Monday, July 31, 2006

“Conclusive Evidence of Residency” Is Key in 5th Appeals Court Deliberations

As noted in a just released article in “The Chron”, the key consideration that the three appeals court judges appear to be concentrating on is whether Benkiser et al. can present “conclusive evidence” that Tom DeLay had moved to Virginia and will be a resident there on election day, November 7, 2006.

It would appear that the court is going to be favoring the Texas Democratic Party's position.


Well, first recall the GOP's "standing arguments": the TDP has no “standing” in the case. They are not the injured party and could not bring the suit to court in the first place. There was some discussion of this as found here but there was no apparent interest in pursuing the argument, at least in open court.

So there does not appear to be much consideration being given to that. So let's move on.

So what are they considering?

Recall the GOP argument that Benkiser was following eligibility rules in the Texas Election Code, and found that Tom DeLay was ineligible under those rules. That notwithstanding, the GOP brief attacked Sparks’ finding:
“. . .that the Constitution does not permit such speculative determinations where the election of a United States Representative is at issue, specifically because Benkiser’s prediction of future eligibility based on current inhabitancy would amount to an imposition of an unconstitutional pre-election residencyrequirement.”
The GOP lawyers argued thusly:
“… the inhabitancy requirement can be established by the person’s presence within a state coupled by his intent to remain there indefinitely.”
James Bopp, the GOP lawyer arguing the case, said
“that DeLay had given Texas Republican Chairwoman Tina Benkiser enough evidence that she could make a "reasonable prediction" that DeLay would not be a resident of Texas on election day.”

Reasonable prediction. Ho boy. Tina, I know that you are the GOP State Chairman, and I know that you once said that the Chairman of the GOP wasn’t you but Almighty God, I know all of that. But this is the first time, Tina, that it has been revealed that you are the reincarnation of Jeanne Dixon, Psychic to the Presidents.

Tina, you are no Jeanne Dixon.

[sorry, I couldn’t resist a Lloyd Benson-esque zinger]

Judges appeared to be of the same opinion though. In their statements
“Judges Pete Benavides and Edith Clement noted that a candidate like DeLay could nove back to Texas by election day and be eligible for office. They said the U.S. Constitution would prohibit a state party official from throwing a candidate off the ballot in such circumstances.”
"How can it be conclusive if you can always change your voter registration," Clement asked.
[Edith Clement is a G. W. Bush appointee]

Going on the offensive, Chad Dunn lunged for the soft underbelly of the GOP:
"This is a case where the district court found manufactured evidence, a manipulation of the system, and therefore a fraud against the voters," said Democratic attorney Chad Dunn.
Just as a personal aside, I find it ironic that Tina Benkiser used rules to declare DeLay’s ineligibility that were written specifically to prevent parties from playing a shell game with their candidates during campaigns. I also find it ironic that GOP lawyers are seeking to have Article 1 Section 2 of the US Constitution re-writtten by federal judges. They want a new interpretation of the qualification clause: a change from “when elected” to “when elected or reasonably predicted ”.

The qualification clause of the constitution, was written in such a way as to make it very easy for one to be qualified to run for congress, and equally very hard for an outside agency to determine that one is unqualified for the job.

Expect Sparks to be upheld.

Also, expect GOP to appeal to the Supreme Court where they might believe that they will get a kinder audience.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Get in on the Fun: Adopt A CD-22 Sign

An Open Invitation to Texans, Americans, and Readers around the world! Adopt a Sign:

Now YOU can get in on the fun here in Texas Congressional District 22 - the one Tom DeLay betrayed this year by quitting using his usual political and legal manipulations. Here it is Hurricane Season. Here we are involved in a War. And we have no representative in US Congress!

CD-22 is going to lead the way this year when we Take Back Congress. You too can be a part of this.

Click on the title to this posting, click here or click "Juanita's Adopt-A-Sign Page" over in the Links section. Find out how to adopt a CD-22 sign.

You can tell your grandchildren that you were there.

Perry, Strayhorn and Kinky on State Parks: All Bark and No Bite

Perhaps one positive outcome of this year’s Texas gubernatorial campaign is that the long-acknowledged deteriorating condition of Texas State Parks is finally newsworthy. The four candidates for governor (in alpha order), Chris Bell, Kinky Friedman, Richard Perry and Carole Keaton Strayhorn, have now all weighed in on the condition of the parks.

They all love them and want to preserve them.

Or so they all say.

Of the four candidates, we have a pretty good idea of what three of the four of them really believe. Actions, it seems, speak louder than words.

First, let’s take a look at what Governor Rick Perry really thinks about the Texas State Parks.

Rick Perry's Words

What he says as lifted from an article in today’s “Chron”:
"The governor does have a deep concern about the adequacy of funding for parks," spokeswoman Kathy Walt said.
And last week, from the same source:
A sporting goods tax that Texas voters approved in the early 1990s should fund state parks as originally intended.
“A deep concern”. “Originally Intended”.

State funding of Texas state parks is made through state sales taxes levied on the sales of sporting goods. Every time you buy a camouflage colored chair at Gander Mountain the sales tax goes to the state parks. Well, some of it anyway. Not only is there a $32 million cap on the funding, but some of it goes toward local parks, and the law that enacted this designation of tax dollars doesn’t say that the money must go to the state parks, only that it can go there. So, naturally it doesn’t. Only about $20.5 million of this funding source actually go to parks, both state and local.

So what he is saying, essentially, is status quo. Maybe you could interpret the words to mean that he is for increasing the “$32 million cap” as has been tried in the legislature several times through the efforts of Rep. Harvey Hilderbran (R-Kerrville) (never got out of committee). But that’s not what I see.

Perry is on record as saying that he wants an across the board 10% budget slash in all departments, including the state parks budget. Maybe his “concern” about the “adequacy of funding for parks” was that he was concerned that this funding was getting in the way of his throwing more funding at his pet agenda.

Rick Perry's Actions

Last fall, Perry’s Parks and Wildlife Commission was considering selling off 46,000 acres of Big Bend State Park to make up for shortfalls. As it were, selling off the family heirlooms to pay for restroom maintenance issues. It wouldn’t surprise me that like school vouchers and privatization of social security, Perry is also in favor of the sale and privatization of our state parks.

Now let’s look at Carole Keaton Strayhorn.

Grandma's Words

From the Dallas Star-Telegram:

“Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, also running as an independent, said there should be no further land divestures and called for the lifting of a tax cap that has limited parks funding. Her spokesman also touted earlier recommendations by the comptroller's office that he said would increase funding for parks.”

More on the “earlier recommendations” below. Again, nothing about how much of the funds actually goes to the state parks, just that the cap should be lifted. That’s like saying that I am going to increase the maximum amount of money that I can put in my savings account every year, without actually doing it.

Grandma's Actions

Well, to her credit, she opposed Governor Perry’s attempt to sell off Big Bend State Park. She even authorized another $4.8 million for state parks last month. But I have to be a little cynical here: where were those funds last year before you stood for office Carole? And wasn’t the source these funds actually generated by the state parks, and were unanticipated overages? So you let the state parks keep the money they earned. How nice.

Richard “Kinky” Freeman’s words and actions?

Kinky's Words

Well if he is good at anything, Kinky is good at words. Here are three quotes of his in regard to funding for state parks:

"In Texas, the parks are broke but the lobbyists are rich".

"Where has Texas gone? One example of that is the kind of person that would try to sell 46,000 acres."

"I don't understand how we have an $8 billion surplus -- we're overtaxing Texans -- and how ... we're still cutting back on our state parks."

It’s almost like the one-liners that were the specialty of stand-up comedian Henny “Take my wife, please” Youngman. Those quotes and a call for a “shake-up of top leadership in the parks agency”. is about it. Oh, and this one, that parks are not only part of the state's heritage, but also a catalyst for economic development.

Wha . . . ?

Heck, why not. We could put a McDonalds and a Burger King on the forward gun deck of the USS Texas. Maybe even a Luther’s . . .

Kinky's Actions

Smoking his cigars in state parks and everywhere else. We can't see a track record on what Kinky has done for state parks, other than visit them to show his concern.

Now my candidate, Chris Bell. Does Chris Bell's words mesh with his actions?

