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November 30, 2003

World AIDS Day

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Though I wrote this entry two years ago on my personal site, I think it is still appropriate for today, December 1.

I cannot say that I write this entry today in honor of World AIDS Day for I feel sad that such a day should be honored. It is sad that such a day should have to exist. It is sad that I know that this day will continue to exist. For years to come.

That said, I write.

I have not ever had to deal with AIDS. I do not know of anyone close that has died of AIDS. I do not know of anyone close that has AIDS.

But I am blind to the world. I know that even though I have not been affected by AIDS, I have been.

And that makes me sad.

I have not known the pain- the pain of those that suffer from the disease, the pain of those families who know a friend is dying, the pain of those who have gone to the funeral of a friend. Or lover.

I have not known the hate that has been directed toward HIV+ people. I have not known the discrimination they have undergone because of the simple change from a - to a + after HIV.

I do not know the boy who is wasting away on the streets of a big city, because they have no life left, because their family has outcast them because of their orientation. I do not know that boy who ended up dying of AIDS because his parents could not accept him for who he was in the first place. I do not know the girl who is alone and quite and dying from AIDS because she sells herself to make money, not to buy AIDS drugs to save her life, but to buy food so that she has a life to save.

But what I do know is that too many people are ignoring these people, ignoring these stories, ignoring the facts.

I do know that my generation is ignorant. How can we be so naive as to deem ourselves invincible? How can we be so unforgiving? How can we forget?

We can forget because we never knew.
But that is no excuse. Because excuses are what end up spreading this plague.

Let this be not just a day that is forgotten once it passes. Let this not just be a month in which we just casually think about it. Let this be a reminder, an everlasting reminder, of what has and is happening so that we may be able to stop it from continuing to happen tomorrow.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 11:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Home State Advantage

By Jim Dallas

Whereas, Michael Badnarik is a homeboy, basing his presidential campaign in Buda;

Whereas, Badnarik has shown personal bravery in the face of California's push towards insanity. In his own words, he "quickly fled that socialist wasteland to come to Texas, where 'gun control' means being able to hit your target."

Whereas, Badnarik might be nuts, but at least he won't take our guns away;

Be it Resolved that Jim feels that the Burnt Orange Report should endorse Michael Badnarik of Austin, Texas for the Libertarian Party's 2004 presidential nomination.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:22 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Fox News: Investigative Reporting or Partisan Propaganda?

By Jim Dallas

FOX News is re-showing their recently produced "documentary" on education, Breaking Point: The Education Crisis in America, which the network touts as "the first in a series of groundbreaking investigative documentaries by the most powerful name in news."

There are some decent parts of the series, but the real meat of it is a rehash of anti-labor and right-wing kvetching about education.

For example, whines about the NEA and the AFT. Among other things, insinuating that the teachers unions are violating campaign finance laws since their political activism often dovetails with the Democratic Party agenda. As well as a bunch of "bleeding-heart-conservative" moaning (or crocodile tears, depending on how you look at it) about how kids are "trapped" in the public education system.

(Of course, using that logic, FOX News ought to be brought down for "coordinating" with the Republican Party).

For example, woefully unfair and unbalanced views of charter schools and school privatization, portraying them as panaceas, when study after study shows that charters and vouchers do very little to actually improve educational quality.

And note, this is just the beginning (apparently) of a string of FOX "documentaries" about over-hyped "crises" full of right-wing schtick padded with touchy-feely bits about "the one good liberal teacher" or what ever.

Any case, you have to see it to believe it (oh, and yeah, I also couldn't find the transcript yet on Lexis-Nexis, so you really do have to see it to believe it). And besides, here at Burnt Orange Report, "We Report, You Decide."

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:02 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 28, 2003

Greens Divided over 2004

By Byron LaMasters

The Houston Chronicle has a good story today about the Green Party's debate over what they'll do for the 2004 Presidential Election. Greens would be smart to take the approach suggested by Presidential candidate David Cobb (well they'd be smartest to just bite the bullet and support the Democratic nominee, but I digress):

The first to declare his presidential bid is Green Party general counsel and former Houston attorney David Cobb, 41. Since September, Cobb has been traveling the Green Party circuit seeking support for his so-called "safe states" campaign strategy, targeting areas that are not expected to be major party battlegrounds next year.

It's a game plan Cobb and his supporters believe will help defeat Bush while drawing the 5 percent of votes needed to secure federal matching funds and future ballot access for the Greens.

"The way we do it is by focusing resources on those states where the vote is already pre-determined," Cobb said in a recent interview from a campaign stop in Delaware. "At most, 10 to 12 states are likely to be swing states next year."

That means Cobb will be targeting such states as Texas, Massachusetts, California and New York, while the Republican and Democratic contenders focus their sights on swing states like Florida, Michigan and Ohio.

I've made the arguement many times that there is no difference between the Greens and Republicans. They both have the same goal of defeating Democrats and electing Republicans. And while I'd never consider voting for a Green, even in Texas where the Democrat has little chance of victory, I'd be much more accepting of the Green Party if they shifted their efforts to non-swing states. Ralph Nader's impact in the 2000 election went beyond the two states (Florida and New Hampshire) where the Gore + Nader vote was greater than the Bush + Buchanan vote. Nader's success in states like Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin caused Gore to spend time and money on those states during the final weeks of the campaign, when that time could have been spent in Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire, West Virginia or Tennessee.

Possibly the best news, however, of the Chronicle article is evidence that the Green Party is having the same fate of the Constitutional Union, Greenback, People's, Prohibition, Populist, Progressive, Socialist, Union, States' Rights Democratic, American Independent and Reform Parties. These Parties, along with every other "third party" of the past 150 years have had an influence for an election or two, but eventually disputes and infighting led to their decsent into irrelevence:

But even among the notoriously independent Greens, Cobb's decision to run for president is proving unorthodox and divisive.

Ralph Nader, the party's 2000 presidential nominee, has yet to announce whether he'll run again next year. He has said he'll make a decision by the end of 2003.

As with many issues, Greens are divided on the Nader issue. Some say the high-profile consumer activist is crucial to keeping the party viable next year, while others want the party to back a candidate, such as Cobb or someone else, from within the party's own ranks.

Still others believe the Greens should sit this one out, and concentrate on grass-roots party building.

Among those favoring a presidential campaign in 2004, support is divided among those who like Cobb's plan for targeting the safe states, and others who want a no-holds barred, run-at-all-costs, full-blown national campaign.

Will we be able to write the Green Party's obituary in 2004? Let's hope so...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:01 PM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

November 27, 2003

Cowboys stomped.

By Jim Dallas

With 20 seconds left, the Miami Dolphins just picked off a pass in the End Zone to seal a 40-21 win. The Dolphins and Cowboys are both now 8-4.

I'm still impressed b the Cowboys' record this year, even if I'm glad to see them lose (and especially today on this very Happy Thanksgiving).

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Thanksgiving Surprise, and a Thanksgiving "Surprise"

By Jim Dallas

(1) President Bush is in Iraq today handing out turkey and stuffing to the troops. One side of me is touched and grateful. The other side of me recognizes that dubbed footage of the visit will later be used in a Republican campaign ad.

(2) On the verge of going 4-8 for the Aggies' worst season in thirty years, The Houston Chronicle tells us that Coach Franchione thinks beating Texas tomorrow is important.

Consider, at least for a second, the one original observation in the Chronicle story:

The once-vaunted "Wrecking Crew" defense has been practically pointing the way to the end zone, allowing an average of 38.1 points over 11 games, which makes A&M last in the Big 12, behind even Baylor (11th at 37.9).

The Aggies, who are 113th out of 117 Division I-A teams in scoring defense, have allowed 35 points to Virginia Tech, 37 to Pittsburgh, 38 to Oklahoma State, 45 to Missouri, 48 to Nebraska, 59 to Texas Tech and a whopping 77 to Oklahoma.

In their seven losses, the Aggies dug themselves a hole fairly quickly, getting outscored 97-6 in the first quarter. And they now take on a Texas team that, with Vince Young, Cedric Benson and Roy Williams leading the way, is averaging 42.5 points per game.

It's always dangerous to get cocky before the A&M game, but suffice it to say I think Texas might be favored ("surprise!")

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:38 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Haiku Thursdays (11/27/03)

By Jim Dallas

Don't be a turkey,
donate to the DNC.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 26, 2003

Hey, Carl Whitmarsh is Famous!

By Jim Dallas

At least if that's a prerequisite to getting into BrainyQuotes's database of famous quotes. Link.

Of course, for those of you in Senate District 15 or receiving messages from one the many mailing lists (or his CEWDemMessenger list) that Mr. Whitmarsh is on (or for those of you who have had the honor of meeting him at one point or another, as I did in El Paso last year), then this ought to come as no surprise.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 10:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More Coolness from NASA

By Jim Dallas

Send your name to a comet, courtesy of NASA.

And get a spiffy participation certificate, too.

Participation Certificate

Presented to
James Evan Dallas

On November 26, 2003

Thank you for your participation in the Deep Impact Discovery Mission to Comet Tempel 1. A compact disc bearing your name will be mounted on the impactor spacecraft that will collide with Tempel 1 making this the first mission ever to look deep inside a comet.

You are now part of the future discovery of clues about the beginning of our solar system as your name makes a Deep Impact!

Dr. Edward J. Weiler
Associate Administrator
NASA Office of Space Science

Michael F. A'Hearn
Principal Investigator
Deep Impact Mission
University of Maryland

Certificate No. 418927

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:16 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Free the hard drives!

By Jim Dallas

I see where they are coming from, but frankly I think this is "liberal guilt" run amok --

CNN: 'Master' and 'slave' computer labels unacceptable, officials say

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- Los Angeles officials have asked that manufacturers, suppliers and contractors stop using the terms "master" and "slave" on computer equipment, saying such terms are unacceptable and offensive.

The request -- which has some suppliers furious and others busy re-labeling components -- came after an unidentified worker spotted a videotape machine carrying devices labeled "master" and "slave" and filed a discrimination complaint with the county's Office of Affirmative Action Compliance.

In the computer industry, "master" and "slave" are used to refer to primary and secondary hard disk drives. The terms are also used in other industries.

"Based on the cultural diversity and sensitivity of Los Angeles County, this is not an acceptable identification label," Joe Sandoval, division manager of purchasing and contract services, said in a memo sent to County vendors.

For the record, a "slave" in computer jargon is defined as "a device (as the printer of a computer) that is directly responsive to another." (Alternative definition). It is not a direct reference to slavery (as it existed in the Untied States) nor does it impugne the descendants of slaves.

It's things like this that undermines the credibility of institutions who have, in the past, had reasonably progressive positions on race. It's a juicy target for those backwards people who haven't gotten around to accepting that the South lost the Civil War (indeed, one is tempted to say "it's too good to be true" -- except this is true, according to Snopes.com).Being sensitive to others in the way that we talk and write is a noble enterprise, but, "discretion," as they say, "is the better part of valor."

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:47 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Posts Today

By Byron LaMasters

I probably won't be posting today. I'm busy all day, then I'm driving to Dallas tonight for Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I'll get caught up tomorrow between Turkey and Football.

As for the "." post. Glad to see it garnered so much debate. I posted it because I was having trouble getting BOR to load after I had done a post (I think it might have to do with clicking on view site while a post is rebuilding, and continuously hitting refresh - yeah, I'm impatient). Anyway, the period made the page load without a problem and I would have deleted it but seeing that it started discussion, I kept it up. I guess I'll have to try it again sometime. A few more comments and it will be right up there with abortion and gay rights as the most debated topics on BOR.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:34 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 25, 2003

Laura Miller Recall Effort Fails

By Byron LaMasters

The Dallas Morning News reports:

The drive to recall Mayor Laura Miller sputtered to a temporary halt Monday, as organizers acknowledged that they had failed to collect the signatures needed to force an election.

But they vowed to immediately refocus their attention on a newly launched recall effort, promising perpetual petition drives as long as Ms. Miller remains in office.

Opponents of the mayor had collected thousands of signatures in a frantic effort to meet Monday's deadline for submitting their petitions. But less than an hour before the cutoff, organizers announced that they had fallen short of the 72,873 signatures required.

Organizers say they will try again, but there's no reason to believe that the result will be any different next time around. Personally, I just think that people aren't really up for recalls in the aftermath of the California recall. Just yesterday it was announced that the recall against Nevada governor Kenny Guinn had failed. Both failures are good news. While I was angry about the California recall for a few days afterwards and was ready to see an immediate recall of Arnold, after reflecting on the whole ordeal, I've come to reaffirm what I thought about recalls in the first place. They're bad for democracy and should only be used in the most extreme cases when an elected offical has severely abused his/her power.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:52 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:46 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Queens for Dean

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

No, I'm not talking about Byron or I, I'm talking about the Queens Democratic Party which looks set to endorse Howard Dean tomorrow...


The Queens Democratic Party is preparing to endorse Howard Dean for president on Tuesday, insiders say.

With one of the strongest party organizations in the state, the Queens Democrats' endorsement will carry with it the support of 45 elected officials.

The move is a blow to supporters of Gen. Wesley Clark, who have been soliciting Queens district leaders, without success, to run as delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Mr. Clark visited party headquarters early this month, when party boss Thomas Manton hosted a breakfast for him.

This should not be underestimated, as this article gives a hint to how this group gets behind their endorsements and delivers the votes for them.

This news comes fresh off the other news that the Dean Campaign picked up the endorsements of yet two more Congressonial Representatives, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez, from the tri-boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan, and Congressman Joseph Crowley, from New York's 7th district. That would bring up the total of Congressonial endorsements to 14, with a number of them in just the last two weeks.

One other note, Gwen Graham daughter of Sen. Bob Graham who dropped out of the 2004 race months ago, has now joined the Dean campaign as "National Surrogate and Southern Regional Advisor".

This type of action may be fortelling the possibility that others are seeing Dean as being more than just a frontrunner, and more or less the presumptive nominee. That's also why the other 8 running have been picking up in their attacks on every issue as shown in the Iowa debate tonight. Granted, there are many questions that remain and Iowa is still 2 months away, but one must not discount recent happenings.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 12:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Crazy People for Congress

By Byron LaMasters

From Lloyd Doggett to John Devine, Texas' own Roy Moore in the 10th district.

Check this out:

As judge, John Devine received national acclaim by refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from his courtroom and defeated a lawsuit brought by liberal activists.

Via Slightly Rough, Off the Kuff and Greg's Opinion.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:14 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 24, 2003

Where do your Tech Support Calls Go?

By Byron LaMasters

I'm not much of a fan of Dell Computers, but this is some interesting news:

After an onslaught of complaints, direct sales computer king Dell Inc. has stopped routing corporate customers to a technical support call center in Bangalore, India.

Tech support for Optiplex desktop and Latitude notebook computers will be handled from call centers in Texas, Idaho and Tennessee, Dell spokesman Jon Weisblatt told The Associated Press Monday.


Dell is one of a number of high-tech companies that has in recent years moved jobs offshore to India and other developing nations for the cheaper labor, which in Dell's case helps keep down the cost of providing round-the-clock support.

Corporate customers account for about 85 percent of Dell's business, with only 15 percent coming from the consumer market. Consumer callers won't see a change in technical support, Weisblatt said, and Dell has no plans to scale back resources at the Bangalore call center.

Worldwide, Dell employs about 44,300 people. About 54 percent are located abroad.

Companies like Dell are one of the reasons why we've lost so many jobs over the past several years. I'm all for globalization (it's inevitable), but it's critical to understand that its no longer just the manufacturing jobs that are going overseas. What can the government do about this? I'm not sure. But I do know what consumers can do. We can demand that companies have their technical support services in the United States, and if they don't then don't buy their products. I've had very bad experiences with Dell (and note that I was a little bit angry when I made that page), and for a year or so, everytime I saw a Dell ad talking about their tech support awards, I wanted to throw something at the TV. I've mellowed a bit, but it's interesting to see that I'm not the only one with problems with Dell tech support:

Among Dell customers dissatisfied with the company's use of overseas labor is Ronald Kronk, a Presbyterian minister in Rochester, Pa., who has spent the last four months trying to resolve a miscommunication that has resulted in his being billed for two computers.

The problem, he says, is that the Dell call center is in India.

"They're extremely polite, but I call it sponge listening _ they just soak it in and say 'I can understand why you're angry' but nothing happens," Kronk said.

Kronk has been credited for the second computer, but still faces late charges on a balance he said he never owed.

"Every time I see a Dell commercial on TV, I just cringe. They make it sound so easy and it's been a nightmare," Kronk said. "I even said to them once that I'd like to speak to someone in the U.S. They gave me a number but it's a recording and I can't speak to a human being."

Contact Dell. Demand that all of their technical support, not just for their corporate clients be done in America.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:48 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack


By Jim Dallas

A friend of mine brought to my attention the Internet Movie Database's listing for "Howard Dean", which include the governor's September appearance on Jay Leno as well as a minor role in a "B" grade ninja movie from the 1980s.

That was certainly news to us, as we were under the impression that Dean was a doctor in Vermont in 1984, not a B-movie star. It's possible it's another Howard Dean, after all -- there are at least 41 men named Howard Dean in California alone (according to Yahoo!), and at least 40 other listed Howard Deans throughout the entire country (per Switchboard).

Due to the awesome amount of data it collects, IMDB often makes mistakes, and perhaps its referring to another Howard Dean. I called the Dean for America national headquarters this morning, and while I was thanked for bringing it to their attention, I got no comment as to whether Dean was into ninjitsu.

(Movies.com also lists a Howard Dean as an actor in this movie).

Still, that didn't keep the usual band of rogues and misfits from having a little fun with this, including suggesting a new campaign slogan for the Dean campaign that might woo the crucial ninja vote:

  • Howard Dean is a mammal.
  • Howard Dean fights ALL the time.
  • The purpose of the Howard Dean is to flip out and kill people [metaphorically].

Still, this isn't the first time that the "Dean as Ninja" meme has floated around. Consider for example the "Dean Karate School" comic that Internet Weekly Report put out a while back.

In any case, I am waiting patiently for the Dean staffers in Vermont to address the ninja issue, now that they are aware of it. Just imagine the other candidates responses to this --

Joe Lieberman: "Al Gore and I fought to get ninjas off of television."

Wesley Clark: "If he wanted to play with nun-chuks, he should have joined the Army."

John Edwards: "Not every Southerner likes ninjas. Did I mention I am the son of a mill worker?"

And so on. This could in fact be the defining issue of this election.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:42 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 23, 2003

How We Got There (an opinion greatly aided by 20/20 hindsight)

By Jim Dallas

Over the last few weeks, through the use of 20-20 hindsight, I've made a few conclusions about US foreign policy towards Iraq. Arguably, you can't argue with somebody unless you undertand how it is that they interpret history and what lessons they draw from it. For the sake of public debate, here is how I understand the backstory to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

We need to flash back to December 1998, during Operation Desert Fox, which was launched by President Clinton in concert with our British allies. This marks the real beginning of US policy of "pre-emptive" war against Iraq, and showed the weakness of the policy of dual-containment which had been undertaken by the first Bush administration and continued by President Clinton.

The policy relied essentially on two pillars. The first was weapons inspections, the second was sanctions. (A strong case could be made that by 1998 regime change was already official US policy).

During the 1990s, Saddam systematically misled the United States and UN weapons inspectors (though arguably both the US and UN share some of the blame for the failure of inspections). The result was that our government and our allies simply did not know what was going on in Iraq in regards to weapons of mass destruction. And considering the fact that Saddam certainly had chemical and biological weapons before and possibly after 1992, there was a lot to worry about.

When President Clinton ordered air strikes in 1998, the situation was made worse, because inspectors were forced out (or withdrawn by the UN, depending on how you frame the events). Our limited knowledge about Iraqi NBC weapons became even more limited.

Moreover, the sanctions put in place after the first Gulf War were not accomplishing what they were intended to. Although Saddam never successfully rebuilt his army (which had been funded in no small part by the US, which after the first Gulf War was persona non grata, and by the USSR, which after 1992 simply did not exist anymore), the Iraqi people suffered by being cut off from the rest of the world. While Saddam deserves primary blame for that, the US and the UN were certainly complicit in letting the sanctions regime condemn the Iraqi people instead of the Iraqi dictator.

