Monday, August 31, 2009

Psychic Ability

People believe in some really stupid things.   Found at the blog Bay of Fundie.

Amarillo Rep. Opposes Cell Phone Ban

Tomorrow a new law goes into effect.   It will be against the law to use a cell phone while driving in a school zone.   This is a good law, which will probably save the lives of some children here in Texas.

The law was passed in the last session of the Texas Legislature.   The only problem is the law doesn't go far enough.   It should have banned the use of cell phones while driving anywhere and anytime.   Fortunately, there are some members of the legislature that want to ban all cell phone driving, as soon as the legislature meets again.

Rep. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio), who authored the school zone bill, is one of those supporting the comprehensive ban.   Rep. Bill Pickett (D-El Paso), chairman of the House Transportation Committee agrees, and says the committee will be holding hearings soon so a bill can be ready when the legislature convenes,   

Menendez says,   "I am hopeful that my colleagues will understand that this is a serious issue that needs immediate attention because a lot of drivers now use cell phones as if they were computers and are getting too distracted....There is already too much evidence which shows that using a cell phone while driving, whether talking or texting, puts people at great risk of getting involved in a major accident.

But our own representative here in Amarillo opposes the ban on cell phone driving.   Republican David Swinford (pictured) says,   "The people I represent are not stupid, they are smart enough to take care of themselves.   Trust the people."

What an idiotic statement.   Stats from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have shown that a cell phone driver is as dangerous as a drunk driver.   And that a fact even among the folks Swinford represents.   Does he want to eliminate drunk driving laws too, and "trust the people"?

Personally, I don't care to trust cell phone drivers with the lives of my family and friends, anymore than I'd want to trust those same lives to drunk drivers.   There are at least 2,600 deaths and 12,000 serious injuries caused by cell phone drivers each year, and this number will only rise as our cell phones are capable of doing more things all the time.

Does Rep. Swinford just not care about the thousands killed and injured each year by cell phone drivers?   Or is he just getting too much campaign money from the communications companies?   Either way is a pretty sad commentary on his position. 

Too Close To The Truth

Found at the excellent blog What Would Jack Do?

Japan Swings To The Left

In Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has been in power since 1955 (except for an 11-month period in the mid-90's when a short-lived 8-party coalition formed a government and then fell apart).   They have never been out-polled by a single party before -- until last weekend.

Although they were called the Liberal Democrats, they were actually the conservatives of Japan's political structure (the equivalent of the U.S.'s Republican Party).   They supported the corporations and business interests.

The other major political party in Japan is the Democratic Party (DP), and is made up of progressives and socialists.   It is to the left of the LDP.   In the last parliament, the DP had only 112 seats to the 300 seats of the LDP.   But last weekend's election has flipped the power structure.   The DP is winning more than 300 seats, while the LDP will probably win around 100 seats.   The new prime minister will be DP leader Yukio Hatoyama (pictured).   

There are also two smaller parties who normally vote with the DP, giving them now a two-thirds majority.   This means they will be able to pass their agenda without needing votes from the LDP.

There were several things worrying Japanese voters.   One was a 5.7% unemployment rate -- a record for post-war Japan.   Job security is also not what it used to be, when many workers stayed with the same company all their lives, and the population is aging (there are fewer births and immigration is not encouraged).   And wages have stagnated, as the global recession has created less demand for Japanese exports.

The DP has offered some cures in the recent campaign.   In an effort to encourage more women to have babies, they propose to give a family $275 a month for each child to help offset child-rearing expenses.   They have also proposed free high school, toll-free highways, income support for farmers, monthly allowances for job trainees, an increased minimum wage and tax cuts.

It's hard to know yet whether the people like these proposals, or they were just sick of being ruled by one party for so long.   Most likely, it's a little of both.

The DP promises to remain a close ally of the United States, but I think we can expect them to be a little more independent of the United States than the LDP was.   They will be more likely to consider Japanese and Asian interests, and less likely to blindly follow where the U.S. leads.

This win by the left in Japan doesn't really surprise me.   As the global recession marches on, more and more countries are turning to the left for new leadership and a new direction.   Perhaps the one good thing to come out of the global recession will be to loosen the corporate stranglehold on many governments.   

Redacted Truth

Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Found at the very funny Some Guy with a Website.

Governor's Race Gets Interesting

While the governor's race has already heated up and even gotten nasty for the Republicans (with Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rick Perry going at each other), the Democratic side has just been limping along with one candidate -- Tom Schieffer.   And frankly, he's not a candidate that excites any progressive Democrats.   He not only served in the Bush administration, but supported his candidacy in both 2000 and 2004.

