Thursday, December 29, 2005

Some memorable blog quotes of 2005

Just a few gems from my blog in terms of quotes from 2005:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry: “The idea that we’re not going to have any gambling in Texas, I think, is a fairy tale. You’ve got a substantial amount in this state. There’s probably a lot of gambling going on the golf course right now.”
– April 2005

U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas): “I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up to the point where some engage in violence.” When public reaction proved to be negative, Cornyn forward this gem: “I guess the other lesson I learned was not to wonder aloud on the Senate floor.”
– April 2005

From May 2005 on Jennifer Wilbanks disappearance, courtesy of Fon News Channel programming:
Bill O’Reilly: “Woman goes out for a jog and boom, she’s gone. Do you think there’s an epidemic going on here?” And: “This young woman – it’s almost like Laci Peterson. She just disappears from a place that’s Mainstream, USA.”
Sean Hannity: “I agree with the father-in-law-to-be.”
Geraldo Rivera: “That there’s foul play.”
Hannity: “Yes.”
Rivera: “So do I.”
--May 2005

Rev. Rod Parsley of the World Harvest Church at a gathering of Patriot Pastors: “We’re not Democrats; we’re not Republicans’ we’re Christocrats.”
-- May 2005

Saddest quote of the year: Patrick Tillman Sr. after the reports disputed the original story of how his son, Pat, died in Afghanistan: “After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this. They purposely interfered with the investigation, they covered it up. I think they thought they could control it, and they realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his death got out. They blew up their poster boy.

“Maybe lying’s not a big deal anymore. Pat’s dead, and this isn’t going to bring him back. But these guys should have been held up to scrutiny, right up the chain of command, and no one has.”
--May 2005

Idiotic political quote of the year: Pat Robertson, host of the 700 Club: “I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover (Pennsylvania): if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city. And don’t wonder why He hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, don’t ask for His help because he might not be there.”
--November 2005

Former FEMA director Michael Brown: "If you'll look at my lovely FEMA attire you'll really vomit. I am a fashion god… Anything specific I need to do or tweak? Do you know of anyone who dog-sits? … Can I quit now? Can I come home? … I'm trapped now, please rescue me."
--September 2005

U.S. Senator Bill Frist on Terri Schiavo's condition: "I question it based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office. She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli."
-- March 2005

And the winner from the all-time misquote champion, President Bush: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." to FEMA director Michael Brown.
-- September 2005

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Top 10 news stories of 2005

Lists. People love them lists. Top 100 of this; top 50 of that. The top 100 list of top 100 lists.
I found 2005 to be a tragic year in the news. So much pain and grief caused by Mother Nature and Big Brother government.
I wrote my list of the top 10 news stories two weeks ago prior to see the AP’s version. We will differ but only in the lineup, probably not much in the content.
My top 10 news stories stars with number one and then everything else pales in comparison.
Obviously, Hurricane Katrina and the destruction of New Orleans are heads-and-shoulders above it all. Nothing comes close. It was an immense tragedy when it happened and it will continue to be a major story in 2006 as the recovery goes painfully slow and stumbling. The aftermath and the horrid federal government response could manufacture itself into a shift in public sentiment away from the incompetent GOP-controlled response and sentiments towards how government should operate. Such could be the major story of 2006 if the Democrats can get their act together enough to wrest control of either the House of Senate.
I follow Katrina at 1b with Hurricane Rita and its response because the public and government overcorrected Katrina mistakes and we saw that no one can evacuate a major American city, notably Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast without causing panic and gridlock.
At 1c, comes the economic effects of Katrina, most notably seen in skyrocketing oil prices that lapped over the shoreline of $3 per gallon for gasoline into the car tank. People wailed, people screamed and people hollered, but those people still paid for the privilege of driving. And the rich got a whole lot richer.
My 2-10 stories are:
2) The death of Pope John Paul II – The world just stopped for a week or so.
3) The ongoing war in Iraq and the Iraqis trying to vote on a constitution and parliament – Good for them. Just don’t use Florida as a guideline.
4) The slow, tragic death of Teri Schiavo – All that is wrong in America in terms of treating the terminally ill, government interference in private matters and conservatives willing to use the court to be judicial activists for THEIR causes (while smearing opponents for doing the same thing) was played out for a month in ... Florida.
5) Supreme Court changes – Out with Sandra Day O’Connor, goodbye to Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who ides and hello to his replacement, John Roberts. OConnor still sits as Samuel Alito awaits a contentious confirmation process. So what else is new?
6) Terrorist bombings in London – The foggy night in Londontown is smoke from the underground after bombs killed many and scared everyone … worse than Jack the Ripper.
7) Plamegate – When will those in power ever learn? Tell the stinking truth when before a grand jury. You are never THAT smart? Could this be the end of Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and others? And when will someone realize that Dick Cheney is at the center of most problems in Washington??
8) War protesting lives! - As embodied by a California mother named Cindy Sheehan, the anti-war sentiment in this country awoke like a phoenix and often burned hotter than Phoenix, Arizona.
9) Steroids in baseball – Under oath, it seemed as if everyone hedged all their statements before Congress, which got fed up with all the bluffing and issued a threat – do something substantial or else we will screw you up royally! As a result, the minimum penalty for first-time abuse is a 50-game suspension, and a much stronger anti-drug message is sent.
10) Michael Jackson acquitted – Like the O.J. Simpson trial, acquittal is not the same as “not guilty,” at least in the public’s mind. And like the O.J. trial, this proceeding fascinated all Americans and spoke volumes about our continued love of celebrity and how much we like to see those in high places fall like rocks.
For the record, here are 2005’s top 10 stories, as voted by Associated Press members:
) HURRICANES: Katrina killed more than 1,300 people in five states and set off flooding that submerged 80 percent of New Orleans. Hurricanes Wilma and Rita also inflicted severe damage.
2) PAPAL TRANSITION: John Paul II died, and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany became the new pope.
3) IRAQ: News from Iraq ranged from devastating suicide bombings to the voting for new leaders.
4). SUPREME COURT: Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired and Chief Justice William Rehnquist died, giving the court two vacancies. Judge John Roberts was confirmed to succeed Justice Rehnquist, and Harriet Miers withdrew after her nomination to replace Justice O’Connor faced resistance. The next choice, Judge Samuel Alito, faces confirmation hearings in January.
5) OIL PRICES: Crude oil prices hit an all-time peak of almost $71 a barrel in August.
6) LONDON BOMBINGS: Attacks killed 56 people on July 7.
7) ASIAN QUAKE: A massive earthquake near the Pakistan-India border killed more than 87,000 people.
8) TERRI SCHIAVO: The husband of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo struggled and finally succeeded in getting clearance to remove the feeding tube that had kept her alive for 15 years.
9) CIA LEAK: Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis Libby, was indicted.
10) PRESIDENT BUSH’S STRUGGLES: Multiple factors, including public doubts about Iraq, a flawed response to Hurricane Katrina and a failed Supreme Court nomination.

Here’s hoping 2006 brings peace and better times. But, as usual, the news will be topped with strife and trouble. Should be interesting. Blog you later.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

More reasons to “love” Wal-Mart … let’s do lunch

Ahhhh, my Christmas present came early! More reasons to dislike, loathe and hate Wal-Mart.
The gift came wrapped by a California jury today (Thursday, Dec. 22) when it awarded $172 million to thousands of employees at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. who claimed they were illegally denied lunch breaks.
According to the Associated Press, the world’s largest retailer (and biggest pariah) was ordered to pay $57 million in general damages and $115 million in punitive damages to some 116,000 current, and former, California-based Wal-Mart employees for violating a 2001 state law that requires employers to give 30-minute, unpaid lunch breaks to employees who work at least six hours.
The class-action lawsuit in Alameda County (Oakland) Superior Court is one of about 40 nationwide alleging workplace violations by Wal-Mart, and the first to go to trial. Forty! Think about that for a moment! Let’s that rattle in your mind. Forty!
Wal-Mart, which earned $10 billion (with a big “B”) last year, settled a similar lawsuit in Colorado for $50 million (with a little “M”).
In the California lawsuit, Wal-Mart claimed that workers did not “demand” penalty wages on a “timely basis.” The law says a company must pay its workers a full hour’s wages for every missed lunch.
Wal-Mart said it did pay some employees their penalty pay and, in 2003, most workers agreed to waive their meal periods … as permitted by the law.
The lawsuit covers former and current employees in California from 2001 to 2005. The workers claimed they were owed more than $66 million (plus interest) and wanted damages to punish the company for its wrongdoing.
Wal-Mart attorney Neal Manne said the jury’s verdict, reached after nearly three days of deliberations and four months of testimony according to the AP, would likely be appealed.
“We absolutely disagree with their findings,” Manne stating the obvious after the jury’s verdict. He “conceded” that Wal-Mart made “mistakes” by not always allowing for lunch breaks when the 2001 law took affect. But he added that Wal-Mart is “100 percent” in compliance now … after the horse has left the barn. Wal-Mart is one of those corporations that thinks it should be rewarded for admitting to gross violations of labor laws, which are just so many flies to be shooed away from the summer picnic.
He claimed the state law in question could only be enforced by California regulators in a courtroom, not by workers. He added that Wal-Mart did not believe the lunch law allowed for punitive damages.
Great! The workers had no rights under a law trying to protect them … such elitism legal mumbo-jumbo should be tossed out with the other garbage. Yet people who want cheap will overlook this kind of behavior solely to get cheap crap – regardless of adverse labor policies, including massive hiring of illegal aliens to work in Wal-Mart outlets.
The lawsuit was filed by several former Wal-Mart employees in the San Francisco Bay area in 2001, but it took four long years before going to trial.
Amidst it all, Wal-Mart is waging a high-powered public-relations campaign to counter the torrent of criticism aimed to stop the rampant expansion and force the company to increase workers’ salaries and benefits to merely being sub-standard from non-existent.
Wal-Mart was forced to add lower-cost health insurance this year after an internal memo showed 46 percent (46 PERCENT!!!) of Wal-Mart employees’ children were on Medicaid … or totally uninsured. Shameful!
Another federal lawsuit, pending in San Francisco, accuses the company of paying men more than women. Sweet! What else is going to happen?
Not enough if you ask me.
Merry Christmas, Bentonville! Santa should dump all the lumps of coal he can find on your heads … until you change!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Spy vs. Spy: A real cartoon affair

