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Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Day the Earth Stood Still - from Midwest to China

Photo: Travel nightmare in China - Millions stuck outside in rain/snow

Imagine being stranded on vacation -- with over a MILLION of other people, and all of you are stuck in the rain because the trains and cars can't move because of snow. It makes the cold snap in the U.S. Midwest look civilized in comparison.

More than 1 million. Over 180 million Chinese are trying to travel over the Chinese New Year (the only chance for some couples to see each other in 2-3 years) - were shown on TV last night packed like sardines at train terminals, stuck in the rain with only umbrellas for protection -- and no where to go. They have to somehow stand in the cold and rain (or snow) for several more days since there is 'no room at the inn.'

It's so bad that even the Chinese premier, fearing chaos, showed up on a platform to apologize in person. Riots have started breaking out. It's like half of the U.S. population left out in the elements. The worst snow in 50 years has locked down the entire transport system at the worse possible time with millions of people trying to travel and caught in the weather with nothing moving, and little shelter. For these people, it is "the day the earth stood still." And its expected to last another 3 days.

It makes our problems with gas prices, picking a President and dealing with corrupt local officials look small in comparison! New York City is reporting the first "no snow" January in 75 years! At least none of us are having to stand for hours in the rain/snow with 100 million other people.

Personally, I will be braving the U.S. Midwest cold over the weekend - my surviving Grandmother is turning 100 Feb. 1. It's not everyday that you turn 100 so its worth the weather. Yesterday I found out granny has caught the flu, so who knows how this will play out. The flu shot apparently hasn't cover a nasty strain that came out of Australia.

It also happens to be "Buddy Holly" weekend (along with Chinese new year) - Holly died near Clear Lake (Iowa) in a plane accident. Costs a whole $5 to get in!

With the politicians gone, at least there are some rooms at the inns. Too bad none of them at the GOP debate last night even commented on the plight of the Chinese. It would have shown a leader that can see beyond our borders...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Looks like it's MCCAIN vs ?? A Prediction (or two)

Since this has a worldwide readership, I thought I'd give another "prediction" --not on the potential of 9/11 but on the Presidential potential leadership we will have next term.

Believe me, the entire world is watching this one. After the last 7 years they feel like they have been through a hedge backwards. As one TV Brit said: "If America catches cold, we get the flu."

Or a war. So everyone is watching this.

It appears to shake down to Mr. McCain vs. either Ms. Clinton or Mr. Obama. That makes the Democrat decision even more significant. If you have a north-south lineup of Mr. McCain with perhaps Mr. Guiliani, they would be the winners. Then it becomes a question of which potential candidate can overwhelm (or edge past) that powerful combo.

My prediction is that if Hillary wins the Democrat nomination, McCain will win the White House.

Why? Because as much as I prefer women professionals, a visible character flaw has appeared on the Clinton side - the proof? The announced desire to change the rules in Florida etc. when it turned to their advantage -- after initially agreeing to not count those delegates for violating party rules.

And the Clinton personal attacks on Mr. Obama even turned off people like Caroline Kennedy, who could prove to be a political Joan of Arc. It was her decision that turned her Uncle Ted from neutral. (The TV talking heads seemed to overlook Caroline's key role in this as they focused on the war-horse Senator).

Another prediction: The only leading Democratic President candidate that would have any hope of beating Mr. McCain (a former POW) would be Mr. Obama. It won't be easy but only someone who has shown the ability to bring in new voters, especially the young--as he has--has a chance. His VP pick will be crucial. Otherwise, 2009 will start business with a Republican President and a Democratic Congress.

The good news is that even the usually sound-asleep voters have been jarred awake by global and economic harsh realities. These were created on the Bush watch. They will have to be addressed and fixed in the next Presidential administration.

And it will be American voters making a decision that the whole world is holding its collective breath over...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

International Justice and the Death Penalty

While it appears that a leading candidate to replace the District Attorney in Houston has a bias problem when putting people on juries, there is also an international legal problem.

The Houston DA scratched a black man from a jury who believed in the death penalty; yet the same DA allowed on the panel two potential jurors who had arrest records, who happened to be Hispanic. All were members of Lakewood Church.

This new fact leads one to the conclusion that it was race, not church membership, that the DA was screening for.

Meanwhile, the guy who killed a pregnant soldier has skipped to Mexico. The hitch? Mexico won't pick him up and return him if he will be subject to the death penalty. So the DA (not Houston's) in that case has the choice of getting him extradicted to the U.S. only if reducing the charge to (1) life without parole or (2) seeing him live free in Mexico. The choice is obvious.

This won't be the last time that the death penalty will spill into the international administration of justice. We will need to deal with it in order to bring people to justice when they cross borders in flight.

No European country has the death penalty. The other countries that permit the death penalty (along with the U.S.) include North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Nigeria, Cuba and Syria.

In Iran, several women have been sentenced to die (by stoning) for adultery.

That means the current Houston DA's girlfriend could potentially be subject to death by stoning if she lived in Saudi! I wonder if he would be so pro-death penalty in that case? I wonder how he would treat an extradition request from Saudi to arrest a woman so she could be sent to Saudi for stoning for the crime of adultery?

As the world shrinks, we will have to reconcile our standards with those in the world.

While a U.S. District Attorney may want to subject a Mexican citizen to the death penalty for a heinous crime committed in the U.S., some other countries will want to do the same thing for lesser offenses.

In Iran and China, people are routinely executed for taking bribes. Texas has attempted to execute the mentally retarded.

Surely, we can obtain justice that is better than that without discriminating against a class of people -- many of whom have been found by DNA test to be wrongly given the death penalty for crimes they did not commit.

Monday, January 28, 2008

What Makes a "Foreign Policy Expert" ?

Photo: Author in Damascus on a child kidnapping case, 1996-97

What makes a 'foreign policy expert' these days? Prior experience?

Or just a dad in high office who gets you a job in the State department with no prior international experience in a world of 200 countries, each with a different culture and legal system?

