Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Rick Noriega Speaks to Young Democrats in Austin

It happened a couple of weeks ago. Rick Noriega addressed the Young Democrats on April 11th. He was introduced by Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie.

A good short speech that didn’t overdo it on platitudes, just a good speech recognizing the work of the Young Democrats in getting new voters registered, and recognizing his colleagues in the State House. He finished with this:

“We are at a critical time in our nation’s history. Perhaps one of the most critical that we have ever known. And I just can’t emphasize enough what your leadership and what this next election cycle is at stake. Now. I will share with you what Chairman Richie has said, I will underscore this again: I don’t care if you are for Obama, and I don’t care if you are for Hillary, but you had better be for Noriega."

That pretty much says it in a nutshell. No matter who you back for president, this is the guy that all Texans can get behind.

Because God knows, Texans don’t need to vote for that other guy. Not that other guy. That other guy who is temporarily holding Lyndon Johnson’s seat in the Senate. That other guy who votes against our troops every chance he can get.

No, whoever we want in the White House, Rick Noriega is the man we want in the Senate.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Why are Clinton and McCain Singing the Same Gas Tax Holiday Tune?

I’d swear McCain said it first. I mentioned it way back here. John McCain’s solution to the straining economy is a summer gas tax holiday. And now we have Hillary Clinton calling for the exact same minimalist approach.

Now what is with that? Are we back to basic government as usual? Why is Hillary Clinton making it look like we don’t have a clear choice between her and John McCain? Really, I have to ask myself, if she is going to agree with McCain in her proposal of a gas tax holiday this summer, what else is she going to settle down and agree with him about?

As mentioned in my piece knocking McCain on this, not only will this not do ANYthing for the economy or an average American’s monthly bottom line – I think I estimated it would save me $13.32 for the entire summer – it takes away federal revenue that we use to maintain our infrastructure.

Our crumbling infrastructure.

Clinton goes one better than McCain, though, claiming that the holiday will have a trickle down effect where gas savings will be passed on to the downstream consumers.

“You’ve gotta bring those logs in; you’ve gotta send the finished products out. And the costs are sent down the supply chain, from the factory floor to the corner store.”
Now, where did I hear about that before . . . trickle down.

Oh, that’s right. That was Herbert Hoover’s and Dick Nixon‘s and Ronald Reagan’s way to justify tax cuts to the corporations and the rich. From Rolling Stone (2004):

“Every GOP administration since 1952 has let the Military-Industrial Complex loot the Treasury and plunge the nation into debt on the excuse of a wartime economic emergency. Richard Nixon comes quickly to mind, along with Ronald Reagan and his ridiculous "trickle-down" theory of U.S. economic policy. If the Rich get Richer, the theory goes, before long their pots will overflow and somehow "trickle down" to the poor, who would rather eat scraps off the Bush family plates than eat nothing at all.”
Now, for the first time, a Democrat (and, let us not forget, her Republican foe) is using the idea of the “trickle down theory” to justify a minimalist approach to an economy on the ropes.

The question posed at the top of this piece is “Why”. Why is Clinton doing this? Obama’s campaign has called it “a gimmick”. Basically true, a gimmick it is, but not only that, but an elitist gimmick. A “let them eat cake” gimmick. Clinton hopes to capture the votes of Americans for 18.4¢ per gallon, and she expectes them to be enthusiastic about the prospect. Clinton expects Americans, in the year of Change, to embrace the same old tired politics that go back to Herbert Hoover.

If anything, Hillary Clinton has just illustrated and underlined how her policies are to those of Barack Obama are . . . excuse me . . . as white is to black.

As Republican is to Democrat.

As old tired politics of smoke and mirrors are to the new politics of a new generation.

You have to ask yourself then, if the people Hillary Clinton is playing to these days is not the electorate in primary states, but uncommitted superdelegates, is this her message? Is she telling the superdelegates that the old politics still fit the Democratic Party like a glove?

Like a silk glove?

Democratic National Committee Slams McCain in TV Ads

There are two of them now. I have seen both of them aired on MSNBC. I assume Fox News won’t run them, but will never know because I am one of those people who don’t ever tune in Fox News because I don’t like to waste my time.

The DNC says that McCain is howling over this ad because it quotes him out of context. They say that McCain has threatened to sue TV stations if they air the piece so that pretty much decided it for me that I would embed the ad here.

I recognize that guy’s voice. I think it belongs to an actor named Stephen Tobolowsky. It has a very innocent quality. A perfect voice for someone who is just trying to understand why John McCain is promising Americans a US presence in Iraq for the next 100 years.

This ad was closely followed on by a slam on McCain’s domestic policies, or rather, his lack of them. It’s a play on Ronald Reagan’s famous and effective question to voters in 1980 when he asked, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Brilliant, because then, as now, the country was in a severe economic downturn. This video takes some video clips of McCain from a while ago and runs then effectively with present-day reality.

The beauty of these clips is that it captures McCain’s voice just as he delivers it today. That calm analytical voice that always goes up a half a note on the final word or syllable.

It’s good to see these ads come out right now. What with Obama having to put up with the mainstream media (and Fox News) taking Wrighteous dumps on him, and Clinton stalking about challenging Obama to a “Lincoln-Douglas-style” debate (something nobody in this century would ever want to sit through), someone has to do their job.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Texas TAKS Attack Starts Tomorrow

With the dawn here in Texas, the most tested generation in history will sit down for the last series of Knowledge and Skills tests of the school year. It’s true you know. While the Great Generation met and mastered the tests of the Great Depression and World War II, the current generation of primary and secondary school children in Texas are, bar none, the most tested generation when you consider the kinds of tests where you “bubble” your answers inside little circles.

The only thing good about that is that at least when they go into their testing rooms tomorrow they pretty much know what is going to take place for the next few hours. I could go on and on about how tedious this is for everyone, and how disruptive it is of the curriculum calendar (all learning comes to a screeching halt), but I won’t. At least not anymore. No, I want to briefly examine what goes into test question development.

TAKS test questions are developed through a partnership between TEA, the Texas Education Agency, and Pearson Educational Measurement. Pearson develops the test questions and the TEA reviews them. Ten questions under review are usually administered to students along with their regular test questions, and student answers are analyzed. Questions that pass these rigors are then included in future tests as actual test questions that the students receive scores on. Test questions originate from individuals who contract with Pearson. I have done some of this with the Educational Testing Service so I have some experience with this. Typically one is asked to write several test questions, provide multiple choice responses, and then review several more questions developed by your peers. It’s interesting work.

Several times in the past, however, I have noticed that Pearson has allowed through a few bungled jobs. This is really through no fault of their own as they typically do not employ PhDs in their fields, unless you count PhDs in Education, and then I’ll bet that they are all over the place. The problem, as I see it, is that it is sometimes difficult to come up with a well-worded question for a concept that you are testing. Sometimes there are complexities that require a question’s words to be carefully chosen.

As an example, I cite a 5th grade science TAKS question that was asked a couple of years ago. A question for which there was no correct response.

Which two planets are closest to Earth?

A. Mercury and Saturn
B. Mars and Jupiter
C. Mercury and Venus
D. Venus and Mars

What is your answer? The question tested on the 5th grade science concept of the order of the planets in the solar system. Students in this case were supposed to reason that Earth lies in its orbital path between Mars and Venus, and therefore choice D was the correct choice. The trouble is, given the actual wording of the question, no response was correct. Had the question been reworded to “Which two planets have the closest orbital paths to that of Earth”, choice D would have been the correct one. The way it was worded, however, the two planets that are most often close to Earth are Mercury and Mars. Mercury, because, as opposed to Venus, it is most often on the same side of the Sun that Earth is, and Mars, because its orbital path brings it closer to Earth than Venus when they are on the same side of the Sun.

No 5th grader could know that, as it is an application of basic astrophysics. Only someone’s father or mother would ever be able to call the TEA out on that question. And they did, as a matter of fact. Texas, after all, has NASA within its borders. No, the question was poorly written and reviewers didn’t catch it. When it was tested with a previous year’s 5th grade class, it seemed to be a good question because 5th graders are not astrophysicists and they answered the question predictably with what they knew about the solar system.