Chris Bell's Words

Quoted yesterday in the Palestine Herald-Press:

“Rick Perry and Carole Strayhorn brag about a balanced budget but it’s all just a shell game to them,” Bell said. “Texans pay a tax on sporting goods that was specifically created to fund parks but instead the money gets raided for other projects while entrance fees to the parks gets jacked up to make up the difference. I’d like to hear them explain how that’s any different than a tax hike.”

“Now that state parks are a big issue, Rick Perry is promising to end the parks tax raid,” Bell said, comparing Perry’s promise to trusting an arsonist to put out a fire he started.

At a recent visit to the Texas State Railroad depot in Palestine, Chris Bell said this of Rick Perry’s dedication to state parks:

"Perry loves to tell us how proud he is of Texas. I just wish that every once in a while, he'd act that way."

So do I.

Chris Bell's Actions

Chris Bell hasn’t been in a position to do much of anything about funding for state parks. What we can do is look at his congressional voting record in environmental issues. That should give us an idea of what he really thinks about preserving our environment, and our state parks.

While a member of US Congress, Chris Bell voted against opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) to oil drilling, and voted no to limiting court hearings on environmental protection rules.

His words and actions mesh. Chris Bell says that he wants to stop all the shenanigans that prevent state parks from getting the funding that they need, and that Texans deserve. Chris Bell is environment-friendly, and has demonstrated that in Congress.

If Texans want to bring their state parks back from the brink of extinction, there is only one clear choice. They must vote for Chris Bell for Governor.

Friday, July 28, 2006

"Kinkster": Withdraw. Endorse Chris Bell

Richard “Kinky” (Big Dick) Friedman seems to be acting to make certain that Richard Perry, will be a minority-elected Republican incumbent, who will be able to maintain his residence in the governor’s mansion in 2007. How will he do that? Well, he seems to be splitting the Democratic vote in his “is this guy joking?” campaign.

It’s almost as if he were secretly working for Perry’s re-election.

Incredibly, I just read a blog today that calls Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell a “spoiler” – pulling figures out of thin air “proving” that if Bell dropped out, Perry would lose.

I don’t think Texans are that stupid.

Friedman’s campaign has captured the imaginations of thousands of disaffected voters. His campaign resembles that of former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura. Indeed, Friedman’s campaign manager is Dean Barkley, who once worked for Ventura.

Democrats who are considering a vote for Friedman should remember a few things first.

In Texas, the winner of the governor’s race is the one who gets the most votes, not the one who gets the majority of votes. There is no runoff. If Texans are thinking of casting a protest vote or a vote of fancy, they should remember that.

Jesse Ventura, who ran like Friedman as an independent, maintained his independent status as governor – staying “above the fray”. As a result instead of making one side mad at him, he pissed off everyone. You have to wonder about the ability of a “Governor Friedman” to get anything done when he has to deal with a probable new Democratic majority in the Texas legislature. Friedman may want to “dewussify” Texas – bringing great mass appeal to the campaign, but that doesn’t cut the mustard in the house and senate. What we need is a legislature that will have a synergy with the governor, Governor Kinky will not have much support in the legislature.

Jesse Ventura did not run for a second term. He was succeeded by a Republican.

In heavily Democratic California, Californians voted Republican candidate Arnold “The Governator” Schwarzenegger into office in a special recall election. Schwarzenegger has star power like Friedman, but his governorship is on the skids and he has had to make himself look very Democratic lately. No one expects him to be re-elected. Friedman, like Schwarzenegger, like Ventura, has no staying power.

Friedman’s issues, like everything else in his campaign, are jokes. Where Chris Bell discusses serious issues, Friedman says he is serious in his plan to bribe 5 generals in the Mexican army to guard the Texas border with Mexico. He says he will establish 5 $1 million trust funds for the 5 generals, saying he will deduct $5000 from it for every Mexican citizen who crosses the border illegally. This is just the stuff of his campaign – a joke - but he says he is serious. Well, OK, if so, isn’t what he is planning to do a promotion of murder of Mexican nationals? A bullet in the back of an illegal immigrant crossing the border is the easiest solution in the preservation of a general’s trust fund. His plan is no longer quite the knee-slapper, is it?

Unlike his star-power colleagues, Ventura and Schwarzenegger, Friedman actually HAS a bachelor’s degree, a degree in psychology from UT. The man isn’t dumb. But he sure acts the part. That’s the trouble, really, when Friedman is working, he is acting. When Chris Bell is working, he’s working.

It is probably not in Richard “Kinky” Friedman’s nature to step down and endorse Chris Bell. But if he cares about Texas as much as he claims to, that is exactly what he needs to do. Chris Bell will be able to work with the new Democratic majority in the state legislature – a new progressive synergy will emerge. Kinky Friedman hasn’t a prayer of accomplishing that simple thing.

Do the right thing Kinky: drop out of the election and endorse Chris Bell for governor. Heck, maybe Chris and the Texas legislature will establish a “Texas Peace Corps” and put you in charge.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

George W. Bush Trashing Out National Park System

Well, that among other things.

Americans have such short memories. Back in September 2000, when then Texas governor George W. Bush was in a tooth and claw battle for the presidency against Al Gore, this article appeared on In it, Bush blasted the Clinton administration, and its second in command, for “. . .spending too many federal dollars acquiring land and not enough keeping up existing properties, leaving the National Park Service with more property but fewer resources to take care of it”. Oh, the horror. Locking away endless tracts of land from exploitation and development, but not one sou for maintenance. Contrast that to Bush’s announcement this past June 15th of laying aside a tract of land (well, mainly it’s under water) 100 times the size of Yosemite National Park – the Northern Hawaiian Islands National Monument. Now there’s the ticket – put aside this tract of “land” the world’s largest marine sanctuary, and all you have to do is maintain the tool shed and airstrip on Wake Island (built before WWII). The fish are self-feeding.

Why am I ranting about “ancient history”? Well, for one thing, it’s summer – time to pack the family into the old minivan and travel to see our national treasures – the national parks. For another thing, I was reading an article in a throwaway magazine, “The Texas Observer” that I picked up in Rice Memorial Center at lunch, and an Op/Ed piece discussed the Bush administration’s spin-doctoring on the decline of services at the national parks, concurrent with all-time rises in fees for goods and services there. (sorry the article is not online).

Last April, one may recall that the Bush administration demanded that the National Park Service make do with 20% less funding this year than last. Well, with the cost of gas now topping $3/gallon, maybe it will cause a decrease in park attendance so the 270 million visitors that our country’s national parks receive each year may be a bit less. But doesn’t that mean that the total fees collected will be less also? Are we beginning to see a downward spiral that national parks will be hard-pressed to recover from?

Visitors this year may notice cutbacks in such luxuries as potable water access, trash service, visitor centers, and ranger programs, according to the Daily Grist. "The national parks are probably in worse shape now than any of us have seen in our careers," says Bill Wade of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.

And what do the spin doctors tell park officials to say when visitors complain about how they are paying more for less? Well, a memo from a Bush political operative is instructing them to say “The National Park Service, like most agencies, is tightening its belt as our nation rebuilds from Katrina, continues the war on terrorism and strives to reduce the deficit” (Jim Hightower in The Texas Observer July 14, 2006).

Here we have an administration that has completely bungled the Katrina catastrophe: wasted millions and millions of dollars on overcharges, graft, corruption and mismanagement and gotten America bogged down in another bungled project called the War in Iraq ($300 billion and counting) that promises to persist, and they are USING those disasters in policy as justification for trashing out our national parks.

Do you think this would be happening if Halliburton had the contract in running the park concessions?

This group maintains a watch over these matters and more.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Texas Democratic Party et al. v Tina Benkiser draws Two Clinton Appointees, One George I & II Appointee

-Juanita broke this one (too).

The lots have been drawn and it looks like an interesting brew has been served to Tina Benkiser.

Fortunato P. Benavides is a Clinton appointee. He is Hispanic, Texan, and is on the “Long List” of Supreme Court nominates of the Hispanic National Bar Association.

