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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Can we ever move beyond our nine dots?

I sometimes get blog writer's block but not this morning because there's a wealth of material to discuss and most of it comes from our hometown newspaper, but I found some articles in today's Houston chronicle that will carry me over to next week.

I like to read the Houston Chronicle's letter- to- the- editor section because they normally select some good viewpoints. Today was no different; I read a letter from a gun owner who stated these liberals didn't understand why gun owners want their AR 15s. I really must renew my liberal newsletter because I didn't know it was a concern. Anyway, he went onto say that he needs the AR 15 for home protection and to do his part; if ever our country were to be invaded. I'll forget the latter, but it scares me that a neighbor with an AR 15 is going to start shooting if he hears a strange noise coming from his backyard. How much firepower do you need for a burglar? All I need is my cell phone. I showered got dressed and went to church and prayed that I don't have any neighbors with that mindset.

I see where the cream of the crop, Vic Ad Facebook posters, are still recycling the five-year-old talking points" I don't mind immigration" and " What is it about "illegal'" that people don't understand! On the other side, there's “they come here for a better life." It’s the familiar battle between nativists,activists, racists, bleeding hearts, and advocates for open borders, but mostly it's low information posters engaging in "word salad" discussions. I'm kind of glad I left Vic Ad because that's hours I didn't waste .These people are not interested in facts just the fight.

The issue is worth discussing because there is still a lot to learn. I didn’t know that the Guatemalan survivors were having communication problems because they don't speak Spanish; they speak Quiche. The drug cartels of Mexico are spilling over to countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, Hondurans and Costa Rica. The Mexican government is chasing the cartels in that direction. The Guatemalans were running away from corruption in their country, $5.00 a day factory job, extortion and no hope for the future in sight. If it wasn't for the large numbers and politics, many of these people would be eligible for political asylum. The United States cannot afford to take in the mass exodus, but that doesn't mean that we have to be so hateful in our rhetoric. My wife and I will ride out to Berclair later this afternoon to express our sympathy for the dead.

I've always said that we need comprehensive immigration reform, and I think this would be an ideal time because we have a zero net gain on unlawful border crossings. It's easy to read about 23 illegal immigrants here and 15 over there and 3 or 4 more each day and thinking that it's worse than it ever was. About half of the 535 members of Congress don't have an appetite to take up the issue because they are waiting for attrition to work. Our slow economy did what a fence couldn't. A lot of us saw the GOP presidential debates. Did you see any workable solutions come out of them? All they were a doubling down of enforcement policies that don't do anything for the 11 million illegal immigrants who are here. Mitt Romney's self-deportation is a joke. I think a lot of Republicans were glad President Obama took the action he did (modified, not official Dream Act) because they couldn't present their constituents that plan because it would be considered amnesty. I don't have any verifiable facts, but I suspect we need every one of those 11 million illegal immigrants just to stay at our 1.5% growth rate. I wouldn't be surprised if the Department of Labor knows that.

Leonard Pitts wrote an interesting article about a televised information forum where issues like these would be discussed minus the same irreverent side issues such as, free health care, food stamps. I'll be watching because I like to know how all the pieces fit together. I want to know if our government turns a blind eye sometimes and what we can do to make our businesses obey our labor laws. Perhaps we need a better way to inform the poor immigrants in Guatemala and Honduras of all the hazards of that long journey. You would be surprised how the word of a "human trafficker” supersedes the word of others who have been through the ordeal, to these desperate people. This morning's Advocate editorial expressed the need to crack down on human trafficking, so I commend them for trying to move us beyond our nine dots.

As always, I didn’t have anyone in mind and those familiar with my posts know that, because I too have recycled my talking points..:-)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Do we have be so distrustful?

Pudge taking it easy.

It sure would be nice if my days were all like my wife's Persian cat Pudge? He gets to sleep 20 hours or more, eats, drinks, does his business and pretty much what he wants for the remaining hours he's awake. My wife thinks I'm pretty close that..:-) He's able to sleep in that position, without a care in the world because he trusts us to protect him and care for his needs. We humans don’t want to be that content because we like a lot more excitement than that but we could be more trustful.

Even without a set schedule, I'm still a procrastinator when it comes to getting my truck's state annual inspection and vehicle registration sticker. I thought that I would change this year, so I headed off this morning to Larry's Texaco on Lone Tree for what I thought was going to be a 10 minute yearly ritual of checking my insurance card, tapping the horn, checking my lights and tires, brakes and the then the mechanic would say, " $14.50 please." As I started to turn into Larry's, I noticed 10 vehicles that had the same idea, so this morning was as if I would have waited until Tuesday. What the hell, I don’t have anything else to do, I'm retired?

Larry's service station reminded me so much of the service station that I used to own and it's run pretty much the same. The car drives up the pump, running over a rubber air-hose drive way alarm, which makes that familiar “ring-ring" sound. The attendant approaches the customer with the familiar red rag strapped on his shoulder asking “how can I help you today." He then puts in the gasoline nozzle, opens the hood checks the oil and windshield washer dispenser, closes the hood and then cleans the windshields, as the vehicle is filling. In today's world of self- service, we just don't see that anymore. It’s even worse in the big cities where the attendant is barely visible behind bars and security cameras. Don’t ask him for directions because he probably doesn’t know the area he’s working in.

The mechanic who inspected my car was nice enough to tell me that I may need some new belts, but it was more in advisement not like what I used to hearing when I used to take my old truck to the dealership or Firestone. I would get a simple oil change and get back a two-page computer printout with over $800 of repairs that were needed right now. It's an old truck people; just give me the basics.

While it was still fresh on my mind,  I drove my truck over to my daughter's mechanic Mickey's and he gave me a reasonable estimate, so I made an appointment for next week.

It was my first time ever stepping foot in Mickey's so the old building and small office, reminded me of garages from years past. You what I'm talking about, the old unpainted small desk, repair manuals lying around, and old and use parts on the bench. It doesn’t matter because they keep their overhead down, which they pass along to people like me. As long as they are open, they’ll always have me as a customer because I trust them.

