Friday, June 30, 2006

A night at the W

Despite being named after Waxahachie (I kid, I kid), no one from our paper was invited to the big opening of the W, next to the American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas.
But that's OK because a number of Dallas bloggers have given us a recap today.
Tim Rogers
Paul Kix
Robert "Fingers of Fury" Wilonsky

Green toilet

This from (and no I'm not a regular reader):
Take a baby step toward redemption with the Toilet Lid Sink. Just switch your regular toilet lid for this easy-to-install, space-saving, water-conservation device. And consider it an easier way to save water than your current brick-in-tank method.
When you flush as usual, clean water (yes, it’s really clean) automatically spouts through the spigot. So you can, um, wash your hands, er, on the toilet. (Hey! It’s efficient water use!) Everything then drains at the same time.
Basically the toilet uses water from the sink to flush out the toilet.
Not bad, just a little creepy. The cost is $89.
With each flush of your commode, clean water that would otherwise go straight down the toilet is first routed up through a chrome gooseneck spigot to dispense pure water for hand washing. The Toilet Lid Sink installs easily without tools, is attractive for any bathroom and is a great space saver. Shuts off automatically. Porcelain-like white plastic replaces your existing tank top and adjusts to fit standard toilets up to 8in wide and 18-22in long. Built-in soap dish. Overhang varies up to 1.5in.
Mandy says it's disgusting and washing hands and toilet use shouldn't be combined - at least not in the same fixture. "You should wash your hands - just not in the toilet." Although she said it might encourage more people to wash their hands.

Moving on up

Matt and I are moving today and my truck is still in the shop.
It's been a story from a heck for sure.
I won't go into all the details, but the shop didn't start working on it until this morning - mainly because the tow truck driver showed up 90 minutes late and then he locked my keys in my truck so the shop couldn't get to it first thing yesterday.
Oh boy. Oh boy.
So, as soon as I head out of the office I'll be lugging furniture and goodies up and down the stairs from our current pad to the new pad downtown.
Holla if you want to help.

Bono petitioned

A tech group is petitioning Bono to help fight copy protection on music.
Could the lead singer of U2 also become a front man for a grass-roots campaign seeking to change how the music industry does business?
The Free Software Foundation hopes so.
The Boston-based advocacy group launched an online petition Thursday asking Bono to take a stand with them against copy-protection technologies that they say unnecessarily restrict consumers' rights to freely use the music and art they've purchased.
Digital rights management technology is commonly used by companies such as Apple Computer Inc. or Microsoft Corp. to support the companies' own business strategies and satisfy the music industry's concerns about unfettered distribution of songs over the Internet.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Strayhorn reports on possible Medicaid fraud

Texas Comptroller and independent gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn released information last week found during her investigation into possible Medicaid prescription drug fraud and abuse about the deaths, poisonings, rapes and pregnancies of children in the state's foster care system.
“In April 2004 I said I would give our forgotten children in foster care something they need - a voice,” Strayhorn said. “I have been and I will continue to be their voice. This Governor's Health and Human Services Commission continues to stonewall my investigation and this Governor continues to hide the truth.”
According to Strayhorn, she urged Gov. Rick Perry to create a Family and Protective Services Crisis Management Team in October 2004.
“Now it is June 2006,” Strayhorn said. “Gov. Perry's failure to act is unconscionable.”
Strayhorn found, from information provided by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, in FY 2003, 30 foster children died in our state's care; in FY 2004, 38 foster children died; and in FY 2005, 48 foster children died.
Data shows that while the number of foster children in the state's care increased 24 percent from 26,133 in FY 2003 to 32,474 in FY 2005, the number of deaths increased 60 percent.
“If you compare the number of deaths of children in our state’s population to the number of deaths in our state’s foster care system, a child is four times more likely to die in our state's foster care system,” Strayhorn said.
Perry’s campaign said Strayhorn was simply exploiting child tragedies for political gain.
“In 2005 the Texas legislature passed, and Gov. Perry signed, SB 6 which provided comprehensive reform to the Child Protective Services (CPS) agency and addressed the concerns outlined by experts and even Carole Strayhorn’s own 2004 report,” Texans for Rick Perry spokesman Robert Black said. “With her support evaporating, her poll numbers dropping and her campaign stagnating, Carole Strayhorn seems desperate to change the subject and is sadly not above exploiting child tragedies to do it. What a despicable thing to do.”

Perry knocks Strayhorn

After the secretary of state certified petitions for independent gubernatorial candidates Kinky Friedman and Carole Strayhorn last week, Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign suggested that the voters in the state have abandoned Strayhorn.
Friedman’s campaign delivered 170,258 signatures to the Secretary of State's office on May 11. Of those, 81 percent or 137,154 signatures were considered valid.
Strayhorn’s campaign submitted 222,514 signatures of which 49 percent or 108,512 were valid.
“Carole Strayhorn has gotten caught trying to pull another fast one on the people of Texas,” Texans for Rick Perry spokesman Robert Black said. “First she tried to say she had 101 boxes of signatures when in fact she only had 12, and now we know that more than half of the signatures she turned in were not even valid. It is obvious that her shrill act is wearing thin with Texans because now even Kinky Friedman has more support than Carole Strayhorn. After abandoning two political parties and two philosophies for her own political ambition, it appears Texans have had enough and have abandoned Carole Strayhorn.”

Kinky's numbers are up

According to Kinky's website, his poll numbers are still on the rise:
The polls around Texas continue to reflect the mood of the state--and everyone's in the mood for Kinky. Check out these Texas Monthly and KRLD-Dallas/Fort Worth (below) polls, which show our candidate in the lead with very healthy margins.
Also, a new SurveyUSA poll of likely voters also shows Kinky gaining 5 percent, while Gov. Perry drops a few percentage points.
Last but not least, the Kinkster stares out from the cover of the latest issue of Texas Monthly dressed as Uncle Sam, challenging one and all: "I want YOU to say 'adios mo-fo!'"

Bell raises over $200k online

From Chris Bell's blog:
Holy freaking cow. You guys are incredible. Not only have you knocked out our $25,000 online fundraising drive with more than 24 hours left to go, and not only have you pushed Chris Bell back up into second place in the Map Changer contest, but you just reached an important milestone in the growth of the Texas netroots:
This afternoon, your online donations pushed our total online receipts over the $200,000 mark. Since the beginning of this campaign, Chris Bell has now raised $208,907.59 over This is an incredible accomplishment that shows how your donations can add up to rival the biggest checks that anyone gets.
Also from e-mail:
“Raising $200,000 in small donations over the internet shows why Chris Bell can win this race," Stanford said. "He's got the support of the Texas Democratic Party, the endorsement of the Texas AFL-CIO, and the most successful online fundraising campaign in Texas political history. Texans are giving their dollars over the Internet because they want change in Texas, and Chris Bell is going to give it to them.”

Darfur update

From e-mail:
I have some important news to report; we have reached our goal of one million postcards calling on President Bush to take stronger action on behalf of the suffering people of Darfur!
In a ceremony this morning at the U.S. Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) became the 999,999th and one-millionth postcard signers!
That means we now have one million postcards to deliver to President Bush urging action in Darfur. We reached this historic moment thanks to efforts by you - and hundreds of thousands of activists like you - and hundreds of organizations across the country.
While we've achieved this major milestone, the Darfur genocide is not yet over and so our work is not yet done. To help truly make a difference, your support right now is crucial.
">Click here to make a tax-deductible contribution today to help us continue our efforts on behalf of the people of Darfur.
Millions in Darfur have already been displaced from their homes, with little hope of returning. They suffer in squalid refugee camps with little protection or hope for the future.
And hundreds of thousands have already died at the hands of a genocidal regime while every day more are killed.
President Bush has a critical role to play in stopping the Darfur genocide. His involvement was key in getting a signed peace agreement - an important first step.
But to truly stop the genocide in Darfur we must:
  • Deploy a UN peacekeeping force; and
  • Appoint an American envoy to be sure U.S. actions reflect the urgency of the crisis
  • Help the Save Darfur Coalition keep the story of Darfur in the news and on the minds of President Bush and members of Congress.
    As always, your support is greatly appreciated.
    Thank you,
    David Rubenstein
    Save Darfur Coalition
  • Respect our faith

    A group of Texas clergy members has organized to ask politicians to "respect our faith."
    Over the past several election cycles, political leaders have increased their efforts to drag our churches into partisan politics to score political points. Sadly, examples of their efforts are becoming common place during campaign seasons.
  • In 2004, the Republican National Committee asked churches to turn over their membership rolls.
  • A pastor in North Carolina expelled congregants who supported John Kerry for President.
  • A pastor in Florida, after hosting Democratic elected officials, saw nothing wrong with turning a worship service into a political rally.
  • In 2005, Texas Governor Rick Perry used a Fort Worth church as a backdrop for a bill signing;
  • A group called the “Texas Restoration Project” is using hundreds of thousands of dollars from secret sources to organize pastors to support selected Republican candidates.
    Activities such as these represent a threat to the integrity of our religious institutions. Our houses of worship should not be used for political rallies or photo-ops for politicians trying to win votes.
    In response to this troubling trend, the Texas Faith Network is launching the Respect Our Faith campaign. This campaign seeks to establish and promote ethical standards that can guide both religious leaders’ involvement in electoral politics and political leaders’ involvement with religious communities.
  • There's a pledge for clergy and laypeople to agree to on their website.

