Friday, September 30, 2005

Wal-Mart Takes Japan In Seiyu Purchase

In a move to increase it's market share in Japan, Wal-Mart announced it will take a majority interest in the supermarket chain Seiyu, based in Tokyo. The company has been steadily increasing it ownership in the company since 2002 and will purchase over 50% over the company in a recently announced move. Wal-Mart is trying to find new markets in which to grow the company because the U.S. is going though a business slow down at the moment and if the company wants to continue growing, it will have to be from outside the United States.

Wal-Mart also faces many other problems besides growth in the U.S. market. Many workers across the country are filing lawsuits because of sex discrimination and unfair or illegal labor practices. Also, many Wal-Mart locations are and have been attempting to organize a union for workers, which is being fought on all fronts by the company. Wal-Mart is a big target for the labor movement and I don't see the company winning all these battles. It's going to be very hard to keep the company non-union in all 50 states.

I'm not a big fan of Wal-Mart and only shop there when I have no other choices. However, many people love their stores and as long as they keep their prices low, I can't see anyone that can challenge their dominance in the U.S. or possible worldwide markets.

September 2005 Stories By Date:
01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15
16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31

'Into The Blue' - New Weekend Movies

Nationwide movie premiers this weekend:
  • The Greatest Game Ever Played: An amateur player from a working class family, Francis Ouimet shocked the golf world when at the 1913 U.S. Open, flanked by his 10-year-old caddie, he defeated his idol, the defending British champion Harry Vardon.
  • Into the Blue: A thriller set in the deep, shark-infested waters of the Bahamas. When four young divers discover a legendary shipwreck rumored to contain millions in gold at the bottom of the sea, they believe their dream of buried treasure has come true.
  • The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: Evelyn Ryan is a devoted housewife and mother of ten in the 1950s. Her husband can't seem to make ends meet, but that doesn't stop the car from breaking down, the mortgage coming due and the bills from piling up.
  • Serenity: Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran on the losing side of a galactic civil war, now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity.

Bush Poll Numbers Up In Recent Days

In two (2) new national public opinion polls President Bush has recovered slightly from the bad approval ratings he suffered during the poor response of the government during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a new CNN/USAToday/Gallup and a different poll conducted by Fox News, President Bush has gain five (5) points since the worst of the news during the hurricane disaster.

President Bush now has a 45% job approval rating compared to a 40% rating during the first few days after Hurricane Katrina. That approval rating was the lowest of his presidency. During the past ten (10) days, the president has visited Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas so many times that some in the media have begun to criticize him for going down there too much. In my view, better to be criticized for doing more than less.

We'll just have to keep an eye on these polls for the rest of the year. If the presidents approval ratings stay in the 40-45 percent range, members of the Republican lead Congress will be very reluctant to implement his policies. Remember House of Representative members stand for reelection every two years.

Burbank California Fire Out of Control

A new fire in the hills above Burbank California has grown and firefighters have no idea when they will be able to get the fire out. Residents are currently being evacuated to safer areas. Glendale and La Crescenta California are also in the path of the fire.

This is only the latest fire to break out in the Los Angeles area. Dry conditions and lack of humidity are creating prefect conditions for wildfires to start and grow quickly.

Google Wins Age Discrimination Suit

A California judge has ruled in favor of Google, Inc. in an age discrimination suit filed by a former manager who was fifty four (54) at the time of his termination. Brian Reid, filed suit against the company in 2004. Judge William Elfving, said that Reid had not proven his case against Google.

Because of his termination, Reid lost a salary of two hundred thousand (200,000) dollars per year and stock options valued at thirty seven (37) million dollars. Google legal council, Amy Lambert, said the company was please with the courts decision. It's is extremely difficult to prove age discrimination, but it does exist. Maybe not in this case, but it is out there and it effects millions of people.

Chaplain Blames U.S. For 9/11 Attacks

Intikab Habib, was scheduled to become the next chaplain of the New York City Fire Department today, but he decided to resign instead. Why? One hour before he was to be sworn into the job, he conducted a Newsday interview where he stated that he doubted the U.S. government claim that nineteen (19) terrorist were responsible for the 9/11 attacks in New York City. He believes a wider government conspiracy lead to the attacks in September of 2001.

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, said he believes that Habib would have a difficult time serving as the top chaplain in the department with those kind of views. I totally agree with the commissioner. Habib studied Islam in Saudi Araba. It's amazing that Habib's views were not known before he was approved for this position in the first place. Considering the painful losses the FPNY suffered on September 11, 2001, I don't believe Habib was the best person to fill this position.

Emotions are still raw for many families and victims of the attacks on New York and Washington. Whoever is in charge of selecting the next chaplain should definitely know that persons opinions on this subject, before he/she is offered the job.

Red Cross Under Fire For Katrina Aid

On tonight's addition of the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, there was a story about some problems that have been reported with the Red Cross response to Hurricane Katrina. According to their report, some items like food have been wasted because leaders at the Red Cross have not listened to local volunteers and sent things that were not needed. Their organization has raised one billion dollars for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

I say, give the Red Cross a break. They are doing the best they can in an impossible recovery situation. It's not like they are intentionally involved in misallocation money or stealing it. This hurricane caused more damage than any other natural disaster in our nations history. I believe they are an honest organization and they are doing their best.

In many ways, the Red Cross learned lessons from the 9/11 tragedy. During that time they were criticized, and rightfully so, for telling contributors that 100% of their gifts would go to aid people effected by the attacks. However, it turned out they were sandbagging money for other needs and that fact when exposed hurt them for a time.

Thank God there are organizations, like the Red Cross, who are willing to attack large problems like natural disasters.

Bird Flu Could Kill 150 Million

The World Health Organization is predicting that bird flu could kill one hundred and fifty (150) million people. I'm not sure if they are just trying to get our attention, which they did with a comment like that, or serious about this terrible prediction. I have seen stories on the news wires for several weeks about the outbreak of bird flu in various parts of the world, but with so many other U.S. stories to talk about, I've just ignored this subject until now.

Bird Flu starts with birds, but when spread to humans, it can be spread from human to human without any type of medication that is successful in treating this illness. Major outbreaks have been seen in Asia and recently in Russia. This problem is getting the attention of Congress and President Bush, who commented on the problem today. I will educate myself about this illness and the potential for outbreak and post additional comments in the near future.

Marine General Peter Pace Becomes Chairman

General Peter Pace was sworn in Friday to become the first marine to server as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Pace has been very visible over the past few years at the side of retiring General Richard Myers. President Bush stated his confidence in Pace and said he looked forward to working with him in the upcoming months. General Myers is retiring after four (4) years of service.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the primary advisor to the President of the United States on military matters. However, he does not have a place in the military chain of command.

Command structure descends from the President to the Secretary of Defense to field commanders. While not in the actual chain of command, the chairman is in almost daily contact with the President and most leaders consider the opinions of the chairman to be very valuable.

Health Insurance Costs Are Going Up

I received a noticed from my employer that group health insurance premiums were going up next month. The cost of health insurance is so high now it's hard to afford, but to make matters worse, it goes up a couple of times per year and these increases are not small amounts, either.

Something needs to be done about the soaring cost of health care in the United States. I consider myself lucky. Millions of people don't have any health insurance coverage so they are totally dependent on city and county governments to pay for their healthcare.

Why does the cost of healthcare go up faster than the rate of inflation? It always does and I don't really understand the reason.

Certainly legal malpractice issues play a part in this, but competition is a part, too. There doesn't seem to be enough doctors and hospitals for a good competitive environment. Some doctors require at least a one week advance appointment just to get into see them.

If premiums continue to rise at the present rate, soon I will no longer be able to afford health insurance. I guess when that time comes, I'll just have to depend on the county government because there is no way the average person could come close to being able to pay a hospital bill these days.

Bill Bennett Abortion Comments

For years, I've enjoyed listening to Bill Bennett comment about the issues of the day. I don't listen to his radio program, but I've had respect for his views and opinions. That's why I was so shocked by what he said on his radio show recently. His comments were:

"If you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.”

Bill, what were you thinking? Are you a closet racist and I'm just now figuring that out? I know things are taken out of context all the time these days, but those words should have never come out of your mouth, even in some kind of example to a callers question. If you are a racist, you sure had me fooled.

The good thing about Bennett has always been that he is consistent in his political views and those views seemed reasonable to me, but one stupid comment like this will make me and others more cautious of your past and future opinions on the issues of the day.

American Airlines Cancels Flights

In an attempt to save money because of rising fuel cost, American Airlines has cut fifteen (15) flights per day. AA is just the latest example of what has been happening since fuel prices have skyrocketed this year and the situation is going to get worse, if prices don't come back down to reasonable levels.

