Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Texas State Rep Scott Hochberg Explains His No Vote on HR 4

If you go back to my original posting on the HR 4 vote you will see two comments have been left there. One is an “Anonymous” comment that was signed Scott Hochberg, and the other is my reply to it. “Anonymous” turned out indeed to be State Rep. Hochberg . . .I checked.

I thought that Rep. Hochberg made some really good points, and he was correct that I wrongly included him in the “Message 34” . . . .er . . . “Message 33” members on HR 4. I thought that the points were so well put that I just can’t leave them buried in comments so I am bringing them up front here.

Rep Scott Hochberg says that he never casts votes to send messages, and did not do it this time. Others, here, here and here have painted the vote as an anti-Craddick vote rather than an anti-HR 4 vote. But Rep Hochberg writes this:
“I do not vote to "messages" to Speaker Craddick, and did not do that today. I voted against the measure because in my view the leadership team never made its case as to why they wanted it passed.”
This is just me interpreting here, but doesn’t this indicate that the leadership team’s case was not made because that might cause more Democrats to vote no? Their case, as far as I could see from my limited time viewing the debate, is that it’s done every year, that they voted for the suspension the last X number of sessions so what’s different here?

Hochberg goes on to say that he would have voted “No” on the resolution no matter what.
“. . . having seen at least one major bill rushed to the floor in years past without proper consideration, the only logical vote for me was to vote no.”
Again, point taken. It would not necessarily be Craddick or his cronies that might rush a bad piece of legislation to the floor. So again, the vote was not anti-Craddick, it was against getting bad bills put in a shell game and pushed through without due consideration. That was the purpose of the 60-Day rule, to ensure that bills are given the consideration they deserve and not rushed to a vote.

I then asked Rep Hochberg which major bill comes to mind when he considered his vote on HR 4 and this is what he wrote in his reply:
“The one that comes to mind was the bill that would have repealed much of the education code, which never actually made it to the floor because there was enough of an uproar over the content that they felt they did not have the votes, but it was passed from House committee early in the session with no real testimony on a day when most members went to Houston for a commemoration of the shuttle tragedy. The intent was to bring it to the floor quickly and rush it through.”
Wow. Using the memorial service for 7 dead Columbia astronauts to eliminate testimony on a major bill? After witnessing behavior like that, I think I would have automatically voted "No" on this resolution every time it came up.

Hochberg rocks.

And on a separate note, as I am writing this, I hear on TV in the next room that Molly Ivins has just passed away. I don't know about you, but I think we have just lost a Texas gem. She and her brilliant wit will be missed.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

HR 4 Fails – How They Voted

You can find the list of Texas House members who voted Nay on HR 4 here. I like to concentrate on my two favorite groups of Democrats. And one Republican.

My favorite two groups of Democrats The Craddick D’s and the Courage 27 had slightly different voting tendencies today as the votes were entered on HR 4, the motion to suspend the rules and allow bills to be considered before 60 days into the new legislative session. Texas’ 80th Legislature promises to be a contentious one.

I got to see a little of the debate on streaming video, and it got a little heated at times, causing Speaker Pro Tem Sylvester Turner to admonish his colleagues to “take a chill pill”.

What was established during debate was that individual bills could be considered in committee, and voted on the floor, but they would have to be individually allowed by 4/5th vote if HR 4 failed. And it did fail by a vote of 108 Aye to 34 Nay (31 votes would have done the job).

All 15 of the Craddick D’s voted Aye, so no change there. Three Courage 27 votes went over to the Ayes in this vote, Juan Escobar, Juan Garcia, and Richard Raymond.

Paul Gallegos didn’t vote.

But the resolution failed because of the votes of an additional 10 Democrats, and one lone Republican vote.

New to the list of Democratic House members who wanted to send a message loud and clear to Tom Craddick were the following: Alma Allen, Rafael Anchia, Valinda Bolton, Ellen Cohen, Yvonne Gonzales Toureilles, Scott Hochberg, Joe Pickett, Paula Pierson, Mike Villarreal, and Hubert Vo.

The message? Who knows? Maybe each had their own reasons. But my guess is that it was a message to Speaker Craddick that he’s got to reform from his rough and rowdy ways. Absent that, any time the opportunity arises to send him a zinger, that’s exactly what is going to happen.

Really, as a substantive issue, it wasn’t one. It was pointed out that in past legislative sessions anywhere from 2 to 10 bills were actually voted on within the 60 days after the start of the session. Not a huge impact.

So it really was a symbolic “Up Yours”.

Especially from the lone Republican Nay voter: Bob Talton. Talton is so mad at his committee assignment that he says he won’t attend any of its meetings. Startlingly, the committee in question is heavily packed with Democrats and has a Democratic chair. Vince at Capitol Annex points out that Criminal Jurisprudence was, in all probability, packed with Democrats as it has little chance of seeing any significant legislation come through to it for consideration. Don’t know about that one. Looking here I see that 22 bills were referred to this committee today. Seven of them alone concern in some way or another, sex offenders, two on car burglary, one on Indian tribe gambling, one on prostitution, one on gang activity around schools . . the list goes on and on.

Gee . . . that stuff sounds like grist for Talton’s mill.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ari Skewers Scooter

The Washington Post carried a story today by Carol Leonnig and Amy Goldstein about Ari Fleischer’s testimony at Scooter Libby’s perjury and obstruction of justice trial. Ari Fleischer, former Bush press secretary, who secured immunity for himself in exchange for ratting out his former colleague, tipped over the first wall in Scooter Libby’s house of cards.

Fleischer testified that he had lunch with Scooter Libby on July 7th in the White House mess. At that lunch he was told that “that former ambassador Wilson was sent to Niger to investigate reports Iraq had tried to buy nuclear material there by Wilson's wife, not by the vice president, as some news accounts were saying.”
"He added that this was something hush-hush or on the QT, that not many people knew this information," Fleisher said. ‘My impression was Mr. Libby was telling me this was kind of newsy.’"
“Added Fleischer: ‘My thought was that what I was hearing was about nepotism.’"
Why is this significant you ask? Well first of all it shows that Scooter Libby was perfectly willing to talk to people about a covert CIA agent’s identity. But more telling is this: Libby claims that he first heard the news that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent from NBC reporter Tim Russert . . . on July 10th. It’s déja vue all over again. As in Watergate trials: “What did you know and when did you know it?” Try as they might, Libby’s defense lawyers could not shake, rattle, or roll Fleischer, who stuck to his story.

Optimism is not my strong suit. I can see how this is as far as it's going to go. But it happened before. As people who were in the know saw peripheral players get roasted, the Watergate dominoes fell as one story after another came out. Dare I hope? Naaaah.

Will the 60-Day Rule Be Suspended Again?

An interesting twist that comes out of the Craddick committee appointments is how the vote will now go in the Texas House to suspend the Constitutionally-mandated 60-Day Rule. Texas Speaker Tom Craddick is requesting all House members attend Tuesday to vote on suspension of the 60-Day rule. This rule has been suspended at the beginning of every congressional session but one awhile back. It prevents members in the House from bringing any votes to the floor until March 1st.

Craddick wants it suspended again so that he can start the year with a bang (as if it hasn’t already) to continue to press his conservative agenda that is so harmful to so many Texans, but helpful to the moneyed interests that support him: those who brought us the Republican Majority in 2002 and have continued to help fund Craddick's speaker's PAC—Stars Over Texas. This PAC has helped Craddick retain power through its contributions to the campaigns of key Craddick allies as well as to the campaigns of challengers to anti-Craddick Republicans.

But here’s where it gets interesting. Craddick needs a 4/5ths majority to suspend this rule. That’s 4/5ths of 150 votes. Thirty-one votes will keep the rule in force.

Now before the committee assignments were announced, Laylan Copelin at the Austin American-Statesman wrote an intriguing article on how Craddick was blaming the ice storm on the delay of his committee assignment announcement. Then Copelin mentioned Tuesday’s vote, and how Craddick could delay the announcement until after the vote in order to get those 121 votes.

Now we know that won’t happen, and we also know that there are at least 27 votes out there from members who cannot possibly be any more marginalized than they already have been by Craddick in their speaker committee assignments.

