Sunday, December 31, 2006

On Norma Chávez’ Hair

In a posting today, McBlogger asks this question of Texas State Representative Norma Chávez:
“What's he have to do to get you stop carrying water for him Norma? Set your hair on fire?”
The “he” that McBlogger refers to is Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick. Norma Chávez continues to support Craddick in his attempt to become a three term speaker. This despite the fact that she is a Democrat. McBlogger decries her loyalty to her constituency who he says, will benefit from a “less-partisan leadership”.

I have to ask: what does McBlogger know about the wants and needs of the people of HD 76? What does he know about what the people of El Paso, Texas want out of their state government?

Norma Chávez knows the answers to those questions because she makes it a study. She knows that being a committee chairman on the House Committee on Border and International Affairs is important to her border-hugging district. She knows that getting $43 M in state funding for the Texas Tech medical school is important to her district.

The Texas Tech School of Medicine was established through legislation passed during the 61st Legislature in 1969. It was specifically designed to train more physicians for West Texas, many counties at the time, had no practicing physicians. Original plans were to establish campuses in El Paso and Amarillo, with a headquarters in Lubbock.

And guess what, another campus was built in 1979 in Odessa. Wait, isn’t Odessa in Tom Craddick’s district? Why I believe it’s so.

A campus in El Paso, originally planned in 1961 has yet to be built, but this $43 M to finally build this campus is what Norma Chávez wants for her district.

Quoting Paul Moreno, whose district also includes part of El Paso McBlogger notes:
“He said that money for the medical school would come no matter who leads the House but that his constituents and poorer Texans would benefit from less-partisan leadership. ‘That medical school (funding) is just wiggling a carrot, that's all,’ he said.”
What I can’t understand is how Moreno knows the money will come? It hasn’t come in the 45 years since the legislation was passed. But it did come 18 years after it passed to a city that wasn’t originally included in the bill.

And Moreno, it should be pointed out, is not a committee chairman.

Norma Chávez should not be faulted for seeing to the interests of her constituents. If she has to sell her vote for Craddick to get things done for her district, big things in her case, then that is what she should do. I don’t like it either. That she will cast her vote for Craddick is anathema to me. But she is the one in the trenches, not McBlogger.

But more to the point, what I want to know is why no one has taken Craddick to task for his blatant violation of the law? Section 302.032 of the Government Code is very specific about this, it’s called “Legislative Bribery”
“A person commits an offense if, with the intent to influence a member of or candidate for the house of representatives in casting a vote for speaker of the house of representatives, the person (1)promises or agrees to cause: (C) preferential treatment on any legislation or appropriation”
Penalty? Try this one on for size:
“Sec.A302.034. PENALTY.AAAn offense under this subchapter is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not less than two years nor more than five years.”
Trouble is Greg Abbott is too busy writing Amicus briefs to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to enforce the laws of his state.

My point? Don’t eat your young. Don’t go attacking fellow Democrats who are doing, in their mind, what is best for the constituents of their district. You are not in their position and cannot even hope to second guess what goes on. If that means you have to blog about your cat from now on, then blog about your cat.

If you want an issue, how about attacking Craddick for his blatant and foul violation of the Government Code – A Felony!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Personal Memory of Gerald Ford

As I listen to Gerald Ford’s Washington memorial, I recall a memory I want to share that just came to mind.

I was in Grad School at USC (the real USC, not that South Carolina one) and Ford was coming to campus to present a half-day course in politics and public administration. It was a big class but there were visitors, as you can imagine there would be. So they moved the class to a small auditorium, whose entrance was overlooked by my supervising professor’s laboratory.

There were four of us students there that day. We were excited and had a bird’s eye view of the arrival portal. He was due to arrive at 10 AM.

Then we heard a commotion outside. A small group of frat rats had lined themselves along the walkway to the entrance, and they were playing the University of Michigan’s fight song “Hail to the Victors”. They were playing it on kazoos. Their conductor kept the pace at double time to emphasize the rivalry of our two schools – a light nudge in the ribs, as it were. They ran through the song twice more at the same tempo, had it the way they wanted it, and then waited for President Ford to arrive.

10 AM came and went. Then it was 10:10 and the entourage approached.

Then guess what? Yes, they played the fight song, but they played it at its usual regular tempo, even emphasizing the strongly played notes, drawing them out even.

Analysis? There was just such huge respect for the man that they couldn’t as a group, bring off the parody in its full blown form.

President Ford laughed and smiled through the whole thing, talked briefly with them, and then shook each of their hands before going in. I later heard that he informed his audience that he had just been serenaded by members of the Trojan Marching Band.

Anyway, I just thought you should know this.

(Nearly All of) Texas House Chairmen Send a Letter

Texas State House members were sent a letter yesterday, endorsed by 27 committee chairman, calling on the House membership to vote a third term for House Speaker Tom Craddick. Vince has seen the letter, too. Go here for his take.

“We want all members of the legislature to know that we firmly support Tom Craddick’s re-election as our Speaker. He is known for fairness and making tough decisions, qualities that are indispensable to the House of Representatives. His critics can’t attack his honesty, his character or his accomplishments
They go on to sing his high praises, listing his accomplishments: the budget, property tax relief, more funding for schools and a teacher pay raise, and then they threw in this zinger:
“In an effort to better reflect the diverse and ever changing face of Texas, Speaker Craddick has reached out across party lines and has appointed more minority members into leadership positions than in any other time in the Legislature’s history. This diversity has helped build a spirit of bipartisanship and respect across the aisle.”
Excuse me? We know just why Craddick reached across the aisle to put Democratic minorities into leadership positions. As long as Craddick is Speaker, they have their chairmanships. As long as they stay in line they keep their leadership positions where they can be more effective for the voters in their district. One hand washes the other.

Notably absent in their endorsement of this letter were Jim Pitts, who is still also running, as well as Talton, Ritter and Eiland, who have sided with McCall.

Brian McCall, running in the three-way race for House Speaker, responded with his own brief statement on the letter after reading it:
“No speaker in Texas history has burned through more committee chairs than the current speaker. He lost four just this week. It's no surprise that the 27 members who hold chairmanships would be the last ones seeking reform of the status quo. I've spoken with some of the chairs on the list and I don't think we're through with the defections.”

Nice one Representative McCall, especially that last bit. I don’t think this letter is going to fool anyone. All it was was a naked display of the status quo: how Craddick gets and has maintained his power.

It is a reminder to the rest just how things will be run if he is re-elected. If nothing else, all of these recent suggestions that he will reform his tactics and will be a fairer speaker if elected are negated by this letter.

Ann and I Go Birding At Brazos Bend State Park

My friend Ann has been taking care of her ailing father for nearly a year now. He’s been in and out of the hospital recently, and with him in hospital just now I called and asked if she wanted to go to Brazos Bend State Park, our favorite place. I knew she needed a break, and I also knew she wouldn’t say no.

Brazos Bend State Park is just outside the Needville city limits along FM 762. Within its 5000 acre area it contains several unique ecological habitats. We go there to walk the trails and look at the wildlife. We go at different times of the year because the landscape and the wildlife constantly change.

And we go to watch birds.

Neither of us is an expert on this by any means. Ann is better at recalling the names than I am. When we go on the guided bird watching tours, we always learn a lot, and some of it sticks. Yesterday all we had was Ann’s Field Guide to Birds of North America, but we were finally able to figure out what those "real little birds" were: Gnatcatchers. Ann found it: Blue-grey Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) They are so active it’s hard to follow them with your binoculars. They must eat a lot of gnats to have that kind of energy. Either that or they use their energy efficiently. Ann pointed out that hummingbirds are 47% efficient in their energy intake to expenditure.

One thing we didn’t expect to see because they’re northern birds, is the American Robin (Turdus migratorius) but we found a whole flock of them. Then we discovered that their wintering range is in this general area and south, so there you go. An American Robin, you know, isn’t really a robin, it’s a thrush, but early colonists noticed the bird's red breast and likened it to the English Red Robin. So the name stuck.

What else did we see? One Great Blue Heron standing as stiff as a statue. White and Black Ibises (Ibi?), a couple of Cardinals, both female, something that looks like a sandpiper (it has a black ring around its neck) but we couldn’t figure it out, and coots, coots, coots. Coots breed in the fall. We saw several coot families. Their young have brown mottled feathering that probably serves as protective coloration. Mature coots are black.

