Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rick and Nick Visit Fort Bend County Fair

Deep in the heart of Fort Bend County lies the sprawling city of Rosenberg, Texas. Just as the city transitions to country along Highway 36 going south toward Needville, you encounter the fairgrounds of Fort Bend County.

This is where I went today to man the Fort Bend Democrats booth. It was going to be a great day. Around 2 PM a small system moved up from the gulf and the sky opened up. I had just finished my second rant on the TTC when I heard the rain start, so I checked a Doppler radar weather map and saw that if I got in my car right then I could drive out of the storm into blue skies at the fairground.

So that’s what I did.

Besides, I’d been saying that Rick Noriega was going to be stopping by the booth today and I wanted to be there for that.

So I got there at 2:30 and found Don, Marsha and Nadia fully engrossed in the business of the day – talking politics.

Three PM came and went. No Rick. Then a few minutes after three Don got a call from Susan informing him that they were going to be late. It occurred to me that this was not newsy news since we had watches and could tell time.

Then Marsha sent me to take two passes to Bev and Geri, who had just arrived, telling me that they were standing outside the gate near “Building G”, and she said “Go that way.” Exiting the building I looked and could see that the building name progression increased from C to F so logic dictated that Building G was next to F. So I started walking. It was hot. There IS no building G next to F, it is instead in front of it. But upon arriving there I noticed no gate. So I started following the boundary fence all the way through the midway and then back to the exhibition area, found Bev and Geri at a gate. I looked at Geri who was on her cell phone again with Marsha (I can just imagine the conversation). She just said “Here he is” and clicked off. I passed the tickets over to her, pointed at the nearby building and said “That’s Building C.”

“I know, that’s what I told Marsha.”

“She told me Building G”.

I didn’t really mind that I had just taken a 5 minute brisk walk in 98% humidity and now had sweat coming out of every pore I knew of, and some I didn’t. Not really. Think of it, I now know were everything is at the Fort Bend County Fair. I can be a guide.

I am sitting down now with a 2-dollar Coke in one hand and a $3.50 sausage on a stick in the other, and in walks Rick. Melissa was close behind him. Rick shakes hands all around, and Melissa followed suit when she arrived. I think they were impressed with our setup, mainly because they said so. Rick asked me where the good food was and I directed him to my school’s FFA booth.

They left to get food, and not a minute after they left, in walked Nick Lampson with his two staffers, Nicholas and Steve (there can be only one Nick in Nick’s office). Nick took one look at Marsha while shaking hands and said “Are you OK now?” Seems Marsha took Nick to task over his FISA vote, heck we all did, but Marsha was the most vocal and public in her display of her distaste for some of his votes.

But you have to know that these women and Nick have been in the trenches for so long that it was easy to reassume the old friendships. They still told them that they were watching and Nick said, that’s your job.

The club had also dropped off at Nick’s Stafford office a big bag of balls of all sorts the past week. I mentioned to Nicholas that if he didn’t know what to do with the bowling ball he could drop it off at my school. “It’s good for inertia”, I said.

We also talked a little about calls that come to Nick’s office. “We don’t hear from you,” he said. What we hear, the calls that we get are all about immigration. This is what we hear the people in the district are concerned about. Just that.

Nick noticed Rick’s petition to get on the primary ballot, and immediately picked up a pen to sign it. Given what went on earlier this year, I give Nick a huge amount of credit doing this then and there. It shows the man has class. I kicked myself then and there for forgetting to have my camera.

After his visit, Nick left to visit the other booths at the fair. Rick came back loaded down with barbecue and sausage, Melissa with a baked potato, and we proceeded to eat and talk.

Melissa told me a great story that reveals just how far and wide their story has traveled. They were out hiking recently, climbing a trail up a rock and there were geologists out there on a field trip. Small children, too. Melissa offered to take a group picture and they all started arguing about light and angle. Melissa said words to the effect: stop it now there are unsupervised children here and we need to get this done now. So they all quieted down, Melissa took the photo, and they thanked her. One asked whether there was anything they could do for her. Her reply? “Yes, there is. You can vote for Rick Noriega for US Senate.”

There was a pause.

Then one of the geologists called out from the pack: “. . . Are you Melissa?”

Melissa, and then later, Rick, explained why they were late. They were attending a memorial function at the Houston VA National Cemetery that afternoon. A ceremony honoring the Gold Star Mothers “mothers whose sons or daughters have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country”. Beside the keynote speaker, Rick said, there were 4 congressmen there as well as himself, so the service went long. In attendance along with Rick and Melissa were Congressmen Al Green, Nick Lampson, Chet Edwards (?) and Ted Poe. Both Rick and Melissa noticed that during the entire ceremony with presentations to the Gold Star Mothers, Ted Poe, Nick Lampson’s Republican opponent in the 2004 election, was busily working on his Blackberry, ignoring the entire ceremony. Rick said that he had a lot of trouble restraining himself from addressing this congressman’s blatant disregard for the sacrifices of these mothers. Mothers who lost their sons and daughters to a war that Poe refuses to help to end. But he limited his public display of displeasure to refusing to shake Poe’s hand.

That’s probably a good thing. I suppose if Rick had used his gray belt knowledge to introduce Poe’s face to the surface of the earth, Watts’ toadies might have picked up on that.

Rick sat with us for awhile and we talked about lots of issues, the TTC came up, so did S-CHIP. Melissa’s dad was there, too and he mentioned the fact that Immigration was going to be a hot issue this next year. Rick’s views on this are interesting. Rick holds that the Republicans do not want to solve this issue. They want it to continue to be an issue so they have something to whip people into frenzy over. Democrats, Rick said, being Democrats, want to solve problems. Republicans don’t want to solve this particular problem. They want it around so that they can point accusing fingers at people who don’t think the government should split up families on this issue. Rick pointed out the Hispanic US Senator from Florida, Mel Martinez, has pointed the finger right back at Republicans and said “you didn’t like our solution? What is YOUR solution? How are YOU going to solve this problem?”

Rick’s right. Republicans want this issue around.

Getting back to Nick, this is probably why Nick Lampson’s office was inundated with calls demanding a solution to the immigration issue.

I’ll bet Ted Poe doesn’t get these virulent calls.

Kleptocracy In Action: Texas Toll Roads

The other day, when I attended Hank Gilbert’s meeting on the Trans Texas Corridor, he presented an interesting scenario. I don’t recall the specifics of his scenario so I will reconstruct one with similar numbers

Say you have a typical married couple, a dual income family, and each earner has to drive 20 miles per day to work and 20 miles back. Say they both drive on toll roads that charge the Texas minimum, 15 cents per mile, for a toll fee.

Daily travel to and from work for each would net the toll road authority 6 dollars for each car, That’s 12 dollars a day every day they work. Say they work 50 weeks a year, 5 days per week. 12 dollars spent every day on the toll roads, times 250 days per year means the couple pays in toll fees 3 thousand dollars per year.

And all of this because TxDot says it doesn’t get enough money from the state gasoline taxes to maintain the state’s highway system, let alone finance new construction. That, Gilbert said, is because the state gas tax has not risen since 1992.

And there’s the rub. Republican-dominated legislatures every year have treated the word “taxes” like the worst word in creation.

Republicans are all for spending revenue, particularly when it is yours, but freak out when they are asked to consider raising revenue for the public good. In particular, gas taxes. But here’s the truth: you don’t have to raise gasoline taxes, all you have to do is index the gas tax to the consumer price index. Index the gas tax to inflation. That alone will cause an 8 cent per gallon rise in gasoline taxes. That alone will finance new construction of needed highways in Texas.

I think I can afford that.

It's true. According to a report from Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) called “Shaping the Competitive Advantage of Texas Metropolitan Regions: The role of Transportation, Housing & Aesthetics”, this adjustment in the gas tax is 8 cents per gallon, and that's all they need.

Well that’s odd, because in his letter to two congressmen who sit on the US Congress’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Gov. Perry wrote that Texas would have to raise its gasoline taxes by $1.40 per gallon “to pay for all transportation improvements our highway system needs over the next 25 years.”

That’s odd.

His own committee says it would cost 8 cents per gallon, he says a dollar forty.

Obviously, taxpayers wouldn’t accept that, as he states later on in the same letter “…I will tell you that earlier this month [the Texas House] voted 122-19 to defeat an attempt to simply index our gas tax to inflation”.

So it’s odd that he knows about the indexing, but makes the wild claim that the state would need to raise gas taxes by $1.40.

