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September 30, 2003

Sherry Boyles Running for State Chair

By Byron LaMasters

And I think that she's one of a few people that would make for a great chair for our party. Check out her website from her run for railroad commissioner. She brings a lot to the table with her campaign. She's young, articulate, attractive, gives a good speech and stays on message (and it's a good message). She also has a pretty strong resume and is widely respected throughout the party. Here's her annoucement via the Quorum Report:

Announcement by Sherry Boyles to Run for State Democratic Party Chair

(AUSTIN) I am running for State Party chair because I am deeply concerned about the direction of our state. At every turn, Democrats fight for laws that would create jobs, improve our schools, and make sure we do the right thing for our fellow Texans. The Republican majority fights for their friends who got them into office with big bucks.

With these big bucks, Republicans engage in marketing campaigns that make you think they are for grandma and little Jimmy down the street. But don’t look at TV ads, look at the votes. When you look at how Republicans actually vote, it doesn’t make sense that Texans would send them to Austin. Texas voters need to know that Republicans are voting against Texans’ pocketbooks, against excellence in education, and against compassion.

Democrats understand the value of education to our economy. Democrats create college scholarship programs while Republicans vote against them. They can talk all they want, but I’m talking about votes. Ask them why they cut the Texas Grant scholarship program, for example.

Democrats fight for funding for excellent teachers and public schools. Republicans cut funding for teachers and schools. This year, the Republican majority succeeded in slashing funds for textbooks for our students. The votes are on record. Texas parents are furious that their schools are choosing which enrichment programs to cut due to financial woes. But school funding took a back seat to drawing new districts so more Republicans can vote against good education laws.

Democrats fight for our most vulnerable Texans so that all Texans have the chance to live well and get through tough times. Republicans cut funding for child health care and for elderly Texans to get the care they need.

I grew up on a farm in East Texas with a father who was a Baptist preacher and my mother was the church pianist and a school teacher. I learned about hard work and taking responsibility. But more important, I learned to care about other people. I know what compassion is and there is nothing about compassion that blames people for pain and poverty. We tell ourselves lies and pretend it is okay to not care about another human being.

Well, it’s not okay that people are losing jobs. It’s not okay that small business owners don’t get the same priority as big corporations. It’s not okay that parents can’t afford health insurance for their families. It’s not okay that our schools can’t pay for textbooks. It’s not okay to act as though people who suffer deserve it.

We talk in big numbers of thousands of children and millions of families affected by laws. But these are people with names.

I will never forget the grandmother who testified before the Legislature a few months ago. She was taking care of her four grandchildren alone. You see, she had lost her daughter and son-in-law in a car accident. She was caring for their four children on a fixed income of $600 per month.

She told the committee in Austin that there were two options. She could get a little help to care for her grandchildren in her loving home. The other option--she would have to give up her grandchildren for taxpayers to pay for these children to live in a foster home. With a Republican majority in the Legislature, the grandmother didn’t stand a chance.

They didn’t care that it would be more costly for the children to go to foster care or that it would affect the children’s lives forever. They are not for grandma’s and little Jimmy’s who may need a grandma to care for them someday.

Our elected officials have an obligation to care about all Texans and to do what’s best for all of us. Texas Democrats fight for all of us so we all have hope and opportunity to pursue our dreams. That’s why I’m a Democrat and that’s why it’s important to me to work on behalf of this party.

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

September 29, 2003

Overview of Houston City Races

By Byron LaMasters

Greg's Opinion has a great overview of the city races over on his blog. Greg, along with Charles Kuffner do a great job of covering city politics. Check out Charles' Local Politics section. Like both of them, I support Bill White for mayor of Houston. I don't have a good reason, really. I don't follow Houston city politics enough, but he's clearly the best choice considering that Orlando Sanchez is a Republican and Sylvester Turner sold out to the Craddick leadership team most of last session. Bill White seems like a decent guy with good stands on most issues and with a solid track record. That's hardly an analysis, rather just my view as an outsider with cursory interest in the race.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:29 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

How Stupid is TOO Stupid?

By Byron LaMasters

No, I'm not talking about our president, but rather about an Austin schoolbus driver who got a DWI:

An Austin school district bus driver has been arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated — with children in the bus — after police said they found her at the helm of the bus in Southwest Austin on Friday afternoon.

Christina Bell Lowery, 47, has been released from the Travis County Jail on a $7,500 bond.

Police said a student on the bus called her father during the ride and said she was concerned that the bus had stopped at a fast-food restaurant. The father showed up a few minutes later and called police.

Authorities said the bus then began moving again and eventually ended up on Escarpment Boulevard, where Lowery was arrested.

There ought to be harsher penalties for people who drive schoolbuses while intoxicated. That's just obscenely irresponsible... and stupid.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Why I Still Support Dean

By Andrew Dobbs

Like Byron, I really truly dislike George Bush. I think that he has been an awful president and I think that these 4 years have been terribly destructive to our country. I also believe that another term would harm America irreparably and be devastating to the Democratic Party. I also believe that we must be practical and look at who will best unseat this president and enliven our party for the sake of taking back the Congress in 2004. There are 7 candidates that have some reasonable shot at winning the nomination and they'd all be better than Bush by a longshot. But one has the best shot of winning and only one can create a movement to dramatically change our country for the better in the process. That man is Howard Dean.

Let's be realistic here. No matter what Bush's poll numbers are like right now, he is incredibly strong going into 2004. Reagan and Clinton both had much lower poll numbers at this point in their terms. Clinton was written off as a one term president through most of his term until the very end when the economy turned up and the GOP nominated a weak and uninspiring candidate. Right now the GOP is at its strongest and the Democratic Party at its weakest since the McKinley era and Bush will have more money than any candidate in history, by a long shot. If employment takes a big jump (he almost certainly won't erase all the job losses, but a few quarters of stunning growth in the GDP and job market will make that point moot) and Iraq and Afghanistan are going swimingly by the time November 2, 2004 rolls around, no Democrat can beat him probably. If, on the other hand, we continue on our current course (as I suspect we will) a candidate that can run the right kind of campaign with the right kind of message can have a real shot against him.

That kind of campaign will not be a Carter/Mondale/Dukakis/Clinton/Gore, traditional, top down, ad heavy, style over substance type of campaign- Bush plays that game much better. He has all the advantages in that kind of battle- he has 100% name ID, the world's biggest bully pulpit, more money than God and a unified, incredibly well-organized party behind him. Thats why we must be guerilla warriors- striking the mighty where they are weak and feeding off of and fanning popular discontent. We must develop a sort of political Judo- using our opponent's strength against him. Howard Dean is the man for the job.

Dean has nearly 450,000 online supporters- nearly half a million people have read what he has to say, gone to his website and filled out a form saying that they want to be connected with his cause. That is more than the number of voters in the New Hampshire primaries and Iowa caucuses combined. Of that 450,000 nearly 120,000 are actively involved in the Meet Up process- meaning that more people say that they are going to go to an organized meeting of Dean volunteers every month than there are participants in the Iowa caucuses. If only a third show up that is still 40,000 active, organized, committed supporters nationwide a year before the elction. This is at a time when 2/3 of all Democrats can't even name one candidate and he already has nearly 500 times as many active supporters as the margin in Florida in 2000. Finally, Dean has raised $12.6 million this quarter from 150,000 donors. Dean has convinced 150,000 people to put their hard earned money towards getting him elected president. That is unprecedented in modern history and is the kind of fundraising operation that is going to beat Bush's pioneers and rangers and his $200 million. Where Bush is mass produced, Dean is grass roots, where Bush is top heavy Dean is populist, where Bush is funded and fueled by powerful interests Dean is supported by average Americans willing to work, organize, donate and support him through thick and thin. That is a powerful advantage over Bush that not another Democrat has anything resembling.

Additionally, Dean has the Judo needed to knock Bush out. Bush has a slick, carefully orchestrated image- Dean is real, unprocessed. Bush has sound-bite policy proposals, Dean has meat and potatoes, something substantive to say. Bush smirks while 3 million people lose their jobs and 6000 families are devasted by having a family member killed or injured in Iraq and Dean is mad as hell. Bush is conservative where he shouldn't be- on issues of fairness and equality- Dean is liberal on those issues. Bush is a bleeding heart where he ought not be- on fiscal issues- Dean has balanced more government budgets than anyone else in this race. Bush is viewed as a slightly dumb cowboy, Dean is a doctor- an expert who knows how to fix things most Americans don't. Dean can take Bush on where he is weak and take advantage of him like no other candidate can.

Finally, Dean will win the Democratic nomination. Really, there are only four candidates with any chance at the nomination- Dean, Kerry, Gephardt and Clark. The three irrelevants are, well, irrelevant; Graham can't raise money and his numbers are dismal, his organization next to non-existant; Edwards is mired in obscurity in the polls and his campaign seems to be populated by people intent on losing and Lieberman brags about getting booed at all the forums- he is a step to the right of the party. Dean will take out Kerry in New Hampshire unless something important happens soon for John and Gephardt is increasingly weak in Iowa. If he loses there, he is done. Other than that, his trendlines are down nationally and Clark and Dean's are up. I believe that the race boils down to Clark v. Dean and Dean has more money, better organization and taps into the visceral anger of rank and file Dems right now. Clark can gain ground before the nomination is locked up but I doubt that he can surpass Dean. Clark is the only other candidate with a shot as far as I'm concerned and I think his vacillation hurts him badly. Dean is what Democrats want- an electable, angry, exciting liberal with a great organization and a commitment to what he says. Dean wins the nomination unless Clark gets some solid ideas and some fire in his belly, Kerry does something new in New Hampshire or Gephardt has a radical change in fortunes. I see Dean winning this race and choosing a moderate southerner with foreign policy credentials, i.e. Wesley Clark, as his running mate. His organization, message, image and the intensity of his supporters leads him to victory. No one else can do it.

Paul Wellstone wrote a book called The Conscience of a Liberal shortly before he passed away in which he described the future of America as he saw it. It was an America where the government becomes a force for change, fairness, prosperity and hope for our people. It was an America where people with the intensity, intelligence, compassion and passion of Paul Wellstone were in charge. He talks about how this country will not be created by sound-bite politicians with $2,000 a plate dinners and wishy-washy positions on everything, but by a mass movement of grassroot progressive activism. Howard Dean adopted his signature tagline "I'm from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" from Sen. Wellstone and it seems he's adopted his vision and organization from the late professor as well. I believe in that kind of America and no other person running now, or ever in the last 35 years has fought for that like Howard Dean has. The less we worry about electability and the more we worry about who has the best plan for making America the country we all know deep down inside that it can be the clearer it becomes- Howard Dean is the man for America.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 02:18 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


By Jim Dallas


Here's a picture from my trip this weekend to Iowa as part of Dean's Texas Rangers (BOR | DFA | Statesman). It was taken Sunday morning outside of Adel, in Dallas County.

I spent Saturday in Council Bluffs, which is across the river from Omaha, Nebraska; and yesterday in Dallas County. a rural county about 30 miles west of Des Moines.

More details and pictures tomorrow - I'm tired!

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 28, 2003

My Concerns About Dean

By Byron LaMasters

I did surprise a couple of people with this post where I wrote that while I am still "leaning Dean, [...] my support is much softer than before". I got a few emails over it. Basically, this story from the Washington Post basically echos my feelings about Dean:

Peter Lehmen and his wife, Theresa, of Keene, N.H., attended Clark's town hall meeting late Friday. Lehmen has given money to Dean and credits the scrappy Vermonter with having the courage to take on Bush and start a dialogue among the Democrats that has shaped both the tone and the substance of the debate. "He was talking about things that other people were afraid to talk about," Lehmen said.

Lately, however, both Lehmens have begun to question whether Dean is the best Democrat to beat Bush. Peter said he finds Dean inconsistent in some of his views. Theresa said Dean is "coming across as a little more abrasive" and appears to let his ego get in his way. Clark, she said, impressed her as someone who could successfully negotiate with foreign leaders. "He certainly presented himself in a very diplomatic but forceful way that I would call presidential," she said.

I hate Bush. I HATE him. I hate everything about him. There's lots of people that I can disagree with, but respect. I highly respect a lot of Republicans like John McCain, Bill Ratliff, Ron Paul, Colin Powell and Carole Keyton Strayhorn. I even respect conservatives like Tom McClintock and some others (there's a good number of them out there) because they're honest about what they believe in, and they don't play games. Bush isn't one of them. Why do we hate Bush? This piece summarizes a lot of the reasons. That Bush hatred is what led us to Howard Dean. When everyone else was being a wimp, Howard Dean was firing back. Now that Bush is less popular, Howard Dean has emerged as the frontrunner because he was critical of Bush when it wasn't popular. But I do think that there are serious issues about Dean's ego, about his abrasiveness, about his issue positions, about his ideas for Iraq that his harecore supporters would like to ignore (or just pretend that it's DLC propaganda). Can Dean win the nomination? Yes. Can he be elected President? Yes. But he still has a lot of maturing as a candidate to do (although you could say the same about any of the other candidates, especially Wesley Clark). Back to Bush. I don't just want to beat him, I want to beat him bad. I don't want it to be close enough for their to be any doubt. And I want to bring a Democratic Congress in with our Democratic president. I'll support the candidate in which I think could best do that. If after a few months, it become clear that Wesley Clark is in the best position to bring us that victory, then I'll endorse him. If Howard Dean remains that candidate, then I'll stick with him. We'll see.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Strayhorn Says Redistricting is Wrong Priority

By Byron LaMasters

The two major clashes in Texas politics this year have collided. Clash number one is redistricting. Clash number two is the internal GOP bickering between Carole Keyton Strayhorn and Governor Perry and the legislature. Now, they've hit head on:

In an escalating feud with fellow Republicans, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn chided Gov. Rick Perry and GOP leaders for pursuing back-to-back sessions on redistricting instead of school finance.

"The Legislature is spending their time climbing up hills when we have a mountain looming out there," said Mrs. Strayhorn in an interview to be televised Sunday. "And the mountain looming out there is school finance reform."

Mr. Perry, who has summoned lawmakers into three special sessions to redraw the state's 32 congressional boundaries, on Friday dismissed Mrs. Strayhorn's remarks.

"Everyone has their opinion," he said. "I disagree with it."

Mrs. Strayhorn has been critical of legislative spending and is seen by some analysts as a potential rival to Mr. Perry or Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the next statewide election.

In an interview for the news program Project Texas with Wayne Slater, to be aired Sunday on Texas Cable News (TXCN, Channel 38), Mrs. Strayhorn said she enjoys being comptroller, the state's chief fiscal officer. But she wouldn't rule out the possibility of challenging either of the state's top Republican leaders.

"To all those people across the state who ask me to serve, I never say never," she said.

A popular candidate who has billed herself "one tough grandma," Mrs. Strayhorn was the top vote-getter in last year's elections.
Mr. Perry on Friday stepped up his political squabble with Mrs. Strayhorn, saying he supports an effort to strip her office of two high-profile programs.

The Senate voted Thursday to transfer the comptroller's performance review and school district audit programs to the Legislative Budget Board. Backers say it will help streamline state government. Mrs. Strayhorn has said lawmakers were taking the action to punish her for speaking out.

As for redistricting, Mrs. Strayhorn said in the interview that GOP leaders have been so focused on finding a way to get more Republican seats in Congress that they have neglected the state's beleaguered system for funding public schools.

"The most important issue that this state needs to address right now is school finance," she said.

"The state has got to pick up more of the share. Homeowners have to have property tax relief, and we've got to have equity" of funding among school districts, she said. "That's a huge challenge. That's what in a real bipartisan way we've got to address and address now."

Mr. Perry said that if state leaders can reach a consensus on a new funding scheme for schools, he intends to call the Legislature back into special session early next year. Only the governor can set the agenda for special sessions.

The state's system of funding schools is under court challenge. Property-wealthy districts want to eliminate the "Robin Hood" formula that redistributes money to property-poor districts. At the same time, property-poor districts say the state needs to put more money into the system.

Texas schools are funded through a combination of property taxes, state tax dollars and some federal funds.

Some lawmakers say the extended fight over redistricting, during which House and Senate Democrats fled the state to delay adoption of a new map, has produced highly charged partisanship in the Legislature that could damage agreement on issues such as school finance.

"We definitely need to have a bipartisan arrangement," Mrs. Strayhorn said. "We need to all roll up our sleeves together and get to work on the big issue, and that's school finance."

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 27, 2003

New Blogs, More on YCT Bake Sale

By Byron LaMasters

I just added Barefoot and Naked to my Texas Lefty blogroll. Check it out for some interesting reads from France's Most Dangerous American Playing Cards to Republicans and English Fluency to Dallas County Politics.

I've also found myself reading the Bedlar Blog for my occasional dosage of insightful conservative commentary (did I just say that?).

Both Bedlar and Barefoot (and Naked) posted on my YCT = Racists post. Barefoot, here, and Bedlar, here. The newly revamped Curmudgeonly Clerk also blogged on the topic, here and here.

Considering that there were 18 comments (so far...) to my post, I'll probably do a follow up this weekend.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:52 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Iowa Bound

By Byron LaMasters

Well, I'm not, but BOR poster Jim D. is. He's one of several hundred Texans who is going to Iowa or New Hampshire for the weekend to be a "Dean Texas Ranger". And no, being a "Dean Ranger" doesn't require bundling $200,000. All it requires is sacrificing a weekend to support the good doctor. I'm not able to make it for the weekend, because I'll be working tonight, and to be perfectly honest, I'm a little less enthusiastic about the Dean campaign than I was several months ago. I think that Dean had the right message for the Spring of 2003, but I'm not quite sure if it's the right message to win next November. Unfortunately, there's no candidate out there that just grabs me, though, and I'm not longing for Al Gore or Hillary Clinton to jump in the race either. Of the other candidates, the only other candidate that I'm really drawn to is Wesley Clark, but things like this and this obviously concern me. So, basically you can put me on the record as currently leaning Dean, but my support is much softer than before. I've officially resigned from various volunteer roles (Students for Dean, Longhorns for Dean, etc.) that I've held with the campaign, although the Dean campaign still lists me as the UT contact (even though I've emailed them and told them I am no longer the UT contact). I'm sure that it will be worked out eventually. Anyway, I look forward to hearing Jim's comments on the Iowa / New Hampshire trip. Whether you're a Dean supporter or not, you have to like the contrast Dean makes between his grassroots Rangers and Bush's Enron / Worldcom / Halliburton millionaire cash-bundling Rangers.

Update: Dean Texas Ranger Melissa Taylor will be blogging her trip to New Hampshire this weekend.

Update: A bunch of other friends of mine will be in Iowa this weekend. I'm sure that Karl will blog on the trip when he returns. You can help Karl raise money for Howard Dean, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

More on Metrosexuality

By Byron LaMasters

Here's another test you can try. My first post on the topic is here. Or you can just read Maureen Dowd's parody on Arnold the Metrosexual.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:59 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 26, 2003

State Fair Starts Today

By Byron LaMasters

The State Fair of Texas starts today in Dallas, home of the Red River Shootout on October 11th.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Brazoria County Democrats Blog

By Byron LaMasters

Via Off the Kuff, the Brazoria County Democratic Party has joined the blogosphere. Kudos to them.

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

For All the Info On the State Chair Race

By Byron LaMasters

Check out the teX files.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Austin City Council Opposes Patriot Act

By Byron LaMasters

In a resolution passed by the Austin City Council yesterday, the council noted its objection to the Patriot Act and Patriot Act II, although it did say that it would cooperate with the provisions of the act. The Austin American Statesman reports:

The Austin City Council officially put in writing its criticism of the USA Patriot Act on Thursday, joining the more than 170 cities and counties nationwide that have passed similar resolutions.

Council Members Jackie Goodman, Daryl Slusher, Danny Thomas and Raul Alvarez voted for the resolution, which also opposed the passing of the USA Patriot Act II. Mayor Will Wynn and Council Members Brewster McCracken and Betty Dunkerley abstained.

Austin's resolution expresses concern that the Patriot Act, lauded by federal lawmakers as an essential tool in fighting terrorism, might have the potential of violating fundamental liberties.

The resolution -- sponsored by Goodman, Thomas and Alvarez -- stopped short of directing police not to cooperate with federal authorities. And as Slusher requested, it does not declare any parts of the act unconstitutional.

The act was approved by Congress shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It gives the government surveillance powers that critics say could lead to the infringement of citizens' civil rights.

It changes federal officials' methods for obtaining records, search warrants and wiretaps if the investigation involves international espionage or terrorism. Agents still must convince a judge that any action is necessary.

The University Democrats endorsed this proposal at our first meeting of the semester. I supported the resolution, although in all honesty, it accomplishes little. I supported Will Wynn and Brewster McCraken in their campaigns, and I understand and respect their decision to abstain on this issue as (I think) they believe that it's not the job of a city government to pass resolutions on issues in which they have no authority.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Responding to Comments on my TDP Chair Post

By Andrew Dobbs

The post is here you can read the comments there as well.

First off, I'd like to thank everyone who responded for your comments.

Secondly, I'd like to address some of the concerns that were brought up an answer some of the questions. I do this in an entirely new post rather than in the comments section because it is all the way down the page and people might not be reading it any more, but it deserves some responses from your's truly.

To begin with Charles' question as to my thoughts on Carol Alvarado, I think that she sounds like a great progressive leader in Houston and was chosen as the City Council member of the Year by the Houston Press Readers Poll last year. She has worked for Lee Brown, which gives me pause, but she has been a great community leader and is the kind of leadership we need. She has been an at-large member of the DNC, worked as a liason with the Harris County AFL-CIO, sits on the Planned Parenthood PAC board for Houston and Southeast Texas and has worked to register more Latinos to vote. I was not really familiar with her (I grew up in Dallas and live in Austin now) until this post and she sounds like a pretty good candidate and I'd group her with Coleman, Boyles and Watson. I'd like to see her stay involved in Houston politics, perhaps challenging Ron Wilson for the state House if she is in his district or Whitmire if she is in his for State Senate.

There was a lot of talk about how shameful I am for saying that the GOP is racist, with Karl-T getting my back and Mark Harden attacking me. All I know is that the GOP has opposed Affirmative Action, the only program that has ever been successful in increasing diversity in our higher education system, which essentially means that the GOP opposes helping African Americans and Hispanics because it might hurt white people. I know that they speak with racist code words such as "states' rights" in their platform. I know that they have people like State Rep. Wayne Christian (R-Nacogdoches) who says that the problem with the budget writing process in Texas is that it is "controlled by the Blacks and Hispanics;" and Texas Supreme Court Justice Steven Wayne Smith who said that Hispanics weren't smart enough for Texas colleges. The Texas Democratic Party has a shameful history of racism in its past but we have become the party of opportunity and acceptance for racial and ethnic minorities and the GOP has filled the old role of racist demagoguery quite nicely. But I digress...

There was a post from "jack" who makes the point that we need "institutional knowledge" to help the party move on and should thus choose one of the old-timers for at least the interim chair because

First, we have to understand how this happned. Second, we have to start building a structure to communicate our message in areas we are failing. Third, we map out where we are going.

These are all good points and are very true. But someone who is an entrenched member of the old party structure is indicted by their position in the breakdown of our party, secondly they are responsible at least in part for our communication failures and finally they are stuck in a mindset that has looked only behind us for so long that we are in a quagmire where our party is quite possibly the weakest state Democratic organization in America. Ohio is the only one even close to as bad. We need to clean this organization out from top to bottom and a new leader must be chosen from outside the party structure. Finally, the time when Democrats were getting elected statewide is an incredibly different era- it wasn't long ego but the political structure has been turned upside down by clever Republicans defunding and locking out the Dems. Those who won in the old days don't know what it takes to win now. Watson, Boyles, Coleman or perhaps Alvarado is what it will take.

Finally, Greg Wythe makes the important note that picking only those issues that I mentioned- abortion, feminism, environmentalism, etc.- we would be a minority party forever and I agree. I don't mean someone who only represents those or even someone who puts those number one, but someone who is known for being on the correct side of those issues and not someone who will sell us out there. Someone who sides with polluters or against a woman's right to choose or against labor or against the rights of gays and lesbians has no place at the top of our party. None of the candidates I have mentioned would put these issues as their only concern- Watson has a phenomenal record on economic issues, Boyles is an advocate against violence towards women, Coleman is a leader on health care and Alvarado is an expert in urban development. But in addition every one of them supports the rights of gays, women, minorities, laborers and for protection of the environment. I'm not offended by Zell Miller's name and he makes a very good point- we must not be pegged as a special interest party, but these issues ARE special and must not be misrepresented by our new chair.

I hope that that covers everything and I hope that the discussion continues on this thread.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 03:22 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 25, 2003

"Do Not Call Registry" Kills 2 Million Jobs

By Byron LaMasters

Do I like telemarketers? Nah, not really, but for millions of Americans, it's a job. And our economy under President Bush has lost more jobs than any under any administration since Herbert Hoover. The "Do Not Call Registry" could, in fact kill up to two million jobs, USA Today reports:

But the telemarketing industry says it also will wipe out as much as half of its $100 billion in annual sales, send ripples through the fragile U.S. economy and put 2 million of its 6.5 million employees out of work. Industry officials say many of those workers are tough to employ: About 5% are disabled, 26% are single mothers and 95% are not college graduates. Average hourly wage: $9.67.

So, it's really a shame, that neither Republicans nor Democrats will stand up for these people.

Am I saying that telemarketers aren't annoying? No, they are, but to me, I'm willing to spend 15 seconds several times a week telling telemarketers that I'm not interested if it means saving our troubled economy a few million jobs. If you aren't willing to do that, then there's plenty of things that you can do. The "Do Not Call Registry" isn't needed. Conservative blogger, Joe Kelley writes this:

Telemarketers rack up annual sales of $100 billion. Clearly someone is buying something from these people that call our house. If telemarketers were totally unpopular, they would vanish due to lack of sales. Instead, they’re thriving. Let’s face it, telemarketing calls are only annoying when they’re selling something you don’t want.

I’m also fearful of the Law of Unintended Consequences – if marketing companies cannot make money through phone sales, how long until they revert back to door-to-door salesmen? I find door-to-door salesmen much more annoying than phone salesmen. Will the FTC stop them, too?

I’m really embarrassed as an American that we feel the need to have the government do something to stop annoyances, particularly when we have the ability to stop them ourselves.

We can:

Hang up the phone when called

Use caller ID and not answer the phone from unknown callers

Screen calls with an answering machine

Use new technology like the Telezapper

Utilize features from most phone companies that can block all unknown callers

We are smart enough as individuals to defeat the telemarketers in our houses and we don’t need Uncle Sam to fight this fight.

Oh, I do support legislation to prevent telemarketers from calling cell phones because, unlike with a home phone, it’s not just annoying, it costs me. The government should protect us from financial losses from telemarketers, but really has no business protecting us from annoyances.

I agree 100%.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:51 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Things that make you go "hrrrrm."

By Jim Dallas

As noted by Atrios, Arnold Schwarzenegger had this to say last night in the California recall debate:

We should model ourselves after Texas.

Well, yes, they should. The sooner those crazy left coast hippies get with the program, the better.

But in fairness, here is the rest of Arnie's speech:

In Texas, they have committed $140 billion for infrastructure (unintelligible) with building 4,000 miles of transportation -- railways, freeways, highways and all those kind of things. They have already taken the position where we were first in export -- now it's Texas, the first in export. Because they are really aggressive. That's what California ought to do.

Oh brother.

If I gave a tinker's damn about the outcome of the recall election in California, I might make an effort to remind Arnold that the Texas Mobility Fund, which allowed borrowing for road construction, wasn't even created until the end of 2001, and I'm not sure where he's getting the $140 billion dollar figure (because the Perry transportation plan - which the Austin Chronicle calls "anachronistic" - is going to cost a whole lot more than that). But in any case whatever money is out there has barely registered.

That Texas is now the leading exporter is nothing to crow about; the difference is largely a function of our economy being hurt somewhat less by the recession than California's (our economy didn't grow, it just didn't shrink).

In 2000, California exported $120 billion in goods, and in 2002 that fell to $92 billion. By contrast, Texas exported $104 billion in 2000, and $96 billion in 2002. (Stats from the Dept. of Commerce)

In other words, Arnold just doesn't know what he's talking about.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Perry's Map: "An Abomination on its face"

By Byron LaMasters

That's what today's Amarillo Globe-News editorial says:

West Texas had been losing its political clout in little bites over many years. That is, until Gov. Rick Perry unveiled a congressional redistricting map that demonstrates a sudden, and none too welcome, shift in the region's political fortunes. West Texas seems to be losing power in one giant swallow.

Perry's map splits the Panhandle in two. The 13th Congressional District, now represented by Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, would cover the eastern half, with the 19th District, now represented by Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, comprising the western portion.

The map is an abomination on its face.

Here is the map that Rick Perry proposed earlier this week:

Sources: Greg's Opinion and The Lasso.

Greg also has a good post comparing congressional returns in given precincts / counties for Charlie Stenholm and other Texas Democratic Congressmen in GOP districts as compared to Perry and Bush's performances in the same precinct / county. Take a look, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

College Republicans T-Shirts

By Byron LaMasters

Via John Kerry's website, College Republicans sold t-shirts at their convention that blamed terrorism on Islam, blamed Bill Clinton for 9-11, and featured two other shirts with anti-gay and anti-African American themes. Here's the image:

Other images here and here.

Update: More on the Kerry Blog, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:16 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Precinct 1 Commissioner Race Heats Up

By Byron LaMasters

The Daily Texan reports on the Precint 1 County Commissioner race between Celia Israel and Ron Davis. The University of Texas is located in Precinct 1 (as is my apartment).

I blogged on this race a few weeks ago.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Racists at UT

By Byron LaMasters

Well, the racist SMU YTC fundraiser isn't the only racist event on campus in this state. At UT fliers were distributed today by a White supremist group.

On a similar note, the UT YCT chapter handed out fliers today calling Umer Zaman is a terrorist. Zaman is not a known terrorist. He is a Pakistani student suspected of transcript fraud. He's wanted for questioning by police, but has not been charged with any crime. I would agree with the Daily Texan that this is an example of "heinous example of racial profiling at its worst". This is how racist / xenophobic people and organizations think. He's an Arab. His transcript was a fraud, so Ah-hah! He must be a terrorist! Lock him up! Umer Zaman may very well be a terrorist, but there's no evidence of it, and YCT is simply spewing racist and xenophobic hysteria by its actions. Here's the full editorial:

We strongly urge the Young Conservatives of Texas to cease posting or handing out "wanted" posters with Umer Zaman's picture, and condemn any future attempts to do so.

Creating such posters unfairly and irresponsibly suggests Zaman is wanted by a law enforcement organization.

No information suggests Umer Zaman is a terrorist. Zaman was never connected to a terrorist organization or accused of aiding any sort of terrorist plot.

Zaman is an international student from Pakistan who disappeared after UT officials confronted him with charges of transcript fraud. Linking Zaman to terrorism represents an overt attempt to villainize him for his background.

The distribution of flyers only creates an atmosphere of fear and paranoia. Casting Zaman as some sort of dangerous figure is a heinous example of racial profiling at its worst.

While federal officials admitted to the Texan they were interested in the Zaman's case, that interest does not mean officials want Zaman in custody.

The production of "wanted" posters sets a dangerous precedent for students who believe they possess the right to vilify and demonize those not yet convicted of a crime. And the implications of that abuse of power don't stop at just one nationality or ethnic group.

A student organization attempting to take the law into its own hands harms both those innocent until proven guilty and the student body as a whole. With the Campus Fusion event just on the horizon, student groups should be looking to extend and diversify their goals and membership rosters, rather than seeking to alienate others.

If the Young Conservatives of Texas believe in condemning those who possess similar traits to known terrorists, the University will become an unwelcome place for students of all backgrounds, nationalities or religions.

Once again, we strongly suggest that the YCT not continue to create and distribute "wanted" posters.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:18 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Arnold Wants to Flush Arianna in a Toilet

By Byron LaMasters

Yeah, seriously:

"I have been in hundreds of debates and I have never been treated like I was by Arnold Schwarzenegger tonight," Huffington said.


When Schwarzenegger attempted to interrupt Huffington early on and eventually just spoke over her, she said: "This is the way you treat women, we know that."

It was one of the sharpest lines of the evening, because of allegations that Schwarzenegger's past statements and behavior reveal a sexist attitude.

Given a chance to respond, the action star said: "I would just like to say that I just realized I have a perfect part for you in Terminator 4."

Huffington said after the debate she took that to mean Schwarzenegger was comparing her to a female character in the last Terminator movie whose head he dunked in a toilet.

"The point I'm making is when I'm speaking and he refuses to give way and he makes a Terminator 4 reference about sticking a woman's head in the toilet, that is what I am talking about," Huffington said.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:24 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) = Racists

By Byron LaMasters

I'm sorry, but this just isn't funny. It's racist. There are ways to make political points. I'm all for a open and honest debate on affirmative action. I support affirmative action, but I can understand and respect a conservative arguement against it. But I'm sorry, I won't accept a blatantly racist ploy like this. The Dallas Morning News reports:

The sign said white males had to pay $1 for a cookie. White women: 75 cents. Hispanics: 50 cents. Blacks: a quarter.

The event Tuesday at Southern Methodist University was no PTA bake sale.

It was a conservative student group's attempt at making a political statement, and it caused such a stir that SMU shut it down after 45 minutes.

The Young Conservatives of Texas chapter ran its so-called affirmative action bake sale to protest the use of race or gender as a factor in college admissions. Conservative groups have held similar sales at colleges around the country since February.

The bake sale didn't raise much money, in case anyone cared:

For the record, the SMU sale was a flop, at least financially. The group ended up selling just three cookies, raising $1.50.

Excuse me while I laugh in their face.


Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:17 AM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

The California Debate, abridged

By Andrew Dobbs

Moderator: Good evening, this will be a night of chaos and confusion. We gave these people the questions a week ago but now we are going to dispense with rules and have a meandering shouting match. Let's begin.

