Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Truth

It’s Halloween again. Cities, towns and villages across the country are braced for the onslaught of sweets-seeking spooks aged from 1 to 31.

Jack o’Lanterns are carved.
Spooky sounds fill the air.

Little brats are everywhere.

Truth to tell, Halloween is one of the last pagan holidays hijacked by the Catholic Church.

The first to go was Eostre (Easter).

Then went The Feast of Sol Invictus (Christmas).

Soon following was the Celtic celebration of Samuin, was Celtic New Year, in commemoration of the darker half of the year. On this day, Celts believed that the separation between the world of the living and the dead was especially thin. Thin enough, they thought, to have some cross visitations. Costumes were used to disguise oneself from harmful spirits.

The festival continued after the Christianization of Western Europe, much to the chagrin of the Catholic Church.

So they hijacked it.

The Church had special days set aside to honor individual saints. November 1st was vacant so it was designated as a day to honor all of the saints.

Or All Saints Day.

Or All Hallows Day.

The day before All Hallows Day, then became All Hallows Eve. And you can probably guess how the name became mangled to the present-day Halloween.

Halloween is celebrated throughout the Bible Belt, ironically, despite what Pat Robertson has tried to do to deter good Christians from participating this year.

I think he does miss the point though. After all, this is something that an entrepreneur like Pat Robertson should be well aware of. Halloween is a huge cash cow. Everyone but everyone cashes in.

Especially the Episcopalians.


Take a look at what got forwarded to my email address.


Just in time for Christmas.

You have to hand it to the Republican Sore Losers Club, they know how to use their time well in the photoshop while they continue to be out of power and out of luck.

I wonder if this is just an old thing that has just now come across my path after the Angst of August or if they purposely left off a something about his birth certificate and death panels (birthers and deathers).
Anyway, have I forwarded this on to Parker Brothers (Hasbro), who holds the trademark rights.
People, rightwing lunatics or not, cannot trample on the private property rights of capitalists.

Not now, not ever.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Who Will Rid Me of This Turbulent Priest?

This quote, ascribed to England’s Henry II, is said to have led to the murder of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury by knights loyal to Henry.

The quote comes to mind as I learned today that Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, an Independent who used to call the Democratic Party his home until they soundly threw him out on his ear in Connecticut’s 2006 primary, promises to campaign for Republicans against their Democratic opponents in the 2010 elections.

No, I don’t want some knight to whack Joe Lieberman for being his cantankerous self. I just simply don’t think Democrats need to pander to this man any longer, and that he should, by all rights, be stripped of his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

What do Democrats owe this Quisling?

During the presidential election, Joe Lieberman found himself onstage with John McCain, Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber (if not literally, figuratively) campaigning for the Democratic nominee’s opponent.

During the presidential election, Joe Lieberman addressed the Republican Convention, giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

And after the election, Joe Lieberman threatened to defect to the Republican Party if the Democrats stripped him of his above-mentioned committee chairmanship.

And now, Joe Lieberman threatens to join Republicans in filibustering the healthcare reform bill if it contains a public option – essentially killing it unless the Senate leadership decides to bypass the process and go through the reconciliation process.

Face it, Joe Lieberman has already carried out his threat. He has bolted the Democratic Caucus. The only thing that he hasn’t done is openly joined the Caucus of the Dark Side.

But it is obvious to all that Lieberman now looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and acts like a duck. Just because he still claims to be an eagle doesn’t change the argument. A duck is a duck and a Republican is a Republican.

And Joe Lieberman is a Republican.

Either that, or Joe Lieberman is bluffing, and holding a hand that would be an ace high straight flush but lacks the jack.

The Democratic leadership needs to call Lieberman’s bluff.

We literally have nothing to lose in doing so.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Perry Does Palin a Tit For Tat

Ignoring, for now, the mental images evoked by the title, today we find that Governor Rick Perry has gotten on the Sarah Palin bandwagon to endorse uber right wing Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, who is running in a 3-way race against a Republican and a Democrat for the New York CD 23 congressional seat.

That’s right, Perry is doing his level best to mimic his gal pal supporters Sarah Palin, who was among the first to endorse Hoffman, and Cathie Adams, newly elected Chair of the Republican Party of Texas, who has made it her life’s work to identify and support “proper” Republicans to the detriment of “improper” Republicans.

Republicans like Dede Scozzafava, a longtime resident in New York’s CD 23, are not Republican enough for the likes of Palin, Perry and Adams (not to mention the baker’s dozen or so Republican leaders whose endorsements have relegated the only Republican in the special election to the lonely distant third place position).

Hoffman, who is not even a resident of CD 23, has become the golden-haired boy of the GOP rightwing. Hoffman, who pulled a Palin in his flubbed interview with a local CD 23 newspaper, the Watertown Daily Times, because he didn’t know enough about the pressing local issues, has the good will and wishes of the far right, even to the extent that the race, previously out of reach by any Democrat since 1871 has evolved to a possible Democratic win.

In times past, Republicans have bedeviled Democrats in their ability to unite in lock-step, to produce a voting bloc so daunting that Democrats have looked every bit like the disorganized array that they really are.

Not any more. As progressive liberal Democrats and conservative Democrats in DC find common ground in some form of a public option in healthcare reform, Republicans are getting ready to shred their platform, their party and their principles only to demonstrate who among them is the most conservative.

All of this under the misguided belief that America is truly composed of a majority of individuals who think just like them.

So as the sun slowly sets on the Republican Party, the Party of Reagan, the Party of Lincoln, let us all bid them a fond farewell and best wishes to our former foes in their new roles as street corner messiahs and radio talk show hosts.

Republican Party, it was nice knowin’ ya.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Kay Scores One for the Neocons

Every day is another day of amazement and wonder here in turbulent Texas. Today we learn that Kay Bailey Hutchison, who announced that she is running for governor in the Republican primary next March against incumbent Rick Perry, who is a teabagger’s teabagger, has a new ally.

Dead Eye Dick Cheney.

So in the race to garner neoconservative supporters, it is Perry 1 (with Sarah Palin in his corner) and Hutchison 1 (with Cheney).

Actually I think Perry has the edge on getting more neocons to sign on, not to mention teabaggers. Hutchison however, who is a moderate, scored a coup in garnering the support of uber-neoconservative Dick Cheney.

This little tempest in a Texas teapot does have some interesting bedfellows, doesn’t it?

Rick Perry has an unlikely set of supporters who, if put in the same room, would likely want to tear each others’ throats out. Neocons, who form Perry’s base, are the tax and spend like a drunken sailors who got America in the deep, deep debt that it is in. Teabaggers, on the other hand, are simply shocked, shocked I tell you, at how conservatives have dug America a hole of debt halfway to China.

But they both just love Sarah Palin. She is the glue that binds these two disparate groups together. So oddly, Perry gathers supporters from both of these groups.

But now Kay Bailey has a neocon all of her own. One to draw the War-loving Muslim-hating Cheneyites right out of the Perry camp.

Dick Cheney is the neocon’s neocon that will give Kay Bailey the credentials to pass as a borrow and spend, fear mongering, anti-Hispanic, neoconservative in her own right.

And how does Rick Perry spin the seeming desertion of his cause by a fellow neocon? He goes back to page one in his anti-Hutchison diatribe, the one that has so offended his fellow Republicans taking up space in Washington DC: it’s just a beltway cabal.

Said Mark Miner of Perry’s campaign:

“The Washington establishment likes to stick together.”

Yes and not to mention that Cheney knew both Kay and her millionaire lawyer husband Ray back in the good old days in Dallas, and that both Cheney sidekick Karl Rove and Bush fundraiser Jim Francis often serve as sous chefs in Kay’s Kitchen:

“Other connections between Hutchison and Cheney include former presidential adviser Karl Rove and Dallas fundraiser Jim Francis. Both are kitchen cabinet advisers to Hutchison’s campaign.”
So while this is not all that surprising, it does make for some fun popcorn-passing Neocon/Teabagger-watching good times here.

Making me wonder what the Texas moderates and Independents must be thinking right now as the two main Republican gubernatorial candidates scuffle in the dust in their continued competition to split the rightwing between themselves.

Maybe something like they have finally had enough of all of this.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Country Where the Crazies Control the Nukes?

Yes, unfortunately, I can.