The U.S. economy can't survive high fuel cost for long, because everything that makes the economy work is dependant on low cost fuel. Shopping, jobs, transportation and the products we depend upon are all tied to the availability of cheap and dependable fuel. Without low fuel prices, we will sink into a recession. However, don't worry, the price of oil will be coming down soon because it is not in OPEC's best interest to keep prices high for a long period of time. Remember, that the U.S. deficit is financed by billions of dollars of debt and the U.S. bankers are the major oil producing countries of the middle east.

These middle east countries don't want to see their investments put at risk, so prices will come down. When a country can't live within its means, this is what happens. Government overspending puts the U.S. in the position of having to borrow money from counties we have no business borrowing money from in the first place. This has been going on for decades, ever since the United States moved from the gold standard to the debtor standard of fiscal policy.

Anna Nichole Smith Goes To Court

This should be an interesting case in the U.S. Supreme Court. Attorney's for Anna Nichole Smith will be arguing her case that she is entitled to some four hundred (400) million dollars plus from her late husbands estate. An appeals court has ruled that she was not entitled to the money because her husband did not include her in his will.

This case has been in the news for years. When they first wed, the tabloids were all over this story because her husband, Howard Marshall, was eighty six (86) years old, to Anna's twenty three (23). It's so strange what money will do to some people. Mr. Marshall's son, Pierce has maintained that his father was senile and couldn't make rational decision at the time.

Welcome to the high court, Justice Roberts. Sure you really wanted this job?

Happy Days Are Here Again?

Really? The way leaders in New Orleans are talking these days, you would think that the good times are back in their city and folks should just rush in and start parting like they use to. What? It's barely been a month since New Orleans was damaged by high winds and almost totally flooded by hurricane Katrina. I know they need the business and the tax revenue that comes with it, but would the average person feel safe knowing that there is still no clean running water in the city? I doubt it.

It just takes time to recover from a disaster this large and it's going to take a LOT of time before New Orleans looks anything like the city is use to be. Just opening the French Quarter isn't going to inspire confidence. Where are the people who visit suppose to stay? In their cars? On the streets? A positive mental attitude and reality can sometime be in conflict and that's what's happening here.

I believe most people in the country want to see New Orleans come back and be the city it use to be and I think that will happen in time, at least in the downtown district. However, what the city leaders are trying to do is get the patient up and moving around before he's ready and if you do that, it could lead to complications that will delay the healing process.

Party town will be back and people will come from all over the world. It's just not going to come back this quick.

Doctor Death Goes Straight

Jack Kevorkian, nicknamed Dr. Death, said in an interview with MSNBC cable television that he will NOT resume helping people die if release from prison. While he still believes that doctor assisted suicide is the right thing to do, he will not personally help people, in the future, that want to take their own life. Kevorkian is serving a ten (10) to twenty five (25) year sentence for assisting in the suicide of some one hundred and thirty (130) people. The seventy seven (77) year old doctor will become eligible for parole in 2007.

There are some that believe that Jack Kevorkian is nothing more than a murder, while others believe he is the guardian angel of the dying who want to die with dignity in their final days. As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle. People that are depressed and not terminally ill should not get within a country mile of this guy, they need therapy and medication. However, a person that is dying of cancer and only has a few weeks to live and nothing is relieving their suffering, no matter how hard their doctor tries, is a different situation, entirely.

My father died of pancreatic cancer and I know that no matter how much morphine you put into some people with that condition, they are not going to be without pain. Thank goodness for a group called hospice who will continue to give medicine, even if it's over the recommended amount to patients. In the final few weeks of my dads life, he would have preferred to just let go and die and I don't think that would have been the wrong decision. However, that's not the way things work in this country, so he had to suffer a few more weeks until the cancer destroyed a vital organ and he could finally die.

In many states you can be arrested for letting an animal suffer like this, without putting it down. However, we don't give the same consideration to humans in this country.

I just don't get it and maybe I never will.

California Burns As 3000 Firefighters Battle Blaze

Three thousand (3000) firefighters are battling a seventeen thousand (17,000) acre wildfire in the hills and valleys around Los Angeles, California. Dry conditions and high winds are making it difficult to get the fire under control. Multi-Million dollars homes have been threatened and some destroyed by this out of control fire. At the present time, firefighters are trying to keep the fire from spreading to other areas of southern California.

It's very strange when you consider that the southern United States is still suffering from too much water caused by hurricane flooding, then when you look out west, you see people suffering from fires because there is not enough water, caused by lack of rain and humidity. I guess it just goes to show how large the United States really is. Sometimes it's easy to forget that size, when jets can cross the country in four hours and with television news that can take us anywhere, any time.

I'm sure with all the bad news from the south and now from the west, the gloom and doom people are going to be getting ready to spin their stories of all the things that are wrong with the U.S. and the world. I'm just not going to listen. I'm praying for the folks in southern California and the firefighters who are risking their lives to save people and property in the path of this monster fire storm.

New Orleans Looter Cops Are Suspended

Four (4) New Orleans police officers that were accused of looting in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina have been suspended. New Orleans police officials say they will have no tolerance for officers that violate the law. Other police officials have been reassigned and the Chief of Police, quit his job just the other day. All this kind of makes me wonder what was going on in the New Orleans police department before the hurricane hit the city. It sounds like it was a mess, to say the least.

Remember the reports that hundreds of police officers didn't show up for work after the hurricane hit? Something doesn't sound right about that story. I also remember how the media has been blasted for not reporting accurately during the hurricanes aftermath, so I will take all of this new reporting with a BIG grain of salt.

There have been whispers about the wide spread corruption in the New Orleans police department for years. Just like any department, I'm sure there are good cops and bad cops. I always hope that the good out number the bad, but that might have more to do with the police leadership than the actual rank and file members of the department.

With the type of scrutiny that New Orleans is receiving these days, it's no wonder that problems will be found there. I don't think any police department or for that matter, individual, could look good with that many different eyes looking at everything they have done. Just more of the same blame game politics, probably. There are just different players this week.

New Chief Justice 'Roberts' Takes Oath

John G. Roberts Jr., took the oath of office yesterday afternoon to become only the seventeenth (17) chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. Roberts, age 50, could become the nations longest serving chief justice on the court, considering his youth and the nations increased lifespan. Roberts was sworn in by sitting Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens in the presence of his wife, Jane, and President George W. Bush.

I hope Justice Roberts turns out to be a good choice for the job. As we've seen in the past, no one really knows how a justice will rule before they get selected. Many times, they turn out to have totally different positions than was expected by the public or even the presidents that selected them. President Bush knows this fact all to well because his father was one of the latest Presidents that selected a justice he thought would rule one way and then he turned out to rule in a different way.

Many partisans what Supreme Court justices that will follow the political winds of the people that select and confirm them and it's reassuring to find out that these justices take their job seriously and understand that we have a separation of powers, in this country, for a reason. It seems like the Supreme Court is the ONLY place in government these days that is above politics and I hope it stays that way.

We have too much politics in this country already. I believe the founding fathers knew exactly what they were doing when they set up three separate, but equal, branches of government.

Judith Miller Released From Jail

New York Times report, Judith Miller was freed yesterday, after eighty six (86) days in jail, when a source said she could discuss their conversations and she is now expected to appear this morning (Friday) before a grand jury. Earlier, Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine, when faced with the same jail threat, was released by his source to speak to the grand jury. My thinking is, that the sources are not the same, or this source would have released Miller, to talk, at the same time as Cooper.

Most major media companies are against reporters giving up sources under any condition because they fell it is their constitutional right to have confidential sources and it's vital to keep these sources private, so they can get people to talk without fear of retribution. For the most part, I agree with the media on this issue.

The area where I disagree with them, is when a source has violated the law by releasing classified information to the reporter. When people go to work in the government, they agree to keep classified information secret under penalty of criminal prosecution. They should not be allowed to violate the law and be protected by members of the media. This violation of that law is at the heart of this case.

Probably not today, but eventually both reporters sources will become public and the persons that leaked the information will most likely have charges filed against them.

Daily Archives: | 02, 04, 07, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 25, 28

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Google Earth - Terrorist Threat?

Some government and intelligence officials are growing concerned that the clear images made available by Google Earth on the Internet might be used by terrorist organizations to plan and execute attacks against the United States. Anyone with an Internet connection and computer has access to these high quality satellite images that can zoom down on a community or even a particular street in that city.

Here's one of those situations where people ask, "how free do I want or need to be"? This is the new world we live in and I guess we all have to get use to it. I can see how these images could present a security threat to the United States, but where do we draw the line in situations like this? There will always be folks that want total freedom no matter what the cost and others that want to protect the country, even if that means taking away some freedoms.

I've tested the Google Earth service and it is amazing how clear and detailed the pictures are. I just wonder with all the outlaw governments around the world, wouldn't a terrorist organization be able to find pictures like these from those governments? This same type of argument was made several years ago when GPS first came out with their hand held models. Many in the military were concerned with that type of technology in the hands of anyone with a few bucks and an electronics store near by. Now, everyone accepts that GPS is here to stay and most new cars even include this wonderful product in their new models.

