Sunday, September 30, 2007

Could Racism Be Killing Black Babies ?

For years, we have known that the infant mortality rate for African-Americans is much higher in America than for whites and Hispanics. The question has always been why this is true.

The overall infant mortality rate in this country is 7.0 babies out of every 1000. The rate for whites is 5.8 out of 1000. For African-Americans the rate jumps to a whopping 13.8 out of 1000. In some African-American communities, the rate is higher than in many developing nations.

Making the matter even more mysterious is the fact that the rate remains high in spite of the level of medical care given. The phenomenon seems to cut across class lines. Even affluent African-American women are more likely to have premature and low birth-weight babies than white women.

Michael Lu, an obstetrician and researcher at UCLA, thinks the answer may be stress brought on by racism. He says, "That's the elephant in the room. When we're studying racial disparities, for decades people have looked at stress and infant mortality without looking at the reasons for the stress. We know that one of the leading causes of infant mortality among African-Americans is preterm birth. We know that stress is an important risk factor, and it initiates the release of stress hormones leading to preterm birth and increase susceptibility for infection. The question is, do we think racial discrimination and racism is stressful?"

The answer to that question seems obvious -- of course it is stressful. How could it not be stressful? As one study participant told researchers, "The pregnancy scares the life out of me because I am pregnant with a baby boy, and I know how black boys are treated in this society."

This must give pause to those of us who love this country and want to make it better for all its citizens. Racism is not just a social and economic evil. It is actually killing babies!

This is one more reason why we must wipe out this pernicious evil in our society. There is no middle ground on racism. Those who do not fight it, allow it to exist and are therefore as guilty as its proponents.

Texas To Continue Legalized Killings

A few days ago, the United States Supreme Court accepted a Kentucky case regarding the death penalty. There have been several screw-ups in recent lethal injection executions, including one where it took the condemned man nearly 30 minutes to die. The Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether lethal injections constitute "cruel and unusal punishment".

When the high court agreed to hear the Kentucky case, most states put their scheduled executions on hold until the case has been decided. But not Texas. Our state government is far too bloodthirsty for that.

Texas has already put 405 inmates to death using lethal injections, and Attorney General Greg Abbott says he sees no reason to put "an abrupt halt to the Texas executions". However, he may not have any choice in the matter.

The Supreme Court has already delayed the execution of an Irving man, and may well stop other scheduled executions in Texas until they decide the Kentucky case. They will just have to stop them one at a time, as each inmate's attorney takes his case to the court.

Since the Supreme Court will probably stop the executions one at a time, it seems silly for Texas to keep scheduling them. It just makes our state look bad. No one is asking Texas not to execute these condemned men -- just to delay the executions until the court verdict is rendered a few months from now.

Our state Republican leadership is just playing a game with Texas voters. They know they will probably not be able to carry out any executions, but scheduling them appeals to their death-loving political base.

Is there anything these right-wingers won't play politics with?

Friday, September 28, 2007

More Embarrassing Stats From Census Bureau

The Census Bureau released statistics yesterday on numbers of people living in prisons and college dorms in 2006. To be blunt, these new stats are an embarrassment for the United States.

It seems that there are three times as many Afro-Americans living in a prison cell as there are living in a college dorm. The numbers for Hispanics are almost as bad. There are 2.7 Hispanics living in prison for every one living in a college dorm. It's different for whites. More than twice as many whites live in dorms as prisons.

It has not always been that way. In 1980, the number of Afro-Americans living in dorms was equal to the number living in prisons, and more Hispanics lived in dorms than prisons. What happened?

Urban League president Marc Morial said, "It's one of the great social and economic tragedies of our time. It points to the signature failure in our education system and how we've been raising our children."

He's right. We have been doing a poor job of educating Afro-American and Hispanic children in this country. But we have done a poor job of educating these children for a long time. Other forces have added to this problem since 1980 -- stagnant wages for the working class, rising costs of a college education, the new prohibition (war on drugs), and continuing racism.

While the rich have gotten much richer since the Republicans came to power in the 1980's, they are the only people who are better off. Wages have stagnated for the middle and working classes so badly that they now have less buying power than they did in the 1970's. The "trickle down" theory embraced by the Republicans simply did not work for anyone outside the upper class.

Couple this with the fact that college costs have risen enormously, and it's easy to see why many in the middle and working classes can no longer afford to send their children to live in a college dorm. In fact, many can't even afford to offer their children a commuter college education.

The "war on drugs" has also been ramped up since 1980, and due to the continuing racism in our society, has been aimed primarily at the minority community (even though there is no proof that they use drugs any more than whites). Add this to the reality that when arrested for drug possession minorities are more likely to be sent to prison than whites, and you can begin to see how we got into this mess.

We can fix the problem, but it won't be easy. We must:
A. Restructure our tax system so the rich pay their fair share and the burden no longer falls mainly on the middle class.
B. Pay workers a decent and livable wage, and make sure that wage rises at least as much as the rate of inflation.
C. End prohibition, and tax drug sales to provide treatment instead of incarceration for users.
D. Rein in college costs and provide more government help for low and middle income students.
E. Do a better job of educating minority and low-income students.
F. Renew the fight against racism on all levels, including the racism that still exists in our societal institutions.

We must change what we are doing and restore the American Dream to all our citizens. Our future depends on it.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

TxDOT Running Out Of Money ?

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) says it is having "cash flow" problems, and is threatening to delay $900 million of construction projects statewide. They cite rising construction costs and $600 million in federal funds that have been cut.

Frankly, after their recent actions, I'm not at all sure I trust TxDOT anymore. If they are so short of funds, why are they wasting $7 to $9 million dollars on a public relations campaign to sell the idea of toll roads, which they would then turn over to private companies? Wouldn't this money be better spent on our state roads and highways?

We have already seen that they're willing to make secret contracts with private foreign companies to take thousands of acres of prime Texas land and build a huge toll road (the Trans-Texas Corridor boondoggle). Are they telling us the whole truth now?

