Monday, December 31, 2007

Texas Progressive Alliance Presents: Best of 2007

Whoa Pardner. Get ready for the mother of all End of the Year Roundups. I haven't checked against the membership list but this one, I think, represents the best representation of member contributions so far this year. Thanks again to Vince from Capitol Annex for putting this together.

2007 was a great year for the Texas Progressive Alliance and its many member blogs and bloggers.

In recognition of the excellent work done by our many bloggers we're treating you to a special New Year's edition of the TPA round-up. So, without further ado, here is your "Best of 2007" from the many bloggers of the Texas Progressive Alliance.

Eye on Williamson has been one of the state's leading blogs when it comes to covering toll road issues and State Representative Mike Krusee's career. EOW's top posts of 2007 included: Eye on Williamson on toll roads, The "New Way Forward" On Tolls, the coming demise of Mike Krusee in Krusee's Influence And Credibility Are Gone, Time For HD-52 To Start Over and a post on the ongoing battle between the citizens and the county government over a new landfill contract, The Landill, TCEQ Hearing & More Gattis Shenanigans .

The most popular posts from The Texas Blue in our first year included: Our running coverage of the 2008 Senate race. We kicked everything off with one of our inaugural pieces analyzing Cornyn's potential vulnerability in '08, in a piece picked up by the Washington Post. We then broke the code on Kos' "mystery candidate," revealing that it was Rep. Rick Noriega that Kos had in mind with his draft movement, and interviewed the Representative shortly before he declared his official candidacy. And we published some of the first information examining Mikal Watts' candidacy in what became the most read story on the Blue this year; In what also became one of our most-read pieces, we analyzed the role of money in statewide Texas campaigns, looking at the efforts taken by the statewide campaign of David Van Os to illustrate the need for money in politics, the proper role of a nascent state party organization, and the limits on the effectiveness of a political message that come from the inability to effectively spread that message due to the lack of funds to reach large numbers of Texans efficiently. This article led to a dialog with David Van Os, and to an interview with him shortly afterward where he voices his side of the issue; And finally, though two interviews have been mentioned already, our "Who's Blue" audio interview series also includes a number of other fascinating figures in Democratic politics, both statewide and across the nation. Some of the more notable interviews have been with four-star Army General and 2004 presidential candidate Wesley Clark, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, and current presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.

John Coby of Bay Area Houston documents what a team of anonymous citizens have accomplished to expose the Texas Ethics Commission as incompetent in the series Spending Campaign Cash. Their work uncovered $3million in undisclosed expenditures by Texas Legislators. The Series. KHOU in Houston featured their work in late December with their report Activist: State's campaign finance oversight out-of-focus.

Easter Lemming Liberal News's topics covered this past year include Pasadena politics, the Joe Horn shooting and our national So-Called-Liberal-Media.

News items covered by TXsharon on Bluedaze: An attempt to shame a Texas Granny who received the Peacemaker of the year award. The depletion of and pollution of our water due to the irresponsible and shocking use by the oil and gas industry including an explanation of Groundwater Conservation Districts and how they can help that was published in two Texas newspapers and the attempt by oil and gas to sabotage the Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District. The failure of the Texas Railroad Commission to protect Texans. The protection money breakdown paid to Texas Railroad Commissioners by the oil and gas industry.
WhosPlayin's favorite posts of 2007 were all about ideas: Universal Health Care - You're Soaking In It in which he explains that we're already paying for universal health care. Why Democrats Oppose "Voter ID" Bills - an explanation for our conservative friends. Lastly, Fiscal Progressivism - Fiscal Conservatism with a Broader View.

Hal at Half Empty (that's me) hemmed and hawed. How to decide which three of this year's postings merited special recognition? Then it dawned on him to mention the three postings about three singular events that he attended and posted photos about. Priceless! In reverse chronological order: The Fort Bend Democrats Have a Booth at the Fair. Then a summer fundraiser featuring TDP Chairman Boyd Richie. And last February The Fort Bend Democrats held a Love Fest for Rick and Melissa Noriega.

Off the Kuff submits his top posts of 2007: David Dewhurst and Voter ID. Property Tax Cuts Uber Alles, the mantra of the 80th Lege, and Drafting Rick Noriega for Senate.

BlueBloggin', another new blog to the TPA in 2007, submits their best of 2007: nytexan pens an op-ed on The Christian March Against America; BossKitty has a poignant OpEd: All Answers Are Selfish And Shallow; and nytexan discusses how Mexico Get Texas Land Through Border Fence

Refinish69, at Doing My Part For The Left, takes a look back at the year and is still disgusted with Hypocrites, Toe Tapping Senators, and Knee Pad Presidents. While looking back at the year, who can forget Ann Coulter proving what a witch(usually spelled with a capital B) she is. Refinish69 also looks at Gay Pride and World AIDS Day again to explain some history about himself and the continuing need for Gay Voters to speak out.

One of Grand Moff Texan's too rare diaries is always a special delight for us at Texas Kaos. But a standout diary inspired by the ignorance of the beltway punditry really broke down Why We Blog, Or Broderism in my Rear-View Mirror. Read it, and be inspired as we kick off into the 2008 election cycle. As the wilder-than-usual Texas Legislative session came to a close, Boadicea highlighted a few particular items of interest in Personal Courage, Political Vendettas, and an Unexpected Outbreak of Spine. With his usual sharp eye and incisive writing, Krazypuppy noted the REAL importance of the Larry Craig scandal in Why Another GOP Sex Scandal Matters-It's Not the Queers, Either.

It's been a wild year at McBlogger. We've heard about 39%'s trip to meet the Bilderburgers. We've also had exclusive one on one interviews with the Democratic candidates. We've also taken time out to call on some of our friends to be quiet. Because they're being a pain in the ass. This year McBlogger turned two and like all two year olds you can expect tantrums mixed with an even larger dose of mischief. Like all children, though, you'll want to kill us but won't be able to because killing kids is wrong (so, so very wrong). You'll also find us precocious and irresistibly cute.

We at The North Texas Liberal had some trouble deciding on which posts were our absolute favorites of 2007! But we decided on a few standouts that seemed worthy of mentioning for a second time. First, a series on Shaquanda Cotton. Cotton is a fifteen-year-old African American girl from Paris, Texas. She was sentenced to up to seven years at the TYC for pushing a hall monitor at her school (the same judge that sentenced her gave a white girl that was convicted of burning down the family home to probation). Our coverage of Cotton garnered the attention of someone at the Lamar County DA's office who used some recycled talking points to trash Cotton and her mother. Despite all of this, after the mainstream media broke Cotton's story, she became a candidate for early release. By the end of March, it was official that she would be released from the TYC, and in April we showed a video of her reunion with her mother. Cotton has returned to school and wants to study to become a lawyer so she can fight future injustices. We continued our global warming coverage with our Planet Purgatory series, parts One and Two. In May, we heard that the global warming tipping point could be in only ten years' time. NASA scientist James Hansen, a tireless environment advocate who testified about global warming before the Congress back in the 1980s, explains the tipping point theory... the point of no return. But he also believes in prevention rather than adaptation. If you missed this one, check out the post... if you're concerned at all about the environment, you'll want to read it. We continued our global warming coverage with our Planet Purgatory series, parts One and Two. Lastly, we gave Sen. John Cornyn the credit he deserved when he finally stood right side of an issue. Despite a year of flops and fabrications, he said he would support seasonal workers through the H2-B visa program. But despite the efforts of Maryland Democrat Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the fix wasn't finalized before Congress broke for the winter holidays, leaving thousands of small business owners out in the cold this holiday season. When we spoke face-to-face with a legislative expert at Cornyn's DC office, we were told that the Texas senator would like to see comprehensive immigration reform and wouldn't lobby for the H2-B visas, though he supported seasonal workers, because he didn't want to piecemeal a fix for the immigration problem. So even though he stood with his constituents on the right side of the issue, in the end he let them down again.

