Friday, April 30, 2010

Funding the Recovery Act: Arrest, Try, Jail and Fine the Threateners

A confluence of events gave me a grand Idea that I need to share. I get ideas from time to time but every once in awhile it is a real humdinger (and I need to capitalize the I).

I was browsing through the Federal Recovery program website this evening, marveling at many of its aspects. That it had a state-by-state breakdown on how much of the Recovery Act funds are going to each state (Texas is getting a $13.2 billion slice of the pie) and you can even search by zip code. You get a map of that zip code and locations of businesses or organizations that are getting funds. You can even get a list of what the funds are supposed to be used for.

And you can even blow the whistle on fraud or abuse through the website.

As I said, it is truly marvelous.

Then I browsed at the Austin American-Statesman and noticed in an AP piece that a Dallas man had been arrested by the Feds for threatening our president’s life.

From AP (through the AA-S):

“Brian Dean Miller, 43, faces one count of making threats against the president, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.”

Oh my, I thought. I had no idea that included in the maximum sentence for this crime there was a fine that went along with 5 years in federal lockup.

A cool 250 large.

And then it suddenly dawned on me how we could, at least partially, recoup on some of the money we are doling out to the states in the Recovery Act.

Arrest each and every one of the haters who threaten the life of our president. If they do the crime, they must also do the time – and pay the fine.

This particular hater wanted to take our president’s life because he got healthcare reform passed – or he signed the bill that Congress passed. Or that he used 22 pens to sign the bill. Who knows what specifically tipped this guy over.

Who cares?

$250,000 pays the yearly salary of 5 teachers.

And get them all, even those that issue empty threats – like Brian Dean Miller.

“An Arlington resident reported the threats to the Secret Service. Agents tracked down Miller at his Dallas home, where he lives with his mother, according to the complaint. Police arrested Miller and seized his computer. They found no weapons in the residence.”

Get that? A 43-year old who lives with his mother and doesn’t own a weapon.

Probably because his mom wouldn’t let him bring one home.

Now it won’t pay for the whole program, but it would definitely be a nice chunk of change if we got the maximum sentence for these losers.

According to the London Telegraph, President Obama gets an average of 30 death threats per day. By the numbers then, since January 20, 2009 there have been 464 full days where Obama received 30 death threats (probably more some days than others, like after another brilliant speech or passage of laws that promote Obama’s Socialistic Communist Nazi agenda).

With that many threats, and the fine being what it is, that could bring in $116 million in funds to offset the cost of the Recovery Act.

And that’s just up until today. In 4 years, or one complete term, threats to Obama’s life means a total of $365 million.

Double that for the second term.

The down side is that all of these haters will see what is happening and stop it with the threats, idle or otherwise.

But that’s OK, too.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Who is Quicker than the Feds’ Response to the Gulf Oil Spill?

When the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank last week no one was particularly concerned, except for the families of the missing and presumed dead. But then when an oil slick appeared local service companies and BP itself mobilized the oil cleanup armada that is kept nearby in just such a case as this.

And no one was particularly concerned, except for the families of the missing and presumed dead.

But then when we are treated to back-to-back news that all attempts to activate the subsea blowout preventer at the extreme depth that the Deepwater Horizon was drilling had failed and were going to continue to fail, and then a third seafloor leak had been discovered, upping the size of the flow to 5,000 barrels of crude per day, all of a sudden, people became concerned.

Concerned because it was now apparent that the huge oil slick was heading toward shore and there was nothing to stop the flow outside of drilling relief wells.

A job that can take months at that depth.

Then I waited. I waited and listened, knowing what I was going to be hearing from the rightwing nutjobs and teabaggers, rubbing my hands gleefully in anticipation.

And today it started. Not so much by the rightwing media, they might not react because they may see this the way I see it, but crazies and teabaggers always guarantee satisfaction.

They are blaming Obama for not reacting fast enough and sending federal help sooner, quicker to respond to the disaster than the federal government, apparently.

Here it is in readers’ comments at a Houston Chronicle story on the subject:

“We don't need Congress to investigate anything, other than the government's slow response to (another!) environmental disaster. Do more to stop the spread of the oil, not to waste time in D.C.”

“We don't need Congress to investigate anything, other than the government's slow response to (another!) environmental disaster. Do more to stop the spread of the oil, not to waste time in D.C.”

“Come on media, cover this like you covered Bush and Katrina. Why was Obama and his administration so slow to react. Why werent they there several days ago. How much additional damage was done because it took them so long to get involved?”
And then there’s this from a blog on the sea:

“The rig exploded a week ago Tuesday and sank on a Wednesday, a full eight days ago. For eight days the rig has been spewing oil into the Gulf. For eight days industry and environmental officials have been talking about a major spill with the potential to cause one of the worst ecological disasters in U.S. history.”

“What has the Obama Administration been doing about it? Other than pledging to investigate the cause of the incident, virtually nothing.”

These people dare to blame the Obama Administration, or accuse them of dragging their feet on a man-made disaster? A disaster created, produced and directed by British Petroleum and the service companies it hired to drill this well?

Who is culpable in this accident? BP. Who should clean it up? BP. Who should reimburse anyone negatively affected by their error? BP.

Here we have these crazies on the one hand wringing their hands over government bailout of the auto industry, government bailout of banks, and about how big government is taking over the free market, and its all socialism, but when an oil company drilling in the Gulf loses a rig and starts an environmental disaster, they expect the feds to come in and bail out BP.

And that’s not socialism.

They're accusing the feds of being irresponsible for waiting so long while the oil company and the service companies respond.

And the underlying assumption, of course, is that the federal government has in its vast warehouses all the equipment necessary to get this thing done faster and more efficiently than private industry.

But at the same time, these same people claim that the last organization you want to see running a national healthcare system is the federal government. Because they are so inefficient.


No, the only thing that the federal government needs to do right now is ask around about what the plan is when an oil company drills in the deepwater, as is their wont these days, and everything goes wrong.

They need to ask this burning question: isn’t drilling in the deepwater without a plan to kill a well blowout in any scenario much like driving a car without seat belts? And without air bags? And without first responders?

The only silver lining in this entire affair is that it has finally happened here (and not Brazil or Angola). We can now ask these questions and hopefully get some answers that don’t look like shrugging shoulders.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Will Texas Out-NAZI Arizona?

Texas State Reps Leo Berman (R-Auschwitz) and Debbie Riddle (R-Bergen-Belsen) get to emulate, and even go one better their anti-Liberty peers in Arizona in the next legislative session? The report today is that this is very likely.

From the Star-Telegram:

“State Rep. Leo Berman said he's planning several bills, including one that would require presidential and vice presidential candidates to prove their citizenship to the Texas Secretary of State before their names can be put on the ballot. The Arizona law requires presidential candidates to produce birth certificates.”

“‘We'll do it,’ said Berman, R-Auschwitz, and a former Arlington mayor pro tem. ‘We'll do it from now on. If he can't prove citizenship ... he won't have a place on the Texas ballot.’”

“Berman also plans a broad bill similar to the Arizona law, which makes being an undocumented worker a crime. He specifically wants to include the measure to allow law enforcement officials to ask people who they believe may be in the country illegally about their status.”

“‘I think almost every state in the union will follow suit,’ Berman said during a recent call from Switzerland, where he is vacationing.

He’s got them there. They forgot about the vice president. They appear on the same place on the ballot. Theoretically then, one can vote for Obama in Arizona by voting for Joe Biden.

Arizona is sure to see Berman’s point and amend their “Birther Law” at their earliest opportunity.

Interesting, though that Berman had vacation plans this year for Switzerland. Next year it will surely be to the Grand Canyon because of the cheap hotel rates as all true freedom-loving Americans will stay away from the Racist State of Arizona.

Debbie Riddle wants to get on the bandwagon as well and will herself submit a “show me your papers” law for Texas.

Also from the Star-Telegram:

“‘The first priority for any elected official is to make sure that the safety and security of Texans is well-established,’ Riddle told Hearst Newspapers in Texas. ‘If our federal government did their job, then Arizona wouldn't have to take this action, and neither would Texas.’”

You can always depend on Debbie Riddle to say something completely racist and not even know it. Just like Betty Brown's question to an Asian who was testifying about voter identification. Remember that one?

Riddle just fell in with all of the anti-immigrant haters who tried to pass anti-Irish laws in the 19th century. Legislation to protect Americans from the lawless Irish by making it compulsory for them to read the Protestant Holy Bible. Laws inspired by a short-lived party in America called the Know Nothings.

