Thursday, June 30, 2011

On Name-Calling and Civility

The Right simply has lost all sense of decorum, all sense of respect, all sense of what is proper. Today on MSNBC conservative news commentator Mark Halperin succumbed to this decline of civility by calling President Barack Obama a d…, a d…, the shortened version or nickname of Richard. Here’s the video of the moment as well as his on the air apology.

The remark was allowed out because a new producer in the control room did not know where the 7-second delay button was and failed to catch and bleep the word.

Halperin was subsequently suspended from MSNBC. I really don’t like Mark Halperin’s regressive opinions so I won’t be missing seeing him on TV. I don’t like his opinions but I always respected his right to have them. Now I’ve lost all respect for the man.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Reuters: US Treasury Credit Rating will be “D” if Debt Ceiling Not Raised

Standard and Poor’s managing director told a Reuters reporter today that if the US Treasury defaults on scheduled August 4th payments because the Republican congress fails to raise the debt ceiling in time, it will revise the government’s current Triple-A rating, its highest ranking, to a “D” rating – the only rating lower than “D” is “D-Minus.”

This is the criteria Standard and Poor uses to assign a “D” rating:
“An obligation rated 'D' is in payment default. The 'D' rating category is used when payments on an obligation, including a regulatory capital instrument, are not made on the date due even if the applicable grace period has not expired, unless Standard & Poor's believes that such payments will be made during such grace period. The 'D' rating also will be used upon the filing of a bankruptcy petition or the taking of similar action if payments on an obligation are jeopardized. An obligation's rating is lowered to 'D' upon completion of a distressed exchange offer, whereby some or all of the issue is either repurchased for an amount of cash or replaced by other instruments having a total value that is less than par.”
Currently the US borrows 40 cents of every dollar it spends. So to avoid a “D” rating, after August 4th the US government will have to cut its spending by 40% or risk going into default. This is obviously what Tea Partiers have in mind so while the ratings people think that there is only a remote chance that the debt ceiling won’t be raised in time, I am having my doubts.

Now someone has pointed out that US government debt is constitutionally guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. This clause from Section 4 being the operative statement:
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.
So theoretically S and P’s warning that they will lower the government’s credit rating to “D” is an idle threat because to do so would be unconstitutional. But I wonder about that. Theoretically raising the debt ceiling those scores of times in the past 50 years is also an unconstitutional act because a debt ceiling is not needed if “the validity of the public debt … shall not be questioned.”

My head hurts.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Texas’ Continuing War on Teachers

Remember back when Classroom Teachers created a budget crisis in Texas by refusing to collect enough revenue in order to provide basic state services and then refused to balance a state budget by taking a sufficient withdrawal from the Rainy Day Fund? Remember how teachers created economic hardship and at the same time created tax holidays for corporations to lure their business into the state?

And do you remember back when it was the Classroom Teachers that caused Texas to be in 44th place out of 50 in the nation with its per-student education funding rate?

I don’t either.

But Classroom Teachers got hit once again this week by both houses of the Texas state legislature when the both passed – right down party lines – the so-called “Furlough Bill.” This is a bill that allows school districts to put teachers on up to six days per year of unpaid leave. That’s the furlough part. Then there’s all the other goodies like how it allows school districts to reduce the pay scale and eliminates teacher seniority protection during layoffs so that the higher end salaries of more experienced teachers can be eliminated.

And oh yeah, the “Furlough Bill” also slashes another $1.4 billion in state grants to school districts.

In short, what the Texas legislature just said to its public school teachers is this: if you’re teaching now, start looking for another profession or another state to ply your trade. If you are thinking of becoming a teacher forget it, Texas is no country for teachers.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Congressman Flake for President

The latest entrant in the ever-widening field of Leprechauns who want to run against Barack Obama next year just got wider, and more diminished, with the official announcement by Michele “Flake” Bachmann that she was in it.

This just a day after Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked her whether or not she was a flake.

And I guess since she is spending so much time in Iowa these days, one would wonder if that moniker might be amended to “corn flake.”

And no, I don’t think Michele Bachmann is a flake. Bi-polar maybe, but not a flake.

No, really, bi-polar. She is really two different people. She is the cool rational woman who speaks calmly in a low-toned voice, and then she is the wild-eyed woman with the wild ideas who screeches them in a voice that is a full octave higher in pitch.

I was busily assembling a video collage to prove my point when I found that TPM had already done my job for me. Listen to Michele Bachman tell an interviewer on October 19, 2008 in a calm sure voice that she never said Barack Obama was anti-American and then 2 days earlier caught on tape saying that she absolutely thinks Barack Obama may have anti-American views. This time with wide eyes and a voice a full octave higher and 20 decibels louder.

