Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Reappraise Damaged Property? In Your Dreams

In a joint statement by Republican candidates John Zerwas, running for re-election in Texas HD 28, and Austen Furse, running badly behind in the Texas SD 17 special election, county appraisal districts should re-appraise property damaged by Hurricane Ike.

“This allows the people who lose their homes or suffer significant damage to pay only the fair property tax for the portion of the year after their homes were damaged or destroyed. This is a common-sense solution that is not too much to ask for our homeowners.”
Zerwas and Furse, it seems, read the Texas Tax Code and it says that if reappraisals are authorized, homeowners can ask for one.


State Rep. John Zerwas, and apparently Austen Furse may be, or want to be in the business of cutting taxes because taxpayers love their tax cuts, but county governments these days definitely are not.

In fact, the state’s tax revenues have shifted so much, thanks to the efforts of Zerwas and his ilk, that local entities have had to make up for their work by busily reappraising home property values up and up and up.

And these reappraisals have even driven up homeowners’ insurance policies because their properties’ replacement value is based on the appraised value.

So, puh-leeze, give me a break. This is just so much stuff and nonsense. A joint statement from the very kind who are responsible for property appraisals going up in the first place, urging county entities to lower homeowners’ appraisals?

Do they think we are as stupid as the McCain campaign thinks we are?

Monday, September 29, 2008


Knock, knock

Who’s there?


Fallin’ who?

Fallin’ into a depression.

Today, Wall Street served up the single largest drop, 777 points, in the Dow-Jones Industrial Average, better known as “The Dow,” in the history of the index.

Further than it fell following 9/11.

In one fell swoop investors pockets are now 7% lighter than they were yesterday, all because of partisan posturing in the US Congress.

My congressman, Congressman Nick Lampson voted against the bailout bill. He explained himself in this email message:

“Tens of thousands of Southeast Texans are working to put their lives back together, and the last thing we should do is dump truck loads of taxpayer dollars into the wallets of erratic Wall Street traders.”

“I will vote NO today on saddling taxpayers with this exorbitant bill which amounts to $2,500 for every man, woman and child. I am outraged at this proposal and will continue to fight to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, not carelessly.”

“The American taxpayer should not, must not, and cannot be viewed as an insurance policy for the misdeeds of Wall Street tycoons. Please join me in calling all elected officials and the leadership of both parties to fight against this bad policy.”

Now here’s what I think.

I think Lampson and the 95 odd Democrats and the 133 Republicans who voted against this bill need to consider whether their solution, let the market self-correct and let the freebooters on Wall Street fail and die, is in the interests of the people. True this bailout amounts to nothing less than corporate extortion, pay or we’ll kill your jobs and retirement. All true. But we have to consider if this threat is real, and if so, consider whether we are prepared to accept the consequences of not paying off the ransom.

Lampson and other fiscal conservatives have essentially called on this bet, and Wall Street responded by extracting 7% of our total wealth.

I tell you, I would be more comfortable with this if the opponents to the bailout would come up with something better than “the free market will self-correct.”

Because this “free market” is anything but free. It’s being run by kleptomaniacs and it is being overseen by kleptomaniacs.

Kleptomaniacs and bad parents.

Bad parents because what we are witnessing is congress, acting as a parent who discovers that their errant children have been caught shoplifting, and are about to be thrown in the slammer. Their reaction? Yell at their kids for being thieves. Hope that they’ll learn their lesson when they spend the night in jail. Let them fend for themselves in the courts. Let them serve their sentences.

That’s a bad parent. A good parent would do what they could to see that their children come out of this with as few bruises as possible, and then work on correcting their behavior with discipline and regulation of behavior.

Seven years ago, Phil Gramm and others of his ilk turned the markets into an unregulated mess, and this melt-down was predicted 7 years ago. Phil Gramm isn’t the bad parent. He is the guy who gave the children on Wall Street the idea to go out and shoplift in the first place.

Phil Gramm and others of his ilk should be the first to be stripped of all wealth in this bailout.

And the entire bunch should be exiled to a small deserted island in the Caribbean where they can have all of the unregulated free markets they want.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

What Do You Say To Republicans Who Ask What Has Barack Obama Accomplished?

Republicans love to ask that question. You know why? Because it immediately puts you on the defensive. A place that they like you to be.

Yesterday at the Fort Bend County Fair, I was trying to sell campaign buttons and T-shirts, and an old guy, well, a guy about my age, came up and started a harangue on Obama. “I can’t believe you are voting for him! Why are you voting for him,” he sputtered.

While I suspected that he was asking why I, an older white man, was voting for a man of mixed parentage, I tend to stay away from playing the race card.

Then he played the “defend yourself”card and asked me what had Barack Obama done in his political career that made me most proud of him.

Now I could have bitten in and mentioned the legislation he put through in his two terms as Illinois State Senator. Like the way Obama supported, in a bi-partisan way, then Governor George Ryan’s initiative to block the predatory lending practices way back in 2001. Practices that have led up to our current financial crisis.

Or like how he sponsored and led the bipartisan passage of Illinois’ Racial Profiling law, a law that required Illinois law enforcement to record the race of people that they detain in their reports, as well as legislation that required video taping of all homicide interrogations – the first law of its kind ever passed in the nation.

Or I could have defended myself by citing Barack Obama’s US Senate accomplishments like the Obama-Lugar Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, a bill that requires full disclosure of all entities and organizations receiving Federal funds.

But I chose not to.

Instead, this is how I answered him: I became most proud of Barack Obama the day he announced his candidacy for President of the United States. Here was a man, a black man in America, who was audacious enough to think that Democratic Americans would nominate him as their candidate, and then a majority of Americans of all parties would elect a bi-racial man their 44th president.

I was proud of him because he had the wisdom and judgment to see what I could not see. He saw that Americans – or a great many of them anyway - have entered the “post racial era.” It took me some time to get on board because I doubted my fellow Americans were ready for this.

But no longer.

This is how I answered him. He didn’t like my answer because I was not placed on the defensive. In fact, instead of me being on the defensive, he now was.

And he quickly left so I could resume my task of collecting donations from the people who had crowded around trying to buy campaign buttons, bumper stickers and T-shirts.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Who Won the Debate Last Night?

If you are a regular reader of this blog, and I know that 6 of you are, you know that I have very strong opinions on how my candidate fared in his first debate against John “I know how” McCain.

Barack CREAMED McCain.

Now I know that not everyone shares my view. Like just about everyone who votes a straight ticket for the party of the Dark Side.

It’s true. The Fort Bend Democrats have a booth at this year’s county fair and the overwhelming consensus among the nasty people who stopped by to unleash their bile on us was that McCain was victorious.

Here, by the way, is what the booth looks like in case you miss it in Exhibition Hall C.

But the people who stopped by to make donations for our campaign buttons, signs and T-shirts seemed to be of the opposite opinion.

Isn’t that surprising?

And now David Plouffe, of the Obama campaign, provided Obama’s supporters with the results of the CBS and CNN News poll taken after the debate:

In a CBS News poll, uncommitted voters see Barack as the debate winner. When it comes to the economy, 66% say Barack would make the right decisions versus 42% for McCain.The CNN poll results were also clear:

Who did the best job tonight?

Barack: 51 McCain: 38

Who would better handle Iraq?

Barack: 52 McCain: 47

Who would better handle the economy?

Barack: 58 McCain: 37

This is not the news that the McCain campaign needs right now. He needed a clear win to erase the effects that resulted from his wildly careening statements on the economy last week, and his “campaign suspension” that never was.

