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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Why Attack Bombay? What's next?

According to a thought-provoking Indian writer, the attack on Mumbai/Bombay had a message - stay away. To conservative religious types, Mumbai represents 'sin city' in a conservative part of the world.

But the problem is bigger than that - religious hate is spreading beyond "the usual suspects." In 1993, it was Hindus who were killing anyone in Bombay who was a Muslim. This Thanksgiving '08 attack was the first-ever against Jews in India.

It appears that the fishing trawler hijacked by the terrorists who swept over Mumbai was taken in Karachi, Pakistan. I have been to Karachi, a hot-humid seaport on Pakistan's southern coast.

So, another nuclear India/nuclear Pakistan conflict may be heading our way.

The solution will take a coordinated effort to tamp down the intolerance and hate between religious extremists in each group, including resolving the Kashmir issue along with the other unresolved conflicts such as the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. Unresolved border issues between both Pakistan and India and Pakistan and Afghanistan would help lower the temperature between two nuclear powers.

India is a growing power along with China. Both will play critical roles in America's future. Much is at risk and much needs to be done.

The 'sin' was not Mumbai's. It was the intolerant minds that attacked it.

Latest news: the Chairman of the Tata Group who owns the Taj Mahal ownership says that they had been warned about the possible attack. Yet there was no increased security or preparations by the hotel. Guests were not informed of the attack even after it started. Guests were also hit by flying glass - something that also needs to be addressed by hotels and office buildings everywhere.

The Indian government has responsibility too. The fact that it took the Indian army and commandos several days to stop ten people will have to be investigated as well.

The bottom line will be reducing the religious extremism spreading across the globe. It only makes the world more dangerous for all of us.

The President-Elect will need to focus on this. The solutions are EDUCATION and JOBS. Taliban who threw acid on girls walking to school were paid to do it - they need to be educated to treat women equally. But to make it work we also need to create jobs so they have something for a future other than crime or terrorist hit-jobs. Until we make roads, schools and job-creation as much a part of our policy as a military presence, we won't succeed.

Afghanistan does not have roads or an infrastructure. It is the front line on the global 'War on Terror.'

We won't win unless and until we address the root problems --uneducated, isolated people with no jobs and no future.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Crazy World

As I write, there are over 100,000 people -- Americans, foreigners, etc.-- stranded in Thailand because protesters have shut down the airport at Bangkok. Terrorists in India have blown away lives, both Indian and foreign.

It is a crazy world.

I was once trapped in Bangkok when I ran out of money on a trip during the 80's economic bust (which happened a LONG time ago). I have been a guest of both the Taj Mahal and Oberoi. So it is amazing for me to see this insanity sweep over the world. Terrorism is hitting in new places.

I once flew to Bangkok from Jakarta, Indonesia right after a 'coup de tat.' When i arrived, it was quiet and peaceful. A newsman had been shot to death, but the streets were normal. That was Thailand in the mid-80's. Today may not be much different.

Even in the U.S. things are nuts. Over Thanksgiving, two men (idiots) in a toy store pulled out guns and shot each other to death after an argument. It is another example of nutsy behavior. Shot for WHAT? A toy in a TOY store? How crazy is that?

And how crazy that people at a Wal Mart would stampede to death an employee in their rush to get the 'deal of the day' on "Black Friday." No one even stopped to help. How nuts is that? Is it worth someone dying over a deal on a TV?

I was at a Wal mart in Seabrook at 5:30 on "Black Friday" - and promptly left after finding the parking lot full and people already lined up 30 deep at the cash registers. I left, and resisted the impulse to grab a 32" HDTV that people were wheeling out in their stuffed shopping carts in the dark. LOL.

Kidnappings and shootings by drug cartels on the Texas-Mexican border are also getting more crazy, frequent and worse. They behead people like Al Qaeda. Thank god the two groups have nothing in common and no desire to work together (let's hope).

It is a crazy world. We need some strategic, smart leadership to deal with these crazy issues in the days ahead. Thank God we have some coming January 20th...

Even then it will be tough. And who knows what other crazy thing will pop up. Who would have guessed that India would be a target, or Americans and Brits sought out in a place like Bombay (vs. Baghdad).

I find most Americans totally unconscious about the reason for these events and their potential impact on our future. We have a LONG way to go to get through this.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Attack on Democratic India - Reform Needed on Cells

The attack in India prompted me to look up an old journal entry of a prior trip I made to India:

"...It was about 2 a.m. as I leaned back exhausted on the back seat of the dusty Premier, racing down the dark streets of Bombay. As the car hit 60 to 80 kilometers per hour on the airport run from the Taj Mahal hotel in Back Bay --that's when it caught my eye--something bright and clean in a sea of dark rotting walls that make up Bombay's center city. We flashed by, hell-bent on our mission as I leaned wearily against the window of the taxi watching the faded, chipped and jammed tenement buildings whizzing by. The black Bombay air whipped my hair and was sucking itself into my nostrils. Rolling up the window only made the thick air hotter, so I let the wind blow, comfortable in the knowledge that I could leave what these people would wake up to tomorrow. I had to get out of India.