I've met Mr. Schieffer, and while he's a nice enough guy, he leans far too much to the right for me.   I really can't see myself voting for him.   Thankfully, he's not the only official candidate anymore.

A few days ago, Hank Gilbert tossed his hat in the Democratic ring.   Four years ago, Gilbert ran on the statewide ticket as the Democratic candidate for Agriculture Commissioner.   I like Mr. Gilbert a lot.   He reminds me of the farmers I grew up around.   Men who valued honesty, hard work and a willingness to help a neighbor.   Gilbert also led the fight to stop the horrible Trans-Texas Corridor.

If Hank Gilbert wins the Democratic primary, I would have no problem voting for him and working to help him get elected.   But next Tuesday, we'll have a third official candidate for the Democratic primary.

According to his campaign manager, Rania Batrice, Kinky Friedman will officially announce his candidacy next Tuesday.   This is the candidate I have been waiting for.   I supported him in 2006, and I've already sent him two checks for his campaign this year.   I will definitely be supporting Kinky Friedman in the upcoming Democratic primary.

This should be a very interesting race on the Democratic side.   Each of the three candidates appeals to a different natural constituency -- Schieffer to the conservatives, Gilbert to party progressives and Friedman to mavericks like me who are tired of politics as usual.

But while I expect this to be a very hard-fought campaign between the three Democratic contenders, I seriously doubt it will degenerate into a gutter fight (like the Republican campaign already has).   I believe the personalities of the three candidates will keep the campaign on a higher level (although some of their supporters may get a little ridiculous).

Frankly, I'm looking forward to the campaign.   It should be a lot of fun!


Political Cartoon is by Jerry Holbert in The Boston Herald.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pie Chart

This made me laugh, so I thought I'd pass it on.   Found it at the fine blog Bouquets of Gray.

Who Does This Describe ?

Key Rose over at La Sanbe has a good question for us all.   Look at the following facts, and then try to guess -- is it describing the NFL or the NBA?

Have been accused of spousal abuse

Have been arrested for fraud

Have been accused of writing bad checks 


Have directly or indirectly 
Bankrupted at least 2 businesses 

Have done time for assault 


Cannot Get a credit card due to bad credit

Have been arrested on drug-related charges


Have been arrested for shoplifting

Are defendants in lawsuits, and


Have been arrested for drunk driving 
The last year 

I'll give you a hint.   It's neither!   It' a far more lawless organization than either.

Go here to find out who it is.

Pausing To Remember

Political Cartoon is by Steve Sack in The Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Now This Is Embarrassing !

Shortly after their historic Apollo mission to the moon in 1969, the three astronauts (Aldrin, Collins and Armstrong) made a triumphant tour of Europe.   While they were in the Netherlands, they gave Prime Minister Willem Drees a very special gift -- a moon rock.   

After Mr. Drees died, the moon rock was put on display at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, where it had an honored place among the paintings by Dutch masters like Rembrandt.   At one time, the rock was even insured for a half-million dollars.

Sadly, those days are gone.   That's because the famous moon rock is a FAKE -- unless the moon was once covered by a forest.   The museum recently had the rock evaluated, and it turns out that it is just petrified wood.

Xandra van Gelder, who oversaw the investigation of the moon rock, told the Associated Press,   "It's a good story, with some questions that are still unanswered.   We can laugh about it."   The museum says it will keep the rock as a "curiosity".

What the hell is up with this?   Petrified wood!   The United States has given "moon rocks" to over 100 countries.   I have to wonder now just how many of those are fakes.   Were any of them real?

U.S. officials have said they have "no explanation" for this.   The rock had supposedly been verified by NASA itself.

This is really embarrassing.   Did those bozos at NASA think no one would ever check? 

A Huge Demand

Political Cartoon is by David Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star.

Goodell Issues New Scoreboard Rules

The Dallas Cowboys played their first game in their new stadium last week.   While the Cowboys won the game and everyone seemed to love the stadium, the giant scoreboard hanging above the field seems to have caused some controversy, after it was hit by the Tennessee punter.

The down was replayed after it was realized the punt had hit the scoreboard, but it got some people worrying about punts hitting the scoreboard.   There were visions of scores of punts hitting the board, of punters aiming at the board, and even of quarterbacks aiming passes at the board.   Of course, this is all silly talk since no real advantage would be gained by doing this.   The play would just be done over from the same spot.   They also overlook the fact that only one punt out of fourteen hit the board during the game.

The NFL had mandated that the scoreboard should be at least 85 feet above the playing surface, and the Cowboys set it at 90 feet.   Even so, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell decided he needed to head off any controversy.   So, Goodell clarified and tweaked the rules about a punt hitting the scoreboard.   Here are the new rules (that will be in effect until the end of the coming season):

*If a ball in play strikes a video board, sky cam, guide wire or any other object, the ball will be dead immediately, and the down will be replayed at the previous spot.

