Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dubya to Dad's Buddies: "Stick It"

Can’t we get it right?

Out leaks the findings of Dubya’s Dad’s friends, “The Iraq Study Group” headed by Bush-41’s friend and Secretary of State, James Baker, and what have we got in store for us? Nothing. The plan is Dead On Arrival.

Bush repudiated much of it in a speech today in Jordan after his summit with the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki .

We can’t even say that the ink wasn’t even dry before he rejected the plan. He was that fast with his reaction.

The group’s findings and plans were not due to be announced until next week, but you know how it is with DC politicians, what’s the good of having a secret if you can’t share it with friends?

So when Dubya heard about what they were going to recommend, he did what he does best. He ignored them.

That’s how we got in this mess, you know. Bush-43 ignoring what he doesn’t want to hear, listening to the two neocon hounds of hell, Cheney and Rove.

The Plan?

Gradual pullback of 15 brigades in Iraq, without a specific timetable.
Increase diplomacy in the region and include Iran and Syria in the dialogue
Shift military operations from combat to training.

Bush rejects the first one absolutely chiding the group about the use of the term “graceful exit”:

“This business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all, whatsoever”

He also rejects the notion of any kind of involvement of Iran and Syria in any diplomatic discussions. This clearly has the markings of Cheney all over it. Cheney is the one who calls Iran a nuclear threat. That’s brilliant. They’re a nuclear threat so you don’t allow them into a regional discourse to promote stability.

That pretty much guarantees nuclear war, Dick.

By the way, when Dick was CEO of Halliburton, he had no trouble doing business in Iran through his foreign subsidiaries. Yeah, they’re terrorists, but their money spends just like everyone else’s.

The last item is just about the only thing Bush could get behind because that’s what his plan, if you can call it a plan, calls for.

But even that item in the plan has critics. US military advisors observe that you can train them all you want, Iraqi soldiers seem to have a national quirk when it comes to soldiering. When a shot is fired at them or near them they respond with what has been termed a “burst reaction”. They empty their weapons of all ammunition – even at a single sniper shot.

It’s hard to bring a civil war under control if you can’t keep ammunition in your guns long enough.

So here it is, 3 weeks from a slam dunk Democratic victory based in large part on the Iraq (Civil) War, and it’s like we weren’t heard. Oh, yeah, Rummy got fired and George agreed to let his Dad’s buddies offer helpful suggestions.

You know, you just have to wonder if he’s playing “Good Cop, Bad Cop.” He’s a lame duck president whose only job is to preserve the office for a Republican. What better way to do it than to strut around shouting down the thronging masses who know that the only way to save Iraq is to leave it? A bone thrown to the mad hugger?

If that’s the game, then our soldiers are spilling their blood not for oil, not for nothing, but for getting a Republican elected president in '08.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Legislative Study Group Needs the Support of Progressive Texans

You’ll probably see this on lots of blogs so it was a question of do I do this, too and look like someone who is simply adding his voice to the chorus. The flip side, do I not do this because everyone else is, and people point at my blog and say “Not committed?” “Uppity?” “Apathetic?”

Or is it the real reason: each time I make an entry into this blog I want to write about the most important or interesting thing I have encountered recently, and this is it.

A public policy group, called the Legislative Study Group, is getting set for the 80th Legislature. This group is a caucus that generates public policy of benefit to Texans and Texas families.

They are historically active in promoting public policy in areas of “teacher rights and benefits, opposition to school vouchers and opposition to cuts to the Children’s Health Insurance program.

It runs on public donations.

If you think that this is a laudable and worthwhile effort, support their efforts to get accurate information to legislators to help them come to thoughtful informed decisions on key legislation in the upcoming regular session.

Donate Here or Click on their logo.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Big Pile O' Garbage? Commissioners Say Bring It On.

Out here in Southeast Texas we have elected county officials who have embraced the concept of okaying a 17 story by 784 acre pile of garbage within sight and smell of new and established Fort Bend communities.

Wouldn't that make it the tallest manmade (or any other -made) structure in Fort Bend County?

Now that's something to be proud of.

Bob Dunn over at FortBendNow writes that the County Commissioners will not oppose expansion of the Blue Ridge Landfill. This is in advance of a meeting at Quail Run Community Center tonight, and a public hearing to be conducted on December 7th.

Elsewhere I have seen that Nick Lampson will be showing up at that meeting. Dora Olivo D-Richmond, is also supporting anti-expansion efforts.

Commissioners rub their hands over the 4 to 5 hundred large that come in to the county each year in “tipping fees”. 4 to 5 hundred thousand dollars? Are you kidding? That’s chicken feed. That much and we degrade the quality of life in the areas surrounding a 17 story pile of trash? Increase risk of contaminating the water supply?

If they gave back their 18% pay increase we could make up for a nice chunk of that income.

And what is this 18 cents per cubic yard figure anyway? Is that Fort Bend County’s cut? Who made that deal? And what does that mean, on average for a tipping fee based on weight (dollars per ton – which is the more common fee quote)? All of that notwithstanding, why is Fort Bend County selling its residents down the river for 18 cents per cubic yard of garbage?

Aren’t we worth more than that?

And Grady, you can’t be with them on this. You can’t. I know you walk a fine line at the Commissioners’ Court being the only Democratic County Commissioner, but this is a line drawn in the sand. You need to vote with the people on this one.

And leave the balance of the Commissioner’s Court in full public view of just what they comprise:

A “garbage à trois”.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Texas Ethics Commission: No Secrecy Now or Ever

This evening I was sent a Kronberg Report piece (sorry, subscriber stuff) about the Texas Ethics Commission that has a ruling on what shall be reported when a contributor to someone’s election campaign submits a check (or cash or estimated value of a 1993 Rolex).

Or just anything like that.

Just "a check".

From Bob Perry: (in an imagined donation) A check to the Republican Party of Texas. From New Christians Against Coming of Satan: a Wheel Barrow (contents undisclosed) – but some would say it contained bundled paper colored with various shades of green. Resembling US dollars.

You see, this is the flavor of what YOUR TEC is deeming to be a fair and above board contribution. Cash or check with no monetary value reported. No one need be identified, nor their numbers be revealed. An Abramoff Dream, Texas style.

Does this not make your blood boil?

I cannot countenance a single red-blooded American Patriot (capitol A and P) who would not bristle and boil against the notion of secret cash donations to a political party. Republicans, Democrats, not an issue. Is this not the ultimate in promotion of a TOTALITITARIAN INFLUENCE? It needs to be said. Exploration for total power equals totalitarianism.

Texans of any stripe – we cannot allow this to continue. Repudiate the TEC finding that a contribution to a candidate’s campaign need only be reported as “Check”.

Send your opinions to this address:

Texas Ethics Commission
P. O. Box 12070
Austin, TX 78711-2070

Adios to TAKS? Good, But What are the Alternatives?

Well, the good news is that the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills Test, or TAKS Test may be on the mat and getting a 10-Count (Jeez, I have GOT to stop watching “The Cinderella Man”). That’s what is on all the newswires today. My link at the San Antonio Express-News is the best one I could find with the most information about TAKS.

At least for the upper grades.

The widely and often quoted Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, is quoted this way everywhere, that the “Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills ‘has worn out its welcome, especially for high school and middle school grades.”

First, when was there a “welcome” for TAKS? I missed that. TAKS is and always was a monstrosity. It made a lot of people a lot of money, but all it did for teachers, students, parents and administrators was generate paperwork, TAKS tutorials, and degradation of teaching content as it was replaced by “teaching to the test”.

So that’s good. It is going out.

So what’s not so good?

Shapiro has an idea of how to replace TAKS in the upper grade levels, and that is a truly scary idea. End of Course Exams. Every 6 weeks you stop and give a standardized test (I assume, statewide) over the content you just taught.

Guess what this requires? Everyone must be on the same page at the end of every grading cycle. Do you know how hard that is? Try teaching on a strict calendar. Watch your calendar go to H-E double hockeysticks every time someone schedules an assembly, a career information day, a field trip for 1/10th of the school. Additionally, just think: every grading cycle must be the same from one district to another. Otherwise, what’s on the EOC Test can get out to districts on different schedules.

It’s called Test Security which is another TAKS mania.

OK, so the alternative, so we don’t have all of the above conflicts is that every EOC Test is developed within districts. Then where is the level playing field? Districts can make their EOC Tests incredibly simple and get good numbers that go into their AEIS ratings.

So I am assuming that, like the Christmas turkey I had last year, the one that wasn’t completely thawed, Shapiro’s ideas are half baked and we are going to process this one a little better.

I am characteristically pessimistic.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Weapon of Mass Destruction: The AK-47

Want a good read to round out your holiday weekend?

