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December 31, 2004

Happy New Year!

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I know it is still a few hours until it is actually New Year's Day in North America, but I'm going to be out celebrating so I had better do it now. I've already been to one New Year's Eve Eve party honoring the birthday of Dick Clark, his 251st. I swear to God, the lower left-hand corner of the Declaration of Independence reads "Dick Clark, Keep on rockin'".

I've been unusually busy the past week with high school basketball tournaments, so my posting was not up to par, but with the holiday season finally behind us I'll be able to cover a few things that I may have skipped over recently that deserve some scrutiny.

With all that said, have a safe and happy New Year's, and be sure to drink responsibly. I wouldn't want any of you to miss Texas kick the shiznite out of Michigan tomorrow.

This is a guest post from Nathan Nance. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 07:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rumsfeld doing his part

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

There is a great article in Slate today about the effects of proposed cuts in DoD spending. Some of us laymen might assume that cutting a billion dollars from spending this year would save us a billion dollars from the budget, but you'd be wrong. As with everything else involved in Pentagon budgets, it is more complicated than that.

This is a pretty good explanation of what happens in Pentagon outlay spending and how much money we might actually shave off the deficit in the next fiscal year.

The important thing is that the administration is at least realizing people care about large structural deficits. Though they are paying lip service to cutting the fat, I'm predicting now that actual spending will increase at Defense the next fiscal year after adding in supplemental appropriations for Iraq and Afghanistan, which could total $90 billion, but for some reason are not factored in when writing the budget or determining what the year's budget deficit might be. I guess the guys at OMB didn't take Honors English in college or something.

This is a guest post from Nathan Nance Nance. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 06:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

State House Election Contest Documents Online

By Byron LaMasters

I'm not in the mood to sort through them right now, but the documents for the three GOP election contest can be found online here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who will Lead Iraq?

By Byron LaMasters

Juan Cole brings us the platform of the United Iraqi Alliance, the party most likely to win the upcoming Iraqi elections:

1. A united Iraq - land and people - with full national sovereignty.

2. A timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq.

3. A constitutional, pluralistic, democratic and federally united Iraq.

4. Iraq that respects the Islamic identity of the Iraqi people. The state religion is Islam.

5. Iraq that respects human rights, that does not discriminate on the grounds of sects, religions, or ethnicities, and that preserves the rights of religious and ethnic minorities and protects them against persecution and marginalization.

6. Iraq that provides a climate of peaceful coexistence among Iraqis without preferential treatment for any group.

7. Iraq in which the judiciary is independent and in which justice and equality prevail.

Juan notes two key issues that are perhaps troubling to the Bush administration. First, the platform calls for a specific timetable towards the withdraw of U.S. troops. Later in the platform, Juan mentions that the party promises membership in the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. That suggests the the new Iraqi government would join other Arab nations in non-recognition of Israel until those organizations reached a settlement with Israel. It's certainly worth reading the full post by Juan Cole to understand what sort of policies we can expect from a future Iraq.

Update: Juan Cole has more, and this certainly isn't promising.

Candidate name recognition doesn't appear very important, however. For security reasons, the actual names of most candidates on the 78 party or multiparty lists have so far not been released. This odd situation, in which the candidates are not known amonth before the election, attests to how dire the political and security situation in Iraq really is.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that it's kind of hard to know who to vote for when you don't know who is actually going to be on the ballot.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Supersized Wal-Marts and Accordians

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Of note on my road here at home (Friendship Lane, I kid you not) the Super Wal-Mart is being built just across from the old one. So you can imagine part of the daily excitement that is my life now, is walking 300 yards down the road to check on its progress. And of course that means I'm going to share it with you.


The long wall there is the back wall. The road is Friendship "Lane" (4 lanes) and the box in the distance is the old Wal-Mart. If you click on the pic, you will get a bigger one. Here is an image of the inside of the new structure from the other direction.

And below is the entertainment we had at our Gillespie County Democrats Christmas Party. Can you tell we are Fredericksburg Democrats? I love it.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 01:10 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Sears Cuts Deal to Cooperate with DeLay Investigation

By Byron LaMasters

The AP reports:

Prosecutors have agreed to drop an illegal campaign contribution charge against Sears, Roebuck and Co. in exchange for the company's cooperation with a state investigation of contributions to a Republican political action committee.

A Travis County judge signed off on the agreement today.

Sears was accused of making a $25,000 donation to Texans for a Republican Majority, a political action committee with ties to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, during the 2002 legislative campaign. The use of corporate money for political purposes is illegal in Texas.

Sears was one of eight corporations accused of giving money to the PAC. Prosecutors previously dropped charges against Livermore, Calif.-based Diversified Collections Services, Inc. under a similar agreement. [...]

The agreement calls for Sears to cooperate with Texas "in its prosecution and investigation of any other person for any offense related to the corporate contribution" that Sears made.

The agreement also said that Sears has certified that it has enacted additional internal policies and adopted a plan to strengthen its policy against making illegal political contributions in any state. The agreement also said Sears will modify its company Web site to provide for public access and disclosure of corporate contributions made by Sears.

In addition, O'Leary said Sears will contribute $100,000 to the University of Texas for a campaign finance law awareness program.

I wonder what the good folks at Sears have to tell the state of Texas about their good friend Tom DeLay? We shall see, but at least for now, it's nice to see that UT gets something out of the deal.

More at Kos.

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

Tech Shocks Cal in Holiday Bowl

By Byron LaMasters

The Longhorns will still have to prove on Saturday that we deserved to go to the Rose Bowl, but at the very least, Cal doesn't have much of a case in arguing that they should've gone there after losing to Texas Tech 45-31. Mack Brown can breathe one big sigh of relief tonight, even if what really matters is how his team performs on Saturday. Either way, ya just gotta love this:

Cal had been in position to go to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 46 seasons, but was leapfrogged in the final Bowl Championship Series standings by Brown's Texas Longhorns, who ended up in Pasadena to face Michigan on Saturday.

The day the BCS pairings were released, Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Brown "was a little classless'' for begging for poll votes to help his Longhorns, and that the system was "faulty.''

The Longhorns, by the way, beat Texas Tech 51-21 at Lubbock on Oct. 23.

Texas Tech fans mocked Cal with chants of "Overrated!'' in the closing minutes.

Hehe. Sooo, Aaron, whatcha sayin' about classless there? Huh?

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

December 30, 2004

Public Citizen seeks Bribery Investigation of DeLay, others

By Byron LaMasters

Here's their letter to the Department of Justice:

Public Citizen is writing to provide the Department of Justice with significant new information regarding possible violations of 18 U.S.C. §201 (“Bribery of public officials and witnesses”) by current and former Westar Energy, Inc. executives and its D.C.-based lobbyists and current and former members of the U.S. House of Representatives. This new information has recently been uncovered in an investigation by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (“ethics committee”).

On June 17, 2003, Public Citizen submitted a complaint concerning possible criminal violations of anti-bribery statutes by lobbyist Richard H. Bornemann; Westar Energy (previously known as Western Resources) executives David C. Wittig, Douglas T. Lake, Douglas R. Sterbenz, Douglas R. Lawrence, Anita Jo Hunt, Caroline A. Williams, Richard A. Dixon, Kelly B. Harrison, Larry D. Irick, Peggy Lloyd, Bruce Akin, Paul R. Geist; and U.S. Representatives Tom DeLay (R-Texas), W.J. “Billy” Tauzin (R-La.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas).

I agree with Kuff that it's not going anywhere, but it ought to be investigated, and it makes for a nice press release.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Vo Supporters Gather Signatures, Plan to Attend Inauguration

By Byron LaMasters

Want to know what State Representative-Elect Hubert Vo (D-Houston) has been doing since he was elected? Pretty simple... he's preparing to represent district 149 in the Texas legislature, and his supporters in the district are doing their share to help him defend his victory. Read here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Really Stupid Ideas, and really, really Stupid Ideas

By Byron LaMasters

We can certainly expect Texas House Republicans to join Congressional Repulicans in joining Opperation: Save Tom DeLay's Butt when the 79th legislature meets in a few weeks. Plans range from some really stupid ideas like taking authority for prosecuting the campaign finance cases away from the Travis County D.A. to really, really stupid ideas like legalizing corporate campaign contributions. The New York Times reports:

In Texas, state Republican legislative leaders and party officials are considering some maneuvers of their own in light of the investigation. One proposal would take authority for prosecuting the campaign finance case away from the Democratic district attorney in Austin and give it to the state attorney general, a Republican. Another possible move would legalize corporate campaign contributions like those that figure into the state case.

Greg, like me, is outraged.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:07 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Dallas Police and Deep Ellum Businesses to Share Surveillance Tapes

By Byron LaMasters

The Dallas Morning News reports:

If you're thinking about stirring up trouble on the streets of Deep Ellum this New Year's Eve, think twice: You're being watched.

Dallas police will be able to monitor crowds from 16 cameras on the roofs of three businesses in Deep Ellum: the Gypsy Tea Room, Club Clearview and Digital Strata. [...]

The businesses and police will share the footage via the Internet. Although live activity can be monitored, police said they won't be watching it like a reality show.

"The intent is not just to provide real-time video images but to provide a history of what happened," Chief David Kunkle said. "This is part of making the city of Dallas safer."

Virtual Surveillance of Plano donated about $20,000 worth of equipment and services for the pilot project. The cameras will remain in place indefinitely.

Bad idea on several levels. I don't like the idea of a public/private partnership when it comes to law enforcement as they have two very different motivations - one to keep the public safe, and the other to make a profit. Putting surveillance videos on the internet leaves it wide open to all sorts of problems, and who knows what the motivation of the company donating everything for the project. Yes, I know crime is high in many parts of Dallas, and I'm all for trying innovative ideas, but just check out Grits for Breakfast if you can't think of the potential problems here:

Police shouldn't share surveillance data with private entities, much less transmit that data blithely over the Internet, but that's what happening in Dallas. Once private businesses get the tapes, they can do what they want with them. It really doesn't seem like Chief Kunkle has thought the whole thing through.

In other words, if young women celebrating Mardi Gras in Deep Ellum decide to flash the crowd, the videotape could be sold for use on Girls Gone Wild. They might even get some good shots. After all, the donor company touts its system's zoom and tracking capabilities. A British study found that one out of ten women were targeted by male surveillance camera operators for voyeuristic purposes, and steamy excerpts from British police surveillance tapes have wound up in the hands of B filmmakers, who profiteered off of them.

For a whole lot more, read more Grits and Talk Left.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

More on fighting HJR 6

By Byron LaMasters

I posted on the group, Practice What you Preach yesterday, an organization formed to oppose HJR 6 (House Joint Resolution 6, which is a proposed constitutional amendment in Texas that would define a marriage as between one man and one woman (which is redundant, as Texas law already defines marriage as such). Some readers in comments yesterday were concerned with the approach taken by the organization and my comment that "divorce is a threat to marriage, gays and lesbians are not". In case it sent the wrong impression, I don't pass any moral judgment on anyone who has a divorce - in many cases it is the best solution. However, it is a "threat" to marriage in the technical sense as divorce dissolves a marriage. In many cases, the two partners in a marriage drift different ways, and a no-fault divorce is the best choice, but in others I believe that an investment by the state, by the government can make a difference.

If we invest in programs for premarital counseling, children's health care, parenting classes, preschool programs, etc., the burden on many (especially low-income) married couples would be significantly reduced, and would probably help save some marriages. Even if such programs helped save just one marriage, that would be one more marriage than what HJR 6 (proposed Texas constitutional amendment defining marriage between one man and one woman) would save.

Anyway, check out the AP story.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 29, 2004

Musical chairs

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Jerome over at MyDD is keeping us up to date on the horse race for the DNC chair.

According to him, Dean still has the best chance of winning. Dean has popular support, something relatively unheard of in a race for the chair, and he is the Reform candidate, which is what everyone but the leadership wants. It is most definitely his race to lose, and right now, no news is good news.

The Anybody But Dean vote, if you want to look at it like that, seems to be split between Simon Rosenberg and Donnie Fowler. At this point any kind of reform-minded person would probably be choosing between these three candidates with the lion's share going to Dean. I've mentioned before that I think Rosenberg would make a pretty good chair. Fowler is much the same. But Dean brings an actual sense of outside the Beltway reform that I just don't think Rosenberg can compete with. I think we need to get someone who is not DC to be our spokesman and to be making strategy until the next election cycle. It doesn't hurt that Dean understands netroots activism as well as any of the other reform candidates.

Tim Roemer is something of an enigma to me. I don't understand why he has as much support as he does since he's pretty much an establishment candidate. The DLC says something needs to change, the Deaniacs say something needs to change, why would anyone want the same old same old? Unless of course you're aready in power, which explains why Pelosi and Reid are backing him.

Not so good for the candidates from Texas, either. Martin Frost and Ron Kirk both seem to be nowhere in the race, no real support outside the state and no real platform to stand on. I have to ask, why even bother?

That about sums up the race to date. Dean's way out in front and the DNC ignores him at their own risk. I mean, do you really want thousands upon thousands of Deaniacs to just not give you money? They'll contribute at DFA's site instead, because they think Dean is the man to lead us out of the desert. It's his to lose but I guess we'll see in a month where it goes.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco-Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 06:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Practice What You Preach PAC

By Byron LaMasters

Here's the press release from yesterday on a PAC created to oppose a ban on same-sex vows, and attack the real threats to marriage. Take a look:

New PAC Offers Mainstream Opposition to Same-Sex Vow Ban: Casual no-fault divorce & domestic violence—not gays—real threats to marriage

AUSTIN, TX – Calling casual no-fault divorce and domestic violence the real threats to marriage, Practice What You Preach today offered a mainstream opposition to HJR 6, the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Texas.

“If they agree with us that two parents are better than one, then the reactionary legislators pushing this ban should practice what they preach,” said Jason Stanford. “It is a bright and shining lie to say that HJR 6 would do anything to help marriage. The Texas legislature needs to practice what it preaches and focus on the real threats to marriage.”

Marriage is not a wedge issue. In fact, it’s in crisis. Here are the facts:

Texas has one of the highest divorce rates in the country, and with around 100,000 divorces in Texas every year, our divorce rate is 71 percent higher than Massachusetts';

Children suffer more than anyone from the divorce epidemic. A study by the conservative Heritage Foundation found that children of divorce "exhibit more health, behavioral, and emotional problems, are involved more frequently in crime and drug abuse, and have higher rates of suicide." In school, these kids "perform more poorly in reading, spelling, and math. They also ... have higher drop-out rates and lower rates of college graduation."

There are 900,000 victims of domestic violence in Texas every year, prompting the Texas Council on Family Violence to conclude, "Domestic violence is an epidemic in Texas."

Practice What You Preach plans an aggressive statewide campaign and already has a website up and running at PracticeWhatYouPreach.org.

“We’re going to take it straight to them,” said Stanford.

It has the endorsement of Texas Democratic Party Chair Charles Soechting as well:

"Family, fairness, and faith are fundamental Texas values. But ideological extremists are unfairly using faith to undermine our families to further their narrow partisan agenda. All Texans should unite against these cynical efforts to devalue our families."

-Charles E. Soechting, Chairman of the Texas Democratic Party

Divorce is a threat to marriage. Gays and lesbians are not. If only the legislature would practice what they preach...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Republican Election Stealing in Kaufman County?

By Byron LaMasters

Kaufman county is just to the southeast of Dallas, but it apparently was the home of some Republican election shenanigans. I'll be sure to look into this story in more detail, but here's what's coming out about a county commissioner race in that county:

Brenda Denson-Prince wanted to be the first woman County Commissioner in Kaufman County, not the latest example of what the Republican juggernaut can do.

"As I look back over the General Election held on Nov. 2, 2004, I know that voting is a 'right' that is being taken away everyday," writes Brenda Denson-Prince. But she is not writing about far away places like Ohio or Florida. She is writing about her own attempt to become the first woman in Kaufman County, Texas to sit on the County Commissioners Court. On the day after Christmas, Denson-Prince faxes me forty pages.

For the past three years the 50-year-old Texas native studied up for the position of County Commissioner by going to meetings. And she recruited the outgoing Commissioner, Ivan Johnson, to be her campaign manager. In the Democratic primary, she won handily. And right up to ten o'clock on election night, she felt pretty good about her chances. That's about the time she says she left Democratic Party headquarters in the town of Kaufman to return home to Terrell. With virtually all nine voting boxes counted, she was about 200 votes ahead.

"Y'all better get back over here," is what Terry Crow told Ivan Johnson over the telephone not too long after ten o'clock. "They're about to steal the election away from Brenda." Johnson was watching the phone at the Denson-Prince campaign headquarters in Terrell. So Johnson called Denson-Prince, they hopped in their cars, and sometime between 10:30 and 11:00 that night, they walked through the back door of the Kaufman County courthouse annex, where the votes had been counted.

"In the hall, there was the election administrator," recalls Denson-Prince. "She said, 'Brenda, it's a tie, so you can flip a coin if you want to.'" Denson-Prince would prefer to keep it off the record what she said in reply to that flip remark.

"Did you say, 'God bless you'?" I ask Denson-Prince over the telephone on the day after Christmas. Her voice over the past two months has been reduced to a bare whisper. She spent Christmas weekend in bed. "No, I didn't say that," answers Denson-Prince in a whisper of pure air and electricity. "I said what are you talking about, a tie?" According to the official returns, each candidate had received 2,867 votes.

"Come out here and explain," said the administrator to an assistant. Between the two of them, who both seemed pretty nervous, Denson-Prince caught the words "glitch" and "disk."

"Deja-Vote," hollered the headline in Wednesday morning's Terrell Tribune. "A computer software glitch is being blamed for controversy that occurred Tuesday night as ballots were being counted by Kaufman County election officials," began the story.

"The problem occurred when data taken from one counting machine to another computer for collating became corrupted. The data roughly doubled the amount of votes counted for several precincts, according to Kaufman County information technology director George York." A two-column photo of York showed him testing a ballot-counting machine on Wednesday morning.

Read the rest of the article for the details about the recounts that followed. I'm going to try to investigate the matter further to get an idea of what the heck happened in Kaufman County, but it has all the looks of GOP election stealing.

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

Rick Noriega Chooses Wife to fill Seat

By Byron LaMasters

Under a new state constitutional amendment Texas state legislators who are on active military duty may designate a replacement to fill their seat until they return, or until their term expires. Texas will see that amendment in action for the first time with the start of the 2005 legislative session. State Rep. Rick Noriega (D-Houston) who was reelected in November is serving in Afghanistan with the Nation Guard, so he has asked his wife to fill his seat in the 79th legislature. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Melissa Noriega, 50, is a special projects manager for the Houston Independent School District. She said she has refused to travel at work because she did not want to leave her son alone, but she said she feels a responsibility to fill in for her husband in the Legislature while he is on active duty.

"This is really an honor, both that my husband would trust me with the responsibility and we've also gotten a lot of feedback from the district. This isn't something we just did," she said. "We've been discussing it with precinct judges and community leaders."

A state constitutional amendment passed last year allowing legislators who are called up to active military duty to designate their replacement until they return or their term of office expires. Noriega won re-election last year while on active duty in Afghanistan.

Hopefully this will all work out fine and good, but I am a little bit concerned. Here was the specific language of the amendment allowing for a member on active military duty to retain their seat:

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

I voted against the amendment because the language was unclear as to who actually chooses the replacement. If it were clear that the legislator on active military duty could choose his or her replacement, then the amendment would have made perfect sense, but the amendment did not make that clear. Thus, there's a possibility that the Republicans in the state house or the governor may decide that they can best choose who shall represent house district 145 even though Noriega won reelection unopposed.

The Chronicle notes this potential problem later in the article:

The procedures for how she will replace him are not completely in place. But most likely he will be sworn in from Afghanistan when the Legislature convenes Jan. 11. Then he will notify the House chief clerk and parliamentarian of his choice of surrogate.

The full House has the power to reject Noriega's choice, but in this case is expected to seat Melissa Noriega to serve in her husband's place.

Noriega said she believes she can do a good job for her husband and his district because they are both Democrats and share perspectives on how government can help its citizens.

For a Republican legislature that seems willing to throw away democracy in order to seat Talmadge Heflin, Eric Opieda and Jack Stick, I would not be surprised if they try and find a way to deny the people of house district 145 the representative of their choice. We shall see.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Latest in GOP Ethics

By Byron LaMasters

The DeLay rule just wasn't enough. Now, the Republicans are likely to replace House Ethics Committee Chair Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO) with a more reliable member - one of Austin's new congressman Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio) who has contributed this year to Tom DeLay's defense fund.

Via the Stakeholder is today's Washington Post story:

House ethics committee chairman, who admonished House Majority Leader Tom DeLay this fall and has said he will treat DeLay like any other member, several Republican aides said yesterday.
Although Hastert (Ill.) has not made a decision, the expectation among leadership aides is that the chairman, Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.), long at odds with party leaders because of his independence, will be replaced when Congress convenes next week.

The aides said a likely replacement is Rep. Lamar S. Smith, one of DeLay's fellow Texans, who held the job from 1999 to 2001. Smith wrote a check this year to DeLay's defense fund. An aide said Smith was favored for his knowledge of committee procedure.

Republicans are bracing for the possibility that DeLay, who is the chamber's second-ranking Republican and holds enormous sway over lawmakers, could be indicted by a Texas grand jury conducting a campaign finance investigation that the party contends is politically motivated.

The effort by DeLay and his allies to preserve his leadership post, even if he faces criminal charges, is one of the most sensitive issues facing Republicans as the new Congress begins. If Hefley is replaced by Smith, it is another signal by House leaders that they will stand by DeLay. "It certainly seems they're circling the wagons," said a GOP staff member who declined to be identified.

The aides said the stated reason for Hefley's removal is likely to be that it is time for him to rotate off the committee after serving as chairman since January 2001. An aide to Hefley declined to comment.

Democrats have a great opportunity to assert ourselves as the party of reform. To that end, Greg has some good ideas. More also at Kuff, Boffoblog and Dohiyi Mir.

Update: The Stakeholder has a statement from Nancy Pelosi on the matter.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 28, 2004

Bill Proposed to Lessen Marijuana Penalties

By Byron LaMasters

State Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) has proposed a bill to reduce the penalty for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana to the equivalent of a traffic ticket. The AP reports:

The bill by Democratic Rep. Harold Dutton would make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $500 fine. That's the equivalent of a traffic ticket.

Right now, possession of 2 ounces or less of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor, which could mean a jail sentence of up to 180 days and a $2,000 fine.

Dutton said Texas has been tough on crime and now it's time to be smart. The current punishment is "clogging up our criminal justice system," said Dutton, adding that he tried but failed to get the Legislature to approve the idea last year.

"A person who has two seeds gets the same penalty as a person who has two ounces and that to me seems eminently unfair and I think that overburdens the system with nonsense," Dutton said. "If we just change the punishment range for these minor quantities, we'd be better off."

Because the legislation still punishes a person caught with even a small amount of pot, "it does send the message that we don't want people out smoking marijuana," Dutton said.

Sounds like a smart plan to me. Someone with less than an ounce of marijuana isn't a threat to society. Incarcerating nonviolent marijuana users (who aren't growing or selling it in large quantities) seems to be counter-productive. Winning the war on drugs in this county means drastically changing our approach. Spend less money on incarcerating minor offenders, and go after the dealers and those who perpetuate narcotics related violence instead.

We should spend the money on rehab programs, instead of wasting money on incarcerating minor non-violent marijuana users. It makes perfect sense to me, but it's not the politically correct answer to winning the drug war, as most politicians (of both parties) are more interested in being able to claim that they're 'tuff on drugs, instead of actually trying a more innovative approach to solve the problem.

Update: More at Grits for Breakfast.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:23 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The End of an Era: McNeely Retires

By Byron LaMasters

Dave McNeely is leaving the Statesman after 26 years. His columns are some of the most informative and well-written about Texas politics, so I'm sad to see him go. You can read his last column in the Statesman here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

60,000+ Dead

By Byron LaMasters

The death toll keeps going up from the earthquake in Sumatra the other day.

It's impossible for most of us to actually grasp the magnitude of such a tragedy. Like Charles, I have no words of my own to describe what people affected by this are going through. So, I decided to spend a few hours this afternoon scrolling through blogs of those who experienced the earthquake / tsunami first hand. Here are some of their words...

Sri Lanka 1:

The sheer brute violence of that single wave is staggering. Every house and fishing boat has been smashed, the entire length of the east coast. People who know and respect the sea well now talk of it in shock, dismay and fear. Some work to do this week.

Sri Lanka 2:

For those of you who don’t know: An earthquake shock Sumatra on Sunday morning registering 9.0 and causing a tidal wave that devastated most of the countries in the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka is the worst hit with 12,000 presumed dead and still counting and two million at least displaced.

We need aid. We need food, clothes and bottled water. We need you to help. Red Cross and Oxfam are helping but we have local efforts here that you can all contribute to as well no matter where you are in the world.

There is no food staples in the city: people have either started hoarding food or have started to buy up all the food to donate it to the victims.

Tourism was our biggest drawcard and earner for our economy. The coastline hit was out stretch of tourist beaches. Our economy is suffering. We seriously do need help.

Sri Lanka 3:

Here in Sri Lanka, ground blocks began to emerge out of the floods, all but in a very neat mess. Buses were seen in the middle of the ocean, boats in the middle of the road and carriages on top of houses. In an arial view, It wouldn't be any different from a bunch of toys thrown all around. By daylight corpeses were lying almost everywhere and inspite of all the efforts made on rescuing the ones in need, many lives were hampered due to the lack of resources. As of today local authorities reported more than 10,000 deaths and the Tamil Tiger rebels reported 2,000 dead in the territory they hold in the northeast. But there are always facts in these figures which will never be uncovered, even with the greatest efforts yet to come.

Chennai, India:

I went to see if there is something that I can do for those people. I went when I got the first message that the Marina water has entered the city and that the water has come out till Mandaveli. I took my camera for any picture possibilities, mobile to keep in touch and some money. I wasn't sure if it was true. So it didn't occur to me that I should also carry something for those people.

But when I reached there, I realized that I couldn't have carried enough for all those people running out of their homes. Some drenched till their hips, some till their chest, some all over and some of them were so drenched that they had already stopped breathing. Men and women, old and young, all were running for lives. It was a horrible site to see. The relief workers could not attend to all the dead and all the alive. The dead were dropped and the half alive were carried to safety. Old women had to be carried in chairs or transported by rickshaws. People scrambled what they could from their homes and could not check if they had carried enough. There is a pic of a couple checking if they have carried enough in the middle of the road. Lucky couple! They could at least do that! Many could not carry anything from home, because they had to run for their lives. And many couldn't run for their lives, because they were already dead. Helicopters were hovering around to try and salvage the alive (if any). It was a sad scene. It is true that we as a nation are ill prepared for such crisis situations. But I couldn't even blame the authorities here. They were just taken aback by the gravity of the situation. It was just too much for them. The Police Station in Foreshore estate was submerged in knee deep water when I had been that side.

Java, Indonesia:

I spent the day away from the television and it’s disturbing imagery. Tonight, witnessing the local news coverage from Indonesian stations has forever etched the horror into my memory.

Once again, they are showing video and photographs that will never reach the major media networks. A few examples of what I’m seeing:

Military men pulling bodies from the waist high water, and stacking them in trucks like bags of rice.

Relief workers climbing trees to remove the bodies of those tangled in branches.

Unclothed bodies hanging from electric powerlines, caught at the waist.

More children and babies who’ve perished.

Rooms full of hundreds of corpse, lying uncovered.

Mothers screaming in agony while carrying their dead children in their arms.

Kiruba.com has a visual representation of the path of the tsunami, as well as a before and after picture of the Indian coastline. The damage and loss of life across the Indian Ocean are devestating, so if you are able, here are two places to go to find multiple links to places where you can make a donation to help those suffering from the disaster: Tsunami Help and Command Post.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Weekday Weblinks

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Kinky Friedman, writer, singer, performer, has of course mentioned that he would like to run as an Independent for Texas Governor in 2006. He would officially announce at the beginning of February 2005, and have to file paperwork at the beginning of 2006. In addition, he will need to gather 45,540 signatures from those that havn't voted in either the 2006 Democratic or Republican Primaries (Independents, in Texas terms, since we have no partisan voter registration).

Kinky lives near my hometown of Fredericksburg out towards Kerrville in the Hill Country where his ranch is. His website is www.kinkyfriedman.com If he was on the ballot, I'm not sure if it would have much of an electoral impact to tell you the truth. Granted his politics (I believe) are to the left, but he might get as many votes from disguntled Republicans who can't bring themselves to vote for a Democrats than from lefties that won't be happy with whatever nominee our state party puts on the chopping block.

If you are bored or depressed and want to read another new and very good story about Montana Democrats winning in their state, read this Washington Monthly article.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 12:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 27, 2004

Even More on Blogging

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Because the new "hot thing" here on Burnt Orange seems to be to rehash each other's stories with a new perspective in the form of a new post (I really do love you all!) I'm going to toss in my couple of coppers on the issue.

I've been writing online for four years come this January. But I have been blogging for maybe a third of that. There is an area of difference in writing for myself, keeping track of my life and feelings and whatnot, and writing for BOR. I also was a newspaper reporter and editor (of two papers) for a total of 6 years before coming to college. Having my fingers and toes in all of these pools of literary water has been enlightening.

I viewed blogging as reporting before I viewed it as blogging. I believe now, that blogging is partly unique reporting and partly highlighting and connecting readers to the best of the vast amounts of other reports on the web. And those 'reports' can be from the New York Times or from other bloggers.

For instance, I do not believe that it will ever be easy for bloggers to generate the content that mainstream news organizations can when it comes to International Issues. They have extensive networks and contacts in various governments and agencies that everyday citizen bloggers just don't have access to. Were we do have strength as bloggers, is to quickly connect readers to the firsthand reports of bloggers in other countries that can report on local reactions, be it Indonesian bloggers talking about tidal waves, or Iraqi bloggers during the Iraq War.

Where traditional media (usually) tries to be unbiased, bloggers can call the shots as we see them (the O'Reileys of the Internet) and point it out when traditional media and other bloggers are in err. Bloggers will not settle for waiting for stories to come down the pipe from the press either; if we are interested and knowledgeable, we will do our own reporting, post it, and once in a while push it right back up that pipe to the press like Jerome over at MyDD has been with the Democratic National Convention updates.

Yes, there will be some natural merging of the mediums, whether it is blogger's attraction to circulation (hits) and ad revenue or the media attempting to be more "in tune" with their audience by adding Bloggers the mix. But I'm not too concerned about it at the moment because it's a natural evolution that we will have front row seats to report on.

With that, we here at Burnt Orange will continue in the Spring, to offer a window into the workings of the Texas Legislature, the Texas Democratic Party, the ongoing adventures of Governor Goodhair.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 11:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The rise of the blogs

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Byron's earlier post about blogging seemed to be answering a question that a lot of bloggers have asked since the election. What now?

I think the vast majority of political bloggers are going to stick with it. The really good ones are obsessed with it; it's an addiction that doesn't go away with one election cycle. I know I can't possibly stop. Blogging is a revolution in the way people gather and disseminate information. It's an intensely personal form of communication that reaches out to people across the globe. And you don't even need big media credentials to do it. With all it's flaws, I think blogging is still democracy at its finest.

I've always thought that the next step would be for blogs to gain legitimacy by merging with more traditional forms of media. The likes of Hardblogger and Bloggerman at MSNBC.com show the way. There are several newspapers who now have blogs, albeit nothing as independent-minded as Political Animal.

And then the tsunami came. The next wave of the revolution has already started as bloggers in Asia have begun acting as news reporters, collecting first-hand accounts from the disaster area.

Many of the blogs involved have been gathering first-hand reports from the affected areas, via telephone and email. First-hand reports, interviews, historical and scientific perspectives -- blogs are acting like news services. And you're the winner, as you can learn a lot from reading these reports.  Check some of them out, as this sort of thing is likely to be the wave of the future.

I don't think it will be very much longer before newspapers have bloggers on staff. As more people get their news from the Internet, and more people turn to the more entertaining and informative, if sometimes biased, blogosphere for the latest, it will become inevitable.

This is a guest post from Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 07:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rick Perry vs. the World Comes Out

By Byron LaMasters

Well, sort of. We still don't know his full name, but this is a start.

Check out the next post as well. For any Democrats / Independents / Moderates that think that KBH would be a liberal / moderate type, you're wrong. She'd be much less of an embarrassment to the state of Texas than Rick Perry, but she's still a conservative Repulican, who just happens to look moderate when compared to her homestate collegues Phil Gramm and John Cornyn.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A Victory for Democracy

By Byron LaMasters

It's a victory that both the American right, and the American left can celebrate, because this is a victory for democracy.

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

Vince and Kos on the future of blogging

By Byron LaMasters

I wonder if I could get a front page story out of the Dallas Morning News if I shut down BOR? Just kidding, there are no plans to do so, but both Vince Liebowitz and Markos Zuniga were profiled in a Dallas Morning News story on Friday - Markos because Daily Kos is one of the most popular blogs out there, and Vince because he shut down his blog, the Free State Standard last month. I'm not sure whether I should take it as a relatively decent article about the future of (political) blogging, or a subtle attack by the mainstream media on blogging as the title reads: "Elections over, blog popularity wanes: Politically oriented sites lost cachet (and cash) once campaigns ended". Hmmm, well judge for yourself:

A few part-time computer geeks parlayed their blogs into full-time gigs, attracting advertisers and loyal followings. Merriam-Webster anointed blog –short for "Web log" – its word of the year.

But with the election over and much of the country suffering political fatigue, traffic has slowed to a crawl on some blogs.

October was the heady heyday, with nonstop news and plenty of advertising to go around. Now, some bloggers are left wondering whether the success of their sites was a passing politics-fueled fancy.

Since Nov. 2, business has tumbled nearly 40 percent for BlogAds.com, which sells advertising for about 500 Web sites. Blogs, formerly updated around-the-clock, sometimes sit idle for days. And a few Web scribes are calling it quits, saying that they and their readers are pooped.

"People got tired of politics," said Vince Leibowitz, a blogger from Canton, Texas.

The communications consultant had a good thing going with his accounts of Lone Star State news and politics. He had reliable readers, he'd sold a few ads for the site and some of his posts were viewed as many as 4,000 times.

But after the campaigns shut down, so did his blog, called Free State Standard.

One of my posts on BOR got a brief mention as I asked our readers where to go next. It was an insert to the article:

Burnt Orange Report: So what next? ... I'm open to ideas. Let us know what you'd like to see in both the immediate and long-term future of BOR in comments. Thanks.

