Saturday, March 01, 2008

Maya Angelou Speaks In Dallas

On the morning of Bill Clinton’s inauguration, I listened to Dr. Maya Angelou as she read her poem that ended with the stanzas,

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

She was welcoming the country to wake up from the slumber of the Regan/Bush years and renew its purpose and courage. She grabbed me and everyone listening and moved us with the simple power of her prophetic voice.

She still has that power. Today at the 80th birthday celebration for her, hosted by Hope for Peace and Justice here in Dallas Maya grabbed the audience from her first words. She sang, spoke and recited poems. She told stories and she moved people in a way that only she can. She is a great American treasure and I feel privileged to have seen her and listened to her magic with language.

The Morton Meyerson Symphony Hall was filled to capacity both in the audience and on the stage where a massed men’s and women’s choir under the direction of Dr. Tim Seelig sang with more power than I have ever heard. The orchestra, the new North Texas Symphony under the direction of Kathy Brown played their hearts out and the special appearance by the First Baptist Church of Hamilton Park Men’s Choir was stunning.

It was an inaugural event for Hope for Peace and Justice and it was a resounding success. Part of the month long “Voices of Peace” event, a month-long, worldwide effort by the organization Song of Peace, which is encouraging one million people around the world to sing "Dona Nobis Pacem" (give us peace) in communities, churches, synagogues, schools, or even on street corners, proclaiming that peace in our world is of fundamental importance. More information at

More On The Ricin Found In Las Vegas - Anarchist Books Found Nearby

Oh it’s not terrorism, even though the guy whose hotel room had vials of ricin in it also contained castor beans and anarchist books that explained how to make the poison. Oh that’s certainly not terrorism!

Sounds like a home grown terrorist to me. The guy is unable to speak and still in critical condition in a Las Vegas hospital. The ricin is in the custody of the FBI and the rest of us are in the dark. Now if the guy hab worn a turban, well that would have been terrorism.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Clinton Campaign Tries Fear As A Tactic

The Clinton campaign is trying every trick they can think of. The latest is another page from George Bush’s playbook, FEAR! The TV ad showing the “Red Phone” and Clinton answering it in the middle of the night with the narrator telling the viewer that there is a world crisis and your vote decides who will answer the phone, “Whether it’s someone who already knows the world’s leaders, knows the military — someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world.”

Fear plain and simple and pretty much misleading as well. Hillary Clinton was first lady, not president and her experience as a “world leader” is circumspect at best. The campaign is trying to score with a “daisy ad” similar to the one used during the LBJ campaign years ago. It’s a cheap trick and personally I believe the country is tired of fear campaigns.

Clinton Spin Machine Trying To Deflect Attention From Falling Poll Numbers

Spin is a strange thing. Just a few days ago, everyone was saying Clinton must win in Texas to remain viable. Now the Clinton camp is spinning Obama’s lead in the polls with the same line. They now say Obama must win in Texas to remain viable.

The truth is whichever candidate has the most pledged delegates will be the real winner. No matter how you spin it, that is what really matters. Clinton’s folks are trying to raise the bar for Obama just as they are trying to lower the expectations for Clinton in the Texas and Ohio primaries. Her lead has evaporated in Texas and is dwindling in Ohio, so the spin machine is in full swing.

Meanwhile the Obama campaign continues to make slow steady progress chipping away Clinton’s lead and rallying more super delegates.

Bag Full Of Ricin Found In Las Vegas Hotel - Deadly Poison

So let me get this straight? A guy is found with Ricin, a deadly poison with no medical uses except experimental cancer treatments (very rare) and the police won’t consider the possibility of a terrorist attack?

Ever since the attacks on the subways by the Aum Shinrikyo folks in Japan, people have know about how deadly toxins like Serin and Ricin are. It comes from the Castor Bean and only a few grains can kill a person. Not the kind of stuff you would use to kill rats. They find a plastic bag of the stuff in a motel room of a man who was hospitalized for breathing difficulties and discover the bag of the poison in his personal effects.

I am not an alarmist, but that raises a few dozen red flags for me! What else would the guy have the poison for except to poison someone, and if it was a bag full of it, to poison several “someones”? The difference is it was found in Las Vegas and there with tourists being so vital to the economy, nothing is ever done that causes alarms. Money must flow to the gaming tables regardless of the risks to the public.

