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Tom DeLay, Former House Majority Leader Receives Three-Year Prison Sentence

In CONTROVERSY on January 11, 2011 at 1:50 am

By: Maurice E. Duhon, Jr.

Tuesday, 1/11/11

Former House Majority Leader Tom “The Hammer” DeLay (R-Texas) was the recipient of a three-year prison sentence this week.

The once powerful lawmaker was convicted in November on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.  In 2005, Delay was forced to step down as majority leader after he was indicted on charges brought from the Texas state level.

Delay is appealing his conviction, but the sentencing most likely will provide some sense of discomfort for the once feared and powerful politician.  In the peak of his power, DeLay managed to champion and macro-manage the openly and loudly protested total re-districting of Texas Congressional districts.

Delay faced up to life in prison for these serious charges.  State Judge Pat Priest sentenced DeLay to a three-year term on conspiracy, and then accepted 10 years of probation in lieu of a five-year prison term on the money laundering charge.  Basically this translates to three years and maybe even less time to be served, provided DeLay behaves himself while he’s in “the slammer”.

DeLay claims he always attempted to follow the law and continues to proclaim he is innocent of all charges brought against him.

DeLay will be released on a $10,000 bond while he plans his appeal.

The case originated with prosecutors claiming that the Texas Republican and his political allies violated Texas state election law by illegally funneling “soft money” in 2002 state legislative races.

Soft Money: Contributions are sometimes called “nonfederal” contributions because they are given to political parties for purposes other than supporting candidates for federal office. Unlike “hard money” contributions, there are no limits on the amounts of soft money that can be given by individuals to political parties. Moreover, while labor unions and corporations are prohibited from giving money to candidates for federal office, they can give soft money to parties. (thisnation.com)

Under the FEC Act, money given directly to candidates for federal elective office is known as “hard money” and is strictly regulated. Money given directly to political parties for the purpose of supporting candidates for federal office is also regulated “hard money.” (thisnation.com)

In September of 2002 Tom DeLay and Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC), an organization founded by DeLay, donated $190,000 to the Republican National State Elections Committee, which is closely affiliated with  the Republican National Committee.

TRMPAC made the donation to the elections committee in the form of “soft money” and the elections committee then donated that same amount in “hard money” to the Texas republican candidates.

Texas republicans would then seize control of the state legislature that year for the first time since Reconstruction and would promptly get to work redrawing a number of congressional districts that were held by democrats. This controversial move allowed the strategic electoral removal of a handful of these Congressional democrats and helped cement DeLay’s power in the House.

Net Neutrality aka Pandora’s Box

In CONTROVERSY, POLITICS TODAY on December 23, 2010 at 9:45 am

By Maurice E. Duhon, Jr.

12/23/10

Did you tell the World Wide Web thank you today?  Or did you peer through your favorite blog, and totally take your world wired web for granted.  If you are guilty of taking the dub dub dub for granted, hear this…  There are forces, i.e. America’s largest communications corporations, that are lobbying their way into the Federal Communications Commission’s eyes and ears and they’ve been visiting heavily since 2005.

These corporations are attempting to alter a system and a concept that we all interact with on a daily basis.  The lobbying attempts of these corporations cannot and must not be ignored because of the simple fact that the FCC, this week, recently held a vote to change rules concerning net neutrality and the ways in which your internet is governed, broadband speeds are determined, denial of access to certain websites, slowing down public websites, and leaving small business internet providers unable to compete.

😦 OMG WTF Not ROTFLMAO

We easily take for granted the speed at which our internet operates.  Whether your provider is a massive corporate or a small business, through the internet you are able to utilize free speech, participate democratically, and you are able to use any equipment, content, application, or service without interference from the network provider.  Internet providers are not allowed to discriminate between certain content and applications online.

For the sake of being innovative today, let’s call these internet user rights “E-Ethics”.  These E-Ethics are the very concept of net neutrality.  It is these previously stated internet user rights or E-Ethics that form the foundation of an honestly preserved free and open Internet.  With this sound foundation of protection in place, the network is only needed to move data and not given the pleasure of determining which sites or data is able to receive a higher quality of service.

AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable are huge contributors to the “reform net neutrality” movement.  These corporations, if given their way, would like to decide what websites receive certain speeds and what websites should load at all.

Content providers would be charged for a faster delivery speed and they could force internet traffic through their own search engines, internet phone services, and streaming video.  Imagine “Alice in Wonderland” directed by Tim Burton, Verizon Wireless, and Justin Bieber.

The internet would basically turn into a gridlocked one lane highway, with a ten lane highway next to it, but the ten lane highway costs an arm and a leg to travel on.  You’d pretty much feel like you were on Netscape again or still receiving those AOL upgrade disks by mail every two days.

This week’s FCC vote was held in order to enact new rules to be applied to help keep net neutrality intact.  The vote resulted to a narrow margin of three in support of the new rules implementation and two against.  It was a narrow victory, to say the least.

It looks like our country’s major communication corporations are ready to get their hands in another cookie jar.  No pun intended.  Jokes aside, we better chalk up net neutrality as a given and tenaciously add, passing a net neutrality law, to the “To-Do” list for our incoming 112th Congress.

It’s your web, so this fight will be left up to you.  Keep your eye on it though, it’s quite a doozy.

If Americans are able to be so easily terrified of a “government take-over” of anything, I don’t see us allowing a corporate take-over of our internet system, although I must say in the defense of our naïveté, we did just recently sign a corporate take-over of our nation’s health care system into law so…..

Former White House Budget Director Peter Orszag accepts vice-chair position at CitiGroup Inc.

In CONTROVERSY, POLITICS TODAY on December 14, 2010 at 6:19 am
By Maurice E. Duhon, Jr.

Courtesy of garyvarvel.com

Tuesday, 12/14/10

A business environment void of ethics and moral character tends to allow questionable motives and happenings to easily drift by unnoticed.  As for the philosophies of Yin and Yang, light versus dark, and the eternal struggle of good and evil, I understand there is an idealistic balance to everything in our surroundings.

There are good businessmen and there are also bad businessmen.  Not knowing Mr. Peter Orzag personally, I will give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he falls into the “good” category.  With this being said, the decision Mr. Orszag has made to accept the position of vice-chairman of Citigroup’s investment banking division, I believe, was made with little concern for the practical minded American tax payers who would tend to view the move as a conflict of interest or at least a reversal of that concept.

Peter R. Orszag, an economist who served under the Bush administration as the director of the Congressional Budget Office from 2007-08, was nominated by President Obama in 2008 to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget.  Orszag was reluctant to accept the position and emphasized he would only hold the position for two years, common practice for most budget directors.  The duties of the OMB are to craft our federal budget and to oversee the effectiveness of federal programs.

What a busy two years they would turn out to be.  Ironically, Mr. Orszag’s first assignment as the new budget director was to greatly add to our nation’s deficit, $1.3 trillion for the fiscal year at the time, by contributing to the construction and design of a $787 billion dollar two-year stimulus package.

Among US banks, Citigroup, Inc. received the largest amount of tax payer dollars during the numerous bailouts that were facilitated during our nation’s financial crisis.  That is of course, assuming the crisis has passed.  Citigroup received $45 billion in the corporate bailouts of 2008, repaying $20 billion last year and converting the remainder into stock.

With Citigroup being the recipient of the largest amount of tax payer dollars during a bailout constructed by the exact same person whom has recently accepted a high ranking role in their future business practices, I am reminded of Shakespeare’s’ “Hamlet” and Marcellus’ foreshadowing quote, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”  The fish, our government, maybe rotting from the head down and all is not well at the top of the political hierarchy.  Denmark is “an unweeded garden” of “things rank and gross in nature” (Act 1, scene 2).

Maybe Peter Orszag’s decision to accept such a presumably high paying position at Citygroup was merely a simple coincidence.  See, I can be rational and non-judgmental.  Unfortunately I must return to reality and comprehend the fact; Peter Orszag’s position as director of Management and budget was filled by Jacob Lew, whom worked for Citigroup from 2006 to 2009.  I smell fish once more.  I’m afraid it seems the state of Denmark isn’t the only place suffering from a rotten smell these days.

