Pollster.com shows, as an average of the last five polls about the Texas gubernatorial race, that Rick Perry has a 16 point lead over the nearest contender, as follows:
Perry (R) - 35
Bell (D) - 19
Strayhorn (I) - 18
Friedman (I) - 16
I hope that's wrong and that the independents could pull a little bit more weight. And it's easy to see why Bell would want Kinky to drop out . Strayhorn should want those votes, too. But reading their respective websites it's clear that Strayhorn and Kinky are two very different independents.
The subject near and dear to my heart at this particular point in time is the possibility that Texas voters could get a little control over their government with voter initiative and referendum. Strayhorn was the first to come out in support of voter initiative. And Kinky says he wants it too. So on that subject it's a tie. The unanswered question then would be which of them would be most likely to come through on the promise.
Strayhorn has the bureaucratic experience, and maybe she could actually accomplish some of the things she promises. Or maybe it's just political baggage that could weigh her down.
But Kinky has style. Sure, some of the things he proposes are ridiculous -- Willie Nelson as energy czar? Good grief. Apply for state song writer, Willie, but otherwise stay out of politics. And Kinky, you need to tell us when you are making a joke so we'll know when to believe you and when to laugh.
However, a larger then life governor could certainly put Texas back on the map. And a governor who can make a good joke is someone we could appreciate. Politicians get a tremendous amount of criticism no matter what they do or don't do, so it would be nice to have a governor who can take the heat and dish it back out. Someone who could do that and make us laugh at the same time is someone I could easily vote for.
But for me now, it's a toss up between Strayhorn and Kinky. I'm leaning toward Kinky, but mark me down as undecided. And check back before November 7.
This morning on a tv news show there was a list of things Democrats planned to achieve if the Democratic Party gets a majority in the House and Senate this November. And the top bullet was "end subsidies to oil companies."
Sure enough, go to the Democratic Party website and there it is in bold type as a way to become energy independent: eliminating billions in subsidies for oil and gas companies .
What subsidies are they talking about? If they were talking about ending billions in subsidies to cotton farmers they would definitely be onto something. Unfortunately, no.
Oil and gas is taxed from the moment it reaches the surface of the land until it is ultimately sold to the consumer. So just where are these subsidies and who's getting them? I suspect that they just want to slap yet another tax on the industry. By saying that the tax isn't high enough, then they've defined a subsidy. It's the difference between the taxes the energy industry is paying now versus the taxes after a Democratic tax hike. Too clever. Too clever.
People who live alone have a peculiar set of worries. Dying alone is one of the nagging fears that elderly people are said to have. But most of us, elderly or not, probably wouldn't want to die all alone with no one knowing about it. The body gets stiff, the flys come in. Headline: “Body Found in Advanced Stage of Decomposition, Neighbors Gawk, Retch.”
And many people have meat eating animals living in the house with them. Ever wonder what those animals would do if they were shut up a house with an empty food bowl and a rotting carcass? Anyone who has seen the slide show occasionally put on by the Midland Police Department Identification Unit will know what happens.
Or perhaps it's only an accident, but one serious enough to render the person unable to summon help. “I've fallen, and I can't get up!” That was an advertising slogan before it became the punchline. Life Alert is the company, and for a fee it provides a service that will call a dispatcher when the customer presses the button. The customer had to have provided a house key to some trusted neighbor who would get a phone call from the dispatcher and a request to go check it out whenever the button is pushed.
Short personal story --
I was one of those key holders a few years ago. They asked if I would do it, and being a neighborly person, I said "Sure." But a year passed before I got the first call from a dispatcher, and by then I had completely forgotten about it. The poor dispatcher had to explain the program to a sleepy me one morning around 3 a.m. It had a happy ending, however.
Odessa's alternative --
There's an alternative available in some communities. The Communication Unit of the city of Odessa, Texas, has an "Are You O.K." program whereby a participant gets a daily computer generated phone call. If he/she doesn't answer, then a key holder is called or someone is dispatched to see what's wrong. The program consists of high tech software -- if MS-DOS is still considered high tech -- along with some hardware supplied by Northland Innovations Corporation of St. Paul, MN.