*If there is not an on-field ruling that the ball struck an object, the Replay Assistant is empowered to initiate a booth review, including if the event occurs prior to the two-minute warning.

*If, prior to the two-minute warning, no booth review is initiated by the Replay Assistant, a coach's challenge is permitted under the customary procedures for such a challenge.

*In the event the down is replayed -
(a)The game clock will be reset to the time remaining when the snap occurred.
(b)All penalties will be disregarded, except for personal fouls, which will be administered prior to replaying the down.

Goodell went on to say,   "We will continue to address the particular circumstances in Dallas, giving full consideration to the competitive, safety and fan experience issues involved.   The Cowboys have been fully cooperative as we have addressed this subject, and we will continue to work closely with the club on a longer term resolution."

Hopefully, this will settle this matter.   I doubt if many punts will hit the score board anyway, but if they do, the rules are pretty clear about how to handle it.   Now maybe we can get down to some real football.

Perfectly Legal ?

Political Cartoon is by R.J. Matson in The New York Observer and Roll Call.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Amen !

Found at the great blog of Yellowdog Granny.

Was An Innocent Man Executed ?

Texas has long been the most bloodthirsty state in the United States.   No other state even comes close to executing as many people as Texas does.   Now it looks like the fear that an innocent man could have been executed may well be true.

In February of 2004, the state executed Cameron Todd Willingham (pictured).   He had been convicted of starting a fire that killed his three children.   But a new investigation says there may not have even been a crime.   The fire may have been accidental -- not arson.

Craig Beyler of Hughes Associates, a nationally known fire scientist, has told the Texas Forensic Science Commission (TFSC) that there is no basis for believing the fire was started by anyone.   Beyler says the "investigators failed to examine all electrical outlets and appliances in the house, did not consider other potential causes for the fire, came to conclusions that contradicted the witnesses at the scene, and wrongly concluded that Willingham's injuries could not have been caused as he said they were."

He went on to say the investigating fire marshal "seems to be wholly without any realistic understanding of fires and how fire injuries are created."   He said the marshal's findings "are nothing more than a collection of personal beliefs that have nothing to do with science-based fire investigation."

Those are some pretty strong accusations about the original investigation, but Beyler is not alone in his beliefs.   In addition to this TFSC investigation, the Chicago Tribune and the Innocence Project has done investigations.   In all, a total of nine of the top fire scientists in the nation have looked into this case.   They all agree with Beyler's conclusions and say the original investigators used "outdated theories and folklore" to justify calling the fire an arson.

It certainly looks like Texas not only executed an innocent man, but also convicted him of a crime that never happened.   I'm sure this is probably not the only innocent man executed by the state of Texas, but if the TFSC finds as it should, it will be the first time an official state organization admits an innocent man was executed. 

It is too late to save Mr. Willingham, but maybe his case can help make Texans realize that it's time to stop the executions.


Political Cartoon is by John Cole in The Scranton Times.

Dylan Makes Christmas Album

This is certainly something you wouldn't have seen thirty years ago, but I guess the only constant in this world is change.   Anti-establishment icon, Bob Dylan, is doing a very establishment kind of thing -- he's releasing a christmas album.

Columbia Records has confirmed that Dylan has made a christmas album called Christmas in the Heart.   The album will be released on October 13th, and all the proceeds from the album will go to charity.   Some of the songs on the album are "Winter Wonderland", "Little Drummer Boy", "Here Comes Santa Claus" and "Must Be Santa".

The money that album sales generates will be donated to the charity Feeding America.   They hope to raise enough money to feed 1.4 million people.   Money raised by international sales of the album, will be donated to organizations in those countries that provide meals for the poor.

Dylan said,   "It's a tragedy that more than 35 million people in this country alone -- 12 million of those, children -- often go to bed hungry and wake up each morning unsure of where their next meal is coming from.   I join the good people of Feeding America in the hope that our efforts can bring some food security to people in need during this holiday season."

Not being a christian, I usually don't care much about christmas albums.   But I am a Dylan fanatic, so I may have to at least give this one a listen. 


Political Cartoon is by R.J. Matson in The New York Observer and Roll Call.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Fan Club

Found at the great blog What Would Jack Do?

The Lion Of The Senate Is Gone

They are all three gone now -- the president, the attorney general and the senator.   They all served their country with pride and distinction, and they will never be forgotten.   They are giants striding the halls of American history.   But none served his country better than Senator Edward Kennedy.

