Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fort Bend Teacher’s Union Have a Candidates’ Forum

As is my usual habit, I like to cover candidates’ forums (fora?) and the Fort Bend Employees Federation, affiliated with the Texas AFT – or “The Union” sponsored a candidates’ forum for the two open seats on the Fort Bend ISD’s Board of Trustees last night. School night or no, I had to go and see who these new guys were.

The forum was moderated by FBEF President Karrie Washenfelder, and the room was about 80% full with about 60 union members present.

Both candidates for the west side position, Position 3, were present but only one of the two candidates for the east side position, Position 7, made it to the meeting – somewhat disappointing.

Disappointing in that the candidate who didn’t make it to the meeting, and the one who didn’t submit answers to the union’s survey, Dr. Gerald Hawkins, is the only consistent Democratic primary-voting candidate on the ballot. Dr. Hawkins voted in the 2008 and 2010 Democratic primaries, giving him a leg up in my book. So I was not a happy camper that he didn’t show.

Hawkins’ opponent, Jim Babb, a Houston PD police sergeant, can best be characterized as an Independent, early voting in the 2010 Republican primary, but early voted in the 2008 Democratic primary.

They say that it is a non-partisan office, but from past performances I tend to like my Democratic board members (and former board members) and have had lots of trouble with their Republican counterparts.

So it is an issue with me.

But Babb, I think, despite the fact that he can’t seem to make up his mind on politics, has a proper pro-labor point of view, something that the FBEF was looking for. This came out in a long rant that he got on in the midst of answering a question on the district’s deficit spending, its $18 million budget shortfall, and its $98 million fund balance that sits in the bank collecting interest.

Summarizing, Babb wants to establish a baseline on what parts of the fund balance must be kept in reserve, and what can be used in discretionary spending. “I agree,” he said, “It’s great to have it there, but you know, if we need to use it we need to use it. And I would say if our fund balance is considered a rainy-day fund, I would say we are kind of in the eye of a storm right now.” The implications of his thought being, from his comments further on, that the district was about to undergo a Reduction In Force (aka layoffs) and that experienced employees were not only targeted but voluntarily leaving the district. A bad, bad thing in Babb’s opinion.

Now contrast that to the two bookends who are vying in the Position 3 race. While Clayton Alumbaugh is a former teacher and school counselor of many years in the district (who voted in the 2008 and 2006 Republican primaries, but did not vote in the 2008 primary at all), and James Rice (a Triple R Republican) is a businessman whose engineering company has participated in the building of several Fort Bend ISD facilities, both agreed that having $98 million in the bank while the district struggles with its finances seemed like a very good idea.

Indeed, the only two things that contrasted Alumbaugh and Rice were their attitudes toward the RIF. Alumbaugh took a pro-labor stance, and was all for going after the administrators:
“It appears that the reductions are going to be in staff where they are taking care of math teachers here and there where it’s going to increase the size in classes and it seems to me like everything that is going to be reduced affects the students the most. And it seems to me that if I were on the board one of the first things I would do would be looking at the staff in the administration building. I’d like to know how much money they make, how much education they have, what their job is, and whether we can get rid of them or not.”
There was more, but you get the drift. You might think that this elicited a few Ooohs and Amens from the audience, and you would be right in the thinking of that.

Rice, on the other hand, was predictable. He played the Compassionate Conservative and played it well.

“When you say the words Reduction In Force we know that behind every person that might be let go is a family that has needs and bills just like all of us so it hurts to think that we would have to let anyone go. And I don’t know how they are planning to do the Reduction In Force we do have a challenge in wrestling with our budget and still providing the quality education. It takes teachers to teach the kids in our classrooms. And I don’t know I don’t have all the information right now on how they are going to go about with any Reduction In Force or even how many they will have. I think that on an annual basis there are about 500 people who retire or leave the district under normal conditions. And …but right now I’m not sure they know who is planning to do that in our economy. But I will say that our current economic challenge is a severe challenge and unfortunately I believe it is 78% of the total budget is dedicated for employees. So it’s hard to reduce $18 million without cutting in some of the employees as painful as that is.”

So among the two Republicans vying for the same seat on the Board of Trustees, I think we know who the populist is, and who the economic hardliner is, and predictably it is the educator who comes off as the populist and the businessman who is willing to make those “painful” cuts.

So just looking at this from a labor point of view, appropriate for this forum I think, it is pretty clear who pro-labor voters should opt for in Position 3.

In Position 7, I am willing to say that anyone the voters choose in that race will be just fine.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sweeter and Sweeter: Voyeurgate Might Never Have Happened

Why, have we all asked ourselves, did the RNC staffer who OK’d the $1,946.25 bar tab to the West Hollywood Gay/Lesbian/Dominatrix entertainment facility, think they could get away with it?

Who could be soooo stupid?

Well, it turns out that Voyeurgate has now entered a new realm of sweetness.

It seems that the RNC staffer host who was entertaining Young Republican high rollers that fateful post-Grammy January 31st evening, the guy who invited Orange County (a very conservative county in California known as the birthplace of the John Birch Society) high roller Eric Brown to “the hottest nightclub in town,” had some bad credit.

When the staffer attempted to settle the bill with his credit card, it was declined at the end of the night.

So Eric Brown, magnanimous high roller that he was, picked up the tab.

Specifically, Brown was asked “Please help me out and I’ll be sure you are reimbursed right away by the RNC.”

And so he did.

And so he was.

Facts and Stats: Obama’s First Year

Someone sent me a link to an old CBS News online article about President Obama’s 1st year. It included a “rate the President” poll that asks to rate President Obama on 10 general issues from A to F.

Great, I said, every Teabagger in the country will send an email to every other Teabagger to take the poll. Because what do they know about polls which are carefully conducted over a large sampling rather than over a small rabid portion of the population who will do anything to cast our President in a bag lighting.

And I wasn’t wrong. While Obama enjoys an overall 53% approval rate (the same numbers as voted for him in 2008) according to this poll Obama rates less than 10% in scoring either an A or a B.

So the Rabid Right had their say in this very unscientific and invalid poll.

Leading me to ask why did CBS even do that poll? To what end? Is it because they have noticed that Fox has some pretty good journalistic ideas on how to grab an audience?

Is CBS the next Fox?

Then I looked at a related piece written by CBS correspondent Mark Knoller. This one I did like. This is because Knoller gives us a panoramic view of how Barack Obama has conducted his first year of his presidency versus how his predecessor, Bush-43 conducted his.

The contrast is striking, especially when the identical activities of the two presidents are compared (as shown in the table below).

In their first years of office the following things were done this many times:

Do I have to draw you a picture?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Texas Governor Candidates Spar over Graduation Rates

Isn’t it enlightening to know that, according to Texas Governor Rick Perry, not only is Texas leading the nation in math achievement in its public school system, the graduation rate is improving.

All I can say is that Governor Perry needs to spend more time observing what is happening in schools across the state. More time than just attending a bill signing ceremony in a high school library so that little girls can distribute religious tracts to their classmates.

Because the figures that Governor Perry is relying on, the figures brewed up by his own Texas Education Agency, are wildly inaccurate. The truth is, the TEA has no idea how many students are dropping out every year.

This is because their system of data collection is flawed, and there is little incentive among schools and districts to report the correct figures, even if they had a good way to collect that data.

According to this site which claims to quote TEA data Texas’ annual dropout rate declined from 2.7% in the 2007-2007 school year to 2.2% in the 2007-2008 school year.

That doesn’t even match up with the July 2009 TEA document (PDF file) which reports that statewide across all sub-populations, the dropout rate in Texas is 10.5%.

But consider just these two things: how does the TEA gather this data, and are they counting everyone?

First, where does the TEA get their data? From the reporting districts, that’s how. And how are school and district accountability ratings based, in part? On dropout rates.

So it is not even in a school‘s or a district’s own self-interest to report accurate (and higher) dropout rates. So why bend over backwards to count even suspected dropouts?

Second, how do you know that a student has dropped out? Districts don’t compare notes, you know. When a student moves out of state, how does the school or the district gather that data? Simply this way: By asking them when the leave school if they are dropping out.

Sometimes kids lie. Sometimes their parents lie.

And here in Texas, which shares a border with Mexico, here in Texas which educates the sons and daughters of migrant workers constantly crossing the border to live in Mexico part of the year, kids leave school all of the time.