Now you could say that Bachmann was being truthful in that she denied saying that Barack Obama was anti-American because she said that she absolutely thought that he may be anti-American. You could say that and have a point.

A very fine point that fails the BS test.

Sanctuary Cities Bill is DOA

Well imagine that. The Republicans get a super-majority in the Texas State House and nearly that in the State Senate, and they still can’t pass a so-called “Sanctuary Cities Bill.” This is a bill that would require city police to inquire on a detainee’s immigration status. Cities that have a Sanctuary City policy would be financially penalized.

Democrats won’t vote for it, and now as it turns out Republicans won’t either, but I suspect that their respective motives are wildly different.

First, it probably didn’t help for Governor Perry to appear at the NALEO conference in San Antonio (NALEO stands for National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials) cracking lame jokes and reminding Hispanics – a growing demographic in Texas – why they should never, ever vote for a Republican. Republican lawmakers got clued in to the fact that getting this bill passed would not endear them to the Hispanic community.

But another big reason they are simply walking away from this bill has little to do with politics, and more to do with economics, and this story coming out of Georgia last week served to underline how dependent we are on immigrant labor.

“But when Georgia House Bill 87, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011, goes into effect Friday, farmers might be hard-pressed to find workers.‘What we began hearing in mid- to late May was many of our migrant workers, they were not coming to Georgia,’ said Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Grower's Association. ‘Farmers are short on harvest labor 30 to 50 percent. You don't have a whole lot of window — that crop has to come out or it'll spoil.’”
It has become completely obvious to me that the status quo, which is what business lobbyists seem to be pushing for, is just as wrong as a ban on “Sanctuary Cities.”

Republicans look back fondly on the Reagan presidency wishing for something like it to return them to power some day. They conveniently forget that it was Ronald Reagan who signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which among other things, granted amnesty to illegal immigrants who entered the US before January 1, 1982 and continually lived here since.

That’s right. Hispanics have Republicans to thank for granting them legal residency, something that would be toxic for them today. Maybe it’s time for Democrats to do them the same favor.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why They Won’t Use the Rainy Day Fund

So you’d think that with public education being under funded for by $4 billion, under funded for the first time in the state’s history, you’d think legislators wouldn’t allow that to happen and you’d think they would plug the budget hole with the Rainy Day Fund – something that the fund’s very existence was meant for.

You’d think that as the state sees thousands of teachers being laid off, schools closed and schoolchildren compressed into classrooms, you’d think they would have freed up funds from the Rainy Day Fund.

You’d think.

But they didn’t. And when Donna Howard’s amendment to use anything above the remaining $6 billion crashed and burned at the end of last week because legislators simply will not budge on using any more of the fund for anything, you have to start wondering what is going on here.

Well the answer appears to be that they won’t release any more of the Rainy Day Fund because those funds are actually already spoken for, but no one is willing to confess that.

In order to balance the 2012-2013 budget, you see, the legislature had to under fund what the state is obligated to pay into Medicaid by $4.8 billion. Now this isn’t the same as under funding education. They actually can’t do that to Medicaid. What is hoped is that the feds will change the law by the time the Medicaid bill comes due and the state’s obligation will be less.

But if the law remains unchanged…well then there’s the Rainy Day Fund to bail the state out.

So there you have it. It makes perfect sense to me now why the state is doing this to public education: the cupboard is bare even though everyone says it isn’t.

The cupboard is bare because the legislature kicked the can down the road hoping that the feds won’t kick it back at them.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Will the Nightmare End?

State Senator Wendy Davis (D – Fort Worth) has an op/ed in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram where she summarized the disaster that was the 82nd Legislature, a disaster that continues in the special session called by Rick Perry so they could, among other things, pass a law that would criminalize body searches in Texas airports.

Her points are well-reasoned and there is a general mood of disappointment that pervades her column. This is how it finishes.
“I think many Texans join me today in feeling deeply disappointed. For the first time in Texas' known history, student enrollment growth will not be funded. The approximately 170,000 new students entering the school system during the new two years will have to be absorbed with fewer resources and fewer teachers.”

“Already ranked 44th nationally in what it spends on education per pupil, Texas' further funding decrease will have a consequence in the classroom, there is no doubt.”

