Monday, June 30, 2008

Rick Noriega's "Clark Factor": News That Isn't on a Slow News Day

Don’t you love it the way people in the mass media coax a conspiracy out of anything they can in the name of news? Jason Embry’s little hit piece on Rick Noriega that appeared today in the Austin American-Statesman attempts to do just that.

What the intrepid reporter did was take General Wesley Clark’s quote from his appearance on Sunday’s Face the Nation news program, and attempt to relate them to Clark's association with Rick Noriega.

OK, for everyone who has been unconscious since Saturday, this is what Wes Clark said about John McCain’s qualifications for a position of leadership (after praising his service to his country):

“I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.”
What Clark was doing was questioning why being a POW was a qualification for high office. Now whether I agree with Clark or not, and I do agree with Clark, the important thing here is that the man who spoke those words had himself honorably served his country in the military, served in an executive position, to boot. If anyone, General Wesley Clark has a right to bring this question up. I do not, nor does Barack Obama.

But McCain literally howled over this gross insult to his military service. And rightly so. He is running on his military record, and his 5 and a half years at the Hanoi Hilton. This is his key strength. His key strength because everything else shows just how close he and Bush are on social and political issues. The centerpiece to his campaign had just been exposed as a non-issue, and McCain didn’t like that. Not one little bit.

And now the newsies are jumping all over this one.

Now how does all of this relate to Rick Noriega’s campaign? Get ready for this: Wes Clark is hosting a fundraiser for Rick Noriega in Dallas on July 16th. Quoting Embry:

“Clark is scheduled to host a fundraiser for Noriega on July 16 in Dallas. And Noriega has made his own military service, first in the Army and then the Texas Army National Guard, key to his campaign. Clark’s Sunday comments probably won’t make much of an impact, but they can’t help Noriega’s message.”

Granted he pulled the punch with the line “Clark’s Sunday comments probably won’t make much of an impact,” but if that’s so why make an issue of it at all? Why raise the issue if it is self-admitted that there isn't really an issue?

What does make an impact is that while Wes Clark and Rick Noriega served and still serves, respectively, their country in leadership positions, neither John McCain nor John Cornyn can say the same thing. McCain was a fighter jock who got his plane shot out from under him, Cornyn had his student deferment, keeping him out of the Army during the Vietnam War when others of his age went; when others of his age died.

Neither of these men is proven a leader.

If anything, Wes Clark’s hosting of a Noriega fundraiser should underline his main point: being a POW and suffering horrendous torture makes you brave and worthy of respect, but it doesn’t make you a leader. How about Cornyn's having a 2S deferment. In this, the only quality that this shows is an ability to stay on top of things as the draft lottery was instituted.

An ability to file student deferment papers on time before the law changed.

So I guess I reject Jason Embry’s whole premise, whatever it was. I guess it’s just a slow news day.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

‘Big Bad John” Has a Staff Shake-Up?

Texas junior senator John “Big Bad John” Cornyn has a little problem.

Cornyn has had a music video made of him. I never mentioned it when it came out because I thought it would be one of those flash-in-the-pan events that everyone would be talking about for 24 hours, and then forget about it.

I didn’t know then what kind of legs this story has.

I first noticed it when the Noriega campaign posted its parody of the video on You Tube. Then Barbara Boxer announced that Rick Noriega had won her “Choose a Challenger” contest, and urged everyone to view the video. Then Jon Stewart aired his own Cornyn parody video on The Daily Show, “Big Jew”. Now The Chron has a piece about the ad, noting the stir it is making, but the Cornyn people are calling it a "winner"And finally, this morning as I was reading my email in another room, I could hear the video being played on CNN.

And they were all laughing.


Then next I heard about some rumors that there has been a shake-up in the Cornyn campaign, and that political consultant David Beckwith has been shown the door. Beckwith, it is largely thought, was responsible for the content of the video.

I guess when the laughter didn’t die down after 24 hours something had to be done. But there is no mention, not a peep nor a word about any of this from the Cornyn campaign.

You know, it’s bad enough when your own voting record is such a train wreck that anyone paying any attention at all to it becomes an embittered, vengeful voter. But now, when his own paid consultant takes that squeaky clean image and turns it into a lampoon, a lampoon that hits the airwaves from coast to coast, you have to wonder if Rick Noriega leads a charmed life.

I don’t think it could have worked out any better for him than if Beckwith was his hired mole.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Anatomy of a Republican Rant

Now the main body of this piece isn’t to be found within this text, it is actually found by clicking on the photo below.

Tina Benkiser, thrice-elected Chair of the Republican Party of Texas has released a four page rant on the evil that is Rick Noriega and all that is good about Texas’s junior senator, John Cornyn.

So you really need to read it yourself. Click on Tina Benkiser’s photograph to view the letter, minus references to the addressee, in its full glory. You won’t be disappointed. What I want to do here is extract the demagoguery by sifting through its nouns and adjectives and present them in a single organized list. A daunting task. My purpose? Just to show you that you don’t need to read this letter in its full context in order to understand what it is about or the tone that it takes.

Here is the list. You can use any of these noun/adjective phrases to construct any generic Republican rant for just about anyone.

Texas Liberals
National Democrats
Greedy Liberal Trial Lawyers
Hollywood Red Carpet Crowd
Most liberal Senate candidate
A liberal’s liberal
His liberal Democrat challenger
Liberal Democrat Rick Noriega
Out-of-State Liberal
Barack Obama
Bill and Hillary Clinton
John Kerry
Ted Kennedy
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
George Soros’
Spending frenzy
Government-knows-best brand
Shameless hypocrisy
Politically-correct liberalism
Washington and Austin powerbrokers
Drunk with power
Power-crazed Democrats
Powerful liberal donors
Radical ideas
Federal spending
Tax load
Gasoline prices
Pivotal senate race
Shameless campaign tactics
Shady financiers
Shadowy 527 groups
Vicious attacks
Liberal Democratic lies
Ugly lies
Their dastardly plans
Their hateful ads
Honest and honorable
Optimistic as a Texas sunrise
Our conservative friend
Our remarkable conservative friend
A true Texas conservative
Our conservative values
Our conservative ideals
Our Conservative Republican Truth
Our Texas values
Our moment of truth
Our conservative allies
Your financial leadership
A willingness to take action
Emergency financial help
My mayday call of distress
$50, $75, or even $100
The resources we need
Your generous Texas spirit
Your powerful checkbook
Your personal check
Your generous help
Your most generous check
Your most generous special gift
Your election-winning check

Get the idea? Tina Benkiser’s playbook without a single verb.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Big Bad John . . .Revisited

Our Texas Senator, "Big Bad" John Cornyn, has his music video all over the internet. My favorite Senator, Sen. Barbara Boxer has alerted non-Texans about it to my ever loving glee. But now we have the Rick Noriega reply.

Senator Cornyn, if you choose to ally yourself with a cliché , be fully prepared to be made one.

Words fail me. No. Here they come.

Thank you, John Cornyn, just for being you.

Barbara Boxer (D – Calif.) Is Funny

I just received the email from Barbara Boxer that announced that US Senator from Texas candidate Rick Noriega was the winner of her PAC for Change's "Choose a Challenger" contest that I mentioned here and here. You get the overall impression that she is pleased with the result, but what I wanted to highlight for you was her postscript.

I’ve seen Boxer in CSPAN coverage and other video clips, so I know the woman has a wicked sense of humor. This just bears it out.

“P.S. Check out the campaign video that's turned Rick Noriega's Republican opponent, Senator John Cornyn, into a national laughingstock: Click here to watch "Big Bad John" -- a video clip that Senator Cornyn is actually using to promote himself in Texas. It's not often that I'll ask you to watch a Republican ad -- but in this case, I just had to make an exception”
See what I mean?

For the Want of One Senate Vote Medicare Bill is Killed

Now we can blame Texas Senator John Cornyn for denying Medicare benefits to countless elderly Americans and those with low-income. Why not? That’s what Democratic nominee for US Senate Rick Noriega is doing.

It makes sense because this is an election year for “Big Bad John” and he gets to have the immediate benefit of an enraged electorate during the worst year, ever, to be a Republican in congress.

From Noriega’s memo:

"Today's vote is simply unconscionable. John Cornyn's vote has jeopardized access to health care for thousands of elderly Texans," Noriega said. According to the Texas Medical Association, 58 percent of Texas physicians will have no choice but to limit the number of new Medicare patients they treat. Noriega said Cornyn's actions will forcemore and more physicians out of the Medicare program."

"Instead of standing up for Texas' patients and physicians to fix Medicare's flawed payment system, Cornyn has once again put partisan politics and the profits of private, for-profit Medicare HMOs ahead of the needs of Texas seniors."

