Monday, April 30, 2007

Early Voting has started for the May 12th Election

Now go and vote

The Half Empty recommendations for Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees is Noel Pinnock for Position 7 and Bob Broxson (AKA Anyone but Lisa) for Position 3.

The Half Empty recommendation for Fort Bend County Proposition 1, the Fort Bend Mobility Bonds is NO! NO! NO! Believe me when I tell you that passage of this bond will result in the widening of a road that I travel on all the time. But the way our county squanders bond money fills me with the urge to defecate.

The Half Empty recommendation for the Constitutional Amendment, Proposition 1, is yes, of course.

And in the 10 City of Houston precincts within Fort Bend County, you need to go on down and vote for Melissa Noriega. Melissa is the most qualified candidate on the ballot. If you know anyone who lives in Houston, call them up and tell them to go and vote for Melissa Noriega. It’ll be a low turnout election so their vote will count more than most times. Wouldn’t it be nice to decide who 95 other people besides yourself want on the Houston City Council?

I have the Early Vote locations and schedule below. Nearest Early Vote locations for the Houston City Council election is highlighted in blue.

Missouri City Community Center - 1522 Texas Parkway, Missouri City, TX
Garcia Middle School - 18550 Old Richmond Road, Sugar Land, TX
Hightower High School – 3333 Hurricane Lane, Missouri City, TX
Monday through Friday April 30 – May 4, 2007: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Saturday May 5, 2007: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Sunday May 6, 2007: 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Monday and Tuesday May 7 – 8, 2007: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Sugar Land City Hall – 2700 Town Center Blvd. North, Sugar Land, TX
Fort Bend ISD Administration Building – 16431 Lexington Blvd., Sugar Land, TX
Sugar Land Fire Administration - 10405 Corporate Dr., Sugar Land, TX
Monday through Friday April 30 – May 4, 2007: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m
Saturday May 5, 2007: CLOSED
Sunday May 6, 2007: CLOSED
Monday and Tuesday May 7 – 8, 2007: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Chasewood Clubhouse -7622 Chasewood Drive, Missouri City, TX
Meadows Place City Hall - One Troyan Drive, Meadows Place, TX
First Colony Conference Center - 3232 Austin Parkway, Sugar Land, TX
Monday through Friday April 30 – May 4, 2007: 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Saturday May 5, 2007: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m
Sunday May 6, 2007: 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Monday and Tuesday May 7 – 8, 2007: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

HB 626: Voter Suppression Texas Style

Ah, Democracy American style.

Labor Day Barbecues, stump speeches, red, white and blue bunting, kissing babies, the hustings, voter registration drives . . .

And then there’s HB 626 to come to the Texas State House floor tomorrow to do away with a fine American tradition – the voter registration drive and citizen registrars.

In another attempt to suppress liberal voters from going to the polls, HB 626 authored by Phil King (R - Weatherford), will bring to an end this great tradition in the guise of protecting the integrity of the vote by excluding all those hordes of people out there who are registering multiple times or people attempting to register to vote who are not even citizens of America. This belies this sentence in the bill’s committee analysis document:

“While there is no evidence of extensive fraud in Texas elections or of multiple voting, both can occur and it could affect the outcome of close elections.”

The bill’s committee analysis finds no reason for the bill to be offered, just that it would be bad if someday someone decided to register to vote several times, or if some of Bob Perry’s illegal immigrant employees took it to mind to register to vote.

HB 626 also makes it a requirement that a voter who shows up at the polls, must have in their possession their registration certificate and a photo ID. What sort of photo ID? Unlike it’s twin abortion, HB 218, no preference is stated. Just something that has the same name on it as in the Secretary of State’s list with a photo of the voter.

This is a naked attempt to suppress the liberal vote. Voting should be the easiest thing in the world to do. Make it easy, not hard. Example, Bill Clinton’s signing of the Motor Voter Bill brought millions of people to the polls for the first time. The Motor Voter Bill was Godly, by contrast HB 626 is the Anti-Christ.

HB 626 is satanic. Satan is the king of lies. Lies are being spread about this bill. Look at the bill’s fiscal note here. It lies. The sentence reads “No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.”

A lie.

Yes, replace voter registration volunteers (yes, we do it for free) with state and county personnel (they charge for their services) to handle the registration. You can do this without significant fiscal impact, right? Replace postcards with 8.5 x 11 documents and an envelope with postage paid by the state. There is no significant postage difference between a post card and a business envelope, right?

I guess it depends on your definition of “significant”.

My definition of significant can be found in this sentence: Isn’t it significant that all of these Republican attempts at voter suppression come on the heels of the ’06 elections? The largest political calamity to the Republican Party in recent memory?

Now that’s significant.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Protest is On!

UPDATE to my previous Post on the Iraq War Veto Protest in Sugar Land, Texas.

The Anti-War Veto protest is set to begin at 6:30 PM on Wednesday, May 3rd in the Sugar Land Town Center Courtyard. The city has given its permission for the event to be held at this time. For those who are coming in from out of town here is a map.

Here are some suggested signs by Nancy, but feel free to come with ones in your own wording.

Our Children and Our Money Go to Iraqhalliburton University

Be Patriotic. Be Strong. Be Green

Be Patriotic Be Strong Bring our Troops Home

Where are the Flowers and Candy? Let's leave!

Bush Has Our Civil Rights "Mission Accomplished"

Bush Sells "Fear" We Bought It "Sub Prime"!

A Half Empty suggestion?

We Have HAD ENOUGH of YOUR WAR, George Bush

Get Ready to Protest Bush’s Veto of HR 1591 in Sugar Land, Texas.

Now that both the House and Senate have passed HR 1591, the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007, we have to get ready for Bush’s veto of it.

Here is what our president said of the resolution:

“I’m gonna veto it”.

I know that I keep going back to Mike Gravel rant of a couple of nights ago but what he said was too true: “George Bush communicated over a year ago that he would not get out of Iraq until he left office. Do we not believe him?”

The veto will happen and Sugar Land, Texas, is mad as a box of frogs. Yes the people in Tom DeLay’s old stomping grounds, are determined to let the president know about it.

Here is the message I received from a couple of places today. Get ready to go down to the Sugar Land Town Center Courtyard – right next to the Town Hall sometime in the next few days.

“Dear Texans who have had enough of our President's misguided (to say The very least!)use of our military,I am planning a Post Presidential Veto "Protest Rally" at the SugarLand Town Hall (Town Center Court Yard) the day after the official veto. We can guess, but we cannot know exactly when that will be. It will also be necessary to time this event, so that we do not overlap with prior scheduled events. I can only say, at this time, to please be open for Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday. I will let you know our schedule as soon as I know when the veto is official.”

“Here's a large, black-and-white sign that you can print at home. Please feel free to print your own signs, however, we will be on TV,so don't embarrass yourself with printed words that "can't be said on the radio." (If you don't know what I mean here, email me.)”

Nancy Hentschel

There was a phone number there but I don’t have permission to post it at this time so instead, when I get word as to when the event will take place I will post the time on the blog.

Support Our Troops. End the War in Iraq.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Mike “Old Coot” Gravel For President

This is for my friend Susan who let me watch the Democratic Presidential debate at her house last night. I can confirm that Geri’s lasagna was delightful – I had two helpings rendering me half full.

Susan was so taken by former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel’s rants that she posted about it on her “not-a-blog”, and I quote:

“I'm getting me a button that says, ‘Vote for the Old Coot.’”

Well someone agrees with her because they very lovingly edited out all non-Gravel footage of the debate and submitted this 6 minute condensation to You Tube. In my previous post on the debate, I gave him the “Best Comic Relief” award. The editor goes one up on me and calls him “Best in Show”.

I think he’s right, but you be the judge.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Democratic Presidential Debate on MSNBC

Let the games begin. Eight announced candidates for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination met on the stage of a South Carolina auditorium on the campus of South Carolina State University in Orangeburg to debate the issues of the day. They were Senator Joe Biden, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Senator Mike Gravel, Senator Barack Obama, and Governor Bill Richardson.

Cutting to the chase: who won?

Frankly there no clear outstanding winners and no clear losers. The roomful of Democrats that I watched the debate with all agreed that there was not one person on that stage who wouldn’t do a bang up job as President.

But some of the candidates outshone and undershone the others in some areas. Shall I list them?