    Call to Renewal

    From e-mail:
    Sen. Obama, D-Illinois gave what appears to be a stirring speech at the Call to Renewal's Building a Covenant for a New America conference.
    I am not suggesting that every progressive suddenly latch on to religious terminology. Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith - the politician who shows up at a black church around election time and claps - off rhythm - to the gospel choir.
    But what I am suggesting is this - secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. To say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity; our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
    Some of this is already beginning to happen. Pastors like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes are wielding their enormous influences to confront AIDS, Third World debt relief, and the genocide in Darfur. Religious thinkers and activists like my friend Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are lifting up the Biblical injunction to help the poor as a means of mobilizing Christians against budget cuts to social programs and growing inequality. National denominations have shown themselves as a force on Capitol Hill, on issues such as immigration and the federal budget. And across the country, individual churches like my own are sponsoring day care programs, building senior centers, helping ex-offenders reclaim their lives, and rebuilding our gulf coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
    Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.
    And even if we did have only Christians within our borders, who's Christianity would we teach in the schools? James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton's? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Levitacus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage so radical that it's doubtful that our Defense Department would survive its application?

    This Ain't Your Daddy's Church

    This ain’t your father’s church

    By JONATHAN BLUNDELL Daily Light staff writer
    Wednesday, June 28, 2006 3:16 PM CDT

    You walk into a large dimly-lit ballroom at the Waxahachie Civic Center and notice a hard rock music video playing on a large screen in the center of the room.
    People are milling around the room, drinking coffee and meeting new friends.
    Images of crosses, Jesus and candles flash on the screen as the video continues.
    Once the video fades to black a group of musicians walk on stage wearing shorts, t-shirts and flip flops.
    They begin to rock out to “Jesus music” and as the lead guitarist breaks into a guitar solo, you realize this is something different.
    This is Encounter - and this ain’t your father’s church.
    Utilizing a live band, a different setting and relevant messages during their Sunday gatherings, Encounter has more than doubled in size since it began meeting at the Civic Center last September.
    “We try and show people that Christ is relevant in their lives today,” Pastor Brian Treadway said. “The setting’s a little different - we turn the lights down and let you bring coffee in during the service. The format’s a little different than a traditional church but we’re not compromising the message.
    “In the traditional church setting, I think people have been turned off by a feeling that they have to somehow measure up. People feel like they have to act a certain way or else they’ll be judged and condemned. People are also turned off by the language the church uses, the technical terms or Christianese. There’s a sense that the people in churches are plastic or phony and no one wants to be part of a group where they have to pretend about who they are.”
    Encounter began nearly two years ago as a Saturday night outreach service at Ovilla Road Baptist Church.
    “There was a group within the church who recognized that many in today’s generation have tried traditional church and it’s not meeting their needs,” Treadway said. “It doesn’t match their style or meet their needs. Many have been hurt, burned in or bored by church, so they just sit at home and turn their backs on church and on God.”
    The leaders of ORBC saw a need and decided to create a service for those the traditional churches were not reaching out to.
    “Our goal was to create a place for the people turned off by traditional church to find a place they would be accepted and where they could find Christ - and fall back in love with him or fall in love with him for the first time,” Treadway said.
    After nearly a year of Saturday night services in Ovilla, the church leaders made the decision for Encounter to venture out on its own, with a Sunday gathering.
    “We made the transition to Sunday after I felt an inward calling and the other leaders in the church recognized we would be more effective as a separate church,” Treadway said. “Our goal is to simplify the church and to remove the bureaucracy you see in many of today’s churches. When you come to church it shouldn’t be about what clothes you’re wearing, who’s sitting by who or who’s on what committee. It’s about a relationship with God.”
    And Encounter is built around strengthening relationships, both with God and with mankind.
    “People today have a longing for developing relationships,” Treadway explained. “That’s why Starbucks, Barnes and Nobles and other places have developed places where people can come and sit, talk and enjoy community. We live in a hi-tech world but there’s a longing for hi-touch. We want to encourage an environment where people are sharing their lives. We don’t have it nailed yet but I think it’s encouraging to see people meeting in homes instead of in an education building. There’s something about a home that’s warm and comforting and conclusive to sharing life.”
    To improve those relationships, Encounter has worked to focus on community groups, a change from the traditional Sunday school hour. Groups meet in homes during the week and focus on a variety of topics, including overcoming addiction, creating community and a group specifically geared toward new believers.
    “We were looking for a change in the traditional Sunday school format,” Treadway said. “We were looking for a more fluid format. People have a desire to live in community and in transparency with others. We want to provide a level and environment for relationships rather than sitting and listening to someone teach every week.”
    Treadway admits that his passion for Encounter comes not only from a higher calling, but from his own spiritual struggles.
    “My own experiences following Christ had become very rule based and routine and a man made standard,” Treadway said. “Once I discovered that I’m accepted by grace, it changed my perspective. As a church we want to break the bondage of legalism. Many people approach their walk that way. Our drive is to set people free from the bondage of rule-based relationships. We want people excited about church and God and want them to serve out of passion and not duty.”
    When the church began, 80 people from ORBC joined Treadway to start Encounter. Today, more than 200 people meet weekly at the Waxahachie Civic Center.
    “The cowboy churches are similar in approach - just a different flavor,” Treadway said. “Other pastors in the area have been very supportive. I’ve heard some concerns, but upon their own investigation they see we’ve changed the method, but in doctrine we’ve remained the same. When we focus on Christ, that’s where we’ve seen the greatest growth.”
    And like the Cowboy Churches, affiliation with a particular denomination is limited.
    “You won’t see the word Baptist on our signs or in our advertising,” Treadway said. “You won’t hear the phrase on Sunday morning because it’s one of the stumbling blocks people have with the church today. Our only affiliation with Southern Baptists is our basic doctrinal belief and the fact that until September of this year, we receive financial support from the Baptist General Convention of Texas. They understand that we won’t advertise our Baptist connection and they don’t have a problem with that.”
    And while building relationships with others at Encounter, Treadway also encourages members to build their relationship in the community as well.
    He tells the story of walking into a mega-mart and getting help from none of the employees.
    “If the employees ignore the customers then I think they’re missing the point,” he explains. “In the same way I have to ask myself, ‘Has the church of the living God been guilty of the same thing? Are we too busy with staying in fellowship with one another and avoiding the evils of the world that we absolutely miss the point?’ Being a follower of God means getting out of your comfort zone. Scripture tells us to love the Lord your God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. We get so caught up in our own problems that we miss the point.
    “We want our church to be involved in every aspect of life,” Treadway said. “How can we make an impact on the community? The essence of the Gospel is loving God and loving others more than yourselves. We should be rubbing shoulders with those in need and looking for ways we can serve outside our walls.”
    The church has recently worked with Cowboy’s House in Oak Cliff and is looking to do future projects with Waxahachie CARE and other groups helping the needy in Ellis County.
    Treadway said Encounter is simply a new approach to tell the Gospel story.
    “We haven’t taken any church and copied it,” Treadway said. “Encounter is more of a conglomerate or melting pot of different ideas. I feel like we’re on the front edge of what God wants us to do.”
    In the future, the leadership of Encounter hopes to be able to meet in its own building. Due to scheduling conflicts at the civic center, the church is occasionally forced to meet in other facilities.
    “We’d love to have our own facility,” Treadway said. “Something that is non-traditional looking and something that allows for a flexible worship environment and an interactive experience with Christ. We also want a place where young people can come and meet during the week and our children’s ministry can continue as a vibrant part of our church. Our children’s ministry is a great draw to the church and Brad Hayes has done an amazing job incorporating his different characters to help tell the stories of the Bible in a way the children can understand. Kids are excited about coming to church. And it’s set up like a junior-Encounter. There’s lots of movement and activities they learn with.”
    The rapid growth of the church has been a struggle for Treadway and the church leadership, but you won’t hear him complain.
    “Our growth has occurred much faster than we originally thought,” Treadway said. “So we struggle with training and finding leaders. That’s been a challenge. The facilities we’re meeting in now have been a blessing. The civic center has been a great place to meet. But we’ve put together a team and dedicated so many of our resources to finding our future facility that my workload has greatly increased. But even with the extra work, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
    Treadway finds reward in his work while watching lives change.
    “The reward is in seeing lives changed,” Treadway said. “That’s the biggest joy. Getting to see marriages brought back together, hearing people say ‘Now I love coming to church,’ people finding their ‘passion groove’ - those are the things you think about as you lay your head down at night and say ‘Thank you God.’ ”
    Encounter meets each Sunday at the Waxahachie Civic Center at 10:30 a.m.
    For more information, visit

