Thursday, December 28, 2006

Tobacco Tax Increase On Texas Cigarettes

We are now only a few days away from one of the largest single tax increases in Texas history and unfortunately many of the people that are about to “get the shock of their lives” on January 1st don’t even know it yet. The first day of next year will bring the enactment of a new Texas tax on tobacco products in the form of an almost $1.50 cent per pack tax increase. It goes without saying that people should not smoke cigarettes but the unfairness of this new tax could lead smokers to do something that they have not done in large numbers to date and that is to start supporting a “black market” in tobacco products.

This new tax in Texas was passed because GOP politicians were so eager to give big tax breaks to property owners that financed their campaigns and elected them to office. However, once property taxes were lowered, there was still a need for money to run state services, so just like a broken record, state lawmakers turned to their most reliable source of money, smokers, when times got tough. The sad fact is that the poorest residents in Texas smoke the most cigarettes and over taxing this group of people is wrong from even a strict puritan point of view. While I don’t smoke cigarettes, I use to and rather than encouraging more people to quit smoking; this new Texas tax on tobacco products will just further push smokers to look for their products in unconventional places.

I can only imagine the shock on the faces of thousands of Texans when they visit their local convenience store on January the 1st and buy a pack of their favorite brand of cigarettes. Most like, they will be hung over from the night before and look at the poor convenience store worker with a shocked look on their face when they are told that their pack of cigarettes has increased in price by $1.50 overnight. It is just a matter of time before smokers and non smokers alike start to get really angry at how the state and federal government has misused tax revenue over the years. People around the United States should start demanding better accountability for the money that is already raised through taxation and spent by government on various projects.

The truth is that millions of people are hooked on tobacco and poor people have fewer resources to help them kick the nicotine habit. It is wrong for the State of Texas to raise revenue for state purposes on the backs of the minority of people that still smokes cigarettes. It seems like everyone in the country are taking “pot shots” at the few people that still smoke. The various state governments around the United States are using the non smoking publics outrage against cigarette smoke to ram new tax increases down the throats of a minority of citizens in this nation so rich property owners are able to pay lower taxes. At some point in time there will be a major tax revolt in the United States against unfair taxation in the same way people rebelled in this country over 200 years ago when their favorite drink, tea, was taxed too much by the British.

It is just too easy for government leaders in Texas and Washington to waste the taxes they do collect from citizens and until greater responsibility is found within the government for the money that is already going to waste, no new taxes should be levied on an already overtaxed nation.

Read more: Sin Tax - Tax Revolt - Tobacco Ads
Additional pages: Over Taxed - People Hooked

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

2008 Presidential Race Heating Up Quickly

The major news media pundits have already begun to handicap the potential candidates for the 2008 election for President of the United States, so I decided to offer my ideas on the leading contenders as well. Personally, I believe it is too early for any pundit, including myself, to be accurate in their observations because so much can and will happen between now and election day in 2008. That said, the biggest name being floated right now in the Democratic Party is a young man from Illinois’ by the name of Barack Obama. Senator Obama is a, well-spoken, young man who is a freshman Senator from the State of Illinois.

It is difficult not to like Barack Obama because he looks good on television and he says all the right things when he speaks at political events. However, I have learned from experience that often time’s things that look good on the outside are sometimes filled with problems inside. Two cases that prove this are the candidacies of Bill Clinton and Gary Hart. Both of these two men also spoke well to audiences of voters, but in the end each man had his own problems with fidelity issues and one man, Gary Hart, was forced to drop out of his bid for President of the United States back in the 1980’s. For some reason I believe that Obama has some “skeletons in his closet” just like Clinton and Hart did and once they are revealed he may be finished as the Democrats “golden boy” for President in 2008.

The next most logical candidate for President in 2008 would have to be Hillary Clinton because almost everyone in the United States believes she will run for President in 2008. While Hillary Clinton is the best known of the potential Democratic names for President, she has the most negative political baggage as well. Senator Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, was President of the United States and served a bumpy two terms in office. The biggest problem for Hillary Clinton will not be getting the Democratic nomination for President, but her problem will be in convincing over 50% of the American voters to walk into a voting booth and pull the lever for her. In some polls, over 50% of the American people have stated that they would NEVER vote for Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

Another likely candidate for President of the United States from the Democratic Party is Senator John Kerry from Massachusetts. Senator Kerry ran unsuccessfully for President in 2004, but he ran a close race against George W. Bush who was running for reelection. In 2004, John Kerry’s military service became a big issue because several men he served with in Vietnam came forward to condemn his anti-war statements and activities once he returned to the United States. However, those issues will be less important if he decides to run once again, but Senator Kerry hurt himself badly in the final days of the 2006 Congressional mid-term elections when he tried to make a joke to hurt President Bush that backfired. In the end, it appeared that Senator Kerry was saying that US troops are dumb and uneducated and that joke will come back to haunt him if he decides to seek the Democratic nomination for President for a second time in 2008.

On the Republican side, there are two major candidates that almost everyone believes will enter the race. The first name is the Senator from Arizona, John McCain. McCain ran for the Republican nomination for President in 2000 during President George W. Bush’s successful campaign for President. During that 2000 election campaign, Senator McCain ran a “man of the people” race as a no non-sense kind of candidate. The sad fact is that the unsuccessful 2000 campaign that John McCain waged against George W. Bush would be a winning strategy in 2008. However, over the past year John McCain has decided to take a different approach to win the White House in 2008 and that path is very similar to the one that defeated him in 2000. Over the past six years, the American people have started to mistrust extremist from the GOP and as most voters have moved away from President Bush’s view of the world, John McCain has moved steadily moved in the opposite direction.

My personal favorite candidate for President of the United States in 2008 is Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City. Giuliani is the first true moderate Republican to have a real chance at not only getting the GOP nomination for President, but also have a chance at victory in the November general election. Rudy Giuliani was forced into the living rooms of millions of Americans in the days and weeks after September 11th, 2001 when terrorist attacked the US homeland. Rudy became known as “Americans Mayor” during those stressful days because of his calm and steady demeanor during the rescue efforts for thousands of lost souls in the rubble that contained the former “Twin Towers” of the World Trade Center. Even before September 11th, 2001 Giuliani had taken steps to clean up New York City by removing many of the morally bankrupt businesses that had lined the streets of NYC for decades.

The 2008 race for President of the United States should be an interesting election and the nominating process for both major US political party’s will be interesting as well. Right now, my money is on Rudy Giuliani to be the ultimate winner in 2008. However I am old enough to know that anything can and will happen in a presidential election that could turn conventional wisdom on its head and propel some political unknown into the White House in 20008.

Read more: Obama Hype - Hillary Disapproval - Rudy Runs
Additional pages: McCain Issues - Kerry Problems
Related: Presidential Horse Race, Bill Backs Hillary, Negative Political Talk

2008 Presidential Race

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

President Gerald Ford Dead - Nixon's Vice President

It was sad news tonight when I read on the Internet that former President Gerald Ford had died. President Ford had suffered from several different illnesses over the past couple of years, but every time he seem to always bounce back to health within a few days or weeks. However, this time his body gave out and God called him home. When Gerald Ford assumed the office of President of the United States I was just a young boy. President Richard Nixon resigned the office of President after a scandal called “Watergate” proved that he was behind illegal activities like breaking into the offices of his political opponents to spy on their political plans. Gerald Ford was the Vice-President of the United States when Richard Nixon resigned.

When Gerald Ford took over the job of President of the United States after the resignation of President Nixon, the United States was completely torn apart from months of Congressional investigations that were leading to the certain impeachment of Richard Nixon if he did not resign as President. Former President Ford was never elected to the office of Vice-President or President either for that matter. He was appointed Vice-President of the United States after Nixon’s VP was forced to resign himself after he was discovered to be involved in illegal activities as well. Even though the American people never elected President Ford, most Americans thought he did a great job in trying to bring credibility back to the office of the President of the United States after President Nixon destroyed it.

Over his months in office, President Ford was known to have a difficult time staying on his feet when going up and down stairs. There was one famous television news shot showing President Gerald Ford falling down the stairs of Air Force One when he was departing the plane and there were several other occasions when Gerald Ford was photographed falling down. These falling situations made many in the national news media paint President Ford as an unbalanced man and that image stuck with the former President long after he left office in the late 1970’s. During this period of time, “Saturday Night Live” was a very popular weekly television show on NBC and countless skits were done that made President Ford look like a stumbling fool that could not put one foot in front of the other without falling.

During the Presidency of Gerald R. Ford, he also made news when he decided that a new type of flu called “swine flu” could cause a worldwide disaster. Upon learning this news, President Ford decided to have the entire population of the United States vaccinated against this strain of flu. While President Ford’s heart was in the right place, it turned out that more people became sick and/or died from the vaccine than actually died from exposure to bird-flu. That example is why the US government will most certainly hesitate in forcing millions of Americans to take a “bird-flu” vaccine if and when one is developed. President Ford turned out to be the oldest living President of the United States before his death late yesterday. While some people will never forgive his decision to pardon Richard Nixon, overall President Ford was a good and decent man who served the American people well in his short tenure as the President of the United States.