I suggest Larry Kahaner’s Op/Ed piece on today’s Washington Post. It’s about the invention, proliferation and use of the AK-47.

Kahaner makes a point that I find chilling:

The existence of the AK-47 is responsible for making small regional squabbles that would ordinarily burn themselves out in a few weeks and months, into protracted wars.

Sound familiar?

In the chaos that followed the fall of Baghdad, Saddam’s armories were looted and millions of AKs and other small arms were placed in the hands of nearly anyone who wanted one. This and the fact that AKs are durable, do not require repair facilities in a country that could not support them, and everyone seems to know how to work one:
"For better or worse, the AK-47 is the weapon of choice in that part of the world," said Walter Slocombe, senior adviser to the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority]. "It turns out that every Iraqi male above the age of 12 can take them apart and put them together blindfolded and is a pretty good shot."
And this week, the US will have been fighting the Iraq War for a longer time period than the US was involved in fighting in World War II. There is no end in sight, although an end will surely come now that we have a new political environment in DC.

So why has the Iraq War dragged on? The AK-47 is one reason.

Iraqi righteous fury at the presence of US troops is the other.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Number One Turkey of the Year: Shelly Schulla Gibbs

Just when you think you’ve heard the end of Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, out comes the Houston Press with their Turkeys of the Year Awards.

She’s Number One on the list.

Shelley’s been really good at laying low after kicking up some dust and throwing foeces around the office over her (Tom DeLay’s) staff walking out on her en masse. You’d think that they’d just leave her alone, now.

You’d think.

No, not on your life. We need ever to remember how 76,940 voters in Texas CD-22 voted for the Clear Lake Flake to serve out DeLay’s unexpired term. As you will recall, that’s just shy of Nick’s vote count in the General Election . . .

I know, I know, I know, some of those votes were Democrats who wanted her to win so Houston could spend $2 M to fill her unexpired term with someone of substance, but the rest of them are probably still tending the blister that is on the end of their dial spinning finger in mortification and disgust.

The best part of that article, in my humble opinion, is the first reporting I’ve seen of how voters registered their votes for the write-in candidate with the most complex name in the history of history.

“Voters cast their write-in ballots for, among others: Kelly Segula Gibbs, Snelly Gibbr, Schikulla Gibbs, Sheila Gibbs, Shelly Schulla Gibbs, Shelly Gibkula and, by someone who obviously never wanted the joy of using the machine to end, ShelleySkulaGibbsssss."

"The name ‘Sekula’ was spelled as Sektula, Sukla, Sequila, Sedoko and Sedoka (by puzzle fans?), Meklua, Sekluda and Shecola. One voter couldn't be bothered, just putting in SSG. (It counted.)"

"Another, for some reason, entered Sekula Smith. Another voter entered ‘Shelle Sekula Fibbs,’ which might have been a hidden political message. Not so hidden, but counted as a vote just the same, was ‘Shelly DraculaCunt Gibs.’ (We like to imagine the bipartisan discussion on that entry: ‘Well, they misspelled the first and last name, but that's definitely a Shelley vote.’)”

This harkens back to a previous posting of mine on what Elections Administrator J. R. Perez was going to count as a vote. Can you imagine, with the variance of spellings we have in this short list, what would have developed in a court battle had the Clear Lake Flake’s numbers been around Nick’s?

Voters in CD-22 would have been the collective laughing stock of the country. No small feat when you consider the depth of the field this year.

Oh, what could have been.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Iraq Holocaust: Laying the Blame

Yesterday, as American families reunited and gave thanks for the bounty that they share in a nation of liberty and laws, 154 people were killed and 257 wounded in what has been described as the single deadliest attack since the US invaded Iraq in 2003. They occurred in Shiite controlled Sadr City, and they were almost immediately answered with reprisal attacks in Sunni-controlled neighborhoods. Nine more died in those attacks.

Who is to blame?

Well, first there is 1100 years of history that is to blame. Shi’a and Sunni differences were magnified in 931 when the one caliph that the Shiites recognized as a true descendent of the Prophet Mohammad went missing. Sunnis still had their Islamic leaders, but even they were set aside by the Turks in 1924, when the caliphate was abolished. The Turks were being westernized, and that spelled death to traditional Muslims whose faith decried Western cultures and traditions. Westernism is anathema to traditional Muslims.

Comes Gulf War I and American troops are emplaced on Saudi sands. Westerners standing on the land of Mohammad. It was this that set Osama bin Laden off. That and decades of perceived destruction of the Islamic faith by westernism.

So they lash out. First in a failed bombing of the World Trade Center, then in a successful and horrendous attack on the self same World Trade Center and the Pentagon as well.

Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld see their chance and cobble up a story on “Weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq. Sabers rattle, flames of fear are fanned, and boom, boots back on the ground in Iraq. Western boots, carrying Western soldiers with Western ideas. Ideas that are anathema to Muslims who simply want to retain the religion that has been attacked and abused every day since the Turks abolished The Caliphate - their only worldly link to Mohammad.

The blame, it seems, can be spread around. But the blame for the horrendous mess that has been created in Iraq, this time, can be placed squarely on the shoulders of three men:

George Bush – 43, Dick Cheney, and Don Rumsfeld.

They have the blood of tens of thousands of Iraqi men, women, and children on their hands. They have wasted the lives of 2872 American men and women in a war that never should have happened. They have maimed and scarred for life nearly ten times that number.

It all has to end.

I read an Op/Ed piece by David Ignatius of the Washington Post this morning. He very eloquently makes the case that Westerners cannot solve the problems in the Middle East. Westerners cannot solve problems, they can only create problems in the Middle East. This is something that Western leaders cannot seem to understand. Here is what Ignatius says:
“The idea that America is going to save the Arab world from itself is seductive, but it's wrong. We have watched in Iraq an excruciating demonstration of our inability to stop the killers. We aren't tough enough for it or smart enough -- and in the end it isn't our problem. The hard work of building a new Middle East will be done by the Arabs, or it won't happen. What would be unforgivable would be to assume that, in this part of the world, the rule of law is inherently impossible.”

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Washington Lobbyists: Welcome to the Rice Table

Remember the First 100 Hours Plan? First outlined in July, but given broad coverage by the AP last October. Here’s what I like about it. First, we clean up the House. Literally.

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

It’s called Ethics Reform

Ethics Reform is not like a menu in a Chinese restaurant. It’s not a smorgasbord. It’s a Rice Table (Really check it out - it's crucial to understand this posting). You can’t pick and choose what you will be eating. You can’t select one from column A and two from column B. You sit down at a long table and the food just keeps on coming.

Ethics Reform should be like that. You don’t get to pick and choose your ethics: which ethical principles you will get behind, and which ones you can do without.

So here’s the menu for the Nancy Pelosi Rice Table (also known as the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2006 or HR 4682). This menu is found on a Jeff Birnbaum piece at the Washington Post. Our man Nick Lampson, our next Texas CD-22 congressman needs to take note of the menu. Lead in this Nick. And then vote it in. Let's take the high road.

Satay Ayam: Prohibit House members from accepting gifts and travel from lobbyists or from organizations that employ lobbyists

You know, like when Jack Abramoff flew Tom DeLay et al. to Scotland for some rounds of golf at St. Andrews

Or how Tom DeLay used a corporate jet to fly him to Houston so he could be booked on conspiracy and money laundering charges.

This not only goes for the big stuff like the above, but the ban is imposed on any gifts, including trinkets, meals, tickets – anything of value.

Daging Rendang: Eliminate the House rule that gives access to the House gym, the House floor and its cloak rooms to former members of Congress who are registered to lobby.

Preferential treatment given to former congressmen who are now lobbyists. Sorry, Tom, Nancy isn’t going to let you have special advantages that aren’t available to say, Melinda Pierce, a senior lobbyist for the Sierra Club.

Gado-Gado: Require House members and their aides to disclose to the House ethics committee whenever they are negotiating for jobs in the private sector. The disclosure would have to be made within three business days after the talks begin.

Something has to be done about the revolving door that currently exists between Capitol Hill and K Street. Transparency is one way to curb the trend, so we can find out who is for sale and who is not. I remain convinced to this day that the main reason DeLay cut and ran was that he feared what his former aides, all of them working for Abramoff, were saying to the Ethics Committee and Department of Justice investigators.

Sambal Udang: End the practice of adding earmark measures to bills after House-Senate negotiators have completed their work. Make bills available to the public at least 24 hours before they could be voted on by the full House.

Earmarks – or pork barrel expenditures that are slipped in unnoticed to bills that have nothing to do with the expenditure – have to go. They are killing us in mounting debt. They build “bridges to nowhere”.

