Wednesday, February 28, 2007

John Thune's toy train (Updated and Bumped)

John Thune, along with Trent Lott, has been quietly arranging to make the largest government loan in history to a poorly run virtually bankrupt railroad in South Dakota which competes with two other, profitable railroads for the same customers. The loan is for $2.3 BILLION dollars. The loan payments alone will exceed the railroads current profit by a third (the railroad brings in $200 million a year, the payments will be $246 million a year starting in 6 years. Combine that with the $15 million payment on the CURRENT loan, and you end up with a net deficit of $61 million dollars per year.)

You may be asking WHY? Well Thune used to be a lobbyist in the employ of this railroad.

Now here is the good news, this has not been approved yet. Get on the horn you your elected officials and raise nine kinds of hell, we still have a chance to stop the insanity.

Track the truth has an online petition to stop this.
SUCCESS! The feds have denied the loan.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Coal plants and market manipulation (updated)

Texas is in dire need of additional power generation capacity. TXU was to help by building 11 new coal fired power plants in the state. A huge media campaign by a number of players, not the least of which was our very own Houston Chronicle, railed against the plan. Now Kolberg Kravits & Roberts, along with Texas Pacific Group have agreed to buy the utility and that if the deal goes through, they will scrap plans for the coal fired plants. While the environmentalists cheer, I have to wonder if there may be a different angle here. When summer comes the price of electricity is going to spike and without additional capacity, the price is going to spike even higher. That would be a very effective way for KKR and Texas Pacific Group to recoup their expenditures in buying TXU, meanwhile us ratepayers will be hung out to dry.

Thanks for nothing!

Tom Fowler at the Chronicle sees the glass as half-full, but he also puts some numbers to the issue. I think he is wrong because the same problems TXU had will befall anyone else that wants to build cheap generating capacity (and coal, as filthy as it is, certainly fills that niche). The interest groups will crawl out of the woodwork. the result is that whatever capacity is built will probably be Natural gas fired meaning it will be subject to price spikes due to fuel costs.

What is wrong with the child predator laws in the State of Texas

There is a convicted child molester that lives in my neighborhood. He lives three doors down from the main drag that all the elementary school kids walk on their way to school. In fact he lives directly behind the school. This individual was convicted in 1998 of one count of sexual contact with a 13 year old girl when he was 26. He was on probation for 7 years. His probation ended in 2005. He lives with his mother and his three children, two girls and a boy. Under state law, he is committing no crime. He may live next door to a school, he may live with his own female children. As uncomfortable as his proximity to my daughter's school is to me, there is nothing I can do to make him move. Pedophiles are incurable. The recidivism rate is almost 50% and I suspect that reason why it isn't 100% is that the other 50 percent just haven't been caught doing it again because the average victim does not report it.

• Recidivism rates range from 18-45%. The more violent the crime the more likelihood of repeating.
-Studies by the state of Washington.

• 3 in 10 child victimizers reported that they had committed their crimes against multiple victims: they were more likely than those who victimized adults to have had multiple victims.
-BJS Survey of State Prison Inmates, 1991.

• Like rape, child molestation is one of the most underreported crimes: only 1-10% are ever disclosed.
-FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin.

• The behavior is highly repetitive, to the point of compulsion, rather than resulting from a lack of judgment.
-Dr. Ann Burges, Dr. Nicholas Groth, et al. in a study of imprisoned offenders.

With statistics like this, I think I am reasonably justified in being concerned about this person. I astounds me that the state of Texas has no law specifying that child molesters must stay away from schools, playgrounds, day care centers, or any other place where children congregate, but yet it does not, and that needs to change.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

METRO tries to thread the needle, gets stuck instead

My wife rides the 204 from the Spring Park and Pillage to work. This morning there was a wreck/stall (not sure which) at the exit to the HOV lane there at Milam Street. METRO PD came and opened the gate in the barricade and let everyone exit through the UH Downtown parking lot. but there was a fatal flaw with that plan: the UH parking lot was not designed for buses. Her bus, which was the first one through had a little trouble negotiating the turns, and as a result took out a stop sign and clipped a Chevy Tahoe in the parking lot. I wonder if METRO left a note on the person's windshield........

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bathing a Cat Part Deux

Following my last post concerning the proper method of bathing a Maine Coon cat, I was recently sent the following:

Cat Bathing as a Martial Art

by Bud Herron

Some people say cats never have to be bathed. They say cats lick themselves clean. They say cats have a special enzyme of some sort in their saliva that works like new, improved Wisk - dislodging the dirt where it hides and whisking it away.