He needed a clear incontestable win, and he didn’t get it.

Know why?

My humble opinion is that in this race, Republicans and Democrats have switched roles. They traded sound bites with wordy pitches. Karl Rove knows how to do sound bites and zingers. He knows that these are two things that Americans love. They don’t like to read lots of words, let alone listen to them. They want short sentences that will entertain them.

And they love zingers.

McCain is incapable of either. Instead he drones on and on about two letters that General Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote on the eve of D-Day. He drones on and on about a bracelet that the mother of a fallen Iraq War soldier asked him to wear (that I wanted to see him hold up). Barack Obama just said “I have a bracelet, too,” and the crowd roared.

Sound bites and zingers. If you don’t have them, or don’t know how to use them, you have no business running for President of the United States in the 21st century.

Flashy Fair Float Forges Friends, Fielded Friday

Before the 1st presidential debate on Friday, a debate that Barack Obama won handily by the way, the Fort Bend Democrats launched its first attempt at an honest to God authentic parade float.

We did it with strangers who became friends, working together after toiling in offices, stores and classrooms. We did it. We turned a sow’s ear into a silk purse. You saw the before picture. Now look at our float during its stages of transformation from caterpillar to chrysalis.

There were two rules.

1) It had to be blue (and red and white).
2) It had to be shiny.

A good friend of mine says that you can never have too much shiny.

First we set the stage and floors.
Yep. Still ugly.

Then on goes the shiny.

Then the floozy fringe. This is what makes a float a float. If you don’t have this you have a utility trailer with lipstick.
Then our “Biden Blue” heart.

The letters are laid out.

Then the sweat started pouring and no one had time to take photos until we had our trailer transformed.
Then it was time to transform the red pickup truck into “shiny”.

The finished product. Yes that’s Hurricane Ike damage on the roof.
Comes Friday.

The butterfly emerges from its cocoon.

And flies by the Fort Bend Democrats whose headquarters are about half way down the parade route.

I don’t care what anyone else says. I think this project, to turn an old rust bucket utility trailer into Hollywood was wildly successful.

And now, having seen John McCain get thrashed by deadly zingers from the next president of the United States, truly the foreboding of a “shiny” future.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fort Bend County Fair Parade: We Have a Float

Amid everything going on in DC with bailout negotiations and the Bush meeting with McCain, Obama, and congressional leadership, amid all of that, Fort Bend County is opening its annual county fair tomorrow, and it will be kicked off by the annual Fair Parade.

The Fort Bend Democrats will not only have a booth, a big old booth, in the Exhibition Hall, but this year they have entered a float in the parade.

That’s what I have been doing the past couple of nights, building this float.

Speaking of putting lipstick on a pig (or is it a hockey mom?) we have a very unique task this year. It involves turning a 16-foot long ancient utility trailer, every square inch of it covered with thick rust, into a thing of real beauty.

Check back tomorrow and see if we succeeded.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McCain Calls Time-Out

What is the first thing a basketball coach does when his team is behind in points and the clock is ticking toward zero?


He calls a time out.

This is what John McCain did today. Behind in the polls and sinking with each day’s news of financial crisis, how he is self-admittedly not an expert on economics, and how Barack Obama is increasingly being seen as the candidate who is most likely to deal with a financial crisis effectively and with good judgment. How McCain reacts to the news of impending financial disaster by lashing out at SEC chairman Christopher Cox threatening to fire him (made especially poignant with the news that a president actually does not have the power to fire the SEC chairman), and how Obama has responded with measured judgment that addresses key concerns voiced from both sides of the aisle.

So John McCain called “time out” today, announcing that he was suspending his campaign “to return to Washington to help broker a deal to save the financial industry,” to quote Chris Cillizza who pens WaPo’s “The Fix” blog.

Are you kidding? Didn’t we all hear John McCain say that he was “no expert” at economics? So now he is going to lend his expertise in brokering a deal? I’m sorry; I have to have a reality check here. Below is a 13 second clip of McCain’s chat at a Concord, New Hampshire town hall meeting early this year.


Believe me, the last guy I want in Washington working this deal is this rank amateur, John McCain. This is a combination of grandstanding in the extreme, and a strategic stall to save his falling numbers.

Grandstanding. McCain claims that negotiations on the bailout have entered a morass and are unlikely to be settled anytime soon. But just a few minutes ago, Congressman Barney Frank, interviewed on MSNBC, who is working this problem, claimed not only that the deal was close to agreement, as in “in a few days”, but that McCain’s help wasn’t really needed.

Strategic Stall. The last thing McCain needs right now is to face Barack Obama in public debate. Even if it is on an unrelated matter, like foreign policy, this debate can easily be turned into a shooting match over finances.

And that is the last thing McCain wants.

So is this debate going to go or is Obama going to be alone onstage this Friday? Obama has indicated no intent to suspend his campaign. To do so would be to allow McCain to lead. On the other hand, should McCain bow out, what does that do to his argument about wanting to have all of those town halls with Obama, and Obama not agreeing? Now we have McCain ducking behind skirts on an imagined crisis.

Frankly, this is a real exposé on what we can expect from a John McCain presidency. Ducking out, cutting and running when the heat gets turned up. Concocting an excuse based on faulty intelligence to do something, or not do something as the case may be.

Geez, who does that sound like?


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Will Hurricane Victims Be Able to Vote?

Lots of people are talking about what hurricane victims that have been displaced from their homes can do about voting in the upcoming general election. The Secretary of State has weighed in on this serious matter. Go here for a look at what the SOS has to say.

Now the reason I posted this link is that I am a little concerned about a bit of misinformation at the Houston Chronicle.

Here is what they say:

“People who want to return home but don't know when that will be possible can maintain their current voter registration and request a mail ballot from their home county election office. Applications must be received by Oct. 28.”

What is not clear in this is that it looks like you can request a mail in ballot if you are not sure when you will be returning to your residence. Be aware that this option is only granted if you declare that you will be out of the county during the election, and the mailing address you provide to them to send the ballot is one outside the county. There is no way they will send an absentee ballot to your residence.

I know, it sounds like a fine point of distinction, but I tripped over that statement when I read it, knowing that this was incomplete in some way.

A possible pitfall in an election where a voter does not get to have his vote count.

And we don’t want that to happen again, do we?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Congress: No Bailout Without Oversight

Well it didn’t work, did it? Amid frantic screams for fast action before financial disaster hits, the fear that is so much a hallmark of the Republican psyche failed to spread beyond the usual suspects. Not only did congress NOT pass any bailout bill today, they came back to Treasury Secretary Paulson with a collective “what the #%&@*! is this?”

As pointed out by POGO (Project on Government Oversight) two troublesome sections in the bill proposed by the treasury are heinous in their very essence in that they bring to mind the very thing, too many secrets, that got us into this fix in the first place.

Section 2 grants the Secretary the authority to enter into contracts "without regard to any other provision of law regarding public contracts”

Section 8 would make the Secretary's decisions non-reviewable "by any court of law or any administrative agency."

The Treasury Secretary, in short, was setting himself up as someone with absolute power in this crisis. I’m sorry that’s a little too much to take. The former CEO of Goldman-Sachs is essentially placed in charge of the distribution of vast sums of money to his friends with absolutely no oversight, leaving those wronged in this with no recourse in courts.

I think Vladimir Putin would just love to have this kind of authority.

Congress is coming back with all sorts of remedies, bankers may have to forfeit those bonuses they got selling mortgages to unqualified borrowers, and Paulson is seeing one privilege after another being stripped out of the bill.

