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Friday, October 31, 2008

Photo: Sunrise this morning in Seabrook

The days are FLYING. Thank God the election is almost over. Not sure I can handle one more political commercial without going mad. I've voted so they are wasting their money on me at this point. LOL.

Be sure to watch Houston's PBS "Red White and Blue" tonight. They filmed a debate for Harris County District Attorney. Iran even came up - who do you think executes the most people: Iran, Texas or Saudi Arabia? Watch and find out. It was an interesting debate and repeats on Sunday.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How a Texas Vote Nov. 4 Will Impact America’s Education

There is one Texas vote on November 4 that will actually have a national impact across America, for good or bad. It will impact our ability to lead in the 21st Century – because America’s children may end up remaining ignorant as a result of a strictly Texas vote. That will not bode well for our future.

The Republican candidate for the State Board of Education showed a photo of the Democrat candidate in front of the Taj Mahal and claimed “she supported teaching our children Islam!”

This is incredibly silly -- the Taj Mahal is in INDIA and 80% of Indians are HINDU, a totally separate religion from Islam! The building is a shrine by a king for his dead wife. That’s it.

I know because I have been to India and took a taxi down from New Delhi to see the Taj Mahal—during a Fortune 500 negotiating trip many years ago. How many Americans know this? We are dirt ignorant about the world we expect to lead. This Texas education vote is important to America’s future (and the world’s) because it will either keep us (as an entire country) dirt ignorant -- or it will give our kids a real education they will need for our country to succeed.

Ignorance doesn’t help us. It even hurts our friends. When conservatives pray "in the name of Jesus" they have no idea that they are actually insulting their JEWISH guests! I know most of them have no idea that they are being insulting, but they are. We need kids taught about all the world’s religions, not just one. America is a nation of many religions – why should only one be taught to school kids? That narrowness leads to ignorance and mistakes.

Syria is supposed to be Islamic right? And yet outside the city I found open Christian churches that date back to the time of Christ. The people still speak the original Aramaic. I visited Christian churches that still had the secret entrance in the back where Christians entered in the days after it started as a faith. Today, you enter through a normal entrance in the front. Yes, you can go to a Christian church in Muslim Syria. It is less than an hour drive from Damascus.

Because Texas’ education decisions on things like textbooks tend to get spread across America (because of the number of books bought), if the Democrat Laura Ewing loses the vote for the Texas State Board of Education (which is possible in ‘red’ Texas), America’s children will remain ignorant about these other religions that our people and leadership must know in dealing with them. Will it be leadership that forgets when America bombs Syria that it is generating problems for local Christians there -- and creating more enemies for America, not less? How many Americans know that the Islamic Koran reveres both Jesus and Mary?

Without knowledge of the world's religions, our children will be unprepared to lead. Hinduism and Islam are but two of many religions in the world. Don’t forget there are Buddhists, Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, a growing religious movement in China, etc. What do you know about them?

Now the term “Muslim” is being used like a code word for the “N word.” That is also wrong. Radical Islam is very different from ordinary Muslims. America’s Lack of Global Education will be our undoing if we don’t upgrade our education to the global level it needs to be for us to navigate the 21st Century with awareness and strategy instead of blind pre-conceived guessing and misinformation.

When you condemn someone for standing in front of the Taj Mahal and confuse Hinduism and Islam, that does not bode well for America’s future if people like Laura Ewing lose to ignorant fear-mongering and attempts to keep our children ignorant about the wider world we have to deal with on issues from trade to climate change.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Al Qaida endorses....John McCain! Yikes!

They call it the endorsement from hell - an Al Qaida website has endorsed....John McCain for President! Don't take my word for it, check out the article.

Why? Apparently Al Qaida thinks McCain will be like Bush and help them
recruit more people to their flawed cause. WOW. They might even
launch a pre-election attack to help McCain win!

I was a TV Middle East expert during the first Gulf War. On and after
9/11, I was a TV Terrorism analyst in Houston. It makes sense that Al
Qaida would endorse for President someone they think will maintain a
high anti-American sentiment that will make their recruiting easier.

An Obama win would deflate Al Qaida. When Sen. Obama spoke in Germany,
over 100,000 people turned out to LISTEN not to protest. If he is
elected, anti-American sentiment would diminish -- and with less anger
at the U.S. it would make Al Qaida's recruiting much harder.