My, my. The governor lied to Congress.

What a shock.

So let’s revisit the scenario. It would cost our typical Texas dual income family 3 thousand dollars a year in toll fees to drive to and from work. If gas taxes were indexed to inflation, and they paid an additional 8 cents per gallon to the state, how much is that per year?

Well, let’s say they drive a Honda Accord, and an Acura. Sensible low mileage cars, but not more sensible hybrids. They each get about 20 miles per gallon when the cars are tuned. That’s an additional 16 cents per car per day. 32 cents per family per day. For a year, that means 80 additional dollars paid to the state for highway improvement and new construction projects.

80 dollars in taxes versus 3000 dollars in toll fees.

Sounds to me like someone stands to gain a lot of lucre in this. Sounds to me like we have a state government whose hands are in everyones’ pockets but their own. Sounds to me like we are being governed by unrestrained kleptomanics. Kleptomanics who beat the drum of “No New Taxes!!” all the while reaching around behind and pulling cash out of our wallets.

All of this just has to end.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Donations For Rick Noriega Pass 1000 and $150K; Buys Rick Time to Campaign at the Fort Bend County Fair Sunday

I never would have guessed.

In ’06 a number of Texas bloggers united on an ActBlue web page to raise money for three Democrats running for office: Shane Sklar, Juan Garcia, and Hank Gilbert. We managed to raise $3000 and change, mostly our own money.

So when we decided to support an ActBlue site for Rick Noriega, I played my usual pessimistic hand, and assumed it would fall just as flat. But people learn from their mistakes and this little juggernaut took off like nobody’s business. At this writing, 1061 donors across ActBlue have donated $153,321 to the Rick Noriega senatorial campaign.

And we still have 27 hours to go until the quarter ends.

This is good news for the Noriega campaign. If he can attract 150 large in small donor online donations, just think what he can do along traditional lines.

This must be on his mind.

That is why, I think, Rick Noriega is going to put aside some time on the LAST DAY TO DONATE in the 3rd quarter, tomorrow, Sunday September 30th, and go to the fair.

Yep. I mentioned it in my posting yesterday and then contacted the campaign to verify what I had heard, and they confirmed, but I got the distinct impression that they thought he should be on the phone on Sunday, not walking the Fort Bend County Fair’s midway with a funnel cake.

But it’s still true. And for the small price of fair admission you can all go to the Fort Bend County Fair at US 59 and State Highway 36 on Sunday, have a turkey leg, eat some kettle corn, watch Rick Noriega work his magic starting about 3 PM at the Fort Bend Democrats booth in the Exhibition hall (the one that has the “God Bless America” banner hung across it), and sign his petition at the booth.

Rick has a comfort zone here. I think he knows it. That’s why we get to see this very excellent senatorial candidate at the fair on Sunday. But maybe, just maybe, there needs to be some additional comfort so if you don’t mind, how about dropping a few Lincolns or Hamiltons off at ActBlue? This is the guy who has the best chance, bar none, of unseating our worthless, Bush toady, US Senator.

Rick’s the most.
Cornyn’s toast.

Hank Gilbert Addresses Fort Bend County Democrats On the Trans Texas Corridor

Muse mentioned Hank Gilbert’s visit to Sugar Land the other day. He came 250 miles down US 59 to inform local Democrats about issues that surround the Trans Texas Corridor.

Now I have not posted anything on this because I see the issues as huge, overlapping, and very complex.

That isn’t the half of it. The Trans Texas Corridor, or TTC, is an amazingly complex issue whose very roots go all the way back to the signing of the NAFTA agreement. A signing whose effects, intended or not, are still haunting us to this day.

The issue is so huge that one is daunted by encapsulating it in a single blog post. It’s impossible. All the things I learned today in the 1 and a half hour extemporaneous presentation would take days to research, summarize and comment on.

So let’s start by looking at the origins of the TTC. How did it all come about?

I mentioned above that it came from NAFTA. But where did NAFTA come from? Ostensibly NAFTA was created to a tariff and duty free agreement between Mexico, the US and Canada in order to encourage trade between North American countries. It was strongly supported by the Bush-41 administration and conservatives in general, but in looking at the vote for passage in the House, it really looks like it had bi-partisan support (and opposition) with 132 Republicans and 102 Democrats voting for it. Bill Clinton opposed it at first, but had two companions added to the agreement to make it more palatable to him.

And to this day, people blame NAFTA on Bill Clinton.

Hank Gilbert pointed out why NAFTA became such a necessity to conservatives and businesses in the US. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s American manufacturers were being hit with high costs to build factories. Loans were expensive, American labor was expensive. Rather than face that, many American manufacturers relocated their plants to Mexico where both loan rates and labor were cheaper. But now they were hit with the fact that they were producing goods cheaply but couldn’t bring them to market in the US without paying tariffs and duties on these goods.

With NAFTA, the tariffs vanished as did restrictions on trucking the goods into the US. And trucks are all about the Trans Texas Corridor: a plan to build concrete swaths from Texas’ southern border to its northern border, and also going east-west. To move goods produced in Mexico to markets throughout the US.

But it gets worse. We have a non-signatory in NAFTA who stands to reap huge benefits: China. China owns the ports in Mexico. They ship their manufactured goods – you know, the ones with the lead paint – to Mexico and Mexico ships them in their trucks, duty-free, to the US.

That’s it. That’s why WalMart is the saving place. The products on their shelves, nation-wide, is mostly produced in China, shipped to Mexico, and trucked to the US. To make it easier still, now foreign manufacturers and American retailers want Texas to build ribbons of concrete for their trucks to move product.

This is why Rick Perry, or 39% as Hank Gilbert calls him, is such a huge enthusiast for the TTC. As Hank explains it, Perry is so behind this that he claims it as his brainchild, and has been stupid enough to sing its praises so loudly that Texans and even those in Washington are taking notice, and realizing what a raw deal we have been handed.

Hank told us that Perry has a half a million reasons why he is so behind this project, all donated to his campaign by Sam Walton’s heirs.

And there’s tons of other issues that Hank mentioned, things that can be covered here someday, but not now.

Building tollways instead of freeways, with tolls not ever going away

Building these highways in rural areas ostensibly to “relieve
metropolitan congestion”

Paying thousands of dollars per year in toll fees for passage on tollways as opposed to 80 dollars per year in increased gasoline taxes for passage on freeways.

Eminent domain issues – the state can take your land at their price even if you are in an arbitration process on the issue.

Market based evaluation will decide how valuable a tollway is, and charge accordingly.

Who produces the cement that will be used to construct these highwas? China.

Can water lines be run under a highway? No. Existing water districts willbe split by TTC highways.

Access to TTC will only be available at state and federal highway intersections.

Mixing and pouring 4000 miles of concrete – what does that do to the water supply?

See what I mean? Huge.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Fort Bend County Fair Opened Today - Fort Bend Democrats Have A Booth

Well after a big county fair parade in Richmond and Rosenberg this morning, the Fort Bend County Fair officially opened. Me? I slept in. Hey, they give teachers in Fort Bend County the day off (well, not really, they give students the day off, we just get it off, too), so that spells an alarm clock holiday in my book.

And the Fort Bend Democrats PAC have a booth there.

It’s true. We rented space in an exhibition hall between some ladies selling jewelry and the guy that’s opening up a dinner (movie) theater in Rosenberg.

So why are we doing this?

Well SOMEone had to. SOMEone has to show the Democratic flag. SOMEone had to keep up the Democratic presence in an off election year. We are perfectly willing to do that and man that booth during peak hours.

Someone had to.

And SOMEone has to sell campaign paraphernalia to people who hunger for them. They really do, you know. We are raking it in. Our club voted to buy campaign buttons and bumper stickers for the top tier presidential candidates, and Bill Richardson. We sell them wherever we go. At the Fort Bend County Fair people are snapping them up.

People want them and are willing to pay for them.

And you’re never going to guess who is selling bumper stickers and campaign pins like hotcakes.

Yes! In Texas! This is the one candidate that most Democrats who approached the table wanted a campaign material. So we conducted a sort of pay to vote poll (a Republican idea, I know, but we’re trying to make a profit here). We kept score of which candidate sold the most paraphernalia. One buyer, one vote.

Hillary Clinton – 17
Barack Obama – 9
John Edwards – 3
Bill Richardson – 1

And guess what else we got a lot of? “Thank you for being here.”

Know who else was there with a booth? The Fort Bend Republican Party. They had a booth with campaign literature and campaign signs. But every time I went by there, there was no one manning the booth.

