Thursday, May 31, 2007

David Wallace Will Not Run For Anything in '08

Harvey Kronberg just published a media release from Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace.

He will not seek his party’s nomination for candidate for US Congress in Texas CD-22, nor will he run for re-election for Sugar Land mayor.

Holy Hasenpfeffer.

Here is what he has to say:

Over the past several months, I have fielded an increasing number of questions regarding the upcoming election for Congressional District 22. While this is a position in which I am confident I could serve the constituency well, this is not the most favorable time for me to launch a campaign of this magnitude and to devote the ongoing time required of this important position.

In November of 2006, I partnered with Costa Bajjali to form a new company, Wallace Bajjali Development Partners LP. Just as with any new venture, this business requires a concentrated investment of my time and energy right now. I believe strongly that I owe it to my partner, Costa Bajjali, our investors, as well as my family, to make this my top priority at this time.

It has been my distinct honor to serve the citizens of Sugar Land as Mayor for three terms. It has truly been a dream job. Since the early days when Sugar Land was a company town, through its phenomenal growth, to today as we realize our great potential, this has been a community dedicated to excellence. I have been proud to work shoulder-to-shoulder with the outstanding men and women elected to City Council and the exceptional City Manager and staff to help Sugar Land take its place among the best cities in the nation.

However, as I stated last Fall, I will not be seeking a fourth term as Mayor for the very same reason that I will not pursue the congressional office at this time. My early announcement of this decision was designed to give citizens ample opportunity to carefully consider who they would like to have as their next mayor. I stand by this decision.

So it looks like the field is clear for Shelley Schulla Gibbons, or whatevertheheck her name is. But we still haven’t heard from the others who must surely have pricked up their ears at this news. Crazy Bob Talton still has his website to pour bits and bytes into. Charlie Howard can still rent his site here. Paul Bettencourt is looking at this race askance according to FortBendNow.

“…those pesky rumors have been circulating that Bettencourt has rethought his position, and isn’t so keen on a congressional run anymore.”

But the one that I am still waiting to hear from is that political powerhouse Giannibicego Hoa Tran.

You remember her and her talking points?

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Nuclear Bomb!

How Green Was My Bush?

Look at this. That’s George Bush speaking in advance of the G-8 meeting next week at a Baltic Sea resort in Germany, saying he’s against those greenhouse gases.

Kyoto.

He wants to organize an agreement by 15 nations who contribute the most greenhouse gases to reduce their emission levels.

Kyoto.

He is calling for a first in a series of meetings beginning this fall to set emission level limits, then letting each of the 15 nations decide how to reduce to the agreed upon level.

Kyoto.

Foul! Cry the environmentalists, and rightly so. This is nothing more than a disingenuous attempt to make Bush look like the guy with his fingers on the pulse of global warming concerns.

“Friends of the Earth president Brent Blackwelder called the proposal ‘a complete charade. It is an attempt to make the Bush administration look like it takes global warming seriously without actually doing anything to curb emissions.’”

It’s more than a charade. It is two-faced political shenanigans. Bush doesn’t give a tinker’s dam about global warming. The Kyoto Protocol called for reduction of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2012. China and India are listed in the protocol as developing countries, and as such, were exempted. Bush doesn’t want to exempt China and India. He is including them in the 15 nations he wants to meet.

A deal breaker, and he knows it.

George Bush is ON RECORD as admitting that global warming is occurring. However, his own EPA had to be directed by the Supreme Court to set emission standards for greenhouse gases.

And even as Bush was speaking his platitudes, his own appointed director of NASA, Michael Griffin, is quoted in the Houston Chronicle as saying “"I have no doubt that global — that a trend of global warming exists. I'm not sure it's fair to say that is a problem we must wrestle with.”

Griffin is at the head of the scientific entity that collects the majority of data indicating that not only are greenhouse gases accumulating at higher and higher concentrations in the atmosphere, but that average temperature on a global scale has increased.

He even goes as far to say that it is arrogant of some people to say what kind of climate is preferable, that the present climate is desired over some other climate.

My guess is that Griffin doesn’t own an expensive beach condo in Port Aransas.

In an effort to spin his boss’ obviously nitwitted remarks, NASA’s chief spokesman, David Mould, said that Griffin was simply saying that it wasn’t NASA’s position to analyze and interpret the data that they collected, and that was to be left to “others, including congress”.

No, David, what he really meant to say was that it is China and India who are doing all the carbon dioxide dumping and that they had just better quit it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Justice Department Widens Its Investigation of Attorney Firings

You can bet it was the sworn testimony of Monica Goodling that Justice Department investigators are now expanding their probe into the inner workings of the Attorney General’s hiring practices.
"We have expanded the scope of our investigation to include allegations regarding improper political or other considerations in hiring decisions withinthe Department of Justice," Inspector General Glenn A. Fine and H. Marshall Jarrett, head of the Office of Professional Responsibility, wrote in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee today.
Doubtless, it was the self-admitted culpability on the part of Monica Goodling, that she had “crossed the line” in asking potential hires about party affiliation. But so what? Apparently it was her policy, and she admitted to it after gaining immunity.

Is this just more smoke and mirrors? You have to ask yourself, how can the Justice Department investigate itself? And why investigate a self-admitted criminal who has federal immunity?

Don’t we need a special prosecutor who answers to the Legislative Branch of government?

Just asking.

The Politics of Fear Come To Cartoons

The only trouble is, I sincerely doubt that those who lap up whatever drivel Hannity and Colmes serve on their pseudonews program are also ones who tune in Family Guy.

This little excerpt would be hilarious if it weren’t for the fact that it is, in my own humble opinion, what is still being served to a fearful public. There are still 28% out there that can’t shake their fears.

DCCC: Take Your Tithing Bowl and Shove It.

I don’t get email messages from the DCCC any more. Not since they started screwing around with Nick Lampson’s campaign last fall. So I didn’t get the infamous email from them, featuring James Carville asking for Memorial Day donations.

Now, through the reaction to the poorly-timed DCCC plea for funds, we are all being treated to the Netroots backlash to Democrats in Congress who lack the intestinal fortitude to step up to the plate and find some way out of this quagmire. It’s a quagmire and you’re going to have to get dirty and take some licks to fight in it, but that’s what a majority of Americans thought we were doing in sending a Democratic majority to Washington.

A pre-Memorial Day sell-out to the Bush Regime enrages us all the more.

Find a way to get it done. Call for a National Referendum. Repeal the authorization to use armed forces in Iraq (HJR 114). Then invoke the War Powers Resolution to end our involvement in the Iraqi Civil War.

Because until you do, you will not see one thin dime from me – so don’t even ask.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Dying in Iraq: In Vain or For Gain?

I see that Cindy Sheehan is putting up her five acres in Crawford, Texas for sale. She came down very hard on the Democrats in Congress who voted for the Iraq spending bill and in the process got attacked by the people she was hoping would help her – Democrats.

They started calling her names.

So in a very poignant posting on Daily Kos she writes that she is going home, now.
“I am going to take whatever I have left and go home. I am going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost. I will try to maintain and nurture some very positive relationships that I have found in the journey that I was forced into when Casey died and try to repair some of the ones that have fallen apart since I began this single-minded crusade to try and change a paradigm that is now, I am afraid, carved in immovable, unbendable and rigidly mendacious marble.”
But perhaps the most heartbreaking statement she makes is one that I have been dealing with for awhile now. Our brave troops are dying in vain. Their blood has been and is being shed for nothing. Nothing except the greed of war profiteers, and the vanity of the ruling Bush Regime.
“The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives.”
I am reminded of remarks that I heard at the Fort Bend/Sugar Land Memorial Day observance yesterday, because they are in such bold contrast to Cindy Sheehan’s words.

One of the families that were honored was the Waterbury family of Richmond. Steve Waterbury, father of fallen soldier Spec. Forrest J. Waterbury, gave a very moving speech about the death of his son and what it means. Mr. Waterbury has a different view than Cindy Sheehan. Mr. Waterbury is convinced that his son died in Iraq for a very good reason: We fight terrorists over there so that we don’t have to fight them over here.

As a parent myself, I could not imagine the horrors of having a child of mine die. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. I’m supposed to die first. When anything happens that devastates your life, you look for reasons, for rationale. Cindy Sheehan and Steve Waterbury both looked for them and came up with different answers.

