Thursday, January 31, 2008

Poor Rick Perry: What Does A Governor Endorse Now?

My question is, what will Texas Governor Rick Perry do now that his endorsed presidential candidate has fizzled?

Apparently only 39% of Texas voters actually cast their ballot for the sitting governor, thanks to a Texas law that only requires a plurality of the vote in order to become elected governor of this state.

And by my own evaluation of those that make up that 39% group, I think we are talking about friends, cronies and the vast bulk of right wing conservatives that still call the Republican Party home: evangelical conservatives, all of whom have had huge problems with the candidacy of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

So when Rick Perry, whose entire base make up that specialized wing of the Republican Party endorsed the candidacy of Giuliani, you couldn’t avoid hearing the collective grinding of conservative teeth. And Perry was alone among the state governors to make this endorsement.

Look at it from Perry’s point of view. Really, it was an endorsement based on Texas chauvinism, right? Giuliani is a senior partner in the Houston-based law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani, LLP (since 2005). That makes Rudy Giuliani a Texan . . . of sorts. And since there are no native-born Texans running for president (and probably none for the foreseeable future if the rest of America has anything to say about it), that gives Rick Perry an obvious choice for an endorsement. Heck, Rudy was riding the crest of a wave: in the news every night, ahead in every poll. And Rick Perry was THE FIRST to endorse Rudy Giuliani.

When you are first to endorse . . . well that means something. That means you have vision. That means that you know how to pick a winner.

So despite all of the downside of picking a pro-abortion pro-stem cell Republican candidate for President, despite angering your entire base – all 39% - Perry went for it, leaned out and grabbed for the ring.

Only to come back with a gob of snot on his hand.

Now what do you do when you have enraged the people who have put you there in that office, when you have NOT made the endorsement that needed making for the front-runner (by the way, another Republican that Perry’s base cannot stand, and by the way, the guy that Giuliani turned around and endorsed).

What do you do?

Well I hear that Ron Paul needs some help, and oh we all forgot, Ron Paul is a Texan. But, no, Paul is not polling in the teens, so maybe not.

Well there is only one choice that I can see for Rick Perry. One choice is all he has. No, not McCain (H-E double hockey sticks no). And no, not Mitt. These evangelical conservative Texans that represent Perry’s base still have problems with adherents to the Church of Latter Day Saint (that’s “Mormon” in Texan). So it only leaves only one choice for Rick Perry. Only one bandwagon left to jump on, and I predict that he will if Mike Huckabee, or his campaign, doesn’t view Rick Perry’s endorsement as something like the blessing of Jonah.

Oh, please Jesus, grant me this prayer: tell Governor 39% to endorse Mike Huckabee for president.

Let it be Huckabee.
UPDATE: Well it is either one of two things, Jesus doesn't give a rat's behind about my pleadings, or Rick Perry no longer has a personal pipeline to our Lord and Savior's suggestions. Looks like Perry went ahead in lockstep with his friend Arnold Governator and endorsed John McCain.
Hey . . . isn't Schwarzenegger an immigrant? Can't we do something about that?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Thank You From John Edwards

Yes, even I get email from friends:

Dear Hal,

Let me start by saying, "Thank you." You have stood with Elizabeth and me throughout this campaign. Your support has sustained us as we have traveled across this country.

Earlier today, I suspended my campaign for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. I made this announcement from where our journey began just over 12 months ago: New Orleans.

I began my presidential campaign in New Orleans to remind the country that all of us -- as citizens and as a government -- have a moral responsibility to each other, and what we do together matters.

Now, it's time for me to step aside so that history can blaze its path. We do not know who will take the final steps to the White House -- but what we do know is that our Democratic Party will make history.

And, along the way, all of you who have been involved in this campaign and this movement for change and this cause, I am asking you to continue speaking out for those who have no voice, just as Elizabeth and I will continue to do. We need you.

Do not turn away from the great struggles before us. Do not give up on the causes that we have fought for. Do not walk away from what's possible, because it's time for all of us -- all of us together -- to make the two Americas one. We need you.

I hope you will take a few moments to listen to the video clip of my speech in New Orleans earlier this afternoon or to read it below.

In the meantime, Elizabeth and my family join me in thanking all of you for your support and for working so hard on my behalf. We are truly blessed to have such friends.

Thank you.

John Edwards
January 30, 2008

Edwards Steps Aside. Obama Rises.

The news was a little too quick for my tastes, but not unexpected. Today John Edwards’ announcement that he was stepping aside narrowing the Democratic race for the presidential nomination to a field of two left me somewhat disappointed that we couldn’t take this to the convention, as John was saying, but I understand his reasons. I will always wonder, though, how Edwards really would have done in Texas.

Joe Trippi, Edwards’ senior advisor explained it so that I could perhaps receive this with more nodding acceptance in this article as quoted below:

“Every day we were looking for ways to break out against these two candidates ... It became clearer and clearer after South Carolina on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, the press was really focused on Clinton and Obama that it was going to be tougher and tougher for us to break through. And contrary to what staff or pundits may say — the idea of playing the political game of kingmaker or spoiler never really appealed to him. In his mind it was a clear shot at the nomination or nothing.”
It appealed to me, but I can see that if you spend a year on the road in a grueling campaign, how settling for being a kingmaker at a brokered convention might not appeal to him when the prize is, after all, to be the one who is given the opportunity to set things aright in this country, and in the world. And maybe, as they say, Edwards found that given how things were going, he had already contributed more to the Democratic races than he was ever going to by staying in. If what I am hearing is right, Edwards has already done great things to keep the populist message to Democrats in the forefront, and had great influence over the evolving agendas of both Obama’s and Clinton’s campaigns.

So there’s that.

And now, with Edwards relegated to the sidelines, I find that I need to realign myself, and this blog, with another candidate. I can think of no one better to put my support behind than Barack Obama.

There is some thought that went into this. It goes all the way back to 2004 when I first saw this man give the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. “What an odd name for a guy who speaks English so well,” was among my first thoughts about him. He really wowed the convention, and he impressed the H-E double hockey sticks out of me. I commented to friends that this was a guy to watch.

Fast forward to this past year and the debates. I began to see that of the top tier candidates on the stage, Barack Obama most closely approached my guy’s political and social positions, including, but not restricted to, his vow not to take contributions from corporate PACs, a promise that Hillary Clinton eschewed.

I see Barack Obama as one who is still untainted by insider DC politics. Most of his legislative experience has been in the Illinois state house and senate. Compare that to Hillary Clinton, someone who is very much associated with insider DC politics.

After all, isn’t it all about Change?

And finally, I am one of the many who was very much taken aback by the “over the top” attacks that have recently been waged by the Clinton campaign, our ex-president being in the forefront of that onslaught. Recent key endorsements by Senators Kerry and Kennedy also did not go unnoticed by me.

I have been fascinated by how the pundits are spinning this. Some say that Edwards split the “White vote” that would have been evenly divided between Clinton and Obama, therefore this move by Edwards will not be affecting the campaigns of either candidate. Time Magazine’s Joe Klein offers the most astute observations, I think (maybe because I agree with them) that Obama has the most to gain from an Edwards withdrawal because Edwards himself more often than not campaigned against the things that are most associated with Hillary Clinton: “the old Washington Democratic establishment that he believes got too close to the corporations in the '90s.” In recent debates, Edwards more often than not found common ground with Obama, and less with Clinton.

So those are my reasons for taking up the Obama standard (note the new campaign banner on the left side of this blog).

But what will Edwards do? He has not endorsed either candidate, although Obama has himself voiced what I have noted above, that they have a common agenda, and has all but claimed the support of former Edwards adherents. My guess is that it will fall one of two ways: he will simply not endorse the campaigns of either, leaving each of us to decide on our own who to support – a not totally unlikely notion. Or he will endorse Obama’s campaign.

If John Edwards comes out in favor of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, I will be very, very surprised.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

John McCain, The Immigrant’s Friend, The Neocon’s Worst Enemy

John McCain is running ads about something that I mentioned here the other day: who we Democrats don’t want to run against in November. Polls, news pundits, bloggers, and the guy two doors down all have the same idea that John McCain would be the worst news for Democrats if he gets the Republican nomination. This has not missed the attention of his campaign.

Here is McCain’s own Web ad on this:

I think we have one last chance to keep McCain off the ballot in November, and that chance lies in McCain’s fairly humanitarian stance vis-à-vis how we are to manage the problem of having 12 million undocumented workers in the United States.