Comforting news for other potential terrorists, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!

This Is Our America - We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For

The latest video from Obama supporters brings me to tears. Watch it!

A Nation Of Criminals - 1 In 100 Americans Is A Prisoner

Do we live in a nation of criminals? If you read the statistics we do. Latest figures show 1% of adult American’s are in prison. That is 1 of every 100 adults in the country. If you are African-American that figure rises to 1 in 15 adults and 1 in 36 Latinos. Are we that criminally inclined?

The United States imprisons more people than any country in the world, including China. Our prisons and jails are overcrowded and schools for crime. Our state budgets are being gobbled up by incarceration costs and the trend seems to have no end in sight.

Part of the glut in the prisons is the "tough on crime" stance of officials seeking reelection. Many see incarceration as an easy fix, but it is a costly fix that has questionable results. Here in Texas we have the largest prison population, 172,000. Fortunately, the state legislature finally has decided to do more than warehouse prisoners. They have enacted drug treatment programs and overhauled the parole system for non-violent offenders. Now it’s time to go further.

We have thousands of people in prison for DWI, and treatment for their alcohol abuse would seem a better use of funds. The whole idea of rehabilitation has taken a back seat to just "getting the criminals off the streets" and it shows in the recidivism rate. It’s time to reconsider the entire penal system. The problem is that such a move will take courage and careful study, and during an election year that won’t fit on a bumper sticker.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Obama Pulling Ahead In Texas

A few weeks ago Hillary Clinton had a clear lead in Texas, now that has evaporated and Barack Obama holds a 48% to 45% lead over Senator Clinton. The drops has been steady, much like the events leading up to the last few primaries where Obama’s momentum starts to rumble.

Clinton’s failure to score any big wins in the last two debates makes her task even more daunting. Lacking a major victory in Texas and Ohio, her candidacy will be hard pressed to win. Personally, I think she is looking a bit too desperate, and her “kitchen sink” approach to attacking Obama makes her look like she is scrambling.

More and Worse Pictures From Abu Ghraib

When I think of the name Abu Ghraib, the images made infamous a couple of years ago sear themselves into my mind. It is hard not to remember them. Images of prisoners being attacked by dogs, stacked like human cordwood, stripped naked and humiliates and being subjected to all manner of abuse.

Philip Zimbardo, the psychologist who supervised the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment and later wrote about the experience in his book, The Lucifer Effect has been on the speaking circuit with a presentation about the effects of power and how it corrupts people. Part of that speech are startling new photos previously unseen from Abu Ghraib and they are equally disturbing.

The depths to which people sank and the level of cruelty is stunning. One picture of a prisoner standing naked, coated in what I can only imagine is feces stretched the bounds of decency to a point where I cannot remain objective. Yet aside from the outrage, I think the new pictures highlight a bigger problem and that is what the policies of our government have spawned.

Sending untrained or poorly trained soldiers into civilian positions in a situation like running a prison lead to abuses. Why? Mainly because their training is as soldiers not guards in a penal system, especially one in a foreign country. Their situation is a sign of how little planning went into the entire Iraq operation and it is endemic of the Bush administration. Bush seems ready to “shoot from the hip” on matters that take planning and strategy. He seems more than willing to fill positions that should be occupied by career civil servants with political hacks. In his effort to politicize the entire government, he has gutted both the civilian and military’s ability to effectively plan and deal with crises. Need proof, look at Katrina!

"Virtual" Border Fence Runs Over Budget And Fails To Work!

So the whole “border fence” thing was a mystery to me until I read the news about what the Bush administration is calling a “virtual fence”.

“Gee Whizz!” I exclaimed. “That sounds all high-tech and sci-fi!”

Then my awe subsided and I looked at who was building said “virtual fence”. Boeing! Now it all made sense. The bush administration does nothing that has no benefit for a major defense supplier, and so it is with the border fence idea.

Barbed wire and chain-link are too cheep and would benefit no major contributor to his campaign, but a “virtual fence” would be a great way to squander millions and millions of dollars that might otherwise go un-scammed. So the idea to build a prototype (remember that word) high tech surveillance system that could replace chain link and barbed wire was a great idea!

