Friday, May 30, 2008

High School Punishes Top Student

This story is rather hard to believe. It seems that Grapevine High School, in northeast Tarrant County, has decided that its top-ranked student should not be named valedictorian this year. Instead, they have given the honor to the student with the second-highest grade average.

Anjali Datta (pictured above) finished high school with a grade-point average of 5.877. That was the highest average of the 471 graduating students. In fact, it is believed to be the highest average in the school's 103-year history. So why is she not the school's valedictorian?

It seems that she took some of the high school courses while she was in middle school, and because of this she was able to finish high school in three years. But the school has an arcane rule that says the valedictorian is the person with the highest average over "four years of high school".

In effect, she is being punished for finishing high school early -- even though she took the same courses and did all of her coursework in Grapevine. A counselor had recommended she graduate early, telling her the rule was meant to stop students from transferring in from less rigorous schools and grabbing the title.

The school said they've been discussing this for months with their attorneys, and decided to go with a literal interpretation of the rule. They didn't notify Datta of the decision until March. The decision not only denies Datta the title of valedictorian, but also the college scholarship that goes with it.

This just doesn't sound right to me, since all of her high school courses were completed while attending Grapevine schools. Sometimes rules get in the way of doing the right thing.

Texas Courts Make Questionable Decisions

Yesterday, Texas courts made a couple of decisions that were controversial to say the least. One involved a lawsuit against the makers of Vioxx, and the other involved the FLDS cult headed by the jailed Warren Jeffs (pictured above).

A Texas jury had awarded the wife of Robert Ernst a $253 million dollar verdict against Merck and Company. The jury felt the drug Vioxx was responsible for Ernst's death. Texas law lowered the verdict to $26 million, which was still a respectable amount for the widow and a significant deterrent for the company.

But a three-judge appellate panel decided the jury was wrong. They decided there was no evidence against the drug company and reversed the verdict. Their decision completely wipes out the $26 million judgement.

One thing that makes this look bad is the fact that all three judges had received large campaign donations from the law firms representing the drug company. Whether it was or not, this gives the perception that this was a verdict that had been bought and paid for. If it's not already, it should be illegal for law firms to give money to judges and then appear before those judges with a legal case.

The widows attorney said he is considering appealing the case to the Texas Supreme Court. That sounds like a waste of time to me. The Texas Supreme Court has established a reputation for its corporate-friendly verdicts, not to mention the fact that several of the justices have ethical problems of their own (including taking contributions from law firms that appear before them).

In the other case, the Texas Supreme Court decided that Texas authorities did not have a right to remove the young children from the FLDS cult compound in West Texas. They have ordered the state to return the children to the cult compound.

They did this in spite of evidence that several under-age girls had given birth to babies. There were also pictures of cult-leader Warren Jeffs kissing 12 and 13 year-old girls (see above). Evidently the court is quite happy to send these children back into an abusive environment.

Whether the original warrant was justifiable or not, there should be a way to protect these children, especially the young girls, from sexual abuse.

I find both of these verdicts questionable.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Scott McClellan Is No Hero

The major media outlets are all atwitter over former White House spokesman Scott McClellan's new book. In the book, he accuses Bush and Cheney of lying to Americans about Iraq and using propaganda to make their case for war. He also accuses Karl Rove and Scooter Libby of leaking to the press that Joe Wilson's wife was a CIA agent, and then lying about it. Then he says the administration disastrously mishandled Katrina.

I could go on about his "revelations", but I have to ask -- is any of this really news? Is there anyone in America with half a brain that doesn't know all of this? In fact, it didn't take a genius to figure this out several years ago.

I'm sure he thinks he's done something by finally being honest, but this guy is no hero. He helped Bush lie to America, resulting in the deaths of over 4,000 Americans and the physical and psychological wounding of tens of thousands more. If he'd said these things five years ago, I could at least think he was a decent human being -- but not now.

He's just a weasel trying to salvage his own reputation, and willing to turn on his fellow weasels to do it. I'm certainly not going to spend a dime on this stupid book. McClellan doesn't deserve it, and there's nothing in it that rational people didn't figure out years ago.

The White House has acted predictably. They have begun the process of sliming McClellan (who probably deserves it), and are once again trying to throw others under the bus to protect Bush and Cheney.

Spokesmen tell us that Bush didn't lie, he was given bad information by the "incompetent" intelligence sources. Nonsense. The CIA tried to tell Bush and his cohorts that Iraq did not buy uranium from Niger and there was no real evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

But that was not what Bush and Cheney wanted to hear, so they lied to the American people. Then they sent Powell to the U.N. to lie to the rest of the world. And they got their dirty little war. Too bad they didn't know how to handle it.

McClellan is telling the truth finally, but that certainly doesn't make him any kind of hero. Just another weasel trying to save his own hide now that it looks like the Democrats may come to power.

Van Os Speaks About $4 Gas

The venerable David Van Os has written a piece on $4.00 a gallon gasoline and the corporate-government complex. As usual, he says it better than I could hope to, so I will just shut up and give you his words:

This very moment, millions of Texans are struggling to find ways to stretch their paychecks and retirement checks to cover $3.80 per gallon gasoline. This very moment, local governments are struggling to balance budgets in the face of ever-rising fuel costs. This very moment, independent business owners are struggling to keep their businesses afloat in light of the ever-increasing cost of fuel. This very moment, independent farmers and ranchers are struggling to stay alive in the face of fuel costs that keep going up. This very moment, food prices are spiraling out of control due to the shock waves of high fuel costs. This very moment, truckers find it more and more difficult to meet the expenses of keeping the geographical and economic fabrics stitched together.