Best question dodger: Now that one is a toss-up. Hillary was too darn good at that, but in truth I think it should properly go to John Edwards. That Hillary could be accused of being a question dodger, I think, goes more to the next category.

Most rehearsed answers: Yep. Hillary. This is what happens when your answers are so well rehearsed sometimes that it makes it difficult to get them to fit the question being asked.

Saddest candidate: John Edwards. My Boy right now. He paused for an overly long period of time to mull the answer to the question who does he regard as his moral leader? He knew the answer right away, I think. I think he was taking his time trying to decide if he should say it. His wife. This was after, however, he came up with “his Lord”, but that wasn’t going to work because Bush used that in the Kerry debate. So he went back to his number 1 answer. His wife who is dying of cancer.

Biggest bully: Bill Richardson. He blew it in his answer on what mistakes he has made in the past and what would he do now? He admitted to being “too aggressive” when he tried to get his state legislature to pass a state minimum wage. Aggressive would have been fine. We need aggressive leaders. But “too aggressive?” Nope, we already got us one of them (and it isn't Bush).

Most convincing candidate: Hands down, Barack Obama. I noted again tonight, especially now with him standing next to his competition – the man has the most commanding charisma of any candidate.

Best comic relief: Mike Gravel. A man who speaks from the gut. A man who brought down the house several times. In speaking to nuclear weapons and weapons programs in other countries, Gravel claimed that the United States was the biggest violator of the nuclear weapon non-proliferation treaty. “We’re still building ‘em!” “Who in hell are we going to nuke?” Mike Gravel was the favorite of my friend Susan who would vote for “that old coot” in a heartbeat.

Most missed: Al Gore.

Next week, MSNBC is going to do the same thing with the declared Republican candidates.

Gee . . . I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Florence Shapiro Lays Another Egg

Texas State Senator Florence Shapiro is having a field day with Texas public school teachers this session. Her SB 1643 is a particularly menacing bill that links student progress on standardized tests to whether the teacher should be fired.

I kid you not.

Here’s how it works.

First, Shapiro’s bill redefines what will go into a teacher’s annual professional evaluation. In Texas it is called a PDAS or Professional Development and Appraisal System.

Here, in addition to what is already included in an appraisal, is what Shapiro wants Texas teachers to be evaluated on:
The recommended appraisal process must provide that consideration of criteria relating to student performance under Subsection (a)(2) constitutes a majority of a teacher's appraisal. Additionally, the recommended appraisal process must provide that the portion of a teacher's appraisal that concerns student performance is conducted in accordance with the following guidelines:
(1) at least 25 percent of that portion of the appraisal must be based on objective, quantifiable measures of the achievement and progress of the teacher's students, such as state assessment instruments, local benchmarking systems, portfolio assessments, and value-added assessments;
(2) at least 10 percent of that portion of the appraisal must be based on the overall performance or progress of students enrolled at the teacher's campus;
(3) measures of student progress must be used whenever possible; and
(4) observable measures of student performance may be used when appropriate.

This is the ultimate in adding professional insult to injury. Now we have a State Senator who wants to rate a teacher’s effectiveness based not only on their own students’ test scores but also on the test scores of every other teachers’ students in the school.

Now this ordinarily would bring stretches and yawns to veteran teachers. PDAS evaluations are a joke. They offer no incentive to be highly rated, and are typically not used to get rid of a teacher.

Not this time.

Reading further down we find this in the bill:
(d) If a teacher receives an unsatisfactory appraisal for three consecutive years, a school district shall decline to renew the teacher's contract in the manner provided by this chapter.
Did you see that? “Shall” not “may”. The district must fire a teacher if after three years their students are still doing poorly on state mandated standardized tests.

That makes the bill unfriendly.

Want to hear some consequences if this bill becomes law?

(1) No teacher will want to teach low ability students. Teaching low ability students will spell a death sentence for a teacher. I personally know teachers who request nothing but students with low learning ability because they feel they are most effective with these kids. Effective enough to get them to pass TAKS? Not always. There are other things to teach these kids – things that they can use.

Imagine teaching a class full of students with sub-100 IQs, dyslexia, Turret’s, Limited English Proficiency, and out and out sociopaths, all of this mixed in with “G/T Gangstas” who are too busy writing computer programs to do their chemistry homework. It’s a zoo.

And it’s a zoo that no one will want to teach anymore if it means that they will be fired in 3 years.

(2) In the public school system, as opposed to private school, all students are welcomed. Private schools have screening tests and “cherry pick” their student body. But if a teacher’s job depends on student performance, doesn’t it become the right of an individual teacher to refuse to teach someone? I am reaching a little here, but not much. I think the US Constitution's 14th Amendment is applicable:

“…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”.

If it means being fired, then I think this means teachers have the right to say “No” to teaching a student.

(3) Given that (2) above is ignored, what would stop an administrator or a counselor from loading an unwanted or unpopular teacher with classfulls of low performance students? It can be done, you know. Easily. After 3 years the state ties their hands and the teacher has to go.

All I could come up with, for now, are three horrific outcomes. With outcomes like this, who in their right mind would want to teach in Texas public schools? Who does Ms. Shapiro think will step up to the plate to teach Texas youth when all that gets pitched at them are beanballs?

If I think of other outcomes, I will post updates to this.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Lampson Applauds Passage of Bill to Provide Stronger Math and Science Training and Scholarships

I usually don’t do this but when the shoe fits, wear it. I am an educator in secondary schools. I teach physics. Nick Lampson, my congressman, has co-sponsored a bill to offer what I call “excellence in science teaching”. My former teacher ed prof. had one rule for science teachers: Rule Number One – Get Name Right.

Science needs to be taught by teachers who know about science. Not the ones who hold the same theories in use that their students possess.

I am still trying to find the teacher (or teachers) in my district that teach their students that the sky is blue because it reflects off of the ocean.

Here, in its entirety is Congressman Nick Lampson’s (D-Stafford) news release in regard to his bill on bringing science and math teachers up to snuff in their content areas.


Lampson Applauds Passage of Bill to Provide Stronger Math and Science Training and Scholarships

Stafford, TX - Congressman Nick Lampson (D-Stafford) today applauded passage of H.R 362, the "10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds" Science and Math Scholarship Act. The bill provides critical funding for additional math and science teachers and initiatives in grades K to 12.

"As we examine our educational funding needs, we consistently recognize the importance of math and sciences funding for our school children," said Congressman Lampson. "This important bill ensures our nation will continue to train our future leaders in the most competitive global industries. This funding will offer tremendous support for southeast Texas students, teachers, and industries, and keep Texas economically competitive for decades to come."

Although he remains in the Houston-area working part-time after his recent heart surgery, Congressman Lampson carefully monitored the bill he co-sponsored, which was authored by House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). The bill reflects many findings in the National Academies' report
Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. The report found that in 2000, more than 85% of students in grades 5 to 9 were taught physical science by a teacher lacking a major or certification in the physical sciences. In 1999, 68% of U.S. 8th grade students received instruction from a mathematics teacher who did not hold a degree or certification in mathematics.

H.R. 362 will fund thousands of new teachers through the National Science Foundation ("NSF"), create summer institutes and graduate programs that provide sustained, content-oriented professional development to teachers through Math Science Partnerships at the NSF; and create centers for improvement of undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering, and math ("STEM") fields via the STEM Talent Expansion Program ("STEP") program at the NSF. H.R. 362 has been endorsed by a broad range of businesses and universities as well as industry and education groups, including the Business Roundtable, Association of American Universities, Council on Competitiveness, the College Board, Semiconductor Industry Association, and the Business Software Alliance.

"As a former science teacher myself, I know firsthand the importance of a well-rounded education, and how studying the sciences can broaden a student's mind and strengthen academic performance," added Congressman Lampson. "I will continue to advocate common-sense solutions that support our students and teachers, and view this bill as a great step in that direction."

Yeah. Nick taught Physical Science right out of college. He has a great story about his students working on his campaigns. I want to see this succeed. I don't know about other campuses, but where I work the average age of a science teacher is 50. We will be needing more committed teachers in the near and distant future. All of that and now we have Cho and his copy cats coming on campus to spread their rabid thoughts and hollow tipped bullets.

A tall order to fill.

