Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Yearly Recap - 13s of '13

Last year, I did a "top 10" for my year in blogs. Things have changed quite a bit over the past year. So this years finale is a little different. We have a few things that we'll attempt to compile into lists of 13. Many of these have no order of precedence, priority, or importance. They are also not all-inclusive, representing only the first 13 to come to mind at the time of writing.

13 major changes in '13 (no order of importance) -

1. I [Paul] started writing for Watchdog.
2. Melissa attended her first BlogCon.
3. Melissa's personal blog disappeared. It has been replaced and will soon have some regular posts. It already offers a couple of guest posts.
4. New internet connections at home.
5. I [Paul] has started doing radio appearances.
6. We changed doctors and health plans.
7. Melissa and I [Paul] have gone wheat and gluten free.
8. Melissa and I [Paul] joined a gym (actually did that in late '12, but didn't start going regularly until after the new year).
9. Melissa graduated with her Masters in Counseling (Psychology) and completed all the academic requirements for licensing.
10. Melissa changed jobs.
11. Melissa and I [Paul] changed to an IR grill.
12. Jared's hair is loooong! His high and tight appears gone for good.
13. We added the "Mental Aikido" Facebook page right before Melissa deleted her Facebook profile and moved over to Twitter.

13 things to remember as '13 closes out (no order of importance):

1. Affordable Medical Insurance (just may be a memory).
2. Reasonable medical insurance deductibles (also just a memory).
3. Your health care plan (another memory).
4. Operation Fast and Furious and Brian Terry.
5. Benghazi -- 4 dead due to a terrorist attack and some video still the official scapegoat? C'mon.
6. A federal workforce participation rate above 64% (its still dropping!).
7. Incandescent light bulbs (may no longer be made... hoarding?)
8. The most expensive website ever built that somehow failed to work.
9. Exemptions to sales taxes on internet purchases (gone).
10. Our fallen Uniformed Military Service Members, they gave their lives so our way of life is preserved and our world can become a better place.
11. The US Constitution, all of it, paying particular attention to the parts being ignored such as the first 10 Amendments.
12. Talkmaster Neal Boortz's final radio show (as the headlining host).
13. Hostess. They are gone; Bankrupt; Out of Business; Joined the Edsel and the Pet Rock.

13 annoying things in '13 (no order of importance):

1. Melissa Harris-Perry.
2. People attempting to canonize Trayvon Martin.
3. Twerking.
4. Miley Ray Cyprus.
5. Miley Ray Cyprus Twerking.
6. Obamacare.
7. Obama
8. Pink Athletic Shoes
9. Wendy Davis
10. People texting instead of paying attention to the world around them and the people they are sitting among.
11. Common Core
12. Honey Boo-Boo STILL having a TV show.
13. "Top 13 lists"

Top 13 MA stories (Some of these also appeared on Watchdog Wire or Freedomworks) -- These are the top view counts mixed with what I [EIC P-GM] feels highly important: 

13. Immigration And Visa Reform -- #VisaForKai
12. The ongoing investigative story surrounding The Foddrill Files on Corruption in San Antonio:

11. School Super Supposedly Stifles Common Core Discussion
10. Defending Our Kids
9.   Common Core Materials In Texas Public Schools
8.   Open Or Close The THC Gateway?
7.   Coming To A City Near You -- Detroit's Fall
6.   Gosnell: It Isn't Abortion, It's Murder
5.   A Few Thoughts On Manning
4.   The Gun-Grab Is Starting
3.   Foundational Truth About Zimmerman
2.   The Difference It Makes, Mrs. Clinton
1.   Apparently Guam Needs Hurricane Sandy Relief

13 favorite non-MA blogs/columns to read (no order of importance) -- these exclude the greats like Ace of Spades, Michele Malkin, all the writers at Red State, and Dana Loesch, etc.: 

1. Chuck Norris's personal blog.
2. Katie Pavlich at Town Hall
3. Kurt Schlichter on TownHall
4. Brandon Darby at Breitbart
5.  The Brenner Brief  (Sara Marie Brenner)
6. LouAnn Anderson's Estate of Denial 
7. Lou Ann Anderson at WatchdogWire
8. Vodka Pundit on PJ Media (while you are there, watch a few episodes of Afterburner and Trifecta)
9. Instapundit
10. Lady Liberty's and Liberty Speaks' blogs. They are separate, but the two are inseparable.
11. Toraradical.com 
12. George Rodriguez 
13. Chuck Norris on TownHall.

No, this is not an all-inclusive list. It's just the first 13 that came to mind. Paul reads many more than that on a regular basis. If you aren't included there or in the blog-roll, send us a message and we'll gladly and shamelessly promote you.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Farewell To Great American Harold Simmons

This weekend, Texan Harold Simmons died at the age of 82. Many Texans and Americans, including Rick Perry, mourn. Upon learning of Harold's death, Perry issued the following statement:

"Harold Simmons was a true Texas giant, rising from humble beginnings and seizing the limitless opportunity for success we so deeply cherish in our great state. His legacy of hard work and giving, particularly to his beloved University of Texas, will live on for generations. Anita and I send our thoughts and prayers to the Simmons family."

In each military memorial service the chaplains use the same famous phrase. That phrase is "On a tombstone there are two numbers. But those numbers do not mean much. What means the most is the little '-' between them".

It's another way of saying that it isn't about when somebody was born or how they died. It is all about how they lived. Harold Simmons lived. Texas, America, and the world are all better because of it.

Libertarians and Conservatives loved Harold Simmons. Many Democrats despised him. Within political circles, Simmons was well known for his political contributions. Rumors and reports indicate that Harold would have his executive assistants and staff run background checks on potential candidates who contacted him. Simmons sought to back candidates who were pro-business, pro-prosperity, and counter to superfluous government interference in the marketplace or high taxation. He understood that government subsidies and high taxes have negative impacts on the economy.

Simmons graduated from the University of Texas in 1951 with a BS in Economics. He earned a Masters a year later from the same university. He rose from humble beginnings as the son of school teachers to become a billionaire. His fortune began with a single pharmacy and drug store and grew through investments in diversified fields from medicals supplies and pharmaceuticals to metals to energy to waste disposal and recycling companies.

Once, in an interview, he was asked about his political donations. He responded with:

"I've got the money, so I'm spending it for the good of the country and to match the unlimited amounts from labor unions."
Of Barack Obama and his Keynesian economic policies, Harold once stated during an interview with the Wall Street Journal:

"Any of these Republicans would make a better president than that socialist, Obama. Obama is the most dangerous American alive because he would eliminate free enterprise in this country."

When John Kerry bragged about being a war hero, Harold Simmons was one of the chief donors to the groups running the SWIFT boat ads that revealed the truth behind Kerry's military career.

Harold Simmons donated to much more than just political campaigns that supported opportunities for free choice and prosperity. He gave millions to various charities. Among those was $175 million to University of Texas - Southwestern to build a cancer research and treatment center. He also once gave $50 million to the Parkland Hospital in Dallas, TX. One of his other more prominent donations was through his foundation, a $600 thousand grant to The Resource Center to help HIV-positive people, especially those within the gay communities.

Approximately 45% of the Simmons Foundation's grants go to medical and health charities. The remainder goes towards education, social welfare, youth groups, and arts & culture. That creates a wide spectrum of charitable interests marking Simmons as having been a true humanitarian.

Simmons worked hard, enjoyed life, and spread his blessings to those in need. He put his money where his heart and mouth were, standing on principles of fiscal conservatism and social libertarianism. His companies provide thousands of jobs, his charity work has helped even more people. In the political realm, he put his money where his morals and values rested, not to seek "behind the throne" power, but towards what he believed was best for all Americans. He made Texas, the USA, and the world a better place. He will be sorely missed. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Perry's Disaster Proclamations, Obama's Reply

Governor Rick Perry of Texas has been doing his part for Texans amid natural disasters hitting the state. Drought has plagued much of Texas for over 30 months. Then, at the end of Oct '13, flash floods hit central Texas.