So I think that given the specificity of questions on TAKS tests, especially the science tests, students will occasionally be visited with these kinds of erroneous questions. The problem isn’t having the wrong answers. It’s having correct questions.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Justice Department: Torture of Prisoners is Justified Despite Geneva Convention

The New York Times has just released Justice Department letters stating the government’s official opinion on the torturing of prisoners, vis-à-vis the Geneva Convention, illuminating for the first time the rationale behind still-secret CIA interrogation rules.

It seems, according to the Justice Department, that how you interrogate a prisoner very much depends on who the prisoner is, and how desirable is the information they hope to extract. Once a prisoner is classified as a “terrorist”, new rules apply. If the person is deemed to possess information that is considered important, new rules apply. From The Times:

“‘The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act,’ said Brian A. Benczkowski, a deputy assistant attorney general, in the letter, which had not previously been made public.”
Torture, then is OK when it is done on someone in order to extract desirable information on future terror attacks, but not OK when the whole idea is to inflict humiliation on prisoners, or to generally abuse them.

In other words, if you are inflicting pain on a prisoner because of it gives one some sadistic pleasure, that’s bad. Only when you hope to get some useful information is it justified.

And the prisoner must be labeled a terrorist. That seems to be an important element of the opinions.

The casual observer would wonder what is the harm in that? Isn’t that a reasonable approach in a terrorist situation?

The problem is one of definition. One nation’s “terrorist” is another nation’s “freedom fighter”. Were the Minutemen of Massachusetts terrorists? Were the Sandinistas? What about the soldiers and militias that have put into power several African governments? If we go about labeling each and every person who takes up arms against America or any sovereign government, terrorists, especially when they are fighting on their own soil, it at least calls into question America’s credibility. At most, it gives each and every future adversary of the United States a rationale for torture of our own soldiers.

Something that the signatories of the Geneva Convention hoped to avoid.

Senator Ron Wyden (D - Oregon), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, seems to agree with this assessment:

“If the United States used subjective standards in applying its interrogation rules, he said, then potential enemies might adopt different standards of treatment for American detainees based on an officer’s rank or other factors. ‘The cumulative effect in my interpretation is to put American troops at risk,’ Mr. Wyden said.“
I guess the next time we hear about our troops being abused at the hands of their captors (and that day will come, as it has now been guaranteed) we will all know who to blame: George Bush and his malignant Department of Justice.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

28% of Clinton Supporters Will Vote For McCain

Sometimes I can’t believe my ears when I hear people whose politics run to the left run on about John McCain. “He’s not that bad,” they say, or “I could live with him as president.” Most often what you hear in Red Texas is this: “Well, he won’t be as bad as Bush was.”

Is,” I keep reminding them, “he’s still president and McCain is still his lapdog.”

Nooooo,” they exclaim, “McCain is a maverick. McCain won’t be another Bush.”

You have to ask yourself where these people get their information. Fox News seems to be out and I literally don’t speak to people who listen to Rush Limbaugh unless it is to answer their questions on directions to the Museum of the Confederacy.

So where?

Could it be the mainstream media? Is John McCain being remodeled and reformed in the mainstream media in the image of some fantastic embodiment of Republican perfection? I have to say I think so. John McCain is being reformulated and repackaged for centrist American consumption.

A maverick. Unbeholden to the corporations. Not Bush’s man.

Lies. Duplicitous lies.

And now these lies are starting to be considered by moderate Democrats who support Hillary Clinton for president. If Hillary Clinton doesn’t get the nomination, they are saying they will vote for McCain in the fall. Or 28% of them will, anyway.

At first blush, when I heard this news, I thought that these Clinton supporters, these Hillarycrats, were simply making idle threats at best, or considered McCain as the most viable alternative between he and Barack Obama, at worst.

I am now characteristically opting for the worst-case scenario.

Now the mainstream media is making it very hard, you know, hard for truth to reach the ears of Americans considering a vote for McCain. And once word reaches them, it’s very difficult to get past the first word that comes to their minds when the name “McCain” is uttered, and that word is “maverick”.

Well get a hold of these facts and figures:

John “Maverick” McCain voted with the Bush Regime 95% of the time (when he voted) in 2007. 95%. That’s more than our own junior senator, John “Rubberstamp” Cornyn. True enough, John McCain has flip-flopped on so many issues it is hard to figure out just what his opinion is on things, but I tend to settle on his final flop rather than his original flip.

Like how he flopped a couple of months ago on the Intelligence Authorization Bill. The bill that forbids government interrogation by waterboarding. McCain, himself the recipient of government-sponsored torture, unbelievably voted against this bill that passed 51-45. McCain, who was so vehemently opposed to US torture of its prisoners because of fear of reprisals from other governments in how they treat our soldiers, resolutely spoke out against waterboarding in the past.

But now he favors government-sponsored torture.

In his attempt to distance himself from Bush in the Katrina disaster, McCain recently said that, referring presumably to Air Force One he “would have ordered the plane landed at the nearest air force base, and I would have been over here . . . OK?” That would have been fine, except that The Huffingtonpost, found photographs taken of McCain on the day after Katrina hit New Orleans, in a Hillaryesque photo op, McCain found himself meeting Air Force One and George Bush where he landed to present McCain with a birthday cake. It was John McCain’s birthday. The president was giving him a cake, and apparently not listening to McCain’s exhortations for him to get back on that plane and get over to New Orleans.

McCain is no friend of Katrina victims. He voted against a $28 billion appropriation for hurricane relief. He voted against a 5-month program to put Katrina victims on a Medicaid emergency health care.

Economy? Iraq? Has anyone who is seriously thinking of voting for John McCain stopped to think that he is in lockstep with the Bush Regime on these issues? McCain actually now wants to extend and deepen Bush’s tax cuts to the richest Americans. Tax cuts in wartime. McCain sees a US presence in Iraq to rival our presence in South Korea. Decades.

This is the person Hillarycrats will opt for if their candidate fails to get their party’s nomination? What kind of person is that? Obviously, quite obviously, this kind of person is more “heart” than “head”. Common sense tells any Democrat that John McCain is simply unacceptable as a voting option. Common sense and rational thought.

Things that I think these 28% of Clinton supporters clearly lack.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Universal Health Care: It’s About That Job You Hate

Senator Ron Wyden (D - Oregon) is hyping his universal health care bill in a big way. He has it highlighted on his website His bill, S. 334, The Healthy Americans Act, is co-sponsored by 14 fellow senators, will guarantee that every American has health insurance. The angle Sen. Wyden is plugging is that too many Americans stay in jobs that they don’t want, live lives that they hate, and all because they are afraid of going without the health insurance that their employers provide.

It’s a good angle. Not because it is the most important consideration in all of this - there are, after all, millions of Americans without health insurance – but it is a fair point.

A point that Wyden has exploited in this hilarious video that you can find on his website, or just click on the embed below.

Wyden filed this bill on practically day one of the current session, on January 18, 2007. It hasn’t gone very far, nor has its related bill in the House, HR 3163 by Baird Ryan (WA - 3). Taking a look at it, it looks like we the people would fund the insurance from payroll deductions, the richer pay more, the poorer pay less. But most importantly, it appears to be self-funding, that is, tobacco companies can keep their ill-gotten lucre; they won’t have to pay into this, so they don’t have to worry about lobbying against it. The big loser appears to be the health insurance industry. Yes they can compete but under new rules.

And still, I hold very little hope for this bill this year. Universal Health Insurance is something for next year. It is something for next year, when Democrats will have a supermajority in the House and Senate, and a Democrat will be holding the veto stamp.

It’s for next year . . . unless the Democrats blow themselves out of the water. And if that’s the case, then I guess we’ll all have to keep our sorry jobs for a little while longer.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Why Doesn’t Texas Senator John Cornyn Support Our Veterans?

I received an email from the Rick Noriega campaign yesterday. Its sole purpose was to inform us supporters of Noriega that his November opponent, John Cornyn, the junior senator from Texas, remains at odds with the people who have gone to war since 9/11.

Whatever your opinion of whether the war in Iraq is just or moral (I still can’t find anyone opposed to the Afghan war), the men and women who went off to fight that war deserve our support, not only when they are in theater, but when they have rotated back to America.

And when they have left military service.