Arnold: *interrupting someone, probably Arianna Huffington* All you want to do is tax tax tax! Businesses have abandoned California, blah blah blah *insert modestly clever catch phrase*

Tom McClintock: *crosseyed* Let's eliminate all taxes except for the most regressive, let's cut all state spending other than enforcing immigration laws. I'm probably the smartest guy on this stage, but unfortunately I don't like minorities, women, immigrants or schools.

Peter Camejo: Hello, I'm going to sloganeer and spout off class warfare rhetoric and pretend I have a chance of winning.

Arianna: Democrats are evil, Republicans are evil, Bush Bush Bush, War in Iraq, John Ashcroft, Enron... wait, I'm running for Governor? *insert personal attack*

Cruz Bustamante: *in a late night R&B DJ kind of baritone* We need tough love for California, I have done everything good in this state for a few years, blah blah blah *subtext*= I'm profiting from a craven attack on my own party...

Moderator: Here we have 5 largely unqualified self-promoters who have the maturity and self-discipline of 3 year olds. An action movie star and misogynist, a cross-eyed Ronald Reagan minus the charisma, two left wing spoilers and a guy who looks like a carnival barker. Good night everybody, we're doomed.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 01:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

FOX News Says Bustamante Won

By Byron LaMasters

Damn. That darn liberal media is trying to tear down Republicans again:

Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante pleasantly surprised some Republicans, and conservative Sen. Tom McClintock and Green Party candidate Peter Camejo showed their true colors. But the constant shouting between Schwarzenegger and independent Arianna Huffington was a unfortunate distraction.

Schwarzenegger also gave himself no help in his search for the women's vote with the exchange where Arianna Huffington said that "We know how you treat women", where Arnold responded that he "just realized that I have a perfect part for you in Terminator 4". Sure, I thought that it was funny, and I knew that Arnold was joking, but still, it's not going to help Arnold with winning women's votes. I was expecting him to say something about his wife and family, but no.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:07 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 24, 2003

More State Chair News

By Byron LaMasters

I wrote yesterday that David Van Os and Gary Mauro are running for state chair. So is Garnet Coleman and some people are trying to draft Jim Mattox. Now, Charles Soechting, former Hays County Chair is running, and there's still talk that Sherry Boyles might run. I'm quite surprised at the size of the field already. I expect it to shrink pretty soon.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Map Passes Senate, Republicans Fighting

By Byron LaMasters

The Texas Senate passed a new congressional map tonight by a vote of 18-13. The House and Senate Republicans still remain deadlocked over the west Texas question. Rick Perry said today that if the situation isn't resolved this session, he'll.... call another session. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Here is the map passed by the House.

Here is the map passed by the Senate.

As the Senate tentatively approved a Republican congressional redistricting plan after almost eight hours of debate Tuesday, Gov. Rick Perry raised the specter of a fourth special session if the bill fails because of GOP infighting over West Texas.

The legislation passed on a mostly partisan 18-13 vote. The only Republican to vote against the map was Sen. Teel Bivins, of Amarillo, who favors creation of a new congressional district around Midland. The Senate map does not create such a district.

Democratic senators entered the debate admitting Republicans have the votes to pass legislation redrawing the state's congressional district boundaries. They spent the debate building a future federal court challenge to the legislation, accusing the Republicans of a partisan power grab that will harm rural and minority voters.

"The Republicans want to cancel our vote just because they didn't like who was elected," said Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, noting five congressional districts vote Republican in statewide elections but choose Democrats for the U.S. House.

"Changing the maps by merging rural Texas counties and districts dominated by straight-ticket Republican suburban voters literally steals the votes of the independent and minority voters who chose those five congressmen," Lucio said.

But Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, sponsor of the Republican plan, said his proposal preserves existing minority districts that are protected under the federal Voting Rights Act.

Staples said there are no proposed changes in seven predominantly Hispanic districts and one black district that already have been upheld as legal by the U.S. Supreme Court. He said it made minor changes in the predominantly black district of U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, and two minority-influenced districts held by Democratic U.S. Reps. Martin Frost of Dallas and Chris Bell of Houston.

I wonder if FOX News will sue Todd Staples now:

"I present this map to you today as a fair and balanced map," Staples said.

Staples' map would all but guarantee the Republicans three additional seats after next year's elections and would enhance the ability of GOP candidates to capture three others. A map approved last week by the state House would give the Republicans a 21-11 majority after next year's elections.

The article then goes on to explain further details of the Republican divide, including some more on Rick Perry's non-compromise "compromise:

The major roadblock to passage of a bill now is a dispute between West Texas senators and House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, over how their part of the state should be drawn. Craddick wants a congressional district for his hometown of Midland, but drawing that district could have a negative impact on congressional districts now built around Lubbock, Abilene and Amarillo.

Perry on Monday offered a proposed compromise that aligned him with Craddick in the debate. Tuesday, the governor said he would call a fourth special session if the Republicans failed to reach an agreement.

"The issue of drawing the maps, the specificity of drawing the lines, is the Legislature's responsibility," Perry said. "If we can help work through any hurdles that are out there, we're happy to do it."

In the Senate, the Democrats tried several times Tuesday to derail the debate by using Senate rules, but Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst turned them down.

In one attempt to use the rules to delay debate until today, Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, challenged Dewhurst's ruling, forcing a rare vote on the presiding officer's authority. Republicans voted to back up Dewhurst while Democrats voted to overturn his ruling.

"Are we being governed by the rules of engagement, or are we making it up as we go along?" West asked.

Dewhurst of course had time to leave his duties as presiding officer of the senate to raise money, as the rest of the debate turned to Democrats building their case for a court challenge to the eventual map:

After that, Dewhurst turned the Senate gavel over to a variety of senators so he could fly to Nacogdoches for a Farm Bureau speech and a fund-raiser.

Because federal court challenges on redistricting revolve around minority voting protections under the Voting Rights Act, much of the Senate debate focused on that issue.

Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, rejected the notion that Democrats are playing "the race card." He said it is Republicans who are playing racial politics.

"Some would say they want the only remaining Democrats to be black or brown," Barrientos said.

He had hinted that he would filibuster the bill but did not.

The Democrats built a case that in seven districts, minority voters provided the margin of victory for Democratic candidates. They said those districts should be protected under a new Supreme Court ruling in Georgia v. Ashcroft.

One of those districts -- District 9 -- is held by U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Beaumont. West and Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, said the 234,582 black and Hispanic residents in Jefferson County and Galveston have provided Lampson his margin of victory in past elections. But in Staples' map those minority residents would be split into two new Republican districts.

"Minority voters in that district are replaced by predominantly white voters from Clear Lake to make that district more conservative," West said.

Gallegos said the plan diluted minority voting strength. Staples said if that is true, it will be turned down when reviewed under the Voting Rights Act by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Fort Worth Star Telegram confirms Rick Perry's intention to call a fourth special session on redistricting if Republicans can't get their act together:

Gov. Rick Perry promised Tuesday to call lawmakers back to Austin for a fourth special legislative session if his own political party fails to reach agreement on congressional redistricting.

Meanwhile, a former SREC (Senate Republican Executive Committee member has called on Texas GOP chair Susan Weddington to resign:

A longtime Republican financial contributor, recently forced out of a party leadership post in a controversy over confidential phone calls, Tuesday called on Texas GOP Chairwoman Susan Weddington to resign.

Thomas Whaley, a businessman from Marshall who stepped down from the State Republican Executive Committee under pressure from Weddington, said the chairwoman's leadership was "hurting" the state party.

"I believe it is time for her to resign or be replaced," he said.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What Our Next Chair Should Look Like...

By Andrew Dobbs

So I didn't get in on the blog burst action, simply because I was very busy and I felt that most of what should be said has already been said by others in a much better way. I still would like to weigh in on the issue of who our state party chair ought to be so I decided to post on what the qualifications should be and who might fit those standards. I think that this new leader will be very integral in the direction our party takes over the next several years and in 2004 in particular as they will be chair at least until June of next year.

First and most importantly the person who is chosen must be a new face to the party, someone who is either young or at least not someone who's been around forever but someone who is willing to push the party in a new, positive direction. Frankly, I'd say that this qualification alone dropkicks Jim Mattox (who is way too conservative for my tastes anyways), Carl Parker and Garry Mauro right outta there. David Van Os is pushing it. He's 53 and has been active since the 70s, and is pretty establishment-ish, but he seems to have the kind of vitality that these two don't, but I think others would be better. Kirk Watson has got to be in his 40s but he looks a lot younger and acts even younger than that. Sherry Boyles is only 31 and rocks my world and Garnet Coleman is young and tells Patrick Rose to "stop kissing Craddick's motherfucking ass" in public. That's what I call fresh!

Secondly, I think that we need someone progressive with a history of activity in the progressive movements (civil rights, abortion rights, feminism, gay rights, labor, environmentalism, etc.) because it was the lazy, corrupt, reactionary and short-sighted reputation of the overgrown Texas Democratic Party that gave the GOP an opening here and throughout the South. In 1961 when John Tower was elected to the US Senate as the first Republican elected statewide here since Reconstruction he won because all the liberals voted for him over the reactionary put up by the Dems. That's only one example but it highlights the kind of breaking point that a lot of moderate and liberal people faced where they either switched to the GOP or stopped voting in the first place. I think that this means goodbye to Jim Mattox and Carl Parker, both too conservative for this important position. Hello Watson, Boyles, Van Os and Coleman.

Thirdly, we really ought to recognize the achievements of underrepresented classes of people, our party's base, with the chairpersonship. That really leaves Boyles (a woman) and Coleman (an African American) to vie for the spot. Either would be phenomenal and I'll leave it at that.

Finally, we need someone who has won races, or at least come close, and can raise money and organize. Watson probably takes the cake on this one, though Coleman runs a political consulting firm and is the only one of those three currently holding office (though Watson was the popular mayor of Austin for several years). Boyles, god bless her, has never been elected to anything and did about the same as everyone else in 2002 in her race for Railroad Commissioner- 41.5%. Albeit the incumbent is kinda popular (Michael Williams, a black Republican gets paraded by the GOP as their idea of "diversity.") and it was a down ballot race in a year when Democrats were not held in terribly high regard, she still got thumped. Watson did about as well. Watson can raise money though, and he has been elected mayor of a major city. Still, I think that the statewide exposure this position will bring is the kind of push that would really set Sherry Boyles up for good things in the future.

So there we have it- Watson, Coleman and Boyles. They each have at least one thing really going for them- Watson has money and organizing skills, Coleman has progressive cred out the wazoo and Boyles is young and energetic. Any of them would be great and any of the others (with the possible exception of David Van Os, though his record is a little shaky) are pretty bad. Call your SDEC members soon so we can get this party rolling!

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 01:39 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 23, 2003

David Van Os, Gary Mauro Running for State Party Chair

By Byron LaMasters

David Van Os briefly challenged Molly Beth Malcolm as chair in 2002, but withdrew before the convention. Van Os is running again now, with the position open. As a labor laywer, Van Os obviously has a following among labor. Personally, he, along with Dallas Precinct Chair Tom Blackwell were very helpful in last year's Platform Committee meeting at the Texas Democratic Convention in getting my student regent plank into the state party platform, "Texas Democrats... support efforts to place a voting student regent on the appointed Board of Regents of each state-supported four-year institution of higher education." Personally, I'm more inclined to support someone for Party Chair that I see representing the future of the party (Kirk Watson, Sherry Boyles, Garnet Coleman, etc.), but folks like Jim Mattox, Gary Mauro and David Van Os have certainly paid their dues and bring a lot of experience to the table.

David Van Os for State Party Chair website

Draft Jim Mattox for State Party Chair website

Gary Mauro has announced that he is running for state party chair, as is Garnet Coleman.

I have not yet endorsed a candidate for this race. I may do so... I may not. Not that I have a vote in the matter, other than calling / emailing my SDEC members. Still, I think I'll wait to see what happens (who else jumps in, who jumps out - since the field is already crowded) before I start seriously looking at the choices.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Are you a Metrosexual?

By Byron LaMasters

Find out, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:23 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Text of Democratic Radio Address by Leticia Van de Putte

By Byron LaMasters

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) gave the weekly Democratic radio address to the nation on Saturday. Here is the text of her remarks, via the Texas Democratic Party website. The speech focused on the "three R's". "The three R's: recount, recall, and re-redistricting - are the new playbook for a narrow Republican majority attempting to use government to expand partisan power". I like it, but I do worry if the message gets out to independents. The Daily Texan said no. Anyway, here's the full text of Sen. Van de Putte's speech:

Democratic Radio Address to the Nation Texas Senator Leticia Van de Putte 20 September 2003

Good morning. I'm Leticia Van de Putte, a Texas State Senator from San Antonio, and Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

When George W. Bush was our Governor, we worked across party lines to address the challenges facing the people of Texas.

Today, the United States faces many challenges:
I. an education system that leaves millions of children behind;
II. a health care system that leaves million of families uninsured or without care;
III. an economy that has left millions of Americans without a job.

But instead of working to solve these problems, Republicans in Washington have chosen to use the tools of government against the people instead of governing for the people.

The three R's: recount, recall, and re-redistricting - are the new playbook for a narrow Republican majority attempting to use government to expand partisan power.

In Texas, they want to use redistricting to cancel the votes of millions of rural, independent and minority voters - and to dictate who their congressman should be.

We already have a legal, new redistricting plan that was approved by the U.S. Supreme Court. But Tom Delay didn't like who the voters elected, because a map that favored Republicans didn't elect enough Republicans to suit him.

Redistricting in Texas is still being forced upon us by pressure from the President's chief strategist, Karl Rove. Because contrary to claims he is a "different kind of Republican," our President Bush is using the power of the White House to help Tom Delay steal six congressional seats from Texas voters.

This is not just politics as usual. This is bigger than Texas. It's part of a national pattern that threatens to make a mockery of our precious democracy - where the powerful change the rules when the people get in their way.

Giving Republicans a new congressional map could cost Texas taxpayers up to $20 million - and deny the voting rights of more than one million Hispanics and African Americans.

At public hearings, thousands of Texans - Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike - said "NO" to redistricting. Every major Texas newspaper, civil rights groups, and local community leaders oppose it.

This summer, when we had the votes in the Texas Senate to stop redistricting, the Republican leadership changed the Senate rules. Then they levied fines against us, putting a price on democracy.

When Democrats blocked redistricting in the Texas House this spring, Tom DeLay and other Republicans tried to get the FAA, the FBI, and even a Homeland Security agency - to round up Democrats who stood up for the people. And Texas Governor Rick Perry even ordered Texas Rangers to go to a hospital neonatal unit where the wife of a Texas House member had prematurely given birth to twins.

As elected officials, our ultimate duty is to govern - of, by and for the people. Instead, Republican leaders treat government as another arm of the Republican Party, and that, my friends, is a dangerous violation of the public trust.

Speaking on behalf of the millions of rural, Hispanic and African American Texans we represent, we have urged President Bush to stop this attack on minority and independent voters.

The President cannot claim he wants to win our hearts, while the White House signals it's OK to steal our votes.

Harry Truman said "the buck stops here." So far, the President has passed the buck.

Mr. President, you can end this with one phone call to Governor Perry.

You can call Karl Rove into your office and tell him to end the worst attack on minority voters since the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

You can tell Tom DeLay that Republicans will not relegate Hispanics and African Americans to second-class citizenship.

Mr. President, if you fail to act, your silence will tell Americans you condone and support those who would use government to take power away from the people

This is Texas Senator Leticia Van de Putte. Thank you for listening, and may God Bless all Americans.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:54 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 22, 2003

Garnet Coleman Running for Interim State Chair

By Byron LaMasters

Via the Quorum Report, here is the letter sent by Garnet Coleman to members of the SDEC (Senate Democratic Executice Committee). Unless a consensus candidate emerges, Garnet Coleman is in a great position to serve as interim chair. As a leader of the Killer D's, and as someone respected by most everyone in the party, he'd be able to help us prepare for the elections next year. Here's a picture of my friend David and I with Garnet Coleman in Ardmore, Oklahoma in May:

September 19, 2003

Dear Fellow Democrat:

I am writing you today about the future of our Democratic party. With the retirement of Molly Beth Malcolm as party chair, we face a major crossroads for the Texas Democratic Party. Our next chair will play the major role in beating back the Republican advances. This choice requires the utmost care and deliberation. For that reason, I ask for your support as interim state party chair until a permanent choice can be fully measured.

We know that elections count. We are now feeling the unprecedented Republican budget cuts in which children and the elderly lost health care and workers lost jobs. The last legislative session also saw a far-reaching lawsuit measure that destroys Texans’ access to the courts and radical anti-choice legislation passed into law. At this very moment, the Republicans have come back for more and will seemingly stop at nothing in an unprecedented and illegitimate re-redistricting scheme. The stakes could not be any higher.

The next chair must be a strong voice and active worker for our party. An effective chair must be capable of standing up to the Republicans, raising money and organizing grassroots efforts. The chair must possess good managerial skills and be able to drop everything in their life and head to Austin full time. This is no easy task.

If no consensus can be found on a new permanent chair by the October 25th SDEC meeting, and I was elected interim chair, I would work to maintain and further develop the infrastructure of the state party. My role as legislator and chair of the Texas Black Caucus and the Legislative Study Group (the progressive caucus) has allowed me to exercise the leadership necessary to act as an interim caretaker. As an organizer of the House Democrats’ quorum-breaking trip to Ardmore, I know what it takes to rally support for a difficult cause. I am very dedicated to the Democratic Party and am committed to keeping it strong now and in the future. If elected interim chair, my goal would be build the strength of the party until a permanent chair is elected-either by the SDEC or by the party delegates at next year’s convention.

Thank you for all that you have done and will continue to do for our Democratic cause. I urge you to consider this letter and exercise due diligence in electing the next chair of the Texas Democratic Party. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss the matter further..


Garnet Coleman

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:09 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Perry's Non-compromise "Compromise"

By Byron LaMasters

Can someone explain to me how this is a compromise? Or can someone explain to me how Rick Perry's brain works? First off, he has a meeting to discuss the west Texas district controversy. Yet, he only has a map with the seven west Texas districts (with nothing regarding the other 25 - how can you have a compromise on a map when you only draw 22% of it?). Second, the "compromise" was not a compromise. It still created a Midland based district, and presumably paired Randy Neugebauer and Charlie Stenholm, which Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) opposes. The Austin American Statesman reports:

Gov. Rick Perry weighed in on the congressional redistricting fight Monday, proposing a map that would solve a fight between Republicans in West Texas but leaving about two-thirds of the state in question.

The map, unveiled by Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, would create a district that could be won by someone from Midland. It also creates a separate district for Lubbock.

Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, has been fighting for a Midland-based district, but Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, opposes that idea.

King, the House's lead negotiator on congressional redistricting, said he and Craddick could accept the map if the Senate signs off on it.

It's not clear, however, that that will happen. No one from the Senate nor the governor's office attended a news conference where the plan was unveiled. The Senate is scheduled to debate its vastly different plan on Tuesday.

Left in question by the governor's proposal were districts representing a large portion of Central Texas, most of the Rio Grande Valley and all of East Texas. King said those areas remain open for negotiations and acknowledged that the proposed compromise in West Texas could have great effects on the rest of the state.

The Quorum Report basically says what I said. The Perry "compromise" is no compromise, and he's not getting any takers:

Averitt, Duncan, offer varying degrees of hostility
The deadline for amendments to the Committee Substitute for House Bill 3 - the congressional redistricting plan from Sen. Todd Staples (R-Palestine) - came and went at 5 p.m. today without any Republican senator building on the "compromise" offered for West Texas by Gov. Rick Perry.

There were no amendments featuring the changes proposed by Perry, and supported by Speaker Tom Craddick and House redistricting bill sponsor Phil King (R-Weatherford), to districts 11, 17, 19, 13, and 12.

However, there has been some comment. Sen. Kip Averitt (R-Waco) reacted angrily to Perry's suggestion that Bell and Coryell counties be separated from McLennan County.

"The map that was presented at today’s press conference decimates the voice of Central Texas and I am firmly opposed," Averitt said.

Charles has more on Off the Kuff.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Clark with Big Lead

By Byron LaMasters

One poll might be a fluke, but take a look at this:

Among registered Democrats polled, Clark led in the race for the nomination with 22%, followed by Dean with 13%, Kerry and Gephardt with 11% and Lieberman with 10% Other Democrats got 4% or less.

And there's this:

If retired General Wesley Clark were the Democratic Party's candidate and George W. Bush were the Republican Party's candidate, who would you be more likely to vote for — Wesley Clark, the Democrat or George W. Bush, the Republican?

All: Clark 48, Bush 46
Registered Voters: Clark 49, Bush 46.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:43 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Buy a Banned Book.

By Byron LaMasters

Celebrate Banned Book Week by buying a Banned Book!

More on banned books in Texas, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Blogburst: Moving On

By Jim Dallas

This is a late entry for Charles Kuffner's Blogburst on the future of the Democratic Party in Texas. I had some family errands to make today, and I wanted to think this out in detail and do my homework before posting.

The Democratic Party is Dead. Long live the Democratic Party.

Some would argue that appealing to rural voters is a key to winning back power. While this will be an important short-term objective in some legislative district races for next year and possibly in 2006, it is not a viable basis for long-term planning.

Texas ceased to be a rural state decades ago; we are no longer a state of farms and ranches, but rather a state of cities and suburbs. Sixty percent of Texans live in the 15 largest counties and over 40 percent live in just six counties (to wit, Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar, El Paso, and Travis). These counties have been - since the end of Reconstruction - core constituencies of the Republican Party in Texas. This urban concentration of formerly-rural Texans and mostly-conservative immigrants from the North have been the driving force of partisan change in this state since the 1950s.

That is not to deny the racial, religious, and other social and political reasons why Republican power increased over the years; and Lord knows that there certainly were a lot of Democrats who made conscious decisions to become Republicans (just as many Republicans, like Molly Beth Malcolm, switched parties to become Democrats!). But as a professor of mine once noted in a lecture, there are two forces of change at work -- long-term, passive replacement (whereby white-collar suburbanite Republican kids simply replace their rural parents, who die off or retire to Boca Raton, and in either case no longer exist as voters in Texas) and actual conscious party-switching.. It is my theory that replacement had a lot more to do with where we are today.

Let's do ourselves a favor and discard the logic that there are "liberal Democrats" and "conservative Democrats" and "Republicans" which all exist as monolithic blocks and that 1+1=2. This is an important point I wish to make -- the Republican Party is not dominant in Texas today simply because conservative rural Democrats found a better suitor; it is dominant today because rural Texas is gone with the wind and the Texas economy now revolves around the industrial capitalism which made the Republican Party dominant in many parts of the North in the last century.

For many years, rural Texas wielded a disproportionate amount of influence over state politics; in another time (before the era of "one person, one vote" and equally-sized districts came into effect in the 1960s) rural Democrats gerrymandered state and congressional districts to effectively disenfranchise urbanites by the bushel.

What has happened in the last thirty years is that economic and demographic change finally gave Big Business, city-slicker Republicans the votes they needed to turn that order on its head. The deadlock was broken in the 1980s and 1990s when the GOP rallied behind captivating personalities such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, bringing them enough "Reagan Democrats" and "Bushocrat" votes to hand them an electoral majority.

And even while Democrats were able to hold on and even strengthen our hold on big city politics -- in 1980, for example, Reagan got nearly 60 percent of the two-party vote in El Paso County; in 2000, Gore carried it by over 60 percent -- by appealing to liberals and the growing base of minorities, suburban voters in the Big Six counties and their satellites (e.g. Montgomery, Collin, and Williamson Counties) were wholly integrated into the Republican juggernaut, often with little effective opposition. Generally speaking, the fastest growing counties (with the exception of South Texas) were the most Republican, and became even more so between 1980 and 2000.

There is some evidence to believe that these long-term trends have slowed; and much hay has been made about the fact that the growth of Democratic-leaning minority groups may change Texas politics in the near-future.

All of this suggests to me the following strategy:

  • Work to improve turnout in the urban core counties (turnout has slipped slightly in recent decades) and South Texas. This has been conventional wisdom for some time;
  • Court rural Texans -- but not at the expense of city-dwellers;
  • Find a strong leader who can clearly articulate our agenda; and
  • Finally, but most importantly, join the Battle for the Soul of the Suburbs.

The Battle for the Soul of the Suburbs

Let's face facts -- no matter how white, upscale, or conservative the Houston and Dallas suburbs are, there is simply no excuse to let the GOP win 70 to 80 percent of the vote there. And here is why: not every one in the suburbs, is white, upscale, or conservative.

In general, I strongly feel that Democrats nationally and in Texas especially are doing a poor job of working with apartment dwellers -- a group which tends to be overwhelmingly Democratic if you can just hunt them down. Finding these "other" suburbanites has got to be an important project. And giving them a reason to vote needs to be part of our message. In the last statewide campaign, we heard a lot about homeowners insurance, but what about the millions of Texans who don't have a home? Why aren't renters issues ever talked about?

Women voters are often underappreciated as well. I wrote a paper several years ago about Democratic strategy in countywide races in Galveston County, and in the process interviewed former county chair Mary Ellen Brennan. It was her opinion that outreach to upscale suburban women was a key part of success there in Galveston County, and I am inclined to agree.

We need to develop an over-arching message which really does resonate in the suburbs as well as in the big cities. And while education is usually thought of an issue that spans the gap, it has been, in my opinion, bungled by failing to really address the fundamental problems of school finance in this state. But that is another lecture. Moreover, there needs to be a real dialogue about higher education funding -- because it's ultimately people in the middle that are squeezed the most by creeping privatization.

But before these things can be really effectively accomplished, there needs to be organization, on the ground, in all of these places. And we need more activists that are really active; that is, involved in other aspects of community life. This also requires money; and I think Charles hit the nail on the head on this. But I'd also note that Harris County still has a $50,000 annual budget, which is a lot more than ever gets spent in the neighboring counties.

As a final thought, I suspect that the same economic realities that created Republican Texas will eventually subside. My inner marxist reminds me that the current situation tends to hold within it the seeds of its own destruction.

But my inner God-fearing, red-blooded American also tells me that the future is what we make of it. Let's roll, Democrats!

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Happy Birthday to a Hero for Peace

By Byron LaMasters

A very happy birthday to former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:31 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Republican Leaders in Abilene Oppose Redistricting by 100 to 1 margin

By Byron LaMasters

Via Charles Kuffner's post over on the Political State Report is an interesting poll conducted by the Taylor County Republican Party. The Abilene Reporter News reports:

A poll by the Taylor County Republican Party found its supporters overwhelmingly prefer a congressional district that pairs Abilene and San Angelo.

According to an unscientific poll of party contributors, activists and business leaders, 1,276 preferred the district stay as is, 12 supported a district that pairs Abilene with Midland-Odessa and nine favored a district that contained Abilene and Lubbock.

"This is the only poll we have ever conducted that was nearly unanimous," party Chairman Paul Washburn said. "Republicans in Taylor County do not want the 17th Congressional District to change, and I am sure this feeling is even stronger in the smaller counties of our area."

Washburn praised state Rep. Bob Hunter and state Sen. Troy Fraser, both of whom represent Abilene, for opposing changes to the district pushed by House Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland.

Charlie Stenholm represents the 17th District in Congress. The district covers San Angelo and Abilene. Republicans want to cut up the district so that the 19th district, held by Randy Neugebauer would pair Lubbock and Abilene (as opposed to Midland / Odessa and Lubbock as is currently), and a new district would be created where Midland would dominate. Charlie Stenholm's 17th district would be toast. But there's a problem. Charlie Stenholm's district is already 70% Republican. Independents and Republicans like him because he's a moderate / conservative and he's the ranking member on the Agriculture Committee and he fights to bring home the bacon for his district. The current map isn't gerrymandered. Republicans have 60% majorities in 19-20 of 32 congressional districts in Texas. If they want to win, they can run better candidates.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 21, 2003

Blogburst: What Texas Democrats Should Do Next?

By Byron LaMasters

This is a blogburst that a lot of the Texas Democratic bloggers are doing today. Credit is due to Charles Kuffner for the idea. He has a list of all of the bloggers involved, here.

What should Texas Democrats do next? Well, that's not an easy question. Texas Democrats have zero statewide offices, we're a minority in the state house and the state senate, and our congressional majority will likely be lost shortly. Where do we go?

The Redistricting Fight: It would be nice to be able to win it all back in the next couple of years, but it's a longer process than that. Regarding redistricting, Democrats should fight it tooth and nail. A map will pass the legislature and be signed into law, and we'll fight it in the courts. There's not too much that we can do about it. I do think, however that even if the GOP gets the map that they want, there will be a small backlash and a few of the targeted incumbent Democrats will manage to hang on. The losing Democrats of course can make good statewide candidates in the 2006 election. I've said before that Chet Edwards would be a great candidate for U.S. Senate (a pro-military, moderate Democrat from Waco), and so would several of the other Democrats targeted in redistricting. Redistricting of course also gives us a great chance to make inroads with rural voters. Rural Texans have gradually shifted away from the Democratic Party over the past couple of years, but redistricting gives us a new issue. Most rural Texans are conservative, yet are independent and will split their tickets. Most of them care more about whether their congressman will fight for their water rights and timber and economic interestes than whether their congressman is a Democrat or a Republican. By redistricting, and throwing rural communities into suburban districts, Republicans show their vast lack of respect for rural Texans. We can capitalize on that.

Party Chair: With the resignation of Molly Beth Malcolm, now is the time for a new group of leaders to step up within the party. Jim Mattox would probably be a decent chair, but he's not the future of the party. The future of our party are people like Garnet Coleman, Pete Gallego, Richard Raymond, Sherry Boyles, Ed Garza, Kirk Watson, Ron Kirk, Leticia Van de Putte, etc. I'd love to see the new party chair be among that group of people (or other people in the same category as them). There are several things that I would like to see from the state party leadership once we get a chair in place. One, its critical that the party have a more effective message online. The current webpage isn't awful, but it could certainly use some help. The Texas Democratic Party should follow the DNC in getting a blog. Put me on the record as offering to help with the project. Next Democrats need to show the people of Texas exactly how they are effected by the GOP budget cuts. We got beat last November. And Republicans rewarded their friends, and hurt average Texans. They said that they didn't raise taxes, yet their actions amount to a tax on students, low-income families and local governments. The Texas Democratic Party ought to issue press releases every time someone suffers because of the GOP budget cuts. It's critical that we remind voters on a weekly basis the costs of the Republican budget cuts. It's something that the state party should do. It's something that local parties should do. But they're not. People aren't happy, but we're letting the Republicans slide on this. The whole redistricting saga doesn't give us an excuse to let the Republicans slide on the mess they created last spring. We should be issuing press releases like this, this, this, this and this. And that's just on UT / higher education issues. We need to hammer the Republicans on every budget cut that they made.

Taking back the Legislature and the State: This is a long term project. It won't happen overnight. It won't happen next year or in 2006. I honestly don't expect us to even win a single statewide race in 2006 at this point (unless we're able to get some of the congressmen to run statewide). We have a weak bench. Our strongest candidates (Ron Kirk, Kirk Watson, John Sharp, etc.) lost last year on the "Dream Team" ticket. We need more than a dream. We need a plan - a long term plan. We're not going to take the state back with a dream team. If we don't have a plan, we'll get into a mindset of permanent minority status. If that attitude sets in, then more and more Democrats will see more value in pandering to Tom Craddick and the GOP leadership in order to get a committee chair than in voting like a good Democrat. That's why I'm pissed off with people like Sylvester Turner and Helen Giddings (even though I'm not going to urge their defeat, unlike some others... read on). On one hand, I'm upset with Giddings and Turner (and other Democratic committee chairs), but on the other hand, I can see why they took the offer. They're in a position to help their districts, and Democrats haven't offered them anything better. Thats why we need a long term plan. Democrats ought to focus on a 10 year plan to take back the legislature. Republicans have an 88-62 majority in the state house. That's a 26 seat margin. We need to take 14 seats back from the GOP. Will it happen in one election? Hell no. But look at the 10 year plan. In 5 elections, that means that we need to pick up an average of 3 state house seats a year. The plan should be to protect our vulnerable incumbents like Patrick Rose and John Mabry, and pick about 10-12 Republicans to target each cycle. We shouldn't run as pro-Bush or as Republican lite, but we should attack the GOP leadership that is anti-student, anti-working family, anti-rural and for the big special interests. We need to articulate a Democratic plan that can appeal to both moderates and liberals. We have a great party platform. Democrats have ideas that are good for Texas. Let's run on them. We also need to get rid of Vilma Luna and Ron Wilson. They voted to replace 6 Democratic incumbent congressmen with 6 Republican congressman. I'm very tolerant of conservatives in the Democratic Party. Heck, I'd even vote for Ralph Hall if I lived in the 4th district. He's better than a Republican, not much, but he's better. However, I have absolutely no respect for a Democrat that represents a Democratic district that votes to toss out Democratic congressman. I can understand why someone like Ken Armbrister hasn't been part of the redistricting fight. He represents a Republican district. I have a problem with John Whitmire, because he represents a Democratic district. Understand my logic?

As for the state senate and congress, taking in back (holding control) is difficult. The current state senate lines make winning back a majority a tough job. I wouldn't mind seeing a primary challenge to John Whitmire, but I agree with Charles... if we do it, we better do it right and win. As for the other seats, district 2 (David Cain's old seat) is winnable by a strong Democrat in a good Democratic year. So is Bill Ratliff's seat if he retires. It'll be a few cycles before any other seats really come in play, though. As for statewide offices. Take a look at my earlier list of potential candidates for party chair. Congressmen like Jim Turner, Nick Lampson, Max Sandlin and Chet Edwards are all great potential statewide candidates. So is San Antonio mayor Ed Garza. Kirk Watson and Ron Kirk will be good candidates again some day as well. Garnet Coleman, Pete Gallego, Richard Raymond and Jim Dunnam are our stars in the House. All would be good candidates for Congress or Statewide someday. That's all I can think of for now. I may add more later. Jim and Andrew - I'd encourage both of you to answer the question yourselves if you have a chance.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 20, 2003

"Freedom Fries" and "Freedom Toast"

By Byron LaMasters

We want International U.N. assistance in Iraq, yet we still go out of the way to antagonize our allies. Sure, the French had their own agenda in opposing war in Iraq, and opposed the war in Iraq for less than genuine reasons (i.e. their own self-serving interests such as oil contracts with Iraq), but isn't it time for the United States Congress to show some maturity and start calling French Fries and French Toast "French Fries" and "French Toast" again... especially when we want U.N. support? Kudos to Shelia Jackson-Lee for speaking out on the issue.