Read more: Ford Illness - Old Republicans - Swine Flu
Additional pages: GOP Problems - Political Funerals
Related: John Spencer Tribute, Glenn Ford Tribute, Bradley Got Heart, Another Great Loss, Steve Irwin Remembered

President Ford Dead

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Philadelphia Eagles Defeat Dallas Cowboys Badly

My wife and I enjoyed a nice Christmas holiday with family members the past couple of days and part of that holiday get together was to cheer on the Dallas Cowboys to victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, yesterday. However, as everyone now knows, the Cowboys played terrible football and by the end of the game the Eagles won the game by a large margin. It is hard to be a loyal Dallas Cowboys’ fan because the team does not play consistent football from week to week. In the 2006 pre season, the Dallas Cowboys appeared to have everything under control and a winning season was theirs for the taking. However, as the regular season started, the team was plagued with many stupid penalties and all seem lost by the fifth game of the season.

Then coach Bill Parcells decided to make a change at the starting quarterback position and magically the whole season started to turn around and once again Dallas Cowboys’ fans, like myself, were excited and thinking about the possibility of watching our team in the Superbowl. I remember only a few short weeks ago when the Cowboys’ played the Indianapolis Colts and won that game when no one in the country thought they had a chance. After that Colts/Cowboys game, I felt like Dallas could play with the best teams in the league and had a real chance at a Superbowl birth later this year. After the Cowboys’ victory over the Colts, the entire Dallas team started playing football better than they had all season long. However after yesterday’s performance against the Eagles, I have begun to doubt the Cowboys Superbowl chances once again this year and I can’t figure out what is wrong with the team.

After coach Bill Parcells decided to move Tony Romo to the starting quarterback position a few weeks ago, I really thought that the Cowboys would play more as a team than ever before. Yes, the first few games the Dallas Cowboys played after Tony Romo was moved to starting quarterback position were fantastic, but the past few weeks it appears that the new is wearing off of this new Dallas quarterback and when things got tough, Romo did not get going. There is a world of difference between a good quarterback and a great one and that difference is seen during tough games like the Dallas/Philadelphia contest yesterday. When the Eagles starting taking control of the football game yesterday, Romo fell apart and started playing even worse than he did early in the game. This is why I am being to wonder if Romo is the real deal or just another average quarterback in the NFL?

Now the Cowboys will have a difficult time competing in the NFL playoffs because, after their loss yesterday to the Eagles, the Cowboys will be forced to play on the road throughout the playoffs. Also the team will be forced to play an additional “wildcard” game on the road just to progress to the next level. If the Cowboys team I watched yesterday is the real Dallas team, then I doubt if they will even win their first “wildcard” game. As I said earlier, it is tough to be a “true blue” Dallas Cowboys’ fan because of the team’s inconstant game play from week to week. Yesterday marked the end to a wonderful holiday weekend for me. However the poor team play on the field by members of the Dallas Cowboys team did cause my long Christmas weekend to end on a down note and I doubt that I am the only fan that felt that way.

Read more about the Dallas Cowboys:

Cowboys Colts Superbowl
Cowboys Great Victory
Cowboys Might Win
Cowboys Colts Game
Cowboys Season Over?

Troops Remain Positive While Death Toll Climbs

President Bush is traveling to Crawford, Texas today to ring in the New Year with his family and while much has changed during 2006 in the world, very little has changed in Iraq. People are still killing each other in the streets of Baghdad and other cities throughout that war torn country and roadside bombs are still killing US troops almost on a daily basis. Over the past year, the American people have told President Bush about their dislike of the Iraqi War in many ways, including removing the GOP from leadership in the US Congress in November. However, no matter what the American people and other political and military experts believe, President Bush is unmoved in his Iraqi war strategy and while the Bush Administration does not say, “stay the course” anymore, in reality that is exactly what they are still doing.

Just like the centuries old conflict between the Israeli’s and Palestinians, members of the various branches of Islam in Iraq have mistrusted and many times hated each other for decades. It was naive at best for President Bush and other pro-war members of the government to believe that the only thing that was keeping the Iraqi people down was Saddam Hussein. While no member of the current Bush Administration is willing to publicly admit the real reason why it was so important to go to war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Most certainly the American people believe that it was a mixture of revenge against Saddam because he attempted to assassinate the first President Bush and more importantly the vast supplies of crude oil reserves that lie underground inside the country.

The past few days it has been difficult for me to watch US soldiers, still fighting inside of Iraq, talking to their families back home in the United States via media teleconference calls. There is no doubt that most members of the US armed forces believe that they are doing the right thing in helping the Iraq people have a chance at a better life. This is why most citizens of the United States support our troops in the field even as support for the idea of the War in Iraq continues to drop on a monthly basis. Unlike Vietnam, the American people have learned to separate the hatred of war from the men and women that wear a military uniform. US soldiers give up so much, for so little in pay to serve in the US armed forces and the American people recognize and support people that are willing to make such sacrifices in order to serve their country.

Another year has passed with little to no real progress for peace developing inside of Iraq. Maybe because millions of us will be celebrating the arrival of a New Year within the next few days, I am reflecting back on what conditions were one year ago on the ground in Iraq. Unfortunately, the situation there is not any better now than it was at this same time last year. I am so discouraged that President Bush has taken a stubborn approach to Iraqi war planning and policies and it is difficult for me to see his positions changing in his last two years as the President of the United States. I guess there is still a chance that President Bush will be right in his war objectives in Iraq and in 20 or 30 years the world will be a better place because of the choices he has made. However, my gut feeling tells me that this is unlikely to happen and just like LBJ and JFK are remembered now for also being stubborn men because of their actions in Vietnam, President Bush will most likely be viewed by history in the same way.

Read more: Civil War - Iraq Plan - War Politics
Archive pages: Iraq Debate - War Divides
Related: Bush Fight Back, Stuck In Iraq, Bush Poll Numbers

Troops Remain Positive

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve Thoughts - Food Family And Football

It is Christmas Eve once again and like every year this day will bring out what is the best and worst in most people. On the best side of things there will be many gifts exchanged between friends and family members and on the worst side there will be people running all over each other at shopping malls in an attempt to purchase those gifts. Last night, my wife and I went to a Christmas party that was held for everyone on her side of the family and it was a fun time for all with great food and a bunch of young children.

Today, we are traveling to a celebration being held for my side of the family that will involve more adult conversation and football watching. I always love the various food choices that are offered by the various sides of our families. On my wife’s side, there is always an abundance of Mexican Food because of their heritage while on my side of the family; Christmas offers a more traditional American feast. Yesterday, I took my mother-in-law out to eat at a local restaurant where we both enjoyed ribs as our main course. After our lunch, I went home and took a long nap that was very enjoyable.

The weather has been changing fast here in Central Texas. Yesterday around lunch time the skies were clear as a bell, but by sundown the clouds had moved in and it started to rain heavily last night around 7pm. Without a doubt millions of people will be taking to the highways in the next few hours to visit their families around the country and I so hope that everyone will take the time needed to have a safe trip. There have been so many fatal traffic accidents this past month on our main highway, Interstate 35 (I35), and I hope no additional people lose their lives over this Christmas holiday weekend.

Every year I believe more and more that Christmas time is for kids because of that gleam in their eyes as they look at wrapped presents with a sense of anticipation of what is inside always brings a smile to my face. Last nights Christmas celebration had at least five kids that were under the ago of 10 and while the adults ate great Mexican Food it was so much fun watching the little ones wait impatiently for the time to open gifts. I remember many years ago feeling the same way as my parents made me wait to open my presents and nothing, at the time, was so difficult to do.

I hope your family has a wonderful Christmas and if you are forced to travel the various highways of the country to reach your destination, please be careful and take your time. Also, if you are doing any last minute shopping today, please be courteous to your neighbors and remember that the best part of Christmas is the time you will spend together with your family and not in finding and picking out that perfect gift.

Read more: Christmas Party - Christmas Wish - Christmas List

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

Saturday, December 23, 2006

'Rocky Balboa' Opens Well Around The Country

According to box office estimates, “Rocky Balboa” the latest release in the “Rocky” boxing series of movies opened to large crowds and favorable reviews on Wednesday night. I must admit that I have had reservations as to the wisdom of this move to put a sixty-year-old plus man, Sylvester Stallone, into the boxing ring one last time. In fact I remember writing that I was in laughter when the first announcement that Rocky, played by Stallone, would once again enter the boxing ring in movie theaters this Christmas. From the point of view of most people the Rocky character would be more at home in a retirement village in Florida or Arizona than in a boxing ring fighting a man 30 years younger than himself.