I think the bailout is inevitable. Wall Street sold Main Street down the river and now we taxpayers have to pony up or face greater devastation. I’m just glad that cooler minds won the day, on a day when the DOW fell 372 points when traders saw their Christmas bonuses go up in flames.

Rick Noriega Responds to Cornyn’s TV Ad: All By Myself

When I viewed John Cornyn’s ad, various scenes of him walking around alone in Palo Duro Canyon, I just shook my head and thought “how lame. What’s the point of this?” Well, from the Noriega campaign response ad, I can see that I need to learn a few things.

Lesson 1: Never show yourself in absolute solitude, even if that is your usual state. It opens you up to all kinds of mirth and merriment.

Lesson 2: Never try and pass off yourself as a “change candidate” when your voting record goes 95% along with Bush. That’s not change, that is status quo.

Lesson 3: Dress well. Where are the hat and the jacket with the fringe on the sleeves? We look a little frail and pasty without that hat and that fringe.

Here is the ad, short and to the point.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Paulson Urges Congress to Move Quickly in Mortgage Bailout

Now we find that the “somewhere between $500 billion and $1trillion” is going to be about $700 billion, we also find that congress must grant this bailout quickly.

Like tomorrow.

Before the stock market opens.

Man, talk about high pressure sales tactics.

Treasury Secretary Henry “King Henry” Paulsen visited four Sunday news programs and on one or more of them, had this to say about timing, and about the sudden urgency:

“I'm not sure what we could have done sooner. [It's been a] once-in-a-50-year kind of a situation here. And there is no way that we could have gone to Congress and got the authority to inject capital into the banking system by buying illiquid assets unless there was the clear and urgent and obvious need.”
I think that last bit is most telling. It is the modus operandi of the Bush Regime to come up with ways for the government to spend huge amounts of taxpayer money on urgently needed matters. And the government must do it quickly so they don’t have a chance to sit down and examine this thing a little better.

And for God’s sake, don’t try and fix what is broken, just deliver the long green and fast.

And let’s not be pointing fingers here. Let’s not worry about how many corporate executives are going to take their leave with millions of bailout dollars.

After all, they’re taking mere millions, We’re talking $700 BILLION.

I don’t know about you, but this stuff just sounds to me like the last chapter of the book entitled “The Fleecing of America – How Bush Got Lucre for His Buddies.”

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Saturday Afternoon at the Headquarters

It’s still a little early for the Fort Bend Democrats headquarters to become a beehive of activity, but today it seemed like it was anyway.

It seems that if you put out a tent or a canopy, people stop and get out to look at what’s under it. That’s exactly what happened.

People streamed in and out all day buying signs, T-shirts, caps and buttons.

Then there was data entry going on. The Texas Democratic Party’s Voter Activation Network received updates on voters all day from volunteers who came in and out all day.

We have a wide variety of buttons that we buy from an online store and sell at a small markup so we can buy more.

We have the usual ticket buttons,

but also we have specialty items like these.

I am a special fan of the "Bloggers for" button. Especially when I have to explain to someone what OMGSTFU stands for.

A South Texas VA Hospital? Cornyn Can’t Deliver the Goods.

Working fast and furious, our two Republican senators got some tax extensions included in a tax bill, and got some hurricane relief funds included in it as well. But when it came down to the wire, the much-promised funding for a VA hospital to serve the Rio Grande Valley somehow did not make the cut.

So South Texas veterans will have to continue to receive health care from VA hospitals that are up to a 6 hour drive away.

According to Cornyn, who is very quick to lay blame at others’ feet, the bill was not included as an amendment to a defense funding bill because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and bill manager Carl Levin refused to include it.

John Cornyn has only himself to blame for this one.

Cornyn’s problem?

John Cornyn.

As the second to lowest ranked senator in the US Senate in terms of effectiveness, Cornyn is a liability for his constituents and the Senate leadership knows it. John Cornyn is up for re-election this year against a formidable opponent, Lt Col Rick Noriega. Senate leadership sees an opportunity to exchange a lemon for a plum, and declined to give the junior senator a piece of pork to deliver to his state.

The message to Texans is clear. Clean up your act and send a Democrat to the US Senate. If Texans want to get these things funded, they need to rethink this whole “elect-a-Republican-at-any-price” thing.

So South Texas veterans who are being told by John Cornyn to “keep up the pressure on Congress by making phone calls, sending e-mail and letters, and holding meetings” maybe ought to reconsider working on this with Cornyn. As we all found out this week, Cornyn can’t deliver the goods because Cornyn is Cornyn.

Rather than gnash your teeth at Cronyn’s failure, better to send a Democrat to the US Senate. A Democrat will be able to get this done.

A Democrat like Rick Noriega.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ike Sucks

Actually, you know . . . technically . . . Ike blows. But I am adopting the terminology found in a new blog I discovered the other day: Anything But Nice. I ran across it the other day when I was checking out the newest links to this web page. I was actually dumbstruck to see that the blogger, Colleen, has a link to this web page associated with the words “Texas & Politics.”

OK, well I suppose if Pete Olson can call me a “prominent local Democrat blogger,” Colleen can do what she wants. I can, too. Notice I have a link to her blog in my “Faves” blogroll now.

But I digress.

Ike really sucks. I came out of the storm relatively unscathed compared to others. My backyard fence blew down and that was no surprise, it was 15 years old and coming apart anyway. I lost power at 8:30 but it was restored a mere 22 hours later. TV and internet were out for 5 days and it was fun to see the neighborhood kids outside playing and families going for walks.

It brought back memories of my childhood.

But during my childhood, the wind didn’t knock over fences, trees, houses and trailers. The rain fell vertically.

Sometimes the ground moved up and down and side to side but that’s life on the faultline. People here tell me that they’d take a hurricane over an earthquake any day.

I beg to differ.

You see, when there’s an earthquake there is no warning. There is no one on the news with “cones of uncertainty” showing where the earthquake is likely to hit.

For five straight days.

And in most earthquakes the devastation is localized to the epicenter and maybe a few square miles around it. A hurricane is an earthquake with legs.

An earthquake will knock things over. A hurricane will wipe things off the map.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at two photographs that inspired this piece. The first photo is the “before” shot of a part of the Bolivar Peninsula.

This next photo is the “after” shot of just about the exact same area.

Some of those houses simply aren’t there anymore. There isn’t even any debris, just bare earth.

I don’t know for sure, but I assume that the Bolivar Peninsula was named in honor of the South American Revolutionary Simόn Bolívar. Bolivar is one of those place names that Texans love to mispronounce. Where I grew up Bolivar was pronounced bo-LEE-var, with a stress on the second syllable. Here in Texas it’s pronounced BAWL-eh-ver.

But I suppose there is some good to the place name mispronunciations that you run across all the time here.

Like how Texans pronounce the name “Fuqua” as opposed to how Californians would.

Californians would never name a place “Fuqua.”

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Where is the Conservative Outcry on the Mortgage Bailout?

We almost saw it Monday when John McCain came out condemning Bush’s $85 billion plan to bail out AIG, the American International Group. Then someone nudged him in the ribs and pointed out that AIG insured other banks and institutions that held peoples’ retirement packages and that their collapse would set off a domino effect. Then he changed his tune and said he was opposed to the notion but not the action.

This bailout, and the more extensive one proposed this morning by Bush really has to grate on the nerves of laissez-faire capitalist conservatives who believe in a free market, that the strong survive and the market self-corrects.

