Wednesday, October 31, 2007

No Problem, Rick

That’s what I end up saying every time I talk to Rick Noriega, the next US Senator from Texas. He thanks me for what I do to support his campaign. I say, “No problem, Rick”. Now he’s posted a You Tube video thanking all of us for the things we do.

Now that’s class.

Rick has a thing that he wants us to do for him on Election Day 2007. The campaign is still dead set on collecting 25,000 signatures for Rick’s primary filing. There’s a place on Rick’s website where you can sign up to help out on Election Day by standing at the polling sites and telling voters about Rick Noriega, getting them to sign Rick’s petition.

I think it’s a brilliant idea. First, voters in an off-off year election are going to be the ones who will very probably show up at primaries, and will definitely show up at presidential elections. So you are talking to hard core voters here.

I’ve still got a few more ballots to get filled out so that is what I can be doing next Tuesday after work.

C’mon, it’ll be fun.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lampson On A Learning Curve With NCLB

Congressman Nick Lampson of Texas’ CD 22 had a town hall meeting yesterday (10/29) specifically directed at the upcoming reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). I didn’t get anything in the mail on this but a friend told me about it. It was held at the Fort Bend County ISD Annex in Sugar Land. This is the building that Fort Bend ISD bought from ex FBISD Superintendent Don Hooper’s church for a cool $4 million.

Nick wasn’t there alone, well he had his staffers with him, but I’m talking about his friend and colleague George Miller (D-CA-07). Congressman Miller was sitting in his office in DC, but he was also projected on a 10-foot wide screen courtesy of FBISD’s IT department. They have the best stuff.

Nick came with Congressman Miller, because despite the fact that Lampson is himself a former teacher, he is on a learning curve vis-à-vis NCLB. Rep. Miller was one of those who wrote the original legislation in 2002. He is at the forefront of re-writing NCLB. So what the audience did was ask their NCLB questions at the screen, and got their answers out of a speaker.

Basically the rewriting of NCLB is going to entail these goals, not necessarily in order of presentation, because we were all over the page all evening:

a) Improve teacher quality
b) Improve funding
c) Change the growth model

Teacher Quality. Implicit in NCLB is that teachers and administrators need to fully support NCLB or it’s not going to work. That’s a no-brainer. The first thing teachers and administrators did when NCLB was rammed down their throats was find ways to game the system.

A new NCLB, Miller says, is to include promoting teacher quality by providing more support, mentorship, of new teachers, higher pay to encourage more qualified people to, or back to, the teaching profession, and my big bug-a-boo, pay for performance. I’ll not go on a rant about why this last thing is such a singularly bad idea, you can read it all here. A new definition of Highly Qualified Teacher is not in the legislation, but a new definition of Effective Teacher is. Now, it is based on standardized test scores. There seem to be plans to alter that model where the teacher is rated by how much their students improve. At least that is what I thought I was hearing.

Improve Funding. This is what got the audience riled up. To-date the feds have funded their mandate to the tune of $2.2 billion. That’s $55 billion short of what was promised to this point. Steve Smelley, FBISD Trustee was in the audience, and all you could get out of him was outrage about how they have only received 1% of what was promised.

Lampson, and Miller for that matter, were adamant that they were also outraged at this and wanted full funding of NCLB. Miller cautioned the audience that he was hearing that Bush did not want to sign a bill that had funding for children in it.

Does that surprise you?

So there is a chance that we are going to see another bill for children vetoed by Bush because he wants the money to go to Iraq and Blackwater.

Growth Model. Currently the same grade is evaluated on standardized tests and improvement is documented when the next year’s crop of 1st graders score better on the test than the previous year’s. Patently ridiculous. As Miller says, that’s like comparing apples to oranges, as every class is different.

No argument there.

The new bill proposes a paradigm shift from assessing successive classes to assessing the improvement of classes as they progress through the grades. That works for me. Especially because, as one teacher in the audience suggested, what we will see is continual improvement in grades 1-5 then a serious retrogression in grades 6-8, then renewed progress in 9-12.

Also, no more high stakes testing.

Schools will no longer be rated based on test scores, but on a variety of criteria: does the school offer AP courses, college prep, what is the graduation/dropout rate. Also there will be a concerted effort to make sure that schools focus on all sub-populations, not just the brightest or the dimmest.

There were also a significant number of attendees from Special Education. Their woes left my head shaking and Nick acted, and I’m sure it was not an act, as if this was the first time he had heard of this. It’s really complicated, but let’s just say that NCLB allows only 3% of a school’s student population to take alternative tests to the standardized tests. That’s all well and good, but if 15% of the school’s students are in the Special Ed program, the schools are not going to make AYP, ever.

Nick very candidly admitted that he first started teaching in 1967 and things like this were unheard of back then.

Toward the end of the meeting, Nick urged audience members to form a task force to thresh out these issues and give him a chance to listen to what they come up with. He very genuinely wanted input from the community.

As I said, Nick seems to be on a learning curve and needs those on the front lines to tell him about what’s going on. I’m not one of those, although I do have my opinions. I’d rather bow to more experienced teachers, experienced effective teachers. Like those seen in this You Tube embedded video filmed at a symposium of state teachers of the year.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Rick Noriega’s Campaign Starting to Get Some Buzz

Well, let’s just say some more buzz.

Have you noticed it? Ever since Mikal Watts pulled out of the race for the Democratic nomination for US Senator from Texas, Rick Noriega, and his wife Melissa, have been getting lots and lots of media attention.

And not just from the local Houston media market either.

What about this very complimentary piece that came out in the Dallas Morning News the other day? It basically introduces “Team Noriega” to Dallas metroplex readers. And I think it helps to clarify some more why Rick Noriega – and Melissa – are in this for the long haul. They both know what it is like to be away from family for extended periods of time. They have adapted to it, and it has made them that much stronger.

Then there’s yesterday’s article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Again, a very complimentary piece that highlighted his tour of duty in Afghanistan, and the long uphill battle he is going to have to win in Texas, which has not allowed a Democrat to occupy either of its senate seats since 1988.

“He's going to have to spend a lot of time away from home, and he's going to have to raise an awful lot of money, said [State Rep. Lon] Burnam, who has known Noriega for more than a decade.”
Yet I think that is now doable. As the only Democrat currently running in the primary, Rick can now attract those big donor dollars, the $2300 kind, and apparently is going to be doing just that as he moves forward. I just received notice of a little get-together of some local and not so local high rollers later on in November. Lawyers, mostly, but partner-type lawyers, not ambulance chasers.

But he’s also still one of us, and he still appreciates his grassroots supporters. And we can show our appreciation right back. Before, you might have donated for a primary campaign. Well, Rick says that he is still going to be running as a primary candidate, but now you know that he is going to be the one to beat Cornyn in ’08. So show Rick your appreciation again, at ActBlue. Yes, the website is still up and is still taking donations. Totals currently stand at 1286 donors across ActBlue, who donated a total of $176,204. That’s a lot, but they say it is going to take $10 million to run in all of Texas’ media markets.

So despite all of the great news and news coverage, we’ve only just begun to fight.

What Did Texas Progressive Alliance Bloggers Write About Last Week?

On any given Monday we in the Texas Progressive Alliance have a little tradition. It's called the Texas Progressive Alliance Blog Round-Up. This week's round-up was complied, as is usually the case, by Vince from Capitol Annex. Don't you think that deserves a round of applause? Everyone, now stand up and give a round of applause to Vince for his performance over and above the call of duty.

We start off with Refinish69 from Doing My Part For The Left is outraged with certain politicians in Fort Worth,Texas. Homophobia Rears Its Nasty Head in Fort Worth City Council Race tells who is being a jerk and how to contact one of them.

Then Muse was at Armando Walle’s campaign kick-off and reports why it’s time for a change in Texas House District 140. Kevin Bailey (Craddick D) has been serving Craddick and not the district. Walle, who is from the district and has a proven track record of service and leadership, already has a large group of supporters lined up to help him take back 140 for the people.

Phillip Martin of Burnt Orange Report provides a detailed chart and analysis updating what's going on with the Craddick D's. The post brought forward an interesting reader response as well.

