darfur.

It seems like too little too late, but I guess he is at least doing something. I was beginning to think he would never take any action at all. I do wonder about his priorities though.

He's willing to send over a hundred thousand troops to steal Iraq's oil. But when the genocide of a whole region is at stake, all he can do is tell those naughty people that they can't use our banking system. I'll bet there're quaking in their boots!

Bush tried to make himself look good today, but I'm afraid he's just embarrassed the US with his timid and inconsequential action.

Trans-Texas Corridor Rears Its Ugly Head Again

A group calling itself the North America's SuperCorridor Coalition (NASCO) is meeting in Fort Worth this weekend for its annual meeting. This group wants to build a super-highway from Mexico to Canada. They try to make their goals seem innocuous enough. To hear them talk, you'd think all they wanted was to help business along the I-35 corridor.

And they've created a strawman to knock down so they can convince us that they're just trying to help. They say that the folks who don't understand them think they're trying to merge the U.S., Canada and Mexico into one giant North American country. Then they proceed to knock this strawman down by telling us they just want to prevent gridlock on I-35.

There may be some conspiracy theorists who believe they want to merge the three countries, but that is not the big threat we face. In case you don't recognize it, Texas' part of the "super-highway" is commonly called the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), and there are plenty of reasons to oppose it without believing in conspiracy theories.

Some may have thought the legislature had killed this nightmare, but that is just not true. They just didn't want to make waves while the legislature was in session. But the legislature has now adjourned, and the ugly beast can now rise again.

This is the same TTC that would create a giant toll-road across Texas, gobbling up million of acres of agricultural land. Even worse, it would be owned by a giant foreign corporation for the next 50 years, which would suck Texas dry with their exorbitant tolls.

Ordinary Texans have already told the politicians they do not want the TTC, but our governor and his cronies won't stop it because there's just too much money to be made and they plan to get their share.

Speak up Texans, and stop this monster now! Don't let the governor sell us out to the corporations. Speak up now, or spend the next 50 years wishing you had.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Book Burning In Kansas City

Last Sunday, there was a book burning in Kansas City, Missouri. But this was not your typical book burning. No one was trying to ban any kind of book. In fact, this was just the opposite. This was a protest over the fact that fewer and fewer people read books these days.

The book-burner, Tom Wayne, has owned a bookstore in Kansas City for the last 10 years (Prospero Books). He said he has been seeing fewer customers in the last few years because many people now get all their information from cable TV and the internet. He pointed to a 2002 study by the National Endowment for the Arts that showed less than 50% of our population read for pleasure.

Wayne said he had amassed over 20,000 books and needed to thin out his collection. He offered these books to libraries and thrift shops for free, but they all turned him down saying they had all the books they could handle.

Since he couldn't even give them away, he came up with the idea of a book burning. The Fire Department stopped him because he didn't have a permit, but Wayne says he will get a permit and try it again.

I also love the internet and TV, but nothing can beat the pure pleasure of reading a good book. But I'm an older guy and grew up before cable TV or the internet. Books were my friends and I grew up loving to read. I have tried to instill that in my children. At X-mas and birthdays, they could always count on the fact that one of their gifts would be one or more books, and they came to look forward to them.

But most parents don't do that nowdays. I'm afraid that we're currently creating a generation of non-readers. This is sad. Books are not only a great source of pleasure, but are educational - no matter what is read. TV and the internet are great, but should be combined with books for a truly well-rounded education.

80th Session Of Legislature Finally Ends

The 140 days are over and the Texas Legislature has finally ended one of its more acrimonious sessions. They did some good things and some silly things, but I've seen worse sessions with the Republicans in charge (the redistricting session for one).

Among the silly bills passed were the doubling of the marriage license fee, putting a Bible class in public schools (at least it's optional), and insuring that students can preach their religion at school.

They also gave the governor a $35,000 dollar raise (which is more than most other state employees make in a year). State troopers, game wardens, and alcohol-enforcement officers get a 5-10% raise. Teachers get a $450 dollar raise and other state employees get a 2% raise (including TYC and TDCJ workers) which amounts to $600 or less . Doesn't seem fair, but Republicans are not big on fairness.

There were a few good things accomplished. The Children's Health Insurance Program got its funding back, and they made the application process a little easier. State parks got a lot more funding, at least for this two-year period (up 32.5%). TYC got a much-needed overhaul (but the improved pay for corrections officers did not happen). Public and higher education got a 7% boost, and the top 10% rule was kept on college admissions.

Democrats were also able to kill the odious Republican-sponsored Voter ID bill. Texans owe a debt of thanks to these Democrats, especially Sen. Mario Gallegos who risked his own health to make sure the Democrats had enough votes.

Perhaps most interesting was the effort in the closing days to dump House Speaker Craddick. In order to save his job, Craddick declared himself Dictator and refused to recognize any of his opponents. This sets up an interesting battle for the start of the next legislative session. We could actually see a new speaker elected.

There was a new toll-road moratorium passed but it was a very weak one, and did not include many toll-roads already proposed. The general public is going to have to continue this battle and get a lot louder with their opposition.

But take heart fellow Texans. We won't have to put up with these nuts again for nearly two whole years. Maybe by then, we can put a lot more Democrats in the legislature.