Last night, the bill, HR 6331 came up in the Senate for a cloture vote, the vote that gets a bill out of debate and put up for a vote. They needed 60% of 98 senators what with McCain on the campaign trail and Kennedy on the mend from brain surgery. That’s 59 votes.

They got 58.

Now one can argue that Kay Bailey also voted no and Cornyn can hide behind her skirts pointing at her stammering “So did she!” And one can also argue that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is equally responsible, his being the one lone Democratic Nay vote (yeah, what’s with that?). But Texans can’t control Reid’s Nevada vote. They can, and should do something in the immediate sense about Cornyn’s. Kay Bailey can’t be touched until she decides to run for Governor in ’10, but we have some immediate recourse with the junior senator from Texas.

So yeah, let’s put the blame for the whole catastrophe right at John Cornyn’s door. After all one should reap what one sows when they step on America’s Third Rail.

Obama in Texas: Downballot is the Key

Now do Obama’s people think that he can carry Texas in November? Maybe not. The Texas Lyceum poll that showed Rick Noriega and John Cornyn were in a statistical tie also showed that Obama trails McCain in Texas by 5%.

Still, 5% is not bad and maybe surmountable. But that notwithstanding, revealed in this Rick Casey piece in The Chron is the fact that Obama is in Texas not for the ATM machine that has been our fate in the past – as many short-sighted national candidates have treated it. Obama appears to be in Texas with a long-term outlook.

Obama chief strategist David Axelrod met with 250 Obama benefactors, Texans, earlier this month and revealed that not only will Texas will receive 15 paid Obama staffers in the coming election, but also that their focus will be in emphasizing the downballot candidates. Specifically, the Texas House.

With only 5 more Democrats needed to regain the majority in the state house, and 2 election cycles to attain it, Obama’s people are thinking ahead to the 2010 congressional redistricting which is controlled by whichever party has the House majority.

Quoting Harris County Democratic Party Chair, Gerry Birnberg, who was at the meeting:

“He said they were acutely aware that 2010 will be a redistricting year and that Texas presents some real opportunities.”
The opportunities being to regain the state house, for one, adding up to 6 congressional districts as a result of population shifts for another, and then redrawing district lines to favor Democratic population distributions. A very nice confluence of events, I think.

Fantastic news, this is. For one thing we don’t have to go it alone again as we did in ’04 when John Kerry’s campaign virtually ignored this great big red state. For another, for once a national campaign has found itself in sync with local politics because someone was sharp enough to identify the opportunities that present themselves here.

And finally, a national campaign’s voter registration and recruitment effort this time won’t stop at the top of the ballot, but emphasize local races that can change the face of the political landscape in Texas, and by extension, the national one.

I truly pity any true Democrat that wants to sit this election out because their presidential candidate did not get the nomination. This election is, by all accounts, shaping up to be history-making.

After all, who can resist participation in a major shift in political paradigms?

And so here, on what I guess we can call “Unity Day,” maybe a united campaign slogan, based on the possibilities that are being perceived in Texas should be “Yes we will, because we can”.

Pete Olson and Nick Lampson: Brothers in Guns

I couldn’t help but note the small irony that this morning Fort Bend Now is showing two headlines nearly side by side, but actually posted 4 hours apart:

Lampson Endorses Supreme Court Decision on D.C. Gun Ban” posted around 11:30 AM on Thursday.


Olson Applauds DC Gun Ban Decision” posted around 3:30 PM later that day.

Pete Olson, it will be remembered is the Republican nominee challenging Nick Lampson for the seat he currently holds in Congress.

So for those of us who interpret the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution as it was written, and not as Justice Scalia reinterprets it (“Militia? What militia”), we will have no representation on this issue in Washington, DC whoever wins in Texas CD 22 in November.

Frankly, this doesn’t surprise me. This is Texas, after all.

And this is one case where I know that Nick Lampson is truly in favor of the decision, and is not just saying this to obscure the differences between himself and his conservative challenger. Nick is a card-carrying member of the National Rifle Association.

One thing I do know, though, is that while Pete Olson talks the talk about the Supreme Court, he is fairly clueless on what constitutes a “strict constructionist” Supreme Court justice:

“I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision today to uphold American’s Second Amendment right to bear arms. Today’s 5-4 decision demonstrates the need for strict constructionist judges like Justices (John) Roberts and (Antonin) Scalia, who uphold the rights of American citizens as our founding fathers intended those rights to be enacted.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Then Fort Bend Now committed the same error that I saw again and again in the news yesterday, printing the false claim that this is the first time that there was a ruling on the 2nd Amendment:

“The ruling is being called ‘landmark’ by legal scholars who note that this is the first time the high court has conclusively interpreted the Second Amendment since its ratification in 1791”

In a 1939 Supreme Court decision Re: United States v. Miller, the issue was decided, and correctly so. The inclusion of the words “well regulated militia” was not a fluke. They are part of the overall idea. An idea that these present-day “strict constructionist justices” clearly ignored.

But that pretty much goes along with what has historically transpired with regard to this issue. Here we have a 69 year old Supreme Court decision that ties the ownership of a gun to membership in a “well regulated militia,” and nothing . . . nothing changed until yesterday. Guns were owned and wars were fought by regular armies, not militias. But yesterday gun ownership magically became an individual right.

It’s almost like this whole thing has been both a skeleton in our country’s closet that no one talks about, and a veiled gentlemen’s agreement that has persisted through the generations.

Applaud and endorse all you want, this decision is going to have some far-reaching effects. Scalia et al. have opened the Pandora’s Box that has been guardedly kept shut since the late 18th century.

The big winners: gun and munitions manufacturers and the NRA. The big losers: everyone else.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Noriega Wins Boxer's Pac For Change Contest

You did it.

Twenty-five thousand of you went to Senator Barbara Boxer's Pac For Change website and voted for Texas' Democratic nominee for the US Senate, Rick Noriega.

Rick's campaign won!

Thanks to you, Rick Noriega's campaign will now rake in tens of thousands of dollars of needed campaign funds to run up against (Big Bad) John Cornyn's millions.

The news just keeps on coming. Rick Noriega and John Cornyn are in a statistical tie in a recent Texas poll. While Rick trails Cornyn by 2%, the poll has a 4.5% error bar.

The Texas US Senator seat in 2008 is a toss up!

Now there's one more thing to do. June 30th fast approaches. This is the FEC reporting period deadline. Time now to kick in a couple of dead presidents before the reporting period ends because we all know, it's the bottom line that attracts new contributions from new contributors.

Once this race is seen as winnable by even more of us, this thing is going to snowball.

On Judicial Activism in the US Supreme Court

Well the pendulum has swung a complete cycle. We are again beset by an activist Supreme Court, but now, they come with a new flavor.

Judicial activism is something that the right wing used as a mallet to beat over the heads of liberal judges when they found interpretations of the law that favored progressivism. Brown v. Board of Education is one decision that comes off the top of my head, the SCOTUS decision that desegregated public schools in 1953. At the time a decision that “separate but equal” violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution was viewed as a radical departure from how courts should rule on cases. They said it violated the separation of powers of the 3 branches of government, and that the Judicial Branch was claiming a legislative power that they did not actually have.

But now, over a half century later, we find that the worm has truly turned.

This case is a long time coming. I wrote a little about it over a year ago when it was being ruled on by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The District of Columbia handgun law was overturned there by a 2 to 1 majority. Today, by a 5-4 split decision, the Supreme Court verified the lower court’s decision.

But it did more.

Today we see that the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution has been rewritten by these 5 activist justices. No longer is the 2nd Amendment about the military and a militia. Now it’s about individual rights.

To review. Here is the text of 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”
Now back in March, when I commented on the Appeals Court decision, I marveled at how the Court went on a voyage through English grammar and punctuation in order to conclude that “the people” do not signify members of “the militia”. They relied on a grammatical argument to conclude that “the people” are individuals, and then went on to define this right as an individual right.

The majority on the Supreme Court didn’t spend time bandying grammatical interpretations about, they went right for the jugular and said that an individual’s right to own a firearm is supported by “the historical narrative” of practices and events both before and after the 2nd Amendment was written.

So it appears that the Supreme Court majority has exchanged a lesson in grammar, which in my opinion had flaws, with a lesson in US history.

Everyone in America owned guns in the late 18th century, so it must be a constitutional right.

Justice Stevens dissenting from the bench, said that this decision is just what it appears to be: legislation. From the Washington Post:

“He spoke dismissively of the court's ‘newly discovered right’ and said decisions about gun control should be made by legislatures.”

He also said something about which I have been raging (to myself) all day.
"Justice John Paul Stevens spoke from the bench to denounce the decision, which he said violated the court's precedent that the Second Amendment refers to a right to bear arms only for military purposes."
All day I have listened to CNN and MSNBC reporters prattle on about how this is the first time the Supreme Court has ruled on this decision. It’s not. As Justice Stevens said, there is precedent. In 1939, in United States v. Miller, the Supreme Court found that a prohibition of having a sawed-off shotgun was not in violation of the 2nd Amendment because a sawed-off shotgun does not lend itself to “some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia”.