Enter Senator Jim Webb’s S. 22, the “Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007”. This is a bill that establishes a program of educational assistance for veterans of Post 9/11 wars. It amends the GI Bill to provide up to 3 years of assistance in getting a education and training after graduation from high school. It encourages veterans who are high school dropouts to get that high school diploma so that they qualify for this program.

It is a good, solid pro-education bill. Solid pro-veteran bill. A win-win for America.

Here, I could see a list of 56 senators who have signed on as co-sponsors. It is a bipartisan list.

But John Cornyn’s name does not appear on that list. Big surprise, huh?

John Cornyn, our Texas senator that sat out the Vietnam War with his 2-S student deferment (while others born the year of Cornyn’s birth were drafted and served in Vietnam), has not signed on as a co-sponsor for this bill, just as he refused to support our troops. He has actually voted against bills that provided funds for enhanced body armor for our troops, voted against the bill that allowed our troops to rest and recuperate at home an equal amount of time that they were in a war zone.

John Cornyn makes himself available for photo ops with uniformed troops but won’t support them when push comes to shove. This has to change, and Rick Noriega has thrown down the gauntlet by asking us to send emails to Cornyn demanding that he show his support by signing as a cosponsor to S. 22, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007.

Click here to sign this petition.

Why has Cornyn refused to support this bill? It all comes back to the Bush Rubberstamp that Cornyn carries around. The Bush Regime opposes this bill. What forever for? This is either going to make you laugh in disgust or fly off the handle in rage, as quoted from Noriega’s email message:

“The Bush Administration opposes Senator Webb's GI Bill because they fear soldiers will leave the military to attend college. As someone who has defended this nation, I'm outraged by the notion that we should limit benefits in civilian life to force our troops to stay in the military.”
So not only does the Bush Regime run his troops into the ground with 3, 4 or even 5 rotations into battle zones, he wants them to keep on going instead of leaving the military to get an education. An education to give themselves, and their families, a better life. An education that they most certainly deserve.

It’s just plain awful and our senator is playing right along. Why not help out? Why not send a message to Cornyn that we are sick of his hypocritical words of support for our troops?

It’s free and you don’t get hit with a pitch for a campaign contribution. So why not?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

If Hillary Was a Republican (and We Were, Too) She Would Be the Nominee

Sometimes I can’t believe what I read. Sometimes the people I admire (or once did) are so lame in the words that they put together that I envision an incredible, an almost Clive Barker world. Here is what Bill Clinton said today. And make no mistake this is not a Bill Clinton mis-speakism again, Hillary Clinton is saying the exact same thing:

“‘If we were under the Republican system, which is more like the Electoral College, she'd have a 300 delegate lead here,’ Clinton told the Washington Post. ‘I mean, Senator McCain is already the nominee because they chose a system to produce that result, and we don't have a nominee here, because the Democrats chose a system that prevents that result.’”
I never would have thought that I would ever hear a Clinton, let alone two, wish that they were Republicans. If the Republican system of nomination appeals to the Clintons, then maybe their political affiliations need to be altered. What with their combined politics of 11th hour fear attacks on a fellow Democrat, maybe it’s time to make the move.

Maybe it’s time for Hillary Clinton to reconcile herself with her former Republican opponents. Their rules, obviously, are superior to her own party’s rules. Their rules get the job done after all.

Makes sense to me.

I hear that John McCain is still looking for a vice-president. This might be Hillary’s best chance. The old man can’t last too much longer after all. He’s starting to dodder and forget. Maybe they can work a mental competency thing.

Maybe Hillary Clinton will be the next, and first, Republican woman President.

Whatever the cost, right?

Hillary Clinton Has a New Ally: The North Carolina Republican Party

The North Carolina Republican Party will come out with a new TV ad on Monday that they hope will cause Democratic voters to turn away from two strong Democratic candidates for governor in their Democratic primary. Both Bev Purdue and Richard Moore, North Carolina’s State Treasurer and Lieutenant Governor, respectively, are running for their party’s nomination for Governor against Dennis Nielsen. On Monday, Supposed Democrat Nielsen will receive a little gift from the North Carolina Republican Party. As will Hillary Clinton. Nielsen, by my own estimate is a Republican in name only. And both of his opponents have endorsed Barack Obama.

So what did North Carolina’s Republican Party do? They created a TV ad that they are will show in North Carolina’s media markets starting Monday. An ad that clears a path for their man, RINO Dennis Nielsen.

And incidentally, an ad that does a pretty good job for Hillary Clinton’s campaign as well.

Don’t believe me? Take a look for yourself.

That Barack Obama is "too extreme for North Carolina"?

That’s a little freebie for Nielsen courtesy of the Republican Party. And it couldn’t possibly hurt the chances of Hillary Clinton, either, could it? After all, Clinton gets gratis from the Republican Party some negative trash talk of Barack Obama. Their enemy is her enemy.

How about that? Clearly the message is that the North Carolina Republican Party, the party of Jesse Helms, would not only like their shill running in the Democratic ticket for Governor, they also would like to see Hillary Clinton win their presidential primary.

By the way, John McCain has asked the party to pull the ad.

“I don't know why they do it. Obviously, I don't control them, but I'm making it very clear, as I have a couple of times in the past, that there's no place for that kind of campaigning, and the American people don't want it.”

Oh, no, counters the NCRP. This isn’t an attack against Obama. This is a “local issue” (wink, wink, nudge nudge).

So what began as a Rush Limbaugh exhortation to his ‘ditto heads’, to get out there and vote for Hillary Clinton, has now become policy of the North Carolina Republican Party. McCain has denounced it, thus getting its coming some national news air time. Giving it a national audience. Win-win for McCain.

Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton has not denounced it, and in not doing so, has given tacit approval of the actions of the opposing party.

Tonight, Hillary Clinton has gone on TV proclaiming that Barack Obama is not electable in the fall, a big flip flop from the recent debate’s “Yes, yes, yes” response when asked whether Obama could win in the fall. Now I am beginning to wonder if Hillary Clinton has a tacit agreement with the McCain campaign. That, since she has no chance at the nomination this year, she and her surrogates (surprisingly now, the North Carolina Republican Party) will issue punishments to Obama in the primaries so McCain can finish him off in the fall.

Setting herself up for a more successful run in 2012.

Talk about victory at any price. Now things are starting to make sense. Hillarycrats saying that they would vote for McCain in the fall instead of voting for Obama.

It makes a lot of sense. I wonder if any superdelegates have put this thing together and will now move in to stop this anti-Democratic Party insanity.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thoughts on Pennsylvania Day

Now who is going to pull it off in Pennsylvania? Conventional wisdom says that Hillary Clinton will carry Pennsylvania. Obama’s campaign says so. Obama himself says that a 50% plus 1 vote is a win, nodding to the Clinton Campaign that is favored in this election. Obama has distanced himself from “the spread”.

The spread is by how much does Hillary Clinton have to win in order to make it a decisive win? Recall that just short weeks ago Clinton led Obama in the Pennsylvania polls by 20%. Obama’s campaign has poured its bankroll into the Pennsylvania media markets and has blitzed the state for 7 weeks. Conventional wisdom says that should break it toward Barack Obama. Polls reveal that to be true and the lead narrowed to 5% of late. But with a 9 to 10% undecided in the mix.

The pols (as opposed to the polls) say that “undecideds” break for Hillary Clinton, especially if they made their decision over the last 3 days. They have in the past, so there is no reason to assume this is not going to be the case tonight.

Others point to the nearly 300,000 new registered voters. Who will they vote for? Someone had a breakdown today on who they are and I was quickly writing down those figures, only to realize that it’s pretty meaningless. Demographically, it sounded like a dead heat among the newly registered. My impression is that the new voters will have a null effect on this.

7:00 PM:

The polls close. MSNBC says it is “too close to call”. This with 0% of the precincts reporting. Meaning, of course, that their bean counters, using their models and exit polls can’t see a clear trend.

Bad news for Clinton. Without a clear trend at this point, it looks like a close race. If you are “playing the spread” it looks like, at this point, Obama is on top. The talking heads say that without a decisive +8 to +10% win, Clinton is in trouble. Superdelegates will break. Campaign contributions will dry up.

At this point, you can hear a collective “sucking in” at the Clinton Campaign headquarters in Philly, all the way down here in Texas.