Israeli Government Gets More Bad News

Prime Minister Olmert had enough of a problem hanging on to power in Israel with the official report released last month blaming him for recent failures of the Israeli military, including the recent invasion of Lebanon which accomplished nothing for Israel. Even recent newspaper polls have shown that a majority of the population would like to see him resign.

But he was able to keep a slim majority in the Israeli parliament with the help of some other parties, and refused to resign. But it now looks like the end for Olmert may be getting near.

One of the parties in his ruling coalition is the Labour party, which was led by Amir Peretz. The Labour party is in the midst of an election to choose its leader. Olmert was hoping that Peretz would be re-elected, because both of his opponents for Labour party leadership have said they would pull the party out of the ruling coalition unless Olmert resigns.

But Peretz did not do well in the election. He has actually finished a poor third in the voting. Although the final talley is not in, it looks like his opponents, Ehud Barak and Ami Ayalon, will have to have a run-off to see which one will be the new leader of the Labour party.

Barak was the Israeli prime minister from 1999 to 2001. Ayalon has just been in parliament for a year, but was the former head of Israel's interal security department. Regardless of which one wins, it looks like the Israeli government will soon fall. Olmert cannot survive a no-confidence vote without the Labour parties support.

It's anybody's guess who the Israelis will pick as prime minister now, but it is almost a certainty that Olmert will not last much longer. This is probably a good thing since the general populace has lost faith in him.

(In the picture above, Barak is on the left and Ayalon is on the right)

Monday, May 28, 2007

It Was About The Oil After All

We've known for quite a while now that the Iraq war had nothing to do with 9/11 or terrorism or defending America. The Iraqi government had nothing to do with the attack on on the Twin Towers. In fact, as everyone outside the U.S. already knew before the war started, Saddam and Osama hated each other and were bitter enemies.

The terrorists did not have any foothold in Iraq. They did, however, have a large presence in our "good friend" Saudi Arabia. In fact, it was known very soon after 9/11 that most of the attackers were Saudi citizens. In fact, Osama is a Saudi himself.

Iraq also posed no danger to America. They had no weapons of "mass destruction", no terrorists and their military was just a weak shell of its former self. They couldn't have harmed our country if they had wanted to, and there is no evidence they even wanted that.

So if Iraq posed no danger to the U.S., and did not support the 9/11 terrorists (or any other terrorists), why did we invade that country and continue to occupy it? You only have to look at the war funding bill to discern the answer -- it was for the oil.

Many progressives have believed this for years, and now we have the evidence. It turns out there was one "benchmark" in the war funding bill. This benchmark denies all reconstruction funds to Iraq unless they act to privatize their oil industry and turn it over to American oil companies.

Our government is demanding that Iraq sign over their oil to private companies for the next 20-30 years.

Now it becomes clear why Bush won't withdraw the troops. They will be needed to guard the oil for the giant American oil companies. When this happens, it means that our troops won't just be there a little while longer, they'll have to be there for the next 20-30 years! Without those troops staying in Iraq, the big oil companies wouldn't be able to keep the oil they're trying to steal.

We must put even more pressure on the government to bring our troops home now, and stop the greedy theft of Iraq's oil. Enriching the big oil companies is not worth the lives of our brave soldiers.

Honoring Our Troops Is Bringing Them Home

Today our nation pauses to honor those brave American soldiers who have given their all in defense of our country and our freedoms. They deserve to be honored -- both the dead and the living.

But this year is special, in that we currently have soldiers in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is no secret that I oppose the Bush administration policy in Iraq, and I have since before he invaded that country. But regardless of what I think about the Bush administration and their multitude of failures, I respect the effort and the unchallenged bravery of our American troops.

Our troops cannot make policy. All they can do is serve honorably and do their duty as well as possible. I do not for a moment doubt that they have done this. They have earned the gratitude of all Americans.

It is Bush, Cheney and the neocons who deserve our emnity. They have placed our brave troops in a no-win situation. Because of his unwarranted invasion of a country that posed no danger to America, Bush has created a civil war and put our soldiers right in the middle of it.

Some have compared Iraq to Vietnam. I say Iraq is even worse for our soldiers. At least in Vietnam, our soldiers had a side to fight on. In Iraq, Bush has placed them in the middle of warring factions, all of which hate our troops and are trying to kill them.

The war between Iraq and the U.S. is long over. Now it has degenerated into a war between Iraqis, and since our soldiers cannot take sides in the conflict, we must get them out of it and bring them home. Truly, the best way to honor our troops in Iraq is to bring them home to their families.

The American people don't want our troops in Iraq. The Iraqis don't want us there either (except for the puppet government which will fall as soon as we leave). Bush, Cheney and the other neocons are the only ones who want to keep our troops dying over there, and that is just to salvage their own reputations. Personally, I don't think the reputations of these cowards is worth the life of a single American soldier!

Democrats recently had a chance to stand up for our soldiers and demand an end to the travesty in Iraq. Instead, most of them wussed out and allowed Bush to continue the war without restrictions or a timetable for withdrawal. Bush is going to be allowed to go on killing Americans and Iraqis now until at least September.

So far we have had 3,454 American soldiers killed in Iraq. Since February 1st of this year, we have had an average of more than 3 soldiers killed every single day. At this rate, there will be an additional 288 American soldiers killed by September. We cannot allow this to continue. The madness must stop!

The time for timetables has come and gone without action by either party. Timetables should not even be discussed in September. At that time, all funds for the war should be cut off, and Congress should demand our troops be brought home immediately. Anything less would be shameful!