In short, Al Qaida has benefited from the Bush 43 years which failed
to even capture or kill Mr. Bin Laden. Because of misstatements of a
"crusade" and the religious extremists supporting Tom DeLay and
President Bush, who hoped the war would spark "Armageddon," it was
perceived as a religious war by the West against the East. A President
McCain that thinks of Iraq like Vietnam -- who could be erratic in
policy or die in office leaving the war to an inexperienced former
Governor with no international knowledge -- would boost Al Qaida's
ability to recruit suicide bombers indefinitely.

Al Qaida apparently sees a President Obama undercutting them because
his presence would put an entirely new face on America -- and would
diminish the negative feelings towards the U.S. and its policies. The
evidence was in the 100,000 people in Germany standing for hours to
hear a Presidential candidate speak -- when the current President is
greeted with jeers and protest lines as far as the eye can see. The next President will need their support to get our global financial mess fixed also.

So I can see why it makes sense for Al Qaida, if they could vote,
would prefer Sen. McCain.

So if you want to do want Al Qaida wants, vote McCain.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Photo: Seabrook Sunrise

This morning's sunrise pics...

The crane parked on the lake has been used in pulling yachts off people's yards, etc.

That's the Kemah bridge in the background. Babin's has reopened. Along Toddville Road debris piles mark what's left of wrecked houses, who are spray painted "Unsafe." You also see bare poles that used to have houses sitting on them. Those sites still look about the same as the day after IKE.

I've been really busy but the economic stress around is plain to see. And sad.

Yesterday I watched the County Judge debate, which will air tonight on PBS-KUHF "Red White and Blue" series. It started dull but don't leave - it got pretty heated before it was over.

Also yesterday, I met a woman who told me that our elected Mr. Paul Bettencourt had actually "bruised" her by sticking his finger into her chest to make a point during a GOP dinner a few years ago. Her husband was not pleased, but nothing was done about it. No man should be inappropriately touching a woman and he should NEVER bruise a lady. If true, he needs to have his butt kicked (out of office).

Then I saw the clip of an interview with KHOU Channel 11, in which Bettencourt was nearly screaming he was so out of control. He hasn't given his staff a raise in 10 years and waits until it is too late to process voter registration applications. How many won't get to vote as a result? Is this really doing his job at taxpayer expense?

I'll be watching for TV follow ups on this messy issue as Nov. 4 approaches.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Crazy Days

Photo: Crazy car on I 45 heading towards Galveston.
Crazy days. Yesterday I was in Pearland giving an estimate -- and saw a sea of blue roofs still left from IKE. Almost every roof had one in the nice neighborhood I went to.

Then a friend locked the keys in her car and my schedule went out the window. I found myself in Kingwood, climbing on a roof as rain started to fall and thunder was rolling in -- to put down a blue tarp. My friend had discovered a growing stain on the wall caused by a poorly patched hole left over from a tree hitting the roof during IKE. I had to borrow a pair of her tennis shoes to keep from sliding off. With the help of a neighbor we got it nailed down --and us off the roof -- before the lightning and hard rain came down. I was soaking wet. It was time for a glass of wine and call it a day.

This morning I was at a Seabrook Rotary breakfast when Pat Lykos, running for District Attorney, spoke. Suddenly, some people got mad because they thought the Democrat should also be there. It was right after I asked her "If elected, would you prosecute Republicans who step over the line the same as Democrats?" She gave an answer but I don't recall her saying "yes." So I went up and gave her another cahnce after the meeting broke up. I was just looking for a simple "Yes." I got an answer but didn't hear "yes." Let's hope whoever gets it does a fair job of prosecuting anyone stepping over the legal line, regardless of party affiliation. The image today in Houston is that only the opposite side gets prosecuted. No one in the party went after the former DA Rosenthal for sexual harrassment or racist remarks up to the day he resigned. If a Democrat is elected, he needs to go after Democrats as well as Republicans who violate the law. THAT is what the job is all about.

It shows that things are getting tense, even at nonpolitical meetings like Rotary.

I decided to join Rotary because it is doing so many great projects around Houston, around America and around the world. They are even stepping in as "Second Responders" trying to help rebuild after the first responders do their thing.

I agree with the author of the attached article, Nicolas Kristoff - that the U.S. needs a "rebranding" in the world - to show that we are more than what people think we are -- after 8 years of the world seeing an American President condone torture and exhibit arrogance, while failing to show respect or listen to others outside his small circle of same-limited-thinking advisors.

