Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Nick Lampson Named Conferee to Lead Science, Academic, and Industry Legislation

You have to hand it to my congressman. He knows how to get on committees, and as a former science teacher and a committee member of the House Committee on Science and Technology, he is a good fit. That’s a good thing for us in Texas CD 22.

Based on two related bills recently passed in the House (HR 2272) and the Senate (S. 761) (Summary of S 761 here), COMPETES was enacted to promote science education in America and to put this country back in the lead in the fields of science and technology. While not yet signed by Bush, he would be a fool not to sign this bill as it 1) would make him look like a bigger idiot than he already looks and, 2) a veto in this case can be easily overridden. So this is going to happen.

The text of the press release appears below.


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today Congressman Nick Lampson (D-Stafford) was named as a conferee to the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act ("COMPETES") conference committee. This legislative effort culminates work that began in the 109th Congress, and now is receiving a final push from the House Committee on Science and Technology, on which Congressman Lampson sits.

"I am honored to be a conferee on such important legislation that assists students, teachers, businesses, and hard-working Americans in so many academic and professional sectors," said Congressman Lampson. "This ground-breaking competitiveness and innovation initiative will greatly assist the southeast Texas economy, prepare our students for the future in the sciences, and continue to move our nation forward."

House and Senate conferees will meet in committee today to resolve differences between the America Competes Act (S. 761) and the 21st Century Competitiveness Act (H.R. 2272). The eventual conference report for the COMPETES Act will include several key pieces of legislation, including House-passed proposals authorizing a total of $23.6 billion over FY 2008 to 2010, including $21 billion for research and education programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF), $2.5 billion for the research labs, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and other activities at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), and $96 million for early career awards and teacher professional development programs at the Department of Energy (DOE). An additional $70 million is authorized for these programs at DOE for FY 2011 to 2012.

"Congress has neglected such key science-related funding for too long, and now our great nation stands in jeopardy of being surpassed by other countries in leading our global scientific efforts and innovation," added Congressman Lampson. "I will continue to work hard to ensure we fully fund these initiatives, as this is not a Republican or Democrat issue - this is about the future of American academics and industries, and a better and stronger economy for future generations."


Monday, July 30, 2007

Analysis: Why Does AG Gonzales Stay?

I signed a digital petition demanding that AG Alberto Gonzales resign. I have no expectations that he will, although I have no idea why he stays.

Even Newt Gingrich says that he should resign, that AG Gonzales has issues with saying the truth, and that it is “a liability for the president”. On the same piece an APB was sent out for White House officials and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend Gonzales on the show: “we had no takers”.

But I have to ask myself, if Gonzales is so obviously a “liability for the president” why then does Bush tolerate his continued presence? Is he stupid? Is he stubborn? Why won’t he listen to anyone? Gonzales is completely marginalized.

There are those who say that Gonzales is staying put because Bush is waiting for Congress to go on vacation. Or that he is staying because Bush doesn't think he can get another one confirmed by the Senate. Indeed, I have said that he is waiting until next year when he can move Texas Senator John Cornyn into the job so that he can replace Cornyn with a stronger candidate - and add to that, that this would be done after the March primary.

All of these are possible.

Having seen Gonzales face questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Gonzales very much looked like someone who would rather be doing just about anything else. Very clearly he is being asked to stay in the job.

Bear with me, I’m just looking for a pattern. The only pattern that emerges is one in which the Bush Regime will do just about anything to upset as many people as they possibly can: friends and foe alike. This is strange to us because we haven’t seen anything like this in almost a century and a half.

The last time we had a president who bent over backwards to piss everybody off was when we had a man named Andrew Johnson in the White House. History is very kind to Johnson, and he is usually painted as the guy in the right battling a radical congress. In truth, Andrew Johnson had a sour disposition and went out of his way to offend everyone.

They even impeached him.

So for whatever reason, for the time being Gonzales is staying. But mark my words if and when he goes the last thing you will see is a Bush Regime that appears to be backing down.

That's just not their style.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Breaking News: Hillary Clinton Has Breasts and John McCain Looks Gay

I actually saw this news piece on my television this morning.

The Post article is here and here is the campaign’s formal response to it in a fundraiser email sent to supporters. Posted below:

“’Frankly, focusing on women’s bodies instead of their ideas is insulting,’ Ann Lewis, a senior adviser to Clinton, wrote in the e-mail. ‘It’s insulting to every woman who has ever tried to be taken seriously in a business meeting. It’s insulting to our daughters — and our sons — who are constantly pressured by the media to grow up too fast.’”

“‘Take a stand against this kind of coarseness and pettiness in American culture,’ Lewis adds, with a link to make a contribution to the campaign. ‘And take a stand for Hillary, the most experienced, most qualified candidate running for president.’”

“Coarseness and pettiness in American culture.” I think Ms. Lewis was being polite.

It is amazing to me how there is such an utter lack of respect these days. American culture is slowly evolving to a culture where anything goes. Things that were politely left unsaid a mere five years ago are now banner headlines.

And it’s not limited to the press. It’s everywhere. Now we hear that John McCain thinks you can dress up to look gay. Well I guess you can in an extreme case, if you are Rudy Giuliani (who, by the way, is the front runner). But a V-neck sweater over a T-shirt does not suggest to me gayness. It is a slap in the face to gays to suggest that his campaign is hitting the skids because he’s starting to “look gay”. To think I used to admire this guy for his integrity.

Aretha Franklin had it just right. All we need is a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Kinky Friedman’s Advisor Gives Free Advice to Michael Bloomberg

I haven’t heard much in the news about Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s run for president as an independent. But that’s not stopping Laureen Oliver, Kinky Friedman’s consultant on ballot access, from offering free advice on the Politico today. Maybe she’s looking for a job. After all, a guy with $500 million to spend on an independent campaign is going to need an expert in getting signatures on petitions in 50 states, and Laureen probably thinks that money will spend just as well on her advice than someone else.

What Laureen failed to mention is that her work on Kinky’s campaign got Texas saddled with a governor who got only 39% of the vote. But why should she be worried about that? Kinky gets another book out of his campaign, and she lives in Florida, anyway.

And thankfully, you can’t elect a president who has 39% of the vote. At least we have the electoral college to fall back on. And failing to get 270 of those votes, at least we have a Democratic-dominated House.

Yep, if this plays out and Bloomberg runs it looks like we might be in for another “interesting” presidential election.

I just wish that one year we can have a presidential election that is less interesting.

Friday, July 27, 2007

State Senator Hinojosa Comes Out For Watts – But At Watt Price?

Oh my goodness.

Someone sent to me a Kronberg report that had a virtual “avalanche of press releases” from Rio Grande Valley State Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa that touts the self same State Senator’s heartfelt endorsement of Mikal Watts for US Senate from Texas.

I am so taken aback. How can a progressive Hispanic State Senator back the campaign of Mikal Watts? How so? How so?

I think maybe the hens coming home to roost, that is how so.

Mikal Watts, through his law firm, donated $14,000 dollars (and counting) to State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa’s campaign. If you don’t believe me then just go to the TEC website and look for yourself.

Money begets political alliances. And apparently Mikal Watts has plenty of both. Chuy needs to consider how it looks. Is Chuy another Mikal Watts bought and paid for drone?

Enquiring minds want to know.

On a personal note: Mikal, this is looking so very bad. Please consider doing the right thing here. Endorse LTC Rick Noriega for US Senator from Texas. He can win the race, and you can win also by supporting his candidacy.

Noriega: Watts Should Support His Candidacy

In an interview earlier this week in Edinburg, Texas, Rick Noriega suggested that Mikal Watts, who is also evaluating a run for US Senate to replace Bushite Senator John Cornyn, should stand aside.

“We both share the same goal, and that is to defeat an ineffective senator. I would hope to earn his support.”

Kos, wrote to this today on Daily Kos, suggesting that a contested primary is not necessarily a bad thing as it gets the candidate’s name in public for a longer period of time. That notwithstanding, I have always thought that contested primaries were drains on limited resources unless there were true ideological differences between the candidates. To me, except for Watts’ dim view of women’s abortion rights, and his use of anti-gay code words like “preferred alternative lifestyles,” the two candidates seem to have similar politics.

So that’s what makes this race seem so pointless. So wasteful. It would be better to concentrate time, energy, resources and wealth on the real opponent, the ideological opponent, John Cornyn.

