Saturday, April 30, 2011

Perry's Feud With Feds Serves No One But Perry

Rick Perry is in it for himself.

That was a tagline for the last election when Texans decided that they would rather have a low brow governor backed by Chuck Norris than an intelligent (but bald) successful businessman and ex-mayor of a large metropolis.

So when Rick Perry decides to deride the federal government over their handouts, and takes those handouts whenever he can - except the ones meant to ease the pain of the unemployed - but then co-authors a book (because he didn't write it himeself) called "Fed Up" he wonders why, why oh why doesn't he get federal disaster dollars for the fires in drought-striken West Texas.

One reason: the Feds are fed up with Rick Perry. And guess who suffers? Rick Perry? No, he is making hay on being stiffed.

Texans and Texas are suffering for Rick Perry's antics.

Elections matter.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Senate Redraws State Board of Education District Boundaries

Yes, because of the 2010 Census, all the district boundaries are set to be redrawn by a Republican majority Texas legislature. Today I saw where they decided to change my district from District 10 to District 7.

You can see if you are affected by going here.

So, I lose representation by one Republican, and gain representation by another one. Arguably a more conservative one if the stories I hear about David Bradley are accurate.

In commenting on his attitudes toward the constitution and religion during the board’s recent adoption of social studies standards, Bradley is famously known for saying this:

“I reject the notion by the left of a constitutional separation between church and state. I have $1000 for the charity of your choice if you can find it in the constitution.”
Now the words separation between church and state do not appear anywhere in the constitution. But neither do the words homosexual, gay or lesbian appear in the constitution. Yet the constitution has been used as a basis for the argument that discrimination on account of sexual orientation is illegal.

You see, the constitution was written to be overly general in some areas, and overly specific in others. Guidance in figuring out what the Framers had in mind in the general areas is usually provided by examination of what the Framers wrote separately, in personal letters and in The Federalist Papers.

So when the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment was written, what was on the mind of the Framers? What was on the mind of the Framers when they added this little beauty to the constitution?
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion
Look no further than Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. In it he wrote this:
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between church and State.
Quod Erat Demonstratum.

So Mr. Bradley, you can cut a check for the Fort Bend County Women’s Center. They could use a break from a man, and not the kind of breaks that they usually receive from men.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

On Being Unconstitutional

FortBendNow is running a piece today about the $830 million that is coming to Texas via the feds now that the Doggett Amendment has been repealed and Texas state leaders no longer have to guarantee that education funding in Texas won’t go below the allocation that education got in the last budget.

Recall that this amendment, special to Texas, was so that Governor Perry won’t take the Texas allocation that goes to education, put it in the education budget, and then extract $830 million from it to be redistributed to places he likes.

Like he did with $3 billion last time Texas got federal dollars for public education.

Tracy Hoke, Chief Financial Officer of Fort Bend ISD is taking a wait and see approach to see if this infusion of federal money will affect the school district’s budget over the next two years.

From FortBendNow:
“It is our understanding that the federal education funds will be applied to the shortfall this biennium,” said Hoke. “The district is unsure of how the allocation of the award will impact the state funding allocation to public schools during the upcoming biennium—so it is just too early to tell.” 
My guess is that the CFO is not willing to bet that the federal dollars will do anything, anything at all to improve the situation that public education finds itself in, in Texas for some of the same reasons that I wrote about in this blog posting.

When there is that kind of free money out there, count on Rick Perry to perform an encore to his 2009 performance and play a shell game with this $830 million. Now you see it, now you don’t. Hey presto, 16,000 more teachers to the unemployment lines.

All of this because Rick Perry, a constitutional scholar, said that it was unconstitutional for him, as governor, to make any guarantees about how the education budget will look like in the next biennium.

Well, how about this, and speaking of the constitution. What about the part of the Texas constitution that speaks to funding of public education. Specifically this from Article 7, Section 1:

“SUPPORT AND MAINTENANCE OF SYSTEM OF PUBLIC FREE SCHOOLS.  A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”

Yeah, that one.