Moreover, in a separate-but-related arena, the Clinton administration tried (but failed) to exert pressure on Al-Qaeda and similar terrorist organizations in its last couple years. While the political will existed to use force to subdue Osama bin Laden, actual effort seems to have been sporadic and hard to explain to a GOP congress which was increasingly isolationist and averse to any serious foreign policy discussion in 1998 and 1999. Obviously, the country was already distracted by more serious issues like Monica Lewinsky, school vouchers, and "partial-birth abortion."

But in sum, the policy of Iraqi containnment was clearly failing by the end of the decade, and the inability of the Clinton administration to articulate an alternative framework for dealing with Saddam was extremely short-sighted, and created a policy vacuum (a lack of real ideas) that allowed a patently nutty idea like invading Iraq to advance unchecked two years later.

So by the time President Bush took office in 2001, something had to give. At first, it seemed that the Bush administration was considering what Secretary of State Powell called "smart sanctions", which to some suggested that US-Iraqi relations might be liberalized and perhaps eventually normalized. Provided, of course, that realists like Powell could suppress the protests of neoconservatives in the Pentagon (who by early 2001 were already planning for war).

The tragedy that occurred on September 11 of that year clearly forced the administration to re-evaluate the situation and finally get "serious" about terrorism, or at least try to continue the unfinished business of the Clinton administration in subduing Al Qaeda. The problem is that, aside from a stunningly successful war against terrorist-harboring Afghani Taliban, there were very few tangible things that the President could do to vanquish Osama bin Laden himself.

September 11 also forced Bush to revisit the attitude of the Clinton administration towards "rogue states." While there has never been any evidence to link the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to any rogue state whatsoever, many of the "what-ifs" that had been advanced during the 1990s involving rogue states, terrorists, and "weapons of mass destruction" suddenly became more palpable. Hence the "Axis of Evil" speech delivered in the months immediately after 9/11.

The desire to "do something, anything" after 9/11 manifested itself in truly awful policy-making. Hence the USA PATRIOT Act, which many lawmakers have since regretted. This attitude also influenced the Bush administration's rapidly shifting (and prior to 9/11, possibly non-existant) policy on Iraq.

In mid-2002, UN weapons inspectors had been absent from Iraq for nearly four years, and the lack of intelligence (evidenced by the failure by the US to find any "WMDs" in Iraq thusfar) was staggering. We simply did not know what was going on. After 9/11, this was unacceptable.

So the Bush administration began considering military action against Iraq - on the basis of what they did not know or could not know. And the US Congress approved a use-of-force resolution justified, essentially, by ignorance.

Eventually, Secretary of State Powell convinced the President to do the right thing and go to the UN. Eventually, the give-and-take of global politics led to the passage of UNSC Resolution 1441, which given the tensions and anxieties of the time, was a masterful compromise which might have laid the groundwork for a return to a "normal" state of affairs with Iraq. The United States, and the world, had a right to know what Saddam Hussein had been doing during the absence of UN weapons inspectors. The renewal of inspections uner Res. 1441 offered a chance for the US and the UN to figure out whether Iraq actually posed a threat to its neighbors (and the Coalition).

Had the drive to war ended in November 2002, when Iraq relented to UN pressure under the threat of war, the world might have had peace as well as piece-of-mind. And George W. Bush would have succeeded in making a broken process work again.

But it did not. The weapons inspectors came away with mixed evidence for and against the presence of illegal weapons, and despite the need for more time to come to a real conclusion, Bush's patience simply ran out. And the rest, as they say, is history.

In sum, there was a bi-partisan failure under both the Clinton and Bush administrations to develop a realistic, long-term strategy for dealing with Iraq that did not involve the use of force -- and when one seemed to emerge when the UNSC passed Resolution 1441 unanimously, the Bush administration simply rejected it out of hand.

There were some advantages to the eventual outcome -- US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. The most of important of which was the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. But the disadvantages cannot be overlooked either, and I remain convinced that on balance it will not be viewed kindly by history (and given the since-aborted framework for regime change tentatively developed under the Iraqi Democracy Act, it cannot be said that war was the only option for removing the dictator).

The President's political team has tried to paint the occupation of Iraq as not merely a success (which is dubious in-and-of-itself), but as a bold new approach to the Middle East. But quite frankly, I do not believe that what has unfolded in Iraq can be understood without considering the policies adopted by the Clinton administration (after all, weren't anti-war people reminded over and over again that the left was "hypocritical" because Clinton bombed Iraq because of alleged NBC weapons?) and, more importantly, the weaknesses of those policies. Moreover, eventually historians are going to need to grapple with why Clinton's adventures abroad (to wit, Bosnia and Kosovo) were so successful and relatively-bloodless, compared to the quicksand-quagmire that Iraq is rapidly becoming.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 04:11 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Dollars and Delegates

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Money doesn't win you a presidential nomination, having enough delegates does. Money helps you win those delegates, so an outsider to the political system might think that wherever the delegates are, that's where the money would go. But this is not the case. Because of the media and the traditions of holding certain primaries and caucuses for certain states early, this is skewed. Money is disproportionately spent on the order of state primaries, regardless of delegate votes.

I thought I might spend my Saturday night investigating this some.

Some candidates in the 2004 Democratic Primary do not have enough money to mount campaigns except in one or two early states. For the purpose of the type of analysis that I wanted to do, this would not work as I need a nation-wide campaign. This, of course, can be easily found in the Howard Dean campaign.

First I found a state spending distribution table from FEC filings. I then found a listing of the Total Pledged Delegate Votes for each state here, along with their election dates. I then divided dollars spent in each state, by the delegates that could be awarded based upon the election returns that night and created a "Dollars/Delegate" ratio. This excel table is posted here.

(Super delegates and unpledged persons that are not derived from the voting of each state's normal Democratic voters were not counted in my delegate totals as there is no direct relationship between state spending and congressional endorsements, for example)

The result is as follows...

Dean Dollars Per Delegate

Analysis in extended entry....

With Dark Green representing the most money per delegate and Dark Red representing the lowest spending per delegate one can see right off the bat (if they knew nothing about the election dates) that spending in states does not follow the logic of using money to get delegates to win the nomination.

But since we know that there exists the primary process and the media, there is an explanation for this otherwise odd behavior.

Some comments....

(note: Media State means a state is useful for generating buzz and headlines rather than any actual useful number of delegates towards the nomination and thus is the driving force. Delegate State means a state useful for gaining delegates towards the nomination and thus is the driving force for any spending.)


In order, Iowa, South Carolina, Arizona, New Hampshire....all make sense due to being earliest primary states. Media States.

Next, Massachusetts and New York....large delegate states that also happen to have nearby media markets. Super Tuesday states.

Washington, Oklahoma, New Mexico....few delegates, but second wave February primaries. Media States (Washington, slightly less so)

California, Texas...huge delegate states, March primaries. Here is an example of the Dean Campaign spending money for delegates since it has the resources to do so. It is a smart move to create a delegate safety net in case 'media states' are being lost in February.

Wisconsin, Illinois...the latest primary states to date, moderate delegate size. Proximity to Iowa makes me think that some spending here is related more to nearby markets as these two are too far down the line to be used as safety nets.

D.C....totally for media concerns and Dean Campaign efforts to prove viability among Black voters.

Nebraska...spending here is Iowa related. It's May primary and small delegate share warrant no spending this early otherwise.

Rhode Island...Super Tuesday state, easy to cover with minimal spending. This is probably cheap window dressing.


The top six Dollar/Delegate Ratios are New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Not a big surprise since these are the earliest that it gets. They also are Media States and combined have only 230 delegates, as much as New York has by itself.

Next are Massachusetts and Washington, early and more delegate rich.

Wisconsin is an oddball to me. It is late (April) and not a huge delegate state. Only explanation is that this is Iowa related being that it is next door. If not, this seems to be a waste of money here.


Unless the campaign isn't reporting all their numbers, there is virtually no spending in the early Feb. 3 states of Missouri, North Dakota, and Delaware. The latter two could be explained by their very low delegate totals, 14 and 15 respectively. Missouri would normally be a target, but as this will be a showdown with Gephardt, the money had to be spent first in Iowa. If he's knocked out there, no sense in worrying about Missouri then. If he survives, look to see money shift here quickly. In addition, of the Feb 3 states, Dean is spending in all the Southern ones and none of the northern ones. This could be related to proving that he is viable in the south as well as the fact they are worth more delegate wise.

Michigan, Feb. 7, is the same case as Missouri in my opinion. Same circumstances.

The rest of February has been given up upon. Likely money is being divided into the first half of the Media States pre-March, and then the big delegate states in March (which contains a boatload of the delegate share with California, New York, Texas, and Florida all residing there). Even though the campaign has money, it can't spend it everywhere, and later Media State are not important if you lose early Media States. And since they aren't delegate states, there is no other possible reason to be spending in them early.

Comments. Suggestions. Corrections.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 01:43 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 22, 2003

Dallas, America Remembers JFK

By Byron LaMasters

More than 5000 remembered John F. Kennedy in Dallas today on the 40th anniversary of his assassination.

What is it with JFK and Americans? Why is it that he's tied with Abraham Lincoln in the latest Gallup poll as America's greatest president ever? I'd never rank Kennedy as our best President. Personally, I'd rank the top five U.S. Presidents as Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and Harry Truman (probably in that order). I'd probably place JFK in the top ten (along with Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, maybe James Madison, maybe James Polk (yeah, I'm a multilateralist now, but if I were around in the 19th century, I probably would have been a believer in Manifest Destiny - it was the right policy for the 19th century, while multilateralism and international cooperation is the right policy for the 21st century), maybe Bill Clinton and maybe LBJ). For me, JFK doesn't climb much further up the ladder for me, because his term was cut short after three years. Had he served two terms, he probably would have had the opportunity to become one of our best president's ever. The same goes for RFK. But he didn't have the chance. And maybe that's why Americans hold him in such high regard. Heck, I never had the chance to see or hear Kennedy, but I've heard and watched his speeches. And they inspire me. I've got a poster of Kennedy in my room with his picture and his quote "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country". Why? I wasn't around when he said that, and I don't consider him one of our greatest presidents. So why the Kennedy picture / quote? It's inspiring. Every time I hear that speech I get goose bumps. The line from Primary Colors by Henry Burton probably sums it up just as good as any:

"It must have been very different when my grandfather was alive," Burtons tells Mrs. Stanton. "Hey, you were there. You had Kennedy. I didn't. I've never heard a president use words like 'destiny' and 'sacrifice' without it being bull. And, okay, maybe it was bull with Kennedy too, but ... but, people believed it. And, I guess, that's what I want. I want to believe it."

Kennedy will always be remembered, less for what he accomplished as President, but for his ability to inspire a generation by speaking about broad ideas and themes without sounding like bullshit. It may have been bullshit, but he made it seem real. It's real to me. When I need some inspiration, I just turn my head left and take a look at JFK on my wall.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:16 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

There's a very thin line between "contributions" and bribes...

By Andrew Dobbs

Via the Washington Post:

More than three dozen of President Bush's major fundraisers are affiliated with companies that stand to benefit from the passage of two central pieces of the administration's legislative agenda: the energy and Medicare bills.

The energy bill provides billions of dollars in benefits to companies run by at least 22 executives and their spouses who have qualified as either "Pioneers" or "Rangers," as well as to the clients of at least 15 lobbyists and their spouses who have achieved similar status as fundraisers. At least 24 Rangers and Pioneers could benefit from the Medicare bill as executives of companies or lobbyists working for them, including eight who have clients affected by both bills....

The energy and Medicare bills were drafted with the cooperation of representatives from dozens of industries. Power and energy company officials; railroad CEOs; pharmaceutical, hospital association and insurance company executives; and the lobbyists who represent them are among those who have supported the bills and whose companies would benefit from their passage....

The energy bill provides industry tax breaks worth $23.5 billion over 10 years aimed at increasing domestic oil and gas production, and $5.4 billion in subsidies and loan guarantees. The bill also grants legal protections to gas producers using the additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), whose manufacturers face a wave of lawsuits, and it repeals the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA), a mainstay of consumer protection that limits mergers of utilities....

Public Citizen, which has tracked the legislation and correlated patterns of contributions to members of Congress and to Bush, denounced the bill as "a national energy policy developed in secret by corporate executives and a few members of Congress who are showered in special interest money."

Perhaps the single biggest winner in the energy bill, according to lobbyists and critics, is the Southern Co. One of the nation's largest electricity producers, it serves 120,000 square miles through subsidiaries Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, Mississippi Power and Savannah Electric, along with a natural gas and nuclear plant subsidiary.

The repeal of PUHCA, for example, would create new opportunities to buy or sell facilities; "participation" rules determining how utilities share the costs of new transmission lines that are particularly favorable to Southern; two changes in depreciation schedules for gas pipelines and electricity transmission lines with a 10-year revenue loss to the Treasury of $2.8 billion; and changes in the tax consequences of decommissioning nuclear plants, at a 10-year revenue loss of $1.5 billion, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

At least five Bush Pioneers serve as a Southern Co. executive or as its lobbyists: Southern Executive Vice President Dwight H. Evans; Roger Windham Wallace of the lobbying firm Public Strategies; Rob Leebern of the firm Troutman Sanders; Lanny Griffith of the firm Barbour Griffith and Rogers; and Ray Cole, of the firm Van Scoyoc Associates....

In addition to the prescription drugs provision, the Medicare bill is intended to encourage recipients to join preferred-provider organizations (PPOs) and other kinds of private health care, instead of receiving care through the traditional fee-for-service system in which they pick their doctors and generally get whatever care they request. The health industry has provided substantial support to the Bush campaign, and a number of officials whose companies and associations actively support the Medicare bill are Pioneers and Rangers .

So, let's say that I run a business and the local mayor can push through a new city ordinance that would stand to make me tens of thousands of dollars, and to ensure that it goes through, I give him a couple of grand. The mayor and I would probably both end up in jail. But if instead I'm a highpower lobbyist or CEO and the mayor is the president and I stand to make billions and instead of a couple of grand I donate a couple of hundred grand, its called campaign contributions!

These two pieces of legislation are despicable, idiotic pieces of slapdash crap. One seeks to end the system of regulation of fuel and energy companies that was established to end the system of robber barons that milked millions of consumers in the 19th and early 20th century and the other seeks to defund an entitlement that ensures that the elderly will have medical care. Too bad the average consumer or middle class elderly person doesn't have the cash to drop a couple of hundred G's on Bush's campaign, maybe then he wouldn't be so deadset on screwing them out of what little they have.

This man is dangerous and the sooner he's gone, the better.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 07:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 21, 2003

Redistricting in Illinois?

By Byron LaMasters

What goes around comes around. I sincerely hope that the Republican re-redistricting gerrymanders in Colorado and Texas are struck down by the courts as unconstitutional, but if they are not, then I think Democrats have an obligation to retaliate. Sure, we'll be resorting to the lows that the GOP has gone to, but it's either that or be shut out of the House for a decade at best. Politics 1 reports:

IL DEMS THREATEN CONGRESSIONAL REMAPPING. State Senate President Emil Jones (D-IL) this week filed a bill to have Illinois redraw congressional districts in the state for the 2004 elections to create more Democratic seats. The bill has no specifics yet -- and Jones conceded to the Chicago Sun-Times that he filed it "in case we want to do something." He said the move would be in direct response to the recent Texas redistricting plan adopted at the request of US House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX). Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) joked to the newspaper that the bill should be entitled "The Tom DeLay Retribution Act." A mirror opposite of Texas, in Illinois the Democrats control the governorship and both houses of the state legislature. The current Illinois Congressional delegation is 10 Republicans and 9 Democrats. Experts believe a plan could be crafted that could possible shift the state to as much as 11 Democrats and 8 Republicans under redrawn lines. The new Texas map is designed to give the GOP 5-7 additional seats in that state. The new Illinois plan could be presented as early as January 2004.

I say go for it, but Illinois Democrats should wait for several weeks until the Texas redistricting trial. If the Texas lines are struck down, Illinois Democrats should drop the idea, otherwise, lets send Speaker Hastert into retirement. It would be nice to get Tom DeLay, but dethroning Hastert or someone like Henry Hyde would be a lot of fun.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:51 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

More Bloggy Goodness

By Jim Dallas

The Austin American-Statesman has an opinion piece on the political use of blogs:

The big news for this year is the use of blogs in political campaigns. Howard Dean and Wesley Clark have both built their campaigns on the Internet, and the George W. Bush re-election campaign is gearing up one of the most sophisticated and expensive Internet campaigns we're likely to see...

...Christopher Lydon, a fellow at the Berkman Center for the Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, has recently mused (on his blog) that someone will have to write the "Blogging of a President 2004," a contemporary analog to Theodore White's classic book, "The Making of a President 1960."

Lydon writes, "what's happening out there is the start of a fundamental reordering of democratic energy and political influences, a drastic subversion of a discredited game, an inversion of the old pyramids of control, or perhaps a shape shift . . . from pyramid to sphere. The Internet represents a rewiring of the body politic, but it's not the technology that's interesting, it's the individual engagement and social model implied in it."

The article weighs the pros and cons of blogging, and even manages to get in a good swipe at the Bush "blog":

The president's re-election campaign is also offering some sophisticated tools, but the software tools available on www.georgewbush.com are tailored to centralize and control the messages coming from campaign headquarters, rather than promote online dialog. The Bush campaign blog, for example, doesn't solicit comments from visitors.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Another Half-Baked Bake Sale

By Byron LaMasters

Via the Houston Chronicle

Conservative Texas A&M University students, joining a rash of student groups around the country clamoring for attention to their stance against affirmative action, held a bake sale at which buyers were charged different prices depending on their race or gender. The students got the spotlight they craved, but the message they sent fell flat.

The A&M students, members of the Young Conservatives of Texas, sold cookies to "humans" for $2, to Asians for $1, to whites for 75 cents, to Hispanics for 25 cents and to blacks for 10 cents in protest of the new diversity office on the campus, where whites make up about 85 percent of the student population.

Actions like these reinforce the common misconception that affirmative action policies give academically unqualified minority students a get-into-college free card, and they ignore historical discrimination that denied nonwhites opportunities to be successful at any price, no matter their talents or intelligence. The Young Conservatives certainly managed to offend some of their fellow classmates, which is a good way to throw up barriers to inclusion and open exchange of ideas.

YCT could contradict charges that it is helping create a hostile campus environment by working with A&M's new diversity officer to attract and welcome nonwhite students in ways that don't offend their conservative sensibilities.

Thankfully, A&M officials did not shut down the bake sale. Administrators at some other schools overreacted to similar events. After all, the students have the right to free expression, even when the message offends.

Racial dialogue is good for Texas - we need it. But these bake sales by YCT are counterproductive. The Houston Chronicle correctly states that these bake sales held by YCT do nothing to further racial dialouge on campus. Instead they polarize the debate on affirmative action by implying that minorities are given special treatment so that unqualified people can attend college. Nothing could be further from the truth. Affirmative action is about using race as one of a large number of factors when considering applications.

Cross-posted on the Yellow Dog Blog

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:39 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 20, 2003

Yellow Dog Blog

By Byron LaMasters

I'll join Jim in the shameless plug. Jim, Andrew and I have been asked by Chairman Soechting, and the Texas Democratic Party to start a blog for them. The blog: Yellow Dog Blog is up and running as of today. There's still a few kinks to work out, but we have lots of exciting plans for the blog, so I hope to see BOR readers check it out and follow it regularly. We will continue to post on BOR. Some of our posts may be cross-posts or similar posts, and we'd like to add as a disclaimer that what we write on BOR should be considered solely the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of the Texas Democratic Party. Essentially, BOR will remain what it is, a blog where we write on national politics, state politics, local politics, UT stuff and whatever else interests us. The Yellow Dog Blog will focus on what is going on with the Texas Democratic Party and Texas political news. In addition to Jim, Andrew and I, the Yellow Dog Blog will see occasional posts by Chairman Soechting, others in the TDP office (press releases will be posted there) and we hope in the future to have guest posts by Texas Democratic elected officials and other leaders. We're very excited about this project, and we'll appreciate any suggestions that other bloggers might have on the project.


Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Well, now they know.

By Jim Dallas

In today's Victoria Advocate:

A short business meeting followed and Griffin again took the chair to introduce Soechting. He said that Soechting was a former DPS trooper who had gone to law school. Soechting beat out Garry Mauro to replace outgoing party chair Molly Beth Malcolm. Griffin said that after Soechting was elected he vowed to get out and meet the people of the party all around the state. Griffin said that he reads newspapers from all around the state and sees stories that indicate Soechting is doing as he said he would.