Does family connections qualify that person to be the "foreign policy expert" for a Presidential campaign? What does that say about the campaign? Is it about having the best international expertise -- or just courting votes?

After what Mr. McCain has called "a series of blunders in international policy" do we want another administration where the chief qualification to any office is to be connected and loyal, not competent with prior experience?

I'm sure that Liz Cheney is a nice person and means well, but if her background qualifies her to lead State Department missions and be a "senior foreign policy adviser" for a serious Presidential campaign, then my 30 years spent negotiating real deals on behalf of American companies (selling U.S.-made products) in over 50 countries makes me feel like...Henry Kissinger? Dead meat? LOL.

No. But something is wrong when connections mean more than real experience in our highest levels of government - and in campaigns. Being the kid of a doctor or staying at a Holiday Inn Express doesn't make you a surgeon (would you want them cutting on you?). Being the wife or kid of a President, or VP, is not international experience either.

McCain is right. That type of thinking, if continued by the next administration, will end up generating more "blunders" that hurt America's future...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Sky is Falling - Candidates Rising?

Photo: Falling somewhere to earth, hopefully not near you (or me)

Don't look now but one of our spy satellites is coming down and no one knows where it will land.

What is amazing is that we still do not have a system for dealing with dead satellites, which have the potential of striking a populated area with potentially hazardous materials. So, why hasn't the government given NASA the job of producing some kind of "space tug" that could snag these objects - and have a controlled release where it can plunge into the ocean instead of New York, Moscow or London.

Imagine the "fallout" if one of our dead spy satellites (or any satellite) landed on Moscow? Or, ironically, on Washington DC? With an estimated 60,000 tons of space junk falling out of orbit every YEAR, it is only a matter of time. Do we failure to plan ahead and wait for a disaster to act? Probably.

Since this occurs on a regular basis and our strategy so far is to "cross fingers and hope for the best" how about some of that multi-billion Pentagon budget go to creating a device to keep satellites from falling on our heads.

On the political front, it is shaking out to be either Obama/Clinton vs. McCain/somebody. Some have fallen out of orbit, while others like Edwards and Paul seem to be in regardless of vote totals. Others appear to be rising and the potential of an independent run by someone like Blommberg appears possible. It won't be a dull year, for sure.

February 5 hopefully will provide some clarity. What's evident is the extraordinary high number of voters turning out, on both sides. It's getting ugly and its only January! Stay tuned.

The next falling object may be either a satellite or a Presidential campaign...The first we can fix if we had a plan. The second is up to the voters...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Memo to Europe: Next Fraud Please Call the Fed!

Photo: Meet the French Rogue Trader Who Whiplashed Wall Street $70 billion and panicked the Fed - (Note: Facial image is replaceable with the next idiot until our system is fixed)

Memo to Europe: Next Fraud Please Call the Fed! (Hint: Their number is in the DC phonebook).

(Or Fraud by a Single French Trader Proves that Markets need a mandatory international advisory connection to Minimize Future Global Meltdowns to protect American/International investors).

Memo to Europe’s financial markets: The next time you discover a billion dollar fraud in the middle of a falling market, please call the U.S. Fed. Knowing that could have averted a global stock market panic. Their number is in the phone book!

It has come out that some of our wild 600-point “Whiplash on Wall Street” was the result of one trader in France who was hiding a multi-billion shortfall that was discovered in the recent meltdown, and covered by his employer, France’s Societe General, which made a bad situation into a global near disaster, and prompted the Fed to make its largest one day interest rate cut in one day on an emergency basis.

No one in the European markets, who went into free fall after the Dow Jones, bothered to call the U.S. Federal reserve to advise them of the discovery of either the fraud or the panic dumping of the trader’s bad paper during that period.

That information would have given the U.S. Fed a clue that not all of the meltdown was real. They were left flying blind, like pilots without all their instruments working.

Had the Fed and U.S. financial media known that SG was dumping $7 billion (or more) in write-off’s that day would have made a significant difference in calming the panic. It would have made a big difference in the acts needed to be taken by the Fed to calm Wall Street and keep investors from panicking and making matters worse.

What will happen when (not if) this event occurs again – by another fraud by another institution anywhere in Europe? We need a solution and there is only one.

To avoid making future global meltdowns worse, Congress and the President should insist on implementing an international mandatory reporting system between Wall Street and the markets in Europe -- and Asia. Remember their meltdown and its impact on Wall Street, the DAX, etc?

Requiring each market to formally advise Wall Street (and vice versa) when a major fraud or other event is discovered -- like a rogue trader who has broken through the safeguards –will provide the accurate financial instrument readings that our Fed and markets need for stability decision-making.

Without a mandatory global reporting system, we are in jeopardy of a future market crash that could cost investors trillions in lost equity.

Like a malfunctioning car, it won't fix itself. The longer you wait to fix it means only one result will occur -- an eventual total breakdown; and unnecessary equity losses for millions of investors in the U.S. and worldwide.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

"Canadians" and Blowing Up Walls

NASA's Photo on Mars - No Stranger Than Events in Houstons DA's office...

Now we find out that another attorney in our local DA's office used the term "Canadians on the jury" to refer to African Americans. Bigotry now uses code words and extends beyond the DA himself.

In face of all this, and at the same time, the news reports that the DA has given an $11,000 year raise to the woman in his office he writes love notes to about nibbling on her ear (or whatever.)

Rosenthal's DA's office bigotry and questionable behavior has reached a new low --institutional bigotry which is sanctioned by its leadership. Giving a raise to someone you are approaching romantically raises ethical (even legal) issues of impropriety. Attorneys are supposed to act professionally. District Attorney's with criminal jurisdiction are supposed to go beyond that - to be like Caesar's wife.

I feel like I've stepped into a 21st century version of "To Kill a Mockingbird." And people think the NASA photo from Mars was strange!