I repeat -- the only way to honor our troops at this point is to bring them home to their families.

Ft. Worth To Fight Gangs In Civil Court

Gangs and the violence that they breed are a major problem in all large cities. Until now, cities have had to fight back against the gang violence by taking action against individuals who they could prove had broken a criminal law. This left all the other gang members free to congregate and to terrorize the neighborhoods that they claimed as their own.

Because of this, the honest citizens were forced live in fear of the gangs, and there seemed to be little the police or city officials could do to help them. But now Ft. Worth has a bold new plan to take back the neighborhoods from these gangs. They are now going to civil court instead of criminal court, and they are taking on a gang as a whole rather than one individual at a time.

Officials in Ft. Worth are starting this new kind of battle with the gang they consider to be the most violent -- the Northcide Four Trey Gangsta Crips. Once the city has taken back the neighborhood from this gang, it will go on to do the same with other gangs.

The city has filed suit in the civil court of District Judge David Evans. They are seeking an injunction in the newly created "safety zone" that would prohibit any known gang member from engaging in a wide array of activities including:

* sitting or standing together in public view.
* using gang signs.
* possessing indelible markers or spray paint cans.
* using pagers or cell phones to further criminal activity.
* warning other members that police are approaching.
* violating a 9pm to 6am curfew for gang members.

Once the injunction is in place, these will be criminal violations for members of the gang, and will be prosecuted as such by the District Attorney.

This is a pretty radical departure from the past, and I had to take a couple of days to think it over. After doing so, I have decided that I'm in favor of the new plan, and I believe it has a chance to succeed.

Individually, none of these young punks could terrorize a neighborhood. They derive their power from banding together as a gang. Since the only power they have is group power, they must be fought as a group. The city has the right and the duty to bust up these criminal groups.

I applaud Ft. Worth's action, and I hope it succeeds. The criminal gangs have been a blemish on all our cities for far too long.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Religious Expression Bill May Be Pandora's Box

It looks like the Religious Expression bill will soon become law in the state of Texas. It has been passed by both the House and Senate, and now sits on the Governor's desk. Since the Governor has publicly said he supports the bill, it is expected that he will sign it into law.

This law means that Texas school children can now freely express religious views in their schoolwork, artwork or speech. They cannot be punished or rewarded for doing this.

This law was proposed and passed by evangelical christians so they can try to use our schools as fresh ground on which to proselytize for their religion. But they may have opened a pandora's box which will have unintended consequences.

While the law will allow them the opportunity to push their own religion, it also gives every other religion the same right. The bill also protects the other major religions such as hinduism, moslems, taoists, confucianism, etc.

But it also protects a long list of minor religions that the evangelicals may wish they hadn't protected -- religions such as satanism, wicca, santeria, voodoo, animism, scientology, and even atheism, not to mention many others too numerous to list.

The House tried to amend the bill to say the religious expression could not discriminate against others, but that is not in the final version. That means that religions that preach hate and bigotry, such as christian identity and the black muslims are also protected.

High school is the place where many students begin to express their independence. It would not surprise me if many of them test this law by expressing opinions that christians do not approve of, and if they try to stop this, school districts will find themselves in court. This law will assure that they'll lose that court fight.

Christians were trying to push their own religion when they asked for this law, but it might come back to bite them in the ass.

Burnam Kills "Homeland Security" Bill

The Homeland Security bill seemed to be gliding easily toward passage in the legislature, even though it was opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU thought it would put too much new power in the governor's office and politicized the homeland security issue.

That changed yesterday, as Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Ft. Worth) killed the bill on a point of order. He said that he and others believed the bill would curtail some civil liberties.

The bill's author, Rep. David Swinford (R-Dumas), was quick to claim this move would cost the state of Texas millions of dollars in homeland security grants. Rep. Burnam said it would not. I have to believe Burnam on this one.

Whatever the federal government wants to do on homeland security, the one thing they cannot do is leave Texas out. Leaving Texas out of any formula to do anything with our southern border, leaves a big enough gap to make any proposal a joke. Texas must be included in any discussion of border security.

There is still a small chance the bill will be revived. Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas) is trying to revive the bill in the senate. To do so, he must strip the bill of all 14 senate amendments and then get it passed by a "super majority" of the senate. At this point, it's anybody's guess as to whether that can be done.

Many Republicans have spent this legislative session jumping on the anti-immigrant bandwagon. But the truth is that Texas gains more from its immigrants than it loses (even the ones that come here illegally). They provide a huge economic boon that far outweighs the few government dollars spent on them.

The Republican war against brown people is not only bigoted, it is stupid. It will hurt Texas economically and worsen our relations with Mexico.

Hopefully, there are enough senators to keep this bill in its freshly dug grave. Then we can turn our attention to killing federal efforts to harm our southern border, including the ridiculous wall and the terrible new immigration bill.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Gonzales "No Confidence" Vote Set For June

The Senate has finally decided to have their "no confidence" vote regarding Attorney General Gonzales in June. I was hoping they would have the vote this week, but Senate Democrats are not feeling too brave right now (you can see how they wussed out on the war-funding bill). So I guess we'll have to settle for June -- hopefully EARLY in June.

Meanwhile, the merry-go-round of blame is still going on among Justice Department officials over just who compiled the list of U.S. Attorneys to be fired for political reasons.