In the early spring, the park is lush and green and the lakes are covered with algae and lily pads, in winter it looks stark by contrast. In early spring you can see nutria scampering around in the grassy plains. By late spring they have nearly all become alligator dinners. Alligators can be seen sunning themselves across the trails and lurking in the lakes in the spring and summer. In winter, they’re all but gone. Ann actually spooked one 4 year old that was lying on the bank of 40 Acre Lake.
Just one.

Alligators don’t hibernate per se. They dig holes in banks and lie in them, slow down their metabolism, but don’t sleep. Obviously. This 4 year old was out and about.

How do you tell how old an alligator is? Estimate the length from snout tip to eyes (usually the only part you can see). The number of inches is the number of years old the gator is.

It rained lightly off and on all morning but that only made the visit better because you see different things and different things happen. Where and when else do you see a black ibis sitting on a dead tree with its wings outstretched letting the wind dry them?

After we made the circuit around 40 Acre Lake I wanted to drive over to Elm Lake to see what it looked like in winter. Again, the greenery and algae was very much reduced. There is a big picnic area on the northern shore of the lake, and I noticed some by god brand new picnic tables and concrete pads had been recently installed. It doesn’t jive with all the news about Texas’s state park system being underfunded. Hopefully that’ll change in the next legislative session. My guess is the new facilities are the result of donations which Brazos Bend State Park gets a lot of. That and a great volunteer program.

We took a last look around then made the trip back to Ann’s house. The place was in utter chaos. The hospital had called and said that they were discharging Ann’s dad a day early. Beds needed to be taken apart and arrangements made.

Ann’s reality came crashing down on her.

I was glad she had the morning of escape and indulgence in something that she really likes to do. Ann is the best person I know. She's saving her dad's life.

Friday, December 29, 2006

On Eating Our Young: Not a Way to Turn Texas Blue

Vince at Capitol Annex posted very cogent arguments on his blog this morning. It has been going around in this whole Texas House vote for Speaker, that Craddick Democrats need to be identified and targeted in the next election cycle, and that they need to know right now that this targeting is occurring in order to influence their vote.

Vince argues that targeting of Democrats will lead to net losses, not net gains in the ’08 election. I couldn’t agree more.

It has been argued that these “Craddick Ds” represent “safe” districts where any Democrat who wins the primary, wins the general, so these Democrats who vote for Craddick should be replaced in the next primary. However, this is not 100% the case, as Vince points out:
"However, seats like Hopson, Rose are forever lost if those two are defeated in primaries. I don’t think it is sound strategy to advocate that votes in the speaker’s race should result in these or other Democrats being challenged in the primary”
Well Kuffner thinks that Chuck Hopson is a McCall defector, but in looking at Patrick Rose of the 45th district it’s a different story. Rose won his seat in a squeaker in 2002, and did a little better in 2004, 54.6% to 45.4% and it appears he has finally entrenched himself in the last election, handily defeating his Republican opponent 60% to 40%. But that has taken time and name recognition and trust to have slowly built. All you will do in placing a primary challenger on the ballot in HD 45, challenging him on this single wedge issue, is to divide the party in HD 45. And if you succeed in replacing him on the ballot – over this one issue – you risk losing the seat.

Quite frankly, the whole thing may be moot. Unless I miss my guess, Tom Craddick has suffered an incredible loss of momentum in the past week. The wind has literally been sucked out of his sails. Whether the new Speaker is Anyone But Craddick Republican Jim Pitts or Anyone But Craddick Republican Brian McCall, it doesn’t matter as far as Craddick goes (but as far as Speaker goes, I hope the Dems can elect McCall).

But I have said it once (more than once, but not here) and I’ll say it again, if Democrats truly want to take it back and make Texas blue, they simply have to give up their old habits of eating their young.

The Ironies of Living and Dying in a Muslim Sectarian State.

So we may or may not be entering a deathwatch for former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. That he has been handed over to the Iraqi government for them to exercise their option to murder him is not in question. He’s in Iraqi hands. Although there are conflicting reports, CNN reported it.

The irony is one of religion and the calendar. Lots of people want to terminate him before the end of this year. Ah, but there’s the rub. Starting tomorrow the Muslim world enters another multi day holiday or Eid, known as Eid al-Adha. Eid al-Adha is a celebration of Allah’s mercy and provision to man. And it’s also about charity – reaching out to friends and family and those in need. Its celebration runs concurrent to the end of the Hadj, or pilgrimage to Mecca.

But during Eid, executions are strictly forbidden. And Eid starts in a few hours, at sunrise.

So if you want to whack Saddam Hussein before the end of the year, you have to do one of three things.

  1. Do it tomorrow before sunrise. After all, the rope is ready, the papers are signed. After all, that’s what they said they were going to do, exterminate him tomorrow.
  2. Get clerics to issue a fatwa or religious proclamation that gives the Iraqi government special permission to turn out his lights on a religious holiday.
  3. Do it now. Waste him. Why wait?

A devil’s dilemma if I ever saw one. Why? Well consider this:

There is such a concern that there will be an outpouring of Sunni anger and violence should they move up the clock and off Saddam in anticipation of a moratorium on executions during Eid. So in the violence that will ensue, more Iraqis will die when they lynch him.

There is also a concern that there will be an outpouring of Sunni anger and violence should they go the fatwa route and acquire special permission to bump him off during a religious holiday that celebrates charity. So in the violence that will ensue, still more Iraqis will die when they put a hit on him.

They are so concerned that some are saying why not just do him now and catch those who are planning to go out into the streets completely off guard. And that will really piss them off. So in the violence that will ensue, even more Iraqis will die when they take him out.

Any way they do it, they’re f. . . ., f . . .

It’s a good word, I just try to keep the site clean, so I’ll use the new word that was coined by Norman Mailer in his 1948 war novel, “The Naked and the Dead”:

Any way they do it, they’re fugged.

So I have just three question here. Is life in Iraq so cheap that Iraqis are willing to sacrifice tens or hundreds of Iraqi lives so they can introduce this one man to the infernal regions? Is there any valid point to murdering this murderer? And am I the only one saying this? I could find only one answer.

Does this make any sense at all? I say put him on a plane and set him up in a Yurt in the Uyghur Autonomous region of central China.

Let him spend the rest of his life gathering fire wood for a living.

Where in the World is John Edwards?

I spent some time this morning looking at John Edwards’ campaign website. Holy Krishna did they ever spend thought and time on this one. They are really bending over backwards to bring in the blogosphere.

I had to laugh. The new term I’ve recently seen here and there is also there:

“Citizen Journalist”.

Anyway I wanted to find out what the only presidential campaign was going to be doing today. Here’s the announcement on their website:
“Join us for an Online Town Hall live from Portsmouth, N.H. on Friday. Live video will begin here at at 12:30 PM ET / 9:30 AM PT. Check back later this morning to send your questions to John Edwards.”
So I guess you can submit questions, if you want. It’s 7:30 AM at this writing so I guess they’ll take questions . . . when?

Then tomorrow it looks like he’ll be on “Hardball”

I also noticed that they have grassroots organizations called OneCorps. 120 Chapters so far.

So far, for the one existing presidential campaign, it looks like a good beginning. I just wonder if the campaign has the legs to go for another, what, 22 months?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Craddick's Numbers Go South

26 Legislators have left Tom Craddick’s November list. When I mentioned the fact that his support was eroding, I think the word eroding was an understatement. It’s positively evaporating. Quorum Report issued two lists of Craddick pledges. The November 8 list has 109 names, 79 Republicans, and 30 Democrats. Today’s list shows a reduction of 13 Democrats and 13 Republicans. Shown at right is a spreadsheet subtraction between the two lists. Click to enlarge.

Tack onto that the fact that McCall now claims that 16 names on Craddick’s December 28 list are on his (not saying which ones). Did we just see a huge blunder on the part of Craddick?

He showed his, but McCall didn’t respond in kind.

That reduces Craddick’s list of 83 pledges to 67 pledges. That’s 8 short of 75.

Craddick is losing in the numbers game. But wait, if you are losing this game, why not game the system?