7:34 PM:

MSNBC now says it is “too early to call”. Collective sigh of relief at Clintonville. Clinton has a measured advantage in early returns. What does that mean? It means that with the votes in it is now 65% Clinton, 35% Obama. Absentee ballots?

7:50 PM:

Hillary Clinton is the MSNBC projected winner. 1% of districts reporting. Right now it is 60% to 40%. Now, everyone is asking, what is the margin of victory?

7:54 PM:

3% of districts reporting. 53% Clinton, 47% Obama.

That’s a 6% spread.

8:03 PM:

6% of districts reporting. 52% Clinton, 48% Obama.

8:34 PM:

With 20% of districts in, its back to 53% Clinton, 47% Obama. Back to a 6% spread. It has been this way for about 20 or 30 minutes now. Without returns from a heavy Obama area or the converse, it looks like this is how the numbers are settling.

A 6% spread.

Now. Is this enough?

9:50 PM:

78% districts reporting. 54% Clinton, 46% Obama. 6% or 8% it doesn’t matter. It will probably settle at 8%.

10:07 PM:

The numbers remain static. All this does, then, is guarantee another several weeks of strife.

I tell you, this isn’t good for us. Tonight we hear of exit polls where 56% of Hillary Clinton supporters will not support Obama in the general election. A second front, therefore, has opened up on the war for superdelegate votes. Vote for my candidate or I will not vote for the party’s choice in the fall.

Really, I can think of no other argument against a superdelegate casting their support for Clinton. If this candidate so divides the party that they will vote for a Republican over the party’s nominee, then it’s time to tell them all that blackmail will not work here.

If you want to hold the Democratic Party hostage by promising to vote Republican if they don’t knuckle under and support their candidate, then it is time to close ranks. Time to close ranks for the candidate that will deliver Democratic voters no matter what. Not turn Democratic voters toward the Dark Side.

Pennsylvania has done nothing but expose the true colors of Clinton supporters.

And so it goes.

Earth Day? It’s Earth Day?

Here in Texas you would hardly know.

Back when I was just a young pup, Earth Day was a day of teach-ins. It was when we educated ourselves about the population explosion, extinctions of species, and the effects, health-wise and others, of water, air, and noise pollution. Back then we had no idea that the Earth’s atmosphere was heating up. We were becoming aware that human civilization was affecting areas that humans do not live and have not lived, but the notion that our carbon emissions would impact the average temperature of Earth’s atmosphere was something for science fiction.

Ironically, Earth Day is celebrated now. It was a solemn observation, now it’s an occasion for a party.

Look around the state. In Forth Worth children used chalk rags and yarn to produce a huge mural of Earth that could only be viewed from the sky. Hopefully, the clean up has been accomplished with minimal impact on the environment. Chalk is a good buffer, but if something goes chemically wrong, what you have is carbonic acid.

In Cypress, Texas they had a nice Sunday concert with an acoustic guitarist, and then a nice Earth Day sermon; then children planted a mulberry tree. Now if only they can round up some silkworms.

They planted trees in Killeen, Texas as well.

At Fort Hood they are going to hold a festival with music, food, inflatables and gas-efficient vehicles on display.

In Sugar Land, Texas Earth Day was preceded by “Environmental Week” that included an “Eco-Car Show” and music in a park, and also hosting a Recycling Event (limits on items accepted and charges may apply).

And, oh yes, Google celebrated Earth Day with a special screen. Cute, huh? If you click on the “Green Google” logo you get web results on the keywords earth or day.

It was actually nicer when they called this day Arbor Day. That way there was a one to one correlation between the festivity and the activity. The way it is now, an uninformed person would be hard-pressed to figure out just what we Americans, we Texans, were supposed to be doing today.

Monday, April 21, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different . . .

On the eve of Pennsylvania’s primary election I thought it would be apt to show the video that has been rattling You Tube’s bandwidth for a week now. Here it is . . .


Do Texas Educators Teach English Good?

Yes, the title is a joke. Shouldn’t it read Do Texas Educators Teach English Real Good? OK, that’s not right either. But you do have to laugh when reading the opening paragraph to this article that appeared in the Chron today:

“The inability of many Texas students to write and speak good English is like a dreadful disease requiring aggressive treatment, say some education advocates who want to use different teaching approaches.”

So it looks like Gary Scharrer, an Austin Bureau Chronicle reporter may just be a product of a Texas education.

Back on topic. The State Board of Education of Texas is re-examining the English curriculum and some of the more conservative members are arguing for a back-to-basics approach in English instruction, because obviously the way we are teaching children in Texas now isn’t cutting it.

This is according to retired Texas ELA teacher Donna Garner who has the ears of conservative SBOE chairman Don McLeroy and board member David Bradley. Garner has some cooked up data showing that Texas students are in dire need of remedial instruction, with “half of Texas college freshmen …in need of remedial education, compared to only 28 percent nationally”.

And it’s all because, according to Garner, these students aren’t being taught grammar. They don’t know how to write because they don’t know the rules. You know, the rules that each and every baby boomer in America had to learn so we would write good.

(I’m still kidding about that good/well stuff).

The Chron article cites input from a coalition of instructors headed by Joyce Armstrong Carroll (is it just in the field of Education that PhDs who are women go by 3 names?). The coalition cites 50 years of research showing that students learn to read, comprehend, and write not by rote memorization of rules, but by an integrated approach that allows students to transfer what they learn into “solid writing”.

Said Alana Morris of Aldine ISD:

“If you drill the basics on handouts and worksheets, then that's where kids will be able to apply them. The bottom line is that drilling doesn't transfer into solid writing. Teaching grammar is important, but we want to teach it clearly so that kids can actually transfer it into their writing. Teaching grammar in drills makes no sense, whatsoever, to them.”

I can’t help but agree and have this little ditty to share with you. Something that I made myself remember by rote in 8th grade. Remember it because I was tested on it.

It goes like this:

(Turn the page)

What is the significance of this list? I haven’t the slightest idea now. It got me an “A” on an 8th grade test. There were lots in my class who didn’t do as well because they thought the list ended at the bottom of the page of our grammar text.

I discovered that you had to turn the page to get the last two words.

That is the kind of rote English grammar instruction you got in the 50’s and 60’s, and it is just as Carroll describes. Mindless trivial information that cannot be applied to knowledge of how to write a structured well-thought out paper.

Public comment on the state’s English curriculum continues until May 18th. After that the board will retire to consider all input and will take final action 4 days later. This action, if finally approved, will decide how Texas school children will learn English for the next 10 years. This, some may know, is the standard textbook adoption term in Texas.

It’s always about the money, isn’t it? The final approved plan will dictate which texts the state will formally adopt. Obviously, money is behind everything. Every theory, every paid expert. Book publishers are lining up then, because the Texas book adoption is considered a real gravy train.

I like how the Chron article concludes because it is so true. Educators in the trenches know what works and what doesn’t. If the SBOE stumbles again, Texas’ professionals in every English classroom will simply fix it.
“‘Teachers will remain professional if the State Board of Education approves the pending document,’ Morris said. ‘Teachers are not the type that will march on Austin’ adding that experienced teachers will simply ignore the new English textbooks.”
Yep. That’s what happens. When bad textbooks are forced on a teacher, they plan work-around lessons to keep instruction in line with current teaching theory, teaching school children correctly despite the poor decisions of the state school board.

And yes, that is yet another example of your tax dollars at work.

Round-Up Time, Guts, Feathers and All

On any given Monday this blogger group that I find myself allied with comes up with a "Best of" series. A great many thanks to The Texas Cloverleaf, a fine blog that has graciously accepted the onus and responsibility for compiling these links into one cogent format, and then making it available to we, the TPA members, all for posting on our sites.

I give you The Texas Progressive Alliance weekly Round-Up.

In honor of Income Tax day, Lightseeker at TexasKaos examines the Republican's tax cut claim here in Texas and discover that what it really amounts to is "tax shifting" and we are the ones getting shafted. Tax Shifting With Bohac's Assessment Cap as Our Example.

WhosPlayin notes that John McCain has proposed suspending the federal gasoline tax, and points out that McCain would do just as well to try to suspend the law of gravity.

