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August 30, 2003

Heck, maybe Newt is right

By Jim Dallas

Let's face it, we're not big friends of Newt Gingrich round these here parts.

But I've been intrigued by some of the former House speaker's recent projects regarding health care transformation.

Newt, who describes himself as a "Theodore Roosevelt Republican" when it comes to health, has helped to shove the Center for Healthcare Transformation into the limelight recently. And that's a good thing, I think, because the center's focus on the "big picture" of what is wrong with the health care "zone" (Newt claims health care is too disorganized to be called a "system", and I'm inclined to agree with that logic).

In any case, the AARP is pleased with Gingrich. Considering the AARP is usually a pretty strong supporter of everything Democratic, it's worth taking note of what the Executive Director of the AARP, William Novelli, wrote in the preface to Gingrich's book on health care transformation:

Gingrich believes that our healthcare system is beyond reform -- that it needs to be transformed into something totally different than it is today. "Reforming," Newt says, is the process of trying to make the current pattern work. "Transforming" is about developing new and very different patterns.

Volumes have been written about the problems with our healthcare system, and hundreds (if not thousands) of conferences are held every year with experts discussing how addressing a specific piece of the problem will improve the system. Yet, with all the talking and tinkering, costs continue to rise while quality care continues to decrease.

Newt Gingrich has never been one to tinker. He is a big idea person, and moreover, he has the ability to link big ideas into something even larger still. He believes it is time to focus the healthcare debate where it truly belongs -- on people's health. That is what Gingrich does in Saving Lives and Saving Money. The gap between the health and healthcare we should have and what we actually have is appallingly huge, and will only get larger if we don't transform the system. And, in the process of improving our health, the nation can also save billions of dollars if we make substantial changes in the way we practice health and health care.

Gingrich is proposing nothing less than dramatically changing one of the largest segments of our economy. His ideas for transforming the system are not academic theories. They are based on real-life examples of entrepreneurial changes people are making across the healthcare system throughout the country, and he offers specific examples to back up his claims and allow people to find out more.

Even if you're not inclined to agree with Gingrich on some of these grand-scheme-of-things notions, Democrats could be in serious trouble if President Bush (who has no health care agenda) seizes some of the CHT's rhetoric in an attempt to look bold and decisive (the way he "Greenwashed" his poor record on auto efficiency by promoting hydrogen-fueled cars in his last State of the Union address).

Alternatively, the idea of linking health care to national security (Newt talked a lot about bio-terrorism recently at a lecture on Medicare) could be a way for Democratic candidates to kill two birds with one stone.

Getting every American good health care is what we Democrats want. But we can't do it unless we look harder at cost containment. We can and should win on health care, but if we let the Republicans out-innovate us, we're going to be marching into a disaster.

ADDENDUM: In the here-and-now, I think it's worth pointing out that the sort of ideas looked at by the CHT -- improving health care integration, changing incentives by replacing Medicare deductibles with subsidies, special health care courts, etc. etc. -- provide a pretty strong indictment of the idea that malpractice suit caps such as those allowed by Prop. 12 aren't going to be enough to reduce the cost of malpractice insurance or health care generally. Newt pretty much admits this. Let's face the facts - Prop. 12 (by itself) probably won't do you or your family a tinkers' damn, while taking away your rights all the same.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 04:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Daily Texan on Prop 12

By Byron LaMasters

Yesterdays Daily Texan featured a column attacking Prop 12. By the same guy attacking Henry Bonilla. I really like this guy! Heh. It's a very well informed and well written column, so take a look, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Burnt Orange Report Endorsements: Props. 13 & 17

By Jim Dallas

Proposition 13 - No endorsement either way. Vote your conscience -- if you have one.

Proposition 17 - We endorse a "No" vote.

The Houston Chronicle has asked its readers to vote against both propositions, which relate to property tax freezes for seniors and disabled people. The Dallas Morning News suggests a "no" vote on 13 and a "yes" vote on 17. The Austin Chronicle suggests a "yes" on 13 and a "no" on 17.

There are good reasons to be concerned with property taxes, particularly for traditionally disadvantaged groups like senior citizens and those living with disabilities. Coming to a decision on these two ballot items was not easy, particularly given the fact that they were widely supported in the legislature.
HJR 21, the legislation proposing Prop. 17, was passed unanimously out of both House and Senate committees; and unanimously on the floors of both the House and Senate.

However, this is a very bad time for both state and local governments. Although supporters of Proposition 17 argue that the approximately $3 million in revenue tha local school districts would lose in 2004 could be made up from the Foundation School Fund (and, after all, $3 million works out to something like a dollar per student), the effect of the freeze will likely grow rapidly over time as taxes go up and as as more and more people register as disabled.

Moreover, the benefit to each person isn't likely to be all that substantial; the wording of the state Constitution (see Art. 8, §1-b(b))ties eligibility for the tax freeze under Prop. 17 to eligibility for federal disability insurance. According to the Social Security Administration, 257,000 Texans received disability payments in 2000; $3 million dollars spread over 257,000 Texans works out to $11.68 per disabled taxpayer, or just about enough to treat an average family of 4 to a McDonald's dinner on Christmas. And while the costs to education will grow and grow and grow as more people become disabled (and get their 4 Big Macs per year), the benefits won't - unless, of course tax rates continue to rise and rise past 2005.

But property taxes shouldn't rise any more in this state! Proposition 17 handily ignores the bigger problem of school finance by giving a small, band-aid-like break to a small group of people; and compounds that huge problem by taking even more money out of public education (and every dollar counts these days). While it's nice to see our state government trying to do something for disabled people, the logic behind this proposed amendment will end up disabling an entire generation of Texans by ignoring their pressing educational needs.

We suggest as an alternative that the state focus more on providing health services for all Texans (especially the disabled) instead of tossing out open-ended tax subsidies.

And doing something once and for all with our unwieldy school finance system.

Proposition 13 would allow city and county governments (as well as junior college districts) to freeze their local property tax rates for seniors and the disabled. While it also could lead to revenue shortfalls for local governments, the idea of letting localities make case-by-case decisions based on their local needs is better than the blanket, one-size-fits-all rule offered by Proposition 17. You know, power to the people and all that stuff.

Again, here are the BOR endorsements so far: YES on 10, 11 and 15; NO on 3, 8, 12, 17, 18 and 22; and WHATEVER on 13.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 29, 2003

BOR Endorsement: YES on 15

By Byron LaMasters

Prop 15 reads:

The constitutional amendment providing that certain benefits under certain local public retirement systems may not be reduced or impaired.

Basically Prop 15 would prevent local governments from reducing retirement benefits promised to public servants such as firefighters and police officers. Retired public workers have worked hard for their retirement benefits and ought to be able to enjoy the benefits of retirement without having to worry about local governments cutting their benefits. A YES Vote on Prop 15 will help ensure that. We endorse a YES vote on Prop 15.

Again, here are the BOR endorsements so far: YES on 10, 11 and 15, NO on 3, 8, 12, 18 and 22.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Taco Bell Democracy

By Byron LaMasters

Live in California? You can VOTE in the Taco Bell Recall Poll. Arnold is winning, but neither Bustamante or McClintock are included, so it's certainly a little suspect (not to mention that's it's Taco Bell after all). But, hey it looks like fun! So if anyone in California wants to buy a Chalupa in my honor, I'd apreciate it (as they will be adding a Chalupa as a vote for Bustamante soon).

Found via ToT.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wagons South!

By Jim Dallas

Two entries from The Nation and The American Prospect make the case that Democrats can win in the South (and among Christian conservatives) by talking about social justice and jobs:

The bottom line for Democrats should be clear: Fighting the next election on behalf of jobs, family farms, healthcare and education for all, a populist Democratic nominee could give George Herbert Hoover Bush a real race in a region that the GOP--and its media boosters--now take for granted.

The question of the day is, "how does the Democratic nominee campaign as a socially conservative bleeding-heart in the South, but as a socially liberal tightwad in the North?"

More on this later...

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:08 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Bolton Gets the Boot

By Andrew Dobbs

I know that this happened on Tuesday but I'm just now finding some time to post on this news. Terrell Bolton, the first black police cheif in Dallas history was given his walking papers by City Manager Ted Benavides on Tuesday, causing an uproar among certain elements of the black community in Dallas. Bolton's four year stint as the top dog at DPD includes such shining accomplishments as having the worst crime rate in the nation, sending dozens of (presumably) innocent people to jail for posessing what turned out to be sheetrock crushed up to look like drugs, hiring a suspected murderer as a police officer and shamelessly playing the race card to keep a job he certainly didn't deserve. As happy as I am that someone who was so clearly not cut out for the job of Dallas Police Cheif got a pink slip the whole episode neatly illustrates all of the things that make me glad I moved down to Austin.

First, we must realize that in Dallas there is only one issue, race. No other issue is important because all issues are merely facets of the one issue. South and East Dallas council members run race-loaded and often crooked campaigns such as Black member Maxine Thornton-Reese's 1999 election against a white incumbent with the slogan "Vote for someone who looks like you." In North Dallas the candidates feed off of the racism and fear of its largely White electorate to win elections. As soon as any Black official is accused, legitimately or not, of corruption, the South Dallas self-declared, self-promoting "community activists" jump all over the White officials accusing them of racism. For example, Mayor Laura Miller, a White liberal, was the object of protests led by powerful Black County Commissioner John Wiley Price that included calling her by vulgar names in her front yard as her children were home because of her opposition to former Council Member Al Lipscomb. Lipscomb, who has been nominated to serve on a police oversight committee, has been convicted of federal corruption charges (the conviction was overturned on a technicality though the evidence is overwhelmingly against him).

Though it was the Hispanic City Manager, Ted Benavides, that actually fired the police chief (as the Mayor or Council cannot fire the cheif, only the City Manager can), most of the invective has been hurled Miller's way. One writer to today's Dallas Morning News called her "a sick and dangerous person." Another suggested that Benavides fire her instead, which is not only impossible but idiotic. Bolton's attorney says that the explanation for his firing was "Laura Miller told (him) so." The final claim is distinctly unlikely as Miller has been gunning for Benavides as much as Bolton and with a divided council he is fire-proof- she has nothing to coerce him to do anything. It is clear that this is yet another example of the race card being played against White politicians who were simply doing their job, or rather, not doing anything but getting the blame when another officer does their job. Not to be outdone in the stooping low department, Price and other city officials suggested that race riots would follow a Bolton firing. If so, they'll only be able to happen because an incompetent and poorly managed police department festered under Bolton's lack of leadership.

There are lessons to be learned from this episode. First, move to Austin- race really never seems to play a big part of our politics, we have Black and Hispanic council members and they are elected by a White electorate. We also have a great City Manager in Tobi Futrell. Barring that, Dallas MUST get rid of the City Manager system. The current Council of 14 members and the Mayor has to have a 2/3 vote to fire the City Manager so as long as 6 members are putting their race over their city Ted can kick back and relax and can let awful police cheifs like Bolton run amok. Currently, 7 members and Mayor Miller would have voted to fire Bolton, but they didn't have that power. Dallas is the largest city in America to use this antiquated system and it seems that they have outgrown its usefulness.

Finally, Miller might be able to get a two for one deal. Benavides fires Bolton and stirs up the rancor of the minority members who once formed a coalition to protect him. Miller and the North Dallas members join them in firing Benavides as this takes 10 votes, but then hire a new, Miller-ite manager as it only takes a simple majority to hire a manager (which the 7 N. Dallas members and Miller will make). For the longest time I've said that Benavides and Bolton should both get the axe and now, that just might happen without having to win a whole bunch of elections.

Race is a touchy subject and there are a lot of White politicians, including some on the Dallas City Council I'm sure, who are legitimately racist and are set on reducing the rights and status of minorities in America. But Black and Hispanic community leaders severely diminish their credibility when they rally around criminals like Lipscomb, racists like Thornton-Reese or incompetents such as Bolton simply because of the color of their skin. Dallas needs to update its charter, but more importantly, update its heart- a city with such a dramatic and devastating divide cannot do the great things it should. Bolton's departure is a step in the right direction, though we must weather a storm of short-sightedness before that becomes apparant to all.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 01:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 28, 2003

Austin Chronicle Endorsements

By Byron LaMasters

Here are the Constitutional Amendment Endoresements by the Austin Chronicle. Their verdict?

Yes: Good Law, Even If Not Constitution-Worthy - Props 1, 7, 10, 21

Yes With Reservations: Probably Good Law, but Shouldn't Be in the Constitution - Props 6, 11, 13, 14

No, With Reservations: Questionable Law, but Not as Bad as Proposition 12 - 2, 9, 15, 16, 17

No. Bad Law. Bad, Bad Law. (But Still Not as Bad as Proposition 12) - 4, 5, 8, 18, 19, 20, 22

Hell, No! - 3, 12

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:19 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Arnold: Orgies, Drugs, Fags and more sex

By Byron LaMasters

This ought to drive social conservatives crazy. I don't really have a problem with any of it. Even the gay stuff. He throws around "fag" a couple of times, but I don't see it used with hostility towards gays. The orgy stuff - as long as he didn't exploit women, then I really don't care what someone does in the privacy of their own home, or privacy of - wherever. But it's there. And social conservatives will have a choice to make. Is Arnold who they want to represent the Republican Party?

No On Recall, Yes on Bustamante.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:15 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Another Endorsement: YES on Prop 10

By Byron LaMasters

Prop 10 reads:

The constitutional amendment authorizing municipalities to donate surplus firefighting equipment or supplies for the benefit of rural volunteer fire departments.

Makes perfect sense to me. Larger population centers have a larger tax base and have a greater risk of high casualty and high economic loss fires. Thus, they'll have more up to date equipment. When they buy new equipment, rural and volunteer fire departments can surely use their old equipment. This amendment makes it easier for urban/suburban departments to get rid of unneeded and outdated equiptment as well as helping out rural / volunteer fire departments attain valueable resources. We endorse a YES Vote on Prop 10.

Again, here are the BOR endorsements so far: YES on 10 and 11, NO on 3, 8, 12, 18 and 22.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More Endorsements: NO on Props 8, 18 and 22

By Byron LaMasters

As promised, here are some more endorsements regarding the upcoming constitutional election on September 13th. Early voting started today. For a list of Early voting locations in Travis County, go here (PDF file). For early voting locations in Dallas, go here.

Prop 8 will read:

The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to permit a person to take office without an election if the person is the only candidate to qualify in an election for that office.

I don't like the idea of cancelling elections in any circumstance, even if it's uncontested. What about write-in candidates? Some argue that this would save money. If Republican majority were really interested in saving money with elections, they would have held this constitutional election on the first Tuesday in November when Houston is having their mayoral election. That would have saved all of the voting locations in Houston from having to pay for an extra election. But I can only conclude that Texas Republicans want to discourage voting. That's why they're holding this election in September when most people aren't thinking about voting, and that's why we have Prop 8. We endorse a NO Vote on Prop 8.

I oppose Prop 18 for the same reasons. It reads:

The constitutional amendment authorizing the Legislature to permit a person to assume an office of a political subdivision without an election if the person is the only candidate to qualify for an election for that office

We endorse a NO Vote on Prop 18.

And here is Prop 22:

When a public official enters active military duty, they must leave the office they hold. Proposition 22 would allow officials to retain their offices while in the military and allows the appointment of temporary replacements.

It seems nice and all. But who gets to appoint a temporary replacement? I might support an amendment that would allow the public official on active military duty to choose a temprorary replacement for him/herself. But the amendment fails to make that indication. I wouldn't want a Democrat on active military duty to be "temporarily replaced" by someone appointed by Gov. Perry (for example). So, while I think this prop has good intentions, I believe that it's flawed. If a public official is unable to serve for any reason, they ought to resign (I'm sure I'll get someone trying to draw a parallel to the Texas 11, here. My state senator Gonzalo Barrientos is serving the majority of his constituents just fine). Again, we endorse a NO Vote on Prop 22.

Anyway, here are the BOR endorsements so far: YES on 11, NO on 3, 8, 12, 18 and 22.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Freshman Cheat Sheet

By Byron LaMasters

Ok, Freshman (and prospective students and all). Need to know what the heck we mean when we talk about "the drag", the "six pack", "SMurF", the PCL or the West Mall? The Dean of Students has a fun webpage set up to help you out.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

My Fair and Balanced Professor

By Byron LaMasters

"For FOX News to say they're fair and balanced is like Al-Jazeera saying they're fair and balanced"

- My Classical Civilization professor after noting that his class will be fair and balanced.

I like it already.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Hispanics Attack Henry Bonilla

By Byron LaMasters

In today's Daily Texan. A good Opinion column. We all know Henry Bonilla's real constituency. He's the Hispanic puppet for the white suburban Republican folks in northern Bexar County. He doesn't represent the Hispanics in his district:

Earlier this month, Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, of U.S. Congressional District 23, spoke in favor of congressional redistricting. Because Congressman Bonilla is Hispanic, his presence at the press conference was no doubt an endeavor on the part of Republicans to quell accusations GOP redistricting efforts are an attempt to dilute the political potential of 1.4 million Texas minorities, many of whom are Hispanic. With Lt. Gov. Dewhurst at Bonilla's side, the scene resembled that of a ventriloquist and his puppet - his little Hispanic puppet. When asked why he supposed most Latino organizations like League of United Latin American Citizens were opposed to redistricting, Congressman Bonilla said that such organizations do not speak for most Latinos.

"At least 99 percent of Hispanics in this state and in this country are not affiliated with LULAC or any of the other 'Hispanic' groups," Bonilla said.

In his attempt to further discredit these Hispanic organizations, Congressman Bonilla went on to say organizations like LULAC are "professional minority groups that are trying to inject their agenda into Texas politics."

Not only is the congressman's statistical support highly questionable, his statement about the nature of such groups is completely inaccurate. Most Hispanic groups like National Council de la Raza and LULAC are non partisan, nonprofit, grassroots organizations run primarily by volunteers. The entire survival of such organizations, in fact, depends upon their constituents - every day, civic-minded Hispanic citizens.

In regards to redistricting, Bonilla said he was concerned with the Hispanics who are "at issue," which are the Hispanics who are, as he said, "going to work" and "driving their kids to school." However, if one were to take a close look at the politics of Southwest Texas, one would see that 66 percent of Bonilla's constituency is Hispanic, and most of these people did not vote for him. Throughout the press conference Bonilla tried to present himself as the common man in touch with the sentiments of his community, yet he has opposed Hispanic interests on 84 percent of votes, according to the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda Congressional scorecard.

In response to Congressman Bonilla's remarks, LULAC National President Hector Flores ardently defended his organization and denounced Bonilla's credibility to speak on behalf of Latinos.

"Congressman Bonilla is out of touch with the needs of his constituents," Flores said. "In fact, a majority of Hispanic voters in his district consistently oppose him at the ballot box. To say that LULAC does not represent the Latino community and that we are a professional minority group who is trying to inject our own agenda into Texas politics is not only an insult to the Latino community, but also an insult to the intelligence of those who are fully aware of how Bonilla has consistently voted against Hispanic interests."

Now is a time when the Hispanic population in the U.S. has sky-rocketed to become this country's largest minority group, and many within the Latino community are making efforts at political consolidation and mobilization. The last thing Latinos need right now are so-called leaders like Henry Bonilla, who, in order to satisfy partisan objectives, are willing to go on the record in front of national media and portray Hispanics as apolitical, simple-minded, working stiffs.

In reality, after a long history of struggling with racial, cultural and language barriers, Hispanics are growing less and less fearful of the government and are becoming more inclined to demand their rights. People like Congressman Bonilla must realize Hispanics need and want leaders who believe they deserve a voice and who are going to look out for their interests.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:24 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Prop Updates

By Byron LaMasters

I'll be making endorsements on the remaining amendments shortly. So far, I have endorsed a NO vote on Prop 12, a YES vote on Prop 11 and a NO vote on Prop 3.

Stout Dem Blog has made endorsements on each amendment. I would tend to agree with him with most of his suggestions, but I want to research them more fully before I make a blanket endorsement.

The Curmundgeonly Clerk did a good overview of the controversial Prop 12, which is one of the amendments which Texans will vote on in the upcoming September 13th election. Once again, The Burnt Orange Report has endorsed a NO Vote on this Proposition. Curmudgeonly Clerk brings up an interesting point. He seems to be inclined to support the idea of caps on malpractice non-economic damages, but thinks that the amendment is too broad. Remember, Prop 12 would not only enable the legislature to cap non-economic damages in malpractice settlements, it would enable the legislature to limit non-economic damages in all areas of law.

The Curmundgeonly Clerk also did a good round-up of Texas bloggers on the topic. Grunt Doc argues in favor of Prop 12 because, well, "Doctors and my malpractice carrier are for it, and Trial Lawyers are against it". I would argue that instead of blaming trial lawyers, we should go after the malpractice insurance carriers that are artificially inflating rates. Off the Deep End has a little bit more of a creditable arguement. We do have an insurance crisis in this state, and Phil is right that "152 counties in Texas have no obstetrician, partly because OBs have higher malpractice premiums than other doctors". I would argue, however, that instead of a gut reaction to just blame the trial lawyers, we should actually look at the real problems. Insurance companies are artificially inflating their rates. And, a very, very small percentage of doctors (6%) are responsible for one-half of insurance payouts. The solution? Crack down on the insurance companies and get doctors to better discipline the very small percentage of doctors who are irresponsible. It's unfair that all doctors have to pay for this and if we decided to look at this problem constructively, I'm confident that a bipartisan agreement could be reached. Rangel MD probably makes the best arguements in favor of Prop 12 that I've read. I still stand by my endorsement, but if you're interested in reading a well-informed and thoughtful arguement in favor of Prop 12, check him out. And of course, there's the far right wing folks who remind us to be aware of Prop 12 opposition. I know... those darn liberal Democrats.

As for others opposing Prop 12, Begging to Differ has many of the same concerns that I have about the proposition - the vague wording, the odd date of the election, giving the right-wing legislature more power and the constitutional questions. A special thanks to Half the Sins of Mankind for their link to my endorsement Against Prop 12. They agree with me. Finally, The Sake of Arguement adds a little humor to the case against Prop 12. He points to a case where doctors removed a man's penis because they "removed his penis and testicles without consulting him after they mistakenly thought he had cancer." Well, it's not really funny. Seriously, I'd like more than $250,000 for my penis. I find it rather important, and value it at greater than $250,000. But that's just my opinion...

Finally, The Curmundgeonly Clerk points to some newspaper endorsements, which I'll go through at a later time. Anyway, I'm glad that The Curmundgeonly Clerk took the time to research blogger reaction to Prop 12. I guess I have some blogroll updating to do...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:54 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Someone Needs to do their Research before Posting Comments..

By Byron LaMasters

Mark Harden made the following comment to this thread:

The Staples map by no means stretched any Travis County district down to the Valley. See PLANC01151. This is the map your man Barrientos could have obtained for you had he not run off to New Mexico. Now he will be coming back to lord knows what map."


If you ignore the propaganda site linked here, and instead refer to the Official Maps of the Texas Legislature, you will see that Austin would share absolutely no part of any districts with ANY of these three cities [McAllen, San Antonio or Houston].

Have you yourself looked at the official proposed maps yet? They didn't make them publicly available for nothing.

I'm sorry, but maybe we're not looking looking at the same Official Maps of the Texas Legislature. The Staples map as amended was passed out of the Senate Jurisprudence Committee. The map is Plan C01327. Take a look at it. You know Mark, I even saved a copy of the UT area for your convenience. As you'll notice, the actual University of Texas would be placed in Lamar Smith's 21st district (San Antonio). However, the Baseball field over on the other side of I-35 would be in the new 25th District which, yes, would extend all the way down to the Valley. Finally, my apartment, which a mile north of UT on 38th Street would be in the 10th district dominated by suburban Houston. Who would represent UT on this map, Mark? No one.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:36 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 27, 2003

Bowling for Michael Moore

By Jim Dallas

I finally got around to seeing Michael Moore's Academy-award-winning documentary Bowling for Columbine.

Even conservative critics acknowledged that the film is hilarious; but the NRA wasn't happy. They complained that use of video shot at a NRA convention in North Carolina was inappropriately presented as footage at the NRA meeting in Denver held shortly after the Columbine tragedy. This is (technically) a legitimate gripe, although it's not particularly uncommon for television news broadcasters to use stock footage and I don't think it seriously undermines Moore's point.

But most of the NRA's fire is reserved for a segment which ties the explosion of gun ownership in the 19th century to racism:

Another outrageous sequence in Moore`s supposedly "non-fiction motion picture," tries to associate NRA with the Ku Klux Klan and depicts an NRA member assisting in a Klan cross burning. The rationale? NRA was founded in 1871—the year the KKK was declared an illegal organization. The absurd connection is intentional. It`s Michael Moore`s idea of humor.

An honest documentary would record that NRA was founded by former Union Army officers who fought a war to bring an end to slavery. It would record that Civil War veteran Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside was the Association`s first president. It would record that the man who signed the act making the Klan an illegal organization later became NRA`s eighth president—Ulysses S. Grant.

A true documentary would note that NRA`s early history was written by figures who had not only fought to end slavery, but who would later oppose the persecution of freedmen. Such a man would assume command of the Fifth Military District, and he would then remove governors in Texas and Louisiana for failing to oppose the KKK. That man later became NRA`s ninth president—Gen. Philip H. Sheridan.

To be clear, the line connecting the NRA to the Ku Klux Klan might be gratuitous. But it probably isn't as far from the truth as the NRA wants to admit; lots of Union soldiers were racists (and let us not forget that the Klan was not just anti-black but more broadly neo-Confederate; one could be a racist but against the Klan simply by virtue of being a Damnyankee or "scalawag"). And just because the organization had presidents like Burnside, Sheridan, and Grant doesn't exactly prove that its members were squeaky-clean.

But in any case, the fact that the NRA seizes upon one flippant joke in one of the film's lighter scenes shows, I think, just how desperate they are. The larger point made by the "Brief History of the United States" cartoon is that white culture in the United States has been incredibly paranoid and fearful. And in general, this is spot on.

(One might also suppose that the NRA - of which Michael Moore is a lifetime member - might be grateful that the film explicitly points out that some of the first gun control laws were racist attempts to disarm the black community.)

It's also downright silly to deny that white racism is partly to blame for America's fascination with guns. Many gunowners (and particularly the worst ones, in my experience) are ones who think that owning a gun will protect them from the "criminal element" (Warning! Racially Loaded Term!) of society.

In order to check this idea, I did some back-of-the-envelope data analysis using GSSDirs, an incomparable research tool which allows University Web users to analyze data from NORC's General Social Survey. True to my expectations:

I don't mean, of course, to cast any aspersions on the majority of gun owners, who, I think we can be sure, are not closet racists. Indeed, most gunowners and many NRA members are genuine sportsmen.

Overall, I think, Bowling is a fair treatment of the issue which plays to neither gun-rughts or gun-control ideologues. I think it is one of the best pieces in recent years to show just how foolish the gun-control ninnies are - after all, Canada has lots of guns but very few murders. The problem is clearly cultural - but not the kind of "pop culture" red herrings conservatives and Joe Lieberman whine about. It calls the NRA and Charlton Heston for their clear insensitivity towards gun victims.

Incidentally, the NRA thinks that Bowling is "un-American" because, in short, it dares to argue that the reason everyday Americans keep killing each other with guns is... because there's something wrong with the way everyday Americans think and act.

So much for "Guns don't kill people, People kill People!"

Again - I happen to believe that the right to own a firearm is an important Constitutional right and that further gun control legislation is wrong. But, I also happen to think that private groups like the NRA (and more importantly, the government) are not doing enough to push gun safety, individual responsibility, and a strong community ethic.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:25 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Redistricting Updates from Off the Kuff

By Byron LaMasters

Yeah, I'm just getting back into the routine, here in Austin, so I'll be back to covering the details of the redistricting fight soon, but for now, Charles has great coverage. Today, the Democratic lawsuit saying that Republicans intent to change the two-thirds rule was a violation of the Voting Rights Act was considered to be a poor case by a federal judge, but it will be reviewed by a three judge panel anyway.

Charles also has all the details about the Democratic senators planned and cancelled trip to Laredo, the ruling from the Justice Department and the latest polling numbers across the state. So check it out over there.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:27 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

This is what Constituent Service Looks Like

By Byron LaMasters

Much of redistricting has been a partisan battle between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats talk about precedent, minority voting rights, and argue that the current district lines which favor Republicans in 20 out of 32 seats are more than fair. Republicans on the other hand argue that they're the majority and their is nothing inapropriate about trying to expand their majority through mid-decade redistricting so that they can better advance their Bush/Republican agenda in Congress. Those have been the battle lines.

But Republicans often forget that it's about more than that. If Republicans get their way, they win and Democrats lose. Fine. But constituent service loses, too. Yesterday, I wrote about the Ratliff Republicans who generally lean conservative, but care more about rural issues such as timber and water than they care about the party affilation of their congressman. The letter from our Congressman Lloyd Doggett in today's Daily Texan welcoming Longhorns (back) to campus is what constituent service is all about. Doggett is a liberal Democrat. I know it, I admit it. But find me one thing in this letter that is about advancing a liberal Democratic agenda. If Republicans get their way in redistricting, we lose this type of constituent service. Regardless of your political affiliation, Lloyd Doggett is a powerful voice for students at the University of Texas. If students have a concern about financial aid, for example, there is one congressman to contact to help. The University of Texas matters to Lloyd Doggett and the 10th district. With about 50,000 students and tens of thousands more in faculty and staff, the UT community is a significant constituency of the 10th Congressional District. Republicans want to destroy our constituency and punish us because we vote Democratic.

Anyway, here is Doggett's letter, a letter which we would not receive from a Democratic or Republican Congressman from McAllen, San Antonio or Houston (where Austin's representatives would likely live under GOP redistricting maps).

Welcome back to another exciting year at the University of Texas. Every fall, my thoughts always turn to the 40 Acres and the thousands of students who will start filling up the classrooms and gathering around the Mall. The University has been an important part of my life almost since birth. I grew up in the shadow of the Tower and earned my first real paycheck as a summer dishwasher and errand runner for the Botany Department. Later, as an undergraduate in the School of Business and then as a law school student, I met some of the finest people anywhere - including my wife, Libby. I developed my interest in public policy at the University, where I served as Student Government president.

I will never forget my wonderful years at UT, and I hope your experience will be equally fulfilling. You are lucky to be attending one of the best universities in the world and living in one of the finest cities anywhere.

Please know that I am here to work constructively on matters of importance to the UT community. From tax relief for teaching assistants to improving student financial assistance, I serve as an advocate for the concerns of students, faculty and staff. I have also actively promoted fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget, environmental protection, and policies that encourage economic growth and job creation like an unfettered Internet.

Regardless of your career plans, government affects you. I hope that, as a student, you will choose to get involved with government and public service in your community. There is a wide range of community service opportunities and philosophically diverse political organizations, both on campus and in the community, with which you can get involved.

Both my district office in Austin and my congressional office in Washington provide year-round internship opportunities for students who have an interest in government and want to learn about the inner workings of a congressional office. Internships should be coordinated through the office in which you wish to work. It is a great source of pride that many of my permanent staff are University of Texas graduates.

As the congressman of and for the University, I invite you to visit my Web site at www.house.gov/doggett where you can find the following helpful information:

Austin information and web links: You can explore my hometown of Austin by visiting the About the 10th District section of my Web site. There are several links to help folks learn about Austin's media outlets, civic organizations, community service opportunities, government and culture.