Kucinich: Impeach Cheney First

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D – OH-10) is, just at this writing, announcing the introduction of House Resolution 333 on the impeachment of Dick Cheney. He put off the announcement earlier in the day because of rumors that Cheney was having trouble with blood clots in his leg.

Prompting my amazement at the news that blood runs through the Vice President’s veins, and not ice water pumped by a cold, cold heart.

Text of the resolution is here.

Asked why he is going after Cheney and not Bush, Kucinich responded “’if we started with Bush’ and he actually got impeached, ‘Mr. Cheney would then become president.’”

Well gee, why didn’t I think of that?

That’s why you order up a twofer. Impeach both Bush and Cheney. I guess that’s too tall an order for people, but as this activist writes, if you impeach Cheney first, not only do you go after the greater of two evils, Cheney doesn’t elevate to the Presidency, and facts from the investigation of Cheney will clearly implicate Bush in Cheney’s many crimes.

Kucinich offered three articles of impeachment.

Cheney “has purposely manipulated the intelligence process to deceive the citizens and Congress of the United States by fabricating a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify the use of the United States Armed Forces against the nation of Iraq in a manner damaging to our national security interests”

Cheney “purposely manipulated the intelligence process to deceive the citizens and Congress of the United States about an alleged relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda in order to justify the use of the United States Armed Forces against the nation of Iraq in a manner damaging to our national security interests.”

And finally,

Cheney “has openly threatened aggression against the Republic of Iran absent any real threat to the United States, and done so with the United States proven capability to carry out such threats, thus undermining the national security of the United States.”


“In all of this, Vice President Richard B. Cheney has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as Vice President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore Richard B. Cheney, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

’I'm pretty sure Kucinich is tilting at windmills here. But I am gratified that someone finally went through the motions to get this thing filed. Now that it is out on the shelf for all to see, Americans who are righteously outraged with this man finally have something to focus on.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Kronberg: Texas Will Get 8 Congressional Seats Because of Immigrants

Hey Texas.

I have been given a Kronberg story that appears on the Wall Street Journal that promises that Texas, as a result of new figures on immigrant population – legal or otherwise – will accrue for Texas up to eight (8) additional congressional seats.

The 2010 census will indicate a population shift of such biblical proportions that Texas will steal from the shrinking populations of some of the other 49 states a total of eight congressional seats.

Now this can be good news, or it can be bad news.

First, it’s nice that the total population of Texas is recognized for what it is, a grand mixture of “True Texans”, immigrants (like me from foreign countries like California), salaaming and otherwise immigrants from the near, middle and far East, and outright illegal immigrants from The Almighty knows where. We all need representation in the halls of Congress despite where we come from and – most importantly – how.

But how shall Texas spend their eight extra votes? That is what worries me. Texas is an unrepentant confederate state. What we need to have happen is a paradigm shift. Texas enthusiasts of bigotry need to find a back seat. There is no place for hate here or anywhere.

And you know me. Irony is my middle name. The irony in all of this is that illegal immigration gives Texas more political clout. Bob Perry gets his cheap labor, Texas gets 8 additional seats. One hand washes the other.

From Kronberg:

“The irony here is inescapable. Legal and illegal immigrants will increase the Texas congressional delegation by at least eight members creating all kinds of opportunity for upper mobility for current legislative incumbents. Adding to the irony is that a Texas delegation enlarged by legal and illegal immigration will be better able to deliver critical resources to the state.”


Texas Rep. Betty Brown’s HB 218 Passes: Texas (Will Have) A Poll Tax In It

I watched the debate on State Rep. Betty Brown’s outrageous anti-voter bill this evening and have come to the conclusion that Texas needs to be re-occupied by the Grand Army of the Republic, and Reconstruction needs to be re-established.

Texas is being ruled by an unreformed confederate majority in its legislature.

I’ve already made my case on this bad piece of legislation. It is a renewal of a Texas Jim Crow Law drawn up in 1902 to require a voter to pay money in order to vote. Poor black voters were disenfranchised when they couldn’t pay a fee to exercise their constitutional right.

The various amendments offered to fix this, by making the required photo id documents available to voters for free, were continually voted down. “Fiscal notes” kept coming up. That the bill is a non-funded mandate is undeniable – it’s going to cost more to carry out the demands of the bill. But whenever an attempt to make photo id free to voters, Republicans waved the “fiscal note” flag.

Betty Brown’s main objection, time and time again, was that the US Supreme Court has already ruled on a required Photo ID law in Arizona, and that it therefore was not an unconstitutional poll tax.

I remember that decision. I couldn’t remember anything about a poll tax in it.

So I went back and looked it up. The decision was issued on October 20th 2006. It was Arizona et al. v. Maria Gonzales et al. and Helen Purcell, Maricopa County Recorder et al. v. Maria Gonzales et al.

The words “poll tax” does not even appear in the decision. Betty Brown was being economical with the truth. In their decision, the supremes simply overturned the 9th Court of Appeals Court’s decision to overturn the district court’s refusal to issue an injunction against enforcement of Arizona’s Proposition 200, requiring a voter produce a photo id in order to register to vote. Here is what Justice Stevens wrote:

“We underscore that we express no opinion here on the correct disposition, after full briefing and argument, of the appeals from the District Court’s September 11 order or on the ultimate resolution of these cases. As we have noted, the facts in these cases are hotly contested, and “[n]o bright line separates permissible election-related regulation from unconstitutional infringements.” Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, 520 U. S. 351, 359 (1997).Given the imminence of the election and the inadequate time to resolve the factual disputes, our action today shall of necessity allow the election to proceed without an injunction suspending the voter identification rules.”

At the end, Betty Brown lied. She quoted from the Supreme Court decision that she says is a decision that does not oppose a photo id requirement because it is not a poll tax. Bad Betty Brown. She cited a Supreme Court case that made no mention of a poll tax.

Half Empty prediction: The bill, if it becomes law, and in Half Empty’s opinion, it will, the law will be challenged in the courts, the law will be ruled unconstitutional, and Texas will again be the laughingstock of the nation.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Two Voter Suppression Bills To Be Considered In The Texas House Tomorrow

Is there a Republican conspiracy to retain or regain power by suppressing Democratic voters? If you buy in to the fact that there was a widespread effort at manipulations of voters at the polls and in the voting machines over the past 7 years, you will accept that as fact.

They play dirty. The playing field isn’t a level one.

Witness tomorrow’s (April 23rd) Texas state legislature calendar. Second and third on the agenda are two bills from the Dark Side: HB 218 by Betty Brown (R-Athens), and HB 626 by Phil King (R-Weatherford).

I identified Phil King’s bill in an earlier posting as nothing more than a poll tax. Illegal in this country. King’s bill requires that a person who registers to vote must provide proof of citizenship and lists three forms of proof: naturalization documentation, a valid US passport, a certified copy of one’s birth certificate.

Not one of these documents is free. Of the three, naturalization documents are the costliest, at $330.00. Fees to obtain a passport total $97.00 but in order to obtain a passport, one must provide a certified copy of their birth certificate. Fees for that vary from one state to another but in Texas the fee to obtain a copy offline is $22.00.

This is a poll tax, pure and simple. It requires that a person pay a fee in order to register to vote.

Voting is a right, not a privilege. You pay for privileges, you don’t pay for rights.

This bill is unconstitutional. It violates the 24th Amendment to the US Constitution. That amendment reads like this:

"Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax.

Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Forty states ratified this amendment.
Rejecting the amendment was the state of Mississippi. States not voting to ratify included Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Wyoming.

Guess Texas still thinks it’s a bad amendment.

The other bill, HB 218, is yet even more insidious. It is a bill to suppress voters at the polls. Present law says that voters need only bring a voter registration card to identify themselves. This law requires that voters have a photo ID. Voting should be made an easy thing to do, not something that makes voters jump through hoops. Those least likely to have photo id, but most likely to vote Democratic are the elderly and the financially strapped.

This bill requires that voters identify themselves with a photo id. A driver’s license or a DPS issued identification card. This, they say, is to prevent voter fraud. The bill’s analysis has these words: “…it is possible for an unscrupulous individual to submit several falsified voter registration applications and to receive the voter registration certificates for the "fake" individuals.” There is no documentation that these frauds are occurring; only that it is possible for the fraud to occur.