Somehow that party name seems inordinately appropriate when found in the same paragraph as Debbie Riddle’s name.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Behold the Face of Pure Evil

I struggle to keep up with financial matters because when it comes to the complex field that finance has become, it is all pretty much Chinese Greek to me. So when I heard about the SEC complaint against Goldman Sachs, and some guy that has come to be known as “The Fabulous Fab” I knew I was doomed to ignorance.

First, how does a guy get away working in high finance calling himself “Fabulous Fab?”

Well, who knows, maybe it sells on Wall Street, but if this guy called himself Fabulous Fab and worked in the construction industry, or on oil rigs, or anywhere in Texas for that matter, he just might find himself greased up and tied naked to a flagpole in some public place.

No, I am not anti-gay. I am a straight white man living in America and I don’t have a homophobic bone in my body. Being anti-gay is to my mind being anti-women or anti-Polish. It’s just wrong. But I know my fellow working man, and in particular I know my fellow Texan man and I know for actual fact that any one of them, upon hearing that he calls himself “Fabulous Fab” are going to ask “and you thought people wouldn’t think you were gay when you address yourself in that way because . . . ”

So Fabulous Fab got his say in the US Senate today. As a named person in the SEC lawsuit he basically denied anything that the lawsuit says that he does.

So what does the SEC say that he did that was so bad? Now I could “go long” and cut and paste the operative text, but I think this time I’ll “go short” and try to explain it in my own words, simplifying as we go.

From what I can gather, Fabulous Fab but together a deal called ABACUS 2007 (appropriate, don’t you think that he called it the name of what ancient Chinese did their algebra on?) which they call a “collateralized debt obligation” (translation: a bunch of mortgages sold on the sub prime market to people who had no intention of making the mortgage payments) and presented it to Paulson and Company. Paulson took the deal only if they could cherry-pick the portfolio and then “go short” on it. That is, bet the safe bet that it would lose money. That happened but to get the deal to go, Fab went to other investors, told them that Paulson was sinking $200 million in it – a signal that they were “going long” and that they were betting that it would make money for them. They bought in, and when Paulson did end up investing, they only put in $15 million.

The deal went south when the housing market collapsed. Paulson came out of the deal with a cool $1 billion, and the guys who went long lost about the same.

The SEC says that Fabulous Fab committed fraud in misrepresenting the deal to the other investors, the ones who got the shaft.

That this deal essentially tipped our economy over into the abyss is only icing on the cake, and I really don’t think that there is a single word in the English language that adequately identifies this crime.

No jail sentence seems adequate.

But one thing is clear, if Fabulous Fab isn’t gay now, he should get used to the idea in his next place of residence.

And when his cellmates discuss the merits of “going long” with him, I don’t think that they will have their investments, or Fabulous Fab’s best interests in mind.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Early Voting Begins Today

Oh no, not another election.

Depending on where you live you might be having a city election, a MUD election or a school board election. Saturday, May 8th is the statutory uniform election day for local elections here in Texas.

Early voting for that election begins today and extends through Tuesday, May 4th. In Fort Bend County you can find out your early voting location here at the county elections website.

The schedule varies depending on what election you are voting in so you have to click on the separate election links from there.

Now I already went and looked. In every election listed in Fort Bend County no polling location will be open on Sunday. None.

And it’s even dicey on Saturday. For instance, out of the ten early voting locations listed for a majority of the elections (the ones where one would go and vote early for the Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees, for instance) only four of them are open on Saturday. So if you’re planning on voting on Saturday because you can’t make it to the polls between 7 AM and 7 PM on weekdays, make sure you go to one of these poll locations this Saturday between 7 AM and 5 PM:

Aliana Clubhouse – 17122 West Bellfort, Richmond, TX
Missouri City Community Center – 1522 Texas Pkwy, Missouri City, TX
Hightower High School – 3333 Hurricane Lane, Missouri City, TX
First Colony Conference Center – 3232 Austin Parkway, Sugar Land, TX

Everybody else will be closed on Saturday.

I’m voting tomorrow. I vote in every election. I always early vote and I always early vote on Day 2 so there are no glitches and they’re operational or have identified the problems and established the workarounds.

And no, I’m not making any endorsements on the school board election. No one would listen to me anyway.

Well . . . OK, I’ll make one anti-endorsement. I’ll not vote for Jim Rice. First because he’s a Triple R – I checked – and next because as an established vendor that has done work for the school district, he’s just too close to the situation notwithstanding the fact that his firm will not bid on district contracts if he is elected. He has even said that he will recuse himself in bid award decisions. Frankly that disqualifies him because I want a voting board member, not a non-voting one. Oh, and my third reason for not voting for Rice is one I just came up with today. Not an hour ago I listened to a voicemail message from Rice. Rice paid for a robocall ad. This is when a candidate or his surrogate records a message and then pays someone with a robophone to dial a list of numbers and deliver the recorded message.

Now I don’t hate robocalls. I kind of like them because you can do stuff with recorded messages. What I didn’t like about this particular robocall is that the message was really boring.

Compared to the robocalls I received in the Republican primary, where the attacks were absolutely bloodletting – Rocky Road with sprinkles if you will, this robocall was plain Vanilla.

No, if you’re going to make me sit through a robocall to see if you say anything really awful about your opponent, and you don’t, and it’s a really boring message besides, then you don’t get my vote.

Get Them Back to the Polls in 2010

In 2008, fifteen million voters cast their ballot at a polling location for the very first time in their lives. And no, these weren’t all 18-year olds who registered to vote when they came of voting age. Some of these voters were middle aged. I know of several in my county that had never voted and cast their first vote in their 60s.

It was an historic election, everyone agrees. And I think we can get these voters back to the polls in 2012 to re-elect Barack Obama.

But that is not what we need right now. Right now we need these voters, voters who generally come out in presidential elections, especially “sexy” presidential elections like the one we just had, we need them to come out and vote in the midterm election this November.

Everyone I know talks about it. Some just shake their head and say it isn’t doable because it never has been done.

But I think giving in to the notion that we are somehow destined to see lower turnout numbers this year is self-defeating.

Self-defeating and dangerous, now, because the Party of the Dark Side is going to crank up the volume in a fear fest that has no precedent. News is good, too good. Much better than what the Republicans were expecting. In 1994 they swept in a majority because things were not going so well for Democrats. That apparently won’t repeat. So it’s going to get really, really shrill this year.

We need to counter the shrieks with votes. We need to get these first-time voters back to the polls.

This has become a priority item at the Democratic National Committee. Today they came out with a video announcing their intent. Announcing it in a short speech by the President. Here it is.

Rush Limbaugh, the de facto head of the Republican Party labeled the speech as racist.

Racist because some of these first-time voters were African-American. Racist because some of these first-time voters were Hispanic. Racist because he was calling these two groups back to the polls this year to vote against the people that Rush Limbaugh wants to rule our lives.

Frankly, I wonder why he pulled his punch. Why not go all the way and label the speech not only racist but sexist (he included women in his list of first-time voters, didn’t he) and ageist (getting young people back to the polls to vote against the elderly).

Why just racist?

Oh, yeah . . . I forgot. Obama’s a black man.

That’s all that really matters to these people.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Best and The Worst Schools In Texas

Children At Risk, a nonprofit organization that drives change for children through research, education and influencing public policy, has issued its fifth annual Texas schools report card that can be viewed here.

For the first time, they have also rated elementary and middle schools.

The rating system is a little arcane because the group bases its ranking system on data that is gleaned from the Texas Education Agency.

Data we know to be reality-challenged.

But I believe in the extremes. I believe that you can glean information by looking at the poles and not by comparison of things that appear to be similar. So the second thing I did, after looking at where my place of work was ranked, was to compare the highest ranked school to the lowest ranked one.

First, there is some debate on which highest ranked school I should look at, because clearly, the schools right at the top of the list are all specialty schools or magnet schools where they cherry-pick their students. These schools need not be included because their data is skewed.

So using that as a culling criterion, and including only schools who open their doors to all students within their attendance zone, the top-ranked school in Texas is Highland Park High School in Dallas. The lowest ranked school in Texas is L. G. Pinkston High School, also located in Dallas.

These two schools are six miles from each other.

Six miles and 1011 school ranking positions separate them.

Ranked in position 7, Highland Park High School is the highest-ranked school that is open to everyone within its attendance zones. L. G. Pinkston is ranked dead last in position 1018. Comparing them on the rating criteria is illuminating.

Pinkston H S has a total student enrollment of 1,194, Highland Park’s enrollment is 1,934.

65.8% of Pinkston’s students are Hispanic (20.5% Limited English Proficient), 33.1% are African-American, and 0.4% are classified as White. Highland Park’s students are 4% Hispanic (0.1% LEP), 0.3% African-American, and 92.3% White.

The Student/Teacher ratio at Pinkston is 13.4. At Highland Park it is 14.5.

