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February 28, 2005

Two Agendas

By Byron LaMasters

I'm at the CWA Hall liveblogging the Dallas County Democratic Executive Committee Meeting. Fortunately, they've got a wireless connection here (you would think so, being the Communications Workers). The meeting is scheduled to begin in a few minutes here and we currently have two agendas. The agenda of the chair, and the agenda of the petitioners:

The Agenda of the Petitioners:

I. Adoption of the agenda.
II. Approval of the minutes of last meeting.
III. Resolutions
A. To establish quarterly meetings of the executive committee
B. To establish a Democratic Advisory Committee and and select the members thereof.
IV. Business
A. Old Business
B. New Business
- installation of pending precinct chairs
- direction to correct Congressional record
- remarks or resolutions of precinct chairs
V. Announcements
VI. Remarks of elected officials
VII. Adjourn

The Agenda of the Chair:

I. Welcome and Pledge
II. Announcement/Introductions
III. Approval of the Minutes of May 3, 20004
IV. State of the Party Address by the Chair
V. Address by Sheriff Lupe Valdez
VI. New Business
A. Approval and Swearing in of Pend
B. Other New Business
VII. Adjourn

Update: After things got a bit rowdy at the meeting, I decided not to liveblog the meeting. Instead I wanted to gather my thoughts and write a summary post. You can view that here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:23 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Tired of SG Endorsements Yet?

By Zach Neumann

I'll make this really brief because I know everyone is tired of hearing about this crap from Andrew, Karl Thomas and myself. I agree with most of the endorsements up to now (as well as the justifications for them). Overall, I tend to support the Ignite ticket-- and I really hope they win. However,for all you people out there who could care less about SG, here are the names of the active Democrats who are running. If anything, vote for them tommorrow to boost their advocacy power on campus.

Jessica Rice-- President
Danielle Rugoff-- One Year at Large Representative
Amanda Johnson- Communication Representative
Katie Naranjo-- Liberal Arts Representative

Thats about it. If I left anyone who is active in the party out, I apologize.

Voting starts tommorrow. Here is the link.

Posted by Zach Neumann at 06:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Doing a Favor For Jon Mureen

By Andrew Dobbs

With all this talk about SG, I forgot to mention that my one time nemesis Jon Mureen called me the other day. Jon ran for SG President my freshman year and I gladly helped Brian Haley beat him. Jon's a nice enough guy I suppose and we became rather cordial after it all was over. Now he's apparantly at the University of Virginia law school and did a Google Search of himself to see what future employers would find. He claimed that the first thing were some comments some trickster left on BOR claiming to be him saying crazy things. The search didn't turn this up, and someone had removed the posts, probably Byron.

I wanted to put the posts up so everyone could see what Mureen was so worried about, but now I can't. What I CAN do is put up the rather silly email that Jon sent me threatening me to take down the posts. Here you go:


I’m still hoping to resolve this civilly, but judging by your refusal to respond, I can infer that you do not care to. This issue will have to be resolved one way or another, so unless I hear from you within 48 hours, we will commence legal proceedings, and you will receive word from my attorney. At that point, I will leave the rest of the communication to him.

If doing the right thing is not enough motivation for you to remove the pages, you should also know that it is in your best interest to do so. If you refuse, not only will the Burnt Orange Report and its agents be held liable for knowingly publicizing slanderous and false information (and refusing to remove it), but it will also be fairly easy to determine who created the false identity. In addition to his own civil liability, that individual will face criminal charges for identity theft.

Andrew, I hope it doesn’t come to any of this, but please know that I am serious. As a law student, I have the time, resources, and access to quality legal counsel that will allow me to see this through.


Jon Mureen

Well Jon, we didn't slander you- if anything we were libelous seeing that libel is written and slander is spoken, but we weren't even doing that. See, we run a website and anyone can put whatever name and write here. We didn't say anything about you, so we couldn't have libeled or slandered you. If I owned a truck stop and someone put on a bathroom wall "For a Good Time, Call Jon Mureen 434-906-04**", could I be sued for insinuating that you would show some lonely trucker a good time? I think not. And this unknown webperson didn't really "steal your identity" so much as s/he portrayed a parody, a satire- protected speech under the First Amendment (I'm sure you'll cover that in law school at some point). So bring your attorneys on, Mr. Mureen.

I don't know what this shows- that Mureen will be a good attorney because he is an uptight prick or a bad attorney because a) his knowledge of the law is feeble at best and b) he is such a weak-willed type that he is worried that a few silly BOR posts will keep a graduate of the University of Texas and UVA law out of a job. Either way, the email was a bit on the silly side.

The posts are down and this suggests to me that there will likely be no reason for me ever to talk to Jon Mureen again, which makes me rather happy. I hold no grudges, I kicked his ass once already and got my jollies then. Hope Mr. Mureen can let it go sooner or later as well.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 04:02 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

SG Debates Tonight

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Tonight at 9:30, I'll be on the local tele since I was a panelist for the KVR cable news debates for the Student Government elections. Plus you can watch the rather bizarre lightning round which lead today's Texan coverage.

You can watch it online here when it gets posted later on. But if you live in the Austin area, it's Channel 16 on Cable, Channel 15 in the dorms, and Channel 9 for Antenna at 9:30 pm tonight, and again at 9:00 pm tomorrow night.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 03:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Chris Bell to Speak in Austin on Wednesday

By Byron LaMasters

AUSTIN - Chris Bell, the congressman who filed the ethics complaint against Tom DeLay, will give the first speech by a potential statewide Democratic candidate this year to an Austin gathering of Democracy for Texas. Chris is exploring a Democratic bid for Texas Governor.

An informal media availability will take place after his remarks. He can also squeeze in individual interview requests if scheduled earlier.

WHAT: Chris Bell speaking to Democracy for Texas
DAY: Wednesday, March 2
TIME: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Scholtz Beer Garten, 1607 San Jacinto Street

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

My SG Endorsements

By Andrew Dobbs

So Karl-T and the Daily Texan have spoken, now its time for the guy who almost got into this mess to speak up about who should be in the new Student Government. I'll only make endorsements in the races I can vote in- President, VP, Two-Year At Large, One-Year At Large, Liberal Arts, Communications, Union Board and SEC. I'll also throw in some info about a few other people that should be supported.

President- Jessica Rice, Ignite.

This one was the toughest for me because I think that they would both be decent presidents, but for different reasons. Omar Ochoa is a natural politician and can schmooze legislators and other powerful people with the best of them. Furthermore, he is a staunch Democrat and SG would be a good foot-in-the-door for a future elected official. He's tough and knows about organizing, so he wouldn't be a bad choice.

But I choose Jessica Rice. To be honest, part of it is because she is a friend of mine and has always treated me well, even when I worked against her last year. But a larger part of it is that she is just as smart as Omar, perhaps not as experienced or tough, but she is much less prone to the mendacity that Omar has demonstrated to me. He showed up, uninvited, to a party my friends were holding and when I asked him later who had invited him he lied to me without blinking, without pausing for a second. A good skill for a politician perhaps, but only for the wrong kind of politician. Jessica Rice is a better person, and in the end, that is all that matters.

VP- Colby Hanks, Ignite.

This one was tough as well, but very similar to the Presidential race. Elizabeth Brummett is a tough gal, smart and well-organized. Hanks' strength is in her almost unlimited charisma. But Brummmett has a couple of things that make me say no. First, I have the unique distinction of having been severely beaten by Elizabeth Brummett in last year's election. That didn't figure into this at all- I knew I was going to lose and if anything her popularity makes her a good choice. But one thing she was a part of in that campaign did- the effort to portray me as a sexual harrasser and misogynist. A friend of mine later hung out with one of the girls who filed the charges and she confirmed what we had always known- they put on an act to make me look bad so that we would lose. They pretended to be all upset and to speak a lot of jibberish to ruin my reputation. When charges of sexual harrassment are politicized, it makes it infinitely harder for real victims to get a fair hearing. Elizabeth Brummett is a part of that shame.

But she is not someone I dislike, I understand why she did it. A much more pertinent reason to vote for Colby is that she is truly an independent with no baggage. Brummett has a lot of committments to some special interests that I think get too much money from students- namely the Multicultural Information Center and other bottomless pits of irrelevance that suck down student fees. I like Colby because she'll take these people to task. Finally, Colby has guts. Brummett is the type to vote for inane resolutions because she is afraid of hacking off various leftish interests on campus. Colby leaned towards me and told me during one meeting when I asked her if she would support such nonsense and said "That's why I'm running- to stop this stuff." That gets my vote any day of the week.

Two Year At Large:

Michael Windle, Connect
Courtney Livingston, Connect
Anjali Fleury, Ignite
(No Endorsement)

I only ensorse three out of 4 spots because I don't know who any of these other people are, though many seem like they have some great ideas. Many of them are from the same handful of groups that dominate these sorts of things- spirit and greek organizations. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it just seems to promote the student council mindset of student government- an unwillingness to take responsibility. So I'll go with the three I endorse.

Courtney Livingston is a rock star. From the first time I met her when she was a freshman with about 3 classdays under her belt she impressed me. She is tireless, devoted, driven and has big ideas. She will set the world on fire some day and she will bring the kind of strength and leadership SG needs.

Michael Windle is a good guy as well. He is one of the smartest guys in the Assembly and has a lot of great insight into issues important to students. He knows how to get things done and he'll be a great leader for students.

Anjali Fleury I don't know. But from what I've heard she is a great environmental activist that seeks ways to make the university more sustainable and environmentally aware. Perhaps a single issue focus, but you need that from time to time and I think she'll be a good conscience for the Assembly.

One Year At Large:
Kunal Das, Connect
Jessica Fertitta, Connect
Bekah Hotze, Ignite
Danielle Rugoff, Ignite

Kunal Das I don't know, but he sounds like a great person to have in the Assembly. He started a successful online small business here at the University and has some great ideas about how to improve funding for student groups with a single application. Leadership and vision, that is what we need and this guy's got it.

Jessica Fertitta I don't know either but I've read enough to know that she has at least some level of expertise in activism regarding the legislature and tracking important legislation. That is important in this session so she gets my vote. Plus, she's a Terry Scholar like me and poor smart people gotta stick together.

Bekah Hotze is a friend of mine and I think that she would be a great leader in the Assembly. She is friendly and charismatic with a history of family activism in Republican politics, she knows how to communicate with legislative leaders. She is a good person and deserves the position.

Danielle Rugoff is a very dear friend of mine and is one of the most impressive people I know. A tireless activist for Israel and other important issues, particularly in the Jewish community, she has interned in Washington DC and has a lot of friends here in Austin. She is an organizer, and someone that will be an important person one day. She ought to be in the Assembly.

Liberal Arts:

Katie Naranjo, Ignite
Clint Adcox, Ignite
Andrew Solomon, Connect
(No Endorsement-2)

I only endorse three people out of five slots because I don't know many of these people and a quick look at their qualifications make me think that they are simply going to be part of the problem.

Katie Naranjo is one of the most impressive people I've met in a long time. She came to this university this year and set it on fire. An officer in the University Democrats, an intern for my old boss Rep. Jim McReynolds (D-Lufkin), someone with enough charisma for 10 people she is going to be someone someday. She also let me use her tire iron once and I've broken the law with her so I think I owe her.

I don't know Clint Adcox or Andrew Solomon but they both sound like great candidates. Anyone who says he doesn't care what his unelected college council says, he's going to vote his conscience gets my vote- so go Clint Adcox. Andrew Solomon is a Terry Scholar. Other than that I don't know, but once again T-Scholars gotta stick together!


Amy Salek, Ignite.
Amanda Johnson, Ignite.

Freshman year it was funny- every single organization I was in, Amanda Johnson ended up being in also. Terry Scholars, UDs, Student Government, Communication Council- we were always around one another. She is smart, charismatic, unflappable and driven. She will provide great leaderhip in the Assembly and will be an independent voice for Communications students.

Amy Salek is probably among the most specificially qualified people on the ballot. She's on the Dean Selection Committee for the College of Communications, meaning she will personally know and in fact have some leverage over the new Dean of the Communications school. She is also active in many other organizations in the college making her an effective and representative voice for the students of the University.

Union Board-

Wes Carpenter, Ignite.
Fallon McLane, Ignite.

Interestingly enough, I looked over the pages for the Connect candidates and while both of them seem like good enough guys, neither have ANY experience with Union facilities listed. So I figured I'd vote for the people who know what they are doing. Wes is an old friend and has worked with the Distinguished Speakers Commmittee, Fallon is apparantly on the African American Culture Committee- the chair in fact. So they get my vote. Still, I would like someone who is going to kick out Taco Bell for their atrocious labor practices, but I suppose that's wanting too much.

SEC President-

John Grube

The UDs endorsed him, Zach says he knows him and is voting for him, that's all I need in a race I'm not too informed on. Julio Vela looks impressive and I've been told that the opinion of one other whose opinion matters most to me in this regard (who will remain nameless) is supporting Vela. So Grube or Vela- vote twice if you can.