They had it right back in 1939. They got it all wrong in 2008.

That’s progress for you.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Texas AG Abbott Decries Overturn of Death Sentence for Child Rapists

In a statement released to the press today in the wake of the Supreme Court’s sane move to strike down an anti-child rape law where punishment included the death penalty, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott found cause to object most strenuously, though his spokesman Jerry Strickland. From The Chron:

“Today's decision marks a setback for Texas' efforts to punish repeat child rapists. A criminal convicted of multiple brutal acts of child rape will be treated less severely than one who commits treason or espionage.”
Now the point I think the AG is making, is that the rape of a child and treason or espionage are all crimes where no victim suffers death. Abbott, through his spokesman makes the case that child rape is a morally more heinous offense than treason, yet a traitor receives a heavier sentence – the death sentence in this case.

AG Abbott forgets two things about the death penalty for child rape. First, quite often the offender is a family member; other members of the family who want repeated rapes of a family member to stop would be disinclined to turn in their relative if they knew it would mean a death sentence for them. Second, when the only witness to a rape is the child/victim and there is literally no difference in punishment between child rape and murder, wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect the rapist to push it to murder?

In short, the law is not only unconstitutional under the law; it was a real bad idea.

AG Abbott forgets about the calamity that besets a society whose secrets are traded to an enemy, or whose covert intelligence is exposed to the public. How many people, do you think, lost their lives when Julius and Ethel Rosenberg gave the Soviets the key to building a thermonuclear bomb? By how many years did it extend the Cold War? Would the Cold War have occurred at all?

By the same measure then, how many lives were imperiled when Valerie Plame’s covert identity was revealed by Karl Rove?

AG Abbott clearly has let his politics infect his entire thought process. Treason and espionage are lesser offenses than child rape? If you ask the people of Norway who were alive before Hitler invaded it, and were not after, I think they will have a relevant opinion on this. They already have a noun and a verb for it: Quisling.

AG Abbott needs to keep these things in perspective, in case he has lost that perspective when members of his own party committed treason when they knowingly exposed a covert CIA agent.

Just because no one was tried, convicted, and executed in that affair, doesn’t mean it is less heinous a crime than child rape.

US Supreme Court Strikes Down Louisiana’s “Jessica’s Law”

It was a close decision, 5 to 4, but now Louisiana’s “Jessica’s Law”, a law that demands that child predators, sexual deviants who rape children, be put to death for this offense has been overturned by the United States Supreme Court.

Louisiana's “Jessica’s Law” an extreme form of a family of laws recently passed by some states, named after Jessica Lunsford, a child that was assaulted, raped and then murdered by repeat sexual offender John Couey has been ruled unconstitutional by the Court on the grounds that it violates the “cruel and unusual punishment” provision of the US Constitution.

At issue, essentially, is whether the punishment fits the crime. Louisiana’s law provides that the assault and rape of a child is a capitol offense (where the offender incurs the death penalty). The reasoning of the law is that future offenders would be deterred from raping a child if the punishment was extreme enough. This theory, 5 justices decided, was unconstitutional. Wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the majority:

“The death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child."
The extremeness of these laws was underlined in Kennedy’s majority opinion that “there has not been an execution in the United States for a crime that did not also involve the death of the victim in 44 years.”

Patrick Kennedy (no relation, I guess) was condemned to die as a result of the act of rape of his 8 year old step daughter. Another person is currently condemned to die for raping a child under this Louisiana law. While 45 states currently have a ban on laws that condemn a person to death for raping a child, 5 states do not. Texas, naturally, being among them.

Passage of HB 8 during the last legislative session assured that Texas would join this small elite group of states who have no problem passing a law that is unconstitutional on its face. In its 1972 decision, Furman v. Georgia, the Supreme Court struck down the Georgia law that allowed a jury to impose the death penalty on a rapist. A person convicted of the rape of an adult woman.

So really, Bush appointees aside, this Supreme Court decision really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Laws that demand extreme punishments like the death penalty for crimes that do not in themselves include the taking of a life, are in clear contravention of a long-held Judeo-Christian tenet of an “eye for an eye”.

And again, sanity and the rule of law were preserved by a 1 vote margin.

Are there any fair-minded people out there who DON’T think that the defeat of John McCain this November is Priority One? Think of what our country, and our Supreme Court, will be like with John McCain as President for a mere 4 years.

I think people have thought about it, or will think about it at some point in the next 4 plus months. And that’s why I am beginning to think that this presidential race will be a rout. It will be a landslide for Democrats because people have or are going to have trouble living with the alternative.

Frankly, I think there are better reasons to vote for Barack Obama and turn away McCain. Our Democratic candidate is correct on the issues, and is not just the lesser of two evils. But if someone is going to vote for Obama because they fear what McCain will do if he had 4 years in the presidency, that’s cool.

As the Republicans said in 2000: A win’s a win.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

James Dobson to Obama: “Have Some More Fruitcake”

Not that I really care about the religious beliefs of James Dobson. Not that I really care about the religious beliefs of Barack Obama. I just want to know whether James Dobson thinks that he is the only one who can interpret the Holy Bible to support his own social and political views, or whether we can all join in on the fun.

Obviously, James Dobson has taken great umbrage at Barack Obama’s attempt at biblical interpretation in his latest barrage of words over a speech Obama gave to the Christian group, Call to Renewal.

Two years ago.

Two YEARS ago? My, we are digging deep, aren’t we?

Obama was merely pointing out that some parts of the Holy Bible are in contravention to some of today’s values. From CNN:

“Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount?”
This hits home with me today because I have just finished a bowl of clam chowder not 10 minutes ago, and now find that if Leviticus is right, I have just committed a great moral sin.

“Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you”

-Lev. 11:12

Now James Dobson takes great umbrage with Obama, I think, because Obama is (or actually, was) stomping all over Dobson’s turf. Dobson is thinking this: “Where does Obama get off thinking that he can interpret the holy scriptures to the masses? That’s his job. And to prove his point, Dobson points out something that any religious dogmatist should know: the Old Testament doesn’t count. Only the book that mentions Jesus really counts when we are extracting socio-political ideals:

“In the comments to be aired Tuesday, Dobson said Obama should not be referencing antiquated dietary codes and passages from the Old Testament that are no longer relevant to the teachings of the New Testament.”
And then to underline the actual reason for unleashing his holy wrath against Obama this week, he says this:

“‘I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own world view, his own confused theology,’ Dobson said, adding that Obama is ‘dragging biblical understanding through the gutter.’”
To Dobson’s mind, bending a biblical reference to support his own twisted conception of what is right and what is wrong belongs in the hands of the experts.

Experts like Dobson.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Texas Again Leads the Way

Once again the state of Texas is leading the way, and has the dubious honor of having the largest number of food poisoning cases due to salmonella-laced tomatoes.

It’s either that or Texas has, by far, the greatest per capita occurrence of people who worry about their health to the nth degree.

And considering the high concentration of care-giving institutions in Texas, you have to wonder about that.

The facts and figures that leads me to this odd conclusion are these and found here in the Dallas Morning News:

“And Texas is clearly its center, with a doubling of known cases from 131 confirmed earlier in the week to 265 as of Friday.”

“‘These 552 may actually represent several thousand illnesses in the United States,’ cautioned Dr. Ian Williams of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

“Previous research shows that for every case of salmonella reported to the government, 30 or more people get sick but don’t see a doctor or undergo confirmatory testing, he noted.”
So there you have it. Texas is either in the eye of the hurricane which is the great tomato/Salmonella outbreak of 2008, or it just seems to contain more people disposed to visit his or her doctor whenever they get the squitters.

Quite frankly, which one is true doesn’t concern me very much. Not at all. I for one haven’t eaten a tomato that hasn’t been fried, boiled or broiled in some way for a month now and it is starting to annoy.

Forget the price of gas. Ignore the cost of milk and bread. I want my choice in a presidential candidate to promise to put the T back in my BLT.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Texas Alternative Education Standards: Raising the Bar

An AP wire service piece was published this morning, as seen in The Chron, with reports that Texas is considering raising its minimum standards for educator training in its alternative certification program.

“The new state requirements would impose tighter rules on who could be accepted to alternative certification programs, which are widely used by those looking to get into teaching from another career.”

“Under the proposal by the State Board for Educator Certification, so-called "alt-cert" programs could only take students who maintained at least a 2.5 grade-point average in college. The students then must also achieve a set number of training hours before facing students in the classroom.”

Now I have mixed feelings about this.

