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April 30, 2004

Video Lottery has Bipartisan Opposition in House

By Byron LaMasters

Democrats don't like it because it's a regressive tax. Republicans don't like it because its immoral. Whatever the reason, video lottery will have trouble getting out of the Texas House. The Austin American Statesman reports:

Republicans and Democrats alike are threatening to kill a proposal to expand gambling in Texas by legalizing video lottery terminals, a move that could deal another big blow to the current House school finance plan.

The bipartisan opposition to video lottery comes from Republicans who object on moral grounds and Democrats who hope an attack on legalizing the terminals will force House leaders to drop a plan for higher sales taxes. Together, they could have the 51 votes needed to kill what has become a major part of a House committee's revenue-raising plans.


House factions have risen up to oppose major parts of the proposal since it was unveiled earlier this week. Wednesday, committee members balked at plans to let the state collect property taxes — rather than local governments — and to expand the sales tax to include services such as accounting and haircuts. Both were removed from the proposal.

Republicans opposed to the video lottery terminals — slot machines — don't want to bring casino-style gambling to Texas, even if that means forfeiting the $1.5 billion a year House leaders say it will raise for schools.

"We think we have the 51 votes that are hard no's that will not vote for it," Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, told The Associated Press. "We're very passionate about stopping this."

Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, has threatened to filibuster against video lottery, something she says no woman has done in the Texas Senate.

Democrats also will oppose video lottery, said a Democratic member of the House committee.

Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, said some of his party members are willing to vote against constitutional amendments that include video lottery terminals and other revenue-raising measures if Republicans don't budge on a sales tax increase.

"The Democrats' position is that the sales tax unfairly shifts the burden to the middle class, poor and fixed-income individuals," Oliveira said.

The ever-changing revenue plan would increase the general sales tax rate from 6.25 percent to 6.75 percent and add auto maintenance and car washes as taxable items.

Right now, I'm thinking that the best thing that Democrats in the legislature can do is play the Republicans against each other and prevent anything from passing. While Robin Hood is certainly a flawed system, every proposal by the governor and the Republican leadership has had one thing in common - it has shifted a greater share of the tax burden on to the backs of low income and middle-class voters. We need a state income tax to fix the school finance mess that we're in, but since that will never happen in this decade, the next best thing is to prevent the Republican majority from screwing things up further.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

About Miles Nelson

By Byron LaMasters

I don't tend to focus too much on Democratic primary races, as the real fight is to beat Republicans. For that reason, I haven't said much about Miles Nelson - one of the BlogAds you see on the left side when you've logged on to BOR the past two weeks. Nelson's campaign is trying to raise $25,000 by May 5th (they've raised over $16,000 so far since April 17thth) to get their television ads on the air. He's running for the Democratic nomination to take on Heather Wilson in an Albuquerque based congressional district. It's a district that voted for Al Gore and Bill Richardson, but due to luck, a strong Green Party presence and poor Democratic challengers, Wilson has managed to hang on to her seat. Miles Nelson is trying to change that, and I wanted to give his campaign staff an opportunity to discuss his campaign:

We are currently engaged in a three way Democratic Primary set for June 1st. Our opponents are Eli Chavez (www.eliforcongress.com) and Richard Romero (www.richardromeroforcongress.com). We believe that Miles is the best candidate to take on Heather Wilson. Why?

Republicans have controlled our district since its creation in 1969. Yet,
Al Gore won the district in 2000, with Nader receiving a significant chunk
of the remainder. Bill Clinton won it handily in 1992 & 1996. Bill
Richardson won it in 2002. Richard Romero was the 2002 Dem nominee and
couldn't close the deal - even with Richardson's coattails. Romero lost by
the largest margin of any Democrat to run against Heather Wilson, even
without Green opposition. The Green Party took between 6-13% when Wilson
won in 1998 & 2000.

Richard Romero is an uninspired career politician running without a
platform. Many in Albuquerque's heavily Democratic South Valley are very
suspicious of Romero and didn't vote for him in 2002. Why? He deposed the
South Valley's Manny Aragon as President Pro-Tem of the state Senate. This
infuriated many of Manny's constituents. Eli Chavez's candidacy comes out
of the division and anger that Romero cultivated after his political coup -
that included a number of Republican state Senators - succeeded in unseating
Aragon. Richard Romero doesn't have a platform. Check out his website, he
doesn't outline a single position! Richard Romero is a divisive figure who
didn't come close to closing the deal in 2002.

Romero says he can win because the establishment supports him, he can raise
lots of money and "the second times the charm." Problem is, in 1998, the
Democrats ran the extremely well financed Phil Maloof twice - in a special
election and the general. Despite outspending Wilson, he lost both times -
because he was uninspired and didn't have the depth of knowledge on the
issues. Romero will be outspent 3:1 by Wilson and is equally uninspired and

Defeating Heather Wilson will require a new strategy. We need a candidate
who can unite the Democratic Party and who is willing to work hard. We were
the first candidate with literature, the first with a website, the first
with paid media. We're spending the money we have VERY wisely. We're
building an impressive grassroots campaign that relies on innovative
strategies to raise money and contact voters. Miles is constantly meeting
voters or on the phone. Once they meet him, they respond to his positive
vision for New Mexico.

Miles Nelson is the most articulate candidate with an incredible story.
Like John Edwards, he came from a very modest background. He's the son of a
sharecropper and a waitress. He's a former Teamster who worked his way
through the University of Alaska, Stanford Medical School and residency at
the University of New Mexico. He's a passionate orator who speaks credibly
on three very important issues:

Healthcare. As a physician, he speaks with total validity on this very
important issue. He believes that healthcare is a fundamental right. His
message resonates amongst the voters of our district.

Environment/Energy. Miles Nelson lives in an energy efficient home that he
and his wife designed. He talks the environmental talk - and walks the

Jobs/Labor. A former Teamster, Miles Nelson understands the issues that
face New Mexico's working families. He will fight for fair trade, quality
education and job creation right here in New Mexico.

We have 5 television and radio commercials in production. They'll be on our
website by next Sunday. We need to raise $25K by May 1 to get them on the

Anyway, check out his website to learn more.

Update: Nelson has recently been endorsed by one of his primary challengers.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kelly White Campaign Kickoff

By Byron LaMasters

I was going to post on the Kelly White Campaign kickoff, since I attended it last night, but a reader made my job easy by sending me his report:

Last night, the Kelly White Campaign (for State Representative in District 48), held its Official Kick Off Party at the Boathouse, right next door to the Hulu Hut. I was there as a volunteer, and thought I'd give you a brief rundown in case you wanted to post any information about it. Turnout was MUCH higher than expected- indeed, we ran out of name tags, having originally thought we had purchased too many. Many local Democratic notables were on hand, including Liz Carpenter, Greg Hamilton, Rhett Smith and others. Donations flowed into out collection baskets. The atmosphere was extremely positive and optimistic. After being introduced by her husband, Bill McLellan, Kelly made a wonderful speech, interrupted by applause several times. She describes her reasons for running as "One-third naivete, one-third idealism, and one-third being ticked off." She described her own astonishment that she once huddled in a phone booth with two babies, desperately calling a woman's shelter for help after fleeing an abusive marriage, and today she has a woman's shelter named after her. She also lambasted the current political climate in Texas, attacking special interest politicians in general and her opponent, Representative Todd Baxter, in particular. She attacked the lack of transparency in state government, and asked why Texas is one of only ten states in which politicians are not required to publicly declare how they voted. She also said that she expects her opponent to attack her in every possible way, including the making up of false charges, but that her experience in an abusive marriage had toughened her, and that she was not a person who takes kindly to bullying in any event. Overall, it was a great event, and a wonderful start to this campaign. Jeff

Kelly White is running against Todd Baxter in a northwest Austin based State House seat. Both Kirk Watson and John Sharp won the district for Democrats in 2002. White has an impressive background, so check out her webpage and learn more about her.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:44 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Special Session Blog

By Jim Dallas


Posted by Jim Dallas at 09:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Vouchers Ready to be Rolled Out

By Andrew Dobbs

Quorum Report has the skinny. Apparantly some GOPers have drawn up a voucher plan and are circulating it around the Capitol and are taking one of three courses with it. Either the proposals will be actually included in the original lay out of HB 1 on Saturday (with the bill reaching the floor on Wednesday), it might be added as a floor amendment after Wednesday or it might just be introduced as a stand alone bill.

With Grusendorf's complete contempt for public education, my gut tells me that it will be a part of the lay out and that will be much tougher to beat. Either of the other two comes up for an up or down vote by itself, which ensures defeat I think. Still, I would hope that a GOP voucher opponent would propose an amendment striking all the voucher sections of the bill, thereby defeating it. Also, such a bill is unlikely to pass the 2/3rd muster of the Senate. I don't imagine vouchers will come out of this, but of course I didn't think anyone had the heart to kick 100,000 poor kids off CHIP and I was wrong about that.

So what does the bill look like? From Quorum Report (sorry, subscription needed):

School districts that would be required to participate in the voucher program under the proposal being circulated are:

BEXAR COUNTY East Central ISD Edgewood ISD Harlandale ISD San Antonio ISD Somerset ISD South San Antonio ISD Southside ISD Southwest ISD

DALLAS COUNTY Dallas ISD Grand Prairie ISD Irving ISD Lancaster ISD Wilmer-Hutchins ISD

HARRIS COUNTY Aldine ISD Alief ISD Channelview ISD Galena Park ISD Goose Creek ISD Houston ISD North Forest ISD Pasadena ISD Sheldon ISD Spring Branch ISD

TARRANT COUNTY Castleberry ISD Everman ISD Fort Worth ISD Lake Worth ISD Masonic Home ISD


The school districts listed above are located in the five largest Texas counties and have a majority of students who are economically disadvantaged.

Under the proposal, the students who would be eligible to receive a voucher are: -- Economically disadvantaged students (presumably meaning they qualify for the free and reduced price lunch program) -- All students with disabilities -- Students "at risk" of dropping out of school. [See Sec. 29.081 of the Texas Education Code for a definition of students at risk of dropping out of school. Some of the types of at risk students are: students who fail to pass any one section of the TAKS test, students of limited English proficiency, students who were not promoted to the next grade, students in prekindergarten-3rd grade who do not perform satisfactorily on a readiness or assessment test, students who are pregnant, homeless students, students on parole or probation, students placed in an alternative education program.] -- Students who have dropped out of school -- Victims of violence from a fellow student.

Other aspects of the two-page "Education Freedom Pilot Program" proposal to use public money to fund private school tuition vouchers are:

Effective Date: Program begins in the 2004-2005 school year.

Amount of Voucher: The public school district where the student resides would count the student in its average daily attendance (ADA). Participating private schools would have an initial tuition cap of $6000 per student, with the actual amount paid by the state being the lesser of either the cap amount or the school's actual annual cost per student.

Program Enrollment: The annual enrollment is limited to 5% of each school district's total enrollment from the preceding year.

Admission Policy: Private schools must abide by all federal and state nondiscrimination laws. If there are more student applicants than available seats, the school must use a lottery method for selecting students to be enrolled.

Accountability: Participating private schools must administer either the TAKS test or a nationally normed test.

Program Rules and Administration: Rules will be developed by the Governor's Office and administered and enforced by the Texas Education Agency.

So yeah, pretty scary stuff. First off, if kids in the private schools really do get a better education, then thousands of needy kids will get screwed over because they lost a lottery. Also, this plan costs taxpayers extra money to pay for private schools that have little to no impetus to accept these kids. Really, it will only promote mediocre private schools. The best private schools (*cough* St. Marks *cough*) don't want to take a kid on for only $6,000- they charge more than twice that now. The worst probably wouldn't qualify under the accountability standards so we really only get middle of the road private schools accepting kids, which begs the question, why not just spend this extra money in the schools we already have? The answer is that these people have a long range vision of essentially eliminating government and having private education, private services for everything and a country that is completely run by the wealthy elite. It has nothing to do with education, it has everything to do with ideology.

We ought to be concerned, we ought to be outraged. Be sure to get on the phone with your state reps and state senators and let them know what you think about this plan.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 01:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 29, 2004

The Return of Howard Dean

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

It took some time, and lot of us Dean supporters have been waiting for some action out of Burlington, but it seems that the wait is going to be worth it as the elements are being put in place for Democracy for America.

The website was relaunched today. The Blog is back. And the Bat is back to support grassroots candidates.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 09:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Dude! Sweet? Dude? Sweet!

By Jim Dallas

Even if it weren't for Brad DeLong's strained attempt at being cute, this would still be a pretty interesting (and devastatingly obvious) post about why the dollar is heading down, down, down...

(And while I would not be qualified as an economist to say with certainty, but I would imagine that any further drop in the dollar presages increases in the price of crude oil (which is dollar denominated) and, consequently, a likely increase in the price of gasoline.)

In short, there's only so long you can get the rest of the world to fund your wild shopping sprees, and payback could be a b*tch (although your mileage may vary).

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bush/Cheney = Chickenhawks

By Byron LaMasters

Beautiful. Via From the Roots.

For the full statement on the floor of the U.S. Senate today from Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who displayed the above picture, read here:

Chicken hawks shriek like a hawk, but they have the backbone of a chicken. We know who the chicken hawks are. They talk tough on national defense and military issues and cast aspersion on others. When it was their turn to serve, where were they? A-W-O-L, that's where they were.

Now the chicken hawks are cackling about Senator JOHN KERRY. The lead chicken hawk against Senator Kerry is the Vice President of the United States, Vice President Cheney. He was in Missouri this week claiming Senator Kerry is not up to the job of protecting this Nation. What nerve. Where was DICK CHENEY when that war was going on where 58,235 young men died and many more wounded and many with wounds that were never visible, but you could see it in their emotional structure and in their psychology? It was a war everyone thinks in retrospect was misguided. But JOHN KERRY volunteered for hazardous duty on a swift boat going up a river with people shooting at him all over the place. Cowardly? What an insult. I plead with veterans across this country. Look at what they are saying about your service. Exemplified: Max Cleland lost three limbs. What a sacrifice he made, and they beat him in the election, beat him in the polls because they characterized him as soft on defense. Now they want to take JOHN KERRY who served nobly and establish that he, too, is soft on defense. I don't know where they get it.

He fought for our country. He still has shrapnel from the battlefield. Vice President Cheney said: At the time he had other priorities in the sixties than military service. He ought to tell that to the parents of those who lost their lives in Vietnam, and ask them what they think.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:14 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Pete Sessions Doesn't Represent the Blacks Either

By Byron LaMasters

I've said in the past that one of the reasons I first got involved in politics was when I heard in 2000 that Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) said at a town hall meeting that he "didn't represent the gays". I had just turned 18, it was the summer before my senior year in high school, and I decided to call the campaign office of Pete Sessions' Democratic opponent Regina Montoya Coggins. I started to volunteer with the campaign, and I really haven't looked back since then.

Well, Pete Sessions has demonstated clearly that he doesn't intend to represent gays and lesbians, but in the past week, he's also clearly demonstated that he doesn't represent African-Americans. It's one thing to vote against the interests of the NAACP, but it's another to screw over a majority African-American neighborhood, and propose to name their post office after one of your campaign donors. That's just what Pete Sessions did. The Dallas Morning News reports:

Few items on the congressional agenda slip through the legislative process as routinely as naming a new post office. But in the case of the Hamilton Park post office, the big slip may have been Rep. Pete Sessions'.

A month ago, the U.S. House approved Mr. Sessions' suggestion that the new mail facility in the historic black neighborhood near Central Expressway and Forest Lane be named for Vaughn Gross, a longtime educator in the Richardson Independent School District. Mrs. Gross served as principal of Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet School for five years.

But that five years is the extent of Mrs. Gross' connection with Hamilton Park, some residents complain. They say Mr. Sessions selected her despite the community's suggestion that the new post office be named for the Rev. Robert Price, pastor of the New Mount Zion Baptist Church for 38 years.

Mr. Sessions, who has a child with Down syndrome, wanted to honor Mrs. Gross for her work in special education. He has known her for several years, through her husband Tex, an active Republican Party member and a donor to Mr. Sessions' past campaigns.


"We have nothing against Mrs. Gross as a person," said Shirley Pleasant, who is leading a petition drive to block Mr. Sessions' bill when it goes to the Senate for approval. "Our major concern is that she isn't currently a resident of Hamilton Park and never has been a resident here."

And Mrs. Gross is white. While residents said they didn't want to make race the focal point of the objections, Hamilton Park occupies a unique place in Dallas County history.

"Mrs. Gross did a wonderful job at the school," said Sadye Gee, long involved in Hamilton Park civic affairs. "But this is a unique black community. We're celebrating its 50th anniversary at this very moment. It's named for a black physician, and we should like to see everything named for a black leader so the children in the future will look at it with pride."

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Dallas Democrat, echoed that concern.

"It's historically a black neighborhood, and our sentiment is that [the post office] should have been named after someone from the neighborhood," she said.

Finally, Pete Sessions is listening the objections of the Black community, but only after it's become a political issue. Sessions response to this issue is typical of many Republicans who represent Black communities. They only respond when the community protests. Sessions finally is willing to compromise, but it took the community having to make their voice heard about the issue:

Now Mr. Sessions' office wants to make sure that Hamilton Park residents get a say in naming the post office at Schroeder Road and Forest Lane, something that didn't happen before.

"We talked to a variety of people within the Richardson school district who thought it was a good opportunity," Mr. Harrison said. "We are trying to ascertain the views of the community as we speak."

Mr. Sessions learned that residents favored naming the post office for Dr. Price only within the last two weeks, after the House vote, his staff said.

Perhaps the most instructive insight into the mind of Pete Sessions is this:

Dr. Price's supporters sent packets with letters and petitions to both Johnsons early in the post office project. But Sessions aides said they never received that material when he began to represent the 32nd District.

"I don't know whether Sam turned that information over," Mrs. Pleasant said, "but Mr. Sessions, I guess, never consulted with the community, either.

With all the redistricting over the past decade in the area, the residents were confused and didn't know who to turn to. First they were represented by Eddie Bernice Johnson, then Sam Johnson and now Pete Sessions. In the latest redistricting, Hamilton Park has been taken out of the 32nd, so the residents there will have a new congressman next year regardless of who wins the Frost / Sessions race. Instead of going to the community in Hamilton Park and asking who the community would like to name the post office after, Sessions went to his donor base.

In other CD 32 news, Martin Frost and Pete Sessions signed an agreement to disavow outside ads that Frost proposed several weeks ago when a group with racist ties ran attack ads against Frost. The Dallas Morning News has the story:

It's an agreement that's signed, sealed, ready for delivery and, compared with politics as usual, pretty extraordinary.

After nearly two weeks of dickering and bickering, rival congressmen Pete Sessions and Martin Frost pledged Tuesday night to disavow any media advertisement or advocacy action not authorized by their campaigns.

Television, radio or newspaper advertisements? Stay away, they say to all third parties.

Direct mail pieces? Interest groups should save their stamps, the congressmen suggest.

"We believe that this type of communication from 'outside' groups, political parties and individuals does far more to divide and alienate voters than enlighten or inform them," the congressmen jointly wrote in a letter the campaigns say they will distribute to 1,500 interest groups beginning today.

"Voters in the 32nd District of Texas deserve the opportunity to make an informed choice for Congress based on the views expressed by the candidates themselves," wrote Mr. Sessions, a four-term Republican, and Mr. Frost, a 13-term Democrat. "We ask that you show these voters the respect they deserve and honor our request to refrain from unauthorized voter communication."

The Frost campaign has the full text of the pledge here.

And to donate to Martin Frost, Click Here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Congrats to the New UD's Officers

By Byron LaMasters

I just wanted to briefly congratulate the new University Democrats officers. We had our officer elections last night with contested races in all but one race (including five candidates for President).

The new president is Marcus Ceniceros who has not served as a University Democrats officer before, but he's been to about every event this semester, and he's committed to the organization, and I'm looking forward to working with him.

Beth Olson was elected Vice President in a three way race (Andrew D. was one of the candidates, and lost to Beth in the runoff). I've been friends with Beth for two years and I'm looking forward to working with her as well.

I won't mention all of the officers, but I'd like to congratulate Karl-Thomas, who was elected Membership Chair. I hope he knows what he's getting into. Usually we have to beg someone to be membership chair, but this year it was a close contest between Karl-Thomas and the current membership chair. It's a rather thankless job, as the membership chair must set up and take down (or find someone to do it for them) our table on the west mall every day.

Anyway, congrats to all of the new UD officers and here's to a successful fall semester!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:21 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

BOR in the News Again

By Byron LaMasters

I met with the author of today's Daily Texan story with the University Democrats P.R. Director yesterday to give him a John Kerry bumper sticker to use for his story. He didn't interview me, but he talked about BOR as one of a number of political propaganda sites that are used by both Democrats and Republicans to convey their point of view. I don't think that the story is unfair by any means, but I'm a bit amused with the sense of shock and amazement that the author has that the websites of John Kerry and George W. Bush (and the sites of supporters of each) present a biased point of view. Well, duh! I've never claimed to be unbiased. I support John Kerry for President and I'll do whatever I can to get him, and other Democrats elected this November. Anyway, if you're interested, read the story or just check out some clips here:

Notbush.com presents what the site refers to as "informed talking points from the mainstream media." Visitors are asked to submit articles from third-party media sources, such as the New York Times or Washington Post, that are posted on the site to guide online discussion. Because the site is dedicated to replacing Bush, any article in favor of his campaign will not be posted, said Archuleta. He hopes using third-party articles instead of documents written by members of Notbush.com will lend credibility to the material and influence voters. However, because a majority of the articles are editorials, readers are more often than not subjected to opinion pieces, instead of facts.

The site draws 3,000 new visitors a day according to Archuleta, who adds that he foresees up to 100,000 hits a day if the current growth rates continue. He cautions new visitors that, despite the site's dedication to replacing Bush, Notbush.com is not a slander outlet.

"We need the people who are undecided and thinking people to make rational decisions," Archuleta said. "There are enough sites with Bush with devil horns doing a little dance in a monkey suit."

But campus Republican groups don't see much of a difference. Members of Students for Bush, a conservative student organization, say Notbush.com epitomizes political slander sites.

"Negative propaganda has been used for years to try to discourage voters," said Students for Bush co-director Matt Stolhanski.

Ok, Matt, so the left is using "political slander" because we're attacking Bush. If attacking Bush is political slander, then what do you call the vicious attacks by the Bush campaign against John Kerry? Isn't that "slander", too? Anyway, the site goes on to mention the University Democrats and the Burnt Orange Report:

As far as the Bush campaign site is concerned, Katherine Ford, public relations director for the University Democrats, said the chief problem is that the Web site is essentially an attack against Kerry, a campaign strategy the Bush-Cheney campaign claimed it was not going to use.

"I think [the Bush-Cheney campaign] knows that their asses are on the line in this election and that they're going to have to insult the other candidates," Ford said.

Ford added that she isn't impressed with Kerry's site either because it essentially contains rebuttals to the Bush-Cheney attacks. As a result, Ford believes, the Kerry site is not focusing enough on the issues of the election.

According to Ford, University Democrats would like to work with Notbush.com and other similar sites by spreading awareness and providing material. University Democrats are already participating with the Burnt Orange Report, an online discussion run by University Democrat Byron Lamasters, by assisting in those discussions.

Despite the quantity of third-party political activist sites available, Ford remains reluctant to believe any Web site is going to convince people to vote one way or the other.

"I think people already have it in their mind who they're going to vote for," Ford said. "I can't just look at a Web site and decide 'Oh, I'll vote for that guy."

Make of it what you want.

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

Right Side Bar Changes

By Byron LaMasters

I made some changes yesterday with the right sidebar. I hope that yall will find them useful. I added links to the websites of the candidates we're supporting in the May 15th Austin Community College Board (ACC) election, and links with more information about collective bargaining for Austin firefighters and information supporting the proposed Travis County Hospital District.

Further down, I borrowed the links to the Texas Congressional candidates which I had not yet linked to from Off the Kuff, and I also added links to selected races for the Texas State House and U.S. Senate. I also added some more news links down at the bottom of the page. Finally, I rebuilt all of my categories, date-based and individual archives which hadn't been rebuilt in awhile.

Anyway, let me know if you have any thoughts on the changes.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Learn More About Morris Meyer

By Byron LaMasters

One of our BOR advertisers, Morris Meyer had a great guest post over on Atrios yesterday. Check it out, or check out his webpage to learn more about his campaign.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 28, 2004

Bad Zell

By Jim Dallas

Atrios expresses bewilderment over Zell Miller's support for repealing the 17th (Direct Election of Senators) Amendment.

(Off the Kuff talked about this recently, also).

It's really pretty simple:

Miller, who is retiring in January, was first appointed to his post in 2000 after the death of Paul Coverdell. He said Wednesday that rescinding the 17th Amendment, which declared that senators should be elected, would increase the power of state governments and reduce the influence of Washington special interests.

Miller, who knows a lot about Washington special interests, is essentially saying that the Senate should be the toy of special interests in Austin, Atlanta, and Sacramento. It's saying that Tom Craddick ought to call the shots, not "Washington special interests" like the AARP and the Sierra Club. That's why Tom DeLay likes this idea.

Miller, who knows a lot about being a partisan hack (for the other party), is saying that state politics should revolve entirely around who is gonna support which party's special interest Senator. Suppose you live in Jack Stick's district, and you like Jack Stick and want to vote for him - but you can't, because he'd vote to send John Cornyn (you'd prefer to be represented by Jim Turner) back to Washington. If you're a national-level Democrat, or Republican, that means you got to toe the same line when you vote for state representative and state senator (rather than having this degenerate luxury of being able to vote "the man" instead of the party at all levels of government).

Say buh-bye to swing voters.

Repealing the 17th Amendment has become the latest conservanaut fad because it furthers the cause of oligarchy, graft, and greed. Duh!

Now here's a challenge for the conservanauts - name one concrete example of how having direct election of senators has "corrupted" the country.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 08:40 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

More Polls, and a cool site

By Jim Dallas

DailyKOS and MyDD are reporting on some internal polling done for Stenholm in CD19, which shows him with a statistically-significant 4 point lead over Neugebauer. (In the same poll, Bush leads Kerry 67-28 in that district).

Also, I thought I'd pass on a link to NewsMap, marumushi's visualization of the Google news aggregator; I'm still not sure what this represents, but it's kind of interesting to look at.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

NewInteresting Intellectual Property Paradigm

By Jim Dallas

I'm sure you've heard of freeware, shareware, and adware.

But have you ever heard of cardware?

Orbitron is a Cardware! It means you can use it free of charge but if you have found it useful, or/and you think I have done a good job creating it, please send me a postcard with your city/region view

It may not put the food on the table, but since I was once a pretty avid postcard collector myself, I guess I can relate.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:10 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

NEW TDP Website

By Byron LaMasters

The Texas Democratic Party has revamped their website. Let them know what you think!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Early Voting Starts Today

By Byron LaMasters

I voted earlier today in the local municipal elections (ACC, AISD, Travis County Prop., and City of Austin Prop.). Early voting started today and will continue through May 11. The election date is May 15. The full list of early vote locations is here. If you're a UT student, there's no excuse not to vote. As usual, we can vote on campus in the UGL Lobby by the West Mall.

If you haven't heard of any of the candidate, or don't know who or what to vote for, I offer my recommendations (these candidates / props. have all been endorsed by the University Democrats, Central Austin Democrats, Austin Progressive Coalition and Capitol City Young Democrats):

(Partial repost from my endorsements on April 7)

ACC Place 4: - Jeffrey Richard: Jeffrey is by far the best qualified and most experienced candidate in this race. He's also a Democrat with credentials that appeal to both the business and progressive communities. He served as the vice president of education on the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, and has a tremendous amount of experience in education working for 17 years with educational institutions in Washington D.C. and Austin. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Texas State University.

ACC Place 5: - Rafael Quintanilla: He's the chair of the board and is unopposed. I don't have a particularly good reason to support him, but people that have been around Austin a lot longer than I have said that he's worthy of our support, so that worked for me.

ACC Place 6: - Rodney Ahart: Rodney Ahart has worked in the legislature for State Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and State Reps. Helen Giddings (D-Dallas) and Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin). During his time in the legislature, he worked on higher education issues and is well prepared to work with the legislature as a member of the ACC board.

FOR Collective Bargaining for Austin Firefighters: One of the referenda we will be voting on is whether to allow collective bargaining for the Austin Firefighters. Collective bargaining would require the city of Austin to meet in good faith with Austin Firefighters to negotiate their contracts. The process would be open and subject to public disclosure. Our firefighters work hard day and night to keep us safe. This is the least that we can do for them.

FOR Travis County Hospital District: This is a simple issue of efficiency and fairness. The current Travis County Health Care Revenue System is convoluted and confusing. Creating a hospital district would make funding our county health care more efficient by simplifying the revenue process. More importantly, this is an issue of fairness. Currently, Austin taxpayers pay five times more than (non-Austin) county residents in taxes to support Travis County health care facilities, even though all Travis County residents have equal access to the facilities. The Hospital District would equalize taxes for all Travis County residents. It would bring in needed money into the system to prevent emergency room overcrowding and to extend the hours of local clinics. That's a good thing for Travis County.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:18 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Speaker Pelosi?

By Byron LaMasters

Sounds awesome to me.

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

DeLay in Trouble?

By Byron LaMasters

It's common knowledge that Tom DeLay might be indicted by the Travis County District Attorney in the coming months because of his questionable activities during the 2002 campaign cycle. A lot of us have wondered, though, if all the bad media is hurting Tom DeLay in his home district. Kos has gotten ahold of some polling data that suggests that DeLay may have some reelection worries:

I've gotten my hands on some polling data from the district, and it's surprisingly poor for DeLay. His Approval/Disapprovals are 44/48. On the reelect question, 36 percent would definitely vote for him, 27 percent would consider someone else, and 27 percent would definitely vote for someone else.

53 percent of respondents were pro-choice, with only 34 percent following DeLay's strict anti-choice line.

Woah. This is a partisan poll (though not from Democratic candidate Morris), so I was a bit suspicious. So I did a bit of digging around, and there does appear to be a bit of DeLay fatigue in the district. The redistricting battle, while a massive victory for DeLay and the GOP, took a toll on his popularity. And the Earle investigation in Austin -- the one that threatens to indict DeLay -- has also garnered him repeated bad press. And let's not forget the aides who got caught billing Indian tribes $45 million for lobbying.

Now, I'm not going to get my hopes up. The district, as it is drawn, is a long shot for any Democrat, especially a challenger who has never represented any part of the district in government at any level. Still, Richard Morrison is a smart and competent challenger, and if the shit hits the fan for DeLay (which is entirely possible), then sending a few bucks his way might be a good investment. Even so, making Tom DeLay squirm a little bit is always fun.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:54 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Martin Frost Interview

By Byron LaMasters

A lot of candidates and elected officials have reached out to the blogs over the past year, but few have been in government as long as Martin Frost. It's refreshing to see someone who has been inside the beltway for so long to reach out to the blog community, not only with BlogAds, but also by interacting with individual bloggers. As two of the more widely read Texas Democratic bloggers, their campaign asked Charles Kuffner and I if we would be interested in submitting questions to Congressman Frost about his race that might be of interest to our readers. Both of us took up the opportunity.

Martin Frost was elected to Congress in 1978 after defeating a conservative Democratic with a diverse multiracial coalition. He has represented various parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex over the past 25 years, but he was targeted in redistricting, and is now running for reelection in a seat centered in North Dallas against Republican Pete Sessions. It's a tough race for Frost, but many national analysts consider this contest one of the top congressional races nationwide. I would encourage you to check out Charles's questions as well. While I tended to focus on questions regarding his specific race and Texas politics, Charles had some interesting questions on National issues. Finally, I would be remiss not to encourage everyone to learn more about Martin Frost and / or donate to his campaign through his webpage. Anyway, without any further ado, here's the interview (BL = Byron L., MF = Congressman Frost):

BL: Congressman Frost, you've served the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex in Congress for 13 terms. Could you tell us about your priorities during your time in Congress, and how you've benefited your constituents?

MF: My fundamental goal during my time in Congress has been to improve the quality of life for my constituents. We've created jobs by keeping Vought in the area, resolving the American Airlines labor/management dispute and developing the Pinnacle Park area off of I-30. Our neighborhoods are safer because of important legislation like the Amber Alert, and because we've invested in putting more police on the street. I've also worked to save healthcare benefits for defense retirees and am committed to making healthcare more affordable.

