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March 1st, 2006:

The New Brand

As someone who loves a great cheeseburger above almost all else, I think that this idea is a very good one.

In a new twist on cattle branding, U.S. livestock may now get individual identification numbers.

Today in Washington, a nonprofit industry group plans to launch a program that aims to assign each cow, bison and other livestock its own 15-digit number and track their movements in a national database. Animals would be tagged, perhaps in the ear with a bar code or a radio-frequency chip. Another alternative: a chip could be implanted beneath the animal’s skin.

The obvious question is, of course, why haven’t we been doing this for years? Unique identifiers are common for most other business assets above a certain value. And given the risks beef has presented in the food supply recently (E Coli, Mad Cow, etc.), there’s another compelling reason, too.

Litigation-averse producers don’t necessarily see it that way. However, the same tort fear is driving large buyers to demand this type of system; I guess they want to be able to indemnify producers when end customers throw down in court.

U.S. ranchers have long resisted an ID tracking program partly because they fear they may be liable for a food-safety problem. But McDonald’s Corp. and other large beef customers have been pushing for it. Federal regulators also have been prodding the industry for such a system.

I love it when our legal system actually drives rational behavior.

Out of the office

I’m leaving in a few minutes for a trip to California for a week, so I’ll be turning over the blog to my fine collection of guest hosts. If I have the opportunity to pop in and say something I will, but otherwise things will be in their hands. I’ll be back on March 7. See you later!

Statement from Borris Miles

With the primary election less than one week from today, I asked both Democratic challengers in HD146 to send me a statement about why you should vote for them. The following is Borris Miles‘ statement.

It’s time for a change. On Tuesday, the voters will have the rare opportunity to gain something we haven’t had for a long time: a hard-working voice for our district.

As the only candidate in this race who was born and raised in the district and has strong roots throughout the district, I feel like I offer the best voice for our district. I’ve worked my way up as a son of Sunnyside, working my way through school and college to become, first an HISD police officer and, for the past 14 years, a successful small businessman. Borris L. Miles Insurance is the result of and indication of my dedication to my community. Today, we write over $12 million in policies from a business I started from scratch. I’ve bought and renovated two city blocks along Almeda because I believe in giving back to the community that has made me what I am. I’ve given to my community through youth groups, first time homebuyers, and counseling for first-time offenders. That’s a track record I’m proud of and one that I look to continue while in office.

Many years ago, there were tireless people who worked to fulfill the dream that we could have access to opportunity. If people still believe the dream lies in our past, they should vote for Mr. Edwards. But the new dream isn’t to get in the restaurant … it’s to own the restaurant! If the dream of opportunity and progress is shared by anyone in District 146, then I’d suggest my life is an example of fighting for that dream and I believe I’m the candidate for them.

We have a good deal of unmet needs in this district that have gone ignored for too long: schools that need better funding, children that need better health insurance, communities that need economic development, and homeowners that don’t view rising property taxes as a Republican or Democratic issue.

It’s time for a change.

Thank you, Borris Miles. Please see the previous entry for Al Bennett‘s statement.

Statement from Al Bennett

With the primary election less than one week from today, I asked both Democratic challengers in HD146 to send me a statement about why you should vote for them. The following is Al Bennett‘s statement.

Residents of District 146 should vote for me because I am uniquely qualified to effectively fight on behalf of our community’s interests in the committee rooms and on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives. I have the professional experience, and the community service and educational background to be effective immediately.

Professionally, I have been practicing law in Houston for the past fourteen years, the first three with Fulbright & Jaworski, L.L.P. I later practiced with Solar & Fernandes, L.L.P., a wholly owned minority firm, for four years. And since 1998, I have owned and operated my own law firm, the Law Offices of Alfred H. Bennett. I am also an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Thurgood Marshall of Law at Texas Southern University. And previously, I served as an intern to the Hon. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) as part of the Mickey Leland Congressional Internship Program.

My community involvement has also been and remains quite extensive. I am the current Vice-President of the Parkwood Drive Civic Club, and member of the Board of Directors of the East Downtown Management District and the University of Texas School of Law Alumni Association. In addition, I am the current Chair of the Lawyer Referral & Information Services Committee for the State Bar of Texas, former committee member of the State Bar of Texas Grievance Committee 4A, and past president of the Houston Lawyers Association, the local affiliate of the National Bar Association.

And finally, my educational background has prepared me to serve the district well. I received my B.S. in Political Science from the University of Houston in 1988 and a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law in 1991.

A vote for Al Bennett is a Vote for Effective Change.

Thank you, Al Bennett. Please see the next entry for Borris Miles‘ statement.

Alvarado writes letter accepting responsibility

Mayor Pro Tem Carol Alvarado has written a letter to her constituents and another to the public taking full responsibility for what happened in her office. The public letter is printed as an op-ed in today’s paper. I’ve got a copy of each and am reproducing it beneath the fold. I don’t have time to comment on this now, so read for yourself and see what you think.

(more…)

AOL moving forward with pay-for-email plan

I noted the concept of certified email awhile back as a spamfighting tool. AOL appears to be heading in that direction, and it’s causing some heartburn among various advocacy groups.

“The creativity and ingenuity that have driven the Internet have always relied on an open platform where the haves and have-nots get treated equally,” said Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action. “This e-mail tax system is a big step toward dismantling that system.”

The alliance protesting the move includes liberal activist group MoveOn, the U.S. Humane Society, labor and environmental groups and online medical communities. It also encompasses conservative political groups that rely heavily on e-mail lists, MoveOn spokesman Trevor Fitzgibbon said.

AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham replied: “No matter what the political rhetoric is, AOL will remain resolute in our pursuit of improving e-mail safety and security in doing what is right for our members. That simply is not going to change.

“There is no substantive news here, just because some disparate groups of advocates have come together for an event reminiscent of the bar scene in the first Star Wars movie.”

Gilles Frydman of the Association of Cancer Online Resources said bulk e-mail charges will cause problems for organizations like hers.

“We cannot pay for the service. We don’t have the money,” Frydman said.

“We have been doing this for 11 years based on the standards of Internet communication. Those standards do not include paying for service. This one company is trying to transform unilaterally how the Internet works.”

Frydman said some patients with rare forms of cancer may have trouble receiving updated information on a timely basis.

I’m not sure that comparing cancer patients to freaky aliens is a good public relations move. I think there’s merit in the concept of shifting the economic burden of bulk email towards the sender, but there’s also certainly room for flexibility. I see no reason why AOL (or Yahoo, which is also considering this) can’t carve out exceptions for nonprofits and other noncommercial groups. For the most part, they’re not the big senders, anyway. There’s a site called DearAOL that’s trying to convice AOL of that. I hope some kind of accomodation can be reached, because it won’t be pretty otherwise.