Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Dallas)Dallas Republican Congressman is heading an effort by North Texas Republican members of congress to bring the GOP’s 2008 National Convention to Dallas. Hensarling was joined by 11 other members in sending a letter today to GOP National Chairman Ken Mehlman and Site Selection Committee Chairwoman Jo Ann Davidson urging them to choose Dallas and touting the area’s advantages.
Signing the letter were Joe Barton of Ennis, Michael Burgess of Flower Mound, Mike Conaway of Midland, Louie Gohmert of Tyler, Kay Granger of Fort Worth, Ralph Hall of Rockwall, Sam Johnson of Plano, Kenny Marchant of Carrollton, Pete Sessions of Dallas and Mac Thornberry of Amarillo.
Mayor Laura Miller supports the bid. The city has also been invited to bid on the Democratic National Committee. San Antonio and Houston have also been invited to bid on the GOP event.
Daniel Craig as 007The British media is all a-stir about the selection of British actor Daniel Craig to play the role of James Bond in the latest Bond thriller, Casino Royale. Craig would follow such noteworthies as Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan who played Bond and helped turn the James Bond movies into the "most successful franchise in movie history", according to the Irish Independent.
In the first place, Craig doesn’t look the part if you compare the blond actor to the likes of Connery, Moore or Brosnan.
Secondly, Craig wasn’t off to the greatest start in his early days of filming as he had his teeth knocked out in a fight scene. He even complained that the speedboat which (according to the British press) dramatically took him to a press conference for the film drove "too fast" for his taste. Apparently, the new Bond also had difficulty navigating the automobile driven by Bond during scenes in the movie.
The opposition to the blond Daniel Craig playing James Bond has gotten so intense a group of Bond fans have set up a website at craignotbond.com and are calling for a boycott of Bond movies so long as Craig plays the part.
The reputation of the Bond franchise suffered a blow on another front recently. Bond director, Lee Tamahori, was arrested in Hollywood for offering sex to an undercover policeman while in drag. According to press reports, the Director of the Bond film Die Another Day "was wearing an off-the-shoulder dress, long black wig, full make-up and women’s accessories" when he was arrested. Not exactly the macho look one associates with Bond films.
Perhaps it is just as well that the Bond mystique has fallen on hard times. The Bond films were a fantasy world, anyway, although often an entertaining one. The Bond franchise lost its edge a long time ago. So perhaps it is time to say: Sayonara 007.
"Independence is declared; it must be maintained."
-Sam Houston - March 2, 1836
Texas declared its independence from Mexico and became the Republic of Texas on March 2, 1836. A day earlier, 54 delegates met in the village of Washington-on-the-Brazos. The Texans of the Convention of 1836 wrote and adopted the Texas Declaration of Independence literally overnight.
Life was never the same again, and America's Lesser 49 are the better for it.
The Mideast edition of Stars and Stripes reports today that 72% of "troops on the ground in Iraq think U.S. military forces should get out of the country within a year, according to a Zogby poll released Tuesday."
The poll also revealed that "42% of troops surveyed were unsure of their mission in Iraq, and that 85 percent believe a major reason they were sent into war was "to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the Sept. 11 attacks."
The story adds that, of those surveyed, 75% have served multiple tours in Iraq, 63% were under 30 years old, and 75% were male.
Another article on the Zogby poll by Iraqi war critic Kevin Zeese further breaks down the results: 90% of the reservists serving in Iraq, 83% of the National Guard, 70% of the Army, and 58% of the Marines favor withdrawal from Iraq within a year.
According to the Stars and Stripes, "Zogby said the survey was conducted face-to-face throughout Iraq, with permission from commanders."
While John Zogby is a respected pollster, he has been a critic of the war. His results undoubtedly will be challenged on those grounds. Nonetheless, for Stars and Stripes (the soldiers' newspaper) to so prominently feature the poll results, suggests that the sentiment of the U.S. military has turned against the War. That is what Korean and Vietnam War vet Congressman John Murtha stated on November 17, 2005 when he called for a withdrawal of U.S. troops within six months:
"The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of us. The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We can not continue on the present course."