Monica Goodling said Kyle Sampson made the list. Sampson said Alberto Gonzales made the list. Gonzales said Paul McNulty made the list. Personally, I think they're all lying to protect the White House. I believe the list was made by Karl Rove at the request of Bush.

I think the whole lot of them, from Bush on down are guilty and should be punished.

NASA Lawyer Destroys Government Property

Once again we have evidence that we just can't trust those in power in our government.

On April 10th, the head of NASA traveled to Washington to talk to staff members of NASA's Inspector General office. He was there because many in the Inspector General office believed their boss, Robert Cobb, was too friendly with the bosses of the space agency and created an abusive work environment for his employees.

The meeting might have been a good idea, except for the fact that the NASA head invited Cobb to the meeting. Did it never occur to him that a truly free and open discussion would be inhibited by having Cobb at the meeting? Was a free and open discussion the last thing the bosses wanted, and the meeting was just a PR stunt? What really happened at that meeting?

Even though the meeting was between government employees and on government time, we'll never know what happened for sure. That's because NASA's top attorney, Michael Wholley, collected all the DVD recordings of the meeting, broke them into little pieces and tossed them into the trash, because he wanted to make sure the meeting details were not made public.

The fact is that the American people pay the salaries of every single person at that meeting, including Michael Wholly. The American people have a right to know what happened at the meeting, whether Wholley and his bosses like it or not.

In his effort to hide the incompetence of his bosses, Wholley broke the law and should be punished. Those DVD's were also bought with taxpayer money and were government property. As Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) said, "I believe this government property and there are criminal penalties for the destruction of government property."

This is what happens when those at the top (Bush and Cheney) flaunt their abuse of the rule of law. This kind of attitude spreads throughout the government, and soon even government attorneys (who should know better) are breaking the law.

At the very least, Wholley should resign. He can no longer be trusted.

State Weakens Pollution Controls For Corporations

It's no secret that the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex area has some of the dirtiest air in the state of Texas. It's been many years since they met federal air pollution standards. The EPA is tired of it, and has demanded that the area clean up its air, especially the ozone level, by 2010 or lose large amounts of federal funding.

In order to clean up the air, city leaders in the area had joined with enviornmentalists and come up with a plan. It wasn't a bad plan either. The EPA was ready to sign off on it, because they thought the plan had a good chance of bringing the area into compliance with federal standards by 2010.

But that was before the politicians and corporations got their grubby hands on the plan.

You see, a large part of the pollution comes from the huge cement kilns located southeast of Ft. Worth. These cement plants are the largest industrial producers of ozone-forming pollution in the area. But the corporate owners of these plants went whining to the state commission, saying the plan was "too tough" on them.

The plan called for the companies to try out new technologies that would cut their pollution by 90%. Instead, the state decided they only needed to cut their pollution by 40%. This is not surprising.

The Republicans running our state government have shown us time after time that they believe corporate profits are more important than anything else. More important than breathable air or the health of metroplex citizens.

The failure to make these huge corporate kilns stop polluting has now called into question the validity of the plan as a whole. EPA regional director Richard Greene believes the revised plan will not let the area meet federal standards by 2010, and says the EPA may not approve the plan passed by the state.

Greene says, "I am very concerned by these reports, and worry that the changes from the proposal, if adopted, would convert the (plan) from one that I believed had a strong chance of approval to (a plan) that...may not be approvable."

There are already many summer days in the metroplex when the ozone level is so high that it's unhealthy to spend much time outdoors. I guess this will get even worse, as the state sacrifices public health on the altar of corporate profits.

Personally, I think if these companies can't stop the polluting without going out of business, maybe they should go out of business. I bet it wouldn't take long for someone to take their place - someone willing to try the new pollution-free technologies.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Happy Birthday To Bob Dylan

Today is the birthday of Robert Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan. Dylan was born on this date in 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota. In honor of his birthday, I give you the words of one of his most famous songs/poems, and my favorite -- Desolation Row:

They're selling postcards of the hanging
They're painting the passports brown
The beauty parlor is filled with sailors
The circus is in town
Here comes the blind commissioner
They've got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker
The other is in his pants
And the riot squad they're restless
They need somewhere to go
As Lady and I look out tonight
From Desolation Row

Cinderella, she seems so easy
"It takes one to know one," she smiles
And puts her hands in her back pockets
Bette Davis style
And in comes Romeo, he's moaning
"You Belong to Me I Believe"
And someone says," You're in the wrong place, my friend
You better leave"
And the only sound that's left
After the ambulances go
Is Cinderella sweeping up
On Desolation Row

Now the moon is almost hidden
The stars are beginning to hide
The fortunetelling lady
Has even taken all her things inside
All except for Cain and Abel
And the hunchback of Notre Dame
Everybody is making love
Or else expecting rain
And the Good Samaritan, he's dressing
He's getting ready for the show
He's going to the carnival tonight
On Desolation Row

Now Ophelia, she's 'neath the window
For her I feel so afraid
On her twenty-second birthday
She already is an old maid
To her, death is quite romantic
She wears an iron vest
Her profession's her religion
Her sin is her lifelessness
And though her eyes are fixed upon
Noah's great rainbow
She spends her time peeking
Into Desolation Row

Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood
With his memories in a trunk
Passed this way an hour ago
With his friend, a jealous monk
He looked so immaculately frightful
As he bummed a cigarette
Then he went off sniffing drainpipes
And reciting the alphabet
Now you would not think to look at him
But he was famous long ago
For playing the electric violin
On Desolation Row

Dr. Filth, he keeps his world
Inside of a leather cup
But all his sexless patients
They're trying to blow it up
Now his nurse, some local loser
She's in charge of the cyanide hole
And she also keeps the cards that read
"Have Mercy on His Soul"
They all play on penny whistles
You can hear them blow
If you lean your head out far enough
From Desolation Row

Across the street they've nailed the curtains
They're getting ready for the feast
The Phantom of the Opera
A perfect image of a priest
They're spoonfeeding Casanova
To get him to feel more assured
Then they'll kill him with self-confidence
After poisoning him with words
And the Phantom's shouting to skinny girls
"Get Outa Here If You Don't Know
Casanova is just being punished for going
To Desolation Row"

Now at midnight all the agents
And the superhuman crew
Come out and round up everyone
That knows more than they do
Then they bring them to the factory
Where the heart-attack machine
Is strapped across their shoulders
And then the kerosene
Is brought down from the castles
By insurance men who go
Check to see that nobody is escaping
To Desolation Row

Praise be to Nero's Neptune
The Titanic sails at dawn
And everybody's shouting
"Which Side Are You On?"
And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot
Fighting in the captain's tower
While calypso singers laugh at them
And fishermen hold flowers
Between the windows of the sea
Where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much
About Desolation Row

Yes, I received your letter yesterday
(About the time the door knob broke)
When you asked how I was doing
Was that some kind of joke?
All these people that you mention
Yes, I know them, they're quite lame
I had to rearrange their faces
And give them all another name
Right now I can't read too good
Don't send me no more letters no
Not unless you mail them
From Desolation Row

Head Of The GSA Violated The Hatch Act

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has been investigating members of the Bush administration to see if they violated federal law in the last national election. They now believe they have found their first violator of the law, specifically the Hatch Act.

The OSC says that General Services Administration head Lurita Alexis Doan violated the Hatch Act during a January 26th meeting at the GSA, where GSA personnel met with J. Scott Jennings. Jennings is the Deputy Director of Political Affairs in Karl Rove's office at the White House.

After Jennings finished a presentation on the upcoming mid-term elections of 2006, Ms. Doan asked, "How can we help our candidates?" OSC investigators have taken sworn statements from several GSA personnel who remember the remark by Doan.

The OSC report says, "Her actions, to be certain, constitute an obvious misuse of her official authority and were made for the purpose of affecting the result of an election. One can imagine no greater violation of the Hatch Act than to invoke the machinery of an agency, with all its contracts and buildings, in the service of a partisan campaign to retake Congress and the Governors' mansions."

For her part, Doan says she does not remember making the statement. In fact, Doan says she doesn't remember what happened in the meeting because she spent the meeting sending and receiving e-mails on her BlackBerry. That might have worked, except the investigators obtained her e-mail records and said they were "unable to corroborate that Administrator Doan was utilizing her BlackBerry or other personal digital assistant during the January 26 meeting."

So she not only violated the law, when she was caught she lied about it. Pretty typical behavior for a Bush appointee, most of whom think the laws shouldn't apply to them. She needs to resign and follow Attorney General Gonzales right out the administration door.

Of course, Karl Rove is the architect of this effort to subvert the law and use government employees to affect the election. Hopefully, he will be the next to go.

Is there anyone in the Bush administration that respects the law?

Bush Again Trying To Threaten Iran

Bush is again showing his total lack of diplomatic skills by trying to threaten Iran into giving up its nuclear program. He has just sent two carrier strike groups through the Strait of Hormuz. The two strike groups were led by the aircraft carriers USS Nimitz and the USS John C. Stennis.

They were then joined by the assault strike group led by the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, with its 17,000 Marines. The three groups will be carrying out military training exercises just off the Iranian Coast for the next few days.

Of course, this is little more than an attempt to intimidate Iran. But the Iranians are not easily intimidated. In the recent past, attempts to intimidate them have just resulted in them becoming even more steadfast in their pursuit of nuclear goals.

I don't think it's a good thing for Iran to have nuclear military capabilities. But this is not the way to dissuade them. If anything, threats from a larger and more powerful nation will just make them want a nuclear bomb even more, so they can defend themselves.

This is the time for diplomacy, not threats. The problem is that Bush and his cohorts have shown themselves to be incapable of practicing the art of diplomacy. The only solution they seem to know is threats leading to military action. They haven't grasped the concept that for diplomacy to work, you actually have to talk to your enemy.

This points to the need to replace Bush with a skilled diplomat and negotiator like Bill Richardson. He has repeatedly shown the ability to talk to rogue regimes and achieve the desired results, without the need to threaten or use military power.

I just hope we can get through the next year and a half without the Bush administration starting an unneccessary war with Iran.

U.S. Is Damaging Human Rights Worldwide

Amnesty International released a new report yesterday. This report took many nations to task. They criticized China for its support of the genocidal government in Sudan. It criticized Russia for its crackdown on reporters and dissidents. It criticized Great Britain and Japan for passing new authoritarian anti-terror and anti-immigrant laws.

The report criticized many nations, but its harshest criticism was for the United States. The report accuses the U.S. of using the entire world as a battleground in its "war on terrorism". They say the U.S. has accomplished little except to widen the gulf between Muslims and others, undermine the rule of law and again make torture acceptable.