Ikan Goreng: Broaden a rule change adopted by the House this year that would force lawmakers to disclose the sponsors of "earmarked" spending and tax measures -- and to reveal their details -- before the bills that contain them can become law.

Secrets, so many secrets. Full disclosure and transparency will put an end to this scurrilous behavior.

Rudjak Manis: Crack down on lobbyists directly by creating an Office of Public Integrity, which would be overseen by the House inspector general. It would audit and investigate lobbyists' periodic filings and refer any problems they find to the U.S. attorney's office.

Washington Lobbyists are the most powerful influence peddlers in the history of the world. And we have no oversight of their actions? No check on how they do business except what the press digs up? For Krishna’s sake why not?

Terong Kecap: Make it tougher for Congress to spend public money in ways that widen the budget deficit. Bar the House from taking up major budget bills that increase the government's deficit.

This is as close to Pay As You Go as Pelosi gets. No more borrow and spend, no more runaway deficit spending. Nick can get behind this one I think.

Sotong Asam: Specifically prohibit House members from using their official actions to influence any employment decisions "on the basis of partisan political affiliation”

This, as you know, was the Republicans’ “K Street Project” a way to pressure lobbying groups to hire congressional aides and former congressmen into senior lobbying positions in their companies.

You know, the ironic thing is that this last provision of Pelosi’s Ethics Reform package is being implemented right now, without a single “Aye” vote. Basically it comes down to the law of the jungle: eat or be eaten.

In a recent piece Jeff Birnbaum notes that lobby groups are scurrying around looking for Democratic lobbyists. Democrats aren’t pressuring lobby groups to do this, they are doing it of their own volition. However, in the same article Birnbaum writes of a move by some lobbyists to get less well-paid positions on democratic congressional staffs, somewhat the reverse of what Pelosi’s reform package.

So maybe it’s still a good thing that on Day One of the 110th Congress, a Rice Table is being served.

Remember congressmen and congresswomen, take from each dish that is offered to you. Not to, is considered to be the height of bad manners.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Election Defense Alliance: 3 Million Votes Stolen in the '06 Election

I first saw a mention of this announcement today on Brains and Eggs. It perked my interest because I have an interest in number crunching. It also perked my interest because this isn't being reported in the major media outlets.

The EDA or Election Defense Alliance is a nonprofit activist elections watchdog group that seeks “to insure that the process is honest, transparent, secure, verifiable, and worthy of the public trust”.

They have issued a press release, that curiously, has NOT been picked up by major media, that takes issue with election night exit poll results, and the fact that they were decidedly different from actual vote counts across the nation.

Same as ’04 in Ohio.

Before I get into the technical details, let me cut to the chase why this is important. Yes, Democrats still won, We cleaned their clocks, but what about the close races? If there was tampering, and the EDA gives an unqualified Yes vote on that, who actually won the close races? Was there a landslide victory in ’06?

I always thought that if there was a Republican victory in this election, we could be assured that the election was fixed. Polls indicated broad democratic support. But now, the EDA report is saying that there was a fix in, but it was not enough to surmount the massive Democratic vote.

Apparently Republicans wanted to win, were willing to tamper with the vote totals to do so, but were not willing to make it obvious. So they tweaked it ever so slightly, but, fortunately for us, not enough to allow them to retain their power.

Democrats, it seems are like professional women. If women professionals want to get anywhere in their careers, they not only have to outperform their male competitors, but they must do it by a considerable margin. Democrats, if they want a majority, need to consider winning by more than 50.1%. 55 – 60% is needed.

EDA results indicate that the Democratic victory in ’06 was a landslide.

OK, what did they find out exactly?

They heavily relied on the Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International (“Edison/Mitofsky”) exit polls that were taken on November 7, and reported on CNN at 7:07 pm, election night. This is a poll that samples 10,000 individuals and has a +1% margin of error. Their exit poll on election night showed that there was an 11.5% Democratic margin. Voters indicated that 55% had voted for a Democratic candidate for congress, and 43.5% had voted for a Republican candidate.

When the actual vote count came out on November 8th, the actual vote in the house races was 52.6% Democratic and 45% Republican, a 7.6% margin. That is well beyond the exit polls’ margin of error. EDA says that there is a 10,000 to 1 probability of the exit poll being that far off.

Well, one of the more valid reasons for not trusting exit polls is that Republicans are more circumspect in revealing to a complete stranger who they voted for. So the argument goes, exit polls over sample Democrats.

This leads to what they call “forced weighting”, where this Democratic over sampling is “corrected”. The forced weighting took place on November 8th, and lo and behold, the exit polls matched almost exactly the actual vote totals.


You would think. Here’s the thing that is really sinister here.

This year the exit poll contained a question that was supposed to be a validater. They asked who did you vote for President in ’04, Bush or Kerry? Respondents indicated their vote and their responses were this:

For Kerry 45%
For Bush 47%

This matched the actual ’04 vote totals. That election had a 2.8% margin in Bush’ favor.

But here’s what the EDA says about the forced weighting numbers for the same question:

“Yet for the same question—“For whom did you vote in the 2004 presidential election?"—the final, adjusted exit poll showed a margin of 43% Kerry to 49% Bush. This 6% margin in favor of Bush was a dramatic distortion of the 2.8% margin actually recorded in [the ’04 Election]”
Do you see it? Their validater question came in spot on to the actual ’04 vote, and the “forced weighing” numbers gave the Republicans a higher vote, and Democrats a lower vote, than is recorded in history. No force weighting was necessary. Democrats were not over sampled, and the 4% difference between reported totals and exit poll totals represents 3 million votes.

Here's the graphic from the EDA website. Compelling numbers.


They stole 3 million votes from the Democrats. We had a landslide.

The fix was in. Republicans or those who aided and abetted them shifted the numbers by somewhere between 4 and 6%.

But it wasn’t enough. Maybe it would have been enough had the election been held a month earlier, but all of the “outings” that took place last month probably influenced more voters to vote Democratic, or more Republican voters to stay home.

But what this means is that we are going to lose our democracy if we can’t find a way to prevent election thieves from stealing votes from the people. One thing I can think of right away is to impose severe penalties (public beheading is not out of the question) on vote cyberthieves. Another thing I can think of is to take back the elections process, nationalize it and any company that wants to sell voting machines and vote counting services.

I’ll conclude this posting with a couple of YouTube movies that I found while surfing the web looking into this. The first is a trailer from the documentary on electronic voting, The Right to Count,

and the second one I found at a British website that is concerned about American elections. This is the sworn testimony of a computer programmer that elections can be rigged and probably are being rigged – they were investigating the ’04 Ohio vote results.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Shelley Gets Her Investigation

Now we will find out the truth here. The House Administration Committee, which oversees the chief administrative staff office in the US House of Representatives, is going to leave no computer unturned, as they get to the heart of the matter in this stunningly important affair - how did Tom DeLay's staff destroy computer files that Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, Texas' newest congresswoman, had asked for.

Sekula-Gibbs, in answer to David James explanation, and that she had been given electronic or hardcopy of all work done denounced the explanation as a lie:
"Their computers were blank. Blank," she said. "I'm talking about the material that I asked them to work on from the time they were hired."
Blank. Blank.That’s what happens when you get them scrubbed. Scrubbed.

So we’ll wisely spend taxpayer dollars finding out that there is no work there for her Omnibus Immigration Bill, no work there for Ellington Field, NASA, or Medicare, because . . . well . . . they think she’s mean. Mean.

Tom DeLay on the Mid-Term Election

I missed seeing this. “The 700 Club” is not on my list of Must See TV.

But someone uploaded to YouTube a Pat Robertson interview of ex-Texas Congressman Tom DeLay that they conducted just after the election.

I’d just play it. It’s worth listening to Tom admit, haltingly, to some mistakes, and fun too. It's also worth listening to for the lies and watching that famous smirk, especially the one he releases when Pat Robertson mentions that Nancy Pelosi is more centrist than he thought she was.

Tom predicts that “there will be a lot of subpoenas going toward the White House”. Man, I sure hope so, that’s what we voted for.

Tom, have a good retirement. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Quelle Surprise (That's French For What a Surprise) Texas Gas Prices Have Gone Back Up

Who called it? Just about anyone.

Gasoline prices saw a huge drop before the November 7 elections. Now, here we are into the “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go” season, and the gasoline prices stormed up above 2 bucks here in the Houston area.

What’s different between then and now other than a lost election?

You can audit all of the campaign expenditures you want and you will still not be able to fathom the spreadsheets of the major oil corporations. Guaranteed.

