I just finally watched my Tivo'd version of the Sarah Silverman program, where she lost her house key and was "homeless". She did her own modern version of the old classic "Big Rock Candy Mountain". Pretty funny, I thought. As long as you don't think too hard about what it really means to be homeless. (Music starts at 1:38)
Well, we hope you had a good Thanksgiving. This year, we drove down to Georgetown and stayed for a couple of days visiting my mom. Then yesterday, we drove to China Spring to visit my dad.
The kids made out like bandits yesterday with some early gifts from my dad. Among them, a new computer for the family to use. You see, despite having laptops and servers in the house, we didn't have any computer suitable for the kids to use. And I was just getting tired of them begging to use my laptop all the time.
Terrorism in Mumbai I'm really saddened by the tragic acts of terrorism in India of the past few days. I don't look at it in terms of how many Americans were hurt. I look at this as an offense against humanity. We have to continue to hunt down these beasts.
Pipeline Resolution As you might know, I'm a member of the board of CPANA, our neighborhood group formed to deal with proposed gas drilling here. We're supporting reform of eminent domain powers for oil and gas pipeline utilities. We have a letter-writing campaign, and I hope you'll help us. The Lewisville City Council is set to vote on a resolution that we support on Monday night at 7 PM.
Painting the TV Screen Last week, I painted the screen of my 60 inch television. No, I'm not crazy. Our television in the bedroom is a projection TV, and we use the blank wall opposite our bed to view it. The wall had gotten dingy and had nail holes and children's drawings on it. It does seem to make the screen look a lot better. Now I just need to reinstall the surround-sound.
Citizen's Police Academy I'll graduate from Lewisville's Citizens Police Academy on Thursday night. Last week's final week of training was intense. We actually played the part of police officers in a number of various every-day scenarios, and learned just how difficult it can be to make those split-second decisions. In one scenario, my partner and I were to clear a darkened floor of a building, so we went in with flashlights and guns drawn. As we cleared a boiler room, neither of us thought to look UP! That was the fatal mistake, and I got shot by this guy with an AR-15. Also, I ducked behind a prisoner I was handcuffing when her passenger started shooting at me on a traffic stop. There's a really embarrassing picture of that, and I'll post it when I get a copy.
Long story short, I don't think I would want to have to be a police officer. But if I did, I think training would be of utmost importance.
Prop. 8 blacklist Texas Cloverleaf thinks that the big-money supporters of California's anti-gay Proposition 8, should pay a price in their businesses. They're certainly free to use their money to support whatever they want, but we are all free to boycott their products and services.
Cinemark Theaters Highland Homes Apple Orthodontix and others are listed here
It seems that homeowners all over Lewisville are receiving offers on their mineral rights for natural gas. Neighborhoods need to get organized quickly if the want to have any leverage in bargaining with these companies.
Here are the contacts that I have:
Southern Lewisville: CPANA Contact any board member listed on the website. (mostly West of SH 121, South of Fox Ave, East of Old Orchard)
We who live in free market societies believe that growth, prosperity and ultimately human fulfillment, are created from the bottom up, not the government down. Only when the human spirit is allowed to invent and create, only when individuals are given a personal stake in deciding economic policies and benefiting from their success -- only then can societies remain economically alive, dynamic, progressive, and free. Trust the people. This is the one irrefutable lesson of the entire postwar period contradicting the notion that rigid government controls are essential to economic development.
"Ronald Reagan" 40th President of the United States
With our national economy beleaguered The U.S. Congress, Senate, President Bush and our newly elected President Obama are in the process of invoking the same old tired and disastrous policies of our country’s past. More time than not, these damaging policies pledge hundreds of billions of dollars in government spending while doing little in reality to rejuvenate economic activity in our country. The first round of stimulus checks, like those rebates issued in the 1970s and 2001, were useless, with only a small portion (perhaps less than 30 cents on every rebate dollar) used for consumption. Additionally, prior government spending on infrastructure such as highways merely transferred--rather than created--wealth.
During this current period of lethargic and stale economic growth, Congress should do what it has shown in the past what they do best. That would be to set an expansive economic policy. Particularly, Congress should concentrate on sending a clear signal to investors and workers alike that its principal focus will be on a pro-growth economic policy. Congress should focus there concentration mainly in the areas of tax, energy, and spending policies. The question they must ask themselves is on every new bill proposal: Is this proposal likely to raise the economy to a constant, higher level of real growth?
