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Mayor Parker Raising Health Insurance Premiums For Some City Retirees By 50% After Saying In Her Inaugural Address These Are People Willing To Brave Fire Ants

Houston Mayor Annise Parker has allowed insurance premiums paid by retired city employees to go up by nearly 50%.

Here is what Mayor Parker said about Houston city employees in her inaugural address

“I also know that the city’s workforce is one of the best anywhere. I see them every day; I know many of them—and I know the commitment they have to doing a good job. We hear on the news about the small disasters, the things that go wrong. In truth, we rarely notice the smooth workings of this city—how much of it goes right. So we miss the smaller, invisible events: the two Water Department crews who worked through a cold February night to repair a sewage leak. The nurse at one of our clinics who worked a double shift because they were short staffed — and did that three days in a row!  The Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care employee who rescued a dog from a drainage culvert in the middle of a thunderstorm — getting thoroughly soaked and ant-bitten in the doing!”

(Here are facts about fire ants in Texas.)

This is from the Houston Chronicle of March 30-

“Beginning May 1, more than 4,000 retirees under 65 will face a nearly 50% increase in their insurance premiums, a budget fix the Mayor imposed without consulting City Council.”

Mayor Parker is not a heartless person. I think she cares about others.

Though at the same time Mayor Parker was silent on the federal health care reform that will benefit many in Houston. She was silent on this Houston-releated concern even as she spoke up on the federal census, federal EPA standards, and possible job losses at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Mayor Parker was clear from the beginning that she would be focused on the city budget and the city debt.

Yet Mayor Parker is no longer our City Controller as she was before she became our Mayor. Her focus now must involve the human needs of all our city.

During her campaign, Ms. Parker allowed herself to be portrayed as a so-called fiscal conservative. She wanted potential Republican voters to see her as one of them, and she wanted other voters to see her as a watchdog over city funds.

Ms. Parker also knew that the great majority of Houstonians and poor Houstonians would not vote in the 2009 election.  She knew the unmet needs of much of the city could be ignored in her campaign.

In a city of over two million people, only something like 155,000 people voted in the race for Mayor.

Mayor Parker has shown strong leadership in taking on entrenched racism and sexism at our Houston Fire Department.

Social justice is an economic concern as well as about matters of human rights.

Mayor Parker was reported in the Chronicle story to be willing to consider reversing her decision on the insurance premiums.

I hope  Mayor Parker will decide that potentially leaving more Houstonians and more Texans uninsured is not the right course.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Why Did God Not Just Reason With Pharaoh?

It is Passover for 2010.

Could someone please explain to me why God did just did not reason with Pharaoh instead of intentionally making him harden his heart to the point where the first born of Egypt had to be killed?

Reasoning with Pharaoh would have set a global precedent for the peaceful resolution of conflict.

I’m not being flippant. I’d just like somebody to explain why another solution was not possible.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

Undersea Volcano Threat For Italy/Undersea Volcanoes Of Asphalt In Gulf Of Mexico

An undersea volcano near Italy could erupt at any moment and launch a terrible tsunami that would have the potential to kill many people.

From the French Press Agency

“Europe’s largest undersea volcano could disintegrate and unleash a tsunami that would engulf southern Italy “at any time”, a prominent vulcanologist warned in an interview published Monday. The Marsili volcano, which is bursting with magma, has “fragile walls” that could collapse, Enzo Boschi told the leading daily Corriere della Sera. “It could even happen tomorrow,” said Boschi, president of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV). “Our latest research shows that the volcano is not structurally solid, its walls are fragile, the magma chamber is of sizeable dimensions,” he said. “All that tells us that the volcano is active and could begin erupting at any time.” The event would result in “a strong tsunami that could strike the coasts of Campania, Calabria and Sicily,” Boschi said. The undersea Marsili, 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) tall and located some 150 kilometres (90 miles) southwest of Naples, has not erupted since the start of recorded history.”

The United States Geological Survey has more information on these submarine volcanos.

Here is a picture of an undersea volcano erupting

I guess you are just sailing along and there it goes.

There is also something called an undersea mud volcano. They have these even in the nearby Gulf of Mexico.

These types of volcanoes seem dirty. They cover the sea floor with mud and goo.

Even more surprising then undersea mud volcanoes (At least I had never heard of them before I wrote this post) , the Gulf of Mexico may be the only place in the world where there are undersea asphalt volcanoes.

Here is how this works—

“When special microorganisms deep below the seafloor degrade petroleum, asphalt remains as a waste product. It is not unusual to find small amounts of this, but in some places in the Gulf of Mexico the asphalt covers more than a square kilometer of sea bottom. The researchers christened one of the mounds “Chapopote”, after the Aztec word for asphalt.”