That leaves a grand total of 4 more votes to stop Craddick until March 1st.

Think they can scrounge up 4 more votes?

Is The Pope German?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Blogstorm on Craddick Committee Assignments

Holy Krishna.

Texas Speaker Tom Craddick’s appointments have preoccupied more electrons (each having a charge of 1.602 x 10^19 coulombs) than any event since the general election.

And I’m not talking about Mainstream Media, either, but at my count there are 32 recent news articles online at this moment.

The Blogs are eating this one up.

You saw mine. It examined the effect on the extremes of the Democratic members. Who cares what happened to the Republicans.

Vince at Capitol Annex put up a huge commentary on all committees, then an in-depth commentary on the Elections committee.

Burnt Orange Report focuses on the Craddick D’s and their chairmanships, and on the Pitts removal from Chair of Appropriations.

Eye On Williamson offers another take on the assignments, that it could have been worse.

Grits For Breakfast concentrates, naturally, on the Jurisprudence committee, chaired by Aaron Peña, noting that the committee is Democratic-dominated at 7-2, or 7-1 if Bob Talton makes good on his threat not to attend the committee meetings.

Wilcowise had a tipster who leaked Craddick’s picks and checked the score. Not bad at 78% accurate.

South Texas Chisme also looked at the Courage 27 and how they got the royal shaft, however did not mention Eiland’s and Escobar’s committee leadership positions.

Bay Area Houston bemoans the fact that his ethically challenged representative, John Davis, who was in line to be named chairman of the Health and Human Services committee, was passed over for Patrick Rose, who was owed a favor.

Texas Politics has a few short posts on the committee but the one I thought interesting, because no one seems to be disputing Pitts’ angry reaction to Craddick’s assignments, is this one.

Paul Burka still just has a list up, but promises commentary later on tonight.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Craddick Comes Through With the Payola

You have to give the man credit where credit is due. Texas Speaker Tom Craddick delivers on a promise, and the 15 Craddick D’s got exactly what they paid for . . . I mean paid their votes for.

The Big Losers are Dawnna Dukes and Eddie Lucio III. No Chair or Vice Chair positions went to them, although they both rated Chairman for Budget Oversight (CBO) jobs. Geez, guys, hope it was worth it.

I have a talent for data analysis that I utilized in a previous existence. What I want to do is show you two spreadsheets that list each Courage members and each Craddick D member, and their committee assignments. I got the data from here. The first column is their names, the second is the committee they chair or vice chair, the third is any CBO job, the fourth is a Craddick appointment, and last are seniority appointments – that is, the only one that Craddick doesn’t have control of – I think . . .

In other words ordered from left to right are highest Craddick repayments to lowest (none). The results are quite startling in the way they so clearly show how he rewards his friends and crushes his enemies. By the way you can download these spreadsheet images by clicking on them. Hat tip to Susan who showed me how to do this.

Then you also want to look at the number of Craddick D’s that got seats on the powerful Appropriations committee: five out of fifteen. How many Courage 27 got on Appropriations? One. Rick Noriega.
How many Craddick D’s got on the more choice committees by Seniority? three out of fifteen. How many Courage 27? Eighteen.

And finally how many Craddick D’s got on the Agriculture and Livestock committee (aka Siberia)? None. How many Courage 27? Two. He’s really sticking it to Juan Garcia, although putting him on the Defense Affairs committee was a no-brainer and it would have been too darned obvious if Craddick kept Naval Aviator Juan Garcia off that committee.

And the biggest data anomaly on this is the Government Reform committee. How many Craddick D’s were assigned to that committee? None. Nope, nada. Government reform implies giving up the percs and advantages of power. How many Courage 27s were placed on Government Reform? Three.

That’s like putting them in charge of selling air conditioners to Eskimos

Friday, January 26, 2007

Robert Gates to Congress: "You Are All a Bunch of Traitors"

The analogues of the Iraq War to the Vietnam War keep on coming. I remember Spiro Agnew’s vitriolic (and alliterative) speeches on anti-war protest wherever it occurred. “Giving aid and comfort to the enemy” was the catch phrase, mainly because it is part and parcel of what constitutes a traitor.

Now we have Defense Secretary Robert Gates accusing those engaged in anti-war activities in Congress not only of being traitors, but of being ignorant traitors. They’re traitors, but don’t know it.

Agnew almost made it fun with his famous “nattering nabobs of negativism” speech delivered in San Diego, California back in 1970. Gates’ remarks are not funny. They’re not clever, as a matter of fact, they’re downright offensive.

Quoted in The Chron:

"’I think it's hard to measure that with any precision, but it seems pretty straightforward that any indication of flagging will in the United States gives encouragement to those folks,’ Gates said, referring to the anti-government forces in Baghdad. He added that he was certain this was not the intent of those who support the congressional resolution.”
Hey Gates, believe me the people who oppose this war know exactly what they are doing and it is a real nightmare for us. We don’t want our troops to have anything less than what they need to stay alive. What we know, and what you cannot accept, is that the very presence of our troops in Iraq gives “anti-government forces in Baghdad” all the incentive they need to push on. Our troops’ presence in Iraq is the sole reason why many have joined the insurgency. Take away the troops and you take away the fighters.

They declare victory.

Bush started an illegal and immoral war based on lies and deceit. He started a war that he couldn’t finish. Now is the time for sanity and common sense to prevail.
Robert Gates and Spiro T. Agnew: now there’s a match made in heaven.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Why Performance Pay for Teachers is a Bad Idea

Abelardo Saavedra, HISD Superintendent, wrote a letter to The Chron today defending his performance pay program which rewards teachers who are “high-performing”. It seems that while some teachers think it’s a great program, most believe the program is a slam on teachers – a criticism to teachers who fail to rate performance pay.

Actually that is a narrow view. It doesn’t address the real issues of why this kind of program is a bad idea, no matter what Texas school district we are talking about.

And talking about talking. I can assure you that teacher’s lounges from one end of Texas to the other are filled with conversation on this issue.

Let me explain how this is such a bad idea by way of a short history lesson. Performance pay, in the past, was pinned to TAAS and TAKS test performance of the teacher’s students in high performance schools.

“…our previous performance-pay program rewarded teachers who taught in Exemplaryand Recognized schools as measured by the percentage of students passing TAAS. The truth of the matter is that high-performing teachers who were not in Exemplary or Recognized schools never received performance pay and, on occasion, teachers who were not being successful with students but were in Exemplary or Recognized schools did receive it.”

They had a bad criterion for performance pay, and finally recognized it. So the program was revamped and changes were made to the criteria that identified high-performance teachers.

“These changes require a major shift in our thinking to an emphasis on the academic growth of each child instead of just an emphasis on the state accountability ratings. In addition, I think most educators want to have their work, their success, compared with that of teachers who teach similar groups of children. The new system does that.”

This is so wrong on so many levels. First and foremost. If you are going to have a performance pay system in place, every teacher must be equally able to be judged as a “high-performance” teacher. Keep this in mind as I tick off three problem areas.

  1. When you emphasize academic growth there is not one Physical Education teacher who will ever be able to qualify as a “high-performance” teacher. You can arguably extend this to Health Ed teachers. Fine arts teachers might be included in this as well. In that area, you have the right-brain left-brain problem. Those students who excel in visual or graphic arts are not especially that way because of their teacher. Artistically creative students enter school with the gift.
  2. Teachers who specialize in teaching AP classes are likely to have students who are already at a high level of performance and maintain that by being highly motivated learners. It is very difficult to document the “academic growth” of a teacher’s students when they are already performing at high levels. So, OK I am concentrating on secondary level teachers. Try this third one on:
  3. Take for example a 5th grade teacher who inherits students from a 4th grade teacher colleague, who in some way instilled in their students a desire to improve. Rewarding the 5th grade teacher as a “high-performance” teacher ignores and slights the teachers who came before, those who may have had as much or more of an affect on their students’ success. Teaching is a team effort.

There’s the argument. If a performance payment system is an available benefit to some teachers but not their colleagues, then the system is inherently wrong. It is admittedly a better system than rating teachers based on their school’s rating, but it is wrong nonetheless.