Quorum Report is reporting that Craddick spokesman Bill Miller has let it be known that McCall is not actually a candidate. Not a for real candidate, because he has failed to file with the Texas Ethics Commission. That is, the TEC hasn’t received his paperwork. Well I’m having trouble with my mail, too. I’m still getting Christmas cards. The mail is slow this time of year. McCall, to my mind, was almost kind in his remarks that he sent in the paperwork on the 21st, and that it’s the postmark that counts, not when they receive the paperwork.

But that was a good one, using the TEC to erase your opposition.


Talton Bolts From the Dark Side - Pitts Steps In

I can’t believe what I am reading.

Bob Talton is endorsing Brian McCall in a move to unseat Tom Craddick?! This is the Bob Talton who was thinking of running for candidate in CD-22 before he was turned away by the TDP and its lawyers?

This is the Bob Talton who introduced a bill banning gays from being foster parents? [you know, maybe it might be a good idea to introduce a bill banning state legislators from being foster parents – especially if they are or the Republican stripe]

THAT Bob Talton?

Bob Talton makes Tom Craddick look like a flaming liberal by comparison, and a pretty nice guy at that.
So the smell of blood must be in the air and the wolves are encircling a wounded doe-eyed deer.

If I were a Craddick Democrat right now, I would be seriously considering what can happen if McCall can pull it off. I certainly wouldn’t want to be hanging back waiting for a majority vote for a secret ballot that just isn’t going to happen.

Now I can do the math.
McCall says he has 73 pledges - 17 Republican and 56 Democrats
Craddick says he has 72 pledges - 59 Republican, and 13 Democrats

Now Senfronia Thompson, who was also running for Speaker, made no secret that she would cast her lot with McCall. She said that she had "some 60 pledges." That, assuming she had no Republican pledges, gives McCall 60 Democratic pledges adding to a total vote of 77.

And now Jim Pitts (HD 10) has thown in. He says neither Craddick nor McCall have the votes. My oh my, for a sleepy week between Christmas and New Year's, Texas Legislators certainly can throw themselves a barbecue when they want to.

John Edwards Promises to Announce Tomorrow (But What the Heck, He's Running!)

I still have to figure out what is going on with John Edwards' campaign.

Yes, he announced that he will announce his candidacy on Thursday. So, yes . . . he's running, right? But then today he released a video available on You Tube that announces that he will annouce his candidacy tomorrow where he will be standing in the 9th Ward of New Orleans. Exactly where he is standing in the video.

John, I am a teacher and know exactly what you are doing. But the 3rd time around the people are going to start wondering about you. My students do when I pull this so I am a voice of experience here.

I'm sorry, I like John but what the heck is going on here? An announcement of an announcement (of an announcement?) Has it been announced yet?

I'm sorry, I'm maybe too tired. Here's the video.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Support for Craddick Appears to Be Eroding

My good friend Susan shot me a hot tip on the Texas House Speaker race. Brian McCall may be getting the upper hand in this race. It’s about as enigmatic as you can get, but according to “anecdotal information” there has been a shift in the tide.

Indeed The Chron carried a story by Lisa Sandberg and Polly Ross Hughes mentioned this shift as well in another context.
“McCall expressed confidence that he had secured enough pledges from disgruntled members, including many of the 109 who last month signed pledge cards for Craddick, to topple him next month. McCall declined to give a number or any names.”
No, that’s not something you do, publish the names of people who are about to double-cross the most ruthless, vindictive and mean-spirited man in the legislature.

You know what we really need here? What we really need is a way for the voters to show what their mindset is. Do the voters want Craddick out? If yes, to what extent? If there were such a vehicle, maybe the legislators with less to lose might be persuaded to come over from the Dark Side.

On the Passing of Gerald Ford

There is one heck of a good write-up at the Washington Post on the life and times of Gerald R. Ford, who passed away yesterday evening in his Rancho Mirage home in California. I read it from top to bottom. It helped me recall many of the events that so very much affected my life: the OPEC oil embargo of the early 70’s, the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, Watergate, and Chevy Chase’s many pratfalls made in parody of what we all perceived as a stumblebum president. Well, all except for the last one. That one didn’t affect anyone’s life except Chevy Chase’s. He clearly made out big at the expense of Gerald Ford.

Don't you love the above photo of him with the Kilgore College Rangerettes in Kilgore, Texas?

I recalled the sense of relief when Ford took over after Nixon resigned. There was such a heaviness on everything. When Ford took over, in his inaugural address, which I can still hear in my mind, Ford said this: “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over”. Or so he thought. We wanted Nixon’s head on a platter. We wanted jail time for Tricky Dick. When Gerald Ford pardoned him on September 8, 1974, I came unglued.

Here’s two things I didn’t know about Gerald Ford:

He was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr. His father and mother divorced early, and his mother moved to Grand Rapids and married Gerald R. Ford. Her son, Leslie, was adopted by Ford and renamed. What is more astounding is that Gerald Jr. was not told anything about his biological father. He found out the hard way when his father came through town on his way to pick up a new Lincoln. He stopped in the lunch counter where Ford was working and introduced himself.

The saying “He can’t walk and chew gum at the same time,” was coined by Lyndon Johnson when he was president, and Johnson was referring to Gerald Ford.

Really. I didn’t know that.

Gerald Ford attributed his loss to Jimmy Carter to the fact that he pardoned Nixon. That’s the common thought. To my mind, this isn’t so. The election was held a full year and two months after the pardon. Voters have an uncanny ability to forget stuff like that. If it didn’t happen last week no one remembers.

It was the debate. You remember, the one where Gerald Ford stated unequivocally that Poland was not a Soviet satellite state (geez, it was even called the Warsaw Pact). The look that Jimmy gave Ford was absolutely precious. But that’s not the part of the debate that drove voters away from Gerald Ford. It sure wasn’t. I recall this clearly. Ford had a head cold that night, it was widely reported. He was offering up a summation and there was a close-in head shot of him. You could see it starting in his left nostril. He had a drippy nose, and a drip had formed that slowly and surely traveled down toward his upper lip. But he kept on talking, even as the drip passed to his mouth. I doubt that anyone heard a single word he was saying as we were all watching in rapt attention at the progress of the nose drip.

That’s what lost him the election. Who would trust a man who wouldn’t wipe his own nose on a nationally broadcast presidential debate?

Anyway, Gerald Ford is gone. He had a full life, and he was, from all accounts, a good and decent man when he wasn’t voting against increasing the minimum wage and such the like.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Dead Eye Dick (Cheney) Makes the Cover of Mad Magazine

I haven't bought a copy of Mad Magazine in more years than some of you are in age out there, but I am sorely tempted to go down and pick up a copy (at $3.99 per copy - man it has been a long time!). The cover is below. "20 Dumbest, People, Events & Things of 2006.

"The Preview PDF file at their website has 4 additional dumb people, things and events.

Boy do I remember this. Dead Eye Dick Cheney shot a friend in the face while quail hunting on a friend's ranch in South Texas. It was last February before this blog started, but it is one of the reasons why it did start. The commentary was murderous. Especially about the 14 hour lapse between the accident and a comment from the White House.

Murderous commentary.

Appropriate for a man who is personally responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people in Iraq.

And then came the Dick Cheney jokes:

This one from Daniel Kurtzman

I remember Jon Stewart's infamous comment: "...the first person shot by a sitting veep since Alexander Hamilton."

Jeff Nussbaum, a Washington consultant who sometimes doubles as a comedy writer, wrote this gem:
"It was faulty intelligence: the CIA assured him that Harry Whittington was actually a pheasant.''
And Wonkette was all over this one.

And then there were the cartoons. Click on the one below for more.
So congratulations, Dick. You made it to the cover of Time . . . er . . . Mad Magazine. Well then who the H-E-double hockey sticks IS on the cover of Time magazine as Person of the Year? Oh yeah, that's right. I am.

Hanukkah Menorahs Vandalized

I like to think that we live in enlightened times. I like to compare the previous generation’s notion of the American “Melting Pot” where people of vastly different cultures coalesce and combine into a new and unique American culture to the new notion. The new notion being that America is a place of vast cultural diversity and that that diversity is celebrated. This is especially true in Southeast Texas, where a grand mixture of cultures exists.