Total dollars spent per student at Pinkston is $7,461. At Highland Park it is $7,806. According to this research group, Texas’s state average expenditure per student is $7,934.

The percent of Pinkston’s students classified as Economically Disadvantaged stands at 78%. Highland Park has no ED students.

The high school graduation rate at Pinkston is 34.9%. Highland Park’s average is 93.3%

54.3% of Pinkston’s students take either the SAT or ACT test as opposed to 100% at Highland Park. Average SAT score at Pinkston is 756. At Highland Park it is 1201. And while 12.8% of Pinkston students take an AP or an IB test, none of them pass them. This is opposed to Highland Park students, 88.3% of them take at least one of those tests and 65.5% pass them (roughly 75% of the test takers).

What did I learn? I learned the obvious. Academic rankings based on anything other than how affluent you are, or more to the point, how un-affluent you are, are completely bogus. How well a school does, or how poorly it does has nothing to do with how much money you throw at it, school size, or what the student/teacher ratio is. It has nothing to do with anything else but how poor you are – everything extends from that one thing.

It’s an old, old story but I guess it bears repeating as we keep hearing the views of consultants who keep coming up with a new flavor-of-the-day on how to improve test scores – and get well-paid for that advice.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Zeigen Sie mir Ihre Papiere

At the end of August, in Arizona, the words “show me your papers” coming from a law enforcement officer will give one pause.

Pause, because that is not the first time that the words have been uttered by officers who are part of a despotic repressive regime.

Something that Arizona became yesterday when its governor Jan Brewer signed into law their SB 1070, the law that gives Arizona police broad powers to ask anyone to prove their US citizenship right then and there. Something I couldn’t do right now if my life depended on it.

Here is the operative text from the bill:


Legalizing racial profiling.

Despotic. Tyranical. Fascist.

I find it absolutely disgusting that for over a year now we have been treated to images of President Barack Obama doctored with a “Hitler Moustache” suggesting he is a Nazi tyrant and at the same time calling him a socialist and a communist.

Presenting one with doubt that Teabaggers are actually aware of how the arrangement of the political spectrum would preclude that combination.

But now, I think we have a new standard of tyranny to put on display, and a new face to put to that tyranny. And guess what, it’s not a Democratic office holder.

Behold the new face of despotic tyranny in America:

Governor Jan Brewer.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Texas Confederate History Resolution Passes 5-0

A week after Virginia governor Bob McDonnell declared April to be Confederate History month (because April is the month that Virginia seceded from the Union), and 3 days after McDonnell caved to public hue and cry that his declaration failed to include a single reference to the main issue in Southern secession, the Southern penchant toward owning black slaves, another governmental body uncomfortably close to me made a similar declaration.

This time they didn’t fail to decry slavery as “morally abhorrent”, the way the Virginia governor did – perhaps taking a cue from what was being said all over the press.

The Brazoria County Commissioner’s Court voted 5-0 to declare “Texas History and Heritage Month” as shown on the Court’s agenda. The way the title reads you would think they would be thinking about honoring the fallen heroes of the Alamo or Sam Houston.

Or a plug for the purchase of James Michner’s widely unread (in Texas) tome, “Texas.”

But alas, no. the Court voted for a resolution that recognized April as “Confederate History and Heritage Month in the State of Texas.”

And while lots and lots of it was hand crafted in Brazoria County, and it contained many references to Texas and Texans, whole portions of it were lifted from the Virginia declaration.

And while it included that “morally abhorrent practice of slavery” portion as one of its Whereases, the very next paragraph has this:

“Whereas politically correct revisionists would have Texas children believe that their Confederate ancestors fought for slavery when in fact most Texans joined the Confederate armed forces to defend their homes, their families and their proud heritage as Texans…”

I have to ask this: who but a blindingly rabid racist would vote for and then sign a document that contains that language?

It led me to take a look at what our Texas children are actually being taught about why Texas joined the Confederacy. Especially appropriate because our State Board of Education is currently immersed in revising the state’s social studies curriculum, including the 7th grade curriculum that is a study of Texas History.

Here is what the 7th grade curriculum currently says:

History. The student understands how events and issues shaped the history of Texas during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

The student is expected to:
(A) explain reasons for the involvement of Texas in the Civil War.


This is the proposed new text:

The student is expected to:
(A) explain reasons for the involvement of Texas in the Civil War such as states rights, slavery, sectionalism, and tariffs.

Is anyone surprised at this? I certainly am not. A note off to the side to explain this new addition explained that this was in order to “provide consistency among example causes.”


If that’s the case then they could save some ink and leave out that tripe about states rights (the right to own slaves), tariffs (that depressed the sale of slave-harvested cotton), and sectionalism (for that, read meddling by Abolitionists).

They could save all that ink so that they could refer to the Civil War the way it is referred to here in The South: The War of Northern Aggression.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Will the Forensic Science Commission Ever Rule on the Todd Willingham Case?

It looks like the Texas Forensic Science Commission, the body that oversees the use of forensic science in the state’s criminal justice system, has gotten the ground put under its feet again. This piece at the Austin American-Statesman announced that a 3-member subcommittee will finally hear testimony tomorrow from fire scientist Dr. Craig Beyler.

Beyler, as it turns out, filed a report last year that seriously questioned the forensic evidence used to convict and execute former living human being Todd Willingham, who was accused of burning his own family to death by setting his house afire.

But just two days before he could present his report to the Commission, it was gutted by Rick Perry, who replaced the chairman and two commissioners. The chair immediately postponed their October meeting. Beyler’s testimony was not placed on their January meeting agenda either.

At issue in the Republican primary last March was the Kay Bailey Hutchison allegation that Rick Perry beheaded the Texas Forensic Commission last year so that it could not rule on the Todd Willingham case until after the primary.

Not that Hutchison was a bleeding heart in this. As correctly pointed out in the American-Statesman piece, “the Willingham matter didn't register with Republican primary voters anyway.” Meaning, of course, that Republican primary voters are all about the death penalty and the generous application of it.

As mentioned in a piece I wrote on this some time ago, the issue Hutchison raised at the time was that Perry was being reckless in this move, because it gave something for Democrats to beat over his head with in the fall, should he win the primary.

Hutchison and I rarely agree on anything, but she hit the nail on the head with that one.

So this is something to watch tomorrow. Will the sub-committee actually meet? Will they take Beyler’s testimony? Or is this a drama in a many-act play that will come and go all year?

Because all of these objections to the forensic evidence that convicted him were raised before Todd Willingham was executed in 2004: an execution that Perry could have stayed or even commuted.

Note now, that this isn’t going to be the meaty issue that it could be in the fall, as Bill White is in favor of the death penalty, and opposes having a moratorium on executions, preferring to settle these matters on a case-by-case basis.

White is a canny politician who probably realizes that you can’t run for governor in Texas - and win - without stating a willingness to execute some of its citizens from time to time.

But it does leave open the notion that Perry opted not to decide on this case despite the testimony of expert scientists. He literally ignored them.

But my money is on Perry in this one. A 3-man subcommittee can’t rule on anything. It takes the chairman to put the matter on the agenda, and the TFSC just changed their rules last January. Now it appears that the chairman has the sole authority to set the agenda.

Chairman John Bradley is Perry’s man. My guess is that if he wants to stay in the chair, and if he wants to continue to do the biddings of his patron, Rick Perry, Bradley will continue to stonewall this thing well into next year.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Revelation: Teabaggers Are Not All Fat Old Ugly Angry White Men

It’s true, you know, some Teabaggers are African-Americans.

Keith Olbermann, who commonly rails against the Tea Party movement, calling it a racism inciting crowd of old angry white men, was shown the other day, that the recent DC Tax Day rally of over 25,000 Teabaggers did indeed have some black participants.

Six of them.

Olbermann did the math, as I do sometimes, and came up with a new figure: what proportion of tea partiers are actually black.

Six out of 25,000 figures up to a grand total of 0.024%. That’s 24 one-thousandths of a percent.

By that calculus, and going by a number shown at the Tea Party Patriots official website, where they show 185,025 people “like” the Tea Party Patriots, that’s a grand total of 44 African-American Teabaggers living in America (rounding up).


Well, forty-four isn’t zero.