Not a soul.

It was bad.

We were visited by several Republicans who were the first to point this out. “Wow”, they would say, “All of you are here and no one is at the Republican Party booth”. One Republican precinct chair even went as far to say that his party was going in the wrong direction and it was no wonder there was no one at the booth. “Maybe it’s time to switch parties”, one of us offered. “Maybe so”, he responded.

But there is proof in pictures and I have a few of them. This one is a wide angle shot of our booth, with people actually manning (or should I say womaning) the booth.

These are close-ups of our sales items. By the way, see the paper at the bottom? Yep that's Rick Noriega's petition. If you haven't signed one yet come on down and visit us at the fair. I am told, by the way, that Rick Noriega will make an appearance at the Fort Bend County Fair on Sunday. Be at the booth around 3 PM. Watch the magic.

And then here’s the photographic proof that no one bothers to stop at, or man, the booth of the Dark Side.

But someone on the Dark Side was not totally remiss. Someone got that trailer thing that the Republicans use, lashed it to a diesel belching tractor, and taxied weary fair-goers to their cars. I saw it on my way out.

Isn’t that utterly hilarious? Look at the campaign signs. Some of those people aren’t even running in an election, this year or next.

But it looks good.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Noriega Online Donations Nearing 1000

Crashing through the 800 Donors in a Quarter goal, Donors to the Rick Noriega for US Senate campaign currently stands at 969 across all the Noriega websites set up on ActBlue. On the Netroots for Noriega for Senate site, the number of donors is currently at 649.

But that’s not the impressive part. At Netroots for Noriega, the dollars contributed to Noriega’s Senate race to unseat Texas; junior senator John Cornyn stands at $106,740. Across all ActBlue sites a total of $123,470 have been donated.

These are for the most part small dollar donations and I think that’s because the money people are standing back biding their time trying to figure out if the Noriega dog will hunt.

People like the Noriega story. It impresses them and I think there will be bi-partisan support. How do I know this? My friend recently told me that her friend, who used to have legal dealings with John Cornyn when he was lawyering, regarded him not only as a friend but also voted for him in 2002. I just heard the other day that this person fully supports Rick.

She likes his story.

With Rick Noriega, people look beyond the politics, the platforms, and look at the man. Rick is a man they can trust to do the right thing, to vote the interests of his state and not be a toady, a yes-man. That stuff is not in what makes Rick Noriega tick.

If you like his story and haven’t contributed to the campaign yet (heck, even if you have already) the time is now to throw some dollars at Rick’s campaign at ActBlue. Do it before the quarterly deadline of September 30th. People are watching the campaign and if Rick shows that he can not only attract voters, but campaign contributions, the big dogs are going to sit up and take notice.

They will take this campaign to be exactly what it is: as serious as a heart attack.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Myanmar Violence Erupts Once More

It’s half a world away, but today’s news of new violence against the peaceful people of Myanmar (formerly Burma) brought back memories from a month that I stayed there working in their national oil company’s laboratory.

I got out my slides and started looking at them, then realized that I should show them on the blog. That’s when I found out that my old scanner, an HP, is incompatible with Windows Vista. So no photos today. However, I now have a new mission in life besides teaching eager young minds and making blog posts. I'll use what I can find on the internet in the meantime (my pics are better, though). The one above, by the way is a shot of the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel, a real posh place where only the very rich stay. The Schwedagon Pagoda, built in the 14th century, is in the background. Yes that dome is covered in solid gold, they say, a foot thick. When I was there, most everyone else stayed at the Inya Lake Hotel at the right. It was built in the '60 by the Russians, back when Burma was within the Soviet sphere of influence.

Myanmar is a country with strong contrasts. There is opulence that stands side by side with abject poverty. Soldiers wear pants, everyone else wears a long skirt called a longgyi. Burma exports oil and gas because it has very few uses for petroleum products, even though they have produced oil for a century.

The country is actually composed of several nationalities that were all unified under British colonial rule. Burma is just one part of Myanmar, but Burmans are by and large the greatest majority. There is much discord between some nationalities and the ruling junta takes advantage of that, much like Saddam Hussein kept the lid on the Shia majority. The army or Tatmadaw is the single largest employer in Burma. Many army recruits are young men, boys, really, from the Kandaw people who live in the southern parts of the country. Kandaws and Burmans don't get along very well. Burmese soldiers are fiercely loyal to the army as the alternative is poverty and hunger.

This is why it may be hard to take that the soldiers beat upon and opened fire on peaceful Buddhist monk protesters, but having personally seen this fierce loyalty in action is not much of a reach for me. The photo, by the way is of an exterior wall around the principal military base in Rangoon. These red signs are everywhere. They put various messages on them. The photographer is lucky that he or she wasn't seen taking this picture. Taking photos of any military installation in Burma gets you thrown in jail - and eventually deported.

What renewed this strife? Apparently it was the most recent interview of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (Kyi is pronounced ‘chee’) told the interviewer that there would be continued sadness in her country as long as nothing is done about it. A crowd of monks were able to get past the barricade that has been in front of her house on University Ave. for years the other day, and this must have emboldened them.

Buddhist monks are highly respected in Burma. They practice a version of Buddhism called Theravada Buddhism. Monks are regarded as holy father figures, so it might have been second nature for soldiers to let them by. Think about it though, this is the first time they tried it since the early 90’s. The soldiers manning the barricade weren’t even born yet the last time there were protests in Rangoon. They were probably acting on their reverence for the men. The Junta, and the generals must have given them a lesson in loyalty.

Suu Kyi is no longer imprisoned in her home. She was moved to the infamous Insein Prison where she now languishes.

And so I will spend my evening watching the presidential debates, and thinking about the friends I made in Burma. Friends who are suffering again.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tattoos and Piercings a No-No In Upscale San Antonio Apartment Complexes

Tuesday, unless something really big happens, is Half Empty Lite Day.

I just decided.

Yes, the Iranian president is making the rounds at the UN (yawn), yes the Supreme Court is going to listen to a case and see if it wants to ban the death penalty because death by lethal injection is “cruel and unusual” (as IF . . .).

No I thought I’d comment on something that caught my eye on CNN. They have the video clip here. Apparently, there are upscale apartment complexes in San Antonio and Dallas, where there is a code of personal appearance.

And that code says that if you have an excessive number of tattoos or an excessive number of body piercings, you can’t live there. This is a first. People with this particular lifestyle preference, where they decorate their bodies with an abundance of body art and jewelry stuck through their skin, are apparently eyesores to other people who don’t normally have a tattoo.

These are upscale apartments. They cost more to live there. I guess people pay a premium not to have to gaze at guys like Gilbert Carillo who has tattoos over most of the surfaces of his arms. The apartment managers took one look at Gilbert and handed back his security deposit.

Carillo says the practice is discriminatory, but KHOI reporters, who contacted one of the apartment owners, received an email message from him that said that this is not discriminatory because they don’t discriminate “based on race, color or gender, etc.”

So does having body art a bad tenant make? Frankly, I don’t know. That would make a nice study. Apparently these apartment complex owners have an opinion that they do.

It makes you wonder though, where can people with lots of piercings and tattoos live? Do they have to own their own homes? Is it trailer park or nothing? ‘Cause people like this guy (or girl?) need a place to live out of the weather.

Where they don’t attract lightning.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Rick Noriega’s Campaign Has A Huge Boost

If you have not been following, the Democracy For Texas Website has announced a resounding victory for LTC and State Rep Rick Noriega in its online poll. The question:

“Two candidates - State Representative Rick Noriega and Mikal Watts - are running to be the Democratic nominee to oppose Cornyn. Which one should get DFT’s support?”

Online voters overwhelmingly voted for Rick Noriega. In my opinion this was a no-brainer. Check out some comments.

“I am extremely impressed with Rick Noriega’s clarity of thought and purpose as well as his passion and organization.”

“Rick is the right man at the right time.”

“Rick Noriega is the candidate supported by grassroots Texans all across our State because he is the candidate who has the integrity to represent all Texans…”

“…Rick is tough enough to stand toe to toe with any Republican…”

“Rick Noriega has “walked the walk” and has a progressive voting record to show for it!”

Aw, fecal matter. They didn’t use my comment. But it pretty much paralleled the comments that these people offered.

People, I don’t know how to tell it any more clearly. This is the candidacy of a half-lifetime. You don’t come across better people than Rick Noriega very often. There is honesty there. There is integrity. There is experience that is such a resource to Texans that it makes my heart sick when people look at Rick and ask, “Where’s the money?”