    Wednesday, June 28, 2006

    Crunchy Conservatives

    Eric pointed out this editorial that ran a while back in the DMN:
    Afew summers ago, when I worked for the conservative National Review magazine, I told my boss I needed to leave early to get home to Brooklyn in time to pick up our weekly delivery of organic vegetables from the co-op to which my wife, Julie, and I belonged. "Ewgh, that's so lefty," my editor teased.
    She had a point. On the subway home, I reflected on how a taste for organic vegetables is a cultural marker that identifies someone as a "crunchy" liberal – you know, tree-huggers, granola-eaters and the like. In truth, we belonged to the co-op because we found locally grown produce so much more flavorful than the supermarket stuff. And we liked the idea of supporting local family farms with our consumer dollar.
    It's an interesting idea. I'm going to add the authors book to my must read list.

    Organic church

    Thomas has a great post on the Organic Church. I like his thinking:
    Organic church will value fruit in all shapes and forms... diversity will be key... It will be about the insides, not the veneer that surrounds... Substance rather than surface. It will also keep close to its environment... not taking without giving back... living in balance.
    I would say, however, that organic fruit is more at risk. It is easy for non-organic farmers to spray their fruit with agent orange or whatever evil pesticide they have... Organic farmers have less to choose from and have to live more on trust... on faith... with their food being more vulnerable.
    Church will be at more risk when it is organic...because the people will be vulnerable. No man-made perservatives to keep them going - only the strength of the wholesome earth that they are immersed in. In organic church, we will only have God to keep us... there will be nothing man-made that will protect us.

    Christian is a poor adjective

    This is from Thomas:
    In yesterday's Metro American "trendspotter" Marian Salzman responded to the question :: "What trends are you predicting for the next 5 years?"
    Americans have become so decidedly religious that religion is going to become a very serious problem between the US and the rest of the world. Americans are living in a country where CHRISTIAN RETAIL is a shopping option, CHRISTIAN FOOD is a snack food option - there's a chain called "Chick-fil-a" - it's Christian chicken.
    Oh my goodness!
    What happened to being in the world? If all I do is "CHRISTIAN" then where is the reality? where is the truth in being the salt and the light?
    Reject Christian ghettoes!
    I just read chapter three of "Velvet Elvis" last night by Rob Bell and it talks a lot about this.
    "The prophet Isaiah had a vision of heaven, and in his vision angels were shouting, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.'
    The Hebrew word for glory here is kavod, which means weight or significance.
    The whole earth is full of the weight and significance of who God is.
    The writer David said, 'The earth is the Lord's and everything in it.'
    According to the ancient Jewish worldview, God is not somewhere else. God is right here. It is God's world and God made it and God owns it and God is present everwhere in it."

    "But God is always present. We're the ones who show up. For the ancient Jew, the world is soaked in the presence of God. The whole earth is full of the kavad of God. For the writers of the Bible, this truth is everywhere. It's here. It's there. It's all over."

    "Paul affirms the truth wherever he finds it."

    "If it is true, if it is beautiful, if it is honorable, if it is right, then claim it. Because it is from God. And you belong to God."

    "Jesus is the arrangement. Jesus is the design. Jesus is the intelligence. For a Christian, Jesus' teachings aren't to be followed because they are a nice way to live a moral life. They are to be followed because they are the best possible insight into how the world really works. They teach us how things are. I don't follow Jesus because I think Christianity is the best religion. I follow Jesus because he leads me into the ultimate reality."

    "It is dangerous to label things 'Christian.'"

    "The problem with turning the noun into an adjective and then tacking it onto words is that it can create categories that limit the truth."

    "Something can be labled Christian and not be true or good."

    "A Christian political group puts me in an akward position: What if I disagree with them? Am I less of a Christian? What if I am convinced the "Christian" thing to do is to vote the exact opposite?"

    "Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective."

    "I was playing in a punk band a few years ago, and we were playing clubs and bars and festivals and parties. People would regularly ask us if we were a Christian band when they found out I was a pastor. I always found that question a bit odd. When you meet a plumber, do you ask her if she is a Christian plumber?"

    "My understanding is that to be a Christian is to do whatever you do with great passion and devotion."

    I could go on, but I should probably get back to work..
    What's your take?

    Delay wins - mostly

    Word is that the Supreme Court upheld Delay's redistricting plan - mostly. Looks like everything except the Texas 23rd was upheld.

    Delay wins - mostly

    Word is that the Supreme Court upheld Delay's redistricting plan - mostly. Looks like everything except the Texas 23rd was upheld.

    This week at Encounter

    P.S. Superman

    An interesting point made by a Frontburner reader:
    I thought a portion of Chris Vognar’s suggestion in Over The Top's "Lessons from the Daily Planet” on the front of today’s GuideLive section (in the DMN)could have been a veiled response to his newsroom’s recent distress.
    Vognar's tip: “Boost circulation: If you want to keep circulation figures up, follow the advice of DP editor Perry White (Frank Langella): ‘Three things sell papers: tragedy, sex and Superman.’ Where’s the Man of Steel when we need him most?”

    Superman cannot lie... and neither will I

    I went and saw "Superman Returns" at the special screening at 10:10 last night with my boy Aaron.
    I will not lie. It was good. From the moment the John William's Superman score hits the screen to the end I was caught in the moment.
    I thought the storyline was great and answers the question, "Well where's Superman been?" while Spiderman, X-Men, Batman and others have taken over Superman's spot at the box office.
    Apparently Superman (played by Brandon Routh) went home to see if there was anything left of his home planet.
    But he returns to earth to see that the world has moved on without him, including the love of his life, Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth). Lane is even being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her editorial piece, "Why the world doesn't need Superman."
    Superman's vile enemy Lex Luther, wonderfully played by Kevin Spacey, has been released from jail after Superman, the key witness in his case failed to appear at his trial. Luther sets out on his next plan to take over the world and of course only one man can stop him - Superman.
    I kept sensing a spiritual theme in the movie as Lane tells Superman the world doesn't need a savior. From his viewpoint high above the world, Superman tells her "I hear all the screams and cries for a savior."
    The movie also grapples with Superman's mortality as the the others have as well.
    Routh plays an excellent replacement for Christopher Reeves and at times you can see Reeves in Routh's expressions and face.
    There is definatly a greater element of special effects than the first three movies, but they're done well enough that you don't lose the "reality" of the movie.
    You don't get a chance to stop and think, now was that done with computers or the real thing?
    I won't give away the ending, but it will leave you applauding the film makers for a job well done.
    The movie opens nationwide today.

    Remember LeAnn Rhimes?

    Remember that young up and coming country star from Garland a few years back.
    That girl that every girl in the Metroplex wanted to be.
    Looks like she's grown up and jumped the pond to release her latest musical work.
    Seems her album is only being released in the UK and not here in the US, although rumor is you can track one down at Tower Records or on Amazon.

    Tuesday, June 27, 2006

    Virtual U2 has a story on the Virtual U2 making their way through Second Life. One can probably be sure that the virtual U2 is not Even Better Than the Real Thing.

    After Hours Improv

    From Myspace:

    Hello party peoples!
    Friday July 7th!
    Come see your favorite improv troupe on Friday July 7!

    here's the details!

    After Hours Improv
    Friday night! July 7th!
    Refuge Coffee
    101 Eagle Dr
    Red Oak, TX 75154-6307
    Phone (972) 617-3336

    don't miss it!

    Monday, June 26, 2006

    New pics

    Disney 096
    Originally uploaded by mmlehmann.

    Matt's posted some new pics on Flickr from Christmas and his training in Kilgore.


    Got a little bored in my meeting tonight

    How do you see God? has a great art project for a large or small church group.

    Rob Bell coming to Ft Worth

    Rob Bell will be in Fort Worth July 13.
    Tickets are $10 and I believe a group of us are getting together to go see him. Let me know if you're planning to go or want to go with us.
    If you’ve read Velvet Elvis, watched a NOOMA, or listened to Mars Hill Bible Church teachings online, you may be interested in hearing Rob Bell speak in a city near you.
    Bell's 'Everything is Spiritual' tour launches on June 30, 2006 in Chicago and will be in a different city every night through the end of July.