But wait, I found another African-American Teabagger living in North Carolina. I found him here, and his name is Bill Randall.
“Bill Randall, an African-American retired Naval commander who is part of a quartet of Republicans vying for their party’s nomination and the opportunity to challenge liberal Democrat Brad Miller in the North Carolina’s 13 th Congressional District in November, told an audience at NC A&T University on April 17: “I’m all for the Tenth Amendment — states’ rights.”
Bill Randall is a real piece of work. I was especially drawn to this discussion, a discussion of socialism that Randall had in a phone interview made while he was driving to another rally. In it he was describing his fellow Americans, traitors all, who were working from within to bring socialism to American shores (as if it hasn’t been here for 75 years or so).
“‘It’s an assault,’ Randall continued. ‘We are under assault right now. We are under siege from within. It’s not an accident. I’m going to call it as it is. They are being open about it, so I’m going to come out and call it as it is. It is not an accident. I believe they would like to see a state of anarchy. Once you get to a state of anarchy, the people who want peace will say, “Peace at any cost.” The ultimate end? ‘They want absolute power in the hands of a few so that they can take control of things,’ Randall said. ‘I don’t think they would mind seeing things like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, so that all the private companies are controlled by the government, and all the press.’”
Funny he should mention Hugo Chavez, the socialist president of Venezuela.

As it turns out, according to this guy who apparently has some insider information on who are the big players in the Venezuela petroleum industry, one of the big bankrollers of the Teabagger movement is none other than the oil billionaire Koch family, with oil tycoon David Koch admitting to anyone within earshot that not only does he finance the Teabagger movement, he is one of its key founders.

From the Washington Independent, speaking at last year’s “Defending the American Dream Summit”:
“Days like to today bring to reality the vision of our board of directors, when we founded this organization five years ago. We envisioned a mass movement, a state-based one, but national in scope, of hundreds of thousands of American citizens from all walks of life standing up and fighting for the economic freedoms that made our nation the most prosperous society in history.”
And from where does Koch get some of the money that he gives to the Teabagger movement?

Hugo Chavez.

Politics and petrodollars make strange bedfellows sometimes.

“Fertinitro CEC, a joint venture controlled by Venezuela’s state chemicals company and Koch Industries, each of which hold 34.99% of the shares.”

“Natural gas in Venezuela is heavily subsidized. The government pays oil companies (such as Harvest Natural Resources’ joint venture, Petrodelta, $1.54 per thousand cubic feet while selling it to chemicals makers and power plants in Jose (where the plant is located) for Bs.F 0.03740 per cubic meter. By my math (0.0374 bsf/m3 =37.4 bsf/1000 m3 = 37.4 bsf/28,316.8 cubic feet = 1.321 bsf/thousand cubic feet) that works out to 1.321 bolivars (30.7 U.S. cents) per thousand cubic feet. So just on the natural gas, never mind the electricity or water subsidies, Koch profits from a direct Venezuelan government subsidy of $1.23 for every thousand cubic feet of gas consumed at Fertinitro.”

So next time you see a Teabagger holding one of his hand-lettered signs rife with spelling errors, ask him (or her) what s/he is doing attending a rally bought and paid for by surrogates of that hated Venezuelan socialist president, Hugo Chavez.

I’ll bet Bill Randall, one of 44 black Teabaggers in America would just ache to know that little tidbit of information.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Senate Democrats Introduce the Keep Our Educators Working Act

Early last week Tom Harkin (D – Iowa) introduced SB 3206, the Keep Our Educators Working Act, an act that allocates $23 billion that was authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 specifically to save the jobs of teachers who would ordinarily face lay-offs in light of the downstream downturn in state revenues as a result of the Great Recession of 2007-09.

I noted this with bittersweet feelings as thousands of my colleagues statewide are getting laid off, or in the present parlance of the day: RIF’ed.

“Too late,” I said to myself.

What was once a safe and secure profession, what once was a profession where an employee would not have to spend endless hours justifying their existence, is now not so safe, and self-justification is the rule, not the exception.

And then I realized that it didn’t matter anyway. Too late or not, not one penny of that $23 billion will make it to Texas. Our Teabagger governor, Rick Perry, will see to that.

I realized this when I read the bill. You can read it too. It’s here.

Because, you see, it gives the governor of each state the right to refuse these funds.

This happened before when Perry turned down $700 million in federal “Race to the Top” funds because he said it gave Washington too much say in how we educate our children in Texas. Instead, we leave that to rightwing evangelical young Earth creationists on our state school board.

Said Perry back then:

“Our states and our communities must reserve the right to decide how we educate our children and not surrender that control to a federal bureaucracy.”

The deal is sealed in this case because the bill slams the door on a fiscal practice of channeling funds meant for one thing into the “rainy day fund.”

This is in the bill:

“Subject to subparagraph (B), a State that receives an allocation of funds appropriated under this Act may not use such funds to establish, restore, or supplement a reserve or rainy day fund of the State or to supplant State funds in a manner that has the effect of establishing, restoring, or supplementing a reserve or rainy day fund”

So in accepting the money, the governor must use it to pay teachers, and retain them. Teachers are by and large not included in Rick Perry’s base, so there is no political upside for Perry in using the federal funds for what they were meant to be used for.

So no, this money is not for us, either. Teachers will continue to be laid off, class sizes will continue to grow, and educational quality will continue to suffer as experienced teachers are culled.

So really, full recovery from this economic crisis will not come to Texas anytime soon. Not until we replace Rick Perry with Bill White.

The stakes are huge, and getting rid of Rick Perry has become more of a moral imperative. Ironic isn’t it? This midterm election is going to affect Texas as much as the rest of the country was affected by the ’08 election.

Monday, April 19, 2010

You Just Might Be a Socialist . . .

Is anyone else getting sick of the rightwing nut rhetoric that this person or that person is a socialist?

Implying, of course that being a socialist is a bad, bad thing.

It is amazing, though, what programs and ideas that people are willing to accept in their lives, and not be aware of just how socialistic that thing is.

So here we go, paraphrasing the Jeff Foxworthy comedy routine, “You might be a redneck…” here are my favorite socialist programs that are part of our everyday lives.

If you have ever stood in an unemployment line to apply for your government- guaranteed unemployment check while you are in between jobs, you just might be a socialist.

If you have ever gotten a prescription filled at your local drug counter, and Medicare or Medicaid picked up the tab, you just might be a socialist.

Or if you are thankful that your elderly relatives can do the above, same thing.

If you have ever taken a look at your statement from the Social Security Administration telling you what you can expect your monthly income to be once you retire, and done some mental math tallying that figure, you know you just might be a socialist.

If you want Big Government to interfere with the health and wellbeing of a woman because she is not as intelligent as you are about deciding whether or not she should give birth to another human being, you might just be a socialist.

If you think that Goldman-Sachs should be punished for making a billion dollars by convincing people to invest in home mortgages, when they knew it was a bad investment, you might just be a socialist.

If you think that it is OK to keep and bear arms, but it is a singularly bad idea to allow private citizens to own machine guns, bazookas and smart bombs, things that our military has no trouble stockpiling, then you might just be a socialist.

If you think that people have the absolute right to vote and should not be made to jump through governmental hoops like paying for a photo id so you can vote, you might just be a socialist.

If you think that Wall Street did not have the best interests of Main Street in mind when they drove our economy into the ground because no one was watching the store, and should be re-regulated, you aren’t just a socialist, you are a flaming socialist.

And finally, if you actually like the fact that your neighbor can’t sell his house to a guy who wants to turn it into an auto repair garage because your city or county has zoning laws, then, oh yes, you are very probably a socialist.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Teabagggers Unveil Contract From America

It almost escaped my notice that the Teabaggers have a new manifiesto called the Contract From America because the April 15th Teabagger rallies that were so loudly touted by Teabaggers themselves and the media failed to make a dent in the April 15th news day.

They stayed away in droves.

This is somewhat upsetting to me as I had hoped the Teabagger revolution could last at least as long as until the time that the Texas Ethics Commission levies heavy fines on all of these groups that are taking people’s money for political causes, but not reporting any of it to that governmental body that was set up to monitor fraud, corruption, and abuse.

So the Teabaggers have themselves something akin to the Communist Manifesto now. It even has a preamble.

But yes, it nearly escaped my notice except for the fact that on his false news cable TV program, The Daily Show, Jon Stewart highlighted one of their ten points: That the federal tax code cannot be longer than the 4,543-word long United States Constitution.

I wonder if that includes the Amendments.

The joke being that behind the many Republican complaints about the 2100-page long healthcare reform bill, and all of these other lengthy complicated tomes, Republicans are mainly concerned over the length of these bills because they don’t like to read.

I, on the other hand was quite taken with point number 3: “Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike.”

Now that’s funny.

Funny on two levels.

California has a law just like that. It was a provision of their Proposition 13, a provision that requires that the State Assembly pass a balanced budget every year, and that it pass it with a 2/3ds majority.

Because ever since then California has had to whittle and whittle and whittle essential government services, like public education, so they could live within the meager means that are dictated by a conservative minority.

California is a poster child for everything that has gone wrong with states that have been driven into the ground by their manic minority parties.