So that's everything. Just one last note- I'd vote for Grant Stanis of Connect and Paul Albrecht of Ignite if I were in the Business School. Grant is a rock star- someone who doesn't take shit from anyone and who has a passion that makes SG more effective. Paul is a great guy who knows the needs of business students. I'd vote for Jan Carroll in the Social Work school for her work on GLBT issues. Mario Sanchez for Engineering Rep wants to get rid of the ticket system, a cause near and dear to my heart. He's running on the Connect Ticket. Finally, Jack Waite is an independent in the LBJ school. Independence is a good thing and seeing as the small and graduate college reps on the big tickets are usually just placeholders who do nothing, a guy who is psyched enough about SG to start his own campaign is clearly going to be a good representative.

Other than these, check out the other endorsements from people more knowledgeable than me and don't forget to vote!

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 01:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Open Thread

By Byron LaMasters

I won't be posting until later in the day, but yall are welcome to use this as an open thread, since we haven't done one in awhile. Feel free to talk about the Oscars last night, or about BOR's mention in two daily newspapers today, the Dallas Morning News and the Daily Texan, or whatever else you'd like.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:11 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Texan Splits- Endorses Rice / Brummett

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

An interesting combo defined more by weaknesses than strengths which are all explained online here in the Texan's full list of endorsements.

Plus the awesome chart of the Panel's decision is avaiable here (just for today) on page 5 (PDF).

All of the panelist's individual commentary is located here. Laura Gladney-Lemon has a Progressive list she put together in hers as well.

As a service that I hope the Panel does not mind, I have uploaded all the candidates who returned the Texan Questionaires to a central organized location. Information is power, so here is some more.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 08:05 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

SG Endorsements

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Saturday saw me in the Daily Texan basement for 16 long hours, interviewing candidates for Tuesday and Wednesday's Student Elections. Today I slept, wrote commentary for each and every race, and served on the KVR Presidential Debate Panel (which will be on Monday and Tuesday nights, I'll post specifics tomorrow). Actual voting is Tuesday and Wednesday online here.

I believe that this Panel was one of the most intensive, in-depth, and comprehensive reviews by a group of people for whom each and every member I will champion. I personally look forward to the others' conclusions, few of which I know or can even gauge, (this panel was of that high of quality). And I hope that candidates would have realized the importance of returning their questionaire or showing up for their interview for the Panel. In some races, I think that single factor could determine whether they win or lost due to the Texan endorsements (since Ben Heath the editor was also of course, on the Panel)

There is no election for Pharmacy Rep. as Connect's candidate has dropped out, bringing Ignite's automatic representation in the next Assembly to 2.

Following is my personal Endorsement List following ballot order, with commentary on each race in the Extended Remarks in the same order. Overall, my endorsements split about 60%/40% Ignite over Connect. If you seen me wearing an Ignite T-Shirt in the next few days it is due to this split and the vote in the Pres and VP races. I still plan to vote this ballot as published here.

Websites: Ignite and Connect

IGNITE- Jessica Rice

IGNITE- Colby Hanks

*Two Year At-Large*
IGNITE- Anjali Fleury
CONNECT- Michael Windle
CONNECT- Steven Hardt
IGNITE- Devin Fletcher

*One Year At-Large*
IGNITE- Danielle Rugoff
CONNECT- Jessica Fertitta
IGNITE- Tiffany Jan
CONNECT- Kunal Das

IGNITE- Lane Sealy

CONNECT- Grant Stanis
CONNECT- Maria Rivera
IGNITE- Paul Albrecht

IGNITE- Amanda Johnson
IGNITE- Amy Salek

CONNECT- Rebecca Frankel

CONNECT- Mario Sanchez
IGNITE- Chris Wayman
IGNITE- Jessica Bradley

*Fine Arts*
IGNITE- Henry Baker

IGNITE- Mike Schofield
CONNECT- Marina Del Sol
IGNITE- Alex Pekker
IGNITE- Charlotte Allmon
CONNECT- Chris Seaberg

IGNITE- Chris Lee


*Liberal Arts*
INGITE- Clint Adcox
IGNITE- Nawal Abdeladim
CONNECT- Meg Clifford
IGNITE- Katie Naranjo

*Natural Sciences*
CONNECT- Toyin Falola
IGNITE- Kim Skrobarcek
CONNECT- Nicole Trinh
CONNECT- Eric Longoria

CONNECT- Nicole Capriles

*Social Work*
IGNITE- Jan Carroll

*Union Board*
IGNITE- Wes Carpenter
IGNITE- Fallon McLane

*Student Events Center President*
Julio "JV" Vela

President- Students are fortunate that in the unlikely event of a ticket sweep this year, either President will be able to fully serve their interests. From particular student initiatives to larger legislative or university concerns, neither candidate is lacking in their ability to pursue solutions to which students will be amiable.

That said, Ignite’s Jessica Rice represents the first half of a vision which her running-mate fulfills-- truly connecting students at large to the representative governing body which does affect their lives by making it more open, accessible, and responsible to student concerns. Rice’s desire to have the Assembly respond to student led concerns instead of tabling them is refreshing. Her non-standard entrance into this race driven by the concerns of students around her, instead of the traditional methodically planned advancement many presidents have followed, is also refreshing.

Having worked on the executive committee of SG handling the appropriations process to student groups, Rice knows first hand the diverse range of activism, seen and unseen by the rest of this 50,000 member community, that many times is forgotten about or not known by the Assembly. As Rice has said, it is time to see “an element of service and humility restored to Student Government.”

Vice President- Vice Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Brummett has a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge of Student Government. In fact, many candidates who have run in this and past elections have a lot of experience and knowledge of Student Government. But even so, it seems the same issues and complaints return year after year and little changes in the perception of SG by students at large. While reformers have tried to gain a voice, they often are shut out of the Assembly, most recently by landslide elections.

The opportunity to begin to break this perpetual recycling is now. The opportunity for bridge the gap between insider knowledge and outsider dissatisfaction lies with Ignite’s Colby Hanks, who brings to the second highest elected level of student representation, the voice of over 70% of this campus that will find out in next year’s election why they should have voted in this one. She is right in saying that when “one has been with something a long time, they can become insulated by it.”

The Vice President has the chance to set the tone of the Assembly room as the chair of SG meetings. It is time to shift the tone for the benefit of student engagement at large in SG.

Two-Year at Large- Michael Windle of Connect stands out among those running for this position. His work on issues in this assembly, including that done without recognition, should give us confidence in his commitment to fulfill the workload demanded by the office for which he is running.

Steven Hardt is one of the “big thinkers” which any assembly needs. His personal drive to investigate the restructuring of the entire upper/lower division class structure at UT is certainly a worthwhile multi-year project which would befit both Steven, and the office for which he is running.

Anjali Fleury of Ignite could fulfill the activist progressive voice which should be present in any assembly considering the make-up of the UT campus. This role is best served at the at-large level than lower on the ballot where a self ascribed social activist may have a harder time representing a narrower slice of students.

Deven Fletcher of Ignite rounds out the two-year at large endorsements by being someone interesting in serving as an advocate of underrepresented populations, including those beyond his own. In an Assembly always short in the representation of the African-American voice on campus, Fletcher would be a powerful addition. At an at large level, students should have full confidence in Fletcher’s statement that he will “continue to do what I need to continue to empower my people.”

One-Year at Large- As one of the strongest candidates on last year’s failed RepreZent campaign, Danielle Rugoff, now of Ignite, would be one of any Assembly’s more active participants. Having worked for the past year in SG’s Agency and Director’s community, Rugoff would help to bridge the gap of understanding and respect that sometimes exists between that group, the representatives, and executive committee.

Connect’s Kumal Das brings the issue of funding application standardization for student groups to the table. As a business major and someone who currently runs his own company, Das would be well served to kick start discussion about an issue that would reduce stress and confusion among student group leaders and allow groups to spend more time on events than red tape.

Tiffany Jan of Ignite would initiate discussion as to the lack of a coordinated council for Asian student groups (as well as other categories) similar to the Latino Leadership Council which has served to unite and empower that community. In addition, her proposal to improve Fine Arts practice rooms, extension of room hours, and the tuning of pianos would bring issues to the Assembly not being brought by actual Fine Arts candidates.

Connect’s Jessica Fertitta, as the incoming head of the University Pan-Hellenic Council, would best serve the interests of the Greek community, from the timing of Rush to complaints of SG interference with West Campus life. In an election that could see fewer than average wins by Greek students at lower levels on the ballot, Fertitta as an at large member would balance this absence. Though Jessica Hart of Connect will serve as a solid representative if elected, she receives no specific endorsement due to what seems to be a dependence on past work and a lack of a particular new or defining issue or quality that separates her from these four endorsed candidates.

Architecture- In a race marked by similar candidates with similar concerns and similar platforms, it is difficult to choose the best candidate for Architecture Rep. Though the current Architecture Rep is supporting Ignite, it is Lane Sealy’s academic involvement and honors (compared to spirit involvement) that give her the edge she needs to garner this endorsement in this race.

Business- Though often one of the most controversial members of the Assembly and certainly one of the few active conservative voices, Grant Stanis of Connect has served the interests of Business students in the assembly and deserves re-election to the seat he currently holds.

Paul Albrecht of Ignite brings connections from both outside and business organization at UT and his logical take on issue and good relationship with Stannis would be a major asset to productive work in the Assembly on business issues.

While students would be well served by Ignite’s Ruth Yen, Connect’s Maria Rivera receives the third endorsement due to her personal work on initiating a comprehensive updating and unification of campus resources into a more accessible Resource Guide, which with SG attention, would be widely beneficial to all students.

Communication- While all the candidates understand the major issues facing the College of Communications, Ignite’s Amy Salek and Amanda Johnson have a major edge in one important area, the search for the next Dean. Salek, serving on the Dean search committee brings an unparalleled edge to the understanding and connections needed to make sure her college will be in good hands for years to come. In addition, Johnson appears to have a better understanding of this particular subject as well as others in comparison to her opponents.

Education- Though both candidates are fairly similar and would do a good job, Connect’s Rebecca Frankel appears to have more specifics on her agenda for representing the College of Education, from free student printing to nightly parking passes to more study lounge space.

Engineering- The first of the three votes that should be cast in this race must go to Chris Wayman of Ignite, current President of the Engineering College Council who is the stand out best candidate for this college. Jessica Bradley of Ignite is involved in her college community organizations and would bring a fresh and needed perspective as a woman in engineering. Mario Sanchez of Connect is aware of the issues in his college and was the lone voice among candidates for any position in speaking out against the Ticket System of elections, a voice that should not be silenced.

Fine Arts- Henry Baker of Ignite is endorsed less because of his own qualities but of his opponent being out of step. Connect’s Bryan Kettlewell, also involved in the medical community, focused on issues outside the realm of the fine arts school, from Top 10% to Affirmative Action (which for the most part he is against).

Graduate- Sadly, it appears next year’s assembly will lack the intensity, dedication, and representation that Paul Navratil, Laura Gladney-Lemon, and Yamissette Westerband have given in the last few years. It is hard to endorse in this race considering only 1 in 10 candidates was interviewed by the panel and less than half even returned their questionnaire. Only five even have active profiles on the campaign’s websites.

That being said, two of the “more qualified” candidates are Ignite’s Alex Pekker and Charlotte Allmon, both of whom are involved in their school councils. As a member of GLBT grad, Pekker may be most likely to continue in current Grad Rep Westerband’s footsteps in advocating issues concerning that particular community on campus. Connect’s Mariana Del Sol and Chris Seaberg receive an endorsement due to at least some level of interest or commitment visible by returning their questionnaires.

Ignite’s Mike Scholfield’s membership in the Malt Beverage Appreciation Society will give representation to the often ignored legal consumption of alcohol segment of the student population and his claim to make all of our “wildest dreams come true” should not be dismissed as pure campaign propaganda!

Law- In a race not marked by any standout qualities or candidates, Chris Lee of Ignite garners this endorsement. His service to communities outside of the University and representation of the Korean community in and outside of law would be beneficial to the assembly.

LBJ- Often viewed as an independent college on the East edge of campus, it is only fitting that the single Independent candidate in all student elections receives this endorsement, J. Waite. He says it best in that he may not be “old and wise, but brings more perspectives than the average student” to the assembly.

Liberal Arts- Ignite’s Katie Naranjo brings an impressive level of involvement and knowledge for having been at UT only one semester. In addition, her connections to the state legislature and internships past and current would give SG yet another avenue of access to outside bodies it deals with. Clint Adcox, also of Ignite, brings his connection to the Liberal Arts Council which would be a plus in the ongoing concerns between that body and SG.

Nawal Abdeladim of Ignite would like to see more four year planning for Liberal Arts in advising, in idea that should be explored considering the enormous size of the college. Such planning could help decrease the years spent by Liberal Arts majors as UT as well as the rate of major changing.

Connect’s C.J. Ginn personal idea to push for non-dorm residents to buy into the Dine-In dollar meal plans is one that should be represented in the Assembly. Meg Clifford of Connect speaks well for her ticket’s plank for more Liberal Arts student space on campus. Though this issue may not be the most important to Liberal Arts students, her energy to seek out a solution would benefit SG.