    How Marvelous

    I love so many of the hymns of the faith. I'm listening to "I Stand Amazed (How Marvelous)" and just love the depth of the lyrics and it's message.
    Had to share:
    I stand amazed in the presence
    Of Jesus the Nazarene,
    And wonder how He could love me,
    A sinner, condemned, unclean.

    O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
    And my song shall ever be:
    O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
    Is my Savior’s love for me!

    For me it was in the garden
    He prayed: “Not My will, but Thine.”
    He had no tears for His own griefs,
    But sweat drops of blood for mine.

    In pity angels beheld Him,
    And came from the world of light
    To comfort Him in the sorrows
    He bore for my soul that night.

    He took my sins and my sorrows,
    He made them His very own;
    He bore the burden to Calvary,
    And suffered and died alone.

    When with the ransomed in glory
    His face I at last shall see,
    ’Twill be my joy through the ages
    To sing of His love for me.

    O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
    And my song shall ever be:
    O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
    Is my Savior’s love for me!

    New stock photo company

    From the e-mail files:
    LuckyOliver Stock Photo Web Site Offers Initial Photographers 60% RoyaltiesJune 26, 2006--Campbell, California--New micropayment stock photography company LuckyOliver ( is calling all amateur photographers, photography enthusiasts and photography professionals. LuckyOliver is currently in the process of accepting photo submissions and is offering a 60% royalty on the first 30,000 exclusive-rights images accepted. Photographers interested in learning more about LuckyOliver or submitting photos for consideration should visit
    Especially for Photography Hobbyists and Enthusiasts
    "I've taken photographs for as long as I can remember--I must have thousands, if not tens of thousands sitting on hard drives or CDs," said Bryan Zmijewski, founder and chief instigator at LuckyOliver. "I had the feeling that other people had these too--really cool images that would never see the light of day. And that's where the idea for LuckyOliver was born. LuckyOliver adds an incentive, in the form of monetary royalties, to help get high-quality images out of dusty hard drive storage and into the hands of designers and artists who can use them."
    Higher Royalties on the First 30K Images Accepted
    LuckyOliver is offering a 60% royalty to photographers whose exclusive-rights photos are accepted--up until the LuckyOliver image library reaches 30,000 images. "We understand the need to quickly get to a tipping point of high-quality imagery...and what better way to get to that point than to bribe our photographers?" joked Bryan.
    "It's Perfect for Getting My Photos Out There"
    Both professional photographers and photography hobbyists are excited about LuckyOliver. "I found LuckyOliver after looking for just this type of web site for years," said San Diego-based Matt Gowe, a self-described digital and film photographer. "I've tried several different sites in the past and even have my own web site, but advertising costs are so high that it's prohibitive."
    "LuckyOliver is perfect for getting my photos out there and for sale without having to break the bank." Matt continued, "The LuckyOliver staff has been outstanding with their feedback and help--and I'm really happy with the advice I'm getting about my photography style and with how many of my photos have been accepted on the site."
    About LuckyOliver
    Founded in 2005, LuckyOliver, a product of MegaGlobal Image Syndicate, Inc., provides amateur and professional photographers and graphic designers a community-based outlet in which to sell and purchase photographs. LuckyOliver is committed to furthering photography education and making high-quality photos available to the public at a reasonable cost. Visit for more information or to submit photos.

    Horse Sense: Word Up

    The wonder is that there should be anything at all. Why not nothing, instead? Then you wouldn’t know to know the difference. The existence of a rock may as well be nothing to the rock, but not so to man. There is manifestly not just nothing. Even if life were a dream or illusion, whether mist or concrete, there is still at least something to conceive and to contend with. What it was that called the something out of nothing was simple and complex as a Word. In Greek, Word is called Logos, and it means the controlling Principle of the universe: a first, last and ultimate logic or reason to what is. St. John says that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Comparing St. John to the first verse of Genesis, it is easy to see the correlative nature of the text and consonance in meaning. “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). God literally spoke and it was done. No ifs, ands or buts about it. His Word contained inestimable power and supreme command. And while man flatters himself daily about how clever he is, and fancies himself quite the inventor and creator in his own right, God is the only One who creates something out of nothing. Moreover, unlike man, God’s Word never returns void; rather, it has its intended effect by the very nature of the universe in which we live.
    Still it occurs to me, that we do pattern the divine. Hence there may be something in this Word business to think about. Man is not God, but scripture tells us man was made in the image and likeness of God. Our life in so many odd ways seems to be the material metaphor for an underlying, overlying spiritual reality. We don’t love as perfectly as God, but we do indeed love; likewise, man’s justice is sometimes terribly flawed, but we try to practice perfect justice nonetheless. Our highest concepts involve approaching the divine, and sometimes if briefly, we touch the hem of Truth’s garment. Virtue goes out of Him and blesses an enterprise of man. It could therefore be that our words are like small caplets of power. Better to say encouraging words, to speak truth as best we can know it, to say things with kindness, and to hold words at bay when angry or excited to quick reaction. We all know the kids’ jingle, that ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words can never hurt me,’—isn’t exactly true. Words can be and are among the most hurtful things in the world, especially when uttered by a loved one or person we look up to. “Word up,” however, they can also be among the most healing things in the world. In this regard, 2 Timothy 3: 16-17 gives us extremely good advice: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Timothy tells us what words we should use for a good, intended effect. They are the words of the Bible. That’s why scripture used to be taught in school, because it is quintessentially appropriate for such instruction.
    It is a shame that there are leaders now, who traffic in words carelessly or selfishly, who either never received the proper instruction or never let it sink in. They use words to hide and obscure true meaning, to create confusion amongst the people. They question what the meaning of is, is. In so doing, they metaphysically take the verb for “to be” and throw existence itself into question. The wonder is that there should be anything at all, indeed—least of all a great nation, when the politicians (one cannot call them statesmen anymore) fail to learn the responsibility that comes with words in a democratic Republic. If it were only our leaders, we should get it right at the next election, but that unfortunately is not all there is to it. There are also far too many citizens and voters, who give themselves over too easily to words, without discernment and without examination. Perhaps the people are no longer listening to what is said at all, any more than the speaker presumes to be saying anything worth listening to. This is a very bad situation for our form of government, especially as we head towards mid-term elections. Our form of government rests on foundations that are fixed, to wit, on a written constitution made up of words that mean what they say. The Founders, who wrote them, were themselves immersed in a culture that conceived of the Logos in Western, philosophical tradition; as well as the Word, in Christian theological tradition, meaning both the law of God and of Jesus Christ when “the Word was made flesh” (John 1: 14). The freedom they enshrined in the Constitution was entirely consistent with the natural freedom God breathed in us, starting with His Word, which we have quite literally heard from the beginning.
    Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford. Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he ran for U.S. Congress (TX-District 31) in the 2004 Republican Primary. Email:

    What doubts do you have?

    Ok. I have a question for the day/week. But here's the rules: 1. Leave your comments anonymously. 2. You can respond to comments, but do not judge or condemn anyone for their thoughts.
    With that said, here's the question of the day/week.

    What doubts/questions do you have about God?

    Remember post your comments/thoughts anonymously. And I will be checking them and deleting anything that goes against the rules.

    Velvet Elvis

    I finally found a copy of Velvet Elvis at a local store and bought a copy for my dad for father's day. He turned around and found another copy and bought it for me.
    I'm really enjoying it.
    Here are some of my favorite thoughts/quotes so far...

    "For many people the word Christian conjures up all sorts of images that have nothing to do with who Jesus is and how he taught us to live. This must change."

    "The idea that some people have faith and others don't is a popular one. But it is not a true one. Everybody has faith. Everybody is following somebody."

    "As a Christian, I am simply trying to orient myself around living a particular kind of way, the kind of way that Jesus taught is possible. And I think the way of Jesus is the best possible way to live."

    "I'm convinced being generous is a better way to live. I'm convinced forgiving people and not carrying around bitterness is a better way to live. I'm convinced having compassion is a better way to live. I'm convinced pursuing peace in every situation is a better way to live. I'm convinced listening to the wisdom of others is a better way to live. I'm convinced listening to the wisdom of others is a better way to live. I'm convinced being honest with people is a better way to live."

    "Jesus exposes us to reality at its rawest. So the way of Jesus is not about religion; it's about reality."

    "Obviously we think our interpretations are the most correct; otherwise we'd change them. Or as one of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, put it, "Everybody things their opinion is the right one. If they didn't they'd get a new one."