Not surprisingly, I wasn't the only one unsure of what is next with blogging. I think that those of us who have been at this whole blogging thing for awhile, and do it primarily as a hobby will stick with it. It's nice to make a little bit of money on the side, but that's not why I do it.

I'm actually quite pleased with how things have evolved in blogging since the election. Our traffic is obviously down from October, but for most of November / early December, traffic leveled off at about the level that I had in August and September, which I was pleased with. Last week and this week will probably be slow in traffic because of the holidays, but I expect things to pick up with the start of session in two weeks.

I think the key to blogging is this. If you want instant fame and profit, blogging is a waste of time. You can't expect that a political blog will maintain it's October-of-an-election-year traffic and profitability over the long term. However, if you blog because you really enjoy it, then it's a good hobby to stick with for awhile.

Here's what Henry Copeland of BlogAds said in the Morning News article:

Henry Copeland, founder of BlogAds.com, also recognized that the pace of the political season could not continue.

Business was brisk in the weeks before the election, he said. But once the candidates called it quits and the campaigns stopped buying ads, sales fell 30 to 40 percent.

Mr. Copeland said he knew at the time that the sky-high sales numbers in late October would be fleeting.

"The good news for us is we got a lot of free press out of the political season," he said.

And Mr. Copeland still says that blogs are a growth industry.

In a few months, "their traffic will start climbing again," he said. "There are going to be new, weird stories for bloggers to cover."

Agreed. I plan on being patient, and continuing to blog, and if I'm lucky, maybe uncover some vast right-wing conspiracies.

Update: Greg has some thoughts on the article as well.

More thoughts from Kevin, Pegasus News and The Media Drop.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:20 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas from Our Family

By Byron LaMasters

In my 22 years of celebrating Christmas in Texas, this year was the first where there was actually snow on the ground on Christmas Day. Needless to say, the situation called for a family picture. So, without further adu, please accept this as our Christmas greetings to you and your family.

Byron, Janet and David LaMasters, 12/25/2004 (Click on image for enlarged copy).

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:03 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Johnny Oates, R.I.P.

By Byron LaMasters

I guess I'll violate Karl-Thomas's suggestion of waiting until tomorrow to post, but I will at least avoid politics on Christmas Day.

Having grown up a Texas Rangers fan, I was saddened to read in the paper this morning that former manager Johnny Oates had passed away. I've been disillusioned from professional sports for several years now - I'll watch the occasional football or basketball game, but I'd prefer to watch college sports as at least some of them are playing for something other than money. Johnny Oates was one of the very few men in professional sports that did it for all the right reasons. Not for money or power, but because he truly loved baseball and the men he coached - a complete class act. May he rest in peace.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 24, 2004

It's Starting to Look a Lot like...

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Of all the Merry Christmas greetings from every political listserv I signed up for this year starting to fill my inbox, the following picture has got to be the best one so far. I think the essance of "Merry" has been captured...

Just Look

And now that it is Christmas Eve, and I'm fairly certain that all of the Burnt Orange Report writers are doing something for the next couple of days, I'm going to go out on a limb here and ask all the rest of them to suspend posting until the 26th. Guys (and Gal!), take a break and be with your families or friends. And for our readers, know that you won't be missing anything as you make a nice face while eating your aunt's dry fruitcake for the next two days.

And if it doesn't end up snowing down here in Texas, here are some pictures of where I am right now (Fredericksburg) when it snowed in 2003. Oh, and it still took half a yard to make this snowman.

And for those of you wishing for a little seasonal humor, here is a repost of something I wrote 4 years ago in the middle of the Bush-Gore post election mess...

Twas the Night of the Election...

Twas the night of the election, and all through the states,
The results were dead even, and high were the stakes;
The campaigns were constructed by experts with care,
In hopes that the presidency would soon be theirs;

Gore and Bush were nestled, all snug in their beds,
While visions of white houses danced through their heads;
With Hilary in the Senate, and Bill in his last lap,
My family and I, settled in for a nap,--

When from on the radio, there rose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter;
Away to the living room, I flew like a flash,
Tuned the TV to FOX, and on the sofa I crashed;

The screen flickered to life, it was going so slow,
Something had happened, and I wanted to know;
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
It’s too close to call, no president-elect, oh dear;

The campaigns were awakened, phone calls were made,
I knew in a moment, it was going to take days;
More rapid than eagles the lawyers they came,
Charges and contests, suing counties by name;

“Now Broward! now, Brevard! now, Alachu and Clay!
On Palm Beach! on, Duval! on, Volusia and Dade!
In front of the judges, in front of the mall,
Protest and contest and recount them all;”

As lawyers will do, when a violation they spy,
Gather their papers, and to the courtroom they fly;
So up to the high courts, the arguments they flew,
With a box full of depositions,--and affidavits, too.

And then one evening, I heard on the news,
That candidate Gore was going to lose;
But early next morning, it was turned all around,
A court ruling for Gore was just handed down;

The ballots were looked at, in a certain few counties,
But challenges and confusion stopped much of the recounting;
Punch cards ballots with hanging chads on the back,
And overseas votes, postage marks they did lack;

Butterfly ballot designs, and dimples, how merry!
Fuel for the talk shows, the comics, and Dave Barry;
In a poll a month later, a lack of confidence did show,
And in the certified total, late results were a ‘no’;

The candidates waited and gritted their teeth,
While deadlines were circling, like a holiday wreath;
Some of the things said were actually quite silly,
None of the remarks, made sense, no, not really;

Then all of a sudden, the Supreme Court was involved,
It seemed there was hope, this election would be resolved;
A hearing was scheduled and the judges nodded their heads,
But the decision given caused Wall Street to dread;

They spoke a few words, the lawyers went straight to their work,
And filed their briefs, and all Bush gave was the ‘smirk’;
In an appeal where the Florida totals were opposed,
The state supremes said ‘yes’, and Gore’s chances then rose;

The undervotes were counted, and then they were halted,
And back to the Supreme Court, the case was again vaulted;
But I heard one exclaim, with the end not in sight:
“It seems we are back to where it was election night!”

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 01:58 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 23, 2004

The Real World... Austin?

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Yes, the 16th season of MTV's the Real World is to be shot in Austin. Said the executive vp for series entertainment Lois Curren, "As the live-music capital of the nation and home to a thriving college community, Austin is the perfect backdrop for 'The Real World's' 16th season."

Now everytime I drive down to Austin to eat at Pappsito's I've got to worry if a film crew is going to be there. Great.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 09:54 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Times on Social Security

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

This is probably going to be my last post about Social Security this year, if I can help it. I don't want you guys thinking that I'm a one-note guy. There are plenty of other things I would like to cover in more depth before the ball drops in Times Square, so I might move my dork-like focus to other policy areas.

Having said all of that, I really want some feedback on this NY Times piece. Jeff Madrick's article is about the most informative thing I've seen in the print media on the pros and cons of private accounts. He covers both sides fairly well, but comes to the same conclusion I did, that privatization was just too risky and leaves too many people in a lurch. The numbers don't lie, as they say, and Madrick goes over both sides of the equation, especially in the benefit cuts for every dollar put into private accounts.

I think this is one of the best pieces to refute the claims made about private accounts being a "reform" of Social Security rather than totally stripping it for parts. But, like I said, I want your feedback after reading it.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 09:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

I'm just wild about Harry

By Nathan Nance

This is a guest post by Nate Nance

This is just a really funny piece I saw in Slate about Sen. Harry Reid, the new minority leader. It's mostly about how not-boring he is, despite common knowledge to the contrary.

This is a guest post by Nate Nance. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 09:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dallas Strong-Mayor Petition Makes the Ballot

By Andrew Dobbs

This is a story I've been meaning to write about for a while now, but keep forgetting to. Now there is a new wrinkle that makes it quite salient.

For the last month or two a petition has been going around Dallas urging people to vote for a "strong mayor" city government. Right now it is a City Manager system, and an incredibly weak one at that. Nobody has any real power- the council has very little control over how city agencies function other than their budget writing authority, the mayor is nothing more than the biggest cheerleader on the city council and the city manager is beholden to the Magic Number 8 (the number of votes needed to get anything done). Nobody has any authority and thus nobody is accountable for the screwups around City Hall. Furthermore, even if there was some "accountability", there is nothing anyone can really do without trying to get a lot of different scummy ward-heelers and right wing nut jobs all on the same page. Dallas is a dying city, and the cancer is centered at City Hall.

So first time City Council candidate Beth Ann Blackwood realized what a lot of people have- Dallas needs to scrap the City Manager system. She then realized what everybody has- that it'd be a cold day in hell before the City Council would ever get around to doing that. So Beth Ann put together the aforementioned petition and according to Channel 8 News, it made the ballot today. Great!

But there are some problems. The petition is, to say the least, radical. This isn't a "no city manager, strong mayor and council" petition. It is kind of a Reichstag fire petition.

Let me let veteran Dallas city reporter Jim Schutze of the Dallas Observer explain what I mean:

I had been told the charter amendments amounted merely to crossing out all references to "city manager" and replacing them with "mayor"--a simple "search and replace."

More like "search and destroy."

Let me share. First the legalese. And this is only an example. The existing charter talks about how "all ordinances and resolutions of the city council...shall be final on the passage or adoption by the required majority of the city council."

If we vote yes on this thing next May, that language will say: "All ordinances and resolutions of the city council AND ORDERS OF THE MAYOR shall be final on the passage or adoption by EITHER THE MAYOR or the required majority of the city council."

Yeah, take a deep breath. That's what I did. Right now, the council votes on ordinances--local laws. But under the new version, the mayor could also pass laws, called "orders."

By fiat.

Are you mentally searching for a parallel in your experience as an American that might help you comprehend that? How about "martial law"?

And I still think I may be OK with it.

n the last week I have been reading political science journals (I deserve hazardous mental duty pay) dealing with forms of local government. The bottom line is that types of city government occupy a spectrum. Right now we are way over at one end--weak mayor, weak council, weak city manager. The weak, weak, weak system.

The proposal put forward by the petitions would slam us all the way over to the other extreme: no city manager or other statutory chief administrative officer at all, a crippled city council that reporters won't even bother to cover, and "The Hulk" for mayor.

This mayor would run every department of the city and have hire-and-fire authority over all non-civil service city employees and appointees. She would appoint the civil service commission. As a matter of fact, she would appoint all members of all city boards and commissions.

The mayor would hire and fire the city council's personal staff and decide what to pay them. You know those city council secretaries who campaigned against Mayor Laura Miller and then brought an ethics complaint against her? They would need to dump their stuff in boxes and run.

The mayor would hire and fire the chief of police, the city attorney, all municipal judges and court clerks. The mayor could create or kill entire city departments--any city department. The mayor would be able to create special police and detectives apart from the police department. (...)

There is a general perception in the city--a kind of reluctant recognition--that Dallas City Hall is like a human heart in fibrillation. It shakes. It jiggles. It tries so hard. But it just can't pump blood.

People have been jumping on Mayor Miller for being all over the place on this--against the Blackwood petitions, now apparently for them. But Miller is consistent on one point: She keeps telling the cameras that what we have now does not work.

She's right. So how could we possibly justify keeping it? (...)

So how could I vote for this? Not happily. I sure wish we had another choice. But this summer is when the voting public will get a chance to vote for change. The only way to put this off is by campaigning against change in May. I believe that would be the worse poison.

Do the Park Cities bubblati and their North Dallas cohort think they'll be able to capture the mayor's seat after the charter has been changed? Of course they do. There's talk now among the business moguls of being tired of Laura Miller, thinking she's a photo-op former journalist who can't run a company.

But the people I talk to who see the polls regularly tell me Laura Miller is still extremely hot with the heavy-voting middle-class base. I think the next mayor under the new system will be Laura Miller.

Then we'll see. Boy will we see.

The two biggest complaints about this proposal are that 1. it is radical and 2. it is supported by the old guard types who used their power to keep minorities and other groups from having a say in city government for decades. But I'd say that drastic times call for drastic (ballot) measures, the proposed system would be better than the one we have now- where a bunch of demagogues keep crooked, incompetent people like Terrell Bolton in power. The mayor has to build a coalition, it is not nearly as prone to pandering to extreme interest groups as the Council seats are and s/he is far more accountable to the people than the City Manager by virtue of his or her being elected. That is the position to give the power to.

And who cares who supports the thing? In case the election of a lesbian Latina as SHERIFF didn't alert you, those old mossbacks don't have a whole lot of pull any more. Sure they have the money, but R.L. Thornton couldn't get elected nowadays. People opposing the measure on these grounds are locked in a 1970 mindset that is happily promoted by the corrupt, demagogic, race-baiting South Dallas politicians that keep their constituents afraid of whitey even while they buddy up with the powerful special interests to promote their own well-being. That's not to say that all who oppose this come from those quarters, but the idea originates with those people and others who know better are swallowing the story whole.

I don't like all the powers it gives the mayor, but something's gotta give. Like I said, Dallas is a dying city. Crime is awful, anybody with any money is fleeing to the suburbs or elsewhere, there is little to know investment in large sectors of the city, infrastructure is crumbling, code enforcement is non-existant and it is just an increasingly unlivable city. The only way the dramatic changes are going to be made before the city is too far gone (if it isn't already) is to get someone with the power to make dramatic changes, a power nobody has right now. This charter change would make that possible, and that is why- warts and all- I have to support it.

But there are people smarter than me out there (hard to believe, but it's true). What do you all think?

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 06:31 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Dell Rocks- A Merry Christmas Type of Story

By Andrew Dobbs

I categorized this as "Austin City Limits" as Dell is one of the largest employers in the Austin area, bringing in thousands of jobs and lots of revenue for our fair city (and Dell's actual home- Round Rock). I just saw this story and it brightened my day a little bit. It's good news two days before the best day of the year (IMHO).

Dell bucks the outsourcing trend

Dell's dazzlingly efficient assembly plant here may be the best hope for keeping blue-collar jobs in the United States rather than exporting them.

Inside Dell, the world's largest computer maker, executives study the assembly process with great intensity. They wheel in video equipment to examine a work team's every movement, looking for any extraneous bends or wasted twists. (...)

"When everybody is outsourcing, Dell continues to manufacture in the United States because over two decades of fine-tuning, they've figured out how to do it cheaper and smarter," said Charles Wolf, an analyst at Needham & Co. who has been following Dell since 1991. (He has also been reaping the financial rewards as a longtime Dell shareholder, seeing a 33-fold return on his investment.) "They're truly in the 21st century when it comes to manufacturing."

No other major computer maker produces computers in the United States. Long ago, Dell's top rival, Hewlett-Packard, outsourced the assembly of its PCs to third parties, primarily based in Asia, as did International Business Machines, the world's third-largest PC maker. And IBM, which created the PC market in 1981, is leaving the business, announcing this month that it is selling its PC unit to Lenovo, the Chinese computer giant.

"It's been a long time since one of our competitors actually made a computer," said Michael Dell, the founder and chairman of Dell.

His company, by contrast, operates three giant assembly plants in the United States - two in Austin and the third near Nashville, Tennessee. Each is large enough to house six contiguous football fields. Last month, the company announced that it would build a fourth plant, twice as big as the others, near Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Inside the company, executives talk about opening a fifth.

Dell's decision to expand its American manufacturing presence, however, has nothing to do with patriotism. Executives here say their decisions are based on the bottom line as well as on geography; it is simply more efficient to stamp out computer equipment closer to the customer.

Dell has run a factory in Xiamen, China, since 1998 - but to produce computer equipment that the company sells to its Asian customers. Similarly, Dell's factory in Limerick, Ireland, makes machines for Europe. This month, Dell announced that his company would probably build a second European plant soon.

Dell is also bucking global trends on another front. In an era when a call center is more likely to be in India than Indiana, the company has announced that it is building a customer assistance facility in Oklahoma City. This year, it opened a call center in Edmonton, Alberta. And while Dell's laptops are produced in Malaysia, they are built by Dell employees working inside a Dell-owned factory.

Ever since 1984, when Michael Dell began selling personal computers from his University of Texas dormitory room, his company has been able to sell cheaper PCs by cutting out the middleman, selling directly via the phone or, nowadays, the Internet. But the reason Dell continues to dominate as a low-cost leader - whether selling a PC, a server or, more recently, plasma televisions and portable music players - is its fanatical determination to save every penny it can. Dell may not quite be the Henry Ford of our time, but his company is certainly the Wal-Mart of the high-technology industry, for better or worse.

I forgot some elipses some places in there and the IHT's website is screwy so copying and pasting was weird, but read the whole thing. They produce every part of every computer sold in the US right here in the US. They have all of the US customer support right here in the US. They are creating jobs, and guess what? They are are raking in the dough. Good old fashioned business sense is trumping the reckless policies of their competitors and Austinites (not to mention Nashvillians and whatever you call people from Oklahoma City) are benefitting.

Pretty good for a guy who dropped out of the college we go (went) to...

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 11:29 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Re-redistricting in Georgia?

By Byron LaMasters

Blog for America says it's being considered as Republicans took control of the Georgia legislature in this year's elections. I'll be the first to admit the Georgia was the worst Democratic gerrymander of this decade, but what Republicans did in Pennsylvania and Michigan (not to mention Texas) was just as bad. So my message to them is to just deal with it (they still hold one seat that was drawn for a Democrat (Gingrey GA-11)), and redistrict in 2011 - that's what Democrats in Illinois will do despite the temptation of following Tom DeLay's precedent.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:16 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 22, 2004

Ah, man that sucks

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

All three NBA Texas teams lost tonight. Dallas lost to the Atlanta Hawks, who are now 5-20, the Spurs lost 93-87 to Orlando, which moves them up to 15-10, and the Rockets lost to the Bobcats 90-87, which gives them their 7th win of the season.

I can't believe my Mavs lost to Atlanta, 113-100. It's depressing and embarrassing. I don't know if I can wear my Dirk jersey with my head held high anymore.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 10:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

I guess I wasn't paying attention

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I totally missed this story when I read Time's person of the year article Sunday. It's an article on how 2004 was the Golden Age of blogging and what we've learned from it.

I thought it was actually kind of funny. I missed out on a lot of stuff, like the Washingtonienne thing and the fake celebrity blogs. I didn't get into Friday cat-blogging, either (I'm a dog person anyway).

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 09:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Even more on Social Security

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

According to Reuters, Bush is planning a big campaign to "educate" people about how we need to "reform" Social Security. The Club for Growth and the Cato Institute are going to get involved and they plan to spend an estimated $15 million dollars to get public opinion behind Bush's privatization plan. But here's the thing:

"The initial focus of the campaign is that we have to do reform. But they don't want a lot of details out there," said Mike Tanner of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank that is preparing to distribute 25,000 Social Security guides to help community leaders shape public opinion for Bush.


By focusing on principles rather than details, analysts said the White House would have an easier time rallying popular support necessary to win a majority of votes in Congress.

It's going to be our job as the loyal opposition to make sure everybody who gets one of those "Social Security Guides" also gets the numbers they don't want out there. The $1-2 trillion dollars it is going to cost to tansition and all the benefit cuts that may be associated with it to keep the cost down. That's what we have to do.

There are those in the party who may support privatization, like Andrew. We need you with us on this. You know that Bush couldn't find his way out of a wet paper bag, let alone overhaul a government entitlement program. Go with us on this and after it's all over, I will buy us a few rounds and we can sit and have a great debate. I'll try to find some way to convince you and you do your best to convince me. But don't let it fall to the Republicans to decide for us.

Over at DailyKos, Kos writes about some of the problems Republicans are having getting their caucus together on this. Possibly as many as half the Republican caucus of the House is shit-scared that voting for privatization will be viewed as "gutting" Social Security in the '06 midterms. We need to give them some substance for that fear. We all need to be talking about how the Republicans want to destroy Social Security. We need to start telling anybody who wil listen that privatization now is fiscally irresponsible, that in order to pay for it we are going to have to borrow a hell of a lot of money and possibly cut benefits for current retirees. We have to tell them about the risk involved in putting all of your retirement savings in the stock market. Has anyone called AARP to see if they want to spend some money and run some adds about how this will affect seniors monthly checks? I mean, they are only the most powerful lobbying group with the biggest voting bloc in the country.

It all starts now. We have got to get the ball rolling on this.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nante_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 07:21 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

How to get rid of Abortion Clinic Protesters

By Byron LaMasters

Planned Parenthood of Central Texas has raised over $18,000 in the past three years by urging people to Pledge-a-Picket - meaning donors can pledge to donate a certain amount of money per protester at an abortion clinic.

It's a great idea, that I hope organizers will take nationwide. Abortion clinic protesters don't help prevent unwanted pregnancies or abortions, but rather they intimidate and harrass mostly low-income women. That does nothing to help advance the abortion debate in this country.

The Planned Parenthood tactics remind me of when the University Democrats and Voices for Choice protested the anti-abortion group, Justice for All in the west mall of the UT campus in the Spring 2002 semester. Justice for All (JFA) decided that they could really make a big statement and disgust everyone by putting up huge 15-foot high pictures of aborted fetuses as we were all walking to class in the morning.

Instead of engaging in shouting matches or counter-demonstrations, I thought of a more effective counterprotest - ask students walking by to donate 10 or 25 cents to a pro-choice organization for every hour that JFA had their demonstration. As people donated, I posted a big sign with the amount of money that we were raising per hour of their demonstration. Not surprisingly, they cut their demonstration a day short, and have had significantly toned down demonstrations since then. We, on the other hand, raised about $300 for the Lilith Fund.

I agree with Andrew and Greg that we need to have a debate about abortion in the Democratic Party, and keep pro-life Democrats in the tent. I'm willing to consider a ban on late term abortions, but ONLY if there is an exception for the health of mother, but Republicans would rather play politics. I wish that Republicans would spend half of the time and energy that they spend trying to pack the courts with pro-life judges on working with Democrats to actually do something to reduce abortions - most of us are sincere when we say that we would like to see abortion to be "safe, legal and rare". Unfortunately, most Republicans seem to have little interest in addressing the root cause of abortions in the first place - unwanted pregnancies. I'm certainly open to ideas, but as long as both sides play politics instead of looking for solutions, we probably won't get anywhere.

Planned Parenthood story via Lean Left.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:27 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

A look into the Kerry Web Team

By Byron LaMasters

By Zack Exley. It's in response to Kos's calling him an idiot after reading an article where Zack was quoted in The Register, a UK paper where Zack claims he was misquoted.

Exley defends himself for his role in the Kerry campaign, and responds to Kos and other critics of the Kerry webteam with a long, but very informative rebuttal. I'm sure that Greg will find it to be an interesting read.

Via Pandagon.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's Almost a White Christmas in Dallas

By Byron LaMasters

It was a pleasant surprise to wake up to snow on the ground in Dallas this morning. It's the best kind of snow, too. I went out for lunch, and the streets were fine for driving (at least in my part of town), but the snow packs well, and I can pack a mean snowball when given the rare chance. It's nice to feel like a kid again :-)

Here's some shots of the Doppler Radar of the Dallas area from earlier today.

Update: Anna has a shot from this morning.

Update: Things are starting to ice over, so be careful if you have to drive in the DFW area tonight.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 21, 2004

Under new management

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

It's official now, the Washington Post Company has purchased Slate, the online magazine. Other than changing who signs the payroll checks for the editors, nothing is supposed to change in their coverage or their editorial independence. I guess that makes this a non-story, but you should know anyway.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

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Private Accounts revisited

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

There are some interesting findings in the WaPo/ABC News poll that came out today. On the surface, it looks bad, when asked if they support privatization 53% responded yes. But a new question that asks them if the support private accounts if the government has to borrow $2 trillion dollars support drops to 46% with 47% opposed.

The really interesting stats are with those who support privatization, though. When informed of the risks of putting your retirement in the hands of the stock market, 62% said they would not put their money into private accounts. Of the 37% who would put their retirement in the private accounts, only 7% would put it all into the market, while 53% would put some and 23% just a little.

While a large portion of those polled supported private accounts, they supported it for other people. The majority wanted to keep the traditional government entitlement program and allow the choice for others. If we start a PR campaign that educates people about the transition cost (the $2 trillion figure) and that it weakens traditional social security to have private accounts, the Bush position becomes a lot more untenable. He would really have to spend his "political capital" to get privatization through.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 07:06 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

We're No. 1!

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Texas is still number one in executions. Even without W at the helm our state got around to killing 23 people, which is one less than last year, but about average for the past decade. And oh yeah:

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, also a target of death penalty critics, recommended in May that mentally ill convicted murderer Kelsey Patterson be spared. Gov. Rick Perry, however, rejected the recommendation and Patterson was executed.

Gov. Goodhair deciding what is just and fair.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 06:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Today's Texas Political News

By Byron LaMasters

I'm heading out for a bit, but here's some quick Texas political news for you all today:

  • Via Kuff is news of Rick Perry's conservative endorsements for the 2006 primary. Check out the Houston Chronicle story for the list of conservative activists and abortion opponents.
  • Also, Sarah informs us that we can look forward to the United Ways of Texas Capitol Blog during the legislative session. I'll be sure to check it out when it comes along.
Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Somedays I wonder why I read the Newspaper

By Byron LaMasters

And today, it's not for the usual reasons. Usually, I get pissed off with the Dallas Morning News GOP/conservative bias. Today, it's just because there were two terribly depressing stories in this morning's paper.

First, a front page investigative report on how Dallas County has failed miserably in funding guardianship programs for our "old, vulnerable and alone" citizens. It is the responsibility of the County Government to fund such programs that assist elderly citizens with medical problems who have no family to take care of them - and our Republican-controlled County Commissioners Court has failed miserably in that regard. In 2006, Democrats will have an opportunity to take back the commissioners court, and thus retake Dallas County government. The Republicans have failed the most vulnerable amongst us, and it's time that Dallas County voters toss out County Judge Margaret Keliher and County Commissioner Ken Mayfield, and give Democrats a chance to lead Dallas County government.

Second is a story about an 18-year old honor student at Trinity Christian Academy who was asked to leave after school administrators found out that he was gay:

Three weeks ago an 18-year-old honor student at Trinity Christian Academy was cruising toward graduation. He had already been accepted to a prestigious university, and the final months of high school seemed a mere formality.

He was a varsity athlete and a winner of service and citizenship awards at the fundamentalist private school in Addison. He was active in the school theater, was a yearbook editor and helped younger students with Bible study.

Trinity Christian was his second family, the student said, and by every indication he was one of the school's favorite sons.

But when the school's top administrators learned that the student had created a Web site where teens chat about homosexuality, he said they gave him a choice: either leave quietly or face expulsion for "immoral behavior," which is prohibited by the school's code of conduct.

In a matter of days, the student, who is gay, went from prized student to sinner outcast.


"I feel completely violated," said the student, who had attended Trinity Christian since kindergarten. "The big lesson here for me is that you can't really trust anybody. That, and I should have kept my mouth shut."

The Dallas Morning News didn't publish his name at the request of his parents, but the story was actually broken by Ryan Davis of Not Geniuses and the Houston Voice last week - and that story comes complete with the guy's name, a picture and several updates. I guess we can credit the blogs and probably Kos Diaries for contacting the Dallas media about the story.

My two cents on the whole affair is this. Trinity Christian is a private religious school, and it's probably within their rights to expel this guy. This type of thing is not uncommon at religious private schools. I attended a private high school in Dallas myself, and essentially came out my senior year. Although, I really didn't have too much to worry about as the school was officially non-sectarian (with an Episcopalian priest on staff).

Expulsions of gay kids at religious schools are not that uncommon - Heartstrong, a GLBT organization that helps GLBT students in religious schools notes over 830 reported expulsions of GLBT students in religious schools over the past eight years. However, the fact that this story has reached the mainstream media is quite unusual. Usually, these expulsions are quiet events, where the student is too ashamed, or too closeted to go forward to the media, and expose their school's administration for being hateful, intolerant bigots. But this guy did, and I commend him, because the whole world will now know that the Trinity Christian Academy administration is made up of hateful, intolerant bigots hiding behind the shield of Christianity. I just feel for what he must be going through right now between dealing with his parents, his friends and his (former) school.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Catching up From Yesterday

By Byron LaMasters

Just a few things here quickly that I neglected to mention yesterday:

  • Kuff points to a San Antonio Express-News article where Speaker Tom Craddick expresses optimism that the House can avoid the rancor of last session. Huh? What exactly is Tom Craddick smoking? Can I have some?

    In Craddick's first move of the 79th Legislature, he ignored the tradition of picking a bipartisan committee with both party caucus chairs to look into the election contests:

    State law gave Craddick no choice but to name the panel, but some members say they are skeptical about his stated desire to avoid partisan bickering because of whom he appointed to it.

    "This is the speaker's committee. Most of them are speaker loyalists and, as such, would not be prime candidates to study the evidence with strong, independent eyes and ears," said Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, one of Craddick's sharpest critics.

    Even some of Craddick's fellow Republicans privately echo the complaints now heard from many of Craddick's Democratic foes — that he deliberately put junior lawmakers on the panel who would be less willing to resist the speaker's pressure.


    Democrat Pete Laney dealt with three election challenges in the decade in which he preceded Craddick as House speaker. In each case, he consulted with Republicans and named both party caucus chairmen to the committees. None of those challenges succeeded.

    Craddick's critics note the speaker has yet to communicate with Democratic Party caucus Chairman Jim Dunnam of Waco, who said that "traditionally, caucus chairs or people elected to represent their party had input" in the naming of such panels.

    None of the five Republicans and four Democrats that Craddick named to his committee has more than 10 years in the House; two have just completed their first terms. Two of the Democrats were named committee chairmen by Craddick last term, making them part of his leadership team.

    One of them, Rep. Helen Giddings, D-Dallas, was one of the few Democrats who did not join the exodus to Oklahoma last year, where 51 Democrats fled to delay, but ultimately not stop, the GOP redistricting effort.

    All I know is that if Hubert Vo, Mark Strama and Yvonne Gonzalez-Toureilles are not seated by the 79th Legislature, any hint of bipartisanship will melt just as fast as it did two years ago.

  • Also from yesterday, check out the Stakeholder for some highlights from the most recent Texas Observer on Tom DeLay's TRMPAC corruption.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:13 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Some thoughts on foreign policy...

By Zach Neumann

In the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs Magazine, Yale professor John Lewis Gaddis says some interesting things about the Bush foreign policy. I thought I’d post them here (along with some of my own commentary). I’d like to get everyone’s input on these matters as they have a direct impact on the course our country will take over the next fifty years. This is going to be an extended-length post.

Neither Bush nor his successors, whatever their party, can ignore what the events of September 11, 2001, made clear: that deterrence against states affords insufficient protection from attacks by gangs, which can now inflict the kind of damage only states fighting wars used to be able to achieve. In that sense, the course for Bush's second term remains that of his first one: the restoration of security in a suddenly more dangerous world.

Those of you who know me personally are undoubtedly familiar with my interest in the much-talked-about globalization phenomenon. I am particularly interested in the effect globalization will have on the moral restraints that generally govern the nation state. With threats emerging from a variety of non-state actors, it seems that there is potential justification for the use of force against almost any entity that threatens the security interests of a nation state. Not only does this weaken human rights internationally, it also sets the stage for a world plagued by miscalculation, confusion and unnecessarily prolonged military conflicts. I think that Gaddis’ recognition of America’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks underlines a much deeper problem in the emerging system of “globalized” international relations.

But the traditional warnings governments had used to justify pre-emption--the massing of armed forces in such a way as to confirm aggressive intent--would not have detected the September 11 attacks before they took place. Decisions made, or at least circumstances tolerated, by a shadowy regime in a remote country halfway around the world produced an act of war that killed more Americans than the one committed six decades earlier by Japan, a state known at the time to pose the clearest and most present of dangers.

I agree. To begin with, America must develop its intelligence services to the point where potential threats can be assessed with a high degree of accuracy. That being said, intelligence will never be perfect. Though it is important that the United States do its best in evaluating the dangers it faces, we must be quicker to the “draw” if we are to survive. While Iraq has been something of a debacle, its potential alternative is/was much scarier. America must send the message that it will deal promptly with its potential enemies, regardless of their background or their construction.

The narrowest gap between Bush's intentions and his accomplishments has to do with preventing another major attack on the United States. Of course, one could occur at any moment, even between the completion of this article and its publication. But the fact that more than three years have passed without such an attack is significant. Few Americans would have thought it likely in the immediate aftermath of September 11. The prevailing view then was that a terrorist offensive was underway, and that the nation would be fortunate to get through the next three months without a similar or more serious blow being struck.

The Bush Administration has not done enough to prevent attacks on the United States. With poorly guarded nuclear weapons floating around Russia and other former soviet bloc states, it is imperative that border/port security be increased. Our continuing vulnerability to a nuclear “brief case” attack is overwhelming. Though I am not completely opposed to Bush’s interventionist policies, I feel that they have distracted the country from the more important tasks of deterring nuclear proliferation (see North Korea and Iran) and ensuring that we not fall victim to another major terrorist attack.

Pre-emption defined as prevention, however, runs the risk--amply demonstrated over the past two years--that the United States itself will appear to much of the world as a clear and present danger. Sovereignty has long been a sacrosanct principle in the international system. For the world's most powerful state suddenly to announce that its security requires violating the sovereignty of certain other states whenever it chooses cannot help but make all other states nervous. As the political scientist G. John Ikenberry has pointed out, Washington's policy of pre-emption has created the image of a global policeman who reports to no higher authority and no longer allows locks on citizens' doors. However shocking the September 11 attacks may have been, the international community has not found it easy to endorse the Bush administration's plan for regaining security.

What this means is that the second Bush administration will have to try again to gain multilateral support for the pre-emptive use of U.S. military power. Doing so will not involve giving anyone else a veto over what the United States does to ensure its security and to advance its interests. It will, however, require persuading as large a group of states as possible that these actions will also enhance, or at least not degrade, their own interests.

We cannot go it alone. Though I believe that preemption and intervention are necessary (even in cases where a nation-state is not primarily involved), it is impossible to continue down the path we have chosen. If we are track highly mobile terrorists, deter proliferation in the developing world and secure our economic interests, we must be willing to work with others.

A final and related lesson concerns vision. The terrorists of September 11 exposed vulnerabilities in the defenses of all states. Unless these are repaired, and unless those who would exploit them are killed, captured, or dissuaded, the survival of the state system itself could be at stake. Here lies common ground, for unless that multinational interest is secured, few other national interests--convergent or divergent--can be. Securing the state will not be possible without the option of pre-emptive military action to prevent terrorism from taking root. It is a failure of both language and vision that the United States has yet to make its case for pre-emption in these terms.

