Thursday, September 30, 2010

Is Pete Olson Worried about Kesha?

For a few weeks it has been a lone political dispute between myself and my neighbor across the street over whose lawn sign is the better one. When the calendar page turned and it was 60 days out to the November 2 election my neighbor planted a brand spanking new Pete Olson for Congress lawn sign on his front lawn.

When Labor Day came and went I joined in the fun and planted my Bill White for Texas sign. And from that day to this the only political signs visible on my street have been those two.

Up until today.

Driving home today I passed house after house (and not just on my street) with those brand spanking new Pete Olson for Congress signs.

Oh, and one of those loud noisy Bob Hebert for County Judge signs.

Now I have to ask myself, what is with that? When Democrats came to the polls in dribs and drabs last March to vote for their congressional candidate for CD 22 they did what Democrats sometimes do best when they don’t know who the heck any of these candidates are – they pick the first one listed.

The first one listed in CD-22’s most populous county, Fort Bend, was LaRouche Democrat Kesha Rogers. She won Fort Bend County. The one listed first in Harris County’s ballot, Doug Blatt, won Harris County.

And so on.

So CD-22 Democrats saddled themselves with a 3rd tier candidate in Kesha Rogers who thinks that Barack Obama is a puppet of the British monarchy and should be impeached for ending the Aries and Constellation projects at NASA.

Pete Olson, I told myself, was a shoe in for a second term.

Obviously though, Pete Olson disagrees.

I think Olson reads the papers, and has realized that this congressional election is his to lose if he doesn’t get his name out there. And maybe it’s because in 2010 CD-22’s most populous county may just go the way Harris County (CD-22’s 2nd most populous county) had gone in 2008, and break over to Democratic.

Democratic straight ticket voters have outnumbered their Republican counterparts in the past couple of election cycles. This must be of some concern to Pete. And ironically it is of some concern to me in this one race.

That’s because if there is enough voter backlash against the established Washington DC insider incumbent, which is something Pete Olson epitomizes, Pete Olson could just find his hat handed to him by a tin-foil hat-wearing LaRouche Democrat whose main strength in this race is voter ignorance over just what she stands for.

This must be what was on his mind when he ordered up all of those lawn signs.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bill White Needs Texas’ Independent Voters

I’ve mentioned it here, and have seen an incredible story on it here, and I’ll say it again: Bill White is on the verge of winning the race for the office of Governor of Texas (despite what a majority of women seem to be set on doing in this election). Polls have the race between Bill White and Rick “Pretty Boy” Perry tightening up, and if you believe in the conservative slant of the Rasmussen Poll, they are closer than anyone thinks.

But there is still a whole host of undecided likely voters out there. Voters who label themselves as Independents, that is, vote for the man and not the party. Bill White thinks their indecision is mainly due to the fact that they are still unaware of Rick Perry’s opponent. They don’t like what Perry has done to their state, but don’t have a handle on who his opponent is, and whether he will do a better job than Perry has for average Texans.

Perry has done a great job for his friends, cronies, and friends of friends. Those are Perry’s safe votes – his base, if you will. Independents simply need to be convinced of that and that Bill White’s record of public service speaks for itself.

Independents are in the catbird’s seat again this year. It will be they that will decide this election. The time is now to get in touch with them. The time is now to let them know that while Bill White isn’t exactly another pretty face, he more than makes up for his “camera candy” opponent in getting the job done for Texans.

Early voting starts in a mere 3 weeks, October 18th.

Time to get serious.

Bill says so, too.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

UT AK-47 Shooter’s Actions are “Highly Suspicious”

In the news earlier today we hear that a University of Texas student sent people ducking for cover early this morning as he showed up to the campus with his AK-47 and popped off a few rounds outside, hitting no one, and then ran to the Perry-Castenada Library (PCL), fired a few more rounds before ending his own life on the library’s fifth floor.

Coincidentally, it seems that John Lott, a national figure that argues for legalizing the carrying of concealed weapons on university campuses, was going to present his arguments to UT students at the UT Law School at 6:30 this very evening.

However, in view of the fact that the campus suffered an attack by a student who was carrying a weapon that was decidedly not concealable, unless you are wearing a long trench coat, which this student was not, the Lott presentation was cancelled.

Causing the person at this website to label the AK-47 wielding student’s actions “highly suspicious.”

Not “highly suspicious” in the sense that someone who carries a semi-automatic rifle onto a university campus and then fires off a few rounds before ending his own life. Not that kind of “highly suspicious.”

No, we’re talking “highly suspicious” in that it was obviously the sole intent of this AK-47 student to disrupt the Lott presentation on the merits of carrying concealed weapons onto a college campus. Disrupt it and possibly get it cancelled.