Arrogance that proves wrong (like the missing WMD's in Iraq) is worse than being arrogant and right!

Electing someone who shows respect, listens instead of always talking, and can think outside the box would be a huge advantage in getting the United States back into a respected global leadership role.

I'd like to see Americans with a global strategy as well. We'll need it now that we are an additional $5 trillion in the hole after the last 8 years -- while countries like China have nearly a $2 trillion SURPLUS.

No great country has been able to maintain its military leadership without the economic base to support it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New Hurricane Technology

Houston KHOU (Channel 11) did a story on hurricane window film last night.

I thought Shern-min Chow did a GREAT job explaining how the technology works and what happens in high-wind events.

The IKE clean-up continues and things are starting to look and feel more "normal." I went out to vote yesterday and the line extended all the way to the street! Turnout could double this year. Wow.

It's a political hurricane happening, or so it seems.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Joe the Plumber and the new Global Economic system

A First in Human History

Something really big is happening –bigger than Joe the Plumber. People are being laid off in places like Iceland (not just Michigan and Ohio) because of their banks buying bad American mortgage paper. Like a rare planetary alignment, events have come together to create the need for a new Global Economic system for the first time in human history. Things have gotten so bad that it now requires a “Global Solution” to a World Economic Crisis.

It was American housing paper, built on a foundation of sand that had no oversight and encouraged mortgage fraud, “liar’s loans,” adjustable rate mortgages -- and selling this fundamentally flawed paper to buyers around the world that caused economic collapse from New York to L.A., and from Iceland to steamy Brazil. The SEC Chairman and those in charge of federal agencies were asleep at the wheel or negligent in their duties. Perhaps they were picked more for loyalty to the President and his party than for competence in doing their jobs. Perhaps they were picked NOT to do their jobs –i.e., to let the financial giants do whatever they wanted. Either way, the result was the same.

But the situation is more than that. At the same time the wheels were coming off our financial train, we’ve outgrown the national economic system in a globally-integrated economy, where money races to the best safe haven around the world via wire transfer in micro-seconds.

However, we lack a global set of rules to take us to the next level. Just like the American economy outgrew management by 50 different States and needed organization on a national level in the 1930’s (requiring the development of national laws such as the FDIC and SEC to set standard rules for operating between states) – now it is apparent that economics have outgrown a single national economy. One country will no longer financially control the destiny of the entire planet or be its economic engine. We will sink or swim together.

Europeans found out during the financial meltdown that if only one country insured deposits and others didn’t, then money would be pulled from one country to another–capital flight was causing runs on banks around the world -- until they each offered the same level of security and government insurance. Only when Europeans teamed up to offer the same bank protection was stability achieved. Ironically it was Britain that took the lead in providing a bank protection solution that worked – which was followed by a reluctant American administration whose prior $700 billion plan had not.

President Bush inherited a $64 billion surplus. Eight years later, it’s been replaced by a $5 trillion hole of debt. China presently holds a majority of the world’s currency and foreign exchange reserves of over $1.5 trillion. Russia has over $500 billion in reserves. The U.S. has none. In eight short years, the U.S. has lost its 200-year lead as the world’s greatest financial power. We are now the world’s largest debtor nation. Financial institutions are short of credit and a prolonged recession is taking hold. Continued stability will depend on a global system of securing deposits from America to Asia.

All of this points to a global conference being necessary to create some global rules of the road – what has been referred to as a “Bretton Woods 2.0.” President Bush will start the meeting by the end of this year. The next President will have to finish it as nations seek ways to cooperate economically on a global scale to get us out of this mess.

Cooperation with the world’s governments on a global financial system is the only choice left.

Who has the cool reflective judgment it will take to do this is up to the American voter? Since the current situation was generated by a Republican administration that doesn’t believe in government oversight, I don’t see it as the answer to put America back on top.

Even Joe the Plumber would pay more under Sen. McCain’s tax plan than under Sen. Obama’s. I wonder if it is racial bias that, I’m sorry to say, makes certain lower-educated white men (and some women of a certain age) blind to the candidate, whose tax policies actually favor Joe Six Pack and the middle class more than the rich guy’s plan.