I have been upset over the conduct of the Bush Administration with regards to its determination to use American lives in implement a forced form of government in a Middle Eastern country that doesn’t necessarily want such a system.
All the corruption and lying has been exasperating and the blatant display of greed has been humiliating. The overt disregard for victims of Hurricane Katrina by totally incompetent government lackeys has been tragic.
But the revelation by the New York Times of domestic spying by the Bush White House, using the National Security Administration (NSA), has really got my blood boiling because it is a complete rape of the U.S. Constitution and everything this nation stands for.
The question becomes, “Who is the enemy?” Is it as Pogo/cartoonist Walt Kelley once penned, “I have met the enemy and he is us.”
If we crack on one of our basic freedoms, we damage them all and we cease being the United States of America. This President should not brag about what he’s done and swear to continue to do it. Bush should stop reading the Iraqi Constitution that he bought (in blood and billions) and look at our own, which no one can duplicate because it is unique. It fits just us!
We don’t need the bleeding Patriot Act to secure our freedoms. We just need to act like Americans and defend what is set forth in the Constitution.
Traditionally, Americans HATE being spied upon by their government and President Bush shows no contrition in his action by not only confirming the report, but in fact, seeming to be quite proud.
The 1978 FISA law states clearly that you cannot wiretap a domestic call involving a United States citizen without a court order. It doesn’t say that the order has to be made public. But you need to give a reason to a judge. It’s all about the freaking Constitution.
If it starts here, when will it end? Frankly, I don’t trust this administration one iota (by the way … how big is an IOTA?) to harness itself and to tell the truth about the limits of what it is doing?
Our answer to others is this: WE, the USA, are different from other countries. Our freedoms are far more extensive and ultimately, precious beyond anyone’s comprehension. We don’t give them up for nuthin’ - even when the President of the United States wants us to give them up.
I ask ‘Who would be next?” You? Me? When, by God, would it, and will it, end?
Hollywood made a not-so-great Denzel Washington-Bruce Willis movie, “The Siege,” in the late 1990s, which did open an interesting debate about putting Arab-Americans into forced detention merely because of their ethnicity (following the first World Trade Center bombing). It brought forth all the arguments about citizen safety, profiling and imminent threat. The Hollywood answer was obvious, but it doesn’t make it wrong.
This nation treated American citizens as enemies in World War II only because of their heritage. Oddly, because no one could automatically tell who was a German and who wasn’t, no one of Teutonic descent was ever deterred. Only if you were Japanese. It was wrong then; it is wrong to behave like that now. Circumstances don’t wash the stink off it.
Bush has also taken direct aim at the press for doing its job (his statements are laughable considering just how hard his administration has tried to manipulate and falsify commentary and reporting). It’s gotten to the point where we are seemingly afraid of everyone - xenophobic to the nth degree ... and we blame everything on 9/11 - from Katrina response to immigration to the Cowboys loss against the Redskins last Sunday.
But I guess you’re NOT paranoid if someone is REALLY after you.
I want to quote a posting from Jim Mitchell on the Dallas Morning News' editorial blog.
“Let me take a quick crack at the “if you aren’t doing anything wrong, why do you care?” argument. Two quick reasons:
The American understanding of privacy is that it is protected unless there is a compelling reason to tinker with the protections. Even then there are clear rules of behavior. And even if you aren’t doing anything wrong, the idea of your conversations becoming something that the government can listen in on runs counter to this principle.
Probable cause
I want to know that the executive branch has to show probable cause to an independent third party. That’s a reason for requiring the executive branch to go into a court, open or closed, to provide a reason for a wire tap. I also suppose a lawyer could make an argument that unauthorized wiretaps amount to an illegal search especially if notes or other information is kept in a government database. On another level, the protection from having to show a motivation that vaguely approaches probable cause is the reason police officers aren’t allowed to pull over people at random.
I know that in times of war, the executive branch gets more leeway than if the nation weren’t at war. That is what the Patriot Act debate is all about - it’s essentially an expansion of war/police powers without having to use those politically charged words.
The president has made it clear that he wants to change the rules with the Patriot Act. But civil libertarians and others have made it clear that they want some limits to expanding executive powers. What is troubling to me is that the president seems to be taking a position that he doesn’t have to abide by the warrant rules.”
When Bush and his minions do these things, I (and others) begin to care less and less about Iraq and ITS future.
And doesn’t AG Alberto Gonzales look like some mousy version of Renfield. All he has become is a “yes” man; not the nation’s lawyer. At least … not THIS nation.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

We attacked the wrong country starting with the letters 'I-R-A' ...

Let's blog about the despot in the Middle East we should have considered taking out far more than Saddam Hussein. That would be the new Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a thug who we last saw as one of the 1979-80 captors of US embassy personnel in Tehran (how quickly we forget).
In his infinite "wisdom," he has proclaimed the Holocaust as "a myth" and suggess that Israel be moved to Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska (which, last I looked, WAS part of the United States).
This schmuck has kept this drumbeat up for months (since October when he called for Israel to be wiped off the map) and clearly enjoys poking the stick at Israel and the U.S. And we let him do it without penalty. Sadly, our stern words mean absolutely nothing in that region, and less than zero to the Iranians, who are about to gain a giant foothold with its neighbor, Iraq, once George W. Bush's precious elections are completed.
According to the AP, last week our schtunk Ahmadinejad "also expressed doubt about the killing by the Nazis of six million Jews during World War II, but Wednesday was the first occasion when he said in public that the Holocaust was a myth."
"They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets," Ahmadinejad said in a speech to thousands of people in the Iranian city of Zahedan, according to a report on Wednesday from Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).
"The West has given more significance to the myth of the genocide of the Jews, even more significant than God, religion, and the prophets," he said. "(It) deals very severely with those who deny this myth but does not do anything to those who deny God, religion, and the prophet."
"If you have burned the Jews, why don't you give a piece of Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska to Israel," Ahmadinejad said, needing more lessons in geography.
"Our question is, if you have committed this huge crime, why should the innocent nation of Palestine pay for this crime?"
OUR question is how long are we going to permit this nation to upgrade its nuclear capacity, clearly a threat to Israel and other nations, without taking some sort of action? Iran HAS WMDs; Iraq only had rumours of such weapons.
Iran has done harm to U.S. citizens; no one ever proved Iraq had a damn thing to do with anything.
Truth be told, we attacked the wrong country starting with the letters "I-R-A" ...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Prison is really about revenge and vengeance

When we sentence people to prison in this country, it is ALL about revenge, vengeance and punishment. Nothing else matters and nothing else enters into the equation – certainly not the concept of rehabilitation. In America, we just want these “people” to be segregated from us at all times and their future be damned.
If, by some miracle, that person actually changes and becomes the kind of person that society wishes they would be in the first place (or even a better person than most of us live our lives), it still doesn’t matter. Crime is crime and we treat it all like so much dogshit on the bottom of our boots.
Stanley Tookie Williams was executed in San Quentin State Prison in California by lethal injection Tuesday morning for the 1979 robbery murders of four people in Los Angeles. He was once the co-founder and leader of the infamous Crips street gang, the most notorious street gang in American history outside of anything written and sung in “West Side Story.” It was real life, real violence and real death.
It took longer than usual for the officials to get the needle in place (Williams reportedly helped them find a vein while growing impatient for it all to end).
In the end, it took 34 minutes – seemingly an eternity – for officials to pronounce death.
On the surface, it would appear to have been just another thug getting his just rewards. But Tookie Williams, 51, appeared to have been different. In prison, while on death row for more than two decades, he became an anti-gang crusader while on death row. He was nominated nine times for the Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature (as the author of children’s books preaching an anti-gang message) by an array of college professors, a Swiss lawmaker and others.
He readily admitted to his violent past, but maintained his innocence of the killings since his arrest and conviction in 1979.
He denounced gang violence and wrote children’s books with an anti-gang message, donating the proceeds to anti-gang community groups. Most people, outside of the victims and prosecutors, believe that Tookie Williams had sincerely changed his life and was working toward all the things considered to be admirable.
Others can question the weight of the evidence and whatever circumstances led to doing whatever Tookie Williams was convicted of doing.
That’s not the question I pose.
It is this: “Who do we allow to be forgiven of past crimes and placed on a pedestal of righteousness and who do we want to leave earth as fast as possible via the executioner’s needle?”
And the truth is this ... if you are white and make such a “born again” exclamation; you have a better chance of public forgiveness than if you are black. Of course, if you are an African-American male, the chances of spending time in prison are SO much higher than if you are white, it is a national tragedy.
White America simply wants to shuttle all those who instill fear into their urbanite suburbanite hearts and minds to places that are out of sight and out of mind. Lock the door, throw away the key and keep them out of my world.
Sorry, that IS the truth. All the decisions about Tookie Williams were made by white males, not one of whom ever stepped into Williams’ shoes. There is never an excuse for murder, but if a person TRULY redeems himself, shouldn’t THAT life be spared (no one ever mentioned parole) to help others avoid the same fate?
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an admitted steroid user and philanderer, had to audacity to question the sincerity of Williams’ conversion to nonviolence.
“Is Williams’ redemption complete and sincere, or is it just a hollow promise?” Schwarzenegger wrote in his rejection for clemency. “Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no redemption.
“In this case, the one thing that would be the clearest indication of complete remorse and full redemption is the one thing Williams will not do.”
Coming from Schwarzenegger, such a pronouncement is almost laughable.
Anyone remember Charles “Chuck” Colson? He was the Nixon White House lawyer who helped engineer the Watergate coverup and, folks, that was about usurping the U.S. Constitution. In prison, he found God and his Bible and has be¬come one of the conservative Christians’ darlings as a speaker and counselor. There are other examples, such as Michael Milken, who bilked thousands out of billions of dollars. He lost his hairpiece and found God. Now he lectures on his misdeeds and all is forgiven.
The most famous case in Texas centers around Karla Faye Tucker, who was involved in a murder while drug induced and totally reformed herself in prison, providing ministry to other women on death row. Some of the most conservative, pro-death penalty people (not us lily-livered liberals, mind you) I know flipped on that position after getting to know her. Yet she was allowed to continue to live a changed life and was executed in February of 1998.
The governor was refused clemency was an admitted party boy, possible cocaine user and definite alcohol abuser named … George W. Bush. He said the punishment aspect trumped the forgiveness aspect, which totally runs counter to the teachings of Jesus Christ, allegedly his Savior. Sorry, you cannot preach one thing and practice another at the critical times when politics interrupts morals.
No one denies the heinous aspects of Williams’ conviction. It was horrible; but prison today is all, and only, about revenge, vengeance and, in some cases, the dramatic retribution achieved through death.
Society tried the Devil’s Island approach once; it didn’t work. We speak about rehabilitation when parole is involved but it’s a joke. No one wants to rehab anyone in prison; we just want them to rot there.
Sadly, it is a massive growth industry in America who locks up more of its citizens than any other “civilized” nation on earth. And we executed more people than any other civilized country … even the ones who get rehabilitated.
How God-awfully sad for us all.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

