Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Wide Open Race - John Kerry Comments

Did Senator John Kerry out fox the Republicans with his comments encouraging young people to stay in school or end up in Iraq? Well if his intention was to fire up both Republican and Democratic voters, he was successful with that comment. For months now all polls show that Americans are upset with the results so far in the Iraqi War and most people want to see the government move in a different direction because they don’t believe the current plan is working. The airwaves have been filled today with Republican operatives rushing to denounce John Kerry’s statements and demanding an apology. Kerry’s comments will help Republicans fire up their base of voters, but his comments might fire up Democratic and Independent voters even more.

Republican strategist have been working for weeks to get the War in Iraq off the front pages of newspapers because that issue is seen as a loser for them on November 7th. However, by party leaders attacking John Kerry with both barrels about his Iraq comments, the GOP has put the issue they have been trying to run away from for weeks back on the front burner. Will the American people be able to separate John Kerry’s comments from other Democrats running in the election? That is the big question to me and if they can then John Kerry might just have out foxed the best political analysis in the business, Karl Rove.

The art of politics is to entrap your opponent into doing something they believe to be good for their campaign, but in reality it has the opposite effect. John Kerry is banking on an intelligent electorate who will be able to separate his comments from their dislike of the Iraqi War. That is the biggest problem with this gamble on Kerry’s part because while there are millions of Americans who are paying attention to what is being said each day in this election season, millions of other potential voters hardly ever pay much attention to the news. I had notice the past few weeks that President Bush had been successful in changing the subject away from Iraq and onto other issues where people were more closely aliened to his positions.

Now, however, the news about John Kerry’s statement will dominate the news for the next week and the actual text of that debate will be the War in Iraq which could remind people why they oppose the Bush administration and many Republican’s who have rubber stamped the administrations policies from day one. My feeling is that this statement by Kerry will hurt some Democrats and could cause some of them to lose next week. However, the calculation by Kerry and most certainly other Democratic strategist is that without Iraq on the front burner each day of this week, their changes of victory could be diminished, anyway. This is hardball politics at its best right now and if you would have asked me at the beginning of October what this years "October Surprise" would be, I would have never thought it would have been caused by Senator John Kerry.

Read more about 2008 Elections:

Florida Fights DNC For Early Election
Reagan Would Not Win In 2008
Second GOP Debate
Media Abandons McCain
Democrats Debate 2008

Nasty Personal Attacks As Election Day Nears

It is not just the political advertisements, coming out of Washington, which are negative; personal attacks from people in power and the folks that cover them are getting more frequent and nastier by the day. I watched parts of an interview conducted by David Letterman with Bill O’Reilly a few nights ago and a few times during that interview I thought I was watching a couple of wrestlers talking about what they are going to do to each other the next time they meet in the ring. Yesterday, John Kerry told a bunch of kids that they had better stay in school or they would end up in Iraq. Of course, the GOP today took that comment as an attack on US troops and the political discourse this season just hit an all time low.

It is not surprising that most experts believe only 40% of the people eligible to vote next Tuesday will show up and make their voice heard on Election Day. It is bad enough that US troops are dying every single day in Iraq without political partisans using their brave blood for political gains. What is missing in Washington are morals which tell any decent person to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. For decades my party, Republican, has claimed to be the party of high standards and moral values while at the same time running some of the most nasty political ads imaginable against their opponents. Both Republicans and Democrats now have a small army of talking heads who are eager to show up on any television programs that request them to read off the party’s daily talking points. I know these are talking points because different people say the exact same thing on different programs.

Despite the talk of high moral values by Republicans in Washington, my belief's have now turned negative against politicians in both the Democratic and Republican Party. I now think that neither group of politicians are moral enough to take the high road because it has been proven time and time again that when any candidate gets in trouble with the American people, they choose to lash out and blame someone else for their problems, instead of taking responsibility. It is much easier to blame someone else that to take the hit yourself and try and do better next time. Even though all the experts say that negative ads and personal attacks are used because they work, it doesn’t make it right from a moral point of view. Robbing a bank might make a person rich, but most people don’t commit that crime just because it works, in the short run, to solve financial problems.

Without a moral compass both major political party’s have drifted into men and women who look more like gangsters than decent human beings. I for one am fed up with good people being dragged through the dirt just because they don’t have the right letter at the end of their name. (Example, (R) for Republican and (D) for Democrat) The politics of personal destruction is driving more people away from the polls each election year and while I don’t currently see a solution to this problem, one should be found and people who use dirty tactics to destroy good hard working people should punished and not rewarded by winning reelection by the voters on Election Day.

Evolution Of Pirates - The New Music Industry

A long time ago when I was a kid there were those who chose to steal their music instead of paying for it. Back then, kids would either get together with their old style tape recording machines and single 45’s and tape each other’s records. Of course, compared to the technology of today this might look silly, but in the pre-digital age this was the only way to build up a music collection without spending a bunch of money. Over the years music pirates have always been on the cutting edge of using the latest devices that come onto the market and using those devices to listen to the music they want without having to actually purchase the music.

After finishing high school in 1977 I went to Dallas to look for a job and I wasn’t there long before I noticed a different kind of music piracy. At several locations I saw shady looking people selling 8-track tapes and cassettes of popular albums for about $1 each out of the trunks of their cars in some popular shopping center parking lots. I went up to see what all the fuss was about one day and found out that their pirated music was copied in China. Talk about getting your money’s worth, I bought an 8-track tape once from one of these guys and it sounded like all the music on the tape was recorded in some water well instead of a professional music studio. Even the front cover of the tape appeared to be copied on an old fashion Xerox machine in black and white.

A few years later the really high tech process of copying music got into full swing when manufacturers started selling dual cassette tape stereo systems. These new systems made it possible to pretty much make unlimited copies of any album, which was also released, on cassette. Also, the quality was pretty darn good back in those days and millions of people started to copy each other’s music collections. While the music industry didn’t like the idea of people copying music in this way, I don’t remember hearing the outcry we have all heard in recent years. In the early 1980’s, most people bought home stereo systems that had this feature and literally millions of dollars worth of music was copied in this way when automobiles went from using 8-track tapes to cassette’s during that time period.

As the 1980’s were drawing to a close the compact disk started to appear in stores and people were completely excited about this new digital format because the quality of their music was better than ever before. For several years music which was available on CD was pretty much unaffected by pirates because there were few CD burners available to copy music in this new format. However, the ever proficient thieves were still out there from China who would sell the most popular CD’s on the market at cut rate prices in hidden locations in most cities. It seems like some people in China have made a good living by stealing US music and selling it at cut rate prices now for decades.

Of course, we all know the latest chapter in this on going story, which is still not yet complete. Once the Interest became a fixture in most homes around the world and the CD burner was developed for sale at a low price then it was only natural for someone to come along and exploit the music industry once again. That happened many years ago with a music sharing service called Napster. My guess is that Napster grew faster than any other business in the world in its first year and while the whole idea of Napster seemed to be cutting edge, the truth is that pirates were just using the last technology to continue their age old game of stealing music, instead of paying for it. The theft of music by pirates has been going on for decades and it will continue no matter what new ways the music industry comes up with to stop it.

In ten years, most likely, I will be writing about a totally different music format that will make CD's look old fashion and very out of date. While I don’t know what that new technology might look like right now, rest assured that it won’t be long until it will be also used by music pirates to enable the average person to copy music without paying for it. While many things change in this high tech world these days, one thing never seems to change and that is music piracy which will be around as long as there are young people who believe all music should be free to everyone.

Blaze Under Control In Southern California

Firefighters in Southern California have finally got a wildfire under control, which took the lives of four (4) firefighters and left another in critical condition and fighting for his life. Experts say that this blaze was caused by arson and police officers are search for clues to find out who set this fire so they can bring them to justice. I wonder sometimes how so many fires can get so out-of-control in Southern California when basically the whole are is nothing more than a big desert? I guess there are periods of time during the year when this area gets enough rainfall to cause undergrowth to grow and then die off when the rains stop falling. What a terrible situation this must pose for folks who call Southern California home, but in reality none of us are safe from mother nature, no matter where we might live.

Over the years I have watched on television as these huge fires have consumed thousands of acres in this dry region of the US and sadly I have also watched good hard working people lose their homes and all their worldly possessions at the same time. I feel guilty when I see families burned out of their homes while I sit on my couch watching their possessions go up in flames, but in reality there is nothing I can do to help these folks, or I would. However, there are people who put their lives on the line and move headfirst into harms way to protect the lives and property of people they don’t even know. Those folks are firefighters who often times get a call late at night telling them they are needed in some far away state to help total strangers.