I am shocked at the poll results. I was in Vietnam in 1969 and, if we had been polled, I believe that a substantial majority of soldiers would have complained about how we were fighting the war. But, I believe that most of the soldiers would have been in support of President Nixon’s Vietnamization program which involved a phased withdrawal of our troops similar to what President Bush has called for in his policy pronouncements on Iraq. If this poll is accurate, the troops on the ground have turned against the war.
And, if our soldiers have lost faith in the Administrations’ "war on terror" in Iraq, this may be a propitious time to re-think our entire strategy of how we deal with the threat of radical Islam going forward. Our current approach sure isn’t working.
The 454-page draft ForwardDallas! comprehensive plan is already shaping the city’s strategic 2006 bond package planning, even though it has not been reviewed, approved or accepted by citizens or the Dallas City Council.
On Wednesday, the office of economic development presented council members a strategic plan - Strategic Investments: Using the 2006 Bond Package to Take Advantage of Historic Opportunity – for the investment spending that would result from a 2006 bond program. The strategy draft presented overlays of various needs on a map to show areas with commonality of need.
“This is about where you can put your money where it will do the most good.” City Manager Mary Suhm told council members. “We’re not going to simply look at where most needs are, or where council districts are, but where all are overlayed to get the most benefit.”
Council member Angela Hunt said she was disturbed that the city is already basing parts of the 2006 bond program plan on a city comprehensive plan that was only presented to the council two weeks ago. She and others have noted the plan needs a lot more work than the current timetable allows.
“One thing that did concern me is that we haven’t passed the comprehensive plan, and this (strategic bond investment) approach is very dependent on that. I’m a little concerned we’re putting the cart before the plan,” Hunt said.
Suhm said the strategic bond plan is being drawn up based on the assumption that ForwardDallas! will be passed.
“Enough of that is solid that I used it and I can change it. If it changes, we can adjust.” Suhm said.
Hunt was even more perturbed at that.
“It really is a little troubling that you're making assumption we are approving ForwardDallas! plan. (That) is a big assumption,” she said.
Hunt said she is worried that the rush to put together the bond program will put artificial pressure on council members to approve ForwardDallas!.
“The last briefing (two weeks ago) was first time we saw ForwardDallas! and now we’re seeing it worked into the strategic bond plan. ForwardDallas! is represented six or seven times, and it feels like the council is being circumvented,” she said.
People attending public hearings on the ForwardDallas! plan have complained that the draft is incomplete, inaccurate, devoid of details, lacking any real citizen input, binding on zoning, and being rushed through to approval.
The city paid a private consulting firm headed by Portland planner John Fregonese about $1.4 million to develop the comprehensive growth plan. Fregonese helped design a similar comprehensive plan for Portland in the 1990s.
Spring already? Gosh, what happened to fall and winter? Well it must be Spring because Dallas Blooms starts at the Dallas Arboretum this coming Sunday March 5th. This year's theme is the Eiffel Tower with a 15-foot replica of that famous Parisian landmark as the Dallas Bloom's centerpiece. This year's festival will feature more than 400,000 spring blooming bulbs, 20,000 spring-flowering azaleas, 70,000 pansies and thousands of other spring blooming annuals and perennials. For information on times, location and prices visit the Dallas Bloom's Web Site.
The hottest issue in Texas politics after school finance is one which virtually everyone dismissed until only a few months ago: illegal immigration.
In the Republican primary, at least, the issue has jumped to the top of the bullet point list of virtually every candidate The Lone Star Report (LSR) as interviewed.
This isn't likely an accident. Campaigns do polling, and the voters are clearly being heard. And while immigration remains primarily a federal issue, legislators have embraced it emphatically, looking for something - anything - they can do to combat the problem.
With that in mind, the Texas Public Policy Foundation held a policy forum Feb. 22 to outline the problem and possible actions.
Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams cautioned that a knee-jerk reaction to such an emotional issue could ultimately do more harm than good. Last year, trade between Texas and Mexico amounted to $45.7 billion, or $2,031 per person in Texas. Extreme solutions, he said, could threaten that trade.
"We need to bring the debate back to what I call practical solutions," he said.