And that is why Mikal Watts needs to take the long view, and not take the viewpoint of what Mikal Watts wants, but what is best for the people of Texas. The people of Texas need representation in the Senate. They don’t have that now. We have an opportunity next year to unseat a politically weak Republican, but to do that we need to put up our best man, the one with the best credentials, the one who has been there and done that.

That man is not Mikal Watts.

Mikal Watts has held no political office. He has no legislative experience whatsoever. His only strengths are that he is self-funding and that he has spent all of his time in courtrooms winning huge settlements from Ford Motor Corporation. These strengths are his chief liabilities. He will be open to charges, and not undeserved ones at that, of trying to buy a political office, and just another shark trying to get into a powerful club.

The man who Texas needs to run against John Cornyn is LTC and State Rep. Rick Noriega.

As Noriega himself says, Texas needs a candidate who has walked the walk, not just talked the talk. The latter is all that John Cornyn has done. Cornyn talks about building a wall. Noriega has been on the border enforcing the law, in full communication with those on the ground that know for a fact that building a wall won’t solve anything. Cornyn talks about supporting Bush and his war, Noriega spent 14 months in Afghanistan training the Afghan army to battle the al-Qaeda supporting Taliban. Cornyn stood for a photo op with Katrina emergency bungler Michael Chertoff while Noriega commanded the humanitarian effort at the George R. Brown Convention Center as thousands of Katrina evacuees streamed into the city of Houston.

It’s a powerful story and it’s one that will attract Texas voters of all political stripes. It is no wonder that during Noriega’s service for Katrina evacuees he was visited by none other than Bob “Swift Boat” Perry. Perry and Noriega do not see eye to eye politically, but that didn’t prevent Perry from saying to Rick’s son that his father was a hero. It’s that kind of appeal I am writing about. With Rick Noriega, it’s not just politics and money, it’s public service and experience. It’s about how he’s been there and done that.

And that’s why Mikal Watts needs to stand aside, and needs to endorse Rick Noriega’s candidacy. You could argue that in doing so, we lose Watts’ financial resources but that doesn’t have to be the case. There are many ways Watts can use his millions to help Texas turn blue. Financing a Get Out The Vote movement, especially the Hispanic vote, is one way. Or maybe even finance his own Swift Boat campaign against Cornyn, and it could be done without lying at all.

Bloggers all across Texas have endorsed Rick Noriega. I have yet to find a concentration of blog sites that show similar support to Watts. Now from what I can see, this isn’t because bloggers don’t like Watts, it’s just that they like Noriega more.

And that makes all the difference

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bush Asks to Expedite Defense Spending Bill

This is pretty funny. Today George Bush told Congress to get off the stick and pass his defense spending bill, the one that will, in part, fund Bush’s endless war starting October 1st. Found in the Washington Post:

“With troops in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush said Congress should move to approve a spending bill for the Defense Department before members embark on their August recess.”

If Reagan were alive, he would be saying “There you go again . . .”

Bush is again using the troops as hostage, saying that congress needs to “stop dragging their feet” or they (congress) are going to start killing our troops.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has it exactly when he is saying that this is “simply the latest example of the president shamelessly hiding behind our brave troops in an effort to distract attention from his failed national security record.

They seem to be saying “There’s plenty of time to pass this bill, Georgie”.

The reason why Bush wants them to get this legislation done before their August break (Hey why is our federal legislature going on a break . . . isn’t there a war on?) is that he is afraid that they (congress) will add too many riders, known as earmarks, to the bill.

Writes the Post:

“So far, Congress has passed none of the 12 spending bills that would fund the government in the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. Bush said Congress should send the measures to him one at a time to avoid what he called a massive omnibus bill that ‘no one can read and in which anyone can hide wasteful spending.’”

“Speaking before a meeting of conservative state legislators, Bush accused the Democratic-led Congress of wanting to ‘return to the tax-and-spend policies of the past.’ He also repeated his vow to veto any spending bills that would exceed spending limits laid out in his budget plan.”

Excuse me? The Tax and Spend policies of the past? You mean like the ones that we had since 1994? The ones that drove our national debt from billions in the black to trillions in the red? Those policies?

But this is what is truly amazing about this story. Do you know how many earmarks are currently attached to this very defense spending bill? One thousand seven hundred and seventy-six. That’s right 1776.

Here is the spreadsheet.

So it’s kind of funny in a black sort of way. Congress has been “dragging its feet” over this spending bill because they were working furiously to pack it full of earmarks.

Biggest offender? Florida’s own C.W. “Bill” Young. At 59 earmarks, this Republican congressman leads the back in earmarks on the defense spending bill.

And no wonder. He is chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

Next highest offender? John Murtha, at 46.

Third highest offender? Jerry Lewis (R - CA). Dean Martin would be shocked, just shocked.

And with 30 earmarks, Jim Moran (D - VA). You remember him? In 2003 he was slapped down hard by both the White House and Nancy Pelosi for these words:
“If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this.”
Oh, and by the way, where is my congressman on this list? Nick Lampson attached 3 earmarks to the spending bill.

Bush has vowed to veto any spending bill that goes outside his spending guidelines. If so, then this bill, should it be passed, is DOA and Bush will be the one pointing his fingers at congress for the blame.

In my own humble opinion, this is Democrats in congress saying to Bush “You want a shooting war in Iraq? This is what it’s going to cost you”. And this is Republicans in congress doing business as usual.

The Reason Behind Every Problem You Are Having Right Now

I woke up this morning with my mind filled with Revelation. The reason why I, and all of us, are having such grave problems right now. My dishwasher stopped working the other day. The lawn needs mowing. The rain gutters on my house are clogged. There is endless war in Iraq. Now I know why.

Someone or something shouted Revelation 6:12 into my good ear this morning. It’s still ringing:

“And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood.”

It’s because the gays are getting married.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Texas, Land of Teen Fecundity

Well Texas is seeing the fulfillment of another ancient Chinese (or is it Armenian?) saying that I heard long ago “Beware what you ask for because you just might get it.” Besides being first in the nation in insurance premiums, first in the nation in electricity costs, Texas now leads the nation in the number of teenage pregnancies.

And Texas asked for it.

The Texas Board of Education, whose chief function is approval of statewide school textbooks, can take full credit for this latest turn of events. From a 2004 Christian Science Monitor article:

“On Friday, two messages came through loud and clear as the [Texas] State board of Education voted on a new list of approvedhealth books: That abstinence should be taught without any textbook discussion of contraception. And that the books should be explicit about marriage as a union between a man and a woman.”

In Texas we take our religion very seriously. It pervades every facet of government. This would be a good thing if it were about the teachings of Jesus, but it’s not about that. It’s about the teachings of Jesus’ evil twin. The one who says the human body is a dirty filthy thing, and don’t never ever do that nasty evil sex thing outside of wedlock.

So when Texas schools fail to instruct its teenage population about ways to engage in sexual activity without the consequences of pregnancy or transmission of STDs, what else results but national leadership in teens being blessed with pregnancy?

But who can blame our state school board? Aren’t they just going about fulfilling the first verse of our glorious state song? In case you’ve forgotten or live in some foreign land like California, here is the first verse.

Texas, Our Texas! all hail the mighty State!
Texas, Our Texas! so wonderful so great!
Boldest and grandest, withstanding ev'ry test
O Empire wide and glorious, you stand supremely blest.

Mikal Watts: Just Say No to Prostitution

OK, let’s see if I have all of this correct.

1. Texas Senator John Cornyn is vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics.

2. Louisiana Senator David Vitter was outted as a subscriber to Deborah Jean Palfrey’s Pamela Martin Associates’ “services”. His phone number appears on her list of clients and this makes him a bad man, a very bad man.

3. Last week the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee to punish the senator for his misdeeds.
“Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW said today, ‘Senator Vitter's solicitation of at least one prostitute was not merely, as he has stated, 'a serious sin,' it was a violation of criminal law.’ Sloan continued, ‘The Senate Ethics Committee should commence an investigation into Senator Vitter's conduct and hold him accountable.’”
4. Today, Mikal Watts issued a challenge to John Cornyn, a manifesto really, to “act” on this complaint. Excerpted from his press release, it goes like this:
“’David Vitter's actions are excessive even by Washington's standards under the current administration,’ Watts said. ‘Texans deserve a senator who will take a strong stand against corrosive corruption exemplified by lobbyist Jack Abramoff, disgraced former congressman Tom DeLay, and now David Vitter.’”
Oh my. This is a truly amazing vista. DeLay, Abramoff . . . and now . . . Vitter. Bribery, graft, nepotism, influence peddling . . . and now . . . paying for sex.