Is what Governor Perry and the Republican-dominated legislature are doing unconstitutional? Why does Governor Perry cite the constitution for what he can’t do on one hand, yet blithely ignores the constitution in doing (or in this case, not doing) something else on the other?

Hypocrisy? Greed? A desire to end public education as we know it?

You know, there is precedence in the law about this. Judge John Dietz, who became the thorn in the side of the legislature in 2004 when he found the massive under funding of public education to be unconstitutional, was the main cog in the machine to change the way education was funded. However, because property values were on the rise, the taxation rate on property tax was decreased by the Republican-dominated legislature from $1.50 per $100 assessed valuation to $1.00 per $100, with school boards allowed to raise that rate to $1.04, which most of them did.

Then property valuation dropped after the great recession of 2008-2009. And so did revenue.

But no corresponding rise in taxation rates, because, oh no, can’t do that during a recession.

Judge Dietz, where are you now? Does someone need to file another lawsuit?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rightwing: He’s Still a Kenyan

Well President Obama caved to the juvenile and inane demands of the far right to produce a “long form” birth certificate and produced his Hawaiian birth certificate earlier today, proving beyond doubt that he is a natural born American citizen.

You would think.

Actually the other thing he proved today is that it never was about whether he is a natural born citizen and not a Kenyan. It never was about that. What it was about is that there are people out there who cannot accept that Barack Hussein Obama is their president, and that a black man lives in the “Whites Only” House.

He also proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was absolutely correct not to produce the birth certificate that they demanded because there was absolutely nothing that this would settle once he did.

Because now, these birthers are singing a new song and its title isn’t “I’m Sorry,” It’s “It’s a Fake.”

From Hotair:President Obama continues to make the mistake that these people are serious doubters, and all they require is serious answers and serious documentation. They. Are. Not. Serious.
“The Smoking Gun expresses some doubts, though these are largely directed at what the site refers to whimsically as the “certers” (the replacement term for “birthers”?)”

“Noting that the document will now receive the same scrutiny as the clearly fabricated Texas Air National Guard memos that ended the career of CBS veteran Dan Rather, the gun points out a few “nutty points about the birth certificate sure to be seized upon by the nonbelievers:”

“Chief among these is the unexplained disparity between the curvature on the left side of the page (seeming to suggests the certificate was taken from a multipage volume) and the unbroken pattern on the green security paper. Shouldn’t the pattern also curve? Is a puzzlement, no?”
President Obama continues to make the mistake that these people are serious doubters, and all they require is serious answers and serious documentation. They. Are. Not. Serious.

They are racists and liars. They will never be silent. They will never give up trying to discredit this man who they revile.

Oh, and by the way, Donald Trump, who famously said that he would produce his tax returns when Obama produced his birth certificate must now make good on his promise, don't you think?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Perry: Rainy Day Fund is For Rain (Literally)

In citing his concern today that the Senate Finance Committee included another $3 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to offset some under funded but constitutionally mandated state funding of education and healthcare, Rick Perry, a supposed constitutional expert, in his own mind anyway, said it would be unwise to use money for a "short term need" at a time when "nobody knows what the future is going to be." A future, he intimates, that could include a Category 5 Hurricane hitting Corpus Christi or Houston. That could bankrupt the state he says.


But constitutionally, the Rainy Day Fund can’t be used to handle rainy days. Constitutionally, the Rainy Day Fund can only be used to pay for recurring expenses during bad times. During times when not enough revenue has been raised in order to pay for essential state services.

Here is what it says in the Texas Constitution:
The constitutional amendment establishing an economic stabilization fund in the state treasury to be used to offset unforeseen shortfalls in revenue.

The only problem with this is that some would say that there were no unforeseen shortfalls in revenue. When the revenue structure was established 6 years ago there already were predictions of twenty plus billion dollar shortfalls even back then.

So a shortfall that was entirely intentional, theoretically, cannot qualify to make draws on the Rainy Day Fund.

But no one is admitting to that, are they?