Driving through Bombay that night, what I saw should have warned me. It was something out of the ordinary. Bolted to the side of a building was an immaculate white plastic sign, which looked out of place as the taxi zigzagged wildly through Bombay's fetid night air. In the dim light the bold, red letters proclaimed:


Below it, a crisp blue line:


Did I really see that?"

I wrote the above after a trip sometime around 1980. Yesterday's attacks in India are still ongoing as I write this. I have a strange connection to this incident because as a young attorney for Dresser Industries, and later as an entrepreneur, I stayed at both the Taj Mahal and Oberoi in what was then Bombay, now "Mumbai."

This attack is probably related more to Kashmir then Al Qaeda, but it is the same result -- and maybe worse since it took only a few people with AK-47's to kill dozens and lock down a city of 19 million people. It should be a warning that events half way around the world do impact us - whether we are tourists or people traveling there on business. It shows the need to be prepared.

We aren't prepared in a critical area. The same problem that arose in disasters from Hurricane IKE in Texas to the Mumbai/Bombay attacks. In each case, cell phone voice service was lost as the number of people using the cellular network skyrocketed due to the event.

I was told that the cell companies MUST cut voice service during an event like IKE or 9/11 because they don't have the capacity to handle all the people who have subsribed - that's why all you can do is email or text from your phone in the middle of winds blowing your windows out or terrorists blowing up your hotel. The same thing was reported in New Orleans during Katrina.

This is a potential hazard that needs to be addressed by Congress with all cell phone companies. For days we had no voice service after IKE, only email or text. Residents in Bombay were cut off in the middle of the attack from calling on their cell phones to find relatives caught in the streets, hotels, train station during attacks across the city, making things worse. That shutdown would also impact American tourists and business people using cell phones on their visit to India.

We need to require U.S. cellular companies to provide increased bandwidth so we do not lose the ability to make voice calls in times of crisis when communications are even more vital. This is a major Homeland Security issue. Imagine what would happen if the Bombay/Mumbai attack occurred in New York, LA, Chicago, etc.? Cell phone service would be impaired nationally, as it was on our 9/11.

The lack of cell call availability in an emergency makes getting help for those who are trapped or hurt extradordinarily more difficult and dangerous. It's critical to make this change to our communications strategy
before the next disaster occurs -- in a world society that is dependent on 24/7 mobile communications.

The additional cost is an issue that the cellular companies and Congress must resolve.

We need to learn from these episodes and make improvements in this basic Homeland Security infrastructure so that we don't lose our ability to communicate with each other during the next event -- because there will always be a next event.

IKE and the Bombay attacks have exposed a global weakness in our communications systems.
This attack is another confirmation that our counter terrorism efforts must be global to be effective. An attack anywhere puts all of us at risk, from citizens to tourists. We need to make this change ASAP.

My condolences to those who lost friends or relatives in India's 9/11.

The situation will take awhile to find out who and want we are dealing with in this attack. Standby...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Centrist Team - Homeland Security During Transition

Good morning Houston. From Seabrook looking to the Kemah bridge. Sunrise the day before Thankgiving.

The stock market improvement appears to be another sign that the President-Elect is making the right moves. Obama is selecting a smart, pragmatic, centrist group.

This is a refreshing change from the extreme ideologues that have been running things. They seemed as if they were stamped in a clone factory. It is also good to know that we aren't replacing right wing nut cases with left wing nut cases. America needs some solid, common sense Centrists making decisions on facts instead of fantasy right now.

That is the group the President-Elect has been selecting. It's a good sign for better days ahead.

In the middle of the worst financial disaster in over seven decades, it is best for America to have a calm, cool, thinking President instead of a panicked leadership throwing 'Hail Mary' passes and talking fear. We need talk of optimism just as Reagan did in the 80's after the 70's bust. We need cooperative action on a world scale not more talk of war. The President-Elect may even be able to work constructively with Russia and China, since their support will be needed to stabilize the world economy and address climate change.

Obama's statements and appointments have been the one thing that has put a plunging stock market back into the green. Confidence is the missing ingredient.

Confidence in leadership that people feel will take appropriate action to make the market work again.

I think the American public has given up hope of the current administration doing anything more to fix this train wreck other than coordinating a hand-off and getting out of the way.

Everyone knows it will be the next President who will have to put out the fires and rebuild at this point. The ship of state has hit the reef and the new Captain and crew are stuck with repairing the damage.

Never before has the two month transition window looked so long. Much could happen during a transition, good and bad. On TV I just saw a report of a threat on a New York subway over the holidays.

There are significant Homeland Security risks during this transition beyond the financial cliffhanger. The combination of Afghanistan, Taliban, Al Qaida and Pakistan's nukes --all in two-countries sharing a border that resembles old Tucson (with NATO now playing Sheriff Wyatt Earp) are Exhibit "A." Exhibit "B" is Iran and North Korea.