Frankly, until there is a better monitoring and peer review system where the teacher is rated based on best practices, use of technology, sound application of teaching theory, organizational skills, and classroom management, no performance pay system will be fair and equitable.

Update 1/27/07: Muse has posted a take on this this morning and makes some interesting observations go here to see them.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Nobody Told Me Not to Mow the Carpet

Travis County, Texas District Attorney Ronnie Earle made his case to the state Court of Criminal Appeals today. Earle claims that Tom DeLay and others conspired to funnel corporate PAC money to individual State Senate and House campaigns in the 2002 election. It goes hand in hand with his money laundering charges.

By law, corporate PAC money cannot be used to fund individual campaigns, but only to offset some housekeeping expenses like buying paper clips and post-its. That this money was eventually used to fund glossy mailouts for the 2002 election, which helped elect a Republican majority, is the big issue. That and the fact that it was a crime that was planned in advance.

Where’s the rub? Well it turns out that the conspiracy part of the law wasn’t enacted until a year after the crime was committed. DeLay’s lawyers argue that you can’t file charges on a crime committed before it was specifically identified as a crime.

Earle argues that conspiracy law is on the books, just in another set of books. The restrictions on corporate PAC contributions are found in the Texas Election Code. The crime of criminal conspiracy is found in the Texas Penal Code. Tom DeLay’s lawyers say that the existence of a later conspiracy addition to the Election Code means that it really wasn’t a crime of conspiracy before 2003. That is, they made it a special case in ’03, so the Penal Code’s anti-conspiracy law can’t be used.

I have to admit, they’ve got a lot of nerve. Tom DeLay is at it again. According to this logic now, we have to come up with specific laws that govern conspiracy. If it becomes a crime to conspire to steal aspirin from a pharmacy in 2007, you can’t be charged with the crime committed in 2006 even though there is a blanket conspiracy law on the books.

Earle is right. A ruling in DeLay’s favor puts all conspiracy law at risk. We have to anticipate every single crime that could be committed, and pass a law making it a crime to conspire to do it. Texans are exposed to all sorts of criminal behavior. If the conspiracy law cannot be used as a blanket law covering all crime in all Texas codes, we are in deep trouble.

It reminds me of Lily Tomlin’s character that she played on “Laugh In” several decades ago. My favorite of all time is a scene of her swinging on a swing singing “Nobody told me not to mow the carpet”, a little ditty where she complained about being punished for doing something not specifically forbidden.

Tom DeLay and five year old Edith Ann, Tomlin’s character, share common logic and reason.

Trouble is, it will make a horrible precedent.

DeLay’s lawyers are confident in beating this one off. I wouldn’t count on it. People in this state, and it doesn’t matter of what party affiliation, are mad as H-E-Double Hockey Sticks at him. That he’s now trying to undermine our laws so that he can beat a conspiracy charge tips the scales.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Shelley Sekula-Gibbs Issues Her Texas CD-22 "Lampson Watch" Missive

I’m going to let others write about how poor Bush’s speech was tonight, mainly because I didn’t watch it. I did get home in time to watch the Democratic Party rebuttal by Jim Webb (D-Va).

I liked what he had to say.

But no, instead I’d like to share with you an email message that was forwarded to me by someone who is still on Shelley Sekula-Gibbs’ list of friends of the congresswoman.

Apparently she is running for US Congress in ’08. She’s got a Lampson Watch going and is going to keep informing the good people of Texas CD 22 what evils their congressman is visiting on them. Am I missing something? Bush has a SOTUS speech to give tonight and she sends this out hours before the speech? But don’t let me summarize, take a look yourself:

Is the woman delusional? Paraphrasing my source of this message, these bills are just about the only ones I am happy that Nick voted “Aye” on. She left the one out about voting to raise the minimum raise, thus placing CD 22 small business owners behind the 8 Ball and raising prices. I guess she would have voted for that one? A Republican who wants to help the poor and underpaid? The Pink One is reverting to her liberal ways.

She left the dig in at the end about Nancy Pelosi, but Shelley should know that Nicholas Valentino Lampson (previously Lampsoni) must always vote the way The Don wishes. Omertà goes back centuries you know.

Does Shelley for one minute think that the people who voted for her in the Special Election aren't absolutely mortified at her behavior during her tenure at DC? They are mortified, and the rest of us still burst out laughing when we think back on it.

Know what I think? I think she’s pissed off that Nick got to plop down $375 million simoleons in Tom DeLay’s old district. I’ll bet she wanted to have that honor. But no, she probably didn’t know about the done deal that Nick brokered back when he was a candidate. By the time she got there she was too busy fussing and kicking up dust about erased computer hard drives and staffers who walk out on her because she is such a mean person.

All of that in exchange for a job she was going to have to leave in November 2007. She was term limited. The Bad: Houston has to plunk down somewhere between $2 and 4 million, to fill her vacant seat. The Good? Former State Rep. Melissa Noriega is very probably going to be elected to that seat this May 12th.

Isn’t it incredibly interesting how all of these things are so cross-linked as in a complex Dan Brown novel?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Rick and Melissa Noriega To Speak on Feb. 16th

I've tried to promote this event on my blog, but no one reads it so thank Krishna FortBendNow has finally put up the notice. No, it wasn't from me although I tried. Someone with more pull with Dunn got the job done.

Don't care. Whatever works. Means, ends, whatever.

So if you haven't reserved your tickets through JoAnne at 281-341-5489 then you need to do this. And soon. This event WILL sell out.

There will be lots of fun to be had. First you can shake the hand of State Rep. (and in another life, Lt. Col.) Rick Noriega who represents HD 145. He did his duty in the War on Terror and is back to tell the tale. Next to shake the hand of his wife, Melissa Noriega who ably served in the State House while her husband was serving his country, and is now standing for election to Houston City Council At-Large Seat Number 3 (Silly Shelley's old haunt).

And THEN, you can help Melissa Noriega"s campaign by participating in the live auction. All proceeds, they tell me, go toward her campaign. Bring your checkbooks, your yellow dogs, whatever it takes.

Inside dope: I hear that the Fort Bend Democrats are going to come out of the woodwork for Melissa Noriega's campaign. First, it gets a good Democrat elected to an important regional office. Second, it keeps their knives and swords honed, and desire whetted to '08 when IT is finally going to happen. When we retake Texas.

If you need a copy of the invitation for all of the ticket permutations, please click on the donkey.
See you there.

Another Blog For Choice - Texas Chimes In

Thank you Mother Talkers and a tip of the hat to Miss Melissa at Mark’s Miscellany for reminding me about Blog For Choice Day. Melissa says I don’t get to have an opinion on this, but I can’t agree.

I do agree that whether to have an abortion or not to, is not a choice that I can make, that choice is left to the one who will have to deliver and raise the child. No, that’s not a choice any man can make for a woman. Here is where I think I do have a right to an opinion, I think that a woman should be allowed to have a choice, and that no one has the right to make the choice for her.

But here’s the kicker and it’s a devil’s dilemma. I am also personally anti-abortion. I don’t like it that abortion exists and want to see a world where there are no more abortions. It’s not a morality thing, not a religion thing. It’s just that the very decision to have an abortion is so hard on a person. It changes people, changes relationships.

So like Bill Clinton, I would like to have a nation where abortion on demand is “safe, legal, and rare”.

Abortion, unfortunately, has become a political issue. It shouldn’t be but the other side insists on talking about it. So let’s talk about it. This data is from Carville and Begala’s Take It Back – A Battle Plan for Democratic Victory.

Most people in the country favor some sort of abortion. Neoconservative Evangelical Republicans are in a distinct minority here. This needs to be kept up front whenever the issue becomes politicized.

85% Favor abortion when a woman’s life is in danger
77% Favor abortion when a woman’s physical health is in danger
76% Favor abortion when the pregnancy is caused by rape or incest
66% Favor abortions in the first trimester, whatever the cause
56% Favor abortion when there is evidence of physical or mental disability
56% Favor abortion in most or all cases.