I hope this new technology can remain free for the 99.9% of people that will use it for peaceful means. I really hate giving up freedom to terrorist, because every time we do, they win.

Will We See A Senator Ben Affleck?

Many important people are trying to get actor Ben Affleck to give up Hollywood and run for a seat in the U.S. Senate from the state of Virginia. I didn't even know he lived in Virginia! Affleck has played the roll of a CIA agent in the movie "Sum of all Fears", so maybe that qualifies him to be a United States Senator. In many ways, he couldn't do much worse than some of the other folks that currently serve in the Senate.

I can just hear the reporters now, calling to him from a distance... Senator Affleck, Senator Affleck, and I will have a big smile on my face because I will be thinking about that silly little duck on the AFLAC television commercial.

Seriously, Ben did get married a few months ago and he may want to settle down and get a regular type job, however I don't think his new wife, Jennifer Garner, will be settling down any time soon, except maybe to have a baby.

I just love it when stories like this come up. The media is going to love this one, too!

Emergency Calls Directed to India

When people need telephones answered for business or non profit groups, more and more of them are turning to the citizens of India and unbelievably some Texas officials redirected hurricane emergency calls to operators in India, during hurricane Rita. That's right, India! It's just hard to understand how someone seven thousand (7000) miles away could be of much help to someone caught in a major hurricane. Not to mention the language challenges that would be involved with someone where English is not their first language.

What are we going to outsource next? Visits with an attorney? Our family doctor? Where will this all end? I'm not against people in India, but business is one thing, a state government using taxpayers dollars is something different. I know that it's difficult to keep communications going during a hurricane, but there is no reason why the riches country on earth has to outsource citizen calls for help to another country. This was a terrible decision and the government needs to have a better plan in this area, so people caught in natural disasters or terrorist attacks don't have to call India, if they need a police officer, fire department or an ambulance.

This is totally ridiculous.

Global Warming - Natural or Man Made

For decades, scientist have debated and argued the validity of global warming and whether it is a normal pattern of nature or caused by man through pollution. With science and politics so closely associated these days, it's hard to know who is right about this issue. My guess is that both side are right, but the issue is not just black and white, but full of gray.

Isn't it possible that global warming is a part of the natural transition of the earths atmosphere? Also, isn't it possible that green house gases are contributing to this natural process and making it worse? I'm not a scientist and don't claim to have any expert opinions on this subject. I'm just growing tired of the same old debate which is driven by left and right political agendas. It seems like the world today is made up of just two sides. The far right and the far left and the folks in the middle, like me, are just left out in the cold, excuse the pun.

I guess this situation is going to be around for awhile, just like the increasing temperatures of the earth. Like I've said in previous posts, I remember the 70's when scientist were warning of the upcoming dangers of global cooling and I chose to take a more skeptical attitude of their predictions, since that time.

Baseball Booze Leads To Problems At Aramark Stadium

Jeff Black was attending a baseball game with his 9-year-old son in 2004, when he was verbally and physically assaulted by two drunk fans sitting behind them. The fans twice poured beer on Mr. Black and his son. Jeff Black is now suing the baseball team, Colorado Rockies, owners and the company in charge of selling beer at the stadium, Aramark.

I'm sure this was a terrible situation for them and it should not have happened, but a lawsuit? Shouldn't the courts be reserved for people that have been terribly injured in auto accidents or had sever bodily injury from a drunk driver or an incompetent doctor? Suing a baseball team for something like this, just seems silly to me and the old saying, "just get over it" comes to mind. The courts are so full of lawsuits like this one, that many real legal cases, with merit, are delayed for years or don't get to court at all.

I'm sorry for what happened to you, Mr. Black and it was wrong. However, many people have just as bad or worse things happen to them all the time and they don't go to the courts for easy money for a situation where nothing was hurt expect your pride.

Who Hired This FEMA Micheal Brown Guy?

Micheal Brown, the former head of FEMA, was blaming everyone in local, state and federal government for the problems in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina, except himself. I could not believe what I was hearing from a high government official during Congressional testimony this week. I've know people like this my entire life, but never anyone so high up in government. How in the world did he get selected for this job in the first place?

The Congress is always wanting to investigate something, now here's an investigation I would support, completely. Who recommended this guy to the president as a good leader for FEMA? Who did the background work on Mr. Brown before his confirmation hearing? Why didn't someone see that he has a problem with taking responsibility, which has been suggested by former employers?

Michael Brown, I wish you well in your future endeavours. I just hope you don't work for any companies that I'm associated with. Sir, you need to learn humility and understand that no one respects a person that will not admit or accept responsibility for their mistakes.

Recession - Gas Prices - Credit Card Debt

People are not paying their credit card bills on time and high gas prices may be to blame, according to the American Bankers Association. This really should not come as a shock to anyone. Families only have so much money to spend and when something, like gasoline, increases in price as much as it has in the past year, something has got to give and that something is credit card debt. The next big news will be a jump in automobile repositions and then finally mortgage default increases. In the 70's we called this a recession, but I believe now the proper politically correct term is a slow down in the economy.

What ever you call it, it's painful for the average person who is trying to make ends meet and they are at a loss on how to deal with and survive it. Nearly every recession in our nations history has been preceded by a jump in energy prices. Why? Because we are so dependant on energy for everything in our lives. When you go to the store, most products have an energy element built into their pricing, so when energy prices go up, that product goes up. Even in the grocery store, it takes tractors for farmers to grow the crops and those tractors take, you guess it, fuel. When the farmer sells his product to a wholesaler, they must deliver that product to grocery stores and it takes fuel to run the trucks that deliver the food.

The list goes on and on and effects every part of our lives. The most important thing President Bush could do right now is work to get more oil refined. Without refining capacity, all the raw oil in the world won't do us any good. If fuel prices don't come down soon, more and more people are going to find themselves in a whole lot of hurt when it comes to their family finances.

Supreme Court Needs More Women

As President Bush ponders his next choice for the U.S. Supreme Court, I hope he will pick a woman to fill the vacant seat left by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Not because the seat was held by a woman, but because women make up over 50% of the population in this country and they are NOT represented fairly, even before the Justice O'Connor retirement announcement.

The time tested statement by former presidents goes something like this: They are not looking for the best man or woman, just the best person for the job. Really? I hope if President Bush picks a man for the vacancy, he doesn't say something stupid like that. There are many well qualified women in this country that can do ANY job, if given the chance.

Part of the problem is old fashion men that refuse to get with the times and accept woman as equals. However, there are women out there that are just as bad as men, or maybe even worse. Many of these women are older and come from a generation that accepted the belief that a woman's place was at home in the kitchen. Thank goodness there are not many men or women that think like this still around.

Please, Mr. President select a woman for the Supreme Court. Do it not just because she's a woman, but because it's the right thing to do.

No Freedom For 9/11 Site

New York Governor George Pataki, on Wednesday, decided to scrap a plan to include a "Freedom Center" at the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center buildings. Families of 9/11 victims were against the center because they felt it would take away from another memorial planned for the same site that is devoted to the people that lost their lives that day. The governor did the right thing. It is important to respect the families wishes and this museum would take away from the other memorial.

Sometimes it's easy to forget that the September 11th terrorist attacks are less than five (5) years old. Many Americans have moved on from that day, but most of the families that lost loved ones have not and some will never be able to move on, again, because their loss was too great. It is one thing to lose a family member to an illness or age, because one has the ability to plan and get emotionally prepared for the eventual death. However, when a family member is taken this quickly and in such a violent and senseless way, I really don't see how a loved one would ever be able to look at the World Trade Center site and not feel terrible.

The country needs to keep the families of these heros in our thought and prayers.

House Of Representatives Without Tom Delay

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was indicted yesterday by a Texas grand jury for political corruption. According to House Rules, Tom Delay stepped down as majority leader and was temporary replaced by Roy Blunt of Missouri and David Drier of California. Looks like it takes two men just to replace him. I wonder if that's what the "Speaker of the House" had in mind?

Just like Hillary Clinton, Tom Delay is a polarizing figure in American politics. People on his side love him, but those that oppose his vision for the country, just hate the man. He does have an in your face, I know I'm right type attitude which will definitely get some people in an uproar if they have an opposing view. I live in Texas, but he is not my representative. His district is in the Houston area.

I don't really like Mr. DeLays attitude either, but I'm not sure he committed any crime here or if he did it's so minor that no one else would be prosecuted for the same offence. It's really too early to make any lasting judgments in this case, but the facts will come out and one thing is for sure, either Majority Leader DeLay will be ruined by this or Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle will be. Both men WILL NOT come out of this situation smelling like a rose.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Media Defensive Over Katrina/Rita Coverage

Every cable news channel I watched yesterday, Foxnews, MSNBC and CNN, were talking about how the news media is being criticized for sensational journalism in their coverage of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Talk about a bunch of folks on the defensive.