Cindy Sheehan concluded that her son died for nothing

Steve Waterbury concluded that his son died to prevent terrorism from spreading to this country.

Honestly, I can’t imagine what would be worse: to conclude as Cindy Sheehan has, and it’s true, or to conclude as Steve Waterbury has, and it’s false.

Stop the War in Iraq. Now.

80th Legislature Adjourns Sine Die: Dogs That Died, Stinkers That Didn't

It was pretty anticlimactic. All at once, I could hear the livestream from the other room and where at one time there were heated comments and prickly silences, now there was laughter and applause.

“It must be over,” I said to myself. Went in to look and yep, there’s Tom Craddick denying Texas State Rep. Lon Burnham’s request to bring up a resolution to honor former Parliamentarian and Assistant Parliamentarian Denise Davis and Chris Griesel.

So Texas heaves a collective sigh of relief.

The damages can be found here, but I want to highlight three of my “favorites”.

Most Likely to Get Someone Killed: SB 378 or “The Castle Doctrine” also known as the “Shoot first and ask questions later doctrine”, but this is the moniker I like : “What’s the use of owning a handgun if I can’t use it from time to time?” Gives a whole new meaning to Texas’ motto: The Friendly State.

Biggest Pain in the Butt: Florence Shapiro’s SB 1031, the TAKS replacement bill. It’s accountability writ large, but whose? It’s the students who take the test, but they are not held accountable for the results. Who are? Teachers, Teacher’s Aides, Principals, Superintendents, Custodians, Bus Drivers, and Crossing Guards.

And lastly . . .

Best Teacher Smack Down: Article III, Section 1, nos. 3 and 72 of HB 1 (budget). It’s a one-two punch for Texas’ public school educators. One: An annual raise equivalent to 1.1% of the average teacher salary in Texas. Wow!!! The SBEC says that it needs 80,000 additional teachers in 2008. 80,000. With this pay raise you can literally see teachers pouring over the state line snapping up jobs! Two: Pay For Performance: Additional funds for teachers based on a Machiavellian Educator Excellence rating system based on student performance that ignores the fact that teaching is a team effort.

My favorite three that got away?

Least Likely to Eliminate Voter Fraud: HB 218, the Voter ID bill. A bill whose basis is a big a sham as Bush’s reasons for going to war in Iraq. A Rovian nightmare that keeps the elderly and poor (likely progressive voters) from voting, or allows them to vote only on provisional ballots. We have Senator Gallegos and his new liver to thank for keeping this one in its bottle.

Best Sell-Out of Higher Education: Shapiro’s SB 101. It was Florence Shapiro’s genius to realize that the best way to get more of her wealthy contributor’s slacker children into UT was by cutting the number of the high achievement/high motivation students who are automatically admitted to flagship schools in half. Muffy and Scooter will just have to tough it out at Baylor.

And last but not least,

Biggest Scam: Perry’s plan to sell the Texas Lottery to a private firm in order to fund cancer research and stuff. Couching this in terms of doing this in order to cure cancer was the most disingenuous part of the whole sordid affair. Perry wanted to sell the state’s biggest cash cow and use the proceeds to play the stock market. Geez Rick, why not just put it all on 26 Black? Want to cure cancer? How about HJR 90, passed hugely and will be on the ballot in November.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Nick Sticks With TX-22

W. Gardner Selby of the Austin American-Statesman was first to report that Congressman Nick Lampson (D - Stafford) will not seek the Democratic nomination for US Senate, to run against Texas Senator John Cornyn in November 2008.

That is good news for the Democrats of CD-22. Nick’s race was a hard-fought one – an uphill battle in a Republican-leaning district. We needed him to stay. Sometimes, more often than not, he votes with his base.

Remarks by Nick’s political consultant, Mustafa Tameez, that “It sounds goofy, but he feels like he made a commitment to the people of Congressional District 22” are not “goofy” in the least. Many of us felt betrayed. Many of us felt like a few rungs on a ladder that were used and abused.

So I will take those words for what they are, an acknowledgement of an unspoken agreement.

But you know, there is always something with me. Whenever I see or hear about some "about face", I get a little suspicious.

And when I get suspicious, I do as “Deep Throat” (aka Mark Felt) instructed in the movie All the President’s Men. I follow the money.

It is going to take $12 million to run a campaign against John Cornyn – or really, any Republican with statewide name recognition if Cornyn does as is rumored, and takes the place of discredited Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.

What I am guessing is that Nick took a long and hard look at the available resources, and saw that one of them was a possible primary opponent, Austin lawyer and really rich guy, Mikal Watts. Watts, they say, is going to fund his own campaign for US Senate.

Nick also had a name recognition problem. He got lots of press locally, and he might be remembered as the guy who chased Tom DeLay to Virginia, but the public is fickle and has the long-term memory of a ninth grader.

That is not to say that Mikal Watts is a well-known personality in these parts. I have only recently made myself passingly aware of whom this guy is. The only thing I really wonder about that guy is why he can’t spell his first name correctly. Well, then there's the whole Iraq thing. What's he think about bringing our troops home?

Anyway, this is the long way around to this: good to hear you’re not leaving, Nick. Now relax and let some of us carry some water for you.

Craddick's Press Secretary Guilty of Opprobrium

Today Texas House Speaker Craddick was asked a very pointed question by State Rep. Jim Dunnam. He asked the speaker whether he was aware that there were rules of conduct for posting news releases on the House website, and that a news release had been posted the day previously that was very derogatory of some House Members.

Craddick confessed that he had no knowledge of rules of good behavior that were to be followed in posting news releases.

Dunnam was rather miffed that this news release was posted, and asked that it be removed.

Craddick said that he would “look into it”.

That’s pretty funny. “Look into it”. It was Craddick’s own Press Secretary that wrote and posted the news release. It’s gone now, but I made sure that it would be preserved for the life of this blog.

Here is the release by Alexis DeLee, Tom Craddick’s Press Secretary:

STATEMENT REGARDING THE EVENTS THAT TOOK PLACE IN THE HOUSE
For Immediate Release

Sunday, May 27, 2007


(AUSTIN) - Alexis DeLee issued the following statement regarding the events that took place in the House:

"Once again, some members chose to divert the House away from important matters and instead tried to drag the members into a Speaker's race while we are in session. Speaker Craddick made a promise to the members of the House that he would make sure their bills would be heard so their constituents concerns would be met. This evening a number of bills were put into jeopardy - bills that would protect our water, fund our parks and historical sites, lower electric rates, enhance air quality, and require steroid testing in our public schools. It is his intention to take up and consider these and other pieces of legislation before the session ends tomorrow at midnight."

CONTACTAlexis DeLee at 512-633-2620

Is Memorial Day A Republican Holiday?

You would think so, judging by the things that went on today at the Sugar Land, Texas, City Hall steps and Town Square Plaza (where the 1st in Sugar Land city hall history anti-war protest was held last April).

But I thought that Memorial Day was for all Americans. Democrats are patriots that support our troops and veterans. So what is with the partisan bent that this annual observance has?

First, it probably doesn’t help that every single locally elected official present at the Memorial Day observance was a Republican. The organizer, Fort Bend Precinct 4 Constable Troy Nehls, is a Republican. Yes, the senior law enforcement offices in Texas are partisan offices. One of the main speakers, he actually spoke on two occasions during the observance, was Gary Gillen, who is the Chairman of the Fort Bend County Republican Party. A county commissioner who spoke, also a Republican, was Andy “Encourage Terrorists Vote Democrat” Meyers. Mayor Pro Tem Dennis Parmer, also a Republican, spoke, although speaking is a term I use loosely. He read the official Sugar Land declaration of the Memorial Day observance written by Mayor David Wallace.

David Wallace is also a Republican, but was not in attendance.


Dennis also introduced two city councilmen who were not sitting with the others at the top of the steps. One whose name that I do not recall and another, a newly familiar name, was At Large Position 1 City Councilman Tom Abraham. It will be remembered that Abraham was approached to run as a Democrat in Nick Lampson’s place in 2008. Both Parmer and Abraham are Republicans.

But in seemingly contradictive fashion, and bucking the overall Republican trend, the keynote speaker, the keynote speaker mind you, was the above-mentioned Congressman Nicholas Valentino Lampson. Nick is the recently elected Democratic congressman. Well, he votes with the Democrats more often than not, anyway. He was introduced by some guy who was the emcee. He sounded like a DJ. He introduced Nick as being the Congressman from the "Fighting 22nd". Ha ha.