"The fact that the shooting occurred prior to the talk is, to say the least, highly suspicious."
Is that just about the craziest thing you’ve ever heard? Obviously, they seem to claim, this student came on campus fully intending to pepper the place with live ammo and then take his own life – all to prevent John Lott from speaking.

Now it occurred to me that what this guy just proved was that Lott might have a pretty good idea. Had all the students who shared the campus with the shooter seen him opening up on them, they could all have simultaneously pulled out their nines and drilled him from 18 directions.

And no, I don’t think that’s a particularly good idea. Guns and colleges are about as incompatible as guns and booze.

But read the article, and all the commenters. These people are convinced that the UT gunman was actually working to oppose the Lott presentation.

And would end his life for his cause.

Proof positive that owning a license to carry a concealed weapon does not require a minimum IQ.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Moses Had Help

According to a software engineer who works for the National Center for Atmospheric Research it is entirely possible that the Exodus story of Moses parting the Red Sea in order that the Jews who were escaping slavery in Egypt has, in fact a scientific basis.

According to software engineer Carl Drews, the parting of the Red Sea is eminently doable if you get a sustained wind of 63 miles per hour to blow it all back producing a land bridge for the soon-to-be Israelites to cross high and dry, and then let the waters return, drowning Pharaoh’s pursuing armies.

It’s all here.

Now am I the only one who is getting really tired of hearing about how scientific phenomena can explain miraculous Biblical events? I mean, is all this really necessary? Religion, last I heard, was something that people took on faith and needed no practical explanations to verify miraculous events.

Mainly because they pick and choose explanations for the same old events, and somehow ignore or give a pass to other miraculous events that rate right out there in credibility.

We hear how Noah had help. The glaciers melted near the end of the last Ice Age and the waters of the landlocked Black Sea suddenly rushed in as the Bosporus Strait was breached. How that got his Ark parked at the top of Mount Ararat still goes begging, however.

We hear how the Star of Bethlehem that led the Three Magi to the manger on Bethlehem was actually a supernova.

We hear how Jesus actually didn’t walk on water, but His disciples were led to believe this because he was actually walking on submerged ice that formed in the Sea of Galilee because of a mini Ice Age.

But what about that rod that Moses threw down before Pharaoh and how it changed into a snake that consumed Pharaoh’s snakes? No one has tried to explain that one with science.

Or what about how the sun was made to stand still in the sky while Joshua was retaking Canaan in the Battle of Jericho? No one has worked that one out.

Now if belief in these miraculous events is your cup of tea, then what’s wrong with just having faith that they occurred? Why invoke some scientific explanation for these phenomena? It is a religion, after all, not a branch of science.

To paraphrase the words of The Savior of the World, render unto Isaac Newton the things that are of science, and unto God the things that are God’s.

And please stop mixing up the two.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Here It Comes: TEA Commish Wants $260 Million in Education Cuts

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott wants to trim the state’s Education budget by $260 million over the next two years. What a surprise.

Here in Texas, which Rick Perry touts as one of the few states that people are moving to because of better job opportunities, the number of school-age children is increasing. This year there will be 4.8 million children attending public school in Texas.

That’s more people than some states have in their entire state population.

So now, in this era of rising student numbers, teachers and school districts are being asked to stretch a shrinking budget over a growing enrollment.

Scott emphasizes three areas that will provide most of the spending cuts: retention of the same textbooks that will become ten years old within the next biennium, cutting expenses on teacher development, and canceling construction of new science labs.

In the end, this is a revelation to me. It reveals to me what the state education commissioner, and as his appointer, the state’s governor regard as necessity, and what they regard as low in priority.

The education profession will soon be facing a crisis. Baby boomers, those born between 1949 and 1964 are starting to retire. Indeed, with the increase in on-the-job demands in education, this seems to be accelerating the effect. Boomers are a huge chunk of the population. Replacing them is not going to be easy. And maintaining the quality of teaching is often directly tied to ongoing and continuous improvement through teacher development.

In short, this is exactly the wrong time to curtail teacher development.

Textbooks? At eight years of age they’re already outmoded so what is another two or four years in the grand scheme of things? And no, the laws of physics haven’t changed and yes it still takes two moles of sodium and one mole of sulfate to produce one mole of sodium sulfate. That’s not the point. The point is not what the content is, but how content is conveyed to a learner.

And the question isn’t whether a student can calculate how much pressure a phonograph needle places on a record surface, the question is what the heck is a phonograph needle.