BL: A lot of Texas Democrats are having trouble staying motivated. We haven't won a statewide race since 1994, Republicans control all branches of government, and now our communities are chopped up through redistricting. What will it take for Democrats to start winning in Texas again?

MF: A. I'm a baseball fan, so I will answer this with a baseball analogy. We cannot afford to swing wildly at every pitch hoping for a homerun. We need to pick our pitches carefully, hit singles and doubles and run bases aggressively. It is not realistic to think that George Bush won't carry his home state of Texas, and an enormous amount of time and resources could be wasted in that effort. But, there are five highly competitive congressional races in play and over a dozen state house races. Winning these key congressional and state house races will strike a major blow to Tom DeLay and the most extreme elements of the Republican Party and will set the stage for Texas fielding and electing statewide office holders in 2006 or 2010. Mainstream Democrats more accurately reflect the view of average Texans. We must win these highly competitive congressional and state house races to give voice to mainstream Democratic points of view.

BL: Both Wes Clark and Howard Dean energized a lot of new people into the party through Meetups and other community events. How can we keep those new people in the Democratic Party and ensure that they'll be just as motivated to work for your campaign and other Democrats this fall?

MF: I intend to reach out to as many of these new activists as I can and bring them into my campaign. These are capable and articulate people who can bring enormous energy to precinct organization and can make the difference in a close race.

BL: Do you read blogs? How can Democratic bloggers and blog readers help the Democratic Party, and what do you think the party leadership can learn (or has learned) from bloggers?

MF: I have to admit that blogs and the exchange of political information Online is new to me, and I'm learning. But, it is clear that a whole new dimension of political communication has evolved, and keeping up with and participating in it is absolutely necessary to stay in touch with public concerns.

BL: Bloggers and Blog readers have been hit up recently by dozens of candidates using BlogAds and other Ad services targeting us. Why should bloggers and blog readers donate to your campaign as opposed to any other?

MF: There are many worthwhile campaign and political efforts that deserve financial support, but I can honestly say that no congressional race in the country better reflects the efforts of Tom DeLay and the most extreme elements in national politics challenging the will of local voters to determine who represents them in Congress. National publications are already calling this the "most competitive race in the country", and they are right. I have served in Congress for 26 years and have been a proud advocate of local concerns and local interests in North Texas. I've been willing to stand up to the leadership of both parties to protect the interests of my constituents. My opponent has distinguished himself only to the degree in which he has been willing to ignore local concerns to follow the direction of Tom DeLay and those like him.

BL: How do you intend to involve the grassroots in your campaign? What can people in your district, or people in Dallas that may not be able to contribute money to your campaign do to help?

MF: We will have a ground organization in every neighborhood and every precinct. This campaign will be built on grassroots activity. Whether is volunteering in the office, phoning your neighbors or hitting the streets to knock on doors and register voters everyone has a role to play in helping us win this race.

BL: Tom DeLay and the Republican leaders in Austin targeted you from day one of the redistricting fight, and cut up the compact, majority-minority district 24 into about five or six districts. Why do you think that you were targeted, and what does it say about the Republican leadership when they split up the minority communities in Oak Cliff, south Dallas, Arlington and southeast Fort Worth?

MF: I have been an effective advocate for voters and have been willing to stand up to Tom DeLay when others ignored his extremism or actively avoided it. Tom DeLay fears independent thinkers and fighters. I am both.

BL: You had several choices when deciding where to file to run for reelection. Why did you ultimately choose to run in District 32?

MF: The 32nd District includes North Oak Cliff which has been my home for almost all of the last 30 years. It includes South Irving, which I represented in Congress for 14 years. And, it includes areas in N. Dallas where I have friends, family members and long-time supporters. The District is diverse, including a true cross section of Dallas, with Hispanic, African American, upper income, middle income and some lower income areas. Clearly this is a district in which I can build a winning coalition of civic-minded people with mainstream sensibilities who want an effective advocate in Washington and not a partisan ideologue.

BL: On paper, the 32nd district has a distinct Republican lean, but Congressional Quarterly recently upgraded your chances, and National Journal has called the TX-32 race one of the "most competitive in the nation." While District 32 was drawn to elect a Republican, respected analysts in Washington, and here in Texas seem to give you a pretty good chance. Why do you think that is?

MF: I have a proven record of coalition building. I run strong grassroots campaign that will include neighborhoods and voting blocks that have not been included in other campaigns. And, with the help of your readers and many others, I will raise the funds necessary to compete with the money DeLay and others will funnel to my opponent.

BL: One of the statistics you've noted is that district 32 is 50% minority, but many of the minority voters in the district have not voted in recent elections. What effort are you making to turn out minorities, especially Hispanics in district 32 in November?

MF: First, I have a strong Hispanic voting record, having supported issues that are of importance to the Hispanic community. It is also important to organize every neighborhood, and develop an organization that will help increase voter turnout. I will also speak to the hopes and aspirations of all voters. All families, and especially Hispanic families, realize the importance of educating their children and realizing the American dream.

BL: Moving over to issues, one of the issues that separate you from your opponent is transportation. You've consistently voted for funding for DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit), while your opponent has opposed it. What are the major transportation needs for district 32 and what are the differences between your record and your opponent?

MF: DART is much more than just a mass-transit system. It's also a tool for economic success. I was the only Dallas County Member of Congress to actively support creating it, and my opponent has voted against it. Tea21 is another. I also support the Transportation bill, which will provide crucial funding for the Dallas area.

BL: What legislative achievement of yours are you most proud? Why?

MF: First and foremost, I am most proud of my three beautiful and successful daughters. I am proud of the AMBER LAW, because it will help keep children safe. I'm also proud of the work I did to remodel Vought, which let to job creation in the area. As a lifelong supporter of our military and veterans, I took great pleasure in bringing the Veterans Cemetery to Dallas. I'm also happy with the work I did to protect people's healthcare benefits by changing the bankruptcy law.

BL: While many progressives and liberals may disagree with your vote for the war in Iraq, your record defends you from the "liberal" label that the other side will try to tag you with. How will you convince Republican and Independent voters in north Dallas that you can better represent them?

MF: They are not ideological or extreme. They are civic minded and understand that to have a strong economy, we must create good jobs, provide good education to all children, and have clean air to breathe. They will not be fooled by Party spin or empty rhetoric.

Thanks for this opportunity to speak with your readers.

To donate or learn more, click here.

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

April 27, 2004

PA Primary Results

By Byron LaMasters

Here they are:

Democratic Presidential Nomination:
Precincts Reporting: 9147 Of 9416 (97%)
John KERRY - 566,394 - 74%
Howard DEAN - 78,075 - 10%
John EDWARDS - 74,663 - 10%
Dennis KUCINICH - 29,667 - 4%
Lyndon LAROUCHE - 17,622 - 2%

Republican Senate Nomination:
Precincts Reporting: 9212 Of 9416 98%
Arlen SPECTER - 517,409 - 51%
Pat TOOMEY - 501,192 - 49%

U.S. House District 13 Democratic Nomination (Incumbent Joe Hoeffel is the Democratic Nominee for U.S. Senate):
Precincts Reporting: 501 Of 509 98%
Allyson SCHWARTZ - 23,993 - 52%
Joe TORSELLA - 21,920 - 48%

U.S. House District 13 GOP Nomination:
Precincts Reporting: 501 Of 509 98%
Melissa BROWN - 22,463 - 39%
Ellen BARD - 20,240 - 35%
Al TAUBENBERGER - 15,304 - 26%

U.S. House District 15 Democratic Nomination (Toomey's seat):
Precincts Reporting: 306 Of 310 99%
Joe DRISCOLL - 17,946 - 56%
Rick ORLOSKI - 14,032 - 44%

U.S. House District 15 GOP Nomination:
Precincts Reporting: 306 Of 310 99%
Charlie DENT 24,739 52%
Joseph PASCUZZO 15,701 33%
Brian O'NEILL 7,311 15%

Specter limps on to the GOP nomination. He's clearly the favorite against Hoeffel in November, but he may have to worry about the conservative turnout in November. The Club for Growth succeeded in making many Republicans believe that there's no difference between Arlen Specter and John Kerry.

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

Education Editorial Letters

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I just saw that my father had his letter to the editor printed in the Austin American Statesman today, directly under House Speaker Tom Craddick's.

Most Texans believe that education is critical to the future of our state and our children. Education funding should be the first priority of our elected officials. As a teacher at a public high school, I would like to offer my common-sense solution to the controversy over how to finance public schools.

The first item of business in a legislative session should always be education. The Legislature should construct an equitable, fully funded public education plan. This bipartisan plan would be funded from the state's general revenue fund. This plan should include a raise in the teacher minimum salary schedule and increased contributions to teacher health insurance.

Only after education has been dealt with should the Legislature address issues such as social services, transportation, prisons, redistricting and appropriations to operate state government. If more money is needed to fund these other worthy programs, the Legislature could then consider toll roads, a state income tax or sin taxes.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 08:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Low Turnout in PA

By Byron LaMasters

Which is good news for Pat Toomey. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The polls close at 8 PM Eastern Time in Pennsylvania (7 PM CST).

I won't be here to post this evening, but the best place to check for results is probably the Philadelphia newspaper.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Self-Segregation of America into Red and Blue

By Byron LaMasters

Yesterday, the Washington Post ran a great front page story on "Red America" (the second in a series of three) highlighting Sugarland, Texas (the home of Republican majority leader Tom DeLay). I've recently been fascinated by the divide in America between Red States and Blue States. In reality, the divide is more than Red vs. Blue. The divide is between Red counties and Blue counties. Look at a map of Red Counties versus Blue counties for the 2000 election. It would be hard to imagine that Al Gore actually won more votes than George W. Bush by viewing the sea of red across much of the country. Even California, which is considered safe for Kerry after Al Gore carried the state by 1.3 Million votes saw more counties won by Bush. Gore's margin of victory came from his 800,000 vote margin from Los Angeles County, and his similar margin from Metro San Francisco (margins of 220,000 in Alameda Co. 190,000 in San Francisco Co., 140,000 in Santa Clara Co., 85,000 in San Mateo Co., and 80,000 in Contra Costa Co.).

California is just one example, though. Most of the Blue states rely on a few major population centers delivering overwhelming margins for Democrats to make them "Blue states". Just as many urban counties are delivering increasingly overwhelming margins for Democrats (Al Gore carried New York City 78%-18% in an election that ended in a virtual tie. Gore's margin was larger than the margin that Lyndon B. Johnson carried the city in his 1964 landslide victory over the far scarier, trigger-happy, anti-Civil Rights GOP nominee Barry Goldwater), rural and suburban counties have become GOP strongholds in many places.

For the first time since the late nineteenth century, there have been three consecutive presidential elections where the winner received less than 50% of the vote. I attribute this to the increasing divide in America. Why?

I'd like to write a paper on this subject, and here's what I would like to argue as my thesis:

The social movements of the second half of the twentieth century have led to the self-segregation of many subgroups of American people. This self-segregation has led to a greater divide between Red and Blue America as individuals put themselves in social surroundings that reinforce and strengthen, rather than challenge their political viewpoints.

There are several glaring examples of this. The first and most significant is the "white flight" to the suburbs over busing that began in earnest in the 1970s and emerged in the 1990s with the rise of Republicans in the southern congressional elections (especially in the 1992 and 1994 elections). The Washington Post article mentioned earlier gives a great example of how this self-segregation and largely homogeneous community has led to political groupthink among residents in Sugarland, Texas.

It's Wednesday afternoon now and Stein is there with two friends, Craig Lannom and Lance May. They are three husbands, three fathers, three Bush votes, three guys watching ESPN and drinking some beers.

Round Number One:

"They make me feel like I have no hope. They make you feel like, why wake up in the morning?" Lannom says of Blue Americans he sees on TV or hears on the radio. "It's like every time I hear Al Franken speak, the world we live in is sooo bad, everything is going sooo wrong. Is it really that bad?"

"We see life as it is," May says.

"They seem bitter," Lannom says. "They just never seem happy. Every time you hear them talking, they're bitching about something."

"They're whiners," Stein agrees.

Round Two:

I have a cappuccino maker," May confesses.

"You have a what?" Stein asks.

Round Three:

"It's early in the morning, when the sun comes up behind that bank of fog," Stein says, describing his favorite thing about hunting.

"It's when you're fishing, and you look around, and you're the only guy around," May says.

"Fly fishing in Colorado. It was a religious experience," Lannom says.

Round Four:

"I feel it's safer out here. I feel it's more stable. More my kind of people," Lannom says of the appeal of Sugar Land.

"Where the grass is green and the trees are trimmed," Stein says.

"You live in planned neighborhoods where your investment is fairly safe," May says.

"The first time I put my trash out, I put it by the curb, and my neighbor came out and said, 'We don't curb our trash here in Sugar Land.' " Lannom says, laughing. "I had some cinch bugs in my front yard or something, my neighbor says, 'Craig, I want to talk to you about your brown patch.' "

"It's so predictable here," Stein says.

"But that's not bad, though," Lannom says.

"No, that's not bad," Stein says.

Time to go.

Red America. People in Red America like to feel safe, and away from the problems that exist in many cities. Jokingly, one political analyist in 2000 said that one of the best indicators of voting behavior was the proximity of a person to a Starbucks and a Wal-Mart. The greater proportion of Starbucks to people in a community, the higher the Democratic performance. The greater proportion of Wal-Marts to people of a community, the higher the Republican performance. The article also addresses family and religious issues. It's a great read, so check it out.

Of course, I like to pick on Republicans, but liberals are also guilty of self-segregation. Gays and lesbians (in particular) are likely to self-segregate themselves into cities where they are more accepted and can be more open about their sexual orientation. I'm guilty of this. I don't care if I was offered a starting salary of $100,000, I wouldn't move to somewhere like Midland, Texas, because I'd spend most of my salary getting out of there every weekend. Austin is about the smallest sized city where I can see myself living. Gays and lesbians aren't the only ones, though. We self-segregate ourselves by the universities we attend either on the right (Bob Jones, Washington and Lee) and on the left (Wesleyan, Oberlin) - just to name a few of the more extreme examples. We self-segregate ourselves by the books we read, the television we watch and the radio we listen to. The increasingly partisan political books, FOX News and right-wing talk radio (along with the emergence of the leftist Air America Radio) have seen both liberals and conservatives encourage and reinforce their ideology rather than challenge it.

The reallignment of the parties have followed these changes. Throughout much of the century, both parties had two wings. The Democratic Party had a northern liberal wing, and a southern conservative wing united by the New Deal. The Republican Party had a liberal Eastern (Rockafeller) wing and a more conservative, isolationist western wing. Evenually, these intraparty fights were decided. The western wing won control of the Republican Party with the nomination of Barry Goldwater in 1964 and of Ronald Reagan in 1980. The northern wing of the national Democratic Party won with the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were only able to win their Democratic Presidential nominations by their abandonment and denouncement of the conservative segregationalist policies of their predecessors. The party reallignment has continued to merge as conservative southern interests have alligned themselves with the Republicans, and liberal northeasterners have alligned themselves with the Democratic Party. The rise of DeLay and Gingrich from suburban "white flight" districts have come to define Republican Congressional leadership. Likewise, the election of Nancy Pelosi as Democratic House Minority leader is reflective of the evolition of the national Democratic Party.

Anyway, I'd like to research this further. Does anyone have any thoughts on my thesis?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:42 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Westminster President Apologizes for Cheney Speech

By Byron LaMasters

Yesterday Dick Cheney delivered a speech at Westminster College in Missouri. Westminster College President Fletcher Lamkin was asked by Dick Cheney if he would deliver a "major foreign policy address" to the College. Lamkin did what most any college president would do when asked by the Vice President of the United States. He said, sure. Little did Lamkin know that Kerry-basing would be part of the "major foreign policy address". Anyway, Lamkin did the right thing. He's invited John Kerry to the college out of fairness, and Kerry has accepted:

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry will speak Friday at Westminster College, whose president complained after Vice President Dick Cheney sharply criticized Kerry during a campus appearance Monday, campaign officials said.

Kerry accepted an invitation to speak from Westminster President Fletcher Lamkin, Kerry spokesman Bill Burton said. Lamkin said Monday he was inviting Kerry out of fairness following Cheney's visit.

Lamkin expressed disappointment after the Cheney speech, telling students and faculty in an e-mail Monday that he had been told Cheney would deliver a "major foreign policy address" and was unhappy with what he called "Kerry-bashing." However, Cheney's spokeswoman said the speech was always intended as a campaign event.

Cheney questioned whether Kerry was fit to serve as president during wartime, repeating what he had said during a campaign event in March. "The senator from Massachusetts has given us ample grounds to doubt the judgment and the attitude he brings to bear on vital issues of national security," the vice president said Monday.

British statesman Winston Churchill gave his famous "Iron Curtain" speech at Westminster College at the dawn of the Cold War in 1946.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Details on the Rodriguez Recount Lawsuit

By Byron LaMasters

The San Antonio Express-News has the story:

U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez is expected to try to beef up his legal case against Democratic nominee Henry Cuellar today, introducing an amended lawsuit that alleges more than 500 people who voted in the primary here are registered at vacant addresses or at homes where they do not live.

Rodriguez, a seven-year incumbent in Congress, sued Cuellar two weeks ago after losing his re-election bid in a recount following the March 9 primary.

The San Antonio Express-News visited some of the residences in question Monday based on information provided by Rodriguez's attorney, Buck Wood.

In one case, a primary voter with the same name as Cuellar's campaign manager, Colin Strother, is registered as living with Cuellar's parents in central Laredo.

The Cuellars, in an interview with a reporter Monday, said no one named Strother lives there.

Told of the allegation, Cuellar spokesman T.J. Connolly said that when Strother agreed to work on Cuellar's campaign, he was given a salary and the option to live in a rental property at Cuellar's parents' home.

Strother reportedly registered and voted at that address, although he has been living with his wife in another location outside of District 28 as part of her employment compensation. The two have been planning to relocate to the Cuellar residence, but furor over the campaign has kept them from doing so, Connolly said.

"He knew that's where he'd be residing long term," he said.

Strother did not return a phone call Monday.

Two other homes listed in the lawsuit — one littered with trash and with the front door standing off its hinges and another with a posted city application for remodeling — appeared vacant when visited by a reporter. Records show 11 people living and voting at those addresses.

At a fourth address, a resident said he did not know six people who were registered there and voted in the primary.

Texas voter eligibility requirements mandate that a person be a resident of their county at least 30 days before the election.

Rodriguez is pulling out all the stops, but it's probably too little, too late. Rodriguez didn't take Cuellar's campaign seriously until the end, and he made it close enough for the result to be in doubt. Still, there's some important questions that need to be answered and hopefully Rodriguez's lawsuit will help settle that.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:28 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Ten Years of Democracy in South Africa

By Byron LaMasters

Today is a day to celebrate in South Africa. The BBC reports:

President Thabo Mbeki has been sworn in for a second term in office on a day of celebration in South Africa - marking 10 years of multi-racial democracy. Guests at the ceremony in Pretoria included key figures in the transition from apartheid, ex-presidents Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk.

Wild cheers and singing broke out as Mr Mandela arrived with his wife, Graca Machel, and made his way to his seat.

Choirs greeted some 40, mainly African, leaders and other dignitaries.

The 27 April is known as "Freedom Day", symbolising the end of white minority rule and the start of multi-racial democracy.

South Africa has a long way to go, but the nation has certainly taken many steps toward progress over the past decade.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Specter vs. Toomey

By Byron LaMasters

The primary is today, and it's a dead heat. I've personally beem torn about this race. For those of you that haven't been following. Right-wing Congressman (with a populist touch) Pat Toomey is challenging relative moderate Senator Arlen Specter for the GOP Senate nomination in Pennsylvania. The Democratic nominee is Joe Hoeffel.

Many Democrats are all but openly cheering for a Toomey victory. The conventional wisdom is that Democrats would have a much better shot at picking up the seat against a relatively unknown right-winger (with heavy Club for Growth support), than against the popular moderate Specter. Others think that Toomey will energize the Republican base and cut into some Democratic union support helping Bush in the state as well as sending a more conservative Republican to Congress. Toomey argues that his Allentown based congressional district was carried by Al Gore in 2000, yet he's won it without too much trouble. He credits his success to "Reagan Democrats" that responded to his populist conservative message. Specter on the other hand, has the full support of President Bush and our good friend Senator Rick Santorum. Many pro-choice suburban Philadelphia voters that would vote for Specter are unlikely to vote for Toomey. Also, the money that flows to incumbents and presumptive winners that Specter would have in the fall would be much less likely to go to Toomey. Some Republicans have openly speculated that Pennsylvania would be out of play in the presidential election if Toomey wins tonight. Several million dollars that would be spent getting out GOP voters probably won't be there for Toomey (although the Club for Growth would make up for some of it, much of the money would go to Hoeffel). Finally, today is a test for the Bush campaign team. The Bush campaign has prepared for this election as a test run for its election day campaign team. They're testing the effectiveness of their blockwalking, phonebanking, television, radio, direct mail, etc. strategies. A victory for Specter is a victory for the Bush campaign team. A victory for Toomey is a defeat for the Bush campaign team. For that reason, if for no other, I'll be pulling for Toomey tonight. I'll post the link for returns when I find it.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:56 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Weddings for Marriage Equality Reports

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I just wanted to share with you, since I forgot over the weekend, the reports from our Weddings for Marriage Equality Event and Debate last Thursday.

The Daily Texan reported on it here. (2 pages) As well as the Debate here. I'm quoted in each article. In addition we (and I) made it on the local FOX affiliate at 5 and 9 that day.

Also, the cable channel has their show on archive now (4/22) and the story is near the beginning.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 01:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Funny/Scary Mondays

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

From the New York Times...

It's their reality. We just live and die in it.

In Bushworld, our troops go to war and get killed, but you never see the bodies coming home.

In Bushworld, flag-draped remains of the fallen are important to revere and show the nation, but only in political ads hawking the president's leadership against terror.

In Bushworld, we can create an exciting Iraqi democracy as long as it doesn't control its own military, pass any laws or have any power.

In Bushworld, we can win over Falluja by bulldozing it.

In Bushworld, it was worth going to war so Iraqis can express their feelings ("Down With America!") without having their tongues cut out, although we cannot yet allow them to express intemperate feelings in newspapers ("Down With America!") without shutting them down.

In Bushworld, it's fine to take $700 million that Congress provided for the war in Afghanistan and 9/11 recovery and divert it to the war in Iraq that you're insisting you're not planning.

In Bushworld, you don't consult your father, the expert in being president during a war with Iraq, but you do talk to your Higher Father, who can't talk back to warn you to get an exit strategy or chide you for using Him for political purposes.

In Bushworld, it's O.K. to run for re-election as the avenger of 9/11, even as you make secret deals with the Arab kingdom where most of the 9/11 hijackers came from.

In Bushworld, you get to strut around like a tough military guy and paint your rival as a chicken hawk, even though he's the one who won medals in combat and was praised by his superior officers for fulfilling all his obligations.

In Bushworld, it makes sense to press for transparency in Mr. and Mrs. Rival while cultivating your own opacity.

In Bushworld, you can reign as the antiterror president even after hearing an intelligence report about Al Qaeda's plans to attack America and then stepping outside to clear brush.

In Bushworld, those who dissemble about the troops and money it will take to get Iraq on its feet are patriots, while those who are honest are patronizingly marginalized.

In Bushworld, they struggle to keep church and state separate in Iraq, even as they increasingly merge the two in America.

In Bushworld, you can claim to be the environmental president on Earth Day while being the industry president every other day.

In Bushworld, you brag about how well Afghanistan is going, even though soldiers like Pat Tillman are still dying and the Taliban are running freely around the border areas, hiding Osama and delaying elections.

In Bushworld, imperfect intelligence is good enough to knock over Iraq. But even better evidence that North Korea is building the weapons that Saddam could only dream about is hidden away.

In Bushworld, the C.I.A. says it can't find out whether there are W.M.D. in Iraq unless we invade on the grounds that there are W.M.D.

In Bushworld, there's no irony that so many who did so much to avoid the Vietnam draft have now strained the military so much that lawmakers are talking about bringing back the draft.

In Bushworld, we're making progress in the war on terror by fighting a war that creates terrorists.

In Bushworld, you don't need to bother asking your vice president and top Defense Department officials whether you should go to war in Iraq, because they've already maneuvered you into going to war.

In Bushworld, it's perfectly natural for the president and vice president to appear before the 9/11 commission like the Olsen twins.

In Bushworld, you expound on remaking the Middle East and spreading pro-American sentiments even as you expand anti-American sentiments by ineptly occupying Iraq and unstintingly backing Ariel Sharon on West Bank settlements.

In Bushworld, we went to war to give Iraq a democratic process, yet we disdain the democratic process that causes allies to pull out troops.

In Bushworld, you pride yourself on the fact that your administration does not leak to the press, while you flood the best-known journalist in Washington with inside information.

In Bushworld, you list Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack" as recommended reading on your campaign Web site, even though it makes you seem divorced from reality. That is, unless you live in Bushworld.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 01:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 26, 2004

Hooray for Pointy-Headed Intellectuals

By Jim Dallas

Peter Singer isn't my favorite contemporary philosopher (that title goes to Richard Rorty, since pragmatism seems (to me) more convincing than utilitarianism, and because I like Rorty's writing style). But you can't really argue with a man when he's stating the obvious; when you're right, you're right:

Singer has made himself noticed outside the ivory tower: his conviction that animals have significant moral rights means he opposes using them for food as well as for experimentation; a principled openness to euthanasia under various medical circumstances has led to picketing by groups of disabled people. In ''The President of Good & Evil,'' he confronts the ethics of the man he calls America's ''most prominent moralist,'' George W. Bush. As a philosopher Singer must abjure the cynicism with which, he tells us, many of his friends greeted his intention seriously to study the president's ethics. For one thing, Singer's concern is with the views rather than with the man who says he holds them. In any case, he argues, ''tens of millions of Americans believe that he is sincere, and share the views that he puts forward on a wide range of moral issues.'' Hence they are, as he says, worth thinking about.

Much of Singer's discussion proceeds on the basis of common sense, as when he points out that Bush's argument for tax cuts -- that the government has no right to take ''your money'' -- is undermined by his acceptance of taxation for a wide variety of government purposes. But Singer also calls on elements of theory to develop his analyses, as when he notes that ''ownership is not a natural relationship between a person and a thing'' but ''a social convention'': in the United States, law defines how much you get to keep of the money you make using public resources like roads.

Singer is a generous critic. In discussing Bush's reverence for life, evidenced in his opposition to stem cell research, he constructs the most plausible arguments possible against the sacrifice of unwanted embryos, to demonstrate convincingly how unsustainable they are. But he can hardly help observing that Bush's ''culture of life'' cohabits jarringly with his enthusiasm for capital punishment and readiness to inflict civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq. Singer is led, on issue after issue, to a double conclusion: Bush's views are not intellectually defensible, and his behavior shows he doesn't believe in them anyway.

I'm not entirely sure that John Kerry is intellectually self-consistent either (am I stating the obvious?), but neither does he parade as a moralist, dodging tough questions by rambling on, using loaded jingo-jargon rhetoric (case in point, the prime-time press conference a few weeks ago).

A man's gotta know his limitations.

Thanks to DailyKOS user libby for noting Times review of Singer's book.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 10:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

One Year Anniversary

By Byron LaMasters

I'm two days late on this, but I got busy with the Texas Young Democrats Convention (I'll post on that shortly) over the weekend and didn't get around to doing this post on Saturday. I should note that on April 24, 2003, the Burnt Orange Report was born over at livejournal. My first post was on "Blogs Changing Politics", and for memories sake, I'll repost it here since it's interesting to reflect on my thoughts a year ago:

Blogs Changing Politics

Blogs are indeed changing politics as we know it. With blogs, anyone can publish anything to a worldwide audience anytime, all the time. I believe that blogs are leading the “second” Internet revolution, capable of revolutionizing politics the way that the television did in the 1950s and 60s.

Blogs have already had a profound effect on news and politics, changing the way news is made and published. The Agonist became famous for providing minute-to-minute coverage of the war in Iraq. So what, you say… that’s what CNN is for, but the Agonist linked to global sites offering worldwide perspective on events often ignored by the American and western media. One example is the video clips and pictures of American POW’s in Iraq shown on Al-Jezeera but not on US television. No worry, Americans could find it on the Internet, courtesy of blogs.

Meetup.com has turned a long-shot Democratic presidential candidate, Howard Dean, into a contender. Dean had a small following at the beginning of the year, but it was primarily among anti-war liberals, gays and lesbians familiar with his signing of the Vermont civil-unions law, and local leaders from and near his home state of Vermont. With Meetup.com , Dean had a tool to organize thousands of activists galvanized into action by his firm anti-war stance, and rousing speeches made to NARAL Pro-choice America in January, the Democratic National Committee in February and to the California Democratic Party Convention in March. These Internet savvy activists could watch Dean’s speeches on C-SPAN and get involved in their communities by joining the Dean Meetup which the Dean campaign smartly linked to from their homepage. Soon the Dean Meetup Challenge began among these activists and Dean raised a surprising $2.6 Million in the first quarter of 2003 – nearly as much as Joe Lieberman, a nationally tested politician. Dean raised $750,000 online, and was able to attract contributions from over 12,000 individuals, giving him broader financial support than every other Democratic presidential candidate save John Kerry, another nationally known politician. Blogs and the Internet were able to raise Howard Dean from a candidate expected to raise little over $1 Million to being on the heels of Joe Lieberman in fundraising. Now, Dean Meetup.com has over 17,000 members meeting monthly in hundreds of cities across the county. This gives Dean the profound advantage of building a grassroots organization in every single state in the country. No longer is the Internet one component of a strong campaign, but it is becoming the center of any strong grassroots campaign.

The Dean Campaign has also started a blog, run by the campaign and there are others such as this that are not official campaign sites, but serve the same purpose. This unprecedented step of an official campaign blog keeps supporters updated daily with the efforts of the campaign. This has revolutionized politics. Just a decade ago, volunteers and activists were frequently left out of the loop. In order to find out how a campaign was going or what was needed to be done, activists had to call their local or precinct organizer. That organizer would call the county organizer. The county organizer would call the state organizer, and the state organizer could get in touch with the national campaign. Often, it took weeks for messages to get relayed back and forth, and little was done in the later primary states until weeks before primary date. That delay of weeks has now been forever eradicated. Blogs and email changed that. Now, blogs are starting to replace email as the preferred method of political communication – many people that are reluctant to get on an email list, or that skim over their email are more inclined to bookmark a blog. Dean has even started a text-messaging service for campaign updates. No wonder Dean has heavy student support. His campaign speaks our language. Other candidates, from city council to president should be advised to do the same. Gary Hart is one such example. He started a blog last month on his website. It still leaves much to be desired, but he can lay claim to being the only presidential candidate with his own personal blog. Speaking of Gary Hart, is he running or not? The campaign denies recruiting campaign interns, but I can tell you that they undoubtedly are. We know first hand and contributed to this piece run on political wire. This is an example of news that would be impossible without blogs. Mainstream media won’t give us the time of day, but bloggers are happy to listen to us. So what might not be news to the mainstream media is news to the Internet media.

Posted by: Byron L.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:10 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Perry vs. Strayhorn in 2006?

By Byron LaMasters

A lot of bloggers here in Texas have speculated about a Carole Keeton Strayhorn primary challenge to Rick Perry in 2006. Now, the Houston Chronicle has its take on the possibility:

The special legislative session on public school finance could be mistaken for the Republican gubernatorial primary of 2006 as Gov. Rick Perry publicly spars with possible challenger Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

During the session's first week, the animosity between Perry and Strayhorn flared in dueling news conferences and public appearances. Perry and Strayhorn all but called each other liars as they bitterly argued over the financial impact of the governor's school finance plan.

In the background, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison -- who has been mostly silent in the school finance fight -- has kept a heavy schedule of public appearances across Texas. When supporters ask, she politely responds that she might be interested in running for governor in the Republican primary two years from now.


last year's battles over the state budget and congressional redistricting damaged Perry politically among the state's general election population. His overall job approval rating was 40 percent, according to last month's Scripps Howard Texas Poll, and only 33 percent of the state's independent swing voters thought Perry was doing a good job as governor.