A Los Angeles Times article had just been published critiquing how the major news media had covered the hurricanes. The Times pointed out, correctly, that the major cable news networks were reporting anything they heard on the street and treating it as fact without doing any checking. I don't see anything wrong with that statement, but the cable news networks, did.

The problem is that these networks don't check much of anything anymore. They just take the word of local, state or federal officials and treat it as gospel. Sometimes, they just took the word of some stranger on the street that something was fact. Like people shooting up the town, or teenagers being raped in the streets or dozens of bodies in the Super Dome. Oh, where is Edward R. Murrow? Probably turning over in his grave.

If these networks would spend the same amount of time checking out their facts as they do shopping for rain coats for reporters so they can look sharp while standing in 100 MPH winds and getting blown down live on the air, they might get a few more things right and not have to face so much heat from their peers and the public. Start checking things out before you put it on the air. Many people never hear the correction later and are left with a bad feeling toward you when your reports are proven dead wrong, later.

Modern Day Cavemen Living In New Orleans

In many ways hurricane victims are living like cavemen. No running water, very little food, no housing you can call your own, no clean cloths. I feel so sorry for these folks and I hope they will be able to get some kind of normal life back, sooner rather than later. My sister in College Station, Texas took in a family last week who evacuated from Houston. She was telling me how good it felt to doing something to help at least a couple of people. Her guests went back home on Sunday night and were thankful to have a home to come back to because Rita made a turn to the east and spared their property.

Folks, all of us have so much to be thankful for. It seems like everyday I find something in my life to get upset about and it's usually some petty little thing that isn't even worth worrying about. Lately, when I start feeling like that, I find myself thinking of the people that have lost everything of monetary value in their lives and now they are totally dependent on insurance companies, the government and the helping hands of good neighbors just to survive day to day.

So, if you start feeling a little sorry for yourself at work today and some stupid co-worker is really getting on your nerves, again. Try to think about the people that are suffering in Louisiana and Mississippi. If you're like me, it will help you pull out of the blues and give God a big thank you for the blessings you might be taking for granted.

Attack of the Mold After Hurricane's Katrina/Rita

Mold, with the smell of death, is being found everywhere across the southern United States after hurricane Katrina and Rita. Hot, humid conditions on top of standing water are perfect for mold growth and it's a sticky, smelly mess with possible major health consequences.

After major lawsuits were filed years ago against insurance companies for mold settlement, major insurance companies have been writing mold coverage out of homeowner policies, so thousands of people in the south are finding that they and their homes survived the hurricanes, but they may not financially survive the mold.

This is going to be another area where the federal government is going to have to step in and help out the victims of these storms. Just when you think you've gotten all the bad news out, here comes some more in the form of mold.

Surprised About Google/Yahoo Size Debate

I'm frankly surprised about the debate current going on between Google and Yahoo over who has the most web pages in their index. My guess is there might be one (1) trillion or more pages that could be available on the Internet, but who is going to need most of them? With php and asp web sites all over the place, the number of pages on any one web site could be enormous when you consider these pages are driven by a database with various parameters for output.

The Internet is full of guestbooks, thank you pages, refresh pages and some pages with names but no content in them at all. Should all of these pages be counted in a search engines index? I don't think so. To me, the most important feature a search engine can offer is up to date information, not information months old or gone all together. The thing I hate the most when searching for something is when I find exactly what I'm looking for and the page isn't there anymore. I know search engines work hard to find pages that have been deleted, but this is one area that could be improved upon to give the user a better experience.

I think both Google and Yahoo do a great job at serving up good results when searching via their services. Google does have an issue when searching for hard to find things like serial or models numbers for modems or laptop computers and stuff like that. When doing detail searching, I find that many of the same sites that appeared when searching for a general term come up when searching for a detail item. Maybe I just don't know enough about how to use their search engine or their system of ranking pages in somehow overriding my search for detail content.

I'm an old dog and I remember when AltaVista was hot a LONG time ago. I could always count on their search engine to be full of detail results back then. Of course, they bit the big one, so what does that say about what I think and like.

Lynndie England Goes to Jail At Fort Hood

Private Lynndie England who was convicted in military court at Fort Hood, Texas on Monday was sentenced to three (3) years in jail, on Tuesday, for her part in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. In some ways, military justice is faster than what was practiced in the old wild west days.

As I wrote yesterday, I believe Ms. England and the other military personnel deserve to be punished for their actions, but they are NOT the only ones to blame for this terrible black eye on the U.S. military. I know nothing is going to be done to the people in charge that encouraged this activity, but I just wanted to say, once again, that the policies in place for soldiers in Iraq put the enlisted soldier in a no win situation when events like this occur and I'll just leave it at that for now.

Desperate Catfight, Oops I Mean Housewives

Almost everyone is speculating that there will be a catfight soon among the beautiful lady stars of the ABC hit television series "Desperate Housewives" and I must admit that same thought has crossed my mind as well. With beautiful women like, Marcia Cross, Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Eva Longoria and Nicollette Sheridan, conventional wisdom says that a catfight is going to happen, it's just a matter of time.

I have an idea that might prevent the real life catfight. Have the shows writers create a knockdown drag out catfight episode for one of the episodes. Remember the old catfights of the past on TV shows like Dynasty and Dallas? Those were fun and both men and women would tune in for something like that. I might even tape it for future laughs when I'm having a really bad day!

Experts say that if you want to prevent a conflict, the best way is to attack it head on. This idea would help everyone. The ladies would love it because they could fight without getting hurt, the fans would love it because everyone loves a good catfight and the network would love it because the ratings would be up there with Superbowl.

There's my idea. Producers, what do you think? If you accept my idea no need for any kind of payment to me, the shear enjoyment of the episode would be payment enough.

Ashley Smith Gave Killer, Drugs

In her new book, "Unlikely Angel", Ashley Smith the woman that convinced accused Atlanta courthouse murder Brian Nichols to give himself up instead of killing her, admits that she gave him the illegal drug methamphetamine at her apartment during her hostage ordeal. The methamphetamine belonged to her, not Nichols.

This fact was withheld from police and the public until she admitted the truth in her new book. Ashley, was heralded as a true hero when she was one of the few people to survive an encounter that day with Brian Nichols after he shot several people while escaping from a guard during transport to trial for abusing his girlfriend.

When this story first broke the main headline was that she talked Nichols into giving himself up by convincing him that his life still had purpose and sharing with him, her believe in God and her belief that God still loved him even after all that he had done. I certainly can understand why she didn't reveal the whole story at the time and I don't blame her for not doing it.

Ashley now says that she has given up drugs and has not used them since the night before she was taken hostage. Many will use this new information to condemn all of her actions, but not me. In my eyes, she is still a hero. Just a little more human than she was before.

Joran Is Liar Says Natalee Holloway's Mother

Mother of missing Alabama teen Natalee Holloway, Beth Holloway Twitty, says that Joran van der Sloot lied in a recent "Current Affair" interview about his involvement in her disappearance in Aruba on May 10th during her senior trip. Not interviewed, brothers Satish and Deepak Kalpoe were not reached for comment.

Van der Sloot claims that Natalee was drunk when he and the brothers Kalpoe left her alone on the beach the night of May 10th. Joran said in the interview that he and his two friends lied because they were afraid of how it would look to police if they admitted they left her alone on the beach that night. Of all the stories I've heard about this case, this is the most unbelievable.

Let us sum up his version of what happened that night. Joran, Satish and Deepak go to the beach with Natalee. Natalee gets drunk and they leave her alone on a strange dark beach in a country she is unfamiliar with. Then they lie the next day and tell the police that they dropped her off at the hotel before they went home. Anyone beside their parents believe this story? This poor girl is probably dead and recent speculation is centering around the possibility that she may have been killed and fed to sharks, since no trace, what so ever, of her has been found on this tiny island.

God bless her friends and family. This must be hell on them.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

U.S./Mexico Border Is Out Of Control

Illegal immigrants are increasing despite tighter border security and there is no end in site to this increasing problem. It's hard to take border security seriously when the President of the United States doesn't seem to really care about illegal immigration, in fact, I get the feeling he thinks it's a good, rather than a bad thing. On this issue, I respectfully disagree with President Bush.

Any country that can't control it's borders any better than we do, can't protect itself from all kinds of dangers, including terrorism and drug trafficking. I agree that business gets a tremendous boost when there are people that will do the same jobs as Americans for less pay and there are some jobs done by immigrants that companies are unable to fill with American workers, period.

There are many things that can't be justified based just on the money. This is one of those situations. There must be a right and a wrong based in the law or eventually no one will obey the law and anarchy will take over the country. Allowing workers to enter the country basically unchallenged and telling them with a wink and a nod that if they can get by staying here a few years illegally, we'll make it easy for them to become citizens down the road. This thinking is wrong. This is like telling a bank robbery that if he doesn't get caught robbing banks, after a few years we'll let him keep the money, even if he comes forward.