It could be possible that Sylvester Stallone not only fool me, but thousands of other “Rocky fans” with this new script that has received wide spread praise from some pretty hard nosed critics. So far, I have not heard if Rocky Balboa dies in this new movie, but it would be a fitting end to a movie character that millions of people around the world have followed with interest for decades. Stallone told a reporter the other day that finding a studio willing to put up the money to produce “Rocky Balboa” reminded him of the difficult work and stress he went through into getting his first movie script approved back in the 1970’s.

A lot has changed in Hollywood in the past 25 years and the biggest change is the amount of money it takes to create a major motion picture like “Rocky Balboa” and bring it to a finished product. It is true that movies cost more to produce than ever before, but in reality even bad movies have a better chance of breaking even today than they did back in the 1970’s. Big changes in the way movies are marketed around the world and in alternative venues, enable most movies to eventually break even after they make the rounds of discount theaters, movie rental locations and eventually on to cable and broadcast television.

If the reports I have read are correct and this new movie takes the Rocky Balboa story to a good and fitting end, then “Rocky Balboa” the movie will be a huge success in theaters around the world. It is difficult not to like the character of Rocky Balboa because in his life there are bits of everyone’s life that creates a great sense of love and affection for this man from Philadelphia. All of us have struggled at one point in time or another to achieved success and/or find security and happiness. However, that road often leads us in directions which are not a straight line path to the goals we desire, but a series of hard choices that will determine if we ultimately succeed or not.

This weekend will be the real test as to whether the public will send this final “Rocky Movie” into the stratosphere in box office receipts or a quick trip to the discount theaters before the New Year. While I have not seen this movie and have no idea whether the critics are correct in their praise for this latest Sylvester Stallone drama. I do have a gut feeling that this finally “Rocky Movie” could be the perfect ending to this series of movies and could possibly land Sylvester Stallone back in contention for an Oscar when those awards are handed out in Hollywood early next year.

Read more Movie Reviews:

Trade Center Movie
Packed Movie House
New Poseidon Movie
Brandon Routh's Superman
Sentinel Bad Reviews

Friday, December 22, 2006

Good And Bad Horse News In 2006

When I was writing the other day about my reflections of the year, 2006; I wanted so much to write about the subject of horses during that year, but it didn’t seem right to mix happy talk about horses with the terrible events of killing in Iraq. So here is another year in review that is about horses. I have written before that my wife has a deep affection for horses and every time a movie is released that has anything to do with these four legged creatures, we are lined up at the box office to see it before long. In 2006 there were two major motion pictures that featured horses as their main characters and we saw both of them.

The first movie was called “Dreamer” staring Dakota Fanning that was in theaters in the very early part of this year. In that movie, Kurt Russell played a man that was an employee of a hard noised horse trainer who didn’t care about the horses he raised. Instead this owner only wanted to win at all costs and if a horse was hurt in the process, his first choice was to destroy the horse rather than to seek medical treatment from a veterinarian. This is how a horse named; “Dreamer” came into the life of Kurt Russell and his young daughter played by Dakota Fanning. There were plenty of cheers and a few tears shed as we watched this horse movie and the ending of this movie really made my day.

The other horse movie we saw during 2006 was a movie called “Flicka”. In fact we only saw this one a few weeks ago. In “Flicka”, the movie setting was completely different from “Dreamer” because of the beautiful Wyoming ranch land. However like all movies about horses there is either some villain that wishes to destroy the animal or the horse suffers some life threatening injury that involves some evil character desiring to put the animal down. In the movie Flicka, there is also a father and a young girl as the main characters. The father, played by Tim McGraw is the owner of a beautiful Wyoming quarter horse ranch that is cash strapped because his daughter is attending a private school. In this movie, it is a mountain lion that places the horse in mortal danger followed by a father that has been taught that any suffering horse should be shot immediately, if it suffers a major injury.

While the first two examples in this story are about fictional horses in motion pictures; the last one is 100% real and the health and well being of a horse named, “Barbaro” was followed closely by millions of people around the world in 2006. Only a few people knew anything about Barbaro before the running of the 2006 Kentucky Derby, but within a few short weeks that name would be a household conversation in families around the world. In 2006, “Barbaro” won the Kentucky Derby in a runaway race that made horse lovers smile, but only two weeks later; Barbaro stumbled at the beginning of the Preakness Stakes and broke one of his hind legs in multiple locations. As millions of people on television watch in fear that Barbaro would be put down on the racetrack after his injuries, a new hero was born in the person of Barbaro’s owner when he decided to seek medical treatment for his beloved horse instead of a quick death.

Without a doubt there will be more horse movies in the year 2007 and my wife and I will be seeing them all. Let’s just hope that there is not another real life story like, Barbaro, because keeping emotions in check during a heartbreaking movie is one thing, but watching it play out on television news in real life is something else entirely.

Read more: Kentucky Derby - Barbaro Health - Dreamer Movie

Climbers Presumed Dead On Oregon's Mt. Hood

For all practical purposes, rescue workers in Oregon have given up on finding the remaining two lost mountain climbers alive and have trimmed back their search efforts. More than likely these remaining two men have been dead for days, but no one wants to admit that fact without their bodies being recovered from Mt. Hood. Mountain climbing is a very dangerous sport and it is made more dangerous during the winter month when unexpected snow storms and blizzard conditions can turn a beautiful day on a mountain into a nightmare within a matter of minutes.

The body of Kelly James was recovered a few days ago on Mt. Hood where he was left by the other two climbers who most likely were trying to find a way off the mountain in order to get medical help for Mr. James who had suffered a dislocated shoulder. When I heard that James was found dead inside the relative comfort of that snow cave, I pretty much gave up hope that the other two climbers would be found alive. What makes this Mt. Hood tragedy even more terrible is that it is Christmas time when families get together and celebrate the holidays. However, for the families of these three men, Christmas will forever be a bittersweet time because of the loss of their loved ones.

It takes all kinds of people to make this world go round and while some people see these three men as crazy for attempting a climb of Mt. Hood in the middle of winter. There are other people that believe life is made for big challenges and without such life or death struggles, life would not be worth living to them. The main reason the United States has become the leading industrial country in the world is because we have more than our fair share of people that are risk takers. Without people that are willing to take risk, the world would never advance and modern day conveniences would never have been invented without the sacrifice of those that are willing to risk both their careers and life for something they love and believe in.

It is true that nothing positive will come from the deaths of these three men on Mt. Hood, but the very idea of someone desiring to risk their life to either make a major discovery or to feed a desire inside their soul are the same thing. While a majority of people around the world might find the actions of these three men reckless, the truth is without men and women willing to take risk we would all still be riding horses instead of automobiles. More than likely the families of these three lost and presumed dead climbers will never truly understand why their loved ones had to make such a dangerous climb because they are like me, a person that prefers safety over risk taking. However, hopefully in the end they will realize that the death of these three men, while tragic, was the way of life they chose for themselves and they would not have enjoyed life without risk being a part of their DNA.

Read more: Climber Dead - Astronaut Risks - War Reporters
Related: NFL, Golf, NASCAR, Baseball, NBA

Climbers Presumed Dead

Thursday, December 21, 2006

New Year Reflections - Hoping For A Better Year

I remember writing one year ago as 2005 was drawing to a close about how bad that year was for many people and expressing my hope that 2006 would turn out to be a better year. Like always, the New Year was kinder to some folks than others and the big winners in 2006 were the very rich as the US stock market hit new highs, but their improving stock portfolios were hurt somewhat by the bottoming out of the US real estate market. Other big 2006 winners included members of the Democratic Party who saw their political fortunes grow dramatically when they won back control over both chambers of Congress.

The losers in 2006 are much easier to find because of their sheer numbers. The people of Iraq and US troops that are serving there must be at the top of the list of people that came out on the short end of the stick in 2006. Everyday, there are new reports coming out of Iraq showing how far that nation has drifted into civil war. However, there appears to be no end to the killing in sight and just like most civil wars, the only way the fighting will come to an end is when both sides become tired of killing each other. US troops are caught in the middle of this sectarian civil war which means they are in a no win situation at the present time. Now President Bush wants to send even more troops to this war torn country after the first of the year.

Other Americans that did not have a good year were the working poor and the middle class. There is a trend forming in the United States and other industrialized nations and that trend involves large corporations laying off long term workers and shipping their jobs to other counties where employees are willing to do the same work for much lower wages. This new corporate trend is creating huge wealth for the very few people at the top of the income chain in the United States. However, this type of thinking will doom the future of the US if something is not done to curb the sheer numbers of US jobs that are being lost every single day. I many ways, the wealthiest Americans are jeopardizing their own future and that of their children by taking this “get rich quick” approach to American business.

