Saturday, June 25, 2005

The political axis of evil

Because I sit at a computer in a suburban Dallas home, I am not fully aware of just how interlinked and interlocked is the current political axis of evil into the system. There are many people in Washington, D.C. (which should stand for decadent capital) who are focused SOLELY on turning the UNITED States of America into a one-party, one-philosophy, one religion nation without any regards for those citizens who might have the audacity to disagree. Such people are merely worthy of being rounded up and shot ... politically.
To bark at Congressman Tom DeLay, the cockroach and former bugman (birds of a feather?), is a waste of breath. I looked up the word, "corruption," in my Webster's Dictionary and not only was there a picture of DeLay beside the term, a campaign brochure fell out.
But one must keep an eye on the other members of that axis - such as this invisible "tax expert" named Grover Norquist, who is in more politicians' pockets than cheap lint.
Now follow the linkage ... Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has been shown to have been the Hank Aaron/Babe Ruth of corruption, is the former chairman of the College Republican National Committee (a major league recruiting arm of the GOP charged with poisoning young minds with concepts of easy money at the expense of taxpayers). Abramoff is attached to DeLay like a Siamese twin. That has been made SO crystal clear that Stevie Wonder can see it.
Norquist is this major patron (as they say in South Texas, a man who wields power but remains behind the scenes) who is president of Americans for Tax Reform (reverse Robin Hood, take from the poor and give to the rich).
But Norquist was also the individual who used to run the College Republican National Committee when Abramoff was the chairman!!!
And they all seem to report to Karl Rove, who said, in a speech to a group of sheep (sorry, GOP contributers), that "liberals" were weak in reaction to Sept. 11 terrorist attacks because they didn't rush out and start nuking all of the Middle East on Sept. 12 ... like Republicans seemed more than willing to do.
Such comments have been defended by the White House, DeLay and other GOP uppity-ups.
In a speech to the College Republican National Committee on Friday, Norquist lambasted three GOP senators for their compromise role on judicial filibusters (calling them "the two girls from Maine and the nut-job from Arizona"). He was obviously talking about Olympia Stowe and Susan Collins, who are probably older than Norquist, and John McCain.
Oh yea, McCain is chairing the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs investigating ... Abramoff for a scandalous affair in "representing" tribal casino interests and essentially, bilking them out of millions of dollars in fees while playing both sides of the street.
Lest anyone forget - John McCain is a genuine war hero, having spent years as a Vietnamese prisoner of war. Regardless of his politics, McCain should have been the GOP nominee in 2000 had it NOT been for Rove's indecent mud-slinging campaign about McCain's military record in the South Carolina primary. Had there been a mational primary in 2000, McCain would have been the people's choice.
McCain speaks his mind which earns the respect of this liberal. Norquist has to go through life named for a Muppet.
What do you think?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The death of a school district

This blog segment is for readers in the Dallas area:
Thanks to dictatorial powers granted to the Texas Education Agency commissioner by the Legislature, a snap of the finger can remove, obliterate and destroy a longtime school district from the face of the earth.
On Monday night, the specially-installed Wilmer-Hutchins school board, led by a superintendent from neighboring Lancaster ISD, announced its plans to dissolve the district immediately and sent its students to the LISD for future education. The W-H ISD would exist for tax collection purposes for one year in order to eliminate its debt and then be nothing more than a memory.
So many questions are raised by this turn of events:
1) Since when did one person get such powers and why didn’t Commissioner Shirley Neeley use them sooner to keep from this “take it to the brink’ situation? The voters will have nothing to say about this since a forced annexation is not subject to public vote. Why did she allow this to go on for such a long time when it was clear to a blind man that the board and its administration were corrupt and bankrupting the district?
2) How will the residents of the W-H ISD have elected representation? That will have to be approved by Justice Department since single member districts are currently involved in Lancaster, but an at-large system is employed for W-H ISD. When will it happen and how will it happen? My best educated guess (from years of residence and employment) is that the old W-H ISD would get two of the current seven seats on the LISD board of trustees.
3) Test scores for LISD were not good this past year – the second worst in the Metroplex.. Now the plan is to add the students with the WORST scores in the area. If the Legislature intends to tie funding to test performance, LISD will be behind the eight-ball, nine-ball and wrecking ball if that effort. How will that be of benefit to anyone?
4) It took a decade to pass a bond package in the Lancaster ISD just to BEGIN fixing what’s wrong with its current facilities. The buildings in Wilmer-Hutchins need TWICE as much help but no one has stated where the money is going to come from to do all that. At some point, LISD will have to absorb the property value of W-H ISD, which is the lowest in the area. That means LISD will be absorbing an instant debt. So the question is this: Where will the state funds come to actually offset the varied cost of adding these students (more buses, food services, liability, split athletic schedules, facility maintenance, etc.).
5) With two communities that possess a history of rivalry and distrust, is such a move a good idea? If you ask most of the W-H people, they’d want to go with Dallas (which actively sought to have these students join its district). W-H people distrust and dislike Lancaster folks and have for a long time. There will be resentment about being under someone else’s thumb.
6) W-H ISD has been, for the longest time, the only minority-majority district and had been held as a standard for such board makeup. Hence, the African-Americans (the minority in question) kept the district as at-large status, freezing out another minority group (Hispanics). How will this unbalance be resolved? Neeley can’t just snap her fingers and wiggle her nose like Samantha Stevens to make things right.
As I wrote before, the blame falls to the voters who kept the same corrupt board members in place who, in turn, kept the same corrupt administration in place. It also falls to the TEA commissioner who acted too damn late until the horse has not only left the barn, but left the state.
I felt sorry for the curriculum boss lady from W-H ISD who broke down in tears when hearing that she was among the staff to blame for the district’s demise. Way to go, board and supt., making grown women cry without handling it in a more genteel manner. I can’t blame the staff; they weren’t given the tools to get the job done because the district was too broke and too corrupt to function. Fish rots from the head down.
And now that fish is being moved to LISD’s refrigerator.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

