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May 31, 2004

Dallas Police to Endorse Martin Frost

By Byron LaMasters

From the Martin Frost Press Release:

Dallas Police Officer's Political Action Committee to Endorse Congressman Martin Frost Endorsement Represents Over 2,500 Police Officers

DALLAS, TX - The Dallas Police Officer's Political Action Committee, the largest such law enforcement political organization in Dallas, will announce their endorsement of Congressman Martin Frost for re-election to Congress in the new 32nd district.

Frost will receive the endorsement because of his long-standing commitment to community safety, and his work in supporting the dedicated public servants of the Dallas Police Department.

WHAT: Dallas Police Officer's Political Action Committee Endorsement of Congressman Martin Frost for TX 32

WHERE: Dallas Police Association Building, 1412 Griffin St. East, Dallas (Mapsco 45Q)

WHEN: Tuesday, June 1, 2004, 10:00 AM

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Honoring Memorial Day

By Byron LaMasters

I'll borrow from the Free State Standard and use this space to remember all of the men and women from Texas who have paid the ultimate price - their lives - serving their country in Iraq. It's important to remember that when we read the news clips everyday or watch the 15 second sound bytes on CNN about more Americans killed in Iraq, that we be able to understand that these soldiers are more than just a name and number. They left behind families, sons, daughters, wife's and husbands, mother's and father's, and their uncompleted lives. As a tribute to our military, our Veterans and all those who have served America, here is a list of the Texas soldiers who have lost their life in Iraq, via the Houston Chronicle:


�May 15: Staff Sgt. Rene Ledesma, 34, of Abilene, died in Baghdad when an improvised explosive device exploded near his Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Ledesma was assigned to the Army's 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood.

�May 8: Spc. Isela Rubalcava, 25, of El Paso, died in Mosul when a mortar round hit near her. Rubalcava was assigned to the 296th Combat Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), out of Fort Lewis, Wash.

�April 19: Lance Cpl. Aaron C. Austin, 21, of Sunray, died from hostile fire in the Al Anbar province in western Iraq. Austin was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

�April 17: Lance Cpl. Ruben Valdez, Jr., 21, of San Diego, was killed with fellow Marines by enemy forces in Al Anbar province. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, at Twentynine Palms, Calif.

�April 17: Army Pfc. Clayton W. Henson, 20, of Stanton, was killed when his convoy was ambushed in Dwaniyan. He was assigned to the Army's 1st Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, in Fort Polk, La.

�April 14: Sgt. Christopher Ramirez, 34, of McAllen, died in Al Anbar province from injuries sustained in combat.

�April 11: Marine Cpl. Daniel R. Amaya, 22, Odessa, died from hostile fire in Anbar province; assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.

�April 11: Army Chief Warrant Officer Wesley C. Fortenberry, 38, Woodville; one of two soldiers who died when their helicopter was shot down; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood.

�April 10: Sgt. William C. Eckhart, 25, of Rocksprings, died in an explosion in Baqubah.

�April 9: Marine Cpl. Matthew E. Matula, 20, Spicewood; died in fighting; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

�April 9: Marine Lance Cpl. Elias Torrez III, 21, Veribest; died in fighting; assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.

�April 6: Army Sgt. Gerardo Moreno, 23, who had lived in Winters and Terrell and was assigned to Fort Hood, died in a rocket-propelled grenade attack near Ashula, Iraq.

�April 5: Lance Cpl. Shane L. Goldman, 19, of Orange, died of injuries received from hostile fire in Al Anbar province, Iraq.

�April 3: Army Spc. Robert Arsiaga, 25, of Greenwood, died when his unit's convoy was attacked by Shiite militiamen in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City.

�April 3: Army Spc. Israel Garza, 25, of Lubbock, died when his unit's convoy was attacked by Shiite militiamen in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City.

�April 1: Marine Pfc. Dustin M. Sekula, 18, of Edinburg, died April 1 of injuries sustained from enemy fire in Al Anbar province.

�March 31: Army Spc. Michael Greg Karr Jr., 23, of Garland, was killed when an explosive detonated under the M-113 armored personnel carrier he was riding in north of Fallujah.

�March 31: Army 1st Lt. Doyle M. Hufstedler III, 25, of Abilene, was killed when an explosive detonated under the M-113 armored personnel carrier he was riding in north of Fallujah.

�March 25: Cpl. James A. Casper, 20, of Coolidge, died March 25 in a noncombat-related incident at Al Asad.

�March 17: Army Spc. Tracy L. Laramore, 30, of Greenville died in Baji. He drowned after the Bradley fighting vehicle in which he was riding overturned in a river.

�March 18: Pfc. Ricky A. Morris Jr., 20, of Lubbock, died as a result of enemy action in Al Qaim.

�March 19: Pfc. Jason C. Ludlam, 22, of Arlington died March 19 in Baqubah, when he was electrocuted while laying telephone wires.

�March 11: Staff Sgt. Joe L. Dunigan Jr., 37, of Belton died in Fallujah, when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device.

�Jan. 24: Army Pfc. Ervin Dervishi, 21, of Fort Worth, died when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the Bradley Fighting Vehicle in which he was traveling in Baji.

�Jan. 21: Army Pfc. James Parker, 20, of Bryan, died when a mortar round exploded near him at his compound in Baqubah.

�Jan. 18: Army Master Sgt. Kelly L. Hornbeck, 36, of Fort Worth, died at the 28th Combat Support Hospital of wounds received Jan. 16 when an explosive hit his vehicle south of Samarra.

�Jan. 17: Spc. Larry E. Polley Jr., 20, of Center, died when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle struck a roadside bomb while his unit was conducting a surveillance sweep near the town of Taji, north of Baghdad.

�Jan. 16: Army Staff Sgt. Roland L. Castro, 26, of San Antonio, died of a non-hostile gunshot wound in Camp Cedar II.


�Dec. 28: Army Capt. Ernesto M. Blanco, 28, of San Antonio, died in Qaryat Ash Shababi when an improvised explosive device hit his vehicle.

�Dec. 28: Pvt. Rey D. Cuervo, 24, of Laguna Vista, was killed when an improvised explosive device hit his mounted patrol in Baghdad.

�Nov. 28: Army Sgt. Ariel Rico, 25, of El Paso, was killed in action near Mosul when four mortar shells hit his base.

�Nov. 8: Staff Sgt. Gary L. Collins, 32, of Hardin, killed while riding in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle that hit an improvised explosive device.

�Oct. 13: Army Pfc. Stephen E. Wyatt, 19, of Kilgore, killed in action in Balad when his convoy was hit by an explosive and gunfire.

�Sept. 18: Army Spc. Richard Arriaga, 20, of Ganado and based at Fort Hood, killed in action near Tikrit. He was one of three soldiers killed in a small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade ambush on their Humvee.

�Sept. 11: Army Sgt. Henry Ybarra, III, 32, of Austin, killed in an accident in Balad. He died from injuries sustained when he was changing a tire on his military truck and the tire exploded.

�July 26: Army Sgt. Daniel K. Methvin, 22, of Belton and based at Fort Hood, killed in action in Baghdad when a grenade was thrown from a window of an Iraqi civilian hospital.

�July 24: Army Staff Sgt. Hector R. Perez, 40, of Corpus Christi, killed in action when his military convoy came under fire on the way toward Qayyarah, 185 miles north of Baghdad.

�July 11: Army Spc. Christian C. Schulz, 20, of Colleyville and based in Fort Hood, killed in noncombat-related incident in Baqubah.

�July 9: Army Sgt. Melissa Valles, 26, of Eagle Pass, killed in noncombat-related incident in Balad.

�June 17: Army Pvt. Robert L. Frantz, 19, of San Antonio, killed in action in Baghdad. He was on guard duty when a local resident threw a grenade over the wall.

�June 16: Army Spc. Joseph D. Suell, 24, of Lufkin, killed in a noncombat-related incident in Todjie.

�May 28: Army Spc. Jose A. Perez, III, 22, of San Diego, killed in action in Taji. His convoy was ambushed.

�April 28: Army 1st Sgt. Joe J. Garza, 43, of Robstown, killed in an accident in Baghdad when his Humvee swerved to avoid a civilian vehicle. He fell out and was hit by a civilian vehicle.

�April 7: Air Force Capt. Eric B. Das, 30, of Amarillo, killed in action when the F-15E he was flying went down during a combat mission.

�April 7: Marine Cpl. Jesus Martin Antonio Medellin, 21, of Fort Worth, killed in action in central Iraq. He was riding in an Amphibious Assault Vehicle that was hit by enemy artillery.

�April 7: Army Pfc. Anthony S. Miller, 19, of San Antonio, killed in action.

�April 3: Marine Pfc. Chad E. Bales, 20, of Coahoma, killed in an accident near Ash Shahin. He was involved in a non-hostile vehicle accident during combat operations.

�April 2: Army Master Sgt. George A. Fernandez, 36, of El Paso, killed in action in northern Iraq.

�April 2: Army Chief Warrant Officer Scott Jamar, 32, of Granbury, killed in a helicopter accident in central Iraq. He was in an UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter that crashed.

�March 23: Army Sgt. Edward J. Anguiano, 24, of Brownsville, killed in action near Nasiriyah. He was in a convoy on Iraqi Highway 7 that was ambushed before dawn after their convoy made a wrong turn.

�March 23: Army Pvt. Ruben Estrella-Soto, 18, of El Paso and based at Fort Bliss, killed in action near Nasiriyah. He was in a convoy on Iraqi Highway 7 that was ambushed before dawn after making a wrong turn.

�March 23: Army Spc. James Kiehl, 22, of Comfort and based at Fort Bliss, killed in action near Nasiriyah. He was in the convoy on Iraqi Highway 7 that was ambushed.

�March 23: Army Chief Warrant Officer Johnny Villareal Mata, 35, of El Paso and based at Fort Bliss, killed in action near Nasiriyah. He was in the convoy on Iraqi Highway 7 that was ambushed.

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

Texas GOP Convention Next Weekend

By Byron LaMasters

They'll meet next weekend to decide who will be their state party chairwoman. It won't particularly matter who wins. We all know who is really in charge of the Texas GOP.... Tom DeLay. Anyway, the AP reports:

It'll be a rematch between two Texas Republican women when the state party selects its next chairman this week.

The Republican Party of Texas meets Thursday through Saturday in San Antonio at what is considered the nation's largest political party convention because of the 10,000 to 12,000 delegates and alternates expected to attend.

Tina Benkiser, a corporate and patent attorney in Houston, is running for a full term as leader of the Texas GOP, a post she was elected to last year when the previous chairman resigned. Gina Parker, a Waco trial lawyer, who also sought the chairmanship in November 2003, seeks it again.

Among other business, Texas Republicans will decide on their 2004 party platform. I doubt that it will have changed much from their 2002 document (PDF file). Here are some of my favorite parts:

Not just "English", but "American English" as our official language: "American English – The Party supports the immediate adoption of American English as the official language of Texas and of the United States of America, while encouraging fluency in additional languages by all citizens."

On the seperation of church and state: "Christian Nation – The Republican Party of Texas reaffirms the United States of America is a Christian nation, which was founded on fundamental Judeo-Christian principles based on the Holy Bible." and "Our Party pledges to do everything within its power to restore the original intent of the First Amendment of the United States and dispel the myth of the separation of Church and State. We support the right of individuals and state and local governments to display the Ten Commandments on public property subject to their control."

On Hate Crimes: "Equality of All Citizens – [...] We believe that the Hate Crimes Law is unnecessary, and that it unconstitutionally creates a lower class of victims. We urge that it be repealed immediately."

On Homosexuality: "Homosexuality – The Party believes that the practice of sodomy tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle in our public education and policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples.” We are opposed to any granting of special legal entitlements, recognition, or privileges including, but not limited to, marriage between persons of the same sex, custody of children by homosexuals, homosexual partner insurance or retirement benefits. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values."

On a "Human Life Amendment": "Right To Life – The Party affirms its support for a human life amendment to the Constitution ... We urge the reversal of Roe v. Wade."

On comparing homosexuals to child molesters: "Child Support and Visitation – [...] We also believe; that no homosexual or any individual convicted of child abuse or molestation should have the right to custody or adoption of a minor child, and that visitation with minor children by such persons should be limited to supervised periods."

On phasing out Social Security: "Social Security – The Party supports an orderly transition to a system of private pensions based on the concept of individual retirement accounts, and gradually phasing out the Social Security tax."

On enhancing the power of the religious-right (creationist) controlled SBOE: "Local Control – We call for the abolition of the regulatory authority of the Texas Education Agency and to transfer its responsibilities to the elected State Board of Education (SBOE)." ... "We call on the legislature to abolish the State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) and its authority returned to the State Board Of Education"

On Private School Vouchers: "School Choice – The Party encourages the Governor and the Texas Legislature to enact legislation which establishes child–centered school funding options to bring about the maximum freedom of choice in public, private or parochial education"

On the U.S. Department of Education: "U.S. Department of Education – We call for the abolition of the U. S. Department of Education and the prohibition of the transfer of any of its functions to any other federal agency."

On Sex Education that Lies to Students: "Sex Education – The Party recognizes parental responsibility and authority regarding sex education. We support the requirement that schools teaching sex education must teach directive abstinence until heterosexual marriage with an uninfected person as the only safe and healthy means of preventing sexually transmitted diseases, the spread of AIDS, and pregnancies in unwed students, and is also a way to build strong and lasting relationships. Sex education classes, if conducted, should be separated by sex and must teach that the use of condoms does not make sex safe. We support policies that mandate parents must be notified before any sex education course or program is implemented and they must be given an opportunity to review the material and give their consent."

On Corporal Punishment in the Classroom: "Classroom Discipline – [...] Corporal punishment should be used when appropriate and we encourage the legislature to strengthen existing immunity laws respecting corporal punishment. We urge the Texas Legislature, Governor, Commissioner of Education and State Board of Education to remind administrators and school boards that corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas."

On Bilingual Education: "Bilingual Education – The Party supports the termination of bilingual education programs in Texas."

On teaching "Creation Science": "Scientific Theories – The Party believes that scientific topics, such as the question of universe and life origins and environmental theories, should not be constrained to one opinion or viewpoint. We support the teaching equally of scientific strengths and weaknesses of all scientific theories – as Texas now requires (but has yet to enforce) in public school science course standards. We urge revising all environmental education standards to require this also. We support individual teachers’ right to teach creation science in Texas public schools."

On the Americans with Disabilities Act: "Americans with Disabilities Act – The Party supports amendment of the Americans with Disabilities Act to exclude from its definition those persons with infectious diseases, substance addiction, learning disabilities, behavior disorders, homosexual practices and mental stress thereby reducing abuse of the Act."

On abolishing the IRS and Income Tax: "Federal Tax Reform – The Internal Revenue Service is unacceptable to U. S. taxpayers! The Party urges that the IRS be abolished and the Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution be repealed. We further urge that the personal income tax, inheritance (death) tax, gift tax, capital gains, corporate income tax, and payroll tax be eliminated. We recommend the implementation of a national retail sales tax, with the provision that a two-thirds majority of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate is required to raise the rate."

On Worker's Rights: "Workers’ Compensation – The Party calls on our Texas legislators to resist any efforts to make Workers’ Compensation mandatory for all Texas employers."

On the Minimum Wage: "Minimum Wage – The Party believes the Minimum Wage Law should be repealed and that wages should be determined by the free market conditions prevalent in each individual market."

On Ending Just about Every New Deal and Great Society Program, and then some: "Downsizing the Federal Government – The Party supports the downsizing of the federal government in order to re-establish states’ rights guaranteed by the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. We further support the abolition of federal agencies involved in activities not delegated to the federal government under the original intent of the Constitution including, but not limited to, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; the position of Surgeon General; the Environmental Protection Agency; the Departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Education, Commerce, and Labor. These authorities should be eliminated or, where needed, transferred to the state or local governments. We also call for the de–funding and abolition of the National Endowment for the Arts."

On the Panama Canal: "Panama Canal – The Party urges Congress to support HJR 77, “The Panama and America Security Act, or similar legislation, which declares the Carter-Torrijos Treaty null and void. We support re-establishing United States control over the Canal in order to retain our military bases in Panama..."

On Withdrawing for the United Nations: "United Nations – The Party believes it is in the best interest of the citizens of the United States that we
immediately rescind our membership in, as well as all financial and military contributions to, the United Nations."

So, if you need no other reason to vote Democrat, just read the entire document (PDF file). I'll be sure to go through and analsye their platform when they complete it for this year. I'm not expecting too many big changes, except they'll probably dedicate a page to the evils of gay marriage. I've never voted for a Republican in my life, and I have no plans to. Why? Isn't there a chance when the Republican candidate just might be better qualified? Yes, at times that is the case. But anyone who decides to run for office as a Republican in this state is required to sign their initials to each page of this document. They may not agree with every word of this, but they affirm that this is their party, and I cannot in good conscience support, or vote for any person that associates themselves with the Texas Republican Party Platform. It's just so far outside of the mainstream, it's really just complete insanity.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:27 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

From Across the Pond

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I received this e-mail from a friend of mine the other day who had the chance to live in Cannes for the past four months and thus was around all the films that were screened this past month. He has some great thoughts on Michael Moore's latest as well...

I have just got back from Cannes after four months of 'studying' (hence my inability to type coherently due to different types of keyboard), and really feel my French has made a great improvement.

I also feel a bit of an insider in the film world due to the lucky chances I had to go and see a few of the films, such as The Ladykillers (on which, I feel the critics have been a little too harsh, and which for me was both funny and time well spent - possibly because I haven't seen the original), the Assassination of Richard Nixon (OK, a little similar to Mystic River with Sean Penn's part, though with funny moments as wel) and a few French or Italian films that are probably of no interest to the rest of the world, though the Italian film, my chance to go properly on the tapis rouge, was actually quite good.

On Monday, howver, I managed to get an invitation for a special screening of the winner of the Palme d'Or for this year for people living and studying in Cannes. Follow this advice - go see it, whatever your political persuasions and/or opinions on Michael Moore, as soon as possible, for a few reasons.

Firstly, the cinematic value. I am sceptical about the idea of documentary as film, but the film has been well put together. I'm not saying it was worth the biggest prize in internqtional cinema, however, which is something I will leave you to decide.

Secondly, it is, I think, better than Moore's other work, from my experience of Stupid White Men and Bowling For columbine. In Fahrenheit 9/11 he lets the images (or merely the sounds in one scene) speak for themselves. This is unlike Columbine, where we see far more of Moore talking to people and in doing so, dominating the scene. In some ways it is not Moore who fires the anti-Bush salvoes, but more the president shooting himself in the foot, with the aid of his administration, such as, for example, Condy stating in Feb 2000 that "Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction"

Thirdly, it is actually a reasonable piece of investigative journalism on his part, though some Moorish exaggeration does creep in,

But also because you should see it before you make your own opinions. As I said, it is unlike his other work in some respects, with better usage of images, sounds and even the infamous on screen appearences that he limits in this film. To damn it or to praise it beforehand would be foolish.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 01:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pro-Gay Catholics Denied Communion

By Byron LaMasters

The Cardinal of Chicago has ordered his diocese not to serve communion to parishioners wearing rainbow-colored sashes. Who's next? Red-heads? The AP reports:

Roman Catholic gay-rights supporters wearing rainbow-colored sashes to Mass were denied communion Sunday, while dozens in Minnesota had to walk around protesters to receive the holy sacrament.

About 10 people wearing the sashes stood in line to receive communion at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, but priests refused to give them the Eucharist. One priest shook each one's hand; another made the sign of the cross on their foreheads.

"The priest told me you cannot receive communion if you're wearing a sash, as per the cardinal's direction," said James Luxton, a Chicago member of the Rainbow Sash Movement, an organization of Catholic gay-rights supporters with chapters around the country.

A memo from Chicago Cardinal Francis George that became public last week instructed priests not to give communion to people wearing the sashes, which the group's members wear every year for Pentecost. The memo says the sashes symbolize opposition to the church's doctrine on homosexuality and exploit the communion ritual.

It's one thing to have a church doctrine, but it's another thing to enforce it in such an arbitrary manner. This is just a bit silly.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:36 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

The Unitarian Universalists

By Jim Dallas

I had an opportunity to hang with the Unitarian Universalist fellowship here in Galveston this morning. (My friend's parents were getting re-married after the service).

From my perspective, the UUs clearly don't have that old time religion. I kept looking at my watch during the service wondering how long it was going to take someone to mention "God" (it took about a half an hour) and I never did here anyone cite (or even mention) Scripture. Indeed, I heard before the service that last week Scripture was cited -- and some congregants were rather upset by it. Snark fails me.

(Incidentally, today marked the first time I'd ever heard anyone say the word "vagina" on a Sunday morning).

On the other hand, I've rarely seen such a tightly-knit group of spiritually-inclined people. While UU theology (or lack thereof) is not my cup of tea, it boggles my mind that the Comptroller's office toyed with kicking them out of the religion club this week.

Anyhow, congratulations to family friends Steve and Mary on their wedding, and to the Unitarians for getting their religious bona fides.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:40 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 30, 2004

Bush Flip-Flops

By Byron LaMasters

If Kerry would only repeat what he says in his Salon interview everytime the Bush administration accuses him of flip-flopping, he'll be in good shape:

I'll tell you what. What's really so craven about it is that they pick something that they implement badly and screw up, like Iraq or No Child Left Behind or the Patriot Act. And when you point out that they screwed it up, they say that you're "flip-flopping."

But they, on the other hand, break a promise to have no deficit, break a promise not to invade Social Security, break a promise to fund No Child Left Behind, break a promise to introduce the four-pollutant bill and move forward on the environment, break a promise to deal with the real health issues and prescription drugs, break a promise of humility in American foreign policy. I mean, you start running down the list -- I've never seen a grander array of flip-flops. This is the biggest "say one thing, do another" administration in modern history.

That's straight from the mouth of John Kerry. The entire interview is a must read for anyone that's unclear about where John Kerry is coming from in his campaign.

Good stuff.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Russo Defeated for Libertarian Nomination

By Byron LaMasters

The Libertarians have nominated their candidate for President on the 2004 ballott. The winner is Michael Badnarik. That's good news for Republicans and George Bush's reelection. If the Hollywood producer, Aaron Russo would have won the nomination, he would have likely spent several million dollars on the race, and his somewhat celebrity status could have brought more attention to the race, and the Libertarians could have probably drained more votes from Bush. I doubt that Badnarik will get nearly the attention. Anyway, the AP reports:

Michael Badnarik, a computer programmer from Texas, won the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination today.

Badnarik, 49, of Austin, defeated former Hollywood movie producer Aaron Russo on the convention's third ballot, after former radio host Gary Nolan, who was eliminated on the second ballot, endorsed Badnarik.

"If I can win the nomination, there's no reason I can't win this election," Badnarik told a cheering convention that drew more than 800 delegates.

Badnarik teaches a course in constitutional law.

Libertarians may be more or less irrelevent, but they sure are persistent. So we now know our three choices for U.S. President on the ballot in Texas in 2004: Republican George W. Bush, Democrat John Kerry and Libertarian Michael Badnarik.

MyDD has more thoughts on the Libertarian convention.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:23 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Roy Moore Primary

By Byron LaMasters

While the big race on Tuesday will be the special election for the open At-Large seat U.S. House seat in South Dakota, it'll be interesting to take a look at the returns from the Republican primary in Alabama. Ten Commandments judge, Roy Moore, who was removed from office after defying a federal order to remove them from his court is not on the ballot, but his lawyer and spokesman are on the ballot, among other Moore allies.

The New York Times had a story about the races today. The best place for coverage of the Alabama primaries is The Birmingham News. There are Moore allies running for three Supreme Court seats and one Congressional seat. The Birmingham News reports:

The significant races on Tuesday's ballot are largely those on the Republican side, where the party is choosing nominees for three Supreme Court seats, a Civil Appeals court seat and the 6th District congressional seat.

n the GOP primary, analysts say a low turnout could be a plus for those candidates who have linked themselves to former Chief Justice Roy Moore and his fight to keep a Ten Commandments monument in the state judicial building.

Gerald Johnson, director of the Alabama Education Association's Capital Research Survey Center, said the lower the turnout, "the higher and stronger the Moore impact will be."

"And if his vote turns out, it will probably have the deciding impact on the election for the court races," Johnson said.


In the GOP nomination fight for Place 1 on the Supreme Court, Tom Parker, a top aide to Moore when he was chief justice, is running against incumbent Jean Brown. The winner of this race will face Democrat Robert Smith in the Nov. 2 general election.

In the nomination fight for Place 2 on the high court, Criminal Appeals Court Judge Pam Baschab, who has cited Moore's support, is matched against Shelby County District Judge Patti Smith. The winner will face Democrat Roger Monroe in November.

In the nomination race for Place 3, retired Covington County Circuit Judge Jerry Stokes has been the most vocal in his support for Moore. The other candidates in the race are Jefferson County Probate Judge Mike Bolin, Montgomery County District Judge Peggy Givhan and Houston County Circuit Judge Denny Holloway. In November, the winner will face Democrat John Rochester.

Moore was removed from office last year after refusing to obey a federal court order and move a Ten Commandments monument he had placed in the judicial building.

Phillip Jauregui, who is Moore's chief attorney in his legal battle to regain his job, is also on Tuesday's GOP primary ballot. Jauregui is opposing six-term incumbent Spencer Bachus for the 6th Congressional District nomination. The winner of that contest will be virtually assured of election on Nov. 2, because there is no 6th District Democratic candidate.

Under a normal situation, I'd probably be hoping the crazy right-wing Moore allies win the GOP nomination. However, considering that this is Alabama, and in all likelihood the Moore allies would win in November, I'm hoping the the Alabama GOP voters show some sanity and nominate the moderate pro-business folks. We'll see. I'll be following these returns along with the South Dakota House race Tuesday night.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Road to Somewhere

By Jim Dallas

The Washington Post catches Kerry being realistic again.

I think there's a lot of people out there who want to hear Kerry talk about exit "strategies" (by which they seem to mean not "strategy" in the broad, true sense of the word, but rather a 400-page to-do-list) and when, to the day, we're gonna get our guys out of Iraq. Quite honestly, I think that's putting the cart before the horse.

Iraq is a huge mess, and at this point "I don't know" maybe the only reasonable answer. It may not inspire confidence, but the truth rarely does.

Candidate Kerry has committed to actually winning the war in Iraq. That may or may not be doable, but I admire the fact that the focus is on results and not on arbitrary deadlines. We really have only one chance to get this right (if we're going to do it at all).

Now, turning to another issue domain, I wish Kerry would apply the same realism to economics. One of the more absurd things Kerry has done is promising the creation of "10 million new jobs."

Admittedly, the "10 million new jobs" claim is not as implausible and hokey as Bush's repeated insistence on enshrining June 30/July 1 as the "handover date" in Iraq.

But still, I'd rather the president dwell on the substance of an issue instead of set overtly-political-yet-otherwise-arbitrary deadlines/quotas.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 29, 2004

Yay Pacers

By Jim Dallas

I usually don't care much for the entire NBA eastern conference, and frankly I don't care much for the Lakers or the Timberwolves either. But my buddy Dave is in town this week and is a big Pacers fan, and I guess it tends to rub off.

After getting out-played in games two and three, the Pacers came back to pound the Detroit Pistons 83-68 tonight in game four.

<Rasheed Wallace>The Pistons will not win game five. I guarantee it. You can write.</Rasheed Wallace>

Of course, I get the feeling whoever wins the eastern conference title will get to be the sacrificial lamb to L.A., but one can always hope.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Red State Barbecue versus Blue State Barbecue

By Jim Dallas

DailyKOS user plunkitt comments on the recent Q-pac poll showing "voters would prefer Bush at a barbecue."

Which begs the question -- define barbecue. Could John Kerry be up among pork eaters, but down among brisket lovers? Inquiring minds want to know!

I once did an entire college project on the history of barbecue variants in Texas. Really really.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 28, 2004

Precinct Chairs Needed in Travis County

By Byron LaMasters

Also via Sarah at Roman Candles is a call for precinct chairs in Travis County. They're looking especially for students and young people since most of the current folks are over 50. There's 60 vacancies in the county, and I believe that some are in the University area:

The Travis County Democratic Party is trying to find volunteers to serve as Precinct Chairs for about 60 vacant positions. Precinct chairs help organize voters in their local districts and serve on the County Executive Committee of the party. At this week's Executive Committee meeting it was noted that a large number a vacancies exist for precincts located around the University.

The average age of Executive Committee members looks to be around 50 so it would be good to have some younger faces from anywhere around town as well. The County Party is asking interested persons to email them at: info@traviscountydemocrats.org.

