S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Southwest News Goes National

Today's digest of Southwest stories carries stories that, for whatever reasons, make the national news.

Wild fires in the Texas panhandle are mostly out. Drought, warm temperatures and careless humans have been responsible for the burning of millions of acres of land in Texas,with the loss of several lives and many homes. According to a Dallas Morning News story, from which I quote,

Most wildfires in the Panhandle were finally out Saturday after a long, exhausting week for hundreds of firefighters. The blazes that raced across Texas' drought-stricken High Plains scorched about 960,000 acres, killing 11 people and about 10,000 horses and cattle. Thousands of residents were forced to evacuate their homes after the fires started March 12. . . .
Rain on Friday and Saturday helped firefighters, although lightning strikes caused seven small fires Friday, (Weaver) said. Steady rains were expected to continue all day today throughout the fire-ravaged areas. The fire danger was expected to shift Monday to the southern and western parts of the state . . .

Floods in the Dallas area share headlines with Nebraska show. And it all adds up to just the opposite of drought. Moisture has fallen from the sky with devastating effect. CNN has the story,

A late-winter storm system barreled across the nation's midsection a day before the official start of spring, dumping a foot of snow over South Dakota and Colorado and leaving Texas under severe floods. . . . Further south, heavy rain and thunderstorms over the weekend soaked parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.
More than 5 inches of rain fell Sunday in parts of North Texas, causing high-rising floodwaters that contributed to at least one death, officials said.

Molly Ivins in syndication 3/19/06: "Call it Dumb and Dumber" I quote from her most recent writing gems:

As of Sept. 11, 2001, there were a few hundred people identified with al Qaeda's ideology. Even then, it was unclear that the U.S. military was the right tool for the job. Now, Rumsfeld is apparently prepared to put the full might of our forces into this fight indefinitely, backed by the full panoply of ever-more expensive weapons and the whole hoorah. I don't think the people who got us into Iraq should be allowed to do this because, based on the evidence of Iraq, I don't think they have the sense God gave a duck.
On top of everything else, Rumsfeld is now circulating a grand strategy for the long war written by Newt Gingrich. Am I the only person covering politics who ever noticed that Gingrich is actually a nincompoop? When Newt bestrode the political world like a colossus (Time magazine's Man of the Year in 1995), many people took him seriously -- but he was a fool then, too. The Republicans were so thrilled to have someone on their side who had ideas, they never seemed to notice Newt's were
From orphanages to space colonies, it was all shallow but endearingly enthusiastic futurism. Gingrich was the kind of person who read a book or two on something and would then be quite afire as to how this was going to fit into some shining future. Republicans are so amnesiac, they didn't even snicker when Newt turned up recently posing as a respected party elder to give them advice on ethics. Ethics. Next, family values.
I have no idea whom this administration plans to talk into its long war, but I'm sure it won't roll out the new campaign in August. In order to sell this, our "leaders" will have to scare us, assuming some obliging terrorists don't do it for them.

Texas mag on redistricting before Supreme Court - The Texas Observer writer, Dave Denison on 3/10/06, wrote an excellent full exploration of how the case might be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. To quote the opening segments,