I found it ironic that the last time he stood on those steps he was surrounded by a gaggle of neoconservative DeLay-ites, one of whom knocked down a 69 year old Lampson supporter. So he was definitely in a hostile environment. But the audience politely, if not reservedly received him with a polite, but scattered applause.

At least they left their air horns home.

Nick spoke with a focus on the middle. Nick is savvy. He knows his audience. He spoke about the war without condemning our participation in the war. That would have flown as high as a 2 ton elephant in this crowd. He spoke of it only in terms of the fallen – which is entirely appropriate on Memorial Day. Ever with the numbers, Nick cited the 186,000 Texans who have served multiple tours in Iraq. He cited the 326 KIAs and the 2500 wounded who were from Texas, thanking them for their ultimate sacrifice.

The mid speech pause met with a polite applause, with, I think, more volume.

But here’s where Nick made huge points with these people.
“We must invest in the healthcare of our veterans. We have a moral obligation to take care of those who serve”.
He announced new legislation that will bring $1.6 billion to directly benefit veterans and their families.

That got people excited and the audience erupted in wild applause. Even the guy who kept yelling “YEAH” to Republicans’ speeches gave Nick one of his “YEAH”s.

Nick’s not running for US Senate, did you hear? More on that one later.

But I want to close on another Republican whom I noted sitting at the top of the steps with the others. None other than Shelley Sekula Gibbs (she left her hyphen at the office) showed up – pinkless. It was really kind of odd. Yes, I guess she is a declared candidate for CD-22 as she still sends out campaign flyers that castigate Nick, but lets just say that it was a little, and I apologize in advance for the near-pun, incongruous.

All of those sitting on the steps were introduced to the audience at the beginning of the observance. All were introduced as Firstname Lastname, Officeheld. All but Shelley. She was simply introduced as Shelley Sekula Gibbs. Not even former congresswoman Shelley Sekula Gibbs. And what did she do? She sat when appropriate, stood when everyone else did, put her hand on her heart appropriately and inappropriately, and . . . that’s about it. What was the point, I asked myself. How did she get on the steps? Ahh. Click here and scroll down to Silver Star Sponsors.

Spending some campaign funds, are we Shelley?

I have pics of the event below. I know, I have to go out and get a real digital camera. Mine is 10 years old this year. It’s older than my cell phone which is now something that people laugh at when they see it.

Quorum Absent!!

94 ayes in the Texas House don’t mean anything if a quorum isn’t present.

Democrats (most of them) and Republicans who object to the dictatorship that has been foisted on the Texas House left the floor at 12:42 AM.

Walked off.

There was a motion for adjournment. It was entertained but “not recognized” by the new parliamentarian staff, one of whom has not paid his ethics fines. The other of whom has a very bad haircut. My main objection to people who have lots of hair is that if they have lots of hair, take care of it. Those who have such and do not have it cut well, should hire a political consultant. Keel. What is it about that 80’s look?

Texas, you get what you deserve. When you elect corrupt politicians under a corrupt system of citizen/statesman legislators, people who can run their lives AND hiatus themselves from their lives for a half a year every other year, you absolutely get what you deserve.

Texas, you were saved this early morning by a group of ethical Texans of both Democratic and Republican stripes (agh, I hate to admit that they have ethics also, but there it is).

Texas’ ruling body nearly devolved into a government that was last overseen by something referred to, last time it existed, as a Reichstadt. Governing the 3rd Reich.

We very nearly had this to salute to our lone star flag: “Heil Craddick!”

Saner minds prevailed.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Crash and Burn: Shapiro’s SB 101 Turned Away

When the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Texas’ affirmative action law in regard to admission to its premier state university (and awarding the complainants, a dollar each, as I recall), the Texas legislature responded and adopted “the 10% rule”. The rule guaranteed admission to these premier schools, of the top 10% of each graduating class of every high school in the Texas public schools system.

It was eminently fair. It leveled the playing field. Rural schools with fewer resources had just as much chance of having their top 10% high school graduates admitted to Texas' premier universities as urban elite schools.

Florence Shapiro, for some reason, decided to cut that number in half. Why? It became clear that as student populations increased and classroom capacity did not increase, that those lower performing students were being sent elsewhere. That is, a student in the 11th percentile at an elite school where the competition was fierce, was being turned away in favor of a student from a more rural school with lower competition for the top ten percent. Students "legacies" (children of UT graduates), students with sports scholarships most certainly had difficulty finding admission.

So Florence Shapiro’s SB 101 sought to cap the top 10% to 50 percent of those within the top 10% (she later upped it to 60%).

The problem was that classrooms were full. Enrollment did not allow anyone but to 10 percenters to enter Texas’ top universities.

Shapiro’s bill sought to solve the problem by stemming the flow of students. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Shapiro should instead have filed a bill to provide additional funds to hire additional professors to teach additional classes that takes advantage of the fact that classrooms can be occupied during evening hours as well as daylight hours.

Accommodating all of these students.

But what I am thinking is that Shapiro had no desire to keep the playing field level. She wanted to throw enrollment open to less deserving lower ability children of moneyed parents.

No, Florence, we have a solution already in place there, as well.

It's called Baylor University.

The bill failed after emotional speeches by one pro-education member after another.

Yea: 69 Nay: 75

Well done members.

SB 1031 To The Governor’s Desk

It’s not the budget, but at least we will have new testing parameters for all students in the state of Texas to graduate from high school. And if you thought that SB 1031 was all about testing, TAKS to EOC exams, you’d almost be right.

Almost.

I compared the Introduced version of SB 1031, one that I expounded on in this post, to the enrolled version that is going to the governor’s desk to be signed.

The introduced version is 22 pages long. The enrolled version is 36 pages long. That’s a 63% rate of expansion.

So what is new here? Primarily it has to do with an oversight committee that was added.

It’s all in the description

Introduced:

“relating to the administration of certain assessment instruments in public schools; providing a criminal penalty.”

Enrolled:

“relating to public school accountability and the administration of certain assessment instruments in public schools; providing a criminal penalty”

More accountability.

The oversight committee will be a 15 member committee with, among others, members chosen by the governor, lieutenant governor, and House Speaker. Their charge is “to conduct a comprehensive review of the public school accountability system.”

Mainly it relates to the new “assessment instruments” but it goes beyond that, mandating that they rate the accountability system vis-à-vis the NCLB requirements. They will conduct hearings and get feedback from the public (aka whining from the parents).

The only good thing about this section of the bill is that the committee goes away on January 13th 2009.

Other changes made:

An actual fix to a problem that I saw immediately. If the EOC exam will count for 15% of a student’s final grade in the course, how does that work if the student retakes the exam? Well, how it works is this: the original EOC grade stays with the student’s course grade, but the final EOC grade is included in the student’s “cumulative grade”.

EOCs will be administered 2 weeks later than TAKS were – early May

EOC scores go on the student’s permanent record.

EOC may be an existing test, and not one developed specifically by the state as in TAKS.

Added to the Introduced bill in the section where bill required that EOC tests contain optional questions that will rate a student’s college readiness, addition of optional questions to assess a student’s likelihood of succeeding in an AP class.

This one is a little weird. Why this? It isn’t like the questions are binding or anything, as the section includes language that states that students cannot be turned away from taking an AP class because of their performance on these test questions.

I smell the College Board’s hand in this. They’re auditing AP classes nationwide right now to cull out courses that do not meet their minimum standards. Yep, this is from the College Board.

EOC cumulative score rules are given some very odd rules in addition to the odd rules that existed in the Introduced version.

Kept: Cumulative scores of all EOCs must average a 70 in order for the student to graduate. There are other rules here, but they apply to graduation plans and I won’t go into that for now.

Also kept: the individual scores on EOCs can be below 70, just as long as the average of all scores is 70 or above.

New in the Enrolled version: A student who scores below a 60 cannot have their test included in the cumulative score. That is, you can’t score a 50 on an Algebra II EOC, and a 90 on a World Geography EOC, and have that 50 count toward a 70 average score.

If the student doesn’t score at least 60, they must retake the test.

And a new score rule added to SB 1031 that is positively draconian. Senior students who are deemed “unlikely to achieve the minimum EOC cumulative score” in a subject area must enroll in a class in the deficient subject area during their senior year and pass the EOC, but on a scale of 40 – a curved score. A very nicely curved score.