Sometimes they go to school in Mexico, most times not.

But this is the bill of goods that Rick Perry and the TEA are selling us.

Here is a better way to get an estimate of the dropout rate in Texas. Find out how many Texas citizens that attend school in Texas or elsewhere have a regular high school diploma. It’s not that tough.

When you do this, you don’t get annual results, but you get a good idea how Texas is doing vis-à-vis the education of its citizens.

When you do this you get the data that illustrates the crisis that exists in Texas’s dropout rates. A full 65% of all students in Texas have a regular high school diploma. Some eventually go on and get their GED but these numbers are very low.

So when the Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Bill White spars with Rick Perry over these facts and figures, you come to the general conclusions that figures lie and liars figure.

Quoting Bill White at a meeting of the Association of Texas Professional Educators:

“Too many children are not graduating from high school, and state leaders have been downplaying that problem rather than treating it as the emergency it is. The solution to the dropout rate is not to lie about it. We need to be realistic. We don't have room for lost kids in our system.”

Lying about dropout rates serves no one. High school dropouts don’t earn as much as high school graduates let alone college graduates. They don’t buy as much, either. They don’t pay as much in taxes.

So Rick Perry is keeping up the illusion that the system is just fine the way it is. Hiding his head in the sand as Texas citizens become poorer and more ignorant. Lies and ignorance will surely lead the state down a path where we will one day reap the whirlwind.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Michele Bachmann Draws a Credible Opponent

My guess is that Minnesotans, who are very aware that their state is noted these days for three things - two of them being Fargo and Franken - are getting a little weary that the third thing that Minnesota is noted for is their 6th Congressional District congresswoman, Michele Bachmann, and will issue a pink slip to her come November.

She has won by single digit margins ever since she first ran for congress, with the Democratic challenger getting somewhere around 42% of the vote.

But that’s before she started opening her mouth since the last election. Opening her mouth and saying such crazy things that even Glenn Beck falls silent when he interviews her.

She is but one of 435 congress persons but she has gained national prominence by uttering outrageous statements such as:

  • President Obama wants to “annihilate conservatives.”
  • The United States will be “cursed” if it fails to support Israel.
  • “…I am very concerned that he [Barack Obama] may have anti-American views.”
  • “I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?”
  • “Carbon dioxide is not a harmful gas, it is a harmless gas. Carbon dioxide is natural; it is not harmful....”
  • And on health care reform: “What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing.”

But the piece de resistance is her famous quote on Fox News last year on the 2010 Census:

“Take this into consideration. If we look at American history, between 1942 and 1947, the data that was collected by the Census Bureau was handed over to the FBI and other organizations at the request of President Roosevelt, and that's how the Japanese were rounded up and put into the internment camps. I'm not saying that that's what the Administration is planning to do, but I am saying that private personal information that was given to the Census Bureau in the 1940s was used against Americans to round them up, in a violation of their constitutional rights, and put the Japanese in internment camps.”

The statement, completely inaccurate by the way, has become topical again as we learn that it has caused some serious blowback among the rightwing who are not turning in their census forms. Texas trails the national average of 34% compliance, with only 27% of Texas households returning the form. April 1st is the deadline.

No, Minnesotans are getting a little weary of Crazy Michele. In a poll conducted by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, 56% of Minnesotans polled admitted that they were “embarrassed” by Bachmann and her statements.

Predictably, Republicans’ responses to the poll differ wildly from Democrats’ responses, but significantly, among Independents polled, 69% felt embarrassed by Bachmann.

And even more significant, Bachmann has a credible opponent who has both an army of volunteers working for her, but also has a sizeable warchest. State Senator Tarryl Clark, who recently was endorsed by the DFL or Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, as the Democratic Party is known there, is going to give Michele Bachmann a headache or three.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Phillip Andrews: Taking Issue With Charlie Howard’s Sleeve

This morning I saw Phillip Andrews - the Democratic challenger in Texas HD 26, who will face Charlie Howard in the fall match up - at a local Democratic club meeting.

We talked briefly.

He asked me whether I had received his email that he sent to me awhile back on Charlie Howard’s “Religion Anti-Discrimination Bill” and I said that I did. I even wrote a piece on it almost three years ago when Howard introduced HB 3678 in the House. A bill that was then signed by Rick Perry in a high school library in Charlie Howard’s district.

Now you have to understand that Phillip Andrews is about the most mild-mannered guy this side of Clark Kent. He exudes “nice guy.” And you have to understand this as well: Andrews once thought that he wanted to become an ordained minister and actually entered the seminary but had to cut that short because of a family crisis.

So think about that while you take a look at Phillip’s campaign website, here and here.

Phillip Andrews is angered that Charlie Howard wears his religion on his sleeve and uses it to his political and financial benefit at any opportunity to promote the very big Republican Red Meat Issue of religious expression in public schools.

Phillip Andrews, once a Republican Precinct Chair, broke with the Republican Party on this issue. Rightwing Republican Evangelicals in the party, he told me, visited their religion hourly, making sure that he was indeed “saved.”

The issue of using his religion as a self-promotion tool by tearing down the wall that exists between Church and State is sure to make secular Republicans irate, he says.

No doubt.

No doubt that moderate Republicans who are sick and tired of Charlie Howard’s antics, and sick and tired of his hypocrisy will see in Phillip Andrews a golden opportunity to finally rid themselves of the disease that is Charlie Howard’s tenure in Austin.

Later on today I recalled something that Bev Carter wrote in her column at the Fort Bend Star on the occasion of Charlie Howard/Rick Perry Comedy Hour when Perry signed HB 3678 into law.

It’s worth repeating:

“…when first elected, he went around to all the land developers in Fort Bend and asked them to give him a “retainer” to represent them in Austin. One admittedly did. Maybe more, but only one would fess up. And because they were honest enough to tell me, I won’t reveal their name.”

“When I confronted Charlie about his retainer and told him I thought we ELECTED him to represent us in Austin and didn’t need additional monetary rewards to do the job he was elected to do, Charlie told me he was greedy and just couldn’t help himself. He said he prayed about it every day because he knew it was a sin.”

Charlie Howard wears his religion on his sleeve for all to see. He even uses religion in his defense when he admits to his failings and personality flaws. I find it refreshing that the flaws of this man will be a mainstream issue in the upcoming election, and that, when Andrews wins in November, HD 26 will finally have someone in Austin who represents them, and not land developers and proselytizing evangelical Christians.

Friday, March 26, 2010

How Will Texas Tax Us?

As it gets closer to the 82nd Legislative Session in Austin I think we will be seeing more and more talk about how the legislature is going to pass a budget that is going to meet the needs of Texans in a year when revenues are definitely off.

Revenue is down. People aren’t buying things so much anymore. Texas, which has no state income tax, relies on a variety of ways to pay for all of the things it provides.

I have already mentioned in another posting that several school districts around the state are having to close schools and lay off teachers. Ostensibly this is because the legislature has failed to fully fund education in its budget process over the past few years. Further cuts in education funding could make matters even worse.

So I wonder whether what we are going to be seeing is an increase in fees and an decrease in the number of things that are currently on the sales tax exemption list.

Because even Jesus Christ himself won’t save a Texas state legislator if they increase the tax rates.

So then I ask, how will Texas tax us in the future? To find out who is exempt from paying state sales taxes right now, there is no better place to look than right here in the Texas Administrative Code.

Just about all of the ones listed there are either non-profit organizations or governmental entities. There are other things, like food, education and prescription medicine which seem to be hands off for now.

One area is to tax energy consumption as found here.

Yes, you already pay taxes and fees for using natural gas and electricity. But some organizations don’t.

The following types of organizations are exempt from paying sales tax on energy that they consume:

  • Manufacturing Operations of all types (including film makers and video game producers as well as Food and Beverage Processors and Bakeries)
  • Nursing Homes, Alzheimer Units, Assisted Living and Retirement Facilities
  • RV and Mobile Home Parks (extended stay)
  • Apartment Complexes & Buildings and Condominiums
  • Agricultural and Horticultural Operations
  • Golf Courses (charging up the golf carts)
  • Repairs to railroad "rolling stock", jet aircraft engines, and national defense related "platforms"
  • Oil and Gas and Mining operations

Here’s the rub. Just about every one of these organizations has lobbyists that will scream bloody murder if the legislature even contemplates taking them off the exemption list.

Every one of them.