I would have run for precinct chair of my precinct, because it was vacant after the precinct chair was redistricted into the next precinct over. Everyone was pretty confused about it - myself, the precinct chair, the County Party, etc. - because of the whole redistricting fiasco. I live about 200 feet from where the three congressional districts meet in Austin, and the precincts had to be reconfigured after redistricting. Anyway, my current precinct is pretty small with just a few apartment complexes and the other person at my precinct caucus wanted to be the precinct chair. I just told him to go ahead an do it, since I'm in Dallas for the summer, and I don't know where I'll be living after I graduate next Spring.

The precinct chairst run the party (at least in theory). It's an important job, and regardless of where you live, check with your local party office to see if you live in a precinct where there's a vacancy. More often than not, you can get appointed at the next Executive Committee meeting.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Abu- What?

By Byron LaMasters

I mentioned after listening to the Bush speech on Iraq on Monday that he stumbled over the two words that were probably most important that he get right: Abu Ghraib

The Nation has the full Bushisms of how to say Abu Gharib.

It's supposed to be: "abu-grabe"

Bush's first attempt was: "abugah-rayp"

Bush's second attempt was: "abu-garon"

And his third attempt was: "abu-garah"

Most people probably wouldn't have noticed if he was wrong consistently. Sure, it might have sounded a little odd, but then again most words with more than two sylables sound a little odd coming from Bush's mouth. We all misspeak, but I think Bush's unpreparedness on the name of the prison where the abuse of Iraqi prisoners occured, coupled with the small amount of time spent on the subject during his Monday speech and his unwillingness to hold anyone in his administration show an alarming lack of respect for the victims of the abuse by American soldiers and the Geneva Convention.

Via Roman Candles.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:16 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Analysing TX-32

By Byron LaMasters

Excelent analysis by Greg of the Frost / Sessions matchup. He has a color coded map of the district and outlines what both candidates must do to win. For Sessions, it's easy. Just get the Republicans and GOP-leaning Independents in north Dallas to continue their typical voting behavior. For Frost, it's an uphill climb to defeat Sessions in a high-powered communications battle. One interesting thought that I'll echo here, is that this race will be a guide for the Democratic expansion in Texas over the next twenty years. In order to win statewide, we're going to have to learn how to communicate with voters in places like north Dallas and be competetive there. Frost won't win north Dallas, but if he can be competetive there, he'll be able to win with a strong turnout in Oak Cliff. Anyway, be sure to read the entire post and check out Greg's analysis of the TX-17 race (Chet Edwards vs. Arlene Wohlgemuth). I'd be inclined to agree with him there too. That race will be decided on Edwards' ability to win in Brazos County (College Station) and getting a decisive margin out of Waco.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

We're #1... in prisoners

By Byron LaMasters

The Houston Chronicle reports:

A federal study released Thursday shows that Texas led the nation in the number of inmates incarcerated in state prisons and county jails in June 2003.

Texas had 164,222 inmates on the last day of that month, about 800 more than California. The Texas inmate population was up by 4.2 percent, or 6,578 inmates, from June 2002, according to the study by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Although Texas had the most inmates incarcerated from 1999-2001, according to the bureau's midyear reports, California edged ahead of the Lone Star State in June 2002.

Texas' June 2003 incarceration rate also was the highest in the nation, with 692 inmates per 100,000 population. Mississippi ran a close second with an incarceration rate of 688 per 100,000 residents.

Though the number of people incarcerated in California was almost the same as in Texas, California's incarceration rate was far lower: 455 inmates per 100,000 residents. Nationally, the average number of sentenced inmates incarcerated was 480 per 100,000 U.S. residents.

Let's see. We incarcerate more prisoners (total and per capita) than any other country, yet Dallas is still #1 in crime (ok, I'll admit that this is partially due to local circumstances and politics at play). I'm all for locking up violent criminals and all, but I think it's silly to lock people up for minor drug offenses. It's our tax money being spent to put people who are not a danger to society (just to themselves) in jail for decades. Why?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Kerry Expands Ads to Virginia

By Byron LaMasters

Is it worth it?

Here's what happened in 2000:

Bush, 1,431,654, 52%
Gore, 1,221,094 45%
Nader 59,270 2%
Browne 15,085 1%

So basically it was a 53% - 47% victory for right-leaning candidates over left-leaning candidates, even though Gore never seriously contested the state. Perhaps this could be a hint that Kerry is considering Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) for his Vice Presidential candidate. However, I see that as highly unlikely. The main advantage to putting Warner on the ticket would be his ability to help self-finance the race (he's a multi-millionaire). But Kerry has been so successful fundraising on his own, that he really doesn't need Warner, who wouldn't bring much else to the ticket, other than creditability in a Republican-leaning swing state. Warner's only been in office since 2002 (elected in 2001), so he makes John Edwards look like a veteran. Virginia is also a good state for Kerry to contest regardless. It has a large military and veteran population that ought to be receptive to Kerry's message. It's GOP leaning, but not overwhelmingly so. Check out this AP article for more info.

Anyway, the AP reports the story. It looks like Bush is pulling back on ads while Kerry is expanding. Bush must be realizing that he'll run out of money if he responds to every Kerry ad. Kerry is going to be up on the air unopposed in Louisiana and Virginia next week. Louisiana is also GOP leaning, but with multiple Democratic candidates (Chris John, John Kennedy) in the primary for the open U.S. Senate seat (which is held on the general election day, Nov. 2), a good Democratic turnout in Louisiana based on strong GOTV opperations by the Senate candidates could give Kerry the needed boost to carry the state. It probably won't happen, but it's good to see Kerry seriously contesting the state.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Tough Road Ahead for US Olympians

By Byron LaMasters

I really feel bad for our Olympic athletes this year. The Olympics are supposed to be a celebration and a way for the diverse cultures and nations of the world to come together. Instead, beacause of the divisive leadership of George W. Bush, the Olympics look to be a political spectical. The Dallas Morning News reports:

The U.S. Olympic team will carry some extra baggage to the Summer Games in Athens, Greece.

Because of the war in Iraq, American athletes are being prepared for what may be the most hostile environment they have ever faced at the Olympics.

"We're not the favorite kid in the world as a country," said Bill Martin, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

The USOC wants to make sure its athletes, its 600 ambassadors, behave as "great guests" in the Athens Games, which will be Aug. 13 to 29.

They will be given the usual instruction on the culture of the host nation to try to prevent any social faux pas. But beyond that, they will be counseled to think twice about things they never gave a thought to in the past – such as how to celebrate a victory without going over the top and offending anyone.

"Being an American abroad is not like Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain," said Mike Moran, a consultant to the U.S. Olympic Committee. "It's a different world."

The USOC will caution its athletes about pregame gestures or acts that might have seemed innocent enough four years ago but today might be interpreted as arrogant, ungracious, taunting or jingoistic.

It's not just Europe where we are looked down upon. American athletes were taunted by our southern neighbor, Mexico in a qualifying soccer game which we lost:

In February, the U.S. men's soccer team played Mexico in Guadalajara in a game to determine which team would go to the Olympics. Mexican fans booed and whistled during the playing of the U.S. national anthem. And after Mexico won, 4-0, some celebrated by chanting, "Osama, Osama, Osama."

The actions of the Mexican fans are outrageous, but the fact that the citizens in our neighboring country feel so hostile towards America is highly disturbing. All we can do is hope and pray that this won't be Munich in 1972 all over again, and that in November we elect John Kerry so that we can regain the dignity and respect around the world that America deserves.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:20 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 27, 2004

Perry Seeks to Change 10% Rule

By Byron LaMasters

And for once I actually agree with Rick Perry. The problem with the top ten percent law is that it is crowding out everyone else. The ten percent law was designed as a way to increase (or at least hold) minority enrollment after the Hopwood decision prevented race from being a factor in admissions. With last year's Supreme Court decision allowing race to be used as a factor in admissions, it is no longer necessary to use the ten percent rule as a remedy for the underrepresenation of minorities. My problem with the ten percent rule is that it ties the hands of the admissions board. It's important for Universities to be allowed to choose a diverse group of students (not just regarding race, but in regards to student interests, fields of study, musical and athletic talent, etc.). The problem with the ten percent rule is that it fills up such a large percentage of slots in the University before the admissions department even has an opportunity to look at everyone else that applies. If the ten percent rule stays in place much longer, there will be more students automatically accepted than there are spots for them. Last year 65% of the freshman class at UT got in under the ten percent rule, leaving only 35% of the slots for everyone else. Anyway, the Houston Chronicle reports:

The 1997 law guaranteeing state university admission to the top 10 percent of each public high school graduating class is forcing too many high-achieving students to attend out-of-state institutions and should be revised, Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday.

The law's goal of boosting college enrollment among minorities could be achieved with more aggressive recruiting by colleges, Perry suggested.

Speaking at an event to tout results of TAKS testing, Perry was asked whether a state so reliant on standardized exams should ignore them to boost minority college admissions.

"I think the Texas Legislature is going to have to revisit the top 10 percent rule, particularly with the change of the lawsuit dealing with Hopwood," Perry said.

The Hopwood case forced changes in the University of Texas' efforts to broaden minority enrollment, but the U.S. Supreme Court later ruled in a Michigan case that colleges are free to consider race as an admissions factor. UT said it will do so, but Texas A&M University said it won't.


For months, UT officials have been urging a change in the law to limit the number of students that universities would have to admit under its provisions. One proposal called for capping at 60 percent the percentage of the freshmen class who could get automatic admission. The percentage admitted automatically by UT was 65 percent in 2003.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who was present for Perry's remarks, said she agrees the law's impacts should be studied. She said it was passed because of "the over-reaching impact of Hopwood to fellowships and scholarships, not just admissions. The Legislature had to come up with a way to maintain diversity."

Even so, she said, "we hope that the universities will look at the importance of diversity and come up with some different methods to achieve that without having to implement the top 10 percent rule."

Although the subject was discussed in the 2003 legislative session, no action was taken because the Michigan case had not been decided. Now, Van de Putte said, "I'm going to tell you that I'm in support of revisiting" the issue.

Sen. Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) is right on target on this one. It's critical that we work to increase admission levels for qualified minority students while at the same time giving universities more flexibility in choosing their freshman classes. This requires a revision in the ten percent rule.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

Every time the talk of a Kerry/McCain ticket is squashed, it seems to start back up again. Last month McCain flirted with the temptation before flatly ruling it out on several occations and restating his support for Bush. Even so, the idea of a Kerry/McCain ticket is about all Washington can talk about:

Washington is abuzz with rumors that John McCain, one of the most popular Republicans in Congress, could team up with Democratic contender John Kerry (news - web sites) in the race for the White House. The outlandish notion that a Republican could be a vice presidential partner for Kerry has added new drama to the campaign for the November 2 election, in which Republican president George W. Bush is already looking vulnerable.

McCain has repeatedly denied interest, but top Democrats refuse to let the rumour die. Senator Hillary Clinton (news - web sites) fueled speculation by saying Sunday she would have no problem supporting the maverick Arizona senator.

"I'm a big admirer of John McCain's," Clinton said.

"I've spoken with Senator McCain and he assures me he's not interested -- but you know, we'll see what happens."

On Monday, former Democratic presidential contender Dick Gephardt (news - web sites), another contender for the Kerry ticket, said the Democratic faithful could easily rally around McCain.

"He is a very bipartisan figure," the Missouri representative said. "He would be accepted by the Democratic party."

Comments this week by Hillary Clinton and Dick Gephardt signing off on John McCain as Veep don't just occur in a vacuum. Obviously, there is a real possibility of a Kerry / McCain ticket. Perhaps the two have talked behind the scenes of the idea and Kerry is gauging the reaction by other party leaders, or perhaps Clinton and Gephardt are trying to put preasure on McCain. There's no denying that Kerry/McCain would be the kind of national unity ticket that would turn this election upside down and immidiately catapult Kerry into a commanding position. Just take a look at this CBS Poll (via Political Wire):

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry holds an eight-point lead over President George W. Bush among registered voters in the latest CBS News poll, 49% to 41%, but one of the names currently bandied about as a running mate for him - Republican Sen. John McCain - gives Kerry an even larger edge when added to the ticket.

McCain has continued to face questions about joining his fellow Vietnam veteran Kerry on a ticket, despite having insisted that he is not interested in doing so. America’s voters, meanwhile, do have interest in such a bi-partisan slate: a hypothetical Kerry/McCain pairing holds a 14-point advantage over President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney, nearly double the 8-point lead Kerry has alone over Bush.

The CBS Poll shows Kerry/McCain beating Bush/Cheney 53%-39%. I think John McCain would be a decent Vice President, and he'd be a great Secretary of Defense. My only problem would be if something should happen to John Kerry and McCain would become President. It would be hard not feeling at least somewhat betrayed - putting lots of time and money into electing a Democrat, only to wind up with a Republican. It would be like 1840 all over again when the Whigs put John Tyler on the ticket as Vice President, only to see William Henry Harrison die after a month in office, while Tyler, the former Democrat frustrated the entire Whig legislative program. If not 1840, how about 1864 when Abraham Lincoln put a Democrat Andrew Johnson on his ticket only to be assassinated a year later. Only after being impeached and surviving removal from office by one vote did Johnson make concessions to the Republicans on Reconstruction. Will that happen again in 2005? I sure as hell hope not, but it is a legitimate concern for all those McCain-for-VP backers.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Martin Frost Mailers Hitting North Dallas this Week

By Byron LaMasters

I'll have to say, they look pretty good. Martin Frost highlights his work as author of the Amber laws (named after the nine year old girl, Amber Hagerman who was kidnapped and murdered in 1996). Frost also emphasises his work with the economy, American Airlines, transportation and the environment. Anyway, check them out here (this one hit last week) and here (this week's one), or you can see what the actual mailer looks like in the pdf form here.

Speaking of Martin Frost, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright will be in town to support him on June 14th (I'll be there if anyone wants to buy me a $250 ticket). Heh. Or you can just donate to the Frost campaign here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 26, 2004

Political Survivor

By Byron LaMasters

I watched some of the first season of Survivor, and then I think I've watched one episode since then. It was interesting and innovative when it started, then it just got old, but today, for the second time this month, a game of political Survivor has popped up on the Internet.

First it was Politics 1. It allows viewers to decide who to vote off the hypothetical island that you're stuck on with George W. Bush, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Dick Cheney, Howard Dean, Ralph Nader, Tom DeLay, Al Sharpton, John McCain and Zell Miller. Bush was booted in round one, Kerry in round two, and Clinton was narrowly kicked off in round three over Cheney. We're trying to kick Cheney off in round four, so go over to Polotics 1 to vote to boot him off.

Today, the DCCC started the D TRIP TV, which features a Republican Survivor show featuring George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Ann Coulter, John Ashcroft, Katherine Harris and Tom DeLay. They'll give you a "pass" to see all the episodes begining June 3rd if you sign up for their email list. Currently, they just have the trailer up, which is rather funny in a cute sort of way. Anyway, check it out.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Barney Frank Gears Up for Senate Run

By Byron LaMasters

When John Kerry is elected President this November, it'll create a senate vacancy in Massachusetts. And Congressional Quarterly indicates that U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) is gearing up to run for the U.S. Senate in what would be a 2005 special election after Kerry resigns his seat:

Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Barney Frank in 1987 became the first member of Congress to make a personal acknowledgment of homosexuality, and he has been an outspoken advocate of gay rights.

But he had never sought the endorsement of the Victory Fund, a leading national organization that supports openly gay candidates and officials -- until this year.

Frank, who is seeking a 12th term in Massachusetts' 4th District, said he'd never asked for the group's backing before because "the only tough races I had were in [19]80 and '82, and the Victory Fund did not exist back then."

Yet Frank says it is not this year's House race that spurred him to contact the fundraising organization -- even though he has drawn a challenge from Chuck Morse, a former radio talk show host and staunch conservative who is running as an independent.

Rather, the congressman said he is trying to build up his campaign treasury, in advance of a possible bid for the seat Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry would vacate were he to win the White House this year.

Not only would Frank become the first openly gay U.S. Senator if elected, he is perhaps the best debater in the U.S. House, and would bring his extraordinary legislative talent to the U.S. Senate.

Interestingly, Frank's conservative challenger this year, Chuck Morse is an admitted right-wing extremist. CQ continues:

Morse has, however, been embroiled in past controversies that have led Frank and the Victory Fund to label him as "anti-gay."

In his 2002 book "Why I am a Right-Wing Extremist," Morse wrote: "Frank, a self-described homosexual, exhibits the type of aggressive male behavior that is perhaps enhanced by a life without the civilizing influence of a woman."

I don't think that Barney Frank has too much to worry about this year, but I'm sure a special election in 2005 would be a barnburner, especially if Frank were the Democratic nominee.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:24 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Kerry will accept nomination in Boston

By Byron LaMasters

I would have liked to have seen Kerry accept the nomination when Bush does, but at least this won't create any controversy. Kerry still has a lot of options to stay even with Bush in campaign spending. First, I think that Kerry could proabably buy television ads to run after the convention before the convention (I'm not sure what the rules on this are, but I'd be surprised if it were illegal). Second, Kerry can raise money for the DNC and state parties to spend on his behalf, and on generic Democratic GOTV. Third, Kerry can decline matching funding and spending limits if he thinks that it's realistic that he can raise over $75 million after the convention. Considering that Kerry has proven that he can consistently raise over $1 million per day on the internet, this option is not totally out of the question.

Anyway, CNN reports on Kerry's decision. The Kerry campaign has a statement here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Help the Van Zandt County Democrats!

By Byron LaMasters

One of the best things about being a blogger is having the opportunity to meet all kinds of great people, either in person or via email, etc. So many of these people are on the front lines fighting the good fight for Democrats across the country, and especially here in Texas. One such person that I've coresponded with via email for a few months now is the Democratic County Chair of Van Zandt County, Vince Leibowitz.

Van, what? Van Zandt County is a rural county about 50 miles east of Dallas along I-20. The county has been growing significantly over the past couple of decades from 31,000 in 1980 to 38,000 in 1990 to just over 48,000 in the 2000 census. Its just outside the Dallas - Fort Worth metropolitan area, but many of its residents work there. It's mostly White, religious, socially conservative and historically heavily Democratic, but trending Republican.

So, why am I mentioning Van Zandt County? It's an example of what we as Democrats need to do here in Texas to take back this state one precinct, one county, one election at a time. Many rural historically Democratic counties in this state have seen their County Democratic organizations crumble in recent decades. The Van Zandt County Democratic Party offers an example of how combining Internet technology with a grassroots approach can make a difference in a county that is highly competetive on the local level.

Take a look at their County Party webpage. They have all the essentials, and more. You can learn about and contact their chairman, elected officials, precinct chairs (28 of 29 of which are filled), etc. But in addition to what you would expect from a county party site, their chair, Vince Leibowitz has come up with several innovative ideas that should be instructive to any county party.

Of course, I have to mention the County Party Blog to communicate to the grassroots that Vince has set up. But most importantly they have a strategy to win in November. In 2002, one of the Van Zandt County Democratic candidates lost by 80 votes, so they've started the Overcome 80 project. The project includes a letter writing campaign and a voter registration and canvassing drive.

They're asking for our help, not only to help the Van Zandt County Democrats win in November, but so that we can show other rural counties how that it is possible to win in conservative, rural parts of this state with an effective door-to-door, neighbor-to-neighbor campaign. The best part about the campaign is that they're not asking for much. Unlike a lot of campaigns where a $5 or $10 donation is a drop in the bucket, a small donation of $5 will go a long way towards helping keep this conservative rural county in Democratic hands. Go here to learn more and donate.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Charlie Cook on the Texas Races

By Byron LaMasters

Charlie Cook has a must read on the current state of the "2004 toss up races", which include all five of the embattled Texas Democratic incumbents. Check it out here (pdf file). If you don't have time to catch the whole thing, here's the gist of what Cook says (with a few of my thoughts added in).

On TX-1, Cook gives Sandlin opponent Gohmert the edge, although a recent poll showed the race within the margin of error (44-41 Gohmert). For Sandlin to win, Cook says Sandlin must make the race about the candidates and not their party labels - ok, tell us something we don't know. One thing that Cook said about Gohmert really caught my eye:

An Associated Press story noted that Gohmert built a reputation as a “tough, conservative judge who didn’t shy away from controversy.” For example, in 1996, Gohmert ordered a man with AIDS to obtain written, informed consent from future sex partners as part of his probation agreement for a car theft conviction. Gohmert defends the ruling as common sense and it is unlikely that it will create much backlash here.

Yikes. That's just weird. I support laws requiring people that have HIV / AIDS to inform their sex partners of their condition before having unprotected sex, but in terms of having the punishment fit the crime, the above ruling makes little sense. Anyway, moving on...

Cook calls TX-2 a complete toss up that will come down to the ability of Nick Lampson to overperform in Jefferson County and be able to at least hold his own (35%) in Harris County. Tough, but doable.

Cook says that in TX-17, Chet Edwards is the best campaigner in the Texas delegation and the race will be decided on who best defines the other. If Edwards wins, it will be because he successfully defined Arlene Wohlgemuth as an out-of-touch, right-wing extremist. If Wohlgemuth wins, she will have succeeded in portraying Edwards as a liberal Democrat.

In TX-19, competing polls paint different pictures of the race. A Republican poll has Randy Neugebauer up by eleven points and a Democratic poll has Stenholm up by four. The reality is likely somewhere in between. The district strongly favors Neugebauer, but Stenholm will be the hardest of any of the Texas Democrats to paint as a liberal. He has deep roots in west Texas and ought to have a fighting chance.

In TX-32, it's already a hard hitting fight between Pete Sessions and Martin Frost. Cook notes something that I've thought before. The race currently leans towards Sessions, but should he stumble, Frost will take advantage of it. Unlike Frost, Sessions is much less of a seasoned campaigner, and he's prone to saying silly things.

Anyway, I'd pretty much agree with most of Charlie Cook's thoughts. He knows what he's talking about, so read away!

Via Political Wire and Off the Kuff.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

David Van Os in Second Dean Dozen

By Byron LaMasters

I was a little bit surprised to see a "second Dean dozen" so soon, but overall they're a stronger group of candidates. The first "Dean Dozen" had a few strong candidates, but most of the candidates seemed to be hat tips so people who had supported Dean in the primary (a kos diary entry detailed this) - many of whom were either in uncompetetive or slam-dunk races. This dozen has a few more competetive candidates in it, and here's what they say about David Van Os:

David Van Os for Texas Supreme Court. Grassroots activists are strongly behind progressive David Van Os. The Texas Supreme Court is 100% Republican and it's time to take it back - one seat at a time. www.vanosforsupremecourt.com.

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

Kos Profiles Richard Morrison

By Byron LaMasters

The Daily Kos profiled Richard Morrison today. I swear, you get a competent, talented candidate to run against Tom DeLay and you get national attention even if your chances are marginal at best (ie. DeLay gets indicted). Morrison is not only a member of the Kos 8, but of the Dean Dozen. Anyway, here's some of what kos has to say about the race:

Some of us may donate based on nothing more than Morrison's opponent. Sometimes, making a statement can be all the satisfaction one needs. But crazy as it seems, Morrison has an outside chance of success. We're talking maybe a 5 percent chance, so not to build expectations too high. But giants have been slayed before. And the shifting national mood could put even the most marginal Republican seats in play.

(Partisan) polling of the district shows a surprisingly unpopular 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. DeLay's redistricting efforts, designed to give the GOP 4-7 new seats in the district, ironically made his own district slightly more Democratic (he was feeling mighty secure).

The biggest wild card in this race is DeLay's legal problems. There's a possibility he will be indicted over the next few months, while a host of other scandals swirl around him. But at worst, a strong Morrison candidacy forces DeLay to pay attention to his own backyard, rather than spending time and fundraising energy directing resources at some of the closer battleground district.

Anyway, you can check out Morrison's webpage here and donate here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 25, 2004

Peace, Love, and Golf

By Jim Dallas

Let's take a minute to recognize Iraqi and Afghan sports fans. In a time of war and want, the people of Baghdad and Kabul need something to keep them going.

The Iraqi national soccer team qualified for and will compete in the Olympic Games this year, which is quite a feat (the United States team did not make the cut). While this is a bit of old news, I don't think we've yet taken the opportunity at BOR to wish the Iraqi national team good luck in Athens.

Reuters is also reporting that a group of Afghan golfers are making plans to rebuild and re-open Kabul's 9-hole golf course. The course was trashed first by the Communists and then by the Taliban, who associated the noble game of golf with "the West."

We're not sure that liberal democracy will take hold in the Middle East, but we're pretty sure soccer and golf will.

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

Ideological Warfare

By Byron LaMasters

I'd say that there's about five or six blogs that I try and read on a daily basis. There's a lot more that I read every few days, or that I should read on a daily basis (and with the semester over, and having settled down finally for the summer, hopefully I'll increase that), but right now it's about five. As for Texas blogs, I read Off the Kuff and Greg's Opinion, and for national stuff I'll check out the Daily Kos, Political Wire and Atrios. So it interested me when Greg wrote a post yesterday entitled "Kos Idiocy Strikes Again" as a reaction to Kos's post yesterday that it is "Time for the DLC to Die". Greg also has a follow-up here.

The whole deal stems from the clash between Howard Dean and Al From, the head of the DLC (Democratic Leadership Council). Al From's protoge Simon Rosenberg of the New Democrats Network embraced the Dean campaign and the blogosphere while the DLC attacked Dean and his approach. For more background read this Joe Klien article.

I tend to take the middle ground on this one. I don't hesitate to call myself a liberal, even if some of my economic and foreign policy views range the Democratic spectrum (on social issues I'm an admitted unabashed liberal). Both Kos and the DLC have made their share of mistakes and misstatements, but I think that both are worthy contributors to the party. Obviously, Kos's comments about the deaths of the American contractors were inappropriate and ill-advised. I think he should have apologized more forcefully for the statement, and it's hard to be too critical of campaigns that disassociated themselves from him. Still, Kos has a large following, and has done tremendous work in organizing online progressive activists. As for the DLC, they ruthlessly hammered Howard Dean in the primary, and it worked. The DLC line was repeated throughout the media that Dean was angry, undisciplined and unelectable (just search "Howard Dean" on the DLC website). For this, many Democrats hate the DLC, blaming them for helping derail the Dean candidacy. On the other hand, if Dean couldn't stand up to his detractors within the Democratic Party, how the heck could he have stood up against the Republican attack machine? In retrospect, I'm glad that Dean isn't the nominee. I supported him, I gave him money, but in the end Dean failed to connect with middle America, which caused me to begin doubting his candidacy as early as last fall. John Kerry has united the Democratic Party - something that I'm not sure if Howard Dean could have done.

While Greg notes that the DLC is helping John Kerry with various aspects of his campaign, in some ways the DLC doesn't really get it either. Unlike Rothenberg's New Democrat Network (NDN), the DLC has refused to embrace the Netroots. I don't have a problem with moderate-to-centrist Democratic groups. We need them to win. But they need the Netroots to gain legitimacy among the Democratic base. Denouncing the Internet, like this anti-Dean diatribe last year only serve to alienate the DLC from the grassroots / netroots base:

The Internet may be giving angry, protest-oriented activists the rope they need to hang the party. The vaunted new medium for grassroots political organizing may in fact be contributing to the Iowafication of the nominating process, disproportionately magnifying the voices of the activist groups with the loudest, most combative, and populist voices.

The effect has been like two currents flowing together: Caucuses like Iowa's are briar patches where born and bred activists flourish. They are run according to complex procedures, and they exclude independents. The arrival of the Internet has provided a powerful set of tools for activists to get organized well in advance of the already front-loaded nominating season -- a period when, almost by definition, activists are the only ones focused on politics. Using the Internet, Dean has achieved a virtual mind meld with those activists by capitalizing on their visceral hatred of President Bush and disdain for moderate Democrats. When all is said and done, the new dynamic could lead Democrats right into the hands of President Bush, who wants nothing more than a liberal Democratic opponent.

Except the DLC was wrong. Iowa didn't "disproportionately magnify the voices of the activist groups with the loudest, most combative, and populist voice". Instead, as the DLC wrote post-Iowa, that it was a "vote for hope over anger":

Now the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party has spoken: Iowa was a landslide victory for hope over anger.

The word "stunning" hardly does service to the performance of Kerry and Edwards in Iowa. Up against all of Howard Dean's endorsements and organization, Kerry and Edwards each won more delegate shares (the arcane measurement used to judge success in Iowa) than Dean and Rep. Dick Gephardt combined.

The Dean campaign proved two things. First, that the Internet can be used as an extraordinary organizing tool. It can raise millions of dollars from grassroots activists and can dilute the power of special interest money. It can also organize thousands of volunteers to get involved in their communities and neighborhoods. Second, the Dean campaign proved that the Internet alone won't win elections. Thousands of out of state volunteers and $50 Million won't win an election without a message the connects with average voters. So who gets it?