Edith Brown Clement, a 1991 George H. W. Bush appointee to Federal District court, and 2001 Dubya appointee to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, is viewed as a “conservative and a strict constructionist" and also as a federalist. Look for Clement not to look too deeply for modern meanings in the US Constitution, and to give states more leeway in deciding local issues. An interesting mix because in this case, the question is one of supremacy of the US constitution over the Texas Election Code and whether local statutes can override the US Constitution in deciding eligibility for federal office. Note further that Time magazine mentioned her as a possible nominee for the SCOTUS seat that Justice Roberts left vacant. Wikipedia reports that Dubya viewed her as “too self-promoting” and passed her over, giving the nod to Harriet Miers instead.

There must be no love lost between Dubya and Judge Clement.

James L. Dennis is also a Clinton appointee. A native Louisianan, Dennis was elected to the Louisiana state house for two terms, and has served as judge in Louisiana in several capacities. In a vigorous dissent in a recent Texas Death Penalty case, Judge Dennis parted company with his judicial brethren, saying that the decision of the court “is at clear odds with the trend in Supreme Court decisions that broaden procedural safeguards for defendants in death penalty cases”. In the decision, 5th Circuit upheld a district court judges’s decision that an admitted murder’s family and friends could not testify in the penalty phase of his trial – even though he had killed his wife and two children they would have testified that they did not want him to be executed.

So it looks like a bench with two fair-minded liberal judges, and one conflicted passed-over conservative judge.

Things are looking a little grim for the Republicans who don’t want Tom DeLay’s name to appear on the November ballot. But as the great Yogi Berra would say “It ain't over 'til it's over”.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Walking the Blocks for Nick Lampson

Who in their right mind will voluntarily go block walking through southeast Texas neighborhoods for 3 hours on Saturdays during July? Answer: Nick Lampson campaign volunteers. The majority of them are young and thin with seemingly endless energy. Then there’s Pat and I. We are somewhat older. The both of us can recall where we were when Kennedy was shot (no, Ted Kennedy is still alive, I’m talking about older brother Jack).

Pat and I walk the blocks for Nick Lampson because we want our candidate to win no matter who he is running against. Right now we say that he is running against Tom DeLay and Bob Smither because it happens to be the truth.

We go armed with printouts from the Texas VAN system that you may have read about on other CD-22 blogs. It’s quite remarkable. Filtered out are probable Republican “die hards” so we don’t waste our time and breath. So we have high-graded lists of names and addresses, all organized in ascending address order, odd addresses on one sheet, evens on another. Very handy.

I have to say, we have not had one negative encounter to-date. Well . . . one. But it was the mother of a 20 year old young man still living at home (he was still asleep at 11:30). Her name wasn’t on our list but Zach is apparently not in agreement with his mom’s political choices. Happens. What we are encountering, for the most part, is something along the range of moderately to enthusiastically receptive. And this is occurring in upscale newer neighborhoods, places where you’d think Tom would have his base. Muse discussed this, and it’s absolutely true. If I were asked to describe who “Nick’s people” are, I would be hard-pressed. Nick’s following is hugely diverse: southern and eastern Asian, Hispanics, African Americans, White folks, young, middle-aged and elderly. It really is a broad spectrum. One elderly south Asian man was particularly impressed with Nick as he came to speak at his mosque on a previous Friday. Sometimes, all we have to say is that Nick is running against Tom DeLay, and that elicits a broad smile and a “Nick has my vote”.

When we’re not talking to the people, we talk to each other about our children, our pets, places we have lived and visited. Sometimes we even talk about politics. We survive 3 hours in the hot sun by taking a break midway through, taking refuge in an air-conditioned fast food restaurant drinking iced drinks. We get a few stares because of our campaign T-shirts and our “flair”. And they look twice at me and wonder what pool I fell into.

Some would say that we are doing this a little early, that people aren’t really ready to think about the November elections, and there is something to that. I answer to that this way: if we can identify the true fence sitters, and the true GOP hardliners who somehow made it on our list, we will have a very high quality list of voters by the time the good weather returns, when Nick’s campaign will have block walkers coming out of the woodwork.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

David Van Os: "Greg Abbott is a silk stockings, country club, big government Republican”

He really said that you know.

I was invited to attend a blogger conference call with David Van Os, Democratic candidate for Texas Attorney General. A first for me. It was a fast hour and I just sat there with my left ear to the phone and my right hand scribbling notes – 7 pages worth. The man can talk. Rather than organize this into some nice little tale with cynical remarks, I’m going to depart from the usual and just tell you what I heard, a literal “notes vomit”. Well, maybe I might digress here and there, who knows.

David said that Americans are hungry for change, and hungry for political openness. David believes that the key to retaking the state is to “repenetrate the rural vote”. Democrats need to talk in a way that shows we are there, and make sure that people understand that Democrats are not elitist people from Massachusetts. Well, hey, at least he didn’t say “Yankees”.

David said that Democrats have to stop writing off parts of the state. When she lost her governorship, it was because Ann Richards tried to assemble a coalition of liberal Democratic metropolitan voters and affluent moderate Republican female voters because she was pro-choice. The coalition failed because the pro-choice voters failed to appear. Now ever since that time the Democratic strategy has been to raise cash for ad campaigns early in the race, then in the last 6-8 week crunch time, play the media campaign – but concentrating on major markets. Democrats have done that year after year and lost year after year.

David said that all he needs to win is an 8 to 10 percent crossover vote. He thinks that he can get this and he illustrated the point by recalling his conversation with a security guard at a “campaign camp” (whatever that is). He recounted the security guard’s remarks in regard to the present Republican regime. He was a long-time Republican, has voted Republican year after year, but with regard to one Republican in particular (wink wink) “he just scares me”, the security guard said, “I’m not going to be voting for them any more.” There is also a wedge issue among Republicans. David said that the Trans Texas Corridor, a plan to build a huge multi-use, statewide network of transportation routes in Texas, is a GOP wedge issue. Both the GOP and Democratic Party platforms have planks that oppose the TTC, but that it is being pushed by the Austin elites. Further on elitism, David says that there is a huge disconnect between grass roots Republicans and the Austin Aristocracy. Time and time again he returned to the theme that there is more similarity between Grass Roots Democrats and Republicans than there are differences. David says the crossover vote is attainable by taking advantage of these wedge issues.

David says that Greg Abbott is a Republican Party political hack. “In 1996 he eviscerated the 1st amendment rights of ‘The Log Cabin Republicans’”, a Republican gay and lesbian civil rights activist group, by refusing them the right to have a booth at the Republican convention. This at the behest of his homophobic friends. David says that Greg Abbott is an “ambitious political opportunist”. He uses the AG print shop daily to congratulate himself for his actions and promote himself. Then he got to present issues. Abbott, in his recent filing of an amicus curiae to the 5th District Court of Appeals re: Texas Democratic Party et al. v. Tina Benkiser, blundered. First, it was “too brazen”. He said that Abbott cited his reason for filing the brief was that Judge Sparks found that a section in the Texas Election Code was unconstitutional. David said that this was “a lie”. Sparks didn’t do that, he just found that rules for eligibility for federal office are in the US Constitution. The federal constitution decides eligibility for federal office. He also decried Abbott’s recent CD-23 boundary map that he submitted, calling it a “brazenly partisan map” that was meant to marginalize Lloyd Doggett, a strong House Democrat.

David said that the first thing he will do in office is to appoint task forces of Assistant Attorneys General to begin to issue investigative subpoenas to major oil companies and the insurance industry. This to begin his promise to carry out anti-trust suits against these monopolies, citing high gasoline prices and high insurance premiums. He said he will reorganize the AG’s office by combining two commissions, the consumer protection commission, and the anti-trust commission into one “Watchdog Commission” that will be beefed up and carry high priority. David is also concerned about the scandalous behavior in the Child Support Office. That records in that office show single mothers receiving checks, when none have been received for years, and likewise, that fathers who have been paying child support regularly are delinquent. The scandal is that these people cannot get any help when they call the office because they keep getting transferred around until they give up and hang up.