I may be old fashioned, but I think we’re lacking trust in our fellow human being. It may be because of what we read on the Internet or see on the news, and it might be warranted in some instances but it seems like we've grown more skeptical than ever before. I'm sure you know several local store owners you trust, and you don't mind paying them a dollar or two more, just to keep them around. I still will shop at major chains and purchase items online, but it's nice to know if there's still a trustful mechanic for my old truck.

Well, I'm pretty much though for the day until 7:00 tonight, when I catch up with the news, politics or whatever; not quite as easy as Pudge has it but life is good. Enjoy it people,smile, and approach each day as if it’s going to take a lot to get you angry.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

We don’t want no stinking compromise

I can count on one hand, the times I've come away from a spirited debate , where I've said, “by golly you're right" and neither has my opponent. I think that's pretty common with online debates because it's mostly about a point and counterpoint with not much in- between. Sometimes it's all about gotcha.The on line debates mimic the "You didn't build that" or "what's in those tax returns,"nonsense.

In my last blog, I should have saved myself a lot of time by simply stating that, we could deal a severe blow to those who want to commit a tragedy like the one in Aurora, Colorado by reinstating the 1994 assault weapon ban. It's very simple logic, if you can't get your hands on it; it lessens the odds on it happening again. The idea of a ban is at the heart of the issue; after 911 when we all submitted to tighter security measures. I would like to think that we would've complied regardless of who was president. A couple of failed bombers forced us to endure more intrusive searches, a longer wait time at airports, and we accepted that some liquids would be denied. We did all this without much fanfare but if a homegrown terrorist commits mass murder with a semiautomatic assault weapon; the gun advocates will ban together to give us their reason on why it's a foolish idea to ban those weapons. They know that the politicians don't have the backbone to step up to the NRA. Therein lies the difference. It's not about the second amendment, the intent of the founders because it's already been proven that we will sacrifice a little freedom, if we think, it'll make us safer. My argument was in the first sentence of this paragraph, and my opponents will go through circles and semi circles in trying to make others think that there're willing to compromise. Truth is, they are scared that the country might want to take their guns away, if they don't take a stance every single time.

I read Jessica Puente's well researched blog asking the question "Why we asked what should happen to the survivors of the Goliad County wreck." Most of the responses were predictable. I understand the journalistic argument. Jessica was trying to make, but it will not penetrate because people had their mind made up before the accident ever happened. Some were trying to humanize the situation and others would have none of it. I've been watching the forum since I left, and I found that articles and blogs were not getting a lot of comments. The minute the subject turned the illegal immigrants; a lot of people came out of the woodwork, and others came out to defend the victims. The America that I grew up in, no matter what state our economy was in, would treat victims of any tragedy despite the circumstances. I trust that our authorities will do the right thing when the survivors recover. There are no laws that say if a person enters this country illegally and gets badly injured, that they will be allowed to remain until after they recover. It's a little premature and out of most people hands but not their mouths, on what will happen to them when they recover. I sincerely doubt that those people posting the hateful comments have read one line of Jessica's article because they are not interested in reading something that is contrary to what they firmly believe.I may be wrong, but I don't think those posters represent the Victoria I grew up in. They're like the Tea Party, small in numbers, but they make a lot of noise.

We could live if those two issues I mentioned remained on the back burner for now but our planet is getting hotter, yet were are not serious enough to try to do anything about it.

Greenland Ice Melt, Measured By NASA Satellites, Reaches Unprecedented Level

Exxon CEO, Rex Tillerson acknowledged that burning of fossil fuels is warming the planet, but said, "society will be able to adapt." Huh? You tell that to the farmers who see their crops being ruined by the heat.

We are also discovering just how corrupt Wall Street is, but we have one major party that wants to repeal Dodd-Frank. My favorite is the latest CBO report on the Affordable Health Care Act. "They concluded that with the June United States Supreme Court decision, the law by 2022 would insure three million fewer people resulting in a lower cost of the law by $84 billion, and that a planned repeal by Republicans would add a net $109 billion to the federal budget deficit by 2022." That doesn't matter to the partisan Republicans who still want to repeal Obama Care.

I like to think that I’m a reasonable man, let’s start small by insisting that Speaker Boehner kick Representative Michele Bachmann off the House Intelligence Committee or at least change the name of the committee. Here is another one of her latest stupid remarks.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I can only hope that this time, after yet another tragedy, responsible leaders can guide us to some sort of solution.  We've had so many incidents such as Columbine, Virginia Tech, the shooting of Gabby Giffords and now this senseless massacre, but yet we do nothing.

It's still early in the investigation so all we have is speculation, especially since James Holmes has layered up.  That doesn't keep those advocating for more gun control from speaking up and likewise, for the calling for more people to buy guns.  That's the extent of what we do because Monday morning, no legislator has to be told of the consequences of messing with the NRA.

We shouldn't be surprised that we are hearing the same ol' slogans " guns don't kill people do" and "GUN LAWS HURT LAW-ABIDING CITIZENS" blab blah.  The 2nd amendment has never been safer, but the gun advocates continue to push for more guns and laws for open- carry.  They want everybody to be able to carry their gun at a church service, bar, campus, or even the capitol.  I wouldn't be surprised if legislators write a bill to authorize citizens to board airplanes with their guns; after all, the GOP convention committee took up the issue of whether to let the attendees bring their guns. I can remember when it was about seating arrangements and speaking privileges.  You give them an inch, and they want a mile.
Remember the incident where the young lady was raped at our Walk & Bike Trail? We had several posters saying that if only she would have armed; that incident could have been prevented. Huh? When you have to start packing just to jog; we have a problem..I don't ever want to use a bike trail where people are packing.

There is a culture out there that thinks the answer is more guns.  It doesn't matter that there are more handguns purchased in the United States than any other place in the world.  They seem to think that every violent incident could have been prevented or put to a quick stop if more people were armed.  That is so preposterous and is not backed up with substantial facts.  The police in Aurora, Colorado showed up in 2 minutes or less and took James Holmes alive where he told them that his apartment was booby trapped.  If Holmes would have been killed by a citizen, more than likely, police officers would have been killed entering his apartment.  Innocent civilians might have been killed opening that booby trapped door.  The likelihood of 4 or 5 armed civilians shooting in the direction of James Holmes makes a chaotic situation even worse, in my opinion.  The last thing that a professional police officers need is armed amateurs making the situation even worse because of instead of concentrating on one shooter, their attention is drawn to others who have guns.  In the Gabby Giffords shooting, an armed civilian almost shot another civilian who picked up the killer's gun. 