    I also enjoyed the interpretation of God telling Moses, "I am." There's no way we can wrap our minds around God. "God has no thingness because there's no end to God."
    Bell also gave a great interpretation of Moses asking to see God's glory on Mt. Sinai. According to Bell, rabbis said that rather than seeing God's back (as I've always understood it) the story should be understood as, Moses saw "where God just was."
    "It is if God is saying, 'The best you're going to do, the most you are capable of, is seeing where I... just... was.' That's the closest you're going to get."
    Bell also says if you can't question your faith, its not real faith.

    I like that. I like that we can question our faith and our beliefs.
    According to Bell, the ancient rabbis understood the Bible is open-ended and has to be interpreted. Rabbis are like interpreters, helping people understand what God is saying to them through the text and what it means to live out the text.
    Different rabbis had different sets of rules, which basically said what they allowed or forbade, depending on their interpretation of the scriptures. Those rules and interpretations of scripture was called that rabbi's yoke.
    "When you followed a certain rabbi, you were following him because you believed that rabbi's set of interpretations were the closest to what God intended through the Scriptures. And when you followed that rabbi, you were taking up that rabbi's yoke.
    "One rabbi even said his you was easy."

    Friday, June 23, 2006

    mentos and coke

    mentos and coke

    Eric was telling me about this phenomenom. Amazing. Add a couple Mentos to a Diet Coke and get a massive explosion. These guys took it to the extreme.

    McIlvain on blogging

    My mate Mike McIlvain has written up a fine article on blogging for the monthly magazine LareDOS.
    Check it out.

    Thursday, June 22, 2006

    Cowboys and Catalans

    I’ve never given much real thought to taking off and traveling through Europe until I read Charles Sizemore’s first literary publication, “Cowboys and Catalans – A Texan Rambles Through Europe.”
    Born and raised in Dallas, Sizemore is a full time financial analyst and part time world traveler.
    But prior to taking a full-time position with Harry S. Dent, the twenty something author takes off to the London School of Economics for a master’s degree, and finds his focus is quickly taken from school and directed towards the women, bars and sights of Europe.
    Reading the book feels like reading letters sent home from a good friend.
    The reader is caught living vicariously through the Texas Christian University graduate as he travels across the continent and studies in London for a year.
    Humor and adventure abound as Sizemore learns about Roman debauchery first hand, realizes the difficulties in riding the Eurail and dates an Iraqi girl -- shortly after the American invasion of her home country.
    One night we stepped into an Irish pub to get out of the cold. I ordered two Stellas and walked to the table where Leyla was already sitting.
    “You hear that?” I asked, pointing to the Irish band in the corner. “They’re singing Pancho and Lefty. That sounds weird in an Irish accent.”
    “What’s Pancho and Left?”
    “You know, the Willie Nelson song.”
    “Never mind. I guess that one didn’t make it across the desert.”
    It was a bit surreal to be sitting with an Arab in a London pub hearing an Irish band play Willie. I pondered this while I waited at the bar for another Stella.

    The book flows and reads with ease, other than a few spots where Sizemore takes the opportunity to share the extended history of the places he’s visiting.
    I’m not saying it was a bad decision to do so -- I personally enjoyed it -- but I can think of numerous friends who will be attracted to the stories of beer and women and likely skim over or stop reading anything to do with history.
    Sizemore spends much of his time overseas with his newly acquired Spanish companions and the time spent in Spain and with them were some of the most enjoyable and heartfelt reads in the book.
    He also realizes quickly the misconceptions many Europeans have about Texans and at times takes advantage of the stereotype, traveling the country in a well worn pair of Cowboy boots.
    Not having traveled overseas myself, I can only imagine the enjoyment this book might be to anyone who’s traveled to Europe on their own, but regardless, it’s a great read even for those who have only considered traveling to visit our European neighbors.
    “Cowboys and Catalans,” 2006 iUniverse; $19.95 at and other major booksellers.

    Kinky and Strayhorn certified

    It's official, there will be five candidates on the November ballot for governor:
    From the SOS office:
    Secretary Williams certifies independents for the November ballot
    AUSTIN, TX -- Secretary of State Roger Williams today notified candidates and minor parties who filed for a place on the general election ballot if they met the statutorily prescribed qualifications. By state law, candidates were required to submit an application for a place on the ballot accompanied by petitions with the required number of signatures.
    "Texas has a process for verifying the eligibility of independent candidates for a place on the ballot and today we have finished that process," Williams said. "Our method of verifying every signature is the most accurate, has been upheld by the courts and was done faster than in years past."
    Williams notified the campaigns of Richard Kinky Friedman and Carole Keeton Strayhorn today that they had met the requirements for a place on the ballot in the upcoming gubernatorial election. Both Candidates exceeded the 45,540 signatures required by state law. After a preliminary review of the 170,258 petitions submitted by Mr. Friedman, Secretary Williams' office has certified that 137,154 met the requirements. Similarly, Secretary Williams certified that 108,512 of the 222,514 signatures submitted by Ms. Strayhorn were valid signatures that met all statutory requirements.
    In addition to the two gubernatorial candidates, five other candidates submitted applications as independents with Secretary William's Office; including Robert Belt and Arthur W. Loux for U.S. Senator, Bob Hise for U.S. Representative District 3, Steve Stockman for U.S. Representative District 22 and Harold Pearson for State Representative District 17. None of these candidates met the state requirements for a place on the ballot, and therefore will not be certified by the state. The Green Party also applied for ballot access with the Secretary of State's office but did not submit the appropriate number of signatures to qualify.

    Barton plays video games

    According to his testimony, Congressman Joe Barton, R-Ennis, is a big video gamer. Looks like the House has nothing better to do than debate video games again. And apparently the video games only affect poor black children in the ghetto. Rich white kids in the suburbs don't need to worry - they're apparently immune to the video game's influence. So here's my theory. Rather than getting rid of all video games, lets just increase welfare and get rid of the poor kids in America. Then we won't have to worry about the influence of video games.
    Also we'll have to work hard to get the Senate on board, because they just voted down another possible increase in the minimum wage. As if the poor didn't have enough problems.

    This week at Encounter

    And next week:

    Wednesday, June 21, 2006

    Caption this

    From Pink Dome:

    Waiting for Blundell

    "Where have I been? Nothing's been posted since Monday?"
    Oh... it's been posted, just not here.
    I've been blogging from the county budget hearings.
    What you didn't know? You betta call somebody!
    Anways, here's some interesting facts you may or may not have know about animal kingdom groups (i.e. large numbers of certain types of animals)

    EMUS - MOB

    Monday, June 19, 2006


    Originally uploaded by farmalloc.

    just a great wedding picture...

    are you...

    are you...
    Originally uploaded by caprice1pic.

    apparently a librarian found this in one of her many books at the public library...
    "often library patrons leave us friendly reminders that we should be caring for our immortal souls. these pamphlets were thoughtfully tucked into a book display in my department."

    Crusaders Volume 16 from Chick Tracts

    Crusaders Volume 16 from Chick Tracts
    Originally uploaded by A.Currell.

    Is that the pope riding in with the four horsemen? Where's Ric Flair, Arn and Ole Anderson, and Tully Blanchard?

    Bell camp throws me some love

    The Bell campaign posted my story from today's Waxahachie Daily Light.

    downtown living 2

    downtown living 2
    Originally uploaded by Jdblundell.

    A shot from the kitchen into the dining room.

    downtown living

    downtown living
    Originally uploaded by Jdblundell.

    Matt and I are looking at getting this 2/2 "loft" in downtown Waxahachie. Anyone got some cool decorating ideas?

    Council tonight

    Waxahachie's City Council is finally over for the night and I only have one word... NIMBY.

