Archive for April, 2010

Meet the Next Governor of Texas

Bill White, Democratic Party Candidate for Texas Governor, will be at Texas Tech on Thursday, 4/29/2010.

Meet and Greet with Bill White

Thursday, April 29, 2010
12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

Senate Room, Student Union

Texas Tech University
Lubbock, TX

Stop by and meet the next Governor of Texas!

Two Events Thursday

This Thursday, 4/29/2010, offers a choice of two interesting political events to attend.

The first is a panel discussion put together by my friend Brian Carr over at LubbockProgressives.com. Here’s the press release:

Join us for a most interesting community discussion Thursday, April 29th, at 7 p.m. at the Groves Library located on 19th street just east of Lubbock Christian University.

A party of experts from both the conservative and progressive sides will meet to discuss national, state, and local issues.

On the progressive side will be:

1. Brian Carr, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, 20 years in local practice, Member, City of Lubbock Board of Health; Clinical Faculty, Texas Tech Health Science Center; Former Board Member and Past President, National Kidney Foundation as well as many other non-profit boards.
2. Robert Ricketts, Robert Ricketts holds the Frank M. Burke Chair in Taxation at Texas Tech University where he has taught in the graduate tax program since 1988. He is a frequent contributor to both professional and academic journals on tax topics, and has authored or co-authored texts for both professional and college courses in taxation. Robert is also popular as a speaker on tax issues.
3. John Miller, Independent Candidate, County Judge

On the conservative side will be:

1. Nathan Lusk, Libertarian Candidate, County Judge
2. Brent Bloodworth, Owner Binary Rescue
3. Lance Cansino, Financial Advisor

The event is not sponsored by any political party, and the goal is to host a community discussion with a respectful sharing of opinions. Here’s a flyer for the event (pdf).

The second event is also at 7pm on Thursday 4/29, at which time Lubbock Democracy for America will show Michael Moore’s latest movie Capitalism: A Love Story at Lubbock County Democratic Party HQ, 2809A 74th St. Free refreshments will be provided and a discussion will follow the film.

There you have it: two great reasons to get out Thursday for a night of local political involvement!

Praying for the President to Die

I’m absolutely disgusted by the cynical way the right-wingers use religion in America.

Lately, this ugly phenomenon has manifested in the form of a facebook group called:

DEAR LORD, THIS YEAR YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTOR, PATRICK SWAYZIE. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTRESS, FARAH FAWCETT. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE SINGER, MICHAEL JACKSON. I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, MY FAVORITE PRESIDENT IS BARACK OBAMA. AMEN

This facebook group has over one million members.

Friends of mine who should know better have joined this group. It’s fine to have an opinion about the President, but praying for his death is definitely crossing the line.

If you’re on facebook, here is a group you can join if you are outraged like I am:

Your “joke” about wanting the President dead tells me all I need to know

And for everyone, here’s an online petition to facebook to take down the ugly group:

Change.org petition to facebook

Don’t let the loud-and-ugly minority who abuse religion in their quest for power have the last word on this one.

Arizona to Brown People: Stay Out

Depending on the action (or inaction) of their Governor, Arizona is about to make a bad bill into law. Arizona SB 1070 allows police to pull someone over for suspicion of being an illegal immigrant and to detain them if they don’t have papers proving they’re here legally. Additionally, it lets citizens sue municipal/regional governments that they believe are hindering enforcement of immigration laws. Racial profiling and costly lawsuits sound like a terrible two-fer to me.

Presente.org has an online petition to the Governor of Arizona to stop SB 1070. This bit from the Presente.org email I got tonight really sums up the problem:

The reality in Maricopa County — Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s cowboy mentaility of midnight raids, forced family separation and chain gangs — is about to go statewide. The most troubling aspect of this bill is its sanctioning of racial profiling — stopping someone based on the color of their skin. It reminds me of the old days in America when your skin color determined where you lived, ate, sat, and went to school. Undocumented immigration is a challenge, but racial profiling will not solve it. It puts us on a path back to a dark time in our history.

Please take a moment to sign the petition if you are as outraged as I am.

No Fracking Way!

As if earthquakes (and intentional earthquakes!) weren’t bad enough, a new Cornell University study suggests that the controversial practice of “fracking” — cracking underground rock formations in order to extract natural gas — may be an even dirtier form of energy than coal.

Here’s the main point:

Combining the effects of combustion, production, distribution, and leaked methane from hydraulically fractured natural gas gives the fuel about the same greenhouse gas emissions as coal and about 30 percent more than diesel or gasoline, Howarth says in the draft paper published in mid-March.

In short, natural gas burns fairly cleanly, but the means of obtaining it are becoming increasingly wasteful and ridiculous.

