Saturday, August 05, 2006

Tax Free?

My local supercenter cashier told me this afternoon that the big tax free weekend was nothing but a big bust. The huge amount of business they were expecting just didn't show up.

Now the numbers at the end of the weekend may say something different, but I had to agree....the store just wasn't that busy and noone was buying clothes.

I have two back-to-schoolers to shop for, and I purchased all of their clothes mostly off the sales racks at Ross, Marshalls, and Target weeks ago. And got a much better deal that way.

The tax-free weekend, limited to clothes and shoes with an individual purchase price under 100.00 dollars, really does very little to help Texas families. And if LittleLarry wins in November, he is going to suggest something different.

If we really want to help people by giving them tax-free back to school purchases, lets include the real back to school expenses to the list. What about lunch boxes and back packs? School supplies? Computers and calculators? I spent 100.00 on school supplies ALONE this month. With Texas schools so underfunded that the parents are purchasing supplies for the teachers and classrooms as much as for their own children, those expenses really add up.

Texas families are stepping up to the plate and making these purchases, so let's take the tax burden off their shoulders where it really matters. Let's make the real classroom and homework tools tax-free.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Air Car: Not a Lot of Hot Air, Just a Lot of Cool

Guy Negre had a great idea more than a decade ago, and its now coming to fruition. A car fueled by air-compressed air. Negre says that his compressed-air engine “could become one of the biggest technological advances of this century.”

Negres’s company Monteur development International, is based in Nice, France, with its main sales office in Barcelona, Spain. The company is developing at least three different vehicles that run on compressed air: the MiniC.A.T., a three seater geared mostly to urban driving; the CityC.A.T., a six seater for longer range driving, and a taxi version of the CityC.A.T. with C.A.T. standing for compressed air technology. The cars come in a single or duel energy mode, with the latter having a more conventional back up engine that can use gasoline, gas oil, biodiesel fuel, ethanol, etc. The CityC.A.T. uses compressed air when the speed is under 31mph and switches to fuel mode when above that. It will be available in 2, 4, and 6 cylinder versions.

The C.A.T. vehicles are no slouches when it comes to speed, with the ability to do over 130 miles per hour according to the company on line prospectus. The range of the single mode C.A.T. car is like that of an electric car, about 124 to 186 miles or 8 hours of driving. The hybrid C.A.T. has a driving range of about 1240 miles with zero pollution in cities and reduced pollution on the highway.

Tanking up with compressed air will be done at gas stations once the market is established. Refueling will take about three minutes. Refueling would be possible at home at about 6 hours. The car, when marketed, will meet the safety standards of each country where it is sold.

With little or no combustion, the motor oil needs to be changed only once every 31,000 miles, and the oil used is vegetable oil, The car’s exhaust is only pure air at sub-freezing temperatures, which will not only not pollute but will cool off our ordinary super heated roadways. The air can be rechanneled to provide air conditioning for the car.

The price of the MiniC.A.T. is expected to be somewhere around $10,000-a far cry from the high prices electric cars with the same range are getting. The CirtC.A.T. will be priced around $16,000, again low compared to hybrids like the Prius and Honda Civic.

The company says its financing comes from the sale of manufacturing licenses and patents all over the world. It ultimately wants to sell cars in every country but will start out in Spain, Portugal, and Latin America. The United Kingdom and Canada. If the U.S. is absent from the list of initial markets, it may be because of the powerful oil and auto industries that could try to stop the C.A.T. from coming here. It wouldn’t be the first time those entities quashed excellent ideas for fuel efficiency and curbing emissions. It seems like the car will be sold here if a U.S. company is willing to manufacture it or import it.

More information about the C.A.T. cars can be obtained by going to the MDI website: or by googling Moteur Developpment International, air car, or the name Guy Negre.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Republican Shell Game

Remember the old shell game at the circus? The hawker would show us the shells and a peanut. Then he would place the nut under one of the shells and mix them up; finally asking us to guess which shell the nut was under. He would let us guess correctly until we decided to place a bet. After we bet a little money, we never found the nut again.

Let’s take the analogy a little further. Pretend the nut is our tax dollars. Consider our state parks. Remember a few months back when they were considering selling part of Big Bend? Here’s why: they collect over $100 million dollars in revenue each year but by Texas law they are capped at receiving only $32 million of the dollars they generate. The remaining $70 million goes to the general fund. Big Bend keeps less than a third of what it takes in.

One other example, we pay 20 cents of tax for every gallon of fuel we purchase. The Lege has diverted over $1 billion of that money to the general fund and now tell us we need toll roads to maintain out highways. (Highways we already paid to build, by the way.) And like any good carnie magician, they are fantastic at diverting our attention. In this case, by holding a press conference and tell us what great managers they are by pointing to the budget surplus.

Where are the nuts?

In Austin.

Shuffling shells.