The Texas Cloverleaf is helping to save the earth on Earth Day weekend with helpful tips for saving energy and your wallet, as well as picking up trash with Stonewall Democrats. Don't mess with Texas!

CouldBeTrue from South Texas Chisme wonders if all Republicans are Tom Craddicks in training. Listen to Nueces County Republican chair Mike Bertuzzi ignore all the 'Point of Order' calls at the county convention. Sound familiar?

John Coby of Bay Area Houston has the real press release from Rick Perry about his run for Governor in 2010.

Here are local activist Jose Orta's
Impressions Of T. Don Hutto, Williamson County's immigrant detention facility, that were posted at Eye On Williamson after his recent visit.

At McBlogger, barfly analyses what's really important to the American voter in this hour of cultural brouhaha.

Off the Kuff takes an early look at the race for District Attorney in Harris County, which is sure to be one of the hottest local races this year.

Today is San Jacinto Day and PDiddie of Brains and Eggs will be at the commemorative ceremonies taking place at the battlefield near Houston.

BossKitty at BlueBloggin points out that Your $300 - $1,200 Economic Stimulus Payment Cost $767 Million

Hal at Half Empty questions whether one person running for President is actually temperamentally fit to be in that office.

Vince at Capitol Annex thinks it is terrible that Texas teacher salaries are so low that that more than a quarter of all teachers must work a second job to make ends meet.

North Texas Liberal reports on a homophobic journalist's question to White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, and the smackdown she gave in response.

George Nassar at The Texas Blue takes some time out of Friday's morning news roundup to point out that were the Bush administration to use a logical metric, it would be clear to them that the surge has failed.

And there it is, Hillarycrats and Obamanites. Enjoy your day.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

John McCain: Temperamentally Unfit for the Presidency

While Democrats watch the back and forth of the primary campaigns, which are starting to look, to many, as a fight that continues despite the fact that the outcome is all but decided, John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, gallivants around the country without any public scrutiny whatsoever.
Well, almost.

What about this Washington Post piece by Michael Leahy that was published early this morning (4/20/08)? It is an instructive piece that bears reading from front to back (warning, four pages).

Leahy writes of the famous, some say infamous, McCain temper. A temper that has impelled former friends and aides to question whether having McCain in the Oval Office is necessarily a good idea. He includes anecdotal verifications from witnesses of some of McCain’s past behavior, with a temper that has been called “erratic” and “volcanic”.

Some excerpts from witnesses and targets of McCain’s temper have these things to say:

“Former senator Bob Smith, a New Hampshire Republican, expresses worries about McCain: ‘His temper would place this country at risk in international affairs, and the world perhaps in danger. In my mind, it should disqualify him.’”

“’I heard about his temper more from others,’ said Grant Woods, McCain's first congressional chief of staff, who is generally regarded as McCain's closest confidant in his early political years. ‘According to them, he really unleashed on some of them, and they couldn't figure out why. . . . It happened enough that it was affecting his credibility with some people. If you wanted a programmed, subdued, always-on-message politician, he wasn't and will never be your guy.’”

“’What happens if he gets angry in crisis" in the presidency?’ Hinz asked. ‘It's difficult enough to be a negotiator, but it's almost impossible when you're the type of guy who's so angry at anybody who doesn't do what he wants. It's the president's job to negotiate and stay calm. I don't see that he has that quality.’”

Now listen. Over the past 7 years, Americans have been subjected to a president who has been intransigent in foreign policy, a president who has used his veto stamp more often than any other, a president who will not deal with the other branches of government to such an extent, that he creates one constitutional crisis after another. I am fairly certain that we Americans were not prepared for that. But this is different. Here we have a guy who will be the Republican presidential nominee with a 20-year track record of stubborn and angry intransigence, heated and self-elevating denigration of others. A man who makes enemies wherever he goes and has a long, long memory of people who have opposed him; a man with a vindictive streak almost as long.

With the recent turn of events in last week’s debate between Clinton and Obama, where the media has defended somewhere between 45 and 63 minutes of concentration on personal trivia rather than issues, we are now told that we know enough about how close the two candidates are on issues, but do not know about how they are as people. This, the media is now saying, is what was behind the Stephanopoulos and Gibson tag team trash talk that they called a debate.

Fine. That being the case, that people don’t care about the issues, but do care about how they “feel” about the candidates, whether they can trust this one more than that one, I say, fine. Then consider this: John McCain is temperamentally unsuited to be President of the United States. At best, what we can hope for if this man becomes president is a world that derides yet another president who cannot negotiate himself out of a wet paper bag.

At worst, we can expect endless war.

Well . . . no. I guess that’s not the worst case scenario. In the worst case, we can have a man in the Oval Office with an unchecked temper when the situation absolutely requires cool heads. A recipe for disaster.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

An Afternoon With True Believers

I didn’t write a post about how there was going to be an Obama Rally in Sugar Land this afternoon because, frankly, I couldn’t find out what time it would be and didn’t want to steer anyone wrong.

Well, with 20-20 backward vision, the Obama Rally will have taken place starting at 12:15 PM, that is 4 hours ago at this writing, today at the Sugar Land Memorial Park in Sugar Land, Texas.

It’s a brand new park on the floodplain above the east bank of the Brazos River as it flows past First Colony. I had never met any of its organizers and was frankly wondering where they came from. My visit with them this afternoon answered that question. These people are all brand new friends who were all a part of the Obama for President effort of Fort Bend County.

In other words, these people are True Believers in Barack Obama.

True Believers in a presidential candidate that they all admire. True Believers in the man and his message. People that I like to call the new activists who have come out in 2008 in droves to put an end to the Republican hegemony in our nation’s capitol.

To put a Democrat in the White House.

First to speak, after the rally organizers, was a Democrat who likes to call himself a country lawyer. An activist Democrat at birth who made hand-painted JFK campaign signs when he was 13 years old. Don Bankston stood to give an empowering speech to this small crowd of Obama supporters. A speech filled with facts and figures of the county’s recent primary and its three senate district conventions, each of which brought the crowd to standing applause. As he wound it up, Bankston said something that needs to be said from now and on to the November election. He extolled the importance of the grassroots, that it was the grassroots that was going to deliver our country back into the hands of the people.

I know what he was talking about, and hope that there were those in the crowd that took what he said to heart. While it is fantastic that so many have decided to take it upon themselves to volunteer and help organize for the presidential campaign, what matters in the long run is what takes place after Obama wins in the general election. What is important is that these new activists not put their signs, buttons and banners away in their scrapbooks along with their memories of a stupendous political victory. What is important is that our new activists see their job as incomplete. Incomplete until Democrats have taken each and every county office in Fort Bend County. Incomplete until Democrats put our county, state and country back on the path of peace, fellowship and equality.

Don’t worry, there will always be those like Don Bankston around. Lifelong activists who will work tirelessly to see that our Republican friends will always have a minority voice in our government. But what this country needs right now is for some of these new activists, and these True Believers, to sign up now for another tour that goes beyond November 2008.

Our Republican friends and the corporations that support them won’t go away after November. They will be itching for a fight to take back what they have lost. We need our new activists to hang around and show our opponents that not only can they not have anything back that we’ve taken from them, but that also, we aren’t done yet.

Not completely.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pre-Pennsylvania Primary Poll: Obama O-Belts it Out of the Park

In the latest Newsweek poll, released just before 4PM ET today, Barack Obama has a commanding lead nationally over Hillary Clinton among registered Democrats. This poll is remarkably different from a poll conducted by this same polling group in March, just after the Texas and Ohio primaries.

In March, Obama and Clinton were virtually in a dead heat in Democratic voters’ leanings, with a 45% to 44% split, a statistical tie. One short month later, however, Newsweek’s April poll illustrates a dramatic national shift toward Barack Obama, with new figures showing Barack Obama with a nearly 20 point lead over Hillary Clinton, with 54% of the voters opting for Obama, and 35% for Clinton.

Clearly Obama has gained the support of American Democrats, while at the same time Clinton has lost their support.

In Pennsylvania, with voters going to the primary polls in 4 days, recent polls show that the race is tightening, with a mere 5% difference between the two candidates; a far cry from the once-commanding lead that Hillary Clinton once enjoyed.