Student financial assistance information: I strongly believe that all students should be able to get all of the education for which they are willing to work. While I fight in Congress to make more student financial aid available, you can find several financial aid resources on my Web site by clicking on the "Constituent Services" button and "Information for Students" to find several financial aid resources.

Ways to communicate with me: From my Web site, you can fill out an electronic survey on some of the important issues being considered in Congress, or you can send me an e-mail about issues that are important to you. I want to hear from you in order to make sure your priorities are my priorities in Washington. My Austin office can be reached at (512)916-5921 and my Washington office phone number is (202) 225-4865. My staff in both cities are ready to assist you. Additionally, I hold Neighborhood Office Hours several times a year at locations throughout Travis County. I encourage you to attend one of these events so that I can meet you personally.

Information on legislation pending in Congress: Enter the "About the 10th District" section to find web links for the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, all federal agencies, and Thomas, the Library of Congress' Web site containing information about bills introduced in Congress, Congressional schedules, and information in the Congressional Record. You can also look up your Representatives at the Texas Legislature by clicking on the "Who Represents Me?" link.

My office stands ready to assist you in matters of a federal nature. Have a safe, productive and memorable year here at the University of Texas.

Hook 'em, Horns!

Rep. Doggett represents the 10th district, which includes the University.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:54 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 26, 2003

Freshman Diaries in Person

By Byron LaMasters

I may just go to this. I blogged on the show earlier, here. Anyone want to go with me?

Emmy Award-winning executive producer R.J. Cutler and Showtime go to college with “Freshman Diaries”

Free sneak preview screening of the first episode of Showtime’s “Freshman Diaries,” a documentary television series focusing on the lives of University of Texas at Austin freshmen produced on campus from September 2002 to May 2003. The series premieres on Showtime, Sunday, Aug. 31.

The 12 University of Texas at Austin students starring in the documentary will be on hand, along with Emmy Award-winning executive producer and director R.J. Cutler, to introduce the documentary and answer questions. The series follows the lives of a group of students from move-in day to finals, taking the audience on a journey of what it means to be an adult for the very first time.

The shooting style is pure documentary filmmaking; the aim—to become part of the woodwork. Tiny crews of just two or three people closely follow the day-to-day lives of the students. Small cameras and minimal sound gear is used, and there is never any lighting, cables or heavy equipment whatsoever. The filmmakers pride themselves on being unobtrusive and consider it critical that they impact the environment in which they work as minimally as possible.

The sneak preview screening is sponsored by the College of Communication, the Department of Radio-Television-Film and The University of Texas Film Institute

Free sneak preview screening tickets will be available starting Wednesday, Aug. 27 at the Student Events Center ticket office on the fourth floor of the Texas Union (room 4.300). First come, first serve. A University of Texas ID is required. Limit two tickets per person.

WHEN: 6 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 28

WHERE: Texas Union Theater, The University of Texas at Austin

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Ratliff Republicans: Endangered but Alive

By Byron LaMasters

Some of my more conservative readers would argue that a "Ratliff Republican" is a RINO (Republican in Name Only). But they exist. These folks are moderates and conservatives who split their ticket. Rural east Texans who vote may have previously been Democrats, but now generally vote Republican. They vote for Sen. Bill Ratliff but also support their moderate to conservative congressmen in Max Sandlin, Jim Turner and Ralph Hall. They also support similarly moderate to conservative Democratic state representatives such as Barry Telford, Chuck Hopson, Mark Homer, Jim McReynolds, Dan Ellis, etc.

So what's my point? Both Democrats and Republicans in East Texas generally win because they're moderates. Ratliff has sided with Democrats in this redistricting battle, not because he is shunning the Republican Party, but because he knows that mid-decade redistricting is not only unprecidented, but that it's bad for the rural water and timber interests of his state senate district. And both the Republicans and the Democrats in his district realize that. That's why, if Bill Ratliff runs for re-election, I doubt that he'll have much trouble. Why? He sided with Democrats in redistricting in 2001, because it was the best thing for his state senate district. It cost him the chance to run for a full term as Lt. Gov, but it didn't hurt him at all in his district. Republicans went all out to defeat Bill Ratliff in the 2002 Republican Primary. They ran former state representative Jerry Yost against him who was supported by the Young Conservatives of Texas and Free PAC (yeah, the guys who unsuccessfully attacked "RINOS" in the 2002 GOP primary with gay-baiting political pornography direct mail pieces). So what happened? Ratliff beat Yost by a margin of better than two to one:

2002 GOP Primary: State Senator, District 1
BILL RATLIFF REP 20367 69.79%
JERRY YOST REP 8816 30.20%

Yeah, and Democrats like Ratliff, too. He votes for his district, not for his party (just like Democratic congressmen elected in GOP districts: Max Sandlin, Jim Turner, Ralph Hall, Chet Edwards and Charlie Stenholm), so he didn't have any trouble in the general election.

2002 General: State Senator, District 1
BILL RATLIFF REP 113939 68.16%
B.D. Blount DEM 53201 31.83%

My point, however, is that Republicans can complain all they want about Ratliff. But the fact is -- he's popular in his district. Most rural east Texas Republicans care more about having their Democratic or Republican state rep/state senator/congressman fight for their water rights and their timber rights and having someone that represents their rural values than they care about being represented by a lockstep suburban Republican who won't take their interests to heart.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:18 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Back in Austin

By Byron LaMasters

Well, I'm back in Austin now, too. I'm in my very bare apartment that I moved into today (my parents will be coming up on Saturday to help me move all my stuff in here). I start classes again at 10 AM tomorrow. I realized this afternoon that the computer I'm using which my dad built me over the summer (his new hobby is building computers, which is great with me) didn't have a dial up modem connection. It just had the DSL line. Well, I won't be getting my cable/DSL modem stuff set up for a week, so I got a little hyper. But I calmed down, bought a dial-up modem at CompUSA, went to a meeting, then went home and installed the thing. So, now I have a (very slow) internet connection. Nonetheless, I'm basically back to normal blogging, so you can all dance in the streets.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More evidence we invaded the wrong country

By Jim Dallas

The Guardian reports that UN inspectors have found evidence of highly-enriched weapons-grade uranium in.... Iran.

You know, the junior member of the Axis of Evil.

VIENNA, Austria (AP) - U.N. inspectors found traces of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium at an Iranian nuclear facility, a report by the U.N. nuclear agency says. Iran said Tuesday the traces came with equipment purchased abroad decades ago.

The find heightened concerns that Tehran may be running a secret nuclear weapons program.

Agency inspectors found ``particles'' of highly enriched uranium that could be used in a weapons program at the facility at Natanz, said the report prepared for a meeting of the U.N. agency's board Sept. 8 in Vienna. Contents of the report were made known to The Associated Press by diplomats who requested anonymity.

The United States has accused Iran of developing a clandestine nuclear weapons program, violating the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty barring the spread of atomic weapons.

Iran has denied the allegations, insisting its programs are devoted only to generating electricity.

Ali-Akbar Salehi, Tehran's ambassador to the IAEA, said the equipment was ``contaminated'' with enriched uranium before it was purchased by Iran.

Salehi told AP the equipment in question was ``brought many years ago from intermediaries'' and so it was impossible to name the countries of origin.

Iran strongly insists it doesn't have a nuclear program.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 04:35 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Poll: Texans oppose redistricting, but aren't happy with Dems either

By Jim Dallas

The Dallas Morning News reports:

The latest posturing came as a new Texas Poll suggests that the public is divided over redistricting.

According to the poll, 46 percent of respondents didn't think that congressional maps should be redrawn, while 40 percent felt redistricting was a good idea.

The poll found that Texans overwhelmingly disagreed with the Democrats' decision bolt to New Mexico. Sixty-two percent disagreed with the action, while 29 percent agreed.

About 46 percent of respondents faulted Mr. Perry's decision to call a second special session, compared with 44 percent who supported it.

The poll, conducted by the Scripps Data Center, surveyed 1,000 Texans on Aug. 7-21. The margin of error was 3 percentage points, meaning the results may vary by that much either direction.

Although Democrats have talked tough about staying in Albuquerque "as long as it takes" to kill redistricting, the Senate Democratic Caucus has not decided whether to return for a third special session or continue the boycott.

The "Texas 11" are coming to another critical juncture - whether to sit out a third special session on redistricting, which Gov. Perry may call as early as today; Democrats have previously indicated they might return for it.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 04:08 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Columbia panel releases final report on accident

By Jim Dallas

The Columbia Accident Investigation Board released its final report on the disintegration of the Space Shuttle Columbia this morning. The 248-page report can be found here.

If even a few of the Board's recommendations are adopted, there will be major repercussions in the way NASA is run (and indirectly, the economy of the Houston area).

The Board's press release pretty nicely summarizes the report --

The CAIB report concludes that while NASA's present Space Shuttle is not inherently unsafe, a number of mechanical fixes are required to make the Shuttle safer in the short term. The report also concludes that NASA's management system is unsafe to manage the shuttle system beyond the short term and that the agency does not have a strong safety culture.

The Board determined that physical and organizational causes played an equal role in the Columbia accident - that the NASA organizational culture had as much to do with the accident as the foam that struck the Orbiter on ascent. The report also notes other significant factors and observations that may help prevent the next accident.

The Board crafted the report to serve as a framework for a national debate about the future of human space flight, but suggests that it is in the nation's interest to replace the Shuttle as soon as possible as the primary means for transporting humans to and from Earth orbit.

It cannot be stressed enough how much the report emphasizes a lack of national leadership (for well over 30 years) in being an institutional cause of the Columbia tragedy; much of Part II and Part III of the report is a siren call for more funding and serious, Apollo-like goals:

Since the 1970s, NASA has not been charged with carrying out a similar high priority mission that would justify the expenditures of resources on a scale equivalent to those allocated for Project Apollo. The result is the agency has found it necessary to gain the support of diverse constituencies. NASA has had to participate in the give and take of the normal political process in order to obtain the resources needed to carry out its programs. NASA has usually failed to receive budgetary support consistent with its ambitions. The result, as noted throughout Part Two of the report, is an organization straining to do too much with too little. - Page 209

As a matter of political reality, the Board suggests that the Space Shuttle be replaced with a more reliable means of accessing low-earth orbit in the near-to-medium term (a program which the Bush administration killed a couple years ago). The report says that "previous attempts to develop a replacement vehicle for the aging Shuttle represent a failure of national leadership. (211)"

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:56 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Back in Texas

By Byron LaMasters

I'm back in Texas. The NYC trip was great. Currently, I'm packing to move back to Austin. I'll be heading back there in an hour or two (from Dallas). Hopefully, I can get my computer set up and get an internet connection in my new apartment, even if I have to use my AOL account and a phone line for a day or two (I know, that's so 1990s, right?).

Finally, I must say that I'm happy to learn that my state senator and 10 of his colleagues are still in New Mexico. I voted for Sen. Barrientos because he represents my views and fights for his constituents. So, needless to say, I'm still a happy constituent (I guess I always have this fear that when I'm away from news for several days, something crazy will happen).

Update: Two down, ____ to go....

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

So it's official, I'm a "Dean-y-bopper"

By Jim Dallas

Just returned from Howard Dean's San Antonio "Sleepless Summer" rally. The official crowd estimate was 3,500, although it could have been higher or lower. In my humble opinion, there were about as many people there as there were on the floor of the state Democratic convention in El Paso last year (which was about 3,000 plus or minus a thousand). The crowd also raised at least $17,000.

State Reps. Ruth Jones McClendon, Michael Villareal, and Eddir Rodriguez (all "Killer Ds") endorsed Dean.

Dean's speech hit on many of his standard stump speech talking points (for several minutes Andrew was able to recite word-for-word what Dean was going to say about health care reform).

But it alsoincluded an interesting tangent about building schools instead of prisons, which incidentally brought back vague memories of the Nader campaign.

On the other hand, it also included a discourse on why Dean feels he would be tougher on national defense than Bush ("He spent three trillion on givin tax breaks to Enron instead of fully funding homeland security," etc.). Which was nice.

Dean even cracked a joke about odd it was for a bunch of Texas Democrats to be applauding him on his balanced-budget pitch (which received some of the loudest applause of the night).

The energy was amazing. Let's leave it at that.

Update (via BlogforAmerica): The report filed by the San Antonio Express News.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:51 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 25, 2003

Remember the dead and work like hell for the living...

By Jim Dallas

From a friend, "Obituary backs 'removal of Bush'" --

When Sally Baron's family wrote her obituary, they described a northern Wisconsin woman who raised six children and took care of her husband after he was crushed in a mining accident.

She had moved to Stoughton seven years ago to be closer to her children and was 71 when she died Monday after struggling to recuperate from heart surgery. Her family had come to the question of what might be a fitting tribute to her.

"My uncle asked if there was a cause," her youngest son, Pete Baron, said.

Almost in unison, what her children decided to include in the obituary was this: "Memorials in her honor can be made to any organization working for the removal of President Bush."

"She thought he was a liar," Baron's daughter, Maureen Bettilyon, said. "I think his personality, just standing there with that smirk on his face, and acting like he's this holy Christian, that's what really got her."

Bettilyon, who lives in Stoughton, said her mother didn't trifle with petty neighborhood squabbles but was attuned to significant policy-making at all levels.

"She'd always watch CNN, C-SPAN, and you know, she'd just swear at the TV and say 'Oh, Bush, he's such a whistle ass!' She'd just get so mad," Bettilyon said.

The full obituary can be found here.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:04 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 24, 2003

Back in Austin, an itinerary

By Jim Dallas

I'm back in Austin, which means broadband internet access as well as being in the "thick of it" again.

I'm planning on going down to see Dean's speech in San Antonio tomorrow.

Until then I'm going to unpack and clean up the apartment, and start looking for a job.

Hasta mañana,


Posted by Jim Dallas at 04:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Text of Republican Ad Attacking Hinojosa

By Byron LaMasters

Last week Texas Republicans ran an ad in heavily Mexican accented English attacking Sen. Hinojosa in South Texas. Here is the transcript of the ad as provided from his office (via Mike):

I went to Sen. Hinojosa's office today and I did pick up a transcript of the
commercial, here it is typed out by me.

Paid for by the Republican Party of Texas

I solemnly swear that i Will faithfully execute the duties of the office of
Senator of the State of Texas

That is the same oath of office that senator Chuy Hinojosa took in January

Now, Senator Hinojosa is hiding from his duties in New Mexico

The El Paso Times calls it a betrayal of constituent trust and says Senator
Hinojosa elected to play politics with items vital to the state.

Unfortunately Senator Hinojosa has a record of breaking our trust.

He tried to weaken sex offender registration laws.

He opposed schoolchildren reciting the pledge of allegiance

He supports a law with criminals to lie in court to protect themselves

He even voted against increasing state education and healthcare spending by
more than a million dollars each.

With his record, maybe we are better off if Senator Hinojosa stays in New

Call Senator Hinojosa's at 956.872.1841 and let him know that he's betrayed
our trust

There it is.

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

August 23, 2003

Hi from NYC

By Byron LaMasters

Just wanted to say hi from NYC. I'm at an Internet Cafe in Times Square. Although I had some trouble getting the ticket machine to take my change, I made it. Yesterday, several of us went to the WTC site. It was quite an experience, and I'll write about it when I get back. Anyway, I'm looking forward to another two days here before I return on Monday.

Update: Speaking of NYC, I am currently in a congressional district represented by a Congressman supporting Howard Dean. I know, only a dork would think of something like that. Heh.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 22, 2003

Perry Pardons A-Go-Go

By Jim Dallas

The Austin American Statesman is reporting that Gov. Perry has pardoned 35 people from Tulia who were wrongfully accused of pushing dope.

Calling the Texas justice system "tough but fair," Perry wipes clean the slate for these folks. Unfortunately, most of them already spent their time in jail. Thirteen others were released from prison earlier this year.

Tough, yes. Fair... well we'll get to that.

The other 25 pardoned were mostly older folks who committed minor crimes in their teenage years, and have long since paid their debts to society.

In any case, the Tulia debacle is now basically over, removing a big ugly stain from our state's integrity. Thank goodness for that.

Update: Sigh... a review of the facts indicates that pardon forms for the Tulia 35 have been sitting on Gov. Perry's desk for nearly a month, despite unanimous recommendations from the Pardons board and the consensus of just about every thinking person on the planet.

I want my three-and-a-half weeks back.

And now, back to non-stop coverage of the Texas 11...

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Off Year Elections and What they Mean

By Andrew Dobbs

Alright, so everybody seems to be all tied up on the California Recall and the 2004 Presidential race, but there are 4 other elections in the very near future that will be indications of how well Democrats can expect to do in 2004 and what messages might work for us.

First, on September 9 Alabama voters go to the polls to vote on whether or not to raise their own taxes. Funny thing is, the conservative Republican governor- Bob Riley- is the man pushing this tax hike. If this ballot measure passes, even in right-wing Alabama, it will suggest that people are valuing services over cost at this point. If a tax raise can be passed in Alabama then a strong anti-tax cut message can work all over the country.

Secondly, on September 13 Texas votes on constitutional amendments. Usually a dull affair with little importance there will be one hitch this year. Proposition 12 is a ballot line that empowers the legislature to go through with tort reform. They probably don't need constitutional authorization to do it anyways, this is a CYA affair, but it doesn't matter as it will almost certainly pass very easily. Having worked for a legislator this year the calls and letters were easily 10 to 1 in favor of tort reform because doctors have convinced their patients it is a good thing. Problem is it doesn't only affect doctors: anybody who wants to sue anybody for any reason will face more of a challenge now as the law is rigged against plaintiffs and in favor of big businesses. If by some chance this were to fail it would be a significant message of opposition to the Texas GOP but there seems to be little to no active opposition so we can bet that the Texas Dems won't use this as a referendum on Perry's sliding popularity. Another opportunity wasted...

Thirdly, on October 4 is the Louisiana governor's election. In Louisiana they don't have primaries- all the Republicans and all the Democrats run at once and if no one gets a majority the top two vote getters have a runoff. In Louisiana the Democrats have at least 2 very strong candidates- current Lt. Gov Kathleen Blanco and long time AG Richard Ieyoub. The best thing going for the GOP is Bobby Jindal- a 31 year old former Bush administration official with the support of 3-term GOP governor Mike Foster and most of the Bush machine. He might not even make it into second place. Right now Blanco has a healthy lead of about 6-10 points but after that it is a dead heat between Ieyoub and Jindal with one-time congressman Buddy Leach and former state Senate President Randy Ewing (both Democrats) close behind. If the runoff is between two Democrats it will signal to the rest of the country that even a state where Bush is popular won't just swallow his word hook, line and sinker. Democrats will be encouraged to go to not only tossup states, but states where Bush is expected to win but isn't overwhelmingly popular- Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Tenneseee, Ohio, West Virginia, Arizona, Nevada and Florida to name a few.

Next comes the California Recall on October 7. I think that there is a lot out there about this already, but basically we'll find out if budget mismanagement and cockamamied energy policies are enough of a reason to kick someone out of office. Here's hoping, as the chief executive of all the United States has shown incompetence in these matters on a scale that dwarfs any mere governor.

Finally we have election day on November 4 which will include the Louisiana runoff and statewide races in Kentucky and Mississippi.

In Kentucky I think that the Democrats should already be perking up. Bush easily won KY in 2000, and he has a 70% approval rating there. The Democratic incumbent governor has been plagued with scandal. Even with a two term AG running as the Democrats' nominee there is no reason he should be even close to the lead. Add into this that he is running a staunchly anti-Bush campaign. He should be pissing off at least 70% of the people in his state, but Democrat Ben Chandler is running even or only a point or two behind GOP Congressman Ernie Fletcher. He has a bold proposal to create 100,000 jobs before his first term is up. If an aggressive message and grand vision can keep us even in a state where Democrats are in shambles and Bush is king then why wouldn't it win us Minnesota, Missouri, Arkansas or any of the other states we need to win in 2004? The answer is it will and electrifying the base and giving people the truth is the answer to Bush's not-so-great-anymore numbers.

In Mississippi former RNC chair Haley Barbour is running against Democratic incumbent Ronnie Musgrove. Barbour hasn't been in MS in years and is known for his national fundraising base. Interestingly enough though, Musgrove is keeping a tie going and even nudging ahead of Barbour in the money race. No polls have been conducted recently but the Democratic primary saw more than twice as many voters as the GOP primary, even though neither candidate had serious challengers. Down ballot races for the Dems were better than the GOP, which would explain some of the advantage, but if a national Republican with lots of money can't win in Mississippi then why should Bush win in close states? The answer is he shouldn't.

If these races turn out as they appear they might- with a Dem victory in all three states and a new Governor in CA (Cruz Bustamante perhaps), it will suggest that the Democrats need to stand tall, speak with conviction and challenge Bush everywhere but the most surley Republican states (Texas, South Carolina, Wyoming, etc.). At the very least it will keep us tided over until January when the primaries begin.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 04:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 21, 2003

What the UN bomb means...

By Andrew Dobbs

The bombing of the UN building in Iraq was a horrific tragedy that serves as a highlight to the biggest failures of the Bush administration.

First, it clearly shows that there is little to no control of the situation in Iraq. Soldiers are being picked off at will and terrorist attacks are killing dozens. Electricity is still an unheard of luxury amidst the 120+ degree heat. People hate us more now than they did before the war. Bush sent hundreds of thousands of soldiers away from their families, sunk tens of billions of dollars and alienated most of the civilized world in the pursuit of a red herring. This alone should be enough to end any credibility his administration had left.

Next, it shows that the worst of the terrorist groups are still active. We went into Afghanistan, a war that I feel was justified, and half-assed it so that Bush wouldn't threaten his then unprecedented popularity. As a result, al Qaida is still active and the Taliban has retaken part of the country. There is no sure indication that this is an al Qaida attack, though an arm of the movement active in Iraq- Ansar al Islam- is one of the most likely candidates.

Bush has had 2 planks that formed the foundation of his much lauded foreign policy- Iraq and Afghanistan. Both have been failures. Along with being the first President since Herbert Hoover to have a net loss of jobs (unless something dramatic happens very quickly) and running the largest deficit in the history of the United States his domestic policy is even more pathetic. Democrats must be willing to play hardball if we want to highlight these shortcomings.

As the saying goes- if you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 08:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

I'm heading to New York City for the long weekend. So, I won't be posting since I doubt that I'll have much Internet access (not that I would find much time to post anyway). I'll be there through Monday night, having fun with friends and hopefully returning feeling refreshed when I come back to Dallas on Monday. I go down to Austin and move into my apartment on Tuesday, then I start classes on Wednesday in Austin. Needless to say, it will be a crazy week. I'm hoping that Andrew and Jim can fill in a little bit while I'm gone here. Posting from me should be back to normal by next Wednesday, even though I'll probably post some on Monday night and Tuesday.


I guess you can consider this an open thread if there's anything you'd like to add about BOR or whatever.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Ratliff to Resign?

By Byron LaMasters

The Laredo Morning Times reports that Republican Sen. Bill Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant) may resign:

Former acting Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, the only Senate Republican who has vocally opposed congressional redistricting, said Tuesday there's little chance he will seek another term and has contemplated resignation over the current state of the Texas Senate.

"It's a day-to-day or month-to-month decision," said Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant. "I'm getting to the point that I'd rather be playing golf. I enjoy my golf a little more these days."

Speaking publicly for the first time since angrily walking out of a Senate Republican Caucus meeting last week and abruptly returning to Mount Pleasant when his colleagues decided to fine 11 boycotting Democrats, Ratliff was pensive and melancholy.

Asked if he'd considered resignation over the current legislative mess, Ratliff replied "I guess the other day when I went home it occurred to me."

"The tragedy behind all this is that just gradually we're escalating the hostility," Ratliff said. "The real tragedy is that it was all predictable and avoidable. But each step that's taken, just by one more step, destroys the Senate that I knew."

Senate Republicans, last week voted to levy stiff fines on Democrats boycotting the Senate over Republican-led efforts to redraw congressional districts. Days later, to enforce the fines on rebellious senators, Republicans voted to impose sanctions on their offices, including stripping their staffs of cell phones, parking spaces and some mailing privileges until the fines were paid in full.

If Democrats manage to stay in Albuquerque, N.M., until Aug. 26, the end of the second special session, the redistricting legislation would be effectively dead for this session. It would be the third failed attempt by the state's Republican leadership to adopt congressional redistricting and Gov. Rick Perry has indicated he's committed to the issue.

Ratliff predicted that healing the wounds wouldn't come easily to the divided Senate chamber.

"If I thought that it was all going to blow over when it's over, I wouldn't be nearly as distraught about what's going on," he said. "I don't think it's going to blow over. I think it may be a generation before the scars from this are healed and that's what bothers me about it."

Ratliff became acting lieutenant governor - presiding officer of the Senate - when in 2000 then-Lt. Gov. Rick Perry replaced George W. Bush as governor.

It would be a shame. Ratliff is one of the very few Texas Republicans that I really respect. I may disagree with him on the issues, but he plays fair and as Lt. Gov. he worked to include everyone and work with Republicans and Democrats. For awhile, I was impressed with David Dewhurst. I expected him to come in and be a joke. He did a decent job during session. I admire the way that he formed a consensus on school finance. But any respect that I gained for him earlier this year, I lost. It's a shame that people like Bill Ratliff no longer feel welcome in Texas politcs. A real shame.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:01 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 20, 2003

Cell Phones

By Byron LaMasters

I got a new cell phone the other day. It's always a hassle to re-enter-in everyone, but it's also amusing to go through and find people that you have absolutely no clue who they were, or how you met them. And other people who you see in there and chuckle to yourself wondering why they're still in your phone book since you haven't seen or talked to them in months.. or years. I'm proud to say that I almost shrunk my cell phone list in half - from 138 to 71 now that I've completed my transfer.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:15 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Lower the Drinking Age

By Byron LaMasters

I got intrigued by the debate going on over on Atrios and Matthew Yglesias today on lowering the drinking age, reacting to a "smart id card" proposal by the DLC. I completly agree with both Matt and Atrios. I'm all for cracking down on preventing terrorists from getting fake id's. But it would also effectively make it more difficult for 16-20 year olds to get ahold of booze - something that I have no problem.

Now, I turned 21 exactly a month ago, so the asinine drinking laws in this country no longer effect me, but it's way past time for America to have an open and honest debate on drinking laws. Personally, I'd like to see the drinking age lowered to 16 - although 18 would be acceptable to me. I think that it is important to have several years of seperation between the driving age and the drinking age, becuase its just not very smart to tell kids that they can start driving and drinking on the same day. Young drivers face enough problems. When I first got my license I got into several crashes in my first 2 years of driving. I haven't gotten in any wrecks in the past 2-3 years. It's pretty simple. Young drivers are inexperienced. DUI's/DWI's are very serious concerns. My solution is lower the drinking age, encourage public trasportation and designated drivers and go after DUI's and DWI's religiously and have tough penalties. It's hard to say that as I've had close friends get them and it could really happen to anyone, but it's the right thing to do. Also, make it tougher to get your drivers license at 16. Another option that I would support would be is to lower the drinking age to 16, but also make it illegal to drive with a BAL over zero for 16-18 year olds. Kind of like like Atrios' idea of providing either a drinking license or a driver's license, but not both.

The real problem with having the drinking age at 21 is that it's just doesn't make sense. I think that you people 16-20 are more likely to drink because it's illegal. Granted, having the drinking age at 21 makes it more difficult for high school kids to get alcohol. In theory that's a good thing. But in practice, it only makes high school kids looking to try something turn to illegal drugs. I support legalization of marijuana and other drugs because the drug war is a failure and if we make them legal we can regulate them and tax them. Instead, what we have now is an undergroud market for illegal drugs, and its easier for high school kids to get drugs now than it would be if drugs were legalized and only allowed for 18+ in regulated amounts (And as I've said before, I support full legalization of marijuana, and consideration of legalizing other drugs. I'd also probably support legalization of ecstasy). But for high school kids, its easier for them to get illegal drugs than alcohol and I'd much rather have high school kids drinking in moderation than killing themselves in heroin overdoses.

Finally, in college - drinking laws are a joke. A complete joke. Any college kid can get alcohol at a party. Friends over 21 will buy you alcohol if you want it. Some bars and clubs don't card very much, and people know where they are. And getting a good fake id is extremely easy (if a little expensive - I never got one, but again, I have lots of friends who have). Heck, I even knew a bar owner (friend of a friend) in Dallas who would let me and my under-21 friends into his 21+ bar... until the TABC came. Heh. So really, what's the point? All the cops do is occationally do stings on the more popular bars on 6th street, and sometimes the gay bars on 4th street. Even at private parties that I've been to, cops have come twice for noise complaints where there were people under 21 that were obviously drunk, and neither time were the cops interested in giving out MIP's. So my point? Just lower the drinking age to 18. Make it less of a big of a deal. Encourage drinking responsibly. Fortunately, UT gets it. My friend Karl who's going to be a freshman at UT was shocked when he went to orientation at UT and went to sessions where "responsible drinking" was stressed:

I guess I will get around to talking more about orientation later, of course, but I have realized one reason why drinking at UT is such a problem. It's really tolerated. I mean were having discussion groups about drinking responsibly, yet illegally. The frat houses are even leafleting some places advertising the big parties their having while the freshmen are here.

I think that he'll change his mind. I wrote the following in his comment thread.

I think that you'll change your thoughts on this when you get to UT. I would suggest that drinking at UT is a lot less of a problem than it could be... because its relatively tolerated.

Basically the deal with UT.. it's easy to drink if your under 21, and you won't get caught unless your stupid.. for example being Jenna Bush and using a fake i.d., or drinking and driving, or passing out in the street or something. The administration doesn't really care if students drink... they don't support it, but they don't go out of their way to enforce drinking laws. What they care about is ensuring that they don't get bad pr stories about drunk driving accidents, or people dying of alcohol poisoning. The best way to prevent those tragedies is to promote safety... If you drink, don't drive. If you drink, don't have more than 3 drinks. Because studies will show that that message resonates with people our age, whereas a "don't drink until your 21" message will just get a lot of people to roll their eyes and not listen to it at all.

It's the same logic that works in sex education. Abstainance based "sex education" works for some people that will abstain to sex until (heterosexual) marriage. But if that's the only message, then people that decide to engage in sex before marriage won't be educated about safe sex. Preaching safe sex won't cause more people to have sex, but it will make those having sex more likely to do it safely.

Anyway, that's all I can think of for now. Thoughts, anyone?

Update: One more thought, is that I really applaud a recent idea by UT. The e-bus. It's a bus system that runs from campus and several other areas with heavy student populations to downtown and back on Thursday to Saturday from 8:30 p.m. – 3:30 a.m. Great program.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:56 PM | Comments (39) | TrackBack

MoveOn.org wants to run Ad

By Byron LaMasters

Want a television ad to run across Texas telling Rick Perry and David Dewhurst to stop wasting our tax dollars on useless special sessions, and to stop (in Bill Ratliff's words) "destroy[ing] the Senate"? Then make a donation to the MoveOn.org "Defend Democracy" campaign!

Please help make our "Defend Democracy" ad campaign possible to show Majority Leader Delay and Texas Republican officials that all of America is watching what they are doing. Let's show Texas Governor Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst that there are political consequences for doing Tom Delay's Congressional dirty work in Texas. Please support our television ad campaign to let all Texans know exactly what their politicians are up to.