The threats are known. But a Presidential transition also creates unique opportunities. I will giving a speech on "Homeland Security Threats and Opportunities" during the Presidential transition on Dec. 9 for NSTA.

Breaking News: I wrote the above BEFORE the following news broke today.

I have stayed at the Hotel Oberoi and Taj Mahal in India, which were attacked today by a terrorist group "Deccan Mujaheddin" - both are 5 Star hotels. Hostages are reported to be held and the targets were American and British. Over 80 killed. It's ongoing. My topic has happened even sooner than I expected...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

For Success President Obama will Need a GLOBAL Strategy Beyond Middle East

The last two Presidents entered the White House without a GLOBAL STRATEGY (the Clinton’s didn’t expect to win in ’92 according to the lady I talked to at their campaign HQ two days after the election; Mr. Bush had a domestic focus). We’ll need one this time to fix what has become a global financial meltdown.
Financial madness seems to have been a potion put into the water worldwide -- from the hedge funds of Wall Street promoting buying cropland (and citing their “debt-to-pig” ratios in the brochures) to pyramid schemes in Colombia that crashed the economy and cost ordinary people their life savings. The British were not only buying bad subprime paper from the U.S. but their own banks began offering 125% loans to buy a house (to buy some furniture for it, and a new car)! The financial virus became a pandemic.

The madness was global. So is the fix.

For the past seven years since 9/11 America’s focus has been on the Middle East, a vital place no question, while ignoring what is happening in the rest of the world that affects our economic and personal security and stability. The President needs to provide his administration and Americans with the “big picture” of how we can develop solutions to these issues on a cooperative, international level.

To succeed will take a GLOBAL response. Business does not succeed without a business plan. Pilots don’t just climb in the cockpit and take off without a plan of where they are going and how to get there. You can get by with it in a Cessna economy but not a Boeing 777 economy. We need to have an American policy that thinks ahead about issues impacting America’s future from climate change to restoring financial stability and security to the global marketplace. All the world stock markets are inter-acting during this crisis. Like the Exxon Valdes, the ship has suffered major damage on the reef. It falls to the next Captain and crew to put it back in safer waters and repair the damage.

China holds $1.9 trillion in foreign reserves, derived mostly from making stuff we buy at places like WalMart, yet it is not donating to the IMF. China’s carbon emissions are about to surpass the U.S. if they have not already. President Obama should bring them into the picture to contribute a share of their reserves. They need to change from being merely a producer nation but also a consumer nation—to buy more of the world’s products instead of just making them. The President should invite Chinese involvement, both in astronauts and money, in the international space station. Then we would not be dependent on just the Russian Soyuz when the Shuttle is sent to the Museums in 2010.

The President must address Mexico’s out-of-control “Al Capone-style with beheadings” drug gang killings on our border that is coming into the U.S. from Texas to major cities nationwide. Texas deputy sheriffs have been caught in places like Georgia with $1 million in cash in their cars. Mr. Chavez Marxism must be diluted by a bonding of American and South American interests to develop more green energy, more trade and the new jobs that come from more trade. Brazil is a model of energy independence, but even it could not escape a planetary meltdown.

The strange things happening in nuclear North Korea since Kim Jung Il is just that (ill or dying) – we face a change in leadership in a country that doesn’t have a system to change leadership. We need China and Russia’s support to make sure North Korea doesn’t become more dangerous in this transition it is going through -- and try to minimize the danger from whoever does assume power.

We need a strategy for Africa beyond AIDS to encourage economic growth. Gangs control the ports of Africa, young men with guns who discourage and hinder economic development that has fueled the “blood diamond” trade. No government has been in control of Somalia for 18 years, leading to modern day piracy of oil supertankers (heading to Europe and America) which nets millions for gangs to buy more weapons and high speed, 21st century pirate vessels, etc. Somalia sits where the supertankers will always have to pass by. Failing to deal with it on a global level has lead to more chaos, not less. Simple water wells would free millions of African women from a daily grind. Small solar panels can run UV lights to clean their water and provide a connection to the outside world.

If President Obama is going to succeed, it will be because his administration has a plan to grapple with a world-wide financial meltdown. This is no mere national problem. The solutions require worldwide cooperation. We have to think globally to succeed. We have to develop the first-ever 21st century international financial system

Finally, the slowdown has cut jobs worldwide. We need to find ways to make new jobs by creating new technologies and industries, like building and installing solar panels and windmills in villages from Argentina to Zambia. I have seen new “mini-windmills” that have been developed for use on building rooftops. They would work on a house or top of an office tower, generating free power for the building. Solar panels are built into glass panels in Japan. I’ve seen solar panels that are rolled out in sheets of plastic. We need a renewable energy goal that is an energy version of the moon shot.

For technology, we need a commitment to make it to Mars. Getting there would generate new levels of technology and require global resources and manpower that could create a new generation of jobs. Scientists believe the same forces creating global warming on Earth could generate an atmosphere on Mars – a backup planet if we need it.