A Modest Proposal to Pass the Public Option for Healthcare

I just figured out how we can pass healthcare reform in the US Senate with 60 votes to bring the measure to the floor.

Stuff it in something Republicans absolutely slobber over.

The epiphany came this afternoon as I was casually reading my weekly email message from In it I learned, to my great surprise, that both of my US Senators voted for passage of a provision “that extends the definition of federal hate crimes to include crimes in which victims are targeted because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

“By Jesus H. Christ Himself,” I said to no one in particular, “now that’s progress.”

Then I looked at how both of my senators voted to “repeal the Medicare physician payment formula that results in annual cuts that Congress reverses every year.”

And to my shock and dismay (but no particular surprise) they both voted “NO.”

Voted “NO” to a provision that usually flies through congress like bacon grease through a goose.

And I sensed a disconnect. What was going on here?

Well, it turns out that anything having to do with healthcare, including this non-issue is going to get a thumbs-down from every Republican and a few “Conservicrats.”

So how do we get this first progressive measure through the Senate, one that makes it a hate crime to target our GLBT brothers and sisters for violence, and not get this second measure through – one that was a no-brainer for passage (during times past)?

Well guess what, the progressive measure that would increase the penalty for violence on a person if that violence was because of how that person self-identified sexually was buried in another bill. A bill, as it turns out, that has nothing to do with hate crimes, gay and lesbian issues, or anything close to them.

It was a Defense Department appropriations bill.

OK, I admit it, I cherry picked for effect. Here is the entire message on how my two senators voted:

Vote Agreed to (68-29, 3 Not Voting)

The Senate gave final approval to this bill authorizing defense spending, which also contains a provision that extends the definition of federal hate crimes to include crimes in which victims are targeted because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison voted YES

Sen. John Cornyn voted YES
Lesson learned? If we want healthcare reform anytime soon we have to stuff it into another bill that Republican senators absolutely can’t help themselves when they push the “Aye” button.

It has got to be a good one though, or I don’t think they are going to go for it. Maybe it should be in the way of a bill to declare atomic war on the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Voting in Texas Elections vs. Parental Complaints

As one who votes in every election that they will let me in the door for, I have to say I am surprised and a little miffed at a story I heard today when I went to cast my vote in the Texas Constitutional Amendment election, the only election here in Fort Bend County.

I typically go to a middle school campus that is roughly between my workplace and my residence to early vote.

It is convenient and usually the lines are short.

Today it was no different in terms of lines, there were none, but not in terms of the convenience. Upon arriving and presenting my voter registration card I was made to stand by while the elections clerk waited for his laptop PC to connect to the internet.

It took an overly long amount of time and the light that was emitted by the scanner that would scan the bar code on my registration card kept switching between red and green.

Back and forth.

We joked that maybe the kids at the school had hacked into the system – a joke that was too serious to laugh too much about these days – and finally the scanner was ready to scan my card.

Then as we were waiting for the adhesive tape to print out, again in a stutter-stop way, I was told the real reason why there was such slow service. It seems that the reception in the area of the school that the polling place was located was very poor. Poor enough to make what should have been a 10 second procedure turn into a 5 minute one.

And then I heard something that made me cringe.

“It was much better when we set up in front in the lobby.”

I replied, “That’s right, you used to have this up front near the front circle. Why did you move back here?”

[I keep forgetting not to ask questions to which I don’t want to hear the answer]

“The parents complained that we were making too much noise.”

Now I have to ask myself, what would have happened if the poor reception that the elections clerk was getting today occurred on a heavy turnout early voting day? How far out the door would the line to get in to vote have gone? How many voters would have turned back in disgust because of the horrendous wait time?

This is clearly a case of misplaced priorities. Parental complaints need to be prioritized right behind everything else when it comes to the democratic process, and any facility that provides space for citizens to cast their votes in elections needs to ensure that this space is optimal for that purpose.

Otherwise, Fort Bend County should take its business elsewhere.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ron Paul Draws a Primary Opponent.

FortBendNow has the announcement that Congressman Ron “Dr. No” Paul (TX - 14) will have a primary opponent next March. He will be opposed by a Katy small businessman by the name of Tim Graney.

Graney a Katy teabagger, told Paul on Sunday that he needs to move over and let a real statesman work that seat.

Citing differences between Dr. Paul and himself, Graney included in his news release these choice words:

“I am a fiscal conservative, but I do not support Ron Paul’s weak foreign policy views, nor do I support his do whatever you want ultra-Libertarian views that conflict with our American values.”

Graney supports “Traditional American Values.” That’s the buzzword that you are going to be hearing for some time in the future. What those values entail I can only imagine, but they are, as listed in a recent questionnaire that I received from the NRC – and answered – were these singular rightwing Republican ideals:

  • Support prayer in school (Ban Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Secular Humanism)
  • Ban same sex marriage.
  • Ban abortion on demand.
  • An AK47 in every pot, a Glock 9mm in every garage

In other words, do all that you can to enforce your moral values on everyone else.

In other words, put government in the business of invading the privacy of every man, woman and child in America.

It’s nice, then that red, red CD-14 will have a choice next March over whether they want to follow a new path towards restriction of personal right and privileges, something Dr. Paul opposes (as do most Democrats from time to time, depending) and going down this new path of social repression.

Should be fun to watch.

Texas GOP Chair: Who Lost and Who Won

The big story this past weekend was who won the vote to become Chair of the Texas GOP. That the rightwing conservative got the most votes in the SREC was the big story, but now that we have relished in this news, it’s time to look a little at the back story.

And relish this news yet some more.

Out comes news from those in attendance that debate over whether they should vote for Melinda Fredricks, Cathie Adams’ opponent for the position was stifled – there was no debate.

The SREC of the Republican Party of Texas decided who should lead it, but declined to debate about it.

Not in front of reporters anyway.

According to SREC member Rebecca Williamson, there was no debate for reasons given here:

“There was no debate because members agreed not to hold a general discussion before voting. Member Rebecca Williamson of Hunt told colleagues before the agreement to restrict discussion that an initially contemplated 30-minute debate might lead to controversy and personal attacks.”

“‘After all, the press is here,’ Williamson said.”

OK, that explains everything. The press was there. God help them if they encourage debate and exchange of ideas. That, after all, might lead to controversy. That, after all, might lead to personal attacks.

How hamstrung the GOP is right now. They are so hopelessly divided that the only thing that they can agree to is not to show this side of themselves to the public.

The Texas GOP is so wounded that it continues the process by intentionally bleeding itself as in the old days when they used leeches. Controversy and tossing around ideas, intellectual exchange as it were, is part and parcel of good decision making. Working in the dark without cross-checking invites disaster.

A disaster that elected Cathie Adams as their glorious leader.

Quod Erat Demonstratum.

Underlining the fact that the lunatic fringe has grabbed hold of the power in the RPT is the document found here, a document authored by yet another rightwing lunatic, State Rep Wayne Chisum.

Now Wayne Chisum is as looney as you can get on this side of legal sanity. But even Chisum recognized that what his party needs right now is someone who can build the party back up and stop the erosion of seats that has occurred for the past two election cycles. Recognized this to the extent that he wrote this in a piece published by Fredricks’ campaign:

“‘The party needs a chairman who can unite us and revitalize us,’ said Chisum. ‘Melinda Fredricks is the best candidate because she will focus her efforts on defeating Democrats and building the Republican Majority’”
And glory of glories, instead of getting a uniter, the RPT has elected itself a divider. A party chair that refuses to “unendorse” Rick Perry for governor. As a matter of fact, Adams was seen today as seemingly rebuking Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison for not resigning her seat the US Senate.

Resigning so others can make plans.

Truth is, Hutchison is under no obligation to resign her seat. She said that she would but that was then.

So with that as a back story, it looks like Cathie Adams is off to a fantastic start – one that could not have been better for the Democratic cause if it had been planned.

So who are the losers here? Moderates in the RPT and all moderate and right of center Republicans. You guys are all out of power now and your voices and opinions are not required. The press is listening after all.

Melinda Fredricks is obviously a loser here, also.

Who are the winners? Oddly enough State Rep Wayne Chisum is a winner for backing the loser. His prescience will not go unnoticed.

Oh, and the Texas Democratic Party. They won, too.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Legitimizing Fox News

I was amazed this morning to see that included in the “Roundtable Discussion” on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos was a Fox News talking head by the name of Laura Ingraham.