There is talk of charging sales taxes on junk food and soda pop, explaining all of those anti-sales tax ads on television of late, sponsored by the soda pop companies.

If you sell over $1,000 of gold, silver, platinum or foreign currency in a single transaction, that is also tax free in Texas.

Ending that exemption should go over like a lead balloon as well because the only people I know who engage in that kind of transaction, at that level, are the rich and Jesus knows we don’t tax the rich in Texas.

No, I am afraid that wherever you look you are going to find sales tax exemptions in areas that someone is going to vehemently object to should that exemption come under review by a legislature intent on raising some revenue.

The reality is, Texas doesn’t like taxing and simply loves tax exemptions.

So here is my modest proposal: go after the problem by raising fees. But the problem again is which fees should be raised? Texans hate paying fees more than they hate paying taxes.
The answer is simple. Go after the one area in Texas society that is powerless to defend itself: Tattoo and Body Piercing Parlors. And why not start charging a license fee to all of these people who make a living piercing all of those ears?

I think I am on to something.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Banking on Boorish Behavior

Randy Neugebauer (TX-19) has a new campaign video on his campaign website now. Because you see, Neugebauer has learned what his compadre in the House learned earlier this year when Joe “You Lie” Wilson turned his incivility into about a million and a half dollars.

So rather than just hide behind his weak explanation that he really didn’t yell “Baby Killer” at Bart Stupak, he yelled “It’s a baby killer” instead, Neugebauer cut a video that pretty much admits up front that "Baby Killer" is exactly what he said – wink, wink.

Don’t just take my word for it, watch it yourself.

Get that? “Maybe in a little bit different form . . .”

So Randy Neugebauer came out from behind his lie because he realized that this is going to benefit him by snagging more lucre from rightwing anti-choice fanatics. Why he needs to raise more campaign funds is anyone’s guess, maybe so he can pass it around to his friends in congress who don’t live in safe districts (his Democratic challenger in ’08 lost by over 47%). Buying some good will from your fellow Dark Siders isn’t a bad idea.

You see, unlike Joe Wilson’s Democratic challenger, Neugebauer hasn’t a chance to lose in his Republican +47 district. Democrats nation-wide sent about the same amount of contributions to his campaign as Republicans sent to Wilson’s. Nevertheless, someone has set up an Act Blue “Stop Randy Neugebauer” web page, a page to benefit Neugebauer’s Democratic challenger in the 2010 elections: Andy Wilson.

At this writing 10 individuals have donated $400 to this specific Andy Wilson Act Blue Page, and $2210 (from 46 supporters) to Andy Wilson across Act Blue.

The Stop Randy Neugebauer site is here.

I don’t know, the numbers don’t look very good, but maybe this is an opportunity to vote in TX-19 if you don’t live there, and make a statement about Randy Neugebauer’s boorish behavior and his despicable attempt to benefit monetarily from his puerile behavior that does nothing but whip up the emotional vitriol of the rabid right.

Why not throw in a Hamilton or a Jackson at Andy Wilson’s Stop Randy Neugebauer Act Blue site?

It couldn’t hurt.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Johnny Boehner’s Answer to Will I. Am

H-E-Double Hockey Sticks no you can’t.

Enjoy the fun, Johnny.

Fun at your expense.


They Throw Bricks, Don’t They?

They’re throwing bricks now.

They’re threatening the lives of Congressmen and even their children.

They are cutting the gas lines at the homes of Congressmen’s relatives.

And guess what? No one in the Republican Party is lifting a finger, or raising a voice to remind these Neanderthals that there are rules.

Making me think that this kind of behavior is useful to the Republican Party. And that kind of makes sense to me.

And just a little too familiar.

So it looks like the Republican Party has officially cast its lot with the rightwing radical fringe and they are all in now. Sarah Palin, as usual goes them one better. Rather than keeping mum she encourages their behavior in her now famous tweet “Don’t retreat. RELOAD.”

Giving the moderates and centrists where to go?

Giving the Independents where to go?

Anywhere, I think, other than towards the party of Neu Kristallnacht.

Texas Conservative Coalition Stopping Health Care Reform at the Border

So with the passage of HR 3490, the Health Care for All Act, all Americans will eventually gain health care insurance. All Americans will never have to fear coming down with such a bad ailment that their insurance companies will rescind their coverage. All Americans will never again have to stay in a job that they hate because moving to another job means moving your health care coverage, and your present conditions become pre-existing conditions.

All of that and much, much more.

But according to what I am reading here, the Texas Conservative Coalition is promising to stop health care reform right at the Texas border.

With a bold cry of “Nevah!” and “Come and take it,” the TCC promises that health care reform is something that Texans will never have because . . . well . . . because they are going to vote against it.

In Texas.

No I’m not kidding. They really think that they can do that:

“Following the passage of H.R. 3590, "The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act", by the U.S. House of Representatives, members of the Texas Conservative Coalition (TCC) announced plans to file legislation to reject the overreaching bill due to its impact and costs to the state and to Texans. “

“State Representative Wayne Christian (R-Center), President of the Texas Conservative Coalition, announced his plan to file legislation to prohibit the implementation of the overarching federal healthcare overhaul in Texas: ‘When the Legislature convenes in January of 2011, the members of the Texas Conservative Coalition will stand together to reject the federal takeover of health care.’”

Apparently these clowns never heard about the Supremacy Clause. Here it is, I’ll quote from the US Constitution Article VI Clause 2:

“This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

See? State government can’t simply veto the supreme law of the land, Tenth Amendment notwithstanding.

What a bunch of losers. Bitter, sour grapes losers.

Were it the case that the Texas legislature could just cherry pick which federal law they want to follow, and which one they will leave out, history would surely be different.

For example, if Texas simply decided not to follow the rules set forth in the Voting Rights Act, people would still be paying poll taxes and Texas would be a Democratic state because conservatives would have had no reason to leave the Democratic Party to become members of the party of the Great Emancipator, Abe Lincoln.

For example, if Texas simply decided not to follow the rules set forth in the Sixteenth Amendment, no one in Texas would have to pay their federal income taxes because it could be viewed as an “overreaching bill” with unholy “impact and costs to the state and to Texans.”

Notice that they say “overreaching bill” and not “overreaching law?”

They dismiss the law of the land just as they dismiss the fact that Barack Obama, a native citizen of the United States, is President of the United States.

Now it is one thing to claim that the bill is unconstitutional. This isn’t very likely because the Constitution gives congress broad powers over interstate commerce, and health insurance, last time I looked, came under the heading of commerce. But that is the only possible action the TCC can make. They can join in AG Abbott’s ill-advised and laughable effort to get the law declared unconstitutional.

But what you can’t do is you can’t Just Say No. If the law of the land is unconstitutional, that’s one thing. But constitutional or no, it is the supreme law of the land.

All of it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chet Edwards: The Texas Turncoat

One thing that didn’t pass my notice in yesterday’s posting on the Democrats who voted against their party and President on Healthcare Reform is that one of the Southern Gentlemen who voted against Healthcare Reform was one of Texas’ own congressman, Congressman Chet Edwards.

Curious I said to myself. I don’t recall Chet Edwards as being a Blue Dog. So I checked again and lo and behold, he isn’t.

But if you compare the membership list of Blue Dog Democrats to the list of the Troubled Thirty-Four, you do see another trend. Twenty-one of these terribly troubled thirty-four are Blue Dog Democrats. Fiscal conservatives who vote like Republicans when their economic feelings get hurt.

Now I usually don’t have words with Blue Dogs because they usually can’t help it. They have a firm belief that if it wasn’t for them we’d be spending money like a drunken sailor – or like the Republicans when they were in power. But really, this bill, now the law of the land, was paid for. It wasn’t unfunded. And if you believe the Congressional Budget Office report, and I do, this bill, now the law of the land, REDUCES the deficit.

So quite frankly, I am more than a little confused about their stance, particularly because 32 of the 53 Blue Dogs had no problem with the bill, now the law of the land, and voted for Health Care Reform.

But again, that doesn’t help resolve the Chet Edwards problem. By the way, this video found on his congressional website, contains his explanation for his vote.

That’s right. He cites all of the expense, but at the end of the day, the reason he voted against Health Care For All is that he thought his constituents didn’t want it.

No, duh.

When the Republican Spin Doctors won the whisper campaign spreading lies and innuendo about the bill, it is doubtless that the whackos in Waco were well-convinced that this bill, now the law of the land, was a tool of Satan.