In my need for bureaucratic coddling, Citigroup’s sarcastic procedural humor offered me this small sense of comfort.  According to Bloomberg.com, John Havens, chief executive officer of Citigroup’s institutional client group, stated December 9th, to comply with “applicable ethics rules,” Orszag’s work at Citigroup won’t involve contact with U.S. federal government officials.

With big business politicians now climbing out of the woodwork attempting to legislatively privatize our nation’s health care, our nation’s school system, and our social security program; what is keeping them or who is to say they haven’t already privatized our White House and the governmental body it was constructed to uphold?  Also, I am forced to ponder; being only 30 years of age, am I on my way to becoming a non-social security receiving curmudgeon? 

For those of you whom are new to the “Rotten in Denmark” quote, here is a summary of its concept.

Courtesy of www.enotes.com

HoratioHe waxes desperate with imagination.

Marcellus:  Let’s follow. ‘Tis not fit thus to obey him.

Horatio:  Have after. To what issue will this come?

Marcellus:  Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Horatio:  Heaven will direct it.

Marcellus:  Nay, let’s follow him. [Exeunt.]

 Hamlet Act 1, scene 4, 87–91

This is one time when the popular misquotation—”Something’s rotten in Denmark”—is a real improvement on the original. But you ought to be careful around purists, who will also remember that the minor character Marcellus, and not Hamlet, is the one who coins the phrase. There’s a reason he says “state of Denmark” rather than just Denmark: the fish is rotting from the head down—all is not well at the top of the political hierarchy.

 There have been some hair-raising goings-on outside the castle at Elsinore. As the terrified Horatio and Marcellus look on, the ghost of the recently deceased king appears to Prince Hamlet. The spirit beckons Hamlet offstage, and the frenzied prince follows after, ordering the witnesses to stay put. They quickly decide to tag along anyway—it’s not “fit” to obey someone who is in such a desperate state. In this confused exchange, Marcellus’s famous non sequitur sustains the foreboding mood of the disjointed and mysterious action. And it reinforces the point and tone of some of Hamlet’s earlier remarks—for example, that Denmark is “an unweeded garden” of “things rank and gross in nature” (Act 1, scene 2). When his father’s ghost tells him his chilling tale in scene 5, the prince will realize just how rotten things really are in Denmark.

Houston, There’s Something in the water. No Seriously, There’s Radiation in your Tap Water

In CONTROVERSY on December 12, 2010 at 7:50 am

By Maurice E. Duhon, Jr.

Recent picture of a Houstonion who chose to swallow the tap water while bathing and brushing his teeth.

Houston, Texas, has the esteemed pleasure of being the 4th largest city in the United States.  Unfortunately, Houston now holds the shame of being the only major Texas City to reveal levels of radioactive elements such as uranium and radium in its drinking water.  I have recently learned hundreds of water companies along our Gulf Cost pump water that contains some form of radiation.  The problem with Texas; Water tests all across the state have shown dangerous levels of uranium and radium are not considered “normal water radiation”.   These Alpha Particles, referred to by scientists, found in uranium and radium are extremely dangerous if ingested and introduced to human organs. These radioactive particles go even further, once digested, to attack the human body’s DNA structure.

According to David Ozonoff, Expert of Drinking Water & Health at Boston University, “The Alpha Particle is the 800lb gorilla of radioactive particles.  Once Alpha Particles meet with your body’s cells, these cells can inhibit and promote cancers within one’s body.”  If you are in need of a second opinion, I’ll offer you a statement released by our nation’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  “… a single alpha passing through a cell is sufficient to induce a mutational event.”

Once Houston’s channel KHOU 11’s news team launched an investigation into the state’s water testing results, some residents were sent a letter “some-what” explaining the situation with a bold print that read, “THIS IS NOT AN EMERGENCY”.  Homeowners and tax payers supplied with this radioactive water would beg to differ. 