TXsharon at Bluedaze gives the Texas Railroad Commission Protection Money Breakdown. and makes it easy for you to take action. So, please take that action before you become the next victim of RRC Malpractice.

Hal (that's me) at Half Empty wonders whether FEMA has finally taken a page out of George Orwell's book when they held a 'news conference' this past week without a single journalist in attendance.

WhosPlayin notes that he would gladly pay the $13.30 per year per person to pay for SCHIP.

McBlogger takes a look at the strange world of Focus on the Family and the very odd people that attended their Values Voters conference.

CouldBeTrue at South Texas Chisme notes that Perry appointed a public corruption figure to the UT System Board of Regents.

Johncoby at Bay Area Houston finds the highest and lowest costs for electricity in the Houston area. Power Watch: Highest and lowest electricity rates for November.

Stace at DosCentavos features the trailer to the upcoming Jesse Salmeron film, This Is America. "This is America" is the story of a family torn apart by deportation.

NatWu at Three Wise Men exposes the truth about why we need Net Neutrality, especially with all the recent Telecom shenanigans.

North Texas Liberal's Texas Toad gives a breakdown on the factions of the "Trinity Vote" in Dallas Weighs Pros and Cons of Trinity Toll Road.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson wonders What Will John Carter's Excuse Be This Time For Voting Against Health Care For Children?

Off the Kuff gives his recommendations for the state and local bonds and propositions.

NYTexan at BlueBloggin asks how many wars and how many enemies can Bush have?

Vince at Capitol Annex notes that Tom Craddick has borrowed a page from Warren Chisum in announcing that trial lawyers were behind efforts to remove him during the 8oth Legislative Session and wonders why, since he reported it some months ago, it is suddenly "news" to the mainstream media.

And finally, last but not least, in the wake of the Houston Chronicle's announcement of a "position-elimination program", PDiddie at Brains and Eggs recounts his personal experience with Hearst newspapers, budgets, and staff cutbacks in The Trouble with the Newspaper Bidness.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Holy Star Wars! The Army’s Got Ray Guns!

They were just rolled out last week. Not one, but two of them. One can be mounted on a Humvee (the one at left is on a truck bed) and is used to disperse crowds non-lethally and get people to drop their weapons (I think . . . didn’t they say Tasers were non-lethal awhile back?).

They call it an “Active Denial System” (named after the Republican Party’s platform, I take it) and it shoots a focused beam of microwaves at people. The waves can travel 500 meters, pass through clothing and penetrates the skin to a depth of 0.4 mm (about a 64th of an inch). At its operating frequency of 96 gigahertz, that classifies these electromagnetic waves in the microwave range.

And heat you up is literally what they do. They excite the water molecules within your skin cells like a microwave oven heats your soup, raising your skin temperature to a very uncomfortable 54 °C (130 °F). Not enough to burn you but enough to make you think that your clothes are on fire.

They say it’s like standing in front of a blast furnace door and it opens suddenly. The system is built by Raytheon, the same military contractor that brought us Patriot Missiles.

And speaking of missiles, we have another anti-aircraft system now, another ray gun that uses another family of electromagnetic radiation to destroy planes. It’s mounted on the bed of a truck along with two Stinger missile batteries and a 50 cal machine gun. Two of the three components exist, it’s called the Avenger anti-aircraft system. They added the third, the Avenger laser. That’s right it’s a laser beam but at 1 kilowatt, it’s a powerful beam that has destroyed UAVs on the ground. Air tests are in its future. They can also use it to zap IEDs and unexploded ordnance.

I like it that we have tools to give our soldiers a hand, maybe save a few American and Iraqi lives (maybe). What I don’t like about it is the weapons deployment schedule. There is no information on when the Avenger system can be deployed, but it looks like they’re not even in production at this point. The Active Denial System, however, is said to be 12 months away from being delivered to Iraq.

So it looks like Iraqis, and American voters, are going to be getting an October Surprise.

Presidential Debate to Air October 30th – But No Gravel

The 8th Democratic presidential debate is just days away. It will be held in Philadelphia on the campus of Drexel University on Tuesday October 30th at 9 PM to 11 PM, EDT (so that’s 8 PM to 10 PM here in Texas).

It promises to be a real barnburner because the Iran issues that the Bush regime raised most recently have yet to be really debated. Go and take a look at the MSNBC website where the announcement and analysis can be found.

Yep, the seven Democratic candidates will meet again to . . .wait . . . yes, according to the MSNBC article the Democrats have seven candidates. Are there not eight?

Last I heard there were eight Democratic presidential candidates. Eight fine candidates.

If you do a search on the page for Mike Gravel, it highlights a graphic at the bottom of the page, but Gravel is not mentioned in the text of the article at all. So I had to find out and this is what I found:

NBC Bars Sen. Mike Gravel From Democratic Debate
In campaign news, former Senator Mike Gravel is protesting a decision by NBC News to bar him from next Tuesday's debate at Drexel University in Philadelphia. NBC said it made the decision in part because Gravel hadn't raised over one million dollars. Gravel said "The fact that NBC is owned by General Electric, one of the world's leading military contractors, is frightening and certainly smacks of censorship directed at the most outspoken critic of the influence that the military-industrial complex holds over this great nation."

That is vintage Gravel. Of course General Electric owns NBC and is itself a company that has profited from the Iraqi Civil War. It would take a bully like GE to dictate to the American people who they will and will not be able to see in the debate.

They bring good things to life, you know.

But wait, there’s more.

Mike Gravel has a huge fan in Nashua hedge fund manager Gregory Chase, who has by himself, spent $100,000 for Gravel’s presidency. He “has sent brochures to thousands of Nashua households, has printed "Gravel '08" yard signs and bumper stickers and is working on a letter to New Hampshire residents outlining Gravel's position on tax reform.”

Through ads that he has placed, he has also offered NBC $1,000,000 if they will allow Gravel to participate in the debate. Yes, that’s a one followed by 6 zeros, a million smackeroos.

Why does he do this? He told this to the Concord Monitor:

“This is a guy with real ideas who's got a communications problem. And I can help.”
But NBC has not answered his ads. But going on how they number the presidential candidates in this article, I think the answer is a big fat no.

If you look at the Monitor’s story, it appears that Chase has a You Tube video so I checked and lo and behold there it was. Chase explaining all about why he supports Gravel, what he is doing for him, and reading the letters that he FedExed to NBC executives, Drexel U., and Howard Dean. [Strong suggestion, watch until the end].

So maybe, just maybe, we haven’t seen the end of this. NBC is going to start to look bad if it is perceived that they are trying to be “The Decider”. We know how unpopular Deciders can be, especially when they have all the power and all the money.

You can be part of the equation. There is an online petition to sign demanding that they let Mike Gravel participate in the debate. Sign it HERE

These are the email addresses of NBC executives and others. Let them know what you think of their role as The Decider.,,,,,,

Tell the Democratic Party that we can’t let corporations effectively decide for us who should run for president:

Friday, October 26, 2007

FEMA Orwellian News Conference: Flash In the Pan or Futurespeak?

FEMA’s Deputy Administrator, Vice Admiral Harvey Johnson needed to hold a news conference today over FEMA’s reaction to the wildfire and refugee situation in California, and he needed it fast.

So fast that, when it came time to call up the newspapers and news services, well, they skipped that step. Time’s a-wasting after all, and they have to move, move, move.

So he invited his staffers to the “news conference” to pose as journalists and they threw nerf balls at him in terms of questions.

“Are you happy with FEMA’s performance in the California fire fight,” asked a questioner named Mike. Harvey replied “Yes, I am very happy”.

You could even see the look of consternation on ol’ Harvey’s face and practically read his thoughts: “Holy heck, Mike, ask something a little tougher, don’t make this too obvious”.

Another questioner asked this:

“Sir, we understand the secretary and the administrator of FEMA are on their way out there. What is their objective? And is there anyone else traveling with them?”
This is a disturbing turn of events. Disturbing because some people in our federal government thought that this was actually a good idea, and also thought that they would be able to get away with it. Someone who maybe has the Holy Bible and a copy of George Orwell’s 1984 on their bedstead.