From my own personal experience, 2006 was a better year than 2005, but not by much. However, when I look at the tragedies that US troops are faced within Iraq on a regular basis, my problems look tame in comparison. Also, I have a job and that means I am much better off than millions of other people that have been laid off and are still looking for employment during the holiday season. One thing I have learned is that no matter how bad my personal situation might be in life, I do not need to look far to find someone else that is having a tougher time than myself. As the New Year approaches, millions of people will be hoping for a better year in 2007 and I will count myself into that group of people. There are real problems facing millions of Americans and I certainly hope that our elected leaders in Washington DC decide to start taking action to correct some of these problems, instead of just burying their heads in the sand, again, in 2007.

Read more: Year To Forget - Civil War - Disconnected Politicians

Related: Stock Market Declines

New Year Reflections

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

Colorado Snow Fall Produces Christmas Blizzard

While most people in the United States will not see a White Christmas this year, some will and right now only four days away from Christmas Day the Denver Colorado area is being hit with a full blown blizzard. I usually keep up with weather news around the US on a regular basis, but this latest snowstorm completely caught me off guard. The last time one of these major snowstorms hit the Denver Colorado metro area, a few days later we saw terrible weather right here in Central Texas. Since my wife and I are planning on traveling by car on Christmas Day, bad weather is something we would like to avoid because it always leads to terrible road conditions in this part of the country.

The past few days it has been cloudy and foggy here in the Waco area and there it just a touch of chill in the air which gives me pause about what might be to come, weather wise, the rest of this week. Yesterday evening when I was driving to work, the skies were so foggy that I had to slow way down just to make my way in a safe manner. Then today the fog had broken, but there was still a bunch of moisture in the air, which means that something big is heading our way. The folks who believe global warming is a myth will use unusual weather conditions like this latest blizzard in Colorado as examples of how and why global warming is not a reality in our world.

Years ago I was like today’s global warming skeptics and I refused to see the facts in front of my face because I didn’t want to pay higher prices for gasoline and I didn’t want to alter my present lifestyle. However, over 90% of scientist now believe that global warming is real and the only folks who are still holding on to old outdated ideas, on this issue, are far right nuts like Rush Limbaugh and a few oil company CEO’s. Even President Bush acknowledges, in a strange sort of way that the world is getting warmer, even though he has not fully taken a position on what is actually causing the Earth to continue to get warmer year after year. I am one of those people who will now admit that the Earth is getting warmer, but I doubt man or science can do anything about this warming trend.

I wrote a month ago about my desire to see a White Christmas this year and as they say; “be care for what you wish for because you might just get it”. While I would love to watch the snow falling in a Texas sky on Christmas Day, the very fact that I will be traveling in a car, on that day, does cause me to take pause on that White Christmas Wish idea. However, if it does decide to snow in Central Texas this Christmas, I will make the best of it and just take my good sweet time out on the highways during my travels. Nothing is more relaxing than seeing snow falling from the heavens on Christmas morning. This year, there is a good possibility that people in many southern US states will not only see snow falling from the sky on Christmas Day, but they could also have enough snow accumulation to build their own snowman in the front yard before Christmas dinner.

Read more: White Christmas - Global Warming - Icescraper Weather

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Freedom Tower Takes Shape At Ground Zero

In New York City, the new “Freedom Tower” is starting to rise near the footprints of the former Twin Towers that were destroyed on September 11th, 2001. For the past five years, politicians and regular Americans have debated over what type of building or memorial should be erected on this site after terrorist hijacked commercial jets and crashed them into these huge buildings on 9/11. The final decision on what to do at the World Trade Center site involved building a new single tower along with other buildings on this prime piece of New York City real estate. At the same time, a memorial park in memory of the people who lost their lives on that fateful day would also be built.

I am personally surprised that city and state leaders were able to reach consensus with the family members of those that were killed during these attacks, but the new Freedom Tower idea does seem to have more support than many other ideas that were proposed since 2001. Some people wanted to reconstruct the World Trade Center Towers exactly the way they looked before 9/11, but that idea would most certainly cause the terrorist, who destroyed them, to once again try and take them down. Over the next few years, the new Freedom Tower will begin to take shape and fill the land that once held the Twin Tower buildings. It will be difficult, for me, to see a new building rising in the New York City skyline at the same location as the old Twin Towers. However, life must go on even if many people are still angry and devastated at what took place in the United States on 9/11.

The whole idea of terrorism is to spread a message of fear to people who have never personally done harm to the terrorists. In a twisted sort of way, terrorists believe that the only way to get people to believe in their cause is to scare them into following. Anyone with an ounce of common sense realizes that this type of thinking does not and never has worked successfully. However, that does not stop terrorist from continuing to use the murder of innocent people to try and force others to follow their ideology. On September 11th, 2001 the American people received a “wake up call” that people, we don’t even know, are willing to die in an effort to change our way of life. Like most Americans, before 9/11, I thought the violence that was seen on television news was so far away that it would never effect my family. I was wrong and now terrorism is something we all think about as we travel around the country either for business or pleasure.

As the new “Freedom Tower” begins to take shape over the next few years, there will be much reflection on the two buildings that once stood on this now “hollowed ground” in Manhattan. As this new tower begins to rise over the NYC skyline, there will be moments of happiness and sadness as people watch this new structure take its place in history. When I think about the new Freedom Tower I can’t help but believe it will never be respected and loved as much as the former World Trade Center Towers. The old saying, “a tough act to follow” keeps drifting into my mind and I do believe it will be tough for my generation of Americans to ever look at this new building without thinking about the two buildings that once stood on this same track of land. Time will eventually heal the wound of 9/11 for most people as more current and pressing problems take their place in our minds. However, there will be some of us who will take to our grave exactly where we were and what we were doing on that terrible September morning when we first heard the news that the World Trade Center Towers were destroyed by terrorists.

Read more: Reliving A Nightmare - Five Years Later - Trade Center Movie

Iraq War Failure - Troop Increase The Answer?

Information is starting to leak out of the White House that President Bush is leaning toward increasing troop levels, on a temporary basis, in Iraq in order to bring the out of control “civil war” situation in that country into some kind of manageable order. More than likely the “Bush Plan” will be similar to one being floated around Washington by Senator John McCain the past few weeks. While I do have high hopes that more troops will hasten a victory and removal of US troops from Iraq, it is difficult to believe that President Bush will make the right decision on what to do in that war torn country based on his previous track record.

President Bush is a hard-liner when it come to war and peace issues and his uncompromising attitude has caused mistakes to be made over and over again in Iraq since that counties government fell to US troop over three years ago. Americans have heard the call to, “stay the course” for years now and what results has the Bush Administration provided for this steady message? Not many, in my view and what is more disconcerting than the original message is that any new plan originating from the White House will be defended by the same type of PR machine as the last, failed, one was. President Bush receives advice for a variety of experts, but I have not seen him listen to anyone else and take their advice, except folks like VP Dick Cheney and other hard-line politicians that believe success will eventually be achieved, in Iraq, if the US just never backs down.

There comes a point in time for any person to come clean with the mistakes they have made and move on. However, I don’t think that the American people will see a day of reckoning, during the President George W. Bush term in office. I’m not a young person and have witnessed many different types of personalities as the President of the United States and I am stating here “on the record” that President Bush is the more ideologically driven and stubborn President of the United States in my lifetime. I was once one of the original folks who believed in the George W. Bush vision for America, long before, the 2000 presidential election which made him President. Like many other early followers I saw this man struggle, on the national political stage, to get his words right and his message across to the American people on television. I use to get a tense feeling in my back before President Bush had a news conference, in those early days, because almost every time he went before the press he messed up the English language terribly.

Then September 11th, 2001 happened and like all Americans I was looking for leadership, in my President, after that horrible day. While the actual day the terrorist attacks were taking place were not a shining moment in the President George W. Bush legacy, the following days got better. Even hard-core Democrats started to respect the Bush “tough talking” style when it came to getting even with the folks who commit this act of terrorism on the American people. President Bush seemed like a man with a plan during those days and his clear sighted vision for taking down Osama Bin Laden was something that all Americans approved of and supported 100%. Then President Bush decided to take the political capital he earned after 911 and use it to ram a War in Iraq down the throats of the American people. While President Bush was initially successful in getting his Iraqi War Plan, in the end that one decision will cloud how history reflects on our 43rd President of the United States.

In the past six months, the US Army has already tried moving additional troops into the Baghdad area with little improvement in the violence that is seen there almost every single day. In order to increase US military forces in Iraq the President will be required to break promises with members of the National Guard and their deployment policies. This action will make it more difficult for the Guard and regular Army to find young people who are willing to sign up and serve their country. President Bush is going to go “all or nothing” when it comes to the Iraqi War and I just don’t see how he comes out of this situation looking good with historians. Right now, all I see is a President of the United States, that I use to support, refusing to admit he made a mistake and his refusal to admit that mistake is costing the lives of thousands of US troops unnecessarily. I guess, in a way, I am just as responsible as President Bush because I not only supported his bid for President, but I also gave him my vote on two different occasions.