You can’t pick your neighbors

There are times, more than I can to admit, where I feel sorry for President George W. Bush. I might not have voted for him (twice), I have a personal reason for my distaste of the man (it involves my son at 10) and I disagree with almost everything in the political arena that he preaches.
But … I have plenty of empathy for him in different areas.
I can understand if there are times when he just sits and shakes his head uncontrollably about the actions of his twin daughters, one of who is extremely … “precocious.” As the father of two teenage girls myself, I find the stories I hear about what they’ve done, what they want to do and what they think is reality in the world today forces my head to spin like little Linda Blair in the original “The Exorcist.”
Green pea soup and all.
I can also sympathize with President Bush on the home front … literally the HOME front. When he was running for President, and with a small inkling that he would need a little more space to talk walks hand-in-hand with billionaire Saudi princes, the Bush family bought a ranch near the central Texas town of Crawford, just outside of Waco.
Lyndon B. Johnson held conferences and important meetings at his Stonewall ranch (where Lady Bird still resides to this day) and W.’s dad, faked a residence in the Houstonian complex in Houston while the real “second” home was in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Bush II wants to retire to Texas, where his lukewarm financial fortune and his astonishing political fortune was made. The Crawford ranch will be where the President writes his memoirs, schedules his lectures and worries about those twins on a daily basis.
Alas, not all is sweet fortune. In life, you cannot pick the family to which you are born into and you really can’t choose your neighbors. Such is the case in Crawford, Texas for President George W. Bush.
Two years ago, after the Bush purchase, along comes one Theodore “Ted” Nugent, a refugee from southeastern Michigan and aficionado of rock and roll. To say that Mr. Nugent is less than the normal neighbor would be akin to saying Michael Jackson’s definition of “sleepover” is slightly askew. He is, in his own words, a “madman.”
“The Nuge” has been playing high voltage rock and roll guitar since the mid-1960s with a legendary Detroit group, the Amboy Dukes, whose lone hit was the drug-addled “Journey to the Center of Your Mind.” As a young boy growing up in the Motor City, that was one of the defining tunes of summertime in southern Michigan.
Subsequent hits have included “Cat Scratch Fever” (which was NOT about felines), “Stranglehold” (which was NOT about pro wrestling) and “Wango Tango” (which was NOT about Spanish dancing). They were about Nugent’s favorite subject – sex. He claims not to have done drugs or alcohol, but he made and lost a fortune to one thing – women. Lots of them. As in addicted to them. Any of them.
Not sure these hits are programmed into Bush’s workout Ipod.
Nugent made a mild comeback in the 1990s with the group, “Damn Yankees,” which included Tommy Shaw (ex-Styx) and Jack Blades (ex-Night Ranger). Their big hit was “Can You Take Me Higher,” and in concert, Nugent had this funny habit of shooting a flaming arrow from the stage to the back of the participating arenas. Luckily, he was good enough with the apparatus so that no one was hurt during his William Tell moments.
A total rebel who looked like a old hippie, hunted form game that he ate on his southeastern Michigan ranch and espoused right-wing political viewpoints, Nugent has kept his name in front of the public hawking cookbooks and spewing anything that crossed his mind to buddies like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Why THIS entertainer was SO enlightened compared to other, more educated, people is obvious. It was the message, not the messenger.
So it must have been curious last month when Nugent, of all people, appeared in Houston, at the National Rifle Association convention, walking onto the stage with assault rifles in each hand, with these nuggets of wisdom for the audience:
“No one is allowed at our barbecues unless they are an NRA member.”
“The whole world suck, but America sucks less, and we can eliminate that sucking sound altogether if we would actually be hardcore, radical extremists, hardcore radical extremists, demanding the right to self-defense.”
“Remember the Alamo! Shoot ‘em! To show you how radical I am, I want carjackers dead. I want rapists dead. I want burglars dead. I want child molesters dead. I want the bad guys dead. No court case. No parole. No early release. I want ‘em dead. Get a gun and when they attack you, shoot ‘em.”
I’m sure that might strikes a friendly chord out there until you ask yourselves, “Who elected THIS confessed sex fiend to be our universal sheriff, judge and jury?”
Answer? Not you, not I and not the President. Because you just can’t choose your neighbors these days.
Chuck Bloom can also be reached at chuckbloom2003@yahoo.com.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Discrimination should NEVER stand … regardless