Contrast those figures to these figures on when do Americans favor restrictions on a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion:

88% say it’s OK for a doctor to provide information on alternatives to abortion
84% say that abortion during the last trimester should be illegal
74% say that there should be a 24 hour waiting period after an abortion has been requested.
73% say that minors should have a parent or guardian’s permission
72% say that husbands must be informed of the decision to have an abortion
70% support a ban on partial birth abortion.

These figures tell me this: Americans are on the side of pro-choice, but want that choice made early on and not later in the pregnancy. Democrats need to understand this when the issue is brought up in any campaign. 70% of all Americans are against partial birth abortions, but guess what? 100% of the 2004 Democratic presidential candidates were in favor of partial birth abortions. This fed into the hands of the Neocon Crazies and they beat us over the head with this, showing that Democratic presidential candidates were out of step with the vast majority of Americans. So, Carville and Begala warn, before you fully embrace the pro-choice support groups 100%, consider what this gives your opponents.

Will Roe v. Wade ever be overturned? When he wrote the majority opinion on the decision, Justice Harry Blackmun predicted that it would be someday. It narrowly survived a challenge in 1989 (Webster v. Reproductive Services), but when you look at the Bush Court, you have to wonder when they are going to go after Roe.

If and when they do, watch out for the backlash. Several states have already passed legislation to make abortion illegal when the federal restraint is lifted. When that happens, your American majority, in favor of abortion on demand, who are happy with the current situation, will become very unhappy. “People don’t vote on issues that they are happy about”, write Carville and Begala. “In short the conservatives’ fondest dream – overturning Roe – will be the Republicans’ worst nightmare”.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Caucus Vulnerabilities - Courage vs. Iscariot

I wanted to look at some aspects of the two caucuses that are being bandied about the Texas progressive blogs lately: the “Courage Caucus” and the “Iscariot Caucus”. I wanted to look at the two in terms of the vulnerabilities found in each in terms of a primary or general election challenge.

The 27 members of the Courage Caucus, named so because they had the courage to cast “No” votes in the single candidate race for House Speaker. Courage, because they had no hope of winning and had every reason to believe that they would be relegated to political Siberia in retribution committee assignments by the Speaker.

The 15 members of the Iscariot Caucus, elsewhere named “Craddick D’s”and “Democraddicks” voted with the Republicans to retain Craddick as speaker. Their reasons for doing this are as individual as their districts because the compilation I made in this short analysis and include below indicate that, with one exception, these Democrats are in fairly safe districts.

First let’s look at the Courage Caucus. Of the two it is the more interesting. Of the 27, 8 had Republican opponents in the 2006 General Election. Of those 8, 4 were in less than landslide win races. So of these 27, I’d say that a concerted effort to unseat these will be made by Republicans in 2008. These are races to watch, and for all Progressive Democrats to support with time and resources.

Two races concern me in particular, one is Joe Farias’. Farias, you are truly a wild man. The other is Juan Garcia’s. Particularly if they find an opponent who doesn’t look like death warmed over. Solomon Ortiz may also have problems.

As I pointed out above, and in another post, the only person in the Iscariot Caucus who is not from a safe district is Patrick Rose. He therefore probably had the greatest number of political reasons to vote for Craddick The term “Iscariot” probably doesn’t apply to him.

Of the rest, again, they all had individual reasons for their votes. Some have accused them of feathering their own nests at the expense of their constituents. If that is the case, then it will be a no-brainer that they will be replaced. However it’s a fine line to draw: if a temporary political alliance gets them, and consequently their districts, something extra, then I can’t fault them. What concerns me is how much of it was “fear factor” a vote for Craddick because of a reasonable suspicion that he would win anyway. Rumors persist of a small Pitts voting bloc that were going to vote for Pitts if every other member of the bloc did so, and that one of them bolted causing the others to also. I don’t even know if any in this bloc were among the Iscariots.

Anyway, as you can see from this table, the only Iscariot Caucus Member with a chance for a credible primary challenge is Eddie Lucio. With the others, I think it depends on how things go in the next 14 months. That is, 13 of these 15 have 14 months to make it up to their constituents or explain, and have good explanations for, why they voted for Craddick.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sara Goes To Siwa

I think I mentioned that my daughter is an expatriate living in Egypt. She teaches people there to speak English. Egyptians who can speak English are able to get better jobs for themselves.

Well this past month she and her friend Riis, took a little vacation. It was an all expenses paid trip upcountry to a desert oasis known as Siwa. There's a lot more to the story, but let's just say that they got an opportunity to participate in film making, and Siwa was a key location in the film.

They videoed the trip and edited out an almost 10 minute long video that they posted on You Tube.

I know, it's like me showing pictures of my family on a political blog and it's not cool to foist my family on you. But I am so proud of what she is doing, not only for herself but for people in Egypt, who are just trying to find better lives for themselves.

Now in case you don't realize it, the reason they are calling Egypt a Geologist's Paradise, and the reason they keep displaying fossil specimens, is that this is my daughter taunting her dad. Her dad is a former professional paleontologist. As a matter of fact, she probably doesn't remember this, but I used to teach her the names of indicator fossils when she was just barely old enough to talk. I'm glad to see some of it has rubbed off.

Sara, remember this? "Anomalina dorri. You got A. dorri you got C-Zone."

Friday, January 19, 2007

Voter Suppression Bill Filed in Texas House

Last September I wrote a piece on a bill passed in the US Congress to require photo ID at the polling place in 2008 and proof of citizenship in 2010. I never mentioned what bill it was, nor did I follow up on it.

I’m going to do that here because Vince at Capitol Annex posted yesterday that Phil King (R-Weatherford) has filed another such Voter Suppression bill in the Texas state house.

It was HR 4844 of the 109th Congress, called the Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006. The bill passed with 98% of Republicans voting for it, and 98% of Democrats voting against it. It was sent on to the Senate where it was referred to the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. There it died.

Now we have HB 626 which requires that voters have a proof of citizenship when registering to vote, and have a photo ID when showing up to vote. Proof of citizenship consisting of: a) a copy of one’s birth certificate or other such proof of birth, b) naturalization papers or c) an unexpired passport.

Back in September, I called such a heinous attempt to suppress the vote a poll tax. It is simply a requirement that a voter lay out some money to be enabled to vote. In that loose definition, it IS a poll tax. Vince makes the same observation in his posting also mentioning the fact that it specifically targets the elderly and poor who may not have the resources to get the paperwork together that are necessary to prove their citizenship.

This is going to be interesting because now, with Democratic majorities in the US House and Senate, we have the possibility of getting some legislation passed that would kill this bill. Last year, two bills introduced in the 109th Congress HR. 247 (Lewis-GA) and SR 53 (Obama) both had wording that “national photo identification requirements for voters should be rejected and that the U.S. Department of Justice should challenge any state law that has what the resolutions refer to as discriminatory photo-identification requirements”.

Something has got to be done about this, and if it is going to take heavy handedness from the federal government to keep voter suppressing states in line, then that's going to be what it takes.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Don't Tell Mama I’m For Barak Obama

Well, not absolutely, not yet anyway. Neither is my friend Mark, who sent me an email with the subject nearly the same as the title to this posting, this link so I would see the video where he announced formation of a Presidential Exploratory Committee.

Mark tells me that “Don’t tell mama, I’m for Obama” is rapidly getting around as a slogan among Democratic insiders. Mama refers to Hillary. I favor putting his first name in the slogan as well because it gives the slogan a rhythm. You can also sing the line to the Tim Lehrer tune “So long Mom, I’m off to drop The Bomb”.

I like Obama for the fact that he would really help us out in Texas. We have lots of Black Democratic voters here who will fall all over each other getting to the polls to vote for him. This could be just the ticket to retake the state House. I also like Obama because everywhere I look I see that people think he is a coalition builder and can work with both parties.

Frankly, the only negative thing anyone has to say about Obama is his level of experience. He has only held political office since 1996. My friend Don likes to point out that by the presidential election year, 2008, he will have had just about the same political experience as Jack Kennedy. This intrigued me so I checked their CVs and he’s very nearly right.