I personally have no problem with the world’s oldest profession. I DO have a problem with those who profess their devotion to Jesus and family values on one hand, and then skulk off to New Orleans to pay for a pickle tickle on the other. Vitter is outted as a hypocrite but that’s about it.

No one should be punished because they can’t get laid unless they pay for it. It happens. And it probably happens to Republicans far more often than it does Democrats, who, I have it on good authority, know how to party.

But now we have Mikal Watts wanting John Cornyn to “act” on the complaint. If David Vitter is guilty of hypocrisy, Mikal Watts is guilty of opportunism writ large. Who IS this guy? Jumping on Cornyn because of Vitter’s sexual dalliances is the height of insincerity. Texans don’t need an insincere opportunist representing us.

Frankly, we’re kind of tired of it and don’t really want to replace one such with another.

Texans are looking for honesty and integrity. They are looking for a record of service. Apparently, with regard to Watts, Texans have to look elsewhere.

There’s a guy who just announced this month that he is answering the call to serve. His name is Lt. Col. Rick Noriega, a Democratic member of the Texas House, and a proven public servant. If you want to say No to opportunism, say No to disingenuousness, then say Yes to Rick Noriega.

If you hate this feeble attempt at headline grabbing, and taking advantage of the pitiable attempts of a Louisiana Senator’s pursuit of some lovin’, why not ActBlue? Send a message to the Noriega camp, and to Watts. Contribute to the Texas netroots fund for Rick Noriega. The goal is 800 contributions by the end of the next reporting quarter.

Any amount will do, they’re not picky. If you are into symbolism, why not contribute what David Vitter would pay a DC prostitute for “the $20 special”.

What Really Matters?

Everyone is talking about John Edward’s YouTube-like video short shown on last night’s CNN/YouTube Debate. It was a direct across the bow shot at the Republicans who made so much of Edwards’ expensive haircut.

Edwards answers, OK, but what really matters, a haircut or what the Bush Regime had done to Iraq, what the Bush Regime did NOT do to New Orleans, and what the Bush Regime has no intention of doing in regard to universal health care?

Well the campaign put it on YouTube and you know what that means, it goes up on Half Empty, too.

Mainly this is for that special someone who missed the debate.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

CNN/YouTube: Making History in a Presidential Debate Format

So what did you think of the CNN/YouTube Presidential Debate? I thought it was a refreshingly different way for us to see these candidates, one of whom will be our next president. The debate was not framed by the same stale questions from the same old journalists. We as a people have among us some who can come up with some really interesting questions, and frame them like no journalist can imagine.

The moderator, Anderson Cooper, put twists on some of the questions and sprang those twists on other candidates. I didn’t appreciate that as much and I think it only served to confuse.

And unlike the past debates where I was well satisfied with any of the candidates, I can now differentiate between some of these people. Maybe it’s hearing them again and again, or maybe it’s hearing them talk in this first in history format.

Stick a fork in Mike Gravel, he’s done. He’s been a great one for comic relief and sticking it to the front runners, but he’s now beginning to be more of a pain than anything else. That he came out for a federal sales tax is just as regressive as you can get. He’s probably mentioned it before, but it really hit home with me last night. It’s a Republican/Libertarian idea whose time should never come. Percentage wise, as in percent of personal income, it’s the poor who would pay more of their income into this, and the rich who would pay the least.

I’m also a little concerned about Barack Obama. All energy sources should certainly NOT be on the table. Nuclear energy is not an option. We still don’t have a way to deal with nuclear waste and the laws of physics say that there won’t be any with our current state of technology. And really, this comes on the heels of an earthquake in Japan that resulted in damage to thir largest nuclear power plant and the release of radioactive water. Barack still speaks well and looks good, but now I am wondering about substance and his depth of understanding with regard to science.

And the last question pointed out something that has been obvious to me for quite some time. Each was asked to say something nice about the candidate to their left, and something not so nice. When it got to Dennis Kucinnich, who stood on the far right of the stage, he joked that there was no one further left than he, and that is quite true. Of all the candidates, Kucinnich is by far the one furthest to the left on the political spectrum. While I think America is ready for a progressive president, I don’t think they are ready for Dennis Kucinnich and he would be the one who would probably give most advantage to the Republican opponent. Don’t get me wrong, I still like him, I just have a problem with his chances of winning the election.

So I vote Yea for this format. I’d love to see how the Republican candidates will handle themselves on this set up. The last time I checked the RNC has not said whether it would sanction their debate, scheduled for September 17th. I dare them not to sanction it.

I double dog dare them.

Monday, July 23, 2007

My Picks as the Best CNN/YouTube Debate Questions for Tonight

The CNN/YouTube Democratic Presidential Debate is on for tonight (Monday). I’ve been previewing a few of them, 1700 were submitted, and have whittled down my top 5 favorites. I am characteristically skeptical that any of these will be selected, but will watch the debate on CNN (7 pm Eastern, 6 pm Central) just to see if they are put on.

On employment of gays:

Björn Swenson on Viking Immigration

An all encompassing question from someone who has apparently been living better through chemistry:

One for Hillary?

And finally, a question about protecting the food supply.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bush Regime Can’t Make Up Its Mind on Pakistan

With us or agin’ us? I recall several years back in Bush’s speech on the War on Terror that if a country wasn’t with America on this, then they were “with the Terrorists”. Well a lot of water has gone under the bridge since that speech, and it would appear that not only is the vast majority of Americans “with the Terrorists” but also nearly every country in the world – I can’t speak for Rwanda, haven’t heard how they feel about the War.

But now, today I see two conflicting reports about Pakistan and I want to know which is the correct one. According to this White House publication, the US and Pakistan are BFF

“Pakistan: Three years ago, Pakistan was one of the few countries in the world that recognized the Taliban regime, and al-Qaida was active and recruiting in Pakistan without serious opposition. Yet the United States was not on good terms with Pakistan’s military and civilian leaders – the very people we would need to help shut down al-Qaida operations in that part of the world. Today, the United States and Pakistan are working closely in the fight against terror, and Pakistani forces are rounding up terrorists along their nation’s western border. President Musharraf is a friend of our country, who helped us capture Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the operational planner behind the 9/11 attacks. Today, because we are working with Pakistani leaders, Pakistan is an ally in the war on terror, and the American people are safer.”

Well this ally had some pretty harsh words today on the news that the United States could take action inside Pakistan. To this news, White House homeland security adviser Frances Townsend said "There are no tools off the table, and we use all our instruments of national power to be effective."

Basically it comes from a NIE by Mike McConnell, Bush’s National Security Advisor, the gist of it is found in this quote from McConnell:

“Instead of pushing Al Qaeda out, the people who live in these federally administered tribal areas [in Pakistan], they made a safe haven for training and recruiting. And so, in that period of time, Al Qaeda has been able to regain some of its momentum.”

A Pakistani official, Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao, was righteously pissed off at this.

“Our stance is that Osama bin Laden is not present in Pakistan. If anyone has the information he should give it to us, so that we can apprehend him.”

Chief military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad chimed in as well:

“Pakistani forces are quite capable of conducting operation(s) against militants on their territory and only they have the authority to do so.”

So we have a curious friendship here, one that can be best summed up by an ancient Nigerian proverb

“Hold a true friend with both your hands”.

Why is this so applicable? Well, I have to add this little addendum to the end of the proverb to make it make some sense:

“…so he can’t stab you in the back.”

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Little Downtime Drive's Me Nuts

The reason I haven’t been posting a lot lately is because I am suffering through an equipment changeover, and combined with doing things that take me away from my ‘puter, I hardly have time to do anything.

I have a 3 year old desktop that I really like, except it slows down at times, even stops, and has even forgotten how to do things. You know, like our Executive Branch?

So one day it wouldn’t boot. I usually take my wounded hardware to CompUSA but the one nearby went out of business. So I thought I’d try that place that sounds like Test Try, and their new service department that sounds like Beak Squab.

