Burnt Orange Report

News, Politics, and Fun From Deep in the Heart of Texas

Support the TDP!

July 31, 2003

Dean the Frontrunner?

By Byron LaMasters

Earlier today, Jim posted that Howard Dean was recognized by the New York Post as the quasi-frontrunner. It looks like the folks at Gephardt Grassroots have latched onto the story, too. And they're not too happy. I must admit, however, that I've been impressed with the Gephardt Grassroots blog. It's modeled after the Dean blog in many ways, and it's the best unofficial non-Dean blog which I've seen. It will be interesting to see if Dick Gephardt will pick up any momentum with the Teamsters Endorsement. Gephardt really needs money. Anyone know if the Teamsters will be able to help him much in that regard? Gephardt doesn't need as much money as Edwards, Lieberman or Kerry, because he has a national base, and labor will give him the volunteers he needs, but Gephardt can't have another quarter where he really embarasses himself like Q2.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:29 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Winning the Culture War

By Byron LaMasters

The other day, I blogged on the new gay high school in New York. Contrary to what you might think, I felt uneasy about it, particularly for two reasons. First, I think that a publicly funded gay high school can help create a slippery slope arguement in favor of private school vouchers (which I strongly oppose). Secondly, I think that a gay high school is the wrong priority. Just like vouchers, a gay high school is helpful to a small minority of students, but doesn't do a damn thing for the majority of students, other than divert tax dollars away from them. Gay rights advocates ought ot work instead to help protect all gay and lesbian high school students by enacting anti-harassment laws, and strongly enforcing them in all high schools. Public money should be spent on ensuring the education and safety of all children and students in all high schools, rather than establishing a slippery slope arguement for private school vouchers. As I've read more in the past couple of days, I've developed more concerns over a public gay high school.

Via Courtney, John Cole makes a good point:

This is the worst idea I have heard in a long time. You know, it is very difficult to push for things like gay marriage, and to argue that the gay rights movement doesn't want special rights, just the same protection of their rights that heterosexuals enjoy, and then you see crap like this being peddled. How about all heterosexual schools? Or all caucasian schools? Or schools just for people with lisps?

All this does is vindicate loser assholes like Pat Robertson and their ilk- they have claimed for years that the homosexual lobby wants special rights- and every time they have, leftists and people such as myself have beaten them down and called them homophobic and bigoted.

Please don't tell me they were right.

I do worry about the image of the gay community on this issue. I've argued time and time again that gays and lesbians fight for equal rights not special rights. Issues like these are examples of the occasional excesses of liberalism. Are some gay students helped by gay schools? Sure. But are the vast majority of gay students helped by them? No. I think that it some situations, gay schools are the best option - but the students who need them most usually come from districts where harrassment and abuse go unstopped, and where the school district would spend money on bibles, ten commandment plaques, and teaching "creation science" before they would lift a finger to protect their gay and lesbian students. Just as ordinary private schools ought to be funded by the private sector, so should private gay schools (which I highly support).

Finally, how do gays and lesbians win the culture war? Not by self-segregating ourselves into our own schools, our own communities and our own lives. We win the culture war by integrating in society. The fact that I came out my senior year in high school to several dozen of my classmates did much more to advance gay rights, than sending me to a gay high school would have done. People who know a gay person, have a gay friend, have a gay co-worker or a gay mailman, for that matter are more likely to be supportive of gay rights. The response from Europe has been similar to my comments:

An American decision to publicly fund a high school for homosexual students in New York is a misguided exercise in political correctness which risks isolating the gay community, Europeans said Wednesday.

Activists, students and officials across the continent agreed gay schools would never catch on in Europe.

Even the British -- culturally closer to the Americans than any other Europeans -- were skeptical.

"Special schools may serve as shelter for vulnerable and bullied students but in the long term they won't solve the problem of living in a homophobic society," said Carlie Harter-Penman, spokeswoman for the National Union of Students' lesbian, gay and bisexual campaign.

"We want gay students to be able to attend school without thinking of their sexuality as an issue."

Gay British student Richard Hyde, from the London College of Printing, said the U.S. initiative at least promoted awareness of gay rights but could have other negative consequences.

"It might create a biased attitude among gay students because the environment in which they would be educated isn't diverse enough," he said.

New York authorities said Monday that the Harvey Milk School in the city's Greenwich Village would reopen as the first publicly-run high school in the United States for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.

Named after a gay San Francisco politician assassinated in 1978, it has already been open for 20 years but the city is to spend $3.2 million to expand the school to take 100 students.

Few could imagine such a scenario in Europe.

"This is inconceivable in France. It runs contrary to the principles of the Republic ... There can be no discrimination of any sort," said a French Education Ministry spokeswoman. "I can't imagine anything like that in Germany," said Detlef Muecke, a spokesman for gay teachers from the country's GEW teachers union. "Our aim is to work for acceptance and diversity in the school system, so that young people don't suffer discrimination if they come out as gay or lesbian."

In traditionally liberal Amsterdam, sentiment was similar.

"The Harvey Milk school is a solution to a worldwide problem that gay and lesbian kids feel isolated," said Henk Beerten, chairman of the Federation of Dutch Associations for the Integration of Homosexuality. "But a special school won't appeal in the Netherlands because of the way it singles out people and creates a ghetto-like situation."

In Sweden, which according to a study published Tuesday is the second most tolerant nation toward homosexuality after the Netherlands, gay leaders warned that the move might lead to the marginalisation of gay students.

"I don't think we need a school with special students," said Magnus Ask, organizer of the Stockholm Pride gay festival.

"We don't have separate schools for black people. Why should we have them for gays?" agreed Enrico Oliari, chairman of GayLib, a liberal and center-left Italian group.

"This is very much linked to the social context of the United States and I strongly doubt whether we will see similar schools in Europe over the next few years," added Gert Hekma, head of Gay and Lesbian Studies at the University of Amsterdam.

Why can't we be more like Europe?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:14 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Lasso: The Statesman Attempts a Blog

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin American Statesman seems to be trying to take after the Dallas Morning News and has started a blog of it's own called Lasso, which started on Monday. Here's what they want to do with it:

WELCOME TO LASSO: OK, this is the way Lasso is gonna work. Lasso will arise each morning with faithful dogs Dinah and Rico and slog his way through the day's Texas newspapers. He will report to you by mid-morning what he's found. During the day, Lasso may (or may not) add notes, comments, more links. He may just pop off. Depends.

That's it. Any submissions, letters or tips are welcome and most likely will find their way onto the site.

Content-wise, it's not bad. I could see it growing into a Texas-version of The Note. Stylistically, it could use some work. They ought to move it over to Movable Type, encourage more reader interaction and I'd love to see multiple authors, as on the DMN blog. Just my thoughts. I'll email Bill Bishop with them and see what he thinks. I like the idea, though. We'll see where it goes.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Laredo Rally in Support of Dems.

By Byron LaMasters

Yesterday, Democrats rallied in Laredo in support of their State Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), and the other 10 Democratic Senators in New Mexico. The new map passed by a State Senate committee cut Webb County (Laredo) in half, retrogressing minority voting rights by ensuring that the majority Hispanic population of Laredo would be dominated by the majority Anglo Bexar County suburban vote for the remainder of the decade. The Laredo Morning Times reports:

Local and state elected officials and leaders of the Democratic Party joined League of United Latin American Citizens No. 12 officials Wednesday at the Webb County Justice Center to show support for 11 Texas state senators on the lam in Albuquerque, N.M.


More than two dozen Democrats and Texas 11 supporters gathered behind the podium to loudly express their support of the move to break the quorum and chastise the governor for calling a second special session on the item, costing the state at least $3.4 million the first time around. At that time, Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives broke quorum and fled to Oklahoma.

"How many textbooks could have been purchased for Texas children? How many elderly could have had health insurance and what about the GI Forum?" Rocha asked, referring to other things the $3.4 million could have paid.

Other speakers at the rally included Rep. Richard Raymond, who led the House Demos charge to Oklahoma, County Commissioner Judith Gutierrez, Webb County Democratic Party Chairman Roberto Balli, Senator Judith Zaffirini's husband Carlos and Judith Zaffirini via speakerphone.

Several speakers pointed out Zaffirini gave up her perfect attendance record to break quorum, and travel with the 10 other senators to be guests of New Mexico governor Bill Richardson.

The group also agreed with a statement by one speaker that they did not feel she was breaking her perfect attendance record with this action, rather it was part of her attendance to Texas issues.

Judith Zaffirini told the group that the Democrats strategizing in New Mexico to deal with the redistricting attempt " are absolutely appalled at some of the shenanigans going on in Austin."

She reviewed the week's events when for the first time in 24 years, they heard that Gov. Rick Perry was going to lock them in the Senate, and immediately call a second special session.

At that time Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Texas Senate, also indicated that he would ignore the time-honored "two-thirds rule," meaning that the Democrats would not have the numbers to block redistricting from coming to the floor.

Both actions spurred the Senators to flee to New Mexico.

"The support of Laredoans and constituents from throughout District 21 has been absolutely overwhelming," said added.

Raymond said he had just returned from Austin, and officials there felt "the Texas 11 was taking a very principled stand" against redistricting.

"They (Republicans) are trying to take away the voting rights of the majority of Texans. That is wrong. That is why the senators are in New Mexico and that it why we are standing here."

If you want to show your support for the Democratic Senators (or I suppose, register your complaints), you can email them at: Texas11@txdemocrats.org, fax them at (505) 828-0230 or visit them at:

Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid North
5151 San Francisco Rd., NE
Albuquerque, NM 87109

There has been some talk about a big Austin rally in the next couple of weeks. When I get more details about the rally, I'll be sure to pass it along.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:03 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Darn tootin'

By Jim Dallas

The New York Post says Howard Dean is now the unquestioned frontrunner in the race for the Democratic nomination (via Political Wire):

July 31, 2003 -- SUDDENLY, Democrats are coming smack up against a stunning fact: anti-war upstart Howard Dean has become their 2004 presidential front-runner. He's the only Dem moving up in the polls. And Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) - the early quasi-front-runner with lots of establishment support after Al Gore dropped out in December - is going nowhere now.

Consider the tests of a front-runner. Take fund-raising. Dean, a physician and former governor of Vermont, topped the Dem pack in the last quarter by raking in $7.6 million.

No rival comes close in Internet savvy. Dean raised $507,000 on the 'Net last weekend in a whimsical "Cheney challenge" just to show his supporters could top Vice President Dick Cheney's $300,000 lunch. No other Dem could hope to do it.

Or take the first two test states that vote next January. Dean is either ahead or tied for the lead in Iowa. He tops the last few public polls in New Hampshire over Kerry by as many as three percentage points - but private polls are said to show a much bigger lead.

National polls don't matter that much right now - Iowa and New Hampshire are the key - but this week's Zogby national poll had Dean tied with Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) and Rep. Dick Gephardt (Mo.) at 12 and Kerry at 9 percent.

Hey, maybe KOS isn't crazy after all...

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Redistricting Polling

By Byron LaMasters

No one will know what the voters of Texas really think about redistricting until next November, when the voters have an opportunity to let everyone know. But there's certainly no shortage of polls trying to suggest that Texans are thinking one way or the other. The latest was a poll by Survey USA saying that 53% of Texans oppose the Senate Democrats actions. The state Republican Party has been quick to tout that poll, along with a poll done previously (which was commissioned by the Republican Party):

53% of Texans oppose Democrat walkout Jul 30, 2003

A scientific non-partisan statewide poll conducted by Austin television station KVUE shows a strong majority of Texans are opposed to the latest Democrat walkout.

Fifty-three percent of Texans said Democrat senators did the wrong thing by walking out on the legislative session and fleeing to New Mexico. Only 37% said Democrats did the right thing. 10% were unsure.

Independent polling firm Survey USA surveyed 500 Texans across the state. The poll has a margin of error of 4.4%.

Perhaps most interesting is the number of Hispanics and African Americans – often considered key constituencies within the Democrat Party – opposed to the Democrat walkout. Most Hispanics - 44% – were opposed, while 42% were supportive. Nearly one-third of African Americans were opposed as well.

"The people of Texas elected their lawmakers to work for them in Austin, not shirk their responsibility by running away to neighboring states," said Texas GOP Chairman Susan Weddington. "Clearly, the majority of Texans recognize that the Democrat walkout is nothing more than a blatant abdication of duty staged solely for the benefit of the Democrat Party. This poll confirms that Texans want these runaway Democrats to get back home and get to work."

The KVUE survey mirrors a poll conducted by the Austin firm Baselice & Associates after the House Democrats’ walkout in May. In that poll, 59% of Texans said House Democrats had done the "wrong thing," while only 23% said they did the "right thing."

Democrats, on the other hand, tout a poll by Jeff Montgomery, that shows 45% supporting the Democrats actions, and 30% opposing.

A plurality of Texans oppose the current redistricting efforts in Austin, according to a recent statewide survey.

Since the summer of 2001, Montgomery and Associates, an independent research firm based in Austin, Texas, has been running surveys tracking statewide political issues and elected officials. In partisan political races, the firm works for Democratic candidates. This survey was conducted from July 2-16, 2003 and tested 1,031 Texas residents over the age of 18. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1%. This survey was a random sample of adult Texas residents matching the state's demographics.

Surveyors told respondents, "Governor Perry has called an unusual special session to change current congressional districts, although they were redrawn just two years ago," and then asked "Do you support or oppose this redistricting effort?" 45.5% of Texans opposed redistricting; 30% supported it. One in four respondents (24.5%) did not have an opinion.

Strongest opposition came from Democrats (70.9%), East Texans (55.7%), African-Americans (55.7%), Central Texans (52.5%), and Hispanics (51%). Self-identified Republicans were the only demographic group who were more likely to support than oppose the redistricting effort (47.9% supported, 24.8% opposed). Texans aged 18-34 were in a statistical tie on the issue, 36.9% supporting and 35.4% opposed.

"Frankly, it's surprising that the special session was called when we're seeing so little support for redistricting," said Jeff Montgomery, president of Montgomery and Associates.

Of course, Republicans tried to discredit the Mongomery poll by saying that he was a Democratic pollster and that he used words that slanted the results.

Finally, Save Texas Reps tries their best to discredit the Survey USA poll.

Yesterday, the Texas Republican Party touted a "poll" showing that a slim majority of Texans support redistricting.

The GOP is grasping at straws.

The only independent poll made public thus far shows that a mere 30 percent of Texans support this redistricting power grab orchestrated from Washington D.C. by Tom DeLay.

In desperation, the Republican Party of Texas has latched onto a "poll" conducted by Survey USA for TV stations. This "poll" is universally dismissed by experts in public opinion surveys. The main goal of Survey USA and other television "polls" is to generate news, not credible results.

Survey USA does mainly automated calling, rarely speaking to an actual human being. They don't even bother to weight their results to account for party affiliation, minority representation, or other common forms of over-sampling and under-sampling common in legitimate polling. And their 500 sample size is inadequate for a state the size of Texas, as the margin of error (+ - 4.4%) shows.

Other questions remain. Does Survey USA do bi-lingual interviews? Do they call back when no one answers on the first or second or fifth try, or do they just run through a call list until they get a response? The difference is important, because minorities and lower-income voters -- not to mention those who speak little or no English -- are disproportionately Democratic. These are the same voters who often require several tries to get on the phone and, as a result, are very likely under-sampled in this TV poll.

What about the geography and partisan breakdowns of these polls? Were there more respondents from West Texas than South Texas? More urban respondents than rural respondents? Did they find more well-to-do respondents at home in the early evening? Did they get through to more Republicans than Democrats on the first try?

And then of course, there was the unscientific KRLD listener poll from yesterday.

Even right-wing radio talk shows are finding that Texans do not support the redistricting power grab orchestrated from Washington D.C. by Tom DeLay. A listener poll on Dallas' KRLD yesterday showed that 53 percent support the Democrats -- almost exactly the same unscientific result in the TV poll touted by the Texas Republican Party.

Of course, don't forget about the results of the Senate committee hearings, where testimony ran 8% for and 89% against redistricting. So where's the truth? I guess we'll just have to wait until next year.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:01 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Redistricting Articles

By Byron LaMasters

I'm not really in the mood to provide much analysis, but there's lot of articles on redistricting today. Nothing really new, though.

The Houston Chronicle writes on the financial cost of the trip on the Democratic Senators. They also write that Republicans and Democrats are far apart on redistricting.

The Dallas Morning News writes on Democratic attacks of Gov. Perry. The paper editorialized again opposing redistricting and supporting an independent panel to deal with the issue.

The Fort Worth Star Telegram repeated that there's not really much middle ground, and wrote that the Democrats are comfortable. They also said that October 6th would be the deadline for a redistricting map to be used in the 2004 elections.

The San Antonio Express-News suggests that Lt. Gov. Dewhurst may try and expel Democratic Senators.

Thats all for now.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

GOP Budget Cuts Kill A&M Journalisn Dept.

By Byron LaMasters

Being a good Longhorn, I usually tend to act with glee when I hear of Aggie misfortunes. But, its not funny. The Republican budget cuts are already having real effects on students. Several weeks ago, it was the cuts in the UT library hours. Now, it's the A&M journalism department. More from the Daily Texan:

After years of neglect and perhaps outright sabotage, Texas A&M University has decided to kill its 54-year-old journalism program. No doubt, many on campus will line up to dance on its grave.

Before everyone breaks out the blue suedes, though, Aggie journalism deserves a requiem.

The A&M administration will argue that the program must be eliminated for budget reasons, that it was plagued with high faculty turnover, out-of-control enrollment and an antiquated curriculum. While true, these are merely rationalizations. After all, it was the College of Liberal Arts, through its own poor stewardship, that allowed these problems to fester.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:43 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

July 30, 2003

Crazy cool teacher tech.

By Jim Dallas

You know how your teachers in high school would drone on ominously about your "permanent record?" Did you ever wonder if there actually was such a thing?

Turns out they weren't kidding - but that isn't a bad thing.

Slashdot.org user rhadamanthus links to a Houston Chronicle article on the emergence of a new database which lets teachers tap into student records. To help them keep track of student progress and prevent dropouts.

While many paranoid cyberlibertarians (get down! black helicopter!) won't like this, I think it's about time that teachers were able to put all that information the public school bureaucracy collects to good use. You can't help kids unless you can know who they are and what they are about.

And the increase in access will help to end corrupt practices which hurt kids, such as the blatantly fraudulent misreporting of dropout rates that has burned HISD recently:

Starting with an investigation of possible dropout reporting fraud at Sharpstown High School and culminating with a state audit that may lower the district's accountability rating, HISD has come to know how badly it handles some student data.

"The dropout issue is a key battleground for our future," Stockwell said. "We must keep these students in school and learning. Failure is not an option."

The Sharpstown investigation showed that employees can and have changed student records to reflect lower dropout rates. The state investigation and one by a district task force exposed computer records managed so badly that the district has no way of knowing where students have gone.

(Incidentally, David Brin, who delivered the 2000 keynote speech to the Libertarian national convention, wrote a whole book about this debate).

And even if the idea has visions of 1984 dancing in your head, remember this. Private sector employers do this on a routine basis.

Unfortunately, putting together student records in a useful way is not at all routine in education. The system (called the Profiler for Academic Success of Students, or PASS), is the first of its kind in the entire country (HISD press release).

HISD should be commended for this innovative approach to monitoring students' needs.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Recall Roundup 7/30

By Andrew Dobbs

Alright, here’s what’s old, new, borrowed and blue in the California Recall Roadshow.

First, the California Insider reports that the California GOP spokesman has said that Arnold Schwarzenegger will not be running for governor of California on the recall ballot.
Republican Party spokesman Rob Stutzman, speaking on Eric Hogue's radio show on KTKZ in Sacramento, says it's official: Arnold is out. "I had that confirmed late last night," Stutzman said.
For those of you keeping score at home, that means that Dick Riordan- the moderate Republican former mayor of Los Angeles- will almost certainly run now. Riordan has said that he would not run if the action star did, but now that the Austrian muscleman has decided that years of illegal drug use and making stupid movies probably doesn’t qualify you to head up the nation’s most populous state. If the Republican field shapes up like it likely will and Dems stand fast behind Gray, Riordan is likely to end up finishing first on line two and will be governor if line one passes. But Gray Davis isn’t going to take this lying down, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Gov. Gray Davis spent $7 million to blast Riordan out of the Republican primary last year. Now, the governor's team says those TV whacks -- over Riordan likening abortion to murder and Los Angeles' profiteering on the energy crisis -- were only a taste of what they would have hit Riordan with in the general election.
"We were just getting warmed up," said a Davis insider.

If there is one thing Gray Davis’ knows how to do, its sling mud. Thankfully some candidates are making it easy for him. Turns out that much of Darrell Issa’s bio is made up, the
”>LA Times
is reporting.

In his short political career, Issa — so far the only declared Republican candidate for governor in the special election this fall — has faced both small and large questions about his record in business and the military and his brushes with the law. Republican and Democratic opponents have accused him of concealing arrests as a youth and embellishing his personal story.

The Times examined Issa's statements and campaign literature over the past 13 years and compared them with military records and other public documents. The review reveals a number of claims contradicted or unsupported by records and verifiable facts.
I think that it serves as poetic justice that a guy will shell out millions of dollars to push an electoral effort hoping to set himself up for an office he couldn’t win outright and it ends up that it ruins his career. A no name US Rep from a safe district like Darrell Issa could have spent his career away from the scrutiny of the press and eventually got enough influence in DC to be a mover and shaker, but now after just two terms he has put himself in a place where the microscope gets focused on his shotty record and he ends up without anything. How great is that?

Both Riordan, Issa and all the others are counting on the Democrats not running a candidate to succeed, but that looks less and less likely. US Reps Loretta Sanchez and Cal Dooley have both publicly urged US Sen. Diane Feinstein to put her name on the ballot. This is an interesting story by itself, two prominent elected Dems breaking ranks and calling on another Dem to run on line two, but add to it the fact that Loretta Sanchez suggested that she might run if Feinstein doesn’t and it might just be the story of the day.
Sanchez, one of the state's most prominent Latino politicians, was in San Francisco Tuesday, and appeared to be seriously considering a campaign of her own.
"We need to have a strong Democrat on the ballot. And the strongest would be Dianne . . . otherwise, I'll have to," she said in an interview. "Stay tuned."
But when pressed, Sanchez would say only that she is not ruling out putting her name on the ballot as a Democrat.

This would be an interesting development. With Michael Huffington, Dick Riordan, Darrell Issa, businessman and 2002 GOP candidate Bill Simon and State Sen. Tom McClintock all running as Republicans, Peter Camejo running as a Green and Loretta Sanchez as the Democrat, Sanchez would easily win line two. Chances are having any Dem on line two, plus Ward Connerly’s reactionary “racial privacy” referendum on the same ballot will mean a high enough Dem turnout to keep Davis in office in the first place. But this would up Loretta Sanchez’ name ID and put her in a good place for a future statewide run. Feinstein would be the dream candidate, but there is a significant chance that her candidacy would mean Davis was dead in the water.

Davis got some kinda good news today- the Assembly finally passed a damn budget. Of course it is a smoke and mirrors affair that really amounts to the state government writing itself a bunch of IOUs that will leave the state with at least a $10 billion for the next time around, but who’s keeping count? Gray has come under a lot of scrutiny for not being able to get a budget passed, but this particular monstrosity really had nothing to do with Davis- Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson walks away the winner here. His bold move of locking all the members in the chamber until something came out was the real force behind the budget passage. But actually having a budget frees Gray up to begin his campaign for his political survival.

So there you have it. The score card today: thumbs up for Riordan, Sanchez, Wesson and Feinstein; thumbs way way down for Issa; split decision for Gray. See ya tomorrow!

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 03:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

KRLD Listener Poll

By Byron LaMasters

This is the station I called in on the other night. They're having a listener poll on redistricting, here. Not scientific, but fun nonetheless.

On a related note, the Dallas County Democratic Party is urging Dallas Democrats to call in talk shows:

Fellow Democrats -

As many of you know, eleven of our State Senators boarded planes yesterday for Albuquerque, New Mexico to block a quorum in the State Senate. They were warmly greeted upon arrival by New Mexico Lt. Gov. Diane Denish.

"Without question, we did the right thing," Sen. Royce West of Dallas said of the walkout. "We're playing by the rules. When the other side doesn't play by the rules, you have to find other solutions to deal with it."

Not all people, especially Republicans, share Senator Royce's beliefs. And these people are calling talk radio shows in droves.


Please consider calling a talk radio show and expressing your support for our brave State Senators. Two prominent stations with selected shows are listed below:

WBAP--820 214-787-1820
Brian Wilson In For Mark Davis Show WEEKDAYS: 9:00 AM - 11:45 AM
Gary McNamara Show WEEKDAYS: 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

KLIF--570 1-800-583-1570
Darrell Ankarlo Show WEEKDAYS 5:00 AM - 9:00 AM

Dallas County Democratic Party
Susan Hays, Chair
Russell Langley, Executive Director

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Let's Make a Deal?

By Andrew Dobbs

So Rick Perry has decided that the best way to denounce the Killer D Senators would be to lie to the people of Texas. This article from the Houston Chronicle quotes Perry as saying:

Perry... (blamed) Democrats for also walking out on health care issues he hadn't added to a special-session call.

"We could have spent that money to boost Medicaid payments for home care services, to help pregnant women receive Medicaid services, to expand health insurance for children of working families, to provide HIV medications for afflicted Texans, to train new doctors, or to address a number of other health and human services needs," Perry said after the Democrats fled.

Democrats and Republican Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn said they found the governor's newfound interest in health care spending surprising.

Strayhorn had been rebuffed when she repeatedly asked Perry to let lawmakers appropriate the money for health care during the first special session.

You see, in a special session the legislators can only work on legislation that the Governor says they can. For instance, if/when Perry calls a session to deal with school finance the legislature won't be able to work on water rights legislation- it isn't allowed. This particular call has only one issue on the docket- congressional redistricting. For Slick Dick Perry to accuse Democrats of skipping out on HIV patients and pregnant women is a lie. Not misleading, not deceptive, not any other nice word- a goddamned lie.

While we should point that out, it suggests that Gov. Perry might be interested in freeing up $800 million for social services. It also looks like Dewhurst might be interested in a more modest plan as Charles points out. This might all add up to an interesting alternative scenario.

Let's say that Dewhurst agrees to put out the modest map and both Perry and Craddick promise to keep it intact in the conference committee. We would lose maybe 4 seats, a strong maybe in that we might be able to keep them as we already have 21 GOP districts and we do fine. Let's say we also got Perry et al to agree to use this extra money to restore cuts made to CHIP and other vital programs. We have them make a public announcement- Rick Perry, Tom Craddick, David Dewhurst and Gonzalo Barrientos standing together saying we'll let the Armbrister Map pass and we'll fund social services. Everybody is a little happy and as soon as Perry signs the new map into law a couple of dozen federal law suits get filed. Chances are any map will be ruled illegal and tossed out. Win, win, win for the Dems.

I don't know that I support this idea- if the law suits don't work the Democrats end up a lot worse off and we lose the ability to call them a bunch of cheating weasels- we made a deal with them. But I'm not sure we can keep holding out as the 11 senators will have to come home eventually and when they do the GOP will ram redistricting down our throats. This is a solution we should keep in mind for when the rest of our options run out. Kids get to go to the doctor, AIDS patients get their medicine, the poor and needy in Texas keep the services they've come to count on and we have a map that stinks, but that is stomachable. If we can kill the plan, by all means we should; but if we can't we must be ready to make some sort of deal so that we don't come out completely battered and bruised.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 02:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Redistricting Grab Bag

By Byron LaMasters

ToT caught another picture of the protester outside of the governor's mansion. If you scroll down a little bit, you'll find a picture of the "backless house" which I ride by everyday during my bike ride from my apartment to the UT campus. Just found that interesting.

Also, Mike continues the debate between myself and Owen Courreges over the myths and realities of redistricting. Another reader, Richard Kelly, emailed me his thoughts. He makes an interesting point:

Any way, you linked to the following site today as a place for Republican talking points of note. That got my interest so I clicked:



Myths of the Democratic walkout

Myth: Republicans are only trying to pass redistricting because they can't win fairly.

Reality: The current US House districts are still gerrymandered from 1992, when Texas Democrats rammed through redistricting after waiving the two-thirds requirement. Accordingly, they are still tilted in favor of Democratic candidates. This is not a matter of opinion, but of fact. Republicans recieved 56% of the vote overall in Congressional elections in 2002, and yet they make up less than 47% of the congressional seats. That, my friends, is unfair.


If you check the comments section on that site you'll see that I tried to engage the Courreges folks in a bit of civil dialog, but I really didn't get very far.

The point I was hoping to discuss is as follows: There's plenty of arguments to be made as to why the United States, the State of Texas, or Texas Congressional District XYZ might be better off with Republican representation. Of course you and I know that all those arguments are dead wrong, but this 56%/47% deal is worse than wrong. In fact, it's a patently bogus set of numbers. And it irks me to see it repeated all over the place.

To illustrate, let's imagine a football team with a ten game season. They lose the first nine games, each by a score of 27-24. In the last game, with the season basically over and the championship already decided, the other
team just mails it in, and our boys roll to a 50-0 victory.

The athletic director takes a long look at that 1-9 record and starts poking around for a new coach. The coach protests, "Unfair! Look at the season point totals: 266 for us, 243 for our opponents. That means we scored 52% of the total points. If we hadn't gotten screwed by the refs, we should have won over half our games. In fact, in consideration of equity and ethics, I think I deserve a raise."

Maybe we can label this the John Mackovic Defense, and it sounds a little nutty to me. But while we're playing with numbers, let's look at the 2000 election, in District 7, where John Culberson chalked up 89% of the vote.

In stark contrast, his Democratic opponent got... well, actually he didn't have a Democratic opponent. At the same time Lloyd Doggett's Republican challenger couldn't even beat the Libertarian candidate--partly because in Lloyd Doggett's district there was no Republican challenger on the ballot.

And while Chet Edwards was fighting tooth and nail for 51.55%, a couple Valley races were conducted in the grand Soviet tradition of one party, one candidate, 100% plurality.

I'd suggest that these minor details have major implications for that great unmentionable of electoral data points: voter turnout.

I'd also argue that it's grossly misleading to add up all the votes cast in such wildly divergent situations and to then conclude, "Aha! Republicans got 56% of the vote, therefore they're entitled to 56% of the seats." I don't doubt that 56% is an accurate sum. And it certainly sounds precise. You know, not 55%, not 57%, but 56%. Maybe it's even 56.73%. But it's precisely meaningless when used to evaluate statewide election results as a whole. In fact, it's no more a proper use of statistics than say, using Al Gore's popular vote total to decide the Presidential race.

What Courreges's little piece of Republican spin advocates is nothing less than proportional representation. In other words, they're suggesting that the votes cast for or against Congressman Smith (D) be given some weight in determining the fate of Congressman Jones (R). Maybe it's a good idea, maybe it's not, but it's certainly one that puts them in exactly the same camp as the Green Party and the glorious & honorable nation of (ahem) France.

Unfortunately it puts them exactly at odds with the Constitution of the United States. And it's why this fight goes beyond blocker bills, Senate tradition, or whether David Dewhurst is as nice (or as nasty) as Bob Bullock. Because if they really believe what they're saying, it means that Tom DeLay thinks the Founding Fathers were a little confused in structuring the federal government and that he's got a few ideas on how to tighten things up a bit. That, my friends, is pretty damn scary.

Oh well. Thanks for listening. Y'all keep up the good work. Hope you're enjoying the summer. I'm counting the days until the UT-New Mexico State game which now seems a somewhat ironic way to open the season.

Charles also took a look at more editorials from Day 2:

More editorials:

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal calls Governor Perry a disappointment and compares him to a "spoiled 2-year-old child".

The Chron calls the endless fight for redistricting madness.

The Waco Trib really smacks the Governor, whom they call a "well-pressed con man". This needs some quoting:

How hypocritical is Perry in light of the partisan meltdown over redistricting? Let us count the ways.

----1. His silence was deafening----

Perry speaks now about $800 million in newly freed-up money that could go to human services if the Democrats would only come back. What was he saying during Special Session No. 1? Nothing.


If Perry really wanted to direct $800 million to social services, all he had to do was put it on the agenda. Instead, legislation he supported would have routed the extra money into an "emergency fund" under the control of the governor and the Legislative Budget Board.

Just how many Texans would benefit from that, Mr. Governor?

----2. He dropped ball in 2001----

Perry is the very last person on the planet to be saying, "It is lawmakers' responsibility, not the courts', to redraw congressional lines." That responsibility sat snugly in his lap in 2001. He brushed it off like lint.


----3. He would dispense with rules----

Whenever Perry uses the words "fair" or "fairness," he isn't thinking that way when it comes to the legislative process and redistricting.


The Lufkin Daily News compares the whole thing to the movie Groundhog Day.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times also uses the term madness, but they're actually pretty mellow about the whole thing.

Finally, the El Paso Times, which was nearly alone in condemning the Democrats for the Ardmore walkout, condemns everyone for the current boycott.

Good stuff.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Open Thread

By Jim Dallas

Get your kicks.

Also, a thought to ponder - is the War in Iraq over? I noticed some other folks implying this, as in, "I haven't done that since the War in Iraq."

My feeling is that U.S. versus Saddam is sort of like (to use a football analogy)Texas versus Baylor. You know the game is over by the end of the first quarter -- but you've still got to sit through 3 more quarters during which you still risk injuries and the ever-so-remote possibility that they might just come back and beat you if you don't put up an effort.

OK, enough of my ramblings. Be free, wild spirits.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:41 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Redistricting: Point / Counterpoint

By Byron LaMasters

Owen Courreges made a list of "myths" and "realities" on redistricting on his site. I thought that I'd go for a good, old-fashioned point / counterpoint with him. He actually has some decent Republican talking points, but there is always another side.... and here it is!

Myth: Leaving the state to thwart a quorum is a legitimate legislative tactic.

Reality: The Texas Constitution states clearly that in the absence of a quorum, the remaining members may "compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner and under such penalties as each House may provide." Considering that the Constitution allows for both arrest and penalties, it is difficult to argue that thwarting a quorum is a legitimate means to keep legislation from passing. The Senate rules bolster this interpretation -- Senate Rule 5.03 states that "[n]o member shall absent himself or herself from the sessions of the Senate without leave unless the member be sick or unable to attend." The Texas 11 are violating Senate rules.

Normally, I would agree. Busting a quorum is not something that should be taken lightly. It's not something that should be used simply because the minority doesn't get what they want. It should only be used in the most extreme of circumstances such as a time when the majority tramples over the rules, precident and tradition. That is the case. The Republicans have abandoned the Senate tradition of a blocker bill, requiring a two-thirds vote to bring up any bill. The Republicans have abandoned the decades-old tradition of not redistricting in mid-decade, unless the courts mandate it. If Texas Democrats don't stand up to it now, what's to stop congressional redistricting from happening every time any state legislature changes hands? Finally, Abraham Lincoln, an American hero, and father of the Republican Party gives the best example:

About a year later Lincoln had become a leader in the Illinois legislature and he repeatedly opposed proposals by Democrats to audit the Illinois state bank. In December 1840 the Illinois Democrats wanted to require the bank to make payments in gold or silver instead of paper. The bank was authorized to continue its suspension of specie payment through the end of the year. Lincoln wanted desperately to avoid this outcome, so he bolted for the door and instructed his fellow Whigs to follow him. Without a quorum the legislature could not vote to adjourn, and the suspension of specie payment would continue.

But the door was locked and guarded, so Lincoln literally jumped out of the first-floor window, followed by his lemming-like Whig followers...

I'm sure that Republicans feel that Abraham Lincoln was justified in breaking quorum. So are the Democrats today.

Myth: Democrats are just upset that Lt. Governor David Dewhurst has waived the 'blocker bill;' a rule that requires two-thirds of Senators to agree to legislative debate.

Reality: Unlike the tactics the Democrats are employing, it is well within Dewhurst's authority to waive the two-thirds requirement. Moreover, Texas Democrats have used precisely the same tactic before, rendering their claims hypocritical. In 1992, Lt. Governor Bob Bullock waived the blocker bill to get through a redistricting plan after a Republican judge slapped down an earlier plan. It should also be noted that in that case, Republicans didn't flee the state to keep a redistricting plan they didn't like from passing.

In 1992, the court mandated that the lines be redrawn. There was bipartisan support for withdrawing the blocker bill. Republicans wanted to get the process over with so that they could immidiately turn to the courts. Dave McNeely of the Austin American Statesman wrote on this:

In the debate over how to debate congressional redistricting, some Republicans are making a case that an example has already been set by the late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock.

Current Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst cites "The Bullock Precedent," from a 1992 special session on redistricting, when a bill about Senate redistricting came up with less than the traditionally required two-thirds vote.


On Dec. 24, 1991, three Republican-appointed federal judges threw out the plan that 19 Democratic senators had agreed to in settling a court challenge by minorities. The judges ruled the plan illegal because it had not cleared the full Legislature. They drew their own map, just for 1992.

Gov. Ann Richards had already called a special session on redistricting, to begin Jan. 2. A majority of the senators — all Democrats — revived the settlement plan and hoped to use it for primaries on March 10.

Bullock, a Democrat, did not have the traditional "blocker" bill atop the calendar, which usually means other bills need a two-thirds vote to come up out of their regular order.

Although there were 22 Democratic senators and just nine Republicans at the time, three Democrats opposed the Senate map, and one Democrat was absent.

Without a blocker bill, when the bill came out of the Committee of the Whole on Redistricting — comprising the entire Senate — it went straight to the Senate floor, where it required just a majority vote. It passed the full Senate 18-12. But Senate Dean John Whitmire, D-Houston, said there was unofficial agreement at the time that a two-thirds vote wouldn't be required.

Indeed, Republican senators who had planned to filibuster decided not to.

"I am going to oppose this bill," explained then-Sen. Buster Brown, R-Lake Jackson. "But I hope that it gets out of here quickly and into the courts. . . . The best chance of having a March 10 primary is to get this bill out of here."

Despite their efforts to have the plan in place for the primary, the U.S. Supreme Court said the 1992 Senate elections should be on March 10 but use the three-judge federal court's plan — just for 1992. The state Republican Party unsuccessfully asked later that the court plan be used for the remainder of the decade. (An ironic request, since the party is insisting that the court-drawn congressional plan be redrawn by the Legislature now, even though it is good until 2011.)

There is also the 1979 precedent for skipping the two-thirds rule. Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby tried to circumvent the rule to set up a separate presidential primary. A dozen Democrats, known as the Killer Bees, hid out to break a quorum for 4 1/2 days.

Hobby said that in 18 years presiding over the Senate, it was his biggest mistake.

See. Even Republicans admit that there was bipartisan support to remove the blocker bill. The purpose of the two-thirds rule is to protect the rights of the minority. In that case, the minority had no problem with the removal of the blocker bill because they felt that the there was a better chance that the courts would protect the their rights. They were right. In this case, there is no bipartisan agreement to end the two-thirds rule. The whole purpose of the rule is to prevent power grabs by the majority... and that is why Democrats are furious.

Myth: Republicans are only trying to pass redistricting because they can't win fairly.

Reality: The current US House districts are still gerrymandered from 1992, when Texas Democrats rammed through redistricting after waiving the two-thirds requirement. Accordingly, they are still tilted in favor of Democratic candidates. This is not a matter of opinion, but of fact. Republicans recieved 56% of the vote overall in Congressional elections in 2002, and yet they make up less than 47% of the congressional seats. That, my friends, is unfair.

Nonsense. Republicans have majorities in 20 of the 32 (or 63%) districts. If anything, there should be more Democratic majority seats. I've said this before, and I'll say it again. Max Sandlin, Jim Turner, Chet Edwards, Ralph Hall and Charlie Stenholm won last year in districts that supported every statewide Republican candidate in 2002 and gave George W. Bush over 60% of the vote in 2000. What Republicans want is a district quota system (which is odd, seeing that they oppose affirmative action). If we lived in a proportional representation system, then fine, Republicans should have 57% of the seats. But we don't. Just because Republicans had a better turn-out last year doesn't mean that they're entitled to change the rules. Also, just because Democrats tend to represent districts with less citizens and less voters doesn't mean that those people don't count. Republicans come up with the 57% number by running up the score in places like Montgomery County (suburban Houston) with Kevin Brady in district 8, who beat a Libertarian opponent with 140,575 votes last year, and by the fact that Democrats who represent heavily Hispanic and heavily immigrant districts like Gene Green (district 29) nearby get substantially less votes against Libertarians (55,760). Basically what Republicans are trying to say is that the suburban Republican voters of district 8 are 2.5 times as valuable as the (majority) Hispanic Democratic voters of district 29. Charles posts on some of his observations on the issue as well.

Myth: These special sessions are costing the taxpayers money, and it's all the GOP's fault.

Reality: If the Democrats didn't keep on thwarting quorums, which is an illegitimate tactic, then we wouldn't need to hold these special sessions. We would be getting back to other issues that need to be addressed. However, instead of simply admitting that they don't have the votes and losing with dignity, the Democrats are using every dirty trick in the book to thwart redistricting. And that's why Texans are paying.