Natural Sciences- Toyin Falola and Eric Longoria of Connect define the issues for their college and provided the most detailed concerns and plans for Natural Sciences making them Representative quality. Kim Skrobarcek of Ignite would bring a needed grassroots oriented style and aggressive role to SG by pushing SG to be more active in its resolutions while standing up communities outside of her own, such as GLBT students. Nicole Trinh, though not the same quality candidate as Falola or Longria, would work well with their plan of action. Her endorsement is due in part though, simply to the lack of interest or information available about the remainder of her opponents.

Nursing- In this race Connect's Nicole Capriles presents a much stronger background of involvement and is on top of her college's issues. Little else needs to be said.

Social Work- With a tradition of activist representatives in past assemblies, Social Work would be best served in electing Jan Carroll of Ignite. She will most certainly be an outspoken advocate of her college as well as the often underrepresented GLBT community on campus.

Union Board- Wes Carpenter and Fallon McLane of the Ignite ticket deserve your vote. Each has more experience with the Union and SEC than either of the other candidates, who lack a certain level of competence and understanding of the job.

SEC President- In various endorsements running up to this election, three different candidates have gained this writer’s vote at various points. Today, that endorsement readily goes to Julio “JV” Vela due to his grander vision punctuated by specific answers and ideas for the SEC.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 08:04 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

The GOP's Reframing Of The Debate

By Vince Leibowitz

I recieved an email today with a link to a Think Progressive that discusses conservative Political strategist Frank Luntz's 160-page "playbook" (download it here) which devotes a lot of discussion to reframing the debate on a myriad of issues.

Evidently, someone acquired a copy of the book and scanned it and made a PDF of it. It first surfaced on DailyKOS earlier this week, and was followed up with subsequent posts, both linking to Think Progressive's posts.

I haven't had the chance to read the entire thing yet, but I did find some interesting tidbits.

First, this little tidbit:

Taxation, Litigation, Innocation, Education. Remember those four words for they are at the core of your message, your policy and your response to the critics of corporate America. Here is the policy answer to the outsourcing challenge that offers a solution without selling out conservative free-market principles. The four words should be strung together, repeated often, with an adverb attached: too much taxation, too much litigation, not enough innovation, not enough education. That should be your mantra. Remember it. Fortunately, the four words rhyme, which means your audience will remember it as well.

God, I think I'm going to be sick.

I actually decided to Google the bolded phrase above and, in a Google news search, the State of the Union transcript actually came up first. Though Bush doesn't use all of that language or the exact same language, he follows the "adverb" rule:

Because of excessive litigation, everybody pays more for health care.

And, he used "innovation," but not exactly in the reccomended context:

In this century, the greatest environmental progress will come about not through endless lawsuits or command-and-control regulations, but through technology and innovation.

At any rate, the document, which is evidently entitled "The New American Lexicon," since that appears in the footers of several pages, covers just about everything a conservative should know when it comes to "reframing the debate." There are sections (which include "do"s and "don't"s to say) on ANWR, energy policy, tort reform (which should never be called that, according to the report), healthcare, Social Security privitization (which should be called "personalization" by Republicans, the report notes), the tax code and on and on and on.

There are even sample speeches in the document you can take, personalize, and deliver to the local Rotary Club!

While this is all very interesting, what I'd really like to get my hands on is a Texas version of a "playbook" like this, specifically the pages that deal with "tax relief" and "education reform." I'm sure some Texas consultant (probably Royal Massett) has written one. I'd also love to know the Texas GOP's "buzz words" they'll use when they have to justify leagalizing casino gambling as a means of funding education. Instead of saying "casino gambling" they'll probably say something like "speculative enterprise lyceums," or "recreational monetary venture facilities."

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 12:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 27, 2005

Van Os Announces For AG

By Vince Leibowitz

San Antonio attorney David Van Os announced Saturday he will be a candidate for Attorney General in the 2006 Democratic Primary. Van Os' announcement came during the annual meeting of the Texas Democratic Progressive Populist Caucus in Houston.

A public announcement is expected early next week.

Van Os' Saturday announcement wasn't entirely unexpected.

In an e-mail sent by Van Os Sunday night, he noted:

To all the price-gougers, rip-off artists, and corporate hustlers, who have been afflicting Texans for too long: You should leave Texas now. It will no longer be a safe place for you after I am sworn in as Attorney General in January 2007. To all the political hustlers of the radical right who've been fooling the people for too long while subverting the Constitution and using government for private power and greed: This is one Democrat who understands you for the con-artists, liars, and power-seekers that you are. You might as well get out of dodge too while the gettin's good. The jig's gonna be up.

Van Os, known across the state for his populist, firey, no-holds-barred style of campaigning and oratory, ran for Texas Supreme Court in 2004 and in 1998.

As an attorney practicing labor law, Van os has served as Associate Counsel for the National Treasury Employees Union; In-house counsel for District 12, Texas, Communications Workers of America; and as General Counsel for the Texas AFL-CIO. Presently, he heads up David Van Os & Associates, P.C. in San Antonio.

In 2003, he sought the unexpired term of Chairman of the Democratic Party of Texas along with former Land Commissioner Gary Muaro, State Rep. Garnett Coleman and Mary Moore when Molly Beth Malcom vacated the seat.

Van Os is the second Democrat to formally announce a 2006 candidacy. Houston attorney Barbara Radnofsky announced earlier this year--after a year-long exploration--that she would seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate next year. Also, former U.S. Congressman Chris Bell announced earlier this month an exploratory effort to examine the possibility of running for Texas governor. It is unknown when or if Bell will turn his exploration into an actual candidacy.

With announcements for marquee positions on the 2006 ballot begining so early, it remains to be seen whether or not other Democratic officials who previously sought statewide office will throw their hats into the ring.

Likely contender for governor, John Sharp, has been exceedingly quite over the past few months. Ex-state senator Ted Lyon has also mentioned a possible run for the seat, but has reportedly made no decision.

Ron Kirk, who ran for Senate in 2006 reportedly will not run at all this cycle and it remains unclear if Ken Bentsten, who finished third behind Kirk and Victor Morales in the Democratic Primary, will try to run against fellow Houstonite Radnofsky. Morales, who has almost earned Gene Kelly's "perennial candidate" status has also been mentioned in some circles as a possible candidate again.

Ex-Austin Mayor Kirk Watson is also rumored to be considering another run for statewide office--possibly Lt. Governor or Governor. Tony Sanchez is reported to be leaning against a rematch with Perry in 2006. Former U.S. Congressman Jim Turner of Crockett is also reportedly eyeing the Governor's mansion, but will not be considering a Senate run as many believe. Ex-Congressmen Charlie Stenholm (D-Abilene) and Max Sandlin (D-Marshall) have also been mentioned as possible contenders for statewide office.

Agricultural policy advocate and rancher David Cleavinger of Deaf Smith County announced last summer he may seak the post of Ag Commissioner. East Texan Tom Ramsey may also run for the post again.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 10:47 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

In The Trenches: My Visit With The Wood County Democrats

By Vince Leibowitz

On Friday night, I was surprised to see about 35 Democrats gathered in my hometown of Mineola for the Wood County Democratic Party's monthly meeting. I had been asked by my counterpart in that county, Dr. Charles Thompson, to speak to that group about some of the things we've been doing in Van Zandt County as well as to offer my take on the Legislative session and (basically) whatever else I wanted to talk about.

Needless to say, I couldn't resist such an invitation, especially when it meant showing off some of the great ads our PAC ran last cycle.

For those of you unfamiliar with Wood County (where I lived most of my life and graduated high school before going to college and eventually coming to Van Zandt County), it is a very, very, very "red" county. However, during the last election cycle, they made some good gains for Democrats, and almost won the Sheriff's race there, which was quite an accomplishment given the way people in that county tend to vote, which is "straight ticket R."

Right before I spoke, Charles updated the group on two local officeholders, one recently re-elected County Commissioner and one recently elected constable, who just switched parties and became Republicans.

Since we had a little experience with that here in 2001, when one of our commissioners turncoated, I opened by telling the people there that it wasn't the end of the world, and that they just had to do everything within their power to defeat those guys in the next election cycle.

After talking about our plan of action for the 2004 election and our plans for the upcoming cycle in 2006, I talked a little about the Lege, specifically school finance, and gave my humble opinion that gambling would be the Lege's poison of choice with regard to school finance, pointing to a Lone Star Survey that shows over 50 percent of Texas voters have no major opposition to large-scale casino gambling in Texas. I noted that, though the GOP may talk a big "morals" game on this, in the end it is what they will end up for a number of reasons.

I also told the Wood County Democrats about all of the lovely work their State Rep, Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) is doing in Austin, including introducing one of the session's dumbest bills to outlaw nudist youth camps in Texas--all while there is real work to be done on school finance.

I also got a lot of good questions from the Democrats who are, arguably, more conservative than the "hometown crowd" I'm used to here in Canton.

Specifically, I was asked about abortion and the Platform. One elected official present noted that many of his GOP friends are constantly throwing the party platform in his face and claiming how "liberal" Democrats are. So, I pointed him to the masterpiece that is the Texas GOP platform and told him that the next time they did that, to remind him his own party was so far to the right they were advocating things like the dissolution of the United Nations, among other crazy stuff.

On the abortion issue, I advised everyone to discuss the issue as a matter of constitutionality and not religion. I also said that it's best to talk about it in terms of being for or against the "right to choose" as opposed to being for or against abortion. I also noted it wouldn't hurt to point out the GOP's hypocritical stance in that area. They essentially insist every child be brought to term and raised by the mother all the while slashing or eleminating programs that would help that child get off to a good start in life. Clearly, that's not a very good "family values stance," for the GOP.

At any rate, I think the talk was fairly well recieved. I got several laughs talking about GOP hypocrisy and some of the dumb bills legislators are filing all the while we've got school finance staring us in the face.

Too, the crowd (that big that soon after an election) should tell everyone in Wood County that there is hope for the future. Considering the GOP increased its number of voters in the Presidential election my more than 30 percent (while the Dems did so by about 2 percent), I think it's safe to say that the GOP has about plateaued in terms of the number of new voters it can attract in that county. And, given the behavior of some of the elected officials in that county, hopefully the GOP will actually start losing some votes in the next cycle.

Vince Leibowitz is County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 04:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Craddick Avoids Testifying

By Byron LaMasters

Shocker! Craddick cuts a deal:

Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick has struck a deal not to appear in Monday's corporate electioneering trial, saying he might have shredded any communications he had with Texans for a Republican Majority two years ago.

Five Democratic state legislative candidates who lost in 2002 are suing Bill Ceverha, the treasurer of the Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee, accusing him of spending illegal corporate donations in their campaigns.

Lawyers for the Democrats had subpoenaed Craddick to testify and produce documents. But this week Roy Minton, the speaker's lawyer, negotiated the deal that excused Craddick from appearing.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What Republicans Want, but are Afraid to Say

By Byron LaMasters

Dick Armey isn't afraid to point out the real agenda though (emphasis mine):

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey said Friday that Social Security should be phased out rather than saved.

"I think if you leave people free to choose, it will be phased out by competition," the former Republican congressman from Lewisville told reporters before sharing a President's Day Dinner with the Smith County Republican Club. [...]

"We now have a generation of people that are thoroughly committed to investing their hopes and futures in private IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts)," Armey said. "People will always do better for themselves when they are free to choose from among competing options than if they are compelled. Most thoughtful people could do better." [...]

He added there will never be a class of destitute Americans who neglected to do their own investing.

Is Dick Armey in La-la-land? Oh, wait, is the Pope Catholic? Besides the obvious idiocy of Armey's remarks, and his utter inability to comprehend poverty and understand the working class in America, Armey's remarks are very telling. The Republican agenda on Social Security is not one of minor tweaking, or of harmless "personal accounts". They want to dismantle the entire program. Not all at once - it'll be a piecemeal process, but have no doubt, that is their aim. Just ask the Pennsylvania young Republicans... "Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Social Security has got to go"!

Meanwhile, Tom DeLay notes that only one-third of GOP congressmen tried to sell the GOP Social Security plan during the congressional recess - typically with little success. The other two-thirds? They didn't even bother trying:

Last week's congressional recess was intended to be a big chance for GOP lawmakers to push the president's plan in their home districts. Instead, it found Brady and his compatriots here and across the country often encountering chilly skepticism to President Bush's ideas on remodeling the strained benefit program for elders. They found that the opposition was often surprisingly organized and hoped-for support did not always materialize.

The tension could be daunting for some lawmakers. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, said only about a third of House Republicans nationwide conducted meetings on Social Security.

"I am very disappointed about that," said DeLay, who held two town hall meetings on the issue last week.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:25 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


By Jim Dallas

One thing I'm absolutely tired of is the perception that Democrats' "cultural problems" are issues which pertain specifically to the South, and modest changes will result in restored competitiveness throughout the entire South (as if it were a monolithic voting bloc!)

Look, about the only places in this great country where we might not be at risk of losing votes because of being identified with the cultural left are a few precincts in San Franscisco, New York, and Boston. This includes black precincts, white precincts, poor precincts, white precincts, holy-roller boxes and secular boxes. Just a small adjustment - a dozen votes in every precinct worth of adjustment - in message would have made the difference in Ohio, New Mexico, Nevada, and Iowa - and none of these states are in the South. And it was is those four states that John Kerry lost the presidency.

