Monday, October 30, 2006

More Ominous Than Race Baiting - Islamophobia

I am convinced that Neo-con Republicans have just taken a turn and gone down a road that exposes them for the racists that they most certainly are. No, not immigration this time, not Hispanic bashing. I am witness to a true backlash on the Muslim community: Islamophobia. In Houston and surrounding suburbs, this backlash is against a significant proportion of our growing southeast Texas Asian population.

Witness. On Monday, at Garcia Middle School in Fort Bend ISD, a large 4 x 8 sign went up at this early voting site. It simply read:

Encourage Terrorists – Vote Democrat”.
Voters were in an uproar but the poll judges said that there was nothing they could do. The school principal there, however, had no problem ordering it taken down. Imagine what must have been going through the minds of the children of South Asian immigrants, and the parents themselves, when they arrived to drop off their children at that school?

Witness. Last month this appeared in the Washington Post. I noted it because I knew I would be writing this someday. Statistically attacks on Muslims is way up. Racial profiling is up. Innocently, Muslims feel that these numbers are due to American ignorance of the Muslim religion. Sorry to inform you, but the Americans who are attacking Muslims may be ignorant, but it is my experience that ignorance and religious intolerance do not necessarily go hand in hand. Bigotry knows no bounds.

Witness. Posted a few days ago at Onlenzo Markum's “The Markum Report” is a reference to my posting on the Candidates Forum earlier this month, hosted by two South Asian political action committees. Take a look. I’ll wait. Markum specifically takes offense at Nick Lampson saying “Salam Alaikum” meaning "peace be upon you". It was a courtesy. Most of the audience were South Asian immigrants or 1st generation Americans. Markum made sure to put that in bold. Why? The sly devil never says why. He just lists in his rant that if elected to a majority and the Democrats take the house, Nancy Pelosi will become Speaker of the House (and third in line of succession to the presidency), and Bush and Cheney will be impeached (oh my, President Pelosi). To top it off, he includes my description of Nick’s speech at the forum, prefacing my text with “As if that wasn’t enough, this little gem from one of our friends on the left . . .” What wasn’t enough, Onlenzo? Nick’s courtesy to Muslim community leaders? Comparing his immigrant roots to theirs, being one of them? I’m afraid, what Onlenzo is saying is that if you vote Democratic, you will be supporting terrorists. But then that's just me looking at his words in context. Maybe he doesn't like Muslims because he had a bad reaction in his last encounter with a helping of Baba Ghanouj.

Witness. All you have to do is read Mark’s recent entry in View From 22. It is about a fellow blogger, Greg Aydt, who is a Republican Harris County Precinct Chair (and therefore an elected official) and a living, mouth-breathing Islamophobe. His blog is named Rhymes With Right (get it, that is how he gets people to correctly pronounce his last name, otherwise it would be Aydt, rhymes with Hate). Mark swallowed hard and reviewed Aydt’s August postings (I have to give him credit for intestinal fortitude), noting down all of the incredibly racist remarks he had on Muslims. I won’t list them here, that’s already been done there.

It’s time to answer back. It’s time to tell the people what kind of people our elected officials are, what they believe and most importantly what candidates they support (at the top under “Grassroots Republican Leadership”). Farhan Shamsi, Democratic candidate for Justice of the Peace in Precinct 3 of Fort Bend County is answering back with a mailout to 4,000 residences.

Here are the front and back of Farhan’s piece. It sends a powerful message to the Muslim community, and to anyone who is for truth, justice and fairness in America. Click to enlarge.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Silly Shelley's Transparent Lies and Why It's Not ""

I was at the Rosenberg Combined Campaign headquarters working my tail off yesterday. People came in and out all day to pick up precinct sign bundles for election day. Some stayed to talk and the conversation always came around to the NRCC’s on the edge of legal advertisement for Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. I got it at home, and just told them that I was NOT going to vote for Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, I was going to vote for Tom DeLay as always.

Our friend Dave did one better. He records his incoming suspect calls. Earlier he nailed a "poll" conducted by “Southern Research” that was in effect a campaign ad paid for by Sekula-Gibbs’ campaign. More recently, he also got a call from the same girl that called me and he put her feet to the fire. Listen to the version Mark put together. We all listened to it over and over with different people hearing it for the first time. Each time we listened to it the hilarity was just as intense as if we heard it for the first time.

In the message, Rachel mentioned that Dave could log on to to find out how to write in a candidate in the eSlate system. (And for Krishna's sake don't click on this link and drive up her hit count).

Write Shelley? It sounds more like a website for an advice columnist than a write-in candidate. It’s amazing that this domain name was still available. "Writeshelley". So the question goes begging: why not "Writeinshelley"? Isn’t that a domain name that is more to the political point?

So go ahead. Click on the link or click on Shelley’s goofy photo. They’ll take you to the same place.

Do I think that a Democrat from the Republic of Texas reserved the domain name? Is the pope German?

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I was thinking this morning about all of the things I have been doing to help elect our Fort Bend County candidates, and really, all Democratic candidates running for office this year. It makes me tired just thinking about it. All of it is pure grunt work that needs to be done in a campaign. But necessary, I think. So let me see if I can’t put a comprehensive list of things I did this past summer and fall. No, not to impress anyone, just an FYI. And if I leave anything out, please let me know.

Block walking – by my estimate, something around 800 “persuadable” doors knocked on.
Stuffing campaign literature into plastic bags
Door drops – hanging campaign literature on the front doors of houses
Envelope stuffing – preparing a mailer to a targeted population
Working a donor list – calling to raise funds for the Morrison ad.
Working a GOTV list – calling people to remind them to vote a straight democratic ticket.
Getting an absentee ballot application for Mary
Helping to set up a garage sale fundraiser
Data entry in the Texas VAN
Making suggestions for a future mailout
Making campaign contributions
Posting comments on FortBendNow
Putting lawn signs together
Erecting 4 X 4 and 4 X 6 campaign road signs
Manning a booth
Attending a candidate forum
Attending house parties
Attending dinner functions
Attending fundraisers
Eating barbecue
Chauffeuring a nationally recognized democratic spokesman to the airport.
Blogging about it all. This entry makes number 115.

That’s it I think.

Friday, October 27, 2006

It’s Only a Class C Misdemeanor, But It’s the Thought That Counts

When Shelley Sekula-Gibbs entered the early vote polling place at First Colony Conference Center on Thursday, she knew what she was doing. She knew that she was violating Chapter 61.001 of the Texas State Election Code. Here it is in black and white:

A Class C misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of no more than $500, and being convicted of a Class C misdemeanor “does not impose any legal disability or disadvantage”.

She violated the law and was filmed by a KHOU news crew admitting it. This flagrant disregard for the law of the land goes part and parcel with what makes Tom DeLay Republicans tick. They are above the law. And that attitude is exactly what got and is getting Republicans all over in hot water.

Texas Democratic Party lawyer Chad Dunn plans on filing complaints with the Secretary of State’s office and the county attorney. Chad Dunn, you will recall, successfully argued that Tom DeLay could not be replaced on the general election ballot because he had effectively resigned and was not ineligible as claimed by Tina Benkiser and the Republican Party of Texas.

But early word from Fort Bend County Elections office is that Fort Bend County Election administrator J.R. Perez is declining to investigate this flagrant criminal act. He says that he wishes that she would have gone to another restroom, but that is it.

According to the KHOU story, democratic volunteer poll watcher Jane Borden Matcha said that “she saw Sekula-Gibbs enter the polling place and introduce herself. Matcha said Sekula-Gibbs peeked inside a voting booth, spoke with voters and introduced herself to Matcha. Matcha said she complained to the election judge about Sekula-Gibbs' actions, but the judge chose not to respond.”

I have to ask myself, why would she risk flagrantly violating the law in order to relieve her bladder? The answer has to be self-promotion. By violating this fairly minor law having a very low fine and no disability or disadvantage, Sekula-Gibbs garnered for herself tens of thousands of dollars worth of free air time and attention.

Sekula-Gibbs has now had her name boldly announced on KHOU evening news as "Republican Congressional Candidate Shelley Sekula-Gibbs". She got what she wanted. While you will still have to write her name in, Republicans have nearly successfully overturned Judge Sparks' order that Tom DeLay not be replaced on the ballot.

Republicans are very cynical about the law, you see.

So it’s really worse than it appears. Not only did Sekula-Rodriguez-Gibbs purposely and intentionally violate the law, she did it for political gain. If there isn’t a law against that, and a felony at that, there ought to be.

This really needs to be made into bad news for Sekula-Gibbs. She needs to pay dearly for the advantage and free air time that she got for violating the law of the land.