Prior to becoming President in 1960, Jack Kennedy was Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts for 8 years. Prior to that he was Congressman John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts’ 11th congressional district. He served in that office for 6 years. Total: 14 years, all in federal legislative bodies.

Barak Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1996 and served there until he won his US Senate seat in 2004. It was that year that he was vaulted to national attention when he gave one of the best keynote addresses I have ever heard. So by 2008, Obama will have served for 12 years in political office.

That’s only two years shy of Kennedy’s service but there are two things to point out: 1) Obama’s experience is at both the state and federal level – he has broader experience than Jack Kennedy had – and 2) Kennedy’s years in the Senate were punctuated by time that he had to take out for four spinal surgeries and recovery from them. I know, the second one is rather lame, but there’s that.

And consider this, in 2008, Barak Obama will be 47 years old. That’s four years older than Jack Kennedy was when he was elected in 1960.

Quite frankly the only thing that Obama lacks that Jack Kennedy had is a war record: Obama never skippered PT boats, never got stranded on a remote island in the Solomons, and never was played by Cliff Robertson in the movie that was made about it.

Finally, consider his “Star Power”. People talk about it all the time. Back in the Kennedy years, we used to call that "Charisma".

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sorry to Differ: Anita Perry Is a Dazzler

I love this photo of Anita Perry, Texas Governor Rick Perry's fine wife, because it says so much of what we Fifty-somethings want to tell to people who are younger in age.

May you never age.

And more to the point. This from my 50 and onward somethings: “ I don’t care a whit about your opinion on my personal appearance because I am who I am and I am proud of it. If you can do better at my age, then I applaud you. Anything other than that are simply empty meaningless words."

OK, we are discussing the aging process? It is relentless. Here is what it says: “Get old . . . soon. It happens.”

I love it that she chose such a focal color for her ballroom frock. No straps. Daring. I only challenge her taste in men. Well, no that is a marriage thing and when it’s good, it’s good. Right?

Anita is in her 50’s as am I. We are not as buff as we were in our 20’s, 30’s or even 40’s. Time and too many tamales take over. We acknowledge the harm to our bodies and we do what we can when we can to put it to right. But time and the process of aging are both relentless…

I thought how she looked in her gown was just fine. Anita, just splendid. From a lefty. Ignore the insults from my cohorts.

Youth is wasted on the young. The young are so obsessed on appearance that they don’t see that appearance is trivial. When all is said and done, and when all is known, we are not judged on our appearance, but on what we stand for…what we believe…and what we produce.

You are good people Anita. Your husband needs a few lessons in humanity, but that is for him, and does not reflect on you. Come to think of it, no political thing reflects upon you.

You are a damned fine-looking woman.

Perry, you don’t deserve such happiness.


"Surging" Troops to Afghanistan, Too?

I first read about it in the Houston, Texas Chron, and now in the Washington Post. “Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday he would consider more troops for Afghanistan…”.The numbers he is considering are reported to be around two thousand. The Afghanistan government is requesting 2300. That is, two thousand troops in addition to the 20,000 plus troops being “surged” to Iraq.

So now, not only is the War in Iraq being escalated, the War On Terror in Afghanistan is, as well. Actually, no. The War On Terror in Afghanistan is being put on hold while we fight the War On The Taliban. Put on hold because we can’t find any Al-Qaeda terrorists to kill.

The Taliban, it will be recalled, were not Al-Qaeda, just the Islamic Fundamentalist government in Afghanistan that took power when the Russians were booted out. Their association with Al-Qaeda was to the extent that they gave them safe haven within their borders, and allowed them to train there. It was an alliance of convenience. Made inconvenient to them when their guests decided to kill on a mass scale. Al-Qaeda - Taliban: all painted together with broad brush strokes.

I recall another Taliban alliance of convenience that came home to roost in Sugar Land, Texas. You remember the alliance that was forged in the late 1990’s between Unocal, an oil company with offices in Sugar Land (and recently swallowed up by ChevronTexaco), and the Taliban? Oh, but that's not fair - that's when the Taliban only did stuff like destroy 2000 year old Buddhist shrines with cannon fire.

I’m not rambling, I'm just trying to understand things here. Who we are actually fighting, and why.

But my main concern in all of this is why we are escalating the war in Afghanistan when we are not involving the real culprit in all of this, our friend and ally, Pakistan.

According to all intelligence on this, the Taliban are not established in Afghanistan. Their organized elements are encamped across the border, in Pakistan. They cross the border to engage our troops in Afghanistan, and then break off and return to Pakistan where US troops cannot go, because Pakistan is our ally.

So by not engaging their military in uprooting these elements within their own borders, like a true ally would, is Pakistan then harboring them in a safe haven, allowing them to engage our troops at will? Are they not doing for the Taliban what the Taliban were themselves doing for Al-Qaeda?

And why do we continue to fight these fights alone?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Texas HD29 Votes Coming In

OK I told myself I wasn't even going to check, but I have to have closure on this, even if a Democrat isn't in this race. Our Tammy poured her heart and soul to Weber's candidacy after he beat our man Dr. Anthony DiNovo to a runoff with the Dark Lord Mike O'Day (aka Darth Sith).

You need to know that The Dark Side is having a runoff election, and the lesser of two evils is not doing well right now.

With the Early Votes in now, Here are the totals:

O'Day - R 2,170 60.63%
Weber - R 1,409 39.37%

Total 3,579

It doesn't auspice well. Republicans turn out better than Democrats in the early vote, but now we have a guy who is being partially supported by Democrats who don't want Darth Sith as their state rep. and it looks like they are doing their best to behave like Democrats.

Dr. DiNovo, a Democrat in a heavily R district managed to pull in 40% in the General Election. My hope is that Darth Sith will poll less than the corpse.

More later as I occasion to look in , , ,


OMG, this really is a Republican race.

With 26.67% of today's votes counted, the numbers jumped a total of 485 votes.


O'Day - R 2,476 60.93
Weber - R 1,588 39.07%

Total 4,064

Republicans really DO cast their votes in the early voting, don't they? In Fort Bend County, Democrats won the race in Election Day balloting. Republicans took it in the early vote.


9:10 PM Update:

Weber gains but the outlook is bleak

With 53.33% of the precincts reporting here are the totals

O'Day - R 2,654 59.67%
Weber - R 1,588 40.33%

Total 4,448

So at this rate, if nothing changes, today's totals will be in the neighborhood of 1750 total votes, compared to roughly twice that number in the early voting.

Cold weather tends to keep the voters from the polls, you know.

Looking back on the December 19th Special, not much seems different until Election Day.

Vote Totals on December 19th - early votes: 3525
Vote Totals on January 16th - early votes: 3579

My, they got 54 more people to show up for early voting in the runoff.

And according to my estimate, maybe 2000 fewer voters showing up at the polls today.

But only time will tell. And by the way, it's official, O'Day is currently polling at lower percentages than a corpse in the General Election - but a very popular corpse.

9:24 PM Update:

And like premature . . . well . . . release. It's done

Darth Sith by 898 votes.

My projection was wrong. Only 1078 fewer voters stayed away on this election compared to December.

I know I echo the words of Tammy. HD 29 voters, I hope you are toasty and warm and secure tonight. May you reap what you have sewn.

No, not really. Really, I feel sorry for you and what you have done to your district. I really do.

See you in '08.

Consider this a comment left at Capitol Annex

I was reading Vince Leibowitz’s commentary entitled “National Targeting Of Texas Congressional Races: We Need To Make Peace With Our Moderates”. I know where he stands on this, and he knows where I stand. I’ve read all the arguments why we need to replace moderate and sometime-Republican-voting Democrats with progressive Democrats, and as a progressive Democrat (who can pull in my partisan claws when I have to) I would normally agree – run the rats out. But here is the crux of Vince’s argument, as I see it with regard to targeting Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo):
“…the bottom line has to be whether the voters of a particular district would be in better shape with a different Congressman and whether or not a more progressive” member could ultimately result in the seat being lost to a Republican. While the movement may believe CD 28 would be better off with more liberal representation, the folks in that district don’t think so, and we’re better off targeting other districts in a general rather than 'eating our own' in this district.”
I would like to add to this my thoughts and place them in a recent historical perspective. A good friend of mine, active in Texas politics since he was in diapers, was talking to me one day about his efforts as a Democratic progressive in the 70’s and 80’s. Back then, Democrats held safe majorities in Texas government. He and others in his movement sought to oust the moderate and Republican-leaning elements from the party, and he reports that they did “a pretty good job of it. So good that we ran them all to the Republican Party and we lost the majority.”