Whether you give $5 or $5000, you will be making an enormous contribution to this campaign. Until recently, this kind of campaign was not possible. Because of you the rules are changing for politicians who would try to operate outside of the bounds of Democracy and the rule of law.

In the event that we are unable to use your contribution for the ad you specify, either because of oversubscription or for another unforeseen reason, it is our policy to use your contribution for other advertising and public relations activities.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Ratliff Interview, GOP seeks ruling on Senate Rules

By Byron LaMasters

Today's news includes an interview with State Sen. Bill Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant), who's announcement that he opposed redistricting set the stage for the removal of the 2/3 rule and for Democrats bolting the state. Also in the news today is the amending of a lawsuit by Democrats and Republicans going to the Justice Department to stop a Democratic lawsuit accusing them of violating the Voting Rights Act.

My favorite Texas Republican, Bill Ratliff, who conservatives call a RINO at times, but is strongly supported by his constituents (he beat a ultra-conservative former state rep. primary challenger last year by a two to one margin) for the first time since the Democratic senators fled to ABQ, agreed to an interview. He was strongly critical of the GOP Senate leadership. The Dallas Morning News reports:

A leading Senate Republican on Tuesday disputed his party's argument that 11 Democratic senators have no constitutional right to boycott the Senate and questioned whether the penalties imposed by his GOP colleagues are even legal.

Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, acting lieutenant governor in 2001 and 2002, also said it was a big mistake for Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to scrap the long-standing Senate tradition of requiring a two-thirds vote to take up legislation during the current special session on redistricting.

Mr. Dewhurst set aside the rule in late July, prompting the Democrats to flee to New Mexico because their bargaining power on congressional redistricting was essentially lost. The Senate has 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats.

And this is a very interesting revelation. I just love Ratliff. It takes some balls and a lot of integrity to stand up to Tom DeLay.

Mr. Ratliff, who had declined to comment on the redistricting fracas until Tuesday, also disclosed that in the summer of 2001 he was asked by Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land and current U.S. House majority leader, whether he, as acting lieutenant governor, would suspend the Senate's two-thirds rule so the GOP could push through a favorable congressional redistricting plan during a special session.

"I said, 'No,' I would not agree to that," he said, adding that the subject was not brought up again while he was the state's No. 2 officeholder.

And there's more.

Mr. Ratliff said the redistricting fight is very distressing. "I think the people of Texas understand this is doing great harm to what many people saw as a superb deliberative body. They see much of that being destroyed," he said.


Mr. Ratliff is the only Republican senator who has publicly disagreed with Mr. Dewhurst and other GOP leaders about the right of the Democrats to block a Senate quorum and bottle up redistricting. The state constitution requires that a quorum of 21 of 31 senators be present for the Senate to conduct business.

Although Mr. Dewhurst and the attorney general say there is no constitutional right to block a quorum, Mr. Ratliff disagreed.

Noting he advised the Democrats not to leave, he insisted, "This is a free country. You can leave the state of Texas if you want to. And they left because the rules were changed."

Regarding the fines, Mr. Ratliff, a member of the Senate since 1989, said he does not support them and is "not sure we had authority to do what we did."

And the Austin American Statesman notes the end of the senate as he knew it:

Ratliff said the standoff is killing the Senate's tradition of bipartisan cooperation.

"The real tragedy is that it was all predictable and avoidable," he said. "But each step that is taken, just by one more step, destroys the Senate I knew."

Republicans have also gone to the Justice Department to clear themselves in a Democratic lawsuit charging that changing the two-thirds rule and removing the blocker bill is a violation of the Voting Rights Act. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Republican state officials are asking federal authorities for an expedited ruling that the Voting Rights Act does not apply to the Senate rules that prompted 11 Democratic senators to flee to New Mexico.

"Our goal is to get this resolved as quickly as possible," said Texas Solicitor General R. Ted Cruz.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, Senate Democratic Caucus chair, said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's change in Senate procedure "discriminates against voters protected under the Voting Rights Act."

She said the state's lawyers are "belatedly and secretly" seeking U.S. Justice Department approval.


The procedure, traditionally in place in the Senate, allows a third of the Senate's 31 members to block a bill from coming up for debate. With the rule in effect during the first special session, Democrats were able to block redistricting. Without it in the second session, they could only prevent a vote by breaking quorum.

The Democrats filed a federal lawsuit in Laredo claiming Dewhurst violated minority voting rights when he changed the procedure without first obtaining permission from the Justice Department. The case is before U.S. District Judge George Kazen.

In filings with that court and with the U.S. Justice Department, the state attorney general and secretary of state argue that the Voting Rights Act does not apply to the Senate's internal rules.

But just in case it does, Assistant Secretary of State Geoffrey Connor asked the Justice Department to bless Dewhurst's actions as legal because the federal law is intended to protect "the ability of voters (as opposed to legislators) to vote."

Both filings argue that the Voting Rights Act does not apply to state Senate rules governing the flow of legislation.

Van de Putte said changing the Senate procedure "prevents us from protecting the rights and political participation of the millions of Texans they (Republicans) seek to disenfranchise."

Republicans have a legitimate arguement there, but Democrats are irate because the Republicans went to the Justice Department secretly, without telling anyone. Democrats still haven't acted on their 3 PM deadline yet, but a lawsuit regarding the legality of the fines and sanctions is imminent, likely to claim that the fines and sanctions are illegal because 1) there was no quorum and 2) the meeting was closed to the public, a violation of senate rules.

The Democrats had set a 3 p.m. Tuesday deadline for the Republicans to rescind sanctions and fines or face possible civil or criminal action.

"Be assured, we're going to act," said Sen. Royce West of Dallas. "But we'll dictate the timetable."

Dewhurst said the two official misconduct criminal statutes that Democrats are threatening to use against Republican senators do not apply.

"These are only cases in which a public official knowingly and intentionally violates state law," he said. "Everything we've done in the state Senate is with the advice and counsel of the attorney general."

Dewhurst said a civil law on race discrimination does not apply because the sanctions were based on the missing senators' absence, not on the fact that nine of the 11 are minorities.

And there's more on Ratliff.

Also on Tuesday, Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, said he has been so upset by the Senate's leveling sanctions against the missing members that he thought about resigning. Ratliff served as lieutenant governor in the 2001 legislative session, after Perry was promoted to governor when George W. Bush was elected president.

Ratliff said bad feelings caused by the redistricting debate will not heal easily. "If I thought that it was all going to blow over when it's over, I wouldn't be nearly as distraught about what's going on. I don't think it's going to blow over. I think it may be a generation before the scars from this are healed and that's what bothers me about it."

Also today, Democrats have amended their lawsuit filed in Laredo regarding the Voting Rights Act. This is the same lawsut which Republicans are trying to clear themselves of at the Justice Department. The Dallas Morning News reports:

The 11 Democrats boycotting the Texas Senate over congressional redistricting asked a federal court Wednesday to determine whether the Senate sergeant-at-arms or the Texas Department of Public Safety can arrest the lawmakers for breaking a quorum.

The Democrats already filed a lawsuit in Travis County District Court asking that state officials or their deputies be prohibited from arresting them should they return to the state. That lawsuit also challenges Republican Gov. Rick Perry's authority to call a special legislative session on redistricting.

The Wednesday filing amends a federal lawsuit the Democrats had already filed in Laredo that claims state GOP leaders violated the federal Voting Rights Act by dropping a Senate tradition that requires two-thirds of the chamber to agree to debate a bill.

Confused yet? I think we all are. It's a traveling circus.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

If Texas won't work, Try Ohio

By Byron LaMasters

Since the GOP is having trouble pushing over Texas Democrats in our redistricting fight here, they've turned to Ohio. But wait, the legislature in Ohio drew the lines in 2001. So it's not about the courts drawing the maps, a frequent arguement that Republicans in Texas make. So, it must be about drawing fair districts so that Republicans would be more "fairly" represented. Bush won only 50% in Ohio in 2000 after all, even though Gore gave up campaigning there in the last month. But wait! Ohio has 12 Republican Congressmen and 6 Democrats. So, what arguement is left? They're partisan thugs for Tom DeLay and want to grab more and more power, so there's no reasonable chance for Democrats to pick up the House this decade, even with a national tide. That's why the Texas 11 are in ABQ.

If redistricting goes through, the House is lost to Democrats for the decade. And it opens up the floodgates for Republican legislatures to do redistricting in every state where they control the state legislature setting a terrible precedent. It allows Republicans to ignore Senate rules such as removing the blocker bill, enacting sanctions without a quorum, holding an illegal closed door meeting, and more. This is why the Texas 11 are in ABQ, and why they have the overwhelming support of their constituents.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 19, 2003

Worse than Alabama

By Jim Dallas

This is Burnt Orange Report, not Crimson Tide Report. Yet, we can't seem to get over what's going on down in Alabama.

Gov. Riley, a Republican, is calling Alabama's highly regressive tax system "immoral" and, with a firm footing on Christian values like "not ripping poor people off", has called for a big tax hike on the rich to keep state services going.

But Riley has also built his case on a desire to see Alabama become a truly great state, not merely competing for the onerous title of "worst state in the country."

Guess which state is one of Alabama's main competitors for that dubious distinction? That's right, Texas.

While Riley throws fire and brimstone at Alabama's tax code, it's worth keeping in mind that things are no better here. The bottom 20 percent in Alabama pay 10.6% of their incomes in state taxes each year; but in Texas, our lowest quintile pays even more - 11.4%. The average Texan pays three times as much in property taxes and about 20% more in sales taxes as the average taxpayer in Alabama.

Texas spends less money per capita than Alabama on education, health care, welfare, highways, and environmental protection. But Texas does spend more than twice as much on corrections.

In short, all that extra money poor folks pay in taxes in Texas is mostly used for locking other poor folks away in prison.

The right-wing is hoping that Riley fails, because they know what this is really about:

Now, the battle is taking on national dimensions, with conservative Republican groups in Washington mobilizing to defeat Riley's plan. "If this can pass in Alabama, it could be a precedent to attempt it elsewhere, and muddy the anti-tax message," Connors said. Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, who gave Riley as congressman his group's Friend of the Taxpayer Award every year from 1997 through 2002, vowed to make Riley "the poster child for Republicans who go bad. I want every conservative Republican elected official in the United States to watch Bob Riley lose and learn from it."

We need to rally behind Gov. Riley because a victory in Alabama could and should energize progressives and pragmatists, both Democrats and Republicans, to do what is right for Alabama, and eventually here at home in Texas.

Accordingly, I move that the Burnt Orange Report make a strong endorsement of a "yes" vote on Sept. 9, for any folks from Alabama who might just be surfing around here.

I also must enthusiastically hope that we lefties and centrists join the battle for the soul of Texas, and soon. The next legislature needs to act on tax reform, a major issue that was foolishly ignored in the last election.

There is a great potential to unite minorities, working-class whites, and people of faith (both conservative and liberal) on this pressing issue. Let's get to work!

Posted by Jim Dallas at 07:50 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Houston: Not a War Zone

By Jim Dallas

The Houston Press had an interesting note in its "Hair Balls" section this week:

Long ago, city leaders once touted our hometown as "Baghdad on the Bayou." While world events during the last ten years have rendered that moniker somewhat unfashionable, maybe, at least as far as the blood-soaked streets of the Richmond Strip are concerned, they were on to something.

To wit: Since May 1 to the end of July, about 18 U.S. soldiers have been killed in combat in Baghdad. In that same period, seven people have been wounded and five killed in and around the Richmond Strip.

Granted, we still lag behind the Iraqi capital in sheer numbers, but if we extrapolate the Strip's raw data to accord with the population of greater Baghdad, we're.... Well, we're pretty sure that we're comfortably ahead. Baghdad on the Bayou indeed.

A quick check of the math shows that the Press is a little off base. In 2001 (the last year for which statistics are available), the Houston Police Department report 267 incidents of murder and non-negligent manslaughter (read: "hostile deaths"). This works out with a population of 1.9 million to an incident rate of 13.3 hostile deaths per hundred thousand.

For the Richmond Strip itself, we can assume the area population is about 8,000 (since the area immediately surrounding Richmond encompasses about one square mile and the population density of the Montrose area is roughly 8100 people/sq. mile), yielding an annualized incident rate of 162.5 per hundred thousand.

Meanwhile, back in Iraq, there have been 192 U.S. combat casualties since March. At maximum there were about 230,000 Americans stationed in Iraq (currently, there are 146,000 deployed).

Figured conservatively, using the smallest numerator and the biggest denominator, the death rate in Americans in Iraq is 83.5 per hundred thousand between March and August; the annual rate would be 200 per hundred thousand .
(Of course if one assumes that all U.S. deaths in Iraq were needless, then the death count is 269 and the annualized rate is 281 per hundred thousand).

It isn't clear how many Americans are in Baghdad itself; although it is known that the city is occupied by elements of the 4th Infantry Division. It is probably reasonable to assume that between 10 and 20 percent of U.S. forces are in the city of Baghdad, where 20 percent of Iraqis live (and 12 percent of US casualties occurred).

Since the number of deaths in Baghdad are not out-of-sync with the casualty rate in the rest of Iraq (Baghdad has about 22% of Iraq's population and presumably no more than half of Americans are stationed there; , one can safely assume that the murder rate in Houston is not higher than in it is in Baghdad; indeed, the Bayou City is 15 times safer. And even figured very conservatively - note that most of the people who traffic the area clubs do not live in Montrose - a Richmond Strip visitor is clearly less likely to be killed than an American soldier in Iraq.

At this point, one may ask why some misleading back-of-the-envelope math by the Houston Press is even of relevance; after all, isn't the point of the "Hair Balls" blurb to make a whimsical observation about crime in the Richmond Strip?

First, area residents should not become hysterical about living or shopping or clubbing along the Richmond Strip. You are not in imminent danger.

Second, one could only imagine what would happen if an unscrupulous politician took hold of the Houston Press's clip and insisted (inaccurately) that Houston is literally becoming a war zone. It is true that crime is a major problem in Houston, with crime rates well above the national average. But it is clearly nowhere near anarchic proportions.

Thirdly, conversely, and more probable, is that the folks who got us into this misbegotten Iraqi war will make bold pronouncements like "our boys are safer in Baghdad than they are in America!" And use that line as both an apology for hawk blunders as well as a siren call for even-tougher measures in the War on Crime at home.

So go have some fun (visit beautiful Houston), but watch your back.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Dems to file another Suit over Sanctions

By Byron LaMasters

After several days of sanctions and fines, which the Democratic senators in New Mexico refuse to pay, it looks as if they will file a lawsuit this afternoon to prevent Republicans from imposing sanctions on their office staff. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Texas' Democratic state senators are threatening criminal and civil action against the governor and other Republicans if their parking spaces, cellular phones and mail service are not restored today.

Republican senators have stripped these privileges and others from the offices of 11 Democratic senators in an attempt to force them back to the Capitol from Albuquerque, where they fled three weeks ago to block GOP-backed congressional redistricting.

All but one of the chamber's 12 Democrats are in Albuquerque.

The Democrats say their constituents are being harmed by the sanctions, and they have no choice but to fight back.

"We're not threatening, we're promising," said Democratic Sen. Royce West of Dallas. "We can't sit idly by."

David Beckwith, a spokesman for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, said he welcomed the next legal action.

"The claims are ridiculous," he said. "We would welcome an early judicial determination on their merit."

Gov. Rick Perry said the sanctions were Senate business.

"The Senate has always been an institution where the members along with the lieutenant governor make the decisions. It should stay that way," Perry said.

"This issue is about 11 members who decided to leave town and not do their jobs," the governor said. "By doing so, the work of the state of Texas has ground to a halt."

The Democrats gave the Senate until 3 p.m. today to lift the sanctions.

Otherwise they threatened to take action under sections of the state Penal Code dealing with abuse of official capacity and official oppression, crimes that for some violations carry felony penalties including prison time.

The senators declined to say how they would present criminal complaints to a prosecutor or grand jury.

The Democrats, who claim the congressional redistricting effort and Senate action violate voting rights of ethnic minorities, also threatened civil court action under a state law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, sex or national origin. That law allows the injured party to obtain an injunction. It also provides misdemeanor penalties punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and a year in jail.

Of course, both sides continued to play the racial rhetoric.

The rhetoric in the interstate debate intensified Monday, as Democrats accused Republicans of telling blacks and Hispanics in Texas to "move to the back of the bus."

The sanctions, they said, set up a "class system" based on race.

"Under the sanctions, Texans who live in Anglo districts represented by Republicans get more and better services and resources than those who live in minority districts," said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, the chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus and a Hispanic.

Beckwith declined to comment on the racial allegations. Last week he apologized for sarcastically linking the Democrats to civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, a black woman who refused in 1955 to give up her seat at the front of an Alabama bus.

Beckwith had said the Democrats thought they were "Rosa Parks II."

Perry, Dewhurst and all the Senate Republicans are Anglo. Nine of the 11 Democrats in Albuquerque are black or Hispanic, and the other two are Anglos whose districts are largely black or Hispanic.

The Democrats contend that race is at the heart of the redistricting issue. Republicans note, however, that the U.S. representatives who likely would lose their seats under redistricting proposals are Anglos.

And the Republicans are sorely mistaken if they think that sanctions will encourage Democrats to come home or compromise. It's only strengthened the Democrats resolve.

Last week, Republican senators present at the Capitol voted to fine the runaways for each day of their absence, and then instituted additional sanctions to enforce the fines.

The 11 senators' staffs said Monday that the sanctions so far were not hurting morale.

"It's like bombing London," said Ian Randolph, legislative director for Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville. "It just strengthens our resolve to support what our bosses are doing."

They described the sanctions as an annoyance, making staffers park far away, lug mail to the Capitol extension rather than having it picked up and hunt down news without subscriptions to hometown papers.

"Aside from the emergency paper clip rationing, we're all doing fine," said Graham Keever, general counsel for Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin.

Only three cell phones were cut off. They belonged to Sens. Frank Madla of San Antonio, Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso and Judith Zaffarini of Laredo, said Patsy Shaw, secretary of the senate.

The Dallas Morning News described the new sanctions:

Orange cones blocked parking spaces of the Democratic senators' staffs, a part of the sanctions, which also include loss of cellphone, purchasing and mail privileges, floor passes, travel, conference rooms and subscriptions.

But Democrats will be resourceful, even if they have to run carpools, ration paper clips and take out their mail.

As a result, many of the displaced staffers had to stop work periodically to feed parking meters. But work continued, they said.

"It's pretty much business as usual. Everybody found a way to get to work," said Graham Keever, chief lawyer for Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin. "Other than the severe paper clip rationing that we've instituted, we're in good shape."

Mr. Keever noted that mail pickup was among the privileges suspended Friday.

"The mail guy will literally walk down the hall and not stop at Democratic offices," he said.

The absent senators' Democratic House colleagues, meanwhile, announced they were organizing carpools to free up state parking space for the senate staffers.

"Our goal is to free more than 50 spaces in the Capitol garages so that more senate staffers can continue to park free," said Rep. Pete Gallego of Alpine.

In an editorial today, the Dallas Morning News lamented the end of bipartisanship in the Senate.

Last week the Quorum Report harshly criticized Republicans for their failure to sanction a Republican colleague in 1997 who was a convicted sex offender, while finding it necessary to sanction the Democratic senators in ABQ currently. Yesterday, however, the Quorum Report criticized Democrats for the racial rhetoric:

On Friday, this observer wrote an opinion/analysis piece raising the specter that the real cost of escalating sanctions against Texas Democrats was to weaken the Texas Senate in its institutional competition with the Texas House and the Governor's office. We pointed to how the institution had sidestepped such fissures in the Drew Nixon (R-Carthage) era.

But the self-inflicted wounds on the Senate are not exclusively a Republican phenomena.

Without commenting on whether or not the Senate Democrats should have broken the quorum, it is fair to criticize their heightened racial rhetoric. They have all but accused their Republican colleagues of being racist.

Some of the statements emanating from New Mexico and their supporters are couched in language suggesting that the current battle is little more than the racist expression of an all white Republican Party.

The rhetoric reached its height around the time that the Democratic senators sent their open letter to President Bush. It had the feel of trying to inject the Texas redistricting battle into presidential campaign politics. If that was the strategy, it was punctured by the California recall issue and emergence of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a candidate for Governor.

There should be some news about the Democratic lawsuit coming out at 3 PM. I'll update when necessary.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Washington Times Lies

By Byron LaMasters

I saw the story about Rep. Janklow (R-S.D) a couple of days ago. I was reading kos's comment thread on the story and came across this:

Congressman involved in cycle death

TRENT, S.D., Aug. 17 (UPI) -- A congressman recently inducted into the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame was involved Sunday in an accident in rural South Dakota that killed a motorcyclist.

Rep. William Janklow, a 63-year-old Democrat who was formerly governor of the state, was driving a car that hit a motorcyclist at an intersection in a thinly populated area north of Sioux Falls, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.


Now, I'm sure that they'll correct it, but this is rediculous. I guess when right-wing bias won't work, the Washington Times resorts to outright lies. This is really quite outrageous. I'd like to believe its a mistake, but considering the source, I really don't know.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:56 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 18, 2003

30 Years

By Byron LaMasters

I have 10 minutes before the day is up, so I'd be remiss not to wish my parents a very happy 30th anniversary. Congrats to them. Here's to 30 more!!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

In Defence of Liberalism

By Byron LaMasters

Liberalism gets a bad rap, but there ought to be no shame in being a proud liberal. From Joe Conason at Salon.

If your workplace is safe; if your children go to school rather than being forced into labor; if you are paid a living wage, including overtime; if you enjoy a 40-hour week and you are allowed to join a union to protect your rights -- you can thank liberals. If your food is not poisoned and your water is drinkable -- you can thank liberals. If your parents are eligible for Medicare and Social Security, so they can grow old in dignity without bankrupting your family -- you can thank liberals. If our rivers are getting cleaner and our air isn't black with pollution; if our wilderness is protected and our countryside is still green -- you can thank liberals. If people of all races can share the same public facilities; if everyone has the right to vote; if couples fall in love and marry regardless of race; if we have finally begun to transcend a segregated society -- you can thank liberals. Progressive innovations like those and so many others were achieved by long, difficult struggles against entrenched power. What defined conservatism, and conservatives, was their opposition to every one of those advances. The country we know and love today was built by those victories for liberalism -- with the support of the American people.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:46 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Dean gets Hispanic Congressional Endorsement

By Byron LaMasters

I've written before that Howard Dean has had a little bit of trouble winning over minority voters. Dean's base is considered to be "gay and lesbian voters, urban and surburban NPR liberal whites, some environmentalists, etc". So far, he's been acceptable to most Black and Hispanic leaders, but has yet to be embraced by them. Needless to say, this makes me happy.

U.S. Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) announced today that he will endorse Democratic presidential candidate Governor Howard Dean, M.D. Speaking at a ceremony here in Presidio Park, Grijalva hailed Dean as the one candidate who can beat President Bush in 2004.

"I am pleased to announce my support for Governor Dean," said Rep. Grijalva. "I believe that Governor Dean is the only one that can unseat President Bush and take this country into a new era. He cares for the people and is genuine in his beliefs. His leadership will provide Arizona and the rest of our Nation with a sense of values that will benefit all Americans."

In announcing his endorsement, Grijalva specifically cited Dean's stance as an advocate for health care and immigration reform, his support for education and civil rights, as well as his desire to reincorporate American values into its foreign policy.

"I am honored to be endorsed by Representative Raúl Grijalva," Dean said. "He is a strong advocate in Washington for his constituents and he is an inspiration for Latinos and all Americans. Rep. Grijalva's life-long work on behalf of teachers, public education and the environment has demonstrated the impact that a single individual can have, and he demonstrated last year in his race for the House just how important it is to engage people in the political process."

Rep. Grijalva, who previously served in elected office for thirteen years as a member of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, is now serving his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives after a surprise victory last fall that came after he mobilized typically disaffected Latinos in his district to reengage in politics and vote. Grijalva, whose first year in Congress is being profiled by the New York Times as part of a series on freshman representatives, represents a diverse district that is 50 percent Latino, and includes 200 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border as well as seven sovereign Native American nations.

Grijalva has a strong following in his Arizona district. He won by a heavy margin in a tough primary against a very well funded EMILY's List candidate (if I remember correctly). A lot of endorsements are relatively meaningless, but I think that getting a high profile Hispanic endorsement in the first primary with a large Hispanic population is a big help for Dean.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:16 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Will the Fight ever End?

By Byron LaMasters

The Dallas Morning News outlines why each party won't give up this fight and how each side has misunderestimated the other. As for the misunderestimation, both sides have done it.

Republicans might have underestimated the resolve of their opponents, most of them Hispanic, that stems, in part, from a scrappy brand of South Texas politics that extols the noble fight.

Democrats might have underestimated the GOP's willingness to resort to scorched-earth tactics in a battle closely followed by national leaders.

That leaves the Legislature in a seemingly hopeless political deadlock, with neither side hinting at the possibility of compromise.

The AWOL Democrats spent their 21st day in political exile Sunday. Both sides vow not to surrender.

"I agree that we did underestimate each other," Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said last week in Irving. "As time goes on, we're all getting very frustrated, especially with the fact that the Democratic senators left."

Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Washington-based Rothenberg Political Report, called the Texas standoff "the ultimate fight."

"It's a fight for political power and survival," he said.

And the Democrats won't quit.

Democrats have used the plight of the minority voter as their battle hymn.
Of the 11 Democrats, two are black, two are white and the rest are Hispanic, mostly from South Texas.

Sen. Juan Hinojosa of McAllen says the fight is more about "heart" than politics.

"We take pride in standing up for our rights and for the minorities we represent," he said. "We won't give up."

"They don't understand our resolve, and they don't understand our people," said Sen. Judith Zaffirini of Laredo. "Where we come from, if you get hit, you get up and hit back."

Some speculation in political circles had the AWOL Democrats returning from Albuquerque after one, maybe two weeks of living in their hotel headquarters.

Nearing the end of the third week of the Democrats' boycott, San Antonio's Leticia Van de Putte, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said some Republicans didn't think the Democrats were tough enough.

"For some reason, they thought we came down here for a show," she said. "But we're here because we have to do whatever it takes to stop redistricting."

Jerry Polinard, a political science professor at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, said the stakes are too high for Democrats to fold.

More Republican congressmen from Texas could lead to a more conservative national agenda that runs contrary to the minority constituents represented by the Texas 11.

"They are aware of the impact," he said. "They know that there are national implications."

During legislative hearings on redistricting around the state, members of various civil rights groups, including the NAACP, testified against a plan that would elect more Republicans to Congress.

"It really would affect services if there is a big change made in Washington," said U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas. "It's a distinctive difference between the philosophies of Democrats and Republicans. There is a majority of Republicans there already. If more are added, it can be disastrous."

Charles Elliott, a retired political science professor from Commerce, agreed.

"It's not just a matter of redistricting," he said. "It's a matter of being able to hang on and not be steamrolled."

Some Republicans were surprised that members of the Senate – called the Legislature's "upper chamber" – used rough-and-tumble, House-like tactics against the Republican majority.

"We're standing up for ourselves," Ms. Van de Putte said. "We will not be deterred from working for the people."

But Mr. Dewhurst still questions the Democrats' toughness, explaining that visiting well-wishers such as country music legend Willie Nelson have given them a morale boost.

"The presence out in Albuquerque has fueled them," he said. "They are rock stars, so they stayed a little longer."

But neither will Republicans.

Clearly in their political prime, Texas Republicans vow to give no quarter in the fight. They know Washington is watching their performance, because the stakes are high nationally.
"It comes down to who's in charge," said Jim Ellis, head of Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's political action committee.

The latest proposal waiting for Senate consideration would give the GOP up to 22 congressional seats and make it more difficult for Democrats to regain control of the U.S. House.

"If the Republicans get more seats from Texas, there is no way the Democrats will be able to take back the House in 2004," said David Bositis, a senior analyst for the Washington-based Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. "Democrats know that without Texas, they won't be able to take back the House. They are both fighting for the same thing."

Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, a prime legislative sponsor of the redistricting plan, said his immediate goal was to keep the U.S. House under Republican control.

"I want to make sure when President Bush is elected that [California Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi doesn't become speaker," Mr. King said. "If we send four, five or six more representatives to Congress from Texas, it would make it difficult for Democrats to make up the difference."

Republicans also are motivated by the mushrooming Hispanic population in Texas and the difficulty that could pose for the GOP's ability to hang on to congressional seats through the decade.

"The next six years are important to Texas Republicans," Mr. Bositis said, "although the immediate battle is for 2004."

Federal judges developed the existing map based on the 2000 census, after the 2001 Legislature could not settle on a plan. Barring more unusual moves, redistricting would occur again after the 2010 census.

Republicans say their resolve to prevail should not be questioned.

Mr. Perry has said that he would keep calling legislators back for special sessions, setting up a scenario in which Democrats might have to constantly leave the state to break quorums.

To turn up the heat, Mr. Dewhurst and Senate Republicans have taken the unprecedented step of fining the absent Democrats up to $5,000 a day for each day they are not in session.

Republicans are also taking Democrats' Capitol parking spots and cutting their staff budgets.

"I'm shocked at the actions that our colleagues back in Austin have taken," said Frank Madla, D-San Antonio. "I didn't think I would ever see the state of Texas in this type of a situation."

Mr. Ellis said the GOP was prepared to take other extraordinary steps to ensure new congressional districts. Those include moving filing and primary dates for next year's congressional elections, thwarting any Democratic tactics to stall redistricting until it was too late for 2004 elections.

Viewing the odds of approving a redistricting plan in his favor, Mr. Dewhurst has asked Democrats to return to Austin and negotiate or debate a "fair plan."

"Redistricting is going to happen, whether it's in this session or another," Mr. Dewhurst said. "I urge our colleagues to come back to work and help us work on a fair plan."

So, what will happen? I still don't know. But both sides have staked out their ground, and I doubt the fight will end soon. Charles has more from around the state including an interesting Austin American Statesman editorial on the effects of race and partisanship in the redistricting fight.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:46 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Republicans Raising Taxes in Alabama

By Byron LaMasters

This is bizarre.

"We've got a conservative, evangelical Christian,Republican governor," he said, enunciating each word as if to get his head around the details, "trying to get a massive turnout of black voters to pass a tax increase so he can raise taxes on Republican constituents."

In a stunning subplot to the fiscal crises roiling the states, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley (R) -- who for three terms in Congress boasted that he never voted for a tax increase and was elected governor on a promise not to raise taxes -- is proposing to raise state taxes by a record $1.2 billion, eight times the largest previous increase and almost twice what is needed to close a $675 million budget deficit.

Well, I'm sure that I'd agree with Riley. But I'm really kind of shocked that a Republican is spending his political capital on raising taxes for the wealthy folks that helped bankroll his campaign. If only Bush would govern this way, he'd get re-elected in a walk.... or lose the GOP nomination.

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

August 17, 2003

Republicans Run Ad in Valley

By Byron LaMasters

This is interesting. The ad attacks State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen). And the folks there think its racist because the ad uses very heavily (Spanish) accented English. Do Republicans think that they can better communicate with Hispanic voters by speaking with a Mexican accent? Speaking phrases of Spanish is one thing, but accented English? I think that it sort of assumes that they're stupid or something. Anyway, the McAllen Monitor reports:

Local Democratic leaders are upset about a new radio spot that is running on at least one area radio station attacking State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen.