Soechting opened by patting his coat pocket and saying, "I've got a speech here, but I'm not going to read it since I know what it says." He said that he lived on land just six miles from where his great-great-grandfather settled when he arrived in Texas and mentioned a brother who teaches German in El Campo in the high school.

Soechting continued in the vein established by Chandler. He called for increased participation by youth as a key to future strength for Democrats and mentioned that Howard Dean had made a connection with young people through the Internet. When he asked who in the audience knew what a blog was, only a few hands went up, reflecting the middle-aged skew in the crowd.

Meanwhile, in the blogosphere,

The Yellow Dog Blog.

You know me. Always getting in shameless plugs. Tahee!

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

San Antonio Smackdown

By Jim Dallas

There's just no love for Henry Cuellar on Capitol Hill these days (from the San Antonio Express-News):

WASHINGTON — Hispanic Democrats in Congress pulled their support for Laredo lawyer Henry Cuellar today and endorsed Rep. Ciro Rodriguez in a race that is expected to explode into an ugly grudge match.

Rodriguez was instrumental in 2002 in helping Cuellar win endorsements and contributions from Democratic Hispanic lawmakers in Washington, who saw no harm in trying to unseat Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla of San Antonio.

That one-time support turned into harsh rejection today when congressional Hispanic Democrats voted unanimously to endorse Rodriguez, who faces a primary challenge from Cuellar after the Texas Legislature redrew congressional lines.

Some Hispanic lawmakers were angry with Cuellar for turning coat and running against Rodriguez, his former benefactor.

“I was offended,” said Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi. “Ciro worked hard for him. Where is the loyalty?”

Frankly, I'm surprised that a primary contest would even be close - Rodriguez is the incumbent, Cullar blew a race he should have won last year, and after kissing GOP butt for years, has made more than enough enemies among Democratic primary-goers. Still, there's a subtle logic to South Texas politics that always eludes me. But there does seem to be an ugly match-up ahead.

In other news, Bill Ratliff has announced his resignation (as expected).

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Ratliff to Resign

By Byron LaMasters

State Sen. Bill Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant) will resign on January 10:

State Sen. Bill Ratliff, the former acting lieutenant governor who said he was increasingly disillusioned over partisan acrimony in the Legislature, announced Thursday he is resigning from his post Jan. 10.

After 15 years in the Senate, Mr. Ratliff said it was is “time for going out.”

The 67-year-old Republican made the announcement in his district in Mount Pleasant. He scheduled another news conference later in the day in Austin.

Earlier this year, Mr. Ratliff raised the possibility of quitting, complaining about what he called the disintegration of civility and collegiality in the Senate and the decision by Gov. Rick Perry and GOP leaders to force a vote on congressional redistricting.


Repeatedly touted by Texas Monthly magazine as one of the 10 best members of the Legislature, the 67-year-old consulting engineer was chosen by fellow senators to replace Rick Perry as lieutenant governor in December 2000 after Mr. Perry became governor with the election of George W. Bush as president. He did not seek election as lieutenant governor on the 2002 ballot.

I'm not surprised that Ratliff is retiring. I am surprised that he's resigning. That will set up a special election, which I think could be very competetive:

If Mr. Ratliff resigns early, it would trigger a special election to replace him. The Legislature is not scheduled to return in regular session until January 2005, but Mr. Perry has indicated plans to summon lawmakers back for a special session on school finance as early as next spring.

Among those mentioned as possible replacements for the seat are Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, and former Rep. Paul Sadler, a Democrat from Henderson. Former Tyler Mayor Kevin Eltife has also been mentioned among Republicans in the district as a possible candidate.

Either Paul Sadler or Former State Rep. Tom Ramsay (I think he lives in that district) would be great candidates for that seat. It's a shame Ratliff is leaving but his resignation gives us an opportunity to pick up the seat and have a Democratic incumbent running without having to worry about Bush's coattails until next November.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:20 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Diary of A Long-Suffering Astros Fan

By Jim Dallas

Charles Kuffner takes a look at how the Astros might have blown a chance to pick up free-agent Andy Pettite for next year.

Not only would the Astros benefit from having a star like Pettite, but it would also perhaps encourage some people (like a certain family member of mine) who are Yankess fans "because they've got all the hot guys" to come on home to Minute Maid Park.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Majority of Americans "Hate America"

By Jim Dallas

Picked up by Atrios:

Fifty-five percent of those polled disapproved of how the United States has handled post-war Iraq, marking the highest negative response to the question since US tanks entered Baghdad in April, USA Today reported.

I guess this means we're "against us" now, too.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Haiku Thursdays

By Jim Dallas

In order to promote the arts and literature, I will now be posting once weekly in the form of a haiku:

Haiku is one of the most important form of traditional japanese poetry. Haiku is, today, a 17-syllable verse form consisting of three metrical units of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. Since early days, there has been confusion between the three related terms Haiku, Hokku and Haikai. The term hokku literally means "starting verse", and was the first starting link of a much longer chain of verses known as haika. Because the hokku set the tone for the rest of the poetic chain, it enjoyed a privileged position in haikai poetry, and it was not uncommon for a poet to compose a hokku by itself without following up with the rest of the chain.

Largely through the efforts of Masaoka Shiki, this independence was formally established in the 1890s through the creation of the term haiku. This new form of poetry was to be written, read and understood as an independent poem, complete in itself, rather than part of a longer chain.

This will also give me practice in case the Kicking Ass blog ever has another haiku contest.

To celebrate the inaugural week of Haiku Thursdays, here is part one of the HTh triple-shot:

Bush in a nutshell:
Major-league a-hole using
little league logic

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:00 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Buzzflash on Blumenthal on Planned Parenthood

By Jim Dallas

Sidney Blumenthal
says Austin clinic fight is
part of "culture war"

Link -- In the Battle for Pro-Choice Rights, Bush's Texas is Ground Zero

What's happening here in Austin is not isolated, not in its efforts to close down Planned Parenthood services, or in its methods of intimidation. It is another incident in a long train of abuses. Its scope may not be widely understood, but that scope is, in fact, wide. A radical, extreme war is being waged, in my view, against the American tradition, against the separation of church and state, against long-settled law, against positive social policy whose benefits are proven, against science, against the Constitution, and even against religion, in the name of religion. This radicalism involves seemingly fringe groups and the Bush White House, eccentric billionaires with bizarre agendas and the leaders of the Republican Congress.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Craddick: Stop Pretending That We Care

By Jim Dallas

Attention Students
Republicans to blame for
higher tuition

Link -- House Speaker surprised at Lieutenant Governor's tuition concerns

Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland says today he's surprised at concerns voiced by Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst about public university tuition increases.

Dewhurst said he's concerned that proposed tuition increases are too high.

The lieutenant governor has asked for a legislative committee to study the issue.

At a luncheon in Dallas today, Craddick says he's not concerned at all about proposed increases.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 19, 2003

Gay Marriage and Interracial Marriage

By Byron LaMasters

It's the same fight folks:

ONE ARGUMENT against gay marriage is that most Americans oppose it. It has never been condoned by common law. Many Americans view homosexuality as immoral and contrary to God's law. They believe, and sometimes cite allegedly scientific evidence to show, that children raised by gay or lesbian parents fare worse than those raised by a mother and a father.

One difficulty with such argumentation is that much the same was true, earlier in U.S. history, of interracial marriage. It was illegal in most states. Many or most Americans believed it to be wrong, unnatural and perhaps contrary to God's law. Volumes of scientific data were marshaled to prove that children resulting from such marriages were deficient.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:59 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Darwin Awards Nomination

By Byron LaMasters

I had a teacher in high school who would read our class once every other week the latest Darwin Awards awarded to "honor those who improve our gene pool... by removing themselves from it."

Here's a nomination.

A vodka-drinking competition in a southern Russian town ended in tragedy with the winner dead and several runners-up in intensive care.

"The competition lasted 30, perhaps 40 minutes and the winner downed three half-litre bottles. He was taken home by taxi but died within 20 minutes," said Roman Popov, a prosecutor pursuing the case in the town of Volgodonsk.

"Five contestants ended up in intensive care. Those not in hospital turned up the next day, ostensibly for another drink."

Mr Popov said the director of the shop organising this month's contest had been charged with manslaughter. He had offered 10 litres of vodka to the competitor drinking the most in the shortest time.

Damn. A vodka-drinking contest? Sounds like a college party, but much more hardcore. Stupid at that. Russians...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tip of the Iceberg

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

It is only the beginning, via a headline on DrudgeReport this past day...

Gay Marriage Protestors follow Dean to Iowa JJ Dinner, hosted by Hillary. These people were getting geared up even before the Ruling was announced.

While we need to and certainly will have a debate on civil unions, civil marriage, civil rights...by no means will it all be "civil."

Of course, I also find it interesting that the Cable Networks have already lost interest in the gay marriage story and have found Michael Jackson to replace it. I don't know whether to laugh, or cry.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 05:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Romney Gone Mad!

By Jim Dallas

From the Statesman:

BOSTON — Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney says he'll push for a constitutional amendment to block gay couples from getting married in response to a ruling by the state's highest court that could otherwise let gay couples wed. The court has ordered state lawmakers to find a remedy.

"I agree with 3,000 years of recorded history," the Republican governor said. "Marriage is an institution between a man and a woman ... and our constitution and laws should reflect that."

I can just imagine the attack ads in Massachusetts during the next election cycle morphing Romney and Ten Commandments judge Roy Moore.

In any case, the chances of passage are contentious --

An amendment could go before voters as early as 2006 if it won approval by the end of the 2003-2004 legislative session. It also would require approval during the 2005-2006 session. A joint session of the House and Senate, which rejected the amendment last year, is scheduled to meet to debate the measure in February.

A joint legislative session is scheduled to debate the idea Friday.

Even if such an amendment makes it to the ballot in 2006, voters will have had two years to see that same-sex marriages pose no threat to society, said Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who is gay.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, debating with Frank on CBS' "The Early Show" Wednesday, responded: "The people of Massachusetts, one of the more liberal states, will do what Hawaii and other liberal states have done. They'll say no to it."

I could point out that Vermont (grudgingly, perhaps, but nonetheless) accepted civil unions. But then again, this is Jerry "blame 9/11 on lesbians" Falwell.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:53 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Ratliff to Announce Re-Election Plans Tomorrow

By Byron LaMasters

Via Quorum Report:

On Thursday, November 20, 2003, State Senator Bill Ratliff (R-Mt. Pleasant) will hold the following press conferences to formally announce his future plans for public office.

Senator Ratliff will be unavailable for public comment prior to the press conferences. He specifically requests that members of the State Senate District 1 and State Capitol press honor this request.

As much as I'd like to see another Democrat in the Texas Senate (a possibility if Ratliff retires), Ratliff is a lone voice of moderation in the Republican Senate Caucus. It would be a shame for him to go.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Insurance Companies Get the Goldmine...

By Jim Dallas

The Houston Chronicle reports that med-mal insurance rates are.... going up. Despite promises made by backers of Proposition 12.

Of the five largest insurers, two are raising rates (considerably) and one is lowering rates (by a pittance amount) next year.

Two months after Texans narrowly approved a measure that supporters said would lower malpractice insurance rates, the cost of premiums will either rise or remain the same for many of the state's physicians next year.

Two of five major carriers in Texas are planning to increase rates for physicians, according to regulators, and only one has promised to roll back premiums.

In September, voters amended the Texas Constitution to cap noneconomic damages in medical liability cases in an effort to curb the soaring costs of malpractice insurance.

Proposition 12 pitted trial lawyers and consumer groups against insurers and doctors, who claimed that runaway jury awards and frivolous lawsuits were to blame for skyrocketing premiums that forced physicians out of business and threatened access to care.

Before the vote, the Texas Department of Insurance estimated physicians could save between 8.5 percent and 11.5 percent on premiums if the amendment was passed.

Thus far, however, only the state's largest underwriter, Texas Medical Liability Trust, has agreed to lower rates next year.

The physician-owned insurer, which covers one-third of the state's doctors, will lower premiums 12 percent on Jan. 1 after increasing rates 128 percent between 1999 and 2003.

Meanwhile, GE Medical Protective and the Joint Underwriting Association have told the state they will increase rates by 19 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

"We realized there could be some initial uncertainty in the market," Texas Insurance Commissioner Jose Montemayor said Tuesday. "TDI will closely examine all of the rate filings by all insurers over which we have regulatory authority to see if they can be justified."

Montemayor and a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry -- who campaigned for passage of the amendment -- said the rates insurers are currently requesting factor in a flood of new litigation filed by plaintiff's attorneys prior to and after the September vote.

Other considerations include the future cost of claims.

But some consumer groups, who have attributed rising premiums to poor investment and underwriting decisions made by carriers, weren't buying those arguments Tuesday.

"By continuing to raise doctors' insurance rates, the insurance industry has shown its true colors," said Dan Lambe, executive director of Texas Watch, which opposed Proposition 12. "They continue to break promises to the Texas Legislature, to Texas doctors, and worst of all, to Texas families."

In fairness, Prop 12 sponsor Rep. Joe Nixon (R - Houston) said that rate reductions wouldn't come "overnight."

Which means the real proof will come next year. But if this is any indicator of the "gratitude" insurance companies have for Texans giving them legal protection, I'd be a little worried what kind of rate-setting attiude the industry will have once the Prop 12 afterglow wears off.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 18, 2003

Texas Congressional Endorsement for Dean

By Byron LaMasters

U.S. Rep. Shelia Jackson-Lee (D-Houston) has become the first Texas Congressperson to endorse Howard Dean with her endorsement at a Houston rally tonight. She joins State Reps. Ruth Jones McClendon, Michael Villareal, and Eddie Rodriguez in supporting Howard Dean.

Update: I just read this in the Houston Chronicle:

Also speaking at the Dean rally were several candidates in the Dec. 6 city runoff election.

For people at the rally, were there any other elected officials or candidates that endorsed Dean?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:26 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Wedge Issue of 2004: Gay Marriage

By Byron LaMasters

Explicit race baiting doesn't really work any more, abortion is getting old, so gay marriage is likely to emerge as the wedge issue Republicans will use in 2004 to take middle America's attention off of the failed Republican economic and foreign policy:

Under pressure from social conservatives who want President Bush to campaign against gay marriage in 2004, GOP officials say they are studying battleground states where same-sex unions could be a wedge issue in national and state races, and they are weighing endorsement of a proposed federal constitutional amendment sanctioning only heterosexual marriage.

Meanwhile, here's what the White House has to say about it:

Marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman. Today's decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court violates this important principle. I will work with congressional leaders and others to do what is legally necessary to defend the sanctity of marriage.

Eh. No surprise there. Then again, most Democrats aren't embracing gay marriage either. Fine, call me a hypocrite, but that doesn't bother me too much. I don't ask Democratic candidates to embrace gay civil marriage right now. It's not a smart thing to do politically (in most places). However, it is critical that we muster up the 34 votes in the U.S. Senate to block the Federal Marriage Amendment. That legislation would be disasterous for equal rights in America.

Update: Ok, I don't think that I made myself as clear as I intended. I strongly support gay civil marriage. I strongly oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment on both principal (amendments should never, in my opinion be used to restrict the rights of American citizens - the one time it was done - prohibition - it was a complete failure) and on substance (I support gay marriage). Now, having said that, we are not yet at the point in the gay rights movement where the majority really understand the issue of gay civil marriage (and no I'm not talking about people who have fundamental moral objections to homosexuality, but rather (mostly) older people who have not been exposed to gay and lesbian couples). I am fully convinced that if the current cultural and political trends continue, gay marriage will be a reality in America within ten to twenty years. Look at the polls. The most recent national poll with an age breakdown on the subject (the CBS News/New York Times Poll. July 13-27, 2003. N=3,092 adults nationwide. MoE ± 2 (total sample)) showed that Americans 18-29 support gay civil marriage rights 61-35% whereas those over 65 oppose gay civil marriage by a margin of 18 to 73%. You can see where I'm going with this... In 10 years or so, this is an issue in which I will expect Democrats to embrace. But I consider myself a political pragmatist and now, with polls showing that up to 60% of Americans oppose gay marriage, I can respectfully understand if Democrats oppose it. I'd rather elect a Democrat who I agree with 90% of the time than a Republican who I agree with less than 5% of the time. So, I won't really be too critical of either Democrats or Republicans opposing gay civil marriage.

The best approach for the gay rights lobby now is to continue to educate Americans about gay civil marriage. First, call it gay civil marriage. Marriage is both a religious and a secular / government / legal institution. The fight for gay marriage by the Human Rights Campaign and other gay political activist organizations is a political and secular fight. What one religion or another wants to do regarding gay civil marriage is irrelevent. Next, we must help people understand that gay civil marriage does nothing to harm or change anyone's heterosexual marriage. We need to ask right-wing hypocrites the question HRC executive director Elizabeth Birch asked former U.S. Rep. Bob Bar during the 1996 Defense of Marriage debate:

I see that the bill itself, and I must say that I think Rep. Barr is completely disingenuous, because if he was telling the truth, they would amend the bill and add, you know, notions of procreation, only people who can procreate, maybe second and third marriages. We've always been unclear about which marriage of his he's defending, his first, his second, or his third.

We need to educate Americans that gay civil marriage only grants the same rights such as inheritance, hospital visitation rights, etc. that married heterosexual Americans take for granted. For now, I'll be fine with Civil Unions. America isn't ready in 2003 for the word "gay marriage" or even "gay civil marriage". Give us 10 years.

On the other hand, a Federal Marriage Amendment would set back the gay rights movement for a decade, if not a generation. It would replace the sodomy laws as justification for discrimination against gays and lesbians at every level. I will harshly criticize any Democrat or Republicans who supports or advocates such an ammendment. I hope that this clarifies my position.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:11 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Did you know?

By Byron LaMasters

Howard Dean Endorsed Dick Gephardt for President in 1988.

How things change...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Check Out the Texas Quarter

By Byron LaMasters

It's been decided...

Personally, I would have liked to have seen the Alamo or something related to the Texas Revolution on it, but this is fine...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:46 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

What's wrong with the Medicare bill

By Jim Dallas

E.J. Dionne sums it up:

They went in to design a prescription drug benefit for seniors and came out with an aardvark.

It's said that a camel is a horse designed by committee. But the camel metaphor doesn't do justice to the Medicare prescription drug bill that came out of a House-Senate conference over the weekend. It is not a compromise but a weird combination of conflicting policy preferences. It is unprincipled in the technical sense. Nobody's principles are served by this bill.

Jeanne Lambrew of the Center for American progress weighs the costs and benefits:

Given that the nation would be stuck with this legislation—flaws and all—for a considerable period of time, the question is not whether it can be fixed, but whether its benefit is worth the price. Undoubtedly, $400 billion is a significant investment in Medicare that would help millions of the nation’s seniors. Yet, as it stands, the conference bill could mean lower drug coverage for 6 million of the poorest and sickest beneficiaries; significantly reduced drug coverage for up to 2 to 3 million seniors who could lose good retiree health benefits; and higher premiums for up to 10 million beneficiaries now in traditional Medicare who would pay a price to stay there. More fundamentally, the bill would alter the fabric of Medicare as a social insurance program by undermining its guaranteed benefit and capping its government funding. And by simultaneously increasing costs and limiting financing, the conference agreement jeopardizes Medicare for future retirees.

America’s seniors deserve a strong, well-designed prescription drug benefit and reforms that strengthen and protect Medicare. They deserve better than what the emerging legislation would provide

There is nothing wrong with getting half-a-loaf on Medicare prescription drug benefits per se. But this isn't even a good half-loaf compromise.

It's too bad there isn't a "legislative lemon law."

At any rate I will be calling Rep. Doggett's office this afternoon to ask for a "no" vote on this bill.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:58 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Massachusetts Rules

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Breaking news today that will be sure to consume the national media for a good while. They knew it was coming, but the question is, are they ready for it?

Massachusetts court rules ban on gay marriage unconstitutional

I wait to see where Bush goes with either supporting or distancing himself from the conservative movement that is pushing the Federal Marriage Amendment, which is sure to go hysterical pretty quick here.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 10:15 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Old People Gone Mad!