Yes, I think Mudcat Saunders has some good points; but I think the most apparent benefit of moderating on some cultural issues isn't that we'll start carrying Southern states. We won't: Southern conservatism runs a lot deeper than just "God, Gays, and Guns," and the assumption that we can win the South (outside of Florida, Virignia, and urban centers) just by appealing to economic populism is probably bunk.

The first sign we're doing something right will be that we'll be able to carry the rest of the country with substantial enough margins such that losing the South won't matter.

A more important concern than winning, though, is always the ultimate issue of morality. I very consciously used the term "risk" above because I think it accurately sums up my thinking: we take risks by standing up for what is right, but the risk itself doesn't justify inaction.

At any rate, "the South" is turning into a McGuffin: instead of thinking about maximizing our vote totals among those 12 or 13 voters per precinct that would have delivered us the White House; or even those places in the South which really are competitive now; we've fixated on an entire region of the country which is probably going to be rather hostile for the forseeable future. There's only so much good that "positioning" can do. In the end, the only effective way to return the South to the "D" column (on the national level) is community organization and shifting the entire national political discourse to the left, and not by treating this big amorphous monolithic South as just another special interest.

Kevin Drum has some thoughts here.

Also, read Ed Kilgore's take on this.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 10:34 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bush... wins?

By Jim Dallas

George W. Bush was awarded the Golden Raspberry for worst.president.ever worst actor last night:

George W. Bush won the "Razzie" worst actor of the year award on Saturday for his performance as president in "Fahrenheit 9/11" but his moment in Hollywood's dubious spotlight was eclipsed by Halle Berry, who actually turned up to receive her embarrassing accolade.

Berry was named worst actress of 2004 by the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation for her performance in "Catwoman" and she showed up to accept her "Razzie" carrying the Oscar she won in 2002 for "Monster's Ball."

"They can't take this away from me, it's got my name on it!" she quipped. A raucous crowd cheered her on as she gave a stirring recreation of her Academy Award acceptance speech, including tears.

She thanked everyone involved in "Catwoman," a film she said took her from the top of her profession to the bottom.

"I want to thank Warner Brothers for casting me in this piece of shit," she said as she dragged her agent on stage and warned him "next time read the script first."

It is rare for a Razzie winner to show up at the spoof awards held on the night before Oscars -- but Berry did, saying her mother taught her that to be "a good winner you had to be a good loser first." She received a standing ovation.

Bush, beating such established Hollywood heroes as Colin Farrell and Vin Diesel, won the Razzie for worst actor of the year for his appearance in Michael Moore's documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Bush, two members of his administration, Britney Spears and the storybook about a goat that the president was reading to children as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were taking place all took top honors at the "Razzie" awards, now in their 25th year.

"Catwoman" tied with "Fahrenheit 9/11" by winning four "Razzies" -- worst picture, worst directing, worst screenplay and worst performance by an actress for Berry and her "berry bad" work.

If I'm ever awarded a Raspberry, or win an election for that matter, I intend to channel Sally Field.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 10:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 26, 2005

From the email bag

By Byron LaMasters

Another letter regarding the Dallas County Democratic Party Executive Committee Meeting:

[ed. note: The following letter is in response to this letter by Chair Susan Hays to the precinct chairs of Dallas County which arrived in the mail of precinct chairs today. The letter from Hays also included a letter (PDF file) signed by State Rep. Rafael Anchia, State Sen. Royce West, County Commissioner John Wiley Price and Sheriff Lupe Valdez. State Rep. Jesse Jones wrote a seperate letter (PDF file).]


February 26, 2005

Dear Fellow Democrat:

By now you have no doubt received a letter from Dallas County Democratic Party Chair Susan Hays about the County Executive meeting called for 6:30 p.m. Monday at the CWA Hall. We write in response.

The County Executive Committee (made up of you, your fellow precinct chairs, our county chair and secretary) is by law the governing body of the Dallas County Democratic Party. In other words, the Party is our responsibility–not only morally but legally.

The Chair takes the position that the petition calling the meeting was unnecessary. She further implies that the meeting was improperly called. Neither is correct. Despite an intervening presidential election, the executive committee has not met since early May 2004. When we met at that time, the meeting almost turned to chaos. No meetings were called after that date to coordinate the efforts of the precinct chairs for purposes of general election victory, even though Party rules charge us with the task of planning and coordinating the general election campaign, fundraising, and producing materials and coordinating services for the benefit of local campaigns. No meetings of the committee have been called by the chair since the general election. In truth, many of you, as well as Democratic organizations and other party leaders, have repeatedly requested the chair to call an executive committee meeting for the purpose of planning strategy, re-invigorating basic party political programs, fundraising efforts and traditional party events that have withered, and mobilizing our precincts to work on behalf of our Party and our candidates. Those calls have been ignored.

As a result, more than 60 percent of you–substantially more than the required number–took the option specifically provided for by Democratic Party Rules: to call a meeting by a petition process. More than 210 of you have signed that petition and many more sought to sign but were unable to because of time limits. Thus, to imply that this meeting has been called by a handful of disgruntled people is at the least misleading. At the very least, it is an unjustified indictment of the vast majority of the committee.

The calling of the meeting is both necessary and lawful. And given the current circumstances, the action was wise.

The chair personally attacks David Wilkins, our unanimously elected Party Secretary, as the one who called the meeting. That is not correct. Mr. Wilkins merely posted the legally required notice of the action of the precinct chairs in calling the meeting. We applaud him for doing what is no doubt his required duty. To chastize his legitimate actions in an effort to personalize this process is wrong.

You are the Democratic Party of Dallas County. Many of you, like us, have dedicated immense time and effort to the Party over many years–often at great personal expense. You have an absolute right to call a meeting. As Party rules state, the executive committee, among other things, may adopt continuing rules for the conduct of its business and establish committees as it deems appropriate. To suggest that a clear majority of you should not be able to call a meeting for this purpose is not only an affront to you as a precinct chair, it sets a dangerous precedent.

In our collective memory–dating from 1972–there has not been a meeting called by a majority of the executive committee. That an overwhelming majority of the committee has now succeeded in the difficult job of doing so is evidence of the importance of this gathering.

We look forward to a productive gathering. This meeting is important to you and our beloved Party. Please be there Monday evening.


Theresa Daniel

Ken Molberg
SDEC and former County Chair

Steve Tillery

Shannon Bailey
SDEC and President,
Stonewall Democrats of Texas

Michael Moon
Stonewall Democrats of Dallas

Dorothy Dean
former SDEC

Bruce Rothstein
Precinct Chair

Janice Mattox
Precinct Chair

Gary Fitzsimmons
former SDEC

Buck Massey
Precinct Chair

Ricardo Medrano
Precinct Chair


The Dallas County Chair has asked concerned Democrats to provide her, in writing, with a list of concerns and complaints regarding her leadership. Although these issues have been addressed with her on numerous occasions both individually and through our Democratic Clubs, we have narrowed that list into a few items that clearly show a history of financial mismanagement, statutory negligence, irresponsibility and malfeasance that threaten our Party’s financial integrity, reputation and cost our Party votes in

  • Chair Hays approved a defective 2004 General Election ballot that placed Martin Frost’s name next to Republican Robert Frost’s such that it was unclear which oval belonged to which candidate. The Frost campaign, after discovering the defect, made an emergency appeal to the County Elections Department to prevent the use of the defective ballot. The Elections Department complied but only after
    approximately 1,000 ballots had already been mailed to early voters.

  • Chair Hays reluctantly litigated to protect our vote in 2002 when Dallas County early voting machines malfunctioned from mis-calibrations. When our counsel subpoenaed the defective machines, Chair Hays became upset that this action “…would upset the Republicans.”

  • After the revolving door of four Executive Directors in less than three years, the excessive salaries paid to staff ($5,000 per month for the first two directors and $4,000 per month for the third) have left party coffers nearly dry. Dallas Democrats have no idea how
    much the fourth is being paid.

  • The annual Fish Fry in its first year took in $13,000, $25,000 in the second, and $50,000 in the third attracting nearly 400 participants. In 2004, after disbanding the fundraising committee which was responsible for that success, Chair Hays produced a Fish Fry that was an embarrassing failure attracting less than 100 with some invitations arriving the day of the event and most the day before.

  • Dallas for Kerry made an agreement with Chair Hays to raise funds that would be turned over to the Party in order to purchase yard signs to sell or give away to those who could not afford them. After selling out of the yard signs twice, Chair Hays refused to purchase any more even at a $4 per sign profit. Chair Hays indicated that it was too much trouble for the Party staff to continue to collect purchaser contact information even though Dallas Republicans sold 18,000 Bush signs and collected contact information for all
    those purchasers.

  • Chair Hays’ poor judgment extended to consolidating and moving polling places without consultation of longtime Election Judges during 2004 Primary Runoff causing voter confusion and chaos. When one elderly Election Judge from the 23rd Senate District, understandably upset to find her election materials at a distant location, complained to Chair Hays, the Chair responded with “…just shut up…!”

  • The Chair failed to call the Executive Committee together as required by Party rules so as to mount a coordinated campaign; failed to initiate any voter registration projects; has disbanded the party structure of volunteer committees; has staffed the office with inexperienced staffers and one with Republican voting history; has turned successful fundraising events into money-losing failures; and created an atmosphere of dissension, chaos, and distrust through her callous, reckless and irresponsible behavior.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:55 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Democracy in Egypt?

By Zach Neumann

Recently, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called off a visit to Egypt to protest the imprisonment of Al-Ghad opposition leader Ayman Nour. It looks like Hosni Mubarak is attempting to mount a response. I don’t know how sincere this is, but it seems that Egypt might be considering democratic reform.

President Hosni Mubarak asked Egypt's Parliament on Saturday to amend the Constitution to allow for direct, multiparty presidential elections later this year for the first time in the nation's history.

On the face of it, the unexpected proposal from Mr. Mubarak, a former Air Force general who has ruled Egypt unchallenged since 1981, represents a sea change in a country with a 50-year history of autocratic, one-party governments.

"The president will be elected through direct, secret balloting, opening the opportunity for political parties to run in the presidential elections and providing guarantees that allow more than one candidate for the people to chose from with their own will," Mr. Mubarak said, speaking live on television before an audience at the University of Menoufiya in the Egyptian delta.

Some opposition politicians and other analysts hailed the proposal as heralding a new political era for Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation, while skeptics said they wanted to await the details to be sure that the eventual constitutional amendment would not create only the appearance of democracy, a commonplace in the region.

Again, I want to emphasize how skeptical I am about Mubarak’s sincerity. He has made it fairly clear on several occasions that he wants his son to succeed him. Moreover, all he has offered at this point is some feel good, pro-democracy rhetoric (perhaps to assuage the concerns of the United States). I’m going to keep following this one…

Posted by Zach Neumann at 02:11 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Dallas Democrats Prepare for Executive Committee Meeting

By Byron LaMasters

Last week, I reported that for the first time in memory, the Dallas County Democratic Party will be holding an executive committee meeting called not by the chair, but by petition of 51% of the executive committee (precinct chairs). While there were runors that the Chair would attempt to challenge the legality of the meeting, notice of the meeting is now on the webpage of the Dallas County Democratic Party. The meeting will be Monday, February 28, at 6:30 p.m. at the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Hall. I plan on attending the meeting in order to keep an unofficial record of the proceedings.

Both supporters and opponents of Chair Susan Hays have sent a series of emails and letters this past week. Much of the criticism of Susan Hays is related to her letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee last year in support of Bush judicial nominee Michael Schneider. I wrote at the time that I didn't think that the letter was that big of a deal, but there are a few issues of concern which I was not aware of at the time.

First, the fact that Susan Hays wrote the letter on a Dallas County Democratic Party letterhead implied that she was not only speaking for herself, but for the Dallas County Democratic Party. That apparently was the assumption made by Senator Cornyn who said the following in the Senate record:

Justice Schneider's reputation as an exceptional jurist and a true gentleman is well known throughout the State of Texas. It is also well known by the American Bar Association, which gave him its highest rating, when its standing committee on the Federal Judiciary unanimously certified him as ``well qualified'' for the Federal bench. And his nomination enjoys broad bipartisan support across the State of Texas. For example, Susan Hays , who chairs the Dallas County Democratic Party, has written a strong letter of support. [...]

I also ask unanimous consent to print in the RECORD a letter from the Dallas County Democratic Party.

Also of concern is the fact that this appointment violated the so-called "Thurmond Rule". Sen. Leahy (D-VT) said the following in the Senate record on the Schneider confirmation:

Finally, I note today is the 7th day of September and we are way beyond what is called the "Thurmond Rule." It was back in July of 1980 when Ronald Reagan, who was not yet President but was running for that office sought to stop any more judicial nominees of President Carter from being confirmed. The Republicans were actually in the minority in the Senate but candidate Reagan asked Senator Thurmond, who was the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee which was led by Chairman KENNEDY, to block any more nominees from being confirmed for the remainder of the year. Senator Thurmond happily obliged and from July 1980 until the end of the year the only judicial nominees confirmed were those who had the consent of the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader and the Chairman and Ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. All of President Carter's other judicial nominees were blocked and defeated without votes.