Let’s start with exposing this ploy for what it is, and compare it to Tom DeLay trickery and deceit. Vote for this woman and you help elect an immoral, self-promoting, conniving, corrupt politician to replace the previous immoral, self-promoting, conniving, corrupt politician.

Then let's get the DCCC to photoshop a picture of her in a pink prison jumpsuit and send out this piece:

"Is There Any Truth to the Story that Shelley Sekula-Gibbs Did Hard Time for Selling Crack Cocaine to Her Daughter's Middle School Friends?".

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sorting Out the Truth in a Sea of Lies

I am starting to have trouble sorting out truth and lies, friends and foes, big hats and high hats. It must be getting close to the mid-term election. Well, yes, early voting started Monday, and I have my "I Voted" sticker displayed prominently. So I, thankfully, am done with the election on a personal basis, and can devote my time to helping my fellow man see BLUE.

Then out comes a new TV ad for Susan Combs, you know the one who wouldn't give Head the time of day? Susan Combs is going to wage war against the machine in Austin. Now if that isn’t the most confusing TV ad to come out this year, I’ll eat my Cub Scout cap (I made it to WEBLOS).

Apparently Susan Combs, the Republican candidate for Texas State Comptroller, is running a populist campaign against the entrenched political establishment that is responsible for “waste, fraud and abuse in state spending.”


Wha . . . ?

And she’ll fight for “your money” because it is not “the government’s”. Have we just gone insane? Republicans have dominated that office for years. Led by Opportunistic Republican Carole Keeton Strayhorn, the office has nothing but toed the Rick Perry line unless Grandma found some way to redirect state funds to benefit her own self-serving campaign.

Ahhh. That must be what we are talking about.

It’s a subtle jab at Rick Perry’s third place opponent. That and a slight rewriting of history. “She was us, but now she’s them . . . and by the way, when she was us we weren’t her.”

Does that even make any sense?

Anyway, with the ads, both TV and mailer, that have crossed my path these days, I can see that we are definitely in the home stretch of this mid-term election:

Misdirection, redirection, liberal Lampson, liberal Shelley, blaming people for things that they never did, obfuscation, push polls, pseudoresearch.
I really do wonder whether voters can wade through all of the fecal matter and come to a sound decision based on their beliefs and opinions.

I am characteristically pessimistic.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Why The Democratic Plan Is A Mystery to Texas Voters

What is the Democratic Plan?

What will Democrats do after they take over the majority in Congress? Republicans say that people should vote for Republican candidates because only Republicans have a plan. Democrats, say the Republicans, don't have a plan. Does that mantra sound ever so familiar?

Juanita and Bryan both lament the fact that the Democrats DO have a plan, but no one has heard of it. It's called the First 100 Hours Plan. It was first suggested last July by Nancy Pelosi, but it got it's best air time on October 5th when Pelosi gave an interview with AP.

And major media did pick up the story. I dunno. It got right by me. I think it may be because that was the time of the gubernatorial debate and all of our attention was focused there.

And the DCCC picked up on it too. So did the Washington Post, that I read daily.

The Democratic Party has it, too.

And these blogs:

Alternate Brain
Neophyte Pundit
The Blue State
Daily Kos

So what is the First 100 Days Plan?

Day 1: Put new rules in place to "break the link between lobbyists and legislation."

Day 2: Enact all the recommendations made by the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The next 52 hours:
Raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour
Cut the interest rate on student loans in half
Allow the government to negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients.
Broaden the types of stem cell research allowed with federal funds

All the days after that: "Pay as you go," meaning no increasing the deficit, whether the issue is middle class tax relief, health care or some other priority.

This is paid for by rolling back the Bush Era tax cuts for the rich and well-off.

Sounds like a plan. Sorry I didn't hear about it sooner, but I just had to watch Kinky get creamed by Chris Bell.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Goldilocks Politics: Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold. Just Right

Goldilocks had a dilemma. She had three bowls of porridge to choose from, how to choose? Well, one criterion was thermal energy. She found that one was too hot, one was too cold and one was just right.

Then she had another choice to make. What chair was she going to sit in? Size became the criterion. Two of them were just too big for her. So she chose the smallest one, but had eaten a little too much porridge so when she sat in it she turned it into toothpicks.

Eating and busting up furniture is bound to tire one out, so she now had three beds to choose from. Firmness, a definite deciding factor: one was too hard, one was too soft, and the third was “just right”.

When the three bears got back from Wal-Mart they woke her up and she ran out the door screaming into the night.

That’s kind of like how I am feeling right about now. The DCCC has put out two mailers, one that exposes write-in candidate Shelley Sekula-Gibbs as “Too Liberal for Texas” saying that she is “too soft on illegal immigration”.

Then what should appear in my mail box yesterday but another piece from the D-trip-C. This one attacks write-in candidate Don Richardson as “Too Conservative for Texas” as he wants to “put troops on the border”.

Does either of these pieces actually give the voter a third choice? Negative. Not a one. We just have two choices presented to us, one too hard on immigration, the other too soft. So I’m waiting for the third shoe to drop. Who could be the choice that is “just right”?

That’s where I am right now. Waiting for the bears to come home to scare the holy Krishna out of me.

I agree with Bob Dunn. This is either a brilliant move on the political chessboard, or someone’s wacky idea of good politics.

I am on the fence on this one.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Get Out The Vote: An Absentee Ballot for Mary

Yesterday I was at Depak and Neeta Sane’s house making GOTV calls from Bryan’s call lists. I was with a small group of committed students. First we took one precinct and split it up evenly, and mass-called the residents of it with our cell phones. That done, we then took on our own precincts and continued the calling. At the bottom of page one I noticed that the woman I was going to call was 90 years old.

This could be an interesting call.

So I dialed and waited for 6 rings, 7 rings, and then it was picked up.


“Mrs. . . . Mrs . . . “ (God, how do you pronounce that name?) “Mary?”

“Yes, who’s calling?”

Then I went into my spiel and she stopped me at “straight Democratic”.

“I’m sorry, did you say Democratic?”

“Yes ma’am, this year we are asking people to vote a straight Democratic ticket.”

“Well I have voted straight Democratic all my life and wouldn’t ever have a reason to stop. My daughter takes me to that school and she reads the ballot to me. But these days it’s hard. I fell last year at Foley’s and broke my leg, and the year before I broke the other leg at . . .at . . . I can’t remember. I don’t want to remember. And now I can’t see out of one eye so that’s going to be hard. I’ll do it but I just hope I don’t fall.”

“Mary, have you heard of an absentee ballot?”

“Oh, yes, but I’m going to be here.”

“Well, Mary, it’s also for people who are over 65 or are disabled” (I left out the being in prison part). “You could vote at home and send it in”.

“Oh, that would be wonderful. But how do I get the ballot? My daughter who helps me is in Dallas for a wedding. I wanted to go too, but you know, it’s hard to travel. She’s the one who helps me vote you know. She goes with me to that school and reads the ballot to me.”

“Would you mind if I came by with an application for an absentee ballot?” You could fill it out and I will see that it goes in.”

“Those words are so small I can’t read them. My daughter usually reads to me but she’s visiting in Dallas. But if you will bring it by, yes, I will take a look at it.”

“OK, I’ll be in touch”.

“OK, bye now.”


So later that evening I found where you can get an absentee ballot application online at the Fort Bend County Elections website, printed one, and called Mary after work the next day.


“Hello, Mary?”

“Who’s calling?”

“It’s me, Hal. I’m the one who said he would get you an absentee voter ballot application. I can drop it off in about a half an hour if you’d like.”

“Oh, yes, I’m up.”

So I googled a map and drove to her house, a nice single story in the northern area of my precinct. I rang. She opened the door after about 2 minutes and said “Come in!”

“I hope it’s not too warm in here”

“No, not at all,” I said, as sweat started pouring down my back. Damn, why did I keep the sweater on?

She was a perfectly delightful “little old lady”, 4’ 10” tops, maybe 75 pounds. She had a clear strong voice full of humor and conviction.

Mary shuffled with her walker back to her chair where she had her crochet and needlepoint projects. She cleared her TV tray and sat down. I produced the form and a black ink pen. She stared at it closely and said “Oh, my, that print is small”. Then she got out a massive magnifying glass, the kind with illumination, and said “Will you hold this for me? I can’t write and hold it at the same time.”

So I became Mary’s sight enabler. She wrote in a clear strong Spenserian handwriting and was very proud to put her birth date even though it was optional. Then she said, “well, I guess I check the one that says ‘over 65’ and gave me a wry smile. Then she signed her name and it was done.

But I knew that I wasn’t done.