Related: Stuck In Iraq, Rudy Takes Lead

Iraq War Failure

Monday, December 18, 2006

Climber Found Dead On Mt. Hood

I watched CNN for several hours yesterday afternoon as they covered the search for three (3) missing mountain climbers on Mt. Hood in Oregon. The focus of their search was a snow cave that was spotted by a rescue helicopter the night before. When a rescue team reached the snow cave they found Kelly James, a 48-year-old climber from Dallas Texas, dead inside the cave. Some faint footprints were also seen in the snow, so mountain rescue personnel began following those footprint tracks in the hope they would lead them to another snow cave where the other two mountain climbers might be found alive.

Snow, while beautiful to look at, can be dangerous on a tall mountain like Mt. Hood in Oregon in the wintertime. Adventurous souls, like Kelly James, know the risk of climbing a challenging slope like Mt. Hood in the winter months and unfortunately when there is a big change in the weather, mountain climbers are often trapped and die of exposure before help can arrive to rescue them. While I often times criticize the sensational coverage provided the three major cable news networks in the United States, they are at their best when covering a live breaking news event like the massive rescue efforts on Mt. Hood, yesterday. I was disappointed that MSNBC decided to show old reruns of “Headliners and Legends” instead of covering this breaking news event. However, it has been a long time since I have trusted MSNBC when it comes to covering a live event.

Today, rescue workers will once again risk their lives in an effort to save the remaining two missing climbers on Mt. Hood. There is no way to repay these brave men and women who take their lives into their own hands to save other people they don’t even know. I consider myself a warm climate type of person and while I love to watch the snowfall outside, I prefer to watch it from the comfort of a warm building. Mountain climbing is a dangerous profession even when there are perfect weather conditions for the climb. While bad stormy weather was not a concern for these three climbers when they began their climb of Mt. Hood over 10 days ago, the weather suddenly took a turn for the worse and when that happened these climbers found themselves in harms way. Without hope of a fast rescue because of this terrible storm, these three men were forced to put their training and experience to the test in order to survive until there was a positive break in the weather.

There is always a chance for a miracle and without a doubt that is what keeps rescue workers going when all hope seems to be lost for the other two climbers. Time is definitely not on the side of the families and rescue workers that want nothing more than to find these remaining two men, alive. Another problem for the rescue workers and helicopters involved in this search is the short December days we are all witnessing right now. I noticed the other day how quickly it becomes dark this time of year. These short days make the job of searching for mountain climbers more difficult because no one wishes to take the extra risk of searching at night for these missing men. Like all people, I wish to offer my condolences to the family of Kelly James and while no words will bring them comfort at this tragic time in their lives, eventually they will find solace that Kelly lost his life doing something he really enjoyed.

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

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Middle Class Squeezed - Second Jobs Become Common

It seems like more people are working second jobs these days than ever before. Some might argue that the reason more Americans are working longer and harder is because of their desire to possess materialistic things which can only be obtained by hours of long work which stretch far beyond the normal 40 hours work week. However, I have a different opinion of why people are working longer hours and working for more than one employer and that reason is that, more so now than ever before, the rich are getting richer in the United States at the expense of the middle class. The rapid increase in the number of large public companies buying out smaller, mom and pop, businesses in the United States is causing the American workforce to move backwards not only in income earned per hour of work, but also in the area of benefits for healthcare and retirement accumulations.

While I am not yet ready to say that I believe the American dream is dead, it is most certainly not alive and well in the US at this time. All major industrialized nations, like the United States, are facing the depressing thought of losing millions of middle class jobs because the of effects of globalization. In a world filled with poor people who will work for next to nothing in wages just to support their families, American middle class workers are finding out that no matter how hard they work for a company, it is never enough compared to the scores of worker in third world countries who are more than willing to do their job for less money. It would be easy to blame all of the US problems on workers in foreign nations like India or China, but the real blame can be located on Wall Street in New York City right here in the United States.

The “get rich quick” mentality of Wall Street is causing the United States to lose its moral soul and what use to be the very idea of what made America great is being sold out for short term profits by people who care more about lining their own pockets with wealth than doing the right thing and supporting the people and principles which allow them to earn such great sums of money. I have written many times about my belief that what is really wrong with corporate America can be summed up in two words and that is “quarterly profits”. Wall Street gurus are obsessed more with large American companies growing at a certain pace each quarter, than good old fashion values like having a long range plan for growth. US companies with a long range plans are laughed at by Wall Street professionals and companies who adopt such corporate thinking are punished rather than rewarded by the pack of analysis who advise the investor class on which company stocks to purchase and/or sell.

While the thoughts I am expressing here are not new, the problem is getting worse and at some point in time something will need to be done to stop short term stock traders from ruining the very concept of how and why public companies were created in the first place. What is at the root of this problem is simple greed and while 20% of the worlds population controlled 80% of the wealth 30 years ago; today only 8% of the population controls 80% of the worlds wealth. This means that the middle class is being squeezed more than ever before. What is needed more than anything on Wall Street and in corporate offices around the United States is an old fashion house cleaning of short sited analysis who believe three months planing is a long timetable. Nothing important is ever completed in such a short period of time and while short term riches are exciting to think about, this type of thinking is ruining the very fabric of the United States workforce and the American way of life for millions of average middle class workers.

Related: Stock Market Declines

Middle Class Squeezed

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Senior Citizen Boxing - Stallone Too Old To Box?

On Christmas Day, Sylvester Stallone will climb into the boxing ring once again as the timeless character Rocky Balboa in what should finally be the last “Rock Movie” of all time. Instead of naming this new movie “Rocky Six”, the writers and director decided to simply name it, “Rocky Balboa”. There is no way to describe the story line of this new movie except as the title of this post does as, “Senior Citizen Boxing”, because from even the AARP’s definition of a senior citizen, Sylvester Stallone would be classified as well into his senior years. When I first heard that Stallone was making another Rocky movie, my first reaction was to laugh because even though he may feel like a young man, he is far from the muscle bound guy who originally played Rocky Balboa in the original Rocky movie back in the late 1970’s.

There is speculation all over the place that in this new movie, “Rocky Balboa”; Stallone will die in the boxing ring. While I don’t know for sure, that possibility does make sense to me in this finally chapter in the Rocky movie series. When I first saw the original “Rocky” movie, I was fresh out of high school and living on my own in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. I had just started a new job and at night I was bored because I didn’t have any family in the area. I remember looking at the local newspaper trying to find something to do one evening and I saw an advertisement for the new Rocky movie, so I decided to go see it. Needless to say, that one decision caused me to watch the entire Rocky series of movies over the next few decades and own these classic movies once they came out on video.

Sylvester Stallone wrote the original Rocky screenplay and after much work found someone to produce his screenplay into a movie. However, when Stallone said he wanted to play the part of Rocky Balboa, the real sales job began because even in the late 1970’s, few movie studio bosses would allow an unknown actor to carry the full weight of a movie which would cost millions of dollars to produce. In the end, Stallone was successful in not only selling his original screenplay to a major movie studio, but he also convinced skeptical studio bosses that he was the right man to play the lead role. As they say in the movie business, the rest is history because Sylvester Stallone took that original screenplay and acting assignment and turned himself into one of the most loved and highest paid actors in Hollywood.

I was 18 years old when I saw that first Rocky movie in an old, rundown, DFW movie theater back in the late 1970’s. It is now 30 years later and I can say from first hand experience that my body is no where close to being in as good of shape as it was 30 years ago. In reality, Stallone is in the same boat as I am, even if he spends hours per day in a fitness facility on a regular basis. The more I think about this new Rocky movie, the more I believe the whole idea for making it is to give a one final farewell sendoff to the character Rocky Balboa and the entire Rocky movie franchise. While I did laugh at the idea of sending a 60 year old man into the boxing ring against a stronger and much younger opponent, I will most likely see this latest Rocky movie, just like all the rest of them over the years.

During a tough time in my life 25 years ago, I relied on video tapes of “Rocky” and “Rocky II” to get me though some tough days. During that period of time many things in my life were going wrong and I spent many nights feeling depressed because things at work and in my family situation, at the time, were going badly. One night I really needed a positive boost, so I put in the videotapes of these two Rocky movies and by the end of the second tape I notice I was feeling better about life and more importantly about myself. The Rocky movie franchise promotes a, come from behind, approach that most Americans still believe in when they talk about the possibilities in their country. Rocky Balboa was a poor man who never though he would go anywhere in his life until one day a person he didn’t even know changed his life forever and opened doors which he didn’t even know existed before he was given that opportunity.

While the Rocky movie franchise did lose much of its glitter in the last two movies released many years ago, the first three Rocky movies are still great movies and they are just as entertaining to me today as they were years ago when they were first released. If Rocky does die in this next movie, then the whole rags to riches story of this man from Philadelphia will be completed in a way only Hollywood can provide. I know people who think that movies like Rocky are more fraud that anything else, but I disagree with that assessment, vigorously. Everyday, people around the world are trying to keep their attitude positive when everything around them seems to be falling apart. The Rocky movie series has, not only help me during trying times in my life, but I feel confident that it has helped others too with its simple story of never giving up in the face of trial and tribulation.