There's nothing that could have been done to prevent the recent massacre in Aurora, Colorado, but I would like to think that purchasing thousands of rounds of ammunition, toxic gas canisters, a bulletproof vest, and a weapon that was banned before 2004 and would at least warrant a visit by ATF with a search warrant.  The young Mr. Holmes deliberately bought all those legal items over a long period of time, not knowing he had no reason to fear of being detected.  Come on people get real, are we really that paranoid that we need silencers, automatic assault weapons, extenders, toxic gas containers, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and armor piercing bullets?  I laugh in the face of those who say, “it’s to protect us from government tyranny" as if they can take on the Pentagon.

 I certainly don't know what made an intelligent young man without a criminal record want to commit mass murder, and I don't think we'll know for sure until a couple of years henceforth.  If we can tie it to some sort of mental illness that's common to all those who committed these tragedies; perhaps we should start with funding more clinics to treat future mass murderers.  It's not a time to set up costly scanners at all the theaters, but perhaps they can do a simple thing like replace the exit door's locks which can only be opened by theater personnel.  I understand the safely issues of that but that doesn't mean it can't be resolved.  Several cities due to budget problems have been thinking about letting go some of their first responders; I think they need to rethink the whole situation.  It is my opinion that paying a couple of dollars more a year for property taxes is money well spent for a well -trained dedicated police department who services are invaluable in situations such as these.  Like all cities, Aurora, Colorado had some budget problems, and they were thinking of letting go some first responders.  Don't say  it can't happen in Victoria, because all you have to do is go through the Advocate archives to see where a gun was used at our local college campus.

It's time to join those who are mourning for the victims and their families, and not time to make hasty judgments.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Our Catchphrase Society

We all like to use catch phrases in our day-to-day conversations to emphasize a point or to make it more understandable. Unfortunately like everything else, catch phrases can be a tool for deception  and it's often used to simplify matters that usually require more detail.

I'm starting to simplify political situations for my wife, who’s becoming interested in politics,so can get up to speed. Yesterday, she asked me why President Obama said, "You didn't build that" in reference to small-business owners thinking that their success was due only to their initiative and hard work. Of course, that catch phrase was taken out of context because, before that sentence , he had emphasized what most of us already know. We know that we have a collective society, that's taken for granted. We know that a business success is also what doesn't show up in their balance sheets. Government with taxpayer dollars, built the roads, provided the schools, teachers, library, firemen and police officers as support systems for the consumer and the business owners.Conservatives seem to ignore the DEMAND side of the supply and demand economic equation;most seem to think it's all about the job creators. It is but I like to think the REAL job creators are the consumers.

Recently, the free market ideologues changed what they used to call the free- market because it  can’t possibly be called that if we have a central government. I think the consensus now is to call it a" free enterprise" because that enables them to operate competitively for profit with minimal government regulation. I think free enterprise or the free market is just the exchange of a business transaction between human beings. We know from experience, that when dealings are made between a large number of human beings, generally accepted rules, regulations, and principals must be enforced by a third party. The days of the handshake agreement are gone and show me one country that lets the free market go unfettered, and I will show you a country that's doomed. So when you hear the catch phrases like “job killing bills, job creators, fewer taxes, smaller government and crony capitalism," it's safe to assume that those words were conspired to favor businesses over the rest of us. The catch phrases have to be repeated until most of the people think that government is too incompetent to handle anything except defense. They will call those who oppose their philosophy a socialist or a statist. This is an open door to plutocracy.

The catch phrase" 40 to 50% of the people don't pay income tax" is used as an excuse not to raise taxes on the top 2%. It's used to make those who don't have enough money to pay income tax, look like free loaders instead of people, sometimes ,through no fault of their own,who are down in their luck. It's a diversionary tactic. It goes in line with the catch phrases " everyone has access to health care" and " we have the best health care system in the world, as another trick used to make people think that we don't have to do anything about the rising cost of health care because the insurance companies will figure it all out and do the right thing.”Let's pass the pass the plate, the lobbyists are anxious to go home."

The Republicans are successfully dealing deaf blows to unions using the catch phrase “job killing agreements" and enacting” right to work laws" but like everything else it helps businesses not workers. I've never been in the union; in fact, I was against unions for a selfish reason. You see. I was getting union benefits by using the threat of the union. Collective bargaining is just an agreement between employees and companies, but it's been demonized so much that the only viable unions remaining are in the public sector. We all saw what the Republicans governors are trying to do to them. I do agree that the lucrative union pension contracts that were made several years ago need to be renegotiated to reflect today's economy.

That catchphrase “cliffhanger" is being used to describe today's economic condition... I didn’t get to the word “liberty” but stay tuned and I guarantee you, it will come up.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How I Became a Political Junkie

I’ve only been interested in politics for 20 years, but I can't remember this country being so polarized. My family is not a bit interested in politics, so the subject doesn't come up during family gatherings.

My start began as my wife and I were cruising inside the city limits of Houston (my wife will tell you I was lost as usual) when we stumbled into a gathering around the San Houston Park in downtown Houston, Texas. We walked a little further when a couple of persons handed us Clinton/Gore signs and enthusiastically invited us to stay for the rally. We did, and we enjoyed our first political speech; I was really impressed with the young governor from Arkansas. It was a rare time in my life because I can't remember whether I voted for Bush or Governor Dukakis in 1988 but I know that I've always liked President George H.W. Bush, then again I might have been starting to lean toward the  Democrats before 1992. Six days later I voted for Bill Clinton and never looked back.