Perry has remained strong among likely Republican primary voters, with 66 percent of the GOP respondents to the Texas Poll saying Perry has been doing a good job. With the Texas Democratic Party all but dead in statewide elections, Perry's biggest obstacle to re-election would be a tough Republican primary challenge.


The animosity between Perry and Strayhorn began last year. Perry uninvited Strayhorn from the weekly leadership breakfasts. She refused to certify the budget. Legislators at Perry's urging stripped Strayhorn's office of two of her high-profile programs: eTexas and the Texas School Performance reviews.

"It's a little too easy to say (Strayhorn's current attacks on Perry) reflect her future ambitions. It also reflects the fact that Perry is out to see her run out of state government," said Rice University political scientist John Alford. "It's sort of a chicken-and-egg kind of thing. Did Perry decide to go after her when he figured she was going to run against him, or did she decide to run against him when she decided she had no future any other way?"

Perry's skirmishes with Hutchison have been more low-profile. Earlier this year when Hutchison told a Rio Grande Valley business gathering that the Bush administration's dealings with Mexico on water had been "halfhearted," Perry chided Hutchison as being "overly critical."

Keep up the attacks guys. I'm looking forward to a hard fought, nasty, dirty primary that turns off everyone except that right wing extremists. If so, Democrats might just have a chance to win some statewides in 2006. In all honesty, I'm more optimistic that 2010 will be a more likely possibility for a Democratic breakthrough year in Texas, but I'll keep my fingers crossed for 2006 at least.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Clinton Memoirs to go on sale in June

By Byron LaMasters

Good news here. There was some concern that the Clinton memoirs would be released after the Democratic convention and take attention away from John Kerry. Well, that won't happen. In fact, the Clinton memoirs could help build up excitement to the Democratic convention:

Former President Bill Clinton's highly anticipated memoirs about his political career and scandal-plagued presidency, entitled "My Life," will go on sale in late June, publishing house Alfred A. Knopf announced on Monday.

The book, for which Knopf reportedly paid between $10 million and $12 million, provides an account of Clinton's life through the White House years, Sonny Mehta, president and editor in chief at Knopf, said in a statement.

John Zogby also thinks that this development is good for Kerry:

"Anything that reminds people about the enormous prosperity in this country under Bill Clinton's leadership is a good thing for us," said Stephanie Cutter, a Kerry spokeswoman.

Republican consultant Nelson Warfield argued Clinton's book could hurt the Kerry campaign.

"Kerry wants to be the story, he needs to be the story and Clinton will hog the spotlight as only a Clinton can," said Warfield. "Instead of talking about Kerry's challenge to Bush, people are going to be talking about what does Bill Clinton think about this."

Independent pollster John Zogby disagreed, saying the impact would be positive for Kerry "especially this year where it's all about getting the base out. Nobody gets the base out like Bill and Hillary."

"If the book were coming out in October, it would be a different story," Zogby added. "It would suck all the air out. June is a good time. It's aired, it gives a boost to Kerry and then he's not overshadowing him in October."

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Which of These Men is Weak on Security

By Andrew Dobbs

From MoveOn.org, check out these two documents and tell me which one is "tough on defense"- the one that said "I consider the opportunity to serve in Vietnam an extremely important part of being in the armed forces and believe that my request is in the best interests of the Navy," or the one that checked a Texas Air National Guard box saying "I DO NOT VOLUNTEER FOR OVERSEAS"? I just don't get why Bush would even mention this- he is so clearly weak here.

Help MoveOn.org make it even clearer to the American people where strength really lies. Contribute to their ad campaign to let the American people know the truth about Bush and Kerry's service in Vietnam.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 03:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Voucher Activists Spending Big on Texas Legislative Races

By Andrew Dobbs

Less than a week after Rick Perry announced that he would like to see a voucher program emerge from the school finance special session, the Capitol Insider (sorry, no link right now) is reporting that prominent voucher advocate and Perry's Bahama vacation pal Jim Leninger of Houston has been spending huge sums of money in Texas Legislative races this year.

Giving individually and through a new political action committee called All
Children Matter, Leininger in the past five months has poured a quarter of a
million dollars into the coffers of state lawmakers and statewide leaders
who will have a say in whether a pilot program using public funds to pay for
private school tuition is created in the special session that began last
week. The national arm of All Children Matter, which is based in Grand
Rapids, Michigan, pledged $50,000 to the group's Texas chapter to go with
$97,500 that Leininger has donated directly to the PAC in recent months.
Leininger contributed $25,000 to Governor Rick Perry in December 2003 less
than three months months before joining him for a long weekend in the
Bahamas (...)

Leininger, the founder of the hospital bed manufacturing company Kinetic Concepts Inc., gave Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst $50,000 in November 2003 - and he and his wife contributed $50,000 to State Senator Kevin Eltife when he was seeking the job in a special election in Northeast Texas earlier this year. (...)

All Children Matter contributed $10,000 apiece to State Reps. Glenn Lewis of Fort Worth and Ron Wilson of Houston, who now are both lameducks as a result of primary defeats brought about in part by opposition from within the Democratic Party's leadership. The group also donated $10,000 to State Rep. Harold Dutton, a Houston Democrat who survived the primary and now faces token opposition in the fall. State Senator Ken Armbrister received $1,500 as the only other Democratic legislator from Texas backed by All Children Matter this year. (...)

All Children Matter also gave $10,000 to State Rep. Joe Nixon of Houston and $2,500 to State Rep. Glenn Hegar - a pair of Republican lawmakers who faced primary opponent in March. Republican State Reps. Rob Eissler of The Woodlands, Toby Goodman of Arlington, Harvey Hilderbran of Kerrville, Jerry Madden of Richardson and Bill Zedler of Arlington all received $1,000 each from All Children Matter since the group emerged in Texas in December. The group also donated $750 to State Rep. Kent Grusendorf, an Arlington Republican who chairs the House Public Education Committee and the special panels handling school and tax legislation in the special session.

Of course, nobody pays anybody $250,000 without expecting something in return. Its pretty clear that they are trying to buy vouchers in Texas. It is still unlikely as at least 55 Democrats and probably about 30 Republicans in the House are against the measure. If Leninger spreads enough cash around though, it is impossible to tell what will happen. The specter of the GOP-led legislature draining money from public schools to test their own radical anti-public education agenda is pretty frightening and it will demand our attention as the session goes on.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 01:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Texas GOP May Have Spent Millions Illegally in 2002

By Andrew Dobbs

The Texas Republican Party has continued its tradition of having a very low regard for the truth by lying to state ethics officials about various expenditures during the 2002 campaign it appears. From the Houston Chronicle:

The Texas Republican Party went on a drive during the last major statewide elections to raise corporate cash like never before, collecting $2.2 million from companies such as energy firms and nursing home chains.

While raising the money was legal, it may have been spent in violation of state law, the Houston Chronicle found through a review of more than 10,000 pages of state and federal campaign finance reports.

Texas law prohibits political parties from spending corporate or labor union money on anything other than running a party primary, paying for a convention or administrative expenses. State law also requires those funds to be spent through a separate, restricted account, which can also include money from other sources.

But the state Republican Party transferred its corporate donations to a federal committee it runs and designated all general election expenses as administrative.

In one instance, the party defined $1.9 million in television advertisements as "administration" in campaign reports. Another $453,815 in direct mail was reported as "admin."

This is a pretty big deal. So far, all of the investigations and allegations have focused on independent PACs, most notably TRMPAC and TAB. Now the actual state GOP is being implicated not by a "politically motivated DA" but instead by a newspaper. I'm proud to say that the article goes on to say that the Texas Democratic Party- my employer- spends its money legally and segregates corporate and non-corporate funds and administers their distribution in accordance with state law.

This is another reason I think we have a chance in 2006. Between Tomstown and now this scandal there is an excellent chance that several prominent Republican elected officials could end up under indictment by the end of this year and in prison by Election Day 2006. This threatens to eclipse Sharpstown in terms of explosiveness. That was one guy doing all the dirty work- this is dozens of corrupt donors each seeking a different bit of special treatment. One particularly egregious example noted by the Chronicle involved $400,000 from two national nursing home chains that wanted to see liability caps for neglect and abuse cases. Tom Craddick, David Dewhurst, Rick Perry (and not a few Democrats too, I'm ashamed to admit) decided to side with those that abuse and neglect the elderly over their victims. So much for "tough on crime" conservatives.

None of these men deserve to serve anywhere but a penitentiary. We have to get to work so that they will be little more than a bad dream after November 2006.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 01:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 25, 2004

Highest Concentration of Anti-Bush Voters Located

By Karl-Thomas Musselman


Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 04:16 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Gay Marriage At Home and Abroad

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

After Spain recently announced that gay marriage is in the country's future plans, a community in France has now announced that it is going to put on more European state on the map.

Mayor Noel Mamere of Begles, just outside Bordeaux, identified the happy couple as two local men. Under French law, non religious weddings must be conducted by the mayor of a couple's local municipality for their union to be legal.

"There's nothing extraordinary about marrying two people of the same sex in the European Union, because Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands have done it already and the new Spanish prime minister...has put it in his political program," said Mamere, a member of the Green Party.

Although French law does not specifically give same-sex couples the right to marry there is nothing, Mamere said, to ban such unions.

Meanwhile back at home, over in Massachusetts, Republican Governor Romney is hell-bent on finding some way to stop his state from moving forward with gay marriages. The only thing left appears to be an obscure 1913 state law...

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is directing town clerks across the state that they will be charged if they marrying any same-sex couples from outside the commonwealth. The Republican governor who has been thwarted in previous attempts to prevent gay and lesbian couples from marrying when same-sex becomes legal in May says that he is basing his order on a "strict interpretation" of a 1913 law which says that the state cannot marry an out-of-state couple if that marriage would be "void" in the couple's home state.

"Massachusetts should not become the Las Vegas of same-sex marriage," Romney tells the New York Times. "We do not intend to export our marriage confusion to the entire nation."

I am almost positive that Romney is getting pushed to do whatever possible to stop gay marriage by Republican groups nationwide, because once gay marriages start coming out of his state to other states, it will be the first time ever that legal groups will be able to take a look at the full faith and credit clause of the US Constitution and start challenging the DOMA laws. This of course would be followed by a unified chorus of Republicans singing the "activist judges" tune, some being the same ones who sang that tune back in the Brown v. Board of Education days or the interracial marriage days.

But speaking of interracial marriage, since this fight has been compared to that one, even though some will say it has nothing to do with each other...

That 1913 law in Massachusetts? Guess why it is there?

The law the Romney is enforcing was created in 1913 to bar interracial marriage and has collected dust since 1967 when the US Supreme Court struck down state laws preventing marriage by two people of different races.

No parallels, oh, of course not!

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 04:01 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 24, 2004

GOP Minority Voter Intimidate Tactics Revealed

By Byron LaMasters

Great post by Andrew D. over at the Yellow Dog Blog last week. Why didn't you post it here, Andrew?

Anyway, he cites a New York Times editorial that shows the lengths to which Republicans in some places go to intimidate minority voters. I knew of some of these tactics, but I hadn't heard of others. Anyway, this year the GOP scare tactics have hit the traditionally Democratic Native American parts of South Dakota (where Sen. Tom Daschle faces a tough reelection fight with former Rep. John Thune):

It has been years since the bad old days when Southern blacks were given "literacy tests," and voting rights activists were beaten and killed. But blacks, Hispanics and Indians are still regularly discouraged from voting, often under the guise of "ballot integrity" programs that are supposed to be aimed at deterring fraud at the polls.

Minority vote suppression tears at the fabric of American democracy. It persists, however, for a simple reason: in close elections, when some minority groups are strongly identified with a single party, it can be the difference between winning and losing. In 2002, the Indian vote in South Dakota helped Senator Tim Johnson win by just 528 votes.

Today, in Bennett County, S.D., Indians say they have to contend with poll workers who make fun of their names, election officials who make it hard for them to register and — most ominously — a wave of false voter fraud charges that have been made against them, which they regard as harassment. Jo Colombe, a Rosebud Sioux tribal council member, said that when she worked as a poll watcher in a recent election she was accused of fraud simply for taking a bathroom break. When she returned, she said, white poll watchers charged her with copying the names of Indians who had not yet voted, and taking them out to Indians waiting in the parking lot. In January, prosecutors dropped a highly publicized case against another Indian woman, Rebecca Red Earth-Villeda.

With South Dakota's senior senator, Tom Daschle, running in another hotly contested race this year, Indians are bracing for more trouble at the polls. Many Indians feel their situation is similar to other so-called ballot integrity efforts over the last few decades. In the 1986 Louisiana Senate race, for instance, Republicans began a purge of tens of thousands of voters. An internal party document made clear that the goal was to "keep the black vote down." In North Carolina's 1990 Senate race, Jesse Helms supporters mailed 125,000 postcards to predominantly black voting precincts, misleading voters about residency requirements and warning that misstatements to voting officials could mean five years in prison.

More recently, Republican poll watchers in the 2002 Arkansas Senate election took photos of blacks as they voted, an intimidation tactic that has been used in other parts of the country. In last fall's Kentucky governor's race, Republicans announced plans to challenge voters in 59 predominantly black precincts. After the N.A.A.C.P. objected, the program was scaled back. And this year, a local Texas prosecutor threatened to arrest students at historically black Prairie View A&M if they tried to vote from their campus addresses, which the law allows them to do. He backed down when he was sued.

Intimidation of Hispanic voters has often focused on immigration matters. In one case that caused an uproar in California in 1988, Republicans hired uniformed security officers to serve as "poll guards" in Latino precincts in Orange County.

The editorial goes on to recommend remedies to the problems, but without widespread outrage, these activities will continue. It's important that Democrats publicize every time the other side attempts to undermine the democratic process. In fact, it's our duty and obligation to do so.

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

The "Strip Club" Session

By Byron LaMasters

I would have to say that yesterday's editorial in the Lufkin Daily News puts it best. Why should we bother calling this the "public school finance session" when all we really seem to be talking about is strippers:

The race to be Texas' chief morality officer, er, we mean governor, is well under way, with Gov. Rick Perry and his arch-nemesis, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, trying to top each other with tough talk about topless bars.

Perry's position: Tax them. Strayhorn's response: Forget taxing them, just close them down. Apparently it's too late to hope that the two would set aside the silliness until at least Strayhorn decides whether to challenge Perry in the Republican primary in 2006.

Perry, looking for money anywhere he can find it to pay for his school finance proposal, has suggested a $5 surtax for admission to strip clubs and other adult entertainment venues. Perry, undercutting any moral authority he might have left, said he sees nothing wrong with increasing taxes on "unhealthy" behavior like cigarette smoking and visits to topless bars to pay for public education.

"There are a lot of activities that are legal in the state of Texas that some individuals find to be distasteful and not appropriate," he said.

Strayhorn — who has made a sport of blasting Perry's school proposals while offering no ideas of her own — dismissed the idea on Wednesday. She suggested the state instead force strip clubs to close by banning them from serving alcohol.

"If these clubs can stay in business selling lemonade and iced tea, at least I will feel better about the safety of the dancers," Strayhorn told the Austin American-Statesman. "Alcohol can make the meek violent, the quiet loud and the passive aggressive. People can and do get hurt in these clubs."

This is what the debate about school finance has devolved to: An argument about strip clubs. It's not the dancers, but Emperor Perry and Empress Strayhorn who are showing themselves to be the ones with no clothes.

That's Texas politics for you, Republican style. Three special sessions to redistrict, and one to talk about strip clubs. When will we return to sanity in state government?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 23, 2004

Fear Them

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

If you ever get the feeling that the Republican Party isn't the true home for those few truly hateful people among us, just take a glance at the following story out of Michigan.

Michigan Preparing To Let Doctors Refuse To Treat Gays

(Lansing, Michigan) Doctors or other health care providers could not be disciplined or sued if they refuse to treat gay patients under legislation passed Wednesday by the Michigan House. The bill allows health care workers to refuse service to anyone on moral, ethical or religious grounds.

The Republican dominated House passed the measure as dozens of Catholics looked on from the gallery. The Michigan Catholic Conference, which pushed for the bills, hosted a legislative day for Catholics on Wednesday at the state Capitol.

I also wanted to share with you that our Marriage Events from yesterday hit the Front Page of the Daily Texan campus paper. A month ago I made a statement that one of my goals was to be on the front page of the Texan with couples in front of the arch with a story. Mission: Accomplished. And for those of you on campus, I am the person holding the cup hidden behind the guy on the right in the smaller picture on the front page.

Read the Weddings for Marraige Equality Story (take note that there are 2 pages to the story) and I am quoted.

Karl-T., co-director of GLBTAAA, said the demonstration showed that there is a difference between legal marriage and religious marriage. "We're not asking to interfere with the church." Karl-T. said. "We want the legal rights of marriage."

Read the Marriage Debate story where I was quoted again.

Karl-T., co-director of GLBTAAA, said too many people view gay marriage as a threat to the sanctity of marriage. "There are greater threats to marriage, like a high divorce rate and Britney Spears getting married in Las Vegas," Karl-T. said. "The greatest threat is a nation that is OK with separate and not equal."

And making up the 3rd part of the front page series was this gem from the Texas legislature (Republican of course) as it is starting its special session on EDUCATION.

State Rep. Corbin Van Arsdale, R-Cypress, has filed HCR1, a resolution that supports amending the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and woman. "Once marriage is opened up for any particular group, then all other particular groups will get in, and there will no longer be an institution of marriage," Van Arsdale said Thursday.

Yes, because that is soooo much more important than attempting to deal with our education problems in Texas. Then again, with 3 special sessions on re-redistricting, I guess the Republicans are just good procrastinators. After all, Republican in Chief GWB is just procrastinating with his Tax Cut policy. We'll just get around to paying for everything...later.

UPDATE: Opposition Mounting, and could have Democratic Governor Veto

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 10:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Hyperbole of the Day

By Byron LaMasters

"We see this time as the climax of the civil war of values that's been raging for 35 years. This is the Gettysburg. This is the D-Day, the Stalingrad. We must oppose those who have done so much to create the mess that we're in."

- Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family regarding his support for Patrick Toomey over Arlen Specter in the Republican Pennsylvania Primary for U.S. Senate.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:02 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Shame on Sam Johnson

By Byron LaMasters

When I'm back home in Dallas, U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Plano) is my congressman. A few years ago he said that "Democrats don't think like Americans". Yesterday, he joined to chorus of Republicans with the temerity to attack John Kerry's war record on the floor of the U.S. House:

The stinging exchanges took place in a series of one-minute speeches lawmakers can make on any topic. Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Tex.) began the attack by denouncing the Massachusetts senator on the 33rd anniversary of his testimony before a Senate panel in which he sharply criticized the conduct of some U.S. troops in Vietnam. Kerry, a decorated Navy officer in Vietnam, became a prominent antiwar spokesman after his discharge.

Johnson, who spent seven years as a North Vietnamese prisoner of war, said the young Kerry "blasted our nation, chastised our troops and hurt our morale. . . . What he did was nothing short of aiding and abetting the enemy." Comparing Kerry to former antiwar activist Jane Fonda, Johnson said: "He's called Hanoi John."

The presiding officer, Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), briefly cautioned members not to disparage senators by name, but other Republicans poured it on. Rep. John Kline (Minn.) said Kerry's service in the war "does not excuse his joining ranks with Jane Fonda and others in speaking ill of our troops or their service, then or now." Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (Calif.), whose plane was shot down over North Vietnam, said Kerry's 1971 remarks angered Cunningham and his comrades at the time. "We do not need a Jane Fonda as commander in chief," he said.

Democrats tore up their prepared Earth Day remarks to defend Kerry. Rep. John B. Larson (Conn.) said, "We ought to rise above this here on the House floor and across the debate in this nation." Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.), a Navy psychiatrist during the war, alluded to Bush's record in the Texas Air National Guard then. People who served actively then, he said, have a right to speak out. "But if you were in the National Guard and you didn't show up, you were AWOL for a whole year, you've got real nerve to start an attack on John Kerry's character," McDermott said. "Some people were simply not available; they never showed up for their flight physical."

Bush has acknowledged missing a physical in 1972, which ended his eligibility to fly fighter jets, but he says he fulfilled his Guard duties.

Isn't there some rule about publicly disparaging other congressmen by name on the floor of congress? Now, Sam Johnson is a decorated Vietnam war veteran who spent several years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, and he ought to be commended and honored for his service. But to call someone who fought bravely for their country "Hanoi John" on the House floor?

John Kerry's Vietnam records show that he's a legitimate war hero. Do the Bush folks really want a debate about war records in this campaign? If so, we have three words for them we know they understand...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:48 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

April 22, 2004

Kerry comes to Texas for Earth Day

By Byron LaMasters

Texas won't be seeing too much of John Kerry this year, but Houston got a glimpse of him today. NBC reports:

Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry stopped in Houston Thursday -- Earth Day -- and credited President George W. Bush with recycling.

The Massachusetts senator said Bush has recycled the deficit, bad economic policies, bad environmental policies and bad foreign policy.

Kerry said that's why Bush should be recycled back to Crawford, where the Texan has a ranch.

Kerry spoke at a lunchtime rally at the University of Houston.

He highlighted his plan for a clean environment, emphasizing that a healthy environment and strong economy go hand-in-hand.

He considers environmental issues critical in his effort to beat the president at the polls.

"It makes a difference to our health care bills. It makes a difference to the length of our lives. It makes a difference (to) the quality of our lives. And we deserve a president who's going to fight for the American people," Kerry said.

He attacked the Bush administration's record on clear air, water and toxic waste site cleanup.

On a different note, it was interesting to see John Kerry hit back hard on gas taxes with a suggestion that George W. Bush has a deal with the Saudi's to have the price of gas lowered in time for the election:

Kerry also criticized Bush's meeting with a top Saudi official, contending that consumers are paying billions of dollars in higher gasoline prices while the president is chummy with big oil producers.

"I believe the American people deserve a president who just isn't going to have a friendly talk, but who is going to fight to guarantee that we lower prices for Americans," Kerry said.

Kerry criticized a meeting in which, according to a broadcast report, Bush and Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sulton discussed increasing oil production to drive down prices as the election nears.

"I don't know if it was a deal, I don't know if it was a secret pledge, I don't know if it was just a friendly conversation among friends," Kerry said. "The fact remains that whatever it was, the American people are getting a bad deal today."

Bandar has denied any linkage between the election and a Saudi pledge to the Bush administration to push for lower oil prices. CBS's 60 Minutes reported Sunday night that journalist Bob Woodward said Bandar promised Bush that Saudi Arabia will lower oil prices to ensure the U.S. economy is strong on Election Day.

Well, it wouldn't be the first time the election was rigged...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:05 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Watch your TV

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

First off, FOX 7 here in Austin just ran their segment on the WME which went well. I was interviewed, what fun!

In addition, they will be covering the debate tonight so check FOX 7 (KTBC) at 9 for their second report.

In addition, on campus, channel 15 in the dorms, 51 campus area, Texas Newswatch will be airing thier weekly show which we will be on. To see it online (maybe not live) but at least the archive when it goes up, go here.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 05:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Texas Ethics Commission to Investigate Perry Bahamas trip

By Byron LaMasters

It's good to hear that the Texas ethics commission will be investigating Rick Perry's vacation to the Bahamas with Grover Norquist. The Houston Chronicle reports:

- The Texas Ethics Commission has told Gov. Rick Perry it will decide whether he illegally converted political money to personal use when he used campaign funds to pay for a trip to the Bahamas.

At issue is money Perry used to pay for himself, wife Anita and several top staffers to travel to the Bahamas in February with campaign donors and others, the Austin American-Statesman reported today.


Also along on the trip at their own expense were San Antonio businessman James Leininger, a supporter of private school vouchers, and his wife Cecilia; Houston beer distributor John Nau and his wife, Bobbi; Grover Norquist, a Washington-based anti-tax activist; and Brooke Rollins, a former Perry aide now director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and her husband.

The Leiningers have given Perry more than $75,000 in political contributions since 2000, and the Naus have given Perry more than $100,000.


Perry's group traveled by private plane to the Abaco Islands on Presidents Day weekend.

Judicial Watch, a nonpartisan government watchdog group, filed a complaint about the trip with the Texas Ethics Commission.

"Governor Perry's long weekend trip outside the U.S., with campaign contributors and state employees, amounts to a personal tropical island vacation, unrelated to any legitimate campaign event," Judicial Watch said in its complaint.

Violation of the law carries a minor civil penalty, a fine paid to the state in the amount of any improper expenditure.

Shortly after the trip, Perry said there had been "real, progressive conversation" on school finance during the trip.

Sounds shady to me. We'll see what happens.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:23 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Weddings for Marriage Equality Report

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Just a brief update from the Weddings for Marriage Equality event. It went better than I ever would have imagined. I will link to some pictures once they start coming in.

We ended up counting 200 in attendance, 50 couples get committed (so 100 people) and about 125 people max at any one time. All 70 buttons were handed out and we may very well make a second run of them to get to people that were interested. We had exactly 24 chiars for the crows to sit in and we thought in the beginning it might now be enough. I am glad we were wrong.

The following list is my best compilation for media at the event. KLRU got footage for a larger story they are compiling about the national movement. FOX 7 may air theirs tonight so check at 5 and 9 if those are their broadcast times, I'm not positive.

KLRU, KTBC (fox 7), Daily Texan, Cactus yearbook, KVR-TV (ut cable), Texas Triangle, Texas News Watch, independent film maker, independent student photographers, students writing for class projects.

Not a single protestor was there, not a single one that brought anything visible.

So if you can make it tonight, 7-9 p.m. the BIG DEBATE in Bass Lecture Hall, the basement of Sid Richardson Hall over in the LBJ complex on campus.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 02:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Weddings for Marriage Equality

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Following this week's discussion about gay issues with the University Democrats, YCT debate, I wanted to let you know about the two big events happening today, Thursday, here on the UT campus. I have been working for over a month coordinating these events as the GLBT Ally Affairs Agency Co-Director of Student Government. It seems that I may be headed for re-appointment and approval, or at least I hope, as I have been serving for only about a month now.

Here is the official press release for both events. I hope you can make them!

UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS-AUSTIN GLBT ALLY AFFAIRS AGENCY ANNOUNCES ‘DEMONSTRATE AND DEBATE’ DAY FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY ISSUES (UT-Austin) The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Ally Affairs Agency (GLBTAAA) of the Student Government of the University of Texas at Austin is sponsoring a day of discussion on the issue of same-sex marriage equality this Thursday, April 22, 2004. GLBTAAA will hold two events, a debate and a demonstration, on the UT campus in order to further the discussion and education of the public in light of national current events on the issue. The Lesbian Gay Rights Lobby of Texas (LGRL) and the recently formed Austin Coalition for Marriage Equality (ACME) are lending their support to the events.

From 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on the Main Mall just south of the UT Tower, GLBTAAA will hold a Weddings for Marriage Equality demonstration. GLBT allies and supporters of all sexual orientations and relationship statuses will join in non-legally binding ceremonies where they will be ‘committed’ to the cause of equality. Each will receive buttons saying “Just Married…someday” and licenses ‘affirming their conviction that no couple should be denied the right to marry and, by participating in these Weddings for Marriage Equality, demonstrate their commitment to equality.’

Rev. Jim Rigby, minister of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Austin, TX, will speak on behalf of equal rights under the law from a religious viewpoint, in addition to performing ‘commitment’ ceremonies for couples throughout the event. Karl-T., Co-Director of the GLBTAAA, will also speak in support of marriage equality in relation to the 1000+ federal rights and protections denied to same-sex partners but granted to married heterosexual couples.

“This not about gaining ‘special rights.’ This is about realizing equal rights, civil rights, and human rights,” Musselman said. “Marriage equality is not a public threat of any kind. It is, in fact, the current lack of equality under the law that is the true threat. Acceptance of inequality is a threat to the traditional American value of governmental protection of all citizens’ rights, even when such rights may not be in favor with all of its citizens.”

Later that evening, the GLBTAAA, Rainbow Summit, University Democrats, and College Republicans are sponsoring a debate entitled, “Marriage Equality: Will It Benefit Our Families, Our Communities and Our Nation?" It will be held on campus from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the Bass Lecture Hall, in the Sid Richardson Hall basement, adjacent to the LBJ Presidential Library (Red River between Manor Rd. and Dean Keeton). Arguing for marriage equality will be Ron Schlittler, National Director of Field and Policy for PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Arguing against will be Joshua Baker, Policy Director for the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.

“As the Marriage Equality debate swirls in the epicenter of various political, religious and cultural arenas, each side has mounted passionate arguments and initiatives. Thursday night’s debaters will cut through the rhetorical clutter and provide cogent and enlightening food for thought in a lively debate that is sure to be memorable,” said Marti Bier, PFLAG Associate Field & Policy Coordinator.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 12:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 21, 2004

Debunking the Myths

By Byron LaMasters

I was a little shocked that YCT's most significant argument, which they laid out in our gay marriage debate last night, was that the gay behavior is unhealthy, and that the government should not promote unhealthy behavior. I was expecting the typical conservative argument against gay marriage. I thought that they would use arguments based on the Judeo-Christian tradition, the fact that gay and lesbian couples are biologically unable to produce children, the slippery slope argument that gay marriage would lead to bestiality marriage, pedophilia marriage and group marriage. While several of these arguments were mentioned, the main thrust of the YCT argument was based on the flawed research of Paul Cameron and his Omega study which I was previously unfamiliar with. Well, a little bit of research later, I am. And his research is flawed beyond belief.

YCT cited the research of Paul Cameron during the early 1980s that concluded that the life expectancy of a homosexual in America is around 40 years old (among AIDS victims and those who did not have HIV). The study was conducted by studying obituaries in prominent gay papers in major American urban centers in the early 1980s when the AIDS epidemic had just begun.

Here are some of the results that the Cameron study came up with:

Distortions and sloppy methods continue to shape Cameron's studies. As anyone who has taken a statistics class knows, a survey is valid only if the sample it uses is representative of the whole population. Sex surveys pose a particular problem, since many people who normally would be included in a representative sample are loath to discuss their private lives. That, however, hasn't deterred Cameron from his work.

Consider, for instance, his 1983 ISIS study, a survey of the sexual and social behavior of 4,340 adults in five American cities. Although thousands of heterosexuals allegedly responded to his survey, Cameron could get only forty-one gay men and twenty-four lesbians to respond. The extremely small sample size should have invalidated any conclusions about the sexual behavior of the gay population. In any case, the skewed results of the survey show that Cameron did not get an adequate random sample of heterosexuals either. He claims to have found that 52 percent of male heterosexuals have shoplifted; that 34 percent have committed a crime without being caught; and that 12 percent have either committed or attempted to commit murder. Most people would toss out such a survey, but Cameron published the results in several pamphlets and in "Effect of Homosexuality upon Public Health and Social Order," an article in Psychological Reports.

In one pamphlet, Murder Violence and Homosexuality, Cameron asserts that you are fifteen times more apt to be killed by a homosexual than by a heterosexual during a sexual murder spree; that homosexuals have committed the most sexual conspiracy murders; and that half of all sex murderers are homosexuals. Cameron based these conclusions on a sample of thirty-four serial killers he selected from the years 1966 to 1983. He stacked the deck not only by including phony figures (he counts in his sample the claims of Henry Lee Lucas, who subsequently recanted his boast that he murdered hundreds of people) but by examining only those serial killers with an apparent sexual motive. This allowed him to include John Wayne Gacy and his victims but to exclude the great majority of serial killers who are heterosexual, according to sociologist Jack Levin, the author of Mass Murder: America's Growing Menace.

In Cameron's writings on child molestation-the pamphlet Child Molestation and Homosexuality and two published articles, "Homosexual Molestation of Children/Sexual Interaction of Teacher and Pupil" and "Child Molestation and Homosexuality -he concludes that gays have perpetrated between one-third and one-half of all child molestations; that homosexual teachers have committed between onequarter and four-fifths of all molestations of pupils; and that gays are ten to twenty times more apt to molest children than are heterosexuals. These figures are said to be based on the content of other child molestation studies, yet Cameron has distorted those studies to get the results he wants. For example, he defines all adult male molestation of male children as molestations committed by homosexuals, a definition rejected by the very experts Cameron cites. Groth, among other experts, has explicitly said that most molesters of boys are in fact men who are heterosexual in their adult relationships. These men are attracted to boys, he says, largely because of the feminine characteristics of prepubescents, such as a lack of body hair.