You know, I don’t need a smoking gun, here. All I need is the fact that before the election, the cost of gasoline at the pumps plummeted. Now, as we enter the post Election Day driving season, we see the gasoline costs go up and up and up.

I used to work for these turkeys. I know what I am talking about. They want your money. They couldn’t care less about anything else – other than to get their people elected, which did not happen this year.

So, because of progressive disclosure rules, we can all go after a few tens of thousands of dollars that were misappropriated by hopelessly dimwitted state representatives, but there are literally BILLIONS of dollars are being gathered every month by a confabulation of oil industry megalomaniacs.

Money begets power.

How do we audit the energy industry? No one has ever asked for an independent audit of the energy industry. I doubt it will ever happen, but if anything, this is something that needs to happen.

Maybe with a democratic majority in both houses, it will finally happen.


I am characteristically pessimistic.


Blogs that have posts on the rise in gasoline price are almost too numerous to mention but I thought I’d list a few.

A Steep Hill Live Journal
A Scrivner’s Lament
Free Republic
Rising Hegemon
The Providence Journal
Live in USA

This is just a few. Further proof that I am incapable of an original thought.

Turning Texas Blue, and One Last Day at "The Shack"

Well, it’s official, the 2006 Fort Bend Democrats’ Combined Campaign Headquarters is history. We held our last club meeting there yesterday. It was held amid packed boxes, recovered campaign signs, and dangling wires. A good crowd showed up – additional folding chairs kept appearing.

Tony brought the meeting to order and almost immediately called up our candidates for final thoughts and words. Albert Hollan (44.85 % of the vote) spoke first because he had to take his son to another event. And on that note, Albert spoke of family values. Republicans, he said, do not have a monopoly on family values, family values are not just Republican values. He thanked all of his fellow candidates for a job well done.

Dorothy Bottos was there with her husband Richard. She stood up next and explained that her tally, 37% of the vote, was a good showing seeing as her opponent spent over $450,000 on his campaign. She was happy to make the Republicans spend time and money on this Republican-gerrymandered district. “Republicans,” she said, “were concerned that I am a threat. He had to get out and work, I made him work.” Didactic until the end, Dorothy preached to the choir that he was not the best man for the position. In a post election interview, she said that Zerwas admitted that he got into the race because of his medical profession, but as time goes on, he will be getting out to the counties. Dorothy and Richard later discussed their “Zerwas Watch” plans with club members.

Tony asked Veronica Torres (45.96 % of the vote) to speak next. I remember seeing Veronica alternately stressing out and smiling throughout her campaign. So I was glad to hear her say that running for the office of District Clerk was the “best time I’ve had in my whole life”. She had lots of encouragement after the race, and lots of phone calls. “Jesse is storing my signs,” she announced, earning her a round of applause. Then in an emotional plea, she asked those present that “whatever happens, stay involved, don’t change. A lot of people came to see changes happen.”

Changes will happen. It’s inevitable.

Rudy Velasquez (44.89 % of the vote) said that he was sorry that “the ride is over”. He is going to miss all the free food. Conversely, even though the food was free, Rudy revealed that the campaign was responsible for his losing 20 to 30 pounds as he tugged at his pants waistband. “I liked going out and meeting people. I loved eating. I want to stay involved.”

Farhan Shamsi (33.77% of the vote) was the last of the candidates to speak. He spoke of the “wonderful shack” that he worked out of, he thanked the Bankstons for coming out of the woodwork, and thanked the rest of us locusts for all the help and support. He finished by announcing that in 2036 his son will be eligible to run for President.

Neeta Sane (45.15% of the vote) wasn’t there. Farhan says she plans on running for another office but hasn’t decided which one.

Tony stood up again and shared some observations that he made at the precinct at which he was a judge. “Republicans get out and vote”. Compare that to our results in Precinct 2 where the Democratic stronghold is. Overall showing in Precinct was down over what it was in the last mid-term election. Then he turned it over to Don “Plague of Locusts” Bankston for a summary of the good and the not-so-good things that came out of the election.

The Good:

We had one goal in the beginning: get rid of Tom DeLay, and we had that goal accomplished by April. Those who laid the groundwork in Fort Bend County were the ones who got rid of Tom DeLay (although Jack Abramoff didn’t hurt). Getting Nick Lampson elected “was no small deal. With the congressional and senate elections, “we got our country back. Now we have to get our county back”.

In 2002 we had no Democratic candidates for local races. In 2006 we had five. In 2006 Democrats garnered more votes than ever before, and added an interesting statistic, that the number Democratic votes increased by 2500 in the county, 2500 at the expense of Republican votes. “Every year Democrats gain 1000 votes.” More Democrats are moving into the county than Republicans.

This year, there were more straight ticket Democratic votes (25,260) than straight ticket Republican votes (23,556). Others have argued (myself included) that the write-in campaign produced that effect. Don pointed out, though, that the 2002 straight-ticket vote was 19,058 – a 6202 straight ticket vote gain (and might I point out, the turn out in the Democratic stronghold in Precinct 2 was better in ’02 than it was this year).

Lastly, persuasion was a factor this year. If you look at how the Texas statewide candidates did in Fort Bend County, and compare those numbers to the countywide candidates, you see the same trend. David Van Os numbers (38.92 of the vote) reveal the Democratic base in Fort Bend County. Veronica Torres garnered nearly 10% more of the votes. Heads were turned in the persuasion of votes for Veronica. The downside is that not enough persuasion occurred. We needed to persuade 3500 more voters: not enough streets walked, not enough mailers mailed.

The Not-So-Good.

As I mentioned before a couple of times, fewer voters came out to vote in Precinct 2 than showed up at the polls in 2002. Polling site shenanigans notwithstanding, there was a failure to get out the vote in the Democratic stronghold. This was first noticed midway through the early voting, so call lists were developed to call democratic voters (I called 270 of them on Election Day). Bottom line, what is needed is new leadership in the Democratic Party to ensure that our base goes to the polls, or existing leadership needs to step up to the plate.

It needs to be done. No excuses.

We simply need to get out our base voters. That there are more Republicans than Democrats in Fort Bend County doesn’t matter. What matters is that there are more Republicans that vote than there are Democrats that vote.

Bottom line? The Republicans still control Fort Bend County, but, Don said this: “Were I a Republican I wouldn’t be sitting easy. I looked at new subdivisions that are voting Democratic. All of the new precincts voted Democratic. The new people in the county are Democratic. Even in Sienna Plantation there was a 40% Democratic vote.”

What is needed is a change in leadership and a change in structure. Don cited this posting at Burnt Orange Report on how Dallas, the city that killed Jack Kennedy, is now Democratic.

I suggest that everyone who wants change in Fort Bend County read that posting.

And take notes.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Shelley Takes a Shellacking; Sugar Land Shudders

An interesting to and fro exchange of comments to reporters surfaced today and last night. A KPRC reporter interviewed Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, new congresswoman for Texas CD-22, about the mass exodus of her DC and Stafford staffers – all ex-Tom DeLay personal staffers.

KPRC: These staffers worked for “The Hammer”, who was a difficult man to work for, but these self same people could not work for Sekula-Gibbs. Feeding her the answer, KPRC asked whether it is because they weren’t used to her as a boss. Sekula-Gibbs answered in her own way, that the staffers weren’t working for anyone for almost 6 months and it was too hard for them to make that adjustment. She was also thinking that perhaps they were under some pressure because "sadly they were about to lose their jobs at the end of the year."

My, how empathetic.

Yeah, that’s what I’d do if my boss quit. Wait around for 5 months not looking for new positions, and then when the new boss does show up, freak out and quit.

Lead staffer David James, wrote in a statement “The staff members have a combined thirty-plus years of experience working on the Hill. Never has any member of Congress treated us with as much disrespect and unprofessionalism (sic) as we witnessed during those five days.”

On the missing computer files, James explained that the office computers "were scrubbed and reconfigured by an outside vendor in the days immediately prior to her assuming office," as House policies require. The new congresswoman was given a copy of everything "electronically or in hard copy, or both."

Sekula-Gibbs countered that the missing files she was after were not ones of the previous administration. They were files for her administration: work that she had asked them to do when she hired them.

When she hired them?

Election Day was 7 days before the infamous walkout. Theoretically, she could have hired them the next day. How much information could be missing in a 6-day effort (that includes a weekend) and 5 days to find out about “the dark side” of Shelley?

Sounds pretty thin.

Shelley - zero for 2. Staffers romp.

I thought all of the bizarre twists and turns that began in early January with a midnight phone call to a Fort Bend County Republican chairman would be over on November 8th. I’ll bet everyone else thought so, too. But no, DeLay’s hand-picked successor hits town with such a fury, and then called for an investigation into scandalous and suspicious behavior on the part of her former staffers.