We Americans are so lucky to have these firefighters which will get that call, wake up and within a few hours be on the front lines of an out-of-control wildfire either in California or some other state which has similar types of conditions. I have noticed such an outpouring of love from the people in Southern California towards these men and women who put themselves and their fire fighting equipment between the fire and homes that stand in their path. We all learned, once again, how dangerous this job can be when these four (4) firefighters were killed the other day when they were overtaken by flames which crossed their path. It is no wonder that little boys and girls want to be firefighters because while the job is very dangerous, it does give people who want to help others a front row seat to do so.

I almost broke down and cried the other day when one of the dead firefighter's sister was on television talking about her brother who was killed. She said that he was not just her brother but her best friend as she became too overcome with emotion to continue. My heart hurts for her and others who lost their loved ones because some idiot decided to start this fire either on a dare or even worse for kicks. The only thing we can all hope for now is that the police will be able to figure out who started this fire and bring them to justice. There are many ways to have fun, but starting fires which put brave people at risk is not one of them.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Politics Of Nature - Global Warming Debate

While political leaders in the United States continue to have their heads in the sand about the worldwide problem of global warming, British PM Tony Blair is talking about imposing a new tax to help fight the problem. Of course, trying to solve a worldwide issue like global warming by imposing a new tax on less than 1% of the worlds population is stupid, but Blair’s actions do point out the differences in opinion of his government and Republican leaders in Washington DC. Just about everyone realizes now that there is a problem with global warming and only a fool would not want to try and do something about it, if there is something that can be done. Here’s where the problem comes in with global warming; the whole issue has become a political hot potato because extremist on both sides, so nothing is getting done.

Like most other things, the possible answer to slowing down the process of global warming resides in the human race cleaning up its act and finding new and better ways to produce the energy we need to heat and cool our homes and fuel our automobiles. I have written many times about the game major oil producing countries play on nations like the United States. We are in the middle of one of those games right now. A few months ago gas prices were knocking on the door of $3 per gallon, but now in a very short period of time the price has dropped dramatically. Why? It is because the nations of OPEC and a few others are smart enough to know that keeping gas prices high for too long will encourage people to develop alternative fuels and that is the last thing they want to see happen.

Only a couple of months ago there were stories of people all over the US developing alternative fuels which they could sell competitively if regular gas prices remained at about $3 per gallon. However, now that the price of gas has drop, I don’t hear anything about these new products anymore and none of us will hear about them again until OPEC reduces production once again and drives up the price up gasoline next time over $3 per gallon. Oil producing countries have been playing this game with their consumers since the 1970’s and no one is willing to stand up against them because they give too much money to political campaigns in DC.

Unless alternative energy sources are developed and made profitable this endless loop of rising and then dropping oil prices will continue and the problem of global warming will never be solved. I believe it is time for moderate voices to emerge and look for an alternative to the political extremes, which drive public policy in Washington. I don’t want to go back to riding a bike, but at the same time I don’t want my money to continue to go to counties who play US consumers like a violin at the gas pumps. There has to be a middle of the road position here were most folks can agree with a new policy. It will be impossible for either he far left or far right extremist to ever compromise with each other because neither side trusts the other to do the right thing.

I believe global warming is real and even if we cannot stop it entirely, we can slow down its progress by making some changes in the way we use energy. I always try and take a moderate approach to life and most of the time that type of approach leads to real solutions to problems. My gut feeling is that most Americans are still moderate in their daily lives as well, but that moderation causes their voices not to be heard in DC because extremist on both sides are shouting too loud to let their voices of reason be heard. Maybe global warming cannot be stopped, but where is the harm in at least trying to do something, rather than always fighting over who is right and who is wrong on its very existence?

Related: Gas Pump Price, Tattered Image Issue, Gas Thefts Up, New Gas War, New Energy Sources

Politics Of Nature

Cowboys Win Big Over Carolina Panthers

The Dallas Cowboys won a big game last night against the Carolina Panthers and the reason Dallas was able to pull off this victory is because for the first time this year they played as a team. Professional football is a team sport and the coach who is able to get his team to all play together will win most of the time. So far this year there have been problems on the Dallas Cowboy team with various players, but most of the problems so far have revolved around Terrell Owens. Last night when the Cowboys played the Panthers they had a new quarterback who reminds me of a “blue collar” type of guy named Tony Romo. From what I know about Romo he is a quite man who steadily goes about his business which isn't trying to get the spotlight of fame shined on him personally.

In last night’s game, Terrell Owen played for the first time as a team player since joining the Cowboys and with this change he not only made himself look good personally, but help his team and his new starting quarterback win a much needed victory. I don’t have a clue if the Dallas Cowboys have what it takes to make it to the playoff’s this year, but I definitely believe their chances of a playoff birth are better now with Romo in charge of the team. My personal feeling is that anyone who decides to go into the field of professional football should do so knowing that it is a team sport. There are plenty of individual sports like golf, tennis and boxing where folks who need the attention spotlight constantly shining on their face can play.

When last night’s game was over, I went to bed feeling better about the Dallas Cowboys than I have in several years. No team, even one affectionately known as “Americans Team” can be successful in the NFL without a good starting quarterback. Over the past several seasons, the Dallas Cowboys have gone through more quarterback than most teams in the NFL and just like any other type of business, how can a team play at its best without a consistent leader on the field? Will Tony Romo turn out to be the type of long term team leader the Dallas Cowboy’s need to reach the playoff's and become a strong force in future years? Only time will tell, but I was impressed by Coach Parcells attitude when he said that Romo was the starting quarterback no matter what.

Too many times quarterbacks in the NFL are switched out on a game by game basis depending on how well they are playing that week. However, while this idea might look good on paper, it is a disaster for other players on the team who need to get use to the personality of their quarterback. Tony Romo is not one of those glory boys from the college ranks who got a multimillion-dollar contract just to sign with and started playing immediately for the Cowboys. Instead, Romo has stayed patient and waited until his coach thought he was ready to take over the team and lead them to victory. I believe in the way Bill Parcells brought Romo along slowly and my guess is that while most folks in the US don’t know his name right now, Tony Romo will become a household name over the next few seasons because he was promoted to starting quarterback in the right way.

In a few weeks the Dallas Cowboys will face the Indianapolis Colts and after that game we will all know if the Cowboys have what it takes to reach the playoff’s this year. My second favorite team to watch in the NFL is the Indianapolis Colts because in many ways they remind me of the Dallas Cowboys of the 1970’s. Their head coach, Dungy, reminds me of the temperament of the late Tom Landry and their entire team plays as a team each week they take the field. If the Cowboys can find some way to beat the Colts in a couple of weeks, then I believe they can play with and beat the best and they could prove that the best part of their season will be at the end when Coach Parcells rolled the dice and changed his starting quarterback.

Divorce With Money - Fight Over When Money Is Gone

Without a doubt the worst types of divorces are those when the two sides cannot agree on custody issues of their children. However, running a close second to custody issues are divorces among rich couples that seem to drag out a long time, like the Paul McCartney and Heather Mills divorce going on right now in the UK. For many folks who are faced with a pending divorce, the biggest issue will be how both sides can learn to live on their own without the other person’s income to help out. So when stories of the rich and famous come along, regular people are fascinated at how any couple could be fighting over hundreds of millions of dollars of assets.

I believe the rich live in a totally different world from the rest of us with different priorities and concerns. When a couple is very rich, most of their friends are rich as well and this is where the biggest issues of these divorces comes into play. Ego, is what drives many divorcing rich couples to fight for long periods of time over large sums of money. In this world of rich and famous people it is much more important to be seen as taking ones spouse to the cleaners than in a poor or middle class lifestyle. Neither side in these high profile divorces will ever have a need for money again, but when a person is that rich, it is important from an ego point of view to show that each person is coming out of the divorce stronger than ever before.

Another issue which causes the divorces of rich and famous people to go on for a long period of time is the fact that there is no shortage of money to continue to pay lawyers to eventually get your way. These high profile divorce lawyers must love their jobs because they know once they sign up a rich client who not only wants a divorce but also has an ego, the sky is the limit when it comes to the amount of money they will be able to bill their client. When people are emotionally hurt and angry the natural human response is to get even with the person you are angry with. Unfortunately with some folks of moderate means that often times leads to violence. However, most people who have millions of dollars of assets choose to hurt their former loved one by trying to take away as much of their money as they possibly can.

