Category Archives: Texas

Texas Gov. Rick Perry orders cancer-preventing vaccine for all girls

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Bypassing the Legislature altogether, Republican Gov. Rick Perry issued an order Friday making Texas the first state to require that schoolgirls get vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.

By employing an executive order, Perry sidestepped opposition in the Legislature from conservatives and parents’ rights groups who fear such a requirement would condone premarital sex and interfere with the way Texans raise their children.

Beginning in September 2008, girls entering the sixth grade — meaning, generally, girls ages 11 and 12 — will have to receive Gardasil, Merck & Co.’s new vaccine against strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV.

Perry also directed state health authorities to make the vaccine available free to girls 9 to 18 who are uninsured or whose insurance does not cover vaccines. In addition, he ordered that Medicaid offer Gardasil to women ages 19 to 21.

Perry, a conservative Christian who opposes abortion and stem-cell research using embryonic cells, counts on the religious right for his political base. But he has said the cervical cancer vaccine is no different from the one that protects children against polio.

“The HPV vaccine provides us with an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer,” Perry said.

Merck is bankrolling efforts to pass state laws across the country mandating Gardasil for girls as young as 11 or 12. It doubled its lobbying budget in Texas and has funneled money through Women in Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators around the country.

Perry has ties to Merck and Women in Government. One of the drug company’s three lobbyists in Texas is Mike Toomey, Perry’s former chief of staff. His current chief of staff’s mother-in-law, Texas Republican state Rep. Dianne White Delisi, is a state director for Women in Government.

The governor also received $6,000 from Merck’s political action committee during his re-election campaign.

Perry panders to the religious right, but he was re-elected in November so he doesn’t need them anymore. Now it’s just all about the money. This is essentially like Bush’s Medicare part D: a bonanza for Big Pharma. It is not mentioned anywhere in the article but I’d guess that, in spite fo the reassurance of free vaccine for those who can’t afford it, Merck will getting full retail. Which, by the way, is something like $380 for the series of three shots. Perry is also taking a page out of Bush’s unitary executive playbook, by just ordering something done that would customarily have been decided by the legislature. In this case, in Texas, it would have never happened.

Incidentally, or perhaps not so, I do think that the vaccine is a wonderful advance and very worthwhile. If you have a daughter, get it done.

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Molly Ivins, the Will Rogers of her time, dead at 62

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Molly Ivins, a hero to our family, and someone who frequently stepped over the line, has died of breast cancer.

Molly Ivins, the liberal newspaper columnist who delighted in skewering politicians and interpreting, and mocking, her Texas culture, died today at her home in Austin. She was 62.

After Patrick J. Buchanan, as a conservative candidate for president, declared at the 1992 Republican National Convention that America was engaged in a cultural war, she said his speech “probably sounded better in the original German.”

“There are two kinds of humor,” she told People magazine. One was the kind “that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity,” she said. “The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule. That’s what I do.”

….

Hers was a feisty voice that she developed in the early 1970s at The Texas Observer, the muckraking biweekly that would become her spiritual home for life.

Her subject was Texas. To her, the Great State, as she called it, was “reactionary, cantankerous and hilarious,” and its legislature was “reporter heaven.” When the legislature was set to convene, she warned her readers: “Every village is about to lose its idiot.”

Her Texas upbringing made her something of an expert on the Bush family. She viewed President George H.W. Bush benignly. (“Real Texans do not use the word ‘summer’ as a verb,” she wrote.)

But she derided President George W. Bush, whom she first knew in high school. She called him Shrub and Dubya. With the Texas journalist Lou Dubose, she wrote two best-selling books about Mr. Bush: “Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush” (2000) and “Bushwhacked” (2003).

In 2004 she campaigned against Mr. Bush’s re-election, and as the war in Iraq continued, she called for his impeachment. In her last column, earlier this month, she urged readers to “raise hell” against the war.

Like her mother, Margot, and grandmother, Ms. Ivins went to Smith College in Massachusetts. Graduating in 1966, she also studied at the Institute of Political Science in Paris and earned her master’s degree at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Her first newspaper jobs were at The Houston Chronicle and The Minneapolis Tribune, now The Star Tribune. In 1970, she jumped at the chance to move to Austin, where she became co-editor of The Observer

In 1976, her writing, which she said was often fueled by “truly impressive amounts of beer,” landed her a job at The New York Times. She cut an unusual figure in The Times newsroom, wearing blue jeans, going barefoot and bringing in her dog, whose name was an expletive.

While she drew important writing assignments, like covering the Son of Sam killings and Elvis Presley’s death, she sensed she did not fit in and complained that Times editors drained the life from her prose. “Naturally, I was miserable, at five times my previous salary,” she later wrote. “The New York Times is a great newspaper: it is also No Fun.”

She quit The Times in 1982 after The Dallas Times Herald offered to make her a columnist. She took the job even though she loathed Dallas, once describing it as the kind of town “that would have rooted for Goliath to beat David.”