Perry issued a declaration of emergency for the droughts a few years back. Each month since, he has renewed the Emergency Disaster Proclamation for the over 100 affected counties. In late December, '13, he issued his latest:

I, RICK PERRY, Governor of the State of Texas, issued an Emergency Disaster Proclamation on July 5, 2011, certifying that exceptional drought conditions posed a threat of imminent disaster in specified counties in Texas.
WHEREAS, record high temperatures, preceded by significantly low rainfall, have resulted in declining reservoir and aquifer levels, threatening water supplies and delivery systems in many parts of the state; and
WHEREAS, prolonged dry conditions continue to increase the threat of wildfire across many portions of the state; and
WHEREAS, these drought conditions have reached historic levels and continue to pose an imminent threat to public health, property and the economy; and
WHEREAS, this state of disaster includes the counties of Andrews, Archer, Armstrong, Bandera, Baylor, Bexar, Blanco, Briscoe, Brooks, Brown, Burnet, Cameron, Carson, Castro, Childress, Clay, Cochran, Coke, Coleman, Collingsworth, Colorado, Concho, Cottle, Crosby, Dallam, Dawson, Deaf Smith, DeWitt, Dickens, Dimmit, Eastland, Ector, Edwards, Fisher, Floyd, Foard, Frio, Gaines, Garza, Gillespie, Goliad, Gray, Hale, Hansford, Hardeman, Hartley, Haskell, Hidalgo, Hockley, Hudspeth, Hutchinson, Irion, Jack, Jim Hogg, Jones, Karnes, Kendall, Kenedy, Kent, Kerr, Kimble, King, Kinney, Knox, La Salle, Lamb, Lampasas, Llano, Lubbock, Lynn, Martin, Matagorda, McCulloch, McLennan, Medina, Midland, Mills, Mitchell, Moore, Motley, Nolan, Ochiltree, Oldham, Palo Pinto, Parker, Parmer, Potter, Randall, Real, Runnels, San Saba, Scurry, Shackelford, Sherman, Starr, Stephens, Sterling, Stonewall, Swisher, Terrell, Terry, Throckmorton, Tom Green, Travis, Uvalde, Val Verde, Wharton, Wichita, Wilbarger, Willacy, Williamson, Yoakum, Young and Zavala.
THEREFORE, in accordance with the authority vested in me by Section 418.014 of the Texas Government Code, I do hereby renew the disaster proclamation and direct that all necessary measures, both public and private as authorized under Section 418.017 of the code, be implemented to meet that threat.
As provided in Section 418.016 of the code, all rules and regulations that may inhibit or prevent prompt response to this threat are suspended for the duration of the state of disaster.
In accordance with the statutory requirements, copies of this proclamation shall be filed with the applicable authorities.
IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto signed my name and have officially caused the Seal of State to be affixed at my office in
the City of Austin, Texas, this the 20th day of December, 2013.
Governor of Texas
The flash floods over the Halloween weekend did little to impact the drought conditions. However, the floods damaged many homes and businesses, causing economic hardship to 7 Texas counties. Governor Perry issued a Emergency Disaster Proclamation for those 7 counties. He then requested Obama elevate the 3 hardest hit counties to a state of national disaster.

Obama has taken the dare and done just that. As of Friday Dec. 20, '13, Travis, Hays, and Caldwell Counties are declared in a state of national disaster. This opens those counties to increased federal relief funding in the way of grants and loans.

Previously, the Small Business Administration, one of the executive bureaucracies under the US Executive Branch, opened up for relief loans to the seven affected counties offering loans for damages and losses to small businesses, homesteads, and rental properties. With the President's proclamation, the SBA is expanding its loans and grants to 4 additional counties who were marginally affected by the flooding.

Here is Gov. Rick Perry's reaction to the news of Obama's official proclamation:

"The approval of this declaration is welcome news to the residents of Travis, Hays and Caldwell counties. This means that much-needed assistance is on its way to these communities, and Central Texans affected by the severe floods can begin rebuilding their lives."

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Governor Perry's Christmas Message

Governor Rick Perry doesn't issue blanket "holiday messages". He takes the time to issue a message for each one. He sent a Hanukkah message the first night of the festival of lights. He issued a Yule message on Dec. 21st. He also takes care to recognize the military, especially those overseas and in combat areas.

Here is his Christmas message issued late in the afternoon of Dec. 24th:

"As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, Anita and I wish a happy and blessed Christmas to everyone in Texas, and to Texans all around the world. May this holiday's message of peace and love touch the hearts of us all, and may those spending this holiday far from home feel the warmth of their family's love across the many miles. We ask that everyone keep in their thoughts those currently serving in our nation's military, and pray for their continued safety and well-being in the coming year, as they work to keep our nation safe and free."

And to our Christian friends, family, and gentle readers, we at Mental Aikido wish you a Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Data Shows Texas Is An Economic Leader

Gov. Rick Perry reviewed the latest employment data for Texas and made the following announcement:

"What all these great unemployment statistics really add up to, our lowest unemployment rate in nearly five years, a declining unemployment rate for four consecutive months and more than a quarter-million jobs added since this time last year, is that Texas is creating jobs and opportunity. Whether it's the steadily dropping unemployment rate or recent estimates that Texas will have billions left on hand at the end of the current biennium, the news continues to demonstrate that the Texas way of low taxes and individual freedom works. We've been the national epicenter for all kinds of job creation for over a decade, and all indications are that won't change anytime soon."

The news comes on the heels of Texas Comptroller Susan Comb's certification of 2014-15 projected revenues. That report came with news of a budgetary surplus in Texas, while the US federal budget faces yet another year of high deficits and increased federal debt.

The end of the state's fiscal year brings even more positive news. The president and CEO of the Dallas, TX Federal Reserve gave a speech praising Texas's economic policies and performance. Richard Fisher's full remarks, complete with charts and diagrams is available on the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas's website in both html and pdf formats.

"Above all, Texas is a state of mind where people are ready to work and get things done for the betterment of their families, communities, cities and beyond. We should be proud, indeed, to call the Lone Star State our home."
 Below are some key excerpts from a transcript of Mr. Fisher's speech:

The Success of the Lone Star State

Here’s why I believe Texas is attractive to even the Gen. Sheridans of the world. The state’s total output—the equivalent of gross domestic product—is approximately $1.4 trillion, in the neighborhood of countries like Australia and Spain. We produce more oil than Venezuela or Norway and more natural gas than Canada or all 28 countries of the European Union combined. And we produce jobs like gee-whiz. A job is the source of income and the root of security and wealth for a productive people. Without income a person cannot consume and invest, engaging the engines of economic growth. Most importantly, a job is the route to dignity as we have historically defined it in America.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

For the past 23 years, Texas has outpaced the country in job creation by a factor of more than 2-to-1. Here is a slide that shows the percentage increase in jobs created by several large states and for the U.S. as a whole since 1990:

Note the dotted black line drawn from the base of 100 in 1990. For the residents of the home of Motown or the Empire State or the Land of Lincoln, this graph does not present a happy picture. Since 1990, total employment growth in Michigan has been 5 percent, a compound annual growth rate of 0.17 percent, a pace that is one-twelfth that of Texas over the same period. New York and Illinois have not fared much better.

If you zoom in on the period since the onset of the financial crisis, you can see an even greater disparity in employment growth trends for Texas vis-à-vis the other large U.S. states:

In terms of jobs, Texas was one of the last states to lose ground during the recession and then led the pack in punching through employment levels that prevailed at the end of 2007. Fortunately, all of the selected states shown in the chart appear to be recovering, albeit rather slowly, from licks taken during the crisis. However, even the Empire State can’t compare, despite its devotees of the perspective captured by Saul Steinberg’s iconic 1976 cover of New Yorker, “View of the World from Ninth Avenue,” depicting everything west of the Hudson River as a vast wasteland. Compared to the view in 1976, Texas stands tall above all the rest. Why is that?

Blessed to Be in Texas

Here are some other facts and figures that help round out the economic picture of our state.
In the housing sector, Texas largely avoided the housing boom and bust that struck most of the nation. We did not experience a housing bubble:

Nor did we suffer a housing bust:

It helped that a 1997 amendment to the Texas Constitution allowed home equity loans and cash-out refinancing for the first time in the state’s history, but limited the amount of total debt (new loan plus the first mortgage) to no more than 80 percent of a home’s value. Combined with other factors such as ample land availability and fewer development and zoning restrictions, Texas housing stock increased during the last decade’s national boom without the rapidly rising home prices experienced elsewhere. With borrowing under control and house prices relatively stable, the state escaped the brunt of the housing sector fallout and experienced relatively few underwater mortgages:

 If the religious, spiritual, health, and family togetherness purposes are not enough to celebrate this holiday season, Texans can add the free and prosperous economic situation and that predicted for the New Year to the list of blessings.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas is Clemency Season

Christmas is clemency season, it appears, not just at the federal levels, either.

Chatter, especially in conservative circles, is going around concerning Obama's recent clemency and pardons granted. Most notably are eight individuals convicted of cocaine (specifically "crack") related crimes.

It's tradition for executives to announce clemency and pardons in time for the holidays. Texas is no different. Governor Rick Perry announced he is granting clemency or pardons to 12 individuals. Most of those granted by Perry were for lesser, non-violent crimes committed years ago when the offenders were young.

Here is the official clemency list including pardons, according to a press release from the office of the Governor:

• Georgeanne Michelle (Driver) Battle, 39, was convicted of unlawfully carrying a weapon in 1993 at the age of 19. She was sentenced to four days in jail, and paid a $100 fine. She is granted a full pardon.

• Kathryn Lee (Gill) Drew, 49, was convicted of theft in 1982 at the age of 17. She was sentenced to three days in jail, and paid a $350 fine. She is granted a full pardon.

• Sonia Fernandez Duque, 37, received two years deferred adjudication for assault in 1998 at the age of 20. She paid $500 restitution. She is granted a full pardon.

• Kaye Kathline (Lindsey) Elam, 56, was convicted of theft in 1979 at the age of 21. She was sentenced to three days in jail, and paid a $50 fine. She is granted a full pardon.