Simon Rosenberg. He's a moderate Democrat, and his New Democrats Network is a moderate Democratic organization, but he's willing to incorperate the new methods used by Kos, MoveOn.org and the Dean campaign as means to broadening the appeal of the party. His latest project is a comprehensive outreach program to Hispanics, which was profiled by kos earlier today.

Anyway, I'm hoping that we can put aside these ideological fights until after November 2nd. Greg is right, they still exist, but we had that debate during the primary season, and the debate will continue on November 3rd. Obviously, some will continue the debate (just ask Dennis Kucinich), but fortunately John Kerry is a unifying figure within the Democratic Party. He wasn't my first choice, Kos's first choice, Greg's first choice or the DLC's first choice, but he's a candidate that all of us can accept (If the nominee were Howard Dean or Joe Lieberman, uniting the party would be significantly more difficult, even if the primary was less about ideas and more about who has the best profile, temperment and campaign to defeat George Bush). Speaking of John Kerry, I finished the Boston Globe biography and I'll post a report in the next few days.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:58 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Van Os

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

David Van Os, Democrat for Texas Supreme Court (yes, we have partisan elections for judges here in Texas for those of you outside the Republic) is one if the few, if not only statewide candidates running this fall. I have heard about someone running for the Railroad Commission but have seen no websites or the like.

Well, I just saw a Van Os ad over at Daily Kos. Maybe we'll see one here someday? Considering we do kinda report on Texas Politics...

UPDATE: Thanks to the comments, there is a website for Bob Scarborough of Fort Worth, running Railroad Commissioner this go round. His website is here.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 06:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Unitarians - A Religion After All

By Byron LaMasters

Earlier, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn refused to grant a tax exemption to a Unitarian church claiming that they weren't a real religion. Well, fortunately, she's come to her senses, or perhaps she just realized that they really are a religion. The Austin American Statesman reports:

Reversing a ruling that shocked church officials, the state comptroller's office decided Monday that the 52 members of Denison's Red River Unitarian Universalist Church are engaged in religious activity when they meet on Sundays.

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn's office said the Denison church is entitled to tax-exempt status as a religious organization.

The exemption had been denied in September because the comptroller's office determined that the church "does not have one system of belief." Unitarian officials had said that was the first time one of its churches had been denied tax-exempt status.

On Monday, Jesse Ancira Jr., general counsel in the comptroller's office, said Strayhorn had asked him to take another look at the case.

"After reviewing your submitted application, file material, as well as correspondence between yourself and staff from our tax policy division, it is my opinion that the Red River Unitarian Universalist Church is an organization created for religious purposes and should be granted the requested tax exemption," Ancira said in a letter to Dan Althoff, the congregation's president.

Off the Kuff had some thoughts on the story yesterday. The whole incident was rediculous and made Strayhorn look absolutely silly - and to think that she's my favorite Republican in this state. Scary.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dallas is #1... in Crime

By Byron LaMasters


As expected, FBI statistics for 2003 show Dallas has the highest overall crime rate among the country's largest cities for the sixth year in a row.

City and police officials have known since last summer that Dallas was on track to keep the top crime spot. Since then, they have instituted new crime initiatives, fired the police chief and replaced him with a proven crime fighter, former Arlington Police Chief David Kunkle.

"We've known that we would be hampered by last year's numbers. That's what they are last year's," Mayor Laura Miller said. "We're really happy with the trend we've seen so far in 2004."

Rough numbers as of Monday for the first five months of 2004 show about a 6 percent drop in the major crime categories compared with this time last year, interim Police Chief Randy Hampton said.

Violent crimes -- murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults -- are down about 8 percent, while property crimes -- burglaries, thefts and auto thefts -- have fallen 5.7 percent, he said in Tuesday's edition of The Dallas Morning News.

At least the trends seem to be going in the right direction...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Liberals in the Panhandle?

By Byron LaMasters

Yes, they do exist. Check out the Panhandle Truth Squad.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Help Out Max Sandlin!

By Andrew Dobbs

Sorry we got started late today, maybe we can make this a two day push because Max Sandlin is a great candidate and a great guy. Check out the Texas Tuesdays site and also, vote for him in this online poll. He's a great guy and he is providing the kind of leadership we need so be sure to drop some cash in his purse, add .36 so he'll know where it came from!

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 04:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Confessions of a Texas Republican Drama Queen

By Jim Dallas

Nick Confessore of TAPPED links to this Salon.com story about the ongoing spat between GOP majority leader Tom DeLay and former GOP majority leader Dick Armey.

Now, Armey is pretty off-the-charts nuts, but I'm starting to get a little nostalgic for the old times when he and Gingrich would just tease us and call us names ("Barney Fag"), instead of beating us to a bloody pulp as they do now-a-days.

Note that Armey (who we already knew opposed the Medicare farce and the insane budget deficits, as all honest liberals and conservatives have) also claims to have lobbied President Bush not to invade Iraq.

The money quote in this story, though, comes not from Armey but from AEI wonk and Roll Call contributor Norman Ornstein:

In the long run, Armey says, Republicans will be stronger if they allow genuine internal debate. But that is hardly the trend in the House, where DeLay "has taken every norm the Legislature has operated on and shredded it," the AEI's Ornstein said. Once, Republicans lambasted Democrats, when they were in the majority, for denying them the opportunity to amend bills on the House floor. Today, congressional leaders have gone even further by barring Democrats from participating in key conference committees, where final deals on legislation are worked out. In Texas, DeLay engineered a mid-decade redistricting of congressional seats designed to oust incumbent Democrats, breaking the tradition of realigning only after a 10-year census. "On a scale of 1 to 10, Democrats abused their majority status at about a level 5 or 6," Ornstein observed. "Republicans today have moved it to about an 11."

Yes, America, the current governing cabal, all of whom are Republicans (but not all Republicans are part of the current governing cabal) is corrupt beyond your wildest nightmares.

Sweep the bums out!

P.S. May be this is why a GOP aide claimed that it's "extremely difficult to govern when you control all three branches of government." If by govern, of course, you mean "crush all dissent."

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:15 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Libertarians on the Ballot in TX, Greens Off (and Nader)

By Byron LaMasters

Good news, here. Disgruntled Republicans will have a real choice here in Texas, but there's not enough disgruntled liberals out there for Nader or the Greens to get on the ballot. My father (a disgruntled Republican) ought to be happy. The Houston Chronicle:

Texas Libertarian Party officials said they gathered enough petition signatures by Monday's deadline to earn a spot on this year's ballot, but other alternative parties said they came up short.

Libertarians presented about 75,000 signatures Monday to the Secretary of State's office in Austin. Election officials must validate 45,540 signatures for the Libertarians to make the November ballot. The signatures must be from registered voters who did not vote in this year's Democratic or Republican primaries.

The Naderities turned in their signatures, too, but they were due two weeks ago:

Also Monday, supporters of Nader -- running this year as an independent -- turned in 80,107 signatures even though they were due two weeks ago. Nader fell about 10,000 short of the 64,076 signatures he needed to win a place on the ballot.

Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese said the campaign turned in the petitions as part of its court challenge to the state ballot access law, which sets stricter requirements for independents than political parties.

Jennifer Waisath, spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office, said the state will keep the Nader petitions until told otherwise by the courts.

Anyway, make sure to let your disgruntled Republican friends in Texas that they'll have a choice this year.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:12 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Bush Speech

By Byron LaMasters

I did something I haven't done in a long time. I listened to a major presidential speech on the radio. I left Austin at about 7 PM to head to Dallas when I remembered that NPR had said earlier in the day they would carry the Bush speech live at 7 PM, so as I drove northbound on I-35 I decided to tune in. I can't remember the last time I listened to a major speech as opposed to watching it on television. I forgot how much I enjoyed it. Television gives you the greater picture - it allows you to see the context of the speech, the audience reaction, what visual prompts the advance folks set up and all, but when you watch a speech on TV it's easy to get caught up in the surroundings and miss the actual message of the speech. Sometimes that's not a problem. Being the C-SPAN junkie that I am, I probably watched at least a dozen speeches of most of the Democratic candidates during the primaries - and by the end of the primary season watching a John Edwards "two Americas" speech was like listening to a broken record. A good broken record, but a broken record nonetheless. So my attention would quickly turn to the crowd reaction, the crowd placement, the introducers, etc. Anyway, radio doesn't allow you to focus on any of that. Which was good for this speech, because I was genuinely interested in what Bush had to say. I also found that Bush is more tolerable when I don't have to watch him on TV - the smirk and the always carefully placed minorities behind him makes me snarl (although you still have to deal with his uncomfortableness using multisyllabic words) - but on to the substance of the speech...

I may surprise some of you, but I don't have any huge objections with Bush's current plan in Iraq. I didn't support going there in the first place, because Iraq was not a serious threat to US security, but if we leave now Iraq could easily become a serious threat to US security and a terrorist haven. Bush laid out a five point plan that looks alright on paper. Basically he wants to 1) "transfer full sovereignty to... Iraqi citizens... on June 30th", 2) continue to keep US troops in Iraq to ensure stability and security, 3) continue to help rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, 4) "enlist additional international support for Iraq's transition", and 5) have national elections in Iraq by next January. My only major critiicism would be that there's still no exit strategy, and hopefully that's something that John Kerry can propose in the next few weeks since I doubt the Bush administration will come up with one.

The LA Times has the text here. My problem isn't as much with the plan, but on the ability and the creditability that the Bush administration has to execute it. We were told that there would be WMD's in Iraq, but it took over a year to find any trace of anything. Americans were led to believe that Iraq was connected to the Al-Qaeda network and that Saddam Hussein was behind 9-11 when they weren't. We were told that all peaceful options would be exhausted before war and that didn't happen either. Now, tonight, George Bush said that "American soldiers and civilians on the ground have come to know and respect the citizens of Iraq", but Iraqis want the US out the country. Why? The prisoner abuse scandal.

We were actually gaining creditability among the Iraqi people before the prisoner abuse scandal. Forty percent of Iraqis saw Americans as liberators before the scandal (now it's seven percent). How can we regain creditability? Well, electing John Kerry in November would be the single best way, but in the short term the administration needs to take some real responsibility over the prisoner abuse. And did Bush do that in his speech? Not at all. Bush skirted the issue. He said that we would help Iraq build a high-security prison, and as a symbolic gesture, Abu Ghraib (which Bush managed to stumble over as he spoke it - you'd think he'd would have been prepped for it), and the soldiers will be punished. Bush basically devoted 30 seconds to the entire issue:

A new Iraq will also need a humane, well-supervised prison system. Under the dictator, prisons like Abu Ghraib were symbols of death and torture. That same prison became a symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values. America will fund the construction of a modern, maximum security prison. When that prison is completed, detainees at Abu Ghraib will be relocated. Then, with the approval of the Iraqi government, we will demolish the Abu Ghraib prison, as a fitting symbol of Iraq's new beginning.

"Disgraceful conduct by a few American troops"? First, it's more than a few. Second, the conduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. These troops have commanders. These troops weren't trained correctly. The troops ought to be punished severely, but so should the chain of command that failed them, all the way to the top with Rumsfeld and Bush. The only way we regain the trust of the Iraqi people is if they see real accountability. And they don't.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:54 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Summer Plans

By Byron LaMasters

Apologies for the light posting the past few days. I was packing and moving out of my apartment in Austin for the summer, and I just got back in Dallas this evening. I've finally more or less settled down in Dallas for the summer. I start an internship with the Dallas County Young Democrats on the 28th. It's a good opportunity because it's paying, so I'll make a little money this summer, and the position is a good opportunity for me. I'll be working on things like helping to update their webpage, working on a media strategy, planning meetings and events, fundraising, etc. I've also worked with the President of the DCYD's David Wilkins before (who is also the new Vice President of Finance of the Texas YD's (as of April) and the newly elected (as of a few weeks ago) Secretary of the Dallas County Democratic Party). Anyway, congrats on your elections, Dave. What's next? Heh.

I'll be in Dallas most of the summer, but I'll get to travel a little bit. Here's what I know so far:

Sat-Sun June 5-6: I'll be in Austin for the LGRL Pride events and the SD-14 precaucus.

Thurs-Sun, June 17-20: I'll be in Houston for the Texas Democratic Convention. I'm an alternate, but I think I'll inquire about getting press credentials since Bill Richardson and John Edwards are scheduled to attend.

Thurs-Sun, July 15-18: Family trip to Vancouver, Canada.

Thurs-Sun, July 22-25: Still debating whether to go to the convention in Boston. I did not file paperwork to be a delegate. Basically, I would like to be a delegate, but to be elected a delegate (especially in Austin) it basically requires a sustained campaign (emailing delegates, calling delegates, mailers, etc.). Since I'll be working in Dallas and I currently don't have an Austin mailing address, I figured it wasn't worth the effort (and I've already received several mailers and emails from delegates). I figured I had two things going for me. The delegate qualifying form had checkboxes for "historically underrepresented" groups, and I had two I could check (gay and under 30), but I have the fact that I'm a white male working against me, so it would have been a challenge (and there are people in SD-14 that are running that have been active in Austin politics for much longer than I). Anyway, back to the convention. I did apply for press credentials with the DNC. I'm not really expecting to get them since I'm sure there's a lot of bloggers that get a lot more traffic than we do that applied, but I figured there was nothing to lose.

Anyway, it's nice to be done with school for another year, and I'm looking forward to a nice summer of working, reading, working out, laying by the pool... *fill in the rest*.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:05 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 24, 2004

Sandlin Has a New Site

By Andrew Dobbs

Max Sandlin has a new website as he battles for reelection his new DeLay-gerrymandered district. It is one of the slickest candidate websites I've seen in a while so stop by, give it a look see and drop some coin in his bucket. Sandlin is a great candidate and a great guy and is on the path to the House leadership. If we can keep him in the House he could easily be Speaker some day. Let's get this guy where he needs to be. Link to his site if you can so that his Google score goes up!

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 05:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Listed on Nasdaq- GWB

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

My mother the writer, sent me the greatest thing the other day that she wrote about Mr. GWB, the President...

Even with all the negative repercussions that Bush’s “war of choice” in Iraq has spawned, including falling poll numbers, there are still plenty of Americans that support the President. Why?

For these people, Bush is like the Internet tech stock they still have in their portfolio. Three years ago they bought into all the media hype- then their pick imploded on them. Now they still don’t want to admit that they made a bad selection and figure if they just give it enough time, the performance will improve.

Here’s a tip, folks- time is running out. You need to unload that loser and invest in something else- something with a positive return.

Take it and run with it!

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 04:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Just Keep Sliding

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

President Bush

CBS Polling

Approve (41)
Disapprove (52)

"As concern about the situation in Iraq grows, 65 percent now say the country is on the wrong track — matching the highest number ever recorded in CBS News Polls, which began asking this question in the mid-1980's. Only 30 percent currently say things in this country are headed in the right direction."

Foreign Policy

Approve (37)
Disapprove (56)


Approve (36)
Disapprove (57)

War on Terrorism

Approve (51)
Disapprove (42)

(His only saving grace. Barely. I think this is falling into "Joementum" status.)

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 03:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 23, 2004

Weddings for Marriage Equality, On TV Tonight

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

A month after the very successful Weddings for Marriage Equality Event
coordinated by the GLBTA Affairs Agency, I have been told that a PBS (KLRU)
report, called Austin Now will be using footage and such from the event in the
special report.

Channel: KLRU PBS (not KLRN which is San Antonio)
Time: Sunday at 5 pm (May 23)
Link: http://www.klru.org/austinnow/archives/gay_marriage/gay_marriage.asp

"May 21: Gay Marriage"
"In the first of a series of reports on the issues that will decide the 2004
elections, Austin Now explores the question of gay marriage. The issue will be
the focus of a major documentary report and an in-studio debate."

Be sure to watch!!!

Some pictures from the event can be found here...

GLBTAAA Co-Director


The WME Event and Debate have also been featured in the following places

Texas NewsWatch- UT Cable
http://journalism.utexas.edu/tx_newswatch/ (4/22 broadcast near start)

Texas Triangle

Austin Chronicle (under "Happenings")

Daily Texan
Marriage Equality Event and Debate

In addition, FOX 7 News covered both events that day, Jake Holbrook, UT Student, had made a documentary of the event which had a screening last week, which we will attempt to arrange a showing of in the fall, possibly during PRIDE week, and the Cactus Yearbook should have the days events chronicled as well.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 07:24 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bostonians Whine About Democratic Convention

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Bostonians are in an 'uproar' over the Democratic National Convention because of the major transportation interruptions that they may face.

Boston business owners and area motorists reacted with disbelief and fury on Friday to plans to shut down major highways for security reasons during this summer's Democratic National Convention. Traffic in Boston -- already one of the most confusing U.S. cities to navigate -- is set to enter a new dimension of chaos when Democrats gather here in the last week in July for the first political nominating convention since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"We're road kill," lamented the Boston Herald on its front page as it described the "commuter nightmare" that awaits drivers from July 26-29, when Democrats are expected to nominate Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (news - web sites) as their presidential candidate.

Convention planners had already said one of Boston's two main train stations and some roads would close during the event. But on Thursday, officials unveiled a more draconian set of traffic restrictions involving several miles of highways.

At the same time, they launched a new public relations campaign entitled "Let's Work Around It" which urges residents to adjust travel plans and asks businesses to let employees work from home or take vacation.

In response, Boston's radio airwaves echoed with howls of protest from angry commuters, and some firms acknowledged they would have to shut down during the four-day event, force staff to take days off or stay open with skeleton crews.

My thoughts? Stop kvetching. You are only going to have to put up with this one time for less than a week. Boston has never hosted a National Convention and probably won't be asked to again in the near future. Instead of making the thousands of delegates coming feel like you don't want us or our money, try to "work around it" and showcase your city. I've been there once already, and would be more than happy to return.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 12:01 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

May 22, 2004

Message from Soechting, TDP Chair

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Charles Soechting, current Texas Democratic Party Chair is running for re-election and sent the following letter out earlier this week. (Though I'm wondering if he used state party data to send them out; would any challengers have the same access? If you have answers to these questions, leave them in the comments. I have not heard of any official challengers as of yet, but have heard of this "anti-soechting" website.)

Dear Fellow Democrat:

One month out from our State Convention, I wanted to take a quick moment to update you on what to expect as we prepare to gather in Houston June 17-19.

On Thursday evening, June 17, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson will rally the troops at a fundraising dinner to kick off the weekend. The next night, June 18, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards will deliver his positive message of Democratic hope and prosperity. Two nights and two potential vice-presidents —not bad for starters!

But that’s not all. We have lined up non-stop appearances by our leading state lawmakers and candidates. We will pay homage to those Democrats we have lost since our last convention. And we will highlight some of the rising stars who are carrying on our best traditions for a new century.

Friends, the political pendulum has begun to swing back in our direction. In Washington, GOP leaders are reeling from three-and-a-half years of bad decisions and mean-spirited divisiveness. In Austin, the Republicans in charge are doing their best to stay out of a courtroom as the criminal grand jury investigation into their illegal corporate campaigns continues to unfold.

Meanwhile, the Texas Democratic Party has begun a comprehensive effort to reform, rebuild, and reinvigorate our party. We have retooled our political and communications strategies, recruited 35 challengers to incumbent GOP State House members, helped lead the effort to nominate stronger Democrats in party primaries, and expanded our donor base by several hundred contributors.

With your help, we have pushed an aggressive agenda of higher equity for public schools, lower tax burdens for local communities, and expanded access to quality health care for the eligible children of moderate- and low-income working parents. We have become known as a forceful advocate for rolling back Republican tuition hikes at state universities and for lowering homeowner insurance rates, which have skyrocketed under the current administration.

We’ve come a long, long way since you elected me Chairman less than seven months ago. But we still have a long, long way to go. Together, we can take back the White House and the Texas House this November and lay the groundwork for taking back Texas and the U.S. Congress in 2006.

Our State Convention next month is the next step. I hope you will seize the opportunity to move forward with me.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 08:28 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Study Shows that Republicanism is Genetic!

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The discovery that affiliation with the Republican Party is genetically determined was announced by scientists in the current issue of the journal NURTURE, causing uproar among traditionalists who believe it is a chosen lifestyle. Reports of the gene coding for political conservatism, discovered after a decades-long study of quintuplets in Orange County, CA, has sent shock waves through the medical, political, and golfing communities.

Psychologists and psychoanalysts have long believed that
Republicans' unnatural disregard for the poor and frequently unconstitutional tendencies resulted from dysfunctional family dynamics -- a remarkably high percentage of Republicans do have authoritarian domineering fathers and emotionally distant mothers who didn't teach them how to be kind and gentle. Biologists have long suspected that conservatism is inherited. "After all," said one author of the NURTURE article, "It's quite common for a Republican to have a brother or sister who is a Republican."

The finding has been greeted with relief by Parents and Friends of Republicans (PFREP), who sometimes blame themselves for the political views of otherwise lovable children, family, and unindicted co-conspirators. One mother, a longtime Democrat, wept and clapped her hands in ecstasy on hearing of the findings.

"I just knew it was genetic," she said, seated with her two sons, both avowed Republicans. "My boys would never freely choose that lifestyle!" When asked what the Republican lifestyle was, she said, "You can just tell watching their conventions in Houston and San Diego on TV: the flaming xenophobia, flamboyant demagogy, disdain for anyone not rich, you know." Both sons had suspected their Republicanism from an early age but did not confirm it until they were in college, when they became convinced it wasn't just a phase they were going through.

The NURTURE article offered no response to the suggestion that the high incidence of Republicanism among siblings could result from their sharing not only genes but also psychological and emotional attitude as products of the same parents and family dynamics. A remaining mystery is why many Democrats admit to having voted Republican at least once -- or often dream or fantasize about doing so. Polls show that three out of five adult Democrats have had a Republican experience, although most outgrow teenage experimentation with Republicanism.

Some Republicans hail the findings as a step toward eliminating conservophobia. They argue that since Republicans didn't "choose" their lifestyle any more than someone "chooses" to have a ski-jump nose, they shouldn't be denied civil rights which other minorities enjoy.

If conservatism is not the result of stinginess or orneriness typical stereotypes attributed to Republicans) but is something Republicans can't help, there's no reason why society shouldn't tolerate Republicans in the military or even high elected office -- provided they don't flaunt their outrageous political beliefs. For many Americans, the discovery opens a window on a different future. In a few years, gene therapy might eradicate Republicanism altogether.

The question facing future generations is -- should they be allowed to marry?

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 07:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 21, 2004


By Jim Dallas

Yes, I know I can be a little fatuous with all these polls, selectors, and quizzes (what can I say, I was turned to the dark side while working at the Texan alongside some serious TheSpark.com addicts).

Scottm brings us this selector which purports to answer the question, "which Democratic senator do you have the most in common with?"

As for me:

1: Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (South Carolina) (100%)
2: Daniel Inouye (Hawaii) (80%)
3: Jon Corzine (New Jersey) (80%)
4: Patrick Leahy (Vermont) (80%)
5: Edward "Ted" Kennedy (Massachusetts) (76%)
6: Robert C. Byrd (West Virginia) (76%) [Ed. note, tie with 5th]


20: Joseph Lieberman (Connecticut) (46%)
21: C. William "Bill" Nelson (Florida) (36%)
22: Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas) (33%)
23: John Breaux (Louisiana) (33%)
24: Max Baucus (Montana) (20%)
25: Zell Miller (Georgia) (16%)

I'd say that's mostly accurate; it's a shame Hollings is leaving the Senate, and past time for Miller to go. Although I do admire the fact that Breaux has a certain somethin'-somethin' that keeps him so popular in Louisiana. Daschle and Kerry both scored in the middle (63% and 50% respectively).

I'd conveniently note that while Hollings and Breaux are riding off into the sunset, you can and should consider donating to Inez Tenenbaum and Chris John (or John Kennedy). Also, Tom Daschle could use a pat on the back, and John Kerry needs turkee too.

Unfortunately, it leaves out a few pretty powerful senators (e.g. Feingold, Landrieu, Edwards) to squeeze into selectsmart's 25 selection limit.

P.S. I know it made me feel warm and fuzzy when Kerry noted his original support for the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act. Although some would deride it as mere show, the G-R-H Balanced Budget Act eventually lead to the adoption of PAYGO rules under the first Bush administration and under Clinton. As such, I would say G-R-H is probably the most important piece of legislation adopted in the last twenty years; Congress should adopt new PAYGO restraints soon, as our national fiscal crisis is the most serious problem we face today (worse even, I think, than Operation Iraqi Quicksand).

Posted by Jim Dallas at 07:22 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

"They'd rather be alive than free, poor dumb bastards."

By Jim Dallas

I have, for some time, wondered why so many professed right-libertarians are so unabashedly for the War in Iraq (one example here), even when we get news about American soldiers coming home in "transfer tubes," Americans getting their heads chopped off, prisoners being abused and civilians getting shot up at weddings. I mean, golly, there's certainly a lot of "initiation of unjust force" going on from both the Coalition and from the Iraqis (not to say there is moral equivalence -- just to say that we're knee-deep in a violent quagmire to which there is, apparently, no real exit; apparently, libertarians are supposed to be against wars.)

Then I stumbled on to this interesting passage (from LEFT LIBERTARIANISM: A REVIEW ESSAY, Barbara H. Fried, Stanford Law School Research Paper No. 63, September 2003):

2. Self-ownership

The locus classicus for the libertarian concept of self-ownership is of course the famous passage in John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government: “Though the Earth and all inferior Creatures be common to all Men, yet every Man has a Property in his own Person. This no Body has any Right to but himself.”15 What practical conclusions follow from this moral imperative has been subject to endless discussion.

The conventional right libertarian view is concisely set forth by Vallentyne, paraphrasing G. A. Cohen: “The core idea is that agents own themselves in just the same way that they can have maximal private ownership in a thing. This maximal private ownership is typically taken to include the right to fully manage (to use, and to allow or prohibit others from using); the right to the full income; the right to transfer fully any of these rights through market exchange, inter vivos gift, or bequest; and the right to recover damages if someone violates any of these rights. Redistributive taxation (e.g., of income or wealth) is incompatible with these rights of maximal private ownership.”16 For our purposes, the critical point is the last: that from the cardinal “principle that each person is the legitimate owner of his own powers,” it necessarily follows that redistributive taxation is tantamount to theft.17

In the hands of right libertarians, this absolutist view of self-ownership, coupled
with the belief that logical deduction can take us from the general principle of selfownership to detailed legal arrangements, has led to conclusions that will strike most people, for good reason, as absurd. Take, for example, Samuel Wheeler’s argument that taxation is morally akin to physical violence: “No significant moral difference in kind exists between eliminating my ability to play softball by taking my knees away and eliminating my ability to play the market by taking my money away. Crimes against property are just crimes against persons which tend not to produce immediate sensations of pain. Theft, taxation, and disembowelment are different forms of the same kind of violation of rights.”18 Rather than engaging all of the moral difficulties inherent in the assertion that disemboweling someone and levying an 8 percent sales tax on his luxury purchases is “the same kind of rights violation,” Wheeler has simply relocated these difficulties in the concession that they are “different forms” of that same kind. In this hermetically sealed world of formal analogic reasoning, questions like, “But might there be some reasons why we would condemn forcibly removing someone’s kidney or sticking a knife in someone’s back that don’t necessarily carry over to the state’s imposing an ad valorem property tax” are treated as nothing more than longwinded rhetorical questions, to which the only possible answer is “no.”

I guess it's all relative...

More credible explanations are welcomed.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Obama Blog

By Byron LaMasters

Check out the Blog of my favorite 2004 U.S. Senate candidate, Barack Obama (D-IL) here.

I made a small donation to the campaign last month and you can donate to his campaign here.

Obama is the Democratic nominee for the open U.S. Senate Seat in Illinois. If elected, he will become only the third African-American Senator since reconstruction. It's by far our best pick-up opportunity, and Obama is an absolutely amazing candidate (check out his website for more info).

Speaking of Obama, he's the victim of a political stalking. His opponent, Republican Jack Ryan has hired a personal stalker to follow Obama everywhere he goes. The Chicago Sun Times reports:

For the past 10 days, U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama hasn't been able to go to the bathroom or talk to his wife on his cell phone without having a camera-toting political gofer from his Republican rival filming a few feet away.

In what has to be a first in Illinois politics, Republican Jack Ryan has assigned one of his campaign workers to record every movement and every word of the state senator while he is in public.

That means Justin Warfel, armed with a handheld Panasonic digital camcorder, follows Obama to the bathroom door and waits outside. It means Warfel follows Obama as he moves from meeting to meeting in the Capitol. And it means Warfel tails Obama when he drives to his campaign office.

"It's standard procedure to record public speeches and things like that," Obama told reporters as the bald, 20-something operative filmed away. "But to have someone who's literally following you a foot and a half away, everywhere you go, going into the restrooms, standing outside my office, sitting outside of my office asking my secretary where I am, seems to be getting a little carried away."

Warfel interrupted Obama several times with heckling questions, but wouldn't respond when reporters asked him about who he was and why he was filming Obama's every move.