In a way, Christmas Day is the perfect day to release what will most likely be the last Rocky movie with Sylvester Stallone as its star. Christians celebrate Christmas around the world as the birthday of Jesus Christ who died so they might have everlasting life. The character Rocky Balboa had a similar effect on millions of people in movie theaters for decades and the life and trials of this fictional man from the poor side of Philadelphia, not only brought happiness to the lives of millions of men and women, but his spirit of never giving up and fighting against all odds to ultimately find victory, is an all American story which has and will continue to stand the test of time.

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

Monday, December 11, 2006

Barack Obama Hype - Mainstream Media All Abuzz

Only one month ago, US voters headed to the polls to try and change the direction of US politics by removing the GOP from leadership in the US House of Representatives and Senate. However, many people in the national news media have now turned their attention to the 2008 presidential race before the Democrats have even taken charge of the US legislative branch of government. Doesn’t it make sense to see how well the Democrats will perform in their new duties of controlling the Congress before media pundits start talking about possible Democratic candidates for the White House in 2008? Recently, the only name most folks in the major news media are talking about is Barack Obama, a freshman Senator from Illinois.

While it is clear why many in the media like Obama, he is a very unknown commodity when it comes to politics and he certainly has never passed the media scrutiny which always happens when a candidate decides to run for the highest office in the land. In the most simplistic of terms, the major media pundits are supporting Obama strictly based on his appearance and the fact he is an African-American man. Barack Obama has many of the same communications talents as former President Bill Clinton, without the immoral behavior problems which effected Clinton both before and after he was elected President of the United States. To me, Obama is the anti Hillary Clinton candidate in the Democratic Party which means that some people support Obama more as a protest candidate to Hillary Clinton than to actual support for Obama.

On several occasions I have listened to speeches given by Barack Obama and I agree with most of the pundits that his speaking ability is great and his use of the English language to get across his points are magnificent. However, every young, good looking, candidate appears great at this stage of the presidential game and only time will tell if their good looks and charm will take them all the way to their party’s nomination. I remember another good looking young man who was all the buzz when it came to running for the Democratic Party’s nomination several years ago. That mans name was Gary Hart and when he first announced his intentions to run for President of the United States, the major media pundits crowned him the winner years in advance, just like they are doing with Barack Obama right now.

For those of you too young to remember what happen to Gary Hart, here is a brief explanation of how quickly his star faded from the national spotlight. One day, Senator Gary Hart was well on his way to winning the Democratic nomination for President when a story was released about a long term affair this married man had been having with a young woman. Soon, pictures were released to the news media showing Hart and his girlfriend on a boat called, “Monkey Business”. Within a few hours time, this anointed new leader of the free world went from likely becoming the next President of the United States, to a joke of a man who couldn’t even find employment in the news media as a respected political analysis.

While there is no reason to believe the Barack Obama has been unfaithful to his wife, there are other issues in life that could derail a presidential bid for Obama or anyone else. I am a big NFL football fan and anyone that follows that game, like I do, understands the real danger of peaking too early in a season. The real danger for Barack Obama is that he is receiving so much attention two years before the next presidential election that many voters could completely burn out on the idea of him becoming President before his name even appears on a ballot. To some people politics is nothing more than a game, but to others like myself, politics are about what is in the best interest of the United States and how the various candidates and party’s will effect important policies in the government.

As many people already know, it is very difficult for a US Senator to win a general election for President of the United States. The reason this is so difficult is because every Senator has a voting record, which can be attacked by their opponent. With a country as evenly divided as the United States when it comes to conservative and liberal issues, once a candidate starts campaigning in earnest for the job of President of the United States, every position he or she takes in the campaign will turn off a certain group of voters. Right now, without an official announcement from Barack Obama on his true intentions about running for the nations highest office, he is given a honeymoon by the media and the GOP. However, make no mistake about it, if Obama decides to seek the Democratic nomination for President his entire history as a man on the planet Earth will be examined and every mistake in judgment he has made will become public knowledge released by his political opponents and members of the national news media.

People who are addicted to following politics love this expectation game where attractive candidates like Barack Obama are floated as potential presidential nominee’s months before the first party caucuses. Judging by the excitement and the energy Obama is displaying in public events, he too has become caught up in this political game, which could find him defeated and disappointed when the real campaign gets started early next year. While Obama may be the flavor of the month when it comes to who media pundits think would make a great President; the real power players are still waiting in the wings to announce their intentions and once someone like Hillary Clinton enters the race, the whole process will change dramatically. I still believe that the Democratic nomination will go to Hillary Clinton because she will have the best campaign manager in the person of her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Like him or hate him, President Clinton is the best political strategist in the country and I would never bet against any candidate he whole-heartedly supported.

Read more about Barack Obama:

Hillary Under Attack From Barack Obama
Barack Obama Against Most Military Action
Oprah Helps Barack Obama Raise Money
More People Contributing To Barack Obama
Barack Obama The Money Raising Machine
Obama Bores Voters
Obama Receives Protection
Obama Schiavo Comments
Hillary Then Obama

Tim McGraw Flicka Horse Movie Not Bad

Before today, I had never heard of the Tim McGraw movie called Flicka, but my wife said she wanted to go see this movie today because she has a deep love for horses. I must admit that while I don’t love horses as much as she does, I do enjoy watching movies about horses and it really doesn’t matter if there is a powerful story line or not for me to enjoy these types of movies. Today’s movie revolved around a teenage girl growing up on a quarter horse ranch in Wyoming. While attending prep school this young woman was not able to concentrate on her studies because her mind kept drifting back to her beautiful mountainside home where her mom and dad raised horses for a living.

After failing out of school, this young woman returns home and after putting off telling her parents about her failure once she returned home, she took an early morning ride on a horse to clear her mind before she had to finally face her parents with the bad news. On her trip back home from that early morning ride, she was thrown from her horse when a mountain lion spooked it. As she was getting up off the ground she saw a beautiful black horse, she later named, “Flicka” which charged the mountain lion and scared it away from attacking her. Then this black horse ran away, but that event created a huge desire, in this young teenager, to once again find this animal and bring it back into her life for good.

For me the best part of this movie was the beautiful Wyoming scenery, which at times was breath taking. No other part of the United States holds as much natural beauty as the back lands of Wyoming and while people who call this wilderness home are very rugged and hard working people, to an outsider such as myself, watching scenes on a movie screen with such a beautiful back drop is worth the price of admission. I really enjoy listening to Tim McGraw sing, but in reality he in no great Hollywood movie star. Yes, woman like to look at him on the silver screen because he is a nice looking man, but in reality he should really consider sticking to country music as a career instead of trying to expand his horizons in the movie business.

While the story line of this movie took many predictable turns like a rebellious teenage girl refusing to follow the advice of her hard-headed rancher father, the acting wasn’t that bad or maybe I should say the acting was better than many other movies I have seen in my lifetime. This movie was well worth the $1.25 my wife and I each paid to watch it at our local discount theater. Another reason it is better to watch a movie like, “Flicka” on the big screen is because the mountain backdrops are more beautiful on a big screen at a movie theater than at home, later, on a DVD. I have tried to find out tonight how much money this movie has made in box office receipts, but so far I have been unsuccessful in coming up with a good hard figure. My guess is that this movie has done poorly because of the many other major motion picture offerings, which are released around the holidays.

The heart of this movie story revolved around how wild horses are not appreciated and/or being exterminated in the western United States. There was a real message in this movie about what a shame it is that wild horses, which once roamed free in the western United States, are very seldom seen anymore. Tim McGraw played a horse rancher who raised quarter horses and did not like the idea of wild Mustang horses spooking his herds or over gracing his land. In a similar way, modern man did the same thing to the Buffalo as was done to wild Mustang horses in the United States west and while the death of any species is a tragic, it does seem to be the American way to make quick profits at the expense of lesser beings like horses in our nations history.

If you are looking for a good movie, which will fill your heart with hope and your eyes with beautiful scenery, then a movie called “Flicka” is what you are looking for. I had a tough week at work and didn’t want to see any movie this weekend, which was filled with confusion or high mental effort to understand the story line. Flicka fit that bill perfectly and I left the theater feeling better than when I entered, which is always a good thing to me. There is a good chance that this movie will not remain in theaters for much longer and if you want to witness its scenic beauty, you should hurry to your local movie house before it leaves town.