If we are to maintain a two-party system, and if Democrats are to maintain and build on their majority (or in the case of Texas, achieve one), then we must maintain a “big tent”. We must be tolerant of our Democrats who have different views on morality. We need to be mindful that our State Reps and State Senators may have a constituency whose demographics differ from ours and are not in keeping with our values and traditions.

Fragmentation and polarization, what Rep. Aaron Pena calls “uber-partisanship” (can you tell? I love that term!) will only serve to delay what I see as the inevitable retaking of Texas. Sure, we can call each other on things we don’t agree with. I am not particularly happy with my congressman’s recent machinations to bring $375 million of pork to his district by getting a bill killed that would have, in turn, killed Tom DeLay’s famous midnight amendment insertion. I called him on it, but it’s not going to make me join with a progressive group to put up a progressive Democrat against him in the ’08 Primary. A progressive Democrat is unelectable in CD 22.

And finally, to those who argue that by voting for Tom Craddick for Speaker, the 15 Craddick D’s doomed the state to 2 more years of regressive legislation, this: Democrats are a minority in both houses. Anything they want to get done must be done with the help of Republicans. Republicans don’t have to return the favor. If there is regressive legislation, don’t blame the Craddick D’s, blame the divisiveness in our own party that prevents us from getting electable Democrats on every ballot in every district.

Patrick Rose: Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

That Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs) is a Craddick D, or as they sometimes say, a “Democraddick” was made more obvious this morning in an interesting article by Laylin Copelin in the Austin American-Statesman.

Twice, Copelin compared Rose to a boxer avoiding landed blows in sparring matches with his fellow members:
“Footwork is as important in politics as in boxing. And Rose, only 28 and starting his third term, has avoided tripping on the line between the inner politics of the House and expectations of his constituents in Hays, Blanco and
Caldwell counties.”
And why the analogy to boxing? Well for all of the imagery it evokes, he actually had an incident where he displayed his unique ability to duck (almost):
“Rose keeps bobbing and weaving, still on the balls of his feet. Last fall, on his way to an easy re-election, Rose had to duck a swing from his 2003 opponent, Rick Green, outside a polling place. So far, no one has landed anything but that glancing blow.”
And finally, the boxing theme re-emerges in the title of the documentary movie made about Rose and his unseating of an incumbent Republican in a “safe district”. "Last Man Standing: Politics — Texas Style".

Aside from allusions to boxing, the Copelin article is revealing in just how involved Rose was in maintaining a small democratic contingent of 15 Craddick votes, and just how dicey he thought the situation was.
"I think the race was teetering," Rose said. "It was anyone's to win."
The article is sure to inflame those who follow a trend of “uber-partisanship and polarization” as Rep. Aaron Pena refers to it. Rose is very probably number one on their '08 Primary hit list, or if not, will be shortly. But contrary to the 4 Craddick D’s that were removed from office in their primaries, because of their support for the Craddick/DeLay redistricting, Patrick Rose left the state with his Democratic colleagues to avoid a quorum on the vote for redistricting. That and his popularity in his district along with his tireless work in lowering health and homeowner’s insurance rates in Texas should make him a very difficult target to hit.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Runoff Election Set for Tomorrow in HD 29

Will the voters in Texas State House District 29 ever get a break?

Last November, during the General Elections, voters were given the choice between a living breathing young MD full of vision and sense of duty, and a corpse. They voted for the corpse. The corpse’s campaign committee, run by State Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton), saw no real reason to inform voters of the death of the Republican incumbent, Glenda Dawson, even as they sent mailers out to voters with the smiling face of Rep. Dawson plastered on them.

So because the voters were going to be represented in the state house by someone who was no longer able to cast a vote, because she died, Rick Perry hemmed and hawed about when, just when, should they have a Special Election? Well, didn’t he have to wait for the election to be certified? That’s the ticket.

So, hey, why not have a special election 6 days before Christmas? Well, I guess it would have been a good idea if they moved the polling locations to the malls, but no. They didn’t As a matter of fact, in Matagorda County, where Dr. DiNovo did better than his Republican rival, Randy Weber, there was one early voting location. One, in the entire county.

Voter turnout in the special election just topped 4 percent. That’s a miserable showing. A 7 percent showing is more the norm for a special election. The week before, Ciro Rodriquez beat out Henry Bonilla for CD 23, and the turnout was an impressive 17%. Tammy, DiNovo’s campaign manager, bemoaned the turnout. It was a unique chance and they stayed home or went to the malls.

And even then, no one in the field of four candidates got a majority of the vote. I mentioned in a previous post that Dr. DiNovo has endorsed his Republican opponent, Randy Weber. John Gorman, his other opponent did the same. They may all have disagreed with each other on the campaign trail, but there was one thing that they could all agree on, and that is Mike O’Day is the wrong one to go to the state house.

So Rick Perry again had to decide on a day to hold the special runoff election, waited for the official certification, screwed up and didn’t get the day named until it was too late leaving HD 29 voters without a voice in the state house during the first two weeks of the 110th Legislature. So he finally named it, it’s tomorrow, January 16th.

The day an ice storm is expected to hit the area.

A dead candidate, Jesus’ birthday, Perry, and now an ice storm.


Will the US Go to War With Iran?

Very probably, in a limited way. Opening up a second front with total all-out war with Iran isn’t possible given the current condition of the US military. But in Bush’s speech last Wednesday the saber was definitely rattled.

Why did Bush-41 stop US troops from entering Baghdad back in 1992? It is clear now with 20-20 hindsight, that a toppled Iraqi government would have enabled an Iranian regional hegemony. Iraq kept Iran in check. Now it is in Iran’s selfish interest to maintain the destabilizing conditions in Iraq, and that is just what they are doing.

Addressing this, Bush indicated a widening of the war in this portion of his speech last week:
“Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”
More on Iran, our failure in Iraq will embolden Iran.
“The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons”.
And on that it would appear that plans have been afoot since last year to knock over Iran’s nuclear research sites. It has been reported from several angles, but by far the most credible report came from journalist Seymour Hersh who appeared on yesterday’s CNN news program Inside Edition. “

The secret missions in Iran have been authorized in order to prevent similar embarrassment in the event of military action there. The planning for Iran is going ahead even though Iraq is a mess. I think they really think there's a chance to do something in Iran, perhaps by summer, to get the intelligence on the sites. The guys on the inside really want to do this."

And who are these guys on the inside? Hersh says Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, the same two neocon nutjobs who helped get us into the present debacle. Why is Bush still listening to these two? I know that when people give me bad advice I tend not to want to go to them for more of the same.

It is finally time for Congress to step up and put a stop to this madness.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Memories of Dr. King on the Eve of His Birthday

Clicking through my blogroll this morning, I noticed that Texas State Rep. Aaron Pena had an interesting link to an audio file (in two parts) of a speech given by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Temple Israel congregation in Hollywood, California on Feb. 26, 1965.

I listened to it in its entirety. I had never heard it before and noted common threads and themes to his earlier and later speeches. I was particularly drawn to his remarks in regard to a trip to India that he made with his wife, Coretta Scott King. At one meeting he attended there, he was introduced as a “fellow Untouchable”. He said he at first took offense to the label, then thought about it and decided that, indeed, the shoe fit.