Hinojosa is among the 11 Democrat senators holed up in and Albuquerque, N.M., hotel to break quorum in the State Senate and prevent passage of a congressional redistricting plan that would slice up Rio Grande Valley congressional representation.

The ad, paid for by the Texas Republican Party, questions Hinojosa’s voting record.

But it’s not necessarily the words in the ad that have Democrats so steamed. While the ad might mislead listeners about Hinojosa’s voting record, local leaders are questioning the method of delivery.

The radio spot features two unidentified actors — one female, the other an older male — speaking in cartoonish, thickly Mexican-accented English.

“That’s the mentality that the Republicans have of our part of the state,” said Juan Maldonado, chairman of the statewide Tejano Democrats organization. “They think we’re still sleeping under a cactus with a big sombrero and don’t know how to speak English.”

Republican state chair Susan Weddington refused to take calls from The Monitor. A reporter was referred to Trey Dippo of the party’s communication department.

“I haven’t heard it,” Dippo said. “I know this is a Republican party ad, but let me talk to our political director and I will get back to you by 12 noon, how’s that?”

He did not call back, and no other return call from the Republican Party was received.

Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chairman R.D. “Bobby” Guerra said he was appalled by the radio commercial.

“It is very disturbing that the state Republicans would stoop to something so racist,” Guerra said. “There’s going to be a big backlash. I don’t know who’s calling the shots up there but they’re not thinking straight.”

Guerra said the uprising in South Texas against Republicans has already started.
“I know a lot of different segments of our community,” Guerra said. “And I’ve had several staunch Republicans tell me they are so embarrassed over what the state is doing with the redistricting issue.

“And they say, ‘From this point forward, I’m voting Democratic,’ ” Guerra said. “They are just so embarrassed.”

The Tejano Democrats are holding their annual meeting this weekend in McAllen and Maldonado said the group would address the radio ad.

“It’s a bad one,” Maldonado said. “We’re ready, we’ll take action and we’ll do something about it.”

Maldonado said the Tejano Democrats scheduled a conference call with Hinojosa during the weekend conference and planned to talk to the McAllen senator about the ad.

“I don’t think they want to let go of the image of us not knowing how to speak English,” Maldonado said. “They promote that. This is very racial.
“In regards to redistricting, they are trying to dilute the Latino vote and hold us back.”

Juanita Valdez Cox of the United Farm Workers said the two actors in the radio ad are probably not from Hidalgo County, and she would like to know who they are.

“They must not live in the same county we do,” Cox said. “They certainly don’t know his excellent record. Chuy has been one of the best representatives for low-income people. How dare they do this.”

La Joya Mayor Billy Leo said local elected officials need to respond to the commercial.

“They’re looking down at us,” Leo said. “At least Chuy is not hiding how he is feeling. Let’s not be cowards, come out and show your face. Don’t hide behind those ‘Mexican’ actors in the commercial.”

This goes right up there with the poll tax, err.. sanctions as two of the nuttiest ideas of the Republian Hispanic outreach program. Really. I need to make a new category entitled "Are they really that dumb?". This post would qualify for it.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:53 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Is Ahnold anti-gay?

By Byron LaMasters

I don't know if the Ahnold hype will start to die down now that its been a week, and polls are begining to show the he's vulnerable. But, one thing is for certain. The attacks are already coming in from all sides. One of the reasons Ahnold has a chance to win in California is because of his supposed liberalism on social issues. Ahnold is pro-choice, pro-gay rights and pro-gun control. So he says. The gay media (in Dallas, so I would assume the same in California) has already picked up on reports of Ahnold's past anti-gay comments. From the Dallas Voice:

California gubernatorial candidate and movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger was the target of a campaign by the early ’90s activist group Queer Nation, which accused him of homophobia.

Speaking at a George Bush campaign rally at Pinkerton military academy in Derry, N.H., on Feb. 15, 1992, Schwarzenegger said: “We don’t talk about those Democrats. I watched that debate and they all looked like a bunch of girlie men.”

Queer Nation denounced Schwarzenegger as a “bigot” and a “blatant homophobe,” and charged his attitude underscored “the anti-gay agenda of the Bush/Quayle campaign.”

“Once again, Bush’s henchmen divide the nation by promoting hatred of a minority — the queer community,” Queer Nation spokesman Tim McCarthy said at the time.

“It sickens me to see the president of the United States endorse homophobia and advocate anti-gay violence,” added the group’s Stephen Smith.
There is no evidence Queer Nation took any action against Schwarzenegger other than issuing a press release.

This of course begs the question. Should gay leaders give Ahnold a pass on insensitive comments the way that they did with the supposedly insensitive comments of Pete Stark? I don't know. On the surface it seems similar. Looking at it further, Democrats could argue that while Stark has a 100% lifetime rating with the Human Rights Campaign, Ahnold's comments were made as he was campaigning to elect anti-gay Republicans. So is it a fair attack? I'd say so. I think it could make for a very nice radio ad in the San Francisco or LA market... "Arnold Schwarzenegger says that he'll support gay rights, but he's called Democrats 'girlie men' in the past to help elect anti-gay Republicans...". Or mailers in certain areas. Or ads in the gay media. Although, the story will probably make its rounds through the gay media for free.

I think it goes without saying, but while I really like Georgy Russell and Larry Flynt, in all seriousness, I strongly advocate that everyone in California vote "No on Recall, Yes on Bustamante". Take your instuctions from Kos.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:10 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

The Latest GOP Arguement

By Byron LaMasters

From the Houston Chronicle.

Clearly, the Texas 11 are responsible for the northeastern blackout. Or Howard Dean. Or Gray Davis. Or maybe Canada. Really, the sad thing is that this is a more sensible "arguement" than some of the others that the GOP has tried.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A step closer to Dictatorship

By Byron LaMasters

Well, Kos hit it right on the head. Republicans don't like election results, so they want to change the rules (California, Texas, Colorado, etc.). But now that's not good enough, so they start cancelling them. Or at least they consider it.

I blogged earlier that Phil King (R-Weatherford) had filed a bill to pospone the filing deadline in order for the justice department to clear a redistricting map.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:18 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 16, 2003

One way to deal with a blackout...

By Byron LaMasters

Get drunk.

Read the sign in the window.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 15, 2003

A Personal Post.

By Byron LaMasters

So, I haven't been blogging that much the past several days. And yeah, I might be blogging a little light in the next few days (Jim and Andrew, it's your turn, hehe). What's going on, you ask? Well, I've had a personal issue that I've had to work out. I try to keep the focus of the Burnt Orange Report on politics. Some humor, some sports from time to time, and I throw in some other stuff, as do Jim and Andrew, but the focus is clearly political. That's why I rarely do what I'm about to do now... write about what's going on in my personal life. I'm doing it for two reasons. One, so that my readers understand why my posts have been light the past several days, and two, because I often find writing therapeutic to myself. Anyway, I really don't feel like I should ask people to read my drama, in fact, I'm a little apprehensive about posting this in the first place as I know that it will be read by gay friends and straight friends, conservative friends and liberal friends, my parents, fellow bloggers and then all sorts of random people on the internet that I don't know. So, I'll be vague and speak in generalities for the most part. Still, I feel that the personal benefits to me of writing this post outweigh the potential problems. I'll feel a lot better in doing it. So, for whoever is left reading at this point, and you're still interested, read onward for a really long ramble about my current thoughts and feelings. You might call it a silly ramble. I'm going to call it personal therapy. I don't care what anyone else thinks, it's good for me.

Updates: I'll be updating this post regularly as things occur, so check to the bottom for updates.

Wow. You're interested. Thanks. So the news is that I broke up with my boyfriend on Thursday night. Yeah, I mean boyfriend. I'm gay, which most of yall ought to know if you've read my bio, and posts on the Lawrence decision. Why? Well, I'm going to New York City on Thursday with some friends, then I'll be coming back to Dallas the following Monday. I'll be heading back to Austin the next day on Tuesday, then I'll start classes again at UT the next day on Wednesday. So, I'll be in Austin and he'll be in Dallas (Arlington). And distance doesn't work. It just doesn't. I can't do it. Sure, say all you want about being committed and stuff, but I'm a college student. We'll say that we'll visit every weekend, but it won't happen. We'll get busy with our lives and even though Dallas is only a 3 hour drive from Austin, it's rare that I come back home more than once a month. And I'm usually busy when I'm home. Seeing friends and family, going to various events, etc. Am I willing to have a boyfriend that I'll only be able to see twice a month? Not really. Maybe later in life I could do a long distance relationship for a short period of time. But now? I can't. I just know myself. I'm being honest with myself. And I know that a long distance relationship won't work. So over the last week I had been conflicted. How do I deal with it? I really, really liked my boyfriend. I loved him. And I still do. And I don't like to say that word. It makes me feel like I'm being insincere. But when I say it, I mean it. I had met his family. He had met mine. We clicked. No, he wasn't as fanatical about politics as I was. He honestly didn't care too much about it. And I respected that about him. And he respected the fact that I was really involved. He went to a Dean meetup with me because I asked him. He went to a Young Democrats party because I invited him. That's all I ask in a boyfriend. Actually, more than what I ask. It's great if they're as crazy about politics as I am, but in all honesty, one thing that I've learned dating him is that it's a blessing in a way to be with someone that's not a political junkie. It's a relief actually. I can spend an afternoon/evening/day/night with someone I like and care about and not have to talk about politics. I love that. There's a lot more to life. There really is.

So some background is probably necessary. He's 21, goes to UT-Arlington and works at a Chili's. I met him back the first week in June. I had just been back in Dallas several weeks. I had found him online, and as is often the case, we quickly realized that we had some mutral friends. We hit it off and decided to meet. And two days later we decided to meet again and go to a movie. Then we decided to meet again at a club. Then we met again for dinner. Then it was like I was seeing him every other day. And I really liked him. When the Lawrence decision was announced I invited him to go to the Dallas rally with me. He went. It meant a lot to me to be able to hold his hand as we celebrated our new rights. Later that night, we decided to make it all official and be "boyfriends". Aww. It was really a fabulous day. I'll never forget it for the rest of my life.

Things went pretty well until the last week. He met my parents in June and saw them multiple times as I'm living with my parents for the summer. We went to a PFLAG meeting with my mom (she's on the PFLAG Dallas board). We met each others friends. I met his family at his Fourth of July get together. I think I confused everyone, since I wasn't a friend from Chili's or school, but our official line was that we had "mutral friends" and "met at a party". He told his parents the truth, as he's out to them, but not to his extended family. The same goes for me. He also joined me in Austin for my 21st birthday in July. That meant a lot to me.

So, what happened the last week or two? I've sort of become really flaky and weird. I guess it's because I've sort of known that it would have to end, at least end in the way things had been this summer, and instead of trying to enjoy things as long as I could, I started to worry about how to deal with it all. And it would be easier if it were someone I didn't like. Or couldn't see myself with. Or really cared about. Because then I could just write it off as a Summer fling and get back to my life and school in Austin. And also because I don't get involved in a relationship unless it's someone I really like. I usually don't call people back after first dates. Or they don't call me back. Heh. So much of the gay world is full of drugs and drama and things I avoid (and I'm sure that a conservative reader will point this out and jump on it. Please. So is the straight world. I think that more gay people turn to drugs and other vices mostly because of discrimination many of us face, and drugs are an escape from that. It's sad, but true). You'd think it's not that hard to ask for an intelligent, attractive, interesting gay guy with a good sense of humor around my age that lives near me that's DDF (drug and disease free for yall breeders out there. Heh.). It's not. And I'm picky. I don't ever really look for a boyfriend. I just wait for it to happen. I try not to get too attached, and I haven't ever really had a serious relationship in several years. I think I'm actually afraid of attachment to an extent. So back to the original question. Why the weirdness from me recently? Because I haven't known what I wanted to do. Do I just break things off completely? Or do I say lets have an open relationship, where we're together when we're together and we're not when we're apart? Or do I stay with him and just decide we'll deal with it? Or do I break it off, but decide to try and stay close, even if things are a little weird and keep our options open for the future? It's not an easy question. Especially with someone that you really like. When I brought this up Thursday night, he was actually a little bit relieved in a way because he thought that I was mad or upset with him, because I had been avoiding his phone calls. Eventually, we decided that breaking up would be the best choice. But I really want to stay close to him. I mean I really do like him. We certainly have had a few problems, but nothing that we can't work out if we were able to be together. But we won't. We both feel that we met the right person, but at the wrong time. When we both graduate and if we're both living in the same city, then who knows what will happen. I could see myself with him. But now, it probably won't happen. And it makes me really sad. Because I know that I probably won't meet anyone quite like him for a long time. I'll always love him. And I miss him already. Shit, I want to see him now. Fuck. Nothing like knowing that you did the right thing, but just hating the fact that you had to make the decision. That's how I feel. And it's a Saturday night. And I really want to see him. But I won't be. And I could go out clubbing. It's my last weekend in Dallas, but I just don't feel like it.

I may update this more later. Comments are welcome if you'd like. I'm not particulary asking for them or expecting any, though. I'll probably ask him (yeah, HIM. I think that he knows most of this, but I do want him to read this) to read this at some point. He knows about this blog and checks it occasionally. My parents don't know about this latest stuff, yet. They read this blog regularly, so I expect them to find out about this via this post. It's fine with me. There's nothing that I've written here that I wish to hide from my parents. They don't need to know all the details of my personal life, but I do share things and people important to me with them. So, they'll find out. Which is fine. Sometimes it's easier to tell them in writing than in person. I know some conservatives that oppose homosexuality will read this. I could care less. I didn't post this to engage anyone in a debate over homosexuality. I have plenty of posts which do that. So, don't bother. That's about it for now... thanks for reading to whoever is left.

Update - Sunday, 8-17-03 10 AM: Well, gosh. I just got home from church. I went with my parents. It's their 30th wedding anniversary. Wow. Thirty years. I really admire that. I've decided that it's tough to deal with this stuff rationally. I tend to consider myself a pragmatist. I usually don't get too emotional about most things. Sometimes with politics. Heh. But that goes without saying. But last night, I threw logic out the window, and well I'm glad I did. So, I called him last night and told him to call me when he got off work. He was closing. He called back a little after midnight. I told him I wanted to see him. He told me he'd call me back after he was finished cleaning his tables. He did. I just started driving over. At 1:30 AM. Sensible, huh? I just really wanted to hold him. Weird, is it? I don't know. But I made it there. And I held him. And I was happy. And somehow, I managed to beat my parents to 8:30 AM church. Sometimes I really impress myself. I decided that I also want to do something special with him before I go. Like go to a baseball game. Or go to Six Flags, or Hurricane Harbor. Or Wal-Mart. Heh. I don't know. I feel a lot better today though. But now? Time for bed.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:20 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Everyone is Fair and Balanced!

By Byron LaMasters

Blah 3 has a huge list of fair and balanced bloggers.

We're here. We're there. We're everywhere.

Update: Scrolling throught the comments over there I see that Charles listed my site in the comments. Thanks!

What other Texan bloggers are fair and balanced?

100 Fair and Balanced Monkeys Typing, Dru Blood: Fair and Balanced Since 2002, Esoterically, Frothing at the Mouth, The Gunther Concept, Fair and Balanced Puppy Story Time with Norbizness, Off the Kuff, Ones and Zeros, Perverse Access Memory, Rhetoric & Rhythm, Skeptical Notion, Ted Barlow, The Scarlet Left and Yellow Doggerel Democrat.

Who am I missing?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:57 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

More Sanctions

By Byron LaMasters

This is rediculous. The Houston Chronicle has the latest.

With a band of Democratic lawmakers refusing to end their self-imposed exile, Republicans today approved a new piece of arm-twisting: Yanking the rebels' parking spaces, cell phones and other privileges.

The penalties also include a ban on purchases, travel and printing privileges, which will kick in if the Democrats refuse to pay the fines the Republican senators voted to impose on them this week.

Other penalties include limiting postage to $200 a month and taking floor passes away from staffers.

"These actions that we are adding today are to encourage the absent members to return home," said Sen. Todd Staples, chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Fair and Balanced Letter to Rick Perry

By Byron LaMasters

A friend of mine in the University Democrats wrote the following letter to Governor Perry.

Dear Inept Governor Perry,

Voltaire once stated that “Common sense is not so common.” Never has this observation been more prevalent than in the actions of your fellow Republicans of the 78th Texas Legislature. While the Republicans claim to be against Affirmative Action and the system of using quotas, they are not behaving in a manner consistent with their mantra. The Republicans have been using what I like to call “weapons of mass distraction” in their reasoning behind redistricting 3 years after the fact. They claim that since they received 56 % of the vote in the 2002 congressional elections that they are entitled to having at least 66% of the seats in the Texas Congressional delegation. Well, in order to be consistent with this system of quotas I would like to know why the Republicans aren’t saying that 50% of the seats must be held by women? 32% occupied by Hispanics; 12% African-American and so on. Why are you not being consistent with your principles? I believe it is because the Republicans want to disenfranchise Hispanics, Blacks, Women, Jews, and any other group that does not subscribe to their brand of extreme right-wing conservatism. Just look at the map being proposed. Rural areas are being connected to Republican dominated suburbs. Any idiot can see what is being done here. It is a travesty to our democracy. I am willing to bet money that 50 years from now the history books are going to elucidate the actions by the Texas Republicans in the year 2003 as nothing short of irresponsible, partisan gerrymandering as baneful and un-American as the McCarthyism of the 50’s, and the internment camps during World War 2.

Make no mistake, this redistricting attempt is nothing short of racist and anti-Semitic. As a Jew, and more importantly as an American Jew, I find your attempt to remove Martin Frost, the only Jewish representative from Texas, from office as an attempt to disenfranchise the Jewish Community of this state. Republicans want to take away our voice because they do not like the way we vote. They know that 80% of Jews voted for Al Gore in 2000 and they want us silenced. Well you can’t shut this Jew up. And I would like to conclude by saying that I sincerely hope you will stop calling special sessions and wait to deal with re-destricting until 2011 like you are supposed to and not mid census. If you succeed in redistricting you will be setting a new precedent in the way Texas handles constitutionally mandated redistricting. If you succeed you will be saying that every 2 years the legislature can redistrict if the leadership switches parties; That the party in power can get a gerrymandered map to their favor if and when they achieve this power between redistricting years. This is a political power play at the expense of the people of Texas.

Seems pretty fair and balanced to me!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Austin's Future

By Byron LaMasters

Liveablecity commissioned a poll of Austin residents on their thoughts on the economy and priorities for the city now, and in the future. So, go here for results and analysis. Check out the Lasso analysis, too.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Poll Taxes: 21st Century Style

By Byron LaMasters

The Quorum Report reports rumors of further penalties Republicans want to impose on the Texas 11 in ABQ. I've said this before, but all Republicans have to do is wait out the Democrats. Democrats won't stay in ABQ forever. If Republicans would have just tried and negotiated with them, they could probably have worked out a compromise (altough its way too late and too polarized at this point), but what they're doing is antagonizing the Democrats daily. The only effect that it will have is that the Democrats will fight much harder and longer than they would have otherwise, and it continues to energize Democrats and minority voters throughout the state. I don't get it. But then again, there's a lot of things about Republicans that I don't understand.


Email circulating at capitol describes presumed additional penalties for absent Senators

Not confirmed but ricocheting through the Capitol as likely additional penalties imposed by the Republican Caucus upon absent Democrats if fines are not paid in the next five days:

No access to conference, press or meeting rooms.

No purchases

$200/month limit on postage

no staff or member parking

no subscriptions

no printing of letterhead, newsletters, etc.

no floor passes

no travel

no cell phones

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 14, 2003

Bipartisan Agreement in the House?

By Byron LaMasters

No big news today. Yesterday, Dave Beckwith (Dewhurst's spokesman) did apologize for his "they think they're Rosa Parks" statement.

For the first time, there's a bipartisan group of House members interested in creating a bipartisan panel for redistricting (which Jeff Wentworth has proposed in the Senate). It probably won't go anywhere, but at least its progress (I personally support a bipartisan panel to decide redistricting -- begining in 2011). The Austin American Statesman reports:

It's a little late for the current fight, but a bipartisan group of House members has jumped on the idea of creating a commission to draw boundaries for the state's congressional districts.

Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, has pushed the idea for years to no avail.

On Wednesday, Houston Rep. Scott Hochberg, along with seven other Democrats and two Republicans, filed a bill to create such a commission. Rep. Robert Puente, D-San Antonio, filed similar legislation earlier this year and is among the joint authors this time.

The commission would have nine members, with the Democratic and Republican caucuses in the House and Senate appointing two apiece.

Those eight members would choose a nonvoting ninth member to lead the group.

None of the members could be elected officials or political party officials, and none could have held public office for two years prior to joining the commission.

The plan, however, faces long odds.

Even if it can clear the House, Senate Democrats are blocking congressional redistricting by boycotting the session, and no other bills can be considered in the Senate while they're gone.

Meanwhile, the Texas 11 received a visit from Colorado Democratic Senators who were the victim of similar GOP tactics. The Fort Worth Star Telegram reports:

Colorado Republicans rushed through a redistricting plan during the last three days of the session in May, suspending legislative rules that could have allowed Democrats in Colorado to block it.

"We certainly can tell them what happens when rules get suspended and when normal courtesies don't apply. And that's something I think nobody's ever prepared for," said Colorado's Senate Minority Leader Joan Fitz-Gerald.

Fitz-Gerald was joined by state Sens. Ron Tupa of Boulder, Bob Hagedorn of Aurora, Peggy Reeves of Fort Collins and Ken Gordon of Denver.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 13, 2003

We're Fair and Balanced, too!

By Byron LaMasters

I'm proud to announce that the Burnt Orange Report will participate in Fair and Balanced Friday!

The Fox News Channel has sued political satirist Al Franken to stop him from using the words "fair and balanced" in the title of his new book, scheduled to publish next month. The suit claims that the subtitle is "likely to cause confusion among the public about whether Fox News has authorized or endorsed the book and about whether Franken is affiliated with FNC." Good lord. Who among the five, possibly ten percent of the American people who could recognize Franken in a lineup would think that he's affiliated with the Fox News Channel? The man stands politically to the left of every major entertainment figure except Michael Moore and maybe Janeane Garofalo.

We all know that this suit is hogwash. We also know that Al Franken can defend himself, and that his publisher can defend him, too. Anyone who has been a recurring cast member on Saturday Night Live for nearly 30 years doesn't need much help calling attention to his cause.

Nonetheless, it's the policy of this website to rise to the aid of satire whenver it's threatened, even if the threatened satirist is three links above it on the comedy food chain. Therefore, I declare this Friday a day of emergency protest.

Yes. This Friday, August 15, is Fair And Balanced day on the Internet. You are all hereby instructed to use the words Fair And Balanced in very creative ways on your various websites. My cosponsor in this effort, Atrios, informs me that many of you are already using "Fair And Balanced" in your taglines. Very good. Sometimes, I swear you don't even need instructions from me. But we can go further. Tell Fox News to take its Fair And Balanced slogan and shove it up its Fair And Balanced hole. Feel free to be more subtle than that, if you wish.

To repeat. This Friday is Fair And Balanced day. Use the slogan at will. I will not be keeping track of the uses on this site, because it made me tired last time, but I still trust that you will spread the virus in funny and creative ways. We cannot let Fox News beat us, people. If they sue one, they can sue all. Al Franken has resources. Fox News' next victim might not be so lucky.

I've seen this several places today, so I'll just thank everyone who I've found so far participating: Atrios, Charles, Ginger, Mike, I'd be remiss not to mention that Al's book is sitting at #1 over at Amazon.com. So, I guess Al Franken better write FOX News a big thank you card for giving him all the free exposure. Regardless, welcome to the new and improved Burnt Orange Report: Fair and Balanced News, Politics and Fun from Deep in the Heart of Texas.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Scientists Plot Hubble's Demise

By Jim Dallas

And now for something totally different...

Sky and Telescope has an interesting story on what lies ahead for the Hubble Space Telescope.

After 13 years on-orbit, the HST is one of a shrinking pool of accomplishments NASA can point to these days (even after its initial vision impairment brought embarassment to the space agency). It's kind of like a celebrity, just like J. Lo. Well, maybe not exactly.

In any case, all good things must come to an end, and Hubble is going to have to go if NASA is going to afford bigger and better space telescopes. But when and how NASA is going to kill its school-bus-sized satellite is a matter of much controversy...

Grab your propeller-cap and pocket-protector and just read the S&T article, OK?

Posted by Jim Dallas at 04:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another Good Summary

By Byron LaMasters

I have a tendency to post things as they happen, and do analysis later. Charles is good at putting it all together, so his recap of the fines, their legality and all is here. I must add that the funding for the GI Forum was restored. I guess our brilliant governor realized that cutting their money could look racist to some people, and that others (like me) would use it as an issue to show Republican racial insensitivity and hypocrisy. And the only think more shocking than seeing a flash of brilliance by Guv. Goodhair is to see that Owen agrees with Charles and I that the fines are illegal. Kind of. Anyway, be sure to check out Charles's recap here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BOR Endorsements: No on Prop 3, Yes on 11

By Byron LaMasters

As promised, we're making more endorsements in the upcoming September 13 election. Earlier, we endorsed a NO vote on Prop 12. My father, a doctor, strongly supports this prop, and I, once again offer to post his position on here unedited if he wishes. However, my position goes unchanged. I oppose Prop 12 for the reasons outined in my earlier post.

No on 3: Prop 3 would "authorize the legislature to exempt from taxation land owned by a religious organization that is leased for use as a school...". This is a terrible precedent to start. It basically encourages vouchers and helps to tear down the legal wall of seperation of church and state. We oppose this proposition. Here's the Houston Chronicle Endorsement Against Prop 3. They detail most of our arguement against Prop 3, and we support their position, so read this!

Texas law exempts religious organizations from ad valorem taxation on their place of worship and allows an exemption of up to three years during which a new house of worship or an expansion is under construction. The law further requires no property tax to be paid on land used by a religious group (or anyone else) for the operation of a school.

Proposition 3, which voters will encounter on the Sept. 13 ballot, would amend the Texas Constitution to expand those exemptions to include undeveloped land owned by religious groups for future use as schools or worship facilities. The proposed amendment also would exempt such property from ad valorem taxation if a church leases the land to someone else for school use.

The Chronicle recommends voters reject this overly broad, unfair proposal to grant new and unneeded tax exemptions.

It would be wrong for the government to tax churches, temples, mosques and other centers of worship, and the state has an interest in encouraging education through tax exemptions on schools, including those run by religious societies. But to create new tax loopholes for religious organizations that might some day use a piece of land as a worship center or school would only remove land from tax rolls and shift an even greater burden onto other local property taxpayers.

Both contiguous and noncontiguous land could qualify for the tax exemption.

This proposed amendment suggests Texas legislators have not been listening to their constituents' pleas for relief from skyrocketing property tax bills, especially taxes that fund public education. The more raw land exempted from taxation, the higher the tax bills will be for homeowners and businesses.

More disconcerting still is the amendment's proposed tax exception for land that religious groups would lease to others for use as a school. This would create an unfair distinction in the law between religious affiliations and other people or organizations that lease property for operating schools.

Churches should not be able to buy land, exempt it from taxes and then rent it out for nonreligious purposes. Why should they enjoy this advantage over other landowners who might want to lease property for a school?

According to the proposition's underlying legislation, HB 1278, a religious group would be required to build a worship building or school or lease the land for use as a school within a certain number of years to avoid having to pay back taxes and penalties for misusing the exemption. Although these sanctions would provide taxpayers some protection against abuse, they could be too easily gotten around by a provision in the statute allowing a religious organization to avoid penalties by conveying the land to some other religious group eligible for the tax exemption.

Texas tax law currently provides for tax exemptions based on how a parcel of land is used. If this amendment passes, it would create a category of exemptions based on who owns the land. Defeating Proposition 3 would prevent this unsound proposal to differentiate classes of taxpayers based on religion.

Proposition 3 will appear on the ballot as, "The constitutional amendment to authorize the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation property owned by a religious organization that is leased for use as a school or that is owned with the intent of expanding or constructing a religious facility." It only sounds innocuous. It should be defeated.

The proposition will appear on the ballot as follows: "The constitutional amendment to authorize the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation property owned by a religious organization that is leased for use as a school or that is owned with the intent of expanding or constructing a religious facility."

We're not against everything, though.

We support Prop 11. We support Texas wineries, and we support efforts to help our economy, so again, we support the Houston Chronicle position on Prop 11:

Production of Texas wine is increasingly important to the state's agricultural base. Texans are not only growing first-class grapes, they are producing wines at local wineries that gain in attention and appreciation year after year for their quality and taste.

Proposition 11 would facilitate wine production in our state by allowing the Legislature to authorize wineries to make, sell and dispense wine in any area of the state, even in dry counties. Under the amendment, dry areas would still keep local control of other alcoholic beverage sales.

Proposition 11 appears on the Sept. 13 ballot as follows: "A constitutional amendment to allow the Legislature to enact law authorizing and governing the operation of wineries in this state."

The quality of Texas wine has improved greatly over the past 20 years or so and there is reason to hope that wine production could someday become as important to our state's economy as it is to California's. At a time when Texas must press its economic advantages, passage of Proposition 11 on the Sept. 13 statewide ballot will help it along.

And no, we don't agree with the Houston Chronicle on everything.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:21 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 12, 2003

Do you have a Gay Car?

By Byron LaMasters

I have the #8 Lesbian car! Yeah, I drive a Ford Ranger. So what are the gayest cars, you ask? The ultimate lesbian car is the Subaru Outback and the ultimate gay car is the VW Jetta. Nice. Gotta love Car Talk. Found via TX Woof, a new site which I found on my referrals page. Thanks for the link!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:38 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Perry forces Hispanic Veterans Group to Close Office

By Byron LaMasters

This has been in the news for a couple of weeks now, but it made the Dallas Morning News again today. A Hispanic Veterans group that opposed redistricting is now being punished by Governor Perry. He cut $300,000 from their budget, which is forcing them to close their office in Dallas.

A Hispanic veterans and civil rights group will close its Dallas office Tuesday, the third office to shut down since Texas Gov. Rick Perry cut off money for the organization, which has opposed Republican redistricting efforts.

The American GI Forum already has closed offices of its National Veterans Outreach program in Fort Worth and Austin, ending job training and assistance services for local veterans. Seven workers have lost or will lose their jobs, said Ignacio Leija, vice president of service operations.

Mr. Leija said the closings were permanent. The other offices' leases have ended, and the Dallas lease will be up at the end of the month.

"We can't wait. We've had to close the office," Mr. Leija said.

Mr. Leija said the GI Forum was never told why its $300,000 grant from the governor's office was not renewed at the end of July.

Kathy Walt, Mr. Perry's spokesman, said new standards were being drafted for organizations that receive the money. The decision not to renew the American GI Forum grant was part of that standards redesign, she said.

Mr. Perry's office told The Associated Press last month that the group could reapply for the grant. But Mr. Leija said the organization had not been told it could reapply.

So, which party is playing the race card, again? It's time to expose the say-one-thing-and-do-another Republican hypocrisy with minorities. Heck, with everyone.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

GOP Sanctions Dems $5000/day/Senator

By Byron LaMasters

Without a quorum to conduct official business, 18 Senators have decided to impose sanctions of the 11 Democrats in New Mexico, the Dallas Morning News is reporting.