The Redistricting Thicket
Do Texas Dems have a prayer with the Supremes? by Dave Denison
The great Texas redistricting battle of 2003 is now under sober (ha!) consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court. From my Massachusetts perch, it’s hard to see how Texas Democrats win this one. I am writing in the week before the March 1 oral arguments and thus without knowledge of whether Justice Clarence Thomas asked thoughtful, penetrating questions and whether Justices Scalia, Roberts, and Alito betrayed deep skepticism of Republican motives. But I’ve just read the briefs from both sides. Stipulating ab initio that I am not a legal expert or even a good prognosticator, I’d say it is pretty clear the Dems are screwed, or as we say up here in the American Athens, scrod.
But it was a good fight! It truly was. Worth those trips to Oklahoma and New Mexico, and the national headlines. And Texas Dems rearing up, not rolling over for Tom DeLay. Plus, now there’s a consolation prize, as DeLay has to sweat it out in the courtrooms and in Congressional District 22. So, no regrets. There’s just too damn many Republicans in Texas these days. Whaddaya gonna do.
Texas Congressman Joe Barton took a bunch of lobbyists on a Texas train ride. The powerful chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce is not the least bit shy about grabbing for the "Tom DeLay Prize" for boldness. Quoting from The Texas Observer magazine online,
In his invitation, Barton wrote, according to news accounts, “During the ride, we’ll have lots of time to talk, play some Texas Hold ’Em, and enjoy some great down home Texas food. This is about as good as it gets.” A few thousand dollars for a train ride and some poker may sound a little steep, but if you’re a lobbyist, it’s a bargain for seven hours with the powerful chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Barton and his staff refused to tell reporters at the time who had contributed.
Fortunately, the recently released Federal Election Commission campaign finance reports are more forthcoming. About 20 PACs each handed over $5,000 checks around the time of the fundraiser, presumably for the privilege of riding with Barton.
Checks from energy companies, including Duke Energy Corp., American Electric Power, and the El Paso Corp., appeared on the campaign finance report within days of the fundraiser—not surprising since Barton’s committee oversees energy policy. Among other PACs listed are the American Podiatric Medical Association PAC, the Deloitte & Touche PAC, the Comcast Corp. PAC, and the TimeWarner PAC. (Barton’s committee will address several telecommunications issues affecting TimeWarner and Comcast in 15 separate hearings this Congressional session, including legislation determining television “decency” standards, and a bill overseeing the national transition to digital TV.)

Deregulated electricity rates in Texas are some of the highest in the nation, according to Star-Telegram writer R.A. Dyer. To quote,
Under electricity deregulation, Texans have paid some of the highest rates in the nation -- a reversal of at least a decade of relatively cheap electricity under the state's old regulated system.
That's the conclusion of a national utility expert, who also reports that those in deregulated states typically have had larger rate increases than customers in states still under regulation. Separate academic reports likewise show, after making adjustments for inflation and other factors, that electricity prices in Texas have gone up since 1996, while those in regulated states have gone down; and that in general terms, electricity prices in the United States have not fallen under competition.
"Deregulation isn't working in the way that most people had hoped," said Kenneth Rose, a senior fellow at Michigan State University who did the study for Virginia regulators. "Evidence that we're gathering -- at least as we had originally thought it would work -- is not bearing out from the customer perspective."

BOOM - it's over -
For all you implosion fans: Several national networks carried the story of the big booms in downtown Fort Worth early Saturday morning. Here is the VIDEO WITH SOUND, courtesy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram website.

SXSW-The party's over, according to Austin The big music festival in Austin was generally a success, with a few hiccups. To quote,

As music festival winds down, visitors, locals offer mixed reviews of biggest-ever SXSW. For the most part Sunday, as festival-goers checked out of motels and hotels to return home and cab drivers counted their tips, regulars again filled Sixth Street's sidewalks and bars. . . .
Bar owners turned in mixed SXSW reviews. John Erwin, who owns B.D. Riley's on Sixth Street, said his receipts rose 11 percent this year. A big reason, Erwin said, was the Irish bands his pub showcased, with St. Patrick's Day once again falling during the music festival.
"I'm a believer of SXSW," Erwin said. "These people have been good to me. They do what they they're going to do, top to bottom, from the people who set it up to the people who plug the amplifiers in."
But elsewhere on Sixth Street, Jackalope bar owner Jason Burton, who with co-workers' help was moving plywood equipment staging boxes back downstairs Sunday, said he's done with the festival.
"To do SXSW, it destroys the character of the bar," Burton said, explaining that he had to move pool tables out of the front downstairs bar to create enough room. "I'd rather take care of my regulars than people who come in once a year."

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