What Congress Must Do.?
Make the Tax Reductions of 2001 and 2003 Permanent;
Among the first actions Congress must take to address, the current economic slowdown is to make a convincing statement regarding the tax increases scheduled for 2009 and 2011. There are projects, new businesses, and expansions of existing businesses that would be undertaken today if Congress would signal that taxes would be lower in three years. Since nearly all major capital undertakings last well beyond this three-year period, it makes good economic sense to make all of the Bush tax reductions permanent. This would stimulate economic activity today as well as in 2011. If Congress decides not to do this and increases taxes, then investors will seek out more favorable economies to support and business owners will, as much as they can, locate their expanded activities in other countries with more favorable tax regimes
Accelerate Tax Depreciation;
Past economic slumps have proven that accelerating the tax depreciation of capital equipment and buildings or the one-year expensing of business purchases that would otherwise be depreciated over a longer period for tax purposes can help during periods of slow growth.
Lower the Corporate Profits Tax;
In one area of tax policy, there is now nearly universal agreement: Federal business taxes are just too high. The U.S. tax rate on corporate profits is the second highest in the world. Why is it not the firm policy of this country's government to ensure that the corporate profits tax is always below the average corporate income tax of other industrialized countries? Such a policy would enhance our competitive standing worldwide and significantly reduce the incentive for U.S. firms to relocate to lower tax countries.
While the interest of most policymakers will be on direct responses to the current slowdown. It seems Congress is unwilling to seriously address the enormous financial challenges from entitlement spending. Many investors and organizations that play key roles in the future of the U.S. economy are worried about long-term growth given the fiscal challenges posed by Social Security and Medicare's unfunded liabilities. At a time when the economy is crashing the voices of Congress, as well as its actions, will affect economic activity in our country as well as around the world. Policymakers should take concrete steps that will announce their intention to address unfunded liabilities in these important programs. While reforms in these programs may be beyond what this Congress can accomplish, it is possible to signal change by reforming the budget rules. Currently, the federal budget functions on a pay-as-you-go system, with a very limited forecast of obligations and supporting revenues. It is impossible for the official budget to predict what may happen over the next 30 years; the five- and 10-year budget windows do not permit Members of Congress or the public to sense the obligations that are coming beyond that 10-year horizon. However, Congress can take two important steps in addressing the long-term entitlement obligations of the U.S.
Show These Obligations in the Annual Budget;
This should do by amending the budget process rules to include a present-value measure of long-term entitlements. Such a measure would express in the annual budget the current dollar amount needed today to fund future obligations. Such a measure has been endorsed by a number of accounting professionals, as well as the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board.
Renovate Retirement Entitlements into 30-year Budgeted Discretionary Programs;
Such a move recognizes that mandatory retirement funding programs for millionaires that crowd out discretionary spending programs for homeless war veterans do not make any sense at all. If we are to contain entitlement spending and reform the programs driving those outlays, then a paradigm shift will likely be required. Recognizing Social Security and Medicare as discretionary programs helps to force attention on changes that will assure their survival well into the 21st century
Rapidly increasing prices for gasoline and petroleum-based energy this year slowed the economy and helped bring about our current recession. Additionally, the effects of such increased energy prices continue to impede job and income growth. If Congress acts to expand energy supplies, forward-looking prices will fall and economic activity will shed off the drag stemming from this sector. If Congress were to announce greater access to proven reserves, mining activity would immediately begin, capital and talent would leave other parts of the world and travel to the U.S., forward-pricing markets would feel the downward pressure on prices as the result of impending supply increases, and ordinary Americans' concerns over their economic future would lessen.
Greater Predictability, Greater Productivity;
Serious work by the Congress on tax, energy, and spending policy will create greater predictability for investors and business owners and assure workers that they will have a better chance of improving their wages through increased productivity. Efforts to enhance this nation's long-term economic health may very well have immediate, short-run benefits as economic decision makers reduce the risk premium they place on starting new businesses or expanding existing enterprises.
Ben and I needed a cultural "fix" so it was with great anticipation that we drove into Fort Worth on Sunday afternoon to attend Rose Marine Theater bilingual performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Artes de la Rosa of Fort Worth is the non-profit organization that manages the Rose Marine Theatre, Fort Worth’s only Hispanic theatre company, Teatro de la Rosa.