I don't doubt they don't have the money to build all the roads they would like to build. But I suspect the $900 million construction delay of roads already approved is just a heavy-handed attempt to blackmail Texans into accepting the private toll roads they want.

While all these private toll roads would create windfall profits for the corporate buddies of our Republican state leadership, it would be a very bad deal for ordinary Texans. Our state has a proud history of having one of the best FREE road systems in the nation. But since they came to power, the Republicans have been far more interested in cutting taxes for the rich and filling corporate bank accounts than in keeping our road system up-to-date.

Now they not only want to build new toll roads for private companies, they also want to turn many of our freeways into toll roads and give them away to private corporations. The whole fiendish plot is insane!

If more funds are needed, then the gas tax should be raised. At present, the state gas tax is 20 cents. While it would not be pleasant, a raise in the gas tax would actually be cheaper on Texas drivers than the many proposed toll roads. But they don't want Texans to know that, because then they couldn't give our roads to their corporate buddies.

Don't let TxDOT and their Republican masters blackmail you into accepting private toll roads. Vote these people out of office as soon as possible. Elect people who will replace TxDOT leaders and keep our roads open to all Texans.

Only Richardson Promises To End Iraq War

Bill Richardson has been telling us for weeks that he is the only one of the major candidates that pledges to end the Iraq war and bring all of our troops home. It looks like he was right.

Last night, all three of the other major candidates refused to guarantee that they would have all our troops home by the end of their first term if elected. I was shocked to learn that they might continue the war for ANOTHER FOUR YEARS!

Obama said, "I think it's hard to project four years from now."

Edwards said, "I cannot make that commitment."

Clinton said, "It is very difficult to know what we're going to be inheriting"

Clinton went on to say that she would leave some "counterterrorist" troops over there. Obama has said in the past that he would do the same. What is wrong with these people? Can they not hear what the American people are saying?

Frankly, it is pretty obvious what they will be inheriting. They will be inheriting the same mess that exists right now. Bush has made it clear that he will not change course or make any substantial withdrawal.

The American people have made it clear that they do not support the war, and they want it ended. There is no way they're going to put up with four more years of war -- from a Democrat or a Republican.

Last night re-affirmed my belief that Richardson is the only viable candidate for those of us who oppose the war. He has made it very clear that ALL U.S. troops will be out of Iraq no later than the end of his first year in office. He does not waver or mince words.

If you truly oppose this disastrous war, it is time to seriously consider the candidacy of Bill Richardson.

Judge Says Patriot Act Violates The Constitution

Supporters of the Constitution have been saying the Patriot Act was unconstitutional for years. Finally, a federal judge agrees. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken threw out two provisions of the Patriot Act, ruling they allowed search warrants to be issued without probable cause.

Judge Aiken said Patriot Act amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act "now permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment."

She went on to say, "For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law -- with unparalleled success. A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised."

Thank goodness for this ruling, and this judge. The Fourth Amendment, as well as the rest of our Constitution, has served this country well since its inception. It makes no sense to destroy the constitution because of a terrorist act. Our Constitution is the only thing that guarantees our freedom.

The greatness of this country lies in the fact that its citizens have rights that even the government cannot trod upon. George Bush tried to destroy those rights by frightening the people. If he is allowed to succeed, then we are just a tiny step away from a true police state.

With her ruling, this judge has helped our country to step back from that awful precipice. Now we must wait and hope the higher courts will also have the courage and wisdom to uphold our Constitution.

Government must have limits if freedom is to exist.

TLCV Grades Texas Legislators

The Texas League of Conservation Voters (TLCV) issued their grades for members of the Texas House of Representatives. The TLCV rates Texas legislators after each regular session of the legislature, by giving them "grades" on how they voted on conservation issues. This year, these issues covered such things as water, state parks, global warming, air, energy and waste.

Overall, Democrats scored much better than Republicans. The average score for Democrats was 84, while the average score for Republicans was 32. Our representatives here in the Panhandle didn't do too well. John Smithee scored 33, David Swinford scored 31, and Warren Chisum scored a miserable 28. Only one Republican scored over 50 -- Delwin Jones with a 52.

Meanwhile, eleven Democrats scored a perfect 100. They are:

Lon Burnam
Garnet Coleman
Jim Dunnam
Pete Gallego
Veronica Gonzales
Donna Howard
Borris Miles
Elliott Naishtat
Rene Oliveira
Eddie Rodriguez
Senfronia Thompson

Twenty-five other Democrats also received an A+ rating (a grade of over 90) from the TLCV, including US Senate candidate Rick Noriega (who scored 96).

These numbers make it very clear which party is voting to protect Texas citizens and their environment, and which party is not. Democrats vote to clean our water and air and to protect our environment. Republicans vote to protect the corporate polluters.

Remember these numbers when you vote next year, and vote the Republicans out of power -- for the good of Texas and its citizens.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Tax Cut That Makes Sense

Presidential candidate Barack Obama has proposed a tax cut program. But this is not like Bush's tax cuts for the rich. Obama proposes a tax cut for the middle and working classes, and he thinks the rich should pay for it.

Finally, we get a tax cut proposal that makes some sense. All Bush's tax cuts did was fatten the wallets of the rich. It did very little to help the economy overall. That's because Bush still believes in the long discredited "trickle down" approach to economics. But while Bush helped the rich get even richer, nothing trickled down to the other classes.

Obama knows better. He knows that money doesn't trickle down in a capitalist economy -- it moves upward. To really get the economy moving, you must aim tax cuts at the working and middle classes. The rich will also be helped, but only after the money moves through the other classes and lifts the economy as a whole.

Obama's plan would give a tax credit of up to $500 per person, off-setting the payroll tax on the first $8100 of income. The cut would phase out at incomes between $150,000 and $200,000 a year. He would also give homeowners who do not itemize a credit of $500 a year, and completely eliminate income taxes for senior citizens making less than $50,000.

He would pay for these cuts by closing corporate tax loopholes. Obama said, "Instead of having all of us pay our fair share, we've got over $1 trillion worth of loopholes in the corporate tax code. This isn't the invisible hand of the market at work. It's the successful work of special interests."