Yesterday, Senator Kennedy died and America lost a great leader.   Senator Kennedy carried the liberal banner high, even through the hard times, and he was never ashamed of his beliefs.   He always fought for what was best for the American people.   He was a tireless supporter for social justice -- minority rights, women's rights, worker's rights, human rights and peaceful co-existence.

Today, many of those in Washington are praising this great senator and honoring his memory.   But if they really want to honor him, there is something they can do.   They can pass real health care reform with a public insurance option.   Senator Kennedy always believed in and fought valiantly for the right of every American to have decent and affordable health care.   The passing of such a bill would not only honor the senator -- it would complete the great mission of his service to America.

Here is what some American and world leaders have to say about Senator Kennedy:

U.S. President Barack Obama: For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts. I valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I've profited as President from his encouragement and wisdom. An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time.

Bill Clinton, former president: "Senator Ted Kennedy was one of the most influential leaders of our time, and one of the greatest senators in American history. His big heart, sharp mind and boundless energy were gifts he gave to make our democracy a more perfect union."

Jimmy Carter, former president: "Senator Kennedy was a passionate voice for the citizens of Massachusetts and an unwavering advocate for the millions of less fortunate in our country. The courage and dignity he exhibited in his fight with cancer was surpassed only by his lifelong commitment and service to his country."

Al Gore, former vice president: "He was a true giant. He was a warm, funny, thoughtful, and generous friend and he was the most effective member of the United States Senate with whom I served....Ted was a champion for those Americans who had no voice -- the sick, the disabled, the poor, the under-privileged -- and they could have had no greater friend in the Senate. Now, Ted would want nothing more than for his colleagues to continue his life's work and to make real his dream of quality health care for all Americans."

Gen. Colin Powell, retired, former secretary of state: "He was for the underprivileged. He was for the poor. He was for those who did not have health care. He was for the reduction and elimination of racial barriers. And so Ted Kennedy was somebody who reached out for all of those, who were not yet benefiting from the American dream. And he strongly believed that America had the potential to give all of its citizens an opportunity to lead a good quality, healthy life."

U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona): "My friend, Ted Kennedy, was famous before he was accomplished. But by the end of his life he had become irreplaceable in the institution he loved and in the affections of its members. He grew up in the long shadow of his brothers, but found a way to be useful to his country in ways that will outlast their accomplishments."

Harry Reid, Senate majority leader: "Because of Ted Kennedy, more young children could afford to become healthy. More young adults could afford to become students. More of our oldest citizens and our poorest citizens could get the care they need to live longer, fuller lives. More minorities, women and immigrants could realize the rights our founding documents promised them. And more Americans could be proud of their country. Ted Kennedy's dream was the one for which the founding fathers fought and for which his brothers sought to realize. The liberal lion's mighty roar may now fall silent, but his dream shall never die."

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah): "Today America lost a great elder statesman, a committed public servant, and leader of the Senate. And today I lost a treasured friend. "Ted Kennedy was an iconic, larger than life United States senator whose influence cannot be overstated. Many have come before, and many will come after, but Ted Kennedy's name will always be remembered as someone who lived and breathed the United States Senate and the work completed within its chamber."

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts: "I came to admire Ted enormously for his charm and sense of humor -- qualities all the more impressive in a man who had known so much loss and sorrow. I will always remember his great personal kindness, and the fighting spirit he brought to every cause he served and every challenge he faced."

Gordon Brown, British prime minister: "Senator Edward Kennedy will be mourned not just in America, but in every continent. He is admired around the world as the senator of senators. He led the world in championing children's education and health care, and believed that every single child should have the chance to realise their potential to the full. Even facing illness and death, he never stopped fighting for the causes which were his life's work."

Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany: "For decades Edward Kennedy was a towering figure in U.S. politics. His battle for justice and equality was defined by persistence and resoluteness. In Senator Kennedy both Germany and Europe have lost a great and dear friend."

Ban Ki-moon, United Nations secretary-general: "He was not just a friend to those of power and high position, but even more to those who had neither. He was a voice for those who would otherwise go unheard, a defender of the rights and interests of the defenseless. Those who feel that government can too often be faceless and inhumane did not know Senator Kennedy. He stood for the best in all of us, and he will be missed."

(NOTE -- This post is to honor the great man.   If you have something negative to say about Senator Edward Kennedy, take it somewhere else.   It won't be posted here.)

On The Road To Reform

Political Cartoon is by R.J. Matson in The New York Observer and Roll Call.

Wikipedia Makes A Change

I like Wikipedia and consider it a great resource.   I also like the concept of Wikipedia -- that an on-line encyclopedia could be user written and edited.   Currently, Wikipedia has over 3,000,000 articles in English -- most of them well-researched and written.   