Edmundo Rocha of Para Justicia y Libertad reports about two protests against the prison industrial complex used here in Texas to detain undocumented immigrants--the Houston
Processing Center in Houston
and the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, TX. Prior to those reports, he reported on the suicide of David Ritcheson of Spring, TX, the Latino teen who was brutally beaten, tortured, and sodomized with a plastic pole by two white racist teenagers, David Henry Tuck and Keith Robert Turner.

Marc G., of Marc's Miscellany, analyzed Tom Craddick's preposterous claim that the speaker of the house can only be removed by impeachment. Marc also discussed Gov. Perry's controversial decision to veto the health insurance appropriation for community college employees.

Israel Behar-Ojalvo, PDiddie's father-in-law, passed away in March and Brains and Eggs had a post with photos in tribute. The Texas Youth Commission remains the worst scandal in Texas history, and that was apparent in April of last year. And in the matter of a few hours just before Labor Day, Alberto Gonzales, Phil Garner, and Tim Purpura all lost their jobs. Good riddance to a big bunch of losers. More like this in 2008, sure to come.

2007 was a heck of a year for Capitol Annex. Vince Leibowitz at Capitol Annex is most proud of his ground-breaking coverage of the saga surrounding the insurgency in the Texas House and Speaker Craddick's power grab, including Terry Keel's Troubling Memo (a smoking gun, for sure), and the saga surrounding the resignation of parliamentarian Denise Davis, which earned him a mention in (among other publications), Texas Lawyer. Coverage of the 80th Texas Legislature was also a major event for Capitol Annex, including a mind-numbing Liveblogging of debate on the General Appropriations Act, and a special video: Jodie Laubenberg Is Screaming.

It has been another exciting year at DosCentavos. I've tried to go over some of my better postings of the year and came up with three. DosCentavos wrote about his expectations for the 2007Lege Session. Beyond La Politica, we also know DosCentavos enjoys writing reviews on the latest releases in the Tejano and Mexican American music genre. This year, he received the honor of being asked by Los Lobos to rate their most recent release, The Town and The City. Finally, during the last Lege session, some Senators attempted to take up the debate on legalizing gambling to pay for education. DC tells us a few realities about higher education funding in the process.

Musings started the year concerned about science education in Texas (see: Warren Chisum, R-Dark Ages) and ended the year with some commentary about her friend, Chris Comer, being fired as Director of Science at the Texas Education Agency over her stand on evolution. In between it was all about Melissa and Rick Noriega.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes a church in El Paso falls victim to manipulation by a right wing cadre bent on world domination. CouldBeTrue then wonders what would have happened in a perfect Republican world when the Minnesota bridge collapsed. South Texas Chisme covers the wedge'em and hate'em campaign,, also known as Republican immigration strategy. Hispanics have taken note.

The Texas Cloverleaf, another blog new to the TPA this year, was a submission hold performed by professional wrestler Dean Malenko, which tied up his opponent's legs, much like a clover. We are designed to be one of those lefty progressive Democratic type political blogs. We live in North Texas, so expect a lot of DFW area stuff. But, we like the rest of the state, sometimes. Maybe even America. But don't push us! Politics is like a Texas Cloverleaf. It takes you in different directions, and ultimately will make you tap out! The series we are most proud of since forming in the summer of 2007 was the continued exposure of the outright lies and misleading statements coming from the pro-toll road crowd in Dallas during the Trinity Vote effort. Even though the referendum failed, we feel we did our part to help Dallas voters make an informed decision. Read the series here, here, here, here and here.

Best wishes for a happy and victorious 2008 from the Texas Progressive Alliance.

A Belated Holiday Treat Courtesy of God’s Own Party

And you thought Democrats had all the fun.

People are coming out of screenings of “Charlie Wilson’s War” here in the middle of the Bible Belt clucking and snickering, knowing that all that is unholy must lie with the Democratic Party, given the fact that we saw a Texas Democratic Congressman in flagrante delicto in a hot tub with Las Vegas strippers and showgirls. A scene not denied by former Congressman Wilson.

Cut to the present as we witness revelations of numerous email messages carried over Harris County servers between Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal, a Republican, and his administrative assistant, Ms. Kerry Stevens.

Messages that reveal Rosenthal’s long-ago amour with Ms. Kerry during Rosenthal’s then-doomed first marriage.

Setting a 15-member executive committee of God’s Own Party on its collective ear. Why, they ask, why O God, dost thou allow these revelations 5 days before the end of the primary ballot application period?

Forget the fact that Ms. Stevens, as an administrative assistant, is paid more than twice as much as a starting teacher in HISD, and has in addition, percs that come complete with a “company car” and a gas allowance. Forget that. We have hard evidence that DA Rosenthal was schtüpping the woman 20 years ago.

No, forget all of that. For this breach of the code of ethics of God’s Own Party (thou shalt not schtüp thine secretary and get caught), the 15-member executive committee late yesterday asked for Rosenthal to withdraw his name from the primary ballot.

Something Rosenthal has so far refused to do.

Leaving the GOP what? Leaving them to find a primary challenger to now-tainted Rosenthal? Do they know what the average Republican voter does when they see two names on a primary ballot, one with an “(I)” next to his name? They click on the “(I)”.

But suppose, by some dint of miracle, they don’t and nominate someone unknown and unattached to the DA’s office? What then?

Why that person would be pitted against a very well-known (liked?) Democratic candidate for District Attorney in the name of Chief C. O. “Brad” Bradford. Not only is Bradford the former Chief of Police of HPD, but he is also a partner in the law firm of Kelley and Bradford LLP, and has more legal credentials than the slash marks on his former uniform.

By himself, Bradford presents himself as a formidable foe. How would an under-acknowledged and unknown Republican candidate do in a knock down drag out with Bradford? It would be Bradford’s contest to lose.

On the other hand, what if Rosenthal pulls it off and gets the nomination? With Republican repugnance for anything out of their ordered sexual world, this should prove to be an interesting battle between party loyalty and loyalty to Jesus.

Either way I smell . . . napalm in the morning.

The smell of Victory.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Rick Noriega’s Holiday Greetings

The next US Senator from Texas has a video message for his future constituents. Click on the You Tube video embed to watch, then why not make one last donation to the campaign in 2007? New Years’ Eve marks the last day of the quarterly reporting period and Rick has a goal to meet. One that has been self-set at $30K, but really one that needs to show that Rick has the Right Stuff to win. The right stuff, being green in color.

You know and I know that he can be the right person at the right time for this job, but that will be meaningless to voters if he goes up against Cornyn after the March primary, and Cornyn’s Rove-esque politicos are blazing away unanswered as they are trying to set the stage and define who Rick Noriega is. Rick needs your help to put HIS message in front of the voters in 5 major Texas media markets. It’s going to take more than good intentions to unseat George Bush’s number one ally in the Senate. It is going to take sacrifice and treasure. Rick got my latest 50 bucks today, how about yours?

Contribute HERE.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

And The Political Story of the Year Goes to . . .

The United States Senate!

Probably underbilled on the Huffington Post where they report it as one of the least reported stories of the year, the biggest story of the year, as I see it, is our obstructionist Senate, made possible by the Senate cloture rule that places a time limit upon which filibusters may stall a bill from coming to the floor for a vote. In other words, GOP filibusters have failed to be stopped because cloture requires a 3/5th vote, a vote that could never be attained in a Senate with a (sometime) 51-vote Democratic majority.