They especially blasted the U.S. for its policy of "extraordinary rendition" (flying prisoners to other countries where they could be tortured). This action has made torture more politically acceptable all over the world.

The report said, "The U.S. administration's double speak has been breathtakingly shameless. It is unrepentant about the global web of abuse it has spun in the name of counterterrorism."

IA's Secretary-General Irene Khan said, "One of the biggest blows to human rights has been the attempt of Western democratic states to roll back some fundamental principles of human rights -- like the prohibition of torture. If we focus on the U.S. it's because we believe that the U.S. is a country whose enormous influence and power has to be used constructively. When countries like the U.S. are seen to undermine or ignore human rights, it sends a very powerful message to others."

Sadly, Amnesty International is right. The United States has a huge influence worldwide. If the U.S. says its OK to torture, many other countries will follow that example. If the U.S. no longer follows the rule of law, other nations will view the law as just another tool to use against those they don't like. If the U.S. violates human rights, why shouldn't other nations do it also?

We have never been perfect as a nation, but we were once a shining example of what could be accomplished with a little respect for human rights and the rule of law. That example shamed many other nations into striving to better themselves.

But the Bush administration has badly tarnished that image. Now we are just another country willing to deny human rights, ignore the rule of law and torture our enemies. History books should always show Bush as the president who seriously damaged his country and the world.

It may take the U.S. generations to live down the Bush legacy of shame.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Gas Prices Still Rising & So Is My Stress Level

Well, I've just been raped by the oil companies again. I had to fill my car with gas again today. The price here in Amarillo is now $3.29.9 (and this was at a place that advertised "discount gas"). Nowdays the price has risen every single time I have to gas up.

I think we probably have the highest gas prices in the state (anybody out there have to pay more?). This is at least a dime over the national average. I still don't understand, with all the oil and refineries in this state, how ANYPLACE in Texas should be paying more than the national average.

I'm already furious with this situation, but I'm afraid I'll probably pop a blood vessel when the oil companies announce their record profits at the end of the summer (and you know they will).

Former Chess Champion Is Now A Dissident

One of the greatest of the world chess champions was Garry Kasparov from Russia. He was a skilled and very creative player who ruled the chess world for many years. These days he is lending his talents to a dissident movement opposing Kremlin policies.

Kasparov, along with Eduard Limonov (author and head of the banned National Bolshevik Party), have organized several demonstrations against the Russian government. They claim the policies of Vladimir Putin are strangling democracy in Russia.

Most of the demonstrations they have organized have been broken up police because they were not "authorized". But Kasparov and Limonov perservere. Their next march is scheduled for June 9 in St. Petersburg at an international conference. This would be an embarrassment to the Kremlin, as it tries to present Russia as a thriving and stable country to potential investors.

At a recent news conference, Kasparov told reporters, "We're simply obliged to continue to move forward. Of course we are afraid, but the marches will continue, the authorities understand this and it seems to me that this is a watershed time."

It can be pretty scary to march in this country the way some of our police react (such as the LAPD in the recent immigrant rally). Can you imagine how it must be for a dissident in Russia? They may have made some recent strides toward democracy, but they are still a long way from a free society.

Bush Administration Pushing Nuclear Energy

Maybe we should just stop pushing the Bush administration to come up with solutions to the global climactic changes caused by greenhouse gases. Just looking at his other "solutions" to problems should have told us that he would probably screw it up.

The U.S. is currently hosting China, France, Japan and Russia in the first meeting of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. Great Britain and the International Atomic Energy Agency are also sitting in on the meeting.

It seems that Bush's solution to greenhouse gas production is to encourage the spread of nuclear energy. And he's sinking $250 million U.S. dollars into his plan. He wants the GNEP to sell nuclear fuel to nations that "promise" to only use it for peaceful production of electric power.

It's too bad that he doesn't listen to anyone, because someone needs to remind him of Iran, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, not to mention the problem of disposing of nuclear waste. Besides, it's just silly for a country to be pushing nuclear energy when that country hasn't built a nuclear plant since 1979.

As usual, a Bush solution could turn out to be worse than the problem it was supposed to solve.

Should Legislature Meet Yearly ?

The El Paso Times and News Channel 9 recently conducted a poll in the El Paso area. They asked residents whether the Texas legislature should change to meeting every year, instead of meeting every two years as they now do.

Personally, I found the poll's results rather frightening. It seems that 67% of the respondents thought the legislature should meet annually. Only 22% thought it best that the legislature meet only every other year.

Currently, the legislature meets only in odd-numbered years, and can run only for 140 days. This is mandated in the Texas Constitution.

This year, over 5,000 bills were introduced. Most of them died because they could not be dealt with within the 140-day time limit. Looking at some of the bills passed by this legislature, I would say it's a good thing that most bills died.

I don't think most of the 67% that wants annual sessions was watching the legislature this year, or they would know what a clusterf*ck a session of the Texas legislature really is. Frankly, the thought of having this group meet yearly scares the hell out of me.

Gregory Rocha, a political science professor at UTEP, says the history behind having sessions only every other year is the idea that less government is better than more government. He said, "The issue is whether we trust government. Further in East Texas there is even more distrust of what government and elected officials can do. No one wants to give them more power -- it's part of the Texas political culture."