The country should focus on the people that are trying to enter, legally and stop catering to law breakers. Many in President Bush's own party are at odds will his stand on this issue and some are even giving up their own time to help patrol the border because there are a lack of trained border patrol agents to properly do the job.

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New Orleans - Police Chief Quits

In a surprise move, New Orleans police chief Eddie Compass quit his job today. He said he would stay on for 30 to 45 days until a new chief could be selected and brought up to speed. There is something that doesn't sit right about this resignation. Chief Compass was one of the few people that was on the ball down there after hurricane Katria. Maybe he just found a better job, but it also might be that things are in such a disarray in the police department that he doesn't feel like he can get it turned around.

More on this story as it develops.

Consumer Confidence Down Because Of Gas Prices

Driven by high oil prices and two major hurricanes, U.S. consumer confidence has dropped to its lowest level since October 2003. It's amazing that it didn't drop further, considering all the negative news out there today. My personal belief is that gas prices have the most to do with this drop in confidence. Many people are afraid that the bottom is going to drop out of the economy and so will their lifestyle and even worse their jobs.

Lowing crude oil prices should be the number one goal of the federal government, but no one wants to tackle this issue with the type of energy it's going to take to get it done and get it done right. Conservatives just want to drill more and liberals want us give up our cars and go totally green. Neither plan will work and they both know it. This is all about political posturing and there isn't going to be a solution until someone steps up and tackles this problem. The U.S. economy was not that strong before $3 per gallon gas and it's going to get worse in a hurry unless something is done. Opening up the U.S. oil reserves is a good temporary start, but to get things running smoothly we must start drilling more in the U.S., which means off the coast of California and Florida. No more using millions of gallons of product, but not wanting to get the product in your own backyard.

Also, we must start building new oil refineries to process the oil. Just pumping crude isn't going to be enough if there is not enough processing capacity and most of all the government needs to require all automakers to increase their fuel efficiency ASAP. Not just a request, but a requirement. Put all manufactures on the same schedule so they can get to work on building more fuel efficient vehicles without some hold out not going along and selling gas hogs for tons less money because they don't have to spend it on R&D.

Ask Jeeves To Drop Butler Icon

IAC Chairman Barry Diller told a group of investors that he intends to drop the butler from the Ask Jeeves search engine. His New York-based company bought Ask Jeeves for $2.3 billion in July. The new search will be simply "Ask" or "Ask.com". This is too bad. I like the butler and he certainly has given the search engine an identity. This move might be too much market research and not enough common sense.

I'll bet if you showed a picture of that butler to 1000 people, 700-800 would know that he represents the search engine Ask Jeeves. They might want to rethink this idea. Remember when Coke tried to change it formula and no one like the "new coke", so they had to spend millions of dollars to bring back the origional. This might happen to Jeeves, too or should I just say "ask"?

Stay Awhile Mr. President

I was listening to the Don Imus show this morning on MSNBC and he was joking around about the president asking Americans to conserve fuel yesterday, then today he's getting on Air Force One and flying back to New Orleans for the seventh time since the hurricane struck the city. While he might have been joking around, there is some truth in his humor. I can only image how much fuel it takes to transport the president from place to place. When he travels, it's not just his 747 style jet that must be fueled, but many other support aircraft, helicopters, SUVs, secret service vehicles, not to mention the press planes, press vans and other transportation support.

It might be more fuel efficient if he just stayed in the New Orleans area for awhile. No matter where he goes, a state of the art communications complex travels with him. Since he's the president he doesn't have to go to people that want to see him, they will come to him. The president is out of Washington for one month each year at his Crawford ranch and he's able to run the country just fine during that vacation and he could run the government from Louisiana as well. Maybe stay in Baton Rouge, which is secure and travel back and forth to New Orleans, as he is needed.

It's important for the president to lead by example and this idea may not have even cross his mind until now, since it's very common for a president to fly to various places around the country several times each week. I believe if the president did stay in the area for a few days, the country would respect him for doing his level best to help the people in need and help the country by showing that he is conserving energy, just like he's asking everyone else to.

How Sweet it Isn't - Krispy Cream Donuts

Here's a local story that might have national implications. Our local Waco, Texas Krispy Cream donut shop closed a few days ago because they said the location wasn't making enough dough, I mean money. While that closing is bad news for people, like me, with a sweet tooth, the real story is how the employees said they were treated when they were told the location was closing.

According to former employees Kenny Sanders and Mark Godwin the store managers told the stores 38 employees they would have to sign a letter that said they were resigning their jobs before they could get, what was referred to as, a parting gift from the franchise company, Glazing Saddles II. Texas law makes it more difficult to obtain unemployment from the state if an employee resigns instead of being fired or laid off.

To me, this looks like a blatant attempt to trick employees out of their earned unemployment compensation. The "company gift" amounted to less than one weeks normal pay. I wonder if this is a Krispy Cream corporate policy on lay offs when a location closes down. I hope to find out more about this in the upcoming days.

U.S. Government - Windfall Profit Gain

President Bush is preparing to open the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help compensate for the increased pressure on oil prices after hurricanes Katria and Rita. At this time, I don't know how many barrels per day the president is preparing to release into the open market, but any new oil should help keep prices steady if not send them lower over the next few months.

Much of the oil in the reserve was purchased at much lower prices than the current market. I was wondering today if the profit the government will make on this release could be earmarked for hurricane clean up and repair? A bunch of this oil was originally purchased at prices of 10-15 dollars per barrel, so the government is set to make a tremendous profit as soon as the oil starts hitting the market. Since the tax payers bought this oil to begin with, I think it makes sense to use any profits from it's sale to help reduce the amount the tax payer must spend on the rebuilding process.

My thinking here is, that if this extra money is not delegated immediately, someone in Congress is going to get the idea that they can spend it on some pork project they couldn't get funded through regular channels. If money in Washington isn't earmarked for special need, quickly. It will be spend on new programs or pork projects.

Cheney Walks Out Of Hospital OK

Vice President Dick Cheney was released from the hospital yesterday after undergoing surgery to remove an aneurysm from behind both of his knees. The Vice President walked slowly when leaving the hospital. He is expected to make a full recovery.

Dick Cheney has been treated for years for various heart conditions. He has suffered several heart attacks in the past, but while on a new diet of good healthy food, which I hear his wife insists on, he has improved the prognosis of his heart condition.

Dick Cheney is probably the most powerful Vice President in American history with complete access and trust of President Bush. I wish him a speedy recovery.

Greenspan - Home Equity And Savings Rate

Alan Greenspan has gone on record and said what many have thought for a long time. That the savings rate in the United States is low because people are using the equity in their homes to supplement their standard of living. With Americans cashing out equity in their homes at a record rate, some 25% of consumers current spending power is derived by equity loans on their homes. This is a tremendous amount of money and could cause the country to go into recession if mortgage interest rates climb too far, too fast. This is even more highlighted when you consider that the average American has little to no money in savings.

I hope I'm wrong, but this housing situation reminds me of the NASDAQ bubble that crashed about six years ago. Everyone was wanting to own the latest Internet stock that would double in price every three months or so. We all knew it couldn't last, but who could pass up those kinds of profits, especially when your neighbor was making tremendous profits and telling you about it almost daily? My neighbor even wanted me to see his account / increases on the Internet. He did eventually lose most of his money, so he's not as happy today as he was in 1998.

I've been reading stories of what is happening in the real estate market in southern Florida. People have lost all common sense in a rush to get rich quick. This happened in California a long time ago, we called it the big gold rush and bust. It happened again with the expansion of the Internet and it's happening again with the housing market in some cities. If you want to play this game, better hold onto your wallet or you might just find yourself with a one million dollar mortgage on a home that will only sell for a few hundred thousand dollars after the bust. Just be warned that nothing this good, stays this good forever.

2008 Contenders - Just Say NO

The major democratic contenders for president in 2008 are taking a page from former first lady, Nancy Reagan and just saying NO to Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. Are you surprised? I'm not. Makes perfect sense to me since no one can run in the general election unless they first get their parties nomination and the democratic party has a very liberal anti Roberts political base. I can't see anyone getting the democratic nomination in 2008 without the far left wings support. This is so much of a problem though for democrats when they enter the general election and have to move with light speed toward the center of the political spectrum.

Many people that don't follow politics that closely can't believe what they are seeing on their television sets. One time they turn it on during the primaries and the candidates are saying one thing and then a few months later, that same person is on television again saying something entirely different. No wonder it's so hard to get elected president as a democrat. Bill Clinton understood how make that transition, but he is a very smart man and I don't see anyone else that smart in the next race, with the exception of his wife, Hillary. I'm not saying that she is that smart, but she is married to the last guy that pulled this off, not once, but twice.