But here is the other thing that is ironically funny about the Contract From America. If you look at it you will see each point has a percentage figure tacked on to the end of each item. This is an artifact of the “transparency” with which the Contract From America was written. The percentage refers to the number of votes that each item received in online voting that took place before the final draft was unveiled.

Item #3 received a divine 69.69% of the vote.

Item #3 is an item that specifically calls for a 2/3ds majority vote on the federal budget. Because a vote on something this important requires a super majority.

But obviously, the manifesto itself is not nearly as important because each of the ten items that comprise it required only a simple majority to be included.

Now items 1 through 3 passed with super majority votes (82.03%, 72.2%, and 69.69%, respectively). But items 4 through 10 received less than 66.66% of the Teabagger votes.

So by their own standard, The Contract From America only has three points. The rest didn’t pass muster.

Or maybe it’s just this. Jon Stewart is right and Teabaggers really do hate to read and they just stopped voting after reading the first three.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Should Public Education Be About the Children?

Sometimes I ask myself this question from time to time: Who are we serving in the field of education if it isn’t the children?

Because every day I read things in the news that lead me to believe that public education is for the benefit of everyone.

Everyone, that is, except the children it is meant to serve.

TAKS is nearly upon us. In a couple of weeks hundreds of thousands of children will be locked away into stale, sterilized rooms (every classroom poster must be removed from the walls) and made to sit through hours and hours of hellish silence day after day until the ordeal is finished.

And who do these tests serve?

Not teachers, who have to interrupt their lesson progression for nearly a week.

Not students, who learn nothing from the experience, and have only learned the things that will help them to pass these standardized tests.

So who benefits? Sadly, the only beneficiary is the state education agency whose only vehicle to rate how well schools and school districts are performing is through the data that these tests yield.

They need that data so they can check that box that says that they are keeping their fingers on the school accountability pulse.

But what started me on this has nothing to do with TAKS or accountability standards. Those two things, like hurricanes and fire ants, will always be a part of Texas. What started me thinking about this today, about who is being served in public education, is this article in the American-Statesman about the District 10 race for Texas State Board of Education.

Judy Jennings, a PhD in Educational Psychology is running against Dr. Marsha Farney (yes, she uses the title Doctor in her campaign material, Jennings does not) who has a doctorate in curriculum and instruction – or what we call “Education.” Jennings is running under the banner of taking politics out of education and rededicating public education for the children.

This is from Jennings’ website:
“As a board member, I will accept the recommendations of scientists on the teaching of science, of historians on the teaching of history, and of educators on the best ways to reach all of our students, who come to school from diverse backgrounds and with a variety of learning styles and needs. I will work collegially to move past the unproductive contention that has been the hallmark of this board toward developing a public school system worthy of this great state and the vision of Sam Houston.”
Her opponent, Dr. Marsha Farney, is running as “The Common Sense Conservative.” An appellation that, as applied to the Texas SBOE, is an oxymoron. In other words, Jennings has no political agenda, but Farney has nothing but a political agenda.

A political agenda that serves who?

The Children?

The huge question I have, have always had, is this: why does this wife of a successful patent attorney want this job that pays no money at all? Why did Marsha Farney invest all of $279,000 of her own family’s funds just to defeat her two Republican opponents? For a job that pays nothing? What does she hope to gain?

I am suspicious, and rightly so.

Mainly I am suspicious that Dr. Marsha Farney is not in this for The Children.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Unconventional Wisdom and Blanche Lincoln (? - Arkansas)

I like Arkansas. I like politics in Arkansas especially, because it makes politics in Texas seem absolutely rational.

Here is the conventional wisdom on the primary challenger of Blanche Lincoln for the nomination as the Democratic candidate for US Senator from Arkansas: Bill Halter. Lincoln’s more liberal opponent might do more poorly against a Republican nominee in November because he is, by his own admission, in favor of the Democratic initiatives that Blanche Lincoln has gone on record as being against. Being against them, resulting in her vote with the Republican Grand Opposer Party.

You might think that Bill Halter would have a more difficult time against a Republican opponent than Lincoln would, because Republicans and Independents might have a tougher time distinguishing between them, and a less difficult time distinguishing between a genuine liberal, and a Southern Republican (by definition, the quintessential Republican these days).

And this might give you pause in supporting him for that reason. Half a loaf, after all, is better than none.

But in that you would be wrong and to thank for that I give you the typical Arkansas voters who were recently polled in a Daily KOS/Research 2000 poll.

Now here is the thing: Halter still trails Lincoln in a primary match up, where he is seen as losing the nomination by 12% (45% to 33% with 16% undecided).

But then, when you compare how Lincoln would fare against each of the five (yes, count ‘em, five) Republicans who are vying for the nomination your head starts spinning.

I put it in a table for ease of viewing:

Get it? While Halter is the less desirable Democrat among likely Democratic voters, in the entire voter pool, he is the one who is less likely to get trounced by a Republican.

The liberal does better against Southern Republicans than the right-leaning centrist.

I love Arkansas. It presents us with the enigma that saw the election of Scott Brown (R - MA) to Teddy Kennedy’s senate seat. Given the choice between the Republican who sides with the right, and Democrats, yes, they still lean to the right, but less so with the liberal in the mix.

But really, I am wondering how much of this is blowback from the now infamous ”Louisiana Purchase” during the healthcare reform debate and backroom dealing. The sweetheart deal that Lincoln cut for her state in exchange for her vote on healthcare reform. My guess is Independents were the ones most outraged by that deal, and that restores some sense to an otherwise senseless set of statistics.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It’s Tax/TEA Day

Beware the ides of April, as they say.

April 15th, the filing deadline for federal and state income taxes is here. I sent my pound of flesh in a week ago and stood in no line at all. Today everyone who has procrastinated, for one reason or another will get to talk to one another in a long post office line.

I, on the other hand, get to sit at home and watch my cable guy dig up my yard as he tries to find out where the telephone company stashed my landline. Yes, I have decided to join the 21st century and get an internet phone line.

But as I write this Teabaggers are out in force protesting the fact that they have to pay taxes.

Clearly these people are barking up the wrong tree. Yes they should be irate. I didn’t like the bailouts any more than the Teabaggers. The difference is that I am convinced that our current state of economy, bad as it is right now, would have been much worse had the feds not acted. Yes abuse and fraud occurred. What do you expect? These people are capitalists. It is their job to gather wealth for themselves.

And apparently they are good at what they do.

They also know on which side their bread is buttered and vote Republican and pay lobbyists to lobby Republicans – and some Democrats who can’t resist the urge to get some for themselves.

But the Teabaggers are wrong to protest federal income taxes. If Teabaggers want an issue to protest, why not protest the fact that ExxonMobil has spent $27 million on lobbyists this past year to make sure that they get to keep more of the $284 billion in corporate profits that they made last year.

I mean, really. If these monster corporations paid their fair share of the taxes instead of letting the middle class have that honor, our economy might look a little different today. But I guess it is more fun, and serves some base instinct to blame the Obama Administration on all of the Teabaggers problems.

Or rather, their perceived problems.

And painting a Hitler moustache on the Exxon tiger probably doesn’t give them the same cheap thrills as painting one on the President.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Farney Trounces Russell

Geez, it wasn’t even close. Primary voting Republicans, no wait, Primary runoff-voting Republicans, those who I consider the True Believers, turned out in force to the tune of 37,824 voters (in 16 counties - roughly less than 5% of all voters in the district) and saw the wisdom of not nominating another home-schooling young Earth creationist to run against Judy Jennings, the Democratic nominee for Texas State Board of Education in District 10.

Here is an excerpt from her victory message on her website:
I want to reach out to those who supported my opponent and assure you that it is our desire to focus on what unites us in our conservative beliefs and values rather than any difference of opinion we had in the primary election. We must move forward and unite as conservative Republicans so we can soundly defeat the Democrats in the general election this November.”
Now I prayed to Jesus Christ Himself to please let Brian Russell, His humble servant, win this race. What better contrast to offer the voters in November: they could have had a choice between Jennings, a real educator who has real concerns about Texas education, and Russell, a businessman (lawyer) who home-schools his own children because not to do so would be tantamount to child abuse. I would have loved that race.

I am sure that Jennings was looking forward to that fight, too.

But alas, Jesus did not listen to me, and that’s OK because sometimes I don’t listen to Him either.

Especially when He tells me that I have to hate the gays and all illegal aliens.

Or His surrogates tell me that, anyway. And they say that they speak for Him, so who am I to judge.

So now it’s time to focus our attention on why Marsha Farney believes that being graded as “100% pro-life” by some group that favors big government intervention in the personal biological function of every woman on Earth, why that uniquely qualifies her to make decisions about the education of our children.