I've spent most of my life believing this folklore. Like most blind believers, I've been able to discount all the facts to the contrary - the kitty odors that lurk in the corners of the garage and dirt smudges that cling to the throw rug by the fireplace.

The time comes, however, when a man must face reality; when he must look squarely in the face of massive public sentiment to the contrary and announce: "This cat smells like a port-a-potty on a hot day in Juarez."

When that day arrives at your house, as it has in mine, I have some advice you might consider as you place your feline friend under you arm and head for the bathtub:

* Know that although the cat has the advantage of quickness and lack of concern for human life, you have the advantage of strength. Capitalize on that advantage by selecting the battlefield. Don't try to bathe him in an open area where he can force you to chase him.

Pick a very small bathroom. If your bathroom is more than four feet square, I recommend that you get in the tub with the cat and close the sliding-glass doors as if you were about to take a shower. (A simple shower curtain will not do. A berserk cat can shred a three-ply rubber shower curtain quicker than a politician can shift positions.)

* Know that a cat has claws and will not hesitate to remove all the skin from your body. Your advantage here is that you are smart and know how to dress to protect yourself. I recommend canvas overalls tucked into high-top construction boots, a pair of steel-mesh gloves, an army helmet, a hockey face mask and a long-sleeve flak jacket.

* Prepare everything in advance. There is no time to go out for a towel when you have a cat digging a hole in your flak jacket. Draw the water. Make sure the bottle of kitty shampoo is inside the glass enclosure. Make sure the towel can be reached, even if you are lying on your back in the water.

* Use the element of surprise. Pick up your cat nonchalantly, as if to simply carry him to his supper dish. (Cats will not usually notice your strange attire. They have little or no interest in fashion as a rule. If he does notice your garb, calmly explain that you are taking part in a product- testing experiment for J.C. Penney.)

* Once you are inside the bathroom, speed is essential to survival. In a single liquid motion, shut the bathroom door, step into the tub enclosure, slide the glass door shut, dip the cat in the water and squirt him with shampoo. You have begun one of the wildest 45 seconds of your life. Cats have no handles.

* Add the fact that he now has soapy fur, and the problem is radically compounded. Do not expect to hold on to him for more that two or three seconds at a time. When you have him, however, you must remember to give him another squirt of shampoo and rub like crazy. He'll then spring free and fall back into the water, thereby rinsing himself off. (The national record is - for cats - three latherings, so don't expect too much.)

* Next, the cat must be dried. Novice cat bathers always assume this part will be the most difficult, for humans generally are worn out at this point and the cat is just getting really determined. In fact, the drying is simple compared to what you have just been through. That's because by now the cat is semi-permanently affixed to your right leg. You simply pop the drain plug with your foot, reach for your towel and wait. (Occasionally, however, the cat will end up clinging to the top of your army helmet. If this happens, the best thing you can do is to shake him loose and to encourage him toward your leg.) After all the water is drained from the tub, it is a simple matter to just reach down and dry the cat.

In a few days the cat will relax enough to be removed from your leg. He will usually have nothing to say for about three weeks and will spend a lot of time sitting with his back to you. He might even become psychoceramic and develop the fixed stare of a plaster figurine. You will be tempted to assume he is angry. This isn't usually the case. As a rule he is simply plotting ways to get through your defenses and injure you for life the next time you decide to give him a bath. But, at least now he smells a lot better.

Sea change coming in type I diabetes treatment

Two decades ago, it was learned that Type 1 diabetes is the result of an auto-immune disease where the patient's own immune system attacks and destroys the islet cells that make insulin. Since that time it has been learned that the body is quite resilient and has more islet cells than it needs. Therefore the disease is well underway before symptoms occur because the body is able to deal with the loss of islet cells for some time before enough islet cells are destroyed to cause a reduction in insulin production. At that point, the die is cast. The body can no longer compensate for the lost islet cells. In research published in this months' Scientific American magazine, it has been shown that there are three antibodies that appear in between 70% and 90% of those that are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It is thought that these antibodies, which includes an antibody against insulin itself, as well as antibodies against glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), and a protein called Islet Antigen-2 (IA-2), are responsible for the destruction of islet cells. But even if they are not the bad actors themselves, they serve as markers for those who's islet cells are under attack. That is the key, because if those individuals who's islet cells are under attack but have not started showing symptoms yet can be identified, the disease can be stopped before any further damage is done, sparing them (or at least delaying) a life of needles and blood sugar tests and disease complications. Immunosuppressive drugs like those used for Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus such as Enbrel and for eczema like Elidel hold promise that the autoimmune reaction can be damped down in order to spare the islet cells. This is obviously not a cure, but it can clearly prevent or delay onset of active diabetes.