On a related note, I want to spread the word about a brown bag lunch event sponsored by the League of Women Voters (LWV) of Lubbock County:

Public Forum

Dr. Ronald Kendall, founder and Director of the Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH) at Texas Tech University, will discuss the Institute’s work at a LWV-Lubbock County Public Forum on Thursday, April 22nd. TIEHH works to assess toxic chemical impacts on physical and human environments, including bioterrorism countermeasures. More information on the TIEHH is at www.tiehh.ttu.edu.

This Public Forum, a brown-bag lunch, will be held in the Community Room of Mahon Library, located at 1306 9th Street from 11:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and drinks will be provided.

For more information, please contact Tess Trost, Office Manager: 806-744-0023.

More information about the League and their activities can be found at www.lwvlubbock.org./

I wonder if TIEHH has done an assessment on the toxic leftovers from fracking?

This Is for the People of the Sun

Well, I finally found a solar energy contractor here in Lubbock, or more accurately, he found me by way of an older blog post. Cris Been, President of Therma Breeze, Inc. (806-763-7777 for all your solar panel installation needs!) was kind enough to answer some interview questions via email, which I reproduce below, unedited except for my emphasis in boldface.

Without further ado:

Tell us a little bit about your business as a solar contractor and what it is like in Lubbock.

I first started out as an installer back in the mid eighties for a solar hot water company in Oklahoma. After the industry slowed down, I went into HVAC, Plumbing, and Refrigeration. A couple of years ago, I was wanting to open my own business and solar energy was the most fun I’ve had at any job, so I started Therma Breeze, Inc. Putting solar on a few pools in West Texas got me started, then we did some domestic hot water jobs, then came the solar electricity jobs. I am a licensed electrical contractor, however, I don’t do anything besides solar electrical installations. I got my initial shock of trying to put solar electricity panels on a home in Lubbock who was an LP&L customer. LP&L will not allow solar or wind generation customers - period. (Unless, of course, you are wanting to put up a megawatt wind turbine. In that case, EXCEPTIONS can somehow be made. But if you are a residential customer, you can forget it!) Being a municipality, they have managed to find loopholes in current laws and are not forced to participate in allowing renewable energy distribution on any of their lines. Even if they did, they don’t have “net metering” which is how other utilities pay you back for any excess energy you put into the grid. They claim their contract with Xcel forbids them to get energy from any other source than Xcel. After speaking with Xcel, both parties seem to agree on this point. For those of you who are aware that LP&L is in the process of buying out all of Xcel’s customers in the city of Lubbock: The answer is: “Yes, that means no one in the city of Lubbock will be able to have wind or solar on their homes or businesses at least until 2019 when the contract is up for renewal between Xcel and LP&L.” However, if you are not in the city limits and you have Xcel, they will allow renewable energy generation. SPEC is fantastic to work with. They have the best policy for renewable customers and even welcome it. If you are in an area where you can switch to SPEC, you should.

Who are your competitors in Lubbock and around the region?

The only “competitor” would be RD Electric. I say that because they have solar panels and wind turbines on their vans. Every time I pull a permit in the Lubbock permit office, I’m sure to check to see if any other solar or wind permits have been pulled. So far, I’m the only one to do so. They may be working outside the city - which is understandable - but so far I’m the only contractor with permitted installations in Lubbock. I think that they are primarily an electrical contractor who can also do renewable energy work while I am just the opposite. Around the region there are more solar contractors. The bulk of solar contractors are in Austin, Dallas/Ft.Worth, San Antonio, and Houston. It is by no coincidence that these cities offer incentives for going with renewable energy, making it more affordable. In West Texas, we have no such incentives other than in Midland/Odessa where Oncor offers incentives up to $2.25/watt rebate for any new residential system. Couple that with the 30% tax incentive, and you’ve got a great system that will pay for itself in less than 10 years while giving you thirty, forty, even fifty years of clean energy - all from the sun. Oh, and I have financing available with good terms and a decent rate! Why not spend the money towards owning your own equipment instead of renting it from the utility company? You can find out more about it by visiting my website at www.thermabreeze.net.

What challenges have you faced with your business? What successes have you had?

Well, the challenges have mostly been with utility companies. Besides that, I would say that the biggest challenge has been to change the minds and hearts of the citizens in West Texas. We are so used to just “flipping on the switch and paying the bill” every month around here because it’s what we’ve always done. There is a better and smarter way to get our energy and the source is infinite - the sun and the wind. Finite resources are just that, and when they’re gone - they’re gone. We can do better, and we should. Successes for me so far have been the few people who see this big picture and are taking advantage of it. There are a couple of SPEC customers that now have 100% solar on their homes and they’re loving it! How about getting your electricity bill and actually looking forward to opening it? That’s because they will never have an electricity bill again (as long as they live in the home). Schools are also becoming aware of green technology and are taking advantage of it. I have installed solar water heating on schools in West Texas and they are saving an unbelievable amount of money by not using gas for heating their water, and it works great. Success for me is installing the technology and watching it work. For me, there’s just no feeling in the world that equals that.