Since I was a little kid, there have been rich people getting a divorced and just like an afternoon Soap Opera”, regular folks will be glued to their TV screens trying to keep up with the latest news of how the rich and famous choose to conduct themselves when going through a divorce. Of course, just like everyone else, the rich do eventually get divorced and just like everyone else the court system, most of the time, is fair in the way they divide up assets. However, it is the period of time between when the divorce is filed and when it is finally settled that drives the curiosity of most people and while what we are all watching on TV is real, to most folks it appears more like something they would read in a novel because they will never have that much money to play with and/or fight over.

Iraq War Update - Another Bloody Day

It was another bloody day in Iraq where one more US soldier was killed, but the human death toll among Iraqi’s is much greater as this civil war continues to get more violent. For me, it is difficult to describe this war as anything but one of a civil nature, but the Bush administration continues to proclaim the violence in Iraq not to be a civil war. I guess the big question about the War in Iraq is, do you believe your own eyes or do you believe what the President of the United States is telling you? I know the major news media has taken sides in this war, with the big three networks and CNN coming out strongly against the war with their coverage and Fox News squarely on the side of the Bush administration.

While folks in the media continue to push their own political agenda's, American soldiers and Iraqi citizens are being killed each day by either suicide bombers or cold blooded killers who are rounding up people at random and executing them. As a Republican who is very disappointed in my party right now, it hurts my heart to think that while party officials are talking a tough game in Iraq right now, most likely they will completely change their tune no matter how the November 7th elections turn out next week. In the mean time, people will continue to die in Iraq just because the United States is holding an election.

The current course of action in Iraq is not working and has not been working for a long time. A couple of weeks ago, President Bush called in his top generals to discuss Iraq and what needs to be done to stem the violence. At the end of that meeting, President Bush said that he asked the generals what they wanted to do and then told them he supported them 100%. While a good case could be made for not micromanaging a war from the White House, it does seem like the commander-in-chief should have a stronger voice in the overall picture of what is going on in Iraq. I must admit it concerns me that President Bush isn’t taking a stronger position with his general’s.

Then there is this issue of timetables for the Iraqi government to start handling their own security so US troops can return home. The Bush administration believes strongly that placing timetables for success on the new Iraqi government is the wrong way to go. I don’t understand this position at all because both President Bush and Vice-President Cheney come from a business background and anyone who understands business knows that nothing will get done without some kind of deadline for success. Even the government understands the importance of timetables. Just image if the IRS didn’t give taxpayers a deadline to file their tax returns? How many people do you think would get around to filing them before April 15th?

I do feel badly for the service men and women who are stuck in Iraq right now without a new direction just because the Bush administration doesn’t want to look weak on Election Day. I just hope these soldiers keep their heads down and stay alive until a new and better policy is created in this civil war torn country. In the mean time we should all pray for our soldiers and their families and pray that somehow this new Iraqi government will get its act together so we can bring our troops home, soon.

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

Sunday, October 29, 2006

We Were Laughing At Snakes On A Plane

This weekend my wife and I took in two movies at the dollar theater here in Waco. The first one I wrote about yesterday called, “The Wicker Man”. Today, we saw “Snakes on a Plane”, starting Samuel L. Jackson and man was this movie worth the wait. I remember before this summer’s movie season even got started, I was hearing talk about this movie on entertainment television shows and I must admit that any movie which takes two very scary things like flying and snakes and puts them together does have a certain appeal to me. The critics just torn the “Snakes on a Plane” movie to shreds when this picture first came out in August and I should have guess that if critics hate a movie, I usually will like it. My wife and I love movies with Samuel L. Jackson and my favorite one was when he starred with Gina Davis in “The Long Kiss Goodnight” a few years ago.

While some folks probably were scared by this movie, I couldn’t help but laugh my head off at some of the scenes in this movie. Some of the other people in attendance were laughing too which made this modern age horror flick something which will most likely stand the test of time and be watched at slumber parties, decades from now. I grew up on a farm in the Texas panhandle and seeing snakes on a daily basis during the summer months was not that uncommon. Back then we all learned the difference between different kinds of snake so we wouldn’t make a mistake and kill snakes, which were not poisonous, like bull snakes. Actually, when a person comes from a rural background they learn a bunch of facts about nature and what snakes are good and bad for people. I learned early on that bull snakes would eat mainly rats, which kept down the damage to certainly farm buildings like sheds and stalls.

The biggest surprise about “Snakes on a Plane” was that there was a real story being told behind the scenes of the horrible shots of snakes attacking people on a 747 jet aircraft flying from Hawaii to Los Angeles. Now I would not consider the writing of this movie to win any Academy Awards, but it was written better than a bunch of movies I have seen which were promoted by the critics as being great movies. There was one scene in the movie which I thought was a little bit beyond belief and that scene had a snake that was so big it made an Anaconda look like a worm. However, most of the snakes scenes were really good and after the show was over, my wife and I talked about how much we enjoyed this movie and how wrong the movie critics were once again. Now if you are the kind of person who hates to fly and hates all kinds of snakes then I would not recommend this movie without taking some type of tranquilizer before you go. In fact, you might want to skip it entirely if you have these kinds of deep-set fears inside. However, if you just want to watch a movie that is funny from start to finish and not have to use your brain much to figure out what is going on, on screen, then “Snakes on a Plane” is the perfect movie to go see.

Related: 2006 Movie Favorites

Laughing At Snakes

Here Comes Halloween - Both Kids And Adults Love This Day

At work last week a young man I work with, 22 years old, was already dressing all in black almost a week before Halloween. While I thought his choice of cloths was a little bit funny, I certainly didn’t let my feelings show when I was around him. Seeing how at the age of 22 he was still celebrating Halloween just like a kid from grade school it made me think about how much people have changed since I was in grade school back in the 1960’s. It might just be that there have always been young adults who have participated in the celebration of Halloween for years and I just didn’t pay any attention to them. Since I saw this coworker all dressed up last week, I have been paying attention to folks I see around town and this coworker is by no means the only young person, over the age of 18, that loves Halloween.

Last night I stopped by a local convenience store to get a few items and while I was in the store some young girl came in wearing a mask that looked just like a wolf. I wasn’t sure if this girl was going to a Halloween party or was about to rob the store. I’ve head of some people wearing these masks when they commit robberies. The good news is that she was going to a Halloween party and before she even got out of the store, another girl entered wearing a pirates costume. None of these folks were in grade school or teenagers for that matter. They were young adults who were really into the Halloween spirit. I think some young men and women look for any reason to throw a party and get drunk because I heard the two people I saw last night taking about going to Halloween parties later that night.

Here in Texas, there are religious groups who are always against Halloween because they believe it celebrates the devil. While the whole idea of Halloween does celebrate events of a dark nature, I believe most kids who enjoy Halloween don’t even think about what the actual holiday stands for. The biggest problem with Halloween isn’t the devil worship side, but the dangers that our young children face when they go out, “trick or treating”. People that are generally evil by nature will use holidays like Halloween to try and hurt people they don’t even know. It’s sad, but most parents must inspect the candy their kids receive on Halloween before they eat that candy. Even some Emergency Rooms in our area volunteer to x-ray trick or treat candy to make sure some “nut” didn’t put pins or nettles into their treats to hurt the kids.

Halloween has changed a bunch since I was a tot, but hardly anything looks like it did back in the 1960’s anymore. I still believe most people are good, but the really bad folks seem to be worse and in greater numbers as the years go by.

I Love To Watch Nicholas Cage Movies

My wife and I saw the Nicholas Cage movie called, “The Wicker Man” yesterday at our local dollar theater. From the previews we both thought this looked like a pretty good, scary, movie. However, I found myself walking out of the theater with a confused look on my face. It’s not because the movie was bad, but because there were so many unanswered questions at the end. A few weeks ago we saw another Nicholas Cage movie called, “World Trade Center” and in that movie, Cage was fantastic and the directing by Oliver Stone was the best I have ever seen. Over the years, I have kept up with the work of Nicholas Cage because just like millions of other people in this world, Cage has his share of ups and downs when it comes to making movies, but just like the Energizer Bunny he just keeps going and going.

The first movie I remember seeing Nicholas Cage act in was a movie about ten or fifteen years ago called, “ConAir”. I really loved that movie and saw it twice in the theater at the time it was released and several times later on DVD when it was available to rent. After “ConAir”, Cage made some really good movies and some which were terrible. However, Cage never stopped acting and my guess is he stars in two or three movies every single year. Another Nicholas Cage movie I really enjoyed was one called, “Wind Talkers” where he played a grumpy old career Army Sergeant during World War II. While the story-line of that movie was how Indians used their own special language as code for American forces during World War II, Cage was the driving force behind that movie and his real life emotional expressions while playing his part were very moving to me.