He also called for an increase in the tax on capital gains and dividends for the richest Americans, and said he would crack down on offshore tax havens and act to keep hedge funds from avoiding taxes.

What a novel approach to taxes -- to make the rich and the corporations actually pay their fair share, instead of dumping the burden on the middle class.

Remembering The Little Rock 9

On September 25, 1957 a momentous event took place in this country as the first southern high school was finally desegrated. It was not easy. The Supreme Court had declared seperate schools to be inherently unequal in 1954, but many white southerners were not ready for the change.

In the Fall of 1957, nine Afro-American students enrolled at the all-white Central High School in Little Rock. But when they tried to enter the school they were turned back by the Arkansas National Guard, who had been called out by the racist governor Orval Faubus. They were also threatened and abused by large crowds of racist whites.

But these young men and women kept trying, until finally President Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division and made it happen. But it was a tough year for the 9 students, and each had to be assigned a soldier as a bodyguard to protect them from harm.

These 9 brave high school students changed America forever -- and for the better. Yesterday, they gathered again at Central High School and once again they entered its doors. But this time they were cheered by a large crowd and greeted by former-president Bill Clinton. They were recognized as the heroes they really were.

All Americans should remember these nine brave people and honor them. I doubt that many of us would have had the courage to endure the threats, intimidation and abuse that these extraordinary Americans had to put up with that year. I list their names here, because these are people who deserve to be remembered:

Thelma Mothershed
Minnijean Brown
Elizabeth Eckford
Gloria Ray
Jefferson Thomas
Melba Pattillo
Terrence Roberts
Carlotta Walls
Ernest Green

Thank you! Your courage is remembered and appreciated.

What Is An "American" Car ?

On Monday, nearly 2700 workers walked out of the General Motors plant in Arlington. They were joining thousands of their union brethren in a strike against General Motors.

For years, these workers have watched as GM shipped American jobs to other countries, where they could abuse lower paid non-union workers. Today, GM has less than 25% of the number of American workers that it employed in 1970. That is an apalling figure, especially considering that many more cars are being made.

So this strike is less about wages, and more about job security. It's a bad sign that the contract expired on September 14th without a new agreement. Does it mean that GM wants to ship even more American jobs overseas?

This dilemma got me to wondering just what is an "American" car? Is it a Chevrolet made by Mexican workers for a company headquartered in the United States? Or is it a Toyota made by American workers for a company headquartered in Japan?

The Mexican-made Chevrolet makes GM's owners richer, but the American-made Toyota probably contributes more to the American economy, because the money made by the workers turns over several times and benefits many more people in this country. To me, a car made by American workers is a lot more American than one made by foreign workers, regardless of where the rich owners live.

American-headquartered car companies like GM and Ford should be careful about asking people to "Buy American". They might just do it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nuclear Power Plant To Be Built In South Texas

It looks like there's going to be a new nuclear power plant built in South Texas soon. Today, NRG Energy is applying for permission to build two nuclear reactors at its South Texas Project in Bay City. If approved (and it looks like it will be approved), it will be the first new nuclear reactors built in the United States in 30 years.

With natural gas prices going through the roof, and more concerns over the inevitable pollution that accompanies new coal-powered plants, many are beginning to see nuclear power as the answer to our growing energy needs. The two new reactors will provide enough energy for 21 million homes, and are expected to come on line by 2015.

But is nuclear power really the answer? Serious doubts can be raised by two simple questions. (1) Does anyone remember Three Mile Island? (2) What are you going to do with the nuclear waste?

Of course, a nuclear meltdown or disposal of nuclear waste are not problems that NRG Energy need worry about. They are a New Jersey company and these would be South Texas problems.

I think I'd be worrying though if I lived in South Texas.

New Poll Says Humans Causing Climate Change

Over 150 countries just met at the United Nations to discuss global climate change. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said, "If we do not act now, the impact of climate change will be devastating." It seems that world leaders are in agreement that humans are causing global climate change, and action must be taken soon to avoid disastrous consequences. But what do ordinary people think?

The BBC has just conducted a poll that answers that question. They surveyed over 22,000 people in 21 countries, including the United States. The results show that a huge majority (79%) believe that global climate change is caused by human activity. In fact, around 90% of the people believe that action should be taken to curb production of greenhouse gases, with nearly 2/3 believing that action must be taken soon.

It seems that only a tiny minority (around 10%) agree with George Bush that global climate change has not been proven. Personally, I think George believes it too -- he just can't bring himself to ask his corporate buddies to stop polluting. After all, too much money is being made by all this polluting, and it might cut into those windfall profits if corporations had to clean up their act.

But George is part of an ever dwindling minority. Over 59% in the United States believe action must be taken very soon, and another 33% believe some action must be taken in the next few years.

I don't think I've ever seen a president so out of touch with ordinary citizens. They disagree with him on the war, on how to fight terrorism, on the need for reform in medical care, and as this poll shows, they also disagree with him on global climate change. But like an ostrich, George keeps his head buried in the sand and refuses to see the real world.

It is becoming more obvious every day that we must put Democrats back in power in the next election, including a Democrat in the White House. The Republicans have had their chance, and refuse to take action to solve our problems.

Columbia's President Is Poor Host

Let me say right off the top here that I am not a supporter of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I consider him to be a fool and a troublemaker, and the world would be a better place if he were not the president of Iran. But this does not excuse the poor behavior of many Americans to his visit, including Columbia University president Lee Bollinger.

Ahmadinejad is in New York for a visit to the United Nations. Many Americans have shown their own intolerance by saying he should not have been allowed into the country. That is just silly. As long as the United Nations is in this country, then we must allow the leader of any member nation to come and speak, regardless of whether we agree with his politics or not. Doing otherwise would only highlight our own unfairness.

When it was learned that Ahmadinejad was coming to this country, he was invited to speak at Columbia University. Contrary to what others think, I believe this was a good thing. It showcased one of our most treasured freedoms -- freedom of speech. Freedom of speech means even those we disagree with are allowed to speak. If the speaker is a fool, it will reveal itself when he opens his mouth to speak.