GOP filibusters have stopped more bills from being passed in one year than in any two-year Senate term. An historical record, making the 2007-2008 Senate the most obstructionist US Senate in American history, and they are well on their way to boosting that record to unbreakable heights in 2008.

The US Senate has:

- Filibustered 62 times in this past year, effectively preventing 62 pieces of legislation favored by 51 or more members of the Senate from going to the floor for an up or down vote.

- Failed to vote for cloture a total of 29 times.

- Failed to end a war of opportunity and excess in Iraq by placing a timeline on withdrawal.

- Failed to bring healthcare benefits to an additional 4 million children whose families cannot afford health insurance.

- Failed to empower Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices

- Failed to make it easier for workers to join unions.

- Failed to repeal what is effectively a ban on embryonic stem cell research

This GOP strategy has undercut the will of a majority of American voters and has been the chief enabler of an imperial presidency that continues to operate its rogue government free of restraint. Free of the will of a majority of Americans.

How can we get beyond this? What do we need to do to get American democracy back on its feet and operational? We need a Democrat in the White House for one thing. Without that we face four more years of impotence. But on top of that, since the GOP has shown how obstructionist they can be, even to the extent of obstructing measures that are beneficial to the people, we need a 60% super majority in the Senate, and we need a 66% majority in the House to make sure that the will of a mere majority of Americans is heard.

Only then will the American people have their county back in safe hands.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Richard Morrison Files For March Primary: Fort Bend County Commissioner, Precinct 1

Richard Morrison has been around a lot lately. You might recall that he ran in 2004 as the Democratic challenger to Tom DeLay in what everyone said was a hopeless tilt at windmills. Only to surprise EVERYone in his impressive showing with a significant 41% of the vote in what was assumed to be a safe Republican gerrymandered district. Richard Morrison was first to prove that DeLay could be unseated [Little did we realize at the time that he could actually be chased out of his state].

You might also recall that Richard Morrison is the leader in opposition to Allied Waste’s plans for expansion of their Blueridge Landfill in southern Fort Bend County. A project to which present Precinct 1 County Commissioner Tom Stavinoha has given his blessing.

Morrison also led the charge to invoke the Netroots community to start a draft movement to urge State Rep. LTC Rick Noriega to challenge Bush rubberstamp junior senator John Cornyn.

And most recently, Richard Morrison has added his voice to the growing community objection to TxDOT’s plans to build Section C of the Grand Parkway as a toll way, a hue and cry that has gotten so loud so as to cause a reversal in Tom Stavinoha’s tacit approval of the project.

So what do you do after all of that? Well the answer is obvious: Invite County Commissioner Stavinoha into an early retirement.

Press release follows:


Residents of Precinct 1 have lost confidence in Tom Stavinoha. His choice to approve a toll way as an extension of the Grand Parkway, his support of I-69 through the middle of Fort Bend County, his conscious decision to ignore flooding and drainage problems in the precinct, and his approval of the location of a 20 story pile of Houston’s garbage in Precinct 1 demonstrates how little he cares about the current families of Precinct 1. Residents of Precinct 1 are tired of leaders who will not stand up to the big moneyed interests and who engage in "pay to play politics" which leaves current residents without effective representation. Stavinoha has lost his focus on the families that live in Precinct 1 and their critical issues of quality of life and an honest ethical government.

That is why today I filed to run for Fort Bend County Commissioner of Precinct 1.
The families of Precinct 1 are demanding a leader; someone with a backbone, willing to fight outside interests that want to pillage our county resources to the detriment of our current residents. I am a seventh generation Texan, whose parents and grandparents taught me to stand up for what you believe in, work hard and play by the rules. I will apply those lessons to the office of Commissioner. I will S.T.O.P the Grand Parkway Toll Road. I will keep I-69 and the Trans Texas Corridor as far away from Fort Bend County as possible. I will fix the flooding and drainage problems that exist in the precinct. I will fight against the location or expansion of any landfills in the county. And I will make sure that Fort Bend County acquires no more debt goes back to operating on a pay-as-you-go basis.

I want to reform the Commissioner’s office, making it a place where leadership, responsibility and ethics prevail. I will mount a strong, issues based campaign to win this most important post in the 2008 General Election. I will campaign as a voice to the families of Precinct 1. I am pro-business and pro-growth, but these issues should not diminish the quality of life of the families that already live in the precinct. I have chosen to raise my family in Precinct 1. My family and I have lived in Fort Bend County for 12 years. We are residents of Greatwood. My law office is in Precinct 1. My church is in Precinct 1. My children attend school in Precinct 1. My wife shops for groceries in Precinct 1. The County Commissioner needs to know how to prioritize the growth of Precinct 1 with the needs of its current residents.

Fort Bend County has a budget of more than $214 million per year, much of it is spent without explanation. No-bid contracts for expensive professional services are awarded primarily to big donors. Hundred million dollar bond issues are passed for roads to nowhere. When elected I will fight to pass ethics reform, so that Commissioner’s Court will not be able to accept donations from entities that have or will have no-bid contracts with the county.

I will restore the words "fair, honest and hardworking" to the office of the Commissioner. The Commissioner’s office will not operate in secrecy. I will make decisions based on facts, not campaign contributions. When elected I will do everything in my power to open up government to the voters. Budgets, appointments, contracts, and campaign contributions will be made available on the web for anyone who wants to see them. Every decision I make will benefit the current families of Precinct 1.

In filing for my candidacy for County Commissioner, I am sending a strong message that it is time to run Precinct 1 on behalf of the current families that live there. I will fight for higher ethical standards, provide stronger oversight to manage future growth, and make quality of life for the current residents a top priority. I hope to have the support of all the families in Precinct 1. I need your time talent and treasure to get to take back seat on Commissioner’s Court.

Fort Bend County Democratic Party Registers Candidates

In the county seat of Fort Bend County, Richmond Texas, space has been set aside for Fort Bend Democratic Party Chair Elaine Bishop to accept applications for the March 5, primary. Last day to register is Wednesday January 2nd, 2008 at 6 PM.

But today, as announced in FortBendNow and at the Fort Bend Democrats website Ms. Bishop made a place to accept applications, and their fees if applicable.

This is a live blog of this event. I am sitting in the anteroom to the conference room where Bishop sits, awaiting applicants.

2:08 PM: In walks Richard Morrison. Richard is applying for Fort Bend County Commissioner, Precinct 1. A few minutes and an exchange of fees, he is in. All in all three individuals besides Richard have filed for this seat, with two more promising to enter. Bishop predicted a runoff for this nomination, Morrison doubts it.

Big issues in Precinct 1 include the proposed Section C of the Grand Parkway, proposed as a tollway, as well as the proposed 17 storey high Blueridge Landfill. Both of these projects have been supported by sitting Pct 1 comissioner Tom Stavinoha, although he was recently seen distancing himself from the Grand Parkway Tollway plan.
2:21 PM: Albert Hollan enters. Albert is running for Judge of the recently created 434th District Court which is currently occupied by a Rick Perry appointee James Shoemake. Shoemake only a few months into his appointed position has already had complaints about his behavior in court among other things.

That's Albert Hollan standing between future County Commissioner Richard Morrison and plaintiff's attorney Donald Bankston, who graciously donated his office space to the Democratic Party to make all of this possible.

3:30 PM: A couple of citizens came in to file applications for precinct chairs, and upon checking for one precinct we found that one of the two would have an opponent. However, there are lots of ways to accomodate that.

TxDOT Suddenly Has Money To Spend: Part 2

I needed to split this story into two parts to clearly indicate, first, that the Texas Department of Transportation cares not a whit about the commuting needs of the average Texas resident, but will kowtow to the interests of foreign port developers who promise lucre. That was the gist of the first piece.