After the 1992 election, I found out how much  politics meant to some of my coworkers. I've heard a little of the Clinton put downs before the election, but I ignored it, for some reason. After the election, it became a daily ritual which didn't really affect me until someone asked why I didn't participate in what they thought were true statements. I told them that I had voted for Bill Clinton, so that put me in their cross hairs. I quickly found out that I was outnumbered, so that meant that I had a little margin for error. I've always loved economics, taxes, and anything to do with math, so all I had to do was work on foreign policy, if I was going to stand a chance with the Clinton haters.

I was put on a spot one morning in January of 1998 ,after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke out. I remembered going into the break room where a lot of my buddies expected me to apologize for Bill Clinton. My answer came naturally, I remember saying that Monica was the same age as one of my daughters and Bill Clinton was my age and Lewinsky's boss, so it was wrong. I didn't use the consensual sex excuse, but instead I said it was reprehensible and he should be punished. When the Republicans decided to impeach him, I said it was not a high crime and misdemeanor offense, but since their minds were already made up; I thought censure would have been appropriate. Then one of my loudmouth friends walked up to me and said I was an apologist, and I replied “the only difference between man is opportunity." I'm not someone's fool because I always believed that Bill Clinton was a womanizer, but that didn't have a thing to do with being president. I stood my ground for eight years without much help, but it didn't have to be that way because I saw a lot of my fellow coworkers the day Bill Clinton came to Victoria in 2008. I told them I could've used their help, but they said from their perspective, I had it well in hand.

Two years ago, I decided to stay out of the “and you're another one" Sean Hannity type face- offs with my VA opponents and tried to force them to have a serious discussion on the issues. Periodically, I slipped back to my old habits, but I have come to realize that I'm playing on their home turf, when I do that. I'll let someone else fight those who believe Obama is not an American or that Hillary is employing someone from the Muslim Brotherhood as Michelle Bachmann is spouting.

Today, the Obama campaign is controlling the agenda because of Romney’s refusal to submit at least 10 years of tax returns, and it will haunt him until he does. The issue of the day will then turn to taxes again, and the Republicans will emphasize the debt. The Democrats will emphasize income inequality and the merry- go and- round keeps spinning. All we are doing is recycling the same issues without solutions. That's got to come to a head because in January, the budget cuts on defense spending are real because of the sequester deal both parties made. I can't believe a former vice president, who went out with a 13% approval was invited back to the house to rally the troops against the defense budget cuts.

I still wish the VA would go back to a version of their old format, which will allow me to answer my detractors. I don't expect that to happen anytime soon, if ever, and so I've laid out the topics of my blogs as if I was getting paid to do this...:- ..Friday's blog will be about the role of government and the myths of government spending. Republicans might not want to read my blog on the last two weeks of October up until the election because it's going to be 100% pro President Obama, but that shouldn't surprise my Republican friends.

I know some of you have told me that your political interest came naturally because of your family’s interest and other’s have a penchant for local politics but not for national politics. I  also know a lot of readers don’t like politics at all. Feel free to share.

Note the  YouTube video of Clinton’s speech is 32 minutes long and the Clinton speech is at the  11.42 mark

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Dog Days of Summer

There is not a lot Congress will do before the summer recess, so the pundits will have to make a “mountain out of a molehill” and continue that theme over the summer. that makes it difficult for political junkies like me to find topics to discuss,so I’m forced to combine several pending issues. And that’s the reason they call it the “Dog Days of Summer.”

I think the defining your opponent period of this presidential campaign is confusing and boring for most. When my wife asked me what all the hoopla was about; I gave her a simple answer of “the Obama campaign set a trap, and Romney fell for it." I then told her that Mr. Romney couldn't run on his expertise of running a business and transitioning that experience to the White House; if he couldn't answer the questions, he's been asked since 1994. His Republican opponents also questioned his business ethnics and have asked for several years of back income tax returns. Mr. Romney was reluctant to do that, so he's stuck in a no man's land. I'm fairly certain that Mitt Romney didn't do anything illegal, but those tax returns may reveal just how rich he really is and how little he paid in taxes. If his 2000 and 2001 income tax returns show that he got paid as a CEO for Bain Capital; it will be one more document where he has to explain the words “retired retroactively."

The Obama campaign attack ads are working despite Karl Rowe's white board showing a Gallup Poll that had Obama ahead by one point before the Bain Capital ads and tied at 47 after the ads were shown. The Obama ran the ads in the battle ground states where polls show that he gained substantially. Mitt Romney couldn't stand the Bain ad heat anymore, so he called a press conference with all the major networks to try to explain his side, but he maintained his arrogance of not releasing his tax returns. That stance is starting to get on the nerves of the leaders of his party. I'm really surprised and pleased with the Obama campaign because, as Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of the Nation said “republicans usually go for the juggler and democrats go for the capillaries."

I prefer to stay on the issues where  believe it are not; I'm beginning to learn more of how everything is interconnected. I heard some good ideas this weekend having to to do with the SNAP (food stamp) program and farm subsidies. The president of a farm group in Iowa said that they like those on welfare who would rather receive a fair price for their crops  or wages  rather than government subsides. He said it the big corporate farms are making a lot of money because 26 farms receive direct payments of $1 million each in farm subsidies. Granted, I don't know anything about farming but this man said that he would rather be paid a fair steady price for his corn and soybeans, than for the government supplementing him for the low prices of his crops. He disclosed that the two crop rotation makes his land venerable to harmful insects.He said, “we don't want to outsource, illegal immigration, or pay $10.00 for a head of lettuce; that presents a problem." He also said, "right now we are importing most of our food in order for the big farm corporations to get rich." The agriculture industry cannot survive unless we find a way to keep the prices low with cheap labor.

The panel agreed that we can lower our welfare payments by setting the minimum wage to a livable standard. This bad economy has put 46 million people on the Snap program. Food stamps went from $17 billion to $76 billion during this recession. How much is that? That comes out to be $253 per each member of a household, if you believe that your taxes are earmarked to pay for this expenditure. A representative from the SNAP Program said that 87% of the recipients on food stamps are for the elderly, children, and single moms. There are exceptions to the rule but only about 1% of the pay outs involve fraud to the tune of $760 million.