We must repair the security problems globalization has created. Though Al-Qaeda will one day meet its demise, others will follow the trail it has blazed. Until the world model can be adjusted to address the growing threat posed by non state actors, civilian populations will become increasingly more vulnerable. This entails a restructuring of our military forces as well as a change in the way states do business with one another. If we are to take on the threats our nation faces, we must be willing to radically change our paradigm.


Posted by Zach Neumann at 12:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 20, 2004

New poll: Americans don't know what the hell they want

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

According to ABC News, a majority of Americans, 56%, believe that the cost of the war in Iraq doesn't equal the benefits and that both Bush and Rumsfeld aren't handling the war all that well either. Welcome to the party Capt. Obvious.

A majority, 60%, also think that the elections should go on Jan. 30 whatever the security situation is and 58% say that troops should remain until order is restored. Both of those are positions held by the administration, which is why 52% think Rumsfeld should be replaced.

All of this proves once again people don't really know what they want or why. That explains that other poll taken just last month where most people disagreed with the direction of the country, yet somehow Bush won re-election with a majority of the vote.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 10:14 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Drunk Republicans and Free Champagne

By Byron LaMasters

This is just a funny story from my personal life this past Saturday night. Read it if you want. There's just something about Republicans, especially drunk Republicans that just amuses the heck out of me...

A friend of mine from Waxahachie that I've known since high school was celebrating his 21st birthday on Saturday night. He invited seven friends or so to celebrate with him by joining him at his suite, taking a limo to dinner, going around town in the limo, then back to the suite. That's not something I'm going to turn down on a Saturday night, so I said sure.

Around 10 PM we get to the Maggiano's at Northpark Mall for dinner where we proceed to order a family style meal at about $22 / person. It's a little pricy, but reasonable for a nice restuarant. About halfway through the meal, the birthday boy (who was a little bit drunk, and had been telling everyone we walked by that it was his 21st birthday) came back to the table followed by a rather intoxicated middle-aged businessman who he had "met" in the bathroom. That sounded a little bit suspicious, but we decided to go with the flow, and see what the deal was.

Sure enough, this man pulled out his credit card and declared that everyone needs a good bottle of champagne on their 21st birthday, so he proceeded to hand our server his credit card and order a 1985 Dom Perignon for $150. Then he ordered a second one. And then a third one for our table of eight. In the end, he offered to pay for the entire bill of over $700.

Nice guy, huh? Well, that's not the end of the story. At one point he asked one of the females in our group to sit on his lap, to which he added, "Don't worry, I'm not a fudgepacker or anything". Amusingly, of the five guys at the table, four of us were gay, and the straight guy was a Democratic candidate for state representative this year in Waxahachie whose name rhymes with "snake". On Sunday, I managed to look this guy up on OpenSecrets.org only to learn that he gave over $5000 to Colorado Republicans in 2004.

Anyway, so this nice drunk Republican businessman from Colorado bought a $700 meal for a bunch of gays, gay Democrats and well, just those ordinary heterosexual Democrats. We were kind enough to call a cab for him to take him to wherever he was staying, but I think that we all got the last laugh.

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

Tuesdays with Tucker Carlson: Is prime time ready for bow ties?

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Where was I? You would think that I would hear something about my archnemesis sooner than this. Word is that MSNBC is offering Bow Tie Boy his own show during Norville's current time slot, meaning he would compete against Hannity for ratings. Would Tucker leave his feces-flinging job at Crossfire and say goodbye to the strangeness that now pervades CNN? I imagine he would.

Though I may hate his guts... and his bow tie, I hope he inks a good deal for himself. I'll be sure to tune in if only to have more fodder for these columns.

All this via TV Newser and Wonkette.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 09:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Online Quizes were SOOO 2003, but....

By Byron LaMasters

I found this one interesting via Greg and Stout Dem:

You Are a New School Democrat

You like partying and politics - and are likely to be young and affluent.

You're less religious, traditional, and uptight than most Democrats.

Smoking pot, homosexuality, and gambling are all okay in your book.

You prefer that the government help people take care of themselves.

What political persuasion are you?

These things are gross oversimplifications, but it's close enough.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:23 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Lies, lies and damned lies

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I just found out about Andy Card and Sec John Snow being on Fox News Sunday. And I just found out what they were saying:

"Under no one's plan will younger workers receive benefits they've been promised because the Social Security system doesn't have the financial underpinning, the foundation to support the expectations of social security 75 years from now, 50 years from now."

I'm not an advocate of doing nothing, but Social Security is not in an danger of collapsing anytime in the next hundred years. The idea that Social Security won't be there for us younger folk when we're ready to retire is a carefully cultivated image from pro-privatization groups that is decades long. Under the Social Security Act, everyone is guaranteed to receive benefits. It is an entitlement you receive as an American citizen. It doesn't matter if the federal government is running a surplus or a deficit, you will get your check because it is the law. Under private accounts, if you lose your money, then you just don't get anything to retire on.

I can't stress enough that Social Security is more or less solvent indefinitely. There is a shortfall looming that can be made up with some shared sacrifice of a few dollars more per person in payroll taxes and some cuts in benefits or means testing later. We can also cover it with raising the cap from $87,900 to $200,000, or more money from rich people. But that's my solution to everything.

Hat tip to Josh Marshall for bringing it to my attention since I don't watch Fox News.

This is a guest post from Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk for the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 08:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Isn't that illegal? UPDATED

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

In today's press conference, Bush was asked by a reporter about Social Security and some of the hard choices that would need to be made. His response was priceless, if very long and confusing. To sum it all up, he will not "negotiate with myself in public."

I for one am glad, that's the last thing I want to see on the front page of the Washington Post. I can see the headlines now, though, "Sticky Situation. The president negotiates himself into benefit cuts."

Read the entire response and see if it reads as anything other than "fuck yourself for even asking" to you.

UPDATE: You should read this piece in Slate that might explain exactly what the hell he meant by all of that in his very long-winded answer.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 08:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bush Contributes to the War on "Merry Christmas"

By Byron LaMasters

Will the Committee to Save Merry Christmas now go after President Bush?

It affects you (via Atrios) points to President Bush's news conference today in which Bush begins with this greeting:

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you. Please be seated.

Good morning and happy holidays to you all. I thought I'd come and answer some of your questions.

I'm with President Bush on this one - I'm generally a "Happy Holidays" person. If I owned a store, I'd probably instruct my employees to wish people a "Happy Holidays". Why? It's not political correctness run amuck, but simply an inclusive greeting for the holiday season which includes Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc. So, it makes good business sense for a company to instruct their employees to be inclusive in their greetings to customers, considering that we live in a pluralistic, multiethnic, religiously diverse society.

I think there are times when "Merry Christmas" is more appropriate. When I go to Christmas Eve services this Friday, I'll be wishing those around me a Merry Christmas. But this past week at Christmas / Holiday parties, I felt more comfortable wishing people a "Happy Holidays" as many of my friends are Jewish or non-religious, and many acquaintances of mine that I saw at those events, I simply don't know their religious persuasion - so instead of guessing, an inclusive greeting such as "Happy Holidays" is most appropriate.

There are other issues such as changing the words of Christmas carols sung in public schools, or calling a Christmas Tree a "Community Tree" instead a Christmas Tree where I can sympathize with evangelical Christians. I don't particularly care if public schools and public facilities allow Christmas carols, Christmas plays, Christmas decorations, etc. As long as they allow for other religious symbols, and don't require students to participate in such activities, I don't see the problem.

On the other hand, the whole attack on the "Happy Holidays" greeting is a bit silly. There are times where "Merry Christmas" is most appropriate - with friends, family, at church, etc., and times where "Happy Holidays" is more appropriate - with non-Christain or mixed friends, and in settings with people in which you don't know their religious background, i.e. with acquaintances or in a store.

There was a good article in the New York Times Week in Review yesterday that I would recommend as well.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:47 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

HRC '08?

By Byron LaMasters

She polls better than I would otherwise expect (although, consider the source):

Hillary Clinton: 40%
Bill Frist: 33
Other/not sure: 27

Hillary Clinton: 41%
George Pataki: 35
Other/not sure: 24

Hillary Clinton: 46%
Jeb Bush: 35
Other/not sure: 19

John Kerry: 45%
Jeb Bush: 37
Other/not sure: 18

Is HRC qualified to be President (YES/NO/UNDECIDED):

Overall: 59/34/7
Men: 53/39/8
Women: 64/29/8
Democrats: 84/10/6
Republicans: 33/59/8
Independents: 58/33/9

HRC isn't my first choice, but I think that she would make a decent nominee, although I don't see how she expands the playing field in ways that someone like Mark Warner could. I do think that HRC is a polarizing figure, but then again, she's no more polarizing than President Bush. However, I'd prefer to start the campaign with someone with significantly lower negatives. John Kerry was just as polarizing as George W. Bush by election day, but it took the right-wing smear machine most of year to get it that way. Then again, Ezra might be right - that the whole 'Hillary is polarizing' mantra could just easily be "nothing more than a bunch of liberals too sensitive to the caterwauling of a fringe group of conservative misogynists". I don't know.

Personally, I'm inclined to agree with one of our earlier commenters yesterday. Two people that I would like to see more from are Russ Feingold and Mark Warner. Russ Feingold is one of the most honorable and principled men in politics, and Mark Warner is the type of southern governor in the Carter/Clinton mold that has proved to be the only winning combination for Democrats (like it or not) in the past thirty years. It's still early, and who knows what the national political landscape will look like in 2008, but its never too early to talk about it.

MyDD has some thoughts as well.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

End of the Year Awards

By Byron LaMasters

It may not be the Wizbang 2004 Weblog Awards, but I'll take it. Wizbang is a bunch of Republicans anyway. Just look at their top awards: Best Overall Blog - Powerline, Best New Blog (Established 2004) - Kerry Spot, Best Group Blog - The Volokh Conspiracy, Best Humor Blog - ScrappleFace. All a bunch of right-wingers. Kerry Spot was a project of the National Review. Good God.

I'll take our award from the first annual The View From the Left Best of the Year Awards. Thanks a lot =)

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Religious Right Scares Even the Religious Right

By Andrew Dobbs

Saw this story linked by Andrew Sullivan and thought that it made some very interesting points. To wit:

No one can honestly question my commitment to pro-life, pro- family, conservative causes. That being said, the Religious Right, as it now exists, scares me.

For one reason, on the whole, the Religious Right has obviously and patently become little more than a propaganda machine for the Republican Party in general and for President G.W. Bush in particular. This is in spite of the fact that both Bush and the Republican Party in Washington, D.C., have routinely ignored and even trampled the very principles which the Religious Right claims to represent.

Therefore, no longer does the Religious Right represent conservative, Christian values. Instead, they represent their own self-serving interests at the expense of those values.

It also appears painfully obvious to me that in order to sit at the king's table, the Religious Right is willing to compromise any principle, no matter how sacred. As such, it has become a hollow movement. Sadly, the Religious Right is now a movement without a cause, except the cause of advancing the Republican Party.

Now, before you start celebrating, this guy isn't the most mainstream of the Religious Right leaders. The guy was the U.S. Constitution Party Vice Presidential nominee this year, so this guy seems to believe that Bush et. al are actually way too liberal. But that position isn't necessarily unreasonable- Bush has vastly increased the size of the federal government, trampled on states' rights and pushed us into massive deficits. He has abandoned traditional conservative ideology for a radical "big government conservativism." I would reccomend reading the rest of the story, as it has a lot of good info.

I myself am actually a person of deep faith. I don't write about it very often, and I have recently become more in touch with my beliefs than in the past, though I have been a Christian for some time. I have a conservative faith- I believe the Bible to be the inerrant (though not necessarily literal at all times) Word of God, I believe in the Virgin Birth, in Christ's divinity, in His crucifixion and resurrection, etc. But I vote for the Democratic Party. I am in the distinct minority of evangelical church-going Christians. For Democrats to start winning again we have to reach out to people like me while keeping our coalition intact.

But the issues that drive out the evangelicals are impossible for either side to compromise on, it seems. Abortion being the biggest issue. It is a tough issue for me- something I've been praying about a lot more lately. On the one hand, Psalms clearly says that God "knits" us while we are in the womb- and aborting that process seems to be an abominable sin. But on the other, God gave us free will and for the government to coerce people into following God's law seems to be taking a power into their hands that God did not even grant Himself. Others, however, aren't as concerned with the latter as I am and see abortion as murder plain and simple. Obviously they can't vote for a party who supports legalized murder no matter how cleverly they "frame" the issue. It is a principled position, as is ours, and neither can meet the other halfway.

So what is the solution? Perhaps it is to drive many of the Religious Right voters into third parties over GOP positions that aren't in coordination with their beliefs and reduce GOP numbers enough that our coalition is bigger. That seems rather difficult. Another is controversial, and I'm not sure I support it, but hear me out.

On abortion- which is really the biggest non-negotiable for the Religious Right- we can point out that short of a Constitutional amendment or massive sea change in the courts, nothing is going to happen. Constitutional change will almost certainly never happen and only Senators and the President have any say in the Supreme Court's makeup. In every other election, the prohibition of abortion isn't really an issue. What we WILL support (once again, I'm not saying I support this, I'm just throwing it out there) is as much legal restriction to abortion as is legal and prudent. Abortion is a devastating procedure which ought to be "safe, legal and rare." We'll keep 1 and 2 down, and on 3 we'll support parental notification, waiting periods, a ban on abortion for sex selection and bans on abortion after a certain point of time. If we can stomach these provisions and make the case that banning abortion completely is a non-issue for offices other than Senator or President, I think we can start focusing on other issues and win on those grounds.

And once an elected official at the Congressional or state level has proved him or herself to be a trustworthy official concerned with the issues important to religious people, they should be able to compete for religious votes for Senate or President.

What do you all think? Are the tradeoffs too high? Why not put those restrictions in place? The floor is open to all of you.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 10:32 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 19, 2004

Better late than never

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Last week the Trib ran this story about Rep. Jim Dunnam going before the Sunset Commission and arguing that Texas doesn't need any more charter schools, especially since most of them don't work.

Besides a few notable exceptions, charter schools have not lived up to the hype that Republicans voiced early in their takeover of local and state governments. They argued that the market would create competition and thus improve education for students in both public and private schools. Perfectly reasonable argument to make, but it turns out that it doesn't work that way. Most of the people running these charter schools are more interested in the money to be made in private education than in improving education all around; the conflict of greed getting in the way of a noble pursuit.

I didn't write this post to just talk about education, though. I'm going to make a bit of a leap so try to follow me, but if we shouldn't privatize education why on earth would we want to do it with our retirement? I know, apples and oranges. And why do I have to keep bringing up Social Security?

There is a free market rinciple that lies beneath both of these conservative pet causes. You see, the people who are most ardently in favor of charter schools are those who stand to profit from them. The people most in favor of privatization are... the people who stand to profit from millions of naive newbies investing in the stock market. Imagine all those fund managers having trillions of dollars invested at their direction of the next few decades, the commissions alone for some stock brokers will make them rich beyond their wildest dreams.

Just like with the charter schools, results don't matter. They don't care if you quadruple your money in a year or lose it all in a day, as long as they get their cut. The only real "ownership society" they care about is the one where they have the money to literally own everything.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk for the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. he can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 09:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Big tent vs. little tent

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

As the 2008 presidential race draws near, I get closer and closer to making a pact with Satan to win the Florida panhandle and the election. So concessions are not out of the question when we get there. And you know I'm going to vote for whoever gets the nomination. I don't care if he's a convicted murderer, I'll still be on the phones talking to swing voters about how more evil the GOP is with their cuts in Head Start and pell grants and whatnot.

But right now, I'm not sure how much I welcome the idea of just anybody being in the tent when it comes to abortion rights and the very foundation of the party. I will concede that it is inevitable and probably good for the party to have more varied positions if everyone else will concede that not having a single, unified message with a solid front when Bush appoints up to 3 uber-conservative Supreme Court justices might mean the end of a woman's right to choose. At least PR wise, it makes sense for all Democrats to be pro-choice, even if they are anti-abortion.

"All Democrats are united around the idea that we should make abortion safe, legal, and rare," but "we also have to be open to people who are pro-life," said Simon Rosenberg, the president of the New Democratic Network who is mulling a run for the DNC chairmanship.
Democrats could accept a leader who opposes abortion rights, but would not tolerate a weakening of the party's position on abortion, (Louise) Slaughter said. The failing, she said, is that the party has not articulated its position well: "I don't think we ever said we're for abortion. We're for choice."

If this is going to be the new position for our party, we really need to figure out how we are going to articulate why some Democrats are for abortion rights and some aren't. The Republicans are going to get a pass on this one, but we have to have an answer that does not say "we compromised our position on abortion so that we would get more votes."

Does anybody have any suggestions?

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 06:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Looking good in '08

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

If we've already started forming alliances to vote somebody off the island, then I am firmly in the Anybody But Hillary camp. I'm sure that Sen. Clinton is an intelligent woman, but she is much too polarizing a figure. The argument would quickly become whether we want Bill Clinton to have a third term or not. I know we all like Bill Clinton, but we need to get away from the Clinton years.

His charisma got him into office and got him re-elected to a second term. The Democratic party's infrastructure had slowly been in decline since Carter and he did nothing to to help rebuild it when he was in power. At a time when we should have been learning to compete with the Republicans for small donations from grassroots organizations, he was finding the biggest checkbooks he could and coaxing just a little more money out of them. When campaign finance finally got passed, we were at a disadvantage. Only by extreme foresight did we get the Dean campaign that got the ball rolling on Internet Meet Ups and small donations. When we learn to harness the full power of the Web, we will have a source of revenue and political action the likes of which has never been seen before.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, we need to move on. We need to look for new leadership from up and comers and less-establishment players. Our presidential nominee should not be whoever the current party leadership chooses, it should be who best represents all Democrats.

As an interesting aside, I've heard no one talk about Biden running. Watching him speak on Meet the Press this morning, it seemed fairly obvious to me that he has higher office ambitions. He knows he can kick Bill "I'm a doctor, which is what I am, a doctor" Frist's ass in the general, and he probably sees McCain and other moderate Republicans as not having a chance in their own party in 4 years. This is by no means an endorsement for him to run, I just think the only reason he didn't run this time was because he assumed Bush was going to win and he didn't want to screw up his one chance to actually win.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 06:21 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Oh so witty

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

When it comes to budget busting deficits, George W. Bush is king. He has spent so much money in authorizing spendings bill after spending bill and tax cuts for the wealthiest every year that we now have structural deficits for the forseeable future.

So it's actually kinda surprising to me that he thinks deficits are a problem. Anyone who has read Price of Loyalty remembers that famous quote from Dick Cheney, "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." Which explains why Reagan raised taxes 6 times between 1983 and 1989. The first Bush had to raise them twice and Bill Clinton had to do it again in 1993 before we got out of those defecits. I guess they matter enough to make Reagan raise taxes.

After his two day economic "summit" he had some interesting things to say about "reasonable tax policy" and spending and the like.

U.S. tax policy is indeed a mess, and there is a lot of complicated math involved in sorting out the budget and appropriating money. But the simple truth is Bush's "fuzzy math" is what got us into this. His tax policy seems to be we need to take in less money and then spend more and everything will be cool. If I did that with my checking account without the Chinese to bail me out, everything would not be cool. We're living on credit from a communist dictatorship so that we can cut taxes for the top 1% with smaller cuts in income taxes for those below that line. I've yet to actually see any real evidence that cutting taxes for the wealthy actually leads to real economy growth through investment.

If you want to cut taxes (I hate paying taxes, too), cut them for middle class people who will spend the money. The first thing middle class people do when they get money is spend it, which will get us to another discussion on Social Security and retirement at a later date. But middle class people are the driving force of the American economy. They took those $300 checks and bought new cars and new homes and kept this country afloat through the 2001 recession.

The only other economic model I can think of that works are New Deal-type government investments. Large public works projects where the federal government is the chief contractor and puts money directly into local economies by hiring workers and buying materials from that area. But that is more of a labor thing and our economy is more technlogy and information-centric these days. I can't imagine a computer-programmer who just lost his job to outsourcing jumping at the chance to build a big dam or something.

But now we get to the real nitty gritty. Somewhere along the line, we are going to have to raise taxes. If we keep borrowing money, we will eventually have to pay it back, and with deficits that are structural, like the Bush ones, we would be borrowing money to pay back the money we borrowed plus some to cover our expenditures for the fiscal year. After a decade or two, people will realize we don't actually have any money and quit lending it to us. Actually, it's more like having bad credit, they'll still lend it to us, but they will want more interest than the Treasury bonds they are buying yield for the risk in investing in us.

All of this could be avoided if we had people who could balance a damn checkbook working in the White House. Hopefully we get some sane people in charge of economic policy in the next decade and we might begin to turn ourselves around and we could get back in the black by the time Social Security is supposed to collapse and destroy the Western world. Probably by then, the aliens will have taken over and destroyed our planet anyway, so there's no point in worrying about it.

This is a guet post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democrat Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 10:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Man of the Year?

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I can't believe that Time picked George W. Bush as their man of the year for 2004. Their rationale?

For sticking to his guns (literally and figuratively), for reshaping the rules of politics to fit his ten-gallon-hat leadership style and for persuading a majority of voters that he deserved to be in the White House for another four years, George W. Bush is TIME's 2004 Person of the Year

Dear Lord. Sometimes I swear I'm really in Bizarro World where everything is totally ass-backwards. Being a complete moron makes you a good leader and not even acknowledging the mistakes you've made qualifies you for the highest job in the land.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 09:53 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

10 Commandments for Alabama Governor

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

via the AP

Ousted Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore said Friday he is considering running for governor in 2006.

"I'll be praying about it and considering it," told reporters.

Moore was ousted in November 2003 for defying a federal judge's order to remove his 5,280-pound Ten Commandments monument from public display in the state judicial building. He appealed his ouster to the U.S. Supreme Court, but lost.

If Moore were to run as a Republican, he could face a GOP primary battle with Gov. Bob Riley, who has not yet said whether he will seek a second term.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 04:03 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 18, 2004

The Young and The Restless

By Jim Dallas

No complaints about this here:

They are opining, organizing and running for party chairman. A wave of young Democrats is demanding not just to be heard but to take charge. "This generation is looking for ways to participate because we're tired of losing," says Jamal Simmons, 33, a consultant who has worked for presidential hopeful Wesley Clark and several other Southern candidates.

Simmons and his fellow "Young Turks" worry about the Democratic Party's dependence on interest groups, their relations with minority groups, the stereotypes that they are weak on defense and values, the Republican appropriation of the "reformer" label and the swaths of America that Democrats seem to have written off.

Young Democrats believe that the party is dominated by people who came of age politically in the 1960s, and it's time for them to make room for new ideas and new voices. Theirs.

On the other hand, while I think I agree with the basic thrust of this quote, can't we all just get along?

A former aide to Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., Gerstein wrote in The Wall Street Journal that Democrats have "fallen right back into the elitist, weak-kneed, brain-dead trap" they thought they'd escaped with Bill Clinton.

He called for more muscle in foreign policy, more respect for religion and "banishing Bob Shrum and his tone-deaf Chardonnay populism" from future presidential campaigns. Shrum, 61, was nominee John Kerry's top adviser.

The way you get change is by taking the reins away from the dopes driving us off a cliff - not throwing people off the wagon. There's a subtle but palpable difference.

Via Political Wire.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 17, 2004

Do they know something that I don't

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I keep seeing things in the British press that Rumsfeld is being pressured to resign. I can't tell if it is because they know something that we don't because of crappy American media or if they think Bush would actually use the best man for the job, which is obviously not Rumsfeld.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 09:32 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Student protesters

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I mentioned a protest at Waco High School against a religious group handing out pamphlets "educating" teenagers about the evils of abortion and homosexuality. As luck would have it, one of the girls who writes for Teen Trib goes to Waco High. She has a column on how important she thinks free speech is and I thought we might all enjoy reading it.

Freedom of speech is very important. I can't think of a right I take advantage of more often in expressing my opinions on a variety of things. It might be just because I was raised in an era of political correctness that I think that the church group was over the line. I don't see how passing out literature full of misinformation is a good thing. I agree that they have a right to believe whatever they want and get together to tak about what they believe. I don't see how anyone has the right to just lie about something and to get together in a coordinated way to lie en masse.

I'm very torn between my own beliefs in the free flow of ideas making the world a better place and people like this who are only using our cherished rights to try to make people hate or discriminate. I guess I just have to have faith that democracy will keep on working as it has for over 200 years and that small fringe groups can't really hold any real power for very long.

This is a guest post from Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 08:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Strayhorn Courts Teachers

By Byron LaMasters

I'm all for paying teachers more. But how many of them vote in Texas Republican primaries?

Via Sarah.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:43 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Will Texas Lose its Biomedical Research Talent to Blue States?

By Byron LaMasters

It's very possible. Seeing the success of the California initiative on stem cell research, other states are making proposals to attract biomedical research talent to their states as the federal government is highly unlikely to move forward on the issue.

Blue states New Jersey, Wisconsin and Illinois appear to be the first to act:

California's embrace of stem cell science has triggered strong reactions elsewhere:

• New Jersey, Wisconsin and Illinois are budgeting taxpayer dollars or proposing California-style initiatives to try to prevent a brain drain of biomedical researchers to the West Coast. (Advanced Cell Technologies, a Worcester, Mass., company, is shopping for land in Northern California to build a branch facility.)

Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes, a Democrat, will ask the Legislature next year to place on the ballot a proposal to grant researchers $1 billion. The money would be raised by a new tax on Botox injections, liposuction and other "vanity" treatments.

In Texas, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (news, bio, voting record) has asked Gov. Rick Perry, a fellow Republican, to do what it takes to prevent California from stealing scientific luminaries from medical research centers in Houston. Pro-research bills are likely to be considered next year by legislatures in Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire and Washington state.

• Social conservatives in several other states are fighting embryonic stem cell research. Eight states - Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Virginia - now ban or limit such research. All but one, Michigan, were "red states" that backed Bush in this year's elections. South Dakota passed the most recent ban, in February.

Next year, legislators in Missouri, Kansas and Louisiana will consider barring at least some types of embryonic stem cell research.

• In Congress, both sides in the stem cell debate are gearing up for battles next year.

I think it's possible that Texas move forward on stem cell research in the next few years, but clearly, that will probably require a new governor. On the other hand, Texas Republicans could join Republicans in Missouri, and elsewhere in taking an anti-science, anti-jobs stand.

More after the jump.

In Kansas City, Mo., business leaders are hoping that the privately endowed Stowers Institute for Medical Research, which opened in 2000, will be the seedbed for thousands of jobs. But proposals by two Republican state lawmakers to criminalize embryonic stem cell research could change that. Stowers trustees say they'll build a 600-job facility elsewhere if Missouri outlaws somatic cell nuclear transfer.

On the other hand, California will be spending ten times what the federal government is spending on stem cell research - an amount that puts California on equal footing with most other countries pursuing such research:

In California, the ballot initiative known as Proposition 71 was spearheaded by wealthy parents of children with life-threatening diseases and was backed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. It passed with a 59% majority. The state will sell bonds and give out $300 million a year in research grants for 10 years.

It's a sum that dwarfs the $24.8 million that the National Institutes of Health spent on human embryonic stem cell studies this year.

"It puts California on equal footing with whole nations that have made stem cell research one of their national priorities - nations like South Korea, Singapore, Israel, Sweden," Daniel Perry says.

I'll keep a lookout to see what happens here in Texas, but if blue states start pouring money into stem cell research, and Texas does nothing, we will surely see our top biomedical research talent go elsewhere.

George W. Bush and Rick Perry: Building a bridge to the 19th century.

Via MyDD.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Texas and Fallujah

By Byron LaMasters

Grits for Breakfast reports that a Texas legislative committee has proposed that Texas join Fallujah in requiring biometric data in order to receive a drivers license or ID card.

In depth background to the story can be found on three previous entries of Grits for Breakfast - first, second and third.

What would this new biometric data include? Here's what the bill last session (rejected by the House) included:

In a dramatic bipartisan 111-26 vote, the Texas House of Representatives rejected SB 945 in the 78th Legislature, which would have required drivers to give “biometric data” in order to get a license.

In particular, that bill would have required drivers to give all ten fingerprints instead of just a thumbprint – just like they were being booked into the county jail. Plus, drivers would have to let DPS gather “facial recognition” data, which in theory would allow individuals to be identified from videotapes and photographs. As originally written, SB 945 would have also allowed iris scans and voice recordings that could be matched with information from wiretaps.

The Interim Report this time doesn't exclude those other technologies, but seems especially focused on allowing facial recognition from video, insisting that DPS needs technology that allows them to quickly match "one to many faceprints."

Heck, maybe Michael Badnarik was up to something after all in refusing to get a drivers license, because of the amount of information it gives the government.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Preview of the Ben Barnes Interview with Texas Monthly

By Byron LaMasters

I mentioned earlier that the January issue of Texas Monthly will feature a long interview with Ben Barnes. It'll be for sale starting Monday, but here's a preview. Barnes addresses the 2004 election results, faith in politics, his relationship with John Kerry, the National Guard story and his ideas for the future for Texas Democrats.

[Evan Smith's Questions in bold, Ben Barnes in regular (italics) text].

On the 2004 Election:

Why did you work so hard this election year as opposed to the past few cycles?

There was a lot at stake. I’ve seen Texas in good times and in bad times, and we can do better than we’re doing right now. When I introduce myself and say, “I’m Ben Barnes, from Texas,” I used to hear, “Man, tell us about Texas. Y’all are really accomplishing a lot of great things. I really would like to live there.” Now people will say, “You’re from Austin? It’s a great city. I’d like to live there sometime.” But Texas? “Hmmm, y’all are a lot like Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama, aren’t you? Y’all got a lot of problems. Y’all got a lot of people in penitentiaries. Y’all are tough on them down there."

On faith in politics:

Do you have any idea why the Democrats had such a tough time attracting religious folks?

I don’t think they’ve been willing to talk about religion. They think it’s too personal. In my day, you put in your campaign materials that you were a member of the First Methodist Church in De Leon, but when I was running for state representative or lieutenant governor or governor, people really didn’t ask me a lot about my faith. But I want to tell you something: One of the most memorable experiences of my life was my mother driving me to church every Sunday. I went to Sunday school, and we went to the revivals. If there were fourteen services, I went to fourteen services. My mother made certain that I got that religious background. It made a big impression on me. It helped shape what few good things there are about me.

How does this tie back into politics?

I made the preachers very mad in the early seventies when they descended on Austin to fight against liquor by the drink. There were hundreds of thousands of letters coming into the Capitol about the issue, about how these preachers were so concerned. Well, we had liquor in brown bags and there was liquor on every street corner in Texas; I thought it was ridiculous for the state to lose out on the revenue. I remember standing up in the pulpit in the First Methodist Church and telling those preachers that I wanted to make certain they were going to come down to Austin when we were trying to pass a minimum wage for farmworkers and when we were trying to get medicine for sick children and when we were worrying about the mentally ill. If they were going to come down here to fight liquor, I wanted them to come down here to do God’s work.

I feel the same way about what happened in this election. I am proud the churches participated. They’ve got a right. But I’ll tell you what—maybe all these religious leaders who have found politics and who read Scripture, which tells them that they should do unto others as they would have done unto them, will be involved the next session of the Legislature in taking care of the kids kicked off of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. And I know that they’re going to be concerned about the fact that some of the poorest counties in the U.S. are here in Texas. I’m sure that our religious leadership is not going to be just worrying about abortion and stem cell research and gay marriage.

More after the jump.

On John Kerry:

>Let’s talk about John Kerry. Why did you support him?

About two years ago, he and I played golf together in Nantucket, and he asked me to be for him for president. I told him I had too many friends running: I had Joe Lieberman, Bob Graham, a long list of people. I said, “I’m not going to do anything to hurt you.” That was our discussion on the first hole—it was just the two of us playing. We teed off. And we talked for three, three and a half hours. He talked about Vietnam. We talked about how I was on one side of Vietnam and he was on the other. We talked about Lyndon Johnson, about his courage in doing the civil rights bill when it was so politically self-destructive. We talked about how he saw as a young man, and I saw as a young man, that you really could make a difference. We had a very deep, soul-searching conversation. I gave him as thorough a cross-examination as a person of my below-average intelligence can give someone. And I saw a side of him on that golf course that I had not seen before. I saw an extremely intelligent man, a man of deep faith and conviction. I came away with an inordinate amount of respect for John Kerry.

On George W. Bush:

Democrats I know have been profoundly depressed about the consequences of a second Bush term. Are you worried?

Everybody says that Bush is going to be more moderate. There’s not anything that’s happened since Election Day that proves to me that Bush is going to be moderate at all. He’s going to do exactly what he wants to do, without a voice of dissent. There’s not going to be anybody around George Bush who’s telling him anything that he doesn’t want to hear. That’s what I’m worried about.

On the National Guard story:

You made a decision during the campaign to go on television to talk about how President Bush got in the National Guard.

I made some remarks in Austin in a speech to John Kerry workers in March, a long time before 60 Minutes. Unbeknownst to me, when I told the story about feeling bad about the role that I had played in getting George Bush in the National Guard—the role I’d played in getting anybody in the National Guard, because a young man of 26 or 27 should not have that power—someone got it on video, and it went on a Kerry Web site. I did not do it for partisan reasons. The [Ann] Richards campaign had wanted me to say something in the governor’s race, when Bush was first running, but I very carefully did not say anything, and I did not say anything in Bush’s first presidential race. I didn’t feel comfortable saying something this time, but when I finally did, it wasn’t because George Bush was running against John Kerry. It was because I went to the Vietnam Memorial with two guests from England, and I was overcome by grief. Maybe I just hadn’t focused on it for a long time, but I had played a role. I supported President Johnson’s position on Vietnam, and 50,000 people died. I look back on it as a mistake this country made. And that’s why I said what I said. Sure, when I made the speech to the Kerry supporters, it was in a political environment, and I was making a political speech, so from that standpoint I was being political. But what I said was that I, Ben Barnes, am very sorry that I had that power and used that power.

Any regrets?

At dinner last night, some people said, “Well, we really hated to see you do that. And we know you’re probably sorry you did it.” I’m not sorry I did it. I feel very good for having done it. Not for political reasons. I feel good for having done it for me.