So it’s back to the original premise. Rick Perry is blowing smoke out of the place from which monkeys also fly. The Rainy Day Fund was never meant to take care of disasters; it was intended to take care of budget shortfalls. Like the one that will occur in 2 year’s time.

The Senate Finance Committee is entirely correct to draw another $3 billion from the fund.

They can and should do that. It is actually constitutionally mandated that this be done.

And then they can go back and write in a draw on the Permanent School Fund and wipe out the entire shortfall.

Saving the lives of Texans, and saving the public education system that will otherwise regress to what we had in the Dark Ages, in a feudal society, where only the rich went to school.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pissing off the Norwegians

I guess you just don’t want to piss the Norwegians off.

It seems that Norway is one country in the international coalition who is flying military planes over Libya to keep Moammar Gadhafi’s army from slaughtering civilians. I didn’t even know Norway had an air force. Or bombs.

But they do, and they have F-16 fighter jets to drop laser-guided bombs.

And I heard in the news today that rather than bomb the Libyan army per the stated mission of the coalition, Norway went the mission one better and bombed Gadhafi, although I couldn’t verify it in the print media, not yet anyway. It was announced on MSNBC a short while ago.

I have only one question:

Norway? The Norwegians are dropping bombs on Gadhafi? Norwegians?

When I think of Norway and Norwegians I think of scenes like this:

Not scenes of Norwegian F-16 fighter jets dropping laser guided bombs to decapitate the leadership of a sovereign nation. No, when I think of countries that do that, I think of my own country. We’ve never been any good at it, though. In response to the 80’s Libyan participation in the Lockerbie incident, Reagan ordered Gadhafi’s compound bombed and ended up killing Gadhafi’s 3-year old daughter. That’s the country I think of doing stuff like that, the good old USA.

Certainly not Norway.

Something must have pissed off the Norwegians and they went ahead and took off the gloves. Now when I think of Norwegians I am going to have to dredge up images like this.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hamming It Up at Easter

No, it’s not so much the case here in Texas, where brisket seems to be the meat of choice for Easter feasts, but in the rest of the country, at least, on Easter Sunday, people eat ham.

It is more than a blip in sales at those spiral cut ham stores. Easter makes their year.

But yesterday as I was buying my package of ham slices on sale I had to stop and ask myself why the heck we Americans eat ham at Easter.

It’s not like Jesus ate ham. Jesus, after all, was Jewish and eschewed the products of porkdom. Jesus kept kosher, I think, even though the New Testament doesn’t mention it at all, I think anyone who called himself a rabbi kept kosher.

So I looked it up.

And no, it hasn’t got a single thing to do with religion. Like just about all Easter traditions, eating ham at Easter has nothing to do with Jesus. Like just about all Easter traditions, it all has to do with springtime.

In the before times, before we had electricity, before we had refrigeration, we Americans did our slaughtering in the fall and the meats that weren’t eaten then were preserved through a process of curing, a long slow process that took all winter to complete. So really, the first opportunity to put out a spread for an Easter feast came just as the curing process was complete.

A happy coincidence that became tradition after ice boxes and later, refrigerators, became part of the household furniture.

Now on to my next investigation. Why the heck do Germans eat carp on Christmas Eve?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fixing the Structural Deficit

Now you see? This is what I have been talking about. Here we have a state legislature poised to pass a job-killing budget bill and a governor poised to sign it into law, and not one thing is being done to correct the structural deficit that got us in this fix in the first place. You’d think that would be enough, wouldn’t you? You’d think that the Republican-dominated state government couldn’t come up with more ways to ruin the state’s finances.

And there you would be wrong. A bill to extend business tax cuts to businesses with less than $1 million per year in revenue has just been voted out of committee. At a time of budget shortfalls, school closings and massive teacher layoffs 8 of the 11 members of the House Ways and Means Committee voted to deny the state of $150 million in revenue over the next two years.

Absolutely astounding.

From the Austin American-Statesman:
“The bill by Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, would continue a tax break that will cost the state almost $150 million over the next two years. Under the original business franchise tax, only companies with revenue of less than $600,000 a year were exempt from the tax.”