On the world scene, the TV scenes of Palestinians pouring through the Isaeli-built wall that separated Gaza from Egypt, proves that no wall can overpower human needs. They were desperate for daily necessities like food and water, stuff we take for granted everyday.

It proves that the spending of billions to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico will end the same way. It took very little explosives, in a world awash with explosives, to undo a wall of steel. I've been on the Chinese-built Great Wall; it was defeated by bribing the border guards.

I can't believe that in the 21st century we have people with such great power who think in such twisted ways. That mindset alone is an abuse of power.

So is refusing to let go of that office that controls the power, whether it is a hypocrit racist District Attorney in Houston, or a twisted Mr. Chavez in Venezuela who tried to rewrite the rules to remain in power for life.

But Chavez' power grab is no different than what we have right here, when power elites refuse to let go. That's why we limit Presidents to two terms -- eight years of intoxicating power is long enough. Recall that FDR was into his 4th term when he died.

We need local and national leadership that respects all and treats people equally, including women who deserve the right not to get idiot bosses emailing them about their personal parts.

We need leaders focused on finding reasonable solutions to major issues. We cannot be great if we leave in power self-absorbed bigots that reflect poorly on the freedom and equality America is supposed to be all about.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Global Meltdown: Logical Reason for it

Wall Street is taking a dive. That isn't new. What is new is that now the global markets are diving with it. It could be a worldwide freefall.

There is a logical reason for it.

Our government has borrowed up to $1 trillion for the Iraq war and our deficit spending has ballooned while we exported jobs and imported all our consumer goods, manufactured fuel hog cars with zero energy policy, and failed to take action to correct the subprime fiasco. Now our major corporations are owned by the Mideast countries we send our billions to drive F-350's.

Maureen Dowd says it best when she says:
"Tom Toles summed it up best: “Great to be home,” W. enthuses on Air Force One, heading toward the East Coast. “Anything interesting happen while I was gone?” Hanging on the skyline of New York is a sign reading: “U.S.A. Now a Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Foreign Investors.”

Dumb moves by our government and business have cost us a generation of ownership and future control over our own destiny. Bush's government has given the next generation a $1 trillion dollar IOU on Iraq -- while our corporate financial giants were playing with bizarre, risky scams that were not subject to any oversight by the administration. Then everyone was surprised when the ship of bizarre financial instruments hit the (melting) iceberg.

We need stability. And someone paying attention in the Captain's wheelhouse.

The lack of rational fiscal leadership has put us in a strange new world of global instability and worldwide financial uncertainty. The markets from Tokyo to Europe took the biggest hit since 9/11 - without a terrorist attack.

Unfortunately, none of this seemed in people's minds at the Democratic debate in South Carolina last night which was shocking in its intensity. It sounded as if all were running against John McCain, which can't be good news for the rest of the pack. It was great TV but not a good sign.

All this won't matter if we hit the iceberg and the fiscal irresponsibility sets off a global meltdown. It definitely matters who we pick to be an adult and lead us out of this dangerous mess.

We need some adults focused on real solutions. We need real long-term fixes instead of more voodoo economics and half-baked, band-aid solutions.

Monday, January 21, 2008

MLK on Israel Palestinians and The Dem/GOP Prez Race

What would MLK think about the Israeli-Palestinian situation and the Democrat/GOP Presidential race?

Today is MLK Day - and it was announced that the Israelis had cut power to all of Gaza, with the temperatures in the 50’s, when they stopped diesel fuel that runs their power plant from going into Gaza. Everyone in Gaza is being punished for the acts of a few extremists, including women, babies and little kids with no heat or light. Food shipments have been cut as well.

As I sit looking out at a blustery, cloudy sky whipping over the lake, thinking how miserable it would be without power, and think about the recent Presidential debate on MLK, LBJ and civil rights, it is an appropriate time to wonder what Martin Luther King would think about the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

Like blacks in the south in the 60’s, I think MLK would feel a common bond with Palestinians who have no rights and no votes, no rights to travel, no chance to recover land taken by Israeli settlers. I think MLK would see that they have no control over shipments of fuel for their power plant or food for their tables, and would identify with their struggle for respect and equality.

Even President Bush was taken aback on a recent trip to Israel when weather forced him to travel by motorcade instead of helicopter. He commented publicly at the overwhelming number of checkpoints along the short trip – he felt it was excessive and was concerned about its impact on Palestinian life. That is quite an admission from a President who has always been loyal backer of Israel.

MLK Day should not just be a day for Democrat Presidential hopefuls, but GOP ones as well. One day we will all be in the minority and will want the respect and equal rights that Martin Luther King wanted, that women have wanted (and still want), as well as Palestinians , Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq, tribes in Kenya, etc.

All want the American dream of freedom and equality. We should be acting to make that dream a reality as the President has in Israel, trying to broker a peace deal in his last year. Kenya needs the same attention.

As MLK would probably feel, it is better for change to come late, then never at all. But he would also feel, as many of us do, that: "Justice delayed is justice denied."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Hero Named Coward - And Cowards Who are Not Heroes

Engine failure on a Boeing 777 in London led to a miracle crash landing in which no one died. The pilot, named Coward, has been declared a hero. I think we also have to praise Boeing for a craft that did not burn up, although the loss of power makes one wonder if violating the gameboy rule or a software glitch led to the loss of engine power at the most critical part of the flight – low and slow just before landing.

It needs to be checked out. As a pilot, I congratulate the pilot. As a passenger, I would be thanking God and Boeing's structural engineers -- and hoping this time the luggage missed the flight.

On the local scene, today’s Houston paper has an article by a criminal attorney, now a city councilmember, who describes the unequal treatment in the Houston DA’s office she witnessed in the past 10 years of her practice. If you are Britney Spears, or just a young white girl, you get a slap on the wrist. If you are black or Hispanic (unless you are a Texas Supreme Court judge), you get 35 years.