They pushed back full implementation of the EOCs to ninth graders entering high school in the 2011-2012 school year. I suppose this has something to do with the 15-member committee on accountability filing its report in January 2009.

And lastly, where the Introduced version required that all 10th grade students take the NMSQT (National Merit Test) – fully funded by the state – the Enrolled version does not specify which test, just that it be national and norm-referenced.

Like the NMSQT. Or do we have others who are coming out with tests?

There are a few other changes, but these are what I consider to be the major changes. I thought that I’d share them with you.

But has anyone else other than I realized that between now and full implementation of this new testing system, we will have the 81st and 82nd Legislatures to redeal with this?

Oh, and all that stuff that Shapiro included on punishing teachers in the Introduced version?

They kept all of that


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie on House Revolt Against Craddick

RICHIE: REPUBLICAN LACK OF LEADERSHIP COSTLY FOR TEXAS CITIZENS

"Throughout three regular legislative sessions, five special sessions, and two election cycles, the Texas Democratic Party has warned Texans about the dangers of abusive one party rule that was put in place in a 2002 election effort marked by the TRMPAC scheme that toppled Tom Delay.

Speaker Craddick's abuse of power has created a crisis that threatens the legislature's ability to address the basic needs of Texas families and communities.
The chaotic breakdown on the floor of the Texas House is the culmination of four years of failed Republican leadership that has repeatedly turned its back on the best interests of Texans in a blind pursuit of power.

This weekend, despite the Republican Party of Texas' continued support for a Speaker who has embarrassed and shamed the House he was elected to govern, House Members from both political parties are attempting to replace a leader who has pursued partisan power and catered to special interests at the expense of the people of Texas.

We pray that Members of the Texas House are able to restore integrity and fair, bipartisan leadership to the Texas House."

What Republicans are saying about the Craddick failure and abuse of power
“I knew we had a speaker, I didn’t know we had a dictator.”…Rep Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) – Fort Worth Star Telegram

"It is clearly an abuse of power and an abuse of office."…Rep. Todd Smith (R-Euless)
– Fort Worth Star Telegram
My take:
There is another way to take this, I think. Chairman Richie is correct that the Texas Legislature is in such a bad way that open warfare has come to the house floor between Pro- and Anti-Craddick Republicans. What I have started to wonder about, since Friday is whether this whole thing has been staged to avoid finishing the business of having a budget to work with for the next two years, forcing the legislature into special session.
A special session where Craddick will be shown the door.

Texas House Chamber Develops an Echo or Why Doesn’t Craddick Just Hand Over The Mike?

We will furthermore direct you . . . “ “we will furthermore direct you . . .”

“The chair made a decision . . ." “the chair made a decision”

“The chair’s power of recognition is absolute . . .” “the chair’s power of recognition is absolute.”

“The chair recognizes Representative Menendez . . .” “The chair recognizes Representative Menendez”

“That is correct . . .” “that is correct.”

It’s positively eerie.

House parliamentarian Denise Davis and assistant parliamentarian Chris Greisel apparently quit their jobs last night over what appears to be Tom Craddick’s lies to Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless when he pressed Craddick over whether he ignored Parliamentarian Davis over rulings that would preserve his job.

Craddick responded, ''I don't know if she agreed or disagreed with it.''

They knew he was lying because they had run these questions by Davis before bringing them up on the floor of the House. Craddick’s answers and Davis’ answers did not match.

So after Davis resigned, House Speaker Tom Craddick got a replacement, former state rep. Terry Keel, once representing HD-47, but now Tom Craddick’s puppet master. Keel’s voice is loud and it gets picked up by the speaker’s microphone. Several who are watching the livestream have commented on it.

And this morning, Keel the puppet master is pulling Sylvester Turner’s strings. Turner is quite unused to it and works not to echo Keel, but in doing so, sometimes has to stop when he is interrupted by his own string puller.

Even Crazy Bob Talton noticed this, voicing his observation when he questioned Turner over whether Turner could hear him.

Turner: “Yes I can hear you, Representative Talton”.
Talton: “That’s good because of the echo that has appeared here.”

Will Craddick survive until Monday? Yes, if the House insurgents can’t find a way around the autocrat’s stone wall. Parliamentary inquiries won’t do it.

Time to think out of the box, Members.

Friday, May 25, 2007

If Congress Doesn’t Step Up, We Should: National Referendum on the War in Iraq!

What next? What do we do now that 37% of the House Democrats voted to fund the War in Iraq without any timetable, bench mark, or anything else that will work toward an end to this unspeakably evil war.

Thirty-seven percent.

Do we primary 37% of the Democrats in the House? 86 seats? Well I can tell you this, if you primary Nick Lampson of TX-22 all you will do is put a Republican in the House in 2008. I’m sure that’s true in many other districts throughout the country.

Besides, Nick, I hear, won’t step up and run in CD 22 next year. He doesn’t think he will win. No, he doesn’t even know who he will run against, it doesn’t matter who runs apparently. He wants to run for Cornyn’s senate seat, and he wants to do it by elbowing everyone else off the primary ballot.

But I digress.

What DO we do?

Now that we’ve unleashed a 120 billion dollars for Bush to grab and distribute to his friends – yes, some of it will go to Halliburton and Bechtel, you can bet on it – how do we get Congress to extract our troops from this insidious civil war in Iraq? They won’t step up.

I’ll tell you what we do. It was mentioned off-handedly on my blog yesterday. Today I woke up and said “Hey . . . ”

We have to get someone in Congress, one of the 140, to file a resolution for a National Referendum on the War in Iraq. A National Referendum to be voted on November 6th 2007. The resolution should be funded because it’s going to take some money to put this on every ballot in the country. The resolution should specifically state that the referendum before the voters is binding. My suggested wording:
“Resolved, the President of the United States is hereby ordered by the Citizens of the United States of America to implement a plan to withdraw all US troops from Iraq by March 31st 2008.”
It’s an up or down vote and if it receives a simple majority, the President must acquiesce.

I don’t think there needs to be a penalty clause. If Bush doesn’t veto this one, it’s because he sees it as a way to extract himself from this without any consequences to himself.

Has this been done before? No. Of all the countries in the world ruled by democracies, the United States stands with 4 other countries as never having had a national referendum: India, Israel, Japan, and the Netherlands.

Apartheit, I am told, was voted out by South Africans in a national referendum.

Some say it sets a dangerous precedent. Once you have one, others can be brought up. How about a national referendum on abortion rights? Or one to suspend the Bill of Rights?

But what else can we, the people, who sent a Democratic majority to Washington so they would end the War in Iraq, do?

So really, we are left with little else to do.

An up side to this is that it will make an off-off year November election one with a high voter turnout. There may be lots of under votes, but I don’t know anyone who would pass up the chance to bring this war to and end with a popular vote.

There’s all sorts of reasons to have a national referendum on the Iraq War. All sorts. So do I think there will be one?

I am characteristically pessimistic.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Keith Olbermann on the Betrayal of House and Senate Democrats

What he said.

Stop the war in Iraq. Defund the war of lies, deception and profiteering.

Don’t let Bush hold our troops hostage. Olbermann says it just right.



UPDATE: The betrayal is complete One Republican (Duncan) and one Libertarian (Paul) voted with 140 Democrats who get it. Americans want congress to end this war. Eighty-six Democrats played right into the hands of Bush.

What's it going to take to get through to these people? A national referendum?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Texas Needs A Real Legislature

Skimming through the blogs this afternoon I came across this one, commentary on a poll run at the El Paso Times and a local TV station. The poll came up with some surprising results. The question was “Should the Texas Legislature meet every year instead of every two years?” With an error bar of 5.5%, the poll reported that 67% responded in the affirmative.

Jobsanger, the blogger, echoes the reaction that I hear from most Texans, especially ones that actively watch the wild goings-on in the state house and senate: “These guys screw up enough by meeting only once every two years. Let's just leave it the way it is.”

When Texas’ constitution was written during post-Reconstruction, there was a huge mistrust of government. Small government meant low impact, low intrusion. After having every aspect of their lives examined by the Reconstruction government, Texans made sure that state government would have a minimal effect on people’s lives.

And that is just about what has happened in the 80th Legislature, low impact. Over 5000 bills have been filed, and the vast majority will not make it to a 3rd reading. Both good bills and bad bills will die tonight at midnight. A few real stinkers got through both houses. But CHIP was restored to at least 67,000 families, maybe more as the House and Senate meet to reconcile their differences.