They're dreaming of a "white" Christmas

True story.
I am returning from Houston to Dallas, through the back roads of Montgomery County, just north of Houston, between New Caney and Conroe. I was on State Highway 242, which runs east to west between U.S. 59 and Interstate-45.
Long having a sour reputation as a backwoods, redneck haven, the sight seen at the intersection of Hwy. 242 and FM 1344 did nothing to damper that status.
On the corner, across from a Shell station, stood about a dozen members of the White Camilia Order of the Ku Klux Klan, based in Cleveland, Texas (just north of New Caney). Most of them were decked out in their hunting fatigues and oil-stained gimme caps, waving large Confederate flags and just watching most of the cars drive by.
One brave soul was decked in his Sunday finest white robe, complete with pointy-headed hood.
They stood in front of a delapidated old school bus that appeared to have been "rescued" from an area pick-n-pull.
I could not help but laugh and as I slowed down approaching the stop light, I flashed them a message, stating who was .... Number 1.
Sorry for the symbolism that it all looked silly - standing in the mist, trying to be all formidable. Hell, there were more people down the road selling roadside shrimp and cords of firewood.
I'm sure the people of Montgomery County were SO proud. Have a nice "WHITE" Christmas ... or how 'bout a crappy HOLIDAY!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

How do you say goodbye to someone when you’ve barely had a chance to say hello?

“How do you say goodbye to someone when you’ve barely had a chance to say hello?”At first, my wife, Jodie, and I bolted from our Plano house, packed the Escape as best we could, and began to count the number of things we forgot as we passed through the steel canyons of downtown Dallas and toward Houston. We were anticipating the imminent birth of our first grandchild - a girl – with my son, Robert and his wife, Amanda.
Chugging down diet Cokes and cracking the window open for a stream of fresh, cool air, we fixed our sights on Interstate-45 and being the lone four-wheeler among a sea of Freightliners and big Mac trucks.
But … the phone rang an hour later into our journey, and I sensed something was wrong. When my wife said I might want to pull the vehicle over the shoulder – in the middle of nowhere - in the darkness of the night – I knew the news was bad. Very bad.
You see, nothing good ever happens in the middle of the night – in the middle of nowhere – when the phone rings.
There were complications; the baby had no heartbeat but she wasn’t yet born. Things went from bad to worse to worst. When we arrived, the tears had begun to flow but the tragedy had not been completed.
I saw scenes of extreme pain that are usually only viewed in movies or on “ER;” except it was real life and it was involving my family members. You could see that the weight of the world, as if someone chopped off the top of Mount Shasta, had been plopped on their shoulders. And it was crushing them as they struggled to maintain composure and dignity. That was the worst thing of it all for me.
When I heard the news about what had happened, one question immediately lodged into my mind: “How do you say goodbye to someone when you’ve barely had a chance to say hello?” The words sat there, rolling around like one of those BB balls in a child’s game that kids get at the church bazaar fish pond. Like that little ball, trying to find the right hole to land, we’ve all been trying to find the right answer.
Sometimes the phrase, “I don’t know why” is an honest response. We might never fully know why things – good OR bad – happen the way they do. They just do … and people might just have to accept that. Of course, questions like mine still need more clarification.
Grief, for us, is still an individual thing. Mourning is a group activity (nations mourn, communities mourn; people grieve). Your thoughts are your own; you process them on your own.
In contrast, you celebrate as a group. When the Cowboys win a Super Bowl, for example, people probably cheer and celebrate in homes, at parties or in other places … together. Hoot and holler and jump up and down on your own and people say “you’re freaking out.” But … you grieve on your own.
To overcome the grief, you need an internal Kitchen-Aid blender of sorts and here’s what you put into it:
• inspirational words from books of faith, such as the Bible, the Torah, the Talmud, or whatever text you read which is your connection to God;
• phrases uttered by poets or singers connected to the magic of music;
• those metaphorical scenes from a movie or a player that perfectly encapsulates what you want to say or feel;
• and the faces and memories of loved ones that have gone before us.
You place the lid and press “mix,” and produce this … smoothie for the soul. That concoction, like medicine, bitter or sweet, will help the body and heart of all of us … to heal.
So how do you say goodbye to someone when you barely had to time say hello?
Somehow, we got through the arduous ordeal as best we could. The outpouring of emotion and love for my son, his wife and their child, for each moment of her existence and life, was beyond description. Several hundred people came to the graveside services and I was more than touched; I was overwhelmed. The extended circle of friends that enveloped them comforted them and me. I know that they will love - and remember - Payton Elisabeth for each waking moment as long as all walk this mortal earth … and beyond.
So HOW do you say goodbye when you haven’t had enough time to say hello?
Well, you do and you don’t.
You will and you won’t.
You use hope, life and love.
And somewhere … among all that, that little ball will find the right hole. There will be an answer; that I know.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

‘Black Friday’ bleak for workers forced to be there SO early

Nothing says Christmas like thousands, no make that MILLIONS of shoppers, huddled against glass doors - crushing one another to near death - in order to get inside some store at 5, 6 or 7 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving to buy that bargain-priced off-brand DVD player, or “Leak My Undercover Job” Elmo.
As one who hates the process of shopping (I enjoy buying things, but I abhor the languid exercise of going from store to store to get Lord knows what), I avoid “Black Friday” as much as possible. Economists use that term to describe the day after Thanksgiving as the moment retailers find their bottom lines move into the black – or revenue positive territory.
I hide under blanket and recipes for turkey leftovers, choosing to watch Texas slide past Texas A&M in football or any movie on cable TV. Anything but facing those crowds.
But for all those stupid enough to stand out in the cold and pitch black darkness for hours, the employees of all those stores were forced to awaken far earlier than usual, drive half asleep and find parking spaces in lots that filled faster than wine glasses at a special Merlot tasting. The mayhem starts earlier and earlier and earlier … to the point of absurdity.
No one thinks about those people, but I do. And it’s not fair! I think that sentiment stands on its own two feet.
So I got curious and did a quick survey of when the major retailers were to open on Black Friday.
Here is a rundown of the door opening times last Friday, based on every major advertising insert in the Thursday, Nov. 24 edition of the Dallas Morning News.
5 a.m. – Fry’s Electronics, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Best Buy, Sam’s Club, JC Penney.
5:30 a.m. – Sports Authority, Dick’s Sporting Goods
6 a.m. – Sears, Micro Center, Conn’s, JoAnn, CVS Pharmacy, Radio Shack, Office Depot, Bass Pro Shops, Target, Cabela’s, Linen ‘n Things, Michael’s, Macy’s, Toys R Us, Staples, Home Depot, Foley’s.
7 a.m. – Ulta, Academy, Office Max, Dillards, Mardel, Old Navy, Greta Indoors, Game Stop.
8 a.m. – SteinMart, Car Toys, Elliott’s Hardware
9 a.m. – Walgreen’s
11:59 p.m. (Thursday) – CompUSA (a 24-hour sale)
Just who is the world needs to be at a CompUSA at 12:25 a.m. to buy ANYTHING???
Open all day Thursday – Big Lots, Kmart.
Thank goodness Kmart has left the Texas market because it should be run out of town because of that kind of business practice. No one should have to work on Thanksgiving (to entice people to SHOP) except at essential public safety jobs, restaurants (if they choose to open for special Thanksgiving Day meals) or the odd convenience store where someone needs more chips.
But a place like Big Lots should be ashamed of itself, to promote itself as open on Thanksgiving simply to get people to buy their discontinued junk. The increasing attraction of the Internet stems from the discounts and the absence of the mob scenes at stores. There are no lines, no rude clerks and no nasty people pushing and shoving and being just plain obnoxious.
People should make it a rule never to darken the halls of stores with such practices at any time of the year. And like anything else in the American business climate, if people want change to happen, they need to do it by staying away from that store, or product, in droves. It will continue until retailers deem it unprofitable to do so.
And perhaps our lives will return to some sort of normalcy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