They have disk analyzer and fixer software and they said it would take 4 days. Six days later I got a call from them saying that the hard disk was OK but the memory was bad and they had to send it out to their service center. I said OK. Nine days later the service center said that the memory was OK but the hard disk was bad. They wanted to charge me $372 to fix it. These days you can BUY a whole new machine with that kind of money so I declined and asked them to send it back. Five days later I got a call that the PC had arrived at the store and I could come and pick it up.

I went and got it, took it to the car, and then went back in and bought a newer faster PC with twice the memory and twice the hard disk capacity as my old PC for $354.

I took both computers home, but before firing up the new one, I thought I’d try the old one, one more time. I had lots of files on it that I would otherwise lose forever.

It booted up just fine.

It was still slow, still forgetful, but it still worked.

Well H-E-double-hockey-sticks.

And what was this about a bad hard disk?

So I spent the next two days backing up all my files onto CD, and 39 CDs later I was ready to fire up the new ‘puter.

Plug and play. Best thing since sliced bread. Then the startup program had me register it on my ISP, and my ISP apparently gave it the wrong SMTP address because immediately after finishing with that I couldn’t connect to the internet anymore.

So here I am over at Ann’s place. Ann is cooking me dinner and is letting me use her internet connection.

But I can’t think of a single thing to write about so I thought I’d do a data dump on you.

By the way, a research firm called me today as I was working with my new PC. It was a customer satisfaction interview for the service provider that sounds like Beep Shod.

I let her know what I thought of those Geeks.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Colon Contents

I’ve been really busy today and haven’t gotten to my usual routine so I was a little confused at today’s muse post. Then I saw the article in the Chron.

muse’s friend says that the doc will find Cheney’s head when he conducts the colonoscopy. My own personal opinion is that he’ll just find ol’ Georgie in there blinking back at him.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Support ActBlue, Support Rick Noriega, Contribute On Blogosphere Day

On this 4th anniversary of the discovery of the power of Netroots in campaign fundraising, I think it’s appropriate that we all support ActBlue. Maybe a Lincoln or a Hamilton is all it takes. This organization laid the groundwork for a new way to facilitate donations to campaigns and they work strictly off donations.

A great way to celebrate Blogosphere Day is to go to Rick Noriega’s ActBlue donation site and leave a donation to support his campaign. Click here or on the “Join Team Noriega” banner on the left.

After leaving your donation for Rick’s exploration committee, scroll down and leave a tip for ActBlue. They’re doing the work that it is going to take to get rid of the rascals that have gotten us in this horrible mess: endless war, spiraling deficit, torture and loss of liberty.

Mending Wall

This poem by Robert Frost came to mind this morning as I read about Michael Chertoff’s plans to start building a border fence in Texas this fall.

Mending Wall
By Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors?
Isn't it Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Granny 1, Jerk in Mercedes 0

My friend Ann sent me a hilarious movie clip the other day. She says the woman in the video is her new heroine. I thought I would upload it to YouTube to share it with you, only to find out that several versions are already there.

This is the one without the advertisement.

Perry Names Academically Unacceptable To Head of Texas School Board

In an unbelievably idiotic move, Texas Governor Rick Perry, perhaps in accord with Texas’ education rating of 50th in the nation, named Texas state school board member Don McLeroy to chairman of the state board of education.

Why buck a trend? Being the best worst state in the nation in terms of education is a feat in and of itself. Why not keep the old ball rolling in the same direction?

Don McLeroy is branded as a social conservative but, believe me, he is anything but. He holds to a very radical ideology in education. This is the guy who advocates for specialists in their field to come in to the classroom and teach their specialty to junior and senior high school children without the benefit of any training at all in classroom management and pedagogy. He claims that those who oppose this idea are merely protecting their turf: education and curriculum and instruction departments at universities. I’m not kidding. Read it here.

Knowing your subject matter is one thing. Knowing how to teach it to adolescents is clearly another. Some of the best teachers I have ever met have said that they didn’t learn a thing in their education courses, but that is because they were natural teachers. On the other hand, some of the worst teachers I have ever met have said exactly the same thing.

This is very clearly a guy who knows nothing about classroom instruction, and now he is head of the whole kit and caboodle in Texas.

And in reading this article that announces his appointment, we learn that McLeroy lets his ideologies get in the way of public policy.

Guess what we should be teaching children in health education? That abstinence is the only safe sex there is. The man has not a clue what goes on in the teenage mind. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that the concept of abstinence as a way to halt the spread of STDs and unwanted pregnancies should be taught in the classroom. Then after the laughter dies down all of the other ways should be taught, too. If those ways aren’t included in the textbook, then a good teacher will use alternative instructional materials.

And guess how we should be teaching evolution in Biology classes? As one possible explanation of speciation. The reasoning is here if you care to subject yourself to it.

Being an educator in Texas just became a little harder.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

National Health Insurance: An Initiative Whose Time Has Come

When I was asked whether I wanted to go to the Fort Bend County Democratic Party monthly meeting, this time I said “yes”. I don’t usually go. This month there was going to be a guest speaker, Dr. Joseph Bak, a clinical psychologist.

That intrigued me. What was he going to tell Democrats to do?

It turns out that Dr. Bak is a member of Health Care for All Texas, a group that lobbies for national health insurance.

Remember I told you that you have got to see SiCKO? Michael Moore showed Americans what it is like to have a national health program. Well what Dr. Bak proposes falls short of a full blown national health program, but it is a good start.

Bak made a strong case for the gross inefficiency inherent in private and group health insurance programs. Why involve insurance companies with their 15% overhead costs, company HR departments to pick health insurance plans, and the cloud of people to make all of it work together? Why not have one large health insurance pool, Americans, one place for premiums to go, and allow Americans to pick where they want to go for health care?

I’ll tell you why not. Health insurance is a $2 trillion per year business. In overhead, that’s three hundred billion dollars. That’s a lot of lucre and there are people in the health insurance industry, rich people with lobby power, who don’t want to give that up. Understandable, but why punish 300 million people so a few tens of thousands have cush jobs?

That’s why Dr. Bak called the sponsor and co-sponsors of HR 676, The US National Health Insurance Act, heroic. These congressmen and congresswomen are essentially telling the health insurance industry to take a hike because if this bill ever becomes law it will render private healthcare insurers obsolete. All those companies that Michael Moore profiled, the ones that denied life saving procedures to their insured clients, will have to find something else to do.

The bill is sponsored by John Conyers (D – Mich.) and co-sponsored by 75 others. Look on the co-sponsor list and you see Texas Congressman Al Green (CD 9) and Congresswomen Sheila Jackson-Lee (CD 18) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (CD 30). These are our Texas heroes.

We need to make more of them.

Or at least we need to convince more of our congressmen to vote for this bill when it comes to the House floor. National Health Insurance will not disqualify you because of a pre-existing condition. It is full coverage from pre-natal to grave, and takes care of a full gamut of medical care including mental health, chiropractics and vision. The list is here.

It is an initiative whose time has come.

So here’s what you can do to show your support for HR 676.

Go to this website: Physicians for a National Health Program and follow the instructions for writing your congressmen. A sample letter is provided so you can edit out the stuff about being a physician and put in your own text and ideas.

I deleted the text about being a physician and added commentary about those of us who are insured but have been denied benefits.

I suppose when we get this bill to pass the House we’ll have to start working on our senators, but it’ll be up to you guys in other states to convince your senators to vote for this bill. My two are as useless as screen doors on submarines.

Monday, July 16, 2007

On Rick Noriega’s Press Conference and Dead Presidents

As I mentioned yesterday, I didn’t get to attend Rick Noriega’s formal announcement in Austin. That being said, I was able to attend an edited press conference that occurred soon after the announcement. You can too. It’s here.

The press conference lays to rest some controversy over what Rick Noriega’s stance is on the Iraq war. I have it, periphrased in some cases, below:

First, Rick would implement the Baker/Hamilton Iraqi Study Group recommendations. "A lot of the problems we see today is that stubbornness is not a foreign policy.” Rick decries the fact that people in the field, people who know what is going on, who have information about and best practices and guidance aren’t being listened to. As a result “we all suffer as Texans.”

As to setting a timetable, for withdrawal, Rick pointed out that there was a timetable ans well as benchmarks in the study group report. ‘Those recommendations are very clear."