Transparency Denied

I received via one of my sources an interesting PDF file. It is the result of TXPIA request for all billings from noted political attorney Andy Taylor to NHMCCD since the beginning of 2006. Since June, Mr. Taylor's firm billed a total of $33,590.50 for legal representation. However, every single reference as to what exactly he did for the district has been redacted. Now, if the district is paying the bill, does that not make the district, and therefore the taxpayers, the client? Doesn't the client have a right to know what it is that the attorney is doing on their behalf? There is no attorney-client privilege to protect here near as I can tell.

Additionally, from September to November of 2006, during the time of the run up to the election when a great many articles came out of the Houston Community Newspapers with glowing portrayals of the NHMCCD board and it's activities, as well as all the political mailings that violated ethics laws attempting to sway the election which was partially successful. Andy Taylor billed the district a total of $30,680.05 for "public relations" work.

What I want to know is, what exactly he did for that money. Was he the one writing those glowing press releases that became stories? Did he design the four color mail outs or the postcards that were illegal? He's a lawyer that specializes in election law, he KNOWS that they were illegal. And he was paid by taxpayer funds so if he DID do this, he is guilty of ethics violations as well. If this is proven he could very well be disbarred. I hope it was worth it Andy.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

North Korea Vows to Disarm

Why is it that this reminds me of this?

They don't deserve to use the name "Bank of America"....

Bank of America has instituted a new program in which illegal aliens may not only have bank accounts and home loans without needing an SS# or tax ID#, but now they can be issued credit cards without SS#'s or tax ID# as well. They should no longer be allowed to use the name Bank of America, They should be the Bank of Mexico. I call for the boycott of BofA and any other bank that caters to illegals.

Update: Michelle Malkin is on this too.

Friday, February 09, 2007

A Question of Money.

I have often contemplated seeking public office, specifically State Legislator, since our current crop of elected officials generally can't seem to find their arse with both hands and a road map when it comes to conservative principles, however I have come to the conclusion that such an endeavor is doomed by the rules of the system. State legislators are paid something on the order of $7800 every other year, and the costs to campaign for such a job are not inconsequential. Therefore only two kinds of people can afford to every try to run for legislative office in this state: those who are independently wealthy and have no need for the money, or those who will sell their souls to the highest bidder in order to garner enough payoffs and campaign contributions to be able to live on the salary legislators get. But in doing so that person is beholden to the people who are putting food on his table. Neither are in a position to understand or care about the plight of the average person. I understand the concept of a citizen statesman, and I wholeheartedly support it. But the system as it currently exists does not.

I propose that legislators be paid a fixed $40,000 a year salary, and that they be term limited, 6 terms in the house (12 years), and three in the senate (12 years). In this way, we will be able to recruit people of more modest means to participate in the legislative process without making them beholden to every lobbyist with a checkbook that walks in the door.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

NHMCCD has got some explaining to do (updated)

This is actually three posts

Two weeks ago, I received an email that was forwarded to me from one of my sources. It was an email from John Pickelman to Randy Bates. In an effort to ensure that my source was protected, I issued a TXPIA request for all emails in the time frame regarding the issue. The results of that TXPIA request came in the mail yesterday. So I am now at liberty to reveal it's contents. In this email was an admission that the board still does not grasp the concept that ALL MEETINGS REGARDING COLLEGE BUSINESS MUST BE PUBLIC. I quote the email here:

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, January 12, 2007 9:44 AM
Subject: Update

I am sorry that the Board retreat needed to be rescheduled. It is important that process and substantive issues be addressed soon by the Board. We are contacting you to identify possible dates on which all are able to participate. If the Board is to develop effective teamwork, I believe 100% participation is essential. After consulting with Chairman Bates, I am recommending that the retreat have two components. The first is to focus on process, i.e., with new membership on the Board, how do you go about forging new relationships that result in a highly, effective working team with fellow trustees and the chancellor? With the exception of an external facilitator, only trustees will attend this first part of the retreat. The second portion of the retreat is substantive and deals with our physical plant needs. Following the defeat of the bond referendum, what are the District’s options, especially responding to some critical needs? Attending this portion of the retreat will be the trustees and executive committee.

So in other words they were going to decide how they will spend money they no longer have and they were going to do so at a private "retreat" where the public was not invited.