Part 2: TxDOT itself will spend no money on this project, but will agree to what amounts to privatization of SH 36 to a San Antonio-based construction firm, Zachry American Infrastructure.

This was all laid out in January of this year in FortBendNow. In essence, what TxDOT proposes is to let Zachary take charge of the widening project outlined in the first piece, using its own money and resources, and maintain the road afterwards for 35 years. Their revenue from this comes from a shady deal that is given the likely name “shadow toll”.

What is a shadow toll? It is a toll based on the number of vehicles that use the state highway over and above those that used it before the widening project. That is, a per-vehicle charge, amount unspecified, that is paid by TxDOT over the 35 year time interval directly to Zachry. That TxDOT money comes from the taxpayer.

It’s another aspect of the infrastructure sell-off being conducted by the Texas state government. The diabolical thing about this is that we ultimately do not know how much this cost of widening and 35 years of maintenance will be. Because it depends on how much traffic uses the road. But you can bet that Zachry has crunched the numbers and realized that even the added truck traffic alone from Freeport’s Velasco Terminal will just about make them rich as Croesus. The only thing we really know is that TxDOT thinks it will cost $275.2 million. I guess what that means is that every dollar above that and the cost of maintenance is pure profit for Zachry.

That profit is money paid by taxpayers to Zachry. A tax that amounts to a service fee that would not actually be charged if this project were funded by traditional state transportation department budgeting.

In other words, Texans will be charged for private premium services, without being able to vote on whether they actually want that.

And even though State Highway 36 comes under the Texas state highway system, the state actually washes its hands of all maintenance, leaving motorists to deal with a private company if there are road problems that go unrepaired.

I don’t know. I guess I long for the day that Texas’ state government was a government that worked for the people and not a government that sold off bits of the state to the special interests. Whatever happened to “Pay as you go?” Isn’t that a fine conservative value? If Texas dosen’t have enough money to build and maintain its own infrastructure, in the face of a budget surplus, what does that say about priorities in Austin?

What does that say about the Texans that elected this Kleptocracy?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

And Filing for US Senator From Texas . . .

Continuing on the theme from yesterday, who thus far has filed to be on the Texas Primary ballot for United States Senator?

For the forces of The Dark Side, a Larry Kilgore, listed as a consultant filed on Day 1 of the filing window 12/3/2007, and then on 12/15/2007 the present junior senator from Texas, John Cornyn has filed.

So far, two Republicans will fight it out for the nomination.

Larry Kilgore, a 42-year old right wing evangelical Christian, is running on a platform of loving God and hating the Nazis who are killing our unborn children (or, at least, that’s how it reads on page one of his campaign website).

Ever the spoiler, Kilgore ran against Rick Perry for the GOP nomination for Texas Governor back in 2006 garnering 50,119 votes or 7.64% of the primary-going Republican voters.

And chances are he will get about the same number of votes again unless someone has passed on to that great voting booth in the sky.

John Cornyn, whose qualifications for candidacy (and draft dodging) has been chronicled here and here, then finds himself in a comfortable place among his voting base, who have been left with little other choice in the primary.

For the Democratic Party we have three filings for United States Senator thus far.

State Rep. LTC Rick Noriega filed on opening day on 12/3/2007 amid fanfare after a friendly sendoff held in his Houston neighborhood. This was followed by the 12/18/2007 filing by Ray McMurrey, who incidentally filed for the entire US Senate. He was closely followed by the ever-present Gene Kelly who filed on 12/21/2007.

Rick Noriega is running on his Story, which is a good one, and on his progressive positions that have been made clear in the legislative record of the Texas State Legislature.

Ray McMurrey is running because apparently he doesn’t like Rick Noriega. For the life of me I can’t find out about a single thing that this social studies teacher from Corpus Christi is for, except that he is for Rick Noriega not getting the nomination. My suspicion is that McMurrey, with his roots in Mikal Watts-land, is sore at Rick for not being entangled in the shadowy dealings of Mauricio Celis, as did the candidate that he formerly supported.

And finally we have the ever-present and ever-popular Gene Kelly. I liked him in “An American in Paris”, didn’t you? Remember “Singing in the Rain”? You do? Well that’s what this Gene Kelly hopes you remember also because he’s not that Gene Kelly, the handsome actor, singer-dancer. He’s 81-year old Gene Kelly, the retired Air Force lawyer. Kelly has some state-wide name recognition since he has run and lost more statewide elections than most candidates of either side of the aisle. And his name is spelled the same as the actor’s.

Do you think that he has gotten votes in the past because voters have mistaken this Gene for THAT Gene?

Does a ?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Just A Few Days Left To File For the March Primary

January 2, 2008. That’s the deadline to file for candidacy for any office that will be on the March 5th Texas Primary ballot. That’s just days away, and that means it is crunch time for all the campaigns who have yet to have filed.

And as one former District Clerk found out, that drop dead date is exactly what it says it is: file or drop dead (and remember to get the address right – actually, I go with hand carrying if you are filing in Fort Bend County).

Bringing us to the list of current filers, as of Friday, December 21st.

In Texas 22nd Congressional District we have Nick Lampson alone on the ballot so far, but 4 of the 9 declared candidates on the Party of the Dark Side have filed:

Pete Olson filed on the first day: 12/3/2007.
John Manlove (Dave Wallace’s guy) filed on 12/17/2007.
Jim “Reverand Jim” Squier filed on 12/19/2007,
And bringing up the rear, former Congresswoman Shelley Sekula Gibbs, congresswoman for a month, filed on 12/20/2007.

And that’s it.

Four out of nine? Well Eight. Apparently Alan “The Kid” Steinberg withdrew, sending all of his supporters over to the camp of Pete “I’ve got a sailor suit” Olson. In his farewell announcement, entitled “So long and thanks for all the fish”, Steinberg writes:

“I feel strongly that Pete Olson would be the best person to serve our district in Congress, and have decided to step aside in order to focus on encouraging a greater public involvement in the system as a whole.”
So Alan stepped aside. I’m sure I just heard the Olson camp breathe a sigh of relief.

By the way, if you are still scratching your head about the title of his piece, it comes from the title of the fourth of five books that make up Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe Trilogy. Hey, at least the guy is well-read.

Whose missing here? Dean Hrbacek? Bob Talton? Where’d ya go, guys? Bob: worried about losing that House seat of yours to a Democrat? Dean, worried about . . . oh, that’s right, David Wallace already DID that.

And then there is Brian and Ryan, Klock and Rowley, respectively. Dark horses that make the campaign of Alan Steinberg credible.

Times a-wastin’ guys. Get those papers in so we can have us a real GOP slug fest. Watch out, though. In my humble opinion, at least one of them may be packing brass knuckles.

TxDOT Suddenly Has Money to Spend

But follow the money.

Not TxDOT’s. That’s your money that TxDOT gets from taxes from wherever.

But suddenly, after crying poverty for so long, justifying that major new commuter highway projects be funded through tolls, TxDOT says that it can come up with $275 million to widen a rural highway in Fort Bend and Brazoria Counties. That’s right. TxDOT wants to widen a presently mostly two-lane State Highway 36 and Spur 10 into four lanes along a corridor stretching from Pleak Village (just south of Rosenberg) at SH 36 and FM 2218 to FM 1495 (aka Pine Street) in Freeport, Texas.

In two recent townhall meetings that TxDOT conducted, one at West Columbia High School in Brazoria County and the one most recently in the gymnasium of Needville High School, in Fort Bend County, TxDOT spokesman Roger Gonzalez, a TxDOT project manager, told the attendees (quoting The Chron):

“that the roads need to be widened to improve existing traffic flow in the area, to compensate for population growth in the region, to help in the event of a hurricane evacuation and to improve access to the Port of Freeport”.