But some people are making out just fine.

Exxon-Mobil's net profit for 2007 was 40 billion dollars and the profits have continued to rise in 2008. The other Big Oil giants are not far behind. Surprise, surprise -- 3 billion dollars a month wasn't enough profit. But the price at the gasoline pump keeps going up on the path to $4 per gallon and beyond at the same time that profits keep rising to these ever more unimaginable levels. This equation doesn't balance.

It is a fact of history and economics that the consolidation of great economic power into too few sets of hands inevitably results in the exercise of monopoly power and control. The continuing mergers of giant oil companies that began in the late 1990s have resulted in such consolidation to staggering degrees. We the people are witnessing the proof coming out in the pudding.

The oil company executives and their political lackeys want us to think that magical, mysterious market forces are in charge and nobody has any control over the situation. Yeah, right -- Exxon-Mobil is a mere bystander to both its $3.5 billion-per-month profits and $3.80-per-gallon gasoline, and cries all the way to the bank. Don't we all know that the corporate executives wish they could rebate some of the profits back to the consumers, but that they are forced by "the market" to gouge us against their wishes?

Here in Texas, our cultural roots stand solidly against monopoly power. The Bill of Rights of the Texas Constitution declares in Article 1, Section 26 that monopolies are contrary to the genius of free government and shall never be allowed. Texas was the second political jurisdiction in the world to enact an anti-trust statute -- in the 1880s, a decade before the U.S. Congress passed federal anti-trust legislation. That first Texas anti-trust law was drafted by then-attorney general James Stephen Hogg, one of the great people's lawyers to occupy that office, who needed it and used it to challenge and beat the railroad barons on behalf of the people of Texas.

The creation of monopoly power does not create jobs. The last 25 years' worth of corporate consolidations throughout all sectors of industry have resulted in continuing losses of good jobs as the newly merged entities proceed to downsize their workforces in order to pay for the mergers and acquisitions. For example, over 9,000 jobs were lost when Exxon and Mobil merged to create Exxon-Mobil in 1999.

Monopolization smothers free enterprise by eliminating competition. Free enterprise, both for workers and for independent business owners, requires competition in order to survive and prosper. Confronting the robber barons over their monopolization of markets and industries by taking action to revive competition would take us a long way toward the revival of lost jobs and resuscitation of the gasping middle class.

But where is the political will? Too many of today's politicians accept the robber barons' excuses and double-talk without question, because too many of today's politicians have been purchased by bucketfuls of protection money in the form of campaign contributions.

As he was leaving office in January 1961, former President Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation about the military-industrial complex. If Eisenhower were alive today, he would probably be appalled to see that what he called the military-industrial complex has morphed beyond what even he feared, to become the corporate-government complex of today that pollutes our Founding Fathers' vision of democracy at virtually every level.

David Van Os

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

McCain Has Fund-Raising Problems

Our friend Pico over at Wild Chihuahuas (an Arizona blog) tells us that John McCain is having some troubles with fund-raising in his own home state. He was supposed to have a fund-raising event with George Bush in the Phoenix Convention Center, but that event has now been cancelled.

The White House said the event had been moved to a private venue because McCain preferred it that way. However, other sources say they were having problems selling tickets to the event. They realized they were not going to come anywhere near filling the venue. In fact, it looked like the anti-war protesters would outnumber the McCain supporters!

I would think a campaign is in trouble when it can't fill a venue like the convention center in the largest city of the candidate's home state. That has to be an embarrassment.

Voters Have A Real Choice This Year

There is a huge difference between the two parties nominees for president this year when it comes to the seemingly endless occupation of Iraq. Two candidates could not have more different views than Barack Obama and John McCain.

During the Vietnam War, sometimes it was hard to see the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans as far as the war went -- it was just a matter of degree. Neither party could really be called the party of peace. It is not that way in 2008.

John McCain will make sure the Republicans remain the party of war. For all his protesting that he is different than Bush, you certainly could not tell it by looking at his views on the Iraq War. He is actually trying to put forth the idea that we can win the Iraq War.

In fact, yesterday he made the statement that he would NEVER surrender in Iraq. It looks like he was serious about that "hundred years". Whether you call it "surrender" or "withdrawal", the conflict will not end until American troops leave Arabic soil. Surely he does not think the Iraqis will surrender their country to a foreign invader.

Ask yourself, would we ever surrender our own country to a foreign invader and accept a puppet government put in place by that invader? I think not. Why would we then expect the Iraqis to do so?

On the other hand, Barack Obama understands the dirty truth about the Iraq War. He opposed it from the very beginning. He says we must start a dialogue with countries in the region and get them involved in negotiations for peace in the area. He believes we can have our soldiers home in no more than 12-16 months.

Some say we cannot leave because there would be a bloodbath between Sunnis and Shiites. But that might be avoided with a multi-party Arab peacekeeping force established through diplomacy and negotiation. But the killing will never stop as long as Americans are based on Arab soil -- and Obama realizes that.