I was sent a photo of a white man on a motorcycle with a racial slur on his back (using the N-word and “white” house), so don’t tell me that there aren’t some real morons out there who hate people based solely on their color—which shows their limited mentality. These Joes will end up voting for the guy whose plan benefits the super rich more than the little guys like them because they can’t get past skin color. Now that is stupid! McCain’s plan favors multi-millionaires--it is a continuation of the Bush formula of favoring the top 5%. How has that helped us? Is a person’s color more important than your pocketbook?

My bottom line: I’m going to vote for the guy with only one house. I’m voting for the one who was poor and had to struggle to make it on his own, not because dad was a Senator. That guy is more like most Americans, unlike the guy who isn’t sure how many houses he owns. He can afford to be wrong. Even if he loses half his houses, he can still sleep in the other 5 or 6! And being married to a beer heiress making $10 million/year, he would benefit more from his tax policies favoring the top 2% than Joe the Plumber and the bottom 98% of us.

The guy with only one house is going to be a lot more cool, thoughtful and careful in making decisions on a global scale. That’s what America needs to regain its global standing at this transitional moment.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rocky Mountain High

I am in Denver where the official snow ski season opened yesterday - and a few moments ago I settled a case that was set for a trial today. I didn't come into it as a trial lawyer but as a negotiator. My job was to cut a deal. I did.

This is a swing state and the political ads are all over the TV. I saw one large McCain sign and a bunch of smaller Obama yard signs. I read that Sen. Obama leads in normally GOP Colorado by 5 points.

This morning I sent out a Global American article on why no one should kill themselves over their falling 401k and the market. Too many are committing murder-suicide over their bank balance or foreclosure. I've lived through this below (Texas, in the 80's) and survived it, hence the article.

Bunny rabbits are a common sight through the parking lot of the motel where I'm staying, a few miles from the airport. A field abuts the property, along with two other hotels and a small diner --an oasis all by itself just outside town.

A half mile away, a single line of houses line a narrow road -- a lot of them new and for sale. The housing market is in the tank here too. It is beautiful blue skies backed by the Rocky Mountains in mid-October here. It sure beats looking at the Dow Jones Stock market.

Watch them at the airport. The Budget people at DIA sold me a tank of gas for $3.63 when the going rate per gallon in Denver is $2.99 for unleaded. The car had a huge ice scrapper in the drivers seat. Fortunately, I won't need it.

But it's not just at the airport here that people pull stuff. Last week an NTB store in Houston scammed me to buy brake calipers for a car that has just 40,000 miles on it - even claimed i had water in the brake fluid. All I wanted was new tires. The two other mechanics I showed it to said the rotor machining was rough and unprofessional - so not only was it expensive work, it wasn't well done. To their credit, the national HQ called me and offered to refund the cost of the calipers.

Heading out of here tomorrow.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Scenes Behind a Senate Debate - No That's Not Batman

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Scenes from Behind a (Senate) Debate

I had the privilege of observing the recent TV Senate debate between Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Rick Noriega and the Libertarian candidate.

It was unique because it was hosted by PBS Channel 8 but was filmed at the KHOU Channel 11 studio because of all the damage to the PBS facility caused by Hurricane IKE. So it was a unique mix of people from TV channels, the media, the League of Women Voters (which also has male members, including me recently), AARP sponsors, and the campaigns.

I commend KHOU for making this alternative filming possible for KUHF, especially considering that their studios are smaller than those in those at Fox and the other Houston TV stations.

The pre-debate negotiations were intense, from what I saw. Each campaign wanted its own makeup room (yep). One wanted a separate entrance. The negotiations included the size and spacing of the podiums. Sen. Cornyn’s office asked that a certain camera angle be avoided (I don’t know which).

When I entered the studio during the setup the host Ernie Manouse was walking around with a big smile --and tissue paper surrounding his collar, looking like a character from Charles Dickens or an old English court. I asked him if I had walked in on the wrong century. He laughed and said it kept the powder off his clean white shirt until the filming started.

We moved to the large conference room where I saw the drawing for the order of debate. First draw was for who would be on which podium (left, center, right) and the second draw was for –more importantly— which campaign got the big conference room, the medium size one and the small one for makeup and blogging. LOL. Sen. Cornyn did not attend, but left the drawing to a couple staff members.

The Libertarian candidate, Ms. Shick, volunteered to take the smallest room, which was nice of her. Rep. Noreiga won the big conference room. At that point it would be used for maybe 15 – 20 minutes before the debate started.