From the June 2, 2005 edition of the Collin County Opinions in the Dallas Morning News
Just when you think it’s safe to go back to the governing waters that is the city of Plano, a fin appears in the viewfinder, the “Jaws” theme begins to play and it’s time to run, not walk, out of danger. This is what happens on an all-too-regular basis with the City Council and its latest example of “discriminatory elitism,” propped up by an uninformed vote of city citizens.
If someone needed further proof of such improper thinking, it is the decision by the council to “uphold” a part of the city charter allowing only property owners to serve on boards and commissions. Mind you, an earlier court challenge already washed away the same requirement to be elected or appointed to the council. However, on May 7, an attempt to scrub the city charter clean of such discrimination was inexplicably rejected by an uninformed public. Had the issue been given one iota of the attention of the arts hall funding or alcohol sales proposition by a single city leader, explaining why it was necessary to erase such a stain on the charter, the issue would probably have passed.
Unless, of course, the vote was to endorse discrimination in Plano, which is a whole other issue to be discussed.
I was amused to read young Justin Nichols’ piece in yesterday’s Collin County Opinion Pages (“The Volunteer Tax”) and I had to chuckle at his na├»ve take on the council’s reaffirmation of the people’s voice. Obviously, a certain amount of historical perspective was missing because, sadly, that part of American or Texas history isn’t mentioned too often here in the 21st century.
This is an example of a latent (and abhorrent) Jim Crow law, the kind of law that was designed to circumvent voting rights laws across the South during a time when one group of citizens attempted to retain total power and control over communities. Back in the day (and the day wasn’t that long ago), only property owners could go to the ballot box, keeping thousands of Hispanics and African-Americans from any American’s basic freedom – to exercise the constitutional right to vote.
This charter provision is no different. Being a legally registered voter in Plano - that, and only that, should be the main requirement to serve on a commission or board. End of story. There can be no defending such a charter provision; in fact, the real question is why, in 2005, it even breathes any kind of life.
Simply put, the percentage of white property owners (versus minorities and poorer people) is higher than the actual ethnic demographics of Plano. It is reasonable to assume that people of lesser economic means and minorities would be those most likely to inhabit multifamily dwellings.
As young Mr. Nichols correctly notes, renters indirectly pay property tax through their monthly rent. They are just NOT on the county tax rolls. But neither are people who lease expensive homes in west Plano. Neither are those children who live in houses owned (on the county rolls) by their parents. And if you take it a step further, neither are many spouses who live in homes without their names on the title.
Where does it stop? How far should such discrimination go? And don’t give me any hooey about the “voter’s will.” Once upon a time, slavery was the “voter’s will” and the Constitution valued an African-American’s life to be worth 3/5 of an Anglo. Wrong IS wrong!
It is bad enough that so many wealthier local residents publicly oppose the state’s collegiate admission 10 percent rule because so many of their children have had their places at the University of Texas bumped by minority students.
It is worse that the city they call home believes that only one “class” of citizen can officially be part of the process that governs everyone! Until this stain is permanently erased, until the council stands up to such practices and declares that it will not allow them to exist, no resident of Plano can honestly speak about how “diversity” exists in this community.
Instead, there should be a cloak of embarrassment over the mere mention of it.
Chuck Bloom is an award-winning former columnist and editor and can be reached at chuckbloom@hotmail.com.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Deep Throat relevation just 'Felt' right

Mark Felt never tried to become famous.
He never tried to host his own radio talk show (right Mr. Liddy?), or TV show on FOX, CNN or CBS (right, Col. North?) or ran for political office.
He did write a book about his memories of the FBI but denied being Deep Throat. He never cashed in on what could have been the biggest payday in American publishing history.
He tried to do the right thing and people like G. Gordon Liddy, who actively participated in a criminal act and subsequent coverup, have no standing to criticize him for 30-plus years of silence.
In failing health, it was sweet to see that it was Felt's family who wanted their father and patriarch to earn the proper credit for uncovering a conspiracy to circumvent the Constitution by a paranoid White House and staffers who mistook blind allegiance for loyalty.
Those born before 1970 might not have the full appreciation for how the country was divided. Literally, people thought the election was stolen (although Nixon had no chance of losing). But when all the facts became known, with the dirty tricks, Presidential disclosures of investigative interference and illegal money laundering to pay for the entire mess, the nation and its politics changed forever.
Gosh, everything that is scandalous ends in the word, "gate." Where do people think that came from?
Mark Felt was, and is, a hero. And he did it by keeping his mouth shut. Perhaps that was the bravest thing of all.
One final thought: Why does the current President of the U.S., when questioned today about Mr. Felt, says he has to "study" the situation before comment? Is every opinion today a result of staff study or can't a person with a small sense of history actually answer a question honestly? You'd think the President would know a little more about history than he lets on.