I got to find out that Mary does her own yard work, but doesn’t do it in the summer when it’s too hot. I found out that Mary’s neighbor is an Indian woman who was currently in California where they had another house and Mary thinks that they have a lot of money. I found out that the neighbor next door doesn’t say a word to her because she is Catholic. Then she identified all of the people in all of the framed pictures on her wall, table, and television set. She told me about her daughter’s mother-in-law who just had a stroke, and she’s so young. She talked about her own stroke that occurred when she was taking a bath and thought that she had gotten shampoo in her eye and that’s why she lost sight there, but no, it was the stroke that did it. Then she told the same story to me again 5 minutes later. She talked about getting old, that it’s not fun but that she’s not afraid to be 90 and likes it that she has lived this long. I asked her who was the first person she voted for, and got the answer I was expecting: she couldn’t remember.

Finally she was done and started to get up and we slowly walked to the door while she told me about her daughter’s mother-in-law who had a stroke.

We said our goodbyes and she thanked me and I thanked her for being a Democrat.

On the way back I slipped the application in a pre-addressed envelope and mailed it.

And that’s how you get a straight ticket Democratic vote.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Driving Paul Begala

(Ann's alternative title: "I Spent the Night With Paul Begala")

Boy have I got a story to tell tonight.

Last night was the Begala Gala (aka An Evening With Paul Begala) at the Quail Valley Country Club. Lots of stuff happened leading up to it, at it, and after it. So I’ll just start in chronological order.

Out of the blue, I got an email from Bryan. He simply asked “Let me know if you will be able to borrow a projector. If not, we may see if we can rent one” Projector? So I replied to his email: “For what? When?” He returned, “For the Begala Gala” (it caught on). Now how did he know that I had access to digital projectors? I do, and I brought one to the Begala Gala so we could show the paying guests what sort of activities went on in the summer and fall of 2006 at the Fort Bend Democrats. A slide show of Bryan’s candid and posed photography. And to show the powerful ads being aired over the television airwaves.

After setting up the projector, I went and got a Shiner. 4 bucks for a bottle of beer. Well, what did I say about this place? Upscale. I was standing there watching the slides of myself and my friends, and turned around to see Shane Sklar. He said “Hi how ya doin?” We talked a little about the campaign and then he let out a bombshell that the DCCC had redesignated his race in CD-14 as an emerging race. This is good news. An emerging race is one that the DCCC feels are run by candidates who have taken traditionally non-competitive districts and, through the strength of their campaigns, put themselves in a position to win in November. This will give the Sklar campaign a real financial boost.

Then Susan called me over and told me that while Richard Morrison was meeting Paul Begala at the airport, he had no ride back so she wanted Ann and I to take him back to the airport.

I said “Oh, OK.”

“OK? That’s all you have to say is OK?” And she whacked me a good one in the ribs. Then I realized that she had given me, one of the Fort Bend Democrats bloggers, an opportunity for an unique story. Too bad muse wasn’t there. I could have gloated about my scoop all night.

Dinner started and I was drinking iced tea now. It was going to be a one-Shiner evening if I was going to be driving a national treasure to Bush Intercontinental Airport. Ann and I sat way off in the corner with Lorrie and Lloyd. Then we were joined by Albert Hollan who came stag. We were sitting in a far corner but the table had a unique view of the podium that was rare for the unsponsored tickets.

Then Paul Begala finally arrived and he got an ovation. Soon afterward, the speeches started. All the local candidates just stood up and waved, including Nick. But Shane Sklar had a short blurb, mentioning his new status at the D-triple-C. Finally, Don introduced Mayor Leonard Scarcella who knew Paul Begala back when he was a clerk at Court Hardware Store in Stafford. Years before Scarcella himself worked at that store, and when Paul was introduced to the Mayor, they said, “You were OK, Leonard, but this kid is smart. He’s going places.” Then he introduced Paul Begala, and up everyone got again.

Then he told us to sit down. So we did.

Let me tell you something about Paul Begala. The man can just get up and talk and talk and talk. No notecards, just whatever comes off the top of his head.

Paul started out talking about his roots in Stafford. He said he grew up in a house not three blocks from where he was standing. He spoke of his time working in Court Hardware, that it was still in business because they cared about their customers and knew the value of serving the community and not just doing anything “to sell someone a bag of hammers”.

He was all over the map with anecdotes. He peppered the anecdotes with observations on why the Democratic Party is the party that cares, and why we will do so well in November.

Did you know that there is a national poll that Republicans in Congress have a 16% approval rating? I believe it. Paul Begala said it was so. Then he went off and named a bunch of things that they had done, page scandals, money scandals, macaca scandals. Sixteen percent of Americans approve of all of those things.

He talked about his 62 acre ranch in the Shenandoah Valley in northern Virginia. He, like Shane Sklar, runs cattle on his ranch. (Paul Begala likes Shane Sklar. Look for some support out of him). He compared his ranch to the President’s 1500 acre spread in Crawford. Not one cow, not one bull on this ranch. But he runs around on it clearing brush. Begala observed that compared to himself, compared to Shane Sklar, George Bush really is “all hat and no cattle”.

Paul Begala runs cattle on his ranch, but none of them bear names. To him and to each of his children, the name of each head of cattle is “meat”. He runs a few goats, also. They were also nameless. One of these goats, however, had a traditional American habit. Begala’s ranch is rich and green, but this goat would always put its head through the “American Wire” fence (Shane knows what this is) and eat the neighbor’s grass instead of the grass on his ranch. I don’t know, maybe something about it being greener. Trouble is, the goat has horns, and while he can push his head through the wire gap, it was impossible for the goat to pull its head back through the fence because of the horns. It was a daily occurrence. “Dad, that goat’s caught in the fence again . . .”. The goat was finally given a name. He was named in honor of the man who could get his country into a war, but could not get it out of a war. Begala’s goat is named “Rumsfeld”.

On the war, Begala said something that is distinctly unfunny. “We have now been fighting the war in Iraq longer than we fought the Germans in World War II".

I could go on and on but he just talked on and on and we’d all be here all night. After his third standing ovation, the crowd closed in for photo opportunities and autographs on books (some of you took me seriously?).

I collected my projector and got it safely in the car. People were starting to leave so I asked Ann for the keys so I could bring her car up to the entrance. Yes, we drove Ann’s Jag. My Honda is a good sensible economic car, but it lacks legroom and leather seats. But Ann couldn’t find her keys. She looked everywhere, and then asked Susan where her keys were. Panic sets in. I went back and found the keys, asked where she put her car and walked right to it. Wrappers and other sundry things went in back along with an oversized Jim Sharp lawn sign. We were ready.

We went back in and everyone was looking for Ann, me and car keys.

Soon everyone settled down and Ann and I were introduced to Paul Begala as teachers. My bloggery was also mentioned. I think Susan wanted me to get noticed. But I don’t know, some people in the media listen to what bloggers have to say, but I think some of them see us as rank amateur wannabes. I think Paul might be of the latter sort.

He protested, saying that he could just get a taxi but everyone said that wouldn’t do. So Paul got in back and we drove off.

He wondered what we taught and where. When he was in high school, there was only one in the entire district. Dulles High School. We told him where and what we taught. My brother studied Physics at UT, he said.

I asked “What did he do with it?”

“Nothing. He just works at odd jobs, technical jobs. Not married, no kids, he’s happy”

We talked about Fort Bend and Stafford and how things had changed and grown, that we had just built our tenth high school. That got his attention. As a student at Dulles, Paul Begala, was on a student committee whose task was to come up with a name for Fort Bend ISD’s second high school that was being completed in 1979. He says that his committee met, did diligent research and finally submitted their recommendation to the school board.

One trustee was very negative and didn’t like their suggestion: Theodore Roosevelt High School. What was his reason? The trustee said: "It sounds too n _ _ _ _ ry”. (for those of you still scratching your heads, it rhymes with “piggery”). He said that the trustee said “Those people would attend the school and think it belonged to them because the name sounded too n _ _ _ _ ry." The first high school in Fort Bend County, you see, was named after John Foster Dulles, the Secretary of State in the Eisenhower administration. Well, the trustee said, they weren’t going to name schools after people anymore. So the name that was ultimately settled on was Willowridge HS [click on the link, scroll down to Trivia]. Yes, not named after anyone. The tradition not to name schools after people anymore seemed not to have lasted too long, however, as the next named high school campus was W.P. Clements HS, after the sitting governor of Texas. As it turns out, every single high school campus in Fort Bend ISD has been named after someone: Kempner (Isaac Herbert Kempner), Elkins (Lawrence E. Elkins), Austin (Stephen F. Austin), Bush (George Herbert Walker Bush), Travis (William B. Travis), Hightower (Lockhart Valentine Hightower) Marshall (Thurgood Marshall). So Fort Bend ISD has no Theodore Roosevelt High School, and to this day, Willowridge’s name remains the exception.

