Monday, November 30, 2009

Cornyn: A Few Apples Short of a Full Load

Nice headline huh? I wish I had thought of it. But no, it’s the eye catching headline featured these days on the Austin American-Statesman’ blog “Postcards From the Lege.”

“Cornyn just a few apples short.”

Well, OK, I finished their sentence for them.

It refers to coverage of a Thanksgiving story about how my junior senator, John Cornyn, found himself in a photo op session helping pack apples into 25 pound capacity crates at the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas.

Cornyn, it seems, erred on the side of lightness and failed to load his crates with the requested minimum of 25 pounds.

After this fact was apparently pointed out to him Cornyn quipped “Good enough for government work.”

Get it?

Cornyn, works for the government? And he’s doing some work?

And doing it rather poorly at that.

But then I think John Cornyn is rather used to performing below minimum acceptable standards. Rather than vote for historical change in healthcare reform, rather than being on the side of history, Cornyn votes NO. Rather than help thousands of Texas children get back on healthcare coverage, Cornyn votes NO on SCHIP.

It’s a pity that as an army brat John Cornyn was not subjected to the same kind of work ethic that was imposed upon me by my parents. My father had a saying that he drummed into me:

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well.”

I never heard the saying “good enough for government work” until I had my first government contract, and even then I had to have it explained to me.

Cornyn, obviously had different upbringing.

Different values.

And that’s what makes him a few slices short of a full loaf.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Ban on Minarets? In Switzerland?

When you think of Switzerland, as we call it, I would hardly expect the words “religious intolerance” to come up anytime soon.

Not before say, the Red Cross, the World Health Organization, The League of Nations, military neutrality and the Swiss army knife.

So it came as a surprise to me today to find that Switzerland has just voted on, and passed, an amendment to its constitution banning the construction of minarets. Minarets are those tall tapered towers upon which the muezzin stands to lead the call to Friday services or to the 5 daily prayers. So you might think that this was just a public nuisance issue, you know, like the ringing of church bells. But it wasn’t because the call to prayer in Switzerland is done inside the mosque.

I read about it here in this AP article in The Chron:

“The referendum by the nationalist Swiss People's Party labeled minarets as symbols of rising Muslim political power that could one day transform Switzerland into an Islamic nation. The initiative was approved 57.5 to 42.5 percent by some 2.67 million voters. Only four of the 26 cantons or states opposed the initiative, granting the double approval that makes it part of the Swiss constitution.”
The really odd thing is that in poll after poll the measure was seen as destined to failure because only 37% of the people polled said that they would vote for the amendment. It is as if the other 20% were fully aware of how intolerant this measure was, and therefore how intolerant the voters were, that they would vote for it, but not advertise that fact.

That is something that is so over the top it even beats Texas voters. Your typical Texas voter will turn out in droves to vote for a discriminatory constitutional amendment like the banning of gay marriage. They’ll go and vote for it and then brag about it to their neighbors.

So I find it ironic that from now on when I am reminded of Switzerland, before I think of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, or of “Heidi” or the William Tell Overture, the first thing that will come to mind is anti-Muslim intolerance.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Texas-Based Military Contractor Appealing Loss of Contract

I mentioned it here last month that a British-owned military truck manufacturer, BAE, previously known as Stewart and Stevenson, a truck manufacturer with a factory in the Sealy area, lost its bid to renew its lucrative truck manufacturing contract to Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Corp.

Well come to find out today through this Houston Chronicle article that BAE is going to protest this contract decision to the Government Accounting Office.

The Chron article concentrates, as my piece did, on the political implications. On how Texas has lost its edge in its steady pursuit of a conservative perspective in a nation that has gradually shifted to the left. This loss is underlined by the article’s report of how Republican lawmakers in DC were caught unawares by this incident.
“‘We never saw this coming — we were completely blindsided,’ says a top aide to Sen. John Cornyn, R-San Antonio, a former member of the Senate Armed Services Committee panel with jurisdiction over military vehicles. Lawmakers and BAE officials alike felt ‘sucker punched,’ added David Davis, a top Hutchison aide.  ‘Shocked doesn't begin to describe it.’”
So Governor Perry along with 34 federal legislators are hoping that they are successful in an appeals process to get the GAO to propose a “re-bid.” Or in common parlance, “a do-over.”

From Sealy News
“The decision to file a protest is not one the company took lightly, but the company felt it could not afford, and neither could U.S. taxpayers, to overlook what BAE Systems officials have called a flawed procurement process.”“‘What’s the impact of us leaving and the impact of people without a job?’ asked Mike Teegardin, BAE Systems director of communications. ‘It’s pretty staggering and it’s pretty stunning in this particular environment. We don’t believe we should just be given contracts because of who we are…we’re looking for a fair assessment.’”
This peaked my interest because I was unaware that the process of awarding the government contract was “flawed.” I just assumed, as did everyone else, that Oshkosh got the contract because it underbid BAE by 10% - - - and it had some influence with newly empowered Democrats who now hold key positions in the federal government.

Like David Obey (D – Wis.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

That Republicans were ignorant of this turn of events was also news to me. But I now see how truly deluded these people must be because they think that their political clout will help BAE carry the day in a GAO investigation.

Now I started to wonder where the flaw in the bidding process lay. Was BAE going to claim it was wrongfully denied renewal of the contract because of political backroom wrangling?

No, absolutely not.

But as it turns out, maybe that would have been the shrewd option.

BAE is arguing that the decision to award the contract to the low-bidder, Oshkosh Corp., wasn’t fair because they did not take into account past performance but merely rated all three bidding companies as equals.

Further quoting Mike Teegarden in the Sealy News:
“‘That’s where our challenge comes in. Seventeen-plus years of experience, over 56,000 vehicles and trailers produced, fully up and running facility that runs 24-7 that produces over 40 vehicles a day was rated equal to competitors that have never produced the vehicle before,’ Teegardin said. ‘Oshkosh is a fine truck maker in their own right, don’t get me wrong, but to rate us equal in capability, to rate our employees…to say to them, thanks for your experience, it doesn’t really matter…we’re just going to equal you all out and judge you on price…that’s the essence of the problem that we have.’”
Essentially saying then, that the federal government should spend its money, taxpayer money, not on the lowest bidder, but on the bidder who has been doing the job for 17 years. Something our Republican delegation to DC gets right behind.

That is, it’s perfectly OK to scream and yell about wasting taxpayer money on recession recovery, but it’s not OK when the government awards a militatry contract to a the lowest bidder.

But I can concede the point if BAE, and Stewart and Stevenson, its predecessor, can demonstrate a quality product that helps to preserve the lives of our soldiers.

So I checked.

Soon after delivering its first products to the military it was noted that there was a slight flaw in their trucks’ driveline.

From GlobalSecurity.org:

“The FMTV program initially experienced some bad press following 13 accidents involving A0-model trucks. One of the accidents resulted in a rollover attributed to a driveline design flaw. A March 1998 safety message to drivers noted that the vehicles can operate at fairly high highway speeds. But at the 45- to 58-mph range, they found a resonance or vibration in the engine-transmission-driveshaft combination. The vibration stressed the truck’s u-joints, which could cause the driveshaft to fail.”
As a result of there failures, the military issued a “safety gram” specifying that the trucks could not be driven over 30 mph until the trucks were retrofitted in a recall program.

The trucks, in a war zone, could not be driven faster than the speed limit in a school zone.

Now I call that “experience.” I call that “quality”. Just not good experience or good quality.

In short, if BAE wants the GAO to judge it on an unequal basis because of its previous experience in production of high quality military trucks, maybe the GAO should do exactly that.

A decision by the GAO is due in two weeks.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The US Secret Service Meet Reality TV

I never could understand what the draw was for so-called reality TV shows. Reality TV, to me, is just another oxymoron. It draws the oddest people to it. The least real people you will ever meet want to be on reality TV.

Reality TV creates nothing of value. It is the pocket lint of the airwaves.

But this time, maybe, reality TV has served a purpose.

I’ve been unusually concerned about the safety of the First Family. The level of angst and anger against them has gone through the roof, although most of these people are harmless hooligans who simply want to get some face time with video cameras so they can get on You Tube, or better yet the news.

But there are some real twisted people out there. People who really have no respect for human life and might want some notoriety for themselves. People like this are the people that agents of the US Secret Service are supposed to place themselves in front of.