Suppose I own a house inside the Lubbock city limits, and I’m interested in powering what I can through solar and wind. What do I need to do? Are there limitations to what I can do?

First thing is to move to a location where SPEC can be your utility provider! If you have read the previous questions and answers, you know what challenges Lubbock faces for using wind and solar.

There are large-scale successes of green energy in our region, such as wind farms around Sweetwater, the American Wind Power Center, and the LCU campus. What other large or small scale green energy success stories are there in our region?

Our region is one of the best in the U.S. for both wind and solar. I’m not as big of a fan of huge wind farms because of the nature of the energy they generate. It puts a huge load on our grid, which unfortunately wasn’t designed to handle the big up and down swings of voltage that a large group of turbines can generate. I do like what wind can do for the homeowner, business owner, manufacturing facility, or school. Solar energy, on the other hand, works best when the utility companies need help the most - during daylight hours when most of it’s customers are cranking up their air conditioners trying to stay cool. By offsetting this load with solar energy, we can help reduce the possibility of blackouts or brownouts. The utility company also has the opportunity to sign up more customers because there is more energy to go around. Solar is also more stable and consistent when it delivers energy, which is better for the health and sustainability of the grid in the long term.

What can ordinary citizens of Lubbock and the surrounding area do to advance the production of clean energy?

Protest! Make your voices heard! I have contacted the city council and they run when they see me coming. The citizens of Lubbock had one chance to stop this takeover in the courts and it is most likely too late to stop the legal process now. We can hope that the State of Texas will pass laws in the next session that will override the agreements between Xcel and LP&L. There was some really good legislation that simply did not make it to the floor for a vote in time before the last session ended. Don’t believe anything you hear from LP&L regarding this issue. They use the contract with Xcel as an excuse to not allow their customers to generate their own energy, and that’s sad. I simply don’t have the time or the resources to take on this challenge by myself. If the citizens of Lubbock would make a strong voice on this issue, perhaps we can make the utilities listen to us, their customers.

Incidentally, Cris will be speaking this Wednesday at an industry seminar titled: “The Solar Energy Course for Architects, Engineers, and Contractors” It’s $259.00 to attend, and you can contact Cris for details.

He has also said that he will check the discussion thread for any comments or questions that readers may have for him over the next few days, so ask away.

Thanks again to Cris for giving a wonderful interview!

Obama: The International President

President Obama is having a positive effect on our nation’s standing in the world.

A new BBC poll shows that the world views the USA more positively than any time since the second Iraq War, and, for the first time in the poll’s history (2005), the USA is seen more positively than negatively.

This poll won’t sway Obama’s critics. I’m sure that the imperialists of the political right will continue to think that President Obama is some kind of international sissy because he hasn’t invaded anywhere new since he took office (unless you count parts of Pakistan). The cowboy diplomats of the right subscribe to the unipolar model of global power: the USA is the only superpower in the world and can do as it pleases. Ostensibly, this is to keep a global peace, but really the core part is the bit about doing whatever we decide “our interests” are, without permission beforehand, oversight during, or guilt afterward.

The reality, of course, is that American Exceptionalism is a big lie. It’s wrong both technically and morally.

In any terms you care to measure it — economic might, nuclear capabilities, population, culture — there will be at least one country (or consortium like the EU) that can match us. There are countries that provide us what we need (oil, cheap labor, places to pollute, manufacturing, customers/audiences, convenient military opponents, etc) and countries that need what we provide. Those that think America can dominate the world are either blustering or in a hurry for Armageddon to get here.

The more important problem with American Exceptionalism is that it is morally repugnant. Its defining moral characteristic is a rejection of the golden rule. We don’t do unto others as we want done unto ourselves, because we believe that no one can do unto us, period.

I believe that the real reason the world is warming to us once again is that President Obama has demonstrated through words and actions that the unipolar model of American Exceptionalism is finally out of fashion in America. We live in a multipolar world where, generally speaking, getting along is more important than winning outright. Some people can’t handle that truth.

Thank goodness we have a President who gets it and can lead in the real world.

Lubbock Republicans Nominate Tea Party Radicals

Here are my thoughts on the Republican Primary runoffs for HD83 and HD84.

I think it’s a shame that Lubbock lost its legislative clout by losing Delwin Jones in HD83.