All those programs are interconnected and managed by well informed lobbyists. When the question came up of restricting the use of food stamps on non sugary items; the sugar lobby shut that down. Some congressman wanted to restrict those on food stamps from buying store bought cakes or sodas. It was quickly brought out that they could legally buy all the ingredients to make the cake. It's a rule that could not be readily enforced, unless you expect full corporations from the grocery stores. Remember once again, when the GOP wants to drastically cut the food stamp program, that money will also be taken away from those government workers who were hired to enforce the rules.

If I could only be more than a " unverified commenter" at VI Cad; I would've had an answer for the letter writers who stated that those of us who voted for President Obama are to blame for our nation’s decline and the other one about Democrats helping those who cannot get a voter ID. The first letter writer did not state his" truth certain" economic policy, the Republicans would have  put in that would have assured us of a quick recovery. The second letter writer is a little more ignorant if that's possible. His blind loyalty keeps him from seeing that voter ID and the way it implemented was just a voter suppression ploy. Since 2002, Texas has cast 39 million votes and only 70 and has been investigated for voter fraud. It's easy to see your motive when you're talking about a minuscule percentage of wrongdoing. It's just another case of wanting to finesse the issues.

The GOP might have a peaceful convention now that Ron Paul lost in Nebraska  this past weekend. Mitt Romney doesn’t even have to give him a prime-time speaking role since he didn’t get the 5 states he needed to challenge the presumptive nominee.That long-shot attempt at beating Romney has now ended. Republicans,Mitt Romney is your nominee.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The day after the rains

It must be an old man thing, where certain things trigger a mind- wandering experience of yesteryear, or as I like to call it" simpler times." This morning, the calming affect of the rain stopping, took me back to the mid 1950s through the very early 1960s.

We didn't have the electronic marvels of today, so we had to create our own amusement. Right now, I can just picture my children rolling their eyes in unison, saying," Back in my day."

I remember always getting excited about seeing a rainbow after the rain stopped; why, I'll never know. Everything centered around baseball in the neighborhood I grew up in, so we didn't let the wet fields deter us. If it was too muddy outside, we would gather at someone's house or garage and play a baseball card game, we made up. All we needed to play our outside game of stick-ball was the 4 feet of carpet grass that extended on both sides of the driveway to the paved street. A broomstick handle (broom part sawed off) and a tennis ball. It was a three-person game but two could play the game, if the  pitcher didn't mind retrieving the hit ball. I still swear to this day, that it helped us with our hand to eye coordination because a pitcher would throw the ball as hard as he could, from 30 feet away, and we would have to hit that wet tennis ball with the  broom handle. We tried the game with a normal wooden bat but we couldn’t generate enough bat speed with our small wrists and body frame. It would have been nice if we had a nice thick industrial broom handle but our moms bought the cheapies from a, Five-and-dime store or Dick’s.

Some days it was just fun to get on our bicycles and ride through every mud puddle we could find along the way. If we were lucky, some girls were playing hopscotch, jacks, or just walking down the sidewalk, near a puddle of water. You guessed it;It was a race to the puddle to watch the girls scatter or get wet. I can still remember those old black ankle- high tennis shoes drying out on the front porch after a day of restless roving. Mom didn't want mud being tracked through the house ,so sometimes we had to dry them out in the old gas oven and put up with the complaints about them stinking up the house.

I can remember it being pretty quiet(except for us) the day after a rain because no one was no one was mowing their lawn, and if we saw any cars, they were going slow to avoid getting their breaks wet. The adults would be setting on their front porch, drinking a cold brew of their choice, watching the city kids play their silly games.

I think rain effects peoples moods or else there wouldn't be so many songs with the word rain in them.
Here are few:

1.     Singing in the Rain
2.     Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head
3.     Acid Rain
4.     Come Rain or Come Shine
5.     Baby Can You Stop the Rain
6.     After the Rain Has Fallen
7.     Somewhere Over the Rainbow
8.     Rainy Day
9.     Under the Rainbow
10.  Summer Rain
11.  Rain When I Die
12.  Purple Rain
13.  Naked in the Rain
14.  November Rain
15.  Looks Like Rain

      I bet you can add several songs with the word "rain" in it.

  • Do you have any memories from the day after the rains?
    It's another open thread Friday 13th.
  • Thursday, July 12, 2012

    Shame on you,Mitt Romney

    I've been pretty easy on Mitt Romney because I think he's a great family man with moral values, and he did a fantastic job reviving the Winter Olympics. I don't resent his wealth because he didn't do anything illegal, and he should run as being a successful businessman.

    I do wish, that he would be more forthcoming with his tax returns and business dealings because, if you're going to and call your opponent a liar, I think he should have the facts to back it up. I won't take back my flip- flopping comments because it's very hard for me to believe a person can come from saying, " I'll be to the left but Ted Kennedy on gay rights, and I'll fight hard to retain Roe v Wade" to the position he holds today. It's a complete 180 degrees on fundamental social issues.

    I have to give Mitt Romney his props for attending yesterday's NAACP convention in Houston, Texas, unless he was using it for a prop. I'm not a political analyst or a psychiatrist but observing his reaction to the boos, he received, I’ve come to the conclusion that the boos inspired him. It had to be planned because he didn't have the look of surprise; it was more of a look of satisfaction, with a wink and a nod to his base and to the moderates looking for him to pander on that issue. His campaign team knew that repealing health care would be met with resistance, but I don't think they knew why, and I'll give you a couple of examples. The crowd though he used the word Obamacare in the pejorative manner because he doesn't call his health care plan in Massachusetts; Romneycare. The second and most telling is what he said to fundraiser in Hamilton, Montana: "By the way, I had the privilege of speaking today at the NAACP convention in Houston, and I gave them the same speech I am giving you. I don't give different speeches to different audiences alright. I gave them the same speech. When I mentioned I am going to get rid of Obamacare, they weren't happy; I didn't get the same response. That's ok, I want people to know what I stand for, and if I don't stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, that's just fine. But I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy-more free stuff. But don't forget nothing is really free." 