One of the slogans of “The Party” in Orwell’s book went like this:

“Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”
Having your own shills asking you questions at a staged press conference appears to be all about controlling the present. Something FEMA has never been able to master since coming under the leadership of the Bush regime. This blatant attempt at controlling the media by becoming the media.

My hope is that this was a rogue event that won’t become the norm. I am characteristically pessimistic, though, and expect more to come. Why? Think about the other party slogans. Any of them sound familiar?


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Senator Cornyn: I Was For the DREAM Act Before I Voted Against It

In another slap in the faces of children, John Cornyn, the junior senator from Texas, voted to oppose bringing the DREAM Act to the Senate floor for debate. The federal version of the DREAM Act would provide education benefits for the children of illegal immigrants. A path to citizenship pulled right out under the feet of children who are in this country through no fault of their own.

This would be typical Cornyn “rubber stamp” antics except for the fact that, when asked last July, he said that he supported the DREAM Act.

It was in a 30-minute long teleconference between Cornyn and members of La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) last July. This is as reported in the Rio Grande Valley Guardian:
“Cardoso said the teleconference was partially used to garner support the AgJobs bill and the DREAM Act. The AgJobs bill would, in part, allow farm workers to commute for work within 100 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM) Act would, in part, give tuition and financial assistance to certain immigrant children.”
“ ‘I have a record of support for the DREAM Act when it came through the senate judiciary committee. I want to make sure that what it does, is address children who obviously came with their parents,’ Cornyn said, as he participated in the teleconference.‘Most children obviously have no say in the circumstances in which they came to the United States. If there was someway to perhaps provide an opportunity for them to complete their education, and perhaps earn a path to legalization, I think that would be a positive development.’”
“Some LUPE members were dubious about Cornyn’s level of support for the DREAM Act. ‘You say you support it, but are you also willing to express initiative for the issue,’ asked one member.”
“ ‘I think my support is clear. Unfortunately we were unsuccessful in getting an immigration bill passed in the last month or so,’ Cornyn countered. ‘Back in 2005 I was co-sponsor of a comprehensive immigration bill that dealt with all aspects of the immigration issue…so you have my assurance that I’m not going to give up working trying to deal with it.’”
This is on Cornyn’s Senate website, explaining his Nay vote for DREAM.

“Unfortunately, this bill had nothing to do with helping children or addressing the critical issue of immigration reform, and everything to do with political posturing and partisan gamesmanship by the Senate Democratic leadership. This lack of seriousness was demonstrated by the decision to prevent any amendments to even be considered, including one that I sought to introduce which would have added a graduation requirement to the bill. If the goal is to promote education and strengthen our skilled workforce, and the proponents of the Durbin bill were serious about that objective, then one has to wonder why the bill did not even require students to complete a degree.”

So there you have it. The junior senator is all FOR the DREAM Act. What he is dead set against are all the senators who are using the legislation as a political football, kicking the educations of kids around so they can show the people how bad, bad, bad the Republicans are.

Or at least that’s what he says . . .

If that’s the case, then surely the Democrats (and some Republicans) in the Senate achieved this goal.

And don’t you find it deliciously ironic that the man Cornyn will face in November ’08 is the Texas State Rep who filed, promoted, and saw passage of Texas’ state version of the DREAM Act? Yep, with all the other things he did, Rick Noriega did that, too.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

California Is On Fire

I think I have mentioned before that I am not from around here. I am a California transplant. People sometimes ask me since I once lived in /California what am I doing here in Texas?

My stock answer: That’s a question that I often ask myself.

Truth is, it’s not all that bad here in the Texas Gulf Coastal plain. The weather sucks about 3/4ths of the time, though. People tell me, but have you looked outside today? There’s gorgeous weather outside today.

My stock answer: It’s like this 300 days a year in California.

But not these days. The past couple of days Texas has had it over California weather wise.

It’s this way every year at this time. They’re called the Santa Ana winds, and the weather pattern is called a Santa Ana condition.

No one really knows where the name came from. Santa Ana is a bedroom community in Southern California but there is nothing special about winds there. The website I found on the subject, here, suggests it comes from Santa Ana Canyon, one of the San Gabriel Mountain canyons that funnel these winds into LA. And there may be some truth to that, but there is also a school of thought that the actual name is Santana.

What happens is that a high pressure area forms in the California eastern desert and this produces a pressure gradient that sends winds through narrow canyons in the central and coastal mountain ranges. Friction heats up the wind as it finds itself trying to get through smaller and smaller pathways, and wind velocity builds for the same reason. The result is hot dry winds that turn everything in sight into tinder.

And all that needs to happen is a spark. Quite often the spark is from a cigarette. Sometimes fires are intentionally set by crazies. What typically happens is several fires break out naturally, then several more fires are set intentinally. The result is a fiery maelstrom. Separate fires have been known to join to make one big fire.

For most California residents, the fires that are fanned by the Santa Ana winds are mere inconveniences. But if you have a house in the foothills, the chances are high that you will be directly affected. And this, by the way, is one paradox that always sets some people on edge: if you lose your home in a fire, say a home in the hills above Malibu, and the Governor declares a disaster area (as he did), you qualify for low interest loans to rebuild your house. A paradox because if you have a house in the hills of Malibu you are already as rich as Croesus.

But the fire disaster is only the beginning. Say your house was saved by fire fighters from destruction. Now you have the long winter to look forward to. When fires strip the brush off the hillsides (brush commonly called chaparral), and it starts to rain, the soil has no plants to serve as anchors, and you get horrendous mudslides that bowl houses over and cover their sleeping inhabitants. Roadways disappear.

All this sounds pretty bad. Why would anyone want to live in California?

Why? Because in California, it’s like it was today here in the Texas Gulf Coastal plain 300 days a year.

In case you haven’t been following this, here are a couple of You Tube videos.

This is one of a TV reporter covering the destruction of his own home. This is a first.

And last but not least, here is a satellite photo from NASA.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Top Ten Reasons Mikal Watts Dropped Out of the Texas US Senate Race

Everyone is being magnanimous toward Mikal Watts for voluntarily dropping out of the race for US Senate from Texas. There are some out there who are offering up reasons for this startling news so I thought I would encapsulate them in this Lettermanesque top ten list.

Top Ten Reasons Why Mikal Watts Dropped out of the Senate Race

10. He became very upset at everyone always mis-spelling his given name. It’s spelled M-I-C-H-A-E-L.
9. He developed an infected toe and those things hurt if you have to walk all over the state of Texas.
8. He started calling his wife “What's-her-name”.
7. His financial advisor told him that if he had to settle for the Senate salary of $165,200 per year he’d be broke in 3 years.
6. His kids dialed 911 the last time he opened the front door at his own home without knocking.
5. It was the bloggers. The bloggers scared him off.
4. He contracted a really embarrassing STD.
3. It was the bloggers, We just know it was the bloggers.
2. He was recently seen in the company of a woman not his wife and when asked about it said “You mean that she wasn’t my wife? It sure looked like her!”

And the number one reason why Mikal Watts dropped out of the Senate race?

1. Who cares? Mikal Watts did a good thing for himself, his family and for everyone. I hear that he and Rick Noriega are going to work together to see that John Cornyn is not returned to the Senate in 2008.

Vaya con Dios, Mikal Watts.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Early Voting Begins Today

This is my way of introducing to you the hottest new website in Fort Bend County. The Fort Bend Democrats have revamped their old website, which is now gone, with their new one at http:\\

There is a lot of content there ranging from serious informative articles like mine to hilarity as in Mark's on the edge commentary on "wide stances", or Juanita's (yes, Juanita Jean Herownself is back) on the "Top 10 Reasons Why Fire Ants Are Better Than Republicans".

I've added the site to by Blog roll as well so you can go there easily and often, but if I were you I'd bookmark the site.

International Festival of Fort Bend a Smashing Success

While Fort Bend County, and all of the southwest Houston region, really, has been known for its ethnic diversity for quite some time now, it wasn’t until this year that that diversity has been celebrated in an International Festival.