• Cheryl Janea (David) Hicks, 48, was convicted of theft in 1985 at the age of 19. She was sentenced to three days in jail, and paid a $150 fine. She is granted a full pardon.

• Jill Elizabeth (Houston) Hopson, 51, was convicted of theft in 1981 at the age of 19. She was sentenced to one year in jail, which was probated for one year, and paid a $200 fine. She is granted a full pardon.

• Gail Lee Korfiatis, 50, was convicted of assault in 1993 at the age of 30. She was sentenced to 90 days in jail, which was probated for two years, and paid a $200 fine. She is granted a full pardon.

• Robert Leos, 45, received two months deferred adjudication for burglary of a coin operated machine in 1987 at the age of 18. He paid a $50 fine. He is granted a full pardon.

• David Russell Littlefield, 55, received one year deferred adjudication for theft by check in 1982 at the age of 23. He paid a $200 fine. He is granted a full pardon.

• Barbara Anne (Miller) Lussier, 57, was convicted of theft in 1981 at the age of 25. She was sentenced to three days in jail, and paid a $250 fine. She is granted a full pardon.

• Edith Marie Peace, 66, was convicted of theft by check in 1986 at the age of 37. She was sentenced to 180 days in jail, which was probated for six months, and paid a $50 fine. She is granted a full pardon.

• Rebecca Louise Walker, 38, was convicted of theft by check in 2008 at the age of 31. She was sentenced to one day in jail. She is granted a full pardon.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

New Policies For Vets With TBI

A new Veterans Administration (VA) Policy is set to go into effect January 2014 that will affect Military Veterans who may have suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) due to military service. This affects veterans, both Texas National Guardsmen and Active & Reserve US Military personnel.

The new policy is meant to make screenings for possible TBIs more accessible to veterans. It is also intended to make other ailments automatically service-connected if the veteran if found to have sustained a TBI. Among those ailments are Parkinson's Disease, Dementia, Depression, Seizures, and many other conditions connected to the Hypothalamus or Pituitary Gland.

Many of those conditions listed were previously considered non-service-connected, possibly even "pre-existing but latent" or "previously undiagnosed". That meant the VA would not cover them within the scope of service-connected disabilities. Now, if a veteran or military retiree is found to have suffered a TBI, even an MTBI (mild injury, such as a mild concussion), the conditions are eligible for disabled veterans benefits.

MTBI can seem as minor as just "having your bell rung" during an IED incident or getting bounced around the inside of a military vehicle due to combat maneuvers. Even the protective combat helmets are not 100% effective protection against these. They may mitigate what would have been a severe injury, lessening the effects to a mild "bell ringing". However, many soldiers in sector never sought medical attention. The immediate effects can wear off in seconds. However, the resulting brain damage and related symptoms sometimes do not manifest for months. They can include depression, aphasia, short-term memory problems, unexplained mood swings, appetite loss, uncontrolled binge activity such as eating or drinking, fugue, and unexplained headaches. Many of the symptoms of even an MTBI can be easily mistaken for PTSD. If coupled with Post-Combat Stress (misnamed "PTSD"), they can go undiagnosed or mistreated. 

If you or a loved one who saw combat experiences even the mildest of any of these or the other related symptoms, a screening is important. You have the right to refuse one, yes. However, there are treatments available and benefits that can help you take care of your family. These are not hand-outs, but part of what we earned fighting to support and defend our Constitution and our way of life.

The Defense and Veterans' Brain Injury Center has great information relating to TBI and how you can help somebody you know who may be suffering from one. 

The federal and state TBI policies through the respective VAs as well as the Texas Governor's Committee on Persons with Disabilites are ready to assist, according to Governor Rick Perry.

For more information on TBI and the screening process, go to this site run by the VA. It has a great overview as well as links to more detailed information.

The Legal Side of TBI

Leticia Van De Putte, running for LT. Gov, sponsored a "comprehensive" military and veterans bill during the 83rd Legislative Session. The bill garnered bipartisan support. Rick Perry signed it into law. The law itself appears vital to Texas military (including National Guard and State Militia), ensuring that military and veterans receive the full benefits due them.

Within the law,(SB 1536) there is this section relating directly to TBI and Post-Combat Stress (mislabeled at Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD in the bill).

Sec. 437.216.  SERVICE REFERRAL PROGRAM. (a)  The Texas military forces shall develop a program to provide referrals to service members for reintegration services. 
       (b)  The program shall: 
             (8)  be developed and administered in a manner that promotes collaboration of service providers and results in the referral of service members, their children, and other family members to the appropriate federal, state, and community services for which they are eligible; and
             (9)  provide information and referral services regarding the risks and consequences of trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other conditions for which service members are at risk.
       (c)  The Texas military forces shall ensure that:
             (1)  each person who provides referrals to service members under the referral program has received sufficient training to ensure that service members receive accurate information; and
             (2)  service members are notified in a timely manner about the service referral program.
       (d)  In developing the referral program, the Texas military forces shall consult with the National Guard Bureau, the United States Veterans Health Administration, the Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, and The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

That appears all well and good. However, there are also efforts to deprive any veteran suspected of or diagnosed with PCS/PTSD, MTBI, or TBI from their constitutional rights. By federal policy, these veterans may be deprived of their Second Amendment protections without a court order, without a trial, and without cause or necessity being proven.

In addition, many seek to label those with TBI, MTBI, PCS, or PTSD as mentally, morally, and intellectually compromised or incompetent. That could mean that, without a court order, some government bureaucrat may decide a veteran is not capable of handling his or her own finances, medical decisions, etc. In essence, their possessions, finances, etc. are forced into some form of conservator program where the veteran is forced to ask permission for access to his or her own stuff. This is even if a veteran has broken no laws and never been a danger to himself or others (since separation from the military, of course, because we would hope a soldier would have been a danger to the evils that threaten our country while the soldier was still on duty).

Other dangers include stripping away the veteran's right to refusal of medications or treatments. Some of the TBI, MTBI, PCS/PTSD treatments and medications intended to alleviate symptoms have bad side effects that are worse than the symptoms and conditions themselves. In addition, they can have aggravated side effects when coupled with methoquinine toxicity. Meth-Q toxicity results from the preventive medications some soldiers received prior to and during deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and North Africa. Some of the symptoms of Meth-Q toxicity are similar to those of TBI, MTBI, and PCS/PTSD. The VA does not recognize Meth-Q toxicity just like it did not recognize "agent orange" poisoning for Vietnam veterans for decades. The VA did not recognize "Gulf War Syndrome" for almost 20 years either.

Yet, veterans can be forced to take these treatments "for their own good", and end up worse than without them. This can include fainting spells from a body's inability to retain potassium (or sweating it all out during night sweats). They can include vitamin D deficiencies due to the body's refusal to retain Vitamin D or irregularities in how it processes it to Vitamin-K. The vitamin D issues can aggravate depression and can cause unexplained joint flare-ups that resemble gout. Furthermore, they can manifest as damage to the thyroid gland.

So veterans need to be aware of what benefits they have earned. They need to seek out those benefits. However, they do need to be wary of the Trojan Horse that may unethically and immorally accompany them.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Immigration And Visa Reform

I was on the radio with Allan Bourdius and Sam Rosado, esq. the other night discussing immigration reform.

We came with varied perspectives and experiences, but arrived at similar conclusions aimed at similar and common goals.

There are very few US citizens who wouldn't agree that immigration is a mess. The laws need an overhaul. Both sides of the aisle agree on that very issue. The problem is that they appear to champion opposite directions for reforms.

Along that spectrum you have those labeled as xenophobes. Those are the militant people who want the US Army based along the borders guarding a modern iron curtain and the US Navy blockading all but registered merchant ships along our coasts. The extreme other side wants the borders completely open so all can come and go as they please, no papers needed.

The irony is that many on the right, politically, are accused of being xenophobic while the left is portrayed as the other. The xenophobic ideals are more reminiscent of past (and current) left-wing governments around the world, such as North Korea, the Former Soviet Union, and others. The complete open borders are more libertarian in ideology, bordering on the political ideals of extreme right-wing anarchists.

Most people, including the "extremist demagogues" sniffing around DC as lobbyists, politicians or legislators, actually reside closer to the middle. The goals are more common than most think.

The Democratic Party spins in hopes of gaining power through duping certain ethnic groups into believing in special treatments, thereby blindly voting on this single issue. The Republican Party tends to spin border security, punishing those who violate the rule of law, and making the process the same for each individual, at least on the powerpoint slides.

There is a comprehensive immigration reform bill being considered. Like other recent "comprehensive reform bills", it is a disaster. It needs to be scraped. Immigration and border security are not comprehensive problems. They cannot be fixed with a magic wand or the wave of an auto-pen. There are several separate issues that each need to be addressed independently. Addressing them "comprehensively" will inevitably screw all of them up. None of the issues will get the care and attention each deserves. Each will be subject to some other provision from a separate immigration-related issue.