And the truth is ... Texas public school funding difficult problem to solve

Author’s Note: In the foreseeable future, all blog entries penned by Chuck Bloom will fall under the title of “And the Truth Is … ” to explain to the readers what is, and is NOT, the truth and what is utter nonsense (as opposed to common sense, which will be employed in all future blog submissions).
Many past submissions could be reworked into a future book, “And the Truth Is …”
The Texas Supreme Court’s ruling Tuesday morning concerning school financing and labeling the current usage of property taxes to fund our children’s education sets down a “firm” deadline for the Legislature to act.
However, that doesn’t mean quick action can be expected. And the truth is … there will probably be little room to spare between the initiation of a special session by Gov. Rick Perry and the June 1 deadline imposed by the court.
First, there is a blue ribbon commission, led by former Comptroller John Sharp (a Democrat) as appointed by Perry, charged with producing a plan everyone, especially the courts, can live with. Public hearings will be scheduled for December and add a month or two to produce a final report.
That moves action into February, which will directly conflict with the 2006 primary campaign season, involving the entire Texas House and a third of the Senate. Perry will be facing a primary challenge from Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn (and who knows who else), so attention and focus won’t be … in full measure. The Legislature is going to have to work hard and really keep their eye on the property tax ball – difficult at best when worrying about retaining their seats.
Add another month for runoffs and it’s now late April-May. Count 30 days until June 1 and a session must be called by May 2 in order to meet the “legal” deadline. No one knows what will happen if the Legislature fails to do what was asked of it the last three years. The “Robin Hood” system was not dismantled by Tuesday’s ruling; just mandating that the current usage of maxing out local property taxes is unconstitutional.
And the truth is … that part of the law isn’t going away soon, much to the dismay of the rich, suburban school districts, which will still have to support those districts of less economic wealth.
As in PROPERTY wealth. A fine Catch-22 if there ever was one.
The business lobby will fight any attempt at business taxes and Democrats will fight any attempt to shift the taxing burden to the sales tax. Compromise, in short supply in Austin, will have to be reached, which hasn’t happen in the past two regular session and three special sessions (all controlled by the GOP).
Sadly, because of the Texas system of government, under-the-gun special sessions are the only remedy when problems, or crisis, arise. If the legislature met annually for regularly scheduled sessions, like most other states, these things MIGHT be avoided.
But that’s another argument for another day. I am just laying out a legitimate timetable for action, or non-action, based on history.
And the truth is … NO easy solution can be found without a fierce debate and plenty of politics – always a bad recipe for our children’s future.

Friday, November 18, 2005

And the truth is ... about illegal immigration

Author’s Note: In the foreseeable future, all blog entries penned by Chuck Bloom will fall under the title of “And the Truth Is … ” to explain to the readers what is, and is NOT, the truth and what is utter nonsense (as opposed to common sense, which will be employed in all future blog submissions).
Many past submissions could be reworked into a future book, “And the Truth Is …”
“And the Truth Is …:” Illegal immigration is complicated and won’t go away anytime soon

They will bury Dallas police officer Brian Jackson today in Rhode Island. A memorial service was the lead story on almost all Dallas-Fort Worth newscasts and it has been the topic of water cooler conversation since the tragic incident happened last Sunday morning.
Jackson, a five-year member of the DPD, was shot and killed while answering a domestic dispute, giving chase to the suspect, an illegal immigrant from Mexico.
Jackson leaves behind a tearful wife of two months and thousands of angry Dallasites, clamoring for immediate action to toss out any and all illegal immigrants from the city, from the state, from the nation. To hear from many of them, every illegal is a criminal – armed and dangerous and waiting to kill every cop or every civilian on two feet.
God, I wish it were THAT simple. If it were, it would have been done already on all three governmental levels. But it can’t happen that fast, if it can happen at all.
And the truth is … I’m not sure everyone wants such a pipeline of cheap-ass labor to stop flowing across our southern border. It would … complicate things on many, MANY levels – all of which revolve around the almighty dollar.
The REAL problem is our societal paradox concerning everyday things - like food and retail prices, the cost of labor and which consumer group gets what. Illegal immigration is ALL about money - the workers coming across the border supply labor for a much cheaper price than U.S. workers. They do the jobs that North American workers tend NOT to want (stoop field labor for agriculture, manual construction work, landscape, cleaning, restaurant) - and for a much cheaper rate.
Consumers, while complaining about the presence of that type of labor force, do not want to pay MORE for goods - especially food. They like the cheaper prices they pay for the “fruits” of the illegal immigrants’ labor. Check that; they demand that such prices be kept artificially low. It cannot be done without it; again, that’s the truth.
If you travel through the vegetable belt of this land, in central California, you see the bounty of the land in full bloom. And you see who is doing the brutal, backbreaking work – immigrants, mostly from Mexico. Most of this work cannot be done through machines – it is hand to hand, basket by basket, bushel by bushel.
In cities like Soledad, they live in decent homes and go to decent schools, in the shadow, of course, of a large state prison. Prices are higher than other areas (notably the price of gasoline over the fall was far higher than the national average and higher than the big California cities) because companies can get away with doing it. There is no economic resistance available.
Then you have corporations, while fending off efforts to see themselves penalized for employing illegal immigrants, enjoy the heftier bottom line profit margins because of the cheaper rates paid to illegals. Wal-Mart has admitted to employing illegal immigrants, often to do their store cleaning, and has gotten away with murder (not literally) by avoiding prosecution and heavy fines.
Others have done the same or worse, if the truth be told.
And there is also Mexico, which needs to be a player in any immigration game. It thoroughly enjoys thinning out its potential labor force by NOT doing a damn thing to stop the cheaper labor from crossing the Rio Grande. That means a significant percentage of workers IT doesn’t have to worry about and can work (however slowly that might be) toward its own economic reformation.
No thickness of wall (along the 2,000-mile border), no threats of deportation and no American action is going to change the fact that it is in Mexico’s economic interest to keep the labor flow going. Frankly, there is just too close and cozy of a relationship between the Bush Administration and the Vicente Fox government in Mexico City. The White House talks a strong game but offers nothing but the “same old, same old” in this area and what has been put forth has angered conservatives AND liberals – a true rarity in today’s political atmosphere.
But in Dallas, that matters little today. A good office is dead and there would be a lynch mob gathered at the Lew Sterrett Justice Center if allowed.
To be clear: Not all illegals shoot police officers or commit crimes; that behavior is done by people of all nationalities and color. You’ve got crime everywhere and that is a parallel discussion to that of immigration. Most immigrants try to do what they intended to do all along – work hard and send money back to Mexico (yeah, like the Mexican government is going to refuse this influx of revenue).
Until serious action is taken on multiple fronts - not just a knee-jerk “kick ‘em all out” attitude - there will be more anger, more tragedy and more illegals.
And that’s the truth …

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

More from Senator Hypocrite ... I mean Senator Santorum

A good rule of thumb is this old world is to beware of ANYONE steadfastly rigid in their moral and/or ethical beliefs as to pronounce them as the only way for others to live. Ye not judge lest ye BE judged.
So here we have the case of Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, one of THE most conservative Republicans in the nation and seen, by a few, as possible presidential timber in 2008. Damn few, if you ask me.
You remember, Mr. Santorum during the distinguished Terri Schiavo debate held last year. He wore the “holier than thou” mantle proudly to keep this poor woman artificially alive despite what every court in the nation and Florida pronounced.
Well, one of the old reliable issues used by Republicans on ANY governmental level is to complain about frivolous malpractice lawsuits and disproportionate jury awards – all of which they claim need major reformation and ALWAYS at the expense of the people initiating the action (regardless of the harm done to them).
However, it seems that the folks at ABC News’ “Primetime” did some snoop-dogging and it seems as if SOME unnamed critics whose initials might be Rick Santorum CLAIM to be in favor of massive tort reform, BUT … have been the beneficiary themselves from the very laws they bitch about the loudest.
And the benefit is money, baby. Long green. Cold, hard cash.
In prior years, Santorum has lobbied and tried to legislate what he has called medical lawsuit abuse, calling for a $250,000 cap on non-economic damage awards or awards for pain and suffering. He has said is the top health issue crisis in Pennsylvania, as has almost every other GOP card carrying member.
“We need to do something now to fix the medical liability problem in this country,” he declared at a Washington D.C rally this past spring.
How noble … except for the FACT that Santorum’s wife, Karen, once (in 1999) sued a doctor for $500,000 on a claim that a screwed-up spinal manipulation by a chiropractor led to back surgery, pain and suffering. She sued for TWICE the cap amount dear old hubby supported.
So the producers at “nightline” hunted Senator Santorum down as a book signing in the Keystone State last August after the junior senator refused on-camera interviews on this subject.
When asked if he believed his stance and history were “conflicted,” he told them, “I guess I could answer that in two ways. Number one is that I’ve supported caps. I’ve been very clear that I am not wedded at all to a $250,000 cap and I’ve said publicly repeatedly, and I think probably that is somewhat low, and that we need to look at what I think is a cap that is a little bit higher than that.”
However … Santorum HAS sponsored or co-sponsored a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages … TWICE … and even testified in his wife’s case against the doctor. Santorum told the jury that he had to carry the laundry upstairs for his wife. Because she suffered humiliation from weight gain, she no longer had the confidence to help him on the campaign trail.
“Of course I’m going to support my wife in her endeavors,” he said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that I agree with everything that she does.”
Coward! Blame your wife for your hypocrisy.
The tale was SO moving; the jury awarded Karen Santorum the princely sum of $350,000 – more than allowed under his proposed cap.
“That’s where again you’re misled is that a lot of, there was cumulative damages,” he said. “The medical bills, lost income, all those other things that were out there.”
Oops, Senator Rick, those medical bills actually totaled … $18,800, yet your wife sued for $500,000.
And that crap about lost income? The good ole judge never mentioned THAT when he took his judicial ginsu and sliced the jury’s award in half, stating that it was “excessive.”
The judge also stated that the remaining damages “awarded amounted to something in the neighborhood of $330,000 or so for injuries sustained and the effect upon Mrs. Santorum’s health, her past and future pain and suffering and inconvenience.”
Shouldn’t the principle hold that what is good for the Senatorial goose be good for the rest of us ganders?
Not when you’re Rick Santorum. You live in your own special world and we aren’t part of it. But what do you expect? Integrity? Puh-leeze (rhymes with sleaze).

When you read a story about someone you might have known a long time ago ...

