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.