This stance, which has attracted the ire of a vocal neoconservative minority within the GOP is our last best hope for McCain’s loss of the nomination. Look at the video:

These people are just rabid, aren’t they? It gives me no comfort in knowing that I am practically relying on them to come out in force in the Republican primaries, as they did in 2000 when they nominated the least of the group of white men on their state primary ballots to become their party standard bearer.

Maybe we need a video of John McCain using the Worst Verb In The Universe, like the one he is said to have used when he responded to junior senator John Cornyn’s chiding last year when Cornyn was trying to obstruct the McCain/Kennedy plan for immigrants’ path to citizenship. Unfortunately we don’t have video of that. Only this reconstruction of how the rant might have gone:

That may not be enough, mainly because of the bleeps. While these neoconservatives hate the words, they love to hear them spoken out for some reason.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ron Reynolds for Texas HD 27: He’s OK in My Book

I’m sure anyone who has been reading this blog for any length of time recently, knows that I support the candidacy of Ron E. Reynolds as the Democratic nominee to run in November for State House District 27.

Now why would I do such a thing? Why support a candidate for an office where there is already a perfectly good Democratic incumbent in State Rep Dora Olivo? It’s not like she is a Craddick-D. So many of my progressive blogger cohorts rant and rave about Craddick D state reps that they are openly opposing in primary contests (when there is one).

No, that doesn’t bother me very much.

As I have said in the past, Craddick Ds are Craddick Ds for reasons of their own, and if they can remain so, get things for their district, and stay in office, then they know their districts better than we bloggers. But the risk is theirs, I guess.

No, Dora Olivo is no Craddick D. What I heard is the same thing that others heard, that Dora was thinking of calling it a day with the 80th Legislature. When I heard that Ron Reynolds was going to file, I thought now that was a great idea. Here we have new young Turk, an up and comer, and a proven leader. But then Dora Olivo filed for another term.

So what do you do? Go by your gut instinct that Reynolds is probably the best thing for the new century? Or back the incumbent? An incumbent who has consistently voted against a woman’s right to choose whether to have or not to have a child? A choice that is the personal choice of a woman, and not ever to be a whim of governmental bodies.

People give Ms. Olivo a pass on her position on abortion because she is a practicing Catholic, and the Church has directed all of its adherents to oppose abortion. And that is exactly why I DON’T give Ms. Olivo a pass on that issue. How dare any government representative put their religious convictions over and above the wishes of a majority of her constituents? How DARE she?

And for similar reasons, Ms. Olivo has presented legislation that would prevent the state of Texas from funding embryonic stem cell research. Because this research makes use of human embryos, embryos that would otherwise be destroyed in an oven, Ms. Olivo opposes it. Opposes it, again, on religious grounds.

So if there are reasons to be against the incumbent, those are two.

But mostly, I am FOR Ron Reynolds. I was very gratified, by the way, that Charles Kuffner, who writes the blog Off The Kuff, has published his recent interview with Ron Reynolds. Kuffner says that he “came away with a good impression of him and I think he’d do a fine job if elected.” Here is the interview.

Mainly what you hear, if you don’t want to listen, is what he has been saying all along, what I captured on video at a fundraiser he had last year that can be seen in 5 parts here.

There is also a question that I think Ron fielded perfectly fine, where he explained a dust-up he got into with the Texas Bar Association a couple of years ago. You should listen to his words. They are words that explain what happened, but he does not use words to excuse himself as others might. His explanation helps you to understand how the events came to pass, but he takes full blame for the events. This is a straight shooter. A man of integrity.

So those of you out there, you bottom feeders who have sought to besmirch the good name of this young man with innuendo and outright lies, maybe you ought to take a listen as well.

Listen to what honor and integrity sound like.

Oh, and also, you bottom feeders who don’t like what I write here and want to continue your smear tactics (which I would hope the Olivo campaign does not approve), go on ahead and leave a comment. If I like it, I will post it. Just beware that I will like it only if it makes you sound like an idiot.

Ready or Not, Here Is Another TPA Weekly Round-UP

A Monday Limerick

by Hal (with apologies)

There once was a group who could pound up
A list of posts that was ground up
But it read so well
That they made every Monday a Round-Up

Off the Kuff looks at the woes of the Harris County GOP and what it may mean in November.

North Texas will have one less class II commercial injection well pumping toxic soup underground. Reported by TXsharon on Bluedaze.

TXDOT has dug itself into quite a hole by using your money to lobby for the TTC and to pay for an advertising campaign to sell the wildly unpopular TTC to the citizens of Texas. McBlogger at McBlogger has the details and a great video.

Hal at Half Empty got his TI-83 out and ran the numbers on the Presidential Primaries. Conclusion? Texas has a chance to crown a king (or queen).

WhosPlayin? looks at the case of a teen brought up on charges for "huffing" hand sanitizer and is frustrated at the lack of discretion caused by "zero-tolerance" policies.

The action plan for Monday's FISA-with-telecom-immunity legislation is contained in PDid's post at Brains and Eggs. Don't strain your dialing finger, and don't forget to
call Senators Corndog and Hutch. It's a waste of time, yes, but they still need to hear from us.

NYTexan at BlueBloggin explains who Voters, Pledged Delegates and Super Delegates are and how they influence the democratic party nomination at the convention.

Are you a MOTO? If not, you will be after reading State Sen. Kirk Watson's guest blog this week at Capitol Annex.

North Texas Liberal reveals which celebrity is destroying the planet... and no, it's not Britney Spears.

Could we be looking at beginnings of the first upward trend in labor membership since 1983? The Texas Blue thinks we just might be.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fort Bend To Get a “Rail Bypass”?

It sounds almost surgical, but what a “rail bypass” really is, is maybe something to alleviate the 40 to 60 (and on the increase) freight trains per day that tie up traffic and delay the morning drives of thousands of Fort Bend County commuters every week.

I remember when this first came to my (and others’) attention. It was at a Nick Lampson “Neighborhood Office Hours” meeting in Richmond, last July.

From that posting:

“There was lots and lots of discussion on transportation issues. One question had to do with light rail to Houston. It opened up a can of worms. First, that the existing railroad line that runs right through Richmond was going to have increased traffic due to the purchase and construction of two container offloading sites in western Rosenberg. Railroad traffic, already around 60 trains per day, is expected to double and the truck traffic between Rosenberg and US 59 is expected to be heavy. Lots of infrastructure issues.”

“Nick also mentioned a proposal to reroute the rail line so that it bypassed populated areas, but that the railroad companies would probably need federal ‘inducement’.”

And now it seems we are a little further along. While in July I had the distinct impression that people were thinking about a northerly bypass (I don’t know, maybe the way everyone was waving their hands), it now seems to be that if a bypass is built to avoid the heavily populated areas of Fort Bend County, it will be through the southern part of the county, with the bypass beginning in the Rosenberg area, then southward, bending to the east, and then north to link up again in Houston.

I am wondering now, what this means for the container onload/offload sites that are in the planning stages for the Triple Forks Area west of Rosenberg. It is my speculation now that maybe since TxDOT’s plans for expansion of State Highway 36 to accommodate container truck traffic to that area are moot, maybe instead of bringing trucks to the rails, they plan to bring rails to the trucks.

Congressman Nick Lampson (D - Stafford) seems to have gone further along on this, because there is now a mile figure being batted around – an additional 36 miles of total distance traveled to cover the same change in longitude, and a cash figure: $880 million. A cost that Lampson says will be prohibitive unless the Feds kick in some dough.

Upside. Rail traffic through heavily populated areas of southwestern suburban Houston will be cut to almost nothing. Also consider another thing that was batted around at that meeting last July: maybe the Highway 90 corridor could be adapted to a light rail Houston to suburbs commuter system.

Downside: Apparently County Judge Bob Hebert is all in favor of this, and the County Commissioners have allocated 250 large to “study the project.” This must mean that someone smells a buck. If not the group that will study the project for the cool quarter mil, then maybe something else.

“It ain’t gonna happen”, says Precinct 1 Commissioner Tom Stavinoha. Unless . . .

Unless somehow, by some Machiavellian sleight of hand we can somehow work in Stavinoha’s pet project, the much-discussed expansion of the Grand Parkway. Yes, somehow Commissioner Stavinoha envisions how having a toll road through cotton fields is congruent with plans to have a freight train route through same. The former, by the way, is the road project that will probably end up costing Stavinoha dearly, in one election or another this year.