On the future of the Texas Democratic Party:

There is a tradition of Democrats solving these problems. If I had to describe our present state government, I’d say they’re not solving the problems—they’re managing the problems. If you’re going to rebuild the Democratic party, you have to offer a solution to these problems, and you have got to talk about it. The most discouraging thing about the races that have been run in Texas by Democrats in the past few years is that there hasn’t been enough debate about the issues. I don’t think we’ve gotten up into the faces of the people of Texas and said, “Let me tell you about health care. Let me tell you about transportation. Let me tell you about Robin Hood. Let me tell you about our rapid free fall in higher education.” Also, we have to remember that we are the party that creates a better standard of living and a better way of life and a better environment for the small-business person to make money and educate his children. We have to deliver the message that it can be done better and that our way is better. We can’t beat the Republicans by talking about what’s wrong with them. We have to talk about what’s right with us.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's my day off

By Nathan Nance

Thursdays are my days off and I like to spend them with friends. This Thursday was no exception because I spent the night with a friend who just passed his ASVAPB test and is about to embark on a journey to become a nuclear sub computer technician. Needless to say, I don't like the idea of someone who is like a brother to me in a tiny metal coffin floating around the ocean waiting for a reactor to go critical. But to each his own.

No, we celebrated with heart-clogging Swiss melt hamburgers and onion rings followed by a trip to Blockbuster so we could rent Transformers: The Movie (can you tell none of us have girlfriends?). I finally got home at midnight to watch the hours of DVR recorded news shows that I missed.

I was lucky enough to catch something on C-SPAN, though. The Campaign for America's Future held a forum devoted specifically to talking about why privatization of Social Security is bad. A lot of things they covered we've gone over already and some things we might get into in the future. I really want to link this to something in Jim's earlier post about problems with Medicare. Social Security is mostly solvent and will continue to be so well into the next decade and beyond without changing a thing. The real problem right now is the rising cost of health care and how much it is sapping from the fixed incomes of retirees. A huge portion of the monthly Social Security check goes to paying part B of Medicare and other health costs.

Not only will it eat the babies, but the elderly and anyone paying payroll taxes. Once health care is under control and the cost is kept down, that check will go a lot further towards the cost of living.

I cannot stress enough that Social Security and Medicare are important safety nets that people in this country need. Social Security was never meant to leave large sums of money in your pocket when you die, it was for those who probably worked hard their whole life and never saved a dime because they didn't have those kinds of wages. If all else failed, Uncle Sam would make sure you had enough to live on or had enough to pay for medicines you need. It's a right that all Americans share and a right we are all guaranteed. I can't believe anyone would want to turn their back on the kind of rights we are talking about here or about making sure others have those rights.

It just goes to show you that, even on your day off, there is still work to be done.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense (finally updated) a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 01:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Biggest news of the day

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I'm sure you've all heard about it. It was breaking news last night and dominated the airwaves all day Thursday. I've spent several hours reviewing the tape and, in my secret undisclosed location bunker, I am now ready to inform all of you who read BOR of my findings:

This is the cutest White House Barney video ever! Karl Rove has people throwing balls at him and the nominee for Attorney General, Al Gonzales, talking to a dog. The most unsettling thing is the president's performance. You would think after all those scripted press conferences he would do a better job, especially when his opposite is a small Scottish terrier, but I guess he's a C- student at that, too.

What? It's not like there was a new tape from Osama bin Laden to review or anything.

This is a guest post from Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 01:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 16, 2004

Molly Beth Malcolm into DNC Race?

By Byron LaMasters

Maybe. Here's the AP Story.

Malcolm is the former chair of the Texas Democratic Party. With no woman running for DNC, there's a possibility that she could make a splash. I worked well with her when she was state chair, although the election results of her tenure (1998, 2000, 2002) leave something to be desired (although I don't really blame her for those defeats - I doubt that another chair would have done much better.).

Update: Greg shares his thoughts - that this is all part of the "Martin Frost Mafia / Conspiracy Theory". Mmmkay then.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:27 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Toys, Mines, Iraq and America

By Andrew Dobbs

If this doesn't make you proud to be an American and optimistic about our mission in Iraq, nothing will.

It makes me proud to have a loved one overseas.

Update: And before you start decrying me for linking to a blog that supports President Bush, realize that just because you disagree with a blogger's personal positions doesn't mean you oppose everything he or she says.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 05:10 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

British Courts Take Out The Trash...

By Zach Neumann

A British court overturned the country’s main anti terrorism law today. The NY Times reports that:

Britain's highest court ruled today that the British government cannot indefinitely detain foreigners suspected of terrorism without charging or trying them, and called the process a violation of European human rights laws.

A specially convened panel of judges in the Law Lords ruled 8 to 1 in favor of nine foreign, Muslim men who have been in detention, most of them in Belmarsh Prison in London, for as long as three years. The prison has been called "Britain's Guantanamo" by human rights groups.
In its powerfully worded decision, the court said that the government's "draconian" measures unjustly discriminate against foreigners since they do not apply to British citizens and constitute a lopsided response to the threat of a terrorist attack.

The judges deemed it a clear violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, a declaration that complicates the British government's strategy on combating terrorism.

The ruling by the Law Lords, a panel of senior judges who sit in the House of Lords and act as the country's highest court, parallels a June decision by the United States Supreme Court that said "a state of war is not a blank check for the president."

Using the sharpest language of the nine judges, Lord Leonard Hoffman, said today the case was one of the most important decided by the court in recent years.

"It calls into question the very existence of an ancient liberty of which this country has until now been very proud: freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention," he wrote.

He went on to say that the government's actions posed a greater threat to the nation than terrorism. "The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these," Lord Hoffman wrote.

"That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve," he added. "It is for parliament to decide whether to give the terrorists such a victory."

The ground-breaking decision removes one of the government's crucial anti-terrorism tools and muddles its ability to deal with suspected foreign terrorists. It also forces Prime Minister Tony Blair, his cabinet and the Parliament to either modify the law, or release the men and do away with the law altogether. The law must be renewed next year and is scheduled to expire in 2006. Until the government makes that decision, the detainees will remain in prison.

This is interesting. With opposition to restrictive anti-terror laws growing on both sides of the pond, it seems something is going to have to change. Hurray for the common law, I guess. Any thoughts?

Posted by Zach Neumann at 02:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Seeing the Forest

By Jim Dallas

We've had a nice little chit-chat about Social Security. I've maintained that, yes, we need to do something, and I wouldn't be absolutely against creating private accounts if they weren't done in a totally incompetent, ideologically-contrived manner that President Bush's reverse-midas touch would almost certainly bring.

Kevin Drum, on the other hand, points out that we NEED to do something about Medicare before it eats the babies alives. And because doing so would require real courage, Fearless Leader has said nothing about it (except for making excuses for why he's still digging the hole deeper). Probably because it would involve taking health care providers to the mat on cost containment, instead of giving out goodies and privatizing everything (EVERYTHING!).

Posted by Jim Dallas at 04:22 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 15, 2004

This would be funny if it weren't so sad

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

A test of the US missile defense system ended in utter failure Wednesday. It would be really funny because it is an embarrassment to the Bush administration, but then I remember that literally billions have been spent to make this our only defense from boxcutter wielding terrorists and I weep.

This is a guest post from Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense, a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 10:05 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Silver Bullet

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I touched on how important I think education is earlier, but now it's time to talk about it seriously. I know I don't have to tell anyone here how hard it is to get money together to pay for an education. So this post about Jesse Jackson's Pell Grant OpEd doesn't come as a surprise, but it is shocking nonetheless. Cutting pell grants for a million students to save $300 million dollars while simultaneously planning ot vote to extend tax cuts for the wealthy for another $30 billion.

Couple that with the insistance of some that superstitions and theology should be taught as science to America's school children and you start to see a pattern. There is some kind of method to the madness, and the method involves keeping people ignorant.

People are easier to control when they don't know what is happening to them. History has shown that to be true numerous times. Education is the silver bullet that solves all of the problems of the world. Education brings new ways to get people out of poverty, education brings new alternatives to feed starving people and education finds peaceful solutions to confrontations. Wherever there is education, there is hope for a better future.

But there seems to be this intense hatred of education among many people in this country. If I may riff off of What's the Matter With Kansas?, people seem to be voting not only against their own economic interests, but against their's and their children's education interests. They want judges who only enforce the Ten Commandments. They want people to teach creationism as if it were a real science. All the while they doom their children to an even worse life.

We are the party of education and hope fighting against a political party that wants to keep people ignorant so that they can be controlled. I think history will show that we already had half the fight won because people everywhere seek hope. It's just a matter of shining a light in the darkness.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 09:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

File it under 'Duh!'bya

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

After I saw today's quote about the trade defecit, "That's easy to resolve," Bush said. "People can buy more United States products if they're worried about the trade deficit.", I thought about all the Bushisms we've heard over the years.

But he's said some things that made perfect sense at the time, they just turned out to not be entirely true. Like, for instance, when he said "I will never give another country veto power over our national security." Remember that little response to Kerry's 'Global Test'? Well,

Pakistan does not permit American military and intelligence forces in Afghanistan to cross the border to go after militants.

This prohibition on cross-border "hot pursuit" makes it relatively easy for Taliban and Qaeda fighters to initiate attacks on American bases in Afghanistan, and then quickly escape to the safety of Pakistan.

American soldiers have complained about being fired on from inside Pakistan by foreign militants while Pakistani border guards sat and watched.

As a result of the restrictions, American military and intelligence personnel in Afghanistan are no longer really hunting for Mr. bin Laden, an intelligence official said.

Really? I guess we misunderestimated him again.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 08:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

It's that important

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I've been focusing on Social Security the past few days because I think it is vitally important that we all understand what is sure to come up in the very near future. The Republicans have been waiting for a long time to finally go after Social Security and get rid of it, and with all three branches of the government and comfortable leads in both chambers, they finally can do it.

Josh Marshall is also thinking about Social Security and he has some ideas on strategy.

I've said before that there are two wings on this; my wing that is totally opposed to this privatization scheme and a wing that is open to privatization, like Andrew. I think the better of both worlds would be to defeat Bush's plan with a unified Democratic front, then we can talk about whether or not privatization is the way to go. I'll be more than happy to listen to the conservative element of the party when we are discussing the Democratic plan for privatization. One of the many points Andrew and I agree on is that Bush is too incompetent to carry this out in a succesful way. Better to stop him now and argue the merits later.

The question will be how to enforce discipline at the margins. And here Democrats should take a page from the Republican playbook in 1994 (on health care) and 1998 (on impeachment).

I think Democrats should consider pulling together the major funders of the party, the official committees, the major organizations, basically the entire infrastructure of the Democratic party and making clear to individual members that if they sign on to the president's plan to phase out Social Security, those various institutions and individuals won't fund their campaigns. Not in 2006, not ever.

Similar committments can come from voters, activists and volunteers. And free rein to primary challengers. If a couple folks lose their seats because of underfunding or tough primaries, so be it. (In a subsequent post, we'll discuss how this compares to what the House Republicans did in 1998).

It's that important. And there is an importance to unity on this issue that transcends the particular debate over Social Security.

There is lot's more in Josh's post, and you should read all of it. The point is, though, this is a fight we cannot lose and it is going to take all of us to do it.

This is a guest post from Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 08:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Did I sleep through this

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

It seems like I woke up the other day to find out we now live in a theocracy instead of a democracy. This is insane. We have a judge walking around with the Ten Commandments printed on his robe, we have people trying to get creationism into biology textbooks and we have other people who want to put parental advisory stickers next to any mention of evolution.

We even have people who refuse to say "Happy Holidays" because there is no mention of Jesus. Instead, they say "Merry Christmas", like there aren't other holidays going on this month or anything.

I've really had it with people like this. I'm a very patient person, but this. Ahhh! You would think people would want to send their kids to school to become educated, but these people seriously seem to want to indoctrinate their kids into this religion, even between Sundays. I don't even really think of them as Christians anymore; it's more like a strange cult that wants people to believe the world really is flat and thunder is God spilling a sack of potatoes.

I don't know how to handle stuff like this short of having a licensed therapist talk to these people and explain that the world is not a giant snowglobe on the back of a tortoise. You might think I'm getting their beliefs all mixed up, but that's the point. We're talking about science textbooks and the rule of law and they are talking about superstitions and judges that think the Ten Commandments are the guide book to our laws. I really don't want my kids growing up in a place where superstition is valued above science and pleasing the church is more important than rule of law.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 07:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

GOP Priorities for the 79th Legislature

By Byron LaMasters

You know, you'd think their priorities would be taking care of critical issues facing the state of Texas such as school finance and children's health insurance.

Wrong. After the state house is done stealing several seats in contesting elections that Republicans lost on election day, their focus is likely to shift to social issues - namely abortion and gay marriage. The Austin American Statesman has a must read today on what sort of legislation that might entail:

Members of the Republican Party have pinpointed abortion as a key issue defining its majority leadership in the state House and Senate.


One option is for the Texas Legislature to debate a bill similar Michigan's Legal Birth Definition Act, which will take effect March 30. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm vetoed the bill in late 2003, only to be overridden by a petition of more than 400,000 people calling for a legislative vote that cannot be vetoed. Abortion rights groups have said they intend to challenge the law in federal court.

The Michigan law grants legal protection to a fetus when any part of it "has been vaginally delivered outside his or her mother's body."


With Republicans firmly in control of the Legislature and every statewide office, debate has already begun on several social issues that are important to many conservatives and national Republicans. One lawmaker has proposed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which state law already forbids.

And on Friday, Hutchison said state leaders should work with Perry and the Legislature to develop a stem-cell research policy that keeps Texas from being "left in the dust by California." The federal government limits funding for research on stem cells that came from human embryos. But California — backed by moderate Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — will begin supporting such research.

Make no mistake about it. Texas Republicans are prepared to lead an all out assault against the rights of women, gays and lesbians this upcoming legislative session. Just wait and see...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:36 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Jeb Bush Likes Books

By Jim Dallas

My friend wise master Matt asks, "Sex is an emerging threat?"

Hint: Enlarge the image of the book and look at the bottom for Jeb's money quote.

Hint: Then read the customer reviews to find out what a "special brand of love" means.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 07:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Ron Kirk Makes "Big Splash" at Orlando Meeting

By Byron LaMasters

I spoke with someone who worked for Ron Kirk's 2002 U.S. Senate campaign about the DNC race tonight, and heard some things that might explain how Kirk came out of nowhere into essentially a three way tie for the lead in an informal exit poll of DNC members last weekend.

Take the jump to the extended entry to read what Hotline Editor Chuck Todd had to say on CNN about Ron Kirk's performance in Orlando:

WOODRUFF: Well, just a few days ago in Orlando at the end of last week, the Democratic state party chairs from around the country, got together, they heard from some of these candidates. What do you hear about the reaction?

TODD: The guy who made the biggest splash was a candidate that nobody was even sure he was going to be a full-time candidate. That is Ron Kirk, former mayor of Dallas, former nominee for the U.S. Senate in Texas. He was the most charismatic of the group. He stole the show. He went last when he gave his statements. He was the one to acknowledge that -- the sadness that there was no woman candidate, that went over very well. It's not clear who his constituency is but he left a good feeling and got more people talking about the idea of a two-headed DNC where Kirk would be the messenger and he might team up with say Harold Ickes. That is a rumor that is as substantial as any rumors that you hear these days.

WOODRUFF: If those people are still in the running are there any who didn't go over so well?

TODD: One that didn't go over well was former Michigan governor Jim Blanchard. He was trying to be the DGA's unofficial candidate. He fell flat, from the folks I talked to. And Leo Hendri (ph), who was the big donor, he went down there and left after four hours. Nobody knew him and he left and didn't tell his staff. They were sort of surprised. So that was his way of sort of dropping out. But I think the big news was Kirk and Wellington Webb did himself well. Harold Ickes didn't do as well as some thought but he wasn't as popular with this crowd. The state chairs and ACT didn't always get along. ACT was the leading 527, and so there was some tough talk there.

Ron Kirk is one of the most charismatic candidates that I've ever met. He certainly made mistakes in his senate campaign, and managed to piss off some of the Democratic activist base by basically spending most of his ads talking about how he "supports the president" on this and that, and did not really carry forth a strong affirmative Democratic message. Still, the largest contribution I ever made to a political candidate was to Ron Kirk in 2002. He just has this charm where he remembers your name, acts like he cares, and when you have the chance to meet and talk to him, he quickly wins you over.

I'm not saying he'd be a good DNC chair. I don't really know enough to make a solid judgement on that, although as I said with Martin Frost, I like the idea of a Texas DNC chair if for no other reason than that I know that someone at the head of the party will be looking out for Texas. And while I'm not one to bash Terry McAuliffe - I think that he's done a lot of good things for the party, the current DNC hasn't really done shit for Texas.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:48 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 14, 2004

The technology bug

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Gov. Perry has announced he will ask the Texas Legislature to renew the Texas Enterprise Fund with $300 million dollars and the establishment of the Texas Emerging Technology Fund. Already many businesses have voiced their approval of the project because it adds money to Texas' fight to compete on the global stage for technology companies investments.

And we already have new companies coming to us because of it. California-based Countrywide Financial will expand it Texas offices and will add 7,500 new jobs over the next several years. That's a good start and I like this program. Before you get all confused by my rantings about corporate subsidies and whatnot, let me explain. I don't like straight out subsidies and I don't like subsidizing through the tax code for large multi-nationals and companies that can damn well pay there own way.

But I don't think there is anything wrong with having a government program specifically for spending money to attract investment. If we use some taxpayer money to spruce up an office park and get a financial company to come and start adding jobs, I say job well done.

There's a fine line in there, and one that's probably open to some abuse. But I think that it is a good start for Texas to start attracting much-needed investment.

Guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 09:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I'll never put a deadline on myself again

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

From time to time I like to tell people about what it is like to work in a journalist's environment. Not only do I spend loads of my free time blogging or finding new things to blog about, but I also work at a newspaper where I regularly have deadlines to get my sports page out. In fact, last night I did some crappy posting just because I needed to rush for an early deadline for the Kid's Kopy inserts we have once a month.

Most people are surprised to find out just uptight a lot of desk people are, and how rampant foul language is in the newsroom. It turns out we are also 6 times more likely to have a heart attack because of deadlines. I thought those chest pains were just really bad Italian food that I eat in hurry to make deadline, but nope.

I just wanted to point that out to some people. I know plenty of people like to call in and complain about things they don't like; just remember it might just have killed us to try a little harder.

Guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 08:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

You can't lead a dead horse to water and make him drink

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I couldn't help but notice Andrew's post on my Social Security posts, so I thought 'why not keep the discussion going?' Somewhere we might find a compromise position between the two of us and therein find a politically viable option for our party to use in campaigning. There are two wings of the party here, those that thinks as Andrew does and find privatization to be workable and then there are those who find everything wrong with privatization. I think that if Andrew and I can work through our differences on this, we will really have accomplished something.

I'd like to start with some things we agree on, since this is what it's all about. I think we agree that there is a problem with Social Security and that something needs to be done. I think we can agree that payroll taxes are regressive and hurt poor people and working people and whatever we can do to limit that damage is a good thing. I think we agree that we can't trust George W. Bush to sit the right way on a toilet, let alone understand how best to help fix a problem without totally screwing it up. I think we can both agree that Bob Shrum totally sucks as a consultant and we can't understand why people keep hiring him.

That's a lot in common. And I'm going to let you in all in on a secret, Andrew's right about the market doing pretty well over time. I think I've adressed it before, why exactly I don't think a good market yield really helps his argument because of the overhead associated with putting you retirement money in the private sector. I think there are probably ways of limiting risk investing through well-managed mutual funds or maybe even have the option of buying government bonds and letting them mature in your private account. I'm willing to concede all of that to Andrew's wing. Privatization could probably work if it was done by people who knew what they were doing.

I'm just going to lay out on the table why it is I think my wing of the party doesn't like privatization, though. Number one has got to be who's proposing it. These people are the Keystone Cops of Wall Street and I definitely don't want my golden years in their hands. Two's got to be just how unfair it is. When Greenspan's group decided on the trust fund in 1983, they raised payroll taxes to way more than they had to buy bonds to put in the trust fund. If we go to privatization, that means poor and working people have been paying extra high regressive taxes for 20 years for no real reason. There will be no corresponding rise in income taxes on the wealthiest to pay for those bonds for the payout to reitirees.

The thing that bothers us most, or at least bothers me the most, is just why it is Republicans are so keen on privatization. I don't mean some greedy Wall Street conspiracy, I mean the simplest flat out reason: Because it was started by a Democrat. Since Reagan's inauguration, the GOP has been doing everything possible to get rid of government-run programs, any trace of Johnson Great Society or FDR's New Deal. They've more or less succeeded. Under the second Bush administration and even the Clinton administration welfare programs have become so mismanaged that people are asking that they be shut down and Bush can happily oblige when it comes time to write the budget. Anyone who has seen Bowling for Columbine knows what I'm talking about with welfare-to-work and other such disasters.

The one thing they haven't been able to touch is Social Security. People like Social Security, and they want to keep it. Twenty years ago, the Republicans (and everybody else for that matter) realized there was a looming crisis in the system so they've been working on a PR campaign every since to radically change the system. The whole point of Social Security is to spread the risk of investing throughout the federal government so that you are guaranteed by law to have enough to live on when you retire. Privatization is not about fixing Social Security, it is about eliminating the last best vestage of liberalism and government being a force of good in people's lives.

I don't know if Andrew and I are any closer to a compromise, but the discussion is still ongoing. As long as we're talking there's hope.

Guest post by Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 07:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

No more late fees

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Big news for people like me who have a very hard time returning movies to Blockbuster by the due date, they are getting rid of late fees.

Apparently there will still be a due date for video games, tapes and DVDs, but there will be a one week grace period after that, then they will sell it to you minus the rental fee. If you don't want to buy that copy of CHUD II: Bud the CHUD, you have 30 days to return it and you will get store credit for your next rental. I think this is great and I can't wait for this to start January 1. I wonder if that means I'll still owe them the $7.31 for not returning Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman on time.

This is a guest post from Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 06:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

I'm sure that got your attention. Actually, I'm most interested in offending the folks who are protesting the Vagina Monolouges. I attended a production of the Vagina Monolouges two years ago at UT, and it was interesting, hilarious, sad and informative all at once. I had to work during the production last year, but I'll try and go again this spring.

So what is the scandal of the Vagina Monolouges that would cause such protest? Why, they promote the evils of "sexual encounters, lust, graphic descriptions of masturbation and lesbian behavior", mortal sin, and the "corrosive agenda of the sexual revolution on campus".

You'd think it's the work of the devil, huh?

Well, not exactly. Here's their radical agenda:

V-Day is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop worldwide violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM) and sexual slavery.

V-Day stages large-scale benefits and produces innovative gatherings, films and campaigns to educate and change social attitudes towards violence against women including the documentary "Until the Violence Stops," community briefings with Amnesty International on the missing and murdered women of Juarez, Mexico; the December 2003 V-Day delegation trip to Israel, Palestine, Egypt and Jordan; the Afghan Women's Summit; the March 2004 delegation to India; the Stop Rape Contest and the Indian Country Project.

Through V-Day campaigns, local volunteers and college students produce annual benefit performances of "The Vagina Monologues" to raise awareness and funds for anti-violence groups within their own communities. In 2004, over 2000 V-Day benefit events were presented by volunteer activists around the world, educating millions of people about the reality of violence against women and girls.

A good cause worthy of your support.

Via Pandagon.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Chris Bell Serious about Potential Run for Governor

By Byron LaMasters

Via Greg, George Strong has the gossip:

And the Gossips hear that Congressman Chris Bell is telling folks that he is serious about running for Governor in 2006. Bell was a target of Tom DeLay in last spring's Democratic primary and was defeated by Al Green. Chris will have a year or so to travel around the state and test the water.

It's hardly a secret that Chris Bell is looking to run statewide in 2006 - most likely for governor. Most of the attention will be on the GOP side, but it'll be interesting to see how things shake out on our side, considering that there will be seven unemployed Texas Democratic congressmen next month (Bell, Rodriguez, Frost, Sandlin, Turner, Lampson and Stenholm).

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Some Good News from a GOP pollster

By Byron LaMasters

This admission by GOP pollster Frank Luntz is certainly good news for the future of the Democratic Party:

On the importance of voters aged 18-29, based on the Nov. 2 election:

"They are going to be the battleground for the next four years. [Of] first-time youth voters, 62 percent supported Kerry; 35 percent supported Bush. They are, for the Democrats, the beginning of a core constituency if they hope to return to power. The Democratic Party cannot win without the youth voting in even larger numbers."

On the news-consumption habits of young voters:

"Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but [young people] are not reading your newspapers. And I am sorry, too, [for] the anchors of the networks, but they are not watching them, either. A greater degree with every passing month are getting their information from the Internet."

If Democrats learn to understand this demographic, and don't do stupid things like kick bloggers out of meetings, but find ways to integrate the Internet, blogs and interactive multimedia into a coherent message and outreach towards young people, there's no reason why the 18-29 demographic should not be solidly Democratic.

This is a demographic that is largely turned off by the social conservatism of the Republican Party. It's a demographic that hasn't made a lot of money yet, so they're less drawn to the GOP on taxes. It's a demographic that has seen many of their generation have trouble finding jobs and affording higher education. If Democrats can mix a solid message with modern technology, there is no reason why young people should not be one of the major demographic constituencies of the Democratic Party. Now, if only we could get 'em to vote...

Via Smart Ass.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Islamists in Texas

By Andrew Dobbs

This is scary.

A group of respected "moderate" Muslim leaders, including one from the mosque a block away from where my mom used to live, gathered in Irving this weekend for a "Tribute to the Great Islamic Visionary." Who might this visionary be? Some moderate/progressive Muslim leader who will bring peace and development to the Muslim world?

Nope. They honored the Ayatollah Khomeini. The flier lauds the Ayatollah's "Islamic revolution in a world of hunger and oppression and outlines the true policy of non-alliance for the Islamic countries and countries in the near future, with the help of Allah SWT, will accept Islam as the only school for liberating humanity and will not recede nor sway from the policy even one step."

So let's parse this one. They are 1. celebrating the Islamic revolution in Iran, which has led to 2 and a half decades of support for terror against the United States and our allies, 2. urging other Muslim countries to refrain from working with the United States and other Western powers, 3. saying that Islamic governance is not only good, but is the only legitimate form of government and 4. stridency in the matter is needed. Terror, Islamic extremism and anti-Westernism all in one place- in Irving, Texas. Scary.

For those of you who don't think the War on Terror is a serious deal, its getting ever closer to home.

Update: I should have mentioned that I don't think that they should be shut down for saying these things- that is their constitutional right. But at the same time, one has to wonder if the "moderate" clerics are celebrating the Ayatollah, what are the "radicals" thinking? We should be keeping our eyes open to subversion and radicalism here at home.

And Christian fundamentalists are pretty scary too, but they use legitimate political channels to promote their beliefs. Islamic fundamentalists don't. That may be a function of their nations tending to be undemocratic, but at their core there is a huge difference between the two.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 10:59 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack


By Andrew Dobbs

I'll be on and off for a little while, as my PC appears to be broken. While I wait to find a way to fix it, I'll only be able to post at work or the library, limiting my ability to post. Today I have a few things to put out there, but it'll be the exception to the rule.

Thanks for the patience.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 10:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Social Security Stuff

By Andrew Dobbs

I saw Nate's post on this earlier and I thought I'd throw in my 2 cents.

I know that most Democrats stridently oppose privatization, and I can respect that position even though I'm not totally in agreement with it. Privatization offers a magic bullet kind of scenario in the long run- lower payroll taxes (which are the highest taxes 80% of Americans pay) and higher benefits. In the short run it might not be that great- hence Sweden's situation right now (you can't judge a major public policy after only 3 years of existence)- or it might go gangbusters (see Chile right after their program began, though it is shaky right now still in the short run relatively speaking). But in the long run it will perform very well- over a 20-30 year period the market in the US will always end up gaining. So for people that are in their 20s or 30s the program will be great- giving them 30-40 years to invest their money- but people in their 50s or 60s really won't gain from the system and might in fact lose a lot of money. That is why the switch should probably only be for people 45 or under and the rest should just stay in the system that exists now.

But that entails massive transition costs, and from whence will those come? Bush wants to invest 10% of their income while 2.4% will be used for transition (payroll taxes are 6.2% for employees with their employers matching them with their own 6.2%). That will still leave a $2 trillion shortfall over the next 10 years. Bad bad bad. Our deficit is already $450 billion a year, hiking it to $650 billion would be disastrous. Of course, the increased investment might spur big business growth and higher tax revenues, but I hate that kind of budget writing. But the Cato Institute has suggested putting 6.2% into the current system and 6.2% into investment for young people, with more and more money invested as fewer and fewer people remain in the old system. They say it will have nominal transition costs, and if they are right such a program would be the best of all the worlds- small transition costs, a stable current system and a transition into a private system that will mean eventually lower payroll taxes, higher benefits and stronger business growth. So let's hope Bush pays attention to all of his options (though I wouldn't hold my breath).

But there are reasonable reasons to be against these proposals I'll admit. Worrying about transition costs, the volatility of the market (though it is very stable in the longrun), the impact of brokerage fees and other legitimate worries abound. I think there are ways of ensuring all of these worries can be addressed by a system of private accounts, but it is easier just to stick with what we have.

What is NOT reasonable and should not be acceptable is the position John Kerry had which is easily summed up as "do nothing." We know that Social Security is a train wreck waiting to happen just 20-30 years down the line. Yet when asked would he raise the retirement age, John Kerry said "no." When asked if he would lower benefits he said "no." And I don't think I ever heard him say that he would raise payroll taxes or raise the income rate at which the tax is levied. This position (or lack thereof, to be honest) is borne of overpaid, underwhelming consultants such as Bob Shrum getting $20,000 a month plus 15% of the ad buys to tell him the old "third rail" conventional wisdom.

"John, John, its like I told Kennedy in '80- don't talk about Social Security," Shrum said. "But didn't he lose?" Kerry said. "Yeah," Shrum stammered, "but y'know, how can a Kennedy beat that Carter charisma?"

Bush has obliterated the conventional wisdom. For two straight elections he has talked openly about radically changing Social Security, and he won both times. Democrats shouldn't be so trepidatious, and they need to be more honest. Without privatization we will have to raise the retirement age, lower benefits or raise taxes (either the rate or the base). Most likely a combination of all three will have to happen. So the Republicans want to take something of a risk and save the systm while keeping the retirement age at 65, dramatically increasing benefits and actually lowering the taxes while Democrats want to do nothing at first and then hastily raise the retirement age, lower benefits and raise taxes. Who's got ahold of the third rail now?

Democrats should embrace privatization and should draw up an alternative plan that will keep the GOP honest. If we can create a solid system that will keep us from exploding the deficit, it promises to recreate American society and the American economy for the better. For the first time ever middle and working class Americans will have s serious stake in the workings of corporate America and corporate America's investors will be increasingly common people. Both sides will work for the improvement of the other, creating a more honest business environment and a more prosperous middle and working class. The program is a good one, and we of all people should be behind it.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 09:42 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

December 13, 2004

Sorry about that

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I'm sorry if the last post seemed to kind of jump toward an idea at the end. I got sidetracked for about an hour with a caller who wanted to know the history of the founding of Baylor University. He wanted to know who Baylor was named after and where that person was buried.

I ended up doing several Google searches trying to find everything I could on Judge Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor, formerly of Kentucky and Alabama, who came to Texas and helped establish the need for a Baptist university. Originally the school was to be named San Jacinto University, then Milam University before it was finally chartered on Feb. 1, 1845 as Baylor University.

Baylor was a District Judge and professor of law at Baylor until his death on Dec. 30th 1873. As per his request, he was buried on the campus grounds in Independence, TX. The university moved in 1886 to consolidate with Waco University, forming Baylor University at Waco, where it still is today. Baylor's remains were moved in 1917 to Baptist Women's College, now known as the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX.

How's that for a free history lesson.

Anyway, I'm such a dork that I had to share all of that useless knowledge with you until I could find something more suitable to write about.

Guest post by Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 11:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Are they handing out awards

By Nathan Nance

Guest post from Nate Nance

"Stupid people on the march" should be the headline at the end of the week. It's only Monday and I've already seen so many random act of stupidity as to boggle the mind. And for some reason they always want to write to the newspaper and show off their idiocy.

From the OpEd page of my very own Waco Trib, we get responses to a recent anti-abortion protest. A little background might be in order. About a year ago here in Waco, a really graphic anti-abortion rally was held outside Planned Parenthood of Central Texas. We're talking signs with actual pictures of dead fetuses and very harsh language about all life being sacred except the lives of those who practice abortion. Nothing wrong with that, you might say. Free speech and all. The problem is the elementary school across the street and the young students inside who had to look at those graphic signs as school let out for the day. Long story short, Waco passed an ordinance that did not allow these types of protests within a block of schools during class hours.

Whether you agree with the idea of "free speech zones" or not, that's the law here when it comes to anti-abortion rallies. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when several people had a relatively peaceful week at an area high school handing out anti-abortion and anti-homosexuality pamphlets. Except of course, some of the students protested the groups right to even be there.

Anyway, several people wrote in to give their two cents worth. I've decided I'll just quote this one particular letter in full, but feel free to read all of them.

I would be pleased for someone to ask me about my salvation. I'm glad someone is trying to give young people information on destructive behaviors like abortion and homosexuality.

Liberals like free speech only when it is their own. Liberals are notorious for their censorship. Our founding fathers would be viciously attacked by today's liberals.

America needs to let God back in.

Dazell L. Rankin


So abortion and homosexuality are bad behaviors, like smoking? Stop being gay or you'll get lung cancer! Dear Lord, why did you make some of us so freakin' stupid?

You know, I'm fairly sure this is the same general group that wants kids to learn that you can get AIDS from gay people if they sneeze on you or some other nonsense. Yet, they are trying to educate our kids? I'm just exasperated with trying to reason with people like this. I've tried convincing them that they may be a wee bit intolerant, but that only makes them scream louder, so I've come to the conclusion that you should just call them morons and bigots and see where that get's you.

Guest post by Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 09:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Would you like to privatize that for only $.35 more?

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

First, I want to say I'm glad to see Byron back posting at his regular pace. It's just not BOR without Byron.

Second, I want to say this woman, Dana, is about the stupidest person I've heard from this week (my next post will have the stupidest). She's got a post on Hardblogger about the need to revamp Social Security and why 20-somethings (like us) should be thinking about it.

I will give her that she's right in the interest our generation should be taking in this issue. It affects us all because of the way the system is designed with the current generation of workers paying the way for the current generation of retirees. But she just makes some really ludicrous leaps in logic to arrive at 'privatization is good.'