Well I ask something in return to the Watts campaign. There was an old lady on a really famous commercial back before my children were born. She took one look at what was handed her at a fast food outlet, and proclaimed to the world:


I look askance at what Rick’s opponent offers, and ask that also: Watts: WHERE’s THE BEEF?.”

What does have Watts possess besides money and the money of his fellow trial lawyers?

Watts sues people. And makes a lot of money doing it. That's not bad. Some people in Texas need suing. Just sayin'. Where's the beef?

Rick makes a difference. Walks the walk, not just talks the talk.

There’s the beef!

Watts Whipped: Democracy For Texas Poll Gives Noriega Lopsided Victory

If anyone had any doubts that Rick Noriega OWNS the internet, at least as far as his Democratic primary candidacy for US Senator from Texas, those doubts can now be laid to rest. The poll, recently announced by the Democracy For Texas, an online progressive advocacy group that has NEVER endorsed a primary candidate, closed at midnight September 22nd.

Just announced on their website are the official results:

Rick Noriega: 78.4% (1,514 votes)

Mikal Watts: 21.6% (417 votes)

It was never even close. Here are the daily totals as of noon on each day the poll was open.

Wednesday Noon Update:
Rick Noriega- 78%
Mikal Watts- 22%

Thursday Noon Update:
Rick Noriega- 82%
Mikal Watts- 18%

Friday Noon Update:
Rick Noriega- 74%
Mikal Watts- 26%

Saturday Noon Update:
Rick Noriega- 77%
Mikal Watts- 23%

The DFT is expected to officially endorse Rick Noriega for the Democratic nomination for US Senate. That’s because they said they would endorse the winner. Rick has gotten lots of endorsements by some heavy hitters:

Former Governor Dolph Briscoe
Former Lt. Governor Bill Hobby
State Senator Rodney Ellis
Former Texas Democratic Party Chair Charles Soechting
Former Texas Democratic Party Chair Molly Beth Malcolm
The Texas Association of Fire Fighters
Forty Seven of his colleagues in the State Legislature.
From Hidalgo County District Attorney Armando Villalobos, County Clerk Joe G. Rivera, District Clerk Aurora De La Garza, County Treasurer David A. Betancourt, and Sheriff Omar Lucio. Brownsville City Commissioners Carlos A. Cisneros and Leo Garza.

And I’m guessing Houston City Councilwoman Melissa Noriega.

There were lots of amusing stories about this poll. The folks at the DFT wanted to run a poll with as little ballot stuffing activity as possible. So they checked the email addresses and threw out any votes from duplicate email addresses. They also checked IP addresses and threw out any votes from identical IP addresses. I am told that on one day 75 votes were cast for Watts from 2 IP addresses.

But the explanation I heard was that the votes were cast by individuals who all voted from the same laptop linked to the internet via a WIFI connection. May be so. Seems plausible to me. So eventually even these votes were counted in by fair-minded people who could see their point. Only real obvious attempts to stuff the ballot boxes were cast out. This was probably going to generate protests that the poll was rigged as it threw out votes like this.

I make this point though. Is it not just as logical that Noriega votes may have been tossed out for the very same reason? Same IP? Or is it that Noriega voters all own their laptops, but Watts voters share them?

This is a road down which I don’t want to venture.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ron E. Reynolds is Running for State Rep in Texas HD 27

Well I did something that I swore I would not do: a series.

Series blogs are a nuisance to me. I usually ask myself why can’t this blogger just say it in one posting? Or if that’s not possible, why can’t this blogger change it up a little from one piece to the next?

Well I answered my own questions today.
It's hard.

Ron E. Reynolds is going to challenge Democratic State Rep Dora Olivo in next March’s Democratic primary. He held a campaign kickoff fundraiser in Stafford last week and I got to try out a friend’s new mini DVD camcorder there, married this time to my old camera tripod. Look Ma, no hands.

You Tube has a limitation on the size of videos that you can upload, so I had to split up the parts of the video that I wanted to show on the blog into 5 clips. Now, I could have just embedded those 5 clips in one blog article, but you have no idea (or maybe you do) how slow this process is. So rather than wait, I put up one video at a time over several days. But I decided that I didn’t want them all intermixed with other blog postings, so I took them down and put them up again when I finished the last one. All together this time.

In a series.

But where there is a will, there is a way and I’m just going to link all of them here in this posting so you can read them in order.

First, Don Bankston was asked to say a few words about what a Real Democrat is.

Second, Ron spoke about the first of three areas of focus: Education.

Third, Ron spoke about the second of three areas of focus: Health Issues.

Fourth, Ron spoke about the third of three areas of focus: Economic Empowerment.

Finally, in his closing remarks, Ron spoke of his commitment, his passion, and being a force for positive change in HD 27, and about how he wants the voters to vote him out of office if he doesn’t come through for them.

Why Ron Reynolds is Running for Texas State Representative in HD 27 [Part Last]

In his closing remarks, Ron Reynolds spoke about change, commitment, public service, and passion.
“There’s so much that can be done that is not being done. And it’s not about a change just to have a different change in scenery, but it’s time for a change because you have someone with passion, with a vision, with a calling of his life that is committed to giving a hundred percent of everything that he has to better our community.”

And you heard it here first:

“… If I do that [say one thing when they’re running, when they get in office they do another thing] I want you to vote me out my first year . . .”
This sounds like a slam dunk to me. Voters in HD 27 will have a choice to make this coming March, and it very much looks like who wins this primary is the one who will be best at beating the bushes for those 15% of Democrats who vote in Democratic primaries.

And who that is will depend on who generates the most excitement in this Democratic-safe district. My guess is that it will be the young man from Missouri City.

Why Ron Reynolds is Running for Texas State Representative in HD 27 [Part 3]

Ron Reynolds’ third focus is in the area of “Economic Empowerment”.
“As a small business owner who happens to be African-American, I understand the needs of small business owners. I understand the needs of women- and minority-owned businesses. One of the things that you have a commitment from me on, is that I am going to make sure that businesses who are competent, capable and qualified compete on a level playing field for contracts.”

Why Ron Reynolds is Running for Texas State Representative in HD 27 [Part 3]

For years the Republican-dominated Texas state legislature has chipped away at CHIP. The state-federal funded health insurance program for children in families that make too much money to qualify for medicaid, but not enough to afford medical insurance. This past year, the state legislature restored benefits to tens of thousands who went without health care because of one Republican roadblock or another. We need a state representative that pledges the restoration of CHIP benefits to everyone who rated it when it was first made state law.

And finally, embryonic stem cell research. What is it about this issue that makes this issue continually come up? My feeling is that it has become a wedge issue that Republicans have used to divide us, as many Democrats are also of the Catholic faith. Catholics hold that all life is sacred and that life begins at conception. To use embryonic stem cells to improve the health of the people, to cure diseases that no one has a cure for right now, they say, is a sin against God. These tissues come from embryos that are not ever to be used or needed ever again. Is it pleasing to God that these embryos are cast into a furnace? Does that make more ecumenical sense? If it still does, then maybe we need a change of the guard.
Watch Ron Reynolds pledge his support for embryonic stem cell research.

Why Ron Reynolds is Running for Texas State Representative in HD 27 [Part 2]

Ron Reynolds, in his opening remarks to a group of supporters yesterday evening (9/20/2007), spoke of his many blessings. Having been blessed with so much, there is so much to return. That is why Reynolds is running for Texas State Representative in HD 27.

Ron Reynolds addressed three areas of focus, three critical areas that he promises to address when he becomes the Texas State Representative from HD 27. In the video below, he addresses focus area one: Education.

This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart.

“…there’s so many people, so many students dropping out of high school . . . they’re not graduating. There’s so many teachers that used to love the profession that are getting away, that are quitting. And why is that? Because as legislatures, in the state of Texas, I’m very, very ashamed to say, that we are one of the worst states when it comes to public funding for our schools. We can and we have to do better. We have to give the funds that these schools need to pay the teachers a reasonable salary so that they can stay encouraged to deal with a lot of these hard-headed kids.”
There’s more to it Ron, but it has nothing to do with salary. It has to do with respect. Respect that teachers are professionals and can do their jobs without state government breathing down their necks. Without the news media jumping on teachers whenever they are denounced. Without laws being passed to fine teachers for offenses, that seem trivial on their face. Without laws that presuppose that teachers will behave any way but professionally.