I almost forgot another great movie that Nicholas Cage starred in and that movie was called “The Rock” where he played an FBI agent sent into an old closed prison in San Francisco Bay to overpower some renegade soldiers who were threatening to shoot deadly poison into San Francisco if their demands were not met. The best thing about “The Rock” was it was really two movies inside of one. In most major movies there is one story line with a bunch of action. However, “The Rock” provided two different story lines which were put together in a great way. I just love the way Nicholas Cage talks when he is angry. His words are so distinctive and at the same time funny when he delivers them.

Probably the worst movie I saw Cage act in was one called, “8 Millimeter” (8MM) back in 1999. That movie was about the subject of snuff films and whether or not the story of their existence is real or just an urban legend. The whole story line of this production was stupid, from my point of view, as an old rich woman hired Nicholas Cage’s character to find out if her dead husband had paid to have a woman killed in a home made stuff movie. While this issue is an interesting movie idea, the whole story line of 8MM didn’t keep my interest and the director of this movie choose to take what could have been a good movie and completely took it to the dark side of human nature as the film progress along.

I look forward to watching many more Nicholas Cage movies in the years to come and with this man's hard work ethic, most like; there will be two or three new movies he will act in every single year. I’m sure some of his new movies will be good while others are bad, but I doubt if he is going to stop making movies anytime soon because I believe he enjoys his work and there doesn’t seem to be a lack of directors who want to cast him in their motion pictures.

Early Voting Benefits - Avoid The Crowds By Showing Up Early

There was an interesting news story out today that said up to 25% of voters could be casting their vote via absentee ballot this year. While most people are moving in the direction of voting absentee because they are afraid of the new electronic voting machines and their accuracy; there is another good reason to vote either via absentee ballot or to vote early like some states allow. Yesterday, my wife and I voted early here in Waco and the main reason we did this was by casting our votes one week before the election, we will be more prepared to just ignore the terrible political ads which will be coming our way over the next week. Also, by voting early we were able to go to the polls on a Saturday, rather than fighting the huge crowds that will be present on Tuesday.

I don’t understand why the government doesn’t change the day everyone votes from a weekday to the weekend. I know there are Constitutional issues involved in changing this date, but I am sure most Americans would be supportive of moving election day from a Tuesday to a Saturday. However, just like any other issue which most folks would agree on, the Congress has its own agenda of why they want people to vote on a workday, instead of the weekend. Also, I believe there are many people that believe their votes will be stolen on Election Day because of these new electronic voting machines which don’t provide a receipt showing the votes they made. After all the problems in Florida back in 2000, it is understandable that people will question this new technology which doesn’t have a way to follow a paper trail back to each vote made on that electronic voting machine.

It is almost like leaders in both the Republican and Democratic Party like to keep their voters scared, just in case they decide to challenge an election in the court system. There should be nothing easier that voting and tabulating those votes to declare a winner, but in typical federal government style they have taken something simple and made it complicated for their own purposes and those purposes are not designed to do the right thing. When I voted yesterday it was on a new electronic voting machine and after a few minutes of reading the instructions it was fairly easy to figure out how to work the equipment. However, I know old people are not going to like these new machines at all and many of these folks will show up on November 7th and use them, but in future elections they will choose to order an absentee ballot and vote the way they have always done in the past by putting an X in the box of their candidate of choice.

I have a bad feeling about what is going to happen on November 8th this year after all the votes have been cast and counted. I personally believe there will be legal challenge after legal challenge of close races and it could be weeks or months before people in many areas know who their new Congressman or Senator will be. Folks like me love new things like computers and gadgets, but there are just as many people who don’t like change and some people will never use a computer because the very idea of that kind of technology scares them to death. I hope I am wrong and election night decides all races based on which candidate got the most votes, but Florida in 2000 proved to me that no election can be taken for granted anymore to be fairly and quickly decided in the future. There is no good reason why voting should be this complicated and the end result will be that sooner or later people who have always voted will decide to stop that practice because politicians keep playing games with their Constitutional right to select their own leaders in an easy and fair way.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Mainstream Political Blogs Cover Modern Day Elections

I voted early today for the upcoming November 7th, election and so much has changed since the last time I walked into our local early voting location to cast my ballot. The biggest change is that millions of people on all sides of the political spectrum are now expressing their political views within a personal blog. Two years ago, when I voted the last time I had never considered writing down my opinions inside a blog of my own and now I have a blog which I update several times each day with my opinion of current events including politics. When blogging first started becoming popular a few years ago, the political partisans from the far right and left who mainly dominated the political debates in the blog world. However, now I am finding more mainstream political blogs everywhere and the good news is that I am reading stories about Democrats being mad at their party and Republicans doing the same thing.

This is the main reason why I believe that blogging is going mainstream more these days. Another reason why blogging has become a driving force in American politics is because the mainstream newspaper and television networks have become so one sided in their coverage of elections that they are turning off millions of people who consider themselves true moderates. In the world of blogging just about any political subject is covered by hundreds of shade-tree writers who are connected together by the Internet. The popular media culture is fond of saying that most blogs don’t get that much traffic compared to the major media outlets and that is correct if you take blogs one at a time. However, when you think about how many millions of blogs are updated daily on the Internet and if only a handful of people visit each one of these blogs each day, then there are more people reading blogs than watch the major three network television news broadcasts each day.

There is another aspect to blogging, which I have notice and that aspect is that it is good therapy to sit down and write about things in life that either makes a person happy, mad or sad. Mental health folks have said for years that a happy person is one who can talk about their problems in a constructive way and deal with issues which bother them on a daily basis. I believe writing in a blog is just as effective as communicating orally with a therapist at $150 per hour. There are so many competitive interests, which go into political decision, and now that blogging has gone mainstream, the average person has at least some small voice in expressing what is important to them when it comes to government leadership. I am a long time Republican, but this year I will not be able to support my party the way I have in the past because of poor leadership at the national level. Without having this blog to write about the wrongs I see committed in Washington DC, I would most like just sit on the couch at night and be miserable. However, having a blog has made me feel like I am contributing to the national debate on many important issues rather than listening to talking heads on TV try and tell me what to think and what to believe.

I believe blogging is here to stay and I also believe that thousands of regular bloggers will, one day, grow into trusted sources of information from people who are hungry to hear debate about political issues without the media pundits who only read talking points each time they appear on CNN, Fox or MSNBC. It’s a brave new world and in many ways part-time bloggers are leading the way to the future.

Will Things Change If Democrats Win Control?

If Democrats take control of Congress next month, the big question should be, will things really change in Washington DC? I think the answer is both yes and no. On really big issues, I don’t think there will be much change at all, but on smaller issues there might be a dramatic shift in legislation away from big business and directed to the poor and middle class. Millions of people will vote for Democrats on November 7th because they don’t approve of President Bush’s handing of the war in Iraq. However, just because Democrats gain control of Congress doesn’t mean that anything is going to change or that more US troops will return home.

The most likely changes in how the US will be governed will reside in domestic bread and butter issues like the minimum wage and affordable access to healthcare. Most people agree that major gains in the US economy have only benefited the wealthiest in the United States under Republican rule. Most likely Democrats will change direction in that regard and remove money from the large tax breaks which were given to the rich during that past six years and use that money to offer more entitlement programs to the poor and almost poor. Over the history of the US there have been these switches in public policy between government for the rich and government for the poor.

In reality this is a normal process because people from different financial backgrounds will use the power of the US government more for their own interests than for anyone else’s. I hope that the Congress decides to go ahead and raise the minimum wage because it has been many years since the folks who are on the bottom of the financial latter in the US have received a raise. During this same period of time the people on the upper end of the financial spectrum have done well under Republican leadership, so it only makes sense that it is time for a change in how the wealth of this great country is divided up.

As far as healthcare goes, the US system is in a mess with huge increases in everything from a doctor’s visit to a prolonged hospital stay. In addition to the hands on care given by professionals, the cost of prescription drugs has been rising much faster than the rate of inflation for many years now. Without the government stepping in and putting some kind of hold on these out-of-control increases in healthcare, there is a danger that only the very wealthy will be able to afford to seek medical care in the years to come. In true Washington fashion, both extremes on this issue will be screaming gloom and doom about change, but the current system isn’t working so something new should be tried.

These are just two changes I expect to see proposed within the first six months of a Democratic take over of the Congress. There is still that big “if” as to whether the Democratic will eventually succeed in November, but if they do look for the minimum wage and restructuring of healthcare to be top issues on their new agenda.