It confirms we have a rotten apple in the system, or worse yet a rotten system that needs a major clean up. When bigots run our legal system, we have un-American cowards -- and no heroes.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Houston DA's office -- and Islamic Law on Divorce. divorce by text and punish for 1 pill

The rise of technology has put old ways to the test - such as the Islamic law provision that a man can divorce his wife simply by saying: "You are divorced" three times. But does putting it in a text message count the same? That's the issue before an Egyptian court when a man issued his cell phone to send the message via text.

Ah, modern technology, making life so much easier and more "efficient." Or confusing. No one knows if the text message was legally binding. Liberal divorce rules in a ultra-conservative society has resulted in 99% of the children of divorce being on the streets of places like Cairo.

Things aren't much better on the local scene. The attorney for the indicted judge now wants to punish the Grand Jury members who indicted him against the DA's wishes. The smell from this case keeps getting stronger. It appears that the Grand Jury reviewed hours of evidence and felt there was enough to indict. If it had been a truck driver or other ordinary soul, none of this would have happened -- he or she would have been indicted and prosecuted.

I once had to defend a woman from the Houston DA's office. She was arrested for having 1 prescription pill in her purse without a prescription (a muscle relaxant - she had been in an accident and her back had been broken). The DA's office made it sound like she had done something horrible like having a ton of heroin, before finally dismissing it. All of this over one ordinary pill. I never handled another criminal case after that strange experience.

But if it is a judge from the Supreme Court, then the DA --who loves the death penalty even when the defendant is mentally disabled (that one was reversed by the conservative US Supreme Court) and videos of women getting their tops ripped off -- got riled up and dismissed the indictment.

Meanwhile, another case just turned up where prosecutor misconduct lead to a death penalty conviction that was contrived - and an "ethics" ruling kept the attorney from talking about it for 10 years. Apparently, putting the wrong man to death did not bother the prosecutors in that case.

In Houston, the same mentality exists. Harris County leads the country in death cases. But that fervor for the maximum punishment apparently doesn't apply to high level members of the DA's own party. We don't know if the Judge and Mr. Rosenthal used to trade email "jokes" --but turning on the Grand Jury and holding them in contempt is an abuse of the system.

Contempt is what the DA has shown for women, minorities, equal justice by his actions, including contempt for his own Grand Jury. None of his actions pass the smell test.

Friday, January 18, 2008

News Getting Bizarre in Texas (Don't Lose Your Head Over This)

Photo: Blame it on the (Full) Moon over Houston

The local news in Texas is getting so bizarre where does one begin?

The Houston DA, Chuck Rosenthal, who has a fondness for racist and sexist jokes and whose staff rejects jurors from Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church as if they were Scientologists, now is rejecting the Grand Jury indictment of a Texas Supreme Court judge and his wife on arson-related charges. And it turns out that the Grand Jury is mainly Republicans from the DA’s party. How strange is that? A runaway Grand Jury?

Then it is revealed that a candidate for Congress had an ad featuring his head and someone else’s (thinner) body. Missing on his list of accomplishments was “3rd Place Winner of Weight Watchers Award.” Since he is running for Tom DeLay’s old seat in CD22, I’m sure we can look forward to the highest form of ethics and honest new photos of the candidate’s head on top of Laura Bush’s body and other amazing achievements.

All this comes on the heels of revelations that the Texas Attorney General did his best to deny returning veterans out of their benefits while doing a legal review of Texas law that failed to include consideration of the U.S. Constitution.

And –keep counting--the County Sheriff, panicked by the Rosenthal email scandal, and aware that some of Chuck’s "funny" jokes might be on his computers, wiped out their system’s emails over the weekend. Preemptive war is now replaced by preemptive deletion of evidence.

The moral of this story is that you can avoid indictment in Houston for burning your house (or worse) as long as your job is a “biggie” like sitting on the Supreme Court and you are member of the same party as the DA. Otherwise, you’ll get the death penalty for being politically unconnected and tossed off the jury panel for going to the wrong church (e.g. Lakewood), or whatever they come with next.

Imagine the image this gives Houston and Texas to the outside world? How is this going to draw businesses and conventions to our area?

Our new slogan could become: “What Happens Here, Stays Here, Because We Delete it From the Computers!”

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Fighting for Democracy? Two Presidents of the League of Women Voters

Left: Ms. Odinga from Kenya (L) and Laura Blackburn, President of the League of Women Voters

I was watching TV last night (BBC at 5 pm because i wanted some real news instead of a long series of shootings and traffic wrecks), including footage of citizens shot while protesting an election fraud in Kenya when I realized that I had met the wife of the Kenya Presidential candidate who was defrauded from winning -- Mr. Odinga. I met her at a dinner (which lasted for hours) in Houston last fall.

Mrs. Odinga was speaking at an event and she wanted to meet the President of the Houston League of Women Voters since Mrs. Odinga is the President of the League of Women Voters in Kenya. The Houston President invited me and I enjoyed listening to her talk about issues in Kenya that sounded a lot like our own. She had said something her husband running for office but I forgot about it until I saw TV footage of soldiers shooting civilians in the streets of Nairobi on BBC TV.

Our President has said that he is committed to a strategy of supporting the spread of democracy as a basis for our continued presence in Iraq, etc. Yet I have heard nothing from him about supporting fair elections in Kenya.

How can people trust us as the world leader for democracy when we do so little to see that elections are not frauds, and that police are not used to shoot peaceful protesters? The U.S. Ambassador was quoted as saying "Another election would be too expensive." Apparently, cost is more important than fraud.

We need some action by our leadership to resolve this issues even in countries that don't have huge oil reserves, if our statements are to have any true meaning.

On the local scene, it has come out that the Texas Attorney General (Greg Abbott) does not review the U.S. Constitution when reviewing our laws for legality. Whoa! (That Lisa is on a roll!) What are they drinking in office these days? From the Harris County District Attorney's office to the Attorney General, our legal officers seem to have a strange view of the world of "rule of law" and such things as "equality" and "discrimination." How is this a good role model for Iraq and places like Kenya? Standby for more strange headlines.