I go through a regular routine each morning, surfing various newspaper websites to see what's what in other cities (starting with the Washington Post and including the Houston Chronicle because I've got Dallas Morning News on my lap at the same time).
On the Chronicle website is a story about two Texas marines killed in an Iraqi offensive on Monday, somwhere near the western border, in one of those supposedly inspiringly named actions, "Operation Steel Curtain." As an aside, the Pentagon loves to use these colorful names and monikers to label military movements, but to me, it's just combat and battle all the same. I don't know why they do it, the bullets fly just the same. Is it to lessen the impact and make it more of a ... game?
One solider was from Liverpool, Texas and I Mapquested (yes, it is a verb) to see where it was (the answer: between Angleton and Alvin in Brazoria County, not much more than a blink-and-you'll-miss-it speck on a county road).
The other soldier - Cpl. John M. Longoria - was from the South Texas city of Nixon, 50 miles east of San Antonio and 30 miles from Seguin, Gonzales, Karnes City and Cuero. I don't need Mapquest to tell me where that city is. I lived there for 14 years. It's not much bigger, less than 2,000 people and might finally have gotten a traffic stoplight after years of asking.
The young man was only 21 years old, which meant he would have been 8 or 9 when I left. I probably saw him in an first or second grade class at Nixon Elementary during my tour as owner of the local newspaper. I might have shot his photo during a function and for sure, I probably ran his birth announcement, around 1984.
The family name (Longoria) is somewhat familiar to me; there were several with that last name in a town that was 65% Hispanic.
There is no newspaper in Nixon today that I know of. The closest one is 30 miles away and really doesn't serve that small poultry-processing community. The big daily in San Antonio hasn't posted the story on its website and in a community so dominanted by ITS military bases, this sad death might go unnoticed.
Except in Nixon. I'm sure the news has spread and the tears have already flowed. The local funeral home will probably be swamped; the small local Catholic church will see too many people wanting to attend the funeral.
My heart hangs heavy for this small community because this young man is the first (that I know of) person from Nixon to die in this current action. And in a small town, where you KNOW most of the people who live in it (as I did as the newspaperman), each loss hits much harder than in other places.
I have yet to see (or yet to be convinced) why such young men - productive citizens who could help this country grow in the future - have to die ... when I'm just not sure the people they are trying to help really, REALLY want us there. I set aside the politics and the lying (by both parties and all factions) and try to understand the sacrifice. I just don't think the loss of young American life is going to produce the final product that our leaders conceived.
These people are tribal in nature and have centuries' worth of patience. When our involvement ends, the Iraqi people, divided into Shi'a, Sunni and Kurd - will simply revert to old hatreds, as was the case in Yuogslavia between the Croats and Serbs.
Unless we stay there forever,which doesn't sound anymore enticing to me. Congratulations, Iraq is the new South Korea.
In this one case, however, it has produced heartbreaking grief in one small rural community in South Texas. In my mind, that is a very, very sad waste of humanity.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Why do evangelical Christians insist on preaching to us?

One day last week, my wife and I were at an attorney’s office in West Plano for a consultation visit. We parked, as usual, in a handicapped space because we have one of those little blue placards which says we can.
Sadly, I forgot to hang it on the windshield because we were in a hurry and following the session, we were confronted with a note on out windshield.
“Excuse me, just how handicapped are you?” the note began. With back and knee problems forcing usage of a cane, and triple bypass heart surgery, the answer would be, “Enough.”
Still it was a fair criticism because he had forgotten to hang the “blue thingy.”
However … the note did not end there.
We drove in my wife’s Ford Escape and there are two bumper stickers at the rear concerning her church and domination – Unitarian Universalist. She belongs to a Plano church of that liberal faith; I am Jewish. So we are both outside of the mainstream.
Along with a sticker stating that the vehicle belongs to a “Collin County Democrat,” we often draw reactions, are ire, from other drivers, although I suspect the politics catch the eye first. I have one of my truck and I have even been bumped (or given derogatory hand gestures) by those who object to my mere breathing of the term, “Democrat.”
I can take that. What bothered me about the note was the other reference.
“Then I would ask How liberal is the bible?” the notewriter continued. “There is only one God. Therefore only One truth. It’s not Liberal.”
What possesses people, especially so-called “evangelical” Christians in white affluent areas, to insist on pressing their singular version of morality, truth and faith upon strangers? As a Jew, I’ve never understood it and never, EVER appreciated it. I find it offensive and my wife finds it equally offensive.
I have no quarrel with those who hold to the belief that the Bible is the living word of God or the bumper sticker mentality of “God said it; I believe it and that’s it!” I disagree strongly, but if works for them, I’m fine with it. Just don’t force it on me.
I’ve always believed that the strength of this nation lies in its ability to allow each person to make their own decisions. As a journalist, I always approached news stories from the perspective that if you present all the facts, people will be free to make their choices and conclusions. If I wrote an opinion piece (column or editorial), there would be no need to make it balanced … by definition it’s YOUR opinion (such a common misconception by the public about the media).
Sadly, too many Americans don’t want that to matter. They WANT one rule, one set of beliefs, one religion (despite all the hand-wringing to the contrary) to be the single factor of life.
Did I derive too much from a single note? Perhaps, but I see it almost daily, as does my wife. Snickering, sneering and snide comments and looks. One supervisor, a Catholic, once called my wife’s faith “a bunch of chrunchy granola eaters,” but I refrained from denouncing all Catholics as “followers of pedophile priests.” Because neither would be true.
Never argue sex, politics or religion at a party, we have all been warned. Lately, that cocktail has been mixed too often. And since I don’t drink (doctors orders), I’m left to argue whether the Longhorns will win a national championship (nope!), whether Terrell Owens is a bad guy (nope, just not a role model) and why I can’t get people from soliciting at my front door (don’t you just hate that?!?)
And one more thing, keepa you hands off my car! Or may a gaggle of crackles permanently yack all over your Simoniz finish.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Another day, another idiot statement

This is like shooting fish in a barrel. It REALLY is getting too easy; smoking out all the idiot statements made by Republicans and conservatives against political opponents. Statements simply to dumb to have been uttered by so-called educated people.
Today’s posting comes from last Thursday’s Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention luncheon in Washington, D.C. where Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (son of former Michigan Gov. George Romney, a devout Mormon and pretender who thinks he can be the GOP nominee for President in 2008 because he ran the Salt Lake Winter Olympics) was introduced by Gerald Walpin, some New Yorker schmuck who is also a board member at the conservative law group.
Quote Mister Walpin:
“Today when most of the country thinks of who controls Massachusetts, I think the modern-day KKK comes to mind - the Kennedy-Kerry Klan.”
It seems that everyone laughed, but then again, they had Karl Rove speaking to them as well so you KNOW it was a joke.
Later, in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Romney, trying to be a better broken field runner than anyone on Boston College’s football team, said the remarks “ill-advised.”
No shit, Sherlock.
The Boston Globe, in its Friday edition, said Romney laughed along with the audience and thanked Walpin for “a very generous introduction.” But Romney, when pressed about it all, said he wasn’t “really paying attention.”
“I was looking at my notes and preparing for my speech at the time,” he said. “There’s not much I can do about speakers who introduce me.”
Massachusetts State party chairman Phil Johnston was outraged that Romney could laugh at those remarks.
“It is embarrassing that Gov. Mitt Romney would laugh at any joke that disparages Catholics, African-Americans and Jews,” he said.
Now … here comes the good part. On Friday, Mister Walpin had NO regrets. “Certain people in Massachusetts have no sense of humor,” he told Boston radio station WBZ-AM.
The Federalist Society is one of those influential conservative legal organizations, and would be an important constituency for Romney if he wants to be the GOP presidential nominee in 2008. As you can guess, several senior members of the Bush administration are members.
In his speech, Romney produced an “unusually personal attack,” according to the Globe, at the Supreme Judicial Court for legalizing same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, adding that the justices issued the ruling to promote their values and those of “their like-minded friends in the communities they socialize in.”
Romney, along with members of the audience, laughed at the joke and later thanked Walpin for the introduction. But upon further review, Romney decided it was a bad move to be seen laughing at such a tasteless remark.
“It is ill-advised and inappropriate to raise the KKK even in a joke, and I think it was unfortunate,” Romney said is the highest level of playing “cover your ass.”
And to demonstrate what a hypocrite Romney, and ALL other politicians are, he met with Senators Kennedy and Kerry and the Coast Guard to discuss the future of the Otis Air National Guard Base, which lost missions under the Defense Department’s recent round of base-closings. That was just less than four hours after laughing at a KKK joke at their expense.
“There’s nothing funny about equating two devout Catholics with anti-Catholic bigots infamous for violence against African-Americans and Jews … days after America buried Rosa Parks,” said Kerry spokesman David Wade. “Apparently it’s still standard fare at right-wing gatherings to make and accept intolerant remarks.”
A little background. In 1967, on live Detroit television, his old man, George, former president of American Motors who was elected as Michigan governor, went on a news interview show hosted by the legendary Lou Gordon, a very tough and combative interviewer. It was then and there that the elder Romney said he was opposing the war in Vietnam because he had been “brainwashed” by government officials about intelligence. Sound familiar, folks? Can you say Bush Administration?
At the time, Romney was considered to be a major front-runner but that interview, when replayed across the country, stopped the campaign in its track. Dead. Cold, Over and out. Romney’s name was not really heard on the national level again.
Isn’t it interesting that conservatives (and the Federalist are as right of right as you can get) easily dismiss tacky and tasteless and offensive as mere humor but go absolutely nuclear when they are lumped in with terms like “Nazi,” “facist,” and other equally offensive connotations.
What is good for the cooked goose should be just fine for the yacking gander.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Grey Goose for the moose on the loose

I offer this story as it reads from the Nov. 8 Associated Press lineup”
“STOCKHOLM, Sweden - They rarely have problems with drunks or rowdy animals, but resi¬dents of an elderly home in southern Sweden had to deal with both when a pair of intoxicated moose invaded the premises.
“The moose - a cow and her calf - had become drunk over the weekend by eating fermented apples they found outside the home in Sibbhult, southern Sweden, said Anna Karlsson, who works there.”
A little cider here, a little cider there and the first thing you know, you can’t see your nose from your antlers.“Police managed to scare them off once, but the large mammals returned to get more of the tempting fruits. This time, the moose were drunk and aggressive, forcing police to send for a hunter with a dog to make them leave.
“Police did not pursue the culprits, but made sure all apples were picked up from the area, local police chief Bengt Hallberg said. No one was hurt.”
No word if Madame Bullwinkle has gone for her 12-step program.
However, an apple a day won’t keep the moose away.
Or is it … meese or mooses?!? I’ve always been confused about that.