Those who have studied the issues know that the first step must be to secure the borders. Border security is a separate issue from immigration. However, it is always lumped into the debates. The reason is simple. No amount of immigration reform is possible as long as we have the high amount of illicit traffic along our borders.

Sex slavery, human trafficking and indentured servitude, smuggling (including drugs and weapons), murder, rape, criminal trespassing, vandalism, cattle rustling, horse theft, auto theft, ID theft, fraud, and home invasion all occur as a result of a porous border. These crimes happen to US citizens as well as citizens of other countries who would love to immigrate legally. Some are forced to courier drugs while the coyotes lead them into the country. Children are raped and sold into slavery, still. Many times that slavery is for "adult entertainment" and prostitution. Any illegal immigrant seeking any form of work or semblance of  legitimacy will acquire false and forged paperwork. That paperwork usually includes stolen identities.

Those crimes don't even address the potential terrorists infiltrating our nation, in hopes of being part of the next big "9/11" attack. Having lived near the Arizona border, I've seen some of these people, first-hand. They had documents written in Arabic and Farsi that gave them instructions telling them their missions and directing them to handlers already in our country. There are not a huge number of these threats, but it takes only a handful.

National security is a federal responsibility. It is also a state responsibility. Each state has its own militia. Each property owner is responsible for his or her own property. Each individual citizen has a right to protect himself or herself and his or her family against threats. So, the responsibility to guard our border does not rest with the federal government alone. The 10th Amendment comes into effect with the border security issue. 

As Americans, it is against our nature and against our foundational ideology to keep everybody out. We are a nation of immigrants, pilgrims, pioneers, explorers, and people seeking a better way of life. Only extreme idiots will claim we don't want any immigrants. We also want international tourists. They bring money and jobs. When they return home, they generate international demand for our goods and services. That is good for our economy. We also have international business professionals who visit. They also are good for our national economy. We want them to visit.

Among those who visit, there are innovators, entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, philosophers, and hard workers. We want them to want to immigrate here. We need those people. They generate jobs and capital and economic growth. They also lend other great things to our melting-pot culture (like cuisine).

Who we, as a nation, do not want are those who will encumber our society. We have enough people defrauding our government relief programs. We have enough burdens upon the taxpayers. We do not need more. The top 40% of income earners in our country pays 109% of the federal revenue from taxes. We, as a nationa, are taxed enough. We don't need any more dependents.

One issue at hand is that of the immigration and naturalization process. This is a federal responsibility. Article 1 of the US Constitution mandates that congress alone sets the laws and policies for immigration and naturalization. They alone have the responsibility and the authority. They alone are charged with fixing it. Thus having the issue involved in any executive branch election debate is ludicrous.

Here is an infographic simplifying the current immigration and naturalization process. It is the property of Reason.com. Sorry, you will have to click on the link to view it. Go ahead, it is worth your time and the headache.

There is one shortcut not portrayed in that infographic. Honorable service in the US Military can expedite the process. It can be even quicker if that military service is performed by individuals who immigrated from select countries. Beyond that very small segment to whom that shortcut applies, the process for most takes longer than any visa provides.

The process for legal immigraton needs to be simplified, period. Currently, it serves as an incentive to illegally invade the country, or stay illegally after some form of visa expires.

Visas Are Not Just For Tourism. They Need An Overhaul.

The second process that requires reform is the visa process. Todd Staples addressed one segment of visa's in his book, Broken Borders, Broken Promises. Work visas need to be increased, be cost effective, and be ample enough to provide the labor and workers we need and desire. A system of licensing some form of "permanent guest worker" program would be a huge help. The quotas on these need to be substantially increased as well. That all goes to international and global trade. That benefits our economy. The guest workers, in addition, should not become taxpayer burdens. They should be capital generators.

Other visas need reform, to include so-called "fiancee visas". These are visas for soon-to-be or recently married couples that involve one US citizen and one foreign national. Too often, these expire before the immigration and naturalization process reaches vital points necessary to allow the couple to remain together. The desired minimum point in the process is the Legal Permanent Resident status, which includes that too-often elusive "green card".


Here is yet another failing point. There is no such thing as a compassionate or emergency visa program. There should be. Once somebody applies for an immigration visa, they are stuck in limbo until it is granted. They cannot acquire any other form of visa for visitation. They cannot visit the US on business while they wait for the immigration visa to be approved. They cannot visit US family members. They can do nothing but wait.

Such was the case for a friend of mine and her husband. Katrina Jorgenson is a US Citizen. I first "met" Katrina on Twitter. I was new to the platform and new to being politically vocal. I was nearing retirement from the military and was preparing to loose my tongue that my military career had necessitated to be restrained for 24 years. She and I debated a few issues and agreed on others. More than that, she was among the first to welcome me to the conservative and libertarian communities on Twitter.

While working abroad, she met the man of her dreams, a Norwegian National named Kai Jorgenson. They got married. They also anticipated the day when Kat's job and career would take her back home to the US. So they began the immigration process. Kai and Kat did everything correct. They also saved up for the move and the anticipated costs of the immigration process. To immigrate legally is not cheap.

The day came, and Kat's job brought her to DC. Meanwhile, Kai remained at his job in his home country. They had things planned, to include several trips for Kat back to Norway. Little did they anticipate that less than a week after returning to the states that Kat would end up in the ICU at a local hospital. There, in a frightening situation, Kat just wanted her husband there to hold her hand. Kai wanted nothing less than to be by his bride's side. Put yourself in the situation. If it were you in the hospital, your spouse would be a spiritual comfort. That is something that most doctors understand as a key component to a patient's health. If it were your spouse or child in the hospital, you would want to be there. You'd be willing to move heaven and earth to do so.

Kai and Kat tried to get Kai a visa. No. He wasn't far enough along in the immigration process. There were no assurances he'd return. They didn't want another illegal on their hands.

They looked into a waiver that is rarely granted. The application process for the waiver would take longer than Kat's hospitalization. Even still, it wasn't granted.

There are no provisions for compassionate visitation visas. The US military can work with the Red Cross to get a Soldier out from the middle of a dangerous combat patrol in Iraq, packed, on a plane, and back to the US on emergency leave in less than 36 hours. (It may take a little more on average, but I know several instances where this did happen that quickly). Yet the US Government cannot work with an allied nation to grant a compassionate visitation visa so a spouse can buy his own ticket, travel on his own still-valid passport, and visit his very sick wife in an ICU?

The system is broken. Period.

The immigration, naturalization, and visa processes need to be reformed piecemeal. A bill to reform visas to allow compassionate visit visas "died" in committee, allegedly due to the whispers of a pending "comprehensive immigration reform bill" bouncing around behind closed doors of several US Senators.

That is the sound of a failed legislature, folks. They kill an important bill that will patch a bad loophole in immigration and visitation law to pave the way for a "comprehensive" bill that is likely to be a galactic failure.

Here is the compassionate visa bill:

To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to remove from an alien the initial burden of establishing that he or she is entitled to nonimmigrant status under section 101(a)(15)(B) of such Act, in the case of certain aliens seeking to enter the United States for a temporary stay occasioned by the serious illness or death of a United States citizen or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence, and for other purposes.
    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This Act may be cited as the `Compassionate Visitor Visa Act'.


    Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1184(b)) is amended--
      (1) by striking `(b)' and inserting `(b)(1)';
      (2) by striking `101(a)(15))' and inserting `101(a)(15) or paragraph (2))'; and
      (3) by adding at the end the following:
    `(2) In the case of an alien seeking nonimmigrant status under section 101(a)(15)(B) in order to enter the United States for a temporary stay occasioned by, and relating to, the serious illness or death of a United States citizen, or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence, who is a grandchild, grandparent, parent, sibling, spouse, or child of the applicant (or other emergency or compelling circumstances involving such a citizen or permanent resident alien as the Secretary of Homeland Security may establish by regulation), the applicant shall be presumed to be entitled to such nonimmigrant status unless the consular officer, at the time of application for a visa, or the immigration officer, at the time of application for admission, determines, based on specific facts, that the applicant--
      `(A) is inadmissible to the United States under section 212(a); or
      `(B) does not intend to depart from the United States after the expiration of the period of authorized admission.'.
 Kat and Kai's story is best told in their words. They ask for citizens to read their versions of the story.

Here is Katrina's. And here is Kai's.

Katrina asked for people to write their US Representatives and Senators concerning this bill. Any rhetoric concerning the "comprehensive immigration reform bill" has nothing to do with this issue. It ignores it. Write your legislators and demand they support and consider this important bill. Kat and Kai's story is not unique. It just happens to be one that hits home for several of us.

Amnesty? No. But Something Needs Doing

The illegal immigrants in our country are often portrayed as the border-jumping, tunnel rats invading from the south. While that may describe a slight majority, it is, by far, not an accurate representation.

Those types of illegals need to be stopped. Many would be happy to obtain legal guest worker visas. Others would be content to visit family that are already here, many of them legally.