The Final Week Before Election Day

We are getting very close to the final week of the 2006 US elections and while many things have changed over the past few months of this campaign, voter attitudes have changed little. The latest polls show that most Americans are not satisfied with President Bush’s leadership and to put it bluntly, a vast majority of the country does not believe the United States is heading in the right direction. The big issue going into this final week before the election will be which major party will be able to get their core, rank and file, voters to the polls one week from Tuesday?

The smart money is always on the Republicans when it comes to their 35 million dollar get out the vote machine which has been much more successful than the Democrats in recent years. I think that this massive get out of vote GOP machine is much more effective in years when only a few percentage points separate the major political party’s. This year, there is a massive lead in the polls for Democratic candidates for Congress and unless almost all Democrats stay home on election day, it is hard to envision the GOP loading up enough voters in buses and taking them to the polls to be ultimately successful.

The pool of loyal GOP voters is also lower than it has been in decades. I consider myself a Republican and in past years I would go to the polls on election day and vote a straight Republican ticket. However, I will not be doing the same thing this year because I desire new leadership within the Republican Party and that is just not going to happen unless current leaders lose their power. I see no other way to change the Republican Party other than to live with liberal Democratic ideas for a few years. People in both parties’ who are entrenched in power will not give up that power unless the American people take it away for them.

That said, anyone who believes that this election is already over and has counted out Karl Rove just because they don’t like him personally is a fool. While millions of Republicans would like to see new leaders emerge and take our party in a new direction, the job of Karl Rove is to make sure that doesn’t happen. The real truth is that no political party can control an electorate that is really mad and desires change. I think the American people are mad right now, but none of us are going to know how mad until voter turnout figures are released on November 7th. Until then most observations, including my own are based purely on speculation at what, might, happen.

I remember back in 1994 when Republicans took control of the US House of Representatives. I was so happy when that happened because I was sick of the Democratic leadership corruption and that anger on my part and the part of millions of other Americans put the GOP in control of the US House since 1994. Will the tables turn on November 7th? It is too early to know for sure and many things can and will happen in the final week of this campaign year which might not effect the outcome of the Congress, but it will effect how many people actually show up to vote on Election Day.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Life After Stroke - Dick Clark Shows The Way

It was announced today that Dick Clark will once again host the big New Years Eve party in New York City. Last year, Clark returned to the party after missing the year before due to a stroke. Almost everyone in the world knows someone who has suffer a major stroke, but Dick Clark puts the long lasting problems and symptoms of this illness in its proper perspective. I wrote here a few months ago about having someone in my own family suffer a stroke, so I know first hand how difficult it is for the patient and the families involved to get on with their lives. I remember my uncle telling me with great passion a few weeks after his stroke about how he tried as hard as he could to will his hand to move, but nothing happened. My uncle’s stroke was on the left side of his brain, so it effected the right side of his body.

While some folks will find it hard to watch Dick Clark go on national television and not be as mobile or have the same distinctive voice we have grown to recognize, Clark is doing the nation a service with his television appearances. So many people believe there is no good quality of life after a major stroke, but Dick Clark is proving that notion a falsehood. Just like Michael J. Fox is providing inspiration to Parkinson’s Disease patients by his public appearances, Dick Clark is doing the same for people who suffer a stroke. In recent years the need of role models has been played down in the world because so many previous role models have let down the people who tried to emulate their actions. However, I believe role models are necessary for most people because of the mixed messages which are sent out daily on national tabloid TV shows.

There is an old saying that goes, “you are not defeated until you quit”, and that is so true and folks like Dick Clark are proving that just because a person suffers a stroke, their life doesn’t have to be over. Sure, change will be necessary but people are forced to change every single day for one reason on another. As baby boomers continue to age, there will be more famous examples of people suffering a stroke and getting on with their life. Dick Clark is the first person that I have noticed in the public eye that has put vanity behind him and matched headfirst back into the public arena. Rather than showing pity for what this stroke did to Dick Clark’s speech patterns, I choose to see the brave way he has faced adversity by refusing to give up when something this tragic unexpectedly struck his life.

Related: Uncle Suffered Stroke, Sharon Near Death, Aspirin Ibuprofen Study, Pain Reliever Issues, Stroke Scares Family

Life After Stroke

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

Electronic Voting Machines Showing Up Everywhere

In the year 2000, we all saw how badly the current election system is designed in some parts of the country. Six years later it would be nice to assume that the problems from the 2000 presidential election have been fixed, but that would be a wrong statement. Millions of Americans will vote on new electronic voting machines for the first time on November 7th, but increasingly there are reports that many of these new electronic voting machines are not working properly and/or people are confused when using them. Here in McLennan County, these new voting machines are going into action for the first time and there are many reports circulating that these machines are too confusing for some voters.

Another problem with our new electronic voting machines is that they don’t create a paper trail in case there is a dispute in the election process. Our local elections administrator was interviewed on a local television station the other day explaining how there was a backup of data which would prevent the actual votes cast from being deleted, but I still have my doubts as to the wisdom of having something as important as an election decided without some type of paper backup system. The main reason most counties don’t want to include a paper receipt when folks vote is because to add such a feature would cost the county thousands of extra dollars. Most times, there are not sinister motives behind these kinds of decision, but just the old fashion reason of the cost.

There are expectations of voting problems on November 7th everywhere and it would not surprise me to see many losers head to court and try to get their defeat annulled because of these new electronic voting machines. My feeling is that the federal government needs to approve one machine, which is used in counties nationwide, and provide the funding needed for these counties to purchase this equipment. I don’t think for a minute that Members of Congress and the administration could agree on what machine to approve, so an outside committee of former political leaders from both political party’s will need to be formed to make a recommendation for Congress to follow. Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on much of anything anymore, so an outside committee’s recommendation will be the only hope of getting unified electronic voting machines, nationwide.

If the experts are right and this upcoming election is not a close one then there is little doubt that leaders in Washington will put off this problem once again by putting their heads in the sand and ignoring the problem. However, it won’t be long until another close election comes along which will expose the problems of electronic voting without a paper trail and once again the entire election process will be sent to the US courts because our elected leaders will not have done the job they were elected to do.

No Money Fence - Congress Does Not Fund Project

In typical Washington fashion, the Congress passed and President Bush signed a new law that is designed to build a 700-mile fence along the US/Mexico border. The only problem is that neither the White House nor Congress has set aside any money to build this fence. What we are seeing here with this law is the same thing we have seen with others, recently, passed by the Congress. The real reason this law was passed in the first place wasn’t because the US Congress or President wish to build this fence, but because most of their hard-core voters want it built to slow down the increasing problem of illegal immigration from Mexico.

The good news is that more people are paying attention to what their elected representatives are up to in Washington and the folks who wish to see this fence built along the border are very focused on action and not just words. My guess is that rather than help Republicans on November 7th, this new law will further anger people who are concerned about illegal immigration and cause them to either stay home on election day or vote Democratic. After President Bush signed this new law he said that fair immigration polices are a must for the US government and he said it would be wrong to deport almost 11 million illegal residents already living in the US.

I’ve noticed that President Bush always likes to draw comparisons in policies from complete opposite extremes. Like in his speech yesterday about this issue he made it sound like that anyone who didn’t agree with his policies were completely wrong. People in the United States who want the government to do more to stop illegal immigration are NOT wrong, they are right because they know that the US can only absorb so many immigrants each year. President Bush’s policy is purely based on politics because he doesn’t want to alienate voters with Latino backgrounds like Governor Pete Wilson did in California many years ago.

There is no way to deal with this illegal immigration issue without slowing down the numbers of people who are crossing illegally into the US each day. It doesn’t help matters at all when the President of Mexico aids people in his country in their illegal border crossing attempts by providing maps for safe passage. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the Democrats will do anything about this issue either, but at least they are honest in their approach to the issue. Anytime a politician makes a decision about the security of the United States, which is totally based on politics, that decision can’t be right and eventually will have to be changed.

While there are some nuts who participate in this illegal immigration debate, most Americans just want the government to do something to, at least, slow this problem down. It is sad that local governments are now passing laws to protect their communities because the federal government refuses to do its job of protecting the US borders. Just don’t be fooled by this new law passed recently which authorizes the construction of a US/Mexico border fence, because more than likely the Congress will never approve the money necessary to build it.

Related: Dead Immigration Reform

No Money Fence

Political Sleaze Factor - GOP V. Democrats

No political party runs more sleazy advertisements than the Republicans and this year with American voter’s fed up with their leadership; the party is hitting an all time low in their commercial messages. It seems strange to me that the party which proclaims its loyalty to family values seems to have none of their own when it comes to the types of messages they are willing to force the American people to watch in their living rooms at election time. There was a guy that use to work in the White House that wrote a book, which was published a few weeks ago. In his book he said that Republican leaders who worked there made fun of people with Christian beliefs.