The structural deficit was created several years ago when Republicans decreased property taxes and sought to recover the lost balance by creating the business tax. A tax that didn’t quite make up for the loss in revenue from property taxes. So they are going to solve this problem by increasing the amount of money that the business tax doesn’t collect.

Republicans are in transition from doing a bad job raising revenue to pay for basic government services like health and education to doing a worse job.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ensign Resigns

I find it a bit amusing that I have a previous blog post on soon-to-be former Senator from Nevada, John Ensign, and its title is just one letter off from this one’s.

It took him awhile to realize it, nearly two years, but he finally realized that this issue was not going to go quietly into that good night. Not with Barbara Boxer as Chair of the Senate Ethics Committee.

But you know, it’s ironic that Ensign effectively ends his political career with a whimper as he shuffles off into irrelevance, and people completely miss the boat on why this guy has no business in public service: that he was, is and will continue to be a flaming hypocrite of colossal proportions. People miss it because he is in denial that his acts are in some way lesser sins than Bill Clinton’s dalliances. He is famously quoted as saying this (courtesy of the Associated Press):
President Clinton stood right before the American people and he lied to the American people," Ensign said. "You remember that famous day he lied to the American people, plus the fact I thought he committed perjury. That's why I voted for the articles of impeachment.
Yeah, and what about the fact that President Clinton did not resign over the Monica Lewinsky matter, but John Ensign did resign over the Douglas and Cynthia Hampton matter? What about that?

But it wasn’t over the ginormous problem Ensign has with his ethical dealings with the wife of his staffer, it apparently is all about the money.

The money, the $96,000 “gift” that John Ensign’s casino-rich parents made to Douglas and Cynthia Hampton. The facts surrounding this monetary exchange have been shrouded in mystery – available for speculation, but without any known facts.

The fact that the Senate Ethics Committee seemed to be poised to address this issue for the first time in public seems to be the gentle nudge that got Ensign gone. The truth must truly be dark.

From the New York Times:
“Mr. Ensign’s family, at the time the payment became public, described it as a gift. But Mr. Hampton has insisted that it was a severance payment. If that was the case, the payment could be construed as an illegal contribution by Mr. Ensign’s parents to their son’s campaign, which then was paid out to the Hampton family. Federal Election Commission staff lawyers raised that theory last year. And the Senate Ethics Committee, which has subpoena powers, was examining the same question.”
Lessons learned? Apparently being a hypocrite in DC is de rigeur and not a real issue among the beltway boys. But getting caught with your hand in the till? Well that simply cannot be abided.

In Texas it’s pretty much the other way around.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Perry Proclaims for Public Prayer

I can’t believe my own eyes. Wait, it’s Rick Perry. Of course I believe my own eyes. The House is considering a job-killing budget bill, the Senate is considering a fewer job-killing budget bill, no one will consider fixing state finances so they don’t have to consider more job-killing bills, but here we have our governor issuing a proclamation asking all Texans to stop sometime this weekend and pray to their personal deities, whatever that deity is, that He/She/It bring rain to the Texas plains, and put out those fires.

From The Chron:

“‘I urge Texans of all faiths and traditions to offer prayers on that day for the healing of our land, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of our normal and robust way of life,’ he said in the proclamation.”

You see the governor thinks that if enough people pitch in all of those gods/deities will get together and rain will surely be sent to the parched drought-stricken hills and plains of Texas. Why just put it all on the Christian deity, er, deities? Can’t Buddha pitch in? All He does is sit around anyway. Allah surely can do something other than providing 76 houris to self-murdering terrorists. Krishna and Rama should care about Texas as much as they care about the Deccan Traps (wait, it doesn’t rain much there, either). And what about that most ancient Earth Mother? Gaia?

And what the heck. I guess I can pitch in, too and invoke my deity’s help and aid in these very dry times.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

So here goes.