By Jim Dallas

Adding a real prescription drug benefit to Medicare would be a good idea. Unfortunately, this good idea has been run through the Republican crap-o-lizer one too many times, and the bill which the House of Representatives is planning on taking up this week isn't up to snuff. Despite what the AARP says:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 — AARP, the largest and most influential organization of older Americans, threw its weight behind a bill on Monday that offers drug benefits to the elderly as part of the biggest transformation of Medicare in its 38-year history.

President Bush and Republican leaders in Congress stepped up their efforts to win votes for the legislation, which would give private health insurance companies a huge new role in Medicare. AARP's endorsement, long coveted by Republicans in Congress, was considered a critical step in the drive for passage of the legislation this year.

The endorsement provides a seal of approval from an organization with 35 million members. Republicans hope it also provides political cover against charges by some Democrats that the bill would undermine the federal insurance program for the elderly and disabled. The group will support the bill with $7 million worth of newspaper and television advertising this week, and officials said it was prepared to spend more.

Still, some Democrats, led by Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, escalated their attacks on the legislation. Mr. Kennedy called the legislation a dangerous attempt to privatize Medicare, "using our seniors as guinea pigs." Many Senate Democrats were clearly torn over the bill, which delivers a prescription drug benefit the party has sought for many years but would also, many contend, undermine the program over the long term.

Since the insanely-complex bill is still not public, it's hard to put a finger on all the problems with it, but here's a start. The bill has a big coverage hole in it, which means it's great if you have only a few prescriptions or have a lot of prescriptions, but is not-so-great if you're in the middle. It does in fact rig Medicare in favor of privatization. It doesn't include adequate measures to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, which means it's an overly-costly political stinker paid for with borrowed money (and if my future taxes are going to pay for the elderly's prescriptions, then you better believe I oppose this "a joint venture between the Republican leadership and the pharmaceutical industry to destroy Medicare").

And did I mention it's insanely complicated?

Suffice it to say that if I were in Congress right now, I would probably not vote for this GOP Medicare prescription drug bill.

The prescription-drug debacle lends credence to the unflattering caricature of the AARP painted by South Park a few weeks ago (click for QT Video). Truth is becoming stranger than fiction.

But, giving credit where credit is due, there are a lot of rank-and-file AARP members who are justifiably pissed about this endorsement. Click here to see the mostly-negative comments about the endorsement made by AARP members (via Atrios).

For a different opinion, see Nathan Newman.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:27 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Can I Get A Witness?

By Jim Dallas

There are few things that truly rile me. But the (probably inevitable) $720 proposed tuition increased really gets me. Or to be specific, the total and complete lack of leadership at virtually every level of government on this issue.

The two biggest howlers have come in the last few days. First, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is now playing dumb, expressing "concern" over UT's plan to raise tuition without indicating sorrow, remorse, or even comprehension of the fact that this rate hike is the byproduct of the Legislature's neglectful attitude toward higher education in general and the Republican-backed tuition deregulation bill specifically.

To clarify this for the Lt. Gov., the Daily Texan wrote a superb editorial yesterday on the issue. And if that's enough, we'd like to present Dewhurst a handy-dandy cheat-sheet:

Lite Guv: Tastes Great, Less Filling

(We could be snarky and point out that Dewhurst's sudden stupidity is either indicative of legislative amnesia or blatant political hypocrisy, but we'd prefer to be classly like Kuffner and Greg Wythe).

To add injury to insult, UT student government honcho Brian Haley is caving to the UT Regents:

University of Texas Student Body President Brian Haley has a reminder on his wall that the students he represents don't want a tuition hike. But faced with the alternative, Haley says he and many students now support the plan the university system is expected to vote on Tuesday. "At the time we were against the university setting its own rate," said Haley. "But what we've discovered is that the state is not going to be giving the adequate funding we need to the university."

I like Brian -- I voted for him -- but there are somethings you must always oppose on principle (even if it means going down with the ship). And this is one of them.

Moreover, I seriously doubt that there are "many" students who are enthusiastically cheering for higher tuition. Talk about misrepresenting the student body! It's really a shame, and needless to say I hope freshmen VOTE in next year's student government elections, and give Haley a piece of their minds in the process.

I'm so steamed right now I could start quoting Isaiah ("...[our] rulers are rebels and companions of thieves; Everyone loves a bribe and chases after rewards...")

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:07 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

November 16, 2003

Republican Minority Outreach A Failure

By Byron LaMasters

Take a look at the race for governor of Louisiana. Bobby Jindal aggressively courted Black voters. He was endorsed by New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, by Black Leadership Organizations (here and here), and Black Ministers. What good did it all do? Well, Jindal got twice the average vote for Republicans in Louisiana... A whopping 9%!

Republican Bobby Jindal's bold push to win over African-American voters with high-profile endorsements succeeded to a point: He got 9 percent of the black vote, almost twice what most Republicans typically get in the state.

There's a reason why most Republicans don't expend time and money on trying to get votes in the Black community. The votes simply aren't there. Even in this race where the Democrat was probably the third choice of the Black community and the Republican was a minority himself who agressively courted Blacks, the Republican only got 9% of the vote. Essentially it says that fewer than 5% of Blacks should be considered swing voters. Why? Because it's not in the self-interest of most Blacks to vote Republican. Republicans can try to convince Blacks otherwise, but as I'll explain below, the more minorities learn about Republicans the less they like them.

That brings us to the Houston mayoral race. The most shocking thing for me from the returns was the huge drop in Hispanic support for Orlando Sanchez from the 2001 runoff to the 2003 race:

A trip through Houston's Hispanic communities illustrates the dilemma: Yard signs for White, an Anglo Democrat, are often more visible than those for Sanchez, a Cuban-American Republican.

Exit polling and other analysis of the Nov. 4 vote shows that White and Sanchez each got just under half the Hispanic votes. State Rep. Sylvester Turner, who finished third, got less than 4 percent.

That is a stark contrast with 2001, when Sanchez got almost three of every four Hispanic voters in his narrow runoff loss to Mayor Lee Brown. That year, Sanchez benefited from excitement among Hispanics who thought Sanchez might be the city's first Latino mayor.

This is huge. Sanchez went from 72% of the Hispanic vote in the runoff in 2001 to 48% in the election this month. That's a 24 point drop. Now we can speculate as to why. One could argue that Bill White has spent much more time and money to appeal to Hispanics (Lee Brown basically ignored Hispanic voters). But maybe, just maybe it has something to do with Orlando Sanchez. Maybe Hispanics in Houston have figured him out. He's a Republican. The Houston Press reports:

Mayoral contender and former councilman Orlando Sanchez came in second behind front-runner Bill White, but the real shocker was his poor performance in Latino neighborhoods. Whereas Sanchez had carried a majority of Hispanic voters in his losing 2001 runoff against Lee Brown, an Insider survey of eight key precincts in last week's election showed a dramatic reversal.

In Magnolia Park's Box 11, Sanchez had beaten Brown by 294 to 183, a 63 percent majority. Last week Bill White took the same precinct 279 to 160, a 58 percent majority for the leader. Likewise, in Denver Harbor's Precinct 560, a Sanchez majority of 77 percent over Brown was reversed with White receiving 127 votes to 103 for Sanchez. Sanchez carried only two of the key precincts surveyed.

"The Hispanic community figured out that Orlando is a Republican," analyzes [political consultant Craig] Varoga.

"I think the Republican outreach effort to Hispanics has a lot of explaining to do," agrees Marc Campos, who worked for Sylvester Turner's mayoral campaign.

Bingo. Hispanic voters are smarter than Republicans give them credit for.

Links via Off the Kuff.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:25 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 15, 2003

Governor Blanco

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Final Returns with all precincts reporting...

730,747 52% Kathleen Blanco (D)
676,180 48% "Bobby" Jindal (R)

So the Democrats stop their losses on Southern seats. With Louisiana Democrats taking both the Senate seat last year, the Lt. Gov, and now the Governorship, this certainly helps make the state electorally more in play for the Democratic Party. Of the Southern states (minus Florida) the Dems may have the best chance in the Clinton Mississippi River State Line up and today's results certainly helps that along. If Clark is on the ticket in either the top or second spot, say behind Dean as has been chattered about for ages, then this plan is valid to a greater degree because he increases Arkansas odds of going Democratic.

Update from Byron: The first female governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco!

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 11:23 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Louisiana Governor= Don't Know Yet

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The results are over 85% in for the Louisiana Governor's Race with Kathleen Blanco leading "Bobby" Jindal by a couple of points. There are still results rolling in from a couple of parishes and the remaining precincts to be reported are split fairly evenly between Blano Parishs and Jindal Parishs.

Jindal needs about 40,000 more votes to overcome Blanco's lead but with the number of precincts to go dwindling, it is becoming more unlikely that he will be able to overcome that.

So no assured winners yet, but so long as there are no big surprises in Calcasieu Parish (0 of 117 reporting), the Democrats should get this Governorship.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 10:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

[I've redated this post so it remains at the top of the page, as I've made two updates to the post -- see below].

This is just disgusting, and promotes terrorism. Ugh. Basically this blogger promotes the assassination of Democratic Senators in states with Republican governors. Really, this guy is a terrorist. Someone make sure he doesn't flip out.

Via Not Geniuses.

Update: Wow. I didn't expect this post to generate the amount of attention that it did. I'm not sure what caused the explosion of posts about this topic. Kudos to Not Genius's for finding it. I think that the most appropriate course of action is to do what commenter Tim Z. suggests, and report this guy to the FBI (has anyone done it yet?). I don't care how many disclaimers he has. When you're in an airplane, and you say you have a bomb, "just kidding" doesn't cut it. The same goes for joking about having a gun at school, or shooting up your classmates. It's just not funny. And even if it's a "joke", its a bad joke and is a serious threat to all involved. When we don't take these threats seriously is when we get in trouble. So Mark Byron can add 10 more disclaimers and it still won't make a difference to me. His "fantasy" is a serious threat to our elected officials and he should be monitored by the appropriate government agencies to ensure that he does not act to carry it out.

Update 2: And no, I don't call for Mark Byron's arrest. I think that what Mark Byron said is protected by the first ammendment right of free speech. That said, when free speech places people (the named Democratic Senators) in potential danger, appropriate actions must be taken. In this case, I believe that appropriate actions constitute of contacting the FBI, and having that agency and other appropriate agencies monitor the guy as a potential threat to the elected officials in which he fantasizes about assassinating.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:24 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

The Price of Bush's War

By Byron LaMasters

No, not the pricetag. What about the human cost?

The number of U.S. casualties from Operation Iraqi Freedom -- troops killed, wounded or evacuated due to injury or illness -- has passed 9,000, according to new Pentagon data.

In addition to the 397 service members who have died and the 1,967 wounded, 6,861 troops were medically evacuated for non-combat conditions between March 19 and Oct. 30, the Army Surgeon General's office said.

That brings total casualties among all services to more than 9,200, and represents an increase of nearly 3,000 non-combat medical evacuations reported since the first week of October. The Army offered no immediate explanation for the increase. A leading veterans' advocate expressed concern.

"We are shocked at the dramatic increase in casualties," said Steve Robinson, executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center. Of the non-combat medical evacuations:

-- 2,464 were for injuries, such as those sustained in vehicle accidents.

-- 4,397 were due to illness; 504 of those were classified as psychiatric, 378 as neurological, and another 150 as neurosurgery.

"We are especially concerned about the psychological and neurological evacuations from this war," Robinson said. "We request a clarification of the types of illnesses people are suffering from so we do not have a repeat of the first Gulf War. We need to understand the nature and types of illnesses so scientists can determine if significant trends are occurring."


In early October, the Army Surgeon General's office said 3,915 soldiers had been evacuated from Operation Iraqi Freedom for non-combat injuries and illnesses, including 478 with psychological problems and 387 for neurological reasons.

The new total of 6,861 reported non-combat evacuations is a rise of 57 percent since then.

This doesn't even touch the issue of Iraqui casaulties. The media obviously will focus on the deaths, but the death toll is only a part of the tragedy of how many American lives this war has affected. This war has caused 9000 U.S. casaulties. 9000!. What a shame.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:42 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Republican Ralph Nader

By Byron LaMasters

Writes David Sarasohn:

Ralph Nader, who in 2000 was the worst thing to happen to civil liberties and poor people in quite a while, is winding up to do them another favor. The former Green candidate for president is traveling the college circuit, coyly hinting that he'll decide about his political plans later, but few people think he'll sit it out.

Even though even fewer think his running again would be a good idea.

This week, at the University of Wisconsin, Nader again dismissed his effect on the outcome in 2000, saying, "I think the Democrats can fairly be charged with chronic whining, and they ought to look to themselves first and foremost."

Nader not only elects Republicans, he's starting to sound like them.

Bingo. I've been saying this for the last three years. Greens and Republicans? Same thing...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Clark Skipping NH Debate. Why???

By Byron LaMasters

Here's another decision by the Clark campaign that makes little sense

Wesley Clark, who bypassed Iowa to focus on New Hampshire and other primary states, will skip a Democratic presidential debate in the Granite State next month to attend a fund-raiser in New York.

The debate is slated for Dec. 9 and the eight other candidates have changed their schedules to attend. Clark, however, will be taking part in a previously scheduled fund-raiser in which the campaign hopes to collect $1.5 million.

"I hope the people of New Hampshire will understand," Clark told reporters Friday. "I certainly mean no disrespect. You make obligations. You can't move them. You can't get out of them. People have to respect that."

Clark said he asked the Democratic National Committee to reschedule the debate or hold it at a different time that day, but the DNC could not. "We have not moved any of the debates and there have been other scheduling conflicts" from other candidates, said Josh Wachs, the DNC's chief operating officer.


Still, Clark's move gave some New Hampshire Democrats pause and drew criticism from his rivals.

"There's going to be a lot of attention on this event because it's the big DNC-sanctioned debate in New Hampshire," said Rich Sigel, a Democratic activist from Concord, N.H. "Fairly or unfairly, it may raise questions for some as to how seriously General Clark takes New Hampshire."

Several candidates, including Joe Lieberman, John Kerry and Howard Dean, shifted fund-raisers to attend the debate, aides said.

A candidate can change the time of his or her fundraiser easily. Yeah, it might be a little bit of trouble, but much less problematic than pissing off a lot of people in a critical primary state. For Clark the problem is compounded by the fact that New Hampshire is the first state in which he is competing. He needs to do well there, and this doesn't help.

To be honest, I really wanted to support Clark, but I've found myself back pretty solidly in the Dean camp at this point. From not utilizing their grassroots support, to passing on Iowa and missing the AFSCME nod, Clark's missed his opportunity with me.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 14, 2003

Right Wing Nuts are out in Force Today

By Byron LaMasters

Just when I thought today was weird enough with Mark Byron's fantasy, Ann Coulter's decided that she wants to remove Dennis Kucinich's feeding tube:

Dennis Kucinich has been in a persistent vegetative state for 20 years – how about not feeding him?

Is it something in the water? Or is it the fact that the right wing couldn't get their judges confirmed yesterday? Or is it the realization that Bush's wreckless foreign policy, and domestic failures have made him vulnerable and increasingly unpopular?

Can anyone else explain it? These folks are going nuts. Or it might just be Ann Coulter acting like herself.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:06 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Throw Him Out

By Byron LaMasters

Why doesn't Zell Miller just switch parties? This is just embarrassing:

Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) compared the blocking of one of President Bush's judicial nominees, African-American Janice Rogers Brown, to a lynching.

After the early dramatics at the beginning of the 30-hour reverse filibuster on President Bush's judicial nominees quickly fizzled, the debate turned out to be high on rhetoric and name-calling but it revealed little that had not been said before.

However, as most senators and C-SPAN viewers had turned in for the night, the debate rapidly turned interesting at 2 a.m. when the schedule of speakers, either by luck of the draw or design, pitted Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) against Miller.

While Daschle kept his remarks very brief, the Georgia lawmaker provided the anticipated fireworks.

Miller said Senate Democrats are "standing in the doorway" and blocking nomination. "And they have a sign: Conservative African-American women need not apply," the lawmaker said. Miller added that if they still try to do so, their "reputation will be shattered and your dignity will be shredded. Gal, you will be lynched," he said.

Standing before the Constitution, Miller agreed with the GOP that the nominees deserve an up or down vote. The lawmaker frequently votes with Republicans and recently further broke rank with his caucus by endorsing Bush's reelection and publishing a book strongly critical of the direction of the party and its leaders.

Miller looked at the Constitution and said he could not find the provision that says nominees have to be confirmed by a supermajority.

Because of the Democrats' actions, Miller added, the Senate now finds itself in an "unmitigated mess."

The lawmaker described the backgrounds of the blocked nominees. Speaking of Miguel Estrada, who has withdrawn his name from consideration, Miller said: "It's a shame. It's a disgrace that he did not receive an up or down vote."

The lawmaker concluded his remarks by pounding his desk and repeatedly saying that the nominees deserve a vote.

I'm all for the big tent. But between this and endorsing Bush, Zell Miller has gone over the edge. It's a good thing he's retiring. It's a shame really. He went from being a decent governor to a DINO (Democrat in Name Only) Senator.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:22 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Horror... The Horror!

By Andrew Dobbs

Might splotchy-faced slightly retarded right wing liar extrodinaire Bill O'Reilly be considering a run for the White House someday? As noted on Political Wire, there's a chance:

Speculation about O'Reilly's political future has been around for years, but it's still tempting to think that all of this - the show, the books, the radio, the tchotchkes on billoreilly.com, the entire money-printing Bill O'Reilly industry, for crying out loud - is part of some manifest design on his part to run for higher office. The new book feeds into this. "Who's Looking Out for You?" - about the failure of American institutions to protect the average Joe - is both thoughtful and blustering, where a flame is thrown on every other page, a past slight avenged in every other chapter. Entertaining, yes, but also (at times) a political reformist's manifesto....

The prize would be the White House, but "the country's not interested in an independent candidacy. Maybe in 10 years they will be, but right now, you have 50 percent of Americans who don't know anything - they're totally disengaged from the process, the 'Mall People.' They don't know anything, don't watch the news or listen to radio or read the newspapers. The other 50 percent - and there was a recent poll on this - are a third crazy left and third crazy right and third in the middle. So the pie you're going for is a very narrow pie."

Yeah, maybe he "could mobilize a certain number of independent thinkers who think, 'This guy could be a ... Teddy Roosevelt kind of guy, who could come in and clean up the garbage...'"

Yeah, when I think of Bill O'Reilly I think of Theodore Roosevelt. In the same way that when I think of Pauly Shore I think of Henry Clay. What a conceited douchebag. The biggest problem is probably not O'Reilly but the asinine no talent reporters who come up with ideas like "a popular but inexperienced, barely mentally functioning former host of Hard Copy should run for President!" These are the same mouth-breathers that stuck California with Arnold because the media are more interested in entertainment and making money than they are in reporting the facts.

Some liberal media eh? When's the last time somebody suggested that a popular liberal talk show host run for President... Oh, that's right, there are no popular liberal talk show hosts. Sure we have Oprah and Rosie, but they aren't hard news. That's it! Oprah vs. O'Reilly for President! Keep ratings up and Oprah would kill Bill. A black woman liberal Democrat and Dr. Phil for VP! I really do think I'm a genius...

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 12:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Play the Filibuster Drinking Game

By Byron LaMasters

Via the Gunther Concept:

In any event, and unfortunately for fans of tedium, the actual filibuster began last night, and apparently was not televised in its entirety by C-SPAN. On the off chance that it gets shown on the weekend, when C-SPAN has a lot of empty air time, I thought it would be useful to have some way of passing the time. This “Filibuster Drinking Game” might do the trick. Here are the rules:

Take a drink when…
someone uses the word “outrageous” or “outrage”
x2 if its said by Orrin Hatch
someone uses the word “obstructionist”
someone uses the phrase “litmus test”
someone uses the phrase “original intent”
someone uses the word “hypocrite” or “hypocritical”
x2 if its said by Orrin Hatch
x4 if Saxby Chambliss speaks
x8 if Bill Frist strangles a cat
x2 if Trent Lott gets to speak outside of the 1:00am to 6:00am time window

That could be fun. Who wants to play?

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

November 13, 2003

Queer Eye for the DMN Guy

By Byron LaMasters

Well, the Dallas Morning News has responded in an interesting way to Steve Blow's column bashing Queer Eye for the Straight Guy:

And this is one straight guy who wouldn't let those Queer Eye guys anywhere near him. I could use their help. I just couldn't stand all their yapping.