So voters have a choice as clear as night and day. We can continue to follow the Bush/McCain policies and endure many more years of war and see thousands more of our soldiers die. Or we can give Obama the opportunity to fashion an honorable withdrawal, and let the Arabs choose their own path.

We do not have to be an enemy to the Arabic world. They would like to be our friends. But they will never submit to America's will through force of arms. Isn't it time to vote for peace and a sensible solution to our problems with the Muslim world?

I think 4,084 American deaths are enough. I'm voting for Obama.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tarrant County Is Getting Greedy

It looks like the Republican leadership is getting too greedy in Tarrant County. Now they want to tax an educational institution -- Texas Christian University. For them, it's not enough that the university provides hundreds of jobs for the local economy and brings thousands of students to Fort Worth. These students buy from many businesses and increase the sales tax revenue for the area.

No one can deny that the university is a big boon to the local economy, but it now looks like Tarrant County wants even more. Last January, the university opened a new bookstore that is run by Barnes and Noble. The Tarrant Appraisal District wants the university to pay property taxes on the new bookstore.

Now the tax district doesn't charge property taxes on the bookstores of other universities in Tarrant County -- Texas Wesleyan University and the University of Texas at Arlington. But they claim the new TCU bookstore caters to the general public, and not just to TCU students.

That is just ridiculous. No university bookstore anywhere will refuse to sell to the general public. I imagine they would all love to have even more business from the general public. Even though I graduated many years ago, I still like to stop in the university bookstore at my alma mater (Texas Wesleyan) whenever I am in Fort Worth.

It speaks well of TCU that the general public would shop at their bookstore. It shows the depth of support for the university among the general public. This is certainly no reason to punish the university with an onerous tax bill.

Who does the tax district think is going to have to pay that bill? It will be the students, of course. It's not bad enough that tuition and other costs keep rising, but now the county has added a tax burden for the students to pay. This is just wrong.

TCU owns the property and the bookstore. Barnes and Noble just run it for them. And the majority of the business the bookstore does is student business. The school says that 75% of the revenue for the bookstore comes from textbook sales. Add to this the other school items such as athletic gear, class rings, book bags and a lot of other items emblazoned with the school logo and colors, and the school thinks it is completing its mission -- to serve the students.

The Tarrant Appraisal District needs to reconsider their very unwise decision. In order to continue serving their students and the community-at-large, TCU needs to keep its costs to students down as low as possible. The tax district seems to be working against that goal.

Tarrant County government needs to stop and think. TCU is too great a benefit to Tarrant County to be treated this way.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sanctuary Movement Started In San Antonio

A new sanctuary movement has been started in San Antonio to help undocumented immigrants. They are Catholic faith-based activists who have organized to provide food, healthcare and places to stay for the immigrants.

Currently the group visits day laborers, giving them breakfast and a card. The card has a picture of Father Toribio Romo on one side and a phone number on the other. They can call the phone number and use the code word "Romo" to get help.

Toribio Romo was a Mexican priest who was killed in the 1920's and later canonized. Many of the undocumented immigrants pray to him during their dangerous crossing into this country.

The group members know they are flirting with the possibility of violating U.S. immigration laws, and many of them are willing to go to jail for their beliefs. They say their religious and moral tenets are more important than unjust laws. As Lee Thelien of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church says, "We're accomplices if we don't speak out against this injustice."

I admire these people. I am not a religious person, but I do respect the few christians brave enough to actually follow the teachings of their faith. Far too often in our modern world, religion is nothing more than a way to hurt and discriminate against those who are not liked.

People who are willing to put their freedom at stake to help the downtrodden deserve our respect.

Repubs Nearly Dodge The "Barr" Bullet

The Libertarians held their national convention this past weekend, and it looked for a while like Republicans might get lucky and not have the Libertarians nominate a candidate that would appeal to many in their disaffected base.

There were 14 candidates seeking the Libertarian nomination for president. The only one who has any real public name-identification is former right-wing Republican congressman from Georgia, Bob Barr. Many thought because he was a well-known ex-congressman, Barr would easily get the nomination. But it didn't work out that way.

The Libertarian rules says the contest goes as many ballots as necessary to give one candidate a majority of votes cast. With each round, the person with the least votes (and anybody with less than 5%) is dropped from the ballot.

After the fifth round of voting, it still looked like the Republicans might not have to worry about Bob Barr. The fifth round had Texas candidate Mary Ruwart in first place with 37%, Barr in second place with 36% and Wayne Allyn Root finishing last with 21%. It all came down to who Root's supporters would back in the sixth round.

That's when Root showed how badly he wanted on the national ticket in any capacity. He threw his support to Barr, and asked Barr's supporters to support him for the vice-presidential nomination. That did it. On the sixth ballot, Barr received 52% of the vote and became the nominee. Without Root's political opportunism, Barr might well have lost.

But Barr is now the nominee, and that has to have establishment Republicans worried. McCain is already having problems with the right-wing fundamentalist base of the Republican Party. Until yesterday, it looked like they might be forced to vote for McCain, even though they really don't like him. Now they have an alternative.

This will make it much harder for McCain to move toward the middle and try to appeal to independents. If he tries to do it, he could lose a big chunk of his base to right-winger Bob Barr. The Libertarians were hoping to pass the one million mark in votes in this election. With Barr's established right-wing credentials, they could do even better than that.