She starts off with by stating that Social Security "although created with hopeful intentions, has been a flawed design since its conception." I would argue that the real problem is the Baby Boomers and the fact that there are so damn many of them. Except for them, the population in every other generation is stable and the system is solvent, paying for itself as it goes along with little risk of losing retirement savings.

Dana only gets more ludicrous:

President Bush's plan includes an option for younger taxpayers to allocate funds from their Social Security payroll taxes in private investment accounts. Party lines aside, some reconfiguring must be made and considering our options a private fund would limit the need for an increase in taxes.

Let me see if I can follow this logic. There are too many people who are about to start drawing from Social Security, so we want to start diverting money away Social Security and start putting it into private accounts for individuals to keep from raising taxes? Less money in the system, more people, without raising taxes? For you folks playing at home, the shortfall in the system if we transition to privatization is $2 trillion over 10 years. That's how much we are going to have to borrow from China to do this. And the Bush administration wants to pretend like the cost doesn't even exist.

This is the piece d' resistance (my horrible French) "And since the United States always tries to portray itself as a cutting edge culture with the latest gadgets and the hippest trends, maybe we should move beyond the same system that has been in place for seventy years and try out something hip and new that is only 20 years old, like 401(k)s and IRAs." I added my own emphasis to show what my major problem is. Her closing point is to trash a 70-year-old government entitlement program to portray ourselves as hip? How about we ask the people in Chile or Sweden who have gone to private accounts and who's retirements have gone in the toilet how they feel about being trendy?

The bottom line here is that Social Security is a special vow that government made with its people in the 1930s. FDR said he would provide a safety net for those who could not save for retirement. He created a New Deal with the American people where he told us that he would promote the general welfare of the citizens of this country. The Republicans want to take that away because they don't like the government giving anyone anything unless it is corporate subsidies or tax cuts for the very wealthy. Well screw that. This is something that we all need to take a stand on because it s our future, too.

This is a guest post from Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 07:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

DNC Roundup

By Byron LaMasters

Greg links to Simon Rosenberg's ASDC Meeting - Orlando Speech and likes much of what he reads, as do I.

MyDD has the "post-Orlando" cattle-call, along with an informal exit poll of members of the DNC. The verdict? "Outsiders" such as Howard Dean, Wellington Webb and Ron Kirk seem to have made a strong impression, and "insiders" such as Simon Rosenberg, Martin Frost, James Blanchard and Harold Ickes are well behind. Then again, the poll is a small sample, and could easily be marred by some sort of groupthink mentality among ASDC (Association of State Democratic Chairs) attendees.

Jerome has a rant about getting kicked out of various meetings at the ASDC. Geez, some of these people still just don't get it. Ignore bloggers at your peril.

Panhandle Truth Squad has decided after today's anti-Dean editorial in the Amarillo Globe News that Howard Dean is obviously the man for the job.

Speaking of Howard Dean, he has a column today about moral values. Democrats often cringe when asked to talk about values. Social liberalism is often equated to moral relativism, when in fact liberals simply see moral values as something more than God, gays and guns:

It is a moral value to provide health care. It is a moral value to educate our young people. The sense of community that comes from full participation in our Democracy is a moral value. It is a moral value to make sure that we do not leave our own debts to be paid by the next generation. Honesty is a moral value.

Dean has the right message, here. Democrats so often feel squeamish when talking about our values, because we often squirm at religious sounding rhetoric mixed in political discourse. It's a fear that we must overcome, as we find ways to project our values in a sincere and honest manner. I don't think that Howard Dean is the right messenger for that task - for all his talk in the primary about "southerners who drive pickup trucks with confederate flag stickers" - I don't think that Dean understands the root values of those very people he liked to talk about. In many ways, I don't either, but I do believe that we ought to elect as chair someone who has at least made a serious attempt towards reaching out beyond the Democratic Party base.

Simon Rosenberg's work in Alaska and Oklahoma certainly places him in that category. Ron Kirk and Martin Frost have similar experiences in running uphill races where appeal beyond the Democratic base was a requirement. Both achieved some success in that department, but not enough to win. I'd like to hear more about other candidates as well. We shall see.

Update: Anna weighs in on the race. Her preference? Howard Dean, or "someone who has a clue".

Another Update: Matt Stoller posts his endorsement of Simon Rosenberg.

Via comments, another Rosemberg blogger endorsement at KY Dem.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:28 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

More on Lupe Valdez

By Byron LaMasters

I finally had the opportunity to congratulate Lupe Valdez on her victory at an event I attended in Dallas last night. Of course, I had to ask her if she knew anything about blogs, and she appeared a bit confused. Oh well, I suppose that's alright, as long as she does a good job as Dallas County Sheriff.

Anyway, the Houston Chronicle has a good article about Valdez today, so check it out.

Via Kuff.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rick Perry's Polling

By Byron LaMasters

Last week, the Montgomery and Associates poll showed KBH easily defeating Perry in a GOP primary for governor 59.5% to 31.6%.

Late last week, Rick Perry came out with his own poll numbers via Rick Perry Vs. The World and the Quorum Report.

The results? Perrly leads KBH 47% to 43%. However, the key to this poll is all here:

It will be interesting to see an informed ballot test. Experience shows that a senator's record that is closer to John Kerry's than to John Cornyn's on some key issues will have a difficult time in a GOP primary.

You know the tone that Rick Perry's attacks will take... KBH is a liberal-votin', Kerry-backin', baby-killin', homosexual-panderin', stem-cell supportin' Republican in Name Only!

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

Ben Barnes featured in the January Texas Monthly

By Byron LaMasters

Here's what we can look for from the January 2005 issue of Texas Monthly available on sale on December 20th:

"A long interview with [Ben] Barnes in which he's absolutely unapologetic about 60 minutes, and offers his prescription for saving the Democratic party in TX."

Via email. Ought to be an interesting read... I'll be sure to pick up a copy next week.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

KBH Comes out in Support of Stem Cell Research in Texas

By Byron LaMasters

This was a story last week, but I it deserves a mention still. I completely agree that Texas will quickly be "left in the dust" by California and other states if we fail to pick up the mantle of research left to the states by the large scale inaction of the federal government, and the Bush administration. The AP reports:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said Friday that state leaders should work with Gov. Rick Perry and the Legislature to develop a stem-cell research policy that keeps Texas from being "left in the dust by California."

Hutchison, a potential 2006 Republican primary challenger to Perry, referred to a landmark $3 billion initiative to fund stem-cell research passed by California voters in the November election.

The senator's comments came as she addressed University of Texas regents and medical college presidents at a special health issues retreat in Dallas.

"I think that Texas needs to have a responsible, ethical policy regarding stem-cell research," Hutchison said after the meeting. "I think if we are going to stay in the forefront of scientific discoveries, we are going to have to find an ethical way to keep the state-of-the-art experiments on stem cells and how they can displace unhealthy cells in people's bodies.

"This is the way we're going to be able to cure many forms of cancer, Alzheimer's, Hodgkin's Disease," added Hutchison, who said she has made no decision on a possible gubernatorial race.

Robert Black, a Perry spokesman, said he had no immediate response to Hutchison's remarks.

Even in "red" Texas, I think stem cell research is a winning issue in a general election, although I'm not so sure about how it would play in a GOP primary. If KBH can show that she doesn't hate gay people, it might just throw the social conervative base of the Texas GOP into a tizzy. That would make Sen. Hutchison a baby-killing, homosexual-pandering, stem-cell supportin' feminazi, right?

Update: Rick Perry vs. the World echoes my thoughts (or am I echoing his?). Anyway, he (or is it a he?) writes:

It seems odd for KBH to be making an issue out of stem cell research. That might be a good general campaign issue, but this seems likely to break against her in a Republican primary. It appears to hand Perry an issue where he can attempt to paint himself as closer to George W. Bush than KBH. Also, GOP primary voters probably don't want to hear a candidate contrast California favorably with Texas.

Good point.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:10 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Regular Posting to Resume

By Byron LaMasters

I finished my finals Saturday around noon, proceeded to sleep about 16 of the next 24 hours, then packed things up, and came back to Dallas yesterday afternoon. So, after about a week hiatus from blogging regularly, I expect my posting to resume to normal levels this week.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 12, 2004

Oh my God, I'm bored

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

This seems like an incredibly slow news night. I just spent several minutes watching one newscaster do everything they could to not mention other reasons besides his nanny for Bernard Kerik to withdraw his nomination and another explaining what children were asking for Christmas from Santa.

I've come up with a theory, it might only be true in my area, but I think that all the news people actually go to school for cosmetology. They can't write worth a damn, they dress way too fancily for local news and their hair looks like it was done by someone who's a cheerleader's mom. Not to mention they all sound like 12-year-olds from East Texas. Maybe it's just where I live.

The only exception is the Channel 10 weekend meteorologist Angela Montoya, who is as beautiful as she is smart.

I'm trying to kill time here, waiting for games to end so that I can finish and go home. I'm very tired and I'm probably not going to post again tonight. I've been having fun guest blogging at BOR and I really hate to see it end soon. I will write some more in the morning, unless a war breaks out or something. Until then.

This is a guest post from Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 10:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's the most wonderful time of the year

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I just wanted to share with everybody that I just got my Christmas Bonus at work. A full $33.67. Whoo hoo! Now I can go buy some cheese or maybe even cheese and sausage.

Really though, it's going to my mom's Christmas present, which I can't mention because she may be reading.

This is a guest post from Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense (which hasn't been updated in days) a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 07:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Social Security Now: Redux

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Tonight I'm going to attempt to leap from hack to wonk in a single bound. But first, we need to have a quick discussion of the media.

Byron pointed out a biased line at the end of an AP article on gay marriage being OK'd in the Canadian Supreme Court a few days ago. There was one kind of bias that I don't think any of us really discussed in the comments to that post. It's the most prevalent bias in journalism: laziness.

Who cares what you say on TV, as long as you get that paycheck you'll parrot Roger Ailes like there's no tomorrow. That's an attitude that I think a lot of journalists take, the path of least resistance.

Part of that laziness shows up in how some stories are reported. Remember the missing 380 tons of explosives from the al Qaqaa facility? That was a huge story before the election last month because the media got to write a lot of process stories about how it will affect who we pick as president. As soon as the election was over, everybody dropped it. It's not like we found all those explosives, it just didn't matter because their was no election.

Need another example, how about Abu Ghraib? A huge human rights story that everybody covered during hte summer. When was the last time you saw a story on it? The mainstream media dropped the story in favor of reporting the Swift Vets, a story that had absolutely nothing to do with anything except the election. For the entire month of August that was the top story, people arguing over what happend 30 years ago.

The media finds it easier to report process stories and horserace numbers than anything of actual value. Why ask questions when you can report quotes?

Before I go much further, I should tell you I'm not an economist. I don't have a degree in economics nor did I minor in economics. Luckily I don't have to be. We've had 30 years of blue ribbon commissions and Congressional hearings and real economists telling us exactly how we can fix the gap in Social Security that will be caused by the Baby Boom generation retiring all at once. A small tax increase now in the payroll taxes to buy more Treasury bonds for the trust fund and a small benefits cut later when we are cashing in those bonds with slightly higher income taxes. All of a sudden the equation equals out and Social Security is solvent indefinitely.

In 1983, Alan Greenspan chaired a committee that came up with the stop loss measure known as the trust fund. They decided that increasing the regressive payroll tax more than necessary to cover curent costs would be used to buy those bonds. After the 2018 insolvency date, the government would start cashing in those IOUs and to pay for it would increase the progressive income tax (coincidentally, since the govt. would no longer be buying bonds to put into the trust fund, payroll taxes would go back down). The bonds run out about 2038, but by then the source of the problem (the Baby Boomers) is gone too and the worker to retiree ratio evens out.

Back to the media for a minute. Most of the stories you're going to see about Social Security reform of the next few months will ask questions like "When will President Bush ask Congress to privatize SocialSecurity?" Very few will ask "Do we need to privatize Social Security?" Remember, process stories not actual issue stories.

One of the people asking hard questions is Edmund Andrews at the NY Times. Brad DeLong has a post on Andrews' article covering the first of the many problems of privatization: risk. There is a lot of risk in investing your Social Security account in the stock market. If you're nearing your retirement and a bad day in the market cuts the bottom out of the mutual fund you're invested in, you have no time to recoup your losses. The market may perform really well over a 40-year period, but you don't retire over 40 years, you retire in a single day and God help you if you pick the day after the market hears about a scandal at your fund's manger's office.

The other problem lies in the assumed return. The bonds the government buys to put in the trust fund return at about 3%, privatization proponents say the market will return 6.5%. Assuming that is true, that extra return would cover the shortfall caused the Baby Boomers retiring en masse, which is about $3.5 trillion (That's trillion with a 't'). Let's asume I start saving a personal account right now. In 40 years, I don't lose any significant sums and the market performs really well (as it does. Even when it goes down it goes back up). The privatizers turn out ot be right and I get a 6.5%. But we've forgotten something very important, the fund manager. This is private sector after all, so the fund gets some of that money. You have your investment advisor, he needs to get paid. Pretty soon your percentage of that return, the money you get for taking the gamble that is the market and putting your retirement on the line, is 3%.

And none of that takes into account the fact that, more than likely, the 6.5% is a pipe dream in the first place. There are some real problems with Social Security, but nothing that can't be fixed easily enough. The sooner we raise taxes and cut benefits, the less severe those hikes and cuts have to be. And the sooner we get our financial house in order (i.e. get rid of Republicans) the sooner we can stop sticking our hand in the till to help pay down the debt instead of buying bonds to put in the trust fund.

This is a guest post from Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 06:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

And behind door number 3, Ron Kirk!

By Jim Dallas

A semi-formal survey of DNC voting members suggests that former Dallas mayor, 2002 senate candidate, and all around good guy (I say this from personal anecdotal experience, your mileage may vary) Ron Kirk may be building momentum towards being the next DNC chairman.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:07 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

December 11, 2004

Random Trivia

By Jim Dallas

How large is the average candidate rally before the Iowa caucus? In order to find out the answer, I did a Nexis search, and dug up as many stories as I could with crowd estimates from this year. (Numbers below the fold).

Candidate - Event - Date - Crowd Size - Location

Five Candidates - Forum - June 20, 2003 - 350 - Newton
Kucinich - Peace Rally - July 12, 2003 - 100 - Des Moines
Kerry - rally - July 19, 2003 - "packed room" - Dubuque
Gephardt - Teamster rally - August 8, 2003 - 300 - Des Moines
Dean - Labor Day picnic - August 31, 2003 - 200 - Iowa City
Edwards - So. Cent. Iowa Fed. Labor - August 31, 2003 - 2000 - Des Moines
Dean - Univ. of Iowa rally - October 4, 2003 - 800 - Iowa City
Edwards - home event - October 22, 2003 - 50 - Dubuque
Dean - Howard in Howard rally- October 22, 2003 - 200 - Cresco
Six Candidates - Jeff/Jack Day Dinner - Nov. 15, 2003 - 7500 - Des Moines (Kerry: 2000 supporters)
Hillary Clinton - book signing - Nov. 15, 2003 - 900 - Des Moines
Three Candidates - forum - Nov. 15, 2003, - 200 - Des Moines
Gephardt - union rally - Nov. 29, 2003 - 100 - Dubuque
Kucinich - UNI raly - December 4, 2003 - 100 - Cedar Falls
Kucinich - UD rally - December 5, 2003 - 50 - Dubuque
Jim Dean (H.D's borther) - rally - December 5, 2003 - "two dozen" - Dubuque
Howard Dean - Gore endorsement - December 8, 2003 - "hundreds" - Cedar Rapids
Edwards - speech - December 21, 2003 - 200 - Robins
Dean - speech - January 2, 2004 - 300 - Ft. Dodge
Gephardt - speech - January 3, 2004 - 100 - Dubuque
All Cand - outside Iowa Public TV - January 3, 2004 - 200 - Johnston
Kerry - Ted Kennedy rally - January 10, 2004 - "hundreds" - Dubuque
Dean - Gore/Harkin/Dean UD rally - January 10, 2004 - 300 - Dubuque
Kucinich - native american rally - January 10, 2004 - 100 - Des Moines
Dean - Reiner/Sheen rally - January 12, 2004 - "hotel lobby" - Des Moines
Gephardt - union rally - January 12, 2004 - 400 - Des Moines
Edwards - Simpson College rally - January 13, 2004 - 300 - Indianola
Edwards - rally - January 14, 2004 - 500 - Des Moines
Edwards - NCSML rally - January 15, 2004 - 400 - Cedar Rapids
Kerry - rally - January 16, 2004 - 300 - Clinton
Edwards - rally - January 17, 2004 - 400 - Cedar Rapids
Gephardt - Clarke College rally - January 18, 2004 - 150 - Dubuque
Dean - UI rally - January 19, 2004 - 1000 - Iowa City

Posted by Jim Dallas at 08:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Riddle Me This

By Jim Dallas

Believe it or not, today is John Kerry's 61st birthday.

As my friend Brady asked, why have we not been spammed with fundraising requests?

I don't enjoy getting lots of fundraising e-mails, but it does prove to me that the DNC is still alive.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 08:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday's with Tucker Carlson: going where no bow tie has gone before

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Tucker had a special edition of his PBS show last night. On Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered he had an extended interview with Robert D. Kaplan, a regular contributor for The Atlantic Monthly, and they were talking about embedding reporters and whether or not it was a good idea.

Tucker did an actual interview where he asked salient questions (a rarity for him) and there were things I agreed with and disagreed with. I think a global media with no national attachment is agood thing, but I also think he was right when he said that politicians sometimes have to make deals with countries that otherwise have poor human rights records and are considered disdainful. Kaplan gave Uzbekistan as an example and Tucker followed with Pakistan when they were discussing the war with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Kaplan said that more progress was being made in the area of human rights under General Musharraf than under the democratically elected regime he overthrew. I don't know how right he is, and I think history shows we get problems later down the line by supporting military dictators (Saudi Arabia, Nicaragua, etc.)

But they both agreed on this one bit that I just have to quote:

Kaplan: Last week, Rumsfeld gave an interview to Bill O'Reilly which was very revealing. He was asked about, didn't you think of an insurgency, didn't you think this was going to happen. He said, we thought about a lot of thing, chemical attack, refugee migration, all the things he said he worried about were things that could go wrong in the invasion, not what would go wrong after the invasion. After the invasion, there's only two things that can go wrong, chaos and insurgency. Everything else, bringing in electricity, water, police, are all designed to prevent those two things. So if you're going to invade a country, and then not prepare for insurgency or chaos afterwards, you haven't done your planning. Because they did not do their planning, you know, they're left a year, 18 months later with 150,000 troops, and then everything else is shortchanged. There's not enough steel for the uparmored Humvees, not enough glass, you know, all kinds of shortages because none of this, they didn't expect to need 150,000 troops 18 months later in the first place.

So, that begs the question, why is Donald Rumsfeld still Sec. of Defense? I can't understand it, and frankly, I don't think anyone else on this planet does, either.

If it's something that Bush thinks will show that he thinks he made a mistake in invading Iraq, I think the cat's already out of the bag on that. Everyone knows it was either a mistake to invade in the first place or that the invasion was the right idea at the right time, carried out by the wrong people. If you were pro-invasion, you probably don't think the occupation has been handled too well. If you were anti-war (like me) you probably have said to yourself, "well, they did it anyway. I just hope this all works out and they achieve something." You decided to root for the plan, only to find out there was no plan.

Yet no Republican is really calling for Rumsfeld's resignation... except John McCain. And he's only said he has no confidence in him. WTF?

I'd have to say Tucker wasn't a big dick this week, so I guess that makes him a little dick, which gives us something to talk about until next week.

This is a guest post from Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense (which hasn't been updated in days) a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 07:02 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Bye, bye Bernie

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Bernard Kerik has taken his name out of nomination for Homeland Security Director. He stated "personal reasons" involving the immigration status of a nanny as the cause.

Josh Marshall and others have been doing some investigative journalism (remember when reporters used to do that?) and found some interesting things. For instance, though he was police commissioner of New york on Sept. 11, he quit that job soon afterwards. He also had a job training Iraqi police to take over the duty of securing the country whihc he left after only a few months. It's all moot now, but still interesting. This is stuff that is available in a quick Google search, but still most people don't know it; like Iraq not having WMD.

This is a guest post by Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yhaoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 06:10 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Hutchison Turns Red, Lashes Out At Perry Donors

By Vince Leibowitz

A seemingly benign meeting between Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and several El Paso businessmen turned ugly Tuesday and resulted in Hutchison literally turning red and chastising a number of big-money supporters of Texas Governor Rick Perry during the private meeting.

According to the El Paso Times, Hutchison became upset after the men--who to date have given a combined $800,000 to Perry and plan to donate hundreds of thousands more--said their large campaign contributions to state leaders have increased El Paso's influence in Austin:

Hutchison then gave a lecture-like response, denouncing the role big-money contributions play in state government, several of those attending said.

"We didn't expect that reaction," El Paso businessman Ted Houghton said. "That's when the meeting fell apart, unfortunately. Our point was, we like what we have for El Paso and we like what we have for the state of Texas.

"We're not going to get into a (shouting) contest with her, but it fell all apart," Houghton said. "We did not expect that."

A spokesman for Hutchison confirmed that the meeting got nasty and that the state's senior senator condemned the role of large donations in Texas politics:

"Senator Hutchison is appalled that people are being strong-armed, feel they have to hand over huge contributions in order to be heard in the state's political process," spokesman Dave Beckwith said Friday. "What she's been hearing around the state is encouragement -- to provide the leadership to clean up that system."

That statement--the harshest criticism by Hutchison, who is considering a 2006 GOP primary run against Perry, brought sharp criticism from the Perry camp:

"Others can deal in the Washington-style politics of personal destruction and blind ambition to do what is best for themselves, but Governor Perry will continue to be a strong, ethical and effective leader for El Paso and Texas as a whole," said Luis Saenz, Perry's campaign director.

Although Tuesday's meeting descended into apparrent chaos and "fell apart," it's initial purpose was reportedly far more benign than the final result.

According to the Times, the meeting was organized by former El Paso Mayor Jonathan Rogers as a briefing by the senator on various issues, but several Perry supporters eventually turned the conversation to the coming gubernatorial election and tried to persuade Hutchison not to challenge the governor.

The meeting with Hutchison was not designed to start the political debate, its organizer said:

"I told her, 'The next time you're in town, give me a holler, so I called some of my friends,'" said Rogers, who was El Paso's mayor during 1981-89 and has been the senator's friend for 30 years.

"I felt that she was here talking to us to see what's going on and to give us some good news, which I'm not privy to talk about because it was supposed to be a closed meeting," Rogers said.

Houghton and Hunt led the opening discussion about El Paso's emerging role in state politics.

"What we did tell her was, 'Senator, we love you. We've been working in this community for 50, 60 years and, finally, the moon and the stars have all lined up,'" Houghton said.

Houghton, Hunt and others fear that a bruising primary battle between Perry and Hutchison would turn incendiary and threaten the Texas Republican Party.

"We don't want to go through a process where the Republican Party devours itself in internal conflict, which, in this case, is unnecessary," Hunt said. "We have two people doing a very good job where they are.

"They are benefiting the state and benefiting our community," Hunt said. "I think we have good access to both of them."

El Paso businessman Woody Hunt told the paper he reminded the senator that El Paso had not fully participated in state politics in the past and has long been neglected. He and others decided to open up their checkbooks and become players:

"We need to be better connected to the state. We need to be able to have access. We need to be able to communicate," said Hunt, who's donated almost $200,000 to Perry in the past four years, campaign finance records show. "And we endeavored to do that, and we thought we were succeeding."

The discussion took a turn for the worst when several leaders mentioned their large donations to Perry.

The newspaper reported that one of the participants--who wasn't identified--said Hutchison's neck turned red and that it was, "obvious by the way she was inching up in her seat that she was fixing to let everybody have it." one of the business leaders said.

Eleven of the 14 El Pasoans attending the meeting have given to Perry's campaign since 2000, with their combined contributions totaling more than $800,000 as of June 30, the Times reported. Rogers was the only one in the meeting who gave to Hutchison in that period, with his contributions totaling $7,000 to her campaign and political action committee. Eight El Pasoans have pledged an additional $100,000 each for Perry between this year and the 2006 election.

Some of the participants dispute whether Perry's El Paso supporters brought up their specific contribution amounts, or whether the senator did. "The monetary issues never came up from our perspective. She brought it up," Houghton said. "We said we have made an investment in the leadership of the state. That's as far as we went."

The Hutchison's spokesman said she reacted to Perry supporters'
specifically touting the accomplishments produced after significantly
stepping up their political contributions.

Perry last year made Houghton the first El Paso member of the state's
powerful Texas Department of Transportation Commission. Hunt was appointed by Perry as the first El Pasoan in more than 40 years to serve on the University of Texas System Board of Regents.

Other El Pasoans attending the meeting with high-ranking Perry appointments included Robert Brown (Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission), Rick Francis (Texas Tech Board of Regents) and Paul Foster (Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board).

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 03:44 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Democrats Da Vinci Code

By Christina Ocasio

Guest post by Christina Ocasio

This is an ecellent article that needs to be read by all Democrats and progressives. It just may hold a key for future success in Texas.

*The Democrats' Da Vinci Code*

*By David J. Sirota,
The American Prospect.Posted December 9, 2004 *

As the Democratic Party goes through its quadrennial self-flagellation process, the same tired old consultants and insiders are once again complaining that Democratic elected officials have no national agenda and no message.

Yet encrypted within the 2004 election map is a clear national economic platform to build a lasting majority. You don't need Fibonacci's sequence, a decoder ring, or 3-D glasses to see it. You just need to start asking the right questions.

Where, for instance, does a Democrat get off using a progressive message to become governor of Montana? How does an economic populist Democrat keep winning a congressional seat in what is arguably America's most Republican district? Why do culturally conservative rural Wisconsin voters keep sending a Vietnam-era anti-war Democrat back to Congress? What does a self-described socialist do to win support from conservative working-class voters in northern New England?

The answers to these and other questions are the Democrats' very own Da Vinci Code - a road map to political divinity. It is the path Karl Rove fears. He knows his GOP is vulnerable to Democrats who finally follow leaders who have translated a populist economic agenda into powerful cultural and values messages. It also threatens groups like the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), which has pushed the Democratic Party to give up on its working-class roots and embrace big business' agenda. These New Democrats, backed by huge corporate contributions, say that the party must reduce corporate regulation and embrace a free-trade policy that is wiping out local economies throughout the heartland. They have the nerve to call this agenda "centrist" even though poll after poll shows it is far out of the mainstream. Yet these centrists get slaughtered at the ballot box, and their counterparts - the progressive economic populists - are racking up wins and relegating the DLC argument
to the scrap heap.

The code's seven lessons are clear, and have been for some time. The question is, will party insiders see the obvious and finally follow their real leaders? Or will they continue mimicking Republican corporatism, thereby hastening their own demise?

*Fight the Class War*

If patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, crying "class warfare" is the last refuge of wealthy elitists. Yet, inexplicably, this red herring emasculates Democrats in Washington. Every time pro-middle-class
legislation is offered, Republicans berate it as class warfare. Worse, they get help from corporate factions within the Democratic Party itself.

But as countless examples show, progressives are making inroads into culturally conservative areas by talking about economic class. This is not the traditional (and often condescending) Democratic pandering about the need for a nanny government to provide for the masses. It is us-versus-them red meat, straight talk about how the system is working against ordinary Americans.

In Vermont, Rep. Bernie Sanders, the House's only independent and a self-described socialist, racks up big wins in the "Northeast Kingdom," the rock-ribbed Republican region along the New Hampshire border. Far from the Birkenstock-wearing, liberal caricature of Vermont, the Kingdom is one of the most culturally conservative hotbeds in New England, the place that helped fuel the "Take Back Vermont" movement against gay civil unions.

Yet the pro-choice, pro-gay-rights Sanders' economic stances help him bridge the cultural divide. In the 1990s, he was one of the most energetic opponents of the trade deals with China and Mexico that destroyed the local economy. In the Bush era, he highlighted the inequity of the White House's soak-the-rich tax-cut plan by proposing to instead provide $300 tax-rebate checks to every man, woman, and child regardless of income (a version of Sanders' rebate eventually became law). For his efforts, Sanders has been rewarded in GOP strongholds like Newport Town. While voters there backed George W. Bush and Republican Gov. Jim Douglas in 2004, they also gave Sanders 68 percent of the vote.

Sanders' strength among rural conservatives is not just a cult of personality; it is economic populism's broader triumph over divisive social issues. In culturally conservative Derby, for instance, a first-time third-party candidate used a populist message to defeat a longtime Republican state representative who had become an icon of Vermont's anti-gay movement.

The same message is working in conservative swaths of Oregon, where Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio keeps getting re-elected in a Bush district. For DeFazio, the focus is unfair trade deals and taxpayer giveaways to the wealthy. When Republicans promote plans to "save" Social Security, DeFazio counters not by agreeing with privatization but with his plan to force the wealthy to start paying more into the system.

The message is also used by Mississippi Congressman Gene Taylor, who represents a district that gave 65 percent of its vote to Bush in 2000 and was previously represented in the House by Trent Lott. Taylor bucks his district's GOP tilt by mixing opposition to free trade with what the Almanac of American Politics calls "peppery populism" and a demeanor that is "feisty to the point of being belligerent." "Unlike the policy hawks who never leave Washington ... I know the owners of factories, the foreman, and the workers, and they'll all tell you it's because of NAFTA that their factories closed," Taylor told newspapers in late 2003, criticizing the trade deal signed by President Bill Clinton.

This message contrasts with that of the DLC centrists, who promote, for instance, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh's free-trade, Republican-lite positions as a model for winning in red states. What they don't say is that Bayh comes from one of Indiana's most beloved political families and wins largely by virtue of his last name, not his ideology. Where a corporate message like Bayh's has been put to a real challenge, it has been a disaster. In Louisiana, for instance, the state's tradition of electing Democratic populists like Huey and Russell Long gave way to centrist politicians like Sen. John Breaux, a man best known in Washington for throwing Mardi Gras parties with business lobbyists. When a Breaux clone ran to replace the retiring senator, he was crushed by a moral crusading Republican.

In North Carolina, instead of following John Edwards' class-based formula, Democrats anointed investment banker Erskine Bowles as the nominee to replace Edwards in 2004. At the time, party insiders brushed off concerns that, as a Clinton White House chief of staff, Bowles was an architect of the free-trade policy that helped eliminate North Carolina's manufacturing jobs. But Bowles' opponent, Rep. Richard Burr, made the Democrat pay for his free-trade sellout. "You negotiated the China trade agreement for President Clinton, which is the largest exporter of jobs not just in North Carolina but in this country," Burr said at one debate, robbing Bowles of an economic issue that might have offset North Carolinians' inherent cultural suspicions of a Democrat. On election night, Bowles went down in flames.

*Champion Small Business Over Big Business*

The small-business lobby in Washington is a de facto wing of the Republican Party. But Democrats are finding that, at the grass-roots level, small-business people are far less uniformly conservative, especially as the GOP increasingly helps huge corporations eat up local economies. While entrepreneurs don't like high taxes and regulations, they also don't like government encouraging multinationals to monopolize the market and destroy Main Street.

As a small-business man himself, Montana's 2004 Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Brian Schweitzer, figured out how to use these frustrations in one of America's reddest states. He lamented how out-of-state corporations were using loopholes to avoid paying taxes, thus driving up the tax burden on small in-state companies. He discussed taxing big-box companies like Wal-Mart that have undercut local business. In the process, he became the state's first Democratic governor in 16 years.

In the Midwest and New England, progressives are focused on small manufacturers. These traditional GOP constituencies, which sell components to large multinationals, have been decimated by a trade policy that encourages their customers to head overseas in search of repressive, anti-union regimes that drive down labor costs. "When the economy turned soft [in 2001], we anticipated the business would come back," one owner of a factory-machine business told BusinessWeek. "But it didn't. We saw our customer base either close, or migrate to China."

Free-trade critics like Democratic Reps. Mike Michaud, Ted Strickland and Tim Holden, who perpetually win Republican-leaning districts, are rewarded for their stands with support from these kinds of businesspeople, who had previously been part of the GOP's base. The U.S. Business and Industry Council, which represents America's domestic family-owned manufacturers, now lists these and other progressives at the top of its congressional scorecard.

Unfortunately, these kinds of trailblazers are not yet being rewarded by their own party in Washington. According to reports, the House Democratic leadership is considering promoting some of the most ardent free traders to the Ways and Means Committee, the panel that oversees trade policy. Apparently Democrats have not yet lost enough seats in the heartland to honestly address their Achilles heels.

*Protect Tom Joad*

Northern Wisconsin and the plains of North Dakota are not naturally friendly territories for progressives. Both areas are culturally conservative, yet their voters keep sending progressive Democrats like Rep. David Obey and Sen. Byron Dorgan, respectively, back to Congress.

No issue is closer to these two leaders' hearts - or more important to their electoral prospects - than the family farm. In Wisconsin, corporate dairy processors have tried to depress prices for farmers' dairy products. In North Dakota, agribusiness has squeezed the average farmer with lower prices for commodities. But unlike other lawmakers who simply pocket agribusiness cash and look the other way, Obey and Dorgan have been voices of dissent. They have pushed legislation to freeze agribusiness mergers, a proposal originally developed by populist Sen.Paul Wellstone of Minnesota. As Dorgan once wrote, "When Cargill, the nation's number one grain exporter, can buy the grain operations of Continental, which is number two, the cops aren't exactly walking tall
on the antitrust beat."

Dorgan and Obey also opposed the Republican-backed "Freedom to Farm Act," which President Clinton signed into law. Instead of pretending the subsidies in the bill were good for the little guy, Obey told the truth and called it the "freedom-to-lose-your-shirt" bill. He noted that the new subsidies would primarily go to large corporations, encourage overproduction that depresses prices, and reward big farms over small ones.

Other Democrats are catching on. In South Dakota, Rep. Stephanie Herseth used her family-farm roots to woo Republican voters. As most of Herseth's House Democratic colleagues buckled to corporate pressure and helped pass a free-trade deal with Australia in 2004, the first-term congresswoman attacked her GOP opponent for supporting the pact, arguing that its provisions would undercut American ranchers. She won re-election in the same state where Republicans defeated Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.

Similarly, in conservative western Colorado, John Salazar won a House seat by touting his agricultural background. His campaign slogan was "Send a Farmer to Congress," and voters obliged.