Maybe there is a relationship. Maybe the teachers who are accepting these low-paying jobs do so because it pays better than working as a night janitor in a commercial building. Maybe it’s these people who besmirch what I see as a highly professional community of educators. Especially here in Fort Bend County. Better pay does draw a better class of people. You do get what you pay for.

Better pay also means the public respects you not only as a public servant, but as a person of substance in the community.

Why Ron Reynolds is Running for Texas State Representative in HD 27 [Part 1]

Ron Reynolds held his campaign kickoff fundraiser this evening at the Kim Son Restaurant in The Fountains, in Stafford Texas. The count was something at 175 attendees. At $100 dollars a plate (minimum) this attracted a very committed crowd.

Lots of elected officials were there. Allen Owen, Mayor of Missouri City was there. So was Ruben Davis, Fort Bend County Constable in Precinct 2. Newly elected Fort Bend ISD Trustee Bob Broxson, a personal friend of Ron Reynolds was there. He actually recognized me by my name tag and walked up to introduce himself. Seems like an OK sort of person. Doc Holliday, on Congresman Al Green’s staff was there. Lots of others.

What I thought I would do is bring you to the function. I have some video clips from a 30 minute video I shot there. Appearing in the first clip is not Ron Reynolds, but Richmond trial lawyer and SDEC Member Don Bankston. Don set the stage.

Why is Ron Reynolds running against a progressive Democrat? Don tells the story in this You Tube embed..

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Watts Says He Favors Stem Cell Research – Somewhat

I remember reading this article awhile back when Mikal Watts first launched his exploratory committee in his bid for Texas’ US Senate seat currently being occupied by John Cornyn. Someone reminded me of it the other day.

Asked whether he is in favor of a woman’s right to choose to have, or not have, an abortion Watts replied in this way:
“I personally have the view: I hold the pro-life position with three exceptions: one for rape, one for incest, one for the life of the mother.”
We’ve heard this time and time again and he has not wavered from this stance despite all of the hot water he has gotten into among progressive Democrats. Democrats who would simply want a candidate that they nominate for office to follow the Democratic Party’s own platform on this issue. But Mikal Watts proudly proclaims his opposition to abortion upon demand. I have said it before that I don’t think Watts has any personal viewpoint at all on this but has taken this stance to negate debate on the subject against conservative and anti-choice Texas Senator John Cornyn. It is this cold stance, and not his political ideals, that has shown me the way to supporting Rick Noriega.

And to oppose Watts.

Mikal Watts also knows that Texas has a large Catholic population, and this meshes with some of their core beliefs as well. He’s playing the numbers, not proclaiming a moral imperative.

Then I wondered why he disapproves of abortion, yet is in favor of stem cell research, as he said in the next sentences:
“But I don't claim to the Republican position of slippery slopes that you have to eliminate incredibly important medical research into Alzheimer's and Parkinson's because of the slippery slope argument on stem cells. I don't buy into that at all. There are clean stem cells and there are fabulous doctors all over the country who are making incredible progress toward two diseases that debilitate a large portion of our elderly population.”
If he believes that life begins at conception, as he claims to, why does he favor stem cell research, or more importantly embryonic stem cell research? Is this not just as bad as abortion?

Well, no. Watts has the view that we already have in existence lines of embryonic stem cells. Researchers grow them and extend them without destroying a single new blastocyst. It was a sin against God, but hey, the damage is done so why not use what we already have?

This, by the way, is the moral equivalent to what upper echelons in the US Army did in not prosecuting some Japanese medical researchers at the end of the World War II in exchange for the information they gathered from their experiments on our captured GIs.

But Watts is absolutely wrong here. In saying that “there are clean stem cells” in existence, he is wrong. By clean stem cells, he is referring to the fact that researchers used to use mouse fetal cells upon which to grow human embryonic stem cells. The argument here is that this process and methodology introduces animal pathogens into humans. Use of animal fetal material may introduce animal diseases to humans via this method. Watts is referring to new techniques that prevent this from happening, thus the term “clean stem cells”.

But he is very, very wrong.

There are no “clean” embryonic stem cells. None. This is not new news, it was discovered by scientists working at the Salk Institute on the UC San Diego campus in 2005. Every line of human embryonic stem cells is contaminated by a non-human, cell-surface sialic acid called N-glycolylneuraminic acid. Humans do not produce this compound. These human embryonic stem cells do. All of them.

Every line has been infected.

This is the same as saying that the Japanese studies were fatally flawed because they studied humans under incarceration, not the average human.

Mikal Watts is horribly uninformed. He does not have that political comfort zone that allows him to be in favor of human embryonic stem cell research on the one hand, and against a woman’s right to chose what to do with her own body, on the other. If you are against one, you are against the other. I believe that Mikal Watts opposes science that will save human life, not because he is a malevolent soul but because he is poorly informed, or chooses poorly what science he is willing to listen to, based on his politics.

But this is not something that he will be letting on. He favors using a tainted line of human embryonic stem cells in research that will be forever tainted. If scientists cannot guarantee the purity of their samples, their analytical results are questionable in the best of all possible worlds. Will kill people in the least of all possible worlds.

We need people in high office who are informed. Who don’t choose between sciences like they choose which brand of peas and carrots they will buy at the market. We need thoughtful people who listen to those in the know. People who will make decisions based on what is best for the people, not what is best for their political appearance.

This is one of the many reasons why I support Rick Noriega. This is a man with high integrity. A learned man who has one of the most progressive voting records in the Texas legislature.

Rick favors true embryonic stem cell research. Valid research that makes use of valid samples. This is the one we want, the one that all Texans need in office. Because despite party lines, we all contract disease at some point. Who will you support? Someone who relies on flawed science to find solutions to human disease? Or someone who knows about and supports good science that will one day find cures to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Emphysema, and all kinds of cancer?

Unlike a woman’s right to choose to have, or not have a baby, I really don’t think that Texans have a choice here.

He favors it because it is the only scientifically valid stem cell research in existence. The next big breakthrough in human health studies will be here. I am told that it will make Jenner’s pioneering work in vaccination look like rubbing sticks together to make fire.

Bush Threatens to Veto CHIP

We continue to be apprised of what a monster we have in the White House. Even as we hear now how, according to Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, Justice Souter “was so upset about the result in Bush v. Gore that not only did he almost resign the Court because he was so upset, but there were times when he thought about the case and he wept.”

The vote of just one Supreme Court justice has cost us dear. For the first time in American history we have a president who was not elected by the American electorate. And it is so fitting that that is the case because this is the worst president in American history. Bar none. Worse than Calvin Coolidge, Richard Nixon and Warren G. Harding, combined.

And now he threatens to veto one of the greatest bipartisan pieces of legislation to come out of the Senate and will pass next week in the House by a huge margin: the Children's Health Insurance Program, a state-federal program that subsidizes health coverage for low-income people, mostly children, in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private coverage.

CHIP expires on September 30th. If it is allowed to expire, children in 15 states will no longer be covered by health insurance.

Bush’s rationale?

“Bush has promised a veto, saying the measure is too costly, unacceptably raises taxes, extends government-covered insurance to children in families who can afford private coverage, and seems like a move toward completely federalized health care”.

Besides, Bush has a war to prosecute and he needs those kids’ health insurance premiums to do that. Oh, yes, that’s the other result of that one vote of one of the five Supreme Court justices that gave us this president. A war that is costly in both lives and treasure, a war that has removed our country from every other country’s admiration list.

Bush has the blood of American soldiers on his hands. He has the blood of Iraqi men, women and children on his hands. Now he’s trying for the blood of America’s own children. America’s greatest resource. America’s promise for the future.

None of this blood will ever wash off. Bush needs to consider this as he endures the righteous wrath of the vast majority of Americans for the many remaining years of life after he leaves office. The rejection. The boos. The infamy.

It won’t be a pretty sight.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Melissa Noriega Answers Hugh Stearns: Why Hugh is Hugely Wrong

It doesn’t happen very often. I was reading a run-of-the mill Watts supporter’s bait and switch posting the other day, and I was struck by the fact that this false blogger’s posting was called by my favorite Houston Texas city council woman, Melissa Noriega.