    Bell looks to unseat Perry

    From today's WDL:
    Bell looks to unseat Perry

    By JONATHAN BLUNDELL Daily Light staff writer

    Donning a dark sports coat, blue jeans and cowboy boots, Chris Bell looks right at home walking into the Ellis County Democratic Headquarters.
    He’s not well known in the county but he’s hoping that will change in the next four months, in time for the Texas gubernatorial election in November.
    Bell’s facing an uphill battle, in a state where no Democrat has won a statewide election since 1994.
    His audience this night is a mixed group of Democratic supporters, filling the pews and chairs in the downtown Waxahachie office space.
    The Ellis County Democratic Women and Bell say they’re pleased with the turnout in the predominately Republican County, where many Democrats only whisper their allegiance to the party.
    There are only two Democrats currently elected to an Ellis County office and the party is only fielding two other candidates for local races.
    Candidates for State District 10, Kerry Horn, and Texas Congressional District 6, David Harris, were also present for Bell’s visit.
    Bell accepted his party’s nomination last week for the gubernatorial election after beating Bob Gammage and Rashad Jafer with 63.87 percent of the vote in the March primaries.
    With the nomination, Bell assures himself at least nominal support from the straight line ticket voters in the Democratic Party.
    And with three other candidates from outside the two mainline parties, including independents Kinky Friedman and Carole Strayhorn and Libertarian James Werner, Bell doesn’t need a majority of the vote to win.
    According to Texas law, the governorship will go to the candidate with the highest number of votes – 38 to 42 percent could win the election.
    In 2002, Democratic candidate Tony Sanchez received 40 percent of the vote against Perry’s 58 percent.
    That may not be too hard to accomplish.
    Recent polls across the state have placed Bell anywhere from first to third place in the race and during the recent legislative session, Bell’s fundraising saw an increase on par with Perry.
    Bell reported collecting more than $333,000 from April 17 through May 16.
    Perry reported raising just more than $375,000 and Strayhorn, the state comptroller, raised around $307,000 during the period.
    “This report shows that Chris Bell is consolidating his support in the Democratic Party in a serious way,” campaign spokesman Jason Stanford said. “People are beginning to realize that he is the only guy who can beat Rick Perry.”
    But regardless of polls or fundraising, less than 180 days from Election Day, Bell says he doesn’t mind playing the role of underdog and is ready to put an end to Rick Perry’s six-year term as governor.
    “I know this county hasn’t been a Democratic stronghold,” Bell tells the Democrats gathered from around Ellis County and parts of the Metroplex. “But it means so much when we see so many people turn out for an event like this on a hot Saturday night in June.”
    Since beginning his campaign for governor in 2005, Bell said he’s received a new education about Texas, worthy of a doctorate in Texas.
    “The character of the people in our state is as strong as ever,” Bell said. “Texans carry a certain spirit in our hearts and people are crying out for a change all across our country and especially in Texas. We find ourselves in just about the bottom of every statistic you can think of. Rick Perry has been an absolute failure as a governor.”
    Bell, a former Houston councilman and one-term U.S. Congressman, found himself on the losing end of the 2003 Republican state redistricting plan.
    After losing his seat, Bell filed a formal ethics complaint against then House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in June 2004.
    Four months later, the House Ethics Committee responded by unanimously admonishing DeLay on two of Bell’s charges.
    The third charge was left to be considered, pending the criminal investigation in Texas by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle.
    After ending his first and only congressional term, Bell took the advice of friends and political advisors and threw his hat into the race for governor.
    In a moment of irony, Bell noted that the same day DeLay was leaving office, Bell was accepting his party’s nomination for governor.
    “I know we can do better,” Bell tells the crowd. “If you give me the bully pulpit and veto pen I’ll be sure to work my hardest for all Texans.”
    This night, Bell’s primary focus is Texas’ education system and the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test. The state-mandated exit test for high school students has come under sharp criticism since its inception in 2003.
    The test takes the place of the former TAAS test and falls under the guidelines and requirements for President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind.”
    “My wife told me not to be serious about running, unless I was serious about fixing public schools,” Bell said. “I have two sons going to public schools and if we’re going to be serious about preparing our youth, we have to teach them to be successful with something more than standardized tests. Are we teaching our students to think on their own, or simply regurgitate answers? People ask me, ‘Well how can we ensure accountability without the test?’ They’re called teachers.”
    The 46-year-old candidate was born in Abilene and graduated from Dallas area public schools, before graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Texas.
    He tells the crowd that he’s firmly against school vouchers and believes they signify surrender in the efforts to fix public schools.
    “I have a big problem with school vouchers,” Bell said. “It’s throwing our hands up and saying we can’t fix them. It worries me that more and more people see education as a privilege and not a right. With voucher plans you punish rural areas where there are few or no private schools. It tricks people into thinking everyone will get to go to private schools.”
    After college, Bell went on to work in radio and television and was named the “best radio reporter in the state” by the Texas Associated Press in 1990.
    He received a law degree from South Texas College of Law in 1992 and began his own litigation practice before running for the Houston City Council.
    Bell humbly admits he doesn’t have all the answers but hopes to work with both sides of the aisle in Austin.
    He also accuses Perry of bringing Washington-style politics to Austin, a city that has historically been centered on bipartisan efforts.
    “If there’s anything unforgivable that Perry has done, it’s the Washington style politics he’s brought to Austin,” Bell said. “I don’t think there’s just a Democratic solution to education and I don’t think there’s just a Democratic solution to health care. If you’re going to lead you have to build bridges and that’s what this campaign is about and what my administration will be about.
    “I have some ideas but I’m not going to pretend I have all the answers,” Bell said. “I’m going to admit, there’s good ideas from people outside the Democratic Party. I don’t care if you’re from Mars if you have a good idea.”
    If elected, one of Bell’s first goals is to start a bipartisan commission to study education and curriculum in the state. He’s also calling for a $6,000 pay raise across the board for Texas teachers, to bring the state to the national average.
    “The good news is that public schools can work if the governor is willing to lead,” Bell said. “I’m calling for nothing short of a moon shot when it comes to our public education system.”
    In order to attract more businesses and more high-tech jobs for the state, Bell insists that the school system must be improved.
    “We haven’t had a bipartisan commission since 1984,” Bell explains. “All the ideas need to be put on the table. I think businesses are willing to help invest in the school system. It’s not a pie in the sky we can just keep talking about and hope it gets fixed. We cannot keep losing generations of young people. And we can’t fix the problem if we’re not willing to address the dropout rates across the state.”
    Bell points to Dallas ISD and says districts across the state have been releasing incorrect dropout numbers for far too long.
    According to the district, the dropout rate is only 5 percent district wide.
    Bell believes that after looking at incoming freshman numbers and graduating senior numbers, the district is more inline with the state average of a 30 to 40 percent dropout rate.
    “Are we going to try and pretend these students aren’t dropping out? We need to be honest and accountable. I want to fix these problems.”
    Along with education, Bell is also pushing for more access to health care.
    As part of the Carole Strayhorn Reality Tour, Bell said he’s spent the last week trying to set the record straight.
    “Carole Strayhorn recommended privatizing the Medicaid eligibility processing,” Bell said. “This resulted in 100,000 new children losing health coverage. That’s in addition to the 170,000 kids already without insurance. We’re in great need of undoing the contract to privatize Medicaid. We have the highest number of uninsured people in the country and there’s no motivation on the federal level to fix that. Believe me, I’ve been there. Massachusetts and California are already working on plans and we need to do the same.”
    Bell also shared his passion for Texas leading in the field of health care and curing diseases.
    A long time supporter of stem-cell research, Bell said it was time for Texas to get serious about curing disease.
    “I admit this is a personal issue,” Bell said. “I lost my mom in 1999 after fighting 10 years of Parkinson’s disease, my wife also just successfully fought breast cancer. I don’t like campaigning on personal matters, but what kind of son or husband would I be if I didn’t stand up and fight so that others didn’t have to go through this?”
    An active member of Christ Church Cathedral Episcopal Church in Houston, Bell pulled from his religious beliefs to back his political stance on the issue.
    “Jesus never said to heal the sick only if politics don’t get in the way,” Bell said. “And Jesus never called a pollster before healing the leaper. It’s time for us to get serious about healing the sick.”
    It’s still an uphill battle for Bell but he’s pleased with his chances.
    “I think the name identification is an interesting theme for the media but it’s a non-issue in the race for the governor,” Bell said after Saturday night’s event. “Because by November everyone will know who’s running for governor. I will have raised enough money to get my message out. The Democratic party, as I become better known and I do get my message out, will get behind my candidacy and make it very difficult for Strayhorn to go anywhere except back to the Republican column.”
    If Bell’s campaign strategy holds true, Strayhorn will likely split the Republican vote and with strong support from the Democrats, Bell will become the first Democratic governor since Ann Richards in 1994.
    “Given the size of our state there’s really two people in a position to compete for the governor’s race – the Republican nominee and the Democratic nominee,” Bell said. “And I think Perry’s campaign understands that as well. There’s a Democratic infrastructure in every part of the state and I don’t have to go to Ellis County, or the Valley, or the Texas Panhandle or Eastern Dallas to create a new infrastructure, it’s already there and it’s a huge advantage.”
    As for the Democratic Party across Texas, Bell admits the party has been beaten up in recent years and is in a rebuilding stage but he also believes a win for his campaign will make huge steps towards rejuvenating the party.
    “I’m excited about what I see as I travel around the state,” Bell said. “It’s a Saturday night in the heat of June and you have a packed house to come out and hear the gubernatorial candidate. That speaks well. I continue to see that in areas that are not traditionally Democratic strongholds. We think people are looking for a change. One reason this race is very important for Democrats is that it’s very hard to rebuild a state party when you don’t hold any statewide offices and it’s hard to build excitement or raise the money or create the kind of organization you really need. Winning the governor’s office would allow us to take giant strides in that direction.”
    For now, Bell’s campaign must hope the anti-Perry movement is strong enough to push him from a former councilmember and congressman to the state’s highest leadership position.
    “People should be concerned about who becomes governor because of the overall direction of the state,” Bell said. “If people really sit back and look at where we find ourselves right now, I think they’d be astonished, like I was, to find that we’re in last place in category after category – whether it’s the number of uninsured or the dropout rate or the teen pregnancy rate. A lot of that stems from a lack of leadership and not having a governor who’s looking for common sense solutions for a lot of the problems that we face.
    “You’ve heard me talk about the vision of Texas that we carry in our hearts – and we’re a very proud state and I think if people want a brighter day in Texas they know that we need bold vision and new leadership. And that’s what I would bring to the governor’s office.”