And then you have to take a long look at TX-17. Since 2002 when Chet Edwards was redistricted out of his safe TX-11 district to TX-17 he has every two years fended off a Republican challenge by just a few percentage points. He has won his elections, yes, but usually with a 3 to 5 percentage point advantage.

So this vote wasn’t about his bending to the will of his constituents, it was all about saving jobs.


Monday, March 22, 2010

The 34 Ds Who Voted Against Healthcare Reform

OK, here they are, the 34 Democrats who voted against healthcare reform:

Adler, John Herbert NJ-3
Altmire, Jason PA-4
Arcuri, Michael Angelo NY-24
Barrow, John Jenkins GA-12
Berry, Robert Marion AR-1
Bright, Bobby Neal AL-2
Boren, David Daniel OK-2
Boucher, Frederick Carlyle VA-9
Bright, Bobby Neal AL-2
Chandler, Albert Benjamin KY-6
Childers, Travis Wayne MS-1
Davis, Artur Genestre AL-7
Davis, Lincoln Edward TN-4
Edwards, Thomas Chester TX-17
Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie SD
Holden, Thomas Timothy PA-17
Kissell, Larry NC-8
Lipinski, Daniel IL-3
Lynch, Stephen F. MA-9
Marshall, Jim GA-8
Matheson, James David UT-2
McIntyre, Mike NC-7
McMahon, Michael E. NY-13
Melancon, Charles J. LA-3
Minnick, Walt ID-1
Nye, Glenn C. VA-2
Peterson, Collin Clark MN-7
Ross, Michael Avery AR-4
Shuler, Heath NC-11
Skelton, Isaac Newton MO-4
Space, Zachary T. OH-18
Tanner, John S. TN-8
Taylor, Gary Eugene MS-4
Teague, Harry NM-2

You can see some more data here

The Washington Post analysis not only has who voted for and against HR 3590, but it has all the money each congressman has taken from the healthcare industry, and what percentage of their constituents don’t have any health insurance at all.

Oh, I do love me some data like this.

Believe me, I looked through this data and there is no correlation at all. In fact, it looks like the ones who voted for healthcare reform have in fact taken more money from the healthcare lobbyists than those who voted against it.

No, if there is any correlation at all, it is to the fact that a majority of the 34 are from states that once fought in the War of the Northern Aggression (as we call it here in Texas) on the wrong side.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


So there it is.

Health care for all is passed.

Every single Republican in the House voted against it. Everyone to a man and woman.

This vote is Historical with a capital “H.” But the party of the Dark Side all decided to sit it out.

When the dust settles, as it did when Social Security was passed, as it did when Medicare was passed, history will be the final judge on whose were the best decisions here, when Health Care For All was passed tonight with a vote of 219 Democrats.. My bet is that Republicans will have egregious egg on their faces as a result of their non-participation in this Democratic-sponsored sea-change.

A sea change that made history tonight.

Here is the photograph that makes history.

Thirty four Democrats voted against this bill. They had their reasons, one of them being that they represented contestable districts. They did what they could to hold their jobs – to their shame.

Really, I really wonder how many of these 34 will survive November. Not too many, I think. Harry Truman was absolutely right in his observation that a Republican will always opt for a Republican when presented with the choice between a Republican and a Democrat who votes with Republicans.

It’s just common sense.

It’s a game that cannot be won.

Next, a look at who these 34 were.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Outta Here for Awhile

I have a wedding to attend.

My cousin’s son has found himself a wife. No one could have predicted it but there it is.

So I am out of pocket for the next few days to help celebrate this blessed event. Oh, right, that is a birth.

So I am outta here to help them hope to dear God that the union lasts.

Not an optimist am I.

I could mention the word “Pre-nups” to my cousin’s son and it would fall on deaf ears. He is, after all, in love.

Here is what I like about the next generation. They don’t learn from our mistakes. They keep making the same ones over and over.

Here is what I don’t like about the next generation. They make the same mistakes as my generation did. Only faster and more efficiently.

So in case you don’t hear from me for the next few days it is not because I have gotten sick or gotten sick and tired of writing this thing. It is because I am not portable. I like my desktop. I don’t own a single wireless thing. I am T. rex writ large.

I am . . .Half Empty.

The 2010 Census: Boredom Alert

Well I just read through the 5-page questionnaire that is the 2010 census form that I received in the mail today. Man is it boring.

Apparently all they want to know is how many people live at the residence, what their name, age, sex and ethnicity are, and whether they also live somewhere else (like jail).

They also want to find out if you are Hispanic and if so, what sort of Hispanic.

And that’s just about it.

So for a white guy this is one boring questionnaire.

This isn’t what I recall in times past. I vaguely remember some very pointed but odd questions. Ones that make you ask yourself “why do they want to know that?” Not this time, though.

I guess I could lie. I could tell them that I am a 101-year old Hispanic Laotian. It’s been done before in my family.

No, really.

See one thing I did before I started wasting my time writing this blog is wasting my time looking up long-dead relatives and putting together a family tree. To date I have over 9500 names in my research. One source of genealogical information is, as it turns out, the US Census. It’s supposed to be fact-based but there are facts and then there are facts.

In 1920 the census taker appeared at my great grandmother’s door. Back then they were also interested in nationality. But things in 1920 weren’t altogether going too well for someone of great grandmother’s nationality because America had just helped to defeat the Kaiser in what they then called The Great War. My great grandmother spoke with a heavy German accent, this despite the fact that she was born in Missouri in 1864. Her father emigrated from Prussia 20 years before.

So what do you do? Back then Germans were viewed with suspicion and here was a woman who obviously spoke German saying she was born in Washington County, Missouri.

Yeah, right.

So she told the man that she was born in Alsace, France.

Alsace borders on Germany and many Alsatians speak German because the area has been part of both countries in the past, getting handed back and forth depending on who the winner of the last war was.

In 1920 it was part of France.

So Great Grandmother Lizzie lied to the US Census 90 years ago because the truth wasn’t believable.

So I guess I could just lie, right?

Or not.

Grandma Lizzie had a good reason to pull the wool over the census taker’s eyes. Lying out of sheer boredom is never a good reason.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Another Anakin Skywalker Goes to the Dark Side

It happens every so often. People switch from the party of all that is good and true to the party of the Dark Side.

I think it’s like Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars. Something just snaps and all of a sudden voting for people with R’s next to their names on the ballot seems like a good thing to do.

But this is what I don’t get: why to you go and switch parties while you are an officer in the Fort Bend County Democratic Party? Isn’t that a bad, bad thing? I mean, jeez, even Anakin Skywalker wasn't a in the Jedi knight leadership when he made his switch, was he?

And then you keep it a secret that you are now a Republican so you can go on and do your worst to the party that you just abandoned. That's too horrible to think about.

But guess what, that has just happened.

I heard about it last evening from my friend, Susan, who writes her not-a-blog. She called and told me the news that she had just found out that the Secretary to the Fort Bend County Democratic Party had voted in the Republican primary.

My reaction?


You see, while who you vote for on your ballot remains a secret between you and The Creator, whose primary you vote in is not. And for a fee anyone can find that out.

What is amazing to me is that in her non-participation in the Democratic primary, that was one vote less for her patron, Elaine Bishop who lost her re-election bid by a mere 101 votes.

But most unnerving is that this individual, a Republican, will remain in office for another month and a half. This is because the County Chair-Elect, Steve Brown, doesn’t take office until May 1st. This is a rule that needs some changing, by the way. What if, for example, a challenger wins over the incumbent in a particularly bitter race (like this one)? What if one of the reasons the challenger ran against the incumbent is that a high degree of pettiness and back stabbing goes on within the Party by the incumbent and her coterie?

Real damage can be done.

Monday, March 15, 2010

TCEQ Fixing Texas’ Water Quality Problem

In a bold move, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has taken on the state’s water quality problem. All of that monitoring, and all of those bothersome rules on human contact with Texas waterways make it expensive to maintain water quality standards above the minimum.

So the TCEQ proposes raising the minimum standards.

For example, in the case of the bacterium E. coli, the current minimum standard of 126 colonies per 100 ml of water is the cutoff, above which the waterway is considered polluted. At such a level, if 1000 humans go for a swim in that water, 6 of them will fall ill.