“Perhaps it will have another consequence as well. Just perhaps, in the next election, everyday Texans will let us know that their voices, those of the greater good, are more important than those extremists who currently hold sway in the halls of the Texas Capitol.”
Disappointed? Disillusioned? Disgusted?  Yes, yes and yes. And ready for the legislature to wrap up next week, too.

The Texas Democratic Party has a summary video of the real costs that the GOP super majority visited on us this year.

Friday, June 24, 2011

New York’s Marriage Equality Bill Up for a Vote Tonight

Just out is the announcement by New York State Senator and Majority Leader Dean Skelos that he will bring New York’s marriage equality bill to the floor for debate and an up or down vote this evening.

The vote will be close, much closer to the 2009 vote on virtually the same bill. This year some Republican state senators who voted against the gay rights bill last time will change their votes “for reasons of conscience and a duty to ensure civil rights.

Sticking points this year are that some religious groups fear discrimination lawsuits if they refuse to perform a marriage for a gay or lesbian couple. The bill now has these protections built into them with all 32 senate Republicans voting for them.

Another key provision in the bill is that there is no residency requirement in order to be granted a marriage license, meaning, of course, that New York could become another regional destination for gay/lesbian couples who might like to get married at say, Niagara Falls.

If the bill succeeds in the Senate it will easily pass in the House and marriage ceremonies in New York can begin in 30 days.

UPDATE: At 9:30PM CDT, 33 Aye 29 Nay. Marriage Equality will be the law of the land in New York. Side note, this weekend in New York is Gay Pride weekend. Party if you are gay, I think. Or even if you are straight. This was a vote for human equality, after all.

Straus: Anti-Groping Bill Would Turn Texas “Into a Laughingstock”

Adjourning suddenly today, the Texas State House failed to take up any new business, in particular Rick Perry’s requested “Anti-Groping Bill,” because a quorum could not be reached.

You need 2/3ds of the body to be present, or 100 Members, or no business can be carried out. Only an estimated 80 Members were present this morning.

Obviously there was no desire on the part of the state reps to seriously consider Rick Perry’s request that they move forward on passage of HB 41, the so-called anti-groping bill that makes is a Class A misdemeanor for any TSA officer in Texas airports to knowingly touch a traveler’s “anus, sexual organ, buttocks or breast.”

Personally, I think Perry just wanted them to pass a law with the word “anus” in it.

Speaker Joe Straus had strong words against taking up this bill saying that if they passed this bill it would turn Texas “into a laughingstock.”

Well I have news for Speaker Straus. The state of Texas, courtesy of its nincompoop governor, already is a laughingstock. The state of Texas is the only state out of 34 and the District of Columbia which has passed anti-texting while driving legislation, only to have the governor veto it because it constituted too much government overreach.

And guess who voted for this guy? 2,737,481 Texans.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bottling Up a Ghost

When the characters in the movie Ghostbusters captured an errant ghost they slid a little box under the ghost that had been immobilized by rays from their Proton Packs, stepped on a pedal and the ghost was seemingly sucked into the box and trapped inside.

It was later transferred to a “containment unit” back at their headquarters, never to see the light of day again.

Should Texas governor Rick Perry jump into the 2012 presidential race, he had better hope that he has a way to keep another ghost that haunts his past from seeing the light of day. It could be his undoing in a way that Willie Horton was the undoing of Michael Dukakis.

If it cannot be contained, the ghost of Cameron Todd Willingham will certainly emerge on the presidential campaign scene, a story that is very revealing of the character and temperament of a man who would be President of the United States.

In 1991, Cameron Todd Willingham was convicted of killing his three daughters by setting his house on fire, allowing them to burn to death trapped inside. At the time, Perry was the Texas Agriculture Commissioner – and a Democrat.

He was executed in 2004. Rick Perry, who was governor by then – and a Republican – refused to grant a stay of execution citing the facts of the case and discounting a forensic expert’s report as “a waste of taxpayer dollars.” The report revealed that the forensic evidence used to convict Willingham was flawed and based on “folklore and myths.”

A jailhouse confession, also used to convict Willingham, has since been discounted and the man Willingham allegedly confessed to has since been diagnosed as bi-polar.

But the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham did not end the controversy. In 2009 a re-examination of the case was ordered, and the Texas Forensic Science Commission was all set to re-examine updated forensic evidence. Two days before the commission was to meet, Governor Rick Perry replaced the commission chair and two members. The new chair cancelled the meeting.

It was obvious to all that in doing this Perry was obstructing the re-examination, the findings of which could serve to his detriment in an upcoming Republican Primary where he was being challenged by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. The meeting did not occur until April 2010, a month after the primary election was held, and Governor Perry was the Republican Party’s nominee again.