French Fries / Toast article via Stout Dem Blog.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Clark #1 in Newsweek Poll

By Byron LaMasters

Damn. That was quick...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:50 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) Aides Call Police to Stop Free Speech

By Byron LaMasters

A friend and I handed out these flyers outside of a Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) meeting on Social Security in Richardson (Dallas suburb) this morning. We didn't do anything to disrupt the meeting, we simply asked people as they left the event outside if they would like a flyer, and handed out several dozen that way. We just felt that it was important that the good people of Texas' 32nd Congressional district know that their congressman knowingly hired a criminal thug to be his communications director. Aides to Pete Sessions had a security guard at the school ask us to leave, and when we objected, telling him that we had every right to be there, they called the police. At that point we left, but the behavior is quite typical of the Sessions team.

Here is the flyer which we handed out (click on the image for an enlarged version):

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:04 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Drafting Jim Mattox

By Byron LaMasters

With Molly Beth Malcom's resignation as Texas Democratic Party Chair, the SDEC (Senate Democratic Executive Committee) will select her replacement at their next meeting. Supporters of former Congressman and (former) Attorney General Jim Mattox are attempting to draft him to run for chair. They have a webage, here.

I know that some Dallas Democrats are behind the effort, although I'm not quite sure exactly who is in charge. I'm also not sure who has expressed interest in running for the post, or if Malcolm will endorse a replacement. The Austin American Stateman has mentioned several other possible names for who might take the post:

There's a laundry list of potential replacements including, the party's general counsel, Charles Soechting; former Austin Mayor Kirk Watson; former Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox; Houston City Council Member Carol Alvarado; former state Sen. Carl Parker of Port Arthur; longtime political activist Debbie Branson; and former Travis County Democratic Chairman David van Os, now of San Antonio.

The name of state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, is floating around, although only as an interim chairman.

Of those names, I'm cetainly a big fan of Garnet Coleman. I think that Kirk Watson would be very well qualified as well. He has lots of financial contacts that would be good for the party. As for Jim Mattox... he's a little bit before my time, and he's been out of the loop for awhile now (he's lost his last three races - 1990 Gov, 1994 Senate, 1998 AG), but he obviously still has a strong following among some in the party.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:55 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

A Sign of Things to Come?

By Byron LaMasters

The Labour Party suffered a defeat in one of its strongholds in a special election in Great Britain to fill an open seat. Labour is hurting from its unpopular support of President Bush, while the Liberal Democrats, the only major British party to oppose the war in Iraq have benefited:

Senior Labour figures blamed a backlash against the war in Iraq and the aftermath of the conflict yesterday for the party's humiliating defeat in the Brent East by-election.

MPs urged Tony Blair to change his policies and style of government, with some warning that the party could lose power at the next general election despite its majority of 163 in the House of Commons.

A senior Labour source told The Independent: "There was a combination of factors but they all relate to Iraq - the war itself, the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, the death of David Kelly and the Hutton inquiry. We have had six months of background noise on Iraq. Without that, we would almost certainly have held the seat."

The Liberal Democrats were jubilant after overturning a 13,047 majority in one of Labour's safest seats with a 29 per cent swing. There was gloom for the Tories, whose embarrassing third place revived speculation about Iain Duncan Smith's future as party leader.

Labour's preliminary inquest into the party's first by-election defeat for 15 years, which will be reported to its national executive committee on Tuesday, will say that Iraq was the decisive factor.

A Labour official said that Iraq became a symbol on the doorstep in Brent for people who wanted to "give the Government a kicking". It was a particularly important issue for Muslims and AB professional workers, he said. Iraq had also undermined people's trust in the Prime Minister, another factor in Brent. A Blair aide said: "Iraq and the Hutton inquiry crowded out our message on, and the reality of, public-service reforms. People think the Government is not concentrating on what they put it there to do." And Ian McCartney, the Labour chairman, admitted that Iraq had caused "difficulties" for the party, which needed to re-focus on domestic issues. "The backdrop of the controversy surrounding the Iraqi conflict, in its many forms, made this the most difficult by-election Labour has fought in the last 20 years," he said.

Glenda Jackson, MP for Highgate and Hampstead, said: "There is a severe breakdown in trust in the Government rooted in issues such as the Iraq war, the death of Dr Kelly." In the public's mind, the Government was associated almost exclusively with Mr Blair.

Frank Field, a former minister for welfare reform, said: "We are in deep trouble and for the first time we see the prospect that we might actually lose the election on a record low turnout."


Sarah Teather, who becomes Britain's youngest MP at 29, hailed her 1,118-vote victory over the Labour MEP Robert Evans as a "vindication" of Charles Kennedy's opposition to the Iraq war.

Mr Kennedy said: "We're now on course, steadily and with perseverance, at least in principle, to overtake the Conservatives as a political party in opposition. They are the big, big losers in this contest without any shadow of doubt."

Labour has a lot of work to do to repair the damage that they've created among their supporters. But if this by-election is any indication, the Labour base is very alienated, which will be a big problem for Blair and his party next election.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Staples map heading to the floor

By Jim Dallas

The Senate jurisprudence committee approved a map Friday, setting up a floor vote for early next week (OfftheKuff | Dallas Morning News). The vote was 4 - 3 with all the Republicans (including Kip Averitt, whose concerns over the 11th District put other members of his party on notice) voting for it.

This modified Staples map seems to have a good chance of passing in the Senate, but while final passage may seem to be a fait accompli, there are still major issues to hash out.

Most importantly, the House and Senate maps are radically different in their treatments of the 9th, 11th, and 17th districts (to name a few of the discrepancies!). Under the Senate map, for example, the 9th District, which is currently represented by Nick Lampson (D-Beaumont) would be split apart roughly in half; under the House map it would contain most of its current core with the exception of my home town of Galveston, which would be appended to Tom DeLay's 22nd District.

(And, as a Galvestonian and a Democrat, I do hereby declare my intention to run for Congress from the 22nd Congressional District should this House version be passed. As soon as I'm legal, of coruse, which won't be until in 2008).

There are still a number of deadlines to clear as well, most importantly those related to DOJ preclearance. We are also getting to the point where it is forseeably possible that adoption of the redistricting plan could run into trouble with the Texas state Constitution (Article III, Section 39). If final passage, somehow, were delayed into a fourth or fifth session falling in late December or early January, it would make it virtually impossible to have a congressional primary in March. Unless of course, the bill somehow passes by a vote of greater than two-thirds. (Eyes Sens. Armbrister and Whitmire).

Not to mention the fact that - Senator Staples's proclamations that the map is virtually impenetrable notwithstanding - the court battle which will inevitably arise over any map that gets passed will probably make HB3 the functional equivalent of a full-employment act for lawyers.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:12 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 19, 2003

Clark Update 2

By Andrew Dobbs

Jeez... if I wanted a war hero who'd vacilliate on the most important issue of the day- whether it was worth the 6,000 American casualties to remove Saddam Hussein- I'd have stuck with John Kerry. After the earlier post where the New York Times showed Clark saying he'd support the war the AP is reporting thus:

Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark backtracked from a day-old statement that he probably would have voted for the congressional resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, saying Friday he "would never have voted for this war."

The retired Army general, an opponent of the conflict, surprised supporters when he indicated in an interview with reporters Thursday that he likely would have supported the resolution. On Friday, Clark sought to clarify his comments in an interview with The Associated Press.

"Let's make one thing real clear, I would never have voted for this war," Clark said before a speech at the University of Iowa. "I've gotten a very consistent record on this. There was no imminent threat. This was not a case of pre-emptive war. I would have voted for the right kind of leverage to get a diplomatic solution, an international solution to the challenge of Saddam Hussein." ...

In the interview, Clark sketched out a checkerboard of positions, saying he would leave in place a tax cut for middle-income Americans and indicating his support for gun rights, although he supports a ban on assault weapons.

Okay, so he was for the war when he spoke to the New York Times yesterday but against it when he spoke to the AP today, and even when he was talking the NYT it took some help from one of his handlers to decide what his actual position was in the first place. In the past he has supported gun control but now he is against it and apparantly he wants to keep the middle class tax cuts. Most pundits have been saying that it would take a clearer laying out of his platform for Clark to gain ground but it looks like he'd rather waffle on almost everything. Add to that the fact that he said he would not be at next week's debate, then said he would.

Already he is getting blasted in the media. A USAToday column by Walter Shapiro says:

In a presidential campaign, no speech is more emblematic of a candidate than his formal announcement. So Wednesday afternoon in Little Rock, retired general Wesley Clark ended a year of suspense about his political intentions by delivering a cliché-filled 11-minute oration that brought to mind the Peggy Lee ballad, Is That All There Is?

So much for being the savior of the party. Clark's lack of solid ideas, waffling on important issues, indecisiveness as to the direction of his campaign and the negative reaction early on sets a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths. I still think he has plenty of time to fix some of these problems but mother always told me that first impressions are the most important. Clark is starting a couple of notches down and is going to have to play catch up when he ought to be making his name.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 05:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Clark Update

By Andrew Dobbs

Okay, things were going well with Clark in my opinion until I saw this article in the New York Times.

Gen. Wesley K. Clark said today that he would have supported the Congressional resolution that authorized the United States to invade Iraq, even as he presented himself as one of the sharpest critics of the war effort in the Democratic presidential race...

General Clark said he was conflicted. He offered the case on both sides of the argument, as he appeared to struggle to stake out positions on issues that have bedeviled four members of Congress who supported the war and are now seeking the Democratic presidential nomination...

A moment later, he said: "I don't know if I would have or not. I've said it both ways because when you get into this, what happens is you have to put yourself in a position — on balance, I probably would have voted for it."...

A moment later, he said: "I don't know if I would have or not. I've said it both ways because when you get into this, what happens is you have to put yourself in a position — on balance, I probably would have voted for it."

The general's remarks in a free-rolling 90-minute airborne interview suggested the extent of the adjustment he faces in becoming a presidential candidate.

"Mary, help!" he called to his press secretary, Mary Jacoby, at the front of the plane, as he faced questions about Iraq. "Come back and listen to this."

At one point, Ms. Jacoby interrupted the interview, which included four reporters who were traveling on the general's jet, to make certain that General Clark's views on the original Iraq resolution were clear.

"I want to clarify — we're moving quickly here," Ms. Jacoby said. "You said you would have voted for the resolution as leverage for a U.N.-based solution."

"Right," General Clark responded. "Exactly."

Okay, so in addition to being much further to the right on the issue of the war (later in the article he specifically says that he sees his opinion being closer to that of Lieberman and Gephardt than Dean) he also seems to be unable to articulate an opinion without the help of his handler. Perhaps I'm being too tough on the guy after one day of campaigning, but the way I see it he lost his biggest political assets- being an independent comentator, not being a politician- when he announced. So now he is in fact a politician, but not a very good one it appears.

He also said that he supported Nixon and Reagan at the time of their respective elections but turned Dem after Clinton inspired him. I have really no problem with that- so many Dems switched sides because of Nixon and Reagan its nice to see someone going the other way.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 02:23 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What Clark's Entry Means

By Andrew Dobbs

So with the late entry of General Wesley “Everything Democrats Have Ever Wanted” Clark it is the job of self-appointed pundits such as yours truly to ask what effect his entry will have on the race. Perhaps without much elucidation on his part of his potential platform this is impossible, but we ought to try anyways. Here’s what we do know:

1. He’s from Arkansas
2. He’s a smarty- graduated first in his class at West Point and was a Rhodes Scholar
3. He’s a decorated 4-star General
4. He’s pro-choice
5. He’s pro-gun control
6. He’s pro-affirmative action
7. He’s moderately pro-gay
8. His campaign will likely feature Mark Fabiani and Chris Lehane, two major league assholes with a penchant for losing to George W. Bush, in starring roles
9. He’s against the War in Iraq
10. He’s buddies with Bill Clinton

Okay, so I stopped at 10 because that’s a nice round number and because that seems to be the most important stuff to know. First effect I would say is that Bob Graham is probably history. His campaign never really took off- he has abysmal numbers, he raises about as much money as Denis Kucinich and with another Southerner in the race there’s really no room for him. Most commentators have dropped his name from the list of contenders and another serious Dem really sticks the last stake in him. Unless his Q3 numbers are just phenomenal look for him to drop out and look for some of his top campaign people to jump onto Clark’s ship.

Next is the CW that John Kerry is really fucked. Kerry was the dream candidate- an articulate, intelligent war hero. Put that up against Draft Dodger Shrub and he looks like hot shit. But since then his campaign has done really nothing, it is losing vital ground in NH and losing the money race to a governor from a state with fewer people than a lot of good-sized counties here in Texas. Now his supporters see someone with the same positives, only better. Kerry was articulate and intelligent in a patrician Beacon Hill, Yalie sort of way, Clark is articulate and intelligent in a Bill Clinton, Arkansas boy done good sort of way. Kerry was a war hero, but the whole thing seemed calculated for his political ambition, Clark made a career out of military service and has that reluctant leader thing that Americans love (think George Washington, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower). Plus, Kerry and Clark have the same idea- try to do okay in Iowa but really knock them dead in New Hampshire. Kerry is already 10-20 points behind Dean in NH and the points Clark seeps off threaten to derail him completely on that day.

Next comes the problems for Edwards. First, Edwards’ announcement got about as much media coverage as a Jermaine Jackson album release thanks to Clark’s wise choice of an announcement day. Right after Edwards’ speech and right before the political black hole that is Hurricane Isabel coverage, Clark ends this week as the story of the week. Now, with the presumed exit or at least continued marginalization of Bob Graham Clark trumps Edwards as the only southerner in the race. In fact, he becomes the best southerner in the race and shuts off all the Clinton support Edwards was counting on. Edwards was another buzz candidate that has disappointed so far and like Kerry he is hurt by a candidate who is everything he is- southern, folksy, Clinton-esque- only better.

Lieberman is hurt because he was counting on “Sunbelt Tuesday”- February 3 when South Carolina, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arizona, New Mexico and Delaware have their primaries- to prop him up after presumed losses in Iowa and New Hampshire. But who is more likely to pick up votes in the South and West? The New England Jew who ran as Al Gore’s running mate or the Arkansas General that kicked Slobodan Milosovic’s ass? The war issue is Lieberman’s best bet to win on this day but running as the pro-war candidate will lose him much needed delegates everywhere else as the activist primary base tends to be anti-war. Additionally, if things keep going like they are now overseas Lieberman will probably want to distance himself from that conflict altogether. If Dean wins in IA and NH, as he is wont to do, the field will be Dean, Clark, Lieberman and Edwards on Sunbelt Tuesday. Clark wins in South Carolina and perhaps Oklahoma, Dean wins in New Mexico, Delaware and Missouri, Lieberman can maybe pick up Arizona or Oklahoma, but I call them for Dean and Clark, respectively. Even if he wins both he is effectively out of the race as is Edwards, making it a Dean v. Clark affair to the end on March 2nd when about 1/3 of all the delegates are divvied up.

And how does the General fare against Dean? Normally he would be very dangerous simply because he has many of the same views and his campaign’s base has been the internet-driven Draft Clark campaign that rivals Dean’s net effort. But the entry of Lehane and Fabiani suggests that this campaign will begin to take on a very conventional, top-down appearance very quickly. Slaying top-down conventional campaign dragons is what gets Howard Dean through the night- it’s his hobby, his specialty and the secret to his meteoric rise. Additionally, Dean’s base tends to be far more committed to their man than most other candidates’. Having said this, I still see Clark seeping off enough votes to perhaps hand Iowa to Gephardt, but as long as it is close Dean has really won. I also see him winning New Hampshire for Dean by seeping off enough Kerry votes to make it even easier. After Sunbelt Tuesday the race will effectively be a Dean v. Clark affair. After that it will be far more volatile than any other Dean v. pairing simply because while he has the establishment cred that all the other “other guys” have, he also has solid liberal cred as well, which makes him an interesting foil for Dean. It will depend on organization, money and image- number one breaks Dean’s way, number three for Clark so I really think that money will be the deciding factor. If Dean keeps his fundraising machine going like it is now, the nomination is his with perhaps Clark as his VP. If Clark can tap the Clinton money though he might be able to eclipse the governor and will win with Dean perhaps as his running mate (though I think he has lots of options- Phil Bredesen of TN, Mary Landrieu of LA, John Edwards, Evan Bayh of IN, Max Cleland of GA, or even one idea I heard- John McCain… be still my heart). So here’s where I see it- Clark will get a lot of Clinton supporter money, but Clinton would be a fool to endorse him or anyone else. Dean’s machine will keep going as very few of his nearly 100,000 donors are maxed out and thus can be tapped again and again. Noting this, I call it a tossup.

Finally, Gephardt is really the only candidate helped by Clark I think. Everyone that is really making Gephardt sweat right now- Dean in IA, Kerry in NH, Edwards and Lieberman on Sunbelt Tuesday- are hurt far more by Clark than he is. If Clark seeps off enough Dean votes to hand IA to Gep, enough Kerry votes in NH to hand him a close third or even second place and enough Edwards/Lieberman votes in labor heavy SC to hand him a close second or victory there (plus his home state win in MO) he can stay alive longer than he would with losses in any of those places. Plus, another plausible anti-war candidate splits that constituency even further to his benefit. If Gephardt can’t turn the money machine on all of this will be moot anyways as he will run out of gas long before the big day(s) and as time goes on his only real strength- union support- is slipping so I see Gephardt losing despite all of this help.

So here’s the score card:

1. Graham is gone
2. Clark is like Kerry, only better
3. Clark is like Edwards, only better
4. Lieberman will lose a head to head battle in the South with Clark
5. The race will be Dean v. Clark with money being the deciding factor
6. Gephardt is helped by Clark’s entry though the point is moot unless he starts making some money

So we can rank the candidates with Dean as the front-runner, Clark as the number two if things continue the way I see them, Gephardt third, Lieberman fourth, Kerry fifth, Edwards sixth, Graham seventh. Please comment, I'd be glad to hear what people have to say about all of this.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 01:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Texas 11 on "Probation"

By Byron LaMasters

I'm sorry, but this is just SOOO high school. The Texas 11 are on probation (Bad. Bad. Bad.) Of course, the rhetoric has turned to race, once again. The Houston Chronicle reports:

The Senate's ugly atmosphere darkened Thursday as Republicans suspended fines and placed their Democratic colleagues on probation through January 2005. The Democrats, mostly minorities, accused the Republicans of segregationist politics.

"We are not second-class senators. We don't represent second-class citizens," said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

"This is a slap in the face to Hispanic and African-American Texans," she said.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst dismissed the Democratic senators' criticism as political rhetoric.

"This has nothing to do with race," Dewhurst said. "The mention of race all along has been a desperate attempt by the national Democrat party to hold onto a few seats" in the U.S. House.

"I want this matter behind us, and I want the Senate moving forward."


The special session began Monday, but the issue of the fines and sanctions has continued to divide the Senate throughout the week. Some Republican senators wanted to revoke the penalties while others wanted to force the Democrats to pay the fines.

Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, Thursday, in what he described as "an act of generosity," offered a motion to suspend the fines and sanctions but put the Democrats on probation until January 2005. If they break a quorum again before that time, they will have to pay the fines.

"I think it is important that we put the issue of enforcement of the sanctions behind us," Janek said.

But the Democrats balked at being put on probation. They contend the fines and sanctions were not legal because they were adopted originally by less than a Senate quorum with no specific power under the Senate rules.

The Senate tone then turned sour as Sen. Rodney Ellis,D-Houston, began preparing an amendment to Janek's resolution to simply eliminate all the fines and sanctions.

Before Ellis could offer that amendment, Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, used a parliamentary procedure to force a vote on Janek's motion. Harris later said he was unaware of Ellis' pending amendment.

Janek's motion passed 13-10, with eight senators absent. Republicans voted for it, and nine Democrats and one Republican voted against.

Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, said he voted against the motion because "I think they should have paid the fines."

Dewhurst ordered Senate officials to remove barrels in the senators' parking spaces and restore all of their privileges and postage purchases.

The Democrats kept pushing to complain. Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, announced he wanted to make an extended speech.

While Barrientos left the Senate floor briefly, Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, tried to speak in his place.

That is when Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, came rushing out of the Senate lounge still chewing food and attempted to make a motion for the Senate to adjourn. Dewhurst turned him down.

Barrientos then announced he would not speak since several of the Republican senators had walked out. The Senate then adjourned until today.

Despite the acrimony, Dewhurst tried to portray the actions as a step toward a return to normalcy in the Senate.

"I was very, very, very interested in getting this matter of penalties and fines behind us. We did today," Dewhurst said.

The Democrats, however, held a news conference to portray the probation vote as an act by Anglo Republican senators to put down minority senators.

Sen. Frank Madla, D-SanAntonio, said he had not been treated this way since "I was a little Mexican boy who had his first taste of what white supremacy was like."

Ellis said redistricting has historically prompted fights between minorities and Anglos.

"We had to fight these battles against Democrats, and now we're fighting against people who happen to be Republican," Ellis said.

I guess that the day or two of civility was enough for everyone involved. I personally feel a little bit uneasy about the Democrats racial rhetoric, but then again, I think that it's justified. Republicans are trying to dilute the voice of minority voters across the state. Max Sandlin, Jim Turner, Nick Lampson, Gene Green, Chris Bell, Chet Edwards, Charlie Stenholm, Lloyd Doggett and Martin Frost win their congressional districts because minority voters join in coalitions with white Democrats to elect them. In every single redistricting map, Republicans divide minorities in some cases and pack them in others. Rodney Ellis is right. Redistricting is a racial issue. It was in the past, it is now, and it will be for generations to come.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 18, 2003

If all Else Fails, Call 'em Commies!!

By Byron LaMasters

Yup, that's Texas politics for you. The Texas Citizens Action Network, a "state-based non-partisan nonprofit organization of citizen-consumers who are committed to promoting our Founding Fathers' vision of a constitutionally limited government and individual liberties", has called MoveOn.org a "communist organization" and the "activist arm" of the Communist Party USA. Quorum Report has the TCAN email in it's entirity, here.

I always knew that Texas was regressive and behind the times, but I thought that we were past the Red-baiting 50s. I guess not...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:55 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Redistricting Updates from Off the Kuff

By Byron LaMasters

I've used this title before, and I have a good reason for it. I've had a busy week, and I've been busy studying for a test tomorrow, taking care of some other stuff and getting ready to head to Dallas for the weekend. Thus, I haven't had too many redistricting updates since Monday. Basically, all the news has been Republican infighting and Charles has had all the updates here and here. So, check out his stuff, and stay tuned. I'm assuming that both Jim and Andrew have had a busy week as well. Anyway, I'll be sure to post when something important happens, but I do expect posting to be a little light this weekend as I'll be seeing friends and family in Dallas (although I do have a computer with a DSL line there, so I'll be posting some).

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 17, 2003

13 Texas State Reps Endorse Clark

By Byron LaMasters

Led by Killer D hero Richard Raymond, 13 of the 62 Democrats in the Texas State House are announcing their support of Wesley Clark for President tonight. The Quorum Report has the news.

13 HOUSE DEMOCRATS BACK CLARK FOR PRESIDENT Happy Hour event at Mother Egan's tonight Thirteen House Democrats have pledged their support for retired Army General Wesley Clark, who announced his bid for President today.

Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo), who is coordinating the effort, said he saw parallels between Clark's rise to national prominence with that of General Dwight D. Eisnehower in the 1950s.

"Sometimes history repeats itself," Raymond said. "It's clear that we are at a unique period in American history where our economy is in a terrible situation and we are at war. General Clark just might be the right person at the right time for our nation."

Apparently, Clark has a following here in Texas. On Clark Meetup, Houston, Dallas and Austin are all in the top 10 cities.

Update: These are the 13: Richard Raymond (D-Laredo), Juan Escobar (D-Kingsville), Jim McReynolds (D-Lufkin), Rick Noriega (D- Houston), Robert Puente (D-San Antonio), Glenn Lewis (D-Fort Worth), Barry Telford (D-DeKalb), Mark Homer (D-Paris), Miguel Wise (D-Weslaco), Pete Gallego (D- Alpine), Jim Solis (D-Harlingen), Gabi Canales (D-Alice) and Ryan Guillen (D-San Diego).

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:59 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Heil Dubya!

By Byron LaMasters

Via Yahoo/Reuters.
Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Campaign Season Heats Up Online

By Byron LaMasters

It's official. Wesley Clark is in. His webpage is up and running at Americans For Clark. Via Political Wire is Clark's webcast to the Draft Wesley Clark movement. I guess that at least half of my bold prediction is true. Well, maybe a third of it... we'll have to see about the rest.

Dick Gephardt has also gone on the offensive, attacking Dean with this site.

And finally, maybe the best news of the day, is that the DNC now has a blog, Kicking Ass: Daily Dispatches from the DNC. They're off to a great start. Kos has been asking them to do it for awhile now, and I'm pleased to see that the DNC has listened.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

State Legislature Abandons Higher Education

By Byron LaMasters

This year's Republican budget cuts have left students out in the cold. The Daily Texan reports:

After two weeks of convening behind closed doors, the president's tuition advisory committee is trying to inform the public of the information it has gathered.

Kevin Hegarty, co-chairman of the committee, spoke to SG members Tuesday about the budget crisis and answered questions from students afterward.

"We felt it was important to get input before we start talking specifics," said Kevin Hegarty, vice president and chief financial officer.

The Tuition Policy Committee was appointed to recommend revised tuition policies to UT President Larry Faulkner for the spring semester. Faulkner will submit a campus proposal to UT System administrators by Nov. 1.

Members of the committee said they felt it was better to hold closed meetings while brainstorming but told students they would eventually present their ideas in open forums. The first open forum on spring tuition rates will be held next Wednesday.

In the meeting on Tuesday, Hegarty said the University needs additional revenue to repair infrastructure and keep salaries competitive.

He attributed the University's financial troubles largely to a lack of funding by the state Legislature.

"The state has abandoned higher education, and you have picked up the tab," Hegarty said. "That is no secret."

Republicans can gloat that they balanced the budget without raising taxes. That's a farce. Defunding public universities is a tax on students. Defunding child health care is a tax on children and low income families. Defunding public schools and other servies are a tax on local governments. Make no mistake about it, the Republican legislature has raised our taxes.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

UT Enrollment Down Overall, Minority Enrollment Up

By Byron LaMasters

For the first time since 1996 (I believe) enrollment at UT is down. It's a good thing, because we've been slightly overcrowded, especially with the recent Republican budget cuts. Here's the story:

Enrollment at The University of Texas at Austin dropped 1.6 percent, from 52,261 to 51,438 this fall, but the university remains the nation’s largest single-campus institution.

This fall’s enrollment includes 38,392 undergraduate, 11,553 graduate and 1,493 law students. The number of entering freshmen is 6,544, a decrease from last year’s record high of 7,935. Undergraduate transfers have decreased (from 2,137 to 1,644), as have new graduate students (from 3,474 to 3,337).

The nation’s second-largest campus, The Ohio State University, had an enrollment last fall of 49,676. Ohio State has not yet released its preliminary fall 2003 totals.

University-wide, the proportional representation increased for African Americans to 3.4 percent (from 3.2 percent in fall 2002), Hispanics to 12.7 percent (12.3 percent) and Asian Americans to 14.1 percent (13.9 percent). The proportional representation for all other groups remained stable or declined slightly. Undergraduate continuing student counts grew from 28,674 in fall 2002 to 29,287 this fall, while graduate continuing student counts increased from 7,433 to 8,034.

“A concerted effort has been made to reduce the number of incoming freshmen and transfer students to maintain a high quality undergraduate experience in light of budget constraints,” said Larry R. Faulkner, president of The University of Texas at Austin. “We are pleased that we have been able to attract and enroll a more diverse freshman class, and we continue to make progress in retaining undergraduate students at increasing rates.”

For the entering freshman class, the proportional representation increased for African Americans to 4.1 percent (up from 3.4 percent), Hispanics to 16.3 percent (14.3 percent) and foreign to 2.4 percent (2.0 percent). The proportional representation for all other entering freshman groups decreased.

The percentage of graduates from Texas high schools entering under HB 588, the top 10 percent law, was 70.5 percent this fall, significantly higher than last year’s figure of 54.3 percent. When all freshmen are considered, even those not eligible for admission under HB 588, 68.9 percent of entering freshmen were in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class, compared with 52.4 percent last fall.

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

September 16, 2003

Joe Nixon For Sale!

By Byron LaMasters

Live in Texas State House District 133? Live in or near Houston? You can help defeat the biggest Insurance Lobby Lapdog in the Texas legislature, Joe Nixon, via Gregs Opinion.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another Account from Yesterday, Whitmire Attacks Dean Supporters

By Byron LaMasters

My friend Karl attended the senate gallery yesterday. Here's what he wrote about it:

I went to the Capitol today to the Senate Gallery because it was the start of the 3rd Re-Redistricting session.

What an experience! What theater! If you saw any of it on the news I just want to say that it was a huge thing. All 500 seats in the gallery were filled and I saw some Howard Dean shirts too. The gallery held up newspapers during the Roll Call to show their disgust (since we can't make noise during the actual session.) Then when the Senators voted to disband and meet tomorrow at 10 instead, things got crazy!

This was done by a motion by Whitmire. Before the motion, though, he made a statement along the lines of "I want to say that the people here in Dean for President shirts are not supporters of mine." That's not an exact quote but close; it was so sudden and out of place that it didn't really get caught by any media report I have seen. After the motion passed, the gallery started chanted no, vote now!

Dewhurst tried to hammer his gavel to shush us but nothing could stop it so the Senators just left. The 10 Democratic Senators came in after the session was adjourned for the day and the applause and cheering started and didn't stop for 15 minutes straight! There was a mob of cameras, at least 30 and the gallery was thundering. Apparently we set off motion and sound detectors across the capitol and the DPS was called in so about 15 of them were up on top with us to see what was happening (no arrests that I know of).

There was anger towards Whitmire (signs and shirts and chants calling him Quitmire) but that was somewhat restrained once the Democrats started to talk to the media on the floor. I couldn't stay for all of it, but apparently at one point the republican leadership had the Mic pulled.

Whitmire really isn't trying to make friends among Democrats, is he? Gosh. I wonder what Dean supporters in his district will think about his comments? Will John Whitmire not support Dean if Dean wins the Democratic nomination?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:29 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Today's Redistricting News

By Byron LaMasters

Charles has most of it (go there for all the details). The House is currently debating this map by Phil King. The House will likely pass without amendment sometime tonight. Democrats are currently proposing amendment after amendment, all of which are being voted down.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Texas Dem Chair to Resign

By Byron LaMasters

Here is the press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Sean Michael Byrne
September 16, 2003 (512) 478-9800

Malcolm to Resign as TDP Chairwoman

AUSTIN – Saying she “can no longer devote the necessary time and attention this job requires,” Texas Democratic Party Chairwoman Molly Malcolm informed the State Democratic Executive Committee today that she is resigning her post to focus on her family responsibilities.

“As I said several months ago, I intended to fulfill the remainder of my third term as Chairwoman of the Texas Democratic Party,” Malcolm wrote (attached). “There were important projects to complete, and I wanted to pave the way for the next Chair.

“However, family comes first. My obligations at home are now such that I can no longer devote the necessary time and attention this job requires,” she stated.

Malcolm wrote that she leaves with “many warm memories” and ticked off a list of accomplishments, including:

Achieving financial security and erasing the party’s debt
Improving communications and party message
Re-establishing the state party as a player in the national party
Creating a Veterans Caucus
Initiating a grassroots training program
Recruiting young people in to the party

Malcolm’s resignation is effective October 25. That same day, the 64 voting members of the SDEC will meet and hold an election for a new chair.

Malcolm’s letter is below:

September 16, 2003

Dear Friend:

As I said several months ago, I intended to fulfill the remainder of my third term as Chairwoman of the Texas Democratic Party. There were important projects to complete, and I wanted to pave the way for the next Chair.

However, family comes first. My obligations at home are now such that I can no longer devote the necessary time and attention this job requires.

In accordance with the rules of the Texas Democratic Party, this letter serves as written notice that I am resigning as Chair, effective October 25. On that date, the State Democratic Executive Committee will meet in Austin and hold an election for a new chair.

This has been a very difficult decision. Serving as the TDP Chair has been a tremendous honor. I take comfort in the fact that we have an extremely able and experienced staff that can provide a smooth transition for the next chair.

I leave this post with many warm memories. During my five and a half years, the Party has achieved financial stability and is no longer in debt. We vastly improved our communications and delivered a message that sharply contrasted with the Republicans’ hard-hearted, extreme conservatism. I also am proud that we were able to re-establish the state party as a key player in the national party. Plus, we created the Veterans Caucus, initiated a new and improved grassroots training program, and successfully recruited young people into the Party.

Thank you so much for your help. Thank you for the honor of serving you. I’m not going away completely. I’ll continue to serve our Party, only now in a way that does not conflict with my family responsibilities.

Proud to be a Democrat,
Molly Beth Malcolm

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:47 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Bredesen for Something Big...

By Andrew Dobbs

The title of this post comes from the fact that I'm wholly committed to the candidacy of Howard Dean for President and I realize that he'd need someone with stellar Foreign Policy credentials (paging General Clark...) to run as his VP. Still, if there is any room for Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen, let's shoehorn him in there.