The "Thurmond Rule" is that after July or the nominating conventions no more judges will be confirmed in a Presidential election year unless there is consent. Today's vote on Justice Schneider actually will be one of the last votes, as we all know. But it is an interesting thing. I note that every year where there has been a Democratic President, Republicans have adhered to the Thurmond rule as though it was handed down from on Mount Olympus. The Olympian heights of that standard, precedent and history somehow have changed when there was a Republican in the White House. Now that there is a Republican in the White House, we have heard little about this precedent from Republicans even though it was sheer gospel to them when there was a Democratic President.

So, while Schneider was not an egregious nominee, it could be argued that the letter by Susan Hays legitimized the violation of the "Thurmond Rule" by Senate Republicans.

It should be noted that Susan Hays sent a letter to precinct chairs apologizing for using the party letterhead, but not for writing the letter after at least six local clubs passed resolutions denouncing her leadership. You can view copies of the letter and resolutions here.

Four Dallas County Democratic elected officials co-signed a letter to precinct chairs this week indicating their support for Susan Hays. Here is the letter:

February 24, 2005

Dear Precinct Chair,

We stand today at a crossroads. Our local success in the November 2004 elections was remarkable, and our potential for building upon that success in 2006 should be unlimited.

We stress that phrase, should be, because the momentum we’ve fought so hard to gain is unquestionably ours to lose — and we fear that internal squabbles over our Dallas County Democratic Party leadership may soon sap our ability to achieve the local election victories so important to us all.

You may have gotten notice of a precinct chair meeting next Monday. Some of those calling for this meeting have been attacking the County Party and our Chair at the very time we should be celebrating success. This infighting must stop. Otherwise, we are doing a disservice to the Party and our ability to win elections in the future.

We urge you to come to the meeting on Monday at 6:30 p.m., and support the Chair and our Party. If there are specific criticisms of current leadership, those should be articulated in writing before the meeting and aired in a productive atmosphere. You can email any concerns to the Chair or to either of us at: chair AT dallasdemocrats DOT org, roycew AT wglegal DOT com, or rafael AT rafaelanchia DOT com.

This is the new Dallas Democratic Party — one where we work together toward victory unafraid of new ways and innovations. If we are to achieve the victories we deserve we must unite as we did when we worked together and with the Chair on a coordinated campaign to get out the vote in our districts in 2004. We now urge you to work together, with us and the Chair toward a 2006 Democratic victory.

These are challenging times. If we don’t succeed in pulling together, our Republican opponents won’t have to work to divide us — we will have done it for them. We’ve achieved too much to help them in their efforts to derail us. Please work with us to find common ground and renew our unity of passion of getting Democrats elected.


Sen. Royce West
Rep. Rafael Anchia
Commissioner John Wiley Price
Sheriff Lupe Valdez

I would say that it is rather unimpressive that Susan Hays could only find four Dallas County elected officials willing to go on the record stating their support for her. Furthermore, her backing from Rafael Anchia is unsurprising considering Hays' role in bringing forth a legal challenge to knock Anchia's Democratic primary opponent off the ballot. Valdez's support is unsurprising as well. After the election, Hays fired the executive director of the Dallas County Democratic Party, and hired Valdez's campaign manager to fill the job. More telling is who is NOT on the list (State Reps. Hodge, Alonzo, Davis, Jones, Giddings and Judges Adams, Montgomery, Garcia and Raggio).

Needless to say, the meeting on Monday ought to provide some fireworks.

Update: Former Dallas County Democratic Party Chair Bill Howell shares his thoughts on the matter over at Stout Dem Blog.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:21 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Craddick, DeLay get more bad PR

By Byron LaMasters

Oliver Willis and The Raw Story have the scoop on a story by the National Journal that will report that Tom DeLay violated House rules:

The prominent lawyer and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is being investigated by federal authorities for his lobbying efforts of an Indian tribe and his relations with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), paid for DeLay and DeLay’s staff’s stay in an expensive London hotel in mid-2000.

National Journal has obtained a copy of an expense voucher that Abramoff filed the law firm where he was then a leading lobbyist, Stone reports.

“Among the big-ticket expenses that Abramoff listed for reimbursement was a bill for the DeLays at the Four Seasons Hotel in London in the amount of $4,285.35,” Stone writes. “The voucher shows that the total reimbursement for expenses was $13,318.50. For some reason, it shows that both Abramoff and Buckham were owed that amount. [...]

House rules stipulate that members or members’ employees cannot accept payment from a registered lobbyist to cover travel costs.

Turning to Tom Craddick, Vince reported on Political State Report that Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick has been subpoenaed to testify in lawsuit against TRMPAC for their election activities in 2002. Kuff and The Daily DeLay have more.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Ben Barnes / KBH Rumor Denied

By Byron LaMasters

I posted last week on rumors that Ben Barnes would be heading up "Democrats for Hutchison" in the 2006 Governor's race. Rick Perry vs. the World reports that both Barnes and KBH have denied the rumors with Barnes speculating that Perry was behind it. No surprise here - I failed to see the logic of how Ben Barnes could help KBH in a GOP primary, and it certainly would make sense if the story was floated by the Perry campaign as an attempt to tarnish KBH's GOP credentials.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Close Look at CD 23

By Byron LaMasters

I read Charles Kuffner's post on the looming primary fight in CD 28 (currently held by Henry Cuellar, previously held by Ciro Rodriguez, and eyed by State Rep. Richard Raymond). Kuff (among others) has pointed out that Richard Raymond should take a serious look at running in CD 23 which would be open if Henry Bonilla runs for the U.S. Senate. I started writing a comment, but an hour of typing and research later (yes, I'm a big dork), I developed a detailed analysis of Democratic chances in CD 23.

The DPI (Democratic Performance Index) of CD 23 (based on 2002 data - pdf file) is 43.2, whereas the DPI of CD 28 is 58.9. That begs the question of how much can an intense voter persuasion campaign shift the DPI? I decided to take a look at the 2002 DPI of the six congressional races with well funded Democrats, and compare that with the 2004 election results. Here's what we get:


District 1 (Sandlin)
2002 DPI - 37.0
Sandlin 2004 % - 37.7
Shift: +0.7

District 2 (Lampson)
2002 DPI - 39.4
Lampson 2004 %: 42.9
Shift: +3.5

District 17 (Edwards)
2002 DPI - 36.0
Edwards 2004 %: 51.2
Shift: +15.2

District 19 (Stenholm)
2002 DPI - 31.0%
Stenholm 2004 %: 40.1
Shift: +9.1

District 22 (Morrison)
2002 DPI - 34.1
Morrison 2004 %: 41.1
Shift: +7.0

District 32 (Frost)
2002 DPI - 35.7
Frost 2004 %: 44.0
Shift: +8.3


In four of six races, the Democratic candidate ran 7 points or better ahead of the DPI - the margin a Democrat would need in order to win in CD 23. A well-funded Democrat running an intense voter persuasion campaign has a real shot at winning an open CD 23 in 2006.

However, several other factors should be considered as well. First, it is very probable that the DPI of CD 23 decreased in 2004. Webb County (Laredo) turned out very heavily for Tony Sanchez and the Democratic ticket in 2002. The turnout was only slightly higher and decidedly less Democratic in 2004:

2002 U. S. Senator
John Cornyn REP 4,922 13.18%
Ron Kirk DEM 31,714 84.95%
Race Total 37,331

2002 Governor
Rick Perry REP 3,958 10.08%
Tony Sanchez DEM 35,101 89.44%
Race Total 39,241

2004 President/Vice-President
George W. Bush/ Dick Cheney REP 17,753 42.72%
John F. Kerry/ John Edwards DEM 23,654 56.92%
Race Total 41,556

The abortion issue obviously hurt John Kerry in Webb County with the high profile campaign in the Catholic Church made against Kerry. Webb County is overwhelmingly Hispanic and Catholic. Other down-ballot Democrats significantly outperformed Kerry:

2004 Railroad Commissioner
Victor G. Carrillo REP 13,914 35.39%
Bob Scarborough DEM 22,181 56.43%
Anthony Garcia LIB 3,212 8.17%
Race Total 39,307

2004 Justice, Supreme Court, Place 9
Scott Brister REP 12,270 31.98%
David Van Os DEM 26,097 68.01%
Race Total 38,367

2004 Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 6
Michael E. Keasler REP 9,561 24.63%
J.R. Molina DEM 29,243 75.36%
Race Total 38,804

From these numbers it is clear that John Kerry’s performance is an anomaly, and that a generic Democrat can expect to receive a sizeable margin from the county. Hispanic candidates of any party run very well here. Perhaps most instructive is to look at the Supreme Court race where there were two White candidates. If Van Os’s total is what a generic Democrat can expect out of Webb County, then that would peg the DPI in the high sixties – still a nearly 20 point drop from 2002.


Even though only half of Webb County is in CD 23, the massive drop in Democratic performance in 2004 in the county severely reduces the DPI of the district as a whole. Finding the exact DPI of CD 23 in 2004 would take a bit of time and research, but one can reasonably conclude that the DPI decreased in 2004 from the 2002 DPI of 43.2.

Another factor to consider is what kind of candidate would be best for Democrats to run in an open CD 23. Would someone like Richard Raymond – who took a very high profile and partisan role during the 2003 redistricting fight, be the best candidate to run in a GOP-leaning district? Should a more conservative candidate be recruited? The ideology of the candidate didn’t seem to make that big of a difference in the ability of a candidate to run a successful voter persuasion campaign. Martin Frost was a prominent member of the Democratic leadership for many years and had a voting record in the mainstream of the Democratic Party and still ran 8.3 points ahead of the DPI. On the other hand Blue Dog Max Sandlin ran only 0.7 ahead of the DPI. Conservatives Charlie Stenholm and Chet Edwards ran very successful voter persuasion campaigns as well.

I would argue that the candidate mattered less than the campaign. Chet Edwards, Martin Frost, Charlie Stenholm and Richard Morrison all ran campaigns where swing voters were highly targeted and many GOP-leaning voters crossed over to vote for them. Looking at the tactics used by those campaigns should give us insight as to how those efforts could be replicated in a district such as CD 23.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:10 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

February 25, 2005

SG: Fun with Facebook!

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

No, this has nothing to do with me and facebook, but rather, funny things I have found on Facebook related to SG.

As far as group membership goes at this point...

Connect: 425
Ignite: 385
Don't Pollute the Innocent Facebook With Sg Crap: 9

That last group had a very clever picture which I've posted here.

In addition, I found it slightly amusing that one of the few Connect "groupies" was none other than Jessica Rice, Ignite's Presidential Candidate. (being a group's groupie means you have x number of friends in that group but you aren't in it yourself). So all the connect supporters that log in to view their group page, see this most every time. (pop-up)

And not to forget the SEC President Race!!!

Voting Justin Burniske For Sec President: 1 (himself)
I'm voting for John Grube for SEC President: 89
Vote for Joy!: 10 (with Justin Burniske as a groupie)
JV Offers You His Protection: 24

I don't know how much this says about the SEC race momentum wise, but I would say that it seems like Mr. Grube is in a good position. Joy seems to be very popular in the gay community for some reason (must be our natural attraction to black women?) and Justin is winning in the "I have the most overexposed pictures of myself on my posters" category. (Does anyone else find those slighty disturbing besides me?)

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 08:22 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Equal Time

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

First off, look for Daily Texan endorsements on all the student elections on Monday. The Texan editorial board issues it's own endorsement, separate from the panelists, though we'll be on our own page. (I'm looking forward to the 12 hours of interviews we have tomorrow, I kid you not!)

After today's little scuffle noted in the Texan, both campaigns have since sent out e-mails to their listservs, so I have posted the relevent info in the extended entry.

Oh, and Dusty Mangum, UT's hot Rose Bowl kick winning Kicker will be appearing at the Ignite Rally on Sunday 8 PM on the main mall. Daron Roberts, former SG president four years ago, will also be an invited guest according to one of the thousands of SG ticket related flyers I've run across this week. I've had no word yet on the level of 'campaign activites' that Connect will be hosting this weekend as I'm sure everyone is still sorting out today's ruling.

So with that, to the extended entry!

First, a short note from Ignite.

Last night our opponents were found in violation of several Election Code provisions by the Election Supervisory Board, an independent body, and have been banned from campaigning until Tuesday at 12:01 am. This means they will not be allowed to campaign anywhere. They cannot ask people for their vote or even for their support, promote their platform ideas, or speak to organizations--the only thing they are allowed to do is wear their t-shirts.

IGNITE will be the only presence on campus today and on Monday, and we need you now more than ever. If you have a shirt, make sure it gets on a body. If you don't have a shirt, stop by and grab a button from our tables. Wear these with pride because they represent the ethics that have been behind this campaign from the beginning. Come by our tables, even if it's just for a few minutes, and join us today and Monday as we continue towards elections!

Jess, Colby, and the IGNITE family

Fairly short, professional, and self-explanatory so I'll move on to Connect.

There was an ESB hearing tonight and a decision was made against us. We were filed on because we reserved Banner Space on Speedway and in the Business School under organzations that we were a part of. This is a typical thing done by campaigns and has always been done in the past.