Of course, the real star of this movie was a young actress named Alison Lohman that played the young teenage daughter of Tim McGraw. Lohman was very believable in her role and she played her part with a lot of heart. As Lohman’s character road her horse across the thousands of acres of open ranch land in Wyoming, I found myself riding along with her and having the same feelings of freedom her character felt in a place that could truly be called, “Gods Country”. My father instilled in me a deep appreciation for the great outdoors when I was a very young boy and while I now live in a city and work at a regular office job, my heart still longs for the wide open spaces of the US west where dreams of freedom and real independence have been born for thousands of years.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Annual Christmas Party Without Christmas Bonus

Like millions of other people around the world, I attended my company’s annual Christmas party today. It was held at a very nice restaurant and the food was good along with the spirits, which flowed freely. While I usually enjoy this annual event, today it seemed a little less excited than it has been the past few years. I’m not sure if the mood of the crowd caused me to feel this way or I am just not as excited about the prospect of Christmas this year. More than likely the reason for my mood change, at this years Christmas party, was because something was missing that had been present in previous years and that involves the Christmas bonus check. Last year, our company was taken over by another larger company and one of their first acts was to cancel the Christmas bonus.

While the Christmas bonus of previous years never amounted to that great a sum of money, it did come in handy at this time of year to make everyone who worked at the company feel extra special and have some much needed cash in the final days of the Christmas shopping season. I have worked for companies who offer Christmas bonuses and other which have not and I can honestly say that the companies who offer a Christmas bonus do have happier and more loyal employees than those who do not. Around a decade ago I worked for a large cable television company that offer a Christmas bonus, which equaled two weeks worth of normal pay. That was the highest Christmas bonus I have ever received and I remember leaving the Christmas party that year feeling happy and joyous at my good fortune to have such a good job.

In a strange sort of way, I think I would have felt better about my company if they would have never offered a Christmas bonus in the first place than to have always provided one and then taken it away. However, I do understand the nature of business in America and attitudes and policies are always changing and when two companies merge or one company is bought out by another one the most important thing is that everyone is able to keep their job. More than likely the newer employees, who have never received a Christmas bonus before, don’t feel as badly as I did today because they didn’t realize what they were missing before they joined the company.

As I get older I do tend to miss certain old time company traditions like the annual Christmas bonus. In recent years, many companies have decided to change their policies in regards to Christmas bonuses for one reason or another, but I think that decision is short sighted and more reflects the attitude of bean counters at the corporate level than a true cost benefit analysis of the situation. The American workforce is made up of people who can decide to change companies in a heart beat these days and with dozens of workers at each company who might be on the fence of either staying at their present job or deciding to look for greener pastures, a Christmas bonus is a nice touch which might cause them to decide to stick with their present employer rather than to make that move to another company which does offer such a bonus as part of their pay package.

Now back to the Christmas party. It was a nice party and everyone was wearing their Sunday best in clothing and the staff at this nice restaurant was ever present to take care of any request we had for additional food or drink. While I would prefer the company to hold our annual Christmas party at a more middle of the road type of restaurant, it does give my wife and I a chance to eat at a restaurant we would never chose to frequent on our limited entertainment budget. One thing I have noticed about really nice restaurants and that is they don’t really offer that much food in the meal for the huge prices they charge for the privilege of eating there. I guess that atmosphere is what they spend their money on because the actual food cost of the restaurant we ate at today would surely be less than any other national chain establishment in town.

The biggest issue I have with up scale restaurants is with the portion size of their salads and desert menus. I am not kidding when I say that the amount of salad they put on my plate was smaller than any salad I have ever eaten. There was very little lettuce and even less tomato and other vegetables like carrots inside the salad. The desert was good, but I doubt if there was even a half a wedge of cake on the huge plate they served the chocolate desert on. When I think about the price my employer paid for a meal which included such a small portion of food, I asked myself wouldn’t a $100 Christmas bonus be more acceptable than a meal for the same price where no one receives enough food to get full? Maybe there are tax reasons why an expensive Christmas party is preferable to an employer giving even a small Christmas bonus or maybe offering a Christmas party causes the company ownership to feel better about themselves? I really don’t know the answer to that question.

The truth is that if polled, most employees of our company would have preferred $100 in cash as a Christmas bonus rather than to receive a $100 meal at a high price restaurant where very little food was actually consumed. Maybe I’m just too entrenched into the middle class and don’t realize the benefits of dressing up nice and eating a Christmas meal at a five star restaurant. However, in the real working world, most families could use this bonus money for Christmas shopping and they would still have more than enough money left over to feed everyone at a fast food restaurant at their local shopping mall when their shopping was finished. Sometimes the difference in the attitudes of the top areas of management are so different from the average worker because they just don’t listen to what their employees really want and just assume that just because eating at nice, five star, restaurants are a regular occurrence in their income class, their average employee would much prefer to be reward with good old fashion, “cold hard cash”, when it comes to a company holiday benefit.

Related: Ebay Christmas Shopping, Holiday Spending Down, PS3 Shopping Madness, LCD or Plasma

Annual Christmas Party

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Goodbye Old Congress - Democrats Take Control

Without a doubt, the 109th Congress was the worst group of legislators in over 50 years to serve the people of the United States, or better said themselves and on their way out of town they tried to continue their big spending ways in the US government while extending huge tax cuts for the wealthiest people in America. This Congress did more than drive themselves from office; they also drove lifelong Republicans, like myself, from the party we have supported for decades. I sometimes ask myself where this group of legislators went wrong and I keep coming back to the same answer. It was because they stayed in power too long and began to believe their own propaganda machine.

Most of the Republican Members of Congress, who entered office in 1994, made a commitment that they would not serve more than two terms in office. Of course, nearly all of these same US House and Senate candidates decided to change their minds and run for reelection after their two terms were up, anyway. To me, it really doesn’t matter what the reason is for why they lied to the voters back home, the real issue is they lied about this one simple act so doesn’t it make sense they would continue to lie to the voters about other more important issues like war and peace? I never thought I would be happy to see Democrats in charge of the Congress, but I am glad they took over and hopefully some sanity and compromise will be found in Washington, at least for a short period of time.

I remember back when I was a younger man, I thought divided government worked best under the United States form of government. When Newt Gingrich and crew took over the Congress in 1994 I began to think that just maybe a government filled with Republicans might be the best way to improve the country as a whole. However, I was wrong and I was proven oh so wrong when President Bush became the President of the United States. I voted for Bush, twice, once in 2000 and again in 2004 because I thought he was a good man who would lead our country in the right direction. However, now in hind site I would love to be able to take those two votes back because President Bush has turned out to be an ideologically driven man who will not listen to reason on either side of the political divide. President Bush has his mind made up on how the War in Iraq and US domestic issues should proceed and when other folks make suggestions he just listens politely and continues down his own road to disaster without hesitation.

I have written here on many occasions about my distress at how the 109th Congress just “rubber stamped” everything that President Bush wanted during his two terms in office. Until the Congress finally stood up to the Bush Administration on the UAE Ports Deal, I didn’t think they would ever disagree with one thing President Bush wanted them to pass. In the six plus years that President Bush has served as our President, he has only vetoed one bill and that had to do with “stem cell research” which is supported by most Americans. This is just another example of how an ideologically driven President of the United States is bad for the country as a whole. Does anyone really want Rush Limbaugh or Al Franken running the US government? Maybe some far right or left folks think that would be a good idea, but the vast majority of Americans would shutter at the thought of someone that extreme running the government as their President. In my view there is very little difference between Rush Limbaugh and President George W. Bush.

While the 109th Congress will go down in history as one of the worst in history, it would serve leaders in the Democratic Party well to learn the lessons of how and why the GOP went wrong in their last session, so they don’t repeat those same mistakes. I love to read and study history, but unfortunately politicians don’t care much for history expect in how it reflects on them personally. Before Newt and crew took over the Congress in 1994, the Democratic Party had pretty much made a mess of the whole place in their decades long control of the US House of Representatives and if the current group of Democrats stay in office long enough they will make the same mistakes again because no one who serves in the Congress takes the time to study and learn from history. Most of the time they keep making the same mistake made by their predecessors and end up in the same “black hole” of corruption and narcissism as their earlier counter parts.

In my 48 years on this earth I have never been so glad to see a group of politicians leave office as I have with this 109th group of politicians. There were early warning signs for me when I still approved of GOP leadership, but disagreed with everything that Majority Leader Tom DeLay was doing in his leadership role. What I didn’t realize at the time was that Tom DeLay was only leading like-minded individuals in the Congress and not acting like some kind of “lone wolf” in his leadership style. Like everything in history, I will learn from my mistake in trusting Republican Leaders in the 109th Congress and I will use that knowledge to look for the next group of self serving politicians from either major party who is more interested in their own pet projects and extreme ideology than serving the people who elected them to office in the first place. When it comes to politics there is an old saying that should be followed at all times. That saying goes like this: “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”. GOP leadership in the White House and Congress has fool me once and I don’t have any desire to see them succeed in fooling me once again.