Why you ask? Because Republican blogger Bill Hobbs is reporting that the Democratic state government is running a budget surplus of $11.2 Million. That's right- a surplus. You might remember that word, it was used a lot when Bill Clinton was President and it means that you make more money than you spend. It is the exact opposite of a deficit, which is what the Bush Administration is running right now in epic proportions. Bredesen was mayor of Nashville for 8 years and worked economic magic there, moved onto the state government and did it again and now maybe he needs a shot at the federal level.

Dean couldn't run with him but someone with good FP cred could. Clark is expected to enter the race this week and a Clark/Bredesen ticket could be very formidable against George "Chickenhawk" Bush and Dick "Cut another check for Halliburton" Cheney. If Dean were to win (which I believe he will) Bredesen would make a great cabinet secretary or even better could run for Senate in 2006 when Bill Frist is expected to step down to prepare for a 2008 Presidential run. Either way Bredesen needs to be on the national scene.

Hmmm, Clark/Bredesen eh? An Arkansasan for Pres and a Tenneseean for VP? Who says lightening can't strike twice...

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 01:11 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 15, 2003

Map Passes House Committee

By Byron LaMasters

This map passed the State House Redistricting Committee today. Take a look at it. Republicans have gotten a little smarter. They're finally figured out that significantly tampering with Gene Green's district, Chris Bell's district, Martin Frost's district or Lloyd Doggett's district would likely violate the Voting Rights Act, so they pretty much left them alone. Endangered in the House Committee map are Chet Edwards, Charlie Stenholm, Jim Turner, Max Sandlin, Nick Lampson and Ralph Hall (it's nice to see how they treat him for voting with the GOP so much). My biggest concerns in this map relating to the voting rights act are the splits in McClennan and Jefferson Counties. McClennan is split between the the 17th and 31st, whereas Jefferson would be split between the the 4th and the 9th. I think that this would definitely create problems with the Voting Rights Act as the minority communities in McClennan and Jefferson Counties are currently represented by Chet Edwards and Nick Lampson in minority influence districts, would likely no longer have the opportunity to help elect the candidate of their choice.... but that's just my take.

I would doubt that Sens. Duncan, Fraiser or Averitt would vote for this map, seeing how it divides Waco and takes Midland / Odessa out of a Lubbock based congressional district and creates a new Midland / Odessa one.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Big News Day...

By Byron LaMasters

Crazy day. There's the stuff here in Texas, the California recall has been postponed for now and Wesley Clark may announce tomorrow.

Hard to beat...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:14 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Special Session #3 Begins

By Byron LaMasters

The Quorum Report gives it's analysis:

3RD CALLED SPECIAL SESSION KICKS OFF Dewhurst wants Senate to put fines and penalties "behind us" Hours before the third called special session of the Texas Legislature began, the Governor's office issued a slew of appointment announcements in order to avoid the confirmation process.

The Senate convened at noon, a quorum was acknowledged and then the body adjourned. Upon adjournment and once the quorum was established, the Texas 10 walked back on the floor to a ten minute standing ovation in the gallery. With TV cameras in tow, the walked to the center of the Senate chamber where they formed a circle with arms upraised acknowledging the thunderous applause.

The Democratic senators then walked over to the press table. The crowd was yelling "Quitmire" until they were hushed by the Senators. We will have some of the comments later this afternoon.

As we go to press, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst is having a press conference. He said that while it is up to the full Senate, he supports "putting behind us" the fines and sanctions imposed on the Senate Democrats.

On the House side, the convening was uneventful. Thirty seven bills were referred to committee, four were not.

The Calendars Committee will meet upon adjournment to set HB3, the redistricting bill on the Major State Calendar. Rep. Barry Telford (D-DeKalb) rose with a parliamentary inquiry to make sure that the Calendars Committee was indeed setting a bill that had not yet come out of committee.

BOR commenter Laura, who was in the senate gallery made the following comments:

I just got back from the Senate Gallery. Quorum was called, and then the R + Whitmire crowd beat it. It took less than two minutes to call roll and then leave. All of them were booed out of the chamber the instant the gavel hit. The 10 D holdouts then entered the chamber, and were greeted like rock stars. They all gave speeches until the R+W's had the seargeant at arms turn the mic off-- the R's seem determined to be bad sports until the very last.

The Austin American Statesman reports that the chamber was adjourned before the Democrats arrived:

The third special session of the Texas Legislature was called to order Monday at noon. But an unprecedented spectacle unfolded in the Senate chamber a few minutes later, after the chamber members adjourned for the day.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst called the Senate to order and announced "Members, a quorum is present."

It's the first time in more than a month that 21 senators have been in the chamber since 11 Democratic senators boycotted by leaving the state for New Mexico.

The Senate meeting lasted only a few minutes. Bills were referred to committees and Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, made a motion to adjourn before 10 of the boycotting Democrats could arrive.

The Republican motion to adjourn was met by loud hissing, booing, chanting and yelling from the gallery packed with redistricting opponents.

Minutes later the Democratic senators, led by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, entered the chamber, greeted by cheers and screams of support.

The returning senators formed a circle and joined hands, holding them up in the air while the crowd wildly greeted them.

The Houston Chronicle has more on the minutes between the session had a quorum and when the other ten Democratic Senators arrived:

The presence of Whitmire, D-Houston, cleared the path for Republicans to push a redistricting bill through the Senate. Eleven Democrats, including Whitmire, had blocked the bill through two special sessions by breaking the quorum.

Senate Secretary Patsy Spaw called the roll with Whitmire present. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst immediately announced: "A quorum is present."

The Senate atmosphere was highly charged as about 350 supporters of the Democratic boycott filled the gallery. They planned to cheer when the other boycotting senators returned.

The 10 other Democratic senators remained at the Westgate building near the Capitol as the session convened to see if Whitmire actually was going to be present.

They had planned to return to the Senate as a group once Whitmire established the quorum. But at three minutes past 12 p.m. Whitmire moved that the Senate stand adjourned until 10 a.m. Tuesday. The crowd in the gallery burst into boos and jeers of: "Nazis. You're acting like Nazis!"

The other boycotters walked into the empty chamber at 12:07 p.m. The crowd started cheering wildly.

Meanwhile, Republicans still haven't given the 'Texas 11' their parking spots left, including Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) who has a broken shoulder.

The Democrats remained angry that sanctions adopted by the Republican senators remained in place as the session began. Those sanctions included $57,000 in fines, denial of certain privileges and the removal of their parking spaces.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, one of the boycotters, parked her vehicle in her space near the East Wing of the Capitol because she broke her shoulder ice skating.

Later a notice appeared on her car warning that it would be towed: "This vehicle is in violation of a motion duly adopted by the Texas Senate under rule 5.04 on August 15th. If not removed immediately, appropriate measures will be taken."

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:32 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Republican Dirty Tricks Revealed

By Byron LaMasters

The former communications director for Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) has plead guilty to making false statements about Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) when he worked on her Republican opponent's campaign in 1998. The Washington Post reports:

Adrian Plesha, a campaign manager for a California GOP congressional candidate in 1998, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court here to making false statements to the Federal Election Commission.

Plesha, who was later communications director for Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) and now runs the Washington office of cyber-security defense contractor Promia Inc., was working for Republican candidate George Ball against Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.).

Plesha set up a phony group called the East Bay Democratic Committee, which sent letters purportedly signed by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) to Democrats, urging them to vote against Tauscher, a Justice Department announcement said. There were also phone calls with the same message. That's a violation of federal campaign laws. During an FEC probe, Plesha filed a response "in which he denied any knowledge" of the ruse, the department said. He's looking at a maximum of five years in the slammer and a fine of as much as $250,000. Sentencing is set for Nov. 21.

The first campaign for which I ever volunteered was for the campaign of Regina Montoya Coggins, who ran against Sessions in 2000. Sessions still does not live in the 32nd congressional district which he "represents". He switched from the 5th district after redistricting because he prefered to represent the compact, urban/suburban, new 32nd district rather than the sprawling urban/suburan/rural 5th district (you know, traveling to all those darn town hall meetings is a b*tch) in which he still lives. Kenny Marchant (R-Carrollton) wanted to run for the 32nd, but he didn't have the balls to run against Sessions. Now, Republicans want to reward him for his loyalty with Martin Frost's seat, by disenfranchising minority voters in Dallas and Tarrant Counties.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:13 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Session Starts Today, Dems Declare Victory on 12

By Byron LaMasters

Well, Special Session #3 starts today at noon, and I'm not quite sure what will happen. No question, the Senate chamber gallery will be packed. Sen. Barrientos and Rep. Lloyd Doggett have urged supporters to pack the senate gallery today at noon to show their support for the "Texas Eleven Minus One". The Austin American Statesman reports:

Texas senators reunite today like a squabbling couple who have tried a 45-day trial separation but decided not to get a divorce.

How does hubby move back into the house — or in this case, the Senate — as if nothing happened? And what to do with all those messy conditions — in this case, $57,000 in fines — the wife laid down?

Unlike most reconciliations, this one will take place in public. A packed public gallery and a long line of TV cameras are expected to see how the 20 senators who stayed behind greet their 11 colleagues who fled to New Mexico to boycott plans to redraw congressional boundaries.

And with the quote of the day, Todd Staples...

"We may need counseling," quipped Sen. Todd Staples of Palestine, leader of the Senate Republicans.


While still worlds apart on the issue of redistricting, both sides may be moving toward a reconciliation.

Last week, Staples said of the fines: "Actions have consequences."

Democrats continue to say they won't pay the fines.

Staples, however, is changing his message.

On Friday, Staples said that how the Senate deals with the fines could depend on how the returning Democrats conduct themselves.

"It's time to move away from political posturing," he said. "In part, it's going to depend on how our members come back and interact. I don't think there is a sense of urgency in dealing with the fines immediately."

Harold Cook is an adviser to the Senate Democrats who stayed with them for the 45-day boycott.

He predicted no problems from the Democrats.

"These people are dead set against redistricting, but they are still the same senators who left town," Cook said. "They will disagree without being disagreeable."

Still, Cook admits nothing much about this impasse has been predictable: "It's not every year that both houses break a quorum."

The Senate Republicans didn't just levy fines. They passed a resolution taking away the missing senators' parking, limiting their postage and barring their staff members from the Senate floor, among other privileges.

Asked where the returning Democrats should park, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, said Friday, "I recommend they park as close as they can but outside the Capitol grounds."

Turning serious, Dewhurst added: "The problem doesn't have anything to do with parking. The problem is, our 11 Democratic colleagues broke state law, they broke a quorum, and they've been increasing the political rhetoric. It's over. We need to come together, move forward as we have in the past."

Dewhurst admitted it may take awhile.

"Realistically, I expect a little posturing," he said. "But I hope that dies now in hours or days."

Of course, the other big question is what will happen with the Republicans own internal squabble.

The Republicans might need that time to work out their own family fight.

Dewhurst said he thinks House and Senate Republicans are closer to resolving a dispute over a new district for West Texas.

Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, wants a congressional district for his hometown.

Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, has opposed a Midland district because his constituents don't want any change in the region. He traveled to Washington this week to discuss the problem with members of Congress from West Texas.

Staples said he would like an understanding between the House and Senate before passing a map. The House's mapmaker, Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, said that might not be possible. He thinks both chambers need to pass their own versions, then hammer out their differences in a conference committee.

The Republicans hope to increase their seats in Texas' 32-member congressional delegation to as many as 21. The Democrats hold 17 of the seats now.

Staples said he still wants input from his Democratic colleagues despite their boycott.

"I truthfully want to help (Democrats) where help can be given," Staples said. "I'm not polarized."

But he noted there is a limit on how much he can give.

"It's not a simple task. Every person's desires impacts the state map," he said. "No one can get all they want in this process."

Also in the Statesman today, Democrats are calling their 51-49% loss a victory of sorts:

There wasn't a name or a party on the ballot, but the partisan alignment was pretty clear in the high-dollar battle over Proposition 12.

Top Republicans, led by a big-push effort from Gov. Rick Perry, generally backed the proposed constitutional amendment allowing lawmakers to place limits on some civil lawsuit awards.

Democrats, who have no major personality to rally behind, largely were against it, branding it as an unfair effort to handcuff juries and allow unethical businesses to avoid accountability.

Perry and the Republicans prevailed by a 51 percent to 49 percent margin, an outcome so surprisingly close — fewer than 30,000 votes out of 1.46 million cast — that it's possible to spin the result as the most successful statewide election Democrats have had in a long, long time.

"It was essentially an even split vote, a virtual tie, showing that Texas, like the nation, is a 50-50 proposition," said Democratic consultant Kelly Fero, who worked against Proposition 12.


Democrats in recent years rarely have come close to anything resembling a 50-50 split in statewide elections. With few exceptions, their candidates have been trounced.

"This underscores that the mainstream will be pushed only so far and that arrogant power-mongering will not be tolerated by a majority of mainstream Texans," said Fero, eager to talk about Saturday's defeat as a near-victory. "The Democratic Party, which has been given up for dead, almost managed to pull it out."

Texas Democratic Chair- woman Molly Beth Malcolm said the result stands as a "personal rebuke" against Perry.

"Rick Perry turned a blowout into a nail-biter," she said Sunday. "About two weeks before the election, public polls showed that Proposition 12 was ahead by 12 points. But that lead evaporated once TV spots featuring Perry went on the air."

Of course, Prop 12 backers don't agree with that analysis:

But Proposition 12 backers said it was nonsense to try to characterize the results as a rebuke of Perry.

"Clearly, without hard work and leadership from the governor and Mrs. Perry, who campaigned across Texas and appeared in the 'Yes on 12' TV ads, the measure would not have passed," said Ray Sullivan, a GOP consultant who worked for passage of the amendment. "We won big on traditionally Democratic turf, South Texas and the border, and won in stalwart GOP counties like Collin, Denton, Montgomery, Fort Bend and Williamson."

Though it's not possible to characterize the battle as played precisely along party lines — the major anti-Proposition 12 group was headed by two former Republican state Supreme Court justices — it is clear that Perry barely avoided what would have been a major political embarrassment.

Again, another big surprise was that while greater Dallas, greater Houston and Austin rejected Prop 12 by a large margin, Prop 12 won by its success in South Texas (amid a low turnout there).

Nevertheless, his aides found nothing but good news for him and his party in the outcome. The real story, according to Deirdre Delisi, Perry's deputy chief of staff, was in county-by-county results, not the statewide numbers.

The returns show that the GOP side ran very well in some traditionally Democratic strongholds, particularly heavily Hispanic South Texas.

Proposition 12 carried by a wide margin (65 percent to 35 percent) in Cameron County. Next door, in Hidalgo County, another Democratic enclave, the "againsts" prevailed by a mere 63 votes out of almost 19,000 cast.

Any GOP statewide candidate would be thrilled with a near-tie in Hidalgo County.

In Nueces County, another heavily Hispanic South Texas county, 71 percent of the voters said yes to Proposition 12.

"Here is the worst news for Democrats," Delisi said. "We won this race in South Texas."

In a candidateless, partyless election, she said, many traditionally Democratic South Texas Hispanics voted like Republicans.

"We have always said that Hispanics vote based on ideas," she said. "We brought them an issue on which they overwhelmingly agreed with us in places where the problem has been felt the most acutely.

"What the Democrats must be really concerned about is the support South Texas and Hispanics showed for this Republican concept of tort reform," Delisi said.

She said the best measure of the electorate's reaction to the proposal was found in early voting completed before anti-Proposition 12 forces, largely financed by trial lawyers, ran emotional ads in the final days, including a spot featuring a young girl who lost her legs in an automobile fire.

Though the final margin was a mere 51 percent to 49 percent, the early voting showed 57 percent support for the proposal.

From his perch in academia, University of Texas government professor Bruce Buchanan found merit in the spin that says Saturday was the Democrats' most successful statewide election day in a long time.

"I can't think of a recent good example that even comes close," he said.

Buchanan said the anti-Proposition 12 forces, including trial lawyers and consumer advocates, portrayed the other side as mounting an assault on Texans' right to their day in court. The appeal got Democrats "charged in a way you haven't seen in awhile," according to Buchanan.

"What's unusual about it was that it touched something near and dear to Democrats — constitutional protections and access to courts — that it got them going, and they did almost pull it out," he said.

"I think the lesson (for Republicans) is, don't hit (Democrats) where they live because they might turn into a more formidable opponent than recent elections would suggest," Buchanan said.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:35 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Almost only counts in horse shoes, hand grenades and Texas politics...

By Andrew Dobbs

Alright, I know we lost last night, and that sucks but I feel encouraged. I figured we'd lose, in fact, I thought 12 would pass with at least a 20 point margin (as that is what recent elections have shown) and probably more because the Democratic base of S. Texas was against it. Instead, we came within 23,000 votes out of a couple million cast and lost by less than 2%. So what does this mean?

Most importantly- Democratic ideas and policies are popular all over the state, even in places where Democrats aren't really popular. We won in places where Democrats never win. Tort reform is one of the cornerstones of the GOP's philosophy and platform. in 1994 Karl Rove only let Bush talk about 4 issues- crime, education, welfare reform and tort reform. When you boil down the Texas GOP's platform and sift through the outrageous, racist, ignorant and destructive foolishness that is their ideology, you find tort reform in a very special place. But their base has weighed it, measured it and found it wanting.

Essentially, if you put the two parties up to a political "Pepsi Challenge" of sorts- no labels, just policies- they prefer the taste of Democrats in places where they normally don't. Indeed, we underperformed in important places, but those voters will go Democratic anyways in a regular election. If we can keep those yellow dogs and then add some Republicans who like what they hear when they get past the "D" label, we can make some much needed gains.

Of course people don't care what you say on your commercial or your direct mail piece- they are convinced to vote against their conventional wisdom and for a different party by hearing candidates and supporters they trust tell them face to face what they want to do. Tony Sanchez is the wrong model, someone like Howard Dean or Paul Wellstone- grassroots, personalized, face to face campaigning with creativity and enthusiasm will win where ad buys and cynicism has lost.

We've lost the battle but learned some valuable lessons for the ensuing war.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 12:48 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

September 14, 2003

Prop. 12 Verus RPI

By Jim Dallas

I'm working on an atlas entry for Props. 3 and 12. Here is a map which compares the percentage voting "FOR" Proposition 12 to the percentage voting for the GOP top-of-the-ticket candidate (e.g. Sen. John Cornyn) in 2002.

Red counties underperformed their RPI (or outperformed their DPI, depending on how you figure). Green counties overperformed their RPI/underperformed their DPI.

Generally, East and North Texas counties were more anti-12, and South and West Texas counties were more pro-12.


Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Final Results, Prop 12 Analysis

By Byron LaMasters

Prop 12
IN FAVOR 738,074 50.95%
AGAINST 710,541 49.05%
--------------- ---------------
Vote Total 1,448,615
Precincts Reporting 6,644 of 6,701 Precincts 99.15%
Statewide Turnout 12.03% 12,041,793 Registered Voters

Personally, I expected Prop 12 to pass easily (55-60% range), so I was rather shocked that it came as close to failing as it did. In the long run, it doesn't really matter... victory is victory, defeat is defeat. I'd love for Jim to add Props 3 (the religious one that passed 52-48%) and 12 to our Online Atlas of Texas Politics. The results were quite interesting. The anti-12 returns ran well ahead of the DPI (Democratic Performance Index) in the major (non-border/southern) urban/suburban areas, notably greater Dallas, greater Houston and Austin.

Of the other close Props that we did not call last night, they all passed, narrowly (I strongly opposed 3, voted against 9 and supported 21):

Prop 3 Exemption for religious groups
IN FAVOR 719,343 52.90%
AGAINST 640,571 47.10%
--------------- ---------------
Vote Total 1,359,914
Precincts Reporting 6,644 of 6,701 Precincts 99.15%
Statewide Turnout 11.29% 12,041,793 Registered Voters

Prop 9 Permanent school fund
IN FAVOR 647,244 50.37%
AGAINST 637,655 49.63%
--------------- ---------------
Vote Total 1,284,899
Precincts Reporting 6,644 of 6,701 Precincts 99.15%
Statewide Turnout 10.67% 12,041,793 Registered Voters

Prop 21 Compensation for government service
IN FAVOR 683,056 52.36%
AGAINST 621,385 47.64%
--------------- ---------------
Vote Total 1,304,441
Precincts Reporting 6,644 of 6,701 Precincts 99.15%
Statewide Turnout 10.83% 12,041,793 Registered Voters

All results available, here

For a further breakdown of the Prop 12 vote, read on...

So how did Prop 12 play around the state? As you will see, the "Against 12" vote performed well ahead of the DPI in the Dallas, Houston and Austin media markets.

(I am using the Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 2 race as a barometer of DPI as their were no third party candidates, both candidates were white men and few people bother to look into the candidates, and thus generally vote their party preference)

Dallas County (2002 DPI, approximately 48.5%):
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2
Paul Womack REP 215,763 51.21%
Pat Montgomery DEM 205,495 48.78%

Prop 12 (Against Prop 12 vote 5-6% above DPI)
IN FAVOR 63,792 45.51%
AGAINST 76,350 54.48%

Harris County (Houston, 2002 DPI, approximately 45%):
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2
Paul Womack REP 337,368 54.85%
Pat Montgomery DEM 277,639 45.14%

Prop 12 (Against Prop 12 vote 10-11% above DPI)
IN FAVOR 103,348 44.11%
AGAINST 130,915 55.88%

Travis County (Austin, 2002 DPI, approximately 54%):
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2
Paul Womack REP 95,152 45.77%
Pat Montgomery DEM 112,709 54.22%

Prop 12 (Against Prop 12, approximately 7.5% above DPI)
IN FAVOR 31,277 38.05%
AGAINST 50,913 61.94%

Even the big heavily Republican suburban Counties were well above their DPI on the NO vote.

Collin County (suburban Dallas, 2002 DPI approximately 25%):
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2
Paul Womack REP 91,795 75.22%
Pat Montgomery DEM 30,228 24.77%

Prop 12 (Against Prop 12, approximately 18% above DPI):
IN FAVOR 21,289 57.00%
AGAINST 16,060 42.99%

Denton County (suburban Dallas, 2002 DPI approximately 28%):
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2
Paul Womack REP 72,230 72.38%
Pat Montgomery DEM 27,549 27.61%

Prop 12 (Against Prop 12, approximately 19% above DPI):
IN FAVOR 17,342 53.38%
AGAINST 15,145 46.61%

Montgomery County (suburban Houston, 2002 DPI approximately 22%):
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2
Paul Womack REP 55,693 78.05%
Pat Montgomery DEM 15,658 21.94%

Prop 12 (Against Prop 12, approximately 19% above DPI):
IN FAVOR 13,955 58.58%
AGAINST 9,866 41.41%

Williamson County (suburban Austin, 2002 DPI approximately 32%):
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2
Paul Womack REP 48,838 68.24%
Pat Montgomery DEM 22,728 31.75%

Prop 12 (Against Prop 12, approximately 12% above DPI):
IN FAVOR 12,467 53.78%
AGAINST 10,712 46.21%

So, why then, in a state that is about 56% Republican did Prop 12 pass despite the "againsts" running 5-11% ahead of DPI in the major urban counties and 12-19% ahead of the DPI in major suburban counties?

Two words, south Texas.

Bexar County (San Antonio) performed almost identical to its DPI:

Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2 (2002 DPI approximately 48.5%)
Paul Womack REP 133,557 51.48%
Pat Montgomery DEM 125,851 48.51%

Prop 12 Suits against doctors and providers (Against Prop 12 ran at DPI)
IN FAVOR 42,452 51.34%
AGAINST 40,226 48.65%

But every other large county in South Texas the anti-Prop 12 vote ran way below DPI.

Cameron County (McAllen, 2002 DPI approximately 63%):
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2
Paul Womack REP 15,562 37.04%
Pat Montgomery DEM 26,442 62.95%

Prop 12 (Against Prop 12 approximately 28% below DPI):
IN FAVOR 8,675 64.85%
AGAINST 4,701 35.14%

El Paso County (2002 DPI approximately 65%):
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2
Paul Womack REP 34,007 35.34%
Pat Montgomery DEM 62,196 64.65%

Prop 12 (Against Prop 12, approximately 25% below DPI)
IN FAVOR 17,295 59.74%
AGAINST 11,652 40.25%

Hidalgo County (Brownsville, 2002 DPI approximately 69%):
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2
Paul Womack REP 19,306 30.70%
Pat Montgomery DEM 43,563 69.29%

Prop 12 (Against Prop 12 approximately 19% below DPI):
IN FAVOR 4,175 54.13% 9,416 49.83%
AGAINST 3,537 45.86% 9,479 50.16%

Nueces County (Corpus Christi, 2002 DPI approximately 51%):
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2
Paul Womack REP 31,311 48.62%
Pat Montgomery DEM 33,076 51.37%

Prop 12 (Against Prop 12 approximately 14% below DPI):
IN FAVOR 10,995 62.46%
AGAINST 6,607 37.53%

Webb County (Laredo, 2002 DPI approximately 83%):
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2
Paul Womack REP 6,121 16.89%
Pat Montgomery DEM 30,116 83.10%

Prop 12 (Against Prop 12 approximately 29% below DPI):
IN FAVOR 2,128 45.98%
AGAINST 2,500 54.01%

So, basically, if you read Jim's and my chat during the election return watch last night, you'll see what I meant when I said that if south Texas (which was very late coming in) performed against Prop 12 at their DPI levels, then Prop 12 would fail. Unfortunately, they did not. Charles has more today on why south Texas supported Prop 12. Basically, my take on the election is that the "No on 12" campaign was very successful with it's ad buys in the major media markets (Dallas, Houston, Austin) convincing voters from across the political spectrum to vote NO, yet the health care crisis in south Texas convinced enough Democrats and independents to join Republicans in voting for Prop 12 there.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:26 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

All Props Pass

By Byron LaMasters

More on this tomorrow.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 13, 2003

On a wing and a prayer... the BOR Virtual Vote Watch Gala

By Jim Dallas

Here is a transcript of the behind-the-scenes vote-calling between me (Texasyojimbo82) and Byron.

Some names have been changed to protect the innocent...

TexasYojimbo82: We just got another big bounce
TexasYojimbo82: 53.2-46.8
TexasYojimbo82: dern tootin!
ByronL82: wow
TexasYojimbo82: We have picked up 12000 votes
TexasYojimbo82: on Eday
TexasYojimbo82: we are now down by 41000
TexasYojimbo82: eday - 52.6% AGAINST
ByronL82: you'll have to add this to the political almanac
ByronL82: the prop 12 returns
ByronL82: that would be interesting to see if it's close
ByronL82: collin co is only 62% for
ByronL82: it gave most gop candidate 73-80 in 2002
TexasYojimbo82: yeah
TexasYojimbo82: OK Byron
ByronL82: i think most of the urban/suburban counties are running way below the RPI
TexasYojimbo82: Hold on to your hat
ByronL82: dunno about rural
TexasYojimbo82: If the trend holds
ByronL82: and s. texas
TexasYojimbo82: The election should come down to 10-15000 votes
TexasYojimbo82: which uh
TexasYojimbo82: would be like about a percent I think
TexasYojimbo82: Yeah
TexasYojimbo82: It could come as close as 51-49
ByronL82: yeah it's down 53-47 in dallas with 50% in
TexasYojimbo82: My projection is 16900 votes as the spread
ByronL82: e-day vote in Dallas county is 60-40 against
ByronL82: i just ran that
TexasYojimbo82: per my excel spreadsheet
TexasYojimbo82: ok :-)
ByronL82: heh cool
ByronL82: 16900 yes or no?
TexasYojimbo82: you want?
ByronL82: sure
ByronL82: 53.07-46.93 with 39% in
TexasYojimbo82: I sent the sheet to you just now
TexasYojimbo82: it is prop12.xls
ByronL82: sent to where?
TexasYojimbo82: lamasters@mail.utexas.edu
ByronL82: oh shit i don't have excel on this computer yet
TexasYojimbo82: :-(
TexasYojimbo82: mo numbas mo numbas mo numbas
TexasYojimbo82: 52.95 - 47.05
TexasYojimbo82: 42.56 reporting
TexasYojimbo82: EDAY %