Now we have to pass laws in anticipation of wrongdoing? Laws aren’t supposed to remedy possible outcomes; they are supposed to remedy actual ones.

And in as pointed out at the top of this posting, the only voter fraud that has occurred these days has been what Republicans have done to steal elections over the past 7 years.

What is interesting in this bill is that it appears to go out of its way to ensure that it isn’t a poll tax. You can obtain a free photo ID at the DPS if you file an affidavit saying that you are “financially unable to pay the required fee”. But guess what you also need in order to get the fee waived? Either one of a valid voter registration card or a voter registration application. (!)

What? Are you kidding? In order to vote you cannot submit a voter registration card as proof of registration, but in order to obtain a photo id at the DPS, a voter registration card is required if you can’t pay the fee?

Is it just me or are there others who read this that think that not only is it a naked attempt to suppress the vote of the elderly and the poor, but also that it ironically allows the same forgeable document it forbids at polling places to be used at DPS locations to obtain free state-issued photo id?

I’m not kidding. Section 7 lines 10 through 18.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Fort Bend Democrats: Fighting for You

The Fort Bend Democrats, a Democratic political action committee in Fort Bend County, Texas, have a lot of things going on right now, not only to help out in any way we can in imminent elections, prepare for next year’s election, and also to support local charitable efforts in the present tense.

We support the campaign of Melissa Noriega for Houston City Council Position 3. The Get Out The Vote call list I collected from the campaign this past week was delivered to some of the silver-tongued devils in the group today. I retained the bulk of it, but Geri, silver-tongued devil extraordinaire took a pinch (knowing Geri she’ll probably talk her list out of some money for the campaign), and so did Tony. We are calling Democrats residing in the Houston part of Fort Bend County who vote in city elections.

We are preparing for an all out assault on the appetites of Democratic supporters by organizing an outdoor barbecue at Eldridge Park in Sugar Land next May 19th. The speaker list is being put together right now, but it looks like we will attract local elected officials as well as at least one state official. I can now state with a certainty that Democratic Party State Chairman Boyd Richie will speak at the event. It is being held on the same day as a TDP Town Hall meeting at the Student Center at the U of H main campus. So it was not a problem getting him to commit to speaking and eating some barbecue with Democrats of Fort Bend and environs.

So we have that to look forward to.

And we have now spent our first day doing charitable work for Hearts and Hammers. Today we worked at the home of Emmanuel and Margarita, elderly home owners in North Richmond, who needed some exterior work on their house. An organization known as the Fort Bend Corps has organized a local “Hearts and Hammers” effort in Fort Bend County. Several of us spent all afternoon applying a coat of primer to the house. There is more work to do but we ran out of material.

You could say that I am righteously tired tonight.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Let's Bomb Iran

There's a video on You Tube that has been making its way around. John McCain was heard the other day singing the new lyrics to the Beach Boys' classic "Barbara Ann". He got a big laugh.

So to acquaint you with the video it is embedded below.

I Attended a Fort Bend ISD Candidates' Forum

I wasn't going to post anything more on the Fort Bend ISD School Board elections because there is so much more to write about. But circumstances changed.
On my way home from work after a very TAKS-ing day I espied a banner at the entrance to the New Territory community advertising a Fort Bend ISD candidates’ forum. It was unfortunately blocked by a lawn sign advertising the services at a local church so I could not see the time or place. I resolved to take a peek as I was driving through the intersection. It was to be held that night (last night) at their HOA clubhouse.

I resolved to attend.

I arrived a couple of minutes late as the moderator was explaining the forum rules.

I took one look around. The audience was lily white and for the most part gray-haired. I just knew that I was the only Democrat in the room.

The moderator was explaining that each candidate would be given 5 minutes for a short spiel, then they had boiled down some questions from suggestions in the community, and each candidate got the same questions to answer.

Candidates for Position 3 spoke first, the speaking order was by alpha. So we got to hear Bob Broxson speak, then Lisa Rickert. Broxson, who by virtue of the fact that he wasn’t named Lisa, got the Half Empty endorsement in the previous post. I have to admit, for a Republican he didn’t come off half bad. We probably wouldn’t agree on stem cell research, but Broxson does think that it was a mistake for Fort Bend ISD to reduce the ability levels of instruction from 3 to 2.

For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, most schools, typically high schools, group students according to their abilities so that they are taught at the same level of difficulty. Several years ago, in a cost-cutting move, the district removed the lowest ability grouping level of instruction from the district. By this I mean that a former three level system Honors, Advanced and Academic, became a two-level system, Honors and Advanced. Academic levels are for students with learning disabilities, or need alternative methods of instruction. And also for the ones with behavior problems. Lower Student-Teacher ratios are mandated for this level, and the district needed to save some money. The result, as Broxson elucidated, is the Advanced class is taught to the lowest common denominator. And this is partly the truth. The other truth is that more students than ever are failing courses because it is too difficult for them.

Broxson was also in favor of using methods of teacher hiring allowed in competing districts – signing bounties. No mention was made of the other popular method – cash bonuses in high needs areas.

Lisa Rickert came up next. I found out that I have been mispronouncing her name. The “i” is soft: Rihckert. Probably because I have been known to misspell her name. Just as in the FBEF forum, Rickert and Broxson were in agreement on the issues. The main difference that I could detect between them was that Rickert was an “In” – she kept mentioning things that “we on the board” did or were doing.

Another point that she emphasized was outsourcing. Rickert decried the fact that Fort Bend ISD is self-contained. It has its own garbage trucks and its own grounds maintenance staff and equipment. She wants to contract all of that out. You know, like George Bush wanted to privatize Social Security?

So while Broxson and Rickert are so close on the issues, I’m still going with Broxson, because unfortunately for Rickert, her first name IS Lisa.

Only two of the 4 candidates for Position 7 showed up. Noel Pinnock and David Reitz were at other fora and would try and make it, but ended up not.

Ken Bryant spoke first. Bryant emphasized keeping costs down and taxes low, but at the same time demanding excellent teachers and high performing schools.

Typical Republican tripe.

I’ll never understand how African-Americans can be Republicans. Never. Bryant also supported the idea of going back to three levels of instruction, although how he intends to accomplish that while keeping costs down escapes me. But here is the curious thing. While Broxson and Rickert emphasized going back to 3 levels to allow students with alternative learning styles or disabilities a chance to succeed in school, Bryant emphasized that the 2 level system was “dumbing down” the Honors program. He wanted to go back to a 3-tier system to save the Honors program.

What’s with that? Does this present-day trustee not care about the fact that we are leaving behind a significant population of students who cannot possibly perform at the Advanced level?

Bryant’s only opponent speaking that evening was Ann Hopkins. Ann Hopkins is also African-American, but unlike Bryant, she’s a Democrat. Unfortunately I wasn’t really impressed by her. She had no audience eye contact. She spoke at the back wall of the room. Hopkins was concerned that not enough resources were being sent to schools on the east side of the district. She demanded a more equitable distribution. This is not something you want to tell a bunch of gray-haired Republicans living on the west side of the district.

Hopkins was also in favor of retaining the 2-tier system, but didn’t elaborate on the point. She also favored hiring more mid-level administrators – counselors really.

Another question asked of all candidates, whether they favored building small schools over large ones, was answered differently by Hopkins. All candidates admitted that higher performance was positively correlated to instruction in smaller-sized facilities, but none but Hopkins endorsed the idea, mainly because the district is growing at such a phenomenal rate that building more, but smaller schools was prohibitively expensive. Hopkins endorsed the idea, but did not elaborate on how to pay for it.

So that was it. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see the other two candidates. Especially in view of the fact that a former “In” conveyed to me the fact that David Reitz is OK for a Republican. I wanted to see that. Frankly I don’t believe it possible to be both a Republican and OK.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Who Is To Blame For the SCOTUS’ Latest Abortion?

I wasn’t entirely surprised that the Supreme Court of the United States upheld Bush’s Partial Birth Abortion ban. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy argued that "government has a legitimate and substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life."

Why wasn’t I surprised that the Supreme Court was willing to take a walk on the wild side with the abortion issue? I personally believe that the Supreme Court these days takes stock in which way the wind is blowing in terms of American opinion.