As you can see, nothing changes here in kleptocratic Fort Bend County.

Maybe someday, and this is just a distant dream of mine, maybe someday some decisions will be made in this county based on what is good for the people.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Edwards Looking at Third Place Again In South Carolina

What a contrast from only four years ago. Four years ago John Edwards was victorious in South Carolina against a well-funded John Kerry Campaign, and somewhat funded Al Sharpton and Wesley Clark campaigns. The results were Edwards – 44.86%, Kerry – 30.27%, Sharpton – 9.65% and Clark – 7.19%.

Times were different then. Edwards ran as a favorite son against a Yale-educated Massachusetts Yankee. Not a particularly difficult thing to do. But now there is a new mix, and while we saw a huge Black vote for Al Sharpton, that did not deliver the victory that we are expecting (as polls are indicating) for Barack Obama.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama have the taint of “Yankee” about them. Clinton for years was first lady of the Arkansas governor’s mansion, Obama, the son of a Kenyan immigrant, certainly has not been hurt by his heritage in this southern state, which expects a 50% African-American turnout today.

So John Edwards, by far the best of the three candidates who are still in the running for President of the United States, will again take third place.

It has never been an issue of written words. That makes people read, and God knows these days most people hate to read. So while John Edwards has a very significant endorsement by Martin Luther King, III, (read it at Bluedaze), I doubt that will have much of an affect. I hear that Hillary Clinton’s campaign has saturated the media market with her message, and has been answered by a well-thought out but under-funded television spot by the Edwards campaign. Click below.

It’s a very uplifting TV spot. I only have one problem with it. They need to get rid of the voiceover guy who sounds like he’s speaking into a shoe box.

More to the point. I think John Edwards has tried to keep the dignity of the Democratic Primary races elevated above the mud. The back and forth squabbles between Hillary and Barack are, quite frankly, turning people off. Not a significant number of them, granted, but enough to make a difference in the outcome today, I think.

So yes, look for 3rd place today. But not a distant 3rd.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Texas US Senatorial Campaign: Who's Running This Show?

Rick Casey writes some interesting stuff today about the Democratic senatorial race. Interesting if you want to see how the mainstream media are being pimped by a high school teacher who has a total campaign treasury of $9700.

To give them the credit they are due, the mainstream media are using the teacher from Corpus Christi, what’s-his-name McMurrey, every bit as much at the teacher is using them.

What the heck? What is so interesting about a Democratic senatorial race with a clear front-runner, a guy with the tools and talent to take it to the Republicans in November? How do you make that interesting for your readers?

Well, first, you jump to the defense to an unknown, underfunded challenger, that’s how

And then next, call Noriega a tyro. Call a state representative with 5 terms under his belt a political novice. Saaay, that’s the ticket. Say this:
"Is Houston state Rep. Rick Noriega ready for prime time? It's a long time until November, but some early missteps in the warm-up primary campaign suggest that Noriega needs to hone his skills before stepping on to the big stage.”
What? Noriega should “hone his skills” by swatting at gnats?

Since when do the media get to set the stage for a campaign? Since when do the mainstream media get on their white steeds and run a charge for a little-known, under funded, and under qualified private school teacher?

Face it, this McMurrey guy is simply running a spoiler campaign. He has absolutely no hope of being able to put together a credible campaign against John “I’ve Got $7.5 Million” Cornyn. You cannot, canNOT, run a senatorial campaign in Texas, a state with 5 separate major media markets, with $9700 and a campaign slogan that “I am not a politician”.

People who are not politicians should not run for political office.

All of these demands for Noriega to give respect to McMurrey fall on deaf ears here. Mainly because if you really look at it very, very hard, McMurrey is not the main threat to Noriega at the polls. His main opponent, sorry to say, is Gene Kelly. Hard to fathom, but true. Ignorance at the polls causes people in their advanced years to gravitate to a familiar name. Casey says it himself:

“He [Gene Kelly] won the Democratic nomination for the Texas Supreme Court in 1996 and for the U.S. Senate in 2000, and two years ago he forced Houston lawyer Barbara Radnofsky into a runoff for the Democratic nomination to challenge Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Kelly, 81, lives in Universal City, a suburb of San Antonio. Radnofsky thinks many voters confused that with Universal Studios”.

Actually, to give these Kelly voters credit that neither Casey nor Radnofsky seem to want to give them, there actually is a Universal City in California. And within it you will find Universal Studios, Universal Amphitheater, and the world famous Universal Studios Tour.

Gene Kelly just lives at the OTHER Universal City.

What also amazes me it that voters are completely ignorant of the fact that Gene Kelley, the singer/dancer/actor, not the retired Navy guy, was under contract at MGM, not Universal.


So should Rick Noriega debate this guy from Corpus Christi, the guy whose only campaign issue seems to be that he doesn’t get any respect?

No way.

Why not? Should he debate the man, Rick would immediately negate the guy’s plaintive whine to the news media, that he doesn’t get any consideration from the Noriega campaign.

And no one wants to completely rip the guy’s only issue to shreds.

Wouldn’t be fair, would it?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

So . . . Who Do We Vote For? The Woman or the Canadian?

In presidential politics, I had thought that this question would have been impossible given the stipulations found in Article II Section 1 of the United States Constitution:

“No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President”.

Last I looked, Canada was still a part of the British Commonwealth (not a real country), and as such, neither its citizens nor those born there and naturalized in the United States are eligible to be President of the United States.

Why then, is this question even asked?

Truth to tell, those that would consider either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama as a presidential choice would not actually ask that question in those exact words, so this whole posting is somewhat moot.

Nevertheless, it underlines a very evil presence we still have here in The South, in Texas, and even in what has come to be regarded as a cosmopolitan Houston, Texas.

Neanderthalian mouth-breathing knuckle-draggers still abound down around these parts. And they still exist in government offices. Felony prosecutor Mike Trent has had his email read lately, email that reveals that Trent is a purveyor of a brand new neoracist codeword for a person of African-American descent. A black person. A n…, a ni…, well, you get the idea. In other words “a Canadian”.

In Trent’s own words, from The Chron:

“The note starts out innocently enough, with felony chief Mike Trent praising the work of prosecutor Rob Freyer for convincing a ‘weak jury’ to give a man a stiff sentence for intoxication manslaughter.”

“ ‘He overcame a subversively good defense by Matt Hennessey that had some Canadians on the jury feeling sorry for the defendant and forced them to do the right thing.’”

Fellow Texans, this is a man who works every day bringing those accused of felony crimes to trial and conviction. His racial bias is not even in question. Nor is, by association, the entire Harris County District Attorney’s office.

If not, I ask this: why is this man still getting a paycheck from the county?

There may be those of you that need a re-education on what a Canadian is, granted a Canadian can be a Black person, God knows the South made a whole bunch of Black people Canadian citizens in the years before the War of the Northern Aggression.

Here is what a Canadian is:
They like beer, preferably Molson’s or Labatt’s, and instead of “beer” they say “beers”. They say “ay” a lot when they mean “right?” or “did you hear me?” They say “oot” when they want to go “out” and they live in a “hoose”. They work on PROH-jects, not PRAH-jects. Sometimes they speak French, but not according to someone from France. They have health care. They laugh at Americans who try to pass themselves off as Canadians when they travel overseas so they don’t get treated badly by the locals. They are also known to subvert our children. Their heads flap around and they have little beady eyes. They are for everything that mothers are against.

That’s right, that’s right, the dad-gummed Canadians!


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Three Shell Game: Indictment? What Indictment?

It seems we have a new kind of three shell game going on here in Texas. Right now it is being played expertly in Harris County where an indictment for the crime of arson has been shuffled around under one walnut shell after another.

Earlier this month, Supreme Court Justice David Medina and his wife, Francisca, were indicted by the Harris County Grand Jury for the torching of their own home last year. Investigators were apparently following leads that included discovery of an accelerant in the remains of the couples’ garage and the revelation of some financial troubles that the Justice was experiencing. The Grand Jury duly issued an indictment for arson against the couple.

That indictment slipped under the first walnut shell and was shuffled around the folding table that is Harris County politics, and hey presto, now you see it now you don’t. Is it here? Nope. Sorry, Chuck Rosenthal, the Republican County DA says, "case dismissed".