“’The current capacity is not sufficient during an evacuation event,’ Gonzalez said.”

“He said the portion of Spur 10 that may be expanded saw 1,191 vehicles per day in 2005, and projections indicate that same part of the road will see 2,923 vehicles per day in 2025.”

“The part of Texas 36 set to be widened saw 10,283 cars per day in 2005, a number that is projected to increase to 16,453 in 2025.”

Now I am a little confused. I have been up and down SH 36 and I cannot for the life of me get a feel for the projections of increased traffic. There are times, I swear, you can see a Texas Tortoise make it’s way across the entire width of Hwy 36 unscathed.

But then, I guess we’re not just talking about natural growth along a two-lane highway are we? We’re talking cause and effect.

If you build it they will come.

From County Judge Hebert when the Fort Bend County Commissioners approved this project this past August. Quoting from FortBendNow:

“’If the project comes about’, Hebert said earlier this year, ‘it could help spur growth and development in the southern portion of Fort Bend County, and certainly it helps the Port of Freeport.’”

Straight from the horse’s mouth. TxDOT again will spend millions of dollars to improve a state highway in order to enable developers to expand into the rural areas along Highway 36. You know, like Needville.

Needville, Texas, for those of you who have never been there, sports a sign at its city limits that proclaims the city as the place “where thousands live the way millions wish they could”.

If you like rural living, there’s no finer place to live than Needville.

Unless, as Judge Hebert predicts, that ruralness is about to go away forever.

But there was one odd thing that Hebert mentioned toward the end that got me curious, as well as the comment by TxDOT spokesmen Gonzales:

Hebert: “…and certainly it helps the Port of Freeport.”
Gonzales: “…and to improve access to the Port of Freeport”

Freeport? Everyone wants to go to Freeport, as Gonzales suggests?

No, I think it’s pretty much the other way around. The Port of Freeport has just last year broken ground on the largest expansion of their deepwater terminal in 40 years. It’s called the Velasco Terminal, and at its full completion, it is expected to be able to handle between 800,000 and 1,000,000 20-ft-equivalent container units annually.

Where do all those containers go? Why on truck beds, of course. And those trucks will be sent north on a newly widened SH 36 roaring and screaming up and down the highway belching diesel exhaust day and night non-stop.

Turning Needville into a place where millions live where only thousands wish they could.

Why SH 36? What’s so special? Well for one thing it intersects at Rosenberg with the proposed Trans Texas Corridor, Interstate 69. That’s one destination, but not the only one, bringing us to why the H-E double-hockey sticks TxDOT wants to spend $42 million to widen Spur 10.

What is Spur 10?

Spur 10 is a little known road west of Rosenberg (but maybe soon to be included in Rosenberg), that marks the western end of what has become termed the triple forks area, an area of hundreds of undeveloped acres near the junction of Spur 10, FM 529 and the future TTC I 69 highway, where it has been recently proposed to build a major container on/off load site. The site is conveniently situated at the crossroads of I 69 and a major East-West rail line that locally runs along US 90A. More convenient if it were at the end of newly widened Spur 10/SH 36.

Last July 3rd I was present at a Nick Lampson town hall meeting at which Rosenberg officials pointed out the proposed project to Lampson. Lampson, a newly appointed member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, seemed startled at the news, but became acutely interested in the project, and I suppose, its ramifications.

So what is the point of this posting that seemingly jumps from one lily pad to another showing the connections but to what end?

It’s all about the money. Not your money. Their money. The money of Madrid-based Dragados SPL which is funding the construction of Freeport’s Velasco Terminal and will ultimately operate the terminal. Texas appears to be in full partnership with the Bush agenda as they outsource our infrastructure (and in this case our ports) to foreign interests.

And TxDOT is willing to pony up American taxpayer dollars to make this all happen, but not one taxpayer dollar to help Texas citizens get from point A to point B. Instead, TxDOT says, Texans that need to commute to work need to do so by paying exorbitant tolls. Nope, can't afford to pay for commuter transportation needs. Yep, when you see TxDOT loosen it’s purse strings to plunk down some taxpayer dollars, don’t expect it to be in the interests of Texan commuters. But that doesn’t prevent them from telling residents about how the expansion will help them by warning them about crowded hurricane escape routes and the expected increase in traffic. Of course there will be a traffic increase what with an additional 2,200 trucks roaring up and down the highway every day (that’s 1 truck every 40 seconds).
What to conclude? With apologies to JFK:

...and so my fellow Texans ask not what the Texas Department of Transportation can do for you, ask what they can do for foreign moneyed interests.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Bring Him Home Santa

This song is jerking tears all over the country this week. If George Bush won’t bring our troops home, maybe it IS time to ask for someone else’s help.

U.S. out of Iraq. Today.

Monday, December 24, 2007


Submitted without further comment.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Do They Know It’s Christmas?

My God. Can it be that it was 23 years ago that they made the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Twenty. Three. Years. I’ll bet there are people out there who have never heard the story of how and why the song was written and why it was performed by a group with the unlikely name “Band Aid”.

Band Aid?

It was a huge collection of then-popular Irish and British recording artists put together (some say ordered together) by then-recording giant Bob Geldof. Late in 1984 word came to Europe that Ethiopians were suffering from famine (hence all the staving Ethiopian jokes – that’s where they came from). Geldof and Midge Ure co-wrote the song then got on the phone to get “Band Aid” put together.

The idea was to make the single with lots of press coverage and have all the proceeds of the sale go to sending food to Ethiopia. Over three million copies of the single sold that year.

It was such a good idea, and apparently we still have starvation, that the single was remade 2 more times, most recently in 2004.

The Band Aid Charitable Trust continues to supply food and sanitary supplies to several African nations, most recently in Darfur.

I’m not a big fan of the British, but you have to admit their greatness when they show moral courage and charity to do this project, 3 times, while we Americans all sit around at Christmas and stuff our faces.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

John Edwards in New Hampshire: America Rises


New Hampshire gets all the good stuff. When John Edwards visited Houston, Texas this summer about 350 of his devotees, me included, stood heel to toe in a room whose air conditioning system could not cool it down. These New Hampshire guys get to go and hear John Edwards give a very inspiring speech, AND listen to Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne sing. I hope they all paid something for that. Last time I heard John speak in person it cost me $15. Last time I heard Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne sing together it was at the Santa Barbara Bowl and it cost me $32.

So I got this email on this New Hampshire town hall meeting from Elizabeth Edwards. “Oh,” I thought to myself, “Not another request for a donation.” I watched the video that came with it and something clicked. I don’t know what it is, but Elizabeth Edwards identifies it as capturing “a feeling of warmth and hope”. It sure worked for me. Here is what Elizabeth Edwards wrote:

The holiday season is a time for family, a time to give thanks -- and a time to think back on the year past.

This past week, John was joined by two of my favorite singers, Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne, at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire. Take a moment to watch this video clip -- it captures the feeling of warmth and hope that we feel every day on the campaign trail. This is one of my favorite songs.

I hope you will take a couple of minutes to watch it, and share it with your family and friends over the holidays.

-Elizabeth Edwards

Consider it shared. Here is the video. It worked, Elizabeth. I plunked down $50 today. Others can, too.

Fort Bend GOP: Battling Fundraisers

Just when you think things are going to calm down a bit with the Republicans of Fort Bend County, someone fires another cannon into the deck. Here with the holiday season upon us, carolers going door to door, autos packed with children moving slowly through decorated neighborhoods, now we have the Fort Bend “C Club” announcing that they were going to party down after the primary with Tony Snow.

It’s all there at FortBendNow.