It's Republicans that won't admit that they don't have the votes. If Republicans could have drawn a map in which just one of the 11 quorum-busting Democratic Senators and Bill Ratliff would have supported, then this wouldn't have happened. Senators Lucio and Madla stated earlier in the session that they were open to redistricting. However, Republicans insisted on a plan which would retrogress minority voting rights by packing minority voters in some districts, and by diluting their strength in other districts. For Lucio and Madla, that was unacceptable. These special sessions are wasting taxpayer dollars and all the major papers in the state have agreed that Rick Perry is the one to blame for it.

Myth: Republicans have no right to redistrict since a court-ordered plan has already been handed down. It's unprecedented.

Reality: Whether or not it's unprecedented, the GOP has every right to do it. It has the statutory authority, and besides, the very situation the Republican Party faces is unique. We've never been in power before, and we'd prefer not to endure another seven years of gerrymandered US House districts. If the Democrats hadn't been so insistant on drawing hyper-partisan district lines in 1992, this wouldn't be such a sticking point. They only object to this innovation because it harms them, not because it's illegitimate or somehow ethically dubious. In any case, I haven't seen a credible argument made to the contrary.

Again, the current districts favor Republicans in 20 out of 32 districts. If anything, the current map favors Republicans. As you almost admit, this is an unprecidented power grab. Republicans have the right to do their own gerrymander if they are in power... in 2011. Not now.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:33 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Gay Math? A Different View

By Byron LaMasters

There's been some fuss in the past couple of days about the gay public high school opening in New York. To be honest, I'm a little uneasy about it. Not that I have a problem with the concept of a gay high school. I think that for some students, a high school for gays and lesbians is the best option. I strongly support the Walt Whitman Community School in Dallas. For some gay and lesbian students, harassment is so severe, and the ridicule from classmates is so harsh, that the best option is to go to an alternative school. I think that we all know that middle school / junior high students that are openly gay or are perceived by their peers to be gay face a lot of harassment. My friend Chris blogged on this earlier:

Being a gay student in public high school was the hardest thing that I’ve ever done. While most of you were worried about what to wear, I was worried how severe the physical harassment would be that day. Harassment was a daily challenge. I heard some form of the word “fag” hurled at me at least 10 times every day. While some of you got in trouble for holding hands with your significant other in the hallway, I yearned to have a significant other. Even if I was attracted to someone, how would I know their sexuality? No one was out in my high school. I have never had a boyfriend. I didn’t know innocent, light-hearted, puppy love. I didn’t go to my senior prom. I couldn’t give blood in the blood drive. I was frowned upon for using the words “gay” and “lesbian” as though they were profane. I feared for my life on several occasions including graduation. If I would have had the opportunity to attend the Harvey Milk High School, I would have done so. If I wanted to date someone, I'd only have to worry about someone being attracted to me, not my gender. The HMHS senior prom would not have forbidden same sex dates. “Gay” and “lesbian” would be part of daily speech. No one would be harassed for their sexuality.

I really know where Chris is coming from. I felt many of the same feelings at times in high school, although to a lesser extent. I have mixed feelings about my high school years, but in general, I don't regret attending the school in which I went to.

My concern is with the fact that the school is public and taxpayer supported. I think that it sets up a dangerous precident. I strongly oppose private school vouchers, and if taxpayers can pay for a gay public high school, the arguement for private school vouchers becomes much easier (if those gays can use public money to promote their values, why can't money be spend to promote Christian values...). I think that the money would be more wisely spent on counseling programs for gays and lesbians in all New York public high schools. We should support sex education in all high schools that includes homosexuality. We should support efforts to include gay and lesbian contributions to literature and history into all high schools, not just one. Most importantly, we should help protect all gay and lesbian high school students by enacting anti-harassment laws and strongly enforcing them in all high schools. Public money should be spent on ensuring the education and safety of all children and students in all high schools, rather than establishing a slippery slope arguement for advocates of "school choice".

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:18 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Latest Redistricting Articles

By Byron LaMasters

Here's the latest for you junkies out there. Another anti-Perry editorial, this time from the Houston Chronicle, and a lot more on the action from across the state.

The Houston Chronicle comes out today strongly opposed the the second special session:

There are a number of good arguments that have been stated and restated as this issue has unfolded about why this redistricting power play is ill-advised.

But, one of the underplayed ironies of the issue is that there are likely 19 or 20 districts under the current scheme that already could elect Republicans to Congress. Voters in several of those districts in the last election split their tickets to vote for President Bush and for statewide Republicans while re-electing Democratic congressional delegates. Dewhurst acknowledged as much.

Why, then, wouldn't Perry et al. -- and Texans in general -- be better served if they devoted their resources to electing Republicans in those districts instead of engaging in the partisan gamesmanship that we're now witnessing, and paying for?

Amen to that. The Chronicle also has the story on the House action today, and the story of how the Democrats left:

Van de Putte planned the revolt, including selecting the destination, hotel accommodations and flight arrangements. And she did so in the utmost secrecy.

Ellis said everyone had expected to leave either Monday night or Tuesday morning. He said the Senate Democratic Caucus met Monday afternoon and members were planning to be in the Senate chamber when it was scheduled to reconvene at 2 p.m.

But about a half hour before the session was to begin, they learned from a group of Democratic and Republican House members that Perry was planning to adjourn the then-current special session at 3 p.m. and proclaim a second special session 30 minutes later.

That's when they decided to leave immediately. Sen. Ken Armbrister of Victoria was the only Democratic senator to stay behind in Austin.

About an hour later, the 11 senators were onboard a pair of private jets whose services were contributed by constituents of state Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen. Gallegos said every precaution was taken to keep the details of their flight a secret, even on the drive to the airport.

"At one point, I said, `Where are we going?' " he said. "It was a back road. I didn't know there was a back road to the airport."

Van de Putte said she had selected six potential city destinations in four states, including bordering Mexican states. She said she picked the places based on their proximity to Texas, the political climate of the city and, most importantly, the medical facilities available.

Because state Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville had recently suffered a heart attack, she said a city with a good medical facility was essential.

And as predicted, Gov. Bill Richardson gave them a warm welcome

Since their arrival, the senators have been protected by about a half dozen New Mexico state troopers, all but one in plainclothes.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, said Tuesday that the state, his administration and a majority of the state Legislature stood behind the Texas senators and their mission.

"My message to Texas state senators is that they are most welcome in New Mexico," Richardson said. "These men and women are courageous. They're strong. They acted on principle and they are here protecting their constituents, protecting those that potentially could be disenfranchised."

The Dallas Morning News wrote on the Democrats Tuesday press conference.

"There is nothing fair about a partisan redistricting effort that turns a deaf ear to the overwhelming majority of Texans and turns its back on minority participation," said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus

The article also discussed the tension in the House.

Tension between Republicans and the late-arriving Democrats ran high.

When Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas, questioned why Rep. Roberto Alonzo was late for the day's opening roll call, the Dallas Democrat took the microphone and tearfully explained that his brother had died Monday evening and he was assisting family members.

Earlier, Mr. Hartnett had posed the same question to Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston, who said he was comforting his wife, who was concerned that she was about to be fired from her job.

The Morning News also carried an AP article on the issue.

The Fort Worth Star Telegram has more on the unusual process in which the House voted on redistricting without a committee hearing:

A quasi-organized quorum bust of in the House lasted two hours Tuesday morning, leading House Speaker Tom Craddick to place a "call" to compel members to come in. A quorum was reached just before 1 p.m. with 100 members and House leaders convened the session instantly with some 80 redistricting supporters, mostly GOP members and a small handful of Democrats.

That gave them the four-fifth majority they needed to sidestep time-consuming processes such as committee hearings and legislative delays intended to give lawmakers and the public time to read the bills before they get a floor vote. Had just a few more redistricting opponents been on the floor, they could have blocked the majority and forced the House to send the map through the longer process.

The Austin American Statesman has its round-up as well. It's got the article on the House action, article on the Democratic Senators, article on DPS authority and more.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 29, 2003

Houston Chronicle Cartoon

By Byron LaMasters

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blogging the Senators

By Byron LaMasters

So who all is blogging the latest story of the Albequerque 11?

As always, Charles is on the story. He had a great morning roundup of everything that happened overnight. Greg found a great picture for his blog. Take a look. Rob's keeping up with things from a libertarian Republican perspective. He posts the oath of office from the Texas Constitution, which I must say makes for a good talking point. However, Democrats like myself, who elected our Democratic Senators are very proud of our senators for "faithfully executing the duties of the office of Senator" by breaking quorum. I voted for my State Senator, Gonzalo Barrientos because I trusted him to fight tooth and nail against to Republican power grabs. I think that the vast majority of Democratic voters feel similarly, and the 11 Democrats would be in much more danger of losing re-election (renomination) if they were to let themselves get rolled over.

For some partisan Republican rants on those lying, dirty thugs and liars (Senators for the rest of us), check out InSane Antonio and Courreges. They remind me of Republican Shock Troops. Courreges actually does have well written talking points (see the "myth/reality" post, not the crazy rant above it) that a lot of Republicans are using (so, go look at them, I'm all about the free speech business). I'm more than willing to debate all of them, and I might post on it later tonight.

Courtney wrote this about my coverage:

Burnt Orange Report: a gleefully liberal Austin blog, looks at Democratic lawmakers on the lam as a good opportunity for a roadtrip. Overall tone of coverage is somewhat like a slumber-party. Personally, I feel this is the most honest Democrat representation of the situation. Kind of "Nah, nah, nah nah, nah, you can't catch us!" when kids about to lose a game tip over the board so no one can win.

I've never claimed that I don't have a bias. I try to be fair, but I know that I'm partisan. I don't apologize for that. Oh, and Courtney, it's "..honest Democratic representation". As for her thoughts, very well, Courtney, but the talk about Democrats subverting democracy and being "whiny little bitches" is fair and balanced. Yes?

Anyone else been following the story that I've left out?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:56 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

House In Session

By Byron LaMasters

The House has a quorum and are on their third reading of the redistricting bill within 5 minutes. Watch it in action, here.

Update: With lightning speed, the House passed the redistricting bill (which it passed last month) by a 75 to 26 vote (with one present not voting). With 102 members present, the House had a quorum. Democrats were quick to point out that the record would reflect the fact that the bill had no committee hearing, no testimony and no (public) debate.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:06 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

A Call on the House

By Byron LaMasters

I just heard on the radio that there is a call on the House to find 5 more representatives to produce a quorum. They're looking for Representatives in the building, but not on the House floor, but no one knows where the majority of representatives are. Whether the representatives can be arrested outside of the capitol is debatable.

Want to watch the House? Click here.

And the Senate (non) action is here.

Via Save Texas Reps.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Good Taste?

By Byron LaMasters

So here's where the Senate Democrats are staying. I approve. So does Mark.

The only concern of mine is that it looks kind of nice.... a little too resort-like. Still, I think that Democrats need to remind voters that they chose the location because Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) who had a heart attack last month, would have access to the type of facilities needed to help him fully recover.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:02 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Senate Democrats Press Conference

By Byron LaMasters

It's over now, but the 11 Democratic Senators in New Mexico held a press conference.

They said that Ken Armbrister (the Democrat that did not go) respected their position and that they respected his. The Democrats in New Mexico said that Armbrister felt that he should stay in Austin and fight for his rural constituents.

State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos (D-Austin) and several others spoke on minority voting rights. The Republican plan diluted some minority districts and packed others.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) and others have said that they will return if the two thirds blocker bill would be included.

Sen. Mario Gallegos (D-Houston) gave a timeline of the redistricting process in 2001.

Sen. Judith Zafirini (D-Laredo) said that the input of the people of Laredo was ignored. They asked that their county not be divided, yet it was in Republican maps.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:32 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

No Quorum in House Today

By Byron LaMasters

The Senate isn't the only place where Democrats broke quorum yesterday, the Democratic State Representatives decided not to show up either. The Austin American Statesman reports:

The hunt for missing lawmakers has expanded to the Texas House.

The chamber was unable to produce a quorum when it met this morning at 10 a.m. Only 96 members of the 150-member showed up — four short of the number necessary to conduct business.

House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, ordered the doors locked and placed a call, or order to return, on those who are missing — mostly Democrats.

The 54 missing representatives are in addition to the 11 state Senators who fled the state Monday to prevent the Legislature from passing a bill on congressional redistricting. Gov. Rick Perry called a second special session Monday which can last for 30 days.

It is unclear whether the House members have merely stayed home or have left the state as well.

This is the first time in Texas history that both chambers have failed to have a quorum.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Awake Again

By Byron LaMasters

I just woke up, so expect some posts soon. I'm looking at editorials, and so far, so good. Take a look at the Dallas Morning News and San Antonio Express-News. Personally, I'm surprised with how strong the DMN editorial is. Usually, whenever they have a pro-Democratic editorial, they usually find someway to be critical of Democrats or say something good about Republicans in the process. This time, there there was only a little praise for Jeff Wentworth and a little critisism of previous Democratic maps, but the force of the editorial was directed on Perry.

Update: Via Off the Kuff are anti-redistricting editorials from the Austin American Statesman and the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

We must destroy this party to save it: a View from the DLC

By Andrew Dobbs

There was a time when I was proud to call myself a New Democrat. I believe that we ought to have a strong military, balanced budgets, a right to bear arms, strong businesses and I am a Southerner. The Democratic Leadership Council stands for all of these things, and as far as I can tell, so does the man that the DLC once praised as being the kind of governor they wanted other Democrats to be- Howard Dean. A rabid fiscal conservative with an “A” rating from the NRA and a market-driven health care proposal (as opposed to ur-DLCer Bill Clinton’s socialized single-payer system) ought to be the DLC’s go to guy in 2004. Especially if this guy is building the kind of grassroots support that Howard Dean is. But alas, Adam Nagourney of the New York Times reports:

Al From, the founder of the organization and an ally of Mr. Clinton, invoked the sweeping defeats of George McGovern in 1972 and Walter F. Mondale in 1984 as he cautioned against a return to policies — including less emphasis on foreign policy and an inclination toward expanding the size of government — that he said were a recipe for another electoral disaster

The warning, by the Democratic Leadership Council, an organization of moderate Democrats that helped move the party to the center 10 years ago, was largely a response to the popularity enjoyed in early presidential primary states by Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont.

The DLC seems uninterested in electing a Democrat unless it is their Democrat. Their fear might be an honest one- perhaps they truly believe that Howard Dean is a hopeless liberal who will lose dramatically to George Bush. But their very rhetoric, calling Dean supporters elitists who are out of touch with the “real” Democratic Party, is ignorant and destructive. Maybe it is your classic Southern apprehension for Yankees, but wherever it comes from it is uninformed and unnecessary. Furthermore, their grasp of demographics and Democratic electoral politics over the last 25 years seems to be feeble at best. Dan Balz writes in the Washington Post:

Dramatic erosion in support among white men has left the Democrats in a highly vulnerable position and unless the party strongly repositions itself, President Bush will be virtually impossible to beat in 2004, according to a new poll commissioned for the centrist Democratic Leadership Council (DLC).

Hmmm…. white men eh? We haven’t won that demographic since the mid 1970s. Our electoral success is built on a coalition of women, liberals, union members and ethnic minorities. Let’s also point out that Democratic support has grown dramatically among college-educated professionals, Hispanics, Asians and suburban women- four of the fastest-growing demographics in the country. The DLC seems to want to out-Republican the Republicans and we will always lose that game.

Polls suggest that our country is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats with about 15-20% of the population identifying themselves as Independents. The Republicans have won elections by sticking to a hard right program that turns out the vast majority of their base, and then softening it up with good images and rhetoric that get the few points of swing voters they need to win. Democrats have abandoned our base and so we are left grasping at 75% of the swing voters and we lose. If we can nominate a Democrat like Howard Dean that gets our base excited to vote again through grassroots organizing, plus keep pulling in many of the swing voters that are attracted to his moderate qualities we will beat Bush in a landslide.

Additionally, Al From and Bruce Reed need to remember that the President is elected by the electoral college. Democrats hold 260 votes that would be hard for us to lose, these are states dominated by post-industrial metropolitan areas that are home to minorities and college-educated professionals, the two most Democratic demographics. That means that an additional big state (Florida, Arizona, Ohio, Missouri) or a combination of a few smaller states (Louisiana and Arkansas, Nevada and West Virginia) will mean a victory for the Democrat. This effort will be much harder if the Democratic Party appears to be divided. What if Howard Dean is the candidate? All of the DLC’s bluster and dishonest rhetoric will feed right into the GOP’s hands. They’ll portray our candidate as a liberal out of touch even with his own party and they’ll have “Democrat Al From himself” to put on their commercials. Let’s say that one of the DLCers makes the ballot. The ill will they’ve sown among many of the party faithful who are supporting Dean will create an anti-candidate backlash and our party will look like a bickering, in-fighting group of people that can’t agree on anything against a Republican Party united and cooperative under a strong leader like Bush.

The DLC ought to put out position papers and ought to stress the values it believes in, but it ought to leave the name-calling and bomb-throwing at home. They might be surprised to see that the people they call out the hardest are actually the ones most likely to serve them.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 09:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Something I've never done before

By Byron LaMasters

I called a radio talk show. I called the Charley Jones Show. I guess it was because I was listening to the Gary McNamara Show (on WBAP 820) who was going on about Democrats changing the rules, and then Charley Jones was doing the same Republican talking points. I decided to call in and say that it was the Republicans that were changing the rules. They changed the rules about redistricting. We redistrict every ten years. Charley Jones said that Democrats redistricted every two or three years throughout the 1990s, but that was because the courts mandated it. Never before has the legislature taken up Congressional redistricting in mid-decade without a court mandate. That's the republicans changing the rules. I wanted to make a point on the Republicans changing the rules by withdrawing the blocker bill, but I didn't have a chance. Oh well. I'm glad I did it. I'm actually happy. A lot of the callers are defending the Democrats, and a lot of the callers are independents. One guy that I just listened to, voted for Perry and most of the Republicans, but voted for Kirk, Sharp and Martin Frost and was happy that the Democrats left because he leaned Republican, but liked his congressman, Martin Frost. There's so many people like that across the state. I tried to make that point. I said that 20 of the 32 seats leaned Republican, and that Max Sandlin, Jim Turner, Chet Edwards, Charlie Stenholm and Ralph Hall won in Republican districts, and that if Republicans wanted to win those seats, they ought to run better candidates. Anyway, it will be interesting to see what polling shows about this.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:53 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 28, 2003

Open Thread

By Byron LaMasters

I'm heading out for the evening (I was going to head out for the afternoon and evening about four hours, but it alas, it wasn't meant to be. It's amazing how blogging can control your life). Jim may post on here later if anything new develops, otherwise I'll plan on posting more late tonight. If there is anything breaking, check in with Charles, Political State Report, the Quorum Report or Save Texas Reps and of course the Texas newspaper links (see right hand column below).

If anyone else has anything new on the story, post it in the comments. Thanks.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:59 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Gary McNamara

By Byron LaMasters

Lord, if anyone else in Dallas wants to listen to a right-wing hack go on and on about how the Democrats are worthless and changing the rules, turn on Gary McNamara at WBAP 820. Think of a cheap version of Rush Limbaugh. It's rather entertaining. Damn liberal media, right?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:51 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Layout Mess

By Byron LaMasters

Not sure what happened to my margins, here, but I'll take a look at my html code tonight to see what happened. It's very weird... earlier today, for no apparent reason, both left and right margins just disappeared. Weird.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Royce West from Albuquerque

By Byron LaMasters

State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) just spoke on KRLD 1080. He said that he and the other 10 Democrats are in Albuquerque, and are willing to stay there for 30 days (for the entire session). He said that the Senators are in contact with Republicans in Austin, and that the Democrats are willing to come back if David Dewhurst puts the blocker bill back into effect. That would require a two-thirds vote to bring up any bill out of order, as is the senate tradition.

Interestingly, I heard a No on 12 radio ad during the comercial break after the interview.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:17 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Perry's Statement

By Byron LaMasters

Well, Rob has directed me to the statement made by Governor Rick Perry earlier today:

Jul. 28, 2003

Statement of Gov. Rick Perry on Special Session

AUSTIN - Gov. Rick Perry today released the following statement:

"Today a minority of members in the state Senate prevented the Senate from finishing important work and killed legislation that would have generated an additional $800 million to help meet the priorities of our citizens.

"I am saddened by the fact that we will not be able to put hundreds of millions of dollars into a number of priorities. We could have spent that money to boost Medicaid payments for home care services, to help pregnant women receive Medicaid services, to expand health insurance for children of working families, to provide HIV medications for afflicted Texans, to train new doctors, or to address a number of other health and human service needs.

"Today's developments are disappointing - not just to me - but to the many Texans who would benefit from the services $800 million would provide.

"That's why today I am calling another special session. These priorities need to be addressed, and Texans deserve a vote on these issues and more."

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:43 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Confirmed: 11 Dem. Senators in New Mexico

By Byron LaMasters

The San Antonio Express News reports:

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, a San Antonio Democrat and chairwoman of her party’s Senate caucus, flew to Albuquerque, N.M., today with the 10 other senators on two private jets.

“We're all of us sitting here around the conference table” at an airport in Albuquerque, said Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen.

Hinojosa, who declined to say who owned the aircraft the Democrats took to New Mexico, said they would stay away “as long as necessary” to kill the redistricting effort.

My radio is tuned to KRLD 1080 in Dallas. I hope that they'll cover the press conference. Otherwise I'll try another station, but the Democratic Senators ought to have a press conference very soon, via Quorum Report:

July 28, 2003 5:21 PM
The Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid
Press conference imminent

Update: KRLD has said that they'll be interviewing Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) in the next 30 minutes.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

DPS Ruling Info

By Byron LaMasters

Not sure exactly what this means, but here's what the Quorum Report just said:

July 28, 2003 5:02 PM

Dewhurst puts out a call on missing senators.
In a crowded courtroom, Judge Campbell today withheld his final signature on an order preventing DPS from seeking out missing House members.

The reason he postponed issuing a final order was that the Jeff Boyd from the Office of the Attorney General claimed he had been denied due process in arguing the merits of the issue. He told a somewhat incredulous Campbell that he had only argued on whether or not the court had jurisdiction in the matter.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Media Spin Begins

By Byron LaMasters

Just finished listening to State Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) whine on the radio about how the Senate Democrats were abdicating their responsibility, and that it's their fault that the Senate won't be able to deal with important issues like school finance and government reorganization. Their fault? What a joke. Both of those issues could have been taken care of in the past 30 days had Republicans been interested in solving them, as opposed to fighting amongst themselves over the best way to screw senior congressmen like Martin Frost, Chet Edwards and Charlie Stenholm who bring millions of dollars to our state every year.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:54 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

New Mexico Bound!

By Byron LaMasters

The San Antonio Express News reports:

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, was flying to Albuquerque, N.M., aides said. It was unclear if other Senate Democrats were also leaving the state and if that city was their common destination.

In remarks videotaped for distribution to local TV stations, Perry characterized his call for the second session as reason to free up $800 million for state budget priorities. He did not mention his request, made in his formal proclamation, that members again take on redistricting.

In a letter released today, Van de Putte said: “We have been called back to Austin to debate this phantom priority at the cost of $1.7 million per month,” a reference to the estimated cost of a special session.

“In light of the many more pressing issues facing Texas families, I am dumbfounded how Republicans can justify spending so much money on such a self-serving issue,” her statement said.

“For these reasons I have decided to break Texas Senate quorum along with 10 of my colleagues to prevent a vote on congressional redistricting,” Van de Putte said. “This is not a decision I have taken lightly, this is an extreme measure that is being used in what we consider an extreme instance."

I'm sure that Gov. Bill Richardson will give them a warm welcome.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Senate 1 Short of Quorum, House short 15

By Byron LaMasters

A new session has started and neither the House nor the Senate has a quorum, the Austin American Statesman reports:

The Texas Legislature has reconvened for its second special session, even though it appears that a third of the Senate has fled the Capitol.

After a whirlwind afternoon, House Speaker Tom Craddick read a proclamation from Gov. Rick Perry at 3:15 p.m. calling the Legislature back to deal with the subject of congressional redistricting.

Craddick then convened the House, but with only 85 representatives present the House, like the Senate, was short a quorum. It was unclear whether the absences in the House were part of a coordinated boycott, but many of the missing representatives were Democrats — including the Austin Democratic delegation.

The Senate was also expected to reconvene on Monday, but eleven senators failed to show up for Monday's earlier session and were unlikely to reappear.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Arnold Says Hasta La Vista, Riordan Gets Ready

By Andrew Dobbs

So, the California Insider says that Arnold will not run for Governor, Fox News (I hope you'll understand my not linking to this particular "news" outlet) dittos. Richard Riordan, the moderate Republican former mayor of LA who would have beat Gray Davis in 2002 had Davis not outsmarted him by killing him off during the GOP primary, will almost certainly run now.

Darrell Issa, Tom McClintock and Mike Huffington who I misidentified as a former Gubenatorial candidate (he ran for Senate) and converted Democrat (he's still a Republican despite being gay) are all running. With Riordan in the race we will have to solid conservatives in Issa and McClintock and two moderates in Huffington and Riordan. Bill Simon is likely to run as well and he will be a third conservative. No Democrats are running and Peter Camejo is running for the Green Party.

In a situation with 5 Republicans, including a split for moderates and a split for conservatives, with no Dems and a Green, there is a chance that Green Party candidate Peter Camejo could end up winning the second half of the ballot and if enough Republicans show up to pass the first line, Green Party Gubenatorial candidate and former Socialist Workers Party Presidential Candidate Peter Camejo could end up as chief executive of the world's fifth largest economy. You think there's a fiscal crisis now? Things are about to get very interesting.

Earlier in one of the comments sections Byron asked which would be worse, Camejo or Riordan replacing Davis. The fact of the matter is that I suspect that Davis will remain in office, but I believe that Camejo would do less damage. California Repulicans are in such disarray that the only hope they have of winning a race is to have a fanatic bankroll a recall of the Democratic governor. Having a Republican in that office would give them the visibility, the leadership and the organization to rebuild and provide a real challenge for Democrats in 2004 and 2006. I don't think that Bush can win California, but I do think that Riordan's victory could provide the infrastructure to create a real challege for the assembly, senate and some congressional seats- all of which are crucial. This could lay the foundation for a GOP California by 2008. A Riordan victory gives a major party that has been struggling a much needed shot in the arm.

A Camejo election on the other hand would be a huge victory for the Greens but I'm not sure that the California GOP has the ability to capitalize on this. A small number of Green candidates will be much stronger than they have in the past, but the GOP is still disorganized enough that they can't take advantage of this change. Additionally, areas where the Greens will do very well are either so liberal the GOP can't win there anyways or so conservative that no Dems run there in the first place. I suspect that a few Assembly seats might go the Greens' way, but they will most likely side with the Democrats anyways so it will work out in the end. Will there be a few places where an invigorated Green leaches votes away from a weak Dem and gives the seat to a Republican? Probably, but I think this is less dangerous than Republicans winning these races without any help. The Dems will remain strong no matter the outcome, at least in the short term. Would we rather them paired with a strong GOP and stronger Green Party or a strong Green Party and weak GOP? The latter is clearly better.

The answer to these problems is to put a Democrat on the ticket. Leon Panetta, Cruz Bustamante or Diane Feinstein could all run anti-recall campaigns telling voters to stand against the right-wing coup attempt but to cast their votes for a Democrat just in case. If Panetta or Bustamante are on the ballot, it'll be a tough fight. If Feinstein is anywhere on it Davis is gone and she becomes Governor- not a bad scenario. The Dems need to get their house in order or we face a very weird 3 years in the Golden State.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 03:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

2nd Special Session Begins with No Quorum

By Byron LaMasters

The Houston Chronicle just added this:

The second special session officially began at 3:15 p.m. with congressional redistricting as the only issue in the governor's proclamation. Neither the House nor the Senate had a quorum.

There is no mention of the proclaimation on Perry's website or on the House or Senate sites.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

More on PSR

By Byron LaMasters

Charles just beat me to it on Political State Report. He put about what I was going to say. Everyone is basically confused at this point.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Perry to Call new Session at 3 PM

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin American Statesman reports:

The current special session is expected to come to an end a day early, with both chambers adjourning this afternoon.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said he expects Gov. Rick Perry to immediately call a special session to start this afternoon. It is unclear whether some Democratic senators will show up for the session, amid rumors that they may be locked in the Capitol chamber.

A spokesman for House Speaker Tom Craddick also confirmed the report, although Perry had not made an announcement.

Dewhurst said he had hoped to wait until Tuesday, the final day the 30-day session could run, because he wanted the Legislature to adopt a sweeping government reorganization bill. As the clock ran on the first session, that bill's future in the House dimmed.

"It sounds as if, what I'm hearing from the House, is that at least they're under the understanding that they're coming back for a special session between 3 and 3:30 this afternoon," Dewhurst said.

The Quorum Report says that both House and Senate Democrats have left the Texas Capitol, and that neither will have a quorum when the session begins. The Houston Chronicle has the best coverage:

An unknown number of Democratic state senators abruptly left the state Capitol this afternoon after learning that Gov. Rick Perry planned to immediately call a second special session on congressional redistricting.

One Democratic senator who asked not to be named, told the Chronicle in a phone interview that senators were apparently on their way out of town.

"I have no idea where we're going. I just know in a little bit we will be out of pocket," the senator said.

He would not say how many senators had left but called it an "adequate" number to break a quorum and keep the Senate from conducting business.

The Senate requires two-thirds, or 21 senators, to be present to conduct business, meaning the absence of 11 senators could break a quorum. There are 12 Democrats in the Senate.

The senator said the action was precipitated by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's decision to bypass a traditional Senate rule that requires a two-thirds vote to debate any bill.

That rule, which has been in effect during the current special session, has so far blocked redistricting in the Senate.

The senator said the Democrats fled because they feared Perry would immediately call a second special session and Dewhurst would lock down the Senate chambers and prevent members from leaving.

The first session was to end by midnight Tuesday, but the Senate adjourned at 2:30 p.m. and the House also did so at 3:10 p.m.

Dewhurst earlier had told reporters Perry was expected to call a second special session minutes after both houses adjourned.

Of the 12 Democratic senators, the only one to show up for a 2 p.m. session today was Ken Armbrister of Victoria.

In May, more than 50 representatives hid out for several days to block action on congressional redistricting, forcing the governor to call a special session.

Judge Campbell will rule at 3:30 PM if the DPS can be used to search for the Democrats.

Holy Shit.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Democrats Gone

By Byron LaMasters

Quorum Report is reporting.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Republican Abuse of Power: Part 2

By Byron LaMasters

Last week, I blogged on a recurring pattern of Republican power abuse. Well, this weekend we saw it again. The Dallas Morning News reported that a the "House Working Group on Judicial Accountability" has been formed to expose "activist judges":

"Many subscribe to the notion that judges are above it all, that the judiciary is sacred and should be left alone. We say: wrong," Mr. Smith said. "Shining a spotlight on the abuses will go a long way to correcting them. ... This is the beginning of many steps, many news conferences and many reports."

Four Texans are on the 13-member House Working Group on Judicial Accountability: Mr. Smith, chairman of a House Judiciary subcommittee; House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land; John Carter of Round Rock, who spent 20 years as a state district judge; and John Culberson of Houston.

"We in the House are putting America's judges on alert: We are watching you," said Mr. DeLay.

And they even call for impeachment.

In 1997, as GOP whip – the 3rd-ranked House member – he proclaimed that impeachment was a "proper solution" when judges issue "particularly egregious" rulings. And he said "judges need to be intimidated" to ensure they uphold the Constitution.


Impeachment isn't the goal of the latest effort, Mr. Smith said, though once the research starts coming in, "there may be an instance in which that's called for ... . We don't have anybody in mind."

Right. Sounds like another tactic to expediate the right-wing takeover of our courts. Somehow, these folks aren't nearly as interested in preventing judicial activism when it's conservatives doing it, by failing to uphold civil rights laws or disregarding the first amendment.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Hillary's New Site

By Byron LaMasters

It's official! Hillary's running... running... running for re-election in 2006. And you, yes you can sign up to be one of Hill's Angels! What gear are you in?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Culberson Says Perry will call immediate session

By Byron LaMasters

Rob Booth posts an mass email sent from Rep. John Culberson (R-Houston), stating that Rick Perry will call a second special session immediately, and that redistricting will be over by the end of the week. This suggestion confirms much of the paranoia that Democratic Senators have that a session will be called before Democratic Senators have a chance to get out of the capitol, should they decide to break quorum.

On Tuesday, the First Called Special Session of the Texas Legislature will end, and another one will be called immediately to finish redistricting Texas' 32 congressional seats. It is highly likely that the entire process could be over very quickly, and if so, it is possible that our Congressional District 7 could be carved up and sent out into central Texas. This has almost happened on four previous times, and this week the final, most crucial map will be drawn.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's Lance!

By Byron LaMasters

Hell yeah! It may seem like a broken record, but I'm still amazed with his story every year he wins the Tour de France. Congrats to our hometown hero, once again.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Must Attend" Dem. Senate Meeting

By Byron LaMasters

We may know today what the Senate Democrats plan to do. Senate Democratic Leader Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) has called a "must attend" caucus meeting at noon. Via the Quorum Report

Van de Putte has organized a "must attend" Senate Democratic Caucus meeting for 12 noon on Monday. Before even thinking of finalizing plans for a walkout, the Democrats must check into the feasibility of Gov. Rick Perry or Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst putting a restraining order on them.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 27, 2003


By Byron LaMasters

Well, as you may have noticed, I took the weekend off from blogging. Thanks to Jim and Andrew for filling in for a little bit. The weekend hiatus was unannounced, as I didn't really plan on it. But, well, I got to play host all weekend to my friend Sam from San Antonio. We went to a bunch of 21+ bars in Dallas that I had never been to before, went shopping, and along with Dustin, went to a young Democrats party on the 23rd floor of an apartment in downtown Dallas. Awesome place! I can definitely say that Dave has my vote for President of the Dallas YD's for life! Today, we saw Seabiscuit, and no, I didn't run into any of the Kucinich forces. I'll blog on my thoughts on the movie in the next day or two. It's definitely worth seeing.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 26, 2003

And now Bill White does his Al Gore impression...

By Jim Dallas

More ads in the Houston mayoral race... more gripes from the Burnt Orange ad critic.

Businessman Bill White, who is also running for mayor of Houston, has recently started running television ads locally. They get the message across... but also seem to be a little wooden and dull.

During the spot, White (dressed in standard black business attire) stands in front of a white background and hits a few talking points without an excessive amount of emotion or movement.

The ad seems intended to introduce us low-information voters to White. Sort of like how those Matrix:Reloaded/Powerade cross-promotion ads were supposed to introduce us to green Powerade.

Publius writes:

Mainly, I just wish Mr. White could cut a television ad where he doesn't have that pained expression on his face. I mean, my gawd, do we really want a mayor who grimaces every time he deigns to talk to us voters about how brilliant he is?

My thought exactly; 'cept he'll be your mayor, not mine (but I'll spare you the standard lecture on the shenanigans at Galveston City Hall).

IN ANY CASE, I happen to like White, and his ads are at least intended for grownups (paging Michael Berry!).

Posted by Jim Dallas at 11:17 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 25, 2003

Okie from Muskogee blasts Bush's war

By Jim Dallas

Back when I posted on the Dixie Chick baring all, I took a little heat for being out of touch with the legends of country music.

Well... that problem didn't take long to fix.

Merle Haggard, who is probably best known for berating hippies and Vietnam protesters in songs like "The Fightin' Side of Me," and "Proud to be an Okie from Muskogee" (parodied by Kinky Friedman in "Asshole from El Paso"), has broken into the news again - and this time he's not so bellicose.

(In fairness, Haggard did a lot of other stuff too, "Rainbow Stew" and various collaborations of "Pancho and Lefty" being favorites).

Last month, Haggard expressed doubts about Iraqi WMDs and the war on terrorism:

"When you're tearing down our country, whether it's from the inside or the outside, I'm against it. I'd like to see America proud and unafraid again,” he said. “And I don't know if that will ever occur in my lifetime ... But that's what I hope."


And Haggard says he has questions about the aftermath of the war in Iraq and the war on terror.

“I wish we could find some weapons of mass destruction and I wish we could find Saddam Hussein (search). I wish we could find Usama bin Laden (search), and is it really going to happen, is there a chance of that, or is it just going to be swept under the carpet and forgot about?”

The cut of "That's the News" (part of a forthcoming new Merle album, to be released in September) reflects a lot of those doubts - and goes a lot farther than the Fox News story (above) last month suggested.

Nonetheless, audience reaction to Haggard was positive in Southern California (as the LA Times reports):

Just moments after 1,000 or so fans attending the Electric Barnyard tour cheered a spirited rendition of "Fightin' Side," a hush fell as Haggard began the new song in this agricultural center, where an electronic sign on the edge of town states the time, the temperature and "God Bless America":

Suddenly it's over

The war is finally done

Soldiers in the desert sand

Still clinging to a gun.

No one is the winner

And everyone must lose

Suddenly the war is over

That's the news.

It's usually hard for audiences to absorb a song on first listening, and a few fans sitting on lawn chairs in front of the stage seemed puzzled about references to "tabloids" being back in style and "someone missing in Modesto." But the crowd applauded strongly at the end. A few even held their beer cups high in salute.

The song's key line is the one about the news, Haggard said earlier in the week in San Bernardino, another stop on the ambitious, grass-roots tour that fellow singer Marty Stuart designed to reexamine country music's small-town roots.

"It's terrible what happened to that woman and her baby, but on the stage of world topics, how can that be the biggest news every day?" Haggard asked, referring to the apparent murder last December of Laci Peterson and her unborn son.

"Where is the importance? Who is calling the shots at the media, saying 'Let's take that feed from Modesto'? Doesn't that make you want to say, 'Hold it, we've got these men and women over there in Iraq'?"

Haggard was standing in the back of his custom tour bus on the National Orange Show Events Center grounds, and it was clear that he's also frustrated by many of the issues surrounding the war —including the country's long-range policy.

In another line in the song, Haggard sings:

Politicians do all the talking

Soldiers pay the dues

Suddenly the war is over

That's the news.

"I'm the 'fightin side of me,' " Haggard said. "I'm gung-ho about everything our armed forces do. God bless them. They are over there and we ought to be proud. I hope they still have some over here, protecting us. We seem to be spreading ourselves too thin. We are talking about going into some other country, going to liberate somebody else.

"What is this? Are we just sort of stumbling around in the dark? Is there any long-term plan at all or are we just running our own wars as we go?"

Asked if he feels there is any contradiction between the questioning of "That's the News" and the flag-waving of songs such as "Okie From Muskogee" and "The Fightin' Side of Me," Haggard looked surprised.

"I think the guy who wrote 'Fightin' Side of Me' was a patriotic American and I think the guy who wrote this new song is also a patriotic American," he said.

In an editorial on his Web site, Haggard writes:

My closest buddy in 1951, had just got out of the Marine Corps, because they found out he was to young to be a Marine. Besides that, he received an undesirable discharge for whippin' his sergeant. He wanted to reenlist because he was now 18. He straightened up his past don't you see. I was 14 and we thought it might be better to change our names. We enlisted under the names of Bobby Eugene and Roy Leslie Davis. Point being we wanted more than anything to be Marines during the Korean conflict. My older brother James L and cousin Gerald harp were both decorated Marines and saw active battle in world war 2 in the battle of Okinawa, Iwo Jima, and Patalou, I went to both of their funerals with my family. I still get goose bumps when I think about the 21-gun salute and the Marine with a tear in his eye who handed the flag to my brother's wife, Fran. I doubt there are few who care more about the flag than I do.

I went to volunteer for the Marines at the tender age of 14 and I'm convinced I would have given my life. I'm sure if necessary. I'd do the same today. But 14-year olds don't ask questions and they certainly don't begin to understand politics. This nation has a history of being a warrior. Young men always pay the dues. And it was America's way to always be behind what America was doing. And the issues and the reasons why were always argued after the fact. Speaking of after the fact it's a national shame the way we treat our vets. You see, to be an American you want to respect everything you know about this great country. Those who have the gumption to investigate, know that the reputation of honesty between the government and the people cannot reflect the reason for a single man to have confidence in what were doing in current day conditions. I'm suspicious, I'm paranoid, and I'm afraid. And the person who says he isn't has not looked up or around lately.

I don't even know the Dixie chicks, but I find it an insult for all the men and women who fought and died in past wars when almost the majority of America jumped down their throats for voicing an opinion. It was like a verbal witch-hunt and lynching. Whether I agree with their comments or not has no bearing. And in the same breath let me say that I have become a fan of this new little kid, Toby Keith. There is some humor in me calling Toby Keith little. God bless this great country and I pray he keeps a close eye on us in these last days. And God knows the headlines of today surely indicate that were living in that time now. Seems lately we're awfully quick to criticize and pleased with ourselves to be part of the majority. As a country we need to look inward for the answers to the energy of the future. We need to bring down our demands for oil, rebuild some bridges and highways and allow the farmers to grow something that replenishes the soil. Those who don't know what that is, should do some research. The problem is not in Iraq and the answers are not in Iran. I hope were not buried alive beneath this pending financial collapse if the pipeline doesn't get through. Surely everything doesn't depend on oil!