Why is this legitimate news program including someone in the discussion who has no real credentials in news media, either as a news maker or as a journalist? Then I got my answer. One of the items on the agenda was the controversy of the Obama Administration’s open warfare with Fox News.

That is, if you are going to talk about Fox, why not have a member of their breed at the table?

If you missed it, here is the full clip of that discussion from You Tube:

I find Laura Ingraham to be an irritating person. I hate the sound and tone of her voice. And try as she might she simply cannot function without applying liberal doses of sly snarkiness that is the trademark of Fox News.

It makes me truly wonder what goes on in the minds of people who get all of their news from Fox. It really must affect your very soul to have a constant barrage of untruths, non-news and manufactured news hurled at you day in and day out.

The only comfort that it gives me is that according to the clip Fox News is the opposition.

Quoting Leon Podesta:

“I think Fox takes it a little bit to a different level, I think ah Bill Shine the vice president for news at Fox came out and said ‘We are the opposition’. You know, that I think can you imagine [ABC News president] David Weston going out and saying something like that?”

Because if Fox News is the opposition the Republican Party, the former opposition, is truly a party in trouble. Trouble in the way of approaching the edge of existence.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

On Going Rogue: The Republican Party of Texas

Jesus must love Democrats. Especially Democrats of the state of Texas

He must, or He wouldn’t have let 36 of the 61 SREC Committee members present who cast their votes for the election of Texas’ own rightwing lunatic, Cathie Adams to the post of Chair of the Republican Party of Texas earlier today at a special meeting held in Austin.

On hearing this news a few minutes ago here I literally jumped out of my chair and reconsidered my opinions of my Republican brethren.

This makes the gift of Sarah Palin to the Democratic Party in last year’s presidential election pale in comparison. Locally anyway. And just as Sarah Palin opened the door to the lunatic rightwing Conservative Party by endorsing its candidate in a New York special congressional election yesterday, the RPT just elected the woman who will stand there and hold the door open as moderates and not-so-moderates of the Republican Party make a quick exit to the world of the Independent Voter.

Or better yet to the world of the Persuadable Voter.

Seriously, this couldn’t have come at a better time. Consider the kind and quality of person that the Republican Party just elected to lead it through the 2010 elections:

Adams is president of the Texas Eagle Forum, a rightwing conservative blog that is affiliated with Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum.

Adams was part of the group that went to Washington earlier this year and co-sponsored a resolution to change the name of the Democratic Party to Democrat Socialist Party, something that caused Democrats and Republicans alike to shake their heads in amaze- and wonderment.

Adams opposed a bill, known as Proposition 15, a bill supported by the Perry Regime to fund cancer research in Texas to the tune of $300 million per year for 10 years, falsely claiming that the researchers would use embryonic stem cells in the project and at the same time branding medical research scientists as unethical, quoted here claiming this: “Scientists are on the verge of cloning humans, injecting them with diseases and studying them, then killing them.”

[Note well that you can’t see the original quote at the Texas Eagle Forum’s website any more. It’s gone now.]

And finally, if any Hispanics in Texas were thinking of voting Republican next time, maybe they should take a look at what the new head of the Republican Party of Texas said of the cultural mores of this sub-population:

“If mom had a baby at age 15, are her morals going to be setting different standards than someone who has grown up in the American culture where that is not typical?" she said. "As a matter of fact, we would look at someone impregnating a 15-year-old as child abuse.”

Fellow Democrats, we are perched at the edge of Texas becoming a blue state once again. We have worked hard to get the state to this point and need only another nudge or two to get us over the line. And who can provide that final nudge, I ask.

And seemingly in answer, I give you Cathie Adams, Chair of the Republican Party of Texas.

Friday, October 23, 2009

New US Department of Education Policy on NCLB Dings Texas

In an October 19 report on Texas’ compliance to policies outlined in the federal No Child Left Behind law, a law that is set to be rewritten very soon now, the feds have slammed Texas for its policy in classifying its new teachers as “highly qualified.”

From their report, which you can obtain here, this is the root of the problem:

“Citation: §9101(23)”

“Finding: The State allows new elementary teachers to demonstrate competence to determine highly qualified status by passing applicable ExCET (6-12 and PK-12) and/or TExES EC-12 single subject content tests. The State cannot count or report these teachers as highly qualified. Only the broad-field elementary assessment that measures competence across the core elementary curricula can be used to determine the highly qualified status of new elementary teachers.”

Translating, in order to be classified as “highly qualified,” a new elementary level teacher must pass a test that demonstrates general knowledge. Texas hired teachers that only passed tests on specific knowledge in their core area. For example, a 5th grade teacher who teaches math has passed only the math competency test but has been labeled “highly qualified” by the state.

How many teachers are we talking about here, anyway?

The state estimates we are talking about 30,000 teachers.

Now 30,000 teachers is a drop in the bucket in Texas, which has at last count, 600,000 teachers in public service, or about 5%, but this 5% comprises most of the newly certified teachers in Texas.

This has monetary ramifications as NCLB does not allow federal dollars to be spent in school districts that are not in compliance with NCLB. In other words, in the model of the carrot and the stick, it’s the equivalent of the stick. The carrot, federal inducement to improve education in the states, really doesn’t exist.

This has further repercussions in that in order to continue to receive these funds these teachers need to lose their jobs and right quick.

And I don’t know about you, but as a new teacher, I would not view education in a very positive light if I were let go because of this technicality in the law. I would just find another line of work.

The Department of Education report goes on, by the way, and tells the Texas Education Agency that they have 30 days to come up with a plan to implement the “correct HQT requirements” including notifying all parents of children whose teachers are now viewed as not highly qualified, as well as a plan to get these teachers – especially teachers in federally supported Title I and Title II Part A positions rated as highly qualified.

Now on top of not being able to use federal funds to pay these positions, the districts employing these teachers have to pay postage to send a letter to, oh, roughly 750,000 Texas households telling them that their local tax dollars are not at work.

I can’t think of a better way to enrage Texans than to say that their taxes are being used to fund districts that not only hire unqualified teachers, but lie about it to the feds.

Now I just have to wonder whether this would have been the case had Texas not gone for McCain/Palin in a big way last year.

Because all politics is local.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How We Do Things in Texas

This is how we get things done in Texas. When you want to curry favor with public servants, people who live on the taxpayers’ dollars, you make them really generous but completely anonymous gifts. You do something like giving each and every sheriff’s deputy in Fort Bend County, Texas a token of your appreciation to the tune of $1000. Something that happened here in Fort Bend County earlier this year.

And according to the District Attorney, it’s all perfectly legit if you don’t know who the donor is. How can you turn a blind eye at a traffic infraction, or any other kind of crime in the county if you don’t know who gave the money to you?

Well, no one but the county sheriff, anyway.

And he says that he isn’t going to say who the mysterious donor was.

So it’s OK.

Well then what about throwing a party? A fundraiser? What about getting local citizenry who don’t have something to do on a weekday for 3 hours to all come down to the “Texas Roadhouse” a new restaurant that just opened in Rosenberg and show the city fire department their appreciation for all that they do?

That’s what they are going to do according to this piece that I found in FortBendNow today. The public is invited – all of those who don’t have anything to do between 11 AM and 2 PM next Thursday anyway – to come down and have lunch and then they only pay what they choose to pay.

Apparently there is no limit.

What a deal.

And apparently, because no one has brought it up, this is OK because they’re going to use the fundraiser money to buy “much-needed equipment.” So anonymity isn’t a problem here and party goers are free to attend without putting paper bags over their heads.

Or wear Halloween masks.

Well I guess I’m lucky that I don’t live in Rosenberg because I work for a living and will definitely not be available to attend the fundraiser on that day. Because I wouldn’t want to be a Rosenberg resident who failed to pony up. Because on the day that one of these poor schmos’ houses catch fire they have to hope that the Texas Roadhouse restaurant doesn’t have a grease fire that day.

Or the day that one of the party goer’s cats climbs up a tree and refuses to come down.

Because we are only human and humans do have their priorities.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mark White on State-Sanctioned Killing

Former Governor Mark White has now weighed in on the use of the death penalty as an ultimate form of punishment of criminals in Texas. Coming on the heels of the little blow up between Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rick Perry, this looks like a smackdown from the former Democratic governor.