On July 23, 2010 the Texas Forensic Commission issued its report that the original evidence used not only to convict and execute Cameron Todd Willingham, but used by Governor Perry as reason not to stay his execution, used “flawed science” in its determination that arson was the cause of the fire.

Rick Perry has blood on his hands and he knows it. And more to the point, he was caught in daylight and out in the open trying to suppress the commission’s report.

George W. Bush became famous, infamous even, for these kinds of things, something that Americans found out about after the fact.

Not so with Rick Perry. Evidence of his self-serving obstructionist nature is there for all to see. With the ghost of Cameron Todd Willingham hovering over him, and not a Ghostbuster in sight, I think Rick Perry will have a problem here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Investing in the Future is Investing in Education

I was caught by an article at the Texas Tribune that in the latest national rankings of high schools, Texas high schools ranked near the top in a state-by-state comparison. Now this runs counter-intuitive. It is common knowledge that Texas ranks 44th out of 50 in quality and quantity of education nationwide. Where does it get off having 38 campuses in Newsweek’s Top 500 High Schools?

Well for one thing, most of these schools in Texas are academies. You have to apply and be accepted into these schools. That skews the student population a little.

But for another, you have to look at sheer numbers. Texas is the 2nd most populous state in the nation behind California. California had 53 schools on that top 500 list. So while Texas ranks 44th in the nation for education, it gets 38 schools on that list by sheer brute force of population.

So this led me to thinking about other populous states and how they did in the Newsweek rankings. New York, 3rd most populous had 63 schools on the list. Florida, the 4th most populous, had 43 on the list.

OK, so crunching some numbers, Texas and California have roughly 660 thousand and 700 thousand people in their states for every school on the list. New York and Florida have, respectively, 300 thousand and 440 thousand people per school that made the list.

So it looks like California and Texas made the list with so many schools because of sheer numbers, but for New York and Florida it was obviously something else.

Gee, I wonder what it is, this thing that gets more schools on the list than their more populous rivals? Could it be . . . money? Yes, no surprise there.

California with the greatest number of people per campus spends $8,452 per student.
Texas with the next highest number of people per campus spends $9,227 per student.
Florida, with the third highest number of people per campus spends $9,804 per student.
New York, the most efficient in terms of number of people per campus spends $18,126 per student.

In education, you get what you pay for. Education is not a budget item to get slashes in funding, education is an investment in the future. Education is not free.

22% of Republicans/Independents Just Say No to Mormons

Gallup came out with a new poll on Monday that turns out to be pretty timely. Released 1 day before the entry of Jon Huntsman into the Republican presidential fray is the new poll showing that 22% of Republicans and Independents would not vote for their party’s nominee if the nominee was a Mormon.

Now while the poll did not sample whether the opinion was based on the flavor of their religion, this number – 22% - is almost exactly the same number that represents the Rightwing Evangelical subdivision of the Republican Party.

This number is also a fairly steady number, not having changed significantly since Gallup first asked this question in 1967. As a matter of fact, of the nine characteristics that Gallup polled on (black, woman, Hispanic, etc.) six groups scored lower in terms of likelihood one would withhold their vote, and two groups scored higher.

The characteristics that are less popular than being Mormon? Gays/Lesbians and Atheists.

Now the question I would have is this: if the only choice in a presidential election was between a Mormon and a left of center black man, would any of these 22% vote for the black man? My guess is that they won’t do that either.

The result is, of course, fewer votes for the Mormon, and no change for the black man.

So given that, what happens to the Republican primary voter who bases his/her vote on the likelihood that this candidate will beat Barack Obama in 2012? If they are assured that nearly a quarter of them will not vote if the nominee is a Mormon, how likely are they to vote for the Mormon?

Now in truth this should not even be at issue in a political campaign, yet even now, in the 21st century the issue persists because of deeply held beliefs that being a Mormon is not synonymous with being a Christian. But as long as those beliefs persist I think it is more likely that a black undocumented Kenyan will be elected president before a Mormon will even get a chance.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jon Huntsman Jumps In

The Republican presidential candidate field widened slightly today as former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination with the Statue of Liberty as backdrop.

How Huntsman’s entry into the race will affect anything is anyone’s guess but let me take a stab at it. Huntsman is quite literally a clone of Mitt Romney, a clone but a relatively unknown one. He literally has all of the qualities of Romney including all of the liabilities Romney carries with Tea Baggers and the Evangelical Right.