140 days is just not long enough to pass legislation that is needed. This was proved last year when the legislature was in special session to revamp how the state pays for education.

It might happen again this year if critical bills don’t make it to the floor for a vote.

So Texans are in a quandary, gosh darned if they do, and gosh darned if they don’t. Well, all except for those 67% in El Paso. They seem to have come to a decision. Texas is the 3rd most populous state in the union and growing. Texans can no longer afford small government because while a small but ineffective government does little damage, it is ineffective all the same.

Let me tell you how we fix this: pay House and Senate members a living wage. Keep the per diem during sessions, but pay them $110,000 annually. Do you know what this does? It eliminates the “freak factor”. With just a few exceptions, everyone in the legislature has some other source of income, and that source allows them to be absent from their jobs half a year every other year.

Could you do that? Can I? No way. Most people can’t. Only people with special circumstances can do this. Members who have an employed spouse are just about the only ones who qualify as “normal”. Everyone else are freaks of nature. Business owners, lawyers in private practice, gas passers (anesthesiologists). By paying a living wage, Texans get to pick from the cream of the crop, not just the special people who can do this and still eat (or ominously, do this and eat by dipping into their campaign funds).

If you do this, you get to pick from people with healthier outlooks. You don’t have to deal with the Leo Bermans, the Charlie Howards, or the Wayne Chisums of the world. Better people will stand up for office if they know that they can do this and still feed their families.

So to get an effective legislature, one that meets every year, passes good legislation with minimal stinkers, first fix the freak factor.

Everything else will fall into place.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Melissa Monday Recap - And A Comment Goes Up Front

Yesterday's Melissa Monday event was a "gang blog" if you will, on the part of several bloggers in the Houston area, as well as from points far and wide, in Texas and foreign countries like Massachusetts. A list of blogs that posted something on The Roy Morales Affair is to be found at the bottom.

But first, I received an incredibly informative comment on my Melissa Monday posting earlier today. The comment is obviously from someone who has had the time and talent for reading those draconian campaign finance reports. I was happy to find out that I was not alone in not being able to balance these books. It would seem like income minus outgo would give you cash on hand but it doesn't work with Roy Morales.

In case you missed the comment, I am front paging it below:

"It's interesting to note that between January 15, 2007 and April 12, 2007, about $37,000 in campaign debt magically disappeared. He might say that it was a different campaign, but campaigns cannot get closed out without a zero balance, and campaign debt cannot be "forgiven" without it being reflected as a campaign contribution. So where did it go?"

"The contribution period for Morales' 2005 race closed in February 2006, and he accepted $10,000 illegally from Bob Perry and his wife in November 2006 (which went straight into Morales' pocket)."

"Morales' most recent finance report shows $1,500 in campaign debt, but doesn't show any loans to substantiate that debt being on the books. Is it possible Morales is skimming campaign funds through bogus "debt?"The bottom line is that his numbers don't seem to add up. If he can't manage his own campaign finances ethically and properly, how can we trust him with a $3.8 billion city budget?"

Pretty damaging, huh?

I bet ol' Roy Boy isn't smiling today, at least not from the nose up.

Other blogs that ripped on Morales are to be found below:

Bay Area Houston - shows a photo of Roy (the sued) posing with Texas State Attorney General Greg Abbott (a suer).
Brains and Eggs - Points out how hapless GOPers are in municipal runoff elections.
Burnt Orange Report - Recaps the Melissa Noriega campaign along with the Miya Shay report.
Feet to Fire - Suggests maybe Roy Morales and Michael Franks can fight it out in front of Judge Judy.
McBlogger - Mentions one mis-spelling of the former councilwoman whose seat Melissa will fill come June 16th - a mis-spelling that I completely forgot about.
Off The Kuff - Got to put up his photo of Melissa's campaign sign one more time.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Fiscally Conservative Republican Roy Morales Won’t Pay His Bills

Susan has an alternate definition for “conservative” on her website today (can’t say it’s a blog because it ain’t a blog). Quoting Evelyn Burleson, Calhoun County Democratic Party Chair: “Conservative is just a political justification for being stingy”.

Well, Roy Morales, Melissa Noriega’s opponent in the Houston City Council At Large Position 3 seat (aka The Shelley Schulla Gibbons Memorial Seat), is a fiscal conservative, making him stingy with his 2005 campaign funds.

Miya Shay’s KTRK political blog today has a story out that Roy Morales owes Michael P. Franks’ Texas GOP Store a grand total of $5375.76 in charges for political signs that he ordered. Go here and here to look at page one of each of the two small claims court suits filed by Republican Michael Franks against Republican Roy Morales. Miya’s totals show “$1,700 worth of signs” and I am assuming that was Franks’ out-of-pocket expenses for production of the signs.

The second of the two suits alleges a broken promise made to Franks, promising additional business to his company. Well, that didn’t happen to any great extent. Morales’ campaign paid Franks’ company $2178.46 for new business in this election cycle, in comparison to spending a whopping $15,343.79 alone at another printing company, Business Extension Bureau.

Morales didn’t have much of a good reason for not paying Franks what he owed him. His campaign didn’t run out of money. Look at the 3 campaign finance filings in the ’05 election. Now I am no accountant by any stretch of the imagination, but his total campaign contributions were around $32,130 and he loaned himself $28,300. So he had a total of $60,445 out of which he spent $54,230. Leaving a grand total of $6,215. This more than covers the $5375.76 that Franks says he is owed by Morales.

Republicans suing Republicans. Sounds familiar. Where have I heard that expression before?

So, Roy Morales is a Republican, a self-described fiscally conservative Republican at that. Does this send a message to those living in the City of Houston in a new context?

Fiscally stingy Republican.

If you want one thing in a city council member it’s someone you can trust. Someone who pays their debts. Not someone who freeloads on Houston businesses, promising them “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”.

I just don’t trust Roy Morales and this little exposé clearly shows me why. But why, I ask, didn’t I trust Roy Morales before this story broke? Well, it’s a little quirk of mine and I have to stop doing this.

I’ve never trusted people who smile with their both their top and bottom teeth.

The runoff election is this coming June 16th.

Vote for the lady with the nice smile.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Fort Bend Democrats’ Fundraiser in Sugar Land – With Pics

You couldn’t have asked for a nicer day than yesterday, May 19th 2007, for an outdoors event in Sugar Land. The Fort Bend Democrats had another fundraiser in Eldridge Park at the Gazebo. Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie was the invited guest speaker.

Barbecue was on the menu.

Vince’s Texas Mix CDs were the musical entertainment. Vince told me that not one of the musicians on his CDs was from out of state. Oh, well, no Beach Boys. But then I had to ask: “You got any Kinky Friedman on them?”

I took photos during the chow down. Look, we had lots of good Democrats attend this.


Then Don got up with some announcements.

That’s my flag taped to the concession stand window shutter. Last time we had one of these fundraisers, someone thought we should all say the Pledge of Allegiance. So we all stood up and looked for the flag, and there wasn’t a flag in the room. I dove for one of the silent auction bags because I knew that it contained a stars and stripes scarf. And we all saluted that.

We didn’t pledge, but if we were going to, I wanted us to be prepared this time.

Don introduced Zaf Tahir, a Fort Bend Democrat who has moved his family back to Houston where he is now running for city council – for At Large Position 5 (his website is not up yet).

Then we got down to business and Don introduced Boyd Richie. Everyone already knew him, though because by the time he was called up, Boyd had met everyone there. Twice.

Boyd is ready to retake the state in 2008. To those who say that we have to wait until 2010 or 2012, Boyd says “Hogwash”. Well, that’s what he says in polite company.

Don, in closing, thanked Boyd Richie for coming down, and handed him a check from the Fort Bend Democrats made out to the Texas Democratic Party. Boyd accepted it with thanks, saying that it was donations like this, from groups like the Fort Bend Democrats that will put Texas back in the blue column.

Yeah, that and the selfless dedication of Democrats across the state. People who are loyal to the party of the people. People who put the goals of retaking Texas, and retaining the political offices that we have achieved to-date, above their own selfish goals.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie Held A Town Hall Meeting In Houston Today

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie came to Houston this weekend for one of his Town Hall meetings. It was centrally located at the University of Houston’s Main Campus, in a good-sized meeting room in the Student Center.