And other stuff as we edge our way toward November.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Healey Wins in a Squeaker

Well, you Republicans couldn’t be trusted, could you? You allowed what is probably the most embarrassing District Attorney in a long, long time to retain his office for another four years.

At 10:44 PM it became abundantly clear that Incumbent DA John Healey pulled a fast one and narrowly defeated Nina Schaefer by 6,543to 6,047 votes (51.85% to 48.15%).

There is only one thing that I can say to express my feelings of disgust and dismay over my neighbors unwillingness to get up off their collective behinds and get down there in the same numbers they showed in March (53% opposed to another Healey term in the March primary).

No, wait, Homer Simpson says it so much better:

Pruett Wins in TX CD-14

Well the majority, such as it was in a voter turnout that can only be characterized as miserable, has spoken. Galena Park Police Chief Robert Pruett is the Democratic nominee in Texas Congressional District 14. What the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks, as they say, a win's a win. GOTV defeated Pruett's opponent.

Pruett edged his opponent, Republican candidate for HD 135 (in 1992) Winston Cochran by 106votes (1,337 to 1,231) or 52.06% to 47.93%.

He now faces an uphill battle against a guy who CD-14 Republicans and Libertarians keep returning to Congress. A guy who does nothing for them. A guy who voted against any federal aid for the Hurricane damaged Gulf Coast – his district, his constituents.

Why this is an uphill battle I still cannot fathom.

But it is.

On Naming a New Supreme: No Holds Barred

It’s like a broken record, isn’t it? On healthcare you heard Republicans ready, willing and able to listen to any and all arguments and then cast their vote on the merits, or demerits of the bill.

So when Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress whittled, and whittled down the healthcare reform bill to resemble that which is the law of the land in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, Governor, they STILL to a man and woman voted against the bill.

Expect nothing less from Republicans as we head into the election season with a Supreme Court Justice to nominate. A Supreme Court Justice to replace who is arguably the most liberal Justice presently sitting on the Court.

Right now you are hearing Republican senators making it all sweetness and light about being fair and balanced in the confirmation process.

Expect that all to change.

Republicans have nothing to lose in making it look like an impossibility for Democrats to run the federal government, especially in an election year. All they have to do is delay, delay, delay, and then filibuster on the weakest of pretenses. People are lapping up the pabulum that they are dishing out indiscriminately.

The best thing to do, then, is to nominate the best man or woman for the job. Not the best man or woman you think the Republicans won't dissolve into apoplectic fits over.

That's just a given.

Stuart Carlson has it exact.

Monday, April 12, 2010

SBOE District 10 Republicans in a Free-For-All Brawl

Oh my, how did the contested Republican primary for the State Board of Education District 10 seat escape my notice?

We Democrats had it easy selecting our nominee. Judy Jennings. She was after all, unopposed. But the Republicans had a 3-way.

Marsha Farney, Rebecca Osborne and Brian Russell nearly split the vote three ways last March. However the two top vote getters were Farney and Russell with Farney edging Russell by a mere 193 votes.

And ever since then, it seems, it has been a knock down drag out between these two characters over who is the most conservative.

Because God knows, being the most conservative person is the de facto gauge of who should be the Republican nominee, and by extension, who should sit on the state board of education.

Now I don’t have any personal stake in this race, nor do I know either of these two. I did happen to encounter Marsha Farney’s traveling caravan the other day as they made their rounds at the Teabagger fundraiser that the TEC still needs to hear about. Later on, a friend of mine reported that Farney’s traveling circus caravan was parked in the parking lot at her apartment complex – blocking in her car and the cars of seven (count ‘em, seven) other residents.

But that’s beside the point.

Farney has on her website a red medallion that proclaims her to have had 100% pro-life answers on the “Texas Right to Life Questionnaire.” And then the question begs: and that has to do with education in Texas . . . how?

Ah, I get it. It’s a litmus test.

Voting records are better.

The next thing you notice are the web pages that each combatant has constructed to answer the “lies” of the other.


I like it that Republicans lie about each other. I don’t like it that Republicans get to decide between two liars, that is, which of these two liars are to make decisions about the education of Texas children.

Russell says that Farney is a closet liberal. Well I have news for Russell: closet liberals don’t have voting records that earn them the Triple-R rating. Farney early voted in the last three Republican primaries. This pales, however, in comparison to Russell’s voting record, which has him voting in every Republican primary since 2000.

I like it though, that Russell has, on his “Lies” web page a screen capture of Farney’s husband’s $2300 donation to Barack Obama, claiming that the maximum possible donation had been made.

But that would be wrong. The maximum possible donation from a husband and a wife would be $4600. Marsha’s husband made the donation, but Marsha did not.

But the best “Lie” is to be found on Brian Russell’s website. In it he takes to task Marsha Farney’s claim that Brian Russell’s children are home-schooled and won’t put them in the public school system.

Now where have I heard of a school board member home-schooling their children. Oh, that’s right, that would be our present SBOE member, Cynthia Dunbar.

Russell takes Farney’s “Lies” to task like this:

“Lie: Brian has no experience in Education or Public Schools, refuses to send his children to public school and will never send his children to public school."

"Truth: Brian attended public primary and secondary school for 12 years and attended public university for an additional 7 years. Brian has additionally taught many different ages of children in different settings. Brian told the Austin American Statesman that “we evaluate each year what is best for each of our children and have decided up to this point to educate our children at home.”

Actual Truth: No one ever said Russell himself didn’t attend public school. And then there is the other actual truth that each year that they evaluate “what is best for each of our children” the evaluation comes down to home-schooling them.

But best of all, you scroll on down to the bottom and you read a letter from one of Russell’s supporters, a Tony McDonald, and you see confirmed in black and white that Russell wants to home-school his children because sending them to public school in Texas is tantamount to child abuse:
“To criticize him because he does not send his kids to public schools is an illegitimate attack. Government run schools have gotten so bad that it is nearly tantamount to child abuse to put one's kids in one of these institutions nowadays. It is exactly the sort of person who is afraid to leave their kids in the hands of the government 5 days a week, 9 months a year who I think adequately understands the problems facing Texas education.”

What I don’t get is that Russell must think that this absolves him. It actually seals the deal on Russell’s anti-public education stance.

Yes, it is a fight to the finish in SBOE District 10 and tomorrow we should get the lay of the land.

So who would I want my candidate, Judy Jennings, to run against in November? Really it’s a toss-up between a pro-life education board member and an anti public school education board member. Both bring something to the table (that Judy Jennings can sweep off with one broad stroke).

But truth to tell? I’m asking Jesus to intervene for His servant, Brian Russell. The anti-Dunbar crowd is ready, willing and able to send another anti-education school board candidate packing.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Appeals Court to Rule on Junk Science

No one disputes that certain varieties of canines can track humans in flight by following their scent in a trail that only they can “see.” It’s a Southern tradition, you might say, born of a need to follow and capture escaped slaves.

So that’s not what is in question. What is in question is (some would say) an unreasonable extension of a dog’s ability to detect human scent. That not only can a dog detect the scent of a human, but the same dog is able to discriminate between the scents of one human and another.

We have dead solid perfect methods to discriminate between one human and another. The first was the discovery that the fingerprints of individual humans were as unique as snow flakes: no two are alike, even the fingerprints of identical twins are different. But there are even standards in this area of forensic science. A minimum number of matches or points are needed to be considered a valid identification. This is the result of rigorous scientific testing and statistical analysis.

And in the 90’s we had the miracle of DNA identification that makes fingerprint matching look like junk science.

But here in Texas, we have former Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Deputy Keith Pikett, and his bloodhounds Columbo, Quincy, James Bond and Clue to thank for putting several individuals behind bars. Life sentences issued to innocents for their crime of having a scent that some dog thinks it has smelled before.

The case of Richard Winfrey, Sr. is to be reviewed this coming Wednesday by the nine justices who sit on the State Court of Criminal Appeals. At stake is the reputation of the former deputy and the olfactory organs of his dogs.

And oh, yeah, the freedom of unjustly jailed victims of a criminal justice system that relies on junk science.

As a forensic science, the ability to dogs to discern between one human’s scent and another’s has never, ever been proven. Take a look at this 10-year old article by a Polish forensic scientist.

“The problem of validity and reliability is vital for any forensic science method. Dog scent lineup reliability was examined chiefly by Schoon (1997, 1998). It was measured in diagnostic ratio, i.e. the quotient of “hits" and “false alarms". Depending on the experiment’s configuration, the raw diagnostic ratio ranged from 4.3 (Schoon, 1997) to 6.9 (Schoon, 1998), whereas the diagnostic ratios of other common forensic identification methods vary from 3 to 160 (Schoon, 1997). It should be noted that the percentage of correct dog scent identifications according to the Dutch research was not impressive: 32% and 58%”

But most telling of all is the story of the three separate trials for which Winfrey was found guilty in one of them. Winfrey’s children were both also charged in the murder of Murray Burr. Winfrey’s daughter was also found guilty, but his son was acquitted after the jury met for 13 minutes.