But you know, I think I heard some candor from the woman at the very end of the KPRC piece. Asked about her re-election plans, Sekula-Gibbs said that she had none at the moment, and also allowed that having this affair so prominent in the news was not to her liking.

But I am also a cynic, and I’d swear that she is reveling in all the attention. Whatever attention, it doesn’t matter as long as there is a camera and a microphone in her face.

Conversely, Sugar Land residents are chagrined at all of this. One woman interviewed, gave an embarrassed laugh when she acknowledged that the whole country must know about Sugar Land by now.

But I must protest. Tom DeLay is from Fort Bend County. Just because CD-22 was represented by a Sugar Land resident doesn't mean Shelster is from the same place. I think it's time to announce that this embarrassment is a resident of Clear Lake.

Spread the word.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

On Tape: Shelley Sings (and Continues to Embarrass Herself in DC)

Oh how embarrassing.

Someone videotaped the Singin’ Shelster singing her campaign song, set to the tune of “The Beer Barrel Polka” (Roll Out the Barrell). The audio is poor and I can’t for the life of me make out a couple of lines. I have provided only a partial transcription of the lyrics. If you have a guess at the rest, let me know.

Vote twice for Shelley,
Special and then write her in
Vote twice for Shelley,
Special and furz plug machewess
Vote twice for Shelley,
Special and then write her in
Nee buff a chew fer chewess
And we will win.

And the Sekula-Gibbster continues to embarrass herself and the Texas delegation over the DeLay staffer affair. After recovering from her 15 minute hissy fit (see Juanita for a definition) over the seven DeLay aides who left her high and dry without a code for the Xerox machine, Shelley wants to launch an investigation into shady dealings in the office.

It seems that before leaving, the staffers deleted email messages from their computers’ hard drives. Scandalous. Destruction of government property. Secrets kept.

With all due respect, Congresswoman Sekula-Gibbs, the staffers probably thought that, since they would be leaving you in the lurch, you might want to take your revenge on them in some way (you are characterized as “mean”, after all). And what better way to do that then to peruse their email looking for stuff to use against them.

By the way, Shelley, what were you doing looking at their email?


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Oh What Could Have Been - Voters Get a Peek at an Alternative Universe

One thing that is nice about voting twice for Shelley, is that it allows all those eSlate dial-in voters a sneak peek at what would have resulted from all of the trouble they went to, to vote for the Gibbster, had they succeeded in overcoming Lampson’s monumental lead in the polls.

Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, newest member of the Texas congressional delegation, landed in Washington on both feet last Thursday, and by Tuesday managed to piss off Tom DeLay’s entire congressional staff. We heard of it first from the Washington Post and on this blog and that blog, but the juicy details have been absent, and most probably will be for awhile at least. But Roll Call came out with some before unknown accounts of the mass exit of DeLay’s entire staff yesterday. Courtesy of Juanita, we have new and interesting text.

I have quotes.
“She showed up to take over DeLay’s old office on Thursday and, according to sources familiar the office dynamics, was “mean” to the staff. On Tuesday, at her new Member’s open-house reception in the office, sources charged that she was less than pleased that neither President Bush nor Vice President Cheney showed up with the rest of the welcome wagon, despite the fact that others who stopped by included Texas GOP Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn and Texas GOP Reps. Kevin Brady and Michael Burgess. (Apparently, according to sources, she was under the impression that the president of the United States would be there to greet the seven-week Congresswoman.)”
Is that not just the flakiest thing you ever heard? The woman is in total denial of her position. I’d still like the details on how the Shelster was “mean” to the staff, but this expectation of a visit from the Bush and Cheney, who didn’t show, must have embittered the woman to no end because she was not invited to a White House reception for newly elected lawmakers. But Nick was there asking George for advice on retaining his seat in a Republican-favored district in 2008.

From the Roll Call report,
“the DeLay staff they showed their feelings about their new boss Tuesday by walking out of the office en masse and resigning, effective immediately. The DeLay refugees, who included DeLay’s personal chief of staff, David James, walked out of the office, Von Trapp family-style (though without the singing) and huddled at Starbucks to get their wits about them.”
Holy Krishna, this is almost as tasty as the open for all to see Republican brouhaha this past summer. No, I take it back, this is truly tasty barbecue. Shelly turning on a spit.

Oh, but wait. I know what it’s like to have to break in a new boss. It sometimes is very trying on one’s soul, and besides these are a bunch of kids, right? Kids will be demonstrative, right? Umm, no. Not in this case.

From Roll Call
“Carl Thorsen, who is now a lobbyist, hired most of the DeLay aides who stormed out of the new Congresswoman’s office when he was DeLay’s general counsel and in charge of staffing the Hammer’s personal office. He said he couldn’t imagine what it must have taken to provoke the staff to quit all at once. ‘I know them. They’re exceptional and talented,’ he said. ‘They’ve been loyal to that district and they’ve worked really hard. They’re just not a group of loose cannons.’”
This from the guy who hired them. So it’s not a bunch of spoiled whiney kids at the bottom of this. Could it be the normal outcome of being a spoiled whiney congresswoman?

Spin control? The Shelster’s chief of staff and former campaign manager (and apparently the only one who can stand being around her), Lisa Diamond (elsewhere her name is spelled DiMond) says that Shelley is just a wonderful person and that the DeLay workers were just going to be there “for transitional purposes”.

Transitional? They’d been without a congressman to work for, for 5 months. They were there for constituent services only for 5 solid months. They’re going to briefly serve as a transition staff for a congresswoman who will be gone in 50 days?

So anyway, if you have any problems and need Shelley to come to your aid, call her at (202) 225-5951. That’ll get Shelley or Linda, or a message machine. Shelley’s going to have some problems getting a staff together to run the office for 50 days, unless they go with a temp service. But then I hear that word gets around inside the loop and the word is that “you’ll need to promise a Congressional Medal to anyone willing to take this one on.”

What a trainwreck

And you know, I'm not the best person for reading a person's thoughts from their facial expression, but I'll just say that the expression on Mr. Shelley's face at the top of this posting is priceless. Absolutely priceless.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Jack Murtha: The Next House Majority Leader

My favorite Californian, Nancy Pelosi, is standing up for my favorite Pennsylvanian, Jack Murtha. She has come out in support of her good friend for House Majority Leader in preference to Steny Hoyer.

I’ve liked Jack Murtha since he had the guts to stand up against the senseless war in Iraq and say, nearly a year ago,
“Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. IT IS TIME TO BRING THEM HOME.”
I especially liked Jack Murtha after he garnered the invective of Congresswoman Jean Schmidt of Ohio, who effectively called Murtha a coward when she quoted an Ohio state representative:
“He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run, Marines never do.”
(and yes, I just checked, the unofficial results has Schmidt re-elected in a squeaker). Jean quickly learned that you don’t say that to a Vietnam veteran.

Now Steny Hoyer would be just fine, too. I checked though, and he is a little more shaky in the National Security area. Hoyer voted in favor of the much hated USA PATRIOT and Terrorism Prevention Reauthorization Act, where Jack Murtha voted against it.

All this stuff about ethics is a concern of mine. Some say Murtha is innocent of those charges, going all the way back to ABSCAM. He was, in fact involved in ABSCAM to the extent that he met the "fake sheik" who was paying 8 congressmen $50,000 bribes to become a US citizen, but Murtha instead told him to invest in his hometown of Johnstown.

I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially if it means that his election to Majority Leader will be a final "in your face", for the Republicans.

So, yeah, Nancy, ditto.

Nick? Murtha.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Shelster Arrives, Swears, Has Two Jobs

So finally we are represented in Congress. What’s it been 5 months? As I write this our new congresswoman is taking her oath of office.

But I’m still a little confused.

Didn’t she say that she would resign her city council seat once her election is certified? Isn’t that going to be sometime this week? Like November 15th? So how do we have it that she is currently holding two elected offices at the same time?

I guess I shouldn’t quibble over a day or two, but still, if it was a Democrat doing this, we’d hear holy H-E double hockey sticks about it.

I’m not kidding about this. This is reality right now.

Here: click on this link and see her website for her new job.

Click on this link and see her website for her other job.

If you want still more confusion click here and read about our vacant house seat

(If you’re clicking past, say, this week 11/13-11/18 you are probably going to get at least one if not two broken links – I would hope).

Isn’t there some sort of natural law that is broken here? One politician can’t be in two places at the same time?

Anyway, just thought I would point that out.

And yes, I now have someone to call and email about the burning issues of the day.