David says that regulatory agencies “have been hijacked by the corporate and political elite” He is going to go after these agencies by using the “residual authority that the Attorney General has”. Example, he is going after the TRCC, Texas Residential Construction Commission, which has become a haven for home builders in that it provides a cover up for home builders who produce defective housing (as found by Comptroller Carole Strayhorn, who says that the TRRC is a builder protection organization). He will do this by using the Attorney General’s office “to obtain injunctions against private entities to . . . enjoin them from doing bad things”. Failure to stop earns them a contempt of court fine. This, David says, is a good tool that he will be using a lot. It gets around a claim by any regulatory agency that he is duplicating their job. Regulatory agencies seek fines and penalties. He won’t be doing that, just issuing injunctions to cease and desist.

David says that he will capture the “down ballot” vote of those who vote for Kinky and Grandmother by continually delivering his populist theme.

David says that Greg Abbott is a “Silk stockings, country club, big government Republican” who supports government secrecy. He said that Abbott has continually skated around the Texas Public Information Act, also known as the "Texas Open Records Act”. Whenever “the law is ambiguous”, he “seizes the opportunity to write open records rulings” to keep records secret. David is for more transparency here, citing that Article 1 Section 4 of the act that the “statute is supposed to be liberally construed in favor of disclosure”. He intends to reverse Abbott’s rulings.

David says that he would like to see a return to a paper ballot. That there is no paper record to indicate to the voter that “the vote he cast is the same vote that the electronic impulses record”. Article 6 of the state constitution says that “the purity of the ballot box will be protected” He cited a trip to south Texas on his “Whistlestop tour of 244 counties”. In the primary this year there was an extremely low voter turnout. In calling the voters to ask them to vote, officials found out that voters were not showing up at the polls because they did not trust the electronic voting machine. If David Van Os is elected Attorney General, and someone sends him an opinion request, he will rule that the Texas constitution requires a paper ballot – and that the “AutoMark” system, an optical scanning system, is a paper ballot.

Almost done . . .

David threw a bone to his audience, calling bloggers on the internet equivalent to the “Committees of Correspondence”, local groups of colonial Americans that kept up the lines of communication and information exchange. These groups, he said, were able to keep the information flowing despite the British clampdown on the press and what they could publish. They kept communication alive to fight back against tyranny.

That’s it, David, you have us just right.

David concluded by saying that “We have to win”. Let’s pretend that the . . . calendar has been changed and 2008 has been cancelled, so there’s only 2006 and we have to win. ”Cease telling yourself that you can’t win. Give up that belief and give yourself permission to do it. The time is ripe for an underdog ticket to turn this upside down.”

Then we all hung up.

“Play Petitions”, “Play Votes”, “Play Money”.

It’s still up.

It’s still up except for the fact that there is no link to it anymore on any part of the Houston GOP website. Too late though, people all across Texas CD-22 are collectively holding their sides in over Jared Woodfill’s “play petition” that he wanted people to sign to urge 5th Appeals Court Judges to

1) Remove the injunction against choosing our candidate
2) Declare the Republican ballot position officially vacant
3) Allow the voters of CD 22 a fair choice of candidates.
Having received criticism from his own party, uproarious hilarity from the opposition, and bewildered looks and shaking of heads from both sides, Woodfill has allowed to FortBendNow that the petition would not actually be delivered to the court. It was just an opportunity for voters in the district to “let their feelings be known through an expression of free speech”. Well Jared, it isn’t free speech if there is no one listening. What you should have done is put up a series of voting buttons like they have on The Markum Report. Over there they have had (at this writing) 55 votes. Tom DeLay is waaay out in front.

Hey by the way, go over there and register your opinion in their straw poll. I have . . . often.

“Play Petitions”, “Play Votes”, “Play Money”. That’s all Tom DeLay will have to run his campaign when the appeals court fails to overturn TDP et al. v. Bentkiser. Bob Dunn at FortBendNow thinks our Tom can raise a few mil and run a race against Nick Lampson and that other guy, Smithers. I have to wonder who in their right mind will throw their money at a guy who gladly took hundreds of thousands of dollars from them between January and April 2006, when he knew full well that he wasn’t going to run in November. My guess is that he waited almost a month after the March 7th primary to make his “I quit” revelation on Chris Matthews’ “Hard Ball”, because he hadn’t reached his target amount in his war chest until that time. To get any money from them at all, he will HAVE to tell them that he intends to quit again, if elected.

So let me get this straight. Here’s Tom's plan: Contributors give Tom two-three million dollars, he runs, wins, and quits (again). Now the process starts all over again and contributors have to cough up more millions of dollars to fund the campaign of 7 or 8 Republicans (can’t have a primary, here) who will all run against Nick Lampson. With the conservative vote hopelessly split, Nick wins. OK runoff between Nick and the 2nd placer? Contributors give still more millions of dollars for the runoff campaign.

Here’s what it sounds like to me: the plan is to get millions of dollars from affluent conservatives and corporations by presenting them with crisis after crisis that threaten the loss of a Republican seat in the Texas delegation to Congress. Sweet! ARMPAC and TRMPAC all over again.

That’s sheer genius. All those people who are saying that Tom DeLay is starting to show the effects of prolonged exposure to an outlawed bug spray simply do not see the big picture.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Texas AG Greg Abbott: Your Amicus Sucks

I found a copy of Texas AG Greg Abbott’s Amicus brief here. It’s an incredibly boring read. Now I remember why I didn’t change my major to pre-law after I took that Constitutional Law class way back when. It was an upper division class, but three weeks into the course I discovered that I was surrounded by law students who were auditing the class because the prof was actually a famous litigator. I didn’t know him from Adam and can’t recall his name.

Anyway, when you wade through all the verbiage it comes down to this: there is no time test in the AG’s argument. Besides that, his argument for filing the brief reveals that the AG is nothing but a politically motivated kibitzer. Small surprise.

The AG’s brief relies heavily on Jones v. Bush a suit filed by someone who challenged Dick Cheney’s eligibility to become Vice President, because of his residency. The 12th Amendment to the constitution changed the way we elect the president and vice president. Before 1804 the vice president was the guy who came in 2nd in the presidential election. A wholly bad idea that the 12th amendment corrected to what we have today. But there is a requirement that the president and vice president must come from different states.
“The electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves”.
In Jones, the argument was that Dick and George were both residents of Texas, but Dick sought an end-around by doing exactly what Tom did; he moved back to his home state of Wyoming 5 months before the election.

Interesting. Dick, moved to Wyoming to become eligible, Tom moved to Virginia to become ineligible.

But here’s the kicker. There is no time requirement in the 12th Amendment. It does not specifically say by what time Dick needed to be a resident, just that he is. In TDP et al. v. Benkiser there is a date – must be a resident of the state on election day - and the date is the crux of one of TDP’s arguments. You can’t declare Tom ineligible before November 7, 2006 – election day. Gee. I guess they missed that.

Abbott, kibitz on your own time.
Secondary to this is the argument that Judge Sparks’ ruling declared a section of the Texas Election Code unconstitutional. Because of this, Abbott claims that he has a reason to file the Amicus. Tripe. Sparks never declared that section of the TEC unconstitutional. They fabricated a false and specious reason to file the brief. Fellow Texans, I hope they did this on their dime, and not on “company time”. But I am not an optimist here (See blog title).

Friday, July 21, 2006

Republican Backlash in Texas CD-22? Don’t Be Absurd.

Every now and then, here and there, you pick up a news article about the “Republican Backlash” that is going to give Tom DeLay another term in congress. One such appeared yesterday in “The Washington Times”. In the article, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) is quoted as saying, “This whole thing could explode in the Democrats' face. He has indicated that if called back into battle, he'll fight -- and I'd say his chances of keeping this seat in Republican hands are pretty good."

Chiming in on the backlash theme another Texas Republican, Rep. John Carter remarked, “If the Democrats use the courts to force him to stay on the ticket, and he doesn't even campaign, he could still win it. And, remember, his district is still strongly Republican, by about 55 percent to 60 percent, and so he probably has a better chance of winning than if none of this had happened."

Republicans, these two believe, are so outraged over the Texas Democratic Party Lawsuit to keep Tom DeLay on the November ballot, that they will come out in droves to support their corrupt and discredited candidate. Could it be that they are thinking of the response that Tom received in his memorable speech (is Tom drinking again?) to the party faithful earlier this month in Sugar Land? His “Well, I may give them just exactly what they want” remark brought their collective well-heeled butts out of their chairs in loud ovation.