There were easily over 100 people there. A hundred and change.

He was introduced by Harris County Democratic Party Chair Gerry Birnberg. I was busy signing in and then signing Susan Criss’ petition during the intro. Susan Criss is running for Texas State Supreme Court Justice. She is the daughter of Galveston County Democratic Party Chairman Lloyd Criss. Lloyd Criss was there. Representing Fort Bend County? Us I guess. The Fort Bend Democrats. I did not see the Fort Bend County Chair at this meeting.

Boyd Richie, self-admits to being altitudinally challenged. As he stepped behind the podium, he grew about a foot. They had a wooden box back there to stand on. His height was a slight surprise to me, having never met him before. Mainly because in photos you can see that his face and head are – well, to put it frankly – large.

The meeting began with a stump speech that he has had for awhile, along with a PowerPoint presentation. He basically pointed out the things that the TDP is doing for Texas candidates.

He touted the VAN system, an acronym for Voter Activation Network. It’s an online database that the TDP has paid over $305,000 to build and maintain. The VAN is available gratis to all county chairs and precinct chairs. Campaigns pay a nominal fee to be able to log in and use this system, which has over 10 million voter entries in it. Richie pointed out that Chet Edwards used the VAN extensively in his congressional campaign, and got over 58% of the vote in CD 17. That’s right, CD 17 encompasses Crawford, Texas. Chet Edwards is George W. Bush’s congressional representation.

He spoke of the lawsuit that the TDP has filed against Attorney General Greg Abbott in his efforts to suppress African-American voters in his Rove-esque voter intimidation efforts. You can tell that Boyd Richie is really hot on this issue. His comments to a later question on HB 218, the voter photo ID bill were lengthy and heart felt. He also revealed plans afoot to develop and maintain a database that documents any and all attempts at voter intimidation and vote suppression.

Boyd Richie said that HB 218 has been stopped for now, but it won’t be officially dead until midnight this coming Wednesday.

Lastly, he pitched becoming a sustaining member of the Texas Democratic Party. A sustaining member pays 10 dollars per month to be one. I have to admit, I feel guilty not becoming a sustaining member and will have to use some of the 495 dollars that the joint Senate-House committee agreed on yesterday for Texas the 2008 teacher pay raise, to solve that guilt problem.

Also speaking at the meeting were CD 9 Congressman Al Green and CD 22 Congressman Nick Lampson. Green delights his audiences with his cleverly crafted speeches. The man can mix metaphors so wonderfully that you just start laughing. Lampson, arriving later, gave his I’ve been sick but am back in Washington speech. He thanked everyone, again, who helped out in his campaign. I was wondering about that. What was that for? Is he going somewhere?

But the guy who really got people on their feet spoke dead last. Rick Noriega gave an inspired speech without notes. He talked about values. He spoke of how we are judged by our values, by who we help, and by how much you care for those who are not as fortunate as you.

That’s another reason I am a Democrat. So I can agree with Rick.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Will Tom Abraham Run As A Democrat in Nick Lampson's Place? People Want To Know!

There is a new posting on FortBendNow that is going to make the headlines in a big way. Nick Lampson is trying to convince Tom Abraham, a Republican on the Sugar Land city council, to run for his seat as a Democrat.

A "little bird" told me about this a couple of days ago.

I kept mum waiting for the story to break. And break it has, in a big way. I can’t even log on to FortBendNow at the moment because the traffic is immense.

Tom Abraham, it will be recalled, is currently on the “outs” with the neocon wingnuts who are trying to run (or shall I say “ruin”) the local Republican party. His position at their Lincoln-Reagan Dinner/fundraiser was given the kibosh, as was David Wallace’s. David seems not too keen on running for Nick’s office with his run-in with Bob Perry’s son. Leaving Republican joke-of-the-year, the Pink One, Shelley Schulla Gibbons.

So it’s looking likely, huh?

One wonders, however, whether Tom Abraham decides to run for congress as a Democrat, using Democratic Party resources, then, upon being elected by a bipartisan crowd, "re-Elephantizes" himself in the style of Nick's good buddy in the RPSEA thing, Ralph Hall (R (formerly D) - Rockwall).

Not beyond the realm of possibilities. Frankly, I don't see the Democratic base in CD 22 buying into this. We don't fall in line like our friends across the aisle.

Should Nick stay and fight it out, or use his momentum to go up against Cornyn? I've weighed it and without any other inputs, I came up with the same answer that Nick has. But without a clue as to who will be the Republican nominee - except that it's a sure thing that it will be the wrong person for the job - I think this gamble is premature.

Tom DeLay's Book Still Won't Sell - Resorts to Colbert Report

Last night I had the Colbert Report on. I was in the other room typing something when all of a sudden Stephen Colbert introduces my former congressman, Tom "The Hammer" DeLay.

"You're my first indicted guest," Colbert opened. He then asked Tom to autograph his hammer. Oh, but why read about it when you can watch it. It's on You Tube.
UPDATE: Was on You Tube. Don't bother clicking. It's gone.
UPDATE: It's still up here (hat tip to Susan)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Senate Committee Drafts a Compromise Immigration Bill

Feces? Meet Fan.

When a bipartisan committee of senators composed, among others, of Ted Kennedy (D - Mass.), and Lindsey Graham (R - SC) come up with a compromise bill on illegal alien immigration, one that involves a program of granting 12 million undocumented immigrants a “Z visa”, a hue and cry is going to erupt from the right wing – well all except from members of the right wing who hire undocumented immigrants.

“Not fair,” they’ll say. “We are rewarding criminals for their criminal acts.” “They broke the law and now they’re getting away with it”.

But what are you going to do. Arrest and deport 12 million people? Separate children born in the US from their parents? Drive the house building industry into the ground? Drive up the price of lettuce and tomatoes.

Get real.

And that is exactly what the Senate committee finally got. Real.

This is reality based legislation that needs to be supported. It’s not perfect for everyone but it’s better than the idiotic and inhumane proposals of the far right.

The $5,000 fine is too steep, I think. It costs about $300 to pay legal immigration document fees. That’s a difference of 1666%. Most people who work as unskilled laborers can’t pay that much. That prohibitive cost will keep many from even applying.

Building an additional 370 miles of fencing at the border is a futile act and a complete waste of time, money and material, but if it is a sop for Republican sensibilities, then let’s build it. Did the Maginot Line keep the Germans from invading France? Nope. The Germans just went around it. Crafty Krauts.

Beefing up staffing – adding 18,000 Border Patrol agents – heck, why not. It gets people jobs and government benefits which aren’t bad as benefits go – just ask any teacher in Fort Bend ISD. But will adding 18,000 warm bodies to patrol our borders actually help ease the illegal crossings? Doubtful.

Immigration groups remain leery of the proposed bill. They say that the temporary worker part of the program will encourage illegal border crossings” as temporary workers go underground once their work permits expire.”. Unions are having trouble with the program as well, because the temporary worker program will bring in additional unskilled workers who will drive down wages for low skill work.

So yeah, this bill has its scars and blemishes. Compromise bills that touch the nerves of a lot of people are usually acne-prone. But legislators can’t all be dermatologists, or vice-versa.

And that’s a good thing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Update - Houston City Council Candidates Fall in Line

Andy Neill is on board the Noriega train.
From his campaign

"Hello everyone, I wanted to forward on my official endorsement for Melissa Noriega in the upcoming runoff for the vacant At-Large position 3 seat. It is an enthusiastic endorsement and I look forward to working with her and her campaign over the coming weeks. Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.

Thanks for your attention and coverage over the past several months.

Sincerely,

Andy Neill

Candidate

Houston City Council At-Large # 3"

There are other endorsements in the pipeline I am told. This is just the second after our friend Noel Freeman. Andy's endorsement is particularly valued as Andy Neill is not necessarily a progressive Democrat. He just simply gets the fact that Melissa will be best for the city of Houston. Good job, Andy.

Hey, David . . . what's the hold-up? You're exempt from finals, right? Get on the phone.

Seriously, thanks to all the former candidates for Houston City Council who have, or maybe will possibly support Melissa in this important race to capture a City Council seat formerly held by one of the most controversial politicos to occupy a seat on the city council in awhile. One who wore Pink.

Please, let's put the DeLay nightmare behind us once and for all.

Support Melissa Noriega for Houston City Council.