On the one hand Texas needs quality teachers in the classrooms, not people who barely made their way through college. On the other hand, those who can make it through an undergraduate program with a 2.5 GPA might be able to secure a job with higher pay or at least one that has advancement potential that doesn’t involve becoming a principal or counselor.

This, I take it, is the reasoning behind the words of education lobbyist Kevin O'Hanlon who is quoted in the article saying:

“What all of the various requirements are going to do is keep folks from signing up to be teachers.”

There is truth to that, but what I am thinking is that this may not be such a bad truth. The reason I say this is just this: I have known some really good teachers, and also some real bad teachers. Some of the good teachers are graduates of the “alt-cert” programs, but nearly all of the bad ones are also.

I believe that the “alt-cert” programs, while they play a necessary role in drawing individuals from previous careers and directing these people into the classroom where needs are high, especially in math and science, are doing their jobs almost too well.

Sure, alt-cert programs have put bodies in the classroom, but some of these bodies are woefully ignorant and don’t know their content area. Others of these, while strikingly intelligent, should never let their shadows fall across the entrance to a school. Some people who know about lots of things haven’t the foggiest idea how to teach those things to someone else – let alone a child.

Alt-cert programs should screen for these two types of people, but regrettably they don’t appear to be.

Now I have looked at these new alt-cert minimum standards, and while they are more rigorous than the ones in place right now (possesses a Bachelor’s degree and still breathes) many don’t approach the minimum standards and requirements of the post-baccalaureate program at the University of Houston (aka southeast Texas’ teacher mill), although in my shopping around from one alt-cert program to another, some actually do.

But in that program, in Region 4 Educator Certification Services’ requirements, there is an option, an option mind you, to serve one year as an intern, or twelve weeks as a student teacher.

For the one-year option, you are paid a 1st year teacher’s salary, for the 12-week program, you work for free. Now which of these two would YOU opt for?

The main difference between these two options, though, is not the money, it’s the training. The one-year internship may, just may include association with a mentor, but that mentor is not ever in the room with you while you teach, and, truth to tell, the mentor has a full load to teach as well, and is not paid one extra dime to be a mentor. So training, in this case, includes being escorted to your classroom, and having the door slammed shut as you turn to face all those eager young minds for the very first time.

The twelve week option is the one that shouldn’t actually be an option, but a requirement. You stand in a classroom with an experienced teacher as that teacher gradually turns control of their classes over to you. This training not only separates good teachers from bad ones, but readily identifies for all to see, those who clearly should never, ever, teach.

So I have to disagree with lobbyist O’Hanlon. While I agree with his point, and while I know where he is coming from, I also know what it’s like to receive students who advance from a lower grade who were subjected to the instructive techniques of the clueless.

It’s not really a very pretty sight to see.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Unite or Die

Unite or Die. This was the motto of American revolutionaries in some states in and around 1765. It emphasized the need for unity in the face of a common enemy, in that case, British tyranny. This should be our motto this summer as the factions of the Democratic Party recover from a fractious primary season. Old pols will say that this last dust up was nothing or was just as divisive as in previous elections, but I beg to differ.

This is the first time in history that race and gender were at issue in a primary contest.

Feelings are still running high, I am told, and there is still a lot of healing that has to be done.

And perhaps that can be accomplished now that Hillary Clinton is emerging from her self-imposed isolation as she rests and recuperates from a long primary contest. Yesterday, the Obama campaign announced that Senator Clinton will appear with Barack Obama on a campaign appearance sometime late next week.

This is about the right time and timing for reconciliation between the candidates and their supporters.

Bringing up something that I had to puzzle over for a few minutes today. At the monthly meeting of the Fort Bend Democrats this morning, Geri picked up a newspaper clipping that was lying around. She read it, laughed, and handed it to me.

It was a political cartoon by cartoonist Tom Toles. I have it below.
It is one of those “Fold-ins” that we all used to enjoy when reading Mad Magazine. I had to stop and manipulate it to see if it really had a hidden fold-in message.

I was not disappointed.

But the real curious thing is the timing of the cartoon. It was actually published in the May 21st edition of the Washington Post – at least that’s where I found it in the archives. The curious thing is that this cartoon would have been more appropriate yesterday than a month ago. A month ago, neither candidate had yet amassed the requisite number of delegates to claim the nomination.

Well, maybe someone else can tell me what event back then inspired this cartoon. I can’t recall.

But it’s entirely appropriate now. Now that spring has given way to summer and we face a long journey to November.

Our task this summer, then, is to start the hard work that is needed to defeat Republican cronyism, Republican warmongering, and Republican kleptomania. But before we begin, our task is to put aside our squabbling. The past is the past and it is all water under the bridge at this point (or over the bridge as we continue to hear of rising water in the Mississippi and Ohio valleys). It is time now to unite.

Unite or die.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Someone I Know Is Getting Married Tomorrow

I have an acquaintance of long standing who lives in West Hollywood, California. Today I got an email message from her dropping the not-so-surprising bombshell that she was getting married tomorrow.

I was not surprised because even local news in California makes it out here to wild and wooly Texas. In California last month, the state Supreme Court struck down any and all laws that discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation.

Yes, the acquaintance I am referring to is a gay woman.

She has been with her partner for years. They are joint owners of their house. But up to tomorrow, neither she nor her partner could include the other on their company’s health insurance policy. Up to tomorrow, if one were to be hospitalized, the other would not be able to visit if there were a “family only” stricture in force, or to sign documents for the other.

This is barbaric.

It has taken a state with a moderate-conservative supreme court to become the second in the nation to come to its senses. These people have done nothing but fall in love with the “wrong” person. The California Supreme Court just did the right thing last month, and now, starting just this week, same sex unions are being consecrated up and down the state.

And now it will be my acquaintance’s turn.

Did I mention that I have known this acquaintance for a long time? I’ve known her for as long as I can remember. Literally.

So on your special day, Gail, and on yours, Brooke, my thoughts are with you.

Congratulations, sis. It’s about time you got married and settled down.

Noriega to Cornyn: Support Our Troops

Now my guess is that this is all pretty much moot now, but here I am again practically expecting the worst to occur. Texas’ junior senator John Cornyn votes against our troops over and over again. But now the new GI Bill, section 3003 of HR 2642 has just passed the House with a final vote of 416 to 12, with my congressman, Nick Lampson, finally voting for it.

It goes to the senate now.

In a huge flip flop that signals the beginning of an increasingly irrelevant presidency, Bush has promised to sign the bill.

Now all we need to see is the Senate approve the bill and I think that’s a shoe-in. A lot of people took some heat for voting against this bill. But that hasn’t stopped Rick Noriega from keeping the burner turned on high under John Cornyn as he has organized yet another online petition for we voters to sign to urge Cornyn to vote for the bill.

Here is the You Tube video that the Noriega campaign has uploaded that includes veterans of Pearl Harbor up to the Gulf War exhorting John Cornyn to vote for the GI Bill when it comes to the Senate.

Now go and sign the petition. No, go now, I’ll wait here.

John Cornyn votes with his president except if it has to do with illegal immigrants, then he votes with all of those who endeavor to whip up a public anti-immigrant frenzy. So I imagine that the odds are that he will vote with his president on this one, even if he and a mere 24 others stood against the bill the last time it came around.

So do I think that “Big Bad John” will vote for this bill this time? Probably. But go and sign the petition anyway.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Obama Says No to Publicly Financed Campaigns, Yes to the Grassroots

Boy, is John McCain pissed. Barack Obama today formalized what the campaign has been hinting about since April. Obama has opted out of the publicly financed campaign option that cost him and his campaign $80 million in federal funds. McCain now has to decide whether they will opt in or opt out, although the word I get is that he has already done both at least once.

Obviously, the Obama campaign feels it can raise more than 80 mil.

But here’s the difference. The campaign has also said it will not accept PAC or lobbyist contributions. This is unprecedented. This is gutsy.

By saying “no” to federal finance, and “no way” to lobbyists and PACs, Barack Obama has limited his donor population to us. We, the people.

Now I don’t know about you, but I plan on getting some cash over to Barack Obama for his campaign. Maybe not the whole $2300, let’s get real, I’m a low-paid public employee, but I’ll do my part.

Now, will you?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Let’s Put Rick Noriega First in Barbara Boxer’s Choose A Challenger Contest

Now that Rick Noriega has returned from training with his Alamo Brigade, during which time, I am told, Democratic supporters from all over surpassed the Noriega Campaign’s goal of plunking 75 grand down to “Fill Rick’s Boots”, out comes California Senator Barbara Boxer’s “Choose a Challenger” contest.

Barbara Boxer’s PAC for Change promises to put the winner’s name into her PAC for Change nationwide email distribution, and this could mean tens of thousands in American currency for Rick Noriega’s war chest.

Why not go to the website . . .by clicking RIGHT HERE, scrolling down, and then clicking in the radio button next to “Rick Noriega (TX)”. You have to provide an email address but that’s all.