In the last few days, Wikipedia has announced a change in the way it operates (at least in its English version).   It has instituted a level of oversight.   Now many articles will have to be approved by one of Wikipedia's trusted editors before it will be allowed to be published to the website and become a part of the on-line encyclopedia.

Since Wikipedia announced the change, there has been a bit of turmoil on the internet about it.   Some see the change as necessary, while others see it as an abandonment of the principles the site was founded upon.

I must side with the former opinion.   I think the change needed to happen.   As I previously said, most articles were well-done.   But it seems like there are always a few nuts who want to screw things up for the vast majority, and there were a few whose research was sloppy or they just let their religious or political dogma interfere with their accuracy.

To be usable, an on-line encyclopedia needs to be accurate and trustworthy.   There were not many mistakes in Wikipedia (either inadvertent or intentional), but it doesn't take many to destroy trust.   I believe the change Wikipedia is making will enhance that trust.

As for those who think Wikipedia is abandoning its principles, I just don't think that is true.   It is still, and will be in the future, user written.   Going through an appropriate approval process does not change that.   It just weeds out the very few who were trying to do harm to the marvelous site built by millions.

I applaud the change being instituted by Wikipedia, and wholeheartedly support the web site.

The Sponsors

Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Hotel Gets X-Rating

The Standard Hotel in Manhattan was just finished and opened last year, and has already become something of a landmark in the city.   In fact, the Municipal Arts Society of New York gave the hotel an award as the best new building erected in the city last year.

But the hotel is also starting to get a reputation for something else -- giving X-rated shows to the citizens and visitors of New York City.   That's because a new city park (High Line Park) was just opened on an abandoned elevated railway across the street.   The hotel rooms have floor to ceiling windows and when the curtains are left open, visitors to the park have an unobstructed view into the hotel rooms.

It turns out that many hotel visitors are leaving those curtains open and putting on quite a show for park visitors.   One neighborhood worker says the "shows" are "healthy and fun" -- sort of like the TV show Wild Kingdom.   But City Council Speaker Christine Quinn disagrees.   She calls the situation "unacceptable", and wants something done about it.

In a statement released last Monday, the hotel said its managers will try to "remind guests of the transparency" of the windows.

I suspect the visitors in the park will probably continue to get at least a few of the X-rated shows.   You know at least some of the hotel customers will find the idea of leaving the curtains open kind of exciting, and will do it on purpose.

It gives new meaning to the term "the naked city", doesn't it?   

The New Kid

Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Washington Examiner.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Found at the excellent blog of The Atheist Missionary.

Does Israel Want To Negotiate ?

It has become obvious to everyone in the civilized world that there will never be peace in the Middle East until there is a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is mutually acceptable to all sides.   Everyone, except Israel, that is.   It's starting to look like Israel is happy with the status quo.

President Obama has made it clear the Israel must stop building new settlements on the West Bank, because these settlements are an impediment to the peace process.   The European Union agrees, and they've been putting pressure on Israel this week during Netanyahu's European visit.

Netanyahu has refused to just stop the building of new settlements.   Instead he has said he is working toward a compromise.   The compromise would let Israel continue to build settlements already approved, while not approving any new settlements.

That's not really a compromise, but instead is an Israeli victory -- for a couple of reasons.   The watchdog group Peace Now says Israel could go on building indefinitely just using plans that have already been approved.   There are already 300,000 Israelis living in the West Bank and more are moving there every day.   

It's obvious what Israel is trying to do.   The longer they delay and the more settlements they build, the easier it will be for them to argue that at least part of the West Bank should remain a part of Israel -- even if a two-state solution is finally reached.   In a word, they're trying to steal Palestinian land by delaying and building.

Israel could negotiate a real peace if they wanted to right now.   If they pulled all Israelis out of the West Bank, and let a Palestinian state be set up in the West Bank and Gaza (a real Palestinian state not under Israel's control), I think peace could finally come to that part of the world.   It is achievable and the Palestinians are ready to negotiate.

The real impediment to the peace process is Israel itself.   They have America's guarantee to defend their existence, and also the opportunity to expand their territory by building on Palestinian land.   There is no real reason for them to negotiate right now.

Maybe it's time for the United States to give them a reason to negotiate.   The United States should suspend all foreign aid directed to Israel until they stop building settlements and start negotiating.   Otherwise, we'll just see more delay and land theft by Israel.

America's Secret Weapon

Political Cartoon is by Jimmy Margulies in The Record (New Jersey).