We had read about the performance in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram a couple of weeks ago and were intrigued by the idea of a bilingual production of Shakespeare’s classic comedy—how do you translate iambic pentameter? How in the world do you pull off setting the story in Vera Cruz? Ballet Folklorico? We decided it was just ambitious enough to make it interesting.
We arrived early, found on-street parking near the theatre, and made our way to the ticket office. In line ahead of us were many families with young children, some older couples, a few trendy young professionals, and some neighborhood teens—a pretty good mix for a Sunday afternoon matinee.
The play did not disappoint. The set was simple, rustic, and very Vera Cruz. The backdrop was a gorgeous painting of a moon rising over the sea (which revived our romantic memories of Mexican vacations). While we waited for the curtain to rise, we listened to selections by Los Lobos and other music to set the tropical mood.
The opening was a little slow, but the actors eventually found their tempo, aided by the perfect comic timing of Gale Nelson (Helena) and the deadpan silliness of Kristi Ramos Tolar (Hermia). Ramiro Munguia’s Oberon, with his ferocious stage presence, brought to life the legendary Jaguar Warrior of the Aztecs. Ronald Fernandez, Jr. was obviously having fun with his interpretation of Puck, fun which transferred to the audience—his performance garnered the most enthusiastic responses from the crowd, especially the children.
Rob Bosquez, as Bottom, was hilarious. First, as an overzealous actor wanting to play every role in the fisherman’s theatre; then as a happy Ass, transformed by the jealous scheming of Oberon, adoringly tended to by the Fairy Queen and her servants.
Some other actors of note: Alex MacKenzie’s roar had the audience in stitches. Sarah Elizondo was a convincing Titiana, regal and commanding. And Angel Bueno was funny as Thisby—any time you put a big guy with facial hair in a dress, you’re going to get some laughs. Stella Romero as Elena gets the prize for the best delivery of Shakespearean prose; unfortunately, she didn't have that many lines to read, but she should workshop the other performers to improve their Shakespeare. Ballet Folklorico Azteca's dancing was great. Our only complaint: there was too little of it. I could name at least three other scenes in the play that could incorporate dance scenes.
During the 15 minute intermission, audience members were treated to a gallery show of Celia Cortez’s work entitled “Words, Music and Lyrics.” My favorite was a piece which incorporated musical notes and a keyboard. I was surprised to learn it was called “Benny and the Jets." The Rose Marine Theatre in north Fort Worth is truly a gem. At the end of the performance I felt as if I’d discovered some rare, precious stone. Unfortunately, this was the last performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream this season, but there will be many other opportunities to see this theatre company in action. I look forward to future performances and am glad to have a reason to drive into Fort Worth more often. I am especially looking forward to a screening of Before Night Falls with Javier Bardem in January, and Noche de Amor flamenco dancing in February. In March, I plan to see Grupo Pakal give insight into the sacred ceremonies, ancient rituals, and festive dances of the Mayan Culture. There are too many others to list, so take the time to check out the company's calendar.
Finally, because Teatro de la Rosa is a non-profit, I want to remind everyone of the cultural importance of community theatre, particularly Chicano community theatre. Please visit their website, click around, and if you’re looking for a charity this holiday season, consider making a donate. This year, the Amon Carter Foundation is making matching grants for every gift you make to the organization. There is no better time.
H.R. 7231 will reinstate basic federal standards for hydraulic fracturing under the SDWA and enable the EPA to protect our drinking water from oil and gas pollution.
Ninety percent of all U.S. oil and gas wells undergo hydraulic fracturing to stimulate the production of oil and gas.
The EPA conducted a study of hydraulic fracturing in 2004 which concluded it posed no threat to drinking water. The conclusions of that study have since been questioned. An investigative report by Abrahm Lustgarten and ProPublica found that the EPA omitted information and negotiated the results of the report with the oil and gas industry.
…documents obtained by ProPublica show that the EPA negotiated directly with the gas industry before finalizing those conclusions, and then ignored evidence that fracing might cause exactly the kinds of water problems now being recorded in drilling states.