But then all I have to do is open up a newspaper, or in this case, an online news website, and see that religious intolerance is still a problem here. FortBendNow reports that a Menorah placed at the entrance to New Territory Lakewood neighborhood was vandalized on Christmas Eve. As reported in FortBendNow:

"The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office received a complaint Sunday at about 10:45 a.m. that someone has destroyed a menorah, made from plastic pipe and illuminated with lights."

"The menorah, a symbol of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, was on display at Kendall Creek and Homeward Way at the entrance to New Territory’s Lakewind neighborhood, according to a sheriff’s dispatch"

"Close by, a nativity display was left untouched."
Now I know that most Christians don’t hate Jews, just as I know that most Christians do not go out of their way to vandalize and deface symbols of the Jewish faith. But I also know this: this is not an isolated incident.

As a matter of fact, an incident in Harris County occurred where a man drove up to a Jewish household in Meyerland, punctured an inflatable menorah and drove off. And just to prove that this was no accident, the man returned and destroyed an inflatable bear next to it.

Take that you Jewish Bear!

Harris County and Fort Bend County police are trying to figure out if the cases are related. Well I tell you what, guys, while you are investigating whether these two hate crimes are related, maybe you ought to contact the police in Mountain View and Sunnyvale, California where two menorahs were vandalized. And while you are at it, give the police in Manatee County, Florida a call and see if you can find any similarity to the hate crime that involves the Star of David that was hanging on the door of Alan and Rachel Zion’s home, said star has gone missing, as well as the smearing of pork products on their son’s car. Oh, and by the way, make sure you talk to the police in St. James, New York. They actually have the vandal and his crime on tape. The image is blurry and in black and white, but apparently his MO is a “flying kick”.

Or maybe the only relationship between these hate crimes is that there are some Christians out there who want to celebrate their Lord’s birth by committing heinous acts of religious hate.

You know, I am not optimistic. I think that no matter how much we as a nation and as a society advance, no matter how much we become enlightened and begin to admire our multicultural society, there will remain amongst us those who cannot separate religious faith from religious bigotry. Just like sometimes a horse will be born with vestigal bones calling back to the Oligocene days when equines ran around on three toes, human avatars of bigotry and hate spring up from time to time.


You know, I’m not an expert here by any stretch of the imagination, but I think Jesus would take a dim view of the actions of these Neanderthals.

As a matter of fact, I am fairly certain, from what I’ve read about Him, that He would be mightily pissed off at them.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

John Edwards to Announce on Thursday

Well it's official. This Thursday John Edwards will announce his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. The backdrop? The Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans.

That's appropriate. What better place to announce than the site of failed Republican policies? It's either there or Baghdad and I'll bet they even considered Baghdad for about a picosecond. I think he'll do well here in Texas. We have a bunch of new residents here. Victims of both Katrina and Rita who have had to permanently relocate because of Bush's failures. So highlighting their former residence is a plus.

I wonder how many responses to his email message he got? I sent my response. It was entitled Run, John, Run.

But you have to wonder about his timing. It's a little risky, isn't it, to announce your candidacy while the entire country is doing everything except reading newspapers and watching TV news? I'm even taking a risk going to some effort to post this so it can be read by two actual readers, the four people who are googling the words "giving head" and the eighteen individuals looking for images of a black horse or Krishna.

I agree with the reporter's speculation that the benefit to this early announcement would be to get the drop on Obama and Clinton who aren't expected to announce anything until early January.

But why not do it differently? The way this race is shaping up, it promises to be very exceptional.
  1. For the first time in decades there is no incumbent and no candidate stepping up from the Vice President's office. Wait, is that right? Decades? Absolutely. Not since 1952 when former General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower ran against Senator Adlai E. Stevenson.

  2. For the first time ever America is considering electing a woman to the highest office in the land.

  3. Not for the first time, but for the first time seriously, a man with DNA that comes from Africa is being seriously considered. America has come a long way from the Jesse Jackson days when he wasn't considered electable because he's black, to the Barak Obama days when he isn't considered electable because he's too inexperienced.

  4. And finally, for the first time I can recall, the dark horses are begging off before announcing. Evan Bayh said bye-bye last week.

And it looks like the neocons are going to have to sit this one out unless they can come up with someone who has a lot of distance between them and Bush. That they have to choose between McCain and Giuliani (so far) is just making my day.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

John Edwards - POTUS?

Ah. It finally came. muse posted the request earlier, but John Edwards’ machine evidently had me down on the list.

John Edwards wants to know if he should run for president. And he asked me. ME. This from John Edwards:
"I'm getting ready to take this effort to the next level - to bring Americans together in all fifty states to tackle the big challenges facing our country, from poverty and lack of health care, to energy and global warming. But this is our effort, and we can only succeed if we're all in it together. So before I make a final decision, I need to hear from you: Are you ready?”
H-E double heck yes I am ready. John, if you DON’T run I don’t know what we will do with you. I want you to run, John. I want Hillary to run. What the heck I want Barak Obama to run. These are the three best (so far) that we Democrats can offer up to the electorate. I like Hillary, you know. Her politics most closely match mine. Is she electable is the question that will follow her around the country. Here in Texas where we have to deal with a whole other voter animal, I have to ask whether she will help or hurt the local ballot. And I am still thinking about that ...

Yeah, John. Run. Let’s let things go their course. Bottom line, I WILL support the Democratic candidate who will cream the Republican nominate in November ’08. Just show me that this is going to be you and it is a no-brainer.

So yeah, John. Get it done. Better yet. Show me that you can win now, and you have my vote now.

A Card In The Mail Evokes Memories and Regrets

When I was doing a little research on former Texas SREC member Michael Franks I encountered a comment of his that he left in a conservative blog just after November 7th. Here is what he said:
“It just hit me, that after all these years, Ron Paul will once again be the ONLY Republican Congressman in Fort Bend County!!!! How totally bizzare (sic) that after 3 decades, things have come full circle.”
Let me clue you in Mr. Franks. Fort Bend County has NO Republican congressman. Ron Paul is as Republican as I am. He’s a Libertarian wack job.

CD14 really lost out on a chance to elect someone who would actually do something for his district, not demonstrate his devotion to Libertarian ideals to 5% of his constituency. Shane Sklar would have been great for the district.

I am reminded of the Sklar campaign by two things. One was a “Thank you” letter he sent out to all of the people who worked or helped with his campaign. In my opinion, I didn’t do enough for his campaign, and could have done more. Nevertheless, I got this note with Shane’s personal addition: “Thanks Hal!”

Now that takes class.

And then the other thing is this. I just went out to retrieve the mail this afternoon, and what do I find in my mailbox? A Christmas card from the Sklar family. OK, it was paid for by the campaign, but still . . .

I really should have done more for that campaign. District wide, Ron Paul won by a 20 point spread. Everyone agrees that Shane’s biggest problem was name recognition. CD14 is huge, covering 10 counties or parts of counties. It was worse in Fort Bend County where he trailed by 51 points. However, the largest population center in the Fort Bend portion of CD14 is Katy which is about 75:25 Republican to Democrat voter anyway. Rabid Republican at that.

Shane actually did carry two counties. Calhoun County by a squeaker: a 2% margin, and Jackson County by 11%. The latter is Shane’s county of residence and there was definitely a home field advantage for him. Example, in the Senate race in Jackson County Kay Bailey beat Barbara Ann by 44%.

So thanks for the card Shane. And Happy Holidays to you, too.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Congressman-Elect Nick Lampson Undergoes Angioplasty

Imagine my concern this evening when I learned that Texas Congressman-elect Nick Lampson was not released from the St. John's Hospital in Nassau Bay. I was on my way out to cadge a few Christmas items and was waiting to hear news about Nick on the 6 o'clock news. 5 minutes into the news it was announced that he was kept in the hospital "for observation purposes".

Holy Krishna. They don't keep you all night and all day in the hospital for "observation purposes." But I couldn't find out anything so I left.

Then who do I see on one of my stops but Pat! You remember Pat don't you? My block walking partner this past summer? She was shopping with her husband and I was on my way out when they were coming in. I said a brief "hi", stashed my items in the car, and then went back in to hunt her down.

Pat is the new mother-in-law to a key Lampson staffer and I had to catch up, and find out about Nick. But Pat didn't know anything either. Nick was at a party in a restaurant, that's all she knew. So we traded information, and caught up on our families, then parted.