But the paper, she said, promised to let her write whatever she wanted. When she declared of a congressman, “If his I.Q. slips any lower, we’ll have to water him twice a day,” many readers were appalled, and several advertisers boycotted the paper. In her defense, her editors rented billboards that read: “Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?” The slogan became the title of the first of her six books.

After The Times Herald folded in 1991, she wrote for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, until 2001, when her column was syndicated by Creators Syndicate.
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“Don’t you know, that’s what we do again and again in this country,” said Ivins, pointing out that Americans willingly surrender civil liberties in an effort to quell their fears of such menaces as communism, crime, drugs, illegal aliens, and terrorists. “We think we can make ourselves safer by making ourselves less free. I’ll tell you something: When you make yourselves less free, all that happens afterwards is that you’re less free. You are not safer.”
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• It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.

• What stuns me most about contemporary politics is not even that the system has been so badly corrupted by money. It is that so few people get the connection between their lives and what the bozos do in Washington and our state capitols.

Politics is not a picture on a wall or a television sitcom that you can decide you don’t much care for.

• There’s never been a law yet that didn’t have a ridiculous consequence in some unusual situation; there’s probably never been a government program that didn’t accidentally benefit someone it wasn’t intended to. Most people who work in government understand that what you do about it is fix the problem — you don’t just attack the whole government.
-In the real world, there are only two ways to deal with corporate misbehavior: One is through government regulation and the other is by taking them to court. What has happened over 20 years of free-market proselytizing is that we have dangerously weakened both forms of restraint, first through the craze for “deregulation” and second through endless rounds of “tort reform,” all of which have the effect of cutting off citizens’ access to the courts. By legally bribing politicians with campaign contributions, the corporations have bought themselves immunity from lawsuits on many levels.
-The United States of America is still run by its citizens. The government works for us. Rank imperialism and warmongering are not American traditions or values. We do not need to dominate the world. We want and need to work with other nations. We want to find solutions other than killing people. Not in our name, not with our money, not with our children’s blood.

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Conservative columnist Rod Dreher: scales fell from his eyes

link to audio at NPR

text and h/t at Glenn Greenwald.

And immediately there fell from his [Saul's] eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. —-Acts, 9-18, King James Bible.

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Rod Dreher is a Christian/conservative columnist at the Dallas Morning News and National Review Online. He has suddenly seen the light about the casual militarism of Bush and his ilk. He spoke on National Public Radio:

As President Bush marched the country to war with Iraq, even some voices on the Right warned that this was a fool’s errand. I dismissed them angrily. I thought them unpatriotic.

But almost four years later, I see that I was the fool.

In Iraq, this Republican President for whom I voted twice has shamed our country with weakness and incompetence, and the consequences of his failure will be far, far worse than anything Carter did.

The fraud, the mendacity, the utter haplessness of our government’s conduct of the Iraq war have been shattering to me.
….
As I sat in my office last night watching President Bush deliver his big speech, I seethed over the waste, the folly, the stupidity of this war.

I had a heretical thought for a conservative – that I have got to teach my kids that they must never, ever take Presidents and Generals at their word – that their government will send them to kill and die for noble-sounding rot – that they have to question authority.

On the walk to the parking garage, it hit me. Hadn’t the hippies tried to tell my generation that? Why had we scorned them so blithely?

Dreher is not a dinosaur by any means. His book Crunchy Cons sounds pretty darn progressive to me, though I haven’t read it. And he has had some very tough things to say to the fundos about what Christianity is and is not. And that is, in a way, what his revelation about Bush and militarism is about.

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Filed under Bill Kristol: is he smarter than you?, Condoleezza Rice: tell me again, what is her job?, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, internet, Iran, Iraq, John McCain for president of Del Boca Vista, Middle East, Politics, religion, Texas

Selling pizza for pesos gets death threats

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I’m gettin rid of that Canadian quarter…..

DALLAS — A pizza chain has been hit with death threats and hate mail after offering to accept Mexican pesos, becoming another flashpoint in the nation’s debate over immigrants.

“This is the United States of America, not the United States of Mexico,” one e-mail read. “Quit catering to the damn illegal Mexicans,” demanded another.

Dallas-based Pizza Patron said it was not trying to inject itself into a larger political debate about illegal immigration when it posted signs this week saying “Aceptamos pesos” — or “We accept pesos” — at its 59 stores across Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and California.

Pizza Patron spokesman Andy Gamm said the company was just trying to sell more pizza to its customers, 60 percent of whom are Hispanic.

Wal-Mart, H-E-B supermarkets and other American businesses in towns along the Mexican border accept pesos. And some busineses in New York and Minnesota communities along the northern border accept Canadian dollars.

The difference here is that many of the pizza joints are far from the border, in places like Dallas, more than 400 miles away, and Denver, more than 700 miles.

“If people would understand that the majority of our customers are Hispanic, then it might make more sense for a company to sell pizza for pesos,” Gamm said.