Something that White denies.

Something I can’t really fathom.

Because as an issue, this divides us like no other issue except maybe abortion. True, there are lots of Texas Democrats who favor the death penalty but I believe that tide is starting to turn. And I believe that evidence of this is right there in Mark White’s pronouncement as quoted in this AP article.

Progressive Democrats in Texas are for the most part opposed to the death penalty, but for reasons that range far and wide all the way from “it’s immoral” to “a preponderance of minorities are put to death” to “innocent people have been executed.”

That last one being my point of view and rationale for opposing the death penalty.

And apparently this point of view is shared by Mark White, citing the case of Todd Willingham – the one that got Kay Bailey and Rick Perry in an argument – but also the case of Michael Blair, whose innocence was proved with DNA forensic evidence – after he was executed:

“That's two examples of why I think the system is so unreliable. It creates an unnecessary possibility that an innocent person would be executed in Texas. And I don't think anybody in Texas wants that to happen.”
Well and good. But the issue is still hotly debated even within the Democratic Party. An issue we need to settle so it can be used as an issue to oust Republicans from statewide offices.

Because Republicans are very single-mindedly in favor of having the death penalty, and having it often.

Mark White, who has, in one capacity or another, overseen the executions of 20 individuals has come far in making this case – a progressive case. But we need to work on this some more to get the center left and independents on board with opposition to the death penalty.

And I can’t think of a better way to do that then point out this very important fact about the death penalty. A fact that will appeal to the sensibilities of economic conservatives in the center.

The death penalty costs more.


“The death penalty is much more expensive than its closest alternative -- life imprisonment with no parole. Capital trials are longer and more expensive at every step than other murder trials. Pre-trial motions, expert witness investigations, jury selection, and the necessity for two trials -- one on guilt and one on sentencing -- make capital cases extremely costly, even before the appeals process begins. Guilty pleas are almost unheard of when the punishment is death. In addition, many of these trials result in a life sentence rather than the death penalty, so the state pays the cost of life imprisonment on top of the expensive trial.”
That is, if you can’t appeal to a person’s sense of morality, or their sense of fairness, or their sense of outrage, you can always appeal to their sense of thrift.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pete Olson: Giving Texas CD – 22 Its Money’s Worth

I get this email notification on how my two Republican senators from Texas, and how my Republican congressman from TX-22 voted on recent congressional action. Today I was informed that my congressman, Pete Olson, voted NO on accepting House Report 111-292 on HR 2892, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2010.

It’s a $42.8 billion bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security.

He voted NO with 113 others.

Now, there is nothing on his congressional website explaining this curiosity. A curiosity made even more curious by the fact the Olson sits on the Homeland Security Committee.

So one would hope that Olson, who serves on the House committee that oversees Homeland Security would support the Department of Homeland Security.

Oh, but then I thought that since Olson sits on the committee, and he voted against the conference report that he might have some special knowledge about this, so I checked the NO votes against the list of members of the Homeland Security committee.

Only three members of that committee voted against accepting the report, all Republicans. No Democrat voted against accepting the report, and 9 Republicans serving on the committee voted in favor of it.

Now Houston, part of CD-22 is a port city. The Department of Homeland Security ostensibly keeps Houstonians safe from . . . from . . . well the stuff that the Bush Regime told us to be very afraid of. Stuff that Pete Olson still must be buying. So what’s the deal?

Are Houstonians getting their moneys worth having Pete Olson in office?

Is anyone?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Early Voting on Texas Constitutional Amendments Begins Today

On every odd year the state government of Texas throws a little party for 181 part-time state employees. A party that lasts 140 days. And these are part-time because they only work for those 140 days every other year.

This past year the 150 state house legislators and 31 state senators worked semi-feverishly to pass eleven laws that need your endorsement before they become the law of the land. Eleven laws that become permanent parts of the state constitution of Texas.

A document that can be found online here.

So on these off-off years between presidential and mid-term elections, we Texans are duty-bound to show up at the polls to give these amendments to our constitution an up or down vote.

And as you can well guess, unless the constitutional amendment is a hot-button issue with social conservatives, these elections are poorly attended.

You know, like the constitutional amendment that was added to the Texas constitution in 2005 that banned same sex marriage and civil unions. That one I well-remember because the line to the poll went out the door and halfway to the street at my Election Day polling place on November 8th 2005. And everyone in line knew each other because they all attended the same church. That amendment, encapsulated in Proposition 2 that year, passed in Fort Bend County by a vote of 35,695 in favor (82.55%) to 7,542 against (17.44%). Statewide, it passed by 75% to 25%.

Texans that vote in off-off year elections hate gays, you see.

Anyway, the time has come again to vote for your favorite constitutional amendments and I have done the homework for you. One of my favorite state representatives, State Rep. Scott Hochberg (D - Houston), has put up a very good and informative website on the 11 propositions. The first page gives you the short blurb on the subject matter of each, but then if you click on the individual proposition hyperlink you get a separate web page for each proposition, including background and arguments for and against the proposition.

I found it hugely informative.

I think, for instance, that you’d be crazy to vote against Proposition 11.

Anyway, as the title of this piece says, early voting for the Constitutional Amendment Election starts today, with Election Day being on November 3rd. The Fort Bend County Elections office has Early Voting locations and hours posted at its website, or you can just click here to get to the website. You then click on the individual polling location on the map to get a listing of the days and hours of operation (they differ from place to place).

Here, you can see the Election Day voting locations in Fort Bend County. All polls open at 7AM and close at 7 PM on that day.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The TEA Party That Wasn’t

It has only been a six months since we saw the TEA Party phenomenon spread across the country with mass meetings being held in cities and towns across the country around April 15th, the day that federal income taxes are due at the post office.

It has only been a two months since the Angst of August, when townhall meetings were disrupted by slogan yelling miscreants who simply “wanted their country back.”

And it has only been a month since Glenn Beck’s 9-12 Rally where either 70,000 people – or 1.5 million people, depending on who you are willing to believe - converged on Washington, DC to celebrate their ignorance of all things important.

Time in terms of only months have gone by, and now that the cool weather has returned, so too have cooler heads prevailed.

TEA Parties are finally at long last on the wane.

In case you weren’t going to go there, and you are in the vast majority if you didn’t, I decided to go to the Sugar Land TEA Party yesterday and check it out, again. And write about it, again. I left the house early recalling the last time I went I had difficulty getting a parking spot. Recalling the crowds of April I made sure to get there in plenty of time.

Remember the throng? Here is a photograph of it that I took on that day.

Yesterday, an equally bright sunny day, a great day to be outside, this is what the scene looked like after the speakers started speechifying.

And here are some excerpts from those speeches.

That last guy was a guy named Termite Watkins. He was their “keynote speaker.” That’s right, Pete Olson had other plans that day. Termite is a good ol’ boy who runs an extermination business. His main claim to fame besides being an ex-professional boxer is that he is the only person to go to “The Country of Iraq” to kill bugs. That’s right, right there talking to the assembled masses was an Iraq War profiteer. Termite, who lives in Deer Park, was there hawking his book “Termite,” which was on sale in one of the tents for the low, low price of only $14.95 (plus tax). One thing I think we can take away from his speech is that being a Christian is all part and parcel of being a teabagger.

And while the speakers were speaking, we had this curious threesome walking around the plaza carrying that hand-painted sign that said that “Obama’s policy” was Genocide.

They didn’t bother informing anyone which one of his policies was genocidal in nature and I didn’t really want to ask. The guy in the red shirt is James Ives, by the way, the president of the teabagger group that put on yesterday’s event, telling them to please display their sign somewhere else than right in front of the speakers.

So they moved around with the sign until they got to a point where I could see what was printed on the back of their hand-lettered sign, giving a whole new meaning to the concept of recycling.

But finally, and last but certainly not least, I heard a commotion coming from the back of the assembled masses. The rally was winding down and my curiosity finally got the better of me so I wandered over to find out what was happening. There by the fountain were 4 or 5 people wearing Obama regalia, one was waving an American flag and two others were holding up a signs supporting healthcare reform.

Outstanding, I thought. Not only do we have such a poor showing at this rally, this showing is certainly not something I would have expected to have happened in April. I think the people standing around them might have been a little bit in shock. One of them, probably the class clown 40 years ago, recovered enough to circulate around the crowd asking for donations for the anti-TEA party goers.