And now, tonight, I find out, through The Chron, that they found, in an angiogram administered at around 3 PM today, that Nick had a partial blockage in a heart vessel.

That's fixable. It's called a stent. It's a miraculous wire mesh tube that is inserted while the patient is awake and aware, and then, when emplaced, enlarged to open up the blockage.

So Nick's OK.

So no more french fries, OK Nick?

Only good fats for you from now on, deal? It is called Omega-3 fatty acid. It's found in northern cold water seafood. Icelandic cod. Nice big fish. Lots of meat, lots of good fat that won't clog your heart vessels. Studies show that Omega-3 fatty acids actually work against plaque buildup in blood vessels.

Good fish.

Rest Nick.

Do your Christmas shopping online like the rest of the civilized world. Save yourself for the fight to increase the minimum wage, to restore medical benefits for seniors, and to end the war in Iraq.

You're a man with heart. Now you're a man with a reinforced heart. Better than new.

And have another helping of steamed Icelandic Cod.

Fort Bend Republican Infighting: No End In Sight

Getting back to Republicans bashing each other in the comments section on FortBendNow, Fort Bend County’s premier online newspaper, I keep waiting for someone to look up and notice that everyone is watching them claw each other into bloody masses.

The fracas is over the actions of Gary Gillen, the Chariman of the Fort Bend Republican Party, When he took it upon himself to front the money for their primary fundraiser of the year, the Lincoln-Reagan Dinner, and then turn oversight of the event over to a political action committee that he founded, the Fort Bend Republican PAC, all heck broke loose.

Some members of the Executive Committee, led by Vice Chair Linda Howell, howled in anger and frustration and threatened to sue Gillen. These are Republicans of the evangelical neocon branch of the party. Gillen represents the moderate wing.

A little background. When Gillen took over from Eric Thode, neocon evangelicals changed the Party by-laws to emasculate the chairman position. He couldn’t make a move without their agreement. He couldn’t sign checks or contracts. He couldn’t commit to anything without the EC’s approval. They created a Chairman position with no cojones.

Gillen returned the favor by hijacking their money source.

So every time Bob Dunn comes out with a news story or an Op/Ed piece, the battle is joined and the factions hammer each other in public. There seemed to be no end in sight until this morning, I noticed under this story a voice of reason post a plea to both sides to work together. Comment 12 by Michael Franks. Michael Franks is a former SREC member who also vied in the ’06 Republican primary for the Republican candidate for HD 28. He and three others lost to John Zerwas (Franks got 317 votes).

Franks’ arguments were very persuasive. So persuasive that I said to myself, “Uh oh, there goes the public shooting match”.

He said things like this:
“This all needs to stop!!! I cannot urge any stronger for the party to come together, to work together, and to put on this LDD together.”
And this:
“How ever this started doesn’t matter anymore. STOP IT. Show some statesmanship and have some “conflict resolution,” NOT escalate it!!!! ...which is the INVERSE of leadership and statesmanship REGARDLESS of who started what, when were and how.”
I don’t know about you but when I get email with so many exclamation points it goes right to my Junk Mail Folder.

He concludes with this:

“As a former party leader I URGE you to stop this, shake hands, ask forgiveness, build a new bridge of trust and cooperation, and put this event on together as the party. Use this situation to make you stronger and united, oh what a story THAT would be to have reported on. The alternative and to continue to do otherwise would be tragic.”
Oh well, I said to myself, it was fun while it lasted.

Then I read on.

“Michael — with all due respect, have you called Gary and told him that? What was his response? A group hug is not going to be possible until Gary concedes that the PAC was a bad idea and agrees to turn the event back over to the Party.”
And then:

“The EC is doing what it has to do. The alternative would be to let the Party’s longest-running and largest funding resource be in control of a single individual with no Party oversight.”
So basically Michael Franks was told by the neocon side to sit down and shut up. They want nothing but complete and total capitulation out of Gillen, and will shriek and claw in public until they get it.

I don’t think it’s coming anytime soon.

muse reports that over in Washington Nancy Pelosi has already gotten people working on retaining the freshmen congressmen in ’08 – the ones that won in close races against Republican incumbents or ones who skated in because of controversy surrounding their opponents. One aspect of this is to put freshmen congressmen in high profile positions where they can do their districts the most good. Over here in Fort Bend County, we have the Republican Party working on their own freshman congressman retention program. By the time ’08 comes around all there will be is a smoky charred landscape where a Republican Party once stood.

And speaking of freshmen congressmen, glad to hear everything is OK, Nick. You scared us all.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dismissing Al Qu'ran, Or Why Racist Neocon Nutjobs Need to Shuddup

Just when things are dying down about how Americans don’t really hate Muslims, out comes “The Ellison Controversy”.

Newly elected Congressman Keith Ellison, an American who has converted to Islam, wants to be sworn into office with his hand on Al Qu’ran. Not in the official swearing in ceremony mind you, the one where everyone stands in the same room with their hands in the air, a private ceremony that is common practice. They usually use a family Bible, or maybe even a Torah.

Being Jewish is OK now – Israel and Armageddon and all that - so they can have a Torah in their ceremony.

But Keith Ellison is the first Muslim elected to Congress, and he wants to use the symbol of his faith. So now all of the neocon crazies that I thought we had sent to the corner last November come back to scream bloody murder.

Dennis Prager – a right wing radio commentator (a Jew by the way):

"Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress."
Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore (removed from the bench for refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from the state’s supreme court building):
“In 1943, we would never have allowed a member of Congress to take their oath on 'Mein Kampf,' or someone in the 1950s to swear allegiance to the 'Communist Manifesto.' Congress has the authority and should act to prohibit Ellison from taking the congressional oath today!"
And most recently, Virgil Goode – Virginia Congressman
“The Muslim representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.”
How in the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks are we ever going to convince the Islamic world that America isn’t just a seething pit of Islamophobic racists? Well nigh to impossible if you listen to what’s being said and watch what is being done in Iraq.

And you know, it really is ignorance rearing its ugly head once more. Al Qu’ran contains many parts of the books of the Old Testament within its pages, and even some of the books of the Apocrypha.

But all of that really doesn’t matter, does it? There is one document that covers the whole “Controversy” and tells all of those Islamophobic racists to crawl in a hole.

The Constitution of the United States:

Amendment 1.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”
Amendment 14.
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
You know, I just looked and looked, but I just couldn’t find the part about how people of non-Christian faiths can’t use their holy book in a swearing in ceremony.

Yes, we are involved in an immoral war with people of the Islamic faith. Yes, Muslims drove 727s into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

But do you want to know who is our greatest enemy in the War on Terror? These neocon racist nutjobs.

Cheer Up Susan

Oh well, my plan didn't work.

I figured that if even a quarter of Susan Bankston's (formerly known as Juanita Jean Herownself) faithful readers clicked on the link to my blog in hers, read my blog, and then go vote for her on Capitol Annex, it would put her over the top. But like Democratic voters in HD 29, Susan's readers stayed home.

That's OK, the blogs that won are good blogs and I read them daily, too, except I usually click back when I see Kuffner blogging about baseball. Given a choice between watching a baseball game and watching my lawn grow, I'll take the lawn every time.

Anyway to cheer up Susan, and to give anyone else a laugh, I thought I would put up this new You Tube video by standup comedian Rob Paravonian. It is a delightfully constructed rant on Pachelbel's Canon in D.

A rant on Pachelbel's Canon in D? Click on it to understand.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cast Your Ballots in the Capitol Annex Poll - Deadline is Midnight Tonight

The last special election of the year was not yesterday. It's today. At midnight tonight the polls will close and you'll have to wait until someone thinks to do this again after the next general election. So go to Capitol Annex and cast your votes for your favorite things.

And when you get down to Items 15 and 16 (best Texas and regional blogs, respectively), do NOT select Half Empty in 16. Don't waste your vote on this site (I still can't believe someone nominated it - look at the Archives, I've been doing this since June. JUNE!).