Taxpayer money, and I mean lots of it, all going toward a bailout of the mortgage industry.

And all because of the economic policies promulgated by Phil Gramm and his ilk. Policies that resulted deregulation of the lending industry. Policies that led to deregulation of the energy speculation market.

Policies that not only took the shotgun out of the farmer’s hand, but also put the wolf in charge of the henhouse.

Good old conservative laissez-faire free market policies.

But wait, there’s more.

Announced today is the SEC policy that forbids selling short the stocks of 799 financial institutions. Selling stocks short is seen by some to be a valid way to make money on the misfortunes of others because this is the way the free market prevents stocks from becoming over valued. But for the next couple of weeks anyway, the SEC is telling stock traders that they can’t make money that way.

The government stepping in telling traders that they can make money one way but not another.

Oh, that has got to rankle the free marketers.

So how are we going to fix the economy? The economy that was wrecked by 8 years of rule by a crew of kleptomaniacs? Well it’s simple really. All Bush has to do is ask what Democrats would do. Ask what liberal Democrats would do. And then do what they say.

So he did.

And the stock market responded by rising over 400 points in the first 3 hours of trading.

And the free market laissez-faire conservatives who would normally scream and shout about a socialist solution have to sit down and stay quiet while they count their money.

The New Obama/Biden Yard Signs Are In!

While I was at the Fort Bend Democrats Rosenberg headquarters today a truck rolled up filled with 5000 of the new Obama/Biden signs.

To get them off the semi as quickly as possible we backed up a pickup and offloaded to the truck bed. Then drove the truck up to the headquarters entrance. I took a couple of photos of the event as we finished the making the pile

Here we are taking a break after building the pile o’ signs in the truck bed.

And here is Wanda, the Fort Bend Democrats’ secret weapon, a talented artist, modeling one of the signs next to the pile.

There’s a funny story associated with this. Don swears it’s true.

Recall that Barack Obama announced his running mate on the Saturday before the Democratic National Convention convened the following Monday? On the very next day, Sunday, an Obama supporter stopped in to buy some campaign paraphernalia, and she asked whether we had any Obama/Biden signs. Don laughed and told her “We’re good but not that good.”

So anyway, the new signs are in at 4801 Avenue H in Rosenberg [map]. You can buy them for $3.00 each or 2 for $5.00 (any two). The older signs with Obama’s name alone are now selling for $2.00 each. Stakes are included.

These things are going to go fast, and to my knowledge there is no other source for these slick suckers in Fort Bend County. Come and get yours now. The faster they go, the faster we can turn around and buy more.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nick Lampson Opens Mobile Office for Hurricane Victims

When my congressman, Congressman Nick Lampson votes in congress, he sometimes votes with the party of the Dark Side, and when he does that you hear about it from me. But everyone has always praised Nick Lampson for his excellent constituent services record, and this time I think I need to give credit where credit is due: Nick Lampson is doing a stellar job for hurricane Ike’s victims.

It’s in The Chron today, and I also received a message from Boyd Richie, Chairman of the Texas Democratic Party extolling the efforts of Nick Lampson and his district staff.

Lampson, whose congressional district boundaries encompass the I-45 corridor – the freeway that Hurricane Ike took – secured the mobile communications unit owned by the House of Representatives that includes 225 Wi-Fi capable laptop PCs and 225 cell phones, and a satellite uplink truck. The unit is parked outside the American Legion Hall at 11702 Galveston Rd, Houston, TX across the street from Ellington Field. Between the hours of 9:00 AM and 7:00 PM hurricane victims can come in and use the system to apply for FEMA housing assistance. FEMA will pay for a one month hotel stay for families whose homes are uninhabitable, but they have to apply.

Nick Lampson is providing the means for them to do this.

Now the occurrence of disasters during an election season ironically seems to favor incumbent candidates. There are a couple of theories why this is so. First challenger activities are curtailed after a disaster hits – their efforts seem inappropriate. And second, incumbents are seen working the problem and helping the community with all of the government resources at their disposal. For the most part, incumbents here in Red Texas are Republicans. But Nick Lampson, a Democrat, is clearly an exception.

And luckily, he seems to know how to deliver the goods when disaster strikes.

Hockey Moms For Truth Expose Sarah Palin: “She’s No Hockey Mom”

Well you know it had to happen. Sara Palin’s closet is dark and deep and the skeletons are coming out.

Witness the new video issued by “Hockey Moms For Truth.”


DCCC Says Larry Joe Doherty Has Got Game

There is something about Larry Joe Doherty that you have to like. First, this is a guy who has spent his career as a lawyer filing legal malpractice suits against other lawyers. I like the idea of having someone keeping the legal playing field level because when someone like me goes to court, it isn’t for an everyday occasion, but a life-changing one.

I like it that there is someone who makes sure his colleagues are treating their clients thoughtfully and fairly.

So imagine my delight today when I read that the DCCC has added Larry Joe’s race against Tom DeLay’s star pupil, Mike McCaul in Texas CD 10 to its “Emerging Races List.”

The DCCC thinks this one is winnable. From the press release:

“The polls, our fundraising numbers, and the word spreading through the streets of Austin, Katy, Elgin and Brenham all show the same thing – we are going to win this race. It will be no surprise to my supporters that our campaign is now generating interest and support across the nation to help turn this district blue again.”

Doherty’s campaign is currently performing well in fundraising, with total contributions surpassing McCaul’s campaign in the last quarterly filing. Indeed, with Tom DeLay out of the picture, McCaul has continued to have trouble attracting campaign lucre. Lucre it is if you look at the CD 10 comparison page at OpenSecrets.Org. McCaul’s PAC contributions account for 36% of his total campaign donations compared to Doherty’s 3%. Total individual contributions to Doherty’s campaign actually exceed McCaul’s by nearly $90,000.

Larry Joe Doherty’s campaign is being powered by individual contributions, not contributions from the special interest groups that feed McCaul’s kitty. Just take a look here, for instance, at a new website called “What DeLay Taught McCaul” for some fun facts on what altar McCaul prays to for campaign cash.

If you want to be one of these individual contributors, even if you don’t live within CD 10, you might want to make a visit here and then to their “Contributions page” to drop a few dead presidents in their campaign war chest. A campaign war chest that now funds an “Emerging Race.”

You know, the talking heads on TV are all expecting “business as usual” from the voters in Texas this year.

I think that they are all in for a big surprise.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cornyn Reneges on Non-Campaign Deal – Airs Ads on KVUE

Saying that continued campaigning in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike’s assault on southeast Texas didn’t “seem appropriate,” John Cornyn’s campaign claimed that they pulled the political ads that were set to begin airing on Friday, as Ike bore down on Galveston.

And it would especially look iniquitous to run those ads while his Democratic opponent Lt. Col. Rick Noriega, cancelled all campaign activities as he is on duty to assist in recovery logistics at Fort Mabry, the headquarters for all Texas military services.

It would just look bad, don’t you agree?

So why, then, are we hearing reports of John Cornyn’s political ads appearing in non-Houston media markets?

“It’s just a glitch,” claimed Cornyn spokesman Kevin McLaughlin. The Cornyn people are trying to claim that they tried to get the ads pulled but that the TV stations already had their schedule of commercials set for the day.

“Just a glitch.”

Is this guy kidding? We had millions of people watching Hurricane Ike as it turned north and tracked to hit somewhere between Freeport and Galveston. We knew to just within a couple of hours when landfall of the eye would be.

We knew this, days in advance of the storm.

But no, like their buddies and cronies at FEMA, they dropped the ball.