The event took place Sunday afternoon to evening in Stafford, Texas, at the Stafford Centre.

It was well attended. People came and went all day so it was hard to get an idea of the headcount, but I’ll bet over the course of the day well over a thousand attended.

The facility was divided roughly in half with an audience area and a stage for cultural performances, and an area dominated by vendor booths. The Fort Bend Democrats, a GPAC that I am a member of, rented a booth for the day to peddle our campaign paraphernalia. We also had rather tasteful international peace banners to sell. Here is a photo of the booth manned by Fort Bend Democrats.

It should be noted right up front that unlike the Fort Bend County Fair, there was no Republican party or club presence. One woman was pretty darned gleeful about that and made a point to stop by and tell us this. My suspicion is that Republicans have been making such a huge stink about immigrants that it would be, dare I say it, unseemly for them to be there, let alone have a booth.

And now that I think of it, they probably would have just wasted their time. This was a Democratic crowd, I could just feel it.

But I have to give one sponsor credit where credit is due: The Sugar Creek Baptist Church was a sponsor of the event. To those of you who don’t know, the SCBC is right smack dab in the middle of DeLayville.

Most of those who manned the booths were vendors selling crafty things and jewelry. Some wore advertising their businesses. And there were a whole bunch of food booths.

This is why you go to an International Festival: the music and rhythms are exotic and the food is to die for. I settled on a Palestinian food booth that was selling a sampler of spicy but healthy delicacies. Grape leaves rolled around some brown stuff, Tabouli, Baba Ganouj, Humus, and a couple of other things I don’t know the name of.

The performances were almost entirely by young men and women. Performances were a broad mixture of traditional dances and modern choreographed routines. I took a couple of photos which mainly turned out dark but it’s amazing what a little tweak here and there can do to a dark image.

That's probably something that our Republican friends are needing about now. Hey guys, it's called gamma.

Texas Progressive Round Up. The Best of Texas Blogs for the Week of October 15th

It's Monday, and that means it's time to show some love for the best posts from the members of the Texas Progressive Alliance for the preceding week. Check out the best that the Alliance has to offer, brought to you this week by Vince at Capitol Annex.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has an advance of the Max Cleland-Karl Rove debate, coming up this Friday, October 26.

Diarist Scott Cobb at Texas Kaos updates us on the growing movement to hold rogue Judge Sharon Keller accountable for her callous disregard for the responsibility of the Appeals court while she displays her intoxication with its power.

State Senator Craig Estes, Senate District 30, was given numerous examples of Texas Railroad Commission malpractice, negligence, incompetence and cronyism at his recent Town Hall Meeting in Wise County. TXsharon at Bluedaze asks: Will Senator Estes Investigate the RRC's Malpractice?

Adam at Three Wise Men looks into the future to give us his expert opinion on the 2010 Texas Gubernatorial race.

McBlogger has been keeping a watchful eye on what's happening in Congress with FISA expansion.

At Half Empty, Hal ponders the question: which Republican candidate can the evangelicals support for President?

Muse vs. State Senator Eltife. A whole lotta safe sex going on or should the the State of Texas get involved in adults getting free condoms on campus?

Todd Hill at Burnt Orange Report interviews Dan Barrett, the only Democrat in the special election race for HD 97 in Fort Worth.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson reports on some unbelievable statements made by County Commissioner Cynthia Long on the children that are being detained at the T. Don Hutto facility in Taylor, Texas.

Vince at Capitol Annex takes a look at a State Representative, Fred Brown (R-Bryan), who has scheduled an oversight hearing of an agency that is investigating his business partner.

Bradley at North Texas Liberal celebrates one of the first and only times Sen. John Cornyn has been on the right side of the issue: securing H-2B visas for seasonal workers and joining with Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland to help save small business... at least for another year.

Are government emails covered by open record laws? Off the Kuff takes a look.

CouldBeTrue at South Texas Chisme wonders if a Dallas minister will lose his church's tax exempt status by slamming Mitt Romney because 'he's not a Christian.'

Nytexan at BlueBloggin wonders why Homeland Security purchases products from China when Americans industry is disappearing and jobs are declining.

The Texas Cloverleaf looks into the pending libel and slander lawsuit against Dallas Republicans, including State Rep. Tony Goolsby.

Gary at Easter Lemming Liberal News updated on political news and gossip in the Pasadena area. Like most gossip one item was wrong.

Think arbitration is fair? Think again. John Coby at Bay Area Houston notes that the bottom line from the data is clear. In the nearly 20,000 cases where NAF [National Arbitration Forum] reached a decision, First USA prevailed in an astonishing 99.6 percent of cases.

Refinish69 at Doing My Part For The Left thinks Texas State Senator Kevin Eltife Needs Some Education.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Valerie Plame Interviewed For the First Time

It has been 4 years since Valerie Plame, a covert CIA operative, was outted by high ranking officials in the Executive Branch of Bush’s regime. And she has been silent until now. But at long last she tells (some of) her story to Katie Couric on the CBS’s 60 Minutes news magazine broadcast on Sunday, October 21, 2007. Some of her story because there is at least one person who still believes in keeping these things a secret.

Now all you have to do is watch the You Tube clip embedded below, it’s a teaser that reveals how the CIA was working to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of “the bad guys”. How all of that was nullified by Plame’s outing.

And then compare that to Bush’s claims about how he is keeping us safe. Safe from Al-Qaeda and safe from Islamofascists in Iran who want to build nuclear weapons.

What is really alarming to me is that this is the lame duck president who wants to stay relevant. Well how relevant can you be when on the one hand you destroy the covert ops that were working to nullify Iran nuclear program, and on the other hand "keep everything on the table".

Watts a NO SHOW at the Johnson-Rayburn-Richardson Dinner

I just want to say up front that I was not an attendee at this dinner so this is all second or even third hand. But what I heard is that Mikal Watts, who bought a $10 thousand table at this evening’s event in Houston, Texas, that he bought a table that entitled him to introduce the evening’s keynote speaker, Congressman Rahm Emmanuel, who commands the DCCC, failed to show up. No one on his staff did either. His table was filled by a bunch of Young Democrats (more power to them).

Was it a slight of the D-triple-C against too Red Texas? Was it a scheduling problem? Was it the fact that Rahm Emmanuel needs to distance himself from the guy who bought the introduction?

We will never know.

What we do know is that when Rick Noriega was introduced to the attendees at the Johnson-Rayburn-Richardson Dinner, the house arose with a roar of approval.

I am prevented by prior agreement, about relaying just what specifically happened, just let’s say it was amazing. Rick Noriega is the clear choice of Democrats across the state.

Help out. Sign his petition. Join his campaign. Donate.

So much to do. So little time.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Giuliani Walks Into the Lion’s Den and Pulls a Rabbit Out of a Hat

A miracle occurred today in Washington that makes the miracle of the loaves and fishes pale in comparison. Rudy Giuliani not only came away from the Family Research Council’s Values Voters convention in DC with his skin still attached, but he turned the tide of religious fanaticism toward him.

Evangelical Christians loves them some Rudy Giuliani.

Or at least two of them do, from what I read in this New York Times article on Giuliani’s speech before them early Saturday.

How he did it is nothing less than genius. He basically said “This is the way I am, take it or leave it, just know that I will never lie to you. Just know that you can trust me.” Religious conservatives are really big on candidates who say they won’t lie to them. You know, like the previous presidential candidate that they supported in droves.

The Times article went on to say that he just may have derailed the 3rd party candidate option that was brought up late last month at a Salt Lake City meeting of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family.

I am characteristically unhopeful that these people will actually carry through with their plan to unearth and vote for a 3rd party candidate – one who more closely matches their own social conservative values. It’s just TOO off the wall for them. And now maybe Rudy speech has set then to filling in that hole.

I think maybe some have come over to Giuliani Girl’s point of view.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Nick Lampson on the SCHIP Vote

I, and a bunch of other people, got this message from our Texas CD-22 Congressman Nick Lampson on the SCHIP vote. I wanted to post it to my blog to give credit where credit is due. Nick doesn't always vote my way. But on SCHIP he voted for the kids. For us.