And the opportunities for progressives are growing. Instead of neutralizing Democrats' advances on agricultural issues, the GOP is digging in, already planning to repeal country-of-origin labeling laws that help small farms differentiate their products from larger corporate producers. House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, who has pocketed more than $360,000 from agribusiness, wants to kill the measure, claiming, "I can't find any real opposition to doing exactly what we want to do
here." Clearly the GOP hasn't talked to any family farmers lately.

*Turn the Hunters and the Exurbs Green*

For years, conventional wisdom has said that culturally conservative hunters and exurbanites will always vote Republican. But the GOP's willingness to side with private landowners and developers is now putting the party at odds with these constituencies. And that could create a whole new class of Democratic-voting conservationists.

In Montana, Schweitzer criticized his opponents for trying to restrict the state's Stream Access Law, which protects anglers' rights to fish waterways that cross through private land. He also promised to prevent the state from selling off public land. It was one of the ways he outperformed previous Democrats in rural areas and won his race.

In Colorado, when the Bush administration tried to allow development in wildlife areas, John Salazar pounced. He noted that many of the Bush administration's plans went "against what nearly every local elected official on both sides of the aisle has asked for." Salazar's opponent, who was a former lobbyist and industry-friendly state environmental official, was unable to effectively respond.

Meanwhile, successful Colorado Senate candidate Ken Salazar trumpeted his record of creating land-conservation programs, and his surrogates communicated that message to the state's culturally conservative hunters. "Ken's background in resolving water, access and big game habitat, and natural resources issues best qualifies him to be Colorado's next senator," wrote the group Sportsmen for Salazar in an open letter to outdoorsmen. The Democrat had transformed his environmental advocacy from a potential "liberal" albatross into an asset in conservative areas.

*Become a Teddy Roosevelt Clone*

"Tough on crime" has always been a reliable Republican mantra. Now, though, progressives are claiming that law-and-order mantle for themselves. Led by state attorneys general, Democrats are realizing the political benefits of fighting white-collar crime, big-business rip-offs, and corporate misbehavior.

In Republican Arizona, former Attorney General Janet Napolitano became known as a tough prosecutor of corporate crime. She charged Qwest with fraud and negotiated a $217 million settlement with scandal-plagued accounting firm Arthur Andersen on behalf of investors. The record helped her become the state's first Democratic governor in more than a decade.

In New York, Democrat Eliot Spitzer, who had never held elective office, eked out a victory against a Republican incumbent in 1998 to become the state's Attorney General. He then did something that seemed like political suicide: He took on Wall Street. Specifically, Spitzer used state law to charge investment firms with bilking stockholders. Though opponents labeled him anti-business, he countered that he was pro-business because he was protecting the integrity of the market. Four years later, he won re-election in a landslide, improving his performance in many parts of the conservative upstate.

On Capitol Hill, some senior Democrats have been slower to take up this fight. For instance, as chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in 2002, centrist leader Joe Lieberman refused to seriously investigate the Enron and Arthur Andersen scandals. Not surprisingly, both companies had been bathing Lieberman and his New Democrats in cash for years. The Connecticut senator's refusal to aggressively investigate the matter became an embarrassing public admission that he and his kind had been castrated by their corporate financiers. So rank-and-file lawmakers are filling the void. North Dakota's Dorgan, for instance, brushed past Lieberman by leading high-profile hearings on Enron's misbehavior. As TV cameras rolled, Dorgan dressed down executives who had deceived shareholders.

Sanders, meanwhile, won the hearts of Vermont's Republican-leaning IBM employees by fighting to prevent the company from illegally reducing their pensions. And Mississippi's Taylor continues stumping about corporate traitors. He pushed legislation to prevent taxpayer subsidies from going to companies that ship jobs overseas.

This Teddy Roosevelt-inspired posture is potent for two reasons. First, the GOP's reliance on corporate money means it cannot muddle the issues by pretending to meet progressives halfway. Second, the GOP is increasingly using corporate lobbyists and executives as its candidates for public office. Last year alone, Republicans ran corporate lobbyists and executives for top offices in Indiana, South Dakota, Colorado, Montana, and Florida. These kinds of candidates will never be able to fight off progressive opponents who make corporate crime and excess a major campaign issue.

*Clean Up Government*

In the early 1990s, Newt Gingrich attacked Democrats as corrupt, wasteful, and incompetent, eventually leading the Republicans to reclaim Congress. Now, though, progressives are using the tactic for themselves.

In Montana, voters grew tired of state policy being manipulated by corporate lobbyists while the economy was sputtering. In Gingrichian fashion, Schweitzer criticized his GOP opponent for becoming a corporate lobbyist after a stint in the Legislature. He also asked why his opponent had spent $40,000 of taxpayer money to redecorate the secretary of state's office during a state budget crisis.

Schweitzer was following Arizona's Napolitano, who was making headlines by cutting out almost $1 billion of government waste at a time the state budget was in the red. Her crusade was reminiscent of how deficits have been used by South Carolina Rep. John Spratt to symbolize government mismanagement and win his Republican-leaning district. It also echoed Colorado Democrats, who used deficits to win the state Legislature for the first time in 40 years. "The Republicans' obsession with narrow cultural issues while the state's looming fiscal crisis was ignored drove a deep wedge between fiscally conservative live-and-let-live Republicans and the neo-conservative extremists with an agenda," wrote one Denver Post columnist.

In the conservative suburbs of Chicago, Gingrich's corruption theme arose as Republican Rep. Phil Crane took fire for accepting junkets from companies that do business with Congress. Democrat Melissa Bean, a first-time candidate, used the issue to defeat him. The same thing happened in conservative New Hampshire, where Democratic businessman John Lynch hammered Republican Gov. Craig Benson over cronyism allegations. Lynch painted Benson as "a governor with ethical problems overseeing an administration wrought with scandal," according to The (Manchester) Union Leader. Lynch won the race, making Benson the first New Hampshire governor in almost eight decades to be kicked out of office after just two years.

*Use the Values Prism*

In 2004, pundits seem to agree that the national election was decided by "moral values." And though many believe the term is a euphemism for religious, anti-abortion, and anti-gay sentiments, it is likely a more general phrase describing whether a candidate is perceived to be "one of

It is this sense of cultural solidarity that often trumps other issues. For example, many battleground-state voters may have agreed with John Kerry's economic policies. But the caricature of Kerry as a multimillionaire playboy windsurfing on Nantucket Sound was a more visceral image of elitism. By contrast, successful red-region progressives are using economic populism to define their cultural solidarity with voters. True, many of these Democrats are pro-gun, and some are anti-abortion. But to credit their success exclusively to social conservatism is to ignore how populism culturally connects these leaders to their constituents.

In Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, Sanders' free-trade criticism not only speaks to conservatives' pocketbook concerns but also to a deeper admiration of a congressman willing to take stands corporate politicians refuse to take.

In Montana, Schweitzer's plans to protect hunting access not only attract votes from outdoorsmen but also project a broader willingness to fight for Joe Six-Pack and the state's way of life. As focus groups showed, this stance garnered strong support from Montana's women, who saw it as a values issue.

Wisconsin's Obey may be a high-ranking national Democrat, but he keeps winning his GOP-leaning district by translating legislative fights into values language at home. Debates over Title I funding, for instance, become a venue for Obey to question whether America should provide huge tax cuts to the wealthy while its schools decay. Battles about whether to change antitrust rules become an Obey rant about out-of-state media conglomerates pumping obscene radio shows into his culturally conservative market.

In North Dakota, Enron may have had almost no direct effect on locals. But Dorgan made the company's antics a values commentary on the problem of unethical corporations. "This is disgusting to me," he said to the cameras during an Enron hearing. "[This is] corporate behavior without a moral base."

Mississippi's Taylor flamboyantly challenges free-trade supporters to visit his district to see the effects of their positions. "Some of [those who voted for free trade] knew better, and those are the ones I'm really mad at," he said. "[They] looked out for the big multinational corporations at the expense of average Mississippians and average citizens, even from their own states."


In these seven ways, successful red-region Democrats have tacked back to a class-based populism that puts them firmly on the side of the little guy. And because voters implicitly know that big guys with lots of cash dominate the political system, that populism projects a deeper sense of values and a McCain-like authenticity.

In the aftermath of the recent election, the stale cadre of campaign consultants who helped run the party into the ground now say the solution is for Democrats to simply invoke God more often and radically change their positions on social issues. But the point is not to impulsively lunge rightward in some cheap, unprincipled gesture to red America that would reek of political strategizing.

The point is to follow red-region Democrats who have diminished the electoral impact of traditional social issues by redefining the values debate on economic and class terms. Granted, the progressive populists profiled above do not uniformly hew to the standard liberal line on social issues: some are pro-life, some pro-choice; some pro-gun ownership, some pro-gun control; some pro-gay marriage, some anti-gay marriage; some vociferous about religion, some subdued. But they have shown that there is another path that moves past wedge issues if the party is willing to fundamentally challenge the excesses of corporate America and big money.

Critics may say populism will not appeal to middle-class voters because that portion of the electorate is economically comfortable. But polls show that outsourcing, skyrocketing health costs, and other alarming indicators mean that even those who are getting by do not feel financially stable or secure.

Historical revisionists will claim that the centrist Clinton's ascension in the 1990s directly refutes the electoral potency of class-based populism. But Clinton's 1992 campaign was not the free-trade, Republican-lite corporate shilling that many propose as a Democratic panacea. It was, by contrast, populist on all fronts. "I expect the jetsetters and featherbedders of corporate America to know that if you sell your companies and your workers and your country down the river, you'll be called on the carpet," candidate Clinton promised in 1991. On trade, it was the same. "I wouldn't have done what [George Bush Senior] did and give all those trade preferences to China ... ," he said. "I'd be for [NAFTA] but only - only - if [Mexico] lifted their wage rates and their labor standards and they cleaned up their environment so we could both go up together instead of being dragged down."

Clinton, of course, proceeded to break these pledges, reducing corporate regulation, coddling big business, and leading the fight for NAFTA and free trade with China. Worse, well after these policies were wreaking havoc on working-class America, high-profile Democrats kept pretending nothing was wrong. "[Congress'] NAFTA vote had about a two-week half-life," said Clinton's chief trade negotiator, Mickey Kantor, years after NAFTA was sucking U.S. jobs south of the border. "Even today trade has very little political impact in the country."

Populist red-region Democrats might beg to differ with Kantor, who is now a high-priced corporate lawyer. They know firsthand that the embrace of a big-business agenda arguably did as much long-term damage to the Democratic Party's moral platform as any of Clinton's sex scandals or the battles over social issues. Because, really, how moral is the "party of the working class" when the president it still worships led the fight for trade agreements that hurt that same working class? Where are the principles of a party that has high-profile leaders so tied to big business that they are unwilling to seriously investigate white-collar criminals? And what are the core values of a party that keeps venerating its corporate apologists while marginalizing its voices of reform?

This is why populism is ultimately the way back for Democrats. Because, as red-region progressives show, having the guts to stand up for middle America - even when it draws the ire of corporate America - is as powerful a statement about morality and authenticity as any of the GOP's demagoguery on "guns, God, and gays."

All the Democratic Party has to do is look at the election map: The proof is right there in red and blue.

/David Sirota is a fellow at the American Progress Action Fund, a progressive advocacy organization in Washington, D.C./

Posted by Christina Ocasio at 01:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Soon I Will be Blogging Again

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

At 5:40 A.M. on Saturday, December 11, I have officially won. After sitting here at Mojo's for four hours, my last Social Work paper, originally due November 4th, has been completed. All six pages of it have been e-mailed in.


In sum for the semester?

2 Interviews
2 Presentations
5 Data Intensive Spreadsheets
101 Pages Written (1/2 in the last 2 weeks)
180 Papers (375 pages) graded

Result? No writing credits.
I think the Man is trying to oppress me or something.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 05:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 10, 2004

I never would have guessed that

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I couldn't make this up if I tried, Alberto Gonzales' stepson quit his job as a consultant to Hustler when he was nominated to be AG. Yes, that Hustler.

I'm not going to make a speech about conservative values out of this. People have jobs and he was only a consultant for the Web site, for Pete's sake. It's not like he was trying to be the next Dirk Diggler. Besides porn is a multi-billion dollar industry, so it must be pretty popular.

No, this is more about conservatives who think some people in the Republican party aren't conservative enough, so they go after them like pihranhas.

Yesterday, Jan LaRue, chief counsel of the conservative group Concerned Women for America, told me Freeze's employment with Flynt is "a legitimate issue" that should be raised next month before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"The Justice Department is responsible for enforcing the obscenity and child pornography laws," LaRue said, "and Larry Flynt's publications include hard-core prosecutable material, in my opinion."

She added that she wants to know if Gonzales had urged his stepson to quit before he knew he was going to be nominated.

"If he didn't, that wouldn't be very helpful," she said.

I really don't see why some 20-something working on a Web site has anything to do his stepdad becoming the Attorney General. LaRue gives some bullshit about her opinion about what is obscene. I watched The People vs. Larry Flynt and I remember Edward Norton arguing about First Amendment rights in front of the Supreme Court, and they won that one. The point is local areas have a right to determine what is obscene and have a community standard, but I don't think an individual has that right. If they did, then I would proclaim cat-blogging obscene and get rid of it (I'm not a cat person).

I want to give a hat tip to Josh Marshall for picking this up and thank God for the NY Daily News.

This is a guest post by Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 10:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

"Greed is good"

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Just skimming through Slate, I saw the headline "Who's more interesting, Paris Hilton or Karl Rove?" I knew that I had to write something about that.

The article is on Barbara Walter's special and the throwback to the 80s that it brings to mind, like putting Paris Hilton at No. 2 behind Karl Rove, and listing usual celebrities like Mel Gibson and Oprah Winfrey. I have to say I agree whole-heartedly with the conclusions about consumerism and celebrity worship found inside. I have to add, so what?

I think a little celebrity worship is good. I like Paris Hilton. I think she's got a nice tan and lots of ambition to be a major star. What's wrong with that? I like Karl Rove because he wants to win, kudos to him. I like Oprah because... damnit, she's Oprah! Mel still kinda weirds me out.

And it's the American Dream to succeed and be rich and turn your back on everybody and drive a Ferrari (OK maybe that's just my dream). I want people to get rich and live a good life, then I have no problem taxing them at 40% and paying for everyone's college tuition or health care insurance. And if we tax them into the poor house, they can get in one of our many wonderful govt. programs that make poor people rich so that we can tax the hell out of them to help poor people. It's the circle of life.

The only problem I see with celebrity worship is that occassionally someone tries to kill the president because they think they are in love with Jodie Foster (come to think of it, the 80s gave us that, too). Price you pay, I guess.

Seriously though, a little star gazing is all right and it keeps the dream alive. And consumerism keeps the economy humming along (Paris Hilton... humming?), albeit not so well right now. As much as we might not all agree with some of the values that lie underneath all of this, they are American values that got through the Reagan years and got Bill Clinton in the White House.

This is a guest post from Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 09:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Another fun news fact

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I haven't posted all day, so I thought my first one of the night should be something that concerns bloggers the world over: Laptops — threat to male fertitlity.

Not a pleasant thought for any blogger on the go.

I'll be posting more later tonight, right now I'm stuck at work. I may even do one of my infamoust Tuesday's with Tucker Carlson posts after I watch the show this morning.

This is a guest post by Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 08:56 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Blogging the DNC Race

By Byron LaMasters

Jerome Armstrong and Matt Stoller have some great coverage of the State Directors Meeting in Orlando over at MyDD.

Matt has an aside about the Young Democrats Dork Problem. As a member the Texas Young Democrats executive committee, I can definitely see where he's coming from (without, of course, naming any names). Then again, aren't most bloggers dorks?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

More On TRMPAC, DeLay

By Vince Leibowitz

Guest Post By Vince Leibowitz

Via the Stakeholder, it seems that Diversified Collection Services, the company that yesterday agreed to cooperate with DA Ronnie Earle's TRMPAC investigation, is also one of the companies which would benefit from private firms being allowed to collect delinquent taxes due the IRS.


The Stakeholder also brings to our attention that the letter Tom DeLay sent to Rules Committee Chairman Dreier asking him to change the ethics rules, has become public.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 03:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More On TRMPAC, DeLay

By Vince Leibowitz

Guest Post By Vince Leibowitz

Via the Stakeholder, it seems that Diversified Collection Services, the company that yesterday agreed to cooperate with DA Ronnie Earle's TRMPAC investigation, is also one of the companies which would benefit from private firms being allowed to collect delinquent taxes due the IRS.


The Stakeholder also brings to our attention that the letter Tom DeLay sent to Rules Committee Chairman Dreier asking him to change the ethics rules, has become public.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 03:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

For the sake of Fairness

By Byron LaMasters

Since I was quite amused by the F*ck the South website, for fairness sake, here's a rebuttal.

The North Sucks.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:47 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Where's The Beef?

By Vince Leibowitz

I haven't posted much the last couple of days, thanks to being unexpectedly called out of town and a little swamped some work. Even though it's late and I just got in, I thought I'd give Nate a little help on the copydesk tonight. (Yes, I too, used to be in the newspaper business.'

Anyway, though it's not just the hottest news story in Texas right now, I stumbled across this tonight and thought it was worth a mention:

A food fight broke out at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, with justices considering whether the government can force farmers to pay for ad campaigns with catchy phrases like "Beef: It's what's for dinner" and billboards featuring milk mustaches on celebrities.

It seems farmers around the country--including in Texas--are challenging the multimillion-dollar beef promotion program. They say they shouldn't have to pay for ads they disagree with.

So, should the court rule for the producers, it could, the Star-Telegram notes, "jeopardize more than 100 federal and state campaigns for other products -- eggs, mangoes, popcorn and even alligators."

Ok, wait. Eggs, yes, I've seen that one on TV. Popcorn--never heard of a popcorn promotion program, but guess one could exist since it is, after all, part of corn--a vegetable. Mangoes--surely not, but OK, whatver.

But alligators? You've got to be kidding! What are they promoting alligators as? "Gator: the other, other white meat?" or "Alligators. It's what's for your briefcase." Hopefully the latter, because I'm not sure the world is ready for ads in which famous personages eat alligators.

On a serious note, the programs are supposedly designed as a way to help farmers of all sizes with generic ads encouraging the public to consume verious ag products: milk, beef, eggs, (alligators?), etc.

But, according to the paper, lower courts have already struck down the "Got Milk?" dairy promotion, advertisements calling pork "the other white meat" and the beef program.

And, Texas "producers, feedlots and auction markets paid $6 million into the $45.9 million program in 2003, by far the largest contribution, according to the Denver-based Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board. Half of the Texas checkoff funds are used to promote beef within the state," the paper noted.

Interestingly, one of the greatest complaints about the beef ads is that they don't specifically promote American beef, which supposedly helps beef importers who don't have to contribute.

The government was sued by ranchers who sell cattle in South Dakota and Montana. They won an appeals court ruling that found that the 20-year-old program violated the First Amendment.

The paper notes that a Texas law passed in 2003 allows ranchers who do not wish to support the $1-per-head fee to request a refund. Ok, they can request it, but do they get it?

I'm not quite how I feel about this strange issue. Usually, on government and legal issues, I can tell where I stand after reading a story like this and perhaps some additional information.

In this case, however, I can really see the reasoning of both sides. Those who favor the ads say they promote increased profits for the industry, including producing farmers. Those against them say general marketing like this does little good and doesn't promote American beef.

On the one hand, I think, you know, aside from Homer Simpson, I can't think of a soul who sees a beef commercial on TV and starts slobbering, "Ooohhh...Beef! And, I can't recall a single instance when I saw one of the commercials and ran out and bought a ribeye.

Also, out of all this has come a very interesting quote from Justice Scalia (I can't believe I'm quoting this man): "Every time we pay general taxes we're supporting government speech we may not agree with."

How true. I do hate that any of my tax dollars helped pay for George W. Bush to travel around on Air Force One campaigning and giving speeches.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 01:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Company Agrees To Cooperate In TRMPAC Investigation

By Vince Leibowitz

Ahhhh Haaaaa! The dominoes have started to fall:

One of eight out-of-state corporations indicted for making illegal political contrubutions agreed to cooperate with the Travis County District Attorney's Office in connection with its mammoth investigation of fund-raising and political activities by Texans for a Republican Majority.

In exchange for its cooperation, a third-degree felony charge against Diversified Collection Services Inc.--a debt collection firm in San Leandro, Calif.--was dropped

Though the firm did not acknowledge guilt, it agree to enact an "internal compliance plan to prevent the making of illegal corporate political contributions," according to the San Antonio Express News. It also agreed to cooperate with DA Ronnie Earle's office in its ongoing investigation into the way corporate money flowed into the DeLay supported Republican political action committee that helped elect dozens of GOP Texas House members in 2002--giving the party the majority and paving the way for a DeLay-encouraged redistricting plan being spearheaded through the legislature.

The investigation yielded a 44-count indictment of the eight firms, along with three DeLay associates.

Texas law makes it a felony for corporations and labor unions to donate to political campaigns.

A corporation convicted of violating the law could face a fine of up to $20,000 — or more, if a judge determines the company profited from the donation.

The ban on accepting corporate contributions requires prosecutors to show the defendants knew their actions were illegal.

The eight firms were indicted for giving a total of $270,000 to TRMPAC.

Still charged are Westar Energy Inc.; the Williams Companies Inc.; Questerra Corp.; Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc.; Bacardi USA Inc.; Sears, Roebuck and Co.; and the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care Inc.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 01:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 09, 2004

An AP Distortion in the Marriage Debate

By Byron LaMasters

I was pleased to read just now that the high court in Canada has approved marriage equality for gays and lesbians. Now, it just needs the support of the Canadian Parliament, where things look good at this point. The 38-member Liberal cabinet supports the legislation as does the 54 members of Bloc Quebecois and the 19 MPs of the New Democrats. So, in order for passage it just needs to collect 44 of the 95 votes of Liberal Party backbenchers, as the Conservative Party opposes the legislation. Sounds like it's got a good shot, huh? Well, good for Canada, I'll have to go buy a t-shirt.

No, this is my problem. This AP article makes a gross distortion in its final line:

The federal Conservatives and several Liberal MPs are expected to fight to preserve marriage for heterosexuals.

Huh? Marriage for heterosexuals isn't being debated here. No one is opposed to marriage for heterosexuals. I'm sure that the entire Canadian Parliament supports it. I support marrige for heterosexuals. I can thank my life to the heterosexual marriage of my parents, so I certainly approve of the idea. But this concluding sentence suggests that those of us who support GLBT marriage equality are in some way opposed to marriage for heterosexuals. It also suggests that the federal conservatives and several Liberal MP's could care less about marriages between gays and lesbians, and that in some way marriage between a man and a woman is in danger of being outlawed. Neither of these are the case. Perhaps I'm nitpicking, but it annoys me when the SCLM blatantly distorts an issue like this.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:58 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Let's try an open thread

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

It seems to me a lot what I've spent my time doing today is explaining my dislike for the DLC. I don't see why anyone would really care why or if I dislike the DLC. I'm just a guy with a blog that maybe 10 people a day read. Byron and the guys have been nice enough to let me fill some space and some time here at Burnt Orange, that's all.

Then I ran across this piece at DailyKos about the waning influence of the DLC within the party to people like Simon Rosenberg at the NDN. Once the NDN was just a clone, but Simon has taken it in a different direction and, I think, in a better one. Not to mention the Hispanic-targeted ads that I think are more of a help than some realize.

So I want you guys to read that and tell me your opinions. Leave a comment, say whatever and I'll do another post discussing it and we'll all have gotten a say so that we can move on to other things, like protecting Social Security.

This is a guest post by Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense at Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 10:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Greetings from Napland

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I've been taking a nap, hoping to give other guest posters a chance to, er, post. I've been crowding BOR a little I think, mostly because I'm so used to having to write for a blog by myself that I have to have an opinion on everything.

I really appreciate the feedback from earlier. It helps me know if I'm doing a good job of communicating my ideas and opinions, which is what I think blogging is all about.

This is a guest post from Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 10:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

It's the choice of a new generation

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Andrew has a post about who he would like to see as DNC chair as the race heats up and it's Martin Frost followed by Simon Rosenberg by a length.

It's no secret I'm a big Dean supporter, but I also like Rosenberg and Frost. I think Dean has something that the others don't have, he has media gravitas and a national platform. Outside of the Democratic party, no one knows Rosenberg and very few people outside of Texas know Frost (there is of course a lot media attention on him because of his recent race, but see if anybody really remembers that).

Dean is well-known and often invited to speak on national news programs. He has something of a reputation for being plain-spoken and for speaking his mind. With the right kind of people behind him, that image could be cultivated to help reach moderates when election time rolls around.

I think all three, Dean in particular, want to change the way things are done and start building the party. Without the infrastructure to run a ground game and the congressmen to help get things done, it doesn't matter if we win the White House. These guys understand that.

Andrew makes a very good point by saying Ickes doesn't need the chairmanship because of his ties to the Clintons. I'll go him one better and say we need to just stop paying attention to Bill Clinton. I know, I liked him when he was the president, too. He's not anymore. And when he left office, he left our party in shambles because it was all about him and not about us. It needs to be about us now.

I can't really convince you all of what you think is right for the party. We've all got our own motivations. Mine is to someday serve at the pleasure of a Democratic president and write speeches and change the world. Yours might just be to afford your kids college tuition or feel sure that you can one day retire. Whatever you decide, make your voice heard by contacting the state party chairs (helpfully supplied by MoveOn). I might be the one writing here, but your opinion is just as important as mine.

This is a guest post by Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 05:54 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Arsenic and Old Movie Blog

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

From time to time at my blog, Common Sense, I like to post movie reviews. I pick out a title of an old movie, stick the phrase Movie Blog in there and give you my two cents worth. I mean, it can't be all politics.

So I decided to do something like that only more special for BOR, I'm actually going to review a movie that opened nationwide last night, Blade Trinity.

Now, of course, my first choice of a movie to review would be SpongeBob SquarePants. But even at 2 in the afternoon that theater was packed. Besides, the one time I watch SpongeBob, I was at my friend Charlotte's house and we were watching with her little sister. I swear to God, SpongeBob went on a riff about the proletariat overthrowing the corrupt bourgeoise and creating a worker's paradise. I got a little weirded out.

But back to Blade. Byron and Karl told me it was all right to say this so my review is summed up in two words: Fucking Sweet.

I mean we got action, we got hot techno music and we got Jessica Biel in halter tops and whatnot. I know some people will be shocked and amazed, but I really wanted to see this movie because of her. She's the reason I went to see Texas Chainsaw Massacre, her and her wet tank top. She kicks ass in this movie, just beating the crap out of people all over the place.

And no crappy cgi fight scenes like in No. 2. All wire work and sharp camera angles the way God intended. The well-choreographed sword fight between Blade and Drake, played by Dominic Purcell who I don't think I've ever heard of, really makes up for the kind of plot twist of Biel playing Kris Kristoferson's daughter.

Then there is Ryan Reynolds. I liked Van Wylder as much as anybody, but he went a little too far with the wisecracking. After a while it just wasn't funny anymore. There was a great scene between him and Parker Posey where the two are arguing over a past relationship. Triple H of the WWE is standing nearby with his vampire pomeranian and Reynolds is going on an on about a homing beacon in his butt cheeks. Posey finally yells that it isn't funny anymore (where had she been, it hadn't been funny for a while) when Reynolds redeems himself by saying "It's about to get a lot less funny you cock-juggling thunder cunt." Please don't write letters; I just repeat what I hear on TV.

Good soundtrack, lots of action and all kinds of crazy gadgets for them to kill vampires with. Blade Trinity has something for the whole family, as long as your whole family is above the age of 17 and enjoys wisecracks about lewd sex acts and extreme violence to a techno beat.

Nate gives it an 8.5

This is a guest post from Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 05:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

On the Race for DNC Chair

By Andrew Dobbs

I know that many of my critics will take my sometimes right-of-center beliefs about foreign policy (and increasingly a few domestic policies) to count my opinion out of this discussion, but they would be wrong. I am a Democrat. I support this party because I believe that at its heart it has the best interest of working Americans as its highest priority, which I can't say for the opposition. I believe that it has adopted a bunch of misguided and silly policies as a means of trying to cobble together a coalition, and that these policies aren't just bad for America, but bad politics as well. So I feel it necessary to stay in my party and fight for it to shed the burdens that are weighing it down. And on that note, I have some ideas about who the next chair should be.

I really should pick out the best candidate and bash him, as I did that the last time the state party picked a chair and I got a job out of the exercise. I doubt that history will repeat itself, though, so I will say that all of the candidates will be decent, but some will be better than others and some will be best for Texas.

As a Texas Democrat, I think that our biggest need right now is to expand into areas that aren't on the coasts, aren't dominated by labor unions and are currently "red." We need a leader who is used to winning in Red States and has the ability to run the party successfully. We need someone committed to ridding the party of its elitist mindset and that is willing to organize, fund and work with parties in states like Texas, Montana, Colorado, Arizona, the Deep South, the Mountain West, the Midwest, etc. I think that Martin Frost fits this bill.

I have some selfish reasons for backing Frost. Frost has helped keep the State Party here in Texas afloat for a long time and the prospect of him simply being Citizen Frost is a bit worrisome- will he be able to keep helping us? Furthermore, if he is the DNC chair you can bet that Texas won't be ignored in the future. As DCCC Chair in the late 90s he gained seats in the House at a time when no one thought that would be possible. He is a phenomenal fundraiser and though he lost his last race, he ran well ahead of Bush in his district- proving that he can swing voters. He is "an insider" but he's also an old political hack who is more than willing to "think outside the box." He brings the best of both worlds- a creativity and insatiable drive to win that we see in Simon Rosenberg and Howard Dean alongside an experienced, thoughtful demeanor we see in Ickes. He's also a moderate (like Rosenberg) from a Red state (like Webb) making him appealing to everybody.

Texas will benefit, other Red states will benefit and the party will benefit from his experience and vision. I don't know if he'll win, but if he can create a strong bloc among the Red state chairs and DNC members and get the votes of some insiders not too keen on the idea of Hillary 08 (Ickes' biggest problem), he can stay alive long enough to drive out some of the other candidates and pickup their votes. He knows how to win (present examples excluded) and I think he'll make a great chair.

Other candidates have strong points and weak points. I really like Simon Rosenberg, and he's my second choice. I would like to hear more about what he's willing to do to revive the party in Red states, but his record as a moderate activist and his experience in creative political organizing make him a very attractive candidate.

Howard Dean is a great guy and is a leader for our generation of activists, but I am afraid he'll push the party even further to the Left. People don't vote for an anti-war candidate in the middle of a war, particularly one that is going relatively well and had the unassailable goal of removing a brutal fascistic dictator from power. People aren't ready for a lot of the ideas he gets tagged with, but if he can be the Howard Dean I started supporting in 2002- conservative on fiscal issues, sensitive to rural values, driven towards creative market-based solutions to public policy challenges and interested in organizing a movement and not just a simple campaign- I think he'd be a great choice.

Harold Ickes is just too tied into the Clintons for my taste. I like the guy and I love the Clintons, but I think that a Hillary nomination would be disastrous at best. I am afraid that he would use his position to simply grease the skids for a Hillary nomination, and such would be the beginning of the end for our party for a generation or more.

Wellington Webb is a good man who quietly supported Dean early on and was a solid mayor of a major city in a Red state. But winning big urban areas isn't our problem, and as of right now reaching minorities isn't a problem (though that might be changing). I really don't see what he brings that we can't get in Frost or someone else.

Other candidates abound and as I have said, all have good and bad points. But with Frost in power, we can be assured of greater support for the Texas Democratic Party and the Democratic Party in other "Republican" states to start fighting the GOP on what they have taken for granted at their ground. Frost or Rosenberg are my two top choices. Who are yours?

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 04:58 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Can't stop blogging about blogging

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I guess he's just trying to protect his mainstream media ground, but just about everything in this column about blogging from CBS News' David Paul Kuhn is ass-backwards. I mean, does this guy even read blogs? I'm fairly certain that readership is competition is enough to keep blogs honest just like newspapers. I mean, we all know when Josh Marshall says something it's probably true and we all know when Michelle Malkin writes something in her blog she's just being a Nazi. Simple as that.

But Kuhn goes on some weird kick about Atrios being a senior fellow for Media Matters and being partisan. Read Atrios' response and see if you can detect the barely hidden, seething anger at just how freakin' retarded he thinks this guy is.

Just another reason network news will be replaced by blogging in the information revolution.

This is a guest post from Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

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December 08, 2004

Late night viewing

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I'm really eager to find out what happened on tonight's West Wing. Wait, wait don't tell me. I was recording it with my DVR and I'm watching it when I get home. I also noticed that Jon Stewart was on tonight's Larry King Live. I had to call my mom and tell her to set it up to record the replay later tonight. And I'm not sure, but it looked like Salma Hayek was going to be on Letterman. I would so marry her and be her love slave, it's not even funny. I probably should keep that to myself, though.

Just thought I would update everybody on what was going on outside the blogosphere. I'm going to get back to work so I can go home. I have a few more things I will post either late tonight or early tomorrow morning. Stay tuned. Same bat time, same bat channel.

This is a guest post by Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

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Campus politics

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Last week the faculty senate of Baylor University held their third "no confidence" vote on Robert Sloan Jr.'s presidency. I'm not telling you this because I want to bore you with campus politics here in Waco where this has become the routine drama. The vote doesn't do anything anyway, since it is the Board of Regents who decide whether Sloan is fired or not.

No, I'm telling you this because of the numbers involved in the vote and how I view this as a microcosm of our country.

It turns out that 85% voted to oust Sloan, but only 59% showed up at the polling place over the three days and actually cast a ballot. Now, if we gets 60% of the electorate to vote in a presidential election, we call that a record turnout, as we did this year, but listen to this rationale:

Several faculty members had earlier vowed to boycott the referendum, calling for discussions, not votes, on campus differences. Many of those same faculty members put their names on an open letter Tuesday, saying the referendum fell short of reflecting the views of the entire faculty.

"In short, the much-touted referendum did not deliver what the senate hoped," read the letter, sent out by Douglas Henry, director of the Baylor Institute for Faith and Learning. "Despite months of planning, extraordinary publicity, and easy access to balloting, nearly 400 of Baylor's faculty elected not to participate."

The letter continued, "It appears that plenty of folks are content enough with the university's ambitious vision under Dr. Sloan's presidency."