The breath of fresh air was hearing new Harris County Judge Ed Emmett at the lunch yesterday, where he called for an ethics taskforce. He struck me as real - and the fact that he spent the last 20 years as a small business owner instead of a paid bureaucrat or politician is refreshing. He even applauded Mayor Bill White. We need more like him in office (and fewer of the others before-mentioned)!

In the meantime let's do something for democracy in Kenya - the election was widely regarded as fraudulent, designed to keep the incumbent in power.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How to Look Self Centered and Foolish

The United States is the biggest guzzler of fuel in the world. We have 5% of the world's population and consume over 1/3 of oil, gas, you name it.

Then the President turns up in the vast oil pool otherwise known as Saudi Arabia, and says something like: "Hey, how about you guys open up those big pumps even more!" So the King says "no way" and they go off to look at all the King's horses -- and hang with the men-only crowd.

It was a Britney Spears moment. We are the hogs at the trough in energy consumption. Instead of the President embarking us on a crash program to set up alternative energy sources and improve our efficiencies (so we can do the same using less fuel), he wants even more oil pumped.

It makes us look selfish and even foolish. And it is.

It was a cultural mistake that made the President himself look silly to the Saudis, who didn't hesitate to blow him off. They immediately brushed off the idea of pumping more oil. With historically high oil prices and increased demand from another 5 billion people in the world (including rapidly growing India and China), why drain your Saudi reserves for a few dollars more?

Until we have a full scale energy plan, which both cuts our use and ramps up our efficiencies, the world's oil producers (not just the Saudis) can blow us off as well as this and the next President. They are holding the trump cards with their exclusive sources of the world's primary fuel.

You can do things like changing to the new energy bulbs that last 10 times longer and use a fraction of power from conventional bulbs. You can also add tint and security window film on your home or office. My recommend is adding a film that both cuts energy use and provides security, like ours at Armor Glass International.

But we also need that from our leadership at the top. I am embarrassed that the President made himself look weak to the Saudis while leaving Americans vulnerable to energy shortages. The sooner we start the sooner we can get away from this madness of being over 60% dependent on foreign oil.

To ask others to pump more for us without prudent efforts to cut energy waste and improve efficiencies and alternatives makes us look self-centered. Worse, it is foolish.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's the (World) Economy Dummies

The silver lining in the bleak economic news is international sales by U.S. companies into the global market sales are keeping companies afloat. Without these sales, layoffs and the economic downdraft would be even greater.

U.S. domestic markets are shrinking due to dropping demand as consumer confidence and the housing meltdown has put the domestic economic brakes on. Each $1 billion in U.S. exports creates about 25,000 jobs according to the Dept. of Commerce stats. We can compete, especially as the dollar as sunk to new low's against the Euro, making our stuff dirty cheap for Europeans, it just takes a commitment to do it. U.S. companies have been slow off the mark, but now its often their only hope of either growth or even survival. Only a fraction of our companies who could export products or services actually do.

There is tremendous room for growth. We just need to sell and make things people overseas want, like cars that get better gas mileage, and solar/wind technology instead of just JDAMS and military machines to places like Saudi. Young Saudis account for 41% of the fighters going into Iraq to attack our troops. Their women can't even go to the doctor without permission from a man. If you go to Dubai, things cost three to five times what they do here (like they would with Mr. Huckabee's 23% national sales tax. Don't believe me? Go to Europe and see how theirs runs up costs twice ours).

And don't forget, our big companies (and government) is living on money borrowed from our global neighbors. Our banks are getting bailed out by Saudis and the Chinese are buying our IOU's for the billion-dollar budget/war deficits.

On the local scene, a new article with startling details on the real facts written by a Chronicle columnist shows that the next DA has a racial problem --not just an issue with a particular Church (Lakewood). Seigler knocked off a guy who even said he had no problem with the death penalty --and said so in several places on their "You gotta Be Willing To Kill Them" DA form -- because he was a member of Lakewood and the NAACP.

The next title may be from that song: "Meet the New Boss. Same as the Old Boss"....

Sunday, January 13, 2008

World is Watching U.S. Election

The American election 2008 is shaping up to be a worldwide event.

From taxi drivers in Africa to folks "down under" in Australia, people realize that who we pick as President makes a huge difference -- from preemptive wars to trade policy -- and they are glued to their sets as our primaries unfold.

In other words, our actions can be like an elephant in a China shop, so it matters who is in charge.

Our global reputation is impacting even us ordinary folks. For the first time in my life, I have received negative emails from foreigners who apparently think that all Americans are like the current leadership. (No big deal, I've received even nastier ones from local political types, but I don't like being tarred by someone else's brush).

Whoever we pick to be our face for the next term as President is extremely important -- not only to us, but the rest of the world as well.

The good news is that we have a promising group to choose from - whether its McCain/Huckabee or Obama/Clinton. Either would be a major improvement. Either could boost our reputation in the world. It matters to the 6 billion folks who live outside the U.S. whose hand is on our power levers and military machine.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Equal Justice in Houston? Religious prejudice in DA's office While DA Sends Friends Videos of Women Being Stripped

Photo: Lakewood church members: Houston DA's office says they are "Not acceptable" as jurors. If ordinary Christians aren't safe from such nonsense, who is?

America is supposed to be about EQUAL Justice. Our founding fathers wrote a Constitution based on "All men are created equal" based on "the rule of law" instead of a monarch's whim.

Our District Attorney's office is in charge of applying the rule of law equally, no matter if the defendant is an Asian, Hispanic, African American or White, man or woman, an atheist or church-attending person charged with an offense.

But if the person in charge of that department has finds photos that degrade women or minorities humorous, it casts a huge shadow of doubt on the legitimacy justice received by nearly 4 million people in the Houston area.