Cameron also has provided anti-gay organizations with research indicating absurdly high rates of extreme sex practices and venereal diseases among gays and lesbians. In his pamphlets on these subjects, Cameron has claimed, for instance, that 29 percent of gay men practice "urine sex" and that 37 percent of gay men have sadomasochistic sex. Gay men, he says, are fourteen times more apt to have syphilis than heterosexual men and are three times more apt to have had lice. Lesbians are said to be nineteen times more apt to have syphilis than straight women and are four times more apt to have had scabies. Cameron's findings, however, are based on two sources: his discredited 1983 ISIS survey and other studies that ignore random sampling techniques. Several studies Cameron cites to support his conclusions rely on the responses of gay men who were recruited entirely from V.D. clinics.

A Cameron study that has received perhaps the most attention is "The Lifespan of Homosexuals." It concludes that less than 2 percent of gay men survive to old age; that lesbians have a median age of death of 45; that gays are 116 times more apt to be murdered than straight men and twenty-four times more apt to commit suicide, etc. The source of this material? A comparison of obituaries front gay newspapers with a sample from regular newspapers -a method that would be laughed at by any reputable scholar. Obituaries in gay papers do not accurately portray deaths in the gay population as a whole. They are not meant to provide a public record of deaths of all gays but to allow members of the urban gay community to express mourning for their peers, particularly those whose lives have been cut short by illness or accident. Gays who die outside these communities or who die of natural causes are much less likely to be written tip in a gay paper.

Paul Cameron clearly had an agenda with his research, and as this 1994 New Republic article clearly states, Cameron used distortions and sloppy research methods to attain his intended results. In fact, Cameron's research has been rejected by experts with the conservative American Enterprise Institute and the Centers for Disease Control. Slate reports:

Cameron's method had the virtue of simplicity, at least. He and two co-authors read through back numbers of various urban gay community papers, mostly of the giveaway sort that are laden with bar ads and personals. They counted up obituaries and news stories about deaths, noted the ages of the deceased, computed the average, and published the resulting numbers as estimates of gay life expectancy.

What do vital-statistics buffs think of this technique? Nick Eberstadt at the American Enterprise Institute sums up the reactions of several of his fellow demographers: "The method as you describe it is just ridiculous." But you don't have to be a trained statistician to spot the fallacy at its heart, which is, to quote Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistician John Karon, that "you're only getting the ages of those who die." Gay men of the same generation destined to live to old age, even if more numerous, won't turn up in the sample.

Other critics rattle off further objections. The deaths reported in these papers, mostly AIDS deaths, will tend to represent the community defined by such papers or directly known to their editors. It will include relatively more subjects who live in town and are overtly gay and relatively few who blend into the suburbs and seldom set foot in bars. It will overrepresent those whose passing strikes others as newsworthy and underrepresent those who end their days in retired obscurity in some sunny clime.

I'm not even to go into the reaction that Paul Cameron's research has gotten from the left. His research is outrageous and it gives anti-gay bigots fuel to discriminate against gays and lesbians. But the bigger question is who is Paul Cameron? He's a an anti-gay zealot who has called for the quarantine and execution of homosexuals. Again, The New Republic:

So who is Paul Cameron? Not the dispassionate, respected analyst that these boosters would have you believe. Cameron is chairman of the Family Research Institute (FRI), an arch-right Washington think tank that counts neanderthal GOP Representative Robert Dornan of California among its national advisory board members. Cameron himself is also a demonizer of gays: several times he has proposed the tattooing and quarantining of AIDS patients and the extermination of male homosexuals. Most important, he is the architect of unreliable "surveys" that purport to show strains of violence and depravity in gay life.

Until 1980 Cameron was an instructor of psychology at the University of Nebraska. When his teaching contract was not renewed, he devoted himself fulltime to a think tank he founded called the Institute for the Scientific Investigation of Sexuality (ISIS), where he touted himself as an expert on sexuality, particularly on the societal consequences of homosexuality. During the 1980s he published hysterical pamphlets alleging that gays were disproportionately responsible for serial killings, child molestation and other heinous crimes.

Shortly after Cameron made these claims, several psychologists whose work he had referenced- including Dr. A. Nicholas Groth, director of the Sex Offender Program at the Connecticut Department of Corrections charged Cameron with distorting their findings in order to promote his anti-gay agenda. When the American Psychological Association (APA) investigated Cameron, it found that he not only misrepresented the work of others but also used unsound methods in his own studies. For this ethical breach, the APA expelled Cameron in December 1983. (Although Cameron claims he resigned, APA bylaws prohibit members from resigning while under investigation.)

In 1987 Cameron moved to Washington and created FRI, a "non-profit educational and scientific corporation." Ever since, he has been a virtual one-man propaganda press, periodically revising his brochures and distributing them to policyrnakers. "Published scientific material has a profound impact on society," he has said.

I should note that there are a few corrections at the bottom of the page, but nothing that fundamentally alters my points.

Anyway, if the Young Conservatives of Texas want to stand with Paul Cameron, they're welcome to. He's a one-way ticket to losing all creditability in the context of an honest debate. He's an unrepentant bigot and hatemonger who spent government money in some cases to further his own political agenda. I wish I had this information yesterday so I could have confronted YCT on Cameron's past personally, but my post here ought to suffice.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:32 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Perry Pushes for Vouchers

By Andrew Dobbs

Sometimes I wonder if I'm walking in a nightmare that I am unable to awake from. From a president who lies about the grounds for war and then kicks up a shitstorm that leads to the deaths of nearly 700 American soldiers to a Speaker of the State House spending illegal money virtually in the open to a gerrymandered congressional map that suggests that I have something in common with somone living in a colonia 250 miles away it just seems absurd that this is indeed reality. Add to that list the fact that Rick Perry has suggested he'd like to see a voucher plan today:

Perry also indicated he would like to see a school voucher plan emerge from the special session.

"I'd like to have seen it four sessions ago," Perry said. "I don't have a problem with that, never have."

Lawmakers have not explicitly said a voucher bill is in the works, but voucher opponents — who contend vouchers would take money away from public schools and divert it to private schools — have warned such legislation could be in the offing.

Perry previously has said he favors a voucher pilot program. On Wednesday, he called it a "public school choice" pilot program, but didn't elaborate on how it would work.

I never have been able to wrap my head around how taking money out of failing public schools will improve their performance. It is kinda like whenever you see a parent slapping their toddler to keep them from crying- seems to kind of exacerbate the very problem you are trying to fix. Now I know what my right-wing brothers and sisters would say: "more money doesn't mean a better education." Funny, you never hear them use that same logic- more money doesn't mean better- when it comes to military or prison spending.

The fact of the matter is that millions of school children in this state are studying under incompetent teachers because the only people drawn to a profession with substandard pay and abysmal benefits are people who either just have a charitable heart (the majority of teachers, in my opinion) or who can't do anything else. When we have crumbling facilities and lacking resources the former get burned out and the latter end up ruining kids education. Paying better salaries to attract better candidates for the job and investing in the necessary facilities and resources will improve education. Vouchers strike a death blow to these efforts.

The plan has little to no chance of passing- a minimum of 50 Dems and about 30 Repugs are opposed to vouchers. Still, with the right kind of pressure or the wrong kind of election outcomes in November we could be looking at the end of public education as we know it in Texas in just a few years. It might sound a little outlandish, but thats how things in nightmares appear usually. I just hope the voters here in Texas wake up before they are taken advantage of again.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 05:16 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Kerry. Houston. Earth Day.

By Jim Dallas

Unfortunately, that's about all the information I have about Kerry's visit tomorrow.

UPDATE: The unofficial page is saying U of H, 11 a.m.

Unfortunately, I already committed to being a substitute librarian tomorrow morning.

Although I will try to show up at the meet-up, if I can just figure out where it's supposed to be held 'round these parts...

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

How well funded will our Schools be?

By Byron LaMasters

Well, under Rick Perry's plan, our school funding will be directly tied to people like Vanity, Destiny and Rio. That's how the New York Times puts it:

How much money Texas spends to teach children reading, writing and arithmetic may soon depend in part on how successful women like Vanity, Destiny and Rio of the Yellow Rose, a topless bar in this state capital, are in attracting customers.

Gov. Rick Perry called the Legislature into special session Tuesday to change the way public education is financed in Texas. He wants to give billions of dollars in property tax reductions to the most affluent homeowners while making up part of the revenue loss through a vast expansion of legal gambling, increasing cigarette taxes by $1 a pack, raising taxes on alcoholic drinks and collecting a tax of at least $5 each time a patron enters a topless bar.

The governor's plan faces an uncertain future, but it seems likely that Texas will adopt at least some of his "sin tax" proposals. Mr. Perry is a Republican, and Republicans have comfortable majorities in both houses of the Legislature.


A tax on admission to topless bars is just fine with two of the three dancers at the Yellow Rose, which is in a brightly painted cinder block building in a neighborhood marked by derelict automobiles and failed retail stores. The dancers would give only first names.

Vanity, 26, who said she expected to start a new job as a United States marshal within days, said she was "all for more school funding."

Destiny, 23, a mother of two, said that an admission tax would not reduce demand for her services because "men are men."

But an older dancer saw it differently. Rio, 32, a mother and homeowner who said she had a bachelor's degree in art, said she was appalled by the governor's proposal. She characterized it as immoral because it linked "adult entertainment" with school children and because she saw it as a tax increase on the women like herself, who she said lack political influence.

"This is the lowest thing they could do," Rio said. "The governor wants to give the owners of the biggest houses a tax break and he wants women who have to take their clothes off for money to pay for it."

I'm still not sure how I feel about all this. "Sin taxes" are usually the easiest taxes for politicians to propose because the people taxed by them are usually unorganized and most people don't have too much of a problem with taxes on what is often unhealthy behavior. On the other hand, "sin taxes" disproportionately effect low income people and families, and give further breaks to people at the top (with the proposal to lower property taxes). In essence, it's a regressive tax proposal which I am generally inclined to categorically oppose. Parts of the proposal such as allowing for people to use credit cards to gamble are just asinine, but I don't have much of a problem with the $1 per pack cigarette tax (but then again, I don't smoke either). I guess there is one thing to look forward to if all of this passes. I can just see strip clubs running ads urging people to come see Vanity, Destiny and Rio to help the kids! At the very least, it'll be good for a quick laugh.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:38 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Byron in the News...

By Byron LaMasters

I'm famous.. or something like that. The Daily Texan ran a front page story on our gay marriage debate today:

The argument over gay marriage came to campus Tuesday in a self-moderated debate between the University Democrats and the Young Conservatives of Texas.


"Gay marriage is harmful to society," said Aaron Gibson, government junior and YCT member. "Statistics prove that homosexuals have shorter life spans, and that they have more disease, and as a society, we shouldn't continue to condone that kind of behavior and especially institutionalize it in something like marriage ... the country doesn't support it."

Alison Puente, government sophomore and member of the University Democrats, said even though the national trend does not favor gay marriage rights, it is only a matter of time.

"The definition of marriage has adapted over time," Puente said. "We've gone from allowing women to be equal partners in the marriage to allowing inter-racial marriage. Allowing gays to marry is another natural progression in the evolution of the definition of marriage."

Gay marriage has been at the front lines of the political battlefield since last year when same-sex marriages were legalized in Massachusetts.

Byron LaMasters, government senior and University Democrats member, said gay marriage was simply asking for equal legal rights for gay and lesbian couples under the rule of law and that it should not be a religious issue.

"The government should not categorically deny the benefits and rights of marriage to an entire class of people," LaMasters said.

In a more conciliatory tone, one YCT member said that although marriage should be limited to heterosexual couples, there should be some provision for all citizens to have access to the rights of marriage, independent of sexual orientation.

"Personally, I'm against [gay marriage], but I'm all for civil unions," said Michael Endres, economics freshman.

Endres said it was important to make legal routes for people in love to have access to their rights as citizens.

Both groups did agree that there was no forthcoming solution and that the dialogue was a positive, necessary exercise.

"It's really an opportunity for people to hear two very different perspectives on the issue of gay marriage," said Dean of Students Teresa Graham Brett.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 20, 2004

A First for Me

By Byron LaMasters

I frequently donate to political candidates. I've given money to Howard Dean, John Kerry, (Texas Senate candidate) Paul Sadler, (US Congress candidate) Ron Chapman, (U.S. Senate candidate) Ron Kirk, (State Rep.) Eddie Rodriguez among others. I usually donate $10-$25. I consider myself a party activist who will donate to candidates that I believe in from time to time. However, I've never given money to an out of state candidate (I exclude presidential candidates as they're on the ballot in Texas) - until today.

Today, I donated $10 to Barack Obama - the Democratic nominee for the open U.S. Senate seat in Illinois. No, he's not running BlogAds on BOR, nor is he someone that I'll have the chance to vote for. Just listen to his campaign video (and campaign ads), and tell me that you're not inspired. I've spent the last hour or so listening to his ads and videos and I'm just inspired (yeah, I'm a dork). John Kerry would be smart to give this guy a prominent speaking role at the Democratic convention this summer. I endorsed Barack Obama before the Democratic primary in Illinois because he's just amazing. You can read my endorsement here, or check out his website here. God, I hope he wins. He'll be a national Democratic Party star overnight. He's almost too good to be true.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:26 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Gay Marriage Debate

By Byron LaMasters

Tonight the University Democrats debated the Young Conservatives of Texas on the issue of gay marriage equality. The University Democrats spoke in favor of gay marriage and the Young Conservatives of Texas spoke against. I was one of the three debate participants for the University Democrats. Since the other two members of the team had debated in high school, they gave me the easy job - the opening statement. We won the coin toss, so I basically read my statement. I'll post more on my thoughts on the debate later, but here's my prepared remarks for the opening statement:

On February 11th President George W. Bush launched an attack on an entire class of American citizens with his call for the Federal Marriage Amendment. This amendment would write into our constitution a clause that would state that only a marriage between a man and a woman is legally valid in America. The other side frequently speaks of “defending the institution of marriage” in its rationale for supporting this amendment to our constitution. The fact of the matter is that the Federal Marriage Amendment would do nothing to “defend the institution of marriage”. In their press release publicizing this debate, the Young Conservatives of Texas Aaron Gibson stated that “If the United States fails to define the institution of marriage as between a man and a woman it opens the door to future court challenges to the definition of marriage. If the country doesn’t act, marriage could be unrecognizable in 50 years or less”. Their argument is the same argument that was made against interracial marriage a generation ago, and against coverture, where a woman was literally considered property of her husband in past centuries. Our founders may not have imagined marriage as we know it today, but in their infinite wisdom, they created a timeless document, our constitution to allow for our nation to adapt to changing times. The institution of marriage has constantly evolved in America to become more inclusive, and give greater equality to both individuals in a marriage. Our constitutional democratic system is based on laws that reflect our beliefs and marriage laws are no exception.

Marriage has changed dramatically in just the past century. In addition to coverture and interracial marriage, marriage has withstood changes such as the widespread usage of birth control and the still increasing numbers of women in the workplace. Marriage has withstood the test of time and it will continue to. In fact, of all threats to the institution of marriage, gays and lesbians are about as far down the list as it gets. Does anyone know of any married couples who got divorced because of gays and lesbians receiving greater civil rights? I didn’t think so. Many of the gay and lesbian couples married in San Francisco last month waited in line to get married longer than Britney Spears marriage lasted. Britney Spears is a much greater threat to the institution of marriage than any of the married homosexual couples in San Francisco. If the conservatives in this country were really serious about promoting the institution of marriage, then they would do something constructive to make married life better for working families such as helping families attain health care coverage or helping Americans find good paying jobs to lessen the burden for ordinary families in America. Instead, conservatives are more interested in singling out and marginalizing an entire class of law abiding American citizens.

In fact supporting gay marriage equality is fundamentally a conservative and pro-family position. Gay marriage won’t abolish the family as we know it. In fact, it will strengthen it. Gays and lesbians are often attacked by conservatives as sexually promiscuous, but when gays and lesbians ask to be included in an institution that promotes monogamy, the conservatives say they can’t have it.

Gay marriage is good for children. Millions of children in America are growing up in gay and lesbian homes. Many are biological children of one partner, and many are adopted. However, in many places only one parent is allowed custody rights. Today, in many places should the parent with custody rights die, then the child could be sent to an orphanage instead of being able to live with the parent they spent their life growing up with.

Full civil marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples is the only solution to the injustice of the current discrimination against gay and lesbian couples in marriage. Marriage is both a religious and legal institution. Gay and lesbian couples are not asking the government to require any religion to support gay marriage equality. Rather, gay and lesbian couples demand the same legal rights and benefits of marriage that are often taken for granted by everyone else.

Here’s just a few of the benefits of marriage as defined by the Human Rights

“Married couples have the automatic right to visit each other in the hospital and make medical decisions. Same-sex couples can be denied the right to visit a sick or injured loved one in the hospital. Married people receive Social Security payments upon the death of a spouse. Despite paying payroll taxes, gay and lesbian workers receive no Social Security survivor benefits. A married person automatically inherits all the property of his or her deceased spouse without paying estate taxes. A gay or lesbian taxpayer is forced to pay estate taxes on property inherited from a deceased partner. While a married person can roll a deceased spouse’s 401(k) funds into an IRA without paying taxes, a gay or lesbian American who inherits a 401(k) can end up paying up to 70 percent of it in taxes and penalties. Married workers are legally entitled to unpaid leave from their jobs to care for an ill spouse. Gay and lesbian workers are not entitled to family leave to care for their partners. Bi-national families are commonly broken up or forced to leave the country to stay together. The reason: U.S. immigration law does not permit American citizens to petition for their same-sex partners to immigrate. Married couples have a legal right to live together in nursing homes. Because they are not legal spouses, elderly gay or lesbian couples do not have the right to spend their last days living together in nursing homes. Laws protect married seniors from being forced to sell their homes to pay high nursing home bills; gay and lesbian seniors have no such protection. After the death of a worker, most pension plans pay survivor benefits only to a legal spouse of the participant. Gay and lesbian partners are excluded from such pension benefits.”

Some argue that Civil Unions are a fair compromise. We disagree. While Civil
Unions may be a step in the right direction towards marriage equality for gays and lesbians, it is a policy the codifies the principle of “separate and
unequal”. Civil Unions are marriage lite and do not give gay and lesbian couples the same equal legal rights awarded to heterosexuals. A Civil Union performed in one state has no legal recognition in another, whereas marriage is
recognized across state lines. Civil Unions recognized by a state could give gay and lesbian couples the same local and state-level benefits and protections of marriage, but they give gays and lesbians none of the over 1000 federal benefits and protections of marriage. Civil Unions are not marriage and we should not settle for anything less!

The institution is more at risk from restricting gay and lesbian couples from marrying than from allowing them to do so. The definition of marriage must be allowed to adapt to society’s needs less it become obsolete. Anyone dedicated to the preservation of limited liberties and freedoms through limited government cannot abide by an attempt to restrict an individual’s right to marry by the federal government. Gay marriage is good for families, gay marriage provides stability for children, and providing gay marriage is essential to ensuring the provision of equal rights to every American citizen. To protect the institution of marriage the conservatives should instead come forward with programs such as federal childcare, universal health insurance, and help reduce the economic strain placed on many families today in order to truly help the married American family today. Gay marriage is the only solution to this injustice and important civil rights issue of our generation.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:58 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Burnt Orange Report From the Floor

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I am here again on the floor of the first Student Government meeting with another additinon of Burnt Orange Report from the floor which will become a regular feature here on BOR each Tuesday evening during the spring and fall semesters.

Major points so far... and forgive my spelling mistakes as I am sure there will be some until I am finished.

Approved to fill President Brent Cheney's 2 year at large seat is Chris Kennedy, 3rd year student, who has haunted the Student Government forums and meetings for quite some time now. Kudos to him though I'm sure Andrew may have his own thoughts. Well, I know he has his own thoughts but I'm not going to be the one to say them.

Approved to fill the office of Executive Director is Amy Chiou (3rd year government, president of liberal arts council last year, Orange Jackets). During debate 3 spoke in favor, one against.

Approved to be Internal Finance Director is Jessica Rice, Junior, Plan II Government Major, involved with orange jackets and Student Government in some way

Approved to be Attorney General, Amber .... 3rd year Government major, FLO, Student Government Junkie. Wants to make office les reactive, not worry about attendance as much because she 'knows that each and every one of us will be here each Tuesday night."

Approved to be External Finance Director is Dan Pascal, 2nd year Government Major. Wants to improve communication with outside sources, plans on attending West campus zoning meetings, strengthen external fundraising, improve alumni relations to improve fundraising, date auction with SG President Brent Cheney as an outside the box fundraising idea in response to question from the floor.

Approved to be Secretary is Andrew Laddum, first year government major. Wants to make sure that minutes are continued online, mentioned something about social community. I'm listening to him right now and just hope he is more organized that he sounds simply because of the bill passed last week which will require Agency Directors and others to submit reports to the Secretary for posting online.

Approved to be Legislative Relations Agency Director is Ravad Bajaria who has worked within the agency for the past year. I'm guessing this is just an internal promotion. Fine by me.

Approved to be Freshman Leadership Organization Director is CJ Gin. He wants to start getting mentor program started sooner to improve student government's image across campus, publicise FLO at mooove in during the summer, increase membership. Of course, just as a personal note since FLO has been very powerful of late in making One Party wins in SG, I think that the assembly is going to approve anyone who increases FLO membership as it generally helps keep those more closly tied to SG in power. Does that mean me too now?

Dress Code: Business Causual quote-"no jeans, no t-shirts, no tennis shoes"
What Karl is Wearing: jeans, t-shirt, tennis shoes

Like that is going to stop me! BOR readers should know that I am not one to dress up unless I absolutly have to.

Representative Privledge (talking time) is really long tonight. Kinda like this entry is getting.

Rep. Laura Gladney-Lemon, uber SG sctivist gave an incredibly emotional speech at the end of the forum because this morning she had someone moooo at her, due to her weight. She has been working all semester she told the assembly, on putting together a proposal that relates to attempting to get UT to imput a weight-hight ratio into it's non-discrimination policy.

8:45 We finally move into new business.

AR 1: Resolution in Opposition to UT's Los Alamos big has been tabled until next week at the request of the sponsor.

AR 2: Resolution to Support Pay Equity (for women) was proposed to be amended, watering it down to a more simple resolution of recognition of April 20 as National Pay Equity Day due to the lack of knowledge of the status if pay equity at UT. There is argument of the day on which to honor the day, even though the day is dependent on how long women would have to work into 2004 in order to reach the total earnings of an average man in 2003.

The resolution was abruptly brought to a vote to table in mid discussion. The bill was tabled 29-9. A motion to reconsider was denied as it was out of order as other business was still pending. It was made known that it would be possible if the rules were voted to be suspended and then a motion to reconsider was passed.

AB 1: Altering Internal Rules to Post Attendance and Voting Records Online

All SG Representatives will likely become sponsors to this bill so it should sail through next week. Finally.

We return to a back and forth debate on how can suspend rules for bringing back AR 2. Motions flying in more directions than can be counted. And I'm not going to try. There seems to be a Parlimentary Battle going on.

That is all from your Burnt Orange Report From the Floor.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 07:26 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Sessions Steps in It Again

By Andrew Dobbs

Not too long ago I ran into Byron on campus and we put off studying for tests to do what we always do when we are hanging out- talked politics. The discussion came around to the Frost-Sessions matchup in North Dallas and Byron made the very wise remark that while it is close, Sessions will probably win unless he screws up somehow, which is very likely. This is a guy whose Dad, the director of the FBI, couldn't get him into even a third tier law school and who was middle management at Southwestern Bell before going to congress. He's an idiot and so we suspected that he'd end up screwing up somehow, giving Frost a real shot at staying in Congress.

Byron, it seems, was probably right. After first benefitting from the services of a white supremacist group, one that had been condemned by other candidates it sought to shill for in the past, he is now in trouble for his questionable congressional mail pieces. Via Atrios from the Frost Camp:

Politician in trouble uses taxpayer funds to promote controversial
Washington lobbyist and partisan hatchet man
'Bipartisanship is another name for date rape,' [Grover Norquist, Pete
Sessions friend and supporter]

DALLAS, TX- After refusing to denounce the widely discredited hate ads sponsored by a white supremacist group polluting North Texas airwaves in an effort to bolster his troubled campaign, Pete Sessions has again used questionable tactics to mislead voters and save his political hide. This time, Sessions has used an expensive taxpayer-funded mailing to promote a Washington DC special interest lobbyist who has become famous for his ruthless partisanship, his ideological extremism and his controversial and insensitive remarks.

The slick six-page colored mailing from Pete Sessions recently hit North Texas mailboxes. At first glance it looks like any other political advertising. However, at closer inspection this campaign style advertisement is actually a taxpayer funded mailing sent under the cover of Pete Sessions' Congressional office. That type mailing could typically cost as much as $50,000 in taxpayer money. Even worse, the mailing prominently shows a picture of controversial Washington lobbyist Grover Norquist posing with Pete Sessions.

Grover Norquist is best known for trivializing the heinous crime of rape and for comparing the Holocaust with taxes.

* "'We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals - and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship,' said Grover Norquist, a leading Republican strategist, who heads a group called Americans for Tax Reform. 'Bipartisanship is another name for date rape,' Norquist, a onetime adviser to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said..." [Denver Post May, 26 2003]

* "[George H.W.] Bush raised taxes, increased spending more than even Jimmy Carter, added 20,000 new regulators to the public payroll, and cut secret deals with House speaker Tom Foley and Senate majority leader George Mitchell -- whom he called his "friends" after each date-rape." [Grover Norquist, The American Spectator, February 1993]

* "Norquist compared the estate tax to the Holocaust. This remark, so bizarre and tasteless that I felt it deserved checking, sent me to the transcript of the show, where, sure enough, it was confirmed. [Richard Cohen, Washington Post January 6, 2004]

"I am very concerned about the insensitive manner in which Pete Sessions chooses to define himself. First Pete Sessions refuses to denounce a white supremacist funded outside group running inaccurate and inflammatory ads on his behalf. Now he is wasting taxpayer dollars mugging for the camera with a man who routinely trivializes abuse towards women and belittles the Holocaust," said Marc Stanley, Congressman Frost's campaign chair and local Jewish leader. "Pete Sessions has a serious character problem and owes the taxpayers of the 32nd Congressional district an apology and a refund."

Sally Garcia, a local Womens' advocate added, "The fact that Sessions would proudly appear with a guy who said, 'Bipartisanship is another name for date rape' just confirms in my mind that Pete either doesn't understand violent crime against women and may not care. Clearly he doesn't understand that trivializing rape is offensive and inexcusable to most women."

Now, is Grover Norquist a neo-Nazi? Almost assuredly not. But the fact of the matter is that by first tying Sessions to a white supremacist group and now to a guy who belittles the Holocaust and date rape, Frost is able to make Sessions look like an extremist. Frost is aggravating the charge by offering a "Clean Campaign Pledge" that will ask outside groups to refrain from advertising in the race. Sessions mentioned the idea first in an article in the Dallas Morning News, but has yet to sign the pledge. The actions are helping to paint Sessions as an ultra-partisan hack.

Its a good strategy for this district. While it is slightly more Republican than Democrat it also has a pretty strong independent streak- this is fiercely independent Dallas Mayor Laura Miller's base of support and has Democratic bases in Oak Cliff and a large Jewish population. It is also about 50% minority with large Asian and Middle Eastern immigrant bases. Making Sessions out to be a hard right yes man to the party will help Frost look like an independent voice of moderation and he could end up winning this area. Its a great plan and let's hope that it ends up working out.

Finally, there is some question as to whether or not Sessions ought to be sending out campaign-like literature on the tax payer dime at this time. It seems to be a pretty shady dealing and one that will help enhance Frost's identity as the honest man of the people versus the sketchy servant to the special interests. The more Sessions tries to win this race the easy way, the more Frost ends up looking like a winner. Let's help get him there by donating to Frost's campaign. Texas deserves representation from men like Frost.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 05:11 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Hypocrisy Anyone?

By Byron LaMasters

I don't write always write about the candidates running BlogAds on my site, but this race merits special mention. At first glance, it looks a bit obscure. Why is Robbyn Tumey, a Democratic candidate for state representative in Arkansas running BlogAds?

Well, she has an interesting opponent: Timothy C. Hutchinson. Does the name ring a bell? It did for me. He's the 30 year old son of former Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-AR), who was defeated by Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) in 2002. So here's another son of another Republican politician trying to work his way into politics. No big deal, right?

Wrong. Timothy C. Hutchinson has a little bit of a past. Sure, everyone makes mistakes when they're young. I know I have. But Timothy C. Hutchinson didn't just make a mistake. He was responsible for the deaths of two Texans in a car accident in 1996. Here's what the New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote on March 16, 1997:

The son of a U.S. senator was fined $50 for his role in a car accident that left a Texas couple dead.

Timothy Chad Hutchinson, the 22-year-old son of Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark., pleaded no contest to driving left of the center line and operating a car whose tire tread had worn thin. He also was ordered to pay $100 in court costs Tuesday.

Hutchinson's car crossed a highway during a storm Oct. 31 and hit a car carrying a family to a funeral. A tractor-trailer then hit the two cars.

Jack Clinton Watlington, 69, and Reba Beavers Watlington, 66, of Center, Texas, were killed. Their son was injured.

So lets see here. This guy is responsible for the deaths of two people and he gets off with a slap on the wrist. Now he's running for the Arkansas legislature as a "law and order" candidate. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette wrote on the race on February 21, 2004:

Timothy Hutchinson, a former deputy prosecutor in Sebastian and Benton counties, said he's a "law and order" candidate.

I'm not sure about the partisan flavor of the district, but the Democrat running in the race is Robbyn Tumey, so if you are so inclined, drop her a few bucks.

There's more on the story over at Arkansas Tonight.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:06 PM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Supreme Court Upholds Texas Redistricting

By Byron LaMasters

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Texas Senate Democrats arguement that the redistricting violated the rights of eleven Democratic Senators because Lt. Governor David Dewhurst failed to abide by the two-thirds rule (where two-thirds of the senators must agree to bring a bill to a vote). The Houston Chronicle reports:

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that Texas Senate Democrats' rights were not violated when the Republican leadership pushed through congressional redistricting last year.

The high court refused to hear a three-judge panel decision against Senate Democrats last year when they unsuccessfully sued to halt a redistricting debate.

The Republican-dominated Legislature ultimately passed a redistricting plan that may result in the GOP gaining seven more seats than it held after the 2002 elections. That plan was held legal by a separate three-judge panel and currently is subject to appeal.

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

April 19, 2004

Honduras to Pull Out of Iraq

By Byron LaMasters

A second country in two days has decided to pull their troops out of Iraq. Today it's Honduras. Reuters reports:

In a blow to President Bush and his coalition partners in Iraq, Honduras on Monday followed Spain in announcing it will pull its troops out of the country.

"I have told the coalition countries that the troops are going to return from Iraq," Maduro said in a speech on national television and radio.

"I have ordered... the carrying out of the decision taken in the shortest possible time and under safe conditions for our troops."

Soldiers from Honduras, a strong U.S. ally in Central America, were sent to Iraq last summer as peacekeepers only and have been clearing mines and providing medical care in central Iraq.

They had previously been set to leave when their mandate expires in July.

Honduras said earlier Monday it was considering the withdrawal due to spiraling violence and pressure created by Spain's decision to pull its forces out.

Some on the left will obviously be happy with these developments in Spain and Honduras. I'm not. Our troops are under fire. Our troops are dying. I'm ashamed. I'm ashamed that our country completely failed to put together a worldwide coalition to govern in Iraq. The Bush administration has proved that it is unable to reach out to the world community in a meaningful way. We need a president who can. We need John Kerry.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:18 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

A Call from the Ralph Nader Campaign

By Byron LaMasters

I just received a call from one of Ralph Nader's Texas organizers. Apparently, Nader will be in Austin to give a talk at the law school in the next few weeks. They were contacting "student leaders" to help organize the event. I said no thanks. Should we have another protest?

We'll know in less than a month if Ralph Nader will make the ballot in Texas. Texas requires Independent candidates to receive 65,000 petition signatures (from registered voters who did not vote in either party primary) by May 10th - the first deadline in the nation. The more states Ralph Nader fails to make the ballot the better. Why? If Nader isn't on the ballot in a significant number of the states (especially in big states), the media and the polsters will stop paying attention to him. Nader failed to attract 1000 voters to a rally in Oregon (which would have placed him on the Oregon ballot) several weeks ago when four years ago he attracted 10,000 people at a rally in Oregon. Most of the 2000 Nader voters get it this year. Thank God.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:22 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

University Democrats to Host Town Hall Meeting on School Finance

By Byron LaMasters

This is a busy week for us. Tomorrow (Tuesday) is our gay marriage debate and on Wednesday, we'll host a town hall meeting with Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, State Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) and State Rep. candidate Kelly White.