That wouldn't work in a national election, of course, but it does put me in mind of something. As I said, 40% of the electorate stayed home or went to work on Nov. 2 without bothering to register or go to a polling place. Does that mean that the all would have voted for Bush had they gone? No, I doubt it. I think, after such a polarized heated campaign, we would have higher turnout. But the numbers, as impressive as they are, aren't much higher than they were the last time around.

Somewhere in that 40% we can find the votes we need to win elections. We just have to figure out what it will take to get them to the polls. Once we know why they're not going, we can focus on a two-part election strategy.

One, rally the base. This means spending the time getting people who are registered Democrats to give money and spend time trying to get our candidate elected. They have to want this person in the Oval Office and the only way to do that is to make sure it is a likeable, smart, articulate person with a loyal following.

Two, get out the vote. No more trying to get Republicans to switch to our side. If people in Kansas are really stupid for voting against their best interest, then let them be stupid. We can't change that. Direct emailing people who are not registered to vote for either party but share economic or social backgrounds with people who tend to be Democratic will help us trowel the 40% I keep talking about. Spending millions on organized GOTV efforts is the key, as well. MoveOn did a great job of getting young people like me involved in politics, but they don't get many votes. The largest organized GOTV effort in Ohio for the Democrats was from unions. Union's organizing ower in Ameica these days is fading so we need something to take up the slack. It can't be college kids knocking on doors, it needs to be people who are specifically there to talk about candidates not single issues like the environment or gay rights.

And I'm now totally committed to the idea that the DNC needs to focus on Congressional races and building party infrastructure. I'm a politically knowledgeable person, but I have no idea who the chairman of the McLennan County Democratic Party is. I don't know where their offices are located. I know M.A. Taylor is chairman of the McLennan Republican Party and I know where his offices are and I know what he thinks and I know he's an idiot and an asshole. The DNC needs to change that 9not the part about Taylor being an asshole). I know eveery Democrat thinks they could have done Mary Beth-Cahill's job better, but we need to start thinking less about what we do better and more about what we can do to help the Mary Beth's do their jobs better. Refocusing the DNC away from the presidency and on down-ballot races is a start.

That's a lot from a short article on Bayor's dramas, but it's a lot we've got to get done. The next presidential election is less than four years away.

This is a guest post from Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

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You thought "f**k the south" was over?

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

The Gadflyer's Fly Trap has an interesting post today about the Democratic Party's national ambitions. Essentially, it explains that whenever the DLC kvetches about us not being a "national party" like the Republicans, that we give up the south and that's why we lose, they are just being idiots. The GOP is not a national party either, since after all, they totally gave up on campaigning in the Northeast and West.

I get really tired of hearing some of the DLCers moan and groan how we need to be like the Republicans. I've even heard some Democrats saying things like "we should give up abortion, it'll play better to conservatives in the Heartland." and "we need to protect the party from those on the left." Excuse me? I'm Catholic and I hate abortions as much as James Dobson and Jerry Falwell, but the last time I checked, the Supreme Court said it was a right that American women have and I'm going to do my damndest to make sure a woman that wants an abortion can get one. And we are "the left." If you're not even slightly left-of-center, maybe you're in the wrong political party. If everyone else in your party disagrees with you, maybe you're really a Republican and would be happier with them. I mean, look at Zell Miller, he's happier now.

I believe the key to Democratic victory is spending time and money to turn battleground states into blue states. Period. The more of the states we don't have to fight over later, the better. And we can do that by grassroots party building and GOTV efforts by party faithful. Infrastructure people! We don't need to be Republican-lite, which is why I want so desperately for Howard Dean to get the party chairmanship. He may not be as liberal as I am, but he knows he is a Democrat damnit! And he's gonna act like it.

This is a guest post by Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

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Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Derrick Johnson won the Bronco Nagurski award for best defensive player of the year today. It wasn't a shock because everyone knows how good Johnson is. I mean, 129 tackles, 19 for a loss, an interception and tying an NCAA record with 8 forced fumbles. That's good, good enough to also get Big 12 defensive player of the year.

I'm sure plenty of people reading this blog like Johnson because he is a Longhorn, but he is also a graduate of Waco High, so our paper is full of stuff about him. And he's a likeable guy. So congratulations and good luck with the Bednarik, Lombardi and Butkus awards Derrick.

This is a guest post by Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

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Seasons change, people change

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

We all thought Snow was just going to leave, I guess it was a play fake or something. But he's staying, for how long is anybody's guess since Scotty Boy made it apparent that he doesn't know if he will serve the full four years. It's Anthony Principi that's leaving.

The Waco Trib will be doing a story on that tonight since Principi is Sec. for Veterans Affairs and we've had an ongoing struggle to keep the recently-renovated Waco VA Hospital open.

Still sitting pretty is Donald Rumsfeld. I think Stephen Colbert said it best last night on the Daily Show, it's not failure that gets you job security in the Bush administration it's "colossal failure." Rummy was trying to give a pep talk today to soldiers in Kuwait when Army Spc. Thomas Wilson asked him "why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up armor our vehicles? And why don't we have those resources readily available to us?"

Rummy's answer is priceless, if only because of it's stark stupidity. He actually said "You go to war with the army that you have." Never mind that he's the guy in charge of making sure the army that we have is equipped to fight a war or that we didn't really have to go to war in the first place. You would think that in the $400 billion a year we spend on defense, and all of the billions of dollars in supplementals, we would have the money somewhere to make sure that all the Humvees the army uses are armored. You would be tragically mistaken, though.

This is a guest post by Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

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MT 3.121, Comments Working

By Byron LaMasters

Thanks to Charles Kuffner for his email directing me to what caused his comment approval problem - it was the same deal with me. I had to delete my old MT Blacklist, since it's added into the latest version of MT. The funny thing is I remembered that Charles had written some posts on his switchover to MT 3.121, but I only searched his archive on "Moveable Type" and "MT 3.121", which did not include this post.

I bought the MT 3.121 Unlimited Personal Edition. I held out for awhile on buying it, but I had gotten to a point where I was running MT Blacklist perpetually to block spam, and being able to get support (with the paid version) in the long run is probably worth it. Plus, I got $20 off for donating to Moveable Type last year so they would add BOR to their "recently updated" list on their website (back when I needed to boost traffic). While I still have some leftover Blogads money from October, I've posted my paypal link if you feel at all inclined to make a small donation for our MT 3.121 upgrade.

Anyway, problem resolved, and with 21 hours before my first final, I'm heading over to the library to catch up on the studying for my two exams tomorrow.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:56 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 07, 2004

"Intelligence" overhaul: UPDATED

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

A deal was struck and the House passed the intelligence reorganization bill. The Senate should vote on the measure soon and then send it to Bush for signing.

I've got my share of problems with putting all our intelligence agencies under one umbrella; a centralized intelligence apparatus under the control of a political appointee, especially in the Bush administration, only exacerbates the problems we've seen when we need good intelligence to decide whether or not young Americans have to fight in a war.

I am glad for some of the other reforms in the bill, however. Some of them are:

creates a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to ensure regulations and policies do not threaten privacy rights or civil liberties.

* requires the secretary of homeland security to develop and implement a national strategy for transportation security, including steps to improve aviation, air cargo and maritime security.

* calls for greater coordination and communication between all levels of government and emergency response providers.

* requires the Department of Homeland Security to increase the numbers of border patrol agents by at least 2,000 per year and customs and immigration agents by at least 800 per year for five years.

* tightens visa application requirements; requires a face-to-face consular interview of most applicants for non-immigrant visas between the ages of 14 and 79.

* increases criminal penalties for alien smuggling and allows deportation of any alien who received military training from a group designated as a terrorist organization.

* provides new authority to pursue "lone wolf" terror suspects who are not affiliated with foreign terror groups.

* authorizes funding for better technology and other federal support to improve efforts to fight money laundering and terrorist financing; requires better coordination and building on international coalitions to combat terrorist financing.

Those are some long overdue policies that need to be adopted. If what I'm hearing about Bush using his "political capital" to get this through, then maybe he's not the son of Satan.

UPDATE: The Senate has also passed the intelligence reorganization bill. Their reworded version does not have immigration legislation that will apparently be worked out next year.

This is a guest post by Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 11:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

I've updated my version of Moveable Type to 3.121, but I'm still working the kinks out, so I'll have more details on everything when it's all taken care of. I have a support request in to MT on the comment issue (I'm just wishing I would have had this problem next week when I will have much more time to deal with these things). For now, there's a slight improvement. Comments are working, but they require my approval (I'm trying to get them back to where they automatically post as before). So, post your comment, and I'll try and find time to approve them during a study break tomorrow. In the mean time, email our guest posters if you have anything you'd like to tell them. I'll be back to normal posting on Sunday or Monday (I have two exams Thursday and one on Saturday), and I'm sure that Karl-Thomas, Jim and Andrew (and of course, Zach and Andrea) will get back to normal posting when they finish they're finals as well.

And again, thanks to our guest posters... if it were not for them, you'd be looking at a lot of blank space this week.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

I want some appropriations, too!

By Vince Leibowitz

Guest Post By Vince Leibowitz

By now, we've all witnessed several news cycles full of carping and complaining about the massive H.R. 4818, the Consolidated Appropriations Act or 2005. We've heard about the funding for mariachi music, the weather museum, and the nuts and bolts of the bill.

But, what else, exactly, is in the spending bill? I decided to take a look.

First of all, you'd think it would be easy to find the darn thing. Well, it would have been if I'd remembered the bill's number. So, I checked the "Currently on the Floor" section of the U.S. House site for yesterday and found it.

Then, I set out to look for the "pork," just to see what else there was that wasn't on the national media's radar. I also wanted to see just exactly what else is in a federal appropriations act. After all, given that the bill weighs something like 33 pounds in printed form, it's not like AP can digest all of that in to a graph or anything.

Well, there obviously isn't a section entitled "Pork," so I scrolled down the very, very long page to look for sections that sound like they might include a little pork.

Finally, way on down the list, I selected "Office of Museum and Library Services, Grant Administration." Sure to be some "pork" there, I thought.

Sure enough, $282,827,000 worth of projects that, while do doubt of importance to their individual communities, could surely be considered as "pork," by conservative budget hawks.

Some of my personal favorites included:

+$100,000 shall be awarded to Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), Dearborn, Michigan, for exhibits and museum programs +$200,000 shall be awarded to Baylor University, Waco, Texas, for archival activities, exhibits, and education programs for the Mayborn Museum Complex (wait a minute, that's a PRIVATE RELIGIOUS COLLEGE!!) +$500,000 shall be awarded to Bishop Museum in Hawaii for digitization of old Hawaiian language newspapers and other activities to preserve the culture of Native Hawaiians +$150,000 shall be awarded to Italian-American Cultural Center of Iowa in Des Moines, Iowa, for exhibits, multi-media collections, display +$950,000 shall be awarded to Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to develop educational programs focusing on hands-on learning experiences

But, as expected, all of this is for museums and libraries. So, where's the other juicy stuff? I went back to the top.

"Sec. 4--Statement of Appropriations" included a number of agricultural appropriations to universities and for extension services, but nothing too exciting.

So, I continued along and found $8,000,000 for Burma, $4,000,000 for Tibet, and $5,800,000 for multi-national species conservation.

Further on, I found $10,000,000 for a psychiatric treatment facility in Bethel, Alaska, and an interesting little provision tucked away elsewhere:

Each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution.

I also found an interesting provision changing some banal language concerning our National Tree, the Oak.

Needless to say, I examined the bill for the better part of an hour and couldn't find even some of the most celebrated sections the media's been discussing. I specifically wanted to find the mariachi appropriation just to see what else was with it. The thing is just too darned big there are literally thousands of places to slip in something. Unfortunatly, because of the way the server you access the bill on, some things didn't seem to show up right, which may be why I couldn't find some of the better stuff.

Either way, I was just thinking how lovely it would be to have one's name--or the name of one's favorite charity, favorite blog, or favorite museum--tucked away in the ol' appropriations bill. Maybe if I caught Ralph Hall on a good day I could convince him of the importance of funding a "Texas Political Webloggers Funding Initiative". Let the federal funding flow! Alas, we can dream, ha ha ha.

This made me remember an interview I did with Bill Hollowell, the former State Representative from Van Zandt County back when he was running again in 2000. He got to talking about pork barreling in Texas, and how much he hated it. (It should be noted he also hated teacher pay raises, the Texas Jazz Festival and almost everything else that cost money.) Anyway, I remember he was talking about the Salt Palace in Grand Saline and said: something like: "I never liked all that pork barreling. But, I remember one time [he served through much of the 70s and 80s] they really got that ol' pork barrell a rollin' down there and I just decided to put in an appropriation for the Salt Palace. I figured it was as good as anything else that was getting money." Salt pork, anyone?

Vince Leibowitz is County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County. He is a regular contributor to the Political State Report.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 10:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rick Perry vs. The World

By Vince_Leibowitz

Guest Post By Vince Leibowitz

It's Rick Perry vs. The World now, at least according to this new blog by an unknown author.

Thanks to Charles over at Off The Kuff who brought this little gem to our attention today.

Speculating on who the author is, I'm guessing it is someone connected in some way with Perry's camp. Whoever it is, they've noted the same thing I've been preaching for months about how Perry would fair against Kay Bailey Hutchison:

Perry isn't nearly as popular as Hutchison in state at large, but is popular with GOP activists who comprise much of the votes and manpower necessary to win an intra-party war.

Despite signing hate crimes legislation in 2001, Perry has since pleased conservatives with his push for redistricting, his refusal to raise taxes, and some spending cuts. He's also pro-life, and Texas Right to Life would undoubtedly back Perry loudly.

The reference to the James Byrd Jr., Hate Crimes Act makes me feel it's even more likely the blogger is someone from Perry's camp or a GOP operative who has obvious reasons for starting the blog. In my experience, it's only insider-type, ultra-conservatives who continue, some three years later, to bring up Perry's signing of the hate crimes legislation. Most people realize it's too politically-incorrect of a topic to keep rehashing.

Vince Leibowitz is County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County. He is a regular contributor to the Political State Report.

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

Commenting on comments

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

The latest email from Byron tells me that comments are still not working like they should, but I'm one of those crazy people that likes to know what readers think.

The guest posters have all started adding their email addresses at the end of their posts, and I would like for any body to feel free to email me with comments or questions. It's there for you to use if you want and I'm open to anything from gloried praise to hateful criticism. So get in touch.

To kind of get the ball rolling, I have a question. How are you celebrating the holidays? I've noticed among my family and friends, there's more of a holiday mood. There are more tiny tennebaums in our newsroom than in years past. When I got home Sunday night, I found a fully-ornamented Christmas tree complete with angel on top. We haven't had a Christmas tree in out house since I was 10, but there it was.

I just can't understand what is special about this particular Christmas that everyone is in the mood to celebrate. Is it economic, is it too much arsenic in the drinking water, what is it?

This is a guest post from Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 09:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stuff that in your stocking

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Just when you thought things might be getting better (how do I know you haven't been in a cave the last two months?) the CIA has a leaked classified assessment that leaves no doubt things are pretty f****ed up in Iraq.

The classified cable -- sent last month by the CIA's station chief in Baghdad after the completion of a one-year tour of duty there -- painted a bleak picture of Iraq's politics, economics and security and reiterated briefings by Michael Kostiw, a senior CIA official, according to the Times.

The station chief cannot be identified because he is still working undercover, the Times added.

The cable cautioned that security in the country was likely to deteriorate unless the Iraqi government made significant progress in asserting its authority and building up the economy, the paper said.

I can't help but think maybe we need new leadership in this little endeavor, but there's Rumsfeld, sitting pretty in his post. Safe and sound rubber stamping death notices of the 1,000 soldiers killed in action and the hundreds more who have died because of friendly fire and suicide and other causes.

This is a guest post by Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

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Fun news fact of the day

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I've seen this in a few different places today, and it both sickens me and makes me laugh. Apparently, a youth minister from Des Moines, IA was picked by Bush to show how his tax cuts were working. Mike Hintz and his wife were delighted to help the president and had this to say:

"The American people are starting to see what kind of leader President Bush is. People know where he stands," he said.

"Where we are in this world, with not just the war on terror, but with the war with our culture that's going on, I think we need a man that is going to be in the White House like President Bush, that's going to stand by what he believes.

But that's not the end of the story. We find out today, that Hintz has turned himself in because last Spring he began an affair with a 17 year-old girl. He was also fired and is charged with sexual exploitation by a counselor.

Don't you just love those Repulican values?

This is a guest post from Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and is writer editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 07:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Happy Hannukah everybody!

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I just want to take this oppurtunity to wish everyone a Happy Hannukah. Some of you may not be Jewish, but that's OK, neither am I. That doesn't mean we can't all celebrate and get presents.

Actually, my knowledge of this holiday comes mostly from little kids hustling me out of my money with a dreidel. I really need to learn what it says on that thing. This is more of a reminder to celebrate the diversity of religious convictions in this country and the wonderful seperation of church and state that allows it to flouirish.

This is a guest post from Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. You can contact him at nate_nance@yahoo.com

Posted by Nathan Nance at 07:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

At least it ain't just us

By Christina Ocasio

Guest Post by Christina Ocasio

In news of the unbelievable, Senate Majority leader and medical doctor Bill Frist was unable to refute the claim when asked if one could get HIV from sweat and tears . Why would he even be asked such a question? Thanks to some serious dective work done by Rep. Henry Waxman's office, it has come to light that several of the leading federally funded abstience only programs are teaching our children just such "facts." But what takes the cake is when an board certified MD is unwilling to speak the truth about medical matters. For the record, it is impossible to catch HIV from sweat and tears.This past sunday Frist was on ABC's This Week and had the following exchange with George Stephanopoulos.

"STEPHANOPOULOS: Now you're a doctor. Do you believe that tears and sweat can transmit HIV?
FRIST: I don't know. I can tell you --
STEPHANOPOULOS: You don’t know?
FRIST: I can tell you things like, like --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Wait. Let me stop you there. You don't know that, you believe that tears and sweat might be able to transmit AIDS?
FRIST: Yeah, no, I can tell you that HIV is not very transmissible as an element, like compared to smallpox, compared to the flu, it's not.
STEPHANOPOULOS: ...Let me just clear this up though, do you or do you not believe that tears and sweat can transmit HIV?
FRIST: It would be very hard...for tears and sweat to -- I mean, you can get virus in tears and sweat. But in terms of the degree of infecting somebody, it would be very hard."

Can someone please explain this? A simple no would have done just nicely.

This is a guest post by Christina Ocasio. Christina is a scientist and writes her own blog at http://www.apathyiscool.com and can be reached at christina at apathyiscool dot com.

Posted by Christina Ocasio at 05:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Poll Shows Hutchison Leads Perry Among GOP Primary Voters

By Vince_Leibowitz

Guest Post By Vince Leibowitz

Results of a poll released today shows that Republican primary voters favor U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison over Governor Rick Perry, though Perry, inspite of his screw-ups, managed to fair well against other potential primary opponents.

The poll, conduced by Democratic pollsters Montgomery and Associates, from November 16 through December 2, 2004 tested 1,035 Texans, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

In the poll, the 478 respondents who said that they vote in the Republican primary against various hypothetical incumbents.

When Perry was pitted against Hutchison, the results were pretty dramatic: 59.5 percent said they would vote for Hutchison, compared to 31.6 percent who said they would support Gov. Perry.

But, in a race against "One Tough Grandma," Comptroller Carole Strayhorn, Perry led 56 percent to 29.7 percent. Perry also leg against former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Don Evans 59.2 percent to 19.6 percent. The pollsters didn't poll on some of the other names being floated, however, such as Bush advisor Karen Hughes.

Though I was surprised at how well Hutchison did against Perry, I wasn't surprised by the Strayhorn results. Though Strayhorn is supposedly popular across party lines and still manages to win elections, impression questions asked in the poll of all voters showed she only had a favorible rating of 37.5 percent. As for how Strayhorn faired among Republicans, it's no surprise because core GOP primary voters still believe she's too liberal and too loud.

The Hutchison/Perry results remain an enigma to me, though. Sure, Hutchison is wildly popular, but among the religious conservatives that make up the party's base in Texas, she's still considered far more liberal than Perry. I still say that in an actual election and not a poll, Perry will come out ahead because of the makeup of the party these days. However, it's difficult, in a phone poll, to find out if a someone who says they are a GOP primary voter is part of the ultra-conservative wing that dominates the party--and wins elections.

I continue to maintain that, as poorly as Perry has done, the core base of the GOP would select him over Hutchison because he's most appealing to ultra-conservatives. I think his favorable rating among GOP voters, 60.7 percent according to the poll, comes a long way toward illustrating that. Sure, in a phone poll, people may say they'll vote for Hutchison. But, after the far-right floods their mailboxes, TV and radio with ads that make her look like a liberal pro-abortion radical, they'll change their tune.

All participants in the poll were also asked "whether your impression of each is generally favorable, neutral, or generally unfavorable," relating to various Texas leaders. Here's how that panned out:

Sen. Hutchison was the best known and best liked. 64.1 percent had a favorable impression and only 11.7 percent had an unfavorable impression of her, giving her a hard name identification rating of 75.8 percent. (17.2 percent were neutral and 7.1 percent had not heard of her).

Gov. Rick Perry's hard name ID was almost as high as Sen. Hutchison's, at 70.4 percent. However, his favorable was 44.1 percent and his unfavorable was 26.3 percent, a more negative ratio. (27.1 percent were neutral and 2.6 percent had not heard of him.)

But, of course, Perry got far more positive ratings among Republicans--60.7 percent favorable, 10.7 percent unfavorable--than he did overall. Among Republicans, Hutchison's impression numbers are 78.3 percent favorable, 3.3 percent unfavorable.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison Favorable: 64.1 percent Unfavorable: 11.7 percent Neutral: 17.2 percent Haven't heard of: 7.1 percent

Sen. John Cornyn
Favorable: 33.8 percent
Unfavorable: 11.6 percent
Neutral: 29.5 percent
Haven't Heard of: 25.1 percent

Gov. Rick Perry
Favorable: 44.1 percent
Unfavorable: 26.3 percent
Neutral: 27.1 percent
Haven't Heard of: 2.6 percent

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst
Favorable: 31.0 percent
Unfavorable: 12.1 percent
Neutral: 35.7 percent
Haven't Heard of: 21.2 percent

Comptroller Carol Keeton Strayhorn
Favorable: 37.5 percent
Unfavorable: 8.7 percent
Neutral: 29.3 percent
Haven't Heard of: 24.5 percent

House Speaker Tom Craddick
Favorable: 20.7 percent
Unfavorable: 11.6 percent
Neutral: 34.0 percent
Haven't Heard of: 33.7 percent

Agricultural Commissioner Susan Combs:
Favorable: 20.2 percent
Unfavorable: 4.6 percent
Neutral: 32.9 percent
Haven't Heard of: 42.3 percent

Surprising to me was that 42.3 percent of Texans had never heard of Susan Combs. With so many in the state involved in various aspects of agriculture, I'd figure this number would be much lower. How 33 percent of Texans can claim they've never heard of Tom Craddick is beyond me. Maybe they don't read newspapers, watch television, or surf the 'net. Maybe they live under rocks, who knows.

Vince Leibowitz is County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County. He is a regular contributor to the Political State Report.

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

December 06, 2004

I am a Deaniac, hear me roar

By Nathan Nance

Guest Contributor Nate Nance

I don't keep it a secret that I was a major Howard Dean supporter before the primaries. All the way through, I was very sad and very angry that Dean had been so mistreated in the media. And that's why I started to blog.

Howard Dean hasn't gone away though. After "The Scream", he melted away from the limelight until fairly late in the general election. His support for the Democratic nominee John Kerry was unwavering and his defiance of George W. Bush's policies was unquestionable.

So, I still like him. And he's apparently not forgotten about me and the millions of other Deaniacs, because he's running for the DNC chair. He's got a vision for the Democratic party and its future which he was going to share in a major speech Wednesday, but I guess he couldn't wait.

Democrats need to learn by our previous mistakes - we have tried being “Republican-lite” and it does not work. It is a mistake to run away from the things we believe and I think we can win in the so-called Republican states by being real Democrats.

We have to realize that there are no red states and no blue states, just American states. I believe the country is still more in sync with Democratic values than Republican values. Our task is to remind ourselves and the American people of the hallmark issues that distinguish Democrats from Republicans.

For example, Democrats historically tackle economic issues with bold, common-sense policies. Our last Democratic president created 22 million new jobs in this country. In the last four years, George W. Bush oversaw the loss of over 1.5 million. Democrats balance budgets, Republicans do not. Democrats consistently try to pass legislation that would provide some kind of affordable health care, Republicans do not. Democrats believe we ought to raise the minimum wage to help the average worker keep up with the cost of living, Republicans do not. Democrats believe corporations have too much power over our daily lives; Republicans do not - and to prove it, they have given away billions of dollars of our tax money to the biggest corporations in the world over the last four years.

On each of these issues, the majority of the American people are with Democrats not Republicans. Democrats have the right beliefs to win; we just execute a poor public relations plan. And, despite the enormous improvement in our ground game, the Republicans executed a more effective strategy. Republicans are far more successful because they work in a more unified, disciplined way with local supporters, especially with their base. They also avoid the Democrats chronic pitfall of listening to pundits from inside the Beltway.

So I'm hoping Dean can win this one, because I really think he's got the right idea at the right time. He and Joe Trippi seem to be on the same track, which is always good news, and I can't help but feel that we bloggers will have more of a say in how things are run if Dean were the DNC chair.

Nate Nance is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald. He is also writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 10:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Vouchers Expected To Make The Grade This Session

By Vince_Leibowitz

Guest Post By Vince Leibowitz

AUSTIN--With its ultra-conservative, right-wing majority intact following the November election, GOP legislators in the Texas House look to follow last session's polarizing redistricting plan with yet another volatile part of its legislative agenda: school vouchers.

For the past three sessions, opponents of school vouchers (namely Democrats) have managed to keep such bills from coming to a vote. But, in a bow to major campaign donors and their party's platform, Republican legislators say they are ready to pass the measure this session.

The Houston Chronicle notes one lawmaker is already scheming ways to get vouchers through the legislature when it convenes in January:

Earlier this month, on the first day to file bills, Rep. Frank Corte (R-San Antonio), submitted a proposal for a pilot voucher program that would include the Houston and Cypress-Fairbanks districts.

In addition, it appears Corte is looking at hijacking a "must-pass" bill--the reauthorization of the Texas Education Agency--as a vehicle for a voucher program. If Corte's proposal, House Bill 12, gets stuck in committee as those which came before it did, he says he's prepared to attach it as an amendment to the TEA sunset bill or another education or school finance bill.

Corte's bill would allow students who are struggling academically or attending low-rated public schools to enroll in private schools (including religious schools) using a state-funded voucher. The voucher would be for an amount equal to the average per-student funding at the local public school.

The pilot would apply to the six largest districts in the state.

Public school administrators, teachers and public education advocates agree vouchers would spell disaster for public education in Texas.

"I will be looking at any legislation to see if it's something that fits in the same category," said Corte. "My staff has been looking at sunset for TEA...We're probably at a better position this term than any time before to try to bring (vouchers) to fruition," said Corte.

The TEA bill will be one of the main pieces of legislation next session, particularly since it coincides with efforts to write a new education funding law.

The Chronicle notes the TEA sunset bill likely will end up before a House-Senate conference committee, which will settle any differences passed by the separate chambers. If vouchers are added to the bill in that committee, it could hold the education agency hostage because conference committee reports cannot be changed on the House or Senate floors; they must be voted up or down.

Education advocates were quick to criticise Corte's agenda:

"Obviously we see a danger in things like vouchers being included in the reauthorization legislation," said Rob D'Amico, a spokesman for the Texas Federation of Teachers. "When attempts are made to attach agendas like that, it has the potential of sinking the legislation."

With Texas Republicans emboldened by November election victories in Congressional races thanks to the redistricting plan forced through the Legislature in 2003 (which prompted Democrat walk-outs in both chambers), aren't the longshot they once. Plus, their champion this year, Corte, has a reputation for making sure controversial legislation through. Last session, he passed a bill requiring a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions.

And, if a voucher program is passed in the legislature, don't expect Texas Governor Rick Perry to veto the measure.

Such programs are supported by Perry, whose campaigns are funded through large contributions from such high-profile voucher advocates as Dr. James Leininger. Earlier this month, in fact, a group of Perry's business advisers called for vouchers, more funding for charter schools and restructuring the way teachers are paid.

The House has not debated vouchers since 1997, when a floor amendment proposed by Rep. Ron Wilson (D-Houston), failed on a 68-68 vote.

Last spring, during a special session on school finance, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said vouchers would encounter strong opposition in the Senate. He said at the time that he would not let school finance "crash on this one issue," The Chron noted.

However, school finance could indeed "crash on this one issue." As noted by The Chron, there is ample precedent of agency reauthorization bills being derailed over contentious issues. Just last session, the Texas Lottery Commission sunset bill got bogged down in a fight over increased regulation of charitable bingo games, and the State Board for Educator Certification was sidetracked over alternative certification for teachers.

Both agencies were added to "safety net" bills that kept them operating for two years. They, too, will be up for reauthorization during the 2005 session.

Most state agencies undergo sunset review every 12 years. The process begins with a review of the agency by the Sunset Advisory Commission staff. The staff report on TEA was issued earlier this month and was critical of the agency's oversight of charter schools, another hot-button issue for lawmakers.

Vince Leibowitz is County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County. He is a regular contributor to the Political State Report.

Posted by Vince_Leibowitz at 09:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Craddick Appoints Ringmasters For The Coming Circus

By Vince Leibowitz

Guest Contributor Vince Leibowitz

Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick today appointed a bi-partisan nine-member committee to investigate the three contested races for seats in his chamber.

Without a doubt, the unfortunate souls picked to serve on this committee will end up serving as ringmasters for a Republican circus. Fortunatly, Craddick appointed several Democrats to the committee including Galveston's Craig Eiland.

There is no doubt the Texas GOP will use this as an opportunity to throw the worst allegations of election fraud at Democrats since the infamous "Ballot Box 13" scandal--especially since Jim Wells County, home of the infamous box in 1948, is one of the counties at issue.

The GOP has already unleashed its attack machine in the form of none other than GOP Chairwoman Tina Benkiser. Last week she sent an email accusing Democrats of all manner of fraud and inappropriate conduct to GOP faithful.

The committee, The Select Committee on Election Contests, will investigate three November 2 elections that resulted in Democratic victories which Republicans are now contesting for a myriad basically bogus reasons.

In Harris County's District 149, Democrat Hubert Vo (D-Houston) beat veteran Rep. Talmadge Heflin (R-Houston) by 33 votes. Heflin, recently replaced as chair of the House Appropriations Committee, is contesting the results.

In Travis County's House District 50, Rep. Jack Stick (R-Austin) is contesting his loss to Mark Strama (D-Austin) by 569 votes.

An additional challenge is being made in House District 35. In that district, defeated candidate Eric Opiela (R-Karnes City) is contesting his loss to Yvonne Gonzalez-Toureilles (D-Alice) who bested Opiela by 835 votes for an open seat.

Only once in the past 40 years has an election challenge resulted in the House ordering a new election. The House can either declare a winner in the elections or declare the election void and order a new one.

Craddick also appointed Rep. Will Hartnett (R-Dallas), as the "master of discovery," to oversee the evidence-gathering process. He named Rep. Terry Keel (R-Austin), as chairman of the committee and Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Galveston), as vice chairman.

Other members are Mary Denny, (R-Aubrey), Suzanna Gratia Hupp (R-Lampasas), Phil King, (R-Weatherford) and Larry Phillips R-Sherman). Helen Giddings (D-Dallas), Ryan Guillen, (D-Rio Grande City) and Alan Ritter (D-Nederland).

Vince Leibowitz is County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County. He founded the recently discontinued Free State Standard, a weblog dedicated to Texas politics, in 2003. He is presently a contributor for the Political State Report.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 09:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I am "The Jesus"

By Nathan Nance

Guest Contributor Nate Nance

The story of the life-size Jesus statue fished from the Rio Grande on Aug 31 has a Christmas ending. That's not a good thing.

Apparently there is no room in the evidence locker for this depiction of Christ on the cross without the cross, so authorities have to get rid of it. City Manager of Houston, Jesus M. Castaneda (the irony is not lost on me), said the city would like to donate it to someone who could share it with the community.

There isn't a great political lesson in this story. I just thought Christmas-time is a funny time to be discussing the fate of a statue of Jesus. And the fact it was fished out of the Rio Grande and has drawn crowds of people to view it like it is an ikon or something seems ironic in a way. It was thrown away and now people are clamoring for it.

Just one of the many wacky things one hears in a newsroom every night.

Nate Nance is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald. He is also writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 09:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Unholy Alliance

By Nathan Nance

Guest Contributor Nate Nance

I like reading lots of different blogs, some regularly, some every few weeks or whenever I just happen to link to them. TVNewser is one I don't go to very often, but they always have the best stories on Fox News. Today is no exception.

Somehow, Clear Channel Communications and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. have reached an agreement where Fox News would be the sole news provider for all of Clear Channel's stations. In return, Fox News Radio gets access to news and information from Clear Channel. I'm pretty sure this is a sign of the apocalypse or something.

The Wall Street Journal got the scoop, which is testament to the news section's resolve and professionalism despite an editorial page that is willing to make up stuff and sell ad space for videos about the Clinton Murders.

This move automatically makes Fox News a major competitor with ABC and CBS. For all of mainstream media's faults, they are still more reliable than Fox News and that is a dangerous thing. I really wish more people understood the problems with media consolidation and were taking steps to stop it.

I work for a newspaper that is owned by Cox Newspapers. To some extent, several publications being owned by a single entity can make news more accessible to more people.

But when some people (like Rupert Murdoch) want to change public opinion, they have the means to do it. By owning so many media outlets, Murdoch has no credible threat in the market to force him to adhere to journalistic standards. And other news outlets see Murdoch's success and they try to clone it. Pretty soon, no one is debating, they are all speaking in one voice. The absolute worst thing in a democracy is for everyone to be speaking in one voice. There must be dissension and debate for democracy to flourish.

I don't think the Republic is going to fall tomorrow. The Founding Fathers set up a pretty complicated system that has only gotten moreso over time. It will take a long time for this to become a dictatorship. But the path to it seems pretty clear and we can stop it before it ever gets that far.

Nate Nance is a sports/news clerk for the Waco Tribune-Herald. He is also writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 07:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Post with no name

By Nathan Nance

Guest Contributor Nate Nance

According to CNN Money, Sec. of Treasury John Snow is going to be replaced as soon as Bush names a successor. Among the names being mentioned are Chief of Staff Andy Card and former Texas senator Phil Gramm.