“But” Begala explained, “these were the people running the school distict when he attended. I had never heard that word used before". He was amazed as Ann regaled him on the changing demographics of the area, and tales of houses being bought by foreign business people that were essentially turned into boarding houses so that their children and the children of their friends could attend school in America.

Later, as we traversed the Sam Houston Tollway, the conversation turned to “Republicans”. He talked of how Republicans present a united front. But Democrats are “thinkers who have independent thoughts”.

I said “and that is our downfall”. Paul agreed and cited Bill Clinton’s observation that “Democrats want to fall in love. Republicans want to fall in line.” Republicans just want to be told what to believe, tell them and they will be OK with that. He recalled his Republican brother, who joined a Lutheran church where he was told that the Earth was 5000 years old. He was OK with that, and argued about it to Begala’s wife. Paul would just tell her to “let it go”. Then, he said, his brother joined another church, and was told there by his pastor told that the earth was 5 billion years old. And he was OK with that. Republicans, Begala said, just need rules to follow, and if there are no rules to cover a situation, then don’t bother with the situation – it’s not important.

We talked about the race for governor and Paul wanted to know about the latest polls. I told him what I knew, that Bell and Strayhorn were about dead even at 18-19% each, with Perry at 35-36%, and Kinky now below 10% after the debate. He hadn’t heard about it and asked what happened. So we told him about how he dissembled. Begala said that he knows Kinky Friedman, and that he knows why he is doing this, and that he is a brilliant guy. Ann said, “yes, brilliant, but not shrewd”. Begala allowed that that might just be the case.

On what makes Dubya tick, Paul Begala says that he lacks empathy. He simply cannot relate to a person in pain. His theory is that this may be due to the loss of his sister Robin at 6. When she died of leukemia, it is said that the entire family locked the whole thing out. Robin simply did not come home. The day she was buried, George Sr. played golf. He cannot feel anyone’s pain because he knows how to lock it out. He would not be able to empathize with the plight of a wounded veteran.

It’s either that or he lacks empathy in reaction to his being sent off to boarding school at a young age.

I remarked that I could never understand his opposition to stem cell research when his sister died of a disease that it may one day cure. Begala responded that George Bush does not believe all the stuff he says he believes. He just says he does to keep his right wing base in line.


Ann (and everyone else before we left) tried to get him interested in our local blogosphere, but I could see that he was only mildly interested.

Indeed, we are all just pikers next to professionals in the media. And Paul Begala is a professional and very good at what he does.

So as we entered the airport, I asked “what airline?” “Oh, I’m staying at the Marriott, my plane is first thing in the morning”. So I followed the signs to “Hotel” and drove up to the entrance.

Ann gave him another gift and he seemed overwhelmed. He truly seemed impressed by the hospitality that was bestowed on him.

He thanked us one more time.

His last words to us?

“Good luck with your races”.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Fort Bend Democrats Know Their Way Around a Grassroots Campaign

I’ve often wondered where the term "grassroots campaign" came from. Wikipedia provides a credible explanation that I have verified. Here’s what Wikipedia says about the term “grassroots”:

"A grassroots political movement is one driven by the constituents of a community. The term implies that the genesis of the described political movement is natural yet spontaneous and imposes a dichotomy between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures.In the United States, the first use of the word "grassroots" is thought to have been coined by Senator Albert Jeremiah Beveridge of Indiana, who declared of the Progressives Party in 1912 that: "This party has come from the grass roots. It has grown from the soil of people's hard necessities."
Why mention it now? I’ll mention it now as I am reminded by my sore back and butt what a grassroots campaign means.

I stopped by the Fort Bend Democrats Combined Campaign Headquarters in Rosenberg, Texas today after work to drop off some materials. Farhan Shamsi was there with my friend Ann and her dad. They were helping Farhan send out a special mailer that he had prepared for a target population, 1324 Muslim voters in Precinct 3 of Fort Bend County. Ramadan is about to end, and it ends with a big two-day bash called Eid ul-Fitr. In order for the mail to get to their destinations by Monday, they had to go out tonight, so it was stuff and stamp city.

Ann shoved a bunch of envelopes in my face and said “Now that you’re here make yourself useful”. So I started putting little white labels on the return address portion of the envelope. The label contained the words “Eid Mubarak!” which Farhan said meant “Happy Holiday”. I gave my stamped envelopes back to Ann and she put the address label on. Then it eventually received a blue postage stamp. This stamp is being distributed by the US Postal Service in honor of the Muslim holiday. Then Ann and her Dad had to go, but that was OK because Don had come in and he decided to help. I switched over to envelope stuffing and he attached labels.

Farhan said we would probably get real close to the number if we stuffed all of the envelopes in one box of 500, and the stacks we had on the table. So I set off to stuffing. You have to get into a rhythm. The tedium of the job was compensated by the conversation. Farhan and I exchanged stories about our children, Don told us that he had just heard that Dubya was going to come to Fort Bend County to speak at a Get Out the Vote Rally. We wondered where they would hold it as Fort Bend County doesn't have that many large buildings where security could be ensured. The Marriott was suggested and rejected, Safari Texas – big room but too many doors. Finally we decided they were going to hold it in a hanger at the local airport. We were all wondering whether Bush’s sub 40% approval rating would be inherited by the Republican candidates. They sent “Dead Eye” Dick Cheney earlier. Heck, Don said, why not just send Don Rumsfeld out here, too, and really boost the Democratic cause?

Don had to leave, but took the boxes of envelopes that were done, and mailed them. In the meantime, Dave came in and he sat down to attach labels. At a seemingly arbitrary time Farhan said, “let’s just stamp these stuffed envelopes and then see what we have”. So I went back to stamping. Another hour and a half went by. Don came back and retook his seat. Bryan came in and Don called out to him to check for soft Democrats in Pecan Grove. So Bryan went to work on that on the Texas Voter Activation Network. The piles of stuffed envelopes got smaller and smaller, my back was getting stiffer and stiffer. But all of a sudden all 1324 labels had been attached. Farhan looked at the stuffed pile, and counted eleven extras. Not bad.

So it was a good evening for me. Sitting down talking with friends and getting another tedious task out of the way. A true, grassroots, tedious task. Another in the hundreds that will turn Fort Bend County Ann Richards Blue this November.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Shelley Is So Silly - I Never Thought I Would Miss Tom

I really have to admit it. It sure was nice to have a devil to defeat. Tom DeLay is The Devil incarnate. He really is.

And I miss having him around to hate. Now he's looking a little pathetic. Heck he even concedes that the Republicans might lose a few seats in the House. That's not the Tom "The Hammer" DeLay that I loved to hate. Here he is commenting on things on Fox News about 3 weeks ago. I want to remind you what a lying, deceitful, scoundrel he is just one more time. Except now, he's a little pathetic.

What is worse, the person he propped up and pushed into the write-in race for his Texas CD-22 seat is also looking pathetic.

A Campaign Song? Who thought it would be a terrific idea to have a campaign song with lyrics to the tune of "The Beer Barrel Polka" (alternately known as "Roll Out the Barrel")?

"Write me in?" I tried it on my grammar checker, and nothing turned up, but isn't that just the strangest sentence ever? She's more of a write off than a write in.

Not even on Bob Perry's list to receive part of his $8 million? Her campaign organization's finance chairman? From the Chron:

"Perry has long been a supporter of Sekula-Gibbs, who is the state Republican Party's choice as a write-in candidate to succeed DeLay in the 22nd Congressional District. He is her finance chairman, but campaign finance records do not list any contributions from Perry to Sekula-Gibbs' congressional campaign. And with less than a month left in the campaign, none of the 527s he is funding are focusing on the 22nd District. It's but one indication that national Republican-affiliated groups are pulling back their money to focus elsewhere."
How pathetic is that?

So Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, the Republican write-in, is a write-off after all.

Our Tom would never have let that happen.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Jim Sharp Will Make a Great Appelate Justice

I mentioned that I saw Jim Sharp at the Candidate’s Forum last Sunday. We talked a few minutes and the conversation got around to blogging about the candidates campaigns. I’ve done that for several local candidates, and have actually promised myself to get to all of them before early voting starts. So this conversation reminded me that I still have some work to do and time is short.

So why not start with Jim Sharp?

Jim Sharp is the Democratic candidate running for Justice of Texas’ First Court of Appeals. In all there are 80 Justices spread out over 14 jurisdictions in Texas. All jurisdictions have more than one judge, the numbers range from 3 to 13. There are 9 justices in the 1st Court of Appeals whose jurisdiction runs over 10 counties that includes Fort Bend County. This year, 5 of the 9 current Justices are up for re-election, all of them Republican Jim. Sharp is running for Place 9 against incumbent Republican Justice Elsa Alcala.