Most Americans favor abortion on demand. That’s just a fact. That’s why I don’t think the supremes will ever overturn Roe v. Wade. However, while most Americans favor abortion as a general concept, most Americans are opposed to what has come to be called “Partial Birth Abortions”. The term, “partial birth abortion” is itself a political term designed to inflame passions. In truth, the fetus is not “born”, the woman’s cervix is dilated allowing instruments to remove the fetus in pieces. Annatopia at Texas Kaos has an excellent posting on this. The Chron article also has an excellent explanation of what a “partial birth abortion” is and what it is not.

In that article, it is made clear that “partial birth abortion” is not a medical term. For that reason, doctors cannot be sure that the procedure that they are performing comes under the banning. From the Chron:

“’There is nothing that we call by the name 'partial birth abortion,' ‘ said Dr. Eleanor Stanley, an OB-GYN who works at three abortion clinics in Las Vegas and Phoenix. ‘The phrase doesn't appear in gynecological textbooks or medical research journals’, she said”

It is likely that the procedure called “Dilation and Extraction” or D&X, is what is referred to as a “partial birth abortion”.

“Nine out of ten abortions occur during the first trimester. But if ultrasound examinations in the second trimester reveal that a fetus has a devastating genetic disorder, it might be too large for the surgical instruments, so D&E would not be an option.”

In Annatopia’s story, we have a couple excited about the prospect of having a baby, only to discover in the second trimester, through an ultrasound, that the fetus had not developed properly and had spina bifida and hydrocephalus. If the fetus survived to full term it would require endless surgery to keep it alive, and brain function would be extremely limited. Bush’s bill would demand that the couple have that baby, and Kennedy’s majority decision puts the government in the position of promoting the life of a child born encased in a horridly deformed body. But obviously not at government expense.

But do you know what really fries my grits? The ban is a ban on an emergency procedure to preserve a woman’s health. The ban, by my reading of it, does not ban the procedure in order to save a woman’s life as in this case cited by the Chron.

“’Sometimes the pregnancy is a threat to the life of the woman,’ said Dr. Warren Hern, who runs the Boulder Abortion Clinic in Colorado. He recalled a case of a patient who suffered from uncontrollable high blood pressure because her fetus had a chromosomal defect. ‘I wound up doing her abortion in the hospital at 3 a.m. because if I didn't she'd be dead by daybreak. A D&X procedure was the only viable option’, he said.”

However, nothing in the ban allows doctors to perform a D&X in order to preserve the mother’s health. “Some doctors who perform second-term abortions said it was safer and less risky to remove the fetus intact because that method is less likely to expose the woman to injury, bleeding or infection”. This procedure is not exempted as it is for saving a woman’s life. It would be banned.

Are we becoming such a paternalistic society that we are demanding that women sacrifice their health for a fetus that is clearly damaging their bodies? Are we also becoming such a paternalistic society that we are demanding that people raise hopelessly deformed children with all of the emotional turmoil and financial burden that this would produce in a family?

Who do we blame for this? I believe the supremes were just going along with public opinion. Opinion that appears to be driven by blind emotion and not cold sober presentation of the facts that have poured forth in the Chron’s article today. And not just the Chron either. All of a sudden we are inundated with information on what “Partial Birth Abortion” is.

Public opinion on second trimester abortion is what it is because the public is poorly informed, or maybe more to the point, informed with lies and exaggeration. Who is really to blame for the Supreme Court decision? Not the American public, but the entity that informs the American public.

Mainstream media.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Making a Needless Trip Into Houston a Worthwhile Effort

It’s TAKS week here in Texas and that means 3 more 3-hour standardized tests for high school juniors. Proctoring these tests is a mindless job but one benefit to teachers is that there is virtually nothing to do to prepare for classes the next day. So when school ended today I drove in to Houston. My destination was Melissa Noriega’s campaign headquarters. I told the campaign that I would call precincts in the Fort Bend county portion of the City of Houston and thought I would go in and pick up the call lists.

Traffic was light but I was beating rush hour. I drove right up to the yellow 2-storey office building on the Gulf Freeway feeder, and parked in the shade. I knew I was in the right place because nearly every motor vehicle in the parking lot had a “MelissaNoriega for Houston City Council – At Large Pos. 3” bumper sticker fixed to it in one place or another. And a plethora of lawn signs all over the place.

Through the barred glass doors, follow the arrow up the stairs, then walk the maze following arrows to the open door.

It was quiet in there. Then I saw Melissa sitting at a big desk with a phone stuck in her ear. I waved and passed, looking for someone to talk to. In the workroom I found Melissa’s mom and told her why I was there. Someone behind me made a noise and I turned around. There was muse and the woman in charge of putting out phone lists working at a table.

There was immediate understanding of what I wanted, but the list was not assembled. The campaign knew about making the list, but the list maker was not told about it. I could stay awhile and wait, but she said it would take an hour to print.

“I can email it to you,” she said.

“You can email phone lists?”


“I just came all the way down here for nothing?”


OK, so for all of you people who want to call a Get Out The Vote list for Melissa Noriega, just call them at 713-MELISSA (635-4772). Give them your email address and they’ll send you one.

OK, so maybe that wasn’t such a waste of a trip.

They also gave me a call script and a push card for more information should there be questions. Then I thought. Heck, why not put the push card on the blog as well. At least people who have never seen it will be able to view it. Same drill. Click to enlarge.

So now maybe what started out as a wasted trip is ending up to be a worthwhile effort.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Lifetime Republican Pete McCloskey Re-Registers as a Democrat

As my friend Susan says, “One down…”

You guys born in the Republic of Texas probably don’t know Pete McCloskey, or you do if you have a long memory. In California, where I was born, McCloskey is somewhat of a legend. He fit California politics like a glove. A fiscal conservative but social and ethical liberal, Pete McCloskey is best known for his authorship of the Endangered Species Act, a comprehensive act that annually places animal species on a “threatened” or “endangered” list. That list, by the way, has lengthened under every presidency but that of George W. Bush, where it has actually shrunk.

The story was broken in a blog of the Contra Costa Times. It makes a nice read.

Why did McCloskey switch parties? He, himself has said that his family has been in the Republican Party since 1859. Quoted in a letter:

“What finally turned me to despair, however, was listening to the reports, or watching on C-Span, a whole series of congressional oversight hearings on C-Span, held by old friends and colleagues like Pat Leahy, Henry Waxman, Norm Dicks, Nick Rahall, Danny Akaka and others, trying to learn the truth on the misdeeds and incompetence of the Bush Administration. Time after time I saw Republican Members of the House and Senate. speak out in scorn or derision about these exercises of Congress oversight responsibility being "witch-hunts" or partisan attempts to distort the actions of people like the head of the General Service Administration and the top political appointees in the Justice and Interior Departments. Disagreement turned into disgust.”

So it’s finally started to happen. Lifelong Republicans are being driven out of their party by rage and disgust over the antics of the very people that they elected. It’s about time. Democrats have a huge tent and welcomes all former Republicans.

On a side note, and you might think that this is a little lame, but bear with me, this is how my mind works sometimes. Texas CD-22 and Pete McCloskey have a fragile connection.

Last year, McCloskey decided enough was enough within his party and he came out of semi-retirement to run against Richard Pombo in the California Republican Primary. Recall that Pombo and his aptly named political action committee, RICHPAC was among several House Members being investigated with regard to association with Jack Abramoff. Pombo has actually taken the most money from Abramoff – five hundred grand. He was dirty and McCloskey challenged him and lost.

The story has a happy ending though. McCloskey endorsed Pombo’s Democratic opponent and worked on his campaign. In a squeaker of a race, Pombo was defeated. The Democrat? Jerry McNerney. Where have you heard that name before? Here. Jerry McNerney and Kirsten Gillibrand are Nick Lampson’s fellow Democratic freshmen colleagues who won their seats by a slim margin. All three have instituted a great constituent services forum called Congress At Your Corner.

I know, pretty lame.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Fort Bend ISD School Board Elections Gain Momentum

Well, as much momentum as school board elections gain in Fort Bend ISD.

It’s sad, really. School board elections are about as local as you can get in a given election. Even county commissioner and JP, which are at the county precinct level, cover a larger area than a school district – even one as sprawling as Fort Bend ISD. This is as grassroots as you can get. But typical school board elections have very low voter turnout.

The school board vote in May 2006 was a veritable stampede to the polls in comparison to past years. A full 7.09% of all registered voters in the school district voted in that election.