So what does the Dallas Morning News do after the aforementioned column by the normally pro-gay Steve Blow? They decide to do their own version of Queer Eye... and it's a good thing. This guy needed some help:

There I was, sitting at my desk, when the fashionistas of The Dallas Morning News made me an offer:

"We want you to be the straight guy in our version of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."

Whoa! Not the sort of assignment one usually gets. My first reaction was apprehension bordering on "NOOOOOOO!" So I decided to ask friends and co-workers what they would do, were the same invitation hurled their way.

The style-scrambled straight guy: Dallas Morning News reporter Michael Granberry in his cluttered cubicle the morning of his "make better."

"Are you nuts?" roared The Doog, my buddy in Anchorage.

"Geez, Louise," muttered T.K. in Houston. "You're not tryin' to be one of them metrosexuals, are ya?"

But colleague Teresa Gubbins put it all in perspective. "God forbid that you of all people should learn something about style!" she said, her metallic blue hair shaking in indignation.

Well, Teresa was right. What would I, a 51-year-old Plano father of four boys – who loves watching Cowboys football from a well-worn couch, and whose clothing of choice is $19 Costco pants – have to lose?

After all, isn't that the reason Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is a runaway hit, splitting time between the Bravo cable network, where it's the most-watched show in the channel's history, and an even wider audience on NBC? Gay guys really do have a lot to teach straight guys about style.

Aside from that, the fashionistas' offer was flattering. I was picked in part, they said, for having recently lost 80 pounds, following the wisdom of my physician, Sarah Payberah, who for my money is the best doctor in America.

Ready for his close-up: The new and improved Michael Granberry in his new and improved cubicle.

A voice inside me kept urging: Maybe it's time for a whole new look . (Besides, Queer Eye for the Fat Guy probably wouldn't work.)

So there I was, about to spend an entire day with five members of Dallas' gay community, who groove on putting the "S" in style, whether it's hair or threads or candle-lit romantic dinners or how really cool one's workspace can be.

For a day at least, I had to forget the couch, the Cowboys, even Costco. I was asked to embrace a whole new glossary, taking on such concepts as "product" and "exfoliate" and "self-tanning."

Our initial meeting offered a glimpse of the day to come.

"When this is all over, guys," I said, "I think it's only fair to turn the tables and spend a day Bubbafying you."

"Yeah, right," said David Nelson, chosen to jazz up my cubicle at work. "We've already done that. They call it high school!!!"

The day began with John Clutts driving me to Orange, a trendy salon in Deep Ellum. I rode shotgun in his BMW.

"Where the heck is the CD player?" I asked.

"In here," he said, flipping open a door that gave way to the full-bodied voice of Christine Andreas. I haven't heard acoustics like that since my wife dragged me to the Meyerson. But sorry, John, not exactly my kind of music.

"Got anything by the Eagles?" I asked.

"Sure," he said derisively. "ON VINYL!!!"

Walking into Orange felt like being in a gay version of UT heaven. Orange was everywhere, even on the bottles of "product" they begged me to take home. John introduced me to L.B. Rosser, a stylist for the Kim Dawson Agency, who introduced me to Todd Allen, the owner of Orange and The One Who Would Cut My Hair.

Todd looked at me curiously and asked, "Where do you get your hair cut?"

"Mesquite!" I replied, prompting Todd and L.B. to stare at each other and then nod sympathetically, as if I had blurted out, "Well, actually, I've only been homeless for five years."

Soon, he was cutting and shaping my "too round" coif, vowing "not to make you look like Marlene Dietrich. But, then, you won't look like Ward Cleaver anymore, either."

When Todd got done, I had to admit I really dug the new look, even though a co-worker said I looked "like the David Bowie of Plano."

"Oh, what the hell," I said. "Have you checked out Bill Parcells and that Billy Idol blondness he's been wearing? If it's all right for him, it's all right for me."

Next, we were on to the West Village, where we paid a visit to Regimens owner Tom Granese. Regimens is one of those too-hip shops where men can get even more "product," this time for the face. Here, we entered into a whole new adventure, in the land of Exfoliate.

"So what kind of shaving cream do you use?" Tom asked.

"Gillette Foamy!" I said, to which Tom responded with a wince. And that was subtle compared to L.B.'s reaction.

"I am shocked and appalled!" said the stylist, giving me the kind of look judges reserve for three-time offenders.

Face it, Tom said, there is a better way, and handed me a bottle of "men-u," as if allowing me to cradle the Holy Grail. "It's an ultraconcentrated shave cream," he said, almost reverently. "Just a couple of pumps, and then lather it on."

What I discovered is that a wee bit of men-u goes a long way, meaning that if my 10-year-old and 7-year-old ever find it, my whole dang house could float away.

But Tom wasn't done. He trotted out Maxwell's Apothecary To Tone, Jack Black Double-Duty Face Moisturizer, Baxter of California Under-Eye Complex, and L.B.'s favorite, a wicked little bottle of "California North Titanium Self-Tanner... for the whole face and body."

"Hey, guys, I've got one question," I said. "Where do you find the time for all this?"

"We make the time," L.B. said. "Because we care."

Do I care enough to keep using this stuff? Hard to say. They gave me so many bottles, it's hard to keep 'em all straight. To devote that much time to my face, I'd have to give up watching SportsCenter in the morning.

OK, guys, one other question: "How can I incorporate what I'm learning here with one of my Cowboys-watching parties, you know, when the buddies come over?"

L.B. was the first to speak up.

"How about a hot-wing-and self-tanning party!"

Natalie Caudill / DMN
Goodbye to the bowl: Michael gets a haircut from Orange salon owner Todd Allen while grooming expert L.B. Rosser touts the merits of "product."

If it's true that clothes make the man, I needed major reconstruction, something on the order of an urban renewal project. In the past seven months, my waistline has shrunk 12 inches, my coat size 10, my neck almost 4. I've been stalking the racks at Costco, hoping for the cheapest "in-between" look I could find before reaching my final weight-loss goal of an even 100 pounds.

But Josh Goldfarb had other ideas. An undergraduate at Southern Methodist University and young enough to be my son, he took me to Banana Republic in the West Village, where, after an hour of trying on what seemed like half the store, I emerged with a sleek gray sweater, navy-blue pin-stripe pants, a brown suede jacket a young Marlon Brando might have worn and black boots that looked like hand-me-downs from the early Beatles.

Kudos to Josh. Several months ago, my walrusy clothes made me look like Andy Rooney on a good day, Omar the Tentmaker on a bad one.

For a while at least, I even got to feel like Brando.

Natalie Caudill / DMN
Chef Todd Erickson shows Michael how to put the finishing touches on a fall salad at Gourmet a go-go!

We moved on to a really cool store on McKinney Avenue called Design Within Reach, where "studio proprietor" Matt Wilkerson showed me a Mirra chair by Herman Miller. (Back at the office, David Nelson was redesigning my cubicle with a band of Milleresque items that managed to impress even my prone-to-heckle co-workers.)

Design Within Reach is full of chairs and clocks and lamps that could change even Dilbert's image. Before getting to see what the amazing Mr. Nelson had done with its product, we lunched at Paris Vendome, which we followed with a trip to Gourmet a go-go!, where we met executive chef Todd Erickson. Todd, who is one mean cook, had "designed" the romantic meal I would bring home to Nancy, my wife. Hardly your ordinary takeout, it was fat years removed from the Whataburger "Double Double with cheese" I used to cart home on a nightly basis.

Todd had whomped up an awesome salad of mixed greens, feta, toasted hazelnuts and plum vinaigrette; steak and parsnips and asparagus; and a killer dessert of mission figs, raspberries and vanilla custard.

As they used to say about Nolan Ryan's fastball, "This guy can bring it."

Josh Goldfarb helps Michael into a Banana Republic suede jacket, while John Clutts offers encouragement.

Back at the office, my cubicle had become a swooned-over, eye-popping coolicle. It had a clean, unfettered look that made one want to sit and create something immediately. So different from my workspace at home, which often looks like downtown Mosul.

Mr. Nelson had replaced my clunky PC with a really cool Apple Power Mac G5 and converted my ragtag collection of refrigerator magnets into an op-art parade. He even brought in a real blue fish that swam in a bowl on the corner of the desk.

All in all, what a day. And then, of course, time to go home. With the kids in bed, my wife and I rolled out the meal from Todd, lit the candles and put on the music. John had suggested a compromise between her choice of tunes (Mandy Patinkin) and mine (Jackson "Running on Empty" Browne). And what do you know? There really is a middle ground.

So we listened instead to Norah Jones, whose "Come Away With Me" put me to sleep. I was, after all, even more fatigued than that little blue fish.

As I said to John at the end of the day, "I'm glad I'm not gay... 'cause, hey, dude, this is damn hard work."

And then his BMW roared into the sunset, as the voice of Christine Andreas filled the night air with the promise of improvement.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Doggett vs. Barrientos

By Byron LaMasters

In today's Austin American Statesman, Dave McNeely wrote on the possible upcoming race for the new, open 25th Congressional district stretching from the Mexican border to a block away from my apartment in central Austin. The article also gives a good history lesson of the 1994 race for Jake Pickle's open seat (TX-10) won by Doggett

Suddenly, there's an open congressional district in Austin. State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos wants to run. But his Senate predecessor, Lloyd Doggett, jumps in first.

That was December 1993, and longtime U.S. Rep. Jake Pickle was retiring after almost three decades.

Ten years later, there again could be an open Austin district that leans toward Democrats -- the 25th District, which stretches from East Austin to the Mexican border -- if the new GOP-drawn map survives review by the U.S. Department of Justice and federal courts.

Doggett, Barrientos and others hope the map won't survive. They say it is punitive to minorities. Barrientos was among the senators who fled to New Mexico to block the redistricting and, when that didn't work, voted against it.

But if it holds up, Barrientos says, he's absolutely interested in running.

However, Doggett, with more than $2 million in his campaign treasury, has already announced in the new 25th. (His current District 10 heads toward Houston in the new map and leans Republican).

Doggett is already campaigning in South Texas, where Barrientos claims to be well-known for decades of work on behalf of minorities.

In 1993, Barrientos badly wanted the added prestige and power of being in Congress -- plus a salary that at the time was 18 times that of a Texas legislator.

But Doggett also had a strong interest in Congress. And he was facing a difficult re-election battle in 1994 for the Texas Supreme Court seat he'd won in 1988.

After Pickle's announcement, Doggett quickly engineered a phone bank to round up supporters. When Barrientos looked up, Doggett was already out front.

In a bitter news conference, Barrientos, close to tears, said he could have won what would have been "a tough and divisive campaign" but instead would run for re-election to his Senate seat, which he would have had to give up to run for Congress.

"A senior senator from Travis County can be more effective in two years than a freshman congressman can be in 10 years," Barrientos said. "With all the challenges to our community that must be met at the legislative level . . . I cannot argue that I could do more for Austin from any position other than the one I have now."

But Barrientos never forgot Doggett's move. And 10 years later, he may have decided that a 62-year-old freshman congressman would be better for Austin -- and South Texas -- than one with a decade of experience. Also different for Barrientos is that his Senate seat isn't up until 2006, so he could run without giving it up.

The district, however, is weighted to the south, and another legislator, state Rep. Kino Flores, D-Mission, almost certainly is running. Hidalgo County has almost as many voters in the district as Travis County, and most are Hispanic.

If Barrientos runs and wins, the special election to replace him could see Republican Ben Bentzin, who got 43.1 percent against Barrientos last year. But Bentzin would face a tough election against former Austin Mayor Kirk Watson, who's also interested.

For the record, Lloyd Doggett is my congressmen and I support his re-election in whatever district he seeks re-election in. As for Gonzalo Barrientos, he's my state senator and I strongly support him for re-election in 2006. I'd be happy to support him for higher office in the future, but I feel that Lloyd Doggett has been a powerful voice for Austin for the past ten years in Congress, his senority will give Austin the most influence in Congress. Regardless, Doggett or Barrientos would be much better than Kino Flores - a Craddick ally who didn't go to Ardmore. Hopefully, none of this will matter and the GOP map will be struck down next month. Otherwise, things will get nasty in this race.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More Than Just Paper

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

By now everyone has probably heard as much as they want to about the twin endorsements of the SEIU and AFSCME. But I found an interesting tidbit today that I hadn't seen in print anywhere else before. Here's a taste.

The SEIU and AFSCME leaders said they hoped their move would be viewed as a sign that Democratic constituencies should coalesce around the Dean campaign.

"We would hope that by what we did today … that maybe this begins to winnow the field," McEntee told reporters.

AFSCME, whose members hold a range of jobs at all levels of government, plans on spending about $7.5 million on an independent campaign to promote Dean's candidacy during the nomination process, including $1 million in Iowa. The union will spend another $3 million on a separate communication to its members, according to political director Larry Scanlon.

The most tangible effect of the union's endorsement may be the sheer number of people it can deliver to the polls. Scanlon said that polling has shown that about 70% of union members have voted for the candidate the union endorses.

In Iowa, AFSCME's 20,000 members include many longtime caucus-goers with familiarity with the process, Scanlon said. "They know how to run the operations when you get to the gymnasium or the church or whatever," he said. "That's a very valuable asset."

In addition, AFSCME will make a rare appeal for political donations and send an e-mail soon to its members asking them to contribute $100 to Dean's campaign, he added.

And the SEIU...

The SEIU, meanwhile, is poised to play a key role for Dean in the opening primary on Jan. 27 in New Hampshire, where it is the largest union with 7,500 members.

The union can also play a critical role in mobilizing voters for the March 2 contests in California and New York, where it represents a combined 880,000 members.

Dean will also get the benefit of the union's organizational skills — many of SEIU's veteran organizers will lend their expertise to the campaign, according to union official Gina Glantz.

Glantz said the union will not directly ask for contributions to Dean from its members, almost half of whom work in the health-care industry. But she said that she expected many would donate on their own.

Located in other news reports is this funny quip...

In other news, the RNC quickly distributed a press release asking if Gephardt was “a miserable failure” for losing out on the SEIU and AFSCME endorsements to Dean.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 08:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

About the Burnt Orange Report

By Byron LaMasters

Welcome to the Burnt Orange Report.

We're called the Burnt Orange Report because UT's colors are Burnt Orange and White, and we didn't really like the sound of the White Report. We'll save that one for the Council of Conservative Citizens and their good friends Haley Barbour and Trent Lott.

The Burnt Orange Report was founded at Live Journal in April 2003 by Byron LaMasters and Jim Dallas. In June 2003, Andrew Dobbs joined the Burnt Orange Report as a contributor. Later that month we decided to upgrade to our own domain name: BurntOrangeReport.com, which is owned by Byron. Our current site is hosted by Dreamhost (which we highly recommend), and we use the Moveable Type software (also highly recommended for any aspiring bloggers out there). Karl-Thomas joined our team of contributers in October 2003.

We are all students at the University of Texas at Austin (ok, well Jim has graduated now). We blog about National politics, Texas politics, Austin politics, UT and other college issues, and anything else that interests us. We're all Democrats and have been all involved in the University Democrats. We'd all probably consider ourselves progressives, but we don't agree on everything. We're no dittoheads, and we all have different writting styles and we even have our disagreements, since we all think for ourselves and all that, but we believe in most of the same general Democratic principals.

Thanks for stopping by, and we always appreciate respectful comments and debate.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:13 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Funny DLC

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Granted, the DLC has had it's part in history and of course there have been calls to render it to history. I have been highly upset with Democrats caving in to Republicans, and I have been upset with the DLC for attacking candidates like Dean when they choose to stand up for some traditional Democratic values. Talk about not being constructive.

That aside, I found this flash bit against the DLC. Funny and even a bit inspirational depending on who you support. (Warning, it's over a Meg in size).

Enjoy your Thursday night.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 08:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Meet the Next Senator / Governor for Alabama

By Byron LaMasters

(Former) Judge Roy Moore.

I'm glad he's been removed, because he violated the orders of a federal judge, but on the other hand this kind of thing turns him into a martyr (if he wasn't already), and he can probably get elected to whatever office he wants in Alabama. Eh... oh well.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:42 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Open Thread

By Byron LaMasters

Ok, so I need to update my blogroll. Who needs to be added? I'm especially looking for Texas bloggers but anyone is fine. If you got a good blog and want it on our blogroll, or know of a blog that deserves to be there, let us know!


Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:16 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Tom DeLay is a Whore

By Andrew Dobbs

Via Charles over at Off the Kuff, Tom Delay seems to be prostituting receptions with the president for $300-$500 as well as an honorary chairmanship for a leadership committee. To wit:

AIR FORCE CHAPLAIN James Helton says he was flabbergasted when he first heard the news from his wife. "She told me you've been selected for a national award by Congressman DeLay, and they really want you to call the office."

Helton wondered why a powerful Republican leader would want to honor a humble Air Force reservist and quickly returned the call. He was so upset by what he heard that he invited NBC News to record the conversation when he called back a second time.

First there was a recorded message: "This is Congressman Tom DeLay. I'm asking you to serve as an honorary chairman on our business advisory council, and you will be recognized with our national leadership award."

Then, a telemarketer came on the line: "You'd be invited to private dinners with congressmen and quarterly strategy sessions in Washington."

In the call, Helton was also promised an exclusive black-tie president's dinner and his name in a newspaper ad.

Then came the pitch from the telemarketer: "We're asking each chairman for a one-time gift of $300 or $500 for the ad. Can we count on your support?"

Helton replied: 'That's pushing my budget a little. Does it have to be paid all at once?"

"Would $100 or $200 be any better for you? And I could even split that down into two payments as well," replied the telemarketer.

Helton, an independent voter who voted for Bush in the last presidential election, did not send a dime. "It was dishonest, it was sleazy, and it was certainly unbecoming a national party like this," said Helton.

Unbecoming of a national party? Looks like Rev. Helton hasn't been around the GOP lately. If I were to set up a similar organization, let's call it "Texas Leadership Council," and I were to cold call people and tell them that they can be on my board of directors, I'll publicize it, etc. all it will cost is $400 and everyone can be on it, I'd be called a con artist. But if I were the House Majority Leader I'd get to be just a sleazy politician. What's even better is that there are some other great Americans serving as "honorary chairmen" and are recipients of the "national leadership award."

Past awardees include a convicted sex offender and a maker of drug paraphernalia — both awards were later rescinded.

The award also is proudly displayed in the office of an adult film promoter, Harry Weiss, who sent Republicans a check from his company — “Nefarious Films.”

“They cashed the check, so I guess they’re happy to have me aboard,” Weiss said.

I don't know what makes me sicker- the fact that one of the world's most powerful men is digging for cash in sleazy telemarketing schemes or the fact that Tom DeLay considers a pornographer as much of a leader and honorable person as an Air Force Chaplain. So much for family values. When Clinton had contributors stay at the Lincoln bedroom Republicans went apeshit. When Tom DeLay will sell tickets to a Presidential Reception to a pornographer for a few hundred bucks, no one seems to care. The GOP sure has taken a nose dive under the characterless leadership of men like Tom DeLay.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 12:31 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 12, 2003

No More Comments on the Kerry Blog?

By Byron LaMasters

It looks as if the John Kerry blog has shut down comments on it's blog. Hmmm... Sounds like something that the Bush Blog would do. Wait... it does. Heh.

Kudos to Dean and Clark for keeping their official blogs open for comments.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Talkathon Time!

By Byron LaMasters

Turn on C-SPAN. It's talkathon time! Oral Roberts would be proud...

Here's what Howard Dean has to say about it.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Watch Out, Tom DeLay!

By Byron LaMasters

He's got a challenger! I know Jim wants to run against DeLay, but if we can knock him off before Jim has the chance, I'm all for it. Yeah, I know, I'm living in a fantasy land but the thought of defeating Tom DeLay always makes me a little giddy.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dewhurst: No more Redistricting this Decade

By Byron LaMasters

The Dallas Morning News reports:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst vowed Tuesday never to allow congressional redistricting to revisit the Texas Senate this decade, even if the freshly redrawn boundaries fail to survive legal challenges.

Attorney General Greg Abbott has told GOP leaders that the new boundaries are sound and will not buckle under legal scrutiny.

But Mr. Dewhurst, a Republican who presides over the state Senate, allowed for the possibility of defeat Tuesday in addressing the editorial board of The Dallas Morning News.