Only two Democrats voted against the kids and may they truly burn in H-E-double hockey sticks. But not our Nick. Nick wanted our kids to have health coverage. Uncompassionate Conservatives denied them the front door to health care, relegating them to the Emergency Room.

Here is my congressman's statement on his vote.
"Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted unsuccessfully to override President Bush's veto of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The bipartisan SCHIP bill would have provided health care to 10 million children, including 500,000 here in Texas."

"I want you to know that I strongly support SCHIP and will continue the fight for America's children. I believe that turning SCHIP into a partisan political football is wrong, especially since so many people favor this vital program. National polling indicated that over 70% of Americans supported our SCHIP legislation, including 61% of Republicans. Many Democrats and Republicans, including Senator Hutchison, joined me in casting a vote for this children's health program."

"Our efforts to protect children will continue, because this issue is about so much more than politics. SCHIP is about caring for kids and doing the right thing.

Rest assured, we will keep working for America's children. "

"I appreciate your support."
Nick, here are my instructions. Keep voting for SCHIP until it becomes a national embarrassment for the Republican Party. It will. Don't give way. Way has been given. Our kids deserve nothing less than our best efforts..

Evangelicals Stumped On Who to Support For President? I Have a Suggestion

There is a good analysis article in the Washington Post today. I first heard about the conservative evangelicals’ problem first last May, when conservative evangelical and founder of “Focus on the Family”, James Dobson said he would stay home and not vote rather than cast his vote for Rudy Giuliani, and then a couple of weeks ago when Dobson was threatening to support a third party candidate if Giuliani is nominated by the Republicans.

Democrats collectively drew in their breaths for a second at that announcement. By a best guestimate, the conservative evangelicals in the Republican Party count for about 25% of the total. Some say 27%. No matter. That’s a lot of 3rd party votes that guarantees a Democratic shoe-in, in November. Oh, I love me the Electoral College.

This is huge. These voters, these conservative evangelicals are faithful primary voters. On primary election day, they show up at the polls in great numbers. They are probably the number one reason why George Bush is in the White House today as they presented a huge bloc of votes at the primaries in 2000, and saw to it that Bush’s challengers were defeated.

But as of today, not one of the Republican candidates appeal to these people.

In today’s piece, not one of the leading Christian evangelicals has a clear choice, and today, one who might have had half a chance at their votes, Sam Brownback, announced his departure from the presidential race.

Of all the various candidates, only Mitt Romney has picked up an evangelical endorsement from Bob Jones III. But most evangelicals have a problem with Romney because of his former pro-choice stance, and his belief in what they, in their view, consider an extra-Christian religion.

Perhaps summing it all up for these Christian conservatives is this from Bill Stephens, the executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida:
“Our voters would rather stay home than vote for half a loaf of bread. They either want the whole loaf, or they'll wait for next time.”
Now that is a very good idea. Very out of the box. Why vote for half a loaf? I have an even better solution for their woes that almost worked here in the CD 22 elections here in Texas.

A write-in!

And a write-in candidate that I think they can all get behind like nobody’s business:

Jesus Christ for President!

Think of it. No one would have to ask the question anymore: ”What would Jesus do?” They’d have the Guy right there. Okay, so he died 1,974 years ago. When Reagan was in office no one made that point back then, did they? And they could put Rudy Giuliani on the ticket for Veep to smooth the ruffled feathers of the party centrists.

Jesus and Giuliani, the ticket made in heaven.

And just to prove that I don’t have an original bone in my body, Google “Jesus for President” and you get this site.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Baker’s Dozen Short, HR 986 (SCHIP) Fails to Pass on Override

If we had 13 more congressmen vote for SCHIP 10 million more children would have had health insurance. Ten Million. Hundreds of thousands in Texas.

We needed 13 and 11 Republicans and two Democrats failed to come through. The only good news here is that we now have an issue, supported by 75-80 percent of Americans, according to some polls, that we can use in swing districts to remove these uncompassionate conservatives.

The two Democrats who need to reconsider their party affiliations are Gene Taylor (MS-4) and Jim Marshall (GA-8). Taylor, the little weasel, didn’t even issue a statement on his congressional website explaining his vote. Marshall issued a statement that included this, by way of explanation.

“There’s no question that I support expanding SCHIP. But I also have an obligation to the citizens of Middle Georgia to do everything possible to make sure that the program in its final form fairly distributes the burden and fairly distributes the benefits.”

Can't have it both ways congressman. That’s Southerner codespeak for they’re taxing our poor tobacco industry unfairly. Yeah, that’s right Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road is sited in Georgia.

Dennis Kucinich, by the way, came through and realized that voting to get health benefits for children was more important than making a political point.

Now the wrangling begins anew, and aptly named Charlie Rangel says that no substantive changes will be made. Quoting from the Washington Post:

“Democratic leaders were leaning toward a new version that would give Republicans face-saving alterations but no substantive change. Pelosi said she is determined to provide the resources to ensure that 10 million more children would be added to the rolls.”

The new version will never get the vote of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) who charged that “SCHIP stands for Socialized, Clinton-style Hillarycare for Illegals and their Parents.”


It is reported though, that simply by closing a loophole that would have allowed 174,000 non-citizens to gain health insurance in this program, more fanatically anti-immigrant Republicans would be willing to come on over to the bright and sunny side of this issue. And this, apparently is the most substantive change that will be made in the new version of SCHIP.

In yesterday’s post, I asked why Bush vetoed this worthy bi-partisan bill and it came back that he needed to feel relevant again. Relevant, much like a bully feels when he kicks sand in your face at the beach. Relevant like how an unsavory person feels when he snitches on you for a minor infraction and you lose your job.

That will be Bush’s legacy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

SCHIP Vote Is In Da House Tomorrow

When you vote for passage of SCHIP tomorrow, you are not only in the House, but you are “In da House!”.

SCHIP will provide health care benefits to millions throughout the nation, and a few hundred thousand kids in Texas. It’s an expansion of the previous law, bringing more children in out of cold.

Bush’s veto of the bill was heartless and shameful, and it needs to be overturned. There are enough votes in the Senate to overturn his veto, as the bill passed the senate on a heavily bipartisan vote. The House, though, did not pass the bill with a 2/3s majority and will need more Democratic votes, and some more Republican votes as well.

And there’s the rub.

Apparently, according the the WaPo article linked here, only one Democrat who voted against the bill says that she will change her vote. Said Kathy Castor, D-Fla, the bill didn’t contain as much finding as she wished
“I registered my protest then, but when it comes down to tomorrow, it's whose side are we going to be on?" I'm going to be on the side of America's families and America's children.”
Some Democratic congressmen are expected to follow Castor’s lead. Dennis Kucinich will not be one of them. Kucinich refuses to vote for a bill that specifically denies coverage to immigrant children.

I agree with Kucinich’s opinion, but not with his vote. There is no way on God’s blue-green orb that a bill that includes immigrant children will pass. Not when the anti-immigrant flames are fanned so hotly by Republican fearmongerers.

Also, according to the WaPo, no Republican has announced a change in their vote. Not one.

In doing so, these people are willing to risk losing more independent voters. A recently released CNN poll showed that 61% of Americans support an SCHIP expansion. My estimate is that this represents every Democratie and every independent voter. And maybe even a few who call themselves Republican.

I’ve wondered over the last couple of weeks what Bush had to gain in his veto? The expansion was not that great. Not when compared to what we are spending to wage an illegal and immoral war in Iraq. No, I don’t think it was necessarily about the money. I think it has to do with Bush being a lame duck and not liking it very much at all. This was given away in the Post article as well:
“That's one way to ensure that I am relevant. That's one way to ensure that I am in the process.”
Awwww. Poahh Bushie not feeowing welevant? Poahh, poahh Bushie.

So if SCHIP fails tomorrow, we are back to square one.

And Bush regains his relevance.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Herr Noriega geht nach Washington

OK, does someone want to explain to me why a German translation of my posting of Rick Noriega’s email message about his trip to DC wound up on a German language blogger site? I know that Rick’s story and Texas Senate campaign is getting wide coverage, but Germany?