C’mon everyone. We did this before and got 5 large for Rick from the Democracy for America contest, we can do it again.

Let’s get this done and give Rick the tools and equipment that he is going to need in his all out frontal assault on “Big Bad John” this year.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Nick Lampson: An Obama Superdelegate; Al Gore: A Super Cut-Up

Now on my update to yesterday’s post where I discovered, belatedly, that Texas’ CD 22 congressman, Nick Lampson, had indeed changed his superdelegate status from uncommitted to Obama I mentioned that it took place on June 10th, but I didn’t cite the source. I found it here.

This is not only the right move, in terms of getting the Democratic Party together, it is also the correct one. Correct in that Congressman Lampson represents a district that voted for Barack Obama by a 6.8% margin – 53.4% to 46.6%.

This despite the sadly mistaken notions of Linda Starr, who vowed not to support this superdelegate in his re-election campaign if he were to vote against the wishes of his constituents.

Didn't happen.

Ms. Starr should know that Nick has provided plenty of reasons for his constituents to be put out by his votes, but this is not one of them. Nick votes with the people on this one.

Did anyone know that Al Gore was a tremendous speaker? He is. But now Al Gore turns out to be quite a cut-up as well. In his endorsement speech last night, this quotation is the one that summarizes so well why Democrats and Independents, and even a few thinking Republicans, should cast their votes for Barack Obama this November:

“If you bought poisoned lead-filled toys from China or adulterated medicine made in China, if you bought tainted pet food made in China, you know that elections matter. After the last eight years even our dogs and cats have learned that elections matter.”

Or you can watch the whole thing right here:

What a Supercut-up.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Al Gore Endorses Barack Obama . . .at Long Last

I got another email message from Al Gore today. Al has never hit me up for money and I was expecting that this wasn’t a plea for more of my unavailable cash, but an announcement, as I heard on the news, that he will appear with Barack Obama tonight in a Detroit Obama mass rally, and endorse his candidacy.

Yes, that’s right, 2 weeks after the nomination has been locked up all but in name, Al Gore has come out for Obama.

Better late than never, I guess.

Well, it might as well be Al Gore, since his 2000 running mate is licking the heels of John McCain.

Here is Al (I guess) wrote:

Dear Hal,

A few hours from now I will step on stage in Detroit, Michigan to announce my support for Senator Barack Obama. From now through Election Day, I intend to do whatever I can to make sure he is elected President of the United States.

Over the next four years, we are going to face many difficult challenges -- including bringing our troops home from Iraq, fixing our economy, and solving the climate crisis. Barack Obama is clearly the candidate best able to solve these problems and bring change to America.

This moment and this election are too important to let pass without taking action. That's why I am asking you to join me in showing your support by making a contribution to this campaign today:

Oh well, forget that part about not asking for my unavailable money. I give what I can when I can without exhortation. But I know the harsh realities of being on the “they gave money before” list. You give, they ask for more.

So my former vice president is listed with Obama supporters. I guess I’m still waiting for my other superdelegate, Nick Lampson of TX-22 to make his decision known. But it’s not just me. Today I discovered this place where Obama supporters are pressing all of the undeclared superdelegates to make their stand.

Nick even has his own page.

Nick should know by now that the local right-wing evangelical crazies in his district are going to scream and howl no matter what he does, even if it is not until when he casts his Democratic superdelegate ballot in August.

And it’s not as if he can follow in the steps of Joe “I will caucus with the Democrats” Lieberman who then turned his back on his caucus.

I guess . . .

UPDATE: According to Lampson campaign manager Anthony Gutierrez (on 10 June - how did I miss it?) Nick has thrown in with the Barack Obama campaign. Mr. Gutierez went out of his way to let me know about my error and I never allow misinformation to last here (at least for very long). So, to summarize, Nick Lampson has become a superdelegate committed to the nomination of Barack Obama for President of the United States.

Now. . . duck Nick.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

John Cornyn Reports for Target Practice

I like irony. This afternoon, as I was browsing through the videos from the Republican Party of Texas’ convention looking for something to comment on, finding lots, I settled on showing a You Tube video that I happened upon completely by chance.

LTC Rick Noriega, the Democratic nominee for US Senator from Texas, is at this moment with his unit, the Alamo Brigade, a unit which has its roots in the volunteers who died for Texas independence in 1836. And while he is with his unit training them for deployment to Iraq, John Cornyn at the same time was videoed playing with his shotgun.

Now that’s what I call ironic.

Ironic in that while on the one hand we have Rick Noriega, who has served his country in Afghanistan and on the US Border getting his troops ready for real battle, John Cornyn practices by aiming at and blasting to smithereens these clay pigeons.

While Rick Noriega serves his country and the men and women in his unit, John Cornyn serves his ego.

Ironic that while Rick Noriega trains his troops so that they can be safe in the face of an unknown enemy, John Cornyn makes certain that these troops are under equipped in the field and unrewarded after their tour of duty ends.

Here’s John Cornyn at his training exercise:

And here is Rick Noriega’s introductory video shown at the TDP Convention this month:

You tell me who you want working for you in Washington, DC. Rick Noriega or the guy who shoots skeet.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Rock, Meet Hard Place: McCain Turns Down a Texas Fundraiser

Caught between attracting Hillary Clinton defectors and the dire need to raise campaign funds, John “McNasty” McCain cancelled his June 16th appearance at the home of Texas oilman Clayton “Claytie” Williams. Williams was bringing in some high rollers to this fundraiser at his ranch, but will now have nothing but the chirping of crickets at his house in Midland, Texas come Monday.

The reason, it seems, is that Williams is known for having had some pretty demeaning things to say about women. Association with this guy would demonstrate clearly to Clinton’s supporters another reason why McCain is a poor second choice: his association with misogynists. That, I need to remind, should be combined with his own personal brand of anti-woman behaviors.

Claytie Williams once said this memorable witticism about rape and the weather: “As long as it's inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”

This was not just a one-time slip up, but just part of a trend. In his 1990 race against Ann Richards for Texas Governor, he was heard to say about Ms. Richards that he would “head her and hoof her and drag her through the dirt.”

The McCain campaign claims that they did not know of these things, even though they are well known even outside of Texas. They were hipped to Williams’ past indiscretions by none other than the mainstream media. The campaign also says that they will not have to return the 300 large that Williams had already raised for McCain because “the contributions came from other individuals supporting McCain and not from Williams.”

How that is different from accepting the funds that Williams had raised and accepting funds from Williams’ guests at his home quite escapes me. It must have something to do with their dire need for campaign funds.

John McCaine is, himself, not above making denigrating remarks toward women – actually his own wife. It is outlined in Cliff Schecter’s exposé entitled The Real McCain Why Conservatives Don’t Trust Him – and Why Independents Shouldn’t

During his 1992 senatorial race, McCain and his present wife, beer heiress Cindy Lou Hensley McCain, were together during a campaign tour, and wife Cindy was playfully twirling locks of McCain’s hair, joking that he was “getting a little thin up there.” To which McCain retorted “At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you c_ _t.”

That bit of information, by the way was not widely reported, but was witnessed by several reporters and McCain aides.

But I’m sure none of this will be of interest to Linda Starr and others of her ilk in their defiant opposition to all things Obama. According to the profile on her newly launched Yahoo Group, NewWomen’sParty none of this matters, although it should. According to the profile the group was formed to “eliminate all hate speech, especially misogynistic language used to denigrate and intimidate women, women's issues and rights, and hate speech against others groups targeted for humiliation, intimidation or discrimination.”

Funny what strange bedpersons politics make.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert: 1950-2008

I couldn’t believe my ears today as word drifted in from my TV set to me in another room, that Tim Russert, one of the greatest news commentators of our times, had suddenly died at the very young age of 58.

Tim Russert was a brilliant, brilliant news reporter who could put any given politician on the hotseat with his incisive and thorough research.

American politics will not be exactly the same ever again. No one can fill this guys’ shoes.

In memory of Tim Russert’s life and career, here, in all of its You Tube glory, is my salute to Tim Russert, husband to Maureen, father to Luke and son of Big Russ.

My Email Message From Senator Jim Webb

Well, hey. I got an email message from Senator Jim Webb (D - Virginia). Right about this time 2 years ago Jim Webb found himself in exactly the same position that our Texas senatorial candidate LTC and State Rep Rick Noriega finds himself now. Well, except for the fact that right at the moment, Rick is with his unit, the Texas National Guard’s Alamo Brigade, training for their deployment to Iraq later this year.

Webb emerged from the Virginia primary victorious and ready to face off a formidable Republican incumbent in former Senator George Allen, an incumbent with a formidable war chest courtesy of corporate PACs and lobbyists. The race was an uphill battle that was tipped by a particularly intemperate gaffe on the part of Allen, with his “Macaca Moment.”