So to summarize, we've got one of the greatest country music stars of all time (and not Willie Nelson, either!) saying that the war in Iraq is:

  • about politics and oil
  • putting our troops at risk
  • making America less safe
  • sowing division and discord

Sounds like Bush is walking on the fightin' side of him - and let's not forget, Haggard almost singularly gave us the patriotic catchphrase "Love it Or Leave It."

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:09 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Gephardt's Missed Vote

By Andrew Dobbs

(Before I begin this post, I suppose I should make it clear that my opinions concerning the race for President or Howard Dean are my opinions and only my opinions. I do not speak on behalf of Dean for America or anybody but myself. Period.)

So, let's say you are a liberal US Rep that really likes the Head Start program. Not hard to imagine. Now let's say that Tom DeLay and Bill Frist and George Bush have decided to gut the hell out of Head Start. Also not hard to imagine, unfortunately. Now, let's say that there is a vote up on that bill in the US Congress. If you were a good congressman, the caliber of guy that ought to be elected President, you'd make sure to be there for that vote. Especially if its the kind of vote that's close enough that your one vote makes an incredible difference- if you are POTUS material, you'll be in that chamber.

Unless you are Dick Gephardt.

Democratic presidential hopeful Dick Gephardt missed a House vote Friday on a Republican-backed bill that would overhaul the landmark Head Start education program, a measure that survived in the House by a hairbreadth margin.

The 217-216 Republican victory came after midnight Thursday and was so tenuous that Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla., recovering from a car accident, was brought in by wheelchair. But Gephardt, the former House Minority leader, had left Thursday evening for a two-day campaign swing through South Carolina, and the Head Start vote became one of hundreds he has missed this year.

The only other lawmaker who failed to make the vote was Democratic Rep. Ed Pastor, who was on a late flight returning from Arizona after attending to his ill father.

The above comes from the San Francisco Chronicle and it goes on to say that ol' G-Fart has missed over 350 votes this term. They also get two of Dick's buddies in the House- Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer- to point out that if he'd shown up the GOP probably would have busted out a few more votes they had waiting for them to kill the bill anyways. Maybe they are right, maybe they are wrong. The fact that they dragged their guy there in a wheelchair makes me think that maybe the GOP was feeling the heat on this one. I suspect that Nancy and Steny are right, but that doesn't change the fact that Dick Gephardt missed an opportunity to exercise his power as a member of the United States House of Representatives to lodge the opposition of his constituents- many of which are probably participants in Head Start, as he represents a largely urban district- to a bill that would gut one of the most popular and successful social programs of the last 40 years. Dick Gephardt was elected by the people of St. Louis to represent them in that chamber, not to run for President, and he has failed them 350 times this year- that is unacceptable.

I'll never forget the first day I worked in the Texas House for Rep. Jim McReynolds and I sat with him, our Legislative Aide Heather Fleming and Rep. Scott Hochberg of Houston. Jim and Rep. Hochberg got to talking school finance, and repeated a discussion that I'd heard many of my friends have before. But then it struck me- these men were't participating in an intellectual exercise- they had the power to make a difference on these matters. Dick Gephardt has taken that power for granted and if anything disqualifies him from being President, it is his unwillingness to do what he can, with what he has, where he is. If there is anything that suggests that someone ought not be President, it is that.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 04:16 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Redistricting Dead... for Now

By Byron LaMasters

The San Antonio Express-News reports:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst confirmed Friday that congressional redistricting will not be debated or voted on by the full Senate before the term ends next week, but he vowed that "sooner or later" a new plan will get approved.

"In essence, redistricting in this session is dead," Dewhurst said. "We will continue to do everything we can to bring everyone together."

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:10 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Fruitcake Flap

By Byron LaMasters

Well, it looks like Democrats are anti-gay and hypocrites for not criticizing Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) for calling Rep. Scott McInnis (R-CO) a fruitcake during the now infamous Ways and Means Committee meeting. Nice try. If you'll recall, that was the meeting where Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA) called the capitol police to evict the Democratic members of the committee from the library. Typically, Fox News has the story. And not only that, they shamelessly embellish it:

Republican sources also claim that during the chaotic scene in the committee, Stark fired another gay slur in the direction of Chairman Thomas. The word is too vulgar to print in full, but the last half of it is "sucker."

Big whoop. I guess Stark called Thomas a cocksucker. OK. So, why isn't the gay community out lynching Stark? Well, it’s obvious. Stark has a perfect lifetime rating from the Human Rights Campaign. It was a poor choice of words, sure, but it was a heated exchange where several people lost their tempers. So what is appropriate and what isn't? I think that the way to look at these things is to look to see if there was malicious intent or an alarming amount of insensitivity. When someone like Dick Armey calls Barney Frank "Barney Fag", that’s pretty malicious in my opinion, and it's extremely insensitive. It's hard to see Stark as maliciously targeting gays, because he's been one of the gay communities strongest allies in his political career. Sure, his comments show some insensitivity, but not what I would call an alarming amount. Call it double standards all you want, but his apology, in my opinion is sufficient.

“Much has been made today about my conduct in the Ways and Means Committee markup of HR 1776. Let’s be clear. I am not the issue here. Never was I approached by a police officer or questioned about what happened.

“The issue is that the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee called the police to throw Democrats out of a room where they were meeting to determine how to respond to a bill we first saw this morning. It is yet another step in there continued effort to shut out Democrats and stifle debate.

“Sometimes I feel so passionate about an issue that I am not as diplomatic as I should be. Whatever was said, I never physically threatened anyone. I did exchange words that were not becoming of my office. I regret that.

“Republicans are using my intemperate words as a diversionary tactic. Republicans cannot stand up and defend the calling of the police to remove Democrats from a room in the people’s House. Chairman Thomas’ behavior today should not be allowed in a democracy. It’s reminiscent of a police state, not America. That’s the issue.”

Well, good job. End of story? Of course not. Fox News, and their allies (see: Rod Dreher @ Jul 25, 11:25 AM) are trying to make Stark's wisecracks the story, instead of the undemocratic behavior of Bill Thomas. Even more amusing is the fact that Florida Congressman *ahem* closet case *ahem* Congressman Mark Foley was quoted in the FOX News article.

Now, one Republican wants to know where is the outrage at the Democrat for his seemingly intolerant remarks.

"This isn't the first time. That's the problem here. The Democrats fail to recognize this is an ongoing problem," said Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla.

This is coming from someone who has held a press conference for the sole purpose of addressing gay rumors, where he called accusations that he was gay as "revolting and unforgivable", but refused to deny that he was gay. At the time, I wrote this:

If calling him gay is, as Foley says, "revolting and unforgivable", then you would think that Foley would also say that he's not gay. Instead, one can only assume that Foley is gay, but considers it, and himself to be revolting. Sounds like a bad attitude to me.

I'm amused. Back to reality, guys.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:55 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Wacky Search Results

By Byron LaMasters

It's good to know that my site was of interest to the person who found it via a "foreplay fun" search on AOL. Amusing, but my friend Chris had the best google seach referral. Someone found his site from a google search of cell phones vibrating give orgasm. Nice.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Michael Savage for Governor?

By Byron LaMasters

Yikes! This could really be a circus. Why don't we start a Draft Savage for Senate site? I'd love to see him run against Barbara Boxer next year. Talk about a platform to turn out Hispanics. Here's the platform from Savage's exploritory site for Governor:

I am exploring a platform based on:

  1. Enforcing Proposition 187, a ballot initiative approved by the people of the state that would have ended taxpayer subsidization of medical and education services for illegal aliens. Savage contends enforcement of the initiative would save California taxpayers $8 billion to $10 billion.
  2. The deportation of all criminal illegal aliens in the state. Savage says this action would save $3 billion to $5 billion.
  3. Hospitalization of the mentally-ill homeless. Again, Savage claims this would save $3 billion to $5 billion dollars in welfare payments.
  4. Enforce another state ballot initiative declaring English the official language. If you can't speak English, then don't vote in our elections. If you're too lazy to learn how to speak, read or write English, then don't vote in our elections. English only on all ballots. English only in all business dealings in the state of California.

Want to encourage Savage to run? Send him an Email! Run Savage, run!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:18 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

More Signs of a Walkout

By Byron LaMasters

Charles has it covered. Yesterday several Democratic Senators were pretty open about their intentions:

Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, said he believes 11 of the Senate's 12 Democrats are committed to a walkout if they decide it is necessary to stop redistricting. He said he hopes Perry will back off and not call another special session.


"I'm ready to walk," said Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, the Senate's longest-serving member.


Asked to rate the possibility of a Senate walkout on a scale of one to 10, Whitmire jokingly replied: "About 11."

Then, with a straight face, he said: "I can only tell you it's a very serious option."

Meanwhile, the legal battle over what the DPS can or cannot do continues:

Democratic state senators contemplating a walkout to block congressional redistricting might be constitutionally protected from arrest by state police if they flee the Capitol, a lawyer has advised the senators.

Criminal defense attorney Keith Hampton also told the Senate Democratic Caucus that an arrest by a Senate sergeant at arms or a private security agency to force senators to the Senate floor for a vote might be prosecutable as kidnapping under state law.

"And it gets worse than that. If someone in the Legislature directed them to do that, there is the crime of conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping," punishable by up to life in prison, Hampton told the Houston Chronicle Thursday.


Fifty-five state House Democrats blocked redistricting in last spring's regular session by fleeing the Capitol to break quorum.

State troopers searched for those legislators, but state District Judge Charles Campbell, a Democrat, said earlier this month that he plans to rule in a civil suit arising from the search that it violated state law.

Attorney General Greg Abbott plans to appeal Campbell's order once it has been filed.

Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, evaded questions about whether he would order the Democrats arrested if they broke the Senate quorum.

"I will continue to follow state law. I understand that (Campbell's) ruling has been appealed by the attorney general," Dewhurst said.

Campbell's ruling applied state law, and Hampton said it will provide a starting point for any challenge to Department of Public Safety authority to bring in legislators who break quorum.

House Speaker Tom Craddick cited House rules in ordering the search for the missing state representatives in May. House Sergeant at Arms Rod Welch deputized the Texas Department of Public Safety to conduct the manhunt.

Hampton said the Senate sergeant at arms has the authority to deputize individuals to return runaway senators to the floor to restore a quorum. But he said there is a question of what is legal enforcement and what becomes kidnapping.

"I don't know if they (Senate leaders) can do anything more than make a major effort to persuade them, because a senator has every right to say no," Hampton said.

"They (senators) may find going home and mowing the lawn more productive."

Senate Sergeant at Arms Carleton Turner declined comment.

DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange said the agency has not decided what to do, in light of Campbell's ruling, if Democratic senators bolt.

"If we are asked to help in rounding up folks, I'm sure we will call the attorney general's office and consult with our lawyers and see what they want to do," Mange said.

Abbott spokeswoman Jane Shepperd said no appeal has been filed because Campbell has not officially entered his order.


Hampton said if the Democratic senators decide to break quorum, then Campbell's ruling likely will be used as the basis for a Texas Supreme Court challenge on whether the use of state police to enforce Senate rules violates constitutional separation of powers.

Article II of the state constitution defines the three "departments" or branches of state government.

It continues, "No person, or collection of persons, being of one of these departments, shall exercise any power properly attached to either of the others."

The DPS, an executive branch agency, would become an arm of the legislative branch if drawn into the search, Hampton said.

"It has been conveyed to DPS and the executive branch that they would be in violation of the constitution were they to interfere in the affairs of one single House or Senate member," Hampton said.

"I don't think your law enforcement agents want to be enforcing some political positions."

I'll be waiting for the fireworks next week!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Retaking the House?

By Byron LaMasters

As posted earlier, the tide seems to be suggest that Democrats may have some momentum in taking back the house. Another reason? Take a look at the results of the Gallup poll released today:

A new Gallup Poll shows that since January, there has been a significant shift in public sentiment about which of the two political parties in Congress can best deal with selected issues. The largest shift has been in the area of the economy, with Democrats now favored by 17 percentage points, while Republicans were favored by one point last January. Democrats' ratings have also improved in the areas of foreign affairs, the federal budget deficit, and the situation in Iraq (note: the poll was conducted before the Tuesday announcement that American forces had killed Saddam Hussein's two sons). On four other issues, there has been no change in ratings.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 24, 2003

Here Comes California...

By Andrew Dobbs

Alright, I know that this blog is known for its coverage of Texas news and I also know that most Texans look at California like the slightly deformed yet morbidly lovable mutt that it is, but as I work for a field desk that includes California and I am currently living with two Golden State-ers up here in Vermont, I have taken a shine to the whole recall fiasco over there so I wanted to crunch some numbers on this phenomenon here at BOR.

First, let’s look at the political make up of California. California is about 60/40 Democrat or Progressive. The state is also about 70/30 anti-Gray Davis right now. Almost all Republicans and more than half of all Democrats can’t stand the guy. The state is about 50/50 on recalling the Governor, meaning almost all Republicans and about 1/3 of all Dems would vote to recall him. California Dems tend to be very liberal and the Republicans tend to be very conservative. No Democrats have signed on to run on the recall ballot and the party is standing behind Davis, though columnist and prominent progressive Arianna Huffington has suggested she might run (my gut tells me no). Green Peter Camejo has announced he will run and US Rep. Darrell Issa, former LA Mayor Richard Riordan and former candidate Bill Simon will almost certainly run for the GOP. Many have suggested that movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger will run, but recent reports suggest otherwise. It only takes 65 signatures and $3500 or 10,000 signatures and no money to get on the ballot and candidates have until August 9 to file.

Chances are enough Dems will vote to keep Gray Davis in office that he won’t be recalled, but where’s the fun in that? Let’s look at what will happen if Davis is recalled.

Let’s assume that among several crazy candidates (as these special elections tend to bring out in droves) we have Camejo for the progressives and Issa, Riordan and Simon for the GOP. The Republicans break towards the conservative end of the spectrum (Issa and Simon). Simon is likely to end up better off than Issa simply because he has run for the office before and has good name ID and support. Issa can change this by pointing out that he has more experience and is smarter than Simon as Bill has never been elected to anything and he’s dumber than a pile of rocks. Riordan will get a small amount of GOP support but a large portion of the Dems will break his way as he is the closest thing to a Democrat in the race. The weird candidates will probably garner 5-10% of the vote (because of sheer volume). Camejo will get substantial support from the Greens (who will have good turnout) and liberal Dems- maybe garnering as much as 20%. Riordan will get the other 35% or so of the Dem vote and maybe 5% of the GOP vote- giving him a solid 40%. Issa and Simon will get 10-15% each. This means that if the recall succeeds, Riordan finishes a strong first, Camejo a distant but respectable second, Issa an even more distant third, Simon nipping at his heels and a bunch of nobodies celebrating their 78 votes statewide each. This is speculation, but it is informed speculation.

If Huffington throws her hat in the ring she gets almost all of Camejo’s votes, most of the Riordan Ds and perhaps even cuts into the moderate Rs a bit as her former husband is Mike Huffington, the one-time GOP congressman and gubernatorial candidate who revealed he was gay and is now a Democrat. She would also probably draw more Dems into voting yes on line one, thus making a recall more likely in the first place.
Arnold would get enough conservative Rs who don’t realize that he’s a moderate, plus a small number of moderates who do realize it and a whole mess of people who’ll turn out just to vote for a movie star that he’d have a good chance of winning in the crowded field. He’d leach off some of Riordan’s R support, a substantial portion of the Issa/Simon bloc and bring in a lot more independents. On the other hand I suspect that the people of California are smart enough to realize that a guy most famous for poorly repeating catchphrases in a thick Austrian accent would be a bad choice to balance a $38 billion budget deficit. If both Arnold and Huffington are in the race, the Democrats line up behind Arianna, the GOP behind Arnold and the woman who wrote a book entitled How to Overthrow the Government will show that she knew what she was talking about after all.

After all of this, here’s the scoop- Riordan if Arianna stays out, Arianna if she decides to run, Arnold if he runs and Arianna doesn’t. Once again, I think that if Arianna doesn’t run Davis doesn’t get recalled, so basically- Arianna if she runs, Davis if she doesn’t.

So what does this mean for us in Texas and the rest of the non-California world? A celebrity columnist and an action film star could be fighting it out to be governor of the nation’s most populous state. A Green Party candidate could garner 20% of the vote in a race for who will be the steward of the world’s 5th largest economy. A Republican could be the highest elected official in one of the country’s most Democratic states. Basically, the biggest political circus in modern history is about to be going down in California over the next two and a half months and nobody knows what’s going to happen. This is the kind of thing political junkies dream of! So break out the popcorn, set the TiVo to CNN and get ready for the closest thing to a popular revolution since the Civil War!

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 04:10 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

House Republicans = The American Taliban?

By Byron LaMasters

Relating to the previous post, from the San Francisco Chronicle:

"These guys are the American Taliban," said Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez. "They want to shut down democracy. They're not interested in hearing other voices."

Charles has a post on the similarities between the current House leadership and the Democratic leadership shortly before 1994. The good news out of this is that Democrats are united against these national power grabs (although Cali. Gov. might be a seperate case) and we'll have a message for next year's congressional elections. Amen to that.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:56 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

A Pattern of Abusing Power

By Byron LaMasters

Today, Republicans in California succeeded in an unprecidented recall election of an unpopular, but fairly elected Democratic governor. Last week the House Ways and Means Chairman Thomas called the Capitol Police to have Democrats removed from a committee library. Of course, we know the story here in Texas, where Republicans, unhappy with the 2002 Congressional results in our state, decided that they want to change the rules too, and pushed though an unprecidented mid-decade redistricting map in the Senate Jurisprudence Committee. Today, it was the Republicans in the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. Senate's turn to take a swing.

Pryor's nomination to the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was approved 10-9 after an acrimonious debate that included an especially angry exchange over a conservative group's contention that Democrats were opposing Pryor because of views arising out of his Catholic faith, which Democrats furiously denied.

The vote to approve the nomination followed a similar party-line roll call on an effort by Democrats to delay a vote until they could complete an investigation into Pryor's political fund raising for the Republican Attorneys General Association and whether he misled the committee about it.

Democrats contended Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah and committee chairman, violated committee rules in forcing the vote, but Hatch overruled them. Democrats then cast their votes on the nomination under "protest" that the process was out of order.

"We have had a shabby injection of unseemly ads relative to religion, we have an unfinished investigation raising serious ethical questions, and, as icing on the cake, we're going to strong-arm a vote out of this committee," Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., complained as the committee prepared to vote.

Does anyone else see a very disturbing pattern of behavior here? I might be able to shrug off just one of these incidents alone, but when put together, the message is clear. This is how Republicans do business. This is what happens when Republicans control government. My hope is that the majority of Americans will see what is happening in the 2004 elections. Today's House Race Hotline from CongressDailyAM seems to suggest that events like those mentioned above, may just provide the tide for Democrats to retake the House. Likely? No. But possible? Yes. Take a look:

Majority Rules
Thanks to redistricting, general consensus says this decade, Democrats just can't win back control of the House in a district-by-district fight. They will need some sort of national wave to bring them back into power. Could Democrats finally have found the theme to help them catch that wave in '04?
The state House Democrats who fled Texas earlier this year to block Republican efforts to redraw the state's congressional map made their Washington debut this week at fundraisers. For Democrats, the timing of this tribute could not have been better, coming just days after House Ways and Means Chairman Thomas called the Capitol Police to have Democrats removed from a committee library. Both incidents made for great political theater; but more important, both have a similar theme -- Democrats fleeing in protest at what they called an unfair, "majority rules" attitude, and Republicans perhaps taking their retribution a bit too far.
Former House Majority Leader Armey warns that Republicans might be turning into the Democrats they defeated almost 10 years ago. In the San Francisco Chronicle -- the hometown paper of a certain Democratic leader -- Armey warned that Republicans might have handed Democrats a readymade campaign theme. "The theme is, 10 years of one-party rule is enough. They (Republicans) have had control for 10 years, they've gotten arrogant, they demean the institution, they demean democracy by virtue of the heavy-handed way they run the House, minority rights are downtrodden, and it's time, Mr. and Mrs. America, to make a change," Armey said. "That isn't a whole lot different from the case we made in '94, after 40 years." Democrats have seized on the message.
A little historical footnote: One political party rarely controls the Big Trifecta (White House, Senate and House) for very long. In fact, the '94 House Republican surge was fueled partly by the fact that Democrats controlled everything at the time -- President Clinton was in the White House, and Sen. George Mitchell and Rep. Tom Foley were running things in the Senate and House. Before that, Democrats had held the trifecta for just four years, 1976-80. Bottom line, look back at history and note how long one party manages to control those three mega-institutions. The hard numbers might not look good right now for Democrats hoping to control the House, but the history of one-party control is in their favor. And with a few more incidents that get described as "power grabs," the Democrats might just find a message.
While Democrats continue to press on the incident of the Capitol Police, questions still loom about the roles the Texas Rangers and the Homeland Security Department played in the hunt for the missing Texas Democrats. The theme is developing early enough in the cycle that Democrats can begin to build their case; on the flip side, House Speaker Hastert still has time to bring his team back to the kinder, gentler days of their six-seat majority. It's hard to believe that a spirit of bipartisanship once existed in the Texas Legislature (candidate George W. Bush frequently would brag about his relationship with legislative Democrats) and the U.S. House (most notably, after Sept. 11, 2001).
House Republicans do have a reason to be bold after their stunning victory in 2002. The "six seats to a Democratic majority" mode had held for so long that Republicans' reaching six seats was a major victory. However, a number of close House votes (most notably, the Medicare vote, decided by just one vote and the subject of recent ads run by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) serve as a reminder that a 12-seat majority is hardly overwhelming.
Is the spat in the library and a manhunt for quorum-busting Texas Democrats enough for a 2004 Democratic Revolution? Most likely not. However, the two incidents should serve as a warning to Republicans.
Another test is looming for Democrats in Texas, as a second special session to handle congressional redistricting appears inevitable. During this session, Texas Republican leaders have hinted they will abandon the state Senate's tradition of a two-thirds vote to bring up a bill for consideration. Democrats have threatened to boycott the session, and speculation is already swirling over the Texas Rangers' role if a second quorum bust occurs. And for Democrats, it's easy to link anything "arrogant" to national Republicans, given House Majority Leader DeLay's role in the push for redistricting.
We doubt that any outcome -- either in Texas redistricting or in the national Democrats' push for a resolution condemning Thomas -- will be easy, bipartisan or pretty. However, if Republicans get their way, they could increase their majority by another six seats. Would that be enough to hold off a wave? By Charles Todd and Maureen Hurley Schweers

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More Prop 12 Info

By Byron LaMasters

Here's the official Texans Against Prop 12 page.

Update: I've noticed this site gets a good number of google hits, so I'd like to direct you to my endorsement of a NO vote on Prop 12. Thanks!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:47 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

July 23, 2003

Fun "Fightin' Fashion" Trivia for Francophobes

By Jim Dallas

I've got a particularly interesting day-job this summer; I work in a military surplus store. Which exposes me to a lot of battle dress uniform designs from around the world.

Interestingly enough, I've discovered that the camouflage pattern used in the current-issue day- desert BDU (which is being worn in Iraq and Afghanistan right now) is very similar to the French desert BDU, which was introduced at about the same time.

The current day-desert pattern, which has three colors (tan, pale green, and brown) instead of the six colors used in the "chocolate chip" camo issued during the first Gulf War, dates to the early 1990s. The French F1 desert pattern came out around 1990.

The Netherlands also has a desert pattern which is identical - they adopted America's pattern.

Compare for yourself:

U.S. 3-color French F1 Netherlands

It's not unusual for countries - particularly NATO members - to collaborate on camouflage patterns. The British and Dutch disruptive patterns are essentially identical, for example.

Although I can neither confirm nor deny this, wouldn't it be ironic if Franco-American collaboration produced the battle uniform now being used by Americans in a war the French strongly opposed (as well as those peace-loving Dutch, whose uniforms are virtually clones of ours)?

In either case, let's not forget camouflage is a French word. I wonder if we should start calling it "freedom fashion" instead?

UPDATE: Since posting earlier this evening, I also remembered about the origins of the new Marine Corps "digital camo" pattern. Just entering service, it's probably the boldest and most controversial change made to any American uniform since the Army decided to make the black beret (French?) its standard headgear a few years ago. From Wired.Com:

They're the few, the proud, and soon to be the differently dressed.

Thanks to technological innovations and the desire to set themselves apart, the Marines are getting a new uniform.

Marine officials say the new camouflage uniforms, or "cammies," are designed to better hide soldiers in combat situations and differentiate them from other branches of the military.

However, the most interesting component of the cammies is perhaps the camouflage design itself, created by digitally generated pixels.


Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Jones, who's responsible for the new cammies, told USA Today recently that he didn't want the Marines to "be confused with anybody else."

The Marines' 21st century camouflage is not a new idea.

The updated pattern shows some similarities to the type developed by the German Waffen SS during World War II. In 1995, Canadian forces began field-testing their own pixel design, according to military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

Like the Marines, the Canadian government has patented its digital pattern. The Marines' design includes tiny eagle, globe and anchor insignias.

The similarity to the Canadian design is a bit understated in this article; the digital camo pattern (also called MARPAT) was designed with technical assistance from the Canadian government and its contractors.

Why bring all of this up?

To many patriotic Americans, "French" and "Canadian" are supreme epithets, worse than any others. the recent incident in which ABC journalist Jeffrey Kofman was smeared as a "gay Canadian" only added fuel to the fire:

"When you take a job in the United States in the public eye, that goes with the territory," Mr. Kofman said. "I tried to hide the Canadian-ness. I guess the old O-U-T word caught up with me," he joked yesterday from the ABC News bureau in Baghdad, referring to the tell-tale pronunciation of words such as "about" that often give away Canadians in the United States, not the fact that he is out as a gay man.

"My darkest secret has been revealed," he said, chuckling.

And yet now the United States Marine Corps, America's tough guys, are going Canadian? There's obviously some cognitive dissonance out there, if we're to believe that Canadians and Europeans are merely wimpy America-haters.

It's important that we show some more appreciation the strong relationships we have with Canada, France, and our other NATO allies (word on the street is that even humble Iceland is now on Donald Rumsfeld's shit list).

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Will of the People

By Byron LaMasters

Yesterday, the Quorum Report reported that a poll showed that only 30% of Texans supported redistricting. Still, 30% was significantly more than the 8% that supported redistricting at the Senate field hearings held across the state. Here's a table of the numbers of support and opposition to redistricting in each city via the Houston Chronicle. I must admit that I'm quite proud of Dallas.

City For Against Other Total
Houston 20 (7%) 260 (91%) 5 (2%) 285
Dallas 45 (5%) 810 (94%) 11 (1%) 866
Corpus Christi 54 (21%) 189 (74%) 12 (5%) 255
Waco 32 (6%) 523 (90%) 24 (4%) 579
Laredo 5 (4%) 106 (93%) 3 (3%) 114
San Angelo 25 (15%) 124 (75%) 17 (10%) 166
McAllen 36 (10%) 313 (88%) 6 (2%) 355
TOTAL 217 (8%) 2325 (89%) 78 (3%) 2620

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

No on 12: A Burnt Orange Endorsement

By Byron LaMasters

On September 13th, yes, everyone September 13th, Texans, ok, a very small percentage of Texans will go to the polls to decide the future of lawsuit damages in Texas. Voters will decide whether to continue to allow juries to award damages in which they see fit, or allow the legislature to take the power to award damages out of the hands of the juries, and cap a value on one's life.

First off, you might wonder why the election is on September 13th. Who holds elections in September? And on a Saturday? Republicans, scared of likely high turnout among Democrats in the November election for mayor of Houston. That aside, what does Proposition 12 really do? Here's the description for the website of the Texas Secretary of State:

HJR 3 would immediately authorize the Legislature to limit non-economic damages assessed against a provider of medical or health care and, after January 1, 2005, to limit awards in all other types of cases.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: "The constitutional amendment concerning civil lawsuits against doctors and health care providers, and other actions, authorizing the legislature to determine limitations on non-economic damages."

You may read the entire text of the joint resolution from the House and the Senate, here. Essentially, this amendment to the Texas constitution would allow the legislature to cap non-economic damages. It's likely that it would cap non-economic damages at $250,000 in most cases. But this amendment gives the power to the legislature (the last group I trust) to decide what a human life is worth, be it 50 cents, $50,000 or $500,000. In some cases, $250,000 is a reasonable amount for non-economic damages. In some cases, it's too much. In other cases, it's not enough. The point is that juries ought to decide what should be awarded in non-economic damages on a case-by-case basis. It's right there in the seventh amendment to our constitution:

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Proposition 12 takes the power away from juries to decide damages, it puts it in the hands of the legislature. The "Yes on 12" folks think that Texans serving on juries are too stupid to decide what damages are appropriate. It's that simple.

Sure, there's arguments from the other side. I hear them every day. My father is a doctor. I think that we'll have to agree to disagree on this issue. Doctors are obviously concerned about their malpractice premiums. They've skyrocketed in recent years, and it's a legitimate concern. However, the blame for those high premiums lies much less with frivolous lawsuits, than it does with the very small minority of bad doctors:

Since malpractice premiums started rising, doctors have surfed on a wave of sympathy, perhaps because Texans also have seen their homeowner and auto policy bills skyrocket.

And just as auto and homeowner premiums didn't rise only for those who filed claims, doctors' premiums didn't increase just for the 2.2 percent responsible for one-fourth of malpractice payouts, or the 6.1 percent responsible for more than half. Even doctors with spotless slates got huge bills.

That's right. Six percent of doctors are responsible for half of all malpractice payouts. Something tells me that that's not an accident. The solution to the problem is two-fold. First, there needs to be insurance reform in order to prevent insurance companies from artificially inflating their rates. Second, doctors ought to do a better job of disciplining the 6% of doctors responsible for one half of malpractice payouts. Those two things will go a lot further to lower malpractice premiums than caps on damages. Take a look at the evidence. Capping non-economic damages has no effect on lowering malpractice premiums:

Fib: Caps on non-economic damages will bring down doctors' malpractice insurance premiums

FACT: Experience in states with caps has shown - and insurers and tort "reformers" admit - that caps and tort "reform" won't lower doctors' premiums.

  • In California, which limits non-economic damages to $250,000, the average actual premium is $27,570, eight percent higher than the average of all states that have no caps on non-economic damages. Medical Liability Monitor, 2001.

  • Malpractice premiums in California increased by 190% during the first 12-years following enactment of the $250,000 MICRA cap. Proposition 103 Enforcement Project Study, 1995. It took California's Proposition 103 - insurance reform - to lower and stabilize malpractice premium rates.

  • "[A]ny limitations placed on the judicial system will nave no immediate effect on the cost of liability insurance for health care providers." Final Report of the Insurance Availability and Medical Malpractice Industry Committee, a bipartisan committee of the West Virginia Legislature, issued January 7, 2003.

  • "Nevada's new medical-liability program won't see immediate improvement in premium rates after a recent legislative initiative. . . . [A]nother company insuring physicians for medical liability, American Physicians Assurance, also wasn't planning any reduction." Best's Insurance News, August 20, 2002.

  • "We wouldn't tell you or anyone that the reason to pass tort reform would be to reduce insurance rates." Sherman Joyce, President of the American Tort Reform Association, "Study Finds No Link Between Tort Reforms and Insurance Rates," Liability Week, July 19, 1999.

  • "Insurers never promised that tort reform would achieve specific premium savings . . ." From a March 13, 2002 press release by the American Insurance Association (AIA).

  • An internal document citing a study written by Florida insurers regarding that state's omnibus tort "reform" law of 1986 said that "The conclusion of the study is that the noneconomic cap . . . [and other tort 'reforms'] will produce little or no savings to the tort system as it pertains to medical malpractice." Medical Professional Liability, State of Florida, St. Paul fire and Marine Insurance Company, St. Paul Mercury Insurance Company.

  • In Missouri, which has caps, the number of claims has been declining, the cost per claim has been declining, yet medical malpractice premiums are going up.

Folks, there's a better way to solve this problem. Proposition 12 is not the answer. This shouldn't be about doctors against lawyers. This is about the constitutional right of a trial by jury, and empowering the jury to make fair decisions in regards to non-economic damages, or taking that right away. Join us in fighting Proposition 12. Want to get involved? Go to Save Texas Courts to donate and get more information. Most importantly, remember to get off your ass that Saturday in September and vote.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:07 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Map passes Senate Jurisprudence Committee

By Byron LaMasters

On a 4-3, party-line vote, the Senate Jurisprudence Committee passed a new map today. The Dallas Morning News has the story.

Despite opposition from Democrats, a Senate committee on Wednesday approved a bill to redraw congressional districts that would likely give the Texas GOP an advantage in Washington.

The Senate Jurisprudence Committee passed the measure on a 4-3 vote that fell along party lines.

Sen. Todd Staples of Palestine, who chairs the Senate Republican Caucus, sponsored the bill and encouraged his colleagues to work with him as the bill makes its way to the floor.

"My door is open," Staples said. "I want to be completely unambiguous. Come join us."

The map's future after a committee vote is uncertain.

Eleven Senate Democrats and one Republican have said they are opposed to taking up redistricting. Under Senate rules, two-thirds of the chamber, or 21 senators, must support a bill for it to be debated. Opposition from 12 senators is enough to kill the bill in the 31-member chamber.

Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick said Tuesday that he expects Gov. Rick Perry to summon lawmakers back into special session next week, and he predicted quick action on a new congressional map.

"We'll go back into session on Tuesday for a second special session and will wind up passing a congressional redistricting plan," Mr. Craddick told delegates at a national legislative conference in San Francisco.

The Republican House speaker conceded that efforts to redraw congressional lines are stalled in the current special session in Austin. He said Texas lawmakers likely will adjourn by Tuesday, then be called back immediately.

"We are committed to pass a plan that basically makes our congressional delegation reflect the makeup of the population of Texas," Mr. Craddick said.

Mr. Craddick's comments – which came during his appearance on a panel on redistricting at a meeting of the National Conference of States Legislatures – were the clearest indication yet that Republican leaders plan to immediately ram through a GOP-backed map to increase Republican seats in Congress in the probable second special session.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has said that in such a session, he would dispense with the Senate's requirement of a two-thirds vote before a bill can be considered – removing the main roadblock to a map in the current special session.

"This whole process can take days, not weeks, not a month," he said Tuesday.

A spokeswoman said Mr. Perry is considering calling lawmakers right back into session if no redistricting bill passes before the House and Senate must adjourn by midnight Tuesday.

"But no decision has been made," Kathy Walt said.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, warned again that abandoning the Senate's two-thirds rule could destroy the chamber's traditions of bipartisan cooperation.

But she said the 12 Democratic senators have not decided whether to boycott the proceedings – their last resort to try to kill redistricting, much as House Democrats blocked it during the regular session that ended June 2 by going to Oklahoma.

"Nobody relishes having to exercise that extreme option," she said, referring to a possible walkout, which would require 11 senators to break a Senate quorum.

"But it's there, and it's there for a purpose," Ms. Van de Putte said.

Ratcheting up the pressure on Mr. Dewhurst, she said, "This is a real test for our presiding officer."

Mr. Dewhurst had said he was inclined not to suspend the traditional two-thirds rule for the first special session.

But Mr. Dewhurst said redistricting "is an issue ... that doesn't fall within our traditional, bipartisan areas of legislation" and may change the rules for the next session. He cited the late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock's decision not to require a two-thirds vote to bring up a state senatorial redistricting map in a January 1992 special session.

But Sen. Kenneth Armbrister, D-Victoria, a key undecided senator, said that the current situation cannot be compared with what happened in 1992, when lawmakers faced a court order to redraw districts and Republicans did not object to suspending the two-thirds rule.

On July 8, the House passed a new congressional map that could end the political careers of as many as six incumbent Democrats. But several GOP senators object to that plan, and the Senate's remap point man, Todd Staples, R-Palestine, is trying to craft a map that can win approval from 16 Republican senators.

Mr. Staples said he may have a plan ready for a committee vote Wednesday.

Earlier versions he has proposed would likely lead to the ouster of at least five Democratic congressmen, including Martin Frost of Arlington, Chet Edwards of Waco, Max Sandlin of Marshall, Jim Turner of Crockett and Nick Lampson of Beaumont.

Some of Mr. Staples' maps also might finally achieve the GOP goal of toppling U.S. Reps. Charlie Stenholm, D-Abilene, and Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, which would give Republicans a 22-10 edge in the state's delegation.

Under maps drawn by federal judges in 2001, Democrats won 17 of the 32 seats in Congress.

GOP leaders say the current map fails to reflect the state's shift toward Republicans, but Democratic lawmakers argue that it contains at least 20 GOP-friendly districts and that voters should be free to decide whether to oust senior Democrats or pick Republicans who would become junior members of Congress.

Ms. Van de Putte and other Democrats said that at a dinner meeting Monday in Austin, Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, the author of the House's redistricting plan, was seen reviewing maps with Jim Ellis, a political adviser to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land.

Mr. DeLay has pushed hard for a redrawing of congressional boundaries.

"The process is corrupted when Tom DeLay's guy is sitting there vetting the map," said Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo.

But Mr. King said he and Mr. Ellis were simply "catching up on things." The purpose of the dinner was not to discuss redistricting, Mr. King said.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A foot in the door in 2006?

By Andrew Dobbs

So we hear from Harvey Kronberg that Perry has “soft” approval ratings. I don’t have a subscription so I haven’t heard what the actual numbers are (anybody with a subscription, please let me know in the comments section), but I think that it is safe to say that both the voters and the GOP establishment are at best lukewarm towards Slick Dick and perhaps outright derisive. This creates an interesting landscape for 2006, and a possible opening for the Democrats in at least two, and perhaps more, of the top five statewide offices.

First, let’s look at Perry’s job as governor.

If Perry’s numbers hold up, as they appear apt to do, Perry’s dream of being the longest-serving governor in Texas history will be deferred. Moves from the direction of Kay Bailey Hutchison’s office suggest that she is apt to seek the Texas governor’s mansion- either as a stepping stone to national office or as a nice little retirement gift. If Hutchison throws her hat in the ring, it is all over- nobody in the state, Republican or Democrat, can beat Kay Bailey and Perry would be smart to look elsewhere for office. Tony Sanchez has said he’d like to run again and we might just let him, but he needs to spend his money on grassroots and to be isolated as much as possible so we can keep him from infecting the entire party like he did last time around.

Hutchison’s trek towards Congress Street will open up her senate seat. Sources within the GOP suggest that Dewhurst wanted to run for Gramm’s old seat that Cornyn won this past year but was told to bide his time at Lieutenant Governor instead. He is likely to seek that seat in 2006 if Hutchison decides to replace Perry. Could Perry challenge Dewhurst in the primary? They aren’t the closest of allies, but I suspect (call it a gut instinct) that Perry will stick around Texas and simply choose to retire. This essentially hands this nomination to Dewhurst and opens up a big opportunity for the Democrats. Dewhurst was the least popular statewide Republican in 2002 and the lack of Perry-wing support (which seems to comprise a large part of the party base) suggests that he will have a tougher time than expected (he is still a Republican, opening up a national fundraising base, and a friend and colleague of George Bush’s so it won’t be too bad). If Democrats put up a strong, moderate candidate with experience, good name ID and a base outside the typical Democratic base we can turn out the 40% that always vote Dem and another 11% of rural moderate voters. The person I see filling this role is Rep. Chet Edwards of Waco. I’m not sure that he’d be interested in running, but with strong military support, solid ag credentials, experience in Washington, increasingly high name ID with the redistricting fiasco hinging on his district and a base of devoted local support in central Texas that normally votes GOP he has a solid chance of beating Dewhurst for the US Senate. There are a lot of other factors that would go into this scenario, and his run would result in his congressional district probably going to a Republican, but trading one of our 32 congressmen for one of our two US Senators is a good exchange if you ask me.

Dewhurst’s run for Senate would open up the Lieutenant Governor’s job as well- the most powerful in State Government. The most likely candidate for this job is the popular and ambitious Comptroller Carole Keeton McClellan Rylander Strayhorn whatever her name is this week. She ran a lot of ads for a race that she wouldn’t have lost to Marty Akins if she admitted to being a member of al Qaida. When someone runs ads for a race they can’t lose they are running for an office they have yet to win. My gut feeling and the rumors suggest she has her eye on the Governor’s mansion, but if Hutchison runs that is out of the question. Chances are she’ll have to settle for the Lt. Gov. spot, which she most likely will win. She’s popular with Republicans and Democrats don’t hate her with nearly the intensity of Perry or even Dewhurst (she had the largest margin of victory in 2002, but once again that was a function of her incredibly weak opponent) and she’s been around for quite a while. Still, a spirited challenge from Pete Laney (who probably isn’t interested but who, as a moderate rural Democrat with long-time experience in state government and very high name ID, would be a good candidate) or perhaps long-serving, well-respected Dean of the Senate John Whitmire or even a highly unlikely reprisal of John Sharp would make the race interesting. I think we have an even better shot at her old job as Comptroller.