Like FEMA whose response to this federally declared disaster area can be termed anywhere from glacial to criminal neglect, the Cornyn campaign failed to take the steps necessary to ensure that Texans aren’t hit with a media blitz as fellow Texans are pulling trees off of their houses. As their Democratic opponent is serving to work through the problem.

Either way, it looks bad.

Either you have a campaign that callously disregards a campaign “time out” and decides to air ads in media markets far from the reach of Houston TV sets, or you have a campaign that cannot think beyond tomorrow, where millions of Texans did just that to prepare for Ike.

And so you have two things appearing on Austin’s KVUE TV channel today. Footage of John Cornyn meeting Bush at his jet as it landed at Ellington Field, and accompanying him on his tour of the disaster area, and footage of John Cornyn’s campaign ads set against Rick Noriega, as he serves in the recovery effort.

Nice job, Big Bad John.

How many members of the Republican Party does it take to change a light bulb?

Big Dave forwarded an email to me that I think I need to share.

How many members of the Republican Party does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: TEN...

1. One to deny that a light bulb needs to be changed,

2. One to attack the patriotism of anyone who says the light bulb needs to be changed,

3. One to blame Clinton for burning out the light bulb,

4. One to tell the nations of the world that they are either for changing the light bulb or for eternal darkness,

5. One to give a billion dollar no-bid contract to Halliburton for the new light bulb,

6. One to arrange a photograph of Bush, dressed as a janitor, standing on a step ladder under the banner "Bulb Accomplished",

7. One administration insider to resign and in detail reveal how Bush was literally "in the dark" the whole time,

8. One to viciously smear #7,

9. One surrogate to campaign on TV and at rallies on how John McCain has had a strong light bulb-changing policy all along,

10. And finally, one to confuse Americans about the difference between screwing a light bulb and screwing the country.

And after all is said and done, no one will notice that they never actually managed to change the light bulb.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Noriega Serves, Cornyn Mugs In Front of the Cameras With Chertoff

What are the two Texans who are vying for the same seat in the US Senate doing in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike? Well I just got an email message from Rick Noriega, telling me what he will be doing, despite the fact that we are only 6 weeks from the beginning of early voting. Rather than tell you I’ll let you read it for yourself. It’s short, sweet and to the point:

Dear Hal,

I hope this note finds you safe.

Hurricane Ike's effects have been devastating. It's critical we get millions of Texans the help they need.

I reported to Camp Mabry, serving with the 36th Division Headquarters, Texas Army National Guard, with the G-3 section charged with operations and planning. During this time, I am canceling campaign events.

I encourage you to
volunteer with your local Red Cross.

And please consider
making a donation to the Red Cross.

Together, we can make a difference.

For Texas,

Rick Noriega

Disclaimer: Rick Noriega is a member of the Army National Guard. Use of his military rank, job titles, and photographs in uniform does not imply endorsement by the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense

Camp Mabry is the headquarters for all Texas military services. Rick will be using his management skills to coordinate rescue and recovery efforts in the areas devastated by Hurricane Ike.

John Cornyn, on the other hand, continues to stand in front of the cameras as he and the senior senator from Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison, go on tour with FEMA director Michael Chertoff.

Here is a small part of his press release:

“Today I joined Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in surveying the regions that suffered a direct hit from Hurricane Ike.”

Cornyn continued with fawning praise of Rick Perry, Michael Chertoff and FEMA in general. This amid news that the two gentlemen are very busy pointing fingers at each other and everywhere else. Amid news that food, water and supplies have again not made it to the devastated areas because of FEMA’s world renowned lackadaisical organizational skills.

Now in response to Ike, John Cornyn’s staffers decided to pull his television ads that were scheduled to begin airing on Friday.

“Cornyn, who appeared at official government events over the weekend
connected to the hurricane, said now is not the time for campaigning. He said he
wasn't necessarily referring to Noriega.”

No, not necessarily. In actual fact. Too bad Big Bad John didn’t check to see what national guard reservists usually do when disaster strikes. Had he done so, maybe he wouldn’t have fired a bullet into his foot in full public view.

So what are our two senatorial candidates doing in response to Hurricane Ike? Well isn’t it obvious? They’re each doing what they do best. Cornyn is best at mugging for the cameras, looking important, and very, very concerned.

Rick Noriega is best at service to the people who are in crying need. In his role as incident commander at the George R. Brown Convention Center after Hurricane Katrina hit, Noriega proved his calm, competent ability to get things done.

Now John Cornyn has looked real nice on TV all this weekend. Each and every white hair was in place as he read his prepared statements into camera lenses. But that notwithstanding, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a US Senator who knows how things work and how to get things done.

I’ll be voting for Rick Noriega.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

John McCain On Respectfulness, Giuliani On Why It Disappeared

As is my habit, I try to make sure that I take in NBC’s Meet the Press every Sunday morning. This election season makes it even more imperative because it is on these news shows that you get the nuance of politics.

Today, former mayor Rudy “A noun, a verb and 9/11” Giulani was featured among others, and right out of the chute Tom Brokaw brought up John McCain’s struggle against his former self. A struggle he is waging now that he has on his campaign staff the very people who smeared him in 2000.

Brokaw played a video of McCain speaking on the whole notion of respect on April 14, 2008:

“This will be a respectful campaign. Americans want a respectful campaign.”

“They're tired of the attacks. They're tired of the impugning people's character and integrity. They want a respectful campaign, and, and I, and I'm am of the firm belief that they'll get it, and they can get it if the American people demand it and reject a lot of this negative stuff that goes on.”
Then Brokaw played McCain’s latest smear ad on Barack Obama’s “one accomplishment” while in the Illinois state senate: sex education for kindergarteners.

I kid you not.

Here is the meat of the ad’s message which can be viewed at YouTube here:

“Obama's one accomplishment? Legislation to teach comprehensive sex education to kindergartners. Learning about sex before learning to read? Barack Obama, wrong on education, wrong for your family.”
Oddly enough, this is not something dreamed up by Karl Rove and his henchmen. This is something they dredged up from the film vaults. Old, old stuff from when Obama ran for state senator against Alan Keyes, who originally floated this sling of mud. Barack is seen here discussing the tactic at a Planned Parenthood conference. You can view the video of the full conversation at this YouTube entry.

Tom Brokaw posed an analysis courtesy of the Washington Post, and handed it over to the former mayor:
“Any number of publications have looked at that ad, and here's what The Washington Post had to say: "The McCain ad is wrong when it claims--in a voice dripping with sarcasm--that Obama's `one accomplishment' in the education field was a sex education bill for kindergartners. While it is true that Obama supported the bill, he was not one of the sponsors. As far as kindergartners were concerned, the principal purpose of the bill was to make them aware of the risk of inappropriate touching and sexual predators." Given all the major issues that are before us today, wasn't that ad and its misrepresentation inappropriate on the part of the McCain campaign, Mr. Mayor?”
And how did Rudy Giuliani answer Tom Brokaw’s question when the video ended?

“I think the only thing wrong about that ad is it lists it as an accomplishment of Senator Obama.”
Now that’s odd. Giuliani criticized the ad for being inaccurate?

But here is the kicker, and here is the real reason that McCain is coming out with negative ads against Barack Obama. It’s all Obama’s fault:

“I think the, the main reason for that is that Senator Obama has refused to debate in these town hall meetings every week with Senator McCain. I think if they--if the two of them were out there--we saw that the other night in Harlem. If the two of them are out there answering questions, a lot of these ads are going to get done that way, they're going to be able to confront each other with these things.”
Now there’s a leap of logic. McCain feels he needs to launch negative ads at Obama because Obama has turned down the notion of doing joint town halls with McCain.