Kilonoriegas and Megawatts: But Dollars Can’t Vote

Last time I looked only people could vote.

Third quarter reports have come out and the Texas Senate race is looking as interesting as ever. According to yesterday’s FEC reports, Rick Noriega out-performed his Democratic rival for US Senate nominee quite substantially.

Electronic filings came screaming in on the deadline, and now that the dust has settled, it looks like Rick Noriega’s campaign pulled in 508 kilodollars to Watts’ 443. That’s a very nearly 13% margin.

Now that’s saying something. That’s saying something that a lot of people thought would ever be said. Watts claimed that he was the candidate who could pull in the necessary contributions needed to defeat Cornyn in ’08, what with his 30-day $1.1 million blitz, implying that “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet”.


He said this:
“People are investing in our campaign because they are demanding change and they know that I am someone who will fight for our interests here in Texas and not the special interests in Washington.”
My thought on his 30-day blitz? A one-off deal. Watts didn’t have the legs to keep up the pace. He peaked early by dunning all of his lawyer friends and those that he hit up for contributions out of the very campaign funds he had donated to. One hand washes the other.

But that’s chump change according to this Chron article, which reminds us again that Watts’ campaign is largely self-funded, and that he has kicked in $7.5 million of his own hard-won contingency fees. As far as money on hand, Watts even bests John Cornyn.

According to this Chron article, apparently, who has the dough gets the go (ahead).

But then, wait, RG Ratcliffe has finally realized what we Noriega bloggers have all come to know and love for some time now. It’s not about who’s got the most money, it’s about who will get the most primary voters.

Ratcliffe finally looked at what we are all seeing, and wrote an article titled “Wealth May Not Be Enough for Watts in Senate Race”.

Rick Noriega, believe it or not, has an Hispanic surname. Hispanics tend to vote for their own, and Hispanics tend to vote in primaries disproportionate to their numbers. While only 15% of your average Texan voter shows up to vote at the primaries, 35% of Hispanics do.

Here’s the thing that Ratcliffe wrote that I cannot accept, because I hear that Rick’s name is being spread far and wide in the Hispanic community.
“Hispanic voting expert Andy Hernandez said few voters currently know anything about either Noriega or Watts. As a consequence, Hispanic voters will first look at Noriega as a candidate they can identify with, he said.”
Like I said, I think Rick Noriega is getting a little more attention in the Hispanic community than Ratcliffe will allow, but let’s say some don’t hear the good word about Rick Noriega. Let’s say that they work at 3 jobs and don’t have time to catch up on this stuff. One glance at a friendly name that ends in a vowel may be all the convincing that they need.

Fine, Watts people will say (and I hear that DSCC Chair Chuck Schumer may agree to). Democrats again vote the unelectable opponent to oppose an otherwise embattled John Cornyn. We can defeat Cornyn, Rick Noriega can’t. For the same reasons he wins the primary, he loses in the November election: he’s Hispanic. Texans don’t vote for Hispanics.

That may have been true in the past, but you really have to think about this now. The face of the Texas voter has started to change. First, Texas didn’t become the 2nd most populous state in the nation because Texans know how to have children faster and better than anyone else. Texas’ population growth is by and large by migration and immigration. Second, the old prejudices of past generations don’t necessarily get handed down.

And I have also said this before: I think Rick Noriega will get bi-partisan support. Yes he may be a progressive, but his record of service is unassailable. He has served his nation in the armed forces, Cornyn has limited his military service to visiting and photo ops. Noriega actively worked to aid Hurricane Katrina evacuees, Cornyn got his photo taken with a FEMA director. Noriega worked on the border to staunch the flow of drugs and illegal aliens. Cornyn wants (and then doesn’t want) to build a wall.

Rick’s story is huge and will attract votes from the Right. Why? Even those across the aisle are getting tired of being lied to by liars. Deceived by deceivers.

Stolen from by stealers.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Classroom Management: It's All About Respect

I know teachers like this.

Take a look at this You Tube video embed that a student made of his teacher blowing his stack. What you don’t get to see is the series of circumstances over the course of the year that led to these kids’ stunt.

Kids these days know how to press your buttons and elicit an expected response. They obviously set their teacher up to act like this so they could catch him swearing.

There is no respect in this classroom, none for the teacher because he hasn’t earned the trust and respect of his students.

He, in turn, has no respect for his students and this has probably been the case since day 1.

This is very sad.

You would not believe how many videos students have taken of their teachers expressing their disdain for their students.

Texas Progressive Alliance Round Up For the Ides Of October

It's Monday, and that means it is time again for the Texas Progressive Alliance Blog Round Up. This week's round-up is compiled by Vince from Capitol Annex.

Barney Frank responds to GLBT activists: "Now, this is the issue: Does a political party say to its most militant, committed, ideologically driven believers in purity that they have a veto over what the party does?" Evan at The Caucus Blog responds.

BossKitty at Bluebloggin asks why are so many Texans still illiterate?

The Texas Cloverleaf endorses Karen Guerra for 16th District Court Judge in Denton County.

Burnt Orange Report highlights the hard work being done across the nation. A broad coalition has launched a campaign to override President Bush's SCHIP veto and Kay Granger is public enemy number 1 in Texas. Ads, analysis, polls, and outrage... BOR has it all.

North Texas Liberal asks, "Could Congress override Bush's veto?" Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Kennedy seem to think that SCHIP is worth fighting for. So do we.

Vince from Capitol Annex notes that Kay Granger should have known better when it comes to her recent "no" vote on the reauthorization and expansion of SCHIP.

Gary at Easter Lemming Liberal News cannot stop writing about conservative bloggers repeatedly attacking a family who were in a terrible automobile accident and received government health care and liked it. Maybe next time your kids are in the hospitable you'll be attacked by right-wing idiots and more slime in the right-wing noise machine.

McBlogger has a story up about a State Representative you should know.

A supervisor for CPS Energy in San Antonio has a hangman's noose displayed in his cubicle. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs posts the details, including a photo.

Muse notes that Kay Bailey Hutchinson is trying out harder helmet hair styles so that the words of mean bloggers will bounce right off her in her imaginary (or not) run for governor in 2010.

Warning from TXsharon: Calibrate your outrage meter before visiting Bluedaze to read how Bush policies have weakened the Clean Water Act so Texas water is no longer fit for drinking, swimming or fishing.

CouldBeTrue from South Texas Chisme notes that Presidential Candidate Tom Tancredo wants to build that d*mn fence north of Brownsville. Either you're with the fence or he'll move the boundaries so your town's part of Mexico.

Unsurprised at Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize, nor at his acceptance speech, Hal at Half Empty surprises everyone with the Moonwalking Mannequin Bird.

Rattlebrain Randy prefers a little bit of disaster - sure it may hurt his constituents, but it helps his friends in the insurance industry, notes Blue 19th.
At Texas Kaos, diarist persiancowboy invites members of the general public to sign on to the complaint against rogue Judge Sharon Keller for her callous use of judicial power.

Off the Kuff reports that State Rep. Garnet Coleman is urging AG Greg Abbott to sue to block a recent Center for Medicaid and State Operations directive that will result in the loss of CHIP coverage for thousands of children.

Stop Cornyn is fuming about Cornyn's vote against children. After voting against Texas children twice, now Junior John wants a watered down version to save face. It is time to fully fund children's health insurance.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Been in Town Long, Sailor?

Ever heard of Congresspedia? I was just recently notified that the Half Empty blog was added to their Texas Portal. Lots of my lefty blogger associates are listed there as well. I scrolled through the list of Texas congressional races and was struck by the fact that there are so many uncontested congressional races in Texas. Twenty-two out of thirty-two congressional races have no declared challengers, unless Congresspedia needs to check again and update the website.

This is astonishing.

There are 13 Republican congressmen who are listed as not being challenged, a bad thing, and 9 Democrats listed – a seriously good thing. Tom DeLay’s twice in a decade redistricting has had its toll. Except in his own old district, CD-22.