By my count, of the 80 justice positions in the Appeals Court, only 14 of the positions are filled by Democrats. That’s an incredible statistic. It gives one pause, and a new appreciation to the line that Jim quoted from a speech by James Madison:
“Any same-hands group or faction having effective control of all government is the very definition of tyranny”.
It really is something of a tyranny. Of the 48 appelate races this year, 6 of them have Democratic incumbents and 11 of them have Republican incumbents and Democratic challengers. The rest are Republicans running unopposed. So it looks like the tyranny will still be in place for awhile, but maybe now we can make some inroads and start to turn the tide.

Jim Sharp is qualified. He has his own law firm that he’s run for 17 years – a solo practice. Jim has been involved in Democratic party politics for years since he was in school. He has worked on numerous campaigns in many positions. The one thing that Jim has in common with his opponent, Elsa Alcala is that Elsa has never won a race outright either.

It’s true. Look it up. She was appointed to 338th District Court by then-Governor Dubya in 1998. And she was appointed to her present position in 2002 by now-Governor Rick “Helmet Hair” Perry. OK, OK, she won re-election to the 338th, but that’s what happens when you are an incumbent Republican judge who has not been outted as gay or some such thing. No brainer – you get re-elected.

So you have a twofer here. You can vote for Jim Sharp because he is just the best and most qualified candidate on the ballot for the position. AND you can vote for Jim Sharp to send a message to Austin and Washington that voters have Had Enough with George W. Bush and Rick Perry and their mutual appointee.

UPDATE 10/27/2010:

In 2010 Jim Sharp has played it fast and loose with his fellow Democrats. Calling Linda Chavez-Thompson:

"They vote. Our people don't vote. The Valley don't vote," Sharp said, adding, "We'll see if this big scheme they got of putting Linda Chavez-Thompson on the ballot as lieutenant governor ... works out or not."

Ah God. Sharp being not so sharp.

Once you start knocking your up ballot candidates, your down ballot candidates, you, Jim, suffer.

I hope I am wrong but I suspect that Jim Sharp just made a big poo-poo on his otherwise successful campaign.

Monday, October 16, 2006

22 (+1) Candidates Spoke in Houston Last Night

So I was sitting on the floor at Depak and Neeta Sane’s house this past Sunday, and Depak asked me if I was going to the Candidates Forum that evening. I had forgotten about it and asked where it was. “The Shahnai Restaurant on Hillcroft”, he said. Oh . . . that’s far. But he talked me into it and I went; and I have no regrets.

I couldn’t find a place to park. The place was packed. I finally edged into a non-space next to dumpsters.

Now you’re not going to believe this. Here I am at a nice south Asian restaurant in the heart of southwest Houston, an area where the aroma from rich spices mingle from a variety of restaurants in an ethnically diverse community. No cash register in evidence. Everyone was grabbing plates and getting dinner from a buffet table. Free food. Free savory exotic food.


The Candidates Forum was hosted by The Coalition of New American Communities (CONAC) and the Pakistan American Council of Texas (PACT). There were by my estimate, about 150 people there, but I think more came after my head count. And twenty two of them were candidates. Candidates for Harris County and Fort Bend County offices, state house seats, U.S. Congressional seats and a state-wide race. Dominantly, the candidates were Democratic, but several Republican candidates showed up as well.

I sat in back, but as the speaking started, I noticed that there was no microphone and the roomful of diners were having their conversations. And I couldn’t hear. So I found a chair near the front and got my notebook out. Just about that time, a microphone appeared and I relaxed a little.

There was no apparent order of speakers so I imagine they had chose the order by lots. Each speaker was given a list of questions that they were to address, and they had 3 minutes each. 22 speakers times 3 minutes plus intro.

It was going to be a long night.

First up, my man Farhan Shamsi. Farhan took issue with racial profiling. As a JP in Fort Bend County, Farhan said it would not be allowed. He mentioned Brady Elliott’s discrimination of a non-English speaking Hispanic man, telling his audience that the judge ordered the man to jail until he could speak English. He decried past practices of pulling someone over for not wearing a seat belt, then having them throw in jail for not having sufficient citizenship documentation.

Sheila Jackson Lee spoke next. Jackson Lee noted the diverse audience, and proclaimed it a “celebration of democracy that is real". She acknowledged her endorsements: 80:20 and the South Asian Alliance. She spoke of her opposition to the Iraq war, and said that there was misdirection (aka lies) about going into Iraq. The Iraq war, said Jackson Lee, created terrorism. By our very presence in Iraq, terrorism surged to new highs.

She went over her three minute limit, but as she was sitting down, someone mentioned that it was the shortest Sheila Jackson Lee speech he had ever heard.

Up next, Richard Garcia. candidate for Harris County Treasurer. Garcia was running for the office to see that it was abolished. It is a complete redundancy. (Note to Fort Bend County voters, this is not the case here in our county).

Jim Sharp, who is running for Justice on the 1st Court of Appeals mentioned his ally, Leora Kahn, also a Democrat, running for 14th Court of Appeals. Citing James Madison, Sharp noted that there are too many Republicans holding office in Texas, particularly in the judicial branch. Madison’s quote? “Any same-hands group or faction having effective control of all government is the very definition of tyranny”.

Chuck Silverman was 4th. Running for Harris County District Judge, the 189th Court, mentioned that justice should be administered fairly to all. If people don’t believe that they can get justice in Harris county, that justice is not administered fairly, then there is social breakdown. He decried the fact that judges must run as partisan candidates. Good point. Silverman is 46, but looks 35. People who see him think he is too young to run for judge. Silverman introduced himself to me and handed me a campaign paper cutter. I told him to save it for a Harris County voter but he thought I should just have it. It's around here somewhere.

Then up stood Neeta Sane. She talked of her expertise in development of fraud detection software in the banking industry. That’s what she does. She is the only candidate running for this office with the expertise to customize some very complex software that Fort Bend County is installing. Customization for optimal efficiency. She is there to break up the good-ole-boy aging angry white man confab that has become the norm in Fort Bend County leadership.

Up arose Ahmad Hassan. The first Republican of the evening. He was wearing an American flag T-shirt. Speaking to a dominantly immigrant audience, he wore “immigrant” on his sleeve. He’s running for Congress against Sheila Jackson Lee. Rambled …rambled … rambled. The man hasn’t a chance.

A Pakistani immigrant who couldn’t sell his message to a Pakistani immigrant audience.

Jim Henley. A man after my own heart. He’s a middle school speech and debate teacher. Not surprisingly, he really spoke well. He’s running in CD-7 against John Culberson. Culberson couldn’t make it to the forum. He mentioned his ethnically diverse classes, and his ethnically diverse campaign staff – some of them one and the same. My favorite quote? “We will not use immigrants as scapegoats in this election”.

Another Republican, Martha Wong, running for re-election to the Texas state house, got up. Martha is another stealth Republican. Her sole reason for running for re-election? “The reason I run is to open the door for Asian Americans”, not for power. Uh-huh. Got to admit, though, she uses her name to great effect: “Be right to vote Wong”.

Eric Story, running against Democratic incumbent Gene Green in CD-29 has a Rick Perry head of hair. He rattled off Green’s voting record, mostly social issues, and I found myself nodding my head in agreement to Green's record. He must have had the impression that he had like minded people watching him rant as he ended with a very lame - and might I say condescending -“You don’t want this.”

Up sprang Nick Lampson. Nick gave his best impression of “Peace be upon you” in Arabic, and got the traditional “And also with you” reply. He mentioned his visits to mosques, and visits to Muslim homes during Ramadan, He emphasized his immigrant roots. In short, Nick was very much one of them. Then he fell into his “Education is important to me” story about his sister who came down with polio as a child. If you haven’t heard it, get him to tell it to you. It’s a pretty good story.

Running for state house, Scott Brann got up and talked about his race with Austin fixture Beverly Woolley, who he says does not represent the district, but herself and her party.
He was first, but not last, to mention that local police should not be required to act as federal immigration officers. They have enough to do protecting the people.

Then Shelley Sekula-Gibbs’ name was called. Well. . . .almost. The emcee flubbed and called her Sheila Sekula-Gibbs. The place came apart. Several shouted “Shelley”, “Shelley”. I was shaking with laughter as she passed by me in my seat. She got the joke. She proceeded to tell the crowd that it would be nice if they remembered her name AND how to spell it as she was a write-in candidate. So she said her name again, then spelled it. Then another thing started happening. The room started to empty. I found out later that they were going to mosque for 9 o’clock prayers. But I wonder what she thought about that. She laid out her program, judiciously steering around her support for police reporting illegal immigrants, and Iraq. She finished on social issues, saying that she was in favor of marriage being "a union of one man and one woman".

After sitting down, the emcee gently chided Sekula-Gibbs, saying that “some of us have a marriage of one man and up to four women”.