People thought he was really funny.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Arnold Schwarzenegger Signs Harvey Milk Bill

I didn’t even hear about this on the news this week. Earlier this week, on October 13 to be exact, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the Harvey Milk Bill into law. The bill designates May 22nd, the former San Francisco City Supervisor’s birthday, as Harvey Milk Day.

Harvey Milk, it may be recalled was one of the first openly gay persons to be elected to public office in America. We now have a few more, with the promise of more to come in the future, but Milk was one of the first, and tragically became the first openly gay office holder to be murdered, ostensibly because he was gay.

Harvey Milk became the first office holder, but obviously not the first person, to suffer from what Barack Obama has called the last legal discrimination policy in America. Milk was a victim of the ultimate in this kind of discrimination when he received 5 bullets fired into him by a former rival on the Board of Supervisors, a truly disturbed man named Dan White.

Dan White, a double murderer (he also killed San Francisco’s mayor, George Moscone), was sentenced to 7 years and 8 months behind bars for this offense, having been found guilty of voluntary manslaughter by a mostly anti-gay conservative jury. White’s defense lawyer mounted what is still considered to be one of the most outrageous criminal defenses in human history, a defense that completely dismissed White's heinous crime – arguably because one of his victims was gay, and probably needed killing.

It was called the “Twinkie Defense.” The jury, which probably would have bought any old argument, was told that Dan White was not really responsible for the killing of those two men because he was chronically depressed, the evidence of which was that he ate copious amounts of junk food.

It was a black day in California history with gays rioting and attacking police, and vice versa. A day made blacker when Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the Harvey Milk Bill when it arrived at his desk last year. It took a year, President Obama’s posthumous award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Milk, and an Academy Award-winning film on the life of Harvey Milk, to change Schwarzenegger’s mind.

The bill was opposed by The Campaign for Children and Families, calling it "the strongest impetus yet for loving parents to remove their children from anti-family public schools."

Wow. There is yet another great reason for teaching in public schools in California.

Parents like that self-select and remove their children from publicly funded schools.

How great is that?

Friday, October 16, 2009

On Swapping Wives

I promised myself yesterday that I would withhold any and all opinions on the story that unfolded in northern Colorado. It appeared to be a tragedy averted by the timidity of a little boy who couldn’t accept being “yelled at” by his father. Better that he hang out for a few hours hiding from his family than being trapped in a helium balloon flying high over the plains of Colorado.

Then in discussing the affair with others today, I became aware of something that I didn’t know about because I eschew any and all reality TV shows.

Well I did watch one episode of Dancing With The Stars recently because I needed to see Hot Tub Tom dance the Cha-cha.

Wife Swap, the reality TV show, they told me, the reality TV show that featured the Heene family last year, involves the swapping of wives between two “dysfunctional families.”

Well, that’s not exactly the wording they use on their website, but I believe that “dysfunctional” is a word used appropriately here.

Here is what they say about Wife Swap at

“Each week from across the country, two families with very different values are chosen to take part in a two-week long challenge. The wives from these two families exchange husbands, children and lives (but not bedrooms) to discover just what it's like to live another woman's life”
Get that? “Very different values.”

Take for example their description of women who have swapped families for the a couple of recent episodes:

“The episodes include a variety of spousal swaps: a wife who caters to her beauty pageant teenage daughter's every whim -- and even does her homework -- swaps lives with a super feminist wife whose children can change a flat tire; a drill sergeant wife who disciplines her children by making them do push ups in the front yard swaps lives with a prankster mom whose only rule is to have fun.”
These aren’t people with “very different values.” These are people who, given the right set of circumstances, find their names in the news.

So should it come as a surprise that a father who takes his young kids on tornado hunts, a father who builds a helium balloon big enough for his children to ride in, a father who calls the FAA, then a the news office at a local TV station and THEN 911 when he learns that his 6-year old son is aboard a free-flying helium balloon, a father who lets his son projectile vomit on national TV while being interviewed by Diane Sawyer, that father, is in the news?

The only questions I have are these:

How did this guy stay out of the news for so long?

When can this family please fade back into obscurity?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Embryonic Stem Cell Grown to Heart Muscle Tissue

The political arguments for embryonic stem cell research took on new meaning today when it was announced in this AP news release that a team of research scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University have “grown” a heart muscle from an embryonic stem cell.

And the heart muscle spontaneous began to beat.

The muscle, that of a mouse is the first ever engineered by man.

This has amazing repercussions.

First of all, it means that we are now on the path to a cure for heart disease. When a person has a heart attack, the heart muscle becomes damaged. When it gets damaged it ceases to function properly, leading eventually to still more heart attacks and ultimately one that ends life.

Imagine it. Sometime in the future, closer now than ever, we will simply grow a heart muscle in a laboratory and use that to replace damaged muscles.

And this from a science that was banned by the previous Republican administration.

Banned for religious reasons by rightwing evangelicals who used the years of Republican power to foist their religious viewpoints on the American people.

That we survived this experience is truly a miracle on the order of the loaves and fishes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hutchison Remains Adamant: She’s Running Against Perry

Today Kay Bailey Hutchison took a cue from Perry spokesman Mark Miner, quoted here yesterday, that she most assuredly was going to run against Governor Rick Perry and try to replace him on the November ballot.

“I have said pretty clearly that that’s what I’m going to do. I think I can help Texas now and take our state into the real areas that need to have leadership.”
OK,OK, I say. But actions speak louder than words and this continued thrust and parry in the press is done on the cheap. I want something concrete, like a senate resignation.

But I have to admit, Hutchison’s latest attack, actually a continuation of her attack on Perry for knowingly letting a convicted murderer be executed when forensic evidence was being openly disputed, does come of as unexpectedly shrill, and fodder for any Democrat who would run against Perry in November.

In her latest attack she lets both barrels loose on his recent replacement of members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, which was investigating the disputed forensic evidence, the thing that the commission is supposed to do, and was expected to release a report next year.

A report that they say would have been damaging to Perry.

As it stands now, issuing the report won’t happen before the primary.

Hutchison is canny in her attack, because she can’t be looking like a bleeding heart for the guy who just may have been executed by mistake. As a matter of fact she offers no opinion on Todd Willingham’s guilt or innocence. In Houston today, she said this to an AP reporter:

“I'm not taking up for Mr. Willingham because I have no idea. I'm taking up for the process, for the criminal justice system in our state.”
See, it’s a hot button issue among Republicans. They like the death penalty. So Republicans who hope for a victory in Texas can’t get one by speaking up for a guy who mistakenly got waxed by the state. That would be unseemly.

No, Hutchison attacks it this way:

“I think the majority of Texans believe the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for the crimes that are the state law for the death penalty. I think every one of the people who believe in the death penalty would want to know we are using DNA evidence and the best technology in all the fields to determine if a person is rightfully convicted," Hutchison said.”

“Hutchison's campaign issued a statement saying Perry's handling of the commission has given liberals ammunition to discredit the death penalty.”
Get it? Hutchison isn’t attacking Perry because he just may have allowed an innocent man to be wasted in a government-sanctioned slaying, she is attacking him because he has given the liberals a valid issue.

How clever is that? Not only is she absolutely correct, but she can now look more conservative than Perry to boot.

Yes, we liberals oppose the death penalty. I am rather pragmatic about it though and don’t spout morality issues like others of my ilk. I simply think that the system is flawed and allows the taking of innocent life. You can’t have a do-over once the hypodermic’s plunger is pushed.

And this case is just grist for our mill.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

14 to 9

OK, OK, the Baucus Bill, that some call a healthcare reform bill, passed out of the Senate Finance Committee with a unanimous Democratic vote, and one lone Republican vote.

By a vote of 14 to 9.

14 to 9 with the 14 including a Republican vote from, surprise, surprise, Olympia Snowe.

Olympia Snowe (R - Maine) is going to face a Democratic challenger next year, and Maine is a brand new blue state they tell me, so she is all about looking as much like a Democrat as she can right now.

So yes, I do have a problem with giving the Baucus Bill the identity as the only bill with “bipartisan support.” For all of her bluster, Olympia Snowe is a paper tiger. She has to vote like this.

The Baucus Bill is the only “healthcare reform bill” that doesn’t mention a public option. Therefore, the only bill that the healthcare industry can get behind – although they seem to have trouble getting behind any bill now.