But most telling is the commissioner’s backpedaling on science labs. The legislature has mandated that all Texas high school students shall take four years of science, three of them being biology, chemistry and physics. What is new this year is that all students are required to study physics. But physics has always been an under-subscribed science, where typically only 10 to 20% of students actually enrolled in the course. This year that jumped to between double and triple the usual number. So I have to ask this: how many fully equipped physics laboratories appeared between last year and this?

The state legislature has mandated that physics be taught to nearly every high school student, has mandated that no less than 40% of class time be devoted to laboratory investigations, and has mandated that students need to take and pass a physics end-of-course exam. But the education commissioner doesn’t want to fund the construction of the additional science laboratories that are needed to fulfill this mandate.

Now I am well-aware of the fact that cuts need to be made, and education must provide its fair share on the budgetary chopping block. But rather than cut meat and bone, what about making cuts in the one area that everyone simply hates? That no one save anti-education politicians think is of any enduring value? State-mandated standardized testing.

I’m serious. And no, I don’t advocate eliminating high-stakes testing forever. But really, if it comes down to it, when money is tight, why not cut the things that do nothing to add to a child’s education? Pearson Education, the contractor that develops, prints and processes Texas’ TAKS test made a cool $88 million doing that last year. This year costs are projected to be about $93 million. And now that the TAKS test will evolve from four subject area tests to twelve end-of-course tests, that expenditure should easily climb.

Doesn’t this make a lot of sense? It does, doesn’t it? That’s why it will never happen. The politics of education will simply never allow high stakes testing to go away because we can’t afford it.

And besides, what if they put these tests off for a couple of years, saving oh, over $200 million, and then someone realized that in the place of testing, actual learning rushed in to fill the void?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Texas SBOE: An Anti-Islam Paper Tiger

Does anyone else see this but me? Yesterday the Texas State Board of Education, with its rightwing evangelical majority, in two separate actions, did something that is totally inexplicable to me: passed an anti-Islamic resolution just after revealing that they had nothing with which to back their bigoted hand.

You see, the Texas school board thinks that because Texas is the 2nd largest purchaser of textbooks in the nation, this gives them the right, and the gall, to dictate their bigoted religious agenda to national book publishers.

The part I like the best is this:

“RESOLVED by the SBOE, that diverse reviewers have repeatedly documented gross pro-Islamic/anti-Christian distortions in Social Studies texts; that Social Studies TEKS cannot provide relief, because they tell what a course should cover, not all it should avoid; that under Texas Education Code §28.002(h) and (i), the SBOE must enforce "the basic democratic values of our state and national heritage; that chronic partiality to one of the world's great religions, and animus against another, flout democratic values and the letter and spirit of this rule; and that Texas Administrative Code §66.66(c)(4) provides, ‘[N]o instructional material may be adopted that contains content that clearly conflicts with the stated purpose of the Texas Education Code, §28.002(h)’”
Do you see it? The Texas SBOE places itself in the position of protecting America from pro-Islamic forces that seek to denigrate Christian history while at the same time glorifying Islam.

The resolution is non-binding, whatever that means, but their intention is clear: it is a warning to textbook publishers to censor themselves in any attempt to describe the religion of Islam in a positive light or to characterize the actions of Muslims in any way other than to demonize them. And in so doing, they are also to remember to speak kindly of murderous Crusaders as well as the anti-Semitism of the Church.

Do that they say, or face the consequences of the Texas SBOE, which “will look to reject future prejudicial Social Studies submissions that continue to offend Texas law with respect to treatment of the world's major religious groups by significant inequalities of coverage space-wise and/or by demonizing or lionizing one or more of them over others.”

But I am afraid that the snarling tiger that the SBOE pretends to be has no fangs. Or teeth.

Because the SBOE, courtesy of their own governor, and their own shortsightedness, don’t have the wherewithal to buy textbooks, let alone dictate their content.

“The State Board of Education decided Thursday to scale back the purchase of supplemental science materials for Texas students in the face of a projected state revenue deficit that already has delayed plans to buy hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of new textbooks.”
The school board is so strapped for cash that not only are they postponing the purchase of new textbooks that speak to their recently passed Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills recipe for ignorance, but now they are even cutting back on the “supplemental science materials,” and will only plan to purchase these for high school students. These materials, also known as ancillary materials, are typically softbound workbooks, lab manuals and the like. Expendable material in other words.

There is no money for textbooks, yet the SBOE has the gall to dictate to national textbook publishers how they are to handle Christianity and Islam in their textbooks, or suffer the consequences of being rejected by them for purchase in the state of Texas.