Well I can tell you part of how they plan on dealing with the failure of the bond election. They plan on floating yet another bond election in November. I don't know how much yet, When I find out I will let you know, But I'm guessing that it will be a carbon copy of the one that failed. This tidbit was leaked at the January Faculty Senate meetings out at Kingwood College.

Also at the meeting, it was revealed why NHMCCD refused to reveal the results of the abortive election back in May. The following is excerpted from the official minutes of the meeting:

IV. Old Business:

A. Advising – Advisors are in the area high schools because Dr. Stegall wants them

to be there. Kingwood College advisors are the only advisors there so she believes that they do create a presence for us there. If they weren’t in the high schools part of the time, we would not need to employ so many of them. Initially we did receive some grant funds to begin the program but now only Cleveland ISD continues to qualify for the grant. There is a concern that some students report that they have a difficult time seeing advisors in their offices.

B. NHMCCD has filed a lawsuit against the Attorney General’s Office because of an

Open Record’s Request regarding the May election. This was done to protect our employees. The Board may try to hold another Bond election in November.

C. Writing Across the Curriculum – President Almstedt stated that he encourages his

students to purchase the WAC handbook and he has found it to be very helpful in class. He encouraged other faculty to do the same.

D. Search for the Chancellor – Todd Miller reported that the ad has run in the

“Chronicle of Higher Education” and that the committee is meeting next week to review the applications. The committee will meet in person and will not review the applications on-line.

E. December Graduation – Faculty like the December graduation ceremony but

there is concern about the timing of the ceremony. Is it possible to have the ceremony after finals have been completed?

Protect their employees from what? prosecution? Would that not then make the board guilty of obstruction of justice?

NHMCCD has issued a "correction" to the senate meeting minutes that states that the lawsuit is to protect the voters, not the employees. Their logic is that by opening the ballots, it will expose who voted for what. I assure you that anyone who knows ANYTHING about how ballots are recorded on e-slate machines knows that no name is ever attached to a ballot except in the case of provisional ballots and absentee/mail ballots. You can tell who voted, but you cannot tell who or what they voted for. You can tell how many votes were for a given measure and how many were against and that is all you can tell. The only way you could assume that a person voted a given way is if the ballots were unanimous. But if the ballots were unanimous, I would question the validity of the ballot anyway. Therefore the logic is as faulty as their meeting minutes.

Pickle Tales Round 6 Promo Laurence is Keeping it Clean

Houston's Own Laurence Simon is competing in the final round of Pickle Tales for ALL THE MARBLES (he's lost all of his own!)

Go sign up, give a listen, and vote for Houston's own!

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Pickle Tales Round 6 Promo Day 2, Keeping it Fresh

Houston's Own Laurence Simon is competing in the final round of Pickle Tales for ALL THE MARBLES (he's lost all of his own!)

Go sign up, give a listen, and vote for Houston's own!

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NASA still has not addressed the fundamental problem with long duration space missions

And the result is sitting in the Orange County Florida Jail. NASA has continually refused to address the issue of the sexual dynamics of being on long duration missions with a mixed gender crew, preferring instead to ignore the elephant in the room. Men and women, when living in such close proximity cannot resist emotional entanglement. Mrs. Nowak, a married mother of three was emotionally involved with another astronaut named Bill Oefelein whom she had trained with. When Oefelein began seeing an Air Force Captain by the name of Colleen Shipman, Nowak felt the need to attempt to abduct and assault her.

It is time for NASA to stop burying it's head in the sand and realize that astronauts are people first and foremost and people have urges. Those urges are going to be directed at other crew members because on long duration missions, they won't have any other outlet available. That will give rise to jealousy, lust, anger, and all the other emotions that could doom a long duration mission. There will also be the small issue of birth control. Pregnancy in space is no laughing matter. The radiation dose alone would most likely lead to severe birth defects. Not to mention the danger of giving birth far from any hospital with things like incubators, ventilators, anesthesia, whole blood, etc.

Sex in space will happen, if it has not already. NASA needs to stop being prudes about it and recognize that it will be a fact of life. And instead start focusing on the impact on crew dynamics. Perhaps married couples should be chosen for long duration flights, or singles that are sexually and emotionally compatible, not just to work together but as a married couple.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Pickle Tales Round 6 Promo, Laurence Needs Your Love

Houston's Own Laurence Simon is competing in the final round of Pickle Tales for ALL THE MARBLES (he's lost all of his own!)

Go sign up, give a listen, and vote for Houston's own!

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