Texas SAT Scores Not Up To Par

There's more bad news regarding the education of students in Texas.   With our state school board (pictured) more interested in teaching religion than anything else and Republican leadership in Austin more interested in cutting taxes than adequately funding our schools, it probably shouldn't be a surprise that Texas students are falling below the national average in knowledge and skills.

On Tuesday, the Texas Education Agency released the numbers on last year's SAT scores by Texas students.   As usual, Texas students, as a whole, were significantly lower than the national average on all three parts of the test.

Even though they gained one point this year on the math portion of the test, Texas students still scored nine points below the national average.   On the critical reading portion there was a two point drop over last year, resulting in Texas students finishing 15 points below the national average.   On the writing portion there was a five point drop from last year, with Texas students finishing 18 points below the national average.   Here are the scores:

critical reading...........486................501

Like it or not, this means a lot of other states are doing a better job of educating their students than Texas is doing.   That's inexcusable and unacceptable.   There's no way that Texas students are dumber than students in any other state.   So the only conclusion to draw is that Texas state leadership and local school boards (and parents) are not living up to their responsibilities.

All Texans should be ashamed of this, and demand that it be fixed immediately.

Baiting The Poor

Political Cartoon is by R.J. Matson in The New York Observer and Roll Call.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Found at the wonderful blog of Yellowdog Granny.

Is Government Restricting Freedom Of The Press ?

I want to thank the great blog Think Progress for bringing this story to attention, because it involves one of the most important issues there is -- freedom of the press.   Of all the freedoms provided us by our Founding Fathers, perhaps the most important is freedom of speech and the press.   That's because this is the freedom that protects and insures all of our other freedoms.

It seems that the United States military doesn't think freedom of the press is very important.   It looks like they have decided to allow only those reporters who write "positive stories" about the military to be able to be embedded and report from the front lines with the soldiers.

To do this, they have hired The Rendon Group to investigate any reporters asking to be embedded.   They have a $1.5 million contract with the Defense Department to do "news analysis and media assessment".   They screen the reporter's writings and report on whether they have been "positive", "negative" or "neutral" toward the military.

The military says they have not denied access to any reporter because of what was learned in the Rendon Group's investigation, but that is not really true.   Just last month, a Stars and Stripes reporter was denied the ability to embed because he "refused to highlight" good news.

This is a very dangerous precedent, and if it is allowed to continue it will affect the ability of the American people to get the truth about what is going on in a war zone.   I can understand the military being embarrassed by negative stories, but that cannot trump the right of the people to know the truth.

There is only one valid reason to bar any reporter from a war zone.    If the reporter releases secret information about combat operations that endanger the soldiers involved in that operation, then he should not be allowed to embed (and probably should be prosecuted).   But that should be the only exception to freedom of the press in a war zone.

Reporters should never be judged by whether they report "positively" or "negatively" about the military or what it doing.   If things are not going well, a negative story may be necessary to get the truth to the American people.   Pressuring reporters to write only positive stories about the war effort (and that's exactly what this is) will result in a skewed "rose-colored glasses" view of the war and the military.   

That's not news -- it's propaganda.   President Obama should step in and stop this immediately.

Libyan Idol

Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Python Kills Baby - Parents Arrested

Stories like this make me too mad to see straight.   In Oxford, Florida, an 8.5 foot Blond Burmese python squeezed a two year-old girl to death.   The mother and her boyfriend (pictured above) woke up to find the huge snake wrapped around the two year-old and couldn't get it off before the girl had been killed.

The snake was their pet.   It had escaped its cage during the night and attacked the child.   The child had several bites from the python.   The couple also owned a 6 foot boa constrictor, but it was found by authorities still in its cage.

The mother and her boyfriend were both arrested and jailed pending $35,000 bond (each).   They have been charged with Manslaughter, Third Degree Murder and Child Abuse.   They are also being investigated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, because they did not have a required permit to keep the snake as a pet.

Just what the hell kind of idiots are these parents!   How could they keep such dangerous animals in the same house with their helpless two year-old child?

I am a big believer that if you own any kind of animal, you are responsible for anything that animal does -- including murder.   If your dog tears up the neighbor's flowers, you are responsible.   If you horse or cow tears up someone's fence, you are responsible.   And if your snake kills a child, you are responsible.   

It doesn't matter at all that you didn't want the animal to commit the act.   If you own the animal, then you should have to pay the price for whatever that animal does (and don't even bother trying to tell me you couldn't prevent the animal from "escaping" or "breaking out" of whatever enclosure you had them in).

And personally, I don't see any difference between this snake attacking a child and a pit bull or doberman attacking a child.   In both cases, it's your animal attacking a defenseless child   If you attacked and injured a child, you would be charged with a serious crime.   Why should it be any different because you let your animal do it?      