If it is also common policy by that same DA department to strike potential jurors on the basis that they attend a particular church, even an ordinary one like Lakewood Church, all verdicts in those cases also come into question.

On what basis is church membership a legitimate reason to strike jurors in capital cases? Do you want to be a defendant in a criminal justice system in which the District Attorney who thinks pictures of people laying on the street in dire straits are funny?

How many females who have been raped are going to appreciate their case being served by system in which the chief legal officer thinks it would be funny to see their blouses ripped off by some stranger?

The integrity of the Houston District Attorney's office has been destroyed by the revelations of the type of "joke" emails and videos Chuck Rosenthal likes. If the DA likes to watch porn, how can his office bust others for doing the same? Where is the equal justice in that?

Replacing him with a prosecutor who saw nothing wrong with cutting Lakewood Church members from juries would do nothing to enhance their current image.

Until then, we cannot hold ourselves up to the world in places like Iraq as a true American model of providing unbiased equal justice for our citizens.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Now its Religious Discrimination in DA's office

The situation in Houston's District Attorney's office just got more weird.

It was revealed that a woman candidate to replace Chuck Rosenthal (who likes sending videos of people pulling off women's clothes) routinely knocked off potential jurors who were members of a particular church...

NO, not Scientology, but just regular Lakewood Church! I didn't know that Joel Osteen was a cult leader! Apparently Mrs. Seigler (whose husband liked trading those videos with Chuck) feels that Lakewood church members aren't Christian enough to vote for the death penalty when a black man is photoed laying on the street next to boxes of chicken and watermelon (another Rosenthal favorite).

What the heck is going on in Harris County's DA's office?

After my post on Rosenthal yesterday, I got an email from a GOP Precinct Chair who thought I was the problem, and said: "You should join the Party of Obama, Clinton and Lampson." He didn't have any concern with Rosenthal's activity. His point? A non-sexist, non-racist like me doesn't "fit in" to the local GOP mode. He's right. I am not a bigot and don't "fit" in to that kind of Taliban thinking. I respect women and people regardless of color.

If the local GOP favors racism and sexism -- and now has candidates for DA who believe that a feel good nice Christian church like Lakewood Church is a threat to society (maybe because Joel Osteen thinks we ought to feel better about ourselves instead of preaching fire and brimstone), then that makes it a simple choice. What's next? "We don't need no stinking peaceful Buhhists on juries!" Is that next?

I am an American first, party member second. Despite the talk, apparently the local GOP does not represent respect for other cultures, races and religions -- in a world of many cultures, colors and religions.

I don't find these "jokes" by Rosenthal funny. DA's who cut out people from one church today can cut others tomorrow - maybe Episcopalians who favor gay bishops will be the next group to drop from their juries (not to mention Mosques, Synagogues, etc.)

I also oppose taxpayers having to fund defense attorney for Mr. Rosenthal - no one in the public gets a free lawyer, so why should a c DA who likes porn on his county computer get one?

Time for a complete change in our DA's office - the public are not being served.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Time for Sexist/Racist Harris Co DA to GO

Harris County leads the country in the number of people sentenced to death. Now it comes out that our District Attorney, Chuck Rosenthal, liked to email "jokes" promoting a negative stereotypes of blacks. He was also fond of an email that showed a man pulling down a woman's blouse to expose her breasts. On top of that he even used county equipment (and time) to promote his next election.

Time for this joker to GO!

How many blacks got a death indictment because of Rosenthal's racism?

How many women want to work for a guy that thinks its funny for someone to pull off their top? (We've already got a federal judge, Sam Kent, from Galveston who thought that was a "fun" thing to pull up the blouse of a member of his staff and put his mouth on her breast).

These two should form a special club - the club of fired and/or impeached jerks.

Rosenthal has tainted his office like no one before him. The same for Judge Kent. It's unbelievable in 2001 that we still have adult men in positions of high authority who demean women and other cultures. A friend of mine's 12-year old grandson was discovered looking at porno sites by his father recently. One would think an adult man in charge of prosecuting people would have more maturity than a 12-year old boy.

One would think a major city's DA would have better things to do than pass around photos of a black man laying on the street next to a watermelon as a "joke" worthy of a laugh. Ants have bigger brains than that. Apparently he isn't busy enough at his day job.

Both men should resign - NOW.

If not, they should be prosecuted like anyone else - and not get a paid with taxpayers dollars while doing it. They have demeaned and soiled the reputation of Houston, Texas, their party and the legal profession.

A Real Horse Race - Voters Win But Expect the Unexpected from World Events

It's now a real horse race for President, in BOTH parties, and the American public will be the winners because of it.

Being down in the polls got Hillary Clinton out of her bubble and actually talking to reporters, etc. Coming in second in New Hampshire has Mr. Obama talking more about issues and will probably lead to other changes in strategy that will give voters a better picture of each candidates vision.

The same on the GOP side, which is a total muddle with no clear leader. Again, the voters will win as the lack of a front-runner will let each candidate show what the are made of --inspirational or attack machine?

And something could happen in the world that turns all of this on its ear -- a new war with Iran or another terrorist attack could totally change up the situation.

Consider this. President Bush is going to Israel for only the first time since becoming President seven years ago - despite the long nightmare of Israeli-Palestinian issues. The next President cannot wait until his/her candle is nearly burned out to act to stop these festering wounds that analysts say are the root cause of much of the terrorism in the world.

For example, I heard on TV some experts say that we have a 30 - 50% chance of nuclear terrorism attack on a U.S. city within the next 10 years. I did a TV video program on this issue in 1994). Too little has been done until its too late to really do anything to address these issues vital to American security.

Expect the unexpected. Anything could happen and any candidate could still pull this out. Expect global events prior to the election to have unexpected impact.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Wild Winds Blowing - all the way to DC

There is a wild wind blowing tonight on the Texas Coast. A strange energy of shifting winds is whipping the flag, which has been shredded.