"I expect that senators will consider appropriate measures against absent members as authorized by the Texas Senate rules and by the Texas Constitution, for the purpose of compelling their attendance," said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Democrats won't pay it, though. So what's the point? More lawsuits probably.

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, called the proposed fine a poll tax.

"I won't pay it," he said.

The Quorum Report reported that 18 of the 20 Senators not in New Mexico were meeting in closed door session at 2 PM. The session is illegal.

Update: The sanctions are $1000 for the first day, $2000 for day two, $4000 for day three, and $5000 thereafter per senator. My guess is that it starts immediately, but it could be retroactive:

Republican senators remaining in Texas voted Tuesday to fine the 11 self-exiled Democrats who are holed up in a New Mexico hotel for each day they are absent from a second special session on redistricting.

Without objection, the Republicans and one Democratic senator approved a resolution to fine the lawmakers starting at $1,000 a day, and the fine would double each day for each day they miss the session. The fine is not to exceed $5,000 a day.

Senators took the vote as the Democrats mark their 16th day in Albuquerque in protest over congressional redistricting.

I personally think that it's disgraceful that Ken Armbrister would allow himself to be part of this illegal session to sanction his Democratic colleagues.

Another thought. Is this part of the GOP Hispanic outreach program? Fining all seven Hispanic Senators $5000 per day? Republicans just don't get it. Hispanics will be a majority in this state very soon, and they won't forget this shameless behavior by the Republican majority today.

Update: Apologies to Sen. Armbrister. He voted no, according to the Quorum Report:

After hours of backroom meetings, seventeen Senators convened to sanction their eleven colleagues in New Mexico. Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) introduced a resolution imposing fines to be paid out of private funds beginning August 14. The fines would begin at $1,000 a day and double per day up to $5,000 per day until the end of the second called-session.

After parliamentary inquiry by Senator Ken Armbrister (D-Victoria), Nelson moved adoption. Although there were no apparent objections, the record shows that Armbrister voted no.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Dewhurst Spokesman: "Dems think they're Rosa Parks"

By Byron LaMasters

Via the San Antonio Express News:

Senators said a spokesman for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst made inappropriate comments in a published report by suggesting the Democrats consider themselves akin to Rosa Parks, whose refusal to yield her seat at the front of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama contributed to the civil rights movement.

The spokesman, David Beckwith, was quoted by Scripps Howard’s Austin bureau today saying of the absent Democrats: “After they got” to New Mexico “thinking they were going to stay a few days and then declare victory or whatever they thought they were going to do, they got captured by the Democratic National Committee blowing smoke up their rears and telling them what great Americans they were. So now they’ve gone from making a statement to ‘doing the right thing.’ They think they are Rosa Parks II.”

Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston, who is African American, said he was “personally offended” by the comment and contended the comment reflected a history of similar lapses by Beckwith, who once worked for Vice President Dan Quayle.

“He owes the entire state of Texas an apology,” Ellis said.

Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin said Beckwith deserves a kick in the rear.

“He’s pulled the race card,” Barrientos said. “He’s dealt himself a very bad hand.”

Sen. Royce West of Dallas said he started to give Beckwith “a sheet and a hood” but decided that was too reactive.

Beckwith, informed of the criticism, said today he was simply telling Scripps Howard that the Democratic flight was “not a historic event. I’m sorry if anybody is offended.”

But remember, they're all still friends.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:40 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Fines Violate Civil Rights Act, Dems Say

By Byron LaMasters

From the Quorum Report:

Responding to early reports, Senate Democrat has warned he will use the Civil Rights Act to sue Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and any Republican senator that votes to fine him for non-attendance.

Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (D-McAllen) said that based on press reports, he might owe $32 million and the Senate Democratic Caucus $360 million in fines.

According to reports, Senate Republicans may this afternoon consider disciplining and fining absent Democrats, perhaps as much as $1,000 for the first day of absence, with the figure doubling for each successive day. Early reports indicate that the funds would simply be deducted from their office accounts beginning Friday.

Hinojosa said the alleged Republican plans have left the Democrats’ Capitol office staff anxious and afraid as to whether they will have jobs or a paycheck at the end of the week. He also said rumors were also flying about doors being locked and staff being told to leave the Capitol.

"This is going to be the black and brown tax imposed by the all-white senators," Hinojosa fumed. "It’s a crime and it is called official oppression. I plan to sue Dewhurst and any senator under the Civil Rights Act to protect my rights as a minority and my actions in defending the interests of my constituents."

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Democratic Gov. Carole Keeton Strayhorn?

By Byron LaMasters

No way. But a source of Dave McNeely thinks that it might be a possibility:

One seasoned observer, who watched Strayhorn cozy up to organized labor while criticizing the idea of moving the programs, noted that she's also said legislators should spend newly found money on health care and education, rather than waiting for the governor and other officials to direct it. He said he wouldn't be surprised if Strayhorn runs for governor — as a Democrat.

That would be strange. But with Carole Keeton McClellan Rylander Strayhorn, you never know.

There's several reasons that this won't happen. For one, Strayhorn's Republican roots are deep. She ran for Congress back in the 1980s as a Republican (against Jake Pickle) when there were no Republicans in Austin. Zero. Her son, Scott McClellan is Bush's new spokesman. Dallas Democratic activist and Platform Committee member Tom Blackwell gives his own reasons why Strayhorn would not run as a Democrat.

As for the speculation that Strayhorn will run for Governor as a Democrat - - - let me end that right now. She was one of three Republican votes to set up the current [state house] district lines - - like those that drew [former state rep.] Harryette Ehrhardt [D-Dallas] out of her House district by less than one city block. It seems all our other problems have emerged from this action - - with Pete Laney and Republican Bill Ratliff voting against it.

Still, one has to wonder how big of a problem that would be for Strayhorn, when last year Democrats gave Tony Sanchez our nomination for governor when he had been a Bush pioneer in 2000, and even gave money to the GOP Florida recount fund. Sadly, he was our best choice. The other viable candidate in the primary is now in prison. Will Strayhorn be our best choice in 2006? Nah. Her GOP roots are too deep. I do expect her to challenge Perry, if Perry runs again. If Sen. Hutchison runs for Governor, I'd expect her to challenge Dewhurst for Lt. Gov.... as a Republican.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:26 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Austin is Weird

By Byron LaMasters

And we're proud of it. The Austin American Statesman reports. Link via ToT:

At first, only a few people stood in front of the Starbucks at Congress Avenue and Sixth Street with their umbrellas in hand.

The crowd grew to about a hundred, at a time when typically only a handful of people sit on benches waiting for a bus. By 7:20 p.m., it was clear something was afoot. A man in a cowboy hat passed out instructions:

"Your role: you are a member of the Austin Chapter of the International Mary Poppins Fan Club, an organization dedicated to spreading the virtue of supercalifragilistic- expialidocious," it read. "Today, you are meeting up with some other members of the club to participate in Bert's Synchronized Crosswalk."

Participants were directed to walk across the street at Sixth and Congress, singing and opening their umbrellas only while in the crosswalks. They were to cross again and again, completing two circuits, then disperse.

Some sang songs from the Julie Andrews movie while others just twirled their umbrellas and laughed.

Organizers of the stunt claim the episode, which lasted about 10 minutes, was Austin's first brush with "flash mobbing." The term has come to mean a large group of people who gather to perform some brief act, and then quickly disperse.

More info here, here, here and here. There's a reason Austin doesn't want to be represented by Republicans from Houston or San Antonio. We're too weird. They just wouldn't understand.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:41 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Screw Redistricting, Winner Take All!

By Byron LaMasters

Or so Paul E. McGreal in a Dallas Morning News viewpoint suggests. I would think that his plan would be a massive Voting Rights Act violation, but he makes a serious, if completely unrealistic legal arguement for such a system.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Redistricting News

By Byron LaMasters

There's some new news today. Charles has a good overview of the coverage in all the papers around the state. The new twist to the story is that Dewhurst plans to fine the senators in New Mexico.

As early as today, the Texas Senate plans to start fining its boycotting members after the Supreme Court on Monday refused to order 11 Democratic senators to return to Texas from New Mexico.

The fines strategy was hatched shortly after the Texas Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit filed by Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in an attempt to force the Democrats to return to Austin to consider a new map for the state's 32 congressional districts.


"Accordingly, when the Senate convenes on Tuesday, I expect senators will consider appropriate measures against absent members, as authorized by the Texas Senate rules and by the Texas Constitution, for the purpose of compelling their attendance," Dewhurst said.

A Senate leadership source said the "authorized measures" would be fines against the missing senators. No fine had been set, but one scenario considered would assess a $1,000 fine the first day and double the fines each subsequent day.

Senate rules make no mention of fines, but the Texas Constitution says lawmakers can "compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner and under such penalties as each House may provide."

Great. Two problems guys. One, there is no quorum to conduct and business in the senate. Thus, there is no way to legally pass a measure fining the Democrats. And two, Democrats won't pay them. What can Dewhurst do? Arrest them? Nope.

Austin lawyer Renea Hicks, who represents the 11 boycotting senators, disagreed that fines can be assessed.

"There's got to be a Senate rule to fine them," Hicks said. "They just can't make the rules up as they go along. I don't understand how the Senate can be so lawless as not to follow their rules."

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 11, 2003

Texas 11 Letter to Bush

By Byron LaMasters

Here's a PDF file of the letter.

Notice the address that they sent the letter to:

President George W. Bush
The Summer White House
Prairie Chapel Ranch
Crawford, Texas 76638

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stout Dem Blog Poll Results

By Byron LaMasters

The results of Bill Howell's Texas Straw Poll are out at the Stout Dem Blog. I didn't participate for exactly the reasons stated by Bill, "It was fun, but it didn't tell us anything we didn't suspect already". Exactly. Howard Dean won a bare majority with 52% of the vote. Followed by Kucinich at 20%, Kerry at 13%, Gephardt at 4% and Lieberman at 2%. It basically says that of Democratic online activists Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich are popular, and that's about it. Bill also thinks that Kerry is stronger in Texas than his poll suggests as Dean and Kucinich had yahoo groups pushing their turnout, and Kerry didn't. Still, I'm impressed that 319 people did decide to vote in the straw poll.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

TX Supreme Court Dismisses GOP Suit

By Byron LaMasters

The lawsuit filed by Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst asking the Texas Supreme Court to enact sanctions against the Democratic Senators in ABQ was dismissed by the all Republican Texas Supreme Court. The Austin American Statesman is on the story:

The Texas Supreme Court has turned down a request by Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst that the court order 11 Democratic Senators to return to Texas from New Mexico.

Without comment or explanation, the state's highest civil court denied a request for a writ of mandamus, essentially an emergency order from the court that would have declared that the absent senators are violating the state constitution and can be required to return to the Capitol.

Dewhurst and Perry had sought the order last Thursday, and the court gave lawyers for the absent Democrats until Monday to file a response.

The court acted swiftly after receiving written arguments from lawyers for the senators who insisted that the court has no legal authority to inject itself into what is primarily a political spat over congressional redistricting.

The standoff between the absent senators and state Republican leaders is purely the creation of Senate rules, the Democratic lawyers argued, and it is up to Dewhurst as the Senate's presiding officer to solve it.

"He (Dewhurst) should not be permitted to invoke the extraordinary remedy of mandamus to remedy a political problem he bears significant responsibility for creating," the Democratic lawyers argued in their brief.


The state Constitution requires two-thirds of the legislative members to be present to conduct business. Although absent members may be compelled to attend, the rules of the House and Senate did not anticipate the Democrats evading apprehension by fleeing the state.

Perry and Dewhurst have argued that a minority of legislators should not be allowed to thwart the will of the majority by failing to attend the special legislative session that ends August 26.

Meanwhile the Houston Chronicle has more on the Democrats lawsuit and their reaction to the dismissal of the GOP one.

The Democratic reaction was obviously positive.

The partisan fight over redistricting erupted on two fronts today, as Texas Democrats sued to block the Republicans' effort to redraw the state's political map and the Texas Supreme Court refused to order Democrats to end their Senate boycott.

Democrats reacted with glee to the high court's ruling.

"We believe strongly that the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction with respect to Senate turf," said Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso.

Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, both Republicans, had asked the Supreme Court to order 11 Senate Democrats back from self-imposed exile in New Mexico. The Democrats' absence prevented the Senate from considering a GOP plan to redraw the state's congressional districts.

The Democrats are now moving forward with their lawsuit, filed in Laredo (Webb County) which is dominated by Democrats (about 85-90%) at the countywide level. The Democratic Senators argue that removing the two thirds rule is a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Even before the Supreme Court ruling, the Senate Democrats moved ahead with a lawsuit in federal district court in Laredo, accusing GOP leaders of pushing their plan through the Legislature without adequately considering the views of more than 6,000 people who attended public hearings this summer.

The Democrats sued the state, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and also claimed that GOP leaders violated the federal Voting Rights Act by dropping a traditional rule that requires two-thirds of the Senate to agree to debate a bill.

Democrats argue that the two-thirds rule is vital in protecting the representation of political and racial minority groups in the Senate. Without the rule, voting "practices and procedures" in Texas are changed, Democrats' attorneys say.

Such a change, according to the Voting Rights Act, must first be cleared by the U.S. Justice Department, said Renae Hicks, an attorney for the Democrats.

"It is a change in pattern and practice with respect to redistricting in Texas in a way that's never happened before," Hicks said.

"There is a direct link between the change the lieutenant governor is proposing and minority voters in Texas," he said.

After the rule was dropped, eleven Senate Democrats resorted to fleeing to New Mexico to block consideration of a GOP-backed redistricting bill, partly because they believe the plan would minimize the representation of minorities and rural Texans in Congress.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District court in Laredo, a heavily Hispanic and rural area of South Texas.

"This single issue is a violation of the Voting Rights Act, silencing the voices of every minority member of the Texas Senate and forcing a redistricting bill through the Legislature against the interests of minority voters, against the will of every minority member of the Senate and those senators who represent minority districts," said state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

The Democrats who filed the lawsuit Monday -- ten of whom represent majority-minority Senate districts -- claim that GOP leaders excluded minorities in the redistricting process by failing to appoint any racial or ethnic minorities to chair subcommittees on redistricting and failing to hold official field hearings south of San Antonio. Official field hearings also were not held in far West Texas or East Texas.

About 97 percent of 3,103 people who attended House field hearings and 92 percent of the 2,982 who attended Senate hearings registered opinions against lawmakers taking up redistricting, the lawsuit claims.

This lawsuit is a new suit by Democrats. They filed several lawsuits in Travis County district court last week. Those lawsuits are still pending.

Update: The Austin American Statesman has more on the Democrats lawsuit in federal court.

Update: More reaction from across the state.

Fort Worth Star Telegram

The all-Republican Texas Supreme Court today dealt a body blow to the GOP-led drive to redraw the state's congressional boundaries by rejecting a plea from Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst that the justices order the 11 Democratic senators to end their holdout in New Mexico.

The state's highest civil court denied the motion filed Thursday by the state's top two Republicans that would have compelled the absent Democrats to return to Austin so the Legislature could take up redistricting.

San Antonio Express News reports that the Democratic Senators are elated:

The Texas Supreme Court today denied a petition by Republican leaders that it order back to work 11 Democratic senators holed up in an Albuquerque hotel to stop GOP-led congressional redistricting.
In Albuquerque, the senators celebrated.

"It's over, it's over," said Sen. Royce West of Dallas.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, head of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said, "It's time for (Gov. Rick) Perry to end this."

Added West, "It's time for them to stand down."

Sen. Judith Zaffirini of Laredo said of the all-GOP Supreme Court, "They passed the integrity test. They did what was right, not what was political."

Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement that he was "very disappointed that the Supreme Court did not resolve this pending constitutional crisis." He said he remained committed to addressing redistricting.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said in a statement that the court's action "clarifies that the issue is a legislative matter that only the Legislature can and should resolve." He said he expects senators tomorrow "to consider appropriate measures against absent members as authorized by the Texas Senate rules and by the Texas Constitution ... for the purpose of compelling their attendance."

Corpus Christi Caller Times

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:18 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Is Bob your friend?

By Byron LaMasters

Is Bob your friend? Join friendster and you can meet Bob! (I'm personally rather impressed that I am friends with Bob Graham through four degrees of seperation). I guess I have Carl with a K to thank for it, because he is friends with Howard (who, imagine this, is also running for President! I've heard good things about him, too!). This guy Howard, who's from Vermont and seems like a pretty cool guy is friends with Tammy and Ben who are both friends with Bob from Florida!

Gender: Male
Interested in
Meeting People for:
Friends, Activity Partners
Status: Married
Age: 66
Occupation: Presidential Candidate/U.S. Senator
Location: Hialeah, FL
Hometown: Miami Lakes, FL
Interests: Politics, NASCAR, Homeland Security, Florida, Environment, Education, Healthcare, Civil Rights, Economics, Fighting Crime, Pro Choice, International Relations, Foreign Affairs, gators, University of Florida, Harvard, Lawyer, Attorney
About Me: I have dedicated my life to public service, and I have never lost an election. I have served two terms in the Florida House of Representatives and two terms in the Florida Senate. In 1978, I was elected the 38th governor of Florida. After two successful terms as governor, I was elected to the United States Senate in 1986 by defeating an incumbent Republican. I have been re-elected to the Senate twice, in 1992 and 1998. I am now campaigning to become the 44th President of the United States. I was born and raised in South Florida. I am a product of public schools in Florida starting with Hialeah Elementary and then Junior High Schools in Florida. In 1959 I received my bachelor’s degree at the University of Florida, where I was a Phi Beta Kappa, as well as a member of the Florida Blue Key and Chancellor of Honor Court. Then in 1962 I completed my bachelor of law degree from Harvard Law School. I am married to the lovely Adele Khoury of Miami Shores. I have four beautiful daughters and ten splendid grandchildren. When I’m not working, I love spending time with my family. For more information on my workdays, my work with Florida Legislature, my term as Governor of Florida, my work as a US Senator and more information about my campaign please go to my website at www.grahamforpresident.com
Who I Want to Meet: People interested in getting George W Bush out of office.

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Does your Legislator Drive a Lamborghini?

By Byron LaMasters

Rep. Ron Wilson (D-Houston), who represents a working class, minority majority district in Houston drives one. Photos via Keep Austin United, an anti-redistricting site run by some Austin Democratic activists. Here's the picture they shot of "Texas' Worst Democrat" Ron Wilson getting into his Lamborghini and driving away.

Ron Wilson was one of two Democratic State Representatives to vote for the House Republican redistricting map that would have likely resulted in the loss of 6 Democratic Congressmen (the other was Vilma Luna, D-Corpus Christi). Not only did he vote for the map, but he was openly critical of the Killer D's who broke quorum in Ardmore. I don't know about anyone else, but that's what I call a DINO (Democrat in Name Only). For that reason, I have called for his defeat in next year's Democratic primary. I don't know who will run, but I've heard that there will definitely be a challenge. Thank God. It's about time.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:47 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Official Bob Graham Blog

By Byron LaMasters

Yesterday, I found the official Kerry Blog, and today, via Greg's Opinion and Daily Kos, we have the official Graham Blog! It's on Moveable Type, and looks pretty respectable. I see that the Graham folks are finally embracing meetup.com, too. Graham still has quite a lot of catching up to do in the meetup primary, however, as Graham sits at 444, compared to Dean (over 80,000), Kerry, Clark and Kucinich (all in the 6000-10,000 range). Even more interesting is that according to Graham's blog, Bob Graham has joined Friendster! Heh! He's the last guy you'd expect to join friendster, which I would highly recommend. It's a nifty program where you can network with your friends friends and your friends friends friends, etc. It tends to cater to your under 30 / singles / internet savey type of crowd, so Bob Graham, who tends to remind you of your grandfather (in a good way) is that last person I would expect to see sign up for friendster. So, I'm going to have to give Bob Graham a few points for trying to be hip. Next thing you know, Janet Reno will throw him a dance party on South Beach! I wonder if Bob is as graceful as Janet? We might just have to see. Best of luck to him.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Rally Pictures at ToT

By Byron LaMasters

Check out some great rally pictures from Saturday's rally over at ToT.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

While I was out

By Byron LaMasters

Well, while I was raising hell in Austin, Charles caught all the other weekend action.

The only real news today, is that Democrats have asked George W. Bush to intervene to stop redistricting. It won't happen, but it's a new line of Democratic attack (when Bush was governor, he was a uniter, not a divider, and things like this hurt that legacy, so he should step in). It's mostly a public relations ploy, but heck, it can't hurt. The Dallas Morning News reports:

The 11 Democratic senators encamped here have called on President Bush to intervene in the impasse over congressional redistricting, saying he alone has the power to end "this embarrassing chapter in Texas history."

The debacle, they said in a letter Friday that they individually signed, is damaging the former Texas governor's credibility as a bipartisan leader. And, they said, his top adviser, Karl Rove, is largely to blame.

They also criticized U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land, the driving force behind the effort to redraw district lines, and Republicans Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who the Democrats say are doing his bidding in Texas.

Their actions "cast a shadow over your legacy here. ... Your continued silence is being interpreted by thoughtful Americans as complicity or as tacit approval," the senators wrote.

"We ... request an immediate public announcement of your opposition to this unfair and shameful power grab."

But the Bushies aren't really moving.

A Bush spokesman said Sunday that the president did not plan to become involved in the dispute.

"That's a matter for the state of Texas to address," said Jimmy Orr, a White House spokesman in Crawford, where Mr. Bush is vacationing.

David Beckwith, a spokesman for Mr. Dewhurst, said the allegation that his boss has acted on Mr. Rove's instructions is false and nothing but a publicity ploy by the Democrats.

"It's particularly ironic," he said, "since the Democratic National Committee is increasingly calling the tune out in Albuquerque."

Kathy Walt, the governor's spokeswoman, called the Democrats' claims "ludicrous."

And Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos said what I expected. Democrats are working all fronts.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, did not return a telephone call Sunday. Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin said the letter is just another of the group's on-going efforts to find a solution to the standoff.

"We don't hang our hat on one item, on one lawsuit, on one rally. We're working on all fronts," he said.

Update: It looks like the story has hit today's Washington Post.

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Another Round of Editorials

By Byron LaMasters

On Friday and Saturday, a new round of editorials blanketed the state. The Fort Worth Star Telegram, Houston Chronicle and Waco Tribune Herald wrote relatively pro-Democratic editorials, while the Austin American Statesman wrote a mixed one today, lamenting the fact that both sides have taken to the courts.

The Fort Worth Star Telegram:

Mid-cycle redistricting was a bad idea when it came up during the regular legislative session; it was a bad idea when Perry put it on the agenda for the first special session; it remains a bad idea as the clock ticks down on the second special session.

Frustrated taxpayers, who are toting the note for this exercise in one-upsmanship, are rightfully asking: What's the endgame for this costly scrimmage of partisan politics?

Short-term, there's no telling. Ultimately, it will come when lawmakers run for re-election.

In the case of Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, it will take longer for the people to register their official support or disdain, given that their terms run until 2006. But for House members and some senators, the day of reckoning will come in November 2004 -- or sooner. Who knows what might happen in the spring primaries?

The Houston Chronicle:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst last week told the Chronicle Editorial Board that U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay does not "jerk his chain," and that the lieutenant governor answers to no one but the voters of Texas. This is but the latest inaccuracy that Dewhurst, Gov. Rick Perry and Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick have used to justify their destructive and unpopular campaign to redraw congressional districts.

The undeniable truth is that many Texans actively oppose redistricting this year. Almost all the testimony at statewide hearings on redistricting was negative. The majority of Texans and their elected representatives are against or indifferent to DeLay's political power play and believe issues such as school finance and property tax reform should take precedence.

Could there be a harder tug than this on Dewhurst's leash? Dewhurst says he is a loyal Republican, but party loyalty should not require denying or misrepresenting the truth.

Months ago, at the start of the regular legislative session, Perry, Dewhurst and Craddick all suggested that redistricting would disrupt and perhaps destroy the bipartisan comity necessary to solve Texas' problems. All three indicated there was little enthusiasm among legislators for redistricting this year, and that the issue was likely to be a nonstarter.

None of the three said anything to suggest that redistricting would soon become the Republican leadership's No. 1 priority. Ordered to seek redistricting by DeLay, none of the three had the courage to refuse DeLay and to act on the assurances each had given to Texans.

Calling from the Democratic senators' sanctuary in New Mexico, state Sen. Mario Gallegos reminded Texans that when the Legislature failed to agree on congressional district lines in 2001, Gov. Perry could have called it back into special session. Perry did not think it necessary, nor did the state appeal the lines drawn by a panel of federal judges. Perry's failure to act then betrays his true sentiments about redistricting's lack of urgency -- sentiments Perry is disowning today.

On top of his false portrayal of the merits of redistricting, Perry has dishonestly tried to blame Democrats for the state's inadequate support for health care and other vital social services. The Democrats are not innocent of selfish partisan motives, but at least they are not misrepresenting the facts with every breath.

On the same conference call with Gallegos, Sen. John Whitmire said the senators would return if Dewhurst would restore the Senate's traditional two-thirds rule. The tradition calls for a parliamentary procedure requiring a two-thirds majority of those present before a bill can be brought up for debate and action.

Sen. Rodney Ellis points out that the Senate has never suspended the rule for bills on important matters such as civil rights or criminal jurisprudence, no matter how urgent the need. Ellis and Whitmire note that the Senate's two-thirds rule resulted in a superior insurance reform bill in the regular session.

As if Texas' political mess were not embarrassing and distracting enough, both Republicans and Democrats are pursuing unpromising litigation to further the dispute.

Even if the Democratic senators returned Monday, a disagreement among Republican legislators over how to divvy up rural West Texas could thwart redistricting until the clock runs out before next spring's primaries.

There is only one reasonable, prudent way to end the mess redistricting has inflicted, and that is for Dewhurst to agree to reinstate the two-thirds rule. Redistricting's few proponents will have a fair chance to gain a consensus. Should they fail, the Legislature will be free to move on to more important matters.

And the Waco Tribune Herald:

Texas Democrats holed-up in New Mexico may not win their new court challenge, but they certainly have a good point.

They have sued to stop the current special session because the Texas Constitution says one can only be called in "extraordinary occasions." Party-driven redistricting isn't one of them. It isn't even in the neighborhood. Texas districts were redrawn in 2001 as required by law.

What Gov. Rick Perry has ordered as the basis for two special sessions is vital only to partisan schemers in Austin and Washington, most venally Congressman Tom DeLay.

Oh, yes, some important issues were left stranded by the 78th Legislature. But Perry and the Republican leadership have no one but themselves to blame for not addressing them before.

Fortunately, Wednesday by executive order Perry released some $700 million from the Foundation School Fund. The money was needed by school districts that are about to open their doors. Because of a bookkeeping error, the funding stood to be hung up until September.

In the days before making that announcement, Perry said these dollars were being held up by the boycotting Democrats. Surely he was joking. GOP leaders let an entire 30-day special session expire knowing the $700 million was in limbo.

The fact that the matter was allowed to be tucked into a monster government reorganization bill that died in the last day of the special session is the fault of GOP leaders who decided to put the interests of the party ahead of those of their constituents and tried through stealth to force 11th-hour passage of a redistricting bill that effectively killed lagging legislation.

Were Perry not transfixed on redistricting and games of political payback, we would wager that these problems would have been identified and fixed in the regular session.

And if the Legislature truly needed a special session to address such things, these matters would have been addressed promptly in Special Session No. 1.

Every time the governor and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst say "there's important work to be done" in the special session, voters should ask, "Is this work for the majority party or for Texans?"

Perry and Dewhurst know how the work for Texans can get done. They can listen to the Waco City Council, the McLennan County Commissioners and so many Central Texans urging that they pull a divisive and disabling matter off the table. Redistricting has been done. It was done in ’01.

Meanwhile, the Austin American Statesman which has been pretty consistently pro-Democratic throughout the redistricting debate had problems with the seperation of powers with everyone suing. The editorial is in today's paper.

The current legislative standoff in Texas is many things: unusual, frustrating, sometimes entertaining. But the one thing it is not is a crisis.

State government is working as usual, a budget is in place and the flag still flies above the Capitol each day. The special session called by Gov. Rick Perry to redraw Texas congressional districts was an act of political partisanship, not a response to an emergency.

Still, the way this situation is playing out, with hard feelings and dueling lawsuits, could have a dramatic impact on Texas. The lawsuit filed by the Senate Democrats in district court in Travis County, and one filed with the Texas Supreme Court by Attorney General Greg Abbott, representing Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, go to fundamental aspects of how state government operates.

The 11 Senate Democrats who fled to New Mexico last month to prevent a quorum, paralyze the Legislature and kill Perry's redistricting effort are directly challenging the governor's power. They are asking the district court to rule that the special session called for redistricting does not meet the constitutional requirement of an "extraordinary occasion," and is therefore illegal.

The Senate Democrats are asking the courts to define "extraordinary," and to limit the power of the executive. This is deep water because the question goes to the heart of the separation of powers among the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.

One need not be a fan of Perry or his slavish determination to redraw the state's congressional districts to question the wisdom of asking a judge to limit the governor's power to call the Legislature into session. There are other checks and balances, including the Legislature's right to exercise its own power to kill bills the governor wants.

Asking the courts to determine when a governor can convene the Legislature is an extraordinary and risky move. But Perry and Dewhurst are gambling as well in asking the Supreme Court to order the absentee Democrats back to work in Austin.

Does compelling the Democrats to return to town mean they can be arrested, although no crime has been committed? A lower court already has ruled that leaders of the state House of Representatives, whose Democratic members absconded in the spring, cannot order state troopers to arrest them.

Abbott's petition, which argues that the court can force the senators back to work, raises another question of separation of powers. The remedy for elected officials not doing their jobs is not at the Supreme Court, but the ballot box. If they aren't doing their jobs, citizens can vote them out of office.

The courts might not wish to get in the middle of this partisan fray and might leave it up the Legislature to clean its own house. That already is under way, with efforts to change the rules so a minority of members cannot disrupt legislative business in either house.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 10, 2003

Austin Enough is Enough Rally

By Byron LaMasters

As I said earlier, I attended the Enough is Enough rally in Austin on Saturday. In my infinite wisdom, I decided to go out with friends in Dallas on Friday night, and ended up only getting a couple of hours of sleep on Friday night. There were 11 buses leaving from Dallas, but I decided to go with Dave, who not only managed to get us there and back in one piece, but provided entertaining company (a special thanks to Dave for driving). So, we left from the Dallas County Democratic Party office around 8 AM and arrived in Austin around 11 AM. We were lucky enough to find a great parking spot, then walked into the capitol to go to the bathroom and cool off a little bit. We walked outside on the south steps where it was a circus. The stage was pretty small and there were several thousand people there, but it was very difficult to count. Media counts have been anywhere from 2000 to 5000. Instead of being all bunched up near the front (as is usually the case with most rallies), lots of people were scattered around under trees and in areas of shade. It was, after all, 100 degrees and humid out. My guess would be about 4000 people, but there's no way to know. There were 40 buses from across the state that brought people from as far away as Lubbock, Texarkana and Brownsville. There was a small Republican presence there. But I mean small. There were about half a dozen protesters at one corner with a couple of signs and flags. An airplane flew around the capitol with a sign attached, reading something like: "Real Heroes -- Don't flee Texas".