The reported statistics vary. As many as 40% of illegals actually came to the US legally. They came. They wanted citizenship. Their visas expired. They are stuck. This goes back directly to streamlining and simplifying the immigration and naturalization ball of chaos that passes as a system.

Each of these issues needs to be piecemeal. They need to be addressed separately. They each deserve their own governing legislation. They each deserve their own time on the floors of congress. Each has a unique solution. No "comprehensive solution" will do.

Is Amnesty the answer? Most Americans would sound off with a resounding "no!". They are correct, blanket amnesty has a history of failing. It will more than likely continue to fail. However, in some cases, the answer just may be "yes". That means there should be no blanket amnesty, but that each individual case needs to be adjudicated on its own facts, details, and merits.

Well, perhaps not amnesty in the meaning of instant citizenship. Perhaps naturalization should be denied in lieu of a new form of Legal Permanent Resident status that allows them many of the protections of our Constitution, but does not grant other privileges such as the right to vote. Perhaps even that could be waived with military service being a qualifier for naturalization?

There are people who came to the US as infants born in other countries of non-US citizens. They are here illegally and do not even know it. Take the case of Carmen Figueroa. This woman acted as a true citizen, working with loyalty to the US and our principles. Imagine being 42 years old and finding out your parents are here illegally, and so are you! Should she be deported from the only land she has known as home? Should she be tried and convicted of a crime her parents committed while she was still teething? Probably not. So what to do?

Every case may have similarities with others. However, each one is unique. Each case needs to be addressed individually. Some form of "stay of execution" is necessary as each of these cases is sorted out. It may turn out the majority of illegals already in the US should be deported. But cases such as Figueroa's clearly should not.

And what of cases concerning "anchor babies"? Do we split up families? Do we deport native-born US Citizens? That is clearly against the US Constitution. So what is the answer? Simple, there is no "one answer fits all". Each case needs to be looked at individually.

Perhaps instead of hiring legions of IRS and DHS thugs, the government should look into hiring bureaucrats to handle these immigration cases?

Education is NOT a federal responsibility or authority. Yet the Department of Education is bloated with bureaucrats. Perhaps the executive branch should follow the 10th Amendment and transfer those bureaucratic slots to something that is a federal responsibility -- Immigration processing? Caseworkers and judges to ease the burdens on the courts and the red-tape navigators would be a better use of taxpayer dollars. It would also be the responsible and humane way to handle the problem of the illegals already here, on the case-by-case basis each deserves to be addressed.

That leads to one other portion of reform. The laws and the judicial branch leave very little flexibility to the federal judges working immigration issues. They need room to decide. They need room to be judges instead of gavel-pounders who echo chapter and verse. They are appointed under a measure of public trust. Should we not give them the latitude to earn that trust?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

411: 911 needs to call 311?

411 is the number for information. 311 is the number for city services in many municipalities, including San Antonio, TX. It's the "non-emergency" service number. 911 is the iconic emergency call number for police, fire, and other first responders. In San Antonio, the 911 system is in trouble.

The national standard for response from dial to first responder arrival is six (6) minutes.

In parts of San Antonio, fire and emergency medical service (EMS - ambulances) meet that standard less than 20% of the time. In other areas, their response times are better, meeting that time about 80% of the time. 

Why The Long Wait?

Some citizens have complained about longer waiting times. Times should be calculated from the time the number is dialed until responders arrive on scene. Usually, however, they are calculated from the time the 911 operator dispatches the responder.

There have been allegations of citizens placed "on hold" before even being asked for the nature of the request for help. There have been allegations of citizens claiming having to wait up to ten minutes for an operator to answer the call. In November, Jaie Avila of San Antonio's Television Channel 4 uncovered cases of City 911 operators acting negligently and unprofessionally. She and her team discovered operators sleeping on the job, failing to verify information, and walking away from their desks, ignoring calls, and taking breaks without a relief.

Jaie's article also touches on another layer of the issue at hand. The city official responsible for supervising the 911 call center was under investigation for misconduct.

"We uncovered that one of the people who was supposed to be supervising dispatchers was himself being investigated for misconduct. Communications Supervisor Jason Gentry was accused of theft of time.

"According to investigative documents, Gentry was accused of leaving early or not showing up to work at all. Gentry was on administrative leave for more than two months, so taxpayers paid his salary while Gentry had most of the summer off. Gentry denies the allegation and is now back at work even though investigators substantiated the allegations against him.

"Chief McManus said Gentry was going to be fired, but McManus decided on the lesser punishment.

" 'We reviewed his file. He really didn't have anything in his file. So, I reconsidered the termination recommendation,' McManus said.

"Gentry had to reimburse the city for days he didn't show up to work, he received a two week unpaid suspension and is no longer a supervisor."


911 problems: Policy, Political, Regulatory, Systemic, or Symptomatic of Complacency and Negligence?

There are also rumors that operators have been told to ignore calls from certain citizens.

One story an anonymous source related states that a disabled man residing in San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) Section 8 "HUD" low-income housing is being ignored. The man has called to report drug and gang related activity in his housing development.

Drug-related activity in SAHA/HUD housing is supposed to result in immediate termination of housing. In other words, get caught selling or using drugs in SAHA/HUD housing and you are evicted and disqualified from the program.

See page 7 of this SAHA publication. Section 9.(c) states that landlords must place the following in the lease:
Provision that drug-related criminal activity engaged in by the tenant, any household member, or any guest on or near the premises, or any person under the tenant’s control on the premises is ground to terminate tenancy.
If the disabled citizen's allegations are correct, then why are his calls being ignored? Why will police not respond to calls and at least investigate? It could be that the suspicions were investigated a few times already and found unfounded. It could be that neighborhood is one of those where "police fear to tread". It could be something else as well.

If true, one may logically conclude it links to allegations of rampant corruption in the city. Evicting SAHA/HUD tenants due to drug or gang activity would mean fewer "residents served" by the taxpayer funded program. That, in turn, would equate to fewer state and federal funds coming to the city. That could mean more funds funneled into "the variable" and kicked out to alleged undocumented "no-bid" contracts. The idea may ring of conspiracy theory, but it is not one that is convoluted or unbelievable.

Linked To Suspicions of Other City Corruption?

Former City Telecommunication Manager turned Whistle-blower and City Corruption Watchdog, John E. Foddrill,Sr. suspects the troubles go deeper than poor employees. The problems is multi-fold.

First, the equipment needs upgrading and expansion. Much of this was funded years ago through federal and state grants.

Operators need better supervision and training. Lives are at stake.

The fire responders and police state they need more people and more stations. Shorter response distances decrease response times.

And, as Foddrill alleges, there may be corruption getting in the way. It appears to tie into that city telephone account called "the variable".

When Foddrill uncovered the revolving half-million dollar account, he found as much as $5.2 a year funneled through the account to pay city phone bills that amounted to a much lower amount. The telecommunications hardware and software also fell, partially, under his purview as the City Telecommunications Manager.

Foddrill was threatened to stop his audits and ignore the fund other than to issue payments to the telephone service providers. He was eventually fired for doing his job and auditing the account. Then he was barred, by a restraining order, from setting foot on any city property. Then the police showed up at his home in the middle of the night for a "mental health check". The raid was reported as "unfounded" by the responding officers. Foddrill suspects Chief McManus initiated the raid as a form of intimidation and harassment for looking into "the variable" and possible links to poor 911 efficiency.

The 911 system falls under the purview of the Fire Chief, the Police Chief, and the city telecommunications manager.

In an open letter, John Foddrill cites several news media and other sources in an editorial that raises many yet unanswered questions:


San Antonio TX Firefighter’s Union President Steele declared on Sept 11, 2013 that the average response time in San Antonio TX is seven minutes forty-three seconds….almost eight minutes….. in a KSAT report “ Six Minutes to Live or Die ”.  On November 14, 2012 KSAT aired a report “KSAT Defenders investigation: 911 answering delays plague Bexar County” describing how at times 911 calls are not answered for up to ten minutes. A Mayo Clinic study shows that only a six minute window exists to save a life.

If first responders have only six minutes to save a life how does the fact that 911 calls are not even answered within ten minutes and the average response time is almost eight minutes not prove that citizens are dying due the failures of our public safety systems in San Antonio/Bexar County Texas?

The 911 failures, busy signals and delays are nothing new. A summary of news reports and internal documents shows that public safety systems have been failing in Bexar County/San Antonio TX for years.

A 2004 SA Current article describes how calls to 911 were met with a busy signal. A 2005 Crime Control and Prevention District meeting reveals that 23.6 % of 911 calls never get to a call-taker. A 2006 Express News article cites an internal City audit declaring that SAFD and SAPD ranked 1 and 2 on a scale of 1-5 scoring at the bottom of the system gauging the effectiveness and reliability of the 911 center. Media reports of E911/public safety system failures continued through 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 , 2012 and 2013.