Here is what Senator Allen shared with me today:

Dear Hal,

When I was elected to the Senate in 2006, I pledged to help elect more like-minded veterans to Congress. In short, I believe our nation will benefit from having more members of the House and Senate who understand from personal experience the challenges faced by our military service members and their families, and who will work to redirect this nation's misguided foreign policy of the past seven years.

In Texas, voters have a unique opportunity to elect just such a candidate to the United States Senate. Rick Noriega is a member of the Texas Army National Guard who spent a year serving our nation in Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. Rick continues to serve today. I am pleased to support Rick.

Rick understands that America needs to change its course: end the occupation of Iraq responsibly; take on the rising energy and health care costs that have increased the gap between the rich and poor; and reward the work of America's middle-class instead of the connections of the special interests that too often dominate our debates.

As a veteran, Rick knows what it is like to serve. He understands the importance of taking care of our veterans when they return from service. Rick has been a strong supporter of my new GI Bill to fully fund the education of our next greatest generation. Having served alongside many of these men and women, he knows full well the sacrifices they have made, and the challenges they face as they transition from military service back to the civilian world.

I want Rick Noriega by my side in Congress to bring the change our country so urgently needs. I hope you will join me and help support Rick's campaign before the June 13th deadline.

His election is going to be a tough race. But with his record of service -- both in the military and in the community -- he is up to the challenge.

Almost two years ago to the day, I emerged from a primary facing an incumbent with a $10 million war chest and the support of a full range of special interests. At that moment, we may have lacked resources, but we had a committed army of volunteers, a strong message, and a distinguished record of leadership. With the support of people just like you, we won the election and helped change the face of the Senate.

Rick Noriega has the same opportunity today, but he will need our help. I hope you will join me in supporting Rick by making a contribution to his campaign today.

We can help Rick Noriega beat the odds and win in November.


Jim Webb
US Senator

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Campaign Disruption 101

So far, McCain’s people are following the Republican playbook right down the line. Brushing off the fact that McCain’s staff was, and still is, rife with lobbyists and ex-lobbyists, McCain’s people and surrogates like the Wall Street Journal, are checking into the backgrounds of anyone who has any position of current importance in the Obama campaign.

They successfully got Obama to throw his VP vetter, Jim Johnson under the bus yesterday with revelations that Johnson took sweetheart deals from Countrywide Financial Corp., a mortgage lender with business ties to Fannie Mae, a federal home loan corporation to which Johnson was formerly attached.

They are now bearing their sights down on former Deputy Attorney General Mark Holder, who had something to do with some of the more eyebrow-raising presidential pardons that Bill Clinton signed in the last days of his presidency.

Obama is not taking this lying down however. McCain lead VP vetter, Arthur Culvahouse, a prominent Republican lawyer, was a lobbyist for Johnson’s former company, Fannie Mae, and has known affiliations to convicted felon, former Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling (who, it is reported, may be on the verge of being sprung from his prison cell by the 5th Circuit Court).

Another possible target is former Hewlett Packard executive Carly Fiorina who got on the corporate gravy train then bailed from the company, taking $21 million of HP’s stockholder’s money plus a big fat “mortgage assistance loan”.

The trouble with all of this is that none of this seems very dire. All we can say is that the people in power, and the ones who are chosen to do these high-profile jobs without pay are rich and they got there by one irregular device or another.

My one main worry is that the Democrats have been so efficient in rooting out Republican criminals and putting them in jail, that there are few left over that McCain can ask to volunteer their time. Witness this monster list of Republicans either incarcerated or indicted (thanks, Susan).

More to the point, the absence of all these people from the mainstream of society may well explain why McCain is having trouble raising money for his campaign.

Convention of the Dark Side Meets Today In Houston

Did you wake up this morning with a stiff neck? I did. Did you jam your big toe into a sofa leg while you were looking to get a cold pack on your neck? I did. Did you then kick your dog into the next county? Not me. The Half Empty Whippet met her maker last year at the ripe old age of 16.

But if she could have been within kicking distance I swear it would have happened.

There is only one explanation for this dark cloud that suddenly appeared over me and the greater Houston area in general: The Republican Party of Texas, aka the party of The Dark Side, is meeting through this weekend in the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston.

10,000 mean-spirited, women-and –immigrant-hating, bible-thumping, self-righteous, children-eating . . . people, will meet from today onward to discuss how they can get more for themselves and leave the poor, sick and hungry to fend for themselves.

It takes a special kind of person to be a Republican these days. A person capable of listening to outrageous lies and believing them with ferocity. On the list of speakers this week is a real rogue’s gallery: Rick Perry, David Dewhurst and Tom Craddick will be the Amuse-Bouche, Salad and Sorbet on today’s menu, followed on Friday and Saturday by John Cornyn (box turtle soup), Kay Bailey Hutchison (sheep’s brains), Ron Paul (artichoke hearts), Newt Gingrich (fried pork rinds), Mike Huckabee (Rocky Mountain Oysters) and Mitt Romney (Rat Burritos).

So if you have a strong desire, over the next couple of days, to hit a kid, steal from the poor, or sit in an airport men’s room with a wide stance, relax. It’s just the negative energy that we all know hovers around and above members of the Dark Side.

It’s a little thick right now, but this too shall pass.

The Fog of War

This is something that sends chills up your spine. Eleven Pakistani soldiers are now dead because of a failure to communicate. But the video from the drone in this You Tube clip must have had about 90 out of 100 pixels sheared off of it before it was released for public consumption. You can’t tell this taxpayer that the government supplies to its troops video equipment for surveillance that you could have bought at Circuit City - - - ten years ago. I don’t know about you, but this video footage does nothing to help me understand what happened.

And I guess that is just another aspect of “the fog of war”.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Why Doesn’t McCain Get It?

With all due respect, I am starting to wonder if in all that time McCain was forced to sit out in the hot Hanoi Hilton sun some real damage was done to some of his logic circuits. His response to Matt Lauer of CBS’ Today show is, quite frankly, crazed. There are more cracks in his logic than in my ex-wife’s Shirley Temple doll.

LAUER: If [The Surge] is working, Senator, do you now have a better estimate
of when American Forces can come home from Iraq?
McCAIN: No but that’s not too important. What’s important is the casualties in Iraq. Americans are in South Korea, Americans are in Japan, American troops are in Germany. That’s all fine. American casualties and the ability to withdraw.
That’s so wrong on several levels. Here are two.

American families are suffering from husbands and wives experiencing multiple tours in Iraq. It is important. Maybe not to McCain, or Cheney, or Blackwater, but this is an important issue.

This next issue is a no-brainer to so many Americans I cannot understand how McCain and his believers don’t understand this very clear fact. Violence occurs in Iraq for two reasons: Sunni and Shi’a followers have been having at each other for hundreds of years and the only difference with this latest war is the readily available supply of explosives. Yes, by maintaining troops in Iraq we keep the sectarian violence at bay, or almost anyway. But this triggers the second reason for violence in Iraq: the very presence of American (read Infidel) troops. Iraqis, and nearly all Islamic people I am aware of, have a repugnance for Infidels. It’s in their religion and culture. The troops’ very presence in Iraq is a reason for these people to fight.

So the endgame that McCain envisions, an orderly pull-out, but a continued maintained presence in-country, after cessation of all violence, is a fairy tale. It will never happen.

How long will we be in Iraq? Bush said 50 years. McCain said “maybe 100”. Sorry guys, both of you are wrong. With the misjudgments that you have between you holding sway in our military policy in Iraq, it will be more like 1000 years.

Bush to Congress: Stop Messin’ With My Stuff

Bush’s Office of Management and Budget just yesterday released a report that slammed the intentions of HR 6063, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008. It seems that this bill impedes the implementation of Bush’s “Vision for Space Exploration”. Bush’s 2004 vision of the future of space exploration.

That vision had two deadlines that are at issue today. One is the 2010 deadline for completion of the International Space Station. Concurrently the space shuttle fleet would be retired, due to age and the fact that their mission had been completed with completion of the ISS. Then, by 2014 the new Orion CEV would take over the task of crew exchanges, accompanied by an Ares V Cargo Module.