O Flying Spaghetti Monster, we seek your help
Texas is dry as a strand of uncooked lasagna these days
And the fires are everywhere.
Smoke fills our eyes.
Please stretch out your delicious strands of pasta goodness
And make the clouds give up their spaghetti juice.
Just as You brought life to the cows and the pigs so we can have meatballs
Bring rain to the Texas plain.
In Prego’s name we pray.
There you go Governor Perry. Hope it helps.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

This is the World That We Live In

I was thinking today about how events and elections rule our lives. Most of us can’t do anything about the bad decisions that people in power make that affect our lives so profoundly. Bad decisions being made in Austin, in Madison, Wisconsin, and in Washington, DC.

Bad decisions because of an election that was bought and paid for through Citizens United, and driven by the wizards of Republican spin that made the last recession all about Obamacare.

How do you do that, I ask? And the answer comes back you do this by relying on the American people’s catastrophic lack of any memory at all. You take advantage of the fact that Americans are increasingly unable to process information.

Someone reminded me today that this has already been discussed.

The Killers.

The World We Live In

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

HB 400: Nevermind

A teacher friend of mine in Austin, a gifted physics teacher I might add, is distressed over hearing the news that HB 400, a bill introduced by Eissler in the current legislative session, will strip her of some of her salary next year.

In Austin, they have yet to be given their contracts to sign for next year, and her colleagues, she tells me, suspect that it is because the administration is waiting for news of the bill’s passage so they can offer them lower pay next year.

Current state law dictates that a public school teacher cannot be paid less than they were paid in the previous year. HB 400 "fixes" that, allowing school districts to pay its teachers less. Ostensibly this is to reduce the number of teachers they will have to lay off to stay within their budgets.

But my friend, and her colleagues, can rest easy, for a year at least. Here is what Section 31 of HB 400 says:
“SECTION 31 (a) Except as provided by Subsection (b) of this section, this Act applies beginning with the 2011-2012 school year.

(b) if this Act takes effect on or before April 10, 2011, the change in law made by Sections 21.103 and 21.206, Education Code, as amended by this Act, applies beginning with contracts for the 2011-2012 school year. If this Act takes effect after April 10, 2011, the change in law made by Sections 21.103 and 21.206, Education Code, as amended by this Act, applies beginning with contracts for the 2012-2013 school year.”
It is now past April 10th. The bill has only just been voted out of committee. It doesn’t apply next year.

And really, I have to wonder if it will stand a constitutional challenge. Teachers are being singled out as public sector employees for pay reduction. Administrators? Not so much. Or police. Or firemen. Or anyone else. My question is, doesn’t this bill, if enacted, violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment?

These legislators keep missing the point. Spending cuts must come hand in hand with an increase in state revenues.

Creationism: Here Comes the Sun

Creationism, that branch of conservative evangelical Christianity, holds that you cannot pick and choose which parts of the Holy Bible to believe in - it must be all or none – also holds that this doesn’t apply to science. The Bible isn’t a smorgasbord, they say, but apparently science is. What I mean is, adherents to creationism deny the validity of the branches of the sciences of biology, ecology and evolution as well as the sciences of geology and oceanography, but have an unreasonable fixation on the subdivision of the science of physics generally known as thermodynamics.

All of those branches of natural science are clearly in error, but thermodynamics? Gospel.

Creationists in disputing the validity of the biological principle of evolution, cite the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, that the entropy of an isolated system always increases. For isolated system, read Earth. For entropy, read chaos. That is, in a system obeying the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, order (for that, read highly developed organisms) gives rise to disorder. Evolution, they say, is the very antithesis of the 2nd Law in that it predicts increasing order.

But in order for this to happen, the system must be isolated.

The reason I bring this up is that a friend sent to me a screen capture of a creationist website that gently, even pedantically explains all of this so that low-browed creationists can understand it as well as teach it to their home-schooled children.

I present it to you in all of its glory, with my friend’s annotations included.

Isn’t that a scream?

And it’s so very revealing that these people can’t even hear themselves when they spout all of this nonsense.