I don't know if they needed it or not, but the Democrats just got a little help for the November election.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cornyn Hates The Troops

It's getting harder and harder to have even a ounce of respect for the junior senator from Texas. A couple of days ago, the U.S. Senate voted 75-22 to pass a new G.I. Bill. This bill grants education benefits to those who have served our country in the military. Guess who was one of the 22 senators voting against the bill?

That's right -- Senator Cornyn of Texas voted against supplying the education benefits for our soldiers! It was bad enough that "Chickenhawk" Cornyn avoided military duty himself and then voted to support Bush starting an unnecessary war in Iraq. A war that has killed at least 4,081 American soldiers and wounded, both physically and psychologically, many thousands more.

It became worse when he voted time and again to continue the war, even after it became obvious to most Americans that it was a terrible blunder. Now he has voted to deny education benefits to those who fought in the unnecessary war he helped to start and continue. The man has no shame!

This makes it very clear that the people of Texas need a new senator. They need a senator that will support and help our brave soldiers. Fortunately, there is such a candidate in this election -- Rick Noriega.

Lt. Col. Rick Noriega has proudly served his country in the military -- commanding troops in the Afghanistan conflict.He understands what our soldiers are going through because he has experienced it himself. He also believes that we owe these soldiers a debt when they return.

Noriega thinks we must offer our returning troops the best medical and psychological care. He also knows that we must fulfill our obligation to help these troops get an education and find decent jobs.

I don't know why Cornyn hates our troops, but his actions show that he does. He's even said he will vote to support Bush if he vetos the new G.I. Bill. It's time to replace him. Support Rick Noriega for Senate.

Clinton's Latest Gaffe

The news media have been buzzing about Clinton's latest blunder. Speaking to a newspaper's editorial board last Friday, she said, "My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don't understand it."

Her campaign was quick to say that her emphasis was not on the assassination, but on the primary still being undecided in June. That's a bit disingenuous though. There were a lot more states holding late primaries in 1992 and 1968.

In 2008, most states have moved there primaries and caucuses up -- in fact, they will all be completed by June 3rd. In those years, it was also not impossible for Bill Clinton or Kennedy to catch up in pledged delegates, as it already is this year for Clinton.

Clinton did say, "The Kennedys have been much on my mind in the last days because of Sen. Kennedy, and I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for the entire nation and particularly for the Kennedy family was in any way offensive. I certainly had no intention of that whatsoever."

She's right that it was insensitive of her to bring up the Kennedy assassination just after the tragic news about Senator Edward Kennedy's cancer diagnosis. But that was not the worst thing about her statement. Far worse was the implied imagery of something like that happening to Barack Obama.

This nation still has far too much racism. But in spite of it, a majority of the Democrat's pledged delegates have chosen a black man as their presidential nominee. Add this to the fact that Clinton has continued her campaign even after being mathematically eliminated. The only way she could become the nominee is if something bad happened to Obama.

In light of those facts, I have to wonder about Clinton's assassination reference. Is she continuing her hopeless campaign because she thinks something like that will happen to Obama? That's pretty ghoulish.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Are Republicans Running Scared ?

"This is a challenging time to be a Republican. No question about it. What happened in Dallas can happen anywhere in Texas. We know that. . . .We're the underdogs and we have to act like it." That's what Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams told a meeting of Republican GOTV workers last Tuesday night.

Just two years ago that would have been a laughable statement. After all, there are few states, if any, that were redder than Texas. But then Dallas County, long a Republican stronghold, did the unthinkable and turned blue in the 2006 election.

Since that time, the general public has turned against the war in Iraq and the economy has gone into the toilet. Add that to the fact that Democrats turned out about twice as many voters in their primary as Republicans did in Texas, and you have a formula for a possible Democratic victory. Even the well-financed Republican incumbent senator is leading his virtually unknown Democratic opponent by only 4 points.

Now Williams was trying to light a fire under his Republican workers. I don't think Republicans are quite underdogs in Texas -- not yet. But they know they have not done well with their turn in charge of this country and this state.

The stage is set for a real battle for the first time in years here in Texas. Will the Republican base turn out to support a candidate (McCain) that they're not really exicited about? Can the Democrats get that record number of primary voters back to the polls? We won't know the answer to those questions until November.

But for the first time in a very long time, the Republicans are running scared. There's a very good chance they face a devastating loss across the nation this Fall -- and it could even extend to the state of Texas.

FW Judge Gets Official Reprimand

A Fort Worth judge has received a public reprimand from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. The commission said County Court-at-Law Judge Brent Keis was guilty of making racially insensitive remarks to an African-American attorney appearing in his court.

They also said his "unsolicited discussion of the facts, evidence and apparent value" of the car crash case in his court was "coercive and intimidating". They concluded that the statements made in the case last year had created doubts in the minds of the attorney and his clients "about the impartiality of the court regarding the merits of the case".

This all started last year when an African-American attorney was appearing before Keis' court. Keis remarked that African-Americans were good athletes because when their ancestors were brought over on slave ships, only the strong survived as the weak had died and been thrown overboard. This statement would have been outrageous enough, but the judge went further.