Already the project is hitting snags and it’s back to the very expensive drawing board for the folks who make airplanes not fences. The problems with the system are predictable, and even the Government Accounting Office expected trouble. Now they have said the project will stretch into the next presidency before completion if even then. Now that is a great project!

This kind of system is not only untested, but far from feasible and that is why the Bush administration likes it. It is a convenient hole to dump taxpayers money and funnel it directly to a defense contractor. Among the problems is using the wrong kind of software for the project, requiring a major reinvestment in programming and deployment. Additionally, the job is taking longer than expected, 2 years longer!

All in all it is a great boon for Boeing and a terrific way to waste money and resources far into the next decade!

Bush Approval Rating Fallas to Historic Low - 19%!

Some people thought it was impossible, but Bush has proved the skeptics wrong again. His approval ratings have dropped to the lowest in the history of any American President. Beating out Harry Truman’s dismal 22%, George W. Bush now stands at a mere 19% of those polled who approve of the way he is handling his job.

The sad news for Bush is that among registered Republican voters his rating is still only 45% approval. That means he has lost his base and perhaps so has the Republican Party. The registered Democrats found him abysmal as a leader giving him only a 1% approval rating. With the primaries generating so much attention for Democrats, things would seem pretty dour for any Republican trying to hitch a ride on what’s left of Bush’s coat tails.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rep. John Lewis Makes It Official - Backs Obama!

Rep. John Lewis of Georgia has made it official, he supports Barack Obama! A super delegate in the Democratic Party, Lewis stated, “Obama represents the beginning of a new movement in American political history" and that he wants "to be on the side of the people."

Come Back To Jamaica Unless You Are Gay - Time For A Boycott

We’ve all seen them, the TV ads beckoning us to “Come Back to Jamaica”. The reality of Jamaica is much less welcoming. For a gay man or lesbian Jamaica is a hostile and dangerous place. This island paradise is the site of repeated assault, stoning and lynching of gay men in the past few years. The latest happened just last month when a dinner gathering in the home of a gay man was interrupted by a mob of angry, homophobic thugs dragged the men from the house assaulting them with clubs and machetes. As they yelled anti-gay slurs, the mob beat them sensless and one of the victims has not been accounted for and may be dead.

This kind of violence against gays happens in Jamaica on a regular basis and it is the dark secret of the island. Because of this blogger Wayne Besen is calling for a boycott of the resort and I agree. Until legal protections for GLBT people are put in place and the country makes efforts to stop gay-bashing Americans should not travel to or spend money in Jamaica.

Because Jamaica depends on American tourism for much of its income a boycott could have an effect. Next time you consider taking a cruise, ask if it goes to Jamaica, and if it does, decline. It is ironic how an Island where pot smoking and clothing optional resorts for straight couples can be so backward when it comes to GLBT rights. Perhaps it is because they are really not ready for prime time in the world community?

William F. Buckley Dead At 82

I was watching the Democratic Convention late one night in 1968 as William F. Buckley spared with Gore Vidal. That was in the 1960’s and though I cannot remember the exact date, I remember the scene distinctly. Two of the most erudite and sophisticated pundits in the country debating the Presidential race was the kind of TV we had in those days. Buckley and Vidal made very considered statements and their debate was genuinely about issues and not posturing until that moment.

It was a defining moment in American TV when as they were discussing the actions of the Chicago police during the riots the following heated exchange occurred as Buckley called the actions of the demonstrators "crypto-Nazi".

Vidal: "the only pro or crypto-Nazi here is yourself."

Buckley: "Now listen, you queer, you stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll sock you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered."

And so the tone was set for American TV commentary ever since. Today we have no real discussions of issues on TV, just name calling and sensationalists like Ann Coulter.