Hugh Stearns is a player in the housing construction and renovation industry. As such he is in direct competition with Robert “Bob” aka “Swiftboat Bob” Perry. Hugh also has a problem with Rick Noriega. Actually, Hugh is a behind the scenes supporter of Mikal Watts for US Senate from Texas. He is. But as is their wont, Watts supporters liken themselves to wanna-be Noriega supporters, they want to believe Rick’s message, but sadly . . . oh so very sadly . . . they cannot because of whatever they want to cook up. “I wanted to support Rick, but . . . sob . . . he said this”

Please. Relieve us all of this guff. It is so false. It contaminates the race. It makes the supporters of Watts look so very, very bad. So false. So disingenuous.
But this detracts from Melissa’s magnificent response to Hugh’s posting. It was beautiful. I could not have written it better. Please, indulge me and if you have not read Melissa Noriega’s amazing response to Hugh Stearns’ vitriol, then read it here and relieve yourself from his invective.

Melissa Noriega’s response to Hugh Stearns’ posting follows.

Melissa said...

Dear Hugh,

May I clarify just a little? The donation from Perry I was referring to was in Fall 2004, which was not my Council race. Rick was in Afghanistan and didn't know about any donations. I was alone, running back and forth between Austin and Houston, going into Rick's district office after a full day at work, and trying to raise money.

Rick had left for A-stan fairly abruptly, and our campaign dollars had been exhausted in a ugly fight over Alma Allen's seat--Rick had been involved in that race quite heavily, and we had no money. Normally a rep would recharge his campaign funds with a few fundraisers and move on, but I was left alone with this as just one of several challenges.I did several fundraisers in Houston and in Austin, with the help of some of the state senators. During that time, a check came from Mr. Perry.

I asked the senators what I should do with it--I was surprised, because he did not normally give to D's, best I knew. I might also remind you that the Kerry/Perry swiftboat relationship was not particularly clear at this point. Mr. Perry is a businessman in Houston, and most electeds probably have a relationship of some kind with him.I don't think I even asked Rick about it. I was truly petrified that if he got distracted by anything, he would die.

That sounds melodramatic, but I don't know how to say it any other way. Folks applaud my performance in Austin, and my time there did give me the courage to run for city council, but my motivation was pretty basic--if Rick was worried about his House seat, he could make a mistake in some split second and die.

I have been astounded by all the Perry stuff--if we had a check from him any earlier than 2004, I don't remember it--because it was a time folks were really trying to help us; the Ausin lobby, both R and D were rousting money up, both R and D reps were calling and offering help. We were in the news a lot; it was a tough time, and it was different than any other political experience I have ever had. It showed me what Texans are made of.

Bless you, Hugh, you got up in my husband's face, whether you meant to or not. Would he say to you (or to the bloggers as a group?) that his wife made the decision to keep whatever contributions were sent to us at a difficult, difficult time? I think not...It is a shame ya'll had a tough interaction. Rick is a rock, and honorable warrior. I know him when he is sick, cranky, sad or any other way, and I would trust him with my life. He is strong and tough and in the fight of his life, and you are asking him about something that went on while he was gone.

Something I am responsible for, not him.

My first personal interaction with Mr. Perry was at the GRB during Katrina: he kissed my hand and told me and my son that "Daddy was a hero" and he admired him. He refused to support at least one R that I know of against me, and he contributed to my campaign. City Council in Houston is a nonpartisan race, and I was in a special election that NO one thought a Democrat could win at Christmas, and I won.Rick has a voting record, and I do, too.

We have done our best to serve honorably and feel priviliged to have done so. We have worked hard and supported things we believe in, sacrificed family time and been terrified for weeks on end that we would never see each other again.

Mikal Watts has sued people.

Repectfully submitted,

Melissa Noriega

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I Shot A Video of Rick Noriega Speaking to Texas Democrats on Labor Day

Well, it has been over two weeks and I have finally gotten the tools and equipment to create computer videos from a DVD camcorder. As my friend Dave says, it isn’t trivial.

First, apologies for the herky jerky camera. I need to use a tripod.

This clip is a small part of his speech, This is where Rick explains to a crowd of Washington County Democrats why Texas voters should not vote to “rehire” Texas Junior Senator John Cornyn

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Attention Supporters of Rick Noriega: Go to the DFT Website and Vote For Rick!

You have a homework assignment: Vote for Rick Noriega at the Democracy for Texas website. Go there Right NOW and vote for Rick. Due date for this assignment is September 22nd at midnight. Results will be revealed on September 24th.

OK I’m not supposed to say that, I am supposed to say vote for the candidate of your choice. So (Rick Noriega) go there (Rick Noriega) and vote (Rick Noriega) for the candidate (Rick Noriega) of your (Rick, Rick, Rick) choice.

Seriously don’t go there and stuff the ballot box. For one, they say they will look and throw out the votes of all repeat voters. They don’t want this to be a poll where the winner is the one whose supporters cheat the most.

What’s the point? It doesn’t even count does it? Whoever wins will get the endorsement of Democracy for Texas, an online Democratic advocacy group that has never endorsed a primary candidate. This is going to be such an exciting primary race that even if the Presidential nominee is obvious before Texas’ March primary, all eyes will be on this particular race.

Just a word of warning: after you vote they try and hit you up for $10 bucks to defray the cost of running the poll. OK, someone out there give them the sawbuck, OK? Just let the rest of us vote (for Rick).

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fox Network Protecting Your Delicate Ears

Sally Field, in accepting her Emmy award last night managed to get herself censored by the network airing the Emmy Awards, Fox. They didn’t just bleep out the word or suppress volume, they cut her off completely. Take a look. Someone recorded it.

Shall I finish the sentence for you? Word has it that those who saw the live show heard this.

“If mothers ruled the ruled the world, there would be no goddamned wars in the first place”

Oh my gosh, a curse word showed up on Half Empty?

H-E-double hockey sticks yes!

I’m curious though. If she would have said “damned” instead of “goddamned” would she have still been cut off by Fox?

H-E-double hockey sticks yes!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

On Bringing Knives and Things Mikal Watts Doesn’t Want You to Read

Or I guess, more to the point, what he doesn’t want his wife to read.

It was a very curious statement in and among his responses to questions from University of Texas Democrats last Wednesday, previously reported here and here. First Watts referenced to knives in a knife fight, and how he brings the biggest one. One wonders whether Watts was literally referring to knives, or whether he was referring to his checking account. I have said before that Rick Noriega thinks out of the box quite often. If Watts was literally referring to knives, I suspect that Rick, again, a very out of the box thinker, and someone with a military background to boot, knows that a guiding principle in combat is presentation of overwhelming force. I suspect that Rick would bring a TOW missile launcher and some loads to a knife fight.

And similarly, if Watts was referencing his ability to provide campaign cash to his own campaign, implying that Rick Noriega is marginalized in this, again, Rick is an out of the box thinker. Watts brings campaign cash to an election. Noriega, on the other hand, brings voters. Dead presidents can’t vote.

And again, in his reference to knives, Watts mentions the fact that he doesn’t want his wife to read the the blogs.

“But I can tell you that the way that I handle that, is I tell my wife don’t watch the TV, don’t read the blogs, don’t read this, don’t read that, ok. I can take those blows, and will take them.”
The reason for this has also been in the press: he has virtually no support in the blogosphere. Oh, there are a few out there, but their postings are transparently disingenuous so they wouldn’t make a good read for his wife, either.

So what are we talking about here? What blogs does Mikal Watts not want his wife, or anyone for that matter, to read?

Well, I already linked to it above, but TXSharon at Bluedaze also wants to know “Watts With the Big Knife Metaphor?” I especially appreciate the update below her discussion of knives, in which actual embedded text from Watts’ imfamous letter to opposing counsel in which he suggests that appellate judges, to which he has been a generous campaign contributor in past elections, would not be inclined to overturn a jury verdict.

Vince at Capitol Annex has a similar story to this one on "Mikal Watts Doesn’t Want You To Read Blogs". Vince provides a link back to Watts campaign in which “Watts’ campaign website proudly displays a story from Capitol Inside in which the want-to-be senator hands the Texas blogosphere a big fat dissing.” The part that I really like in that Capitol Inside posting is how Watts, a UT alumnus, arrived on campus “amid a sense of nostalgia” only to be “ambushed” by “the current crop of student Democrats”.

Oh, the humanity!

McBlogger, at McBlogger, on the other hand, has a satire going on his most recent posting on Watts. If this seems mean to you, well . . . yeah. They can get mean.

