My secret to a healthy, exciting life

February 28th, 2006

I’m shy to admit it, but one of the first things I do everyday is satisfy a decade long drug addiction with a concoction of 1,3,7-Trimethylxanthine and Theobroma cacao L. Yes, I’ve tried to kick this embarrassing habit, but some drug fixes are simply worth it.

Since the 1700s, cocoa has been associated with healthy hearts, but only recently has scientific evidence backed up these claims, according to a new report in the Feb. 27 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

So, mixing it with the caffeine in coffee, as I do, contributes to a healthy and exciting life. Well, if you call the jolt you get from caffeine exciting.

And the excitement doesn’t end with caffeine either.

Cocoa butter has been described as the world’s most expensive fat, used rather extensively in the emollient “bullets” used for hemorrhoids.

Makes getting hemorrhoids sound not so bad after all. That is if you don’t look at ’em.

How much democracy do Okies really want?

February 28th, 2006

I attended a community meeting in Norman yesterday, discussing next week’s vote on increasing the city’s water rates. That may sound funny to most Oklahomans, because Norman is the only city in the state that requires citizens to approve their own utility rates. City officials must convince residents of the need to increase rates for city services such as water, sewer, and sanitation. This is both good and bad.

Some folks like to think the United States is a full-fledged democracy, however, most of us know better. Our founding fathers thought a representative form of government would be a better way to run a country, and with the communication abilities of the 18th century, I think they were right. But what about today? Our ability to readily communicate massive amounts of information allows people to have the information we need to make decisions affecting our lives. We observe the corruption and bungling by our elected leaders in running our nation all the time. Shouldn’t people in a true democracy just have a vote button on their TV remotes to decide issues that come up?

Of course not.

Yet, there are issues that are appropriate for us Okies to decide, and not just the hot button ones that the state Legislature is too scared to decide for themselves; issues like legalized gambling, tobacco taxes, “Right-to-Work”, and the minimum wage.

A measure that would let Oklahoma voters decide if they want to increase the state’s minimum wage was approved by the Senate Business and Labor Committee today.

… Senate Joint Resolution 49, which would send to a vote of the people a proposal to raise the minimum wage in Oklahoma by 50 cents a year for five years, beginning January 1, 2007.

While I don’t know if Oklahomans would support such an increase or not, if legislators thought voters should decide on “Right-to-Work”, they shouldn’t have a problem with us deciding on a minimum wage. But I have a feeling that the same folks who feel you should have the right-to-work feel you shouldn’t have a right to a minimum wage. Mainly because “Right-to-Work” doesn’t give anyone the right to work. The minimum wage actually gives working people something.

Rep. Balkman uses sex to toast beer bill

February 27th, 2006

I was afraid this might happen.

Ever since Rep. Thad “the cad” Balkman was nominated as one of Oklahoma’s Sexiest Power Men, the Norman legislator has been using his newfound sexual charisma to surround himself with women to help pimp his agenda.

As she was honored at the Oklahoma State Capitol today, Miss America Jennifer Berry announced her support for state legislation to strengthen penalties for those serving beer to minors. As Miss Oklahoma, Berry’s primary platform issue was building intolerance to drunk driving and underage drinking.

The bill [authored by Balkman] would allow fines of up to 5-thousand dollars and a sentence of five years in prison for servers caught repeatedly selling beer to minors.

With the possibility of going to jail for five years, I would think a bartender or store clerk should just quit his job after being caught serving beer to a minor the first time. Hey, maybe that would be a better law.

And now Thad may be responsible for killing the Oklahoma Sexiest Power Man contest, too.

Polispeak… Cornett and Henry

February 27th, 2006

What does this mean exactly?

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett says he expects this year’s mayoral campaign to be his last political race.

Rumors about Cornett seeking Rep. Istook’s job this year won’t go away; no thanks to Cornett.

But Cornett’s not making any promises.

He has yet to serve a full term as either mayor or councilman. He left his council seat early and won the mayoral election after former Mayor Kirk Humphreys resigned.

Something to keep in mind.

And I’ve chewed on this all weekend: What the heck is Gov. Henry doing in Iraq? I didn’t gripe about his San Diego trip while Oklahoma burned, but what role does a governor have in visiting “the front lines”, as Henry put it. Especially when the Legislature is in session. My guess is that it is a mutual PR mission paid for by the Department of Defense. The governor gets to show his deep conviction for the war, which is also likely to be an important campaign stance this year in Oklahoma.