A similar situation, I think, applies to Teabaggers who have embraced Donald Trump for his ultra-rightwing views on abortion, war, and President Obama’s citizenship. Just a few short years ago, Trump was on record, and on video as being anti-war, pro-choice and for universal healthcare. He was a classic east coast lefty snob. But now that he is speaking their tune they have simply forgotten about all of that.

Teabaggers and Creationists: Ignoramuses gone wild.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Jury Duty: An Inconvenient Truth

So I was called to Jury Duty today.

Now before I get started, let me just say that I am a huge fan of the American jury system. It is practically the only thing we do besides voting that even comes close to a manifestation of being citizens of the county, state and nation. It is a necessary function. It is an honorable thing to do when you serve on a jury.

I just wish the people who call you up to serve, to do the honorable thing, didn’t make your life miserable while you were doing the honorable thing.

Jury Duty is never a convenient thing. Most people have lives - even I have a life - that have to be put on hold for a few hours, a day or two, or in the extreme cases of weeks at a time. But we all agree that Jury Duty is just that, a duty. One that one must perform from time to time.

So I was inconvenienced today, as were my 151 students who were set to doing what they call “book work” by their hand-picked substitute teacher.

And not wanting them to be further inconvenienced, and not wanting to assign more mindless “book work” I arrived right at the appointed hour to a roomful of fellow jurors who don’t know about what you do to avoid getting picked.

You arrive at the last minute and you sit in the back.

Then the district clerk’s staff read some words from a paper that must be 30 years old because nothing is mentioned about cell phones. You are read the riot act about all the bad things that happen to you if you fail to appear (we were all there) and finally told that we were not allowed to leave the room or would be escorted back inside by a bailiff. And then they show a video on Jury Duty. About 10 minutes long. By that time the judge is supposed to have arrived.

But he doesn’t arrive. First the district staffers have no explanation then an explanation that the judge is in a very important hearing. Doubtful. So the staffer jokes that maybe we wanted to see the video again, getting some laughs, and then she showed the video again.

Twice more.

It wasn’t a joke.

Sitting in the back, I had light enough to read my book. Those in front had to sit in the dark - captives. At least I was allowed to read my book.

Things finally got started when the judge arrived about 2 and a half hours after the appearance time on my summons. I got a lot of reading done.

Needless to say, the whole process went at a snail’s pace as people lined up to offer this excuse or that excuse why they should be excused from jury service. I looked at my watch. It was lunchtime. No word on when this was going to end.

Then the speeches began. No, you will not get to know what was said. I am sworn to silence on that.

Some papers needed to be filled out so we then waited for them to be distributed. And then the line formed as they individually processed each juror’s paperwork. During this time an event occurred that, out of respect for privacy, I will decline to describe. Needless to say the EMT truck arrived quickly. Justice moves slowly, but EMTs move like greased lightning.

The whole process from beginning to end, took 7 hours, with maybe 15 minutes of my time actually spent doing something.

I guess my point is, and it’s a vague one, that when people are doing the honorable thing and reporting for Jury Duty, there should be a modicum of respect for them. Getting beaten about the head over what would happen to them if they didn’t show up, when they had already showed up, was a little over the top. That and these people all went to great lengths to report on time. The judge could have respected that.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Texas House Redistricting Map is Out and Viewable

Want to know whether you are going to have the same state rep in 2013 that you have for the current legislative session? Go to the website and take a look. What you have to do after clicking on the link is click on “Select Plans,” then scroll down to “PlanH113 Rep. Solomons Statewide House Proposal.” And double click on that map. You can zoom in and see where you live and what district you will reside in.

I got moved from Zerwas’ District 28. Dr. Zerwas, a gas passer, is a moderate Republican (I think). I was moved to Charlie Howard’s District 26. District 26 looks like an amazing jigsaw puzzle piece. It is so contorted that it gives me a backache just looking at it. Charlie Howard is a tool of developers and a misogynist extraordinaire. And the way it looks, it is going to take another Republican to unseat him.