Both Hensarling and Carter are apparently still enamored of the $20,000 in ARMPAC funds they each received from Tom DeLay’s cash cow. Carter, by the way, doesn’t know the numbers for CD-22. It has been 55% Republican since Tom’s redistricting. Feeling safe, DeLay carved off 5% or so of his constituents to bolster the Republican rolls in neighboring districts.

But what do those voters representing the “Salt of the Earth” have to say on this?

As if in echo of these remarks (a true miracle as the echo would have to precede the initial remark) an article appeared in the local Galveston County Daily News on July 9th that purports to reveal the coming slaughter in November.

“I’ll vote for Tom DeLay,” said Carter, who doesn’t consider himself a political activist. “What I think Tom DeLay should get back on the ballot, go back into his Sugar Land home and run.”Not that the 63-year-old Carter is any big fan of DeLay whose recent tenure in office has been marked by a state money-laundering indictment related to campaign finances and for his ties to a lobbyist who is in federal prison for influence-peddling.“There are some things that I don’t care for about Tom DeLay,” he said. “I’m not absolutely a fan of his. I would vote for him because I disagree with what the process is right now.“I think for him to say ‘I am no longer a candidate,’ he has the right to do that, and I think the Republican Party should have the opportunity to replace him.”Carter insisted his mind was not made up on supporting DeLay until Sparks’ ruling.

Carter’s son-in-law, Trey Meador, is a Friendswood resident and echoed similar sentiments. Meador, though, is frustrated with politics in general and admitted that while often voting Republican he has thought at times of supporting an independent candidate.“Now, in 2006, I am almost tempted not to be a registered Republican,” said Meador. “Who are really representing the people? Or are their motives just to make a dime?”Still, if given the choice Meador said he would support DeLay — or any Republican who may be on the ballot — come November despite the swirl of scandal that would assert DeLay is one of those politicians Meador is so frustrated with. “It’s better than the alternative,” said Meador.

Other than those two opinions, and one that likened Tom DeLay to General George S. Patton, that was the sum total of the voting public that the Galveston County Daily News could find to hold forth on this issue.

Then they consulted Republican Party hacks.

Interviewing Robin Armstrong, the vice chairman of the Republican Party, they reported that Armstrong predicts the Democrats tactics will actually backfire.“I think it will motivate many in our party,” Armstrong said. “Tom DeLay still has a tremendous amount of good will in the party.”

In reference to the Backlash, or what is now being called “the sympathy factor” Armstrong holds that “many of those who were on the fence before may actually now be willing to come down on the DeLay side”.

I remember stories like this at bedtime. Stories like The Little Engine that Could.

Folly and Fairy Tales.

In Fort Bend County there are different stories. I am an avid reader of FortBendNow, an online newspaper that also has a blog-like facility for reader comments. Most of the Op/Ed pieces or political news on Tom DeLay and the lawsuit filed by the Texas Democratic Party have mostly blazingly partisan commentary attached to the articles. Once in a while though, someone posts a comment that gives one pause. I have lifted quotations from FortBendNow’s comments section to let you see what some people are thinking in this county. It is a high-graded collection of some very telling statements.

First I want to begin with a quote from a person I assume to be a Democrat, but he makes the point that the rest of these people, all Republican or former Republican, seem to be saying:

“It must be awfully awkward right now to be a Delay supporter in Texas. Can you imagine having to look your friends in the eye, scant months after shaking them down for campaign contributions, and then having to admit that the guy whose praises you had previously been singing … well, he wasn’t ever really serious about campaigning anyway, he was just playing fast and loose with the election code? Maybe Texans are more forgiving than others, but I’m sure that my friends would be bitter beyond words. Might make me a little bit resentful of having been taken advantage of, myself.”

And here, is your Republican Backlash:

“I am a Republican, but am embarrassed by DeLay. He is the one that has put us in this mess. He defrauded the voters when he kept his name on the primary ballot without the real intention to run for the office. Nothing changed from the primary election to the time he announced his plans to resign. He simply thought he could circumvent the primary voters and allow the party to pick his successor. If DeLay must remain on the ballot I think he should withdraw. I for one cannot vote for someone who was that dishonest to the Republican Primary voters.”

“If DeLay really had the voters right to choice in mind he would have withdrew BEFORE the primaries. DeLay tried to scam the election process and the judge did not fall for his con. So DeLay, grow a set and quit being a little bully blaming everyone else about the problem YOU created. You made the bed now it looks like you will have to lie on it.”

“…some of us are actually pleased that DeLay wasn’t able to successfully game the system.”

“I’m surprised that any republican can still have a feeling of pity for DeLay. What will it take for them to open thier eyes to the truth about thier party and corruption that has been going on in Washington, in both houses. This country will never be the same because of what they have been able to do to us, the people… I used to be one…”

“Good ol Tom Delay has stuck it to the Ft Bend Republicans. As one of those Ft Bend Republicans while I do not like the ruling of Judge Sparks, I do not see that he [had] any other choice. The Great Tom Delay who did little for Ft Bend County has given us his parting gift. Boy is my rear end sore. Thank you Tom, hope you enjoy prison.”

“I am dismayed with the lack of leadership, unity and direction of the Fort Bend Republican Party. … Where is the leadership? First there are informal ballots, then nominee preference surveys. I’m waiting for someone to suggest a talent competetion. If this buffoonery was happening in the Democratic Party, we Republicans would be shaking our heads and laughing at them. When it’s happening in our own party though, it’s just sad.”

“Sorry to see you resign from the House. Couldn’t you have done a better job, by falling on your shoorrt ‘Yellow’ SWORD”

“I say, let him scamper off to Virginia. His annointed successor is also going to have adopt his stepchild of broken promises, and without the support of those campaign contributions”

“I’m not enamored with either of your Parties, but Tom DeLay’s inability to win at the ballot box is what has gotten us here in the first place. He said himself there was a good chance he wouldn’t win . . . and he was sugarcoating his chances. Tom’s a sore loser so he wanted to take his ball and go home . . . or to Virgnia. Reminds me of when he couldn’t keep his Majority Leader position in the House, so he tried to change the rules. Maybe Dems go to court too much, but don’t whine and wimper now, Republicans, because the rest of us aren’t as willing as you to overlook when DeLay breaks the law (again) and uses the Primary to raise money for his legal fees. Shady, shady stuff

“There are four adults in our household that used to be Republican. Now we are very Independent voters. Our Professional Engineer says our 7 yr old house should be torn down. That’s what the Republicans did for us. There are still good Democrats and Republicans that care for their constituents, however, those caring lawmakers are smaller in number each election year.”

“I was told today (Sunday) at …Church by a friend that after all the clamoring regarding Fort Bend and Texas losing its clout in Congress the reality is if we Nick Lampson he starts with his six years seniority already earned and intact.”

[An Open Letter to David Wallace]
“This example of the republicans that are “hand Picking” you without regard to voter input is just one of dozens of examples that have chased my wife and I away from the Republican party. MY wife and I are a bit old fashioned in that we believe ‘Actions speak louder than words.’ The actions of the Republican party made us feel dirty. The party consists of people we could no longer associate with because of the questionable moral and ethical values being exhibited through action and in-action.”

And this last one pretty much sums up the looming backlash:

“Democrats didn’t run DeLay off. A large number of Republicans who wouldn’t tolerate corruption in their midst ran DeLay off. If those Republicans (and I am one of them) come home for the general election, Lampson is sunk. I do not think even CD-22 is 69% Republican. However, it [just] did not bode well with DeLay getting less than 2/3 votes from a district that he has served for around 22 years. Anyway with the Perot factor out of the equation it looks very good for a Republican candidate that is not DeLay.”

So, Hensarling, Carter, Armstrong, Galveston County Daily News, go do your homework and stop spreading fairy tales. From what I can see, the Backlash/Sympathy Vote for DeLay will more than likely be a Forwardlash/Anti-DeLay Vote for Nick Lampson (who has eight years in Congress, not six - the commenter later self-corrected himself).

Will there be a backlash in this election? Oh yes, yes there will be. From all of us who have


Thursday, July 20, 2006

FEC to DeLay's ARMPAC: "Take a Hike!"

Juanita broke this one.