Like Romney, Huntsman is a Mormon. Evangelicals will vote for Satan before voting for a Mormon.

Like Romney, Huntsman as governor signed into law a health insurance exchange in Utah, and even proposed an individual mandate in Utah a cornerstone of “Obamaneycare.”

Like Romney, Huntsman has received broad praise from the Obama Administration. He has, on top of that, to explain to Tea Baggers and Evangelicals why he served 18 months in the Obama Administration as the Ambassador to China.

And like Romney, Huntsman will have to explain to the rightwing base that are also known as “persistent primary election voters” some of his more moderate stances like his support for Cap and Trade and Obama’s economic stimulus plan.

The only good thing is that Jon Huntsman is such an unknown, having been packed off to China for the past year and a half, that very few in the Republican base have any basis upon which to judge whether he deserves their vote. He can literally remake himself into any form and no one would be the wiser.

Not so Mitt Romney.

Monday, June 20, 2011

There Will Be Backlash

I’ve mentioned it on this blog at least a few times that when the 82nd legislature finally adjourns for the last time here in Texas, things will be far from over for the Republican legislators who voted to cut $4 billion from what they actually were supposed to give to public education for the next budget cycle.

Some Republican legislators are now willing to admit this might be true.

What we’ve seen so far was a reaction from educators and some parents beginning this spring with the Save Our Schools rally that brought over 11,000 protesters to the south steps of the state capitol, followed by smaller rallies and some phone calls. Now people are starting to realize just what I mentioned here, that when parents see what school districts are having to do in order to make ends meet: increased class sizes, decreased resources and support closed schools, new fees for everything, and – heaven help us – renewed efforts to raise local property taxes, they are going to react.

There will be backlash.

Now not everyone is saying this. Some say that the TEA Party is on the rise, not the other way around, and that more and deeper cuts will be de rigueur. But that’s mainly because their only gauge is who has been calling them up on the phone – Tea baggers. No, as this article in the Austin American-Statesman suggests, the other shoe hasn’t dropped yet. That is going to start in August when parents will be paying for the paper their children used to get for free in school. When schools become paperless because all printing will take place at home. It will continue right on through the year as parents pay use fees for every kind of after school activity that were once free. Parents are going to be nickel and dimed and for that honor their children will receive a lower and lower quality education.

That’s when the other shoe will drop, when they realize that elections have consequences and the one that took place last year will have lasting consequences on their children and their children’s future.

And hopefully, next November, Texans will be cured of the amnesia that afflicts them every 6 months or so, and we in education can get back to work.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Obama Impersonator Lays an Egg at Republican Leadership Conference

I mentioned yesterday that Mitt Romney has no sense of humor. Well, after viewing this video I might need to extend that to the entire Republican Party. It is CSPAN coverage of the Republican Leadership Conference taking place in New Orleans. In it, it seems the Republican organizers sought some comic relief in between the speakers and brought out Reggie Brown an up and coming Barack Obama impersonator.

Brown has his act down. He really doesn’t look like Obama very much, but has similar features. What really sets him apart is his voice which has the intonation and quality of the President’s own voice. That plus copious usage of the President’s favorite phrases and his steady stares to the right and left while speaking made the whole performance eerily exceptional.

He got the biggest audience reaction when his humor ran to self-deprecation, especially in reference to race.

But you could see where Reggie Brown’s personal opinions lay as time went on and his barbed attacks turned to Republicans, starting with his photo of Barbara Bush who he identified as President George Washington, today, then on Barbara Bush’s son who was shown pre-911 looking decisive on the phone, then post-911 holding the speaker end of the phone to his ear.

Things went downhill from there. A tepid reaction to his impression of John Boehner (crying), and a weak response that ran counterpoint to his splashy unveiling of his new slogan (I killed Osama).

But when he started commenting on the presidential campaigns of Gingrich, Romney, Pawlenty and Bachmann, the audience started getting ugly. Self-deprecating humor, it seems works for these people only when it was Brown being self-deprecating as president. Digs at the Republican candidates hit a little too close to home, and gives credence to the notion that Republicans are incapable of laughing at themselves. These were pretty good digs, things we can use next year. Here’s what he said.

Gingrich: His consultants are dropping faster than Anthony Weiner’s pants in an AOL chat room.

Romney: Don’t get me wrong; he might make a great president, along with his first lady . . . second lady . . . third lady . . .

Pawlenty: It’s unfortunate that Tim Pawlenty couldn’t be here, but cut him some slack; he’s having his foot surgically removed from his mouth. Oh no, don’t worry, lucky for him it’s covered under Obamneycare. That along with spinal transplants. John King served him up a ball softer than Barney Frank’s backside.