But security broke down at the recent state dinner and a couple trying out for a reality TV show pulled a stunt and got through security without having shown anyone an invitation.. Without going into it, the Secret Service is now saying that their “procedures weren’t being followed.”

So not only are the party crashers getting lots of TV exposure, so is the Secret Service. The Secret Service is getting plenty of exposure for doing something wrong.

And this couldn’t have come at a better time.

My guess is that the laxity that allowed two individuals to come inside a supposedly secure area is gone forever. After being caught red-handed at not properly protecting the president, my guess is that there will be a re-imposition of security measures that will prevent any repeat of this. It’s possible that the First Family might have to suffer through a little more inconvenience as a result, but their security is paramount.

Yes security at the White House was breached and uninvited guests got in. But thanks to reality TV, this odder than odd couple were harmless aspirants of fame, and nothing bad happened.

This time.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Things I Am Thankful For

I generally detest Thanksgiving. It’s just another holiday where I can justify to myself eating too much food I shouldn’t eat at all.

Except for cranberries. Cranberries are good for you.

Still, everyone seems to set aside some time today to reflect on what they are thankful for, so I decided why the H-E-double-hockey-sticks not?

So first, let’s say I am thankful for NASA. Ever since I was a kid in the early 60’s NASA has been putting people on top of big tubes of controlled exploding gases and blasting them into space. What a time to be alive.


Next, I am thankful for teabaggers. How can progressive Democrats ever thank the teabaggers enough for doing in a few months what Democrats have failed to do for decades? The Party of Reagan will soon become the Party of Palin and Glenn Beck and will soon become completely marginalized.



And I am thankful for Teflon. Do you know how hard it was to cook an egg over easy without getting it stuck to the pan? It was a vexing problem. Teflon by the way, wasn’t a product of the space program like so many other things we take for granted every day. Teflon was an accidental discovery by DuPont whose first practical use was as a part of the first atomic bomb.



And last but not least, I am thankful for Romy Schneider. In her youth she had such a bright happy face. How could such a person with that face have come to such a sad and tragic end all these years ago?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Operation Intervention?

Has Governor Perry gone right off his rocker? Operation Intervention?

Rick Perry’s re-election campaign has launched what they term “Operation Intervention” this week. Their stated goal? Let me guess.

To use religious intervention to turn drug addicts away from their ill-advised vice?

No.

To use involuntary intervention methods to kidnap and then deprogram religious cultists?

No.

To use proselytizing techniques to persuade Moroccan Muslims to the way of Shi’ia?

No.

To use religious intervention to “cure” homosexuality? To relieve, as it were, gays from their gayness?

Close, but no.

No, the intervention that the Perry campaign has in mind is to pull aside and persuade supporters of Kay Bailey Hutchison the folly of their moderate ways.

To get them to Come to Perry.

Now having watched as Rick Perry carved out his rightwing teabagger fanatic fringe secessionist niche these past few months, this comes as something of a surprise. A surprise because it seems apparent to them that there can be open courtship between Rick Perry and his base, the fanatic far right of Texas, on the one hand, and courtship of what is left of the center right Republican moderates who still haven’t realized that their party has abandoned them.

But not surprising that they should use a word like “intervention” in their plan to persuade moderates that the right wingnuts aren’t such a bad bunch after all.

It does, after all, require a “leap of faith” on the part of the Perry campaign to consider this “operation” to have the possibility of success. Much as it requires a “leap of faith” on the part of former KBHers that Rick Perry deserves their support.

Frankly, I think he will have more success with drug addicts.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What You Mean We, Dick?

Former Vice President Dick Cheney can’t seem to get out of the verbal rut that he is in. He seems to have become like the proverbial scratched record where the needle used to backtrace to the previous record groove and he keeps repeating himself over and over and over again.

Today I realized something that Cheney doesn’t.

He thinks he is we.

Here is what he said yesterday to conservative radio commentator Scott Hennen over Obama’s deep bow to Emperor Hirohito of Japan last week [that’s right, Last Week!]:

“When the President bows to a foreign leader, our friends and allies don't expect it and our adversaries perceive it as a sign of weakness. I think it's fundamentally harmful and it shows in my mind that this is a guy, a president, who would bow, for example, who doesn't fully understand or have the same perception of the U.S. role in the world that I think most Americans have. What I see in President Obama is somebody who bows before foreign leaders and spends his trips aboard primarily apologizing for U.S. behavior. I find that very upsetting.”

Whose behavior do you think Dick Cheney is referring to? Whose behavior is President Obama apologizing for according to Dick Cheney? Why, ours of course. American behavior. We are Americans. Our behavior.

Us.

We.

As Jay Silverheels as Tonto never said to The Lone Ranger when The Masked Man turned to him and admitted that “we are in a fix now, Tonto, look at all the Indians around us:”

"What you mean 'we', White Man?"

What you mean we, Dick.

American behavior, the American behavior that Barack Obama is apologizing for to anyone, everyone, who will listen, why that’s your behavior Dick.

Yours.

His.

That some Americans have taken umbrage at Obama’s bow is largely in sympathy with Cheney’s constant whine. But it is clear that their behavior is just poorly chosen in terms of their defense of the bad behavior of Cheney.

It’s all about Cheney’s behavior, not “U.S. behavior” that Obama is apologizing for.

I just love, as a result of this realization, this quote from a Western contributor to The Japan Times:

“Regarding the Nov. 18 article "U.S. conservatives: Obama bowed too deeply to Emperor": That seems to be one of the problems that President Barack Obama has to fix. American people just have to be better than others. Can't show even a speck of respect to others. Not even to an elderly Emperor who has no political power. It's our way or the highway. Time to stop acting like a high school kid. America, grow up.”

Yeah, Dick. Grow up.

Monday, November 23, 2009

When Is Bill White Off To Greener Pastures?

Now that Kay Bailey Hutchison has all but slammed the door on there being a special election to replace her in the senate, much to the consternation of some on both sides of the political aisle, it appears that the next shoe has dropped.

Today Tom Schieffer dropped out of the gubernatorial race, a race he has been engaged in for a year now.

Now Schieffer, in my humble opinion, didn’t have a snowball’s chance in H-E-Double Hockey Sticks of getting elected governor, any more than he had a chance of getting the nomination in the March primary.

Democrats couldn’t get past his fond friendship with the worst US President . . . ever . . . George W. Bush. Neither, I would hazard to guess, could Republicans who are now looking at the past eight years like they fondly look back on their last toothache.

Schieffer had nowhere to go, and no cash to get him there.

So logically he bailed out. Where it gets interesting is the timing. Now I am of the opinion that the timing is irrelevant because he is out and that is that. But the timing coupled with Schieffer throwing his entire support in the candidacy of Bill White for governor does raise an eyebrow or two.

Especially because Bill White remains mum on what seems obvious to anyone who follows Texas politics: if there is no senatorial race, and there won’t be, what does the soon-to-be former mayor of Houston do now? Really it’s not a case of whether Bill White runs for governor or not, it’s a case of when he will announce it.

My guess is that this pull-out on Tom Schieffer’s part was ill-timed for the Bill White campaign and I would guess that there might be some grinding of teeth in that campaign because one thing you don’t want to do is kick off a new campaign on Thanksgiving weekend.

Not in Texas, anyway.

Not when there are turkeys to be deep-fried in peanut oil.

Not when there are so many football games to watch on TV.

Not when you could drop a thermonuclear bomb on Kilgore, Texas on Thanksgiving and no one would know about it until Monday.

Or Tuesday latest.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Let’s All Boycott Cafepress

You know, coming on the 46th anniversary of the murder of an American president, John F. Kennedy, I find it particularly disturbing that I read today that a new rightwing witticism has made an appearance on the streets of America. A witticism that is being hawked at Cafepress no less.

Someone on the right, someone who peruses his or her Holy Bible, has come up with a new bumper sticker. Or at Caf├ępress you can get the message on a T-shirt or a coffee mug. 197 products in all. The witticism reads:


So all you have to do is go and look at the psalm in question and read it:

“May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership”

Now taken by itself it is a fairly non-threatening passage. Even the American Civil Liberties Union has not labeled this as hate speech.