Not only then, is the Texas SBOE again in the national limelight for the religious bigotry that has made them famous around the world, it also seems that their threats to these publishers are about as empty as their bank accounts.
UPDATE: A commenter left a link to a video report on the school board's latest foray into religious indoctrination. It's a good one and I have embedded it below.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Rasmussen: Rick Perry By Six Points (So It’s All Tied Up)

I take special note of today’s Rasmussen Poll of the Texas gubernatorial race which now shows that Bill White has pulled to within 6 percentage points of being tied with Rick Perry as he seeks his unprecedented 3rd term as Texas’ governor.

Special note and a big sigh of relief.

Mainly because Rasmussen is notoriously biased in their polling for conservative candidates and causes. This is not big news. It has been known since Rasmussen became a business concern that conservative causes and candidates fared better in their polling.

“Rasmussen polling occupies an odd place in the political culture. In the conservative world, it is the gold standard. If you go to a conservative set on basically any random day, you'll see somebody touting a Rasmussen poll. … Rasmussen frequently asks unusual polling questions that produce results almost certainly calculated to demonstrate public support for the conservative position.”
Despite all of this, they report today that in their previous poll, Bill White had 41% to Rick Perry’s 49% only one month ago, and in February published widely ranging results where Perry had somewhere between 47% and 51% of the votes to Bill White’s 38% to 44%.

So even in the conservative-biased Rasmussen Poll, Bill White is gaining on Perry.

What does this mean? I think I have an answer.

First, look at less biased polls done prior to Rasmussen’s. The UT/Texas Tribune Poll released in mid month shows that Rick Perry leads Bill White by the same six percentage points, but their numbers were 39% Perry, 33% White. Yes, that means that excluding those clueless few who will still vote Libertarian, 22% of respondents still don’t know who they will be voting for.

Then if you look at a poll conducted earlier this year, during the summer, conducted by Public Policy Polling, showed White and Perry at a 43%-43% dead heat.

The data seems clear. Rasmussen finds less than 10% undecided in the same month that UT/TT finds 22%. Clearly their polling method served to make up the minds of some of their subjects. It also seems clear that 39% is all that Rick Perry can muster. Voters were given a choice of 4 candidates in 2006 and only a minority of 39% could agree that Rick Perry was their man.

39% seems to be a number that continues to dog Rick Perry.

But coming back around to the trend that even Rasmussen cannot ignore, even the ones that Rasmussen has polled, with their well-crafted ways of putting a question, have been shifting. Rick Perry’s base will always be there, but now we are beginning to see a leak that has sprung in Rick Perry’s dam. Republicans are having second thoughts.

My guess is that the 6 point difference at Rasmussen translates to a race that is all even. A tie whatever the percentage points.

And why is this? 

Slowly, and deliberately, Rick Perry voters are having second thoughts. Solid Republicans are seeing Rick Perry for the self-interested governor that he is and are turned off. What should be alarming to the Perry campaign is that while Perry’s image is tarnished, they see Bill White as a Democrat, but a Democrat that they can live with.

And the best thing I can tell these people is that while I am a Democrat, I regard Bill White as a candidate that I can live with as well.

This seems to reassure them.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Republican Pledge To America Unveiled on Healthcare Day

I was wondering about the timing that the Republicans have in holding back on releasing their “Pledge to America” until today, the day that several new healthcare reform provisions take effect.

It doesn’t have to do with taking away some of the newsprint, does it?

After all, Republicans are all opposed to “Obamacare.” “Obamacare” is so bad for the country that they all pledge to repeal the whole thing, lock, stock and barrel.

Why then, make an attempt to divert national attention from this singular day? A day when no one may be dropped from their health care plan if they get sick. Rescission is a thing of the past as of today. A day when no child may be denied healthcare benefits because of a pre-existing condition.

Those things are bad, according to Republicans. So why steal the airwaves with their “Pledge to America,” a simple rewording of Newt Gingrich’s hugely successful “Contract With America.” Couldn’t they think up a new title?

I guess not, because in looking at their pledge, it looks like they didn’t come up with any new ideas, let alone an idea for a new title.

On the national debt, the plan is full of bluster but no solutions.

“Our debt is now on track to exceed the size of our economy in the next two years. The lack of a credible plan to pay this debt back causes anxiety among consumers and uncertainty for investors and employers.”
Their credible plan? None. Absolutely none. Nada. In fact, the only thing that I have been able to fathom on their treatment of the national debt is to find ways to increase it, not that they will admit to it, or even acknowledge the disingenuousness of their “plan.” Their intention to make the Bush tax cuts permanent for the top 2% income bracket in our nation, will in fact increase the national debt by $700 billion in the next ten years, but really, there is not time limit. Since the tax cuts are permanent this source of deficit is a permanent fixture in their minds.