What actually plays out next week in Pennsylvania may be a moot point if these figures hold. Really, it’s probably impossible to know what is actually going to come out next Tuesday. Ten percent of the voters, according to the polls, have no opinion, a position that, quite frankly, defies all reason considering the fact that the news is filled with the actions and antics of both candidates each and every night.

Tack onto that the fact that the state has over 200,000 newly registered voters, most of them Democratic, and many of them new young voters. Voters whose personal habits do not include owning a “land line” to which pollsters are restricted in their calls. We don’t really know what these voters are going to do, do we?

Nuts and bolts. The poll was conducted over a two-day period from April 16th to April 17th, and recorded the answers of 1,209 registered Democrats. It has a 3% margin of error.

In a larger population, all voters were asked who they would opt for in November, with results showing effectively little difference in overall numbers, just that either Democrat would beat McCain by 4 or 5 points.

Really, at this point, who cares? McCain is running in this race unopposed right now. These numbers are fun to hear about, but that’s the extent of it.

What is more telling in this overall polling, is that Barack Obama polls over twice the number of independent voters than Clinton.

So what does all of this mean? All I can do is correlate it to what has happened over the past month, which is effectively nothing. Nothing other than things coming out in the news about each candidate and about how each candidate has reacted to that news.

Clearly the reaction has almost all been anti-Clinton.

Or pro-Obama. Or both.

Since there is no way for the elected delegate vote to tip the scales one way or another, how does a superdelegate take this news? Will a leak spring in the dike that is holding back the sea of uncommitted superdelegates? What is the trend over the past month? Consulting the premier site that keeps track of superdelegate endorsements, we find that since March 18th Obama has had a net gain of 18 superdelegates, and Clinton a net gain of 6 superdelegates.

My question is, is Obama’s 3 to 1 rate of gain in superdelegates indicative of anything?

Or is it indicative of everything?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Energy Remedies: The Parties Show Their Strategies

What a surprise. John McCain’s latest remedy to ease the pain at the pump for American consumers, just proposed, is to have a “federal gas tax holiday” for the summer. The feds take 18.5 cents from the purchase price of every gallon of gasoline that you buy. So it seems clear to McCain that the best way to provide a boost to our sagging economy is to let Americans save somewhere between $2.22 and $4.62 every time they buy a tank of gasoline (tank volumes between 12 and 25 gallons).

Wow. That’ll do it, don’t you think? For me, this works out to a net savings of $13.32 cents this summer. No, I don’t plan on driving anywhere out of the ordinary, and yes my transportation costs are lower than most here in Texas because I am one of the few in this state that doesn’t drive an SUV (Sucks Up Volatiles).

It is amazing what passes for economic stimulation among Republicans. Cutting taxes at such a rate so as to be virtually ineffective, while at the same time letting energy companies collect scandalous, no, pornographic revenues for their raw and refined products.

McCain’s plan is a perfect example of Republican fixes. Doling out dribs and drabs of cash to people. Amounts that cannot make a significant difference in their lives or economies, while on the other hand, severely degrading our country’s ability to build and maintain its transportation infrastructure. What does McCain think the gas taxes pay for? Does another bridge have to fall into a river before he gets it?

A barrel of oil today hit a high of over $115 per barrel. This is the same oil that cost an energy company $12 to lift out of the ground. Profits are more than obscene.

Enter the Democratic plan. Remove all of the tax supports that have been given by Congress to the energy companies. Federal supports for oil and gas exploration, production or research is like paying bankers extra cash to compensate them when they have to find new places to store their money.

Indeed, their profits have become so obscene that both Obama and Clinton have called for a windfall profit tax on petroleum. That is, when profits start to tip the scale towards obscene, the oil companies don’t get to keep that.

What you will hear from the energy companies then is that this will remove any incentive to explore for, drill and develop new reserves. Stock will go down. Reserves will hit the skids.


At even 60 dollars a barrel these companies are making so much money that they literally have the same problem finding a place to put it all. A problem that commonly plagues cocaine dealers.

Yeah, the other substance that Americans have been addicted to.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Michelle Obama Rocks the House on "The Colbert Report"

I didn’t get to see it last night. The Colbert Report is on too late for me sometimes. Too late on a school night. So I was really happy to see that the Obama Campaign put up the clip on You Tube, AND that Comedy Central didn’t have it pulled (I think they have some influence with those guys).

Michelle Obama is a very poised woman with what looks like a supreme case of “attitude”. This is the first time I have seen her outside of a speech making environment and I have to say I am impressed. It looks like she can not only keep up with her over-achieving husband; she probably stands around waiting for him to catch up with her from time to time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rick Noriega’s Senatorial Campaign Fundraising Hits Overdrive

First quarter fundraising figures for Rick Noriega’s senatorial campaign are out. Noriega, who will face Texas’s junior senator, John Cornyn this November, is poised to make the important inroads in campaign fundraising that will be needed this year, as first quarter numbers are showing.

John Cornyn has had the time, over these past six years, to amass an over $8 million trove of campaign cash to defend his seat this November. A defense that will doubtless prove to be futile given the senator’s poor approval ratings as well as the Democratic fever that is sweeping the nation (even finding purchase here in traditionally red Texas).

Still, Noriega needs and will continue to need supporters to contribute to the cause so that he can get his message to Texas voters, a daunting task in a large state with 5 major media markets.

Said Rick Noriega of the campaign’s fundraising history:

“In the primary we were running an insurgent grassroots and netroots focused campaign and we accomplished our goal of securing the nomination. Since our primary victory, we have seen increasing support for our general election bid and have put in to place the fundraising team needed win in November.”

That team is already seeing results. Take a look at this graphic. One picture tells a thousand words.

Fundraising for the month of February, alone, represents an over 380% increase over the previous month, and March contributions are over 250% of what they were in February.

I’m gratified to know that my meager contribution at the end of the quarter helped with this figure in some small way. I wish it wore more Rick, but you know about how Texas pays its teachers, don’t you?

Rick still has a long way to go and it isn’t too early nor is it too late to plop down some dead presidents to seal John “I Heart Dubya” Cornyn’s fate this coming November. Click here, or click on Rick’s campaign thumbnail on the upper left corner of this page.

Beating John Cornyn is going to take all of us. He has lots of resources and we not only have to make those contributions for the campaign to bring Rick’s Story to the voters, but also to show the rest of the state and country that this campaign is in the forefront of our struggle to put our government back into the hands of the American people.

Committee On Political Education Endorses FBISD Trustee Candidates

The Fort Bend Employees Federation, affiliated with the Texas Federation of Teachers, has released the endorsements of C.O.P.E. for three Fort Bend ISD Trustee positions that will be decided by the voters this coming May 10th.

Position 1 (West) is a position currently occupied by former teacher Stan Magee. Challenging Magee for his seat is Susan Hohnbaum, who has received the teacher’s union endorsement. Magee, it was reported today, will not be actively campaigning to remain on the board, noting that “new personal commitments in his life and commitments to his family needed to take precedence over candidate forums and debates”. Magee did not appear at the FB Employee’s Federation candidates forum, and did not submit answers to their questionnaire.

One would wonder, then, on the remote chance that Magee were re-elected to Position 1, whether he would have the time to attend board meetings, or to prepare for them.

C.O.P.E.’s endorsement of Hohnbaum is a no-brainer for this and many reasons.

Their endorsement for Position 4 At Large, however, went to a candidate who, similar to Magee, was a no-show at the FBEF’s forum. While Daniel Menendez did complete their questionnaire, I do wonder about an endorsement for someone who did not have time in his personal or professional life to attend the forum.

I am therefore a little perplexed at their endorsement of Menendez. Rodrigo Carreon, who opposes Menendez in this open seat that is being vacated by Cynthia Knox, did make it to the forum, as he did when he served on the Board’s bond committee meetings, as he does in nearly every regular school board meeting, as he does in every other kind of meeting in and around the county.

I tend to lean toward Carreon. He may be all over the map when he makes a case, but we all know where his heart is. A Democratic heart, by the way.