From ABC News:

“Still, that doesn't push the Psalms citation into the realm of hate speech, says Chris Hansen, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The use of Psalm 109:8 is ambiguous as to whether its users are calling for the president to serve ‘only one term, or less than one term,’ he says.”
But that is simply because Hansen fails to read on. What starts as a fervent hope for a Republican victory in 2012 quickly turns more sinister and some would say treasonous:

Psalm 109:9-10

May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.
May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes.
Not so funny now, is it? Now we know what is meant by his days being few, don’t we?

And Cafepress is making money promoting this, although I now see that someone has apparently hacked the page and has injected an anti-hate message, to wit:


“No real Christian, certainly no real American would ever pray for the First Lady to become a widow or her children to be left fatherless. Stop the hate.”
Nevertheless, Cafepress needs to know that its business decision to include rightwing hate speech on its website is a poor one.

Let’s all boycott Cafepress.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Senate Healthcare Vote: Voinovich (R - Ohio) Votes Absent

I am aghast. Senator Voinovich failed to vote against the Reid bill to bring healthcare reform finally to the US Senate’s attention and debate.

The vote was 60 to 39.

Not 60 to 40.

Voinovich (R - Ohio) voted absent. Said Senator Voinovich on his position:

“Additionally, I cannot support Sen. Reid's proposal because I believe any health reform bill must protect all human life from conception to natural death and am adamantly against allowing federal funding for abortions.”

He could not support the bill so much that he had to be absent not to vote against it.

Nice.

Ohio is a swing state. Voinovich is on the cutting edge.

A vote for Reid’s bill is a vote for abortion. A vote against Reid’s bill is a vote against abortion. Voinovich votes . . . nothing.

Conclusion. Voinovich hasn’t a single idea how his state will opt in the abortion issue.

I do.

The Senator only needs to give me a call. I’ll clue him in on the mystery.

Joe Lieberman Is an Opportunistic Snake

We were all pretty shocked and at the news coming out of Fort Hood two weeks ago. News that soldiers were killed by an army major, a psychiatrist no less.

A Muslim army psychiatrist.

Then news came out that the perpetrator was still alive and being treated in a hospital. Then we knew we would have some answers to too many questions.

We knew we would have a trial.

Not before, however, the Senate, through Joe Lieberman’s Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, holds some hearings on the matter.

I actually listened to a rebroadcast of the Thursday hearing earlier today on CSPAN. I found it interesting that there were people willing to testify as to Major Hassan’s mental state, and surprised that the senate committee members were willing to listen and question witnesses further.

Interesting because I thought that this kind of stuff is the sort of thing that comes out in trials.

Now I have to wonder whether Hassan’s lawyer will point out in court that there is no way his client will be able to receive a fair trial, since his case has already been tried in Joe Lieberman’s committee. And while no verdict was rendered, it certainly didn’t look good for his client.

In short, Joe Lieberman has gone too far. He has put the successful prosecution of Major Hassan in jeopardy.

And given the Major’s grievous crimes, this makes Joe Lieberman’s opportunistic attempt at headline grabbing particularly heinous.

Joe Lieberman is an opportunistic snake.

I don’t care if Lieberman will cast his vote to allow the Senate to start debates on Reid’s healthcare reform bill, I really don’t. Lieberman has demonstrated that he doesn’t have the good judgment to let the judicial process proceed. He can have his hearings to figure out how to fix what went wrong to allow Hassan get to the point of taking the lives of 13 American soldiers - - - later.

But really, I just wish the Senate leadership would just do the right thing and take the chairmanship away from Lieberman. His showboating in this case endangers the successful prosecution and punishment of Hassan.

If Lieberman doesn’t have the good sense to keep out of this until justice is allowed to prevail, he must be made an example of.

Friday, November 20, 2009

TEA Lawsuit on Grading Filed

AP has the story, as found here, that six separate Houston area school districts have joined in a lawsuit naming Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott as the defendant in their suit to allow the districts to continue their grading policies without state interference.

The districts include Fort Bend, Alief, Klein, Aldine, Anahuac and Clear Creek. These school districts define the suburban area around Houston proper. That is, they are most definitely not in areas impacted by high dropout rates.

I checked each district’s dropout rate on the Texas AEIS school rating system and recovered 2007 dropout rates for each district – the most recent data available online. This is what I found:

Aldine ISD – 5.9%
Alief ISD – 19.3%
Anahuac ISD – 5.1%
Clear Creek ISD – 2.8%
Fort Bend ISD – 7.6%
Klein ISD – 10.2%

The state average overall is 11.4%

The sprawling Houstion ISD, on the other hand, the inner city that these school districts surround have a reported dropout rate of 22.1%.

So of the six districts joining in the lawsuit, only one, Alief, comes within any shouting distance of having a dropout rate that should concern us all. The other five are to be congratulated for their successes.

Bringing up the question, why are these school districts suing anyone over this? Ostensibly, the grading policy as stated in the lawsuit, serves to prevent students with failing grades from giving up and dropping out. From the filing as printed in the Fort Bend blog found in The Chron:

“[Minimum grading policies] ensure that a student may still gain credit for a course as a whole and, in turn, continue progressing towards graduation, even after receiving a failing grade in, say, the first grading period, provided they can attain requisite grades in subsequent grading periods for the course. As such, minimum grading policies for report cards area key tool for keeping students in school.”

The aim, then, is to provide students with an incentive not to drop out of school.

And while a 5 or even a10 percent dropout rate is in itself tragic, it isn’t headline making.

In truth, the vast majority of students in five of these six districts which have joined in the lawsuit are not at all at risk. Not by a long shot.

But this is the thrust of the lawsuit – that the grading policy will cut down on dropout rates.

State Senator Jane Nelson (R – Flower Mound) commented on the failure of school districts to comply with the new state law, and the resultant lawsuit:

“It is a sad state of affairs when school districts are willing to go to court for the right to force their teachers to assign fraudulent grades. [Administrators] are willing to waste precious education resources on a misguided lawsuit to continue these policies, which undermine the authority of our teachers and reward minimum effort from students.”

“The recent decision by six school districts to sue the Texas Education Agency over implementation of a new law on minimum grades is disturbing, because these districts are ignoring the will of lawmakers in an attempt to preserve a flawed policy of artificial grade inflation.”

Continuing.

“School districts are free to create a variety of policies to help students who may have gotten dismally low grades initially, but who then make valid efforts to pass their course. Districts can still allow make-up work and make-up exams or extra-credit opportunities to help students who deserve to pass. Mandating that a teacher give a minimum grade of 50 to someone who doesn't put forth the effort—often someone who doesn't show up for class or never even turns in an assignment—doesn't assure that students have mastered the subject matter and gives the distinct impression that districts are more interested in masking failure than improving student performance.”

And besides all of that, the dropout rate cited as the main reason for the grading policy is not a critical issue in 5 of the 6 districts, whose dropout rates fall below the state average.

District grading policies take all of the flexibility out of the classroom and places it squarely in school board rooms. This is not the proper place for that. Having a rigid grading policy is another in a continuous line of evidences that school boards do not trust the professional judgment of their teachers to do the right thing for their students. It is the classroom teacher who is in the best position to judge whether a student is failing due to their attitude toward education in general or due to extenuating circumstances that can be treated on an ad hoc basis.

If the teacher is the problem, there are solutions to that, more intelligent solutions than handing over grades to undeserving students.

But again, I have to ask this in the case of five of the six school districts joined in the suit:

Is there a problem?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Barbara Radnofsky: Texas AG Abbott Oversaw Nullification of Texas Marriages

Texas voters, it seems, in their zeal to deny to their gay neighbors rights and privileges that they take for granted, may just have shot themselves, and their marriages, right in the foot.

Apparently, according to Barbara Ann Radnofsky, who hopes to unseat Republican State AG Greg Abbott, the constitutional amendment that Texas voters came out in droves to vote for in 2005, as urged by their priests and preachers, the amendment to deny gay men and women the right to a state-sanctioned marriage, went a little too far.

You see, in their zeal to deny gay Texans the right to marry, the framers of Proposition 2, a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage in Texas, actually banned all marriage. And, as Radnofsky points out, Greg Abbott oversaw the whole process.

Said Radnofsky in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

“You do not have to have a fancy law degree to read this and understand what it plainly says.”
Oh really? I had trouble believing it, that these people could be that dense, but then I went and read the entire thing as it sits right now as Section 32 of Article 1 of the Texas State Constitution (scroll all the way down):

Sec. 32. MARRIAGE. (a) Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.
(b) This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.

(Added Nov. 8, 2005.)
Clause (b) says it all.