    Bikers and bras

    I ran to Mesquite today to borrow my mom's laptop. WDL blog readers can relax... we will have coverage of tomorrow's meeting for sure now.
    But on the way - I saw this lady riding her motorcycle between downtown and LBJ on I-30 and I-80... and yes, she's only wearing blue jeans and a bra.
    No, not a sports bra. A bra. I think she either rushed out of the house too soon this morning, or the wind must have ripped her shirt off while flying down the road.
    I'll keep a look out for it on my way home.

    Live blogging

    Eric's at the Ellis County Budget Hearings and posting updates throghout the meeting.
    I should be there but my laptop just freaked out overnight.
    Looks like I'm looking at a minimum of a $240 of repair and at least two weeks without.
    Anyone want to pitch in to the Blundell needs a laptop repair fund?
    I had really hoped my financial luck was about to change.

    Bell interview

    I just found out tonight that I need another cable to transfer the tape of my interview with Chris Bell from my handheld to my laptop to the Internet.
    But in the meantime, here's a much more in depth and longer interview Bell did with KERA.

    Sunday, June 18, 2006

    Horse Sense: Emergency Numbers

    Emergency numbers may be dialed direct. No operator assistance is necessary. All lines are open 24 hours a day.
    When in sorrow, call John 14. When men fail you, call Psalm 27. If you want to be fruitful or when people seem unkind, call John 15. When you have sinned, call Psalm 51. When you worry, call Matthew 6:19-34. When you’re in danger, call Psalm 91. When God seems far away, call Psalm 139. When your faith needs stirring, call Hebrews 11. When you are lonely and fearful, call Psalm 23. When you grow bitter and critical or are losing confidence in people, call 1 Corinthians 13. For Paul’s secret to happiness, call Colossians 3: 12-17. When you feel down and out, call Romans 8: 31-39. When you want peace and rest, call Matthew 11: 25-30. When the world seems bigger than God, call Psalm 90. When you want Christian assurance, call Romans 8: 1-30. When you leave home for labor or travel, call Psalm 121. When your prayers grow narrow or selfish, call Psalm 67. For opportunity, call Isaiah 55. When you want courage for a task, call Joshua 1. On getting along with fellowmen, call Romans 12. When you think of investments and returns and what is important, call Mark 10. If you get depressed, call Psalm 27. If your pocketbook is empty, call Psalm 37. If discouraged about your work, call Psalm 126. If you find the world growing small, and yourself great, call Psalm 19. For a complete directory, consult the Holy Bible and let your fingers do the walking.
    Indeed, in days before mobile cell or even landline phones, the Founding Generation used these same numbers. We share ‘that mind which was also in Christ Jesus’—and also come to know the Founders intimately, simply by knowing our Bibles better. George Washington studied his Bible regularly and prayed every day, as he did in one iconic moment famously captured on canvass kneeling in front of his horse during the cold dark days of Valley Forge. The second president John Adams was particularly disciplined at his reading, always carrying “a poet in his pocket” and reading the entire Bible from Genesis through Revelation every year, year after year. Adams’ familiarity with Scripture and the wisdom that grew out of that familiarity, were admirable in his day, remarkable and certainly worthy of emulation in ours. There are several reading plans that would enable you to comfortably read the Bible in one year. If approached this way, it becomes fairly easy to manage. It becomes a matter of priority, i.e., what you give attendance to. According to 1 Timothy 4: 13, we are supposed to give attendance to such reading.
    It is important to realize that the Founders and the Puritan Fathers before them were steeped in the Bible. The Judeo-Christian tradition therefore largely defines their worldview, and out of it, proceeded conclusions and a common understanding of what is right and wrong, good and evil; what is important and what is subsidiary. Morality wasn’t just anyone’s opinion or the determination of a ballot; rather, it was Biblically based—enforced by peers and social pressure to some extent, reflective in the laws. No one questioned whether there was purpose, or that the purpose of life is ultimately spiritual. The God of the Universe and Nature made man, and at the same time endowed him with rights that ought to be respected by other men. God made man free, man’s free will an imperative to God’s redemptive plan, whereby He sent His Son (that ‘whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life’). Government essentially served to facilitate this divine process. The First Amendment was written foremost out of a respect for God and the intercession of His Son; it was hardly an expression of hostility or even neutrality towards religion. The Founders who wrote the First Amendment never envisioned a throttle on public expression of religious sentiment, or on the States to include prayer in public schools if they chose to do so. And while there were things belonging unto Caesar, i.e., enumerated powers and obligations of the people to the national government according to the Constitution, there were many more things that did not and could not belong to Caesar. These United States moreover, threw off the yoke of kings and the pretension of having a Caesar. The Chief Executive was subdued by the law, by checks and balances, and by separation of powers. These United States were self-governed; and in terms of national prerogative, they were to be governed chiefly through the Legislative Branch of Congress—by elective representatives, accountable to a vigilant and godly people who read the Bible. When the Constitution seems far away, call the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. If those lines keep ringing without an answer, try the Fifteenth and the Second.
    Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford. Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he ran for U.S. Congress (TX-District 31) in the 2004 Republican Primary. Email:

    Wayne Hamilton at Encounter

    Political consultant and lobbyist Wayne Hamilton was at Encounter today. Brian's message was in large part an interview with the former party executive (or as some have called - miniature Karl Rove). I thought it was a great addition to the series on Revolution. I didn't take many notes from Wayne. Not sure why not, but I guess I didn't want church to become "work."
    Anyways I thought a great point that Brian's been making and Wayne helped emphasize was that the key to being effective in politics (and the world around us) as a Christian is to invest in those around you.
    "You have to earn the right to speak to people," Hamilton said. "You can change the world one person at time."
    Hamilton didn't mention any political parties or candidates that he's worked for but did mention one man who leads a pro-life organization. I can't recall the name of the group but the man has gone from Congressman to Congressman and worked to implement things like parental notification and parental consent for minors.
    There were no protests, rallies or fighting with the Congressmen. Only going office to office, explaining his point of view and working with the elected officials.
    Reminds me of Bono's work with Africa.
    The leader of the organization is a part of the Catholic church and Hamilton made the point that he wished many of his evangelical brothers and sisters would take note.
    Brian also asked Hamilton if there was a Biblical story or passage that summed up a proper Christian's response to politics and government.
    Hamilton pointed to the story of Daniel and said that Daniel simply kept serving the Lord no matter what administration was over the country or who's authority he was under. He simply prayed and followed God and waited for God to change the king's heart.
    Brian added:
    "My kingdom," said Jesus, "doesn't consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn't be handed over to the Jews. But I'm not that kind of king, not the world's kind of king." - John 18:36 (MSG)
    2 Chron 7:13&14 says, "If I ever shut off the supply of rain from the skies or order the locusts to eat the crops or send a plague on my people, and my people, my God-defined people, respond by humbling themselves, praying, seeking my presence, and turning their backs on their wicked lives, I'll be there ready for you: I'll listen from heaven, forgive their sins, and restore their land to health." (MSG)
    Rain is a picture of peace and joy. The peace and joy in Israel had been cut off as it has for America. Everything they (we) have worked for was gone. There's a cancer of selfishness in our society.
    But if we want to change our country or change the world, we must start with ourselves. We must change ourselves and stop being concerned with our own needs and problems. We must realize that we are the ones that need to change.
    If we sit back and point fingers no change will ever take place.
    We must turn from our wicked ways and let Christ live through us.
    It's not enough to sit and watch or sit and complain.
    When God changes hearts, that's when real change occurs.
    Brian ended with the story of the 22 year old girl helping immigrants in Arizona.