Here's the press release from Senator Eliot Shapleigh (D-El Paso):

April 19, 2004

Dear Friend:

I invite you to attend the University of Texas-Austin Democrats Town
Hall Meeting on Public School Finance, on April 21, 2004, 8:00 p.m.,
University Teaching Center 4.102, to discuss my 21st Century Texas
Education Excellence Fund. The Governor has called a special session on
school finance, and I want to give all Texans the opportunity to
participate in the dialogue for viable solutions to this very critical
issue facing our state today. Please forward the attached flyer and map
to co-workers, friends and family. Thank you for your interest.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please call
Brie Franco at (512) 463-0129.

Very truly yours,

Senator Eliot Shapleigh

State Senator-District 29

800 Wyoming Ave, Suite A

El Paso, TX 79902

(915) 544-1990


As always, you are encouraged to attend.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:56 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Strayhorn vs. Perry: Special Special Session Edition

By Andrew Dobbs

The upper echelons of Republican "leadership" in Texas has continued its bickering today with a competing series of statements, press conferences and press releases. The day began with Strayhorn sending a letter to Perry, Craddick and Dewhurst tooting her own horn on collecting extra tax receipts but also pointing out that Perry's plan would put Texas $10 billion in the hole.

Governor Perry's proposal- announced 11 days ago- cannot even be financed on its own terms. An analysis prepared by my office indicates that in its first five years alone, the plan would accumulate an unfunded and swelling deficit of more than $10 billion even as it produces zero additional property tax rate cuts beyond the amount promised for the very first year. (Bold in Original)

Perry, of course, could not take such an attack lying down. His office responded:

From Governor's press secretary Kathy Walt, "“Constructive ideas are always welcome, but Comptroller Strayhorn's own consistency and math calculations are questionable. In addition to recommending tougher CHIP and Medicaid eligibility rules herself, the Comptroller's last major revenue estimate was wrong by a factor of 100 percent.”

You would think that these two weren't even in the same party. Fact of the matter is that Strayhorn is Perry's only really effective critic right now. At the same time, it looks like things aren't so rosy between Perry and some of the othe other statewide office holders. The San Antonio Express-News(free registration required) reports:

Early last year, Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick called reporters together to talk up legislation on home insurance.

The event went smoothly until Dewhurst edged past his colleagues and captured the limelight by forecasting a drop of up to 18 percent in insurance rates.

Perry leaned toward Craddick and whispered, "Open mouth, insert foot."

A few weeks later, Dewhurst failed to arrive for a weekly leadership breakfast with Perry, Craddick and Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn. There had already been an expression of discomfort from Dewhurst over Perry's decision to invite Strayhorn to the meetings.

Perry vowed to send out state troopers to "drag his ass in here."

At the time, the asides circulated as evidence of the unsettled relationship between the leaders and a reminder that even when officials share goals and advantages — such as Republican majorities in the House and Senate — personal relationships can be slippery.

Looks like the first fissures in the GOP governing coalition are forming and Democrats need to be united to take advantage of this. Its okay to have different ideas and different interests, its not okay to work for yourself over the interest of the party as a whole. Its not okay to fight for the other side while keeping a "D" next to your name. We've purged those elements from our party and now we are ready to win. A majority of Texans have a Democrat electing them at some level of government, most of them moderate/conservative types. If we run candidates like these in 2006 and we keep our internacine battles to a minimum we can look forward to a real shot against the Republicans in that cycle.

The X-Factor, as always, is Kay Bailey Hutchison. Whatever she decides to run for, she wins. Another factor is George W. Bush. The GOP domination of Texas has really been a function of his personal popularity as much as anything else. If he is defeated this year and relegated to simple Citizen Bush status, his hold on state politics diminishes. A Kerry win coupled by a KBH retirement and continued GOP bickering could mean victory for Texas Democrats. So keep up the good work, Carole! Its just what we need to reclaim this state.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 03:52 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

University Democrats to Debate Marriage Equality

By Byron LaMasters

I'll be one of the three University Democrats debate participants on Tuesday. I'd encouage anyone here in Austin to attend. I'm really looking forward to it. Here's our press release:

The University Democrats at UT-Austin will debate the Young Conservatives of Texas (UT chapter) on the issue of gay marriage equality on Tuesday, April 20, 2004. The debate will be held on the University of Texas campus in Garrison 1 at 7:00 PM (map here).

The University Democrats support marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples, and strongly oppose the hateful rhetoric of the Bush administration and the proponents of the Federal Marriage Amendment. With the recent proposal of a constitutional amendment and the actions supporting marriage equality in San Francisco and Massachusetts, the University Democrats feel compelled to address this important civil rights issue. One of the University Democrats debate participants, Former UD President Byron LaMasters agrees. “The institution of marriage has constantly evolved in America to become more inclusive, and give greater equality to both individuals in a marriage. A century ago women had few rights in marriage, and in some cases were considered property of their husband. A generation ago, interracial marriage was illegal in many places. Today, we continue the fight for fairness and equality to give gay and lesbian couples the same equal legal rights of civil marriage.”

The University Democrats and the Young Conservatives of Texas have met in the past to debate important issues of the day. Last fall the organizations debated U.S. foreign policy in a well-attended debate. The University Democrats is a student organization at the University of Texas representing student interests within the Democratic Party and working to help elect Democrats at a local, statewide and federal level. We look forward to this debate and other debates in the future on issues of interest to young people.


Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:07 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

April 18, 2004

Mark Strama Campaign Academy

By Byron LaMasters

Never worked on a campaign? Want to get involved in one of the top state representative races in Texas this summer? Mark Strama is running against a freshman Republican incumbent in a north Austin district carried by several Democratic statewide candidates in 2002. He's hosting a campaign academy for students this summer. There will be two sessions (May 31 – July 2 and July 5 – August 6), and the academy will include a variety of activities. There will be typical campaign activities such as blockwalking and phonebanking, but the acadamy will also provide an opportunity to hear some great Democratic speakers such as Garry Mauro, John Sharp, Kirk Watson, Gus Garcia, Dawnna Dukes and more. Anyway, learn more about it, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:24 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Speaking of Spain...

By Byron LaMasters

As Karl-Thomas mentions, Spain will be granting gay marriage soon. They're also pulling their troops out of Iraq within the next two weeks:

Spanish troops in Iraq are expected to come home within the next two weeks after an order to withdraw by Spain's new Prime Minister Jose Rodriguez Zapatero.

Mr Zapatero made it one of his first duties as prime minister, ordering Defence Minister Jose Bono to begin the process of pulling Spain's 1,300 troops out of Iraq as quickly as possible.

In a televised address to the nation, Mr Zapatero said he is fulfilling the wishes of the people and the election pledge he gave a year ago.

Spanish troops are currently engaged alongside US forces in the tense stand-off with supporters of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the holy city of Najaf.

Prime Minister Zapatero says Spain remains committed to supporting the democratisation and reconstruction of Iraq as part of any operation overseen by the United Nations.

Now, I stated previously that I was pleased with the Spanish election results for several reasons. First, the Aznar government lied to the Spanish people in regards to the March 11th terrorist atttacks, and the voters responded. Second, the turnout in Spain was the largest in recent history, and third, I believed that the new Spanish government has the ability to influence the Bush adminstration into accepting broader United Nations control in Iraq. Obviously, it's not good for our troops to have our allies pull out of Iraq and increase our burden at a time where our troops are under fire. However, I still hold out hope that the actions of the Zapatero government will lead to the Bush administration going to the United Nations to put a strong multilateral force in place in Iraq supported by the Iraqis and the world community. It may surprise some that I actually agreed with what Joe Lieberman on something today. What is the best thing that the Spanish can do now? Joe said on CNN's "Late Edition" to send the troops in Iraq to Afgahistan. I agree. It would provide cover for the Zapatero administration, but also show their desire to help fight the war on terrorism.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:04 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

While LCRs ponder non-endorsement, Spain endorses Equal Marriage

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The U.S., led by George W. Bush, is not going anywhere fast on gay rights issues. In the meantime, the rest of the world, like usual these days, is getting on the progressive bandwagon as Spain announces that it will move forward to normalize and equalize gay marriage rights even with the Catholic Church making a fuss.

Spain will legalize same-sex marriages and grant equal rights to gay couples, incoming prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Thursday. The move is likely to stir controversy in one of Europe's most Catholic countries in light of the Vatican's condemnation of same-sex unions; homosexuality was banned during the reign of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. Spain's Catholic bishops have already spoken out strongly against the adoption of children by gay and lesbian couples.

"The moment has finally arrived to end once and for all the intolerable discrimination which many Spaniards suffer because of their sexual preferences," Zapatero told parliament during a debate that will end with a vote to confirm him in office. "Homosexuals and transsexuals deserve the same public consideration as heterosexuals. As a result we will modify the Civil Code to recognize their equal right to marriage with the resulting effects over inheritance, labor rights, and social security protection."

Nine other European Union countries already have some provision for recognizing those in committed same-sex relationships. Last month the United Kingdom said it would give legal recognition to gay partnerships.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 05:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 17, 2004

Will Log Cabin Stand Up to Bush?

By Byron LaMasters

The Log Cabin Republicans will decide today whether to endorse President Bush for re-election at their convention in Los Angeles. The LA Times reports:

The country's best known group of gay Republicans opened its three-day national convention here, and as expected, virtually all issues took a back seat to one: same-sex marriage.

The gathering of the Log Cabin Republicans — as clean-cut and mostly white as an old-fashioned chamber of commerce — drew triple the number of attendees that the meeting attracted in the past.

Organizers attributed the jump, to some 300 participants, to President Bush's Feb. 24 endorsement of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. For many gay Republicans — who thought Bush's promise of "compassionate conservatism" would ensure them room in the GOP tent — the proposal was a slap in the face. They are now facing a difficult decision: Should they withhold their endorsement from Bush to make a point?

The group will wrestle with the endorsement question in an open session today.

"What we have here today is a sign that there is a culture war going on between us and the radical right," said Patrick Guerriero, Log Cabin executive director. "And this convention sends a message back to Washington, D.C., and to Republican leaders: We're here to stay, we're gonna win this battle and we're on the right side of history. We're a very conservative group on just about every issue, except we're not going to be treated as second-class citizens."


Although the group may delay a decision until closer to the Republican National Convention in late summer, plenty of questions need airing, said Guerriero. "What does the president stand for? To be against gay marriage is one thing. Well, what actually does he support?"

Although Log Cabin's national membership is about 10,000, club officials believe their endorsement matters.

"We know our voice on this is going to matter," said the group's political director, Christopher Barron. Citing exit polling of voters, he said, "One million gays and lesbians voted for Bush in 2000 — 60,000 alone in the state of Florida."

Bush won in Florida with a 537-vote margin over Vice President Al Gore.

Those numbers are derived from exit polls in the 2000 elections. Five percent of all 2000 voters self identified as gay or lesbian and the breakdown of their vote was something like 71% for Al Gore, 20% for George W. Bush and 4% for Ralph Nader. Thus, with an electorate of about 100 Million, 20% (Bush vote) of 5% (self identified gay vote) of that is one million. With the Federal Marriage Amendment backed by the Bush White House, it is not entirely unreasonable to suggest that President Bush will lose several hundred thousand gay votes (and Kerry could also benefit further by a larger gay turnout as well and possibly even from hundreds of thousands (to millions) of heterosexual friends and family members of gays and lesbians). Of course on the flip side, this may all lead to a larger turnout among conservatives who support the president on this. Anyway, back to the article. Log Cabin makes a good point. In a very close election, gays and lesbians count as swing voters in a few key states - notably Florida.

So will Log Cabin endorse Bush? I doubt that they will today. They may sell out later and endorse him, but based on their rhetoric, they may not. While I've never been a big fan of Log Cabin, they've been genuinely outraged by a President they thought they could trust not to succum to the far right wing. They've put their money where their mouth is by running one million dollars in ads attacking President Bush on the Federal Marriage Amendment.

I'll be looking for news of their non-endorsement.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:47 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Bush Hates Free Speech

By Byron LaMasters

Ok, well I know most of us knew that already, but here's a recent example where the Bush campaign banned reporters and photographers from college newspapers from a campaign event:

Reporters and photographers from two college newspapers said Thursday White House officials denied them access to President Bush's appearance in Des Moines.

Student newspapers at Des Moines Area Community College and Iowa State University were turned away from the noon event at the Marriott hotel in downtown Des Moines after submitting requests for media credentials on time, they said.

Reporters and photographers for the DMACC Chronicle and Iowa State Daily said their organizations were not on the list of approved media when they arrived, despite faxing their request for credentials ahead of the 2 p.m. Wednesday deadline.

Chronicle reporter Mike Allsup said White House advance staff told him his time would be better spent in school. "It really is not fair that we represent 14,000 students at my college and I'm disregarded and sent away," said Allsup, of Des Moines.

A news crew from WQAD television in Moline, Ill., was not on the approved media list but was allowed into the event, Iowa State Daily photography editor Eric Rowley said.

White House officials did not immediately reply to repeated requests for comment.

Meanwhile, John Kerry participated in a conference call with campus media last week.

Compare and contrast, folks. With more weeks like this, I'd be shocked if Kerry's ten point lead among college students doesn't continue to expand. Any politician is smart to pay attention to college newspapers. For example, the UT newspaper, The Daily Texan has a daily circulation of 28,000 - 30,000 during the fall and spring semesters. For many students, their #1 source of news is the student newspaper (unfortunately, most students don't read the New York Times or Wall Street Journal or even our local papers for that matter). Student newspapers are available at dozens of locations on or near campus for free. For the average student wanting to keep up with national, local and campus events in less than ten minutes a day, the student newspaper is the place to go. Yeah, there's us crazy government types that will spend several hours a day sorting through dozens of news articles, but we're smart enough to know that we're not in the college mainstream on that one. Anyway, it's good to see the Kerry campaign reach out to students. Students and other young people are often overlooked in politics since (shamefully) we turn out in the lowest percentages of anyone, but in a close election a little attention to a traditionally ignored group can go a long way.

Links via Smart Ass, the official blog for the College Democrats of America.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Damn Good Flash Ad

By Byron LaMasters

This is perhaps the best Flash Ad I've ever seen. It has clips compiled by the Joe Hoeffel U.S. Senate campaign in Pennsylvania of the debate between Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and his stronger than expected conservative challenger Pat Toomey (R-PA) in the upcoming GOP primary. In the debate, both candidates went out of their way to out-conservative, out-Reagan, out-Bush and out-Santorum each other (but fail to say anything about creating new jobs for Pennsylvania). It's quite amusing.

Take a look

Via Atrios.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Vouchers in Texas?

By Byron LaMasters

Say it ain't so. Hopefully there will be enough votes to block it in the senate if it comes up, but they look to be on the table in the upcoming special session. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Signaling deep differences on the threshold of a special session, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Friday the Senate wants to enact a more comprehensive overhaul of education funding -- including deeper, immediate cuts in school property taxes -- than Gov. Rick Perry has proposed.

The two leaders also indicated differences over vouchers, should that subject arise during the session. Perry on Friday refused to rule out the possibility of private-school voucher legislation emerging from the session on school funding. But Dewhurst said vouchers would encounter strong opposition in the Senate.

"I would not block a member bringing it (a voucher bill) up, but I'm not going to let school finance crash on this one issue," Dewhurst said.

Perry has called the Legislature into special session, beginning Tuesday, to make a number of changes in the public education system, including repeal of the so-called "Robin Hood" school finance law that requires wealthy school districts to share tax revenue with poor schools.

There hasn't been much open talk of vouchers elsewhere, so maybe its best that we just don't bring them up and hope the legislature forgets about them amid their bickering over school finance. On the other hand, lots of people have been hinting that it will come up. House Democratic Caucus Chair Jim Dunnam (D-Waco) thinks so::

Mr. Dunnam and other Democrats suggested that the Republican governor's actual goal is not overhauling school finance but passing a bill that allows private school students to get taxpayer dollars for tuition.

Although Mr. Perry has denied that he called the session to push for school vouchers, Mr. Dunnam said: "I'd be shocked if it wasn't brought up in some way."

The governor appealed for bipartisanship.

Nice try Guv. If you want bipartisanship, start with asking Democrats their thoughts and opinions, and Ron Wilson and Vilma Luna don't count. Rick Perry, however, would prefer to schmooze with his pro-voucher friends in the Bahamas.

As for vouchers, the Austin Chronicle has some good insight regarding the financial irregularities and failures of voucher programs in Milwaulkee:

With the special session looming, public school advocates are bracing for "reform" proposals that have little to do with school finance but are relentlessly promoted by conservative groups: e.g., public school vouchers for private schools. The anti-voucher forces received new ammunition this week from Milwaukee, where the 14-year-old voucher program has been hit by revelations of financial and administrative scandals and lack of accountability. According to an April 5 Associated Press report, one voucher-supported Milwaukee school "was founded by a convicted rapist. Another school reportedly entertained kids with Monopoly while cashing $330,000 in tuition checks for hundreds of no-show students." The financial irregularities and reports of inadequate programs led to recent passage of a Wisconsin state law requiring more financial reporting from voucher-based schools, and increasing pressure for academic accountability like that imposed on public schools.

Anyway, if you want to get involved in fighting vouchers in Texas the best place to get involved is the Texas Freedom Network. Check out page on their more website to learn more about why vouchers are bad for public education and how you can get involved in helping our public schools.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:36 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 16, 2004

Iraq and Vietnam

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I was not around for Vietnam so I am not one to casually say that Iraq is turning into a Vietnam simply because it is a good soundbyte. But I was VERY impressed with this New York Times article by Krugman that does a good job at drawing the parallels and correct lines on this issue.

Iraq isn't Vietnam. The most important difference is the death toll, which is only a small fraction of the carnage in Indochina. But there are also real parallels, and in some ways Iraq looks worse.

It's true that the current American force in Iraq is much smaller than the Army we sent to Vietnam. But the U.S. military as a whole, and the Army in particular, is also much smaller than it was in 1968. Measured by the share of our military strength it ties down, Iraq is a Vietnam-size conflict.

And the stress Iraq places on our military is, if anything, worse. In Vietnam, American forces consisted mainly of short-term draftees, who returned to civilian life after their tours of duty. Our Iraq force consists of long-term volunteers, including reservists who never expected to be called up for extended missions overseas. The training of these volunteers, their morale and their willingness to re-enlist will suffer severely if they are called upon to spend years fighting a guerrilla war.


This fiscal chicanery is part of a larger pattern. Vietnam shook the nation's confidence not just because we lost, but because our leaders didn't tell us the truth. Last September Gen. Anthony Zinni spoke of "Vietnam, where we heard the garbage and the lies," and asked his audience of military officers, "Is it happening again?" Sure enough, the parallels are proliferating. Gulf of Tonkin attack, meet nonexistent W.M.D. and Al Qaeda links. "Hearts and minds," meet "welcome us as liberators." "Light at the end of the tunnel," meet "turned the corner." Vietnamization, meet the new Iraqi Army.

Some say that Iraq isn't Vietnam because we've come to bring democracy, not to support a corrupt regime. But idealistic talk is cheap. In Vietnam, U.S. officials never said, "We're supporting a corrupt regime." They said they were defending democracy. The rest of the world, and the Iraqis themselves, will believe in America's idealistic intentions if and when they see a legitimate, noncorrupt Iraqi government — as opposed to, say, a rigged election that puts Ahmad Chalabi in charge.

If we aren't promoting democracy in Iraq, what are we doing? Many of the more moderate supporters of the war have already reached the stage of quagmire logic: they no longer have high hopes for what we may accomplish, but they fear the consequences if we leave. The irony is painful. One of the real motives for the invasion of Iraq was to give the world a demonstration of American power. It's a measure of how badly things have gone that now we're told we can't leave because that would be a demonstration of American weakness.

Again, the parallel with Vietnam is obvious. Remember the domino theory?

And there's one more parallel: Nixonian politics is back.

What we remember now is Watergate. But equally serious were Nixon's efforts to suppress dissent, like the "Tell It to Hanoi" rallies, where critics of the Vietnam War were accused of undermining the soldiers and encouraging the enemy. On Tuesday George Bush did a meta-Nixon: he declared that anyone who draws analogies between Iraq and Vietnam undermines the soldiers and encourages the enemy.

Read the whole thing, it's really good.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 03:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why I Ride My Bike to School

By Byron LaMasters

It's pretty simple. Two reasons. It's faster and it's cheaper than driving or waiting for the bus. It takes me eight minutes to ride my bike from my apartment on 38th Street to 24th Street on campus. If I were to ride the bus, I'd spend about that time waiting for it most days. If I were to drive, it would take about the same time to drive, then an extra few minutes (on a good day) and $7 or so to park. It's a pretty easy choice. Now, I'm not going to junk the car (I'm from Dallas, and if you've ever tried getting around Dallas without a car - well just don't), but its nice to be able to travel via bike. It's one of the things I love about Austin.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who's realized that riding a bike is not only cheaper, but faster when commuting in central Austin. The Austin American Statesman did a test:

To the point: LeBlanc and her bicycle beat us to the finish line at 24th Street by about 5 1/2 minutes. The final insult was that when we arrived at the finish line, she was lying on the ground. It could have been more insulting if she'd been blowing on her knuckles.

They raced from from Riverside, up Lamar and to 24th Street in rush hour. The bike: 11.5 Minutes. The car: 17 Minutes. Travelling conveniently by bike is only an option available to a small minority of Americans, but for those of us with the option, it's a great alternative to traffic, parking tickets and high gas prices.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:31 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

More on Carrillo Runoff

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Just a couple of days ago, much was made of the run-off for Republican State Railroad Commissioner, between appointed inclumbant Tocken Hispanic and unknown, low spending white challenger.

Statewide, Carrillo won by about 65%. But I just read this in an article from my hometown newspaper, the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post...

In the only other race on Tuesday's local April 13 Republican runoff ballot, Gillespie County voters preferred incumbent Texas Railroad Commissioner Victor G. Carrillo with 56.3 percent of the vote, 523-406, to challenger Robert Butler.

This is one of the most Republican Counties in Texas, and one of the most conservative. And it is my guess since, Mr. Butler didn't make a major capaign swing through town, that 'other' reasons drove the election on this level. And I won't be afraid to say that I think Race was a huge part of it. It is sad, but apparently one with more truth than not.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 03:55 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 15, 2004

I'm a Traditional Liberal

By Byron LaMasters

The Harvard Institute of Politics has an interesting "Political Personality Test" for college students. They divide students into four categories: Traditional Liberals, Secular Centrists, Religious Centrists and Traditional Conservatives. Anyway, it's fun to play with a little bit.

Take the test, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:06 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Poll Shows Kerry Leading with College Students

By Byron LaMasters

Good news in this poll. It shows Kerry with a ten-point lead among college students and an increase in Democratic Party identification over the past year among students. Most college students polled also support gay marriage. CNN reports:

College students favor Democratic presidential contender Sen. John Kerry over President Bush by a 10-point margin and have become substantially more dissatisfied with Bush over the past six months, according to a poll released Thursday.

The survey by Harvard University's Institute of Politics (IOP) comes amid increasing focus on the nation's youngest voters.


The Harvard poll of 1,205 college students, conducted March 13-23, found Kerry leading Bush 48 percent to 38 percent, with independent Ralph Nader drawing 5 percent. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

The poll suggests "Kerry's support is soft," however, because many who say they'd vote for him simply want an alternative to Bush, the IOP said in a news release.

Thirty-seven percent of students said they don't know enough about the senator from Massachusetts to have formed an opinion about him.

Since a survey by the same organization in October, Bush's job approval rating plummeted 14 points, from 61 percent to 47 percent, while support for the war in Iraq dropped from 58 percent to 49 percent, the poll found.

Some recent signs of economic recovery have failed to give Bush a boost on one key topic: two-thirds of students polled said they believe it will be difficult to find a job after graduation, a figure nearly identical to the October poll.


The poll also found that unlike in the general population, the majority of college students surveyed -- 57 percent -- support legalizing same-sex marriage.


The largest number, 41 percent, identified themselves as independent.

The survey found that fewer now identify as Republicans -- 24 percent, down from 31 percent in the fall. Democrat identification increased from 27 percent to 32 percent.

Overall, good news.

More on the survey, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:57 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

DeLay Rallies to end the Income Tax

By Byron LaMasters

DeLay and 100 supporters rallied today to end the federal income tax in Houston. KVUE reports:

More than 100 people rallied Thursday in Houston in a push to eliminate federal income taxes.

The move came on the deadline to file taxes -- April 15.

Members of Americans for Fair Taxation were joined by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land.

The legislation would eliminate all federal income taxes and replace them with a voluntary, single rate retail sales tax on goods and services.


Georgia Congressman John Linder sponsored the FairTax Act in Congress.

Linder says DeLay's support of the legislation will help legitimize it.

Linder's plan would replace all income taxes with a 23 percent across-the-board sales tax.

But University of Houston law professor Ira Shepard says replacing the federal income tax with only a sales tax won't generate enough money.

Well, add this to the latest of Tom DeLay's crazy ideas. Not only would a federal sales tax be incredibly regressive, it would plunge the federal budget further into debt.

The Stakeholder (DCCC blog) has some insightful thoughts on the matter as well.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:55 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

How Kerry Wins

By Byron LaMasters

This Salon article (free daily pass) is a great piece of insight by a longtime Kerry aide Dan Payne of how Kerry wins his campaigns. It goes back to Kerry's first failed bid for Congress, through his runs for Lt. Governor and U.S. Senate ending with Kerry employing his same tactics to win in Iowa. How does Kerry win?

Kerry's first election as Lt. Governor in Massachusetts provides some good insight:

In the very next debate, a seething Kerry told Shannon, "You impugn the service of veterans in that war by saying they are somehow dopes or wrong for going," he said. Shannon balked. Employing a Southernism popular in Congress to assail an argument as baseless, Shannon said, "John, you know that dog won't hunt."

The Doghunters were born. A band of Vietnam vets who supported Kerry heard their own service demeaned and rallied almost spontaneously.

One of the lead Doghunters was John Hurley, who had first watched Kerry nearly steal a caucus from his candidate, Drinan, 14 years before. (Hurley is now Kerry's national vets recruiter.) Another was Tom Vallely, an ex-Marine and longtime Kerry friend who now runs the Vietnam Program at Harvard University. Chris Gregory, a Vietnam veteran leader, led former soldiers who staked out Shannon's headquarters and shadowed him as he campaigned. In the days and years ahead, the ranks of the Doghunters would swell.

Vietnam veterans supplied the energy, an opponent gave him the opening, his field organization run again by Whouley turned out the vote, and John Kerry tightened his message. He won by three points. Had he known, Howard Dean might have seen it coming.

Also of intest to me was the comparison of the political fights of Kerry and Dukakis, and why in Payne's assessment, Kerry is much better prepared for a national election:

It's worth comparing Kerry with his fellow Massachussetts Democrat Michael Dukakis to understand why Kerry is more likely to prevail. For Kerry, unlike Dukakis, Massachusetts was a crucible that readied him for the national battle ahead. Dukakis' toughest fights were primaries. Kerry has had to run in both difficult primaries and general elections. In every case, he seems to need to feel the shape and impact of the attacks before he acts, which frustrates supporters who panic in the heat of battle and expect Kerry to act precipitously. But as soon as Kerry judges that the charges he's facing are similar to those he has faced before, he and those who have been with him know what to do, almost by instinct -- even if they disappoint the Beltway by not responding in the next e-mail.

Kerry's election is by no means certain, but he will not lose because he was thrown off balance by what will be hurled at him in the months ahead.

Read the full article if you have a chance.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 14, 2004

Big ANC Victory in South Africa

By Byron LaMasters

South Africa successfully held their third national election since the end of Apartheid, and the African National Congress won a big victory again. I don't follow South African politics much, but theres some good coverage here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:28 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Some Conservatives Get it

By Byron LaMasters

Recently, several Democratic candidates have been attacked by the right-wing for their association with liberal bloggers. The latest targets have been Stephanie Herseth and Brad Carson. My unsolicited advice to the Republicans regarding blogs was to embrace the community and do what the DNC and many Democratic candidates have done - use the netroots to connect to their constituents and raise money. Well the GOP might not be taking my advice, but the Club for Growth has. As much as I disagree with the Club for Growth, it's hard not to admit that they're one of the most effective and well-organized political organizations in the country.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Taking a byte out of terrorism

By Jim Dallas

Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton (D-Indiana), said during a press conference today after the conclusion of Robert Mueller's testimony that the government was "getting hundreds of bytes per minute" in information about terrorism, but was having trouble making sense of it. "One byte of information doesn't reveal a plot," Hamilton opined, but 10 or 15 or 100 might.

Hundred-byte/minute throughput would be pretty impressive, except for the fact that the last paragraph contained 370 bytes of information (a byte being eight bits, or approximately one character).

I hope the ghostwriters and commission staffers who write the final report are a little more tech-saavy.

Although, given the fact that earlier testimony today revealed that Internet access at the FBI's Washington field office is limited to only one Internet terminal per floor, you kinda have to worry that Commissioner Hamilton might be on to something.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 13, 2004

Another Craddick "Democrat" Falls

By Byron LaMasters

Veronica Gonzales has defeated Roberto Gutierrez with 71% of the vote (results here).

This was the most important run-off race in my view. Last month three "Craddick Democrats" were defeated: Ron Wilson, Glen Lewis and Jaime Capelo. Today, we defeated a fourth one: Roberto Gutierrez. Veronica Gonzales defeated him in a landslide with 71% of the vote.

Most importantly, Democratic voters have sent a message to our representatives this primary season. We've told our representatives that if you represent a Democratic district, we expect you to stand up to Speaker Tom Craddick and Tom DeLay and the right-wing agenda. It's a message that was sent to Ron Wilson, Glen Lewis, Jaime Capelo and Roberto Gutierrez.

The defeats of the "Craddick Democrats" is larger than those four, though. It's sent shockwaves throughout the state house. Democrats who previously thought nothing of siding with the GOP leadership will now think twice. Take the thoughts of Norma Chavez last month from the El Paso Times:

Rep. Ron Wilson, D-Houston, a 26-year veteran, got ousted, as did Rep. Glenn Lewis, D-Fort Worth and Rep. Jaime Capelo, D-Corpus Christi. Rep. Roberto Gutierrez, D-McAllen, barely made it into a runoff against challenger Veronica Gonzales, who probably will win the next round.

"It's overwhelming. I was very, very upset," Chávez says of the stunning defeats of her allies.

"You have to be a Pharisee or a Sadducee. There's no in between," she says.

Chávez voted with Democrats against cutting children's health insurance or education and against congressional redistricting. But she sided with Republicans on the controversial tort reform measure, which she says was the only way El Paso could get a medical school.

But Chávez knows she will have to be warier in the future lest Democrats knock her out in the next primary.

"Those (Democrats) remaining in the leadership will have to be very cautious," Chávez says. "It's changed -- definitely changed."

Damn right it's changed. When Democrats had a majority and there was moderate to conservative Democratic leadership in House, it didn't matter too much if Democrats stayed in line. Now, Democrats are in the minority in the House, and most House Democrats represent overwhelmingly Democratic districts. Most Democratic primary voters expect our representatives to fight the right-wing Republican leadership tooth and nail. Democrats who work with the right-wing Craddick House leadership will pay for their decisions. They have this cycle, and Democrats who side with Tom Craddick in the next session will pay for their decisions in 2006.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:02 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Not a DINO, but an Embarrassment

By Byron LaMasters

Gabi Canales lost tonight as well to Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles in a landslide (73-27%). Canales had been something of an embarrassment to the party with her DWI charge and her attempts to use her position in the legislature to help her legal clients. I don't know much about Gonzalez Toureilles, but at the very least, she seems to be an ethical improvement for the district.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Damn! The Crossdresser Lost

By Byron LaMasters

It's a shame, but the crossdresser, Sam Walls lost his run-off to Robert Orr 60% to 40%.

Results here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wohlgemuth to Challenge Edwards

By Byron LaMasters

The Fort Worth Star Telegram reports:

In very early returns, state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth of Burleson was leading former Waco school board President Dot Snyder, 56 percent to 44 percent, in their race to become the Republican candidate against U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, a Waco Democrat and 13-year incumbent in Congress.