And this is for muse: Shelley was wearing a black pantsuit, black pumps, and a blouse that was an indescribable shade of green. I would call it puke green, but that would be too complimentary.

Hubert Vo got up and laid out his voting record. Interesting story: he definitely has a thing against crime. As a teenager he was robbed at gunpoint when he was working in his father’s convenience store.

And who should get up after Vo? Talmadge Heflin, Vo’s opponent again. Recall that Vo won against Heflin in the ’04 election due to changing demographics in HD-149. It was a squeaker win and the Vo’s win wasn’t certified for some time after the election. Heflin is the reason I am a Democrat. He is the essence of Republican hubris. Heflin said that school districts spend money foolishly and is proud of his efforts to keep taxes low by stopping “runaway spending” in schools.

The local Democratic state representative, Scott Hochberg (HD-137) spoke next. His constituency is dominantly Muslim and he knows it. He recalled his bill to stop false advertising of food companies who were labeling their products “halal” when they were not.

Maria Luisa Alvarado, the only state-wide candidate present (Lt. Governor), got up next and announced she wants One Texas for All, even for Republicans. She allowed that she didn’t dislike Republicans. She just wants fewer of them to win their races. Alvarado also mentioned that local police are overworked, and adding to their plate a federal duty to detain illegal aliens was not a smart move.

Dora Olivo was next. On immigration, Olivo had an anecdote about her mother that she shared. She mentioned that in the 50’s Hispanics were often approached by bigots who offered to pay their way back to Mexico. On Iraq, Olivo wants an exit strategy that doesn’t leave Iraqis hanging. She says that they are becoming too dependent on the United States and that needs to change.

Sherrie Matula identified herself with Nick Lampson, saying her district lies within the “other arm of CD-22”. Sherrie announced that when elected she will form a citizens advisory council. Community members who will meet and advise her on how she should vote.

Kristi Thibaut is the Democrat running for an open seat in HD-133. I have the impression that she and Sherrie Matula are friends and allies as Sherrie kept raising her hand in the air with “thumbs up” as Kristi was speaking. Thibaut is quite a character – lots of funny asides. She mentioned her endorsement by the Texas Parents PAC and that she is running, like Sherrie, because she is mad about what is being done in Austin.

Up got Ted Ankrum, Democratic incumbent in Texas CD-10. Ankrum was sitting facing me about 8 feet away, so he was watching me scribble my notes. As he passed by he handed me his push card. “Thanks,” I said. To cut things short he said that he was “proud to associate himself with Nick Lampson’s answers to their questions”. He then proceeded to mention the Op/Ed piece he wrote for the Austin American Statesman last Thursday. Rather than repeat it here, go take a look there. Oh, and here's something from his push card: Ankrum served four tours in Vietnam. The man has earned a special right to his opinion on the Iraq War.

James Pierre , running for Harris County County Clerk, was next. Most of the questions presented by the hosts were irrelevant to the office, so he just simply stated that he originally wanted to run for the office because he wanted to remove barriers created to scare and intimidate people in their vote. He supports getting a receipt for electronic voting machines, and a paper ballot for backup.

A very short Mary Kay Green, running for Harris County’s 245th family court made her way to the stage as people called out for her to stand up. She was bitter about how she had torn up two very expensive pairs of shoes in the campaign, and she needed to win so she could have money to buy replacements. She ended with this: “You really do need to know your judicial candidates. We’re the ones who can mess with your lives.”

A Pakistani running as a Democrat for HD-126, Chad Khan got up as the long last candidate to speak (we all thought). He has an interesting race. His poll has him in a near dead heat with his Republican opponent, at 27 to 28% each. 42% undecided. A good joke from him: while block walking he introduced himself as “Straight Democrat”.

That was it for the candidates who appeared. Someone got up to speak for David Van Os who couldn’t make it, but I was done. I got up and edged over to the door, and stopped to pick up campaign brochures, fliers and push cards. In walks an elderly gentleman who looked like he was up past his bed time. He laid down a pinch of his own push cards, and I noted the name: Don Richardson. Don Richardson had arrived to speak on his CD-22 write-in candidacy. I couldn’t leave now. This is the guy who stubbornly refused to take his name off as a write-in candidate until he got assurrances from the RNCC that they would come through with the $3 million. He went in and interrupted the emcee who was just wrapping things up and said he had come to speak. Then he got up to speak, spoke haltingly about who he was and what he was doing, how he thinks we should stay the course in Iraq, where, incidently, they need more troops. And then he caved in and just said, "I don’t know, how about if I just answer any questions you may have?” He was politely informed that there was no Q&A in the forum’s format and that he had 2 more minutes.

“2 minutes?”

I couldn’t watch any more, so I left.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

An Emerging Voter Concern: Energy Independence?

A friend forwarded to me an opinion piece that appeared in the New York Times a couple of days ago. It had a non-catchy title “The Energy Mandate” by Thomas L. Friedman, and I wondered why he sent me this. I read it anyway.

It started me thinking.

Remember back a few months when the government of Brazil announced that it was going to achieve energy independence this year? Brazil? At the time of the announcement, I thought about their oil and gas operations in their offshore Santos Basin and thought that there was no way that could happen. Then I started reading, and discovered that they had put together an ethanol program. Ethanol from sugar cane. Brazil has lots of sugar cane, and there is an easy and efficient process to convert sugar to ethanol. Ask anyone who has concocted a barrel of mead.

The op/ed piece that my friend forwarded to me was about recent poll findings by James Carville’s Democracy Corps, a voter concerns polling organization. They isolated the number one concern on the minds of American voters.

No, not the Iraq war, but it’s related.
No, not the War on Terror, but it’s related.
No, not Homeland Security, but it’s related.

Americans are most concerned with Energy Independence.

Carville’s poll asked the following question:
"Which of the following would you say should be the two most important national security priorities for the administration and Congress over the next few years?"

42%: reducing dependence on foreign oil
26%: combating terrorism.
25%: the war in Iraq
21%: securing our ports, nuclear plants and chemical factories
21%: addressing dangerous countries like Iran and North Korea
12%: strengthening America's military

Wait, you say, that adds up to 147%, what’s the deal? Well, the question asked what should be the two most important priorities. So that’s why.

Reducing dependence on foreign oil is the number one concern among Americans by almost two times the next highest concern. This explains the appearance of this piece that appeared in the Opinion/Analysis section of FortBendNow.

But wait, there’s more. Carville pollster Stan Greenberg reported this:
“When we lay out different plans for how to deal with Iraq, any plan that also includes energy independence tops any other plan that doesn't. People are not expressing this view because they are worried about price, but because they are starting to understand that our oil dependence is fueling a host of really bad national security problems. There is frustration that leaders have not taken it up. There is a sense that the public is ahead of the leaders, and there is actually a sense of relief when anyone talks about [energy independence] with any seriousness."
To become truly energy independent, Americans feel that this country needs to lead the way in alternative fuels, make high demands on automakers to produce energy-efficient cars, and much more stringent energy codes on buildings and appliances.

Alternative fuels from agricultural products.

Right now, we are paying farmers not to grow crops in order to make it economically feasible for them to operate. Let’s do away with farm subsidies. Open the floodgates and let them produce as much food as they can. What we don’t eat or export, we process into ethanol and biodiesel.

Biodiesel. Nick Lampson often mentions biodiesel. He has invested in a local company that is making its business the efficient production of biodiesel. He sees the future clearly and is acting accordingly. And what the heck, what’s wrong with making a profit along the way?

And isn’t that something we can all be doing? Finding ways to produce alternative fuels? Supporting companies that are doing this? Demanding that our government not only make this a priority, but shift their support away from the fossil fuel industry and toward a full speed ahead development of biofuels?

What? Remove supports for oil and gas? Yep. The tables have turned. Big Oil has become the enemy, not the savior. They keep us dependent on foreign oil. They have become the problem. They make us less secure, not more. They are heavily invested in foreign oil and gas exploration and development. They want us to buy that oil from them and their terrorist-supporting partners.

It has to stop. Anyone who utters words about homeland security but is not concerned with the power and influence of oil imports is either misled or morally corrupt.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Where Have All the Lawn Signs Gone? Long Time Passing.

Now I had a posting all ready to go in my mind and in outline. But it’s a little too high brow for my current state of mind so I thought I would just go ahead and make an observation for you: something different is happening this year.

I live in the Richmond, Texas area. My subdivision is a well-known Republican stronghold. This is a true story: I submitted a query to the Texas Voter Activation Network a little while ago to find potential Democratic activists in my precinct that I could contact to enlist them in a Get Out The Vote campaign. I targeted voters who voted in democratic primaries over the last 6 years.

And it returned eight names at 5 addresses. One was the precinct chair and her family, and two were people I already knew.