    It's expected that Newt Gingrich would call President Obama, the food stamp president and Rick Santorum targeting black people by saying he doesn't want to make their lives better by giving them welfare. So far, Mitt Romney stayed away from categorizing black people as food stamp recipients. As you can see from the statement Mitt Romney gave, he is resorting to the same tactics. Shame on you, Mitt,you did nothing to stop the bleeding because your speech drove President Obama's approval in the African- American community from 95% to 98%. Mitt Romney must feel pretty good, thinking he made some points with the base, but it's how he did it. Granted, he was in hostile territory but no one was asking him to pander. He could have spoken about the common ground of wanting better education and jobs, to a community that's lacking in both.

    Wednesday, July 11, 2012

    Cell Phone Surveillance on the Rise

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    The Electronic Communications Privacy Act was enacted in 1986, long before the smart phone, and has not been an updated to give guidance to law enforcement of what's legal and what's not. The Supreme Court did rule law enforcement could not attach a GPS tracking device to a vehicle without a warrant but that ruling was so narrow that it didn't specifically deal with cell phones that have GPS capabilities. We know what happens when you don't deal with specifics.

    In 2011, law enforcement agencies made more than 1.3 million requests for consumer cell phone records. It didn't take long for law enforcement to find a gray area between privacy and consumer protection.

    A couple of years ago,my sister was complaining to her daughter because she had  to go buy a new cell phone she had lost at the church's yard sale. My sister had an inexpensive phone with just a few contacts in it, but that didn't stop my niece from telling her husband, who's a Texas City policeman about the situation. While off duty, my niece's husband had called Verizon for a GPS location, which he received. To make a long story short, the person in possession of the phone, said that she had found it and was trying to find its owner. My niece's husband was wrong in so many ways because he didn't ask my sister's permission nor was he on duty. It's not a big deal but laws should be in place to prevent the misinterpretation of the law.

    My carrier, AT&T, has a team of more than 100 workers who handle the requests pouring in from local state and Federal law enforcement agencies. Carriers say that the demand is so large as that they had to start charging law enforcement $25.00 to locate a cell phone using GPS, $25.00 to retrieve a user's text messages and $50.00 for a "cell tower dump." That" cell tower dump" could include your messages and phone calls without your knowledge and permission.

    Representative Ed Markey-D-Mass. Said his investigation into the matter revealed two inappropriate requests from law enforcement and one from someone impersonating a police officer. To their credit, most carriers require a warrant but some comply with a subpoena that is not signed off by a judge.

    There has to be exceptions for emergencies, and at times we have to leave it to the discretion of a 911 call center, as to whether there's an immediate threat to someone's life. Think about that, if it were your loved, one would you want to sit and wait for all the subpoenas and warrants to be signed before first responders can take action?

    I remember being excited because the new Windows 7 was going to be equipped with GPS software that would be able to track your lost computer until a friend reminded me that it could also track you. The civil libertarians put enough pressure on Microsoft to get them to allow users to disable that feature.

    Like many of us I don’t have anything to hide but I want to be treated with the respect every law abiding citizen should have. I don’t want to hinder law enforcement but I don’t want to give them unlimited, unchecked power either.

    I remember the day I was first hired in the old timer took me back to the break room and said, “this is our coffee kitty; we have a lock on it to keep honest people honest." Don't you think it's time for parties involved to amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, if for nothing else to "keep honest people honest?"

    Tuesday, July 10, 2012

    It’s in the Hands of the Independent Voter

    I'm going to vote for President Obama and probably most of you, being Texas Republicans, will vote for Mitt Romney, but I can't help wondering what really goes through the mind of the genuine independent voter. Don't confuse the independent voter with those that say they will choose the lesser of two evils. I've been hearing that since I was of voting age. That's just a sign of frustration because their ideal candidate was not chosen. As John McCain used to say, “it’s time for straight talk."

    I'm interested in that independent voter because he or she will be the decider. what do they really think? The straight-line party voters will do what they normally do, but it's those 10% to 20% who will ultimately decide the election. We are so polarized that the election will be won by those who live in the so -called battle ground states. Today, the battle ground states are in the Midwest, north central, and Florida. It doesn't matter if 90 % of Texans vote for Mitt Romney, he will only get 34 electoral votes of the 270, he will need to get elected. Mitt Romney can forget about California and New York and there’s no way that he can win without winning Ohio. We are that predictable.

    Yesterday the president again rolled out his middle- class tax cut for those making less than making less than $250,000. My Republican friends, who will never make $250,000 taxable income, tell me it's a tax increase on the job creators. They also tell me that the tax increase is an impediment which keeps small businesses from hiring. I reminded him that the President George W. Bush cut taxes two times, but the jobs didn't follow. Then they will tell me that you don't raise taxes on anyone in a recession. I quickly remind them that our greatest rates of growth were in the 1950s when the marginal tax rates were from 85% to 90%. We can argue whether those and that high bracket ever paid that amount, but they did keep more money in the business rather than pay taxes to the government. When my friends ran out of  their old talking points, which wasn't working, they pulled out the Ronald Reagan card. I agreed with them that President Reagan lowered the top marginal rate from 90% to 28%, and revenues started pouring in. I then reminded them that President Reagan raised taxes six times during that period. As the late Senator Moynihan used to say “Simply put, semantic infiltration is the process whereby we come to adopt the language of our adversaries in describing political reality. That's what frustrates me about my Democrats; the popularity of taxing the wealthy is on their side; however, they allow the Republicans to intimidate them with the "T" word. I don’t think the independents are swayed by either argument.

    I suspect that the independent voter is not comfortable with the current economy and how it affects their household more than they do about Mitt Romney's vacation in the Hamptons. They're probably concerned about all the money that's being spent in this election; yet they see their problems unresolved, and they see an unwillingness to do anything besides play the blame game. Many of them saw record high temperatures throughout the nation causing millions of people to lose power, yet you won't see either party discuss climate change or our 100 year old power grid, especially now, since it has cooled down. Unfortunately, we don't hear much from the independent voter because they're working two jobs to make ends meet, worrying about whether their company will retain them with the same benefits and concerned that their children will not get the education they need. I don't think that they really care what party does what because they are more results oriented. Studies show that if a voter casts their vote in two consecutive years for the same party, they will continue that pattern. The studies also show that independents will outnumber Democrats and Republicans in future years unless the parties start doing something besides playing the blame game.