Bachmann: Now we got Michele Bachmann. (women in audience raise a cheer). Now what can I say about Michele Bachmann that she already hasn’t said about herself? Now the other day she called me a one-term president . . .

And it was that point that Brown looked to stage left, turned back to the microphone and it was at that point you understand that they had cut off his microphone. The music came up and the moderator came out and escorted Reggie Brown off the stage. Brown stayed in character even as they ran him off the stage.

A good performance by Reggie Brown. Typical poor performance by the Republican audience and conference organizers.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Man’s Got to Know His Limitations

That’s a quote from the last scene of a Harry Callaghan movie called “Magnum Force.” Its translation goes something like don’t attempt something you know you haven’t the skills to do a proper job. It’s something Mitt Romney should become aware of if he is to make it as a presidential candidate.

Mitt Romney has no sense of humor at all. He should become aware of that fact. Because when Mitt Romney thinks up a joke all by himself, and then utters it, chances are it will come out wrong.

Like the other day when Romney was sitting in a Florida coffee shop talking to people who are unemployed, listening to their strategies for getting back to work, when he suddenly interjects “I should tell my story. I am also unemployed.”

Now they all seemed to laugh, but then you only have to take a second and see what actually just transpired and you have to conclude that Mitt Romney is either an asocial geek, or has absolutely no sense of humor.

A rich guy telling a bunch of unemployed middle class workers that he is also unemployed pretty much belittles their unemployed plight. Romney doesn’t have to work another day in his life. Neither do his kids for that matter. For these middle class people, unemployment has far greater consequences.

So Mitt Romney simply has to learn about his own limitations, and one of them is that he has no sense of humor. This will be crucial should he get the nomination and has to come up with a running mate. A running mate who will need a well-developed sense of humor. Then they can operate like Martin and Lewis, the Veep tells the jokes and he gets the girl.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Rick Perry is Against Government “Overreach”

There I wrote it down without laughing uproariously and didn’t stop typing until I hit the last keystroke. Rick Perry is against government overreach. See? I did it again. Well, this time with one or two chuckles.

Tomorrow marks the last day that Perry can issue any vetoes on any bill passed by the legislature in the last session, and Rick Perry just got out his well-used veto stamp and vetoed the legislation that would make it illegal for someone to drive and send a text message at the same time.

Rick Perry would rather make it still possible for  kids and adults to take their eyes, and their attention, away from the road sending text messages to their friends and relatives than have his state blamed of “government overreach.” I swear. It’s here.

And this line in his veto statement absolutely floored me:

I support measures that make our roads safer for everyone, but House Bill 242 is a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults.

So Rick Perry is against the overreach of Big Government.

This is the same guy who, a couple of years ago, wanted to force every 11 year old female in Texas to be immunized against Human Papilloma Virus or HPV. This isn’t a simple injection, it was to be a course of injections over a few weeks. Thankfully, it didn’t happen and Perry’s ex-staffer who works for Merck – maker of the HPV vaccine – didn’t get his bonus from his boss.

This is the same guy who just signed into law the Sonogram Bill, the one that he specifically requested “emergency legislation” for. Forcing a woman to hear her doctor say things to her that she may not want to hear isn’t government overreach but preventing people from texting while driving is.

Texting while driving impairs ones ability to drive safely. By this logic then, government forbidding people from impairing their driving ability by drinking and then driving is also government overreach.

I need a drink.

UPDATE: Late word is that when Rick Perry vetoed the driver texting bill auto insurance companies across the state uncorked the champagne. Seems this bill would have driven down insurance premiums. Now that more of us will be dying or maimed in traffic accidents because of Rick Perry's veto, the insurance premiums can stay high.

In any Republican move that seems insane on its face, follow the money.

What Teachers Make

Now that the legislature has voted on, and passed a bill (known to educators as “the Death Star”) that will allow school districts to decrease teacher pay in 2012 over what they are earning next year, decrease teacher compensation with up to six days of unpaid furlough for teachers, eliminate seniority protection, and decrease the nonrenewal notification date to just 10 days before the end of the school year, I have to again ask myself why do I continue to teach?

If this is the level of appreciation teachers receive for all of their hard work, why do any of us?

Teaching is considered a profession, yet as professionals, teachers are already compensated at the lowest rate in the nation compared to other professionals.