"You'll have to speak to the campaign office," Warfel said tartly to practically every inquiry.

Good God. Political stalking is nothing new, but following someone everywhere they go? Jesus. I think it basically says something about the Jack Ryan (GOP nominee) campaign. The guy thinks he has no chance unless he is able to catch Obama making a gaffe. Stupid Republicans....

Sun Times link via Political Wire and the Obama Blog.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:40 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Stopping Nader

By Byron LaMasters

Want to stop Ralph Nader?

Here's some ways to do it:

Check out the new BlogAd We Count.org - an organization working to urge John Kerry to reach out to Greens and Independents.

Sign the petition at Stop Nader.com

Check out The Nader Factor

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

Texas Can't Afford Textbooks

By Byron LaMasters

When a state can't afford textbooks, you would think that lawmakers would be debating the best way to infuse more money into the system. Well, not in Texas. Whenever the words "tax increase" appear, lawmakers have a way of hiding from it all. Anyway, the story at the Houston Chronicle:

Texas is short $67 million to buy textbooks, putting in jeopardy the purchase of materials for non-English-speaking elementary students and high school biology students, officials acknowledged Thursday.

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn blamed lawmakers and Texas Department of Transportation officials for miscalculating how much money a new law would generate. Strayhorn said her office had warned them that the anti-fraud law designed to improve collections of motor vehicle fuel taxes would generate only a fraction of the amount projected.

"The TxDOT estimates were based on a limited understanding of fuel tax administration in Texas and, one is tempted to say, wishful thinking," Strayhorn wrote in a letter to members of the State Board of Education, which oversees textbook purchases. "It is regrettable that the important area of school textbooks was linked to TxDOT's dubious assumptions, but we were very clear on the likely outcome of such a budget strategy."

Lawmakers had expected the change to generate $75 million for textbook purchases for the 2004-05 biennium, but Strayhorn said only $8 million will be raised. The overall textbook budget is $585 million.

Making sure that the children of this state have textbooks is far more important than debating whether a video lottery or a strip club tax will help releave property taxes. It would be nice to see Republicans take public education seriously, but I'm doubting that will happen anytime soon.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:23 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 20, 2004

New FDA cootie rules

By Jim Dallas

New FDA rules will ban homosexual and bisexual men from making anonymous donations to sperm banks (Yahoo!):

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US government said it would ban homosexuals from making anonymous donations to sperm banks, in the name of preventing transmittable diseases, in a move swiftly condemned by gay rights groups.

New Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) rules that take effect May 25 require agencies that collect tissues or cells including sperm to ask the donor if he has had sex with men or used injectable drugs in the past five years. If the answer is affirmative in either case no donation is allowed.

The FDA says the rules are just an extension of procedures already in effect for donating blood or organs.

"This new rule was developed with input from many concerned consumers, associations and tissue establishments. In all cases, we carefully considered the comments we received in the proposed rule and made changes in the final rule when the science supported the change," said Acting FDA commissioner Lester Crawford.

But homosexual rights groups slammed the move.

"The FDA guidelines are unscientific. There is a 72 hour test which would provide information as to whether a person was HIV positive, we know that even the International Red Cross accepts blood from men who have sex with men," said Roberta Sklar, spokesperson for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

"This is another instance of the Bush administration ignoring scientific information and putting forth their own agenda to satisfy the extreme right wing conservative voters. It does not take in current scientific findings and recommendations."

I'm not sure the new rules are discriminatory on their face; the consensus in the medical community remains that the majority of men with HIV/AIDS were infected during or after having sex with another man. The CDC estimates that 62% of newly-diagnosed men were exposed in this manner. And while the evidence is not entirely solid, there seems to be cause to believe that this might actually be getting worse. So certainly, it's not unreasonable to believe that this should or would raise red flags.

On the other hand, the same CDC documents suggest that the number of HIV-positive gay men is something like 195,000 in 2002.. Assuming that about 4.6 percent of men are gay or bisexual (the figure obtained by pooling the data from the 1998-2002 General Social Surveys), that would mean that there are approximately 6.2 million gay and bisexual men in America; and hence only about 3.5 percent of gay men are HIV positive. While this remains several orders of magnitude higher than the incidence rate among heterosexual men (approximately 100,000 estimated cases among roughly 130000000 straight men would imply an incidence rate of less than one tenth of one percent) , it must me pointed out that 96 percent of gay men are getting shut out without cause. And note that this figure (96 percent) is almost certainly an underestimate, since my estimate of 4.6 percent being gay is, well, most probably a low-ball estimate (since people DO lie in surveys).

My problem with this ruling is not that the FDA seems to be giving the right answers; it's that they seem to be asking the wrong questions.

Common sense (and science) dictate that the most relevant indicator of HIV infection is not whether the person you're having sex with is a man or a woman. A more relevant question is: how many people have you slept with?

The most relevant question of all would be: do you actually have HIV/AIDS? Of course, that question is already asked -- but not necessarily validated with testing. Which is too bad, because testing is becoming cheaper and more reliable all the time. Blanket-banning whole groups of people is becoming less tenable.

It seems to me that these new guidelines may make a miniscule reduction in the number of donations that slip through the cracks. But there are probably far more effective ways of insuring the safety of sperm (and blood, and organs) which do not smack of insensitivity.

Honestly, If were a blood or tissue recipient, and I had to choose between knowing the FDA was banning gays, or knowing that everything was being tested, I'd feel a lot safer if I knew everything was being tested accurately.

(Thanks to EphemeralNotion)

Posted by Jim Dallas at 04:29 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

A Kirk Comeback?

By Byron LaMasters

Is Ron Kirk going to try a run for something in 2006? I'd bet that 2010 is more likely, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Ron Kirk shoot for U.S. Senate in 2006 - especially if the seat is open. The Dallas Morning News reports:

These days, former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk frequently can be found on the golf course with law clients. But the 2002 Democratic Senate nominee still dabbles in politics.

Last summer Mr. Kirk gave $30,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and various Senate campaigns, and $5,000 to the Democratic National Committee.

He says he's also had conversations with Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat who is poised to become the third black senator elected since Reconstruction.

"He can win," Mr. Kirk said. "He's a good candidate and is very sharp. I'm committed to him lock, stock and barrel."

In 1992, the Year of the Woman, voters in Illinois elected Carol Moseley Braun to the Senate.

Mr. Kirk hopes Texas can help Mr. Obama be the second black person elected to the Senate from Illinois in 12 years. He wants to bring Mr. Obama to Texas for a fund-raising tour.

"There are a lot of Democrats here," he said. "Those of us who care have to play by electing progressive Democrats in other states."

Like Mr. Obama, Mr. Kirk was catapulted onto the national stage when he won the Democratic nomination for Senate in 2002, but he lost his bid to Republican John Cornyn.

Awesome! Barack Obama in Texas! I'd love to meet the guy, but I doubt that I can afford a $1000 lunch. As for Kirk, I hope he runs again. He made some mistakes in his 2002, but overall he's a solid candidate and a good guy.

Via Greg's Opinion.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:18 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Texas Services for the Elderly are Failing

By Byron LaMasters

Here's one of many consequences of letting Republicans run a state. The Houston Chronicle reports:

A leading health official described a "top-to-down, total breakdown" of Texas' elder protective services as the state released a preliminary review Wednesday calling for an overhaul of the system.

"No piece of Adult Protective Services appears to be working properly," said Health and Human Services Deputy Commissioner Gregg Phillips, who oversaw the 30-day review, the first of a series that will be expanded statewide. "We're getting out there and saying everybody who's raised the red flag is right."

The commission's 14-page review focuses on the state's weak response to elder abuse, neglect and exploitation in El Paso, where health officials videotaped a man so ignored by caseworkers that his rotting ear was covered in maggots.

Major findings of the report, prompted by an executive order from Gov. Rick Perry, show:

· Severe cases often did not result in better contact or attention to clients.

· More than a third of Adult Protective Services investigations were insufficient.

· Needs of clients with mental illness were not addressed in 44 percent of all such cases.

· Thirty percent of cases resulted in incomplete plans to serve clients.

Disgusted yet? How about this:

Phillips said he was disgusted when he traveled to El Paso and viewed evidence the judge had collected documenting the breakdown in elder care protective services.

One elderly person had a house piled high with trash and a Mason jar of cat eyeballs in the bathroom, which the individual had apparently been eating, Phillips said.

Sad. Just sad. But Texas Republicans care more about cutting taxes than the slightest amount of human decency.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New Email

By Byron LaMasters

I'll be trying to shift over much of my emails related to BOR over to my new account: byron@BurntOrangeReport.com over the next few weeks. My UT email account gets a lot of spam and fills up quickly, so I'll try and use this account for BOR related stuff.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 19, 2004

Look! On the Right! It's a Bird...? It's a Plane? NO! It's SuperCarole!

By Jim Dallas

For what it's worth, here's my analysis of Carole Keeton Strayhorn's recent moves:

Look, man, Texas politicians are not very good at pandering, so it's pretty obvious when they're doing it. Watch Bush. Carole Keeton Questionmark is aggressively pursuing the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2006; this is taken as a given among most political observers in the state.

She has recently turned to pandering to the religious right, since she doesn't have a natural base (except for fiscal moderates, and those do not a winning coalition make).

The first was the Perry divorce/adultery/queer rumors, which it turns out were not started by we Democrats but almost certainly by someone in Carole's office.

The second was her reaction to Perry's proposed sin taxes; instead of taxing adult businesses, she proposed to shut them down. She should have been yellow-carded for pandering on that one.

Now this. The Unitarians are anathema among the "bible believing" Republican base. She'll lose this court fight. She's just hoping to impress religious bigots along the way.

So sad that Strayhorn had to turn to this in order to get votes; there were hopes up until a few months ago she might defect to the Democrats and run on our side (but then Jim Turner, who would be a much stronger candidate, started dropping hints).

I'd tell Carole to turn away from the dark side, but she's pretty much doomed.

I've been working for seven days straight, and I'm about ready to drop dead. So I'm too lazy to provide links. You either know what I'm talking about, or you don't. (Sorry).

But I think there's a method to Carole's madness; I think she's preparing to run as a grassroots Christo-populist.

Flame on!

P.S. -- The standard which Strayhorn is using seems to go even beyond the "god, gods, or supreme being" test used by John Sharp in 1997 (which was smacked down by the courts). The "uniform system of belief" test ought to disqualify just about every church that isn't a mindless cult -- oughtn't it?

So I guess Carole, unless this is a pander, is gonna go after the presbyterians and the catholics next. Lovely lady, that Comptroller Strayhorn.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:32 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


By Andrew Dobbs

I have been deeply troubled by all the "prison abuse" scandal. Most pertinently I have been troubled by the media's inability to call a spade a spade- this was torture. And according to Talk Left not only are Pentagon officials calling this torture, at least 5 detainees were killed in the commission of the acts.

The Denver Post has examined Pentagon records and is reporting that :

  • five prisoners have died at four detention camps (including Abu Ghraib) while undergoing interrogation by the U.S.

  • at least one of the deaths was previously reported as being from natural causes

  • the soldiers got off light, mostly without criminal charges. Here's more:

    Brutal interrogation techniques by U.S. military personnel are being investigated in connection with the deaths of at least five Iraqi prisoners in war-zone detention camps, Pentagon documents obtained by The Denver Post show.

    The deaths include the killing in November of a high-level Iraqi general who was shoved into a sleeping bag and suffocated, according to the Pentagon report. The documents contradict an earlier Defense Department statement that said the general died "of natural causes" during an interrogation. Pentagon officials declined to comment on the new disclosure.

    Another Iraqi military officer, records show, was asphyxiated after being gagged, his hands tied to the top of his cell door. Another detainee died "while undergoing stress technique interrogation," involving smothering and "chest compressions," according to the documents.

    (Back to Talk Left-AD) Here are some of the techniques used:

    (Denver Post)....intelligence soldiers and other personnel have sometimes used lethal tactics to try to coax secrets from prisoners, including choking off detainees' airways. Other abusive strategies involve sitting on prisoners or bending them into uncomfortable positions, records show.

    (Talk Left) Even a pentagon official calls this torture:

    "Torture is the only thing you can call this," said a Pentagon source with knowledge of internal investigations into prisoner abuses. "There is a lot about our country's interrogation techniques that is very troubling. These are violations of military law."

This is horrific. I don't care what these Iraqis did, the reason America has any moral authority anywhere in the world is that we have always held ourselves to a much higher standard- we respect everyone's inherent rights. When we do this, we might as well cede our place as the "leader of the free world" and end this failed experiment of a Republic. We must end the reign of these horrible people that have done this- either by criminal and legislative action or at the ballot box. Rumsfeld belongs in the Hague, Rice belongs in Ft. Levenworth and Bush belongs in Crawford at best.

If nothing else makes you decide to turn out and vote for John Kerry- not Ralph Nader, not Fred Brown not any other vanity candidate- this ought to.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 10:57 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Perry's Dismal Numbers May Provide an Opening for Texas Dems

By Andrew Dobbs

I don't know if y'all have seen the latest Texas Poll but I guarantee that the Governor in particular and Texas Republicans in general asses are sucking wind this morning over this

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's job-performance rating reached a new low as an increasing number of Republicans disapproved of his work in office, according to the latest Scripps Howard Texas Poll.

About 37 percent of Texans surveyed said they approved of Perry's performance -- the lowest marks since Perry took office in 2000 and the lowest for a Texas governor in nearly a decade, according to the poll.

Among Republicans, Perry's approval rating dropped 15 percentage points in the past three months, the poll shows.

But the Republican governor still outpaced most other Texas politicians -- with the Texas Legislature as a whole drawing a meager 23 percent approval rating. (...)

Although Strayhorn enjoyed the highest approval rating among the state's politicians at 39 percent, her ratings slipped 7 percentage points. Moreover, her disapproval rating of 30 percent increased 8 percentage points.

For a little more perspective, the Chronical:

The Scripps Howard survey of 1,000 adult Texans was conducted from May 3-15 as the Legislature met in a special session called by Perry. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The survey ended before the session, but the 30-day session's failure was evident.

Among Texans in general, Perry remains the most unpopular governor in 14 years -- with 37 percent approving of his performance as governor and 52 percent disapproving.

Perry's disapproval rating in the winter and spring Texas Poll surveys has been the highest of any Texas governor since Bill Clements was enmeshed in a pay-for-play football scandal at Southern Methodist University in 1987.

But the biggest sign that Perry's re-election may be in jeopardy is how his job approval among Republicans sank like a stone during the past three months.

Among Republicans, 66 percent said Perry was doing a good job in the winter poll. Now, 51 percent of Republicans approve of Perry's job performance -- a 15 percentage point drop.

That's right- about as many REPUBLICANS think that Perry sucks as think he's doing a decent job as governor and the only state elected who has as many or more people thinking that they are doing a decent job as think they are ruining things is Strayhorn, and even she has a majority unsure of her performance. The Republicans have dug themselves into a deep hole and I just don't see how there is anything they could do in the next two years that will improve things. Of course two years is an eternity in politics, but their problem seems to be less a problem of specific occurances and more a general inability to govern. From that liberal pinko rag the Dallas Morning News:

The GOP Challenge: Can Republicans govern Texas? (...)

The Legislature's failure to come up with a fix for school funding wasn't because Republicans and Democrats were brawling, although there were conflicts between the parties. The breakdown came because Republicans couldn't agree with Republicans. The GOP controls the governorship, the House and the Senate. And that's where the feuding has mostly taken place over the last month.

Now, some of the fight is about honest disagreements. But the real quarrel is about whether the Legislature should raise business taxes to put more money into Texas schools. Gov. Rick Perry hasn't wanted to do that, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst fortunately is willing, and House Speaker Tom Craddick is somewhere in between.

Republicans need to recognize the state needs a new pool of funds to improve schools. And they need to come to that reality fast.

Since 2002, when Republicans took over all parts of the state's government for the first time in 100-plus years, the Legislature has broken down into bitter fights over the state's budget, congressional redistricting and, now, school funding. If Texas Republicans don't fix this situation, then Texans will have a right to wonder if the GOP knows how to govern.

Republicans may want to check in with the state's Democratic elders on this point, too. They know what it's like for voters to take away their power.

The DMN, as usual, is being rather charitable to the GOP. It seems to me that Republicans are incredibly good at winning elections. They control the White House, both Houses of Congress, a majority of state legislators and a majority of governors. The Republicans are better than Democrats at winning elections, but they are awful at governing. I'm not saying this because I think that they enact programs I disagree with (though they do), but rather that Republican leadership typically means fiscal insolvency, stopgap destined-to-fail solutions to pressing problems and the imposition of ideology over proven solutions. Texas is no exception and now with the complete collapse of all respect for elected officials and no light at the end of the tunnel a "throw the bums out" sentiment exists for we Democrats to take a hold of.

A majority of Texans cast their ballot for at least one Democrat in 2002. In 2002 Texans elected 17 Democrats to Congress (though one has since become a Republican), 12 State Senators and a majority of county level officials statewide. The number of counties without at least one Democrat in office is rather small and mostly concentrated in the suburban counties (though even such Republican centers as Fort Bend County have some Democratic representation) and in Far West Texas. If in 2006 we nominate Democrats that are of the variety these voters are used to voting for- moderate/conservative WD-40 types- and work hard on suburban outreach, we will be able to take back some of the state government and we will be able to build a new Democratic coalition in Texas.

We have to start now, so be sure to check out the Texas Tuesdays Blog Coalition's website and use its list of candidate contribution sites to give money to our candidates in 2004!

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 10:23 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Don't Shoot the Messenger!

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I received the following e-mail today thanks to the loose peace network in the Hill Country. The story comes out of Kerrville/Ingram area in Central Texas, where I am still located for the moment before I return to Austin.

Below is a story I (Scott Pope have distributed to the media. KSAT TV ran a story last night on TV, and the SA paper is running a story, along with the Houston Chronicle and Austin American-Statesman. Bradmesser.com is carrying the story. I have also sent this message to CNN, NY Times, Washington Post, Oprah, various Columbine survivor groups, Gov. Rick Perry, DPS, and many others.

Below is a news story worthy of national attention concerning a Texas public school which believes guns belong in the classroom. No condoms put plenty of guns.

I live in Kerrville, Texas. Kerrville is rural Texas and all that implies.

Our local school board in neighboring Ingram has decided to introduce real guns into the 7th grade classroom as teaching aids. The photo shows the speaker waving around a semi automatic pistol while at least six (6) real weapons are pointed at the students. The School Board maintains this is good for the students. Some parents feel the public schools should not be introducing young impressionable boys to semi automatic pistols and sawed off shotguns in a 7th grade classroom, as we are trying to keep our children away from these gangster type weapons.

While the School Board maintains they are teaching the children gun safety, it is clear from the attached photo they don't know the first thing about gun safety, as at least six (6) guns are pointed directly at the students. The School Board refuses to stop the guns program.


The picture says it all. Unbelievable, but true, and worthy of national news.

The picture is from the front page of our local newspaper (Kerrville Daily Times), which celebrates introducing weapons to children in the public school system

My name is Scott Pope, and I can be reached @ 210-849-8879. Thank you very much.

Well, in the interest of finding out the reality of the situation, I went digging for the article. It's still online and can be found here.

Like any other day, the seventh-grade students sprawled across their desks in the Texas history classroom of Ingram Middle School. Instead of napping, however, these kids were paying avid attention as the history that they’ve spent the past nine months learning came alive in front of their eyes.

It was Ranching Heritage Day at the middle school on Friday and 100 seventh-graders, under the direction of teacher Amy Brice, had an opportunity to step into the 1800s and learn about frontier life in Texas.


Inside, Texas Ranger Jim Ryan showed another kind of weaponry — period rifles, pistolas and knives used by the rough men who upheld Texas law.

His rapt audience, mostly boys, listened avidly as Ryan — dressed in period costume of tall leather boots, brown vest and felt hat — talked about justice on the Texas frontier.

He showed them a Ranger’s “Book of Fugitives,” which held names and descriptions of as many as 3,000 wanted lawbreakers. The state issued the books to the Rangers, who roamed the counties looking for these men. It didn’t matter how they were brought to justice, so long as they were. So very often Rangers would shoot first, then bring the men in, Ryan said.

So, I'm not going to make a big fuss over this. Yes, he shouldn't have guns pointed at school children, I completly agree with that. But I'm also thinking about the cultural and historical and educational relevance of all this. I think it's a school doing something new and different and I applaud that. And that's just my Central Texas roots showing. (though that is an entry for later this week)

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 12:35 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Today's Democratic Primary Results

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

For Kentucky...100% reporting

Overall % | Candidate | Votes

14.5% John Edwards 33,256
0.8% Lyndon H. La Rouche JR. 1,815
3.6% Howard Dean 8,221
2.0% Dennis J. Kucinich 4,506
4.8% Joe Lieberman 11,063 Joementum!!!
60.1% John F. Kerry 138,130
2.8% Wesley K. Clark 6,515
2.2 % Al Sharpton 5,013
9.2% "UNCOMMITTED" 21,187


George W. Bush 108,027 92.6%
"UNCOMMITTED" 8,588 7.4%

Democratic: 229,706
Republican: 116,615

For Arkansas...23% reporting?

5% Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. 9,646
67% John F. Kerry 126,049
5% Dennis J. Kucinich 9,860
22 % Uncommitted 41,414

For Orgegon...81% Reporting

81% John Kerry 240,595
16% Dennis Kucinich 47,640
3% Lyndon LaRouche 7,227

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 12:01 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 18, 2004

Dean For Kerry, America for Kerry

By Byron LaMasters

I donated another $25 to John Kerry today, because he just has to win. It's that simple. Howard Dean brought out his bat today... for John Kerry. Contribute if you want to send a message as a former Dean supporter to John Kerry:

George Bush cannot be trusted to tell the truth. He misled us about Iraq and his administration's paranoid secrecy cuts the public off from information about our government's actions. He would not testify under oath to the September 11th commission -- and could not even meet it in private without Dick Cheney's supervision.

He cannot be trusted with our safety. George Bush has thrown away 60 years of America's moral leadership in the world and left us in weak isolation. He has stretched our military dangerously thin by rushing into Iraq, and by sending National Guard and Reserve troops to join them, left our homeland unprotected.

And George Bush simply cannot be trusted with our future. The millions of jobs lost have weakened our economy. Tens of millions of uninsured have weakened our health. And his attempts to divide us by race, gender and sexual orientation are weakening the fabric of our society.

The first step to making America strong again is electing John Kerry. We're putting up the bat to get George Bush out of office and help Senator Kerry take his message to the American people.

Donate to John Kerry today. We need to unite to beat George Bush. John Kerry is our nominee, I'm damn proud of him, and he's gonna beat George W. Bush.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Another Special Session? Texas Says No

By Byron LaMasters

That's what the Dallas Morning News says:

Now that the Legislature has prematurely ended its special session to overhaul funding of schools, a majority of Texans with an opinion have some advice on holding another special session: Don't do it.

A new Texas Poll conducted through last week showed that 48 percent of Texans oppose Gov. Rick Perry calling another special session on school finance, while 40 percent favored the idea. Another 12 percent were undecided or had no answer.

Two-thirds of those surveyed said they supported the initial special session that began April 20 and ended two days early on Monday – without producing any legislation. Further, a majority said they were not bothered by the $1.7 million price tag for the session.

Rick Perry is an idiot. Idiot.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Lessons of Vermont

By Byron LaMasters

For those of you looking for more coverage on the gay marriages in Massachusetts, check out the special section of the Boston Globe. There's tons of great stuff.

One thing caught my eye yesterday. It was an op-ed piece on the issue by Howard Dean. He's got a great point. In four years I'll bet Massachusetts will wonder what all the fuss is about, because that's what Vermont is saying right now:

IN THE SPRING of 2000, Vermont became the first state in the union not only to recognize same-sex partnerships, but to make sure that every single right outlined in the Vermont Constitution and Vermont laws applied equally to heterosexual and homosexual Vermonters. Every right but one. Gay and lesbian Vermonters do not have the right to call their unions marriage. The fallout was the least civil public debate in the state in over a century, since the "wets" and "dries" battled in the middle of the 1800s. Death threats were made, epithets were used, not only on the streets and in the general stores but on the floors of both the Senate and the House, as the bill was being debated. Otherwise respectable church leaders railed against homosexuals and not so respectable ones organized political action committees vowing to oust any legislator who voted for the bill. Five Republican members of the House lost their seats in primaries. In the general election, Democrats lost control of the House for the first time in 14 years, as the Republicans piled up nearly a 20-vote majority. My own race, for a sixth term, was the most difficult in my career.

Four years later, we wonder what the fuss was all about. Civil unions were never an issue in Vermont in the 2002 election and will not be this fall. The intensity of anger and hate has disappeared, replaced by an understanding that equal rights for groups previously denied them has no negative effect on those of us who have always enjoyed those rights. My marriage has not become weaker.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

It's Over

By Byron LaMasters


The special session on school finance, which ended in spirit Friday, ended in fact Monday when the House and then the Senate adjourned for good two days earlier than expected — without approving a bill.

"For good," in this case, might mean lawmakers come back for summer school. Or it could mean a fall special session. Much will depend on progress made by two working groups that will be formed so lawmakers can plug away at the impasses that blocked all efforts to produce a consensus.

What Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst made clear, in a joint appearance Monday with House Speaker Tom Craddick, is that the trigger for bringing lawmakers back will be reaching detailed accord on what to do about school finance and property taxes, and how to pay for that.

"It is more important to get this issue right than to get it right away," Perry said.

Well, Rick, I agree. It is more important to get the issue right than right away. Why then did you call a special session before you met with anyone else (other than Grover Norquist that is) to decide what would be right for Texas? And why do all of your proposals do nothing to help children and education in Texas? If we're going to do this right, it's time to cut property taxes, and get serious about a state income tax.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Texas Tuesdays V. 3.0

By Byron LaMasters

This week the target is Nick Lampson. Check out our new website Texas Tuesdays.com for the post by Greg Wythe.

Anyway, you can learn more about Nick Lampson here and you can donate here (add $.36 for Texas Tuesdays!).

Nick Lampson has the notable distinction as the only Democrat in the past decade to have defeated a Texas Republican incumbent Congressman (of course that will change this year when Martin Frost and Charlie Stenholm are reelected). Lampson defeated Steve Stockman in 1996 - perhaps one of the nuttiest people to get elected to Congress in this state - and that's not a small feat. Lampson faces a tough reelection in a new district against Judge Ted Poe, but Lampson still has his Jefferson County (Beaumont) base, so he's got a fighting chance.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 17, 2004

It's not Everyday...

By Byron LaMasters

When you've finished your last exam for the semester, ironically where one of the questions in my Southern History since 1865 exam was on the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, KA.

And today would be the 50th Anniversary of that landmark civil rights case that brought down the folly of "seperate but equal".

And today would also be the first day that gay marriage is legally recognized in the United States, albeit only in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, although New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has vowed to recognize Massachusetts marriages in New York.

So in celebration of fifty years of progress on school integration in America (of course, there's still much work to do), and legal same-sex marriage in America, here's a picture of an interracial gay couple married today in Massachusetts:

Heck of a day, huh?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:53 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Swinford to run for Ag Commissioner in 2006

By Andrew Dobbs

The third official announcement of political intentions for 2006 came down today as Republican State Rep. David Swinford of Dumas announced that he would be seeking election as Agriculture Commissioner:

State Rep. David Swinford has decided to run for Texas agriculture commissioner in 2006, a job now held by fellow Republican Susan Combs.

Swinford, R-Dumas, said he decided to seek the post after Combs' May 7 announcement that she plans to run for state comptroller once her term ends.

He said his agricultural and legislative experience will make him a good fit for the job, the Amarillo Globe-News reported.

Swinford has served on the House Agriculture Committee since he joined the Legislature in 1991. He has a degree in agriculture education and has worked in the seed, feed and grain businesses. He also has raised corn, wheat and cattle.

"I ran some traps with the speaker, the governor and other people, and they were very supportive," he said. "I visited with my bride, and she said since all I do, talk about and want to do is agriculture issues, that probably I was well-suited to do that."

As the story says, Susan Combs has said she will run for Comptroller and Rick Perry has said he will run for reelection as Governor. Carole Strayhorn is almost certain to run against Perry for Governor and everything else is up in the air. Swinford is unlikely to win the nomination as Ag Commissioner I'd say because East Texas State Senator Todd Staples seems to want the job and he would be the insider favorite to win.

Still no word on the Democratic side other than rumblings from Congressmen Jim Turner and Chris Bell.

Swinford has an 82% career rating from the Young Conservatives of Texas and that might sound reasonable until you realize that the YCTs are so freaking out there that that irascable liberal Arlene Wohlgemuth got only 74% on their ratings this year and that his lifetime rating is the same as Kent Grusendorf. Also, from the Amarillo Globe-News:

Several groups, including Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Cattle Feeders Association and cotton groups approached Swinford about running, he said.