But I believe Columbia's president was wrong in his actions yesterday. After inviting Ahmadinejad to speak, he virtually ambushed him with slurs and insults. It was unbecoming of an educator in a great university to treat a guest in such a way. Bollinger said his guest was "ridiculous", "astonishingly uneducated" and a "cruel and petty dictator" (even though he was elected by a majority of his countrymen).

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I was taught that you do not treat an invited guest in such a shoddy manner. If you cannot be decent to your guest, THEN DON'T INVITE HIM! But once you do extend an invitation, it is your responsibility to treat your invited guest with common decency. You don't have to agree with him, but you should not insult him.

Bollinger's actions are not heroic. It makes him look as though he was not properly raised and taught the value of common decency.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Racists Coming Out Of The Woodwork

The plight of the Jena 6 has been big news recently all over the country. Last week, it resulted in thousands of people going to Jena for peaceful demonstrations to protest the unfair actions of the local officials there. However, the story is also having another effect -- one that is unwanted by most decent people.

The story is also bringing racists back out into the open. These racist kooks have been keeping a lower profile for the last few years, but this story seems to have emboldened some of them.

In Jena, while many of the peaceful demonstrators were waiting to board buses and leave after the demonstrations, two young white men tied a couple of nooses to the back of their pickup and kept driving past the demonstrators. It was an obvious attempt to intimidate those calling for racial justice.

Jena police stopped the duo and arrested them, after finding a gun and brass knuckles in addition to the nooses. It turned out to be an 18 year-old and a 16 year-old from the area. The 16 year-old claimed to be in the Ku Klux Klan, and actually had KKK tattooed on his chest.

In another incident, the FBI is investigating lynching threats on a Virginia-based website. The website lists the phone numbers of the families of the Jena 6 "in case anyone wants to deliver justice". The website also features a swastika and is full of racial slurs. It belongs to a member of the American National Socialist Workers Party -- a right-wing racist group.

I believe the prosecutor and judge in Jena don't think they are acting in a racially-biased way, but they're wrong. They just need to look at who their supporters are and who their opponents are. They would find that most decent people think they are wrong, while the racist kooks revel in their decisions and actions.

People aren't asking them to ignore those who break the law. They just want them to be fair, and treat white and black lawbreakers equally. Why is that so hard to do?

Cowboys Win A Big One

Alright, I'm a believer now. Being a die-hard Cowboys fan, I wanted to believe after the first two games against the Giants and the Dolphins. But after all, it was just the Giants and Dolphins. I doubt if either of those teams will make it to the playoffs.

But last night was different. Last night, it was the NFC Champion Chicago Bears. The Cowboys offense had looked unstoppable after the first two games, but the Bears have a much better defense than either of those teams. Last night was the real test for the Cowboys and their offense -- and they passed that test with flying colors.

Romo passed for 329 yards against the vaunted Bears defense. Owens and Whitten played like the all-stars they really are, and Barber ran like a man possessed. The offense struggled a bit in the first half, but then hung 27 points on the Bears defense. Frankly, if you can score 27 against the Bears, then you can score against anyone in the league.

The defense is still a work in progress, and at times gave the Bears quarterback far too much time to throw. But Ware and Spencer each got a sack, and they are starting to put a little more pressure on as a team. Spencer seems to be figuring out his new position, and I believe the defense will get a little better with each passing week.

The defense did take advantage of the opportunities they had. Henry got another two interceptions, and Williams got an interception and recovered a fumble.

The only real negative this week was the penalties. There were far too many. The Cowboys are just lucky that Romo was good enough to overcome the penalties, but we can't count on that every week. They're going to have to cut down on the penalties or it will eventually cost them a game.

But like I said, I'm now a believer. I believe the Cowboys are a playoff caliber team. If the defense keeps on improving and the offense keeps playing as well as it is, the Cowboys should do very well this year. In fact, it almost seems unfair to the rest of the league that we'll soon be getting Terry Glenn back on offense soon!

Next week it's the Rams. With a bit of luck, the Cowboys could be 4-0 this time next week.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Example of Republican Incompetence

The Bush administration showed us just how incompetent Republicans can be when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi. Now it looks like the Republican leadership in Texas is continuing that tradition with their own response to Hurricane Rita.

It has been two years since Rita hit the Texas coast, but the state of Texas has done almost nothing to help rebuild or repair the homes destroyed or damaged by the hurricane. And it's not for lack of money either. The Texas Housing and Community Affairs Department has $40 million set aside that is supposed to be spent helping victims rebuild their homes.

The department has received 4,012 applications for help in repairing hurricane damaged homes. But in the two-year period, they have only helped to repair 13 homes. This is not just incompetence -- it borders on criminal negligence. Of course, the Republicans on the state and federal levels are blaming each other (they can't blame the Democrats because Republicans created the funds and the rules for its dispersal).

During the same two-year period, four faith-based groups (such as the Methodist group "Rita Recovery") have rebuilt or repaired around 1400 homes -- and they did it without government help. This just highlights the Republican leadership's incompetence. These church groups have repaired more than 100 times the number of homes than the government has repaired, even though the government started with $40 million more than the church groups did.

There's no excuse for this government inaction. When the Republicans set aside millions to help their corporate buddies, the money gets distributed in record time. But when the money is for needy Texans, it can't be distributed in two years.

Is there any reason to keep these Republicans in power? Isn't it time to vote Democratic, so the needy can be helped instead of just the corporate bosses?

Potter County's Jail Fails Inspection

The Texas Commission on Jail Standards paid a visit to Potter and Randall counties last week. Randall county was found to be in compliance with state jail standards, but Potter county failed its inspection.

Potter county has been having a problem with overcrowding for several months, so it comes as no surprise that overcrowding was one of the problems cited by the commission. This is a problem that must be dealt with by county commissioners, and is really beyond the Sheriff's control. Even shipping inmates to other counties would require extra funds that would have to be approved by the commissioners.