Said Radnofsky:
“Whoever vetted the language in B must have been asleep at the wheel.”
For “whoever” read Abbott.

Not true says Abbott’s staffer Kelly Strickland (who helped draft the amendment), from the same article:

“The Texas Constitution and the marriage statute are entirely constitutional.”
In saying this, the staffer appears to be defending Texas’ ban on all marriages, saying that this ban is “entirely constitutional.”

What is truly ironic here is that Radnofsky is not the first person to point this out. It was pointed out 4 years ago by the group “Save Texas Marriage.”

From the Austin Chronicle:

“A newly formed group, Save Texas Marriage – a blood relative of the No Nonsense in November campaign – has mounted a full-on attack on Prop. 2 that ncludes a massive rollout of automated calls to nearly two million homes across the state. In one call, the Rev. Tom Hegar, a Presbyterian minister, warns that because the second part of the proposed amendment, prohibiting the recognition of "any legal status identical or similar to marriage," fails to distinguish between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples, a ‘liberal activist judge’ could see fit to void all marriages. ‘Don't risk it; vote against it,’ Hegar says, and ends with ‘God bless you.’”

Now you just know that someone is going to take advantage of this ill-written law. What better way to get out of a property settlement in a divorce case than to make the case that the marriage was never legal?

I am wondering one step further. If marriage in Texas isn’t legal, what does that do to divorce decisions? If there no marriage is recognized in Texas, how can the state grant divorces?

Never mind how many people are there out there having sex out of wedlock, I want to know how many bigamists there are out there as a result of this snafu.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fort Bend Teabaggers Are Organizing

What do you do when your Teabagger Movement in Fort Bend County starts to languish on the vine? What do you do when attending TEA Parties was all the rage in April, but can barely scrape together enough Libertarians and Republican Sore Loser outsiders to cast a shadow of any significance on an otherwise bright and sunny Sugar Land Town Square?

Obviously the crowds are gone. Pete Olson is gone. All that are left behind are the true believers and their wives and husbands.

So it’s time to organize. It’s time to take over the Republican Party.

And this is exactly what was planned at the local La Madeleine restaurant in Sugar Land last week. As reported in the Chron’s UltimateFortBend website:

“…the night featured an experienced guest speaker from Harris County giving a presentation on becoming a precinct chair, ultimately everyone in attendance received information on a wide variety of local rules and political topics.”
Get that? Teabaggers are educating themselves about taking on the system from the ground up by running for precinct chair.

At least they weren’t packing heat and talking about how a revolution every now and then is a good thing.

But I wonder whether these people know what they are up against. This is after all the party of the religious evangelicals that drove moderates and right of center Republicans out of office. These are the people who are experts in anti-democracy. These are the people who have deliberately kept the number of precinct chair positions vacant for very good reason – for the very reason the teabaggers want to occupy them: to get and maintain control.

As it stands right now, 42 GOP precinct chairs remain vacant. 42 out of 144. That could be a pretty substantial voting bloc if they could find people living in each of those precincts to run.

If they can actually get on the ballot, that is.

I wish them well. I want these teabaggers to take on a greater voice in the local Republican Party. I think it would be just great to see round two of local GOP infighting.

Round One was so much fun.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Obama Bow: How Low Can You Go?

Dick Cheney, marginalizing himself even further if that is even possible, has criticized his president, Barack Obama, for performing perfect protocol in producing a well-executed traditional bow at the waist to the hereditary potentate of the Empire of Japan – a nonexistent political entity.

Here is the offending photograph.

Notice how the Emperor is completely displeased at how this stupid American president can’t even perform something that a Japanese child can do?

Said Cheney, of this behavior:

“There is no reason for an American president to bow to anyone. Our friends and allies don’t expect it, and our enemies see it as a sign of weakness.”
A weakness, as in, say, starting a war against a bunch of horseback-riding AK-47-wielding primitive Afghan tribesmen and not being able to beat them in 7 years, let alone locating the whereabouts of a 6 foot 4 Saudi diabetic?

A weakness like that?

Oh, but we forget, don’t we at how his former boss, Bush-43 pranced about the White House grounds playing holdy-hands with the a Saudi king?

Or perhaps the same former boss paying obeisance to a foreign Pope? A papist Pope?

Or what about President Nixon’s execution of a bow to a ChiCom?

But then, there we have Barack Obama. He just can’t help it, can he? He even bows to kids from the neighborhood.

But you know who really takes the cake? Woodrow Wilson. Imagine the embarrassment of the American people when they saw their president bowing to an inanimate object?

A golf ball!

Or is this bit of obeisance something that is typically witnessed thousands of times in Texas on any given weekend?

We Americans. We do like to bow from time to time.

What is So Special About Anti-Abortion Opinions?

I’ve been thinking about this ever since the Stupak-Pitts Amendment was foisted on a noble effort to pass healthcare reform in the House of Representatives. What is it about this single moral/religious opinion that it is raised above all other ethical opinions of any kind?

What is it about objection to expenditure of federal funding for abortions that makes it any more important than my objection to expenditure of federal funds for, say, the murder of innocent Afghanis and Pakistanis in our war to exterminate the Taliban, and all that stand in the way?

Why can’t I have my way and get federal funding eliminated from the ending of these lives? Lives that are truly alive-and-walking-around lives and not "potential lives?"

Why is it that we are heeding the hue and cry of evangelicals who have a religious doctrine about when the beginning of life is, and bending over backwards to kiss Mother Earth herself to give these people what they shriek at the tops of their lungs for?

It doesn’t make any sense.

Polls show that just as many people in this country label themselves as Pro-Choice as they do Anti-Abortion. Yes, it is about evenly split at 45% Pro to 45% Anti. So why are we catering to these people?

I’ll bet that I can get more people to agree with me that we oughtn’t kill innocent civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan, than any given opposition can gather people who want to allow the Predators and their Hellfire missiles to mow these people down without mercy.

Let me go one better. The C Street facility that some of our senators and congressmen were staying at, at a very low price has just been taken off the tax-free rolls. The C Street townhouse was listed as a church. As a church, they paid no property taxes. This leaves me to wonder why religious facilities of any kind are tax-free. Don’t people drive on public streets - built and maintained by tax dollars - to attend church?

In short, why are we listening to evangelicals tell us how we should spend federal dollars – and what not to spend our federal dollars - when their institutions don’t contribute a single red cent to the federal treasury?

Who are these people anyway?

They remind me of my ex-brother-in-law. Full of advice on what you can do with your money, but not very forthcoming with any cash because the bum won’t look for a job.

Monday, November 16, 2009

In Allah We Trust

You have to wonder what is wrong in Washington DC if 41 neoconservative members of the Republican Party are taking time out of their schedules to sign onto an amicus brief filed by the rightwing American Center for Law and Justice (as long as you are a white Christian) that opposes a Freedom From Religion Foundation lawsuit filed recently by the organization of the same name.

The Foundation, a Wisconsin-based non-profit organization representing atheists and agnostics, collectively referred to a “non-theists,” has objected to the inclusion of an engraving of the words “In God We Trust” into the wall of the newly constructed Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, DC.

This watchdog group actively monitors attempts to inject religious doctrine into our secular institutions. Their main objection in this case was that the engraving will do this:
“‘…give actual and apparent government endorsement and advancement of religion,’ while excluding nonreligious Americans. ‘[T]he mandated language diminishes nonbelievers by making god-belief synonymous with citizenship,’ the foundation says.”
The 41 GOP congressmen, led by a certifiably loony Michelle Bachman as well as Minority Leader John Boehner oppose this groups opposition. Their reasoning goes like this:

“These expressions simply echo the sentiments found in the Declaration of Independence and recognize the undeniable truth that our freedoms come from a source higher than the state…. While the First Amendment affords atheists complete freedom to disbelieve, it does not compel the federal judiciary to redact religious references in every area of public life in order to suit atheistic sensibilities.”
Well, I can get behind part of that at least. But in actuality, the sentiments found in the Declaration of Independence goes something like this:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Get that? Not “God.” “their Creator.”

Jefferson, who wrote the document was not a Christian. He was a Deist.

Indeed, Jefferson, in a letter to Ezra Stiles, wrote of his religion “I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.”

So let’s not hide behind Jefferson’s letter to George III, OK?