Buried deep within the 424-page report are statements explaining that fluids migrated unpredictably—through different rock layers, and to greater distances than previously thought—in as many as half the cases studied in the United States. The EPA identified some of the chemicals as biocides and lubricants that “can cause kidney, liver, heart, blood, and brain damage through prolonged exposure." It found that as much as a third of injected fluids, benzene in particular, remains in the ground after drilling and is “likely to be transported by groundwater."
More than 1000 documented cases of contamination have occurred in Colorado, New Mexico, Alabama, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In the Barnett Shale area in North Texas, several cases of contaminated water wells have recently been documented. Here are just a few:
Cathy Behr says she won't forget the smell that nearly killed her. An emergency-room nurse in Durango, Colo.'s Mercy Regional Medical Center, Behr was working the April 17 day shift when Clinton Marshall arrived complaining of nausea and headaches. An employee at an energy-services company, Weatherford International, Marshall, according to Behr, said that he was caught in a "fracturing-fluid" spill. [Fracturing chemicals are routinely used on oil and gas wells where they are pumped deep into the ground to crack rock seams and increase production.] The chemical stench coming off Marshall's boots was buckling, says Behr. Mercy officials took no chances. They evacuated and locked down the ER, and its staff was instructed to don protective masks and gowns. But by the time those precautions were enacted, Behr had been nursing Marshall for 10 minutes--unprotected. "I honestly thought the response was a little overkill, but good practice," says Behr, 54, a 20-year veteran at Mercy.
A few days later, Behr's skin turned yellow. She began vomiting and retaining fluid. Her husband rushed her to Mercy where Behr was admitted to the ICU with a swollen liver, erratic blood counts and lungs filling with fluid. "I couldn't breath," she recalls. "I was drowning from the inside out." The diagnosis: chemical poisoning. The makers of the suspected chemical, Weatherford, tell NEWSWEEK that they aren't sure if their brand of fracking fluid can be blamed for her illness
...The worker was released. But a few days later Behr lay in critical condition facing multiple organ failure.
To save Behr’s life, her doctors needed to know the chemicals involved but they were only given vague information. The information is considered proprietary and Halliburton threatened to pull all its products out of Colorado rather than give up the recipe information Behr’s doctors needed to save her life.
Weeks later, after Behr was recovering, her doctor finally learned the details of the chemicals involved but he is sworn to secrecy.
The oil and gas industry claims that hydraulic fracturing has never contaminated a well. They claim the public is misinformed. They claim information about the chemicals they use would only “confuse and frighten the public."
On October 31, 2007, the U.S. House of Representative's Oversight and Government Reform Committee began hearings investigating fracing. Hearing statements by scientists and national defense council analyst, other experts and landowners found:
…gas companies not only injected diesel fuel into the fracking liquid as a part of their drilling, but also injected benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene into the liquid which in turn contaminated drinking water, causing serious physical ailments to residents.
…we have identified…245 different chemicals, 92% of which have adverse health effects.
~Dr. Theo Colborn, Ph.D. President, Endocrine Disruption Exchange link
H.R. 7231will close the loophole that exempts hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).
The bill, H.R. 7231, would reinstate basic federal standards for hydraulic fracturing under the SWDA and enable the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect drinking water supplies…
H.R.7231 Coauthors: U.S. Congresswoman Diana DeGette, CO - Sponsor Congressman John Salazar, CO Congressman Maurice Hinchey, NY
It is imperative that we safeguard our drinking water from any chemicals associated with natural gas drilling. … Congress must pass this bill to reverse the harmful provision in the Bush-administration sponsored Energy Policy Act of 2005 that created the hydraulic fracturing loophole.
It's Monday, and that means it is time for another edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance's Weekly Blog Round-Up. This is your pre-Thanksgiving edition, so enjoy it while you bake your pumpkin pies, stuff your turkey, or whatever your holiday traditions are.
An unexpected drop in U.S. electricity consumption has utility companies worried that the trend isn't a byproduct of the economic downturn, and could reflect a permanent shift in consumption that will require sweeping change in their industry.
Numbers are trickling in from several large utilities that show shrinking power use by households and businesses in pockets across the country. Utilities have long counted on sales growth of 1% to 2% annually in the U.S., and they created complex operating and expansion plans to meet the needs of a growing population.