In a stunning and unbelievably timely announcement, a Washington-based watchdog group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), said they had received a fax from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) detailing the final settlement between Tom DeLay’s favorite cash cow, ARMPAC (Americans for a Republican Majority PAC) and the FEC. This settlement comes as a result of an FEC investigation in the filing records of ARMPAC. Filing violations were originally brought to their attention in an August 2005 complaint by CREW to the FEC. In their original complaint, CREW maintained that ARMPAC had used “soft money” that is unregulated to fund federal get-out-the-vote political activities in federal races.

Now, as a result of this final settlement, among other things, ARMPAC will have to
1) pay a one-time penalty of $115,000 to the FEC,
2) amend its records, and
3) fold camp.

ARMPAC provided campaign contributions to just about every Republican in Congress. It also provided the initial seed money to start Tom DeLay’s other favorite cash cow, TRMPAC. TRMPAC is, as anyone who can read a newspaper or blog knows, is the PAC that contributed $190,000 to Republican state house and senate campaigns through a money laundering scheme hatched by Tom DeLay. That scheme resulted in a Travis County Grand Jury indictment of Tom DeLay. That indictment, along with daily revelations of DeLay’s association with discredited moneyman Jack Abramoff, eventually resulted in DeLay’s resignation from his congressional seat and withdrawl from the ’06 election. State GOP Chairman Tina Benkiser sought to replace DeLay’s name on the ballot, but that effort was stopped cold in a suit filed by the Texas Democratic Party. This resulted in a ruling by Republican appointee Judge Sam Sparks that Tom DeLay was indeed eligible to run for Congress, and for Benkiser to find him ineligible in order to replace him exceeded her purview and violated Article 1 Section 2 of the US Constitution.

Whew. . .

Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse

ARMPAC, in responding to FEC’s charges, claimed they didn’t know, misunderstood, and dropped a couple of decimals here and there. In and among their list of "oopsies", FEC pointed out that they
Failed to accurately report $74,295 in financial activity in 2001
Failed to accurately report $166,340 in financial activity in 2002

How they did this varied from time to time, but included such activity as “not reported”, “disclosed but not reported in totals”, “unreported operating expenditures” and “overstating operating expenditures”. Those kinds of oopsies.

Caught with their proverbial pants down ARMPAC signed off on the settlement earlier today.

Tom “The Hammer” DeLay found himself in such good graces with fellow Republicans in the House mainly because of his $3.5 million of ARMPAC contributions to campaign war chests of practically all of them. Since this fund first started appearing in the news, Republicans were repeatedly called upon to return the funds to the PAC. Few have complied with the request, however. With today’s announcement, there is little doubt that there will be a renewed outcry. The only thing is . . . since ARMPAC is out of business, these dirty money takers are going to ask: “how are they going to return the money now?”

Well, follow the lead of your peers, guys. Donate it to charity.

I have a few suggestions, listed below not in any particular order:

Brothers Bound By Honor
Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
Mercy Corps
Ashton Glover Memorial Fund

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

George Bush: Soft on Terrorism

I swear, it’s like babysitting a roomful of 1 year old quintuplets. Once you get one quieted down and sucking on a pacifier, the other 4 are off in 4 directions: toward the kitchen stove, toward the swimming pool, toward the box fan, and toward the paint cabinet.

Just as George smoothed the feathers of his religious right wingnuts by vetoing embryonic stem cell research, his “kill them all and let God sort them out” right wingnuts have started a whisper campaign.

What? You heard it: George “Bring it on” Bush is soft on terrorism.
He didn’t do anything when Korea fired missiles into the Sea of Japan on Independence Day and is letting the Chicoms take care of it.
He didn’t do anything about Iran’s uranium enrichment program, even when they told him to stuff it.

His Middle East policies have lost their last pillar, and now he is sidelining it while Israel subcontracts in the War on Terror.

Two Marines are murdered on tape, Bush does nothing. Two Israeli soldiers are kidnapped, Israel bombards Lebanon and Gaza.

He even let Vladimir Putin get the best of him in a joint press conference.
Why, he’s doing exactly what we thought John Kerry would have done if he were president.
He’s starting to sound like a wimp.

Danielle Pletka, who is vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank that has had strong influence in staffing the administration and shaping its ideas, said this:

“It is Topic A of every single conversation. I don't have a friend in the administration, on Capitol Hill or any part of the conservative foreign policy establishment who is not beside themselves with fury at the administration."

You know, these are the exact same people and organizations that ordered up the paradigm shift at the beginning of the new century: that our American government should mount a preemptive war to bring a regime change in Iraq.

Fanning the flames of discontent the Grand Guru of Demagoguery, Newt Gingrich, (author of the Democratic war cry “Had Enough?”) says he is “Utterly confused”.

"We have accepted the lawyer-diplomatic fantasy that talking while North Korea builds bombs and missiles and talking while the Iranians build bombs and missiles is progress. Is the next stage for Condi to go dancing with Kim Jong Il?"

My. The extremists are coming out of the woodwork.

So the schism in the Republican Party continues to deepen. People who sounded like raving right wing lunatics just a couple of decades ago are shaking their heads in disbelief. George Will wrote yesterday that the administration is receiving criticism from neoconservatives that is “so untethered from reality as to defy caricature."

I wonder who is going to be first of these idiots to point out that we have an unused nuclear arsenal?

Stem Cells: Another Dance With the Radical Fringe

Dubya: “Aont a pin”
Secretary: “What kind of pin, sir? Straight pin, safety pin?”
Dubya: “Aont a fountain pin”.

Dubya’s has at this writing (I can hear his speech on CNN in the next room) signed his first veto. Appropriately for these times, it is a veto of a bi-partisan bill passed by large margins in the House and Senate. He vetoed a bill that is supported by 7 out of 10 Americans including former First Lady Nancy Reagan.

He just vetoed the bill to expand federal spending on embryonic stem cell research. Unless a miracle occurs, there are not enough votes in either the House or Senate to override this veto.

It’s all still a little theoretical, but medical researchers are saying that if they can figure out how stem cells direct what kind of specialized cell they will grow to become, they might be able to halt or slow down degenerative diseases like Parkinsons Disease, Alzheimer’s Syndrome, Diabetes, Emphysema, and, dare I say it? Cancer. You know, leukemia took the life of George's long dead sibling, Robin.

Bush vetoed a potential cure for cancer? Doesn’t that forswear all lines of logic and reasoning? Yep and yep.

When people do things that renounce all logic, look for two things to be operating: money and beliefs. Maybe both.

Radical Fringe

It all gets back to Bush’s Base: the ultraconservative radical fringe. Unbelievably, they have started to press against the corral looking for weaknesses, and that, in an election year, cannot happen. This veto will unify his base like nothing else will. By vetoing this bill, their man will take a “Strong Moral Stand” against the godless majority.

Yesterday, in explaining Bush’s anticipated veto, Tony Snow said “The president believes strongly that for the purpose of research it’s inappropriate for the federal government to finance something that many people consider murder. He’s one of them”

Or at least he wants to be seen as one of them – I am now convinced that George Bush II doesn’t have any personal beliefs. I think there has been just too much damage from cocaine and Jack Daniels for that to happen. Stem cell research may be able to fix that someday.

So who ARE these “every blastocyst is precious” people? A very unified people it turns out. In a Harris Poll that compares “Pro Life”/”Pro Choice” opinions with “When does life begin?”, they had an interesting result. 88% of pro-lifers say that life begins at conception, where only 23% of pro-choicers share that opinion. As a matter of fact, pro-choice people are splintered on the issue of the beginning of life.

So again, the religious beliefs of a conservative fundamentalist radical fringe are determining national policy because George II has associated them with his political base.

Now where else in the world is that happening?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Texans: Cast Your Vote for Radnofsky to Receive Campaign Funds

Hey Texas Democrats (and disillusioned Republicans). We have a task to accomplish before July 21st. You all need to go to Barbara Boxer’s website and vote for Barbara Ann Radnofsky so her campaign will receive an infusion of funds from Boxer’s PAC for a Change.

Barbara Ann Radnofsky is on a short list of names of promising Democratic challengers in this year’s Senate races. Your vote is needed so that the winner of this vote will be featured in a fundraising email to her PAC for Change community. In May they raised $30,000 dollars for congressional races: Rep. Leonard Boswell in Iowa and Francine Busby in California.