These facts about asphalt volcanoes come from the Center for Marine Environmental Studies at the University of Breman. This is a university in Germany.

There is an underwater volcano in the Pacific Ocean where many eels live and where there is an odd film of yellow microbe life.

Below is a picture of that undersea volcano.

Here is a You Tube video of an undersea volcano eruption near the Pacific Ocean nation of Tonga.

The Tonga eruption took place last year. There was concern that this eruption would lead to a tsunami. Fortunately , it did not.

Here are some facts about Tonga.

It has been undersea earthquakes that have caused recent tsunamis. However, tsunamis can also be caused by undersea volcanoes.  This is just the concern about the undersea volcano near Italy.

Here is information from the United States Embassy in Japan

“Less commonly, volcanic eruptions can initiate a tsunami – this happens in several ways: if an underwater volcano erupts, the hot lava may heat the surrounding seawater quickly and explosively; massive flows of volcanic debris such as ash can travel down the side of a land volcano and into the ocean, pushing water outwards as it does so; the top of an underwater volcano may collapse downwards, so that the overlying water also drops when compared to water that is further away”

Our Ambassador to Japan is one John V. Roos.

Here is the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center of the National Weather Service.

Here are basic facts about volcanoes from National Geographic.

I hope that things turn out okay in Italy.

March 30, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tulips

Above our the tenth anniversary tulips we have at home.

Here are facts about tulips.

It is nice to have some flowers at home.

Buy some flowers for somebody in your life or for yourself.

March 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 2 Comments

Bob Herbert Is A Consistently Liberal Voice

A consistently liberal voice is editorial opinion columnist Bob Herbert of the New York Times.

Here is what Mr. Herbert recently wrote about the conduct of persons at a so-called Tea party rally—

“A group of lowlifes at a Tea Party rally in Columbus, Ohio, last week taunted and humiliated a man who was sitting on the ground with a sign that said he had Parkinson’s disease. The disgusting behavior was captured on a widely circulated videotape. One of the Tea Party protesters leaned over the man and sneered: “If you’re looking for a handout, you’re in the wrong end of town.” Another threw money at the man, first one bill and then another, and said contemptuously, “I’ll pay for this guy. Here you go. Start a pot.” In Washington on Saturday, opponents of the health care legislation spit on a black congressman and shouted racial slurs at two others, including John Lewis, one of the great heroes of the civil rights movement. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, was taunted because he is gay. At some point, we have to decide as a country that we just can’t have this: We can’t allow ourselves to remain silent as foaming-at-the-mouth protesters scream the vilest of epithets at members of Congress — epithets that The Times will not allow me to repeat here.”

Mr. Herbert  is one of the few national commentators who often writes about the concerns of the poor.

“The people suffering the most drastic employment reversals in this recession have been those who were in the lower-income groups to begin with — the young, less well-educated workers, especially black and Hispanic high school dropouts, and certain categories of service workers, such as food preparers and building cleaners. Blue-collar workers were also hammered, especially those in the construction industry. This is not to say that the middle class has not been hurt badly by the recession. It has been. In last year’s fourth quarter, the group with household incomes of $40,000 to $49,000 had a jobless rate of 9 percent, close to the disastrous national average. The $50,000 to $59,000 group had a 7.8 percent jobless rate, and households earning $60,000 to $75,000 had a jobless rate of 6.4 percent. The point here is that those in the lower-income groups are in a much, much deeper hole than the general commentary on the recession would lead people to believe. And none of the policy prescriptions being offered by the administration or the leaders of either party in Congress would in any way substantially alleviate the plight of those groups. We talk about the recession as if all of its victims were suffering equally, and all will be helped by some bland, class-and-category-neutral solution. That is so wrong. As the Center for Labor Market Studies explained in its report: “A true labor market depression faced those in the bottom two deciles of the income distribution; a deep labor market recession prevailed among those in the middle of the distribution, and close to a full employment environment prevailed at the top.” Those who believe this grievous economic situation will right itself of its own accord or can be corrected without bold, targeted (and, yes, expensive) government action are still reading from the Ronald Reagan (someday it will trickle down) hymnal.”

Mr. Herbert is worth your attention.

March 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up W/16th Century Cattle Rustling Painting

Here is the weekly posting of the most recent Texas Progressive Alliance round-up. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas. The round-up is at the bottom of this post.

With the round-up this week is a 16th-century painting of cattle rustling.

You think of cattle rustling and cattle raids as something that took place in Texas and in the old west back in cowboy days.

But people have been raiding cattle for a long time.  I guess stealing cattle is good way to get some steak.

The painting above depicts a scene from the Swabian War. This is a war that took place in Germany and Austria in 1499. I had never heard of this war until this evening.