This is where the Democrats’ considerable farm team should come into play. Right now 4 of the 5 largest cities in the state have Democratic mayors. Houston’s Lee Brown is far too controversial to run. Dallas’ Laura Miller has a strong independent streak and a good record but would keep blacks and Hispanics at home, a death wish for Democrats in Texas. That leaves us with Will Wynn and Ed Garza. Wynn is a good guy with a sharp face and a great name, but he doesn’t have the experience yet and 2006 will be an election year for him. San Antonio’s Ed Garza is an ambitious and well-respected Hispanic that has balanced budgets before. Who knows who Republicans will run for this job? Maybe a hot shot state legislator with good budget credentials (Teel Bivins perhaps) but Ed Garza has a real chance of being elected to this spot if he runs a smart campaign and energizes the base. At the very least he will have statewide name ID after this race, putting him in a strong position for other races in the future and at most he’ll be in a fantastic position to run for Governor or another high profile position when the time is right. Garza is a mighty fine ace up the Democrats’ sleeve and he should be slipped into play in 2006.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 11:28 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Another Map

By Byron LaMasters

The latest Staples map is here. It looks like the senate committee vote will be today or tomorrow, then the action will be on to the Senate floor. This map looks like it would have support from all four senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee. It reunites most of the 11th district, but that's about all that it offers Democrats. The Quorum Report has more.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another Reason Ron Wilson Needs to Go

By Byron LaMasters

The Dallas Morning News reports:

Republicans criticize Mr. Frost for being a career politician. One Democrat who favors redistricting says Mr. Frost doesn't care about the minorities in his district.

"He wants just enough blacks and Hispanics in his district to get elected," said Rep. Ron Wilson, D-Houston. "But he doesn't want enough of them there to elect one of their own."

I've said this before, and I'll say it again. I'll drive to Houston and blockwalk for a REAL Democrat that runs against Ron Wilson in the primary. I'll donate money, even if I don't have it. Ron Wilson is an embarrassment to the Democratic Party. He needs to go.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:16 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 22, 2003

Redistricting Update

By Byron LaMasters

Well, the reason I haven't posted anything new about redistricting today, is well, because there's not too much new to report. It looks as if a map will come out of committee tomorrow, but we're not sure which one, and then it looks like it's dead on arrival in this session, at least, on the Senate floor.

Charles has the latest on everything, so check out his post over on Off the Kuff. I'm pleasantly surprised by the news from the Quorum Report that the majority of Texans oppose redistricting:

Pollster Jeff Montgomery has released some surprising poll numbers showing tepid support for redistricting -- including among Republicans -- and generally weak numbers for Governor Rick Perry.

It is about here that your erstwhile reporter eats a little crow. Although Montgomery typically represents Democrats, his polling has not always been kind to them.

In fact, we questioned Montgomery's polling nearly two years ago when he consistently showed Perry beating Democratic challenger Tony Sanchez by 20% or more.

When the votes were counted, Perry beat Sanchez by 19%.

Like his polling eighteen months ago, this poll was independently financed by Montgomery & Associates so it is beholding to no clients.

According to Montgomery, 45.5% of Texans oppose redistricting and 30% support it.

Even a majority of Republicans were ambivalent on the issue with 47.9% supporting the effort whereas 24.8% opposed.

But the bigger news is Governor Perry's soft approval numbers.

I'll be looking to see if the mainstream media catches on to it. It's good news for the Democrats. Now they have polls to back up their claims that the majority in this state, not just the rank and file party activists that attended the redistricting hearings, oppose redistricting. Hopefully, it will give them more incentive to break quorum when that, inevitably will become necessary.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:01 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Michael Berry's delusions of grandeur

By Jim Dallas

Recently I blogged on Houston mayoral candidate Michael Berry's new ad campaign which is trying to paint Berry as the populist ubermensch, fighting the "waste" in the Houston city budget.

Incidentally, Berry's attacking the same "cow that eats gold and gives no milk" budget that he voted for, but only after trying to make an eleventh-hour effort to make irresponsible tax cuts (from the Houston Chronicle, June 20, via Lexis-Nexis):

In the end, council approved the budget 13-1.

Councilman Bruce Tatro was the lone dissenter, voting against what he called "a virtual budget" devoid of true cost cutting.

"I think we just failed to address a lot of issues that were supposedly priorities going into this," Tatro said.

Council considered about 80 amendments before adopting the budget, including a last-ditch push by Councilman Michael Berry to cut the city's property tax rate.

Berry proposed shaving one cent from the city's rate of 65 cents per $ 100 assessed value weeks ago, but few of his colleagues or the administration took it seriously. But Berry's quiet last-minute lobbying forced a defensive flurry by administration officials, who whirled around the council table shoring up opposition. The amendment was voted down 8-6.

Berry said he thought the tax cut would have passed had Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Rodriguez been present for the vote.

Sekula-Rodriguez never returned from council's lunch break. A spokeswoman from her office said the councilwoman had a "personal emergency."

Berry said that, had Sekula-Rodriguez been present and voted for the tax decrease, Councilman Gabriel Vasquez would have cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the cut.

"Vasquez was with me if he was the deciding vote," Berry said. "He said if he was casting the deciding vote, he would vote for it, so I had eight votes."

Vasquez neither confirmed nor denied Berry's claim, saying only: "It's all rumors. There was no eight votes there."

So let's get this straight. Michael Berry got his butt kicked and then kow-towed to the rest of the council by voting for a budget he is now attacking.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Problem with redrawing CDs 11 & 31

By Byron LaMasters

Redistricting in the state senate has run into lots of problems. There are concerns about the disenfranchisement of minority voters, the loss of clout of rural areas and more. However, the greatest debate has centered on what to do with Congressional Districts 11 and 31. Why? It should be easy, right? Republicans want to get rid of Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Waco). Can't they just draw a district that would split Waco from Temple like that House map did? Not quite. The problem is, that almost all of the elected officials just love Chet Edwards. He's the main reason that Fort Hood is still the largest military base in the country. Fort Hood is the driving force of the central Texas economy, and Chet Edwards is Fort Hood's number one advocate. That's why the mayor's of Temple, Waco, Coppers Cove and Kileen, along with councilmen and county commissioners made the trip to Austin to testify before the Senate Jurisprudence Committee. They all had the same message. Keep Fort Hood in one Congressional district, and maintain the historic community of interest of McLennan, Bell, Bosque and Coryell Counties. All four of those counties are solidly Republican on the statewide level, but all four vote for Chet Edwards because they know that he is a lot more powerful in helping Fort Hood, and the central Texas economy than a freshman Republican would.

So, the problem? The Republican Senators from the area are worried. Sen. Kip Averitt (R-McGregor) has said that he'll oppose any map that divides McLennan County (Waco). He's been under LOTS of presure from Republicans and Democrats in his district to leave congressional district eleven alone. Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) represents Fort Hood in the Texas Senate. He has said that he'll oppose any map that divides the Fort Hood area.

This creates a problem for Republicans. Chet Edwards has been at the top of most every list of targetted Democrats, but local elected officials, Democrat and Republican, love the guy. In order to make a map to satisfy Averitt and Fraser, Republicans are forced to draw a district, which in the latest Staples plan, would at least give Edwards a fighting chance.

Furthermore, in order to target Edwards while meeting the Fraser and Averitt concerns, the only option for Republicans is to add more of Williamson County (heavily Republican Austin suburbs). Of course, that creates more problems. State Rep. Mike Krussee (R-Round Rock) has fought all along for uniting Williamson County in one Congressional District, the 31st. Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) has said that he'll vote against a plan that divides Williamson County. The Austin American Statesman explains the latest drama:

Another day, another map, another way to slice Central Texas.

On Monday, it was Williamson County's turn to be split between two congressional districts and, perhaps more critically, joined to northern Travis County.

Sen. Todd Staples, the Senate's primary mapmaker, Monday offered two slightly different updates to his map for the state's congressional districts. Staples, R-Palestine, is expected to fine-tune the map before the Senate Judiciary Committee's scheduled vote Wednesday.

If approved, the map would go to the Senate floor, where it doesn't yet have the votes to be debated.


Staples said it's difficult to draw a map that gets enough support from lawmakers to get it passed.

"Anytime you change one area, it seems to have a rippling effect in the other areas," Staples said. "We're never going to get there to satisfy everyone."

Under the current map, drawn by federal judges, Williamson County is split between U.S. Reps. John Carter, R-Round Rock, and Chet Edwards, D-Waco. Even though Staples' latest version again splits Williamson County between those two representatives, it upsets the state lawmakers who represent that county.

Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said he cannot support a map that splits Williamson County, but he is working on amendments. Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, also objects to putting a portion of Williamson County in a district that could be dominated by Travis County.

"My goal is for Williamson County to remain the political center of its congressional district," Krusee said.

The concerns with CD 11 and 31 are just one example of the problems that Republicans have in drawing maps in which most Republican senators can support. The reason that Sen. Bill Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant) joined Democrats in opposing redistricting altogether was because he realized that the only way for Republicans to gain their desired seats, was to gut rural, east Texas representation. Seeing that his concerns would not be met by the Republican map-drawers, Ratliff jumped ship.

Another example of Republican infighting is between Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) and the House leadership. Duncan doesn't want significant changes to the west Texas districts. The House leadership, however, wants a new Midland - Odessa based at the expense of the 17th district held by Charlie Stenholm (D-Abilene). If Republicans had been serious about getting any Democratic support, they should have started out with some unity amongst themselves. Instead, they've managed to stage a circus show of a special session as Democrats have been largely able to laugh at the chaos from the sidelines.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dallas Morning News Blog!

By Byron LaMasters

Wow! My hometown newspaper now has a blog, found via Publius TX.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:54 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

A Game of Chicken

By Byron LaMasters

Well here in Texas, its come to the old fashioned chicken game. Who will jump first? Perry, Dewhurst and the Senate Republicans? Or will it be the Senate Democrats? Today, Governor Perry gave more evidence to suggest that he won't back down. If the Senate doesn't pass a map this session, he'll call a second special session to deal with the issue:

Gov. Rick Perry, who compelled lawmakers to deal with the issue by calling the session, said he wouldn't hesitate to do it again if the Senate fails to approve a redistricting plan.

A second special session could come on the immediate heels of the current 30-day session, which ends July 29.

"I would expect that it [another special session] would be relatively soon. We've got work to do," Mr. Perry said.

In a second special session, the Senate's GOP majority probably would pass a new congressional map. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said redistricting would be the only item on the Senate's agenda. Unlike the current session, no two-thirds vote to suspend rules would be required, he said.

Democrats, however, by refusing to cooperate this session, when Dewhurst and Perry have essentially tried to bribe them into voting for redistricting, have basically told Dewhurst and Perry that they too, will play the chicken game. Statements by various Democratic Senators over the past week highly suggest that they're willing to hide out, break quorum, and do whatever it takes for however long it takes to stop redistricting.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Austin Chronicle Profiles Patrick Rose

By Byron LaMasters

Two and a half months ago, the last thing that I would expect from the alternative, lefty Austin Chronicle would be a profile of the conservative freshman state representative Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs). Rose, 25, is the youngest member of the state house, and had disappointed many Democrats with his many votes with the Republican leadership. His district is a Republican-leaning swing district, so it would make sense that his voting record be a tad bit more conservative than your average Democrat. Still, Rose won his election with the support of several hundred thousand dollars from Democrats across the state, and a lot of them weren't happy. Some, throughout the spring, suggested a primary challenge to Rose. Rep. Garnett Coleman (D-Houston) had some choice words for Rose at the Texas Young Democrats convention in April. Now, however, all seems to be forgiven. Rose joined 50 other Democrats in going to Ardmore, and Ardmore seems to have cured all ills. The Austin Chronicle, this week profiled Rose, which will certainly insulate him from any potential attacks from the left.

Also, check out the Austin Chronicle article on the most endangered species in Texas politics. The rural white Democrat.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 21, 2003

I'm Quoted!

By Byron LaMasters

My friend Carl emailed me earlier today informing me that I was quoted in the Dallas Morning News today:

Byron LaMasters of Dallas, a 20-year-old University of Texas student who heads Texas Students for Dean, signed on because, he said, Dr. Dean "is the one candidate who stood up to George Bush."

The column was mostly positive. The only concern was Barta's observation regarding the lack of minorities at the event:

The Dallas crowd was young, white and Internet-savvy. And they were organizing. Tables were set up for petition signing, fund raising and learning how to go to precinct conventions. It was strictly grass roots, not professional. Many learned about the candidate on his Web site.


While gay support was evident at the rally, noticeably absent were Hispanics and black Democrats, the most reliable base of the Texas party.

Dean has some support among minorities, but he has a lot of work to do. However, he has made some inroads among minority leaders in Texas. The chair of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats spoke at the rally to support Dean. Howard Dean has also been endorsed by State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin).

Still, there was an effort to show diversity on the platform during warm-up speeches. Janice Kinchion of Austin, chairman of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats, recalled how other national party leaders snubbed the Texas Democratic Convention in El Paso last summer, but Dr. Dean showed up and spoke to a mostly empty house. After hearing him, she was hooked, she said, because "his message was real."

It's obvious that Dean has a lot of work to do with minorities. I think that its a matter of getting the message to the Black and Hispanic communities. I think that Dean has the right message, it's just a matter of people hearing it. Dean brings up equal right, his signing of the civil unions act, and his support of affirmative action in almost every speech that he makes. So far, Dean's message has been heard most by the more affluent, whiter, Internet-savvy crowd. Once his message reaches more Black and Hispanic voters, I think that we will see an increase in his support from those communities.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Al Sharpton

By Byron LaMasters

Al Sharpton has a new webpage. Thank God. His old one was a little embarassing. Glad to see it. My feelings on Al Sharpton? I welcome him to the debate, and I take his candidacy seriously, but I also laugh at the DLC types that are worried that he'll be a divisive force, might win South Carolina, and embarass the party. Please. Sharpton will only be a divisive force if the Democratic Party lets him. If we treat him with the respect that we would afford any other candidates, the Democratic Party has nothing to worry about. Only if we dismiss and insult Sharpton will we have to worry about him turning his supporters against the eventually nominee. While I would never consider voting for Sharpton in the primary, he does represent the views of many people in the base of the Democratic Party. It's important that we respect him and his supporters, even when we disagree with their tactics. A friend of mine is helping with the Texas campaign. One thing that I do hope that Al Sharpton brings to the debate is the issue of DC Statehood. I stongly support D.C. Statehood, and wish that most Democrats would take it more seriously. It's really a disgrace that 600,000+ American citizens have ZERO representation in Congress.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:21 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Killer D's to Raise $$$ in D.C.

By Byron LaMasters

Texas Democrats are now reaping the benefits of an energized base willing to donate to their cause. The House Democratic Caucus has set up the Majority Political Action Committee of Texas. Its goal is to re-elect the House Democrats who broke quorum, and to help take Republican seats in the legislature, begining in 2004. Their first fundraiser was in Austin on July 17th, and tomorrow, they will go to Washington D.C. to raise money from national Democrats. The AP reports, via the Corpus Christi Caller Times:

On Tuesday, state and federal Democrats will hold two back-to-back receptions to raise money for a state political action committee. "You're invited to help show our national appreciation and to celebrate" the Killer D's, the invitation says. Killer D's is the name Democrats dubbed the state Democratic lawmakers who staged the May 12 walkout of the Texas House to kill a congressional redistricting bill.

Money for the receptions will go to MPACT, a political action committee operated by the state Democratic Caucus. The committee will use the money to keep the Killer D's in office and to target vulnerable Republicans.

The invitation lists all Texas' congressional Democrats as honorary co-chairs of their reception. State Democratic Reps. Garnet Coleman of Houston; Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio; Jim Dunnam of Waco and Pete Gallego of Alpine are the Killer D's are listed as attending the later reception.

"The Killer D's are heroes who stood up to Tom DeLay and a lot of people want to support them," said Rep. Martin Frost, D-Arlington.

DeLay, the majority leader in the U.S. House, pushed for a new congressional map in Texas that would increase the Republicans in the delegation and eliminate Democrats, including Frost.

The effort is not unlike the help that DeLay has provided state Republicans by organizing and helping to get funding for Texans for A Republican Majority. The PAC helped Republicans take control of the Texas House in 2002.

State Republicans found irony in the Democratic fund-raiser.

"It's interesting after all the noise they made about D.C. Republicans taking an interest in Texas redistricting that they are dragging a sack up in Washington to allow national Democrats to influence the process in the Lone Star State," said Ted Royer, Texas GOP spokesman.

Meanwhile in Austin, the Senate on Monday began anew trying to draw congressional maps that will add Republican seats but still comply with the Voting Rights Act.

Both Democratic receptions are being held at the Hotel Washington, but are divided to avoid violating campaign finance laws.

Tickets are $250 per person. However, organizers are suggesting sponsorships of up to $2,000 for individuals and of up to $5,000 for PACs.

The events were organized by Progressive Consulting Group of Silver Spring.

"It's a way to say stand up. Tom DeLay does not get to decide who our Congress people are, the voters of America get to make that decision. Let's take a lesson from those guys who had the courage to say so," said Karyn Strickland, president of Progressive Consulting Group.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Back Home

By Byron LaMasters

I'm back in Dallas, and I'm 21! Yay! I did take Josh's advice from my comments. I got drunk, I had fun, and I didn't get thrown in prison. It's probably the only time that I'll ever be taking his advice, but it was fun to be on the same page with him for once. I ended up driving down to Austin on Saturday afternoon, after my Texas Young Democrats meeting. I had dinner at the Brick Oven on Red River with a lot of my UD friends. There were about 12 of us. We then went back to my friend Haley's apartment where I was staying and I got ready to go out. They all chipped in to by me a bottle of Grey Goose Vodka, which we all took shots of at midnight, and my friends tried to sing me happy birthday. After that, we headed towards 6th street where we went to about four bars to get shots before heading down to 4th street. I thought ahead, and we had ourselves a designated driver (Thanks, Mark!). It was a fun night, and we made it back to Haley's around 3:something. Sunday, we went out to The Oasis in the afternoon. I had never been there before. It's not exactly the place to go for food, but it has a great view over Lake Travis. I ordered what I think was the Oasis Sunset, or something like that. It was this $9.95 drink that came in a cup you could keep (I needed a 21st birthday souvenir, right?). It had three kinds of rum and was quite strong. Everyone was waiting on me to finish it. Afterwards we went out to Lake Travis for a little bit, then back to Haley's. I was worn out Sunday night, so I stayed in Austin, then came home today after running several errands.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Maps, Maps and more Maps

By Byron LaMasters

There are new maps over on Red Viewer. The Senate Jurisprudence Committee is meeting today, again, to discuss new maps that have been posted over the weekend. There is the map by Sen. Armbrister (D-Victoria), here and new substitutes by Sen. Staples (R-Palestine), here and here.

I'll look at them further when I have a chance. I'm still in Austin, but will be heading home later today.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:53 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 20, 2003

Jimbo's Grab Bag, 20.July.03

By Jim Dallas

DCI marches through Texas; The Houston Press says 2003 might be "Turner time"; Michael Berry goes nuts; and the Houston Chronicle says NASA is lost in space.

Get your roll (and your tap, and your flam, and your diddle) on

I had an opportunity to go up to Rice Stadium in Houston on Friday to catch this year's "ExSightment of Sound", which brought down five Division I drum and bugle corps including the Cavaliers of Rosemont, Ill., the defending world champions. Thanks to my roommate and buddy Dave for letting me in on this.

The San Antonio Revolution, a Division II corps, also performed.

The Boston Crusaders and Cadets (Bergenfield, NJ) are both doing "Malaguena" this year. The piece has probably been done umpteen gajillion times in the past, but both corps still made it fun. As usual, the Santa Clara Vanguard show was weird, but far more accessible to non-musicians such as myself than last year's.

About 6000 people - mostly high-school band kids - were in attendance.

Drum corps also made stops this last week in Leander, Midland, Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Sylvester Turner*
*But were afraid to ask.

Tim Fleck of the Houston Press has a piece on Sylvester Turner this week which ought to be required reading for those following the Houston mayoral race.

It's kind of puffy though, be warned:

Snaking with his entourage through the chanting crowd of 1,500 or so, the candidate seemed more like a heavyweight boxer headed to the ring of some Vegas prize fight. Sylvester Turner, the still-youthful-looking state representative ready for his mayoral rematch, mounted the Hyatt Regency stage in front of an imposing red-and-black graphic of the Houston skyline, while Tina Turner's "Simply the Best" thundered over the PA. As he began to speak, those who had closely followed his 1991 campaign must have had the sensation they were switching on a TV and catching an early scene from an all-too-familiar movie.

"My dad taught me something in living and dying," Turner declared in his lilting orator's voice. "When you get knocked down, you got to learn how to pull yourself right back up. This evening I offer myself as a candidate for mayor of this great city."

In this remake, the character at the ballroom microphone is the squeaky-clean Horatio Alger Sylvester, the sixth of nine children born to a painter and a Rice Hotel maid, the brilliant student who starred from Klein High School to the University of Houston to Harvard Law School. From there the story shifts to the contract law offices of Barnes & Turner and successful attorney Sylvester, who won his north Houston seat in the Texas House and carved a legislative record to be envied by his peers.

Then the script begins to diverge from the 1991 version. Legislator Sylvester touts his recent elevation by Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick to speaker pro tempore, and his advancing to become one of ten lawmakers on the powerful appropriations committee faced with solving massive budget deficits.

There are other plot improvements. This time around, Sylvester is blessedly free of an embittered wife. She'd made token, sour-faced appearances on the campaign trail clutching their little girl, but had secretly retained a private eye to investigate her husband. And other than a legal misstep last year -- he was fined by the Texas State Bar for inadequately representing a client in a divorce -- the candidate's professional life has not provided grist for negative media stories.

The half-million or so Houston voters who weren't around in 1991 may need a quick synopsis of the original Sylvester flick: An overachieving, innocent homeboy is within a whisker of becoming Houston's first black mayor. Then he's attacked for personal flaws such as failing to pay a college loan, magnified by a media blitz from a hardball opponent.

On the eve of a tight runoff election, Channel 13 investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino drops allegations that our hero may have been in on an insurance fraud scheme. The stories are never confirmed; Turner is never charged with anything; but the news reports are devastating. He narrowly loses to former mayor Bob Lanier and then wages a legal jihad against Channel 13 in a showcase libel suit.

By reminding me of Wayne Dolcefino - who in other parts of his ignominious career with Channel 13 has probably managed to tick of just about everyone in the KTRK viewing area - Fleck has managed to make me pretty sympathetic to Turner. Sort of the same way I always root for any football team that can beat the Dallas Cowboys.

For more on the candidates check out Off the Kuff, the other "must read" for spectators of Houston politics.

Call in the Cavalry, or send in the clowns?

Speaking of Houston politics, Michael Berry is running a really - uh, silly - campaign commercial on Houston radio right now. Despite being a bit behind in the money race, Berry decided to try to use humor (well, I suppose this is humorous?!?) to stake out turf as the "fiscally responsible" candidate:

Download the ad here.

It's great to use a little humor to dull the edge of political attacks, but the cartoonishness of this ad makes it hard to believe. Everytime I hear this commercial at work, I giggle like a schoolgirl. It's that bad.

But then again, who's supposed to believe that Berry knows what he's doing, anyway? (Thanks Kuff!)

Danger Will Robinson! Danger Danger!

Finally, 34 years after putting men on the moon, NASA is facing some pretty hefty charges from... the hometown paper. The Houston Chronicle is running a six-part series on how NASA is mismanaging the nation's space program:

Twice before, the space agency dealt with human tragedy and moved on, making changes to hardware and management practices. There was no widespread clamor for a new direction or a call to justify the mission at hand.

The same cannot be said today. The Columbia tragedy has forced into the open long-standing concerns that the nation's human space program is seriously adrift and needs far more repair than a new skin on the shuttle. Scores of interviews with space advocates, policy experts, congressional committee staff, members of Congress, industry executives and former NASA officials -- as well as a nationwide survey of the public conducted for the Chronicle -- give voice to a notion previously unthinkable: Astronauts may have died pursuing goals that are not worthy.

But... the Weekly World News provides ammunition for those who would think otherwise, with a full story on President Bush's plan to invade the moon and make it the fifty-first state!

Best damned investigative reporting on the planet, indeed!

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Happy Birthday, Byron!

By Byron LaMasters

I'm 21 today!

Yes, I'm pre-dating this post, because I'll be partying at the time at which this post is actually dated. I've decided to go to Austin for the weekend. I have a meeting tomorrow (Saturday) morning, and will be driving to Austin afterwards. I'll come home on Sunday or Monday. It will be fun to see friends and have fun.

Want to give me a birthday present? PayPal makes a birthday donation easy! How about $21 for my 21st birthday? Heh. It's worth a shot!

I probably will not be posting again until late Monday. However, I think that Jim and Andrew will both be posting something over the weekend. Also, sorry for the *very* slow page load time today - I'm not sure what the problem is, but I'll try and get it fixed on Monday if it still persists then.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:01 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 19, 2003

Slick Dick Perry, Tommy Gun Craddick and Tweedledum Dewhurst

By Andrew Dobbs

My, how the tables have turned. Word around the capitol at the beginning of the regular session this year was that Dewhurst did not want to touch redistricting, but it looks like the machine-style thuggery of Slick Dick Perry and Tommy Gun Craddick has finally pulled old Tweedledum Dewhurst in line.

Democratic senators sent their strongest signal yet Friday that they might boycott a potential second special session on congressional redistricting, much like their House colleagues did in May.

"If there are sufficient numbers to break a quorum, then I'll be a part of breaking it," said Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston. "I'm sure other members, including Republicans, feel the same way."

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, meanwhile, held out the possibility of a series of special sessions lasting through the summer, even into September, if Democratic senators refuse to strike a deal on a new congressional map more favorable to Republicans.

And he said any further sessions would be run on terms more favorable to the GOP.

"I'm committed to having a fair plan, whether we're talking about July, August or September," said Mr. Dewhurst, a Republican.

I clearly remember remarking to a friend one day, in astonishment, that I actually liked David Dewhurst. Here was the former CIA agent who worked with Contras in Nicaragua in the late 70s turned oil baron turned ultra-right wing patron of the racist advocacy group FreePAC that was doing crazy things like pushing for a somewhat fairer budget, proposing a tax hike and state-wide property tax to pay for schools who said he didn’t want to touch redistricting. Just goes to show that the venomous Washington-style partisanship that the GOP has injected into the once cordial corridors of the state capitol won’t leave any decent man standing.

There was a time in this state, less than a year ago actually but it seems much longer, where you could say that even though you disagreed with a man’s politics or his party, you understood that in the end he put the interests of Texas first. Sure, I disagree with the Republicans about how to best serve the people of this state- they think low taxes and less “red tape” is the answer, I believe that more services is the right way- but you would never question that the man or woman standing across from you really believed that they were working for something bigger than themselves or their party. Many are still like that- Bill Ratliff, Tommy Merritt, Bob Duncan and several others. Even George W. Bush as governor I believe really fought for what he thought was best for Texas. But now the GOP is run by a bunch of petty partisan self-promoters that care about nothing but number one. Rick Perry, Tom Craddick, Tom DeLay, Bob Talton and all the others hate this state and they are willing to make it resemble a third-world country and to make it a cautionary tale, a laughing stock, a no-man’s land of poverty, decay, desertion and desperation just so they can vindicate some sick perversion of the conservative philosophy. I hope that someday people choke on the name Tom Craddick or Rick Perry like we do George Wallace or Richard Nixon. These men have reduced the once lofty discourse of service in Texas to a profanity and history will have no mercy on them.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 11:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bush in Dallas, the DMN Reports

By Byron LaMasters

The Dallas Morning News surprisingly gave the anti-Bush protesters decent coverage. It's amazing. The less popular Bush gets, the harder those damn dissenters are to ignore. Here is the article.

The article on the fundraiser was about what I'd expect. Several interviews with awe-struck Bushites who paid $2000 for a dinner of "ham biscuits, vegetables, fruit salad, cheese and deviled eggs". Wow! An improvement over hot dogs! How classy! But Bush fed them the same old lies:

Mr. Bush mentioned Iraq only once, but he linked it with the overall war on terrorism.

"This is the work that history has set before us. We welcome it, and we know that for our country and our cause, better days lie ahead," he said.

Democrats are also seeking to make the economy a decisive election year issue, zeroing in on a couple of numbers: A jobless rate of 6.4 percent, the highest in nine years, and a federal budget deficit now projected at a whopping $455 billion.


As he has said at past fund-raisers, Mr. Bush noted that he had "inherited" a recession. But The National Bureau of Economic Research said the recession began in March of 2001, two months after Mr. Bush took office, and ended that November. White House officials have said that the economy was headed in the wrong direction when they took office.

Mr. Bush, you can fool some of the people, all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all the people, all the time. I think that America is waking up, and is realizing that its been fooled.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

My Birthday Message to Nelson Mandela

By Byron LaMasters

One of my personal heroes is former South African President Nelson Mandela. Today is his 85th Birthday. Click Here to send him a birthday message. Here's what I said in my message:

Thank you for your leadership and work for civil rights throughout your career. I hope that next time that an American president visits your country, it will be someone that we can both be proud of. Please continue your great work, and being an inspiration to young activists like myself across the globe working for a more tolerant and progressive world.

Thanks to Tim Z. for this!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Play the Bush Twister Game!

By Byron LaMasters

Brought to you by the DNC.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 18, 2003

Bush Lied, People Died

By Byron LaMasters

Looks like it's finally getting to him. Thank God. It's about time. Bring on the impeachment hearings!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bait and Swith: Dewhurst Offers a Deal

By Byron LaMasters

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst is trying to buy off minority Senators to agree to a map. It's purely a bait-and-switch effort that won't work, because all of the south Texas senators have sworn their opposition to redistricting. But, it won't stop Dewhurst from trying. The McAllen Monitor reports:

Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Wednesday offered a deal to senators opposed to congressional redistricting in an effort to allow House Bill 3 to reach the floor.

Dewhurst offered to create “minority districts” in South Texas and offered funding for the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) located in the Rio Grande Valley.

“They tried to buy us out like Judas,” said State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who has been leading the charge against redistricting. “They offered us two ‘minority districts’ and the $19 million that they’ve already committed to the RAHC, but have been holding hostage. But why did they have to use the word ‘minority? We are Americans, we are Texans and we are loyal to our constituents. We are not going to sell out for two pieces of silver. We were offended and we said ‘no.’” During a Thursday afternoon press conference, Dewhurst said he has always supported fairness, and fairness justified redistricting. “The majority of voters here in Texas support President George W. Bush and his policies,” Dewhurst said. “The majority of the congressional delegation does not — that’s not fair.”


“I personally want to see a map that reflects the wisdom of our entire senate,” Dewhurst said. “Our committee began work earlier this afternoon on a strong initial map. The map can be improved for the good of the state and it is now time for our Democratic friends to become part of that process.”

Hinojosa said not everyone against redistricting is a Democrat. “Many of our Republican friends are also against redistricting,” Hinojosa said. “It’s the Republican leadership that’s trying to push it through. There’s a difference.”

Dave Beckwith, a press secretary for Dewhurst, did not return repeated telephone calls seeking comment.

Hinojosa also expressed dismay at Dewhurst’s denial that his office has been in contact with the White House about congressional redistricting.

“Karl Rove is in constant contact with the leaders in the Senate and the House,” Hinojosa said. “What they are doing now is, they don’t want Bush to get tainted.”

Rove, Bush’s senior advisor and chief strategist, was out of town Thursday and unavailable for comment, according to his office, who then referred a reporter to the White House Press Office.

Taylor Gross, Bush’s secretary for Texas, did not return telephone calls for comment.

On Tuesday Beckwith confirmed to The Monitor that Dewhurst has spoken to Rove about congressional redistricting during “a casual conversation with Karl Rove a few weeks ago.”

Also on Tuesday, Gross said Rove makes many telephone calls and that to his knowledge had been in touch with at least one Texas legislator on redistricting.


“As each day ticks by and there’s not map, we’re just wasting taxpayer money to please Tom DeLay,” Hinojosa said.


On Monday, Hinojosa, nine other Democratic senators and one Republican — Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mt. Pleasant — signed a letter of commitment, vowing to block any redistricting legislation.

One more Democrat has signed on, bringing the total senators on record against redistricting to 12.

Only one Democratic senator, Ken Armbrister, D-Victoria, has failed to indicate how he would vote on redistricting.

In a Senate that operates under a two-thirds rule, 11 of the 31 senators can block legislation from coming to the floor for debate or vote. But that two-thirds rule might not be around during a second special session, Hinojosa said.

Instead, a simple majority can pass a redistricting bill and map through the Senate during a second special session.

Hinojosa said a quorum would still be required for the Senate to use the simple majority rule. It would require the presence of all 11 of the dissident senators to constitute a quorum.

“If they’re going to sell out the Senate, we’re going to walk,” Hinojosa said. “We’ve got 11 senators willing to break quorum.”

Well, hooray for Sen. Hinojosa! It looks like he's quickly becoming the Richard Raymond of the Senate. He's doing a great job filling the big shoes of his predecessor ("Dirty Thirty" member and Killer Bee), the great Sen. Carlos Traun (D-Corpus Christi), who retired last year. (On a side note, I had an honor of having lunch with Sen. Truan and his wife at last year's Texas Democratic Convention by sheer luck. My friend and I had sat down at this restaurant in downtown El Paso when the Senator and his wife came in. The restaurant was full, but we had two extra seats at our table, and we invited them to sit with us. I wish that I had taken the Texas politics and elections course before meeting Truan, so that I would have had a better understanding of all the work the Traun had when I thanked him for his service to the senate. It goes without saying that the Senator and his wife were fascinating people, and I was honored for him to thank me for getting involved at my age.)

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Austin Smoking Ordinance Delayed

By Byron LaMasters

Last week, I wrote that the Austin City Council was considering a delay of it's smoking ban bars, restaurants and music venues. The ban was passed by a 4-3 vote last month. Two days later, the final council seat was won in a run-off by an anti-ban candidate, Brewster McCracken (who I supported, against pro-ban Margot Clarke). McCracken's addition to the council, along with the departure of pro-ban mayor Gus Garcia (replaced by anti-ban mayor Will Wynn), gave the anti-ban forces a 4-3 majority on the council. Yesterday, by a vote of 5-2, the council voted to delay the ban until January 2, 2004. The Austin American Statesman reports:

Like some horror-show monster, Austin's smoking ordinance seems to come out only after dark.

It also never seems to die.

City Council members voted 5-2 late Thursday to put off a smoking ban in most restaurants, bars and music venues until Jan. 2. It was the second late-night vote on the issue in six weeks.

And it is unlikely to be the final act. A majority of the council has voiced opposition to a ban and has been eager to find a compromise that would ease requirements on bar owners, who fear it will cut into their business.

Health groups urging a total ban have warned that a compromise probably would damage the health of waiters, waitresses, bartenders and other employees in smoky rooms.

The new rules were scheduled to take effect Sept. 1. The council is supposed to vote in late September on the city's toughest budget in well over a decade.

Mayor Will Wynn, who opposes the smoking ban, has frequently noted the city is preparing for potential tax increases, layoffs and other trappings of a budgetary nightmare.

He said Austinites do not need the distraction of the spring's biggest controversy through the summer maelstrom.

Although the council has been split throughout the debate, there was more unanimity for a delay.

Just Council Members Danny Thomas and Daryl Slusher voted against Wynn's proposal.

"I still support the ordinance, but I think it does make sense to defer the implementation of it for a few months until we decide what's going to happen to it," Council Member Betty Dunkerley said.

The council has changed since the smoking ordinance passed. Mayor Gus Garcia, who championed stricter rules, left office shortly after the measure passed.

Wynn, who was elected mayor in May, replaced Garcia.

And Brewster McCracken, whose opposition to a ban became a cornerstone of his council campaign, now has a seat on the dais.

Council Members Jackie Goodman and Raul Alvarez opposed the ban from the beginning, while Dunkerley, Slusher and Thomas supported it.

Even with opposition to the ordinance, few expect members to pull back to current rules that allow burning cigarettes at times in many restaurants and in bars almost all of the time.

Instead, most members are waiting to see what comes out of a city committee made up of health advocates and bar owners that is exploring the issue.

So far, the committee has found little room for compromise. But the council has already shown its willingness to look for middle ground, even if it's unpopular.

Although a majority favored stricter smoking regulations, the council balked at a total ban last month. The final ordinance has exemptions for bingo halls, billiard parlors and meeting halls for fraternal groups.

Both sides of the debate complained about the exemptions.

Health groups said a bartender in a pool hall deserved the same protection as one in a nonspecialty bar.

Owners warned that smokers -- the majority of their patrons -- would more likely buy their drinks in a pool hall if they could light up there.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bush in Dallas Today

By Byron LaMasters

Well, I'm sorry to say that George W. Bush will be in Dallas today, although I'm happy with the Dallas Morning News headline of "Bush visits Dallas as critics grow louder. Fighting off attacks on war, economy, he plans tour, fund-raiser today". Lovely. It almost makes me want to buy a $2000 hot dog so I can listen to him tell me how he'll continue his war against the economy, and explain why the hell we're in Iraq, and why Americans are killed everyday in an operation with no end, and no exit strategy. Oh, right, it was all about liberating the Iraqi people. What a load of crap. I could go protest, but I'd rather do something productive, like prepare for the Texas Young Democrats Executive Board meeting tomorrow. Anyway, for the rest of you, here's the news.

President Bush returns to Dallas on Friday in a relatively unusual political posture: playing defense.

As he visits the city to tour a YMCA and raise campaign money, Mr. Bush is getting hammered by Democrats over the rising death toll in Iraq, new questions over the reasons for that war, continuing worries about the economy and a record-setting budget deficit.

"There are a lot of things going on, none of which are good news for him," said Karlyn Bowman, who analyzes polls for the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. "It's a rough time for him."

Still, Mr. Bush's poll numbers remain strong, analysts said. And supporters said they are eager to tout Mr. Bush's accomplishments in his upcoming re-election bid, to be financed in part with events like the one Friday at the Wyndham Anatole.

"The president is very much focused on the future and doing what he can do in protecting the homeland, winning the war on terror and getting the economy moving again," said Ken Mehlman, Mr. Bush's campaign manager.

Before the gala, Mr. Bush will visit Lakewest YMCA in West Dallas to promote physical fitness.

Aides declined to estimate how much money they will raise at the $2,000-per-person fund-raiser in Dallas, and at another fund-raiser Saturday in Houston. Mr. Bush addressed seven fund-raisers last month that hauled in between $1.2 million and $4 million each.

Overall, Mr. Bush's re-election campaign raised $34.4 million in its first three months, more than its nine Democratic challengers combined. Analysts predict the Bush campaign could collect $150 million to $200 million for a primary season in which Mr. Bush faces no serious opposition.

Instead, Bush officials plan to prepare for the fall campaign with television commercials and grass-roots organizing. Bush supporters also said the money will help him respond to the attacks that Democrats make during the battle for their party's nomination.

Some of Mr. Bush's severest critics plan to greet him at the Anatole. A coalition of organizations is planning a group protest over what it calls "economic insecurity," "dismantling of the Bill of Rights," "destroying the environment" and "misrepresentations about the invasion and occupation of Iraq."

Mr. Bush will also spend time this weekend at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. On Sunday he will host Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the current president of the European Union.

This is Mr. Bush's first trip home since the White House acknowledged that Mr. Bush should not have used his State of the Union address to accuse Iraq of seeking uranium from Africa for a nuclear weapons program. That unsubstantiated allegation has created a firestorm over the justification for the war.

Democrats once reluctant to criticize Mr. Bush over Iraq have become more assertive. They said the uranium claim, combined with the failure to date to find caches of chemical and biological weapons, undermines Mr. Bush's case for invading Iraq.

"It's a disgrace that the case for war seems to have been based on shoddy intelligence, hyped intelligence and even false intelligence," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

There are signs that attacks on Mr. Bush's credibility are taking a political toll. His job approval ratings, once consistently above 60 percent, have dipped below that mark in some recent surveys.

Yet missing weapons and questionable claims may be less a danger to Mr. Bush's standing than the fact that guerrilla war rages in Iraq, political analysts said.

"There has been growing criticism of his Iraq policy for a different reason – because Americans are getting killed," said William Schneider, senior political analyst with CNN. "The situation there still seems out of control."

If Iraq continues to be seen as unstable, however, the prewar arguments may well intensify.

"People will say, 'How did we get into this mess?' " Mr. Schneider said.

Mr. Bush is also on the defensive over the economy. The jobless rate is the highest it has been in nine years, and his administration just projected a budget deficit of $455 billion, a record high (though not a record amount when measured against the economy as a whole).

Democrats said the deficits reflect poor stewardship of the economy, zeroing in on Bush-supported tax cuts that they say favor the wealthy and will lead to oceans of federal red ink in future years.

White House officials noted that the vast majority of the critics are Democrats, and there is more than a whiff of politics in the air. Nine of those are Democrats seeking to defeat Mr. Bush in next year's election.

Bush aides said they are making progress in Iraq, as the U.S. military tries to subdue violent remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime. They cited the recent creation of the Iraqi Governing Council and preparations for elections.

As for the economy, Mr. Bush and aides said the tax cuts are starting to stimulate activity, encouraging employers to hire people and create economic growth.

Aides said Mr. Bush is not yet in campaign mode. But the stump speech the president has made at previous fund-raisers – one he is expected to echo in Dallas – offers a preview of the case he plans to make in the fall of 2004.