But I also have a bone to pick with the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Really, it’s not all about them. It’s not about a country establishing a state religion and in doing so “diminishing” them or their beliefs. Atheism, in my humble opinion, is every bit as much of a religion as Christianity.

Denial of the existence of God takes every bit as much of a leap of faith as professing God’s existence.

No, I think both parties get it absolutely wrong. It’s not about violation of the Establishment Clause. It’s about diversity.

How would Congresswoman Bachman like it if it was decided to engrave “In Allah We Trust” in the Visitor Center’s walls? Or what about “In Krishna We Trust?”

What about “In Gaea We Trust?”

Please. It’s all about diversity, not about us versus them.

The litmus test should not be whether one act or one inscription prefers the Christian religion over unbelief, it should be whether that act, or that inscription favors one religion over another, and whether in doing so society benefits.

Because if society doesn’t benefit, then what, after all is said and done, is the point?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Texas School Districts Ignore State Law

When can a law, duly passed unanimously by the Texas State House and State Senate, be ignored and who can do that? Apparently, at any odd moment Texas state law can be ignored by its school districts.

The law in question was enacted by the 81 session of the state legislature by unanimous passage of SB 2033, a law that forbids school districts from requiring its teachers to enter a set minimum grade for their students’ schoolwork.

It came in response to several school teachers informing State Senator Jane Nelson (R – Flower Mound), a former teacher herself, of the common practice of requiring them to enter a minimum grade of 50 when the student’s work fell below that score. Nelson later learned that the practice was commonplace in the state and that the minimum score policy in some districts was to enter grades as high as 60 or 70 for work that falls below that limit.

Nelson immediately drafted what became SB 2033, a bill that passed both the State House and State Senate unanimously. A bill whose committee hearings had no one come before the committee to speak against it.

It was, in short, a no-brainer shoe-in for passage and became the law of the land.

Except it didn’t

Looking at El Paso ISD, we see that the district will comply with the law . . . somewhat . . . by letting the teachers to “use their professional judgment when it comes to not issuing a minimum grade of a 50 in the six week period.”

This complies with the spirit of the law if not the letter of the law.

At Hereford and Amarillo ISD, the boards at first interpreted the new law as meaning that the law was meant to apply only to grades of assignments and tests, and not report card grades (the only time this practice is actually applied) so did not institute policy changes.

Apparently this was so widespread that TEA Commissioner Robert Scott clarified the matter in a letter sent to all school districts in the state that the law applied to report cards and final grades. Indeed, when asked, Senator Nelson confirmed that she wrote the bill with report card grades specifically in mind.

There are two issues here that are seemingly in conflict with each other. One is the issue of grade inflation. The argument goes that this policy enables school districts to report higher mastery levels than actually exist. All of that enters into the school rating system.

In conflict is the notion that an at-risk student who receives a grade lower than a 50 on his report card will give up rather than try that much harder to improve his performance in school.

The issue is not going away anytime soon, and now it appears, from what I read in the Fort Bend section of the Houston Chronicle that a lawsuit has been filed to contest whether the state can set this policy for the districts, with the Fort Bend ISD board of trustees recently voting to join in this legal action.

I guess my only question on this is that if there is such widespread opposition to this new law where was everybody when the law was being considered? Where were these school boards last April 7th when the bill was subjected to committee hearings in the Senate? Where were these school boards last May 12th when the bill was subjected to committee hearings in the House?

Were these boards in absentia simply because they knew that in Texas there are laws, and then there are laws?

Texas Teacher: State-Required Fingerprinting Is a Devilish Affair

On November 3rd Pam McLaurin, an otherwise unassuming kindergarten teacher in Big Sandy ISD filed suit in federal court against Texas TEA Commissioner Robert Scott and Associate Commissioner Jerel Booker.

At issue, according to this posting at the American Constitution Society, is Ms. McLaurin’s rights as a person of faith, a person who, she claims will have her constitutional right to free exercise of her religious beliefs violated because of a new state law that requires all teachers who teach in Texas schools be fingerprinted.

This is the result of a bill passed during the 80th legislative session in 2007 known then as SB 9 but is now embodied within the Texas Education code under Section 22.0831 (scroll to page 18).

And while it doesn’t appear that this applies to all teachers in Texas, and not just to new teachers seeking a Texas teaching certificate, this is exactly what it does.

It applies to all teachers.

But Pam McLaurin, in her federal lawsuit, argues that this requirement violates her freedom of religion because “fingerprinting represents a sign of the beast, a reference to the Bible's book of Revelation.”

That is, that part of Revelation that refers to those who are marked by Satan as one of his own in the end of days.

Going further . . .

“Revelation states that people who worship ‘the beast and his image and receives his mark on his forehead or on his right hand,’ shall draw God's wrath. McLaurin's attorney says the law, which could prompt the teacher's dismissal, violates her First Amendment free exercise of religion right. The attorney, Scott Skelton, told Wired that McLaurin firmly believes that computerized fingerprinting is the mark of the beast referenced in Revelation. ‘This law prohibits the free exercise of her religion,’ he told Wired.”
Now I have to say that this fingerprinting mandate, which I have known was coming down the pike for some time now is not special to Texas. California fingerprints all of its teaching certificate applicants as well. Texas has gone one better, though, in requiring that its entire teacher workforce, numbering some 600,000 individuals, be fingerprinted as well.

And at $40 a pop in fingerprinting fees, that’s a cool chunk of change ($24 million) going out of the pockets of Texas teachers and into the state coffers. The alternative, as stated in the ACS article, is dismissal.

Talk about pay to play.

Anyway, while I have some trouble with Ms. McLaurin’s main issue with the law, that it violates her religious freedom, and while I doubt it will get very far even in East Texas, deep in the heart of the Bible Belt, I wish Ms. McLaurin and her lawyer well.

Not because I want a bunch of criminals teaching our children, I don’t. But because the law speaks to the level of respect, or shall I say disrespect that the state and society in general has for the teaching profession.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Whither Bill White?

Now that Kay Bailey Hutchison has all but slammed the door on a special election in May to replace her in the Senate, I have to wonder what soon-to-be former Mayor of Houston Bill White’s plans are.

Recall that yesterday, KBH ended speculation that she would resign from her senate seat this month (at the latest) to concentrate her efforts on beating Rick Perry in the Texas GOP primary by declaring that she would not consider it until after the primary.

This had the dual effect of taking away a Rick Perry talking point that Hutchison would be abandoning her post while the senate healthcare reform bill is coming to a vote, and giving Perry credit for talking some sense into the poor confused gal.

But now, what about Bill White?

I went to his “Bill White for Texas” website and read the official take on her refusal to give up the seat. Here is what they say:
“You may have heard that Kay Bailey Hutchison again stated her intention to resign her Senate seat in 2010, regardless of who wins the Republican primary for governor.”

“Every day that Bill White campaigns, he earns support. We've always expected that the election for Texas' next Senator would be a special election after the March gubernatorial primaries, and that hasn't changed. Bill's running to work for Texans in the U.S. Senate.”
That’s actually something I have not heard, but I wanted to verify this so I visited, CBS, The Chron, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Nowhere among those news sources is there any language to the effect that Kay Bailey Hutchison intends to resign from her senate seat regardless of who wins the March primary.

This is what was announced as printed in the Chron:
“She will announce tomorrow at the Texas Federation of Republican Women's Convention in Galveston that she will not be resigning her seat before the primary.”
“Before the primary.” Nothing is being said about what she intends to do after the primary. Well, OK, here is what they wrote at the Star-Telegram:

“Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will announce today that she will remain in the Senate while she runs against Gov. Rick Perry in the 2010 governor’s race and will not resign her seat until after the March 2 Republican primary, her campaign staff said Friday.”
But by that, I take it that she will resign from her senate seat once she has won the primary and will be on the ballot for the November 2 general election for governor.

And then I came upon the story as reported at AP, and it is there that you find the quote that Bill White is apparently piling up all of his bets on. Included in her Galveston speech are these words, words that the other news sources have steered clear of printing:

“‘I will be resigning this Senate seat,’ Hutchison says in the speech. ‘For all of the good Republicans out there who plan on running for my Senate seat next year, make no mistake, this is going to happen.’”
Or not. After all, the mayor’s campaign website may have intentionally been named billwhitefortexas.com (and not, optimistically, billwhiteforsenate.com) for precautionary reasons that are now becoming reality as each day passes.