But HR 6063 specifically requires at least 3 more flights of the space shuttle after the September 2010 retirement date, and this, the OMB report says, will not do, not at all:

“The Space Shuttle must be retired by the end of 2010, and the NASA Administrator’s authority to make the final determination on Shuttle flights based on safety considerations must be preserved. In addition, any increased cost of an additional Shuttle flight must be satisfactorily accommodated within the President’s proposed discretionary spending total.”
And further, the bill provides for coordination among the “spacefaring nations” to prevent radio frequency interference, let alone physical interference (giving a nod to that time-honored scientific maxim that no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time). The OMB objects most strenuously to this:

“This provision directly infringes upon the President’s authority to conduct foreign affairs. The United States already actively promotes international cooperation to enhance spaceflight safety and supports consideration of voluntary transparency and confidence building measures in appropriate venues under the leadership of the Department of State, with appropriate assistance from the Department of Defense. These provisions accordingly should be removed”.
Congress, it seems, is muddling about in the President’s personal playground. One that will no longer be his on January 21st 2009. But that last bit really is an interesting one. Bush’s OMB people believe that only the president or his surrogates should conduct foreign affairs – of any kind. I suppose this includes air traffic controllers, customs inspectors and international bankers. NASA clearly isn’t part of that diverse group. Oh, wait, it is, isn’t it?

The fact is, Bush is opening up and practically handing over the ISS to Russia and its Soyuz spacecraft for four years. Bush’s people cite safety issues with an aging shuttle fleet that must be retired on schedule, ignoring small details such as the age of some of Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft as well as the remarkably inept capsule re-entry and landing of this past April which placed American astronauts in serious danger as it brought astronauts back to Earth hundreds of miles away from the landing site.

It makes one shake one’s head in wonder at the remarkable hypocrisy resident in this report. As this bill, HR 6063, backed by a large bipartisan majority, makes its way to a vote on the House floor very soon now, get ready for another veto fight.

This time it’s serious. We’re talking about messin’ with W’s stuff now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Senate Republicans Vote to Continue High Gasoline Prices

Unbelievable in an election year, and on a day when regular gasoline is now over $4 a gallon nationwide, Republicans in the Senate voted today to shelve indefinitely S. 3044, the Consumer First Energy Bill, a bill that would have collected up to $12 billion from 5 major oil companies that have recorded record profits in the face of high petroleum and gasoline prices.

The bill would have redirected these profits, profits, I might add, that have not been passed on to oil company stockholders, to development of alternative energy projects. Republicans claimed that this would only serve to drive up the price of oil further.

A nice thought, but when the cause of the current high price of crude can be laid at the door of oil speculators and others, not all that accurate:

“‘The American people are furious about what's going on and they understand that nothing is happening here that justifies the price,' said Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat.”

“Dorgan and other lawmakers have blamed investment banks, speculators, and hedge funds for buying commodities and driving up the prices. More scrutiny of their trades and stiffer margin limits could bring the price of oil down by 30 percent, Dorgan said at a press conference today.”

“Democrats hope to raise margin requirements on oil futures traders and extend federal scrutiny to all trades made in the U.S., including on foreign exchanges. They want to reclassify certain traders, such as investment banks, so that their trades can be more closely monitored.”
Yes, all of that was also part of the bill, windfall profits was the headline, but the bill would have also been directed at the number one cause of these high prices: oil speculators who are all getting as rich as they possibly can while the getting is still good.

All of this can end, but clearly it won’t happen this year. We are going to need a supermajority in the Senate, 60 votes, to get this done.

Texas, by the way, cast it’s two senatorial votes against this bill, against American consumers, and for oil speculators. One of these two is John Cornyn who is up for re-election this year. His opponent, Democratic nominee Rick Noriega, is currently with his Texas National Guard unit training for its next deployment to Iraq. Rick can use some help. If you hate it that you are lining the pockets of oil speculators and nothing is being done about it, why not send something to Rick’s campaign fund? He has an uphill battle against John Cornyn, whose PAC- and lobbyist-filled campaign war chest is getting ready for an all out assault on our soldier-statesman nominee. Go here and drop a few dead presidents in Rick Noriega’s boots (and no, not his combat boots, he had to take them with).

Monday, June 09, 2008

A Whole Lot of Grumbling Going On

Now despite the fact that Hillary Clinton has urged her supporters to now support the campaign of Barack Obama, we still have lots and lots of grumbling going on among Clinton supporters. And now with the Texas GOP convention about to get underway in Houston, we get to be treated to the grumbling going on within the party of the Dark Side.

It seems that the evangelical wing of the GOP is very upset about their party’s presumptive nominee, John McCain. That is, the darkest part of the Dark Side don’t think McCain is conservative enough. They rage at his soft stance on immigration, for one thing. McCain is not their first, second or even third choice.

As a matter of fact, with Ron Paul in a home court advantage at the convention, there will be more visible opposition to McCain at this convention.

But even Tom DeLay, it seems, has come over and is now supporting McCain even despite the harsh words he had to say about him earlier this year:

“‘If McCain gets the nomination, I don’t know what I’ll do,’ DeLay said at the Capitol Hill Club, according to a source in the room. ‘I might have to sit this one out.’”
DeLay’s wife, Christine, has yet to be won over however. DeLay says that he has been unable to convince her to vote for McCain, saying that she will cast her vote for the Libertarian nominee, Bob Barr.

This is a schism in the GOP makes the whole “misobamania” thing among Hillarycrats pale in comparison. Mainly because between these two disaffections, one is not a Democratic Party thing, but the other is very definitely a Republican thing.

Supporters of Clinton who now say they will cross party lines and vote for McCain cannot be Democrats. They’re independents, and possibly Republicans who were entranced with the notion of having a woman in the Oval Office.

Contrary-wise, right wing anti-McCain Republicans would never, ever, cross party lines and vote for Obama. They’ll maintain their intransigent stance and support Ron Paul, or do as Christine DeLay says she is going to do, and vote for the Libertarian. If this holds through November, the traditional 5% that Libertarians get to the detriment of the Republican nominee will likely be higher. And Obama will win, with or without the votes of intransigent Clinton supporters.

But I find it ironic that there will be one issue that may rein in any party defections at all this November. One issue that will bring Clinton supporters to vote for the Democratic nominee, and Barr/Paul supporters to vote for the Republican nominee. And that issue is the Supreme Court.

As I mentioned before in another posting, Justice John Paul Stevens wants to retire from the bench. He is tired and his health is failing. He is 88 years old. John Paul Stevens is the swing vote on The Court that votes to uphold a woman’s right to choose every time the issue comes up to be heard.

It’s as simple as this. John McCain is stridently “pro-life”. Even though he is viewed as “a maverick” in the Republican Party, in this issue McCain maintains a firm right wing stance. Whether or not everyone knows this, because of the “maverick thing” will be moot at election time because both Democrats and Republicans will go out of their way to inform voters of his stance. Evangelicals who have such strong views on abortion will not want to cast a protest vote and give Obama the election. Nor will Hillary’s supporters cast a McCain vote to give McCain the election and four years to appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court.

In reality, all of this grumbling on both sides will have been for naught come November. And ironically, all for the exact same reason.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Who Do Republicans Want on the Obama Ticket?

I never listen to Democrats talk about who should be Barack Obama’s running mate. Democrats get too analytical about it. Which swing state do they want to flip for the Democrats? That state’s governor or senator is the obvious choice. Does Hillary Clinton bring more to the table than her negatives? What is Bill going to do when Hillary is Veeping? That’s just too darn many questions and trying to answer them doesn’t get you anywhere.

I noted early on that the McCain camp wanted to run against Hillary Clinton in the fall. It was obvious to me. It was obvious to lots of people. It was so obvious to Rush Limbaugh that he devised “Operation Chaos” in the primaries, inciting Republicans to cross the line and vote for Clinton in open primary states. Clinton, everyone said, “brings her negatives” to the front page, spurring Republicans to come out from under their rocks to vote against her.

Now Democrats are saying the same thing about Clinton if she were to be chosen to share the ticket with Barack Obama as his Vice President.

But the Republicans are not.

Listening to CNN this morning, with Wolf Blitzer firing questions at Senators Diane Feinstein (D - Calif) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R - Texas) I was amazed and taken aback at responses to whom each senator thought should be on the ticket. Well, not so amazed at Diane Feinstein’s answer. It is well known that Senator Feinstein favors the idea of having Clinton in the Vice President’s spot. What Kay Bailey said gave me pause.

Kay Bailey Hutchison suggested that Barack Obama wouldn’t want his brand to be tarnished by having Hillary Clinton on the ticket. If Barack Obama represents change and the future, said the senator in so many words, Hillary Clinton represents the past and the status quo. Barack Obama, according to Kay Bailey Hutchison, would be making a mistake by having Clinton on the ticket.

My guess is that this is the message that Republicans are going to be putting out there. My guess is that they have done the analysis, just as they did when Clinton was running for the nomination, and found that while Clinton’s negatives made her the opponent of choice in a presidential election, those very negatives now make her the least desirable opponent on the Democratic ticket. Or rather, her negatives are far outweighed by factors like being able to attract the votes of “hard-working white women”.

Republicans don’t want Hillary Clinton on the ticket. That has become obvious to me, too. Take a look at how the Wall Street Journal has weighed in. Not only do they not want Hillary Clinton on the ticket, they are delightfully obvious in their insinuation that if Obama were to pick Clinton, he would be seen as a weak, emasculated nominee who has been ridden hard and put away wet by the Clintons.