But I am in hearty agreement with C.O.P.E.’s endorsement of Dr. Jonita Reynolds for Position 5 (East). Reynolds is highly qualified for this position notwithstanding the on the job training that her opponent has received over the past few years. Trustee Caldwell, who Dr. Reynolds is opposing, was once in a voting bloc with Stan Magee. These two represent the 3rd and 4th members of the “new majority” that was voted in a few years back. A “new majority” that got out a broom and ended the career of Dr. Betty Baitland, someone who one can successfully argue was the best administrator the district has had in years. After their broom job, the board ran up the district’s charge accounts and caused general mayhem. Dr. Reynolds will provide a much-needed breath of fresh air on the board.

So the union got it almost all right. Near perfect really. As they say in the “Meat Loaf” song, two out of three ain’t bad.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Texas SD 17 Special Election Before November? Don't Count On It

Now you would think that with State Senator Kyle Janek stepping down before the end of his term we would be having a bunch of candidates coming out of the woodwork to vie in a non-partisan special election to fill the empty seat.

And in that you would not be wrong. Trouble is, the fix is in and I wonder if anyone is going to be giving up their State House seats to gamble on a 3-way or 4-way election in a race against Janek’s “anointed one”: Austen Furse.

Oh, you say you don’t know who Austen Furse is? No matter. According to this piece in the Chron you don’t need to know, because he has been hand-picked by Kyle Janek to be his successor.

Who is Austen Furse? Well, first, the guy has never held political office. He’s a Harris County-based businessman with connections to local politics. As a whippersnapper right out of Yale, Furse served as a director of White House policy planning in the Bush-41 presidency.

All of that and he has another thing going for him: he doesn’t have to give up his current job to run for this seat.

See, while Kyle Janek has known about his impending exit for some time now, he hasn’t actually handed in his resignation to Rick Perry, and won’t. Originally he was going to resign by March 10th, allowing Perry to replace him during the next regularly scheduled election day, on May 10th.

But no.

If that happened the floodgates would have opened and we would have seen a veritable multitude assemble to take the spot. No, because you see, people are starting to wonder whether SD 17 is as rock solid Republican as it has been. According to the Chron:
“Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama received more votes in this year's primary than Janek received in his general election victories in either 2002 or 2006, non-presidential years.”
No, what you want to do, then, to guarantee a Republican win in SD 17 in a special election is to limit the challengers, and what better way to do that than to put off the special election until November, when State Representatives are all running for re-election? At least two State Reps whose district boundaries overlap SD 17’s were looking at this. One is Sugar Land’s Charlie Howard (R – HD 26), the other is Houston’s Scott Hochberg (D- HD 137). State law forbids a person from appearing twice on the same ballot for the same election on the same day. Both Hochberg and Howard would have to give up their seats to run in the special election.

Furse doesn’t have that problem.

So if anyone was wondering about the change-up we saw last February, and what would cause that, now we have our answer.

Now that appears to be the ploy. It makes you wonder, though if this seat coming available is just too good to pass up.

Scott Hochberg, the only Democrat currently rumored to be considering this race is still weighing his options. While the presidential primary numbers impress, Hochberg is more impressed by the recent showing for Democratic Supreme Court candidate Bill Moody:

“Hochberg said that statistic is less convincing to him that the district is trending Democratic than the fact that Texas Supreme Court candidate Bill Moody got 46 percent in the district with no Democratic get-out-the-vote effort.”
Makes you think, doesn’t it? Will Furse get opposition from Charlie Howard? I can think of a few who will absolutely rejoice at that. Will those two fight over the dwindling Republican vote in SD 17 letting Hochberg take the Democratic vote plus independents to win?

Seems like a better plan.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Is That A Naked Lady In Your Sunglasses, Dick?

The blogosphere is anything but a sane place to be usually, and this past week’s absurdity doesn’t give lie to that fact. Imagine that. In a discussion on DemocraticUnderground, individuals and bloggers took a good close look at a close-up photo of Dick Cheney, a photo taken on a fishing trip several years ago, and posited that the reflection in Dick Cheney’s sunglasses was in fact the reflection of a naked lady.

That when Dick Cheney goes fly fishing, he takes with him his rod, his reel, his creel, his tackle box . . . and a naked lady.

If only that were true.

If that were true it would at long last disprove the lie that Dick Cheney has ice water in his veins. That the architect of this morass called the Iraq War, a debacle that has only served to line the pockets of his company and those of his cronies, is in fact a real human being with real human desires.

But I guess not. The LA Times is showing an improbable, and I am guessing, photoshopped version of the same photograph, that clearly shows, far more clearly than the original, I might point out, that the image was simply of his own hand holding his rod. His fishing rod.

What then, explains the huge smile on this man? The man whose smile muscles were thought to be in an atrophied state from nonuse? What but a naked lady would bring a smile to the man? This is what must have been running through the minds of people posting on DU.


In my attempt to get to the truth I took the original photo and extracted the pixels that represented the speculative naked lady, seen at right. Then applying a sophisticated computer algorithm of my own device, one that includes an advanced Fourier analysis, I came up with this result.

Far more probable.

Far more believable.

A result that does not require one to make too many leaps of logic.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

From Scotland: Gore and Carter to Pressure Clinton to Step Aside?

I don’t know how to take this. According to this article in “The Scotsman”, a UK journal, President Carter and former VP Al Gore are being positioned to call on Hillary Clinton to cease and desist all anti-Democratic activities and fold her tent.

There is nothing about this in the American press, and that gives it some credence. Imagine all of the future headlines that wouldn’t ever be printed, headlines that sell newspapers.

Here’s what they say:

“DEMOCRAT grandees Jimmy Carter and Al Gore are being lined-up to deliver the coup de grâce to Hillary Clinton and end her campaign to become president. Falling poll numbers and a string of high-profile blunders have convinced party elders that she must now bow out of the primary race.”

“Former president Carter and former vice-president Gore have already held high-level discussions about delivering the message that she must stand down for the good of the Democrats.”

“’They're in discussions,’ a source close to Carter told Scotland on Sunday. ‘Carter has been talking to Gore. They will act, possibly together, or in sequence.’”
Now there’s all sorts of downside to this, like the 30% of Hillary supporters who say that they’ll vote for McCain if Clinton fails to get the nomination. This could be virtually assured if it is perceived that Hillary Clinton was forced to step aside by party elders.

My guess is that if this is indeed in the offing, they will wait for an opportune moment in the campaign, where it will be more obvious that she stands little chance to succeed, but stands a great chance to divide a party that should, by all rights, have an easy climb to the White House this fall.

I Dunno, I’m Kind of Bitter, Aren’t You?

While both the Clinton and McCain campaigns have seized and capitalized upon a remark that Barack Obama delivered to them gratis, courtesy of this website, and Barack Obama has apologized to any who might be offended by his remarks, I’m still trying to figure out why everyone is no longer bitter about what is going on around us.

I am extremely bitter about how Washington has turned a deaf ear to Americans, a grand majority of Americans, who want us out of Iraq, who want the Kleptocrats out of office, who want respect in the workplace, who want a piece of the American Dream. Yes, we are bitter and if Hillary Clinton or John McCain has a problem with that, then they are clueless and ill-equipped to govern.

Now Clinton and McCain argue that Obama’s “bitter remarks” smacked of elitism, a word that I object to because it comes from the wrong mouths. Who among the three candidates has got a hundred million dollars? Who among the three married a “beer heiress” said to be worth more than Bill and Hillary, combined?

These two are the very definition of elite, yet here they both are pointing fingers at Obama saying “How dare he say those things about all of us!”

Lest we forget, these were some of the words Obama spoke, words that brought out the righteous wrath of two very rich people:

“So it's not surprising then, that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who are not like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment, as a way to explain their frustrations.”
This is right out of a Democrat’s insight into why you saw Bush/Cheney signs posted outside of trailer park homes. Indeed, those who by all rights should be firmly in the Democratic camp, people who might benefit from changes in how wealth is distributed in this country, chose instead to side with the ones least inclined to help them out. Votes for Republicans were generated by bitter frustration and fear.

By the way, these are the kind of people who have been lost by the Democrats, people that are least likely to support either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. These are McCain's people now.

So big deal. At least now I know that Barack Obama gets it. He understands the things that have been in motion to divide this country so that they can keep the Kleptocracy in place.

So it does not surprise me that McCain jumped all over this, Obama was talking about his base. That Clinton did also, where her advisor, James Carville, pointed out these very aspects of frustrated bitter people in his book, only shows again what we all have come to know about her: Hillary Clinton has sold out to the politics of fear and division.