TexasYojimbo82: 29306.58011
TexasYojimbo82: oops
TexasYojimbo82: basically
TexasYojimbo82: I predict we'll pick up about half the votes we need
TexasYojimbo82: but only half
TexasYojimbo82: we need 54306
ByronL82: good news
ByronL82: Harris co has barely nothing in yet
TexasYojimbo82: oh hell yeah
TexasYojimbo82: :-)
ByronL82: i'm just looking at the co by co canvass
TexasYojimbo82: be sure to update
ByronL82: 17 of 730 reporting
ByronL82: bad news is that we're losing in co's in south texas like bexar and el paso
ByronL82: same in cameron
ByronL82: and hidalgo
ByronL82: but low turnout in both
ByronL82: we're a couple hundred votes up in mclennan co
ByronL82: with 1/2 votes in
ByronL82: thats good
TexasYojimbo82: Mark Harden's "bold" prediction is that all 22 will pass
TexasYojimbo82: I also posted our consensus that 12 would be "darn close"
TexasYojimbo82: numbers looking good again
TexasYojimbo82: 52.6-48.4% eday
TexasYojimbo82: sorry
TexasYojimbo82: that's 52.6-47.4 total
TexasYojimbo82: 48.4-51.6 eday
TexasYojimbo82: lemme see...
ByronL82: hmm well through 46.75% it's dropped exactly 4 pts from the early vote (56.77 - 52.78)
ByronL82: thus if it drops another 4 pts we win
ByronL82: in my very unscientific analysis
TexasYojimbo82: yeah
ByronL82: its just depends on where the boxes out are
ByronL82: and a lot of them are in harris co.
TexasYojimbo82: its now at eday 48.9-51.1
TexasYojimbo82: some pro-12 boxes just got counted somewhere
ByronL82: hmm thats narrowing
ByronL82: still at 46.75 in?
TexasYojimbo82: not sure
TexasYojimbo82: yeah
ByronL82: ok well thats still good
ByronL82: travis co is sittin on 34%
TexasYojimbo82: it's still probable I think it will get down into the 51 range at least
ByronL82: yeah
TexasYojimbo82: as in 34 percent counted or 34 not counted?
ByronL82: counter
ByronL82: d
TexasYojimbo82: damn
TexasYojimbo82: well thats odd
TexasYojimbo82: I wonder what they're waiting for
ByronL82: they usually take forever
TexasYojimbo82: bastards
TexasYojimbo82: they need to put the clerk on roller skates again
TexasYojimbo82: :-P
ByronL82: heh
ByronL82: ok... i'm gonna see what co's have more than a few dozen boxes out
ByronL82: bexar co has 194 of 654 counted
TexasYojimbo82: ok
TexasYojimbo82: hmm
ByronL82: prop 12 is ahead there but losing on e-day
TexasYojimbo82: are they still mostly pro- ?
ByronL82: Dallas still has 1/2 out
ByronL82: Perry's sort of declaring victory
ByronL82: ok no he's not
ByronL82: tv's reporting that he thinks it'll pass
TexasYojimbo82: Heh
TexasYojimbo82: typical Perry.
TexasYojimbo82: I would have guessed he'd declare victory yesterday
TexasYojimbo82: After what he did to Sanchez (Ok, maybe that's a bad example)
ByronL82: wow it's close in Denton co.. (heavily gop)
TexasYojimbo82: The man has NO CLASS
TexasYojimbo82: "Let's put a dent in the Denton GOP! Yay"
TexasYojimbo82: :: does cheerleader dance ::
ByronL82: Denton co is ahead with 55%, but it's a 70% gop co
TexasYojimbo82: I say we post this IM to the blog after its all over
TexasYojimbo82: :: shakes booty ::
TexasYojimbo82: You know what it's time for...
TexasYojimbo82: the ULTIMATE CHEER
ByronL82: heh ok
ByronL82: harris.... 111/730 in
ByronL82: oh hell yah
ByronL82: jefferson is out
ByronL82: 1/107
TexasYojimbo82: well
TexasYojimbo82: with half the vote counted now
ByronL82: and failing big in early vote
TexasYojimbo82: it is officially 52.8-47.2
TexasYojimbo82: with e-day at 50.9-49.1
TexasYojimbo82: sorry 49.1-50.9
TexasYojimbo82: you know
ByronL82: ok
TexasYojimbo82: Anyway my projection is that the spread will be 38000 votes out of over a million
TexasYojimbo82: which would be, uh,
TexasYojimbo82: about 52-48
TexasYojimbo82: which was what we guessed beforehand
ByronL82: well out of that last batch
ByronL82: more of collin came in
ByronL82: none from jefferson, Dallas or harris
TexasYojimbo82: ooh
TexasYojimbo82: well now we're getting basically pro-12 numbers and its still looking decent
TexasYojimbo82: ...
TexasYojimbo82: "sittin pretty"
ByronL82: we won big in Orange Co with 16% turnout
ByronL82: hah
ByronL82: 3373 to 5061
ByronL82: deep east texas is comin through
TexasYojimbo82: wait a second we already have 1200000 votes!
TexasYojimbo82: no sorry
TexasYojimbo82: added wrong
TexasYojimbo82: ooh boy
TexasYojimbo82: we just got a bump
TexasYojimbo82: we have 868,760 votes btw
TexasYojimbo82: 52.4-47.6
ByronL82: % in
TexasYojimbo82: with 53% reporting
ByronL82: oh wow
ByronL82: some big co must have come in...
TexasYojimbo82: ok eday is now 48.6-51.3
TexasYojimbo82: Im thinking so
TexasYojimbo82: the deficit is now 41386 votes
TexasYojimbo82: we have made up 13000 votes with eday so far out of the total deficit of 54421 (early votes only)
TexasYojimbo82: so the projection is now that we're about 30000 votes shy
TexasYojimbo82: or 51.5-48.5 roughly
TexasYojimbo82: to be exact
TexasYojimbo82: I project 1281614 votes with a deficit of 29859 votes
TexasYojimbo82: which is a spread of 2.3 percent
TexasYojimbo82: or 51.1-48.9 thereabouts
ByronL82: travis co came in mostly
TexasYojimbo82: ok
ByronL82: thats where the bump came from
TexasYojimbo82: well FINALLY
TexasYojimbo82: (finally)
ByronL82: webb county is all in
ByronL82: and we won it by 362 votes
TexasYojimbo82: OH HELL YEAH
ByronL82: Jefferson, Cameron, Hidalgo are still ALL out
ByronL82: like 0 or 1 prct from all in from them
TexasYojimbo82: deficit of 40,462 votes
TexasYojimbo82: predicted final: 51.1-48.9
TexasYojimbo82: eday: 48.5-51.5
ByronL82: yah probbly
TexasYojimbo82: total with 54 percent: 52.3-47.7
TexasYojimbo82: Well think about it
TexasYojimbo82: All we have to do to win an election is to clone Andrew about 30,000 times.
TexasYojimbo82: :-)
TexasYojimbo82: It seems to me Harris is still out
TexasYojimbo82: mostly
ByronL82: yeah
TexasYojimbo82: Im still stuck at 54 percent
TexasYojimbo82: Yeah they've only released about 20000 votes in Harris
TexasYojimbo82: that's way too low
TexasYojimbo82: that's actually only 1 out of 7 precincts
TexasYojimbo82: in Harris
TexasYojimbo82: Props 3,9,12,18, and 21 are all still very close
TexasYojimbo82: all others are sailing to victory
ByronL82: i just posted and updated
TexasYojimbo82: I called the race in favor of all props receving more than 55 percent with 54 percent reporting
ByronL82: i'm calling 18
ByronL82: Jim, you might just want to delete yours and update mine....
ByronL82: but do what you want
TexasYojimbo82: Well 18
TexasYojimbo82: is pretty close to my threshold of 55
ByronL82: fine, ok...
TexasYojimbo82: OK go ahead and delete
TexasYojimbo82: I didnt know you were posting
ByronL82: add the %'s to mine if you want
ByronL82: yeah sorry
TexasYojimbo82: 55 is arbitrary if you think 18 is solid go for it
TexasYojimbo82: (Id bet money at this point it is)
ByronL82: down to 51.5
ByronL82: with 66 in
TexasYojimbo82: okeydokey
TexasYojimbo82: updating my sheet
ByronL82: yeah i'm looking to see where they came from
TexasYojimbo82: I predict we will lose by only 9900 vote if the trend holds!
TexasYojimbo82: 9,944 to be exact
TexasYojimbo82: it is too close to call
TexasYojimbo82: the networks are wrong
ByronL82: yeah we've picked up11000 votes today in harris co
TexasYojimbo82: a slight nudge in anti-12 direction and it will go down
ByronL82: we were ahead 2000 in early vote
ByronL82: picked up another 11000 in 262/730 pcts
TexasYojimbo82: Oops wait
TexasYojimbo82: I forgot to change a number
ByronL82: with almost 500 out
TexasYojimbo82: actually I predict the deficit to be 18061 votes
ByronL82: jefferson (heavily anti-12 still out)
TexasYojimbo82: that still puts it at roughly
TexasYojimbo82: 50.6-49.4 range
TexasYojimbo82: Hey Byron
TexasYojimbo82: David wants to know
TexasYojimbo82: what the threshold is for a RECOUNT
TexasYojimbo82: We may have to demand one if this keeps up
ByronL82: dunno
TexasYojimbo82: I think its like a point or something
TexasYojimbo82: or a half-point
TexasYojimbo82: CALL [censored] :-)
ByronL82: Dallas co
ByronL82: gave us a lot of that boost
ByronL82: its almost all in
TexasYojimbo82: If we are legally entitled to one I say we demand a statewide recount
ByronL82: we were down 4000 in early vote, picked up that and another 12000 on eday
ByronL82: so 16000 swing with 40 pcts out in dallas
TexasYojimbo82: projected deficit: 19176 votes
TexasYojimbo82: Projected final: 50.7-49.3
TexasYojimbo82: With a projected total of 1.36 million votes
ByronL82: its all down to nueces, hidalgo and cameron i think... cuz Harris is coming in strong anti-12
ByronL82: if those three behave like normal DPI on e-day we're fine, but they were pro-12 in early vote
ByronL82: so that would give 12 the margin
TexasYojimbo82: yeah
TexasYojimbo82: Now wouldnt that just be a strange twist
TexasYojimbo82: to our "Southern [Texas] Strategy?"
TexasYojimbo82: As in, the whole "the Border will deliver Sanchez" meme
TexasYojimbo82: Byron, what's [censored]'s phone number?
ByronL82: heck we win texas with the urban/suburban anti-12 #'s and a good DPI turnout in the south
TexasYojimbo82: do you happen to know?
ByronL82: [Censored - Private Information]
ByronL82: cuz anti-12 is running WAY ahead of DPI in all of the non-border (except Bexar and Nueces) urban / suburban counties
TexasYojimbo82: I talked to [censored]
TexasYojimbo82: He said he isn't sure what the law is
TexasYojimbo82: But he said that if it is possible that basically he promised someone would look into it.
TexasYojimbo82: I think he was receptive :-)
ByronL82: well... constituent service...
ByronL82: you know
ByronL82: thats what its all about
TexasYojimbo82: yeah, I kinda phrased the request as a joke in that light
TexasYojimbo82: :-)
ByronL82: was he at some event for it?
TexasYojimbo82: Im not sure
TexasYojimbo82: ALSO
TexasYojimbo82: he said he had heard reports of voting irregularities in South Texas
TexasYojimbo82: (not a surprise, but still a story)
TexasYojimbo82: Of course the question is... do we ask for a recount which could distract the Dem base from redistricting next week?
TexasYojimbo82: (if its even feasible)
TexasYojimbo82: "So tell me Master, which counties are still out?" -- Grasshopper.
ByronL82: i'll post that a source said that there are voting irregularities in s texas
TexasYojimbo82: ok
TexasYojimbo82: The McAllen newspaper
TexasYojimbo82: specifically
TexasYojimbo82: listed the wrong polling places
TexasYojimbo82: so Cameron county was in total disarray
TexasYojimbo82: besides other "unspecified" allegations of voting irregularities
TexasYojimbo82: about two-thirds of Harris precincts are also unreported
TexasYojimbo82: btw
TexasYojimbo82: you know what I would kill for? A database that would link which counties haven't reported to their past performance
TexasYojimbo82: Basically, are the ones still out blue counties or red counties?
TexasYojimbo82: From what I see
TexasYojimbo82: It still looks like East Texas
TexasYojimbo82: i sout
TexasYojimbo82: is out
TexasYojimbo82: About a third of Bexar
ByronL82: yeah
TexasYojimbo82: half of Brazoria
ByronL82: Harris is the big question
TexasYojimbo82: most of Cameron county is out
ByronL82: if the rest of Harris goes the way the Harris votes in NOW go, it's a huge anti-12 vote
TexasYojimbo82: two-thirds of Galveston county are still OUT
ByronL82: but then Cameron, Hidalgo and Nueces are all huge ?
TexasYojimbo82: roughly half of Jefferson is still out
ByronL82: new #s coming.........
TexasYojimbo82: Let me make a bold prediction... most of the boxes still OUT are DEM precincts
ByronL82: if thats the case, then..........
ByronL82: jefferson is 60% in... low e-day vote though anti-12
TexasYojimbo82: ok
ByronL82: Harris still sittin on 262/730

Posted by Jim Dallas at 10:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Voting Irregularities in South Texas

By Byron LaMasters

There have been reports of voting irregularities in South Texas. Apparently, the McAllen Monitor listed the wrong voting locations, among other concerns. So, apparently Cameron Co. (which has not yet reported) was in disarray throughout the day. Story developing...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

BOR Projections

By Byron LaMasters

I'm projecting a victory for ALL props at this time except 3, 9, 12 and 21, all of which are too close to call at this point.

Bexar Co. and Dallas Co. are about 1/2 in. Both were pro-12 in early voting but anti-12 in E-day voting.

El Paso Co. is coming in Pro-Prop 12.

Hidalgo Co. has not come in yet, but early vote is pro-Prop 12.

Jefferson Co. has not come in yet, but early vote is heavily anti-Prop 12.

Harris Co is mostly out, coming in Anti-Prop 12.

Nueces Co. (Dem Co., but I'd guess is pro-prop 12) has nothing in.

Tarrant Co. and Travis Co. are mostly in, Travis is heavily anti-12, Tarrant narrowly pro-12.

Update: The networks are projecting that Prop 12 will pass. I'd predict that it passes with 51%, but I'm not going to call it yet.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Prop 12 - Gonna be darn close

By Jim Dallas

With 42.5 percent of precincts reporting, Prop 12 is now down to 52.9-47.1. We project that it could come as close as 51-49... or maybe even fail, even Harris County (which has released only a handful of precincts) produces a shockingly low pro-12 vote.

Unfortunately, numbers from Bexar, El Paso, and the border counties are (as predicted) generally pro-12, but turnout was also light there.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 09:19 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Initial Results

By Jim Dallas

The Secretary of State has the election results coming down the pipe.

I spent most of the afternoon working the phone lines for the "No on 12" people. Had some interesting conversations with SDEC member Ann McAfee, who was working the phone station next to me.

The totally unofficial and unscientific Burnt Orange projections so far (with about three percent of the vote counted):

Prop 1 -- Approved

Prop 2 -- Too close to call

Prop 3 -- Too close to call (50-49!)

Prop 4 -- Too close to call

Prop 5 -- Too close to call

Prop 6 -- Approved

Prop 7 -- Approved

Prop 8 -- Too close to call

Prop 9 -- Too close to call (50.1-49.9!)

Prop 10 -- Approved (91-8)

Prop 11 -- Too close to call

Prop 12 -- Too close to call (currently 57-43)

Prop 13 -- Approved

Prop 14 -- Too close to call

Prop 15 -- Approved

Prop 16 -- Too close to call

Prop 17 -- Approved

Prop 18 -- Too close to call

Prop 19 -- Too close to call

Prop 20 -- Too close to call

Prop 21 -- Too close to call (51-49!)

Prop 22 -- Approved

Posted by Jim Dallas at 08:04 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

30 Minutes Until the Polls Close

By Byron LaMasters

I'm going to be heading out to go to the Al Franken book signing here in Austin, but the early vote numbers will likely be released shortly after 9 PM at the Secretary of State website. Prop 12 and the other amendments could be decided by that time, or the race may go into the night. I'll be back sometime after 8 PM.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

If you haven't already. I've made some endorsements earlier. For my election round-up (with links to info about the props, my endorsements and the endorsements of others) go here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

O'Bannon Dies

By Byron LaMasters

While I'm on sad stories, Indiana Gov. Frank O'Bannan has died (just heard on CNN - no articles out yet). My sympathy goes out to his family as well.

Update: Story here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Death hits close to home

By Byron LaMasters

Henry Ybarra III of Austin, was killed in Iraq this week. He's the first U.S. casualty from Austin. My sympathy goes out to his friends and family.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

Arkansas beat us. This sucks, but at least its not a conference game, anymore. As long as we can beat Oklahoma...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Dems Lawsuit Decision

By Byron LaMasters

For a copy of the decision by the U.S. District court in Laredo ruling against the Senate Democrats claim that not using the 2/3rds rule is a violation of the Voting Rights act, click here (pdf file). The Austin American Statesman has more:

In the four-page ruling, the judges said the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting rights, does not extend to telling the Texas Senate how to conduct its internal business.

"We readily acknowledge, as did the Supreme Court, that 'in a real sense every decision taken by government implicates voting' . . .," the judges wrote. "Nevertheless, the Supreme Court insisted that a line must be drawn between events which directly affect the voters and events which, as here, affect the distribution of power between legislators of two different political parties."

Eleven Democratic senators refused to attend a special session on July 28, denying the Senate the necessary quorum to conduct business. The lawsuit was prompted by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's decision to drop a tradition of requiring two-thirds of the Senate to agree before a bill is brought to the floor for debate. Under that tradition, 11 senators could kill redistricting.

On Monday, Gov. Rick Perry will call the Legislature into its third special session for redistricting this summer.

The boycotting senators have said they will attend.

The Senate Democrats had asked the judges to require the U.S. Justice Department to review Dewhurst's plans not to use the two-thirds tradition. They argued that changing the rules would lead to a redistricting map that could dilute the influence of minorities. The Justice Department had refused to review it; on Friday, the judges agreed.

Judges Patrick Higginbotham of Dallas, Lee Rosenthal of Houston and George Kazen of Laredo wrote that "what will directly affect the voters of this State is a redistricting bill, not the mere consideration of such a bill or the process by which it comes to the floor of the Texas Senate." Two of the three judges are appointees of Republican presidents, but the order was unanimous.

Dewhurst praised the decision.

"I'm pleased the federal court ruled today that the Senate Democrats' legal claims were meritless, and it appears to me they were just stalling for time," he said. "With all of the Democrats' legal options exhausted, it is now time to come together and address the important issues facing the Legislature."

At Thursday's hearing, the judges had expressed skepticism that a federal court should intervene in a political fight over the internal rules of the Senate.

Still, Austin lawyer Renea Hicks, who represented the Senate Democrats, said he was disappointed.

"We could anticipate this from the oral argument and the questions they asked," Hicks said. "I think it's wrong, but it doesn't surprise me."

He said he would discuss appealing directly to the U.S. Supreme Court with his clients.

The judges, however, left unresolved the issue of whether the Senate Republicans legally could fine the missing senators $57,000 each for boycotting.

At Thursday's hearings, the judges noted that they would prefer to hear from the state courts before weighing in. They wrote that they would decide later whether the Democrats can amend their lawsuit to challenge the fines.

During Thursday's hearings, Kazen said the prospect of senators fining one another under the current circumstances was an "abomination."

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pelosi 411

By Byron LaMasters

Somehow, I was put on the email list for Nancy Pelosi's "Pelosi 411: News for the next generation from the House Democratic Leader". The third edition was emailed to me today. I guess that its something that she's doing every three weeks. While, the newsletter still leaves much to be desired (how about something a little more interactive?), it does do a good job of communicating to young people what House Democrats are doing for young people in Washington. Republicans are ahead of us in this regard, and have a vast infrastructure in place to communicate their message to young people. Hopefully, something will develop similarly for Democrats in the near future, but for now, I guess I ought to be happy with Pelosi's attempts to do something.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 12, 2003

Dems Lawsuit Rejected

By Byron LaMasters

Charles has the story via the Houston Chronicle. I think most of us pretty much expected this:

A three-judge federal panel in West Texas today dismissed a lawsuit filed by senate Democrats hoping to derail a new round of redistricting in Texas.

The Democrats argued that Senate rule changes by Republicans to further the redistricting effort violated federal law.

The judges, who listened to two hours of oral arguments Thursday in Laredo, dismissed those claims but withheld a decision on an amended complaint of threats to arrest Democrats and require them to pay fees for their failure to appear at a special legislative session on redistricting.

"The arrest issue likely will become moot," the judges wrote in their opinion. Democrats "fear of being coerced to appear at a legislative session is shifting to a fear of being prevented from appearing. For reasons discussed at the hearing, neither the facts nor the law on the issue of threatened monetary sanctions are sufficiently developed at this point to permit an informed decision. Moreover, it is possible that future developments could also moot this issue."


During the court hearing Thursday, judges closely questioned the Democrats' attorney, Paul Smith, who argued that dropping a Senate rule requiring two-thirds of the 31 members to agree to debate a bill violated the federal Voting Rights Act, enacted to protect minority voters.

"This is a very significant piece of how the Legislature operates," Smith said of the long-standing rule, which was eliminated by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst after it was used to stymie redistricting during the first special session.

The judges seemed wary of Smith's arguments in light of a ruling last month by the Justice Department that the Voting Rights Act provision on getting prior approval of changes that may impact minority voters does not apply in this case.

The panel also seemed comfortable with an argument by state Solicitor General Ted Cruz, representing Republican officials, that the Democrats were in court too soon because no redistricting has taken place.

"There has been no clear action. Nothing has been done yet," Cruz said. "At this point the Legislature is arguing back and forth about what it might do."

Ten of the Senate Democrats who returned to Texas this week after spending more than six weeks in exile in Albuquerque, N.M., attended the hearing. Nine are minorities and most represent heavily minority districts.

The judges' decision on the fees stemmed from the $57,000 in fines imposed by Republicans on each Democrat who went to Albuquerque for the time they spent away from the legislative session.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Man in Black passes on at age 71

By Jim Dallas

From CBS (thanks also to Atrios):

(CBS/AP) The entertainment world Friday mourned the passing of legendary country music star Johnny Cash and well-known television actor John Ritter.

Cash, a towering figure in American music, died early Friday at the age of 71.

"Johnny died due to complications from diabetes, which resulted in respiratory failure," said Cash's manager, Lou Robin, in a press release issued by Baptist Hospital in Nashville.

Cash had been released from Baptist on Wednesday where he had spent two weeks being treated for an unspecified stomach ailment.

"I hope that friends and fans of Johnny will pray for the Cash family to find comfort during this very difficult time," Robin said.

Cash's career spanned country, rock and folk.

"Johnny Cash was a giant," Rolling Stone magazine contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis told CBS Radio News. "Johnny Cash was in there at the beginning with Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis and Sam Phillips at Sun Records. Making a record like 'I Walk The Line' really helped define the early days of rock 'n roll."

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Recall Miller?

By Byron LaMasters

I think we all have recall fever. There's the recall election in California. A lot of us Democrats in Texas would like to recall Gov. Rick Perry (although there's no constitutional provision for such a recall in Texas, it's a nice thought), and now community activists opposed to Laura Miller's firing of Police Chief Terrell Bolton want to recall Dallas Mayor Laura Miller. The Dallas Morning News reports.

It won't happen. Organizers would need to gather 72,873 signatures in 60 days, and unless Darrell Issa decides he want so dump a few hundred grand into the effort, then it ain't going anywhere.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:03 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Daily Texan on Prop 12

By Byron LaMasters

The Daily Texan today endorsed a No Vote on Prop 12. They seem to like the idea of capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits in general, but oppose the "and other actions" part of the amendment:

We urge a "no" vote because of Proposition 12's inclusion of the phrase "and other actions."

By including "and other actions" in the proposition, passing the proposition means lawmakers gain the authority to not only cap non-economic damages in malpractice suits but many other kinds of cases.

This is the second endorsement made by the Daily Texan. Earlier this week, they endorsed a Yes Vote on Prop 11. So basically, they've told us to save Texas courts and save Texas wineries and who cares about the rest - that's probably how the average Joe in this state see it.

The Daily Texan also ran two opinion pieces both for and against Prop 12. The pro-Prop 12 one is written by Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland), the Anti-Prop 12 opinion by Texan columnist Erick Fajardo.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A Modest Proposal

By Jim Dallas

We're coming up on another election year, and not soon enough. Recent polling shows the President's approval rating falling through the floor. Unfortunately, the public doesn't think very much of us Democrats, either.

Millions of Americans wake up every morning asking themselves what possessed them to vote for our "whistle-ass" President and their less-than-lovable congresscritters (did I mention Congressional approval is back down into the 30s or low 40s?). Your friends, your neighbors, maybe even YOU, are struck with phenomenal guilt. Everytime they look at their children, they become overwhelmed with angst for having put those "no-talent assclowns" in office.

We at the Burnt Orange Report would like to believe that this won't be the case. We try to be idealists, honest (and this is why we're supporting Dr. Howard Dean for President.).

But we know that national politicians seem to have a profound knack for bringing along disappointment, regardless of age, gender, or party.

This is why I propose that our government do something to give the American people a reason to vote again. To wit, I propose that the federal government give every eligible voter a big bottle of tequila (and in those left coast hippie states where it wouldn't be frowned upon, a bag of weed).

I call it the Conscience Protection Program. Our motto: "Vote Early, Vote Often, But never, ever, ever Vote Sober."

Some may ask if this is a bit extreme; others may suggest it could lead to really bad decisions (as a totally hypothetical example, electing Arnold Schwarzenegger governor of California - my the electorate would have to really be tripping the light fantastic to do something like that!).

But given the law of large numbers, the totally random votes of a totally stoned voting public ought to give us the right choice.

(Which - Jesus be praised! - happens to be George W. Bush, by order of the United States Supreme Court.)

No more morning-after guilt. No more blaming yourself for driving the country off the cliff. The Conscience Protection Program.

Bottoms up, America!

UPDATE: Because I'm sure I've heard this joke before, I did a search on the Google. I found this prescription for guilt-less voting, but I also found this interesting (real) article:

It will be two pints of lager and a ballot paper please in Norway this year after a change in the law allowing voters to get drunk and then go out to vote.

"The election board can no longer refuse anyone to vote because they are intoxicated," an adviser at the Local Government Ministry said this week.

Until now, Norway's election law has denied entry to polling stations anyone with "seriously impaired judgment" or "reduced consciousness" from booze, but that law has been scrapped, adviser Steinar Dalbakk told the Bladet Tromsoe newspaper.

But Norwegians will have to sober up again for the 2005 general elections. Politicians - possibly fearing the effects of a political hangover - have re-enacted the law banning drunken voting.

The new law will however not take effect until after September's local government polls.

This ought to be an interesting test-bed for my proposal, which could even perhaps inspire an entire policy paper.

Or not.

I think I was also subconsciously influenced to post this because of the late Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Lewis Grizzard (a hero of mine), who once suggested a similar plan to overcome the fear of flying.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 11, 2003

UT Statement Regarding Affirmative Action

By Byron LaMasters

Here, regarding UT President Larry Faulkner's disappointment that the new UT admissions policy using race as a factor will not be able to be implimented until Fall 2005 (as opposed to Fall 2004 as wished by the University).

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 10, 2003

Dean / Clark or Clark / Dean?

By Byron LaMasters

It just might happen. Wow. I'd be shocked, but a Clark endorsement of Dean would basically hand him the nomination. Dean would run away with it. I still doubt that it will happen, and think Clark will run, but who knows... The good thing is that Dean and Clark are friends. I would love a decent, respectful primary on the issues between Dean and Clark, and may the best man win, and the next best man be the VP. I think that both would be better for it.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:35 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Texas Ten Return to Texas

By Byron LaMasters

They're back. As expected, the ten Democratic state senators still in New Mexico returned to Texas today. The Houston Chronicle has the AP story:

Ten Texas Democratic senators returned to the state today vowing to take the fight against redistricting to the Senate floor.

With supporters cheering and waving signs, the senators who fled to New Mexico six weeks ago arrived in Laredo where a federal court hearing is set for Thursday in their lawsuit to fight the Republican-backed congressional redistricting.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said that if fellow Democrat Sen. John Whitmire of Houston shows up at the Capitol on Monday to make a quorum, the other 10 Democrats will come later. She didn't elaborate as she spoke from a podium. Whitmire returned to Texas last week, effectively breaking the quorum busting abilities.

Gov. Rick Perry called a third special session on redistricting to begin Monday.

"All that's changing is the arena," Zaffirini said. "We will fight every day and in every way until we win."

One by one the senators spoke to the crowd, outlining their reasons for opposing redistricting.

"It's about keeping people from rolling back the clock to the bad old days when our voices could not be heard," said Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.

Nine of the 11 senators who fled to Albuquerque, N.M., are minorities.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte called the Republicans's efforts a "power grab that Texans do not want and that Texans do no need."

Several dozen people were on hand to welcome the senators home to Texas. Some held signs saying: "Just Say No to Gov. Perry" and "Welcome Home, Texas Ten."

The Dallas Morning News had more on the rally in Laredo and the Democrats plans for tomorrow:

The holdout Democrats from Texas came home Wednesday, arriving on friendly turf to rally in advance of an expected, less-sympathetic reception in Austin next week.

"It's good to be home! Viva Laredo!" Sen. Judith Zaffirini told a hometown crowd gathered in an airplane hangar, moments after a school band and drill team heralded the returning senators with a thumping toreador march. "I can't tell you how many sacrifices the senators you see today have made."

Each of the senators addressed a welcome party of about 100 people, delivering political punchlines honed over six weeks of news conferences in Albuquerque and promising to continue – and win – the redistricting fight.

"The resolve that we left here is the same resolve that we bring back to the state of Texas," said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas. "You can be assured that we will fight for our constituents, we will fight for the principals of democracy."
Blending in at the back of the crowd – occasionally clapping along – the chief spokesman for the state Republican Party disputed the Democrats' victory prediction and shook his head at the various placards hailing the AWOL group as heroes.

Of course, Republicans had a different take on the return.

"We are happy that the Democrats returned to Texas. We hope they are ready to get back to work and this marks the end of their extreme obstructionist acts," said GOP spokesman Ted Royer, in Laredo for a Republican State Party executive committee meeting.

"I think that people should probably pull out a dictionary and check the definition of 'heroic,' " he said.

The ten Democratic Senators are spending the night in Laredo where they will be in court tomorrow.

The senators chose to make Laredo their point of entry partly because it is a Democratic stronghold and Ms. Zaffirini's hometown. But they also came to attend a federal court hearing Thursday in their suit that contends that the GOP-backed redistricting effort violates the Voting Rights Act.
Before leaving New Mexico by private jet to meet two senators who returned earlier, the eight remaining senators thanked their hosts. In Albuquerque, more so than later in Laredo, they admitted that they face long odds in their lawsuit and when a third special session on redistricting convenes Monday.

"It has been a saga," Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, told supporters and hotel employees at a farewell news conference ending the 44-day boycott. "What it's all been about is democracy."

Finally, the Texas Democratic congressional delegation, obviously hailed the Texas Ten as heroes.

In Washington, a dozen of the state's 17 House Democrats met with reporters to praise the returning Texas senators as heroes, denouncing Mr. Whitmire's "betrayal," and urging the public to turn out in force at the state Capitol next week to show lawmakers how strongly they oppose redistricting.

Several spoke of the legislative "dictatorship" they said Gov. Rick Perry and the GOP are trying to impose.

"This battle is not over, it's just beginning," said Rep. Charlie Stenholm, D-Abilene.

In other news around the state, the constitutional amendment election is coming up on Saturday. Kos wrote on it yesterday, and I wrote an election guide post. And guess which newspaper has the most scathing critisism of the controversial Prop 12? You guessed it.

George W. Bush's adopted hometown, and favorite vacation spot, the Crawford Lone Star Iconoclast:

The Icon of the Week is the Rightists who took over the 78th Legislature and tried to sneak an abolition of the jury system past the people of Texas.

Setting an unprecedented Sept. 13 constitutional amendment election was a clear attempt to deceive the electorate.

It is an attack on our rights as Americans; it is an attack on our basic freedoms unprecedented since the collapse of Communism.

It is a proposal worthy of Saddam Hussein.

The Rightists, serving as shills for insurance companies who don’t want to pay legitimate claims and big businesses that want to foist unsafe products off on the public without being held responsible, propose to stop juries from deciding damages in civil lawsuits.

If Amendment 12 passes, you will lose your right to a jury trial when you are the victim of medical malpractice, when you or your family is injured by a drunk truck driver, when a manufacturer kills your children by knowingly making faulty school bus tires or poisonous medicine.

Instead, a bureaucrat in Austin will tell you how much the loss of your arm or leg, the death of your family, is worth.

Of course what the Rightists really want is for Texans who sit on juries to stop punishing their big bucks contributors.

Right now, only juries stand between you and dangerous products such as spoiled meat, shotguns with weak actions that explode, overpasses that collapse due to sloppy construction, fire extinguishers that don’t work, or baby food carelessly doused with insecticide.

The Rightists want you to give up the right to punish those who would be free to risk injuring you and your children just to make a profit.

Limit the jury awards for pain and suffering, and you guarantee sloppy manufacture of dangerous products.

These Rightist politicians have already taken medical care away from sick children, robbed our public schools, and handed us the largest tax increase in the history of Texas.

Don’t let their big money bosses kill you and get away with it.

Stop this sneak attack on your rights.

Vote against all Amendments on Sept. 13, but especially vote against Amendment 12.

Over the top, but entertaining, to say the least.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Daily Texan Stuff

By Byron LaMasters

Two good articles today in the Daily Texan. One on early voting for the Amendment election and another on affirmative action.

First, on the fact that the UGL (undergraduate library) was only an early vote location for one day (yesterday) of early voting as opposed to a location for the entire week and one half of early voting, as is typical. It saddened me because early voting on campus at UT encourages students to vote. Most students don't know where their precinct is, or where to vote on election day, but most students do know that if you're registered to vote in Travis County, you can vote early at the UGL... except for this election. The Daily Texan reports:

Linda Wandt was walking along the West Mall Tuesday afternoon when she saw the "Vote Here" sign and took the opportunity to cast a ballot during early voting at the UGL.

"I'm busy, and unfortunately, I probably wouldn't have gone out of my way to find out where the voting was," Wandt, English sophomore, said. "I'm really glad that this place was open."

But this year, Tuesday was students' only opportunity to cast an early vote at the UGL. Travis County Elections Division eliminated the library as an early voting site due to budget cuts, and instead, a mobile voting station was available for one day only.

Three hundred and forty people utilized the mobile station Tuesday. In the 2001 special election, about 700 people cast early ballots at the UGL over 12 days.

This year, a mobile voting unit will be set up in the UGL on Thursday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. The general election will take place this Saturday, Sept. 13.

Some students are disappointed that the UT location didn't survive the cut because they said the location offers convenience.

"We wished it had remained an early voting site because it's the easiest place for University students [to vote]," said Haley Greer, University Democrats president and government senior.

The special election is on 22 proposed amendments that came out of the 78th legislative session.

Kim Dilling, site manager for Travis County Elections, said the decision was primarily an economic one. All departments are strapped with budget issues forcing them to make cuts, she said.

"This is a smaller election, and typically many students are registered in their hometown," Dilling said. "This is not a permanent cut. This is just for this election."

County Clerk Dana De-Beauvoir said that the UT site was the most logical place to temporarily cut.

"The turnout in constitutional amendment elections tends to be low with less than 5 percent turning out," DeBeauvoir said. "Also, students typically re-spond to a candidate more than a text ballot."

Student Government legislative relations director Dan Paschal said he called the county clerk's office, because he was concerned by the decision to eliminate early voting at the UGL.

"We were told that the UT voting site is a low-turnout site," said Paschal, a government sophomore. "I find that disappointing, because how are you supposed to encourage voter turnout if you don't have a place to vote?"

Bill Medaille, a researcher for Texans for Public Justice and former UT student, called the decision to eliminate the UT site a "massive mistake."

"Students have every right to be a part of the election process, and this makes it more difficult for them," Medaille said. "It's hard to imagine a single better location for early voting given the population. Cutting it as a budget matter seems remarkably short-sighted."

DeBeauvoir maintains that this was not a decision against UT voters and encourages them to vote in the general election this weekend.

"I'm certainly thrilled students want to come out and vote," DeBeauvoir said.

I'm a little upset with DeBeauvoir. I'm happy with her work overall, but her quote on students is disappointing. Students typically respond more to candidates than a text ballot, but heck, everyone does. So, why make it more difficult for students to vote as opposed to another group of people that respond less to text ballots. Fine, there's low turnouts constitutional amendment elections, but part of the reason why, is that there is less of an opportunity to vote. Duh.

There's also some trouble with implimenting a new admissions policy at UT including some form of affirmative action. Apparently, UT won't be able to change it's policy until Fall 2005 instead of Fall 2004.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

House Republicans Disrespect CBC

By Byron LaMasters

I've been very disturbed recently with the Republican make-the-rules-up-as-we-go / abuse of power tactics. We've seen it all over the place. In redistricting in Texas and Colorado, In changing the Texas Senate 2/3rds rule, in trying to end the Senate filibuster rule, in heavy handed House Committee tactics where Democratic objections are ignored and the police are called, in an unprecendented recall election in California (nothing illegal about it, but its part of the general theme of Republicans doing everything in their power to undo the results of democratic elections).

Now there's another item to add to the list. Illegal? No. But it's completely shameless (and I wouldn't dare say racist, would I? I won't, but someone could see it as such). House Republicans scheduled the revote of the D.C. voucher bill during the Congressional Black Caucus debate last night. The bill passed 209-208 with both Rep. Dick Gephardt and Rep. Dennis Kucinich absent:

House Republican leaders scheduled the vote to begin after 8 p.m., coinciding with a debate among Democratic presidential candidates in Baltimore that several House members who oppose vouchers -- including debate participants Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.) and Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio) -- had planned to attend.

Republicans then held open the vote for roughly 40 minutes in a frantic effort to round up the last votes needed to overcome anti-voucher forces. They prevailed at last when Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R-Ky.), who had voted against the voucher plan on the House floor last week, cast a "yes" vote on the measure, breaking a 208 to 208 tie.


Gephardt and Kucinich missed last night's 8:23 p.m. vote so they could participate in the 90-minute Democratic presidential debate at Morgan State University, which began at 8 p.m. Also attending the debate was Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), a voucher opponent who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, which sponsored the debate.

GOP leaders declined requests by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and the black caucus to reschedule the vote, Democratic aides said.

Gephardt campaign spokesman Erik Smith said Republican leaders "clearly" created the scheduling conflict in an effort to deplete the opponents' ranks. Opponents had nearly succeeded in killing the House measure Friday, but Norton's motion to strip the voucher funds from the legislation failed on a 203 to 203 tie.

"Look, this is a tie vote. . . . They knew the [presidential] debate was tonight. They knew there would be a couple dozen [black caucus] members that wanted to attend," Smith said. "It's not rocket science. This is the way this Republican House leadership operates."

I could be upset with Cummings, Gephardt and Kucinich for skipping the vote. It would have forced three more Republicans to change their vote and possibly cause them some political harm. That's not the point, though. The vote was deliberately scheduled during the debate (which was planned well in advance) so that Tom DeLay wouldn't have to round up another three votes. What's even more ironic about all of this is the issue, vouchers for D.C. is an issue that obviously the Congressional Black Caucus, the sponsor of the debate, has a significant interest in (either for or against, that's beside the point). Again, I won't call it racist, but to me, the Republican House leadership showed a profound lack of respect for the CBC by scheduling a vote of importance to the Black community during the first ever CBC sponsored debate.