The "Are You O.K." program has been in service in Odessa for about 20 years, and it has paid off. There was an elderly man who was trying to get a window unstuck. And somehow the window closed on his finger. He was trapped. He couldn't get the window raised or his finger out. When he didn't answer his daily call, an officer was dispatched, and he was rescued from his predicament. Ahhhhh, another happy ending.
And here's a special thanks to Les Blalock. He's the Executive Director of the Ector County 911 Emergency Communication District in Odessa, and he took me on a tour of the Odessa Communication Unit the other day. You may be more familiar with Les as the author and proprietor of West Texas TV where he helps the rest of us understand the intricacies of HDTV. Thanks again, Les.
We all get them, the earnest emails seeking an honest and reliable person who will simply allow millions of U.S. Dollars to be transferred to his/her bank account from South Africa with the promise of a reward of a sizable percentage of the total. It's a 419 scam, of course, and most of us simply junk the email without reading it.
Brad Christensen has really turned the tables on some of those scammers. He'll lead them on, letting them almost smell his money, but oh those late flights, those missed appointments. So close yet so far.
His email exchanges with some of those scammers are on display at Quatloos, and It's an interesting read. He is every bit as ingenious as they are at deception. And the best part is that they fall for it.
Few of us have the patience to do this, so it's a vicarious thrill to see someone else do it. Check it out.
One typically doesn't notice the smell of fresh air, but when the air smells, there's something there that shouldn't be there. One of the things most people in West Texas appreciate is the clean air that gets continually refreshed by the prevailing breezes.
So when TXU puts a move on the state to build 11 new coal fired plants in Texas something just doesn't smell right. Governor Rick Perry fast tracked the state regulatory approval of the plants, and now we learn that Gov. Perry accepted contributions of the sum of $35,000 from TXU's PAC and $52,000 from TXU chairman Erle Nye. Source: Houston Chronicle.
So what's the rush? According to the Wall Street Journal link (subscription req.), TXU is trying to get "grandfathered" ahead of more stringent pollution requirements to come. Excerpt:
TXU contends Texas needs a lot more power, and it wants to be the company to provide it. Critics of its $11 billion construction program see another motivation: The federal government may slap limits on carbon-dioxide emissions. If it does, plants completed sooner may have a distinct advantage. That's because the government may dole out "allowances" to release carbon dioxide, and plants up and running when regulations go into effect may qualify for more of them than those built at a later date.
TXU opposes such regulations, which could force power companies to build more complicated and expensive plants. Other big utility companies, including American Electric Power Co., Xcel Energy Inc. and Duke Energy, have proposed newer-style plants that release fewer pollutants and make it easier to control carbon-dioxide emissions.
The 11 new plants TXU plans to build over the next four years would double its electricity output -- and more than double its carbon-dioxide emissions. The Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy group, estimates that TXU's annual carbon-dioxide emissions would jump to as much as 133 million tons in 2011 when its new plants are completed, from 55 million tons in 2004, numbers that the company confirms. The increase would make TXU the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide among U.S. power companies, up from No. 10 today.
So are carbon dioxide emissions something that should be curtailed? Well, the debate is certainly not settled on that one.
However, efforts are under way to spend $1 billion in taxpayer dollars to find a way to create a zero-emissions fossil fuel plant. It's FutureGen. And it could even end up at in West Texas as Penwell is in the final four areas under consideration.
Until then, what are the alternatives to coal fired electricity plants? Well there's natural gas. With natural gas prices at less than half of what they were a year ago then that should be a possibility. Or have we run out of natural gas already? I sincerely doubt it.
And nuclear energy hardly ever gets mentioned these days. Surely the safety procedures in place today make it as safe for its neighbors as a coal fired plant.
And in the meantime we should certainly consider Governor Perry's actions on behalf of TXU when we go to the polls in November.
Unrelated: A City of Midland news release reported that this morning (10/16/06) a bird or squirrel on TXU equipment caused a power outage for 16,000 Midlanders resulting in 431 unnecessary calls to 911.
There he was on tv, the doting daddy defending his little angel, the 14 year old girl who wrote"kill Bush" on her MySpace space.