On immigration, and specifically on a border fence, Rick was asked his opinion on this giant red herring that the GOPers have raised. Again, Rick is one to go to the experts, the people on the ground. “Chief of Border Patrol has already said that a wall will not work. Now here again, why would we not listen to the professionals on the ground? . . . I think Texans will appreciate that we need folks that ‘walk the walk’”.

Asked why a Democrat can win a statewide office at this time, Rick alluded to the fact that “Texans are hungry for leadership and crying out for leadership and for service.” Texans will do the right thing. The junior senator from Texas has been the number one cheerleader for Bush’s failed policies.

Bush has failed in both foreign and domestic policies, take your choice. The attitude of the country and state is that we have lost our global moral compass and are not looked upon as a world leader. We have the duty to stand up and say so and try to take action as Texans to get us back on the right track.

On a question on whether impeachment of Bush makes any sense to him, Norieaga said that he can’t speak to it. That is their agenda. His agenda is in answering the call to duty.

“Answering a call to duty”.

It’s the theme of his campaign-to-be, I think. It evokes the same thing he did when he was called to duty in Afghanistan. His country needed him and he responded. Operation Jumpstart again called him to duty and he answered with several months spent on the border in the Laredo area. Mayor Bill White called him to duty to command and coordinate the humanitarian aid given to Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Where FEMA failed, Rick Noriega and the hundreds of Houston volunteers succeeded.

And now, we have called him to duty. By we I refer to the progressive bloggers of Texas, the 47 signatures of his state house colleagues, the many others across the state who want a thinker and a doer in the senate, not a rubber stamp Bushite.

But mostly, it was the people who called him to duty. I sat in a room that was full of these people last February when Don Bankston said these words: “I hope that there are those of us out there who will urge Rick Noriega to run for US Senate next year and defeat John Cornyn”.

The room broke out in wild applause.

OK, now if you’re still with me, there’s something that you’ve got to do. A message you have to send to Rick. Messages on paper. Paper with pictures of dead presidents printed on them. Rick isn’t going to be able to contribute much from his income as a part-time citizen-statesman ($25,500 per year when the legislature meets) or his Texas National Guard Lt. Colonel’s pay. Or even from his manager’s position at CenterPoint. Rick has got to get his message out and, guess what? The money guys are backing the rich guy.

Send a message to Rick, with dead presidents on it, so that the wealthy opponent gets served notice, a notice that is loud and clear that Texans, and their votes, can’t be bought.

Online, you can go here and contribute to Rick’s campaign. It just went up and they want to get 800 donations in the next 30 days. That’s one donation every 54 minutes.

Or if you want, there is snail mail which I hear, still works. The US Mail is the one government service that Bush hasn’t broken yet.

Mail a check to Rick Noriega at this post office box address: PO Box 231163 Houston, TX 77223-1163

Whatever you do, make sure you get this done. Rick is counting on you.

FEC Filings Are Up (Sort Of)

We have some hard data on political contributions for the 2nd quarter up now at the FEC. I wanted to find out who were Mikal Watts’ monetary supporters only to be disappointed in not finding any records for a Texas Democratic candidate for US Senate other than Barbara Ann Radnofsky and Ken Bentsen.

Nope, nothing there yet on Watts.

So I decided to take a look at the congressional candidates in Texas CD 22.

First, my favorite foul-up, Dr. Shelley Sekula Gibbs, M.D.

It seems Shelley is still being carried by the Republican Party’s RNCC. In the first quarter, the RNCC spent nearly $93,000 on behalf of Sekula Gibbs. That doesn’t go down in her contributor’s list but it’s nice to see anyway. PACs and institutions seem to be taking a wait and see stance, as she logs only $7750 from three of them, the biggest check being from a Dermatologist PAC. Individual contributions total $169,996, with 23 of them listed for a total of $25,510. Eleven of these were from fellow medicos. Other individual contributors include Bob Perry and his wife, kicking in $4600 apiece, and Dean Hrbacek, who probably would like that $1000 check back now that he’s thinking of running also.

And speaking of self-funding a campaign, now I come to find out that the 2nd highest Republican campaign fund in CD 22 was that of Giannibicego Hoa Tran who loaned herself $34,796, repaid the loan and is still in debt to the tune of over $17,000. I wonder how many anti-nuclear bomb elixirs she was able to sell as a result of her candidacy.

Other GOPers on the list include Pat Baig, Tom DeLay, Bob Talton and David Wallace. DeLay’s filing, as expected, doesn’t add up. Undeclared Bob Talton filed a report filled with zeros, and Un-un-declared David Wallace has $23 in cash on hand.

So, SSG excepting, it’s looking pretty grim for Republicans.

It’s a different story for Nick Lampson. Nick logs $191,629 in individual contribution and lists those from 61 individuals who contributed $81,950. The vast majority of these are attorneys. Group/PAC contributions to a total of 3 committees (one principal, two authorized) total $314,120. Those groups listed in the three committees contributed a total of $225,950. It looks like Nick has a lot of support from labor unions. Energy companies weigh in as well, with one notable $2000 check from Dick Cheney’s favorite corporation, Halliburton.

So it looks like Nick has taken in just over $505,000 so far, with 60 percent from large individual contributors and PACs and the rest, 40 percent from those who contributed below the individual report level.

A far cry from the days of DeLay.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Rick Noriega’s Official Announcement Is On For Tomorrow

In deference and respect to the passing of Lady Bird Johnson, Rick Noriega postponed until tomorrow (Monday the 16th) his formal announcement of the formation of an exploratory committee for a run at John Cornyn’s US Senate seat next year.

Refer here for details which are all the same except for the date, but even that has been updated on the webpage as well.

I will not be there. I’ve thought and thought about it, know I could do it, know I should attend, but in the end I had to ask myself whether I would be able to add anything other than a “I was there, too.”

And I can’t for the life of me find the flash drive for my camera. It’s around here someplace.

Besides, think of the greenhouse gases that won’t be injected into our atmosphere as a result of this decision. The Half Empty Vehicular Transport is sensible and economic, but it still burns gasoline.

As well as a hole in my wallet.

Jim Webb: Stop Putting Political Words in [Our Soldiers’ Mouths]

Did you see Meet the Press today? I always miss it but I know I can watch it online after 1 pm. Today I got to watch two US Senators duke it out over Iraq, Senators Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Lindsey Graham (R- NC).

I hate Graham. He drones and repeats himself with identical talking points. Webb is spontaneous but he has trouble getting it out. He finally did get it out, slamming Graham for his political pandering, putting words in the mouths of our soldiers in Iraq.

Graham tried to use the staged reenlistment ceremony on the 4th as proof that the soldiers are all for continuing the war. A devious spin of an event clearly staged by the Bush regime.

Webb countered (finally) with “Don’t put political words in their mouth.” And then a few moments later: “Thirty-five percent of the United States military agrees with the policy of this president.”

I’ve excerpted the exchange below from the transcript available on MSNBC if you care to read through the entire excruciating altercation.

SEN. WEBB: The traditional operational policy has been if you’ve been gone for a year, you get two years back. We’re now in a situation where the soldiers and the Marines are having less than a one to one ratio, and somebody needs to speak up for them rather than simply defending what this president’s been doing.

SEN. GRAHAM: When they re-enlist in the highest numbers anywhere else in the military, they’re speaking...

SEN. WEBB: You know, this is one thing I really—this is one thing I really take objection to...

SEN. GRAHAM: ...the soldiers are speaking, my friend. Let them win.

SEN. WEBB: ...is politicians who—at the...

SEN. GRAHAM: Let them win.

SEN. WEBB: Politicians who—may I speak?

SEN. GRAHAM: They want to win, let them win.

SEN. WEBB: Is politicians who try to put their political views into the mouths of soldiers. You can look at poll after poll, and the political views of the United States military are no different than the country at large. Go take a look at The New York Times today.

SEN. GRAHAM: The soldiers...

SEN. WEBB: Less than half of the military believes that we should be in Iraq in the first place.

SEN. GRAHAM: Have you been to Iraq? Have you ever been and talked to them? I’ve been seven times.

SEN. WEBB: You know, have you ever been to these—I’ve been—I’ve covered two wars as a correspondent...

SEN. GRAHAM: Have you been to Iraq?

SEN. WEBB: I have been to Afghanistan as a journalist.

SEN. GRAHAM: Have you been to Iraq and—have you been to Iraq and talked to the soldiers?