But that wasn't the only problem the inspectors found at the Potter County Detention Center. The inspection also cited the jail for poor maintenance and a lack of proper training of officers. The jail officers aren't receiving the required training in safety procedures.

These last two areas are a bit more troubling, because they tend to show a lack of proper leadership at the Potter County Sheriff's Department. The sheriff may need county help to deal with overcrowding, but proper maintenance and training of jail officers are entirely his responsibility.

The county and the department now have 30 days to respond to the jail commission about how they are going to remedy the three problem areas. Once the remedies are in place, then they must tell the jail commission they are ready for a re-inspection.

Randall county Sheriff's Office Captain Debbie Unruh (who is in charge of the jail) said, "I think we try to keep our facility where if they walked in at any time we would certify. We try to maintain the same standards 365 days a year."

It would be well for Potter county's sheriff to adopt that same attitude. There is no reason Potter county's jail can't be run just as well as the one in its neighboring county to the south.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

VoV and the Pit-Owning Echo

I do love me a good mosh pit.

I went back home (DFW) last weekend to catch up with my friends, who I miss dearly, and they were sure to make me realize what I have been missing out on. One of those things is my friend Al's band, Verdict of Vengeance. They are a local metal band that is gaining popularity every day. Having known Al and his lovely girlfriend, Echo, since junior high school, I am of course one of their biggest supporters.

Last Saturday night, they had a show at the Curtain Club. Red, Sooner Friend, Echo, and I were front and center screaming like high school cheerleaders. If you didn't know that we've been friends with the band since Kurt Cobain was the coolest person ever, you'd think we were the craziest groupies on the planet.

A couple of minutes before the show began, we had claimed our spots in front of the stage. I had my camera out and ready to go and was taking a look around me, trying to assess the situation. One thing was very clear, and I felt the need to warn Sooner Friend (who hadn't seen the band since their first show about 5 years ago). "Um, SF, you're gonna want to make sure you have a good grip on the stage, cause as soon as VoV strikes the first chord, the mosh pit is going to break out like nothing else."

She looked at me and laughed like I told the best joke of the evening. Red was quick to agree with me, but SF wasn't hearing any of it. Echo chimed in, "Don't worry, CC, I'm gonna protect my ladies." She quickly positioned herself between the three of us and the crowd behind.

Echo is the queen of the mosh pit. No matter the size or experience of the mosher, he or she will meet their match in Echo. I wrote about her here last year when some jerk, obviously inexperienced with the unwritten rules of moshing, pushed me into a pit. She was quick to pull me back out before I got hurt. Having a boyfriend in a metal band and having attended more metal shows than most, she knows how a pit works as well as anyone.

As soon as the band started, and much to SF's surprise, a huge pit broke out. When it first starts is when it is the least controlled, so I crunched up next to the stage and waited for it to establish itself. It usually only takes about 15 seconds for this to happen and it is wise to hold onto something in this period. SF made me that something to hold on to, not that I blame her. She's not used to being so close to the pit. I grabbed her hand and put it on the stage while Echo got to work behind us, pushing the moshers back. Soon, it was safe to let go and start taking pictures.

The top picture is, of course, Al and his guitarist playing for the crowd. The bottom one is of Echo (black hair, striped shirt) pushing the moshers back. The pit at all points during the show had about 20 guys in it, all having the time of their lives. I didn't know what to do with myself. I could either watch the band I came to see or I could watch the pit, which just happens to be one of my favorite things to do. Of course, I chose the pit. It is always wise to keep an eye on the pit anyways, because you never know when it will decide to relocate itself, which happens often. You never want to be in the new chosen location if you have no interest in moshing.

Knowing that, Echo and I did something incredibly stupid when we took our eyes off of the action, yelling Zeus-knows-what to each other. That one split-second of not keeping an eye out threw a huge guy in our direction, slamming our heads together. She grabbed my head, screaming, "Are you alright?!"
I was seeing little birdies, but I nodded my head. That was all she needed. Now it was on. She grabbed a big guy and pointed at Red, SF, and I, telling him through hand motions to protect us and threw herself into the pit. That was the best part of the night, watching her 115 lb self show the big boys how moshing is done. She owned that pit.

I bought a thank-you drink after the show and told her that I'd be dedicating yet another post to her when I got home. So, Echo, I dedicate this to you and your badass, pit-owning self. I couldn't love or respect you more.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Baghdad "Success" Is Pitiful Failure

Things are so bad in Iraq that the generals running Bush's war are latching on to some pretty pitiful signs of "progress". Yesterday, General Raymond Odierno (second-in-command in Iraq) announced that civilian deaths in Baghdad have been cut in half. It is not known where he got his figures.

It sounds pretty good to hear that deaths have been cut in half, until you realize that the new "successful" figures mean that at least 12 people die every day in Baghdad as a result of violence. It seems that our government considers 360 murders a month in Baghdad to be a good sign. The numbers have moved from horrific to just disastrous.

Of course, this number doesn't count the many deaths in all the other parts of Iraq. I don't know how long the Iraqis can take this kind of success. The numbers also don't take into account that the deaths of U.S. troops is still way too high.

So far, 50 U.S. military personnel have died in Iraq this month, and that's just in 21 days. This figure is not a cut in deaths, and is in line with the 84 deaths in August and the 79 deaths in July. So far, 3792 U.S. troops have been killed, and nearly 30,000 have been wounded.

The truth is that we're nowhere near a successful solution in Iraq, and any claims otherwise are just a numbers game. Deaths go up and down in Iraq, but every day far too many civilians and soldiers die there while nothing is accomplished.

Isn't it time to end the "madness of King George" and bring our troops home?

FBI Taped Conversations Of Sen. Stevens

Looks like the FBI has been investigating Alaska Senator Ted Stevens for a while now. Last July, the investigation came to light when the FBI searched Steven's home in a suburb of Anchorage. They were investigating corruption among Alaska state lawmakers, and the investigation spread to include the Republican senator from Alaska.