Mr. Bush links the action against Mr. Hussein to the overall war on terrorism that began with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. That includes the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan to remove the ruling Taliban, which had harbored Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terrorist group, which plotted Sept. 11.
While Democrats point out that Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Hussein remain at large, Mr. Bush tells audiences, as he did in New York: "In Afghanistan and Iraq, we gave ultimatums to terror regimes. Those regimes chose defiance, and those regimes are no more."

Discussing the struggling economy, Mr. Bush cites a variety of factors: a recession and stock market slump at the start of his term, the Sept. 11 attacks, corporate corruption and prewar uncertainty regarding Iraq.

Though Democrats said the Bush-backed tax cuts are the biggest factor, Mr. Bush said in San Francisco: "When Americans have more take-home pay to spend, to save, or to invest, the whole economy grows and someone is more likely to find a job."

Throughout his fund-raising speeches, Mr. Bush has touted the passage of an education bill, conservative judges, creation of the Department of Homeland Security and an anti-AIDS program for Africa.

Mr. Bush's campaign will have plenty of money to press its case, though his chances of success may well come down to other factors.

Said Ms. Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute: "It all depends on whether things improve – both economically and with the situation in Iraq."

The Dallas Peace Center is leading a protest against Bush, so if your interested, Click here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:00 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Biden Blog

By Byron LaMasters

Well, since I'm linking to all the other unofficial campaign blogs, there's now an unofficial campaign blog for Joe Biden, found via Political Wire. I'm personally not a big fan of Biden, but best of luck to the blog.

For more presidential blogs, check out my Presidential Blogs post, and my follow up reporting on the Graham Blog.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:22 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 17, 2003

Latest Action Via QR

By Byron LaMasters

The Quorum Report has the latest:

In a press availability this afternoon, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst laid his cards on the table.

Senate protocol and tradition will be honored meaning the 2/3s rule. But he was quite clear. If the Democrats use their numbers to block redistricting during this special session, the Governor will call another special session.

In the next special session, there will be no blocker bill. Referring to the "Bullock precedent", Dewhurst said that the redistricting bill would be the first one filed next time around. Responding to a court ordered redistricting in 1992, then Lt. Governor Bob Bullock put redistricting as the first bill in sequence. That meant that a 2/3s vote was not required to bring the bill up.

Meanwhile, the Quorum Report gives another example of Republicans talking the talk with veterans, but not walking the walk. This should be an election issue next year. Republicans are anti-veteran. They have no shame. This is pure retaliation for the G.I. Forum's members protesting redistricting:

Gov. Rick Perry has told the American GI Forum that he is cutting $300,000 in discretionary federal funds that go to the group's National Veterans Outreach Program.

The decision was immediately condemned by Ram Chavez, the group's state commander for Texas, and Democratic congressmen as retaliation for the strong opposition Hispanic veterans have shown to congressional redistricting.

"There is no question in our minds that Gov. Perry is retaliating," Chavez said. "But he is not just hurting GI Forum members. His mean-spiritedness will affect all veterans. It is a sad day when veterans are used in political turf wars.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:51 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Time to Pray

By Byron LaMasters

It looks like Pat Robertson is up to his old tricks. I'll be praying, how about you? It'll be a good, old-fashioned prayer-a-thon. Hallelujah!

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson urged his nationwide audience Monday to pray for God to have three justices retire from the Supreme Court so they could be replaced by conservatives.

"We ask for miracles in regard to the Supreme Court," Mr. Robertson said on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "The 700 Club."

Mr. Robertson has begun a 21-day "prayer offensive" directed at the Supreme Court in the wake of its 6-3 vote last month that struck down state sodomy laws. Mr. Robertson said in a letter on the CBN Web site that the ruling "has opened the door to homosexual marriage, bigamy, legalized prostitution and even incest."

The same letter targets three justices in particular: "One justice is 83 years old, another has cancer and another has a heart condition. Would it not be possible for God to put it in the minds of these three judges that the time has come to retire?"

Judging from the descriptions, Mr. Robertson was referring at least to Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Associated Press reports.

Is any further comment really necessary? I think I'll just have a laugh at Rev. Robertson's expense with my boyfriend tonight. Yeah, we'll be praying for you, Reverend.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:58 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

The Staples Map

By Byron LaMasters

The latest map, here, by Senator Staples. It will be presented to the Senate Jurisprudence Committee today. I think that this is the map drawn by State Senator Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) that Staples is presenting, but I'm not sure. Under the map, my apartment on 38th Street would be in district 10, but every day, on my 8 minute bike ride, I would travel into the 21st district. What a disgrace. UT representated by someone from San Antonio? That's just traitorous. Then a mile to the east, East Austin would be ghettoized into the 25th district represented by someone from Hidalgo County. Communities of interest? That's some ugly shit. Look at districts 10, 11, 15, 25, 26, etc. Maybe the BOR reader from usdoj.gov can tell me what you think of it. Time for the Democratic Senators to pack their bags...

Update: Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) has proposed a map. This one keeps Lloyd Doggett's district in tact, but is still hideous. Check it out, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Democratic hints of Exodus

By Byron LaMasters

The McAllen Monitor ran an article today detailing the decision-making process for previously undecided Senator Frank Madla (D-San Antonio):

Some state legislators are lined up like elementary students on a school blacktop, trying to get on the same kickball team as their friends.

Some have been successful, like Texas Sen. Frank Madla, D-San Antonio, who had been undecided on the Republican-backed congressional redistricting efforts under way in the state.

Madla on Wednesday said he had been praying for guidance and it has been provided — through 3,000 letters addressed to him concerning redistricting.

“The flood of input from the people in the district I represent and the state as a whole is impossible to ignore,” Madla said. “I have heard from Democrats, Republicans and independent voters alike, and the message is the same: Please block or vote against any redistricting plan.”

About 20 of the letters he received support a change in the current congressional lines, Madla said.

“While some were the result of phone banking, the majority of these contacts were individually composed e-mails and individually placed phone calls citing specific reasons for their opposition,” Madla said.

Wow! Old fashioned activism still works with some people! Amazing! The Monitor goes on to suggest that because of a recent ruling preventing the DPS from arresting absent lawmakers, it would be easy for Senate Democrats to break quorum should Dewhurst decide to end the two thirds rule:

The situation in Austin is so tense, hand-to-hand combat could be a possibility, [Sen. Hinojosa] said.

“I think as soon as a map is voted out of committee, they (Republicans) will find they do not have a quorum on the Senate floor,” Hinojosa said.

The statement implied that senators opposed to redistricting would stage a walkout, much like the one in the House during the regular session. A group of Democratic state representatives, now known as the Killer D’s, led an exodus from Austin to prevent a quorum on the House floor. As a result, redistricting legislation died in the regular session.

“DPS (The Texas Department of Public Safety) no longer can arrest a legislator,” Hinojosa said. “We would resist arrest. They would have to handcuff us and we would use physical force to defend ourselves, because they have no authority to do that (arrest a legislator).”

Wow. This could happen as early as tomorrow if a map passes out of committee today. We'll have to wait and see.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dan Morales Pleads Guilty

By Byron LaMasters

This just in. Former Attorney General (1991-1999) and 2002 candidate for governor Dan Morales pled guilty today to mail fraud and income tax evasion. He faces fines and possible prison time. The Austin American Statesman reports:

Former Texas Attorney General Dan Morales, once among the brightest young stars in state politics, on Thursday pleaded guilty to federal charges of mail fraud and income tax evasion as part of a plea agreement that could send him to prison for four years. He also faces $1.25 million in fines.

The whole incident has just been sad to see. I was too young to have really followed Morales's political career, so when I first became familiar with him in the 2002 campaign, he just seemed weird - insisting on the whole "English only" in debates, and he made fool of himself in the Spanish debate against Tony Sanchez in the primary. I'm sure that had I been active in Texas politics back in the 1990s, I might have had some fonder memories of him, but its hard to have much sympathy who's such a sore loser (he endorsed both Perry and Dewhurst after losing the Democratic nomination last year). Dumb and Dumber. Well, it looks like Mr. Morales will have four years to think things over, so hopefully it will do him some good.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:38 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Shapiro Map Coming Today

By Byron LaMasters

State Senator Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) will introduce a map to the Senate Jurisprudence Committee today. It will divide Travis County three ways, targetting Lloyd Doggett, and also endangers Martin Frost. From the Austin American Statesman:

Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, announced that a dozen GOP colleagues had a substitute map waiting in the wings.

For Travis County, the result would be the same: a three-way split that would probably endanger U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin.

"Travis County is one of the larger counties in the state," Shapiro said. "You're now up with the big boys. To just have two (districts) is untenable."

Shapiro said her map would have 18 predominantly Republican districts, 11 Democratic districts and three that would be toss-ups. She said she wasn't sure whether Doggett could win re-election.

Doggett was hardly surprised: "Like 'Night of the Living Dead,' a new map is lurching into the Senate embodying Tom DeLay's ghoulish desire to carve up Travis County."

DeLay is the U.S. House majority leader from Sugar Land, who wants to increase the Republicans' majority in Congress, particularly from Texas.

The map drawn with input from 12 of the 19 Republican senators would seem to have legs. Even with 12 supporters, the plan would still need 21 votes to even be debated in the Senate under current rules.

Shapiro said she intentionally did not involve any members of the Senate's redistricting committee when drawing the map, but she did ask a committee member, Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, to present it publicly late Wednesday afternoon.

After the Senate GOP leadership huddled, however, the signals changed again. Staples announced he would rework the map overnight.

"It's bizarre," said Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville. "I've never seen anything like it."

Since April, the Republicans have fought to increase their share of the state's 32 congressional seats. Instead of their current 15, they would like to have 20 or more.

So far, the partisan battle has prompted a walkout in May by House Democrats, a special session called this month by Gov. Rick Perry, and a declaration this week by 11 senators that they are ready to block debate under the current Senate rules.

A 12th member, Sen. Frank Madla, D-San Antonio, joined the would-be blockers on Wednesday. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, has implied that he might bend the debate rules for redistricting if he can't rally enough votes.

Now Harris, Dewhurst's choice to draw the maps, has quit mysteriously in the middle of the redistricting session.

"I have found now there's a computer glitch in the software, and actually those two maps will now not stand up, and both maps had to be adjusted," Harris said of the two versions he was to propose. "At this point, I'm out of the map-drawing business. Senator Staples now has that privilege."

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 16, 2003

The Harris Non-Maps

By Byron LaMasters

The maps that Sen. Chris Harris (R-Arlington) were going to propose, but at the last minute, decided not to (see below posts), are available over at the Quorum Report. Go here. The maps are nearly identical with the major difference being that the latter splits Webb County (Laredo) and the former keeps it whole. Lloyd Doggett and Martin Frost are the top two targets in this map, but most of the white Democrats are targetted for extinction in the plans (with the exception of Ralph Hall). The map leaves south Texas in a mess, and would have a Hidalgo County Democrat representing part of Travis County, and once again the voting strength of minorities in Tarrant County would be diluted to the extent that it would constitute, in my opinion, a violation of the Voting Rights Act. I believe that that is probably the opinion of the attorney general as well (based on what has happened earlier today).

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Texas Money

By Byron LaMasters

The Dallas Morning News published how much statewide elected officials raised in the second quarter. It's illegal to raise money during the regular session, but since the end of the regular session, its been one fundraiser after another. Here's where several Republicans stand after the second quarter:

During the same period, the Republican governor reported raising $272,771, virtually all from a handful of contributors.

Tuesday was the deadline for officeholders and candidates to report to the Texas Ethics Commission how much money they raised during the first six months of the year. State law prohibits officeholders from raising money during the legislative session, which opened in January and ended June 2.

Among other top GOP leaders:

  • Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst reported raising $1.2 million, mostly from an event in Austin after the legislative session. Mr. Dewhurst spent roughly the same amount during the period.

  • House Speaker Tom Craddick collected about $40,000 and spent $173,000 during the first half of the year.

  • Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn raised $769,000 during the period, according to her finance report.

No big surprises, really. Strayhorn wants to run for higher office in 2006, so expect her to continue to raise lots of money. I would guess that the same is true for Dewhurst, but he's also stated his interest in being Lt. Governor for awhile. Perry and Senator Hutchison are the wild cards in 2006. Hutchison wants to run for Governor, and might try and work a deal with Perry to appoint him to the senate, but either of them could get a primary challenge from Dewhurst or Strayhorn. At this point its three years away, and its all pure speculation, but I think that the infighting that Republicans avoided in the 2002 primaries will return in 2006 (not that that's a good or a bad thing, but I think that its inevitable).

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

No Harris Maps

By Byron LaMasters

From the Quorum Report:

HARRIS OUT OF THE MAP DRAWING BUSINESS His maps were designed by Attorney General's office In a brief statement before the Senate Jurisprudence Committee, Senator Chris Harris (R-Ft.Worth) said that neither of the two maps he had been prepared to lay out met appropriate standards. He said that they had been prepared by the Attorney General's office but due to a computer glitch, they did not pass muster

I guess that Attorney General Greg Abbott and I think alike. Any attempt to dilute the minority voting stregth in the 24th district (Frost) violates the Voting Rights Act. Period.

Update: The Austin American Statesman is on the story:

The Senate's lead member on drafting proposed changes to the state's congressional boundaries abruptly withdrew from the role, but said another senator was prepared to step in.

Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, earlier Wednesday had said he would be presenting two proposals for redrawing congressional boundaries. Lawmakers are considering the issue in a special session at the urging of congressional Republicans who hope to pad their majority in Washington.

Instead of presenting the maps, however, Harris said he was withdrawing as the lead senator on the issue.

"At this point, I am out of the map-drawing business." Harris said, adding that Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, would be presenting a map.

Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock and chairman of the committee considering the redistricting debate quipped, "I don't know if (Staples) wants that."

According to Harris, Staples had presented him with a small map at 10:10 a.m. Wednesday and that appeared to the map that would be debated by the committee.

Harris said he had been told by the attorney general that his maps were illegal. With that, Harris left the committee room. Reporters chased after Harris but the gruff Arlington senator would say little.

David Beckwith, a spokesman for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, rushed to the committee room when he heard that Harris had announced there was a "glitch" with his maps.

Beckwith said Harris' action was a surprise to the lieutenant governor's staff.

Duncan recessed the committee while it regrouped.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Senate Map Targets Frost

By Byron LaMasters

Sen. Chris Harris (R-Arlington) will release two redistricting maps this afternoon. Aparantly, Rep. Martin Frost (D-Arlington) is now a target. I do believe that it is nearly impossible to draw a district where Frost could not win without violating the Voting Rights Act, but here's what the Austin American Statesman says about it:

State Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, said he will be presenting two proposed congressional maps Wednesday in which Democrats will find "very little" to like.

Harris said his maps would "take out" the senior Democratic member of Congress, Martin Frost of Arlington, because Harris' constituents want him gone. Frost has been in Congress since 1979.

Harris' maps come as a majority of the Senate's 12 Democrats and one Senate Republican continue to oppose any changes to the current boundaries for Texas' 32 congressional districts.


Harris did not estimate how many more Republicans could be elected if either of the maps was adopted but said either would increase their membership in Congress. He also said each map would create a new Hispanic district in south Texas and an African American district in Houston.


Unlike a map that has gotten state House approval, Harris' maps would leave McLennan County, including Waco, in a single district.

Harris said the primary difference between his two maps is that one divides Webb County in south Texas, which he really doesn't want to do.

He said the process is far from over because apparently a third map, with Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, as author, is also expected to be released Wednesday.

Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, is the chairman of the senate Jurisprudence Committee that is dealing with redistricting. He said the committee will want to take several days of testimony on the maps and other senators may be bringing additional maps.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst predicted no map would clear the committee and reach the Senate floor until sometime next week.

I'll post maps and comment on them when I see them.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More Editorials

By Byron LaMasters

More redistricting editorials from around the state, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Off the Kuff

By Byron LaMasters

Charles is experiencing technical difficulties with his blog, Off the Kuff. He's asked me to notify my readers, since we share some of the same audience. Let's all hope that he gets things fixed up soon, so that he can get Off the Kuff back online.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:52 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Redistricting Chaos

By Byron LaMasters

Again, redistricting was all over the papers today, with no one exactly sure what is next. Here's all the details of the latest action.

Again, redistricting was all over the papers today, with no one exactly sure what is next. The San Antonio Express-News explained how we got to where we are today. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) led ten Democratic senators and Bill Ratliff to sign the "unalterable opposition" document:

Like a riverboat gambler, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte held her cards close to the vest.

Throughout the day Monday, the San Antonio legislator held the document she authored so close that it literally came between her and her bra.

Tuesday, she smiled coyly as she pointed under her blouse at the undergarment that stashed the document everyone was asking about, but no one would see.

Ten Senate Democrats and one Republican senator signed the letter, which informs Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst that a contentious congressional redistricting bill — the main reason lawmakers are meeting in a special session this month — is all but dead.

"Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, in his heart, expects the Senate to hold hands and sing Kumbaya over a redistricting map. That's not reality, and it's not going to happen," Van de Putte said.

Under longstanding rules in the Senate, 11 of the 31 members can prevent a measure from being brought up for floor debate.

Although the document had not been delivered as of late Tuesday, Van de Putte said the 11 senators are firm in their opposition to redistricting "and we will not be moved."

There was more about Gov. Perry's intentions to call a second special session in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

If congressional redistricting is blocked in the special legislative session, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Tuesday, Gov. Rick Perry will call another session.

And if that happens, several key Texas Senate Democrats said they might resort to a quorum-busting tactic similar to the flight to Oklahoma by their House counterparts to ensure that congressional boundaries remain unchanged until after the 2004 elections.

Tuesday's back-and-forth between the state's top Republican leaders and key Democrats came on the heels of Monday's announcement by state Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, that he would join the effort to kill what he called a "partisan bloodletting" move to redraw the state's political map. The political lines were drawn in 2001.

Dewhurst, a first-term Republican who presides over the Senate, said he was working diligently to keep the peace in the 31-member chamber. But he warned that unless senators approve a redistricting plan, lawmakers could expect to spend at least another month in the Capitol. A 30-day special session of the state Legislature costs taxpayers an estimated $1.7 million, or about $57,000 per day.

"At the end of the day, I am still optimistic that we'll be able to come up with a map which will have a consensus of senators behind [it] ," Dewhurst said.

Asked whether he thought the governor would call another special session if the current one ends on July 29 without a consensus, Dewhurst replied, "Yes." Asked whether Perry had told him that, Dewhurst answered, "Yes, he did."

Perry, who spoke briefly with reporters outside the Senate chamber, offered a more guarded answer.

"Oh, I never rule it out," he said.

The article went on to say that undecided (on redistricting) Sen. Ken Armbrister (D-Victoria) offered to lead a walkout among senators to break quorum should Dewhurst decide to abandon the two thirds rule in a special session:

The impasse in the Senate centers on one of the chamber's most cherished traditions: that any 11 members can band together to block debate on legislation.

With Ratliff joining 10 Democrats firmly opposed to redistricting, it would appear that the issue is dead. But Dewhurst said he might consider breaking tradition and allow a simple majority to decide redistricting instead of requiring a two-thirds majority, 21 votes.

"I would lead the exodus if they tried to violate the 21-vote rule," said state Sen. Ken Armbrister of Victoria, a conservative Democrat who has not ruled out supporting a redistricting effort. "I think that's one tradition that we don't relinquish for any reason."

All 12 of the Senate's Democrats have said they want the 21-vote rule protected. But Republicans are divided.

The issue has united all twelve senate Democrats, but Republicans are divided

"I'd break it in a heartbeat," said Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio.

"I ran for public office the first time in 1974, and I've watched the Democratic majority kick Republicans around for 30 years. And we've just taken it because we have been outvoted," he said. "And the very first time we get a majority, what do they do? They run off and hide in Oklahoma in a parliamentary sneak attack, and if that's the way they are going to play the game, the majority needs to exercise its will."

But Lubbock Republican Robert Duncan, chairman of the Senate committee handling redistricting, said he would be loath to change course on the rule.

"It's been a tradition in the Senate that has worked well," he said. "I think it would be preferable for the two-thirds rule to remain."


The Senate committee handling redistricting has yet to offer a proposed map for the members' consideration, and Duncan said he has yet to see a draft map that he could support.

The Austin American Statesman did a survey of it's own with the Senators on redistricting. Their finding?

A survey of senators on Tuesday indicated that at least 14 object to changing the rules. It would take only 11 dissenters to shut down the Senate.

Dewhurst does have support from several Republican senators for the rule change for the redistricting bill. Nine senators voiced various levels of support for changing the rules only for redistricting. Four said they were unsure, two refused to comment, and two could not be reached.

One of the supporters, Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, said redistricting is different from other legislation because it's a partisan issue.

"I think the (two-thirds) rule is crucial for everything but redistricting," he said. "It is the partisan issue the Legislature deals with."

He said the Democrats punished Republicans for decades during redistricting and now the GOP should be in charge: "We are the majority, and the majority should rule."

Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat and the longest-serving senator, said breaking tradition is dangerous.

He said other votes — vouchers and abortion rights, for example — could break down along party lines. And, he added, there will be temptation in the future to debate bills without a two-thirds approval.

"If you start making exceptions for tradition, there's no end," he said. "I think it does irreparable harm."

Several senators and Dewhurst cited 1992 as a precedent for breaking the tradition.

That year, Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock and the Texas Senate met quickly in special session when the courts threw out the Senate's map.

Sen. Kip Averitt, R-McGregor, opposes splitting his home county of McLennan, but he said he isn't ready to stop trying to draw a new map.

As for Dewhurst changing the rules, Averitt said: "I think changing the rules in midstream probably is not the best thing. It should certainly be the absolute last option considered."

Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, is the redistricting committee's chairman. He said his constituents oppose a new map. Asked whether he could vote for one, he said, "It would be awful tough on it unless I had some consensus (from his constituents) on it."

Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, said he would vote against any map unless it kept intact the three counties that contain Fort Hood. He also said he opposes creating a congressional district for Midland, the hometown of House Speaker Tom Craddick. But Fraser said he could support breaking tradition and debating a map with only 16 senators if his concerns are taken care of.

Even if Dewhurst changes the rules and a map passes, it will have to go to a conference committee of House and Senate members who will negotiate a final map.

That has many senators nervous.

Perry and Dewhurst could very well have a fight on their hands, should Perry call a second session and Dewhurst abandon the two thirds rule. Not only might senate Democrats break quorum, but senate Republicans are anything but unified. As I've said all along, this whole redistricting mess has done more to unite Democrats in Texas than anything that Democrats could ever do.

The Houston Chronicle, trying to best the Statesman's poll of senators, decided to interview former governors. I think the Statesman wins this one. Senators opinions are a tad bit more important than 90 year old former governors. Still, it's interesting that the Houston Chronicle was able to get ahold of conservative Democratic governors Preston Smith and Dolph Briscoe. We don't hear from them too much any more:

Former Democratic Govs. Preston Smith and Dolph Briscoe have been retired from active politics for years. But they remain spectators from afar, and both believe it is wrong for Perry, a Republican, to try to redraw congressional districts set two years ago by a federal court.

Perry's goal is to increase the number of Republicans elected to the U.S. House from Texas. Although all statewide officeholders and a majority of state legislators are Republicans, Democrats still hold a 17-15 edge in the House delegation.

"I see a danger in this. Next session we may have a Democratic majority (in the Legislature). Will they redraw them again?" Smith said in a phone interview from Lubbock, where, at 91, he still helps raise money for Texas Tech University.

He said Perry and the Legislature should live with the map drawn by the federal court after the 2001 Legislature failed to act in the first session after the 2000 U.S. census, the traditional session for redistricting.

"They had a chance to do that in 2001 and failed to do it," Smith said.

Briscoe, 80, of Uvalde, who returned a phone call from vacation in England, agreed.

"I think it's traditional to do it every 10 years. To me, it sets a bad precedent to redraw the districts between the time of the censuses," he said.

As for the editorial department, the Austin American Statesman praised Sen. Ratliff's decision to oppose redistricting:

If you are among those who bemoan the lack of courage and independence in politicians, then please take note of Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant. He has single-handedly taken on U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick, all Republicans.

Ratliff announced Monday that he will not support any plan to redraw Texas' congressional district lines. It was not a solo blast. He joined 10 Democratic senators in making the announcement, and under Senate rules, it takes just 11 of the 31 senators to block consideration of any bill -- even if a simple majority would approve the bill itself, as would likely happen if a redistricting bill were to reach the Senate floor. DeLay and other GOP leaders want such a bill to boost the number of Republican representatives from Texas in the U.S. House, from the current 15 (out of 32) to as many as 22.

In joining the Democrats on this issue, Ratliff was not acting out of partisan favor for either party, or even out of personal interest. Rather, he acted out of what he considered the best interests of his small city and rural constituents, who don't want to become the tail of a congressional district wagged by Dallas suburbs.

Ratliff's constituents, like Ratliff himself and other small-town and rural Texans, have irritated and frustrated DeLay with their independence. On the whole, they are conservative and vote Republican: They backed George W. Bush for president, John Cornyn for U.S. Senate, Perry for governor and Dewhurst for lieutenant governor. But then they broke ranks and voted for conservative or moderate Democrats for Congress whom they have come to know and trust. In Ratliff's part of the state, that has meant they supported Rep. Max Sandlin, D-Marshall.

There are other congressional Democrats getting support in rural and otherwise Republican-leaning districts, such as Ralph Hall of Rockwall, Charles Stenholm of Stamford and Chet Edwards of Waco.

Ratliff isn't worried about saving Democrats. He wants to make sure his constituents have an effective say in who gets elected to Congress, and he thinks the maps he has seen so far won't do it.

Dewhurst has not given up. He hopes to come up with a redistricting plan that would satisfy the concerns of Ratliff -- and other rural Republican senators who have the same fears but aren't willing to buck the party leadership. Failing that, Dewhurst might find some way around the longstanding rule that requires 21 votes to bring a bill up for Senate debate, though such a maneuver would entail a risk to his hard-won reputation for fairness and his mastery of the Senate's tradition of bipartisan governance.

The lieutenant governor suggested Tuesday that Perry might call another special session on redistricting if this one fails, and Perry declined to rule out that possibility.

Our preference is that the Legislature drop this unnecessary redistricting exercise and go home. Let the Republicans come up with candidates who can beat the likes of Stenholm and Edwards at the polls.

In the meantime, for those who bemoan the lack of backbone in state politicians, take a look at Ratliff. It doesn't get much stiffer than that.

The Dallas Morning News joined the Statesman in urging Dewhurst to maintain the senate tradition of the two thirds rule.

No telling what the pressure is like on Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Republican partisans must be twisting his arms as hard as Lyndon Johnson coerced legislators in Washington. They want their leader to break the Senate's rules during the special redistricting session, now that GOP Sen. Bill Ratliff has stalled the Republican push to create new congressional districts.

Mr. Dewhurst, don't bend.

Remember what you told this newspaper after the regular session ended. The Republican in you favors a special session on redistricting. But the leader of the Senate in you does not, because it would spoil the chamber's collegial atmosphere.

Mr. Dewhurst, apply that common sense now.

With the respected Mr. Ratliff deciding to join 10 Democrats in blocking the Senate from considering a GOP-friendly congressional map, Republicans will want you to end a very important Senate rule. It's the one that requires two-thirds of the Senate to approve bringing a bill to the floor.

Ending that rule, Mr. Dewhurst, will be like Adam biting into the apple. It looks juicy, but it will satisfy only for the moment. Bitterness will follow, and the Texas Senate never may be the same.

The two-thirds rule essentially demands that legislators from both parties shop their ideas around to Democratic and Republican legislators. They must line up support from both parties to get bills to the floor.

As Sen. Ratliff says, the rule explains why the Senate operates with a surprising sense of bipartisanship. If Mr. Dewhurst ends it to get a new map to the floor, Washington-style partisanship could become common. That would be doubly disastrous, because the GOP-led House already has lost much of the bipartisanship of the 1990s.

Ideally, Mr. Dewhurst would wipe his hands of "rolling redistricting" entirely. But if he wants a new congressional map or feels he must satisfy Gov. Rick Perry, House Speaker Tom Craddick and the state's GOP financial backers, we suggest he work with the Senate Jurisprudence Committee to come up with a map that can get the support of 21 senators.

That's a far better option than breaking a tradition that benefits Texans. Their legislature doesn't need a can of poison dumped into it. That's what we urge you to remember, Mr. Dewhurst.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 15, 2003

Hurricane Claudette: A Burnt Orange Weather Report

By Jim Dallas

GALVESTON -- Hurricane Claudette roared into town this morning, shutting down island schools, closing businesses, knocking out power and the ferry service between Galveston and Port Bolivar.

UTMB remained open.

I was out early this morning trying to get to work downtown from my folks' house on the West End of the Island. Large parts of the West End, which is not protected by the seawall, were flooded this morning and major sections of beach were eroded by high waves.

On the Seawall itself, street signs were knocked over by high wind and crashing waves sent pillars of wind-driven salt water dozens of feet into the air, drenching the few passing vehicles (including ours) which were out there. Seaweed and debris covered the road surface.

Downtown streets flooded, shutting down most businesses on the Strand, a major tourist draw.

The eye of Hurricane Claudette, which made landfall near Port O'Conner early in the afternoon, passed about 60 miles south of Galveston. Claudette has been downgraded to a tropical storm and the remnants are expected to bring heavy rain to Central Texas in the coming days.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Graham Blog

By Byron LaMasters

Over the weekend, I posted on Presidential Blogs. At the time, I was unaware of a blog supporting Bob Graham for President, but I have since found the Bob Wire, which is an unoffical blog supporting Bob Graham for President. Best of luck to them.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Senate Map?

By Byron LaMasters

I'm expecting to see a State Senate redistricting map pop up at some point over at Texas Legislative Council site. While I haven't seen any official senate map, I have seen two maps "PLAN 01295C -Owens" and "PLAN 01296C -Owens". Now, I don't know who "Owens" is, because there's no senator or state rep. named "Owens", but the maps drawn by Owens, look a lot like possible senate maps. Owens' maps address the concerns of a lot of the senators.

Take a look at the most recent map, here. The map creates bait for Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-McAllen) by creating an open 24th congressional district in Hidalgo and Cameron County. It creates bait for Sen. Ratliff, by restoring the vast majority of the 1st congressional district (Max Sandlin) in northeast Texas, and esentially keeps the predominantly rural nature of the 2nd (Jim Turner) and 9th (Nick Lampson) districts. It does make Turner's district more Republican, however, by adding Tyler - Longview. The map eliminates Ralph Hall's 4th district. It draws Martin Frost into a new Republican seat, the 4th including suburban Dallas and Fort Worth, although Kay Granger's 12th becomes slightly majority Democratic. The 19th district remains a Lubbock / Midland-Odessa seat, but Charlie Stenholm's 17th and Chet Edwards' 11th districts are radically altered. Neither is paired, but both would have lots of new constituents unfamiliar with them. Neither would be favored for re-election under this map. The map also pairs Henry Bonilla and Lamar Smith in the new 21st (Hill Country) favoring Smith. However, the 20th includes much of Bonilla's old territory, and that district, held by Charlie Gonzales would have a nearly 50/50 Republican / Democratic split. It's interesting to look at, and there are some pretty hideous looking districts (see 15 and 17) in the plan, but it is probably similar to something that the senate might try to do.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:14 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Another Session?

By Byron LaMasters

Well, as I suggested earlier, it looks as if Rick Perry would have no problem calling a second special session to address redistricting. The Austin American Statesman reports:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Tuesday that he expects Gov. Rick Perry will call another special legislative session to address congressional redistricting if a plan is not approved this session.

Perry, speaking to reporters earlier, would not confirm that he would call lawmakers back to the Capitol to redraw congressional districts if they fail to adopt a plan, but he left the option open.

"Oh, I never rule it out," Perry said.

Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, said Perry told him he would call another session but Dewhurst also said he believes lawmakers should solve the issue now.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Students feel effects of Budget cuts

By Byron LaMasters

The Daily Texan reports that the University of Texas will be decreasing the hours in which the library is open. I've spent many late night hours in the SMF, and I'd be upset to see it close. There's really no experience comparable to starting a paper at midnight in order to finish it by eight or nine in the morning. I've certainly had my share of those nights. This is just one of many examples of how the Republican Party budget cuts hurt Texas. I'll be certain to remind students, come 2004, who is resonsible for their increased tuition and decreased services at UT

The time-honored college tradition of student procrastination might be under threat in the fall when the Student Microcomputer Facility in the Undergraduate Library starts closing on weeknights for the first time in a regular session.

Cutting the hours of the 193-station computer lab was a result of the $1.6 million budget cut required of the Department of General Libraries for the next fiscal year, said Harold Billings, department director. The fiscal year starts in September.

"Because of the tighter budget, we were not going to be able to maintain SMF on the same 24 hours [basis]," Billings said. Morgan Watkins, director of Information Technology Services, said the decision to cut the hours was based on the times when the computer lab was used the most, which is during the day.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:48 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

More Republican Senate Defections?

By Byron LaMasters

The Quorum Report suggests that there's more than one or two Senate Republicans upset with redistricting. There may be a full-scale revolt going on over there. They report that 24 Senators are opposed to ending the two thirds rule, and that there are three "back-up" Republicans that would get on board if necessary to block debate of redistricting on the senate floor:

Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (D-McAllen) claimed five Republican senators were hostile to new congressional lines being drawn and that three of the five were on call as "back-up" to the 11 senators that signed a statement outlining their "unalterable opposition" to the measure.

"We're hunkered down," Hinojosa said. "In addition to the 11 votes we need to keep redistricting from the Senate floor, there are five other Republicans opposed to the measure and three of these will sign the letter if need be. We're solid."

Meanwhile, the Senate Jurisprudence Committee continues to meet. There's a chance that the committee will vote on redistricting today, and given the above information, there's a chance that redistricting may be voted down in committee. The Senate Jurisprudence Committee has seven members, four Republicans and three Democrats. Democratic Sens. Mario Gallegos, Eddie Lucio and Royce West are on the record in opposition to redistricting. They were among the eleven Senators to sign the letter stating their "unalterable opposition" to redistricting. Of the Republicans on the committee, only Sens. Teel Bivins and Chris Harris seem fully supportive of redistricting. Sens. Kip Averitt and Robert Duncan have both expressed reservations about redistricting. Kip Averitt will vote against a plan that divides Waco, and Robert Duncan might vote against a plan that seriously alters the district in west Texas. It'll be interesting to watch.

Updates: The San Antonio Express-News reports that undecided Democratic Sen. Frank Madla is now opposed to redistricting:

Madla, who for months has said he was undecided on the issue and was praying daily for guidance, said late Monday that he now opposes redistricting.

"Anybody with input from the district that is running 99 percent opposed, there is only one way you can vote," Madla noted.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Will the Senators Bolt?

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin American Statesman suggests that should Dewhurst move to suspend the two thirds rule, there might be an effort among senators to break quorum:

Just Dewhurst's hint of changing the way the Senate operates upped the ante in this game of political poker. One senator, who asked his name not be used, suggested senators might boycott the session rather than see the tradition abandoned.

"Stake out the airports," he said.

In May, 52 House Democrats killed congressional redistricting by leaving the state and preventing the House from having enough members to conduct business.

Although senators were not packing Monday, Dewhurst was back at the drawing board, trying to find a map that would get the support of the 21 senators necessary to debate any bill under the longstanding tradition.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dewhurst's Options

By Byron LaMasters

With 11 firm no's, it looks as if redistricting is dead. Not quite. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst still has several options to bring up a debate on redistricting. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Here's how Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst could get a redistricting bill to the state Senate floor and get around the tradition that two-thirds of senators must agree to bring a bill up for debate:

  • The rule is put into effect with a "blocker bill," an inconsequential measure put at the top of the calendar. As long as the bill is first in line, it takes a two-thirds vote -- 21 of the 31 senators if all of them are present -- to suspend rules and consider another bill out of order.

  • As presiding officer of the Senate, Dewhurst can ask sponsors of the blocker bill and any others ahead of a redistricting bill to withdraw them, putting redistricting at the top of the list.

  • If that doesn't work, Dewhurst also can ask Gov. Rick Perry to call another special session with redistricting as the only issue. Then Dewhurst can decline to refer any other bills to committee, so there would be no blocking bill.

The first option, the easiest option, will probably no longer be a possibility with 11 Senators firmly opposed to a debate on redistricting. That brings us to option two. The "blocker bill" is sponsored by Sen. Chris Harris (R-Arlington). He's pro-redistricting, and Dewhurst could ask him to withdraw the "blocker bill". However, there's a problem with that. One of the bills that would be up before redistricting is a bill carried by a Democrat opposed to redistricting. It's extremely unlikely that Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) would let his bill go anywhere if it were to become the "blocker bill":

The sponsor of the blocker bill is Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, who also is the sponsor of the redistricting bill. Harris and Republican sponsors of two other bills that were on the Senate calendar Monday could be recognized by Dewhurst on the Senate floor and then withdraw their legislation to clear the way for a redistricting debate.

But in other action Monday, a government reorganization bill sponsored by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, received approval from the Government Organization Committee and joined the other bills on the regular order of business. Ellis is among those Democrats who signed the letter.

If Ellis refused to withdraw his bill, it would become a blocker and force the two-thirds rule.

The final option, a second special session, seems to be Dewhurst's only real possibility to declaring defeat. I'd be shocked to see Perry call it, but after two and a half years of Governor Perry, nothing he does really shocks me anymore.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Full Statement by Sen. Ratliff

By Byron LaMasters

Sen. Bill Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant) made the following statement yesterday upon joining 10 Senate Democrats in opposing redistricting.

"I have today advised Lt. Gov. Dewhurst that I am in possession of a statement signed by 10 members of the Texas Senate stating their unalterable opposition to any motion to bring a congressional redistricting bill to the Senate floor. I have advised the Lt. Gov. that I am adding my name to that statement.

"The Senate has now completed hearings across the state on this subject. Chairman Robert Duncan and the members of his committee have reported to the members of the Senate that the overwhelming majority of citizens appearing at these statewide hearings are opposed to such redistricting, including many local activist Republicans and locally elected Republican officials.

"It is clear that those who are leading this effort apparently have no knowledge of, or regard for, the representative balance between the urban/agricultural community. The maps produced so far have indicated a total lack of concern for the communities of interest in rural Texas.

"The current congressional lines produce 20 Republican seats, 19 of which have a Republican strength of at least 55%. The majority of the Senate members, in both parties, have indicated to me that the costs associated with this effort are not justified by the marginal gains to the Republican congressional delegation.

"Moreover, most members of the Senate fear that the costs of this effort are far more serious than the mere financial cost of the litigation which is sure to follow. The costs anticipated by these members are associated with the level of animosity and distrust among members of the Senate which will result from such a vitriolic battle.

"We, in the Senate, pride ourselves in being able to work in a bipartisan manner for the people of Texas-- the same bipartisan spirit which President George W. Bush nurtured so vigorously and of which he was so proud when he was Governor. I will not be part of the destruction of that spirit for the sake of a theoretical marginal partisan gain in the Texas congressional delegation."

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 14, 2003

Ratliff a firm no on Redistricting

By Byron LaMasters

The story is out on the AP wire, via the Dallas Morning News

Former Acting Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, now a Republican senator, said Monday he would join with 10 other senators in attempting to block a congressional redistricting bill from reaching the Senate floor.

Ratliff said he has told Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst of a statement signed by 10 other senators stating their "unalterable opposition" to any motion to bring up redistricting for debate.

"I have advised the lieutenant governor that I am adding my name to that statement," Ratliff said outside the Senate chamber.

Under longstanding Senate rules, two-thirds – or 21 senators – must agree to bring a bill up for debate before it can be considered on the Senate floor. It takes 11 senators to block a bill from debate in the 31-member chamber.

A few minutes before Ratliff spoke, Dewhurst said it was possible that he would consider changing those rules.

With existing congressional boundaries, Democrats hold a 17-15 edge in the congressional delegation. Republicans, led by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land, say they want a majority in the delegation and cite GOP-leaning voting trends in the past few statewide elections.

Ratliff has been outspoken against the House redistricting plan that was approved last week and sent to the Senate. He has said he wants to protect his rural district in northeast Texas and that the House plan obliterates representation for that region. He noted that Texarkana would be represented by someone in east Dallas County.

"The maps produced so far have indicated a total lack of concern for the communities of interest in rural Texas," Ratliff said.

Earlier Dewhurst told reporters that Ratliff had warned him he had "serious concerns" about redistricting.

However, Dewhurst said that although he had heard about the letter signed by the opposition senators he had not seen it. He said he was meeting with Ratliff later in the day.

Dewhurst said if it becomes clear that there are not the 21 votes to bring the bill up for debate, he would "consider all of our options." He indicated that could include changing the Senate rule.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry called the special session June 30, initially to address redistricting. He later expanded the agenda to include more than two dozen other items.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Redistricting on Life Support"

By Byron LaMasters

Dewhurst's press conference was not too eventful, as he basically said that he had had several conversations with Sen. Bill Ratliff, and that Ratliff had serious problems with supporting redistricting, but he didn't act as if he were too alarmed about it. Dewhurst did not confirm that Ratliff was a "firm no", but I felt as if their was something that Dewhurst wasn't saying. Sure enough, after the press conference, Ratliff seemed to have clarified the issue within the past hour, via the Quorum Report:

"I have advised Lt. Govenor David Dewhurst that I am in possession of a statetment signed by ten Senators stating their unalterable opposition to any motion to bring redistricting to the Senate floor."