Good to know that he's not even pretending to be independent of the agribusiness special interests. Imagine if someone said "well, the pharmaceutical industry and the tobacco companies wanted me to run so I thought I'd better." There'd be outrage and this guy will be nothing than a puppet for these special interests.

Still, he does seem to posess a certain level of candor and is an experienced public official and I could really give a damn who the Ag Commissioner is, though I obviously want it to be a Democrat. No word yet on who will seek the post for the Party of Jefferson and Jackson.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 05:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 16, 2004

Galveston Results (Finally)

By Jim Dallas

Galveston city election results were released at 10:30 this morning; the counting machine brokedown last night after counting only four of approximately 30 precincts.

The short story: Lyda Ann Thomas won the mayoral election in a landslide (I predicted wrong); Proposition 2 (requiring a vote before placement of parking meters on the Seawall) passed by an equally-lopsided margin.

So we've got a lady mayor, a majority (4 of 6) of the city councilors are now women.

And there won't be parking meters on the Seawall anytime soon.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 08:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

Bush's approval hit a new low today:

A Newsweek poll released Saturday put Bush's overall job approval at 42 percent, the lowest yet in that poll. Other recent survey have rated Bush in the mid-40s.

Kerry only leads Bush by one point in that polls, but others show Kerry moving ahead. Here's the most recent head-to-head:

Newsweek Poll. May 13-14, 2004. MoE ± 4 (for all registered voters):
Kerry 43, Bush 42, Nader 5.

Time/CNN Poll. May 12-13, 2004. Likely voters nationwide. MoE ± 4.1.
Kerry 51, Bush 46.

Rasmussen Reports, Daily Tracking Poll, May 16th, MOE +/- 3.
Kerry 46, Bush 44.

Anyway, it looks as if Kerry might be finally pulling ahead again. A lot of the pollsters wrote in their summaries that Bush support was softening, but voters didn't know enough about Kerry yet to make the final decision. Kerry's bio ads ought to help in that regard.

Update: Zogby weighs in today as well:

May 10-13, MOE +/-3.2.

Bush Approve: 42%, Disapprove 58%
Kerry 47%, Bush 42%.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:14 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Fredericksburg ISD Weighs ‘Rich' Moniker

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I get back home to Fredericksburg now that my first year of University is done, in the midst of the Special Session on Education, and find that the Fredericksburg ISD has now joined the likes of AISD and those other huge wealthy ISDs as a "property rich" tax district. I don't know for sure, but the FISD may now be one of the few, if not the only "rich" district that has only one elementary, middle, and high school.

The local Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post has the lowdown...

Looking at school finance issues from the other side of the fence, the Fredericksburg Independent School District Board of Trustees held a first workshop on Chapter 41 issues in a special meeting before their regular monthly session Monday. They heard from newly-hired Assistant Superintendent For Business and Finance Deborah Ottmers about dealing with the "Robin Hood" system as a so-called "rich" school district as the FISD was recently classified by the State of Texas.

The classification of districts is based on the amount of property wealth per student. The projected threshold to be considered a property wealthy school district next year is $305,000 per student, and FISD property wealth per student is projected at $345,000.

"The best option fiscally for us is to have a local election that will give the district approval to buy "weighted average daily attendance (WADA) from other districts," Superintendent Marc Williamson said. "That's the cheapest and best way to keep the most money locally."

That option would allow the FISD to line up some "partner" school districts with which to share funds.

"We want to try to keep that in the Hill Country area," Williamson said.

Under current estimates, the district will lose 12 cents for every $1 collected in local taxes, he said. That will amount to approximately $2 million next year...

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 01:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Election Returns in Gillespie County

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Byron and Andrew have the roundup of results for Austin Area returns in the post below...

OK, so I'm sure that not everyone is rushing to know the results from Fredericksburg City Council and School Board races but I have them, now that I'm back at home for a week.

(votes | candidate | (i)=incumbant | *= Karl's vote)

Mayor- unopposed
521 Tim Crenwelge (i)*

City Council- Two Places at Large
495 Dan Mittel (i)*
465 Kevin MacWithey*
349 Melodi Francis

Melodi ran last time and lost as well. She is a newcomer to town that hasn't been fully in touch on the issues (proposing a bed tax last time which we already have, and proposing sales taxes that would only apply to tourists but not to locals??) She was endoresed by the Republican Women and lost so that's nice to see. MacWithey is also new to town (10 years) but ran a landscaping business and actually ran a campaign, including signs stuck in the back of trucks just outside our singular polling location. Mittel is very much the traditional local guy.

FISD School Board- Two Seats at Large

616 Wayne Harrell (i)*
534 Jerry Durst
381 Rick Weirich (i)
254 Ben Lehmann*

Harrell has broad support and in my view, is one of the best members on the board. Weirich is Morman, not that I'm saying that had any part to play in this election, but out here religion still sometimes has an effect. His loss is more due to Durst's strong showing.

Durst is a total county farmer rancher type who was on various boards and got the endorsement of local Ag groups. In a low turnout election, that's more than enough. But he is more of an anti-tax candidate running against "excess fluff" than a pro-education guy which was Lehmann. Lehmann is a doctor, but still new to town so that was a factor once again. Hopefully he will run again, as he actually ran on wanting to improve teacher pay.

Harper ISD had no election as usual as there were 3 candidates for 3 spots.

Doss ISD had no one file at all for the 2 open seats, as usual, and will announce the winners once the write-ins are counted. This is just how they usually do it.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 12:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Veronica Rivera for ACC Place 6

By Byron LaMasters

She's in the run-off against YCT officer Marc Levin.

'Nuff said.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Good News for Austin Hospitals, Firefighters

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin Firefighters have won Collective Bargaining Rights:

Austin firefighters were winning the ability to force city officials into contract negotiations concerning issues such as pay, benefits and working conditions late Saturday.

With most precincts reporting, voters were supporting by about a 60-40 margin a measure to require collective bargaining. City officials, who are responsible for launching negotiations, said they probably would begin talks with the Austin Association of Professional Firefighters by Nov. 1.

And great news for Travis County Health Care as well:

A Travis County hospital district was easily approved Saturday, despite growing distaste for property taxes and opponents' warnings that tax bills would escalate as more people come to the district for health services.

The hospital district, expected to be established later this year, would be the first broad-based taxing authority in the area since Capital Metro was born in the mid-1980s. Tax rates in the district would be capped at 25 cents per $100 of property value.

Now city and county leaders face the task of setting up the board and appointing members.


Right now, Austin residents contribute 7.3 cents per $100 of property valuation to public health: 6 cents in city taxes and 1.3 cents in county taxes. Counting exemptions, that brings the total tax bill for health care to $134 on a home valued at $191,240, the average in Travis County in 2003.

Residents outside the city pay 1.3 cents for health care, or about $20, counting exemptions, on the same value house.

If, as expected, the district sets a countywide tax rate of 7.3 cents, city residents would pay slightly less than they do now because the health care portion of their overall tax bill would enjoy the benefit of tax exemptions allowed by the county. And county residents outside the city would pay about $92 more. The average homeowner in the district would pay about $111 in total health care taxes until taxes rise.

Travis County is still growing significantly. The Health Care District will help us maintain quality health care for all Travis County residents. It's a good day for Central Texas.

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

May 15, 2004

Election Thread

By Byron LaMasters

Polls close across the state in various municipal elections at 7 PM. I'll use this thread to update the results. I'll mostly be following the Austin races, but I may have some remarks on some other races.

Update: Here are the numbers from the Austin races (11:23 PM- 100%):

240 of 240 Precincts Reporting
Jeffrey Richard 54.95% 15,926
Thomas Krueger 45.05% 13,055

240 of 240 Precincts Reporting
Guadalupe Q. Sosa 20.93% 6,810
Marc Levin 29.82% 9,700
Veronica Rivera 31.92% 10,385
Rodney Ahart 17.33% 5,638

202 of 202 Precincts Reporting
Doyle Valdez 61.32% 18,606
Jennifer Gale 38.68% 11,735

261 of 261 Precincts Reporting
FOR 54.72% 31,907
AGAINST 45.28% 26,401

255 of 255 Precincts Reporting
FOR 58.88% 26,250
AGAINST 41.12% 18,335

Ramiro Lopez . . . . . . . . . 596 31.07
Chris Hay . . . . . . . . . . 67 3.49
Louis Tranquilino Trujillo. . . . . 169 8.81
Jerome Garza . . . . . . . . . 969 50.52
Bob Werner . . . . . . . . . . 117 6.10

FOR 60,567 votes 72%
AGAINST 23,944 votes 28%

And in my (Andrew D's) home town's wet/dry election:

Allen Local Option-Beer and Wine

FOR 1741 67.95%
AGAINST 821 32.05%

At least now I'll have a way to dull the overwhelming misery of that dismal town...

Andrew D. is helping b/c Byron's computer is being mean to him.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:53 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Law Enforcement Backs Kerry

By Byron LaMasters

It's been all over the blogs over the past few days, but it's worth mentioning that the International Brotherhood of Police Officers has endorsed John Kerry for President. They backed Bush in 2000, and Clinton in 1992 and 1996. Read this Washington Monthly article if you want to know why cops are pissed at Bush.

This is great news for Kerry. There's not to much to say that hasn't been said already, but I can already see the ads playing in my head:

Narrator: Lots of cops supported George Bush in 2000, because he promised to be there to keep America's communities safe, but that's another promise George Bush has forgotten.

International Brotherhood of Police Officers person: I supported Bush in 2000, but crime is up, funding for police is down, and President Bush has overextended our police force by using cops for Homeland Security, and not helping cities replace those police to protect our communities. John Kerry will change that...

John Kerry: I'm John Kerry and I approve this message because we must keep our communities safe for our children.

Or something like that. I'd be surprised if this endorsement doesn't make it's way into a Kerry ad at some point.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 14, 2004

Dewhurst: Special Session Fails

By Byron LaMasters

Yay! Score one for sanity!

The Houston Chronicle reports:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst surrounded himself with a bipartisan group of senators on the Capitol's south steps today as he announced the special session on property tax relief and public school finance has apparently failed.

"We've made real progress, but we've still got much work to do," Dewhurst said. "We need some more time in order to do a good job."

Gov. Rick Perry has said he will call another special session if this one failed, but a statement he released Friday was unclear on when.

Anyone want to start taking bets on how many sessions Gov. Perry will call this time?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Ryan Lizza is wrong

By Jim Dallas

Brad DeLong references this note from The New Republic's Ryan Lizza:

...the White House counterterrorism job is the bureaucratic equivalent of the drummer in Spinal Tap. Bush has now gone through five of them since 9/11. (Clinton had one.) Like Spinal Tap's drummers, who often choked on their own vomit or spontaneously combusted, Bush's counterterrorism aides all seem to disappear under unusual circumstances. First there was Richard Clarke. We all know what happened to him. He left his post in disgust and wrote a book arguing that Bush paid no attention to terrorism before 9/11 and that the war in Iraq was a monumental diversion from the fight against al Qaeda and a gift to jihadist recruiters across the Muslim world. Clarke was replaced by General Wayne Downing, a pro-Iraq war hawk. Nonetheless, he had a similar experience, lasting a total of 10 months before abruptly resigning in frustration at how the White House bureaucracy was responding to the terrorist threat. Downing was replaced by two men, General [John] Gordon, who lasted ten months before moving on to his homeland security job, and Rand Beers, who resigned in disgust over the Iraq war after seven months in his post. His experience was searing enough that he immediately joined the Kerry campaign. Beers was replaced by Townsend, who has now been tapped to replace Gordon, who is apparently resigning under circumstances similar to Clarke and Beers. (Got all that?)

While comparing Bush counterterrorism chiefs to Tap drummers is an accurate and fitting analogy, I feel compelled to point out that no Spinal Tap drummer choked on "his own vomit."

There was, however, a drummer that choked on someone else's vomit:

Marty: Your first drummer was uh.... Nigel: The peeper.... David: Joe stumpy Pepys...great great...uh...tall blond geek.. with glasses uh... Nigel: Uh.. good drummer. David: Great look, good drummer. Nigel: Good, good drummer.... David: Fine drummer.... Marty: What happened to him? David: He died, he, he died in a bizarre gardening accident some years back. Nigel: It was really one of those things...it was...you know...the authorities said...you know...well best leave it unsolved, really...you know. Marty: And he was replaced by...uh.... David: Stumpy Joe - Eric Stumpy Joe Childs. Marty: What happened to Stumpy Joe? Derek: Well, uh, it's not a very pleasant story..but, uh, David: He's passed on. Derek: he died. uh...he choked on..the ac- the official explanation was he choked on vomit. Nigel: It was actually, was actually someone else's vomit. It's not.... David: It's ugly. Nigel: You know. There's no real.... Derek: You know they can't prove whose vomit it was...they don't have the facilities at Scotland Yard.... David: You can't print, there's no way to print a spectra-photograph Nigel: You can't really dust for vomit.

Perhaps it would disturb normal people that I remember this. At any rate, this oversight is clearly another example of how the liberal media outlets like The New Republic fail to report all the facts.

Wink. Nod. Chuckle.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 07:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Dallas Rally Against FMA Tomorrow

By Byron LaMasters

Hosted by Stand Out Texas:

Date: May 15 2004
Time: 1:00 pm
Place: Lee Park

The rally will focus on defending the U.S. Constitution against the proposed Amendment to discriminate against American families. If passed, the amendment could have a far-reaching impact on the LGBT community, and on the freedoms all Americans enjoy. Join our community and those in the non-gay community who are combining forces with us to ensure that discrimination does not become a part of the very document that safeguards liberty and equal rights for all citizens, the U.S. Constitution.

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

Ryan Lizza is wrong

By Jim Dallas

Brad DeLong references this note from The New Republic's Ryan Lizza:

...the White House counterterrorism job is the bureaucratic equivalent of the drummer in Spinal Tap. Bush has now gone through five of them since 9/11. (Clinton had one.) Like Spinal Tap's drummers, who often choked on their own vomit or spontaneously combusted, Bush's counterterrorism aides all seem to disappear under unusual circumstances. First there was Richard Clarke. We all know what happened to him. He left his post in disgust and wrote a book arguing that Bush paid no attention to terrorism before 9/11 and that the war in Iraq was a monumental diversion from the fight against al Qaeda and a gift to jihadist recruiters across the Muslim world. Clarke was replaced by General Wayne Downing, a pro-Iraq war hawk. Nonetheless, he had a similar experience, lasting a total of 10 months before abruptly resigning in frustration at how the White House bureaucracy was responding to the terrorist threat. Downing was replaced by two men, General [John] Gordon, who lasted ten months before moving on to his homeland security job, and Rand Beers, who resigned in disgust over the Iraq war after seven months in his post. His experience was searing enough that he immediately joined the Kerry campaign. Beers was replaced by Townsend, who has now been tapped to replace Gordon, who is apparently resigning under circumstances similar to Clarke and Beers. (Got all that?)

While comparing Bush counterterrorism chiefs to Tap drummers is an accurate and fitting analogy, I feel compelled to point out that no Spinal Tap drummer choked on "his own vomit."

There was, however, a drummer that choked on someone else's vomit:

Marty: Your first drummer was uh.... Nigel: The peeper.... David: Joe stumpy Pepys...great great...uh...tall blond geek.. with glasses uh... Nigel: Uh.. good drummer. David: Great look, good drummer. Nigel: Good, good drummer.... David: Fine drummer.... Marty: What happened to him? David: He died, he, he died in a bizarre gardening accident some years back. Nigel: It was really one of those things...it was...you know...the authorities said...you know...well best leave it unsolved, really...you know. Marty: And he was replaced by...uh.... David: Stumpy Joe - Eric Stumpy Joe Childs. Marty: What happened to Stumpy Joe? Derek: Well, uh, it's not a very pleasant story..but, uh, David: He's passed on. Derek: he died. uh...he choked on..the ac- the official explanation was he choked on vomit. Nigel: It was actually, was actually someone else's vomit. It's not.... David: It's ugly. Nigel: You know. There's no real.... Derek: You know they can't prove whose vomit it was...they don't have the facilities at Scotland Yard.... David: You can't print, there's no way to print a spectra-photograph Nigel: You can't really dust for vomit.

Perhaps it would disturb normal people that I remember this. Oh well.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 07:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Frost Attacks Sessions on Taxes

By Byron LaMasters

You don't see this everyday, but then again the new 32nd district is a unique race where two incumbents are fighting on largely GOP turf. That said, Martin Frost knows how to play the suburban game:

Pete Sessions again voted against a tax cut that would directly benefit Texas families and, in doing so, he took the extraordinary step of voting against a bill he cosponsors. Today, Sessions voted against allowing taxpayers in states that rely on sales tax revenues, rather than income tax revenues, to deduct their sales tax payments on their federal returns.

If passed, the legislation would benefit millions of Texans, saving them millions of dollars. By failing to join this bi-partisan effort to give Texas the same break enjoyed by states like California and New York, Sessions turned his back on Texas taxpayers for the second time in a week, signaling his disregard for the people of Dallas, and his loyalty to his party leaders in Washington DC.

"This was a bi-partisan effort to cut taxes for Texans and millions of other families across the nation," said Congressman Frost. "I wish Pete would have listened to the people of North Texas, instead of his party's leaders in Washington DC."

The bill that Congressman Frost wanted to discuss was authored by Republican Rep. Kevin Brady. Sessions, a co-sponsor of Congressman Brady's bill, failed to show that he is willing to buck party leadership and do what is right for the people of North Texas.

"In addition to giving Sessions legislation to introduce, and telling him how to vote, I wish the Republican leadership would inform Pete that he should support the bills he co-sponsors," said Frost Campaign Chairman Marc Stanley.

What an idiot. The GOP party leadership tries to help Pete Sessions out by allowing him to co-sponsor a bill to reduce taxes, and then he votes against it.

Donate to Martin Frost here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Democratic Club Endorsements

By Byron LaMasters

For those of you interested, here's the Democratic Club endorsements for the elections on Saturday in Austin:

ACC Place 4 - Jeffrey Richard (Austin Progressive Coalition, Capitol City Young Democrats, Central Austin Democrats, South Austin Democrats, Travis County Democratic Women, University Democrats, UT Law Democrats, West Austin Democrats)

ACC Place 5 - Rafael Quintanilla (Capitol City Young Democrats, South Austin Democrats, Travis County Democratic Women, University Democrats, UT Law Democrats) - this race is uncontested.

ACC Place 6 - Rodney Ahart (Austin Progressive Coalition, Capitol City Young Democrats, Central Austin Democrats, University Democrats, UT Law Democrats, West Austin Democrats)

ACC Place 6 - Guadalupe Sosa (South Austin Democrats, Travis County Democratic Women)

Travis County Health Care District - FOR (Austin Progressive Coalition, Capitol Area Progressive Democrats, Capitol City Young Democrats, Central Austin Democrats, South Austin Democrats, Travis County Democratic Party, Travis County Democratic Women, University Democrats, UT Law Democrats, West Austin Democrats)

Proposition 1, City Fire Fighter Bargaining Rights - FOR (Austin Progressive Coalition, Capitol City Young Democrats, Central Austin Democrats, South Austin Democrats, Travis County Democratic Party, Travis County Democratic Women, University Democrats, UT Law Democrats, West Austin Democrats)

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Senate has a Plan... Maybe.

By Byron LaMasters

After the Governor's plan and the State House's public school finance plans went down in flames, the State Senate might actually be putting together a plan they can agree on. Who'd a thunk it? The Austin American Statesman reports:

The emerging Texas Senate school finance plan would cut school property taxes by up to a third, broaden the state's only business tax, legalize slot machines, raise the sales tax by a half-cent and provide about $1.1 billion more for public education.

But while those details were coming into focus Thursday, what remains open to speculation -- and there was plenty of that around the Senate on Thursday -- is whether the Senate can actually pass the legislation. Assuming it does, that vote could come as late as Monday, leaving the House just two days to concur with or kill the legislation before the special session ends.

Beyond those hurdles are the governor, who could veto the main bill, and the voters, who under the Senate plan would likely have at least three constitutional amendments to consider in November.

Basically slots and gambling are back in the senate plan. Property taxes would be cut by a third, sales taxes would be increased by half a cent, and cigarette taxes would increase by fifty cents a pack. In addition there'd be a "snack tax" on unhealthy food. Good God. Note to Democrats: Just block the whole thing. These taxes are stupid, regressive and would likely generate less revenue for our public schools than is currently generated by the imperfect, but workable Robin Hood plan.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Good News for Richard Morrison

By Byron LaMasters

He's raised over $40,000 since April 28th.

The Richard Morrison for Congress campaign today announced strong support within the district and across the country in their challenge to GOP power Tom DeLay. Campaign staffers revealed that their list of in-district supporters has exceeded 3,000 and that over 1,000 people from 45 states have contributed money to the campaign.

Morrison has raised more than $40,000 online in a sustained burst since April 28th when surprising poll numbers came to light showing that DeLay had surprisingly high negatives in the very Republican district.

Since then Morrison has appeared on Air America Radio, been named one of the "Dean Dozen" by Democracy for America, and met with the DCCC and the Texas Democratic delegation, who pledged strong support to the campaign.

Good to see. He's still a bit of a longshot, but I'd love to give Tom DeLay a scare. You can donate here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

For me but not for thee

By Jim Dallas

Nathan Newman hits the nail on the head:

But the real money quote comes from Wal-Mart defending its lack of health care for its employees:

[Wal-Mart spokesperson] said that while critics say 40 percent of Wal-Mart's workers do not have company health insurance, 90 percent of its employees have health benefits through some plan - perhaps a spouse's or through state Medicaid.
Read that quote carefully. What Wal-Mart is saying is first, they are depending on other companies to provide health care for their employees, thereby driving up health costs for other businesses-- a nice trick of unfair competition.

But secondly, this Wal-Mart spokesperson is admitting that a lot of their employees are paid so badly that they qualify for MEDICAID?!!! Essentially, Wal-Mart is stealing money from overburdened health care for the poor to subsidize their low-wage employment practices.

This is admission of guilt straight from the horse's mouth-- Wal-Mart admits they pay poverty wages and steal health care funds from the rest of us.

If you need any argument on why we need to make Wal-Mart a prime target for progressive organizing, this is the best reason.

It's time to kick the Wal-Mart Welfare Queens (and in so many ways - perhaps the most obvious being the special tax deals small towns give to big-box stores)off the public dole!

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bush Cuts Funds for Reading Program his Mom Supports

By Byron LaMasters

I don't know about you, but this isn't any way to treat your mother. The Houston Chronicle reports:

President Bush touted his literacy programs Wednesday as Democrats pointed out he wants to scrap federal funding for a reading project that got matching grants from a foundation started by his mother.

The White House said the project, Even Start, is ineffective and the money belongs in other literacy programs.

In its 2005 budget proposal to Congress, the White House recommends eliminating all $270 million for Even Start, which coaches low-income parents to read to their children.

Last year, the Barbara Bush Reading Foundation for Family Literacy awarded three of its 10 grants, totaling about $570,000, to Even Start programs in Iowa, Louisiana, and Washington.

Bush spokesmen said that the program was ineffective and that the funds were being diverted to other "effective" programs. Kerry campaign officials, however, stated that there would be an overall cut of $108 Million in the reading programs. Barbara Bush had no comment about her son's decision.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:31 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

You will pry their ballot out of their cold, dead hands.

By Jim Dallas

Via KOS and The Hill, the National Rifle Association is withholding it's endorsement of the President pending action on legislation that would renew assault rifles ban (which Bush nominally supports).

The question is, do they hate Kerry more than they love Bush? We'll see.

Incidentally, I'm kinda hoping the assault rifles ban dies in Congress. But I'm weird that way.

Now, the NRA has questionable influence (they claim to be strong; but lots of their guys have lost). But every little bit helps, or hurts.

And this certainly does not help the President.

One of these days I plan on encouraging economically liberal people like myself to join the NRA en masse, the way the anti-immigration wingers are trying to influence the Sierra Club (boo). Who's with me?!?

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Here comes da judge

By Jim Dallas

I've been asked to judge in the first ever Iron Blog blogathon, attended by Rosemary Esmay (a.k.a. Queen of All Evil, a.k.a Iron Blogger Republican) and Ara Rubyan, the challenger.

My judging comments are posted below (the Iron Blog uses haloscan, which limits comments to 1000 characters, and I am far wordier than that!)


First, I would like to thank Ara and Rosemary for taking the time to give us this first Iron Blog blogathon. As pioneers, they deserve a certain amount of recognition from all of us.

Second, I would like to ask the Chairman to state topics of debate a bit more clearly in the future. I think a lot of bytes were wasted in arguments about what was topical. Now, it is true lots of debates will go down to "T-circle" (wink nod to the high school debate nerds out there), but frankly I think it ought to be minimized.


There is some discussion as to what the topic really is; are we constrained to Abu Ghraib or is Rumsfeld's total record valid? The Chairman informs me it is the latter. Moreover, it seems to me that there is a certain method to Rosemary's madness: (1) This debate is only about one incident ("Never mind that this debate is about the Abu Gharib scandal, the Challenger has decided that he has a better topic to debate." - First Rebuttal) and (2) one incident isn't enough to fire somebody over ("It would be irresponsible for Bush to fire a proven, competent leader simply over some photographs."). By those terms, Rumsfeld cannot logically be fired!

Accordingly, this seems to be an abusive limitation of argumentation on Rosemary's part (it essentially defines the debate out of existance). Now of course, I won't mark off for that -- in the future I expect challengers to argue technical points, so now you know my expectations.

Now, onward bloggin' soldiers:


Ara's opening statement goes point by point. It is well structured. I quibble over a few points, however.

First, since in later posts he is intent on using the "poor planning" and "Rumsfeld set the tone" arguments as specific reasons why the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse occurred, I think he probably should have been just a tad more clear about those arguments from the get-go. BEAT ME OVER THE HEAD WITH IT. CONNECT THE DOTS. Tell me that, the poor planning and lack of sufficient troops created stress, resulting in the troops to go totally insane.

I think with your sourcing, you kind of hint around it. All the pieces of the puzzle are laying on the table. It's your responsibility to put them together for idiot judges like me.

Second, a link to the studies regarding the need for more troops (particularly the RAND study) would have totally devastated Rosemary's contention that this was all just opinion. Frankly, I think the evidence you present is good but it doesn't lay out an irrefutable case that more troops were needed, and that the planning was lacking. A good logical argument ("We need this many troops because of x; this many because of y; this many because of z; we need x+y+z troops to be effective.") involving lots of military theory would, I think, essentially be "fact." And the whole "fact vs. opinion" argument would have died right there, with just a good solid link to the RAND study, or another fully-reasoned document. For example the Fareed Zakaria article here (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4711931/) that explores the contents of a 2003 RAND study in depth:

"Over the course of the 1990s, a bipartisan consensus, shared by policymakers, diplomats and the uniformed military, concluded that troop strength was the key to postwar military operations. It is best summarized by a 2003 RAND Corp. report noting that you need about 20 security personnel (troops and police) per thousand inhabitants 'not to destroy an enemy but to provide security for residents so that they have enough confidence to manage their daily affairs and to support a government authority of its own.'".

See how the justification for 500,000 troops is laid out using logic and strategery? I mean, honestly, despite my deep respect for Mrs. Esmay, I value the opinion of the bipartisan consensus ahead of the Queen of All Evil.

But it's your job to find that, not me (and accordingly, I will now wipe my mind clean of all that Zakaria said in that article, since it never was brought up in debate). Do better in the future.


First, stop the gratuitous Pelosi-bashing specifically. Generally, ascribing negative motives to your opponents (in essence, your argument that this is a partisan witch-hunt) is not the strongest avenue of attack. You're the Queen, damnit, don't go pulling a Hillary by talking about vast x-wing conspiracies.

On the flip side, though, I think you are doing well in arguing that there was no "cover-up" per se, and I think that helps to add moral clarity to the debate. On one level, though, I think it opens you up to the charge that you're missing the forest for the trees (or that you're burning a straw man). But I think, again, that you are right to talk about the facts about cover-ups and not the hype.

Second, be careful about what you say; in your opening statement you provide enough rope to hang yourself with (had Ara decided to pick up the football and run with it; alas, I am mixing metaphors).

You say --

"Should Rummy resign? No. Absolutely not. He stood up and took his spanking like a man. He apologized and he accepted responsibility for what happened. According to many of my liberal friends, saying that you accept responsibility is good enough. Just like it was good enough for Janet Reno and her many, many failures."

Why, Mrs. Esmay, would Rumsfeld apologize for something he didn't do? And if he didn't do anything, then why aren't you vocal about Rumsfeld caving in to those damn liberals? Either Rumsfeld did screw up (which you seem to be conceding here; he apologized and accepted responsibility for something, did he not? An apology by its nature is a declaration of moral fault.) or he did not (and he is falling on his sword). Moreover, by likening this to Reno-isms, you're basically saying their were failures.