We were found to be guilty of violating a SALD (CCI) rule as well as a ESB Advisory Opinion. The penalty we recieved is that we are not allowed to campaign on Friday or Monday. This means no tabling, no speaker circuits, no putting up signs, no saying Vote.

You need to know we did nothing wrong and that we are appealing this decision. Here are the details:

The first is that both campaigns originally reserved Banner Space under organizatons. SALD found out that the Ignite ticket was doing this and they removed their banner reservations. We were never told by CCI or the ESB that this was a direct violation. The first time that we heard about this was a violation was when the Advisory Opinion #3 was issued yesterday.

We are confused and appalled by this decison. This alleged violation is not written in any University code including the ESB code. The advisory opinion given by the ESB Chair was given after the banners were up and therefore we had no formal knowledge of this rule until that time and as soon as we did know about it we quickly removed the banners.

We are appealing this decision and hopefully it will be resolved before Monday so that we can camapign. We are both working dilegently to ensure that our campaign is not penalized for things that we did not know about. We need to work a hundred times harder to make sure this doesn't affect our campaign the way many are hoping it will. We are planning events for the weekend to make sure we can make up for the lost time. Stay strong and let's all stick together, we need to remain CONNECTed now more than ever.

If anyone else has comments or a response that's in addition to what was already said in the last post, please post them.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 07:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Connect Ticket Faces 2 Day Ban

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Whoa. This is huge. The Texan article explains it, but it seems the Connect ticket (which was challening my panel status yesterday) is now banned from campaigning entirely until elections start next Tuesday. And this is a result of new charges, not any of the ones filed last week from what I can gather.

I've got class so I'll comment more later.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 08:38 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

February 24, 2005

Questions Avoided, Constables Called at Hensarling Townhall Meeting

By Byron LaMasters

This morning U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Dallas) had a townhall meeting in Forney, TX (just east of Dallas in Kaufman County). For some reason, not one, but three Constables arrived at the peaceful town hall meeting of 25 after some tough Social Security questions were asked (which Hensarling did his best to avoid).

Read the full story at 100 Monkeys Typing.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:46 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Yay! Gannon/Guckert/whatever is Back!

By Byron LaMasters

How cute. Gannon's website is back up ready to "battle the Left", while the Talon News website has taken a hiatus. Nothing like watching a few right-wingers give fuel to a story that would otherwise be dead or dying. Blogging Out Loud explains it in sexual terms, and of course, America Blog covers all the details.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:33 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

A Question of my Panel Status

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Submitted in response to a charge against me by one of the tickets.

As one of the Student Government involved students on the Daily Texan Panel, it would be irresponsible to state that myself, the two current SG Reps, or SG Executive member are blind to the individuals and personalties that this year's Student Election Tickets consist of. My work and experience with members of the Assembly and various Committees and Agencies has allowed me to become familiar with many of the candidates that are already running and view this as a strength for each of the SG involved students on this Panel.

In regards to recent concerns made by one of the campaign's members with whom I've worked in the Assembly:

Questions were asked about my membership in regards to particular "The Facebook" groups. My membership in these groups was made early in the campaign season as I was invited to join them and being one interested in the promotion of Student Government as an entity and Elections as a practice for democracy. Had I been invited to join any other related SG or SEC or Union Board or Co-op Board election groups I would have been more than happy to confirm them, especially due to their lower visibility. This follows with my philosophy of elections and is why I am in such groups like "If You are a City Council Election Ballot, I Will Fill You Out" and "I Love my Constable". Any such groups I have joined have been due to invitation only.

To alleviate any such concerns over the "appearance of corruption", I have removed myself from all Election related groups, even those that are unrelated to tickets but may contain candidates. Being a panelist, I would rather have the option of being invited to all the groups in order to keep up with campaign news and activities to make a more informed decision. In fact, I have been on the Connect campaign listserv a full week longer than the Ignite campaign listserv. I take making an informed vote seriously and less information makes that more difficult, but if either campaign has a problem with this action, they may remove me from their lists.

As the University Democrats Webmaster, I am charged with notifying our membership of any endorsements made by the collective membership at endorsement meetings. My notification to the UDems members listserv of the body's vote to endorse Ignite and Grube for SEC president was made as part of my job description as outlined in the UDems constitution which is available on our website, www.udems.org. Nothing more, nothing less. I notified the two leaders of each campaign about this action before the vote was held, and such action would have been taken if UDems had decided to endorse Connect.

As a blogger for the Burnt Orange Report, I have been covering SG politics since last August. My recent coverage of the SG campaign season is nothing new, as I reported on it last year as well. I notified both of the leaders of the campaigns of my coverage in that publication with the understanding that I would report and comment on the race, positive or negative for either ticket, and viewed coverage of SG politics and the promotion of the institution through that venue as nothing but beneficial to the Body as well as my readers, many of whom vote at UT. Neither side has responded with any complaints to this outlined statement.

Every day this week I have been visiting the campaign tables, at both the West Mall and Jester. I have talked with various people from each ticket, about the SG election, as well as socially as I have friends campaigning for each ticket. I do not feel I have to explain my presence or conversation with any particular candidate or person and my presence spent at either table should not be taken or viewed as an endorsement of that particular campaign or platform. Knowing that the Panel will be spending MANY hours reviewing applications and interviewing people, I wished to get a bit of a leg up in advance so as not to have to scramble at the last minute developing opinions in one 24 hour period.

As a result of the great deal of work and self-education and research I have made to date, I, as I am sure other active panelists, may hold certain leanings in particular individual contests, any of which are by no means set, as the next 2 days will see an explosive growth in our collective knowledge of this year's election. But this is not a result of any one of us trying to influence or "stack" the panel, but rather a natural result of being actively involved participants on par with the thousands of students who have educated themselves and joined a campaign to date. To have a Panel of 8 truly unbiased, independent, non-opinionated members would be nearly impossible to assemble- for any such people, at this point, would have to be so far out of the loop or anti-elections to begin with, that the recommendation of any such panel would be meaningless.

I am sorry that my active involvement in this effort has been taken as an indication of subversion or impropriety. I will work to correct this misconception while working to produce an educated "bi-partisan" opinion in the Panel's efforts this weekend.

Respectfully submitted,
Karl-Thomas Musselman

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 04:31 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Our House, Is a Very, Very, Perry-fied House

By Jim Dallas

The Houston Press has an article on Perry Homes' business practices, which is a bit one-sided because Perry wouldn't respond to the Press's questions.

That said, the article makes clear that Perry Homes is, "by no means the worst home builder in Houston. In fact, building inspectors interviewed for this story described Perry's construction quality as slightly above average." In fact, it seems the only reason why they are even remarkable is that (1) they're one of the region's largest builders and (2) Bob Perry's political activities.

And in the end, there almost seems to be a bit of a Greek tragedy involved in all this. Bob Perry (no relation to Rick Perry) has a great bio, at least from what we can gather from the public record. And as noted, heads a multi-million dollar respectable business. Why then would anyone think ill of him?

The answer, I think, is two-fold. First, any major contributor to the GOP is pretty much persona non grata round this here blog, because we are, let's face it, given to partisanship and occasionally even outright hackery. That's the honest truth, and I don't see any sense in spinning that.

But, secondly, and more importantly, there's a certain kind of arrogance that seems to underlie his company's policies. To wit:

The [Texas Residential Construction Commission] and the law that created it have destroyed the credibility of Texas home builders, critics say. And for that, they heap much of the blame on home builder Perry. "When he has a defect, he should have enough integrity to stand up and fix it," [Texas HADD President John] Cobarruvias says. "And the reason we have this commission is he hasn't done it. He would rather stand behind his attorneys than stand behind his homes."

Almost all home-builders, like most professionals, tend to believe that they should be treated with a higher standard. After all, they are crafting with their hands and skills and tools - from nothing! and at the most affordable price! - a new home in which families will grow, prosper, and live. And the result is that they tend to look at lawyers as deal-breakers and at regulators with disgust; who are they to tell the builder what to do and what not to do? Mix in that gut feeling with millions of dollars and the cultural over-the-top ostentatiousness of Houston and you've got a very explosive political situation.

And let me emphasize the cultural aspect of this; the article does a wonderful job of doing so:

Some architects believe the problem is cultural. Perhaps more than any city in the United States, Houston fashions itself as a mecca for inexpensive housing. The region consistently ranks among the most affordable major urban areas in the nation for home buyers. "I think, at least in the present, Houston has really bought into the idea that this is the place where you can get things the cheapest," says Rice University architecture professor Stephen Fox, "and that is promoted as a great virtue of Houston, without understanding the price you pay for cheapness."

Some building inspectors say new houses in Houston are so shoddy that they're dangerous. When Hurricane Alicia swept through Houston in 1983, it brought 125-mile-per-hour winds. "If that storm would have come through now," Black says, "you would have seen probably 25 to 30 percent of the houses that are up right now on the ground."

Black, who describes himself as a staunch conservative, isn't the kind of Perry critic to ramble on about aesthetics in the manner of artsy architecture professor Williams. But his concerns about building quality have led him to even starker conclusions. "I like to believe that, in some of these subdivisions," he says, "we're building tomorrow's slums today."

For the price of all the lawsuits and all the regulation, the consumer (in the long-run) ends up getting a higher-quality product. And as the article mentions, the cultural shift away from holding builders accountable (in the form of binding arbitration) is resulting in lower-quality work. And the creation of the TRCC (to give builders cover) will probably only make things worse.

But that's only half the tragedy (albeit the one you and I will primarily be suffering through). Afterall, I called this a Greek tragedy, so there has to be a hero's downfall. Right?

So what's the downfall? Bob Perry is the go-to man in Austin, a millionaire, and would appear to be living out his days relatively happy.

The downfall is, I think, that Perry has a product that he wants to take pride in (after all, they do make a big deal about their attempts at quality control) - and takes too much pride in. And this isn't good for business.

First, you lose business when half of Houston thinks you're a jerk.

Second, the fact is that for every Perry home that falls apart, there are many, many more crap homes constructed by lower-quality contractors. Quite frankly, if I were in Bob Perry's position, I wouldn't be screaming for de-regulation. I'd be screaming for more regulation (1) because home-building is a bond of trust with the consumer and his family and God and America and apple pie, but also because (2) I'd stand to gain considerably from regulation which drives my inferior competitors into the ground.

Really, as far as I can tell, all this business conservatism and shirking of responsibility is the result of bigotry: the soft bigotry of low expectations. And not just from El Cheapo Houston consumers.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bet He Misses Stenholm Now...

By Andrew Dobbs

Saw this post on Kos today, about how Bush's Social Security package is starting to founder because of a complete unwillingness on the part of Democrats to back him up on the matter. Now, I have expressed an openness to the idea of Social Security choice in the past, and I still feel that way. But the opportunity to derail his administration like Republicans did to Clinton following his health care proposal is quite appealing.

The sad thing for Bush and those of us who would like to see a reformed Social Security system is that it needn't be this way. One of his top allies in the effort to change Social Security was Charlie Stenholm. A solid Democrat who was nonetheless a conservative, Stenholm could be counted on as someone who would work with both sides of the aisle. He was and is a good man and was a great congressman, but Tom DeLay targeted him and George W. Bush worked to defeat him, campaigning with his opponent even though Bush needed to campaign in the Panhandle like Kerry needed to campaign in Berkeley- he had no possible chance of losing there. Stenholm would have stood with Bush on Social Security reform and would have brought several other Democrats over with him. Now that Tom DeLay's lust for power has gotten rid of him, Bush might just be sunk.

The shortsightedness of this administration isn't just in its policy, but in its tactics. The desire for a single-party country with only a weak and meaningless opposition has rotted the soul of a party that used to boast men of vision and compassion. And with my party slowly selling its soul to the academic and European Left- a nihlistic group that sees America as the source of all the world's problems and sides with dictators over their own elected representatives- the GOP might just get their wish. America needs two strong parties that the people can trust, but this whole episode just goes to show that Bush has poisoned American politics in a way that we never could have foreseen.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 02:36 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

What is the Democratic Nomination for TX Guv Worth in 2006?

By Byron LaMasters

Win or lose, it is critical that Democrats unite to support a strong statewide ticket in 2006. I strongly discourage Democrats from voting in the 2006 Texas Republican primary with the goal of electing the "lesser of two evils". Even if Texas Democrats fail to win statewide in 2006 again, having a strong Democratic message with full backing of the rank-and-file that local candidates can embrace is critical to long-term Democratic efforts to take our state. To that effect, Chris Bell sends this to his email list today:

Dear Friends,

In recent weeks, I have had the opportunity to speak with many Democrats across Texas as I've begun the process of exploring the race for Governor. We've discussed the failures of the Perry administration on issues ranging from school funding to reducing teen pregnancy. We've discussed the revolving door of influence-peddling in the capitol that has Texans questioning the integrity of our elected officials. We've discussed the need for a renewed commitment to our state's world-class higher education system. And often, too often, we've ended up talking about our shared frustrations over the course being charted for our state by Republican ideologues in Austin.

The rest after the jump...