My Mom, may she rest in peace, discouraged political and religious discussions at the dinner table. But one has to wonder what the dialog was like at Julia Wilson's family dinner so that little Julia felt perfectly comfortable making that MySpace posting.
The political atmosphere these days is thick with a burning desire to punish someone. And hatred of George Bush is oh so popular. So for Sacramento parents who want their children to grow up sharing their venomous hatred for George Bush then, by all means, pump that hatred into the little cherubs.
The local Fire Academy will graduate in about a week, and last night they had their final training session at Harris Field on the outskirts of Midland, Texas. It consisted of training on jaws of life and putting out a structure fire, a gas wellhead fire, and a pit fire.
We can sleep tight knowing those guys and others like them are prepared to do what it takes to save lives and put out fires. Thanks fellows.
And if you had rather watch a tv documentary about firefighters, then you are in luck. Tonight at 7 central the History Channel will air Into the Fire about firefighters around the country, and it looks to be an informative and interesting program.
Mr. Pink hated his name. That was the name assigned by the crime boss to Steve Buscemi's character in the movie Reservoir Dogs. The prisoners of Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who instituted the pink underwear and pink sheets policy in his jail, probably hate that, too.
And now we learn from a WOAI article that the Mason County, Texas, sheriff has adopted the policy.
MASON, Texas (AP) - Three county inmates in the jail here lay on their bunks, not saying much.
They wore pink jumpsuits and pink slippers, and one was wrapped in pink sheets. They were surrounded by pink bars and pink walls.
They were not comfortable.
It's an idea worth trying. Here in Midland, Texas, there's an effort afoot to get the County taxpayers to build a new jail house or expand the old one at considerable expense. So any low cost effort to reduce recidivism should be welcomed. See GritsForBreakfast for some more suggestions that might reduce jail population.
Last year the Midland County Jail flunked an inspection because they didn't meet the 1:48 jailer to prisoner ratio. (See an article about the issue along with a history of the jail at MyWestTexas).
The jailers routinely relocate prisoners to other facilities to alleviate overcrowding, and there's gossip suggesting that those in charge intentionally failed to relocate enough inmates prior to that inspection so as to get a failing grade to further their efforts to get a new jail built. Surely they wouldn't do that, would they?
In the meantime, let's put the prisoners in pink. It might work.
Today on the Morning Drive a member of the K-9 Unit of the Odessa Police Department was a guest along with his K-9 assistant. And he told Robert and Kurt that a trained drug-sniffing dog could detect drugs sealed in a metal container in a gas tank.
I've heard that story before, only that previous time it was told as a true story with specific details. According to the story, a dog indicated that he smelled some illegal drug contraband at or in a truck. And the truck had to be stripped in order to find the drugs which had been welded in air tight steel box which was suspended inside the truck's gasoline tank.
Maybe that's urban legend, but it just doesn't pass the smell test.
When we smell something we are smelling tiny particles given off by the thing we smell. A hamburger sizzling on the grill will give off enough microscopic pieces of it to set off our olfactory senses. It will send a dog's anxiety level through the roof, too.
The dog in the story may have given an alert, the truck may have been searched, and drugs may have been found. But it would be impossible for a dog to smell anything that was in that steel box surrounded by gasoline. That's Amazing Kreskin territory. Perry Mason would have had fun at that trial.
By that measure a dog could distinguish an unopened can of dog food from an unopened can of peas. Ain't gonna happen.
For more about smells, a tutorial on the sense of smell can be found here.
The Midland Reporter-Telegram has some very intelligent readers. Case in point, Terry Youngblood, who wrote a letter to the editor which was published on 10/8/06 in which he criticizes an article that ran in the paper a week ago. Click the image for a larger view of that letter.
The front page article in question was at the top of the fold of the 10/2/06 edition of the local paper, and the headline proclaimed: Proposed Border Fence Could Face Obstacles. See it online with a slightly expanded title here.
It seems like common sense to secure the border. Is there any developed country that doesn't at least make an effort to secure its borders?
But let's look at why some U.S. citizens would want an open border. I suspect that the main reason is because they would feel guilty about keeping out poor people who simply want to make a decent wage so that they can support their families. Give us your tired, your poor, etc. And who can't feel sympathy for some of the immigrants and the ordeals they have to face in getting to a job in the U.S?