All countries are undergoing vital changes that need to be addressed intelligently by the next President for our own good. Failure to address these issues from a “big picture” perspective will not bode well for Americans or anyone anywhere.

From now on, each American President will need a GLOBAL strategy. It’s the only way to spot hidden reefs and incoming storms that threaten the ship of state and develop safe harbors around the world.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Seabrook Homeless Still Waiting on FEMA help - Adopt a Platoon

Update on IKE:

I discovered today that there are over 200 families in Seabrook whose homes were destroyed by IKE who are still waiting on FEMA help. Two months later there are no FEMA trailers available for these people. Instead, as winter moves in, they are living in tents on their property and showering under a tarp in houses with holes in the walls so big you don’t need a door to walk inside. President Obama will have to reform a broken system that can let people sleep in tents for months when FEMA has unused trailers are sitting nearby in parking lots and paperwork is more important than distributing assistance.

I found about this today at a Seabrook Rotary meeting, when the club presented food coupons to the Seabrook Intermediate School. The school’s vice principal said she walked the streets after IKE and was struck by the devastation and the conditions people were living in. She took the lead in getting assistance to these people hit with the full force of IKE’s tidal surge on Galveston Bay. The FEMA people came and did paperwork\ then left! They didn’t deliver trailers; the only action FEMA has taken is paperwork.

The city people told me that they thought that the FEMA people they met were well-intentioned but that the bureaucratic process was unbelievably awful and frustrating. It needs fixing. If it weren’t for the leadership of the school vice principal of Seabrook Intermediate School, who discovered that children were the best way to find out which families needed what, these Seabrook residents would be in an even more desperate situation.

The only help people got today was from local grocery stores, including Kroger, who donated $25 food-only coupons. Our Rotary also donated and presented the coupons to the school to give to needy families. The vice principal also said that they had received a donation from a ladies group in West Columbia, Canada, which sent quilts! That must be a first – Americans receiving international assistance. I appreciate it, as well as the people from other states who also donated items to the school for distribution.

FEMA has failed again. Like General Motors, it is too much bureaucracy and slowness. It needs to be reformed in 2009.

Finally, here is something that could make a huge difference and won’t cost you much but a little time.

My Seabrook Rotary adopted a platoon in Iraq. The commander told our contact that he noticed 11 people in a platoon who had never received a package. So our Rotary group agreed to adopt the platoon and put together 11 boxes for those 11 soldiers. Last night people came with little things like tool kits, socks, DVD’s (I donated a science fiction movie figuring a little escape wouldn’t be a bad thing), some treats, etc. As a result, soldiers who normally never get any mail will get a package from America this Christmas.

I encourage you to do the same: find someone who has a husband, wife, brother, sister or relative in Afghanistan and Iraq and adopt their platoon. Send packages to the ones who don’t get packages from family here. Our packages even included a signed holiday card from whoever adopted a box. Why not?

We need to get out of our self absorption despite the financial mess. What is our 401k value versus the potential losses by these young soldiers -- who face bullets or IED’s instead of a disappointing stock portfolio? We may be losing money; they are losing lives and time with their families.

We have great challenges ahead in 2009 but it wouldn’t cost much for those of us here on the safe home-front to show our appreciation to our soldiers, many who are serving multiple tours in difficult circumstances. They didn’t start these wars and deserve a thank you from us.

Mail it now so it will get there by the holidays. Thanks.

Pass it on.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Global tech - Global Everything

Yesterday I saw more of the future --at a conference at the Texas medical center's Institute for Molecular Biology. It was sponsored by the Brits and Greater Houston Partnership.

It was a fascinating 'Green' day-long conference in which I saw the next generation of renewable energy that will really make a difference on a personal level --windmills for houses and buildings, window film that doubles as a solar power panel, and other new 21st century technology that we need as our power needs continue to increase and we strive for more efficient, independent energy production.

These "mini-windmills" will be part of the new technology that fuels our next generation of products and jobs that will be providing "on site" power in cities and remote locations both. These small windmills would go on the edge of a building's roof, where wind speeds are highest.

These mini-windmills eliminate the need for expensive transmission systems from remote locations - although we will also need an "interstate electric transmission superhighway" as well.

The big windmills that need the transmission lines would vibrate themselves to pieces if placed too close together or on a building. So the small ones fill an important void in the market.

I also saw the next generation of solar panels that roll out on a roof...Britain is going green big time. So is the rest of Europe. We need to include China and India.

I also saw the coming of window film that is also a solar panel! It generates electricity. (Japan is using glass facades as solar panels.)

When they combine solar panel film with our security window film it would provide glazing that is the best of all worlds - providing clarity of glass, protected from breach by film that also provides power to the building!

On the financial mess, I also got an international perspective from another member of the conference. A British man at the conference told me how their banks were apparently on the same strange Kool Aid that our drunks on Wall Street were -The UK's Northern Rock Bank (which went under) was offering 125% loans before the crash! Sure, buy the house, fill it with furniture, toss in a new car to boot!