If you don’t live around here, you probably don’t know what the “C Club” is. The C Club, “C” is for Conservative, is a new PAC consisting of moderate conservatives where members are strictly by invitation only, and they have to plunk down a hefty $1500 fee just for the honor of being included on the exclusive membership list. Members include former officers of the Fort Bend GOP and others who are disaffected by recent goings on within the local party.

The question is asked at FortBendNow: if you are going to have to decide which event are you going to plunk down your usual $10,000 (yes folks, they are loaded) for, the FBGOP’s Lincoln-Reagan Dinner featuring Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael L. Williams and Lt. Col. (Ret.) Brian Birdwell as guest speakers, or the C Club’s own gala a mere month later that features former Bush press secretary and now Fox News commentator Tony Snow, which would you opt for?

So county Republicans are either going to have to pony up twice the price to attend both, or make a choice between the radical fringe’s Lincoln-Reagan Dinner featuring what’s-their-names, or the moderate’s par-tée with Tony Snow.

And in so-doing, by the way, making your opinion heard on who should be running the show in Fort Bend.

By the way, the C Club is such a copycat. This is a blatant knockoff of the Begala Gala held by the Fort Bend Democrats in October of ’06, where we had former Clinton advisor and present CNN commentator Paul Begala as guest speaker.

Oh well, as they say immitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Friday, December 21, 2007

How Many Lame Duck Presidents Does It Take To Issue 50 Vetoes?

If the lame duck president is George W. Bush, then you only need one.

In his first six years of office, Bush issued just one veto. He vetoed the bill that had bipartisan support in both houses: to expand federal support of stem cell research. But since the people voted for change in 2006, and voted in a narrow majority in the Senate and a near narrow majority in the House, Bush, ever more the lame duck president, just gets his veto stamp out whenever he wants to be taken seriously.

And now, according to Hearst’s Helen Thomas, he doesn’t even have to apply the stamp in order to cow congress into submission. He just has to wave it around.

“But right now he is on a roll, getting what he wants without a veto pen but merely making the threat.”

“He was able to derail the Democrats yearlong attempt to set a timetable for a troop withdrawal from Iraq. Just before the holiday recess, the Senate approved an additional $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- with no strings attached -- which the president will sign.”

In all, White House aides say that there are 50 separate pieces of legislation that Bush doesn’t like, and now that he is in his last year in office, he apparently feels no restriction to advance his neoconservative agenda.

The Worst President . . . Ever, has now become The Worst Lame Duck President . . . Ever.

Thank Jesus for the Obama Girls, who keep this thing ever in perspective.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rick Noriega On Daily Kos’ Front Page; Cornyn Has A Story There, Too.

So I was just surfing around looking at the blogs today when I happened onto Daily Kos, and saw that Kos had a huge article on Texas Senatorial candidate Rick Noreiga, right on the front page, but you can find it here, too. I read the whole thing – OK, I skipped the stuff that Richard Morrison wrote on him earlier this year on the original Draft Rick Noriega blog.

Kos wrote a good piece that makes a strong comparison between Rick Noriega's campaign and the races of Tester of Montana and Webb of Virginia. Two states that are very red, but the voters there went with the Democratic challengers rather than the Republican incumbents.

Now what you won’t see on the front page of Daily Kos, at least not yet anyway, is a posting by Libby Shaw. It’s buried back there so just click here for a very interesting read on whether or not John Cornyn pulled a fast one and eluded the draft during the Vietnam Era.

John Cornyn, who is 55, would have been 18 when the Selective Service System’s method of calling up cannon fodder for military service changed to a fair and equitable lottery system. Before that, college age men could escape The Draft by staying in college with their 2-S deferments. In 1971, Cornyn at 19, and all 19 year old men in America, participated in the 1971 lottery. Cornyn’s birthdate of February 2, was drawn with the lottery number 28. That year, 28 was a very low number. The highest lottery number called for service that year was 95.

So John Cornyn, who claims to have applied for and received a student deferment in 1970 did not go to war, even though Libby Shaw pointed out several instances where students who had deferments lost them as the new and fairer system assigned them each lottery numbers.

I am simply beside myself in wonderment.

Beside myself, mainly because of Cornyn’s hawkish stance on Iraq and Iran.

In wonderment because Cornyn, from his own bio on his Senate website, is the son of a career military officer – an army brat no less.

Shaw makes another pointed comment, directed at the mainstream media. There is an inconsistency here in what should have been a cut-and-dried issue. Cornyn should have lost his 2-S deferment, gained his low lottery number, and reported for duty in 1972. That he didn’t, and no one in the mainstream media has been wondering about it tells you something about political power. Shaw even points out an article in the Texas Observer, that while very complementary to Noriega, claims that Cornyn was too young to have to worry about military service. That was very clearly wrong. A little white lie planted out there.

But I think that this little white lie is the thing that started Shaw on her quest for the truth.

A quest that continues . . .

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Blue Revolution Continues in HD-97

I wasn’t watching this Texas HD-97 race very closely because of a bad past experience. It was literally an overlay to the special election for the HD-29 seat at exactly this time last year. My list of similarities:

1) HD-29 boundaries in Brazoria and Matagorda Counties are drawn to assure a Republican will be elected to the state house, as is HD-97’s in Tarrant County.

2) Dr. Anthony DiNovo was opposed by a gang of three Republicans all vying for the seat vacated by the passing of longtime State Rep. Glenda Dawson, just as Dan Barrett was opposed by six, count ‘em, six Republican opponents all vying for the seat of retired state Rep Anna Mowry.

3) Rick Perry waited for the last possible moment to call a special election in HD-29: it was held exactly one year ago today. In HD-97 the special election fell on the regular November 6 general election, but the runoff special election, set again by Rick Perry 7 days before Christmas, guaranteed a low turnout just as we saw in HD-29.

Dr. DiNovo came in 3rd place, missing the runoff by a mere 803 votes. Two Republicans vied for the seat in the runoff this past January.

That’s were the similarities end.

Paul Burka called it for the Republicans, saying that HD-97 was a solid Republican district where Dan Barrett was being outspent 3 to 1 by his Republican opponent and Tom Craddick devotee Mark Shelton.

So I didn’t really pay close attention to this race.

And that taught me something that Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie wrote in his news release today:
“To all those critics who were counting Representative-elect Barrett out, it's time to pay attention to the surge in Democratic support all over Texas. Those safe Republican seats aren't quite as safe as one might think, and voters are sick of Republican arrogance and incompetence in Austin.”
Is it really going to be better than all expectations in 2008? Will I have to change the name of my website?

OK, devil’s advocate time.

Was this a fluke? Voter turnout in this runoff election was a dismal 10.75% with about 95,600 total registered voters in HD-97 and a total of 10,278 voters showing up at the polls. But that’s more than double the numbers that showed up for the special election in HD-29, and more than quadruple the numbers that showed up for the runoff.

Yes, there was definite interest in this election, despite the numbers. Interest generated by the fact that the Republican opponent was a Tom Craddick disciple, a fact, I am told, that was hammered home by the Barrett campaign.

And I really have to laugh off the unofficial Republican explanation for this seeming “fluke”. Republicans, they said, actually came out and voted for Barrett so that Shelton would not have the visibility that comes with being the incumbent when this whole thing plays out again in November 2008. They were mad. Mad about some dirty tricks that were being played in the run-up to the special election. They all think that Shelton planted a robo-call to make it look like one of his Republican opponents was attacking the other. So they voted for a Democrat.

That’s pretty flimsy. First, you have to believe that Republicans are that politically canny and acted together to vote for Barrett. Second, all you have to do is look at the numbers. While Dan Barrett had a net loss of 3% of voters between the special and the run-off, Shelton had a whopping 17.6% who didn’t bother to show up at the polls in the run-off.