Related: Right Wing Politics, Rudy Takes Lead

Goodbye Old Congress

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Deep Freeze Weather - Central Texas Is Frozen

I woke up this morning to some very cold weather here in Central Texas. Last night on my way home from work, the temperatures outside felt like one of those old fashion walk in deep freezer units in a supermarket. Even though I wore a heavy coat to work, my body was still in shock when I walked out the back door last around midnight to head back home. This morning it looks beautiful outside with big blue clear skies, but the thermostat says thirty degrees so I guess tonight will be another heavy coat night for me as I head off to work in a few hours.

I know people look at me funny this time of year when these cold fronts move in and out of the State of Texas. I am not a fool so I do wear a coat when the weather turns to sub freezing temperatures, but I also wear a short sleeve shirt under my coat because I tend to get too hot inside of work when the thermostat is set to 75 degrees or warmer. Almost on a daily basis someone will ask why I am wearing a short sleeve shirt when it is under freezing outside and I just say that I have thick skin or something else silly like that.

So far this year it has been a strange weather year not only here in Central Texas, but throughout the heartland of the United States from Texas to Illinois. I read in the newspaper yesterday that over ten thousand people in the Missouri area have been without power for weeks after a terrible ice and snow storm ravaged that area last month. Life is good when a person takes the time to see just how lucky they are compared to others. Yes it is cold here in Waco, but we have electric service, which means our homes, and businesses are kept warm during this latest weather abnormality.

I guess because of the cold weather, I can’t seem to get that young man out of my head who walked in blizzard conditions in Oregon to find help for his stranded family. As we all know, this young man lost his life while trying to navigate the snow filled mountains when his car was stranded on a deserted road with his wife and two young children. Fortunately, the wife and two young children were rescued when a search plane saw them. However, the father was not so luck and he was found dead a few days ago from overexposure to the harsh elements and hypothermia.

At my office we have an evenly divided workforce of cold natured versus hot natured types of people. Last night, while the temperatures were dropping outside a lady coworker of mine came into my work area to turn up the thermostat because she was too cold. Actually, the temperature inside the building, I work in, was the same as it is every day, but I believe she felt cooler because of the constant weather reports she was hearing on the radio. About one hour after she turned up the heater, she was back in my work area again saying she was too hot, now. I believe the mind can play some pretty interesting tricks on the body and this event last night proves that fact to me.

I noticed yesterday that the owners of my apartment complex placed insulating covers over the water faucets on every building. These small covers look pretty neat, to me, and somehow they hook to the back of the exposed water faucet and then they can be tightened down with some type of wrench to the point where the entire exposed metal of the faucet is covered from the outside elements. These new types of devices are a far cry from what we use to do when I was young to keep water lines from freezing. In the old days we would take an old towel or rag and wrap it tightly around the exposed water pipe and then wrap the whole contraption up with duct tape. This method sure didn’t look very pretty, but it worked and lets face it, nothing is worse than being forced to fix a broken water pipe in freezing cold temperatures.

It has been years since a major winter storm caused people to be shut into their homes, here in Waco, for more than a few days, but every time there in an announcement of a cold weather front moving through our area, thousands of people rush to local supermarkets, like HEB, and stock up on food. I wonder if this activity isn’t caused by some type of genetic trigger in the minds of thousands of people which tell them that if the weather is getting cold, they should stock up on food? Even if the predicted low temperatures are above freezing, folks still flock to the supermarket to stock up on food for their families. Most of us never take the time to think about what resides in our brains from the past, but there are instincts there which date back centuries which cause us to automatically do things when we hear certain triggers, like a bad weather report.

Within the next few days this latest cold weather front will move out of our area and I will be able to hang my, mainly unused, coat back in the closet. Usually, really cold weather only strikes the State of Texas in late January and February, but this year we have already had two major cold fronts blow through before Christmas. When the first really cold day of winter or the first really hot day of summer strikes, thousands of people figure out whether their automobile battery will need to be replaced. Luckily, both of my family cars started today so hopefully we will be ready to survive the upcoming winter months. I learned as a young boy that automobile batteries have a mind of their own and extreme temperatures in either direction do seem to cause them to fail. As a moderate kind of guy, I prefer the 75-80 degree weather to all these extremely cold and hot days. However, I can’t afford to live in Hawaii, so I guess I will just grin and bear it just like everyone else does.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Dallas Cowboys/Indianapolis Colts Superbowl - My Dream Matchup

Around the first of December, each year, I like to make my prediction of which two teams will play in the big Superbowl game in two months. I am proud to announce that I am wrong, most of the time, but this is a fun exercise for me and I hope you enjoy it too. Last year, I predicted that the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks would play in the Superbowl and we all know how wrong I was about that prediction. This year, I am going to stick with one team I thought would play in the Superbowl last year, the Colts, and switch the NFC championship team from the Seattle Seahawks to the Dallas Cowboys.

A few weeks ago, the Indianapolis Colts traveled to Texas Stadium in Irving to play the Dallas Cowboys in a game where few people thought the Cowboys had a chance. However, when the game was over, the Cowboys won and ended the unbeaten season of the Indianapolis Colts. Bill Parcells and the other coaches of the Dallas Cowboys figured out a way to stop the power offense of Payton Manning while at the same time figuring out how to put enough points on the score board to ultimately win the game. Until Dallas stopped the Colts power offense, I was not sure any NFL team could do it, this year.

After that huge Cowboys victory over the Colts they were forced, because of the Thanksgiving holiday, to play again with only four days rest in their traditional Thanksgiving Day game against Tampa Bay. I worried about that Tampa Bay game because either the Cowboys would still be on fire after beating the Colts or they would be flat as a pancake in that short week game against the Buccaneers. The good news is that Dallas played great against Tampa Bay and won the game and also the right to a long rest break before their next game against the New York Giants, today.

I believe it will be a bigger test for the Indianapolis Colts to survive the playoffs and reach the Superbowl this year than it will be for the Dallas Cowboys. The biggest reason is because the Colts have never reached the big Superbowl game since they moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis and experience does play a big part in any teams navigation to victory in their own conference on the road to the Superbowl. However, if the Colts can find a way to finish out their regular season strong, coach Dungy should be able to help his team figure out a way to win games in the playoffs and make their first trip to the Superbowl game for the fans in Indianapolis.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, have not only been to the Superbowl on many occasions over the years as a team, but their head coach, Bill Parcells, has coached in several Superbowl games as the head coach of various different teams. For the Cowboys, the big challenge will be finishing out their season, strong and then resting up and preparing well for each team they will play through the playoff process. After the first four games of this NFL season I didn’t think there was a chance I would be sitting here today and writing about the probability that the Dallas Cowboys would be playing in the Superbowl in early 2007. However, their fortunes have changed and now it is not only a probability the Cowboys will reach the big game, but a distinct possibility.

The reason this prediction game about which teams will eventually play in the Superbowl is so problematic is because on any given Sunday any NFL football team can beat another. While baseball has proven to be a sport where big city teams can buy their way to predictable success each year, the NFL still remains a pure sport where even the worst teams, in any given season, do have the talent to beat the best team in the league if they play their cards right and get extremely lucky. Right now I believe the Dallas Cowboys and the Indianapolis Colts are the two, most likely, teams to end up as the champions of their respective conferences this year.

Today the Dallas Cowboys will be playing their long time conference rivals the New York Giants. Most people predict an easy victory for the Cowboys and that is what bothers me the most as a Cowboys fan. I believe Dallas always plays their best when they are the “underdog” team instead of the predicted favorite in the game. However, the Cowboys have a real secret weapon which is called Bill Parcells who knows how the exceptions game can lead to defeat on game day if a team in not properly trained and motivated before the opening kickoff. I was not a big fan of Jerry Jones hiring Bill Parcells as the Dallas head coach when that announcement was first made. However, I have adjusted my thinking over the years and now think Bill Parcells was just what Dallas needed to get back in the playoff hunt each year.

The one big decision Bill Parcells made this season was to put Tony Romo in as the Cowboy’s starting quarterback and let everyone know that this decision was not just a temporary move, but one which would last the rest of the season. While sitting on the side lines for years, Tony Romo waited patiently for his chance to play as the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys and during that period of time he learned well how to lead the Dallas Cowboys offense when his chance to start finally happened. For me, Romo has made it fun to watch the Dallas Cowboys play football once again because the way he plays the game creates excitement every time he takes a snap from the center. Rather than either handing the ball off or dropping back to pass, Romo adds the extra excitement of taking the ball himself and running for much need third down conversion.

In a few hours I will switch on the television and watch the Cowboys/Giants game and if Dallas is victorious today and the Colts continue their winning season, I believe the Colts and Cowboys might just end up playing each other in a true “grudge match” in this years big Superbowl game.

Read more: Golf, NASCAR, Climbing, Baseball, NBA, Eagles Defeat Cowboys, Big Game Tomorrow, Cowboys Great Victory, Dallas Cowboys Football Talk

Cowboys Colts Superbowl

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