    Television has made it worse;I can recite both parties talking points and give their arguments;not because I'm brilliant ;it's because politicians know they are on camera and they stay on the message of the day. American companies are having a hard time trying to advertise their products in the battle ground states because the political ads taking up all the space.  Being spontaneous is a political liability.

    Sunday, July 8, 2012

    Here I go Again


    I thought I could turn the page and move on, but this health care issue is still at center stage, and my side doesn't want to defend the Affordable Care Act as much as the opposition wants to destroy it.

    It's almost like defending the indefensible because most Americans have health care, and they worry about how we are going to insure 30 million more people, without jacking up their premiums. It's a legitimate worry and the government, regardless of the party, doesn't have a stellar record that instills trust.

    The basic idea of consumers paying more for their own coverage to control costs is fundamental in both parties but the Republican plan doesn't expand coverage, so it leaves the market open for free loaders.

    Fareed Zakaria, one of my favorite journalists and authors, said what I've been saying all along, “the markets work imperfectly in this realm." He quoted some studies conducted by the pharmaceutical company Novartis and McKinsey and Company showing a difference among countries with regard to a health- care efficiency.

    For example: Smoking rates in France are much higher so the French population has a higher rate of lung disease. The French system is able to treat the disease a lot more efficiently and spends eight times less on treatments per person than we do. Another example is Britain, which handles diabetes far more effectively than the United States while spending less than half of what we do. The British System is five times more productive in managing diabetes than the United States.

    The United States does better, battling breast cancer because of early screening and easy access to advance treatment, making us one of the most effective places to treat this disease.

    What is common in the three examples? You guessed it, a systematic approach that gives all health -care provider's providers incentive to focus on early detection and cost effective treatments, and that makes wellness the goal.

    Name me one politician or political party who would tell their constituents the absolute truth? By the truth, I mean, that they must accept the fact that these consumers will never be expert enough to know what product is best. Choosing between hundreds of policies may be a great free market idea, but it's unrealistic. Imagine any politician telling their constituents that they can lower their healthcare premiums by eating less, quit smoking and eating less junk food and seeking preventive care. For more you can read Fareed's article.

    I read another interesting article by Donna Dubinsky, businesswoman who played an integral role in the development of personal digital assistants (PDAs) serving as CEO of Palm, Inc. and co-founding Handspring with Jeff Hawkins in 1995. I wish that she would have given the oral arguments before the Supreme Court.

    Donna, after the fact, would have answered Justice Samuel Alito argument that most uninsured people either do not want to pay for insurance or cannot afford it, a lot better than the government did.. He said anyone can get health insurance.

    Donna Dubinsky said if you're not employed, and you want to purchase insurance in the private market you cannot unilaterally to do so. An insurer  does not have to accept you as a customer. And quite often they do not. Insurance companies prefer group plans because it spreads the risk. Can you blame them? The individual plan is a lot of work, a higher risk, and produces little revenue.

    The Government Accountability Office found that on average, 19% of the applicants nationwide are denied. One-quarter of insurers denied more than 40% of the applicants they considered. The reasons were not limited to deadly illnesses. You can expect to be denied if you have asthma, if you take just about any prescription medicine, or if you are more than 15% overweight. Expect to be denied if your doctor has recommended any procedure for you.

    The Supreme Court successfully framed what can now be considered the limited conditions of the commerce clause in the constitution.

    Donna Dubinsky thinks the government failed in its response because(1) health-care is a service or product that everyone must have at some point in their lives (2) the market for that service does not function if it can turn away buyers.

    You might ask, how about burial services? Good question,it passes the first test, but fails on the second because  no seller of those services will turn your away.

    Why couldn’t Congress pass a law requiring insurance companies to accept all applications? That obviously would fail because only sick people would seek insurance-because healthy people would wait until they got ill, knowing health Insurance was guaranteed.

    The only answer for now is the Affordable Health Care Act because it expands the pool and spreads the risk.

    Friday, July 6, 2012

    Small City Problem

    Just when I start to think that my hometown is growing by leaps and bounds; something comes up to remind me that isn't so.

    It's been a couple of weeks since we called two glass companies for an estimate to repair our coffee table. Both companies told me that it would be less expensive if we brought the heavy old coffee table to their place of business, so they could measure it. They also told, me about the precise measurements that I would need. I asked them to give an estimate for an in- place measurement. They quickly told, me that it be over $100 to be included in the price of the replacement glass. They said that they would call back to set up an appointment. They could've been upfront and just told me that they didn't generally make house calls. It's been two weeks, so I guess their answer is; empty the drawers, load the coffee table and we will measure the table on our parking lot. They can say this because I don't have another choice: I'm not going to ask someone from Houston to come take measurements. I'm stuck with the summer student who will take the measurements because their more experience people are out doing the major jobs. Their competition will do the same thing because we just don't have that many choices.

    It irritates me to no end when the clerk tells me" we can order it for you." That's nice, but I'm capable of doing that. My other complaint is when the service department tells made they will have to order the parts, which generally takes two weeks. I could walk to Houston and back in that length of time...well maybe not, but you get the picture.

    You see what you have done glass companies of Victoria? Now you have gone and made me blame our fair city for disrupting my day of laziness. I now have to load the coffee table, drive across town for measurements and afterwards bring it back home, and then unload it. I hope it's not a long wait for them to call me to inform me that the glass is ready to be picked up. I hope the measurements will be accurate because I know one old man who will get mighty upset if he has to do it over again.

    My step-dad would have taken the measurement; added a little bit, bought the glass and then would have filed it down to what he thought was good enough. He didn’t care what it looked like because he would’ve said” hide it with a magazine.” Simpler times..:-)

    I bet you all wish that Victoria could handle all our needs but we have a way to go.

    Thursday, July 5, 2012

    Gasoline Prices are Dropping..Good or Bad?