"I have advised the Lt Governor I am adding my name to the statement."

This would certainly suggest that Ratliff has joined 10 Democratic Senators as being on the record as a "firm no" on bringing up redistricting for debate. That makes 11 opposed to suspend the rules, which has been the magic number all along for the anti-redistricting folks. It's not over, but things look a lot better for Democrats. Still, Dewhurst left open the possibility in his press conference that he might be willing to try to force the redistricting debate to the floor without a two thirds majority. That, however, would be a serious breach of Senate tradition, and is considered highly unlikely, but we'll have to see.

Update: You may watch the Senate Jurisprudence Committee live, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Chris for Dean

By Byron LaMasters

Well, it looks as if my friend Chris (or Chris for Dean) has started a blog, The Scarlet Left. Keep up the good work! We need more "angry, young liberals" like you!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dewhurst Press Conference

By Byron LaMasters

The press conference has finally begun, here

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Weapons of Mass Destruction

By Byron LaMasters

I just found this, via the Dallas County Democratic Party. Very funny:


Someone on the Internet really has a sense of humor. And we sure could
use a laugh! Check this out from Google.

1) Go to Google.com

2) Type in (but don't hit return): "weapons of mass destruction"

3) Hit the "I'm feeling lucky" button, instead of the normal "Google
search" button

4) Read what appears to be a normal error message carefully.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More from the Senate

By Byron LaMasters

The Quorum Report is reporting that 10 Democratic Senators signed a letter to Dewhurst stating their intent to block debate on redistricting this morning at a caucus meeting, and that Bill Ratliff has written Dewhurst a similar letter for the same purpose:

QR is hearing that at a Senate Democratic Caucus meeting this morning, Chairwoman Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) got ten signatures to block the issue from being heard on the Senate floor. The two Democrats not on the list are Sens. Ken Armbrister (D-Victoria) and Frank Madla (D-San Antonio).

In addition, Sen. Bill Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant) has reportedly handed in his own letter to Dewhurst saying he will not bring the matter up. Ratliff fielded press queries today by saying that Dewhurst would be making an announcement.

Again, you can catch the Dewhurst press conference at 3:30, here. The video stream has already started, but it's basically an empty room at this point.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Redistricting Rumors

By Byron LaMasters

Well, I'll be tuning in at 3:30 to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's press conference. There's a rumor floating around, as the Austin American Statesman reports, that 11 Senators (10 Democrats and Bill Ratliff) have signed a letter stating their intent to block debate of a redistricting bill.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has called a press conference for 3:30 p.m. Monday to respond to rumors that 11 senators have signed a letter saying they will vote to block debate on congressional redistricting.

Rumors swept the Senate floor Monday afternoon that 10 Democrats and Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, are opposed to debating congressional redistricting. Several senators, who asked not to be identified, were the source of the speculation that the primary issue for the special session may be dying — or dead.

"I am going to leave any comment to the lieutenant governor," Ratliff said when asked whether he delivered the letter to Dewhurst.

Ten of the Senate's 12 Democrats signed the letter after a Democratic caucus meeting Monday morning. The only two Democrats who did not sign were Sens. Ken Armbrister, D-Victoria, and Frank Madla, D-San Antonio.

By Senate rules, it takes two thirds of the 31 senators to bring any bill up for debate. Eleven can block the bill.

Ratliff is one of several Republican senators who have voiced opposition to a House map that would produce at least 21 Republican members of congress but would split some local communities to accomplish that goal. Democrats now hold a 17 to 15 edge in the state's congressional delegation.

Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, said, "I feel secure at this point that there will be 11 — at least."

If 11 or more senators agree to block debate, Dewhurst will face a dilemma. He could have the Senate consider rewriting its rules to allow a simple majority — 16 senators — to bring up the bill for debate. However, that would break a Senate tradition that dates to the 1950s and is considered sacred by many members in both parties.

Catch it live, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

La Raza in Texas

By Byron LaMasters

This week, the National Council of La Raza is hosting its national convention in Austin, Texas. There's been a lot of news from around the state on the convention and its implications for the future of Texas politics.

The Austin American Statesman credits the work done by former Mayor Gus Garcia. Garcia was the first and only Hispanic mayor of the city of Austin.

Credit a persuasive sales pitch by then-Mayor Gus Garcia for bringing the National Council of La Raza conference back to Texas.

The conference has never been to Austin.

"It has some good facilities. It's strategically located. And they have a Latino mayor who was very aggressive about wanting us to be there," said La Raza President Raul Yzaguirre.

Estimated attendance of 17,000 to 20,000 would put the National Council of La Raza gathering near the top of Austin Convention Center conferences.

"South by Southwest has these kinds of numbers, but they do it over two weeks," said Robert Hodge, convention center director.

The Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates out-of-town registrants will pour $3.8 million into the local economy.

"What I told NCLR is that Austin is fast becoming a Latino town," Garcia said. "The growth in the Latino population is very significant in the last 10-15 years, and the state is also becoming very Latino."

Latinos make up 30 percent of the Austin population and 32 percent of the Texas population, according to Census 2000 data.

Garcia, who retired last month as mayor, is the only Hispanic to have held the office. When he took the job, he said bridging the cultural and socioeconomic divide between whites and minorities was a goal.

"When we (Garcia and his wife, Marina) came here in 1960, we were denied housing," Garcia said. "That's something you don't hear about nowadays. HUD did a study and found out that Austin still has discrimination in housing. It's much more subtle now; it's insurance, financing — that kind of stuff. Still, we have those things, but we deal with them openly.

"Austin has made strides. We're not the perfect city. That's what I told NCLR. It's an emerging city. We've got a ways to go."

Garcia is absolutely correct when he writes that Texas is "becoming very Latino". Austin is the largest non-majority Hispanic Texas city to have elected a Latino mayor (if that makes sense), but more cities are sure to follow very soon. Still, the Hispanic growth in Texas has been explosive, especially in the urban areas and the Rio Grande valley. Austin, Dallas and Houston will all be majority Latino within several decades at most. The Hispanic growth in Texas in not limited to the urban areas and the valley, however. Yesterday, the Dallas Morning News ran a feature story on Perryton, Texas, a small town of about 8000 people in the upper panhandle. The town is projected to be 70% Hispanic by 2040. Other towns in rural Texas have seen rapid Hispanic growth as well.

In many ways, Perryton – a town of 8,000 where the telephone book lists almost as many Hernándezes as Smiths – serves as a contemporary lesson of how a rural community on the cusp of change moves to educate, train, integrate and empower Hispanics who have become crucial to its economic survival.

They never have had a seat at the decision-making tables in this town, but that may soon change. In a generation, demographers expect that Hispanics in Perryton, where most people in the 900-square-mile Ochiltree County live, will outnumber the now-white majority by at least 3-to-1.

"The perception of stereotypes about diversification is that it's a large-city issue, but it's not," said Steve Murdoch, the state's chief demographer.

"It's occurring all over the state and the growth [of Hispanics in Perryton] is at even greater proportion than would be true for the state as a whole. That is a pattern that most people are not aware of."

Hispanics have increased their numbers throughout the state, from metropolitan areas to rural communities in East Texas. The number of Hispanics in the Panhandle also has increased, but residents of Perryton have pushed hard to manage growth, deal with a demographic shift that is inevitable and avoid an influx of narcotics trafficking and gang-related problems that have surfaced in nearby communities.

"Many of them [old-timers] say that if we get a Wal-Mart or a slaughterhouse, we'll end up with blacks or Vietnamese like they have in other towns. What's the big deal about that?" said Lupe Ceniceros, an entrepreneur and the only Hispanic on the board of the Perryton Chamber of Commerce. "We want Perryton to grow. We don't want it to die."

Many longtime residents in the 350-square-block town are quick to point out that Perryton is not racist, that anyone willing to work up a sweat can succeed. Town leaders, they say, are planning for the emerging demographic reality.


Demographers say dramatic change in how Perryton does things will occur when the children of immigrants can vote and hold office.

In Perryton, Hispanics mostly are employed in the lower levels of the oil and ranching industries. Between the 1950s and 1990s, those industries – when they were doing well – kept the town and county prosperous.

When the price of oil, wheat or cattle tumbled, so did money in the public coffers. By the early 1990s, amid cheapening oil, city and county officials knew they needed a shot in the arm. Perryton residents accepted Texas Farm, a mammoth indoor Japanese hog farm that added nearly $100 million to the county's tax base.

I'd recommend reading the whole article. It really touches on some of the issues that rural Texas is facing. Many Texas rural communities are having to decide whether to accept change, as Perryton did when it brought in its hog farm, leading inevitably to a rise in Hispanic immigrants, or see their economies and populations slowly decline.

The Austin American Statesman has provided good coverage of the La Raza convention. Today, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Gov. Howard Dean spoke at the convention, and I can imagine that they had slightly different messages, to say the least:

Former Vermont governor and Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean spoke to a morning crowd, touting his platform of immigration-policy reform, affirmative action and a balanced budget.

"Most of the issues important for the Latino community are important for the entire community," Dean said.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, also addressed the crowd, saying President Bush's tax cuts and his education initiative, No Child Left Behind, will increase accountability of public schools. That in turn will help Latino students, she said.

Charles has a pretty good recap of the the convention up until today.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Dean in Dallas

By Byron LaMasters

First of all, I got to meet Howard Dean yesterday, and that was an exciting experience. I didn't really know what to say, but a friend of mine caught a picture of me with him, and I caught pictures of several friends with Dr. Dean. It's funny the things that you notice about famous people when you actually meet them. What did I notice most about Howard Dean? Well, he's kinda short, and he has very blue eyes. Amusing. I'll be sure to post the pictures when I get them from John. Speaking of pictures, I need to get my roll of film developed this afternoon. So how did I get to meet Dr. Dean (seeing that I'm a poor student and can't afford $2000 hot dogs - ok, well it would have cost $150 to go to the fundraiser, but I think I'll be saving for my New York trip next month instead)?

Well, as Len mentions, I was "pre-selected" (about 15 minutes beforehand) to speak for about 60 seconds on why I was supporting Howard Dean. The statewide coordinator, (former state representative) Glen Maxey wanted people from various backgrounds to speak for a minute or two on why they supported Howard Dean. So several African-Americans spoke, a gay leader, Anna, the Dallas County Young Democrats President, David Wilkins (and he's an avid Burnt Orange Report reader, too!), and several others. I was the student guy. When I spoke, I tried to make it personal, that as a Democratic campus organizer last year, I had trouble convincing students to vote Democratic because they didn't see how their vote would make a difference, and they didn't see much difference between the two major parties. I said that we had a lot of great candidates here in Texas in 2002, but many of them failed to differentiate the differences between themselves and their Republican opponents. I said that Howard Dean would make my job a lot easier, because he has a positive, winning Democratic message that would resonate with students on multiple issues. Anyway, I gave my UT plug with a Hook 'em sign. My friend Geoff teased me later, saying that I missed the best line - that UT actually rejected George W. Bush. Shit! That would have been great. Oh well. I'm very proud to be a Longhorn. Yale is for the elitists, but UT is where us really smart Texas folks go. Heh.

Anyway, all of us folks that spoke to warm up the crowd were asked to wait backstage, and then after we spoke, we all just kind of decided to hang out back there, because no one was asking us to leave, and we knew that the Governor was very close. So, we waited, and he saw him walking up as another speaker kept warming up the crowd. Finally, he got to where we were and shook hands with all of us, posed for pictures, and then went up to the stage where he was introduced by the Dallas County Democratic Party Chair Susan Hays. Dean gave his standard stump speech to the crowd. Len reported on one of the more memorable moments of the speech.

The other was a young fellow, probably about 10 or 11 years old, who was standing close to the front of the crowd. He was holding a home-made sign that read "I'm going to have to pay for Bush's tax cuts." During his speech, Governor Dean pointed right at him and said "Young man, we are going to fix things so that you will not still be paying for this president's tax cuts when you're my age!" (Those were probably not his exact words, but pretty close.)

For a report from the fundraiser, check out Get Donkey. From what I heard about the event, it was just amazing. The house, apparently was jam packed, wall-to-wall, with at least 150-200 people. The reports I heard were that over $60,000 was raised before the event began! I can only imagine what the final tally will be! The crowd was reported by the Dallas Morning News to be 1200. Organizers, however, claimed that 2000 people were there. Here's the Dallas Morning News article:

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean on Sunday told about 1,200 supporters in Dallas to "take back" their country, urging Americans to reject the administration's ideals on war, economics and health insurance.

"We need jobs in this country again, and you're not going to get that without balancing the budget," the former Vermont governor said.

"We're not going to say we're going to get rid of the tax cut. We're going to say, 'Would you rather have the tax cut or health insurance that can never be taken away?' "

Dr. Dean spoke at Dallas City Hall Plaza after spending part of his day at a private Dallas residence raising $60,000. Organizers said it's his first trip to Dallas as a presidential candidate.

Jennifer Gross, a small-business owner who lives in Flower Mound, called Dr. Dean's style "refreshing." She brought her 9-year-old son, Michael, who carried a large poster board printed with, "I'll have to pay for Bush's tax cut" in large black letters.

"Howard Dean has been very straightforward with people and speaking his mind. And I like that," she said. She added that she supports his stance on health care.

Dr. Dean, who was a pediatrician in practice with his wife before being elected governor in 1991, has said he believes the United States should guarantee health care to all citizens.

Polls show he is among the front-runners for the Democratic nomination.

Dr. Dean blasted the White House's stance in Iraq, saying it has alienated America from the rest of the world.

"People don't respect us anymore. I want to live in a country where people respect us."

Dr. Dean favors sending American troops into Liberia as part of an international peacekeeping force, saying the presence of international troops "will help us in Iraq."

He joked a few times in his speech about being a Yankee trying to get elected in the South. Campaign organizers said they have gathered enough signatures to put his name on the ballot of the Texas primary in March. Dr. Dean told reporters that he wouldn't neglect the Texas primary.

"There's plenty of Democrats in Texas, we just haven't heard from them in awhile," he said.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

I decided to take the weekend off in redistricting reporting. I set up my categories, and realized how one-dimentional this blog was becoming, so I took some time out to mix things up a little bit. But, I'll stay here to cover blow-by-blow coverage of the Senate action.

The Senate will meet today at 1 PM. You can watch the chamber live, here. The Senate website also recaps the Senate Committee on Jurisprudence (redistricting) hearing in Austin last week. They will be voting on maps tomorrow. Charles reported one possible Senate strategy via Civic Dialogues. The strategic idea was originally reported by the Quorum Report. The Austin American Statesman editorialized on the idea:

As we have mentioned before, the process of redrawing political boundaries motivates thinking that is base and bizarre, craven and creative. The attempt to redraw Texas congressional districts during the regular session ended when House Democrats fled the state to kill a quorum and therefore the bill.

Like a grenade, the quorum-busting weapon could only be used once. Now in special session to try again on redistricting, the House has dutifully voted on a map and sent it over to the Senate. That map puts senators, both Democrat and Republican, in a quandary. The redrawn House map is not as bizarre as the monstrosity killed by the quorum-busters during the regular session, but it creates problems for Republican Sens. Robert Duncan of Lubbock, Kip Averitt of McGregor and Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant.

Ratliff and Averitt have publicly voiced their concerns about the loss of influence that the House map would leave their constituents, and Duncan was on the receiving end of a message in the form of an editorial in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that declared the House map a threat to agriculture and the West Texas economy.

The kicker is that while the Senate can go through the motions of holding hearings, members understand that the map they've been showing people likely will bear faint, if any, resemblance to the finished product. Moreover, any changes the Senate adopts to make the map more politically palatable will likely be steamrollered in House-Senate conference committee.

What to do, what to do?

One way out was outlined on Harvey Kronberg's Quorum Report newsletter. Kronberg reported that senators are considering sending a revised map back to the House and then promptly adjourning, in what is known at the Capitol as "sign-ee dye." (Actually, it's sine die, Latin for "without a day.") Adjourning for good would then put House members in a quandary. With senators gone, there would be no one to negotiate with, so it's either adopt it, or go home without having changed a thing.

Senators supposedly have been mulling a strategy for weeks now, but the talk became louder when they adjourned for the weekend on Thursday. The ploy would be a mainline fix for political junkies, but more important, it would make a loud statement of principle. It would be a strong message that the Texas Senate won't cave in to pressure from U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who hijacked both chambers and the Governor's Mansion during the regular session to try and ram a redistricting plan down our collective throats.

DeLay has been straightforward in declaring that congressional redistricting -- an attempt that failed in the Legislature in 2001 -- is necessary because Republicans deserve a bigger presence in the Texas congressional delegation.

He calls it fair; we think it's a quota system for Republicans who say they don't like them. Five districts that especially irk DeLay are dominated by Republican voters. The trouble is, voters keep re-electing Democrats. Some people might call that a free exercise of democracy. DeLay and his disciples call it heresy.

So as unorthodox -- or fanciful -- as the sine die strategy is, it could provide needed political cover for Republicans troubled by the plan, as well as spare Texans from subsidizing DeLay's temper tantrum power grab any further.

The Houston Chronicle has more on the undecided senators via Off the Kuff.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Updates to follow

By Byron LaMasters

It's late and I'm tired, but I'll be posting on the Dallas Dean Rally, and the latest with redistricting when I awake.

Update: Len , Anna, and Blog for America cover the Dean rally. Meanwhile, Charles has the latest on redistricting.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 13, 2003


By Byron LaMasters

After a little help from Mike and Charles, I finally made it into the Ecosystem over at Truth Laid Bear. It looks like we're starting out at #185, so we'll see where we go from there!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Strayhorn Tries Again

By Byron LaMasters

I'm actually starting to like Comptroller Carol Keeyton Strayhorn this year. She's really been about the only Republican in a statewide office to recognize the need to increase revenue to balance the budget, and to advocate very needed spending especially on health care. She went at it again last week:

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn urged lawmakers Friday to spend $702.6 million she says is available to ease health-care cuts they approved in the regular session that ended last month.

"We can be leaner, not meaner," Mrs. Strayhorn said at a health-care symposium sponsored by the Vinson & Elkins law firm.

"And we can cut out some of that anxiety," she said, referring to low-income and sick recipients of state health care who soon will be notified they'll lose some or all of their current benefits on Sept. 1.

Mrs. Strayhorn called for lawmakers in their special session to pass legislation to boost Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program and other health services, using newly available federal funds and state money freed up by a transportation bill and Gov. Rick Perry's recent vetoes.

Last month, the comptroller thought for a time that the two-year budget was $185.9 million short, until she and Mr. Perry agreed to cut money she had sought but said was no longer needed.

In calling for swift action, the comptroller resumed a running battle over budget issues.

As she has before, Mrs. Strayhorn questioned budget provisions that allow Mr. Perry and a 10-member legislative panel to decide how to spend savings from the governor's vetoes or other new funds when the Legislature is not in session.

She said Mr. Perry and the Legislative Budget Board – which Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst heads, with House Speaker Tom Craddick as its vice chairman – could legally spend $372.3 million left from the state-relief part of President Bush's latest tax-cut bill. The budget provides for receipt of new federal money, she said.

But Mrs. Strayhorn described as "new dollars" $98.6 million saved by Mr. Perry's vetoes and $231.7 million from driver's license and car inspection fees.

"Appropriating new dollars is the business of the Legislature, and the Legislature is here in town," she said.

However, Mr. Perry and top GOP lawmakers appear in no hurry to heed Mrs. Strayhorn's advice.

"There are no plans to open the call to that issue," Kathy Walt, Mr. Perry's spokeswoman.

"That is why there is budget execution authority, a practice that has been in place for many, many years," Ms. Walt said, referring to the power of the governor and the Legislative Budget Board to move money around within the budget when lawmakers aren't in session.

Sen. Teel Bivins, R-Amarillo, the Senate's chief budget writer, said a budget rider allows Mr. Perry and the board to redistribute money saved by vetoes; another suggests cuts in health and education spending that might be reversed, Mr. Bivins said.

"The full Legislature has already developed a methodology to handle any additional revenue," the senator said.

A Democratic lawmaker applauded Mrs. Strayhorn.

"It's about time we have a leader who understands the true needs of Texans," said Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston. "The Legislature has the power of the purse; it's our responsibility."

Well, I'm glad that she's trying, but its pretty hopeless.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dean Dallas Rally

By Byron LaMasters

Len reminds me that Howard Dean will have a rally in Dallas this evening. I'll be there. Who else will be there? Let me know, and I'll look for you!

Sunday, July 13 at 7:00 pm!

Dallas City Hall Plaza, 1500 Marilla, Dallas, TX

Speaking of Howard Dean, Burnt Orange Report contributor Andrew Dobbs is becoming famous. It looks as if he had the opportunity to meet Judy Woodruff when she came to Vermont to interview Joe Trippi.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Ben Affleck?

By Byron LaMasters

I was at a party tonight and for the second time in the past month, a girl told me that I looked like Ben Affleck. I don't see it, but I guess that its a compliment. Does anyone else see it?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

7 Days

By Byron LaMasters

In a week, I'll be in Austin, celebrating my 21st birthday (7/20/82)! Yay!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:56 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 12, 2003

Presidential Blogs

By Byron LaMasters

Howard Dean's campaign started the blogging era of presidential campaigns with the Blog for America. Other campaigns are slowly catching up, but still, no other candidate has an official blog. While I thought that the Dennis Kucinich blog was official for awhile, as it has several posts that look as if they were made by the candidate, there's a disclaimer at the bottom, that it's not official, but done by "friends of Dennis Kucinich".

The Blog for America lists dozens of unofficial Dean Blogs in its "blog links". The Dean 2004 blog was one of the originals, but dozens more have joined the act. But Dean (and Kucinich) supporters aren't alone in the blogosphere. John Edwards supporters have several sites, including Edwards for Prez, which has made it on to my blogroll. Young people have gotten involved at Youth for Edwards. Oliver Willis hosted Americans for Edwards, but has since removed his "Edwards 2004" button on his site.

The Kerry Blog has also found its way on to my blogroll. So has the Draft Clark blog, and the Dick Gephardt blog. Also, just starting out is the Gephardt Grassroots blog. And, how could I forget, yes, for all my misguided Republican friends out there, there is a G. W. Bush 2004 blog, recently moved to Bush Blog dot US. Take a look at it. A couple of these guys have blogs on my blogroll, but some of their posts are seriously misguided to say the least. Josh is supporting Howard Dean, too! I'm all for it! Yes, Josh, help us take back America! Not only that, but the folks on the Bush Blog are taking jabs at Kerry for his military record. Is Bush's military record really something the Bush folks want to get into a debate with? Who went AWOL again? Oh well, it does make me feel good to know that I'm provoking them a little bit, here and there.

I haven't seen much of anything from Joe Lieberman, Bob Graham, Carol Mosely Braun or Al Sharpton, but if their supporters have blogs out there, let me know!

Update: As Kris points out in the comment thread, the Bush Bloggers take after their man in the censorship department. When trying to post a comment on the blog, you get this message:


Your comment has been queued for moderation by site administrators and will be published after approval.

How typically Bushesque.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:38 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

Thanks to Charles step by step guide, I finally figured out this categories thing. I tried setting up categories several weeks ago, but I didn't have much success, and I pretty much gave up. Yesterday, I decided that I had procrastinated long enough, and that I'd figure out categories however long it took. So, I did. Charles has a great guide in a .txt file, so it's easy to read. I got a little bit confused at one point, I think because Charles uses Moveable Type version 2.21, and I use version 2.64. The line that he directs you to in the index template was a little different, but I figured it out pretty soon. Charles directs you to this line in your index code (this is partially for my own reference, so bear with me):

<div class="posted">Posted by <$MTEntryAuthor$> at <a href="<$MTEntryLink$>#<$MTEntryID pad="1"$>"><$MTEntryDate format="%I:%M %p"$></a>

In order to include the category of the entry at the footer along with the time posted, name and comments / trackbacks, Charles directs you to add the bold code to the line:

<div class="posted">Posted by <$MTEntryAuthor$> at <a href="<$MTEntryLink$>#<$MTEntryID pad="1"$>"><$MTEntryDate format="%I:%M %p"$></a> to <a href="<$MTEntryLink archive_type="Category"$>#<$MTEntryID pad="1"$>"><$MTEntryCategory$></a>

My footer code, however, looked like this:

<div class="posted">Posted by <$MTEntryAuthor$> at <a href="<$MTEntryPermalink$>"><$MTEntryDate format="%X"$></a>

I figured it out, and changed it accordingly:

<div class="posted">Posted by <$MTEntryAuthor$> at <a href="<$MTEntryPermalink$>"><$MTEntryDate format="%X"$></a> to <a href="<$MTEntryLink archive_type="Category"$>#<$MTEntryID pad="1"$>"><$MTEntryCategory$></a>

I also added several categories that previosly had not existed, so that all of my posts since this site began have now been categorized. I haven't organized my old entries on the Live Journal page, but that might be a future project. As you can see, we've written a lot about redistricting, and I hope to expand on to other topics soon, but redistricting has been a fascinating story, and its been fun to blog. My next blog project, which I hope to tackle sometime this weekend, is to clean up my blogroll. I'm thinking of creating a new blogroll just for Texas bloggers, but its still in the planning stage. I also figured out how to change the templates of the archives pages, the individual entry pages, and the categories pages. By making those templates match the index page, it adds my Site Meter code to all of the archives pages, which is good for me, because it gives me a better reflection of my referrals, as I'm slightly obsessed with my Site Meter traffic reports (and I'm proud to report that we received over 1000 hits this week for only the second time - the first was back on the Live Journal page, the week of the Killer D's quorum-busting trip to Ardmore) . I'm also wondering why the footer is double spaced. I can live with it, but it's a little annoying, so if anyone can tell me how to single space the footer, I'd love to know. Anyway, let me know what you think, and if you have an suggestions. Thanks!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:02 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

About Byron

By Byron LaMasters

I've meant to do this for a while, so here it is. This post is similar to a post on my old livejournal page entry, here. It will remain permanently linked on the index page under the "about us" heading under Byron L.

My name is Byron LaMasters. I'm 20 (21 on 7/20/03), and I consider myself a "pragmatic progressive Democrat". Both of my parents are from Illinois, but I was born in San Antonio, so I'm legitimately a native Texan. I'm proud of the label most of the time, but I can't say that I'm proud of the leadership of my state. I grew up (since I was four) in suburban north Dallas. My dad is a doctor, and my mom is a teacher. My dad is basically a libertarian Republican, while my mom is more of an independent Democrat. They might argue with those labels, but they're fair enough. When I was younger, I sided with my dad. I remember him giving my mom a hard time for voting for Bill Clinton in 1992, and again in 1996. I voted for George Bush in my elementary school's mock election in 4th grade in 1992 (although Ross Perot was the "cool" candidate to vote for). In 1996, I remember joining my dad in his interest in Steve Forbes (remember in 1996, Forbes was the "flat tax candidate", as opposed to 2000 when he ran as the "flat tax, religious wingnut candidate"). In 1998, however, I was in high school, and had become an avid reader of the New York Times. When I finally learned more about the two major parties, and learned about politics independent of my parent's biases, I found myself agreeing with the Democratic Party about 95% of the time. I remember quietly cheering for Democrats in the 1998 midterm elections (I was 16), and opposing impeachment later that year. I remember shaking hands with (now, Senator) Chuck Shumer in 1998 outside Yankee Stadium when my family visited New York that year.

I've been involved with Democratic Party politics since I turned 18 in 2000. I first volunteered for the Regina Montoya Coggins campaign that year (she ran against Rep. Pete Sessions). I was inspired to get involved upon hearing that Pete Sessions said in a town hall meeting that he "didn't represent the gays" (Yes, I'm openly gay, and have been since my senior year in high school.). At the time, Sessions 5th district included the Oak Lawn area of Dallas which has a large gay population. I got involved and volunteered probably 20-30 hours a week for the Coggins campaign. While I didn't admit it at the time, politics was the primary reason that I quit football my senior year in high school. She lost, but I learned a lot in that campaign about voter registration, voter education, etc. I also co-authored a pro-Gore opinion piece for my school paper. You can read it here.

After the 2000 election I was angry, and got involved in protests in support of the recount. I founded "Trust the People-Dallas" to protest Bush's "selection" by the Supreme Court. The webpage is still online, here if you're interested. While I lost interest in the site and organization eventually, the effort earned me lots of friends and contacts in Dallas politics that have meant a lot to me. I won a citizenship award my from my high school for my involvement, as among other things, I co-founded a "politics club" at my high school, and registered those in the senior class who had turned 18 by Election Day. I remember asking to take Election Day off from school (it was excused), as I volunteered from 5 AM until 7 PM for Regina Montoya Coggins and other Democrats.

I decided to go to college at UT-Austin in the fall of 2001 and major in government. I immediately got involved with the University Democrats. The leadership was mostly seniors, and I had the opportunity to run unopposed for Public Relations Director the Spring Semester (2002). I then ran for President for the fall 2002 semester, and won. I served through May 2003, when I declined to run for re-election. The job was rewarding, but also stressful at times. I think that I did my best. My best memory of the experience was introducing former governor Ann Richards at our October 2002 GOTV rally. The worst, was probably the next week when we went from losing "victory party" to losing "victory party" on election night. The current President, Haley Greer, is doing a great job. I currently serve as President Emeritus, and I'm a Junior at UT. I'm also involved in the Texas Young Democrats, and serve on their board as a regional director and as the vice-chair of the college caucus. I'll write more about my experiences as University Democrats President, but this ought to do for now.

As for religion, I was raised Presbyterian, and I currently consider myself a non-practicing Christian (meaning I go to Christmas and Easter services, and maybe a few more with my parents throughout the year - I have never felt alienated or uncomfortable in the church, yet it is not at this time a significant part of my life). I grew up in suburban north Dallas in a traditional family. I was an only child. As I said, I consider myself a pragmatic, progressive Democrat. By that, I mean that I will usually vote for progressive Democrats (that are electable) in the primary when I have a chance (although in Texas oftentimes our choices are limited), and I vote straight ticket Democrat in the general election. I have never voted for a Republican. I experimented in voting for some Greens in the 2000 election (although I did vote for Gore), but I have not since, and I have no plans to in the future, as I believe that Ralph Nader, and the Green Party are partially responsible for Al Gore not being our President today (I'll go into my feelings about this some other time), and I am still unwilling to forgive them for it. I tend to call Greens, "Grepublicans" as I believe that the Green Party, and Republican Party have similar goals... getting Republicans elected, and hurting Democrats.

I consider myself rather liberal on social issues. I support abortion rights in all cases (I see it as a women's health issue. I don't necessarily encourage abortion, but I believe that it should always be an option.) and gay marriage (Although gay marriage is an issue that should be pushed a little bit at a time. Vermont-style Civil Unions and non-discrimination laws ought to be the priorities of gay rights advocates for now). I support legalization, and government regulation of marijuana (legalization of other drugs ought to be studied, although I don't necessarily advocate their legalization), lowering of the drinking age, and age of consent to 17, ending all publicly funded "abstinence-based sex education", and requiring all public schools to teach sexual education in a comprehensive manner. I strongly support public funding for NPR, the arts and humanities, museums, libraries, etc. I oppose private school vouchers, school prayer, required moments of silence in school, displaying the Ten Commandments in courtrooms, an anti-flag burning amendment, and funding of faith-based programs. I support a moratorium on capital punishment, not because I see it as inherently immoral, but rather because I believe that it is unfairly applied. I have mixed feelings about abolishing capital punishment. I also have mixed feelings on gun control. I've evolved from being very pro-gun control and pro-gun registration, to being much more libertarian on the issue. I support the assault weapons ban, and automatic trigger locks on guns, but beyond that, I basically hold libertarian views on the issue. I've essentially evolved to Howard Dean's view on the issue, and he has an 'A' rating with the NRA. Scary. If law abiding citizens want to buy lots of guns, I'm all for it. Laws limiting the number of guns that an individual can purchase in a month (week/year/day, etc.) are silly. As for order, I have participated in anti-war protests, but I think that the people that try to get themselves arrested are just plain stupid. I believe that civil obedience, while well intentioned, often has a negative effect in shaping public opinion.

On an economic level I consider myself slightly more moderate, but still center-left. I support rolling back all of Bush's tax cuts, a nationalized health care system (I strongly support the CHIP program), public preschool funding for all children, and free college education at state universities for students who have a B-average or better in high school. I agree with Republicans that local school districts that are doing a good job, ought to have more flexibility in how they spend their money. I support a state income tax in Texas to solve our budget crisis. I support a federal balanced budget amendment (with a clause that would allow for a deficit with a 2/3 majority), NAFTA, WTO and expanding free trade, but with strict labor and environmental standards. I support a living wage. I support the Kyoto Protocol, and believe that the government should offer strong incentives to automakers to make vehicles that use significantly less gas. We must become energy independent in this country. I strongly oppose drilling in ANWR, but the government ought to create incentives to generate alternative sources of energy.

I consider myself a multilateralist on foreign policy. I believe that the United States ought to fully fund our share of the United Nations, and work through the UN and NATO to solve international disputes that do not directly threaten our national security (like Iraq). I generally supported Clinton's intervention in Yugoslavia and Bush's intervention in Afghanistan, but opposed Bush's war in Iraq. Click here for the statement that I made in my capacity as University Democrats President regarding the war in Iraq. We should work within the United Nations to rebuild Iraq. The United States ought to engage in a Marshall Plan type rebuilding of Iraq and Afghanistan. I support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and generally consider myself pro-Israel (although not as pro-Israel as many of my Jewish friends would probably like). However, I also consider myself anti-Likud, anti-Shas and anti-Sharon. I think that the approach that Sharon's government has taken has failed miserably. Even so, I hold Yassir Arafat in even lower regard. Peace in the Middle-East will require three leaders (American, Israeli and Palestinian) committed to peace in the region. Several years ago, Barak and Clinton came very close to that goal, but neither Sharon nor Bush share their predecessor's commitment to peace. Their needs to be new, forceful leadership among the Palestinians for peace to be achieved as well. Hopefully, we'll see that happen soon.

At this point, I support Howard Dean for President. Having said that, I do have some reservations about him, and I will discuss them in future entries. I would be fine with Edwards or Kerry as the nominee, and I have been very impressed with Wesley Clark. I think that Clark would make an excellent Vice President or Secretary of State for any Democrat. If Clark runs for President, I would take a serious look at him. I think that Gephardt is old news, even though I think that he's come up with some good ideas, I have a hard time forgiving him for complete lack of any unified message from congressional Democrats in the 2002 campaign. Joe Lieberman is a decent Senator, but we won’t beat Bush by running Bush-lite. I like Bob Graham as a Senator, and I could see him as a good candidate for Vice President. The rest are a bunch of spares, and aren’t really worth taking too seriously.

So, I decided to take a test to see where others saw me as standing. I think that its relatively accurate, but take it for what it's worth (far left = -10, far right = 10). I do have a tendency to take these often, and the numbers fluctuate from (-3) to (-6) depending on how I answer the questions. I'm thinking of starting to take it every couple of months and track my political compass over time:

The Political Compass:

Economic Left/Right: -3.88
Authoritarian/Libertarian: -4.97

And here's what I scored on the Libertarian Party Quiz:

World's Smallest Political Quiz:

According to your answers, your political philosophy is left-liberal.
Left-Liberals prefer self-government in personal matters and central decision-making on economics. They want government to serve the disadvantaged in the name of fairness. Leftists tolerate social diversity, but work for economic equality.

Your Personal Self-Government Score is 90%.
Your Economic Self-Government Score is 20%.

And here's what I got on Politopia:

I am a Southerner - an egalitarian - "which means that you advocate an increased role for the government in the economic realm. You are more or less pleased the government's role in the personal realm".

And the Pew Research Center:

I am a liberal Democrat.

Liberal Democrats:
COMMENTS: Extremely tolerant on social issues. Champion individual rights and a range of liberal causes. Despite steadfast support for Democratic candidates, many Liberal Democrats prefer to call themselves Independents. Most favor having a third major party.
DEFINING VALUES: Pro-choice and support civil rights, gay rights, and the environment. Critical of big business. Very low expression of religious faith. Most sympathetic of any group to the poor, African-Americans and immigrants. Highly supportive of the women's movement.
WHO THEY ARE: Most highly educated group (50% have a college degree). Least religious of all typology groups. One-third never married.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:11 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

July 11, 2003

Redistrcting Stops Here

By Andrew Dobbs

Hey kids, I know that I usually stick to Howard B. Dean stuff, but I figured I'd better weigh in on Tom DeLay's apparant allergy to representing the people of Texas. Move On is sending its members in Texas an email with the names and numbers of prominent Texas officials that could nail "The Hammer" on Redistricting. The end is near and any map passed, it doesn't matter if it makes all 32 districts solid Democrat (what an ugly map that would be...) because the conference committee will be stocked with DeLay's spineless ass-kissers and will end up kicking every white Democrat in Texas out of office. Call these people, have everyone you know who thinks that the crazy notion that cheating is wrong call these people. These calls works- they keep track of them and Senators listen to them. Here ya go:

Sen. Kenneth Armbrister D-Victoria
(512) 463-0118 (Capitol)
(361) 572-8061 (District)

Sen. Kip Averitt R-Waco
(512) 463-0122 (Capitol)
(254) 772-6225 (District)
(817) 326-1161 (District)

Sen. Robert Duncan R-Lubbock
(512) 463-0128 (Capitol)
(800) 322-9538 (Capitol-Toll Free)
(806) 762-1122 (District)
(915) 481-0028 (District)

Sen. Eddie Lucio D- Brownsville
(512) 463-0127 (Capitol)
(956) 548-0227 (District)
(956) 968-9927 (District)

Sen. Frank Madla D- San Antonio
(512) 463-0119 (Capitol)
(210) 927-9464 (District)

Sen. Bill Ratliff R-Mount Pleasant
(512) 463-0101 (Capitol)
(903) 572-1887 (District)

If we don't win, Texas loses. To the phones!

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 05:37 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

UT Reality TV!

By Byron LaMasters

A friend of a friend of mine was one of the people filmed for this show. I remember, because I has having a party / get together at my apartment, and my friend asked if her friend, and a cameraman could come, because she was part of this TV show. I'll probably be watching the series this fall on Showtime. The Houston Chronicle has the story:

They go to bars. They party hearty. They have sex. Oh, they also go to class -- at the University of Texas.

They are 15 young people who agreed to have their lives documented on camera, from move-in day to final exams of school year 2002-2003, for a Showtime series called Freshman Diaries. The 10-episode reality show, produced by R.J. Cutler, will premiere Aug. 31 on Showtime.

Parents, man your checkbooks. You're about to get a taste of just what your kids are up to when you live here and they live there -- on your dime, in most cases. Actually, I've seen only a few clips of the show, and they were relatively tame -- for 18- and 19-year-olds still trying to find themselves, that is.

Like Neil McGurk of Plano. He's certain he's into guys, but finds himself uncomfortably attracted to a, gulp, girl in one of the clips shown here at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour.

Then there's Joshua McGinnis from Tarkington, near Cleveland (that's Texas, not Ohio). What will the future hold when he learns he's about to become an unwed father?

Neil, Josh and the other freshmen were familiar with Cutler's American High series, which documented the lives of some Illinois high-schoolers. They enthusiastically agreed to participate. Camera crews followed them around, and they became video diarists on their own. Each was given a camera and learned how to make videos of themselves as they coped with class, sex, roommates and UT's humongous campus.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:48 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Austin Smoking Ban Status

By Byron LaMasters

Last month Austin passed a smoking ban for bars, restaurants and music venues by 4-3 margin. Two days later, the final council seat was won in a run-off by an anti-ban candidate, Brewster McCracken (who I supported, against pro-ban Margot Clarke). McCracken's addition to the council, along with the departure of pro-ban mayor Gus Garcia (replaced by anti-ban mayor Will Wynn), gave the anti-ban forces a 4-3 majority on the council. The majority is now seeking to delay the ban scheduled to go into effect on September 1:

They are not exactly addicted to it, but Austin City Council members are having a hard time putting down the citywide smoking ban.

The issue that ostensibly got its final resolution last month will come up for yet another vote next week, and even that might not be the last one. Mayor Will Wynn has proposed putting off the implementation of the ordinance until January.

Wynn, who opposed the ban as a council member, said there are too many questions about which businesses can continue catering to smokers.

The ordinance would ban smoking in bars, restaurants and music venues but allow it in billiard halls, bingo parlors and meeting halls for fraternal organizations.

Some bar owners have complained that the exemption provides an unfair advantage to competitors or will be a drain on their businesses. Health groups countered that the ordinance would protect the health of employees in bars and venues where smoking is now allowed relatively freely.

Wynn also said the implementation date -- Sept. 1 -- falls in the middle of the city's budget deliberations, and the smoking ordinance will be too distracting for council members trying to weigh spending cuts or tax increases.

The city needs to focus on the budget "and virtually nothing else," Wynn said. "It's not practical for us to clean up these loose ends prior to September 1."

A city committee also is considering the issue and is expected to report its recommendations this fall.

Some supporters of the ban immediately worried that the delay might be the first step in reversing the measure.