“Foul!” cried two Grand Jury members, “The game is rigged.” The two grand jury members who came forward claimed that there was ample evidence but there was obviously some political chicanery afoot.

The DA lifted all three walnut shells, no pea.

Medina’s attorney, Terry Yates added his walnut shell, a fourth, and now the Grand Jury whistle blowers have to go before state District Judge Jim Wallace. Why? Who knows, there’s a shell game afoot and why not try and beat a dead horse. The case is dismissed but jeez, there are still players.

Judge Wallace then adds the coup de grâce by adding a 5th walnut shell. Hey presto, now you see it (the Medina case) and now you don’t AND also another 30 days’ worth of Grand Jury indictments disappear to boot.

Oops. Judge Wallace found that there was improper paperwork filed and anything that the Grand Jury had done in the previous 30 days was invalid.

There’s no pea, and now there is no shell game.

From what we saw in Harris County this past few days, the person in this You Tube embedded video is a rank amateur.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

AFL-CIO Endorses Rick Noriega; Republican Party Answers With an Attack

It is no news now that following the appearance and speeches of two of the four Democratic candidates for Texas' US Senate nomination, the AFL-CIO of Texas enthusiastically endorsed the candidacy of State Rep LTC Rick Noriega. I’ll not take up space here with the text of his speech, not when you can read it yourself at his website. I think it is his best speech yet because apparently, Rick has HAD ENOUGH.

Of this endorsement, Rick had these words to say:

“I'm honored to stand with those of you who have been fighting for Texas families for decades, and together we can end this era of insurance companies running away with profits while our children and families can't afford health care. I've had enough, and I know you have, too. Together, we can bring change to Washington, restore Texas values, and put Texas families first.”
Not to let Rick bask in the glory of the moment too long, along came Tina Benkiser, she of the Republican Party of Texas, she who promises and proclaims that God is the Chairman of the Republican Party. Tina called Rick out on the carpet for making a defamatory statement against Texas teachers, calling his statement “an affront to every Texas teacher”.

“Oh, my God,” I said to myself. “What could Rick have said against me and my colleagues?” So I looked at his speech, which is linked above, and not seeing it finally found the remarks in question, remarks that were also made at the union’s convention:

“It's easy to talk from the cheap seats when you haven't been in the trenches for a long time fighting for Texas families. And that's what this campaign is going to be about. It's going to be about those who have walked the talk.”
Of this Benkiser said:

“…we certainly have admiration for Ray McMurrey and all Texas Teachers who are charged with preparing Texas children for the future. For Mr. Noriega to infer that McMurrey was in the ‘cheap seats’ is an affront to every Texas teacher. Noriega owes Mr. McMurrey and all Texas teachers an apology.”
This statement, by the way, can be used as a standard example of “bottom feeding”.

Now I read this statement last weekend, last weekend before getting Tina Benkiser’s spin on it. As a teacher, I had a completely different idea of what Noriega meant to say. I think most others would agree. By “cheap seats” Ms. Benkiser meant that, what . . . teachers don’t pay their way? Educators don’t deserve a place on the political stage? Or worse yet, teachers are so stupid that they work for slave wages? Is that what Benkiser thought Noriega was referring to?

I think not.

I think what Rick Noriega was referring to was Fred McMurrey’s (OK, his name is Ray, I keep forgetting) lack of dues paying in the area of public service. Here we have a guy, a perfectly fine teacher, teaching in a plush academy environment, just fine and dandy, but this guy all of a sudden wants to become US Senator? Frankly, there are dues to pay and experiences to be garnered. One can be an expert in “How a Bill Becomes Law” and teach it to eager young minds, but the practice is far more complicated, and requires time in the trenches . . . and experience.

I think everyone understood that was what Rick meant by the “cheap seats”. Fred . . . er . . .Ray needs to pay his dues.

But Tina Benkiser had a different take on this, and this is maybe insight into what the Chair of the Republican Party of Texas thinks about the state’s teachers. Why, I ask, is Benkiser so quick to lump all teachers into an idea of “cheap seats”? I as a teacher didn’t, and mainly because I, as a teacher, have a very high regard for my profession, and for the high quality people who work beside me every day.

But Benkiser did. It is obvious to me that Tina Benkiser has a very low regard for those who call themselves teachers.

Frankly, as a Democrat, there is nothing I can do to find a way to boot this person out of office. All I can do at this point is ask these two questions: When did Tina Benkiser acquire this hostile attitude toward the teachers in Texas, and in view of this, how much longer can the Republican Party of Texas endure her continued stewardship of their party?

Just askin’.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Democrats and Republicans Starting to Say It May Come Down to Texas

Texas has been characterized by people within my party, the Democratic Party, as a huge ATM machine where Democratic presidential hopefuls visit every once in a while to perform a massive cash extraction, only to then go off to another state, an early primary state, to spend it all.

Well it is starting to look like, to these candidates, or to representatives of both Democratic and Republican campaigns, that the hens are about to come home to roost in The Lone Star State.

There may not be a decisive winner in the February 5th super Tuesday primary where 2064 Democratic delegates and 1048 Republican delegates are at stake. A successful Democratic nominee will need 2025 votes for the nomination, and a Republican nominee will need 1191votes.

Doing the numbers, Clinton currently needs 1815 of those 2064 delegates for the nomination (88%), Obama needs 1902 additional delegates (94%) and Edwards needs 1973 delegates (97%). At the current rate of voter attraction (54%, 32% and 13%, respectively), none of the candidates will achieve this goal on Super Tuesday. And the problem is, there is nearly no momentum build-up here. No one can go from victory to victory throughout the month of January and demonstrate the clear choice of the electorate that can be capitalized on for the Super Tuesday delegate fest.

It’s no better for the Republicans. Some say it is worse. Romney, the current front-runner, in order to clinch the nomination, needs all but one of the 1048 delegates up for grabs on Super Tuesday, McCain with only 38 votes, so far falls 105 votes short of the nomination if he gets each and every vote on February 5th, and Huckabee, Huckabee needs a miracle on the order of the loaves and fishes to get the delegates he needs for the nomination on Super Tuesday.

So with 288 votes to be split among the 5 Democratic players in March, and 140 delegates for the Republicans to haggle over, it looks like Texas will be a player this year, and possibly a king maker for one if not both of the political parties.

OK, so I have not counted the primaries yet to be held in January. These include the Florida and South Carolina primaries for Democrats, and the Florida and Maine primaries for Republicans. For Democrats, Florida is a non-issue, because like Michigan, Florida has had all of its delegates stripped from the Democratic National Convention because the state, like Michigan, moved its primary to before February 5th without permission. For Republicans, who are apparently far more forgiving, the RNC has stripped half of Florida’s delegates for the same reason. This means that between now and February 5th, a total of 54 delegates are at stake for Democrats and 78 for Republicans.

For Democrats it is not clear cut. If Obama polls high among black voters, as currently seems to be the case, he could take South Carolina by a slim margin. With an additional, say, 30 delegates in his pocket, this means Obama needs 90% of the Super Tuesday vote for the nomination, and Clinton needs maybe 87% of the same vote pool.

For Republicans, it is still only Romney who would have enough delegates to clinch the nomination by February 5th.

So my guess is that there will be nothing totally resolved for Democrats by February 5th, and with 596 delegates at stake between 5 February and 4 March, it is beginning to look like Texas, with the largest delegate total of any of the states holding a primary on that day, will have more than the usual to say about the outcome of this primary season with its 228 delegates at stake on March 4th.

Republicans are also looking to Texas for an anointing. With 303 delegates at stake between the 5th of February and the 4th of March, Texas’ 140 Republican delegates may just do the trick for one of them (Let it be . . . Huckabee!).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Our Tom Speaks on John McCain

And he is Our Tom.

I live in Texas Congressional District 22, the congressional seat held by Tom “I Am The Government” DeLay for over twenty years. He IS Our Tom. We made him. We kept sending him back. And really, “Our Tom” is one of the reasons that I started writing this blog a year and a half ago.

Now Our Tom is gone, replaced by Nick “Mostly A Democrat” Lampson. But Our Tom simply won’t go away, will he? We thought we were well rid of him what with his fishing license being one bought and paid for in the Commonwealth of Virginia. But like a bad penny, he keeps turning up. Now we know that he never left as can be witnessed by his voter registration card, here.

He keeps turning up and he keeps working that mouth of his. But this time, for the first time in my semi-long life, I find that Tom and I are in 100% agreement on something:

Neither of us wants John McCain to be the Republican nominee for president.