My precinct voted for Bush/Cheney and Tom DeLay by a wide margin in 2004. This includes my entire subdivision plus surrounding areas. In 2004 the subdivision was littered with Bush/Cheney and DeLay lawn signs.


Not politically active at the time, but a Democrat, I knew it was incumbent upon me to do something, so I went and got a Kerry/Edwards sign and put it up. So it was my one Kerry/Edwards lawn sign and 17 Bush/Cheney signs out on my street. Then a bit later, another Kerry sign was planted.

But that was the extent of it.

In 2006, the lawn sign landscape in the subdivision is a bit different. I still can’t believe it, and shake my head as I drive through my subdivision. Here it is less than 30 days to the election. My HOA’s illegal 30-day campaign sign time limitation has been passed. Today, at my count, there are two houses with a Republican lawn sign planted in front. Both of them for the lowest of the lowest downballot candidate – stealth Republican Ken Cannata.

And not another single one for anyone. Except for a Lampson sign I spotted - - - and my own.

No other Republican lawn signs at all.

It speaks volumes to me. It says that there are just a whole lot of 2004 strident Republicans who, in 2006, are unwilling to make a point on their front lawns. Even the rampant “I support the President and his Troops” signs have come down. It’s rather striking. The most common lawn signs in my subdivision advertise “Pool/Spa”

So, as I write this, a "Grand Old" majority of the residents of my subdivision, 2004 strident Republicans, are unwilling, at least, to show overt support for 2006 Republican candidates.

Just like it was “embarrassing” to put out a Democratic lawn sign in 2004 (not me, mind you) Republicans in my precinct are embarrassed by their party, the antics of their elected officials, and the antics of the party leadership. I think that’s why I haven’t seen a sea of Republican lawn signs in my subdivision, as I have become accustomed. Not a sea, not a lake, nor a pond or a puddle.

Just a droplet. For Cannata.

And Ken Cannata, stealth Republican, mark my words, Farhan Shamsi is gonna clean your clock.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Paul Begala Gala on October 20 in Missouri City

The Fort Bend Democrats and The Fort Bend Democratic Party are having one . . . a party, that is. Well, in this case, given the guest speaker is Paul Begala, they're having a gala.

Where: Quail Valley Country Club - 2880 La Quinta Drive, Missouri City, Texas
When: Friday, October 20th, 6:30-9:30 PM

You can't miss this one. Paul Begala and James Carville were young upstarts who got a relatively unknown Arkansas governor, Bill Clinton, elected President in 1992. Begala then went on to serve as a consultant to the president. His more recent feats include being a host on CNN's current events/political debate television show Crossfire Before that, believe it or not, he co-hosted on Equal Time with Ollie North.

But long before that, Paul Begala grew up in Stafford, Texas, and attended Dulles High School. So Begala will be back home next week helping to raise money for our Democratic candidates.

There'll be no tickets sold at the door, so you need to get up off your heinies and get advance tickets to the Begala Gala.

Here is the ticket menu:

$1000. Host. Gets you 10 tickets, recognition, and an autographed copy of his latest book: "Take It Back: Our Party, Our Country, Our Future"

$500. Sponsor. Gets you 5 tickets, recognition, and a copy of his book (just get someone else to take it to him and ask for his autograph).

$250. Contributor. Gets you 3 tickets, recognition, a book (see above for autograph)

$60. Regular guy (like me). Gets you 1 ticket, no recognition, no book (but they're on sale at Border's - go pick one up and bring it along, he won't mind - heck you bought his book, that should count for something).

To get your ticket(s) do one of these things:

- Go to the Fort Bend Democrats Headquarters at 4800 Ave. H (US 90A), Rosenberg
- Make a reservation by calling JoAnn at 281-341-5489 by Wednesday October 18th

(Make checks payable to the Fort Bend Democrats)

What's for dinner? Upscale. No sandwiches and chips here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Convolution of Facts, Coincidences, and Why Neeta Sane Needs to Defeat Jeff Council

Awhile back I was reading through the Fort Bend County (Texas) Treasurer website and discovered that the Fort Bend County Treasurer is also the Treasurer of several other entitites including what is called the Fort Bend Flood Control Water Supply Corporation. Don't bother Googling it, they don't have a website that I could discover.

Now where did I read about this entity before?

Then I remembered. It was a few weeks back when Neeta Sane was having a fundraiser in Stafford hosted by Mayor Leonard Scarcella. I mentioned at the time that Neeta’s opponent, Jeff Council has no real Fort Bend County claim to fame other than the fact that he was Vice President of the Fort Bend Flood Control Water Supply Corporation.

So Jeff Council is running for an office that is also an office in this corporation. If elected, Council will be Vice President and Treasurer for the Fort Bend Flood Control Water Supply Corporation.

How incestuous.

All I can find out about the Fort Bend Flood Control Water Supply Corporation is that it is a non-profit corporation that was established pursuant to article 1434a, V.T.C.S. That article makes it possible for non-profit corporations to form for the purpose of providing water or sewer services, or for providing flood control and drainage.

I also found out that the Texas Antiquities Committee, back in 1995, was inquiring at the AG’s office whether the corporation was a “political subdivision and whether its development actions are subject to the Texas Antiquities Code”. Why? Well it turns out that if they are a political subdivision, then the antiquities found under their land are the property of the State of Texas. And while the opinion written by AAG Susan Garrison at first looks like they are indeed a political subdivision:

“By expressly including nonprofit water supply corporations in the definitions of “political subdivision,” the legislature enabled them to participate in particular water development programs.”
However, under The Natural Resources Code, a political subdivision seems to be defined as:

“a local governmental entity created and operating under the laws of this state, including a city, county, school district, or special district created under Article III, Section 52(b)(l) or (2), or Article XVI,Section 59, of the Texas Constitution.”
This, according to the AAG, means that the Fort Bend Flood Control Water Supply Corporation is not a political subdivision.

Search me. I thought the legislature was supposed to be the ruling authority here.

So why were they so interested in this? Well I think it has to do with a study done in 1988 that was published in this paper that is archived in The Center for American History.

Archeological and Geomorphological Investigations of the Big Creek Rechannelization and Canal Construction Project, Fort Bend County, Texas by Saul Aronow. David L. Carlson and H. Blaine Ensor, Principal Investigators. TAC Permit 622. Archeological Surveys No. 5. Archeological Research Laboratory, Texas A&M University, 1988.
Were there antiquities in the path of the Big Creek project? Doesn’t matter now. Because of the AAG’s decision, whatever they dug up was not the property of the State of Texas.

Oh, and by the way, the 1995 legislature voted the Texas Antiquities Committee out of existence the very year they filed the inquiry with the AG’s office. All of that stuff now is taken care of at the Texas Historical Commission.


So what is the point of all this?

Well recall in the Neeta Sane fundraiser article I mentioned that the Big Creek flood control project – one that has been ongoing for the past 18 years, at the cost of some $12 million, was recently completed. The Chron carried an article on August 18th detailing how the project was the brainchild of Stanley Kucherka, former county engineer, who saw that by widening and deepening Big Creek, they would prevent the flooding that prevailed in the Pleak/Needville area every time they got torrential rains. Kucherka said this to the Herald-Coaster in their article on the project completion
”A lot of the land along Big Creek at that time was flooding, and the project we did was for agriculture.”

Well that seems like a pretty darn good idea. Saving our arable land from flooding, crop loss and the like. That's a project worth doing. Kucherka is to be commended.

And times change.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony that took place out at the erosion control outfall site, Judge Hebert credited this long-term project to be a help to developers who might be attracted to the area. In the Chron article (it’s in the archives now) Judge Hebert was quoted this way:

“County Judge Bob Hebert said the bypass and expansion are expected to attract development along the creek because of improved drainage. ‘We are doing this ahead of time. We know development is on the horizon. This project will minimize our detention requirement for developers. It reduces the risk of flooding and will lower the cost of homes for homebuyers.’”

And by the way, the project also reduces the cost of building these homes for home builders. Taxpayer money, well spent in order to open vast agricultural acreage, unbuildable up to now, instead of developers spending their money to do the same thing. Reduces the price that they will sell the homes for.

A Win-Win deal. Except for Fort Bend County taxpayers. They’re out $12 million.

Monday, October 09, 2006

2006: The Year the Republican Party Imploded

im‧plo‧sion - [im-ploh-zhuh n]
1. the act of imploding; a bursting inward (opposed to explosion).

That’s the only way I can describe it. Republicans are imploding this year. Did they all just take a good look at Texas CD-22 and Tom DeLay, and decide what’s good enough for “The Hammer” is good enough for them?

There have been, really, too many Republican implosions to enumerate this year. I think I just want to elaborate on just a few of them - any more and I might sink into a dark depression.