Their credible plan? Cut the wasteful spending. Wow, now there’s a concept. According to Republicans, if they cut the wasteful spending, trim the congressional budget, and place a hiring freeze on federal employees they say they can save a whole $100 billion in the first year alone. Maybe so, maybe so. I wonder about the sanity of having a hiring freeze in the face of a 9.6% unemployment rate. Should government emulate the private sector right now?

What about that “trickle down” thing that Republican love to point to from time to time?

And then where are those $100 billion in cuts to be? Surely not military spending. Surely not in farm subsidies. More likely in human services, right? More likely in government programs that support hundreds of thousands of jobs, directly and indirectly.

They also pledge to honor the 10th amendment. To which all I have to say is this: whatever happened to honoring the 1st through 9th? Why does the 10th get to be the trump card? Oh . . .yeah . . . Rick Perry.

Other than that, all I can see is that Republicans plan to keep interfering in the personal lives of American citizens. They plan on regulating who you can marry, whether you should decide to have, or not have, a child, and to make sure that “faith-based organizations” continue to receive their attention and support (although I would imagine that Muslims need not apply).

Overall, my reaction to this Republican Manifesto, the one that they hope to use to retake congress this year is . . .

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Teacher Pay for Student Performance: The Fiction That Spends Millions

Ask any teacher whether receiving a bonus will result in their students performing better on standardized tests, and the answer is almost universally “In What Universe?”

In what universe, I ask, does a teacher work harder for the promise of additional dollars in their bank account when a) there is statistically no guarantee of a significant change in score results and b) they are already doing all that they can to promote learning in their classrooms.

The truth of this is all around us but it took a study by Vanderbilt University's National Center on Performance Incentives to state the obvious: performance incentives do not produce test score improvement.

Not at all.

The study, described in this AP article in the Houston Chronicle, describes a pay for performance program in Nashville, Tennessee, a study that sampled 300 teachers about half of whom participated in a pay for performance system, and the other half did not.

Within this population where participating teachers received up to $15,000 per year in bonuses if their students’ scores improved, there was no difference in student performance between the participating teachers, and those who taught with no bonus incentives at all. None.

Well, duh.

AFT leader Randi Weingarten praised the study which has borne out what the union, and any given teacher has been saying for years: performance incentives don’t work.

From AP, quoting Wiengarten:
“Merit pay is not the panacea that some would like it to be. There are no quick fixes in education. Providing individual bonuses for teachers standing alone does not work.”
Said Miami teacher Jennifer Conboy:

“Merit pay is an excuse to resist the attempt of teachers to get fair pay in the first place. On a personal level, merit pay would do nothing to me. I took this job because I think education is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and if I cared about democracy — which I do — then I had a responsibility to do whatever I could to strengthen education.”
Merit pay, is in short, a way to demonstrate to voters that the “good” teachers are being rewarded at the expense of the “poor” ones and this is an effective use of taxpayer dollars. The fallacy of this argument is now laid bare for all to see. Merit pay, is in short, an attempt to go cheap on teacher compensation, all the while propagating the myth that tax dollars are being effectively spent.

That these study results fly in the face of President Obama’s merit pay political stance is not lost on me, but I doubt that it will serve to alter the position of the Obama Administration here. The Obama Administrations education policy with regard to pay for performance is one of their few regressive positions that I have been able to identify.

But the flaw is now out there for all to see. Maybe someday, someone is going to wake up and realize that good teachers are being passed over for merit pay because they teach the wrong subjects, because they live in the wrong part of town, or because their colleagues from the lower grades effectively dropped the ball.

Teaching is a team sport. In continuing the sports analogy, giving merit pay for individual teaching performance is like giving a bonus to the wide receiver for catching the ball in the end zone, but ignoring the right tackle that prevented his quarterback from getting tackled behind the line of scrimmage.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rick Perry’s Campaign Cash Spends Well - - - On Drag Entertainers

I received a hot tip from the people over at Proud of Who We Are. A website that is dedicated to the “coming out” of politicians who make it their business to bash gays, deny gays the rights that everyone else in the country enjoy, and generally badmouth the whole lot for political points among the dimwits of the extreme rightwing of the Republican Party.

Today they have a story about our governor it seems.

Governor Rick Perry.

Now Rick Perry is down on record as being anti-gay and pro-secession. And maybe the two go hand in hand. A couple of weeks ago, as Perry was stumping up and down the byways of Texas, in Temple, Texas specifically, Rick Perry got up and praised the state that he is supposed to be leading. Praised it in such a way as to feed the homophobic appetites of his followers.