And Howard Dean shares my outrage. Kudos to him.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:43 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Some Good News From Tonight

By Byron LaMasters

The wing-nut running for mayor of Phoenix lost.

It's always fun to teach the wing-nuts a lesson or two. Haha. The guy who ran as a Republican in a nonpartisan election got crushed. I like it. At least something good happened this evening as the program to make Alabama respectable lost in a landslide. Even Republican friends agree with me that running as a Republican partisan is a bad tactic in a nonpartisan city election. This is an increasingly popular tactic. Republicans think that they can take over city government by running as an unabased Republican. Voters just aren't that stupid. It didn't work in Phoenix, it didn't work in Dallas (Mary Poss) earlier this year, and hopefully (Orlando Sanchez) it won't work in Houston in November.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:53 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Vote Arnie, because "Policy is For Pussies"

By Byron LaMasters

Via Not Geniuses, check out Join Arnie.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dean, Clark Win in North Texas Labor Day Straw Poll

By Byron LaMasters

The Dallas County Democratic Party held a Labor Day poll at their annual Labor Day picnic event at Fair Park. Over 800 people showed up, and here were the results:

North Texas Labor Day Presidential Straw Poll
Candidate Votes %
Howard Dean 266 49.5%
Wesley Clark 107 19.9%
John Kerry 52 9.7%
Richard Gephardt 40 7.4%
Dennis Kucinich 37 6.9%
Hillary Clinton 10 1.9%
John Edwards 10 1.9%
Al Sharpton 7 1.3%
Bob Graham 3 0.6%
Joe Lieberman 3 0.6%
Carole Mosley Braun 2 0.4%

So, what does this mean? I actually think that it's worth taking a serious look at the poll. While not scientific, unlike Internet polls that can be spammed easily, this poll required the attendance of those polled. Thus Deaniacs couldn't skew the poll, nor could Republicans for Sharpton. It was a poll of 537 real, activist Democrats on who they supported for President. It tells me three things. One, Democrats really like Howard Dean. He has real grassroots support among the activist base of the Democratic Party *duh*. Second, and most significantly, is a LOT of people really want Wesley Clark to run. As a non-candidate, he had at least twice as much support as every candidate but Dean. Finally, this poll shows, that at least in the Dallas area, no other candidate has much of a significant following among activist / base Democratic primary voters.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:03 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 09, 2003

Right-wing mops floor with Riley, tax reform in Alabama

By Jim Dallas

According to NBC-affiliate WAFF in Huntsville, Amendment 1 - which would raise taxes on the rich to pay for education for the poor - is getting slaughtered.

With 88 percent of the vote counted, 68 percent voted "No" and 32 percent voted "Yes,"

This is going to be hard for Gov. Bob Riley, who staked his career on this, to recover from.

It also insures the Wall Street-wing of the Republican Party is happy tonight, whereas the Church Street-wing of the GOP and Democrats are going to bed tonight unfulfilled.

On the other hand, the Lord does work in mysterious ways... so it's best to keep on hoping.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 09:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

And now introducing...

By Jim Dallas

The Burnt Orange Report is proud to introduce a new feature, which we hope will be useful to political fanatics as well as other students --

The Online Political Atlas of Texas

The site will host maps, datafiles, and more fun stuff.

If you have any suggestion or comments, please feel free to deposit them here or e-mail Jim D.


Posted by Jim Dallas at 07:44 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Harris County Dem Chair Attacks Whitmire

By Byron LaMasters

Here is a statement from the Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party regarding John Whitmire.

As the chair of the Harris County Democratic Party, I have tried desperately to unite the party, to accommodate all viewpoints, to include all segments of the party in all of its affairs, and to discourage venomous attacks upon Democrats by fellow Democrats. Last week I sent an e-mail to Democrats cautioning against villifying one another with "vitriolic recriminations" in the wake of the John Whitmire debacle. But after reading Sen. Whitmire's comments at his press conference last week and reading the Sunday Houston Chronicle, I find it impossible to suppress the anger I feel over Sen. John Whitmire's betrayal of the other Texas 11 and the 1.4 million Texans they represent, by taking it upon himself, by himself, single-handedly, to undermine their efforts, and then blaming it on them!

The battle the eleven - now ten - Democratic have so honorably and heroically waged by all means lawful and legitimate (including denying the Republicans a quorum to pass their obscene power grabbing redistricting plan), is, in my view, the single most important civil rights struggle (and maybe the most significant fight, period) any of us here in Texas have faced during the past forty years. The Republican redistricting maps are drawn to assure that issues which matter to Democrats cannot advance in the United States House of Representatives (no matter which party controls the Senate or the White House) for the next ten to twenty years. And that objective is accomplished mainly by eliminating "minority influence districts" throughout Texas - denying people of color electoral power in deciding congressional races. (If you think the federal courts can be relied upon to remedy that injustice, you need to re-read the Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore.)

The Republican plans are designed to see that no minority chairs a House committee (such as John Conyers chairing Judiciary or Charlie Rangel chairing Ways and Means) or subcommittee (such as Shiela Jackson Lee chairing Immigration) for decades. Its passage would almost certainly dash any hope of extending the Voting Rights Act when it comes up for renewal in 2005, or resisting Republican efforts to undermine affirmative action, health care, choice, the environment, jobs, the labor movement - everything Democrats stand for.

But most importantly, this plan is part and parcel of the most dangerous assault on our democratic form of government, perhaps in the history of the country: when Republicans disapprove of the choices voters make, they find some way to use (misuse) the power they do have to set aside the election results and impose their will, regardless of the votes of the electorate. When they didn't like the result of the 1996 presidential election, they sought to overturn the voters' will be removing President Clinton from office through impeachment. When they lost the popular vote in the presidential election of 2000, they sought to overturn the voters' choice by getting their judges to order that votes in Florida not be counted. When the voters chose a governor in California they didn't like, they used their money to orchestrate a "recall" election designed to remove from office the person chosen by the people of California less than one year ago. And when voters in five Republican congressional districts in Texas (designed by the Republican Attorney General, implemented by two Republican federal judges, at the invitation of Governor Perry himself, and approved by the Supreme Court of the United States) chose to be represented by their Democratic incumbents, rather than by the candidates Tom DeLay preferred, Republicans engaged in an unprecedented second redistricting in a decade, obliterating time-honored procedures (the 2/3rds rule) to achieve their anti-democratic result.

There's a clear pattern here! Republicans are taking away the most fundamental aspect of our democracy - respect for the choices of voters, rather than reliance on raw political power, as the driving force of government.

And just when that message was gaining national traction (Moveon.org raised $1 million to spread the word of what was happening here), Sen. Whitmire essentially threw in the towel. But not just his own towel; because of the mathematics of the situation, he effectively threw in ten other towels as well - whether the other senators wanted to give up and give in (they didn't) or not.

I have read Sen. Whitemire's explanations of his return: he was restless and uncomfortable holed up in a hotel in Albuquerque; he was concerned Republicans would retaliate by eliminating the 2/3 rule permanently and for all legislation, not just redistricting (there are a significant number of Republican legislators, cognizant they will not be in the majority forever, who are on record as firmly opposing such a radical change in the way the state senate conducts business); gaining national support for resisting Republican power grabs and shining a national spotlight on this pattern would be "counterproductive" (John, congressional seats are national, and this is all about control of the national legislature and its agenda); sooner or later the Republicans are going to get their way anyway, so we might as well just accept that reality and move the contest to the courts.

To me, those are all unpersuasive and unacceptable justifications for betrayal. And that is what I am left with - a terrible sense of betrayal, outrage, and anger - especially at the suggestion Sen. Whitmire was encouraged to leave by some of his Democratic colleagues. His "surrender" exit strategy makes no sense whatever to me, and the way in which it was accomplished make me wonder how he can hope to work with the other Democratic senators to advance a Democratic agenda in the future. Like thousands of other Democratic activists throughout the state, my faith in the Democratic Party had been restored by the courageous sacrifices of the Texas 11, but that spirit and enthusiasm and optimism have been sorely undercut by this abandonment. (Not totally dashed, but seriously challenged). Sen. Whitmire's action must be unequivocally condemned. I am doing so here.

Over the past few days, I have read a few e-mails and posts which suggest that, in deference to Sen. Whitmire's history as an advocate for Democratic causes (especially in the criminal justice area), we should "cut him some slack on this one." Unfortunately, this is far too crucial - perhaps the single most important issue in a generation - to do so. But the interesting thing is that while I have heard a few (very few) voices suggesting temperance, I have not read a single e-mail or post from a Democrat praising Sen. Whitmire for leaving Albuquerque or thanking him for doing so or claiming it was the right - or even a good - thing to do. That's a telling condemnation!

So I will hold back the vitriol, but I cannot get rid of this intense feeling of disappointment and overwhelming sadness, and, yes, smoldering (barely) anger. And need to do something to express that rage and do something about it.

Please, John, say it ain't so.

Gerry Birnberg
Chair, Harris County Democratic Party
August 20, 2003

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Kirk Supported Bolton Firing

By Byron LaMasters

Wow. I'm surprised. Ron Kirk's actually helping Laura Miller here. I'm personally glad to here Kirk say this. It will probably help quell some of the anger from the Black community in Dallas over this. The Dallas Morning News reports:

Mr. Kirk, who was mayor during the first two years of Mr. Bolton's tenure, has said in recent days that he would have supported firing Mr. Bolton in 2001. "I had seen enough," Mr. Kirk said last week.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Perry schedules execution of democracy for next Monday

By Jim Dallas

Gov. Rick Perry announced plans for a third special session on redistricting today. The Statesman and the Chronicle report:

AUSTIN - Gov. Rick Perry today said he will call a third special legislative session on congressional redistricting to begin on Monday.

Perry said the session will focus on redistricting, but also will include legislation that has been on the call of two previous special sessions: fixing problems in a transportation bill, government reorganization and appropriating about $800 million that was left pending at the end of regular legislative session.

Perry, ever the magnanimous Republican, wants to give the Democrats plenty of time to pack so that they can attend their own funeral. Not to mention the requisite politicization of September 11:

"Monday's a good start day," Perry told the Houston Chronicle. "We've got a lot of issues in front of us. I could call them in tomorrow, but you've got September 11th and all of the appropriate memorials that day. And then you've got Friday and Saturday and Sunday."

Perry said it also will give Democratic senators who went to Albuquerque, N.M., to deny the Senate a quorum in the last special session enough time to get back to Austin. Republican leaders hope a third session will allow them to finally redraw congressional district lines so the GOP can win a majority of seats in the Texas delegation.

The Texas 11 still have a shot in court on Thursday, when they will argue to a three-judge federal panel that the demise of the two-thirds rule is a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Word on the street has it that Speaker Craddick and Sen. Duncan still can't agree what to do with West Texas, so at the moment the redistricting lines are stalled by House/Senate bickering.

In any case, the question is, now that we've gotten lawyer-bashing (vis-a-vis tort reform so-called) and Democrat-bashing (vis-a-vis redistricting) nearly out of the way, can our state finally move on to the people's business?

It's a possibility. Here is the full agenda for the session (from Quorum Report), which begins at noon on September 15:

  • To consider legislation relating to congressional redistricting.
  • To consider legislation relating to state fiscal management, including adjustments to certain school district fiscal matters made necessary by recent changes in state fiscal management; making related appropriations.
  • To consider legislation relating to the dates of certain elections, the procedures for canvassing the ballots for an election, and the counting of certain ballots voted by mail.
  • To consider legislation modifying the filing period and related election dates for the primary elections in Texas.
  • To consider legislation relating to the financing, construction, improvement, maintenance, and operation of toll facilities by the Texas Department of Transportation and the disposition of money generated by the driver responsibility program, fines imposed for certain traffic offenses, and certain fees collected by the Department of Public Safety of the State of Texas; making an appropriation.
  • To consider legislation relating to the reorganization of, efficiency in, and other reform measures applying to state government.
  • To consider legislation appropriating fees established by legislation from the 78th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature that remain unappropriated. This matter shall be strictly construed to only include fees that were established during that session of the legislature.
  • Legislation relating to making an appropriation for the purpose of returning to a fund outside of the state treasury cash that was transferred from the fund to the general revenue fund.

The full special session proclamation can be viewed here.

Here is Kuff's take on this.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

YES on Bustamante Nationalized

By Byron LaMasters

Received this in my email today. Obviously, it would be a huge victory for Hispanics to take the Governor's mansion of the largest state in the country. It will be interesting to see the extent that National Hispanic Democratic leaders, and local leaders from around the country go to help Bustamante. I'm certainly happy to see my state senator involved in helping out the campaign. I hope the recall fails on principle, but regardlesss, I do believe that Bustamante would be a great improvement over Davis. I'm glad to see other local politicians whom I have supported in the past, such as State Representative Eddie Rodriguez, Council Member Raul Alvarez, Council Member Brewster McCracken (along with Sen. Barrientos) get on board with Bustamante. Here's part of the email...

Please join National Hosts: Hon. Bill Richardson, Henry Cisneros, Hon. Ken Salazar, Mickey Ibarra & Maria Echaveste

and your Local Hosts:
Geronimo Rodriguez, Grace Garcia and Angie Barrientos

with Special Guests:
State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos, Representative Pete Gallego, Chair,
Mexican American Legislative Caucus, State Representative Eddie
Rodriguez, Council Member Raul Alvarez, Council Member Brewster
McCracken, and District Clerk Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza

. . . for a Conference Call in support of Yes on Bustamante

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

VOTE on Saturday

By Byron LaMasters

A special thanks to Kos for the link. I thought that I'd try my best to summarize some of the latest on the election Saturaday here for his readers (especially Texas folks).

We've made some endorsements on the props that we felt were most important (summarized from my comment on Kos's thread).

For my reasons for opposing Prop 12, read here

I've made other recommendations on other props as well.

Other strong endorsements are NO on 3 (tax exemptions for churches and religious schools meaning more taxes for us), NO on 8, 18 and 22 (all three cancel elections, always a bad idea), YES on 10 (helps rural and volunteer fire departments), YES on 11 (helps Texas wineries), YES on 15 (preserves pensions and benefits for police and firefighters and other union workers), and NO on 17 (cuts money for public schools - although it would give the elderly and disabled a tax break... so it's not entirely terrible).

Here's a list of some local endorsements in the "NO on 12" race. The Travis County Democratic party and basically every Democratic club in Austin has endorsed a NO Vote on Prop 12:

The Travis County Democratic Party joins the following organizations in encouraging you to vote AGAINST Proposition 12:

Austin Tejano Democrats, Black Austin Democrats, Capital Area Democratic Women, Capital Area Progressive Democrats, Central Austin Democrats, South Austin Democrats, South Austin Tejano Democrats, Stonewall Democrats, Travis County Democratic Women, and West Austin Democrats

More local endorsements include the endorsements of the University Democrats.
Prop. 1.. yes, Prop. 2.. no, Prop. 3.. no, Prop. 4.. no, Prop. 5.. yes, Prop. 6.. yes, Prop. 7.. yes, Prop. 8.. no, Prop. 9.. no, Prop. 10.. yes, Prop. 11.. yes, Prop. 12.. NO, Prop. 13.. no recommendation, Prop. 14.. yes, Prop. 15.. yes, Prop. 16.. no, Prop. 17.. no, Prop. 18.. no, Prop. 19.. yes, Prop. 20.. no, Prop. 21.. yes, Prop. 22.. no

The West Austin Democrats endorsed the following:
Prop. 1.. no, Prop. 2.. no, Prop. 3.. no, Prop. 4.. no, Prop. 5.. no, Prop. 6.. yes, Prop. 7.. yes, Prop. 8.. no, Prop. 9.. no, Prop. 10.. yes, Prop. 11.. yes, Prop. 12.. NO, Prop. 13.. yes, Prop. 14.. no, Prop. 15.. yes, Prop. 16.. no, Prop. 17.. yes, Prop. 18.. no, Prop. 19.. yes, Prop. 20.. no, Prop. 21.. no, Prop. 22.. no.

It does not surprise me that Travis County has the highest early vote numbers (%) in the state. The local Democratic Party is one of the best funded and most active in the state, and they have been phonebanking Democrats urging a NO vote on 12. They have also distributed this flyer (pdf file).

For what everyone else thinks (in the blogosphere) on Prop 12, go here (internal) or here (external site).

Susan Hays, the Chair of the Dallas County Democratic Party has made the following endorsements:

No on Prop 3 (exempting from taxation land owned by religious organizations but not used for religious purposes)

No on Prop 5 (exempting from taxation travel trailers)

No on Prop 9 (would allow a shift to a less responsible and more risky
investment strategy for the Permanent School Fund)

No No No on Prop 12 (would gut the Open Courts protections by allowing
the Legislature rather than judges and juries to set non-econmic

in all kinds of lawsuits -- not just medical lawsuits)

No on Prop 20 (would allow the state to lend money to local governments
for improvements to military facilities)

The former Chair of the Dallas County Democratic Party and current blogger Bill Howell made these endorsements. Anyway, good luck to all Texas voters out there trying to make some sense out of it all. If you want more information about particular propositions, check out the Austin Chronicle, for some fair and balanced thoughts or the Houston Chronicle. Both have thoughtful and reasonable recommendations for progressive (Austin Chronicle) to centrist (Houston Chronicle) voters.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Special Session #3

By Byron LaMasters

I'm surprised that Gov. Perry didn't wait until Monday to call a third special session, because this just gives Democrats some motivation to get off their butts watching football, or having a picnic and go to the polls to piss off Perry by voting NO on 12. But, then again, we all know that Perry isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Gov. Rick Perry today said he will call a third special legislative session on congressional redistricting to begin on Monday.

Perry said the session will focus on redistricting, but also will include legislation that has been on the call of two previous special sessions: fixing problems in a transportation bill, government reorganization and appropriating about $800 million that was left pending at the end of regular legislative session.

"Monday's a good start day," Perry told the Houston Chronicle. "We've got a lot of issues in front of us. I could call them in tomorrow, but you've got September 11th and all of the appropriate memorials that day. And then you've got Friday and Saturday and Sunday."

Perry said it also will give Democratic senators who went to Albuquerque, N.M., to deny the Senate a quorum in the last special session enough time to get back to Austin. Republican leaders hope a third session will allow them to finally redraw congressional district lines so the GOP can win a majority of seats in the Texas delegation.

Their efforts have been stymied by a House walkout, followed by the exodus of 11 Democratic senators July 28. The 10 senators still in Albuquerque decided late Monday to return to Texas to attend a federal court hearing Thursday in Laredo, then to return to the Capitol.

Senators in Albuquerque made the decision after a 1.5-hour conference call late Monday with colleagues traveling elsewhere to push the Democrats' stand against a Republican effort to redraw Texas' U.S. House districts.

The call connected senators who were in Florida, Pennsylvania and California for meetings.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, Senate Democratic Caucus chair, said the senators will take their congressional redistricting battle to the Texas Capitol, where they plan to debate the issue.

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, left Albuquerque last week and said he would return for any special session called by the governor, giving the Senate a quorum.

"Once he makes a quorum, it's a moot point for us to be out of state," Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, said late Monday. "We have to at least come back and register our votes."

It's a vain attempt (in my opinion), but it's nice to see that they're still going to give it a good college try on their lawsuit in Laredo.

Van de Putte said the senators will attend the Thursday hearing on their suit seeking to force Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to restore a traditional Senate procedure that requires a two-thirds majority to take up any legislation. If the rule were reinstated, the Democrats likely would have enough votes to prevent a redistricting proposal from being considered on the Senate floor in a third session.

And there will surely be some activities coming up this weekend, even if they aren't all set in stone, yet.

Sen. Juan Hinojosa of McAllen told his hometown newspaper this weekend the senators were planning press conferences in Lubbock and Waco upon their return to Texas, culminating with a rally at the steps of the state Capitol.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, was less certain of that, saying there isn't time to set up a return trip with stops along the way before ending with an Austin rally.

Though the last special session ended two weeks ago, the senators have stayed outside of Texas with an Albuquerque hotel as their headquarters. Their boycott became irrelevant, at least as a way to prevent legislation, when Whitmire returned home.

The problem with Republicans returns to the whole Lubbock vs. Midland debate which if Republicans were smart, should have been settled back in the Spring. The debate derailed the first special session, and is probably going to be the biggest roadblock in the upcoming one.

One of the biggest problems facing the Republicans is a dispute between Sen. Robert Duncan of Lubbock and House Speaker Tom Craddick over how West Texas districts should be drawn.

Currently, District 19 is dominated by Lubbock and includes Craddick's hometown of Midland. U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, represents the district.

But Craddick wants a new district created that would make Midland the population center. That would require pairing Lubbock with Abilene, now represented by District 17 U.S. Rep. Charles Stenholm, D-Abilene. People in Abilene have complained that they could lose a congressional district focused on their needs. Lubbock officials fear Stenholm would defeat freshman Neugebauer and leave Lubbock without direct congressional representation.

Dewhurst said he has been talking to Duncan and Craddick in hopes of reaching a compromise. "I think we're going to reach an agreement on a whole map," Dewhurst said.

Democrats are now infighting as well as the Dallas Morning News reports a heated exchange between the "Texas Ten" and Sen. Whitmire, who left New Mexico last week:

Last week’s announcement by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, that he would join Republicans in establishing a quorum on the Senate floor as soon as Mr. Perry calls another special session means “we must return to the Senate to defend rural and minority Texans as best we can,” the 10 senators said.

Mr. Whitmire has said he broke ranks and returned to Texas to protect Senate traditions of bipartisanship and consensus that he said protect minority points of view, no matter what the issue. But the Democrats who maintained the boycott, calling themselves the Texas 11 Minus One, said Mr. Whitmire ignored a new assertiveness by GOP leaders.

“Despite his rhetoric, (Mr. Whitmire’s) move amounts to trading away the electoral voices of the millions of rural and minority Texans we are in Albuquerque to defend,” the 10 senators said.

“This betrayal by a former member of the Texas 11 … makes it imperative that we … return to Texsas to fight Whitmire and the Republicans to prevent this partisan power-grab. We intend to fight the passage of the Whitmire map.”

A spokeswoman said Mr. Whitmire “is disregarding their negative comments. … They’re his friends. They’re under a lot of stress.”

The 10 other Democrats will still stay out of Austin until Mr. Whitmire helps the Republicans reach the 21-member quorum needed to do business, Ms. Van de Putte said.

"We're not at risk of being captured," Ms. Van de Putte said. Meanwhile, in Austin, Mr. Perry met Monday with Republican leaders to plan another special session on the issue amid one remaining obstacle – getting agreement among the Republicans themselves.

Interesting. It's my guess that Whitmire will give the Senate quorum Monday morning, and that later Monday morning the remaining senators will show up. I'm a little surprised at how heated the rhetoric has gotten, but in all honesty, I'm not really too surprised over anything any more...

The Quorum Report has the items on the agenda for the session.

Charles beat me over to PSR, so check it out over there (I know I haven't posted over there... I've been busy and all, but I'll get back to it now that I'm settled and all here in Austin).

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wesley Clark - A bold Prediction

By Byron LaMasters

Wesley Clark will run for President, and he'll get the Clintons money. And by the end of the month, he'll be the story of the race.

I don't have any source. It's really just a gut feeling. But I can see it. Why else would there be stories like this floating around. The New York Times is hardly a tabloid:

During cocktails in the back yard, one group heard former President Bill Clinton say that the national Democratic Party had "two stars": his wife, the junior senator from New York, and a retired general, Wesley K. Clark, who is said to be considering a run for the presidential nomination.

A lot of Dean people still downplay the roll that Clark would play if he came into the race. So what if Dean and Clark like each other, talk weekly, etc. If the Clintons come to Clark and offer him their support (either out front or behind the scenes), or Clark has gone to the Clintons and asked for it (and that's my guess. That Clark has delayed this long until he gets the offical "ok" from the Clintons). I think that Hillary is smarter than to run. I know that she and Bill probably really want to go back to the White House, but I honestly think that they'll hold off.

People are saying that its too late for Clark. Well, what if he has the Clinton's behind the scenes support? Play this out for a second. Clark could announce on September 19th, do a whirlwind tour for the next week. Get the Clinton money people in right away, dazzle everyone by raising $5-10 Million (possible if Clintons give their donors the nod) in the last 10 days of the third quarter, and immediately become the story of the race. Sure, now that's the best case scenerio for Clark. But its a distinct possibility, and if he has the support of the Clintons he can be the story of the race by the end of the month.

In addition to the Clinton people, Clark would peel off anti-war / progressive support from Dean, military support from Kerry, southern support from Edwards and Graham, centrist support from Lieberman, etc. He already leads Bush. He's right where Colin Powell was 8 years ago. Clark is the one man that could change this race dramatically (I would say Clark could knock out Kerry, Edwards, Graham and Lieberman - or at least 3 of them - leaving the race between Dean's Internet army, Gephardt's labor army against General Clark. I personally like Clark, and I'd like to see him run. I'd like to hear more of his positions on issues before I'd consider supporting him, but he's really the perfect profile. He opposed the war in Iraq, but unlike Dean his military / national defense credentials are impeccable. He'd be acceptable to Deaniacs (one wonders why he's everyone's favorite VP for Dean), yet also can appeal to southerners, conservatives and moderate Democrats turned off by Dean (although I'm not suggesting that moderate and conservative Democrats wouldn't eventually support Dean if he were the eventual nominee, but I honestly don't see Dean being very competetive in the south should he be the nominee - although I do think that Dean could beat Bush by winning Gore states plus a few of AZ, CO, FL, OH, WV and NH). Furthermore, Clark would probably be acceptable to the DLC and he could pick off libertarian Republicans, independents, non-voters and more. I love the match up. I think and hope that Clark will run. I think that he'll catch fire. If not, he'll still be a great VP for Dean.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:28 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Early Vote Numbers

By Jim Dallas

Today is the last day to early vote in the Constitutional Amendment Election. As of close-of-business Sunday, about 2% of Texas voters had cast their ballot early.

Travis County has the highest turnout of the 15-largest counties, with almost 3% casting their vote by the end of Sunday.

(Source: Texas Secretary of State).

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

"Game Over Man, Game Over"

By Jim Dallas

The Dallas Morning News has the scoop (as does the Statesman and the Chronicle):

The renegade Texas Democrats decided late Monday to leave the New Mexico hotel that they've made their home for the last six weeks and to come back to the state for a court hearing Thursday before returning to their homes.

"We will say goodbye to the great people of New Mexico, probably on Wednesday, and then we will be in court on Thursday" in Laredo, said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic caucus.

The runaway senators had vowed to stay out of Texas until another redistricting session was called and a quorum established on the Senate floor. However, Ms. Van de Putte said, the decision last week of Houston Democrat John Whitmire to return to Texas changed the other Democrats' thinking.

They will still stay out of Austin until Mr. Whitmire helps the Republicans reach the 21-member quorum needed to do business but will return to their families in Texas, she said.

The problem now seems to be with intra-party feuding in the GOP over how to redraw the lines in West Texas and elsewhere.

The future of the two-thirds rule also hangs in the balance.

Although there are still a few tricks up the Democrats' sleeve:

Gallegos said it may be impossible to stop a redistricting bill in a third special session, but he joked that Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, might be able to do so with a filibuster.

"Gonzalo's still got a filibuster in him," Gallegos said. "I don't know if it's a 30-day filibuster. We may have to prop him up."


Kuff has a good post on this also.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 08, 2003

America Divided over "Uniter" Bush

By Jim Dallas

According to the latest CNN/Time?Harris poll, 49 percent of Americans think Bush is a "Uniter", and about as many think he is a "Divider" or don't know.

This is down from 58 percent who thought Bush would be a Uniter when he first took office.

The poll, which has a margin of error +/- 3.1 percent, also showed that 62 percent thought that Bush would be remembered as an "average" or "poor" president. This is down from December 2001, when 55 percent thought Bush would be recorded in history as a "good" or "one of our greatest" Presidents.

A majority of those polled also thought Bush was not a "compasionate conservative."

And - surprise! - this is also the very same sample which said by a margin of 70-30 that Bush was doing a "good job" in Iraq.

So even if the American public swallows Bush's story about Iraq and the War on Terrorism, it's still difficult to believe that Bush will have an easy time getting re-elected next year.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:09 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A Burnt Orange Cartoon

By Jim Dallas


P.S. My friend Brady has started posted again on Campaign Treehouse. Go there to read about the Million Zygote March and the Dean Follies.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:37 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Bush Losing McCain Republicans / Independents

By Byron LaMasters

Via comments on this Kos thread. The Boston Globe reports on New Hampshire poll results:

McCain voters also displayed another strong sentiment: their dislike for President Bush.

As could be expected, well more than half, 67 percent, of the Democrats and Independents surveyed said they had an unfavorable view of Bush. The sentiment was even stronger among McCain voters, 76 percent of whom have an unfavorable opinion of the president.

Those polled were equally negative about Bush's handling of terrorism, with 68 percent reporting they believe the United States is losing the battle. Although 48 percent said they supported going to war with Iraq, 72 percent said they believed the case for war was exaggerated, and 74 percent said the intervention in Iraq was not worth the number of lives lost so far.

Shocking. 76% of New Hampshire voters that supported John McCain in January 2000 view President Bush unfavorably. These are people who are willing to vote for a Republican in 2000, and who's first choice for President was a Republican, the majority of whom probably voted for Bush in November, now saying that they want someone new. Wow. If we get the right message and right messenger, we'll win next year. Bush has alienated moderates (shown here) and conservatives, and Democrats hate him. Who's left?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Prop 12 Ads Without Perry

By Byron LaMasters

Well, it looks as if the Prop 12 folks took my advice and stopped airing the ads with Perry in them. I saw three "Yes on 12" ads while watching football and the news today and none of them featured Rick Perry (whereas the ads that I saw watching the UT game last week did).

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Edwards Not Seeking Re-Election

By Byron LaMasters

This is shocking. I think that Edwards has a shot at the nomination, but its quite a stretch at best. I blogged on it the other day. I can't understand why he'd give up the chance to run in 2008 or 2012 by leaving the senate. Then again, he may have some internal polls regarding his ads that we don't know about, or he might do what politicians do best. Change his mind.

Regardless, if Edwards decision sticks, this race will be a Burr vs. Bowles race. Should be a toss-up.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 07, 2003

Where's the Outrage?

By Byron LaMasters

I've been impressed with several of the opinion columns in the Daily Texan already this semester, and here's another. Rafael Mittlefehldt asks why is the right-wing not outraged over the kiss between Madonna and Britney Spears? Personally, I thought that it was pretty hot, but it's interesting that the right has been relatively quiet on it.

If there's one part of pop-culture that makes me think the world is going to hell, it's the recent exponential growth of reality shows. However, there are dozens of things about pop-culture that make me think the world is going to hell. This week, it was the MTV Video Music Awards ceremony.

Shows like this make me glad my little 13-inch isn't cable-ready. If you've read a newspaper, used the Internet or watched TV in the last week, you have seen the picture of Madonna French-kissing Britney Spears. If not, you were probably looking for it. Pervert.

I realized the other day why all the news about the kiss annoyed me so much. It's because the only media outlets reporting on it with any sort of enthusiasm are, say, MTV News or Teen People. These guys are in the entertainment business, and their brand of glossy fabu-reporting reflects that. That's fine, because that's what they're paid to do, but I realized I was only disappointed because I was looking for real political debate. Yet all the stories out there about the event have been about the actual kiss, not any reaction.

This silence is rather significant. There is no lamentation from the pope. There's no call to arms from Billy Graham. The president has not hinted that perhaps the Video Music Awards ought to be codified in some way. There aren't any stories about the reaction, because there isn't any reaction.

This might not seem so out of the ordinary, since it was just a stupid show that no one takes seriously anyway. Then again, there's almost always a very public reaction to publicized homosexual behavior. This time, an entire sector of the religious community known for stepping in at times like these has decided to leave the entertainment industry alone. Eerily enough, no one's made a sound. Why?

Well, I took a sociology class a couple years ago, so I know why. It's because the homoeroticism in question involved women rather than men.

A friend of mine pointed out that if it had been two guys kissing at the awards ceremony, people would've gone nuts. Religious leaders everywhere would have called thousands of press conferences to officially denounce MTV. Bill O'Reilly would be booked through next April. Millions of old people across America would have written letters to the editor.

The reason for this blatantly conditional response is simple: Lesbians are just a lot cooler than gay men - in the eyes of conservative America. Notice how a vast majority of religious and conservative political leaders are male. There's little need to explain this in any great detail. Regardless of their views on homosexuality, a photo of attractive women kissing probably affects them more than they're willing to admit. Lesbian eroticism is still highly popular among homophobes.

Besides, they do have a lot more biblical support than most people might believe. Think the Bible condemns all homosexuality? You'd be wrong. It only condemns male homosexuality. Look at Leviticus 18:22: "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman. That is an abomination." The passage is clearly speaking only to one gender. Similarly, the story of Sodom in Genesis, Chapter 19, only describes the attempted gang-rape of men by men. And yeah, there might be something in Romans 1:26 that mentions passive lesbianism, but two out of three is pretty good. The first two books are older anyway.

Clearly, homosexuality isn't really in question at all. Reverse sexism is the real issue. Men everywhere - gay or straight - should be unwilling to stand for this, and demand equal treatment from the subtly oppressive opposite sex.