Hillary is going to have a good shot at winning election in 2008 because the Republicans will make the same mistake they made with her husband. They will turn the race into a person attack against her, which will back fire in the general election. They will raise tons of money from Clinton haters, but in the end, if they run this type of campaign, she will win the race. Let the battles begin. I'm pretty sure the democrats will nominate Hillary, I'm just not sure who the Republicans will chose, but we'll all find out, soon.

HD DVD Introduced By Toshiba

Japanese electronics giant Toshiba said Tuesday it has developed the first laptop computer with a next-generation HD DVD drive despite a looming format war with a rival group led by Sony. Now this is exciting! At heart, all men including me love new electronic toys and this should be a good one.

For people that work at their computers most of the time, this type of product would be a wonderful escape at break time from their normal word processing duties, spreadsheet headaches or even for that business trip. Who hasn't spent the night at a hotel with a terrible television set? This would also be great for camping trips where there is no TV available at all. Just image watching HD DVD's in that pop up tent! I can image it.

I'll keep a watch out on this new technology and bring updates as soon as I can get my hands on one, ops, I mean find out more about this new technology.

President Bush 1 - Liberal Democrats 0

President Bush finally made a statement today that he should have made a LONG time ago. He stood at a podium and asked Americans to conserve energy anyway they can. Congratulations, Mr. President - you did the right thing.

Now it's time for the liberals to step up and make an in kind jester by saying that they want the country to have energy independence and they want to help change the laws that make it almost impossible for anyone to build an oil refinery in the United States. In fact, it's been thirty years since an oil refinery has been built here. Can you image how much more energy we use now than we did in 1970? It's not that companies don't want to build refineries, it's that the laws and regulations make it so cost prohibitive and time consuming that companies can find better ways to invest their stockholder cash than in paying lawyers for years and years on a maybe proposition.

Ok Democrats and liberals, it's your turn. Will you step up and help us all by offering changes to these over taxing laws or will you just criticize the president for not going far enough with conservation, like you usually do.

Lynndie England Found Guilty At Fort Hood

Private Lynndie England has been found guilty of charges that she abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. A military jury found here guilty yesterday at Fort Hood, Texas. This brings to an end the court martial trials of those accused of abuse at Abu Ghraib. Now that the trials are over, I'd like to make a few comments about people higher up in the military that were not charged in this case.

It's almost like a running joke in the military that the people in charge of troops don't have to face responsibility for their actions when they make mistakes. This case is just another example of how the high and powerful are not held to the same standard as the regular enlisted personnel. It's no wonder that enlistment is down in the military, because even dumb people know that when things go wrong in the military, the people in charge of making policy won't be held to account if problems develop. The lowly private will take the fall. This is a tragedy, but just the way things are done.

When was the last time you heard of anyone above the rank of captain being charge with any kind of crime in war. Sure they are charged for bad activity when we are at peace, but I'm talking about on the battle field in the fog of war. The last time I remember a case getting any attention was in Vietnam. That's a long time ago. The problem is that leaders in the military and civilian life write the rules of engagement in a way that will shield them from prosecution if things go wrong. Enlisted personnel have no such protection. There is also the problem of oral orders, which are in direct contradiction to written ones. What's a soldier to do? Either way they are disobeying orders and will be punished. However, if they accept the oral orders and things go bad like in this case, the top people will fall back on the written orders and make the enlisted soldier take the fall.

Maybe there is no solution to this problem and in no way am I suggesting that Ms. England or anyone else in those photos be excused from their actions or punishment. I'm just saying that it doesn't pass the smell test that someone higher up wasn't aware of or directing these criminal activities.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Get Smart - Don Adams - Dead

The popular star of the television series "Get Smart" died today. Don Adams, was also the voice behind the cartoon character "Inspector Gadget".

Adams died of a lung infection late Sunday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, his friend and former agent Bruce Tufeld said Monday, adding that the actor broke his hip a year ago and had been in ill health since.

China Controls Internet News

China stated today that they are imposing new restrictions on the posting of news stories that are visible to the public via the Internet. Companies the violate these new rules are subject to fines, Chinese office said. Is it just me or are they trying to put the genie back in the bottle, which won't work in the long run? Once people get a taste for freedom, it's impossible for any government to take that freedom back.

Chinese people are eventually going to win this battle, even though the government is doing everything in its power to prevent it. I've been watching with great interest the changes happening in China with the expansion of free markets and the continued increase in the standard of living for millions of its citizens. To me, it doesn't make sense that income and standard of living will increase as human rights and freedom of speech decrease. I guess the Chinese government still believes this is possible, but they are going to be fighting a losing battle in the long run.

Sheehan Arrested Outside White House

Anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan was arrested along with several others outside the White House today. The group was conducting a sit in on the sidewalk near the front gate. Protesters were asked by police several times to move and when they did not, they were arrested. Sheehan was the first to be taken into custody.

Cindy Sheehan is the mother of a soldier who was killed in the Iraqi war. She spend almost a month camped out during the month of August at President Bush's ranch in Crawford in a failed attempt to meet with the President during his summer vacation.

Darwin Alternative In U.S. Classrooms

Here we go again. The more things change, the more they remain the same. Courts and schools are battling over the issue of which is right, the "Big Bang" theory of evolution or "Creationism". When are people going to learn that students will figure out on their own what they believe about this issue and what they don't.

Special interest groups, politicians and religious leaders have fought about this issue since I was born and I guess they will continue to fight until the end of time. I don't see a problem in teaching each theory and letting the students decide which one makes more sense to them. I am a believer in science, just not science with an agenda which is what we see so often these days.

I was watching an old episode of NOVA the other day on PBS from the 1970's. The episode was being hosted by Leonard Nimoy, from the television series, "Star Trek". In this 70's show they were talking about the gloom and doom from "Global Cooling", which was stated, in this show, as a fact that it would wipe out the world by the year 2000 if the government didn't do anything about the problem. Basically, we were all going to freeze to death if something wasn't done.

Fast forward 30 years and now we are all going to die if we don't stop "Global "Warming. In fact many experts are now saying that global warming is the cause of the massive hurricanes we are experiencing this year in the Gulf of Mexico. How many times in the past few years have you heard scientist claim that one treatment or another would help sick people and then hear other scientist claim months later that the work was totally worthless?

For me, the bible has been around a lot longer than any of these scientist and while I might have trouble with some of the subjects it contains, the basics of the "Ten Commandments" are such that if you follow them, you can and will have a fulfilling and happy life.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Burning Bus Survivors Speak

The survivors of a bus that caught fire in Dallas during the evacuation of the gulf coast during hurricane Rita are starting to speak out. Edna Briant, who was injured in the fire remembers calling out to rescuers to save her 84 year old sister, Claire from the burning bus while she laid injured on the side of Interstate 45. Her sister survived the fire as well.

Investigations into the company that owned the bus are shocking. The bus owners, Global Limo of McAllen, Texas have been sited for violations in the past. The bus that caught on fire was out of service at the time, but was allowed back on the road by a special waver from Texas governor Rick Perry so that more people could be evacuated quickly from the hurricane threatened area.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the fire and subsequent deaths at this time. As I've stated before, when anyone tries to evacuate millions of people over the period of hours instead of days, these kinds of tragedies will occur. This is a terrible situation for all involved.

Aruba - Van der Sloot - Talks

It has been several months since Natalee Holloway, an 18 year old girl from Alabama disappeared in Aruba during her senior trip. Three young men have been at the heart of the investigation of her disappearance, but no charges have been filed. Joran van der Sloot, in a recent interview has stated that he was with Natalle the night she disappeared, but dropped her off at her hotel room sometime earlier that night she disappeared. He also stated that he had lied to police originally, but had nothing to do with he disappearance.

This is one of those gut check stories. Does your gut tell you that Joran and his two friends had something to do with Natalle's disappearance? My answer is yes. Can the authorities prove this beyond a reasonable doubt? My answer is no. So here we are. A beautiful young girl disappears during her senior trip during a night when most everyone agrees that alcohol was flowing freely among everyone. She is never seen again, no body is found and everyone in the world has an opinion on what really happened to her.

My heart goes out to her family and I hope they will be able to get some kind of closure without the return of her remains, which I think will never be found.

This is a very sad story.

Moore - Kutcher Get Married

Congratulations go out to Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher who were married this weekend. In attendance at the wedding were many friends and family of the couple, not to mention Demi Moore's ex husband Bruce Willis. Both Demi and Bruce have remained friends since their divorce and Willis and Kutcher seem to have a good relationship as well.

Much has been made in the press about the differences in their ages, Moore is 42 and Kutcher is 27, but I don't think it really matters that much. Do you think the press would have made such a big deal of the age difference if the sexes were reversed? I doubt it. The media is always looking for some kind of scandal to report on, even if there is none present.