This is not good for Democrats. This has now hurt the Democratic Party. I gave Hillary Clinton the benefit of the doubt previously, and agreed that both campaigns should continue, because it brings excitement to current primary states, just as it did to Texas last month. Now I am not so sure.

Maybe now it’s time for Hillary Clinton to fade into the background. Now that she and John McCain find themselves on the same side, maybe now it’s time to bring all of this to an end.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Army Surplus For Sale: Equipping a “Well-Regulated Militia”

The fact is, you can buy just about anything online. And now I find out here that if you need a good pair of night vision goggles, or an “enhanced” body armor vest, those things can now be gotten on eBay or Craigslist.

What gets put up for sale is largely unpoliced on these sites, so even if you want to sell some Iraq cammies with all the patches, bells and whistles, you can, despite the fact that sale of any of that has been illegal since January 2007 after a team of Iraqis infiltrated a US base in Karbala wearing used US military uniforms. And killed 5 US soldiers.

Not one to get in the way of good old American capitalism, Congressman John Tierney (D - Mass) proposes a ban on the sale of all military equipment that is not older than 50 years old.

That makes tremendous sense to me. Any fool can dress up and arm oneself in pre-1958 military hardware and be turned into hamburger with the weaponry we have available to our military today.

So that makes a lot of sense.

But then, what about the 2nd Amendment? Hey, don’t we have a right to bear those arms? Don’t we have a right to protect our bodies against the onslaught of depleted uranium projectiles?

Don’t we?

We do! It is right there in the 2nd Amendment.

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
Get it? It’s not a penny ante amendment we have here. This thing is talking about fighting wars.

Only a 4th grader would be able to misinterpret the full meaning of this amendment. Sure there’s a comma after the words “free state”, but they weren’t making a shopping list, they were framing a conditional clause. One condition, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state”, leads to the resolution: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Cause and effect.

The Framers, in their infinite wisdom, saw the need to write into our Constitution a fundamental right to bear arms so that we might, as the need arises, take up arms against a common enemy when events merit it. It made huge sense, in that this strategy worked well for us in the War of American Insurrection, as the British would see it.

Our Constitution is transcendental. Times change, weaponry gets upgraded to degrees of lethalness unheard of in the 18th (or even 19th) century, but the Constitution is a constant whose meaning transcends the generations.

The meaning of the Framers is clear: we Americans have a right to all of the most advanced weaponry that any present or future foe can arm themselves with. That is the full meaning of the 2nd Amendment.

After all, what if it happens that we stop fighting them over there? Won’t we end up fighting the terrorists over here? They with Heckler and Koch MP 5s wildly outgun we with our nickel plated pea shooters.

With what do you defend yourself against an RPG?

What if a Bradley Fighting Vehicle comes rumbling down our neighborhood streets with Islamofascist flags and symbols arrayed about them?

Clearly, there is something unconstitutional about limiting what we Americans can buy and maintain in our homes in order to guarantee a well regulated militia, as our constitution requires.

It is time, no it is past time, for our government to stop these unconscionable and unconstitutional acts of weaponry deprivation.

If every American owned a BAR, a LAWS rocket launcher (with loads) and a dozen or so hand grenades, I’ll bet the Islamofascists would think twice about attacking us at home.

And just think, it could be so convenient if it is all offered on the internet.

Or, if you think all of that seems like a bad idea, and that we should leave our war fighting to our professional soldiers, then maybe the 2nd Amendment has seen its better days.

Charlton Heston or no, maybe it should be repealed.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Colombia Free Trade Agreement Killed By House Democrats

Remember the dustup between Hillary Clinton and her former chief strategist, Mark Penn? Remember how he and his company was hired to help the Colombian government get the free trade agreement through to a quick signing? A bill that Clinton opposed? Remember that?

Well maybe then it is a relief to us that the Democratic leadership in Congress saw to it that the bill will never see the light of day in this legislative session. Or ever.

From The Hill:

“The House adopted a rules change Thursday that freezes the Colombia free trade agreement by waiving a requirement that Congress act on it within 90 days. The rule passed mostly along party lines by a vote of 224-195 with one lawmaker voting present.”
Pretty darn slick if you ask me. Republicans, you might imagine, are livid.

“‘The Democrats want to make an unprecedented rule change to abrogate their responsibility under [Trade Promotional Authority],’ said Rep. David Dreier (Calif.), senior Republican on the Rules Committee. ‘They're sabotaging our relationship with our best and closest ally in South America.’”
Best and closest ally? Colombia? Is it because the Bush Regime has completely alienated all of the rest of South America? All except the one country whose government agencies are complicit in the drug trade which is institutionalized there? All except for the one South American country that actively suppresses trade unions?

That ally?

So while Democrats and Republicans trade barbs over who broke procedural rules first, the bill remains dead.

As the story mentioned, the vote pretty much went down party lines, but then I had to ask myself about that 224 number. I’m pretty sure there are more Democrats in the House than that, so I read further.

Yep, ten Democrats voted against the rule change, and six Republicans voted for it. The Republican congressmen who voted for it, voted for it, surprisingly enough, because non-union overseas competition has taken jobs away from their constituents.

Ten Democrats voted with the Republicans, and with Bush. One of them was my congressman, Congressman Nick Lampson.

Now I know that Lampson represents a conservative district, and has to get his “Votes with Nancy Pelosi” numbers below 77%, but now I have to ask whether that vote was worth the voter angst that is going to result. Truly.

There are plenty of bills, I think, that Congressman Lampson can bolt to the minority over, bills that fit his “Blue Dog” brand of Democratic politics. But this one rates right up there with his FISA vote, the one to surrender our constitutionally guaranteed rights against unlawful search and seizure.

And I know that the question will always be asked of me “what are you going to do, Half, vote for Pete Olson?” And you know that it’s impossible to vote a straight Democratic ticket and vote for Olson.

But I have to ask now, with votes like this, does it really make a difference who represents the 22nd district?

Setting the Bar in Iraq

Watching clips of the Senate hearings, first of the Senate Armed Services Committee, then of the Foreign Relations Committee, I was struck at how General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker are mired in their own narratives. At one point, Ryan Crocker exhaled an exasperated breath at Barack Obama’s commentary when he asked him what are the criteria for us to declare a success in Iraq. Obama:

“When you have finite resources, you have got to define your goals tightly and modestly… If we were able to have the status quo in Iraq right now without US troops, would that be a sufficient definition of success? . . .

“I’m trying to get to an end point. The problem I have is if the definition of success is so high, no traces of al-Qaeda, no possibility of reconstitution, a highly effective Iraqi government, a democratic multi-ethnic multi-sectarian functioning democracy, no Iranian influence, at least not of the kind that we don’t like, then that portends the possibility of us staying for 20 or 30 years. If on the other hand, our criteria is a messy sloppy status quo, but there is not huge outbreaks of violence, there’s still corruption, but the country is struggling along, but it’s not a threat to its neighbors and it’s not an al-Qaeda base, that seems to me an achievable goal within a measurable time frame. And that, I think, is what everybody here on this committee has been trying to drive at and we haven’t been able to get as clear an answer as we would like."

“ehhhh, and that’s because, Senator, it is a. . . I mean . . . I don’t like to sound like a broken record . . .this is hard and this is complicated. I think that when Iraq gets to the point that it can carry forward its further development without a major commitment of US forces with still a lot of problems out there, but where they and we would have a fair certitude that they can drive it forward themselves without significant danger of having the whole thing slipping away from them again, then clearly, our profile, our presence diminishes markedly, but that’s not where we are now.”

Now here’s the thing. Crocker and Obama don’t appear to be very far apart on what you could call a set of criteria for success. Crocker admits that they aren’t at that point yet.

So if we can agree on a set of criteria for success, and they don’t include a completely reconstructed Iraq with a fully functioning government, a fully functioning economy, but just something that limps along, maybe someday we will be able to agree that the US profile and presence will not diminish as long as the Iraqis depend on US troops to bail it out all of the time.

In the end, it will be necessary to force Iraqis to stand up their forces and get them to fight by standing down our forces.

Standing down our forces first.

It’s either that, or resign ourselves to a continued presence in Iraq. A continued presence that only exacerbates the situation.