I had heard from several people that Snow was welcome to stay at Treasury, as long as it wasn't too long. Bush seems to want a whole new economic team, and this is the final piece. I can only speculate why he wants a new team; maybe he's tired of making up excuses for the lagging economy and piss-poor job creation numbers. I don't know.

I do know that Sec. Rumsfeld's job is secure for reason's not even God knows.

Nate Nance is a 21 year-old sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald. He is also writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 06:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Retire the Debt

By Byron LaMasters

You have until December 11th to help retire the debt of State Rep.-Elect Mark Strama (D-Austin)... and don't forget he has to defend his 550+ vote election victory in the GOP state house from Jack Stick's bullshit contest. So donate online or attend the debt retirement party tomorrow night:


Fundraiser for State Representative-elect Mark Strama

Tuesday, December 7, 2004
6:00 - 8:00 pm
2802 Stratford Drive, 78746 at the home of Deborah and Larry Peel
Call 512- 832 - 9190 to RSVP
Tickets: $150 · $250 · $500 · $1000

You're invited to a fundraiser for State Representative-elect Mark
Strama to celebrate Mark's victory and help him retire a substantial
campaign debt in advance of the legislative session.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I For One Welcome Our New Blue State Overlords

By Jim Dallas

This essay in Time contains some truths, but only once you get over the clumsy "red state-blue state" (for what it's worth, Cottle is not one of the worst offenders in this regard):

Day to day, liberals have the luxury of ignoring conservative America. Only occasionally does some red-state phenomenon like The Passion of the Christ intrude on our consciousness, and even then it's usually because of some outrage it sparks among a particular interest group on the left. Social conservatives, by contrast, cannot escape the world view of blue staters.

Every time they go to the movies or turn on the television or open their child's school books they're reminded that traditional values ain't what they used to be. (Many liberals will be horrified to hear that two-thirds of Americans think creationism should be taught alongside evolution in science classes.)

Forget aggressively raunchy shows like Sex and the City or Temptation Island. Even the mainstream megahit Friends featured a parade of bed hopping, divorce, lesbianism and out-of-wedlock births that would have raised howls of protest not so long ago.

If anything, social conservatives don't realize the full depth of blue-state America's condescension. They assume that liberals sit around all day thinking about how much smarter or more sophisticated or more enlightened they are than social conservatives.

Truth be told, most of the time liberals don't bother to think about social conservatives at all. Except at election time, when they suddenly become aware of them as some frightening, incomprehensible menace to their otherwise comfortably progressive society.

If you look at the country that way, it's only fair that conservatives have their moment in the sun. They may have won the battle, but their prospects for the broader culture war remain dim.

It took me a moment to realize what exactly my problem with that statement is, until I realized that the wording impies that only the slimmest of majorities (or zounds, perhaps even just the 48 percent who voted for Kerry!) controls culture in America. That "liberals" have complete control and whatever "conservatives" do is mere tilting at windmills.

But the thing is, American culture is just that.... American culture. It's heartily endorsed (or most of it anyway) by most Americans, not just "liberals." Cottle here seems to be playing into the far-right-wing fantasy that "blue state elitists" are oppressing "the red state masses" (both groups exist, dontchaknow, on the same metaphysical plane as angels and demons).

The reason why "red state culture" barely imposes on the rest of us isn't that we're aloof; it's that the vast majority of Americans don't care, either.

And I dare say that those elements of "red state culture" which do surface (The Passion, The "Left Behind" series, DC Talk, etc.) do so in large part because they tap into some marketable desire among "blue staters" as well. There's a little bit of Jesusland in each one of the fifty states, and among most (zounds!) Democratic voters.

And just the opposite is true. Although I'm highly skeptical, some claim that as many as 73 percent of Republicans are closet pro-choicers. And we clearly know that newly re-elected cultural warriors are (lets face it) going to be pretty ineffectual.

I suppose my main criticism is the implication that it's liberals who are responsible for all the crap on television these days. Don't look at us, America, corporate elitists are responsible for the crap on television these days.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 05, 2004

Roses are Burnt Orange

By Byron LaMasters

Nathan shares the good news...

We're smiling here in Austin tonight.

I have another reason to smile. I'll be in Los Angeles on January 1st -- I used my American Airlines travel voucher to go visit a friend over New Years, so I'm currently looking at Rose Bowl ticket prices...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

That just proves my point

By Nathan Nance

Guest Contributor Nate Nance

I probably didn't help my case by misspelling Musharraf in my last post, so I decided to bring out the big guns: The Pentagon's Defense Science Board.

While I was reading the Sunday Herald, I came across this article about the mistakes we've made in our foreign policy. To quote:

THE Pentagon has admitted that the war on terror and the invasion and occupation of Iraq have increased support for al-Qaeda, made ordinary Muslims hate the US and caused a global backlash against America because of the “self-serving hypocrisy” of George W Bush’s administration over the Middle East.


On “the war of ideas or the struggle for hearts and minds”, the report says, “American efforts have not only failed, they may also have achieved the opposite of what they intended”.

“American direct intervention in the Muslim world has paradoxically elevated the stature of, and support for, radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single digits in some Arab societies.”

The rest of the article is very shocking, if only for how much it criticizes the Bushies rather than reveal anything most of us did not already know. And I think it is paradoxical, since this report was pepared for Rumsfeld, who seems to be the only top-tier Cabinet official to have enthusiastic welcome in the White House.

I think they more than back up my earlier claim that Iraq is quicksand and that Bush led us there.

Nate Nance is a 21 year-old news/sports clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald. He is also writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 10:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

We're having some problems with comments. I'm not quite sure what the deal is, but we're working on it and should get things fixed asap. Thanks for understanding.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Statesman Election Postmoretem

By Vince Leibowitz

Guest Post by Vince Leibowitz

As part of its continuing series "The Great Divide," the Austin American Statesman this weekend continued the postmortem of the presidential vote in Texas.

Perhaps the most interesting point the Statesman noted concerning this year's election nationwide was this:

It was actually a series of local landslides, as Americans continued a decades-long process of sorting themselves geographically into like-minded communities.


[T]he share of voters living in such lopsided communities rose consistently in the 1980s and 1990s, according to previously reported studies conducted by American-Statesman statistical consultant Robert Cushing, a retired University of Texas sociologist.

By 2000, 45 percent of all voters lived in one of these landslide counties.

This year, the polarizing trend continued: 48.3 percent of voters lived in a county where the very close contest between George W. Bush and John Kerry was in fact a local landslide.

Considering I don't live in one of those landslide counties, I found it even more interesting that:

[T]he country as a whole remains evenly split. Bush beat Kerry by just over 2 1/2 percentage points.

The 516 counties that voted Democratic in both 2000 and 2004 have on average four times the number of voters as the 2,374 counties that voted Republican in the past two elections.

That's reasonable, though, given that most Democratic counties are predominantly urban, or minority.

The Statesman also points to a trend in Ohio that seemed to hold pretty true in Texas:

Most of Bush's new support in 2004 grew out of these smaller exurban and rural counties, especially in the states that decided this election.

In Ohio, for example, Bush lost ground to the Democrats in the cities and suburbs, at least on a percentage basis. Bush gained votes in all areas, as turnout increased dramatically from 2000 to 2004.

But in urban and suburban counties, Sen. John Kerry gained more than the president. Kerry earned 66 percent of the vote in Ohio's most urban counties, according to an analysis conducted by Greenberg's firm.

In less dense areas of Ohio, however, Bush cleaned up. The president won 62 percent of the rural vote in Ohio (to Kerry's 37 percent) and 59 percent in exurban counties.

The Statesman even illustrated how the trend held true (mostly) in Texas:

The emerging divisions can be seen clearly in Texas, as the state's urban centers began to trend Democratic while the suburbs, exurbs and rural counties remained solidly Republican.

Bush won Dallas County by 10,000 votes, for example, but the president boosted his 2000 total by only 23,000 votes. Kerry gained 60,000 more votes there than Al Gore won in 2000.

In Harris County, Democrats increased their totals by a few thousand more than Republicans, and Kerry increased the Democratic vote in Travis County by 71,000 compared with Gore's 2000 total. Bush received only 6,000 more votes in Travis County than he got four years ago.

In Ellis County, an outer county south of Dallas, however, Republicans gained more than eight votes for every new Democratic vote.

However, after taking data the Statesman complied here and amplifying it, I came to some interesting conclusions.

In particular, I don't believe all is lost for Democrats in East Texas. For example, only 25 counties in Texas actually showed gains when the percentage the county voted Democratic for president in 2004 was compared to the same in 2000. One of those counties is Nacogdoches County in deep East Texas. Granted, while the percentage the county voted Democratic for president increased from only 32.0637% to 33.6343%, it doesn't seem like a lot. But, when considering that more than 225 Texas counties increased the percentage of votes they gave to Bush by anywhere from one tenth of one percent to 13 percent, it is pretty significant that a gain occurred in East Texas.

When looking at the counties that posted percentage Republican gains, it brings even more good news for East Texas. The area's largest counties in terms of population--Smith and Gregg--posted GOP gains of less than half a percent. This means either the GOP voting base in those counties has reached its limit and is turning out at its full potential or Democrats are making significant gains.

In Smith County, for example, 13,468 more people cast ballots in 2000 than in 2004. Of those, 3,467 more voters cast ballots for Kerry than for Gore in 2000, but 10,001 more people cast ballots for Bush than in 2000. In my view, (and it's difficult to really dissect this without registration numbers for both years), I think the Republicans have just about hit the celing in terms of votes they are going to be able to tap in Smith County.

Where the GOP stands to gain the most, however, is in "exurban" counties, those rural counties that are rapidly becoming suburban.

But, what needs closer examination is why we are losing votes in our key Democratic strongholds. With the exception of Travis County, which went for Bush in 2000, none of the Texas counties that went for Kerry went for Kerry in as high a percentage as they went for Gore. What's happening there?

Duval County, for example, went for Gore by 79.8 percent. It was Gore's best county in Texas in 2000. In 2002, however, it was only third best, giving Kerry 71.54 of its votes. It actually came in behind two other counties that gave Gore smaller margins in 2000 and saw the margins they gave Kerry decrease this year. Other counties that went for Gore by good margins fell off the wagon, so to speak, and went for Bush: Reeves, Culberson, Frio, Cameron, Robertson, Newton and Morris.

Part of the problem, obviously, is turnout. 924 less people voted in Duval County, for example. But turnout isn't all of the problem. Cameron County, a Gore County in 2000 but not a Kerry County, saw 7,500 new voters, most of which were Republican. This helped turn the tide there becuase Kerry actually received more votes than Gore, but not a higher percentage.

So, where do we go from here? Over the next couple of weeks, I plan on gathering data from at least the East Texas counties to compare down ballot trends from 2000 to 2004. And, though doing anything on a county-by-county, candidate-by-candidate will be a nightmare, I think it's an important thing to do in order to examine trends at all levels. Obviously, some counties that went head-over-heels for Bush still have courthouses and legislative seats under Democratic control.

From there, I believe Democrats in every part of Texas need to look at three things: money, marketing, and message. The first two are obvious, but the third's kind of tricky. The fact is, we have to craft messages that will work for local candidates in various parts of the state and then help parlay this into an overall Democratic message for Texas.

We've also got to look toward what our counties will do in 2006. Obviously, the Texas GOP has made it clear with its hiring of Jeff Fisher as political director, that it is going to start meddling in county races in 2006. The Democratic Party of Texas is going to have to do something similar, and develop a real, concrete program to help its county parties.

Thanks, by the way, to Byron and the guys here at Burnt Orange Report for inviting me to be a guest poster this week. I promise any future guest posts here won't be soooo long ordramatic.

Vince Leibowitz is County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County. He founded the recently discontinued Free State Standard, a weblog dedicated to Texas politics, in 2003. He is presently a contributor for the Political State Report.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 08:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hindsight's always 20/20

By Nathan Nance

Guest Contributor Nathan Nance

I doubt many of you are regular readers of my blog, so you have no idea how I feel about the war in Iraq or the war on terror in gerneral. You have no idea if I'm a liberal or if I'm off the scale socialist or conservative.

I think, in maybe getting to know me, we should talk about the war in Iraq, since it is the most pressing issue on our agenda. But, I'm going to do something a little different. Instead of telling you in my own words, how I feel, I'm going to let someone who was praised just this morning by Bush himself for his leadership in the war on terror, tell you. President Musharaf of Pakistan:

"I think it's less safe," Gen. Pervez Musharraf said on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer." Asked whether he considered the invasion a mistake, the Pakistani leader said, "With hindsight, yes. We have landed ourselves in more trouble, yes."


However, Musharraf said he does not believe U.S. and coalition troops should pull out immediately. Only after elections are held and the situation stabilized should the United States consider a withdrawal from Iraq, he said.

"[An early withdrawal] would create more problems in the region," he said. "Now that we are there, we need to stabilize the situation."

Now, I have my bones to pick with Pakistan and the fact that he is a military dictator plays very much against him in my estimation. But he's right.

As an aside, Musharaf also admitted in this morning's Washington Post that they have no idea where Osama bin Laden is, they just know he is alive.

No matter how you felt before the invasion, I can't see how you can agree that this was a good idea now. The closest to sane rationale I've heard from my Republican friends so far is "We were going to fight him eventually anyway." I'm not sure why war was inevitable with him, especially with the sanctions working. So I can't see this as anything more than a mistake.

But I also don't see how one can just pull up stakes and leave. If all of a sudden there were no troops to keep what little order there is in place, that country would be worse than Beirut in less than a day. But as long as we are there, there will still be an insurgency killing U.S. troops and still focused hatred on us in the Muslim world.

That is the very definiton of a quagmire. It's like quicksand. Once you step in, you're stuck. No matter what you do, you're still going to sink. Bush walked us straight into this quicksand, and even if John Kerry had been elected, we would still be stuck. That is the scary, painful truth of it. Wiser men than I don't know how to get us out, and that's probably because there is no way out. The really scary, scary thing I find, is that if the oppurtunity did arise to leave without consequence, I don't think Bush would take it.

Nate Nance is a 21 year-old sports/news clerk (glorified intern) at the Waco Tribune-Herald newspaper. He is also writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 07:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

LA Run-Offs Results

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Democrats picked up a Republican Seat.
Republicans picked up a Democratic Seat.

Voters turned off by negative campaigns, light turnout. Congress remains unchanged from Nov. 2 results.

More can be found in this news report.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 07:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

UDEMS Officers

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The University Democrats is proud to announce the 2005 Spring Semester Officers.

President: Marcus Ceniceros
Vice President: Ali Puente
Public Relations Director: Emily Cadik
Secretary: Katie Naranjo
Treasurer: Alex Hunt
Events Chair: Rachel Rendeiro
Volunteer Coordinator: Larkin Campbell
Historian: Suki Misra
Webmaster: Karl-Thomas Musselman

Darn it, Liberal Arts Honors students only make up 4 of the 9 officers! Our takeover is not yet complete! Right. Just kidding y'all.

I am moving to my new home as Webmaster, working with our past one of course. Then again, it was the only non-contested office. (After I nominated 3 people at once for volunteer Coordinator, and making it go into a run-off, oops).

It's going to be a kick ass spring semester. We're not crawling back into the woodwork when there's work to be done at the State Capitol. Silly Republican legislators, thinking they have a mandate or something.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 06:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Christmas comes early

By Vince_Leibowitz

Guest Post by Nathan Nance

Fortune has smiled on the Longhorns, finally. The first thing I heard when I walked into the Trib newsroom today was "Texas is going to the Rose Bowl." Hot dog!

Then I found the email from Byron with the log-in info so that I could post as a Guest Contributor for BOR.

Christmas has come early to McLennan county this year.

I'm looking forward to writing for BOR, and I hope you enjoy reading it as as much as I do. Until I have something more political to write about, Happy Holildays.

Nate Nance is a 21 year-old sports/news clerk (glorified secretary) at the Waco Tribune-Herald. He is also the writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log.

Posted by Vince_Leibowitz at 06:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 04, 2004

Howard Dean does an ad

By Jim Dallas

Just heard Howard Dean's Yahoo! Local ad on Launchcast.

It amused me, although I am a little sad that Dean's left doing the ad thing. I hope he doesn't get stuck prescribing Viagra to Bob Dole...

Posted by Jim Dallas at 11:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Capitalist Anti-Communists Against the Capitalist Exploitation of Communists

By Jim Dallas

I am sure Che is turning in his grave:

Val Prieto raises the red flag (as in “Hold up! Wait a minute!") on a featured ad in Time Magazine, and on the usually capitalistic Burlington Coat Factory. Fortunately, the media and the world are taking notice.

It now appears that lionizing the bloody legacy of Che Guevara has hit an all-time low in the literal sense. Onesies and t-shirts emblazoned with the infamous “cool-looking revolutionary in a beret” image are now on sale for infants and toddlers.

What’s really ironic about manufacturers of Che swag in general is the mind-boggling premise that they choose to ignore the truth about a man who murdered thousands of Cubans and dedicated his shortened life to destroying liberty – even denouncing the very capitalist system that are allowing the swagsters to make a buck off of whitewashing the same man who, if he were alive today, would probably put bullets to the back of their heads for the mere thought of profiting from the masses.

Two questions. One, do they get the irony? Two, why are they not using this opportunity to once again remind us about how "liberal" the north east is (Get it - Burlington - Vermont - COMMUNISM!).

This is all very post-modern. As such, I'm pretty sure there's no way I can make a sensible judgment about it (damn you philosophers!).

Posted by Jim Dallas at 08:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 03, 2004


By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The Navy SEALs have launched a criminal investigation into photographs that appear to show commandos in Iraq sitting on hooded and handcuffed detainees, and photos of what appear to be bloodied prisoners, one with a gun to his head.

Some of the photos have date stamps suggesting that they were taken in May 2003, which could make them the earliest evidence of possible abuse of prisoners in Iraq. The far more brutal practices photographed in Abu Ghraib prison occurred months later.

Was a culture of abuse put in place over time? Did it start with our supposed elite?

Also, Rumsfeld to stay as Defense Secretary as Tommy Tompson for HHS goes by the wayside.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 06:52 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Latino Exit Polling Wrong, Corrected towards Kerry

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

NBC goes oops.

In a stunning admission, an elections manager for NBC News said national news organizations overestimated President George W. Bush's support among Latino voters, downwardly revising its estimated support for President Bush to 40 percent from 44 percent among Hispanics, and increasing challenger John Kerry's support among Hispanics to 58 percent from 53 percent.

The revision doubles Kerry's margin of victory among Hispanic voters from 9 to 18 percent. Ana Maria Arumi, the NBC elections manager also revised NBC's estimate for Hispanic support for Bush in Texas, revising a reported 18-point lead for Bush to a 2-point win for Kerry among Hispanics, a remarkable 20-point turnaround from figures reported on election night.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 04:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

Thanks for everyone who posted in the open thread. I had several ideas of how to improve BOR, and your thoughts gave me even more. Here's what I've decided to do for now:

  • I've added the user name "Guest Contributor" to BOR. Posting by us will likely be very light over the next week due to exams, so I plan on asking a few people to do guest posts over the next week to fill the lull. Where we go from there, I'm not sure, but I think a trial period will give us ideas on how to integrate more voices into BOR without sacrificing content or quality. If you've emailed me in the past about writing for BOR, it's probably buried in my email, so email me again: Byron AT BurntOrangeReport DOT com. If you haven't emailed me in the past, but are interested in writing a guest post, email me as well.
  • I think the idea of a e-magazine format like The Gadflyer is quite intriguing. I've meant to work on the format of BOR for quite awhile (even if I just decide to make more subtle changes), but for some reason it tends to get delayed. Hopefully, I'll have time to make some changes over winter break.
  • West Texas and Panhandle voices.... good idea. I'd love to have my friend Mike from El Paso contribute to BOR, and the folks over at Panhandle Truth Squad do a good job of covering the panhandle, although they'd certainly be welcome to guest post on occasion at BOR if interested.
  • Andrew works for the Texas Democratic Party. He is a Democrat. He's not switching parties. I'm sometimes puzzled by the changes in his philosophy over the past years. After all, when I first met him, Andrew had been a Naderite in 2000, and thought that Ron Kirk was too conservative and pro-business for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

    Now, Andrew is by far the most conservative and hawkish member of BOR. And the whole Contumacy thing bothers me a little bit, but I'll let Andrew explain it when he wants. But then again, the Iraq issue is personal for him. His father is in (or is going to) Iraq to help train the Iraqi police force (And my thoughts and prayers are with him, even if my only experience meeting Andrew's father was at their family's Memorial Day BBQ where Mr. Dobbs told more than enough off-color John Kerry jokes). If my father (who served in the Air Force for nine years) was over in Iraq, I'd probably feel the same way. The debate over whether to attack Iraq is over. I opposed attacking Iraq, and I think that the evidence that has come out over the past year gives those of us who opposed the war vindication.

    But so what? Senator-Elect Barack Obama (D-IL) at the Democratic convention put it best: "There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."

    Whether one supported or opposed the war has nothing to do with what has to be done now. I think that President Bush has screwed up just about everything that could be screwed up with Iraq, but that doesn't change my position. We're in Iraq, we can't leave, and we need to win. Period. And while I'll never support this president, I'll always support our troops. As far as I'm concerned, Andrew does (and always will) have a place in both the Democratic Party and BOR.

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

December 02, 2004


By Byron LaMasters

Via Kos diaries.

This is what Senator Kerry did today.

When will President Bush join Senator Kerry in paying his respects to the brave American men and women who have fallen serving our country?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:44 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Sore Winners

By Byron LaMasters

Because merely winning just isn't good enough. The Austin Chronicle has a great overview of the way Republicans do business in 2004.

This is a party that thinks that getting 95% of their judges confirmed isn't enough, a party that would allow an indicted member to lead their caucus if convenient (after changing a rule originally intended to embarrass a Democrat a ten years ago), a party that would usurp the will of the voters since an 87-63 majority in the Texas House isn't good enough unless there's room for ol' Talmadge.

What will be next?

Via the Stakeholder.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Why Fallujah Matters

By Andrew Dobbs

I saw this article by Max Boot from the LA Times and I'd reccomend it to everyone- supporters of the war (such as this blogger, who has come to realize the justness of our cause) can use it to bolster their confidence in our mission and reflexive opponents should read it to understand that we ARE winning.

Nothing except a battle lost can be half as melancholy as a battle won.

-The Duke of Wellington (...)

It is right and proper to mourn the death of 71 Americans and the wounding of hundreds more. As Wellington realized, martial glory rings hollow when weighed against the cost in blood. But it is wrong to rush to the opposite extreme by assuming, as so much of the current commentary implicitly does, that war solves nothing and that all casualties are meaningless. In fact, many of the turning points of history have been battles, such as Wellington's victory at Waterloo, which ended for all time the threat of French expansionism in Europe. (...)

Coalition troops killed 1,200 to 1,600 guerrillas and captured more than 1,000. They uncovered 26 bomb factories, 350 arms caches (containing thousands of weapons), several chemical weapons laboratories and eight houses where hostages were held and probably tortured and killed. And they accomplished all this with less than half the number of casualties suffered in Hue, Vietnam, in 1968, the last major urban assault mounted by the Marine Corps. (...)

This is not meant to suggest that everything went perfectly. Many terrorists were able to escape Fallouja before the assault and create mayhem in Mosul, where the local police folded with dismaying speed. But U.S. and Iraqi forces quickly shifted their focus to the north and snuffed out the uprising in Mosul. Now they are pressing their offensive in the "triangle of death" south of Baghdad.

The best news of recent days is the growing competence of Iraqi security forces. Two thousand Iraqis fought alongside 10,000 Americans in Fallouja and, by all reports, they performed reasonably well. In the operations south of Baghdad, Iraqis are said to outnumber British and American troops.

Skeptics are right to point out that no insurgency can be defeated by force alone, but it's also true that effective military action is usually a prerequisite for a political settlement. Only if the insurgents are convinced they cannot shoot their way to power will they give up their guns. (...)

Even in a best-case scenario, however, the bombings and beheadings won't end the day after the vote. It can take a decade or more to defeat an insurgency (Colombia has been fighting Marxist guerrillas since 1966), and even a small number of determined fighters can wreak mayhem. In the 1970s, fewer than 100 members of the Baader-Meinhof gang terrorized West Germany, a country that is considerably more populous and more stable than Iraq, which is estimated to have at least 10,000 insurgents.

Thus, for all their success in Fallouja, we should not expect U.S. troops to completely pacify Iraq anytime soon. What they can do — what they are doing — is to keep the insurgents from derailing a political process that, one hopes, will soon result in the creation of a legitimate government that can field indigenous security forces and defend itself.

To paraphrase the words of John Stuart Mill, war is an ugly thing, but not quite as ugly as believing that there is nothing worth fighting and dying for. I wasn't aware of how many insurgents we had killed and captured- somewhere between 2200 and 2600- perhaps a quarter of their force- while we lost 71 soldiers- about 1/20 of 1% of our entire force. And though I wish that we didn't have to lose even one soldier, that sounds like a victory to me.

We also dramatically reduced their ability to strike out against Americans and innocent Iraqis by capturing a significant ammount of their materiel. And no insurgency can succeed without a stable base of operations. Castro succeeded because he had the mountains and Mexican bases, the mujahedeen succeeded because they had Pakistan, etc. Now that their main base of operations has been shut down and their plan B and plan C (Mosul and the "triangle of death") are not serious options, they are scattered. There will still be a large contingent of bad guys, but if they aren't coordinated, they have limited munitions and are constantly on the run, their effect will be small (relative to what exists now).

In another part of the column that I decided not to quote, Boot points out that when we struck against Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi militia, they learned quickly that the ballot box is a more viable option than violence. Sunni insurgents seem to be learning that lesson now, leaving only a small, uncoordinated insurgency that a nascent Iraqi military can handle on its own. In essence, the insurgency is on the run and our military is ready for the fight. The elections offer an opportunity for more peaceful redress of grievances, and we must keep them on schedule. If we continue shutting down insurgent bases, developing the Iraqi military and hold free and fair elections, we will have accomplished a great deal.

Fallujah was the turning point in this effort and we should be proud of our soldiers' performance there. Things are looking up, and if we succeed, it will mean a better world for billions of people- not the least of which will be our own countrymen.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 04:59 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

December 01, 2004

Open Thread

By Byron LaMasters

This one is for you guys. I called both Andrew and Karl-Thomas earlier today for their thoughts. Now I want yours. The Burnt Orange Report started as a UT-based blog by Jim and I. Now, it's a group blog of UT students (even if Jim has graduated and gone to law school). But in the past few months several others have expressed their interest in writing for BOR. I'll be graduating in a semester. Andrew and Zach will probably graduate in another year or so.

So what next? I think that it's critical to maintain a student voice at BOR, but where do we go now? One idea is to start a new blog that would be Texas-centric, and keep BOR UT-centric. But BOR IS Texas-centric. I think that approach would likely duplicate our efforts. I tend to favor the idea of expanding BOR, adding new voices, and focus on maintaining BOR's status as one of the premier Texas-based blogs. At this point I'm leaning towards adding a "Guest Writer" user name for some people that have asked to contribute to BOR, so we can get some help in the next week or two while we're going to be busy with finals. But I'm less sure of what to do after that. I'm open to ideas. Let us know what you'd like to see in both the immediate and long-term future of BOR in comments. Thanks.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:45 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Vo Wins Again

By Byron LaMasters

Andrew reported on it earlier, but it's official. The recount gave Hubert Vo an extra vote for a 33-vote victory margin over Talmadge Heflin. Let the election-stealing begin!

The Houston Chronicle has the story as well. Kuff has some more on the race.

The Austin American Statesman has more on Jack Stick's bullshit contest. They also report that Kelly White has lost her recount attempt. Fair enough.

The conservative Lone Star Times says Heflin should give it up. (Also Via Kuff).

The Houston Chronicle has more. Why did Jack Stick contest his election loss to Mark Strama? One reason. To make Heflin's contest of his loss to Hubert Vo look more reasonable.

Greg has more.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:17 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Ashamed and Sex is a Hobby?

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

::Elevated up a bit to keep the discussion going. A 20+ comment entry has been a long time coming it seems. ::

I'm not sure if I could be any more embarrassed or ashamed of my University.

Watch this Movie Preview.

Also, this was the most ridiculous Daily Texan Firing Line I have read in a good long while. It's at the bottom of this linked page and I have clipped it below.

Sex is a hobby

In the past few days, the debate of Christianity and homosexuality has drawn quite the stir.

The fact that homosexuals are human beings is not being denied. They shall have all of their rights, and live their lives like any other citizen in America.

The fact that gays should have individual rights, because they are gay, is ridiculous. Homosexuality can be a lifestyle, but it should be considered a hobby. Gays can live their lives any way they want to and enjoy all freedoms every American has, but should not have special rights.

The acceptance of gays into the law will lead to a slippery slope effect of epic proportions. Then, what should keep a man and his dog from being able to share health care and benefits? Marriage is a religious and sacred, but most importantly it is a legal union between a man and a women.

Being gay does not give you special rights under the law. Feel free to practice homosexuality as much or as little as you would like, but don't expect to find equality under the law in regards to marriage.

Homosexuality is a hobby, and leave it at that.

Jefferson Harwell
Government freshman

His e-mail is jharwell@mail.utexas.edu (thanks to the UT Online Directory)

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 06:47 PM | Comments (39) | TrackBack

World AIDS Day

By Byron LaMasters

What can I say that hasn't been said? HIV/AIDS is one of the biggest tragedies of our time. It's a tragedy that we didn't do much about it in the 1980s when we really had a chance to do something about it. It's a tragedy that pharmaceutical companies are often more concerned about profits than getting life-saving medications to victims of AIDS, especially in Africa. It's a tragedy that the gay community isn't as proactive as it should be in addressing issues like bareback sex and crystal meth, that as much as we'd like to deny it, are major problems in the gay community.

Do what you can to make a difference. Here's some sites for more information.

World AIDS Campaign and the UN AIDS Campaign.

If you'd like to make a local donation in honor of World AIDS Day (although you wouldn't know if you just watch FOX News), here's a few organizations that I would recommend:

AIDS Services of Austin
AIDS Services of Dallas
AIDS Services of North Texas
Project Transitions

Hope, Ryan and the Stakeholder have more thoughts.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

US Increasing Iraq Troops by 12,000

By Andrew Dobbs

The Source.

Brig. Gen. David Rodriquez, deputy operations director of the Joint Staff, told reporters that these moves would increase the size of the American force in Iraq from 138,000 today to about 150,000 by January.

That is the highest number of U.S. troops in Iraq since the invasion, he said. By May 2003, when President Bush declared major combat operations over, there were about 148,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, he said. (...)

Military officials have said repeatedly in recent weeks that they were considering whether more American troops would be required to provide sufficient security before Iraqis vote.

The moves announced Wednesday are in line with expectations — a combination of holding some troops in Iraq longer than scheduled and sending some fresh forces from the United States.

Unfortunately for our soldiers already over there, the bulk of the increase comes from simply extending the combat tours of 10,400 troops. The good news is that is seems that Bush is finally going to fight to win. We probably need more than 12,000 troops, but it is a good start.

These elections in Iraq are of incredibly high importance. If a government chosen by the people of that desperate country can come into power, the arguments of terrorist insurgents that the whole thing is nothing but colonial exploitation will whither in the wind. If they can establish a stable democracy, it will be a powerful example to other Arab dictatorships. The only evidence you need for how important these elections are for an American victory is the level of intensity our enemies are showing against the effort. They know their goose is more or less cooked if they go off without a hitch and without a stable base of operations, the loss of hundreds- if not thousands- of their comrades and the seizure of a large chunk of their weapons they are on their last leg. By this time next year things could be completely different if this is successful.

But victory will only come if we invest in more troops to train an Iraqi military, to secure the country in their absence and to defeat the fascist insurgency that threatens to throw Iraq back into the hellhole of oppression. 12,000 troops is a solid start, we need to keep the trend going until Iraq has a stable professional army, an effective police and domestic security force, a freely elected government, the beginnings of an economic/infrastructure redevelopment and a defeated or incredibly weak insurgency. We've succeeded in this sort of thing before and if we show the courage to do it again, we'll have a huge feather in our caps that we will celebrate for generations.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 05:07 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Has it really been ten years?

By Jim Dallas

I've been an admirer of Huben's "Critiques of Libertarianism" site for a long time, but I had no idea it's been around now for 10 years.

On a side note, I think there is a lot that we can learn from libertarians. There is also, however, a lot that we should learn how not to do from the libertarian movement (e.g. how not to argue, how not to campaign, etc.).

Posted by Jim Dallas at 04:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How Chet Won 2.0

By Byron LaMasters

A few weeks ago, I offered my own thoughts on how Chet Edwards managed to win. For all my Poor Aggie talk, Aggie Democrats can boast in January that they're represented by a Democrat, while us Longhorns will have to deal with Michael McCaul and Lamar Smith. (Even though Smith will represent UT, the Travis County portion of the district barely gave him 50% of the vote against the hapless Democrat, Rhett Smith).

Anyway, Chet Edwards will tell CNN viewers himself how he managed to pull it off tonight:

Viewers nationwide wondering how U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, won re-election in President Bush's home district can watch the lawmaker explain his victory tonight on CNN.

Edwards' office announced he will be profiled on "Paula Zahn Now" at 7 p.m. He'll discuss how he won the support of 48,000 Bush voters after GOP-led redistricting put his seat in jeopardy.

"If you put the needs of your district first and represent their values, people of all political persuasions will see through all the negative attacks and come together and support you," Edwards spokesman Josh Taylor said. "That's what happened in this case."

I'll try to catch it.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:10 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Vo Wins Recount- Picks Up a Vote

By Andrew Dobbs

I just got a call from our top political consultant, Kelly Fero, who informed me that the recount of the Heflin/Vo race has been completed and not only did Vo win AGAIN, but an undervote that had not been counted previously was agreed by both sides to have cast their vote for Vo- increasing his margin of victory from 32 votes to 33.

All this does is make it seem more and more like Heflin is a sore loser and that Craddick can't take Vo for an answer.


Donate to the Party today so we can keep the GOP from stealing these elections!

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 02:47 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Read Lynne Cheney's Lesbian Romance Novel

By Byron LaMasters

Via BOR comments and Political Wire is an online copy of the book.

Check it out here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:13 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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