Vote on June 16th.

Houston City Council Candidates: Time to Rally Around Melissa Noriega

So . . . ahhh . . . David: What are you going to do with those votes of yours? You know, the 2,328 votes you got in Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery Counties when you ran for Houston City Council? Those votes that were nearly 6.8% of the total vote?

By the way, David Goldberg got one vote in Montgomery county, giving him second place in that county (Nixon beat him out by one vote).

So, David, how many of those votes can you get over to Melissa Noriega’s campaign? You know, the one that paid over 12 dollars per vote? You could really do your city and your fellow Houstonians a real favor if you endorse Melissa Noriega in the runoff election against the right wing nut job Roy Morales. Morales has been endorsed by the ex-cop, Tom “Loose Cannon” Nixon. If he can deliver all of his votes to Morales, Morales still loses. If all the numbers play like they did on the 12th Morales doesn’t even have 40% with Nixon’s voters’ votes.

All Melissa needs is a few percentage points. Your 6.8% along with Noel Freeman’s, who just came out in support of Melissa’s campaign, puts her over the top.

And the rest of you who have not endorsed any campaign: what about supporting Melissa with an endorsement? You just can’t get past Noel Freeman’s comment that she will be the best one for that office, the one with the most connections to the state. No getting around that, is there?

Come on guys, you know it’s the right thing to do.

Do it soon. Runoff Election Day is in exactly one month, June 16th.

Yes, Juneteenth.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tempête de Merde in the Texas Senate Today

I’ve often wondered why women accompany each other to the restroom when maybe only one of them needs to go there for some reason.

You’ve seen it a hundred times.

“Please excuse me, I need to powder my nose, want to come with me?”

”OK”.

Well, Texas State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) gave new meaning to this foible that afflicts most women I know. Now when she has to go to the restroom, she says that she will take a Republican with her.

The vote to bring that heinous voter ID bill to the Senate floor today was well-timed on the part of the Republicans and Lt. Governor Dewhurst. In a singular sleight of hand, somehow the Senate Secretary missed Senator Whitmire's Nay vote that he cast, and then exited the floor. His name was repeatedly called at the end of the roll call vote as Senator Whitmire was taking care of business in the restroom. With Senator Uresti being bedridden, the vote to suspend the rules and bring HB 218 to the floor passed 19-9. Ten votes are needed to block the bill from being heard, and one of them was in his sickbed, and the other one was draining the main vein.

Whitmire, upon hearing that they had missed his vote, started pounding his table. Van de Putte threatened to filibuster the bill. Numerous stalls occurred as Senator Uresti climbed out of his sickbed and rushed into the Senate chamber. Dewhurst, perhaps seeing the tempête de merde build to heights that would most certainly come back to haunt him, allowed the vote to be retaken, and the bill was blocked by a vote of 20-11.

Yes, it’s either do as Van de Putte suggests, take a Republican colleague to the restroom with you, or it’s NASA’s solution. Or if that seems to be a little messy, then perhaps at least the male members can get trained in self-catheterization.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Global Warming, SB 12, and Republicans FOR Environmental Protection (!?)

I was listening to the Texas House livestreaming video after work today. Pretty boring fare, passing bills to engrossment. Even Florence Shapiro’s bill appeared to be a boring affair as it was also passed to a 3rd reading after eleven amendments were offered. So here I thought that I had missed the fireworks and started reading through all the amendments and . . . huh . . .pretty boring.

Then up came SB 12, the global warming bill for a second reading. It got an amendment by Naishtat that Republicans certainly didn’t like. It proposed assembling a task force of experts “to develop a balanced and authoritative assessment of the global warming challenges and opportunities facing Texas”. They would prepare a report for the state climatologist focusing on economic opportunities available in Texas for reduction of greenhouse gases.

Yielding to a friendly question, Naishtat agreed that he had viewed an article in the Austin American-Statesman published yesterday about public testimony on the part of high ranking members of our military establishment who testified that global warming was a destabilizing force in the world and that to ignore it or deny it is not in the interests of national security.

Point taken, but 88 Members thought that it was best to not have a task force that could, in an apolitical way, investigate and report on issues facing Texas vis-à-vis global warming. They voted to table the amendment.

I could be wrong, but I think this was a bellwether vote, and that this doesn’t really bode well for SB 12 in the House.

I read further in the Austin American-Statesman and came across an article on global warming, published a day earlier, that caused my jaw to drop.

A newly chartered chapter of the Republicans for Environmental Protection had spent $9000 in local TV advertisement in the Austin area to promote a global warming bill by Texas state Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin). SB 1687 would establish an investigation in way to reduce greenhouse gases with no economical downside. That’s a bill that Republicans can get behind, but still . . . Republicans for Environmental Protection?

To my mind, this is a partisan issue. Republicans oppose environmental protection and are in favor of economic development. This group is, therefore, somewhat of a Green Elephant. They claim that Republicans were once the green party, pointing their fingers at outdoors champion Theodore Roosevelt (hey, wasn’t he a Bullmoose?), as opposed to a unionized Democratic Pittsburgh steel worker.

Huh?

But I swear the funniest thing on their website is their Republican Environmental Scorecard. Yes, I think it is the only one in existence – a scorecard that scores the environmental voting record of only Republican senators and congressmen. If you have, say, 12 environmental issues in a year, that means each issue gets 8.333 votes if the legislator votes for it and a -8.333 points (demerits) if they vote against it. Highest total possible score is 100 (but they say it can be higher than 100).

Want to know what, according to the Republicans for Environmental Protection own scorecard, is the average environmental protection voting record score of the Republican side of the US Congress in 2006?

3.603.

Out of 100.

Looks like the Republicans for Environmental Protection have their work cut out for them.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Florence Shapiro’s SB 1031 Arrives on the House Floor Tomorrow

The long-awaited senate bill to do away with TAKS tests in favor of less apocalyptic End of Course exams is scheduled to come to the Texas State House floor tomorrow. If passed, what it means for students is substantial relief. Currently they need to pass all four TAKS tests by the end of their senior year in order to graduate from high school. End of Course exams will bring to the schools some less lofty expectations. More students should be able to pass these tests. And even if they can’t that’s not a problem either.

It was just in the papers the other day that Texas has 40,000 senior students who will not be walking at their class’ graduation ceremony. That’s 40,000 students who don’t have the right to this rite of passage – because of TAKS.

Instead of four critical tests we have up to twelve tests. Students who graduate on the Recommended Plan will have twelve tests. The jump from four to twelve actually has a good side to it. Each End of Course test is taken at or near the end of the specific course the student is taking at that time. It counts for 15% of their grade for that class, and it is not necessary to pass all of the tests.

End of Course Tests cover what was just studied. This is as opposed to TAKS. TAKS is a cumulative knowledge set of exams that tests students over material that they may not have seen for 2 or even 3 years. Believe me, it’s asking a lot of students to recall a specific biological process 2 years after they learned about it.

End of Course Tests count in their current grade. TAKS is too long-ranged for most students to see why they should study for the tests and do well. Many sophomores and some juniors blow off the test. It’s not for a grade so why worry about it.

End of Course Tests need not all be scored at the mastery level. The average grade for all EOCs taken must be greater than or equal to 70. So a student who takes 12 classes and 12 EOCs must have a total score (of all tests) of 840. But students can tank on their Chemistry or Algebra II EOCs can still graduate because they earned an 85 on their World Geography EOC.

I think it’s a good system that is fair to students. It also can’t hurt the companies that produce standardized tests or study guides for them. Business is going to boom in that area.

But we’re talking about a bill sponsored by Florence Shapiro and I have grown to suspect that this individual cannot craft a piece of legislation without including something that is the legislative equivalent of firing grapeshot into crowds of Texas educators.

I was not wrong.

Check out Section 2 and Section 11. Section 2 adds two lines after (D)(3) of section 21.006(b) of the Texas Education Code:

“(4) the educator engaged in conduct that violated the assessment instrument security procedures established under Section 39.0301.”

What? There IS no Section 39.301 in the TEC. Oh, but that’s where section 11 of Shapiro’s bill comes into play. Section 11 creates section 39.301, 39.302 and 39.303

I won’t bore you with the details, but basically what it does is define all sorts of things with regard to test security. It essentially puts into law the processes that went on this past year involving Caveon Test Security when they audited hundreds of school districts for suspected TAKS cheating and fraud. They use “Data Forensics” that reveal “aberrant patterns”. Someone sold the TEA, and I guess Florence Shapiro, a load of horse manure.