Here’s the gist of my next communication to my congresswoman:

Dear Congresswoman Sekula-Gibbs

I hope you are settling in to your new job. I have a concern that I would like to share with you. As you are aware, House Joint Resolution 94 is coming up for a vote this week and I’d like to share my views on this bill. Joint Resolution 94 seeks to give special recognition to the Christmas Tree industry for employment of over 100,000 people, providing wildlife habitats and that these days, they bring in $1.4 billion in sheer profit.

I urge you, Congresswoman Sekula-Gibbs, to vote no to this exclusionary resolution. What about the Chanukah bush industry? What about the incense industry? These are also expendable articles of religious observance, but their contributions to the economy are being callously disregarded.

I urge you to vote no on HJR 94.

Hal at Half Empty

What do you think? Think Shel will vote my way?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

An Afternoon at “The Shack”. Here's to Better Days

I had to laugh at the insipid remarks of a person who called herself Lacey (but we know who she is) who left a comment on a FortBendNow Op/Analysis piece by Bob Dunn. Lacey likened the Fort Bend Democrats, and the Bankston family, to a “pack of locusts” that “reek (sic) havoc on the official party”. I’m not going to answer back here because my friend Farhan Shamsi did it so ably in the comment that immediately followed Lacey’s.

I just wanted to let you know that “The Shack” has been packed up and is currently being stored in a 10 X 10 for the next time. “The Shack,” by the way was equipped with 21st century technology, 21st century software, and 21st century volunteers; 21st century volunteers ranging in age between 16 and 80.

We spent the afternoon loading truckload after truckload of this equipment and furniture. It was backbreaking work but we did it willingly and with the esprit de corps that always exists between us. On breaks we crunched the numbers again and again. The outlook? There is blue in the distant horizon. I am uncharacteristically optimistic, despite the “havoc” that we wreaked on the Democratic Party.

What havoc was wreaked? The Democratic Party put up more candidates for local office than had been for as long as anyone can remember. Credible candidates who ran credible campaigns. The Fort Bend Democrats provided funding and a headquarters to for these candidates to run their campaigns.

Did they win?


Here in Red Texas, it isn’t about what your qualifications are, or about how poorly your incumbent opponent runs things, it’s about which party you are affiliated with. The numbers in Fort Bend County aren’t yet right. But the operative word is “yet”. This election, as it turns out, was a dip of the toe in the water. The numbers show a trend that, should it continue, portends a shift in the local political landscape very soon now.

So as we locusts burrow deep for our 2 year slumber (remember, FB Democrats, the club meets this Saturday), we can’t celebrate local victory with our Democratic brothers and sisters in other states. But we can bask in the sun with our fellow Democrats as we watch the coming of better days.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Is J. R. Perez An Elections Administrator or An Elections Manipulator?

We here in Fort Bend County, Texas, have an elections administrator, recently hired from Guadalupe County this past spring, named J. R. Perez. Hired by the Fort Bend County Elections commission, consisting of 4 Republicans and 1 Democrat. Perez has been consistent in showing bias and partisanship in the past election, as well as displaying actions that could only be characterized as grossly incompetent.

Take for example Perez’s amazing finding that simply dialing in the letters “Shelley” was enough to indicate voter intent to cast a write-in ballot for Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. As quoted from FortBendNow:
“If Sekula-Gibbs is the only registered write-in candidate, then a voter writing in ‘Shelley’ for the CD-22 race will be counted for Sekula-Gibbs, as “Shelley” will be one of the pre-programmed aliases.”
This notion was rapidly given the kibosh when Mike Malaise, Lampson's campaign manager, gave an indication that the Lampson campaign would take a dim view of this cavalier approach to registering a write-in vote:
“This is fair warning to anyone wanting to vote for a write-in candidate should try to fully write in that candidate’s name on Election Day. Misspellings are perfectly understandable, but there are many ‘Shelleys’ registered to vote in District 22, and they are all eligible to write their own name in for this seat. Simply writing ‘Shelley’, random letters, or a series of Morse Code dots and dashes will not cut it. Those votes will be challenged and ultimately will not count. We did not fight Tom DeLay’s unethical political maneuvering just to stand aside and watch his hand-picked successor game the system in the 11th hour.”
Eventually the instruction from the Sekula-Gibbs campaign was to fully spell her name.

Nice try J. R.

Perez is apparently baffled by the Texas Election Code. He allowed voting irregularities reported by the Lampson campaign poll watchers to go uncorrected. Frustration hits the Lampson campaign poll workers who, when seeing that no one was about to correct serious manipulations of voters at the polls, they themselves stepped in to tell the judges that they were breaking the law.

Perez said this about The Texas Election Code
“[It] is not as clear as I would hope it would be in terms of what is permissible when providing voters with instructions on how to use a computerized voting machine.”
Doesn’t matter JR. The code is clear enough whether the voter uses eSlate, a pencil and paper or a rock and a chisel.


§ 61.008. UNLAWFULLY INFLUENCING VOTER. (a) A person commits an offense if the person indicates to a voter in a polling place by word, sign, or gesture how the person desires the voter to vote or not vote.
(b) An offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor.

Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 211, § 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1986

§ 61.009. INSTRUCTING VOTER ON CASTING BALLOT. On the request of a voter, an election officer shall instruct the voter on the proper procedure for casting a ballot.

Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 211, § 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1986.

Emphasis is added. Your poll judges were offering instruction on who to vote for. The question “May I help you write in Shelley Sekula-Gibbs’ name?” is not equivocal. This was a Class B misdemeanor. Your poll judges were volunteering instructions to voters where none were requested. It happened over and over again all over the county.

Your poll judges allowed a candidate in the election to come within 100 feet of the polling site and for the purpose of electioneering. We all knew it was a purposeful violation of the law. This was not an inexperienced candidate. She knew she was violating the election code, but also knew of the tens of thousands of dollars of free publicity that would be hers if she did this.

And she’s not at risk of being charged with a Class C misdemeanor, by the way. DA Healey is looking into it the allegations and has taken depositions. He also has an invitation to a big party in Washington DC on Monday. Here we have someone being sworn in to uphold the US Constitution who flouts the law of the land by purposely disobeying a simple straightforward election law. You going John?

The foregoing was all about bias and manipulation. The following is either about that as well or about gross incompetence, take your pick.

Early on Election Day, voting machines at a heavily Democratic precinct, Precinct 4126 were “not working”. Voters on their way to work were being turned away. Now, JR, how long have you had these machines and how long have you had to prepare them so that they are in proper working order? Then on Election Day, the machines assigned to a Democratic majority precinct don’t work? Democratic voters are sent to work without having voted? Maybe they can vote on the way home. But oh, that’s right, the long lines.
How coincidental. How convenient. How callous.

This last item of interest is more about incompetence than political bias. Many parts of Fort Bend County had school bond issues. In several precincts, voters were presented issues for school districts whose boundaries did not encompass the voters' residences. For example, voters who showed up at their polling site, who lived within the LCISD district boundaries were offered a Katy ISD bond issue to vote on. While this might seem to be a minor issue, it turns out that while Lamar ISD’s bond issue passed, Katy ISD, which is one of the fastest growing school districts in southeast Texas, had their bond issue voted down (again).

Now, there is no one, except apparently, voters in Katy, who is against education. Why would someone purposely screw up the bond issue voting? It’s like picketing against Santa Claus. No, I think that this is not about political bias, it’s about competence.

How does J. R. Perez answer to this? It’s all on the voter.
“What we find hard to explain to the voter is that they must call any omissions to the judge before they cast the ballot. We can cancel that ballot and give them the correct ballot style. But after they cast the ballot, there is no going back, regardless of whose error it is.”
No, sorry J. R. It is not the responsibility of the voter to make sure that you have provided the proper ballot. That is your responsibility.

If J. R. Perez can’t do his job, and blames voters for his errors, then maybe the county should find someone who can. And while they are doing that, maybe they can find someone who doesn’t have political inclinations that lead to manipulation of voters and the vote.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Why Did Senator Macaca Concede So Quickly?

When do Republicans, in particular Republican Senators, roll over so quickly?

Fact is, they don’t.


But here's hard-bitten trench wars fighter Senator George Allen today, conceding the election to a political foe:
"I see no good purpose being served by continuously and needlessly expending money and causing any more personal animosity. Rather than bitterness, I want to focus on how best Virginians can be effectively served by their new junior senator."
They’re characteristically vicious in their attacks to retain power. This is a roll-over of massive proportions. What George “Macaca” Allen did, then, defies all logic and reason. By Virginia law when a race finishes with less than a 1% difference between the winner and loser, an automatic recount is mandated.

But George Allen said no, there will be no recount, and conceded the race to Webb.