He then told the attorney's white clients that Tarrant county juries are made up of white Republicans like him, and continuing the case would be like "betting on black". This statement convinced the clients that the court was prejudiced against them. I don't blame them. I would have thought the same thing. What else could be construed from such inappropriate remarks from the judge?

The judge got off easy. He was publicly reprimanded and ordered to attend an 8-hour course on racial sensitivity and diversity. He has 120 days to complete the course.

He deserved a much harsher punishment. This was nothing short of judicial intimidation. I hope the good citizens of Tarrant county remember this when this fool comes up for re-election. He doesn't deserve the position of power and trust he has been given by the people.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Another Victory For Equality

"I am proud of my career and want to continue doing my job. Wounded people never asked me about my sexual orientation. They were just glad to see me there." Those are the words of Major Margaret Witt. Witt was a decorated flight nurse, whose citation from President Bush said, "Her airmanship and courage directly contributed to the successful accomplishment of important missions under extremely hazardous conditions."

Now you might think the military would be proud to have such a dedicated soldier and nurse in their ranks -- but you would be wrong. The same year Witt (pictured above) received her citation, during a war and a military nursing shortage, the Air Force kicked her out.

It seems that they had, to their ultimate horror, discovered that she was homosexual and had a long-term relationship with a civilian woman. Even though she had 18 years of distinguished service (two short of receiving retirement benefits), they canned her. They were just following their "Don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding homosexuality.

This shows the ridiculous nature of that policy. How could you possibly terminate a dedicated professional during a war and with a critical nursing shortage? Not to mention ruining the career of an officer who had done nothing wrong. Witt justifiably filed suit against the military.

A U.S. District Court judge dismissed her case, but on Wednesday the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that dismissal. The court ruled that the military's policy must be reconsidered in light of a 2003 Supreme Court decision that found a Texas ban on sodomy was an unconstitutional invasion of an individual's right to privacy.

The court said the military must prove it has a good reason for each dismissal. The opinion says, "When the government attempts to intrude upon the personal and private lives of homosexuals, the government must advance an important governmental interest...and the intrusion must be neccessary to further that interest."

In other words, it is no longer enough to say a person is a homosexual. The military must prove that fact causes actual harm to the military's mission. This destroys the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy because even if a person "tells", the military cannot take action unless they can prove it causes harm.

Many homosexual Americans have sacrificed their lives and their health by serving our country in the military. It's about time they were treated fairly.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Obama Cements Majority Of Pledged Delegates

Well, two more states have had their primaries. In Kentucky, Clinton scored a big victory. In Oregon, the huge victory belonged to Obama. But neither of these victories is the story of the night.

The story of the night is that Obama has now assured himself of finishing with a majority of the pledged delegates. Even if Michigan and Florida are allowed delegates when Democrats meet on May 31st, they will only be approved for half-delegations. That means even if they are counted, Clinton cannot catch Obama in pledged delegates.

Some of the Clinton surrogates are saying the outstanding superdelegates have not picked a candidate because they still haven't made up their mind. They believe these delegates could still be convinced to vote for Clinton. I don't believe that is true at all.

The reason they haven't declared their support for a candidate is out of respect for the Clintons. They want to give her the opportunity to finish the primaries and exit gracefully. There is no way they will go against the will of the pledged delegates. After June 3rd, they will break hard and fast for Obama.

We are also hearing a lot of talk from the Clinton campaign about how Obama can't win among uneducated working-class whites. That's a load of crap! Yes, there are a group of these voters in Appalachia and the Deep South that will vote for McCain. They did it in 2000 and 2004, and they will do it again no matter who the Democratic candidate is.

Anyone who thinks Clinton can get these people to vote Democratic in the Fall is just living in a dream world. They didn't vote for Clinton last night as much as they voted against a black candidate. There are a few states that will vote Republican no matter who the Democrats run.

But in the vast majority of states, Obama is having no trouble at all in getting white votes from all classes. Over 87% of Obama voters in Oregon were white. And he certainly didn't depend on minority voters for his win in Iowa. Just look at the crowds Obama is drawing -- the huge majority of which are white.

Obama may not carry Appalachia and some Southern states this Fall. There is still too much racism in this country. But I think he'll carry enough of the other states to make him our next president, and he'll do it with millions of white votes.

Radioactive Dumpground Is Wrong For Texas

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has an important decision to make today. They must decide whether to make Texas a dumping ground for the nations radioactive waste. A site is being prepared in West Texas (in Andrews County) at this time to receive that waste.

The TCEQ has to choose between three options. They can give Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists a license to operate the radioactive waste site, they can deny the license, or they can send the matter to an administrative judge to hear the concerns of those opposed to the site.

I hope they choose either the second or third option, because this site is just too close to the acquifer providing water to all of the South Plains and the Panhandle.

The waste company claims the site is dry and the radioactive waste cannot possibly get into the fresh-water acquifer. A geologist who used to work for the TCEQ disagrees. She says there is water in the clay at the site and this would cause the waste to be moved over time. Remember, this waste must be safely stored for hundreds of years.

Why should we take this chance? If the company is wrong, a huge protion of North and West Texas could be left with radioactively-poisoned water. Without water, the South Plains and Panhandle would become uninhabitable. There has to be a better place for this dangerous waste to be stored.

The Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter is holding a rally today in Austin. They still hope to convince the TCEQ to deny the license or at least submit the matter to an administrative judge. I wish them luck.

The issuance of this license could be a disaster-in-waiting for West Texas.

Kennedy Faces His Toughest Fight

Senator Edward Kennedy and his family have received some bad news. He has been in the hospital the last couple of days after suffering a seizure, while doctors tried to determine the cause. Yesterday, the doctors revealed the seizure had been caused by a malignant brain cancer.

The type of cancer found is an especially aggressive and lethal type. Some experts are saying he may have less than a year to live. Currently doctors are investigating the tumor further to see how to attack it. Usually a combination of radiation and chemotherapy is used to fight this type of brain tumor.

At his age (76) this will be a tough fight, but not impossible. Another senator, Arlen Specter, was able to come back after this type of tumor (although it has since returned).

Senator Kennedy carries with him the hopes and best wishes of millions of liberals and other Americans. He has been in the U.S. Senate since 1962, and since that time he has been a bulwark of liberalism. Even when the Republicans took over Washington and many other Democrats were moving to the center, Kennedy remained true to his liberal roots and beliefs.

All Democrats owe Kennedy a debt of gratitude for his loyal service to his party and his country. I wish him the best and hope he has a speedy recovery. He is needed.
Another Democratic leader has just died. Hamilton Jordan, President Carter's Chief of Staff, died after a long fight against cancer. He was largely responsible for taking an unknown governor all the way to the White House. He served his country well and deserves the respect of all Democrats.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

U.S. Plane Violates Venezuela Airspace

A United States government plane "conducting counter-drugs operations" violated Venezuela airspace last Saturday. The plane flew over the Venezuela-owned island of La Orchila, which has a military base and a home owned by president Hugo Chavez. Venezuela claimed this was just the latest in a series of "provocations" by the United States and Columbia.

The government there called in the U.S. Ambassador and demanded an explanation, but the U.S. government just passed it off as "navigation problems". The S-3 aircraft is a reconnaissance plane that is based in Florida. It normally does recon for counter-narcotics actions.

This is a bit worrying. It is a bit strange that the plane just happened to fly over a military base and Chavez's home after losing its way. That sounds more like the navigation problems were planned.

All eyes recently have been on Iran, as Bush postures and threatens. Many of us have wondered if Bush was planning another military action before leaving office. But maybe we've been looking in the wrong place. Maybe his last military venture will be in South America rather than Iran.

It's no secret that Bush hates Chavez. Maybe he thinks an attack on Venezuela would be easier than trying again in the Middle East. I hope not.

Obama Widens Gallup Poll Lead Over Clinton

Things have really changed since the start of the Democratic presidential campaign. Last January, Clinton held a 20 point lead over Obama in the Gallup Daily Tracking Poll among Democrats. But then Iowa caucused and the Clinton slide began.

Even though Clinton has done well recently in selected states, the daily poll shows that in the country as a whole she has been running about 11 points behind Obama. That Obama lead has now been stretched to 16 points. In the latest poll, Obama has 55% to Clinton's 39% among the nation's Democrats.

Clinton may not believe the race is over, but it looks like the country's Democrats are starting to coalesce behind Obama.

Ferraro Puts Second Foot In Mouth

Evidently it wasn't bad enough that Geraldine Ferraro clumsily tried to play the race card a few weeks ago. She said then that the only reason Obama has been successful is because he is black. It was a ridiculous statement and resulted in her being tossed out of the Clinton campaign.

Now she has inserted a second foot in her big mouth. She has said she believes Barack Obama has run a "terribly sexist" campaign. She went on to say that she may not vote for him if he becomes the party's nominee. Does that mean she would prefer to have McCain as president?

I used to have a lot of respect for this lady, but she has now destroyed that. I'm sorry now that I voted for her when she ran for vice-president. I had no idea how petty and vindictive she could be. She can't really think the women of America would be better off with McCain as president.

To Clinton's credit, her campaign was quick to distance her from Ferraro's remark. And I don't think Ferraro was speaking for the campaign. I think she is still smarting from the outrage over her last remark, and was just trying to strike back.

But she is not now helping Clinton or herself. The only thing she is doing is destroying her reputation as a loyal Democrat.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Obama Leads In Kentucky Contributions

The 2008 Democratic campaign for the presidential nomination is finally nearing its end. It now looks like Barack Obama will have the votes necessary to assure his nomination by June 3rd. Tomorrow, the states of Oregon and Kentucky will choose how to apportion their delegates. It is expected that Obama will easily carry the day in Oregon.

Clinton did very well in West Virginia, and it is expected she will also get a majority of the vote in Kentucky. She is currently leading in the polls in Kentucky. But in a strage twist, she doesn't lead Kentucky in all catagories.

Obama leads the state in the amount of political contributions received. He has received a total of $847,405. That is more money than Clinton and McCain together have received. Clinton has received $625,976 and McCain has received about $170,000.

As in other states, it looks like Obama is appealing to new and independent voters. Many of his contributors are people who have never contributed to a political campaign before. They view his candidacy as inspiring.

Clinton may well carry Kentucky tomorrow, but it will not be by the huge margin she carried West Virginia, and it will be nullified by Oregon. Tuesday will put Obama within double digits of the nomination.