It seems that Alaska businessman and political patron of Stevens, Bill Allen, told federal prosecutors that he had paid for the renovation of the senator's home. Stevens countered with a "non-denial" denial. He said he had paid all of the bills he received. That may be true, since the bills went to Allen -- not Stevens. Stevens may deny his corruption, but having others pay your bills under the table certainly sounds like corruption to me.

Now it seems that the FBI may have been investigating Stevens before the raid on his ill-gotten house. Government sources have verified that Allen consented to the taping of conversations between him and Stevens. Several conversations were taped.

Allen was cooperating with federal government investigators, because they had evidence he was bribing state officials. Was he also bribing Stevens? Sure looks that way. What else could the taped conversations be about? We may soon find out that the payoffs went beyond a few home renovations. The investigation is still going on.

Republican corruption is the gift that just keeps on giving. Is there any end to it? Just when you think it couldn't get any worse, along comes another Republican guilty of either political or moral corruption.

I can hardly wait for that buffoon Stevens to be charged -- no one deserves it more.

Lawsuit Filed Against TxDOT

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has run into more opposition in it's bid to build new toll roads and turn existing freeways into toll roads, and then give them to private corporations. Thank goodness! This effort by state Republican leadership would be bad for all Texans, except for the filthy rich and the corporate bosses.

Yesterday, Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) filed suit against TxDOT in a Travis County civil court. The lawsuit asks for a Temporary Restraining Order to stop TxDOT from lobbying Congress to allow toll roads and to stop TxDOT from spending public money to advertise for privatized toll roads, including the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC).

TURF believes that TxDOT is breaking Texas law by using public money to advertise a political position and to lobby Congress to support their position on turning our freeways into private toll roads. They have already asked Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle to investigate TxDOT's illegal activities.

TURF founder Terri Hall says, "Between TxDOT's PR campaign, report to Congress asking that all limitations on tolling be lifted including buying back existing interstates, and chairman Ric Williamson's recent trip to D.C. lobbying for the same, it's clear they've not only crossed the line into illegal lobbying, but they leaped over it. The citizens of Texas are fed up with TxDOT's blatant disregard for the public's disdain of toll roads and their infinite attempts to cram toll roads down our throats using TAXPAYER MONEY to do it! It's high time someone puts a stop to it!"

I hope TURF succeeds in their lawsuit. It's bad enough they want to build new toll roads and put tolls on our freeways and turn them all over to private corporations. It's utterly asinine to spend public money to advertise it and lobby Congress.

We have got to vote these Republican corporate lackeys out of office in 2008. Vote to keep corporate hands off our roads and out of our wallets.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

American Company To Bring Jobs Back Home

For far too long, many American companies have been shipping American jobs out of the country to take advantage of cheaper foreign labor. This has been devastating to the job market in the United States. Now, an American company is trying to reverse that trend.

San Antonio-based ATandT says it is bringing 175 call-center jobs back to this country. The jobs will be based in their Arkansas headquarters in Little Rock. The move is part of the company's plan to bring back at least 5,000 jobs -- all of them to be union jobs.

Company president Ed Drilling said, "These jobs are currently outsourced to other companies and a lot of the work is actually done overseas. We're bringing these jobs as part of an ongoing commitment back into the country."

Of course, 5,000 jobs being returned is just a drop in the bucket up beside all the jobs still being outsourced by other American companies. But at least it's a step in the right direction. Now, other companies must be convinced to do the same.

These companies must realize that if they wish to be based in the U.S., sell to American citizens, and enjoy the fruits of this country, then they have a responsibility to the American community. They cannot keep sucking dollars from American consumers while shipping American jobs overseas.

One Less Republican In Legislature

Today, there is one less Republican in the Texas legislature and one more Democrat -- and it didn't take an election to do it. Yesterday, State Rep. Kirk England (Grand Prairie) announced that he is switching his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. He said he will run for re-election as a Democrat.

In the last election, England won the seat by a slim 250-vote margin over Democrat Katy Hubener. She was planning to run against him again next year, but has put those plans on hold since his switch to the Democratic Party. District 106, currently represented by the new Democrat, covers Grand Prairie and the southern part of Irving.

Did England see the "writing on the wall" with the growing unpopularity of Republicans? Possibly. This is a working and middle class district, and would probably have gone Democratic in the next election, whether England switched parties or not. Now the liklihood is even greater.

England said he switched parties because, "After one session in the House, I found that the Republican leadership in Austin had no tolerance for the values and priorities of the folks I represent. I trust the voters in District 106, and I am confident that my friends and neighbors agree that doing what is right is more important than partisan politics."

England listed his priorities as public education, the Children's Health Insurance Program and rising utility rates. Sounds to me like he's already thinking like a Democrat!

Holly South, librarian at the Legislative Reference Library in Austin, said there hasn't been an instance of a sitting Representative switching from the Republican to the Democratic Party in the last 100 years in Texas. This may be a rare thing right now, but if the Republican leadership continues their self-defeating policies, there may be others to follow England soon.

Whatever his reasons, I welcome Rep. England to the people's party, and to the party of reality-based political thinking. There's always room for one more in the "big tent" Democratic Party.

Countrywide Screws Its Customers

The home mortgage business has been hurting lately. Many parts of the country are experiencing record defaults on home loans and foreclosures. The situation has gotten so bad that it has even begun to effect the stock market.

But even though many companies made loans they should not have made and are now beginning to feel the financial effect of that, there are some things that a company should not do. One of those things is to go back on their word.

Back when hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the coastal areas of Louisiana, Missippi and Texas, the mortgage lender Countrywide decided they would get a little good PR by offering to help. They told their customers in these areas that they could have a three to six month grace period, where they would not have to make payments. They assured these customers there would be no penalties, and the payments would just be tacked on to the end of the loan.

Sadly, many of their customers took them at their word and took advantage of the "grace period". That turns out to have been a very bad mistake, since Countrywide has now shown they cannot be trusted. They are now breaking their promise to those customers.