"He says it's defensible," Mr. Dewhurst said. "It's difficult for me to argue. ... I know I'm going to take some criticism of this, but if it's not defensible, we are not going to take this up again this decade."

A three-judge panel is expected to decide the legality of the map, designed to bolster Republican strength in the Texas congressional delegation by up to seven seats, by Christmas. The plan also is undergoing review by the Justice Department.

Mr. Dewhurst said Tuesday that he had preferred a safer Senate proposal over the more aggressive House approach that was adopted by the Legislature.

Democrats now hold a 17-15 majority in the delegation. The new map could boost GOP strength by seven seats, as compared with the Senate-backed plan, which might have gained the Republicans five new seats.

The Senate proposal would have left intact the 24th District represented by Martin Frost, D-Arlington. But under new boundaries, Mr. Frost's district was dismantled and many of his minority voters parceled to nearby suburban areas.

Democrats argue that such action violated the voting rights of minorities.

"I preferred the map that came out of the Senate, in which we [Republicans] would have elected the same numbers in Congress as we do in the Senate right now, 19 or 20, and not touched any of our minority districts," he said. "I think that's better public policy and, quite frankly, better politics.".

Dewhurst also said that there wouldn't be redistricting without broad support in the senate and that it wasn't a priority. I'm sure that after a few visits from Tom DeLay, if necessary, David Dewhurst would change his mind.

And for anyone who doubts the involvement of Tom DeLay, read on...

Mr. Dewhurst said congressional leaders played a key role in persuading state lawmakers to choose the more aggressive proposal.

"We were besieged by visits from members of Congress," he said. "We had a groundswell in the House that carried over into the Senate to go to a map favored by a lot of members in Congress."

The article also goes on to mention that another special session will be called. There's been some speculation that a special session will be called next month, but Dewhurst is expecting it in April:

Mr. Dewhurst said civility in the Senate is important because he expects Mr. Perry to call a special session to address school finance and tax reform in April.

Mr. Dewhurst said he would be working with Senate and House leaders to forge a compromise proposal, which he hopes to have in place by the end of February.

He said he favors a tax-reform plan for school finance that would reduce property taxes and raise sales taxes in the service industry.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ditch the Road Map and make a right turn now

By Jim Dallas

The "situation" in the Middle East is one of the touchiest subjects out there, especially among Democrats. I've sat through several arguments in person between die-hardists of both camps (and even more online flame-wars regarding Arab-Israeli relations).

It's profoundly frustrating to me to listen through these, since they usually (a) turn into childish contests of who is to blame in the Middle East, and (b) because such discussions not only comply with Godwin's Law, they usually tend to exceed specifications.

(If you must sit through an argument over Palestine, I highly suggest getting heavily liquored-up first).

I think that my sense of exasperation is (probably) becoming increasingly common in middle America.

So it's always good to see people try to appease everybody, even if they usually end up getting what they deserves.

In any case, the latest entry in the annals of the "kiss and make-up" school of Middle East diplomacy comes in Tuesday's Washington Post.

Rabbi Michael Lerner and Princeton professor Cornel West (lately of Matrix: Revolutions fame) propose a simple quid pro quo that actually makes sense -- Israeli withdraw from the Occupied Territories in exchange for a mutual defense agreement with the United State:

Israel's best interests lie with a United States that would support U.N. intervention to stop the killings, protect each side from the other and provide a U.N. protectorate for Palestine while it became organized as an economically and politically viable state, and while it set in motion steps to repress all those criminals whose ideological commitments might lead them to terrorist acts even after a state had been created. The United States should be promoting an agenda that is explicitly even-handed, balanced and both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. It would call for an end to the occupation, return of Israel to the pre-1967 borders and compensation for Palestinian refugees, who should be resettled in the new Palestinian state. There should also be a guarantee (perhaps through a mutual defense pact with the United States) of Israeli security. Such an agreement was signed last month between former Israeli justice minister Yossi Beilin and leading figures in the Palestinian Fatah organization; it remains only for Ariel Sharon and the Palestinian Authority to sign on.

I'll one up Rabbi Lerner and Professor West and propose the unthinkable -- that if Israel dismantles its settlements and withdraws behind its 1967 borders, the US should not only agree to a formal military alliance, but it should seriously propose Israeli accession to NATO.

Why? Because a major Israeli compromise would probably make such an agreement palatable (or at least imaginable) to Europeans, and if we can make Israel's defense everybody's business (as opposed us and Israel versus everybody, as it stands now), then we will have improved our security situation and sent a very strong message to Al-Qaeda-type groups and anti-semites everywhere -- that they will find no quarter in the West.

So, I've pressed the hotbutton. Discuss.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 11, 2003

Attn: Bloggers

By Byron LaMasters


S/he's spammed me multiple times over the past few days with gambling and Viagra ads. Just a heads up to all of yall.

If you haven't already, ban these IP addresses.

Update: I also just added theses IP Addresses to my ban list (spammers): 2003.11.12 2003.11.12 2003.11.12

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Planned Parenthood Will Not be Deterred

By Byron LaMasters

The Daily Texan reports:

Planned Parenthood of Austin officials said Monday they would become their own general contractors for a new Austin clinic following the original contractor's abandonment of the project last week.

"We realize that this is an unusual tactic, but unconventional times call for unconventional solutions," said Austin Planned Parenthood Executive Director Glenda Parks.

San Antonio-based Browning Construction told Planned Parenthood on Wednesday the company could not find subcontractors to build the new clinic after being assailed by a phone campaign to boycott the clinic. The boycott, begun by Chris Danze, owner of Austin concrete contractor Maldonado and Danze Inc, targeted businesses working or scheduled to work on the clinic with hundreds, sometimes thousands of phone calls.

"One subcontractor received 1,200 phone calls over the course of a week," Parks said. "A small boycott became a nationwide target list."

Parks said construction will resume on the clinic, known as The Choice Project, as soon as Planned Parenthood closes out its contract with Browning, probably within a couple of weeks.

"I know that opponents of the clinic will take this as a sign to redouble their efforts," said Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Danielle Tierney. "They don't know who they're dealing with."

Parks said Planned Parenthood will not need to hire any new staff to take on the added role of contractor and that the facility is still on schedule to open in fall 2004.

Very good news. It's critical that this nonsense not deter the ability of women in the Austin area to receive the health care services provided by Planned Parenthood. This clinic will be built, and if the University Democrats have to get out there with shovels and pour concrete, we'll do it. So will thousands of other Austinites. Planned Parenthood really ought to sue the subcontracters for breaking their contracts (I'm not a lawyer, so I'll let someone else go into the legal aspects involved). Meanwhile, this whole spat has helped Planned Parenthood beat their fundraising goals:

Planned Parenthood's ann-ouncement came at its eighth annual Public Affairs Luncheon, a fund-raising event commemorating Planned Parenthood's 65th year in Austin. The group raised $180,087 at the event, exceeding their goal of $175,000.

"We've seen a lift in fund-raising since the first Texas Legislative session this year," said Tierney, referring to a law passed by the Texas Legislature that cuts federal funding to organizations that perform abortions.

Planned Parenthood of Austin and five other Planned Parenthood affiliates filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Health earlier this year to keep their federal funding. That suit is now pending in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:27 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Soros Moves On to the Tune of $5 Million

By Andrew Dobbs

The right-wing message/think tank system has been bankrolled for years by shadowy billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. Now, the Democrats have someone even richer on our side- the man who broke the Bank of England, George Soros.

The Washington Post reports:

George Soros, one of the world's richest men, has given away nearly $5 billion to promote democracy in the former Soviet bloc, Africa and Asia. Now he has a new project: defeating President Bush.

"It is the central focus of my life," Soros said, his blue eyes settled on an unseen target. The 2004 presidential race, he said in an interview, is "a matter of life and death."...

Overnight, Soros, 74, has become the major financial player of the left. He has elicited cries of foul play from the right. And with a tight nod, he pledged: "If necessary, I would give more money."

"America, under Bush, is a danger to the world," Soros said. Then he smiled: "And I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is."

Soros gave $5 million to internet activists MoveOn.org this week, bringing his total contributions against Bush to $15.5 million, one year before the election. This includes $10 million to mobilize voters in 17 swing states, $3 million for the new Center for American Progress, a left-wing think tank that hopes to match the GOP success seen in the Heritage Foundation or the American Enterprise Institute. He also raised $115,000 for Howard Dean, though he says he also supports Kerry, Clark and Gephardt.

The GOP is upset and frankly, I wish we didn't have to do this. I wish we had a system that was fair and equitable and kept special interests out of it and made sure that everyone had a fair shot. But the GOP has huge coffers and we have to do something. Its like nuclear weapons- the peacenik in me says that they are awful and wishes we didn't have to have them, but the pragmatist tells me that they prevent much more harm than they cause. I wish we didn't have to be bankrolled by some financier. But if the GOP wants to play hard ball, we'll play hard ball.

To end it all, this quote is the kind of thing that gets my heart pounding, ready for this fight to get underway:

Asked whether he would trade his $7 billion fortune to unseat Bush, Soros opened his mouth. Then he closed it. The proposal hung in the air: Would he become poor to beat Bush?

He said, "If someone guaranteed it."

Kiss my grits, Scaife.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 06:36 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

November 10, 2003

Building a Planned Parenthood Clinic

By Byron LaMasters

I know. I'm late on this one:

Construction on Planned Parenthood's South Austin clinic took a hard hit this week when the project's general contractor walked away because of intense pressure from abortion opponents.

Planned Parenthood officials said Browning Construction -- a San Antonio company that is one of the state's largest building contractors -- broke its contract to oversee construction of the 9,931-square-foot clinic.

"They were afraid their business could not survive this project," said Glenda Parks, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region.

In a written statement, company President James Browning said, "We have requested that the construction contract be terminated because we are unable to secure and retain adequate subcontractors and suppliers to complete the project in a timely manner, due to events beyond our control."

Planned Parenthood has not decided whether to take legal action and is exploring its options.

The clinic, to be located at 201 E. Ben White Blvd., would be the fourth licensed abortion provider in Austin.

It would also provide medical services such as tubal ligations, vasectomies, HIV testing and routine gynecological exams for poor or uninsured women.

Parks said two other contractors have volunteered to spearhead the construction but wouldn't give their names. Though work on the building has slowed, she said it has not stopped.

"I think in about two weeks, you'll see work as usual," she said.

On Wednesday, three former Austin mayors, a state representative and an Austin City Council member held a news conference calling on people to support Planned Parenthood.

The news conference came the same day President Bush signed a ban on a certain type of late-term abortion.

"People in Austin are tolerant," said state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin. "They are for affordable health care. We are not going to let a small group of radicals change that."

Browning's departure comes after hundreds and possibly thousands of people across the country participated in an Austin-led campaign to cripple the project.

In September, Chris Danze -- president of Maldonado and Danze Inc., a concrete construction contractor -- organized a boycott.

"Planned Parenthood is an organization with a health care wrapper, but it is a social movement at its core," he said. It's "a social movement that promotes sexual chaos, especially among our youth. Out of this sexual chaos comes the violence of abortion. That is the heart and soul of this movement."

The 48-year-old Austin man, who said he personally assists women who have troubled pregnancies, persuaded concrete suppliers to boycott the project. He kept a list of companies that worked on the facility, contacted churches and asked pro-life supporters to call the contractors.

Word got out.

News outlets across the country picked up the story, including the Christian Broadcasting Network, Parks said. Hundreds of people called companies working on the clinic.

One contractor received 1,200 calls to his business line, Parks said. Another received several hundred at his home.

Parks said the contractors felt harassed and threatened. Danze said he has told callers to be polite and respectful.

"The calls involved two elements," Danze said. "The first is that it's wrong to build an abortion chamber. The second is that it's bad for future business."

Former Austin Mayor Bruce Todd called that "economic blackmail."

"It's about tyranny," he said. "It's about harassment."

Texas Right to Life Director Elizabeth Graham called Danze a modern-day hero whose actions could inspire others to stand up against abortion. She could not recall another similar boycott in Texas.

But Kae McLaughlin of the Texas Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League called people like Danze a "tiny, vicious minority that wants its way."

Meanwhile, the battle continues. Danze says he'll continue to push the boycott. Parks says the project will move forward and that she has no plans to contact Danze.

"I don't think there's a lot of middle ground between us," she said.

Bruce Todd has it exactly right. This is "economic blackmail". A small group of radical activists have stopped constuction on a medical clinic, and it's a real shame. Off the Kuff has the story as well. I'd urge my readers to join me in following the course of action suggested by The Gunther Concept:

Okay, so all’s fair in love and war. But it seems to me that the folks behind this boycott/harassment campaign should be fair targets as well. If they think that it is their right to threaten the economic livelihood of people they don’t agree with, and call them at their home or place of business, they should be prepared to accept the same treatment. With that in mind, I’m posting below contact information for some of the individuals mentioned in the story as being behind this effort. Please use this information responsibly. Be polite but firm. Let them know that you don’t appreciate their infringement on individual rights. Call often. For businesses, let them know that you will boycott them and encourage others who do business with them to do the same.

Christopher Danze

Home Tel.: (512) 306-1326

Maldonado & Danze Inc
Business Tel.: (512) 837-9677

David Bereit

Home Tel.: (979) 690-3009

Bereit is represented by the Ambassador’s Speakers Bureaufor his role as a motivational speaker. Feel free to call them and let them know how you feel about the fact that they represent a client who has no regard for women’s rights.

Toll-Free Phone: (877) 425-4700, ext. 235
Fax: (615) 661-4344
E-mail: gloria.leyda@AmbassadorAgency.com

Mark Lynn Proeger

He lives in Austin. There is a contact number for a church he works at, but I do draw the line somewhere. However, he is in the habit of leading a series of informal meetings (“LQFA ; Lots of Questions, a Few Answers”) discussing faith type issue at a local coffee house. Call them up and let them know how you feel about the fact that they host an event run by someone who opposes women’s rights.

Spiderhouse Coffee Shop

Business Tel.: 512 480 9562

It's critical that these folks here understand that the majority of people in Austin are pro-choice and want women to be able to have access to the health care resources provided by Planned Parenthood. It's a disgrace that this had to happen in the first place. We'll build this clinic. Hand me a shovel.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:05 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Dean Invited to Speak to CCC

By Byron LaMasters

Via Kos Diaries I found an invitation by the Council of Conservative Citizens (the racist, neo-confederate organization which has connections to Trent Lott, Haley Barbour, Bob Barr and others) asking Howard Dean to speak at their upcoming board meeting:

Dear Governor Dean:

We wish to commend you for your recent statements in your campaign expressing sympathy for "white folks in the South who drive pickup trucks with Confederate flag decals on the back." We also wish to deplore the racial demagoguery with which your remarks have been unjustly denounced by your fellow Democrats.

While we disagree with you on many other issues (including your comments that the Confederate flag is "loathsome" and "racist"), we believe you are entirely right that the Democratic Party (as well as the Republicans) have ignored the kind of Americans you are talking about -- the very kind who make up the backbone of America as well as the majority of the Council of Conservative Citizens.

We urge you and all other candidates who understand the importance of such Americans to national politics and to nation itself to make a new appeal to them and their needs, values, and interests. These needs go far beyond such matters as "health insurance."

While health care is certainly of major importance, such issues as the deliberate destruction and demonization of our culture -- the Confederate flag and similar symbols in particular -- and the disappearance of our jobs through irresponsible free trade policies also need to be addressed. The dispossession of white Americans through the mass immigration that political leaders have permitted and encouraged is also a major threat that white Americans of all regions and conditions confront.

In the Council of Conservative Citizens, we have been trying to speak to these issues for years, and we have made an increasing number of Americans aware of their importance.

We would like to invite you, Gov. Dean, to attend the National Board of Directors meeting we are holding in Nashville, Tennessee next week (November 14-15th) and to address our group briefly along the lines you mentioned in Boston. We would like to make you better acquainted with us and our concerns and activities and to make ourselves better acquainted with you.

If you are indeed serious that you wish to be the candidate of "white folks in the South who drive pickup trucks with Confederate flag decals on the back," then the Council of Conservative Citizens is the group to whom you need to speak.

Hoping to see you in Nashville next weekend, we thank you for your attention.

Thomas Dover
Council of Conservative Citizens

Hmm.... so what should Dean do? If Dean really has some balls, he'd go speak there, bash the Confederate flag to their face, talk about racial inclusion etc, but reach out to them on guns, jobs, health care, taxes and trade. Then again, it could turn out disasterous and only perpetuate the problems that Dean had in the last debate and open himself to more critisism, especially from Blacks. What should he do?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:42 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

It's a Real, Live Filibuster!

By Byron LaMasters

Democratic Senate Whip Harry Reid is protesting GOP plans for a 30-hour session to end the Democratic filibuster over judical appointments. Reid is filibustering tonight in retaliation, and forcing GOP senators to change their Veterans Day plans. Turn to C-SPAN to watch.

Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid, D-Nevada, launched his protest over Frist's scheduling of 30 hours of continuous round-the-clock debate starting Wednesday to highlight Democratic filibusters of some of President Bush's judicial nominees.

"It's inappropriate that we are not going to be able to work through this week; we're going to take two days to talk about judges," said Reid. "I've been told the reason it's being done, deliver a message to the base. Well, I don't know what that means except it's being done for reasons that I don't think are appropriate for the Senate."


Reid's protest delays an expected vote on another major appropriations bill. Senate Republicans, who had hoped to fly in for a vote Monday then fly back home for Veterans day before returning for the 30 hours of debate on the judges, will now have to alter their plans.

I approve. Republicans are doing their best to be difficult to our senators, so Reid's returning the favor. Good job.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:50 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Attention Burnt Orange Readers

By Jim Dallas

We've been asked to inform our readers that the state Democratic party has a special project for, and I quote, "angry young Democrats."

Please give Sean Byrne a call at the Texas Democratic Party if you are interested. The number is (512)478-9800.

You can make a difference!

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:33 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Kerry's Campaign Shakeup

By Andrew Dobbs

Via Kos and Yahoo News John Kerry has fired longtime campaign manager Jim Jordan. This, coupled with the earlier defection of Chris Lehane suggests that Kerry's campaign is what we always knew it to be- a bunch of incompetent beltway types who think that they are better than everyone else.

Kerry has been running for president since he was in the womb and he knows that 2004 is his last chance. His whole career has been a series of calculations moving him towards this job. Its surprising that for someone who has been preparing for this chance his entire life that he fouled up so bad when was finally offered to him. Rather than ignoring Howard Dean and letting him stew in anonymity he rose his profile by attacking him in a way that seemed desparate and cynical. Rather than spending his money on building a grassroots movement he tried a top down structure and was undercut by Dean again. He is very far down in New Hampshire and this shakeup suggests that chaos is reigning at Kerry Campaign HQ. NH has always been must-win for Kerry and it looks like Kerry's lifelong dream is over for good.

Its a shame- he'd make a fine president and he's a good Senator. But people have never wanted a patrician, New England liberal Washington insider. Only once did such a candidate win- Kerry's archetype JFK in 1960- but Kerry is no Kennedy and America has lost its innocence and hero worship since then. Kerry's lofty rhetoric is looked at suspiciously while a hard-headed pragmatist like Howard Dean is favored. This new development is yet another nail in Kerry's presidential coffin.

With Kerry's collapse, Clark's disorganization, the two biggest unions behind Dean (thus killing Gep's chances for an AFL-CIO endorsement), Edward's inability to move out of the cellar and Lieberman's disconnect with the party's activist base Dean is well on his way to winning the nom. He needs to fend off the attacks, avoid making stupid mistakes and he can coast into the primaries. Its time to train our guns at GWB and find a way to win in November.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 02:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 09, 2003

"No Girls Allowed" gets Legs

By Byron LaMasters

Thanks to Andrew and other bloggers the "No Girls Allowed" picture of Bush signing the "partial birth" abortion ban has legs. It's all over google news. Score one for the bloggers! Also kudos to NARAL Pro-Choice America for pushing this (you can donate here). It's really important that we emphasize that the people behind banning a women's health care procedure are a bunch of old white men. How compassionate.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:24 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

As Mississippi Goes, so goes the Nation...

By Byron LaMasters

Well, not really. In fact winning the governorship of Mississippi is about the worst indicator of winning the presidency. The last six elections for governor of Mississippi (since 1979) have been followed the next year by the election of a president of the opposite party. The New York Times reports:

Anyone who sees the election last week of the Republican Haley Barbour as governor of Mississippi as a predictor of Republican success in next year's presidential election should think again. Recent history suggests Mississippi is anything but a bellwether.