By raising the minimum by, say, 63% to 206 colonies per 100 ml of water as the TCEQ is proposing, that will translate into 8 out of 1000 humans getting sick by swimming in water that was previously considered polluted, but isn’t anymore.

Hey, that’s only two more illnesses per thousand.

I can live with that.

Especially because those two people are responsible for the State of Texas spending an extra $1 million per year. That’s right, those two people are costing the taxpayers, that’s you and me, a million dollars each and every year.

Two people. A million dollars. 500 large each.

Those two people should be ashamed of themselves.

Note to self: when in Texas, stay out of the water.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Texas Democratic Party to Kesha Rogers: Take a Hike

Yesterday at the State Democratic Executive Committee meeting in Round Rock we see the following resolution submitted and passed by the committee members:

WHEREAS, congressional candidate Kesha Rogers describes and defines herself as a LaRouche Democrat, and

WHEREAS, Ms. Rogers' campaign rhetoric, literature, platform positions and website confirm that she is a dedicated follower of Lyndon LaRouche and is an associate of and messenger for the LaRouche Movement, and

WHEREAS, prior actions by Lyndon LaRouche and the LaRouche Movement include instances of illegal activities, discriminatory proclamations and thuggish behavior, and

WHEREAS, the historical record of documentation, both produced by and relating to Lyndon LaRouche and the LaRouche Movement contains clear, convincing and overwhelming evidence of discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation and ethnic origin, and

WHEREAS, the rules of the Texas Democratic Party (Art. I, B, 1.) require that no test of membership, nor oaths of loyalty, to the Texas Democratic Party shall be used if those oaths or tests would have the effect of requiring members of the Democratic Party to acquiesce in, condone or support discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and ethnic origin, now therefore be it

RESOLVED, that no Rules or Declarations of the Texas Democratic Party that require support for Party nominees shall be enforced or have any application as they relate to the candidacy of any person identifying him or herself as aligned with the LaRouche Movement or Lyndon LaRouche, and, be it further

RESOLVED, that Members, Officers and Candidates of the Texas Democratic Party are neither required nor encouraged to support the candidacy of any person indentifying him or herself as aligned with the LaRouche Movement or Lyndon LaRouche but are nevertheless free to relate to, describe and interact with any such candidates or campaigns as they individually deem appropriate, and, be it further

RESOLVED, that the Texas Democratic Party will have no relationship with the campaign of any person indentifying him or herself as aligned with the LaRouche Movement or Lyndon LaRouche; no such campaigns will have access to Party materials or data, no listing on the Party website and no position of privilege or recognition at Party meetings or conventions.

Nice, huh? Now perhaps we won’t see any more toothless statements from party officials who felt bound by the requirements of their office not to say what they really and truly thought about a so-called Democrat who wants to impeach President Obama because he is a puppet of the British Monarchy.

I particularly like the part about being “neither required nor encouraged to support” a LaRouche Movement candidate. Not only is it an invitation to discourage support of Kesha Rogers, it specifically leaves out any reference to “LaRouche Democrat.”

“LaRouche Democrat” is as much an oxymoron as “Compassionate Conservative.”

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Texas School Closures Looming

You hear dire news across the country about how school districts are running out of money. So the answer is to lay off teachers and close schools. Kansas City (Missouri) School District made the news last week when the school board announced that it would close half of its schools. The back story to that is long and sad but suffice it to say that the district has operated half full schools for years and was running out of money.

You hear about other closures in California, which has become a poster child for public school budget shortfalls.

But according to our governor, Rick Perry, Texas is weathering the recession well and is in fine shape.

He sees a rosy future for Texas.

However, in La Marque ISD in Galveston County, you might get a different opinion.

For whatever reason, La Marque ISD has been losing students. The money the district receives from the state has slowly whittled down to $5051 per student which is the lowest rate in the area.

So the LMISD board is considering laying off 47 employees and has approved a plan to offer $500 to every employee who decides to leave the district.

To do nothing, they say, would mean that they would be operating under a deficit budget, which is forbidden by Texas law.

It is also reported here that LMISD may have to resort to closing a school in the district.

Another school closure in Longview is reported here. In that case it was in reaction to the closure of a US Steel plant and loss of 600 jobs.

But there is irony in all of this.

How ironic it is that Texas, holder of the nation’s largest public endowment for public schools, the Texas Permanent School Fund, which reported yesterday that its investments earned a record 25% return in 2009, this state has districts in financial trouble. Districts closing schools. Districts considering layoffs and increasing their student:teacher ratios.

All of this when, statewide, fully one third of all of its high school students will drop out at some point in their secondary educational careers.

All of this when Texas students rank 4th from the bottom in SAT Verbal scores and 2nd from the bottom in SAT Math scores.

All of this when the State Board of Education, which oversees the Permanent School Fund, voted to invest $40 million in each of two real estate funds – investing in real estate for the first time in the history of the fund.

So on the one hand, the Texas Permanent School Fund grew by over $4 billion last year, but this year schools in Texas are closing and teachers are being laid off because they are running budget deficits in the millions.

Is it just me or does anyone else see that there is something seriously, seriously wrong here?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sheriff Albatross Endorses Nina Schaefer

Oh no.
The Fort Bend Herald, the very newspaper that took Fort Bend County Sheriff Milton “Albatross” Wright to task for endorsing Richard Raymond for District Attorney here in Fort Bend County, is now reporting that the sheriff is now getting behind Nina Schaefer in her runoff bid to unseat Wright’s least favorite DA, John Healey.

Getting an endorsement from Wright these days is akin to having a dead albatross hung around your neck.

Mainly because the Herald had such negative comments on the sheriff’s endorsement, and mainly because Wright’s champion came in dead last in a 3-way race, this is really bad news for Nina Schaefer.

And apparently Richard Raymond no longer thinks that Nina Schaefer is “too liberal for Fort Bend County.” According to the same article, Richard Raymond, Schaefer’s former opponent, is also endorsing her.

I actually ended up rooting for Schaefer on Raymond’s recommendation that she was too liberal, but now wonder whether your typical die-hard primary runoff voter will have the same partiality.

So all you can hope for now is that your typical Republican diehard primary runoff voter will see the endorsements for what they are: an anyone but Healey endorsement.

Frankly, I am not optimistic.

Rush Limbaugh is a Big, Fat Racist Bigot

A big, fat racist bigot who makes millions of dollars being a big, fat, racist bigot because he has millions of listeners who are themselves, big, fat, racist bigots.

He must be. They must be. How else can you explain the conversation that he had with a listener the other day over the listener’s claim (a false one) that embattled Governor David Paterson will get to pick someone to replace discredited former Congressman Eric Massa. Here is the exchange that is found here at Media Matters:

CALLER: Yeah. Hey, listen. Interesting sidebar to that Eric Massa mess for Democrats. You know, our besieged governor, David Paterson, will be charged with naming a replacement for Massa. And I'm wondering if there's any chance -- do you think that Paterson –

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Wait a minute.

CALLER: -- will exact some revenge on Obama, Emanuel, Cuomo, the whole Democratic gulag, by appointing a Republican or, at the very least, a DINO -- a Democrat in name only?

LIMBAUGH: Are you sure that Paterson appoints or is there a special election?

CALLER: I am reasonably sure that Paterson will be appointing the replacement, assuming that he, you know, doesn't resign in the next 60 or 90 days.

LIMBAUGH: Let's assume you're right. So, David Paterson will become the massa –


LIMBAUGH: -- who gets to appoint whoever gets to take Massa's place. So, for the first time in his life, Paterson's gonna be a massa. Interesting, interesting.

But really, you need to listen to it yourself. Listen to how he changes his voice ever so slightly in the last sentence. So to hear it, click here to hear it at Media Matters (their embed code doesn't work here for some reason)

Did you hear that? Did you hear how he tries to imitate the accent of a black slave when he intoned the word “massa?” And I think MediaMatters was being too kind in their transcription. I didn’t hear any “na” sound when he said the word, as they transcribed it, “gonna.” I heard the word “gohn.”

You know, for decades we had white people playing the roles of black people in radio and early motion pictures, shucking and jiving, making African-Americans look like fools when they weren’t making them out to be dishonest. Those are bygone days, now, and you don’t see that stuff around anymore, right?

Well I guess, now that we have a black President it’s OK to bring all of that dirty laundry of the past out of the closet and put it right back out there on the clothesline for everyone to see. America’s youth, who fortunately have probably never seen this spectacle will be amazed. These days when a white girl emulates an African-American singer it’s because she wants to look cool.