Now flash back to April 13, 2009. On that day we find that Rick Perry was attending a “business meeting” at a place in Key West, Florida called the Cabaret at La Te Da. There, Rick Perry, courtesy of his Texans for Rick Perry campaign fund had a fine time as he ran up a tab for $78.26. The people at Proud of Who We Are contacted the folks at La Te Da, a well-known “travel destination for top-flight drag entertainment” (female impersonators for those of us who live in a box) and were told that the entertainment that evening was a very good Cher impersonator.

No one knows whether Governor Perry had a good time or not, but he apparently had a good enough time to split a couple of Lone Stars with his entourage. $78.26 worth.

And yes, his campaign had the good sense to report the expenditure. Here is a screen capture of the Texas Ethics Commission report from the July 2009 filing.

Now I am not one to be judgmental over the sexual orientation of anyone. That’s not something I do, nor do I think it is the purview of any government bureaucracy to do so. That’s just simply bad taste in my opinion.

If Rick Perry likes to watch men perform impressions of famous female songstresses, well that’s up to him. I just think that it is in poor taste not to practice during a “business meeting” what one preaches on the campaign trail.

After all, one man’s Cher is another man’s cherie.

“Social issues might be in the back seat, but they're still in the car: ‘There is still a land of opportunity, friends — it's called Texas. We're creating more jobs than any other state in the nation. ... Would you rather live in a state like this, or in a state where a man can marry a man?’”

Monday, September 20, 2010

Why Christine O’Donnell Won in Delaware

Ever wonder where those 1500 votes came from that brought Teabagger candidate Christine O’Donnell the Republican nomination to fill Joe Biden’s Delaware senate seat? I must tell you that I have. Up until this year, O’Donnell has had no problem getting the nomination, but with a challenger like Mike Castle, an old Republican war horse and a 30-year veteran to boot, it seemed just about academic, especially since all the polls had Castle winning the seat in November against the Democratic nominee, Chris Coons.

Even Karl Rove was nonplussed at O’Donnell’s success.

Well wonder no more. Bill Maher has the answer. Christine O’Donnell has Wicca in her background.

Now it is well known that Wiccans worship the primeval Earth Mother Herself: Gaea. Before we had Baal, before we had YHWH, before we had Jesus, we had Gaea, the Mother of us all.

And Gaea made sure that Christine O’Donnell pulled the rug out from under Mike “Sure Shot” Castle to become the Republican nominee.

All hail Gaea.

Pragmatic Politician Sharp: No Unions, No Women, No Hispanics

According to Judge Jim Sharp as quoted here (with video, to boot), Texas Democrats made one huge mistake in nominating Linda Chavez-Thompson as the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor.

Not because she is a union labor leader – the highest ranking woman ever elected to her position in the union movement.

Not because she is a woman.

Not because she is Hispanic.

Not for any of those reasons, but for all three of them.

Texas, Sharp says, is too racist to elect an Hispanic to statewide office. Texas, Sharp says is to anti-feminine to elect a woman to statewide office. And finally, Texas is too anti-union to elect a “union boss” to statewide office.

Maybe so. Maybe he’s right. I don’t really have a whole lot of regard for the world view of the average Texan, I really don’t. But then again, had I maintained my opinion of the world view of your average American in 2008, I never would have supported Barack Obama for the presidential nomination.

But mainly, what is simply wrong with Sharp’s rather candid remarks concerning Linda Chavez-Thompson’s candidacy, as well as Bill White’s candidacy, is that this isn’t supposed to be the time to give persuadable centrists a reason not to vote for the Democratic candidates at the top of the ticket. They can come up with their own reasons, but why help them out? Why give them a pass?

And why badmouth the top of the ticket, especially when those at the bottom of the ticket are sure to benefit from voters coming out to vote for Bill White? It makes no sense at all.

And why, I ask, decry the union movement in Texas? Sharp says that union members “are my people.” I should hope so.

I should hope, for instance that Jim Sharp appreciates the support of the Texas AFL-CIO, especially after receiving a $1000 contribution from them on February 9, 2010.

I should hope, for instance that Jim Sharp appreciates the support of the Communication Workers, especially after receiving a $5000 contribution from them on March 2, 2010.

One thing you don’t want to do is to take a contribution check with one hand and then give labor unions the back of your hand with the other.

The other thing that you don’t want to do is inflame the base: the leftwing of the Democratic Party, with anti-union remarks. Not unless, that is, you have a plan to attract Republicans to your cause, because, oh yeah, the plan is that Republicans are going to be on the lookout for Jim Sharp’s name there near the bottom of the ballot and cross right over because he slammed the unions because their people are unelectable in Texas.

Now I vote a straight Democratic ticket, something that I think Jim Sharp depends on to some degree. But I am already on the lookout for Kesha Rogers’ name to deselect before I cast my straight Democratic ballot. She doesn’t deserve to be elected dog catcher.