I think it’s just a matter of who wanted it the most, Democrat or Republican voters. My belief, echoed by others, is that Barrett won because enough Republicans were staying home, or going to the mall instead of the polls. They didn’t want it enough.

Now what happens in November 2008 is anyone’s guess. The numbers in the runoff were a close 52%-48%, and Barrett won’t be doing much of anything in terms of legislating unless Perry calls a special session, something I think he would be crazy to do at this point. So if this result was because of low voter turn out, and would never fly in a regular election, how does Barrett do this?

On the other hand, if this was not a voter turnout fluke, but an actual district turnover, as Chairman Richie says, how many more of these are in the offing? Do we retake the House in 2008 by a landslide?

Could I be that hopeful?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fort Bend County Commissioner Tom Stavinoha: “I Was For the Grand Parkway Tollway Before I Was Against It”

What a game of flip floppery we have going here in Texas' Fort Bend County. Ever the den of backroom dealings, now we have Precinct 1 Commissioner Tom Stavinoha playing charades in a half-hearted attempt to pass a resolution advising TxDOT that Section C of the Grand Parkway, proposed as a “tollway to nowhere”, not be built.

This is not the Tom Stavinoha who attended a community meeting over this project last November, and stated firmly that he was for the project.

That was before the organized opposition to the project made its existence known to him.

That was before a credible Democratic opponent, Attorney Richard Morrison, announced that he was running for Tom’s seat in the court.

Precinct 2 commissioner, Democrat Grady Prestige, called this move exactly as he saw it: “a half-baked cake”. Translation: Stavinoha wants to make it look like he is really against this project to deflate any organized opposition, so proposes a resolution that, sadly, ever so sadly, would pass with an undecisive split vote. So he just had to withdraw it. Tarnation!

This would be such a slimy manipulation of the truth if it wasn’t so transparent. If it wasn’t so poorly executed. When are Fort Bend County voters going to realize that returning these guys to office time and time again gains them nothing if there is no integrity in the mix? If the guy has an R next to his name on the ballot, why is that person automatically the one to vote for if it does nothing for you and puts a “tollway to nowhere” and a 17 storey garbage heap behind your backyard fence?

Monday, December 17, 2007

On The Phone With Rick Noriega

So I was on the phone with my future US Senator, Rick Noriega, tonight. It was a blogger family affair. Rick talked for about 23 minutes about where the campaign had been, where it was now, and where it was going. Things to look for.

As I sat and listened, it became clear to me that John Cornyn hasn’t the slightest idea what is going to come at him next year.

Not a clue.

It occurred to me that John Cornyn has tried to distance himself from a president who lies and lies and lies, but the die is cast and the story has already been told.

My conclusion? This race will not be so much a race between Noriega and Cornyn. Cornyn and George Dubya Bush are attached at the hip. It will very much be a referendum on George W. Bush.

And Texans, and that includes Republican Texans, are fighting mad at Bush.

It's a Christmas TPA Blog Round-Up

It's beginning to look a lot like Monday, every where you go. Take a look at the blogs and posts glistening once again with threads and comments aglow. It's beginning to look a lot like Monday, Round-ups on ev'ry blog, but the prettiest sight to see is the post that will be from your own favorite blog....enjoy this week's Texas Progressive Alliance Blog Round-Up compiled by Vince from Capitol Annex.

Fred Thompson couldn't make the ballot in Delaware because of FIVE HUNDRED
SIGNATURES. Mayor McSleaze at McBlogger thinks that's pretty pathetic. You will as well.

Eddie at Burnt Orange Report writes about a precedent-setting case in the Sixth District Court of Appeals which gives helps a Paris, Texas blogger preserve his or her anonymity.

How I became a "far-left-radical with a socialist agenda" etc. On Bluedaze by TXsharon

While Gary at Easter Lemming Liberal News had a sick mouse the world moved on.

Choo choo!! That is the sound of cleaner air at The Texas Cloverleaf. 98 new more environmentally friendly trains are running in Texas. But did taxpayers really have to front the money?

Bay Area Houston Wonders why NASA Contractors are limiting their employees constitutional rights while receiving billions of dollars of government funding.

Vince at Capitol Annex notes that AG Greg Abbott has handed Speaker Tom Craddick an early Christmas present in the form of an opinion that hands him cart blanche to do whatever he wants--and even emasculates impeachment.

Muse discovers a list of 300+ women political bloggers! Female bloggers are playing a powerful role in this presidential election cycle – and are increasingly recognized for this. Texas bloggers are on the list. Check it out!

In his piece titled John Cornyn Files for Senate, Hal at Half Empty entertains the notion that the junior senator is really looking for an elusive seat on the US Supreme Court.

Stace at DosCentavos tells us about the newest Pew Center poll! It's no wonder many Citizen-Latinos (and especially undocumented folks) are feeling like people without a country.

Eye on Williamson, posts on Brian Ruiz, Rep. John Carter's opponent in TX-31, and two of Carter's recent votes in Brian Ruiz And Rep. John Carter's (R-Exxon Mobil) Circle .

An activist action plan for the FISA-with-telecom immunity bill, coming up on Monday in the Senate, is posted by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

And, last but not least, don't forget about Dan Barrett in House District 97, who has been endorsed by the Texas Progressive Alliance in his special election runoff. Matt at Burnt Orange Report has a great post about the race here.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

John Cornyn Files for Senate

With his numbers further south than Tierra Del Fuego, the junior senator from Texas filed to appear on the Republican primary ballot in March.

He wants to keep his job.

Now wait a minute. I’ve been writing for some time now that the Republicans would find someplace to stick this political embarrassment, this Bushie rubber stamp, and replace him with someone who might win in November. It must be that the Republican machine is broken, they couldn’t find some place to put him, or that they couldn’t find anyone to run in his place. Those are the only explanations that I can come up with. My expectations have always been that Cornyn, whose approval rating stand at an all time low – rare for a senate incumbent, would get a major appointment that he could not turn down leaving Republicans to put up a candidate who might win.

Or maybe that is still in the works.

Those who attended the news conference that followed his filing were treated to another Republican candidate’s clumsy comment that Cornyn now serves as a justice on the US Supreme Court.

I kid you not. Quoting from the Chron, at the bottom of the piece:

“His background served as a lighter moment at his news conference Saturday as he was introduced by Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, who also filed for re-election.”

"'Now I bring you to the podium a man who obviously served us as a member of the Supreme Court of Texas, attorney general and now serves us as a member of the United States Supreme Court.’"

“Williams was momentarily flustered by the laughter. ‘We're going to give him that one, too.’"

So what are we talking here? A brain fart from a hopelessly hung over Texas Railroad Commissioner or a giant slip of the tongue? And were we spared the indignity of another Bush Supreme Court appointment because Justice Souter refuses to retire until after Bush is gone?

Whatever. Now that it appears that he is running for his job, he has to face the biggest challenger he has ever faced. A veteran of Afghanistan, a soldier who has worked on the border. A state representative who has a progressive legislative record that includes support of health care for children in low income families.

That man is Rick Noriega. Rick, by the way, has a great story, and it is told well in the latest issue of The Texas Observer. It’s a good read.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Texas AG Abbott Sides With Craddick

Just hours before the opinion’s deadline, Texas Attorney General issued what amounted to a moral victory for House Speaker Tom Craddick. Moral victory in that in his opinion, the AG found that Craddick, as House Speaker, held a statewide office, and as a statewide office holder, could only be removed by impeachment in the Texas Senate.