On the other hand, Juanita has been posting her rants on the internets since 1992. I go there everyday. Not to read what someone else wrote, or read about what someone else wrote, although she does that sometimes as well. I go there because she cracks me up. She can turn a phrase like no one else. Really. Where else would you read this?
"I know these Friendswood guys haven’t been here very long, but if they hang around a while in southeast Texas, they’ll soon be trilingual. You learn to speak enough Spanish to order from a menu and enough French to tell that Cajun neighbor of yours that his crawfish cooker scares you a little. Around Fort Bend you learn enough Czech to understand when you’ve been told to kiss a butt. Otherwise you would starve to death, tremble during crawfish season, and get your butt kicked."

I've even written her a campaign song:

Vote twice for Juanita
In Item 15, and then Item 16
Vote twice for Juanita,
In Item 15, and then Item 16
Vote twice for Juanita,
You'll never regret that you did
So when you go vote twice for Juanita
She will flip her lid!

If it's anything that I've learned in this past election, you can't get elected without one of these.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

HD 29 Election: The Agony And The Ecstacy

Well, let’s cut to the chase: Dr. DiNovo did not win the special election.

He came in third in a field of four candidates. No one achieved a 50% plus 1 majority so the 29th Texas House District is in for ANOTHER election. This time to let the voters decide which of the two Republicans they want to represent them in Austin.

So, all you voters in Brazoria and Matagorda Counties, you get to choose between two conservative Republicans. It all boils down to a beauty pageant now, because the ideological choice is now nonexistent.

Kind of reminds me of the Soviet Union in its heyday.

Here are the final numbers:

Did you catch that? All that had to happen in this race was for 400 more Democrats to come out and vote for Anthony DiNovo.


Then, instead of a Soviet-style beauty pageant, we would have an American-style knock down drag out ideology-based runoff election with voters getting a true choice.

But wait, the fun stuff is still to come.

Voter turnout in special elections, especially when the election is competing with voter time at the mall with their Holiday shopping errands is low. As I mentioned previously, voter turnout in the CD-23 election that got a Democrat elected by 10 percentage points was a whopping 18% (or nearly so). That is more than double what is usually expected in a special election where voters are made to come and decide one race for one office. Typically special elections bring in 7-8% of the electorate.

Statistic #1: What was the voter turnout in this HD-29 race?


That’s right, 4 percent of the district’s 178,833 registered voters decided who would represent the other 96% of them. Or at least, in this case, decided to reduce this race to a choice between Miss Red and Miss Cerise.

Tammy was dumfounded when I pointed it out to her. 4 Percent? Her 180 IQ told her that everything had been done correctly. Voters were contacted in a massive GOTV effort that had local Democratic activists shaking their heads in wonder. I can personally attest to this. I sat at the far end of a table calling voters in Brazoria Precinct 53, and heard muse call the same voters in Matagorda County that I called on Sunday – the ones who hadn’t voted yet. Democratic voters were contacted. They simply passed.

Statistic #2: How much did each vote cost?

O’Day. O’Day inherited Glenda Dawson’s warchest. Don’t ask me how or why, he just did. His initial influx of $100,122.95 was augmented by a $50,000 personal loan. Total: $150,122.95. If 80% was spent on this campaign ($120,098.36) his total costs were $34.24 per vote. Not bad. That beats a 50 dollar whore by $15.76. Do you know what I truly like about this? The Dawson campaign money did not have to go to O'Day's campaign. It could have gone anywhere. It could have gone to Austin to grease the wheels of the most dangerous voucher bill of all. But it didn't. That money stayed in the district to fight off a Democratic assault on the seat. An unsung victory, I think.

Weber: Weber had $14,897.58 to spend. Assuming he spent all of it his voters were bought for a mere $7.25 apiece. Well, that got him in the runoff. But still, that’s a lot of Blockbuster movie rentals.

Gorman: I’ve tried and tried and you can’t divide zero into anything. It’s a mathematical impossibility. So, in the parlance of a TI-83 calculator, Gorman’s voter cost is “Undefined”.

DiNovo: $10.84 per voter. You have to wonder what the cost would have been if the average Democratic voter weren’t trying to play “hard to get” this time around. As in hard to get off of their apathetic behinds.

Analysis and Conclusions

Know what I think? Three things happened. 1) Democratic voters in this area are so used to being beaten that they could not fathom being able to elect a Democrat when the odds were heavily in their favor if only they would act. 2) Democratic voters are so used to being presented a slate of Republican candidates to vote for that they simply pass. Source? Me. When I talked to human beings on the phone, they were always amazed that one of the candidates running was a Democrat. 3) Rick Perry – why not schedule a special election 6 days before Christmas? Why not use the Lord’s birthday as the ultimate voter suppression tool?

We three bloggers, Karl-Thomas, muse, and moi, were invited to the after-the-polls-close-dinner-and-election-watch. muse and KT were busy banging away on their laptops (I am a dinosaur, and blog on a desktop). The event was nice, cordial, and accented in laughter. I got to meet Anthony DiNovo’s wife, Bonnie, and their adorable children (Oh Krishna, Adele is such a cutie - Tammy is claiming her as payment).

And visit with the doctor himself.

I was there when Dr. DiNovo switched off his cell phone when the final results came in, and I was there when he finally turned it back on to talk to a KTRH reporter. He really didn’t want to talk and didn’t do an interview. One will come eventually, but for now he remains on low boil.

What does one do in the face of such Democratic voter apathy? Well I was privileged enough to see for myself having never personally experienced it: Black humor, irony, and wild shifts in decisions on the “what-ifs” that follow an indecisive election (as in what if Weber approaches Dr. DiNovo for an endorsement?).

And then finally this. What will happen tomorrow? Tomorrow Anthony DiNovo will go back to work treating patients. He is going to be feeling bad, especially for the people he feels he let down when he didn’t win.

And then it’s Christmas. And he won’t feel so bad. As a matter of fact, things are going to be pretty much okey-dokey.

Know why?

Because Republicans are going to be spending money trying to beat each other at the polls. Money that may have gone to beating Democrats.

And Bonnie has her husband back.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Just Once More, With Feeling . . .

The first set of final exams taken and scanned, scores slammed into the gradebook, I was out the door this afternoon with review sheets and expended flashcards flying behind me (jetsam of any given final exam).

Traffic was light yet, and the pavement was still wet, but the rain was done for the day. I got to Pearland in record time, got a list and started calling again for the Dr. Anthony DiNovo campaign to capture the Texas HD 29 seat. All phone lines were being used, and I was handed someone’s cell phone. Cool. I put my cell away.

Trenda and I were in the back office and we were talking to each other back to back as we worked through our individual chores. A guy from Friendswood had come in to volunteer and said he wanted to be a poll watcher tomorrow. She was talking to someone on the staff of the Brazoria County Elections Office, who directed her to the Texas SOS website where she could view what the Texas Election Code said about poll watchers. It’s pretty specific. You can only be a poll watcher if you are a resident in the county, in the district for which the election is being held, and in “the political subdivision”. The working theory that was developed was that this “subdivision” was a precinct. The Elections Office staffer didn’t think that was what it meant, but . . . yeah, that’s what it means.

So, no, he couldn’t be a poll watcher.

“What if I was born in the precinct?” he said, “I was you know.” That got a laugh.

I mentioned to Trenda that it looked like there were more volunteers today. She said: “It’s been crazy all day.” “Earlier today we had nine people in the front room calling.” “We don’t know where these people are coming from but they’re very welcome here.”


The call to come to Pearland is showing up on all the blogs. You know who you are. It’s working. People are coming.

But wait, there’s more.

Today as we made our calls and talked to human voices, for the first time we started getting feedback from the voters that this was the 2nd or the 3rd call they got from the Democrats. I found myself in the enviable position of having to apologize to people for having duplicated the effort. My canned reply became this: “I’m sorry sir/ma’am. This is probably good for us but inconvenient for you.”

Online phone banking here is very probably responsible for this. Who knows, maybe other organizations are chipping in. I know that this happened in November, too.

My score? Plus or minus 150 calls made in 3 hours, mostly messages left on machines, but I contacted 12 voters who were already going out to vote for Dr. DiNovo, and convinced 5 others that they should go. One of these voters was shocked to learn that the race was winnable. “Wow, we can win this? A Democratic house rep from Pearland? I’m gonna tell my friends!”

Tell them Jamail, tell them.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Down to the Wire in HD 29

OK, maybe one more tiny one on Dr. Anthony DiNovo’s run at Texas HD 29’s seat.