So it is what it is, right? Giuliani apparently believes that in retribution for not going along with his idea, McCain will approve of ads that are blatant “enhancements of the truth.”

The whole problem with this is that I think for once, Giuliani was probably telling the truth.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I Don’t Like Ike

The mother of all hurricanes just mowed down Houston early this morning. My power went out at 8:30 PM and has yet to return. Thanks to my ex-wife, who loved to buy candles of all kinds, I had no lack of candle power.

And the best thing about having no electricity is that you get to barbecue every night.

I’m writing this from the Fort Bend Democrats Rosenberg headquarters which not only has power, but TV and internet. We are operational and even better organized than ever.

Now when I was listening to my portable radio this morning, a simulcast of the local ABC affiliate, the news anchor got a call from a big FEMA director in Austin. He was calling, he said, to reassure southeast Texans that help was on the way. “Good,” I said to no one. Then the news anchor asked what I took to be a reasonably easy question, maybe to give this guy a break. He asked:

“For all these people in the flooded areas, trapped on their rooftops, is there a special signal that they should be giving the search and rescue helicopters as they do their over flights of these stricken areas?”

The director hesitated, covered the receiver, and then came back:

“I’m going to hand the telephone over to the Coast Guard commander here at the emergency response center who can better answer your question.”

After a few seconds the Coastie comes on the phone and they introduce themselves to each other, the anchor now clearly flabbergasted that the question got referred. He repeated his question:

“For all these people in the flooded areas, trapped on their rooftops, is there a special signal that they should be giving the search and rescue helicopters as they do their over flights of these stricken areas?”

Said the Coastie:

“Well, ahhh, they can wave their arms or a flag or a towel.”

Now I don’t know about you, but that little exchange gave me the same warm fuzzy feeling that Hurricane Ike did when it destroyed my backyard fence. Another example of FEMA’s out-of-the-box thinking.

Another reason why Texans should hate the regime that they so joyfully voted into power.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hold On To Your Butts

Hurricane Ike is here. The wind has built up all day. Depending on how Ike behaves, I could be in for a wild ride tonight. Or I could be kept up all night with an annoying wind.

If you don’t hear from me for awhile it’s because I can’t coax a single electron with potential out of my power lines.

See you on the flip side.

Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund is Broke

I noted it first on Susan’s not-a-blog, and then heard the news on my own TV during a Houston news conference with a local Red Cross worker speaking along with FEMA director Michael Chertoff (aka Skeletal Mike). He revealed, as it turns out, some old news, that the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund is broke, and that they have been borrowing money to come to the aid of flood and hurricane victims.

This news is 3 months old.

The news broke on June 17th this year, as seen in this Washington Post article by Philip Rucker.

While the article notes that the Red Cross has, in the past, come under some suspicion by donors when it is constantly changing its leadership, running into blood problems, and the questions over how contributions are handled, I think that problem is superfluous to this situation. Those problems have always been with the Red Cross, but they never ran out of money before. Not until this year when prices of fuel and food has soared. Says Rucker:

“On the cusp of hurricane season, Red Cross executives said the charity has raised just $3.2 million for the Midwest floods and painted a dire picture of its overall disaster relief finances. They said many donors are giving less because of rising gasoline and food prices and the collapse of the housing market. Also, the absence of a major U.S. catastrophe since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 has made it difficult to galvanize donors.”

Last night I sat through the John McCain/Barack Obama Columbia University Public Service Forum. McCain stressed the point that government cannot be looked to as the 100% solution when it comes to public service, that private groups, he emphasized faith-based organizations, should step up. Private groups like the Red Cross.

Here’s my point: how can John McCain expect private community service groups to step up and help when his party has driven the country’s economy into the ground? Private public service groups depend on donations to do their work. Donations that have dried up as people have had to change their spending habits and go into survival mode.

Another reason why messing with the economy should not be something left to Republicans anymore.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Chris Bell Has a Stalking Horse Opponent in the SD 17 Special Election

Republicans love their little jokes. Like when Rush Limbaugh exhorted his ditto-heads to go out and vote for Hillary Clinton in the Texas primary. Like when a man named Tom Morrison ran in the CD 22 2004 contest as a Libertarian against Tom DeLay and Richard Morrison, the Democrat on the ballot, giving TV stations the opportunity to announce that Richard Morrison was a Libertarian.

I could go on and on.

And now, it appears that Tom Craddick ally, former Democratic State Rep. Ron Wilson has recruited a woman to run in the special election. A black woman.

Wilson even escorted Simmons to file her candidacy papers and paid her filing fees.

Stephanie Simmons filed to run in the SD 17 special election minutes before filing deadline on August 29th. A day earlier she filed an address change on her voter registration from her former residence outside of SD 17’s boundaries, to Missouri City.

Chris Bell filed suit. The candidate, he argued, had not lived within the district for a year as is required by state law.

Yet the woman claims to have moved to her present address on November 2nd 2007, just enough to qualify for a 1 year residency within the district, and testified to that effect in court.

The judge didn’t believe her story.

But that didn’t prevent him from dismissing Bell’s case. Case dismissed, said the judge, because Bell’s team failed to produce “single witness or piece of paper.”

So it’s OK to lie under oath in court, as long as you get away with it. What the heck, what’s good for Scooter Libby should be good for Stephanie Simmons.

Simmons’ lawyer fees, by the way, were paid by Ron Wilson.

This is such blatant manipulation. So very Republican in every aspect. Just as the McCain campaign has recruited a woman to be his VP running mate, in hopes of garnering the votes of some former Hillary supporters, Ron Wilson and Tom Craddick think that by putting a black woman on the ballot that African-American voters in SD 17 will flock to the polls and vote for the black candidate.

Polls have shown that McCain’s gambit has failed. Democratic women realize that a vote for McCain/Palin runs against their own self interests. SD 17 residents likewise realize that this candidate is a sham, someone put up by Republicans, a stalking horse to dilute the Democratic votes for Bell.

Bell will not appeal the decision. Justice is simply something that is not delivered in Texas . . . yet. So this will stand and Simmons’ name will remain on the ballot.

But one thing this day in court produced was a public look under the rock that Republicans live under. Light was cast on them as they scurried about in their exoskeletons doing their best to look like honest upstanding citizens.

All along knowing that the truth is out.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Yikes! It’s Ike!

It’s like déjà vu all over again.

This time 3 years ago we were all watching as the forecast tracks of Hurricane Rita curved their way across the Gulf, first forecast to hit south Texas, then Freeport, then aimed at ME, and then tracking in at the Texas-Louisiana border.

Now it looks like Ike is pulling the same stunt.

And so, friends and neighbors, keep high and dry and if you don’t hear from me after tomorrow (Thursday) it’s because I’m busy burrowing in.
Well look at that. From yesterday until today the hurricane track models have shifted from Freeport, to ME, to at this point in time, Galveston. Just like Rita. Now I am not one to wish disaster on those to the east of me, but, personally, I am slightly less stressed today.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Republican Lies and Code Words Promise a Slimy Autumn.

Well it has started. Republican lies make it from speeches to the nightly news.

Lies about “change.” Said John McCain today: “We are the reform party.”

A lie.

No, not an “inaccurate statement.” A lie.