The only silver lining that I see in this is that Democrats seem to be lining up to vote as Democrats. Now it’s time to put the public option in the merged bill.

It’s either that or take the healthcare insurance industry’s advice and scrap the whole thing because no matter what is done in Washington, they are bound and determined to raise their rates.

Take their advice and pass Universal Health Care and put those rapacious SOBs out of business.

Will Kay Bailey Hutchison Resign? Not a Chance.

In her announcement that she was interested in challenging Texas Governor Rick Perry in the Republican primary next March, Kay Bailey Hutchison said that she would be resigning from her senate seat to run for the nomination in October or November.

From the Washington Post (last July):

“The actual leaving of the Senate will be sometime -- October, November -- that, in that time frame”
Today, however, now that it is nearly mid-October, the first sign of wavering on this decision has presented itself in a shrot but sweet AP piece that I found here:

“Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison says some people are suggesting that she remain in the Senate and not step down, as she said she would do, for her run for governor.Hutchison said Tuesday on Dallas-Fort Worth radio station WBAP that she's not sure what she'll do. She said she wants to remain in the Senate long enough to fight President Barack Obama's health care proposal.”

As if Rick Perry wasn’t going to appoint a replacement for her that would vote for healthcare reform.

This is just the first indication of what is inevitable. Inevitable now because Hutchison’s indecisiveness is showing, giving Perry a valid argument to hit her over the head with in the primary.

That Kay Bailey is a waffeler. A flip-flopper.

No, this “some people” that Hutchison seems to be listening to more closely these days have been saying the same thing to her all along. The same thing that I have been saying on this blog: that Kay Bailey has a great chance to become governor of Texas if she could somehow bypass the Republican primary.

But she can’t. And Rick Perry will wipe the floor with her in the primary.

Because Texas Republican primary voters are a special species of Republican. The kind that votes for the one with the best head of hair as long as it’s atop the head of a rightwing secession-talking extreminst.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another TEA Party

You have to love FortBendNow, the online newspaper where I get a lot of my local news. Today I noted a short article announcing that the “Fort Bend County Tea Party” has “scheduled a call to action.”

From FortBendNow:

“The Fort Bend County Tea Party has scheduled a Call to Action Rally from 3-5 p.m. in Sugar Land Town Square, U.S. 59 and Hwy. 6. More than 4,000 people attended the organizations rally in April, according to organizers.”
Yep, they are going to hold another TEA (Taxed Enough Already) party where county right wingers can come out once again and tell Washington DC that they don’t want any part of healthcare reform. That they hate anything with even the chance of becoming a government-run healthcare program (you know, like Medicare and Medicaid). Don’t want anything like a socialist program to preserve quality of life when people get old (you know, like Social Security).

Don’t want anything to do with a government-run education system (you know, like the public school system).

Or Jesus help us, don’t want anything to do with a government-run system of document transfer where the government will decide what documents you can send and receive and how much to charge you for that service (you know, like the US Postal Service).

No, they don’t want any of that so when 3 o’clock rolls around you too can be there to add your voice to the growing throng.

3 o’clock on what day, you ask?

They actually don’t say.

And that’s why I like FortBendNow. They can be downright cute sometimes.

UPDATE: A commenter on FBN noted the above-mentioned omission and the article was updated with the date that you could find at the Tea Party website. That was fun . . .

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Top Ten Things that Barack Obama Should Do With His Nobel Prize Award

I was inspired today when I read that the Republican Party of Texas has commented on Friday’s announcement that a sitting US President has won the Nobel Peace Prize by reminding all of us that the prize comes with a monetary award. In this case a $1.4 million monetary award. Now this has them all very concerned down there in the Republican Party. I quote from their statement, all of which you can find here:

“There is one thing we will point out, though. Given the fact that the Nobel Committee has repeatedly awarded various failed Democrats for essentially Not Being Bush, and given the fact that President Obama will stand for election again in 2012 and that today's Nobel Prize will surely come up during that campaign, the Obama re-election committee is duty bound to report the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize as a campaign contribution from a foreign source.”

“Because that's exactly what it is.”
Uh oh. Campaign contributions from a foreign source. Can’t have that. And apparently Barack Obama himself agrees. The White House announced later that day that President Obama will donate all of his prize money to charity.

This has evoked a virtual torrent of news articles, both serious and whimsical, from points of view on both the left and the right, on what Obama should do with his award. On the right, particularly at Fox News, there are a sickening number of posters who unabashedly mention how Obama may need a grille on his teeth. Others that support the purchase of various ornaments to decorate his ride.

I have decided to join in the fray. And again, with apologies to David Letterman (who needs to make a few apologies himself these days), presented below is the Half Empty list of the Top Ten Things that Barack Obama Should Do With His Nobel Prize Award.

10. Buy 100,000 copies of Sarah Palin’s book, Going Rogue, and grind them into compost.

9. Buy postage and stationary for George W. Bush so he can send apology letters to wounded soldiers, families of 9-11 victims, foreign nationals who have been “renditioned,” and the voters of Palm Beach County, Florida.

8. Buy copies of John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage and give them to every Red State Democratic senator and every Blue Dog Democrat in the House of Representatives.

7. Corner the market on the United States' total supply of sour grapes and send them to the Republican Party of Texas with a note affixed simply reading “Enjoy.”

6. Buy 40 cases of Ex-Lax and send one to each Republican US senator. Maybe if we get them unplugged we can get some healthcare reform passed this year.

5. Reimburse Senator John Ensign’s parents for the $96,000 “gift” they made to Doug and Cindy Hampton for . . . well, for just being the great couple that they are.

4. Give it all to Rush Limbaugh. It will render him speechless for a time, and that will be $1.4 million well spent.

3. Everybody says give it to ACORN. OK, give it to ACORN but with the stipulation that they can only use it to buy brothels for rightwing nutjobs carrying video cameras.

2. Buy a bunch of those lawn jockey statues that were once so popular in The South and give them to each and every federal legislator who goes out of his or her way to dismiss Barack Obama because of his biracial ancestry.

And the number one thing that Barack Obama should do with his Nobel Prize award?

1. Pay Kanye West to go on national TV to congratulate Obama for winning The Prize by saying this: “Yo, Obama Imma let you finish but Henry Kissinger had the best accomplishment for winning the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Saturday, October 10, 2009

On Accomplishing Peace

I have had it with the rightwing nuts who alternately celebrate wildly when their country loses its bid to host the Olympic Games in 2016 and grumble and complain when their sitting president brings home the Nobel Peace Prize.

“He hasn’t accomplished anything to deserve it,” they whine.

Well, OK, I’ll bite. Let’s do a brief review of a few of the people who have won the Nobel Peace Prize in the past, and what their accomplishments were.

1906: President Theodore Roosevelt, the first sitting president to win The Prize, won it for negotiating the end of the Russo-Japanese War. A war that had already effectively ended with Japan taking possession of the Sakhalin Islands and all of Korea. Reeling from this defeat, Tsar Nicholas II was soon thereafter deposed by the Bolsheviks leading to 80 years of communist oppression. The USSR retook the Sakhalin Islands from Japan as their reward for declaring war on Japan in August 1945 – after America dropped their atomic bombs on Japan.

So much for that accomplishment.

1919: President Woodrow Wilson, the second sitting president to win The Prize, won it for negotiating the Treaty of Versailles and pushing for the creation of The League of Nations. The Treaty of Versailles was seen as such a singular act of punishment of the German people, through their errant government, that it was very effectively waved as a bloody shirt by the fledgling Nazi Party leading to their ultimate takeover of the German government. The League of Nations, an organization that Wilson could not convince his own country to join, was a joke that didn’t stop a single bullet from being fired in anger.

So much for that accomplishment.

1929: Frank Billings Kellogg, a Secretary of State under Herbert Hoover, won The Prize when he negotiated what became known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, a non-aggression pact that was ultimately signed by 65 countries including Germany, Italy and Japan.

So much for that accomplishment.

1934: Arthur Henderson, British Foreign Secretary, won The Prize after he led the ill-fated World Disarmament Conference, a conference of the League of Nations that sought to limit the size and scope of armaments, chiefly in Europe. The conference broke down when Adolf Hitler withdrew from both the conference and the League of Nations in October 1933.