Henry said he came away from the visit convinced that the United States needs to continue efforts to fight terrorism and restore order in Iraq.

“We need to continue and get the job done,” he said.

Does that mean he wasn’t convinced when he left?

More Henry observations.

“We weren’t just seeing the cupcake areas,” the governor said. “It’s serious business and there are really bad guys here.”

“It’s been a grueling couple of days,” he said. “There was always a sense that this is a dangerous place to be.”

“I always felt secure,” he said. “I felt really glad with the Oklahoma troops guarding me.”

Though I heard Henry was really nervous about the security outfit from Dubai that was supposed to guard him.

GM OKC workers on the job Monday

February 26th, 2006

The job bank that is.

They punched out Monday after the last TrailBlazer came off the line, the first casualties of General Motors Corp.’s plan to slash 30,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs by 2008.

After 27 years and nearly 6 million vehicles, one of GM’s most stalwart assembly plants had gone silent, possibly forever.

But its 2,200 hourly workers will be back next week, not to build cars or trucks in Oklahoma City but to clock in as the newest members of GM’s “jobs bank” for surplus union labor.

It is believed to be the first time the work force of an entire assembly plant has been dropped in the jobs bank

Under terms of the GM-UAW labor agreement, Jobs Bank workers will have a choice: attend school, perform volunteer work for non-profit groups, or spend eight hours a day in an empty plant.

In the past, the workers – UAW members – were charged with GM’s failure to compete. In the case of Oklahoma City, auto analysts are almost unanimous:

One of GM’s best-performing plants in terms of quality, Oklahoma City was a victim of the brutal numbers game generated by GM’s steadily sinking U.S. market share.

And even those who want to blame a well paid union workforce must face the fact that the company failed the workers with a product that couldn’t sell at even below cost.

With sales of its once-bellwether Chevrolet TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy midsize SUVs on the skids, GM had to choose which of two production sites to close — Oklahoma City or a sister plant in Moraine, Ohio.

Moraine produces the much more popular smaller version SUV. Oklahoma City’s product, an extended model of the same platform, has always struggled to claim a niche between its slightly smaller, cheaper brethren and the extremely well respected Tahoe and Yukon.

Cameras were allowed inside the OKC plant last week and you can catch a glimpse of a shell of what was consistently ranked as one of the highest quality auto manufacturing plants in North America here.

And you can catch a glimpse of GM’s Four Point Turnaround Plan here. Careful, it makes some people dizzy.

… GM will begin rolling out more than a dozen all-new versions of its full-size SUVs for Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac

Better to build than cut

February 24th, 2006

It’s been said that Okies don’t utilize computers quite as much as the rest of the nation, yet I feel the state does an admirable job of providing services via the Internet. The latest from the Commerce Department is a tool to help potential businesses to locate within Oklahoma.

Moving swiftly to position Oklahoma on the forefront of the latest economic development trend, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce debuted 13 inaugural sites as part of the new Oklahoma Site-Ready Certification Program. The sites are located in Alva, Ardmore, Bartlesville, Claremore, Eufaula, Fairview, Hobart, Norman, Ponca City and Wagoner.

This is the kind of assistance that Oklahoma taxpayers should be happy to make in order to encourage business development. Programs that benefit all entrepreneurs across the board are much more preferable to customized incentives for every conceivable individual business; a game where limits are pushed and rules bent. A system that feeds political corruption by seeking special favors of everyone from city planners to state lawmakers benefits the few and discriminates against the many. When we tilt the tables for the likes of a business such as Bass Pro, existing sporting goods retailers end up on the other side, grasping to hold on.

The concept of “one hand washes the other” has worked for a long time now and will be hard to reverse. Though it is kind of ironic that those that do this “hand-washing” most, tend to have the dirtiest hands.

So we watch as businesses already lured with special laws and taxpayer subsidies, evaporate throughout the state. We are now left with a crumbling infrastructure, low wages and a health and education system financed by gambling. Someone is giving us the business alright.

You know what I say? “If we build Oklahoma, they will come.”

Uncanny – I wrote the article above about the same time C.G. Hill posted this on his blog.

I fear you’ll wait a long time for House Republicans to come up with any ideas to build some of it here instead of trying to import it from somewhere else. No wonder this state seems to have an inferiority complex.