The program was emceed by State Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin), who wore her "Deny DeLay" t-shirt. Here was the official schedule:

  • 11:15 Music begins = Ruben "El Gato Negro" Ramos

  • 11:30 Emcee, Representative Dawnna Dukes, starts rally and recognizes Killer D's

  • 11:32 Senate families introduced

  • 11:36 Soloist sings God Bless America

  • 11:42 Ram Chavez, Commander of the Texas GI Forum, speaks and leads the Pledge of Allegiance

  • 11:45 Speakers from Across Texas:

    • Max Shumake, President of the Sulphur Oversight Society, a group dedicated to the preservation of the Sulphur River Basin

    • Maureen Jouett, Mayor of Killeen

  • 11:51 Family Members of Texas 11 Speeches:

    • Joseph Barrientos, son of Senator Gonzalo Barrientos

    • Olga Gallegos, wife of Senator Mario Gallegos

    • Ileana Hinojosa, daughter of Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa

    • Eddie Lucio III, son of Senator Eddie Lucio

    • Helen Madla, wife of Senator Frank Madla

    • Lee Shapleigh, wife of Senator Eliot Shapleigh

    • Nicole Van de Putte, daughter of Senator Leticia Van de Putte

    • Carol West, wife of Sen. Royce West

    • Carlos Zaffirini, son of Senator Judith Zaffirini

  • 12:03 Texas 11 members speak by phone

  • 12:10 Rep. Dukes closes rally program

  • 12:15 Closes with Music -- Joe Ely

Amazingly, things stayed pretty much on schedule. It was the desire of all of the organizers to keep all of the speeches as short as possible and to keep the focus on the senators. Dawnna Dukes did a great job as emcee. She has a very powerful voice and held everyone's attention. The crowd was quite vocal. The favorite chant was "Recall Perry! Recall Perry!".

A dozen or two of the 51 Killer D's were there. House Democratic leader Jim Dunnam (D-Waco) got the loudest ovation. He spoke for a minute and said that the Democrats would win the redistricting fight. He pledged to keep fighting the rest of the summer, all fall and all winter if it took that long.

Max Shumake spoke on how the Republican maps gutted rural representation and that his town would likely be represented by a Dallas congressman under a new map. He said that he liked Dallas and all, but a Dallas congressman wouldn't look after the water rights of his community. Instead, a Dallas congressman would fight to build a dam to create more water for Dallas. The rural folks didn't want that, and liked the representation they got from Rep. Max Sandlin (D-Marshall), who looked out for their interests.

Maureen Jouett, the Mayor of Killeen spoke on how she voted in the Republican primary in 2002, and that she was outraged that she was counted as a number being used in the arguements for redistricting. She even whipped out her voter registration card with the "Republican" stamp on it. She was part of the Mayors for Perry and Mayors for Dewhurst groups last fall, but she strongly supported her Democratic congressman Chet Edwards (D-Waco). Why? Because of Fort Hood - the largest employer in the state of Texas, and the largest military base in the world. Chet Edwards fought for Fort Hood and was the reason that it hadn't been downsized. She said that even though her community leaned Republican on the statewide level, they strongly supported Chet Edwards for Congress, because he used his senority on the Armed Services committee to be a champion for Fort Hood. A freshman Republican congressman would be unable to have the influence of Chet Edwards, she said.

All of the family members of the senators praised their mom/dad/husband for their courage and bravery. They were all very proud. The children of Leticia Van de Putte did and excellent job. So did the others, although I don't remember specifically. One of the family members suggested marching towards the governor's mansion after the rally. Several people in the crowd joked about doing a "Texas style recall" (use your imagination), but it was only a joke, so John Ashcroft and all of yall over at the DOJ reading this, there's really no need to start arresting folks over it. No need.

Next, the senators were connected to the speakers and they all spoke, and thanked the crowd for coming. They all spoke for about two minutes. Several of the Hispanic Senators spoke a little bit in Spanish. They pledged to wait as long as it took and urged Governor Perry to stop being a bitch to Tom DeLay and get back to business (although the word "bitch" wasn't used, other names were).

Finally, the rally closed with music. We were all hot and exhausted, even though water was provided at the event. I went to Romeo's for some good Italian food with some friends from Dallas, then we headed back to Dallas. I got there, drove home and slept for five hours, got up at 11 PM, went back to bed at 3 AM, slept until 11 AM then got up this morning. I took another nap this afternoon. Hell of a way to spend a weekend. I'm glad I did it, though. Our senators are holed up in New Mexico away from their jobs and families, so this was the least that we could do to show our support from them. It was hot out, but if old ladies in wheelchairs could take it, then so could we.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Austin Rally

By Byron LaMasters

I attended the Austin rally in support of the senators (Texas 11) with 5000 other Texans. It was hot and kind of crazy but I'm glad I went. I'll write a full post on it later today.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

John Kerry as Howard Dean

By Byron LaMasters

Well, John Kerry has joined the blogosphere. It's good for him, I suppose (and the Dean supporters attacking Kerry on there ought to stop. It's really pretty childish. Make your points, but be respectful, folks). Just in the way that Joe Lieberman often looks like he's trying to out-Republican George W. Bush, John Kerry is begining to look like he's borrowing the Howard Dean playbook. Take a look at his homepage. Now take a look at the Dean homepage. You'll notice how Kerry's added the on-line supporter tally (a la Dean) to his homepage. He's added the meetup.com link to his homepage, which I noted last week. Now, it looks as if John Kerry is trying out-Dean Howard Dean (at least in the webpage department). Starting next week will be a weekly chat with the campaign, enter the campaign with Kerry for a day contest and you can get your very own Kerry gear!

In fact, John Kerry's campaign is plagued by comparisons to Howard Dean. And it's not positive for Kerry. Here's what today's frontpage story in the New York Times said about Kerry:

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts had just finished a walking tour through Littleton, a small town near here in the White Mountains, when he paused to take questions from local reporters outside a candy store. There was one subject this day: Howard Dean.

Again and again, Mr. Kerry was asked his views of Dr. Dean. Again and again, Mr. Kerry, who had passed a half-dozen Dean placards on his walk, demurred. When a television reporter taunted Mr. Kerry to at least utter Dr. Dean's name, Mr. Kerry, who is rarely at a loss for words, grinned and pinched his mouth shut.

This is Mr. Kerry's world these days. Three months after many Democrats and Mr. Kerry himself thought he was rolling to the Democratic presidential nomination, he is frequently stuck in the shadow of an opponent who has moved from small-bore annoyance to potential threat. By all appearances, the changed atmosphere in the early battlegrounds of Iowa and New Hampshire has forced Mr. Kerry to recalibrate his approach to the crowded race for the nomination.

By his own account, Mr. Kerry's campaign message — which even some supporters described as toothless and themeless back when the fight seemed simpler — has become sharper, more focused and more compact. A candidate who has a reputation for circular speaking and windy orations is invoking Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman ("I'm going to tell the truth and they'll think it's hell."), and sounding campaign notes from John McCain, Paul Wellstone and, well, Dr. Dean.

John Kerry tries to be Howard Dean, but he's just not:

After what many Democrats, including Dr. Dean, described as vacillation on the subject, Mr. Kerry is now standing by his decision to vote for the war in Iraq, arguing, "I didn't take the easy road, but I took the road that I thought was correct." He is seeking to claim the mantle in 2004 for expanded health care coverage, an idea that was pioneered in this campaign by Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and Dr. Dean.

He is also following Dr. Dean into the campaign computer age. Last week, he began his own campaign Web log, or blog, to provide a digest of his travels, modeled after the blog Dr. Dean has used with great success to rally supporters and contributors.

But just as Joe Lieberman doesn't play Joe Lieberman very well, John Kerry just doesn't play Howard Dean very well.

Mr. Kerry said any changes in his style and campaign — which he said would become even more vivid as he approaches the official announcement of his candidacy next month — were not in response to the ascendancy of Dr. Dean. Rather, Mr. Kerry said over the roar of a private jet flying him through the Midwest last week, any such changes were testimony of his evolution as a candidate, the natural rhythms of a campaign, and the increasing vigor he has felt in the months since he had cancer surgery.

"Look, I had a prostate operation in February and I'm feeling energized again," he said. "I'm feeling fully healthy and well and energetic and focused. I think there's a greater intensity. I'm stronger, back in full mettle and ready to go."

He can't blame his sagging campaign on is health much longer. It's been his excuse for the last few months. It's not working. Both John Kerry and John Edwards seem to have this strategy of turning their campaigns on this fall. I don't think it'll work. If you're running for president, you need to be strong out of the gate and stay strong to the end.

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

August 08, 2003

Fear and Loathing in 2004?

By Jim Dallas

Lots of folks have, recently, tried to cast Howard Dean as another hopeless McGovernite. People like Dick Morris and Bruce Reed clearly want you to believe that nominating Dean in Boston will be every much the mistake that nominating McGovern in Miami Beach was 31 years ago:

Bruce Reed, who served as President Bill Clinton's chief domestic adviser and now directs the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, said the other day: "A campaign based on telling the left everything it wants to hear would be a disaster in the general election. ... Dean has thrown his lot in with a neo-McGovern crowd, and what that crowd likes about him is what the rest of America won't like."

There are plenty of reasons to dismiss Reed's sniping, but lets indulge in DLC fantasy that 2004's nomination process will be a lot like 1972.

(Actually, since just about every Democratic nominee since 1960 has had to "fight for the soul of the Democratic Party" in one way or another - Kennedy vs. Everybody in 1960, McCarthy vs. Humphrey in 1968, McGovern vs. Everybody in 1972, Carter vs. Everybody in 1976, Carter vs. Kennedy in 1980, Mondale vs. Hart, 1984, Dukakis vs. Everybody in 1988, and Clinton vs. Everybody in 1992 - I think it's arguable that this year will be a lot like 1960, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, and 1992. All of them, in one way or another. You got a problem with that? But let's once again dive off into centrist la-la land and pretend that 1972 is the only worthwhile contest worth comparing 2004's race to.)

Consultants and candidates who have a vested interest in making the Dean/McGovern comparison will no doubt be tempted to twist the actual history of what happened in the 1972. Anybody who wants to make a serious argument about this needs to go back to the source and read at least one book about the 1972 primaries which was written in the early 1970s. This is especially important today, since common sense dictates that most of the people who will vote in the Democratic primaries this year weren't old enough to remember what went down in '72 and perhaps as many as 30 or 40 percent of them (including myself) weren't even born yet! Those of us who have even heard of George McGovern probably remember him as a footnote in our high school history books about this weird guy from South Dakota who got his ass handed to him by Tricky Dick Nixon. And that kind of general ignorance - about why the Democrats got kicked so bad in 1972 - only plays into the hands of bigwigs who would rather install one of their own.

To bone up on my party hack acumen, I got a hold of a copy of Hunter S. Thompson's classic act of gonzo journalism, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72. After an all-night reading session, here are my thoughts...

If Dean is McGovern, then who the hell are you?

The 1972 race started out with most pundits predicting Ed Muskie would walk away with it, since he was acceptable to the establishment without being too tarnished by the whole debacle that was 1968. Muskie tried to play both sides of the Vietnam War, and it might have worked, too. He won the New Hampshire primary comfortable (McGovern collected 37 percent of the vote). Yet, Muskie was forced out after a handful of primaries due to what can only be basically described as a total emotional breakdown (aided, Thompson suggests, by drug-induced hallucinations).

Cue Hubert Humphrey, who makes Al Gore look downright inspiring by comparison. Humphrey was the Old Guard's best chance to derail McGovern and keep control of the party within the hands of a small clique dominated by a few labor bosses and elected officials. Thompson describes him with extreme venom --

Any political party that can't cough up anything better than a treacherous brain-damaged old vulture like Hubert Humphrey deserves every beating it gets. They don't hardly make 'em like Hubert any more - but just to be on the safe side, he should be castrated anyway.

Eugene McCarthy was lost on the electorate, too far out of the mainstream to be taken seriously by 1972.

Scoop Jackson ("D-Boeing"), the uberhawk, saw his campaign sputter, ultimately making his biggest impact by joining Humphrey in the "Anyone but McGovern" movement and slurring McGovern as the candidate of "Acid, Amnesty, and Abortion."

George Wallace appealed to the usual suspects, who have since ceased to be a major voting bloc within the Democratic Party.

At the end of the day, George McGovern was the only decent person worth voting for in 1972 (although the idea of drafting Teddy Kennedy was kicked around).

Feel free to state your own view, but if Dean is the new McGovern, I think it's only fair to say Kerry is the new Muskie, Gephardt is the new Humphrey, Lieberman is the new Scoop Jackson, Kucinich is the new McCarthy, and Ross Perot might just be the new George Wallace (again). Playing the savior-in-waiting (ala Ted Kennedy) this time around is Gen. Wesley Clark.

And Thompson very surely felt that neither Muskie nor Humphrey nor Jackson stood any chance whatsoever against Nixon.

Democrats today are angry, but not for the same reasons and not to the same extent as they were in 1972

To sum up this point - in 1968, people like Humphrey sat and watched while civil war broke out figuratively and literally in Chicago. In 2004, the party is coming off an era of relative unity, so there aren't as many grudges laying around.

Moreover, the war will play differently. This year, it might be true that Gephardt, Kerry, and Lieberman were enablers of Bush; but Humphrey, Muskie, and Jackson were very much tied to Lyndon Johnson, who pretty much sent the Vietnam War spiraling out of control. This year, the Democrats don't really have to take responsibility for the war in Iraq if they don't want to; in 1972, the centrists were inextricably linked to it.

Many, if not most, Democrats are disappointed with the Washington centrists, but not with the same sort of visceral hatred and disgust that existed in 1972.

Eagleton and the competence problem
Thompson closes his book with an interview with McGovern as well as reflections on discussions that he had with key campaign aides like Gary Hart and Pat Caddell. The final chapter basically amounts to an autopsy on their 49-state defeat.

Caddell's analysis is worth going over, because it makes an important point - that McGovern still had a decent shot of winning the election as late as July 1972, before Thomas Eagleton (McGovern's V.P. pick) was forced to reveal his psychiatric history and quit the race. And before McGovern attempted to appease Hubert Humphrey and the Old Guard.

After those things happened, McGovern no longer looked like a sincere radical (which Americans actually could like) and more like a confused, incompetent boob.

In short, Caddell argues that McGovern didn't lose for being an angry tribune of the Democratic left, but because in the last few months he failed to inspire confidence. McGovern lost because he acted like a loser.

An afterthought: Thompson on Bush

Hunter S. Thompson is still scrawling away, and his Page 2 columns are archived on ESPN.com.

A couple weeks ago, he wrote this:

When I went into the clinic last April 30, George Bush was about 50 points ahead of his closest Democratic opponent in next year's Presidential Election. When I finally escaped from the horrible place, less than three weeks late, Bush's job-approval ratings had been cut in half -- and even down into single digits, in some states -- and the Republican Party was panicked and on the run. It was a staggering reversal in a very short time, even shorter than it took for his equally crooked father to drop from 93 percent approval, down to as low as 43 percent and even 41 percent in the last doomed days of the first doomed Bush Administration. After that, he was Bill Clinton's punching bag.

Richard Nixon could tell us a lot about peaking too early. He was a master of it, because it beat him every time. He never learned and neither did Bush the Elder.

But wow! This goofy child president we have on our hands now. He is demonstrably a fool and a failure, and this is only the summer of '03. By the summer of 2004, he might not even be living in the White House. Gone, gone, like the snows of yesteryear.

The Rumsfield-Cheney axis has self-destructed right in front of our eyes, along with the once-proud Perle-Wolfowitz bund that is turning to wax. They somehow managed to blow it all, like a gang of kids on a looting spree, between January and July, or even less. It is genuinely incredible. The U.S. Treasury is empty, we are losing that stupid, fraudulent chickencrap War in Iraq, and every country in the world except a handful of Corrupt Brits despises us. We are losers, and that is the one unforgiveable sin in America.

Beyond that, we have lost the respect of the world and lost two disastrous wars in three years. Afghanistan is lost, Iraq is a permanent war Zone, our national Economy is crashing all around us, the Pentagon's "war strategy" has failed miserably, nobody has any money to spend, and our once-mighty U.S. America is paralyzed by Mutinies in Iraq and even Fort Bragg.

The American nation is in the worst condition I can remember in my lifetime, and our prospects for the immediate future are even worse. I am surprised and embarrassed to be a part of the first American generation to leave the country in far worse shape than it was when we first came into it. Our highway system is crumbling, our police are dishonest, our children are poor, our vaunted Social Security, once the envy of the world, has been looted and neglected and destroyed by the same gang of ignorant greed-crazed bastards who brought us Vietnam, Afghanistan, the disastrous Gaza Strip and ignominious defeat all over the world.

The Stock Market will never come back, our Armies will never again be No. 1, and our children will drink filthy water for the rest of our lives.

The Bush family must be very proud of themselves today, but I am not. Big Darkness, soon come. Take my word for it.

I'd like to think that the Good Doctor would return to the campaign trail and write "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail 2004." This time with a happier ending.

In either case, if there's anything to this whole 1972-2004 parallelism, we're in for a very strange trip indeed. Bring it on!

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:21 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Today's Redistricting News

By Byron LaMasters

The news of the lawsuit mess is all over the papers today. As I said, blogging will be relatively light (from me) over the weekend as I'm going to Austin tomorrow for the big anti-redistricting rally, and because I just got a new computer.

So, with that in mind, check out Charles's coverage of the story. You can expect a full recap of the rally sometime over the weekend.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bring them Home Now

By Byron LaMasters

Bush says "Bring it on", military families say "Bring them home". Check this out.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Affirmative Action Back at UT

By Byron LaMasters

The UT Board of regents voted yesterday to let each individual school within the UT system decide what they would do regarding affirmative action. They declined a systemwide policy, though. The Daily Texan reports:

Consideration of race in admissions and financial aid will be left to individual UT System schools after the Board of Regents declined to implement a system-wide policy on affirmative action.

School policies may be revised after Supreme Court decisions in late June negated a ban on race-based policies that stemmed from the Hopwood case of the mid-1990s. But details of the revisions will be left to each campus, and schools must consider race-neutral alternatives before implementing any race-conscious policies, Board Chairman Charles Miller said.

UT law professor Doug Laycock said the board will still act as a supervisor in the process.

"Review will occur at the system level, but the individual policies will come from each campus," Laycock said. "We have to have plans that vary by program."

According to the resolution released by the regents Thursday, each campus will be required to submit a proposal to the board, outlining their policy and demonstrating that race-neutral admissions policies are inadequate, Miller said.

Admissions and financial aid revisions submitted to the regents for approval this fall will go into effect by fall 2004 at the earliest, he said.

UT System Chancellor Mark Yudof said the Board of Regents would also continue to monitor the necessity of race-conscious admissions policies and that the regents' guidelines will be revisited in the next five years.

It's a matter of proceeding conscientiously, Yudof said.

"The question is: What would be a careful, prudent, lawful affirmative action program?" Yudof said.

Under the new resolution, each UT System campus would have a different plan based on the demographics, needs and goals of the institution, Yudof said.

The University of Texas noted their intention to use affirmative action for some admissions in a June 23 press release immediately following the Supreme Court decision overturning Hopwood.

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

CA Democratic Stupidity

By Byron LaMasters

I know I'm not really one to talk. Here in Texas we have no statewide Democratic elected officials. Over there in California they've got only Democratic statewide elected officials. Democrats control both chambers of the legislature in California, and none in Texas. Fine. But based on the past week, I have no clue how the California Democratic Party managed to sweep the state in 2002. No clue.

The stupidity of the party of the past couple of weeks is absurd. Davis should have handpicked a replacement candidate (Feinstein, Bustamente, etc.) for himself, and got every major Democrat to endorse that candidate in the second part of the ballot. Throughout the campaign the two of them could have run on a ticket of "Recall: No, Bustamente/Feinstein/etc: Yes!". Against a divided field, a 35-40% reliably Democratic vote would have at least won the second round of the balloting.

Instead, Davis showed no leadership, just like our bitch, err Governor Perry. Too bad Texas doesn't have a recall mechanism, but I digress. So instead of doing what would be in his and in the Party's best interests, Davis decided to rely on the courts to stop the recall and allow him to be on the replacement ballot. Someone should have talked some sense into him. One, going to the courts looks desperate. And, two, it didn't do him any good. (And before one of my conservative readers makes the comment that Texas Democrats are going to the courts and thus the preceding comments apply to them, I would respond by saying 1. The Texas Democrats have nothing to lose in going to the courts. The Texas Republicans are doing it, too. And none of the Texas 11 have much to worry about in re-election. In fact, there is a potential to lose 6-8 congressmen if they don't fight tooth and nail, and 2. There is a distinct possibility that going to the courts will do the Texas Democrats some good).

So, where did all this leave the California Democrats? Well, Arnold decides to run and the party decides that Davis is toast. Instead of coming up with a coordinated plan of how to deal with it, though, the situations spirals into chaos. Bustamente runs. Then Garamendi runs. Who knows who will run tomorrow. Most of us Democrats would agree that the recall is wrong, but the California Democrats strategy of fighting it is idiotic. Texas Democrats may not have figured out how to win a statewide office, but at least we know how to fight like hell against Republican power grabs.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:32 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

A New Computer

By Byron LaMasters

Well, I have a new computer. So, I've been installing lots of stuff and configuring things and all. Blogging from me will likely be kind of light over the weekend (as I'm also going to Austin for most of the day Saturday). I have my father to thank for the new computer. I had a 2+ year old Dell which I had numerous problems with (everyone else seems to have had a good experience with Dell. Not me). For a log of my experiences with Dell in 2001, go here. Needless to say, I'm never getting another one (you'll notice that I was a little bit angry when I made that page). Fortunately, one of my father's new hobbies is building computers. So, esentially he gave me his old computer with a new hard drive (which is only a year old and much faster than my Dell) and built himself a new computer. We're both happy. I'm using Windows XP Professional for the first time on my computer (I've used it at the UT liberary). UT students can buy Windows XP for $6 at the Campus Computer store (UT has a deal with Microsoft), so it was worth it. Anyway, I've installed Kazaa Lite, and am downloading all my music, so I'm having fun.

Speaking of my father, he's a doctor, and has asked me to write here that he strongly supports Prop 12. As you may know, I've come out in opposition to Prop 12. My father and I have debated the issue several times, and I've offered to post his comments on here unedited if he would like that (of course I would comment on whatever he says, but I'd post anything that he would write).

Finally, I'd like to welcome Andrew back to Texas. He spent the summer as an intern for Howard Dean in Burlington, Vermont. Now, he's back in Texas. He'll be glad to know that I attended my Meetup last night and wrote letters to two undecided Democratic / independent voters in New Hampshire on why I support Howard Dean.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:30 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 07, 2003

To the Courts - Dewhurst, Dems file suit

By Byron LaMasters

Two lawsuits have been filed today. The first was by the Democratic senators in the Travis County (Austin) district court. They asked that the court not allow the Dewhurst arrest senators if they returned to Texas. Perry and Dewhurst countered by filing a suit at the Texas Supreme Court asking for the power to enforce sanctions on the absent senators. The Austin American Statesman reports:

Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have asked the Texas Supreme Court to rule that the 11 Senate Democrats boycotting the special session "are acting contrary to their duties under the Texas constitution and Texas Senate rules."

The court filing by the Republican leaders came a few hours after Democrats filed their own lawsuit in Travis County district court. They asked a judge there to rule that Perry did not have the power to call a special session on congressional redistricting and asked for a ruling that Senate leaders cannot have the boycotting lawmakers arrested if they return to Texas.

Perry and Dewhurst's lawsuit asks the Supreme Court to order the 11 Democrats to return to work and to impose sanctions if they don't.

"Today, I joined Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a move designed to resume work on the critical issues facing our state," Perry said in a statement. "The people of Texas should know that this decision was a difficult one, but one that's now necessary because of the refusal of 11 senators to fulfill their legislative responsibilities. This action is an attempt to protect our constitution and prevent a handful of legislators from misusing Senate rules to bring government to a halt."


The Democrats' lawsuit alleges that Perry has no authority to call a special legislative session on congressional redistricting because the constitution limits that power to "extraordinary occasions."

The senators claim there is no "extraordinary occasion" because the state has a legal congressional map drawn by federal judges and approved by the U.S. Supreme Court. The map is valid through the 2010 Census.

"There is no illegality to remedy in the present situation," according to the lawsuit.


The lawsuit also contends that any attempt by the state Department of Public Safety to arrest the boycotting senators should be prohibited under a recent court decision, which said House officials could not use DPS officials to arrest their members.

Also in the news today, was the offer by senate Democrats to meet with their Republican colleagues in New Mexico on Monday. Republicans complained that the two Republicans that traveled to New Mexico yesterday weren't treated with respect. It probably would have helped if they had notified the Democrats that they were coming:

In addition to filing their lawsuit, the Democrats invited Senate Republicans to a meeting in New Mexico on Monday. Two Senate Republicans had traveled to Albuquerque on Wednesday and met with three Democrats for about an hour.

Dewhurst complained that the two lawmakers were not treated with the respect members of the Senate deserve. They waited several hours before the meeting and were not allowed to meet with all 11 Democrats.

Details about the Monday meeting have not been ironed out.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Recall Roundup 8/7

By Andrew Dobbs

So I spent all day yesterday traveling home from Burlington, isolated from the news for the first time in two and a half months and I was afraid I was going to miss something. Sure enough, I miss Arnold Schwarzenegger’s announcement that he will, in fact, be running for governor of California. I gotta hand it to the muscle man, he had us all convinced he was out of the race and then pow he runs. That was the only smart move here though- this guy’s goose is cooked and he promises to take the California GOP even further into, as Joe Lieberman might say, the “political wilderness.”

Why is that you ask? First off, he’s running against Gray Davis. Davis has never won a single race in his entire life- he’s only caused other people to lose. He can’t tout a record or a vision or a charisma or anything else worth electing him on, he can just make the other guy (or gal as the case may be) in the race look worse. Arnold has about as rich a treasure trove of embarrassing details as anybody- not all of them will stick with everybody but enough will stick with enough people to make this his last race ever. To wit:

1. Arnold’s drug use could be problematic. In at least one of his bodybuilding documentaries back in the day it showed him using marijuana (not a big deal necessarily but likely to alienate the conservative base he has to win as a Republican) and it is pretty clear that he used steroids for years. Pot people can handle, other drugs, particularly drugs that constitute cheating and make people violent are another story. This alone could kill his candidacy.

2. Violence, sex and profanity. All Gray would have to do is take a scene from one of his movies where he blows stuff up, curses or has some steamy love scene and ask if this is the example we want to be setting for our kids. The home of Hollywood probably won’t be as phased as a lot of places, but again, the base will be pissed and it does make him look rather non-governor like.

3. Sex in real life. Arnold is accused of being quite a womanizer and perhaps even an adulterer. Tabloids and other sources have been sitting on these stories for years as Schwarzenegger is known to be very litigious but all bets are off in this race. A couple of stories about a serial adulterer could hurt him- it didn’t hurt Clinton in CA but Arnold doesn’t have Clinton’s charisma or talent.

4. Lack of experience. Poorly mumbling inane lines in a thick Austrian accent as a cookie-cutter character in some mindless action film doesn’t make one qualified to steward the world’s fifth largest economy.

So Arnold has some skeletons and Gray knows how to get him on the defensive. This is bad news for the CA GOP because they wasted their only real prospect on a race he will walk away from in shame.

And now some Democrats have thrown their hats in the ring- namely Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi. Cruz is a much better candidate and Garamendi would be smart to drop out of the race while he still can and having one Democrat greatly increases the chances that we’ll have a friend in the governor’s mansion come October. Regardless of how it works out, Schwarzenegger will come under attack from his right flank by Bill Simon and Tom McClintock and Democrats will side with Bustamante or Garamendi leaving him without any real base except for people who want to vote for a celebrity. Those people already have Gary Coleman (yes, that Gary Coleman) and Larry Flynt, making this race what we all knew it was going to be all along- a circus of unparalleled proportions.

The smartest guy in this race so far might just be Darrell Issa, who announced today that he would not be running. This guy gets his name ID up, gets to claim the biggest Republican victory in about a decade as his own, avoids the degrading spectacle of the race itself and is the only Republican left standing with any kind of chance in 2006. If he can just come up with some answers for some of his past problems, rewrite his bio so that it doesn’t include outright lies and maybe do a bangup job in Congress for a few years he could be the CA GOP’s top dog in 3-7 years. If the party can just keep stoking the public’s resentment and disapproval of the state government and find a way to channel that into anti-Democratic and pro-Republican sentiment Issa has a real chance for Governor or Senate down the road, as much as I hate to admit it.

So here’s the tally so far- Simon, McClintock and Schwarzenegger for the GOP; Arianna Huffington and Peter Camejo as independents; Garamendi and Bustamante for the Dems and Flynt and Coleman just for fun. Definitely out- Issa, Michael Huffington and Diane Feinstein. Maybe in, probably not- Loretta Sanchez for The Ds. She’d just split the vote more and there’s already a Latino in for the Democrats. I think that the advantage lies with the GOP right now and Schwarzenegger but if Gray can make him look as bad as we all know he can then Bustamante has a real shot. Line one I still think passes until I see polls that tell me otherwise. Seeing as less than 10% of respondents said they were “undecided” don’t expect the numbers to change.

Have fun folks, it’s going to be a hell of a ride!

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 04:42 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

GOP Senators visit ABQ

By Byron LaMasters

Yesterday, two Republican Senators visited ABQ to try and negotiate with the 11 Democrats away from the state, breaking quorum. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Two Republican state senators flew here Wednesday for a covert two-hour meeting with several of the 11 Democratic state senators who fled Texas to block a GOP congressional redistricting plan.

Republican Sens. Todd Staples of Palestine and Robert Duncan of Lubbock told the Houston Chronicle Wednesday evening that they met with Democratic Sens. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, Royce West of Dallas and Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa of Mission.

Despite the gesture, however, no progress was made.

Van de Putte characterized the meeting as friendly and respectful, but she and other Democratic senators said it did not change their minds about staying in Albuquerque.

"We still remain inalterably opposed to redistricting," Van de Putte at an evening news conference.

The Senators were sent by Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, says the San Antonio Express News:

The meeting was described as an effort to reach out to Democrats, and had the support of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who a day earlier said he was exploring unspecified "legal options" to yank the senators back across the state line.

Dewhurst provided the leased twin-propeller plane taken early Wednesday by Republican Sens. Todd Staples of Palestine and Robert Duncan of Lubbock. The two sought to meet with all the Democratic senators at their hotel, the Marriott Pyramid.

The article goes on to explain why little progress was made. It's kind of hard to convince the Democrats to come home, when there's nothing being offered to them.

In Austin, Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, said Staples and Duncan sought to persuade the senators "to come back and do their jobs."

"They are not offering anything for them to come back," Wentworth said. "They're there to encourage them to come back."

In all honesty, this basically looks like a pr gimmick by the two Republican Senators. I doubt that it has or will accomplish anything.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:05 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

And I thought Texas Politics was Bizarre

By Byron LaMasters

Get your Georgy for Governor Thong!