The difference in Winfrey’s trial, as well as that of his daughter, was that the validity of scent lineups was not questioned by their defense attorneys. His son’s lawyer, however, “introduced evidence from a forensic scientist that attacked Pikett's training, scent lineup methods and conclusions.”

So it’s time, I think, to rule on the validity of this junk science once and for all. Let’s not let our criminal justice system be placed in the hands of amateurs. If we are going to use dogs to discriminate between one human’s scent and another’s, let’s put the method through rigorous controlled scientific validation.

And let’s have some standards and practices in place.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fort Bend Teabaggers Are Ethically Challenged

You do have to wonder about the ethical compass of those who purport to be champions of States’ Rights, National Security, and Personal and Governmental Responsibility, among other things.

The ethical compass of people, who organized as the “Fort Bend County Tea Party Society,” not only advertise their group’s participation in this Thursday’s Tax Day protest at Houston’s Discovery Green, but are also holding a fundraiser tomorrow, April 11th at a local restaurant that specializes in Texas-style barbecue.

A restaurant, I might add, that will not see my shadow fall on it ever again.

Because this group, the Fort Bend County Tea Party Society, a political organization that promotes political causes such as opposition to enactment of healthcare reform and the cap and trade bill, is taking money from people.

Taking money in an advertised fundraiser. Taking money by selling $20 bus tickets to the Thursday event in Houston.

Taking money for political causes, but not reporting a single red cent to the Texas Ethics Commission.

Don’t take my word for it. Here is a list of political action committees, sorted by start date (the most recent, at this writing, being April 8th 2010), that are registered at the Texas Ethics Commission. Look for "Fort Bend County Tea Party Society."

You will not find them listed.

Yet this group is taking money and advancing political causes within the State of Texas.

This group flouts the law by taking money for political purposes and not reporting how it is used or who it is from.

This group renders the term “Personal Responsibility” to be completely laughable.

Early-Voting Republicans Make Respectable Showing

In contrast to this year’s Fort Bend County Democratic Primary runoff early voting numbers, Republicans appear to be right on trend to previous years. In fact, Republican voter turnout is on par with the record 2008 primary runoff turnout, a primary that saw the end of the political career of former Temporary Congresswoman-For-Six-Weeks Shelley Sekula Gibbs.

Just looking at past voting results gives you an idea of how jazzed up Primary-Voting Republicans are this year.

In 2002, with only judicial runoff races to decide countywide (I am assuming that the runoff race for Inspector of Hides and Animals was not the big draw here), 2257 votes were cast in the primary runoff, or 33.37% of all votes cast.

The next primary runoff, in 2004 was less well attended; with 1417 early votes cast representing 29.07% of all votes in the election. Small wonder since the only countywide race was for Railroad Commissioner. The other race was for Precinct 1 Constable.

But this all trended upward in 2006, with a total of 2877 early votes cast representing 36.79% of the total vote in the election. This was a fairly hot election as far as primary-voting Republicans went. Not only was former Republican Party County Chairman Gary Gillen being challenged by neoconservative evangelical Linda Howell, Attorney Nina Schaefer ran in a head-to-head race against eventual victor Bud Childers for County Court-At-Law No. 1. Childers eventually won on election day by 139 votes.

In 2008, this runoff primary record turnout was broken again with a total turnout of 4848 voters that cast 44.67% of the total ballots cast in the election. Get that? Since 2004 the percentage of early vote that made up the total vote rose over 7% each successive year. Early voting in primary runoffs is becoming more common among primary-voting Republicans as time passes. This time I believe the voter turnout was fueled by voter determination to lose Shelley Sekula Gibbs like an embarrassing facial wart.

Bringing us to the 2010 Republican primary runoff, fueled no doubt by the competition between those who love John Healey and want him to continue to mismanage the DA’s office, and those who are embarrassed by him just as they were embarrassed by Sekula Gibbs, but for completely different reasons, obviously.

The safe bet is that turnout percentages will hold to last time’s and we will see another five thousand or so Republicans show up on Election Day and have a total turnout of just around ten thousand.

And my best guess is that the Schaefer/Healey race will be another nail-biter that won’t be resolved until the last vote is counted.

Early Voting Ends: Dems Turn Out in Dribbles

Early voting for the Democratic and Republican primary runoffs ended yesterday. The results for the Democratic early vote turnout were less than spectacular.

It was, in a word, astonishingly scant, with a total of 309 Democratic ballots cast countywide.

Now granted, there are no countywide races to be decided here. And there are only two races on the ballot, total. And only in three county precincts do both races appear on the same ballot. But it is nevertheless a scandalously low turnout by anyone’s measurement.

The Democratic runoff races were for the Democratic nomination to run in TX CD-14 against Congressman Ron Paul, a race limited to a mere twelve out of 141 Fort Bend County precincts, precincts that are for the most part dominated by Republicans. But in the three early voting locations within CD-14 district boundaries, we count a total of 42 Democratic ballots cast.

Granted, an early vote can be cast from any voting location so reporting that low, low number may be unfair. But I bet it's close.

The other race is limited to Precinct 1 voters who need to decide between Aurelia Moore and some other guy, the two top vote getters in the Justice of the Peace Place 2 race. My guess is that the bulk of the 309 ballots cast were for this race simply because Precinct 1 contains 35 precincts and the Fort Bend portion of CD-14 covers only 12 or so precincts.

And I can only hope that Democrats are just biding their time and will make the big turnout on Tuesday, April 13th.

But I am characteristically pessimistic about the latter.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Stupak to Retire; Teabaggers Take Credit

Today I met the news head on with the announcement that Bart Stupak D-MI-1 was going to either resign or retire after the end of his tenth term. Then I heard all of that was wrong.

Then I heard it wasn’t and that Stupak was taking the path to retirement. Here is the gist of his reasons given to the media, this from

“Stupak cited long commutes between Michigan and Washington as well as a desire to spend more time with his family as the reasons for his retirement. Stupak shrugged off claims by conservative groups that their promise to challenge his reelection in November pushed him towards retirement.”

“‘I've struggled with this decision,’ Stupak said at a press conference on Marquette University's campus. "I wanted to leave a couple times. My main legislative goal was accomplished.’”

OK, well that was lame. That “he wants to spend more time with his family” is the single-most common excuse for resigning or retiring given when the reason is anything but that. The commute is tough, but really, “the commute” is the reason for giving up a congressional seat?

Now the far right wingnuts and Teabaggers have claimed credit for chasing Bart Stupak right out of Washington, DC.

And there may be some truth to that. After all, the right wing is singularly responsible for piling on vile hatespeech in Congerss (“Baby Killer”) and flooding his voicemail with such hateful language that it gives those of us on the left sure confirmation that Evangelical Conservatives are anything . . . anything . . . but Godly.

But you know, I want a piece of this action, too. The Democratic Party is a big tent party, but we sometimes have trouble with those of us in our number who claim to follow a higher calling, in their religious convictions, and vote their convictions over the wishes and will of their constituents.

I wanted Bart Stupak to just sit down and shut up when he nearly derailed the healthcare reform bill . . . twice. And in the version passed by the House, it contained language that I frankly, found offensive. It was blatantly discriminatory toward women.

No, if the truth were to come out, Bart Stupak may have lost his patience in dealing with the rabid fanatical rightwing fringe that has emerged in our country. Particularly because he dealt with them by being willing to sit down and listen to them. As if that was what these foaming, filth spewing people really wanted. But Bart Stupak was also facing a rather credible primary challenge in his home district.


“‘Last month, before Stupak's decision to ultimately vote for health care overhaul legislation former Charlevoix County Commissioner Connie Saltonstall announced she would challenge Stupak due to his anti-abortion views. He "has a right to his personal, religious views, but to deprive his constituents of needed health care reform because of those views is reprehensible,’ Saltonstall said in a statement.”

Stupak, himself, doubts the viability of a Republican candidate to succeed him.

“‘I've seen the Republican field and obviously I'm not impressed,’ Stupak said. ‘I think it’s the weakest field I've seen in some time. I'm excited about the Democratic prospects.’”

So Teabaggers should go ahead and take all the credit they want to take on this. They should just take it all. It only makes them look even more vile, even more evil, and even more incredibly stupid than anyone has been able to hang on them to-date.

Anti-Choice Teabaggers just chased one of their own, an Anti-Choice congressman, right out of Washington DC.