Two positions are being decided in this race. Position 3 has two candidates, the incumbent, Lisa Rickert, and a challenger Bob Broxson. Broxson has no campaign website that I could find.

Position 7 has 5 candidates, the incumbent Ken Bryant, who was recently defeated by Dora Olivo in his run for her seat in the state house, has four challengers, Daniel Menendez (maybe), David Reitz, Ann Hopkins, and Noel Pinnock.

Four of the seven were recently at a candidates forum sponsored by the Fort Bend Employees Federation, a teacher’s union that represents roughly 1300 Fort Bend ISD teachers. Bryant was a no-show and Ann Hopkins never answered her phone messages. Menendez may have withdrawn from the race. He wasn’t at the forum and no explanation was given in the article by Bob Dunn at FortBendNow. The union subsequently endorsed the candidacies of Broxson and Pinnock.

Both incumbents failed to receive the union endorsement.

And that’s what Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustee elections have been about for the past couple of years. Bryant and Rickert represent the last of a “new majority” that caused chaos and uncertainty in Fort Bend ISD. The group that I used to call the “Gang of Four” was directly responsible for the loss of experienced board members, district administrators and teachers to other districts or to retirement.

So the FBEF had their say on who a likely 7 out of 100 FBISD voters should choose. Now it is Half Empty’s turn.

Politically, in Position 3 we are talking toss up. As far as I can see there is no difference between Rickert and Broxson. Rickert is Republican through and through. Bob Broxson, who is actually John Robert Broxson, is, as well. So I can’t choose this race based on idealogy as I share diddly squat with neither one. So we are going to have to have another criterion in which to judge them. I choose the “Anyone but Lisa” criterion.

Oh, you say Board of Trustees is a non-partisan race? In your dreams.

In Position 7 we have Ken Bryant who ran as a Republican against Dora Olivo. So I can conclude that he leans toward the Dark Side. So he’s out. Daniel Menendez, is, I think, a Democrat. But so is Ann Hopkins, and very probably Noel Pinnock, judging from his galaxy of endorsements by Democrats. David Reitz may also be Republican. So we have a list of three to choose from.

Ann Hopkins won’t return her phone messages so I think we can rule her out. We don’t want trustees who are unreachable. She also had the gall to put on her campaign website (it’s gone now) that she was “endorsed” by the Fort Bend County Democratic Party, exposing her as a naïf. Ann’s out.

So it’s between Daniel Menendez and Noel Pinnock. I like Pinnock because he is well-spoken and has a campaign blog. I also tend to support those who have served some time in the trenches. He’s also got a scientific bent, which is a plus in my book. Daniel Menendez? Is he still running? He has no website and did not show up at the candidate’s forum. So since it’s Pinnock against, apparently no one, it’s Pinnock.

So there you have it, the Half Empty endorsement for Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees: “Anyone but Lisa” and Noel Pinnock.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Blue Ridge Landfill Expansion Would Block Doppler Weather Radar

Only in Texas will you find local TV stations opposing expansion of a landfill because it will block with their Doppler weather radar.

FortBendNow has a great article on this. I have my usual takes below.

First, landfill is a misnomer on the Texas coastal plain. It’s flat as a pancake here with a one foot per mile drop to sea level in any given place. So there are no holes to fill with trash and bury it.

The Blue Ridge trash heap is permitted right now to a height of 58 feet, just below the 60-foot height of local TV stations’ radar tower. The radar works fine at the moment and is useful in spotting “rotation” as they say here.

That is, spotting tornadoes.

Spotting and warning the local population about severe and extreme weather is one of the great public services of local TV stations here in tornado-prone Texas. The plan to increase the height of the Blue Ridge garbage heap to 170 feet, a heap that would be positioned less than 3 miles southeast of the Doppler radar tower, would effectively block the signal to tornado-prone areas of the greater southern Houston area, with towns and cities of Manvel, Alvin, Texas City, La Marque and Galveston in a “radar shadow”.

Yes, the towers can be raised, but they must be very sturdy and able to withstand high winds. Costly, I mean. Raising a tower high enough to get its signal over the trash heap will also mean getting FAA approvals. And I wonder who will have to pay for all of this? Certainly not the TV stations. They’re not the ones who are “blocking the view” of Doppler radar.

Ironic isn’t it? There are all sorts of reasons not to permit the existence of a 17-story trash heap. Barium. Property values. Stench. Health and safety. But the one that will probably kill or severely restrict this expansion proposal is one being brought up by KHOU, KRIV and KTRK. It will prevent them from performing a vital public service. If I were living in Alvin right now, I would be calling around asking about what Fort Bend County Commissioner was in favor of putting my family in danger of loss of life because no tornado warning could be issued to save them.

And doing something about it.
UPDATE (4/16/07): This from Congressman Nick Lampson.

Lampson Voices Concerns Regarding Blueridge Landfill Higher Landfills May Interfere with Local Stations' Weather Radars

STAFFORD, TX - Congressman Nick Lampson (D-Stafford) today released the following statement on Fort Bend's Blueridge Landfill requesting a permit to increase the landfill height to 170 feet:

"As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy & Environment, I am concerned about the request submitted by Blueridge Landfill. If the height permitted is increased, several television weather towers will have their signals disrupted. These towers help warn millions of residents in Houston and surrounding cities of possible inclement or even dangerous weather, such as hurricanes. With the upcoming hurricane season, all weather and transmission towers are needed to make sure all storms are accurately tracked.

"I will continue to monitor this situation and advocate a resolution for the interests of all parties involved."

Dan Patrick Looking Out For His Good Buddy Tom DeLay

Oh my.

I must have been looking the other way when Danny Boy slipped this little nugget in.

Conservative talk show host cum State Senator Dan Patrick recently introduced into the Senate a package of bills that he dubbed “reform bills”

Among them are a bill and a joint resolution. HB 630 and SJR 26. SJR 26 is a joint resolution calling for Texas voters to vote on a constitutional amendment in November. What constitutional amendment would that be? Read it and weep.

“A. Article IV, Texas Constitution, is amended by adding Section 22a to read as follows:
Sec. 22a. To the extent provided by general law, the attorney general may represent the state in the district and inferior courts in the prosecution of criminal and civil offenses classified by law as offenses against public administration, including ethics offenses, or as offenses involving insurance fraud.”

It’s a little insidious if you look at the companion bill that Patrick has filed. HB 630.

Scroll on down to line 26 to 27. You will see that HB 630 takes away the purview of the Travis County District Attorney, currently Ronnie Earle, to oversee criminal prosecutions of state officials, and gives it to a new “public integrity unit” that functions under the state Attorney General.

It’s like putting the wolf in charge of the hen house.

This is clearly an ill-disguised way to take prosecutorial power away from one of the most liberal counties in Red Texas, and place it in the hands of one of the most pliant and obsequious offices in the state. Greg Abbott prosecutes Tom DeLay for money laundering? Greg Abbot brings Tom DeLay to trial for conspiring to turn $190,000 of TRMPAC money over to the campaign funds of state representatives and senators?

Don’t be ridiculous.

And finally, to top the whole thing off, to call for a constitutional amendment vote in an odd-numbered year is to request for voters to vote in a bad amendment that works against the interest of the people. Remember Proposition 2 in 2005? It was a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as “the union of one man and one woman and prohibiting this state or a political subdivision of this state from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage.”

I remember standing in a long line to vote on that day. Everyone, and I mean everyone in line knew each other.

They all went to the same church.

It varies by state, but in general the percentage of people who are in favor of (or just don’t care about) gay marriage to those who oppose it is generally a 50:50 split. In Texas, I suspect it’s more like 40:60. Do you wonder what the statewide vote tally was on Proposition 2? From the Secretary of State's election results website:
Prop. 2 Same sex marriage denied legal status
IN FAVOR 1,723,782 76.25%
AGAINST 536,913 23.74%

So let’s get another bad amendment voted for in an off-year election in numbers that do not reflect in any way, shape or form, the consensus of Texas voter opinion.

It’s Democracy with a capital T.

How Our Military Is Being Destroyed From Within

At the risk of looking like John Kerry when he loosed his gaffe intimating that soldiers in Iraq were ones not able to find their way through the nation’s education system, I have to ask whether what I am reading and hearing about in the news concerning lowered recruitment standards is true.