Pat Robertson is a raving idiot!

Alright, let’s just say this upfront! Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson is an idiot, a schmuck in Yiddish and a total fool! If there IS a God, may HE strike this manic down with throat cancer to silence a voice that simply does NOT need to be heard in this nation, or any other jihadist assembly.
In the latest of what is becoming a traveling circus routine, Robertson, on Thursday night’s “700 Club” (which should equal the total number of viewers) said the following:
"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover (Pennsylvania): if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city. And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there.”
This came after the voters, all of whom are Americans at last check, voted their entire school out of office for supporting the creationism under cover concept known as "intelligent design." Eight school board members up for re-election lost their seats after trying to introduce a statement on "intelligent design" to high school biology students.
Proponents of intelligent design argue that certain forms in nature are too “complex” to have evolved through natural selection and must have been created by some sort of supernatural "designer." Opponents, also known as scientists, state that this is the latest attempt by conservatives to introduce religion into the school science curriculum.
The Dover case led to a trial in federal court that gained nationwide attention after the school board was sued by parents backed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The board had ordered its schools to read a short statement to students in biology classes telling them that the theory of evolution was not established fact and that gaps existed in it.
The statement then mentioned intelligent design as an “alternate theory” and recommended students read a book that explained the theory further. That book is actually the Bible, which holds no scientific basis to it; it’s all about religion and specifically ONE religion.
A decision in the case is expected before the end of this year.
The founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and Christian Coalition has done this before and cannot hear the entire country laughing at him. Must be that any publicity is good publicity so long as you spell the name correctly.
This past summer, Robertson openly called for the assassination of leftist Venezuelan Present Hugo Chavez, one of President George W. Bush’s harshest international critics.
In 1998, Robertson warned Orlando, Fla. that it risked “hurricanes, earthquakes and terrorist bombs” after permitting homosexual organizations to place rainbow flags in support of sexual diversity.
As I said, a raving idiot. He needs to shut up and let the rest of us heathens live in peace from the sounds of his hot air escaping through his mouth.
As I said, a raving idiot. He needs to shut up and let the rest of us heathens live in peace from the sounds of his hot air escaping through his mouth.
Actually, the right Reverend PROVES the theory of evolution. Some humans haven’t evolved enough!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Texas gay marriage ban vote not what it seems

On Tuesday in Texas, the infamous Proposition 2, that places in the Texas Constitution the already-enacted ban on gay marriage, passes overwhelmingly (75%-25%) in what had to be the least surprising outcome in the last 25 years.
If people think this was merely a vote to keep marriage "sacred" and "purified," they have failed miserably to comprehend what happened Tuesday. It was a dry run for the Rick Perry campaign to be re-elected as governor, which has, as its backbone, the same evangelicals that went to the polls to offer overwhelming support to Prop 2.
Sorry, but that IS the truth. He needed to show potential challengers, including that tough Grandma in Austin (state treasurer Carole Keeton Strayhorn), that he cracks the GOP whip in Texas. That was HIS constituency that voted and it was an impressive display of political power, I must admit (as a Texas Democrat which cannot field a candidate of any strength on any level).
I haven't seen anyone talk out of the side of their mouth since Buddy Hackett as does Perry. He may profess love for all, but he stands in the mud with those who want to control others - through the legislature, through religion, through their limited view of morals.
Folks, this is the one-party machine in Texas steamrolling who and what it wants. Ain't pretty, is it?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Time to seriously re-think they way we vote

The obscene amount of money spent by various candidates to attempt to obtain elective office should convince even the biggest partisan die-hards that a different method is needed in the United States to choose public officials.
If anyone truly thinks the primary and general election process makes financial or participatory sense, when it takes almost a full year to complete – from the first date to file (in December here in Texas) until to final general election (the following November) – then I’ve got some newly-discovered Enron stock to sell you.
First, ALL elective offices below the state legislative and executive level should be non-partisan. I don’t understand why the county sheriff, county clerk, county auditor, tax assessor-collector, constable or whatever necessarily HAS to be a Democrat or Republican.
And wouldn’t judges appear more impartial if they were non-partisan? Just look at the debacle to find a judge to try Tom DeLay. This Democrat dropped a dollar toward this candidate but this Republican is also no good because he said someone’s name in his sleep.
You would then be voting for personal standards and performance and not along party lines (too many of them are solely chosen because of affiliation, not education). All judgeships should be non-partisan choices.
More importantly, it would save thousands of dollars in duplicate expenditure. Today, a man or woman must wage two expensive campaigns to gain such offices as county or district clerk, county treasurer, justice of the peace, etc. Hold one general election (and one runoff if needed) and let it be done. Winner needs 50 percent plus one vote and if the first round doesn’t produce a clear-cut victor, have a runoff 30 days from that first vote.
Second, in presidential years, hold a nationwide primary, allow as many candidates in each party to vie for the presidency and give ALL Americans the same opportunity to make their feelings known.
The first primary could take place in August and then the November general election would pit the winners of each major party (or alternative parties if you want to be benevolent).
At the present time, a handful of small northern states get all the say-so in who becomes the next president. In 2000, if Bill Bradley or John McCain had an equal opportunity to go before ALL the voters in their respective parties, instead of getting slowly chopped piecemeal state-by-state, perhaps the outcome “might” have been different.
When each candidate reached Texas in early March, the nomination process was effectively a forgone conclusion. Many voters were simply turned away because they felt their vote for those candidates were wasted. Neither man had ANY legitimate chance of winning.
Why should Iowa and New Hampshire voters get so much power to pre-determine what Texans decide? A national primary would allow any candidate a fair shot at the electorate – which is always a better way to do things.
A 90-day campaign period would then begin – plenty of time to get one’s message to the nation. No one needs months of monotonous campaign advertising bombarding our senses ad nauseum (literally).
It would also end the nonsense for holding national party conventions – good only for dull speeches, a lot of partying and staged photo opps and balloon drops. Nothing is ever mysterious about these trumped-up, bloated campaign rallies. No real news is ever made, which is why the networks stopped coverage in favor of anything available to broadcast.
Perhaps NBC could put the candidates through a real version of “Fear Factor?” Winner, bugs swallowed and all, gets the nomination.
Third, make early voting national and move Election Day to a Sunday. Many other democratic nations do that. Our archaic system retains the first Tuesday in November for the general election because … that was the best day when the U.S. was an agrarian society.
But does it fit a very busy 21st century America? How many people simply shun the chance to vote because of a limited (in their mind) time factor? It should be a customer-friendly process, not akin to paying one’s taxes.
I know this will never come to be because … in your heart you know it makes sense. Hence, it’s doomed.
Rats! Can I get on “Fear Factor?”

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Don't screw with middle-class mortgage deduction

In many ways, I am just like the most common of men – not all that bright about several issues that others master through osmosis. Economics/finance is one such area. I know so little about how the stock market works, it is pitiful. I know more about women’s apparel (and that ain’t saying much).
I was (and still am) a horrible businessman; my past practices prove exactly that. It was far from my area of domain.
But I know this: When government officials or panels stop jacking with things like the U.S. Tax Code, the common guy like me is going to get screwed, blued and tattooed.
That is exactly how I view Tuesday’s recommendations by the president’s tax-reform advisory panel to the Treasury Department. Their ideas spell disaster for millions of middle-class workers and retirees and hard-working families.
It’s one of those warning signals you often hear, like “The check is in the mail,” or “I’ll be right there to help you, honey.” You know it’s not a happening thing.
Tax simplification doesn’t make things simpler; it will make things harder on the pocketbook and is merely one step closer to the vaunted flat tax that some conservatives see as the panacea to all ills.
While elimination of the alternative minimum tax might be a good thing, the gutting of the home mortgage deduction is NOT. Since the panel is seeking to replace $1.3 trillion over the next 10 years, somebody is going to have to pay that piper.
The panel is recommending lowering the mortgage interest cap (the amount of a loan that home owners would receive a tax break for interest paid) from $1 million to the average regional housing price in the range of $227,000 to $412,000. In Texas, that price equals a nicer than normal home compared to other states.
The deduction would change to a credit, equaling 15 percent of interest paid on mortgages up to the interest cap. A credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of the taxes you owe, while a deduction only reduces your taxable income by a percentage equal to your top tax rate.
Let’s admit this: Deductions help high-income taxpayers the most and only affect those taxpayers who itemize on their federal tax returns. The higher your mortgage loan, the higher your tax bracket.
But for many middle-income families, this deduction (not credit) is the backbone of their tax return. And there is no talk of grandfathering this change into the system. You don’t change rules in the middle of the game.
More changes that would adversely affect middle class people include disallowing deductions for state and local taxes paid on wage income, investment income and property; and capping the amount of tax-free money that may be used to pay for health insurance to $5,000 for single coverage or $11,500 for family coverage.
The panel also proposes creating two new credits - one for family, to replace the standard deduction, the personal exemption, the child tax credit and the head of household filing status and tax bracket; and one for work - to consolidate the earned income tax credit and refundable child tax credit.
In a complicated world, with families coming in all sorts of configurations, simplifications such as this seem too … simple! Frankly, the trust factor in Washington, and with this administration, is nil.
The tax code is far too involved to reduce to a simple 4x6 index card, as proposed. The threat is throwing out all these middle-class babies with the bathwater and thinking you’ve accomplished something.
All that is going to happen is to hurt MORE people who don’t need additional pain in their lives.