I am pessimistic. After all, this is the person who was going to resign in September, then October/November, and now not until after the primary. And I have to ask myself why would anyone resign from a perfectly good senate seat whether they win the primary or not? What is with all of this goodwill toward fellow Republicans who are standing on the sidelines gnashing their teeth at the senator’s constantly changing wind patterns?

I for one think that Kay Bailey Hutchison is going to thumb her nose at Cathie Adams and the rest of her Rick Perry-loving coterie and pull an “Emily Latella” a character famously created by one of the best comediennes SNL ever had:


Friday, November 13, 2009

Hutchison Blinks

In the latest of what has proven to be a great Texas Soap Opera, Kay Bailey Hutchison, who at one time assured Dallas conservative talk show host Mark Davis that “the actual leaving of the Senate will be sometime -- October, November -- that, in that time frame,” now has put off her resignation from the Senate - - - indefinitely.

Kay Bailey says that she can multitask.

From Politico:

“She will always do what's right for Texas, and that means not only running for governor, but also fighting against Obamacare and cap-and-trade, which will be devastating for Texas.”

In other words, Kay blinked.

Think of the political capital that Rick Perry could collect with Kay Bailey’s resignation. All he has to do is to delay the special election to replace her in the Senate until spring, until after the Senate has struggled to pass (or not pass) healthcare reform.

She once proposed her resignation would occur in the October/November time frame, but now that Senate Leader Harry Reid has promised to bring the healthcare bill up for a vote in the Senate toward the end of that window, Hutchison would be leaving her post while the primary-voting Obamacare-hating Republican voters look on, leaving only 39 Republican senators to hold back the floodgates of reform.

Leaving Rick Perry to pick up the pieces, point his finger, and lay the blame for the passage of healthcare reform right at the feet of his primary opponent. An opponent who is falling behind in the polls.

An opponent who has a slim chance to beat the incumbent now, but not a snowball’s chance in H-E-Double-Hockeysticks if healthcare passes while she has abandoned her post in the face of fire.

Governor Goodhair is right in the catbird’s seat. Right where Democrats want him. Because while Perry is a shoe-in to win the primary with his faithful primary-going rightwing base turnout. Hutchison, however, were she the victor, would be more problematic in the General Election.

So the congressional battle over healthcare reform has yielded yet another repercussion without even a vote taken in the Senate.

It may just have just turned the governor’s race into a horserace.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Looming: Outrage Against Republicans Who Vote For Rapists

Last Month our new senator from Minnesota, Senator Al Franken, proposed an amendment to HR 3326 the Defense Department Appropriations bill, S 2588. This bill was meant to fix the problem that became big news in 2005 when Jamie Leigh Jones, an employee of KBR in Iraq who was brutally raped and beaten by her male co-workers then had to suffer the indignity of submitting to arbitration (that is, without a judge, jury or public record of the hearing – something that would be unheard of had the crime been committed in America). KBR claimed that Ms. Jones had signed away any right to a trial of any kind when she became their expatriate employee in Iraq.

Franken’s bill, simply put would deny the use of funds for any Federal contract “if the contractor or a subcontractor at any tier requires that an employee or independent contractor, as a condition of employment, sign a contract that mandates that the employee or independent contractor performing work under the contract or subcontract resolve through arbitration any claim under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment, including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or retention.”

The bill was debated and approved on October 6th.

Thirty Republican senators voted no.

John Cornyn, the junior senator from Texas was among their number. Kay Bailey Hutchison voted in favor of the amendment.

30 white men, Republicans all, voted against the rights of a rape victim.

Why mention this now? This seems to be some old news.

Politico is reporting today that momentum from this event is gaining steam and that these 30 senators, including John Cornyn of Texas, are going to be presented to Americans by Democrats that Republicans are insensitive to rape victims. In particular, six of these Republicans who are up for re-election in 2010.

From Politico:

“Angry letters denouncing Republican senators have appeared in newspapers from Tennessee to Idaho. Unflattering videos of senators trying to explain their votes have gone viral on the Internet, including one of Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) swatting away a hand-held video camera held by a liberal blogger questioning his vote against the amendment.”

“And Democratic strategists are salivating at the prospects of using the vote against the eight GOP senators who voted against the amendment and are up for reelection in 2010.”

So in case you start hearing about this, I thought maybe you should also be able to view the above-mentioned video taken by the blogger who asked the junior senator about his vote for rapists and against all American women.



What a class act, huh?.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mike Conaway (TX-11) Attracts Two Teabaggers in Primary

Jumping Jehosaphat. Congressman Mike Conaway of Texas CD – 11, a district entailing a newly drawn sprawl of 35 counties lying west of Austin (The Free Republic of Austin, to some) has attracted not one but two opponents for the March 2010 primary. I saw it here at the Austin American-Statesman.

Two primary challengers.

Both of them died in the wool Teabaggers.

I had to ask myself today what in Jesus’ name could Mike Conaway have done to outrage the far right of his party? Conaway is a mortal enemy of the left. We dislike his politics immensely. His campaign war chest is a joke because no one west of Austin has any money anymore. He is, by definition then, “the salt of the Earth.” So I had to ask myself what did Conaway do to Jesus to get Him to turn His back on the congressman like that?

So I googled it. And lo and behold, I stumbled on the answer.

And Jesus said:

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”

-Matthew 5:13

Answer: Conaway (aka “the salt”) has lost his savor.

Conaway must be cast out.

Conaway must be trodden under foot.

Then I had to ask myself what has Mike Conaway, a conservative’s conservative, done to cause him to lose his “savor?” For instance, what separates Conaway from say a complete soldier ant Republican like my congressman, Rep. Pete Olson of Texas CD-22?

So I consulted OpenCongress.org, and compared their records.

Take a look for yourself. Here is Conaway’s OpenCongress profile.

And here is Olson’s OpenCongress Profile.

Do you see it? While both Conaway and Olson both vote least like their Republican colleague, Anh “Joseph the Jackal” Cao, and both vote least like Democrat Donna Edwards, and both vote most like Blue Dog Democrat Walter Minnick, Olson votes with Republican Congressman William Thornberry, and Conaway votes with Republican Congressman Jeff Miller.

In fact, Olson’s Rep:Abstain: Dem record is 95:5:0 while Conaway’s is 90:1:9

Conaway’s 90:1:9 record proves that he is grist for the far right’s mill. He is obviously a RINO on the order of Dede Scozzafava.

These Teabaggers, one by the so-so name of Chris Younts, and the other by the killer name of Canyon Clowdus, are inspired to run against this commie-loving congressman from the hill country by their attendance of Texas Tea Parties.

I kid you not.

You could have seen Canyon Clowdus’ Tea Party speech here at his blog but apparently the You Tube video has been removed by Canyon.

Or you can see Chris Younts’ address at the San Angelo Tea Party rally on July 4th, here on his campaign website – or maybe not, it seems to have been taken down as well.

Let us all pray at the feet of Sweet Jesus that He sees fit to cast His Great Blessing on one of these two forthright individuals and run that RINO Mike Conaway, who has overstayed his welcome in DC, right off the ballot.

Because wouldn’t we like to see another New York CD-23 race right here in the Lone Star State?

Is the Pope German?

It's Veteran's Day Again

Ditto.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pete Olson Just Says “No” to Anti-Terrorist Protection at Chemical Plants

One day before my congressman, Pete Olson of TX 22 voted against healthcare reform and for a thinly disguised GOP gift to the healthcare industry, one day before he sold out his seat to healthcare lobbyists to the detriment of voters in his district, Pete Olson voted with the rest of the Republicans, all of them, to leave ourselves open to terrorist attacks in an area that we are very vulnerable: chemical plants.

He voted No to HR 2868, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2009.

This act amended the Homeland Security Act to enhance security and protect against acts of terrorism against chemical facilities, to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to enhance the security of public water systems, and to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to enhance the security of wastewater treatment works.

These places are the soft underbelly of our national infrastructure. Damage to any one of these installations by terrorist attack could result in the release of lethal chemicals, the poisoning of our water systems and the spread of disease through our wastewater (sewage) treatment works.

Many of these kinds of installations are within Pete Olson’s own district boundaries. Most poignantly, since part of CD 22 is within the Port of Houston, a no vote on this bill was not only ill-advised, it was a downright double-crossing of his own constituents.

Something Pete Olson appears to be becoming more and more comfortable with.