Are we cutting corners? Are we turning a blind eye to the fact that while army recruitment numbers are up over last year, standards have been lowered in order to make that possible?

I first looked here to find out what standards have been like historically. The author makes the point that it is not the right of anyone to enlist in the military, and that the military has rather high standards. Not everyone is qualified.

Well he did mention that congress raised the maximum age of service in the army from 35 to 42 last year. Honestly, men and women in mid-life crisis can now join the army.

It seems that there are 4 (or is it now 5?) categories for army recruitment.

The top category consists of high school graduates who score in the upper 50 percentile on the AFQT test or Armed Forces intelligence test. The army takes every able bodied person in this category.

The second category consists of those who did not graduate from high school, but got their GED and can score 50 or above on the AFQT. Various branches of the military allow varying percentages of their total recruitment from this group.

The third category consists of those who did not graduate high school and do not possess a GED. They score below 50 on the AFQT

A fourth category consists of high school dropouts who score in the lower third on the AFQT

I am told that there is a fifth category now, those of the above that score in the lowest 10 percentile on the AFQT.

We are now being told that previously, the army was taking 10% of its recruits from the second category, that number is now in the teens. We are now being told that before, the army never took recruits from the 3rd or 4th categories, but that they are doing so now.

This is wrong on so many levels.

First and foremost, it sends a bad signal to our troops. That we think so poorly of them that we are supporting them by sending replacements into battle that we would not have sent previously.

It sends a bad message to the nation. People are going to start to think that our troops are the least of us, and not the brave, loyal, intelligent and honorable men and women that they are.

It dilutes our military strength. Numbers is one thing, effective numbers is another. Intelligence matters in battle. Recruitment of lower level soldiers should go hand-in-hand with an increase in overall training. But the opposite is occurring, isn’t it?

Slowly, ever so slowly, the Bush Administration is destroying our nation’s military. They began by sending, then re-sending troops into a no-win civil war. They adopted the “back door draft” policy of calling up soldiers who thought they were done with the military. The time between deployments has decreased and the length of deployment has increased. Personnel and materiel have both been worn down. And now we are supporting our troops by sending out first-time soldiers with less training and more need for training than ever before.

We are losing our NCOs and our mid-career officers. Individuals who thought they were going to make the military a life’s career are leaving the services. I came across this startling statistic: 54% of the 901 2001 West Point graduates have left the military.

This no-win civil war is breaking the back of our military and the strength of our nation. We are losing the backbone of any military, non-coms and mid-level officers. It will take years for the military to recover from this.

And we have all of this just so that one man can’t look like the complete idiot that he really and truly is.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Emil Reichstadt Announces Candidacy for Senate

Susan sent me a media alert today. I thought it was a joke at first, but then read through it and it looks like the Texas Democratic Party’s primary race for US Senate has begun in earnest. First to declare his candidacy is none other than Dallas lawyer Emil Reichstadt.

Emil Reichstadt?

Makes sense you know. If the Texas Senate endorses Giddings’ bill to move the Texas primary date to February 5th 2008, there remains only 10 months to raise the serious cash that is going to be needed to defeat presidential rubber stamp yes-man Senator John Cornyn.

But just who is Emil Reichstadt? I googled him and could come up with a contributions that he and his wife made to Kickstart a campaign contribution listed on a TEC form, and a listing for his private law practice. His bio in the media alert revealed no public service other than his stint in the army as an army lawyer in Germany during the cold war, and later, as a judge.

So, no real public service after his army career. This harkens back to our previous Senate candidate, Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a fine Democrat, a good person, but previous public service experience was limited to being a precinct chair.

So the first one out of the gate was not Rick Noriega, nor was it Nick Lampson, and not Bill White, or John Sharp nor any of the other names that have been mentioned as possible contenders. In the spirit of John Edwards’s early presidential candidacy announcement, we now have an early Senatorial race announcement and now have one name going on the ballot thus far: Emil Reichstadt.

For those who are as ignorant of this man as I am, here is a bio from his media alert:
Reichstadt, the youngest of three sons born to Arthur, a Swiss immigrant, and Macy Reichstadt in Little Rock, Arkansas, has been married for more than 30 years to a successful small business owner, Shirley French Reichstadt (DD French Cleaners in Dallas). They have two grown children, Heather and Steffen. The Reichstadts are members of Highland Park United Methodist Church, Dallas. Reichstadt also has been heavily involved in volunteer activities with the Boy Scouts of America for many years, nurturing many young men including his son to Eagle rank.
Since earning a law degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1977, Reichstadt has handled a wide range of legal challenges. He was commissioned in the Army and served as a captain in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps., personally trying more than 100 cases while stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, from 1978 to 1981, and was then assigned Chief of Legal Assistance with the 3rd Armored Division, Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, providing legal services to soldiers and their families in Frankfurt, from 1982 to 1983. When he returned to Dallas from his tour of duty, he worked as General Counsel for Continental Mortgage, in real estate and corporate law, from 1983 to 1985, before starting his own private practice in 1985.
UPDATE (8:22 PM):
A PDF of the media alert can be found here.

Melissa Noriega: The Serious Candidate for Houston City Council

If you look at the Houston, Texas eGovernment page showing the campaign finance reports for the May 12, special election to fill Shelley Sekula-Gibbs’ abandoned city council seat, you will see that of the eleven candidates seeking this office, only four have actually filed reports. These four being from the campaigns of Melissa Noriega, Ton Nixon, Andy Neill and Kendall Baker.

Matt Stiles, on his Chron blog, reports that two additional reports have been filed by the campaigns of Roy Morales and Tom Molinson. In addition, two other candidates, the kid and Sara Owen-Gemoets do not intend to raise more than $500, so that a campaign finance report is not required of them. That leaves three who have not filed, or have mailed the report by the deadline but they have not yet been received. Who knows?

One wonders, though, about the vast gulf between Melissa Noriega’s fundraising prowess at $105,121.23 with a $53,032.58 balance on hand and that of her nearest competitor, Roy Morales, with an even $24,000 cash infusion, and $2,363 on hand. This appears to be about Roy’s limit. When he ran for the Position 1 seat in 2005, his total campaign contributions were $32,129.32. That’s a total for all three reporting periods.

Melissa Noriega is a serious contender who can attract serious campaign contributions. Did I mention that Melissa Noriega has been endorsed by the Houston Police Officer’s Union? I did, didn't I? I provided the link. I guess I should also mention that they backed up their endorsement with a twenty-five hundred dollar check.

Roy Morales’ campaign slogan “Building a safer Houston” seems to have fallen on the deaf ears of those who, on a daily basis, keep Houston safe.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Texas House Votes Against Texas Becoming a Police State

It was a stinker of a bill.

Authored by Rep. Dianne White Delisi (R-Temple), HB 855, had it passed in the state House and Senate, would have knocked off the final prop that keeps very paternalistic Texas from devolving into a full blown police state.

The thing that gets me is that it didn’t initially seem to be a bad bill to a majority in the House, Gardner Selby in the Austin American-Statesman reports that the House had given it tentative approval on Wednesday. A final vote was postponed due to a point of order raised by Rep. Thompson, that the minutes of the House rules committee meeting on the bill were incomplete.

Amazing, isn’t it? In this post 9/11 world where our civil liberties have been rapidly whittled away everywhere you look, passing a law that says that you are required to identify yourself to a police officer, without that police officer arresting you, or for that matter, without the police officer even having probable cause to detain you, seems right and reasonable.

And refusal to identify yourself can result in you being arrested for violating the law. It’s merely a Class C misdemeanor, but the point is, if someone wanted to take you in under arrest, all they would have to do is ask “what’s your name?”

That the Reps started to see that it was a bill that was clearly an over the top descent into a police state didn’t really come about until Dawnna Dukes, Valinda Bolton, Senfronia Thompson, and Borris Miles pointed out that the bill was inherently racist, and that it would likely be abused by police and “hasten police harassment of residents on the basis of race”.
"Wow," said Delisi. "It seems to me that this small bill has now highlighted the issue of existing racism in Texas."
And that disturbs me, too. Not that I live in a state with plenty of racists to go around, I already knew that if Rep. Delisi didn’t. No, what disturbs me is that it was not the issue of another erosion of American civil liberties, and another attack on the search and seizure amendment in the US Bill of Rights. It was the issue that the law would be abused by racist police officers that killed the bill. That is a completely valid point, but if we were living in a state where everyone was of the same race this foul-smelling bill would have succeeded!