If her lead holds, Wohlgemuth, who has been a member of the Texas House for nine years, will face Edwards in the Nov. 2 general elections.

With all precincts reporting, Wohlgemuth won with 54% of the vote over Dot Snyder.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:42 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Gohmert to Challenge Sandlin

By Byron LaMasters

Louie Gohment has won the GOP nomination to challenge Max Sandlin in CD-1 with 57% of the vote. Gohmert won the nomination by a very strong showing in Smith County (Tyler). Here's the results.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's McCaul in a Landslide

By Byron LaMasters

The Houston Chronicle reports:

With 35 percent of the vote counted, McCaul had a 69 percent to 31 percent advantage in a race where the two political rookies together spent about $5 million.

No Democrat ran in the district realigned last year by the GOP-controlled Legislature, meaning a Republican will succeed U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a five-term incumbent who moved to the more Democrat-friendly 25th District.

District 10, which stretches from Houston to Austin, was among five Texas districts that went to runoff elections after the March primary. All the races involved Republicans, and the winners in the other four races will face Democrats in November.

The Streusand-McCaul race became one of the most expensive congressional contests in the nation this year, with millions of dollars going primarily for ads in the expensive Houston and Austin broadcast markets.

With 75% of the vote in, McCaul now leads by 30 points - 65% to 35%. Mike McCaul is my next congressman (although I'll be writing in Lorenzo Sadun).

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:32 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Carrillo wins GOP Nomination for RR Commission

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin American Statesman reports:

— Big-spending incumbent Victor Carrillo defeated low-profile challenger Robert Butler on Tuesday in the Republican race for railroad commissioner, the only statewide primary runoff on the ballot.

Carrillo, who was named to the post last year by Gov. Rick Perry, had 65 percent of the vote compared with Butler's 36 percent with 63 percent of precincts reporting.

Carrillo, 39, crisscrossed the state campaigning while spending $1.2 million and collecting major GOP endorsements in his attempt to win a six-year term. Butler, 65, of Palestine and a 30-veteran of state government ran a far less conspicuous campaign and spent about $5,800, campaign finance reports show.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:26 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Abel Herrero Wins State Rep. District 34 Run-off

By Byron LaMasters

This is good news. This was the run-off to replace Jaime Capelo, who came in third in the primary after taking a $100,000 bribe. This is a Corpus Christi area district, and Herrero had widespread progressive and labor support. He'll be a good state representative.

Learn more about him here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Lupe Valdez wins Dallas Co. Dem. Sheriff Nomination

By Byron LaMasters

In a landslide.

Learn more about her, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bush Waffles

By Byron LaMasters

As Jim mentioned today, President Bush is a flip-flopper.

What do do about it?

Take Jerome Armstrong's lead since the right is having so much fun serving up waffles to John Kerry.

Waffles, Waffles, Waffles, Waffles,Waffles!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ehud Barak to Speak at UT

By Byron LaMasters

I'll be there:


Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister of Israel, will speak on Monday, April 19, 2004 at 7:30pm at the LBJ Auditorium. Passes are free and will be available beginning Wednesday, April 14 at the Student Events Center ticket office located on the 4th level of the Texas Union (weekdays 8am-5pm).

Passes do NOT guarantee admission.

Due to security precautions, please arrive early for seating.

All bags and items will be subject to search. For the sake of gaining quick and easy admission, we strongly recommend that patrons enter the LBJ Auditorium bearing as few personal belongings as possible.

This lecture is sponsored by the Student Endowed Centennial Lectureship, Jewish Community Center, Texas Hillel, the LBJ School Center for Ethical Leadership, the College of Liberal Arts and the Student Events Center Distinguished Speakers Committee.

Ehud Barak is the most decorated soldier in the history of the Israeli Defense Forces. After reaching the rank of Lieutenant General, Barak gradually moved into the political realm and in 1995 was appointed Minister of the Interior under Yitzhak Rabin. When Rabin was assassinated, Barak became Minister of Foreign Affairs under Shimon Peres. In 1996 Barak was elected to the Knesset, and in 1999 he was elected Prime Minister, replacing Benjamin Netanyahu. He served as Prime Minister until 2001.

Barak holds a B.Sc. in Physics and Mathematics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (1976), and an M.Sc. in Engineering-Economic Systems from Stanford University, California (1978).

For questions about passes please call the Student Events Center at 475-6630.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Races to Watch Tonight

By Byron LaMasters

Today is run-off day. Here's what I'll be looking for in the returns...


I'll be looking for who wins the GOP run-offs for Congress in Districts 1, 10 and 17.

The District 1 race is between Louie Gohmert (R-Tyler) and John Graves. The winner will face Max Sandlin. There's several factors at work in this race. First is the Longview / Tyler factor. Tyler and Longview are the two largest cities in the district and both came out heavily in the primary for their hometown candidate. Second is the grassroots versus establishment. Most of the Republican establishment supports Gohmert, but much of the conservative grassroots has backed Graves, who ran for congress two years ago and received 40% of the vote against Ralph Hall. Still, with the endorsement of the third place candidate, Wayne Christian and the support of the GOP establishment, expect Gohmert to win this one.

District 10 is the much talked about mega-millions race for the new district that stretches from central Austin to Katy (Houston suburbs) connecting voters like myself with communities with whom we have little in common. The race for the Republican nomination has been highly expensive, and perhaps the only thing the district has in common is our shared loathing of the commercials by both Mike McCaul and Ben Streusand (no Democrat is on the ballot, but Lorenzo Sadun is running a write in campaign as a Democrat). This race is both a battle between Austin metro (McCaul) and Houston metro (Streusand), and between the establishment (McCaul) and the conservative grassroots (Streusand). If I had to bet, I'd bet on McCaul, but it ought to be close.

District 17 Republicans will decide who will challenge Chet Edwards in the new district. Their choices are conservative firebrand State Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth (R-Burleson), and Waco School Board member Dot Snyder. Wohlgemuth has grassroots conservative support along with an infusion of cash from the Club for Growth. Snyder is supported by much of the Waco Republican establishment, but Wohlgemuth generally has GOP establishment support outside of Waco. Expect Wohlgemuth to win this one.

Statewide Races:

Victor Carrillo should easily win the Republican nomination for a full term as Railroad Commissioner. Carrillo barely missed avoiding a run-off (49% in primary), and his opponent only made the run-off because he has an Ango-sounding name. Carrillo's opponent hasn't campaigned at all and has little support.

State Rep Races:

On the Democratic side, I'll be looking to see if Veronica Gonzales defeats Craddick "Democrat" Roberto Gutierrez in district 41 (Hidalgo Co.). Gutierrez voted against redistricting, but he didn't go to Ardmore and has the most conservative voting record of any state representative representing the border region. Gonzales is a solid Democrat, and she almost won outright.

On the Republican side, it will be interesting to watch District 58 between Sam Walls and Robert Orr. Walls is the former crossdresser, and led in the primary. We'll see if the crossdressing story hurts him in the run-off. I'm cheering for Walls. We need a crossdresser in the House.

Get your returns here starting at 7 PM CST.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Perry Calls Special Session on Education

By Andrew Dobbs

The day has finally arrived when the battle royale that I believe threatens to bring Rick Perry down begins. Today, Perry called a 30-day special legislative session on public school finance reform to begin next week, on April 20. From the San Antonio Express-News(free registration required):

Gov. Rick Perry today called a 30-day special legislative session on education, starting next Tuesday, saying he has the consensus needed to summon members to overhaul the nearly $30 billion a year system that funds public schools.

Perry said Texans want to end the "divisive" Robin Hood "school financing scheme" created by lawmakers in 1993 in response to court demands for an equitable funding approach. This year, the mechanism required more than 100 wealthy districts to give more than $1 billion in local tax proceeds to benefit more than 900 others.

Perry called on legislators to fashion a "permanent" replacement that cuts local school property taxes while adding $500 million a year in financial rewards for teachers and schools that excel.

"The time for pondering is over," Perry said. "It's time for action."

Perry's plan is disliked by Dewhurst in the Senate, Strayhorn in the Comptroller's Office, Craddick in the House and Democrats everywhere. This will be a 30 day slugfest that will involve desperate battles in both houses over their respective versions of the bill and then battles over the final version which probably won't actually do anything for education. All of the GOP proposed plans stink, with Dewhurst's being the lesser of several evils but still short of the sort of permanent solution (*cough* income tax *cough*) that we need right now.

Check out Texas Tax Relief to see how much your family would save under a state income tax and compare that to the silly $1 extra on cigarettes, $5 on strip clubs, video poker machines and "closing loopholes." We've been trying to put lipstick on this pig for far too long, its time to get serious about this problem but we know that is a long way off with Rick Perry, Tom Craddick and David Dewhurst calling the shots.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 04:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

War is (not) profitable

By Jim Dallas

One of the most important things that you need to know about the structure of U.S. force in Iraq (and throughout the world right now) is that the U.S. military is currently being joined by a rather large shadow force of private contractors (at least some of which appear to be mercenaries). That is part of the reason, I think, why the Defense Department are apparently low-balling deployment projections in that part of the world - because many of the things soldiers used to do are now being done by the private sector.

My friend James, who left the Army last year (and who is a self-proclaimed Schwarzanegger Republican), had a pretty bad feeling about privatization in the early days of the Iraq War, and his misgivings may be borne out.

I recall him mentioning over drinks about a year ago, that the likely result of putting supplies and such in the hands of private contractors was that they would "cut and run" as soon as things got bad.

And that's happening right now - the Financial Times reports that reconstruction contractors are suspending operations and preparing to leave the country. Even worse for our troops, Kellogg Brown & Root (which has 24,000 people in Iraq - more people than any of our "Coalition of the Willing" allies) is probably going to cut back on supply convoys.

The Dallas Morning News today has a good story about what's going on:

Military historian Charles Shrader, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served two tours in Vietnam, points to another distinction between military personnel and private contractors: Civilians don't have to follow orders and can go home when they want.

In some situations, such as a chemical or biological attack, "almost certainly your contractors are going to want to get out of Dodge," he said. And if they perform critical functions, "then you're really stuck."

Historically, support troops also could be called upon to fight in an emergency. During the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, for example, cooks, truck drivers and even members of an Army band fought as infantry after Nazi troops launched a ferocious surprise offensive. "The probability of it happening is a lot lower than it has been in the past, because of the enemies that we face," Dr. Shrader said. "But who's to say it won't happen again."

Even the lowliest cook in the Army is a soldier first and a cook second. Private contractors are nothing more than that, and can't be expected to be.

Quite simply, the biggest reason why the United States must now expand the number of troops in Iraq is that we are putting our current deployments at too great a risk by our reliance upon contractors.

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

Bush vs. Bush (Actionable Intelligence Edition)

By Jim Dallas

More flippety-floppetyfrom Gee Dubya.

"Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?" - President Bush, Jan. 28 2003.

"There was nothing in [the 08/06/01 PDB] that said, you know, there's an imminent attack. There was nothing in this report to me that said, oh, by the way, we've got intelligence that says something is about to happen in America." - President Bush, April 12 2004.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Do Good, Sisters, Or Else!

By Jim Dallas

We all appreciate that campus sororities put so much effort into social projects, but some sisters went a little too far.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who are we turning over Iraq to?

By Byron LaMasters

Paul Bremer gives a bad answer:

MR. RUSSERT: June 30: You're going to turn the keys over to the Iraqis. Who do you turn them over to?

AMB. BREMER: Well, that's a good question, and it's an important part of the ongoing crisis we have here now. We've always said that there are two dimensions to dealing with the problems of Iraq. One, of course, is the military dimension, which we're working on right now, but the other is to give a political perspective for the Iraqis to have more and more responsibility. We've been working on that for months. We are now working with the secretary-general of the U.N.'s special representative here, Mr. Brahimi, to figure out the best way to get a representative government in place before the end of June so it has a little practice and then turn over sovereignty to it on June 30. And I'm confident that working with him and with the Iraqi people, we, in fact, will get that. We'll get a representative government in place before June 30.

We're going to turn over power to the Iraqis on June 30th - less than 80 days away, and we don't even know who we're turning power over to??? What exactly have we been doing for the past year? The Bush administration had a plan to attack Iraq, and they were successful. However, they never had a plan to win the peace in Iraq. They don't know what they're doing, and they have no plan.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 12, 2004

Why does John Kerry want to be President?

By Byron LaMasters

It sounds pretty silly, but can anyone say coherently why exactly John Kerry wants to be president? Both Kos and Mark Shields asked that very question this weekend.

First, Kos:

I was asked last week, in all earnestness, "Why is Kerry running for president?"
Interesting question. I knew why Edwards was running -- to rectify the inequalities of the "two Americas". Gephardt was the champion of the working class. Dean wanted nothing less than reform of the Democratic party establishment.

I know why I will vote for Kerry -- because he's not Bush. And this upcoming presidential election is literally a matter of life and death.

But why is Kerry running for president?

I've got nothing.

I'm with kos on this one. My biggest problem with John Kerry during the primary season was that I couldn't find a specific rationale for his candidacy. If you asked me, I could easily explain to you in a sentence or a paragraph or whatever the rationale and purpose behind the candidacies of Howard Dean, John Edwards, Dick Gephardt, Wes Clark, etc. But John Kerry? Yeah, he's a Vietnam hero, a good senator and most importantly, he's not Bush. But what specifically moved him to run for President? Is it a sense of entitlement? Unless Kerry specifically says otherwise, then that's the only logical conclusion one can come to. And it's not a conclusion that will help Kerry get elected. Anyway, Mark Shields has some good questions for John Kerry as well:

Among the questions only the candidate, himself, can answer are:

1) Why does John Kerry want to be president? Who are the victims of official indifference and injustice President John Kerry will aid? Who are the villains a President Kerry will bring to the bar of justice?

2) What are the three real differences in the lives of real people that John Kerry as president would make ?

3) What is the vision of John Kerry that is grander and larger than our own narrow or parochial perspectives -- the vision that will appeal to the best in all Americans?

In answering these questions, John Kerry must do so without any reference to George W. Bush. Voters want to know who John Kerry is, what makes him go and what John Kerry, if he wins, will do.

The electorate probably already suspects that Kerry thinks Bush is a lousy president, and yes, the 2004 election should be a referendum on the incumbent chief executive.

But Kerry would do well to study the "game films" of the 1980 campaign, when Republican challenger Ronald Reagan refused to simply run against the unpopular incumbent, President Jimmy Carter. Instead, Reagan laid out his plans repeatedly, in specific detail -- double the defense budget, cut taxes by one third and, that's right, balance the federal budget -- so that when the Republican did win, that November, he could legitimately lay claim to a mandate for his program.

What sacrifices would a President Kerry ask of all Americans? The profound lesson from the national tragedy of Vietnam, which George W. Bush either never learned or has chosen to forget, is: An army does not fight a war; a country fights a war. If the country is unwilling to make the collective sacrifices required to wage that war, then it must never send an army into battle.

The message from George W. Bush, War President, to the most fortunate and most privileged of his fellow countrymen -- you will pay no price, you will bear no burden -- is an indictment of failed leadership. But what would John Kerry ask? Does he agree with the conservative writer Michael Barone that, "War demands equality of sacrifice"? The voters need those questions answered, soon.

Presidential elections are about incumbents. Incumbents win or lose because of their performance in office. If a president has high approval ratings then its unlikely that anyone will beat him. If a president has screwed up and people are unhappy, all that matters is that the challenger is competent, and the challenger will win. In 2004, we're in the middle. George W. Bush is liked by Republicans, hated by Democrats and Independents aren't so sure. That means that John Kerry will not only have to prove his competence (he has), but he must do more. Kerry needs to give the American people a reason for his candidacy. He needs to tell people how he'll make a difference in their lives, and how he will make them safer and more prosperous. Finally, Kerry needs to connect his heroism in Vietnam to his vision for America. It's one thing to be a war hero, it's another to apply the lessons he learned in Vietnam to making America a better nation.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:40 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Pictures of Sam Walls?

By Byron LaMasters

Sam Walls is the former crossdresser who is in a GOP run-off election tomorrow for state representative in a district south of Fort Worth. I wrote about the race here. An annonymous webpage has appeared here with pictures of what the site claims are of Sam Walls. I don't know if they're real or made up, but check them out.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:50 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 11, 2004

The things you learn as a blogger

By Byron LaMasters

One of the best side effects of blogging regularly is the fact that it constantly improves your writing sklls, grammar and vocabulary. Here's what I learned yesterday when I wrote:

What I can't stand about President Bush is that he does not seem to grasp the seriousness and enormity of the office.

The message I wanted to convey was simple. The presidency is a enormus and serious position, and I do not believe that George W. Bush grasps that enormousness and seriousness. Why is enormity not appropriate? Well, after reading it a few times, I decided (as I frequently do) to check out Dictionary.com, and make sure that my usage was correct. Well, sure enough, it wasn't:

e·nor·mi·ty ( P ) Pronunciation Key (-nôrm-t) n. pl. e·nor·mi·ties

1. The quality of passing all moral bounds; excessive wickedness or outrageousness.

2. A monstrous offense or evil; an outrage.

3. Usage Problem. Great size; immensity: “Beyond that, [Russia's] sheer enormity offered a defense against invaders that no European nation enjoyed” (W. Bruce Lincoln).


Usage Note: Enormity is frequently used to refer simply to the property of being great in size or extent, but many would prefer that enormousness (or a synonym such as immensity) be used for this general sense and that enormity be limited to situations that demand a negative moral judgment, as in Not until the war ended and journalists were able to enter Cambodia did the world really become aware of the enormity of Pol Pot's oppression. Fifty-nine percent of the Usage Panel rejects the use of enormity as a synonym for immensity in the sentence At that point the engineers sat down to design an entirely new viaduct, apparently undaunted by the enormity of their task. This distinction between enormity and enormousness has not always existed historically, but nowadays many observe it. Writers who ignore the distinction, as in the enormity of the President's election victory or the enormity of her inheritance, may find that their words have cast unintended aspersions or evoked unexpected laughter.

Well, add enormity to my vocabulary. I was unaware that the word conveyed a negative tone. Well, I guess I can even rephrase the sentence in question to use enormity appropriately. How about this:

It is an enormity that President Bush does not seem to grasp the seriousness of the office.


Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Easter christians and the NBA Playoffs.

By Jim Dallas

The Houston Rockets clinched a spot in the Western Division playoffs Friday by beating the Denver Nuggets. It's the first time they've made the playoffs in five years, which means its time to drag out the Rockets paraphernalia again (but keep the Mavs stuff on stand-by just in case; after all, it's not about who wins, it's about who gets to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves...).

Meanwhile, it's Easter, and I probably ought to try to go to church tomorrow since it's only been, umm, since Christmas.

Why mention all of this? So I can make a torturously metaphorical comparison between bums like me who don't go to church enough, and umm, bums like me that don't watch enough basketball.

We know which team we're for, we know who's gonna win the big game, but that's really about it, and we like it that way.

Now, if I could just sprinkle in some colorful anecdotes about amiable foreigners and free trade, I'd have written an entire Tom Friedman column... praise!

UPDATE: In fairness, both Friedman columns this week are amazingly anectode free.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:44 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 10, 2004

Right Wing Pranks

By Byron LaMasters

We all have our fun at our opponents expense. I had some fun with the Bush-Cheney poster maker before it was taken down, and now it looks as if conservative bloggers are trying to have some fun with the Kerry Core feature.

Here's what they've come up with here, here and here.

Pretty creative. They all seem to think that the Kerry campaign will take down the feature because of their work. That won't happen. The Kerry campaign has raised tens of millions of dollars online, and many people have contributed to give their favorite bloggers (kos, atrios, etc) credit for their donation. It'll stay.

Update: Well, the Kerry campaign caught on and deleted some of the posts, so two of my links don't work. There's screenshots of some of pages that were created here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:41 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Carson Attacked for Linking to Liberal Bloggers

By Byron LaMasters

Here's another addition to the silly Republican attack department. The Republican Senate Campaign Committee has attacked Oklahoma Democratic Senate Candidate Brad Carson for linking to liberal bloggers such as Brad DeLong and Daily Kos. Here's what they said.

A Republican campaign committee is accusing U.S. Rep. Brad Carson of promoting radical, anti-President Bush Web sites while claiming to be a conservative Oklahoma Democrat.

"I think this speaks volumes as to the type of people Carson would associate with if he were to get elected to the United State Senate," said Dan Allen, commu nications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Allen based his criticism of Carson on entries the lawmaker has made on his campaign's official weblog, encouraging supporters to read other Web sites.

He said one Web site by a California university professor, Brad DeLong, suggests that Bush should be impeached, and another, the Daily Kos, attracts users who post rants against the war in Iraq along with claims that Americans, including Republicans and the media, do not care about the troops dying in battle.

Get it? The guys at the RNSC don't like the idea of informed debate of the issues. Brad Carson has linked to both liberal and conservative weblogs that he feels contribute to the political debate in this country. Carson ought to be commended for personally embracing the concept of the blog and contributing to his own campaign blog himself. The campaign's response was perfect:

Carson's campaign dismissed Allen's accusation and defended its use of its "blog" as a source of diverse information.

"Our Web site, www.bradcarson.com, links to the best scholars, both liberal and conservative," said a campaign spokesman, Brad Luna.

"Roughly half of the sites we feature . . . are conservative, pro-Bush sites, and the other half are liberal sites that question the administration's policies.

"But they all have the common thread of trying to promote thoughtful discussion and engagement in our political process," he said.

The Carson campaign believes in a robust exchange of ideas instead of a presentation of political propaganda, Luna said.

"Apparently the National Republican Senatorial Committee prefers propaganda," he said.

I have a hard time understanding Republicans on this. You would think that they would work with conservative bloggers to establish a netroots community of their own, much like the DNC has. Instead, Republicans have simply let Democrats dominate the medium. They tried to smear Stephanie Herseth on the issue as well, but it didn't work. Will they learn?

Regardless, while we wait for them to catch up, drop a few bucks over with the Carson campaign. Along with Illinois, Alaska and Colorado, Oklahoma is one of our best pick-up opportunities in the U.S. Senate this year.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:10 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

George Goes Fishing

By Byron LaMasters

Much is made of the left's hatred of President Bush. What is it that makes it hatred as opposed to mere disagreement or dislike? I think much of the Clinton and Bush hatred is derived not so much from policy disagreement, but rather from presidential symbolism. Many conservatives hated Bill Clinton because they believed that his moral character denigrated the institution of the presidency. They saw him as a playboy who did not respect the dignity of his office. Why do liberals hate George W. Bush? Sure, we disagree with his politics, but there are many people who I disagree with that I still respect. What I can't stand about President Bush is that he does not seem to grasp the seriousness of the office. The precidency is not a vacation. Yet President Bush treats it as such. The Washington Post reports:

Democrats criticized Bush for taking the Easter-week vacation while U.S. forces are struggling to put down an uprising in Iraq. Campaigning in Milwaukee, Sen. John F. Kerry, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, said: "I notice President Bush is taking some days off down at Crawford, Texas, and I'm told that when he takes days off, you know, he totally relaxes: He doesn't watch television, he doesn't read the newspapers, he doesn't make long-term plans, doesn't worry about the economy. I thought about that for a moment. I said, sounds to me like it's just like life in Washington, doesn't it?"


This is Bush's 33rd visit to his ranch since becoming president. He has spent all or part of 233 days on his Texas ranch since taking office, according to a tally by CBS News. Adding his 78 visits to Camp David and his five visits to Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush has spent all or part of 500 days in office at one of his three retreats, or more than 40 percent of his presidency.

George W. Bush is a part-time president. While Americans died in Iraq yesterday our president was having a nice relaxing day fishing:

President Bush skipped a third round of fishing on his ranch pond Saturday with a crew from an outdoors show, though his performance the day before was something to brag about.

"He took the biggest one of the day," a bass nearly four pounds, said Roland Martin, host of the Outdoor Life Network program, "Fishing with Roland Martin."

The president and Martin released several big fish they caught Friday but kept the smaller ones for eating.


The president was very relaxed," Martin said.

How can the president be "relaxed" when men and women he sent into battle are being killed every day? Does President Bush feel anything about the deaths of our soldiers in Iraq? If he does, then why hasn't he attended a single funeral? Why is he on vacation forty percent of the time? Stories like these are what makes it so difficult for me to have any respect for the man.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:51 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Arnold to the Rescue

By Byron LaMasters

Good lord, this is crazy. Why can't Arnold be a Democrat? I kinda like the guy. Not only is he a Hollywood star, but he married a Kennedy and he saves the lives of random people:

He has saved the world from nuclear terrorists in "True Lies," invisible monsters in "Predator," futuristic machines in "Terminator 2."

This week, the legend of Arnold Schwarzenegger grew when California's governor helped a weary swimmer to shore during his family's tropical Hawaiian vacation.

"And you thought he only did this in movies," quipped Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson on Friday.


As the story goes, Schwarzenegger was taking an early afternoon swim near his Maui retreat Wednesday when he passed a man clinging to a boogie board about 100 yards from shore.

The Republican governor asked the man if he was OK and the swimmer said he had cramps and couldn't swim back to the beach.

With no lifeguards in sight, Schwarzenegger took matters into his own hands and helped the man safely back to shore.

What else can I say?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:54 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 09, 2004

All tied Up

By Byron LaMasters

That's what the latest AP poll says:

Bush 45%
Kerry 44%
Nader 6%

I wonder what the poll would be without Nader?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:46 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Dallas Morning News Urges Sessions to Denounce Racist Ad

By Byron LaMasters

Wednesday, I posted on the racist group running ads against Martin Frost. Now, the Dallas Morning News is weighing in:

The nation needs a debate over its immigration policies. No argument about that point. But what the country doesn't need is a debate that would have made Lee Atwater blush.

Sadly, an anti-immigration group wants a down-and-dirty skirmish. The Coalition for the Future of the American Worker has launched a TV ad campaign against Dallas Democratic Rep. Martin Frost that preys upon Texans' fears about illegal immigration.

Never mind that the ad is wrong on some facts. The piece is as racially tinged as those Willie Horton ads the late Mr. Atwater put together for the first President Bush during his 1988 White House bid. It contains many shots of blacks and Hispanics, some of whom look as if they are making a run for the border.


This ad obviously isn't playing out in a vacuum. It's airing during one of the country's hottest congressional races. Mr. Frost and GOP Rep. Pete Sessions are competing for the same Dallas-based seat.

Mr. Sessions' campaign didn't run this ad. That's an important point to understand. And Mr. Frost hasn't helped cool matters by saying his opponent is hiding "behind the white sheets of white supremacy."

But we would urge Mr. Sessions to denounce this group, just as GOP Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and GOP Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico have done. And we urge the coalition to stop airing this ad. If it disagrees with more immigration, then make that point. But stop throwing gasoline on the fire.

There's a right way to debate immigration, and there's a wrong way. This one is about as wrong as it gets.

I don't agree with the Dallas Morning News editorial page much, but today, they're right on.

Via The Stakeholder.

Donate to Martin Frost today.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 08, 2004

You can't get religion without an appreciation for dark humor.

By Jim Dallas

And this is why you should read Pandagon - it'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry.

The story itself is so bizarre... but Ezra's play-by-play commentary had me both crying and laughing simultaneously.

The Passion of The Fluffy

So first we had a book describing executions, godly vengeance and a scorchingly hot pressure cooker where children who touched themselves were sent for eternity. But that wasn't enough. So we made a movie where you can see the virtuous son of God graphically beaten, whipped, cut, jeered at, spit upon, pierced, hurt, crucified and finally, killed. However, the kids still weren't having enough bad dreams. So out came Plan C. They'd kill the Easter Bunny...

..."People who attended Saturday's performance at Glassport's memorial stadium quoted performers as saying, 'There is no Easter bunny," and described the show as being a demonstration of how Jesus was crucified.'

Ain't that a one-two punch? First tell the kids "there's no Easter bunny," then beat the shit out of him and his eggs. That's kinda like telling kids there's no Santa and then cooking and eating him. In front of them. With scores of dead reindeer laying around.

"Melissa Salzmann, who brought her 4-year-old son J.T., said the program was inappropriate for young children. 'He was crying and asking me why the bunny was being whipped,' Salzmann said."

I assume she informed the little heathen that it was for his sins before reading off an itemized list of what he did to kill Mr. Hoppers.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Democratic Write-In Candidate in CD-10

By Byron LaMasters

The Daily Texan reports:

UT mathematics professor Lorenzo Sadun teaches about probability. His expertise in that field has helped him assess his chances this November when he goes up against the winner of Tuesday's Republican runoff as a Democratic write-in candidate for the newly-redrawn U.S. Congressional District 10.

"My probability of winning is very small because the district was gerrymandered very carefully, and because it's always hard for a write-in candidate to get traction," Sadun said.


Sadun has never run for office before, but said he served as president of the Berkeley College Democrats when he was a graduate student. He has written several opinion pieces for the Austin American-Statesman. After no Democrats ran in the District 10 primary, he stepped up.

"As a voter, I felt personally hurt, that I wasn't going to have a right to vote in November, and I realized there were thousands of people in the same situation," Sadun said.

Write-in candidates in Texas must pay a $3,125 filing fee or collect 500 petition signatures by Sept. 3. Sadun has already collected 300 signatures with the help of more than 70 volunteers working in their neighborhoods.

Although he doesn't have experience in government, the lifelong Democrat said he is good at researching issues and listening to people.

I'm not sure what the rules are to get on the congressional ballot as a Democrat after the primary. I signed Sadun's ballot petition at the Travis County Convention, because I'm a voter in the 10th District. Anyway, I hope that he sets up a website or something to allow those of us in district 10 to help out his campaign. He doesn't really have a chance, but I'll at least feel good with the opportunity to vote for a Democrat for Congress.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:00 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Perry's School Plan

By Byron LaMasters

This sounds like Voo-Doo economics to me. Rick Perry wants to lower property taxes, and give more money to public schools. Supposedly "sin taxes" will be able to cover it, but I'm skeptical. Anyway, the Houston Chronicle reports:

Gov. Rick Perry today unveiled a school funding proposal he said would cut school property taxes by $6 billion while adding $2.5 billion to public schools.

The governor proposed treating business property taxes differently from residential property taxes and outlined a series of new state revenue raisers for education, including a $1 per pack increase in the state cigarette tax, a $5 admission tax on adult entertainment and video lottery terminals at racetracks.

The changes in property taxes and the gambling proposal would require state constitutional amendments, which would need the approval of Texas voters, as well as legislators.

Perry did not set a date for a long-anticipated special session on school finance, leaving people still guessing as to when -- or if -- there will be one this year.

Perry frequently has said he wants agreement on a new school funding plan before calling lawmakers back to Austin. Lawmakers have not reached a consensus.

"I believe we can reform our school finance system without a major tax hike, without a broad-based business tax and without an across-the-board rate hike on the existing sales tax base," Perry said at a high school in downtown San Antonio.

He said the new state revenue sources he is proposing would target "tax fairness, unhealthy behaviors or voluntary actions."

Additionally, he said he wanted to close loopholes in the state franchise tax and auto sales tax.

Perry said his plan would immediately reduce residential property taxes by an average 17 percent while increasing the state's share of public education funding from the current 38 percent to about 60 percent.

Under the proposal, school property taxes on residences would continued to be levied by local school districts, but the cap for school operations would be reduced from the current $1.50 per $100 valuation to $1.25.

Business property taxes, if legislators and voters approve, would be levied statewide and capped at $1.40 per $100 valuation. This so-called "split-roll" approach, which has been circulating privately for several weeks, has drawn widespread opposition from businesses, who fear they would be singled out for higher school taxes.

Well, Perry is right in that the state should take the burden off of local school districts, and pay more of the bill for public schools. I disagree with the idea of significantly raising "sin taxes" for the principle reason that they are a regressive tax, felt most by the poor. I'm not against high cigarette taxes (or high alcohol taxes, etc.) necessarily, but I think that the best places for those taxes to go is in helping address the problems they create (i.e. health care). I'm with Andrew on this one. State Rep. Eddie Rodrieguez (D-Austin) has the best plan.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:44 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Bill White Wants to Shut Down Afterhours Night Clubs

By Byron LaMasters

I've liked Houston Mayor Bill White so far. But this is just stupid:

Mayor Bill White vowed Wednesday to shut down so-called after-hours nightclubs like the one where firefighter Kevin Kulow died while battling an arson blaze.