No article exists detailing how in 2005/2006 the theft and misuse of tens of millions of dollars set aside by law for 911- telecommunications support was reported to the Office of Municipal Integrity, SAPD, the FBI, the Texas Rangers and City "leaders" as the scandal impacting the safety of citizens and first responders has been kept hidden. County Manager David Smith, County Dispatch Manager Robert Adelman, Union Presidents Steele/Helle and others provide interviews to KSAT and other media organizations lamenting about the failures BUT no one is willing to discuss the ongoing RICO-like criminal conspiracy to hide the theft/misuse of   tens of millions of dollars set aside for E911/telecommunications support. The media must take responsibility for their part in the “news blackout” as well. 

Efforts to gain assistance from local public safety unions have been rebuffed for years. Citizens received no reply to a recent certified letter mailed to all three unions . Local Police, Fire and Sheriff Deputy unions have been asked why for the past several years union leaders made very open complaints concerning public safety system failures BUT then refused to expose the core problems- public/police corruption and the massive theft/misuse of public/grant funds set aside by law to support 911 and telecommunications. Union officials have evidence proving that City IT Director Hugh Miller conspired with others to conceal the criminal activity and that Miller helped present false testimony to the Courts in an effort to defraud our judicial system and keep the crimes hidden. Union officials are aware that Miller was put in control of all public safety IT projects and budgets when former Asst. Police Department Director Gaffigan was demoted / allowed to resign for hiding the failures from Council/citizens. A man who lied to Council was replaced with a man who participated in a “fraud upon our Courts” and who allowed false statements to be presented to federal investigators – hl-10-0465 - to hide the theft/misuse of public/grant funds set aside for telecommunications/E911 support.  Do citizens and first responders have any hope of getting a true statement concerning the public safety system failures?  We think not.

On July 1, 2009 City Attorney Michael Bernard and Police Chief William McManus issued an illegal, unconstitutional criminal trespass warning barring entry into City Hall and public City Council meetings in an effort to keep the criminal activity hidden. On August 31, 2012 a second criminal trespass warning was issued when another law-abiding citizen asked too many questions. On March 27, 2013 United States District Judge Rodriguez lifted the illegal, unconstitutional bans imposed to silence whistle-blowers but the cover-up continues.

How many lives must be lost before somebody stands up and takes action to protect our first responders and citizens who have been kept in the dark for so many years believing the lies told by our City “leaders”?

Six Minutes Too High A Standard?

For those who have seen combat action in any of the wars our nation has fought since 1945, six minutes seems like an eternity. You are pinned down, outgunned, and need help. If told "we'll have air support on station in 6 minutes" can seem like a death sentence. Even indirect fires from canons or howitzers can take a minute to impact. You hunker down and pray, "dear lord in heaven bring the steel rain swiftly".

That is for soldiers who are trained and often already combat experienced. What about a regular citizen, though? How long should a mother, home alone, unarmed, hide in a closet with her daughter while home invaders break in, seeking to steal, rape, and kill both the mother and the young child?

Six minutes is the national standard. Even that can seem like an eternity. An armed intruder can enter a single-story house and clear it, shooting anything that moves, in three minutes or less.

Then we have response times in San Antonio. The city has had noted problems with response times for years. Currently, the average response time is just under eight (8) minutes, much improved from several years ago. However, that figure is calculated from the time the operator dispatches until the time the responders arrive. The real wait can be longer.

Sure, there can be issues with a panicked caller not able to verify the address and nature of the incident. Operators are trained to get that information. With modern technology, standard home phones self-identify the address to emergency operators. Many cell phones have Global Positioning System (GPS) functions that, even if disabled, will still give 911 operators the caller's general location. But Texas has problems with that data. Recent data indicates that the accuracy of GPS locational data for 911 calls in the state have fallen from a high of almost 70% accuracy in January 2011 to just over 30% accuracy in May of 2013.

What if the operators fail to verify address or locational data? What if the operators don't answer the phone? What if it takes the operator up to ten minutes to answer? That is simply unacceptable in true emergency conditions when seconds count.

If a major artery is severed, the injured person may have as little as 8 minutes before they "bleed out" or go into shock and die. Most people do not know how to apply a proper tourniquet or pressure bandage. Even if they do know, most don't have adequate materials on hand. Those 6 minute response times are vital to meet.

Fires can spread from a small, manageable flare-up to an uncontrollable blaze in three minutes.

More firemen, more stations, more police, more highly trained and responsible 911 operators, and city administrators who care enough to do their jobs seem to be the answer. But if the money earmarked for these, as Foddrill and others allege, is going into revolving accounts such as "the variable", the taxpayers are not getting what they already paid for.

If It's Broken, Call 311

311 is who you call if you need potholes repaired, trash picked up in a park, or to turn in your neighbor for having a garage sale without a permit. It's also who you call if the sewers are backing up, your block has a power outage, or you just have questions about city operations.

San Antonio's 311 system currently shows a greater than 90% response and answer rate. In the past year, the 311 system's worst performing month still reported an approximate 83% response and answer rate. That rivals the 911 emergency response system's reported statistics, where some neighborhoods report as low as a 20% response rate.

San Antonio openly publishes the successful statistics for their 311 system. However, in order to obtain 911 emergency response times, citizens have to file freedom of information (FOIA) requests to the city and justify the request. By the time the city responds to the request, the information and data may no longer be of value. 

Being a non-emergency service system, response times are not limited to that critical six minutes. However, these non-emergency service calls report fairly good response times. In it's poorest month, June 13, 311 reported response times of less than 70 minutes. October 13 averaged under 30 minutes for a response. When a 911 operator doesn't answer the phone for 10 minutes, puts you on hold for 10 minutes, then responders need 10 minutes to get to your location due to rush-hour traffic, 311 seems to promise a faster response.

If a 911 call fails to respond in a timely fashion, fails to meet that 6 minute standard, should citizens start calling 311 to report the broken system? With a 30 minute average response time and a 90% response and answer rate, that does appear to be a means to get the system fixed. That is most likely not the best option. Writing and calling your city council representative, your state representative, your state senator, and your federal congressman may be the better course of action.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Perry Proclaims Disaster, Request President Do Same

Governor Rick Perry officially proclaimed the flooding in central Texas on Oct 30 - Nov 1 as a state disaster. He has challenged President Obama to bump the declaration to a federal level.

From Oct 30-Nov 1 2013, despite continuing drought conditions, flash floods hit several counties in central Texas. The floods affected many farms, ranches, homes, and small businesses. Seven counties were hit hard by the flooding.

The US Small Business Administration went so far as to respond positively to urgings and requests from the Perry Administration. The SBA was authorized to start giving low-interest loans to property owners and businesses for repairs and recovery of equipment lost due to the flash floods.

But this may not be enough to give citizens a leg-up towards recovering what was lost.

On Thursday, Perry issued the following proclamation declaring the state-level disaster:


I, RICK PERRY, Governor of the State of Texas, do hereby certify that severe flooding, which occurred on October 30, 2013, and continued through November 16, 2013, caused a disaster in Bell, Caldwell, Freestone, Guadalupe, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties in the State of Texas.

THEREFORE, in accordance with the authority vested in me by Section 418.014 of the Texas Government Code, I do hereby declare a state of disaster in the counties listed above based on the existence of such disaster and direct that all necessary measures, both public and private as authorized under Section 418.017 of the code, be implemented to meet that disaster.

As provided in Section 418.016 of the code, all rules and regulations that may inhibit or prevent prompt response to this disaster are suspended for the duration of the disaster.
In accordance with the statutory requirements, copies of this proclamation shall be filed with the applicable authorities.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto signed my name and have officially caused the Seal of State to be affixed at my office in the City of Austin, Texas, this the 12th day of December, 2013.

Governor of Texas


State of National Disaster Request

The governor called on Obama to issue a state of national disaster for the three counties hit hardest by the flooding. If the request is granted, it will qualify residents and businesses in those three counties for increased federal disaster relief grants and loans beyond those offered by the SBA.

Of  the request, Gov. Perry stated:

"The severe flood damage in Central Texas has affected the lives of many people and left a devastating financial burden on our local communities. I urge President Obama to grant this assistance so Texans can continue their recovery and rebuild their homes, businesses and communities.

"Specific requests include:

• Individual assistance, including the Individual and Households Program, Other Needs Assistance, disaster unemployment assistance, disaster legal assistance, disaster case management and crisis counseling.
• Public assistance (all categories); and
• Hazard Mitigation statewide."
As enumerated, these extend well beyond the confines of grants and low-interest loans from the SBA. Governors in other more conservative states met with resistance in national disaster proclamation requests. Such requests in Cochise County, AZ after the Monument Fire tore through national forest and  the Coronado National Monument. Those fires and the fight to contain them destroyed aquifer and irrigation pipes that supplied water to Tombstone, AZ, a well recognized historical site and tourist attraction. The requests for that declaration and coinciding associated disputes kept repairs from being made to the water supply system. Residents were forbidden from using any time-saving power equipment, being told by federal authorities that only hand tools and beasts of burden would be allowed.

Perry Appoints 7 To Emerging Tech Committee

Governor Rick Perry announced seven new appointees to the Texas Emerging Technologies Advisory Committee (TETAC). The TETAC is the advisory body responsible for, among other things, recommending commercial and academic research and development programs for Texas Emerging Technology Fund (TETF) loans and grants.