How, I ask you, does a party reform itself? How does the party that brought Americans an illegal and immoral war in Iraq, through lies, deceit, and cover-ups reform itself by offering yet more lies? “We are the reform party.” If it weren’t so patently absurd, if I didn’t know for an absolute fact that this particular Republican will say anything, anything if it sounds like a good sound bite, despite failing the truth test, I would be sitting there with the others blankly nodding my head in agreement.

And really, I have to ask, if John McCain will tell a bald-faced lie about such a petty thing as Governor Palin selling the Alaska governor’s jet on Ebay, and making a profit on the sale, what will he say when it really matters? When lives and treasure are at stake?

It made a good sound bite, as does “We are the reform party,” but it is a lie, and an absurdity.

And the code words continue, don’t they? We have blatant racist remarks from Georgia congressman Lynn Westmoreland calling Barack and Michelle Obama “uppity.” (but had the good sense to drop the “N” word, which is what comes next). We have Giuliani and Palin offering the words “neighborhood organizer,” accompanied with an excess of forced snickers and giggles, as a code word for outside agitator.

For those of you who weren’t alive in the 60’s an “outside agitator” was someone who came into the community to organize it so they could fight racial injustice.

You know . . . black people. Black people who caused trouble.

But the latest code word comes as no surprise at all considering the lead-up. It’s amazing how low McCain goes. Over the weekend, at a rally, McCain addressed his audience on the need to drill for oil on the OCS. The audience erupted in chant, repetitions of “Drill, baby, drill.” McCain interrupted his speech to remark that he really liked what these people were saying.

Again, for those of you who weren’t alive in the 60’s, “Drill baby, drill” comes from a crowd chant invented by rioters who lit up stores and other places of commerce during the 1967 Detroit Riots. “Burn baby, burn” was their chant as they encouraged the flames to consume symbols of their oppression.

It is a blatant and thinly veiled reminder of times past when blacks and whites seemed to be at polar opposites. It’s a reminder to Republicans and Independents not to lose their fear and dread of black people.

It is cold, calculated racism.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Congressman Al Green: Vote Chris Bell, Then Vote Democratic

It has been over a week since the Fort Bend Democrats held their election kickoff Labor Day barbecue in Sugar Land, but I have yet to put up all the video that I took at the event.

Al Green had lots to say and I got him saying a few of those things before my camera’s memory card filled up. It seems my math isn’t up to snuff. I can’t divide 4.096 times ten to the ninth by 1.048 times ten to the six. Not in my head, anyway. It comes out to a little more than 4, which is the size of the memory card. 4 gigs.

Anyway, some of the things that Al Green had to say were some rather nice things about Chris Bell, who had just left the event to attend another function.

Here is what he said.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

We Put Out Campaign Signs

Where do you think those big campaign signs come from every election season? Some of them come from the actual campaigns, but some of them are put out by us. By “us” I refer to the Fort Bend Democrats. We’ll put up the campaign signs with our T-posts which we bring out from storage every year. In '06 I was a part of the team that put out lots and lots of 4 x 4 and 4 x 8 signs all around the county. This year, I think, it’s good to pass that task on to a younger set. Strong young guys who aren’t “wrecked” for a couple of days after doing this.

Meet Morgan. Morgan is the office manager at the Fort Bend Democrats’ West Side Headquarters in Rosenberg, Texas. Here is Morgan defying gravity putting up Albert Hollan’s banner on the outside of the headquarters.

The front of the headquarters is starting to look very, very, good. Don’t you think?

Now out on the road on the east side, Morgan along with a brand new Fort Bend Democrat, Cedric, are putting up signs at the entrance to a soccer field. The soccer field’s owner, Skip Belt, is the reason behind our East Side Headquarters.

There’s Susan’s Bubba making sure everything is done just right

Then on to Chasewood where Cedric and Morgan sank T-posts into some very hard dry soil.

Remarkably, passersby, seeing what we were doing, would stop and ask us if we had any lawn signs. Yes, as it turns out, we do. Here’s Bubba making a sale.

Sugar Land has weird sign ordinances and we had to pace off 85 feet from two other signs to avoid an infraction of their law.

That sign went in quickly. Here’s Morgan carrying back the tools and ties while Cedric trims and tidies up.

Now we always have this space for us on Hwy 90A just east of the Brazos River. Today someone decided it would be a good place to park and advertise his ancient Winnebago. If someone wants to buy this gas gulping bucket of bolts, go on down and snap it up for the low, low price of $8500. Then we can move our signs.

Here’s where we had to put them.

Finally back in Rosenberg we bookended traffic in both directions.

Putting up these signs is hot tiring work. I can attest to this personally. Thanks to this historic election, we now have youth and vigor among our ranks.

Man, it’s about time.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Fort Bend County Sheriff Milton Wright Will Have An Opponent

One thing that’s not so fun about living here in Fort Bend County is that you don’t get to vote for County Sheriff.

Not if you’re a Democrat, that is.

Republicans dominate county politics here, you see. So it should come as no surprise that we have such questionable hiring practices in the county that includes Judge Shoemake (a Republican) of the 434th District Court getting District Clerk Annie Elliott (a Republican) to hire his wife to be her 1st executive assistant. Annie Elliott, you will recall, is the wife of Assistant DA Mike Elliott (a Republican) who recently had his trumped up charges against a group of roofers thrown out of court. The roofers, it seems, were new competitors to a local roofing company whose owner gave Annie Elliott $1000 in a campaign contribution.

But that’s how the crazy Republicans in Fort Bend County like their local government: incestuous.

It has to be or they wouldn’t keep on voting for them.

But I digress.

I don’t get to vote for County Sheriff because I am a Democrat and no Democrat has run against the current County Sheriff, Sheriff Milton Wright (or as we are wont to call him, “Uncle Milty”). Not in years. No, if you want to vote for who is going to be sheriff in this county, you have to vote in the Republican Primary.

And this year, no Democrat I know did that – well, maybe there was one.

But this year, we Democrats have some recourse. We have someone to vote for, or if you will, we have someone to vote for instead of not voting at all (Uncle Milty got over 30,000 under votes in 2004). We have a retired deputy sheriff from Fort Bend’s own Sheriff’s Department to vote for.

We have Allen Rivers.

From the Fort Bend County Star:

“Retired Sheriff’s Sergeant Allen Rivers announced late Tuesday afternoon that he will seek to unseat Fort Bend Sheriff Milton Wright.”

“Rivers, a 21 year veteran of the Fort Bend Sheriff’s Office, retired in March and announced Tuesday that he has decided to seek the office of Sheriff as an independent in a write-in campaign. Acknowledging that write-in campaigns are tough, he is determined to unseat Wright, an 11 year Incumbent who recently had the closest primary since he first ran in 1996.”
In his mission statement Rivers says that he is filing to run for County Sheriff in order to

“…re-establish a foundation of honor and dignity within the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office. And with that honor and dignity, formulate a department reflective of the community, their need and interests, while promoting a cohesive bond between citizens and law enforcement officials as well as personnel.”
Some of that honor and dignity gets compromised when Sheriff Wright tries to get his deputies to run against Fort Bend County Constables because they contract for private guard duty in local homeowner’s associations, something that Wright thinks he and his boys should have – despite the fact that they are already paid to do just that.

The beauty of all of it is this: Wright was opposed in the 2008 Republican primary by Billy Frank Teague, a former DPS Senior Trooper, and he very nearly got handed his hat. Teague got over 6000 Republicans to vote against Wright. But now, with Democrats voting, with so many Democrats voting, we have one more chance to wrong this Wright.