There's also the partisan hatred which generates opposition to anything offered up by the other side. But let's put that one aside for another time.
The issue here is the news editor's decision to put that article at the top of page one. They make it look so easy -- scan the news wires, pick a story that fits your point of view, hit enter.
-Save the Jarguarundis -
According to the people quoted by the writer of that story, the fence shouldn't be built because the ocelots and jarguarundis wouldn't be able to get to the river. (No mention of whether they actually drink that water.) And a fence might cut off part of a 72 acre butterfly park and otherwise affect the ecology of the area.
But then we get to the best part. In a statement that should make Chambers of Commerces everywhere proud, there's this:
Nancy Millar, vice president and executive director of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce's Convention and Visitors Bureau, said McAllen is a top shopping destination for Mexican nationals. A fence could stymie that economic traffic the community has come to rely on.
So now we know why illegal immigrants are coming to the U.S. To shop. Who knew? (Ms. Millar must have forgotten about gates.)
But there's the answer to the border problem. People who want to cross the Southern border to the U.S. illegally in order to work can simply go into the retail business in Mexico. Take the product to the customer. Problem solved.
Update: Elephants cross the border undetected. Hilarity ensues. (Via numerous sources.)
Many guys who grew up in West Texas spent at least a summer doing time on a drilling rig. Back then it was a somewhat dangerous job. You had your hard hat and your common sense, but no OSHA.
I recall one time we were tripping for a bit, and there was a loud noise from above. "BANG!" The other floor hand was experienced, and he ran for dear life. In the meantime, your humble blogger simply stood there like the stupid teenager he was, wondering what happened. Fortunately nothing fell, but for me it was another lesson learned. Noise from above? Run like hell.
The boss was the driller, but the guy who got my respect was the derrickman. There he was, up there on the monkey board slinging those pipes as if they were toothpicks. That drill pipe was heavy, and it was hard work. But a good derrickman could look like an acrobat as he stood up there tossing that pipe around.
Last year I suggested that we drill for oil in the city of Midland. (See Pump Jacks in the Parks -- Let's Drill for Oil.) That was tongue-in-cheek as I'm in no position to actually make it happen. But it is interesting that we now see so many drilling rigs right on the edge of the city limits. I'm hoping to get some photos of a derrickman in action, but it will take a lot of luck and coincidence.
The photos you see here were taken just East of Fairgrounds Road on the city's edge. They're coming! They're coming!
Oh yeah, the disclaimer: The use of the word "man" in this posting, as in "derrickman," is not intended as gender discrimination but is simply a repeat of the common usage of the job descriptions of a time long ago. Who knows, maybe derrickwomen outnumber derrickmen by now.
Some of the new tv shows this season are quite entertaining. However I should note that I tape action shows to watch while I ride the stationary bike, so the shows I end up watching may all have something in common.
For example, Smith , a new show on CBS, is an exiting knockoff of Thief which had a one season run on FX. And they were both knockoffs of the gangsters-with-real-families theme that started with the Sopranos.
Anyway, "Smith" has Ray Liota playing a master thief who is the brains behind some some pretty fantastic heists. But, the show got caught in the ratings battle, and CBS has tossed the show in the lockup. Too bad. Now we probably won't find out how they pull off their next score unless CBS flips it over to another channel.
But, all is not lost. We still have Heroes. It's a knockoff of USA Network's The 4400 in which some of the characters have unique super natural abilities. Adding to the magic of "Heroes" is that one of the heroes is a high school cheerleader in Odessa, Texas. They got the high school wrong and the newspaper wrong. But there she is in full living color, the invincible Claire Bennet of Odessa Texas.
Heroes has gotten off to a somewhat slow start, though. One great thing about "The 4400" was that each episode told its own story within the larger story -- characters, a conflict and a resolution. Not so with Heroes in which the first two episodes have simply introduced us to the characters and tried to get us to share their angst over their super powers. Oh yeah, there's a villain in there stalking them, too. He may even be Claire's adopted daddy. To be continued.
But it has some potential, that is, if NBC doesn't cancel it before it gets good. Hang in there Claire Bennet.