While this statement might be hard for many Christians to believe since they have supported both with their votes and money Republican candidates because of their stands on moral issues. I think it is becoming clear that members of the Republican Party are no more moral than their Democratic counterparts and every time the GOP runs more of these sleazy political advertisements, the more the average Christian begins to see that they are being played by powerful people who care more about power than taking the moral high road when leading this country. I won’t repeat many of the accusations here, which have been shown in political TV ads, but more than likely you have already heard some of them for yourself on television.

While it most likely won’t happen in this upcoming election, at some point in time millions of Christian voters are going to see this current group of GOP leaders for what they are and that is a group of power hungry men who will say and do anything to get reelected. One of the bad results when politics and religion get mixed together is that that political sleaze gets all over folks who are normally God fearing people who just want to do the right thing when it comes to serving their country. There are many good writers that have described what happens to good men and women that go into public service and get corrupted by the entire power structure in Washington DC.

This is why I believe there should be term limits on all politicians and if a two-year term is good enough for the President of the United States it should be good enough for all Members of Congress as well. We have all witnessed some great Americans get elected to public office only to fall into this cesspool of Washington sleaze, lose their way and eventually get sent to prison. Here in Texas, one of our US Senators said when she ran for office many years ago that she would only serve two terms in the Senate. Now she is running for a third term and using the excuse that everyone does it as her reasoning. Without a Constitutional Amendment few of these politicians will leave Washington after two terms, so folks should start demanding that the Congress and the President get the ball rolling to amend the US Constitution.

What is need badly in DC right now are more citizen politicians rather than folks who make a career out of serving in Congress. These career politicians are usually the ones who get into the most trouble because after years of being treated like a special person, they start acting that way. Just like a bad case of the flu, the political season is just about over and the American people, once again, will be able to watch television without X-rated political commercials entering their living rooms, uninvited. The folks who are running the most outrageous political ads this year are the exact same politicians who would be in favor of punishing television networks if they offered programming which contained the same foul language and subject matter as these political ads. Enough of the sleaze, already.

Brave Firefighters Dead After California Arson Blaze

When I heard the news yesterday about the deaths of four (4) brave fighters in California it made me sick. Then when I heard that this latest wildfire was caused by arson it made me mad. I can’t think of a single profession, which is respected more than being a fireman. The average person has no idea how dangerous the profession of fighting fires can be and how many folks are injured or killed each year just doing their jobs. Most of us realized on 911, when over 300 firefighters were killed in NYC, how dangerous it can be when you mix tall buildings and fire together. However, it can be just as deadly for firefighters out in the wide-open spaces as it is in the confinement of a burning building.

My father was a volunteer firefighter in the small Texas panhandle town I grew up in. Back in the 1970’s, when he had that job, I went with him to several major fires. I saw first hand what types of dangers are faced when mortal man goes up against one of the most deadly forms of nature, fire. It is cold this morning here in Waco and I’m sure thousands of people will be lighting up their heater units for the first time this fall. Without a doubt, later this morning I will hear the distant sounds of sirens heading down some of our streets as firefighter’s rush to homes, which will catch on fire because of some malfunction in their natural gas or electric heaters.

Fire is like many things on this earth; it has a good and bad purpose. The fact that some folks are obsessed with fire and desire to start fires either in dry brush country like California or in home’s bothers me a great deal. I admit that fire is fascinating to watch in a fireplace on a cold winter day. I have found myself watching a slow burning fire this way many times in my life. However, when someone starts a fire for the sole purpose of excitement without realizing that brave men and women will be tasked to put out that fire, it makes me mad and I really want to see them put in jail for a long time.

My guess is that these four (4) California firefighters which were killed yesterday most likely died in what some professionals call a “firestorm”. If you have never been close to a firestorm you are lucky because even being within a mile of this event is one of the scariest things you will ever witness. I saw one of these firestorms first hand when I was young and my father was fighting a bush fire. Within a few minutes the heat of this fire became almost unbearable and the fire actually caused the wind to increase as the flames drew closer. My dad and I were able to rush to his truck and get away from the fast moving flames, but I still remember how terrified I was at how fast and how hot a fast moving fire like that could be.

The last report I heard was that this Southern California wildfire was still out-of-control. I certainly hope no additional firefighters lose their life fighting this fire. The past few days we have had some much needed rainfall here in Texas and most likely rain is the very thing that firefighters in California need today to help get this out-of-control wild-fire, finally, under control.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Election Day Expands With Early Voting Option

I know in a bunch of states there is a relatively new option called early voting. Here in Texas, early voting for this years election started at the beginning of this week and when I drove by one of the locations yesterday the parking lot was full of cars. Most experts say that the key to victory this November will once again be voter turn out and the political party that gets the most of their hard-core voters to the polls on election day will win. Here’s where the rub comes in for the Republicans with this new early voting option. Almost everyone agrees that the Democrats have a huge lead in the polls going into next months election and if too many people visit the polls before election day, then the all out negative push Karl Rove and other GOP leaders will attempt in the last couple of days of the campaign will be reduced in importance because millions of people will have already voted.

This upcoming election will be decided by the numbers of people who show up between now and election day to vote. I believe the angry folks who want to “throw the bums out” are going to vote early in large numbers. These folks are so mad that nothing the GOP election machine has to throw at them in the final days of this campaign is going to matter. I plan on driving past this early voting location again several more times in the next few days to see if there continues to be a large crowd of folks voting before election day. On election night I will be looking at one figure early on even before the polls close. That figure is the size of the voter turn out this year compared to the last two off presidential year elections. If the turn out is low then I predict the Republicans will hold onto power, but if voter turnout is very large, in most states, then the Democrats are sure to win.

Another major issue, when it comes to early voting, will be how many people have cast absentee ballots before election day. Most people who vote absentee have already cast their vote and mailed it back to their local election administrator. The bad news for Republicans is that when most absentee voters were making their decisions on whom to vote for, the Mark Foley scandal was front and center on the news. For people who run political campaigns, absentee voters and this new early voting option probably creates problems in their final day’s strategy before an election. I believe most voters have already heard enough from the candidates and are ready to vote right now. We’ll just have to see what happens on election night because this year’s election is all about turn out and the anger level of the average voter.

Ohio Predicts Election - Swing State Holds Power

It may be ironic that Ohio was the one state that put George W. Bush over the top in his reelection bid for President in 2004 and now it could be Ohio that causes the Bush administration to lose a great deal of its clout on November 7th, 2006. In 2000 and 2004, President Bush only won the White House with the help of key voters in only one of two different states. We all know what happened in Florida in the year 2000 where the US Supreme Court had to decide that close election and in 2004 only a few voters in the state of Ohio sealed the Bush reelection bid.

If Ohio does turn out to lead the way in current political matters then there will be a new location most major media outlets will flock to when they want to test the winds of political change in the United States. The funny thing about Ohio is that the voters in that state are facing some of the same issues, which the Republican Party is facing nationwide. First and foremost on that list is the issue of trust in public officials who sometimes put their own personal financial desires ahead of the people they serve.

The current GOP controlled Congress in Washington DC has face several financial and moral scandals in the past couple of years and from what I’ve read Ohio has face even more problems with their state leaders sticking their hands in the cookie jar to enrich themselves at the expense of their constituency. There is so much hype going on right now between Democratic and Republican strategist about who is going to win on November 7th and each side is putting a positive spin on all poll results as they are announced in the last few days of this election cycle.

It is hard for me to image Ohio kicking most incumbent Republican Representatives and Senators out of office without most of the rest of the country following along. In Ohio, just like everywhere else the real test of victory will be in voter turnout. Karl Rove and his Democratic counterparts are working night and day to get voters, which they think will follow the party line to the polls on election day. I believe the real test on November 7th will be exactly how angry the public is on that day and how many people who are angry enough to show up at the polls.

Just like most other things in life, the people who are motivated to get to the polls on election day are the ones who are the most angry. Happy and satisfied people tend to just go with the flow and not vote. However, folks who are “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” are much more likely to write November 7th on their calendars and schedule time to visit their local polling location and express that anger with a vote for the opposite party. Don’t be surprise that if on election night Ohio leads the nation in either a Democratic sweep of Congress or in narrow victories for Republican candidates. At least for that one night, all eyes will be on Ohio to see just how hard the political winds are blowing for both major political party's.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Central Texas Rain - Flooding Surrounds Region

The past couple of weeks I have mainly written about politics and the huge battle that is going on between Republicans and Democrats around the US right now. Like all things in life, too much of anything can be bad, so today I decided to write about a subject which is comforting to many other people and me. That subject is rain and as I am writing this posting, it has been raining for the for the past eight to ten hours here in Central Texas and I sure feel relaxed just listening to those rain drops hitting my roof. Many areas in this part of Texas have been subjected to “burn bans” over the past year because of lack of rain and dry conditions which are favorable to brush fires.