It’s even more of a shame that Delwin lost to a lie designed (no doubt by Perry’s downstate consultants) to appeal to racism. The lie was that Jones voted for a bill to give scholarships to illegal aliens. It’s not true, but it got people who respond to that sort of racist code language to the polls. You can see the spike in early vote numbers between last Monday (when the story broke) and Tuesday.

The Jones campaign didn’t handle their response to the lie well at all — they got down in the mud with Charles Perry and flung ridiculous charges. (No one would believe that Perry is a liberal, for example.) Those that blame the loss on the Jones campaign are also right, to a point.

It only took around 9,000 voters to send Delwin Jones packing in the runoff. Because of this, lots of folks have been asking me about the possibility of a Democratic or Independent candidate this year in HD83. Neither is possible, because they would have had to file in January, and no one did. A write-in candidacy may still be an option, and I’m looking into the law around that issue.

As far as the HD84 race between Mark Griffin and John Frullo, this image pretty much sums up my opinion about that:

Pratt's Puppet

Pratt’s Puppet John Frullo won thanks to the organizational help and publicity — not only from Pratt’s far-right talk radio show, but also from the i-didn’t-send-it-but-wrote-the-content “poison pen” mail piece — from his #1 fan.

Now the HD84 campaign between the wackiest Republican option and Democratic Party candidate Carol Morgan promises to be an exciting one.

In short, I believe the combination of shady campaigning and Tea Party activism put the most extreme right-wing candidates forward in HD83 and HD84. Moderate Republicans, and perhaps even some conservative ones, are not happy right now.

Your thoughts welcome in the comments.

Texas Tribune: Tuesday at Texas Tech

The Texas Tribune is the state’s first non-profit, nonpartisan public media organization that launched last year. This Tuesday April 13th they’re coming to Lubbock to kick off the Texas Tribune College Tour right here on the campus of Texas Tech University.

From the press release:

The Texas Tribune College Tour will make its first stop at Texas Tech on Tuesday, April 13th, 2010 from 9:30AM – 4:30PM. The day-long program will feature a wealth of discussions, seminars, and speeches including T. Boone Pickens in conversation with Texas Tribune editor, Evan Smith; a dialogue between Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and his Democratic opponent, former state Senator Hector Uribe; a roundtable discussion on the future of journalism with Tribune reporters; and a civic engagement fair. All events are free and open to the public on a first come first seated basis.

The purpose of this college tour is to engage students on public policy, politics, government, and other matters of statewide concern. Texas Tribune’s goal is to put robust public interest journalism in the hands of and before the eyes of many Texans as possible, including college students.

Throughout the year, the College Tour will visit the University of Texas at Austin, Southern Methodist University, Trinity University, and Rice University.

SCHEDULE
Tuesday, April 13, 2010 – 9:30AM-4:30PM
Texas Tech University
2500 Broadway, Lubbock, TX 79409

KEYNOTE
The Allen Theater – 9:30 to 11AM
T. Boone Pickens conversation with Evan Smith

THE TEXAS TRIBUNE CIVIC ENGAGEMENT FAIR
The Croslin Room in the Texas Tech University Library – 11AM-3PM
Meet with representatives from national, statewide, and student community groups; register to vote.

DIALOGUE
The Allen Theater – 2-3PM
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Democratic opponent, former state Senator Hector Uribe

DISCUSSION ON THE FUTURE OF JOURNALISM
The Mass Communications Building, Room 101 – 3:30-4:30PM
With reporters Reeve Hamilton, Elise Hu, and Matt Stiles

These events are free and open to the public, first come first seated.

Thanks to the Texas Tribune for starting off their tour right here in Lubbock with such a wonderful program. It’s not every day that Lubbock hosts a debate/discussion between two statewide candidates. The T. Boone Pickens forum is a nice bonus too.

Republicans Block Recovery

As Congress goes on Spring Break, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn continues to lead the baffling, heartless charge to deny the extension of unemployment benefits for another month. The Republicans, who apparently have gotten religion about deficit spending, claim that any deficit/offset spending is “theft.” Preemptive war, tax cuts for the ultra-rich, and sweetheart no-bid contracts for their big business buddies never bothered the GOP, but helping the poorest of our people in a time of crisis somehow is somehow “theft.”

And, of course, in Texas we have Gov. Rick Perry to thank for denying federal recovery money for extending unemployment benefits. This is after Perry already raided the Texas unemployment fund for other, non-employment purposes.

Sadly, it’s not hard to figure out why Republicans are being so callous. Republican obstructionism is partisan calculation on their part. If Republicans can keep unemployment high, then they believe that they will have a better chance to elect more Republicans in the November elections. As commentators on my blog and on the “Mr. Conservative” blog have pointed out, election results tend to follow unemployment rates very closely.

Instead of choosing to participate in our economic recovery, the Republican Party has chosen a path that puts them against the interests of the American People.


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