So the financial insanity was also global.

Watching the "Today" show shot from three locations around the world (Belize, Australia and Africa) documenting the climate changes going on was a reminder that the entire world is in this together. It will take a united, global effort to fix it -- along with our financial system.

It will be technology like I saw yesterday that will drive our future growth and economic progress...I am lucky to be a part of it.

The other cool thing I recently discovered as a valuable information tool is....satellite radio!

A friend recommended I use it but I had not activated the one that came with my new van a few months ago. But as I drove around I realized how little local radio has to offer - just some screaming people on talk radio, which is the last thing I'm interested in. Waiting for the 5 pm radio news was not much of an option. Listening to music all day was not informative either. I needed something totally different.

I found it with satellite radio and its 170 channels. It is a whole new world. It offers so much more than the idiot talk stations on normal radio (I just don't find bathroom humor and stupid jokes funny). The great thing is that you can find almost anything to match your interest on XM Radio, from music to intelligent talk radio (like POTUS 130, BBC News, NPR International, CNN, Fox, C-Span, etc.). You can get current traffic conditions in every major city, from Houston to DC.

Check it out. Another big plus - on a road trip you never have to worry about losing a signal when you are on the road to Dallas, San Antonio, etc. like you do with conventional radio.

Big changes ahead...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Photo: This morning's sunrise over Clear Lake.

Fresh winds blowing this morning, our first real taste of cool air and fall.

Yesterday I was at Brady's Landing and heard Michael Berry talking about the election. He said a couple interesting things to calm nerves. It was his opinion that President-Elect Obama is NOT a socialist and that he thought he would be smart enough to govern as a centrist to avoid the Clinton backlash that happened in 1994 after going too far too fast.

But I found his explanation of the results lacking in fact and objective analysis. He blamed the loss on "Republicans who stayed home" -- despite the fact that turnout was at historic highs for both sides.

Second, he said the business is a cycle and we just happened to have an election during a "down" cycle. He didn't say it was a financial meltdown caused by Wall Street getting drunk that we haven't seen since the 1930's - a lot more than an ordinary business cycle.

As a result the folks in that room got a nice (Michael is a nice guy) but one-sided view of what happened. Not addressed was that our bad paper has given the rest of the world that bought it an equal dose of man-made financial disaster that has put Europe's biggest economy in recession and makes everything worse worldwide.

I finished yesterday at the UH Cullen Auditorium listening to Rick Steve's (PBS) talk about Iran, Amsterdam coffee shops that sell Marijuana instead of coffee and the need for Americans to travel overseas and broaden their view of the world. His comments on how the Iranians treated him were insightful and fascinating. The Iranian people were very friendly to him even after they discovered he was American. Watch for it on PBS - it should be a must-see program with Iran's nuclear ambitions still a big deal.

Steves also mentioned that Europe is on a $500 billion infrastructure upgrade - building high speed "bullet trains" etc. everywhere. That means that China is spending $500 billion on infrastructure, Europe is spending $500 billion on infrastructure so both will have 21st Century stuff, the Middle East is doing the same with their Petrodollar wealth, while we borrow $700 billion to buy stock in banks and our highways and bridges are falling apart.

Since China has $2 trillion in savings made from selling us stuff to buy at WalMart we should insist they spend part of their $500 billion buying U.S. pollution control technology to clean their thick brown air.

We should tap the Mideast billions for road upgrades in the U.S.-- roads that run on their oil.

Finally, we need to invest $500 billion in our own infrastructure starting in 2009 - which would create jobs and give us the modern transportation and high tech systems we will need to stay competitive in the global economy. We need to save the 1 in 10 jobs connected to the auto industry while still requiring them to gut 7 levels of management at GM and invest in R&D and fuel efficient vehicles instead of coddling them as we have done for the past 30 years.

If we are going to stay in the game, we need a change folks!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Managing in the 24/7 World

The office today is mobile.

In a tight economy combined with financial concerns it becomes more important to manage efficiently and stay on top of things. This is what I do to make that happen.

I have a Blackberry World Edition 8330 phone that allows me to have a mini laptop 24/7 for email, phone calls and checking the calendar. It syncs to the laptop and vice versa so I am always up-to-date. it also lets me make calls anywhere on the planet. Yet it is still a local call for anyone calling me 24/7.

I also use the Blackberry as my connection with the laptop when a wireless is no where in sight. I discovered on a road trip how disconnected it can be to have a laptop and no Internet. I was totally cut off - unable to send or receive a document.

I fixed it so that now my phone connects the laptop to the Internet when I am remote. It still works as a phone at the same time.

Believe me, things change fast. In the old days I once missed an important radio appointment during a campaign because I forgot to write down a date after getting a call in the car. Now I don't miss anything I can put on the calendar.

My GPS is my new best friend - I go no where without my TomTom. It doesn't require a subscription and is simple. It has been a life and major time saver -- there is nothing worse than missing an exit in Houston. LOL. Don't leave home without it.