I guess its at these times I need to listen to Taylor Mali recite his iconic poem, “What Teachers Make.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Replacing Anthony Weiner

As I write this, they are showing now former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s last hurrah in front of the hot lights as he resigns from congress for the crime of “sexting,” at least that is the reason that the media keeps on reporting. Actually this is not true.

Anthony Weiner showed poor taste in sending images of himself to young women, and poor judgment, but that isn’t why he is resigning. He is resigning because he could no longer be a fully functional congressman who could serve his constituents effectively. The spewers of hatred and vilification were not going away.

No, the only thing to my mind that Anthony Weiner is guilty of, besides bad taste, is concocting one lie after another to everyone around him and to party leaders.

As I mentioned it before coming up with a complete fabrication is bad, retelling it over and over to your friends, peers and party leadership is worse. But I still thought he could weather this out and serve out his term. Then his district would be eliminated in the 2012 election.

And obviously this was mainly in view of the fact that his constituents would lose their voice in congress until a special election could be called, something that takes several months.

But listening to the hecklers in the crowd, you could see that he was never going to weather this because the storm was here to stay.

What the hecklers’ motivation was is anyone’s guess, but I don’t rule out Republicans hounding him out of office so they could get a chance win the seat back in a low turnout special election. It nearly worked for them in 2009 when (now) Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s congressional seat nearly went to a Republican who lost by a mere 726 votes.

Now we all have to move on and wonder how long it is going to take for a special election to be called and who will run in it. I don’t expect the district to be flipped because not only is NY-9 an urban district but also has a fairly comfortable 10% voter gap between Democratic voters and Republican voters. And while Gillibrand was re-elected to her seat in 2008 with 62% of the vote, this mostly rural district was traditionally Republican. Her win in 2006 was an upset, retiring a 4-term Republican.

So Congressman Anthony Weiner is no more, so now maybe the hecklers can go and crawl back under their rocks and the rest of us can talk about two wars and economic recovery. Oh, and not to forget to mention the end of public education, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. You know… those red meat Republican issues I will be bringing up from time to time.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Texas Lyceum Poll: Concern About Education is Up

The Texas Lyceum has been doing an annual poll since 2007 on the issues of the time. It is, you could say a snapshot of what the Texas public has most concern about. Things change so rapidly now that last year’s non-issue becomes this year’s hot-button issue.

And this year’s poll, being released between Tuesday and today, found here, is no different.

This year’s poll, for instance shows that for the first time since it has conducted the poll Texans are more concerned about education than they are about the economy. More concerned about education than they are about immigration.

Texans, it seems, have been paying attention.

I wonder if timing had something to do with this? The poll was conducted over an 8-day interval from May 24th to May 31st, just at the same time the SB1/HB1 was being worked on, and the Education budget was getting worked over.

Note the graphic. This is a summary of the hot-button issues that Texans have identified from one year to the next, with the budget shortfall not shown before 2010 probably because Rick Perry said there wasn’t going to be one.

In 2011 nearly double the number of Texans who view immigration as their number one issue see education as the current issue of concern to them. On another graphic found in the PDF the trend is clear over the past three years that an increasing number of Texans think that Texas is on the wrong track (58%), while Texans who see their state going in the right direction still trend south (28%).

Now here is what I am wondering: I wonder how much Texans relate between these two poll questions, and I wonder whether they want to do something about it at the polls next year.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Memorable Moments of the Republican Debate

I managed to sit through the 1st official Republican presidential debate last night even though I would have rather sat for 2 hours watching a static-filled screen and listened to white noise.

The frustrating thing about the whole thing is that Republicans were allowed to spew absolute falsehoods unchecked and uncorrected for all that time. Here are some of the memorable quotes and falsehoods that went unanswered because no one was there to answer them.

Mitt Romney: “I can't wait to debate (Obama) and say, 'Mr. President, if, in fact, you did look at what we did in Massachusetts, why didn't you give me a call and ask what worked and what didn't.”

Could it be, perhaps, that President Obama didn’t need to call him because he had Ezekiel Emanuel on his staff to go to with questions? Romney may have signed the bill into law, but Emanuel was the architect of Romneycare.

Tim Pawlenty: “And this idea that we can't have 5 percent growth in America is hogwash.”

Well, perhaps since a 5% sustained growth per year over a decade has never been achieved in modern times - even under the Clinton and Reagan boom years the growth rate never exceeded 4.9% - calling Pawlenty’s economic “plan” hogwash is not so off the reservation.