Good luck, Demi and Ashton. Best wishes for the future.

Movie Industry Needs Change

Why is it that when we go to movies the price is the same no matter what the movie cost to make? When we buy cars, we don't pay the same price for a Lexus as we do for a Chevrolet or when we go to a restaurant we don't pay the same price at McDonalds as we do at Outback or when we buy a house we don't pay the same price in a bad neighborhood as we do in a good one for the same square feet of space.

Then why do we pay the same price to see a movie that cost one million dollars to produce as we do to see a movie that cost one hundred million dollars? Hollywood is screwed up in the head and they are paying the price for their thinking because their box office receipts are dropping every year, even though they keep charging more and more to see movies.

Is it just some kind of liberal attitude or something entirely different at work here? I'd really like to know the answer to that question. Many movies put out by the major studios this summer were just plain trash. Many times when we go to the movies the only real value we get is from the five dollar popcorn or six dollar Coke we drink.

It's time for Hollywood to wake up and smell the coffee or regular folks are going to find other more enjoyable and affordable types of entertainment.

Crime Rate at 30 Year Low

The crime rate in the United States has dropped to a 30 year low. Criminal activity is dropping in all segments. Both violent and property crime are down with positive treads into the future. I've always wondered if the crime rate tracks closely with the unemployment rate. There have been studies conducted on this issue, but they are inconclusive at this time.

It does make sense that if more people are out of work, poor and with a bunch of time on their hands that they are more likely to get involved in criminal activity. I can't help but remember my dad telling me when growing up that, "idle hands are the devils work shop". There is truth in what he had to say, even though I thought he was crazy at the time. Kids never want to hear the truth when it comes to stuff like this.

Another thing dad told me was, that if someone hangs around on street corners with drug dealers, that eventually they will become drug dealers, too. His thinking was, a good person will not be able to turn around a bad person, but a bad person can and will turn a good person bad.

Dad had a bunch of stories that I thought were stupid at the time, but seem very wise to me now.

Counter Protest Today

Military families of soldiers and others that support the U.S. war in Iraq are having a demonstration to counter the anti-war protest rally held in Washington yesterday. Supporters of this counter demonstration say their numbers may not be as great as the anti-war rally yesterday, but their feelings are shared by millions of Americans across the country.

I'm old enough to remember Vietnam and I remember demonstrations and rallies on both sides during that war, too. This is a wonderful thing about the United States, people with completely opposite views can march and protest peacefully, only one day apart in the same city. No matter what your view of the war, this is a good thing.

Some people believe protesting is wrong, but not me. Whether you protest in a park or on the Internet or at the ballot box, protesting is how America came to be in the first place and I hope it never goes away.

Spare The Rod Spoil The Child

I remember hearing that so many times when I was growing up, that it made me sick. As a child, this is not a saying that you would support. However, as we all get older, it begins to take on new meaning when we have children of our own. With this in mind, New York City schools are going through a scandal right now because of allegations of teachers using corporal punishment in the schools there. I was unaware that corporal punishment has been banned in NYC schools for several decades.

From what I've been able to figure out, teachers are left with very few options other than counseling to get problem children to obey the rules in the classroom. For people that want help, counseling is a wonderful tool, however, it's a terrible tool for children that act up and cause trouble in school. Many of the complaints filed against teachers last year included some which sound justified, but others such as grabbing a students arm or bumping up against a student sounded a bit fishy to me.

Growing up in Texas, we never had rules like this in the classrooms. I'm certainly not saying that schools here are any better than New York, because in many ways they are not. However, without some type of fear of punishment, some kids will never obey the rules and cause constant problems for teachers and the majority of students that do want to learn something in class.

It's time for parents to quit always believing their children when they come home from school and say the teacher was mean to them. I lied when I was in high school about stuff and I'm sure most people reading this did, too. If a teacher is out of control, that's one thing, but if they are just trying to keep order in their classroom, parents need to support them and back them for the good of all the students.

Los Angeles Arrest Made In Movie Scam

Joseph M. Medawar of Los Angeles California was arrest yesterday and charged with stealing millions of dollars from LA residents, mainly church parishioners. Medawar, claimed to have produced a new television series which was endorsed by President Bush about the Homeland Security department. Everything apparently was a scam and the investors lost all their money.

For the past 2 1/2 years, Medawar lived like a king on these poor folks money. Driving nice cars and eating in the best restaurants, while all the time never intending to produce anything with the investors money. Several notable television ministers in southern California were apparently taken in by his scam as well.

Five Killed in Chopper Crash

A U.S. Chinook helicopter crashed in Afghanistan on Sunday killing five U.S. services men. Details of why the helicopter went down are still sketchy. This tragedy is just another example of how dangerous it is for military personnel, whether on active duty or in training missions at home.

The Chinook helicopter is a huge flying machine which when seen close up will make you think that there is no way that something that big will ever get off the ground, but it does and it's a very reliable vehicle in the military arsenal. All vehicles can have mechanical problems and something this big doesn't give the pilot a big margin of error if something goes wrong. Also, large helicopters like this one are big targets for enemy forces that want to shoot them down. While protection is built into military aircraft, nothing is 100% guaranteed.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family members of these brave servicemen and I hope they know that we are grateful for their sacrifice to our country.

So Much To Be Thankful For

Like millions of Americans, I've been watching the news of all the storms hitting the gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana. Sometimes it's a bit much to take, so I have to just turn off the television, close my eyes and relax. Tonight, I was thinking how lucky I was to still have a home, electricity, a car, my wife and of course my best friend, bullet, my dog.

So many things that I take for granted are the very foundations that help me get through each and every day. Seems like I don't spend enough time anymore giving thanks for the things that God has given me. Just doing it once a year, at Thanksgiving, isn't enough. I think all of us need to take stock at least once per week of what is right about our lives and be thankful for it.

I have friends that are bitter about not getting everything they wanted out of life. They are upset about not earning the kind of money they think they should earn or they think they deserve a better relationship than they've got or they are just mad for the sake of being mad.

I think if we don't stop and be thankful for what we have, we just get selfish and bitter about what we don't have or we get jealous of what others have. It's so important to be thankful for the little things, because as we've all seen in the past few weeks, even those little things are not guaranteed.

I just wanted to express these thoughts this morning. I'm going to try and take a few minutes each week to reflect on what God has given me and be thankful for it.

Opera 1.5 Million Downloads

Opera is claiming that over 1.5 million copies of its newly released "free browser" have been downloaded since Tuesday. Never under estimate the power of the word, FREE. I'm sure many people downloading the product are folks that have been using the old almost free version that has advertisements in the upper tool bar, but I'm sure there are new people downloading as well. With new security problems associated with Firefox and the tons of old security issues with Internet Explorer, this is a perfect opportunity for Opera to gain some market share.

There is one BIG problem with this type of growth. In the Internet market place today, once you start gaining new customers at this past of a pace, it's only going to be a short time before the hackers start exploring your system looking for weaknesses to exploit. I predict that before Christmas we will all hear about some kind of hole in the Opera browser which will let hackers into our computers. It seems to always happen this way. Personally, I still like the Firefox browser and have no plans to change in the near future.

Congratulations, Opera. Now get ready for all the problems the big boys have been having with Internet security issues.

Red Cross Needs Help

The American Red Cross issued a plea yesterday for additional contributions to help with mounting costs associated with Hurricane Katrina and Rita. If you can help in any way, please visit the Red Cross Web Site and give as much as you can. This organization is doing wonderful work under extremely stressful conditions.

Thank you.

Should People Live Below Sea Level?

This is a question that some people are starting to talk about after the disaster that happen in New Orleans when flood levees began to break and most of the city was inundated by water that surrounds the city on three sides. No one wants to ask people not to return to their homes after a disaster like this, but is it wise and safe to rebuild a city below sea level in the first place?

Man has always fought nature through the history of time and sooner or later natural always wins. There use to be a saying that said, "you can't fight mother nature" and that was and is still true today. You might delay her and even push her around a bit, but you will never will the battle in the long run. I believe that New Orleans should be rebuilt and all of us should help in this rebuilding effort. However, the parts of the city that are under sea level should not be rebuilt because they will flood again and again because land under sea level will never stay dry for long.

I know this is not a popular opinion for folks that live there and I don't mean to be insensitive to your situation. My main point is that New Orleans should be rebuilt entirely above sea level and the low areas should be allowed to flood so nature can reclaim the land that it wants back and will get back eventually anyway. Apparently, the downtown district and the French Quarter survived the flooding without much damage because they are on high ground.

It's going to cost billions of dollars to rebuild the great city of New Orleans, I just hope some consideration is given to the natural flow of nature and rebuild the city stronger and better on solid ground.

Are We All Dead at 49?