And in doing so, handed the Senate majority, with all the Senate committee chairmanships that that entails, to the Democrats.

Now when something like that happens with such nonchalance, such “Oh, well, next time. . . ”, I have to ask: Where’s the skeleton? Where’s the photos?”

Perhaps they’re here.

Voting irregularities were rampant in Virginia. Everything from polling place misdirection to phone calls to voters to inform them that they were not able to vote in Virginia, keeping them from voting at all, and even threatening criminal charges if they do show up to vote. With the FBI set to look into all of this, what better way to get them to call off the investigation than to concede the election? Investigations cost money and takes time away from investigating other crimes. Perhaps the needlessly expended money Allen was referring to, was FBI funds.

So it’s a no-brainer. Quietly concede, hand it all over . . . or get a full court press from the FBI.

FBI, you now have your probable cause. The suspect just caved in and did everything but admit complete wrongdoing in the election. It’s your duty to continue the investigation.

Get to the bottom of it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Epilogue: What Did We Learn?

Am I happy that Nick Lampson won?

Of course I am.

I walked my tail off this summer on the Texas Gulf coastal plain for this man’s campaign. I’m happy that the Republican Party couldn’t foist an “anyone but a democrat” candidate on the residents of CD-22. Especially someone hand-picked by a smugly corrupt neocon politician like Tom DeLay.


We also managed to re-elect Grady Prestage to the Commissioner’s Court.

So why am I not ecstatically joyful? None of our countywide candidates won. Republicans still outnumber Democrats in Fort Bend County, and they all line up and vote for whomever their leader tells them to vote for, whatever their qualifications. This is going to happen until the end of time.
“Democrats want to fall in love, Republicans want to fall in line”
– Bill Clinton

With the exception of a few state house races, everything in Texas is status quo ante. The Blue Revolution occurred everywhere else but here.

How telling.

But there are some statistics from the Fort Bend County Elections office that are pretty interesting.

First, compare the 2002 midterm results to the 2006 results.

2002 Straight Ticket Republicans 59.22% (28,069)
2002 Straight Ticket Democrats: 40.21% (19,058)

2006 Straight Ticket Republicans: 47.81% (23,552)
2006 Straight Ticket Democrats: 51.28% (25,257)

OK, now while you might say that the straight ticket Republican vote was suppressed by Independent voting for the governor’s race, as well as that sage piece of advice from the RNCC not to vote a straight ticket (and it almost worked for us, too), look at that 6200 voter increase in straight Democrat votes. Does this signal a shift in demographics?

I think so. While difficult to prove because we had no countywide Democratic candidates in ’02, I am looking at the votes for Supreme Court and Appeals Court Justices in ’02, and comparing them to similar offices, including the countywide races and am seeing a trend.

In ’02 votes for state court justices averaged 58.4% votes for Republican Justice candidates and 40.5% for Democratic Justice candidates (Libertarians make up the odd percentage difference). (8 races)

In ’06 votes for state court justices and countywide candidates, together, averaged 54.3% for Republican Justice and county candidates and 45.8% for Democratic Justice and county candidates (Libertarians make up the odd percentage difference). (6 races)

These are the downballot races that tell you about the demographics of the county. It looks like Republicans lost nearly 5% of the total voters and Democrats made a slightly greater than 5% gain. A 10% turnover in 4 years.

Now that’s pretty darned good news.

And I am nearly joyously ecstatic.

Oops, sorry, now I am extremely joyously ecstatic. Bush had to fire Don Rumsfeld because he lost control of the House (Other states: thank you. You make up for Texas’ shortcomings).

Isn’t ironic that had Bush dumped Dreadful Don a couple of weeks ago, we would, in all probability, be celebrating a little less ecstatically?

Nice job, Dubya.

Here in Fort Bend County they are blaming Tom DeLay for the loss of the House. The evil that is Tom DeLay doesn’t hold a candle to Don “Iraq? Why the Hell Not?” Rumsfeld.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Day At The Races

My day began at 9 PM on November 6th. Poll site campaign sign planting. A second from final act in this 46 act play. We split off in 6 directions with bundles of campaign signs for polling sites.

Site 1: Meadows Place, where I found out from the Meadows Place PD that we could leave only one sign per candidate. I asked what they were going to do with the Silly Shelley signs, they said they would be taken up. Maybe . . .

The Smither guy and I found a place for our singleton signs and that was that. But wait, I was gulled by the word "candidate". I had a gazillion "Had Enough" signs. So I turned around and stabbed it in next to an SSG. "Eh?" I said to the officer. "Yeah, that's OK". Hmm. A closet Dem?

I hopped from precinct to precinct planting Bottos next to Zerwas, Shamsi next to Cannata, Torres next to Annies, and Velasquez next to Bud. Lampson next to Shelley? Not a problem. The Republican team planting signs didn't bother to plant Shelley signs. A message?

I hopped on down to my precinct where I saw a Republican team out pluggin' and plantin' so I thought about it and decided to give them thier time while I went home to retrieve my 9 lawn signs to add to the collection that I was about to plant. I found very choice sites as the Republican team failed to realize that they crowded their signs around the school parking lot exit. I took the entrance and a choice corner spot.

Then I crashed for a 3 hour sleep full of very odd dreams.

Up and about, I checked my precinct poll site and saw that Annie's friends had place a 4 X 4 in front of my choice site. We never do that. That is just a bit low for our taste. But we have seen very low behavior in this election. I redistributed, placing my "Had Enough" smack in front of Annie's. Message clearly sent, but I left surprises also.

I found a sparse array up at another precinct in north Richmond, and sprouted bouquets of Bottos, scads of Sanes, troves of Torres, and heaps of Had Enoughs. I spotted a group of African-Americans camped out in the parking lot and learned that they were hirelings of Shelley. They were out there with the write-in vote instructions, but were just sitting there carrying on a very lively conversation among themselves.

Money well spent, Shelster.

Then I went back to the headquarters and called 9 pages-worth of GOTV numbers in our base area. All day we were getting people with questions and concerns, and I think we handled them well. We all kept dialing until just before the polls closed. Word is that as I type this, there is still a huge line at Pink Elementary - another core Democratic precinct.

Well, that's it. This is my last Election 2006 blog unless something horrendous happens. Now I just sit and watch the returns with my friends.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Red State Blue (and Why Kinky and Carole Need to Endorse Chris Bell)

Juanita Jean over at the Beauty Shop showed me this just as I was about to write a rant about the Independents running for Texas Governor. I'll just say this now.

Kinky, Carole, do yourselves a favor and step aside and endorse Chris Bell. Do this and you will save Texas from four more years of Rick Perry. Fail to do this, and you will be held responsible for anything that Perry does in the next four years.

It's as simple as that.

Now, turn up your speakers and listen to "Red State Blue".

And one other thing. We Democrats here in Fort Bend County have a County Commissioner, Andy Meyers, who is single-handedly putting out trashy 4 X 8 signs that are very inflammatory to minorities, chiefly Hispanics and South Asians. See Mark's blog for photos of them, then go to the Fort Bend Democrats website and support us in our efforts to fight off this neocon racist attempt to intimidate voters with the politics of hate and fear.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Today Was an Exceptional Day for the Fort Bend Democrats

We all started showing up at the Rosenberg, Texas headquarters around 9 in the morning.

Chris Bell’s “Bell onWheels” Bus tour through Texas was coming to Rosenberg and we had a party to prepare.

Things were being hauled out and set up. I came in early because I had a nagging feeling that I had left something out in the poll site sign bundles that I had prepared with lots of help. I kept checking areas that I thought I had forgotten, and kept locating the sign bundles that I thought I had failed to assemble. So I gave up and did some running and fetching of my own.

The Bell advance worker appeared and exercised her skills in campaign headquarters interior design, and things moved around. I lent a hand because she seemed earnest. I have to admit that, despite what Don claimed, the HQ did look a lot more like a reception area than a work area after she got through.

One of my students, Honjie, showed up in her newly acquired Nick Lampson T-Shirt. She earned the shirt on Thursday when she helped me assemble sign bundles. I think she was very excited and impressed at the operation that was running before her.

Then Nick Lampson showed up and worked through the three television crews who came to cover the event for local TV. Then he came in and worked the crowd. My friend Mark has become pretty upset with some of the things his campaign is doing, and it didn’t look like he was very happy to see Nick. But politics, as they say, make strange bedfellows. Nick gave me his usual vice-like handshake. I introduced Nick to my student, Honjie.

The hamburgers (and the Democratic Party brought hot dogs) were ready and everyone was ready to eat, but the Bell on Wheels bus was running late. We had members outside with Bell signs holding them out to passing traffic, and members inside holding their Bell signs waiting expectantly.