Monday, October 31, 2005

More Wal-Mart shenanigans

Another day, another story involving improper business practices involving Wal-Mart. This broken record, playing over Andover and over and over, is becoming obnoxious. Someone needs to knock these bastards down a major peg.
The latest involves violations of the Child Labor Laws of this nation by 25 Wal-Mart stores in Arkansas, Connecticut and New Hampshire between 1998 and 2002. The cases center on usage of workers between 16-17 using hazardous equipment (chain saws, paper balers, forklifts).
Child labor laws forbid anyone under 18 from operating hazardous equipment, but that doesn’t matter to Wal-Mart. It apparently controls the government’s penalties.
You see, according to a report from an inspector general with the U.S. Department of Labor (released Monday according to the Associated Press), Wal-Mart’s LAWYERS were allowed to write key parts of the punitive deal with the feds. As a result, the world’s largest retailer was socked with a whopping fine of …$135,540, which is less than what it spends on toilet paper (one-ply, I’m sure) for its stores in a day.
The inspector general said Wal-Mart received “significant concessions” in the settlement that was originally made public last February. What, pray tell did Wal-Mart cook up for itself?
1) The Labor Department is required to notify Wal-Mart 15 days in advance before opening an audit or investigation (that would be totally something inconsistent with guidelines for the department’s Wage and Hour Division, according to the report).
2) Wal-Mart can avoid formal citations or penalties if it brings the offending stores into compliance within 10 days of being notified about a violation.
To Wal-Mart’s good, the report found no evidence of violations of federal laws or regulations. Nor did inspectors find evidence of pressure from internal or external sources during development of the agreement.
The inspector general attributed the problems to “inadequate management controls and guidelines.” You think?!?!?
“These breakdowns resulted in (the Wage and Hour Division) entering into an agreement that gave significant concessions to Wal-Mart ... in exchange for little commitment from the employer beyond what it was already doing or required to do by law,” the report stated.
In that most ridiculous of non-denial denials, Wal-Mart (of course) denied the allegations, but agreed to pay the penalty. Funny, how those “innocent” corporations constantly pay for non-mistakes and non-violations of law. Anyone with a functioning brain knows payment equals guilt. Period.
Labor Department officials disputed some of the charges of favoritism, thinking that chump change is a good punishment for such illegal behavior. Their weakness and incompetence is testament to how little the current government in power cares about the consumer and average person. Pro-business now means anti-regulation and less stringent enforcement of reasonable laws.
Legislation is expected to be introduced that would bar the Labor Department from agreeing to provide notice to companies before investigating any wage-and-hour law complaints. However, it is coming from Democrats and such a bill probably has little opportunity for passage since Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retail company, had sales of $285 billion in its last fiscal year, ending last January. It can afford to train its staff and managers properly. It can afford to hire experienced workers able to handle hazardous equipment that are NOT 16 or 17 or 18 and get paid the most minimum of wage.
Wal-Mart can afford to stop breaking laws all over the place and still sit on top of the retail mountain. But with each action, it shows less and less desire to do so. And when you write your own rules and your own laws for your singular benefit, you cheat everybody.
And, ladies and gentlemen, that’s the kind of company you’re dealing with. It won’t stop until people insist.
When will people insist on doing the right thing over buying the cheapest thing?

The Halloween rules!

In Plano, the upper middle class uber-suburb outside of Dallas where I live, the following story is quite true. It shows the kind of arrogance about its children that should not be permitted.
Last night (Sunday), at dinnertime, the doorbell rang.
Three children stood in front and yelled "Trick or treat?"
"What are you doing here tonight?" I asked. "It's not Halloween!"
"Well, we decided to go tonight because it MIGHT rain tomorrow and we didn't want to get our candy wet," they answered.
My wife gave them each a piece of Tootsie Roll (one of my former favorites since I am a diabetic and cannot even sniff the bag) and I sulked away, upset that the RULES had been broken for candy greed.
Here are those rules in my mind:
Rule No. 1 - Trick or treating ONLY on Halloween night - regardless of what night it falls.
Rule No. 2 - No porch light means no one home (ours was off by the way). Don't go to that house and bother people. Not everyone wants to participate.
Rule No. 3 - No one over 12 should get a darn thing. You're old enough; leave the stuff for the little ones.
Rule No. 4 - No harem costumes for girls who are ... shall we say ... more mature for their age than others. Sex does NOT sell at Halloween.
Rule No. 5 - No candy for children who don't have teeth!!! If they cannot walk on their own, why are parents SO insistent of dragging 1 or 2 year olds in hot costumes when they should be sleeping? It's as bad as giving birthday parties for toddlers who have no idea what is happening!
Rule No. 6 - Stop giving children the equivalent of Godiva bars! It's bad enough that they will consume so much sugar as to get sick, have a mouthful of cavities and simply make a mess with melted chocolate smeared all over the house. Showing much YOU can spend on them is not the right thing to do.
Rule No. 7 - Trick or treating time should NOT begin before 6 p.m. and not go past 9 p.m. Period.
Rule No. 8 - The weather is the weather - deal with it. I did it in the freezing cold and early Michigan snow.
Rule No. 9 - No repeats. Once you've been to a house, you can't repeat. Once you're gone, you can't come back (out of the blue and into the black).
Rule No. 10 - Parents should have to walk with their children as protectors and supervisors. You don't let them loose on neighborhoods and you still with a Starbucks or enjoy a smoke.
Anyone want to disagree or add anything?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Houston, we have an indictment!

Enough has already been said and written about today’s five-count indictment of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the Vice President’s Chief of Staff, so I’m not going to add my two-cents on the eventual outcome.
But I WILL say this: everyone seems to be “sad” over all of this.
Ambassador Joseph Wilson (his wife was the name and he was the target) the indictment marked “a sad day for America.”
President George W. Bush: “we’re all saddened by today’s news.”
Libby himself in a written statement: “Today is a sad day for me.”
So when is someone going to get mad? When is someone going to get upset that people at the highest levels of government thought so stupidly that it was OK to lie to the FBI and the grand jury about all of this?
Sad, my ass! It’s sad to think that people continue to act this way when all evidence points to one thing: You don’t tell the truth, you get bit in said ass!
Hey, Scooter, do watch where you sit.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

You’ve been GOPeed On!

If anyone EVER wanted to clearly define what end of society that a particular political party favors, simply look at the latest efforts by the U.S. House Republican leadership to cut the federal budget in order to pay for hurricane relief efforts.
The GOP version of Edward Scissorhands is trying to slice away $50 billion (with a B) and almost ALL of them come at the expense of the very people who need them the most – those who are poor, disadvantaged and voiceless in the system. They don’t contribute heavily to the like of Tom DeLay or Dennis Hastert (the Speaker of the House, but does anyone know his name?).
And there is speculation that the committee vote, along party lines but totally controlled by Republicans, is just a set-up for failure in the overall House chamber when individual Congressmen will be forced to explain their budget cutting vote in their own hometowns.
Here’s what has been proposed (according to the Associated Press on Oct. 28):
* raising premiums to employers for government insurance of their employees’ and retirees’ pension benefits;
* new fees on students who default on loans or consolidate them;
* higher fees on parents who borrow on behalf of their college-age children;
* $3.8 billion in cuts to child support enforcement;
* tightening of eligibility standards for foster care assistance in nine states and
* delaying some lump-sum payments to very poor and elderly beneficiaries of Social Security’s Supplemental Security Income program.
* elimination of payments to industries harmed by unfair foreign trade practices.
* raising $2.4 billion in lease revenues by permitting oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
And nowhere is there any talk of revisiting that giant Transportation Bill so loaded with pork and wasteful spending in the billions that no rabbi could bless it as kosher. All the proposed savings could be easily found in that piece of lopsided spending, but it involves pet projects and we’d rather cater to pets than human beings.
Suggest such a thing and legislators get downright grumpy and ornery. It’s like stealing candy on Halloween.
Meanwhile, President Bush is reported to have met with House and Senate Republican leaders and said he was “pleased with the progress.” I’ll bet he is pleased. I wonder, though, if the average voter is pleased.
People need to remember all of this in November, 2006 and make a change. You can’t complain about how evil and horrid Congress acts and then vote to retain your congressional representative because he “brings home the bacon.”
That HAS been the problem all along and the facts speak for themselves – the Republican-controlled Congress has rolled up deficits SO high, you can’t over it.
Time for America to wake its ass UP! You’ve been GOPeed On!

More reasons to hate Wal-Mart

One doesn’t really need additional reasons to hate Wal-Mart, but the corporate giant keeps providing them all the time,
Here’s a new one: In Fort Worth, Texas, a newly-constructed Wal-Mart, has announced its intention to sell wine and beer at its store – a fairly radical departure from its stock items.
And it will break the law, with the city of Fort Worth’s blessing, to do so.
As many of you already know, Wal-Mart already controls three of the nation’s biggest retail factions. It sells 19 percent of all groceries in the United Stated, 16 percent of all pharmacy drugs and 30 percent of household staples. Any more of an increase and one would have to seriously consider anti-trust status.
Wal-Mart sought, and received, a variance from the city of Fort Worth to sell alcohol. Why a variance … for something out of the ordinary? Seems as thought to the new store is quite close to an elementary school - Ridglea Hills Elementary.
As in right next door.
Which, by state law, is prohibited from selling alcohol within 150 feet of a school. Wal-Mart property is adjacent to it apparently.
A dilemma? A conundrum?
Well, in typical jurisdictional fashion, the Fort Worth school district was never informed by the city of this “variance” and is going to court to protest the license … although the horse is already out of the barn because the city’s formal proceedings have been approved.
So what did the city do, since it KNEW of the conflict and school location? It insisted that Wal-Mart construct a 16-foot wall to keep the little children from the booze. A Wal-Mart spokesperson said in addition to the wall, they have also put in “additional safeguards” to make sure minors wouldn't be able to buy the alcohol.
Shame on the city of Fort Worth for sneaking around the law and kow-towing to Wal-Mart’s improper request. And shame on Wal-Mart (a redundant statement, sorry!) for knowing that a school was next door and that it would openly sell alcohol to its clientele – less than brilliant patrons who might “slightly” abuse that product within shouting and striking distance (as in cars) to young schoolchildren.
Again, stop shopping there, people! This company is no good and now threatens the well-being of innocent children.
Sadly, some of the neighbors don’t see a problem and don’t see the danger, wall or no wall. They shop at Wal-Mart and they vote. And you wonder why the country is ALL screwed up????