Burnam Says Craddick Guilty Of Political Attacks

Recently, we've been hearing about "ghost workers" working for members of the Texas House of Representatives. These workers are on the payroll and receive the benefits (such as insurance) of full-time state employees, even though they do little or no actual work for the state.

State Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth) is accusing House Speaker Craddick of using a non-governmental entity (the Quorum Report) to investigate his political enemies, and then leaking the information to the Austin American-Statesman. He finds it odd that the only people named are opponents of Craddick's retaining his speakership.

Burnam has written a letter to the chairman of the House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics, Rep. Larry Phillips, asking the committee to be fair and thorough in its investigation. He wants the committee to make sure Craddick and his cronies are also investigated, and not just his political enemies. Click here to see Burnam's full letter.

This just once again points up the importance in electing Democrats this Fall, on the state level as well as the national level. The Texas House has been held captive to the dictatorial rule of Speaker Craddick, who seems much more interested in his own holding of power, than what is good for the citizens of Texas. Those who oppose Craddick find they can't get a fair hearing on their bills.

The easiest way to replace Craddick is to vote Democratic in November. It is time to remove this autocrat from his position of power in Austin.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Delegate Count

The current delegate count according to CNN:

Barack Obama.....1904

He needs 121 more delegates.

Hillary Clinton.....1717

She needs 308 more delegates.

Enough said.

Union Says No To American Airlines

It looks like the problems are starting to to come home to roost for American Airlines. And it didn't take a genius to know this would happen. Unions don't take kindly to being slapped in the face.

The Transport Workers Union has just rejected a two-year contract offer from American Airlines. The offer would have given the workers a 5% raise immediately and another 3.5% raise after a year. It would also have paid workers 30% of net income up to $250 million, 25% between $250 and $500 million, and 20% of everything over $500 million.

But the one thing it did not do is restore the salary-cuts these employees agreed to in an effort to save the company a few years ago. They thought their salaries would be restored when the company was once again profitable. They were wrong.

Once the company started turning a nice profit, they rewarded their management with millions of dollars in bonuses for two years in a row. They gave the rank-and-file employees nothing, even though they had saved the company. They couldn't have insulted the employees more if they had spit in their faces.

Truth is, the union might well have approved this offer if they had not been ignored while management received huge bonuses. But company management didn't care as long as they got their big bucks. Now they will have to pay for their greed.

They can expect the same from the pilot's and the attendant's unions. Payback is a bitch, ain't it?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Cyanide Seller Arrested By FBI

This is a rather scary story. On Monday, FBI agents arrested an Oklahoma man for offering to sell 25 gallons of sodium cyanide to an undercover officer he thought was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood. They then executed a search warrant and found the cyanide in the man's home.

The story started right here in Amarillo. An inmate at the Potter County Detention Center told authorities that Jeffrey Don Detrixhe (pictured above) had offered him a pound of methamphetamine (worth $8000) if he would deliver 100 pounds of cyanide to Oklahoma City.

That was in November. Since that time, authorities have kept Detrixhe under surveillance and taped his conversations with the informant. He told the informant that the cyanide could be transformed into a gas by adding hydrochloric acid, and bragged "I could kill a city with that...euthanize a whole town."

The informant convinced Detrixhe that he knew a member of the Aryan Brotherhood who would buy the cyanide. Detrixhe offered to sell 25 gallons of it to an undercover agent for $10,000, a thermal imager and an AK-47. That's when he was arrested.

He is expected to be brought back to Amarillo to be prosecuted. I hope he gets a very long sentence. We really don't need creeps like him running loose on our streets.

McCain Doesn't Understand Arab Anger

Yesterday, McCain showed that although he has military experience, he doesn't understand the situation in the Arab world and in Iraq any better than Bush did. He either misunderstands the situation or he's just outright lying about it.

Still smarting from his statement about leaving troops in Iraq for 100 years, McCain yesterday predicted the United States would achieve a victory in Iraq by the year 2013. I don't know what gives him the idea that any kind of victory can be achieved there -- even in another five years. There is absolutely nothing that shows any progress has been made. Why would that change just because another five years passes?

He predicted that because of this victory, most United States troops could be withdrawn by 2013. Note that he said most, not all troops could be withdrawn. He still wants to leave some troops in Iraq indefinitely. Why? To protect the interests of the big oil companies?

This just shows he really doesn't understand what is driving the Arab anti-Americanism, and indeed the terrorists also. Has he really bought into the Bush fiction that they hate us for our freedom? I thought even he could see how silly that idea was, but maybe I was wrong.

The Arabs don't care if we're free or not. What they do care about is American troops stationed on their soil. That was the major reason for 9/11. It was a retaliation by the terrorists for American troops being stationed in the Arab world.

If we had left Iraq a couple of years ago, the Iraqis might have settled their differences by now. But as long as we are there, the war against American troops will continue. There can be no victory because the reason they fight us is simply because we are there. If troops are left there, there will be no peace.

McCain is trying to make people believe he is different from Bush, but he's not. He shares the neocon belief that military power can achieve a victory in Iraq. If Bush couldn't do it, why should we believe McCain can do it following the same policy?

McCain has swallowed the Bush lie that we're trying to save the Iraqis. We are not. All we are doing by having troops there is inciting further violence. If McCain is elected, the war and the killing will just continue unabated as it has since 2003.