It would be easy for Democrats in Texas to allow our frustration to regress into despair as we see how thoroughly the GOP has come to dominate our state government in recent years. This is particularly true when the self-anointed political experts start ceding this governor's race to Sen. Hutchison before she has even entered it, much less survived what is sure to be a bloody and vitriolic primary. But while the road out of the wilderness for Texas Democrats does not always appear well-lit, it is a road we will never travel if we allow our frustrations to prevent us from taking the first steps.

Make no mistake about it: This Democratic nomination is worth having. Over the last three years, Democrats have won gubernatorial races across the Great Plains and the West in states far more conservative than Texas. In Kansas and Oklahoma, in Montana and Wyoming, Democrats have taken back statehouses after decades of Republican control because they were first and foremost unwilling to accept the conventional wisdom that says Democrats can no longer compete in red states.

In the upcoming months, I hope to start a regular conversation with you about the future we can build together for Texas. Let's talk about how we can rebuild our education system to lift children up and prepare them for the challenges of tomorrow. Let's talk about how we can clean up Austin to restore public faith in the integrity of our government. And let's talk about how we can rebuild our party so Texans will never suffer the illusion that the choice between moderate Republicans and conservative Republicans is the only real choice we have. This is a conversation that our state and our party desperately need, and I sincerely hope you will join me in it.

Chris Bell

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:44 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Air America Radio Coming to Austin

By Byron LaMasters

It's about time! The Austin Chronicle reports:

After months of rumors, radio industry sources confirm that Air America, the liberal talk format starring Al Franken, is about to find a home in Austin, where the airwaves are still dominated by tough-talking Rush Limbaugh wannabes. Air America is now heard on 48 stations around the country, but on only one in Texas, KCCT-AM in Corpus Christi. An announcement on an Austin affiliate is expected within days, according to one source.

Although details are still sketchy, speculation focuses on Border Media Partners, the Houston-based company that now owns seven Spanish-language stations in Austin (see "Austin Radio Spanish," p.36). BMP president Tom Castro was national deputy finance chair of the Kerry for President campaign, and one of the company's main investors is notable Democrat Tony Sanchez, the former candidate for governor. Asked to analyze the Austin market last week, Castro immediately pointed to the lack of a format for "intelligent and interesting dialogue." Austin, he said, seems like a place where "a lot of people want an outlet for voicing their opinion."

I'm surprised it's taken this long to get liberal talk radio in Austin. Either Air America Radio or Ed Shultz would certainly do well here. After all, Travis County gave John Kerry a 50,000 vote victory (PDF file) - by far his largest margin in Texas, yet we still have all the right-wing quacks on our radio dial with no alternatives from our side.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:17 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

DeLay Raises $1,000,000 for Legal Defense, Gets Ethics Advice from Gingrich

By Byron LaMasters

Richard Morrison tells us what Tom DeLay has been up to recently:

Tom DeLay is a busy man. He has been busy lately, raising $1million for his legal defense fund, putting his considerable bad influence behind the GOP effort to gut Social Security, and preventing Houston from receiving federal funding for its rail program. [...]

We're launching a new effort called "Defeat DeLay Every Day" by asking supporters to make a small automatically recurring donation to this campaign every month. To do your part to defeat DeLay please click here and select the amount you can afford to contribute each month.

Speaking of Tom DeLay and ethics, he couldn't be asking a more qualified guy for advice:

Talking with Newt Gingrich about ethics may be like talking to Willie Sutton about bank robbery. You listen carefully to such an experienced practitioner, but you wonder: If he's so smart why did he get caught so often.

No matter. Gingrich is currently as cautionary, if not as vocally indignant, about the House Republican leadership's slide into the muck as he is about debating "patriotic immigration" or "the myth of judicial supremacy." [...]

"Republicans in the House have to look at the reality that if we make sense as a party right now it's because we are the reform party, and anything that risks being the reform party is more dangerous for us than it is for the Democrats," Gingrich told a journalists' breakfast Tuesday sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. "They should be very careful."

Well, of course, House Republicans are not being careful. They are profligately displaying their power, including the power to abuse the House's tenuous-at-best policing of itself.

Gingrich's advice, minus some more general outcry, may be of limited effect. But Gingrich may have had a hand in stemming some of the abuses lately intended by DeLay & Co. Gingrich spoke out quickly late last year against the House Republicans' rule change to allow indicted leaders to retain their positions at least temporarily.

The rule was reversed. But the rollback turned out to be a temporary expedient.

DeLay, sometimes through House Speaker Dennis Hastert, has since exacted revenge against the House Ethics Committee for repeatedly citing him.

As a result of subsequent changes in House rules, it is now harder to institute an ethics complaint against a member. Hastert also replaced the fair-minded chairman of the House ethics committee, Joel Hefley, R-Colo., with a leadership stooge, Rep. Richard "Doc" Hastings, R-Wash., and replaced two of the Republicans on the panel. Two of the newly appointed members, including Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, have been contributors to DeLay's legal defense fund.

If DeLay's message was not clear enough, Hastings fired the two long-serving senior committee staff members, who were, in effect, the panel's institutional memory.

"It was terrible," Hefley told the Chronicle's Gebe Martinez of the staff firings. "Those two guys are very good, very competent professional staff. There was never a nuance of partisanship in either of them."

Gingrich made clear he thinks DeLay is on thin ice.

"The Republican Party's majority comes from the Perot voters who want real reform," Gingrich said. "Anything which weakens that is difficult."

Wow. Newt Gingrich is making sense. Maybe I should buy his book, or perhaps I should just let the House GOP self-destruct from their over-indulgence in corruption and complete mockery of ethics.

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

Raymond and Cuellar Trade Barbs on Social Security

By Byron LaMasters

I guess you could call this the opening shot of the likely 2006 primary between CD 28 U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) and State Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo). The San Antonio Express-News reports:

A statehouse resolution opposing President Bush's plans to privatize a portion of Social Security could be a harbinger to a Democratic primary fight for a South Texas congressional seat.

The entire delegation of Texas Democrats in Congress, except for Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, has signed a letter supporting the resolution by state Rep. Richard Raymond.

It is no coincidence Cuellar withheld support for Raymond, D-Laredo, who is making it clear he is eyeing a run for Congress and possibly challenging Cuellar in the 28th Congressional District of Texas.

"I am interested," Raymond, 44, told the San Antonio Express-News on Wednesday. "And I certainly won't run unless I think I can win." [...]

Cuellar, 49, charged that Raymond put "political ambitions" ahead of constituents and lost a seat on a state appropriations committee that cost Laredo college funds.

Raymond would be the second Democrat targeting the freshman lawmaker next March.

Former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, 58, who lost a bitterly contested Democratic primary to Cuellar last year, announced his intention to run again in 2006.

A formal campaign would begin after Easter and be up and running by May, Rodriguez said.

For a minute, I thought that I needed to send Josh Marshall an email about another potential member of the "fainthearted faction" of Democrats supporting the Bush privatization plan. Alas, Cuellar's on the record opposing Bush (although, by being the only Texas Democratic congressman not to sign Raymond's resolution, he only makes it more of an issue, which makes little sense). Here's what Cuellar said to the Express-News:

In a letter to Raymond, U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, urged the Texas House of Representatives to continue efforts to inform "our constituents about the inherent dangers of privatizing Social Security."

It was signed by all Texas Democrats in Congress except Cuellar, who said the Texas resolution is a ploy that would have little impact.

"I will stand with the Democrats on Social Security," Cuellar said. "I am against private accounts. I am focused on what counts."

Cuellar was one of several Texas Democrats to support Bush over Al Gore in 2000.

Cuellar later was appointed secretary of state by Gov. Rick Perry before being elected to Congress as a Democrat.

"Neither side trusts him," said Rodriguez, who has become a consultant since he left office in December.

The primary ought to be interesting to watch.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:54 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Bill White Really Is Popular

By Jim Dallas

I went to the HCYD meeting last night because I figured it was about time to start getting involved in city and county politics around here, something I've been delinquent at.

Conversation arose regarding the November city elections, which, to be sure, I've been sorely ignorant of. I was somewhat surprised and skeptical to hear that Bill White was really very popular. First, going through the last two national and state cycles has taught me to be very wary of be overenthusiastic. Second, the city has gone through a couple of debacles recently (most notably, SafeClear).

So I wake up this morning to find two things. First, it's raining cats and dogs. Second, that HCRP chair Jared Woodfill may need to change his undergarments:

The Harris County Republican Party has a warning for Republicans on Houston's City Council: Be careful about supporting Mayor Bill White.

In recent weeks, as the popular Democratic mayor was taking flak over of his Safe Clear freeway towing ordinance, the local GOP saw two opportunities to humiliate him on the council.

Instead, White garnered enough Republican support to prevail on both issues, maintaining Safe Clear with modifications and spending up to $100,000 for an outside law firm to defend his Proposition 1 spending cap in court.

"There's a lot of disappointment that the mayor was able to get Republican council members to support him," said Jared Woodfill, chairman of the Harris County Republican Party.

There hasn't been any polling recently (the last poll had White's approval at 76 percent, but a Rice University prof estimates its fallen since then). But when even Michael Berry has nice things to say, I think it's fair to guess that White is cruising towards re-election.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 08:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

UDs Endorse Ignite for SG / Grube for SEC

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

At tonight's University Democrats meeting, the membership voted to endorse in campus elections.

Student Government
The Ignite ticket won the UD endorsement.
The Connect ticket placed second.
Both choices by far outweighed votes to not endorse in the race.

Student Events Center
In the initial vote, there was no candidate with a majoriy. The order of strength was...
Justin Burniske
John Grube
Joy Phillips
Julio "JV" Vela

The top three candidates were closely bunched, reflecting the otherwise "non-stand outish-ness" of any particular candidate in regards to UDems.

In the Run-off, John Grube went from being one net vote behind Justin, to one net vote ahead, and won the endorsement of the University Democrats. Who says one vote never counted.

The announcement of UDems endorsements has been sent out to the 1600 people on our listserv. I will not announce my personal choice for the SEC race as I believe those of us on the Daily Texan endorsement panel (yes, I'm on it) will also be reviewing the SEC candidates this weekend along with all those on the SG tickets.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 06:52 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Grits for Breakfast Wins Best Single Issue Blog Award

By Byron LaMasters

Congrats to Grits for Breakfast - a local Austin blog focused on Texas Criminal Justice System for winning the highly prestigious Koufax Award for "Best Single Issue" blog.

Congrats to all the other winners as well.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mitt in 2008?

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Not with his flip-flopping on Gay Marriage, Civil Unions, and Constitutional Amendments. Best quote in reponse to his changing position?

Gay activists said they also found Romney's statements puzzling. "The governor's kind of 'bi' about this issue," said Arline Isaacson of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus. "In one venue he swings for civil unions, and in another venue he says he has always been against them."


Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 12:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bill in 2008?

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

No, not Clinton, but I wouldn't be shocked to see Bill Richardson (current Gov of New Mexico) take a stab at a run. I've had my eye on him, and Western Democrat has an interesting find as to his Foreign Policy cred.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 23, 2005

Most Humorous Blog

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The Koufax Bloggin awards are out, and in the most humorous category we get Jesus' General, who brings us this most wonderful cartoon which by far beats the anti-AARP ad.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 11:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


By Jim Dallas

According to a New York Times poll, Hillary Clinton has a net approval rating of 9 points - among New York Republicans. Her overall net has risen to 70 percent, roughly comparable to Kay Bailey Hutchison's numbers in Texas.

Maybe Hillary '08 wouldn't be the disaster I've feared. Moreover, the professional scam artists on the GOP side have pretty much used up all their ammo, and could very well end up looking like petty fools.

If HRC could potentially replicate this success outside of New York... which is, admittedly, a little different... then I think I will have to seriously reconsider my Hillary position.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 10:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Everlasting Kitching Appliance

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The Lasso (Statesman Blog) has the scoop on the Fridge that won't die.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 04:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Kelo v. New London Calling: Eminent Domain... F*** Yeah!

By Jim Dallas

There's nothing we love over here at Burnt Orange Report more than our rights to life, liberty, and property. Especially property. Especially if said property is the last bottle of beer in the cooler.

While I can't speak for my Burnt brethren, I've been following the Kelo case (1 | 2) with great interest, and not merely because it could potentially make everything I'm learning in Property about "public use" obsolete.

Oral arguments were yesterday, and the inimitable Dahlia Lithwick writes up the whole story in Slate. SCOTUSblog reports that the city of New London will probably win this one... big... and governments everywhere will have unbridled authority to turn your living room into a Wal-Mart.

But, thankfully, the American Prospect pitches an idea to use all of this awesome power for good instead of evil. At least until the administrating agency is captured by the pharmaceutical industry:

Unless the drug industry starts to negotiate significantly lower prices, it may find itself battling debt-strapped states for control over the manufacture of drugs. States already take land and other property in order to benefit the public by building things such as roads and schools. Now some legislators and officials are saying they should be able to take away a drug company’s intellectual property, its patent. They want to give these patents, which allow a company to manufacture a product, to competitors that agree to sell the drugs to the states at much lower prices.