I saw it first. A big black bus came into view coming from Richmond. It turned in and then maneuvered around to stop in front of the headquarters. Hank Gilbert came in first and he got a rousing applause. Moments later Chris Bell came in and the roof nearly blew off.

My friend Don spoke first with a booming voice. He spoke of Chris Bell’s service to us in Congress and as a council member in Houston. He spoke of Chris Bell’s seminal work in the long and tortuous road to Tom DeLay’s downfall.

Don then introduced “our friend Nick Lampson”. Nick spoke in that I-don’t-know-what-you-call-it, I’ll just call it his “campaign voice”. He really has it down. I’ll give you a clue, it’s along the same vein as the one that got Howard Dean in trouble, but much toned down. Nick does it just right.

Nick talked about his campaign and about bringing integrity back to Washington. He stumped for the Fort Bend countywide candidates, all of whom were present: Neeta Sane, Veronica Torres, Rudy Velasquez, Albert Hollan and Farhan Shamsi. Then he introduced Hank Gilbert, who introduced Chris Bell who was then also introduced by Nick Lampson (I don’t know how they work these things out). And Chris Bell, standing 6’4” withstood another barrage of shouts and “Chris!” “Chris!” “Chris!” “Chris!” “Chris!”.

Chris didn’t apologize for his serious demeanor, even though also acknowledging his superior sense of humor. He spoke to the crowd from the center of the room, turning to all points of the room. A neat trick.

He addressed the two independents that are serving to split vote the anti-Perry vote. A split vote that could help to re-elect the most unpopular Texas governor in recent memory. He said it this way:
“I know there's been a lot of fascination with the independent candidates for governor. But there's just one difference between me and them. They can't win. I will win.”
Then Don got up and auctioned off an autographed Chris Bell T-shirt. He started the bidding at $50 and ended with a final bid of $125. Ellen Hunt bought it. I heard her remarking to a reporter that it cost more than her wedding dress.

Then the food line formed, but people started coming at me asking for sign bundles for their precincts so I got busy handing them out and checking them off my list. When I finally got free I went over to where muse was standing. muse brought the muse daughter who came because she has become interested in politics this year. She seemed thrilled because she got to shake the big man’s hand and get a personally autographed Chris Bell campaign board.

The crowd finally petered out and we cleared and cleaned, restoring the headquarters to its work room environment. Then work commenced anew. Veronica Torres’ father came in to work the phones, door hanger bags were being stuffed, muse returned after taking the muse daughter home to work on voter lists in the muse precinct. I set out to generate Google maps of polling sites for our midnight lawn sign missions on Election Day Eve.

Then Farhan Shamsi returned with fire in his eyes. “I was almost arrested,” he raged. “I was out in Meadows Place putting out my signs and ‘WOO’ ‘WOO’ a Meadows Place Police car AND a 3rd Precinct Constable car sound their sirens and lights and pulled up.”

Farhan had his car on the road’s shoulder and was putting a sign on a grassy field that was not in the off limits right-of-way. He had stopped to put one there specifically because there was a Sekula-Gibbs sign posted illegally in the road median.

The police: “What are you doing sir?”
Farhan: “I’m putting my signs up.”
The police: “Do you know that is illegal?”
Farhan indicated to them the legal and illegal way to put up a sign, showing them Sekula-Gibbs’ illegal sign. Pointing, he said “THAT’s illegal”

The police: “It doesn’t matter, you’re still doing something illegal.”
Farhan: “I’m putting it on private property.”
The police: “Do you have the permission of the owner?”
Farhan: “That’s between me and the owner, not between you and me and the owner.”
The police: “It’s still illegal. I’m writing you up.”
Farhan: “You can ticket for parking on the right-of-way, but you can’t ticket me for putting a sign on private property. What you can then do is talk to Andy Meyers about me being a terrorist.”

Then he put the sign on the property, went back to his SUV and slammed shut the back door. Getting into the car, he rolled down the window and asked them if they were going to give him a ticket for parking on the right-of-way.

The police: “Just get out of here.”

Farhan was right, the police were absolutely wrong. Farhan knows the law and he defended himself.

This is what Democrats, and minority Democrats at that, are experiencing in this election cycle. Blatant use of the color of office to deny Democrats the right to campaign for office. But this is The South, this is Texas, but most importantly, it’s still DeLay Land here even if the man has scurried off to Virginia.

Finally Farhan settled down and we started making jokes about the incident. And the story got told and retold as Democrats came back from wherever they were at.

Then Veronica Torres came in absolutely aglow with the news that the Rosenberg Herald Coaster had endorsed her as their preference for Fort Bend County District Clerk (Fort Bend Star, you screwed up and missed this one – Vickie indeed). Mark made an absolutely hilarious comment about her opponent that you can now read on his blog.

Jesse celebrated by buying spicy chicken dinners for everyone.

The day turned to night and I sat with muse taking in the day. We decided to leave, but I called Bryan to find out if we should keep letting Bill Clinton make his calls to Fort Bend County Democrats and he said he’d take care of it.

So we left. I pointed out to muse my bumper sticker reassignments and received the muse approval. On comparison of lawn signs, muse wondered at how one could have 9 signs on one’s front lawn, and I ticked them off on my fingers. Then the muse expressed great distaste for one of them, not a nice person in the muse’s opinion. I thought about it on the drive home.

It’s off, muse.


And one other thing. We Democrats here in Fort Bend County have a County Commissioner, Andy Meyers, who is single-handedly putting out trashy 4 X 8 signs that are very inflammatory to minorities, chiefly Hispanics and South Asians. See Mark's blog for photos of them, then go to the Fort Bend Democrats website and support us in our efforts to fight off this neocon racist attempt to intimidate voters with the politics of hate and fear.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Early Vote Ends, Crunch Time Begins: Republicans Alternately Attack and Scurry for Cover.

Well, the numbers are in. This year in Fort Bend County, Texas, 35,648 voters of all stripes showed up at the early voting locations and cast their ballots (Thank you muse, you of the latest dope). Compare that to 24,405 in the last mid-term election in 2002. That’s a 46% increase over the last mid-term.

It seems that there is an interest in voting this year in Fort Bend County.

And why not?

Driving this vote is Iraq, Iraq and Iraq. People are sick of the war and how it was ill-conceived and has been so poorly waged with no exit strategy. Not one of those irritating “I Support President Bush and The Troops” remains up in my subdivision.

Reports come in from all over the county about how few lawn signs have appeared. Richard Morrison told a story today that the Republican precinct chair in his precinct had a lawn sign for every one of the Republican candidates running for office, except one for Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. But privately, most Republicans are very quiet in the March of Signs this year. With the notable exception, that is, of Andy Meyers, Fort Bend County Commissioner for the 3rd Precinct. His personal sign war campaign is currently being waged. It was fun to watch him on TV last night personally hauling those hateful racist “Support the Terrorists – Vote Democrat” signs around, sorting them out on a lawn. He lied to the press saying that he had 30 of them. Then astute figurers of 4 x 8 sign costs divided 30 into $2800 and came away amazed at how he got ripped off. Come to find out he later told The Chronicle that he had 75 of them. By the way, it was the Fort Bend Democrats that outted the fact that Andy Meyers was behind these signs.

On the same day, on the same TV Channel, a Republican Fort Bend County candidate’s race was featured, the one for 268th District Court. Judge Brady Elliott found himself facing the cameras saying that he doesn’t “run attack ads”, and differentiated between “exposure” and “molestation”: “It was not molestation it was exposure which was quite different from what the ad said.” Well, heck, Brady, I have the ad right in front of me and nowhere does it mention the word “molestation”. You just cooked that up, didn’t you? Everywhere it mentions the term “child predator” which is an appropriate characterization of Jon Matthews, who exposed his genitalia to an eleven year old girl. So you took the advice of the prosecutor and Probation Department and put an impenitent child predator back on the street, right?

Nice job.

Next time, if there IS a next time, try being a judge for once and not a rubber stamp for the DA and Probation Department.

Republicans: Run. Hide. Roll yourselves up in a ball with your eyes squeezed shut and your hands and arms protecting your head. The end of the world as you know it is coming.

One place you might not want to be tomorrow, Fort Bend County Republican residents , is in Rosenberg. We will be massing there to greet the next governor of the state of Texas, Chris Bell. His “Bell on Wheels” entourage will grace the presence of the Fort Bend Combined Campaign Headquarters at 4800 Avenue H (Highway 90A) in just under 12 hours from now. He is scheduled to roll in at about 11 AM on Saturday the 4th of November. Free Hamburgers.


My job is ketchup.