Got to run. Service and networking is No. 1, 2 and 3 priorities...Better days ahead.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Showing the World

The photo of President Bush and President-Elect Obama sitting together in the oval office is historic and special.

It shows the world that special American role model of peaceful transition between opposing political camps. Others should strive to copy it in places like Zimbabwe, China and Russia.

In the meantime now the auto makers want a bailout - GM with 7 layers of excessive management and refusal to build high mileage cars, and Ford, whose highly paid executives have cut R&D to zero, insuring failure. If they get money it should be required they cut the bureaucracy and invest in hybrid, high mileage cars to compete.

Otherwise it will be a failure and more wasted money. Detroit's management has become fossilized and narrow. They try to build 30 different cars that look the same - the Japanese use a fraction of platforms and are more efficient. Detroit's global competitors are making profits by using their brains and building high mileage cars right here in the U.S. I've seen the giant Japanese factory in Mississippi.

Detroit has to change to survive and, eventually, thrive. Our financial institutions also need to be reformed.

Now we see reports that the Fed is refusing to release the names of the recipients of $2 trillion of taxpayer money. Where is American transparency here? A major overhaul across the board appears necessary.

These are amazing times.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The change the GOP Needs - From a former candidate

The Change the GOP Needs
I was a GOP candidate as recently as 2006, in a primary challenge against Tom DeLay. I can tell you why the GOP lost this election in a landslide - and the change it needs to make. I doubt they want to hear it.

I went from a GOP candidate (in 2000, 2002 and 2006) to an Obama Precinct Captain in 2008. I made the change because I saw the party go from the moderate “kinder and gentler” approach of George H.W. Bush, to a narrow, highly-negative partisan approach with a focus on religious subsets under leaders like Tom DeLay and the current President.

At a time when Houston needed rail transit and federal dollars were abundant and budgeted, he had those funds stripped from Houston, leaving us over a decade behind in our transportation capacity. He would claim to support NASA, yet strip $1 billion from its budget over winning the primary.

It was all about using power to hurt. It was all about demonizing a target group, be it minorities, immigrants, Muslims, gays, whoever the next target of hate would be. That hate speech by the party against a group (immigrants for example) is what drove away Hispanic voters that had voted for George W. Bush four years ago.

The GOP has allowed itself to become too narrow and mean. The campaign speech about “palling around with terrorists” is the type of hate speech that has driven away a majority of voters to the Democratic Party that has been expanding its tent to include moderate centrists like me who have been driven out of the GOP.

I have heard some conservative commentators blame the GOP loss on “moderates” when the fact is that most moderates have left the GOP –pushed out would be a better description. All that is left are the hard core which is a small, dwindling group of mainly aging white, religious voters. The GOP convention was 94% white people. The Democratic convention was a sea of colors that looks like the real world of our growing neighborhoods. Even President-Elect Obama gained votes from evangelicals who believe in protecting the earth from climate change and other moderate issues.

When I walked Texas Congress district 22 in places like Ft. Bend, every three houses had three different ethnic group living there – Chinese, Indian, Muslim, White, etc. Those changes have made a GOP-drawn district more diverse and Democrat-leaning in recent years. It will eventually switch to Democrat as more diverse people move into one of the fastest growing counties in the United States.

Change is happening in America. We are diverse in cultures and lifestyles. We need more tolerance, not less. We need more bipartisanship to solve our problems, not less. The Democrats have embraced that diversity that is our strength – Jews living peacefully next to Muslims, Pakistani’s next to Indians, in places like Sugar Land, Texas that doesn’t happen in other places in the world.

Until the GOP stops focusing on narrow groups and narrow issues and begins offering fair solutions for the new majority, it will remain a minority party. Some of the GOP evangelical base is even attacking other Christians, e.g., Catholics, for their beliefs. Why should a political party favor one religion over another or even one subset of Christianity over another?

The GOP has lost its way. It has gotten off in the weeds and needs to return to the mainstream as a centrist party if it wants to return to power.
To his credit, President-Elect Obama and his Chief of Staff are Centrists, not leftists. Americans want a Centrist government, not either extreme.

In my opinion this is the change the GOP needs to make. I wish them luck. In the meantime I will continue supporting centrists who provide real solutions to real problems facing all Americans.

Right now the only Centrists in town are in the Democratic Party.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Cuba How a Hurricane Could Change a Failed Cuba Policy

As I write this Cuba is being hit by the third hurricane in 2008 – Hurricane Paloma, a Category 4 hurricane. We should use this disaster to rectify a mistake that has left Castro in power for over 50 years. We allowed Castro to paint Americans as bad -- and made it possible for his countrymen to believe that lie by prohibiting Americans from visiting Cuba. That policy ended up costing the GOP Cuban-American votes in 2008 that it normally gets.