Here are Tom’s reasons (fellow Democrats if you don’t want to listen to him, don’t click on the You Tube video; I will translate: “Blah blah blaaaaah, bl-blah blah blaaaaah. Buh-buh-buh blaaaah buh blah blah blah.”):

“McCain has done more to hurt the Republican Party than any elected official I know of.”
Man I do hope that DeLay’s litany takes hold in their party, but it would be well for him to have someone else voice these words. Does it surprise you that the only people listening to him are the media pundits who are often looking for some comic relief?

And why do I hope this? Because of all the candidates, McCain is the one Republican candidate who can still get support from the independent voters. The very reasons DeLay hates McCain, his bipartisanship, his willingness to work with Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold to find common ground, it is that bipartisanship that worries me.

In my own humble opinion, a match-up between McCain and Clinton will result in a toss-up election, just the thing we Democrats don’t want to have right now when the White House is ours for the taking. An Obama vs. McCain race in November is less problematic for Democrats as there are more clear choices between the candidates, but the issue of bipartisanship will not go away, and there will be no clear choice between the two, I think, among the independent voters. An Edwards/McCain match would be a far more interesting race based on true differences between candidates, but I am afraid that while the fat lady hasn’t sung on the Edwards race, she is beginning to clear her throat. No, I think the special interests have again seen to it that Americans will not have an anti-corporation candidate to opt for.

So Tom DeLay doesn’t want McCain to be the candidate because he does not agree with him ideologically. While I don’t either, I don’t want him to be the candidate because I believe that of the entire Republican field, McCain would give us Democrats the biggest headaches in trying to win over the independent voters.

Who DO I want the Democratic nominee to run against? Follow the mantra:

Let-it-be . . . Huckabee! Let-it-be . . . Huckabee! Let-it-be . . . Huckabee! Let-it-be . . . Huckabee! Let-it-be . . . Huckabee! Let-it-be . . . Huckabee!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Whole World is Laughing at Dean Hrbacek

Honestly, it began as an inconsequential but amusing piece buried in the Texas Politics section of the Houston Chronicle.

“Some politicians talk about cutting the fat, but this one was serious. Congressional candidate Dean Hrbacek appears slimmer than usual in a new campaign brochure because a photo of his head was affixed to the image of a different body. While the mailer sent to voters this week by the former Sugar Land mayor says ‘Dean's record speaks for itself,’ his physique clearly does not.”

And here is the offending photograph taken from a scan of a very expensive multiple-fold campaign mailer.

If you look very closely at the left (his right) side of his neck you see something oddly missing: part of his neck. It’s as if he had a piece of his neck cut off. The lines don’t go right, but apparently it was the only way to get the neck to fit into the dress shirt’s collar. One obviously cut for a thinner neck.

The Chronicle had some fun with it and the campaign copped to the fact that indeed the head of Dean Hrbacek (that’s Her-BAH-check, with the Neck not pronounced) had been photoshopped onto the body of another man wearing a business suit. It has been alleged that the body belongs to none other than Hrbacek’s political nemesis, Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace. It has even been reported that Wallace’s wife has identified the body as that of her husband’s.

But then other news and websites picked it up from the AP wire service.

Yahoo News has it now, as does CNN has Dean Hrbacek’s doctored image posted in a story that they are listing under their “Funny News” banner. And then finally we see that The International Herald Tribune has picked up this story and has thus broadcast it to the entire world. Now that's what I call exposure.
And just when you think that Washington DC might be ignoring the whole thing, thankfully since DC is the place Hrbacek wants to hang his next shingle, Wonkette, the DC Gossip, has picked up the story with a vengeance and has produced yet another photograph that I have shamelessly lifted from her site and reposted here (but you do need to read Wonkette’s take on all of this).

I still think that the whole thing originated from the sister site of CD22 Watcher (nah, go somewhere else for the link) there at CD22 Rubbernecker, where some time ago we saw the first photoshopped version of Dean Hrbacek’s head, although if you ask them, they’ll swear up and down that this is the real honest to Christ photograph of the man.

Now I am no expert here, not a political savvy like some people I know, but I was just wondering whether this playful but artless use of a computer graphics program to produce that photo in this glossy mailer has just caused the first head to roll in this GOP primary.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Noriega Juggernaut Continues to Roll Up the Endorsements

Rick Noriega, coming off of what I heard was a Fabulous Fifties Birthday party – no there were no poodle skirts there, the man just passed by his half century lifetime milestone – the juggernaut that has become the Rick Noriega campaign continued to garner even more endorsements this week.

Getting the hearty endorsement of his colleague, State Rep Mark Strama (D - Austin) at his birthday party, Rick then set his sights on the Austin Area Democratic confab at the AFL-CIO Hall in downtown Austin where he was endorsed by five area groups: The South Austin Democrats, Capital Area Progressive Democrats, Texas Environmental Democrats of Austin, Capital Area Asian American Democrats, and Southwest Austin Democrats.

Noriega, pleased with these endorsements thanked them with the following:

“I'm honored to have the support of leading Austin groups who agree that Texas families have had enough of the failed leadership of Washington politicians. I believe we need a change of direction in Iraq and we need to bring the money we're spending over there home. It's wrong when insurance companies are making huge profits while Texas children don't have health care, families struggle to pay for college, and gas prices are skyrocketing. I promise to stand up for Texas families and Texas values and bring the change to Washington we need.”
The Texas Senatorial candidate continued his stay in the Austin area as the Texas AFL-CIO COPE convention gets underway at the Omni South Park Hotel in Austin this weekend.

Can you feel it? The momentum? It continues to build past those heady days of Rick Noriega’s initial boost by the Netroots.

This is where it gets real.

UPDATE: I have just learned that the Capitol City Young Democrats, who were also present at the Democratic confab this week, will not be releasing their endorsement until the 7th of February.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

News Bazaar (Bizarre) From Houston: DA Will Dismiss Arson Charges

Just when you think it’s safe to walk down the halls outside the Harris County District Attorney’s office. Now it appears that Harris County DA Chuck “Right Ear” Rosenthal has announced that newly indicted Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina and his wife, Francisca, were going to have all charges dropped against them.

The pair was indicted for the charge of arson. Apparently there were suspicious circumstances surrounding the recent fire that razed the residence of Justice Medina, and Justice Medina was accused of tampering with evidence. Not to mention the fact that this was the second such fire that occurred at the house, both of them having started in their garage.

Now, Rosenthal claims, there is not enough evidence to support prosecution of the charges, and they will be dropped.

There’s more on this, including Medina’s financial woes that raised suspicions of fire investigators who had discovered evidence of an “accelerant” at the fire scene.

Now I am not here to judge whether the Justice had his own home torched. Being on the bench in Texas is sometimes all some local yahoos need to get itchy cigarette lighter fingers. What I am here to observe is just how tainted the office of Harris County DA has become.

Already we are hearing about how Republicans in high places are covering for each other. Now I am not saying that THAT doesn’t happen from time to time, either. What I AM saying is that perhaps DA Rosenthal needs to consider taking a leave of absence. Anything he does, anything while he sits in that office, is going to be viewed with a jaundiced eye.

Last time I looked, Guadalajara was still looking mighty fine as a getaway/retirement Mecca (and no, there are no Muslims there that I am aware of, it’s just a figure of speech). Leases are still available, the golfing is great (they say) and there is a nice medical campus nearby.


We got any takers?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Campaign Finances: Dora Olivo Takes Contribution From HillCo PAC

That just about does it.

When all the ballots are counted this March 4th, we will have a Democrat to run in Texas’s House District 27 against a Richmond coffee house owner. I would have hoped that the Democrat we choose will not be beholden to Bob Perry and his cronies who run HillCo PAC. But now it seems that we have a campaign finance disclosure that needs ‘splainin.

Take a look here at the bottom of page 6. It is State Rep Dora Olivo’s campaign finance report. In it, on page 6, she lists a $1000 contribution from HillCo PAC. This political action committee is a pet project of Houston home builder Bob Perry, notoriously the man behind 2004’s anti-Kerry swift-boat campaign. Perry himself contributed $75,000 to the PAC this year, the lion’s share of the PAC’s total funding.

I don’t know how much you remember about the frou-frou and dust that was kicked up earlier this year when teams of progressive bloggers from Texas jumped all over Mikal Watts’ campaign finance statements when they not only listed contributions from HillCo PAC, but they also revealed that Mikal Watts’ own PAC made campaign contributions to HillCo.