The Arabs don't hate Americans. They hate America trying to push them around with it's military power.

California Court Legalizes Equality

Yesterday the California Supreme Court took a bold step and declared that all Californians should have equal rights -- even homosexuals. The court struck down a ban against gay marriage by a 4-3 vote. That makes California the second state to legalize gay marriage -- the other being Massachusetts.

The court said, "In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation."

I'm sure many evangelicals will be quick to blame "those activist Democratic judges", but that would be wrong. The California Supreme Court is dominated by Republicans, and three of the four majority votes came from justices appointed by Republicans. This was not a party-driven decision. This was just the justices declaring that everyone should have equal rights. What a novel concept!

Of course the right-wing fundies are about to pop a blood vessel over the decision. Fundie leader James Dobson says the people of California must quickly pass a constitutional amendment because "Only then can they protect themselves from this latest example of judicial tyranny".

I have to admit I just don't understand what he wants to protect people from. Exactly how does two people of the same sex getting married hurt anyone else? No one is being forced to do anything. Evangelicals and all other heterosexuals can go on living just as they always have. They are not being hurt and don't need to be protected.

But the fundies know that. They're not interested in protection or equality. What they want is to force everyone else to live as they do. Personally, I don't care what they believe or how they live, but I do object to them trying to force their own beliefs and lifestyle on those who don't want it.

But maybe I'm wrong. I'm willing to change my mind, if someone can show me how they've actually been damaged by two strangers getting married.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Edwards Jumps Off The Fence

Many Obama supporters have been wondering who was going to tell Clinton that the nominating race is over -- now we know. Yesterday, in a huge Obama rally in Michigan, former presidential candidate John Edwards climbed down off that political fence and threw his support to Barack Obama.

This took whatever sting there was out of a rather unimportant loss for Obama in West Virginia on Tuesday night. While Clinton was celebrating her small-state victory, Obama gets what is probably the most important endorsement of the campaign.

In his endorsement speech, Edwards started out by extending an olive branch to the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. He urged Obama supporters to honor Clinton for her service to the Democratic Party. He is probably right about that, but it would be a lot easier to do if she would stop trying to play the "race card" and doing her best to tear down Barack Obama.

Then Edwards asked voters to tear down the walls separating Americans, especially the wall around Washington D.C. that separates Americans from their own government. He pointed out that the best way to do this is to send Barack Obama to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

I did not start this campaign as an Obama supporter. I supported Bill Richardson and then John Edwards until each dropped out of the race. I then climbed on the Obama bandwagon, and I'm glad I did. I think he'll make a great president. It makes me proud to see that both Richardson and Edwards have now joined me on that Obama bandwagon.

Adding insult to injury for Clinton, one of the most important women's rights groups, NARAL, also threw their support behind Obama's bid for the presidency yesterday. They recognized the fact that this campaign for the Democratic nomination is over, and it's time to come together behind the Democratic nominee -- Barack Obama.

I hope Clinton can find a graceful way to exit in the next two weeks. The only thing that could prevent a Democratic victory in November is if she plays the "sour grapes" game and splits the party.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Obama Inches Closer To The Nomination

The West Virginia primary is now over, and Clinton is celebrating a huge win. So what does this mean? Has this win suddenly put Clinton back in the race? Hardly.

The only thing tonight means is that Obama is now 7 or 8 delegates closer to the Democratic nomination. According to CNN, Obama now has 1881 delegates (1599 pledged delegates and 282 superdelegates). Clinton has 1713 delegates (1440 pledged delegates and 273 superdelegates).

That means Obama is now within 144 delegates of having the nomination. All he needs is 30% of the remaining uncommitted delegates. Clinton still needs at least 312 delegates.

There are no other states that will give Clinton the 67% she achieved in West Virginia (and even that wouldn't be enough). She may win Kentucky next week, but it will be a lot closer than that. And Oregon also votes next week, which is most probably going to be won by Obama.

As I said last week, this race is really over. While Clinton exits in a blaze of glory, it is time for Obama to turn his attention to John McCain -- and that is exactly what he started to do yesterday.

Dems Stop ANWR Drilling Again

Since the Republicans came to power a few years ago, this country really hasn't had an energy policy that made sense. For the Republicans, energy policy means letting the big oil companies do whatever they want. Since Bush and Cheney, both oilmen, came to power they have single-mindedly pursued this policy -- even to the extent of starting an unnecessary war to provide access to Iraqi oil for their oil company buddies.

Another favorite pet project of the Republicans is to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to massive oil drilling. Bush has tried to get this done since coming to office. It doesn't seem to matter to the Bush and the Republicans that this would ruin one of our last pristine wilderness areas (and add to the carbon-based pollution ruining our planet).

This week they tried again to get it approved, and once again they were stopped by Democrats. Senate Democrats (joined by six sensible Republicans) killed the bill on a 56 to 42 vote.

This is just one more reason to elect solid majorities of Democrats this coming November. We need to keep the big oil companies out of ANWR, and we also need to develop a sensible and sustainable energy policy. The only way to do that is to give Democrats a working majority in the Senate, and put a Democrat in the White House.

For far too long we have paid lip service to finding alternate energy sources and more efficient technologies, while letting the oil companies set our energy policy. It is time to get serious.