Where shall I begin? Why not Tom? He imploded. He sat there in Judge Sparks' courtroom and said that he didn’t know where he was going to be on Election Day. As I understand it, if he said that he planned on watching the election returns at his Virginia condo, the decision could well have gone the other way.

Senator George Allen’s macaca speech. We all heard it. We all know what he was saying to this Indian-American young man. But Allen didn’t implode there and then, although the charge was laid. He imploded when he tried to explain it all away, and badly. Racists have trouble just hiding it sometimes.

John Davis’ (R-HD-129) campaign finance records. Here he goes along for six long years blithely forgetting just what he spent $100,000 in campaign funds on, and all of a sudden has a FEC complaint lodged against him just weeks before the election. Implosion: "I made a mistake, and we'll get it corrected. It's incumbent on me to know what the rules are." I just love that explanation. A mistake. I should know what the rules are. It reminds me of my favorite Lily Tomlin “Laugh-In” routine: “Nobody told me not to mow the carpet”.

Even here in Fort Bend County, we have a sweetheart deal between Republican District Judge Vacek, his law partner, and the commissioner’s court, wherein the judge and his partner own a house together. They lease it to the county as temporary quarters for the Gus George Law Enforcement Academy for three years at a whopping $160,060, over 50,000 more than the house’s assessed value. Nobody ever finds out about this stuff, so it’s OK right? Right, except this is an election year and their fellow Republicans are trying to win county seats. There is no way this is NOT going to become news.

Mark Foley. Taking a page out of history, Mark Foley at least didn’t deepen the pile that was coming his way by trying to deny it. But oh . . . my . . . goodness . . . Krishna, what this does to the party of family values.

And all the Foley fallout. Fun. Dennis Hastert has an amazing implosive ability. What is his first move when he finds out that Foley’s emails have been leaked ? He wanted to call an investigation into who leaked the report. And THEN backpeddled himself right into a corner, saying that he was only becoming aware of the emails. Only to have people jump out of the woodwork with all sorts of stories about how they told him about Foley’s predilection for inappropriate exchanges with congressional pages months before, years belfore.

You have to wonder, though. This was an affair that seems to be fairly rare. How many gay Republican pederasts do we have, anyway? Just the one from what I can see. What I see, when I look at the fresh young faces of the house pages, is not just teenaged boys, but teenaged girls. So I have to wonder, is this all of it or is this just the obvious tip of the proverbial iceberg?

Awaiting the next implosion with some degree of pessimism – and a shudder on hold.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Fort Bend Democrats In Hyperdrive: A Saturday Snapshot.

This weekend, the Fort Bend Democrats were busier than a one-armed paper hanger with a case of the hives. The Fort Bend Democrats are a Democratic Club with the singular goal of turning Fort Bend County from a Deep DeLay Red, to a brilliant Ann Richards Blue. Last night, we were all savoring our accomplishments of the day, accomplishments that have become too, too regular. So I have to crow a bit.

Accomplishments like conducting a successful fundraiser at our Combined Campaign Headquarters at 4800 Avenue H, Rosenberg Texas. Vince, Bev, Geri and Marsha did a great job and we pulled in a pile of cash.

Accomplishments like manning a booth at the Fort Bend County Fair. Another three of us were there yesterday, and more helped out throughout the past week. We had a very successful day. This booth had an effect on people. We had literature, lawn signs, and campaign buttons for any and all who wanted one. True story: last Sunday I was block walking for Neeta Sane, Democratic Party candidate for County Treasurer. A small child opened her door to Laurel and I, and she spotted the campaign paraphernalia that I had festooned on my “campaign vest”. “Mommy,” she called back into the house, “There’s a man at the door from the fair.”

Accomplishments like organizing for, and printing tickets for, a future fundraiser that the Fort Bend Democrats will be hosting in Quail Valley. That also happened on Saturday at the headquarters.

Accomplishments like entering data on the Texas Voter Activation Network, the not-so-secret weapon of the Texas Democratic Party. Daily at the HQ but also from our home computers. Yes, we get lists.

Accomplishments like co-hosting, with the Katy Area New Democratic Organization (KANDO), a Candidate Appreciation Brunch at the Cinco Ranch Branch of the Fort Bend County Library this Saturday. All of the county-wide candidates were there: Albert Hollan, Rudy Velasquez, Neeta Sane, and Veronica Torres. A representative from the Bell campaign was there (Chris was resting after his debate in Dallas). But in the end, Nick Lampson was there to fire up THAT very active Democratic Club.

Accomplishments like putting out more and more of the campaign signs that dot the landscape in Fort Bend County. We had a team out doing that.

Accomplishments like organizing and conducting a block walk from the Cinco Ranch residence of Farhan Shamsi, Democratic candidate for Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace. We walked the neighborhoods to raise public awareness of the county races as well as that of Shane Sklar, Democratic candidate for Congress, whose CD-14 district overlaps with Farhan’s 3rd Precinct in the Katy area. It went well. Farhan reports that a wide area was targeted and many voters’ doors were knocked on. I myself covered an entire subdivision across from Farhan’s. Veronica Torres, candidate for District Clerk, covered Farhan’s subdivision. That’s what Fort Bend Democratic candidates do. They cover each other’s core areas. That’s teamwork.

I was upset though. muse, who is, another active Fort Bend Democrats club member, was supposed to show up at Farhan’s and didn’t. Knowing muse,there is always a good reason for that. And don’t you know it, this one beats all. muse couldn’t make the block walk because of a call from a KHOU news reporter that morning. Lee McGuire at KHOU was going to air a story on some FEC campaign fund reporting irregularities that muse has been blogging about in regard to John Davis’ HD-129 campaign funds. muse couldn’t come because McGuire needed some help with some misconceptions and errors that he had. The story aired at 6 on Saturday and again at 10.

Good piece, Lee. Great job muse.

Life was good on Saturday. It’s always good when you and your fellow Democrats put out the effort that is needed and will be needed in the immediate future, to bring honesty, integrity and transparency back to Fort Bend County, and surrounding areas. We work hard, and we play hard. We laugh together and we get on our high horses together. And we get things DONE together.

Jeez, this would be so much work if it wasn’t just so much fun.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Chris Bell Wins; 3-Way Tie for Fourth Place

Well I ought to say what I saw on the Texas gubernatorial debates tonight so that all of you “Friday Night Lights” people know what went on. But every Texas blogger and his or her sibling will be writing about it all, and I, characteristically, did not take notes. So I am just going to give a few impressions.

About 25 people showed up at the Fort Bend Democrats Rosenberg headquarters to watch the debate. It was a pot luck affair. I brought my world's famous pasta salad. And, yes, it is a very good salad. We sat around and ate and talked, then when 7 o’clock rolled around, the volume was turned up and all you could hear coming from the TV speakers were clicks and beeps. Panic sets in. Then Don pressed a button on the remote and the problem went away. Sigh. Wish that were true with this election: Don just hits a button on the remote and all of our Republican problems just go away.

The candidates were introduced, then when Perry’s well coiffed and combed hair and eyebrows appeared on our wide screen TV, 7 nerf balls hit the TV screen. That’s a side benefit to watching a political debate on TV with your political friends: they bring nerf balls.

Who won the debate? Well let’s just say that the Republican gentlemen were full of ums, ers, pregnant pauses, and occasional looks of panic. When Grandma wanted to answer a question she would just open a file drawer and pull out a snippet from a speech or a campaign ad. Chris Bell was by far the best prepared, most spontaneous, and had the best tan of all of them – especially Grandma, jeez woman did they use a trowel to apply your makeup?

Best one liner? Bell: Something to the effect that he was very happy to appear on this debate with his three Republican opponents.

Best implosion? Grandma: Didn’t know the name of the newly elected Mexican president, could not recall how long a person’s state disability lasted.

Grandma’s politics were thrust out into the open tonight. She’s not a Democrat, although she ran as one once, she’s not a Republican, although that is the party she ran under when she got into her present office. And she’s not an Independent, because she was once of one party and then the other. What Grandma is, is a political opportunist. Whatever works for her, that is what she is.

And Kinky? I’ve not mentioned Kinky by name. I can’t figure him out. When he wasn’t on the defensive, I’d swear that he was actually stumping for Chris Bell. He essentially gave Bell one of his questions, allowed him to slam their mutual opponent, Rick Perry. Kinky did not use his air time to show that he is a serious candidate. He just reconfirmed in everyone’s mind that he cannot and should not hold this office.

Perry? What can I say about Perry. Nothing. I will say nothing about Perry. Nothing.

So we all agreed that Chris Bell won handily. We shared more time with each other, and studied and discussed a couple of new political mailers that had been received by a couple of club members. Negative campaigns have begun in earnest. No more making nice. And it made me recall an often quoted line by Robert Browning:
“Best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”.