But here, in what Republicans call the “Fighting 22nd”, the opposite is the case. Not only is the race not going uncontested in ’08, Congresspedia’s own reporting shows what I have mentioned before: not only is the CD-22 race contested, but it is contested with a vengeance. They only list 5 Republicans who are in this race. Somehow they missed Pete Olson, but they also missed “The Kid”: Alan Steinberg.

Now I can completely understand about how they forgot about Alan. I personally suspect Alan is running for congress so he can date hot chicks. But what’s with omitting Pete Olson? This, guy, I think, is going to be a player. I think there are huge money guys betting on this horse. Money guys who don’t want to see another disaster in Shelley Sekula (define me . . . define me) Gibbs, and money guys who don’t want to see another neoconservative fanatic take this office - we’ve all watched “Mean Dean” try and make Swiss cheese out of his own party chairman with his neocon henchmen.

And why do I think this? Two things. One, the guy raised $211,000 in 45 days in the 3rd quarter FEC reporting period. Much of this is from out of district. Bad news for Pete because they can’t vote for him. But the good news is that he can use that cash to introduce himself to the CD-22 voters. Bringing me to thing two. Two, guess what just appeared on my front door? A Pete Olson brochure. Door drops in February of ’08 is reasonable. But October of ’07?

This guy is a player.

It was designed as a mailer, but this piece is a 5 panel heavy cardstock slick foldable with the rightmost panel a poke out reply mail campaign contribution card. They ask for contributions, never mind that it’s a prepaid card – how the H-E-double hockey sticks can anyone send in a contribution in a card?

He is prominently displayed on the outer panel wearing his sailor suit. He was in the Navy for 9 years. So he’s been out of district for awhile, but graduated from Clear Lake High School – yep, another one NOT from Sugar Land.

And apparently he has a huge fan in former Senator Phil Gramm who he is using like a heroin user uses methadone: often and whenever he can get it for free.

But the guy has been in the military and we tend to like that in our congresspeople. They will tend not to vote to put our soldiers in harm’s way needlessly and for trumped up reasons.


Well . . . . maybe.

Here is what I found out about Pete Olson’s view of “The War on Terror” in particular. No, you be the judge. I quote:

“I proudly served in the defense of America. Those years taught me this is still a dangerous world for those who love freedom.”

“We are in a war that we didn’t ask for and didn’t provoke, but it’s one we must win. As Congressman I will support the troops and their mission [emphasis his] – to kill or capture terrorists wherever they may be hiding, training, or plotting attacks.”

Is that slick or what? Iraq? What War in Iraq? It’s a war on terror and we are fighting the people who attacked us. Never mind that we are spending billions on Iraq. It’s classic Republican bait and switch. Hey-presto no war in Iraq. No mention of this war means he doesn’t want this to be a campaign issue. In that he is dead wrong. This will be an issue and I think as a former military officer, he has some viewpoints that may not ring with the conservatives in the district. In other words, in the parlance of my guy, Rick Noriega, he talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk.

On immigration? He wants a fence. He asks the question that they all ask when the people want to know why Republicans hate “The Messicans” so much: “If we don’t know who is coming into our country, how will we know they don’t want to destroy us?”

Oh, that’s right. It’s not about illegal immigrants; it’s about keeping out the terrorists. It that’s the case, then where is the talk about a fence on our northern border? That’s the border our 9-11 terrorists crossed, not our southern border with Mexico.

So Pete Olson has an uphill battle getting some name recognition, but he’s had a couple of breaks and once wore a sailor suit. That will play well against Crazy Bob, Silly Shelley, and Mean Dean.

Alan Steinberg? ROFLMAO.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Global Warming and the Moonwalking Mannequin Bird

There’s lots going on today, lots going on this past week. Al Gore is going to get his Nobel Peace Prize. This puts him in a very exclusive club that includes Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter. The only difference between them is that while all four of these awardees were elected President of the US, only Al Gore had his office taken away from him by the US Supreme Court.

How do you recover? What do you do after that? Make a very convincing movie about global warming and sea level rise and receive the world’s most respected prize, I guess. Well, respected nearly everywhere but these places.

So there, I commented on Al Gore’s prize. I even viewed a video clip of his acceptance speech taken in Palo Alto, Ca yesterday. It’s on YouTube. But I am going to forego embedding it here because there is nothing surprising in what he said.

The world is too unsurprising today and I want to be surprised, and I want the same for readers of this.

That’s why, instead of embedding Al Gore’s acceptance speech, I am going to put up a clip of the Moonwalking Mannequin bird. It is the most bizarre animal behavior I think I have ever seen.

One asks oneself, why is this bird doing this? What need is he fulfilling? The answer is in the clip, but I’ll give you a hint. It’s for the same reason that ANYthing acts bizarrely.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Texas CD-22 Voters: Vote in Nick Lampson’s Poll on Iraq

I get hits from all over America with occasional hits from Europe, Asia and the Middle East. But this posting is for my fellow voters in Texas CD 22. Nick Lampson, our congressman, has a poll up on his website. It’s here.

Anyone who votes in Texas CD 22 needs to go to that website and vote. It’s not a real scientific poll, but hey, the man wants to know. He also wants to send you his newsletter so just know that when you do go and vote you are also subscribing to his newsletter that they will send to your email address. How they get that address from your IP address is left to those who know more about this than I.

One thing I do know is that if you subscribe and don’t really want to see the newsletter, you can unsubscribe if you wish, when they send one.

Right now, the vote is going slightly in favor of phased or immediate withdrawal and about 40% saying no withdrawal, so we have our work cut out for us.

Git ‘er done.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mr. Noriega Goes to Washington

I had an email forwarded to me today from Rick Noriega. Rick Noriega, running for US Senator from Texas, is in Washington, DC this week This man appears to be busier than a one-armed paper hanger as he goes from meeting to meeting, gala to gala. Too bad he didn’t have time to stop by his future opponent’s office at the Hart Senate Building to take a look at his future office suite, get some decorating ideas.

I thought about excerpting some of the email to this blog so people can see what he’s doing, how busy he is, and how dad gummed successful this trip is turning out to be, but when I read the message again and again, I couldn’t figure out what should be included and what should not. That’s one thing you have to know about Rick: there’s no pocket fluff with what the man says, nor with what he writes. It is all USDA prime food for thought.

So I decided not to decide. You get to see it all.

Here’s what Rick wrote to Sue Schechter, his campaign manager, this morning. I think he won’t mind me sharing this, from the look of it, I think it has “share me” written all over it.

From: "Rick Noriega"
Date: Thurs, 11 Oct 2007 09:40:48
To: "Sue Schechter"
Subject: Mr. Noriega Goes to Washington

I want to share a quick note with you about some of the key events that occurred during our trip to Washington, D.C. this past week. First, let me tell you that there is tremendous buzz surrounding our campaign and the politicos in D.C. are well aware and impressed by our collective efforts, including the money we were able to raise last quarter.

Here is a tremendously exciting development: Our fellow Texans and friends former Congressmen Charlie Stenholm, Mike Andrews and Max Sandlin endorsed our candidacy. They have graciously offered their support and we are proud to move forward with them on our team!

Sue Schechter, our campaign manager and dear friend, did a fantastic job of scheduling multiple meetings and events throughout the trip. Thanks to great Texan Congressman Gene Green, we began our trip by visiting with multiple congressional leaders. During the week, our meetings ranged from advocacy groups like the Migration Policy Institute and the AAJ, to labor officials such as Kirk Adams at SEIU to great Texans who are now working in DC like John Michael Gonzales, Adrian Saenz, energy experts John Northington and Kyle Simpson to former Democratic head Joe Andrew to my close friends Gilberto Ocanas, Henry Munoz, and Jose Villareal and many, many other policy makers.

We attended the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute evening gala and met with 3000 of our closest friends! Fortunately, 300 Hispanic Broadcast Journalists were in for dinner on Thursday night and another 3000 friends were in town for the Human RightsCampaign Gala on Saturday night. It was great spreading the call to service among so many great Americans.