Michele Bachmann: “Unlike how the media has tried to wrongly and grossly portray the Tea Party, the Tea Party is really made up of disaffected Democrats, independents, people who've never been political a day in their life, people who are libertarians, Republicans -- it's a wide swathe of America coming together.”

…that will never poll over 22% of registered voters.

Herman Cain: “This economy is stalled. It's like a train on the tracks with no engine and the administration has simply been putting all of this money in the caboose. We need an engine called the private sector.”

Which is it? Either the auto industry isn’t in the private sector, or the auto industry is stalled on tracks?

Newt Gingrich: “As each new state becomes right to work, they send a signal to the remaining states, don't be stupid ... If you believe in the 10th Amendment, we ought let the states learn from each other. And the right-to-work states are creating a lot more jobs today that they heavily unionized states.”

Unions brought us child labor laws, the 40 hour work week, workplace safety standards, and so much more that we take for granted these days. They made the very existence of the middle class possible. "Right to work" is a euphemism for "Right to fire you."

Ron Paul: “There shouldn't be any government assistance to private enterprise. It's not morally correct, it's not legal, it's bad economics. It's not part of the constitution.”

Not part of the constitution… Know what else is not in the constitution Dr. Paul, government support of the exploration of the moon, yet we have NASA.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pre-Abortion Sonogram Law Challenged in Federal Court

The Center for Reproductive Rights just filed a lawsuit in federal court in Austin on behalf of abortion providers, challenging the legality of the recently passed oppressive Sonogram Law. It will be remembered that the Sonogram Law requires all women seeking an abortion in Texas must undergo a sonogram 24 hours before her scheduled abortion (or 2 hours before the abortion if she lives 100 or more miles away from the abortion service provider).

I have been expecting this but I was surprised at their angle of attack, something that I doubt the lawyers and other non-medical people in the Legislature probably didn’t think about.

You see, I would have gone at this law head-on. It is oppressive, invasive and an unwarranted intrusion on the privacy of a human being. It is Big Government writ large fueled by evangelical religious fervor.

It is so obvious.

But no, they don’t attack it that way. Remember the lawsuit was filed on behalf of abortion service providers: medical doctors and medical clinics. Here is their angle of attack.

“The Act profoundly intrudes on the practice of medicine, forces physicians to deliver ideological speech to patients, and treats women as less than fully competent adults,” the lawsuit says.”

“Under the law, signed May 19 by Gov. Rick Perry, a woman cannot decline to hear the sonogram description, though she may opt out of viewing sonogram images or hearing the fetal heartbeat.”

“‘The Act will force physicians to violate basic standards of medical ethics by compelling them to disregard the wishes of patients who do not want to receive this information,’ the lawsuit said.”


Congressman Weiner Needs Jesus

Now this should come as no surprise to some of us, particularly we jaded observers of the ongoings of human events, but apparently according to Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, it seems clear that Congressman Anthony Weiner should come to Jesus as there is no treatment for sin.

No, I swear, he tweeted it.

"Dear Congressman Weiner: There is no effective "treatment" for sin. Only atonement, found only in Jesus Christ.”

The sheer opportunism that this represents is enough to turn my stomach, and believe me I have had ample opportunity to have my stomach turned of late.Now as someone who does not profess or practice a religion, this sort of comment makes me uneasy. When Tiger Woods got into so much hot water because of his (real) affairs, he was admonished by the Fox evangelical Brit Hume that he would be well-encouraged to drop his Buddhist beliefs and come into the light. This made me uneasy. But Buddhists and the Christians haven’t really had a historical knockdown drag out like the Christians and Jews have. So if Hume’s remark to Tiger Woods on his religion could strike me with disquiet, imagine how a Christian leader’s similar remark, on the Internet, to Anthony Weiner, a Jew, would strike me.

But thanks be to Jesus Christ, Savior of the World, that not all Christians are of like mind, that not all Christians prioritize the truth of their religion over the falsehoods of others. Me too, I like the idea of having multiple deities to call on. Here is part of a resolution that the United Church of Christ adopted in 1987:
Faced with this history from which we as Christians cannot, and must not, disassociate ourselves, we ask for God's forgiveness through our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray for divine grace that will enable us, more firmly than ever before, to turn from this path of rejection and persecution to affirm that Judaism has not been superseded by Christianity; that Christianity is not to be understood as the successor religion to Judaism; God's covenant with the Jewish people has never been abrogated. God has not rejected the Jewish people; God is faithful in keeping covenant.
If anything, all Dr. Mohler’s tweet does, as far as I am concerned, is to reaffirm to me that this “history” is still not a part of history. It is still with us.

God help us.