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take a victory over this bill any which way, but I need to know why are Americans so ready and willing to roll over and forfeit their precious (and increasingly rare) rights and freedoms that millions have fought in wars to protect?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Charlie Howard’s HB 3678: Intrusive and Absurd

I really don’t like Texas State Rep. Charlie Howard’s latest abomination. It attempts to codify things in the state’s Education Code that should really be a local issue. Among other things, it demands that districts provide forums for student expression of religious belief. It sets standards for students who speak at graduation ceremonies. It forbids vulgar obscene language. It sets standards on what students may address in introductory remarks. It is, quite frankly, intrusive. Oddly, Howard’s bill finds he and I on non-traditional opposing sides. Howard, the staunch conservative should not be in favor of big government and big government’s intrusion into local issues. I, in this case, defend the local school district’s right to set policy based on community standards and mores.

Rep. Howard, butt out. We don’t need you to tell every school district in Texas how to deal with our students.

But what I really don’t like about Charlie Howard’s HB 3678, which he calls both “Marian’s Law” and the “Religious Viewpoint Anti-Discrimination Act” are these two titles.

First, who the heck is Marian? I Googled “Marian’s Law” and came up with nada. Nothing that has to do with religious expression anyway.

Second. What discrimination? Is Charlie Howard buying into that religious right dogma that Christians are somehow being discriminated against? Is that not just the most ridiculous notion? Discrimination? Absurd! Christians are the oppressed minority? How can that be? In this country, Christians represent 83% of the population. Christians are a colossal majority. They have all the power. They dominate every major facet of American life (except for, perhaps, having an effect on what takes place in synagogues and mosques). But here is Charlie Howard whining that Christians are being discriminated against.

There is no secret progressive policy to suppress the Christian religion. None. Howard is full of it, or perhaps, full of himself. What the problem is, is simply this. Teachers and administrators are woefully uninformed about how to handle religion in public schools. It may have happened on more than one occasion that a student expressed a religious viewpoint in an essay, a speech, or classroom discussion, and the teacher reacted with the false idea that the student may not do this in a public school, and suppressed the student’s expression. I’ve heard of it happening. But that is because the teacher is uninformed.

Here is what a teacher cannot do. A teacher cannot lead a religious discussion, cannot advocate a religion, cannot promote one religion in preference to another. A teacher is in an unique position of authority, and cannot use that position to promote or demote, a religion.

And that’s it.

Nothing is broken. You don’t need to fix this with a bill.

You need a fifteen minute presentation to teachers at a faculty meeting to tell them what the rules are, and what they aren’t.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Fort Bend Democrats Are Hosting a Happening

So what are you doing on May 19th? I’ll tell you what I will be doing: having some Texas barbecue in Sugar Land with some good friends. In their second fundraising effort, and in anticipation of a heavy campaigning year in 2008, the Fort Bend Democrats are hosting a picnic in the park with barbecue, guest speakers, an auction, and good company.

The Fort Bend Democrats are well-known for putting on a good time. We had a blast at the Begala Gala when we had Paul Begala come and regale us with war stories and about how we could take America back – which turned out be true everywhere but here. Then we had the Rick and Melissa Noriega Lovefest on the first date night after Valentine’s day earlier this year. That was a smashing success.

But don’t just take my word for it. Here is Bev Carter’s rave review of our night with the Noriegas. And here is her review of the Begala Gala.

Here’s the information you need. I wouldn’t put off making reservations; these events tend to sell out.

Where: Eldridge Park Pavilion 2511 Eldridge Road, Sugar Land Get a map here.

When: Saturday May 19th 6-8 PM

What: Barbecue Dinner and Auction

Cost: Tickets will be $15 advance purchase and $20 at the door.

Call JoAnn at 281-341-5489 to order tickets.
Please make checks payable to: Fort Bend Democrats
Advance ticket orders must be in by 5pm Monday May 14th.

NOTICE: Tickets will be sold on a first come, first serve basis.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Another day in the War. Death goes on.

A female suicide bomber walked through a crowd of 200 police recruits in the town of Muqdadiyah in the province of Diyala and detonated explosives strapped to her body under an abaya, killing at least 16 people.

Muqdadiyah, which once had an evenly split Sunni/Shiite population is now mostly Sunni as the Shiites have fled. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has taken over the town, and the recent suicide bombing was an attack on police recruits who were to work with the American occupying forces.

Meanwhile, in Sunni dominated neighborhoods of Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi army forces were engaged in fierce fighting with gunmen. Four Iraqi's and three insurgents were killed and 16, including one child, were wounded in the crossfire.

On Monday four U.S. soldiers were killed. Three soldiers’ lives were claimed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. Another soldier was killed in combat in Anbar province.

Also on Monday, the 4th anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, tens of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets of two Shiite holy cities, demanding that U.S. forces leave their country.

The rally was ordered up by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who issued a statement calling on his militia to intensify efforts to drive out American forces and for the police and army to join the fight against "your archenemy."

And in other news, Anna Nicole Smith’s former husband, Larry Birkhead was identified as the biological father of Dannielyn Hope Marshall Stern. DNA evidence used showed that Dannielynn’s DNA were a 99.9% match with Birkhead’s.

Among other memorable things uttered, Birkhead is quoted as saying “I told you so”.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Congress At Your Corner Comes to Richmond, Texas

Well as promised, I went to see what a Congressman at Your Corner meeting event was like. You know, the one that Texas CD-22 Congressman Nick Lampson’s Stafford office staff organized? I was running late and didn’t really know where, at the George Library, they were going to hold the event. So I walked in past a couple of tables that were set up outside – looked like a voter registration table or something – and looked around for a sign or something. Nothing. But I know where all the meeting rooms are so I took a tour of them and came up empty.

Where could they be holding this event?

Back downstairs, still looking around, in comes Don and Marsha. They came too and Don had a manila envelope to deliver about upcoming farm legislation. Marsha gave me candy.

We shared our confusion and my survey of the empty meeting rooms, then two of Nick’s staffers walked past. Come to find out the tables set up outside was Congress at Your Corner.


That makes sense. You get foot traffic if you set up by the door. In a meeting room you get no walk-ins, just visits from the supremely informed.

The skies were dark and there was a slight chance of rain predicted, but they were hoping for the best. We three sat down waiting for constituents to complete their business so we could talk a bit. Don delivered his manila envelope.

Talk turned to district office issues and how these events were going. Jessica Michan who is Nick’s Communications director in the district said that they had a good turnout in Clear Lake and that they plan on doing more of these perhaps as often as once a week. Nick’s Clear Lake office is near completion and is scheduled to open for business on April 16th. Monica Flores Richart will be moving her act down there and Nick (didn’t get his last name) will take Monica’s place in Stafford. I remembered Nick from the campaign but couldn’t remember where or when. He reminded me. It was block walking in Katy for Shane Sklar and Farhan Shamsi.

The Congressman, they report, is doing fine in his recovery from bypass surgery. They made no bones about the fact that Nick’s calendar will be filling in come May 1st when he will be back on his congressional feet.

So that was it. That’s what a Congress At Your Corner is. These are good events that merit broad advertisement. People need to become aware of these things. When Nick was serving in congress before the Tom DeLay-engineered redistricting, Nick had an excellent reputation in his constituent services.

Other office stories that I heard today? When they were setting up the Stafford office – you know, Tom DeLay’s old district office – they were having a heck of a time with the gremlins on the phones. It turns out that yes, they had Tom DeLay’s old phone number, but after numerous requests, they could not get the phone company to take off “Congressman Tom DeLay” in the number’s caller ID. People would tell them, “did you know that my caller ID said ‘Congressman Tom DeLay’ when I picked up? It’s kind of creepy.”

Another? Apparently they get calls from Tom’s supporters (yes, they are still out there fizzing away) asking for a forwarding address. I mulled over what would be an appropriate response, and it is this: “well his present address is somewhere in Virginia, but if you want to get him at his future address write this down: Federal Corrections Institute, Tucson. P.O. Box 23811 Tucson, AZ 85734."

I hear Duke Cunningham is looking for a cellmate soulmate.