I'm not from East Texas, but I have to agree. These guys screw up enough by meeting only once every two years. Let's just leave it the way it is.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Richardson Up To Double-Digits In New Iowa Poll

It looks like the recent ads released by the Richardson campaign may be having the desired result. In a new Des Moines Register poll taken May 12-16, Bill Richardson has climbed into double-digits at 10%. No one has yet broken out of the pack, with john Edwards leading at 29%. This is still anybody's race.

Here are the newest poll results from the Des Moines Register:


Bill Richardson is also showing the same kind of movement in New Hampshire according to the newest Zogby poll taken there. He has risen from 2 or 3% to 10%. Zogby said, "Of greatest significance is the move of Bill Richardson into double-digits from merely a blip on the screen. He is now a player in all this."

Here is Zogby's top four in New Hampshire:


There's still a long way to go, but it now looks like there is a top four, and then there's the rest. It should be an interesting few months.

A Message From David Van Os

We Need a People's Candidate

Have you heard any of the rumors going around about potential Democratic candidates to challenge John Cornyn for the U.S. Senate in 2008?

Well I have, and I don't like what I'm hearing. The Washington Beltway Insiders are trying to pick a candidate to run against Cornyn on the basis of their ideas about what the people of Texas need and want, and -- surprise, surprise -- on the basis of who has or can raise the most big money.

John Cornyn is a supporter of Bushite tyranny who needs to be taken out for the good of the people of this state, for the good of the whole country, and for the good of the Constitution that he has so repeatedly dishonored by being a lapdog for the Bushites' attempts to stuff our rights and our heritage into the trash. But I'll be damned if I want a private club of wealthy Beltway-centered elite deciding who the Texas Democratic nominee will be to carry the people's banner against Cornyn. And I'll be double damned if I want the choices for the people of Texas to be decided by the power of money rather than the power of the people.

It appears nothing has changed with the Insiders. But we are supposed to live in a system of democracy, not aristocracy! The people are supposed to govern themselves, not be governed by money and those who have large amounts of it.

We cannot allow the blooming populist movement of the last few years go die on the vine in relation to the Cornyn seat. We need a people's candidate.

David Van Os

Just a thought, but wouldn't David Van Os make a great Senate candidate?

Dems "Knuckle-Under" To Bush On Iraq War Bill

When it comes down to opposition to the war in Iraq, the congressional Democrats are proving themselves to be a rather ineffectual lot. I was afraid this might happen.

They started off well by sending Bush a bill that included timetables for withdrawal from Iraq. This only made sense because a solid majority of the American people believe that timetables for our withdrawal should be established. But Bush vetoed that bill, and even though they were supported by the people, the Democrats began to waffle.

They then came up with a proposal that would give Bush half of what he wanted, while holding half in reserve for another vote. Of course Bush sensed he had them on the run, and told them he would also veto that concept.

They then came up with the idea of including "goals" for the Iraqi government to meet to keep the funds flowing. Worse yet, these "goals" could be waived by Bush any time he wanted. Again Bush said he would veto and the idea died.

Now Democrats are ready to give Bush the funds for his never-ending war without any goals or timetables. In an effort to save face, they are tacking on to the bill the effort to raise the minimum wage. What craven cowards!

Have they been out of power so long they've forgotten how to play the political game? When you have a majority of voters on your side, that's the time to press the issue - not the time to give in! Once again, they show America that they don't have the will or the guts to be in power.

This is a true tragedy, because America desperately needs an alternative to the Republicans. The Republicans are selling our country to the corporations (who are loyal to no country), and have gotten us involved in an endless war that accomplishes nothing.

As for the minimum wage, it should have already been passed and sent to Bush on its own merits, forcing him to either sign it or further damage the Republican party.

I hope the Democrats find the courage to again learn how to play the game of politics before they squander their golden opportunity. Americans do not respect cowardice in any form.

A True Texas Hero !

We learned yesterday that Texas still produces heros - giants willing to sacrifice personally for the good of all Texans. State Senator Mario Gallegos is just such a man.

Senator Gallegos underwent a liver transplant in January, and still has not recovered from the very serious surgery. Last Friday, he underwent more surgery to determine whether the transplant had become infected. His doctors wanted him to stay in the hospital where they could monitor his progress.

But on Monday, Gallegos was back in Austin. He has a hospital bed set up in the building where the Senate meets, only a short walk from his senate desk. Risking his own health, he is back to protect the voting rights of all Texans.

It takes a 2/3 majority to bring a bill to the floor for a vote in the Senate. So far, by sticking together, the senate Democrats have been able to deny a floor vote for the very bad Republican Voter ID bill. But there are only 11 senate Democrats, and if even one is absent then the Republicans would have their 2/3 majority.

That is why Senator Gallegos is back in Austin, despite doctor's orders. He said, "I can remember my grandmother, who was born in Mexico and became a citizen. She would not be able to vote if this bill had been the law of the land. I haven't heard any complaints, at least in my district, that illegal aliens are voting. I haven't heard of a single instance since 1991, when I took office."

Gallegos says he will stay until there are only 12 hours left in which to bring a bill to the floor. He said he believes his fellow Democrats can filibuster the last 12 hours.

I have to admit that I did not know much about Senator Mario Gallegos until now. But after his courageous action, he is definitely on my list of heroes now.