To be sure, electricity use fluctuates with the economy and population trends. But what has executives stumped is that recent shifts appear larger than others seen previously, and they can't easily be explained by weather fluctuations. They have also penetrated the most stable group of consumers -- households.
Dick Kelly, chief executive of Xcel Energy Inc., Minneapolis, says his company, which has utilities in Colorado and Minnesota, saw home-energy use drop 3% in the period from August through September, "the first time in 40 years I've seen a decline in sales" to homes. He doesn't think foreclosures are responsible for the trend.
Ain't that something? Usage drops more than can be explained by weather? Do you think maybe those really high rates over the summer finally got through to people? Could it be all the CFL bulbs making a difference?
Sources tell us that at the December 4th Council meeting, the Lewisville City Council will consider the following resolution, asking the Texas Legislature to grant cities more authority in certain aspects of pipeline construction and permitting:
A RESOLUTION OPPOSING THE CONTINUED PREEMPTION OF MUNICIPAL REGULATION OF CERTAIN INTRA-STATE GAS UTILITIES; URGING LEGISLATIVE ACTION TO PERMIT GREATER LOCAL REGULATORY OVERSIGHT; AND PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE DATE.
WHEREAS, the City of Lewisville, Texas is a Home Rule municipality located in Denton County, and created in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 8 of the Local Government Code and operating pursuant to the enabling legislation of the State of Texas; and
WHEREAS, the Legislature has vested regulatory authority in the State and has largely preempted the local regulation of so-called "midstream" intra-state natural gas pipeline utilities ("gas utilities") on the basis that such companies are affected with a public interest; and
WHEREAS, the preemption of local regulation constrains the ability of the public to participate through their locally elected officials to tailor policies to meet their needs and demands; and
WHEREAS, with the recent development of mineral reserves within the Barnett Shale, oil and gas operators have become dependant on a comprehensive pipeline infrastructure to deliver the produced hydrocarbons to market; and
WHEREAS, in order to ensure the maximum profitability of natural gas production, oil and gas operators have refused to cooperate with unaffiliated third party gas utilities or coordinate pipeline efforts with other producers in the region and instead are each opting to form their own affiliated gas utility company; and
WHEREAS, each gas utility company serves not as a public-minded "utility" accepting produced hydrocarbons from "competing" operators but operates exclusively as the alter ego and servant of the utility's affiliated oil and gas operator greatly blurring the line between gas utility and oil and gas operator; and
WHEREAS, the numerous gas utilities, frequently managed and exclusively operated by the affiliated oil and gas operators' own employees, work aggressively to install a network of permanent gas lines across private property creating extensive "no-build" zones many dozen feet in width and many miles in length, with little regard for the availability of existing unaffiliated pipelines in the vicinity; and
WHEREAS, in order to rapidly accomplish the installation of duplicative and redundant pipeline networks, local citizens and business owners are quickly threatened with eminent domain proceedings by the gas utilities and are intimidated into executing one-sided permanent easements for nominal consideration; and
WHEREAS, the proliferation of duplicative and redundant pipeline networks, installed with regard only for the shortest and most cost-effective route, causes the unnecessary fragmentation of land and the creation of unusable slivers, chipping away at the long term economic potential of the land; and
WHEREAS, municipalities, rendered virtually ineffective by the preemption language of §121.202 of the Texas Utilities Code, are unable to respond to the plight of their constituent citizens and business owners and are without the necessary authority to safeguard the long-term economic viability of the region.
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY OF LEWISVILLE, TEXAS THAT:
SECTION 1. The City Council of the City of Lewisville, Texas, respectfully requests and urges the Legislature to revisit the prudence and continued appropriateness of preempting municipalities from regulating the practices of midstream gas utilities and respectfully requests that the Legislature confer additional regulatory authority upon municipalities over the activities described herein in order to safeguard the interests of the public and the long term economic viability of private property.
SECTION 2. This Resolution shall be effective from its date of adoption. PASSED AND APPROVED ON THIS __ DAY OF _________, 2008. ______________________________ MAYOR ATTEST: ______________________________ CITY SECRETARY EFFECTIVE: ___________________
We support giving city councils more authority with regards to pipelines. We'll post more analysis in the next few days.
The Lewisville City Council meets on first and third Mondays of each month at 7 PM at city hall. The general public is invited, and may request a few minutes to address the council on this or any other topic.