Texas’ drinking water tests in Harris County Municipal Utility District #105 in 2008 and 2009 revealed Alpha Particle contamination of drinking water at levels that exceeded the Environmental protection Agency’s legal limit.  Other state tests have exhibited Alpha Particle levels in drinking water in other districts such Harris County Municipal Utility Districts 238, 105, 23, the city of Katy, and others. 

One local water system, the Suburban Mobile Home Park 2, continued to violate federal legal limits for Alpha Radiation in 2003, 2004 and 2005. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, who holds the power to govern a compliance with federal regulations, allowed the drinking water to continue to flow out of Texas resident’s tap for years, even though the mobile home park consistently provided test results containing extremely high readings for alpha-particle activity and uranium.  I use the term “extremely high” due to the fact the EPA, back in 2000, set a “zero-threshold” allowance for radionuclides or the MCLG (Maximum Containment Limit Goal).  Common potential contaminates in drinking water such as copper, selenium, barium, chlorine residuals, trihalomethanes, and many others pose less of a threat and are not radioactive, and thus they have goals set above zero.

Is Houston’s large and overwhelming expansive territory the cause for this radioactive dilemma?  Any progressive big city is going to run into these kinds of problems at some point, right?  I mean, other cities whom compare with Houston, in general size and population, probably have this same problem also, right?  WRONG…  New York, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, Corpus Christie, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, New Orleans, Portland all have no known amounts of Alpha Radiation in 2009.  Although, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, Denver, and Phoenix were cited as having some amounts of Alpha Radiation above the levels the EPA recognizes, there is still little comfort within this controversial subject for Houston.  A national science-based, public-interest organization, The Environmental Working Group, recently studied the water quality of 100 major cities in the United States.  Houston can be found at the bottom of the list, ranked 95th out of 100, garnering the label of one of the “Lowest Rated Utilities” in America by EWG.  The EWG cited radioactive particle levels as the primary reason for Houston’s low ranking.

Let it also be stated, the city of Houston’s head offices have long been aware of this problem and the information currently being disclosed.  The data and test results that have come to light have only become public knowledge due to the Houston’s KHOU investigators diligence and commitment to gaining information on this crisis.  In response to KHOU’s inquiries, city spokesperson Alvin Wright released a written statement claiming “we have not detected… any reason for concern based on the levels detected.”  The results of the state drinking water tests, their corresponding municipal districts, and past federal level violations were only made public following KHOU’s filing of a request for information using the Texas Public Information Act. 

Please allow me to share the following with you.  If you ever find yourself in an America whose state or federal government is planning to repeal its form of the Information Act; you should use that as your cue to “exit left stage-even” (in a SnagglePuss voice, i.e. Hanna Barbara reference).

The very person in charge of overseeing water safety and supply for the entire state of Texas for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality or TCEQ stated on record, the chances of Houston residents being affected by cancer due to the radioactive particles is unlikely due to the fact these alpha particles are a naturally occurring element. 

I am no Rocket Scientist, but I do however hold a Master’s degree from the University of Common Sense.  I must stop time and speak to you on a personal level because there are forces of ignorance that are beginning to harm the general well-being of decent and moral people like you and I.  Telling the American citizen to not fear a radioactive matter because it is a natural occurrence is tantamount to instructing your child to lock into an “eye-stare”  with an approaching grizzly bear because that’s how you stand your ground and show ‘em who’s boss.  End result, your child is eaten and you should be brought up on charges of child endangerment immediately following the funeral.  This “natural occurrence” argument is something you will repeatedly hear in our government’s, both state and federal, climate control and global warming debates.  Case and point, in response the question of whether or not to reduce our country’s carbon dioxide emissions in order to conserve our planet’s atmosphere, Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL) chose to answer in the form of a question.  The distinguished Congressman stated, “So if we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere?”   Point made and case closed.  I am no Mr. Wizard, but I am sharp enough to be aware of the existence of Radon.  Any of you who were born or lived in our country’s east coast area will be familiar with Radon also.  Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas.  Radon occurs naturally and also, coincidentally, is the decay product of uranium.  Epidemiological evidence shows a clear link between breathing high concentrations of radon and incidence of lung cancer.   According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, radon is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer.  Natural radon can be found in high levels in the state of Iowa and in the Appalachian Mountain areas in southeastern Pennsylvania.  Many cities within the state of Iowa have passed requirements for radon-resistant construction for new homes.  Homes in these regions are even tested for radon prior to purchase, in fear of the federal and state recognized health risks involved with this “naturally occurring gas”. 