Nonetheless, Williams called the openness of the Border a huge security risk to the U.S. and to Texas.
"The problem is that if illegal immigrants find it so easy to cross, then organized crime and terrorists will find it easy also," he said.
The biggest issue facing Texas specifically, however, is the cost to the state budget of measures to combat illegal entry. Although estimates are imprecise, the best guess is $4 billion or so.
Rep. Suzanna Gratia Hupp (R-Lampasas), who has wrestled with the costs to Texas' state health programs, cited what she called some startling numbers:
* One in four uninsured Texans is a non-citizen.
* In some hospitals, two-thirds of the uncompensated care costs are attributable to illegal aliens.
* Fort Worth's John Peter Smith Hospital delivered 5,775 babies in the last year, of whom 4,207 were to illegal alien parents.
* Almost 70 percent of the patients served by the Children with Speicial Health Care needs are non-citizens.
Those statistics, Hupp said, might just be the tip of the iceberg. State agencies' recordkeeping on illegal immigrant costs are very spotty and partial. In some cases, agencies have policies specifically prohibiting record keeping. In a two-month study of illegal alien costs, LSR has found numerous examples – particularly in education – where state policy is not tokeep records of illegal alien costs.
One solution, Hupp said, is ordering state agencies and their local counterparts to keep those statistics. Only when legislators know the full scope of the problem, she said, can they adequately address it.
"This is eating us alive," Hupp said. "Perhaps with better statistics we can move toward a policy that would plug the Border in a meaningful way.
"It's important that we have legislation that can begin the process before we have a funding meltdown which I believe is not far away."
Large as the costs for illegal immigrant health care are, virtually every study suggests they pale in comparison to the enormous cost of educating the children of illegal aliens. LSR's analysis shows that more than 80 percent of the overall cost of illegal immigration comes from this source.
Rep. Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving) is particularly bothered by the rising costs of illegal immigrant education, a problem that, if fixed, could eliminate the need for a tax increase to solve the state's school finance problem.
"Texas spends $4 billion annually on education for illegal immigrant children and their U.S.-born siblings," she said.
This problem was forced on the state by the U. S. Supreme Court, which held, in Plyler v. Doe (1982), that Texas had no compelling interest in denying education to non-citizens. Harper-Brown, citing a number of problems with that 5-4 ruling, said the time could be ripe for another look. With the problem far graver than in 1982, she predicted, Plyler won't stand up if education costs are added to other illegal alien costs. Additionally, if the state were to pass a bill challenging the ruling, the Roberts court now in place would be more sympathetic.
Although sympathetic to that approach, Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said efforts to free states from paying for the children of illegals have failed in the past. A congressional bill with the same purpose lost handily several years ago, Krikorian said.
Nonetheless, Harper-Brown said that until Texas solved the problem of free illegal immigrant education – as well as in-state tuition for illegal immigrants at Texas universities – present policies would continue as a magnet for illegal immigration.
Krikorian said that state officials who in the past thought illegal immigration was a federal issue are now starting to wake up. There is a need, he said, for every state to have a policy in place for dealing with the problem. Not dealing with it, he said, was a de facto policy to encourage the problem.
Krikorian suggested several stances the state could take very easily:
* End "safe harbor" cities, where local law enforcement officers are not allowed to ask questions about immigration status.
* Take advantage of a 1996 law that allows law enforcement officers to be deputized as immigration officers.
* Take better precautions to protect the state's ID from use by illegal immigrants.
* Deny government contracts and revoke business licenses from businesses fined by the federal government for hiring illegal immigrants.
Williams added that the current immigration policy amounts to a lose-lose policy for Texas and Mexico. But positive steps, he said, could be taken on an economic development level.
Some of the practical solutions Williams had in mind include rethinking Border commerce to develop win-win solutions. Free trade, he said, ultimately will do that. The North American Free Trade Agreement, he said, has helped improve the economy south of the Border. The Central American Free Trade Agreement could do the same, he said.. Opening up Latin American countries to investment, he said, would spur great advances in the economies of those countries.
One progressive step, Williams said, is the formation of close relationships between Border governors, who are promoting industry clusters to develop the economy on both sides of the border.