Robbie, in a post at Urbangrounds, also pulls no punches in TX: Mikal Watts (D) Brags About The Purchased Influence of Democratic Judges. Robbie asks “How ugly is this for Mikal Watts? Even the King of the Koskids himself thinks it stinks”

Refinish69 at Refinish69 also has a post on Watts’ money. In his post “Mikal Watts Thinks Money Buys Everything”, he says of Watts: “Mikal is starting to sound more and more like Cornyn or -god forbid, Shrub everyday. Texas deserves better than this.”

wcnews at Eye on Williamson also noted Watts’ problem with money, citing a mainstream media breaking story on it: “Bad news for Mikal Watts today, Senate candidate played up contributions to justices.”

Texas Nate at Mydd also noted the same news media story: “ While plutocrat Mikal Watts was getting some well deserved tough love from the Houston Chronicle, the people-powered candidate Rick Noriega was getting some great press around the state.”

Victoriacat at Texas Kaos covered Watts’ recent Victoria visit, and revealed what seems to going through Watts’ mind when he donates to Republican office holders: to buy influence and judicial decisions in his favor. “He said he had made the donations through a trial lawyer PAC because the courts had just (I'm paraphrasing here) ‘closed up’, and the donations were an attempt to get more access to the judicial system.”

alaprst at Blue Texas also seems to draw the same conclusion about Watts’ contribution to Republican office holders – how he hoped it would help him win more lawsuits: “Can Watts please explain how donations to Republicans like Perry, Dewhurst, and Abbott "get more access" to the judicial system? Oh, as far as more access, more access to who?”

Even Paul Burka, who keeps himself above the fray, had uncomplimentary things to say on Mikal Watts’ handling of the Young Democrats at UT last week. “My assessment is that Watts' talk struck the wrong note. I think he should have tried to fire up the crowd by attacking Cornyn from start to finish. On the other hand, maybe he knew he had an unfriendly jury, that most YDs are probably going to be for Noriega”. Well from the “ambush piece” on his own website, it looks like Watts didn’t know. But he knows now.

Now this is just going back two weeks. There’s been a lot of pixels devoted to attacks on Watts and his supporters. Attacks from Democrats, no less. What must be frustrating to the Watts campaign is that they have only a few operatives out there blogging and trolling in the comments areas, raking up muck on Rick Noriega. And it’s a difficult task because they have to make up stuff.

And because they have only those few, members of Watts’ own campaign have had to level attacks at the lieutenant colonel. That doesn’t look very good, because from what I heard, Both Watts and Noriega vowed to run clean campaigns that won’t run attacks on each other.

That promise, clearly, is starting to break down in Watts’ campaign.

And maybe that’s something else that Watts doesn’t want his wife to know about.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Day In Schulenberg With Died In The Wool Democrats

Texas State Democratic Executive Committee members Vickie Vogel and Don Bankston held an affair to remember today. Sixty-two Democratic activists, including county chairs and precinct chairs, converged from all over Senate District 18 on Schulenberg, Texas today to attend a campaign workshop at the teeny tiny Schulenberg campus of Blinn College. Fourteen of the nineteen counties within the boundaries of SD 18 were represented. The Fort Bend Democrats were there in force even though there was another Democratic function on the same day in Sugar Land. Fort Bend Dems attended that one as well.

I am here to say that I learned a lot. And no, I’m not going to tell you the specifics of what I learned – although it was some pretty good stuff – because, well, frankly, the walls have ears and those from The Dark Side can also read this. As a matter of fact, Mark told me today that a great many of my readers ARE from The Dark Side. He also told me that I need to start reading blogs written by Dark Side bloggers, but to tell you the honest truth, I can’t bring myself to do it. I read blogs for entertainment and enlightenment and I can find neither at those sites.

All in all, there were four workshop sessions, two concurrent sessions in the morning and two in the afternoon, and a final session where we all shared notes. Lunch? Beef cooked until it fell apart slathered in red sauce, on a bun with onions, pickles and chips.

Glen Maxey, who does NOT reside within SD 18, but came anyway, revealed at his workshop some key strategies that involves voter registration. Glen is running for Travis County Tax Collector-Assessor. Why? Because for one thing, that office also handles Travis County voter registration.

John Griffin discussed fundraising matters and had some great suggestions on donor interactions. We Democrats, you see, need to fall in love. Republican fundraising strategies are much simpler: bring a big bucket to catch all the money the fat cats throw at them.

Sondra Haltom, a field director on staff at the Texas Democratic Party – a last minute backup speaker who, they say did really well - discussed candidate recruitment.

And finally my friend Mark who used to write a lefty blog called The View From 22 was incredibly informative about the online strategies at the county level, the candidate level, and the blogger level. Now you have to understand that Mark, who is still on the sunny side of 30, was talking to a room full of gray hair and liver spots. He even mentioned that fact himself, although not so tactlessly. So some of what he had to say was brand new stuff to his audience. He had a lot of war stories from previous campaigns and entertained his audience with them so much that I am sure that we are going to see a few new bloggers from “The Great Generation” appear on the internets. He had lots of information on search engines. For instance, try these key words in Google: why one fifth of us Americans. Whose blog do you see right under You Tube? Today, it’s this one. I got over 3000 hits on that one posting.

It ended too soon but we had a long drive home. In the car we were lost in our thoughts, although at one point Ann pointed out to us something that is so very true. She was so excited by the fact that we had attended a Democratic activist meeting in the heart of still Red Texas, here in the South, with a room full of people that made the two of us look positively youthful, but when Glen Maxey stood up and told the room about how his mother was 76 when she found out that he was gay, it did not faze a single person in the room. I should point out that this was probably not new news to this group. But it underscored the fact that today, we were with our people, liberal Democrats who are all about acceptance and tolerance, people who embrace diversity rather than spurn it. People with whom you can relax and enjoy conversation without worrying about petty prejudices.

Being a Democrat is about all of the above, and about being a better person for it.

And then there’s the barbecue . . .

Friday, September 14, 2007

Mikal Watts Talks (Down) To University Democrats at UT.

I heard about it, and his Q & A with the Young Democrats at the University of Texas was characterized as pedantic as well as "bob and weave". “Yeah”, I said. “Maybe”. Well that was up until I was given a transcript of the Q &A session.

Jesus, please us. All I can say to Mikal Watts is “keep it up, guy. You just created a roomful of Noriega activists.”


Q: I would like to know how do you feel about a woman’s right to choose.

A: Sure, a woman’s right to choose. I am against abortion except in the case of rape and incest and the life of a woman. That is a view that I hold because of when I believe that life begins.

There was lots more, the man likes to talk, but now we know the basis for his potential votes to deny women rights to decide what is best for themselves. A philosophical idea that cannot ever be proven. A belief really. This belief goes hand-in-hand with being against embryonic stem cell research. Watts claims to be “for stem cell research” but keeps dropping the “embryonic” part.

Q: I read in the Houston Chronicle that in a trial you were in, one time you paid off judges to alter the effects of that. Can you -- do you have anything to say about that?

A: Yeah, well, I guess the Karl Rove truck begins. Let me just tell you something. The people that we are going up against will swift boat you all day long, and they will continue to swift boat you, and I can assure you of a couple things. The people that we’re going up against -- you better be ready to win. If you’re going to a knife fight, don’t let the other guy have the big knife. I can assure you that for the last 20 years, I have fought the fights against the large corporations. I have fought the fights for the people who that weren’t flamethrowers -- on behalf of the people of Texas that frankly are lucky that they have a match. And we have got to be ready. Because I don’t care about what they’re gonna make up this time, what they’re gonna make up next time, it’s coming, and we’ve got to be ready to fight back.

You said a bundle Mike. Swift boaters will be all over him like white on rice. That he is a rich trial lawyer is such a hot button with Republicans. He’ll be so busy fending off these attacks that his message will be drowned out. You bet it’s coming, bubba. More:

The people of Texas want to hear about issues and they don’t want character assassinations. But I can tell you that the way that I handle that, is I tell my wife don’t watch the TV, don’t read the blogs, don’t read this, don’t read that, ok. I can take those blows, and will take them. Ok, and I’m ready to take those blows, but I’m ready to fight back. I told a joke about Karl Rove. He came down to Harlingen, Texas, with John Cornyn, to raise money, thereby giving rise to the joke that, you know, in South Texas we know about a guy named Dick Cheney, but at least when he comes he brings a shotgun; this guy brings a snake. [laughter] The Republican machinery – the Republican machinery -- will attack me, they will attack Rick, they will attack, anybody who’s a Democrat. It will come. But you better have someone who’s ready, willing, and able to fight back, and if we don’t, we’re gonna be in a world of hurt.