The American people are not as daft and dumb as some in power chose to believe.  In the year 2010, 2011, and the years to come, it is no longer sufficient to spurt out some “talking point” or “a failure to comment”.  If the very person supposedly in charge of our state water’s safety and supply is aloof to the concepts of water contamination and supply then I deem her un-fit to perform her duties.  She is either ill-informed or is lacking in continuing education courses for the very job she has been asked to do.  If she is unable to carry out her duties then she should be replaced by another woman, man, child, or ferret that holds the mental capacity and moral ethics one needs in order to be sucessfull in such a position.  I am choosing not to divulge her name in hopes that she can have a fair chance to develope some sense of self-accountability and moral character before the phones begin to ring.  If my callous assumption of her character is not correct, I can only come to the dreadful conclusion that she, in charge of Texas’ Drinking Water Safety and Supply, and the body whom appointed her to that position, the Texas Committee of Environmental Quality; I can only surmise the simple fact that, like so many others in a position of power and responsibility, they are either afraid of the solution or just simply don’t care.  I tell you here and now with the utmost sincerity, I am no cynical pessimist; but I must regrettably believe the latter to be true.

In closing I leave you with this list of radioactive contamination solutions courtesy of Houston’s KHOU 11 New Staff.

The City of Houston provided the following list of practical engineering measures that can be implemented to reduce or diminish our water’s radiation contamination levels.  The City of Houston also informed KHOU that none of these solutions are currently in place at any locations around Houston.

Treatment technologies for Removing Radionuclides from Drinking Water

(as provided by the City of Houston to KHOU)

Most of these are on EPA’s list of Best Available Technologies for compliance with the Radionuclides Rule.

* Ion exchange (for removal of uranium, radium, and polonium)

*Reverse osmosis (for removal of uranium, thorium, radium, and polonium)

*Lime softening (for removal of hardness, radium, and uranium)

*Green sand filtration (for removal of radium)

*Co-precipitation with barium sulfate (for removal of radium)

*Air stripping (for removal of radon)

*Granular activated carbon (for removal of radon, uranium, radium, lead, and polonium)

*Electrodialysis/electrodialysis reversal

*Pre-formed hydrous manganese oxide filtration (for iron, manganese, and radium)

*Activated alumina

* Enhanced coagulation/filtration (for iron, uranium, and polonium)

* Nanofiltration (for removal of uranium, radium, lead, and polonium)

HISD and Trustee Lawrence Marshall Sued Under Federal RICO Statute; Accused of Rigging HISD Bid Process

In CONTROVERSY on December 11, 2010 at 10:05 pm

By Maurice E. Duhon, Jr.

Depending on your geographic location, you may believe, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, Hanukkah, or whatever holiday or end-of-the-year sale that floats your boat.  Houston attorney Chad Dunn has wrapped up a “Happy holidays” gift for the Houston Independent School District school trustee Lawrence Marshall.  Dunn has even decided to allow Marshall to open the gift “immediately upon receiving”.

The gift came in the form of a lawsuit that was introduced into Federal court Tuesday December 7th.  Needless to say, the gift lacked any bow or card.  It did however, include accusations of H.I.S.D. canceling work contracts and replacing contractors, who had been selected through a bid process, with one of Lawrence Marshall’s political donors.  According to the lawsuit, Marshall helped cultivate an environment that ushered the voluntary self-ousting of former HISD superintendent Abe Saavedra after Saavedra refused to allow Marshall to replace one of the approved contractors with one of Marshall’s political patrons, Eva Jackson and her company RHJ-JOC, INC.