Lately, every news story that I read about new television shows are only giving ratings based on the 18-49 year old age group. I know this is the only age group that advertisers seem to be interested in reaching, but it's beginning to look like people over the age of 49 might as well be dead judging from the shows that get canceled regularly that attract older audiences. The reason this catches my attention is that I'm knock on the door of 49 and I'm not ready to be dead, yet.

Don't these pharmaceutical companies pay enough for advertisements to old folks like me? They sure have enough money to, have you seen the price of prescription drugs lately? I guess they are not paying enough per commercial to get the major networks attention, but I sure see a bunch of their ads on the air these days. I guess I spend too much time watching news programming or other old folks channels like Discovery and History.

The conventional thinking is that when people reach a certain age, they get stuck in their ways and are not as open to changes in their buying patterns like when they were young. This thinking is just crazy, I like my Right Guard deodorant just as much as I did in the 70's and who wants to roll on deodorant anyway when you can spray it on. My Bruit cologne still smells good and who in the heck needs a new car anyway when the one you're driving only has 150,000 miles and still runs good for a 1986 model.

Yes, these advertising experts don't know what they are talking about when referring to us older people. I think I'll write them a nasty email after I take my afternoon nap!

What a Difference Month Makes

One month ago, hurricane Katrina drove through the states of Louisiana and Mississippi to cries that local, state and federal officials didn't do enough to evacuate and rescue victims of the storm. Fast forward one month and no one is claiming that any of these government agencies didn't do a good job. What changed? Mainly a learing of lessons by a members of government. Also, I'm sure shame played a big part in the turn around in the response of the federal government.

Major newspapers around the world were referring to the look and feel of New Orleans after the storm called Katrian in terms like "third world country" and other derogatory words. That would have to embarrassed the leader of the free world, President Bush, who was touting American style democracy in the middle east, Africa and around the world. With the terrible pictures of victims that were homeless and hungry in the street, the presidents foreign policies were taking a huge beating in worldwide public opinion.

I really don't care whether it was concern, outrage or shame that caused this turn around in government response. I'm just glad to see it and hope that the government doesn't fall back into its usually pattern of short term memory.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Raging Grannies Protest War

The "Raging Grannies" were just one of many groups that took to the streets of Washington D.C. today to protest the war in Iraq. Spearheaded by, Cindy Sheehan the mother of a solider killed in the Iraqi war, hundreds of thousands of people marched in an effort to stop the war in Iraq, now.

You may remember that Cindy Sheehan spent most of the month of August in Crawford Texas in a failed attempt to meet again with President Bush to encourage him to get American troops out of Iraq. Since that time, many groups that believe in the same cause have joined together in an effort to put a stop to the war. Many of the protesters date back to the days of the Vietnam war, while others were not even born when that war was taking place.

Just like all protest marches, some people acted like children while others were very serious about getting their message across to President Bush.

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Houston Example Of Things To Come?

State and local officials around the country have watch with horror at what it looks like when a major city, like Houston, is evacuated quickly because of a storm or man made disaster. The massive traffic jams, broken down automobiles, fuel shortages, quick tempers and worst of all, where do you house 2 or 3 million people? There are not enough hotel and motel rooms or volunteer families willing to take total strangers into their homes.

When you consider the Chaos involved in evacuating Houston, just imagine how it would look if New York or Los Angeles had to be evacuated in a hurry. Those cities are twice as large as Houston, not to mention New York and Los Angeles contain hundreds of thousands of people that don't speak English. Many mayors believe the problem of communication could be larger than the actual evacuation. In New York, millions of people don't own cars or even have a drivers licenses, so some type of mass transit type of evacuation would need to be found. The major mass transit out of New York City is by train or plane. During a major disaster, local officials said that bridges and tunnels could not be trusted, and there is no airport on the island, so the only real way off of Manhattan Island would be by boat. What a mess that would be, if there was a rush to get this evaction done.

I hope such an event is never necessary, but in the world we live in today, I wouldn't count on it.

Overwhelmed Insurance Companies After Katrina

Major insurance companies have let government officials know that there is no way they will be able to pay all the claims filed during hurricane Katrina. One insurance executive stated their case this way; just because we write fire insurance, doesn't mean we can pay if the entire town burns down. Another potential problem is that insurance companies don't pay for damage caused by flooding. That type of coverage is handled by national flood insurance. With Katrina, it's difficult to know where the damage came from. Yes, there may have been wind damage, but now that many homes have been completely submerged in water, how much damage was caused by the initial winds and how much by flood waters later?

In the end, insurance companies know that the government will pay most of the cost covered by a big storm like this, so all they have to do is delay paying claims or threaten bankruptcy and the government will come in and either pay many of the claims, or reimburse the insurance companies. I think it's important to remember that the government is us, which means that all of us are paying the claims with higher taxes or more federal debt. There is no free lunch here, someone is eventually going to have to pay the bill. I don't really fault the insurance companies in a disaster like this because they were never set up to handle massive amounts of damage caused by these type of huge storms. The federal government will and should pick up the tab so people can get back into their homes and start new lives.

VP Dick Cheney Surgery Was Successful

The first of two surgeries for Vice President Dick Cheney has been completed successfully. The six hour procedure was done at George Washington University Hospital. The Vice President had been diagnosed with aneurysms behind both of his knees.

More information as it becomes available.

Sovereignty Issues In Iraq

While most people in the United State have been consumed by domestic news of hurricanes, in Iraq, two British soldiers were arrested by local police and charged with the murder of an Iraqi police officer. The two soldiers were arrested by Iraqi authorities on Monday and jailed in Basra. Later that same day, British troops stormed the jail and free the soldiers that had been charged. Rioting soon broke out in the streets of Basra and citizens of Iraq's second largest city were demanding that the soldiers be returned to Iraqi custody to stand trial for their crimes.

I must admit I don't have anywhere close to all the facts surrounding this case, but on the surface it does sound like the British military is not supporting the local government authorities in this matter. I can only imagine the issues involved in such a legal case, but surely diplomats can work this issue out so that the writing and approval of a new Iraqi constitution can continue.

The type of anger in the streets that this type of incident will create could set back the new government in Iraq by months which will further delay the departure of coalition troops from the country. Also, this is the very type of situation that could plunge the country into civil war which would be a disaster for the entire middle east region.

Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail and this matter can be worked out, soon

Senator Bill Frist Stock Sales Questioned

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney in New York about a stock sale he made via a blind trust just before the stock began to drop. The company, HCA is a giant insurance company which has as a director, Senator Frist brother, Thomas Frist. The senators office stated that the senator decided to sell all his shares in the company because of charges of conflict of interest because Senator Frist is working to change malpractice laws which could save HCA a bunch of money if finally approved by Congress.

The part of this story that is bothering Frist detractors is that not only did he sell his stock, but other members of the Frist family made stock sales during the same time period which was just before the stock started dropping in price. The people running this investigation are interested in knowing if any inside information was obtained by Frist from his brother of upcoming events or news which would cause the stock price to drop. It is illegal to profit from insider information whether the person is a senator or not.

I'll keep a close eye on this story and let you know how the investigation turns out.

Grand Theft Auto Is Back

Makers of the popular game, Grand Theft Auto, will resume sales of their popular game beginning in October. Earlier this year, Take Two Interactive Software removed the game from the market after hackers found sex scenes on the software and news of the companies involvement in placing them there in the first place was exposed. From what I've read, it is common for software companies to place hidden scenes in games because many young hackers will purchase the game just to try and unlock the code which will let them into the hidden/forbidden areas of the game.

It will be interesting to see how well the game sells without the hidden sex scenes. My guess is that it will not sell well at all. Most gamers have moved on to other games with new challenges and hacks to penetrate. The life of a game is very short and once the excitement is over, it's usually over for good.

We'll all see come October 18th when Grand Theft Auto "San Andreas" hits store shelves again, just in time for holiday shopping!

Cleaning Up The Mess After Hurricane Rita

As the sun comes up on a late September morning on the boarder of Texas and Louisiana, it's time to start cleaning up the mess hurricane Rita left behind. Thank goodness the clean up effort isn't going to be as bad as it would have been if Rita stayed a category five hurricane and slammed head on into the Houston metropolitan area. There is going to be a need for clean up, though and I'm sure houses were damaged and roofs were blown off, but the amount of damage is going to pale in comparison to hurricane Katrina and the damage left behind in the Louisiana and Mississippi area.

Texas state officials are discussing ways to get 2.5 million people back to their homes. Some are even recommending that the interstate highway system be rerouted with all travel lanes headed south so people can get home before the weekend is over. I'm wondering if there will be enough gas available at stations for the folks to get back home by Monday? I'm sure the state and federal officials will figure something out.

I know cleaning is a pain. I hate to do as much as the next person. However, it is nice to have something to clean up, instead of the alternative of nothing left to clean up.

The governor of Texas, Rick Perry, ask for people to pray for Texas. Maybe they did and maybe he listened. Things could have been much worse. There is a lot to be thankful for this fine September morning!