So we are writing this pseudoscience into law now?

The bill goes further. The Education Commissioner can issue subpoenas for an investigation, and failure to comply results in a court punishment. It then lays out the different offenses one may be tried and convicted of in regard to test security:

“(1) the person discloses the contents of any portion of a secure assessment instrument developed or administered under this subchapter, including the answer to any item in the assessment instrument; and

(2) the disclosure affects or is likely to affect the individual performance of one or more students on the assessment instrument.”

What is the punishment if convicted? The offense is a Class C misdemeanor, and as we all found out when Shelley Sekula-Gibbs repeatedly violated the Texas Election Code; a Class C misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of no more than $500 dollars.

And oh, yes, your teaching credential is pulled by the SBEC.

That latter bit is what can happen right now if teachers are caught compromising the security of a TAKS test. Their teaching credential can be taken away.

Florence Shapiro doesn’t think its enough to deprive teachers of their livelihood and careers.

She wants their $500 bucks, too.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Melissa Noriega in a Runoff, FBISD School Board Swept Clean

Well in the Melissa Noriega race for Houston City Council, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that Melissa won in Fort Bend County. She garnered 216 (51.67 %) votes to her nearest competitor, Kendall Garner, who received 63 votes (15.07 %). Roy Morales, who will face Melissa in a runoff election got 24 votes in the Fort Bend County part of Houston. Unfortunately, his numbers in Harris County were a bit higher, at 6,321 (18.69 %) to Melissa’s impressive 15,729 (46.50 %). So the bad news is that Melissa Noriega did not win the race outright and will have to face one opponent in a runoff election: Rick "I will save Houston from the Terrorists" Morales.

I attended the Melissa Noriega election watch party after the polls closed (sorry forgot the camera) and listened to Melissa as she spoke to a crowd, that at times topped 200 souls, telling them that they could all go home and celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday, but to be prepared to come back on Monday to begin again if there is a runoff.

Melissa Noriega has lots of supporters. She spoke of that over and over again in her election night speech. She likened putting your name on the ballot in an election to someone dumping a mountain of sand in your backyard, and then they give you a spoon to move the whole thing. “I can’t do this,” she said in exasperation, “but then everyone showed up holding spoons”.

Some of the more well-known politicos who showed up with their spoons were none other than Chris Bell who came within just a few percentage points (well, 9 and change) of being our governor right now, Houston Mayor Bill White, Judge Susan Criss of the 212th District court in Galveston County (rumored to be in the race for Texas Supreme Court Justice), and a couple of SDEC members that I could see. Also in attendance was Melissa Noriega’s trophy husband, State Rep. Rick Noriega.

So that’s what’s happening in Houston. Back over here in Fort Bend County we have a new school board. Bob “Anyone but Lisa” Broxson swept Lisa Rickert out of office by an impressive margin with 6,406 votes (63.58 %) to her 3,670 (36.42 %).

So long Lisa. It’s been (a) real (pain).

David Reitz, the Republican that I could not support because there was a credible Democrat on the ballot, edged out his fellow Republican, Ken Bryant by a few percentage points. None of those running in the race garnered a majority but in this race, you only need a plurality, and that was what Reitz got with a total of 3,521 votes (36.36 %) to the next higher vote getter, Bryant, whose totals were 2,936 (30.32 %).

Notable in this race was that Daniel Menendez took in 504 clueless votes. Menendez pulled out of the race in deference to Reitz. Imagine what would have happened had he stayed in. We’d be stuck with Bryant just like we are stuck with Rick Perry.

By the way, have we deported Kinky Friedman and Carole Keeton Strayhorn yet? If not, what’s the hold-up?

And last but not least, the Fort Bend County Proposition 1 passed by 79.21% to 20.79 %. People, people, people. Do you not know that you have plopped another 156 million smackers in the hands of our kleptocratic county court? I give up. OK, someone has to watch these characters and it isn’t going to be me because I warned you. You gave them this windfall, YOU hold them accountable.

By the way, rumor has it that Judge Hebert is something like $100 poorer now due to a Texas Ethics Commission fine.

$100.

Now I could be wrong, but I think that is just the tip of the melting iceberg in what is coming.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Ken Bryant Goes Ballistic

When they blow, they blow. Republican Ken Bryant, seeking the non-partisan Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustee Position 7 has gone volcanic.

An African-American, Bryant has assumed that he has the support of any and all African-Americans, and others, particularly other Republicans, in his bid to retain his hotly contested seat on the Fort Bend ISD school board.

County Commissioner Grady Prestage, a Democrat, has hotly denounced Bryant’s report of the endorsement from Prestage’s office. Of Bryant’s statements on Prestage’s endorsement, County Commissioner Prestage was quoted as saying at FortBendNow.

“I’m not supporting Ken Bryant and I’m real ticked off.. My wife had a conniption fit when she found out – and I don’t even know how to spell conniption.”


Talk about grasping at straws.

Even Red Coated Fort Bend County Sheriff Milton (Uncle Milty) Wright had no good words to say for Ken Bryant, running for Fort Bend ISD School Board Trustee. Amazingly, he left his fellow Republican twisting in the wind, as it were:

“I don’t have anything against him. I’m neutral in the school board race.”

Wright did endorse Bryant when the Republican ran in an unsuccessful race against incumbent Democratic State Representative Dora Olivo, but that’s as far as it went.

"Just because you endorse someone once, it don’t mean you endorse him for everything.”

Woo – HOO! Lesson: If you are a Republican, don't count on your allies, especially when you become a political burden. Especially here in Fort Bend. Republicans here are meaner than a rattlesnake with a hearing problem.

Fort Bend ISD families, get a broom. Time to sweep out the old.

1 – 2 – 3 – 4 We Don’t Want Your !#!&?!-in War

Have you looked at who voted for and against HR 2206, the bill to fund the war for 6 months after its enactment? It was largely along party lines but with some small crossovers. It came down to 219 Democrats voting Yea and 2 Republicans joining them. The 2 are Wayne Gilchrest (R - MD) and Walter B. Jones (R – NC). My congressman, Nick Lampson also voted for this bill.

Nay votes included 197 Republican votes and 8 Democrats. Among the Democratic votes was an interesting assemblage: Michael Michaud (D – ME), Barbara Lee (D – CA), Dennis Kucinich (D – OH), Forteney Stark (D – CA), John Tanner (D - TN), Maxine Waters (D - CA), Diane Watson (D - CA) and Lynn Woolsey (D - CA).

By interesting, I mean . . . interesting. It is a curious combination of one Blue Dog Democrat and seven Far Lefties. Blue Dog Democrats argue for more fiscal accountability in Iraq. The Far Lefties have simply concluded that not one more dime should be spent in this disaster.

I agree. Dennis Kucinich has a bill that reflects the views of these people and I am on board with it. It is appropriately numbered HR 1234. I remember marching in Vietnam War protests chanting the little ditty that appears in the title of this post.

In short, here is what HR 1234 proposes:

Requires that all U.S. Armed Forces be completely withdrawn from Iraq and returned to the United States or redeployed outside of the Middle East within three months of enactment of this Act.

Prohibits fund use under any provision of law to deploy or continue to deploy members or units of the U.S. Armed Forces to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Exempts from such prohibition fund use to: (1) provide for the Armed Forces' safe and orderly withdrawal from Iraq; (2) ensure the security of Iraq by carrying out consultations with the government of Iraq, other foreign governments, the United Nations, and other international organizations; or (3) ensure the security of Iraq by funding the U.N.-led peacekeeping mission.

HR 2237, voted down in today’s session, was also a bill setting a timetable for bringing the war to a close. In this vote our curious coalition in 2206 split up, with our Blue Dog Democrat staying with like-minded Republicans, and our Lefty Seven rejoining their Democratic brethren. Gilchrest and Jones went back to the Republican side as well.

Nick Lampson, my congressman, voted on 2237 with the Republicans as well. You have to give him credit where credit is due: at least he’s consistent.

Consistent. But wrong. It is going to take an HR 1234 to end this war. I just wonder how many more American and Iraqi lives will be lost before enough congressmen and senators finally come to the inescapable conclusion that Bush will not stop this war.

Congress has to step up and do the right thing.

End the war in Iraq now.