    I'm probably one of the very few that don't get overly excited over low gasoline prices. To be clear, I'm happy for the industries that are dependent on cheap fuel prices and for those who cannot afford the high cost of gasoline. I get it, because I've never convinced my wife that low gasoline price is not necessarily a good thing, so I understand that they are not many people who will agree with me. I concede, owing a Prius, might be influencing my thoughts a little bit. I still am wondering if those who were blaming the president for high gasoline prices three months ago because he didn't sign the Keystone XL Pipeline Project, will give the president credit for the today's gasoline prices. The XL project has not begun, and oil prices are falling. That was a rhetorical question because presidents have nothing to do with the oil prices that are sold on the open world market. I'm not saying that it won't enhance the president's chances of getting reelected, if gasoline is selling for less than $3.00 a gallon in November. We always have to factor in the low information voter.

    I may not be a full fledged wracked environmentalist (I didn’t mention of how the microorganisms would be hurt) but I can see our environment, especially if EPA laws are severely restricted, take a huge hit. I'm not ready to blame greenhouse emissions for the Colorado fires, but I can see where it might've been a part of the intensity of the fires. I'm not ready to compare local weather reports but horrendous wildfires, heat waves, droughts,severe hurricanes,tornadoes and massive flooding ,all the fall into the extreme climate conditions scientists have warned us about. I assume we have all heard of the intensity a 1° rise in temperature in the ocean can cause. We can't restrict climate-change weather patterns to the United States, even though we are the world's largest greenhouse-gas emitter. I recall the warning from, James Hansen, NASA climatologist, saying that if we started tapping into the Canadian oil sand, it would probably boost our crude production for many years to come, but in his words could mean" game over" for the environment.


    Our current economic slowdown has reduced our demand for oil; hence the lower prices.

    When I'm not worrying about the environment, I worry about the clean green energy innovators who will give up trying to find the next great alternative energy. You can bet that China will use all the oil and coal they can, but they will have a lot of scientists working on alternative fuels. I can see start-ups like the Massachusetts A123 system which provides lithium-ion batteries for electronic cars might be filing for bankruptcy at today's prices, even with their large government subsides. The same for plug-ins like the Chevy Volt and Nissan leaf. Didn't we learn anything from the oil embargo of 1974?

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    We will continue to use oil because it's a cheap energy source, but the price at the pump does not factor in the health and environmental hazards. Fossil fuels will be with us for a long time but as of today, it's not an infinite source of energy. We need an energy plan that would incorporate a manageable safe use of crude oil and include a plan for alternative clean energy.

    Tuesday, July 3, 2012

    Tax,Penalty,Fee or who Cares?

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    It shouldn't surprise anyone that we're constantly engaging in the war of semantics, instead of rolling up our sleeves to fix the problems that are keeping us in this rut. The latest battle is finding the proper word to use to describe the Affordable Health Care Act. Is it a tax, penalty, or fee? I'll dwell more into that later, but if my insurance premiums rise, it will be an increase in expenses for my household budget. It could just be that my old company decided to pay a lesser portion, my insurance company decided to raise their premiums for unknown reasons, or perhaps it was part of a fee but I am not one of those who will receive a tax or penalty for not purchasing health care. I am not one of those approximately 4 million folks ,who will decide that just don’t want to buy health insurance.

    It's funny how both presidential candidates insist that health care law is a penalty and not a tax for obvious reasons. I tend to go along with their reasoning because, if, in fact, we are using the Internal Revenue for a reference, then the Internal Revenue Service is authorized to assess penalties for various tax violations and deciding to opt out of health insurance(free rider) would fit nicely in the code. For example, if you decide to withdraw from a deferred compensation plan, that taxable portion of that withdrawal would be taxed at ordinary income rates, but you would be assessed a 10% percent penalty if you were not 59 1/2 years old at the time of withdrawal.

    I understand why Republicans want to call it a tax; it's in their DNA. They do have a problem because their nominee for president is calling the Act a penalty because, if it's called a tax, the Democrats would say that he raised taxes in Massachusetts; something that Mitt Romney adamantly denies. The Republicans go on and say that it's the largest tax increase in history, but  that talking point draws four Pinocchio's from the Washington Post's fact checking site, Politifact. Mitt Romney does admit that he raised user fees but he is one of those Republicans, who doesn't think a fee is a tax. I remember telling my conservative friends at work that the only difference between parties is how they raise revenue. Back in the day when we used to have democratic governors in Texas; I would say, yes your Republican governor cut property taxes but  he raised fees to pay for them. The democratic governor had to come and raise taxes to repair the neglected infrastructure. Democrats cannot erase that “tax and spend “depiction but my party didn't put in enough effort in tying the label “borrow and spend" Republicans around their neck. Republicans slipped out of that noose because they convinced their constituents that they are the party of fiscal responsibility. I've always said that Republicans are great campaigners, but they can't govern.

    The conservatives are still angry at Justice Roberts, but they're saying that he called the whole Affordable Health Care Act a tax. No, he's specifically said that the Act is not constitutional under the commerce clause, but it could fit in the taxing powers of Congress. The first time that Justice Roberts has ever sided with the more liberal side of the court caused a political firestorm of conspiracies. The liberals are cautioning their side to remember how Justice Roberts has voted in the past and how he would likely rule in upcoming and cases such as: affirmative action, voter rights, and DOMA. I can't believe how Republicans overlooked the fact that Roberts made it extremely difficult for future legislation to be included in the commerce clause. He also made it possible for Republicans to gin up their base to get the numbers; they need to repeal the whole Affordable Health Care Act. The court by a 7-2 margin voted against the Federal government mandating the extension of Medicaid. That was huge, because, if the red states opt out, it will mean that 6.2 million people will not be injured. that’s nearly half of those eligible. It's funny how the conservative states that want to opt out for political reasons have the most uninsured people and would be benefited more or as Howard Dean called it “Intellectual Malpractice."


    Meanwhile, the Affordable Health Care Act will be used by the populace as a dumping ground for their complaints; a lot of them will automatically blame their premium increase on the law, allowing the health insurance companies to scathe free.

    Irony or hypocrisy?" According to an analysis by The Huffington Post, dozens of Republicans who want to repeal Obamacare have adult children who are allowed to stay on their parents' health plans thanks to the law, which extended this benefit nationwide. Many of the lawmakers' children are employed and on their own health care plans, but others continue to take advantage of their parents' coverage."