The people of Texas don’t want to hear about the issues. They want to know whether they can trust you to be their senator. They will eat this stuff up. Yes, the Republican machinery will attack Rick. They have to because their man’s story (and Watts’) pales in comparison to Rick’s. And what is all this about telling your wife don’t do this and don’t do that? Can she not make up her own mind what she reads and what she watches on TV? Oh, that’s right, women shouldn’t be choosers, men are the deciders. I have one word to describe Mikal Watts: Avatar. Look it up.

Q: Do you support, like what Barack Obama said, in the third debate, where you shift all the benefits of marriage, for both people who are in a heterosexual marriage currently and people that are homosexual. Shouldn’t all of the government, be, civil, civil unions, where everyone—keep marriage, just to religious authorities. Is that what you support? Where, in the current system, between civil unions just for homosexuals, and [unintelligible] where, you have a bill, saying “we officially support your marriage.”

A: I guess what I am saying is this: I think John Cornyn has wasted a Senate seat, ok. We got a lot of educated people in here. Can anybody point me to a single bill that John Cornyn offered that became law? The John Cornyn legislative achievement –the, what Texas got back for sending him up there for four and a half years. Can anybody point me to one bill? The reason you can’t, ok, ‘cause there’s only been two. One of them was to build a federal court house in Plano, Texas. The other one was to rename some building after a Republican. The reason you can’t, is your United States Senator has wasted five years, wasted five years, not caring about the priorities of people in Texas. About raising kids with health care, about educating our kids, about bringing home the bacon if you will. You know, “I’m against pork but bring home the bacon”, you know the old joke.

But the bottom line is what he has done is he’s gone on the floor of the United States Senate and he’s driven in those wedge issues- “we need a constitutional amendment for this, we need a constitutional amendment for that.” He talks about box turtles. Folks, this is the United States Senate. Less than 48 hours after the assassination of a federal judge’s spouse and parent, he went on the floor of the senate, trying to justify it, be it activist liberal United States judges. That’s not what the senate is about. That is not what the senate is about. So I do not favor wasting time in the United States Senate, passing legislation to drive wedges home. What I do support is stopping discrimination in the work place and other aspects of the United States, you
know, way of living.

Huh? Wha . . . ? Did the questioner just get dismissed? Did Watts ignore everything but the question mark at the end of the question? Young Democrats don’t like being dismissed. This was obfuscation at its worst. They didn't let him off the hook.

Q: So basically, uh, to summarize, [unintellible], what you’re saying is that you don’t support civil unions, ‘cause homosexuals have all the rights that people, as heterosexuals you know, [unintellible]. Is that a correct characterization?

A: No, it’s not. [Unintellible crowd comments.] What I’m saying is just the reverse. That is, whatever protections against discriminations, need to exist for both.

Q: So then why wouldn’t that, you know, why wouldn’t that afford everyone the favor of that’s afforded to all… the same inalienable rights.

A: Which rights are you talking about that I am confusing you with? I’m sorry.

Q: Well, I mean, I don’t have anything particular right now.

A: Well, I can’t think of any, I can’t think of any either. I think that people are born in this country as a citizen and they’re all entitled to the same rights, all entitled to the same protections. And frankly, I don’t think those rights and those protections differ based upon your sexual orientation.

Oh. My. God. Can we get a direct answer to a direct question here?

Even I, a lowly blogger could have come up with a better answer than that. Here is what I just heard Mikal Watts say in answer to this earnest Young Democrat's question:

"I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uhmmm, some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and uh, I believe that our, I, education like such as uh, South Africa. . . "

As Wayne Campbell says, “Asphinctersayswhat?”

Thank you Mikal. Thank you just for being you.

Party on, Mikal.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

John Edwards’ Response to the Bush Regimes’ War Plans

Holy smokes. Is it just me or did a majority of my fellow Americans feel the hate?

We HATE what our country has become under the leadership of this Napoleonic leader. This leader is so full of himself that he refuses to bend to universal opinion. This sitting president tells a majority of Americans that they are wrong and he is right

Well here is our response. We reject every motion, every offer, every inducement.

George W. Bush, King George VI: time to face the piper. You have cowed the congress into submission. They represent the majority opinion in our country, and you, the Bush Regime, stand in opposition

And here is why I think that is so.

The only way to get us out of this quagmire is to repeat history. Defund the war, as my main man John Edwards urges.

Why would one oppose that? Those who don’t want blood stains of US soldiers on their sleeves.

But think about it. Who controls that? If Congress passes a law specifically forbidding the use of federal funds to support the war in Iraq, what is the president to do except to leave those poor heroes in the line of fire. “It’s their fault,” Bush would claim.” I wanted an honorable end to this war but they wouldn’t vote the funds for me to do so. And by the way, Master Sergeant so-and-so died today because of their vote.“

I honestly think that Bush is capable of that. Making use of a withdrawal of funds for the war to a withdrawal of bullets for our troops to defend themselves.

I honestly think he will do that.

This gives the concept of “war crimes” a totally new angle. How can one commit war crimes against one’s own troops? Number one answer: send them to a war zone to fight a war that they cannot win, that they were never invited to participate in, and that their virtual presence foments the war that exists. That they have no bullets to fire. I fully expect the Bush Regime’s answer to a defunding of this war is to leave our troops out there hanging.

That’s how.

Forcing the Vietnam War to a close took a great toll but in the end it was the right thing to do. The main thing to fear here is the breast beating that goes on with our disingenuous opponents. They don’t want peace, they want perpetual war and the dollars that this brings.

Stop the War in Iraq. Stop the Insanity. Stop the War Profiteering.

Bush/Edwards Address Nation Tonight on Iraq

In just a little under an hour, Bush is scheduled to deliver an address on all major networks. The subject is Iraq, the Iraq Civil War, the Iraq War of Occupation, Bullets and Bombs for Oil.

All the newsies and pundits were given a preview of what he is going to say, and they already reported that on their network news shows. So we all know what he’s going to say.

So why watch?

Bush is going to “endorse” the recommendations of General Betray Us. That’s what everyone is saying. What he is actually going to endorse, though, are the recommendations of his own war-making team. Petraeus is the political puppet of the Bush Regime. No one points it out any clearer than Joe Klein on Chris Matthews’ show (of all people).

Bush also says that he is going to let his successor deal with the mess he made, and that we will be there for years and years to come. Some mention of Korea will be made.

And at 9 o’clock, we will hear John Edwards’ response to Bush’s speech. It will be aired on MSNBC. The campaign bought 2 minutes of air time just to do this. That will be worth watching. If you miss it, come back here and look for it. I promise to put up the inevitable YouTube video.

Oh and by the way, did you know that there is a September campaign fund drive at the Edwards Campaign? If you like what you hear at 9 o’clock, why not go here and make a contribution to the John Edwards for President Campaign?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Rick Noriega Thumps Cornyn On Votes, Photo Ops With Troops

The following is the leadoff in a John Cornyn press release

AUSTIN—U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, visited the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood Saturday, August 25 to meet with U.S. Army medical staff, troops, and their families.
Here are a few pics from this photo opportunity that Cornyn had to show his deep concern for our beleaguered troops

Here’s yet another leadoff headline from KRIS, a Corpus Christi television station news webpage:
CORPUS CHRISTI - United States Senator John Cornyn paid a visit to the Corpus Christi Army Depot Wednesday morning. It's part of the ongoing effort to ensure that the U.S. military has the resources it needs to fight terrorism.
Clearly, as State Rep and Lieutenant Colonel Rick Noriega points out, the junior senator from Texas is hiding behind photo ops with our troops while making disastrous votes in the Senate.

Cornyn is not for our troops. He is for anything that will get him re-elected and that includes defense of General Petraeus’ whitewash report on “progress” in Iraq and votes to extend the tours of troops already in Iraq. He seeks to deflect the attention given to widespread criticism of Petraeus’ report by attacking one of the critics.

This senator needs another job. What job? I don’t know, hand model maybe. Or maybe he can be the guy in the Cialis commercial. All I know is that he has to go, and that Rick Noriega is the only candidate who has launched an exploratory Senate campaign committee who can do the job and get him gone.

Rick’s campaign has launched a campaign fund drive in anticipation of the September end of quarter campaign fimd reporting cycle. Now is the time to ACT. Now is the time to go over to ActBlue and drive those numbers up and up.

Help us get Rick Noriega elected to the US Senate so he can help us get out of the Iraq quagmire.