Ron Reynolds’ district looks safer than ever for him. He loses the Richmond/Rosenberg area but maintains his stronghold in eastern Fort Bend County.

New to the area is District 85, a district that once described a patch of land around Lubbock. Redrawn to this area, it’s mostly rural, and takes in Rosenberg and parts of Richmond and then flies down US 59 through Wharton and Jackson Counties. There are more cows there than people.

Too bad cows can’t vote.

Abu Graib General Tapped for Senate?

Is it at all possible that Texas Democrats will be given a choice between electing another Republican or instead choosing the Abu Graib General to fill the empty senate chair that Kay Bailey Hutchison will leave next year?

It is if this article that appeared in the Star-Telegram on Friday is to be believed.
“Democrats appear to have recruited retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez to run for the U.S. Senate in Texas, setting the stage for the party to field a well-known candidate in the 2012 race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.”
Sanchez is famously known for being in charge of the Iraqi prison Abu Graib during all of the prisoner abuse that went on. He was cleared of having anything to do with those abuses, saying that he knew nothing of the actions that took place at that time.

And this could all be true. Still, Sanchez admits that he left the military as a direct result of these events.

The article goes on and describes the general’s personal and political viewpoints and his upbringing in South Texas. It also mentions how Sanchez will surely draw Hispanic voters to the polls.

But I can’t get past Abu Graib. I can’t even count up the number of talking points that have been handed to any Republican candidate unless, of course, they plan on running the former commander of the Guantanamo prison facility.

But they won’t of course. First, it would look like they were just being copy cats. But mainly they won’t because running the former commander of a prison where torture and abuse were the rule rather than the exception is just not exactly the best idea.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I Say It Here and It Gets Done There

No, I’m not so full of myself that I think that what gets written here ever influences a single solitary person, even among my 6 readers, but isn’t it great that the question I asked over a year ago in this blog post gets some serious discussion on the state school board this week?

In that posting I was noting some ominous trends in what has become a daily reality now that the legislature is busily doing its business of not fully funding education for the next two years. I was noting some school closures around the state. And I noted the existence of the nation’s largest public trust fund, the Texas Permanent School Fund, and how it was being managed by the State Board of Education, and how it was being used to invest in – of all things – real estate for the very first time. And I asked this question:
“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?”

The Texas Permanent School Fund was established in 1854 for the benefit of public education in Texas. But today, public education is under fire and 4.7 million schoolchildren (and 100,000 of their teachers) are being given the short shrift.

So imagine my surprise today when I read this in the Austin American-Statesman:

“Several State Board of Education members have backed a proposal to seek voter approval for taking $2 billion more from Texas' public school endowment to mitigate budget cuts.”

“‘In the spirit of Rosie the Riveter, we are ready to roll up our sleeves and do our part to meet the current funding challenge and support those on the 'front line' of our public schools,’ according to a letter delivered to state leaders on Friday.”
The letter was signed by 9 of the 15 members of the SBOE. None of the conservative bloc on the board signed the letter.

And then it came as a complete shock to me to find out that to get this done, there would have to be a constitutional amendment to do this, and a 2/3 majority vote to get the issue on the ballot in November.

What? You have to be kidding. It takes a constitutional amendment to allow the Permanent School Fund to fund schools?

Never mind.  I’ve given up trying to see the logic of how things are run in this state.

But here is a modest proposal. The House bill is going to short the school districts by $8 billion (the number keeps jumping around but I think this is the number everyone has settled on). The Senate version does this, too, but by $6 billion. Why not split the difference and boost the funding from the Permanent School Fund from $2 billion to $7 billion? Why not do the right thing and fully fund the school districts as the legislature is constitutionally mandated to do anyway? Keeping it at $2 billion is an admission that it won’t fix the problem, at least temporarily, and losses will still be suffered in terms of class size and public and private sector unemployment.

Fix the problem. Plug the hole.