Now does all of that have a bearing on whom Barack Obama should pick as his Veep? It very well should.

Should he give Clinton the nod?

Not sayin’.

Not sayin’ because I agree with Obama when he says that this should be a slow and deliberate process. One that, at the end of the day, should yield the most correct result.

No, I’m not saying that Barack Obama should choose Hillary Clinton as his running mate. Frankly, I find myself in close agreement with the words of Kay Bailey Hutchison on this. Now how’s that for irony?

No, I’m not saying that at all.

But the Republicans are saying it.

Now from what I read today in the news, the Republicans are not the only ones who think that a Barack Obama / Hillary Clinton ticket would be one difficult to beat in November. Apparently the GOP prognosticators agree with none other than Fidel Castro. And here I thought that my agreeing with Kay Bailey was ironic.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Presidential Campaigns Unite Today, Waiting on the People

It was, by all accounts, one of Hillary Clinton’s best speeches. She began by thanking her supporters for all of their work, reviewed the accomplishments of the campaign in their broadest sense, then transitioned to praise for the campaign of Barack Obama. It was in marked contrast to the non-concession speech that she delivered last Tuesday. What was missing on Tuesday was finally said today: “I endorse [Obama] and throw my full support behind him.”

The crowd she addressed seemed fairly receptive to her words, even when she uttered the words that became the hallmark of the Obama campaign for change: “Today I am standing with Senator Obama to say ‘Yes we can’”

So Hillary did the right thing. Now it’s up to the rest of Senator Clinton’s supporters to do the right thing. For many if not most, this is a thing that is automatic. True Democrats will fight to win the White House for a Democrat this fall. Others believe that they have a viable alternative in John McCain, for whatever reason.

One reason that reared its ugly head today in Austin is race. No, not white people, the race of former slave owners not being able to vote for an African-American for president. The racial issue comes from Hispanics who look upon the wild and broad support that Obama has from the black community. Hispanics are asking themselves whether they as a racial group, will be better off or worse off with a black president. From the Austin American-Statesman quoting a Clinton delegate at the Texas state Democratic Convention this morning:

“‘To be quite honest with you — I don’t know if you want to put this in your paper — I think there are some racial tensions that are keeping [the Democratic Party] from coming together,’ Valdez said.”

“Valdez, who has not yet decided whether to vote for McCain or Obama in the general election, said that the avalanche of support that Obama has gotten from black voters has made some Hispanic voters nervous. And many Hillary supporters that she has talked to in San Antonio, Valdez said, are thinking about crossing party lines to vote for McCain.”

“‘Unfortunately, society is still [racist],’ Valdez said. ‘It’s sad but true — but I think we need to address it rather than put it in a closet and be like, ‘no, let’s not talk about it.’ You have to bring it out in order for us to understand it and confront it and stand up to it’”
I know. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read that either. But then, thinking about it, and truth to tell, if Hispanics are also adherents to Catholicism and catholic doctrine, this eliminates the feminist objection to a McCain presidency. Anti-choice himself, McCain’s views on abortion would more closely approach the values of Catholic Hispanic voters.

Then, what about immigration? Well, McCain has been a moderating influence in that area compared to his rabid immigrant-bashing colleagues in the House and Senate.

And finally, what about this race issue? Blacks and Hispanics have a traditional rivalry that goes back decades. Where they co-exist, they are competitors for the same jobs and resources, and interaction of these two groups has come from an “us versus them” mentality.

How does having an African-American in the White House give blacks an advantage in this decades-long struggle? Being of neither race I cannot fathom it at all. When I use logic and reason I cannot arrive at a reasonable conclusion. An unreasonable conclusion I can arrive at is that since Obama is African-American he will put “his own people” into political offices, ignoring deserving Hispanic aspirants. It’s unreasonable because I honestly don’t think that this Black/Hispanic angst has ever been a part of Obama's life. If so, will someone please point it out to me?

Now what about those women? I have been labeled a “misogynist” as a result of my posting of clear reasons to vote a straight Democratic ticket this fall, even if there is someone on that ticket that gives one pause. These women who feel betrayed, and feel that this man “is being forced on them”, still yet threaten to vote for McCain. From today’s Boston Globe:

“Hundreds of women have logged onto Clinton's campaign website, with many insisting they will not vote for "that man" - Obama - and urging Clinton to run as an independent or challenge Obama's nomination at the August convention in Denver. Many on the website pledged to vote for Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive GOP nominee.”

“Other websites have sprung up to denounce Democrats for picking Obama. One - called PUMA, an acronym for the sentiment "Party Unity My Ass" - features postings by Clinton supporters saying they will never vote for Obama, even if it means electing McCain.”
My reaction remains the same, with qualification. Some of these women remain so disappointed with the outcome, largely from having drunk all of the kool-aid presented to them during this past primary season, that there is no way they will vote for Obama, a man, but will vote for McCain, also a man, and also a man dedicated to make the lives of women worse, not better.

No one can reason with these women, especially if they were never Democrats in the first place. The others though, the Democrats who simply still bear a grudge, these others will have to sit through 5 months of campaigning bearing that grudge from one day to the next, as they hear their candidate of choice voice opinions that are not theirs, express values that are not theirs.

My guess is that self-interest and Democratic values will bring these disappointed women voters back to elect a straight Democratic ticket.

The question is not whether, but when.

Friday, June 06, 2008

When May an Educator in Texas Physically Restrain a Student?

No, I’m not thinking of putting a Half Nelson (get it? Half Empty . . . Half Nelson?) on one of my students. That, anyway, is in the past as today I watched my former students walk across the stage this morning, watched them pass into personhood.

No it came up earlier this week as the news in the Chron and FortBendNow has been covering an event at a high school a few miles away. It seems the students at that high school, named after George Bush-41, decided it might be fun to throw food at each other in the school’s commons during lunch.

One student threw a plastic PowerAde bottle, with PowerAde still in it, at another student, striking that student in the back. The PowerAde chucker then made to leave the scene quickly but was then tackled from behind by an administrator who then physically restrained that student so that he could neither attack another student nor escape the justice that was due to him.

The student later alleged that the administrator administered a “choke hold” and complained of cuts, bruises and a broken vessel in his eye.

I could find no report of what had happened to the other student who was assaulted with a bottle of PowerAde. I assume from that, that he’s OK.

But what makes this news is that the administrator was arrested and charged with assaulting a student. He was released upon posting a $15,000 bond.

The administrator was charged with using “excessive force” to restrain this student, a charge that the administrator is now denying.

This is an issue that comes up infrequently but when it does, there is clearly some misinformation out there. I have been told by students that if a teacher uses physical force to restrain a student, the teacher will be fired. I told them that wasn’t exactly the case, but now, with this incident in the news, I fear that students will become emboldened in committing crimes, thinking (and now maybe knowing) that those in charge of maintaining discipline and order are powerless to do anything about it.

So I went to the Texas Education Code.

It’s all covered under §37.0021 and has a twin in the Texas Administrative Code §89.1053.

§ 37.0021. USE OF CONFINEMENT, RESTRAINT, SECLUSION, AND TIME-OUT. (a) It is the policy of this state to treat with dignity and respect all students, including students with disabilities who receive special education services under Subchapter A, Chapter 29. A student with a disability who receives special education services under Subchapter A, Chapter 29, may not be confined in a locked box, locked closet, or other specially designed locked space as either a discipline management practice or a behavior management technique.

(b) In this section:

(1) "Restraint" means the use of physical force or a mechanical device to
significantly restrict the free movement of all or a portion of a student's

So there is no question that an educator may physically restrain a student. How much restraint is used is an issue in this incident though. Here are the relevant passages a little further down:

“be consistent with:

(A) professionally accepted practices and standards of student discipline and techniques for behavior management; and

(B) relevant health and safety standards”

Clear as mud? The thing is, the state has set guidelines that are in place, and these guidelines are taught in training sessions. Yes, Texas will train teachers how to legally restrain their students.

Do I know what these guidelines are? No.

Did the administrator in this incident know? Haven’t the foggiest.

Why don’t I, as a teacher, know the limits placed on Texas educators by state law and locally developed procedures? No one has told me. I have never participated in a training session in this.

This, by the way, is perfectly all right. In fact it is only required that a teacher receive this training if they are involved in a physical altercation with a student. Then the teacher must receive this training within 30 days of the incident.

I know, this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but imagine what the community reaction would be if word got out that all teachers in the district were to receive training on the physical restraint of their kids. I’m a parent and I know what I would think if I were told this.

So again, Texas educators are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The same place where teachers find out, after the fact, which one of their acts led to their dismissals.

Geez, why would anyone want to teach in Texas public schools?