I also had positive meetings with Senators Ken Salazar and John Kerry. They were both especially welcoming and generous. Senator Chuck Schumer was cautious about the Democratic Senatorial Committee's participationin Texas, but took the time to meetwith us. Senator Schumer is known for his straight talk but he is also known for never missing an opportunity. I look forward to working with him in the future: on the campaign next year and later in the U.S. Senate!

A lot of fundraising opportunities presented themselves while we were in Washington and you can bet that we are following up. We will continue to work hard as we continue to build our team during this next phase. You can rest assured that we are runninga lean and mean operation that will thoughtfully come together this fall.

We will be working just as hard in this 4th quarter. We hope to equal or surpass our 3rd quarter efforts and continue the struggle to move Texas in a new direction.

Thanks to your help we are off to a fantastic start, but there is still much to do. Your support is invaluable to our campaign. That is why I ask for your continuing support through a campaign donation. Together, we will win in '08.

Please call us if you have any questions or we can be of any service at(713)921-7425. Your trust and faith in our effort to get our state and country back on the right track is humbling.

Thank you all and God Bless Texas.


So? What are you waiting for? The 4th quarter has begun in earnest and it's time to cough up some more dead presidents for Rick Noriega. Click on the Join Team Noriega banner over there on the left. Or just . . . click . . . HERE.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Another Democrat Announces Candidacy for Texas Supreme Court

2008 is going to be a great year to be a Democrat on the downballot. They will benefit from the growing number of straight ticket voters who will turn out in droves to put Republican officeholders of all levels in the unemployment lines.

Texas attorney Sam Houston, not the Hero of San Jacinto, mind you, but the successful medical malpractice attorney, is filing treasurer papers today to run for Justice on the Texas Supreme Court. He will be running as a Democrat against Republican Supreme Court Justice Dale Wainwright.

Earlier this year, Judge Susan Criss announced her candidacy in the Place 8 race for Texas Supreme Court. Criss has a primary opponent, but when she wins the primary, she will face Justice Phil Johnson in November.

Houston’s opponent, Justice Wainwright, was fast tracked to the Supreme Court. He was first appointed to a judicial bench, the 334th Civil District Court in Harris County by then Governor Dubya. Three years later he ran for his present job.

Houston will announce a list of his supporters very soon, but the short list is a list of heavy hitter attorneys: John Beckworth, Curry Cooksey, Sam Cruse, Craig Lewis, Nancy J. Locke, Dave Matthiesen, Steve McConnico, Enrique Moreno, and Michael Solar,
Also supporting Houston (so far) are State Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) and attorney Hartley Hampson.

There is no website up yet, but it’s early.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

NCLB and High Stakes Testing: The Flim Behind the Flam

A friend sent this link today. It’s a New York Times Op/Ed piece which does two things: 1) it underlines the failings of No Child Left Behind just as congress takes up the reauthorization of same, 2) it refers to a Fordham Institute study that you can read online. It has analysis specific to Texas and how Texas’s testing expectations rate next to those of 25 other states.

The Op/Ed piece was written by Bob Herbert, but the opinions are those Harvard of School of Education professor Daniel Koretz. Koretz’ opinions are more analytical than the Fordham study. Koretz draws conclusions from the study. Conclusions that everyone already suspected, but up to now were unproven.

In a nutshell: here is why Bush’s NCLB isn’t doing what it was supposed to do, and why it is actually damaging education in America.

It was designed to make schools accountable for the education of the children. To do that schools are rated by student performance on standardized tests, in Texas, this is the TAKS test. The thought was according to Koretz, was that by having schools all give the same test, this provides an incentive for schools, administrators and teachers to work harder and give their students a better education. A viewpoint that holds little reality.

This is what actually happened:

“The problem is that you can raise scores the hard way by teaching more effectively and getting the students to work harder, or you can take shortcuts and start figuring out ways, as Dr. Koretz put it, to ‘game’ the system”.
"Gaming the system" occurs at all levels. It is done at the instructional level by teaching only TAKS objectives, and drilling only on those to the exclusion of other areas of the curriculum as well as enrichment activities that might actually help a student understand something. It is done at the administrative level by encouraging these teaching practices. It is done at the legislative and district level by voting for incredibly stupid “teacher incentive pay” packages to reward teachers whose students improve on their test scores. It leads to poorer teaching as in the above. It’s done at the state school board level by leaving it to the states what constitutes “proficient” and whether or not to adjust what is proficient from one year to the next to improve performance figures.

Yes, it is left to each individual state to decide what level of performance is considered proficient. That’s like leaving it up to each state how much a dollar will buy.

This last bit is like adding insult to injury. There is no consistent national rating system of proficiency even though NCLB is a federal program. The Fordham Institute Study, aptly entitled The Proficiency Illusion, exposes this in their 26-state study that compared the proficiency ratings of each state against a national standard, finding wide variation from one state to another. Texas, to no one’s surprise, has proficiency below the median – that is, proficiency expectations are low in Texas as opposed to other states. This is especially true in the lower grades where Texas’ mastery level is below the median of the entire 26-state population. This is especially true in reading expectations in 3rd and 6th grades. Math expectations are higher and most grades approach the median - but are still lower. However, while most states have been adjusting their proficiency expectations downward from one year to the next, Texas has been raising expectations. This was engineered from the beginning to have a gradual rise in mastery levels as students and educators got used to a new text.

So eventually, if this madness continues, the median will fall and other states will have the same proficiency expectations as Texas.

The time has come to take a hard look at the data coming out now, and finally decide if high stakes testing including Texas’s new EOC system, is really going to serve us. If in the end, it all comes down to cooking the books and punishing the schools and teachers who are too slow on the uptake about how to cut corners, then maybe it’s time to rethink this.

I have a humble Half Empty suggestion. Instead of posting expectations, then testing whether students achieve those expectations (followed by rewarding the guilty and punishing the innocent) wouldn’t it be nice if schools could attract talented, motivated educators through

Incentives like a living wage and benefits that are meaningful

Respect from the community and administration

Real support from the above

Real investment in the school infrastructure including technology

A peer review system where teachers evaluate other teachers.

Allowing teachers time to confer with other teachers rather than baby sit students in a study hall or during lunch. We hire crossing guards, don’t we?

What are the chances that these things (any one of them) will happen? I am characteristically pessimistic.

Monday, October 08, 2007

KHOU Questions the Integrity of the Justice System in Fort Bend County

I have to admit I am not a huge fan of Houston, Texas’ KHOU’s news program. In particular, I don’t like it when they go after a private citizen with premature as well as flimsy evidence and destroy his life. But in this case, it is just the opposite.

KHOU aired a story that is well past due and seems to have solid basis.

I’m writing of their recent story on the racketeering and money laundering charges filed against eight Rosenberg roofers by their former boss and friend, Brett Holden, owner of Holden Roofing Company in Fort Bend County.

According to the story, Holden, with the help of his friend, Assistant District Attorney, Mike Elliott, filed criminal charges against his former employees, charging that they over-ordered roofing materials and withheld some of the fees that they charged their clients. Skimming, they say, money laundering, or such the like. Holden felt that they did this to have funds in order start up their own roofing company, something the 8 roofers hotly deny.

The story also mentions the fact that days earlier, Holden made a $1000 donation to the campaign of Annie Elliott, Mike Elliott’s wife. Something that defense attorney Don Bankston says is a conflict of interest: “It’s enough of a conflict of interest that [District Attorney] John Healey recognized it . . . “.

But here’s the thing that is new to me, at least. The Rosenberg Police Department do not appear to be very supportive of the DA’s office. Rosenberg Police Lieutenant said it this way:
“I think that, and this has been stated before, that the indictments were premature I think that additional work could have been done, questions could have been asked.”
Further investigations by a new prosecutor has revealed that there was no evidence of money laundering. Some of the evidence was not a theft as originally presented. And that the defendant was correct. Yet still, the indictments still stand and the DA’s office have not moved forward on this case after almost 2 years.

If all of this is true, then it is really disheartening. As someone who lives in Fort Bend County, it is disheartening to see that justice can be twisted and perverted to fulfill the needs of personal friends, indeed to cause harm to those whose only crime appears to be wanting to go into business for themselves.