It was poison then. Really, it is still poison, but now we have Mikal Watts comfortably out of the limelight and the running.

Not so with State Rep Olivo.

You have to ask yourself this. When the common thread that runs between State Rep Dora Olivo, State Rep Phil King, State Rep Betty Brown, State Rep. John Davis, State Rep. Mike Jackson and State Rep. Mike Krusee is that they all received campaign contributions from HillCo PAC, you have to ask yourself why?


Names not on the list? State Rep. Jim Dunnam, State Rep. Jessica Farrar, State Rep. Senfronia Thompson, State Rep. Garnet Coleman, and State Rep. Lon Burnam to name a few.

And State Rep Rick Noriega is not there also.

You have to ask yourself, when HillCo PAC targets Democrat Dora Olivo’s campaign as one to give a hand to, when the typical receiver of funds from this PAC is generally a conservative to ultra-conservative Republican, why did they do that?

Is it because they feel a threat? Did we see any HillCo money going to the Republican challenger in HD 27? No, and not likely in the future. Republicans don’t win in HD 27. No, HillCo, and the Perry cronies want Dora Olivo to win her primary in March, because the alternative progressive Democratic candidate running for the HD 27 nomination, Ron E. Reynolds, poses a threat to them. Maybe it’s the devil they know versus the devil they don’t know, but my guess is HillCo wants friends in the legislature, and Reynolds doesn’t seem to me to be much in the way of being in HillCo’s hip pocket.

If HillCo PAC is against Ron Reynolds being a State Rep, I guess that makes me for him.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Night At The Opera

Well that’s what it felt like anyway. No where else in Fort Bend County could you get a free seat to watch the fun as ten declared candidates for the Republican nomination to run against Texas CD 22’s own Nick Lampson in November stretched and strained to be seen above the crowded dais. Prima Donnas abounded among the legendary, the infamous, and the “who-was-thats?”.

Yes, I attended the Rosenberg-Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce’s candidate forum last night at the Rosenberg Civic Center. A Republican candidate forum, since we had only the ten declared candidates for the Republican nomination for congressman.

I entered the foyer at exactly 6 PM, the startup time, only to see a well-dyed, well-coiffed crowd that literally seemed to burst in polyester, still holding a social hour as others struggled to find seats. Just as I claimed mine they called to the crowd to find their seats as they wanted to get started.

By my estimate, there were 80 to 90 present. Average age around 49, median age around 62. Media present included Channel 11 and local press. The Chronicle was mentioned but apparently arrived late.

And speaking of arriving late, I counted nine little candidates on the dais just as I heard the Channel 11 media guy on his phone say to whoever he was talking to that Shelley Sekula Gibbs hadn’t shown up yet “but she’s always late”.

Marvin Marcell was the moderator of the evening. He presented the format. Each candidate had 3 minutes to introduce themselves, then each had been given a question that they had 1 minute 15 to respond to, then they ran three rounds where each candidate could answer any 3 of the 10 questions asked of the others. I can pull this thing together in several ways, but I’ve settled on 3 themes.

What Republicans Want Lots Of
Guess what these candidates want most of all? Change. These Republicans have, apparently, Had Enough of what is going on in Washington, D.C. Judge Jim Squier says Washington “isn’t listening to us”. Pete Olson says “our government spends too much” as does John Manlove who decries the “out of control spending” going on in DC. Dean Hrbacek dittoed: “spending is out of control, I am a CPA and I know how to cut spending”.

Spending, Wasteful government spending. That reality hasn’t really hit home with me yet, I guess, because all I could think of was all of the government programs Bush had vetoed in order to keep the War in Iraq and everything related to that at an absolute maximum level of funding. To give them credit, none but Olson laid this spending frenzy at the feet of the Democrats, but he did say that “the Democrats would make it worse”.

Guess what else they all want? They want a fence on the border. Sekula Gibbs wants it made of bricks and mortar. Robert Talton sputtered and fumed about all this inability to get a fence built, sputtering and fuming about the illegal immigration issue in general: “we all upset about illegal immigration. What’s so hard?” Sekula Gibbs mentioned that we have to “make the employees responsible” for hiring illegal aliens (my thought is that she meant employers, but well . . . maybe not). More than one demanded a policy that did not include “Amnesty”. Most who mentioned it said that illegal immigration was the number one issue facing Americans. No surprise there.

The Three Neophytes Square Off
Three of the candidates, in an effort to marginalize themselves to the extreme, claimed that they “are not politicians”: Bazzy, Rowley and Klock, all political neophytes, all three of them said these words.

On immigration, Bazzy clearly seemed clueless. No one has told him that this is an issue to beat a drum on, but not one to take seriously. Bazzy pointed out to the crowd that the 9/11 terrorists all had legal visas, deflecting the deflection much to everyone’s dismay, and raised questions on lax visa procurement procedures.

On “Change” Rowley said some pretty puzzling stuff. On the one hand, he claims that Republicans of CD 22 “want change”, but also that “this district should never have gone to Nick Lampson”. I was thinking about that, and recalling the moderate Republicans I talked to in 2006, and decided Rowley had no idea what he was talking about – yes they wanted change and they got that (more often than not) in electing Nick Lampson.

Klock had some choice words to say about Iran, and clearly has the biggest axe to grind toward the Middle East of any of the candidates. Of the recent Iranian naval speedboat harassment he had this to say:
If Iranians want their sailors dead the US Navy is the best way to go.”
How Do You Separate Yourself From the Crowd?
That’s their main function here. They all hate illegal immigrants, they all seem to want the “fair tax”, none of them wants to make a try at health care reform, they all want to keep the “Bush Tax Cuts” (for the rich), they all want a glorious military victory in Iraq.

So how do you separate yourself?

Shelley Sekula Gibbs had an unique way. She stood up. One by one the gentlemen on the dais sat and spoke into their microphones, all down the line. Then came Shelley’s turn and she stood up. The woman is not short, even without her heels. That’s one way. Stand up. The other way is to extol your 7 glorious weeks in DC, which she did.

Oh, a Shelley factoid: How did Shelley get her Christian name? She said that her father worked for Shell Oil Company and she was named after her father’s employer. Gosh darn it, I thought I was the only one who had that idea, just ask my daughter, Exxona, and my son Phillips.

John Manlove thinks that he stands out from the rest in being one who has been around the block and knows the issues in CD 22 better than anyone else (well, the Galveston ones, anyway).

Cynthia Dunbar, our Lutheran State Board of Education candidate, says that she stands out as a conservative who has fought against a “liberal bureaucracy” at the Texas Education Agency. She also has a finely tuned vision on the war on terror. Dunbar, you see, is a student of history. She takes her lesson from Thomas Jefferson’s war on terror against the “Islamofacist Barbary Pirates”. She also seems to separate herself from the crowd by calling for abolition of “The National Endowment for the Arts”. I suspect that maybe she has seen too many paintings of naked people that were funded by the NEA, but that’s just me talking.

And Dean Hrbacek? How does he stand out? Well, he doesn’t. Not really. Not unless you count that speech impediment that the very expensive state-of –the-art audio system picked up very nicely, thank you. Might this have been what Dunbar was referring to when she mentioned how the eventual candidate will need a presence against a “very charismatic” Nick Lampson?

Just thinking out loud, here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A CD 22 GOP Candidates Forum !!!

Guess where I went tonight? Into the deep recesses of "The Dark Side". I attended the Richmond-Rosenberg Chamber of Commerce's Texas Congressional District 22 candidate's forum - a Republican-only event. Republican only in that the sole Democrat running in this race, Nick Lampson, was not there. Well he was there in spirit.

And yes, I have lots to say and lots to tell but I am going to let this one simmer on the stove over night, OK?

OK, let me just say two things:

(1) the forum met all my expectations, and

(2)Dean: suffering succotash!

Monday Blues and TPA News: The Round-up

So since it is another Monday, and Monday means wash day and also that the Texas Progressive Alliance presents its weekly blog Round-Up, we will air our dirty laundry and post our picks of our best efforts of the week. This week's round-up was compiled by Vince from Capitol Annex.

Muse found the potties at the Harris County D.A.’s office – right next to Chuck Rosenthal’s office – thereby making her qualified to be District Attorney (according to D.A. candidate Kelly Siegler). Muse 2012: Qualified and Potty Location Trained.