Pete Olson needs to take a cue from his fellow Republican in Louisiana, Joseph Cao, who was the lone Republican to vote Yes on healthcare reform last Saturday. He did so because he knew that voting for it was the best thing for his district, as he said many times on the news.

Joseph Cao apparently knows something that Pete Olson doesn’t. That sometimes the thing that is right to do is the thing that is of greatest benefit to the people who voted to send him to Washington and not cast votes to appease Republican Party leadership and party bosses. They don’t know what is best for CD 22, Pete Olson is in the best position to know that.

Or at least he should be.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Healthcare Vote Repercussions

Both sides of the aisle in the House of Representatives are going to suffer repercussions as a result of the recent votes entered on Saturday for and against healthcare reform.

The DNC is going to be targeting 32 Republican members of congress who voted against HR 3962 on final passage because they come from districts whose residents not only voted in majority numbers for Barack Obama last year, but also whose residents need a leg up on getting health insurance.

They come from all over (unfortunately, none from Texas). Go on over to Politico to see the list of names.

Now on the Stupak Amendment, the one that prevents women from obtaining an abortion, a legal right last time I looked, there is another thing to consider.

Actually, 64 other things.

Other things that my friend Marsha likes to call “gas bags.”

These 64 are Democrats who voted with Republicans in favor of the Stupak Amendment. Mostly they are Blue Dog Democrats, but it goes farther than that. Blue Dogs only number 53. And last I heard, abortion isn’t a fiscal issue, it’s a religious issue.

For a list of those names you can go here to OpenCongress.org where I have applied the filter on Democrats who voted for Amendment 1.

Democrats may need to reconsider whether they want to be represented by men and women who put their own religious viewpoints ahead of the right that every woman has (or should I say still has) to a legal medical procedure.

A right that these people have no logical reason to interfere with.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Congressman Pete Olson Votes Against Texans

Obviously, since only one Republican voted for HR 3962, the recently passed House measure to reform healthcare insurance in America, and it wasn’t my congressman, and no congressman abstained from voting last night, one could reasonably conclude that Congressman Pete Olson of Texas CD 22 voted against, as he would call it, “the Pelosi Bill.”

And I now see that Olson did vote in favor of Boehner’s Republican replacement bill along with 177 of his compatriots. Curiously enough, so did Anh Cao, the lone Republican supporter of “Obamacare.”

This was not announced in the news, and obviously Rep. Cao likes to play both sides against the middle.

But back to Olson, who consistently votes with the Republican Party, I have to ask myself how could he have possibly done what 80% of Texans didn’t want him to do? Well, that’s somewhat rhetorical because clearly Olson doesn’t care what Texans think when he casts his votes. But we should remember the Texas Tribune’s recent internet poll of 800 Texans asking what were the main concerns of Texans.

Well you have to scroll down through the dross to come to something that is completely startling in the extreme. Texans, it seems, are nearly all unified over their opposition to the common dishonorable and shameful practice of healthcare insurance companies to deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

From the Texas Tribune poll:

“• 80 percent would stop the denial of health coverage for preexisting conditions.”
Get it? 80% or respondents want the healthcare industry to clean up its act and end this immoral practice once and for all.

80 percent.

And so when Pete Olson cast his “Nay” vote against HR 3962 and his “Yea” vote for the Boehner Amendment he was in his own small way, stomping on the desires of 80 percent of all Texans.

Because HR 3962 ends the practice of denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions statutorily. Ends it.

But don’t take my word for it. Here it is in Section 221:

“SEC. 211. PROHIBITING PREEXISTING CONDITION EXCLUSIONS.”

“A qualified health benefits plan may not impose any preexisting condition exclusion (as defined in section 2701(b)(1)(A) of the Public Health Service Act) or otherwise impose any limit or condition on the coverage under the plan with respect to an individual or dependent based on any of the following: health status, medical condition, claims experience, receipt of health care, medical history, genetic information, evidence of insurability, disability, or source of injury (including conditions arising out of acts of domestic violence) or any similar factors.”
Pete Olson voted against that.

Here is what he voted for:

“SEC. 101. ESTABLISH UNIVERSAL ACCESS PROGRAMS TO IMPROVE HIGH RISK POOLS AND REINSURANCE MARKETS.”

STATE REQUIREMENT.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than January 1, 2010, each State shall—
(A) subject to paragraph (3), operate—
(i) a qualified State reinsurance program described in subsection (b); or
(ii) qualifying State high risk pool dscribed in subsection (c)(1); and
(B) subject to paragraph (3), apply to the operation of such a program from State funds an amount equivalent to the portion of State funds derived from State premium assessments (as defined by the Secretary) that are not otherwise used on State health care programs.”
Get it? Healthcare insurance providers are not forbidden from the practice of denial of coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Boehner’s bill, the bill that Olson voted for, was an unfunded mandate that states must provide funds to cover these unfortunate souls in “high risk pools.”

This is a huge gift to the healthcare insurance industry, a huge gift made on the backs of state taxpayers.

And Pete Olson voted for it.

Pete Olson doesn’t even defend his vote on his website. As I write this, there is nothing on his website about last night’s vote.

And I completely understand why he wouldn’t want to defend his vote. If I voted for the thing that he voted for, and against the thing he voted against, I wouldn’t want to own up to it either.

Not to that 80 percent of all Texans, anyway.

220 – 215

The House voted to pass the Affordable Healthcare for America Act, HR 3269 sponsored by Congressman John Dingell by two votes last night.

Surprisingly one of those two votes was from a first term Republican congressman, Congressman Anh “Joseph” Cao (LA - 2).

Of his bipartisan vote, Cao said this in his news release:

“I have always said that I would put aside partisan wrangling to do the business of the people. My vote tonight was based on my priority of doing what is best for my constituents.”
Geez. In Louisiana they have a Republican congressman that votes on the issues that benefit his constituents. Go figure.

And while 39 Democrats voted against the bill, this wasn’t the voting bloc of fiscally conservative Democrats that we have in congress called Blue Dog Democrats, although a little over half of the Nay voters were from that caucus.

But of the 39 who voted “No” only 23 of their number were Blue Dogs, leaving 16 non-Blue Dogs who voted with the Republicans (well all but one of them anyway). This means that 30 Blue Dog Democrats voted with the majority.

But I wondered about those 16. If fiscal policy wasn’t the reason they voted against the bill, what was? So I checked. As it turns out there were as many reasons that they voted against the bill as there were congressmen who did so. Some said the bill didn’t go far enough, some were concerned that it wasn’t known for sure whether people would get a savings on their healthcare policies, one guy thought it would drive some of the not-for-profit hospitals in his district out of business. Dennis Kucinich wondered why we have infinite funds to fight wars and give to Wall Street, but not enough money or resolve to pass a Single Payer healthcare system. He finds the whole idea of for profit healthcare insurance as antithetical to the way to legislate true reform.

Dennis Kucinich is the only reason I would consider moving to Cleveland, Ohio. So I could have a congressman that I agree with and who stands on his principles.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Whatever Happened to the 10th Amendment?

I’ve been listening to the House debate on HR 3962 since it began this morning. This is a rare luxury for me because I usually find myself at work during House debates. But today congressmen are working on a Saturday, giving me the opportunity not only to listen to the progression of a debate, but a very important debate on healthcare reform.

Something keeps coming up at least once or twice per hour, always brought up by some minority Member or another.

The minority bill, it seems includes a provision for health insurance customers to shop across state lines for their insurance. They want Americans, in short, to have that freedom to go across state lines to get healthcare insurance.

This is so very wrong on two related levels.

At present Americans must buy health insurance coverage offered in the state that they reside in. This is because each and every state regulates insurance companies through one state bureaucracy or another. In Texas, health insurance is regulated by something called the Texas Department of Insurance. The Department of Insurance is currently headed by Mike Geeslin, appointed by Governor Perry in May for a 2-year term. Geeslin is a political animal a former staffer with 2 years of experience in the insurance field as a deputy commissioner of insurance policy.

In California, the state of my origin, insurance is regulated (a little more regulated, you might say) by the California Department of Insurance, which is headed by the Insurance Commissioner – an elected position. The current commissioner Steve Poizner, is a Republican who is going to run for governor next year.

States regulate insurance companies within their boundaries just as they regulate public utilities. What seems obvious to me is that should the federal government allow insurance to be bought across state lines, state regulation of these companies goes right out the door.