Shredded could also describe some Presidential campaigns as as of tomorrow in New Hampshire. Slam dunks have turned into long shots. Long shots have turned into a growing Political Tsunami. Thomas Hardy's "Persistence of the Unforeseen" can undo man's (or woman's) best laid plans even with millions invested.

The winds racing past the balcony are not just strong. They are fierce and changeable. They seem to be in parallel with the winds of politics shifting in America.

Some writers wrote me and said "Obama is too inexperienced and McCain is too old." Folks I'm not making this stuff happen; just describing it. My analysis is on the big picture of what is happening, not whether it is what you want to hear. It's the reality and its impact.

Right now the reality is that voters want to hear the themes they are hearing from Mr. Obama. God knows we need something better than "the usual suspects" doing the usual bipolar, left/right limited thinking and fear-mongering.

Instead, people are responding to the magic sauce that Piped Piper Obama seems to have going for him. Apparently the last seven years have ignited a Category 5 desire for a whole new direction by tons of new people who have never voted, among others.

A person from Pakistan e-mailed me and said that we didn't need to change Presidents, only policies - so that we recognized human rights.

I told him that Americans believe that the only way to change our policies is by changing Presidents. Bush isn't going to change and even if he did at this point the damage has been done. It will take a new President to rebuild bridges and our global reputation.

We'll know tomorrow who the likely successors will be.

I close with the sad news that a friend and councilmember in Sugar Land lost his wife over the weekend in a tragic, freak traffic accident. My deepest condolences go out to Michael Schiff and his family. Jan was a volunteer star who made our community a better place than she found it. She will always remain so in the hearts of thousands.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Then End of Clinton-Bush-Clinton-Bush Merry-Go-Round?

After Tuesday, if the political analysts I saw today on Tim Russert's 'Meet the Press' are right, it may become evident that the two people who will win their party nomination is 1) Obama and 2) McCain. (I watch Russert because he always grills people regardless of their position; Fox folks only seem to grill people they don't agree with. CNN gives a voice to the opposite view, like Lou Dobbs, but I'm sorry to say not Fox).

If so, it is the end of the "Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton" rule of the White House over the last 20 years.

If that happens, it is a good thing for democracy since it was starting to feel like a third world country where the top job bounces back and forth to the same families over and over again. That is is not America. We need some fresh faces in power with some new ideas to give us a fresh start.

The debates last night (4 hours worth if you could take it) had good comments by several candidates. We'll see who is left standing in the next 10 days. It may be over by Super Tuesday on Feb. 5.

If the experts are right and it does boil down to Obama-McCain, then the debate will become picking "change" versus "experience" for the next four years. Right now, change seems to be a tidal wave that is bringing in tons of new voters never seen before.

This seems to be the "Year of the Independent Voter." It should be interesting.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Mexico's Crime Lords - Rising Threat to U.S. Tourists

Baja California near San Diego has become more dangerous for Americans who have enjoyed Baja beaches for years.

Motorists on toll roads have been stopped by cars with flashing lights that resemble Mexican police cars - only to have property stolen by armed men. Women have been raped by these thugs. It's unnerved enough people that business has plummeted in these tourists areas.

This was not the case in Mazatlan when I visited. It and remote Cabo San Lucas have been spared, but the trend is not positive. There is something going wrong in Mexico and we need to pay attention and figure out how to reverse this detrimental security situation

The problem is that, like Al Capone during prohibition, the illegal drug trade has become so profitable that it has spun off more crime. Police are paid so little that corruption is easy and endemic. One police captain was almost assassinated after he promised to take on the drug cartels. Journalists who write about it are killed.

The usual solution is to throw money at the problem; Bush has proposed $500 million for Mexico. It hasn't worked before and I doubt it will work now for a simple reason. The drug business generates over $200 billion a year in profits. $500 million is nothing against that.

But even investing $200 billion wouldn't change anything unless we invested it in creating jobs south of the border -- so that it pays more to grow flowers or veggies instead of coca or pot. Spending that much on the military has not worked either.

We give too little to economic development to make a alternatives to illegal activity more attractive.

In fact, we will never beat the gangs until we do what we did that broke Al Capone -- who was also an illegal drug dealer -- we need to seriously consider decriminalizing the stuff. This makes sense especially for low end stuff like medical marijuana so authorities can focus on more serious substances (like heroin, opium and Oxycontin).

One Presidential candidate, Ron Paul, agrees. he points out that alcohol, a drug kills about 100,000 year and tobacco, another drug, kills 350,000/year - versus a fraction of that (Paul quotes 3,600/year) who die due to illegal drugs.

The end of prohibition of alcohol (which is a drug) eliminated the trade in booze by the mafia and put the profits back into legitimate businesses who took over.

Until we take out the billions in profits from this business, the problem with these increasingly international gangs --and their violence against Mexicans and Americans -- will continue to grow and get worse. With $200 billion a year in tax free profits, drug thugs can buy a lot of underpaid police, assassinate the non-corrupt at will, and kill at random.

History has shown what works and what doesn't. But we have yet to learn from it. Until we do, our security will worsen, as chillingly described in the article above.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Voters Picked Change Over Experience - Makes Prez Advisors key

...And a President following the wrong Advice Spells Security Threat to Americans

The number of people voting was at historic highs. The winds of change are blowing like a Category 5 hurricane.

The voters picked Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Obama as the Republican and Democrat favorites. People went with change over experience. The fact that neither candidate chosen has any international experience seemed not to matter.

It will matter in January 2009 when one of them (or one of the others) takes the chair in the Oval Office –and something weird happens in Pakistan, Iraq, the Gaza strip, etc.

If that happens, the President’s international advisors will be the key. But if those advisors disagree as they often do, the President will have no personal experience in places like Islamabad (which is a much prettier city in the mountains than hot, humid seaport Karachi, Pakistan) to know what is the right course of action. We had that in the tug-of-war between Bush’s advisors (remember Colin Powell vs. Rumsfeld--Bush followed Rumsfeld's advice, which was wrong instead of the General who was right!)