Hurricane Paloma is a rare late-season event, occurring at the same time blizzards are sweeping over our northern States. Hurricane Paloma is the second strongest November hurricane in recorded history, and it has caused extensive damage in Cuba. It also creates a rare opportunity to start a dialogue long overdue – with Cuba. Both President Bush and President-Elect Obama should offer Cuba humanitarian assistance if we are truly the “Christian/ religious” nation people say we are.

Cuba was also hit by Hurricane IKE, which didn’t stop until it hit Houston as a CAT 3 then it went on to knock out power and leave a path of destruction all the way to Ohio. The Cuban people have lost most of their crops and our government has cut the money Cubans in the U.S. can legally send to relatives in Cuba. It is our government that has prohibited our right as Americans to travel freely to Cuba. Cuba does not prohibit Americans from visiting. It is natural disaster made worse by bad policy.

We have had dealings with Communist China, Vietnam and Russia for decades. It makes no sense to deal with them but not a country with a Communist government only ninety miles from our shore. Cuba is shunned for being “Communist” when we routinely travel to and buy billions of goods each year from “Communist China” without a second thought. Cuba has the same type of government as China, so why the problem with having better relations with Cuba?

We fought a war in Vietnam and now our companies are doing business in Vietnam and we are buying goods from them. The Bush administration actually signed a Bilateral Trade Agreement with Vietnam! Yet they have made even visiting Cuba a crime! It is a nonsensical double standard.

This not only makes no sense -- it gives Castro an advantage since Cubans are kept from meeting real Americans, which would show the Cuban people that we are not the bad people Fidel says we are. This policy needs to change under an Obama administration. Three hurricanes and human suffering provide an opening for a new dynamic in our international relationships.

Offering humanitarian assistance to Cuba and a lifting of travel restrictions on Americans would be a positive step for new American leadership to establish a new image in the world. The new Cuban leader, Raul Castro, has been more open to change than his dying brother Fidel, who benefitted the most from American isolation of his island. Our policy has been a failure - it kept Cubans in the dark about the outside world. Our trade with China and contact with Americans has made China an entrepreneurial country with a market economy – not a State economy.

Letting Cubans see Americans in action, helping supply some basic necessities like food, would finally let Cubans know Americans as people instead of whatever Fidel Castro said about us. Fidel Castro is able to control the image of America to Cubans when Americans were nowhere to be seen. It’s pretty hard to paint Americans as ugly when we have access to the people and they can see relief supplies stamped “USA” to demonstrate the good that is represented by ordinary Americans. The Cuban government does not prevent Americans from talking to Cubans they meet. It is American policy that keeping us from talking.

According to sources, 2008 is the only season in recorded history to feature a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) in every month from July to November. 2008 is also the second most destructive season on record, behind only the 2005 season, with up to $52 billion in damage.

These storms are international agents of disaster. But they could also prove to be international agents of change – for better relations. Hurricane Paloma should be used as an opportunity to offer to help Cubans recover from three Hurricanes and build a new relationship between our nations. It could help reduce global hostilities, by treating Cubans with the same respect we have extended to Chinese and Vietnamese.

We need to change a policy that long ago lost any connection to reason.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Hurricane and Blizzard Same Time - A First

We are witnessing a first in weather - a Hurricane and a Blizzard at the same time. It's a record number of Hurricanes, which are rare in November even though the season does not close until November 30.

Having a Hurricane AND a blizzard is really rare and bizarre at the same time. Get prepared folks.

I am in Dallas and heard on the TV that Ford Motor is hurting financially and has decided NOT to invest in new car designs, etc. NUTS! How does any business survive, especially a car company, by NOT investing in new technology? It's a death warrant decision. WHO is the "genius" that approved this idiotic strategy that guarantees failure?

Even our companies need a CHANGE in direction - and a big does of common sense. They need to invest in greener cars. Energy efficiency sells because it saves money. Ford is like a bloated bureaucracy that has lost touch with the entrepreneurial drive that has made the Japanese more successful in the American market than the American carmakers.

It proves that coddling industry does more harm than good. Because the Bush DC didn't force Detroit to get more fuel efficient, they never tried. So they had only bloated gas hog cars to sell, while the Japanese became more efficient and grabbed the lions share of the market with hybrid technology, etc. It's time we learned to be innovative again.

Got to run..

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Dallas - 20 million

I'm in Dallas for a convention.

Watching local TV, the local news reports that DART, their rail system has carried over 20 MILLION passengers since it started. Amazing.

A major success. It reminded me of the time I heard my Congressman at the time, Tom DeLay, tell his own constituents that "Dallas rail is a complete failure" which was a complete false picture of reality. But his people elected him even after he was indicted, as they seem to be doing with Ted Stevens in Alaska.

And because of him turning back over $100 million in rail money owed to Houston, our transit system lags Dallas' and most other cities in the U.S. This was shortsighted and damaged our mobility. In fact, since 80's Mayor Kathy Whitmire proposed a Monorail, Houston's rail mobility has been held back by subsequent leadership like Mr. DeLay.