I wonder, now, who else’s name I will be looking for when I do that?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bill White Receives Houston Chronicle Endorsement

It was not a big surprise for me to find out today that the Houston Chronicle was the first major daily in Texas’ largest media area endorsed Bill White as Texas’ next governor.

It wasn’t a big surprise, but it was nice to see that Houston’s own daily stepped up first in what is about to be a chorus of demand for change.

“Texas can't afford four more years of Perry's leadership.”
“The governor has shown a distaste for dealing with budget details, fobbing them off on the Legislature and even suggesting in a recent news conference that Comptroller Susan Combs had better uses of her time than issuing deficit projections.”
“Fortunately, voters have the opportunity to replace Republican Perry with former Houston Mayor Bill White, a Democrat with credentials as a successful lawyer, corporate CEO and public servant who demonstrated his management capabilities and hard-work ethic during a six-year tenure at City Hall.”
The choice cannot be clearer. Rick Perry is in the 24th year of political office and wants an unprecedented 3rd term as governor to do to Texas, and for his friends and cronies, exactly what he has done for them (and himself) in the past: getting rich off the backs of hard-working Texans.

The Chronicle is the first, but I predict right here and now that it won’t be the last major Texas daily to endorse Bill White.

Get Ready For Cuts in Education in Texas

I don’t see any way around it. With something between a $18 and a $21 billion shortfall in the 2012-13 biennial budget, with revenues down and costs up, I just don’t see how the funds allocated to Education are going to be kept at the same level in the next two years.

This is what Lloyd Doggett wanted to prevent in including his amendment to the bill that would bring $830 million in education dollars to Texas from the feds. Perry would have to guarantee that funding for Education would be kept at the same level for the next 2 years or it could not collect its portion of the $10 billion in funds recently passed by congress.

It’s not something that he wants to do. And truthfully, unless some sort of miracle on the order of the loaves and fishes occurs, and Texans accept an increase in taxes, I don’t see how Education funding will be kept at the same level over the next two years, despite what legislators are being warned about.

Case in point. Look at this histogram. It is from a UT poll that I found here at the Texas Tribune. It’s obvious, isn’t it, that Texans support cutting services rather than raising revenue. This is a mandate for Republicans in the state legislature to do just that.

“Overall, 47 percent of those polled say spending cuts are the way to go, while 24 percent say the state should balance the budget with new money; 19 percent fall right in the middle.”
So 47% want spending cuts and 24% think increasing revenue is the way to go. And guess which area of the state government takes the biggest piece of the budgetary pie? You guessed it, Education Agencies. At 53.6%, education by far leads the pack in the area that requires the greatest amount of funding. Coming in a distant second is Health and Human Services at 22.8%.

So it’s really a no-brainer if you are a mindless conservative with a budget to cut. You go after the elephant. You go after the area that takes the greatest amount of state revenue.

You go after Education.

This despite the fact that the whole mess started by decreasing school property taxes in 2005, increasing business taxes to make up the slack.

“Some budget watchers say lawmakers created a "structural" deficit in 2005 when lawmakers cut school property taxes by one-third, and expanded the business tax to make up the difference. However, the business tax brings in billions less each year than the property tax did, meaning with every new budget, lawmakers must find more and more extra money to make up the difference. The structure of the revenue system creates deficits each year.”
So the deficit was caused by an effort to decrease revenue that would go to the schools, and the dirt that was going to be used to fill that hole disappeared.

So get ready Texas Educators. Get ready to make do with less, be required to do more, including having to cope with increased class sizes, but at the same time expectations for continued improvement and meeting Annual Yearly Progress standards will remain with us.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What Is It About the New Democratic Party Logo?

I got an email message this morning from the DNC asking me whether I wanted them to send me a new sticker that has their “new look”. I first saw the new logo of the Democratic Party last night on Bill Maher’s cable talk show “Real Time.” Here is what it looks like.
And Maher correctly called it. Who the heck thinks that this logo is going to get any more votes this year? Maher also correctly compared the new logo to the professional baseball club of Chicago, the Cubs, which is currently having a losing season.

I, on the other hand, have become firmly convinced that someone is painting a target on Democrats this year.
But where it comes from, its origin is totally obvious to me.

Where that came from, I’ll leave to the pundits. All I know is that circular logos have been with us for a long, long time.

Cars have them.

Soft drink companiess have them.

Cancer Stick companies have them.

And yes, even football clubs, er, soccer clubs have them.

My point is, maybe someone should rethink this one. Minimalism, as a concept, is a notion that often elicits a series of these: ??????????????????????????????

And also that the one that they came up with reminds me too much of this.