Here’s the crap that I was raised on.

And, apparently, it’s back.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fun With Kesha

Juanita Jean has a plan.

Just because we have a Lyndon LaRouche Youth Movement activist as our Democratic nominee in Texas CD-22, that doesn’t mean the stars have fallen out of the sky. That doesn’t mean that our world will come to an end.

That doesn’t mean we can’t still have a little fun.

Fun with Kesha, that is.

Go to her not-a-blog for the rules in this new fun game. As ever, there are rules.

And then take a look at a few of my suggestions for poster designs.

Play nice.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Texas SBOE: Rewriting American History for Teabaggers

Hold on to your hats, the Texas State Board of Education, with its socially conservative agenda still intact, is reconvening to decide what sorts of things Texas school children should be taught about our society, history and government.

In other words, they get to decide what children will be taught about who we, as a people, are.

Now given how we were treated to hours upon endless hours of testimony and discussion on how things like evolution (a biological principle, not a theory) and geology (anathema to young Earth creationists) are really just some peoples’ opinions and not established or accepted fact, this should be a discussion to be watched and kept in the open.

And truly, it’s a national issue, not just state and local. Textbook publishers have, in the past, based their content on Texas standards because Texas has bought textbooks in statewide adoptions. Although, according to this story, that may soon be a thing of the past.

When the board last met in its first reading of the curriculum change, they weren’t able to get to all of the changes and amendments submitted by the social conservatives on the board. Amendments submitted by non-educators without even checking with a host of educators and scholars who were there for that purpose.

After all, why waste time with the facts when promoting a far right religious and social agenda? Facts often get in the way of things, you know.

Take for example, the amendment offered by Geraldine “Tincy” Miller representing the 12th District. Miller sells real estate. This amendment was one that the board got to vote on in January.

Tincy Miller suggested that the name Delores Huerta be stricken from required reading in the 3rd grade curriculum. Huerta is a co-founder of the United Farm Workers and is listed as one of the 100 most influential women of the 20th century. Schools are named after Huerta. Yet Miller claims that she did not exemplify good citizenship because she was registered in California as a member of the Democratic Socialists of America Party. Yes she was. She was also Hispanic, I hear. The hypocrisy of the woman is explosive. She cites Helen Keller as much more deserving of being included in the curriculum.

Keller was a flaming socialist.

Nevertheless Huerta was removed from history by an 11 to 7 vote.

It gets worse. Dr. Don McLeroy, former board chairman and now soon to be ex-board member (he lost his candidacy in the Republican primary) thought that it would be a good idea to include a discussion of the Venona Papers – a government document citing Soviet infiltration into some parts of the federal government – should be included as it vindicated disgraced Senator Joe McCarthy, whose agenda, which came to be known as McCarthyism, was a black mark on American political and democratic traditions.

I find it a horror, and an offense to my sensibilities that the state school board has an agenda to vindicate who is arguably the worst political demagogue of the 20th century.

So get ready for a real howl-fest in Austin as non-historians and social conservatives act to rewrite history so that Texas school children can be educated in true Teabagger tradition.

I am characteristically pessimistic at the outcome here.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Pete Olson Votes Against Safety in Public Schools

I keep wondering whether my congressman, Pete Olson, will ever be able to find the “YES” button on that voting box that he uses to cast his votes in congress.

Come to find out, my congressman, Pete Olson, voted against safety in public schools last March 3rd. Voted against public safety in a bill known as the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act.

I want to ask why, Pete? Were you beaten as a child? Does that make it OK to afflict physical or chemical abuse on children in public school?

Is it because what was good for you is good for all kids?

I swear, Pete, have you lost your mind?

Here is the first paragraph from bill summary found here:

“Keeping All Students Safe Act - (Sec. 5) Directs the Secretary of Education (Secretary) to establish minimum standards that: (1) prohibit elementary and secondary school personnel from managing any student by using any mechanical or chemical restraint, physical restraint or escort that restricts breathing, or aversive behavioral intervention that compromises student health and safety; (2) prohibit such personnel from using physical restraint or seclusion, unless such measures are required to eliminate an imminent danger of physical injury to the student or others and certain precautions are taken; (3) require states to ensure that a sufficient number of school personnel receive state-approved crisis intervention training and certification in first aid and certain safe and effective student management techniques; (4) prohibit physical restraint or seclusion from being written into a student's education plan, individual safety plan, behavioral plan, or individual education program as a planned intervention; and (5) require schools to establish procedures to notify parents in a timely manner if physical restraint or seclusion is imposed on their child.”

This was pretty much a bipartisan bill, yet Pete Olson thought it was a bad idea. But just because it is a Democratic idea doesn’t make it a bad idea. Just because we don’t want our children to be physically abused in schools doesn’t mean Pete Olson needs to vote against it so Democrats don’t have a win in their column.

This is getting a little tough to take.

Republicans Saving Democrats from Self-Annihilation

I simply adore the way Republicans are bending over backwards trying to save the Democrats in the House and Senate from themselves.

Adore it.

For the past few weeks I have been hearing from Republicans how the Democrats, if they stay on their course to pass healthcare reform through reconciliation, will be voted out by a process-absorbed electorate. An electorate that will become outraged that Democrats pass healthcare reform against their will.

I got curious today, and wanted to find out where all of that came from. Republicans don’t come up with this stuff by themselves. They need help.

And I think I found the answer. It came from an interview taken last month by political analyst Charlie Cook with a National Journal reporter. Here are excerpts of the interview courtesy of The Washington Post:

See? Charlie Cook thinks that the Democrats are going to lose the House in the mid-term elections because of all of their problems.

The problem being underlined by Republicans over the past couple of weeks is the Democratic Party wrestling match with itself over healthcare, and a final plan to resolve the issue of passage by resorting to what Republicans are referring to as “The Nuclear Option:” Reconciliation.

First, that isn’t “The Nuclear Option.” The Nuclear Option is defined as removal of the Senate filibuster rules of as 60% majority in procedural votes. Not the opposite.

But second, I just have to say ‘thanks but no thanks’ to Republicans in congress who are all bending over backwards to keep Democrats from incurring the wrath of voters, who will surely rise as one in righteous wrath and vote these rascals, the ones who brought them healthcare reform, back to oblivion from whence they came.

To Republicans I have to ask this: where is the upside? What political benefit do they achieve by allowing Democrats to exercise this so-called “nuclear option?”

Why not just sit back and let it happen?

Democrats will be Democrats, after all, and end up shooting themselves in the foot over this issue. Then they can just move in and take over, right?

Just let it happen, guys.

Or wait, could it be that Republicans are actually scared scat-less that healthcare reform will pass, the public will like what they see, and oh by the way, the stimulus starts working and jobs start coming back, including the 250,000 census workers who will get jobs this year.

Combating healthcare reform, Republicans are playing the fear card at every dealt hand. Spreading rumors, drumming up anxieties. But I’ll tell you who is most afraid that Democrats will succeed this year.

Fear evokes fear. Republicans should be very afraid.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Fort Bend Democrats Have A New Website!

In case you haven’t noticed the Fort Bend Democrats, a Democratic club, has had their website redesigned. You get there the same way as always so you don’t have to change your links.

It’s mean, it’s clean, and it’s black.

Features will be added as we get it up to our high standards including allowing members to submit blogs entries as before. But overall the site is easier to read and easier to navigate.

Here is a screenshot of how it looks right now:
What I really like about it is the black background. Black, we say in science, is not a color. It is the absence of light. This background not only makes it easier to read the words, but it cuts down on greenhouse gasses.

Well, I might have my facts wrong but the theory sounds right.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

No One Would Listen

This is a book I have to read. “No One Would Listen” by Harry Markopolos. First, I really feel sorry for a guy with a name like that when he goes to a public swimming pool and the kids start playing that fun hide and seek swimming game “Marco Polo.” Poor guy. It would be hard to concentrate on anything.

But second, I feel like I know how this guy must have felt when he saw Bernie Madoff’s business pay that consistent 12% per year dividend when the market was good and when it was in the toilet. His success didn’t make sense to Markopolos and it was so clear to him that he was running a Ponzi scheme, but no one would listen to him.