The company has sent those customers a demand for immediate payment of the money that was not paid during the faux "grace period". Those who cannot make all those payments in one lump sum face foreclosure.

It may be true that when they made the offer, Countrywide could not forsee the current troubled mortgage crunch. But even though the company may now be in financial trouble, it is wrong for them to break their word to their customers. Like an individual, a company is only as good as its word and they are showing their word is no good.

What is wrong with these company executives? Don't they realize that by breaking their word they are doing even more harm to their company than their financial problems ever could?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Annual Holocaust

Just heard a BBC report on the drive home, discussing the report by WHO that a record *low number of children died of starvation & preventable diseases last year: 9.7 million.

In 1959, Buckminster Fuller (one of my heroes) predicted that the outright conquest of poverty would occur on or around the year 2000. This was a logical deduction from the fact that industrial efficiency had improved astronomically over the first half of the 20th century. To put it simply, providing everyone with enough food to survive is no longer a technical problem.

In 1977, almost twenty years later, the National Academy of Sciences confirmed Fuller’s prediction. Their World Food and Nutrition Study, prepared by 1,500 scientists, concluded, “If there is the political will in this country and abroad... it should be possible to overcome the worst aspects of widespread hunger and malnutrition within one generation.”

Do you mind if I call attention to the "if"?

So many things are merely a matter of "political will" nowadays...

Another Stupid Criminal

Most criminals are not too bright, but every now and then one is found that takes stupid to a new level. The FBI has found a new candidate for this honor.

On September 5th, a man robbed a bank in Englewood, Colorado of $5,000 by passing a note to a teller demanding the money. Now this doesn't sound too out of the ordinary. A lot of bank robberies are done this way.

But how many robbers write the note on the back of one of their own checks? That's right, this genius wrote the robbery note on the back of his own check. The FBI said he did try to black out his name, but they were still able to read it.

But even that wasn't stupid enough for this criminal. He then goes out and brags to someone about getting $5,000 in a bank robbery. Of course, this person calls the crime tip line and turns him in (probably for a reward).

I really hope this guy is not planning a life of crime, because he presents no challenge at all for the police.


NOTE - I will be out of town for the next few days and may not be able to get near a computer. I'm afraid blogging will be sparse, if at all.

Another Republican Lie

Many programs being pushed by Republican officials really make no sense. That is why they have to tell lies to try and make them seem reasonable. One of these unreasonable programs is the wasting of billions of dollars to build a fence along Texas' southern border. Most Texans know the proposed fence would do more to hurt Texas than to protect it.

The fence is really nothing more than an attempt to pander to the racist base of the Republican Party, but in order to get the ridiculous thing built they must convince most people that it is needed to make our border secure. Thus, the lies. We heard one of those lies on Wednesday.

Texas Homeland Security Director Steve McCraw told the North Texas Crime Commission that several terrorists with ties to Hezbollah, Hamas and al-Queda have been apprehended trying to cross from Mexico into Texas. He said the most important of these terrorists was named Farida Goolam Mahomed Ahmed. Just like most people who make this claim, he was unable to name anyone else.

There are a few things wrong with McCraw's ludicrous claim. First, when was the last time a terrorist was arrested that Republicans didn't splash it all over the news media? Never. They never miss an opportunity to try and scare the American people. If there were really any arrests like this it would have made huge headlines -- and there have been none.

Second, there was a person named Farida Goolam Mohamed Ahmed arrested at the McAllen airport in July of 2004, and it was initially thought she had terrorist ties. But since that time, both customs officials and the US Attorney's office in Houston have said the reports were in error, and there were no ties to terrorists.

Third, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said her department was unaware of anyone with terrorist ties being arrested crossing our southern border. Frankly, if ICE doesn't know about it, then it didn't happen.

It's bad enough that Republicans keep coming up with indefensible programs, but please -- STOP THE LYING!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

America - Still A Racist Country

There are those who believe that since our government has outlawed some blatant racist acts in the United States, we have solved our racial problems. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Racism will never be conquered as long as it resides in the hearts of many Americans. Consider the following stories.

You may have heard of the "Jena 6". Jena, Louisiana is a town of about 4,000 citizens, about 85% of whom are white. There is a tree at the high school called the "white tree". It is where white students congregate. One day an Afro-American student sat under the tree. The next day three nooses were discovered hanging from the tree.

The principal tried to suspend the students who put the nooses there, but he was over-ridden by the school board and the district's superintendent. They claimed it was just a "harmless prank", and gave the offenders an in-school suspension lasting three days.

Naturally, this created ill-feelings between white and black students and numerous fights broke out over a several week period. When one white student bragged in school about how a black student had been beaten, he was attacked after school by 6 black students. He was not seriously injured, and returned to the school that same night for a ceremony, but the 6 black students were arrested.

Throughout the semester of several fights, no white student was charged with anything more than a misdemeanor. However, these 6 black students were charged attempted murder. Even though the charges were finally reduced, they were still convicted of felonies and face the possibility of many years in prison.

They are now known as the "Jena 6", and their unfair treatment shows that racism is alive and well in America -- even in our educational and governing institutions.

But Louisiana is not alone. In West Virginia, a 23 year-old black woman was kidnapped and held for days by several whites. She was beaten, stabbed, sexually abused, called racial epithets, and forced to eat rat and dog feces and drink from a toilet. Fortunately, someone tipped the police and they rescued her, or she would have probably eventually been killed.

The FBI says they are considering charging the six white criminals with a hate crime. I don't know what there is to consider. Of course it's a racially-motivated hate crime! These cretins need to be thrown so far back in the jail that they never see daylight again.

These are just two cases among many, but they prove the point. This country doesn't just have a racist past, it has a racist present. Unless good and decent people of all races come forward to stamp out this evil, it will also have a racist future.

Kathy Griffin Brings Out TV Academy's Bias/Fear

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences gave away part of this year's Emmy Awards last weekend. Winning her first Emmy Award was edgy comedian Kathy Griffin, for her TV show My Life on the D-List. As she is known to do, Griffin told the truth as she accepted her award.