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

More reasons to absolutely HATE Wal-Mart!

I make it a personal policy never to walk into any store owned, operated or named Wal-Mart. I believe them to be as close as anything is to the devil incarnate on this planet.
Before you claim that such a statement is too harsh, too reactionary or too ridiculous, I will testify to having seen Wal-Mart in action as a predatory-pricing business, not at all interested in free enterprise and seeking to be the one and only retailer in the United States.
Wal-Mart’s ultimate goal is to be the last entity standing, regardless of its overall effect on the economy, people’s lives and the world trade situation. The firm that once proudly announced its American ties and American product is almost single-handedly responsible for making China a major world manufacturing power.
So now it is disclosed in the October 26 issue of the New York Times that an internal memo sent to board members of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. proposes several ways to reduce health care and benefits costs without doing any further harm to the company’s slightly tarnished reputation, outside of NASCAR families and the lower middle class.
Among the suggestions? Hire more part-time workers and “discourage unhealthy people from seeking jobs.”
The Times said the draft memo to Wal-Mart’s board was obtained from Wal-Mart Watch, a pressure group allied with labor unions that says Wal-Mart’s pay and benefits are too low.
Wait, there’s more! According to the Times, Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president for benefits, is also recommending reducing 401(k) pension contributions and wooing younger, and presumably healthier, workers by offering education benefits.
To discourage “unhealthy” job applicants, Chambers is suggesting that Wal-Mart arrange for “all jobs to include some physical activity (e.g., all cashiers do some cart-gathering).” Interesting since no one does that job now and you cannot find a check-out line without 5-6 people waiting.
Another brilliant idea is to put health clinics in Wal-Mart stores, to reduce expensive employee visits to emergency rooms.
Chambers expressed concern that workers with seven years’ seniority make more than those workers with one year’s experience, but aren’t any more productive.
It has been already established that Wal-Mart is one of the lowest paying companies and is horribly tight about offering health care benefits, with employees forced to wait for TWO year’s worth of service before being offered anything.
And here’s the REAL kicker – in the memo, Chambers admits that 46 percent of the children of Wal-Mart’s 1.33 million United States employees are uninsured OR on Medicaid. Less than 45 percent of Wal-Mart’s workforce has health care coverage. That’s a wonderful testimony, isn’t it?
While Wal-Mart is getting squeezed, along with every other American business AND worker, it is still making a fortune. While it cost Wal-Mart $4.2 billion last year in benefit costs, up from $2.8 billion three years earlier, in that same time period, Wal-Mart earned $10.5 billion on sales of $285 billion.
In an interview, Chambers said she was not focusing on cutting costs, but on “serving employees better by giving them more choices on their benefits.” Yeah, take it or leave it, you scum!
The memo, by the way, is on the NYT Web site.
We have long since stopped being a nation that engaged in free enterprise. The better mouse trap theory doesn’t work in the U.S. anymore. The Republican-controlled government spends money like a drunken sailor at a strip club, it allows fraud to run rampant and encourages massive campaign donations, from folks like Wal-Mart, to protect them from us, the average citizen who is struggling to make ends meet.
Screw Wal-Mart! Stop shopping there! And let those people know why! Go without instead of feeding this monster.
Bring back competition to American retail business.

Monday, October 24, 2005

These people should be strung up by their thumbs

I post this link to last Friday's article in the Washington Post. It's on the same topic I blogged last week.
If anyone believes that FEMA was just a victim of media overplay or it was ALL the fault of local and state officials, read this and ask yourself, "Why haven't these people been arrested?"
Starting with Michael Brown.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Why the Astros finally won

Aside from the Detroit Tigers, my favorite sports team is the Houston Astros, since I stepped off a Trailways bus in 1987 in suburban Houston. I was in the far left-field corner for the 1980 National League playoffs against Philadelphia for the ill-fated Game 5 and suffered with each pitch in 1986 against the New York Mets.
Houston is not a Johnny-Come-Lately; it has been one of the best teams in baseball over the past 10 years (fifth among teams in victories). It has had enough talent to go to the World Series, but it has always been one of those things – mainly the inability of its offense (usually potent) to overcome the single most important commodity – pitching. Atlanta has had it; St. Louis has had it; Florida has had it; Houston has had it; last year’s Boston Red Sox had it. Strong pitching (quality starters, solid middle relief, lights-out closer) can put a cork into any offense. Just ask the 2005 Cardinals or ask last year’s playoff version of the Astros.
Both teams in this year’s World Series had similar paths to this championship. The Chicago White Sox used to be an offensive juggernaut but lacked enough pitching to make that important leap.
So what happened? They traded OF Carlos Lee, a 30 home run, 100 RBI player, for little Scott Podsednik of West, Texas (best kolaches in America) and altered the offense. Podsednik became a new kind of weapon – a dangerous leadoff hitter who could steal bases and score runs.
Chicago then strengthened its bullpen and traded for two important pitchers – Cubans Jose Contreras and Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, each exiles from Castro and Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. Chiacgo already had a potential ace in Mark Buerhle plus solid arms in Jon Garland and Freddy Garcia (former Astro farmhand that Houston sacrificed in the Randy Johnson deal with Seattle).
Midway in the season, after a sensational start, Contreras became the pitcher everyone hoped, and feared, he would be – unhittable. Hernandez was the best fifth starter in baseball and suddenly, the offense didn’t need to bash people to death.
And what is this lineup? Paul Konerko slammed 40 home runs but hits around .240, the cleanup hitter is former Astro and Ranger Carl Everett and the remaining lineup sports a bunch of no-names. Looks just like Houston. Morgan Ensberg came into his own this season with 38 home runs and more than 100 RBI after a horrid 2004 season. But after him are a bunch of no-names.
The Astros overcame plenty of injuries and a 15-30 start to the season. Look what they changed. They dealt the hardest-throwing reliever in baseball, Billy Wagner, for a bag of old shoes, lost a two-time MVP (Jeff Kent) and potential MVP (Carlos Beltran) to free agency, moved a grizzled 39-year-old back to middle infield (Craig Biggio), played without their captain and eventual Hall of Famer (Jeff Bagwell) and suffered at the start without All-Star Lance Berkman, mending a damaged knee collected in a flag football game off-season.
They did not have a decent fourth starter with Brandon Backe on the disabled list for much of the time and three rookies – Willy Tavares, Chris Burke, Jason Lane – were forced into service. What happened? Tavares’ speed, legendary in the Houston minor league system, gave the Astros a legitimate leadoff hitter who could score runs ahead of known run-producers like Biggio and Berkman (multiple 100 runs season apiece). Biggio responded, at 39, with his best offensive numbers in years.
And the promise of the Astro pitching – the Big Three of Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte – came through with flying colors. They were strong, they were healthy and they were feared. And slowly, the offense discovered how to win 2-1, 1-0 and 3-2 games.
This will be a series of small ball, pitching, defense and little things (mistakes, executed plays and decisions) that decides the outcome. Chicago isn’t sweeping anyone. Its bullpen was not used against Anaheim/Los Angeles/California (pick a name) but it has had closer issues all season. It is not a battle-tested group, something that cannot be said for the Astros.
In fact, Clemens, Oswalt and Pettitte should pitch six of the seven games (including the three in Houston) and each has more playoff and World Series experience than Chicago (other than Hernandez). Clemens and Pettitte have won in the Series and that counts for something.
For the first time in Texas history, the World Series is being played on Lone Star soil, with the team that has earned the right to be there. Texas Rangers fans can only sit and contemplate what their front office needs to do to join that club (now the franchise with the longest absence from the World Series).
As I mentioned above, the clues are all there.

Friday, October 14, 2005

How to NOT win friends and influence enemies

Let’s see. What should NOT be done in the time of a disaster recovery to endear yourself to the people most affected and those constantly watching.
Let me count the ways.
First, be asleep at the governmental wheel, go play air guitar 2,000 miles away while people are shell-shocked and looking for someone to help.
Second, have idiots running important agencies that are charged with the relief effort. Have these idiots sit on their collective hands while people go without food, water and shelter.
Next, give no-bid contracts to the usual suspects (Halliburton, Brown and Root, etc.), suspend the immigration rules so these people can hire illegal aliens instead of displaced U.S. citizens, pay these people lower-than-legal minimum wage (because the rules have been suspended) and let them operate without any kind of environmental rules (also suspended).
Then, have you lead agency, FEMA, promise the moon but deliver nothing, as long as two months AFTER the disaster passed. Promise $2,000 checks to everyone affected and then don’t give them out.
Order 91,000 TONS of ice to cool food, medicine and those storm victims, sitting and sweltering in near 100-degree heat, at a price of … $100 million, and constantly divert those truck drivers with the goods to places unaffected by the storms.
Have the Small Business Administration accept more than 7,000 applications for loans, and only process 20 of them!
Ignore local and state businesses and order items from as far away as Alaska when the same things could have been purchased locally.
Initiate no contract to collect the remains of those who died in the storms and flooding because of stupid rulings.
Ignore all fraud or calls for local intervention. Make sure your pals pocket million upon billions of government taxpayer dollars.
And in the end, what do you have?
The George W. Bush Administration.
All above are facts! Hence, the conclusion is factual. And shameful.