No, we Democrats just have to do better than a blue circle with a blue D. Something that carries more of a message, I think. Like one I recently saw for the Republican Party.

I have to hand it to the Republicans. For Logo meisters, they still have what it takes.

Harris County Voting Machine Inferno: Arson Not Ruled Out

Last month when 10,000 Harris County voting machines went up in flames, along with all the ancillary equipment needed to run an eSlate polling place, my first suspicion was that someone wanted to discourage voters from casting their ballots in the mid-term elections, and torched the warehouse.

And now, nearly a month later, it seems that Harris County arson investigators have failed to find an accelerant. An accelerant is any trace of a substance, like gasoline or other flammable substances that could rapidly spread a set fire at a rate that would overwhelm any automatic fire extinguishing measures present in the building.

“On Thursday, Arson Chief Gabe Cortez said they have found no evidence an accelerant, such as gasoline, was used in the fire.”

“‘We will examine some of the items recovered microscopically and with X-rays, and have electrical engineers look at those,’ Cortez said.”
Now in my brief research on the subject I have found that in any given arson investigation, when no trace of an accelerant is found at the site of a fire, the immediate diagnosis is that the fire was caused either by an electrical fault, a leak in a gas line, or “spontaneous combustion” – the latter being the rare case of combustion of a pile of organic material which is undergoing decomposition.

So absent an accelerant or multiple points of ignition, investigation of the cause of a fire shifts toward accidental.

Except in this case. In this case no accelerant has been found, yet arson has not yet been ruled out. And I have to wonder why.

Could it be the thing that keeps nagging at me? That the timing and opportunity is such an obvious factor? That who stands the most to gain in an “accident” of this nature foils any conclusion? And more to the point, if there is a rush to judgment on the cause of the fire, that it was simply an accident caused by an electrical fault, will that not raise some eyebrows in the Justice Department?

That is, if at this point the cause of a fire at a warehouse containing parts for Toyota automobiles has not yet been determined as being set deliberately with an accelerant, my guess is that the whole investigation would lead to conclude that the fault was in the wiring and the case is closed.

But burning up water pumps and ignition coils doesn’t affect an entire statewide election, does it? Harris County contains the highest number of voters, Democratic leaning voters, in the state. A fire at the warehouse containing all voting machines in the county is just a little bit more suspicious.

And really, absent the finding of the presence of an accelerant does not alone mean that the fire was due to an electrical fault. That only means that the accelerant could not be detected.

In truth, even if someone comes up with a blackened electrical junction box with melted wires in it, given the “external evidence” of motive, who stands most to gain from this fire, you will never be able to convince me that this wasn’t a purposefully set fire.


Friday, September 17, 2010

A River in Egypt Dogs Rick Perry at Every Turn

A new Bill White campaign video claims that Texas governor Rick Perry is in denial about the projected $18 billion shortfall in next year’s budget. This video has Rick Perry interacting with a television reporter with Perry saying that these people in the Bloomberg news organization “don’t know what the budget is in the state of Texas” and that no one does. When it is brought up that AP reporters are also saying this Perry reiterates his point, this time that Bloomberg and AP reporters “are not the experts in the state of Texas.”

And clearly, Rick Perry is in denial that he is in denial.

So if that’s true, maybe instead of being “in denial,” maybe it’s the case that Rick Perry is in “The Nile” as in that river that courses through Egypt. And we’re not talking Egypt, Texas.

Yeah, that’s the ticket . . .

Where does Bloomberg and AP get off claiming that they know about the Texas state budget better than Rick Perry?

“Like you, we will have to make some very tough choices next session," he said. "I've asked members of the House to keep that in mind as they work on developing a balanced, no-new-taxes budget -- especially as we contemplate how to bridge a budget gap at the state level that is projected by the House to be at least $18 billion.”
Or could it be Texas State House Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Jim Pitts (R-Waxahatchie):

“Pitts' original discussion with aide Wayne Pulver went as follows: Pitts asked, ‘So that could add up to between $15 billion and $18 billion?’ Pulver called that range reasonable.’”
I have to ask myself, whose party does this governor ally himself with? Surely it’s not with Republicans who want fiscal responsibility, nor is it with Democrats who demand the same along with a little social justice on the side.

And the Libertarians have their own candidate. So then, I have to wonder whether the party that Rick Perry allies himself with is the Party of Perry.

You know how this is playing to me? If this were playing out in Washington DC and the Republicans controlled the house, it would resemble Republican House Members’ talking points mounted against a Democratic President who wants to operate a budget deficit, maybe paying for a few unfunded things like tax cuts for the rich and two wars. And the Democratic president launching a fit of pique back at them.

And Rick Perry is in it for himself.