The TEFT was set up as an incentive to innovation and commercial development of new products and services. Among TEFT recipients is Minimus Spine, a company seeking to produce and sell non-surgical alternatives to spinal treatments. Minimus has partnered with Texas A&M University to bring its latest two patents to the open market. Once commercialized, this breakthrough technology is expected to reduce medical costs as well as greatly improve the quality of life for individuals with herniated or degenerative spinal disks.

TETF grants have also gone to TeleMedicine Up Close, a company seeking to revolutionize bacterial infection identification and optimization of antibiotic dosage. Such technology could reduce costs of prescriptions by getting  the type and dosage correct the first time. That would reduce the incidence of reinfection as well.

TETF is not reserved only for medical research and supply companies (or "big pharma"). HydroLogic, Inc. received a TETF grant for its emerging technologies for irrigation and filtering sea water. Given the current states of drought in many counties throughout Texas, this technology will help supply much needed water to the state.

Some TETF companies are successful and end up donating corporate grants to various Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs. STEM programs are designed  to boost Texas K-12 education programs geared towards math and science driven technology and innovation curricula. Among STEM schools in Texas are the Harmony charter schools.

The TETAC holds an important role in the future of the Texas economy. They help developing businesses as well as entice successful, new companies to relocate to Texas.

Perry appointed the following individuals, per his press release:

David L. Miller of Abernathy chair of the committee for a term to expire at the pleasure of the governor. [...] Miller is chief operating officer of Flat Wireless, president of MHK Holdings Inc. and former vice chancellor of research and commercialization for the Texas Tech University System. He is a board member of Infrastructure Networks, the Product Development and Small Business Incubator Board and CASA of the South Plains. Miller received a bachelor's degree from Midwestern State University, a law degree from the Texas Tech University School of Law and a Master of Business Administration from the Texas Tech University Rawls College of Business.

Richard Battle of Lakeway is a published author and vice president of sales for KeyTrak. He is a member of the Texas Judicial Council and vice chairman of the Alpha Kappa Psi Fraternity Board. He is also a board member of the Jon Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute, Boy Scouts Capitol Area Council, Keep Austin Beautiful, and the Austin Chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and past president of the Austin Jaycees. Battle served as a lieutenant colonel in the Texas State Guard. He received a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

Deborah Dalebout-Feo of Austin is co-founder and executive vice president of Optimization Alternatives Limited Inc. and Healthcare Control Systems Inc. She is co-founder of the Dell Children's Women's Trust and St. Gabriel's Catholic School, and a member of the E3 Alliance President's Council. She is a past board member of the Girl Scouts of America Lone Star Council and A Legacy of Giving, and a past volunteer for the University of Texas McComb's School of Business Students in Free Enterprise program, Austin School of Film, St. Andrew's Episcopal School, Center for Child Protection, St. David's Foundation, and Casis Elementary School. Dalebout-Feo received a bachelor's degree from the University of Utah and a master's degree in operations research from the University of California at Berkley.

Susan "Sue" Georgen-Saad of Austin is a certified public accountant (CPA) and private investment consultant. She is a member of the American Institute of CPAs and Texas Society of CPAs, and a mentor for Capital Thought. She is also a volunteer for Family Eldercare and Safeplace. Georgen-Saad received a bachelor's degree from the University of Notre Dame. She is reappointed to the committee.

Randal "Randy" Hill of Baird is a NASCAR team owner and president and CEO of Randy Hill Racing. He is past president and CEO of APT Advanced Trailer and Equipment, a member of the Abilene and Vernon chambers of Commerce and a board member of Disability Resources Inc. He is also a past member of the American Peanut Shellers Association, National Peanut Buying Points Association and Georgia Agribusiness Council. Hill received a bachelor's degree from Abilene Christian University. He is reappointed to the committee.

Munir Lalani of Wichita Falls is president and CEO of Lalani Lodging. He is a board member of the Bank of Commerce in Oklahoma, Commerce Bancorp and Young Life Wichita Falls, and an advisory board member of the Munir Abdul Lalani Center for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise. He is a past board member of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Wichita Falls Metropolitan YMCA, Wichita Falls Board of Commerce and Industry, Wichita Appraisal District Board, North Texas Rehabilitation Center and Priddy Foundation Board of Trustees. He is also past president of the North Texas Restaurant Association and past chair of the Midwestern State University Board of Regents. Lalani received a bachelor's degree from Midwestern State University.

Wesley Terrell of Dallas is an attorney for AT&T. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas, Dallas Bar Association, World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth, National Black MBA Association, Urban League of Greater Dallas, and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Alumni Chapter. He is a member and past director/treasurer of the J.L. Turner Legal Association and Foundation, and a past member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Texas Advisory Board, City of Pearland Zoning Board of Adjustments and North Dallas Chamber of Commerce. Terrell received a bachelor's degree from Yale University, a law degree from Columbia Law School and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Houston. He is reappointed to the committee.

Richard Williams of Dallas is director of strategy and mergers and acquisitions for Energy Future Holdings. Williams received a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University. He is reappointed to the committee.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Texas Revenue Projection 2014-15 Certified

Texas's Comptroller Susan Combs and her office certified the state revenue projections for 2014 & 2015. Governor Rick Perry reacted to what is considered good news.

With Texas seeming to hand out on a regular basis Texas Emerging Technology Fund and other government loans and grants meant to stimulate capital growth in the private sector, some segments of the population have raised concerns over budgetary deficits and increased tax burdens.

The advent of Proposition 6 being amended to the state Constitution furthered these concerns. The new amendment created two new state controlled funds directed at water and irrigation management. To add more concern, the 83rd Legislature was recalled into a second special session this past summer to consider moving funds from the Texas Economic Stability Fund (so-called "rainy day fund") into transportation funds.

Some elements within the state have talked about having Texas institute a state-level income tax to cover all of these government funds. Pro-capitalism number-crunchers have spoken out against the idea using economic models that demonstrate how doing so could hinder the state's economy.

According to State Comptroller Susan Combs, Texas is on the right track. It appears that, as things currently stand, no increased taxes or establishment of a state income tax will be necessary.

Here were Ms. Combs findings and projections:

The 2014-15 Certification Revenue Estimate

The State of Texas will have an estimated $98,885 million available for general purpose spending in the 2014-15 biennium, 8.9 percent more than the corresponding amount of funds available for 2012 - 13. This figure represents the sum of the 2012-13 ending balance, 2014 -15 tax revenue, and 2014-15 non-tax revenue, less estimated transfers to the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF) and State Highway Fund (SHF), and adjustments to General Revenue dedicated account balances.

The state’s tax system is the main source of General Revenue-related funding. Tax collections in 2014-15 will generate $88,256 million, and non-tax revenue sources will produce an additional $11,185 million. Factoring in the estimated $5,505 million ending balance carried forward from 2012-13, these three sources will total $104,946 million. Against this amount, $5,421 million must be placed in reserve for future transfers to the ESF
and the State Highway Fund, and $640 million must be deducted for various adjustments to General Revenue dedicated account balances.

Taking all state revenue sources into account, the state is expected to collect $208,153 million in revenue for all state funds in 2014-15.

Comb's predictions come primarily from a positive economic outlooks based upon a variety of indicators. among those factors are the job growth rate, the migration of business to Texas, and economic policies that allow (and reward) for capital expansion and private sector economic stimulation.

Texas Economic Outlook

The Comptroller’s state economic forecast projects continued growth for the Texas economy—despite national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employment growth rates that are weaker than those of other recent economic recoveries, and the possibility of further economic disruptions resulting from international economic instability and/or national political gridlock.

The recent recession began later in Texas, was much less severe, and ended sooner than in the overall U.S. economy. In fiscal 2009, Texas’ nonfarm employment declined by 1.7 percent and real (inflation-adjusted) Gross State Product (GSP) contracted by 1.4 percent. In contrast, U.S. non-farm employment declined by 3.5 percent and U.S. GDP fell by 3.4 percent. Pre-recession Texas employment peaked in August 2008 at 10,635,700, and then fell by 422,100—or 4.0 percent—to its low point in December 2009. Texas non-farm employment surpassed its pre-recession peak in September 2011, and since the pre-recession peak has added an additional 597,000 jobs. As of October 2013, Texas non-farm employment was 11,232,700. For the nation, pre-recession employment peaked in January 2008 at 138,056,000, and declined by 8,736,000 — 6.3 percent — to its trough in February 2010. In contrast to Texas, the national economy has yet to regain all of the jobs lost during the recession, and as of October 2013 national employment was 1,502,000 below the pre-recession peak.

The Comptroller forecasts Texas nonfarm employment growth of 2.2 percent in fiscal 2014 and 2.1 percent in 2015. The growth rate for Texas real GSP is expected to be 3.7 percent in fiscal 2014, followed by 3.4 percent growth in 2015. (See Table 4.)