But Council Member Betty Dunkerley, part of the slim majority that installed the ban, said the new City Council might overturn the ordinance if a vote isn't put off.

"I would rather wait on the implementation than try to implement something that might be amended shortly thereafter, if not before," Dunkerley said. "I think the less confusion we have, the better."

On June 5, shortly before midnight, the council banned burning cigarettes in almost all of Austin's public buildings. Less than 48 hours later, Brewster McCracken, who campaigned against the ban, won the runoff for the last council seat.

McCracken joined Wynn and Council Members Jackie Goodman and Raul Alvarez -- who opposed the ordinance -- as part of a new majority that might overturn the ban. Dunkerley supported the ordinance with Council Members Daryl Slusher and Danny Thomas and former Mayor Gus Garcia.

Garcia said Thursday that Wynn's delay "basically is another way to kill it."

Julie Winckler, spokeswoman for the Tobacco-Free Austin Coalition, which has led the push for a total ban, said a delay isn't necessary because the council has heard arguments on both sides.

"I think we all can see the writing on the wall, that this is an effort to weaken the ordinance," she said.

Opponents of the ban, particularly bar owners worried about losing customers, said a delay would allow them to look for alternatives that might be less worrisome for business.

"I think it was kind of a rush to judgment," said John Wickham, owner of the Elysium nightclub and president of the Red River District Association. "I honestly believe that we'll be able to come up with something a little bit more thoughtful than what was passed."

I don't smoke, and I support smoking bans in most public buildings and resturaunts, but I think that smoking bans in bars go too far. The ban easily has many unintended consequences, such as helping bars with patios and hurting bars without, and also increasing pedestrian traffic, as people go outside the bars to smoke (which is an issue in and around 6th street). I do believe that part of the reason for McCracken's large margin of victory in the run-off was due to younger voters, upset about the smoking ban, turning out to support him. I know more than a few people that voted for McCracken in the run-off on that issue, that otherwise probably would not have voted.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:10 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Redistricting Updates

By Byron LaMasters

Well, Charles beat me in writing about redistricting today, and he covered all the bases, so check out what he has to say. Basically, nothing too interesting should happen until Monday or Tuesday, when the Senate Jurisprudence Committee will consider plans to sent to the full Senate.

One thing that has been of interest is how there seems to be a growing concern among Senate Republicans about the whole idea of redistricting. Not only is there concern about rural east Texas losing representation, but there's also concerns from Lubbock Republicans that Charlie Stenholm may beat Randy Neugebauer if they were paired:

In West Texas, the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, the Plains Cotton Growers and Lubbock Mayor Marc McDougal, a former Lubbock County GOP chairman, have denounced the House plan because it would pair veteran U.S. Rep. Charlie Stenholm, D-Abilene, and freshman Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, in the 19th District.

Mr. Stenholm is the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee. Mr. Neugebauer also sits on the panel. Regional farm interests fear losing clout if they lose one of their representatives in Congress.

In addition, some Republicans worry that the well-known Mr. Stenholm might beat Mr. Neugebauer. That might reverse the results of last month's special election to replace U.S. Rep. Larry Combest, R-Lubbock, because Mike Conaway, a Midland Republican whom Mr. Neugebauer beat, could win in the redrawn, Midland-anchored 11th District.

Also in the Dallas Morning News was a report that Democrats received a favorable ruling, saying that state law overrode the Texas House rules that required for the arrest of House members breaking quorum:

The Texas Department of Public Safety lacks the legal authority to track down and arrest rebellious state lawmakers who break a quorum, a judge said Thursday.

Visiting state District Judge Charles Campbell in Austin ruled on a lawsuit filed last month by Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, one of 51 state House Democrats who fled to Oklahoma for four days in May to prevent a vote on a Republican-backed congressional redistricting plan.

After the lawmakers brought the chamber to a standstill by failing to show up May 12, state troopers went to their homes, to their family members' offices – and even to a Galveston hospital neonatal unit where Rep. Craig Eiland's newborn twins were under care.

Some DPS officers found the group that night in Ardmore, Okla., then acknowledged that they had no authority to bring them back.

But Texas law "limits the role of DPS to enforcing the laws protecting the public safety and providing for the prevention and detection of crime," Judge Campbell wrote in the ruling.

The judge said that law overrides a state House of Representatives rule allowing for absent members to be arrested by the sergeant-at-arms or an officer appointed by him.

DPS officials could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

Mr. Burnam said he was delighted with the ruling.

"The bottom line is they had no authority to spend the thousands of dollars they spent on looking for us," Mr. Burnam said. "The major law enforcement agency in the state has to follow the law."

Mr. Burnam initially filed suit accusing DPS of violating the state's Open Records Act by illegally destroying documents related to the search.

Judge Campbell ruled Thursday that "those claims are dismissed as moot." Mr. Burnam said DPS has turned over what it says are all the remaining documents.

The DPS has come under fire by Democrats from Austin to Washington, D.C., for tactics used in the searches. But last month, investigators found no wrongdoing by a Department of Homeland Security agency that helped the DPS track down the private plane of Rep. Pete Laney of Hale Center, who also fled to Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, the Legislature is back in a special session to discuss the redistricting issue.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 10, 2003

Doggett cosponsoring resolution in WMD investigation; MoveOn wants you to help!

By Jim Dallas

Hello Burnt readers.

Austin's congressman, Lloyd Doggett (D-Travis County) has signed on as a cosponsor of Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-Calif.) resolution calling for independent investigations of Bush administration claims about Iraqi WMDs and other (potentially bogus) justifications for invading Iraq.

Please help by getting your congresscritters aboard... here.

Thank you,


Posted by Jim Dallas at 04:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

Just wanted to wish Sarah a Happy Birthday over at the Appalachia Alumni Association Blog. Despite what the name might suggest, there's some Texans over there, and they're doing a good job covering a lot of recent action here. So, take a look.

On the topic of birthdays, I'd be remiss not to mention that I will be turning 21 in ten days (July 20). I'm looking forward to it.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Redistricting: The Latest

By Byron LaMasters

Yesterday, there was a Seante Redistricting Committee meeting in Waco, and guess what? Waco doesn't want redistricting! Imagine that. The Austin American Statesman reports:

In Waco about 300 people, some sitting on the floor, stuffed the Law School auditorium. Another 200 spilled over into other parts of the law center.

McLennan County officials voiced concerns about the House plan, which divides the county into two districts. Politicians from Bell County urged senators not to separate Fort Hood from its current congressman, Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards of Waco.

Killeen Mayor Maureen Jouett said losing Edwards could hurt Fort Hood over the next couple of years as the Pentagon reviews military installations for possible closure. Jouett also said redistricting now is unfair to the 20,000 troops from Fort Hood who are deployed.

"They're over there in harm's way, and here we are basically trying to cut the legs out from under the military base," Jouett said.

Edwards is the highest-ranking Democrat on the U.S. House panel that doles out federal money for military construction. As a Democrat who represents a district that usually favors Republicans in statewide races, Edwards is a key target for GOP leaders.

Democrats now have a 17-15 advantage in the state's congressional delegation, but the plan the House passed earlier this week could boost Republican ranks to 21.

GOP strength grew in the district last year when federal judges drew a map that gave Edwards northern Williamson County.

"How Republican does the 11th Congressional District have to be to be fair to Republicans?" Edwards asked.

The Waco Tribune Herald ran two stories on the hearing, here and here. They report that the McLennan County (Waco) Commissioners Court adopted a resolution opposing the division of McLennan County:

"We are concerned that we remain intact as a county and also look at our district and want to keep McLennan County, Bosque County, Coryell and Bell counties intact because we have so much in common"


"We have been this way for over 100 years. It would dilute our influence. It is really not a partisan situation. It is just the force of being together instead of being split. There is no need to split this county, and especially split it with the other counties."

Both the Hoston Chronicle and the Austin American Statesman ran stories today on Andy Taylor, the lawyer helping Republicans draw their maps, and also the man who would be paid $400 an hour in taxpayer money from the state of Texas to defend the map in court. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Houston lawyer Andy Taylor is advising Republican lawmakers behind the scenes as they draft congressional redistricting maps designed to defeat incumbent Democrats.

And if one of those maps passes in the legislative special session, Taylor will defend any legal challenges to the map for the state -- at a cost to Texas taxpayers of $400 an hour.

Taylor also is an attorney of record for Texans for a Republican Majority -- a political organization founded by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who is a force behind the $1.7 million special session on congressional redistricting.

"If a Democrat was doing this, there'd be a moaning and gnashing of teeth. It's corrupt," said Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

The Austin American Statesman gives a chronology of Andy Taylor's track record with redistricting, the Texas Republican Party, and Republican interest groups:

  • Taylor was first assistant attorney general under former Attorney General John Cornyn before Cornyn was elected to the U.S. Senate last year. Among other things, Taylor handled redistricting matters for Cornyn.

  • When the Legislature failed in 2001 to draw new lines for the Texas House and Senate, the matter went to the Legislative Redistricting Board, a five-member body of which the attorney general is a member.

  • Taylor quit the attorney general's office, and Cornyn hired him as a private lawyer to handle Cornyn's part on the redistricting board. Taylor's firm, Locke-Liddell, was paid $804,478.

  • After the redistricting was over, Taylor headed up the transition team for new Attorney General Greg Abbott -- whohad benefited from $1.5 million worth of "issue" ads against Democratic opponent Kirk Watson.
    Those ads were paid for by the Law Enforcement Alliance of America, a group created years ago by the National Rifle Association. The law enforcement group has been mentioned in Earle's investigation of the business association's ads, but no criminal charges have been leveled against the Virginia-based association.

  • Taylor also began defending the Texas Association of Business against Earle's investigation, losing every attempt in court, so far, to block the inquiry. While that was under way, he and Locke-Liddell parted company.
  • Taylor was hired to defend the Texans for a Republican Majority, a political action committee engineered by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land. It kicked in $1.4 million in Texas legislative races last year. Several public interest groups complained that it violated the use of corporate money in political campaigns, but the group denies wrongdoing.
  • Recently, Abbott hired Taylor, at $400 an hour, to represent the state in matters concerning congressional redistricting.

So Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, who led the Democrats to Oklahoma to block congressional redistricting back in May, offered an amendment to limit the attorney general's office to using staff members in defending whatever map emerges from the special session. It would also have capped the rate that could be paid a lawyer to 110 percent of the average salary of the top 10 employees of the attorney general's office. That's $129,266 a year.

The other would prevent hiring a lawyer to represent the state if that lawyer had challenged state laws or the Texas Constitution in the past year.

"Under the law, any time you attack a state statute, the attorney general is required to intervene and defend the statute," Dunnam said. "So I had a second amendment that said that any attorney who within the last 12 months had attacked one of our statutes, that person can't be hired, because you would be taking one position against the state of Texas and another position representing the state of Texas."

Taylor didn't immediately return telephone calls this week, and his office said he cannot talk about redistricting.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:02 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Texas State Board of Education

By Byron LaMasters

Want to go back to the 19th Century? The Texas State Board of Education will take you there, via the Daily Texan editorial page:

The State Board of Education began public hearings on new textbooks for Texas Wednesday, and the greatest controversy this session will revolve around the theory of evolution and its implementation in school curriculums. The debate over evolution is by no means a new issue. It's been in the forefront of science education since the infamous Scopes trial in 1925.

A new wrinkle has emerged recently, the concept of "intelligent design," which is being debated as an alternative to both evolution and creationism. According to the Discovery Institute, a think tank based in Seattle, Wash., whose members were scheduled to testify at the hearings, "the theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."

John West, associate director of the institute, told the Austin American Statesman that he doesn't believe intelligent design should replace the teaching of evolution, but merely point out the inconsistencies in evolutionary theory.

However, by the mere advocacy of a theory that prides itself on the existence of an intelligent force behind the scenes, intelligent design lapses into the folly of mixing church and state.

When the prohibition of teaching evolution was ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court in 1968, the court argued in Epperson v. Arkansas that the government "may not aid, foster or promote one religion or religious theory against another or even against the militant opposite." Clearly, the teaching of intelligent design in state schools would be unconstitutional.

Evolution on the other hand, is a purely scientific theory, its basis rooted in evidence, and thus belongs in a science textbook.

Admittedly, evidence for evolution does have its noted flaws. But scientific theories are not unalterable facts. Theories develop through research, experiments and testable cases that help to explain our present understanding of the universe, and they are constantly being revised and altered to take new evidence into consideration.

If religion is to remain separate from public education, textbooks must be limited to teaching only scientific theories, and not those based on personal belief. While religion and religious explanations for natural phenomenon are valid alternatives, their teaching should remain in the home, the church or in private schools.

Science is a constantly changing and infinitely revisable arena, but an arena which nonetheless only contains room for conclusions drawn from empirical evidence - not personal beliefs.

I'm glad to see the Daily Texan coming back to it senses after the redistricting editorial fiasco.

More on the religious right and the State Board of Education, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 09, 2003

Africa: Then and Now

By Byron LaMasters

Africa: then and now. What a difference three years makes. What a shame.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Editorials like Wentworth's Plan

By Byron LaMasters

The Dallas Morning News editorialized today, and the Austin American Statesman editorialized yesterday in favor of Sen. Jeff Wentworth's proposal to take redistricting out of the hands of the legislature, and to place it into the the hands of a bipartisan committee. Congressmen Earl Blumenaur (D-Oregon) and Jim Leach (R-Iowa) co-wrote an op-ed that also appeared in today's Dallas Morning News supporting the idea of taking redistricting out of the hands of the legislatures. I believe that it's the right thing to do. There's a lot of good reasons to take redistricting out of the hands of the legislature, and Blumenaur and Leach tell us why:

Congressional redistricting is about as interesting as someone else's genealogy. But the subject occasionally produces headlines, as it did two months ago when Democratic members of the Texas Legislature fled to Oklahoma to avoid creating a quorum to address the issue.

Their desperate maneuver failed. Republican leaders have convened a special session on redistricting, and the Legislature is continuing to debate the issue.

Yet despite the public perception that the drawing of legislative maps is an insider's game of no particular relevance, the health of American democracy hinges on how state officials approach the issue. If competitive elections matter – and to much of the world, they are what America stands for – then redistricting also matters.

Using redistricting to gain an advantage over one's opponents has been going on almost since America was founded. "Gerrymandering," the term to describe the process of creating strangely shaped legislative districts, dates back to 1812 or so, when Elbridge Gerry devised a legislative map in Massachusetts to benefit his political party's interests.

The courts occasionally have waded into this legislative thicket, principally to protect the one-person, one-vote principle but also to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act. But redistricting simply for a partisan advantage – so long as it doesn't result in less minority representation and isn't too geographically egregious – generally isn't considered grounds for court interference.

Still, it is a matter of profound importance to our system of government. A few partisans shouldn't be allowed to manipulate the landscape of state and national politics by legislative line-drawing.

Gerrymandering is a bipartisan pastime. In the wake of the 2000 census, candidates for governor and even obscure state legislators who would have a hand in drawing new legislative boundaries received unprecedented attention. In an unusual role reversal, some members of Congress even contributed money to state campaigns and hired their own lobbyists to represent their interests in state capitols.

The effort paid off. In big states that Republicans came to control, they were able to make gains. In Michigan, incumbent Democrats were forced into races against each other. In Pennsylvania, Democratic-leaning districts were eliminated altogether. And though the 2000 presidential election made clear that Florida is evenly divided on party preferences, it sends 18 Republicans but only seven Democrats to Congress.

Democrats, meanwhile, did their own manipulating where they could, picking up seats in Georgia, Maryland and North Carolina. Battles now are brewing in New Mexico and Oklahoma as Democratic state legislators try to tailor districts to their party's advantage – just as Republicans are trying to do in Colorado and Texas.

But more than either political party, the real winners in the redistricting games are incumbents. Nationwide, only eight incumbents were defeated in the 2002 general election – and four of those lost to other incumbents. On average, congressional incumbents won with more than two-thirds of the vote last year.

The consequences of entrenched incumbency should concern us all. Without meaningful competition in 90 percent of all races in the House, representatives become less accountable to voters and, citizens lose interest in democracy.

More subtle consequences also unfold. When control of Congress rests on the results of those 20 to 30 races that potentially are competitive, the political dialogue in those campaigns, and legislative strategies in the House, become skewed. The few competitive races become playgrounds for power brokers who specialize in divisive and manipulative campaign techniques.

In Washington, legislative initiatives frequently are distorted in an effort to keep the vulnerable few in the political cross hairs. Bills on issues like farm policy or free trade often are framed to force members to choose between constituencies – farmers and unions, for example. Bills on health care may force members to choose between doctors and lawyers.

There also is a profound problem that isn't subtle at all. Primary elections in districts that are overwhelmingly Republican produce candidates generally to the right of the average Republican, while more liberal Democrats usually emerge from primaries in districts that are overwhelmingly Democratic. The political center – where most Americans are most comfortable – gets the least representation in Congress.

In short, the current system produces a House that is both more liberal and more conservative than the country at large. Members are less inclined to talk and cooperate, much less compromise. The legislative agenda is shaped more to energize the political base than to advance the common good.

It doesn't have to be that way. Iowa, which has about 1 percent of the U.S. population and only five representatives in the House, saw as many competitive races in the last election as California, Illinois and New York combined. (For the record, those three states account for 101 seats in the House). Iowa is so competitive largely because it has an independent redistricting commission that is prohibited from considering where incumbents live when it draws new legislative maps.

What works for Iowa could work for the nation. The formula for avoiding inequities, undue partisan advantage and political dysfunction is the creation of independent redistricting commissions. Arizona recently followed Iowa's example, and such a commission has been proposed in Texas.

Those commissions offer the best hope for taking partisanship out of the redistricting process. The public should insist that candidates for governor and state legislatures favor the development of strong nonpartisan redistricting plans.

Competitive elections are essential to the American system of government. Just as antitrust laws are necessary for a strong economy, so redistricting reform is critical for a healthy democracy.

Update: Check out Off the Kuff for a full editorial roundup.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:21 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Congressman Martin Frost

By Byron LaMasters

Martin Frost addresses the media and hundreds of supporters at a 2:30 PM press conference yesterday. Photo via the associated press. State Senator Mario Gallegos (D-Houston) stands in the background.

I did have the opportunity to say hello to Congressman Frost. As people arrived, I helped the Dallas County Democratic Party hand out fans (it was a hot day) to people as they arrived. Each fan had a picture of either Tom Craddick, Tom DeLay or Rick Perry dressed as a ballet dancer. I offered Frost a DeLay fan saying, "Congressman, would you like a fan?". I'm sad to say that he declined, but he did laugh for a second. Click Here for a picture from two years ago of me and several friends with Congressman Frost.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Senate opposes House Map

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin American Statesman reports:

And several GOP senators indicated Tuesday that they oppose the House's map.

Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, complained that it splits his home county, Brazos. He said District 31, which includes Williamson County, could be improved by including all of Brazos and excluding McLennan County.

Sen. Kip Averitt, R-McGregor, has rejected the House map because it divides his home county, McLennan, into two districts.

Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, said the House map would leave many of his rural Northeast Texas constituents represented by U.S. House members from suburban Dallas.

"It just obliterates the commonality of interests in East Texas," said Ratliff, perhaps the only Republican to disagree with Perry's decision to call a special session on redistricting.

The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star Telegram, Houston Chronicle, Texarkana Gazette, Charles, Rob, Hope, Angry Bear and Ginger all have more on this... yes, it's late, and I'm too busy to sort all these out, but you news hounds know where to go!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dallas Senate Hearing

By Byron LaMasters

I'm about to go to bed (I know, it's late!), but I did spend about 10 hours at the Senate Redistricting Committee meeting today (2-12). There were about 500 people there, and I'd guess that between 95% and 97% opposed redistricting. U.S. Reps. Max Sandlin and Martin Frost were among the atendees. The committee was much more effecient than the House subcommittee hearings, and the senate committee had much more success maintaining order as the Republicans wisely let Democratic Sens. Royce West and Mario Gallegos do a lot of asking people to be quiet and orderly. The partisan Democratic crowd was more likely to listen to them, than say, Kenny Marchant at the House hearing.

Lots of local elected officials spoke, and I believe that all opposed redistricting. They included the mayor pro tem of Dallas, councilman John Loza (I worked on his 2001 re-election campaign. He's a nice guy, and former Republican, and came around from the dark side about five years ago). Loza spoke forcefully against redistricting. One of the more heated moments of the day, and the one time where I thought that the hearing might break down was when Max Sandlin spoke. After his five minute time limit was up, Robert Duncan, the redistricting committee chair asked him to wrap things up, according to the committee rules. Sandlin kept talking, and refused to wrap up. Duncan made a silly comment along the lines of, "I've never been spoken to like that before". That's when the crowd got into and some people started chanting "Let him speak! Let him speak!". Finally, Duncan just decided to let Sandlin finish speaking, the crowd quieted down, and everyone seemed happy.

A little later, the fire marshall came and made the people standing on the sides of the room and in the aisles to move to the overflow rooms. There were some objections, but most people were rather orderly. I left the room and did lots of wandering and talking. Several friends of mine had a Howard Dean table out and we got dozens of people to sign his ballot petition. Later in the evening, one of the brave Republicans who stayed started crying during her testimony when some Democrats called her a liar. She completely unraveled, cried, and directed her testimony more to the audience than to the committee. We were amused. I finally left around midnight. I was exhausted, and there were still several dozen people left waiting to testify.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:32 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 08, 2003

Dallas Redistricting Hearing

By Byron LaMasters

On my way to this:

Tuesday, July 8, 2003: The Senate Jurisprudence Committee will meet at 3:00 PM at University of North Texas at Dallas, Room 224, 8915 South Hampton Road, Dallas, Texas 75232. The Committee will meet to take public testimony regarding Congressional Redistricting.

I'll post on it tonight.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Liberal Optimism in Texas?

By Byron LaMasters

The Daily Texan thinks so.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lovin' It..

By Byron LaMasters

Now, this is the map that they should have passed. I love it. It was a joke amendment by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), but its great. Her map creates about 20 seats where Democrats would have the advantage. Its extremely creative. It creates six border districts, creates a new Democratic district in Dallas, and pairs six Republicans. Best of all, it pairs Tom DeLay with Shelia Jackson Lee in a Black plurality district. It's quite beautiful.

Disclaimer: Sure, this map was fun, but for the record, I don't think that this map is appropriate, and I advocate taking redistricting out of the hands of the legislature, and puting it in the hands of independent panels. I think that Iowa has a near perfect system, but I favor the systems used in Arizona and New Jersey as well.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:44 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Redistricting Passes House

By Byron LaMasters

The House adjourned at 12:03 AM after passing the Grusendorf amended King map by a vote of 84-61 (second reading, 83-62, third reading). The Houston Chronicle reports more. It looks to be near party line. I'll have to see who other than Ron Wilson crossed party lines.

Update: More in my post on Political State Report. I did find out who crossed party lines via the Austin American Statesman:

Two Democratic House members voted for the map, while five Republicans opposed it. The two Democrats in favor of the plan were Rep. Ron Wilson (D- Houston), and Rep. Vilma Luna (D- Corpus Christi). The five Republicans opposing redistricting were Reps. Mike Hamilton (R-Mauriceville), Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), Bob Hunter (R-Abilene), Delwin Jones (R-Lubbock) and Sid Miller (R-Stephenville). Rep. Tommy Merritt (R-Longview) voted Present. Wilson has been a supporter of redistricting all along, as he wants another Black plurality district in Houston, so his vote was assured. Luna's vote surprised me, because I thought that in the end, she'd vote with Democrats, but then again, she is a conservative. Hamilton and Hughes's votes make sense, as both are Republican freshmen from swing districts in east Texas where redistricting is very unpopular (the new map guts rural east Texas representation). Hunter represents Abilene, where Charlie Stenholm is popular, and Miller represents parts of Chet Edwards district. Jones and Merritt are relative moderates.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:12 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 07, 2003

Justice DeLayed is Justice Denied

By Jim Dallas

There may be some Burnt Orange readers who may see Texas redistricting as a novelty, a numbers game, a soap opera, or maybe a little bit of all three. I've got news - it's really a very serious issue.

Under the King/Grusendorf map passed out of the redistricting committee on Saturday, my hometown of Galveston will be moved out of the 9th district (Galveston has been an anchor of the 9th going back for over a hundred years) into a reconfigured 22nd district dominated by conservatives living in Katy, Sugarland, and Fort Bend County. And represented by none other than... Tom DeLay.

I will go from living in a 50-50 district to a district which is 75 percent Republican. And I won't even have the comfort of knowing that, even if my congresscritter is a Republican (and there are some good Republicans), he'd be trying to represent me. Tom DeLay doesn't represent his district, he represents himself, his fat cat friends, and the very worst of the right-wing reactionaries.

Consider this an open invitation to my pity party, gentlemen.

But also know that if this redistricting passes, I will be working very, very hard to find a quality challenger to Mr. DeLay, and barring that, I'll be waiting in the wings to run in 2008, because I'm not going down without a fight.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:22 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Legally Blonde 2: A Burnt Movie Review

By Jim Dallas

Coincidentally, it seems, both Byron and I happen to have the same taste in movies. I say this because, in this last Terminator-dominated weekend, both of us decided to indulge our silly sides by checking out Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde 2: Red White and Blonde.

After a phone chat yesterday with Byron yesterday, I've put together some talking points for Austin-based chick-flick connoisseurs:

  • Rep. Libby Hauser (who is played by Dana Ivey), the tough-as-nails ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is referenced several times in the dialogue as a Texan. A scene during which Elle and her comrades lobby Hauser in the hallway clearly shows that the glass door of her office reads "10th District of Texas" (although another scene later in the movie reads "31st District of Texas"). Both districts include parts of the Austin metropolitan area.

  • Hauser is also apparently a Democrat, as she is the ranking member on the committee chaired by "conservative, NRA spokesman" Alabama Republican Stan Marks (Bruce McGill). Hmmm, a fictional doggie-loving congresswoman representing Lloyd Doggett's district?

  • Byron notes that while Elle is brought to Washington by the (fictional) Rep. Victoria Rudd (Sally Field), there are no woman currently serving in congress from the state of Massachusetts. So while one is cautioned never to underestimate a woman with a Harvard Law degree and a French manicure, one can safely assume that Rudd is not modeled on a real-life Bay State rep.

  • Despite the fact that in the fantasy Washington of LB2 there is more cheery-eyed fluff than since the last time Nancy Reagan was in town, the movie earned a PG-13 from the folks over at the MPAA. It seems that middle America may not yet be ready for gay (yes, gay!) dog jokes. Consider this otherwise-postive review from Crosswalk.com:

    The one element in this otherwise well-written story that I found to be unnecessary and typical of Hollywood writers these days is when screenwriter Kate Kondell felt it necessary to infuse the script with gay-related themes. Elle's personal assistant in her law firm is portrayed as stereotypically gay. Then there's a whole running gag about gay dogs … I kid you not … gay dogs. When a dog groomer caring for both Bruiser and a Congressman's dog tells Elle and the Congressman that the dogs were trying to "hump" each other and that she supports a "healthy curiosity" among dogs, she then declares, "Your dogs are gay." The conservative congressman (McGill ) then asks, "Why me?" stating that he told his wife not to buy the dog in Dupont Circle (a large gay neighborhood in Washington, D.C.). He ends up joining Elle and supporting her bill because of the incident, later declaring to his constituents gathered to pass Elle's bill that his dog is a "flamer". The scene was ridiculous and the premise didn't work with the rest of the movie; it would have been a better movie without it. Not only is that whole subplot silly, but it smacks of the "political incorrectness" of writers these days who are trying to bring "awareness" to the gay agenda, even if it's using dogs as the subjects.

    In fairness, the folks over at Crosswalk.com are level-headed, intelligent, mainstream people. But I'll bet money that Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson will make some silly comment about "gay dogs taking over America." Particularly if LB2 outgrosses the first Legally Blonde, which made $97 million. So far the sequel has drawn $39.1 million since opening last Wednesday (it was second behind T3 at the box office this weekend).

Until next time, this is the Burnt Orange Movie Critic, signing off...

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:06 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Corpus Christi Hearing

By Byron LaMasters

The Quorum Report has posted some interesting news this afternoon regarding the Corpus Christi Senate Redistricting Committee hearing. The hearing started amid lots of protests and at the hearing, Sen. Kip Averitt (R-McGregor) called the house map unacceptable:

Protest from activist leads to brief halting of hearing

Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) and other Republicans on the redistricting committee hearing currently being held in Corpus Christi briefly walked off the stage.

Susie Luna of the Felix Longoria chapter of American GI Forum, began to speak before she was called on by the chairman. Luna said she wanted to protest the attendance of Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio).


Senator Kip Averitt (R-Waco) said in Corpus Christi today, "The House map is totally unacceptable. I do not know what their priorities were but they diced up Central Texas pretty brutally. In my opinion this is unacceptable. I think our plan will be a lot more sympathetic to communities of interest, including West Texas, Central Texas and along the Gulf Coast.

Update: More info, here and here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

House Floor Action

By Byron LaMasters

I finally was able to get access to the live stream at 2:55 PM. Rep. Jim Dunnam is questioning Phil King on the map. Jim Dunnam's questioning is mostly concerning the split in McLennan County. They are debating this map. My commentary on this map is here.

Rep. Al Edwards (D-Houston) qustioned Rep. Phil King on the map, and asked him why it was necessary. King said that it was needed because the legislature failed to redistrict in 2001 and the courts did. Edwards said that Republicans were hypocritical as they approved of letting the courts decide the 2000 "election" of George W. Bush, but thought that court intervention here was wrong.

Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) was angry and asked several questions relating to redistricting law.

Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) suggested that if the plan was ruled unconstitutional, then the map would end up back in the courts.

Rep. Paul Moreno (D-El Paso) questioned King on redistricting law.

Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth) questioned King on the bill analysis and said that it was inaccurate.

King's time expired and Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) gave his report as the vice chair of the redistricting committee. He made a motion to send the redistricting bill back to committee. He stacked the witness affirmation forms collected around the state on the podium with the forms against stacked twelve inches high and the forms in favor of redistricting about one inch high.

Villarreal then took questions from Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon (D-San Antonio). Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin) told Villarreal that he considered the process a sham as the public testimony from the public hearings was not considered.

Rep. King moved to table the motion by Rep. Villarreal. Rep. King was questioned by Rep. Thompson, Rep. Raymond and Rep. Naishtat. Villarreal argued that the map and the process was unconstitutional and that the Supreme Court would overturn the legislature's actions.

Villarreal took more questions and launched into an attack against Tom DeLay. Villarreal took questions from a few Republicans including Joe Nixon (R-Houston) and Kent Grusendorf (R-Arlington).

The vote was taken on King's motion to table Villarreal's motion to recommit the bill to committee. There were 87 Ayes and 56 no's to the motion, so King's motion to table Villarreal's motion carried.

Dunnam then made a motion to postpone consideration of the bill. During debate on Dunnam's motion, Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) raised a point of order relating to the redistricting subcommittee. It was overruled after a 15 minute delay. King moved to table the motion by Jim Dunnam to postpone. King's motion carried with 88 Ayes to 56 Nays.

Several amendments were introduced including one by Rep. McClendon (D-San Antonio) that would move to adopt the current plan.

I'm done with this thread, because I got tired of watching it.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

The Fort Worth Star Telegram had a few interesting articles today. One was about Dan Morales's political career, here, and another on some Republicans that oppose redistricting.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Redistricting on the House Floor at 2 PM

By Byron LaMasters

This will be nasty. I'll be here to blog on the action.

Update: It's 2:30 and the House has reconvened, but the live house stream isn't working.

The Austin American Statesman has a good article today about redistricting and race.

Update: It's finally working (2:55 PM). Phil King is speaking and Jim Dunnam is questioning him. I'll post more in a new thread.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 06, 2003

Who Should I support?

By Byron LaMasters

Select Smart says Patrick Leahy (not sure why he was included. Leahy has endorsed Howard Dean) and Dennis Kucinich. Regardless, I'm sold on Howard Dean, but this is an interesting little test here. Link via Slightly Rought, via Greg's Opinion via Cal Pundit. Cal Pundit warns, however, that the quiz might be skewed to favor Kucinich.

1. Leahy, Patrick Senator, Vermont - Democrat (100%) 2. Kucinich, Cong. Dennis, OH - Democrat (98%) 3. Green Party Candidate (98%) 4. Gephardt, Cong. Dick, MO - Democrat (91%) 5. Daschle, Senate Minority Leader Tom, SD - Democrat (90%) 6. Clinton, Senator Hillary Rodham, NY - Democrat (88%) 7. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat (87%) 8. Edwards, Senator John, NC - Democrat (86%) 9. Feingold, Senator Russ, WI - Democrat (86%) 10. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT - Democrat (84%) 11. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol IL - Democrat (82%) 12. Biden, Senator Joe, DE - Democrat (79%) 13. Sharpton, Reverend Al - Democrat (79%) 14. Lieberman Senator Joe CT - Democrat (79%) 15. Jackson, Cong. Jesse Jr., IL - Democrat (79%) 16. Graham, Senator Bob, FL - Democrat (76%) 17. Dodd, Senator Chris, CT - Democrat (73%) 18. Kaptur, Cong. Marcy, OH - Democrat (69%) 19. Bayh, Senator Evan, IN - Democrat (68%) 20. Clark, Retired Army General Wesley, AR - Democrat (66%) 21. Socialist Candidate (65%) 22. Feinstein, Senator Dianne, CA - Democrat (65%) 23. Bradley, Former Senator Bill NJ - Democrat (55%) 24. Gore, Former Vice-President Al - Democrat (53%) 25. Libertarian Candidate (46%) 26. McCain, Senator John, AZ- Republican (17%) 27. Hart, Former Senator Gary, CO - Democrat (16%) 28. Hagelin, John - Natural Law (14%) 29. Buchanan, Patrick J. – Reform/Republican (7%) 30. Vilsack, Governor. Tom IA - Democrat (6%) 31. Bush, George W. - US President (5%) 32. Phillips, Howard - Constitution (4%) 33. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. - Democrat (-6%)

Update: After reading more about this survey from Cal Pundit, I have further belief that the survey is flawed, even though I think that my political views are very similar to Patrick Leahy's. However, I don't think that I agree with Dennis Kucinich 98% of the time. There are some real issues where I disagree with Dennis Kucinich on, and they're not just concerns related to his abortion flip flop. I disagreed with the following two statements on the quiz (that Kucinich supports):

  • There should be a guaranteed livable annual income for all, including those outside the work force.
  • Full employment for all Americans should be federal policy.

I disagree with Kucinich on trade. I support free trade, NAFTA, WTO, FTAA, etc. in theory. Globalization is inevitable, and it's dumb to not acknowledge that. That said, I think that it is critical to protect the environment and workers rights in every trade agreement that we make. Unfortunately, that's not done, but still I don't think that throwing out NAFTA is the right approach either, as Kucinich would have us do. I have the similar disagreements with the Green Party and I would not say that I agree with 98% of their platform. Also, I have substantial diagreements with both Kucinich and the Greens on war. I opposed war in Iraq, but I don't consider myself a pacifist. I supported taking out the Taliban in Afghanistan, and I actually think that we didn't go far enough. We had the Afghan tribes do our dirty work, when we should have gone in ourselves and taken out Osama Bin Laden. Instead, he managed to slip away. I opposed invading Iraq for several reasons, most fundamental of which is that I did not see Iraq as a threat to U.S. national security (in the way that the Taliban was). I felt that the claims of weapons of mass destruction and links between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden were at best disingenuous.

Also, others have expressed confusion about Tom Vilsack's placement on the list. I'm a big fan of Vilsack, and I'm sure his placement is a flaw with the program.

BTW, I'd love to know what others get on this, so if you take the quiz, let me know your results!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:15 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Calenders Committee Passes Redistricting

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin American Statesman reports:

In less than five minutes, the House Calendars Committee voted 8-1 on Sunday to send a GOP-backed congressional redistricting bill to the House floor for debate on Monday.

The proposed map would change current congressional lines that give Democrats a 17-15 advantage to put more Texas Republicans in Washington. It was approved by the House Redistricting Committee on Saturday.

Rep. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, was the only dissenting vote on the calendars committee.

"We can't just sit down and not say anything," Menendez said. "I'm here to make a statement that this is not OK with me and its not OK with millions of Texans."

The chance that House Democrats would once again flee in a political walkout against the proposed map is slim, Menendez said.

"I don't have a problem with doing it, but I think that many of my colleagues have already put their careers at risk in the last walkout," Menendez said.

Rep. Beverly Woolley, R-Houston, said she expects a tense atmosphere on the House floor.

"Judging by the committee hearings, I'm sure there will be lots of objections," Woolley said. "But I believe we've got a map that does represent the population of the state."

The House convenes at 2 p.m. Monday.

There are seven Republicans and four Democrats on the calenders committee. I'm not sure which Democrat voted with the Republicans to send it to the floor. I'd guess that it would be Turner or Luna. I'll update when I find out.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:01 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Houston Chronicle on Redistricting

By Byron LaMasters

Here's the latest:

With almost no discussion, the House Redistricting Committee on Saturday approved new boundaries for Texas congressional districts that would elect as many as 21 Republicans in next year's elections.

For the Houston area, East Texas and North Texas, the map is in many ways dramatically different from anything the committee considered earlier in the week.

"My goal and the goal of this committee is to design a fair plan," said Rep. Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, sponsor of the latest Republican vision of Texas' congressional districts. "The intent is to have a map that meets legal muster and can withstand court scrutiny."

Democrats blasted the plan as unfair to minorities and rural Texas.

"It's the systematic disenfrachising of minorities around the state and rural Texas is just getting killed," said Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo.

Democrats also continued to claim the latest version is not the real map that Republicans want passed. Republicans have denied that they are holding back a map for a later vote.

The House Calendars Committee today is expected to set the plan for debate by the full House on Monday or Tuesday. The Legislature is meeting in a special session called by Gov. Rick Perry to redraw the state's congressional district boundaries.


Grusendorf then offered a complete substitute Saturday that met with King's approval. The committee approved the map on a 10-4 vote, with Rep. Ron Wilson, D-Houston, as the only Democrat to vote in favor of it.

Committee Chairman Joe Crabb, R-Atascocita, gaveled the vote through over objections from Raymond that the committee had not had an opportunity to debate Grusendorf's proposal or offer substitutes. Raymond said he will try to use Crabb's actions to halt House debate on the map on point of order that parliamentary procedure was violated.

After the vote, a woman in a wheelchair in the audience loudly said toward the panel, "Joe Crabb, the Nazi chairman." Others in the sparse Capitol auditorium audience joined in catcalls against the committee.


If the proposal passes the House, its future in the Senate is uncertain.

At present not enough senators support redistricting to get the two-thirds majority necessary to bring a bill up for debate. If all 12 Democrats in the 31-member chamber oppose debate, they can stop it.

But three Democratic senators have said they might vote to debate, and one Republican, Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, has said he might vote against it.

The map approved Saturday is unlikely to win Ratliff over because it puts his rural part of northeast Texas into a congressional district that would be dominated by Dallas.

The map also might cost the support of Sen. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, because it splits his home territory of McLennan County into two districts, diminishing its influence.

The Senate already has announced that it plans to draw its own map after holding hearings around the state.


Democratic representatives who would face likely defeat under the new proposal are Ralph Hall of Rockwall, Chet Edwards of Waco and Charles Stenholm of Abilene.

King said Democratic U.S. Reps. Max Sandlin of Marshall and Jim Turner of Crockett both would be in a newly configured 1st District.

He said the power of incumbency might allow one of them to survive in a district with a 55 percent Republican voting history.

The article gave similar analysis to my own. They believe that Sandlin or Turner could win the redrawn 1st district. I'd probably agree that one of them could win that district, but it would be tough. I thought that their analysis of Bill Ratliff's postition was interesting. I hadn't thought of it, but Ratliff (who is from Mount Pleasant) is placed in a district dominated by Dallas suburbs, drawn for Kenny Marchant (R-Carrollton). That fact would certainly make Ratliff less inclined to support the plan. Of course, I expect the Senate to come up with their own plan, and I'm sure that they'll find a way to make both Ratliff and Averitt happy, and if Dewhurst is smart, he'll find a map that Armbrister and Madla will support, too.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:15 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 05, 2003

Another Day, Another Map

By Byron LaMasters

Today, a new map was proposed as a committee substitute to the King plan substitute to HB 3. The new map, by Rep. Kent Grusendorf (R-Arlington) can be seen, here. The new map was adopted in committee today with the support of Phil King and the majority of the committee, by a vote of 10-4 (all Republicans and Ron Wilson in favor, Vilma Luna was absent and the other Dems opposed). The Republicans have shown increasing creativity - this map found a way to protect all of the DFW area incumbents (including Martin Frost, excluding Ralph Hall - if you consider him "DFW area") AND create that seat for the annointed one, Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Carrollton). It's done by basically eliminating Ralph Hall's 4th district, and by shifting the center of gravity of several DFW area districts to the east to make up for it (see districts 3, 5, 6, and 32). The 4th district is completely removed from north Texas, as it is now a Houston suburban / east Texas seat, and the 2nd, formerly an east Texas seat, now finds itself in north Texas. The 2nd would be the new Kenny Marchant seat, taking in Carrollton, Coppell, Addison, Irving and Farmers Branch in Dallas county, then moving north to take in several Denton County suburbs, then stretching out along the Red River to include ten more counties (What do Paris and Carrollton have in common again?). Most of the existing districts in the DFW area would change significantly. The 24th would look similar to the current 24th, although it completely removes Arlington (Frost's home) from the district, and connects the Dallas and Fort Worth portions of the district by a four block thread. Should this plan be adopted, Frost would likely move back into the 24th and win easily. The 30th district (EBJ) changes little, but the 32nd (Sessions) moves eastward to include Rockwall County (Hall's home) in this suburban Republican north Dallas-dominated district. The 5th (Hensarling) and 6th districts shed some of their southern Metroplex counties and move eastward to take in counties currently in the 4th district of Ralph Hall. The 5th goes all the way from Lake Highlands (east Dallas) to Texarkana (Again, what do they have in common?). At several points in Dallas County, the 5th and 32nd are only connected to themselves by several blocks. The 3rd district (S. Johnson) also moves east from Collin County to also include Hunt County.