And the sad thing is that she's one of the "normal" candidates. Just wait to see what the porn star and the smut peddler will be offering to sell on their campaign sites. *Sigh*

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:13 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Traficant for President

By Byron LaMasters

There's been lot of talk about latecomers to the game with Wesley Clark and Joe Biden, but they're not the only ones thinking of joining the fight. Former Congressman Jim Traficant (D-Ohio) who's now in prison is considering a run for president. He's even got a website up and running, here. According to his website, Traficant wants to kick out of the country "free-traders" like Joe Lieberman, "communists" like Janet Reno and "socialists" like Howard Dean. Yet Traficant is running as a Democrat. Hey Jim, what about George W. Bush?

Yeah Jim, enjoy yourself in prison.

Traficant links found via Political State Report post by The Wyeth Wire.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 06, 2003

More from the Iconoclast

By Byron LaMasters

Well it looks like some other folks have picked up on the story of the left-leanings of Bush's "hometown" newspaper, the Crawford Lone Star Iconoclast. Although, out of fairness, their endorsements in last year's election were quite bipartian. They did endorse Rick Perry last fall, along with GOP State Senator Kip Averitt, candidate for State Rep. Holt Getterman (who lost to John Mabry) and Comptroller Carole Strayhorn. So, not really that left-leaning. I think that they, and a lot of other folks have realized, however, that they were fooled by Rick Perry, David Dewhurst, Tom Craddick and their gang of partisan Republicans. They campaigned as conservatives. They're governing as power hungry extremists. Here are some recent editorials by the Iconoclast:

On House Democratic Leader Jim Dunnam - Iconoclast of the Week:

The Iconoclast of the Week is Rep. Jim Dunnam, who led the legislative march to Ardmore and protected the voting integrity of McLennan County and surrounding counties.

The Rightist Republican Gerrymander would have pared segments of Waco into the religious radical loony land of southern Fort Worth suburbs and thrown the rest in with Georgetown and Round Rock’s white flight wealthy.

We need only to look at the debacle of Bosque County, represented by Burleson’s sanctimonious socialite who hardly bothers to campaign down here, let alone represent us.

Fighting this right-wing last straw trick to deny us representation in Washington took courage. It took intelligence. It took resolve.

Dunnam stood up to the anti-education bullies who have pushed the greatest tax increase in Texas history through this legislature.

He saw through the Rightist hypocrisy of crying “no new taxes” while handing homeowners a guaranteed ten-cent-per-hundred property tax increase statewide.

He stood on the legislative floor and called the Rightists to task.

For his efforts, the spiteful right used the House rules to stall Dunnam’s bill to increase penalties for those who pass school buses and injure children.

And these bullies call themselves Christian? These are the hypocrites who called the Ardmore Exile a procedural trick?

Of course Rightist Republicans don’t care about children. Otherwise, why would they cut out free schoolbooks, reduce teacher insurance and retirement, deny thousands of children health insurance, and give our tax money to wealthy private schools?

Central Texas should be proud of Jim Dunnam and John Mabry.

It is high time we found some Democrats with resolve and courage.

It is time to launch the Dunnam for Governor campaign.

On redistricting:

The Icons of the Week are the Texas House of Representatives members who voted to approve a new Congressional redistricting map that destroys the “communities of interest” landscape throughout the state, Central Texas in particular.

Several counties were unnecessarily split into sections. The map, if ultimately approved by the State, would have disastrous ramifications for most Central Texans.

The approval came during the 4th of July holiday without the input, consideration, or knowledge of many of the cities and rural areas that were targeted for disection. Why? Because nobody in his right mind would be for this type of gerrymandering, this type of maiming. There would be next-to-zero support, which is why it was done in the shadows.

The Senate can put a stop to this. But do its members have the guts to stand up to Gov. Perry, the instigator of this ill-conceived and extraordinarily expensive special session, and the very radical and politically sadistic Tom DeLay, who quite unbelievably has lured several legislators into his coven?

On "Osama bin DeLay":

The Icon of the Week is U.S. House Majority Leader and right-wing fanatic Tom DeLay for uniting Texas Democrats with his sneak-thief Gerrymandering scheme to deprive representation to neighborhoods and cities who question his radical views.

The current court-approved redistricting plan gives Democrats a slight edge, but not because it is set along partisan lines.

These plans are supposed to extend to the next census. They always have.

The map now in effect is based on commonality, areas that share economic and geographical interests.

Its just that DeLay and his child-stoning pharisees can’t sell their mouthy hate-mongering to everyone in the state, so they seek to deprive any voice at all to the reasonable and just.

The Republican Party must reclaim its role as the voice of reason.

The decent GOP members who gained their rightful place at Texas’ political table a decade ago decried the Democrat’s redistricting based on political power rather than popular commonality.

Did they only seek the right to apply the same injustice for their own interests?

Can we not sell our ideas without political chicanery that haunted Texas politics for a century and a half?

Now comes Osama bin DeLay, who wants power and does not care whose rights he tramples trying to get it.

DeLay knows that he cannot sell his ideas outside the strongholds of his fellow fanatics.

He seeks to force the rest of us into them.

Our personal convictions are irrelevant.

Believe as DeLay preaches. Think as DeLay thinks. Do as Delay says.

Thus saith DeLay.

Moderate Republicans should remember the words of Haile Selasse, the first victim of European Fascisim: “It is we today. It will be you tomorrow.”

Perhaps someone should remind us all that the author of the U.S. Constitution, James Madison, warned that among the chief dangers to freedom is the “tyranny of the majority.” In a truly free society, rights and ideas of the minority are heard, respected and considered, and that popular notions are seldom right.

Among the popular ideas that once prevailed in Texas were slavery, genocide, child labor, and wife-beating.

Perhaps DeLay longs for those good old days.

On Republican State officials:

The Icons of the Week are the Rightist state officials who shut down the state’s “pay-now-educate-later” tuition plan that allows parents to pay their children’s future college costs at today’s prices, and fascist gerrymanderer “Killer” Phil King for suggesting the legislature doesn’t need any more public hearings on congressional redistricting.

The Texas Tomorrow Fund, which has participation at an all-time high this year, was a plan to ensure that working people had a chance to send their kids to college by paying tuition at today’s rate while their children were young.

Republicans hated it. Now that the Rightists have passed the law which allows college administrators, rather than elected officials, set tuition, the program is being shut down because, administrators say, they have to “reassess” whether the program can still operate with the guaranteed tuition hikes the new law ensures.

State officials say they will continue the program just as soon as they get the finances straight.

Fat chance. At any rate, more than 20,000 Texas families per year who sign up for the program are now out of luck, and their kids are out of college.

Don’t Confuse Him With Facts. King redrew his obviously racist redistricting map this week because it so clearly diluted minority voting strength that it embarrassed the Republican Party.

He now claims his new map doesn’t need any more pesky input from citizens at public hearings, like the one scheduled next week for McLennan County, the Weatherford Wacko said.

Voters have been giving the Rightist Republicans such tongue lashings at other hearings they are getting nervous.

Texans are beginning to see this money-squandering redistricting session for what it it: A greedy political power grab that ignores the needs or will of the voters.

King’s map splits the Waco area up so that our votes will not be needed to elect any candidate to congress.

No wonder King and his power-grabbing Rightists don’t want to listen to us.

On Rick Perry:

The Icon of the Week is Gov. Rick Perry, who was proved an inveterate liar again this week. Throughout the campaign, Slick Rick responded to criticism by saying he knew of no waste that could be cut from state government.

Of course a guy who’s become wealthy based solely on a career of holding political office would say that. This week State Auditor Lawrence F. Alwin sent lawmakers a letter outlining $7 billion of fraud and waste at the Perry-Bush administration’s agencies. He cited mismanagement, lack of oversight, funding that was spent in ways the legislature never authorized, and outright fraud. Of particular interest was money siphoned off by private companies doing contracting to do work for the state.

This “privatization” was touted as a money-saving measure by the Perry-Bush political machine. Of course, they never specified who would save.

Perry also promised he would not cut funds for education, then this week shut off more than $220 million for high schools, colleges, libraries, and health-care educators.

The grant money was earmarked to create distance learning systems so students could take classes that are not offered at their schools. They could study and do research by television or internet networks under the best teachers in their fields, educational opportunities not available otherwise.

Tricky Ricky has proved again that to be elected one does not have to do well; only lie well.

And again:

The Icon of the Week is lying Governor Rick Perry for proposing a record-breaking Texas tax increase and hiding it so he and his know-nothing cronies won’t have to take the blame.

Cut funding for Community Colleges, said Tricky Ricky in his State of the Disaster speech last week. Take the telephone tax away from public libraries. They don’t need computers. He didn’t suggest increasing the allowable local property tax valuation cap to $1.60 per hundred, but our sources say that’s what he plans.

Our all-hat-no-cattle governor pretends not to know that Community Colleges serve the largest number of students in the state, and that the majority are first-generation college students.

A high percentage of these are people getting vocational training that “Education Reform” cut out of public schools during the Reagan disaster.

These are people learning to earn a living at places like TSTC, not take over daddy’s paneled office when he retires and they get their bought-and-paid-for degree from an expensive private school.

After all, poor students won’t be able to contribute to the governor’s campaign for years!

They’re also people who don’t even own computers to do research at home. Since the governor’s plans include a 12.5 percent cut from Community College funding levels set last year, and school library hours will have to be cut. They will have to join high school students without home computers at the public library.

But then the governor wants to cut computer technology from public libraries. Because of the lousy economy, more people are returning to school to get retrained, and most colleges have had large enrollment increases.

The governor now proposes that those schools educate more students with a 12.5 percent cut in funds set before those increases. That means local taxpayers will have to come up with the money or watch higher education in their communities die.

God help higher education in Texas, because the governor won’t. Meanwhile, on the public school front, the governor’s only real plan to deal with Robin Hood reform is to permit local tax increases to make up the deficits. This newspaper has submitted a non-tax, investment plan to many state senators that would remedy the problem, both long term and short term, but nothing has come of it...yet.

Tricky Ricky slips and slides up and down the pink dome and around the truth, croaking his tired, empty promise of “no new taxes.” What he really means is: No new taxes that can be blamed on him.

And Again:

The Icons of the Week are Gov. Rick Perry and Rep Arlene Wohlgemuth, for their roles in allowing the state to seize the homes of those who die in nursing homes. The two lying Rightists pushed a “no new taxes” campaign during the legislative session, then sneaked in one of the most onerous taxes in Texas history.

Wohlgemuth and Perry were part of a conspiracy to levy an inheritance tax on the old, poor, and sick. Wohlgemuth employed some political slight-of-hand in getting the bill passed. Her committee made a show of denying the amendment, which is worded so that it does not even mention home siezures, but when it was added on the House floor, she said nothing.

It is not bad enough that she led the charge in denying thousands of Texas children health insurance, she allowed the state to go after the old as well. Wohlgemuth is a brave woman. She only fights children and old people.

Perry, washing his hands like Pontius Pilate, whined that he had to sign the bill because of the budget crunch. This is another example of hidden taxes that Perry and his henchmen have passed on to Texans as local taxes and fee increases. With education cuts, health care reductions, and now this home siezure inheritance tax, this administration has sneakily passed the largest tax increase in Texas history.

On the Republican War on Education:

The Icon of the Week is the Rightist Republicans’ efforts to end state college education for Texas’ middle class.

The GOP extremists who control both the House and the Senate have passed tuition “deregulation” bills that are guaranteed to increase tuition in Texas.

That is, appointed college trustees will determine Texas’ future higher education prices, not the elected Legislature.

Colleges will simply vote themselves rich. With state funds for higher education already slashed by the Rightists, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn announced this week that Texas Tomorrow, the pre-paid tuition program, will be shut down, prohibiting working Texans from paying their children’s tuition a little at a time throughout their young years.

The plan effectively freezes tuition rates for those children at today’s prices. The Rightists, who believe education should be reserved for only the upper classes, hate the program. Because her fellow Rightists want massive tuition increases at state universities and colleges to keep out the middle class riff-raff, Strayhorn wants to shut the program down.

The Republicans’ war on education may soon be over. Education will lose.

And on Dewhurst, before Dewhurst lied:

The Iconoclast of the Week is Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a true Republican who won’t go along with the Rightist gerrymandering that will allow fascists like U.S. House Speaker Tom DeLay and Gov. Rick Perry to sieze power.

After the debacle in which Democratic legislators fled the state to stop Rightists from doing away with the court-ordered, census-based congressional districts, Perry said he would not spend the $1.7 million needed to get rid of DeLay’s political enemies.

He lied. Again. But then the governor rarely tells the truth about anything.

The religious fanatic Minority Leader dictator from Sugarland specifically wants to deny Waco and Austin their own representatives because Congressmen Chet Edwards and Lloyd Doggett won’t obey him.

DeLay’s plan would include part of Doggett’s district in a long, thin strip that stretched all the way to the Mexican border. In places it was less than a mile wide. Those living in that part of Austin would have no representation at all. Waco and surrounding communities would be split up between the religious lunatics in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs and the white flight rich of Williamson County.

Clearly Perry’s phoney interest in saving Texas taxpayers’ money is a mask for a power grab. If the Rightists had wanted to save money, they could have compromised and worked with Democrats during the regular session to avoid any special session.

As it is, the Rightists’s partisan machinations, sneaky political tricks and just plain laziness took up so much time during the regular session that we now have to pay these overtime. It is sufficient to say that these anti-public servants are so caught up on power games they wrote a budget that is not balenced by their own comptroller’s admission, and had to resort to under-the-table machinations to sneak it out of Austin.

Thankfully, Dewhurst is more interested in government than in power. He has said he will leave in place Texas Senate rules that will allow Democrats to block debate on any redistricting bill they do not deem as fair. Interestingly, Dewhurst doesn’t believe the current map reflects Republican strengths, either, but he has said the principle of one-man, one-vote should be considered.

Rightists should be reminded that they had the opportunity to draw a redistricting plan two years ago. They failed, and the federal courts had to draw it for them. That failed plan was almost exactly like this one.

In every other state in the union, this debate is over. But those states are not in the dictatorial grasp of power-mad fascists. Thank you, Mr. Dewhurst, for being the voice of reason.

Note: I did not provide links for all of the editorials. You may find them by doing searches on the Iconoclast website on the above topics. Thanks.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Alright Texas Dems, A call to Action!

By Byron LaMasters

I'll be in Austin this Saturday, will you? If any BOR readers or fellow bloggers will be in Austin for the rally, let me know! Most cities have buses taking people to the rally, so check with your local county party. I volunteered to phone bank for the Dallas County Democratic Party last night to help fill up some buses (more info here for you Dallasites out there).


Had enough of Rick "The Puppet" Perry?
Had enough of Texas' children being held hostage by the Republican power grab?
Let Your Voice Be Heard!
Send a message to the Governor to STOP REDISTRICTING!
Saturday, August 9th, 11:30 AM
South Steps, Texas State Capitol
A Texas 11 Rally Information line has been set up at 512/480-8999. Please call them for transportation information.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:40 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Imagine this. Democrats Right, Perry Lied

By Byron LaMasters

It really doesn't get any clearer than this. Last week Republicans argued that Democrats breaking quorum prevented the state from distributing $800 million for needy children. The Austin American Statesman on Tuesday, June 29th reported:

As this year's first special legislative session imploded Monday afternoon, Republican leaders pulled an unexpected political reverse and accused their Democratic rivals of hurting the poor children of Texas and their families.

The GOP message of the day downplayed congressional redistricting and proclaimed that the real losers were the thousands of heretofore-ignored needy Texans praying that the Legislature would help them.

"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," Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement that didn't mention redistricting.

"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."

The charges — echoed by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick — were remarkably similar to the rhetoric that Democrats lobbed at Republicans who cut social services instead of raising taxes earlier this year.

This time, the accusations referred to a trio of bills that had received scant attention or even lip service over the past few weeks.

The measures included accounting maneuvers that would have shifted around some state money, giving state leaders more spending flexibility. They would have also allowed officials to spend other money that was just delivered by the federal government or freed up when Perry vetoed parts of the state's $117 billion budget.

Critics immediately questioned the Republicans' sincerity, noting that Perry never committed to using the $800 million to offset social service cuts and that he hasn't even added the failed bills to his call for the latest special session, which began Monday afternoon.

As it turns out, however, the Senate wasn't needed to appropriate the new federal money. Finally, yesterday, Republicans all but admitted that they lied:

For the past week, Gov. Rick Perry and Republicans have been firing away at the out-of-town Democrats for holding up new money for health care.

As it turns out, the GOP was shooting blanks.

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott on Tuesday confirmed what Democrats have said all along: Perry and the Legislative Budget Board already have the power to spend new federal money on health care if they want.

That means the Legislature doesn't have to change state law, and the Democrats don't have to come back to Austin from New Mexico to free up the cash (though they might still have to vote on making a separate pot of money available to spend).

"Today, doctors, hospitals and patients can breathe a sigh of relief because the state of Texas has received legal approval to use federal funds needed to address health care needs," Perry said.

The state has received $372 million in federal money primarily intended for health care that were not included in the budget Perry signed in June.

Gosh. Next time Perry lies he ought to at least try and cover it up a little better, but then again, as Sen. Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) would say, Perry's "not the brightest porch light on the block". It always helps going into a fight with dumb opponents. Now, if only the good folks of Texas would stop electing them...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Most Partisan TX Editorial from WHERE?

By Byron LaMasters

That would be George W. Bush's "hometown" newspaper, the Crawford Lone Star Iconoclast. You'd think that they would be as pro-Republican as can be, yes? Wrong. Take a look at this, from the Bush's hometown:

The Iconoclast of the Week is New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who assigned a state trooper to protect the protesting Texas legislators from bounty hunters. The Rightist lunatics who have taken over the state legislature were reportedly planning to hire gun thugs to go to New Mexico and bring back the 11 Texas legislators who fled the state to stop lying Texas Gov. Rick “Tricky Ricky” Perry’s illegal gerrymandering scheme.

Perry’s plan has wasted $3 million of taxpayers’ money in hopes that Perry’s Rightist party hacks won’t have to bother campaigning and explaining these kinds of Fascist tactics. Richardson pointed out that police officers in New Mexico take a dim view of kidnapping, and gave the Texans police protection. These protesters are not doing anything illegal. In fact they are representing the will of a majority of Texans, who oppose redistricting. Of course Rightists have no compunctions about breaking the law or following the will of the majority.

The Rightists should be wary of Richardson. New Mexico’s legislature has just been won by the Democratic Party. So has Oklahoma’s, where Texas legislators fled to stall off the last Rightist power grab. Both those states have warned that they may consider a similar redistricting move and eliminate the seats of virtually all Republican Congressmen from those states. This move by the Rightists is not only venal, it is downright stupid.

Well, a little crazy, but hell, I just love the fact that Bush's hometown has itself a nice left-wing weekly paper. It serves him right. Still, I can think of nastier things to call nutty Republicans than "rightists". Let's be a little more creative here.

Update: The Iconoclast had a similarly partisan editorial back in May when the House Democrats broke quorum.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:35 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 05, 2003

A Page from the DLC Playbook

By Byron LaMasters

Well, it looks as if the Dallas Morning News has taken from the DLC Playbook with their editorial on Howard Dean today. The take the DLC line that Dean is "far left" and unelectable:

The centrist Democratic Leadership Council is worried that a Dean general election candidacy could erase the gains the party made among moderate independent voters during the Clinton years. Council leaders recently alleged that he represents the "far left" of the party and that those who back him are indulging their anti-Bush rage at the expense of a realistic strategy to defeat Mr. Bush at the polls. Said frustrated Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, "Do we want to vent, or do we want to govern?"

The council is right. Dr. Dean is an exciting candidate, but his party faces an uphill battle against a popular wartime president. At this early stage, it isn't at all clear that the doctor has what it takes to lead a successful charge. Recent polling shows that only one in five white male voters identifies with the Democratic Party, a troubling number (from a purely strategic point of view) that won't redound to the Democrats' favor if they offer a candidate seen as a socially liberal peacenik beholden to special-interest groups. Dr. Dean is understandably the Democratic flavor of the week, but unless he can figure out how to appeal to the center, where the 2004 election will be decided, the party is likely to end up with a bad, and all too familiar, taste in its mouth.

Look at Dean's record in Vermont, guys. Dean has a McGovern problem, just like Reagan had a Goldwater problem. Reagan wasn't supposed to win. He was too conservative, and too out of touch. Republicans in 1980 wanted someone who stood up for their values and took the fight to Democrats. Democrats in 2004 want a Democrat who is unafraid to stand up for Democratic values and take the fight to Republicans.

Dean isn't McGovern, and despite what the DLC tries to tell us, we shouldn't buy it. The DLC liked Dean as a governor, and they ought to restrain themselves from the urge to make flawed comparisons. Need help debunking the Dean - McGovern comparisons? Take a look at Ekim's comment on kos today:

When most people make the very tired McGovern argument, they forget or omit several factors (or they are simply repeating the tripe that is spewed out of CW commentators):

1. the Eagleton affair. McGovern picks Eagleton as VP. Eagleton is revealed to have received shock therapy several times. The McGovern campaign flips and dumps him. As a result, McGovern looks indecisive, ineffective, and like just another calculating politician. This happened right after the convention and he never recovered as a result. This single event alone essentially destroyed his candicacy.

2. the U.S. was a very different place culturally at the time. You had massive demonstrations, cities burning, Weatherman bombing buildings, street protests, Chicago '68, acid, hippies, etc etc etc. The American public wanted order and Nixon was their guy. McGovern was incorrectly branded as the candidate of "acid, amnesty, and abortion" - Dean shall have no such cultural issues surrounded his candicacy. He is not the candidate of the freaks, druggies, sex fiends, and malcontents. In fact, the relative stability of internal domestic politics means that a challenger like Dean is in quite a strong position. He in no way represents a threat to the "established order" like McGovern and more importantly his supporters were portrayed too.

3. McGovern actually polled much stronger when he was perceived as the anti-politician. When he moved back to cuddling up with the Democratic machine (i.e. Daley), his numbers dropped tremendously. People wanted a person who was to challenge the typical candidates (Humphrey, Muskie, Nixon, etc) and who would bring at the least some courage to Washington. That's why, racist as he was, George Wallace did quite well in the Dem primaries. Most Wallace voters had McGovern as their second choice. While McGovern and Wallace were far apart politically, during the primaries they had a similar style.

4. the Democratic centrists and power-brokers (Humphrey, Daley, etc) actually refused to enthusiastically support McGovern. They didn't deliver their voters to him and as a result, McGovern lost a huge chunk of Democrats merely because the likes of Daley and the rest were more concerned with a McGovern win than a Nixon win. The former reprented a threat to their control of their party; the latter did not. Had Humphrey and the others helped deliver their supporters to McGovern, he would have stood a much better chance. Would Lieberman do the same to a Dean candicacy?


Ekim | 08.05.03 - 2:01 pm | #

I don't think that Lieberman would do the same to Dean, although I do worry that things could get very bloody in a struggle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party if the primary comes down to Lieberman and Dean. I still think that Lieberman will drop out before Iowa, though. I must say, however, that his speech yesterday was impressive. I think that a Dean / Gephardt race down the stretch is most likely, but Lieberman is angling to unite the conservative / DLC / centrist wings of the party. The problem is that they don't vote that heavily in Democratic primaries, and much of that vote will go towards Edwards and Graham if they stay in the race. With that share of the vote divided three ways, one or two of them will probably drop out before Iowa. If not, I think that those three split the moderate / DLC vote, and the primaries quickly become a Dean / Gephardt fight. Just my thoughts. I'll elaborate more on it later.

I think that what will make or break Dean is his ability over the next year or so to tone down the anger just enough, and articulate a vision for America can unite Democrats and appeal to moderates and independents. As a Dean supporter, I think that he's well on his way, but definitely has some work to do.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:30 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Redistricting.... Tuesday

By Byron LaMasters

Charles took the day off yesterday, but he's back on the latest news today. I'm pretty much taking today off, but he has the latest roundup here more on the possibility of Dewhurst taking legal action, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Recall Roundup 8/5

By Andrew Dobbs

Hey folks, sorry for the absence but I spent this weekend in Limestone, Maine at Phish’s It Festival where I canvassed for Howard Dean. Amidst the copious amounts of drugs, fields of tents, 18 hour traffic jam and hours of great music we taught a few people about the governor so I’ll mark it as a success. But I’m not here to talk about Howard Dean, I’m here to talk about my favorite story of late- the California Recall.

Turns out that several polls are showing the same thing- about 55% of Californians will vote to recall Democrat Gray Davis, about 35% won’t and only about 10% are undecided. It gets worse for Gray- of that 10% that don’t know, most say they will probably vote for the recall and another large block would stay home. Right now the Republicans are slit about 5 ways with former LA mayor Dick Riordan looking like the best possible candidate with surely the most buzz. One-time Socialist Workers’ Party Presidential candidate Peter Camejo is shilling for the Greens and pornographer Larry Flynt has announced he plans to run as well. With this lack luster field the only really plausible candidate is Richard Riordan, who with a healthy amount of GOP support and a lot of Dem votes is likely to to win. He might be a moderate, but he’s still a Republican and a favorite of George Bush’s as well. Having him atop the state government in 2004 would make California more difficult for Dems and could reenergize the California Republican Party, something that we really don’t want to happen.

The best alternative is to do what 4 US Reps and Sen. Barbara Boxer have suggested- run a backup candidate on the recall ballot, probably US Senator and former Gubernatorial candidate Diane Feinstein. With Democrats dominating the state about 60-40, she would be a shoo in not only to win line two, she would probably rise to the governorship as even more people vote to replace the incompetent, impersonal Gray Davis with popular, well-respected Diane Feinstein. There are a few things standing in her way though. First, her landmark ban on assault weapons is up for sunset next year and she will want to be a part of fighting for her crowning legislative achievement. Secondly, she is passionately opposed to the whole process of recalling an officeholder as she overcame a recall as mayor of San Francisco directed by a group of racist anti-gun control activists known as the White Panthers.

But don’t count her out quite yet. She has always wanted to be governor of the state but was defeated by Pete Wilson in 1990 and kept out of the primary in 1998 only by the prospect of running against Gray Davis. This race would cost her nothing- she would just be a back up and her only campaigning would be against the recall- and she is almost certain to win. Additionally, she and Gray Davis do not like each other whatsoever. During her first run for the US Senate she was assured that there would be no challenge in the primary, until then Controller Davis ran a vicious attack campaign (as all of his campaigns have been) comparing her to Leona Helmsley. The campaign was more than a little anti-semitic and Davis was easily beaten. Getting to be governor on the cheap and getting to end Gray Davis’ career in one fell swoop might just be worth the fight. She could even come back to the senate in 2006, appointing some other state official to hold her spot until that time. The only problem is that she’s said in the past that she wouldn’t run, but with the growing chorus of Democrats asking her to run she could claim that she had been drafted- there is nothing Americans love more than a reluctant servant leader (think George Washington or Harry Truman).

Feinstein has until 5 pm Saturday to file and she’d be smart to wait until the last minute in order to keep Republicans afraid of her from backing out and supporting Riordan. Let Simon, McClintock, Issa, Huffington and Riordan all file and then at 4:50 pm have a courier run the paperwork to the Secretary of State’s office and hold a press conference at 5:05 with Gray Davis at her side. It’d create a media storm and a hell of an image- the great leader stooping down to serve the people of the state she loves next to the petty man concerned only with himself… I can’t wait to see it happen.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 04:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Longhorns Support our Senator

By Byron LaMasters

I'm glad to hear that three UT-Austin students were there to support our state senator, Gonzalo Barrientos (D-Austin), although you'd never guess the source:

By contrast, three University of Texas students took a detour from a planned camping trip just to shake hands and get their picture taken with their hometown lawmaker, state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin.

They said they had driven 10 hours straight from Austin and had not had much sleep.

"I don't think that any of the Republicans would have such courage of their convictions, and I just wanted to say thank you," said 20-year-old Austin Van Zant, wearing T-shirt and shorts.

I was fortunate enough to be able to say "thank you" to my state representative, Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin) while in Ardmore, OK. Unfortunately, I'm not able to go to New Mexico to thank my state senator, but I'm glad to hear that Sen. Barrientos has been personally thanked by some of his Longhorn constituents. It's not easy for them to be away from the state and their families, but they're doing what they need to do to stop Tom DeLay, and his bitch Rick Perry from subverting democracy.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:35 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

A National Theme?

By Byron LaMasters

I've blogged twice in the past couple of weeks on a theme for Democrats in the 2004 congressional races. Republicans are abusing their power, whether it be by trying to impeach judges they don't like or by forcing an unprecedented recall election of a fairly elected Democratic governor, calling the Capitol Police to have Democrats removed from a house committee library, changing the rules with redistricting because they don't like the current districts that favor Republicans anyway, trying to change the senate filibuster rule and ignoring senate judicial committee rules to ram through arch-conservatives like William Pryor who won't uphold the law.

The Republican Party at every level has abused the power entrusted to them by the people who elected them. There ought to be consequences for it. Will this become a national theme for the 2004 congressional races? Early evidence suggests that it is. Charlie Stenholm is bringing the redistricting fight to Washington State. From the National Journal's CongressDaily:

Asked about House Majority Leader DeLay's efforts to redraw House districts in Texas to put more Republicans in office, House Agriculture ranking member Charles Stenholm, D-Texas, today warned sugar growers meeting in Blaine, Wash., that DeLay's plans "will wipe out" five districts that are primarily rural. Farmers and others in agriculture nationwide must "take a hard look" at DeLay's efforts, he said. Adding he feels "targeted," Stenholm said no one "can draw [a district] more Republican than mine." Stenholm told sugar growers who do not live in his district that their "financial support will be appreciated."

It's a good talking point. Rural voters everywhere, not just in Texas will be hurt by the loss of five rural representatives. Maybe this could also cause rural / farming interests to reevaluate their support of Republicans and Tom DeLay in many cases. Or maybe I'm just optimistic.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 04, 2003

Texas A&M = Hotbed of Liberalism?

By Byron LaMasters

I never thought so. But apparently one Dallas Morning News reader does.

Re: "A&M let me down," by P. Marcus White, Letters, July 21. Mr. White, a journalism undergraduate at Texas A&M, decries the disbanding of the journalism department. He asks, "Can someone explain to me why I feel left out in the cold?"

While I cannot speak for this fine university, it is fair to say that the profession of journalism was once based on academic principles that include a firm regard for objectivity, aiming to present a balance of views so as to let the informed reader decide one's position on an issue. Gradually, the press has transformed from a respected profession into a political arm of the Democratic Party, bristling with rhetoric that advances a liberal "progressivism" rather than the profession of journalism.

Rather than weighing the contrasting sides of an issue, one side often is presented as the sole facts and the humanity of the opposing side is questioned, implicitly or explicitly (argumentum ad hominem).

Marcus asks why he feels out in the cold? His desired profession has migrated away from the fires of academic rigor toward the outlands of a civilized society where the might of the pen seeks to bully or manipulate rather than to inform.

A&M didn't abandon journalism. Journalism has abandoned the academic principles that are requisite for membership in academic community.

I applaud A&M for its exemplary upholding of the standards of academics and its quiet dissociation from a falling profession.

Robert Irvin, Fort Worth

Ok. Am I stupid or something? Or has Texas A&M been churning out liberals? With the exception of Mike, I really don't think that their journalism department has done too much for the Democratic Party.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Dean's Race Problem

By Byron LaMasters

Well, it's not a problem, but a concern. Dean has a good record on most issues of concern to minorities. He was very outspoken against Bush's decision to oppose affirmative action at the University of Michigan. Dean's position on the war in Iraq should also help him with Black voters, the majority of whom opposed the war. Still, pc wrote the following in my comments. I tend to agree:

Dean's base is gay and lesbian voters, urban and surburban NPR liberal whites, some environmentalist.