Unless someone like John McCain wins (the one remaining foreign policy expert; Biden and Richardson got 1% or less!) the question will be what kind of advisers on foreign policy will they have? WHO would they look to for guidance on dealing with unstable, nuclear Pakistan, Russia’s new power, China’s economic strength and space-age muscle?

But don’t be surprised if Americans pick change over experience –and messages of hope over fear and negative ads. Maybe the message is that experience without change is not want they want. Maybe they want change and experience in the same package. If they can’t get that, they will go with change and take their chances the next President will eventually figure out how to deal with 200 countries they have never been to.

The Presidency is more than taxes and spending. The next President has to find a way to cut the spread of hate and potential terrorism in the volatile Middle East. He/she will have to deal with a strong Russia under Mr. Putin, which controls the second largest nuclear inventory in the world and has key contacts and nuclear contracts with Iran. He/she will have to figure out a way to deal with China which is becoming a mighty economic power with a non-democratic government that is challenging us in space technology, etc.

I’d prefer someone who knows enough of the world to actually be proactive with a real strategy that improves our economic and leadership standing -- instead of just sitting there until we are blind-sided again (like on 9/11 and Pearl harbor before that).

Voters won’t be thinking of these issues but a President will have to. There is a long way to go in this election and winning New Hampshire is the next test of who survives this process.

Let’s see who the voters pick to guide our destiny the next four to eight years. Ordinary Americans have a lot more at stake in their choice than they realize, they better be asking WHO these candidates will use for foreign policy advice! Same question for the experienced candidates...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Big Chill - Which President hopeful has a Global Plan?

A strong north wind has pushed back the lake, exposing pilings. The coast escaped the freeze but there is nothing colder than water in winter.

My experiment with our Armor Glass window film (XO) keeps paying off. Despite three glass doors with a northeast exposure, the XO clear film has kept the apartment warmer than it would be without it. The power bills have dropped. So not only do I have large missile protection from hurricane storm debris but it is cutting out both UV (99%) and saving energy costs. One layer is the equivalent of making the single paned windows double-paned.

Election history begins tonight. There will be a ‘big chill’ for some candidates. Others will be hot, but for how long who knows. It’s the first time that a President or a VP hasn’t been on the ballot since 1952, so its wide open in both parties. And then what if NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg jumps in as an independent? Whatever happens, people seem to be ready for some fresh faces and new directions.

Each campaign needs to detail not just their domestic agenda, but their foreign policy agenda as well….

I had a guy comment about my push for funding schools in Pakistan. He said "British boys weren't blowing themselves up for a Caliphate." He forgets about the IRA, the Irish lads who happily blew up buildings and people for decades for their "cause." And Tim McVeigh, a white man, was the first truck bomber in America when he blew up the Murrah building in Oklahoma City, killing babies in day care as well as the government offices he was upset about.

If we don't help educate those kids in Pakistan, then the only thing many will learn is hate. Their parents don't wish it - they have no money and choose the only free schools available, run by the religious extremists. If we take no action to give them an alternative education the situation can only get worse. So let's get smart and dilute this kind of ignorance.

We need a government that works to avoid disasters instead of constantly being blindsided by foreseeable events.

Until 9/11, the Bush administration had put counter-terrorism on the back burner. They were so consumed with domestic issues (like many candidates running today) that they even ignored the August security briefing that said bin Laden was planning an imminent attack. Inexperience and lack of planning led to more errors that compounded the problem.

The U.S. is on the edge of a recession. Oil is hitting $100 barrel when Nigerians attacked oil installations (again). The dollar is at an all time low and countries like China, India and Russia will have to be dealt with on issues from trade to nukes to technology. How do we fill 500,000 jobs because we don't have enough Americans with the required science and technical skills and fail to make it legal to import the talent needed?

We must pick a leader and government that has a clue and a plan to deal with all of these issues, as well as health care, employment, border security, immigration, etc. If they don't have a plan on Pakistan, or Iraq, etc. - heaven help us.

Your job as Americans is to ask each one what their plan is --before the election.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New year New Chances

Photo: Sunrise Galveston Jan 1, 2008

It's a new year. A fresh beginning and new chances to get it right.

This is the year we change leadership in Washington. There's nothing bigger than this in democracy.

India may be the biggest democracy in the world, but the U.S. is still the oldest. Where else can a kid from no- where and people who know nothing (except politics) get elected?

Yet we survive it and the country has thrived, for better and for worse. We are at a low spot in the road. Our global credibility is at an all time low. Efforts to get bin Laden have been a total failure.

And now it appears that our own State Department and government did little to insure that Benazir Bhutto would be protected, after encouraging her to go back to Pakistan to campaign.

No wonder why our international reputation is at rock bottom. We put people in danger and do little to protect them. No one from the U.S. leaned on Musharraf to make sure Benazir had real security.

They prove it themselves by that silly statement the Pakistan government issued, insisting she had died from bumping her head on the car (after getting three bullets at close range and a bomb blast). How strange is that.

So Iowa is next. I live in Texas but was born in Iowa and can say this. People in Iowa are pretty salt-of-the-earth. They can smell B.S. a mile away. They are honest people. They like genuine people, not phonies with good stories.

Whoever it is they pick as a Presidential candidate, man or woman, will need to deal with an unstable nuclear Pakistan on day one, because a major part of being President is global foreign policy (and strategy) despite what some Presidential candidates are saying. We won't help ourselves to pick an amateur.

I don't know the Iowa caucus system. I had moved to Texas (at 16) when my time came to vote. The Iowa caucuses happen in two days and should be a worthwhile indicator of which candidates are the real two (or three) candidates to consider. Then the real horse race begins.

That applies to both Democrats and Republicans. I know both. And don't forget the Independents, who are growing by leaps and bounds as people have fled Bush world.

This is a new year. Anything is possible. It begins with a beautiful sunrise...