Kulow, 32, died about 6 a.m. Sunday while fighting a fast-moving fire at the El Festival Ballroom in the 7600 block of Kempwood in northwest Houston.

"If that place wasn't open (after 2 a.m.), I don't think I would be going to a funeral this afternoon," White said Wednesday morning before attending a memorial service.

He said he is seeking Gov. Rick Perry's help in getting a law approved, in a special legislative session this spring, to empower the city to close the clubs.

"These places stop serving alcohol at 2 a.m. but stay open till 6 a.m.," White said. "We weren't born yesterday. Law enforcement officers tell me people who are in there aren't playing bingo."

White said such establishments promote crime and harm neighborhoods. He said he believes they often serve alcohol illegally after 2 a.m.

"If people want to party, go home," he said.

James Alonso Guevara, 20, of the 4800 block of Yale, was charged with capital murder Wednesday. He is accused of setting the fire at El Festival and causing Kulow's death.

But people familiar with Houston's after-hours bar scene said White is overreacting.

"It's not fair to take (Kulow's death) out on all after-hours clubs," said Mike Snow, a Houston disc jockey who performs at local clubs. "A better solution is to make sure all clubs pass fire code.

"It's much better for clubs to stay open an hour or two more (after 2 a.m.) to allow people to get sober," he added. "It's probably a lot safer getting on the road because of after-hours clubs."

It's sad to see a firefighter killed, but it's irresponsible to lash out against responsible bars and clubs for one single unfortunate incident. The Texas law as it stands now actually makes a lot of sense (yes, we do have some sensible laws in this state). Bars and clubs are required to stop serving alcohol at 2 AM, but they are allowed to stay open and serve non-alcoholic beverages afterwards (usually until 4 AM). That makes sense. It's absolutely stupid to close the clubs right when you stop serving alcohol, especially in a city / state that has little public transportation and is spread out (meaning most people drive to go to bars and clubs). One dead firefighter is a tragedy, but and even bigger tragedy would be throwing out a bunch of drunks on the street at 2 AM. Give everyone a few hours to sober up, drink some waters and Red Bulls, and we'll all be a lot safer. The solution to late night crime in bar / club districts is a simple three-fold solution. First, require that the nightclubs that stay open after 2 AM help self-police themselves (this was the compromise that the city of Dallas made with club owners). Second, have the TABC enforce ending liquor service service at 2 AM, and punish the clubs that don't. And third, ensure that nightclubs meet the highest fire code standards, and if they don't, close them until they do.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:23 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Clarke: Rice’s Testimony Affirms his Claims

By Byron LaMasters

Here's what Richard Clarke said on ABC News today:

I think that Dr. Rice's testimony today, and she did a very good job, basically corroborates what I said. She said that the president received 40 warnings face to face from the director of central intelligence that a major al Qaeda attack was going to take place and she admitted that the president did not have a meeting on the subject, did not convene the Cabinet. She admitted that she didn't convene the Cabinet. And as some of the commissioners pointed out, this was in marked contrast to the way the government operated in December of 1999, when it had similar information and it successfully thwarted attacks.

The full transcript with Peter Jennings is available, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Richard Morrison Advertises on Kos

By Byron LaMasters

I'll bet he pulls in some money with this. Morrison is running against Tom DeLay in TX-22. It's a long shot, but if Tom DeLay is indicted, you never know...

Morrison is the third Texas Congressional candidate to use BlogAds after Morris Meyer and Martin Frost.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

See How Much You Save With An Income Tax

By Andrew Dobbs

My state rep, Eddie Rodriguez has made a very gutsy move by proposing a state income tax. While he's in no danger of losing his district (in liberal, majority Hispanic East Austin), this issue is still the Third Rail of Texas politics. Nothing evokes quite the demagoguery of this issue. Eddie is trying to cut through that nonsense and fearmongering with an honest and open look at what it would really mean for Texans.

The answer is that it would be a magic bullet- lower taxes for the vast majority of Texans with greater revenue. Eddie has created a new website, http://www.texastaxrelief.com that addresses his plan in depth.

The Rodriguez Plan shifts the entire burden of funding school operations from the local school districts (who collect the majority of your property taxes) to the State …which will pick up the tab by using revenue collected through a State Education Income Tax.

The Proposed State Education Income Tax would produce about $19 Billion in new state revenue. This money would first be used to replace the most burdensome local property tax … the Maintenance and Operations Property Tax (sometimes referred to as "The Robin Hood Tax"). This will still leave a balance of approximately $5.1 billion for two other key objectives.

The Rodriguez Plan would also:
• abolish the State's Corporate Franchise Tax, and
• provide Uniform Group Health Insurance for Teachers (and other public school employees).

The website has a great little calculator on the front page that lets you find out how much you would save with the Rodriguez plan. a family of 4 earning $40,000 a year in a $120,000 that taxes at the current $1.50 per $100 value cap (which most school districts in Texas are at) would pay only $294 a year, a savings of $1,281! Even if you are a single person making $250,000 a year and living in a $1 million home, you would save $1,640 a year. Only the incredibly wealthy would see any raise in their taxes and even then, if they are paying corporate franchise taxes from their business, they would see savings there.

Kudos to Eddie for the site and I urge you all to play around with the calculator. Maybe if people learn how much they'll save, we can finally get some real revenue solutions for Texas.

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

April 07, 2004

Watch Condi

By Byron LaMasters

I'll try and get up to watch her. It's on at 8 AM CST. Not sure if I'll make it, but I'll set my alarm.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Some Endorsements for the May 15th Elections

By Byron LaMasters

Those of you outside of Austin probably wonder why we have so many elections. Every two years Austin voters have the opportunity to vote in up to four elections in four months. Of course, there's the March primary and April runoff. Then there's the City Council / ACC / AISD elections in May, and that run-off in June. This year, there are no city council seats up, but there are three ACC (Austin Community College) seats to fill along with two referendums.

Today, the Austin Progressive Coalition (University Democrats and Central Austin Democrats) screened the candidates and made endorsements in all of the races. The CCYD's (Capitol City Young Democrats) also made endorsements today as well. All of the candidates that I support (and I'm assuming the other posters here do as well) were endorsed today by all of the above organizations (APC, CAD, UD, CCYD).

ACC Place 4: - Jeffrey Richard: Jeffrey is by far the best qualified and most experienced candidate in this race. He's also a Democrat with credentials that appeal to both the business and progressive communities. He served as the vice president of education on the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, and has a tremendous amount of experience in education working for 17 years with educational institutions in Washington D.C. and Austin. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Texas State University.

ACC Place 5: - Rafael Quintanilla: He's the chair of the board and is unopposed. I don't have a particularly good reason to support him, but people that have been around Austin a lot longer than I have said that he's worthy of our support, so that worked for me.

ACC Place 6: - Rodney Ahart (this site should be up next week): Rodney Ahart has worked in the legislature for State Sen. Rodney Ellis and State Reps. Helen Giddings and Dawnna Dukes. During his time in the legislature, he worked on higher education issues and is well prepared to work with the legislature as a member of the ACC board.

YES on Collective Bargaining: One of the referenda we will be voting on is whether to allow collective bargaining for the Austin Firefighters. Collective bargaining would require the city of Austin to meet in good faith with Austin Firefighters to negotiate their contracts. The process would be open and subject to public disclosure. Our firefighters work hard day and night to keep us safe. This is the least that we can do for them.

YES on Travis County Hospital District: This is a simple issue of efficiency and fairness. The current Travis County Health Care Revenue System is convoluted and confusing. Creating a hospital district would make funding our county health care more efficient by simplifying the revenue process. More importantly, this is an issue of fairness. Currently, Austin taxpayers pay five times more than (non-Austin) county residents in taxes to support Travis County health care facilities, even though all Travis County residents have equal access to the facilities. The Hospital District would equalize taxes for all Travis County residents. It would bring in needed money into the system to prevent emergency room overcrowding and to extend the hours of local clinics. That's a good thing for Travis County.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:16 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Will Kerry Get his Online Act Together?

By Byron LaMasters

This ought to help:

Zack Exley will be the Kerry campaign's director of online communications and organizing. He was the MoveOn political action committee's special projects director, focusing on research and mobilizing MoveOn supporters, Eli Pariser, the PAC's executive director, said Wednesday.

The only big concern I have is that Republicans will try to use this as proof that there's been coordination between MoveOn.org and the Kerry campaign. It looks, however, as if both Exley and the Kerry campaign are doing everything in their power to show that there's no coordination involved:

At MoveOn's PAC, Exley worked with a branch of the group that spends limited individual donations, so-called "hard money" that is allowed in presidential races.

To guard against any risk or appearance of improper coordination between MoveOn and the Kerry campaign, steps are being taken to make sure Exley doesn't communicate with anyone at MoveOn until after the November election, Pariser said.

Exley's MoveOn laptop was returned to the group as soon as Exley decided to work for Kerry, Pariser said.

"He's not bringing any technology or any physical material to the Kerry campaign. It's just what he's got in his head about how we do online organization," Pariser said.

Good. I'm looking forward to some good stuff from the Kerry online opperation. It's certainly improved over the past few months, but there still a lot more that could be done.

Via Pandagon.

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

Racist Group Runs Attack Ads Against Frost, Sessions is Silent

By Byron LaMasters

The organization "The Coalition for the Future American Worker" is about to run attack ads on Dallas-Fort Worth Television stations attacking Martin Frost. Big deal, huh? Everyone runs attack ads. Sure, but take a look at who these guys are and where they get their funding, via Center For New Community (PDF file):

The Coalition for the Future American Worker is one of the many fronts created by national anti-immigrant groups to conceal their agenda. The so-called Coalition is actually the creation of the two largest anti-immigrant organizations, the Washington DC-based anti-immigrant group FAIR and the Virginia-based American Immigration Control (AIC).

Together, AIC and FAIR have received more than $1.4 million dollars from the white supremacist foundation known as the Pioneer Fund.

The Pioneer Fund was founded in 1937 to further the cause of purifying the American gene pool by encouraging the descendants of white colonialists to procreate. Since that time the Pioneer Fund has become a centerpiece in keeping scientific racism alive through allocating grants for pseudo-academic studies. The Pioneer Fund serves as a primary supporter of the eugenics movement and has given it both the space to grow and the chance to politicize its research and theories.

The spokesperson for the Coalition for the Future of the American Worker is Roy Beck, head of the anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA. In 1997, Beck was a featured speaker at the annual conference of the Council of Conservative Citizens, the largest white supremacist organization in the United States.

The Dallas Morning News gives us a preview of the ad:

The advertisements, which are scheduled to run into next week on Dallas' ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC affiliate stations, feature dark images of black and Hispanic people with an off-camera voice stating that Mr. Frost supports legislation that would allow immigrants to crowd schools, drive down worker wages and deplete the job pool.

They do not mention Mr. Sessions, nor do they allude to the congressmen's congressional race in Texas' 32nd District, which political experts rank among the most high-profile and potentially expensive in the nation.

Federal records show that the Coalition for the Future American Worker's member organizations receive financing from other organizations, such as the Pioneer Fund, which studies racial differences and counts Nazi sympathizers among its founders.

These guys have run attack ads before against Republicans and Democrats. They attacked Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-NM) in 2000 and she said the following in response:

"This group's agenda has nothing to do with high-tech workers and helping Americans...These guys have a clear record of being a far right-wing group, and their leaders have made several racist statements in the press. I don't think they're anything I want to be associated with. Their agenda has everything to do with an anti-Hispanic, anti-Catholic agenda that has nothing to do with New Mexicans."

In fact, stations across the country have refused to run ads from this organization. However, when contacted, WFAA-TV considered the ads "appropriate":

Mr. Frost on Tuesday also called on all television stations to pull the advertisements. Kathy Clements, president and general manager of WFAA-TV (Channel 8), said the coalition purchased $67,260 worth of advertisement space during its morning, midday and early evening newscasts from Tuesday through April 15.

Although the Frost campaign asked Channel 8 to remove the advertisements, the station considers it "appropriate" to continue running them, she said.

Running ads with ties to White Supremist groups is appropriate? Yikes. Even more amazing is the fact that Pete Sessions is so far unwilling to join Heather Wilson and other Republicans in denouncing the organization:

Sessions campaign manager Chris Homan said Mr. Sessions has no knowledge of the organization sponsoring the advertisements, the Coalition for the Future American Worker, and no involvement with them.

"We're not going to engage groups like this in any capacity," Mr. Homan said.

"Pete has never been someone who supports discrimination," Mr. Homan added. "He abhors those groups that do."

Personally, I doubt that there is any connection between the Sessions campaign and the organization running the ads. But why doesn't the Sessions campaign be mature about it, and call them out for what they are - racists (and I won't even go into Sessions' response as someone who never supports discrimination. Sessions said in a 2000 town hall meeting that he didn't "represent the gays"). Regardless, Sessions should join Frost in condemning the Coalition for the Future American Worker. It's inevitable, as TX-32 will be one of the most expensive and hardest fought congressional races in the nation this year that outside groups will run ads benefiting or attacking both candidates. However, when radical, extremist, racist groups try to influence the outcome of our elections, they ought to be denounced by all sides.

If you want to help, you can contact Pete Sessions and urge him to denounce this organization, here.

You can also urge DFW television stations to reject the hate speech coming from this organization:

Comment line: 214.720.3103
Comment email: viewersvoice@kdfwfox4.com

Direct/Comment line: 214-745-5555
Comment email: news@nbc5i.com

Direct/Comment line: (817) 451-1111
Comment email: no direct email - use:

Direct/Comment line: 214-748-9631
Comment email: news8@wfaa.com

Of course, you can also help out the Frost Campaign, here.

Off the Kuff and David Neiwert have more on the story as well.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Gay Marriage in Austin?

By Byron LaMasters

Well, probably not anytime soon, but it's good to see several local officials come out in support of gay marriage. The Austin American Stateman reports:

Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe said that he was not opposed to same-sex marriages and that the Commissioners Court probably would be willing to pass a resolution in favor of them.

"My guess is, they have a fair chance of getting a symbolic gesture," he said. "If they want more, we'll have to find out what our legal authority is."

But Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, whose office issues marriage licenses, said state law prohibits the county from issuing licenses for same-sex marriages.

Commissioners Court resolutions are relatively meaningless, however anytime an elected official publically goes on the record as supporting gay marriage they ought to be commended. If the Commissioners Court has the courage to support a resolution endorsing gay marriage, and the four (of five) Democrats on the court get easily re-elected (as I expect they will), then it will only encourage more elected officials (who may be on the fence now) to come around to publicly supporting gay marriage.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Victory for Workers

By Byron LaMasters

Yeah, I'll admit that I've shopped at Wal-Mart before. Heck, I even have some stock in the company from some trust or inheritance, but they're one of the most irresponsible companies in America. Not only do they not allow their workers to unionize, they squeeze out competition wherever they move in, taking away decent paying grocery (among others) jobs. They're forcing grocers across the country (most recently seen in California) to lower their wages to remain competetive. Anyway, I'm pleased to see communities stand up to Wal-Mart. The most recent example was Inglewood, CA:

Voters rejected a ballot measure that would have cleared the way for a colossal Wal Mart in this Los Angeles suburb, one of several communities across the nation to resist the retailer's advances.

Activists who opposed the measure -- which would have allowed Wal Mart to skirt zoning, traffic and environmental reviews -- said it would hurt the community by inviting the Supercenter to drive out small business and encourage sprawl.

With all 29 precincts and absentee ballots counted late Tuesday night, Inglewood voters opposed the measure 60.6 percent to 39.3 percent, said Gabby Contreras of the city clerk's office.

The tally was 7,049 votes against the initiative and 4,575 in favor. Contreras said there are about 40,000 registered voters in the city.

"This is very, very positive for those folks who want to stand up and ... hold this corporate giant responsible," said Daniel Tabor, a former City Council member who had campaigned against the initiative.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Is this How we "Win the Peace"?

By Byron LaMasters

I don't think so:

.S. Marines in the third day of a battle to pacify this Sunni Muslim city fired rockets that hit a mosque compound today, and witnesses said as many as 40 people were killed. Shiite-inspired violence spread to key cities in Iraq.


An Associated Press reporter in Fallujah saw cars ferrying the dead and wounded from the Abdul-Aziz al-Samarrai mosque. Witnesses said a helicopter fired three missiles into the compound, destroying part of a wall surrounding the mosque but not damaging the main building.

The strike came as worshippers had gathered for afternoon prayers, witnesses said.

If terrorists or insurgents are hiding out in mosques, we should contain them, and force them or starve them out. If firing on a mosque is absolutely necessary, then for God's sake, don't fire on it when worshippers are gathered for afternoon prayers. Firing missles at mosques, and killing Muslim worshippers is the last way to acheive peace in Iraq.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Daily Texan Doesn't Mention Presidential Pieing

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I had a feeling it might not happen, the Daily Texan has not mentioned the fact that the Student Body President Brian Haley got hit with a pie at yesterday's meeting in their article on actions taken at the meeting.

I plan on writing a Firing Line about this exclusion, we shall see if it gets published. Anyone else who want to do so (UT students) write one less than 250 words to firingline@dailytexanonline.com. If you want to attach to it the link to the report here on Burnt Orange it's located at https://burntorangereport.com/archives/001346.html.

Do I have anything against Brian Haley? No, I really respect the guy and he's been supportive of GLBT efforts which I care about since I'm one of the co-directors of the GLBTA Affairs Agency (part of student government). I just think that something happening along those lines might be of interest to the general population and may at least warrent a mention in the Texan since Tuition and Fee issues have certainly been part of the student interest over the past year at UT.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 03:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Update on Press Conference

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I just wanted to post some link from some of the news being generated about the press conferece. And yes, one person did show up with a sign in opposition and she gets hald the story but that's journalism.

KXAN report

I will update this as I find more. FOX here in Austin doesn't put much up on their website and KVUE may be holding it for tomorrow's early morning show. The Statesman will be running tomorrow but it's our impression that piece won't be very flattering considering the reporter open declared that he didn't believe in social movements of any kind and just came to events like this really for the fun of it. Yeah, I can't wait, considering we didn't see him taking many notes of any kind.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 01:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 06, 2004

UT SG President Hit with Cream Pie

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I have a report for you straight from the floor of the Student Government meeting now progressing in the basement of the Student Services Building here at UT.

We are in the midst of the congratulatory speech section on behalf of the Executive Board, but just moments ago, in the open forum section, a speaker dressed as a Mime came up to speak. He began by saying that mimes do not usually speak, but now he had to break his silence. "First it was Student Fees, and then it was Tuition Increases and Deregulation." He had written a poem about student fees and such and that he felt someone needed to be held responsible, namely Brian Haley.

After finishing his speech he stated that he had a present for SG President Brian Haley, and proceeded to take a Cream Pie out of a box with a bow and dumped it on Haley.

Throughout the mime's speech, the assembly was chuckling, as well as during the pit throwing and after the mime ran out of the room after the pie toss. In addition, post pie, Haley made the comment of "can we not have that put into the Daily Texan tomorrow" to the reporter in the back row, who replied with a non-committal "we will see."

As a side note, in the speech section, SG External Financial Director Marc Eichenbaum made the joking comment that "SG President Brian Haley has done a great job at representing his constituents- the administration." He said that they had discussed it over lunch as a joke, but delivered it while Haley was out of the room cleaning off some of the pie.

That's your Burnt Orange Report from the Floor so far. This may be a regular feature here at Burnt Orange Report going into the future since I will be at these meetings each Tuesday for the next year.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 07:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tonight at 10

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

If you happen to receive TV signals out of the Austin area for KXAN (NBC), KVUE (ABC), or FOX7 (KTBC?) tonight at 10 you may see my smiling face on the tele from today's press conference for the Austin Coalition for Marriage Equality. If you are interested in joining ths movement, review the website or come to Spiderhouse this Monday at 6:30 p.m. on the back patio. I'll be writing about ACME events here as they happen.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 06:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

It's Official: Special Session on School Finance this Month

By Byron LaMasters

It leaked last week, but now its official:

Gov. Rick Perry said today he expects to call lawmakers back to Austin this month to come up with a plan to pay for public schools while maintaining job growth and lowering property taxes for homeowners.

Perry has been meeting this week with business groups around the state to discuss a proposal he calls a "constitutionally linked" property tax. The idea is to charge residential and commercial property owners different tax rates, but to link them so one could not be significantly higher than the other.

"Business leaders that I have talked to are very supportive of the constitutionally linked" property tax proposal, Perry said today, shortly after casting his early vote for the April 13 runoff election.

Lawmakers want to replace the share-the wealth school finance plan, which depends heavily on property tax revenue. The plan is known to some as Robin Hood because it collects money from property wealthy districts and redistributes it to poorer districts.

Perry has not publicly detailed his plan to replace Robin Hood, which has met with resistance in the Legislature.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

DeLay Staffer Thinks he's Above the Law

By Byron LaMasters

Tom DeLay staffer Jim Ellis thinks he's above Texas law. He claims that he can't be sued in the state of Texas because he did not "establish the 'minimum contact' necessary". Huh? I'm not a lawyer, but practically choosing who are congressmen doesn't qualify Jim Ellis as having "minimum contact" with this state? Ellis was the co-creator and executive director of a Texas political committee. Ellis spent eight months lobbying the Texas legislature on DeLay's behalf, and practically drew the redistricting map. The Austin American Statesman reports:

A key staffer for U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay who helped create Texans for a Republican Majority and spent months lobbying the Legislature is arguing that he did not establish the "minimum contact" necessary to be sued in Texas.

A lawyer for Jim Ellis, the executive director of DeLay's national fund-raising organization, said Monday that his Washington-based client should not be sued over allegations that Texans for a Republican Majority failed to disclose $600,000 in corporate donations spent in the 2002 legislative elections.

According to Monday's filing, Ellis lives in Virginia, works in the District of Columbia, owns no property in Texas and has never engaged in a business in Texas. A judge weighs those kinds of factors to decide whether a person outside Texas has enough contact in the state to be sued.

Records show that Ellis is no stranger to Texas or its politics.

At DeLay's direction, Ellis helped create the Texas committee. As executive director of DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority, he sent the fledgling Texas group its $50,000 in start-up money.

He listed himself on state reports as a key decision-maker and paid consultant to Texans for a Republican Majority. He also helped decide which GOP candidates the committee would support in 2002 elections and sometimes traveled to Texas on the committee's business.

In 2003, Ellis spent months in Texas on DeLay's behalf, carrying DeLay's wishes to state lawmakers as they drew congressional maps behind closed doors. He also did lobbying for a Virginia company that has $29 million in highway maintenance contracts and for a Washington law firm that represented a coalition of international charities.


In his deposition for a lawsuit challenging the redistricting map, Ellis said he came to Texas frequently during 2003. He said he attended meetings with Gov. Rick Perry, DeLay and other state leaders as early as January and worked off and on in Austin until the legislation was passed in October.

He worked very closely with the bill's House sponsor, Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford.

Ellis said he visited King "closer to 50 times than 25" during the redistricting controversy.

King said Ellis served as the funnel for Republican members of Congress to tell King what they wanted in the map.

"From the end of spring, April and May, when we were doing serious map-drawing, he was down here weekly," King said. "In the summer, he was down a couple days a week, sometimes four or five days running."

If that doesn't qualify as "minimum contact", I have no idea what is.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thoughts on May 15 Election (Galveston)

By Jim Dallas

Some thoughts on the local band of rogues and ruffians we call politicians --

Mayoral Race

I'll probably end up voting for Johnny Smecca, although I also have to admit I like Abdul Amin's pitch for a living wage for city employees.

As far as I see it, Smecca is the business candidate, Amin is the lefty candidate, and Lyda Ann Thomas is the establishment candidate. I'll probably annoy some people I'd like to be friends with by saying that, since my read on the situation is that Thomas is going to get most of the labor vote (to make a long story short, the city council flirted with the idea of revoking collective bargaining rights for city workers due to a longstanding belief that the city's police and fire unions were not negotiating with the city in good faith; Smecca considered it (but decided against it), while I believe Thomas was against it from the start).

As of now, Smecca probably will win. While it's always a bad idea to make strained comparisons, his base is most like Bill White's was in Houston, with Thomas and Amin fighting over a chunk of voters similar to those that supported Sylvester Turner's. While Galveston municipal politics is a few notches to the left of Houston's, I still see Smecca as the candidate most likely to win, particularly if Amin makes major inroads among minority voters.

City Council Races

There are a bunch this year, due to term limits. We'll start from the West End (Galveston has six single-member districts).

Dianna Puccetti is retiring in District 6, and the two main contenders to replace here are Beau Rawlins and Jackie Cole. I live in this district.

Since Beau Rawlins was endorsed by the Citizens for Labor and Good Government (the city's main labor PAC) and theGalveston Municipal Police Association, I'll probably vote for him. It also doesn't hurt that Rawlins has won over most of the voters in my neighborhood (just about every house on our block has a Rawlins sign).

In District 5, Johnny Smecca is retiring (and running for mayor, as noted above). The two main candidates are Danny Weber (CLGG's preferred candidate) and John Dreiss. Bobby Hicks is also running.

In District 4, Lyda Ann Thomas is retiring (and also running for mayor). Labor likes Chase Perez. Harold T. Thomas and Barbara Roberts are also in the hunt.

In District 3, Joe Jaworski is running for re-election, and just about everybody likes him. Well, except Allen LeCornu, who is running an uphill race against Jaworski.

In District 2, Cornelia Harris-Banks is running for re-election, but facing strong challenges from Tarris Woods (who is backed by labor) and Mark Muhich.

Finally, in District 1, Booker T. Price is facing challenges from Sylvia Pettis Joiner, Johnny Valentine, and Frank Nicholas (who has labor's backing).

City Charter Amendments

There are five propositions on the ballot this year; by far the most controversial is Prop. 2, which would prohibit the city from placing parking meters on the Seawall without winning approval from voters in a city-wide referendum. I am particularly torn on this proposition.

A vote for Prop. 2. will almost certainly kill efforts aimed at Seawall revenue enhancement, which will be necessary to increase police patrols and improve city beaches and lure new tourists to the island. On the other hand, I was pretty upset that the City Council was trying to go "over our heads" to put up parking meters. It seems pretty anti-democratic to me.

At the moment, I plan on voting for Proposition 2, because I believe the ends do not justify the means. Unfortunately, this means I will have to work extra hard to convince friends and neighbors to support paid parking on the Seawall when the referendum that Prop. 2 would mandate is voted on.

Prop. 1. would require (as I understand it) runoff elections, which are mandated by state law but somehow Galveston has simply shrugged off. I plan on supporting Prop. 1. because I prefer majority rule over plurality rule.

Props. 3. and 4. deal with money. I plan on voting no on 3 and yes on 4. Prop. 5, which deals with the city planning commission, will probably get a no vote from me.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 04:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

What the Hell is Going on in Iraq?

By Byron LaMasters

This just keeps getting more depressing.

18 American soldiers have died since this weekend and today Iraqi police lost control of Najaf to Al-Sadr supporters. Despite all this, President Bush still wants to turn over control to the Iraqis on June 30th? If the Iraqis can't control a single town, how the heck can they control the country? Those of us who opposed the war in Iraq (at least most of us), didn't oppose it because we were against getting rid of Saddam Hussein. I'm glad he's gone. I opposed the war in Iraq, because the Bush administration didn't articulate an exit plan. I opposed the war in Iraq because the Bush administration didn't exhaust all other options, an approach that prevented us from forming a broad coalition where the burden of occupation would be shared among our allies. And right now we're feeling the effects of our failure to build a broad coalition to share the burden of occupation. Sure, there's British troops and a smattering of troops from a dozen or so other countries, but the burden of occupation is squarely on our shoulders. Yet despite the fact that a civil war is possibly brewing in Iraq, Bush won't budge. John Kerry is right here. June 30th was chosen for political reasons:

Democrat John Kerry said on Monday the United States made a mistake in setting an arbitrary date for handing over power in Iraq and suggested President Bush may have chosen June 30 for political reasons.

Bush has vowed to stick to the deadline for handing over Iraqi sovereignty, even as a Shi'ite uprising against the U.S.-led occupation stirred fears of a possible civil war.

Calling the turn of events and the loss of American lives "deeply disturbing," Kerry told reporters: "I have always said consistently that it is a mistake to set an arbitrary date and I hope that the date has nothing to do with the election here in the United States."

I hope that John Kerry comes out with a comprehensive plan for Iraq in the coming weeks, because things are getting out of hand.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:16 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

ACME Announces Plans

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Press Release for the Austin Coalition for Marriage Equality

When courting, a suitor often is asked to declare her or his intentions toward her or his lover in order to determine whether the suitor is serious or just dallying. The Austin Coalition for Marriage Equality (ACME) has serious intentions to win marriage equality in Austin. The group will hold a news conference on Tuesday, April 6, at 5:15 at the Travis County Courthouse, 1000 Guadalupe Street in Austin.

Sponsored and organized by ACME, this event will bring together other organizations working toward marriage equality in Austin, including the Lesbian and Gay Rights Lobby of Texas, supportive local clergy, and a number of other campus and community groups.

The event also will announce ACME's plans and goals for the upcoming weeks. ACME came into being on March 8 and has set as its goals as the following: first, to call on the city council and county commissioners to express full support for marriage equality; and second, to educate the public at large about gay marriage as a civil rights issue.

ACME's fact sheet on marriage equality, and draft resolution for the city council and commissioners' court are attached and will be available in a press packet at the event itself.

Speakers at the press conference will include ACME members Liz Brenner and Matt Korn, Colin Cunliff for the Lesbian and Gay Rights Lobby of Texas, members of gay and lesbian families, and Karl-Thomas Musselman, speaking for the alliance of UT campus g/l/b/t organizations. In addition, Methodist minister Sid Hall will explain the perspective of clergy in support of gay marriage.

There will be a question and answer session after the presentations.

"Together with other organizations we are putting Austin on the map regarding this matter of fundamental civil rights," said Liz Brenner, a member of ACME. "We are in the process of approaching the city council and county commissioners with resolutions of support for the marriage of same-sex partners in regonition of our full humanity."

The growing ferment over gay marriage has led to comparisons with the civil rights movement that ended Jim Crow laws in the South during the 1960s. Both Democratic Presidential Candidate Al Sharpton and activist Coretta Scott King have expressed their support for gay marriage as a civil rights issue.

"Our slogan is 'Separate is Never Equal'" said ACME member Marti Bier. "And we will keep working until we win equality."

"It's great that we are coming together, because it is only together that we can win this struggle," commented Matt Korn, a member of ACME and also of the International Socialist Organization. "We are going to the public, the city, and the county commissioners to ask for what we want: equality now."

The press conference is a public event; reporters and interested citizens are encouraged to attend and participate.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 03:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cross Dressing Scandal Hits GOP State Rep. Run-off

By Byron LaMasters

It's hard not to laugh at this one (via Political Wire):

His family made a fortune on men's work clothing. But it's Sam Walls' apparent fondness for women's apparel that is dividing the Johnson County Republican Party.

Walls, 64, is in the April 13 GOP primary runoff against Burleson real estate broker Rob Orr for the House District 58 seat. As a leading businessman, former Republican Party chairman and benefactor of Harris Methodist Walls Regional Hospital, Walls seemed the odds-on favorite to win.

The victor is likely to succeed Arlene Wohlgemuth in the Texas Legislature.

But then pictures of Walls in women's clothing -- several of which were provided to the Star-Telegram -- began circulating late last week around Burleson and Cleburne, rival towns on opposite ends of the district.

That's when several Republicans, including the head of the Johnson County Republican Party, confronted Walls and urged him to withdraw from the race.

But Walls dug in.

After rebuffing Republicans who asked him to pull out Monday, he faxed a statement to the Star-Telegram saying he would not give in to "blackmail" from opponents who are trying to use "very old, personal information" to force him out.

"Through intermediaries, my opponent told me to drop out of the campaign or the private information would be released," Walls said. "Now my opponent is using the private information in an attempt to intimate that I am a homosexual, which I am not."

Walls said his family had "dealt with" the issue and he asked for forgiveness.

"I apologize for any embarrassment caused to supporters by my opponent's disclosure of a small part of my personal past," he said.

Goodness... the issues that come up in Republican primaries never cease to amaze me. Personally, I think it's pretty cool that a crossdresser might get elected to the Texas legislature - even if he's a Republican, and even if he's asked for forgiveness for this terrible sin. Geez.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:36 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Taxes, Complain, Complain, Complain...