Thank you Senator Gallegos for caring about all Texans, even those who did not know you. You're a shining example for Democrats everywhere.

Judge Stops Farmers Branch Ordinance

On May 12th, 68% of the voters in Farmers Branch approved a racist ordinance that would force apartment owners to discriminate against Hispanics. The ordinance is supposedly aimed at illegal immigrants, but would force all Hispanics to prove they are American citizens before they could get housing in Farmers Branch.

The ordinance was supposed to take effect next Tuesday, but for now it has been stopped dead in its tracks. U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay has issued an injunction that keeps the ordinance from going into effect. He said he had reason to believe that a lawsuit filed against the ordinance would succeed in federal court.

The ACLU and the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund have filed the lawsuit. They believe the ordinance is unconstitutional and illegal. Thank goodness for these two organizations who have stepped forward to oppose the "tyranny of the majority". Being in the majority does not give anyone the right to discriminate.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Bill Richardson's Energy Plan

If the United Nations and most of the world's climate scientists are to be believed, then we are running out of time to do something about the greenhouse gases that are beginning to cause disastrous global climate changes. George Bush and his Republican cronies have already wasted the last seven years by denying that a problem exists.

This leaves us with precious little time in which to get started with the changes that need to be made. Since Bush has made it clear that nothing will be done during his administration, that makes it very important that the next president we elect have a clear and coherent plan of action.

I received the following letter from presidential candidate Bill Richardson. In it, he lays out his plan for dealing with energy concerns and global climate change. This is what he has to say:

It's time for a revolution.

We have been hearing about this country's energy crisis for years, yet our dependence on foreign oil has deepened, our fuel efficiency standards have stagnated, and our greenhouse gas emissions have multiplied exponentially. The time for incremental change and conventional thinking is long gone.
Today I'm calling for a New American Revolution - an energy and climate revolution.

There are five crucial elements to my plan:

Cut oil demand: 50% by 2020. Increasing the gas mileage of the average car to more than 50 mpg is just one way to help achieve this goal.

Change to Renewable Sources for Electricity: 50% by 2040. We could save customers $21 billion a year by 2020 by changing to alternative energy sources.

Dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions: 90% by 2050. We must set strict limits on emissions. We'll do it by instituting a market-based cap and trade system.

Restore America as the world's leader. We must return to the international negotiating table and support mandatory Kyoto-style limits on global warming pollution.

Get it all done without breaking the bank. By reducing oil imports and raising revenue from carbon permits, we will create more than 10 times more economic value than we spend to make this program happen.

The plan I'm proposing will inevitably draw questions. As when President Kennedy challenged this country to put a man on the moon, people will say it can't be done. But I believe that we are facing a global crisis where there can be no such thing as "can't be done."

My plan is more aggressive than any other candidate's. And I am the only candidate with the experience and record of accomplishment up for this challenge.

As Secretary of Energy, I pushed for a national renewable energy portfolio standard and the development of new vehicle technology. As Governor, I made New Mexico the Clean Energy State by supporting alternative energy tax incentives and setting aggressive targets to reduce global warming emissions.
As President, I will make this a Clean Energy Nation.

For too long, our leaders in Washington have denied and ignored the issue of global climate change. Now, it's up to us. The only way to reject the conventional wisdom that "it can't be done" is to build a movement that will not be denied. That movement can start with you.

Thank you for your commitment to a clean energy future,

Bill Richardson

Is This The Week Alberto Gonzales Resigns ?

This may be the week that ends Alberto Gonzales' tenure as U.S. Attorney General. That's what Senator Arlen Specter believes. On CBS' Face the Nation, Sen. Specter (R-Pennsylvania) said he thought Gonzales would avoid the black mark of having a Senate "no confidence" vote.

Specter said, "Votes of no confidence are very rare. Historically, that is something which Attorney General Gonzales would like to avoid. I think that if and when he sees that coming, he would prefer to avoid that kind of a historical black mark."

And that is just what Democrats in the Senate are planning. Senators Schumer (D-New York) and Feinstein (D-California) are calling for a "no confidence" vote on Gonzales as early as this week. It would be a nonbinging resolution, but it would put even more pressure on Gonzales who has to work with the Senate (and it would look bad in the history books, as Specter says).

Of course, Bush says that Gonzales still has his full confidence and support, even after his pitiful appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee. During that appearance, he told the Senators over 170 times that he "could not recall" incidents. I don't think he could recall anything but his name that day. If nothing else, he should resign for "medical" reasons - his total lack of a functioning memory.

I'm not sure one of Bush's loyalists could do anything bad enough to get Bush to ask for his resignation, but a majority of the Senate seems to have had enough of Gonzales. When a "no confidence" vote is taken, it looks like enough Republicans will join the Democrats to get the resolution passed.

His participation in the unjust and purely political firing of several U.S. Attorneys was bad enough, but last week we learned just how low Gonzales is willing to stoop for his master, George Bush. We now know he was willing to go to the hospital to try and pressure a seriously-ill John Ashcroft into signing off on Bush's unconstitutional surveillance plan (and you know the plan had to be bad if even Ashcroft thought it was unconstitutional).

I hope the Senate proceeds with the "no confidence" vote and anything else they could do to get Gonzales to resign. He is an embarrassment to the Department of Justice, the state of Texas, and to our nation as a whole.

The cartoon above was by Mike Keefe in the 5/18/07 Denver Post.