We'll all be watching the awards ceremony closely next year. Only when Jack Black and Snoop Dogg make their own headlines can we be assured a victory.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:39 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Primary Time in Austin

By Byron LaMasters

It looks as if Democrats in Travis County will have a primary for the County Commissioner Precinct 1 seat. I live in the precinct, and I have not yet decided who I will support. The incumbent is Ron Davis (article is from his 1998 primary race. I could not find a current article/website extensively profiling him). The challenger is Celia Israel. The race is just developing. A friend of mine involved with the Israel campaign tells me that she's running because Ron Davis just doesn't do much, and Israel would be more of an activist for the district. While I don't follow commissioners court politics very closely, I rarely hear much about Ron Davis. He seems to have taken a low-profile. Then again, maybe I just don't pay enough attention. He could be doing all sorts of things that I don't know about. Israel has an impressive resume (in addition to having a good friend of mine helping her campaign), so I'll definitely highly consider supporting her regardless.

But having said all of that. It's hard to overlook the fact that Davis is Black and Israel is Hispanic. Democrats redistricted the county commissioners seats in 2001 (map, here pdf file) to create one heavily Republican seat (3) with most of the western half of the county, one Hispanic (Democratic) majority district (4 - southeast), one White Democratic majority district (2 - central and northeast) and one Black influence district (1 - east). The problem with that seat, however, is that while Blacks have held the district in recent years, there simply aren't enough Blacks in Travis County to have a majority-Black commissioners district. The district is only 21% Black Voting Age Population. (33% Hispanic and 39% White. Population breakdown for all county commissioner districts is here). While I doubt that Israel or Davis will resort to race-baiting, no doubt, some of their supporters will. Interestingly, White voters will decide which candidate wins. So, as a White Democratic Primary voter, here's my deal. The first candidate to resort to race-baiting tactics will automatically ensure my support of their opponent. Hopefully, we won't have any of that, and I'll be able to make a decision based on the merits of the candidates. We shall see...

Update: It's interesting to see the establishment support that Israel has already lined up in a race against an incumbent this early. The support includes Austin City Councilman Brewster McCracken, Bettie Naylor, former state reps. Lena Guerrero, Glen Maxey and Ann Kitchen and current State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 06, 2003

Multilateral Realists

By Byron LaMasters

Back to my post on the Christian Science Monitor Neocon Quiz. Most everyone with a Democratic / moderate / left leaning perspective on foreign policy was listed vaguely as a "realist". I wanted to repost a comment that I wrote on the earlier thread.

From looking at the questions of the quiz it seems like the answers are generally go like this:

A) Far left-wing, Anti-American radical answer

B) Centrist, multilateral answer, pro-alliances, pro-diplomacy answer

C) Center Right/Right wing American Empire answer


D) Protectionist, isolationist, crazy right wing answer.

So, 'A' is for "liberals" although I'd really probably classify it as "far left". 'C' is for the Neocon's and 'D' is for the isolationists. Fine, but what is a realist? It's a broad term which unlike liberals or neocons spans the traditional left / right, Democratic / Republican divide in order to include people from Colin Powell to Bill Clinton. 'B' is the "realists" which I would guess that the majority of people come closest to. I think that realists could be further divided into conservative realists and liberal realists. I guess I'd call myself a "liberal realist". Still broad. So, how would you define me?

I consider my foreign policy to be center-left, multilaterist, pro-alliances, pro-diplomacy, hawkish on national defense, but anti-pre-emptive strike/unilateral action, strongly pro-NATO and pro-UN, pro-Israel but anti-Sharon and pro-Peace and pro-Palestinian state (two state solution). If I could make a category, what should I call it? Multilateral Realists?

Historial "multilateral realist": Tough one, but Woodrow Wilson comes close (he's the guy the CSM guys chose for historical leader of "liberals").

Modern "multilateral realist": Easy. Wesley Clark. Hmmm... interesting.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:08 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Donate to the Texas Ten

By Byron LaMasters

Well, it's not 11 anymore, but you can donate to the "Texas 11" to help cover food/travel/hotel costs for them here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Zogby Poll: Majority disapprove of Bush

By Jim Dallas

Press release here:

President George W. Bush’s job performance ratings have reached the lowest point since his pre-Inauguration days, continuing a steady decline since a post-9/11 peak, according to a new Zogby America poll of 1,013 likely voters conducted September 3-5.

Less than half (45%) of the respondents said they rated his job performance good or excellent, while a majority (54%) said it was fair or poor. In August Zogby International polling, his rating was 52% positive, 48% negative. Today’s results mark the first time a majority of likely voters have given the president an unfavorable job performance rating since he took office.

The reported margin of error was +/- 3.2 percent.

According to the poll, Bush's re-elect figure is 40 percent (this comes on the heels of a CNN/Time poll yesterday showing Bush's hard re-elect had fallen to 29 percent).

The poll also shows Howard Dean with a statistically insignificant lead over Senator Kerry and Senator Lieberman. Other polling data suggests that the three are most likely in a statistical deadheat at the moment (in terms of national support).

According to pollkatz, Zogby's numbers have generally been more anti-Bush than most other national polls, although other polls (such as the most recent Ipsos-Reid poll) show approvals and disapprovals being almost even.

The Zogby poll and Ipsos-Reid sampled likely and registered voters, respectively. All of the other major polls sampled "adults" nationwide (and, strikingly, every single one of the polls that sampled all adults gave Bush higher numbers than Zogby and Ipsos-Reid; the only exception to this rule is Fox/Opinion Dynamics, which ought to speak for itself).

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:20 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Andrew Sullivan ridicules Cornyn, fundies

By Jim Dallas


WHERE WERE THE REPUBLICANS? At the Senate hearings yesterday on whether the Defense of Marriage Act is in trouble and a Federal Marriage Amendment is necessary, no fewer than two - count them - two Republican senators bothered to show up. Five Democrats did. One Republican stayed for only a few minutes. I think we may have seen exactly what's going on here. No serious legal scholar thinks that one state can impose marriage rights on another, under current law. Despite disingenuous attempts to claim otherwise, the Full Faith and Credit Clause has never applied to marriages and still doesn't. DOMA makes sure that federal marriage rights are exclusively heterosexual. This entire FMA charade is entirely designed as theater for the fundamentalist base of the GOP. It seems even the Senate leadership can't take it seriously. I'm grateful, of course. But if I were one of the fundamentalists trying to amend the U.S. Constitution, I'd be more than a little perturbed.

Sullivan also praised former Republican Senator Alan Simpson's piece today in the Washington Post.

Is it too late for the Republican congress to trade Cornyn conservatism for Simpson sympathy?

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

GOP Exploits 9-11

By Byron LaMasters

Via the Washington Post:

Gilmore said he hoped to focus on education in his talk but would also address terrorism concerns because "local officials do have a major role to play in homeland security."

Organizers said they expect at least 50 people to attend the event at the Lake Ridge headquarters of defense contractor MTCI. The invitation to the reception solicited $500 contributions, which included a photo opportunity and an "official 9-11 pin," while $250 donors would receive "an official 9-11 Pentagon Memorial pin."

Greg J. Galligan, O'Brien's Democratic opponent in a district that includes a portion of Fairfax County, condemned the Republicans for "capitalizing on one of the darkest days in American history."

"It really sickens me," Galligan said. "It's unconscionable."

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

I'm a Realist

By Byron LaMasters

According to the Christian Science Monitor Neocon Quiz via Strategeric Thought, I am a Realist. Here's what they say about it:


Are guided more by practical considerations than ideological vision
Believe US power is crucial to successful diplomacy - and vice versa
Don't want US policy options unduly limited by world opinion or ethical considerations
Believe strong alliances are important to US interests
Weigh the political costs of foreign action
Believe foreign intervention must be dictated by compelling national interest
Historical realist: President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Modern realist: Secretary of State Colin Powell

I'd agree with most of the above. I'd also add that the modern realist should only include the pre-dark side Powell, before he became a yes-man to Wolfowitz and Rumsfelt. Until this last year, I actually highly respected Colin Powell. I always find online quizes interesting, and I'd encourage anyone to take this one, however there were several questions that I found biased. Take question #10 for example:

10. Does the US have the right balance between foreign and domestic priorities?

A. President George W. Bush rightly made the nation's security his No. 1 priority after 9/11. The growing deficit is unfortunate, but increased spending is certainly justified. The US didn't start the war on terrorism, but it will finish it, even if that moves some domestic concerns to the back burner.

B. The US is spending billions per month to help Iraqis, but millions of US workers can't find jobs. Managing a global empire is unconscionably costly.

C. The billions spent on homeland security and far-flung bombing campaigns haven't made the US any safer. With the money it wastes killing civilians abroad and chipping away at civil liberties at home, the US government could provide health insurance to all Americans.

D. If the cold war was World War III, 9/11 began the opening shots of World War IV. This is no time to "go wobbly" by whining about the federal budget deficit. Compared with the sacrifices Americans made in WWII, there is little to complain about. The cost to win the war on terrorism may be quite high, but the US truly cannot afford to lose this fight.

Well, I can't agree with 'A' because besides the obvious "George Bush rightly...", I do think that the deficit is a big deal, and 'A' downplays that. As for 'B', well I opposed the war in Iraq, but at this point pulling out of Iraq isn't a good idea either (we should go to the UN that we alienated and said that we didn't need earlier this year). Jobs are important, and Bush has neglected them, but it has little to do with Iraq. I'm close to agreeing with 'C', but I don't like it either because I think that it's critical that we spend a good deal of money on homeland security post-9/11, and I think that it has made a difference, although I strongly oppose parts of the Patriot Act and other violations of the Constitution. Health insurance is important and all, but what does it have to do with homeland security? And 'D' again dismisses the budget deficit and goes into this WWIII and WWIV that I find a over the top. So, I really didn't agree with any of them. Since I had formed opinions on the previous nine questions, I decided to try all four answers and all four gave me the same result: a realist. I just with that there was a 'E' reading something along the lines of: "It is critical to invest in homeland security in order to prevent another 9/11 from terrorizing America. However, we must balance the federal budget, and in order to pay for our new security concerns it is critical that the Bush tax cuts be repealed." Hmm... well, that's my opinion, what's yours?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:24 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 05, 2003


By Jim Dallas

The Daily Texan has a photograph of Dick Gephardt on the front page today -- labeled "Pete Gephardt"

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Straw Polls

By Byron LaMasters

At the Dean Meetup this week, the organizers announced straw polls held at Labor Day events in Dallas and Hays Counties. The results were interesting. Dallas County had Dean with 46% followed by Clark with 11%. Hays County straw poll had Dean at 62% and Clark with 23%. All other candidates in both polls were in the single digits. To me, this tells me two things.

1) Howard Dean has extraordinary support from the grassroots base of the Democratic Party unrivaled by anyone.

2) Wesley Clark could easly catapult into second place in the polls should he enter the race. He's already there in terms of the size of his Meetup and in straw polls.

Note: I wrote the numbers down quickly at the meeting, so if they are incorrect, I apologize and would apreciate a correction. Any other straw polls in Texas recently?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another Reason Whitmire Should have Stayed in NM

By Byron LaMasters

Today, Sen Whitmire decided that he would stay in Texas for good:

Sen. John Whitmire ended all speculation today that he might once again break for the state's border and deny Republicans the vote they need to have a Senate quorum on congressional redistricting.

"I intend to fight redistricting on the Senate floor. I will be here," said Whitmire, D-Houston, in a news conference on the Senate floor.

So you'd think that Republicans here would be embracing him, right? They talked so much about how much they wanted their collegues back. Well they got one back, and what do they do?

Sen. Whitmire originally planned to hold his news conference in the Lieutenant Governor's Press Conference Room. But a resolution passed by Senate Republicans last month barred him from using that room until he paid $57,000 in fines for breaking the Senate's quorum.

"It's a sad day when a senator can't use the press room," Whitmire said.

Instead of embracing Sen. Whitmire and asking to work with him, Republicans decide to treat him like crap. The message? The Republicans in power are not interested in negotiating. They'll do whatever it takes, legal or illegal, precedented or unprecedented to get what they want. Republicans have set the tone both in Texas and in Washington. Democrats have a choice. They can lay down and take it, or we can fight like hell. How long will it take for us to get it?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:02 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Congress raises pay, again

By Jim Dallas

CNN's got the story.

What was especially sad is that the COLA seems to have wound its way into the Treasury and Transportation appropriations bill (H.R. 2989) without many people noticing; and then by the time people caught on, the dons of the House drafted a rule (H.Res 351) that prevented an amendment to get it taken out.

Mr. MATHESON [Rep. Scott Matheson, D-Utah]. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to urge my fellow Members to oppose the previous question.

Mr. Speaker, these are difficult times in our Nation. We are fighting terrorism on numerous fronts. Our economy is in serious trouble, unemployment is at record-high levels, and our future budget deficits are predicted to be the highest in the history of this great Nation.

Now is not the time for Members of Congress to be voting themselves a pay raise. We need to show the American people that we are willing to make sacrifices. We need to budget, live within our means and make careful spending decisions based on our most pressing priorities.

Mr. Speaker, let us send a signal to the American people that we recognize their struggle in today's economy. Vote no on the previous question so we can have an opportunity to block the automatic cost-of-living adjustment to Members of Congress. Regardless of how Members feel about this issue, they should all be willing to make their position public and on the record.

A no vote will allow Members to vote up or down on the COLA. If the previous question is defeated, I will offer an amendment to the rule. My amendment will block the fiscal year 2004 automatic cost-of-living pay raise for Members of Congress. Because this amendment requires a waiver, the only way to get to this issue is to defeat the previous question.

Therefore, I urge Members to vote no on the previous question.

It's not easy to scrap rules for consideration of a bill (because it is hard to justify holding up the entire budget process to quibble over a provision or two), but the nays came surprisingly close, getting 173 votes.

Consider this - Since 1999, congrssional pay has been raised five times, from $136,700 to $158,000 next year. Even accounting for inflation, that's a pay increase of about $8,000 per year, or a 5.5% pay increase over 5 years.

Since 1999, Congress hasn't raised the minimum wage once, and due to inflation the $5.15/hr. minimum wage has lost 8% of its value in the last 5 years.

And average hourly wages have been stagnant or worse.

While, again, this is something that was really hard for individual members to vote against, it still constitutes an outrage of the first order.

I intend to write Rep. LLoyd Doggett a letter explaining my irritation.

UPDATE: I erroneously stated earlier that Doggett voted for H.Res 351. After re-checking my facts, Doggett voted against the House rule (which, if defeated, would have been open to amendment). Kudos to Doggett!

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Foley's Out

By Byron LaMasters

Mark Foley is out of the race for U.S. Senate from Florida. Via Political Wire. And who called it back in May?

Mark Foley has a choice to make. He can come out, continue his Senate campaign, and we'll witness a holy war in the Florida Republican primary next year, or he can come out, see the writing on the wall, and just run for re-election to the House, where his south Florida constituents don't care too much about what he does in private. Or, Foley can continue to say that his private life is his own business, and continue to get hounded by the media on a daily basis. Or, Foley can flat out deny that he's gay - something that would look quite foolish after Thursday's news conference. Needless to say, I wouldn't want to be in his position right now. Thank god I never will be. Democrats don't hate gay people.

Mark Foley is a closet-case gay Republican. I don't claim to know for certain, but the evidence is there. Foley has managed to save face by claiming that he needs to care for his father with cancer:

U.S. Rep. Mark Foley is ending his dream of becoming Florida's next U.S. senator.

His father has cancer and Foley, choking back tears, said Thursday night, “He's always been there for me and I have to be there for him.”

In an emotional interview with The Palm Beach Post, Foley, his voice quavering, talked about the the intensity of a statewide race, the demands on his time and the enormous need he feels to help his father, Ed, and mother, Frances, both in their 80s and in poor health.

Certainly, I respect anyone who gives up their time, money, ambition, etc. to care for their parents. If my parents were sick or dying, I'd gladly make sacrifices to help care for them. But that's not the point. It's a cover. I mean, you don't go out, raise millions of dollars in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a senator, then just give up. And even his parents asked him to stay in the race. Personally, I think that the guy has realized that gay people can't win a Republican primary. It just won't happen. Especially in a statewide race. I could be wrong, but I smell a cover-up. Anyone else have any thoughts?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Redistricting Nationalized

By Byron LaMasters

Democrats are nationalizing the Redistricting battle in Texas with a tour by state senators across the country. The message is that Bush / Republicans are trying to dilute the voice of 1.4 Million minority voters in Texas.

Three of the 10 holdout Democratic senators left their New Mexico refuge for the nation's capital to launch a $1 million national tour to attract attention to their standoff with the GOP over congressional redistricting.

State Sens. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, Rodney Ellis of Houston and Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso announced at the National Press Club on Thursday that they would be part of a concentrated media campaign funded by MoveOn.org. The political action committee, formed in the late 1990s to challenge the impeachment of President Clinton, has taken up the cause of the Texas Democrats and is placing print and television ads accusing President Bush and the GOP of disenfranchising minority voters.

"The Republican redistricting plan would silence the voices of 1.4 million Hispanic and African-American Texans," said Van de Putte, who chairs the Senate Democratic Caucus. "They would either be moved into districts so heavily Republican that their votes won't matter, or would be packed into districts that guarantees them permanent political minority status."

The article also mentions the Move On ad and the plans for the tour:

The ads paid for by MoveOn.org, which debuted in The New York Times, feature a picture of Bush with the warning, "Don't Mess with Texas." It describes the move to realign congressional districts to ensure the election of five or more Republicans as "the worst setback for minority voting rights in four decades."

The ads will run in a number of states, including Texas. The Texas senators plan to travel to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Philadelphia on Sept. 8. The senators said they will visit and other cities, including Chicago, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco and Los Angeles in coming weeks.

Maybe they can campaign against the recall when they're in California. I like the idea. Redistricting is a complicated issue that most people don't really understand. I think that it's critical that Democrats explain to people what's really going on in the context of other Republican power grab attempts (CA recall, trying to end senate filibusters, etc.)

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:39 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

University Democrats Visit Whitmire's Office

By Byron LaMasters

Two University Democrats officers are leading students to Sen. John Whitmire's office today (I would have gone, but I just found out about it and I have a 1 PM class) to express their disapproval. I respectfully disagree with Andrew and Jim (who I've spoken with about Whitmire), that this was inevitable and that Whitmire shouldn't be attacked because of what he did. I'm sorry, but the guy just left the other senators in the middle of the night without saying goodbye. That's inexcusable. And unlike other senators who have courageously stayed in New Mexico, despite their wife giving birth while in New Mexico (Ellis), or having recently had a heart attack (Lucio), Whitmire has no excuse. None. Zero. If they all decided to come home, then fine. But it should have been all together, united. Instead, the headlines this week blared, "Democrats in Disarray". And it's Whitmire's fault. And the arguement that they don't have the means to stay forever is silly. There are resources that could be used to help them out. They're our senators, and we elected them from safe Democratic districts because they're fighters and will do whatever is necessary to prevent the right wing from power grabs and changing the rules. I'm proud of my state senator Gonzalo Barrientos. As for John Whitmire, can I understand why he did what he did? Sure. Can I forgive it? Maybe. But am I happy? Hell no, and if I lived in his district and the Democratic primary were today, I'd vote against him in a second. Now, I'm not endorsing a challenge to him at this point. The jury is still out. He still may leave if another session is called. He may have an idea. I don't know. And regardless, I still hold him in much higher regard than the two "Democrats" who voted for redistricting in the House, Vilma Luna and Ron Wilson. Anyway, kudos to Ben and Bryant for taking the lead on this. I'd encourage any Democrats in Austin today to stop by Sen. Whitmire's office today (he's in town) and express your disapproval as well.

Bryant and I are going to lead groups to express our disapproval (how pissed we are) to our invertebrate friend senator Whitmire over his decision to be a real "Chicken D."

So Bryant will lead a group at 11, and I (Ben) will lead one at 12, and we
will go to Senator Whitmire's office and officially register our opinions.
We will meet in the area with the benches in front of the PCL and proceed to
the capitol by foot.

Join us! (I bet you didn't know we were coming apart) You're either with us,
or you're with Witless Whitmire.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Can Someone Explain this to me - Like I'm a 2 Year Old?

By Byron LaMasters

Apologies due to Denzel Washington from Philadelphia, but I saw for the second time today the "Yes on Prop 12" campaign ad featuring Rick Perry (wmv file). Now, I don't claim to be an expert, but typically when you want to win an election, and get the public to accept your point of view, you use people more popular to campaign with. Take California for example. Gray Davis, facing a recall is an unpopular politician. So, what does he do? He runs ads featuring a popular politician, Diane Feinstein. You may view the ad, here.

Now, take a look at Texas. The latest public poll on Prop 12 has it leading with 51%. On the other hand, the latest poll on Rick Perry's approval rating shows it at 44%. So why the heck are the Yes on 12 folks using Rick Perry in their ads? Common sense would suggest using a popular Republican to promote Prop 12. Like Sen. Hutchison or Carole Keeton McClendon Rylander Strayhorn, or heck, even someone like Susan Combs or something. I don't know. I don't really care. It's not my problem. It's the problem of the Yes on 12 folks. But still, can someone, anyone, explain to me why a cause (Prop 12) is being promoted by a politician (Rick Perry) who is less popular than the cause that he is promoting. Can someone explain it to me? Like I'm a 2 year old?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:34 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

On Whitmire and Re-Redistricting

By Andrew Dobbs

Many of my Democratic colleagues have taken to slamming John Whitmire's return to Texas. While I am dissapointed that he felt that this move was necessary my source of consternation comes from his unwillingness to inform his colleagues that he would be returning and apparant collusion with Republican senators, namely Florence Shapiro, in his actions. Aside from that though I feel that it might be time for the standoff to end.

First, let's take a look at Whitmire and his district. Whitmire is the "Dean of the Senate"- its longest-serving member. He has been a state senator since 1982 and was in the Texas House for 10 years prior to that. His district is about 2/3 Black and Hispanic but large sections of North Houston make it less comfortable than it should be. A Republican challenger was able to get 40% against him and several Republicans carried it in congressional races. Whitmire is a moderate Dem, with a 33% lifetime rating from the Young Conservatives of Texas (the only group that currently tracks voting records for legislators that I am aware of). For comparison, the aforementioned Shapiro has a rating of 92% and Austin's own Gonzalo Barrientos has 9%. So Whitmire is a safe, but not too safe, moderate from a minority-dominated district. Could he afford to stay in NM? I think that the answer is yes, but a minority Dem sucking up to the leadership (a la Ron Wilson) could move into that district and take him out in a primary perhaps, though it is unlikely. He is pretty safe in his district, he went about it the wrong way and so people are upset that he left.

But at the same time we have to realize that his main concern, the lack of an exit plan, is a very valid one. What can the Democrats do? If the Dems came back to Texas one day before the March 2 primaries the GOP could ram through a bill moving that date back, extending the filing deadline and passing redistricting. They could concievably wait until March 2, but that would preclude them from running in their own primaries, meaning that they would all be gone after that day. Additionally, Perry would call a special session that also addressed school finance and could claim that they were letting our schools fail while they took a 7 month long vacation. Finally, the strain on families and finances would be far too great for such a retreat. Frankly, it is impossible to wait out until Perry loses so we have to decide what to do.

The answer is to let the GOP fight it out on their own and utilize the courts. A big battle is brewing at the moment between Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland) and Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) over their West Texas congressional districts. For some reason Tom Craddick wants to give up what is possibly the second most powerful position in state government to enter Congress, where he would be a meaninngless junior member. To do so, he needs a district centered on Midland. Duncan is looking out for his constituents and wants a Lubbock-based district. You can't have both so something's gotta give. Duncan must know that any map that passes will be redrawn in conference committee by Craddick so passing any map is probably a bad idea for him. Add anti-re-redistricting Republican Bill Ratliff to the 12 Democrats and you have 14 no votes, just two short. When Ratliff came out against re-redistricting in the early summer he suggested that there were several other Republicans opposed to the plans. These senators are probably alienated by the Democratic break and would be hounded by their constituencies for daring to side w/ the Texas 11 now. Still, if East Texas Republican Todd Staples (whose district would be particularly damaged by redistricting) and perhaps moderate Republican Jeff Wentworth were to be convinced we could win. That's a big if, but maybe good ol' politics is what we need.

Finally we have the courts. Any plan is sure to be a violation of the Voting Rights Act and perhaps illegal on other grounds as well. If this is so, injunctions keeping the old lines in place for now and perhaps victories could win it for us. There is no guarantee and in fact some skepticism if this would work or not, but it will have to be done.

We cannot hold out forever and it seems that we cannot even hold out until this bill would die. As a result, we must look beyond the quorum-break to other tactics. Horsetrading and politics to swing a few more Republicans and the courts are our only options. I think that Whitmire left in the wrong way, but makes a point about the wisdom of continuing this tactic. I'd appreciate your thoughts on the matter and suggestions as to what Democrats could do to hold off this effort.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 12:28 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 04, 2003

Dems debate in New Mexico

By Jim Dallas

Right here, buddy.

"La Voz de los candidatos," de Univision.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 11:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Texas 11 on The Daily Show, C-SPAN

By Jim Dallas

The Daily Show on Comedy Central reran a hilarious piece on the 11 (now 10) Democratic state senators who fled for New Mexico tonight. It was first aired last week.

Playing along with the joke, Sens. Rodney Ellis and Leticia van de Putte sat for mock interviews with Daily Show correspondant Steven Colbert.

The segment can be viewed here (RealPlayer required).

Sen. van de Putte also was a guest on C-SPAN's Washington Journal. You can view that here (RealPlayer required). Sen. van de Putte's segment is towards the end, so you will need to fast-forward to about time index 2:01.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 10:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

I Voted!

By Byron LaMasters

So, I voted today, performing my civic duty for the tenth time since I turned 18 in July 2000. I was thinking about that on the way home. I've never skipped an election in which I was eligible (The ten are the 2000 General Election, 2001 Dallas City Council, 2002 Democratic Primary, 2002 Democratic Primary Runoff, 2002 Austin City Council / ACC / AISD, 2002 Austin Community College Board Runoff, 2002 General Election, 2003 Austin City Council, 2003 Austin City Council Runoff and now 2003 Constitutional Amendments). Now, I didn't vote in an August 2000 bond vote for DART Bond Election (word file), because I only found out about the election one week beforehand and I had not yet registered to vote. I also didn't vote in either the December 2001 Austin Special Mayoral Election or the Dallas January 2002 Special Mayoral Election because I changed my voter registration from Dallas to Austin in between the two elections so that I could vote in primary elections in March 2002 in Austin (I had originally planned to keep my voter registration in Dallas).

Anyway, the University Democrats made the following endorsements last night regarding the Constitutional Amendments. They reaffirmed all of the endorsements of the Burnt Orange Report and made endorsements in every other race.

Here are the Endorsements of the University Democrats:

Prop 1: YES
Prop 2: NO
Prop 3: NO
Prop 4: NO
Prop 5: YES
Prop 6: YES
Prop 7: YES
Prop 8: NO
Prop 9: NO
Prop 10: YES
Prop 11: YES
Prop 12: NO
Prop 13: No endorsement
Prop 14: YES
Prop 15: YES
Prop 16: NO
Prop 17: NO
Prop 18: NO
Prop 19: YES
Prop 20: NO
Prop 21: YES
Prop 22: NO

For the record, I voted the UD endorsed slate with one exception (I also voted NO on 13). I voted YES on Prop 20. The arguement against that proposition was that it was designed to help military communities, but that it would be silly to give lucrative bond rates until after the next round of base closures in 2005. I'll be optimistic that Rep. Chet Edwards and our other senior congressmen will be around to help save Fort Hood and other military bases, and I think that it's good to support military communities and our men in uniform (even though I don't agree with the decisions made by our current administration in using that military, that's beside the point). Even though I opposed the war in Iraq, I can say in good faith that I support our troops more than some hypocritical Republicans who say they support our troops, yet cut their pay at the same time. Our troops are getting shot at in heat of 120 degrees. I wouldn't have sent them there, but damn, even considering cutting their pay is downright unpatriotic, so shame on Bush for not doing a damn thing about it, yet attacking patriots like Max Cleland who did far more to serve America than our president. But I digress...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

GOP cuts jobs for Working Class, Creates Jobs for Polluters

By Byron LaMasters

I think that I've figured out Bush-o-nomics 101. Cut jobs for TA's and students, but create jobs for corporate polluters:

Two top Environmental Protection Agency officials who were deeply involved in easing an air pollution rule for old power plants just took private-sector jobs with firms that benefit from the changes.

Days after the changes in the power-plant pollution rule were announced last week, John Pemberton, the chief of staff in the EPA's air and radiation office, told colleagues he would be joining Southern Co., an Atlanta-based utility that's the nation's No. 2 power-plant polluter and was a driving force in lobbying for the rule changes. Southern Co., which gave more than $3.4 million in political contributions over the past four years while it sought the changes, hired Pemberton as director of federal affairs.

The rest of the article from the Kansas City Star is here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Open Source Politics

By Byron LaMasters

Since Kevin Hayden was one of the first bloggers that blogrolled BOR (back on our Live Journal page, it's only fair that I put in a plug for his new group blog, Open Source Politics. I've just scanned it a little bit so far, but definitely worth checking out.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

John Edwards Enters the Blogosphere

By Byron LaMasters

Well, John Edwards has finally joined the dance, via Political Wire. Kos likes it, so it can't be all bad, but it's pretty late. I'm surprised that a candidate like Edwards who presents himself as a younger, hipper, outsider type didn't go after the techy, younger internet crowd vote that has gone mostly to Dean so far. Edwards' profile would make him a natural fit for those voters, but he's alienated much of the early online support that he had by having a top-heavy campaign staff (see #'s 1 & 4 of preceding link) that generally ignored the grassroots. It's hurting him now. Regardless, I'm adding the link to my "Presidential Blogs" on my blogroll here. We'll see how he does. The only chance that I see for Edwards is if he is able to force Lieberman and Graham out of the race early because of money, and that Clark does not run. If all that happens, then there's a chance that if Edwards is able to get his message out, that he could build up a southern firewall to the Dean juggernaut (Edwards does have a statistically insignificant lead in the latest Zogby South Carolina poll). Beyond that, I see little hope for Edwards, and I'll join Monkey Time in thinking that Edwards will be out by the end of the year.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Joe Crabb Clerk Quits, Disillusioned

By Byron LaMasters

The El Paso Times reports:

An assistant clerk for the House Redistricting Committee recently wrote an interesting letter to Chairman Joe Crabb, R-Atascocita, and members after she quit.

Lauren Kasprzak had a front-row seat as assistant clerk of Crabb's redistricting committee in addition to a perspective from the backroom where much of the real politics plays out.

Kasprzak's letter drips with disillusionment.

"The process that we went through during the regular session was a joke," she said in the letter. "The public was excluded in any real decision calculus of the committee. Sure, we held public hearings... on a plan that we never intended to go to the floor.

"And then we introduced the new plan... while someone was writing the other map that we actually intended to be voted out of the committee in a back room," she wrote.

She and her parents are Crabb's constituents. Lauren says her parents are Republican. She now calls herself an independent.

Earlier this summer, hundreds of people lined up to testify on a redistricting plan that Crabb knew was a sham, she says. The hearing lasted all night. People hung around to 4 a.m. ... 5 a.m. .. 6 a.m. to testify on a phony plan, unaware that backroom architects were drawing the real plan.

"They wasted the people's time. ... You have to honest with the public," she says. "You are changing their lives as well as other politicians' lives. There should be openness and honesty."

It would be appropriate at this point to share Crabb's perspective and his response.

But a meeting this week in his Capitol office didn't go very well. Crabb interrupted before any question about the letter and other observations by his former employee.

"What you are doing is evil. Leave my office," Crabb, an ordained minister, said while booting this reporter into the Capitol corridor.

And this from the ever-so-liberal *screaming sarcasm* El Paso Times.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Whitmire Fallout

By Byron LaMasters

You may wonder why I've been kind of light on the redistricting bonanza recently. Well, I've moved into my apartment here in Austin and have started classes. But I haven't yet gotten my cable modem installed. So, when I'm at home, I'm using a dial-up, which I can still post from, but trying to do a wrap-up of statewide news coverage (from a dial-up) is a real pain, as it requires scanning at least half a dozen news sources at once (and anyone who has a dial-up knows how easy and fun that is *sarcasm*). Anyway, while I spend about an hour a day at the UT computer lab, I try to do my other rapid fire posts, check my email accounts and do most of my other internet activities within about an hour or so. So, without any further ado, I'm basically going to yield to Charles in the Whitmire / Redistricting / Killer D's / Texas 11 department until I get my DSL line installed which could be in a few days, or could be next week. He has a great wrap-up of the Whitmire Fallout on his blog today.

So, until I get my cable modem, you can expect about one hour of rapid fire posts on weekdays, and scattered posts at other times from myself, Jim and Andrew. Thanks.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Recurring Theme: GOP Budget Cuts Hurt TA's

By Byron LaMasters

For the second day in a row, the Daily Texan has an article on jobs cut by the Republican state budget cuts. Yesterday, the story was on students being unable to find on-campus work. Today, it's teaching assistants:

Anthony Ambler, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, said the department had to cut the number of teaching assistants by about 5 percent to 10 percent because of budget reductions.

Budget cuts have had a sweeping effect for teaching assistants across the University.

Each department pays the salaries of teaching assistants from funding allocated from the instructional portion of the UT budget, which was reduced by $22.7 million this fiscal year, said Mary Knight, associate vice president and budget director.

Some courses had to be eliminated because of budget cutbacks, which reduced the number teaching assistant and assistant instructor positions for graduate students, said John Dollard, vice provost and dean of graduate studies.

"If a course is cut which would have required a TA, then the program offers one less TA-ship," Dollard said. "... I would imagine that that would be a principle way in which TAs have been affected."

Dollard said he cannot estimate the effect of the budget cuts on the number of teaching assistants until finalized figures become available. Kyle Cavanaugh, associate vice president for human resources, said the data on teaching assistant positions will be available at the beginning of October.

Budget cuts and reduced undergraduate enrollment, re-quiring fewer classes, would both decrease the number teaching assistant positions, Dollard said.


The Division of Rhetoric and Composition had to cut six assistant instructor positions because of a 9-percent budget cut, said Madison Searle, senior administrative associate in the division.