Chad Dunn is representing Contractor Gil Ramirez Jr. and the Gil Ramirez Group, who has also filed their suit against HISD itself.  The Ramirez Group claims that HISD has been charging a 2 percent” marketing fee” to its contractors upon completed work projects (AKA illegal kickbacks).  Aside from the Ramirez Group’s claims that this practice has been going on for 10 years, the group goes further into claiming the kickbacks are put into HISD’s general fund and are not used toward a security bond, instead they are used for the district’s operating expenses.  Allegations in this suit include bribery (Defendant Eva Jackson’s PHJ-JOC, INC receiving preferential treatment due to political contributions), money laundering (how the money was transferred), and wire fraud (2% fees a la kickbacks).

Upon a detailed review of this lawsuit’s allegations, are we to be surprised that Chris Dunn has chosen to file this lawsuit as a violation of the federal RICO Act?  For those of you who were “absent from school that day”, The RICO Act or Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act is a federal law enacted to give extended penalties in the prosecution of organized criminal acts. The RICO Act deals with federal crimes and criminal procedure. Although it was intended to be used for the Mafia and others engaged in organized crime, RICO has been used to prosecute all sorts of criminal activity since its inception.

In response to questions on why he chose to file under the RICO Act, attorney Dunn stated: “That statute’s designed for a group of folks who get together and try to obtain the results they want from a governmental entity through using undue influence.  It’s the Racketeering Influence Corrupt Practices Act so we think it’s designed to handle this situation.”  Dunn also was quoted as saying “It disappoints me.  It disappoints me as a father of children in the school district and as a taxpayer and as a lawyer for clients who did good work for the public through HISD and through no fault of their own lost the work.  It disappoints me that public tax dollars in a sense are being distributed based on reasons other than what is in the best value for the taxpayer.”

According to the lawsuit, the Ramirez Group and 5 other contracting firms had survived an expensive, on the part of the firms, HISD bid process.  The six firms were on the job for nine months when suddenly all six contracts were cancelled.

The lawsuit states that Marshall approached Abe Saavedra, superintendent at the time, when Marshall became president of the school board asking Saavedra to use Jackson as a contractor.  Saavedra refused, the lawsuit reads “Defendant Marshall states that he would move forward to obtain an agreement from the school board forcing out Dr. Saavedra.”  The lawsuit also states, “Once Saavedra is gone, Marshall makes sure all contracts for the approved contractors are cancelled.”

The HISD chief of bidding chose to agree with Saavedra and oppose the re-bidding process; he was “ultimately fired by HISD.”

After the re-bidding process, Jackson’s company was the only company to be approved.  This reminds me of that old phrase, “killing six birds with one stone”.  The lawsuit goes on to say that two more companies were later added.

With this statement, Dunn sums up his reasoning for this lawsuit’s existence.  “What we’re trying to do is straighten up the process and have a fair bidding process that’s in the public and out in the open and also the Ramirez Group wants compensation for these unfair practices.”

Political rhetoric rings loud with comments such as, “It begins with our children!” and “Our children are the key to our future!”  How can the taxpayers of Houston give undivided attention to their children’s needs when the adults, who are put in charge to look after the children’s best educational interests, refuse to or are unable to compose and govern themselves in an ethical and respectable manner?  Maybe we should recommend our HISD board members and administrators switch roles and positions with our HISD students for a while?  We would probably get some needed administrative work done and since HISD administrators can at least read, maybe we could see a rise in HISD’s dismal 45% dropout rate.

If you are unaware, there is a stigma that is attached to any defendant who stands accused of violating the Federal RICO ACT.  Past defendants accused of violating RICO include the Hell’s Angels, the Latin Kings street gang, infamous mobsters, Wall Street inside trading violators, an extortion practicing health care provider, and others.  Although innocent until proven guilty, Lawrence Marshall and the HISD administration have now only helped to soil the already muddied reputation of the Houston Independent School District.  Did I mention the 45% drop-out rate?

For the good times, enjoy…