Four years ago, the year before George W. Bush was elected president, Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, won the race for Mississippi governor. In 1991 and 1995, the years preceding Bill Clinton's elections, Kirk Fordice, a Republican, won in Mississippi.

Not since 1976, when Jimmy Carter won the presidency after the Democrat Cliff Finch's election as governor, has a president been elected the year after a governor in his own party was elected in Mississippi.

Yeah, Mississippi is out of touch. We knew that already.

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

Washington Republicans Resorting to Texas Style Partisanship

By Byron LaMasters

Wait. I got that backwards, right? Wrong.

In a year when congressional Republicans have piled up a string of victories on issues from tax cuts to war in Iraq, Democrats can point to one enduring triumph: a hard-nosed filibuster against four of President Bush's judicial nominees.

Now, with the presidential race hitting stride and the number of delayed nominees sure to rise, frustrated Senate Republicans say they are finally ready to act, perhaps explosively.

This week, Republicans say, Congress will behold a vengeful party. Republicans have scheduled 30 hours of continuous debate on judges to begin Wednesday afternoon, producing a rare all-night Senate session. Frequent attempts to force votes will punctuate the barrage of speeches, and both sides threaten to dig deep into their bags of parliamentary tricks.

Friday will bring a vote to try to break the filibuster against Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, whose nomination has been delayed for seven months, as well as votes on two new nominees likely to be met with additional filibusters.

Democrats dismiss the GOP salvo as more show than showdown, pointing out that they helped approve 168 Bush-nominated judges while delaying a handful of nominees they consider conservative activists who lack judicial temperament.

Republicans say they are ready for all-out war.

"We're trying to increase the visibility of this problem by slowly escalating our tactics," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a Judiciary Committee member who will play a leading role in the debate.

Underlining the rising stakes, if not Republican wrath, is growing talk of limiting the filibuster, one of the Senate's most cherished tactics, so Bush can nominate conservative judges without effective opposition.

The strategy is so divisive that Capitol insiders call it the "nuclear option."

"It would cause a volcano in the Senate. It would destroy the remaining vestiges of bipartisanship necessary to running the Senate," said Larry Sabato, a leading authority on Congress and director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Under current rules, the 51 Republican senators set the chamber's agenda. but because it takes 60 votes to end debate, they need Democrats to move legislation and nominees. Without nine crossover Democrats, the debate never officially ends -- the equivalent of a filibuster without the hours of droning floor speeches.

The potential nuclear option has echoes of the Texas redistricting fight this summer when Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst overrode Democratic opposition by abandoning a Texas Senate tradition that required two-thirds of the state senators to agree before a bill could be debated. That prompted 11 Democratic legislators to flee to New Mexico to deny the Texas Senate a quorum for a few weeks.

With the U.S. Senate, Sabato doubts the GOP will go nuclear because the Democratic backlash could paralyze the Senate.

Exactly. There was once a time where Texas legislators prided themselves in how Austin was the antithesis of Washington. Leaders (largely conservatives) like Bob Bullock, Bill Ratliff, Pete Laney, Ben Barnes, Bill Hobby and heck, even George W. Bush (when he was governor) all brought together legislators across partisan lines to get things accomplished, for better or worse. Now, Republicans in Washington D.C. look to Texas Republicans as a model of how to employ the most extreme partisan tactics and rule bending:

But with Republicans unable to deliver Bush's full slate of federal judges, influential Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has become a vocal proponent of banning filibusters on judicial nom- inees. It's the only way "we can force a change here," he said.


Republicans don't expect their 30-hour blitz to break any filibusters, though they hold out slim hopes of catching Democrats napping, either literally or procedurally.

"We're not doing this just for show. We're doing it to try to produce votes during that period of time, in the wee hours of the morning if necessary, to get votes on these nominees," Santorum said.


"If Republicans want to lose their advantage and eliminate their opportunity to call Democrats obstructionist, then just go ahead and use the nuclear option.

"I guarantee it will be played nationally that Republicans are, once again, getting more than the rules allow them, like Florida (the 2000 presidential recount), Texas with redistricting and California (with the governor's recall)," Sabato said.

It may be worth watching Republicans try to change the senate filibuster rules (as they did in the Texas Senate) just so the nation can witness the extremes to which Republicans will go to impliment their agenda. I'm willing to let a few extreme conservative activist judges slip through if it will wake up Americans to the redistricting / recall / recount / rule-changing tactics used by the Republican Party. Regardless, I'll have to turn to C-SPAN later this week. It should make for some interesting drama.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:02 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 08, 2003

Strama and the Debt Tax

By Andrew Dobbs

Last week, just prior to the "Rock the Vote" presidential debate the Boston Globe printed an opinion piece on one of the biggest challenges facing the youngest generation of Americans- the national debt. The authors, Byron Auguste and former Rock the Vote exec Mark Strama drew the conflict in very unique terms, calling the national debt a tax on Americans.

In recent years, much has been made over the repeal of the estate tax -- or "death tax." Much less attention has been paid to a far more pernicious tax -- the "debt tax" -- which is bigger than the estate tax, capital gains tax, and so-called "marriage tax" combined...

American taxpayers paid $332.5 billion in interest last year on the national debt. This huge payment, equal to 11 percent of the total federal budget, does not improve education, enhance homeland security, or rebuild Iraq. It merely services the $6.6 trillion (and growing) national debt. These interest payments are a "debt tax" -- a tax that drains income without producing any material benefits for taxpayers.

Today's average American household pays an astounding $3,153 in taxes annually just to service the debt -- about enough to lease a car for a year...

(T)oday's national debt is the equivalent of a whopping $62,000 on each family's credit card. And each month, the debt is rolled over, with no plans to pay down the principal...

It's not too late to avoid disaster, but doing so will require sustained, rigorous focus by our leaders. While many Democrats and Republicans have criticized current fiscal policies, none has introduced a plan that will solve the debt tax. The time has come for our leaders to step up to the plate.

This is a phenomenal argument and a great way of framing the issue. $332.5 Billion could be used to millions of young people to college for free, give big raises to our teachers, repair much of our infrastructure and provide much needed fiscal relief for the states if only Bush had decided to use the surplus to pay down the debt or shore up Social Security (another handy use for that 11% currently gobbled up by the Reagan/Bush/Bush budget extravagance) rather than give huge handouts to the wealthy.

The even better thing is that Strama, the co-author of this article, a millionaire who got out of the dot-com business before the bubble burst, a young, good-looking, intelligent progressive has announced his candidacy for the Texas House of Representatives in the 50th District, a seat in North Austin currently held by Republican Jack Stick. Keep your eyes open for this guy- a technocrat phenom who made millions before he was 35 is unlikely to stop at the State House. Strama for Senate, anyone?

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 06:42 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 07, 2003

On to Florida

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

California and Texas have shown that they have the ability to be political oddballs as well, after Florida started it all in 2000.

Maybe they were beginning to miss some of the limelight because there are rumors that the infamous Katherine Harris doesn't think the House is good enough.

ORLANDO -- Published reports say Rep. Katherine Harris is "seriously considering" running for the U.S. Senate.

Harris is still in her first term. But she tells the Orlando Sentinel she and her husband will "seriously consider" a run for the Senate.

Some observers say a decision to enter the race would make Harris the automatic Republican front-runner.

Sen. Bob Graham announced early this week that he would not run for another term, setting up primary dogfights in both parties.

Thoughts? She only won her House seat because it couldn't be won by anyone but a Republican. I have a feeling she would be a divisive statewide candidate that would give the Democrat an edge if she was the Republican nominee.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 06:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Strayhorn to be "Special Guest" at Fundraiser for Democratic State Rep.

By Byron LaMasters

A BOR reader sent me a copy of an invitation of to a fundraiser for State Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine). It looks pretty standard until you take a look at the special guests:

(For the front of the invitation - and the back with the official "Pol. Ad. paid for by the Pete P. Gallego campaign" logo, click here.)

Carole Keeton Strayhorn is the Republican State Comptroller. Pete Gallego is one of the Democratic Killer D leaders, so seeing Strayhorn listed as a special guest for Gallego's fundraiser is quite a surprise. Generally being "special guest" at a fundraiser implies that the guest is endorsing the purpose of the fundraiser and the purpose of this fundraiser is to raise money for the Pete Gallego campaign.

I've tended to dismiss speculation that Strayhorn might be considering switching parties. Greg Wythe has also speculated on that possibility here, here, here and here, Charles Kuffner here and Dave McNeely here... but this certainly adds fuel to the fire.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:15 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 06, 2003

Sean Bradley to resign as TYD President

By Byron LaMasters

Here is his letter of resignation:

pls. distribute. November 4, 2003 First, let me say how humbled I am to all of you for allowing me to serve as your president. It has been a fantastic year and one month, and I will never forget you. We have accomplished so much in the last year. We have created new chapters on college and university campuses and at high schools across our state. We have created a new website that is more up to date and in demand. We are hosting the Fall 2003 Young Democrats of America Conference in San Antonio. The first meeting in quite sometime. We have now become a major player in the Young Democrats of America, and have several persons who are national officers from Texas. I can go on and on about our accomplishments, but now it is time for me to move on.

Steven Bollinger will become the president on November 23, 2003 at the State Executive Meeting in San Antonio. He is ready and will do a good job for the party and for the organization. He is full of energy and passion for the party like no one I have ever seen. I have been very fortunate to have him as a partner, and you will be fortunate to have him as your president.

This comes at a very difficult time in my life. So much is happening and it is time that I think about me. I have not thought about me for quite sometime now. First, my family is so important to me. I have two fantastic nephews who are growing so fast, and I want to be apart of that so badly. They are just amazing. Secondly, I need to figure out what direction this party is going, and do I have a voice in the type of direction we are headed in and do I really belong in the party. Finally, does the leadership truly take our youth seriously? Sure there are some who assist in our efforts, but there are far too many who do not.


Of course, my vacancy will be effective November 23, 2003 at the conclusion of the Executive Meeting, having said that, I will continue working to ensure that this meeting is the best Texas has ever seen.


Sean Bradley

Obviously, I'm a little shocked. I'm disappointed to read that Sean is questioning whether he "really belongs in the party". Regardless, I certainly wish Sean all of the best and thank him for his leadership over the past year. I look forward to working with new president Steve Bollinger. As a member of the Executive Committee of the Texas Young Democrats, I really don't feel at liberty to comment any further. There's internal politics involved of which I'll piece together over the next few weeks (and I don't feel like speculating on such matters on here would be appropriate). Having said that, however, I'd certainly like to put in a plug for UTEP Democrats President, College Caucus Chair and Region 1 (TYD) director Mike Apodaca to run for the now vacant Executive Vice President. He has my vote.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Craddick Wants More Redistricting

By Byron LaMasters

Speaker Craddick wants more redistricting.... this time for the Court of Appeals districts. Check out page 31 of the Interim Study Charges for the Texas House.

HOUSE COMMITTEE ON REDISTRICTING 1. Develop a plan to redistrict the Court of Appeals districts. 2. Consider changes to the structure and nomenclature of the various levels of courts below the Court of Appeals level with specific attention to how they can be smoothly integrated into the new Court of Appeals districts. 3. Consider modifications to the districts of district and county attorneys.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:51 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

No Girls Allowed

By Andrew Dobbs

That is a picture of President Bush signing a ban on "Partial Birth Abortions." I think we know what I think about writing legislation to ban a made up medical procedure. I think that next we should make sure to ban fusing adamantium claws to the hands of people to keep X-Men from being created.

But the big thing, as liberal blogger extraordinaire David Sirota noted in an email to Political Wire is that while signing the most important legislation regarding a woman's right to choose in more than 3 decades not a single woman was present at the signing. 7 old white guys standing around deciding that saving women's lives is not as important as pandering to the hard right. Most Dialation and Extraction abortions, which is the true name for the procedure they may or may not be describing as the legislation is very vague, are performed only in medical emergencies which is why they account for less than 1/10 of 1% of all abortions performed in the US. There is no provision to allow for "Partial Birth Abortions" even when the mother's life is at stake.

Imagine if they did this for some other procedure, one that dealt with men. Let's say they banned removing a man's testicles when he has Testicular Cancer because the Old Testament says that men with crushed or absent testicles are unclean. As soon as one man was told by his doctor that he would die because the Federal Government had outlawed a rather simple procedure that would save his life because the religious beliefs of some members of Congress made them oppose removing his testicles, there would be riots. No more Lance Armstrong, no more Tom Green (I know that that might seem like a legitimate argument for this cause, but hold yourselves back please).

But these 7 men decided that the right to life and liberty doesn't apply to women in this country and Bush decided that they didn't even need a place at the table when he made it the law of the land.


Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 01:48 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Review of Zell Miller's Book

By Byron LaMasters

Houston blogger (and one of my daily reads) Greg Wythe has a good review of Zell Miller's new book. Needless to say, I won't be reading the book. Zell Miller has pretty much made himself worthless to the national Democratic party. He laments that the Democratic Party has forgotten the south, an understandable arguement with which I respectfully disagree with (as Howard Dean says (and this is another debate, and I'm glad Dean has apologized for the confederate flag thing...), poor white southerns have voted for Republicans for three decades and they have nothing to show for it). For better or for worse, there's been a major realignment in America over the past decade or two. As cultural issues (abortion, gays, guns, racial issues etc.) have shaped the national debate, the south has gone Republican, and I think that many Democrats have reached the point in which we are comfortable writing off the vast majority of the region. Even those dissagreeing with that philosophy would have a tough time finding more than three of the eleven states of the confederacy that will be competetive in 2004 for any Democratic nominee. On the other hand, however, Democrats have gained a solid hold on the northeast and the west coast. Swing states in 1988 like New Jersey and California are now arguably solidly Democratic on the national level.

Anyway, Greg (who considers himself a conservative Democrat, who at this point I believe supports Joe Lieberman) goes on to agree with parts of Zell's book, but in general he feels that it's intelectually lazy and that Zell Miller "now, is that he's nothing more than a Republican with a few contrarian stances". Exactly. He's useless to us now. I'll listen to someone like Charlie Stenholm or John Breaux when they want to critisize the Democratic Party leadership. They may be conservatives, but they and many others vote with us when it matters. Zell Miller doesn't. Why is he still a Democrat? There's room for lots of people in the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is a big tent, but we don't have room for people who go around endorsing Bush and bash our party without offering constructive solutions.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:29 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 05, 2003

Why Barbour is Bad for Bush

By Andrew Dobbs

So let’s talk about what I think ought to be one of the biggest campaign issues against Bush next year. We have the war and his other foreign policy issues which have cost American lives and lessened the credibility of America in the world. We have the economy, which might be picking up but nonetheless has hemorrhaged 2.6 million jobs. But what is our social wedge going to be? How about racism.

Last night, former Big Tobacco lobbyist and Gingrich-era RNC chair Haley Barbour was elected governor of Mississippi. Earlier in the campaign, Barbour was in a prominently placed picture on the website for well-known hate group the Council of Conservative Citizens. It sounds like just another GOP operation, but this group goes quite a bit further out there. On their main page, just below Barbour’s picture is a link to an article entitled “In Defense of Racism” which talks about how God made some races inferior, they have an ad supporting one Ernst Zundel about whom the Anti-Defamation League says:

Since the late 1970s, Ernst Zundel has run Samisdat Publishers, one of the largest distributors of Nazi and neo-Nazi propaganda and memorabilia in the world. He is also the inspiration for and key content provider of www.zundelsite.org, since 1995 a leading online repository of Holocaust-denial propaganda. His activities have led to numerous trials in Canada and made him subject to probable arrest should he ever attempt to return to Germany.

They sell a C of CCs pamphlet with this description:

The Sixth Law of God is a book that will stun even fundamentalist Christians! Pastor V. S. Harrell has researched the oldest available Greek Septuagint texts to prove that the Commandment against adultery is a law against race mixing! Read this book and believe!

They have an article by an author named simply “Angry White Female” entitled “Walking While White” which says that minorities rape white women because they hate white people. Furthermore, the ADL weighs in on the C of CCs by saying:

The St. Louis-based Council of Conservative Citizens traces its roots directly to the racist, anti-integrationist White Citizens' Councils of the 1950s and 1960s. Its current leader, attorney Gordon Lee Baum, was an organizer for the WCC and built the Council of Conservative Citizens in part from the old group's mailing lists… Like its predecessor, the CCC inflames fears and resentments, particularly among Southern whites, with regard to black-on-white crime, nonwhite immigration, attacks on the Confederate flag and other issues related to "traditional" Southern culture. Although its leadership claims that the group is not racist, its publications, Web sites and actions all promote the purportedly innate superiority of white people and bias against nonwhites.

So this group is a nasty white supremacist organization, the GOP candidate for governor was pictured on their website, at an event they hosted. He was asked if he wanted his picture and name removed from their site, and he declined. Essentially, he attended their events, he was supported by the same group that produced the murderer of Medgar Evers and when asked if he wanted to distance himself from them he declined. Furthermore, on Election Day the New York Times reported that:

Racial issues flared… Election Day brought claims of intimidation at largely black precincts.

Haley Barbour is affiliated with hate groups, he worked to intimidate black voters, he is a racist. George W. Bush made a high-profile campaign appearance, Dick Cheney appeared at at lest one Barbour fundraiser, the entire GOP establishment stood behind their ol’ boy- Haley Barbour.

This should be a HUGE Democrat campaign issue next year. MTV, BET, UPN, every hip hop, R&B, Soul or Gospel station, every black magazine and every billboard and bus stop in black neighborhoods, everywhere young people spend time should have the message “George W. Bush spent time and money working to get a racist elected in Mississippi. George W. Bush stood by a man who is associated with a group that says that Martin Luther King was a traitor and that his holiday should not exist. Dick Cheney raised money for a man that scared elderly black men and women away from the polls. Thought Jim Crow went away in the 60s? Think Again.” If we can put Bush on the defense on this issue it could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Not only will it spur higher black turnout, it’ll mean less support from moderate whites and independents in the northern suburbs and more educated households- two of the largest constituencies out there.

George Bush chose to support a man who stands with those who have supported lynching, who represent the worst parts of our country and it is time the country knew about it so they could do something about it.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 05:06 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Is Bill White unstoppable?

By Jim Dallas

The Houston Chronicle breaks down the exit poll data and shows a very broad base of support for White, and a very narrow one for Sanchez, concluding with the observation that only a scandal could bring White down in a runoff.

The way I see it, Sanchez is going to have a heck of his time broadening his appeal to even make the runoff competitive. He can try to get those Republicans who abandoned (and perhaps a third of Republicans backed White) him back; or he can try to solidify his support among Latinos (again, perhaps a third of Hispanics backed White instead of Sanchez).

The trouble is, that reaching out to one group may hurt his appeal in the other. The article makes the claim that Sanchez lost Latino votes he received in 2001 because, essentially, he's "too Republican." But if he presses to build a Latino (or Latino-Black coalition he may find himself making promises that could draw the ire of his conservative supporters.

The article also notes that many Republicans backed Bill White because they perceived him to be the more effective managerialist, and the more competent city leader. In short, White's positives are very high, and that drove crossover voting. It will also, I think, fuel heavy African-American turnout in favor of Bill White during the runoff.

Hence, the only way I see for Sanchez to build himself up is to keep trying (despite earlier failures) to tear Bill White down. Particularly, to persuade those crossover voters that they are wrong about White's competency.

So I'd be highly surprised if we didn't see some attempts by the Sanchez campaign to try to find something -- anything -- and turn it into a scandal over the course of the next month, because thats really their only chance (if they have one to begin with).

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

White, Sanchez and Rail!

By Byron LaMasters

Good news from Houston.

Houston, not to be outclassed by Dallas will have light rail. It's about time...

And, Bill White leads Orlando Sanchez going into a runoff.

In the Controller race, Annise Parker leads going into a runoff (also good news).

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:46 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Who Won? Polarization.

By Byron LaMasters

Both Democrats and Republicans won and consolidated control in areas where they're dominate. In Blue states like New Jersey and New York, Democrats enjoyed victories:

New York City voters overwhelmingly rejected a measure yesterday that would have instituted nonpartisan city elections, voting to forgo changes in a system of selecting municipal officials that has been in place for nearly a century.