At this writing, Barbara Ann is in 4th place (12%) behind Bob Casey (PA) - 20%, Claire McCaskill (MO) - 16%, and Sherrod Brown (OH) - 16%.

Kay Bailey Hutchison (who, I hear, sides with Evil) has an $8 million war chest and you can bet that what she doesn’t spend on her own campaign, will be spent to further the cause of Evil here and in other states.

Barbara Ann stretches her campaign funds (20 to 1, I hear), so you can be sure that a vote for Barbara Ann is also a vote for taking full advantage of the Boxer group's contribution.

So if you haven’t voted yet, go here and make it so. You have until this Friday.

Monday, July 17, 2006

School Vouchers: an Unholy Attack on Texas Public Schools

Actually, I need to be slapped around from time to time. Carole Keeton Strayhorn did not invent school vouchers, she merely supported them so she could get elected. Imagine that, an ex-teacher stumping for school vouchers.

Dr. James Leininger practically invented school vouchers – in Texas anyway.

A far right religious conservative, Dr. Leininger is often cast as a person who wants taxpayer money to be diverted from public schools to private (and preferably Christian) schools. He wants tax dollars to be spent by the state to fund religious schools so children can “Come to Jesus”. But I am not sure that is his entire motivation. According to Debbie Nathan of the Austin Chronicle in an excellent compendium of articles on James Leininger, James Leininger was born to a family with deep ties to a branch of the Lutheran church that had a few strident beliefs. However, back in the 70’s there was a unanimous "turn-away" from the Lutheran Church on the parts of Leininger and his siblings. His subsequent return to the fold and his religious-ness has been labeled by Nathan, as “Sun Belt Entrepreneurship”.

Leininger made his bones in hospital beds. You know, the health industry. That they sometimes malfunction and maim or poison their occasional occupants probably has no relationship to Leininger’s other vital interest in torte reform. But I digress.

Take a look at the statistics summarized on a bar graph showing the total yearly outlay of the state of Texas from 1985 to 2005. THE two largest capital outlays are education and health and human services. Nothing else even comes close. Both have gone up nearly every year, but notice the rate of expansion of health and human services? Far greater than education. Capital outlays have expanded year by year such that over the last 3 years Health and Human Services outlays have actually exceeded that of Education.

Now we all know about the rise in medical expenses, but look at that graph. Can the bubble pop? How will we be able to accommodate that continual upward gradient? Easy. It costs the state, on average, about $4500 to educate a child in public school. Private secular schools are even a little more pricey. But private sectarian schools are dirt cheap.Why? You get what you pay for:

Nearly all teachers in Texas traditional public schools are certified, yet slightly over half of charter school teachers are certified. Few to no private school in Texas requires all of their teachers to have classroom teacher certification. That makes teacher pay negotiable. Private school teachers are among the most poorly paid teachers in the education community. In any school system the greatest expenditure is employee salary – just as it is for any given business. Lower employee salaries mean lower overhead and that means lower tuition fees.

So Leininger et al. want people to take state school vouchers, put their kids in sectarian private schools, the state saves money that it can now spend on getting more hospital beds. And everybody’s happy, right? Well, except for one small thing:

School vouchers is a stupendously bad idea. No one wants them.

Voucher schools are not accountable to taxpayers and legislators. At the same time the Texas Legislature and President Bush are imposing stringent accountability mandates on public schools and barring promotion and diplomas to children who do not attain mastery on all TAKS tests. On the other hand, increasing accountability would rankle the sensibilities of sectarian educators.

The best way to assist all low-performing students is by strengthening their public school and addressing individual learning problems directly. Vouchers could take away tax dollars from the public schools where children have the greatest needs.

Right wing arguments against vouchers are a little paranoid, but still carry some validity (they’re only misguided, not stupid). They argue that putting taxpayer dollars into private education would allow the government to make demands on content and accountability.

So everyone is happy but the children. Like government construction jobs, they want to award our children’s education to the lowest bidder.

Dr. James Leininger’s claims that he only wants to “help poor kids in San Antonio who can't get out of a bad school”. This is disingenuous snake oil. Like Hal Holbrook’s character, “Deep Throat” said in the movie “All the President’s Men”, all you have to do is “follow the money”.

The Percs of Quitting

Take a look at muse’s post today, and Juanita’s post yesterday about Tom DeLay's FEC filing. An entry dated April 25, 2006 (that's right, 22 days after he said he was going to quit) shows that our Tom made a payout of $32,396.02 as a final car payment to US Bank Loan PO Box 790436 Saint Louis, Missouri 63179-0436.

Final car payment? Gee, Tom, I would have negotiated that deal down a little. What’s the car made of, platinum?

Oh, I see. It’s like what you did back in ’04 when you leased a 2004 Toyota Sienna minivan as your campaign car, in 2003, then plunked down a “final payment” after the campaign was over.

Well what the heck, Tom. I’m still driving around my ’03 Honda, couldn’t you have just used the Sienna for your ’05-’06 campaign? What happened to the Sienna, Tom? Why’d you have to buy another car? Oh, that's right, it wasn’t your money.

I wonder if Ronnie Earle is going to want to take a look at that deal as well. It seems he subpoenaed Toyota Motor Corp. for all records regarding the lease and sale of that Sienna as part of his investigation in DeLay’s 2002 money laundering scheme.

Is that pretty much what all quitting candidates get to do? Buy their campaign cars with leftover campaign money. Hey, that’s not a bad deal.

Those are the percs.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

On TFT, Strayhorn, Startup Dates, School Vouchers . . . and Leininger . . . Whaa?

Where does TFT(Texas Federation of Teachers) get off doing something like endorsing former Republican (and still conservative) Carole Keeton Strayhorn in her bid for the governor’s job? For one thing, a recent poll shows her running in 4th place. For another thing, the AFL-CIO, of which TFT is a part, endorsed Democratic candidate Chris Bell at their convention last May.

Explaining herself and this nefarious action, Linda Bridges, TFT president, said
"As a former teacher and longtime supporter of public education, Strayhorn has shown that she will keep the interests of our schoolchildren at the top of her agenda."
This shouldn’t a surprise to anyone. Back in January when Carole Keeton Strayhorn announced her independent candidacy, Linda Bridges was quoted as saying:

“Strayhorn's new independent status improves the prospects for a productive debate on real solutions to the state's failure to fund public education so that all children have a fair chance to succeed."

And last May Strayhorn's comments on HB1 were included in the TFT "Teacher Action" Newsletter along with Linda Bridges'.

I guess when AFL-CIO endorsed Chris Bell at their convention last May, no one bothered to check with Linda, who had already placed her stamp of approval on Strayhorn months earlier and maintained it up to the present. In his statement on Strayhorn's attempt to block their endorsement of Bell, if she couldn't have it herself, Chris Bell quipped "Carole Strayhorn speaking to a labor convention is like Godzilla running for Mayor of Tokyo". I hear that Chris Bell has a rather dry (some say positively arid) sense of humor. This is more like the "in-your-face" variety, I think.

Curiouser and Curiouser
Last February, school start dates became a hot political potato. Several groups were lobbying to have a uniform start date in Texas, and that it be after Labor Day. What’s the diff? Well, come to find out, most of the reasons for a later start date are centered around vacation schedules. Parents want August available to go on vacation. Now THAT makes sense! We need August freed up so we can take our kiddies out of the blistering Texas summer weather. Oh, wait, someone points out, doesn’t that mean that there will be less school time for students to prepare for SATs, ACTs and AP tests? Well, maybe, but we’re talking about a family vacation here!

Where does Carole Keeton Strayhorn weigh in on the issue? Post Labor Day startup. Ever the fiscal conservative, she reckoned it all out and said a later startup will save Texas $790 million. Nice, we can go on vacation in August AND save money to boot (and to heck with the test scores).

But now here’s the kicker: Linda Bridges expressed this view of teachers on the issue (a new view): “many teachers are concerned about pushing back midterm exams until after winter break, a necessary move if school starts in September. The students sometimes forget material during the break”.

So it looks like it is an on again off again relationship.