But it’s a real Hail Mary because we are talking about a write-in candidate where you don’t get to write anything, despite what President Bush thinks. You have to dial his name in on the eSlate machine.. Dial and punch, dial and punch. Very time consuming, particularly for the arthritic.

The upside is that his name doesn’t have that many letters in it, not like our former infamous CD 22 write-in candidate, Shelley Sekula Gibbs.

But that shouldn’t matter, should it? Former County Elections Administrator J.R. Perez made some pretty liberal calls when he decided “voter intent” for the Shelster, counting one entry, “SSG” as a vote as well as the infamous “Draculac _ _t.”

Deciding voter intent in the County Sheriff race should be a snap, shouldn’t it?

Well? Shouldn’t it?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Jon Stewart Exposes Republican Truth Spinners

Did you see The Daily Show on Wednesday night? I switched over at 10 sharp even though Sarah Palin hadn’t finished her speech. I was done listening to her lies and pettiness, anyway. I was not disappointed.

We all know that Republicans will spin the truth any way they want if it works for them on one day, and then flip their story when the very thing they criticized becomes a Republican talking point.

We know that but Jon Stewart’s people did a fantastic job setting Karl Rove and Bill O’Reilly against themselves, showing talking heads on Fox News in clear flip flops over playing the gender card, and even McCain’s own policy advisor displaying some “amazing double standards” (her words).

Republicans will say anything to get elected. Anything. It doesn’t have to be the truth, and they don’t necessarily have to agree with what they said a week or a month ago. And it doesn’t bother them, because the ends justify the means.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Is Sarah Palin’s Family An Issue to Be Discussed?

Now I’ve heard the Obama campaign comes down hard against any criticism regarding the family of Sarah Palin. I have also read the opinions of others, including of those in the blogosphere, who think that this is holy ground that shall not be desecrated.

I think that Republicans just love it when we Democrats exhibit some humanity and our ever-popular tendency to keep to the high road. They love it because the high road has not felt the footfalls of a Republican for years and years.

Republicans have carved out their niche in the mud and they are very unapologetic about it. It works for them and has worked for them in the past.

For instance, Republicans, mainly southerners, are not above calling Barack Obama “uppity.” That word was actually used by Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland today to describe Obama. Other less crass Republicans substitute the codeword “elitist” when they refer to Obama or his wife.

John McCain owns eight houses, but Barack Obama is elitist.

And finally, earlier this year, in April, Kentucky Republican Rep. Geoff Davis (R) said this of Obama:

“I’m going to tell you something: That boy’s finger does not need to be on the button. He could not make a decision in that simulation that related to a nuclear threat to this country.”

Even in the 21st century, Republicans will utter racial slurs, the lowest form of demagoguery.

But Sarah Palin’s family is off limits.

Says who?

That Sarah Palin has had a child with Down syndrome, and she knew it would be afflicted with this disability, but chose not to have an abortion because of her religious beliefs is an issue. Now this was her choice to make. At least the state did not step in and say to her that she shall have an abortion because her child will be mentally and physically disabled. But here it is: the choice that Sarah Palin made is not something Sarah Palin wants to let any other woman have.

It is just as paternalistic for a government to demand a woman have an abortion as it is that they demand that she not have an abortion.

But McCain/Palin Republicans think that the government has a right to keep their hands on women’s uteruses, and if elected McCain will bring an end to legal abortion through Supreme Court appointments.

Governor Palin’s daughter is pregnant and unmarried. That is not an issue to discuss. What is at issue is that she may have been put in that position by a mother whose total contraception program is abstinence. Just say no. Sex education in the schools? No way, says Palin. Just say no.

What amazes me is that Palin’s own daughter is a poster child for just how poorly that contraception program goes over with teenagers with raging hormones, and this fact hasn’t fazed Palin at all.

And what about how Governor Palin receives the news that her dear daughter is pregnant by her 17-year old boyfriend? What about her sheer nonchalance when she made the “Bristol is pregnant” announcement praising her good sense? Doesn’t this send the wrong signal to millions of teenagers? Premarital sex, it seems, is good if you a) don’t use contraceptives b) carry the resultant fetus to full term, and c) marry the horny little b*$&ard who caused the whole mess.

Does Governor Palin know the statistics for teenage marriage? Marriage at the point of a shotgun?

This just goes beyond the pale. This is all about the judgment of a potential Vice-President of the United States. And by extension, it is all about the judgment of a potential President, the one who picked her out of the line-up.

No, I’m sorry, Sarah Palin’s family is a subject for discussion. Not for titillation, but as a means to arrive at a judgment of whether Sarah Palin is someone who is fit to serve in high office.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Melissa Noriega on the Importance of Voting a Straight Democratic Ticket

After Chris Bell spoke at the Fort Bend Democrats’ Labor Day event, Susan’s Bubba announced that Melissa Noriega would the next speaker. I missed recording part of that but I wanted to include one thing that he did say. It was at an event very much like the Labor Day event, only in a fancier setting, that the Fort Bend Democrats first publicly urged Rick Noriega to run for US Senate to get rid of Bush’s rubber stamp senator, John Cornyn.

I know. I was there on that mid-February evening. I heard it.

But when Melissa spoke it was not as Rick’s wife, and it was not a stump speech for Rick Noriega (well, it was in a way, but only by default), it was a speech to urge everyone to send a message to the country.

To vote a straight Democratic ticket.

Like Susan Criss, this is in order to make sure that we elect Democratic judges, but really it is also to send a message. A message like the one we sent in 2006 when the Fort Bend County Elections office counted more straight ticket Democratic votes than straight ticket Republican votes.

Here’s Melissa (and sorry about the camera jiggling in the beginning. It happens. I own the cheapest tripod known to man).

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

British Petroleum Explosion Lawsuits Finally Settled

Remember the horrendous refinery explosion at the British Petroleum refinery in March 2005? The one that killed 15 and injured over 170? The explosion caused by this chain of events as summarized in this AP article?

“The explosion occurred after a blowdown drum overfilled with highly flammable liquid hydrocarbons. They ignited at the startup of the isomerization unit — a device that boosts the octane in gasoline. Alarms and gauges that were supposed to warn of the overfilled equipment did not work properly.”
Well the last claim in a grand total of 4162 claims was settled today in the courtroom of Judge Susan Criss of the 212th District Court. Except for one appeal of a dismissed claim, this thing is done.

A lot of good has come out of these cases. And Texas refineries are now safer places for people to work because of this. So while the loss of life is tragic, as well as the suffering of the injured, the world is now a slightly better place to live because these people stood up to BP and demanded change.

And change they got.

And change we all got.

First, lots of change to the suffering, and lots of change to those who lost their loved ones in the explosion. Change that has dead presidents printed on it.

Of paramount importance for the rest of us is that refineries are voluntarily instituting, as a direct result of these lawsuits, safety reform. Some new safety standards have become a part of collective bargaining agreements. Refineries are safer as a result of these lawsuits.

But in addition to that we have some claimants to thank for including in their settlements some additional conditions, which are being fulfilled, $30 million worth of conditions. From Judge Criss:

“Donations were made to the Burns Unit of the University of Texas Medical Branch, the Texas A&M on Galveston Island Process Safety Center Program and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. A Safety Training Development Center was created at College of the Mainland. A college scholarship program was established In Hornbeck, Louisiana.”.

Republicans argue for torte reform whenever it comes up. Tort reform protects the corporations from being accountable when they misbehave. This is just another example of how torte reform is a sham. Smoke and mirrors.

Keep corporations accountable. Keep our workplaces safe places.

Just say “No” to tort reform.