And then fix the way that the state gets enough revenue to pay its bills.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Making Education a Priority

You can spit from where I live and hit State Rep Ron Reynold’s district. That’s how close I am to being represented in Austin by this very thoughtful and caring person. Ron Reynolds got caught on camera supporting education the other day and Back to Basics loaded a clip of him chastising a villainous Republican-dominated state house about tabling an amendment to HB 1, the budget bill. A bill that slashes $10 billion from education funding over the next two years.

They just aren’t listening though. And they aren’t listening because some of them actually think it’s a bad idea for government to be in the business of educating its people. And some of them want to privatize the whole thing.

But this is not coming from a majority of Texans, this is coming from a rightwing radical fringe that seems to be driving these things, and people are going along with them out of fear of looking like a progressive liberal if they don’t.

But as the reality of what has become the dismantling of public education in Texas becomes apparent, one can hope that more people than teachers and administrators speak out and demand that the state legislature fix the problem by fixing the revenue hole that it created in 2005. The revenue hole that started us down the road to perdition. People are protesting in Katy. And Austin. And in Dallas. And in New Braunfels. And of all places, in Lubbock. Lubbock! And in (God help us) Athens. Yes, that Athens. The one in East Texas.

These are not my fellow bleeding heart liberals. These are the people that sent these anti-education state legislators to Austin last November.

People have to wake up and smell the stuff that the legislature is dealing out to the state’s schoolchildren. Hopefully they’ll do it before public education becomes a memory.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Katy ISD Students Take to the Streets for Their Teachers

So on Tuesday, 500 new teachers with three or fewer years employment in Katy ISD were notified that their contracts would not be renewed for the 2011-2012 school year. Katy ISD expects a $50 million decrease in funds that they will receive from the state over the next two years and the admins felt compelled to eliminate their future.

If I were a student teacher right about now I would be considering another line of work.

But an interesting, and most unexpected thing happened today. At four of their high school campuses, Morton Ranch, Cinco Ranch, Seven Lakes, and Katy, students simply walked out of these school buildings during the passing period and armed with protest signs, lined up across the street and shouted at passing motorists about their anger and frustration that good teachers were being terminated.

Apparently the protests were organized Egyptian-style, on Facebook. And apparently they aren’t done, as they plan on picketing the district offices this afternoon and evening.

The protests attracted lots of attention in the media, and some attention with local police.

Here is raw footage of this impromptu protest rally taken from the KHOU helicopter flying over the Cinco Ranch rally.

The district superintendent responded with an email message sent to each student email address that the district has on file. That message can be read here.

Appropriately no disciplinary action is planned.

Now, if only these students can convince their parents that it might be a good idea to vote for a temporary two-year a tax increase to help tide over the district. They need to do the right thing and the courageous thing. Something that our state legislature simply lacks right now.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

John Kyl Not Factually Speaking

If you have been in a coma – or are a Teabagger – you are not aware of the great fun that Steve Colbert and Jon Stewart had with Arizona Senator John Kyl’s gargantuan “misspeaking” last week when he stated in no uncertain terms that 90% of what Planned Parenthood “does” is abortions.

Here is what Colbert did to this sad sack senator:

And now I hear that people are tweeting other statements that are not meant to be factual.

What fun.

I want in on the fun. Times are so bad now that a little fun might just be what the doctor (of what some of us are going to be settling for in the future – nurse practitioner) ordered.

First, please to note that the following are not meant to be factual statements.

Tom DeLay has a twin that he absorbed while he and she were in the womb. It’s in his shoulder which is why you never see him with his shirt off.

Rick Perry spends his evenings pulling the legs off of cockroaches, laughing uproariously as the try to run away.

Barack Obama actually was born in Kenya and what is more he still maintains a permanent residence in Nairobi.

Michele Bachmann got her degree from MIT and is actually a former NASA rocket scientist.

John Kyl gets all of his cocaine from his pastor.

Michelle Obama’s first words to Barack when they first met were “Me love you long time.”

And finally,

The goal of the Republican Party is to bring prosperity to the middle class by bringing back jobs that have been lost to other countries and cutting defense spending.

Ah. Cathartic.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention that the statements made above were not intended to be factual statements?