And I am loving every minute of it.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Pruett 4 Congress

Robert Pruett’s former campaign website, was hijacked by unknown miscreants, who, for some reason or another, didn’t want his message to be broadcast while he was in a runoff election with his opponent, former Republican HD 135 candidate Winston Cochran. Pruett and Cochran are locked in a head-to-head race for the Democratic nomination to run against Congressman Ron “Doctor No” Paul in CD-14. Dr. Paul is the Libertarian who Republicans in CD-14 keep returning to congress for reasons that are unknown and unknowable by me.

Who could have committed this heinous act, an attempt to deprive Robert Pruett of his 1st Amendment rights, among other things, is anyone’s guess.

But it is a moot point now, because like the Phoenix Bird, Pruett’s website has arisen out of the ashes of its funeral pyre and re-emerged as

Just in time, I think.

Now I cover Fort Bend County and CD-14 is a sprawling thing that spreads west from Fort Bend and hugs the Gulf Coast over several counties. Here is a map. The Fort Bend part of CD-14 is the crescent-shaped piece of land that abuts right on the “F” of the word Friendswood that appears on the map.

In Fort Bend County, every early voting location will have Robert Pruett on the ballot. All you have to be is a resident of one of the voting precincts that occur within CD-14, in general, in the area of Fort Bend County north of Westpark Tollway/FM 1093, then westernmost Fort Bend starting around Weston Lakes where CD-14’s eastern boundary wends its way south along the eastern boundaries of Precincts 1008 and 1024. Here are the CD-14 precincts in Fort Bend County, along with their Election Day voting locations.

3004: McMeans Junior High, 21000 Westheimer Parkway KATY
3006: Irene Stern Fulshear Community Center, 6920 Fulshear-Katy Road FULSHEAR
3019: Simonton City Hall, 35011 FM 1093 SIMONTON
3038: Seven Lakes High School, 9251 S Fry Rd KATY
3014: Katy ISD Administration Building, 6301 So. Stadium Lane KATY
3122: Fielder Elementary School, 2100 Greenway Village Dr KATY
3130: Cinco Ranch High School, 23440 Cinco Ranch Blvd KATY
3132: Roosevelt Alexander Elementary School, 6161 So. Fry Rd KATY
3133: Univ. of Houston - Cinco Ranch, 4242 S. Mason Rd KATY
1008: Orchard City Hall, 9714 Kibler ORCHARD
1024: Friedens Church of Christ, 7526 Avenue I BEASLEY

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Teacher's Union Makes FBISD BOT Endorsement

The Fort Bend County edition of the Houston Chronicle is carrying a story on which of the Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees candidates the Fort Bend Employees Federation (aka The Teacher’s Union) endorsed as a result of their survey and their recently-held candidates forum discussed on this blog here.

And basically the Union declined to endorse a candidate for the Position 3 seat, even though both candidates for the office submitted answers to the FBEF questionnaire, and both appeared at the candidates’ forum.

Cutting to the chase, these two candidates weren’t “union enough.” That’s a pretty bold statement in this state, a “Right to Work” state (meaning a right to fire you state). It is fairly much the case that finding a pro-union candidate in this state is like finding a four-leaf clover.

Rare as hen’s teeth among Republicans, and still considered a lucky find among Independents.

Alumbaugh was clearly uncomfortable with the word “union.” His unease with the very idea of a worker’s union was clearly evident on his face, in his mannerisms, and what he said. Pretty gutsy considering his audience was nearly 100% union members.

Rice kept to his “no comment” script and declined to make a direct answer because he allegedly didn’t know the legal ramifications, even though it is state law that unions can negotiate with school districts if the school districts allow it. A convenient lack of knowledge that Rice used to punt this question.

Jim Babb, on the other hand, was pretty frank about how communications are sometimes nonexistent between the district and employees. For this performance, and I would say, this one alone, this earned Jim Babb the FBEF’s sole endorsement in this election.

You need to see this for yourself. Here are excerpts from the video I shot that pertained to the answers to the following question on Union representation:

“How do you feel about granting the Union the right to exclusive consultation?”

Any questions about who is the pro-Union candidate?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Healthcare Reform Gets 1.1 Million Co-Signers; Protests Continue

1.1 million Americans co-signed with Barack Obama the healthcare reform bill, Healthcare for All.

Mine was but one.

And this month boxes upon boxes of signatures of grateful Americans were presented to President Obama, in essence saying this: H-E-Double Hockey Sticks Yeah!

Here it is from the Obama for America folks:

Now contrast that to the Americans who showed up to town hall meetings this past weekend, Americans who apparently resent the fact that healthcare will soon be there for them to take advantage of, or not.

Here is how Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz handled one of these naïve questioners at her April 5th town hall meeting.

Frankly, the extent that Americans will go to deny themselves something that we have tried to get for ourselves for 100 years amazes me. If this joker doesn’t want healthcare, so be it. On the other hand, when someone rear ends him while he is waiting for some nuns to finish crossing the street in front of his pickup truck, and he shows up at the emergency room with head and neck injuries, but without health insurance, guess who pays.

Yep, you and me.

Monday, April 05, 2010

TX-14 Runoff Early Voting Starts Today

The last “big” race in Fort Bend County, in part that is, is the race for who is to be the Democratic candidate to run against Ron Paul in Texas CD-14.

I have posted on this race twice before and have made no bones about my preferences in this race, preferences for which I have been mildly criticized. But I am not going to rehash about all of that.

Oh, wait, yes I am.

The runoff election pits attorney Winston Cochran against Galena Park Police Chief Robert Pruett. I would post the campaign websites of both candidates again for your perusal but it would appear that the Pruett website, formerly at has apparently been hijacked. Try the link and see for yourself.

I have heard about two criticisms about the Pruett candidacy from the other camp. One, that he is undereducated, and the other, that he has been known for coarse and rude behavior in carrying out his duties as a law enforcement officer.

Let me address the second point first.

What? You have got to be kidding!

Now, as to the second point, how much education does the US Constitution require a United States Congressman to have? Let’s look – Article I Section 2:

“No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.”

That is the sum total of the prerequisites to be elected to this office.

Oh, by the reasoning given, given the choice between a fancy lawyer with a fancy law degree and a lowly police chief with whatever degrees he has, or doesn’t have, we should opt for the one with the highest level of education.

Whether this is a fair way to judge who you should vote for depends on how you would answer this question:

Who would make the best President:

  1. a guy who graduated from Yale with an overall GPA of 76 (81 in his senior year), then took some time off, then came back to earn his J.D. degree from Boston College, or
  2. a guy who graduated from Yale with an overall GPA of 79, a degree in History, then took some time off and came back to earn his MBA from Harvard Business School (overall GPA 3.5).

If you opted for the Yale guy who then went to Harvard, then George W. Bush is your man and John Kerry is clearly the more under-qualified.

Which of the two candidates, on the other hand, Cochran or Pruett, is the lifelong Democrat? The one who we can depend on in the close votes?

Pruett claims to be a lifelong Democrat. That fact is not easily proven since his primary voting record indicates participation in the Democratic primaries only in 2008 and 2010. However, I am willing to take the man’s word for it.

Cochran also claims to be a Democrat. His primary voting record, it seems, is even more dismal than Pruett’s. Cochran has never voted in a primary election, Democratic or Republican as far back as the online voting records go. Except for the 2010 primary. He voted in the Democratic primary in that one. So we have actually uncovered a Texas Democrat who did not participate in the 2008 Democratic primary process.


But most damning is the absolute fact that Winston Cochran was on the Republican ballot in the 1992 primary for the House District 135 seat. He was. Look for yourself. Here is the screenshot.

But here is the real problem. TX-14 is a pretty safe Republican district. So winning the primary is only the beginning of an uphill battle. Take for instance the primary voting records. In the 2010 Democratic primary, a total of 16,436 votes were cast, spread semi-evenly over the three candidates. On the other side of the aisle, despite the best efforts of mainstream Republicans to unseat their Libertarian congressman, Ron Paul garnered 80.76% of the vote and that translates to 45,947 votes.

This is a very uphill battle for any Democrat, a sometime one or lifelong one, it doesn’t really matter. Ron Paul has a lot of popularity among his constituents for some unfathomable reason. But here is my best guess. My best guess is that if there is some reason to vote against Ron Paul, like him getting caught on the runway in a stripper bar (something that arguably could even up his polling among his constituents) Robert Pruett could more easily capture that vote than Winston Cochran.

Pruett looks like a guy you don’t want to mess with. He acts like it. He dresses like it.

He looks to me like the kind of guy who would appeal to Independents who are sick and tired of not being represented by “Dr. No.” He looks to me to be the kind of guy who might appeal to mainstream Republicans who are tired of having a Libertarian ideologue as their standard bearer in Congress.

So I still think Pruett Can Do It, even if his website doesn’t load anymore.