During the debate, one of the ladies watching it from the Green Room behind the studio said: “Senator Cornyn looks like he has a “Batman” costume behind him.” Sure enough the dark Texas flags positioned behind Sen. Cornyn -- and the fact he was in the center podium facing the camera head on -- made him look like “Batman.”

After she said it every time I saw the shot it looked like a Batman background set. It certainly added some humor to a very dull debate.

I think of it -- and still get a laugh from the Batman incident--especially when the news about the global financial meltdown gets too depressing, like when the G7 met for a whole 30 minutes and went home after doing nothing.

It looks like we need to hang on, and find a laugh where you can, until November 4 brings us some real leadership. Whoever gets it will inherit the biggest mess since the Great Depression. It will take global action to fix it. I don’t think “Batman” will save us from this crisis.

It’s ironic that a Republican administration is the one proposing a “socialist” investment in banks – which is working in Europe’s crisis. It came only after everything else has failed.

But an article in today’s Houston Chronicle, which is linked on my blog, by former Lt. Governor Bill Hobby, shows the path to success, based on what Jesse Jones did in Houston in the 1930’s – and no Houston banks failed. He proposed it to JP Morgan for New York and Mr. Ford for Michigan – both refused his advice and their banks failed.

Maybe the Power Rangers will need to be called in.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Old vs New - Need for Global financial leadership

I shot this in West Texas as the perfect example of the old and new technologies for energy.

Oil pumps are a relic of the 20th century energy driver. The wind turbines lining the ridges in this area represent a growing new industry for the 21st Century --consisting of (free) renewable energy from wind and solar sources.

Twenty years ago these ridges were empty, like many others I saw on the journey from Houston to Odessa and back. We have tremendous potential for growth in wind and solar energy in Texas. It would also preserve Texas' historic role as an energy provider.

Despite the global financial crisis upon us, energy will continue to be needed in growing amounts. The "pump only" strategy risks our entire future as those sources play out despite more drilling --unless we have developed alternatives that allow us to keep the lights on -- and grow. It would also allow us to grow into a cleaner future.

Who will make that commitment for America as the next President?

It has not happened in the last eight years of a GOP administration. And with a replacement VP nominee coming from a rich oil producing state that has never had a tough budget to balance, they are not going to be the ones who take us to energy independence with a "Marshall Plan" that it needs to be.

The other thing bothering me is that I grew up in a little town in Iowa not much different than Wasilla, Alaska.

The big difference is that I got out of that little town and ended up traveling worldwide (over 50 countries) as a young Fortune 500 negotiator. That experience gave me insights in other cultures that you never get as an elected official at the top.

It tells me that if you have never been out of your State or town your entire life, you have no business being a heartbeat from running our Ship of State, especially in a global financial crisis.

That would be like turning the Titanic over to one of the passengers along for the ride. Americans have had a rough enough ride without making it worse. We need leadership who will push alternative 21st century energy technology and bring a global action team together to resolve what is now a worldwide financial meltdown.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Steel Texas Trees - The Future

Yesterday I saw the past and the future combined.

I'm on a quick trip to West Texas (note that the speed limit is "80" out here.)

It's not your father's West Texas. After turning off I 10 near Fort Stockton the car rounded a corner, and suddenly among the rolling hills were forests of tall steel modern windmills turning gently in the wind. I call them 21st Century "Texas Trees."

At one point, rusty oil wells sat slowly pumping next to the road-- while perched up high for miles in each direction the machines spun silently in long clusters lining the ridges along the high ground. The sun sparkled off their blades.

It hit me as a symbol - the old technology and the new. One is fading out and is slowly being replaced by the new renewable technology. One industry has seen its peak; the other is just beginning to replace it as part of the clean, renewable -- American -- source of energy.

The wind doesn't charge for its services. Neither does the sun. Why it has taken so long to do this is puzzling. I've read Mr. McCain voted against this type of alternative energy over 20 times. We can't become independent with oil alone, despite "drill baby drill." That strategy won't keep us from running off the cliff as supplies play out. Oil supplies are not unlimited but consumption is. We must become more efficient and tap our wind/solar potential to the max as part of a real strategy.

I pulled off the road to take a couple photos and discovered one windfarm was part of General Electric. T. Boone Pickens is a leader in wind energy and so is Houston's Horizon Wind company.

It is our future. Who you vote for will either make this happen or delay us further. It's an important vote for our future energy stability.