And then you go on to say that it would be irresponsible for Bush to fire a "proven, competent leader," the contrapositive (if Rumsfeld is a proven competent leader then firing him would be inappropriate; if Rumsfeld is not a proven, competent leader, then firing him would be appropriate) of which strongly implies that competence is the gold standard for this debate.

So we seem to agree here that there (1) were failures and (2) failures may warrant removal. These little things grant a whole lot to Ara, and essentially turn the debate into a contest to see who can draw the line.

Finally, by bringing up the question about "what's the alternative," you are doing some fine rhetorical ju-jit-su. Kudos!



First off, your contention that personnel (e.g. the Secretary of Defense) are fungible reminds me of someone... but then again, that's my word, not yours.

Second, your contention that "failing to get the job done" goes a long way in clarifying where you are drawing the line as to what merits removal. See my previous commentary on Mrs. Esmay's opening.

Your response to Mrs. Esmay regarding alternatives - specifically that Rumsfeld is specifically and uniquely a net negative - paints you into a bit of a corner, though. And it doesn't entirely jibe with the "failing to get the job done" standard. We could go through a dozen secretaries before we find the right one. Edge to Mrs. Esmay on this question.


I'm not sure there's a bait-and-switch going on. As I said before, I think considering the entire context of Rumsfeld's record is legitmate. Although I appreciate your candor in expressing what you think is wrong with your opponent's argument.

Quite honestly, I appreciate the fact that you are taking the time to go and check all of Ara's sources and find the entire context; unfortunately, this doesn't work here, because I judge the context to support Ara's interpretation that we are in danger of losing the war (which the officers all but say explicitly) more than your interpretation that things are going "just fine." In this context, the quotes assert the existance of a brink (e.g. losing the war) and that there is a good chance that we are getting close to that brink (e.g. we may lose the war). That's pretty serious stuff.

Let me talk figuratively for a moment. A couple days ago I got into a car wreck; I hydroplaned and swerved off the road, hitting some water barrels (I'm OK, my car needs a few thousand in body repairs).

For you to say the situation in Iraq is "just fine" would be, I think, like me screaming "I'm just fine" as my Jeep is fish-tailing all over Interstate 10. After all, at that point I haven't hit the water barrels -- yet!

Now back to the subject at hand --

The retort about invading California was witty but a bit of a red herring. The question is not so much overcrowding as it is torture. And the question is not whether torture alone is proof but whether it is symptomatic of a larger failure - which Ara attributes to bad planning. So it was funny, but kind of pointless. Sort of like a duck-billed platypus.

Now, another semantics/grammar thing. When you discuss Rumsfeld's conduct of the war, you seem to be talking about the war in past tense ("It was not without loss of life but it was still brilliant."). You are clearly talking about something other than what Ara is talking about; for him, and for me, it appears the war is not yet over as there are still lots of people with guns running around taking pot-shots at grunts. Given that, it seems that you're arguing part of the war, which could easily be dismissed as a speck of brilliance in a sea of mediocrity. As for not leveling Fallujah, I'm glad that Rumsfeld isn't as bad as Hitler, but I don't think that's the issue at hand.

I believe the issue about the investigations into Abu Ghraib is again, a bit of a red herring, since you're getting caught up in legalisms. The question isn't "is Rumsfeld a crook" but "is he incompetent." Certainly, had Rumsfeld gone to Abu Ghraib and sodomized a few prisoners personally, that would be both criminal and incompetent (and I think you and Ara agree on this point). But criminality does not appear to be relevant to Ara's point, which is why he is so easy to dismiss it as a maybe. Or, as you said, "pulled a Pelosi." It's not because Ara's being frivolous, but because he's looking at another issue. Hence, red herring.

Again, the issue of "what's the alternative" is golden. It's fairly effective at showing that Rumsfeld getting the axe wouldn't, by itself, be a silver-bullet solution.



Ara, as a friend, blogger, and fellow Democrat, let me start off by saying you're overstretching your ground by making "someone better than Rumsfeld" your alternative (answering Mrs. Esmay's queries). Yes, it's true, someone better than Rumsfeld is highly desirable. But I think once we start speculating about hypothetical Rummy replacements, you're being abusive. You've got to stick with what is the most likely scenario upon Rumsfeld's termination, otherwise you're simply killing the debate.

Try this alternative on for size -- I want Rumsfeld gone, I want a newer, better, Secretary of Defense, and... I WANT A PONY, TWO GIRLS AT THE SAME TIME, AND WORLD PEACE! Arguably, this is better than either plan. But ponies, chicks, and hippies and are not relevant to this discussion, nor is the issue of who would succeed Rumsfeld unless you can tell me who, by "normal means" would be. And, my friend, Rumsfeld's successor would almost certainly be his lieutenant - PAUL WOLFOWITZ, the Prince of Darkness himself (of no relation to the Queen of All Evil, I presume). Now, you don't bring this up, but it is a serious weakness in your argument. Consider this thought.

Moreover, since Mrs. Esmay discusses this (see reference to the "war gods"), this technical debate item is going to cost.

Don't do it again.

Now --

I think your "litany of failures" is strong, and it works. Mrs. Esmay may dismiss them as opinions, but let's be honest, that'd be like dismissing all the complaints the Founding Fathers had in the Declaration of Independence (raising taxes, burning cities, coddling the Injuns) as just opinions. It's a gray area, but I'm leaning to you on this one. It's where you really riff on Rumsfeld hurting the country, which seems to be your standard of "how incompetent is too incompetent" which as discussed earlier is the golden key to the debate. And, my friend, that makes you the keymaster.


Uh, I'm not sure the whole discussion about Rumsfeld-working-for-the-President-therefore-we-should-fire-the-President is really relevant here. Moreover, Ara is laying the failures at Rumsfeld's doorstep, not the President's, and I thought that's what we're talking about.

We're talking about "should," the moral rightness-or-wrongness of canning the man. Ipso facto, the audience is George W. Bush, or whoever it would be that would do the firing.

(Yes,I believe in the policymaker paradigm of debate!)

You question Ara's facts, but provide only a few specific refutations.

The first questions Shinseki's motives. Probably appropriate given the high-stakes game of military paradigm-shifting that was the buzz in DC back before, uhh, 9/11 "changed everything." (Trivia question -- were women's skirt lengths longer or shorter before everything was changed by 9/11? I can't remember.)

But Shinseki (as Ara points out) was not the only authority predicting that Rumsfeld's troop allocations were insufficient.

You were very wise to question the Powell doctrine as an absolute rule; I recall reading a similar TNR article (not the Foreign Policy article you cite) and found it interesting at the time. It helps to make the case that the Powell doctrine was no longer seen as the consensus opinion in Washington; if it was not the consensus opinion, it is hard to hold Rumsfeld responsible for violating it. So this was a great idea to bring up. Too bad it comes out so late; I'd like to have seen this argument develop better.

I am not well pleased with your argument regarding the responsibility of the troops. Of course, I don't question that those immediately involved were immediately to blame; but as I noted in an earlier missive on your opening, this clashes with other statements. And Ara really rips these arguments in his closing.

As silly as it may be, you're still on the right track with the Underpants gnomes.



You're use of Lindsey Graham is brilliant and moving. I think it helps to re-establish your argument, and subtly answers Mrs. Esmay's "it's just fine" talk.

I think continuing the discussion on the Powell doctrine is important; it shows that the lessons of history after Kosovo could have been interpreted in a way supportive of the Powell doctrine. Earlier I say that Mrs. Esmay's point shows what consensus opinion was in the late 1990s; this makes the case as to what consensus opinion *should have been*. I'm not yet sure which I will consider more heavily in scoring yet. But I think it's certainly going to be close on this point.

Again, the alternate policy outline goes a bit beyond the topic at hand.

Your summation ("And if you exercise your authority and you fail to achieve the results that you are responsible for, then you should be relieved of duty.") is masterful.

And of course kudos for reminding us at the end that your position is that Rumsfeld must go.


I'd say a more than a couple of his facts go unrefuted; on the other hand, I think bringing up Kosovo -- while very late (and it's bad form to bring stuff up so late that people cannot answer them!) -- would have been fully appropriate a couple posts ago, and is appropriate (save the thing about Ara not being able to, umm, answer it) here. I think the beauty of this point, had you developed it, would be that many of the things considered failures in Iraq were overlooked or seen as successes elsewhere. Good catch.

I'm not at all sure why it is you are returning to the issue of Abu Ghraib in your closing. You seem to be repeating what you said earlier, except for the time line, which is nice, and would have been even better two or three posts ago.

(Although I did catch you referring to CNN as unbiased. I encourage all potential challengers to Mrs. Esmay to bookmark this statement for future use!)

The mailman analogy is good (perhaps a little offensive to mail carriers, though). Although it seems to be referring to Abu Ghraib, which is NOT the only issue relevant to this discussion.

Again, going back to the practical implications of Rumsfeld's departure is an effective tool. Although frankly, "not bending to political pressure lest we appear weak" seems like a recipe for authoritarianism (if it were the health and human services secretary failing to provide a hypothetical AIDS vaccine, would be "bending into the germs" to fire Secty. HHS?)


Again, I think there was substantial confusion about what the debate was supposed to be about, and the result was that there was a lot of talking past each other.

I think in terms of "who won" the argument itself (which is DIFFERENT than "who won the contest" since style and sourcing count seperately), I would have to walk away with the following conclusions:

1. Things are going really bad in Iraq

2. Rumsfeld's judgement was questionable, indeed, it may be a net negative.

3. Rumsfeld does not dispute his personal responsibility for stuff he was in charge of (hence the apology).

4. Firing Rumsfeld may improve the situation, but we don't really know since there's not exactly an alternative. We're stuck either with the devil we know, since praying ain't gonna get us the angel we want.

(Incidentally, this was George H.W. Bush's reasoning in not removing Saddam Hussein in 1991).

I will ponder over these issues as well as style/substance/etc. and return a point scoring to the chairman post haste.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 13, 2004

America is Segregated

By Byron LaMasters

I did a post a few weeks ago on the "self-segregation of America into Red and Blue". I had some people agree with my thesis that I hope to explore when I have a chance - that the "social movements of the second half of the twentieth century have led to the self-segregation of many subgroups of American people" which leads "to a greater divide between Red and Blue America". Anyway, it's good to see I'm not alone here. Today CNN's Inside Politics interviewed the Austin American Statesman's political blogger Bill Bishop. The topic was Bishop's May 2nd (that I somehow missed) article on the segregation in America of the red and blue. What specifically interested me in the article is the vast increase of "landslide counties" (counties won by over 60% by a presidential candidate) and the vast decrease of "competitive counties" (counties won by 10 points or less) over the past thirty years.

The paradox of American politics is that as presidential elections have become closer nationally, the results locally have grown further apart. In 2000, 105 million people voted, and only a half-million ballots separated Gore and Bush. The candidates were within 10 percentage points of each other in just 772 counties out of more than 3,100.

The majority of these politically competitive counties are in the 18 states where Bush and Kerry are conducting their presidential campaigns today, according to an analysis conducted by the Statesman's statistical consultant, Robert Cushing.

Only six states have a majority of voters living in counties where both parties were competitive in 2000: New Hampshire, Nevada, Iowa, Maine, New Mexico and Florida. Even some battleground states are highly polarized. Tennessee, for example, had fewer competitive counties than the national average in 2000, but the state is politically balanced between a highly Democratic west and a very Republican east. In most of the country, presidential candidates face an electorate sorted into communities that have voted consistently Republican or Democratic for a generation.


The trend toward more politically segregated communities began sometime in the 1970s. When Democrat Jimmy Carter defeated incumbent Gerald Ford in 1976, 46 percent of all voters nationally lived in counties where the presidential election was decided by 10 percent or less.

In the1992 contest between Bill Clinton and President George H.W. Bush, 36 percent of American voters lived in competitive communities.

By 2000, only 25 percent lived in these politically mixed counties — and just eight states had an electorate as politically integrated as the national average 24 years earlier.

So why the changes? Social issues. The Democratic New Deal coalition of the 1930s was built on an incongruous range of social groups united behind an economic message. That coalition was largely successful on the Presidential level through 1964 and on a congressional level until 1994. However, between the mid-1960s and today, social issues have played a decisive role in the decisions that citizens make both in voting and in residence. The change also eroded the both the Democratic New Deal coalition and the Rockefeller wing of the national Republican Party. Instead of voting one's economic hopes, people vote their social fears (and this isn't necessarily a shot at Republicans, because we're all guilty of it). I fear that a second Bush term will further attack a woman's right to chose. I fear a second Bush term will continue to fight to deny rights to gays and lesbians. I fear that a second Bush term will continue to make America less safe by angering our friends and foes by sending our troops to unnecessary wars. Those fears motivate me much more than the hopes of a better economy or better health care that a Kerry presidency would likely deliver. Our fears on social issues also direct our residential decisions. People who feel more safe with a gun in their house are likely to feel safer knowing that their neighbors feel the same way, and vice versa. Gays, lesbians and feminists are more likely to live in places where their lifestyles and viewpoints are accepted or the norm. People who are wary of sending their kids to inner-city public schools are more likely to live near people in suburbs that feel the same way. People scared of illegal immigrants are more likely to live in gated communities among others who feel the same way. And this list could go on forever...

Studies, as well as the 2004 campaign thus far, reflect this divide (Bishop article, again):

The problem for candidates is that the country is polarized along a range of subjects. In the 1950s Michigan voters were divided on primarily economic issues. Today's candidates face voters who have roped off positions on race, religion, abortion, gay marriage, the war in Iraq and stem-cell research.

"The old game was safer," says Paul Maslin. "Let's just go for the middle and to hell with everybody else . . . If I had to say one true statement about the entire process you are describing at the national or state level, it's making life increasingly difficult for people who are trying to thread the needle, to find the swing voter."

Since the mid-1970s, when Democrats and Republicans were more likely to live in the same communities, American politics changed. Parties aligned with economic and social issues. Communities became predominantly Republican or Democratic. The number of voters in the middle declined.


The conservative backlash to President Bush's more liberal immigration proposals was just the kind of danger politicians face in this new world.

"My hunch is that it's just going to continue in the 2004 election," says Harvard University political scientist Eric Schickler. It's hard to reach out to new voters without alienating ones already in your camp, Schickler says. Meanwhile, "the polarization on Bush is accentuating, he says. "You have a good number of people who despise him and a good number of people who love him. And they live in different places."

Candidates are less concerned with persuasion — since only a small percentage of voters are uncommitted or live in politically diverse communities — and more obsessed with turnout. There is less need for debate in this kind of political environment. It's not to either candidate's benefit to confuse voters by discussing issues — after all, people who understand the other side are less likely to vote.

Everything people and the media say they deplore about elections — the negative advertisements and the issueless campaigns — is exactly what a population that is both divided and geographically isolated demands.

So is this good or bad for America? I'm not sure. On one hand, this type of campaign will lead to a president without a widespread mandate, who will be elected with a bare majority of the population and with no incentive to reach out much further beyond his base for fear of alienating it. On the other hand, social issues wedge an irreconcilable divide among Americans on one side or the other. Activists on both sides (myself included) are increasingly less likely willing to compromise. We are indoctrinated with passionate views that we know are right in our hearts and minds. Why compromise? I would say that this is simply the natural progression of politics and without serious economic problems (such as a Depression or double-digit unemployment) this is not an uncommon occurrence in American politics. We will see...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:20 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Why the heck not?

By Jim Dallas

So let's rundown the current status of the Veepstakes. The hottest candidate this year is someone who can appeal to both wings of the party, has credibility on defense issues (being a war hero wouldn't hurt), and has experience with economic and budget issues. There's at least one person under consideration (some claim) who was a fighter pilot, built a reputation as a tough budget hawk who regularly bucked the party line in the Senate.

Well, damnit, let me propose another.

I suggest that the Kerry campaign ask - if only for purely ceremonial and honorary purposes - I suggest that they ask Lloyd Bentsen to give an interview.

And why not? He's already been vetted. And he totally owned the Republican vice presidential nominee in the last vice presidential debate he was in. (This seems to be an important criteria these days). And I hear he's still in halfway-decent health.

Check out Bentsen's Medal of Freedom biography:

United States Senator and Chairman of the Finance Committee, Lloyd Bentsen (b.1921) was appointed the 69th Secretary of the Treasury by President Clinton in 1993. A decorated World War H-bomber pilot and business leader, Secretary Bentsen began a long and distinguished career of public service by representing south Texas in the House of Representatives for three terms from 1949 to 1955. Subsequently, Bentsen established a successful financial services company in Houston which he sold in 1970 to campaign and win a seat in the United States Senate. Rising to chair the powerful Finance Committee, Bentsen's Senate record included legislation protecting the pensions of American workers, creating Individual Retirement Account (IRA), and improving access to health care for low income women and children. In 1988 he was his party's choice for vice president. Called ''the most valuable legislative asset Clinton has", Secretary Bentsen was the Administration's chief spokesman and principal architect for an economic program that witnessed a number of major accomplishments in less than two years. He was a staunch advocate of regaining control over federal finances and a major proponent of President Clinton's plan to reduce the deficit by $500 billion, which helped the U.S. regain credibility and leadership with the other industrialized nations. That program helped the economy recover and create over 5 million new jots during his tenure as Secretary.

An advocate of free trade, Bentsen's leadership helped ensure the passage of the North American Free Tade Agreement (NAFTA) eliminating trade barriers between the United States, Canada and Mexico as well as passage of the global treaty known as the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Bentsen had a major impact in promoting U.S. interests in the international financial institutions and ensured that the Treasury Department was a regular participant in the international summit process. Domestically, Secretary Bentsen also helped push the Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994, which permits interstate branching of banks. He was also a pivotal figure in the passage of the 1994 crime bill, which banned assault rifles. Bentsen believes that "public service is the best way to affect the most lives, hopefully for the better," and often states publicly that all he wants said about his record is that "he made a difference".

Now I recall a few months back somebody bemoaning the fact that we've fallen capture to the Conservative wing of the party; and I imagine there are still people around here who are pissed about Bentsen beating Ralph Yarborough in 1970. Flame away! He couldn't possible be more obnoxious than, say, Joe Lieberman.

And moreover, we may be reminded that Bentsen's running mate was Kerry's old boss and a certi-f*ing-fiable Massachusetts liberal. Be that as it may, I here 80s nostalgia is coming back. See my previous post about New Wave music.

I bring this up since Iron Blog challenger Ara Rubyan suggested fellow octagenerian John Glenn for the veepstakes.

Kerry-Bentsen 2004: Why the heck not?

P.S. Would it be more palatable if I reminded you that Bentsen whupped up on George H.W. Bush, too?

Posted by Jim Dallas at 08:05 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Kuff Rocks!

By Jim Dallas

Apparently Charles and I have similar tastes in music. Yes, 93.7 KKRW is the best station in Houston. Hands down.

Not as good as KLBJ or KGSR in Austin, but actually good. One of the few listenable stations in the Houston market (94.5 the Buzz KTBZ ceased to be cool when they started playing "all angst all the time"; listening to alternative rock these days makes me want to shoot myself).

While I wince a little bit about promotion of Arrowfest -- honestly, while there is a good deal of classic rock, listening to Nixon-era "Grand Stunk" and Blue Oyster Cult is more funny these days than cool -- you have to appreciate really good music. And the late 60s and early 70s really did produce some excellent stuff.

And I have faith that the classic rock genre will live forever.

Perhaps, though, Kuff will lose some faith in me when I reveal that I am gaining appreciation for 80s New Wave music, too. I guess I'm a head of the retro curve?

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:27 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Richard Morrison Among the "Dean Dozen"

By Byron LaMasters

As promised, Howard Dean's new group Democracy for America has come out with a list of a dozen progressive Democratic candidates that they'll be working to help get elected. Among those candidates is the challenger to Tom DeLay, Richard Morrison:

Richard Morrison for United States House of Representatives from Texas. Want to get rid of Tom DeLay? Here's your chance. Morrison is hitting back at "The Hammer" by competing against him in the Texas 22nd. Join me and get involved in the fight today. www.richardmorrisonfordistrict22.com

Morrison has raised over $30,000 online advertizing on DailyKos in recent weeks, so Dean's help should only serve to help him even more. You can donate to Morrison, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:49 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 12, 2004

This is what Ballot Standards are for...

By Byron LaMasters

Great editorial in the Austin American Statesman today on why we have ballot standards, and why Ralph Nader won't be on our Texas ballot this fall:

Pity poor Ralph Nader. The consumer advocate hasn't been able to drum enough support for his independent candidacy for president to get on the November ballot the two times he's tried.

Nader failed in April to add his name to the presidential ballot in Oregon when he couldn't get enough supporters in the state's one-day convention for independents. Nader only needed 1,000 people, but fewer than 750 showed up for him. That's in Oregon, which should be prime Nader territory.

This week, Nader failed to obtain the 64,000 signatures he needed to get on the Texas General Election ballot. Of course, he sued, arguing that the rules for independent candidates in Texas are unconstitutionally onerous. He badly wants to be on the ballot here, though President Bush should have this state's electoral votes locked up.

Nader, 70, said the requirement to have the support of 1 percent of those voting in the previous presidential election is too high a hurdle and the 60-day window to get those signatures is too short. But they haven't been too difficult for candidates who have statewide support, as Ross Perot had twice in the 1990s.

The qualifying conditions are there for a reason: to ensure that independent candidates have a modicum of support before being added to the presidential ballot. Without that provision, the November election would be cluttered with frivolous candidates happy to turn it into a joke.

Third-party candidates also have some hurdles to clear, though they are somewhat lower than for independents. But third-party candidates, like the Democratic and Republican party nominees, have proven support from an official political organization.


Still, there must be a threshold for any independent to be added to the presidential ballot in Texas. Nader has not succeeded where others have, and his lawsuit should be dismissed as an egotistical attempt to skirt his obvious lack of support.

Agreed. Now Nader can claim a success today with his endorsement by the Reform Party giving him ballot access in seven states. Then, again, I don't think that a leftist anti-war candidate gains much creditability running on the same ballot line occupied by Pat Buchanan in 2000.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:48 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Half of Senate Favors Current School Finance System

By Byron LaMasters

Sorry for the light posting this week. Regarding my final exams, I'm one down and two to go. I'll be finished on Monday.

Back to the Special Session - I just may get my wish of nothing getting pasted. According to the Houston Chronicle, half of the Texas Senate favors inaction. Thats several more than the minimum one-third necessary to block a vote:

A key senator on Tuesday forecast doom for the special session on school finance, saying that half of the Senate favors letting time run out on the 30-day session.

Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said the Senate is "pretty well evenly divided" between those who want to pass a plan regardless of its future in the House and those who believe that "maybe we just need to run out the clock."

"That's the central issue right now politically in what's going on," said Ogden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "I don't know when we're going to move off the dime."

Gov. Rick Perry, who called the special session on revamping education funding without first gaining consensus among lawmakers, has promised to call as many special sessions as needed. His office would not say whether a second session might begin immediately after this 30-day session ends May 19.

The Senate continued to work without any sense of urgency prompted by next week's deadline. Senators began hearing testimony from school superintendents about 11 a.m., took a two-hour lunch and recessed before 6 p.m.

Some observers said the snail-paced session resembled a bipartisan filibuster. Two senators even joked that the day felt like a basketball game where time runs out as players pass the ball around the court.

"The 19th is a hard and fast deadline, but it doesn't compel me to say, `Well, let's just throw something together because we're running out of time,' " said Ogden.

Much of the Senate's zeal for crafting a comprehensive school finance bill ended last week when the House passed a bill stripped of its key revenue features, video gambling and a business payroll tax. The House bill would provide a 20 percent property tax cut and no new money for schools.

Rick Perry called three special sessions for redistricting. One would think that Perry would have learned from his experience and would work to create a consensus before the special session on public school finance. No. No. Nope. What a dumbass.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:55 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 11, 2004

Texas Tuesdays: Week Two

By Byron LaMasters

Our candidate for Texas Tuesday's this week is Morris Meyer. He's running against Joe Barton. You can contribute to the campaign here.

Charles Kuffner has an interview with Meyer on his blog. So check it out to learn more!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Vietnam Test

By Jim Dallas

To my horror, Jerome Armstrong documents some polling which indicates widespread ignorance among young people like us about the Vietnam War (hint - only 47 percent of 18-29 year olds knew which side we were fighting on!). This is a bad thing, since those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.

While I am hardly an expert, I paid attention in history class. I've whipped up a few basic questions for you to answer. Since I am a big softie, I've made them multiple choice.

1. In the Vietnam War, enemy fighters were often referred to by the acronyms:

b. USSR and UAR
c. NVA and VC
d. NWA and RUN-DMC

2. US involvement in Vietnam began under which administration:

a. Eisenhower
b. Kennedy
c. Johnson
d. Reagan

3. Congress authorized the President to use military force in the _________ Resolution:

a. Bay of Pigs
b. Gulf of Tonkin
c. Gulf of Mexico
d. Pearl Harbor

4. The Secretary of Defense when the last US deaths (during the seige of Saigon in April 1975) was:

a. Robert McNamara
b. Caspar Weinberger
c. Donald Rumsfeld
d. James Schlesinger

5. Public support for the war was generally perceived to be strong until a series of battles referred to as the "Tet Offensive" in early _____:

a. 1966
b. 1967
c. 1968
d. 1969

Note: the answers are below.


1. c. (North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong guerrillas)

2. a. US involvement in the region began shortly after the conclusion of the Geneva Accords in 1954, which created South Vietnam (which was backed by the United States).

3. b.

4.d. Donald Rumsfeld would not become Secretary of Defense until November 1975. US involvement technically ended with a cease-fire in early 1973; however, several detachments were left to guard US interests, such as the US embassy (which was abandoned April 30, 1975).

5. c.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:07 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Are Texans* Cursed?

By Jim Dallas

Gallup Job Approval Score:

Lyndon Johnson, May 2, 1968: 46%

George H. W. Bush, May 7, 1992: 40%

George W. Bush, May 10, 2004: 46%

* Presuming, of course, that you count Bush I and Bush II (both born in Connecticut) as Texans.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:55 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 10, 2004

Nader Sues Texas

By Byron LaMasters

I'm happy to report that Nader has failed to receive the necessary signatures to get on the ballot here in Texas. His petition folks are pretty desperate. He's paying people $1 / signature and I've happily told all of the folks on campus that I proudly support John Kerry for President when they harass me to sign Nader's ballot petition (I'm ineligable to sign the petition anyway as I voted in the Democratic Primary). Anyway, Nader's suing the state of Texas because we don't want him on our ballot. The Dallas Morning News reports:

Lacking the signatures needed to secure a place on the Texas presidential ballot, consumer advocate Ralph Nader on Monday asked a federal court to declare the state's ballot access laws for independent candidates unconstitutional.

"Democracy is under assault in Texas," Mr. Nader said. "Through unconstitutional laws and denial of access to public places, Texas voters are being denied more voices and more choices."

Secretary of State Geoffrey Connor said his office would vigorously defend the law against Mr. Nader's lawsuit.

"While Mr. Nader's campaign suggests that the state's deadline and required number of signatures is unconstitutional, there have been a number of successful efforts to gain ballot access in Texas as an independent presidential candidate, including Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 and Pat Buchanan in 2000," he said.

As late as midday Monday, Nader volunteers were in Austin coffee shops, making a last-minute effort to gather signatures.

Both camps jousted over ballot access for much of the day, when it became clear that Mr. Nader would fall far short of the requirement to have 64,076 signatures by 5 p.m. The total represents 1 percent of all votes cast for president in the 2000 election. Voters who had participated in the March 9 primary were not eligible to sign the petitions.

Mr. Nader says that the different standards for independent candidates and third-party candidates, who must turn in 45,540 signatures by May 24 to get on the Texas ballot, are unfair.

His campaign said it would not turn in its 50,000 voter signatures and would instead continue to circulate petitions.

Kevin Zeese, a spokesman for Mr. Nader, said they would have enough signatures by May 24.

"We're on the same pace we were on in 2000," when Mr. Nader was a Green Party candidate, Mr. Zeese said.

Getting on the Texas ballot was the first major test for the Nader campaign.


Mr. Connor said the state's ballot access standard had already been tested in court.

"Repeat litigation is regrettable, but we will certainly defend state election law," he said.

So here's strike one to the Nader campaign. Yay for Texas!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:01 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Lonestar Veterans for Kerry Rally

By Byron LaMasters

Any Lone Star Vet's for Kerry? If so, go to the rally on Wednesday...