Well, the man who lit that fire, William F. Buckley is dead. He will be missed by many for his wit, charm and occasional sharp tongue. Personally, I always like listening to him on his TV show Firing Line and though I rarely agreed with his politics, he was always good for interesting comments and for that he will be missed.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Banking Biodiversity To Save The World

Expect the best but prepare for the worst. That might be the slogan for the new “seed vault” which opened this week in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. The facility, buried deep within the arctic tundra is designed to preserve simple seeds, but those seeds could restore the food supply for the world should a global catastrophe happen. Be it global warming or an asteroid collision the Svalbard Global Seed Vault will hold the future for the survival of human kind. The vault is meant to be the backup of last resort, stocked with copies of different crops from national seed storage facilities. It will contain one of the largest varieties of plant seeds anywhere in the world.

Though they sound like the stuff of science fiction, seed banks have already been used in modern times to help restore food crops to countries ravaged by wars, like Afghanistan and Iraq. The project is lead by the Italian based, Global Crop Diversity Trust. Its staff is working with countries across the globe to fill the repository with every conceivable seed to maintain the biodiversity of the globe.

Who Really Has More Experience, Clinton or Obama?

So let’s talk experience. A lot is being made by the Clinton campaign over Obama’s alleged lack of experience. Well that is begging the question about Hillary herself.

Clinton was elected Senator from New York in 2000. She won reelection and has since served a couple of years into her second term. Prior to being elected the junior senator from New York she held no elected office. That would be about 8 years “experience” as an elected official. To include her years as First Lady is deceptive, since that is neither an elected position nor a policy making position.

Senator Barack Obama served in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004 and has been the Junior Senator from Illinois since then. That would add up to almost 11 years of service as an elected official which if my meager math abilities serve me is longer than 8 years. He also worked as a community organizer and Civil Rights lawyer which gives him a great deal of experience in the real world.

Now, if you want to throw in her years as First Lady of Arkansas and in the White House, Hillary has been around the power structure of government for a long time. The problem I have is precisely that. She is part of the Washington problem. She is deeply entrenched in politics as usual and that is precisely what our country does not need any more of.

Hillary Parsing Her Words Again - Taking The Low Road

Hillary is parsing her words concerning the photo that has been circulated recently of her opponent Barack Obama. The picture shows Obama in a turban and traditional Kenyan garb as he visited the country back in 2006. Instead of flatly denying that her campaign sent the photo to muckraker the Drudge Report she said, "I know nothing about it." Clinton told ABC affiliate WFAA, "This is in the public domain. But let's just stop and ask yourself: 'Why are you -- why is anybody concerned about this?'"

Turning the question around is a common tactic to avoid the real issue. Her campaign has already been guilty of sending out emails that characterize Obama as a Muslim. He is not, he is a Christian and member of the United Church of Christ. The turban photo is an attempt a guilt by association and for her to deny knowing any reason why it would be a problem is laughable and very telling.

Hillary’s campaign is taking the low road and it make the whole Democratic Party look bad. Shame on you Hillary!

Monday, February 25, 2008

New TV Ad Has Tough Questions For McCain

Another Obama Song!

Not nearly as serious as the previous song composed by using Barack's speech but this one is fun none the less. Again, this shows how Barack Obama's message has fired people up both politically and creatively. Join the movement, and help change America!

Romney Back In The Race? Maybe!

Just when you thought the GOP campaign for Presidential nominee was getting boring, Mitt Romney is making noises that he may re-enter the race. One of his sons leaked the information in a story in the Los Angeles Times. If you remember he said previously he was “suspending his campaign” and that sounded pretty much like legal speak to me. If he re-enters it will prove that the careful parsing of words by candidates is something to be reckoned with.

Hillary Uses Dirty Tricks Again! Who Looks Like Karl Rove Now?

Want a smoking gun in the latest dust up between Obama and Clinton? Well look at the reaction of the Clinton campaign about the photo being circulated by Clinton staffers that has the Obama people upset.

The picture taken during a state visit by Obama in 2006 shows him in traditional Kenyan garb including a turban. Why be upset? Well for a lot of folks who are not very intellectually curious, turban = terrorist. That’s the kind of reaction an opponent would want.

So what is the Hillary camp response? Well her campaign manager says, "Enough…. If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed.” Surprising that there was no denial that they had anything to do with the picture, instead they try to turn the issue back against Obama.