Hide the silver! Off the Kuff says Tom DeLay is back in town.

CouldBeTrue at South Texas Chisme notes that Kay 'Bye Bye' Bailey Hutchison is getting grief from the knuckle draggers in her own party for the recently passed fence amendment. Apparently, even a little bit of sanity must be stamped out by the Republican base.

Early Voting, Hal at Half Empty says, may just be something ALL Democrats need to consider this time, in order to avoid confusion at the polls when polling sites at schools are moved this coming March 4th.

The FairTax (Mike Huckabee's 30% national sales tax scheme), Texans for (Tort) Reform, and Houstonians for (Ir)Responsible Growth all have one billionaire in common: Leo Linbeck Jr. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs provides the 411 on his various conservative-populist activist fronts.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson points to an Inane AAS Editorial On AG's Health Care Gambit.

Harry Balczak at McBlogger found and interesting take on the candidates in the Presidential election.

Jaye at Winding Road notes that these are the times that try Democratic souls.

Gary at Easter Lemming Liberal News wants Obama or Clinton to pay the $2,000 and and establish a precedent of auditing and hand-counting machine counted ballots. The complete series of the New Hampshire results and reasons it why may be a good idea to audit is here.

Vince at Capitol Annex notes that Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott is testing the waters for his 2010 run for Lt. Governor with his asinine child insurance program.

BossKitty at BlueBloggin reviews the History Of US Backed Dictators - Redux. A historical look at the US setting up and backing corrupt dictators to serve our agenda.

Stace at DosCentavos bids a fond farewell to the history-making candidacy of Bill`Richardson. His thoughts and feelings on supporting the first Latino presidential candidate.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston wonders why State Representative John Davis in HD129 was a no show in the local paper write up concerning the race. State Rep John Davis a no show in Clear Lake news.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Immigration: No Easy Answers for “A Difficult Issue”

To hear them tell it, for all ten candidates for the Texas CD 22 congressional representative nomination, the immigration issues that have been raised in this election year are, first, the most important issue facing Texans and Americans, and second, clear cut and beyond debate. You’ve either heard them at the forum or read about it. At FortBendNow it is pretty clear that many of the ten candidates see illegal immigration (or maybe just immigration in general) as the number one threat to the United States. But really, at some point in time, all of the ten declared congressional candidates have identified immigration (presumably illegal immigration) as a bête noir that needs priority one attention. From FortBendNow:

John Manlove’s first two priotities: (1) illegal immigration and (2) immigration that is illegal. Jim Squier claims that he is “offended” that immigration laws already on the books are not being enforced.” Robert Talton says that an “undocumented worker” is newspeak for “unaccredited crack whore”. Dean Hrbacek says that Texas needs a southern border fence (finally someone is limiting fences to just the southern border, Canadians can relax now). Cynthia Dunbar blames the federal government for attracting illegal aliens over the border. Shelley Sekula Gibbs cites the strain that the illegal alien problem has placed on “the very viability of our democracy” (possibly explaining the upset win of Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire). Jazzy Kevyn Bazzy has trouble with border fences, yes, but seems to have problems with legal immigrants as well citing the “lax process through which immigrant visas are issued”. Ryan Rowley also “saw border and national security issues as being most important to Fort Bend County . . .”. But the immigrant fear-mongering cake gets awarded to our new savior from Islamofascists of the world, Brian Klock, who warns us that “Caucasian Muslims are learning to speak Spanish in hopes of crossing into the U.S. from Mexico”.

OK, that’s everyone but Pete Olson who apparently kept mum about the illegal immigrants at the candidate forum. In his election brochure, however we see Pete saying this:

“If we don’t know who is coming into our country, how will we know they don’t want to harm us?”

So let’s make it an even ten out of ten Republican candidates for CD 22 who want to foment an anti-immigrant frenzy in this district and this state.

Hey, that works. It takes all of our eyes off the ball that remains the Middle East. It distracts us from a looming economic collapse that appears to be coming on the heels of a crisis in the home mortgage industry whose excesses are beginning to pale next to the savings and loan scandals of the 1980’s. It fails to remind us of government sponsored torture, a “health care industry” that has redefined the word “care”, and assaults on our constitutional rights by the federal Department of Justice.

In other words, it keeps us from discussing the substantive issues of the day.

US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican no-less, has a problem with things like border fences. This is because she has been listening to those living on the Rio Grande River, and chose not to ignore them, unlike the junior senator, John Cornyn. Hutchison sees, what would appear to be a very basic issue – to have a fence or not to have a fence – as the Gordian Knot that it is. From The Chron:

“Hutchison, caught between a national demand for border security and Texas constituents fearful that the fence will destroy their way of life, said she is trying to steer a careful course that achieves both objectives. ‘It's a difficult issue,’ she said.”

But it goes well-beyond the building of a fence, it goes to the basis of southwestern United States economy. An economy that led the Dallas Morning News, last Sunday, to name as its “Texan of the Year” the “Illegal Immigrant”.

And this, in the end, is why the “illegal immigration issue” is and will be such a winner among Republicans this coming election cycle. There is no solution that is palatable to anyone. Texas’ agriculture and building industries depend on immigrant labor – would collapse without it. Everyone knows it. By doing what some of them suggest, mass deportation of immigrant workers, they would do to Texas’ economy something that no one wants to talk about: stagnation and eventual recession.

But all of that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because no one has any intention of fixing the problem – if there actually is a problem.

No, right now “illegal immigration” serves the Republican doctrine writers as a distractor, a red herring, if you will, that keeps Republican voters and others who have become enraptured in the politics of fear, from making clear, rational decisions about their county, district, state and country.

Which is just Okey-dokey in the GOP grand scheme of things.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Rat, By Any Other Name, Would Smell As Sweet

Now that 2008 is here and Texans are finally coming to the realization that the March 4th primary is just a few short weeks away, 8 to be precise, this news has finally come to those who construct the testing calendar for the Texas Education Agency.

Oh dear. TAKS testing this year is going to fall on March 4th.

So what is the big deal? What does TAKS testing and the March Primary have to do with each other? Surely these children, none of whom are 18 years of age, will have a time conflict.

It’s not the kids, it’s the facilities. Many a voter in Texas knows that if you don’t go to a church or a community center to vote in an election, you go to a public school building. And because these schools are pledged to maintain an “optimum testing situation” that includes forbidding visitors from coming on campus during a TAKS testing day, this is causing some school districts to reconsider their roles as polling sites, as seen in Tarrant County. From The Chron:

“The matter came to a head this week when the Fort Worth school district officially rejected Tarrant County's request to use 34 campuses as polling places.”

The article goes on to say that the district softened its stance by agreeing to help the county find alternative sites.

This addresses the concern of having a polling facility, but it doesn’t address the chief concern that I want to address here: voter confusion.

What is the most confusing thing that happens to a voter on Election Day? A new voting machine to learn about? Whose names are on the ballot? Where is my voter registration card?


The number one source for confusion on Election Day is “Where do I vote?” This is especially true in areas that have had the same voting locations within the same precincts year after year. Voters know where to go to vote, until that location is changed. When voting locations change, voters fail to appear at the polls, especially if there is only a small window for the voter on Election Day: between the end of the work day and 7 PM.

This, by the way, is why it is so very important that every Democrat learns about Early Voting, and exercises their right to vote before Election Day. It certainly saves on confusion.

But back to the rat. It smells so sweet. Can it really be that this was all a machination to suppress the vote? By advancing the school calendar statewide, everything gets moved 2 weeks ahead. TAKS testing, normally taking place in mid-February is moved to March. There was a concerted effort on the part of the Democratic Party to move Texas’ primary day from March to February last year, but this was met with stiff resistance by Republicans backed by Lt. Gov. Dewhurst. At the time, the idea among Democrats was to make Texas’ primary more important in the national context before the presidential nomination had been all but locked up.

And it seemed reasonable that Republicans might want to go along as well, and for the same reasons.

But they didn’t.

Is this the reason why?

Voter suppression has become somewhat of an art form among the Republicans. Can it be that one of them saw this change in the school calendar, and how it would affect the location of polling places? Is this why the Republicans were so steadfast in their refusal to alter the primary calendar? They knew it would conflict with the testing calendar if unchanged?

I know this sounds paranoid, but as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said, “Even paranoids have enemies.”

Friday, January 11, 2008

They’re Number One!