To celebrate the launch of Lonestar Veterans for Kerry, MAX CLELAND and THE BOLONOS BROTHERS will be holding a Lonestar Veterans for Kerry Rally on Wednesday, May 12th, at 2:00 PM CST. The rally will be at the:

VFW Post 9186
San Antonio, TX 78214

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:04 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Utah GOP Kills off their Old

By Byron LaMasters

The dying moderate wing of the national Republican Party may have celebrated with the victory of Arlen Specter last month, but yesterday, the moderate Republican Governor of Utah failed to make the primary ballot at the Utah Republican convention. That's good news for Democrats. While Utah is arguably the most republican state in the nation, the Mattheson name carries some weight. The Democatic nominee will be Scott Matheson - son of a former governor and brother of Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah). Anyway, here's the story about the fall of the first female governor of Utah, the moderate seventy-three year old Olene Walker:

Mike Leavitt never experienced a day like his former lieutenant, confidant and successor did on Saturday. Current Gov. Olene Walker was eliminated from the 2004 governor's race by Republican delegates, who instead favored former U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. and Board of Regents Chairman Nolan Karras to compete for the state's highest office. Huntsman and Karras now face a June 22 primary. In three runs for governor, Leavitt -- though jeered at the 2000 convention -- each time emerged to the November election, unlike Walker, who took fourth place Saturday in her bid for four more years in the post -- the first incumbent Utah governor to lose at party convention since J. Bracken Lee in 1956. Leavitt, who was tapped last year by President Bush to head the Environmental Protection Agency, called Walker a "competent executive," who was excelling in her position.


A top Democrat said the Utah GOP was making a mistake by eliminating Walker, whom Democrats saw as a political moderate willing to work with the minority party.
"It's kind of like throwing your grandma from the train," said State Democratic party Chairman Donald Dunn, who had scheduled a news conference for this morning regarding Walker's elimination. "It just shows that the Republican delegates are nominated by kind of the right-wing agenda and I think they're out of touch with Utahns."
Mike Dmitrich, a Price Democrat and leader of the Senate minority party, said Republicans would have been smarter to embrace Walker and her politics. "They are passing up a very viable candidate for the November election. It indicates the party is further right than Republicans are known for."
The convention outcome aside, Leavitt -- whose pick of Walker as a running mate made her Utah's first female lieutenant governor and chief executive -- says Walker has made her mark on Utah. "History will remember her well," he said.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 09, 2004

Supporting College Democrats

By Byron LaMasters

It's always a privilege to see talented young Democrats run for office. One such candidate is Ashley Bell, the current President of the College Democrats of America. Bell is running for state representative in Georgia and is the Democratic nominee against a Democrat-turned-Republican incumbent in a district Democrats had held for fifty years. Anyway, you can help him out by sending him a few bucks if you so desire. His webpage is here.

Learn more about Ashley on his bio page. Impressive work.

While I'm on the topic of College Democrats, don't forget that we have a College Democrat here in Texas running for the state house - James Gilbreath.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:24 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

One Scenario for 2006

By Byron LaMasters

Here's what Houston Republican political consultant, Chris Elam thinks might happen in the 2006 GOP primaries in Texas

Governor - Hutchison unopposed (well, at least seriously unopposed) - Nobody runs against Kay Bailey and wins.

U.S. Senate - Perry vs. Dewhurst
- Perry won't want to be left out in the cold, so he'll make that bid, but Dewhurst has been playing his cards right and Tom DeLay owes him.

Lt. Gov - Strayhorn vs. Robert Eckels
- Strayhorn is posturing herself for a run at SOMETHING. Nobody goes around creating this much press for themselves without some sort of agenda.
- During the two-week period last fall when redistricting boundaries were getting cemented, I heard from an Eckels insider that the Harris County Judge seriously toyed with the idea of running in the new CD 10, and even prepared staffers for a Jan. '04 resignation. I think a bigger fish in '06 is why he was pulled back in. Its a bigger leap to go state-wide, but Eckels has quietly made tremendous connections with Bush/Rove, and has serious fundraising potential.

Comptroller - Combs vs. Bettencourt
- Combs is in, and the Chronicle's John Williams thinks Bettencourt has ambitions. I dont think Williams' scenario is far off - Bettencourt is well-liked and growing in popularity all the time, it would be a great race.

The GOP ducks sit nicely in a row as things are now, so who knows? Maybe the status quo will preserve itself. Personally, I don't think there's a chance of that happening.

Having said that, everyone's ambitions rest on Perry's popularity and KBH's decision-making. They have to be the first to show their hands before any real campaigning gets underway. Despite all her ruckus, Strayhorn will not force anyone to reveal their plans ahead of schedule. The biggest of the big names never ever allow themselves to get pushed into running for an office. If a politician ever comes to you and says that he/she was asked/forced to run, notice how they don't look you in the eye, and vote for the other candidate.

He's obviously better connected in Republican politics than I am, so his predictions could turn out to be relatively accurate. We'll see.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:08 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 08, 2004

Austinites: Remember to Vote!

By Byron LaMasters

I just returned home this afternoon from blockwalking for the endorsed candidates and issues of the Austin Progressive Coalition (an organization that puts up doorhangers in central Austin precincts for candidates / issues endorsed by both the Central Austin Democrats and University Democrats). Every Democratic Primary / Runoff election and every local election, APC will endorse candidates and put up doorhangers on the doors of thousands of central Austin precincts. All six of the candidates endorsed by APC in contested elections in the 2004 Democratic Primary were nominated (five in the primary, one - Constable Maria Conchola in the runoff).

On May 15, Austinites will elect two Board Members to the ACC (Austin Community College) and will decide two referenda. The first is a referendum for the city of Austin to grant our firefighters collective bargaining. The second is a referendum for all Travis County residents on whether to create a Hospital District.

As for the ACC election, I made some endorsements a few weeks ago. You can check out that post here. The seat four race is a clear choice. Jeffrey Richard is a Democrat with great qualifications and ought to win easily. In distirict five, incumbent Rafael Quintanilla is uncontested. We endorsed him, and he's done a good job, so vote for him if you feel inclined. I'm expecting district six to go into a runoff. The liberal / progressive community is a little divided on this race. The Austin Chronicle endorsed Democratic precinct chair, and longtime ACC activist Guadalupe Sosa. I'm confident that she would be a good servant to the ACC Board with her background of direct involvement with ACC. Having said that, however, our endorsement went to Rodney Ahart. Like Sosa, Ahart is eminently qualified to serve ACC. Ahart has worked for great Democrats in the legislature such as Dawnna Dukes and Rodney Ellis. Not only that, but he's focused much of his work on issues of higher education. What made the difference for me was the candidates ability to articulate a vision for ACC, and connect with students and young people. Ahart came to the University Democrats meeting the week before our endorsement meeting to introduce himself and speak with us individually after the meeting when we go to hang out at a local joint for burgers and beer. At the endorsement meeting, Ahart again clearly outlined a clear agenda for ACC, while Sosa was difficult to hear from the back of the room - fifteen feet away at the Mr. Gatti's on MLK by campus. The other candidates, Veronica Rivera and Marc Levin did not attend the meeting. While, Veronica Rivera seems like a decent candidate, it's difficult to take seriously a candidate that ignores the opportunity to speak to a group of people (CAD and UD's) who are willing to spend hours of time putting up thousands of doorhangers for the candidates we endorse. As for Marc Levin, he's the Republican candidate. Some progressive leaders I've talked to are concerned that he will make the runoff and could win a very low turnout runoff. Levin is the Director of Governmental Affairs for the Young Conservatives of Texas (and current staff attorney for the right-wing State Supreme Court Justice Steven Wayne Smith - who was even too conservative for GOP primary voters, as he lost in the 2004 GOP primary). Personally, I'm predicting a runoff between Sosa and Ahart, but a divided Hispanic vote could land Ahart and Levin into a runoff. The Austin American Statesman endorsed Veronica Rivera, so this is a true four-way race. It's still up in the air.

I'm expecting the Collective Bargaining for Austin Firefighters to pass relatively easily. There seems to be some token opposition - some group called "Taxpayers for Equity" ran an ad in this week's Austin Chronicle in opposition to collective bargaining, but I seriously doubt that Austinites will say no to their firefighters.

The vote on the Travis County hospital district is a different story. There is significant opposition to this. To learn more about it, check out Healthy Travis County. According to some sources working on the campaign for the hospital district, their telephone i.d.'s and early vote totals give them cause for concern. Apparently, the hospital district is winning in the City of Austin by a small margin, but the non-city residents (about 25% of the voters in the county) are going heavily against the hospital district in a large early vote turnout. This points to a very tight race, meaning that it is critical for Austin voters to turn out for the hospital district. That makes sense and all, as non-city residents currently pay five times less in taxes to support the Travis County health care system - despite the fact that some of the wealthiest communities in Travis County, such as Westlake Hills and Lake Austin are outside of the city of Austin. Anyway, if you are a city of Austin resident, the Travis County Hospital District will NOT raise your taxes. What it will do is create tax fairness for all residents of Travis County by equalizing tax rates for city and non-city residents in Travis County. It's really 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. As I said, 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.

In other things to support... Only one of the AISD incumbents has a challenger. I voted for Doyle Valdez over perennial candidate Jennifer Gale. Also, as Andrew noted earlier, if you're in Del Valle vote FOR Prop 3 to allow Del Valle ISD to join the ACC system.

Early voting lasts through Tuesday, so vote early, or vote on election day next Saturday! Early vote locations here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:29 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

The Case for Wesley Clark

By Byron LaMasters

He's not my first choice for Vice President, but he made a hell of a case for the job with his Democratic Radio Address today. Here's part of it:

We owe the men and women in the Armed Forces a tremendous debt of gratitude. But we also owe them the proper equipment – the armored vests, the armored vehicles, the radios that they need so they can do the job safely. Yet, more than a year after the President sent them into battle, they still don't have this equipment. Some 200 lives might have been spared had they had the protective gear and armored equipment that the mission actually requires. 200 Lives. It’s an inexcusable loss. The Bush Administration should have addressed this issue long ago. It must do so immediately.

But the larger picture is also disturbing. Our President took us to war with exaggerated, hyped intelligence. He took us to war in Iraq without an imminent threat to our country. He took us to war before all the diplomatic options were exhausted. He took us to war before our allies were fully on board, and before we had a realistic plan or adequate forces to deal with what would happen after we reached Baghdad. And all of this campaign was a distraction from our pursuit of Osama bin Laden, who was after all our real enemy.

The truth is President Bush has made mistake after mistake as Commander-in-Chief, taking us first into a war we didn't have to fight alone and under false pretenses and now managing it so poorly.


With new American leadership we can gain real help from our NATO allies - and from countries in the region. With their help, we can create the conditions for free and fair elections, transition to a secure and free Iraq, and bring home much of our military.

My fellow Americans this is an election year. It is our duty as citizens to use the power of the vote and hold accountable our President. I believe we need new leadership in America to keep us safe at home, to win the war on terror and to regain respect for America abroad.

Amen to that.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tell Donald Rumsfeld to Resign

By Byron LaMasters

Sign the petition on John Kerry's website, here.

Here's the Kerry Campaign Statement:

The events of the last week are a stark reminder of the stakes in this Presidential election. John Kerry’s remarks yesterday painted a striking contrast to President Bush’s evasion of responsibility:

"As president, I will not be the last to know what is going on in my command," Kerry said. "I will demand accountability for those who serve, and I will take responsibility for their actions. And I will do everything that I can in my power to repair the damage that this has caused to America, to our standing in the world, and to the ideals for which we stand.... Today, I have a message for the men and women of our armed forces. As Commander in Chief, I will honor your commitment, and I will take responsibility for the bad as well as the good."

Show George Bush and show the media that you support John Kerry’s stand: Donald Rumsfeld MUST resign immediately.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I'll have to tell my mother about this...

By Byron LaMasters

She's a member of Curves - a women's fitness chain, which also happens to be a large donor to militantly anti-abortion groups. Via, our favorite news source, FOX News:

With its 30-minute workouts, no men, no mirrors and no exorbitant membership fees, Curves International is the fastest growing fitness chain in America, helping more than 3 million women stay in shape. But in San Francisco, Curves is being called out over abortion because owner Gary Heavin donates millions of dollars to anti-abortion groups.

Ruth Rosen at The San Francisco Chronicle took issue with the pro-life, Christian businessman, writing in a recent op-ed piece that Heavin has given at least $5 million to some of the most militant anti-abortion groups in the country and Curves members who are pro-choice might want to take their business elsewhere.

Fair and Balanced FOX News, of course, goes on to question the assertion here, but others have looked into the political interests of Curves owner Gary Heavin. Here's what AlterNet found about the guy:

Heavin, like his next-door neighbor George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas, found redemption as a grown man. Before founding Curves in 1992, he went bankrupt, lost custody of his two children and served a six-month jail sentence for not paying child support. In prison, he became a born-again Christian.

In 2003, Heavin and his wife gave away $10 million – 10 percent of their company's gross revenues – to charities. At least half of that money went to three Texas organizations to fund "pregnancy crisis centers" supported by Operation Save America – the same organization that blamed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on God's retribution for abortions and whose purpose, as described on its Web site, is to "unashamedly take up the cause of pre-born children in the name of Jesus Christ."

By offering the same health services provided by Planned Parenthood – except abortion – anti-abortion activists hope that privately financed alternatives would force the closure of any clinics that don't insist "you must carry your child to term."

Anyway, the debate started with an op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle by Ruth Rosen. She concludes her op-ed stating that Curves is a feminist dilemma. What should women do about Curves?

Here, then, is a feminist dilemma. Curves targets Baby Boomer women -- many of whom consider themselves feminists -- precisely because it offers a refuge from gyms that cater to musclemen or singles. Yet Heavin's contributions to anti-abortion groups goes against many women's deeply held belief that they should have the right to make their own reproductive choices.

What to do? Your decision. There are alternatives, including just plain walking.

We'll see what comes of it. I apologize if I've disappointed some women out there that may be Curves members, but I think that it's important for all of us to know where our money as consumers is going.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:12 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Atkins: Worse than Liberals*

By Jim Dallas

Kevin Drum ("The Political Animal") notes the impact of low-carb dieters on a classic American institution:

"For several months, there has been increasing customer interest in low-carbohydrate diets," said Scott Livengood, the company's chairman and chief executive, adding that the heaviest effect on Krispy Kreme had come in grocery store sales, where it has been expanding its business.

As a result, the company said, it did not earn as much as it had expected in its first quarter, which ended May 2, and was cutting its forecasts for the entire fiscal year by about 10 percent. The company is scheduled to report its quarterly results on May 25.

"I hope it's a fad," Mr. Livengood said of the Atkins low carbohydrate diet. But if the trend toward the diet accelerates, company officials said, they might have to further reduce profit forecasts.

Krispy Kreme itself was viewed by some as a fad, with long lines outside new stores as it expanded from its base in the Southeast United States to the point where its doughnuts now are sold in most of the United States, as well as in Canada, Mexico, Britain and Australia.

But now Krispy Kreme is closing a handful of company-owned stores and reducing plans to open new ones. "For the first time in recent memory, retail customer counts have declined," said John Tate, the company's chief operating officer.

Well I hope them carb-haters are happy now.

I'm reminded of a poem written long ago by a true American somewhere in south Georgia (or maybe it was Germany, I can't remember):

First they came for the donuts, and I didn't speak up because I don't eat breakfast;

Then they came for the cigarettes,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a smoker;

Then they came for the handguns,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a gun owner;

Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.


* This post is (mostly) intended as satire.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:38 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 07, 2004

Susan Combs to run for Comptroller in 2006

By Byron LaMasters

We all knew it would happen at some point, but I'm a bit surprised that it's happening this soon. The game of musical chairs for statewide offices has begun. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs confirmed today she's planning to run for state comptroller in 2006, a job now held by fellow Republican Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

Combs wouldn't divulge any conversations she's had with Strayhorn, but said she doesn't expect Strayhorn to run for the office in the next election.

"I think it'll be an open primary," Combs said in a telephone interview.

Strayhorn is considered a potential candidate for governor in 2006, although she won't say whether she's seeking the state's top job.

"I love being comptroller, and I am 24-7 comptroller. That is my total focus right now," Strayhorn said today, adding: "I always say that I never say never when the people of Texas ask me to serve."

Strayhorn said Combs has spoken with her several times over the past year expressing her interest in running for comptroller -- the state's chief financial post -- if Strayhorn doesn't run again. Strayhorn wouldn't say what she told Combs about her future political plans.

Strayhorn has publicly criticized incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Perry, most recently over his school finance proposal. Their clashes have fueled speculation that Strayhorn is plotting to run against him in two years.

"Texas politics isn't just a contact sport, it's a bloody contact sport. ... I say that tongue in cheek," Strayhorn said. "I care passionately about education. I care passionately about health care. I care passionately about the state of Texas."


Combs, 59, is a lawyer and fourth-generation rancher with a cattle operation in West Texas. She was a Dallas County prosecutor, served in the Texas House for two terms and worked for Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison before being elected agriculture commissioner in 1998. She oversees the Texas Department of Agriculture and its annual budget of $1.9 billion.

Combs said she decided to say now what elected post she is seeking in 2006 because she continues to be asked about it.

The speculation is that either Kay Bailey Hutchison or Carole Keeton Strayhorn will challenge Rick Perry for renomination. I'd be shocked if neither of them does. Thus, it's entirely possible that Republicans will see bloody contests for Governor, U.S. Senator, and possibly for other offices. It'll be nice to watch from the sidelines.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:21 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Back To School!

By Jim Dallas

Off the Kuff, which has been an excellent crib-sheet for those keeping trying to keep abreast of the special session, reports that the Senate has been handed a mess to clean-up.

And to add a special Austin twist to things, Gov. Perry, showing off his leadership skills, is now threatening to call a second special session if he doesn't get exactly what he wants...

"I will keep calling lawmakers back until we have found the right mix of revenue options to improve our schools, eliminate Robin Hood (the present law), maintain equity, cut property taxes and preserve Texas' strong job-creation climate," Perry said

...because cutting property taxes amd "preserving a strong job-creation climate" (which, according to my Republian-to-English dictionary is a euphemism for "not burdening rich people with taxes") is co-equal in importance to fixing the school finance mess.

This reminds me of a letter to the editor I saw in the local paper a couple days ago:

Economic Sense Required

Apparently the State Legislature never passed a basic economics course, or even basic math. The property tax is deductible from federal income tax; the sales tax is not.

Like most homeowners, I’m in the 25 percent tax bracket. That means that Uncle Sam effectively pays 25 percent of my property tax bill.

Cutting my property taxes by $1,000 while offsetting the cut by $1,000 in other taxes isn’t neutral; it costs me $250!

A state property tax, on the other hand, would truly be neutral, while solving the Robin Hood program.

The governor and legislature need to stop with the phony “property tax relief” and only consider approaches that make economic sense.

Dave Konkel

While there are certainly some better plans out there than the one Perry pushed in the House, which was brought to the floor and executed) -- and quite honestly, whatever happened to the much bally-hooed plan David Dewhurst presented last year? -- I'd like to take a minute to remind our readers that there's a very simple solution to this whole problem.

Two words.

First word - two syllables. First syllable:

:: points inward ::

Second syllable:

:: makes beckoning gesture with hands ::

Second word, rhymes with:

:: pretends to play jax ::

Posted by Jim Dallas at 07:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A personal note

By Jim Dallas

Little kids have a strange attraction to penguins, or so it seems. I think it's because penguins are about the same size that they are, although it could just be that they are "silly-looking" animals. Or maybe it's because they're a certain juxtopositional appeal about Texas-born penguins. Or maybe kids are into Linux, which would be a good thing I guess.

I draw this observation from the six aquarium tours I guided in the last three days (and now I am about ready to slip into a sensory-deprivation tank, which I would do, if I didn't have more work tomorrow!). A lot of kids will say, "that's cool, but when do we get to see the penguins?"

Also, apparently ever marine animal is now officially recognized not by its scientific or common name, but by the relevant character's name in the feature film Finding Nemo. Which is fine by me, because I'd rather say "Dori" than "Pacific Blue Surgeonfish."

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

Ack! They're On To Us!

By Jim Dallas

The Associated Press ran a story Wednesday about college students being lazy (as if that were newsworthy!):

A national student survey recently found that nearly two-thirds of students spent 15 hours or fewer per week doing coursework, and about 20% of both freshmen and seniors claimed to spend fewer than five hours per week.

For the truly lazy, a feature on the Web site student.com generates automatic excuse-requesting e-mails. Users pick the phrases they want, asking for "a bit of slack" or a "slight favor" because they "have SO much work to do" and could never finish the assignment "in the complete way you deserve."

"As an isolated phenomenon it might not be so serious, but it has to be seen in the overall context of diminishing expectations," said Bradford Wilson, executive director of the National Association of Scholars, a group that is working to combat what it believes is a decline in college standards.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, non-farm payroll employment was up this last month by 288,000, or about 2.7 percent (annualized over 12 months). Meanwhile non-farm business productivity was up 3.5 percent. Translation: The Man currently has more interest in screaming "work faster!" at current employees than it has in hiring new ones.

Which reminds me, Byron and others, are y'all still planning on graduating this month?

:: stifles evil laugh ::

On the upside, though, wages are finally starting to go up (at a snail's pace). Over two years after the official end of the recession.

UPDATE: While I'm on topic, I'd just like to complain about having to pay $1.80 per gallon for gasoline. This is so ridiculous I may start riding my bicycle again.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Fafblog does Cinco de Mayo

By Jim Dallas

Fafnir's introductory piece is about as accurate as what most TV news reporters told us about Cinco de Mayo (also called "Drink a Coors for La Raza Day," according to a professor at UT who lectured on this a while back) about 10 years ago:

Today is Cinco de Mayo! or as it is known in Mexico the Fifth of May. It is a holiday comparable in importance to the American Fourth of July. It celebrates the day when Mexico signed their declaration of independence and threw off the yoke of British colonialism, huzzah! It is also known as "Mexican Independence Day" or "The Day of the Dead" because the head of the Mexican army enlisted the spirits of the dead to help them fight the British troops. This became the basis for Lord of the Rings.

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated with the ceremonial burning of a piñata in the shape of King George, which is referred to as "the Guy." King George is called "the Guy" because it is sort of an informal version of saying "the Man," like "the Guy has me down" or "I gotta work for the Guy." He is also sometimes called "Guy Fawkes" as in "The Guy Fawkes you" or "I am getting Fawked by the Guy." It is a more polite substitution for "f**k." In Mexico they are always terribly polite.

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo today with a burning Guy or a thing for the dead or a gamelan or whatnot! It is Cinco de Mayo. Have fun.

Since Brad DeLong is keeping score, I guess I'm not quite ready to sign up for the Fafblog Faction (except on Saturdays from 10 pm to 12 am, when I'm either (a) very bored or (b) very drunk or (c) very, umm, both). I do not say that to suggest a lack of respect for Faf-itude, however.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Honor the Killer Ds on Wednesday

By Andrew Dobbs

It is hard to believe that it has already been one year since Byron woke me up with an excited phone call saying that 53 Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives had slipped out of the state in the middle of the night in order to stop Tom DeLay's ridiculous redistricting scheme. That event really made this blog what it is today- the best Texas political news blog out there (with the possible exceptions of Off the Kuff, Greg's Opinion and several others).

Now the Texas Democratic Party will be honoring these brave members and raising money to keep Tom Craddick, Tom DeLay and the rest of them out of power at Scholz’ Biergarten on Wednesday, May 12, 2004 from 5 pm to 7 pm. The First Annual Democratic Backbone Award will be given out and some great barbecue is sure to be had. Tickets can be bought for $35, Tickets to be recognized at the Friend, Sponsor, Host and Patron levels can be bought for $100, $250, $500 and $1000 respectively. You can contribute online, mail your contribution to 701 Rio Grande Street, Austin, TX 78701, or RSVP by email pay at the door. For questions or information, please contact Evan Hicks at (512) 478-9800.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 03:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 06, 2004

Martin Frost Campaign Opening Saturday

By Byron LaMasters

Here's another event for all of yall in Dallas to go to on Saturday:

WHO: Martin Frost, local elected officials and leaders, Frost supporters and CD32 voters

WHAT: Frost Campaign Headquarters Grand Opening

WHERE: 12817 Preston Road #136, Dallas, TX 75230

WHEN: Saturday, May 8th, 1:00pm to 3:00pm

WHY: To open the campaign headquarters of what has been called the "most competitive race in the nation."

Meanwhile, yesterday's Roll Call (subscription req'd) put Tom DeLay and the NRCC on the record stating that Martin Frost's opponent, Pete Sessions "campaign is in trouble" and is "one of the three most vulnerable Republican Members in the entire House":

Tom DeLay and the National Republican Congressional Committee yesterday acknowledged that Pete Sessions' campaign is in trouble and that he is one of the most vulnerable Republican Members in the entire House. Sessions has been enrolled in a special GOP program to prop-up endangered candidates by allowing them to introduce legislative proposals conceived and drafted by the GOP leadership as their own. It is not unusual for party leaders to provide legislative help to freshmen Members or non-incumbent candidates, but it is extraordinary that the Republican Leadership must go to such lengths to build a resume for a Member like Sessions who has served in the House since 1997.

As always, you can send a message to Tom DeLay and the Republican leadership by donating to Martin Frost.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Special Session Begins to Melt Down

By Andrew Dobbs

I realized that for some reason nobody has posted anything about the remarkable events of the last 3 days in the State House of Representatives and their ridiculous attempts to reform school finance. Well, I'm here to save the day, with a little help from Mr. Harvey Kronberg and his unparalleled Quorum Report (subscription required for all the quotes, sorry).

To begin, Rick Perry's plan was- well, let's say, not particularly popular with House members. From Tuesday's QR:

It is a day that produced enough high drama to fill an entire regular session.

It began when many House members discovered on the Quorum Report that VLTs and the payroll tax would be pulled from the House bill.

And things went down hill from there.

Despite heavy lobbying from the Governor's and Speakers office, the resistance to funding education with high-tech slots only grew in recent day.

The view of many in the House was that the legs were shot out from under the Select Committee when the governor signaled that he could not accept any iteration of Jim Keffer's (R-Eastland) payroll tax.

That reduced Chairman Kent Grusendorf (R-Arlington) to trying to sell the House a shell of a bill to send to the Senate where it appeared they might be closer to some kind of consensus.

But as we reported earlier, many members saw that as abrogation of duty. It was always clear that the conference committee would write the final bill, but conference committees take their instruction from the bills passed by each chamber. The House would be leaving their conferees with no instructions. Faced with an up or down vote on a bill dominated by Senate language was, for many, unappealing.

But it was bipartisan anger with Governor Perry that defined a lot of the spirit on the House floor. Legislators felt their efforts had been undermined, their work wasted and the House humiliated.

Sarcastically saying that the House did not legislate by press release, Keffer actually introduced the first version of the Governor's plan as a floor amendment. It went down 126-0 with 16 present not voting. Mike Krusee (R-Round Rock), Carter Casteel (R-New Braunfels) and Dianne Delisi (R-Temple) on the back mike called Keffer's motion a waste of time and childish, but the House expressed its will and it sure seemed like a rebuke.

Adding to some of the grumbling was the fact that the governor is in Corpus Christi doing a media event followed by a fundraiser this evening.

Those fundraisers might want to save their cash- this governor is on thin ice. When you can't get a single vote for your flagship piece of legislation in a chamber dominated by members of your own party, you are in trouble. The fact of the matter is that the GOP is starting to split right down the middle in a way that I always suspected that it would- religious/cultural conservatives on one side and business conservatives on the other. See- Perry, Craddick, Grusendorf and the entire GOP leadership really are all under the thumb of huge donors, they represent the corporate conservative wing. Most rank and file Republicans, particularly House members, however, are cultural conservatives. They care less about economic/fiscal issues than issues of public morality. So when Perry/Craddick/Grusendorf say "get rid of the taxes on business and expand gambling" you know that its going to be an ugly day for the GOP. This split killed Perry's proposal and led to the initial defeat of HB1. But wait, there's more...

A butchered school finance bill won narrow approval in the Texas House on Tuesday night after lawmakers removed provisions for new slot machines, payroll taxes and motor-vehicle taxes.

The bill would increase the state's sales tax rate from 6.25 percent to 7 percent but would not substantially increase state spending on education.

Just about everyone -- even the bill's sponsors -- seemed to acknowledge its deep flaws.

But state Rep. John Smithee, the Amarillo Republican who called for House members to adopt the measure, said they could change it later -- after the Senate makes amendments. (...)

"If this bill were to pass and become law, it would be disastrous for the people of Texas," he said. "But if we [vote it down], for all purposes, the bill is dead." (...)

Grusendorf said House members should adopt the bill -- warts and all -- to keep the process alive. He acknowledged that he lacked the votes for more ambitious legislation.

"This is a big issue -- this is a huge issue -- and we need to move it forward," he said.

But opponents, mostly Democrats, complained that the House was shirking its duty by not pressing for more substantive legislation. They also complained that the House leadership cut off debate on about 200 proposed amendments.