In December, two Clinton Iowa volunteers resigned after forwarding a hoax e-mail that falsely said Obama is a Muslim possibly intent on destroying the United States. Obama is a member of the United Church of Christ and says he has never been a Muslim, but false rumors about Islamic ties are circulating on the Internet.

Doesn’t sound very far -fetched that this is yet another scheme by the Hillary camp to win at any cost. That is not the kind of President this country needs!

Clinton Campaign Uses Another Dirty Trick - Tries The GOP Tactic Against Obama

The Clinton campaign is showing just how the “politics as usual crowd” in Washington works. IN an amazingly crass move they published a photo of Barack Obama wearing traditional Kenyan clothing that was taken a couple of years ago when the Senator visited Kenya. Why is this a big deal? Well the picture shows Obama in a turban, and though anyone with a little intelligence knows that is just another hat, the intellectually non-curious voter will no doubt make the connection that “turban = terrorist”.

If that was not the intent of the Hillary camp, why did they publish the photo?

They are stooping to the kind of smear tactics that really show what kind of leader Hillary would be. She is willing to use any tactic necessary to win, and that puts her squarely in the George Bush/Karl Rove school of politics. Though she claims to be an agent of change, this kind of crap tells the truth about her. She is just another slick politician and that is exactly what our country does not need. We have had one dynasty after another of slick politicians and now we need a leader.

Hillary, you should be ashamed of yourself and more specifically, you should not be President of the United States!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

80th Oscars - Catty Comments

OK, I just can’t resist making a few catty comments. Hey, it’s the Academy Awards!

Worst Dress - Tilda Swinton, winner of the best supporting actress, should win the award for the worst dress. Looking like she was outfitted in a black plastic trash bag with a hair style that seemed as if the stylist was interrupted while working.

Best dress - Marion Cotillard in a fabulous white gown that out glamoured any other so far.

Worst Hair on a Guy – Colin Farrell – with long shaggy hair that looks like something a homeless person would wear. Why do the really handsome guys have bad stylists?

Worst Jewelry – Nicole Kidman, wearing what looked like pieces of a chandelier casually strung across her chest.

So many more, but it’s late!

Video Clip From Obama Rally in Dallas

Glad I was able to be there to see Barack Obama in person. His speech was not just inspiring but filled with specifics and policy points. The Clinton campaign keeps saying he is devoid of substance, but I find Obama has both good ideas and the ability to inspire his supporters. That is a recipe for success in Washington.

Hillary Loses It - Mocks American's Who Believe Change Is Possible

Hillary is losing it. She went way over the top in her campaign appearance in Providence, Rhode Island and mocked Barack Obama’s message of hope. She sounded more shrill than ever as she characterized his message as “the sky will open and everything will be better”. Not only was it broad, it was pretty much an outright lie.

Her mocking riff on Obama stated that she has little hope for America changing course. She even said so “you are not going to wave a magic wand and have the special interests disappear.” Indeed they won’t especially under a Clinton administration. She is the recipient of lots of special interest money, as the lobbyists have already lined up to contribute to her campaign.

As far as Obama, he has never promised things would be easy, in fact he has said it will take hard work. What she objects to is his ability to inspire people and motivate them to vote and work to change things. Hillary would do better to find a little inspiration of her own instead of trying to belittle the thousands of Americans who believe that Barack Obama and his message of hope is what America needs.

Ralph Nader Is Running AGAIN!

When I was growing up, Ralph Nader was a hero. His work to bring about safety standards for autos has saved thousands of driver’s lives. Somewhere along the line, he must have began reading his own press releases and he became so full of himself that he decided he could run for president. It is his right to do so, but I sincerely believe Mr. Nader has become delusional.

He announced today that he is running for president on the Green Party ticket, again. The problem is that in the past his runs have only diluted the vote for a Democrat and assured the GOP of winning the White House. Unfortunately Mr. Nader has been duped in the past and his campaign was sponsored by Republicans hoping to blunt the Democratic chances. It worked in 2000 but in 2004 his campaign was not a factor.

I suspect it will again be a nonissue, but it is still sad to see him flailing about believing he is doing the right thing when he is only distracting the country from what could be a historic moment. The GOP must be tossed out of the White House and any distraction from that is a disservice to the country. Is my partisanship showing?