Tonight in Richmond, Texas we had the candidate drawing for the order of appearance on the March 4th Democratic primary ballot. I was going to attend the drawing myself, but Mexican food called so I wasn’t there. Instead I got a call from Richard Morrison with the news.

Richard Morrison will appear 1st on the list of 5 candidates for Fort Bend County Commissioner for Precinct 1. This, most people tell me, is an advantage. I don’t pretend to understand how that is an advantage because I always vote carefully and well, but I would imagine that there are lots of strategies to voting, and maybe voting for the first one on the list is one.

But wait, there’s more.

Richard says that he also drew for Rick Noriega, this drawing for the race for the US Senate nomination, and his luck held for Rick: Rick Noriega will also appear first among the Democrats who have filed for the chance to chase John Cornyn out of the US Senate.

That’s all he told me.

So are we happy tonight?

So far so good . . .

Do We Trust the Polls Any More or Was That Just New Hampshire?

OK, it seems I cannot get out of the rut of consulting the latest polls when I start to wonder what comes next. What comes next is the Michigan Primary on Tuesday, January 15th. The problem is, in Michigan Hillary Clinton is alone among the top tier candidates on the primary ballot. Again, it was polling done early on that gave the state to Hillary. Opposing her on the Michigan Primary will be Kucinnich, Biden (who has dropped out) and Gravel.

So I don’t think we need to worry about polls for another week or so. But in that, the question still remains, do we want to trust the polls any more or was that just a fluke in flukey New Hampshire? I just cannot believe that Hillary Clinton’s much-publicized emotional moment was the trick that turned over 10% of the New Hampshire voting populace to switch their votes to Clinton when they were going to vote for Obama.

I guess I have a rather conventional view of a New Hampshire voter: gritty, cantankerous, and above all, stubbbborn (with 4 b’s). So that’s why I have settled on my own theory - well I guess some others have it also - on why New Hampshire went to Hillary Clinton despite all the polls: no one likes to be predictable, but I think that is a main trait of the typical New Hampshire voter. So. . . yeah . . . I think it was the pollsters and their crystal balls who gave Hillary New Hampshire.

So rest assured, I think we will be able to play the polling game again.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kronberg on Ron Reynolds vs. Dora Olivo in Texas HD 27

The other day Harvey Kronberg made some observations with regard to the upcoming HD 27 primary showdown between Ron Reynolds and the incumbent state representative, Dora Olivo. It was on the January 8th issue of the Quorum Report. I thought they were interesting and refreshingly unadorned by the recent mudslinging that has marred the campaign of Olivo, who I had thought up to now ran a clean campaign.

Kronberg compares the current race by young African-American attorney Ron Reynolds with the 2006 primary challenge by another African-American challenger, Steve Brown. Demographically, the district is roughly split into three populations of African-American, Hispanic, and Anglo. African-Americans, outside of the local East Fort Bend communities, have been mostly ignored by Olivo, some who live in the community say. In fact, when Olivo had learned of Reynolds’ interest in running for her seat, her office had just received a phone call from a constituent who informed them that Olivo would have a challenger “because she hadn’t delivered for the blacks in the district”. Looking back at 2006, while the district contains about a one third African-American voting group, it was not enough for Steve Brown to be successful in his primary challenge. According to Kronberg:

“In 2006, though, Steve Brown could not break 40 percent against Olivo. That was despite a fairly impressive resume, which included stints on the staffs of U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and of state Rep. Sylvester Turner. He also interned in the Clinton White House.”
The main problem was that while he was on the staff of these influential legislators, his former bosses could not endorse their protégé in a primary challenge.

This is not the case with Ron Reynolds. Reynolds, once on the internship program of State Senator Rodney Ellis, has benefited from the endorsement of his former mentor, and as well has benefited from the endorsements of State Rep. Jessica Farrar and US Congressman Al Green as well as the endorsement of Fort Bend County Precinct 2 Constable Reuben Davis. Having been to a Reynolds event, I have also observed Fort Bend County Commissioner Grady Prestage and Missouri City Mayor Allen Owen as present in the crowd, and are also apparently supporting Reynolds. Kronberg initially reported that State Rep Senfronia Thompson was also among Reynolds’ supporters, but was told today that because she is running for Speaker of the House, she must refrain from any endorsements.

These endorsements, Kronberg says, will be trouble for the Olivo campaign.

Finally, there is the note of frustration among those who have been waiting for State Rep Olivo to step aside for emergent candidates from the next generation.

“Reynolds said the reason for the erosion of support for Olivo stems from her decision to run for re-election. He claims that Olivo had let it be known that she would not run again after her 2006 election and that some of her backers expected her to step aside for another representative. Ellis said that was his understanding, too.”
Olivo agrees that she had considered the idea of stepping aside, and does admit to reports that her supporters, upon hearing that she was thinking of not running, “and asked her to reconsider”.

Kronberg did not mention any of this, but I thought this was also germane to the discussion. Among the wedge issues that separate the two candidates ideologically are Olivo’s anti-abortion stance as well as her votes to bar embryonic stem cell research from state-funded research projects. While Ron Reynolds is both pro-choice and in favor of embryonic stem cell research, Olivo, a Catholic, has been given a pass by some for taking positions against these as they run against her religious creed. I would wonder, however, if the same people who give State Rep Olivo a pass for her anti-choice/anti-stem cell research votes would do the same for evangelical Christians who who vote their beliefs in this case if they believed with all their hearts and souls that Intelligent Design was a valid subject worthy of discussion in our public schools.

Would they?

Would you?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

When is a Supreme Court Justice No Longer a Supreme Court Justice?

When they become political hacks for their party, that’s when.

In their infinite wisdom, the Framers of our constitution saw fit to make the term of Supreme Court Justice for life. That, they reasoned, would prevent Justices from being swayed in their opinion by threats of losing their job. Historically this was a good move as it gave lots of Justices free rein to rule as they saw the rule of law, rather than how it might or might not affect those aligned with their political beliefs.

But like everything else these days, we are now being shown that Supreme Court Justices no longer hold themselves above the political fray. As a matter of fact, now that a political void has opened, with the exit of Karl Rove, Bush’s henchman who brainstormed voter suppression techniques all over the country, someone has risen to fill that void: Supreme Court Justices.

Case in point: the Supreme Court is currently hearing a case brought by the Indiana Democratic Party, a case that challenges the constitutionality of a voter id law recently passed by the Indiana legislature. This law requires that all voters in Indiana present a photo ID of themselves upon entering their polling place. A valid photo ID is necessary in Indiana in order to cast a ballot in that state.

The argument went there, as it went in Texas during this past legislative session, that having a voter photo ID with an expiration date would prevent voter fraud. Never mind the fact that a case of voter fraud had never been documented in Indiana. No, Democratic Party lawyers argued, the law was specifically targeting the poor who had no cars to drive, or the elderly who were no longer driving – both groups likely Democratic voters.

Seems like a one-two punch and down for the count, doesn’t it? And if we had an apolitical Supreme Court, that would be the case. But no. According to this Washington Post article, certain Justices are paying too much attention to some things, and not enough attention to others:

“The state of Indiana said the law, which requires voters to present a government-issued photo ID with an expiration date, was approved to prevent fraud by impersonators. Smith noted that the state has never prosecuted such a fraud case, but Roberts said that is because ‘it is a type of fraud that's hard to detect.’ “

“Roberts seemed more interested in a lower court's finding that those challenging the law had not found ‘a single person’' who had tried to vote but was turned away because of the law.”

There. Chief Justice Roberts is apparently cooking up statistics that don’t exist about a fraud that is “hard to detect” – and because it is hard to detect it is all that more insidious so we must redouble our efforts to prevent this. And then, almost in the same breath, declared that the photo ID law fair because no one who tried to vote was ever turned away because of the law.

And that would be logical on its face if it were not for the fact that the intent of the photo ID law was to discourage voters from ever showing up at the polls. That is the reason the law went into effect, you know. Not to turn away voters, but to preclude them from showing up altogether.

So of course there was no evidence of turning away voters. There was no one to record that evidence.

Reason number seven thousand four hundred and eighty-nine to vote a straight Democratic ticket: now it’s not just the House, the Senate and the entire Executive branch that Americans fear will do away with their rights as citizens. Now, the icon that was, in the past, the last bastion that Americans had to uphold their rights has been compromised by those who crave to hold on to power, even in the face of thundering opposition by a majority of Americans.

Haven’t we all had enough yet?