"Why not just pass a bill to eliminate the House and yield to the Senate," scoffed Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston.

At first, it appeared that those opponents had won the day. In an initial vote, the plan went down 77-69.

House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, then recessed the House, and GOP lawmakers huddled in a back room. Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, questioned whether that meeting violated Texas open meetings law.

The House reconvened about 6:30 p.m. and eventually adopted the legislation 73-70.

That's right- it was stripped of all meaning and sources of revenue, defeated and then Craddick put the screws on the members and got it passed. Sounds like Democracy is alive and well here in Texas. So after all of this, after passing a bill that might as well have been 200 blank pages they still had to pass a House Joint Resolution amending the constitution to allow for some of the necessary revenue choices- most notoriously Video Lottery Terminals. HJR 1 was debated for several hours, with nary a mention of public schools the entire time. And after all of this did the resolution sponsored by Grusendorf and backed by both Craddick and Perry pass? Back to Harvey:

HJR 1 FAILS 26-119

Wonderful! So the Governor cuts their legs out from under them, they shoot him down unanimously, they pass a meaningless piece of legislation (shirking their obligations to the voters of Texas) but only after being bullied by their leadership, then they forget what the entire purpose of the session is for several hours before giving the big heave ho to Craddick and Perry by resoundingly defeating the HJR. Don't you love it when Republicans are fighting? I do- because we can just vote against whatever freak of nature this legislature tries to pass and we can campaign as the people who didn't raise your taxes and gut your schools all at the same time. Keep up the good work, Tom and Rick!

One final note- in the original 69 votes on HB1, the final 73 votes on that bill and the 26 votes for HJR1 only 1 Democrat voted with the GOP all three times. That man- Tom Craddick's whore Ron Wilson. Yet another reason I wake up every morning glad he lost. Too bad Alma Allen isn't there- a member of the State Board of Education would be a far more effective voice in this effort. Wilson's purging was the first victory for the new Texas Democratic Party. Looks like several more are to come...

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 03:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 05, 2004

Annoy Pete Sessions on Saturday

By Byron LaMasters

Pete Sessions has a track record of saying stupid things at town hall meetings, so if you're in Dallas, you don't want to miss it. Bring a tape recorder and trip him up:

Saturday, May 8
J.J. Pearce High School
1600 North Coit Road ( Just South of Campbell )
Richardson 75080
9-11 AM

Sam "Democrats don't think like Americans" Johnson will also be there. I wish I could make it (but I'll be stuck in Austin studying), but I'd love to ask Rep. Sam Johnson how he has the nerve to attack John Kerry's war record by calling him "Hanoi John" on the House floor when Kerry bravely served in Vietnam while the president of his own party skirted the war.

As for Pete Sessions, how about asking him why he doesn't consult leaders of a predominantly African-American community before proposing to name a new post office in their neighborhood after one of his campaign donors. Or ask Sessions what he meant when he said that the U.S. poor are lucky, because they at least have televisions, or ask how many convicted fellons he has hired to work as his communications director.

Or you can just come up with your own...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

U.S. Out of Iraq?

By Byron LaMasters

The Hill reports that there might be a change of attitude within the Democratic House caucus:

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) told his Democratic colleagues Tuesday that he feared the war in Iraq is unwinnable if the U.S. military does not dramatically increase troop levels, provide more ground support and seek significant international involvement.

But Murtha — a Vietnam veteran, an early Democratic advocate of President Bush’s authority to invade Iraq and one of Congress’s staunchest supporters of the military — expressed serious doubts that those remedies are even faint possibilities, given current military deployments, a lack of support from NATO allies and widespread outrage over the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners of war.

Coming from a senior appropriator with close ties to the Pentagon, Murtha’s bleak analysis led many colleagues to surmise that he believes a democratic Iraq is a lost cause.

The White House, however, notified Congress yesterday that it would ask for an additional $25 billion supplemental bill for military operations in Iraq and the war on terrorism. The request will most likely be attached to the 2005 defense appropriations bill.

Many Democrats, especially those long opposed to the war, welcomed Murtha’s apparent change of heart. Democrats continued to vent about the U.S. casualties, the administration’s planning for the war and the POW images.

Murtha declined to elaborate on his presentation, given in this week’s “leader lunch,” but several lawmakers and aides confirmed that he had delivered his dire warning.

And because of his stature among colleagues, Murtha’s increased gloom about Iraq may indicate a sea change within the Democratic congressional ranks, the sources added.

Murtha told The Hill that he would appear with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at a press conference tomorrow to “talk about the situation, and to talk about the prisoner situation.”

Murtha supported the war from the begining. Now, he's begining to think that it might be unwinnable. I don't support pulling out of Iraq right now, because by invading Iraq, we made it a potential haven for terrorists. If we pull out, Al Queda and other terrorists could find an ally in a disorganized Iraq. By failing to build a broad international coalition to win the peace in Iraq, we've made our own troops vulnerable. So basically, Bush put us in a situation where we're screwed either way. If we pull out, Iraq becomes a haven for terrorists. If we stay in Iraq, more American soldiers will be coming home in body bags on a daily basis. A lot of folks don't understand John Kerry's Iraq policy, because it seems to differ little from the President's. That may be so, but John Kerry would at least have a chance at going to other nations and asking for their support with an ounce of creditability. President Bush's reckless and arrogant attitude in the months leading up to the war tied our hands, preventing a widespread international coalition for rebuilding Iraq. And, the revelations in the past days on prisoner abuse certainly don't help.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Bush as Carter, 2004 as 1980 Redux?

By Byron LaMasters

Well, I might not otherwise pay too much attention, but Hotline editor Chuck Todd makes a good case for a Kerry landslide. Personally, I'm betting on a close race, within three points either way. However, Todd argues that recent historical indicators would suggest that a close race is unlikely. He says a landslide is more likely, and historical indicators suggest it should be Kerry. Anyway, I wouldn't give too much credence to this, but considering that Chuck Todd is one of the top analysts in Washington, its worth a look:

2004 could be a decisive victory for Kerry. The reason to think so is historical. Elections that feature a sitting president tend to be referendums on the incumbent--and in recent elections, the incumbent has either won or lost by large electoral margins. If you look at key indicators beyond the neck-and-neck support for the two candidates in the polls--such as high turnout in the early Democratic primaries and the likelihood of a high turnout in November--it seems improbable that Bush will win big. More likely, it's going to be Kerry in a rout.

In the last 25 years, there have been four elections which pitted an incumbent against a challenger--1980, 1984, 1992, and 1996. In all four, the victor won by a substantial margin in the electoral college. The circumstances of one election hold particular relevance for today: 1980. That year, the country was weathering both tough economic times (the era of "stagflation"--high inflation concurrent with a recession) and frightening foreign policy crises (the Iranian hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan). Indeed, this year Bush is looking unexpectedly like Carter. Though the two presidents differ substantially in personal style (one indecisive and immersed in details, the other resolute but disengaged), they are also curiously similar. Both are religious former Southern governors. Both initially won the presidency by tarring their opponents (Gerald Ford, Al Gore) with the shortcomings of their predecessors (Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton). Like Carter, Bush is vulnerable to being attacked as someone not up to the job of managing impending global crises.

Everyone expected the 1980 election to be very close. In fact, Reagan won with 50.8 percent of the popular vote to Carter's 41 percent (independent John Anderson won 6.6 percent)--which translated into an electoral avalanche of 489 to 49. The race was decided not so much on the public's nascent impressions of the challenger, but on their dissatisfaction with the incumbent.

Nor was Carter's sound defeat an aberration. Quite the opposite. Of the last five incumbent presidents booted from office--Bush I, Carter, Ford, Herbert Hoover, and William Howard Taft--only one was able to garner over 200 electoral votes, and three of these defeated incumbents didn't even cross the 100 electoral-vote threshold: --1992: 370 (Bill Clinton) to 168 (George H. W. Bush) --1980: 489 (Ronald Reagan) to 49 (Jimmy Carter) --1976: 297 (Jimmy Carter) to 240 (Gerald Ford) --1932: 472 (FDR) to 59 (Herbert Hoover) --1912: 435 (Woodrow Wilson) to 88 (TR) to 8 (Taft)

Make of it what you want. It's always nice to be hopeful.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

They Finally Passed Something Now

By Byron LaMasters

Except it doesn't provide enough money to pay for fully financing our schools (but did anyone expect that anyway?). The Austin American Statesman reports:

School finance legislation that relies on a sales tax increase rather than gambling and payroll taxes to fund schools was given final approval Wednesday by the House. The focus now shifts to the Senate.

The approval followed several days of contentious debate between lawmakers. Some said they would not approve any bill that allowed state-taxed slot machines at horse and dog tracks. Others opposed a payroll tax in Texas, one of nine states without a broad-based income tax.

House leaders rewrote the bill Tuesday to remove those provisions, choosing instead to raise the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 7 percent, along with increasing the cigarette tax to $1.41 and imposing a $1 tax on pro sports tickets. Critics say those taxes won't generate enough money for Texas' more than 1,000 school districts.

"The bill spends us into the red. Revenue doesn't match income," said Rep. Pete Gallego, an Alpine Democrat, as he pleaded with House members to allow more debate over amendments to the bill.

The House cut off debate and voted 75-68 to pass the revised bill.


The House bill would lower property taxes for school operation to $1.20 from $1.50 in appraised land value. The previous plan reduced property taxes to $1.05. It would also extend the sales tax to include newspapers, magazine subscriptions, bottled water and billboard advertising.

Donna New Haschke, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, said the House leadership "turned its back on the school children, parents and teachers of Texas" when it passed the watered-down legislation.

The original bill would have raised an estimated $1.35 billion for public schools. The current bill is $300 million short of proposed expenditures.

"Collectively, they walked away from their responsibility to pass a bill that would make sure that public schools had the financial support necessary for Texas and our children to prosper," she said.

I'm with Charles on this one. By far, the best outcome for this session is that the special session will expire after thirty days with nothing passed.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Being Un-American

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

It seems that Bush and Kerry both made 'oopsies' when on their "Yes, American Can" and "Real Deal Express" busses this year. Apparently their 'American' busses were actually Canadian.

President Bush rode across Ohio on Tuesday in a bus emblazoned, "Yes, America can." Turns out the bus was made in Canada.

So was the "Real Deal Express" that Democrat John Kerry rode earlier in the year.

Both were made by Prevost Car, which is owned by the Swedish Volvo Bus Corp. and Britain's Henly's Group PLC. Its manufacturing facility is in St. Claire, Quebec.

Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel defended the president's use of a foreign-made bus and said many of the components on the red-white-and-blue coaches, along with their engines and tires, are American-made.

"As President Bush says, 'economic isolationism' would derail our recovery and kill jobs," Stanzel said.

Bush has defended his free-trade policies against Democratic criticism and says those who favor restrictions on imports are "economic isolationists."

Foreign-made vehicles are a touchy topic in the job-strapped industrial Midwest -- states like Michigan and Ohio, which Bush toured on Monday and Tuesday.

"The problem isn't the bus he's riding on. It's the failed economic policies he's driving," said Phil Singer, a Kerry spokesman.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 12:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ten Commandments Judge Appointed to Texas Supreme Court

By Byron LaMasters

Only in Texas (and Alabama):

Scott Brister, who once posted the Ten Commandments in his Houston courtroom and was recently appointed to the Texas Supreme Court, drew fire from the Senate Nominations Committee on Tuesday.

Gov. Rick Perry's nomination of Brister was ultimately approved by the committee, 5-2, but only after intense grilling from his opposition.

Democratic Sens. Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin and Juan Hinojosa of McAllen demanded to know Brister's views on separation of church and state, the influence of wealthy campaign contributors on the high court, and judicial activism.

"Do you believe in separation of church and state?" Hinojosa asked Brister.

"It depends on the circumstances," replied the justice.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:17 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Yes, I'm Alive

By Byron LaMasters

Just thought that I'd reassure everyone that I'm still here even though I haven't posted much in the past few days (and I haven't been answering many of my emails). Posts will be sporadic over the next week as we're wrapping up the last week of classes and exams. As usual, I procrastinated this semester, so I'm having to cram in the last week here, but I'll make it. I just turned in a 23-page paper an hour ago, and now I'm off to study for a test tomorrow, but I'll try and post a little bit here when I have the chance.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 04, 2004

The Fascist Test

By Jim Dallas

Despite being the (tongue-in-cheek) self-proclaimed "Number One DailyKOS Crypto-Fascist," this page says I'm on the low-end of normal when it comes to fascist tendencies. Which is a good thing.

Your F Score is: 3.2
You are disciplined but tolerant; a true American.

(The average in the original 1950 study of Americans that this page is based upon was 3.84).

[satire]Obviously, I'm being duped by a secret cabal of queer-masonic-muslim-commies from New Jersey who are trying to keep me from seeing the plain truth -- that we should nuke Mecca today! (The whales will get theirs in good time, after we string up the liberals and the French.)

(I guess I need to be reading more LittleGreenFootballs...)[/satire]

Hat tip to the LGF Quiz Blog.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 08:51 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Payroll Tax, Gambling Royally Flushed

By Jim Dallas

It's not every day that you get to read an Austin American-Statesman story with a lede graf as poetically simple as "Now what?", but today was a strange day in the Lege:

The Texas House of Representatives shot down a school finance and tax bill Tuesday evening in a 77-69 vote after key parts of the bill — including a payroll tax and legalized slot machines — were stripped away.

The vote capped a tumultuous day in the chamber. Gov. Rick Perry's plan to lower property taxes and raise money through a combination of new and existing taxes was brought to the House floor and executed, a day after the governor publicly spoke out against the House's payroll tax idea.

Let's repeat that phrase - Brought to the House floor and executed. Too bad more legislation doesn't get the same treatment.


When they turned their attention back to the House plan the bill's sponsors pulled out the controversial payroll tax and slot machine sections, which together made up about $5 billion of the $8 billion the bill would raise for public education.

Later in the day, debate was abruptly cut off by a parliamentary rule that also killed about 200 amendments members had filed.

Faced with voting for what amounted to a shell bill and letting the Senate take a crack at the problem, many House members apparently decided no bill at all was preferable.

%@!$ the Senate!

The Houston Chronicle has a less colorful rendering of the facts here.

Now, to answer that gnarly question, "now what?"

After the bill's defeat, the House stood at ease to ponder its options. The bill could be brought back for a second vote, or the House could start over and let a committee write a new bill.

Off the Kuff has the details on what kind of creative financing might be cooked up next:

[Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land] is proposing a 1 percent "snack tax" on beer, wine, soft drinks, chips and other snack foods in lieu of gambling. He said early estimates indicate it could raise $1 billion a year.


Given the state of public nutrition these days, at least one could argue that unlike most other proposed "solutions", this will not be a diminishing market. Maybe we should also scale back on the anti-junk food attacks on school vending machines. Heck, if this proposal becomes law, we ought to put more soda and snack machines in the schools. May as well get the students themselves to help pay for their schooling, right?

Hopefully the food nazis won't abduct Kuff in the middle of the night and force him to eat broccoli for his trangressions.

Now, personally, these are the same guys that turned redistricting from a debacle (for them) into a disaster (for us). So frankly, I'm worried that three special sessions from now they might actually get around to passing a really yucky bill.

Until then, we've got to spread the word about the One True Solution to the school finance crisis. Pass it on!

Posted by Jim Dallas at 07:31 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Texas Tuesdays Continues- Richard Morrison Interview

By Andrew Dobbs

Hey everyone, hope that you have had a chance to give some cash to Richard Morrison today on our inaugural Texas Tuesday. Don't forget to add the $0.36 to help us track.

Richard was nice enough to answer a few questions from us about the race and about what he thinks is in store for Texas Democrats this year and in the future. You can read this interview, and a special guest post from the candidate later today, at the Yellow Dog Blog Keep checking back, visit our participating blogs and don't forget to give!

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 11:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saving Conservatism From Conservatives

By Jim Dallas

George Will:

Speaking of culture, as neoconservative nation-builders would be well-advised to avoid doing, Pat Moynihan said: "The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself." Here we reach the real issue about Iraq, as distinct from unpleasant musings about who believes what about skin color.

The issue is the second half of Moynihan's formulation -- our ability to wield political power to produce the requisite cultural change in a place such as Iraq. Time was, this question would have separated conservatives from liberals. Nowadays it separates conservatives from neoconservatives.

Condoleezza Rice, a political scientist, believes there is scholarly evidence that democratic institutions do not merely spring from a hospitable culture, but that they also can help create such a culture. She is correct; they can. They did so in the young American republic. But it would be reassuring to see more evidence that the administration is being empirical, believing that this can happen in some places, as opposed to ideological, believing that it must happen everywhere it is tried.

Being steadfast in defense of carefully considered convictions is a virtue. Being blankly incapable of distinguishing cherished hopes from disappointing facts, or of reassessing comforting doctrines in face of contrary evidence, is a crippling political vice.

In "On Liberty" (1859), John Stuart Mill said, "It is, perhaps, hardly necessary to say" that the doctrine of limited, democratic government "is meant to apply only to human beings in the maturity of their faculties." One hundred forty-five years later it obviously is necessary to say that.

Ron Chernow's magnificent new biography of Alexander Hamilton begins with these of his subject's words: "I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be." That is the core of conservatism.

Traditional conservatism. Nothing "neo" about it. This administration needs a dose of conservatism without the prefix.

The upshot here, I think, is that if you take Moynihan literally, it's our job to set the conservatives right (no pun intended).

Posted by Jim Dallas at 11:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

If You Must Gamble, Place Your Bets Here

By Jim Dallas

Galveston officials are apoplectic over proposals coming out of the legislature to permit video slots at racetracks -- not because islanders are concerned about the morality of gambling (although a few, e.g. Shrub Kempner, are), but because local developer Tilman Fertitta has made a convincing argument that the legislation would steer tourists away from Galveston:

Along with “sin” taxes on cigarettes and lap dances, there’s a plan to put slot machines in horse- and dog-racing tracks across Texas as a way to help pump money into the school system lost by cutting property taxes.

Gulf Greyhound officials say it’s only logical that horse- and dog-tracks get first crack at the next phase of gambling in the state since those institutions already have gaming licenses.

“We’re 100 percent for it,” said Charles Fenwick, director of marketing for Gulf Greyhound Park. “It’s a great thing for not only Galveston County, but for the rest of the state in terms of generating additional revenue for education. It seems like the next evolutionary step for gaming in Texas.”

But the plan is causing such island heavyweights as developer Tilman Fertitta, state Rep. Craig Eiland and Mayor Roger “Bo” Quiroga some alarm.

A plan that excludes Galveston from gaming would cripple the island’s ability to retain its tourist destination status, they said.

“It would be totally unfair to Galveston,” said Fertitta in an earlier interview. “Why should they bail out horse and dog tracks that haven’t been able to make money? Why should we reward their failure?”

Gulf Greyhound Park opened in 1992.

Fenwick said in that 12 years, the track has shown solid progress. He disagreed with Fertitta’s position that this plan is a bailout for horse and dog tracks.

“Gulf Greyhound Park is one of the most successful greyhound operations ever in Texas,” he said. “We’ve already proven to the state that we’ve run extremely sound operations.”

The idea of having a facility with 4,000 slot machines, twice as many as Caesar’s Palace, is worth backing, said company officials.

Both pro- and anti- gambling activists have a convincing argument. Fertitta is probably correct insofar as La Marque would probably upstage Galveston as the Sin Capital of Coastal Texas; although at least a few cents of every dollar spent in La Marque will find its way into the Island economy (although that may not be able to offset lost tourism bucks).

State rep. Craig Eiland (D - Galveston) joined other representatives to push an amendment to get Galveston some special rights for gambling in the school finance bill, although the idea doesn't seem to be going anywhere (Rep. Kent Grusendorf (R - Arlington) nixed it in committee).

Why post a local story like this (other than indulge in rah-rah-ing for the homeboys)? Because what's going on in Galveston provides a clear example of one of the many problems with the current gambling proposal in the school finance bill.

Permitting gambling in some places, but not others, is going to (and right ought to) unleash a torrent of "me too"-ism from cities and counties left out of the rain.

From an economic perspective, it's a huge market distortion -- after-tax proceeds are going to flow to some communities, at the expense of others -- and it's tempting to argue that limited gambling totally undermines the rest of the school finance bill, because the long-term consequence of this policy is that it will promote inequality across school districts. Accordingly, I feel that either the state ought to legalize gambling everywhere, or it ought to just forget about it entirely.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 10:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Give to Richard Morrison on the First Texas Tuesday!

By Andrew Dobbs

Hey folks, remember all the stuff about Texas Tuesdays? Well, it is finally here! Our first candidate is Richard Morrison, Tom DeLay's Democratic challenger.

Read all about the project and about Morrison at the Yellow Dog Blog and be sure to give give give to Morrison. Add $0.36 to the end of your donation so we'll know it is from the blogs!

We'll have a guest post and a short interview w/ the candidate later so keep checking back and keep giving!

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 04:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 03, 2004

Funny Mondays

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Ok so the other day I mentioned the "John Kerry falls off his bike story" and mused how it was not really real news but a nice break from the current back and forth.

I then saw something today that reminds me that John Kerry is 'one of the populace.' I know, you are trying not to laugh, but hear me out.

People fall off their bikes. Normal people like you and me. The last time I rode a bike, I fell off it going down a hill and I havn't ridden a lot since then. Not because I'm scared but because I havn't needed to. But that's beside the point, which is that by falling off his bike, Kerry is just 'one of us.'

Compare this to our Commander-in-Chief, who has shown how he is not 'one of the masses.' Because he fell off his segway earlier this term. Because the masses can identify with that.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 11:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Get Ready for Texas Tuesdays!

By Andrew Dobbs

Starting tomorrow, this blog, my other project the Yellow Dog Blog, Off the Kuff, Greg's Opinion, Nathan from Save Texas Reps as well as several others (who I'll list tomorrow) are joining together for Texas Tuesdays. This will be a coordinated Texas Blogosphere effort where every Tuesday another congressional or legislative candidate from here will be profiled, get a guest post, a short interview and will be the object of a full court press for funds. We'll reveal our first candidate tomorrow and we really need to get some cash for our friends so make sure to set aside a bit.

If only 5% of the BOR readership gave $10 each we'd raise $500 each week. If we could get that on each of the 6 blogs so far we'd have $3,000 a week, more than $70,000 by Election Day. I know that that is mighty ambitious so I'll only ask that you give what you can when you can. Remember that skipping one night out or one new purchase of some sort a week in order to ensure a better future for Texas is totally worth it. We'll see you all tomorrow!

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 05:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 02, 2004

Spain Speaks Again

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

It seems so simple doesn't it?

Spain's prime minister said Sunday he hopes the deteriorating situation in Iraq (news - web sites) will serve as a warning to countries against using preemptive wars in the future.

"The mission in Iraq, which is showing itself every day to be a failure, should serve as a lesson to the international community: preemptive wars, never again; violations of international law, never again," Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said.

Speaking before some 20,000 supporters at a meeting celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Socialist party, Zapatero reiterated that he had ordered Spain's troops home from Iraq April 18, a day after he was sworn in, "because they should have never been sent there."

On Wednesday, the last 260 of the 1,300 Spanish troops who took part in the U.S.-led occupation returned home. Another 1,000 soldiers remain in Iraq to pack up military hardware and ship it back to Spain. The government says those soldiers will be in Spain by May 27.

Zapatero's predecessor as premier, Jose Maria Aznar of the conservative Popular Party, had supported the war in Iraq despite massive opposition in Spain. Spain did not take part in the invasion but sent in troops afterward.

Zapatero vowed his government would never break, nor support the violation of, international law in order to fight terrorism.

"The real and most efficient fight against terrorism is through the cooperation of all democratic countries, all free countries, in the United Nations (news - web sites) with the cooperation of all and not via unilateral interventions, which only lead to failure," he told the meeting at a bullring on Madrid's outskirts.

So we royally fucked up. Are we seeing it now? Now we are stuck with a situation that is going nowhere, with the 2nd key supporter of the Coalition of the Willing pulling out (leaving England and Poland left, even though I think Poland has been thinking of leaving.) And now we are left with the choice of "staying the course" and increasing troops, changing nothing which means we sink deeper into this morass, or pulling out and leaving the mess to stew in its own juices.

What do we do? Besides not getting into things like this in the first place.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 08:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stop the Presses

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

It's half a year away from elections day. And the news about Bush and Kerry is saturating the media. Normally I would think the following story is a silly waste of time and not worthy of news. But right now, I'm almost thankful for a break in the continuing back and forth wrangling.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (news - web sites) took a fall on Sunday while riding a bicycle but was not hurt, a campaign spokesman said.

Michael Meehan said Kerry, 60, skidded on a patch of sand during the ride in Concord, Massachusetts. He was due to fly back to Washington, D.C. later on Sunday.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 08:25 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Momentum Builds Towards an Income Tax

By Andrew Dobbs

Now, I doubt it will be anytime in the near future, but the "an income tax is political death" meme is starting to crumble. From the El Paso Times;

Lawmakers want to lower school property taxes by 30 percent to 50 percent, which means a huge shift elsewhere to replace up to $8 billion a year in revenue. Some fear that the shift will land on increased sales taxes and a new payroll tax.

"A payroll tax is a terribly regressive tax," says Scott McCown, head of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin-based think tank that tracks issues affecting lower-income families. A payroll tax could also encourage employers to pay low wages.

"It's an income tax on working folks without any of the advantages," says McCown, who was the judge in the historic Edgewood lawsuit more than a decade ago that produced greater equity for the state's property-poor school districts. (...)

Some see a personal income tax as the state's only real long-term solution. Prominent Dallas Republican Mike Boone, representing 75 Dallas area CEOs and the 3,800-member Dallas Chamber of Commerce, told lawmakers he's already reached that conclusion.

Business leaders need to talk in public about what they say in private about the income tax, Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, told them, "because some little ol' worker in El Paso or East Houston don't have the access that you gentlemen have."

Houston lawyer Glen Rosenbaum, representing 11 of the state's largest law firms, called the income tax inevitable. But don't count on it this year.

Voters would have to approve an income tax. One-third of the revenue would go to public schools and the rest would be used to lower property taxes -- about 90 percent for most people.

When the head of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce is calling for a state income tax, you know that there is something going on. The traditional logic for the sales tax has of course been that "it'll kill our great business climate." Now people know that that has to be a crock- we have higher unemployment than the nation as a whole, lower wages and we have fewer families with insurance and almost every other measure of well-being lacks also. Furthermore, its not like the legislature isn't already foisting an income tax on Texans with this absurd new payroll tax, its just that it is called something different, its hidden from them and it is infinitely more regressive. If anything will be a job killer it will be this payroll tax.

The fact of the matter is that most Texans would be able to write their state income taxes off their federal returns creating a net gain of ZERO for their income taxes and would create a 90% decrease in property taxes- that's an enormous tax cut several orders of magnitude above what they are calling for now. It would also creat more revenue. It seems that the Dallas Chamber of Commerce and the big law firms are starting to realize the truth- we have a magic bullet on our hands. Lower taxes, bigger revenue, more tax fairness and greater services to facilitate business growth. You really can't get better than that.

This is the first time in a long time that people are openly talking about this issue and I'd suggest it might just be a matter of time before it starts to get taken seriously by powerful people on both sides of the aisle. We can only hope.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 03:37 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

May 01, 2004

Another Complaint Filed Against Texas GOP

By Byron LaMasters

Public Citizen and Common Cause filed complaints against the Texas Republican Party on Friday for using corporate money for election activities during the 2002 cycle. The Austin American Statesman reports:

Public Citizen and Common Cause filed a criminal complaint Friday against the Republican Party of Texas, requesting an investigation into whether GOP officials illegally spent corporate money on election activities in 2002.

"The party claims to have spent an enormous sum on administrative costs in the 2002 elections," said Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of the Texas office of Public Citizen. "But when you look at their expense reports, you see payments for voters drives, list acquisition, political consultants and issues ads affecting state candidates."

State law prohibits using corporate and labor union money to pay for political expenses, but it allows the money to be spent on issue ads or the administrative expenses of running a political party or a political action committee.

Travis County Attorney David Escamilla said Friday that he would review the complaint before deciding whether it warrants an investigation.

Republican Party officials say $2.2 million in corporate cash was legally transferred to and spent by its federal committee, the Texas Republican Congressional Committee. Party officials designated all general election expenses as administrative, including money for a television commercial and direct mail.

Of course, Republicans are trying to shrug off the complaints as a smear by Democrats:

On Friday, Rene Diaz, the GOP's general counsel, said the accusation by Public Citizen and Common Cause is without merit. If there was anything to the allegation, Diaz said, the Federal Election Commission would have investigated it years ago.

He said the complaint is part of a smear campaign by Texas Democrats.

No surprises here. When they break and bend the rules, the GOP tends to do two things. Change the subject and blame the Democrats. Lets hope it doesn't work this time.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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