SEN. WEBB: You know, you haven’t been to Iraq.

SEN. GRAHAM: I’ve been to—I’ve been there seven times.

SEN. WEBB: You know, you go see the dog and pony shows.

SEN. GRAHAM: I’ve been there as a reservist, I have been there and I’m going back in August.

SEN. WEBB: That’s what congressmen do. Yeah, I have, I have—I’ve been a member of the military when the senators come in.

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, all—listen, something we can agree on, we both admire the men and women in uniform. I don’t doubt your patriotism.

SEN. WEBB: Don’t put political words in their mouth.

SEN. GRAHAM: You know, my election...

SEN. WEBB: You do it—you’ve been doing it ever since I’ve been in Congress.

SEN. GRAHAM: I’m up for re-election. Every Republican who’s supporting this position is doing it against the polls.

SEN. WEBB: You know, you said on the floor, “Let them win. They want it.”

SEN. GRAHAM: This is not about my election, my friend...

SEN. WEBB: They want it, my friend.

SEN. GRAHAM: ...this is about the next generation.

SEN. WEBB: No, you said on the floor this week, “Let them win.”

SEN. GRAHAM: The troops are not the problem. The troops can win. I...

SEN. WEBB: Thirty-five percent of the United States military agrees with the policy of this president.

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, why do they keep...

SEN. WEBB: By poll. By poll.

SEN. GRAHAM: ...re-enlisting? Why do they go back?

SEN. WEBB: Because they love their country.

SEN. GRAHAM: That’s not the problem. No, because...

SEN. WEBB: Because they love their country, they do not do it for political reasons.

SEN. GRAHAM: And they...

SEN. WEBB: My family’s been doing this since the Revolutionary war.

SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah, well, so, so has my family.

SEN. WEBB: They do it for—they do it because they love their country, because they have a tradition, and it is the responsibility of our national leaders to make sure that they are used properly.

SEN. GRAHAM: In conclusion, I think they go back because they see the face of the enemy that we’re fighting. They don’t want their...

SEN. WEBB: Well, you got to look at the polls, Lindsey, instead of...

SEN. GRAHAM: ...kids to go back, they don’t want their grandkids to go back.

SEN. WEBB: ...instead of the seven or eight people they bring in line when you make your congressional visit.

SEN. GRAHAM: Bin Laden said this is the third world war in Iraq. They go back because they know the consequences of losing. God bless them, and let’s make sure they can win, because they can.

SEN. WEBB: I’ll let them judge what you said.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

On Open Microphones and Plans Exposed: Clinton and Edwards Caught on Tape

McBlogger has a short post up that discusses an exchange between Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, underlining Hillary’s statement “our guys should talk”. He saw it on ABC, I saw it on a YouTube video of the Fox News coverage of the same thing.

And you know Fox, ever wanting to dig up the dirt on scheming Democrats for their Fair and Balanced news shows. They even went to the extent of capturing the exchange with subtitles so you could follow along with parts that were nearly unintelligible with the organ playing so loud.

The entire exchange was about what should be done about the campaigns of “lower tier” candidates, who Edwards says, are “not serious”. There was obviously a sense of frustration on the part of Hillary who got a huge dig from Mike Gravel over her husband’s promotion of NAFTA. Due to the rules of the forum, Hillary was not allowed to respond to Gravel's remark.

I’m beginning to wonder myself when the “lower tier” campaigns are going to start to fade. It’s usually not until after the primaries begin but it seems that there is no precedence any more vis-à-vis presidential elections.

But with this exchange being caught on microphones that were still on, unbeknownst to the candidates, I’ll bet it won’t be anytime soon.

And what was it about Obama's use of or taking of notes? How does that jive with being "less experienced?" Taking notes is a marvelous sign of having experience, as any reporter should know.

So it's kind of funny in a way. In regard to Clinton and Edwards' conversation, Fox made a legitimate observation and analysis that I think holds water. Then they went and spoiled it all with the Barack Obama non sequitur.

Family Values Lobbyist’s Phone Number Found On DC Madam’s List

Wonkette reveals that the phone number of Jack Burkman, a DC lobbyist for the Family Research Council, the organization headed by neoconservative evangelical right wingnut James Dobson.

The summer of 2007 should become known as “The Summer of Search” as more and more right wing hypocrites are outted.

Burkman denies the whole thing here.

Denies what? Denies solicitation? (yeah, one ‘l’ in solicitation, Jack). No one says that Jack Burkman solicited anything. All we can say at this point is that Burkman’s phone number was found on the phone list of a woman who was arrested and tried for running a call girl operation disguised as an escort service.

Methinks he doth protest too much.

Friday, July 13, 2007

In Iraq, Whom Do You Shoot?

Turns out, anything or anyone that shoots at you.

Vietnam was a nightmare war. The enemy sometimes refused to march around in uniforms. The faces of the enemy could not be distinguished from the faces of the good guys, let alone the innocents.

Now we have it again, and our troops are now in a dilemma of whom do you shoot at?

Today’s Houston Chronicle is carrying a piece about how six Iraqi police were shot and killed by US troops in a gun battle. As it turns out, the troops were in an operation to arrest a police lieutenant who had been exposed as a high ranking leader of a Shiite cell that was helping to coordinate Iranian support for Shiite terrorists.

“It began before dawn when U.S. troops launched a raid and captured the lieutenant, according to a military statement. The troops quickly came under heavy fire from multiple directions, including nearby rooftops and a church. ‘Heavy and accurate’ fire was also coming from a nearby police checkpoint.”

Coming on the heels of Thursday’s war escalation progress report, this can’t look good. If you think it’s unfortunate that the Iraqi government has been too slow to pass needed reform, take a look again. The Iraqi security force itself, the one our troops are supposed to train, is compromised.

Our friends are our enemies.

Watts v. Noriega in the Blogosphere

This morning as I was reading readers comments on various blogs, focusing in on one very curious commenter on StopCornyn, I started to wonder where were the pro-Watts blogs? Focused as I am on getting Rick Noriega on the November ballot for US Senator from Texas, I confess not to be very concerned with what people are saying about Watts on pro-Watts blogs.

Frankly, I don’t care, so why waste my time?

But this curious commenter got me to thinking. I’ve seen pro-Watts comment trolls on various pro-Noriega sites, and neutral sites as well. I suspect that many of the comments, left under different names are actually from the same person, mainly because the talking points are always the same, but also because it’s hard to disguise your writing style. So I suspect that there are those out there making it look like Watts has more supporters than he actually does.

And THAT led me to ask this: where are the pro-Watts blogs?

So I googled it on Google Blogs using keywords ‘watts for senate texas’.

Page one got the big guys and the non-committed blogs that just report the races without taking any sides. Ones that focused on Watts’ money, and ones that focused on Noriega’s imminent formal announcement of his own exploratory committee.

And one posting on why David Van Os is supporting Rick Noriega.

Page two reveals the first pro-Watts blogs I could find. Two of the three postings are ones by the same person written on the same day, and another by someone who self-labels as a progressive. An anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-embryonic stem cell research progressive.

The rest on page 2 are either non-committal or unrelated. One posting profiles Watts but curiously points out his shortcomings as well.

And another blogger who supports Noriega.

On page 3 I found mainly pro-Noriega postings, including my own, a few neutral postings, and then one that at first glance, looks neutral, but then upon further investigation is posted on an anti-lawyer blog.

Page 4 has NO pro-Watts blog posts, but plenty of pro-Noriega ones. Oh, that’s right, there is one pro-Watts post on page 4. Take a look at it here. Scroll down to the bottom to read the last line. That’s right: “Paid for by Watts for Senate Exploratory Committee”.


That’s something we are going to be learning in this race: friends can be bought.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

On Iraq: Nick Lampson Votes For April 1st Drop Dead Date

At 6:13 PM EDT, in the U.S. Congress chamber, my congressman, Congressman Nick Valentino Lampson joined those of us in Texas CD-22 and the vast majority of Americans, and voted YEA for HR 2956. This bill, dubbed the Responsible Redeployment Act, would require "the Secretary of Defense to commence the reduction of the number of United States Armed Forces in Iraq to a limited presence by April 1, 2008”.

