A just released Gallup Poll asks what is “morally acceptable.” Interesting results with the number representing the percentage of those who found the activity morally acceptable: Death penalty 71%; divorce 67%; stem cell research 61%; medical testing on animals 61%; gambling 60%; pre-marital sex 59%; doctor assisted suicide 51% (versus 41%); homosexual relations 44% (versus 51%); abortion 43% (versus 44%); animal cloning 29%; suicide 15%; human cloning 8%; Polygamy 5%; an extramarital affair 4%. There are certainly a lot of interesting future political battles contained in these numbers.
There are reports of extensive gun fire on Capitol Hill in Washington DC this morning. A blackberry message has been sent by Capitol Hill Police telling staffers to go to interior offices. Ambulances are arriving.
Feel the urge to take your old muscle car out and open er up. Head to West Texas pardner. The Texas Transportation Commission has just raised the speed limit on Interstate highways 10 and 20 in far West Texas to "80." That is the highest limit in the nation. Many safety advocates believe that people already drive in excess of 80 and that the new limit is an invitation to drive 90 or more. Ya think?
AAA tells us that 3.5 million Texans will hit the road this Memorial Day weekend. That is up 2.6% over last year which is surprising given that gas prices are up over 30% since last year and in some areas are still near $3. Nationwide the number of road warriors will be 37.6 million and that too is up but only by 1%.
Our resident economist Carl Pallegrini brings this information to our attention about China's increased demand for oil, fueled by its rapid economic growth. Xinhua reports from Beijing that in 2005 "China imported 136 million tons of oil, accounting for 42.9 percent of the country's total oil consumption." Even more significant were these figures on energy consumption: "China's energy consumption per unit of GDP was 3.36 times greater than the world average in 2004, four times that of the United States, and nearly eight times that of Japan, Britain, Germany and France."
There simply isn't enough supply of energy to match the increasing demand from China at previous price levels. This problem is exacerbated by China's subsidizing the domestic price of fuel. That gap between international oil prices and domestic prices is starting to narrow which may have a positive effect of slowing down demand.
One potential issue for the fall gubernatorial campaign may be the state’s efforts to privatize large sections of its Food Stamp and Medicaid programs. The Republican legislative leadership has touted privatization and streamlining as the way to save tens of millions of dollars. But the program has become mired in the apparent inability of the state’s contractor, Bermuda based Accenture, LLP to deliver as promised.
Today a group of Democratic Congressmen pronounced the project a failure and sent a letter to Texas Health and Human Services Director Albert Hawkins demanding that HHS to pull the plug on the plan. The group asserts that needy Texans legally entitled to benefits have been denied their benefits and others have been illegally dropped from the program.
Last year HHS signed an $899 million contract with Accenture to develop and operate an enrollment program that would consolidate various state aid programs. To date Accenture has been paid $91 million, but Hawkins recently denied a $50 million payment asserting that the company had failed to do its job. Phone calls today to Accenture offices have gone unreturned.
A Blog titled “Ramblings of an HHS Employee Amid Chaos” today posted a May 15th email from the chief clerk of the House Committee on Social Services Annie Landmann to HHC Commissioner Anne Heilgenstein expressing concern over the conduct and competence of HHC employees toward “clients.”
HHC employees, many of whom will lose their jobs through the reorganization, have been notably unsupportive of the plan. Gov. Perry has not addressed the continuing problems directly but says he supports privatization in general. Carol Strayhorn says that the agency “is in total chaos” and that she is in the process of conducting an overall audit.
As the Senate gets closer to passing its version of immigration reform legislation this week, legislators in the House are preparing for the inevitable compromise that will have to be reached between the two chambers.
Congressional candidates are watching the events closely.
One Texas Democrat running for Congress says that he is tired of hearing the word “amnesty”, calling it an offensive concept that is used to frequently. Will Pryor, who is running against Rep. Pete Sessions for the District 32 seat in Texas, told the DallasBlog that he prefers for people to quit using the word “amnesty” to refer to things that are not really amnesty
“Any of these compromise versions are just different means of addressing how we deal with the population of immigrants,” said Pryor, when asked about his views on the legislation being worked out in the U.S. Senate. “What we had in 86’ was closer to amnesty than what we have now.”
Among the most controversial parts of immigration legislation running through the Senate are provisions that would allow immigrants living in the U.S. for five years or more to stay in the U.S. and work for six years while seeking legal residency. This version of legislation, which is supported by President Bush, has been criticized as being nothing more than amnesty. It appears to be headed for final passage in the Senate.
An alternative proposal pushed by Senator Dianne Feinstein would allow 12 million illegal immigrants in the country to stay and eventually attain American citizenship.
Pryor said that he supports the guest worker provisions of the Senate bill that is nearing vote, but he emphasized that citizenship be earned.
Pryor also said that he has misgivings about the President’s proposal to use the National Guard at the U.S.-Mexico border. “My concern is that our National Guard is stretched unbelievable thin and that we have to address a short-term political problem,” said Pryor. Pryor added that, while he supports the President’s proposal to use more high technology at the border and increase the number of border patrol, he did not think that the permanent placement of the National Guard at the border is the appropriate use of the force.
“The purpose of the National Guard has never been to address problems like this,” said Pryor. Pryor added that he would find the use of the National Guard less objectionable if it was meant as a temporary, “stop-gap” measure and not something more permanent.
According to Breitbart.com, under the President’s plan, most troops stationed at the border will spend three weeks there. The plan calls for up to 6,000 troops being stationed at the border during the first year, and up to 3,000 troops in the second year.
This is shaping up as a bad day for the Dallas Police Department. Two more officers, Dallas Police Officers Edward Saenz and Michael Contreras, have been placed on administrative leave for alleged oppression under color of law on May 21.
The allegation is that Contreras, while off duty, became involved in a personal conflict with a civilian on a date sometime before the alleged incident on May 21. Then he and Saenz, while on duty on the 21st, left the Southwest Patrol Division and went to the citizen’s place of employment for the sole purpose of detaining him.
Officers allegedly detained and released the civilian a short time later. Saenz was hired in September 1997 and Contreras was hired in August 2003.
The first quarter of 2006 has seen the largest growth in 2 ½ years, according to story in Reuters. The Commerce Department reported that the economy’s growth of 5.3 percent in the first quarter was largely due to a buildup in inventories and to the strengthening of exports.
The housing market was also stronger than expected.