Shocking Expose (Not)

Political Cartoon is by John Cole in The Scranton Times.

Cowboys Rookie Out For The Season

This is not good news for the Cowboys.   They had already lost one rookie for the season, when Robert Brewster tore his pectoral muscle and needed surgery.   Now it looks like they've lost a second rookie for the season.

Outside linebacker Brandon Williams was injured in last Friday's game against the Titans.   The Star-Telegram is reporting that the "Texas Tech star tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while covering a punt."   The injury will require surgery, and Williams will have to spend the season on Injured Reserve.

The linebacker had been doing very well in practices according to the coaches and was expected to see some playing time backing up Anthony Spencer.   Coach Wade Phillips said,   "Brandon Williams has some pass-rush ability that we really like.   This kid had a chance to play some plays, but he'll just have to do it next year."

Rookie Victor Butler will move from the other side (where he was backing up DeMarcus Ware) to serve as Spencer's back-up.   Steve Octavien will become the back-up for Ware.

It hurts to lose two of the best rookies before the season has even started.   Both were doing well and were counted on to provide quality minutes in a back-up role.   Hopefully, this is the last of the serious injuries for this season.

I think the Cowboys have a chance to be really good this season, but more injuries could destroy that hope.

Incredible !

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Message From Seattle

This is a bus ad being run by the Seattle Atheists. Found at the blog of The Atheist Missionary.

Wind Power - The First Step

The large scale production of wind energy will be a real boon to Texas, and especially to the Panhandle region. But before wind energy can really take off, there must be a way to get that energy from where it is produced to where it is needed (and will be used). In other words, new energy transmission lines must be built.

Thank goodness that process is finally starting. Sharyland Utilities is holding public hearings on its proposed routes for transmission lines thru the Panhandle. The first section will be built from near Hereford to White Deer, and will run just south of Amarillo (see above map).

There are several routes available for this section of the transmission line, and these will be discussed in public hearings the next couple of days. The first will be held in Amarillo tonight from 5-8pm at the Region 16 Service Center (5800 Bell Street). The second will be held tomorrow in Panhandle (just east of Amarillo) from 5-8pm at the Carson County War Memorial Building (500 Main Street). Both meetings are open to the public.

In the first quarter of 2010, Sharyland will prepare to file permits for the specific routes it will use. In the second quarter of 2010, it will file those permit applications with the Texas Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The PUC should approve those permits by the end of 2010, and construction is currently scheduled to begin in the first half of 2011.

Sharyland will be building about 300 miles of the transmission lines across 11 counties. It is good to see the process is finally getting started. Wind energy will not only provide a new source of income for many farmers and ranchers, but it will create many new jobs in this area. But this cannot happen on a large scale until the transmission lines are completed.

Here in the Panhandle, we are eager to begin providing Texas with clean and renewable energy.

Scare Tactics

Political Cartoon is by Steve Sack in The Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Spector Doesn't Like Prison !

Here's a shocking bit of news. It seems that convicted murderer Phil Spector doesn't like prison. I have to wonder, did he think he was supposed to like it? Does he think all the other prisoners consider prison to be a vacation, and they're really having a good time?

Spector wrote to his friend Steve Escobar saying he wants his attorneys to get him to "a better prison with people more like myself in it during the appeal process instead of all these lowlife scumbags, gangsters and Manson types....They’d kill you here for a 39-cent bag of soup!”

Oh my! They've put a lowlife scumbag murderer in the same prison with other "lowlife scumbags". The horror! I think Spector needs to grow up and realize a couple of things.

1. He is a murderer. He belongs in a maximum security prison with other people who've committed similar crimes. If he can't do the time, he shouldn't have done the crime (which was to shoot an unarmed and defenseless woman in the face).

2. He's not supposed to like prison. He was sent there to be punished, just like the other "lowlife scumbags" in prison with him. If he liked it, it wouldn't be punishment.

This creep thought he was a badass when he threatened unarmed people with a gun for years on the outside. It doesn't surprise me that he's really just a pathetic wimp.

What We're Fighting For

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Separation Is Good

Found at the excellent blog What Would Jack Do?

Our Troops Are Fighting For This ?

The Afghanis just had a national election last Thursday. They haven't finished counting the votes, so it is not known which cheater was the most effective. Yes, I said "cheater", because this was anything but a fair and free and democratic election.

Mirwais Yassini, deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament and one of over 30 people who ran for president, said he believes that both of the two main contenders are involved in widespread election fraud. He is talking about current president Hamid Karzai and his main opponent Abdullah Abdullah.