Today I met Karl-Thomas Musselman of the Burnt Orange Report as he came into the DiNovo HQ for a first look around. He seems like a nice guy and was eager to get to work. We talked briefly about what was going on then he went in to meet Tammy, the DiNovo campaign’s very capable campaign manager, and I went back to my calls.

Karl-Thomas’ mission is to devote his blog to the remainder of the campaign. I’ll only be part-timing it there until Election Day – final exams to give, heads to mess with – the perks of being a teacher. So it’ll be great to see someone else’s take on this campaign.

I swear I am going to be dreaming my script tonight. It seems like I was continually dialing from 11AM until 7:30 PM. My call list was 18 pages long, and there were at least 22 numbers per page. You do the math. I called every democratic household in Precinct 3A and 3B in Matagorda County (well there are six more to go, actually). Some people were really nice and appreciated my call. I called the President of the Palacios ISD school board; I know this because he told me so. A real nice guy. He was very interested in the campaign and wondered why there weren’t more campaign signs out. I just checked out their website, and wouldn’t you know it, I talked to half the members of the Board of Trustees of Palacios ISD today!

One thing that this Californian learned today: when you talk to non-Hispanics in Palacios, you pronounce the name Puh-LAY-shus. When you talk to an Hispanic, you pronounce it Pa-LAH-ceeos. One of those Texas things you have to get used to.

Aside from the phoning, the day was a normal day in the DiNovo “New Beginnings” Campaign. That is, more of the same kind of “stuff” going around. You can see that it’s all taking a toll on Tammy. She is an unbelievably devoted campaign manager. Not only is she doing all of the chores of running a campaign, at other times she is dialing down her phone list talking to the voters. But you know, these people are all highly paid so they should have to be made to take this “stuff” on the chin again and again, right?

Oh, I forgot. She’s working for free.

My best advice to Karl-Thomas? Don't mention the phrase "run off election" within earshot of Tammy.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Beginning Again: DiNovo For HD 29 Texas State Representative

No, I’m not going to stop blogging on this campaign. For one thing, it’s the hottest thing in Texas politics at this moment. For another, the man is someone we need in Austin.


I was musing about his name, DiNovo. It’s Italian. But the name extends from Latin, the ancient roots of the Italian language. De Novo. De Novo has many meanings in our language. In law, where I first knew of its use, it simply means “new”. Trial De Novo means New Trial. But like all translations, it loses something in it. De Novo, in its ancient form and use means “New Beginning”.

And that is what this campaign is. A new beginning for the people of Brazoria and Matagorda Counties. Tammy, his campaign manager, told me why she is working so hard to get this man elected. Here we have a fairly new on the scene MD. He has a modest clinic in a strip mall in Pearland, Texas. While others in his position are working to build their businesses, clawing and scraping for medibucks, Dr. DiNovo makes it his business to treat patients who are under-insured or uninsured. He does this because he wants to serve the people. Even to the extent that when given an opportunity to speak at a candidates' forum earlier this week, Dr. DiNovo couldn't attend. He was on his way to the forum when he got called back to the clinic. It's here.

Oh, man, in this day and age, this is very much a New Beginning.

So that’s why, after attending a Fort Bend Democrats holiday lunch and business meeting at Farhan Shamsi’s place in Katy, I got in my environment-friendly gasoline-efficient mode of transport and got my behind down to Pearland for a Get Out The Vote session with a call list.

muse said that the event would be attended by bloggers, but I was the only one there at the time. But I got there late for the last shift so there you go. They gave me a Matagorda County list and I dug in. Somewhere in there I had to stop and get some water, and I was talking to the campaign workers about how it was going.

“Everyday there is excitement. Something new happens”

“Today it was the block walkers. There were two block walkers walking a precinct and they were stopped by the Pearland Police.” “They were told that they could not do this.”

Apparently someone called the Pearland PD and reported suspicious characters out walking in the neighborhoods. They were carrying clipboards, had campaign buttons and pocketsful of campaign literature.

But they were suspicious, nevertheless.

In advance of the campaign, Tammy actually contacted the Pearland city government and cleared the block walking with them. Now, I, as a California transplant, have no idea why that would be necessary, but sometimes I am hopelessly naïve about how Freedom of Speech and Assembly is handled in Texas. So Tammy had it covered, but the campaign workers were having trouble getting in contact with the Pearland Police Department on this issue.

No one answering? Guess there is no crime in Pearland on Saturday.

Maybe they were all at the Flea Market?

The Get Out The Vote effort continues through Tuesday evening. Go out and buy the cheapest gasoline you can find ($2.07 for me, today) and get your patooties down to Pearland. We can do this. Working together, we Democrats can get this one done.

The map to the the place is here. Take the Sam Houston Tollway south to the State Highway 35 offramp. Turn south and proceed to Broadway. Turn left at the signal, cross the tracks and the DiNovo HQ is past the first light after the tracks on the right.

Say "Hi" to Brian.

And tell Tammy to get some sleep someday.

Friday, December 15, 2006

TEA Clears Fort Bend ISD Schools of Cheating on TAKS in 2005

On Thursday, the TEA issued this statement clearing 561 Texas schools of cheating on TAKS tests in 2005. The 22 schools included on Caveon’s hit list apparently did nothing other than what they were supposed to do – score well on TAKS.

Here is the list of schools that TEA cleared.

I won’t repeat myself. If you want to see my rant on this in a previous posting when they came out with the Caveon list of suspect schools, go here.

But here’s what I want: I want an apology from someone. Somebody pointed an accusing finger at teachers, students and administrators in Fort Bend ISD, and all they were doing was their job. And if their job was to teach students how to take that damnable test so the school’s AEIS ratings wouldn’t get into NCLB trouble with their Annual Yearly Progress landmine, then that’s what they were supposed to do.

I want an apology that is as loud and clear as the headlines that I saw denouncing the schools.

Front page. Not buried on page 18.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Calling For Dr. DiNovo

What? Yet another blog on the DiNovo campaign?

Hey, guys, it’s the only game in town.

I just finished my call list. I called for 20 minutes every evening around the time people are getting home from work but before dinner. I saw on Texas Kos that muse stopped by the HQ in Pearland today and got a list. Had I known muse was going I would have asked for another list. Now all I have to do is grade papers and type this thing that hardly anyone reads anymore.

Overall, the timing was pretty good. Calling at this time, I talked to maybe 50% more human voices. Response varied, but in general it was positive.

Tonight I was glad that I had only a few more calls to make because one guy wanted to talk. I was actually calling his daughter, but he answered. He said he was 77 years old and couldn’t fathom why ANYone would vote for a Republican.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “It’s insane.” “My great-granddaughter is 4 years old but she already has a $28,000 debt to pay!”

It’s not too late to lend a hand. They have 3 lines at the HQ at 3536 E. Broadway in Pearland. Just down the street at the Family Clinic, they have 6 phone lines and a plush setup for phone banking on the weekends. The clinic is at Pearland Plaza, 3223 E. Broadway Pearland.

They have set up calling shifts at the clinic: 10:00-12:00, 12:00-2:00 and 4:00-6:00

They are also block walking daily out of the HQ.

If Ciro’s win against a well-funded incumbent reveals anything, it’s that this is a winnable election if we can get out the base. Special elections have low voter turnouts (sometimes) and it usually favors an incumbent. Not this time. There is no incumbent. The leading opponent, Michael O’Day, has 5 times the resources as DiNovo, but has already spent his wad on campaign signs which litter the district.

He’s trying to buy the election.

And guys, if you need an additional reason to gas up and go on down to Pearland, here it is. Both Dr. DiNovo and his partner, Dr. Orsak, were resident doctors at (are you ready for this?) Dr. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs’ office. She was their direct supervisor for months.

Isn’t that just a scream?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Number Crunching Time: GOTV Works So Help Out The DiNovo Campaign

The county by county summary of the CD 23 rout by Ciro Rodriguez over his well-funded Republican incumbent opponent (Krishna I love saying that) is to be found at the Texas Secretary of State website.

While the numbers tell you who won, they don't tell the story that special elections need: the turnout. So I thrashed through some sites trying to find the number of registered voters in the CD23 counties and failed miserably. But I finally came up with a method and the results are in the spreadsheet below. I am assuming that all counties but El Paso County are completely within CD23 boundaries. I kept El Paso numbers out of the totals for that reason.