A long slow rainfall, like what we are having right now, here in Waco, is just what the doctor order and there are so many good things, which come from a prolonged slow rainfall situation. First, the apartment complex I live in is over 30 years old, but still in pretty good condition. However, like many older buildings it has a foundation problem and when too many months go by without an ample supply of moisture in the ground, problems start to be noticed. Usually, I would never notice these problems except when they get really bad and the doors and windows become hard to close because of the dry conditions. Now that our area has received a good soaking rain, within the next 24 hours all of our doors and windows will once again close right because the moisture does something to sure up our foundation.

Most areas of Texas are dependent on underground water tables to supply water to their residents via water wells. Texas is a fast growing state and much of that growth isn’t in the major population areas like Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, but in hundreds of smaller communities, which get their drinking water from wells which were drilled decades ago. The only way to really replenish these underground sources of water is with a long and prolonged rain, which doesn’t always happen in a hot and dry climate. In addition to rural areas needing rain to replenish water wells, the thousands of farmers in Texas love these soaking rains as well because they bring more than just water to their crops, but a good supply of nitrogen as well.

To me, the biggest benefit of a day long slow soaking rain is the mental health benefit it gives to me after a stressful day. I love to read and write about news events in my blog, but most of the time the stories are of a negative nature because those types of stories are what make the news these days. However, there has always been something relaxing to me about a slow and steady rain and while I don’t have a blood pressure machine at home, I would bet that listening to this rain for several hours today has lowered that blood pressure number substantially.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Drudge Report Part Of GOP Propaganda Machine?

Like millions of other people around the world I have the Drudge Report bookmarked on my computer. This bookmark has resided there for many years and I visit Matt Drudge’s web site a few times each day. This afternoon when I clicked that Drudge Report bookmark I almost started laughing at the headlines at the top of the page because according to Matt’s top stories, the entire momentum of the Congressional elections next month has changed and now the Republicans are back in the drivers seat. Wow, what happen during those eight hours I was asleep last night?

Nothing really happened excepted the GOP propaganda machine is attempting to give their base voters a reason to show up at the polls next month because without them the current GOP leadership is toast. Karl Rove and other GOP strategist are working non stop to try and find a way to stop the ever increasing momentum the Democratic Party has found in the past few weeks and nothing so far is working that well. The truth is that Rove and other GOP leaders have burned their bridges with the base so many times now that eleventh hour political scare tactics are not working anymore, so the next best thing is to put political has-beens out there talking up how great this election looks for Republicans.

In my view the Republican could be doing themselves a disservice by this type of political propaganda because while most rank and file GOP members are upset at the party, most folks will just stay home on election day. However, if Rove and the national GOP machine get too reckless in the last couple of weeks of this election, they might just push Republican voters over the edge and cause them to vote a straight Democratic ticket which would turn November’s election into one of the biggest landslide victories for the Democrats in the history of the United States. Republicans have been mislead by their leaders now for a long time and the last thing they want to have their leaders do is lie to them once more about how the population is leaning in this upcoming election.

My guess is that when this latest GOP tactic of misleading the public with fake poll numbers doesn’t work, Republican Party leaders will have a new message on the Drudge Report and Fox News trying to get their previously reliable voting block motivated to go to the polls. All I think most Republican voters want is a change in their party’s direction and that will never happen with the current leaders in Washington who have lead from the top down for too long now. GOP voters will come back to the party once new leaders are found and the correct foundation of what the party stands for is once again the focus of the national party structure.

Related: Right Wing Politics

GOP Propaganda Machine

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Tragedy Effects Linger - World Trade Center Movie

A few weeks ago, my wife and I saw the movie “World Trade Center” and I wrote here at the time how strong I thought that movie was and how many times during that two hour movie I was brought to tears. Now there are reports of human remains being found, once again at ground zero as construction workers begin to build the new Liberty Tower at the old World Trade Center site. Yesterday, I watched people on television who lost loved ones on 911 who never found any remains of the people they loved. This must be hard on them because having someone you love die in such a horrible way and then never being able to have a funeral ceremony, with the remains of a loved one, must be unbearable.

Another thing I have noticed about families of 911 victims is that just like anyone else who suffered a terrible loss, some are still angry while others have moved on and tried to put the pieces of their lives back together again. I have seen this play out with folks I know who have either lost their spouse or a child at an early age. Depending on how the personal who suffers the lose views life is how they will ultimately deal with the untimely death of someone they loved very much. People with a negative attitude about life will never seem to recover from a tragedy like 911, but folks who can put the past behind them and move on after a period of grief seem to be able to recover and have a happy life again.

A smart man told me once that reality has little to do with life because perception is everything. I believe this to be true and while some folks are still angry about 911, their anger has moved beyond the terrorist who flew airplanes into those buildings and now is focused on city and state officials who they believe let people into building which were unsafe. The reality of life to these family members who are angry with NYC government officials is based on a negative view of life and most likely they will never recover from 911 until the day they die. However, there are other people who have moved on, place the blame for 911 on the terrorist who carried out the attacks and started to live their lives again.

My guess is that people are influenced a great deal in their younger years by their parents when it comes to how they view life. Some parents most likely sit around the dinner table and talk about what’s wrong with the world each night, while other parents teach their kids what is good and right about the world. This education in perception most likely will place children either in a position to take hard blows in life and recover or forever be lost in a life of anger and hatred towards other. I must admit it is hard for me to see how family members could ever put 911 behind them and move on, but just like other victims of terrible acts some are able to grieve and move on while others never will.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

New Campaign Message - Economy Not Iraq War

A major Internet web site announced tonight that this week the Bush administration is going to change the national message of the Republican Party from the War Against Terrorism to the US economy. Pardon the pun, but isn’t this the same kind of “flip-flop” the Bush administration accused John Kerry of pulling in the 2004 race for the White House? The mood must be desperate right now inside the Republican Party because after ruling the country with a strong hand for the past five years or so, the party faithful are not falling into line anymore and going along with GOP policies which don’t reflect their view of how the US should be run.

There are two economies in the United States right now. One is great for the wealthy and super rich and the other for the middle class and poor is down right terrible. Hundreds if not thousands of US jobs are leaving the US every single day and heading to cheap labor markets like China and India. These money saving plans are making the rich even richer while at the same time are causing thousands of middle class folks to lose their jobs and benefits and many are finding that to work again means taking a huge cut in annual pay. The truth is that cooperate American doesn’t have a heart, it only has balance sheets and what ever will help their bottom line over the short term is what their boards of directors and stockholder want.

Most people over the age of 30 remember a time when if a person worked hard and kept their nose clean, they could move up the corporate latter and provide a good income for their family. Unfortunately, those days are long gone. In most Fortune 500 companies today, loyalty to a company will do a person no good at all. If top managers can find a way to save money by shipping your job overseas, they will do that immediately and not lose a minutes sleep over your suffering. This attitude is wrong and it is not the attitude that built this great country into the most powerful nation both from a military and human rights standpoint. In recent years, the rich have decided to move away from taking care of their employees in exchange for earning even more money for themselves.

This cycle of greed will start coming to an end soon and the GOP conservative movement will be a victim of this ever-increasing mood change of the American people. It is easy for rich people and corporations to influence laws and regulations in Washington because the folks with the money are finding it easy to find politicians who are eager to sell out their own fellow citizens for a little extra cash. It makes sense that Washington politicians would desire to do this because they have personally witnessed "fat cats" at the corporate level becoming very rich by moving the jobs of loyal employees to some cheap labor market overseas. I have a feeling that when President Bush changes the campaign subject to the economy this week he is going to be in for a surprise when he finds out that regular hard working folks he will mainly be talking to are not going to agree with his assessment that the economy is growing stronger for everyone.

Goodbye Ford Taurus - Production Will Stop Next Year

Ford Motor Company has decided to quit producing the Ford Taurus next year. This is sad news for millions of people, like myself, who have owned and driven this car for years. In fact, I currently drive a 2004 Ford Taurus and when I trade cars again, I guess I will need to pick something else to drive. I know that things must change if Ford Motor is going to survive in a marketplace controlled by companies like Toyota and Honda, but it is still sad to see old models of cars get thrown away in the process.