So much for that accomplishment.

1950: Dr. Ralph Bunche, first African-American Nobel laureate, received his Prize for his efforts in negotiating the 1949 Armistice Agreements between the new state of Israel and its next door neighbors, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Each negotiation resulted in the creation of a Mixed Armistice Commission, or MAC, which oversaw the cease fire at each border. Israel stopped attending these in 1951. Regional war broke out in 1967 and again in 1973. Palestinian refugee camps exist to this day.

So much for that accomplishment.

1978: Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin jointly shared The Prize that year for negotiating an end to Arab-Israeli hostilities. For his trouble, Anwar Sadat was assassinated. See above for the rest of the story.

So much for that accomplishment.

1984: Bishop Desmond Tutu was awarded his Prize for his work in ending Apartheid in South Africa. Never mind the fact that Apartheid existed as a social system for another 10 years until it was ultimately ushered to the ash can of history by F. W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela, who shared The Prize the previous year.

That accomplishment needed to be rewarded twice before it took hold.

1997: Jody Williams got her Nobel Peace Prize for her work in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Landmines, however, are alive and well in the world and claim an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 new victims every year worldwide.

So much for that accomplishment.

Do you see a trend here? Do these rightwing fanatical nutjobs have a good handle on why or how the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded? Obviously it is not all about accomplishments, is it? It is all about good intentions, all about creating a setting for the accomplishment of peaceful pursuits. It’s not about accomplishments or none but two of the above would have gotten their prizes would they? As a matter of fact, if it was about accomplishment, some of the above need to return the prize money. It’s not about accomplishment. It’s all about what you do to promote world peace and how effective you are in doing that.

Really, it’s all about getting an “A” for effort.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Making Healthcare Reform Optional for States Won’t Work

The latest fad in the Senate is to amend healthcare reform legislation so that states that don’t want healthcare reform can opt out of it.

It’s an insane idea. Who on Earth would have ever thought that this was a good idea? I know, Rick Perry probably thinks it’s a good idea. According to Perry, Texas didn’t need $555 million in federal dollars to pay its unemployed workers over a period past when their unemployment checks ran out. Nope, not when it could spend a billion dollars to get the same effect by borrowing the money and paying interest on it.

It’s insane to trust the judgment of states, letting them judge for themselves whether or not to bring healthcare costs under control. That isn’t even a logical decision to make.

No, this idea is as insane as letting the states decide whether they want to opt out of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Or Medicare. Or the Emancipation Proclamation.

But more to the point, I am no lawyer, but doesn’t this bring up an equal protection question? What if, as a hypothetical, Joe Wilson in South Carolina comes down with skin cancer but because his healthcare policy is capped, because his state has opted out of healthcare reform, Joe Wilson will have to forgo the treatment that could save his life but David Vitter, who is from Louisiana, which has adopted the federal healthcare reform program, can have his life extended when he comes down with the same disease?

Very clearly, allowing healthcare reform in one area of the country while banning it in another is denial of equal protection of the law. Denial of one’s 14th Amendment rights.

In short, it’s not just an insane idea. It’s unconstitutional.

Dismissing The Prize

The country is full of people today who are going out of their way to dismiss the President of the United States. Dismissing him because he is too black. Because he is too young. Because he is too foreign. Because he is too liberal.

And now they are dismissing him because he won the Nobel Peace Prize, and they don’t think he deserves it.

But guess what? Obama himself doesn’t think that he deserves the award. Not for personal achievement anyway. From his speech this morning:

“I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee. Let me be clear, I do not view it as recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations. To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honored by this prize. Men and women who have inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace. . . . And I know that throughout history the Nobel Peace prize has not been used to honor specific achievement but it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action. A call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.”
But again, I think Obama is being a little too humble. I think that there is a level of achievement that needs to be considered. Obama has become a force for a new dialogue and a symbol for peaceful resolution of conflict.

In reality, the prize is just as much a statement for the world’s positive opinion of Obama's world view as it is a statement for the world’s negative view of the policies of his predecessor.

Where Bush strived to develop an anti-missile system to oppose the non-existent Russian threat, Obama has dismantled that effort. Where Bush tried to push the production of another fighter plane, the F-22, Obama killed the project as an unneeded war weapon that was also a waste of taxpayer money (getting thanks from no Republicans). Where Bush and McCain were all for a military confrontation in Iran (Remember ‘Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran?), Obama has opened dialogue with them (as he said he would). Where Bush inflamed the passions of the Muslim world, Obama went to Cairo and his speech there on that day brought Muslims to their feet.

Because we are here in America, maybe we can’t see it. We are too close to the situation perhaps. Internationally, Obama is simply seen from a different perspective. Through different eyes.

No, I will not join the chorus of voices dismissing Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize. I think he merits it. I think that the only thing that is completely wrong with this is that the man is still only 48 years old. Only 48 and he not only has become the President of the United States and an internationally respected figure, but now has a Nobel under his belt.

What do you do after that?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Putting Wimmen in Their Place

Jesus Christ himself was smiling down on the Democratic Party today when He made NRCC Communications Director Ken Spain say in a nationally released press statement that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, third in line to ascendency to the Presidency of the United States of America, should be put “in her place.”

Better yet, that a big brawny 4-star general should do the honor “to put her in her place.”

Quoting Ken Spain:

“If Nancy Pelosi’s failed economic policies are any indicator of the effect she may have on Afghanistan, taxpayers can only hope McChrystal is able to put her in her place.”
Just when you are led to think that the Republicans can act like they live in the 21st century (led to think that by Republicans anyway) someone in the party of the Dark Side shines a bright light on themselves and on the reality that is the Republican Party: Republicans, the Republican men anyway, still have those ancient-thinking, knuckle dragging Neanderthal mentalities that set themselves apart from Modern Man.

My guess is that remarkable press release set Democrats back on their heels in a chorus of guffaws and a medly of high fives as Republicans yet again expose themselves in their natural state.

And it probably had its effect on not just a few Republican women, as well.

Pete Olson Lauds “Stunt Journalism”

It could only have come from my congressman. Pete Olson, the duly elected congressman representing Texas CD-22, a redneck’s redneck, has filed a House Resolution honoring the “journalism” of Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe III, who ran a “stunt” at a couple of ACORN offices.

Ran a stunt and called it journalism.

Pete’s resolution, House Resolution 809, goes on that these people were doing credible journalism that is “setting an example for concerned citizens across America.”

In case you have been on an Antarctic cruise the past few weeks, you probably missed the fact that a couple of amateurs posed as various low-life people, one time, as I recall, as a pimp and his prostitute, and came into a neighborhood ACORN community service center asking for help.

To their eternal shame, the ACORN workers tried their best to help them, but in so doing, suggested that the actors stretch a few truths.

Now the fact is, this was not an infraction of the law in any way. These people, Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe III, were actors who were secretly videoing the entire encounter so they could use it against ACORN – not to mention make themselves Pete Olson’s personal heroes.

The video did its damage, however, and nearly no one in congress was able to avoid voting for pulling federal funds from the ACORN community services organization.

No one in the field of journalism (except for Fox News) thinks that this was credible journalism. It was a set-up pure and simple. A set-up like the county fair stunt where someone glues a wallet with folding money showing out on the midway and in a grandstand that is set back fair goers sit and watch the misbehavior of their fellow man as they encounter the wallet and then make poor decisions on how to recover the money for themselves.

Given a sordid set of circumstances, people tend to act sordidly, unfortunately.

This was not journalism in any way, shape or form, and Pete Olson should be ashamed for singling out this pair of actors as journalists doing laudable reporting.

I used to give Pete Olson credit for having at least some brains, or he wouldn’t have been able to fool so many people into voting for him. Now I am convinced the man couldn’t think his way out of a 3rd grade spelling bee.

Yesterday the bill was referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform where I suspect it will die a cold and lonely death.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Tom DeLay Quits . . . Again

I heard it on the morning news (because unlike some of my compatriots I have grown tired of watching Tom DeLay make a fool of himself . . . again) that Tom DeLay, lately my congressman from Texas CD – 22, has quit his run on Dancing With the Stars.

Has quit . . . again.