Here are his words:

“I remember some time ago, Mrs. King and I journeyed to that great country known as India and we had some marvelous experiences. They will remain dear to me as long as the chords of memory shall lengthen.”
“I remember one afternoon that we journeyed down to the southernmost part of India in the state of Kerala. And I was to address that afternoon, some high school students who were the children mainly of parents who had been Untouchables. And I remember that afternoon that the principal went through his introduction, and when he came to the end he said ‘I am happy to present to you students a fellow Untouchable from the United States of America’”.
"And for the moment I was peeved and shocked that he would introduce me as an Untouchable. But pretty soon my mind leaped the Atlantic. And I started thinking about conditions back home."
“And I started thinking about the fact that I could not go into most places of public accommodation all across the South. I started thinking about the fact that twenty million of my black brothers and sisters were still at the bottom of the economic ladder. I started thinking about the fact [that] Negroes all over America, even if they have the money, cannot buy homes and rent homes of their choices because so many of their white brothers don’t want to live near them.”
“I started thinking about the fact that my little children were still judged in terms of the color of their skin rather than the content of their character. And I said to myself I AM an Untouchable, and every Negro in the United States is an Untouchable. And segregation is evil because it stigmatizes the segregated as an Untouchable in a caste system. We’ve been in the mountain of segregation long enough. And it is time for all men of good will to say now, we’re through with segregation now, henceforth, and forever more.”
The man could turn a phrase.

My personal recollections of Dr. King were those of a young boy growing up in suburban Southern California. There were no black kids in my school. I lived in one of those neighborhoods that Dr. King described. Indeed, a ballot proposition was passed in the early 60’s in California, called the Rumford Fair Housing Act, which was an attempt to “to help end racial discrimination by property owners and landlords who refused to rent or sell their property to ‘colored’ customers.” Three years later it was overturned by the California State Supreme Court. I recall the righteous indignation over that ballot initiative on the part of my parents who, were by that time, landlords, and their relief when it was overturned.

Yeah, you thought that Californians were all a bunch of lefty nutcases, didn’t you?

I also recall the backyard celebration that was held by my father and his brother the day that Dr. King was assassinated. I never did understand their delight at the death of a minister who was, to my young mind, a sincere man.

In all fairness, my father, who still lives and breathes, has since made a complete 180 and is now rabidly liberal. It’s actually no fun talking to him anymore because we agree on everything. For the record, I won the last argument I had with him, and my dad stopped voting a straight Green ticket and votes Democratic again.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

In Craddick We Trust

Another tempest in a teapot in the Texas State Legislature? What’s new about that? Yesterday, reactions to approval of an amendment to HR 2, the Housekeeping Resolution, were swift and vehement. The amendment by Richard Raymond (D-Laredo) was similar to HR 16, a resolution he introduced last November 21st for consideration on the Housekeeping Resolution. Raymond proposed that the U. S. national motto “In God We Trust” be placed prominently within plain view “on the face of the white portion of the portico located over the speaker's podium and beneath the electronic message screen at the front of the hall of the house.”

Here it is as originally introduced. I recall some commentary late last year about this.

But the amendment, introduced and approved by a vote of 143-2, is slightly different in its construct:
If you looked back at the text of HR 16, you’ll see that mention of gold lettering and porticoes are gone in the amendment just passed. HR 16 even mentioned “the electronic message screen at the front of the hall of the house”, but only in terms of placing an “In God We Trust” sign under the message screen.

Why, I ask, is it necessary to display the motto in the House, and why the change in wording from the original resolution?

Raymond explained that it was “To remind us to whom we answer.” That’s fair. However some might object that it was a move to nationalize a religion and that it was just another display of Christian Chauvinism. The two reps who voted against the amendment were Donna Howard (D-Austin) and Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth). Found here is Rep Howard’s explanation for her vote.
“Howard said afterward that Travis County voters didn’t elect her to attend to what gets posted on the House message board. ‘People elected me to deal with serious business of the state—our public schools, higher education, affordable and accessible health care,” among topics. The words on the wall above the speaker’s podium are not what they sent me here to deal with.’”
That was a little lame, and I began to wonder what her real reason was. And Burnam’s. I noticed that Howard's name does NOT grace either the “Craddick 15” list on BOR or the “Texas Hero” list in a separate BOR post.

Then someone turned on the lights. Here is the operative clause in the Raymond amendment:
"The motto shall be displayed at all times that the electronic message is not being used to conduct legislative business during a session of the house . . .”
What was the message that was displayed before this amendment was passed?
"Welcome to the Texas House of Representatives. Speaker Tom Craddick."
Is that slick or what? That’s how you get bipartisan support for this amendment. It’s got something that everyone (well, almost everyone) can get behind for one reason or another. Did Raymond vote No for Craddick? Yes, TWICE.

Two voted no on the Raymond amendment, and Craddick abstained. Can we expect that both Howard and Burnam will be assigned to some important high visibility committees? Chairmanships?

And I wonder why Howard didn't vote in the House Speaker’s race?

Well, not really . . .

Friday, January 12, 2007

Baghdad-Bound Soldiers in the US Military: Take Off Your Clothes!

I looked and looked and nowhere did I see my brilliant idea on how Congress can block the Bush Administration’s plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq. Refuse to buy them plane tickets. OK, so they don’t fly over on a commercial airline, I know that. It was symbolic. What I meant was, no pilot gets paid to drive a troop transport plane TO Iraq. No oil company gets paid for the jet fuel to put in the transports. No air traffic controller gets paid to clear them for takeoff.

But no. No one ever listens to me. It could be that it’s because no one reads this blog but O’Day Drilling Company (Pearland, Texas), people who are looking for illustrations of Krishna, romance novel writers who are still wondering when Susan Combs is going to come out with her next steamy novel, Reston, Virginia (I suppose we all get those hits), and a few readers of Susan’s non-blog.

No, wait, I distinctly remember seeing a hit from But that was probably before I came up with my brilliant plan.

Well, now I have another brilliant plan and I hope someone picks up on it.

Ladies and gentlemen of the armed services. If you don’t want to get sent to patrol the streets in that meat grinder known as Baghdad, do this: get naked.

Seriously. Get naked and photographed, and then have the photos published in magazines. One California transplant based on Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas has it all figured out.

Military brass hates that. Witness one Staff Sgt. Michelle Manhart who had the audacity to get photographs of herself, in and out of uniform, splashed on the pages of Playboy Magazine. As a result of her actions Staff Sgt. Manhart “has been relieved of her duties pending an investigation, according to Lackland AFB spokesman Oscar Balladares”.

So if Congress won’t help, you’ve got to take matters into your own hands. If history tells us anything, when you go this route you buy yourself an accelerated discharge schedule. The Chron article goes on to mention two previous women in the military, both sailors, who found themselves permanently placed onshore, duffle bag in hand.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mayor Bill White Must Hold a Special Election for Silly Shelley’s Seat

Way back before the election, I noted here that for the privilege of sitting in a US congressman’s Texas CD-22 office over a lame duck session of congress, and then over the winter holidays, Shelley Sekula-Gibbs was going to have to step down from her Houston city council At-Large office, trading the remainder of her term for 51 days in DC. Speculation was that she would refuse to accept the job, thus making her the 2nd Republican in a year to quit that office. But the idea was, it would save the city at least a couple million dollars that it would take to hold a special election.

Well, she didn’t and we all know what happened just as soon as she hit town.

And now Mayor Bill White, who wanted the Legislature to alter the rules so he wouldn’t have to hold the election, has bowed to the intransigence of State Senator John Whitmire (D- Houston) who opposed any rule change.

Quoted in The Chron, Whitmire said:
"The city should not arbitrarily call off an election. Sometimes democracy costs. I'm sorry about all the circumstances, but I didn't create them."
Nope, he sure didn’t, but we are safe in the sure and certain knowledge of who did.

Now they’re talking about it costing up to $4 million. Well, yeah, it’s an At-Large seat in the election is city-wide.

So a recalculation is in order. Assuming a 7 day work week and an 8 hour day, Shelley Sekula-Gibbs’ tiptoe down the hallowed halls of Congress is going to cost taxpayers $4 million, which comes out to $78,431.37 per day, $9,803.92 per hour, $163.40 per minute, and $2.72 per second.

And I know darned good and well that she was home for Thanksgiving and Christmas so the per unit time costs are even higher.

The silver lining in this otherwise dark cloud is that now Melissa Noriega can do what she has promised to do, run for the seat in the special election.

Melissa Noriega is a former Special Projects Manager at HISD. Her husband, Texas State Rep. Rick Noriega (D-Houston) was called up to serve a tour in Afghanistan fighting Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, then on border patrol duty in south Texas.