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Everyone complains about taxes, right? Certainly if you are a Republican or a Business. Then you really get up in arms. But I sense a new theory. The "It's All Just for Show" theory in which you make a big stink about taxes to get people who pay them to vote for Business Interests (which for the sake of fun I will call Republicans in Congress), but in reality you let Businesses just pay, or not pay, whatever they want, regardless of what rate they are.

Proof Positive?

More than 60% of U.S. corporations didn't pay any federal taxes for 1996 through 2000, years when the economy boomed and corporate profits soared, Tuesday's Wall Street Journal reported, citing the investigative arm of Congress.

The disclosures from the General Accounting Office are certain to fuel the debate over corporate tax payments in the presidential campaign. Corporate tax receipts have shrunk markedly as a share of overall federal revenue in recent years, and were particularly depressed when the economy soured. By 2003, they had fallen to just 7.4% of overall federal receipts, the lowest rate since 1983, and the second-lowest rate since 1934, federal budget officials say.

The GAO analysis of Internal Revenue Service data comes as tax avoidance by both U.S. and foreign companies also is drawing increased scrutiny from the IRS and Congress. But more so than similar previous reports, the analysis suggests that dodging taxes, both legally and otherwise, has become deeply rooted in U.S. corporate culture. The analysis found that even more foreign-owned companies doing business in the U.S. -- about 70% of them -- reported that they didn't owe any U.S. federal taxes during the late 1990s.

I wish us normal people could have the same luxury. And by normal people I'm including Republicans that aren't CEOs. So that includes Owen and Mark in the regular people category, unless one of them plans to come to the defense of the Billions not being paid by the likes of Kenny Boy Lay and Company? I mean, if corperations pay their taxes, doesn't that mean the government needs less of ours? Or at least doesn't need to raise them or go further into deficit to pay for the $150 Billion extra that the Medicare Plan accidently will cost.

Just some food for thought as we fill out our tax forms before the 15th.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 02:42 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

How do you make the GOP run-off in Texas?

By Byron LaMasters

It helps to have an Anglo-sounding name, and to have God speak to you.

Just ask Railroad Commission candidate Robert Butler. The Austin American Statesman reported on Friday:

Robert Butler answered the door in his underwear. He does not usually do that, he will later explain emphatically, but the knocking sounded so urgent that he was afraid there might be an emergency.

Knocking loudly, and persistently, on Butler's door seems to be one of the few ways to find him these days, and even that doesn't always work. One of his neighbors, Ron Eaton, said that when he needs to rouse Butler, "I just grab a good-sized stick that's pretty sturdy and bang on the window 'til he answers."

Butler's elusiveness would not be noteworthy, except that the 65-year-old retired state employee is one of two Republicans facing off in the April 13 runoff for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission.

With minimal campaigning, Butler won about 23 percent of the vote in the March 9 primary election, forcing a runoff with incumbent Victor Carrillo, the favored candidate of the GOP leadership who was appointed to the commission last year by Gov. Rick Perry.


Butler has been hard to find. His home phone doesn't work. Reporters and GOP officials have no idea how to get hold of him. And he hasn't shown up at various candidate forums.


His car doesn't work, so he has to take taxis when he wants to run down to a local newspaper and place an ad. He has a few thousand dollars, according to reports he has filed with the state Ethics Commission. He also has no campaign manager or Web site, and his campaign headquarters is the fading house on Magnolia Street with its unkempt yard and discarded Democratic yard signs in the carport.


The GOP has been burned before when its Hispanic candidates have lost or done poorly in statewide races.

Xavier Rodriguez, Perry's appointee to the state Supreme Court, lost a 2002 primary to Justice Steven Wayne Smith.

And Tony Garza, Carrillo's predecessor at the railroad commission, placed fourth in the 1994 primary for attorney general.

The GOP's quest to elect more Hispanics has been hampered, many political observers believe, by an instinctive reaction among some Republican primary voters to pick an Anglo name when they are not familiar with the candidates in a race.


Butler is running, to the extent that he can, on his experience of 40-plus years on the state payroll at various agencies.

He said he's been to so many Railroad Commission meetings that he knows how the place works. Among other things, Butler wants to speed up the process of finding owners of land where oil leases could be made.

His last bid for public office -- a seat on the State Board of Education in 2002 -- didn't go too well and was marred by several arrests for public intoxication.

But Butler said he believes elected office is his destiny, particularly since God spoke to him in a dream several years ago and convinced him to switch from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party.

"I was standing before God. He was in a cloud. I couldn't see him," Butler explained. "He talked in the same kind of way that we think. I didn't hear a voice, but he seemed to say to me, in a thinking sort of way, 'Why are you in a party that supports abortion?' "

Amusing. Then again, Texas Democrats have done silly things ourselves, such as nominate Gene Kelly for U.S. Senate in 2000 (to name one recent example). Victor Carrillo ought to easily win the run-off next Tuesday. He's by far the best candidate of the two. Texas Republicans often have trouble nominating minority candidates for statewide office (just ask Xavier Rodriguez), but I'll give them some credit for trying.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:13 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 05, 2004

Bush Approval Rating at 43%

By Byron LaMasters

I saw it on FOX News, too. They were trying to spin it, but it's hard to spin 43%. Newsday reports:

Public approval of President Bush's handling of Iraq has slipped to a new low -- alongside his overall job rating -- after last week's grisly deaths of four contractors in Fallujah, a poll says.

Still, a majority supports his decision to use military force in Iraq, says the poll released Monday.

Four in 10, or 40 percent, approve of the way Bush is handling Iraq, while 53 percent disapprove. That's down from six in 10 who approved in mid-January, according to the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Bush's overall job approval is at 43 percent, a low point for his presidency, down from 56 percent in mid-January. In the new poll, 47 percent disapproved of Bush's job performance. Bush's job approval soared to 90 percent after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and remained in the 70s for almost a year after that.

In other polls out today, Bush has a 38% approval rating in California and a 46% approval rating in Ohio.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Veepstakes 2004

By Andrew Dobbs

Alright, so this seems to be the political parlor game of the hour, so I'll get in the act again. The most recent news is that the next Speaker of the House and the hottest woman in Congress Nancy Pelosi is pushing John Kerry to have a running mate by May 1. Political Wire says that the timetable is in the ballpark of 8 weeks. This means that there will be very little time to vet the choice- a solid, breathtaking oppo-style background job can take several weeks and that is the kind of fearless moral inventory necessary for these sorts of things. Jim Johnson, Kerry's VP selection committee chair, knows first hand what can go wrong when you don't have enough time to research your VP selection's background. In 1984 Walter Mondale gave him one day to look into Geraldine Ferarro's history. Ferarro's husband's financial dealings of course came back to hurt Mondale and to wipe out any advantage nominating the first woman on any major party ticket in history might have given him. Johnson surely learned his lesson and he will not want to make the same mistake. This then becomes the key to the race- who do we know enough about already to not be surprised come campaign time?

Everyone wants a candidate too quickly for a real hard look but no one wants a candidate that hasn't gotten a real hard look. The answer? Pick someone who has already been in the media spotlight- pick someone who was on Gore's shortlist in 2000 or one of the 2004 candidates. Most likely, this will be the field Kerry plucks his choice from.

There were 7 realistic candidates for president this year. One of them is the nominee, one (Lieberman) has no real interest in running for VP again, one (Dean) is too New England for Kerry and the other four- Clark, Edwards, Gephardt and Graham- all seem interested in running for the spot. Add into that calculation Bill Richardson whose name was tossed around quite a bit in 2000 and you have a pretty realistic field. Reports say that Kerry has also talked to Tom Vilsack and the name Mark Warner was thrown around long before Kerry had won the nomination. These 6 candidates- Clark, Edwards, Gephardt, Graham, Vilsack and Warner seem to be the most likely to choose from while some others- Mary Landrieu, Kathleen Sebelius, Bill Cohen (who I thought I just came up with out my ass but is actually getting talked up by real journalists now), John McCain and some others all have a shot but seem more like novelty candidates than likely choices.

The question now becomes, what do we need to win. It seems as if the West Coast and New England is locked up and the South and Mountain West belong to Bush (with the possible exceptions of Florida and Colorado). That leaves the Southwest and the Industrial Midwest to be battled out. Bill Richardson would turn out voters in the Southwest, Gephardt and to a lesser extent Vilsack in the Industrial Midwest. Graham might turn out Florida, but his incredibly weak showing in the campaign and his inability to connect with voters makes me think that he'd be a very bad choice for VP. Everyone seems to like Edwards, everyone except for the Kerry people it seems. Many stories have made it into print as to Kerry's doubts that Edwards could be the kind of attack dog the VP needs to be. They are right in this criticism and having another Senator on the ticket makes it a very DC-centered campaign. Clark was another weak candidate and he doesn't really provide anything to the Southwest (except maybe the military cred, but Kerry has a lot of that already) or the Industrial Midwest. Gephardt would be great in the Industrial Midwest but Kerry/Gephardt might be the most boring, most DC-insider ticket since Mondale/Ferraro. Warner has lots of money, but once again- i'm not sure that we'd have time to give him a good hard look. If they've been working on it already he might be a pretty good choice but his tax hikes will make him great fodder for Bush ad spots and he doesn't gain anything in the Industrial Midwest (excpept maybe West Virginia) or the Southwest Richardson is exciting, an outsider, would lock in New Mexico, Arizona and make Colorado a lean-Kerry from its current status as tossup/lean Bush and put Nevada into play. Still, his record at the Energy Department kept him off the 2000 ticket and is unlikely to win him any votes of confidence against George "Steady Leadership blah blah blah" Bush. That leaves Vilsack.

Early in 2002 I wrote Vilsack an email asking him to run for President as I felt that he provided the kind of leadership and biography you have to love. An orphan adopted by abusive parents he worked his way through college and law school and moved to Iowa from his native Pennsylvania and worked as a lawyer for his father in law before serving as Mayor and State Senator from Mount Pleasant. He then went on to run for governor in a race everyone thought he would lose. He didn't, of course, and was elected as Iowa's first Democratic governor in more than 30 years. He was easily reelected in 2002 and provides a great progressive voice in that state. Pro-labor, good on agriculture and a tough as nails progressive he would help us carry any number of states and would make a great running mate. Seeing as he has not been vetted as well as the others, he might lose out to Gephardt or Richardson in the end, but he is probably the best choice.

This isn't to say that I wouldn't jump at the chance to nominate John McCain. Sure, Bush would run an ad that says "Look at John McCain flip flopping- saying he wouldn't run and then running, working for me and then for Kerry, serving as a Republican and running as a Democrat." But it would lock in Arizona and put any number of other states in play as he could focus on Republican states and play up a "national unity" theme. The bounce in the polls would likely be enormous for Kerry, big enough to carry him through Election Day assuming he doesn't screw up. Still, I don't think McCain will do that. More likely, I think that his recent anti-Bush comments are setting him up for perhaps leaving the GOP to become an Independent in the Senate. Still, Kerry/McCain would be probably unstoppable.

To sum up- the truncated VP selection schedule means that the most likely candidates are the former Presidentials and Richardson with Vilsack thrown in as he seems to be getting a lot of attention early from the Kerry camp. Vilsack is the best, with probably Richardson right behind him, then Gephardt, Edwards, Clark and Graham. McCain would be great, but is unlikely to take the job and others are probably just novelty names thrown around.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 03:52 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Knight's Gay Son Among those Married in SF

By Byron LaMasters

Mary Cheney may not have the courage to speak out against her father's hate campaign for the Federal Marriage Amendment, but David Knight sure does:

When David Knight married his boyfriend of 10 years, his parents were not among the mothers and fathers proudly snapping photos and sipping champagne at San Francisco's City Hall.

His mother is long gone, dead of cancer when he was 17. And his father, well ...

These are precarious times for the gay son of state Sen. William J. "Pete" Knight, the arch-conservative architect of California's Defense of Marriage Act.


The elder Knight, 75, a Republican being termed out of office this year, is California's most outspoken opponent of marriage for gay couples. Since spearheading the 2000 ballot initiative that reinforced California's "one man, one woman" marriage laws, he has used the courts to keep state agencies from granting spousal rights to same-sex couples. His nonprofit group is at the center of the legal challenges to San Francisco's same-sex wedding spree.

The younger, a 42-year-old custom furniture maker in Baltimore, flew to the city with his longtime partner and got married just two days before the California Supreme Court shut down the weddings. The court is considering whether city officials had the authority to contravene state law by sanctioning almost 4,000 gay and lesbian marriages.

Good for David Knight. If only more gays and lesbians from conservative / Republican backgrounds would speak out...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:39 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Majority Report Weblog

By Byron LaMasters

It's good to see the folks at Air America radio embracing the blogosphere. The Majority Report has begun a Blog. I haven't yet had an opportunity to listen to The Majority Report, but I've been impressed with the first week of The O'Franken Factor and the Zero Spin Zone.

In other Air America news, they've just recently picked up four more stations which they'll be announcing soon.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

My Obligatory KOS post

By Byron LaMasters

I'm a little late to the game on this one, due in part to the fact that I started writing this post several times over the weekend, but never really figured out what I wanted to say. For those of you out of the loop, here's the background. On Thursday, Markos of The Daily Kos wrote that he had no sympathy over the deaths of the American contractors that were brutally killed in Fallujah. Kos wrote that, "they are there to wage war for profit. Screw them." Such a comment is certainly inappropriate and insensitive, and Kos quickly realized that. While he didn't directly apologize (something that I still believe he ought to), he retracted his comments in a seperate statement.

Within hours, a delinking campaign began along with a campaign to get advertisers to cut their ties to Kos (which, so far has succeeded in convincing five advertizers to stop advertizing on Kos). Even the John Kerry blog has issued a statement that it has removed its link to the Daily Kos because of Kos' "unacceptable statement".

My thoughts?

First off, Kos's statement was highly irresponsible, and I'm not going to hold it against any advertiser that left Kos. They were getting hammered with tons of emails set up by conservative bloggers. It also gives some of the campaigns a chance to have their "Sista Soulja" moment where thay "stand up to the left". Fine. If they feel they must do it, that's their call. I'm not too worried about Kos. Kos will be fine. He may have lost advertisers, and he'll probably lose some more, but the candidate that began advertising on Kos last night has already raised over $6500 in less than 16 hours. Kos has a lot of dedicated supporters that will stick with him regardless, ensuring that any candidate that advertises with him in the future ought to acheive a pretty good return on their investment.

However, I would like to add that this whole incident has been blown out of proportion. Running ads on a weblog, or linking to a weblog does not imply that the advertisers endorse all (or for that matter, any) of the content on that weblog. I've been outspoken on this blog in my support of issues like gay marriage and my opposition to the war in Iraq. Does that mean that my advertisers agree with me on those issues? Do they endorse those issues? Not at all. I link to dozens of other blogs, some of which I agree with most of the time, and some of which I can't stand. Does linking to a blog constitute an endorsement of the content of that blog? Of course not. I link to blogs because I believe that they're valuable to myself and to our readers. I think an apt comparison would be that of talk radio. Do the advertisers of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage agree with everything that they say on their shows? I found Michael Savage's comments on the events in Falluja far more offensive than Kos's comments. Savage wants to "WIPE OUT THE VICIOUS INHUMAN BASTARDS", and blames all Muslims for the actions of a few. Or lets use our favorite conservative columnist, Ann Coulter for example. Here's a woman who has called for attacking France, and for making Muslims pay for 9/11:

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war.

I could spend all day going through Ann Coulter's lunacy... er columns, but it's beside the point. The people that advertise on Ann Coulter don't necessarily share her view, and people can make the distinction. Off the Kuff mentions the column of Kathleen Parker that calls for the nuking of the Sunni Triangle. There's a huge difference between someone like Kos, who is a decent guy and said something stupid, and people who really are crazy like Ann Coulter, Michael Savage and Kathleen Parker.

I worry that the actions by the right to discredit Kos will open a can of worms. Will people who disagree with me go through my archives and email my advertisers urging them to cut their ties with me? Will other bloggers on the left be targeted? Will the right-leaning blog Instapundit (which harshly attacked Kos) be targeted by lefty bloggers?

Anyone who writes as much as many of us bloggers do (and especially since bloggers don't have editors) is bound to make a stupid comment every once in awhile. When no one reads you, it's easy to delete or revise a post. But when you receive thousands of visitors a day, there's less margin for error. I can sympathise with Kos, because I, along with almost every other blogger out there have said things that are kind of dumb on occasion. We all do, and dumb statements have consequences. Kos will be ok. I'm sure he's learned from his mistake, just as I've learned a lot blogging over the past year.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:14 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

No More Compassion

By Byron LaMasters

While President Bush still highlights his "compassion agenda" on his website along with his compassion photo album where he poses with Black kids, it appears as if the Bush Campaign has decided to deemphasize the image of "compassionate conservativism" that was a large part of Bush's 2000 campaign. Hotline reports (via the Dallas Morning News:

As he approaches the November election, President Bush has shed a good part of the "compassionate conservative" image he cultivated during the 2000 election, a Washington Post poll has found. Mr. Bush came to office three years ago with a message that he was different from traditional Republican conservatives because he was promoting programs for the poor and disadvantaged. But with his presidency dominated by foreign policy issues and such traditional conservative favorites as tax cuts, he has dropped from his speeches the compassionate conservative moniker that was his trademark in 2000. The Post poll found Americans split over whether Mr. Bush has governed in a compassionate way, with 49 percent saying he has and 45 percent saying he has not. That is down sharply from February 2003, when a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found that 64 percent of Americans thought he had governed compassionately. The margin of error in the Post poll is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Makes sense to me. There's no point in calling President Bush a "compassionate conservative" when most moderate and independent voters won't buy it anymore.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 04, 2004

McCaul for Congress... sort of.

By Byron LaMasters

Well, I wouldn't call this an endorsement, because I won't be voting for Michael McCaul in November, even if he's the only man on the ballot. I'll exercise my right to not vote in the Congressional District 10 race rather than vote for a Republican, be it Michael McCaul or Ben Streusand.

Having said that, if you live in CD 10 and did not vote in the Democratic Primary (Democratic Primary voters are ineligible to vote in the CD 10 GOP runoff), I would urge a vote for Michael McCaul in the CD 10 GOP run-off. Why? He's a conservative Republican, but he's not a crazy conservative Republican. Yeah, I know, it's a lesser of two evils here, but it's a Republican primary, so what do you expect. The other guy, Ben Streusand is a complete right-wing nut (think Bob Dornan). He publicizes his endorsement from State Rep. Debbie Riddle, a crazy right-wing nut, notorious for this comment on public education:

"Where did this idea come from--that everybody deserves free education?...It's like free groceries. It comes from Moscow. From Russia. Straight out of the oit of hell."--Representative Debbie Riddle, Austin, TX, March 5, 2003.

Streusand has also sent out a mailer to Republicans in the district emphasising how anti-gay he is. The Austin Chronicle reports:

"Ben Streusand will use his voice in Congress to say 'Enough is Enough' to the liberals. He will stand up for our pro-family values. As our Congressman, he will: Support a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Fight attempts to add 'sexual orientation' as a protected minority. Support legislation to prevent homosexual couples from adopting children. Fight to keep homosexual couples from receiving the same tax benefits as married couples. Oppose 'civil unions' between same sex partners."

Streusand has also bought the endorsement of State Rep. Ray Allen, and is endorsed by Gary Bauer and by former CD 10 candidate (who posted the Ten Commandments in his courtroom) John Devine.

I don't really have much good to say about Michael McCaul, but he's from Austin, and I like to think that he'd at least consider Austin's interests in Congress. Despite the fact that the Texas Republican establishment is behind him, he's the best choice for Congress in CD 10.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:34 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Shadows of LBJ?

By Byron LaMasters

The San Antonio Express-News speculates on it in regards to the CD 28 recount results:

It reads like fiction, the bitter Democratic primary battle in the 28th Congressional District.

But the missing votes, small-town politics, finger-pointing and soured friendships that have made it one of the more bizarre elections in Texas's colorful history are all too real.

After almost a month, Laredo lawyer Henry Cuellar has the most votes, but the winner remains in doubt. And the ballots sit in six triple-locked blue metal boxes inside a carpeted bank vault in Zapata.

Also in doubt is the political future of Ciro Rodriguez, a seven-year veteran of Congress who's on the verge of being unseated by two batches of ballots that mysteriously were not tabulated election night.

Though San Antonio's Rodriguez appeared to pocket a victory by a mere 145 votes out of more than 48,000 cast March 9, the ballots discovered in Webb and Zapata counties three weeks after the election favor Cuellar.

He's a native son of the two border counties that comprise the southern anchor of the redrawn district.

"From the outside, it looks extremely suspect," said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "This just looks like a 1950s election. You have to look at this as one that will go down in Texas lore as a stolen election."


"Clearly the recount did work in that you had both campaigns present through the entire process from beginning to end," said T.J. Connolly, a San Antonio-based spokesman for the Cuellar recount effort.

"There's a lot of speculation and misinformation out there, but the facts will show that the (election night) votes were not properly tabulated. There was technical error and human error."

Connolly said he looks forward to full disclosure, which he hopes will shatter what he calls the "myths" surrounding the race.

"People are making comparisons with LBJ's Box 13, but this is not a similar situation," he said, referring to the 1948 U.S. Senate race won by Lyndon B. Johnson under blatantly corrupt circumstances.

But Jillson and others aren't convinced that the Cuellar-Rodriguez race is all that different.

"There is no way on God's green earth that 177 ballots showed up for Cuellar (in Webb County) and zero for Rodriguez," he said.

It's a bit suspicious to say the least. I'll continue to follow this as more develops.

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

Historical Politics in Ads

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I am busy this weekend with studying, so I as well have been low on posting.

I did run across a very cool thing last month. It is a compilation of the advertising on television for past presidential campaigns. It's a neat format and you can spend hours looking at these things. A new version launches this summer but in the meantime, go here to see what is up at "The Living Room Candidate".

In addition to that, HotPot Software has two incredibly addictive games. One dealing with interoffice cubical wars, the other a very detailed simulation of running for president where you control advertising, themes, money, state by state activities. It's really cool, but addictive.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 04:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 03, 2004

Senate Unhappy with Perry's School Plan

By Byron LaMasters

It seems as if Rick Perry is having a hard time finding friends these days. Last week, Comptroller Strayhorn called Rick Perry a failure, and now Lt. Governor Dewhurst, and Republican senators aren't too happy with Rick Perry either. The San Antonio Express-News reports:

A school funding proposal circulated by Gov. Rick Perry takes a gradual approach that's unacceptable to senators and unfair to property taxpayers who need quick relief, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Friday.

"There are some here in Austin who want to improve education incrementally between today and 2007. And I've got to ask why," Dewhurst told the 24th Annual Association of Texas Professional Educators State Convention.

"Our homeowners and our businesses need property tax relief today."

Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, told reporters later: "The Senate does not want to look at an incremental approach. We want a permanent solution to school finance."

He said Perry's proposal, which hasn't been publicly announced, appears incremental.

Lawmakers have said a Perry presentation includes separately taxing homes and business property while phasing in levels of property tax relief.

Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said by phone that Dewhurst's assessment of the Senate position is "absolutely correct."

The statements from Perry's fellow Republicans are the latest in a string of worries voiced by various groups. Aspects of the plan have been criticized by business groups, education groups, cities and counties.

Perry has privately told GOP leaders he plans to call lawmakers to a special session on education by April 19, although the consensus he said he wanted first hasn't materialized.

I still think that the best solution for the school finance crisis in Texas is a state income tax, but I dream on...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:20 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

GOP Chair Criticizes Strayhorn

By Andrew Dobbs

From the Startle-Gram:

The head of the state Republican Party rushed to the defense of Gov. Rick Perry on Friday and chided GOP state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn for criticizing his leadership -- or lack thereof.

State Republican Party chairwoman Tina Benkiser singled out the comptroller's attacks on Perry in a letter to members of the State Republican Executive Committee.

Though she didn't mention Strayhorn by name -- instead calling her "one of our Republican elected officials" -- the reference was unmistakable: She quoted from a Star-Telegram news article about Strayhorn's attacks on Perry.

"These types of attacks, described by a news report as 'from the left,' do not further the policy debate in any substantive way and only serve to generate negative media attention for our entire Republican family," Benkiser said. The Star-Telegram article was attached to the letter.

One member of the Republican executive committee who got the letter, Roy Casanova of San Antonio, said Strayhorn had done state leaders an "injustice by taunting them."

So the 2006 GOP Primary begins and what has been expected for some time is coming true- the party establishment is lining up behind Perry while Strayhorn comes across as the insurgent. If KBH decides to stay in DC or retire, Perry vs. Strayhorn will be a bitter primary battle with Perry winning a pretty significant victory. Bloodied and already unpopular, I think he starts out pretty weak if the Dems put up a good candidate (Jim Turner, most likely) and I think that a great deal of the moderate, largely suburban Strayhorn voters could end up in the D column on Election Day. Strayhorn serves a valuable purpose for Democrats right now, split the GOP and provide the best criticism of Rick Perry out there right now. Let's hope the battle continues in earnest.

The hopes that Strayhorn will switch parties are almost certainly false ones. With one son that works as George W. Bush's press secretary and another that works as the Bush appointed FDA, she would not want to jeopardize their careers. Our best bet is to remember that a majority of Texans are represented by at least one Democrat- either in Congress, the Legislature or on the county level- and these Dems are mostly moderate/conservative rural Democrats. A real "Dream Team" would incorporate mostly these guys. If we put up Jim Turner or John Montford or Charlie Stenholm or someone else like that for statewide offices, we benefit from a GOP split. Let's keep our eyes on the prize and take back at least a couple of spots in 2006. We need to be set up well for 2010 and legislative redistrcting so that we can reemerge as a real force in the next decade.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 01:47 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 02, 2004

Bush Poster Maker

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Do you remember those days when the Bush Campaign had that great poster maker that we all hijacked? Well, it was a sad day when they took it down, I know I cried. But I just remembered that sitting in my favorites folder for over 2 weeks is a link to a site that someone has made that allows you to relive those days.

Yes, a new, improved Bush Poster Maker is here, with no restrictions on what words you can use. And what made me think of it again? I saw a Miserable Failure poster on a kiosk near my dorm. Picture in extended entry...


Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 10:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Kerry Campaign Raises $50 Mln

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Surpassing the estimates being floated around earlier this week ($43 million), the Kerry Campaign boasted total incoming cash flow of over $50 Million for the past three months. This is unheard of (for Democrats anyways).


John Kerry's presidential campaign raised more than $50 million in the first quarter of 2004, a record for any nonincumbent White House contender, including George W. Bush, the Democrat's staff said on Friday. Grass-roots contributions, many made on the Internet, accounted for $35 million of the quarterly total, Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill said in a telephone news conference.

She said the campaign raised $38 million in March, the month that Massachusetts senator clinched the party nomination to run against President Bush in November.

"Our grass-roots donors have been the backbone of our fund-raising this month, breaking every online record," Cahill said, adding that the campaign is more than halfway to its goal of raising $80 million before the Democratic National Convention in July.

The quarterly total breaks the $29 million record for a nonincumbent presidential contender, which was set in 1999 by then-candidate Bush, she said. Since 1999 the donation limit to a candidate has been doubled, which could account for some of the difference.

Also of note was the 2.6 million dollar fundraising day in Early March (4 or 7, I hear conflicting reports) that beat Dean's big day at the end of Q3 2003. Now just a comment on all this, I'm am positive that a lot of this money is not "pro-Kerry" money in the sense that people are more anti-Bush than anything else (a longer term problem, but we can deal with that later) and the fact that I think anyone once they became the nominee was going to get a huge surge of fundraising.

But hands down, it's a good thing for John Kerry and the Democratic Party (which also is free of debt and doing recording fundraising as well, even after he campaign finance laws).

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 03:07 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 01, 2004

Central Texas for John Kerry

By Byron LaMasters

Want to help elect John Kerry our next President? You can make a difference here in Central Texas. Here's how:

John Kerry for President
Organizational Meeting

Wednesday, April 7th at 7pm
1106 Lavaca Street
Austin, TX 78701
(at the corner of 11th Street and Lavaca Street)

Come help us organize the grassroots John Kerry for President campaign effort in Central Texas! Over the next few weeks we will be forming several issue-related committees to help focus and direct the John Kerry election effort in the greater Austin area. Join us on Wednesday and learn how you can get involved.

Contact: Ryan McCormick, 512-294-4630, ryan@austinforkerry.org

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:53 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Cuellar up by 203 Votes with Completed Recount

By Byron LaMasters

The San Antonio Express-News reports:

Pending a potential lawsuit and a second retabulation of disputed ballots in Webb County, Henry Cuellar took an unofficial 203-vote lead over U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez in an 11-county recount completed today.

Results from Comal County, the last county to complete a recount in the Congressional District 28 race, gave Rodriguez three additional votes, while Cuellar's vote tally increased by one.

Earlier in the day, a similar exercise in Guadalupe County added three votes for Cuellar, while Rodriguez lost one vote.

The entire recount process marked an amazing turnaround for Rodriguez, the San Antonio incumbent who saw a 145-vote lead after the March 9 primary evaporate into a 203-vote deficit that has prompted cries of fraud and vote tampering.

So, pending a lawsuit, Cuellar will be the next congressman from TX-28.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cuellar up by 203 Votes with Completed Recount

By Byron LaMasters

The San Antonio Express-News reports:

Pending a potential lawsuit and a second retabulation of disputed ballots in Webb County, Henry Cuellar took an unofficial 203-vote lead over U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez in an 11-county recount completed today.

Results from Comal County, the last county to complete a recount in the Congressional District 28 race, gave Rodriguez three additional votes, while Cuellar's vote tally increased by one.

Earlier in the day, a similar exercise in Guadalupe County added three votes for Cuellar, while Rodriguez lost one vote.

The entire recount process marked an amazing turnaround for Rodriguez, the San Antonio incumbent who saw a 145-vote lead after the March 9 primary evaporate into a 203-vote deficit that has prompted cries of fraud and vote tampering.

So, pending a lawsuit, Cuellar will be the next congressman from TX-28.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

New Kerry Ad on Jobs

By Byron LaMasters

It's decent. Here's the press release. You can find the ad on Kerry's webpage.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Perry to Call Special Session as Strayhorn Calls him a Failure

By Byron LaMasters

After ignoring the public education crisis in Texas during the 2003 legislative session, and then spending the rest of the year on Tom DeLay's redistricting adventure, Governor Perry has finally found time to try and solve our crisis in public education in Texas. The Austin American Statesman reports:

Gov. Rick Perry has told Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick that he will announce this week a special legislative session in mid-April to address school finance, sources told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The three Republican leaders have not reached an agreement on how to overhaul the share-the-wealth system of funding public education, despite Perry's insistence that he would call the session once a consensus has emerged.

Two days have been mentioned as possible start dates, April 12 or April 19, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It's about time. Rick Perry and the Republican leadership should have focused on this a year ago, but instead saw redistricting as a more important issue.

It's not only Democrats who are unhappy, though. Republican Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn yesterday said that it's time for new leadership in Austin. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn on Wednesday said it may be time for new leadership in Texas as she blasted Gov. Rick Perry for failing Texas children on two fronts -- health care and school funding.

"It's time to stop the hemorrhaging. It's time to put children first," said Strayhorn in a speech to county administrators.

Strayhorn said Perry should call lawmakers into a special session to address school finance and to use $583 million in unbudgeted funds to restore health care cuts made during the 2003 session. She noted that since September, 119,000 children have lost their coverage under the Children's Health Insurance Plan and that a new asset test being considered by the Health and Human Services Commission could throw thousands more off the program.

"It is unconscionable that we're dead last in percent of children on health insurance," said Strayhorn.

She criticized Perry, saying he let months of inactivity pass while the school system suffers.

"I say his learning curve should now be complete, and if not, we need new leadership willing not to delay, not to cajole, not to offer patchwork proposals packaged in lofty titles," said Strayhorn.

Strayhorn is a potential challenger to Perry in the 2006 Republican primary. She refused to discuss the election and said she is focused on being comptroller.

Texas is last or near last in children's health insurance and public education, and its getting worse because children are not a top priority of the Republican leadership. Some Republicans like Strayhorn understand this, and genuinely want to help children, but the core of the state GOP leadership (Perry, Dewhurst, Craddick, etc.) don't give one bit.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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