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Armadillos follow warming to Midwest

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armadillo as usually sighted

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rare upright armadillo
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Congratulations to you midwesterners, new hosts to these ugly roadkill specialists. This piece is from Ft. Wayne, in northern Indiana:

the Jackson County animal-control chief says he has logged in this county alone 13 sightings of the stubby-legged kin to sloths and anteaters. Most were dead as doornails along roads – the leathery animals with poor vision are no match against highway traffic.

“We’ve had armadillos killed on the road just about every year” since 2003, says Nelson, reflecting what wildlife specialists say is ample evidence that the creatures with the pencil-thin tail are nudging their way northward from their southern U.S. climes.

“We’ve got them in Nebraska; that’s as far north as we have any records,” said Lynn Robbins, a biology professor at Missouri State University. “They’re adapting, filling in so many places.”

To Robbins, the prehistoric-looking armadillo – Spanish for “little armored thing” – is here to stay.

Texas, yer over the line…..

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Thousands of pit bulls loose on the streets of Dallas

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The City of Dallas acknowledges stray dogs are en epidemic. Last year, 30,000 dogs and cats were impounded. About two-thirds of those were pit bulls.

Most of these animals are destroyed:

In order for a pit bull to be considered for adoption, it must score perfectly on six personality tests. Pit bulls are the only breed with that requirement.

These are not pomeranians. Geez. Where are all these dogs coming from? This aggression will not stand.

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Cheney going hunting: Pennsylvania raises Terror Alert to Red

Apparently the word “Duck” was taken as a warning/directive.

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Filed under Bill Kristol: is he smarter than you?, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Humor, Politics, Satanic attacks on farm animals, Texas

Wasabi Ice Cream: what is that about?

I want to know where in Dallas or the Bay Area (don’t ask) I can buy Wasabi ice cream, and what the hell it tastes like. My god, this is potentially a Dick Cheney double barrelled shotgun (or Shogun) blast to my nose. I mean, the wasabi will make my nose burn and run clear out the front, but the ice cream will unleash a torrent of thick mucus down the back….I can see the potential here for several simultaneous/serial “social disasters of the bodily kind” if you catch my drift…

I’m up for a new taste sensation, but let’s not get carried away here. Who can help me? Should I put soy sauce on it?

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Noka chocolate: It costs more, doesn’t that make it better?

[Crossposted at dailykos]

This is one of the funniest “over-the-line” stories (and best reporting) I’ve seen in a long, LONG time. The rich folks in Texas, in part through the gold-plated auspices of Niemann-Marcus, have been paying greater-than-caviar prices for this slyly marketed but quite ordinary chocolate.

Vintages Collection (i.e., molded tablets) — Signature Box (i.e., stainless steel).
96 piece — approximately $464 per pound
48 piece — approximately $795 per pound
24 piece — approximately $1,146 per pound
12 piece — approximately $1,760 per pound
4 piece — approximately $2,080 per pound

Let’s compare that with the products of some commonly known chocolatiers. Godiva chocolates range from about $30 to $65 per pound. Joseph Schmidt chocolates range from around $30 to $55 per pound. Fran’s chocolates cost around $55 to $70 per pound. Michael Recchiuti’s chocolates run from $58 to $85 per pound. And La Maison du Chocolat ranges from about $65 to $85 per pound.

My only regret is that a “Sideways”-kind of movie wasn’t made of the faux-connoisseur chocolate buffs who made a lot of bucks for these entrepreneurs.

The piece is quite long and detailed, explaining some of the intricacies of the chocolate industry. Briefly, there are bean grows, chocolate processors, and “chocolatiers”, who basically melt down bulk chocolate, pour it into molds, and then put it in fancy boxes.

Noka has slyly implied by its statements and its evasiveness that it is not simply a chocolatier, and that its chocolate is somehow the best. In reality, as the reporter brilliantly shows, Noka seems to simply buy bulk chocolate from Bonnat, one of the many chocolate processors, whose product is by no means the highest rated.

How much does Bonnat cost? The bars I used for the taste-testing in this report were purchased from Chocosphere for $33.99 per pound. Keep in mind that this is retail pricing for individually molded and wrapped 100-gram bars. Buying the same bars from the authorized US distributor (with a minimum order of a case of 6 bars) pushes the price down to $17.82 per pound. By purchasing blocks of couverture (rather than individual portioned bars) and cutting out the middleman, I’d be very surprised if Noka is paying more than $11-12 per pound.

Noka, according to the piece, then does a rather amateurish job of melting it into candy in a modest strip mall storefront in suburban Plano, TX, but a masterful job of marketing it to snobby Texans who have too much money for their own good.
I say congratulations to the reporter, but also to the two ex-accountants who started Noka; they have both done a spectacular “take-down”.

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Sea Change: TX-23 Congressional Election to Dem Ciro Rodriguez

In a HUGE upset, Democrat Ciro Rodriguez blew out incumbent Republican Henry Bonilla by about 55-45%, in a special runoff election. This would suggest a sea change* in voter sentiment since the Iraq Study Group Report.

Of course, a visit by Bill Clinton may have also had an effect.

*Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
—-Shakespeare, The Tempest

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