In a typical year, Searle said the division hires about five or six assistant instructors from departments around the Uni-versity. He said 30 applied this year, but administrators were unable to hire any.

Richard Lariviere, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said despite attempts to save money in other areas of the college, teaching assistant positions were still eliminated because of a 10-percent budget reduction.

Everyone, repeat after me. Bush/Perry/[insert local Republican elected official/candidate here] budget cuts / tax cuts (choose one) are costing America jobs. It's hurting students. It's hurting the middle class. It's hurting families. We need new leadership in this state and country.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jimmy Carter Felt Nation's Pain, too

By Byron LaMasters

I never knew that President Carter felt the nation's pain. I knew that Bill Clinton did, but I never knew about Carter. I was cleaning out my closet today (I meant to sort my political stuff over the summer, but never got around to it. So, I finally emptied about 5 boxes of political crap, consolidated it into one box and created three garbage bags. So, go me!). Anyway, one of the things that I found was a Jimmy Carter campaign literature ad from 1976 that a friend and BOR reader, Tim Z. sent me about a year ago. On one side of the literature piece it reads:

We can have an American President who does not govern with negativism and fear of the future, but with vigot and vision and aggressive leadership - a President who is not isolated from our people, but who feels your pains and shares your dreams, and takes his strength and wisdom and courage from you.

So, I've found the winning formula for Democrats running for President! They must be able to sincerely and honestly feel the nation's pain. Carter did it, and Clinton did it. Al Gore clearly "lost" because he was unable to show how much he felt the nation's pain. So, here's an opportunity for the Democratic nine (and Wesley Clark). If any of them can feel the nation's pain, a la Carter or Clinton, then it's pretty clear that that candidate should be the nominee, since clearly, only Democrats who feel America's pain can win a Presidential election.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:35 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

MoveOn.org Ad

By Byron LaMasters

Pick up the New York Times today to see an ad attacking Bush and Perry.

Via ToT and Quorum Report.

PDF File available here via Off the Kuff

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 03, 2003

Too hilarious to pass up

By Jim Dallas

Via Daily KOS, from Pocho.com:

FRESNO, CA Shocking photographs from Lieut. Governor Cruz Bustamante's sordid past as a Fresno State University militant Chicano hate group member in the free wheeling 1970s surfaced today on my desk. These photos are compelling evidence that his membership in the college student group 'MEChA', whose acronym in Spanish means, "Mexican Ku Klux Klan," is more than a youthful indiscretion. Bustamante, which in Spanish means, "He who breaks open the skull of the White Man," is shown racing towards a carne asada barbecue area, toting a Mexican flag and full Chicano revolutionary regalia. He is accompanied by a band of fellow unbathed MEChISTAS, which in Spanish means, "Mexican Aryan Nation."

It is un-American for this gordo bandido (fat democrat) to not renounce his membership in this dangerous and reckless seditious Chicano hate group. You can just hear the shouts of, "Hispanic Power!" and a bloodcurdling "Ole!" as you stare at this horrific scene of South of the Border savagery. Among the goals of this militant Mexican mafia are the complete takeover of Aztlan, which means "move into your house and violate your blonde daughter" and the most offensive and radical, to recruit Latino students into college. Disgusting!

The MEChA slogan is, "La Union Hace La Fuerza," which means in Spanish, "Get your paws off me you damn dirty Gringo ape!"

Meanwhile, more evidence of substantial marijuana use, groping of helpless females and multiple sex orgy gangbangs by Arnold Schwarzenegger were found again today but it doesn't matter because, hey, it's Arnold.

I'm Bill O'Really, and I'm fairly imbalanced.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:46 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Strayhorn in 2006?

By Byron LaMasters

Anyone would be an improvement. A Democratic friend told me today that he'd vote in the GOP primary if it could mean being Perry. Although in a cynical way, it might be best for Democrats to let Rick Perry stumble and mislead until 2010, at which time Texas will be trending more Democratic and people will be so sick of Rick Perry's nonleadership that they'll replace him with a Democrat. Should Strayhorn or Hutchison get the GOP nomination in 2006, I'd bet on them being elected and re-elected easily in 2010. While I wouldn't vote for either, Strayhorn and Hutchison are both competent and have the ability to show leadership. I've never been able to say that about Perry, and after this summer, not with Dewhurst either. Anyway, here's the news with Strayhorn:

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn may have poured some gasoline on her smoldering feud with Gov. Rick Perry and renewed speculation that she wants her fellow Republican's job in 2006.

Strayhorn on Tuesday rehired longtime political operative Mark Sanders for more than $120,000 a year to oversee her public relations and press office.

When last we saw Sanders, he was the attack dog for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez. Sanders spent most of 2002 unsuccessfully trying to convince Texans that Perry was, in Sanders' own words, a liar, a hypocrite and a lapdog for big insurance.

"Conventional wisdom always says that politics makes strange bedfellows, and this certainly proves that," veteran political consultant Tony Proffitt said Tuesday. "It's bound to give Governor Perry some heartburn. There were some awful hard words exchanged in the campaign."

Sanders' shoot-from-the-hip, made-for-campaign style could make a Republican primary showdown between Perry and Strayhorn, and other potential candidates such as U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, as heated as any general election — especially in an era when winning the GOP primary has become tantamount to winning the general election.

Publicly, Perry took a low-key approach to the announcement of Sanders' new job and said nobody in his office tried to discourage Strayhorn from hiring him.

"All of us make decisions about what's in our best interest, from the standpoint of our staff, by and large, unilaterally," Perry said. "That's not something that people sit around and discuss at length."

Perry also declined to get drawn into a discussion about who might challenge him for the GOP nomination in 2006.

"I don't know and don't waste my time thinking about something that is 2 1/2, 3 1/2 years down the road," he said.

Despite a hiring freeze at her agency for nonessential jobs, Strayhorn on Tuesday also hired veteran Republican press secretary Mark Heckmann as a communications officer.

"Together, these two men bring more than 40 years of experience in communications to the agency," she said in a written statement.

They also bring new nameplates to a pair of offices that have been occupied by a revolving crew of media specialists. In the past three years, Strayhorn has had four press secretaries and two special assistants for communications.

The duties of those jobs will now be split between Sanders and Heckmann, who will earn $122,040 and $114,132, respectively.

Perry pays his top press aides slightly less: $114,400 for his communications director and $98,800 for his press secretary.


Strayhorn has made several moves that have raised speculation that she's trying to distinguish herself from Perry.

In May, she called for higher cigarette taxes. In June, she threatened not to certify the state's $117 billion budget until Perry trimmed it by about $200 million.

And last week, with Sanders advising her informally, Strayhorn criticized lawmakers and Perry for raising some fees to balance the budget. That salvo prompted Dewhurst to suggest "the Republican primary started early this year" and brought stinging rebukes from just about every other Republican.

The intraparty warfare has made for interesting headlines, but it hasn't threatened any state services.

And Sanders said he and his boss aren't focused on any future election.

"She loves being comptroller 24-7," he said. "But she is never going to say never to people who are asking her to continue serving where she can make a difference."

The Dallas Morning News also speculates on possible runs for governor by either Strayhorn or Hutchison.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

GOP Budget Cuts Hurt Students

By Byron LaMasters

The effects of this year's Republican budget cuts have deep effects throughout the state of Texas... and students are no exception. In July, I blogged on the cuts forcing the UT computer lab to reduce their hours. Then it was the Aggie Journalism Department being axed. Now? It's Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. The Daily Texan reports (bold text is done by me):

Richard Avila can't find a single job on campus.

The biology sophomore looked for work on hirealonghorn.com, but couldn't find anything that fit his schedule.

"There's a lot less jobs than there were last year," he said. "It's getting kind of hard because of budget cuts ... not many people are hiring."

On-campus jobs provide adequate pay and don't require personal transportation. As the 2003 fall semester gets under way, more and more students are realizing that the availability of these jobs has decreased and continues to drop.

Most available jobs go first to work-study students, who are in the most need of financial assistance. Due to the recent budget cuts, work-study students are more appealing to the University when hiring employees, Don Davis, the associate director of the Office of Student Financial Services said.

Davis is not surprised to hear that students are having trouble finding jobs at the University. There are, "squeezes everywhere," he said.

"Student workers can be a luxury or a necessity, depending on the circumstance," Davis said. "Some departments that are forced to make cuts may cut student positions first ... However, it is cheaper to hire a student than a regular [non-student] employee."


Laura Pak, a sociology senior, qualified for the work-study program all four years at the University, but only received the funds her freshman year.

"I qualified for work-study, but I was told they didn't have enough funds to employ me, so I'm looking off campus," Pak said.

Pak is currently taking out a loan to cover her housing bill.

"Some people are able to pay for college comfortably," she said. "I can't, and this is just the way I have to do it."

Sounds like we got ourselves a good election year theme next year. Republican/Bush/Perry/[insert local Republican elected official here] budget cuts / tax cuts are bad for the economy, irresponsible, hurt children, hurt students, hurt the elderly and disabled, and most of all hurt average workers and kill jobs, and won't get better until we change the direction of government in this state/country.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Whitmire is Back

By Byron LaMasters

I was pretty busy today, but Charles was on the story of the Sen. Whitmire's return to Houston. I'm a little upset and disappointed, and I hope that he'll continue to break quorum should another special session be called, but I'm not going to call for his defeat in a Democratic primary, like I have with Ron Wilson. I guess we'll just have to see what happens. Anyway, I've had a long day, and I'll blog on it in more detail tomorrow (unless Jim or Andrew gets to it). Again, for all the coverage you need for now, check out Off the Kuff

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:29 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 02, 2003

An Exit Plan?

By Byron LaMasters

The Quorum Report reports that Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) spent the weekend in Houston. Is there an exit plan?

Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) issued the following statement this morning:

"I have been in Houston since 10:00am, Thursday, August 28th after getting up at 3:00am to take a 7:00am flight to Houston. I returned as I had always planned - not a bolt from the group, but a planned return after sine die on Tuesday, August 26th."

"After being in my district for five days, I have concluded my constituents are opposed to redistricting, but they also believe the fight should be on the Senate floor."

"I am returning to New Mexico today to keep my commitment to the Texas 11. I will discuss with my colleagues that we need an exit plan and we need it now."

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Angry Dallas City Council Meeting

By Byron LaMasters

No surprise here. Last week, Andrew blogged on the firing of Dallas Police Chief Terrell Bolton. And in typically Dallas fashion, the way you look at the issue is oftentimes determined by your race. A lot of Blacks see Bolton's firing as a racist attempt to get rid of the first African-American Police Chief in Dallas. Some have even claimed that there was a secret deal between Mayor Laura Miller and the Hispanic community to fire Bolton, then appoint a Hispanic Police Chief. On the other hand, it seems as if Hispanics and Whites are more likely to see the firing as a necesary change needed to lower Dallas' high crime rate.

I've written before on Dallas Mayor, Laura Miller's Black Problem, so when it is all put together, it made for a quite contentious city council meeting this week. Anyway, for all the action, the Dallas Morning News reports.

Angry supporters of ousted Police Chief Terrell Bolton filled the City Council chambers Wednesday, demanding to know why the city's first black chief was fired Tuesday and why he wasn't given an opportunity to resign.

"We want answers. We want answers," said Frank Ward.

City Manager Ted Benavides, who has said that he alone made the decision to fire the chief, sat silently as speaker after speaker railed from the microphone. But before the meeting ended, he agreed to meet at 9 a.m. Thursday with those who have questions about the chief's firing.

Mayor Laura Miller was the target of several outbursts from the gallery during Wednesday's raucous council meeting, which had to be suspended twice.
Mr. Benavides said Wednesday he acted because controversy over the chief had eclipsed discussion of how to bring the city's crime rate under control.

"The focus was on the chief," Mr. Benavides said. "The focus needed to be on the department.

"The fact remains that we're the No. 1 crime city with over 1 million people. I thought that making a change would allow us to shift the focus and move in a new direction."

Twice, Wednesday's council meeting was suspended when the clamor became so great that it threatened to spin out of control. During the intervals, black council members quietly urged the most vehement protesters to sit down rather than risk eviction from the chamber.

Several speakers focused their outrage on Mayor Laura Miller, accusing her of making a secret pledge during her re-election campaign to force out Mr. Bolton. They threatened political repercussions.

"Madam mayor, we're going to recall you," Joyce Foreman said. After she spoke, many in the capacity crowd stood up, clapped and cheered. A petition to recall Ms. Miller was circulated at the meeting.

Ms. Miller – a longtime critic of the chief's management style – reiterated that she did not take part in the decision to fire Mr. Bolton, had no warning that it would happen Tuesday and didn't know why Mr. Benavides reached the decision when he did.

"There's only one person that can answer those things, and I can't make him talk," the mayor said.
Several in the crowd started yelling when Ms. Miller said the community needs to be unified.

"You're the divider," yelled former council member Sandra Crenshaw. "You're trying to play us against the Hispanics, and we want some answers."

The city charter gives the city manager sole authority to hire and fire department heads, including the police chief. However, it says a fired department head must be given a written explanation and a hearing before the City Council if he demands them in writing.

Bob Hinton, Mr. Bolton's attorney, said he was hoping to get an explanation from Mr. Benavides at Thursday morning's meeting. He said he would wait until then before deciding whether he would demand a written explanation or a public hearing.

"We're waiting to see tomorrow what Benavides says," Mr. Hinton said. "He's going to explain why he was fired."

But Mr. Hinton added he doubts that there was a good reason.

"He doesn't have a why, because the why is, 'I was told to do so by Laura Miller,' " he said.

Mr. Hinton said he did not have confidence that the city would honor the charter even if he asked for a public hearing.

"I don't think it's appropriate, quite frankly, right now to ask for a public hearing or to have an explanation because they just simply haven't followed the city charter in any of this."

Speaking at the council meeting, the Rev. Stephen Nash vowed to press for the reinstatement of Mr. Bolton. He also planned to lead a boycott of several businesses, including The Dallas Morning News and WFAA-TV (Channel 8), which he accused of biased coverage.

Mr. Nash, who said he spoke on behalf of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Metropolitan Dallas and the African-American Pastors Alliance Coalition of Dallas, left the meeting disappointed.

"I think that the very intent of letting us come down to vent is an insult," Mr. Nash said. "What we needed were some answers."

County Commissioner John Wiley Price called Mr. Bolton a sacrificial lamb, saying, "It's a sad message that's being sent.

"This is a wake-up lesson in political maneuvering for the black community," he said, adding that Mr. Bolton had been micromanaged, undermined and sabotaged.

Former council candidate Roy Williams accused Mr. Benavides of sacrificing Mr. Bolton "to save your own hide."

Lee Alcorn, former head of the NAACP's Dallas chapter, asked why Mr. Benavides did not give Mr. Bolton the chance to resign.

"Firing Bolton will not save your job – you're going to be next," Mr. Alcorn told Mr. Benavides.

In response to reporters' questions, Mr. Benavides repeated what he had said Tuesday: that he considered the decision for weeks and that it was not prompted by any one incident.

"I try not to make quick decisions," he said. "I try to contemplate, talk to other folks and make an evaluation before taking action."

Donna Halstead, a former council member who is now president of the Dallas Citizens Council, said that description matches her 14-year experience with Mr. Benavides.

"He kind of holds things close to his vest and doesn't act precipitously," she said.

On the other hand, she said, Mr. Benavides does not hesitate to let those he works with know whether he thinks they are not performing well.

"He's very forthcoming if he has criticism," she said.

Mr. Benavides also dismissed suggestions that problems in the chief's personal life affected his decision.

"Absolutely not," he said.

Mr. Benavides denied that he was prompted to act by a request from the district attorney's office for the names of police officers who have criminal convictions in their background. He said that he did not receive a copy of the letter until Wednesday and that he had not read it.

Council member Elba Garcia said she intends to ask interim Chief Randy Hampton to comply with that request. The letter also asked for names of any officers who omitted pertinent information from their applications.

Chief Hampton said he would work to comply with the request for information about officers' backgrounds, which have come under scrutiny since Mr. Bolton fired Derrick Evans.

"We'll see what we can do to accommodate that request," he said. "I want to be clear about what they want."

The district attorney's letter came after revelations that the Police Department hired recruit Evans despite knowing that he failed a lie-detector test in an unsolved homicide and falsified his employment application.

The district attorney's office said it has a legal duty to review the criminal backgrounds of officers to determine whether there is information that prosecutors must disclose to defense attorneys if the officer is testifying during a trial.

Dr. Garcia said Wednesday that concerns prosecutors outlined in the letter were still valid, even though Mr. Bolton has been fired.

"I'm going to write a letter [requesting that] ... we notify [the district attorney's] office about whether we have any other potential problem officers with backgrounds like ex-Officer Derrick Evans'," Dr. Garcia said.

Council member Veletta Forsythe Lill said that even though Mr. Benavides did not consult with council members immediately before the firing, he was certainly attuned to members' opinions on the subject.

"I'm certain that he had visited with a large majority of the council," she said. "Ultimately, it was Ted's decision, but he had to know that he had backing."

But black council members said they were blindsided – and angered – by Mr. Benavides' action.

"The city manager has the authority to hire and fire the police chief," council member Leo Chaney said. "But we the council have the authority to hire and fire the city manager."

The city manager is hired by a majority vote of the City Council but can be fired only by a two-thirds vote, or 10 members.

Mr. Chaney said he was led to believe that the chief's weekly meetings with the mayor had been productive and that Mr. Bolton was on the right path.

Mr. Chaney said this was not a racial matter but an issue of respect.

Council member Don Hill said he was not satisfied with Mr. Benavides' stated reasons for terminating Mr. Bolton.

"I don't have an answer. I can't tell you what was the reason or the cause for what happened," he said. "So far, I have not gotten any sufficient answers."

Mr. Benavides said he would gladly comply with Mr. Hill's request for an open discussion about the decision to terminate the chief.

"I'd be glad to talk to council members individually or in a group," he said.

He said he did not consult with council members about his decision because personnel issues are his responsibility.

"The council hires me. I hire ... [Mr. Bolton]. This is still a personnel matter. I made the choice to hire Terrell, and I thought it was appropriate that I make the decision to terminate him."

Mr. Benavides said he was not surprised by the angry response from some on the council and in the community.

"I fully anticipated this," he said.

It's nice to be back in Austin...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Park Cities Paper Opposes Perry

By Byron LaMasters

Here's a shocker. The local newspaper serving Highland Park and University Park (upper class suburban enclaves surrounded by Dallas on all sides, which vote about 80-90% Republican) urged Kay Bailey Hutchison to come home and bring some sense to the governor's office. Interested? Read on.

Won’t you come home, Kay Bailey? If Rick Perry calls another session, Republicans should elect another governor

The line is 10-1 that Rick Perry will call another special session to jam through Congressional redistricting. As we’ve said before and will say again, the Republicans have every right to redistrict. The voters gave them the power, and the voters expect them to use that power. But we doubt the voters expected they would use their power so ineptly. While the governor pursues his one-track strategy, a buzzing host of financial troubles hovers overhead. When those troubles descend on Texas, there will be hell to pay. The governor’s political clumsiness has created a legislative crisis that leaves Texas unprepared and unarmed to fend for itself.

There’s more. Seasoned political observers talk about the new GOP leadership with a growing cynicism that long-time Republicans should find appalling. From the stories that are circulating, the new Republican leaders don’t sound much different that the old Democrats who controlled the state for over 100 years.

Corruption is hard to track and harder to prove. A major donor buys a private jet for $500,000 and then sells it to an aspiring candidate for $100,000, which he borrows personally so he can campaign across state. When the election is over, the now-elected official turns around and sells the plane on the open market for $400,000. In these transactions, nothing illegal has occurred. Yet the official has pocketed $300,000 before taxes.

But most things are subtler than that. The intertwining of business interests with state regulation provides a fertile field for mischief. Take the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as an example. One of its three members is a lobbyist for the Texas Chemical Council. Another of its three members, appointed by Rick Perry, is a long-time activist for the Texas Cattleraisers Association, whose lobbyist also happens to represent various utility and chemical interests before the Commission on which she serves. Nothing wrong with that. But how do you think this Commission votes when chemical industry interests are at stake? It makes a joke of the Commission’s name.

Anything illegal here? Not at all. It’s all business as usual in Austin — and that’s the other problem with this governor, besides his ineptitude. He’s a Republican who could as easily be a Democrat. There’s not, in the famous phrase, a dime’s worth of difference between how state government is operated now under the GOP than how it operated under the Tory Democrats who ran the state for over 100 years.

That’s why many Republicans’ eyes are turning to Washington, where Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has served Texas with honor and distinction. We don’t agree with her on every issue (it’s time to dump the Wright Amendment, Senator), but we are second to none in our respect for her abilities and her probity.

Senator Hutchison is a Republican to her fingertips. She grew up in an insurgent Texas Republican Party whose goal was reform, not business as usual. Her integrity is unquestioned. Her good sense is well known. Her political instincts are excellent.

If Kay Bailey were to challenge Rick Perry in the March primary, Texas Republicans would face a clear choice. There’s no question the battle would be bloody. Perry is the kind of politician who, because he believes in nothing, will stop at nothing to get elected. The primary is dominated by the kind of hard-nut conservative that gives that admirable word an almost pejorative meaning. And, finally, Republicans are notoriously loath to fight it out in public.

Against that, Kay Bailey has advantages. She is the most popular Republican in the state, next to the president himself. She is a prodigious fund raiser. She has a deeply embedded network of support throughout the state.

If Rick Perry goes through with his threat to call another session, costing the taxpayers another $30 million, he may achieve his obsession of getting Tom DeLay three more seats in the U.S. Congress. But if he thinks that’s why Texans elected him, he’s reading tea leaves, not election results. The Republicans received a mandate, but not for this. The GOP needs to replenish and reclaim that mandate. It will achieve that by addressing and fixing the state’s problems, not by adding to them.

Kay Bailey Hutchinson, come home.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

UT to consider Race in Admissions

By Byron LaMasters

From a UT News Release last week:

Effective ways to include race as a factor in selecting applicants for admission are being evaluated by administrators at The University of Texas at Austin, which plans to implement a revised admissions process by fall 2004.

Dr. Bruce Walker, vice provost and director of admissions at the university, said he and Provost Sheldon Ekland-Olson have been working with other university officials for several weeks to develop an admissions process that includes race as a factor. Their plan must undergo reviews by President Larry R. Faulkner, as well as by the University of Texas System’s legal counsel before a final version is submitted to the Board of Regents for its consideration and approval.

“Our mission is to serve the entire state of Texas, and right now we have certain segments of the population that, by all indicators, are underserved,” said Ekland-Olson. “We are looking for all kinds of ways to improve on that and this gives us one more tool to use.”

The fall 2002 freshman class at The University of Texas at Austin included 13.6 percent Hispanics and 3.4 percent African American students. In comparison, the statewide demographic figures show Hispanics are 32 percent of the state population and African Americans are about 11 percent.

Walker said all 15 components in The University of Texas System are required to have plans reviewed by the system prior to implementation of race as a factor in the admissions process. He said the university’s “holistic” review of each applicant takes many factors into consideration in addition to academic strength.

I'll be interested to see what the eventual policy is. I do support considering race as a factor in admissions, but not "quotas". But Affirmative Action isn't quotas, so I support Affirmative Action. It's time for UT to have a student body that looks more like Texas by finding and recruiting more well-qualified minority students.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:02 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Prop 12 has Narrow Lead

By Byron LaMasters

The Houston Chronicle reports:

Texans who say they are likely to vote in the Sept. 13 election favor Proposition 12 by a margin of 51 percent to 38 percent, according to a new poll.

The controversial measure authorizes the Legislature to cap damages in medical malpractice and other lawsuits.

Six percent are neutral on the issue and 5 percent don't know.

The Scripps Howard Texas Poll surveyed 1,000 adult Texans by telephone Aug. 7-21.

The pollsters asked Texans how likely it was that they would vote in the election. Sixty percent of those polled said they were very likely or somewhat likely to vote.

However, historically fewer than 10 percent of voters turn out for constitutional amendment elections. Proposition 12 is one of 22 amendments on the ballot.

Voters who identify themselves as Republicans are more likely to support Proposition 12 than are Democrats or independents. Sixty-three percent of Republicans favor the measure, compared to 43 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of independent voters.

The poll also showed stronger support in South Texas than in other regions of the state. Medical liability has been a big issue in South Texas, where doctors staged a high-profile walkout last year to protest rising insurance costs. Sixty percent of voters in South Texas said they support capping damages, while support in all other regions is 50 percent or 51 percent.

I was not surprised that a small majority of Democrats oppose Prop 12 and a slightly larger majority of Republicans support Prop 12. I am surprised, however, that south Texas is the area with the strongest support for Prop 12 considering that it is the most Democratic area of the state. So, what I'm guessing that this poll would suggest is that a slim majority of both parties support Prop 12 in south Texas, whereas support / opposition is more polarized along Republican / Democratic Party lines in the rest of the state. Makes sense, considering that the area of the state with the biggest health care problem is south Texas. Either way, polling cor a constitutional amendment election where less than ten percent of the population is likely to vote is always difficult and its hard to interpert the results. So, while I'd say that it's probably most likely that Prop 12 will pass, there's still a good chance that it could go either way. So, what does that mean? Yeah, you, you're vote matters.

Personally, I do find it ironic that the Pro-Prop 12 folks talk about protecting our Health Care, "...Texas families clearly see through that and agree that we need to stop medical lawsuit abuse and protect our health care", when at the same time Republican budget cuts are forcing 500,000 Children to lose health care benefits:

Beginning Monday, the more than 500,000 Texas children enrolled in the program will lose dental, vision, hospice and most mental health services. By 2005, 170,000 children will lose coverage completely.

The cuts will likely compound Texas' distinction as the worst in the nation when it comes to percentage of uninsured children. With 22 percent of its children lacking health insurance from 1999 to 2001, Texas ranked 50th among states, according to the 2003 Kids Count Data Book.

"This is a huge step backward," said Barbara Best, health project manager for Children's Defense Fund of Harris County. "Lots of states have faced funding shortfalls, but none has made such drastic cuts as Texas. It's particularly a shame because we made such a massive outreach to educate people about the program and get them enrolled since it began in May of 2000."

Best said the most frightening thing is that so many people still don't know about the cuts. She told of a health care center receptionist who was surprised when she mentioned them to her.

Many of those who knew about the cuts squeezed in last-minute appointments before the coverage ended.

So, lets see here. The folks urging us to vote YES on 12 (Republicans in the legislature, Gov. Perry, etc.) because it will save Health Care in Texas are the same folks who are cutting health care for hundreds of thousands of children in Texas. Hypocrisy anyone?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:58 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

IMF discovers Weapon of Mass Economic Destruction in U.S. Budget Deficit

By Jim Dallas

How do you unite radical peaceniks, freepers, the global finance community, and the New York Times in opposition to the Bush administration?

Answer: Drown the global economy in red ink.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 11:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Perry AWOL on Teach for America funding

By Jim Dallas

The Houston Chronicle has a good article this morning on Teach for America, a program which recruits recent college graduates to teach in inner-city schools for two years (and whose funding was recently slashed by Congress despite lofty rhetoric from President Bush).

Forty-four state governors have asked Congress for additional funding, but ours isn't one of them --

Beginning today, speakers and protesters from the Goo Goo Dolls to Sen. Hillary Clinton are expected to begin giving 100 hours of testimony in Washington in support of a $100 million emergency funding bill. All but six state governors have formally lent support to the program. Texas' Gov. Rick Perry is not among them.

While TFA teachers are probably not as effective as certified professional teachers, the alternative might be no teachers at alll (it's hard to find good people after school finance reform got scuttled during the legislative session).

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Prescient or Just Plain Nuts? An indulgent Burnt Orange "Aha!"

By Jim Dallas

A few weeks ago, I posted about the danger of making false comparisons between murder rates in Houston and casualty rates in Iraq:

... 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.

This week, the fine folks over at Buzzflash caught Fox News "journalist" Brit Hume employing this very tactic, earning him the number 3 spot on this week's "Top Ten Conservative Idiots" list on Democratic Underground:

Fox News anchor Brit Hume was spotted recently telling his viewers in an oh-so-fair-and-balanced way that American soldiers are less likely to be murdered in Iraq than regular Americans living in California. See? Our troops are perfectly safe! So how does Mr. Hume come to this conclusion? Why, like any fair-and-balanced journalist should - in a thoroughly scientific, common sense manner. Here's Brit's theory: since Iraq is "roughly the same geographical size" as California, and 6.6 Americans are murdered every day in California compared to 1.7 Americans in Iraq, isn't it obvious that Americans are safer in Iraq? Well sure, if you use the completely bogus "land area" argument that conservatives like to trot out at disturbingly regular intervals (see the right-wing map that claims Bush won the 2000 election by a landslide). However, since there are 38 million Americans in California and only 170,000 in Iraq, it turns out that Americans are actually 66 times more likely to die in Iraq. It's no surprise that Fox News (new motto: Wholly Without Merit) wants to downplay the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq - after all, they and their viewers positioned themselves as the only real pro-Americans in the the United States. Now it's not looking quite so pro-American to unquestioningly support George Whistle-Ass Bush, they're getting a little desperate. But Brit Hume is supposed to be a journalist for crying out loud. Fair and balanced? He should despise himself for misleading the public in such a fashion. It's hard to imagine even Rush Limbaugh sinking this low.

Unfortunately, the millions of dittoheads who don't understand high-falutin concepts like, you know, fractions, might not pick up on the nuances.

Now, what I want to know is, where are the Fox News talent scouts? I could use a cushy job in statistical manipulation and shady journalism after I graduate in December.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 01, 2003

Drop the livestock, fat boy.

By Jim Dallas

The Statesman informs us that there are now 754 news laws on the books as of today (most new Texas laws go into effect at the beginning of September). Among them, a definition for the previously undefined term "livestock" --

"livestock" means cattle, horses, mules, asses, sheep, goats and hogs, unless otherwise defined

New laws also relate to reproductive rights, identity theft, and a host of other issues ranging from the absurd to the odious.

And much to the chagrin of my little sister, Southwest Texas State University is now officially Texas State University at San Marcos.

Finally, since the Statesman says that NASCAR fans rule, a special Burnt Orange mention goes out to Texas's own Terry Labonte, who won the Southern 500 at Darlington, SC this weekend.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

And in university labor-relations news today...

By Jim Dallas

The Rev. Jesse Jackson was arrested today in New Haven, Connecticut for blocking traffic during a protest of Yale University's labor policies.

About 4,000 Yale employees who are members of HERE are striking (again) for higher wages and benefits.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Silly Quizzes and an Open Thread

By Jim Dallas

Selectsmart.com has put up a beta version of its "California Recall Selector." Here are my results. I'm not sure why Gov. Davis is on the list, since he can't replace himself if recalled; I suppose one who agrees with Gray Out more than half of the time should vote against the recall on line item one? In any case, it's clearly a good thing I'm not a Californian, because their elections are too complicated for me to figure out.

1. Audie Bock (95%)
2. Peter Camejo (100%)
3. Arianna Huffington (87%)
4. Cruz Bustamante (71%)
5. Gray Davis (64%)
6. Peter Ueberroth (43%)
7. Gary Coleman (27%)
8. Tom McClintock (23%)
9. Bill Simon (dropped out)
10. Arnold Schwarzenegger (19%)
11. Larry Flynt (13%)
12. Mary Carey (12%)
13. Angelyne (0%)

In other news, Byron and I met Courtney this evening, which was pleasant.

Now, over to you!

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:35 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Cornyn the Barbarian

By Jim Dallas

Ah, September. As the kids return for the new school year and the air fills with the sweet aroma of autumn, Congress is heading back to Washington. Incidentally some villages are missing their idiots.

The New York Times tells us that

...[i]f Congress learned anything this summer, it should be the need to become a driving force in demanding a far more candid and thoughtful Iraq reconstruction plan from the administration. The House was able to muster some independence when it came to demanding the import of lower-price prescription drugs and overruling parts of the Federal Communications Commission plan to allow big media companies to own more TV stations. We would like to see more of that kind of spirit, but it seems more likely that the majority will continue to move in lock step, as it did when members cruelly blocked working-poor families from the new Bush child-credit tax break other Americans enjoy. The president has so far failed to deliver on his vow to fight for the poor, but the opportunity is at hand if he dare resist his House majority leader, Tom DeLay.

But as Operation Iraqi Freedom slides into Operation Infinite Occupation, and as the economy remains in neutral, and as every sort of serious problem goes unsolved, Texas's intrepid junior Senator has a plan to save America...

... to wit, stand up to those derned uppity gay folks.

To quote Cornyn's press release:

...marriage is so fundamental to our culture that it is easy to forget how much depends on it.

Marriage provides the basis for the family, which remains the strongest and most important social unit. A wealth of social science research and data attest to this fact.

And as columnist Maggie Gallagher writes, quote: "When men and women fail to form stable marriages, the first result is a vast expansion of government attempts to cope with the terrible social needs that result. There is scarcely a dollar that state and federal government spends on social programs that is not driven in large part by family fragmentation: crime, poverty, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, school failure, and mental and physical health problems."

So obviously Sen. John Cornyn's War on Gay Marriage will close the budget deficit, eliminate crime, win the War on Drugs, educate our children, feed the poor, and do away with that accursed welfare state once-and-for-all!

Only months into his tenure as a U.S. Senator, Cornyn will begin subcommittee hearings on Thursday into whether the current Defense of Marriage Act is sufficient barrier to excluding homosexuals from getting hitched.

How Cornyn got to be the top dog on the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Property Rights is still beyond us.

In any case, the hearing should be a hoot; the subcommittee's ranking Democrat, Russ Feingold, was a very outspoken critic of DOMA. Both Feingold and Ted Kennedy voted against the bill in the Senate, but both then-Reps. Richard Durbin and Charles Schumer voted for it. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) of "two gay men and a shih-tzu" fame will get to hang around while fellow freshman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) hems and haws.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:48 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

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