For many years in the mid-90’s, the Ford Taurus was the best selling automobile in the United States. I remember reading stories during that time period about how the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord were closing in on the Taurus lead in sales, so Ford decided to completely change the body style of their best selling car. To be honest, it took me several years to start liking the new Ford Taurus look when Ford changed the whole body style some time around 1995. Some folks said that the new style looked like a big potato and to be truthful, I did too.

Over the years, that big potato became more acceptable to me and Ford made some other changes in this popular car which kept sales going at a fast pace for several more years. However, in the end, the Ford Taurus was destined to be overtaken in market share by the Camry and Accord and its chances of having continued life as Ford Motor Company continued to lose money over the past couple of years were bleak at best. While the end of the road is near for the Ford Taurus, the roads will be filled with this car for decades to come and at some point in time, the Taurus, will become an American classic like the Ford Mustang.

There is a little secret in the car business that many people don’t know about and that secret is that national car sales are influenced to a big extent by the numbers of cars a manufacturer provides to national rent-a-car chains like Hertz or Avis. For decades Ford Motor Company sold the Ford Taurus to major car rental companies using a system which was more like a rental or lease program than the actual sale of vehicles. In fairness, Honda and Toyota do this too, so when a company says that it sold one million cars in a particular year, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they sold those one million cars to just consumers in dealer showrooms.

I remember how sad I felt when Ford stopped making the Thunderbird, only to start making it again years later and then pull it off the market once again. The good news is that Ford Motor Company has hired a new management team who will try and save this great company and in the end what is really important are the hundreds of thousands of people who work at Ford and the paycheck they earn to support their families. It is sad when old things fade away, but that is really just the way of the world.

Related: Pain At Ford, Japanese Eye GM, Massive Ford Layoffs, US Automobile Business

Goodbye Ford Taurus

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Drug Plan Expands - More Generic Drugs At Wal-Mart

A few months ago, Wal-Mart announced that they were going to offer hundreds of generic drugs at some of their pharmacies in Florida. Then a few weeks later, Wal-Mart expanded its program to the whole State of Florida. Now Wal-Mart has decided to expand their generic prescription drug program even further to other states, including giants California and Texas. What some people may not of heard yet is that while Wal-Mart has been expanding their low cost generic drug program, other major drug store chains have been matching their policies and some have decided to expand the number of drugs available at a slightly higher price.

Here in Texas, HEB is a huge supermarket chain, which is always competing with Wal-Mart Superstores. I saw in our local newspaper today, The Waco Tribune Herald, that HEB was going to offer almost twice as many generic prescription drugs as Wal-Mart stores for only one dollar more, or $5 per prescription. What we are all witnessing here is the best part of US capitalism called competition. When large stores like, Target, HEB and Wal-Mart start competing on something as important as prescription drugs, then the real winner is going to be the consumer.

For too long, consumers have been ripped off by major drug companies who have successfully lobbied the US Congress to keep their major prescription drugs free from competition for up to 15 years. However, over the years, many drug companies have changed their ways from developing drugs, which help people live longer and improve their quality of life, to developing drugs, which have a more cosmetic purpose. Just because a prescription drug was developed over 15 year ago doesn’t mean that it is not still a good medication to treat illness. In fact, I am more interested in taking prescription drugs which have a proven track record over new drugs which might end up killing folks because they are so new they have not yet been properly tested in humans.

Now that HEB Supermarkets have not only decided to match Wal-Mart’s generic prescription drug plan, but make it better; other stores are most likely going to come up with better plans, as well. Now that these new generic prescription drug plans have moved into two large population states like Texas and California, the rest of the country will not be that far behind and finally the average consumer will have a chance to reduce their prescription drug cost without the aid of medical insurance.

Read more: Vitamins, Generic, Prices, Medical, Food

Drug Plan Expands

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Computer Security Issues - FBI Needs Help

I have always believed that most computer hard-drives were pretty much an open book to folks inside the federal government. However, there might be some computer password programs, which are not that easy to penetrate given the FBI’s interest in reading the contents of a laptop computer which was confiscated after the arrest of a mass murder suspect, recently. While I believe that people should have privacy in their personal lives, there is another part of me that wishes the federal government would be able to view the contents of computers, which are obtained in terrorist investigations. It only makes common sense that if some domestic US murder suspect can password protect his computer so well that the FBI cannot break into it, that terrorist groups will also have programs which can do the same thing.

Unfortunately, Congress will most likely pass new laws which govern the use of personal password software in the United States. These new laws will have the same effect as “gun control legislation” in the fact they will only punish folks who believe in following the law in the first place. Most criminals will continue to find ways to block access to their computer hard-drives in the same way others still find ways to purchase guns even when strong laws are put into place to prevent such a purchase. In a world of smart kids, it is difficult for me to believe that there aren’t at least a few teenage hackers out there who would be able to penetrate this man’s computer password program. Surly folks at the NSA would be able to break this man’s security and find out what he has hiding on his hard-drive? The real story behind the story here is the news that some off the shelf computer password programs are successful at keeping computer contents safe from the viewing eyes of criminals or even the federal government.

As I said before, this is a mix bag of good news and bad news for the people of the world. Ever since 911, people of the world and especially in the US have been wrestling with the issues of freedom versus security and this new story of a simple password protection program causes many people to wonder what should be done to make sure our intelligence agencies are able to view the contents of suspected terrorist computers in the future. Here is where the rule of law is so important in this dangerous world we live in today. While the government should able to break into computers of terrorist and criminals, there should be a fair court process in place to make sure that some government officials don’t go overboard and use this power for the wrong reasons or for purely personal gain. The United States has three branches of government for a reason and that is to protect Americans from any one branch obtaining too much power over the population.

While some who are up to no good will welcome the news of a laptop computer in which the government can't penetrate the contents, I see potential problems with this software in the wrong hands and fear that the knee jerk solution to the problem will be to punish everyone with new laws which are designed to only effect the few who wish to cause this country harm.

Related: Church State Issues

Computer Security Issues

Short Lived Change - Democrats Must Take Political Center

If the Democrats win control of both the US House of Representatives and Senate on November 7th they will have a short window to convince the American people that they have changed their stripes from a far left wing party which doesn’t stand for the issues most Americans care about. However, if this most likely Democratic win in November turns out to show a more centrist Democratic Party then Republicans may be in for many years of serving once again in the minority. The biggest question facing Democratic members of the US House of Representatives is whether Nancy Pelosi will be elected Speaker of the House if the Democrats win more seats than the Republicans in next month’s elections. There is little doubt that Representative Pelosi is one of the most liberal members of Congress and if the Democrats win control of that body it will not be because the United States has become more liberal as a nation, but because most Americans are unhappy with the current Republican leadership in Washington.

I must say that I have been impressed with the low-key approach Representative Pelosi has taken during this election campaign. If she put herself front and center in the public debate this election year, she would hurt centrist candidates who are running to defeat long established Republican candidates in Middle America. Truthfully, most of the talk in recent days about the possibility of Nancy Pelosi being unseated in her attempt to become the first female Speaker of the House is coming from GOP operatives who are pulling out all the stops to prevent a huge Democratic win on November 7th. I believe most Americans will give Representative Pelosi a chance to prove herself as Speaker of the House, just like they do candidates of other party's when they are elected President of the United States.

Down deep inside Ms. Pelosi will always be a liberal politician and in my view there is no problem with that as long as most other Members of Congress take a centrist approach to governing the United States. Not that many years ago, I had the belief that conservatism was the way to a better United States, but not anymore. Republican leaders in the Congress and White House have destroyed any belief I had that conservatives stood for a more fiscally responsible approach to government. While most Republicans have been calling and writing their GOP leaders about out of control spending and border problems with Mexico, the GOP has ignored their voter based and continued to spend like there is no tomorrow. Over the past three or four years Republican strategist have focused their attention almost entirely on social conservative voters for victory in elections.

While social conservatives are a large voting block, it was a mistake for Republicans to put all of their eggs in one basket. I truly believe that Karl Rove and others believed they could continue to win national elections with the strong support of religious conservatives, but what is missing from this policy is that many social conservatives are also fiscal conservatives and many will not sit patiently by while their party spends the future of America into bankruptcy. If the Democrats are able to win control of either Chamber of Congress they will have a very short window to prove to the American people that they have changed their stripes and are now a party that represents the centrist point of view in Washington. However, if they revert back to their old liberal ways, then their time as leaders in the Congress will be short lived, indeed.