Some would say that that is a flat out victory for Craddick, and its effect does amount to victory. Curiously, Abbott refused to cross the line and issue an interpretation on House rules.
“This office will adhere to the Texas Constitution's separation of powers doctrine and long-standing precedent in declining to answer questions requiring an interpretation of Senate and House rules or questions regarding legislative parliamentary decisions.”
Oh please. Are we not full of ourselves? Abbott does not deign to make an opinion on House rules because why? Would his opinion become House rules? Does his opinion carry the force of constitutional law? No, Abbott did not go there because in going there he would be finding all of the statements made on parliamentary procedure in all of the briefs filed to be absolutely valid. Craddick overstepped his authority in claiming that his power was absolute. Craddick cannot refuse to recognize a member. To do so would be to disenfranchise every constituent in the member’s district.

Abbott knew this, so he just left it alone, giving the inviolability of the separation of powers as his reason.

How does that work? How do you issue an opinion that the House Speaker is a statewide office holder, and that’s OK, but on the other hand refuse to render an opinion on House rules, because the Executive Branch can’t meddle in the affairs of the Legislative?

It works because you just say it works, that’s how that works. But AG Abbott is fooling no one here. Keffer and Cook alluded to a football metaphor in saying that AG Abbott punted and fumbled. I’ll go them one better by observing that what AG Abbott really did was take the game ball and hide it somewhere.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Travis County DA Ronnie Earle To Retire

It’s true. The famed district attorney of Travis County announced that he will not seek re-election after the last year of his current term. There has been speculation that he would make this announcement for a couple of months now.

It’s a real change of the guard. Earle has held that job since first being elected to it in 1977.

Ever the progressive Democrat, Earle has doggedly pursued a money laundering case against Tom DeLay, who Earle alleges, transferred $190,000 of TRMPAC money to a Republican run fund, and that fund, coincidentally, donated $190,000 to the campaigns of Republicans running for state house and senate. This enabled them to run a higher visibility campaign, and resulted in the first Republican majority in the Texas legislature since Reconstruction.

That case, continually delayed because of pre-trial motions, may not ever come to trial while Earle is in office.

But this is not the only time Earle has used his office to right the wrongs of Republicans. He accused then State Treasurer Kay Bailey Hutchison of improper use of her office for her campaign. Earle had the evidence, but the judge announced that he would not make rulings on admissibility of the evidence until the trial, telling Earle that he would rule the evidence inadmissible during trial and torpedo his case against Hutchison.

So he dropped the case.

Interestingly, this is widely regarded as the greatest show of weakness in his career, as it prompted someone to challenge him at the polls for the first time since taking office. A challenge that failed miserably.

But make no mistake, Earle has not used his office to prosecute Republican politicians only. Both Democrats and Republicans have been brought to trial by Earle for all kinds of misdeeds, a record that DeLay-Republicans always fail to mention.

Earle, at 65, is still comparatively young, which causes one to pause and speculate about any political plans he has in the future. A statewide race in 2010?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gore Blames Bush Regime For Impasse at UN Climate Confab; Promises Change

Delegates to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, convened in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, say that they have arrived at an impasse, and the blame has been placed on the Bush-delegation chaired by Paula Dobriansky, a US undersecretary of state.

At the heart of the impasse is Bush’s much-touted plan for climate control that was launched late last September. This plan lacks the milestones that are being urged by most countries, as well as scientists. From the Washington Post:
“Throughout a week of negotiations on the island of Bali, Bush administration officials have steadily resisted a United Nations proposal calling on industrialized countries to accept a goal of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 40 percent by 2020.”
Bush’s plan is backed by few countries, including Canada and Japan, industrialized countries that don’t want to cede to developing nations the amount of already excessive green house gases that they emit.

And it’s getting bad because countries in the European Union are already talking about boycotting the Bush-sponsored major economies meeting to be held later on in Honolulu.

My, that is getting bad. These guys take their meetings, and the plush sites where they hold them, very seriously. First in Bali, in Nusa Dua nonetheless (very upscale), and then later in Hawaii. Why not, say, Modesto California? They have a Howard Johnsons.

But back to Bush and his plan, do you not just see the hypocrisy? The fact of Global Warming was denied for years by the Bushies. And why, you might ask? It’s all about the money. Bush’s corporate sponsors would be big losers if we embarked on projects to cut down greenhouse gases. And now that they cannot deny what has become painfully obvious to all, they want to settle on a plan that will do two things: 1) save the Bushie cronies their lucre, 2) not solve the problem.

So in the face of this meeting coming apart, much to the delight of the US delegation, one would imagine, up gets Al Gore. He delivers a 48 minute speech to a crowded room. Gore told the audience not to lose heart. If there is an impasse, just ignore it and go on and do the other things that needed to get doing – ignore the 800 pound gorilla in the room as it were. Why? Well, according to Al Gore,

“Over the next two years the United States is going to be somewhere where it is not now. You must anticipate that.”

Clearly he was alluding to the fact that the 2008 elections were going to bring sweeping change in America, and in America’s government’s attitude toward Global Warming.

He got a huge ovation on that one statement.

As side note, what’s all this about Indonesia being a player in the environmental movement? As a developing nation, the Indonesian government supports agricultural practices of clearing their lush rainforests by burning them (emitting greenhouse gases) so that they can replant the acreage to produce palm oil. Right nowpalm oil is just used for cooking, but Indonesia sees palm oil as a big cash cow in our biofuel future. I mean, really, Nusa Dua is practically a paradise, and a nice place to hold a meeting, but I’ve never associated Indonesia with eco-friendly anything.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

John Edwards on Another Reason I Support This Guy

I made a discovery today. I discovered a website,, that allowed people to vote for individuals’ questions that they would like to see the presidential candidates answer. This was really under the radar for a lot of people – not too many people knew about it judging from the number of votes that were recorded.

It’s too late to vote for the questions, but it’s now time to get the candidates to respond to the questions. Two candidates have already posted their responses, my guy, John Edwards, and from the Dark Side, Reverand Huckabee, although the site says that Dr. Ron Paul, MD – Ob-Gyn, will also post his answers.

It really says something about the Edwards campaign, and John Edwards himself, when you see that he is among the first to respond to these questions. And THE first Democrat.

I’m going to post a few of the questions, and how John Edwards answered them, here. You can go and watch all of them there, but frankly some of the questions are pretty lame. Mainly because the only questions that appear are the ones that people voted the most for, and I think that there is a problem with that: see paragraph 1.

Case in point, the number one most voted for question on this website has nothing to do with jobs, moral issues, immigration, war, or health care. It has to do with support of net neutrality. It seems that only internet geeks found the site before the voting closed.

Here is my second least favorite question, but I liked Edwards’ answer:

Edwards answered this waaaay beyond this specific issue.

This is a question on Bush’s warrantless wiretaps.

Edwards’ answer is short, direct and to the point.

There were two questions that involved campaign finances. One was a general one about whether the candidate supported publicly financed campaigns, which got an OK answer from Edwards, OK but the answer addressed the question alone and didn’t go deeper. He went deeper in response to the other questioner which I didn’t want to show because, quite frankly, the guy is irritating and a little smug. So if you can get past personality issues here is the so-so question,

and the outstanding answer.

This guy just asked a question about voter turnout. What is the candidate going to do about low voter turnouts? I can’t believe he limited himself in this issue. This issue is huge and has many heads.

Acknowledging the fact that this is a multi-faceted problem, Edwards answered across the board: voter suppression, paper trail, DC resident enfranchisement, and other stuff that I am not so sure about.

And finally this one, a question on reducing government size. This is how I discovered the 10questions website. The guy is probably a straight ticket Dark Side voter because of the odd way he states the question: “How much would you pledge to reduce the size of government?”

Edwards gives this guy more than he asked for, and less at the same time. I think Edwards didn’t directly answer the question because it’s so odd. How much what? How much money? Doesn’t that imply increase in government size? How much time? How much attention? Edwards answered this one just fine.

So there you have it, a Half Empty version of 10Questions: 5Questions.