And this is a problem for me, and should be one for the Republican congressmen who support sales of insurance across state lines.

A problem because this would apparently violate the 10th Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Something that Governor Perry and every other teabagging conservative were wildly supportive of earlier this year.

Amendment 10 reads like this:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
Now my guess is that insurance has been regulated by states because in the past, the feds have not, for the most part, dappled in this. Medicare and Medicaid being the exceptions, although those are federally regulated programs, and not state ones. My guess is that if insurance can be sold across state lines, this is an abrogation of the 10th Amendment, taking away a power from the states that they have enjoyed for years and years.

So I find it odd, in this case, that the tables are truly turned in this case. As we debate healthcare reform in America on a federal level, I find it odd that conservative lawmakers want to nationalize the whole shebang.

Anti-Choice Amendment to Go To the House Floor

Anti-Choice advocate Bart Stupak was given the nod last night by the House Rules Committee to introduce his anti-choice amendment to HR 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act being debated on the House floor as I write this.

Ironically, they didn’t choose also to rename the bill to “Affordable Health Care for Some Americans” in the process.

Stupak’s bill will produce a stupendously unfair effect of requiring women who want to buy a healthcare policy to have to foot the entire cost of the policy, even if they qualify for subsidies provided in the House bill.

That is, only if the healthcare policy they wish to purchase covers abortion procedures.

When will government finally, once and for all, allow women to decide for themselves what they will do with their uteri?

When will government, backed by religious evangelicals who want to press their religious creed on all Americans, once and for all, leave these women alone?

Friday, November 06, 2009

We Hold These Nations Under God

What is it about the guys that Republicans keep sending back to Washington, DC? Are they all completely without any education at all? Any kid in first grade can well and accurately recite the Pledge of Allegiance, especially the version passed by congress back in 1954 that includes the words “under God” so as to prevent atheistic communists from participating in The Pledge.

In 1954 the words “One nation under God” took the place of “One nation indivisible” which makes much more sense if you think about it.

But Congressman Todd Akin (R – Brainless) skipped that step at yesterday’s Tea Party “press conference” held on the steps of congress. He recited it, he said, because doing so “makes liberals crazy.”



What makes liberals crazy, though, is this dimwit getting the Pledge of Allegiance wrong.

But wait, there’s more.

Then Congressman John Boehnert (R - Dim Bulb) got up in front of the same crowd, waving about his pocket version of the Constitution of the United States, as if he reads it, and then proceeded to quote from the Preamble. You know, the “We the People” thing? The thing I had to memorize in 7th grade (and can still recite flawlessly)?

Only he didn’t quote the Preamble. He quoted from Thomas Jefferson’s famous letter to King George III.

He quoted from the Declaration of Independence.



Priceless.

At the same event, two Republicans get two (or three, actually) time-honored American institutions wrong.

Did you look at the faces of the people behind him? I don’t think even they realized Boehnert’s boner.

These are the faces of the people who will vote against healthcare reform tomorrow. Yes, what makes liberals crazy is that these people don’t oppose healthcare reform because of some logical progression of thought.

They oppose healthcare reform because they are extraordinarily ignorant.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

On Jumping to Conclusions

OK, let’s assume that if a guy has a name like Nidal Malik Hasan he is either descended from Middle Eastern parents or is a convert to the religion of Islam.

The name is going to be infamous, now, because this guy is responsible for the deaths of several soldiers, soldiers that he shot with a handgun on the Fort Hood army base this afternoon.

News of this event is still developing, but already we have the crazies who typically comment on the news jumping to conclusions that this act was some sort of act of Islamic Jihad.

I found these little gems on the ABCNews website:

“What a surprise Love the name. So much for Homeland Security”

OBAMA still talkin about healthcare when this happens? WOW

“.....this was a terrorist attack from a sleeper cell...this is what they do....they wait... then attack.....”

“When can we admit to being at war with Islam?”

“A Muslim!!!”

“The religion of peace, just don't doodle any pictures of their gay leader, Mohammed.”


This is grist for the mill of the lunatic fringe who are out there ready, willing and able to jump all over this tragic event in a dishonorable effort to make their biased, bigoted political point.

Let me be clear. At this writing absolutely nothing is known about the motives behind this heinous act. Nothing. But some of those among us don’t need facts, not when we have opinions.

At this writing, all we know is the name of the dead shooter, that he was about to be deployed to Iraq and was not too happy about it, and that his job in the army was in the area of mental health – a psychiatrist no less.

There was one commenter on the news website that actually sums up everything that I think about the commentary that has taken place in the aftermath of this criminal act:

“What the heck is so wrong with so many of you?”

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

New York CD 23: A Microcosm of What the Future Holds for the GOP?

I never really thought that Bill Owens, the Congressman-elect from New York’s conservative CD 23, would be able to pull it off in an upset against teabagger Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate who was endorsed by teabaggers and non-teabaggers alike from one end of the country to the other.

I really thought that when the GOP threw its own candidate under the bus and jumped on the Conservative Party bandwagon, they would ultimately be successful.

Mainly because I am ignorant of how voters vote in CD 23.

They tell me tonight that CD 23 voters really care about local issues, and that while 45% of voters who showed up to the polls yesterday voted a straight “traditional family values ticket” – voted for the guy who doesn’t even live in the district and is demonstrably ignorant of district issues – 55% of these voters who turned had other ideas.

Like the 6% of hard line Republicans who either had no idea that Dede Scozzafava withdrew from the race, didn’t care, or wouldn’t vote for a Democrat or anyone else if H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks froze over.

Like the 49% of Democrats, Republicans and Independents who ignored the fact that the GOP endorsed a rightwing teabagger who makes it his business to criticize the Republican Party, and voted for, and elected a Democrat. A feat that has not been accomplished since before the country knew who Abraham Lincoln was.

Is this the shape of things to come for the GOP? Will the GOP continue to marginalize and oust the moderates among them in favor of the “true conservative”? All of this in complete ignorance of the fact that most voters don’t follow the rants of Glenn Beck or the Facebook posts of Sarah Palin?

This is the way it is beginning to look to me. And the outcome last night in CD 23 might be repeated again and again as voters stream away from a party in its drunken lurch to the right. Drunken, yes, because obviously these people are acting without any kind of reservations at all.

It seems so unfair. I wanted to win on the issues and on people seeing reason after 8 years of the worst government ever to run this country.

It’s no fun winning like this. Winning while watching the teabaggers ruin what is left of the Grand Old Party.

It is fun, though, having a new Democratic congressman in DC this weekend to vote for a public option laden House healthcare reform bill. Now that is satisfaction. Guaranteed.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Election Day Is Here Again

It’s the first Tuesday in November and that means it’s Election Day. Honestly I can’t for the life of me figure out why they can’t hold these things on weekends as they do in other civilized countries.

And uncivilized ones, to boot.

Here in Texas, statewide propositions are on the ballot in most areas. Then there is the odd municipal election of MUD District election. The Houston city elections are of most interest to me because I live near it, and it’s like what Canadians say about their interest in American elections. Heck yes, they are interested, much as one would be interested in what the sleeping elephant that they share a bed with does during its REM stage.

Reported low voter turnouts are going to throw a monkey wrench into the works, it seems. Houston Mayoral Election poll results show a 4 point difference between the leader (Brown) and the trailer (Locke) – Morales is not even an issue. In fact, Morales made it his key issue that he is the only Republican running in the race, something that leaves me a little cold considering that the race is nonpartisan – or was, anyway.

With a low voter turnout, though, anything can happen (except for Roy Morales).

I am also interested in two of the races out East, in New York’s CD-23 special, and in New Jersey’s gubernatorial. Virginia, however, is doing what Virginia does after any presidential election it has had in 32 years – shifting the opposite way. It will elect a Republican governor after giving all of its electoral votes to Obama last year.

No news there.

GOTV efforts will determine who is governor of New Jersey, the race is that close. John Corzine and his Republican opponent are in a dead heat, it seems.

And who wins in New York’s CD 23 depends on how many crazies the right can get out to vote for a guy who has no knowledge of local issues or the district in general. This is delicious to the extreme. The GOP have thrown their own candidate under the bus and opted for a third party teabagger who campaigns against Republicans whenever he can.

How embarrassing is that?

Whoever wins, I think nothing is proved. This is an off-off year election at a time when issues have not been settled yet. Things are still evolving.

Or if you are a Republican, I think the word is “devolving.”