Texas Continues to Outpace National Job Growth. In fiscal 2013, the Texas economy continued its four-year post-recession expansion, adding 315,3001 nonfarm jobs, an increase of 2.9 percent from 2012. Private sector employment grew by 3.4 percent, while government employment (federal, state, and local) grew by 0.6 percent. In addition to adding more jobs than any state last year, Texas had the lowest unemployment rate among the 10 most populous states as of August 2013. The comparatively vibrant economic conditions during a slow national recovery has resulted in an influx of new residents into Texas, adding 215,000 net new residents (inbound arrivals less outbound residents) during the year, and has motivated previously discouraged job seekers to rejoin the labor force to search for work. Even with the growing labor force, the Texas economy produced enough jobs to allow the unemployment rate to fall from an average of 7.1 percent in fiscal 2012 to 6.5 percent in 2013. The Texas unemployment rate has remained below the national rate since January 2007 and is expected to continue to do so. In fiscal 2014 the Texas unemployment rate is projected to fall to an average of 6.1 percent, and to 6.0 percent in 2015.

Personal income in Texas grew steadily through the 2012-13 biennium, but at a tepid pace compared to previous recoveries. In fiscal 2013 personal income grew by 4.9 percent, and is projected to grow by 4.0 percent in 2014 and by 4.2 percent in 2015.

Texas’ population is expected to increase by about 896,000 over the 2014-15 biennium, an average annual growth rate of about 1.7 percent, to reach an average of 27.3 million in fiscal 2015. Half of the biennial population growth is expected to come from net new residents, and the other half from natural increase (resident births minus resident deaths).

In addition, Combs announced she is distributing $580 million in monthly sales taxes revenues to municipalities and local governments:

Combs will send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts their December local sales tax allocations totaling $579.6 million, up 5 percent compared to December 2012.
Local Sales Tax Allocations (December 2013)
Recipient Dec. 2013
Change from
Dec. 2012
Cities $377.1M 4.5% 6.1%
Counties $38.2M 2.6% 5.4%
Transit Systems $131.3M 4.8% 6.4%
Special Purpose Taxing Districts $33.0M 13.8% 12.1%
Total $579.6M 5.0% 6.4%
The sales tax figures represent October sales reported by monthly tax filers.
Another item of good news for Texas is, unlike the federal budget, the state will not end 2013 with a deficit. On the contrary, the state will end its year with a budgetary surplus of over $5 Billion.

The 2012-13 Ending Balance

The ending certification balance for 2012-13 was $5,505 million after setting aside a required $2,515 million transfer to the Economic Stabilization Fund related to 2013 tax collections and transferred in fiscal 2014.

Like states such as Indiana under the leadership of Governor Mitch Daniels, Texas demonstrates fiscal and economic policies that are working. States such as Texas set an example for struggling states and our federal government to consider when making policy decisions and passing their legislation.

In response to Comb's report and certification of the revenue projections, Gov. Rick Perry issued these remarks:

"Texas government budgets like Texas families, limiting spending and saving hard-earned dollars. As a result, Comptroller Susan Combs estimates our current 2014-2015 budget will end with a positive balance of nearly $2.6 billion. What's most remarkable is we've done this while passing $1.4 billion in tax cuts, and we've made historic investments in water and, if voters approve, roads. It's a shame Washington still hasn't learned, you can't tax and spend your way to prosperity."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Foddrill "My Life Has Been In Danger Since"

"My life has been in danger since I first began as the City of San Antonio's  Telecommunications Manager to expose the decades of fraud and theft..."

John E. Foddrill, Sr. discovered potential corruption several years ago. In attempting to expose it internally to be handled by the city government, he met with road blocks and perceived cover-ups. He found more of the same in attempts to bring the issues and questions to higher authorities. Many of Foddrill's allegations have yet to be fully investigated.

The issues continue, to this day, to indicate a possible conspiracy. Some may think Foddrill is a disgruntled former city worker. Others may see him as a conspiracy theorist. Still, there are many who see him as a key whistle-blower attempting to expose in-depth corruption. The only way for the truth to be found is if some authority outside of Bexar County, TX does a thorough investigation.

An investigation and any resulting action in the courts will cost taxpayers a large sum. However, the amount the allegations present are already costing taxpayers much, much more, if true. This begs the question, are the investigations worth the price tag? Are the truth and transparency worth it?

Decide for yourself.

Foddrill recently broke a self-imposed, attorney-recommended media blackout regarding his pending federal trial and these allegations. Here is a summarized account of what John Foddrill has experienced, in his own words:

My life has been in danger since I first began as the City of San Antonio's Telecommunications Manager to expose the decades of fraud and theft... especially the millions of 911 / communications dollars that went missing thus crippling the emergency system. I remember speaking with an SAPD officer in the parking lot of my office building when he asked me to stand up near the front door instead of by my car. He said that it would be too easy for a unit from the SAPD substation to come around the corner and take me out in an innocent traffic accident. He said that he didn't want to be collateral damage.

On the night of July 4, 2011 SAPD Chief McManus and SAPD sent two honest, ethical officers to my home to perform a mental health check.  When they got my family and my neighbors out of bed things could have gone much differently if any other of McManus's boys had been dispatched.  With no outside witnesses it would have been very easy to Taser me, cuff me and than have me die in the back of the patrol car. Thank God the officers stated that they wanted no part in the criminal cover-up and instead apologized to us for the intrusion after speaking with us for over two hours.

I still fear that McManus and others will not hesitate to find some excuse to arrest and jail me if I appear in a public forum. Once in his custody...behind closed doors...I fear that I would never come out alive... problem solved for McManus and criminals at the City, County, State and Federal levels.

When City Councilman Bernal's supporters began making terroristic [sic] threats against me in the fall of 2011 in an effort to silence my reports of corruption SAPD closed out two police reports with no action . DA Susan Reed and the City ignored our pleas for protection putting my family and friends at risk. A law enforcement officer warned me that my son and his family should take precautions. It was feared that the criminals threatening me would mistake my son's home for mine and harm his family...including my little granddaughter.   

All this aside...I need your help in getting the word out. Our public safety systems continue to fail. Cops continue to rape [read story here], beat and murder innocent citizens. Crooked politicians [read story here] continue to seek high office giving them access to yet more money and oversight.  Lives other then just mine are at risk.

Attorneys have told me to stay silent since 2005 when I found out as the City of San Antonio's new Telecommunications Manager that upwards of 25% of 911 calls failed. They told me to stay silent when the City refused to provide funding to repair the failing emergency system...knowing that lives were at risk. They told me to be quiet over the past eight years while public safety systems continued to fail on a regular basis and innocent citizens died or had their lives drastically changed because held didn't arrive in time.  This is on MY conscience...

My family and friends shudder when we see SAPD Chief McManus on the news lamenting about yet another murder, rape, beating, etc. by a police officer. His fake tears are an insult to every citizen of San Antonio TX . We feel sick when we hear him say that he is "outraged" and "will not tolerate" these actions knowing that he WILL tolerate criminal activity by his department and other local law enforcement agencies as long as they do not get caught.  

Every day we see DA Susan Reed, McManus, Sheriff Pamerleau , City "leaders" and others make untrue statements on the news. They tout the "fact" that the Texas Rangers are performing an "outside" , "independent" investigation when we KNOW that former Texas Ranger Chief Hank Whitman lied in official reports, on the stand under oath and to the media to help DA Reed and the City cover up decades of public/police corruption. We KNOW that DPS Director McCraw and his command staff are helping conceal the cover-up and the criminal acts of Whitman and other officers. Whitman and First Asst. DA Cliff Herberg stated that there was no investigation as there was nothing found to investigate... lies. Documents show that an investigation was begun and that a search warrant was obtained to examine the bank records of city IT manager Jose Medina after Texas Ranger Whitman, asst. DA Barry Elliott and others saw the city email, invoices , billing statements, audits, etc. proving that Medina and vendor Isabel Gonzaba ( IG Communications/Globalscope) conspired to steal upwards of $200,000 when they submitted fraudulent invoices to Avaya Inc via the City's telephone contract. I have the documents, a voice mail recording left by Asst DA Elliott, an email from Whitman, etc. to prove that someone halted the investigation and instructed everyone to help cover up the theft of $200,000 that came out of City, County, State and federal accounts.  The Texas Rangers can't be trusted to investigate the SAPD, BCSO, DA Reed, the City, etc. as they have already shown that they are conspiring to help them hide massive criminal activity for years. Citizens can't hope on receiving justice with this kind of cover-up in place.

The theft of $200,000 was just a drop in the bucket as tens of millions went missing over the years. It is being used as an example because it is easily proven and ties directly into efforts to conceal the crimes by everyone involved. 

John Foddrill has also stated he wishes to cooperate completely and openly with any investigators sent by Texas Attorney General, Gregg Abbott, or any federal authorities.  His only request is that any such meetings be recorded for full transparency and disclosure.

We here at Mental Aikido urge any and all Foddrill named to come forward with their sides of the story or any rebuttal. We also welcome any interview they would agree to give regarding these matters.