It was a stinging defeat for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who had invested millions of his own fortune in a campaign that bombarded voters with fliers and telephone calls in the days leading up to yesterday's vote. It was the most partisan battle in the 22 months since Mr. Bloomberg became mayor, pitting him against nearly every Democratic leader in the city.


In New Jersey, Democrats consolidated control of the New Jersey Legislature.

On Long Island, voters elected the first Democratic county executive in Suffolk County since the 1980's.

Voters in the region also consolidated Democratic control of the New Jersey Legislature, elected the first Democratic county executive in Suffolk since the 1980's and elected mayors in Yonkers and Bridgeport, Conn.

In New York City, the issue of nonpartisan elections was the centerpiece of the election. The vote ended a contentious campaign that pitted Mr. Bloomberg and his money against the organizational get-out-the-vote muscle of the Democrats and the city's labor unions, who strongly opposed the proposal.


Democratic leaders were jubilant. Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell Jr., the state Democratic Party leader, said the result "proves that issues are more important than money. It proves you can't buy an election."

The State Senate minority Leader, David A. Paterson, speaking for the Democrats who hope to win back City Hall in 2005, said: "This was not a referendum. It was a recall."

Likewise, Democratic Mayor John Street easily won re-election in Philadephia:

Mayor Street overwhelmed Republican challenger Sam Katz today, easily winning reelection despite a contentious rematch and the discovery of an FBI bug in the mayor's office.

Galvanized by the federal investigation, Philadelphia Democrats rallied around their Democratic mayor, giving him the biggest victory of his quarter-century career in politics.

Late returns, with 95 percent of returns counted, showed Street winning by a roughly 3-2 margin. John R. Staggs, the Socialist Workers Party candidate, received less than 1 percent of the vote.

As I said earlier today, this was the most important victory for Democrats today. Having a Democratic mayor in Philadelphia will help the Democratic turnout next year and help our nominee carry Pennsylvania.

On the other hand, Republicans made gains in Red States. They took the governors race in Kentucky and will do so in Mississippi.

I'm dissappointed about this, but it we've lost Mississippi to a racially insensitive Republican, Haley Barbour. What a shame. What happened to the "new south"? Ugh. It makes no difference in the presidential election next year, but its a shame to lose another southern Democratic governor.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:31 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 04, 2003

NYC Rejects Ending Party Primaries

By Byron LaMasters

This is good news. New York City overwhelmingly rejected ending party primaries. Thats a good thing. Democrats control the NYC city council by a 47-3 margin (or something like that). While I'm not a big fan of partisan city elections, they're somewhat inevitable whether or not the "D" or the "R" is attached to the candidates names at the voting booth (just look at the Houston mayoral / city council elections for example) . In a heavily Democratic city (like NYC) I support partisan elections because a Democratic primary will most likely produce a more liberal nominee than a nonpartisan primary would. Thus, I like the current system. So do most New Yorkers. Good for them - and a nice slap in the face for Mayor Bloomberg at that.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Finally... Houston's coming in

By Byron LaMasters

And it's good news at that. White is leading by 5% over Sanchez and 9% over Turner with 8% of election day (plus early voting) returns in.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Democrats Win Control of NJ Senate

By Byron LaMasters

Politics NJ is reporting that Democrats have won control of the New Jersey senate. Currently there is a 20-20 split in the NJ senate, but Democrats have picked up one seat in the Senate and may pick up a second seat. Democrats have also gained several seats in the NJ Assembly tonight, adding to their slim majority there. This gives Democrats sole control of New Jersey state government.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fletcher and Street Win

By Byron LaMasters

Good news in Philadelphia as Mayor Street has easily won re-election. He can credit good Democratic turnout (as shown from exit polls of selected precincts)

And bad news (although not unexpected) in Kentucky.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Darn that Bob Jensen

By Jim Dallas

As a freshmen, I got "indoctrinated" about this crazy theory that the media end up caving into right-wing interests because they've got the money and the "flak" to veto anything they don't like.

Now, who'd believe that?

NYT: CBS Is Said to Cancel Reagan Mini-Series

(Umm, never mind).

Posted by Jim Dallas at 04:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

What I'll be looking for..

By Byron LaMasters

With the elections today, what should we look for?

I see four big elections. The two governor's races and the two big city mayoral races (respectively Kentucky, Mississippi, Houston and Philadelpia). Interestingly, the race with the biggest implications on the 2004 Presidential election is likely to be the Philadelphia mayoral race. Keeping a Democrat (Street) in charge there will help Democratic turnout next November (and we all know that Pennsylvania is a swing state). Fortunately, Street seems to have a small but solid lead in recent polls.

As for the others. The best thing that could happen for Democrats strategically would be for Ben Chandler to be elected governor in Kentucky. I don't think that it will happen, because he's been behind Rep. Ernie Fletcher in recent polls - but if it does, it proves that Democrats are able to win in RED states by attacking the Bush administration. That would have a huge impact in Democratic strategy next year from the state legislatures all the way up to the presidential race.

Mississippi could be perhaps the closest race. Voters there have a chance to make history today by electing an African-American Lt. Governor in Barbara Blackmon. I doubt that it will happen, though. The real race is for governor between Haley Barbour and Ronnie Musgrove. If anyone knows anything about Mississippi politics, perhaps you can make some sense out of this very unscientific exit poll by the Jackson Clarion Ledger.

As for Houston, we've talked about it before. Although, it would be sweet to see Sanchez knocked out today, I'm not counting on it. I'm betting on White leading with Sanchez beating Turner out by a few points to make the runoff. The main concern for Democrats here should be stopping Orlando Sanchez.

In other elections, it will be interesting to follow the legislative races in New Jersey and Virginia. In New Jersey, Democrats have a chance to win full control of the state senate (it's a 20-20 split now), while in Virginia the focus is on whether Democrats (who have no chance of winning back either legislative chamber) can make legislative gains for the first time in twenty years. Northern Virginia is the major battleground, the Washington Post reports.

Finally, in the most fun race of the day, San Francisco is electing a new mayor. It's an open-seat race, and the only candidates that I've heard of are the two city supervisors in the race: Tom Ammiano, the gay, former drag queen and Harvey Milk colleague who made it into a runoff with Brown four years ago, and Matt Gonzalez, one of the more prominent Green Party elected officials in the country. They both trail the more moderate Gavin Newsom (whom I've never heard of). If Ammiano makes the run-off again, I'll pay attention.

Anyway, I'll be posting links for returns when I get the chance.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blowing It

By Jim Dallas

Brad DeLong's notes for a professorial meeting on the state of the business cycle concludes --


--If we could get demand growing fast enough, we could have a truly amazing economy right now.

--But we don’t.

--Federal Reserve out of levers.

--Executive and Congress focused on long-run tax cuts for the $200,000+ a year crowd, and not on policies to boost spending now.

--Hence an extraordinary waste of opportunity.

--Not that things are bad (unless you are one of the unemployed, or fear that you are about to become one, but 6.1% is less than the 9.8% of October 1982).

--But things could—on the production, on the income, and on the employment side—be much, much better.

That, in a nutshell, is everything you need to know about the economy right now.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Electronic Voting Machines Crash, Burn in Houston election

By Jim Dallas

Although isolated (it appears) to one voting location, the Houston Chronicle reports that...

...[s]ome Houston voters had trouble casting their votes in the city's mayoral race and light rail referendum this morning.

Those who showed up early at the Holiday Inn at 7787 Katy Freeway to vote found that the eSlate machines that were supposed to make voting so much easier and more accurate were on the fritz. While technicians made repairs, election judges passed out sheets of paper torn in half, along with sample ballots, and telling voters to write in their votes.

David Puckett said he sat down on the floor and spent 25 minutes scribbling down his choices while other voters just took the time to write in their votes on the top races before dropping their homemade ballots into a pasteboard box. He said an election judge told him to write on the back of the paper if he ran out of room and then told him he might need to vote again this afternoon if the eSlate machines come back up. Then, Puckett said, the judges decided a second vote wasn't such a good idea.

"They're making up rules as they go," he said. " It's unbelievable."

Puckett's worried his vote won't count.

"I will come back if I need to. I want my vote to count," he said. "It's my privilege. It's my duty. I want my people to win.

The machines are manufactured by Hart InterCivic and are similar to the ones used in Travis County.

UPDATE: It's now two precincts, and both are being blamed on operator errors --

The problem at the Katy location was quickly resolved, but he said there was a report of another polling site with equipment problems. Those problems too turned out to be cases of operator error.

A volunteer working for the Urban League said voters were unable to cast ballots when the polls first opened at the Greater New Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Houston's northeast side, at Calgary and Bainbridge.

Voter advocate Frankie Young said some people who'd hoped to vote before work had to walk away without voting because there were no paper ballots available as a backup.

"It's sad," she said. "It can get pretty discouraging for people if they came out and the machines aren't working. They could have at least had a replacement ballot."

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Fox, Perry, will have a lot to talk about

By Jim Dallas

Today's Stateman notes Mexican president Vicente Fox's planned trip to Austin this week.

While the visit is part of a swing though Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona aimed at building local support for an immigration accord, President Fox and Rick Perry are going to have a lot to talk about.

Hopefully, though, when discussing items like Rio Grande water rights, matricula consular cards, and migration, the two leaders won't waste their time talking past each other, since progress on those issues has been stalled for some time.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 10:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 03, 2003

Ratliff Disenchanted with Partisanship

By Byron LaMasters

The AP ran a story this weekend on State Sen. Bill Ratliff - the GOP State senator who announced in July (before the Texas 11 went to New Mexico) that he opposed any redistricting map. Ratliff is probably the only Republican in the legislature that I can genuinely say that I admire and respect. There's a few others that I think are genuinely decent people, but none of them have the courage to buck their leadership and special interests the way that Ratliff does. I disagree with him a lot, but he makes the Texas senate a better place with his presence. Even though I'm pretty much a straight-ticket Democratic voter, it's a shame that he's considering running for re-election (even if his district could possibly be won by a Democrat if it were open, election of a right-wingnut would probably be most likely):

The legislative redistricting war in Austin is over. The pink-domed Capitol is 250 miles away. And Bill Ratliff, one of the state's most respected senators, is trying to decide whether he wants to go back.

The 67-year-old East Texas Republican is tired, disenchanted and wondering if there's still a place for a moderate in an increasingly partisan lawmaking body.

Known for voting his conscience rather than following the party line, Mr. Ratliff fought his own party leaders for months as they pushed for new political districts intended to put more Republicans in Congress. He argued that some versions of the map would dilute rural representation.

More than anything, Mr. Ratliff said he feared the redistricting battle would destroy the friendly working relationship Republicans and Democrats had enjoyed for decades in the Texas Senate.

"I never wanted to go to Congress because I never wanted to serve in a body that was so blindly partisan," Mr. Ratliff said. "And I truly believe that's where we're headed."

He said he is almost certain, largely for personal reasons, that he won't run when his term expires in 2006. He is still considering whether to retire early.

"Bill Hobby always used to say, 'You never make that decision until after you've been home for a while,' " Mr. Ratliff said, quoting the former lieutenant governor.

Some in Mr. Ratliff's district are worried about losing a longtime statesman whose quiet problem-solving, cool head and nonpartisan approach have made him a powerful influence in Austin.

Senate colleagues have nicknamed him Obi-Wan Kenobi after the wise man of Star Wars fame. Mr. Ratliff was chosen by colleagues to lead the Senate as lieutenant governor when Lt. Gov. Rick Perry replaced George W. Bush as governor in 2000.

"Texas needs Bill Ratliff," said Ken English, Mount Pleasant school superintendent. "If he's not in the Senate, not only will the Senate district be much sadder for it, but I think the state of Texas will be, too."

When Mr. Ratliff took a stand against redistricting in the summer, hundreds of supportive cards and letters from San Antonio to Nebraska arrived at his Capitol office and his nondescript brick office off the square in Mount Pleasant.

Even constituents such as Bill Holda, who has disagreed with Mr. Ratliff on policy issues, are pressing him to stay.

"There are times that he wins battles and loses battles, but I don't ever sense that he makes people an enemy if you get in the way of his issues," said Mr. Holda, president of Kilgore Community College. "That's what separates him from many of his colleagues."

When Mr. Ratliff announced he might leave the Senate, Mr. Holda helped sponsor a "re-energizing" event. About 150 people showed up to show support, Mr. Holda said.

"For him to retire at any time is the worst possible time," said Bill Hartley, chairman and CEO of Southside Bank in Tyler. "We elected him for four more years to serve. That's what I want."

Influential start

Mr. Ratliff, a former civil engineer, won his seat in 1989. He immediately made his presence known by authoring the half-cent sales tax that rural and medium-size towns use for economic development.

During the 1990s, he authored Texas' share-the-wealth school-finance system. He rewrote the entire Texas education code for the first time in 45 years, giving districts more local control. And he helped create the Technology Infrastructure Fund, which put computers in schools, libraries and hospitals across rural Texas.

Mr. Ratliff bucked the party line as acting lieutenant governor, naming a Democrat as finance committee chairman and voting for a bill that strengthened punishment for hate crimes.

This year, he helped shepherd a compromise on a divisive lawsuit-limitation bill.

Mr. Ratliff said he has been touched by letters of support, though they probably won't sway his decision on whether to leave. His colleagues, however, might have some influence.

"I've had a number of senators say, 'I hope you don't. You're still a leveling influence in this body,' " he said. "When I hear that, I have to at least ponder whether or not there's enough truth in that to convince me that I can actually help dig us out of this quagmire."

In the end, the advice of his wife, Sally, probably will lead to a solution.

"What she counseled me to do is not make this decision in the heat of the moment," Mr. Ratliff said. "She said, 'Go sit on the end of a log somewhere and decide what you're going to do.' "

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

New GOP State Chair

By Byron LaMasters

Just as Texas Democrats elected a new chair last week, this week, Republicans followed suit and elected a new chair of their own. The AP reports:

A Houston lawyer who says she is committed to increasing the number of minorities who vote Republican in the state was elected Saturday to head the GOP in Texas.

Tina Benkiser, 40, captured a majority of the 63-member state Republican executive committee's votes to replace Susan Weddington as the party's state chairwoman.

Ms. Weddington, appointed chairwoman in 1997, stepped down in October to head a nonprofit organization created by Gov. Rick Perry.

I don't really know anything about her. Does anyone?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cheryl Jacques to Lead HRC

By Byron LaMasters

This is good news. I've followed Jacques career a little bit, as she ran for Congress when Joe Moakley died. She lost the race, but she's been a great advocate in Massachusetts:

Democratic Massachusetts state senator Cheryl Jacques will be leaving her seat to lead the nation's largest lesbian and gay political organization. Jacques, who has been in the statehouse since 1992, will become president and executive director of the Human Rights Campaign after the current leader steps down at the end of the year. The organization selected Jacques after a 10-month search.

"It was a difficult decision, but we firmly believe that Cheryl has the right mix of experience and vision to write this next chapter in our civil rights history," HRC Board co-chairman Tim Boggs said in a statement.

A former prosecutor, Jacques, 41, has been one of the most high-profile members of the 40-member Senate, filing numerous bills each year on hot-button issues. Jacques ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2001 in the race to replace the late U.S. Rep. Joseph Moakley, D-Mass. Jacques, who is the mother of twin boys with her partner, will replace current executive director Elizabeth Birch.

I'm looking forward to hearing more at the HRC Black Tie Dinner in Dallas next weekend. Jacques has huge shoes to fill, as current ED Elizabeth Birch has brought the HRC from a relatively uninfluencial fringe group to one of the largest and most respected progressive lobbying and educational organizations in Washington politics.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What's Wrong

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

It's bad enough that Bob Grahm from Florida ran a fairly miserable Presidential Campaign. I was at least glad that when he dropped out he said he would run for his Senate seat instead.

But of course, now I'm ticked again because there are reports that he will not run for re-election.

It's going to be hard enough to defend the open seats we already have. This is not needed. Does anyone have an idea how this will shape up now?

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 10:47 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

A New Day for the Episcopalian Church

By Byron LaMasters

Meet Bishop Gene Robinson:

The Episcopal Church consecrated V. Gene Robinson as bishop in a heartfelt ceremony Sunday, making him the first openly gay man to rise to that rank in any of the world's major Christian bodies.

Who will be next? Presbyterrians? Methodists? It's only a matter of time...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:16 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters


I'm sure we'll hear more of the same crap tomorrow about how much "progress" we've made in Iraq six months after the our mission was "acomplished". This kind of news and the way the administration responds to it just makes me sick.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 01, 2003

Where is the Love?

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The anniversary of Matthew Sheppard's death falls one day before my birthday so I have always remembered far too many facts about that horrible event five years ago. I also tend to be interested in any news reports that have something to do with it as a result.

I read the following today via the Advocate.

Fred Phelps, antigay pastor at Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., announced plans Wednesday to place monuments denouncing slain gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in cities and towns across the nation. The monument, which proclaims that Shepard is in hell, will be placed in cities that have Ten Commandments monuments on display in publicly owned facilities, Phelps said.

"We are going to pockmark this nation from sea to shining sea with this message on the monument: 'Matthew Shepard entered hell October the 12th, 1998, at age 21 in defiance of God's warning, Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination--Leviticus 18:22,'" Phelps said in a telephone interview. "That is the message this nation needs, whether it knows it or not or whether it wants it or not. And that's the message we are determined the nation is going to receive."

Don't tell me that hate doesn't exisit in America today.

Don't tell me that some of the Republicans pushing for the Federal Marriage Amendment don't have values rooted in the same acre of land as Phelps. Not all of them do, but some I am sure of- they just don't open their mouths in the same way.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 07:08 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Guns, Grays and Howard Dean

By Andrew Dobbs

So Howard Dean is reported in the AP as saying "I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks," and has an "A" rating from the NRA and John Kerry, Dick Gephardt and other elitists who have shown a solid track record of alienating Americans and costing the Democrats every important post in the federal government jump out to attack him. Could we really expect anything less?

Frankly, I line up for the most part with the NRA. I think that blustering about a so-called "gun show loophole" is just politicking, I think that the assault weapons ban isn't really necessary and certain aspects of it (the ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds for all guns) are just idiotic- 9 shots will kill you as easily as 11. I suppose growing up the son of a gun collector who works now as a professional firearms instructor and having shot guns of all shapes and sizes since I was about 2 or 3 years old makes me different from most liberals, but I will say that gun control is an issue of incredible importance to millions of Americans and that it likely cost us West Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee, Arkansas and enough states to make the difference in 2000. If we want to win in 2004 we can't be seen as the party of Coastal Liberal Elitists. Interestingly enough the only candidates with a decent position on the issue are both New Englanders- Howard Dean (Mr. Liberal Elite himself) and Joe Lieberman. Lieberman is too honest with the Democratic base (i.e. free trade is good, etc.) to win the nomination so Dean it is.

Furthermore, it shows how out of touch with rural Southern voters the establishment is that they say things like "I don't want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks... who disagree with us on bedrock Democratic values like civil rights" (Gephardt). To millions of Southerners the Stars and Bars do not represent hate for any group of people, but pride for the other aspects of Southern Heritage. The view that Southerners are by necessity racist and that racism is the defining characteristic of our region is one that is sorely mistaken and represents the kind of Yankee elitism that has cost the Democratic Party the South.

But the best response of all comes from the Governor himself:

In response to the criticism, Dean released a statement saying: "I want people with Confederate flags on their trucks to put down those flags and vote Democratic -- because the need for quality health care, jobs and a good education knows no racial boundaries.

"We have working white families in the South voting for tax cuts for the richest 1 percent while their children remain with no health care," Dean said. "The dividing of working people by race has been a cornerstone of Republican politics for the last three decades -- starting with Richard Nixon. ... The only way we're going to beat George Bush is if southern white working families and African-American working families come together under the Democratic tent, as they did under FDR."

The contempt held for people of the South by Washington elites and Northern Liberals is the root of our recent inability to get anywhere in this part of the country. Furthermore, gun control is an intellectually lazy and fundamentally anti-liberal stance: crime and violence are created by desperation, poverty, ignorance, not guns. Taking guns away from people won't stop violence- educating them, getting them good jobs and reviving our communities will. We need to move away from these ignorant, lazy viewpoints and open our party up to the South again and it seems that only Howard Dean, the most yankee of them all (with the exception of Kerry perhaps) is the only one talking that way.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 06:16 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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