Linda, I think we need to consider loyalty and consistency here. Could it be that the main reason you endorsed Carole Keeton Strayhorn is that she, as a long-time supporter of school vouchers flipped over to the other side last year? Is that why? Not only has Carole Keeton Strayhorn gotten a total of $100,000 in campaign contributions from James Leininger, one major Texas Fat Cat who is bankrolling the voucher movement in Texas, she got a $950,000 loan from him to run her campaign in 1999. For which she kindly repaid by supporting “a 1999 voucher measure and signed a letter using the Comptroller’s state seal to raise money for a Leininger-founded, pro-voucher think tank.”

But now Carole Keeton Strayhorn, an ex-teacher by the way (oh, you knew that already?), has seen the light and says that “vouchers are off the table”. What table Carole? The one you put them on in the first place?

More on that some other time.

Linda, call it back. You want TFT to back a former teacher who waffles on the issue of school vouchers, supports a late startup day to save money at the expense of childrens’ test scores (and so people can have a vacation during the hot month of August)?

Get real.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Ralph Reed Rolls the Bones

You might have read about the scam attempted by Ralph Reed and Jack Abramoff on “Old Black People” at Juanita’s [scroll down a little, she has a new one on The Appeal that is an absolute scream]. A singularly duplicitous act that rankles in its sheer audacity. Well, now Ralph and Jack, with three others, have a new lawsuit to contend with.

The suit was filed this past Wednesday by the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Livingston, Texas. In the suit, they alleged
"…the defendants defrauded the tribe, the people of Texas and the Legislature to benefit another of Abramoff's clients — the Louisiana Coushatta tribe — and line their pockets with money".
The lawsuit contains same litany of names that have made the news together, time and time again: Jack Abramoff, Michael Scanlon (Remember Mike? Former aide to Tom DeLay), Neil Volz, a former aide to Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio; and Jon Van Horne, Abramoff's former colleague at his law and lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig.

It seems that Ralph Reed was hired by Abramoff (they are very old friends; Ralph even introduced Jack to his future wife) to whip up the anti-gambling elements of right-wing Christian conservatives so that a bill introduced in the Texas Senate to allow casino gambling on Indian reservations would be voted down.

Well, that sounds OK, doesn’t it? Ralph Reed is a renowned Christian conservative who was once head of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition. He’s on record as an opponent to gambling. Ralph would agree with Albert Einstein when he said “God doesn’t roll dice”. So that’s OK, right? Well, except for the fact that the group that was paying Abramoff to pay Ralph to launch this anti-gambling crusade was none other than the Louisiana Coushatta tribe that owns a little ol’ place in Kinder, Louisiana. Livingston, Texas is 177.32 miles from Kinder, Louisiana (according to Mapquest). Competition. Competition is bad. I think it’s in the Bible somewhere.

Oh the audacity. The hypocrisy. Garrison Keillor likens his effort to Ralph Nader soliciting “money from Ford and Chrysler when he went after General Motors' Corvair. Or the Southern Baptists raising money from Sony and Universal to condemn movies by MGM.”

Ralph Reed explained that stopping casino gambling in Texas was a good thing even if he was hired by rival casinos to do it. Hah, Keillor points out, that’s like saying “Lucky Luciano was on solid moral ground when he knocked off Dutch Schultz.”

So like our Tom, Ralph Reed now has legal troubles in addition to an eroding public image as he runs for public office. Yep, Ralph's rolling the bones. He’s running for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia. The primary is this upcoming Tuesday, and he is facing off against Georgia state Senator Casey Cagle. Last month, polls showed Reed with a 5 point lead on Cagle, but also showed 41 percent undecided. Earlier this month a new poll shows that the primary race is a dead heat at 37-37.

Here’s what I am thinking: If Ralph pulls it off and he defeats Cagle, then he’s going to be a busy boy until November 7th. But if Cagle succeeds, and Ralph is turned away, then Ralph’s calendar is clear. Consultant dollars will pour in at Century Strategies, Reed's consulting company, from Republican campaigns in every hotly contested congressional race in the country. If he is defeated next week, Ralph “Red Cloud” Reed just could be making his appearance right here in CD-22 in the near future.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Dad's Right, But People Still Want to Know

You know, not all senior citizens are cautiously conservative. I recently convinced my dad, an 81 year-old retired cop, to change parties on his voter registration from Green Party to Democratic. When I talk to my dad about social issues like gay marriage and abortion, the old guy’s nostrils flare and his eyes flash. He says that those issues do not belong in a political debate. I wish that was true, but unfortunately, in an election year issues like that get hauled up in front of the voters to divert their attention from the issues that DO belong in a political debate, things like fighting a protracted war that is, as time goes on, starting to look like a civil war (you know, like the Vietnam War was). Things like Social Security, fiscal responsibility and transparency in government. Things like that.

And unfortunately it is issues like abortion and gay marriage that are foremost in the minds of voters in Congressional District 22. When you talk to voters and mention some of Nick Lampson’s positions on the pertinent issues, like fiscal issues, it’s sometimes almost surreal when the first question comes back: “yes, but how does Lampson stand on Gay Marriage?” These little diversions are things that Republicans have become so adept at promoting, because they evoke such primal emotions.

So, OK, where does Nick Lampson stand on Gay Marriage? Why not look at his voting record? Novel idea. There it is, right here. He voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman. OK?

Well, I’m not particularly happy about that, but that’s Nick. He’s not afraid of breaking ranks with his fellow Democrats when he sees fit. Why am I not happy about it? No, I’m not gay. I know some, am related to one, but I am not, myself, gay. I have come to the conclusion after years of struggle with the issue, that life is too short for this to be an issue. True love doesn’t occur very often in one’s life. When you fall in love with someone, and want to marry, you should be allowed to. Simple as that. It’s not Gays that upset me, not at all. You know who really upset me though? Bisexuals. They are having far too much fun.

The other issue that comes up? Abortion. Again, it’s all so surreal when you are talking to someone about, say, “Pay as you go”, and they come back with, “OK, but what are his views on abortion?” So, again, go look at the voting record. Then start scratching your head. The voting record gives no clear indication of his views. It appears that he is neither “Pro-Life” nor “Pro-Choice” [Don’t you love those appellations? Unless you’ve been around awhile in this country, you wouldn’t know what either of those viewpoints referred to]

So how do you label Nick’s view? Truth to tell, no single word in the English language describes it, specifically to this issue. Eskimos, Inuits actually, have 15 separate words for snow, but we don’t have one word to describe Nick Lampson’s view on abortion.

Believe it or not, Nick appears to be both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice.

Wait, you say, isn’t that a conflict? You can't have it both ways. You would think so. But last April I got the long-version explanation of his view on this subject in a small crowded room where Nick appeared and spoke on the issues for almost 2 hours.

Let me see if I can reconstruct the argument.

First, Nick is a Catholic. The Church has made its view on abortion to its 1 billion members time and time again that all human life is sacred. So should we have a law that forbids people from having or performing abortions? No, Nick said. That was tried before and it didn’t work. Nick said he that wants America to be a place where there are no abortions. Women will seek out an abortion when they think they have no alternatives. Nick said that we have to pass legislation to make it possible for women not to have abortions. He listed a few possibilities, one that I recall being assistance to women who have financial reasons for needing an abortion.

And that, in the end, is why I like Nick. He doesn’t let strident beliefs direct the issues. He is a pragmatist and a negotiator. He doesn’t want to dictate what people ought to do in order to achieve a goal, he wants to explore as many paths as it takes in order to allow people to make decisions toward that goal.

Contrast that with the views held by “Pro-Lifers”. They apparently have no problem with women and girls getting carved up on back alley abortionists' tables. That’s what it was like back in the pre-Roe v. Wade bad old days. People forget. Done incorrectly (or more ghastly, done by one’s own self), a D&C, or Dilation and Curettage, killed women, or rendered them unable to bear children in the future. It was horrible but it happened all the time despite the existence of laws against abortion. The laws didn’t work. They didn’t work then and they won’t work now. Nick knows that, if Tom DeLay doesn’t know that it is either because he is ignorant, or he just doesn’t care.

We all need to vote for Nick Lampson, but even more, we all need to get active in his campaign and make sure that he wins in November.