Melissa Noriega, in a time-honored tradition, served in her husband’s place in the Texas Legislature while Rick was on military duty. Rick Perry ruled that she would have to leave her job at HISD to do this – I don’t know, hoping she wouldn’t? Well she didn’t and word is she did an excellent job.Well as first reported by Kuffner last December, Melissa Noriega indicated that she would run for Sekula-Gibbs’ vacant seat. Now it seems the field is filling in rapidly as hats get thrown into the ring. Along with Melissa, we have

  1. Roy Morales, a retired Air Force officer who ran for an at-large position in 2005
  2. Andy Neill, a business consultant
  3. Noel Freeman, a city employee
  4. Tom Reiser, a businessman who tried to buy himself a seat in Congress in ’02.

Morales benefits from an Hispanic surname and the support of the GOP. Andy Neill is known in the Houston business community, and has recently become entranced with Las Vegas, Nevada, and what it holds. Noel Freeman is an Administrative Assistant in the Houston Public Works and Engineering Department, and current president of the Log Cabin Republicans, nailing him the gay Republican vote. Tom Reiser ran for the CD-25 open seat when Ken Bentsen ran for Senate, and was defeated by Chris Bell. Bell was attacked by Reiser for sexually harassing a woman on Mayor Lee Brown’s staff – a totally fabricated accusation. The man plays dirty.

So the really nice thing is that Democrats and Independent voters have a real candidate in this election. Someone to vote for, not settle for.

Oh, and by the way, you can personally meet Melissa Noriega and her husband Rick next February 16th when they both show up to speak at the Fort Bend Democrats’ winter gala:

“A Tribute to an American Family: An Evening with Rick and Melissa Noriega”

Friday February 16th 7:00 PM
Quail Valley Country Club, Missouri City, Texas
Tickets: $35.00

Click on The Noriega family at right for a PDF of the flyer.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Battle For Speaker is Joined ... and Then Withdrawn

I tried to get the streaming video at work during my lunch break but discovered that the State House's server was fully subscribed. With the traffic we get at work I doubt it would have been able to handle it anyway.

So I got home and logged on to find that the video portion of the streaming video has been disabled, and only the audio is up. Smart move on that. Now its the more the merrier.

And I was able to listen to the debate on HR 35 the resolution determining whether the House vote for Speaker would be a public vote or a secret vote (the Merritt Amendment actually required that the vote be counted and destroyed). Motion to table the Amendment was carried by 91 Ayes to 51 Nays.

Craddick will get his public vote if HR 35 is passed. Moments later at 5:06 PM, the resolution was passed 132 to 16.

I can now say that I have personally witnessed the dynamics of this. You can't see the nervous fear of retribution, but you sure can hear it. Thirty five votes swinging to the dark side.

5:21 PM

HR 36 by Allen Vaught and an amendment introduced.

After Candidates are nominated, SOS will recognize candidates in order that they were nominated. Candidates speach will not exceed 10 minutes in length

5:25 The resolution is withdrawn.

Chair Recongnizes Representative Pitts: (here it comes):

I don't want members to put in a public record how they voted. That didn't happen today. So it's time to heal. So reluctantly I would like to withdraw from the race. I will not be nominated as speaker.

Well that's it. Craddick gets to be speaker for another 2 years. Honestly it looked like he had the votes anyway. In the end, all Pitts could muster was 51 votes, nowhere near the required 75. That's my take. Votes to keep the ballot public = Votes for Craddick.

OK now on the Democraddicks, as they have come to be called. The numbers: 91 Craddick votes, 14 of them (at last count) Democraddick votes. 91 - 14 = 77. According to Hal's Law of Totality, [some of it - Republican votes] + [the rest of it - Democraddick votes] = [All of it]. And guess what, in this vote, [the rest of it] didn't matter, did it?

5:35: Talton is addressing now. As you know Mr. Pitts has withdrawn. I stood with him as long as he was in the race. We need to allow the process to work.

A general conciliatory speech.

5:38 - Jean Morrison - Nominates Craddick.

5:45 - Aaron Pena - 1st seconding speech.

5:49 - Warren Chisum - 2nd seconding speech

5:50 - Patrick Rose - 3rd seconding speech

5:52 - Dan Gaddis - 4th seconding speech

Now all we need are 69 more seconding speeches and Craddick is automatically elected . . .

I wrote some more stuff, but with all the open processes and Real Player running, my system ran out of memory. Pity. I was brilliant, but now I just want to drown my sorrows in some iced tea.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Welcome Back View from Twenty-Two!!

You don't know what you've got until it is gone. Isn't that the truth?

Our friend Mark had an incredibly funny and erudite blog, but then he went back to Law School, got pulled in by the pain and pressure of his dictatorial professors. And he shut down his very popular website View From 22.

This evening, he sent this email to me "My first blog post in a long time..." and it left me in stitches. Mark, my friend, welcome back and stick around. Things are very interesting.

Mark's back (I hope). He's back to give Nick Lampson a headache (I hope). I walked miles and miles for Nick. Called and called. We need to keep his feet to the fire (I hope).

Nick, in March 2006 you held a press conference on the steps of Sugar Land City Hall, presenting Americans with a payment due notice. Imagine what we could have done with the oil and gas royalties to pay down the debt that Tom DeLay and his cronies heaped on us, our children, and our grandchildren. But no. Instead, those funds are going to go to ultra deepwater conventional oil and gas R&D that would normally have been taken care of - in a bygone time - by Oil and Gas company profits. When I worked in the O&G industry, I watched as they gutted their R&D departments in cost cutting strategies. Now that cost cutting is no longer an issue, the R&D is going to be taken care of with PUBLIC FUNDING?

Nick, that is the essence of obscene.

Nick, I know that you can't take back the pork once it is delivered, but can you please stop it now?

Yes, The You Tube of Craddick Supporters Entering the Austin Club is Here, Too.

OK, everybody and their brother are going to embed this You Tube in their blogs tonight. So I decided why be left out? 63 known and unknown House members on video entering the Austin Club for a Craddick love-fest.

He needs 75 votes to become the 110th Texas State Legislature's Speaker of the House.

Sixty-three is twelve short. So either he doesn’t have the numbers or someone had to stay home and watch the kids.

You know, if a show of strength is what this was all about, Craddick’s camp just fell on their butts.

If anyone can identify the unknowns, leave a comment.

Bush Poised to Escalate the War in Iraq

Yes, that’s what it’s really called. Escalation. Not “Surge”. Surge implies what? Temporary increase in troops? Tell that to 3,403,100 Vietnam War veterans. They were “surged” several times.

He still doesn’t get the point. Sectarian violence is only half the problem in Iraq. The other half is American Infidel presence in a Muslim country. They don’t want us there. We defile their shrines, rape their women, and murder families. Yes, I am exaggerating, but I am looking at it from their perspective. And believe me I have the inside scoop on a Middle Easterner’s perspective.

What will the differences be in a “surge”? Well, this time say the generals in the field, our troops won’t clear militants from towns and villages, then leave, allowing them to come back in. They will clear and hold.

Really? We have enough resources to clear and hold every village, town and city in Iraq that is undergoing sectarian violence? 20,000 more troops will do it? We had 500,000 troops in Vietnam at one point. Five Hundred Thousand. That was still not enough to clear and hold. Anyone remember Hamburger Hill?

The will also attack both Shia and Sunni militants.

That’s right. No more taking sides. Double your enemy, double your fun, double your casualties.

Opposition to this move is everywhere. Congress especially. But Congress has the power of the purse string, and can only vote to withhold funding for a surge. A vote that is not likely given the fact that members could be accused of not supporting the troops in battle.

I really think it’s possible to support troops that are there with what they need to survive, and to withhold funding for additional troops.

Refuse to give them plane tickets.

It’s that simple. Not one US dollar to be spent to transport an additional soldier to Iraq. Yeah, send all their stuff over, their helmets, their Kevlar, their rifles and bullets. But they don’t get to send the soldier. Nope, no money for that one.

Work on that one Nancy and Nick.