    Saturday, June 17, 2006

    Another Waxahachie Blogger

    Talked with Natalie Guyol tonight at the Chris Bell event. Found out she's been blogging for a while.
    Haven't had a chance to read much of it yet, but check it out...
    Guyol is also the head of the Drinking Liberally Club here in Waxahachie.
    I'm sure there are lots of conservatives that are dissapointed that Drinking Conservatively doesn't seem to have the same appeal. :-)

    Jonathan Blundell and Chris Bell

    Jonathan Blundell and Chris Bell
    Originally uploaded by Jdblundell.

    Chris Bell, D-Houston, met with me for 10-15 minutes in the lobby of the Historic Rogers Hotel in downtown Waxahachie tonight.
    Really great guy. I like him. Haven't decided if I'll vote for him or not, but he comes across as very honest and he doesn't pretend to have all the answers. It's nice to have someone wanting to go to Austin again and work with everyone, not along party lines.

    Chris Bell in Waxahachie tonight

    Texas Gubernatorial Candidate Chris Bell, D-Houston, spoke to the Ellis County Democratic Women tonight. Great speech, fired up many of the Ellis County Democrats in attendence.
    One of the most interesting quotes of the night, on the issue of stem-cell research:
    "Jesus never said to heal the sick only if politics doesn't get in the way. Jesus didn't call a pollster before healing the leaper."
    Bell admitted his interest in Stem Cell research was personal, after losing his mother to Parkinson's Disease in 1999 and his wife's recent battle with breast cancer.
    "What kind of son or husband would I be if I didn't fight for a cure so that other families don't have to go through these kind of things?"
    I'll post a few pictures from tonight a little later and I'll post my full story, including questions from my sit-down with the Congressman on Monday.

    Friday, June 16, 2006

    Quotes to ponder

    "Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective."

    "Everybody is following somebody."

    "Doctrine is a wonderful servant and a horrible master."

    County Judge Chad Adams

    Interviewed Ellis County Judge Chad Adams this week. Here's a preview of the full interview to run Sunday in the Waxahachie Daily Light.
    (regarding the Ellis County Facilities Committee)WDL: Do you feel that they had enough tools and authority to do the job they were asked to do? Some people have said that they weren’t able to do their job at times.CA: There’s a concept – and this is from the mission field – but a man told me and I’ve forgotten his name now but he worked in the administration.
    I don’t know if you know this, but that’s why I came back – to get my degree in administration -- to actually go back and serve as an administrator in the field. What you have is a lot of missionaries who want to be in the bush country but because of the need for administration they end up in administration and don’t do a good job. So I felt like my gifts were good in administration so pursued an administration degree to go back and be a missionary.
    But this Australian administrator looks at me and says in an Australian accent, with his blue eyes and black hair – and he was hot about something, “Let me tell you something. You can never have the responsibility without the authority. And you can never have the authority without the responsibility. They always have to be the same. You remember that.” And I did. And that concept has been wonderful.
    Ultimately the court was and is responsible for the decisions that we make for this county. So I think that though some may argue the authority of the group was limited, it’s because the responsibility of the group was limited.

    WDL: What then fell off track? What led you into county judge if your plan was to go back to the mission field?
    CA: I guess I helped Bob Carrol in his race when he first ran for county court at law. And its funny how many people consider Bob Carrol a good friend and I guess I’m one of those. Because he is such a good friend to people. But I think that was my introduction into politics, while I was finishing up my degree in administration. And once that was completed it was just natural to slide into running for office.
    We ran for justice of the peace. And an interesting dynamic is that running for public office is sort of like being a missionary. You’ve got to get your message out. You have to send your letters out for your fundraising efforts. You raise the funds and then you go and serve. It’s similar in that scope.
    And I think all along my wife and I have been committed to investing our lives into other people and ultimately that’s where we see our eternal reward coming from. And this is just a natural extension of that concept.

    WDL: Do you have plans to go back?
    CA: To the mission field? You know I want to take my family, when the girls are old enough on a summer mission trip. It’s so important for my girls to see that they are not the only person in this universe. We develop a very selfish attitude if we think that way. and I think the girls, I want them to have a global perspective. And I think when they’re up to it we’ll make a very strong effort to do that.
    My wife has done many short term mission trips in Mexico. We’ve done some together as a husband and wife. It was an interesting dynamic. I’m a take charge kind of guy and I was invading her territory in a way. But she’s an awesome girl and I’m very thankful for her.
    I know this is a side note, but my personality has to have someone like my wife and she simplifies things so well. She is a very wise woman. I’ll come home with an issue and I can’t give her the entire details, but I give her a nutshell and she gives me a nutshell answer back -- and she’s right. I don’t know how she does it, but it’s kind of like that intuition, wise aspect of summing the issue up and summing up what’s really going on.

    WDL: What things have you taken from the mission field and put it into your public service?
    CA: I don’t want to take God and throw Him up for purpose of getting elected. But honestly when you’re walking with the Lord and a decision comes -- and I’m human and I don’t do this every time -- but when you’re walking with the Lord, there is a voice of wisdom that is present. And it doesn’t matter which decision you face but it’s usually a right decision if you head that voice of wisdom. But if you’re not walking with the Lord and you’re not in fellowship with Him then you lack wisdom.
    And if you’ve ever studied wisdom in scripture it’s an awesome live, living thing. In fact it’s an extension of God Himself.
    I think decisions on the court, and in the court, and in daily routine are similar to the mission field because when you’re on the mission field there is always a crisis. When you go over there you don’t know how things are going to work out. You have to be flexible. And you’re always praying, “Lord I we’ve got this circumstance, we’re trusting you right now to take care of this situation.”
    Today I was in a meeting and I went to the restroom to freshen up, and its become a standard operating procedure for me, it’s a conscious effort to say, “God You are in control, I don’t know how this meeting is going to go but I give it to you,” and it was a great meeting -- I’m glad I didn’t forget to do that. But I think constant fellowship with the Lord is something I really learned on the mission field because maybe you’re up against a nation or a country or region of people that you have no way of politically manipulating, motivating or working through, you just have to say, “God I trust you.” I guess that was a big concept burned into my mind in distributing the grain to the people on the mission field -- just trusting the Lord.

    Trial blogging

    Eric and I are testing out our Internet connections to be sure they work in the Ellis County Courthouse. We'll be blogging from the Ellis County Budget Hearings next week. Check in Monday morning at 8 a.m. for more info......

    The Wright Conclusion

    All parties involved have settled on an agreed conclusion to the Wright Ammendment.
    The ammendment will spontaniously combust after eight years.
    Here are some points of the compromise from various sources:

  • Immediate through ticketing for Southwest to anywhere domestically.
  • Wright is gone after eight years.
  • International flights only to D/FW International.
  • Reduce Love Field from 32 to 20 gates.
  • City of Dallas will negotiate a voluntary noise curfew at Love between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • Dallas will redevelop portions of Love consistent with the updated Love master plan. City will demolish the Legend terminals. City will modernize main gate, spending between $150 million to $200 million on the deal, not including the price of acquiring the six Legend terminals. Some of those costs will be rolled into landing fees and space rental charges. All these improvements have to be made by the time the Wright Amendment is repealed fully.
  • Both cities will oppose any attempt to initiate commercial passenger air service at any airport other than D/FW for the eight year period.
  • No new esate exemptions to Wright during the eight year period.
  • If Southwest operates from another airport within an 80 mile radius of Love in addition to its operations at Love, then for every such gate that Southwest operates at another airport it will voluntarily relenquish that same number at Love, up to eight gates. Same for American, witht he max at one and a half of its gates. Gates will be put on the market. If no one else claims them, the the airline can have the gates back on a sharing basis with anyone else who comes along. This penalty stays on the books until 2025.
  • Congress has to approve of this by the end of 2006, or its null, unless everyone signs back on board.

    “They tore my rotator cuffs, but they did not break my arm. The fact that Southwest Airlines stands here today with American, Fort Worth and city of Dallas, Love Field and D/FW International, means surely there must be hope for world peace. Peace and good will is the essence of our agreement. Our swords are truly being converted into plowshares. The only victor here is the public. We urge the city councils of Dallas and Fort Worth and the United States Congress” to approve the compromise. - Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines

    “I think Southwest did give up a lot. I think Southwest also gained a lot.” -Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines

    "We firmly believe that the Wright Amendment has served the region well, allowing D/FW Airport to become the economic enginer of North Texas. However, this compromise allows our employees in Dallas-Fort Worth and nationwide to move forward and refocus our collective energy on our turnaround plan and serving our customers in the best possible way." - Gerard Arpey, American Airlines

    "Although any changes to the Wright Amendment represents new challenges for our company, we believe this agreement creates some advantages that might not have been possible if a proposed solution had been developed without our involvement." - Dan Garton, American Airlines