Perhaps there’s something to it. (I would say “great minds think alike”, but don’t want to insult Mr. Hill.)

Eyes of Texas

February 23rd, 2006

Banjo Jones visits Oklahoma.

… I saw a boy sitting at a Taco Bell with a bunch of plastic Army men and tanks and stuff spread out on the table before him. An old woman was sitting across from him playing with him. (see picture)

When I went inside I heard the kid say, “I love spendin’ time with you, Grandma.”

“I love spending time with you, too, Charlie,” she replied.

Whenever I go to Oklahoma, I’m struck by how friendly the people are.

I noticed it too when I arrived many years ago. Now, I just take it for granted. For people that don’t have much, compared to the rest of the country, us Okies still have each other. And that’s a lot.

But it sounds so good

February 23rd, 2006

One of Oklahoma’s lean and mean legislators (and Sexiest Power Man nominee), Thad Balkman, is hot over a few Democrats not liking one of his proposed bills.

House Bill 2634 – the Paperwork Reduction Act of 2006 – failed to pass the House Government Reform Committee during a late meeting yesterday…

“Why would anyone want to maintain the status quo in Oklahoma’s government by encouraging inefficient paperwork and red tape?” said Rep. Thad Balkman (R-Norman) who authored the measure. “This was surprising move by Democrats, since this measure would streamline paperwork. I’m not sure why anyone would want to encourage more red tape and bureaucracy.”

Balkman notes three rascals who voted against this vital legislation:

Democrat committee members Rep. Terry Harrison (D-McAlester); Rep. Jerry McPeak (D-Warner) and Rep. Joe Sweeden (D-Pawhuska).

Those damn Democrats! Bucking Balkman! Thwarting Thad! How dare they! The wily bastards!

And wily they must be to stymie Balkman’s measure, since the House committee that rejected it is made up of nine members; a majority, Republicans – two of which are chairmen. (Thad conveniently forgets to mention that in his press release. No doubt to reduce paperwork.) What the bill actually does is put the onus on state agencies to spend time and money out of their existing budget to find ways to, get this: (rtf)

… eliminate, reduce, consolidate, and simplify the number, type, and length of reports, data, statistics, and other information required of any other agency, political subdivision, or individual by the agency.

In other words, Rep. Balkman wants each agency to evaluate the reporting mandated of every other agency and compare it with their own… at their cost. That doesn’t seem very efficient to me. Wouldn’t that be better done from a central point of evaluation?

But, like almost every bill introduced by Republicans this session, the most important part is the sugary-sounding name.

The Paperwork Reduction Act of 2006 is part of the House Republican leadership’s “Real Opportunity for Oklahoma Families” agenda this year.

I’ve got to hand it to Repubs, they know how to sell. And that’s the big difference between them and Dems. While we all know they are often feeding us a line of crap, Republicans at least make it sound tasty. Good politicians are like chefs; good presentation makes people want to eat whatever slop you dish out. A snappy slogan presented well is just as successful selling legislation as it is selling hamburgers or used cars.

Some tax cuts better than others

February 22nd, 2006

As usual, Oklahoma legislators are rushing to cut or eliminate just about every special interest tax in the state. Representative Randy Terrill is tackling one that would truly help all Oklahomans across the board; House Bill 2925 (rtf), in part:

A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 1357.10 of Title 68, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:
A. Beginning January 1, 2007, sales of all eligible food and beverages as defined in the federal Food Stamp Act, 7 U.S.C., Section 2011 et seq., as the act existed on January 1, 2006, and sales of nonprescription drugs and medicines recommended and sold for the relief of pain, ailments, distresses or disorders of the human body, shall be exempt from the tax levied pursuant to Section 1354 of Title 68 of the Oklahoma Statutes.
B. The exemption provided for in subsection A of this section shall not apply to any county or municipal sales tax imposed pursuant to law. However, the exemption may apply upon the approval of a resolution by the board of county commissioners or the approval of an ordinance by the municipality in accordance with law.

This seems to be a good response to concerns by local government of reducing their local sales tax revenues, while still providing tax relief fairly for every state resident. Bravo, Rep. Terrill!

Blogged at birth

February 22nd, 2006

Phoebe Gleeson is blogging her pending birth. Me being old fashioned, I’m glad there is no web cam. However, since husband Sean is an artist…