Now we shall see what kind of representative Mr. Olson makes. He is a minority rep with no seniority; yet his district includes NASA. It's like a new crewmember showing up after the Exxon Valdez has run aground on the reef. A new Captain is in charge and the crewmember with an office in the basement won't really play a major role that Mr. Lampson could as a 10-year seniority member who was to be on the Science Committee funding NASA.

Not sure how it will play out but it can't help NASA or the cities whose funding are controlled by the majority Democrat party.

I read in the Dallas paper that the Democrats picked up more seats here also, except for a Commissioner's Court seat. Red Texas has big areas of blue spreading out.

Obama appears to be reaching out across the aisle and that is good - McCain is doing the same.

It is in our best interest that everyone help bail out the boat at this point.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

America Makes History

America showed once again its specialness by making history yesterday.

President-Elect Obama was elected by getting more votes from white voters than John Kerry got in 2004 and Al Gore did in 2000.

Now we have done something to stun the world - showing it the best of that American Dream where a poor kid with no family connections or inherited wealth can rise to become President. How many other countries can claim that? In most countries only a small elite have that opportunity.

John McCain gave a concession speech that was deep and meaningful. It was the best he has ever done. He was a gentleman and a gracious loser, unlike those he silenced for booing.

Harris County also changed yesterday - we now have a mix of Democrat and Republican leadership instead of only the GOP in charge. This is better for all of us.

It also appears that the Democrats will not have a 60 seat lock on the U.S. Senate, so the new President will still need to reach across the aisle to get bills passed. And that is also a good thing. I expect it to keep things in the centrist zone, not too far left -- after being too far right too long. Voters rejected that extremism yesterday, and they would do the same if Democrats venture beyond moderate/centrist policies, or center left.

Americans have put a new face on our leadership that sends a strong message to the rest of the world. The Ship of State has been put on a big reef. It will take a massive effort with that global connection to get us off and repair the damage. It is necessary so we can sail back into blue waters.

If the world could vote, they would have voted by a substantial majority for Obama as well. We have the potential of a better future, which will take working closely with our neighbors from Europe to Asia.

A new chapter for America, and the world, has opened...

In Houston, the guy who ran the positive ads got elected County Judge as a Republican, showing the power of a positive campaign.

All the Democrat judge candidates won, breaking a 100% GOP lock on judgeships. That swept out both bad and good people. It was a sweep, but big sweeps can clean out the good along with the bad.

The outgoing bad was Sharolyn Wood, who abused her power as a judge in at least one case that I am personally aware of -- making a Plaintff pay for the Defendant's legal fees (over $40,000) when it was the Defendant's vehicle that had malfunctioned from a computer error that caused it to suddenly accelerate when it was still new. It surged against a gas meter and would not shut off. Awarding a defective product attorney's fees for trying to get a settlement (and the car fixed) was neither fair or just. Ms. Wood should have been removed a long time ago.

The outgoing good (GOP) judge is Judge Lamar McCorkle - a fair and honest judge in my dealings with him.

The problem is when you pick judges based on party instead of their judicial qualities, you lose the good with the bad.

With the return of two parties to Harris County we achieve some balance - instead of a one-party monopoly that leads to a failure of checks and balances.

If a party DA won't prosecute another Republican (or a Democrat another Democrat) then we get the abuses we saw in Sheriff Thomas and DA Chuck Rosenthal's offices --because no one is calling out bad behavior of their compatriots who are crossing the legal line.

If we do this right, we have better days ahead of us, locally and nationally.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Day Before Historic Election

Photo: Sunrise this morning in Seabrook, looking at Clear Lake - with Galveston Bay across the bridge....A beautiful day, the day before an historic election regardless of selection - either the oldest President-Elect or America's first black President.

Tomorrow is it: If you haven't, GO VOTE! That is what makes America great.

Someone asked me: "If you are 50% white, why are you classified as black?" I don't know what the answer is; nor do I care. We focus too much on surface issues like color, religion or sex instead of real issues, like having a global economic game plan that gets us secure financially again.

It's time to get this election over with so we can open a new chapter of American history and move on with a new President.

The good news: When you look at the financial hole we are in, we have no way to go but up!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I talked to my 80 year mom in Iowa today - and she's turning people to vote OBAMA! She's telling people that Palin is too risky for an old President, and we need a new economic direction! Her husband Gilbert also voted Obama.

I have NEVER seen her do anything like this before.

Yesterday, I discovered more damaged buildings where IKE had ripped apart enough of the windows to cause major internal damage. The Houston building I saw is owned by a billionaire Chinese real estate magnate. They had scaffolding filling the atrium to the roof. It looked like a moonscape inside, with huge machines blocking tenants doors and large hoses a foot or more in diameter running down halls and out windows.

IKE has proven to be a wake up call.

People no longer look at me like I'm from Mars when I talk about the need for window security to keep property from being severely damaged during a high-wind or blast event. But now that the economy has fallen off a cliff, we shall see what value people will put on security.

We will need it regardless who is elected next Tuesday.