This is a landmark day for CD-22 and I want to thank Nick for his YEA vote. It’s been some time in coming, but Nick revealed, in a release today that he was ready to support a change in our strategy. Here is the text of his release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today Congressman Nick Lampson (D-TX) issued the following statement regarding H.R. 2956, the Responsible Deployment from Iraq Act:

"Today the House will consider the latest legislative effort to change the direction of the war in Iraq. It's safe to say that the conflict has exacted a great toll from many brave American men and women in uniform and their families. In addition, recent reports have estimated that the conflict is costing taxpayers $12 billion each month, and to date around a half a trillion dollars, which is a tremendous strain on our already debt-ridden treasury.

"Today the President, as mandated by Congress earlier this year, delivered an initial assessment of progress toward 18 set benchmarks. Unfortunately, even with the increased troop numbers over the past few months, little to no real progress has been made. This disappointment is certainly not due to the lack of brave efforts by our troops, but rather by the difficult realities on the ground in Iraq, the Iraqi government's own internal disagreements, and frankly, the Iraqi government's seeming inability to make minor progress on even the most basic matters. Furthermore, the Administration's characterization of the current strategy as a 'starting line' for promised progress grossly ignores the devastating situation on the ground, the ultimate sacrifices of thousands of American troops, and spells certain peril for those who remain fighting in Iraq.

"I have followed the military's efforts closely, and as the Representative of the people of the 22nd Congressional District of Texas, I have heard from many folks
regarding the war. The overwhelming majority who have spoken with me personally and contacted my office are in strong support of a new direction. Like me, they are greatly disturbed by the growing casualty rates and keeping our troops in harm's way, with no realistic exit strategy around the corner. These viewpoints are also consistent with the overwhelming majority of Americans who spoke loudly in the last election, calling for change in our national war policy.

"That being said, I will support today's measure because it is time for a change in our strategy. The American people have been incredibly patient and Congress has given the President nearly unfettered discretion with waging this war for over 4 years. However, the progress on the ground remains stagnant, regardless of how much hard-work our troops have done and continue to do. The ultimate goal is for the Iraqi government to stand on its own. Accordingly, the primary reason for our military to remain in Iraq is to train the Iraqi military and police forces, not to fight their civil war for them. This bill continues to provide reasonable support for the Iraqi government, and enables our troops to finish their mission and finally come home."

Vote on final passage in the House (Roll 624): Yea 223, Nay 201 and it was largely along party lines.

Democrats voting Yea: 219 Nay: 10
Republicans voting Yea: 4 Nay: 191

Democrats voting Nay are the following:

John Barrow (Ga. - 12)
Dan Boren (Okla. - 2)
Christopher Carney (Penn. - 10)
Brad Ellsworth (Ind. - 8)
Tim Holden (Penn. 17)
Dennis Kucinich (Oh. - 10) <== !? Dunno, probably thought it should be sooner.
Jim Marshall (Ga. - 8)
Jim Matheson (Ut. - 2)
Vic Snyder (Ark. - 2)
Gene Taylor (Miss - 4)

Yes, that’s right, every Democratic congressman from Texas voted Yea.

And when it reaches the senate, every Texas Senator will vote against it coming to the floor for a vote, I guarantee it.

Event Postponed: Rick Noriega Will Postpone Until Monday 16 July. Lady Bird Takes Precedence

I was wondering about this and it comes as no surprise. Texas State Rep. Rick Noriega has postponed his announcement of the genesis of his Exploratory Committee in his heartfelt respect to the passing of Lady Bird Johnson.

Texans have some introspection to pursue this weekend, as we all mourn the passing of a great American and a tremendous Texan. We can all wait to celebrate the continuity of Texas Democratic tradition until next week. For now, we honor Lady Bird Johnson.

Rick Noriega's corrected news release follows:

Noriega Postpones Exploratory Committee Announcement

Upon the Passing of Lady Bird Johnson (1912-2007)

(HOUSTON, TX) -- Representative Rick Noriega issued the following statement this afternoon:

“Melissa and I were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of LadyBird Johnson this afternoon. She represented the best of Texas – larger-than-life, open-hearted, confident, idealistic. Millions of her fellow Americans were touched by her kindness and her warmth. In her calm, positive way, she worked to beautify America and to improve the lives of all its citizens, especially children. Her legacy will survive and enrich Texas and this nation through the ages.”

Out of respect for her passing, Representative Noriega has postponed the announcement of the formation of his U.S. Senate exploratory committee until Monday morning, July 16, 2007, at 11:00 a.m. CDT. The announcement is still scheduled for the Heroes of the Alamo monument near the south steps of the Texas Capitol Building.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Johnson 1912 - 2007

Requiescat In Pace

Dick Cheney Tied To DC Madam's List

Susan sent me this link from “Crimes and Corruption of the New World Order News”. It’s about the DC madam’s list of “Johns”.

”I was just told Dick Cheney, while CEO of Halliburton, used her services regularly, they are trying to spin up a message to explain that members of his staff, in his offices, used this service to entertain foreign clients.”
According to the website, it’s a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to procure booty for foreign clients.

To hear that Dick Cheney’s name has been tied to the DC Madam’s list is just what I need right now.

Do I think that he personally made use of her the services of her charges as Louisiana Senator Vitter apparently did?

I can’t even imagine it.

Still Not Enough: Senate Democrats Need 4 More GOP Senators

Word has it that the meeting between Bush’s National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley and GOP senators was rancorous and heated. Hadley did not get what he wanted, that is a complete cave-in to Bush’s request that they get back in line with him on Iraq.

Word is, Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Pete Domenici (R – N.M.) turned him down flat.

But there still weren’t enough about faces in today’s vote to halt debate and bring to the floor Jim Webb’s (D – Va.) SA 2001 amendment to HR 1585: a budget bill “to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2008 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, and for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year, and for other purposes.”

Webb’s amendment, viewed by many to be a very mild attempt to limit Bush’s ability to send troops to Iraq, got 7 Republican votes. That’s probably as many as will be possible unless some more jump over the fence. It is known that Olympia Snow (R-Maine) joined the group and will probably vote with Democrats on a resolution to withdraw troops by May 1st 2008.

But not enough senators voted to make sure that our troops had adequate rest and recuperation time between deployments.

“(1) IN GENERAL.--No unit or member of the Armed Forces specified in paragraph (2) may be deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom unless the period between the deployment of the unit or member is equal to or longer than the period of such previous deployment.”

Republican senators said that voting for this would hamper Bush in his attempt to prosecute the war in Iraq.

So in other words, in order for Bush to prosecute this war, he must send troops who have not had the rest and training between deployments that they need.

That’s not supporting the troops.

Rick Noriega Formally Announces Formation of Senatorial Exploratory Committee

(Austin, TX) State Representative and Lieutenant Colonel Rick Noriega formally will announce that documents creating an exploratory committee for the U.S. Senate with the Federal Election Commission. Noriega will be joined by his family, Texas House colleagues and other community leaders at the Texas Capitol in making the announcement.

WHO: State Representative and Lieutenant Colonel Rick Noriega

Announcement of creation of the “Rick Noriega for Texas Exploratory Committee” for the U.S. Senate

Monday, July 16, 2007, 11 a.m. CDT

Heroes of the Alamo Monument on the Great Walk South Side of the Texas Capitol Building 1200 N. Congress Ave. Austin


Rick Noriega, 49, was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1999. He has served on key committees throughout his tenure. This past session he was a member of the Appropriations Committee and Budget and Oversight Chair for the Defense Affairs & State-Federal Relations Committee.

A 26-year veteran of our country’s armed forces, Noriega spent most of 2005 running training facilities in Afghanistan as part of the Texas National Guard. He missed the 2005 legislative session because of the assignment, and his wife Melissa served in his legislative seat during his absence.

Noriega also ran a National Guard border-security operation in Laredo, and Houston Mayor Bill White had him manage the housing of Hurricane Katrina evacuees at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Katy ISD: A Community of Learners, But Not Lovers

What is it about Texas and its punishment fetish? It’s true. Texas is a laughingstock for its extremism in punishment. Texas was the first state to carry out an execution after the Supreme Court lifted the ban in Gregg v. Georgia. Texas leads the country in capital punishment.

So why the surprise that, Shelby Sendelbach, a 12-year old 7th grader attending middle school in Katy ISD, was given a sentence of 4 months in an Alternative School for writing “I Love Alex” on the school’s gymnasium wall? “Alternative School” is where they put the real discipline cases. It can’t be called a “School” per se because there is no learning taking place there. Believe me, I know.