And it would have gone on like that forever except for the fact that someone blew the whistle on Bernie Madoff: Bernie Madoff. When the Republican-incepted banking crisis of 2008 fully took hold, and Madoff could no longer keep up appearances, Madoff ratted himself out.

I feel like I know how this guy must have felt because I live in a Republican precinct. I am surrounded by people who will not, can not, ever, ever, ever, listen to my words of reason.

My piercing logic goes unheeded.

And my lawn signs get stolen.

And now I am reminded of a new song by that Texas singer/songwriter that performed that memorable rendering of his original song, “Pigs at the Trough” at last month’s meeting of the Fort Bend Democrats. Hank Woji has a song that he wrote about Bernie Madoff. I videoed it. I uploaded it to You Tube.


By the way, if you want your own copy of Hank’s CD, you can order it online here. I got mine from Hank.

Why Do Movie Theaters Exist?

It’s Oscar Night again. And again I won’t be tuning in to see the Hollywood Glitteratti preen in front of the cameras one more time.

I really don’t care who wins what or which film gets the nod as the best above the rest. If something happens like a Kanye West moment or a Sacheen Littlefeather speech I’ll see it tomorrow on You Tube.

I wasn’t always this way. This is a fairly new thing. I just don’t go to the movie theaters anymore like I used to.

And today a strange thought came to me: Why do movie theaters even exist anymore?


When was the last time you went to a video arcade? When was the last time you even saw one? The video arcade, a phenomenon that sprang up in the 70’s and saw its heyday in the 80’s has largely vanished. Vanished with the advent of online gaming, Playstations, X-boxes, Wiis, and whatnot. American youth like their entertainment but now anything you could once do at a video arcade you can now do at home.

Except for “Pole Position.” I was a demon for “Pole Position.”

So now we are entertained at home with video games of any sort, and video arcades went the way of the penny arcade. And really, the same can be said for the viewing of feature films at home. Today’s home entertainment systems, with advanced sound systems and wall-spanning plasma screens really and truly meet or exceed the quality of watching a film on the big screen.

OK, OK, I know why movie theaters have not vanished off the face of the earth like video arcades. It’s all about what’s new. It is all about creating a market by creating an artificial shortage. It’s all about when the films are released in DVD/Blu-Ray, isn’t it?

And it’s all about Americans who have a penchant for wanting to see the latest new thing. A penchant, I imagine, husbanded and cultivated by the motion picture industry.

And it’s all about attention span.

As motion pictures and the entertainment industry flourishes, American attention span withers. We don’t file away in our minds films we’d like to see when they come out on DVD, we don’t have minds like that anymore. When a new film is released, we must see it now, while we are thinking about it.

That says something about us as a people, as a culture. It also says something about our ability to learn and retain knowledge when we attend school.

Say . . . I think I’m on to something.

But I forgot what it was.

Oh well.

Healthcare Reform: A States’ Rights Issue

Politics, and filthy lucre, make strange bedfellows sometimes. This is too true when it comes to the Republican mantra on healthcare reform. “Want to save money on health insurance,” they ask, “allow insurance companies to sell health insurance across state lines.” At first blush this seems to be a reasonable idea, even a liberal one.

That’s what got me suspicious of this notion. Why, I asked myself, would these anti-big government pro-local control ideologues be suddenly be all big government federalists?

Right now, the individual states regulate insurance within their borders. All states have insurance commissioners of some sort of another. Individual states have mandates over what an insurer must cover and what is optional.

For example, in California health insurance companies are required to offer coverage when someone wants a second opinion before going through a surgical procedure. In Texas, insurers are not required to offer that coverage. So a Texas insurance company could not sell insurance to a Californian by California law, unless it offered the coverage that California mandates.

This is the epitome of a states’ rights issue. Republicans, it would seem, are now arguing for centralization of insurance regulation at the federal level.

Or are they?

Actually not. Actually Republicans are not arguing for more regulation of the insurance industry, but less. That’s right, the same logic and reasoning that saw the repeal of Glass-Steagall, deregulating the banking industry giving us the economic trough we are in today is being argued on healthcare reform.

If the insurance industry is allowed to do the same thing as, say, the credit card industry here is the expected scenario. A small conservative state like Utah or South Dakota would approach, say, Humana and offer to let them write the law that regulates their industry. Their small, conservative legislature would pass it, their conservative governor would sign it, and Americans would be treated to the least beneficial healthcare plans possible. And rather than have, say United Health Care rise to the occasion and offer a plan that competes with Humana’s, they would move their corporate offices to Provo or Pierre.

Why would Republicans want to do this to Americans? Are they truly mean, heartless people who really don’t care what happens to Americans? Are they truly only looking after themselves and their friends? Do they truly only worship at the altar of the almighty dollar?

They say no. They say that they are the only responsible people in government and it is their duty to reign in the wild spending ways of we progressives.

But really, all you have to do is follow the money. Actions speak louder than words. When the actions of Republicans run up against one of their core red meat issues, states' rights, you have to wonder where the skeletons are buried.
And who gets to keep the money.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

And Funding the Kesha Rogers Campaign…

The Houston Chronicle has an interesting take on the Kesha Rogers victory in CD-22.

It even mentions this blogger’s plan to vote for the 2nd place winner in the Democratic primary: Under Vote.

But in the final analysis, it all comes down to Doug Blatt’s own opinion on the nature of the race and CD-22 voters:

“I am sorry to inform you that we lost. I am sorry that I was not able to get the word out more. The winner, Kesha Rogers, is already claiming on her web site that this means that Democrats in district 22 want to impeach the President. I can't believe that most people who voted for her, knew that she wants to do that. I do believe that most of them didn't do any research about the candidates before voting.”

In my county-by-county review of the vote, it was very clear to me that the voter was very uninformed, and many voters simply selected the person whose name appeared at the top of the ballot box. Clearly, there was such a high amount of voter ignorance in this race that the second highest vote-getter in the race was “none of the above.”

But more than a few that I have talked to have suggested that Kesha Rogers was a stalking horse candidate with Pete Olson’s campaign secretly supporting it. It even occurred to me as I was quizzed by a Princeton, NJ pollster who I would vote for if Olson and Rogers appeared on the ballot in November.

So I decided to take a look at the FEC campaign reports to see where the money to fund Rogers’ campaign came from.

In the one filing that I looked at, the one filed in January, 2010, here is what I found.

Rogers had 10 campaign contributions from 9 individuals totaling $3,750. No PAC money was reported.

While none of the supporters stood out, and none of the contributions were higher than $500, it was clear that one supporter was a big local backer. This guy donated $500 to the campaign which was immediately returned to his company for the use of office space at that company.

And over the past 7 years, the same guy has contributed over $25,000 to the Lyndon LaRouche for President Campaign or PAC.

A student made two contributions of $300 each, making him the biggest contributor.

The same guy has donated over $1,000 to the Lyndon LaRouche campaign in 2004.

Some unemployed guy living in Las Vegas gave Rogers $500. The same guy has donated $11,500 to the LaRouche campaign over the past 3 years, $500 to the Hillary Clinton campaign, and $500 each to the three LaRouche Youth candidates running for Congress this year. Rogers was the only one of the three to win. Small wonder, the other two ran against Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank.

Actor Robert Beltran, who played Raoul in the 1981 cult classic “Eating Raoul” gave Rogers $500. He has also donated to the Howard Dean campaign and to the LaRouche campaign in 2003 and 2004 ($1000 each time).

By far the biggest honcho who contributed to Rogers’ campaign was the president of a document conversion company that is headquartered in Leesburg, Virginia (a city also known for being the hometown of LaRouchePAC). Since 1999 he has given over $27,000 to LaRouche or ones like Rogers who run under the LaRouche banner.

I could go on but you do see where this is leading, don’t you? If Pete Olson was behind Kesha Rogers’ campaign, he cleverly did it through LaRouche supporters spread out over the country. Something that I doubt.

No, according to the FEC, Rogers took in $3,326 spent $1,315 and had $2011 on hand, as of January 26th, 2010. All of her funding, from what I could see, was from followers of Lyndon LaRouche (who sometimes, but not often, donated to True Democrats).

As a footnote, I decided to take a look at who were the money people behind Doug Blatt’s campaign. That one was easy because the single biggest contributor to Doug Blatt for Congress was Doug Blatt. His wife and parents came in 2nd and 3rd. Oh, and one In Kind donation from the Texas Democratic Party for access to the Voter Activation Network.