My former congressman, Tom DeLay, is a true veteran at quitting. This time the excuse given was that he had stress fractures on his feet. Whatever. Last time I had a stress fracture I was unable to walk without crutches until I was “booted.” My assumption is that DeLay’s “pre-stress fractures” were still with him, but the diagnosis was upgraded by excising the “pre” mainly so he could quit . . . again.

As I said, Tom is a veteran at quitting. Remember the last time he quit? The last time Tom DeLay quit what he was doing was in June of 2006 when he realized that he wouldn’t be able to win a re-election bid that year. His numbers were going south like Canadian Snowbirds. Back then he cited the reason for quitting was that the election would be a referendum on him, personally, and that another Republican could win where he would not be able to.

Back then, he cited as reasons for not being able to run in his district were that 1) he were to die (not yet), 2) he were to be convicted of a felony (no such luck), or 3) he were to move out of his district. Quitting, he thought, would just create a vacancy on the ballot. Not being able to run, he thought, was the way to go so the mythical Republican who would be able to win in 2006 could take his place.

The old Texas Two-Step, Tom DeLay style.

So he quit and moved to a condominium in Alexandria, Virginia. Not only out of district, but clear out of state.

And he got himself a fishing license to prove his residence.

So the Republican Party of Texas took the cue and went looking for a replacement. An experiment in civics that was ground to a halt when the Texas Democratic Party filed suit, claiming that the RPT could not replace a duly elected candidate because it violated the United States Constitution. A claim that DeLay himself helped along in court, leading to a TDP ultimate victory.

The downside of all of that is that for over 6 months the constituents of CD 22 had no representation in congress. In short, Tom DeLay quit, abandoning over 600,000 people in the process. This time, in quitting, the victim is not hundreds of thousands, but just one. Cheryl Burke.

Cheryl Burke is out of a job. Her dance partner quit on her. My hope for Ms. Burke is that she wasn’t counting on that check for very much longer, and that she didn’t quit her day job.

What a bad break for Cheryl Burke. I was wondering this: what about finding a replacement for Tom DeLay? There is, after all, precedence for at least trying. Surely they can find someone who can pick up the standard that DeLay dropped. Maybe someone who can dance better and won’t drop Ms. Burke (or nearly so) on her keester.

Surely there isn’t a provision in the US Constitution that would be violated if Tom DeLay found a replacement for himself on Dancing With the Stars. It’s win-win all around. We no longer have to watch Tom DeLay's antics on a reality TV show, and Cheryl Burke may just get another winner as a partner.

And as for having Tom back on the finale show to display his prowess at the Texas Two-Step, I have to say “What for?”

After all, we’ve already seen Tom DeLay dance that one. Twice now.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Texas Farm Bureau Endorses Kay Bailey - Yawn

You might say that yesterday’s monumental endorsement flip-flop on the part of the Texas Farm Bureau has breathed some life into Kay Bailey Hutchison’s as yet still unannounced bid to oppose Governor Rick Perry in the March 2010 Republican primary. Perry, who will attempt to gain his unprecedented 3rd term as governor of Texas, has been parrying Hutchison’s thrusts on a daily basis for awhile now, even though Hutchison has yet to make it official. Has yet to step down from her seat in the US Senate.

Much to the annoyance of some people.

From the Star-Telegram, quoting Kenneth Dierschke, president of the Texas Farm Bureau:

“This is the most important race for governor in a long time. For the future of Texas, we call for new leadership. We call for new ideas and a new vision. We know that Texans will trust Gov. Hutchison in the same way we’ve always trusted Sen. Hutchison.”

This endorsement is big. The Texas Farm Bureau, representing over 400,000 rural members, has traditionally backed Perry ever since he ran for Agricultural Commissioner in 1990. But their patience with his positions and alliances have run rather thin of late.

Take for instance Perry’s stance in favor of the Trans-Texas Corridor, a project that promises to remove lots of farmland by eminent domain. The TTC has been opposed by Texas farmers and ranchers. Has been opposed by nearly anyone in Texas except for people respresenting the interests of the Spanish consortium that wants to build the ribbon of concrete.

Kay Bailey Hutchison, however, has gone on record as opposing the TTC, and has said unequivocally that she would kill the project if elected.

Now the trouble with getting the endorsement of the Texas Farm Bureau is the one that Perry’s spokesman Mark Miner brought up. Miner said that Perry retains strong support among "rank-and-file farmers," adding, "We’re confident we’ll have their support.

Now why is this? Why would farmers and ranchers support Perry who opposes eminent domain reform, that they support, and supported the Trans-Texas Corridor, that they opposed?


Anyone who has been around in Texas knows the answer to this. Ask anyone. Tool around in the urban areas of Texas, all 5 of them, and you get one view of government and social issues. But get on any road out of town and you’ll see, the further you go down the road, the more socially conservative are the denizens.

So in my view, those in the ag industry are definitely caught between their pocket book and their social mores. Where they ultimately come down on either will largely determine their votes in the primary.

My guess is that Hutchison’s soft positions on areas such as stem cell research and a woman’s right to choose whether to have or not have a child will ultimately be the deciding factor when all is said and done. Social conservatives oppose both of these on deep beliefs in evangelical religious doctrine.

This is because, in the end, social conservatives tend to vote their beliefs, and not along lines of logic and reason.

So while Kay Bailey Hutchison can whoop it up on her latest strong endorsement from a big, big organization, my guess is that the end game has already played itself out. Perry will win the primary because his base, social conservatives of the far right, show up en masse at the primary elections.

She has already lost even though she hasn’t even declared her candidacy.

And everyone knows it but her.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Republicans Cheer Loss of 2016 Olympics

You heard it might just be true. That Americans would actually cheer the fact that the 2016 Olympics Games would NOT be held in the United States. Now there is video.

From a video shot at a meeting of Americans for Prosperity no less.

If it hasn’t become obvious to all thinking people that Republicans are not for America if anything that is good is brought to them by Democrats or Barack Obama, if it isn’t clear that Republicans are against anything that will help America, economically or any way else, if Democrats make it happen, then maybe this video will suffice to convince them.

Next time, what? Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and their Republican followers jumping out of their chairs in wild applause as glad tidings come in the form of news that terrorists have nuked the St. Louis Arch?

We now know where these people stand.

And it’s not with America.

To Urge Courage on 14 Democratic Senators

There stand 14 centrist Democratic senators in the way of what, by one estimate, 67% of Americans desire (and by another estimate 77%). 14 Democratic senators who continue to defy the command of a majority of Americans in preference to the will of corporate lobbyists of the healthcare industry, lobbyists who have lined the pockets of many of these senators with campaign contributions.

There stand 14 centrist Democratic senators who still oppose the public option in any rendition of healthcare reform bills currently under consideration in congress.

Someone or something needs to inspire these senators to be greater than themselves. Something to inspire these senators to do the right thing.

And the Fort Bend Democrats stood up to take on this challenge.

After all, our two senators are so hopelessly bought up by healthcare lobbyists, and are so captivated by the notion of handing Barack Obama a defeat – despite the fact that Texans are second to last in the nation in having health insurance coverage - that our call for personal courage will definitely fall on deaf ears with those two.

So the Fort Bend Democrats voted to send 14 tokens of inspirations of courage to these 14 senators.

Voted to send 14 copies of John F. Kennedy’s Pulitzer prize-winning book Profiles in Courage.

It is an especially apt gift. While he was laid up after having his back surgery between 1954 and 1955, Kennedy penned 8 biographical accounts of unparalleled courage exhibited by United States Senators who resisted the easy way out and did the right thing.

They voted their consciences, not for the flavor of the day, and certainly not for personal gain. Many of these senators suffered personal or political setbacks as a result of their decisions of conscience.

Knowing that sending these copies by mail would have gotten the books to their recipients by, say, Valentine’s Day, the Fort Bend Democrats enlisted the help of a DC resident who accepted the mission to personally hand-deliver these books to the 14 targeted senators. Her ordeal can be read about here from an email from our collaborator.

Each text was accompanied by a handwritten note to the senators; the one addressed to Senator Evan Bayh appears below.
Now who knows what effect this stunt, and some will call it a stunt, will have on these senators. My hope is that some will take this as seriously as the Fort Bend Democrats mean it to be.

Failure to achieve meaningful healthcare reform is not an option.

Maybe these senators need to be reminded about personal sacrifice, and courage to do the right thing. Perhaps this gift to each of them will provide a means to that end.