It looks like Mr. Yassini is right. The Afghanistan Free and Fair Election Foundation (AFFEF) has cited instances of "stuffed ballot boxes, illiterate voters being told who to vote for and biased officials." The AFFEF's "provisional report also details accounts of multiple voting, underage voting and election officials being ejected from polling stations by representatives of candidates."

The AFFEF sent 7,000 observers all around the country. The observers said "threats of violence against voters came from local powerbrokers, the Taliban and rival political camps."

Meanwhile, the observer mission from the European Union said "the election was well organised and was a victory for the Afghan people." With everything else that's been reported, I have to wonder just how far their heads were buried in the sand. Obviously, they were there to rubber-stamp the election -- not to see it was run properly.

Is this the wonderful democracy our American soldiers are dying for? We already knew of the anti-women laws they recently passed. Now it looks like there won't really be a legitimate winner in the election, and therefore won't be a legitimate leader for Afghanistan -- no matter how many votes are counted.

Frankly, none of the candidates running or leaders already in office is worth the life of a single American soldier. It is time to either declare victory or admit defeat (you choose) and get all of our soldiers out of Afghanistan.

And while we're at it, let's get all our soldiers out of Iraq -- now.

Public Options

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

I've Joined The "Apple Army"

Since my desk-top computer quit on me a couple of years ago, I've been making do with an Acer Aspire 5315 laptop. I bought it new a couple of years ago for $350 dollars, and it's served me pretty well. But now it's starting to fill the screen with purple and blue lines every now and then, and they won't go away until I tap the computer a few times. Obviously, it was time to either try and get it repaired or just replace it.

So today, I went computer shopping. I came home with a brand new Apple MacBook (like the one pictured above). I've been wanting to try a Mac for a while now, so while I've got a few bucks I went out and splurged. It's the bottom of the Apple line, but it was all the money I could talk myself into spending. I'm still proud of it, and I think it's all I'll need.

Now all I need to do is figure out how to use the darn thing!

The American Way ?

Political Cartoon is by Stuart Carlson in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Nature Of Blue Dogs

Found at the humorous site Seeds of Doubt.

Blogger Anonymity

Pittgirl was the pseudonym of a very popular Pittsburgh blogger. People enjoyed her comedic efforts and her verbal jabs at city government. But there are always those (probably jealous) individuals who want to hurt or bring down anyone doing well. Pittgirl knew her identity had been compromised, so she revealed it on her blog.

It turns out she was Virginia Montanez, a 35 year-old married mother of two. After she revealed her identity, her employer fired her. She had worked for a nonprofit called the Negro Educational Emergency Drive in Pittsburgh. Her former-employer won't say why they fired her.

Recently in Alaska, 43 year-old political blogger Jeanne Devon was outed by an Alaskan legislator (who should be ashamed of his cowardly actions). Her blog was called The Mudflats and she exposed right wing skullduggery in the northernmost state. Another Alaskan blogger, who writes The Immoral Minority, had anonymous right-wingers calling the school where the blogger worked. Regardless of political affiliation, these kinds of threatening actions should not be tolerated by anyone.

I started out blogging with a pseudonym myself, because I wasn't sure how my employer would react to my blog. But I finally decided that as a political blogger, I might have more credibility if I used my real name. But that was my own personal choice, and I fully understand why a blogger might want to keep his/her real name a secret (especially a woman-- it's shocking the kinds of abuse and threats aimed at females). The use of a pseudonym should be a personal choice of a blogger (who knows his/her own situation) and not a target of inferior intellects.

Take for instance, what happened to Montanez. All you have to write is one thing that your boss doesn't like and suddenly you're jobless. There are also nuts out there who will harrass and even threaten or hurt a blogger, just because they disagree with them and don't have the intelligence, wit or education to spar with them in a comment section of the blog.

Personally, I think anyone who resorts to name-calling, threats, outing a blogger or trying to get a blogger fired from their job is a SCUMBAG and a COWARD (and if you'll notice, they usually do it anonymously). Frankly, if you can't handle someone else's opinion and don't have the tools to present your own side, maybe you should just keep your mouth shut and stop reading the blogs. Name-calling, threats and outing someone just shows your lack of an argument.

I have a right-winger who comments on my blog often using a pseudonym. We've had some fun arguments. But I would never consider outing his real identity (even though I know it). I simply do not have the right to try and harm him or get him fired by releasing his real name. That would make me a snitch and a coward, and I was raised to not respect either.

That's what I think. My name is Ted McLaughlin and I live in Amarillo (and that's my picture above). I say what I want on this blog, and if you don't like that it's your problem. I've lived too long and experienced too much to care.

P.S. -- By the way, if your comment is nothing more than name-calling or threatening or has racist content, don't expect to see it -- it won't be approved. And I don't care what you think about that either!