Neither Freddie or Kesha took advantage of the TDP voter database, preferring to rely on general voter ignorance and some cosmic miracle in the game of what I call "Ballot Position Roulette."

Blatt was, after all, the only True Democrat running.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Massa: Resigning in Style

What is the difference between a Democratic office holder getting caught acting inappropriately and a Republican office holder doing the same thing?

Congressman Eric Massa (D – New York) illustrates the difference well.

When you are guilty, you admit it and you resign. Especially if you don’t want to be under the national binocular microscope having everything in your life put under close public scrutiny.

I truly wonder who among us is without sin.

Jesus had that one dead right.

But in the toxic environment that is our nation’s capitol, if you don’t want to be scrutinized for your personal flaws, either don’t run for office or don’t make public blunders.

Blunders like having a “wide stance” in airport restrooms or having the inconvenience of having you name and phone number in a notorious DC madam’s “book of tricks.”

Massa says he is “flawed.” Yes, people are. Massa is a person. However, to make my point clear, a person’s flaws are not an issue unless they also reveal raw hypocrisy.

Like the raw hypocrisy of David Vitter and Larry Craig. Two Republicans with “character flaws” who have been given a free ride by their colleagues.

David Vitter, a known adulterer and user of the services of prostitutes was a vocal opponent of ACORN after the group was set up by a junior “reporter” and a young woman posing as a prostitute. Vitter’s vocal opposition to ACORN and a voice urging the withdrawal of federal funds for ACORN was at the vanguard in the GOP attack machine against this group.

David Vitter, essentially for prostitution before he was against it.

David Vitter. A hypocrite who needs to resign from office, especially now that the Ethics Committee, given new teeth by Democrats, no less, won’t give him the free pass that he got when the Republicans were in power.

Larry Craig, a guy who sets my “gaydar” alert to strong positive, voted for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, voted no to adding sexual orientation to the federal hate crime bill, and voted no on a bill to forbid discrimination in the workplace because of sexual orientation. Larry Craig is himself gay.

Making him a hypocrite of the first order.

These two characters can’t hold a candle to Eric Massa. To whatever he did, and I really don’t care what, he freely admits his guilt. Massa demonstrated today how this is done. With a touch of class. DC will suffer in his absence.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Face of the Teabaggers

Ever wonder why the only people you see at Teabagger rallies are old angry white people? Whatever happened to kindly and benevolent old geezers like Grandpa Walton?
Or what about Grandpappy Amos?

Sort of makes you nostalgic for a bygone time when old people were maybe a little crusty but benevolent beings who never had a bone to pick with anyone except for the occasional young scamp who ran through their vegetable garden.

But these days, the face of old people that keeps turning up at Teabagger rallies look like this guy.

A real class act, huh?

And In the Runoffs . . .

Yes, we do have some elections that are yet to be decided. Even in the traditionally ho-hum Democratic primary.

From top to bottom here they are.

In CD-14 where we had a 3-way race to challenge Ron Paul in the Fall, it looks like Robert Pruett got the bulk of the votes at 41.59% with his chief opponent, Winston Cochran coming in second with 31.07% of the vote.

Jeff “I’m Really a Republican” Cherry came in dead last, proving that he was more of a fly in the ointment than a viable candidate. So now Pruett will face Cochran in the runoff.

I still think Pruett Can Do It.

In HD 76, incumbent Norma Chavez will have a runoff election with Naomi Gonzalez. Now there’s a race to watch. One wonders if voters had a problem with name recognition, or will have it once Tony San Roman is no longer on the ballot with them.

Speaking of runoffs, John Healey will have to face Nina Schaefer in a runoff election as no one could attain 50% plus 1. So we still have a chance that Healey will be re-elected if he beats Schaefer in the Get Out The Vote effort.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Congratulations Rep!

Do us proud in Austin!

Congratulations Mr. Chairman

Let's hear it for the 29th prime number! One-Oh-One! One-Oh-One! One-Oh-One! One-Oh-One!

How to Cast a Vote for Under Vote

What a turn of events. It’s almost like 2006 when in the CD-22 race there was no Republican on the ballot, and Nick Lampson won against a write-in candidate. This time there will be no Democrat on the ballot for CD-22 this November.

Because true to my most dismal of predictions, Kesha Rogers, follower of the right (no . . .left, no . . . right) wingnut Lyndon LaRouche, narrowly edged her Libertarian opponent and her True Democrat opponent.

What she, and her two opponents, lacked in name recognition Rogers made up for in terms of ballot position.

In Harris County, where she came in 2nd place at the end of Election Night, she came in second to Doug Blatt. Who came in third? Someone called Under Vote.

Then came Freddie Wieder.

In Fort Bend County, where she first on the ballot, Kesha Rogers won. Coming in second place was that other guy, Under Vote. Then came Doug Blatt, then Freddie.

In Galveston County, where she was second on the ballot, Kesha Rogers came in second. Under Vote was edged by Doug Blatt by one percent.

Who won in Galveston County? Freddie Wieder.

Freddie had the honor of being in the top position on the Galveston County Ballot.

In Brazoria County? Kesha Rogers garnered sixty-one percent of the votes there, followed by Under Vote, then Doug Blatt, then Freddie.

I now know that Kesha Rogers had the number one position on the ballot in Brazoria County. Under Vote came in second place, edging Doug Blatt by 0.1%, then Freddie.

Kudos, to Brazoria County voters, though. Freddie Wieder actually had the second place spot on their ballot, but Brazoria County voters bucked the trend and more of them voted for the guy in the third spot than second on the ballot.

Good for you, good for you.

Now, when you do the numbers from the county websites, not the Texas Secretary of State, whose numbers are slightly different, what you see is that Kesha Rogers won the primary, but in second place was none other than Under Vote. Under Vote beat Doug Blatt by almost a thousand votes.

So come Election Day 2010 Democratic voters will be asked either to vote for a follower of Lyndon LaRouche who is calling on the impeachment of President Barack Obama, or to vote for the Republican incumbent Pete Olson, who would call for the impeachment of Barack Obama if he was as loony tunes crazy as his opponent.

Because I doubt that Democrats are going to be nutty enough to submit a write-in candidate to split the vote of Democratic voters, some of whom who will vote for Kesha Rogers simply because she has a D next to her name.

So I have an alternative.

Instead of voting for Kesha Rogers in November, and instead of going completely crazy and voting for Pete Olson in November, Democrats can vote for that guy who came in second in the Democratic primary.

Cast your vote for Under Vote.

Here’s how you do it. After getting to the first screen on that Dial-A-Vote voting machine we have here, you click the button when the cursor is over the box for Straight Democratic Ticket. Then you go back to the list of candidates and where you can vote for them individually and you emphasize your vote for Kesha Rogers by clicking on the red-filled square next to her name.

De-selecting that vote.

By doing that you cast your vote for the second-place winner of the Democratic Primary in CD-22.

Under Vote.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Pete Olson: Highway Hypocrite

So I got this email message from the Democratic Party today. Here is how it began:

Hal --

Are you represented in Congress by a Highway Hypocrite?

Highway Hypocrites voted against the Recovery Act and spent the last year attacking it -- while praising it in letters requesting funds and press releases touting projects in their districts.

We've identified 118 Republican senators and representatives guilty of highway hypocrisy. But we know there are more.

Click here to find out if you're represented by a Highway Hypocrite -- and help us expose others.

Now sometimes I can be a little dense, especially when it comes to my congressman, Pete Olson. I expect so little from him that I don’t really add one and one when I see in the news – well the news I watch anyway – how all over the place Republicans who voted against the Recovery Act are taking credit for bringing stimulus money to their districts.

So when I clicked on the link and entered the information the website reported that Olson represented me (that’s a laugh) and that he voted against the Recovery Act. Nothing new there. But I looked and looked and couldn’t see if he was on their list of 118 hypocrites.

Then I realized that he is a highway hypocrite. And I even posted a blog piece about it last month.

Like I say, sometimes I can be a little dense.

So yes, Pete Olson is a highway hypocrite, and yes, I googled it and he is on the list. Pete Olson voted No on the Recovery Act and then came to the aid of Democratic County Commissioner Richard Morrison in making a request for Recovery Act money to fund a road widening project.

A request that was appropriately enough rejected.

Texas only received two grants out of that pool of money, both of them in the Democratic Free State of Dallas.

Pete Olson: Highway Hypocrite.