The artist is Luzerner Schilling. Artist Schilling completed this painting in 1513.

The excellent Handbook of Texas Online has facts on cattle rusting in Texas.

From the Handbook—

“Most rustlers of the open-range era were cowboys who had drifted into dubious practices. They knew the cattle country and were adept at roping, branding, and trailing. One needed only to buy a few cows, register a brand, and begin branding strays. Many cowboys’ herds increased so rapidly that some ranchmen refused to hire any hand who had stock of his own. The altering of brands was a frequent practice among rustlers. Instead of the stamp iron used by most cattlemen, the rustler used a running iron-a straight rod with a curve at the heated end. When this was outlawed, he sometimes used a piece of heavy wire that he could bend into any shape and carry in his pocket.”

Here is a 2007 San Francisco Chronicle story about cattle rustling in modern day California.

Here is the round-up. None of these posts have been rustled. The bloggers wrote them on their own.

Last week TXsharon at BLUEDAZE made a video statement at the EPA public hearing on the proposed ozone standards.

Who needs a proctologist when you have former state representative Rick Green running for the Texas Supreme Court? John Coby at Bay Area Houston has a bigger-than-usual pain in his ass.

This week on Left of College Station, Teddy looks at the voter turnout in the Bryan and College Station municipal elections and has to ask the question: does minority rule? Teddy also unpacks the misleading poll on health care reform that the Chamber of Commerce commissioned to attack Democrats in conservative congressional districts. Left of College Station also covers the week in headlines.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants to know why monuments to racism and fear are so important to Republicans. Why not spend taxpayer dollars on something constructive like education or health care?

WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the continuation of skyrocketing homeowners insurance rates in Texas: Homeowners insurance corporations – increasing our pain while Perry, GOP sit idly by. Continue reading

March 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 2 Comments

Father And Young Daughter Attacked For Obama Bumper Sticker—My Hail To The Thief G.W. Bush Bumper Sticker

A father and his ten year old daughter were road rage victims in Nashville, Tennessee after being attacked for having an Obama/Biden bumper sticker on their car.

From WKRN in Nashville

“A Nashville man says he and his 10-year-old daughter were victims of road rage Thursday afternoon, all because of a political bumper sticker on his car. Mark Duren told News 2 the incident happened around 4:30p.m., while he was driving on Blair Boulevard, not far from Belmont University. He said Harry Weisiger gave him the bird and rammed into his vehicle, after noticing an Obama-Biden sticker on his car bumper. Duren had just picked up his 10-year-old daughter from school and had her in the car with him. “He pointed at the back of my car,” Duren said, “the bumper, flipped me off, one finger salute.” …Duren told News 2 that Weisiger honked his horn at him for awhile, as Duren stopped at a stop sign. Once he started driving again, down Blair Boulevard, towards his home, he said, “I looked in the rear view mirror again, and this same SUV was speeding, flying up behind me, bumped me.”…Police say Harry Weisiger is charged with felony reckless endangerment in the incident.”

I once had a bumper sticker that read—”Hail To The Thief–George Bush 2000.”

Knowing that people would tear the bumper sticker off my car, I bought four of them.

In time, the first three were ripped off my car. I was down to the last sticker.

Each time the sticker was ripped off my car, I found it crumpled on the ground near my car.

One afternoon I was driving in Wharton County, Texas and my car broke down. This is when I had the last of the four stickers still on my car.

I bear no ill-will to the people of Wharton County, Texas. But Wharton is a rural and Republican county about 50 miles southwest of Houston and I did not want trouble.

John McCain won Wharton County 65-34 in 2008.

I did not want a sheriff’s deputy to come and club me over the head while I was pulled over on the side of the road. I did not want to be shot by one the fine citizens of Wharton County who was observing the second amendment by packing a rifle as they drove.

So I pulled off the bumper sticker right after I broke down. That was the last of my Hail To The Thief bumper stickers.

Help did arrive and I did get off the side of the road and made it back to Houston.

It should be noted that I lost three stickers in Houston and got nothing but help in Wharton County.

The road rage incident in Nashville is part of a pattern of right-wing assaults on people they disagree with over health care and other issues.

(Below—A billboard that said pretty much what my bumper sticker said. Though my sticker did not have the picture.)

March 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

If Life Begins At Conception, Why Did Not Pro-Lifers Demand That The Unborn Be Counted In The Census?

If life begins at conception as advocates of the so-called right-to-life position assert, why did not these folks demand that the unborn be counted in the Census?

March 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 2 Comments

Why Do These Fire Hydrants Have Antennas?

Above is a picture I took a few days ago of a fire hydrant in Wheaton, Illinois.