Pretty darned interesting, huh? Here we have a special election, one office is on the ballot, and it draws just shy of 18% of the voters over the district. That's about 10% more than you would expect on a good day.

I tell you, I've been reading all the old blogs about how Rodriguez had an uphill battle against a formidable opponent with name recognition . . . and this happens. One blogger said that in a special election, the incumbent is favored because of the low turnout. How so very true. It's so true that apparently the opposite is true if the turnout is respectable.

I got an email from Boyd Ritchie today (I know, everyone did) saying that we have one more race in the state to win - Anthony DiNovo's race in HD 29. So guys, that is where the last battle of the 2006 election is being waged. They need help down there getting out the vote. I also learned through muse that there is a poll judge in Alvin who was turning away Democrats by saying that this poll was for Republican candidates only.

Tammy, DiNovo's campaign manager, says that winning this is going to be "that much sweeter".

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ciro Rodriguez Ahead in Early Vote!


But then I expected that, right?

Ciro Rodriguez is ahead 55% to Bonilla's 45% in early voting.

Bonilla (R) 10,741 45%
Rodriguez (D) 13,193 55%

I mentioned in the previous posting that Hispanics are amenable to going out to vote early. But I never expected them to outdo the Bonilla (rabid white people) voters.

This is huge.

Ah, but now they are starting to report the Election Day results and with 12% of the precincts reporting, the lead slipped to this:

Bonilla (R) 12,624 47%
Rodriguez (D) 14,090 53%

That's still not bad, but as Yogi Berra once said: "It ain't over till it's over."


With 53% of the Precincts reporting:

Bonilla (R) 19,630 43%
Rodriguez (D) 26,108 57%

Time to call it. . . Ciro's gonna win.

Ciro Wins!

Bonilla (R) 28,398 45%
Rodriguez (D) 35,239 55% a

Monday, December 11, 2006

Rodriguez In A Squeaker - Experts Call It a Toss-Up

I really like this Washington Post article on the Rodriguez-Bonilla smackdown going on in CD-23. I don’t live in CD-23, you know, so I am only aware of the issues of the race in a disorganized way. This article puts the whole package together in a nice tight little story.

I recall months ago trying to make sense of the Tom DeLay mess by trying to put it into a timeline perspective. That worked for me. This article does the same thing.

Election Day in CD-23 is tomorrow, December 12th. This is a singular day among Mexican Catholics: “La Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe”. Another Republican attempt at keeping voters from the polls? They really are good at it by the way. LULAC filed suit, by the way, and got an extension on the early voting dates. That’s good. The Hispanic voters that I have talked to are amenable to going to the polls early.

But a special election is just that . . . special. New rules apply. You’re not going to the polls to vote for a whole slate of candidates, you are going to vote for one. That takes a special kind of voter. And it takes a special GOTV effort.

I myself have witnessed that kind of effort in the Dr. Anthony DiNovo campaign in HD-29. The two races are very similar, though, because both races hinge on getting out the Hispanic vote. Bonilla, while Hispanic himself, garnered only 8% of the Hispanic vote in the ’02 election, and as the article points out, that was BEFORE the district lines were redrawn in ’03 by DeLay’s infamous 2nd in a decade redistricting. The new CD-23 boundaries mandated by the US Supreme Court, include more Hispanics in its new demographics.

The experts are calling this race a toss up. And that’s what it is. If every voter in CD-23 come out and vote along the same party lines that they voted in November, Rodriguez wins by 111 votes.

But that is dreamland. It all comes down to who’s best at getting out the vote, and who’s best at denying voters their right to vote.

I hope they have their ducks in order.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Republican Blood Sport on FortBendNow

John Cobarruvias and I have been passing popcorn back and forth watching a comment war take place over on FortBendNow, a leading internet newspaper in Southeast Texas. You really do need to check it and the commentary in another FBN Op/Ed piece on the Gillen fundraiser heist.

From what I can get, there are two warring factions in the Republican Party: neocons and moderates, and they are in a power struggle.

The neocons are delusional. America has “HAD ENOUGH” of their politics of hate and fear. The moderates, with GOP Chairman Gary Gillen, have seized control of their major fundraiser, and the neocons are crying “Thief !”

The exchange gets down and dirty. Of all things, the allegiance of Bev Carter, columnist and publisher of the Fort Bend Star, got all wrapped up in the discussion. Quite off topic but for some reason the neocons want her head on a platter, too. So I will post pieces of this off topic part of the discussion. But to get the true flavor of the vituperation going on in the other party, you should read through the threads.

Susan: “Prior to his resignation, most of the precinct chairs were yellow dog DeLay supporters. You might recall reading about the censure of Bev Carter who dared to print derogatory things about DeLay in her newspaper opinion piece. Those who are now seeking Gillen’s head on a platter were leading the charge against Carter.”
WOW: “Did Bev Carter endorse mostly Democrats in the fall election? It seems to me the executive committee was pretty smart to detect that she was not a Republican and to call her on it!”

Susan: “I was at the meeting when Bev Carter was censured by the Executive Committee for not supporting DeLay. What I read in her newspaper re the fall election was a prediction that Lampson would win, not an endorsement of him. In hindsight, she seems smarter than many in the county, doesn’t she?”

“Your blind allegiance will make you popular with the crowd that is seeking to wrest control from Gillen.”

WOW: “You need to re read her column. She endorsed Lampson and several democrats. Nothing wrong with voting for different parties or being an independent. BUT, if you are going to be a Republican precinct chair you shouldsupport republicans, otherwise just be an independent.”

Umpire: “This article has nothing to do with Bev Carter. Please stay on topic.”

Anon: “I think Bev sees herself as a moderate republican, but an American first, and the need for checks and balances as important in any system (FBC has none currently and one clique is having a field day with it). Whether or not she is a precinct chair, republican or independent she has a right to vote for whomever she likes (and that includes endorses).”

Susan: “Ump is right. Bev is not the topic. However, she did not run for re-election and was not serving as precinct chair in the fall when she wrote the column WOW excerpted.”

WOW: “I never said Bev did not have the right to support whomever she wants to support. I said, if you are going to carry the party label then you should support republicans. If you feel you can’t do that, then resign.” “Sorry umpire if you take offense to this being off topic!"

Then Bev herself logs in a comment on the second piece.

Comment 8 is mine.

Bev comes on the scene at Comment 16.
Bev: “i believe Billye Bridges was referring to Goldwater Republicans when she commented about the “real” Republican party. You know, those people that thought government was supposed to keep our taxes low and our noses out of the bedroom and Bible.”
Intheknow: “Bev — As ususal, you don’t make much sense. Just who are you talking about as the “small cabal of insiders?” “Has Gary called you yet to become a part of his “Red Ribbon”, secret group of real “insiders” who will provide “oversight” to the PAC? Or is this just sour grapes because a Majority of the Executive committee members nixed Gary’s efforts earlier this year to give your company the printing business for the party newsletter?
“Please take your “holier than thou” attitude back to the sad little pages of the Star.”

John Cobarruvias: “Oh this is like the Titanic movie! It is so
good you dont want it to stop.”

Bev: “An invitation to bid was sent out and my son's printing company had the low bid. However, the fiscally responsible Republicans preferred to pay the higher bidder to punish me for criticizing Tom DeLay. They’ve now turned my rabaidly [rabidly, I think] Republican son into an independent. I’m glad about that. They done somethng that I’ve tried for ten years to do.”

Your last little quote of “sad little pages of the Star” are so petty personal that it detracts from your whole post. If you would stay on topic and keep from annoying personal attacks, you would be a more effective communicator.”

WOW: “So Bev Carter has been trying to turn her son into an independent for 10 years? And when did she serve as a precinct chair? I believe in this instance 1 + 1 = 2!

Bev was NOT a republican when she served as a Republican precinct chair!”
And that was about it for now. Some pretty massive wounds are being opened as Republicans claw each other into bloody masses. Unfortunately when this happens, invariably people with a sense of decency and fair play get pulled into the fray.

That part is not fun, but having your suspicions, that these people are just mean, mean, mean, confirmed in the internet press really is fun. That and watching Republicans try to define just who is and who is not a Republican.

Pass the popcorn, John.