The west Texas districts remain the same as the latest King map. Stenholm is paired with Neugebauer in the new 19th, including Lubbock, and favoring Neugebauer. The new 11th would be open, favoring a Republican from Midland - Odessa. I'm looking at the new 17th, and I'm trying to figure out it's logic. It divides Waco again, placing Chet Edwards in the Williamson County based 31st district district held by John Carter. The map throws the Black community in Waco into the 31st, and most of the rest of the city is in the 17th. The new 17th no longer includes Fort Worth suburbs in Tarrant or Johnson County, and would likely see a contest between Edwards (if he moved back), and a Waco Republican (unless I'm missing something). Without the Black community, Edwards would probably lose, unless he could incite a revolt among white Republicans angry with the division of McLennan County. Lloyd Doggett's 10th district remains in tact, as do the south Texas districts.

That brings us to East Texas. The new 1st District pairs Reps. Sandlin and Turner into a Republican district in east Texas based in Tyler. Turner could run in the 8th, but he would be forced to run against Rep. Kevin Brady in a hopelessly Republican district based in Montgomery County. The new 4th would pair Gene Green and Nick Lampson into a district with 337,000 suburban Harris County (read: Republican) voters. Green would run in the Hispanic majority 29th, and Lampson could run in the new 9th, but that district, while preserving more of his current district, also contains nearly 400,000 suburban Harris County (read: Republican) voters. Again, Chris Bell is put in the 7th with John Culberson, but he would likely run and win in the 25th.

Overall, this map would likely see the loss of Charlie Stenholm, Ralph Hall, Max Sandlin, Jim Turner and Nick Lampson. Chet Edwards would probably lose as well. It would likely see the election of a Midland - Odessa Republican, Kenny Marchant (suburban Dallas Republican), a Tyler Republican, a Waco Republican and two suburban Houston Republicans. The 23rd District, held by Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-San Antonio) would remain a competetive district where a strong Democratic challenger could defeat Bonilla. I've been rather surprised with the Republican Party's lack of interst in creating a safer boarder based district for Henry Bonilla.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:31 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 04, 2003

Happy Fourth of July

By Byron LaMasters

I'll have light blogging this weekend... this link will let you listen to the subcommittee hearings for all of the House subcommittee hearings except Dallas. I listened to parts of the Brownsville hearing. Two points of interest. Go to about 27 minutes into the Brownsville hearing audio file to hear the protest there, as they shout, "Shut it down! Shut it down!". At 3:26 the chair, Joe Crabb asks a Hispanic veteran his social security number.

I plan on having a happy fourth of July with family, and friends. We have a lot to be thankful for. I love this country, and I'm proud to be an American, even though I've been ashamed of our country, and our President many times over the past year or two. Hopefully, that will change in 18 months. Still, its a privilege to be able to tell the world that I think that the President of the United States is a lying corporate whore, an unintelligible idiot, an inept statesman, and has a brain the size of a pea. Ah, America! Again, Happy Fourth of July!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 03, 2003

Bush Recession

By Byron LaMasters

Hmmm, I see a patern.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Latest Map

By Byron LaMasters

This is the latest King map. It is similar to the previous map in many ways. However, the new map leaves Martin Frost's 24th district alone. While protecting Frost, the new map targets Ralph Hall (who had a district he could win in the previous map). The new map gives Hall 238,000 suburban Republican Dallas County voters. The new map also endangers the re-election prospects of Max Sandlin, Chet Edwards, Charlie Stenholm, Jim Turner and Nick Lampson (as the previous map also did). Most everything else remains the same from the previous map. While the heavily minority communities of Tarrant County are reunited into Martin Frost's 24th district, the Black communities in Waco and Beaumont are still divided in this plan.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:17 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Another Redistricting Committee Meeting

By Byron LaMasters

The House Redistricting Committee will meet again at 2 PM. Expect a new map from Rep. Phil King. I'll be away from my computer for most of the afternoon, so follow it live on the Texas House website.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Dean Meetup

By Byron LaMasters

I attended the Dallas Dean Meetup last night. There were about 130 people there, crammed into an oversized room at Central Market. This month's activity was to write to undecided Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa. I wrote my letter to a nice gentleman named Norm. After some jokes about stalking our new Iowan friends, we sat at tables of three or four and wrote our letters. Fierce debate followed as to whether I should address my new friend as "Dear Norm", "Dear Norman", or "Hey Norm!", but I eventually decided on the simple "Hi Norm". I wrote in my letter that Dean had inspired me, and that he's the kind of leader that the Democratic Party needs, as he'll stand up to Bush, and the Republican Party, as opposed to being scared of him, etc.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Coalition of the Billing

By Byron LaMasters

More on our coalition of the billing:

The United States is offering a $25 million reward for information that either leads to the capture of Saddam Hussein or confirms that the former Iraqi leader is dead, U.S. officials announced Thursday.

In addition, they offered a $15 million reward for similar information about Saddam's sons Uday and Qusay.

We all know how successful rewards have been in helping us find Osama Bin Laden. Of course, more people have been injured in violence in Iraq. What's the exit strategy, again?

At least 10 American soldiers were wounded in attacks on Thursday in Iraq, according to U.S. military officials.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Debate on House Rules

By Byron LaMasters

The Texas House of Representatives is now debating a resolution (HR 7) that would change the rules to not allow for house members in committee hearings to ask people their social security numbers. Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo) introduced the resolution, in reaction to Redistricting Chair Joe Crabb (R-Atoscocita) asking a Hispanic veteran his social security number at the redistricting meeting in Brownsville. Rep. Terry Keel (R-Austin) spoke against the measure, using a slippery slope arguement, that it might be necessary at some points, especially with the general investigating committee. Rep. Robert Talton (R-Pasadena) also spoke against it, because it was not well thought out and was political in nature. Leo Berman (R-Tyler) surprised me in saying that he favored it (he had called Rep. Raymond "son" in yesterday's redistricting committee hearing). Raymond ammended his rule change to exempt the general investigating committee. Keel spoke against it again. The ammendment passed without objection. Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Galveston) spoke in favor of the resolution. Rep. Delwin Jones (R-Lubbock) made a motion to table the resolution. Rep. Raymond opposed tabling the resolution. Craddick called a record vote on the motion to table. The motion to table failed with 65 Ayes to 66 Nays.

Raymond then continued, asking for a record vote. Keel, again, spoke against the resolution. Rep. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) spoke in favor of the resolution, questioning Keel. Both Keel and Raymond have had a tendency today to exagerage and hyperbole. Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) spoke in favor of the motion saying that it was important not to intimidate witnesses. Rep. Ruth McClendon (D-San Antono) spoke in favor of the resolution, because of her concerns about identity theft. McClendon and Talton debated for several minutes. Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angelton) voted against the motion to table earlier, now made a motion to reconsider, as he felt that the resolution needed to go through the committee process. Rep. Farrar (D-Houston) spoke in favor of it. Rep. Lon Burnham (D-Fort Worth) attacked Republicans that complained that the resolution was political in nature, as he noted that this entire session was political in nature, and that the taxpayers were funding it. Rep. Jaime Capelo (D-Corpus Christi) spoke in favor of the resolution, defending his constituent who was asked his social security number by Joe Crabb. The motion to reconsider (motion to table) was brought up and passed by a vote of 75 to 48 (in what I'm guessing is a party line vote). It will be interesting to see if this becomes an election issue. I could see Democrats painting Republicans as racist and anti-Hispanic for their treatment of Hipanic veterans, and the House's refusal to change their rules to prevent such behavior in the future.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More on the withdrawn map, Ron Wilson

By Byron LaMasters

The Dallas Morning News recapped yesterday's events in an article here:

House Republicans withdrew their proposed congressional map Wednesday, saying it may violate federal law by diluting the political clout of minority voters in four districts, including one represented by Democrat Martin Frost of Arlington.

The map would have decreased the combined black and Hispanic voting strength in Mr. Frost's 24th Congressional District by 4.1 percent, to 50.5 percent.

The district would lose blacks in southeast Fort Worth and gain younger Hispanics in Dallas County.

Democrats fret that Mr. Frost, one of the longest-serving Democrat in the state's congressional delegation, could not win re-election because about 56 percent of the proposed district's voters cast ballots for Republicans in last fall's statewide races.


"If this moves forward, it will hold in it the seeds of vindictiveness and retribution and vengeance that will carry forward for generations," said Rep. Barry Telford, D-DeKalb.

"This map completely disenfranchised the minority vote," said Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio. "It's sending this state back 100 years."

Ms. McClendon cited how the proposed 24th District would shed minority-rich areas in Fort Worth, Arlington and Duncanville and pick up Carrollton, Coppell and Irving.

The new district, though still with a majority-minority census population, would tilt toward the GOP because of the party's mature voting base in the area.

Many of Mr. Frost's black voters would be placed in the 30th District, now represented by Dallas Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson, and the 26th, a seat won last year by Republican Michael Burgess of Highland Village.

"They have cut it, cracked it and shattered it," said Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo. "They've taken the third-largest concentration of African-Americans in the state, in Tarrant County, and put it into an overwhelming Republican district where their voices will never be heard."

But Rep. Ron Wilson, D-Houston, said he liked the GOP plan because it allowed for a "minority opportunity" district in the Houston area. "I don't know how it can be a racist exercise when it creates a minority district," he said.
Mr. Wilson, one of Mr. Craddick's top lieutenants, would live in the proposed minority opportunity district, but he said Wednesday that he was not interested in running for Congress.

He scoffed at suggestions that the loss of several white senior Democrats would hurt minority causes in Congress.

"That's speculation," he said. "There are a number of Republicans up North that vote better than the Democrats they are trying to save up here. I'd much rather have one Barbara Jordan or one Mickey Leland than four of anybody else's."

Wow! Ron Wilson's just building more and more of a record to attack him in any election. He's comparing himself to Barbara Jordan and Mickey Leland on one hand and then he's trying to say that people like Pete Sessions or Joe Barton better represent minorities than Martin Frost? Fortunately, Wilson doesn't speak for the vast majority of Blacks.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 02, 2003

Averitt opposes dividing Waco

By Byron LaMasters

The King plan would divide McLennan County (Waco), as mentioned earlier. The Republican state senator for the district has stated that he intends to oppose any plan that divides McLennan County. The Waco Tribune Herald reports:

Sen. Kip Averitt, R-McGregor, said he opposes any redistricting plan that splits McLennan County. Averitt sits on the Senate committee that is likely to produce a congressional redistricting map that looks different from the plan King laid out.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Redistricting Committee Meeting Now

By Byron LaMasters

They're meeting again today. Watch, here.

Update: Phil King has withdrawn his redistricting map from the committee. He'll be redrawing it, and submitting a new map. He's concerned about districts 24 and 25. He's worried that he would retrogress minority voting rights in 24 as district 24 is 4% less minority. Apparently, his attorney's have told him that that could be a problem. King also realized that the 25th is not a Black majority district as originally thought. The committee has also asked an expert to testify on the effects of Ashcroft v. Georgia.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Redistricting Committee Meeting Yesterday

By Byron LaMasters

The Appalachia Alumni Association blog gives a good overview of yesterday's committee hearing in Austin. So does Charles Kuffner on Political State Report. The hearing began late, around 8 PM. There was a large crowd, and I believe that they had to switch rooms to accomodate everyone. Rep. Raymond (D-Laredo) immidiately called the map a fake map, in that it would be changed multiple times before a vote would be called. Rep. McClendon (D-San Antonio) said that the map divided the minority communities in Fort Worth, Waco and Beaumont. Rep. McReynolds (D-Lufkin) testified before the committee to say that the map gutted rural Texas. He complained that the water and timber interests of rural east Texas counties would come into conflict with the suburban interests of the congressmen that would likely represent them in the new map. Rep. Dunnam (D-Waco) called the map racist in the way that it divided Waco along the Brazos river, a historical racial dividing line. He said that Waco's senator Sen. Kip Averitt (R-Waco) would vote against that map, or he would not win re-election. The meetings lasted 8 hours, going until approximately 4 AM. I haven't listened to all of the tapes, and don't plan to, but that's a good overview.

The map, in effect, targets Reps. Frost, Stenholm, Turner, Sandlin and Lampson. The map pairs Frost and Barton in an Ellis / Tarrant County seat that favors Barton. It pairs Neugebauer and Stenholm in a Lubbock based seat favoring Neugebauer. It pairs Bell and Culberson in a district favoring Culberson. It pairs Brady and Lampson in a Montgomery County based seat favoring Brady. It pairs Edwards and Carter in a Williamson County based seat favoring Carter. It pairs Jackson Lee and Green in Jackson Lee's 18th district seat. Turner is placed in a new district 1 that is dominated by suburban Houston. Sandlin is placed in a new district 2 that is dominated by Tyler - Longview. Doggett's district 10 is left alone. The new 24th district is drawn with Kenny Marchant in mind, based in Carrollton (northwest Dallas County). Still, the district is over 40% Hispanic and it would not be a sure thing for Marchant in my opinion. The new 17th is drawn with Arlene Wohlgemuth in mind. The new 11th would be a new Midland - Odessa based open-seat possibly with Speaker Craddick in mind.

So, playing the game of speculation, what would happen if these maps went into effect? Well, first off, Chris Bell could move back into the 25th and win easily. Ron Wilson's house district is now in the 25th, but he would have little support in a primary for the seat. I would expect Nick Lampson to move to run in district 9, which would still be an uphill fight. I would expect Gene Green to move back into the Hispanic-majority 29th, and win. Stenholm has said that he would run against Neugebauer if he were paired against him. Stenholm would run, but I don't see him having a chance in hell. Sandlin and Turner would probably run uphill fights in their districts. Edwards wouldn't have a chance in hell to run against for Congress under this map. I wouldn't be surprised to see him challenge State Sen. Kip Averitt (R-Waco) if Averitt votes for the redistricting map dividing Waco. Even if he wouldn't run, it would be a good threat for Edwards to make, either publically or privately. Finally, the new 24th would probably lure Martin Frost to move back into Dallas County and run against Kenny Marchant. This would be a very interesting race, should it happen. The new 24th would be 8% Black and 47% Hispanic, and based on 2002 numbers is about 56% Republican, as most of the Hispanics in the district are not citizens, not registered, or are not yet of voting age. If this map were passed, Republicans can forget about winning any countywide races in Dallas County in 2004. Martin Frost would likely organize the Hispanics in that district, register them, and turn them out in a way never done before. I'd almost look forward to it.

Anyway, here's the map again.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More on McAllen Hearing

By Byron LaMasters

The McAllen Senate Redistricting Hearing yesterday was shut down for an hour and a half before it started. Here's the report from the McAllen Monitor:

A public hearing before the State Senate Committee on Jurisprudence was delayed for an hour and a half while hundreds of protestors representing the United Farm Workers and the G.I. Forum of America beat a drum and chanted “We want DeLay” and “Shut it down.”

The protestors, who arrived on buses from Corpus Christi, left the McAllen Civic Center quietly after Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, chairman of the committee, agreed to have a public hearing in that city on Monday afternoon.

Their chants referred to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, who has been accused of driving the congressional redistricting issue in Texas in an effort to try and gain more Republican seats in Congress.

Congressional redistricting usually occurs every 10 years, or after a U.S. Census, to reflect changes in population numbers. The current lines were produced by a federal court just two years ago after the State Legislature failed to produce a map of its own.

As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, more than 500 people had signed up to testify on the congressional redistricting matter. Once the protestors exited the building and the hearing officially began at 4:30 p.m., about 200 people remained in their seats to hear public comments that began with elected officials.

State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, at first tried to calm the crowd so testimony could begin.

“Please stop the drum,” Ruben Hinojosa said. “I promise your voices will be heard.”

But the drum and chants continued.

McAllen police officers and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers flanked the stage where the committee sat. More troopers waited in the wings. Juan Jalomo of the McAllen Fire Department tried to keep the aisles clear of crowds.

Juan Hinojosa watched the demonstrators with a concerned look on his face, but said the committee did not want to use police force to bring order to the hearing.

“They have the right to demonstrate and they’re protected by the Constitution,” Hinojosa said. “There is nothing wrong with what they’re doing.”

The state senator said the committee encountered similar situations in other public hearings around the state. He also said the committee members did not have travel plans for Tuesday night and were prepared to stay and listen to testimony all night if necessary.

Duncan already looked weary as he banged his gavel three times and Ruben Hinojosa appeared at the podium as the committee’s first witness. Hinojosa’s congressional seat, anchored in Hidalgo County, is threatened by the Republican-backed plan.

“The current GOP plan is igniting a massive outcry,” Hinojosa said. “About 75 percent of people have implored the state Legislature to vote against redistricting.”

The congressman reminded the committee about past sessions in which the subject came up.

“In 1981, after the census the governor called a special session to deal with redistricting,” Hinojosa said. “In 1991 another special session was called again for redistricting. In 2001 Gov. (Rick) Perry had his chance, but he decided not to, and now it is too late.”

McAllen Mayor Leo Montalvo told the committee he did not testify as a Democrat or Republican.

“We have over 652,000 people here—the so-called magic number needed to have our own congressman,” Montalvo said. “If you must redistrict I urge you to keep Hidalgo County whole and add another district. We not only expect it, we deserve it.”

State Rep. Miguel Wise, D- Weslaco, said redistricting was nothing more that a corrupt, taxpayer-funded power play.

“The people keep saying they don’t want redistricting, and yet we continue to have public hearings, as if what we’re saying is being ignored,” Wise said. “We want to make sure the public testimony is not just a pacifier.”

Wise said he believed Rio Grande Valley senators would vote against the matter and that Perry’s offer of considering funding for the Regional Academic Health Center was nothing more than an offer to give in to redistricting.

“I don’t think our senators will take those 30 pieces of silver,” Wise said. “They will not be called Judas.”

State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, was the most outspoken member of the committee. He responded to public comments, asked questions and asked for copies of presentations to include in the testimony.

“First let me say I am not for redistricting,” West said. “I am part of this committee and I respect the other members and I respect the committee process. We are here to listen to you. It’s important that you understand that America is watching because this is important to the rest of the country and what the leaders in Washington, D.C. want.”

West’s comments were met with applause.

During the first hour of testimony six witnesses said they were against congressional redistricting.

Just how much the public comments will influence the committee members is unknown, because other committee members did not appear as interested. State senators Todd Staples, R-Palestine, and Chris Harris, R-Arlington, looked at candy in a dish on the table where committee members sat, while State Rep. Aaron Peña, D- Edinburg, testified.

“We need to create districts where voters have a choice,” Peña said, while the two senators talked and compared candy choices in the dish. “Moving to safe districts is not providing a choice, it’s pulling up apart.”

During introductions, Staples told the audience the committee process worked for all Texans, but his mind is probably made up on the matter.

On Monday, Staples issued a written statement obtained by The Monitor that said Texans should demand the Legislature fulfill its constitutional responsibility and that it should draw the district lines, not the courts.

In Austin on Tuesday, work continued with the State House Committee on Redistricting to produce a map by Thursday and bring the controversial issue up for debate in the House.

State Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Mission, Hidalgo County’s only representation on the redistricting committee, said members were supposed to meet at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

“At 2:30 p.m. we were told to stand at ease until 7 p.m. because the map we’re supposed to work with is not ready,” Flores said Tuesday afternoon. “About 200 people booed because they had driven long distances to testify before the committee and now have to wait about five hours to do that.”

As of 8 p.m., Flores said the public hearing had not begun in Austin because of protestors.

Flores said the committee is working on two maps. One of these has Hidalgo County at 77 percent with U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, still representing the western part of the county. The other map has the county at 92 percent intact.

“Of course, it changes like the hour hand changes,” Flores said.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 01, 2003

Newest Map

By Byron LaMasters

This is the map proposed by the Phil King as the committee substitute. It's a little bit better. It keeps Lloyd Doggetts district in tact, but still retrogresses minority voting rights in Tarrant County. Blacks and Hispanics in Tarrant County do not have an opportunity to influence elections under this map, as they do now. This map also divides McClennan County, and Jefferson County (Waco and Beaumont). In both counties, I believe that it also retrogresses Black voting rights, as in both counties, the Black populations are divided into two districts.

I'll update this later as I make more observations.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

7 PM: House Redistricting Committee Meeting

By Byron LaMasters

Listen to it, here.

Update: I think that it didn't get started until 9 PM or so. I think that they had to move it to a larger room to accomodate the crowd.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

McAllen Senate Redistricting Hearing Shut Down

By Byron LaMasters

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times is now reporting on the story:

About 300 members of the American GI Forum and United Farmworkers Union took over a state hearing on congressional redistricting, shouting, chanting and expecting to be arrested.

Texas state troopers and McAllen police flanked each end of the six exits to hall where the hearing was scheduled this afternoon. Members of two Corpus Christi chapters of the GI Forum along with residents of the Rio Grande Valley prevented state officials, including state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, from speaking by shouting and chanting.

Leaders of the groups had promised civil disobedience and said they expected to be arrested.

The crowd, opposed to a Republican attempt to redraw congressional districts to give the Republican Party a greater advantage, wore t-shirts and carried signs disparaging U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. DeLay, R-Sugar Land, has been the primary instigator of the redistricting effort.

Among the chanting crowd were U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz's chief of staff, Lencho Rendon, and his brother Mike Rendon, who is chairman of the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority and runs Ortiz's security company. Ortiz's district is among the expected targets for a redraw to his disadvantage. Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, has represented the district for more than two decades.

Also among the chanting crowd was state Rep. Miguel Wise, a Valley Democrat, who wore a t-shirt that said, "Deny Delay. In America, voters pick their congressmen. Congressmen don't get to pick their voters."

This story is being reported by the Quorum Report. Apparently the hearing was supposed to start at 3 PM. However, by 3:30 PM the senators were unable to get people quiet, despite pleas by U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Mercedes). There is a quorum of the senate committee present, but they are unable to hear testimony. The crowd is chanting "We want justice! Shut it down!". Before the hearing, there was a press conference where the Tejano Democrats chair called the redistricting process racist. The GI Forum and the United Farmworkers both organized their memberships to attend the hearing and their presence is contributing to the environment.

This was reported by the Brownsville Herald

Some 1,500 people are expected in McAllen, and Rubén Hinojosa said he expected the United Farm Workers and various veterans groups to be present. An average of 200 people have attended other public hearings around the state, he said.

They were angry in today's Austin hearing, too. The Austin American Statesman reports:

An angry crowd hissed Texas lawmakers after a public hearing was dismissed Tuesday afternoon because a Republican congressional map was not ready as expected.

The audience, mostly from Austin, had gathered to testify after receiving e-mails from endangered U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, the Sierra Club and other organizations. Doggett is one of several Democratic incumbents that are expected to be drawn into Republican districts.

Rep. Joe Crabb, chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, dismissed the hearing shortly after 2 p.m., saying the GOP map was not ready. He told the crowd they could return at 7 p.m. Tuesday to testify.

Crabb, R-Atascocita, dismissed the hearing as Democratic members of the House Redistricting Committee were trying to object.

A member of the audience joined in.

"Point of order!," said Shudde Fath, a longtime Austin environmental and community activist. "Could you hear from the public who came to testify?"

"You can testify tonight at 7 p.m.," Crabb said. The hearing will take place in Room E2-036 in the Capital Extension.

Rep. Lon Burnam, a Fort Worth Democrat who is not a member of the Redistricting Committee, ran to the front of the committee room, shouting, "I'm ashamed of the Texas House of Representatives."

Democrats have complained that the special session, called by Gov. Rick Perry to redraw the state's congressional, map, is rushed and has excluded the public. Last week the Redistricting Committee divided into three subcommittees to take public testimony in six cities. Democrats complain that the transcripts of the hearings, however, won't be available before the Redistricting Committee votes on a map.

Down the hall from the committee room, in the bowels of the Capitol, Republican map-makers are working.

The office has a sign that reads. "Closed. Open Door Policy. Just knock. And it shall be opened unto you."

Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, is the author of the new map. He hardly is drawing it by himself.

King is balancing the desires of House Speaker Tom Craddick, U.S. Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Republican members of Congress and his legislative colleagues who may want to run for Congress.

Sources familiar with the map say of the process: "It's a nightmare."

King's version in May prompted 51 House Democrats to flee to Oklahoma and boycott any House action on redistricting.

That map split Travis County, which now is shared by Doggett and U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, into four districts. One sprawled to the Mexico border, another stretched to the suburbs of Houston and two reached into San Antonio.

Members of the redistricting committee who have seen King's latest version of the map say Travis County is split three-ways and that Doggett would not be able to win any of the districts. But that could change as Republicans huddle over a map still in the making.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

Waco Tribune Herald and the McAllen Monitor.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dean's no McGovern

By Andrew Dobbs

The aforementioned Dean post...

I feel that it is necessary to respond to the whole “Dean is the McGovern of 2004” meme. George McGovern was of course the Democratic candidate for president in 1972 that lost 49 states (winning only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia) to Richard Nixon. He emerged as the candidate after a messy primary battle in which establishment favorites such as Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie fell victim to the liberal insurgent, a scenario that many in the media claim to see developing as Gephardt and Kerry and co. are taking hits from Gov. Dean. But as usual the talking heads seem to have little to no grasp of history or even of what Dean stands for.

I think that it is telling that Dean attended the 1964 Republican National Convention with his parents, who were Rockefeller delegates. Dean holds similar positions to the old Rockefeller Republicans- fiscal conservatism, social progressivism and a strong yet cautious military policy. But in the 40 years since that time the GOP has moved so far to the right that there is no room in their party for Rockefellers any more; the only Rockefeller in congress today is a Democrat- Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. Dean is a Rockefeller Democrat, and in a day and age where a sense of history or commitment to anything beyond one’s own self-promotion is absent from our nation’s capital, the punditocracy of that city have no other way of categorizing Governor Dean than as a McGovernite.

Dean’s foreign policy seems to be the source of much of the worries of the Democratic elite. The DLC and other Democratic “leaders” thought that if they went ahead and voted for Bush’s war on Iraq and didn’t worry their pretty little heads that maybe, somehow, the emperor would actually have some clothes. They were wrong. They lost miserably because their little drag act didn’t appeal to real live hawks in the GOP base and simply turned off sensible doves in the Dem base. They didn’t learn their lesson and now the architect of the disastrous triangulation ploy, Dick Gephardt, and the dove today, hawk tomorrow Waffler-in-Chief John Kerry think that an ambiguous and ill-conceived foreign policy is advisable while a foreign policy that essentially mirrors that of Jack Kemp or Nelson Rockefeller- that we should maintain a strong armed force to defend our freedom or the freedom of our allies but that we should only use it when absolutely necessary- is radical and McGovernite. This is absurd. Howard Dean’s finance chair, Dave Grossman, is the former chair of the conservative pro-Israel group AIPAC, Dean supported the first Gulf War (when an ally of the United States was invaded by a belligerent power) and the War on Terror (when an enemy of the United States murdered 3000 Americans in one fell swoop). Exactly what about this policy is McGovernite? If anything it is too conservative for many Democrats, but it is anything but “weak” as the DLC has characterized it. Weakness is voting one way in Washington and talking another way in Iowa.

Both Dean and the GOP have come a long way from that 1964 Republican Convention. Governor Dean went from New York to Vermont, from blue blood to green mountain boy, from a stock broker to a doctor, from a DLC celebrated Governor to a DLC condemned presidential candidate. There is no longer any room in the GOP for someone who believes that the simple principle of only spending what money you have or that the government should stay out of the business of morality or that our military ought to be strong but wary of war. If big, irresponsible, reckless government was the hallmark of McGovern’s platform, then it appears that the Republican Party carries his mantle far better than Howard Dean ever has.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 04:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Carl Isett

By Byron LaMasters

One of the members of the redistricting subcommittee that met in Dallas on Saturday was Rep. Carl Isett (R-Lubbock). Rhetoric and Rhythm has a great post about how this home-school advocate, and relative far-right fringe (even for Lubbock) candidate was able to get elected through the power of religious conservative precinct chairs.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Redistricting Committee

By Byron LaMasters

Today's redistricting committee meeting lasted only 5 minutes. Chairman Crabb called the meeting to order, and told the committee that the map being drafted by Phil King had not been completed, and that the committee would stand at ease until 7 PM.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Redistricting Committee Monday Meeting

By Byron LaMasters

The House Redistricting Committee held a meeting yesterday where they heard the reports from the six subcommittee hearings. At each hearing, the people were overwhelmingly opposed to redistricting, including at the hearings in heavily Republican areas such as Lubbock and Nacagdoches. After that Rep. Ruth McClendon (D-San Antonio) made the following motion:

Based on the numbers from Lubbock being reported as being three to one against redistricting, and based on the numbers from Dallas being 375 against and 77 for, in San Antonio three fourths of the people who testified were against redistricting, in Houston three fourths of the people who testified were against redistricting, in Nacogdoches 7 were for, and 65 were against redistricting, and based on the fact that there was no quorum at the meeting in Brownsville, I move that this committee not consider redistricting and adjourn.

Rep. Raymond (D-Laredo) seconded the motion. The motion failed with 4 ayes, 8 no's, 1 present not voting, 2 absent. Voting aye were Flores, McClendon, Raymond and Villarreal (all D's). Voting no were Crabb, Grusendorf, Isett, King, Krusee, Marchant, Morrison and Talton. Voting present was Luna (D). Absent were Pitts (R) and Wilson (D).

There was also a shouting match at one point between Rep. Talton and Rep. Raymond. Today's hearing begins in several minutes. You can watch it here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

28 Issues Added to Special Session

By Byron LaMasters

Today, Governor Perry added 28 issues to the special redistricting session:

Gov. Rick Perry today announced the addition of 28 issues to the call of the current legislative session. The governor’s action allows the Texas House and Senate to consider legislation relating to these issues during the special session.

“By opening the call to these specific issues, I am confident representatives and senators will make efficient use of this time in Austin to make state government more efficient for the people of Texas,” Perry said. “Of the 28 issues added today, 21 are topics that were discussed and debated in a government reorganization bill last session.”

Issues added to the special session agenda include:

· Legislation relating to corrections to HB 3588 from the just completed regular session concerning transportation and trauma issues.

· Legislation permitting the reorganization of legislative support agencies and offices.

· Legislation relating to a transfer in the oversight of Regional Planning Commissions to the State Auditor’s Office.

· Legislation relating to the abolition of the Texas Commission on Private Security.

· Legislation relating to the abolition of the Office of State-Federal Relations and transferring its functions to the Governor’s Office.

· Legislation relating to the abolition of the State Aircraft Pooling Board.

· Legislation permitting the Legislative Budget Board to meet by teleconference.

· Legislation permitting the Governor to designate the presiding officers for executive branch agencies.

· Legislation modifying the Governor’s budget authority.

· Legislation relating to legislative and executive branch working papers on the budget.

· Legislation creating a study on private prisons.

· Legislation modifying the organizational pattern of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

· Legislation designating the Texas Department of Public Safety as the agency to establish school bus safety standards.

· Legislation modifying the scope and function of the State Office of Risk Management.

· Legislation relating to a modification in the qualifications for the Commissioner of Insurance.

· Legislation appropriating fees established by legislation during the regular session that remain unappropriated.

· Legislation relating to the abandonment of proceeds on demutualization.

· Legislation to re-establish the runoff primary election date to the second Tuesday in April.

· Legislation to provide one uniform deadline for receiving late ballots for all elections and one uniform time period for the ballot board to convene to count late mail ballots.

· Legislation to provide for one uniform day for canvassing elections for the general election for state and county officers and for all other local elections.

· Legislation to re-establish the first Saturday in May as the May uniform election date.

· Legislation relating to civil claims involving exposure to asbestos.

· Legislation directing the Texas Coordinating Board for Higher Education to review the organization and operation of each university system office.

· Legislation streamlining the environmental permitting and regulation process in Texas for competitiveness with other states.

· Legislation relating to the procedures followed in condemnation proceeding in a county civil court at law in Harris County.

· Legislation relating to a reconstitution of the membership of the Texas Building and Procurement Commission.

· Legislation relating to a modification in the qualifications for membership on the Texas Veterans Commission.

· Legislation relating to a modification in the qualifications for membership on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

The Texas Constitution authorizes the governor to set the agenda during a special session of the legislature. This called special session began June 30 with congressional redistricting as the only issue on the agenda.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Redistricting and Football

By Andrew Dobbs

Alright, I'll put up a Dean-themed post in the very near future, but I figure I'll stay on topic and share a handy little redistricting analogy I came up with.

Think of it this way. The Dallas Cowboys line up against the Houston Texans to play a football game. The Cowboys won the toss so they are on offense, the Texans on D and the Cowboys' head coach Bill Parcells takes a look at the Texans' formation. He doesn't like what he sees, so he calls over the ref and says "Hey ref, I want you to eject their strong safety, their middle linebacker and weak linebacker, their nose guard and one of their tackles." Most would expect the ref to tell Parcells to get bent, but in this scenario the ref is owned by Parcells and scared pissless of the guy. So what does he do? He ignores the rules of the game and fair play and kicks out those 5 players, in fact he lets the Cowboys put an extra five players on offense. We'd be outraged, as well we should be.

The Cowboys, of course, are the GOP (I am a die hard, live and breathe fan of the Cowboys and an equally passionate enemy of the Republican Party, but the analogy works) and the Texans are the Democrats. Bill Parcells is Tom DeLay and the ref is Tom Craddick. Those 5 defensive players are Chet Edwards, Max Sandlin, Jim Turner, Nick Lampson and Martin Frost. In sports we realize that there are rules, and you play by those rules whether you like it or not. The rules exist to make sure that everyone has an equal shake and that you win because you are smarter, tougher and more skilled than your opponent. The Republicans don't want to play by those rules- rather than trying to run qualified, intelligent, winning candidates against Democrats, they want to have the ref change the rules and throw them out of the game. Well that is bullshit, top to bottom.

Finally, let's remember that the last time the two teams in my analogy played the Houston Texans pulled out an upset victory over the Dallas Cowboys. The GOP is doing something that no Democrat has ever been able to do- unify all Democrats- black, white, brown, rural, urban, suburban, conservative, moderate, liberal- with one cause and one goal. If we can keep the rules fair and the officials impartial, we might just have a fighting chance next time we step on the field.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 12:26 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Daily Texan Supports Redistricting

By Byron LaMasters

While I have been pleasantly surprised by the Daily Texan editorials under Kevin Kushner thus far, I was quite disappointed by yesterday's editorial:

It's easy to see why Texas Republicans want to redraw congressional district lines. Despite winning all 29 state-wide elections and 57 percent of the total statewide congressional vote in November, Republicans won only 15 of 32 Texas U.S. House of Representatives seats.

Those results indicate flaws in the congressional districts drawn by a federal three-judge panel prior to the November 2002 elections. Republicans are ready to correct the errors.

Errors??? Please. That's so lame. I'll repeat again. Texas Democratic Reps. Max Sandlin, Jim Turner, Ralph Hall, Charlie Stenholm and Chet Edwards represent congressional districts that are not only Republican leaning, but should be safe Republican. All five districts were won by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (the lowest Republican vote-getter in 2002, who won with 53%). Furthermore, all five were won by George W. Bush with over 60% in 2000. These districts are Republican districts. In fact, of the 32 congressional districts in Texas, 20 are Republican majority. The current plan favors Republicans. I'll repeat... the current plan FAVORS the Republican Party. Geez.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 2005
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

About Us
Advertising Policies


Tip Jar!

Recent Entries
BOR Edu.
University of Texas
University Democrats

BOR News
The Daily Texan
The Statesman
The Chronicle

BOR Politics
DNC Blog: Kicking Ass
DSCC Blog: From the Roots
DCCC Blog: The Stakeholder
Texas Dems
Travis County Dems

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett
State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos
State Rep. Dawnna Dukes
State Rep. Elliott Naishtat
State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez
State Rep. Mark Strama
Linked to BOR!
Alexa Rating
Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem
Technoranti Link Cosmos
Blogstreet Blogback
American Research Group
Annenberg Election Survey
Polling Report
Rasmussen Reports
Survey USA
Texas Stuff
A Little Pollyana
Austin Bloggers
DFW Bogs
DMN Blog
In the Pink Texas
Inside the Texas Capitol
The Lasso
Pol State TX Archives
Quorum Report Daily Buzz
George Strong Political Analysis
Texas Law Blog
Texas Monthly
Texas Observer
TX Dem Blogs
100 Monkeys Typing
Alt 7
Appalachia Alumni Association
Barefoot and Naked
BAN News
Betamax Guillotine
Blue Texas
Border Ass News
The Daily DeLay
The Daily Texican
Dos Centavos
Drive Democracy Easter Lemming
Get Donkey
Greg's Opinion
Half the Sins of Mankind
Jim Hightower
Hugo Zoom
Latinos for Texas
Off the Kuff
Ones and Zeros
Panhandle Truth Squad
Aaron Peña's Blog
People's Republic of Seabrook
Pink Dome
The Red State
Rhetoric & Rhythm
Rio Grande Valley Politics
Save Texas Reps
Skeptical Notion
Something's Got to Break
Stout Dem Blog
The Scarlet Left
Tex Prodigy
View From the Left
Yellow Doggeral Democrat
TX GOP Blogs
Beldar Blog
Blogs of War
Boots and Sabers
Dallas Arena
Jessica's Well
Lone Star Times
Publius TX
Safety for Dummies
The Sake of Arguement
Slightly Rough
Daily Reads
ABC's The Note
BOP News
Daily Kos
Media Matters
NBC's First Read
Political State Report
Political Animal
Political Wire
Talking Points Memo
CBS Washington Wrap
Matthew Yglesias
College Blogs
CDA Blog
Get More Ass (Brown)
Dem Apples (Harvard)
KU Dems
U-Delaware Dems
UNO Dems
Stanford Dems
GLBT Blogs
American Blog
Boi From Troy
Margaret Cho
Downtown Lad
Gay Patriot
Raw Story
Stonewall Dems
Andrew Sullivan
More Reads
Living Indefinitely
Blogroll Burnt Orange!
BOR Webrings
< ? Texas Blogs # >
<< ? austinbloggers # >>
« ? MT blog # »
« ? MT # »
« ? Verbosity # »
Election Returns
CNN 1998 Returns
CNN 2000 Returns
CNN 2002 Returns
CNN 2004 Returns

state elections 1992-2005

bexar county elections
collin county elections
dallas county elections
denton county elections
el paso county elections
fort bend county elections
galveston county elections
harris county elections
jefferson county elections
tarrant county elections
travis county elections

Texas Media
abilene reporter news

alpine avalanche

amarillo globe news

austin american statesman
austin chronicle
daily texan online
keye news (cbs)
kut (npr)
kvue news (abc)
kxan news (nbc)
news 8 austin

beaumont enterprise

brownsville herald

college station
the battalion (texas a&m)

corpus christi
corpus christi caller times
kris news (fox)
kztv news (cbs)

crawford lone star iconoclast

dallas-fort worth
dallas morning news
dallas observer
dallas voice
fort worth star-telegram
kdfw news (fox)
kera (npr)
ktvt news (cbs)
nbc5 news
wfaa news (abc)

del rio
del rio news herald

el paso
el paso times
kdbc news (cbs)
kfox news (fox)
ktsm (nbc)
kvia news (abc)

galveston county daily news

valley morning star

houston chronicle
houston press
khou news (cbs)
kprc news (nbc)
ktrk news (abc)

laredo morning times

lockhart post-register

lubbock avalanche journal

lufkin daily news

marshall news messenger

the monitor

midland - odessa
midland reporter telegram
odessa american

san antonio
san antonio express-news

seguin gazette-enterprise

texarkana gazette

tyler morning telegraph

victoria advocate

kxxv news (abc)
kwtx news (cbs)
waco tribune-herald

krgv news (nbc)

texas cable news
texas triangle

World News
ABC News
All Africa News
Arab News
Atlanta Constitution-Journal
News.com Australia
BBC News
Boston Globe
CBS News
Chicago Tribune
Christian Science Monitor
Denver Post
FOX News
Google News
The Guardian
Inside China Today
International Herald Tribune
Japan Times
LA Times
Mexico Daily
Miami Herald
New Orleans Times-Picayune
New York Times
El Pais (Spanish)
San Francisco Chronicle
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Times of India
Toronto Star
Wall Street Journal
Washington Post

Powered by
Movable Type 3.15