You see that the fire hydrant has an antenna. Does anyone know why this fire hydrant would have an antenna?

Below you see another picture of a fire hydrant with an antenna. This hydrant was just down the block for the other hydrant.

Are these hydrants in communication with each other? Like some type of evil robots or cylons?

Are they communicating with the fire station? Are they communicating with the water department about water levels? Is it some type of art?

Here is some history of fire hydrants from Fire Hydrant.org.

March 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 4 Comments

Threats Against Democrats Made By Conservatives Must Be Monitored As Possible Seeds Of Terrorism

Threats are being made against Members of Congress who voted for the Health Care Reform bill.

From the New York Times—

“Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and the majority leader, said at least 10 House members had raised concerns about their personal security since Sunday’s climactic vote, and Mr. Hoyer characterized the cases as serious. At least two Congressional district offices were vandalized and Representative Louise M. Slaughter, a senior Democrat from New York, received a phone message threatening sniper attacks against lawmakers and their families. Ms. Slaughter also reported that a brick was thrown through a window of her office in Niagara Falls, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Democrat of Arizona, said Monday that her Tucson office was vandalized after the vote. The Associated Press reported that the authorities in Virginia were investigating a cut propane line to an outdoor grill at the home of a brother of Representative Tom Perriello of Virginia, after the address was mistakenly listed on a Tea Party Web site as the residence of the congressman. Representative Bart Stupak, Democrat of Michigan and a central figure in the measure’s abortion provisions, reported receiving threatening phone calls. Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking black lawmaker in the House, said he received an anonymous fax showing the image of a noose.”

These types of threats are at the very least acts that merit placement on some type of watch list, and that merit further monitoring and investigation by the the proper authorities.

With all this talk about secession and nullification and with all these threats about votes taken as part of the legitimate workings of our democracy, it is time to wonder about the basic Americanism of many on the right.

Why don’t conservatives want to be part of our country and why can’t they accept the results of the ballot box?

And of course we can’t forget terrorist tax hater Joseph Stack who earlier this year smashed his plane into the side of the IRS building in Austin, Texas.

Threats against Democrats and against people who don’t agree with the far right-wing agenda of the Tea Party and of today’s Republican Party, must be kept under close review by law enforcement and by federal agents responsible for preventing acts of terror.

We can’t allow another Timothy McVeigh to do terrible harm to federal employees and other decent Americans.

March 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

March 25, 2010 Is My Tenth Wedding Anniversary—My Wife Is The Best Person Ever

March 25, 2010 is my tenth wedding anniversary.

My wife is the best person ever.

Above you see a photo of my wife holding a bowling ball on our wedding day in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Here is a poem I once wrote about my wife.

March 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 6 Comments

When Census Jobs Are Done, Will Death Panels Begin To Hire?

When all the Census jobs are done, will the Death Panels begin to hire?

With the Census well underway and with health care reform now passed, I hope Americans will be able to find work on the Death Panels Republicans said would result from the health care bill.

These jobs are needed in these tough times.

I hope that Death Panel work is done in local communities and not outsourced to India. It takes local hometown knowledge to know who should be left to die.

I would consider working on a Death Panel if the wage and benefit package is competitive.

Republicans promised Death Panels. Where are the jobs?!?!

March 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 4 Comments

If In Illinois, You Might Want To See A Park Named After Lincoln

If you are in Illinois, it seems right that you see a park named after Abe Lincoln.

Here is such a park in Wheaton, Ilinois that I saw a few hours ago.

March 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Nephew Builds Structure With Lincoln Logs

My young nephew made a structure today out of Lincoln Logs.

You see that the structure is built in part over a race track.

You also see that there is a corral with animals and trees inside the corral.

I hope that my nephew grows up to be as smart and as creative as is his uncle Neil!

March 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 2 Comments

Brutal Texas Nutballs Help Me Feel Like I Am At Home Even When I Am Far Away

Just because I’m in the Chicago suburbs this evening, does not mean I can’t keep up with the far-right Texans committed to making sure that folks have no health insurance and that Texas never accepts the outcome of the Civil War.

The Congressman who screamed “babykiller” during the health care debate was a Texan. Randy Neugebauer of Lubbock was the guilty party who did the yelling.

Also, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is one of a group of AG’s nationwide who plan to file suit to stop parts of the health care bill.

It’s the same idea of nullification of federal law that the far right has always held dear whenever they feel that the federal government is doing something to make life better.

Does it matter to Mr. Neugebauer and Mr. Abbott that millions of Texans don’t have health insurance?

No—It does not matter.

With these brutal Texas nutballs making news up here in Illinois and nationwide, I have the warm feeling of home even though I am far away.

March 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

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