He has no base in the african american communities in Dallas, Houston and east texas. He has little support with hispanics in south texas. No major current Democratic officeholder has endorsed him. John Kerry has Henry Cisneros, John Edwards has Rep Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas, Martin Frost will most likely support Gephardt for instance.

I think that Dean's biggest problem with minority voters is that he's never had to appeal to them. Joe Lieberman is known by most Black voters in America from being on the national ticket in 2000. He's also known for his participation in the Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964. Most recently, however, Lieberman decided that appearing on FOX News was more important than attending the NAACP convention. The other contenders, Dick Gephardt, Bob Graham, John Edwards and John Kerry have represented states (districts) with a significant minority population, and are used to wooing Black and Hispanic voters. Also, Black and Hispanic voters have a tendency to support "establishment candidates" in the primaries. I'd love to learn more about why that is the case, because its proven to be true historically and currently.

The early primaries favor a candidate like Dean. Both Iowa and New Hampshire look a lot more like Vermont than the rest of the nation. Thus, Dean can win Iowa without needing any minority support. In fact, while Dick Gephardt's labor endorsements are rolling in, Dean seems to be inciting something of a revolt among rank and file union workers. At least that's what the latest Iowa numbers would suggest:

Dean's support is fairly broad-based. Among likely caucus participants he is the first choice of 36 percent of those with incomes topping $70,000, 28 percent of those with college degrees, 28 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64, 28 percent of those from small cities, and 28 percent of men.

In competing with Gephardt and others for the support of the labor vote, a key Democratic constituency, Dean is the first choice of 29 percent of likely caucus participants from households with a union member. Gephardt, who received pivotal support from labor groups in 1988, is supported by 24 percent from union households. Kerry's share is 11 percent.

Dean's strategy will be to win or come in a close second to Gephardt in Iowa, then win New Hampshire. With those victories, Dean would become the undisputed frontrunner and primaries like South Carolina and Michigan become opportunities for Dean to appeal to Black voters (and Hispanics in Arizona). He won't be favored in either, but Dean's making the right moves so far. His National Urban League appearance was received well:

Former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont chided the president for using the word "quota" in criticizing the University of Michigan's affirmative action program.

"The word 'quota' is a racially loaded word," Dean said. "The president played the race card."

To improve race relations, Dean said, "we need white politicians to go before white groups and talk about race. We're all in this together." Most in the audience responded with an ovation."

Howard Dean's performances at the NAACP convention and at the La Raza convention were also well received. I don't think that Howard Dean will ever be the first choice of minority voters, because he doesn't really have a record on minority issues. Fortunately, Dean isn't making the mistake of blowing off minority voters either (as Gephardt, Lieberman and Kucinich did with the NAACP). I think that in the end, Dean will be an acceptable choice to the vast majority of Black and Hispanic Democrats.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:34 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Redistricting Monday

By Byron LaMasters

Charles has a nice weekend roundup of all the action, or non-action with redistricting. Be sure to check out the Houston Press article on Tom DeLay's next battle.

The Dallas Morning News had two front page stories on redistricting today. One on David Dewhurst's transformation from Mr. Inclusion to Mr. Hardball and another on the Democrats in New Mexico. Senate Democratic Leader Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) didn't hold anything back when asked about her thoughts of Governor Rick Perry:

He's "not the brightest porch light on the block," Ms. Van de Putte said. But, "he really looks good in jeans."

Hehe. Who's the bitch? The Houston Chronicle has more on Van de Putte's lashing out at Perry. Meanwhile, they report that the Democratic Senators spent their weekend with family.

The Austin American Statesman lashes out again at Perry and Dewhurst, as Dewhurst responds. John Kelso pleads with lawmakers to Keep Austin Weird, and let us pick our congressman.

Two San Antonio Republicans traveled to ABQ trying to change Sen. Van de Putte's mind. It didn't work.

Solis and Jim McGrody, who founded and runs a GOP Internet-based political action committee from San Antonio, made the weekend "Van to Van de Putte Tour" to try to persuade her to return to Texas with them.

Both said she politely declined the offer.

Along with the results of a poll conducted by McGrody on his southtexasrepublican.com Web site, the two came bearing treats. They brought empanadas from Van de Putte's favorite bakery, La Poblanita; her favorite brand of chips and salsa; flowers; and a balloon in the shape of a boot with Texas flag on it.

Finally, for a little humor, Republicans want the Democrats to pay for the useless special session that Perry called.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:45 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Blogroll Update

By Byron LaMasters

I've just made some updates to the blogroll and the right-hand column. There's now a section for Texas bloggers, on the left and on the right. I've also added a section for "the pros", and have significantly reduced the size of my blogroll. It's a lot easier for me to manage. I hope others feel similarly. Any suggestions? Am I leaving anyone out?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Meetup Primary

By Byron LaMasters

The Meetup Primary contines, and Howard Dean is once again the runaway winner. He's now passed 70,000. Now, out of fairness, the Dean campaign embraced meetup months before any other campaign. Now, it looks as if the second place finisher John Kerry has had his campaign join the Meetup frenzy, as he has added a link to Meetup on his index page. I think that we all ought to be impressed with the Wesley Clark meetup sucess. He's not even running yet, but he's #3 in the meetup poll. Dennis Kucinich is running fourth in the Meetup Primary as the official Kucinich page also urges supporters to attend their meetup. None of the other campaigns are really pushing meetup, so its really no surprise that the other campaigns have little support in the meetup poll.

So what effect will this have? Meetup proves that Dean has a grassroots network that will pay dividends next spring. Only Dick Gephardt, with his labor support will be able to compete with Dean with grassroots Democratic support. John Kerry understands that, and has belatedly promoted meetup amongst his supporters. The Kucinich campaign also will use meetup as an important resource, as they won't have much else. They'll rely on grassroots support. I'm very intrigued by the Draft Clark folks. If Clark runs, I could see things really shake up. We'll see.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:38 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 03, 2003

Fun with FTP (and MS Excel)!

By Byron LaMasters

I'm working on a post on the Meetup Primary. I've spent much of this evening finding a new FTP client, as my WS FTP is only free for 30 days. So I had to search for a new one. I found CyD Client FTP XP which I really like so far. I wanted to do a graph on the Meetup Primary on Microsoft Excel, which I did. My first attempt is here. Anyway, I'll clean the graph up a little bit, and make it a little bit smaller, do some analysis, and I should have it up by tomorrow morning. I'm heading out tonight.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A Trip to Albuquerque - A Guest Entry

By Byron LaMasters

By Mike Apodaca

This is also posted (with pictures) here.

On Friday, August 1st, a fellowship of 5 members from the University Democrats and the El Paso Young Democrats hit the road at 8 am to visit our senators. We went on this voyage to give our senators a message of hope and appreciation to stop the evil DeLay and his two puppets Perry and Dewhurst. But what were we going to encounter, what dangers lie head, and would this question be answered, "Is Mike correct that Teriyaki Chicken Bowl is the the greatest fast food restaurant in Albuquerque?" This is a testament of our quest.

The five travelers started out at 8 am in a Chevey Tahoe, thanks to my very lovable mother, and we hit the road. If you have never been to New Mexico, or driven through it, its a beautiful state, and is truly "The land of Enchantment."

An unexpected problem and question occurred, how many young and university democrats does it take to change a tire? Well, it takes five. Five of Young Dems to work as a team to try and figure out how to fix a busted tire along the journey. (Sorry Mom, I promise i was only going 95 mph.) But I do want to thank the group for helping me put the tire, even if it did take us 40 minutes. Unlike Republicans, we didn't need to call on-star to figure it out.

After the tire incident, we finally got into Albuquerque and into the Pyramid. Unlike the Holiday Inn for Killer D's, we found the Pyramid to be very boring, few press vans, and no protesters. I thought there would be more action and activity, but, I guess we have 30 days of fun, excitement, and history instead of 4.

We found the room and spoke to a staff member from Sen. Zaffirini's office and told us that the senators were not at the hotel because they are doing work!

Yes, I did say that right, Work! They are not vacationing or just shopping, but the members of the senate have been busy around albuquerque getting new ideas, looking at problems in NM that are similar to Texas, and even going to meetings. Like our Senator said, he was going to come to New Mexico in August anyway for certain issues that affect El Paso. When we got there our Senator, Sen. Shapleigh, was out with four other senators to a Union meeting at the of arrival. She told us that they are visiting nursing homes, schools, poor areas of Albuquerque, the university, etc. Perry might be saying they are just fooling around doing nothing, but the only one fooling around are the Republicans who made our Senators leave. So don't believe the lies the GOP states about their vacation, because it isn't.

We came back at 2:30 pm and the senators were in a private meeting. So we just looked around the hotel, and its not all that. Just a nice fountain with nice carpet. Not really a resort like some thought it would be.

Finally, the doors opened and the senators came out. We ran into Sen. Shapleigh and he gave us the grand tour of their current home. Before that, he introduced us to the majority of the other senators like Ellis, Lucio, Barrentos, and Zaffirini to name the few. Some of them did talk to us for a little bit, and I was really happy to have met Sen. Barrentos and Zaffirini. Sen. Shapleigh had some kind words for Barrentos, calling him a living Legend in the Senate for civil rights.

He showed us their daily routine which starts everyday something like this:

morning at 8:30 am with a daily briefing,
then a press conference usually at 11 am,
then they go out to the community for special projects,
then they come back for another special meeting around 3 pm,
and some more stuff, but I don't want to give away all the secrets.

He continued to show us around the area, the meeting room and the famous press room

During the Press Room visit, we also met a writer for the Austin Chronicle who is covering the Texas 11. We did have a good chat about the PR war with this walkout and about who really controls the press. It's a sad and ugly feeling to know that most of are news sources are own by a couple of large corporations and there are only a few, like the Austin Chronicle, who are independent. Sad.

Finally, our day ended with a grateful offer from our Senator, he was willing to put the bill in for a room if we wanted to stay. We declined because our Senator and the rest of them are doing so much for us and the people of Texas that we are already satisfied. We left the hotel feeling good that we got to see history and give some words of encouragement to our Senator. With that in mind, we ask for all of you to call his office (915-544-1990) or any of the other Democratic Senators.

Yet, there was one question unsolved: what is this darn chicken bowl place that Mike keeps talking about. Well, while I was a student at the Univ. of New Mexico, there was this great fast food place called Teriyaki Chicken Bowl, and I've always talked about it with the members of University Democrats and how much of a great place it is. Last time I was in Albuquerque for the YDA 2003 Spring meeting, I failed at going to my beloved chicken bowl. This time, I was not going to leave without it. After giving the group a tour of "my" Albuquerque, we stopped at the restaurant I always went to and bought a bowl. I consider it the "Chicos" of Albuquerque (FYI, a famous fast food place in El Paso), but my members will speak for that one.

Mike Apodaca is the President of the University Democrats at the University of Texas at El Paso, the Region I Director of the Texas Young Democrats, the College Caucus Chair of the Texas Young Democrats, the Director of Communications of the El Paso Young Democrats, and the Democratic precinct chair of precinct #69 of El Paso County. You may contact Mike at universitydemocrats@yahoo.com

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:56 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Statesman picks up on Dean Ad

By Byron LaMasters

It's an AP article, but the Statesman is on it, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More on Aggie Journalism

By Byron LaMasters

Mike, an Aggie Journalism graduate has his his thoughts on Texas A&M shutting down it's journalism department. I'll spare the temptation to make an Aggie joke. Mike's right. I said the other day that GOP budget cuts are to blame. Mike seems to agree.

Since the announcement, there have been a lot of denigrating comments going around the Web about the quality of the A&M journalism program, as if that is the reason it is being shut down. I graduated in 1989 and don't have a clue about how the program is doing since I left. But like most things, the real issue is $$$.

The Austin American Statesman is following the Daily Texan in editorializing on the issue.

Want to get involved? Go to Save Journalism.com.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 02, 2003

Dem Senators work on Tuition Deregulation in NM

By Byron LaMasters

Well, the Daily Texan reports that the Texas 11 have been busy working on tuition deregulation while in New Mexico:

Democratic senators, taking advantage of their time in Albuquerque, met with University of New Mexico officials Thursday and discussed educational issues common to both states.


The 11 senators met with Richard Holder, deputy provost of UNM, along with students and professors from the law school. Zaffirini said she saw the meeting as part of her work as a member of the Committee on Higher Education.

Good for them. They seem to have been a lot more productive than their GOP colleagues.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

And I thought I was crazy in High School

By Byron LaMasters

Man. Read about some of the battles my friend Chris fought while in high school. Damn, I thought that I was a crazy activist in high school. He makes me feel old. Heh. I'm glad he's on our side, even if he does work for a company (Chick-Fil-A) which I personally boycott.

And while I'm on the topic of crazy high school activists, I'd be remiss not to mention Mark whom I met working for Tony Sanchez last year. Mark is the editor of his high school paper in Plano, and a good liberal one at that. Be sure to check out his blog, too.

It's a relief to know that there are some sane people left in Collin County. Chris lives in Celina (rural north Collin County) until he leaves us for the University of Miami. As much as I'd like to see him continue to raise hell in Collin County, his vote will probably be worth a little bit more next year over there in Florida.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How to get a Republican to Buy you a Drink

By Byron LaMasters

I've figured it out. I was at a bar last night, and being the dork I am, I was talking about politics with a Republican friend of mine. Our exchange was something along these lines:

Me: So you said that you like George Bush? Do you consider yourself a fiscal conservative? Friend: Yes. Me: How is Bush a fiscal conservative when we've gone from having a balanced budget a few years ago, to the largest budget deficits in decades, today? Friend: Well, we had a war, so there was nothing we could do about it. Me: Very well, but then wouldn't you say that if we're in a war, having a massive tax cut is not appropriate? Friend: Well, I pay $150 less in taxes a month, so I'm happy. Me: Fine, but soaring deficits today are a tax on my generation in decades to come. Is that fair? Friend: Well, I try to use my money to help my children and friends. Me: Well, good. You can start by buying me a drink. Friend: *Laughs for about 10 seconds, then goes and buys me a drink*

I love it.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Dean Ad in Texas

By Byron LaMasters

Wow! Texas is relevant in a Presidential election. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the first presidential ad in Texas since... Carter vs. Ford in 1976 when Carter won Texas with 51% of the vote (although Texas was somewhat competitive in 1996 when Dole won by only 5 points).

Len is on the story as well.

In all honesty, I think that the ad will be good for Texas, but not necessarily for the Dean campaign as a whole. Why? Well, I'm happy to have anyone spending $100,000 to $200,000 (via US News) to tell the good folks of this state that George W. Bush is a moron. I wish that Democrats would have done that in last year's elections (instead of running "I agree with the President on this and that, but...). The ad is good for Texas Democrats, especially when there's so much anger among lots of Democrats and independents with Republicans over redistricting. Still, is this the best thing for the Dean campaign to do? I would argue that it's not. Sure - it'll get some media coverage nationwide (Exhibit A, US News article), and I'm sure the local news will be quick to follow.

Here's my concern. Dean is spending $200,000 that can't be spent on beating Bush. Anyone that claims that Dean, or any Democrat will beat Bush in Texas in 2004 does not know Texas politics. Unless Bush is found in bed with a dead girl or live boy, it ain't gonna happen. Sure, Texas can make a difference in the primary, but it won't make a difference in the general. Furthermore, at this point, I'm confident that Dean won't need much help in winning the Texas primary. He's the only campaign with an extensive organization in Texas at this point and most of the people that work in the party admit it. So, I'm not opposed to the ads in Texas... I'm looking forward to watching them when I get back down to Austin, but I honestly think that the money would be better spent next year in a place like Florida or Pennsylvania. I like the symbolism of an ad in Texas, but we're Democrats. We can't afford what I see as something of a symbolic gimmick. I know a lot of people call consider this a bold and courageous move (just read a few comments over at the Dean Blog). Well, I hope that's how the media spins it, but I'm not too sure. Anyway, that's my $0.02. I'd love to know what Andrew thinks about it, or anyone else.

Update: I see that Hope seems to agree with me, based on her comment on Not Geniuses.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:29 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

August 01, 2003

6500+ Unique Visits in July

By Byron LaMasters

Just a special thanks for everyone who helped make July our best month so far. The last week has been our second best week ever, bested only the week the Killer D's broke quroum in May (that was when we were still over at live journal). The 6500+ is up from about 2500 (livejournal and here combined) in June, just over 6000 in May (thanks to about 3000 the week of the Killer D's) and a few hundred in April. Thanks again for everyone who visits regularly, and for any and all donations (see paypal link to the right), however big or small.

We're always open to suggestions on how to make this site better, so leave comments, or email me.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lubbock ISD Uses Pedophilia Defense

By Byron LaMasters

This is nuts.

The Lubbock Independent School District is using two main arguments to defend itself against a lawsuit filed by a gay student organization. One, the district's long-standing abstinence policy. And two, the crime of child sex.

The LISD filed a response to the lawsuit in federal court. The gay student organization says it's fighting for equal rights.

This all dates back to last fall when the organization asked Lubbock High if it could post flyers and make announcements over the PA about its meetings. Their request was denied by the principal, then the assistant superintendent and finally the school board.

Then, earlier this month, a New York based law firm representing the gay student group took the issue to federal court.

The lawsuit claims the LISD violated the Equal Rights Act, which bars discrimination against any group based on their viewpoints. This week, the LISD responded by stating, '...LISD has adopted a longstanding abstinence policy applying to all matters concerning sexual activity. ...Furthermore, of extreme significance, it is a criminal offense (Texas Penal Code 21.11) for children of the same sex under the age of 17 to have sexual contact, no matter the age difference.'


This lawsuit boarders on groundbreaking territory. It's the first of its kind in Texas. Similar suits were filed in California and Utah. In both of those cases, the gay organizations won.

The far right never ceases to amaze me in their zeal to deny people equal rights.

Oh, and there's a reason why I don't edit my comments. I feel that the far-right wing nuts (not the mostly sane but slightly misguided righties that post here frequently) say much more about themselves than I ever could with my thoughts. Here is Exhibit A from today's comments:

kill all the fuckin faggots

Posted by Dimplecrap at August 1, 2003 03:20 PM

Ok, Dimplecrap, I'll certainly give that all the consideration that it deserves.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

From Today's Opinion Section...

By Byron LaMasters

State Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) speaks out against redistricting and about the sense of "betrayal and loss of respect" for Lt. Gov. Dewhurst. The article is, here.

State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) wrote on his thoughts, here, and State Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) pleads for a compromise, here.

State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) makes no apology for failing to show up.

And finally, for a fun column regurgitating the GOP party line, check this out.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Racist Republicans? Here's the Record.

By Byron LaMasters

Save Texas Reps shows a record of race-baiting and hostility towards Hispanics by Rick Perry, David Dewhurst and Joe Crabb. I wouldn't say that any of the three are racists, but as Save Texas Reps shows, all three have had their moments of racial insensitivity.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Austin Rally for the Killer D Senators!

By Byron LaMasters

Here's all the details:



Had enough of Rick "The Puppet" Perry?

Had enough of Texas' children being held hostage by the Republican power grab?

Let Your Voice Be Heard!

Send a message to the Governor to STOP REDISTRICTING!


Saturday, August 9th, 11:30 AM
South Steps, Texas State Capitol

Meanwhile, Save Texas Reps has an online petition to stop redistricting.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

El Paso YD's Support Their Senator

By Byron LaMasters

From Mike Apodaca:

University and Young Democrats to Visit Senators

The University Democrats and the El Paso County Young Democrats are going to be sending their support to their Democratic Leaders this Friday, August 1, 2003 by visiting them in Albuquerque, NM. They are going to remind their senators that the youth of Texas are behind them and to give them support to keep on fighting for real issues like school finance, health care, funding for our medical school, not redistricting.

“Governor Perry has really showed his true colors, that he is not a real leader but only a puppet. While the people in Texas are suffering because of the lack of health care and education, our governor and the Republican Party only cares about their own interest by trying to do an unprecedented power grab. I know that I’m just a university student, but I guess our Governor missed that day in Political Science 101 when redistricting is suppose to be done every 10 years, and we already did it,” states University Democrats President, Michael Apodaca

The Young Democrats will spend all day on Friday with their leaders to give them extra support.

Also, both the University Democrats and the El Paso Young Democrats are planning to have a “Rally for Shapleigh” on Tuesday, August 5, 2003 at 12:00pm at our County Courthouse. Numerous elected officials such as County Attorney Jose Rodriguez will join the University and EP Young Democrats to show our support for our Senator and the Texas Democratic Senate Delegation. Please contact Elizabeth Macias for more information at 915-227-1791 and more information will be known this weekend.

I'll be looking forward to a full report when Mike and his gang return. Mike really does a great job with his El Paso folks. It's good to see a leader like him out there.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

An Early Look at the U.S. Senate

By Byron LaMasters

While I usually don't look to the National Review for a fair and balanced overview of politics, they did manage to produce a decent overview of the senate races from 15 months out. I think that the conventional wisdom is that the GOP has the upper-hand on paper, as more Democratic seats are in play. Still, suggesting that 12 Democratic seats are vulnerable to some degree is a bit of a stretch. Even so, it's worth taking a look. Here's their analysis and my comments on each race.

ALASKA: Republican Lisa Murkowski is a senator because her father made her one last year, after he vacated his Senate seat and became governor. She will have to fend off charges of nepotism, plus a possible pro-life primary opponent. The Democrats are rallying around former governor Tony Knowles, whose main challenge will be distancing himself from a national party that opposes Arctic drilling — something that's very popular in our northernmost state. This is one of the GOP's most worrisome races.

Fair enough. Even with Knowles, Alaska is a tough state. If the race is Knowles vs. Murkowski, I'd call it a toss-up. If it's Knowles vs. someone that beats Murkowski in the GOP primary, I'd give Knowles a slight edge.

ARKANSAS: Democrat Blanche Lincoln will coast to reelection if Gov. Mike Huckabee decides to sit out. He says he'll make a decision following a special state legislative session in September.

This is a stretch. Huckabee might make it competetive, but Lincoln is popular and has little to worry about.

CALIFORNIA: Many Republicans wish that Gov. Gray Davis weren't facing a recall election — they'd prefer to have Democrat Barbara Boxer linked to an unpopular governor leading a demoralized party. The GOP takes some solace from the fact that Boxer hasn't done a lot of fundraising yet. The Republican field won't be settled until after October's recall vote.

Another stretch. Republicans always target Boxer and they never come close to knocking her off. Anyway, I don't see how Davis's unpopularity can really hurt Boxer too much.

FLORIDA: Democrat Bob Graham can't run for reelection and national office at the same time. Even though his presidential campaign is floundering, he remains a strong possibility as a veep candidate. Republicans seeking the GOP nod include former Rep. Bill McCollum, Rep. Mark Foley, and state Speaker Johnnie Byrd. Rep. Dave Weldon and others may also run.

I think that Graham will drop out well before the filing deadline in Florida, but I'm not sure if he'll run again. I'd love to see Alex Penelas run if Graham doesn't. Closet case Mark Foley will never win a GOP primary.

GEORGIA: The retirement of Democrat Zell Miller has attracted a group of strong GOP contenders, including businessman Herman Cain, Rep. Mac Collins, and Rep. Johnny Isakson. This is the GOP's best pick-up opportunity.

Agreed. I think that Democrats could make it competetive with Jim Marshall. I'd love to see Shirley Franklin run, but I doubt that she could win (although it would energize the Black vote to the extent where it could help us pick up a congressional seat or two).

ILLINOIS: Republican Peter Fitzgerald's pending retirement makes this one of the GOP's two most vulnerable seats. Many Republicans were disappointed by former governor Jim Edgar's decision not to run; Andrew McKenna and Jack Ryan appear to be the current leaders for the nomination, though others may yet emerge. The Democrats have a crowded field, but the establishment appears to favor state comptroller Dan Hynes.

This seat is clearly the most likely Democratic pickup. I'd be happy with most of the Dems running, although my personal favorite is Barak Obama. Archpundit has all the latest.

LOUISIANA: Everything rests on Democrat John Breaux — if he seeks reelection, he wins easily. If he quits the Senate, this seat becomes competitive, with Rep. David Vitter as the leading Republican.

Republicans have never won a Senate race in Louisiana. I'd be surprised if Breaux retires, but if he does I'm sure that a group of University Democrats will be there in December 2004 to help push the Democrat towards victory.

MISSOURI: Earlier this year, a Democratic poll showed Republican incumbent Kit Bond looking more vulnerable than expected. State treasurer Nancy Farmer apparently thinks she can win. She'll be a long shot, but the Democrats keep sounding optimistic about their chances here.

This should be a competetive race. I think that if Farmer can get lots of EMILY's List money and is able to portray Bond as tired and lazy (much like Maria Cantwell and Debbie Stabenow did to their opponents in 2000), then Farmer might squeak by. It still leans Republican at this point, however.

NEVADA: Democrat Harry Reid won reelection in 1998 by less than 500 votes. He will be a top Republican target if Rep. Jim Gibbons gets in the race. If Gibbons stays out, Reid probably keeps the seat.

Fair analysis.

NORTH CAROLINA: Golden-boy Democrat John Edwards isn't looking so golden these days — his presidential campaign isn't taking off and his popularity back home is sinking. Rep. Richard Burr will give him a tough time, assuming he seeks reelection.

I still think that Edwards will win re-election pretty easily (maybe under 55%, but he'll win). His seat, however, is jinxed. Still, I think it's quite premature to write his senate obituary.

NORTH DAKOTA: In 2000, George W. Bush ran 25 points ahead of Al Gore and Ralph Nader in this bright-red state. This simple fact gives Republicans hope that they can beat Democrat Byron Dorgan in a presidential-election year. But first they need to find a viable candidate. Their best bet would be former governor Ed Schaeffer, but he says he's not running.

This is another GOP stretch. Dorgan's very popular in North Dakota, and despite White House preasure, Shaeffer has said that he's not interested repeatedly.

OKLAHOMA: Nobody will beat Republican Don Nickles if he runs for reelection — but he says he won't make an announcement until early next year. If the seat opens, GOP Rep. Ernest Istook may throw his hat in the ring. Without Nickles, though, the race would be competitive.

Next time there's an OK open seat, Brad Carson will run and make things competetive, but Nickles is safe as long as he wants the seat.

PENNSYLVANIA: Republican Arlen Specter faces a conservative primary challenger in Rep. Pat Toomey. A Specter loss would be a major upset, but Specter appears to be taking Toomey seriously. Democrats are getting behind Rep. Joe Hoeffel, who would be an underdog against Specter but would give Toomey a genuine race.

I'm certainly looking forward to a bloodbath in the GOP primary. Specter will win the primary, but he could be vulnerable in November if the primary is sufficiantly bloody.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Democrat Ernest Hollings hasn't said yet whether he's running for reelection, but he isn't raising money like a man who intends to stay in the Senate. Republicans like their odds no matter what he decides — though they've often put Hollings in their crosshairs before, only to see him survive. The top GOP candidates are former attorney general Charlie Condon and Rep. Jim DeMint.

Hollings will probably hold on if he runs again. Otherwise, the seat is right up there with Georgia in terms of Democratic vulnerability.

SOUTH DAKOTA: Republicans would love nothing more than to defeat Tom Daschle next year, and there's a chance former Rep. John Thune, who narrowly lost to Sen. Tim Johnson last year, could do it. But so far he's undeclared.

Another stretch. Thune's chance was last year against Johnson. If he couldn't beat Johnson, he won't beat Daschle. And now Daschle has a blog, so clearly, he can't lose now.

WASHINGTON: Republican congressman George Nethercutt announced yesterday that he will challenge Patty Murray. As an incumbent, Murray must be considered the favorite. Nethercutt, however, knows something about knocking off big-time Democrats: He was elected in 1994 by beating Speaker of the House Tom Foley. Murray is sure to bring up the fact that since then, Nethercutt has reneged on a term-limits pledge.

Murray has two solid victories under her belt. Dunn would have given her a run, but Nethercutt won't be able to compete with Murray in the western part of the state and the suburbs where votes needed for a Republican to win in Washington are. Just because he beat Tom Foley doesn't mean he can walk on water.

WISCONSIN: Democrat Russ Feingold is the odds-on favorite, but the Republican nominee here may get a boost if the president campaigns heavily in the state, as is expected.

Another stretch. But this race could become competetive. Feingold always runs close races, so it could become a race.

So Ohio won't be competetive? C'mon! We got Jerry! I'm more surprised that KY (Bunning) and CO (Campbell) are not even on the radar screen. Do I expect Democrats to pick up either? Not really, but I think that both could become competetive, especially if Campbell retires.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

More from New Mexico

By Byron LaMasters

Rick Perry yesterday hinted that he'll call a third special session to deal with redistricting if he needs to. The Austin American Statesman reports.

Gov. Rick Perry this morning hinted he may call a third special legislative session on congressional redistricting if this one expires on Aug. 26 without a new map.

"If the work of the state of has been done, I would expect everyone can go home on a Labor Day vacation," he said. "If not, we may be back here continuing to work on the issues that are important to the state."

With an upcoming deadline of October 6th for a redistricting plan to become effective for 2004, Republicans led by Phil King, are looking for ways to delay the filing deadline for Congress.

The Houston Chronicle ran a story on the Albuquerque reaction to the Democratic state senators. No one really cared.

The big story has been the talk among the Democrats of how to return. The Fort Worth Star Telegram has the details.

The Democratic senators in exile may ask the federal courts to halt to redistricting in the Texas Legislature, which would allow them to return home without having to participate in the effort that would likely end with their party losing clout in Washington.

On Day 4 of their holdout in an Albuquerque hotel, the 11 Democrats remained tight-lipped about their strategy to end the standoff with Texas Republican leaders. At their daily press briefing, several senators said they have to keep open every alternative, but they insisted that no decision had been made on whether to go to court.

"We're going to keep all options open," said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas.


The request would seek to prevent Dewhurst dropping the Senate the two-thirds tradition, said the source, who requested anonymity to keep from putting his job at risk.

"The thinking being this: For the first time, minority and minority-impact senators ... now have, for the first time, enough votes to block legislation under longstanding Senate rules," the source said. "So rescinding the two-thirds rule and .. would be an infringement on minority voting rights."

Neither Governor Perry, nor Lt. Gov. Dewhurst were particularly pleased with the idea.

"That's like negotiating for hostages," Perry said at a news conference in Austin.

Asked to comment on the possibility that the Democrats might pursue court action, Perry simply said: "I have no idea."

Dewhurst issued a statement expressing dismay that the Democrats would consider asking a federal judge "to interfere with our state legislative processes."

Where would the Democrats go to court? Probably in south Texas where it could go to Democratic judges.

The source did not know when it might be filed or who might file it, and said no decision has been made to go forward. But if they decide to take legal action, court papers would be filed "somewhere in South Texas."

Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, helped fuel speculation about a potential court action when he told a reporter late Wednesday that South Texas' federal courts have proven friendly venues for lawsuits filed on behalf of minority groups.

On Thursday, he told the Star-Telegram that he was not "forum-shopping" a lawsuit as Dewhurst suggested in his statement.

"I am not saying we are going to court or even that we should," Lucio said. "But if we do, it would be my preference that it would be in a court that is friendly and fair. That's what I was trying to say."

So, that's where we stand for now.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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