Obviously the Academy was not ready to deal with the truth, and along with the E! network, they have said they would censor Griffin's acceptance speech before it is shown on television. You may be thinking that she must have said one or more of television's seven forbidden dirty words. Not true.

You have probably heard christians thank Jesus when they win something, even though they really won it through talent and hard work. If there is a God, I seriously doubt that he/she cares who wins an award, game, race, etc. To claim you won because of God/Jesus is to say God/Jesus preferred you over the people who lost. That's pretty presumptious to claim to be God's favorite (which is really what you are saying).

But instead of playing that silly game, Kathy Griffin decided to make fun of it. She said that "a lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus." She went on to proclaim, "This award is my god now."

I thought her remaks were funny and very true. She didn't win the award because God/Jesus preferred her over the others. Her show got the award because of some very talented performers, writers, producers, directors, cameramen, soundmen, etc.

But some so-called christians didn't see the humor in this little bit of truth. Religious bigot and Catholic League president Bill Donohue was quick to call her words a "vulgar, in-your-face-brand of hate speech". I would think he should know how to recognize hate speech by now, since he indulges in it so often. But evidently his version of hate speech is when someone disagrees with him.

The TV Academy shares Donohue's religious bigotry. Either that, or they are so afraid to offend right-wing christians that they quickly knuckled under and threw free speech out the window.

There is nothing wrong with Griffin's remarks. If christians are free to spout their religious beliefs on TV, then those with differing beliefs should also be free to give their own opinion. Isn't that what free speech is all about?

It's easy to allow speech that you agree with, but if you truly believe in free speech, you must also allow speech that you don't agree with. If you are never offended by speech, then you don't live in a free country.

Censoring Griffin's acceptance speech is just wrong.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

This Blogger's Proud To Support Noriega

It looks like the Watts campaign is jealous of the nearly unanimous support that his opponent, Rick Noriega, is receiving from Texas blogs. Watts may have millions of dollars with which to try and buy a senate seat, but he has virtually no support among progressive Texas blogs. This led the Watts campaign to plant a story in the San Antonio Express News saying that Noriega denigrated Texas bloggers.

Of course, Noriega's words were taken out of context. I won't go into detail because other bloggers have covered this well -- among them are McBlogger, Bluedaze and Eye on Williamson.

I personally think this was a rather pathetic attempt to try and convince progressive bloggers not to support Noriega. That is the aspect I wish to address.

My decision to support Rick Noriega for senate was reached on my own. I was never contacted by the Noriega campaign or anyone else. After looking at the candidates, it was my opinion that Rick Noriega was the candidate who would best represent the people of Texas in Washington, DC.

Although I believe that Noriega's comments were taken out of context, I personally do not care what he thinks of this blog or any other. I did not give him my support because he loves blogs, and I would not withdraw support because someone says he doesn't like blogs. I really don't care whether he likes blogs or not.

I am proud to be a supporter of Rick Noriega for senate, and he will have the support of this blog as long as he remains a candidate. He has served his country honorably and ably in the military. He has also served his state honorably and ably in the legislature. He is a family man, an honest man and a man of the people.

I support Noriega with this blog and with monthly campaign donations, because I am convinced that he will make a great senator. I urge my readers to do the same.

Bush Lies About Osama

When the Twin Towers came down, Bush went to New York and swore to Americans that he would bring Osama bin Laden to justice for masterminding the terrorist action. He still hasn't done that. He hasn't done it because he was more interested in getting Iraqi oil for his corporate buddies, than in getting justice for the terrorist's victims in New York.

Even though Saddam and Osama were sworn enemies and hated each other, Bush invaded Iraq. When no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, Bush tried to say that Iraq was a haven for Osama's group al-Queda. It wasn't true at the time, and even today most of the Iraqis fighting and killing American troops are not members of al-Queda.

Now it is six years later and Iraq has gone bad and Osama is still at large. Bush has not only failed in his efforts in Iraq, but he has also failed in his promise to bring Osama to justice. In an attempt to cover one of his failures, Bush is now lying again to the American people.

When the new Osama tape surfaced, Bush sent his security advisor out to claim that Osama was "a man on the run from a cave who is virtually impotent other than these tapes". He wants us to believe that he has Osama on the run, and that he no longer poses a threat to Americans. Once again, Bush shows that he considers Americans to be stupid fools who will believe any lie that he tells.

The people in charge of securing the safety of Americans aren't buying the new Bush lie. Director of National Michael McConnell, FBI Director Robert Mueller and even Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, all disagree with Bush's assessment of Osama bin Laden. All three of these men believe that Osama remains the most dangerous terrorist threat to the United States. They are right.

No other terrorist leader has damaged the U.S. as badly as Osama has. Even if he is holed up in a cave, all he has to do is issue an order and his followers will find a way to carry it out. The United States will never be safe as long as Osama is free.

It is time for Bush to end the quagmire in Iraq and keep his word to the American people. It is time he brought Osama to justice.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Where's The Cowboys Defense ?

There's certainly nothing wrong with the Cowboys offense this year. In the opening game against the Giants, Quarterback Tony Romo threw for 345 yards and three touchdowns. They scored a total of 45 points, and are leading the league in scoring right now.

I guess I should just be happy that they opened with a win, but this game didn't make me feel too good about this season's prospects. Where the hell was the defense? They continually allowed the Giants to come back, and wound up letting them score 35 points. We're not going to win a whole lot of games giving up that many points.

I realize that Terence Newman and Greg Ellis weren't able to play, but the defense still shouldn't have given up that many points. The Giants seemed to be able to move the ball and score at will (and they're not one of the league's best teams). I thought Wade Phillips was supposed to be the defensive genius who would solve the Cowboys' defensive problems, but tonight's defense looked a lot like last year's ineffective defense.

The main problem is that they still don't have an effective pass rush. On most plays, Manning had all the time he needed to find open receivers. I hope Coach Phillips can come up with something to improve the pass rush. If not, it's going to be a long season.

They play the Dolphins next week -- hopefully with an improved defense.