In deciding the punishment the district went along with the idea that putting graffiti on school property was a felonious offense, even though the Harris County DA was not going to press felony charges. Any felony, according to the district discipline plan was a Level 4 offense, akin to terrorism, sexual assault and arson.

Now, after getting some pretty bad press the district is backpedaling and we can expect a lighter sentence to be handed down. Shelby’s parents were “pushing to get the punishment reduced because they don't believe the district took into account her clean disciplinary record, lack of criminal intent and the fact that she has a learning disability.”


Shelby’s parents are pulling out all the stops. They left it last in the list, but now we know that Shelby is LD. Anyone who has worked in the field of education knows that having that tag on your school records makes the matter another affair altogether. The fact that they mention it in the press lets you know that this will be a no-holds-barred get down and dirty Texas-sized brawl. Being LD is by no means a get out of jail free card, although I’ve heard of it played that way. But it puts more of a burden on the district to prove that it has done everything it can to be as fair as possible.

And clearly, they haven’t.

Clearly they threw the book at the little girl.

It at first seems ironic that this matter comes to Katy. In researching this story I came across an old website that was put up by the Katy Zero Tolerance group that lobbied for passage of HB 603, passed unanimously in both houses of the 79th legislature.

I guess they had issues with this kind of thing before.

Both of Texas’ Senators Stand With Bush On Iraq

Perhaps taking a cue from Stephen Hadley, Bush’s National Security advisor who rushed on over to Capitol Hill last week to stem the tide of defectors from Bush’s stand on the War in Iraq, both of Texas’ Senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, have announced their continued support for Bush’s escalation of the war.

Said Hutchison’s staffer:

“Absolutely not. She's been against a date certain for withdrawal from the beginning. ... We need to give the surge time to work. The full complement of 30,000 troops has only been there three weeks. We're seeing good signs in al-Anbar province. There's an offensive going on in Diyala province as we speak. We need to wait and see.”

Said Cornyn:

“It ought to be based on conditions on the ground rather than an arbitrary timetable. We need to give this a little bit of time to see if it can work, and I hope that it does.”

And also this:

“It boils down to how do we win and what constitutes a win. What we hope for and what's important to our national security is that we can stabilize it. ... We don't want to leave any safe havens for groups like al-Qaeda. That ought to be our goal, and I think we're making some progress.”

I see. It’s too soon to tell if “The Surge” is working.

Perhaps the senators from Texas were too busy to read CBS News’ most recent poll. Asked the question “Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation with Iraq?” Americans came back with 23% approving, and 70% disapproving.

To the question “How would you say things are going for the U.S. in its efforts to bring stability and order to Iraq? Would you say things are going very well, somewhat well, somewhat badly, or very badly?” Americans responded Very Well 1%, Somewhat well 21%, Somewhat badly 30%, Very badly 47%.

Truth is, I have never seen Americans so one-minded. Hutchison and Cornyn are so very out of step with the vast majority of Americans on this issue.

And I’ve seen it elsewhere but I’ll say it here, too. No one has united this country more than George W. Bush. He truly is a uniter, not a divider.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Iraq “Surge” Interim Report is Due Next Weekend

An interim report on progress of events in Iraq as a result of “The Surge” of troops to Iraq this year is due next week. All you have to do is read the newspapers and news reports on the television to come to the conclusion that the report will not have in it any of the good news that were promised from escalation of the war.

Perhaps in preparation for the bad news we have Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zabari warning anyone who will listen in Washington that premature withdrawal of US troops before Iraq is ready will result in fractionation of the country and governmental collapse.

Progress in Iraq will be measured by benchmarks set by congress.

Just about the only good news to be included in the report is that Sunni tribal leaders have become disaffected by al-Qaeda in Iraq, and that sectarian killings are down in June. Well scratch that second one. The market suicide truck bomb blast that killed 150 shoppers in the village of Amerli, arguably the deadliest attack of the war, pretty much makes June the bloodiest month since the surge began.

With no progress, and arguably some evidence of regression, it will be very difficult for Bush to staunch the hemorrhage in the Republican Party as more and more Senators and Congressmen rise to criticize the way Bush is conducting this war.

If the trend in Washington continues, the final report on “The Surge”, to be delivered by General Petraeus on September 15th, may come too late.

It could all be a moot point by then.

To Catch A Thief: Borris Miles Shoots Copper Thief

Yesterday evening, State Rep Borris Miles (D-Houston) shot and wounded a man who was attempting to steal copper wiring from a house that Miles is having built near the medical complex in south central Houston.

Two men were caught in the act of removing the copper wire from outside Miles’ house while Miles was inside attempting to patch a water leak caused by a previous copper filching operation. Upon being challenged by Miles, one of the two thieves threw a small knife at Miles. Miles then drew a 9 mm pistol that he carries, he has a concealed weapon permit, and fired one round into the assailant’s left leg.

The wounded thief is currently under arrest at Ben Taub Hospital. His accomplice got away on foot and has not been identified.

Copper, along with aluminum and bronze, is highly prized among thieves right now due to the high resale price. Copper, at the moment, brings up to 5 dollars per pound, in part due to a 2 week long strike at the Coldeco copper mine in Chile. Coldeco is the world’s largest supplier of copper. Recent strikes have driven up the price of copper to such an extent that it is being stolen in epidemic proportions.

Ironically, last May Miles was one of 142 state reps that voted for HB 1766. Authored this past February by Aaron Peña, this was a bill that increased the penalty for those convicted of stealing copper, aluminum and bronze if the value of the stolen metal is less than $20,000, making it a mandatory jail felony. The bill, signed into law on June 15th doesn’t take effect until September 1st.

The wounded thief was charged with aggravated burglary.

Miles was not hurt in the incident.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sundays Chron Article on Rick Noriega - A Must Read

On the eve of certain action toward establishing a Rick Noriega for US Senate exploratory committee, The Houston Chronicle published probably one of the most balanced articles on a Democratic candidate that I’ve seen in a long, long time.

It was almost like R.G. Ratcliffe bent over backwards and kissed the floor. Everyone got quoted. Even political consultants for both sides.

But what I wanted to pay attention to were the comments by Republican consultant and pollster Mike Baselice. I want to look really hard at this one because I am hoping to find out someday who Republicans want their incumbent to run against. That is, who do they think is the most vulnerable. The easiest one to defeat. This is going to be critical this time because John Cornyn’s numbers have gone south. Only his break with Bush on immigration issues keeps his approval ratings above 40%. I think I already know the answer to this, but it pays to keep checking.

Quoted from the Chron, here’s what Baselice said:

“Republican pollster Mike Baselice said it is not impossible but that Noriega will have a difficult time overcoming Watts' financial advantage in the primary.”

"’The Democratic primary is wide open, but, ultimately though, a guy with money who can tell the story on his terms ... has the advantage in a primary,’ Baselice said.”

“But he also noted that the underfunded Victor Morales won the Democratic U.S. Senate runoff in 1986 over U.S. Rep. John Bryant largely because of ethnic identity voting.”

So again, it’s about the money. Watts has money, Noriega has a surname ending in a vowel. Now don’t get me wrong, this appears to be solid observation on the part of a pollster, but isn’t it ever so nice to speak to Democrats about Watts’ money one more time, and to Republicans also?

By the way, that was a primary race in 1996 not 1986. Morales was the top vote getter in the primary, beating, three opponents, Bryant by 6%. And then in the runoff, Morales squeaked to a victory with 51.17% of the vote compared to Bryant’s 48.82%.

That was a little too close for comfort. Having a Hispanic surname only gets you so far, but it helps if you are in a low voter-turnout primary runoff I guess.

But I digress.

Sure, Watts has got the money to run a fully funded mass media campaign. Many say that is his greatest strength. No need to spend so much time in fundraising activities. He’s also got lots of people who owe him big time for his past campaign contributions. All of it goes back to Watts’ money. His main asset in the primary, his main liability in a general election.

Well that and something that I found out today. Watts once sued Anheuser-Busch. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, Watts sued beer.

Vowel . . .money. Money . . . vowel. It brings up an interesting question. One that I thought I’d never ask, but this is Texas and Texas “ain’t like other foreign countries”, like my friend Susan is fond of saying.

I wonder how many millions of dollars that little “a” is worth?