Patents are the key to huge drug-company profits. The industry will fight vociferously to protect them. In West Virginia, where the issue came up last summer, industry lawyers warned a legislative advisory council away from proposing such action on patents, claiming it would be unconstitutional. With virtually unlimited resources, the drug companies could drag states through courts for years. Still, the specter of states compelling companies to license their patents to other firms terrifies the industry. And even the fight to do this would open the industry to further scrutiny on pricing policy. All of which, some officials hope, could make drug companies more willing to negotiate discounts.

I had this idea about a month ago, but I thought it was too crazy to even consider asking the Prof about (and after all, I'm supposed to be learning about real property, not intellectual property). Maybe my initial gut feeling was right -- it's so crazy, it might just work.

Remember, the number one top reason why drugs are so expensive is because the government aids and abets the monopolistic instincts of Big Pharma.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Blog Comments

By Jim Dallas

A surreal thing happened today in the blogosphere. I can't really describe it, so just read these two posts:

First. Second.

Look, ever since the beginning of politics and journalism (the second and third oldest professions, respectively), there have been hierarchies which has tended to disregard input from the bottom ranks since the folks at the top tend to generate much, much more noise. That isn't to say that it's purely a power relationship; there's a rational reason why the top dogs get to the top. Still, the stratification of power tends to have a rather suppressive tendency. And when issues of concern do wind their way up the food-chain, it's usually in a highly-digested form (with credit not always going to where it is due).

I guess it was only a matter of time before this latest experiment in dot-communism eventually resulted in such blow-ups. That said, some forms of organization are considerably more permissive of bottom-up percolation.

Bets may now be placed on how long, if ever, the blogosphere will take to organize itself into an optimal information-synthesizing institution.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 22, 2005

The Real AARP - DFA Responds

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

There has been a bit of discussion across the blogs about the upcoming attack on AARP by the old Swifties for Truth crew with their otherwise ridiculous ad. On of the main concerns is that that Democratic Party won't tackle it head on (like Kerry let the Swifties go). Well, I'm glad to see that Democracy for America has raised the issue to their membership (meaning that the DNC isn't far behind I would imagine, with Chairman Dean being there now :).

Your petition will be delivered to every TV station that aired the swift boat ads during the 2004 campaign and any station that airs this new garbage in 2005. Stations were duped once by this group making false claims -- we can't let it happen again. If TV stations give USA Next a platform, they will be abetting the same kind of disgraceful slander as the swift boat ads.

So if you want, sign the DFA petition.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 11:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Campus Election Links

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Student Government Campaigns
Vote Ignite
Vote Connect

Student Events Center President
Justin Burniske
John Grube
Joy Phillips
Julio "JV" Vela

I forgot to mention the other day that the Ignite ticket has already 'won' one seat in the assembly due to Connect's Engineering candidate Melvin Ike being removed last week for some unknown reason.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 11:18 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Today's News in the Guv Race

By Byron LaMasters

Chris Bell, who is exploring a run for governor sent out this email today about HB 23, a bi-partisan proposal to end credit scoring.

STATEMENT BY CHRIS BELL ON HB 23 Offered as testimony before the Insurance Committee, 2/21/05

There is no logical basis to link insurance rates to credit ratings. If someone is late on his credit card bill, that does not mean that a tornado is going to hit his barn. Economic redlining only serves to protect the profits of insurance companies, and we have a moral mandate to stop this now and to lower the barriers to home ownership.

This is not a partisan issue. The sponsors of HB 23 are Republicans, and in 2002, Rick Perry promised to end credit scoring in Texas. He was right to take that election-year stand back then, and though his appointee at the Texas Department of Insurance is protecting economic redlining, the Governor would do well to keep his earlier promise."

More at Texas Watch, the Brownsville Herald, Blue Texas and Greg's Opinion.

On the other side, Governor Rick Perry announced his Harris County Steering Committee via the Quorum Report. The list includes the following elected officials:

State Representative Peggy Hamric, State Representative Beverly Woolley, County Attorney Michael Stafford, District Clerk Charles Bacarisse, County Treasurer Jack Cato, Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt, Sheriff Tommy Thomas, County Commissioner Steve Radack, County Commissioner Jerry Eversole, Constable Ron Hickman, Constable Glen Cheek [and] Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:46 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Spreading Firefox

By Byron LaMasters

Karl-Thomas and I were chatting last night while we were working on posts, and we made an observation. While using Internet Explorer, Karl-Thomas noticed that some links on BOR were opening slowly and/or incorrectly. On the other hand, I was using Firefox and had no trouble with the links in question. So, he tried opening the links on Firefox, and I tried opening the links on IE, and sure enough Karl-Thomas had no trouble with the files on Firefox, while I experienced the slowness of opening the files on IE.

I've been using Firefox as my Internet browser almost exclusively since the beginning of the year, and I would highly recommend it to all of our readers. Firefox blocks more spam / pop-up ads than IE, downloading files is more user-friendly with Firefox, and as someone who almost always multitasks while online, I find the tabbing feature of Firefox to be very useful. Finally, I've noticed that many websites - including BOR run faster with Firefox.

I must say that I'm surprised that 30% of BOR readers already use Firefox 1.0. That's quite impressive considering that Firefox 1.0 launched barely three months ago. Already, Firefox has attained nearly a 5% market share. It makes sense that blogs would show Firefox with a larger browser share as blog readers are more tech-savvy than your average Internet user. I think that BOR's focus as a UT-student based political blog gives us a younger audience than others - also increasing our Firefox share. Here's the Firefox Share of some other blogs I read frequently (although these numbers seem to vary by a few points either way each time I reload):

Off the Kuff - 15%
Political Wire - 17%
MyDD - 28%
Daily Kos - 33%

Anyway, I would certainly encourage all of you to get Firefox (it's free) if you haven't yet:

Get Firefox!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:55 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Gannon Song!

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Wonkette discovers a music tribute to our favorite White House pimp. What would we do without the blogosphere?

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 05:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Some Texas Blogs I've found Recently

By Byron LaMasters

Rio Grande Valley Politics and Dos Centavos...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:01 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Richard Raymond Statement

By Byron LaMasters

Several days ago, we reported that Richard Raymond was planning a run for Congress in CD 28. Yesterday, Raymond issued the following statement:


"I appreciate Aaron Pena's enthusiasm and potential support, but I have contacted him and told him I will not make any formal decision on running for CD 28, which is currently held by Henry Cuellar, until sometime after the legislative session.

Many people have contacted me and offered to support me and I appreciate it very much. However, I will not run, unless the support is there and I really believe I can win. I will continue to talk with and listen to those who are interested in me running for Congress.

This is an extremely important position and one in which I believe I could make a difference, were I to run and be elected. If you have any comments on this, pro or con, please let me know."

Richard Raymond
State Representative, District 42

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

SG Campaign Misconduct?

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Say it ain't so!

Part of the annual tradition of Student Government campaigns is to try to one-up your opponent when it comes to legal charges, which can result in opposing campaigns losing the right to campaign or at worst, removing candidates from the election. Ignite has UDems Vice President Ali Puente as their legal point person (who learned a heck of a lot last year when she worked for RepreZent). I don't know who Connect's legal person is, but Ali is formidable.

Last year the Focus ticket did a fairly good job at disgracing the RepreZent campaign in the Daily Texan thanks to the actions of our very own Andrew Dobbs, which of course were blown out of proportion but such is the nature of the beast. But it was effective in lining up internal SG support at the time and killing the little momentum that RepreZent had.

This year, it seems that the first wave of effective 'misconduct' charges are against the CONNECT ticket according to today's Texan coverage. My commentary is in between...

Ignite is accusing Connect of violating election rules regarding vandalism. According to Ignite, Connect members illegally advertised themselves in chalk on bathroom and room signs in the business school.

"The fact that the University has vandalism in the same section as violent crime shows that this is obviously something the University takes very seriously," said Ali Puente, the legal advisor for Ignite and government junior.

At a hearing Monday night, Connect confirmed the allegations, and the ESB has prohibited Connect from campaigning in the business building on the first day of elections, March 2.

Ok, names on chalkboards are pretty silly, but it is important to note that the first day of elections is March 1, not March 2 as well as the fact that not being able to campaign in a building on election day is significant. Since campaigns usually set up mobile voting centers in building on election days (online voting on laptops), giving turf to the other campaign gives a point to Ignite in this case.

In another complaint, Ignite notes significant damages to their West Campus A-frames. A hammer was left at one site.

Angela Rose Courtney, security officer at the Kappa Delta and Sigma Delta Tau sorority houses, personally witnessed one act of vandalism.

"You see these signs being vandalized and everything, but you don't see Connect signs being vandalized," she said. "You don't see nothing happening to Connect."

Connect filed a complaint that what Ignite calls A-frames are in fact billboards, since they are clearly professionally designed and are not made of wood. Ignite replied that there aren't actually any requirements in the ESB code that the A-frames be either hand-painted or wooden.

Besides the use of a double negative in that quote, this is the kind of actions that turns people off. And as far as I know, no one is using true "A-frames" but rather big boards that lean, as you can see from Connect's pictures or Ignite's pictures. I can only guess that this is an Election Code wording argument.

Regardless, having any of your supporters destroy large scale campaign signs in West Campus should not be acceptable, I don't care what campaign you are. If I was CONNECT I wouldn't be arguing about the definition of "is" when I should be condemning any such destructive actions. I believe this is the most visible and potentially damaging of the allegations in this article to regular Daily Texan readers because it's not something that could be accidental like chalkboards or signs on kiosks or something, which can be forgiven.

Connect also accused Ignite of failing to properly report the cost of their Web site, citing that it was credited to a professional company entitled Astonish Designs. Dilen Kumar, Plan II senior and campaign manager of Ignite said Astonish Designs is run by business school student Tim Hamilton, economics junior, who designed the Web site as a personal favor to Ignite vice presidential candidate Colby Hanks, a finance senior.

The Ignite Web site had been riddled with attacks, according to Ignite. Before campaigning began, an unidentified hacker altered profiles, putting in several profane and slanderous remarks about Ignite candidates.

I happen to believe in proper and honest reporting of campaign expenditures. After digging around in Texas Ethics Commission data last fall, I believe that if you are going to go ahead and allow in-kind gifts of any kind, they should at least be made clear and reported. So if Ignite was trying to cover anything here, shame. Chris Kennedy has some thoughts on that.

At the same time, hacking someone's website, if true, is petty and shows bad taste. And so I will take this opportunity to comment on their websites. Ignite's is very professional, like their signs, and many of their candidates in my opinion. It would help if they could have duplicated their campaign logo online as well. CONNECT's has gotten better over the past week, but when first launched was more reminiscent of a student council campaign quality operation. And that Lime Green and Blue color scheme, ouch. I'll agree with Chris Kennedy on that one in saying it hurts my eyes. And Chris has website recommendations you can read!

I'll skip the Texan's comments on whisper campaigns because unless someone's going to say what's being whispered, I've got nothing to say.

Ignite has been campaigning illegally in the Jester dormitory, according to Connect's final accusation. Ochoa said that only dorm residents are allowed to campaign in dorms, and even then only on their own floor. Ignite said that one of the campaigners resides on the 12th floor of Jester, so their actions were acceptable. However, Dan Paschal, campaign manager for Connect, was quick to point out that the campaigning, in fact, occurred on the 4th floor, making it illegal.

If this is the best charge that Connect can lob at Ignite (other than the website reporting) then Ignite is either running a clean campaign or Connect is lacking the legal or public relations team to put charges forward. Since I doubt it is the latter, I'll argue the first until proven otherwise.

But if we are going to make an issue out of campaign signs in dorms (which I wouldn't have had a clue about had it not been for this article) then it makes me wonder about the legality of the three CONNECT signs that are posted on boards in hallways here in the Honors Dorms (two of which are not even close to being near actual student living quarters). So I took pictures, which you can see here, here, and here.

In short, I would agree with Chris Kennedy that coming into this, Connect has the advantage from an organizational standpoint. With the support of FLO (Freshman Leadership Organization), the production line for SG candidates and volunteers in past elections, Connect does have an advantage in visibility. But today’s Texan article takes some wind out of their sails, giving Ignite their first ‘real’ opening, since neither side won any points with the Texan coverage of the platforms yesterday. I agree that the platforms are not going to move many votes, and this election will be won on personality, turnout, endorsements, and social networks.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 08:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Dallas Co. Democratic Executive Committee to Meet

By Byron LaMasters

For the first time in memory, the Dallas County Democratic Executive Committee will meet - not because a meeting was called by the county chair, but because over 51% of the committee (precinct chairs) have signed a petition calling for such a meeting. The Dallas County Executive Committee has not met since May 2004, and a meeting has been called presumably to discuss issues related with the party leadership.

The meeting will occur at the CWA Hall at 6:30 PM on Monday, February 28th. A copy of the notice is available here (PDF file).

Issues of concern between some activists in the county, and the county chair are many, but most of the concerns are enumerated in the resolutions passed by several local clubs on the matter:

Dallas County Young Democrats
Dallas Stonewall Democrats
Lake Highlands / White Rock Democrats
Dallas County East Democrats
Richardson / Northeast Dallas Democrats
University Democrats at UT-Dallas

The party chair addressed some of these concerns in a letter sent to a select group of precinct chairs, available here (PDF file). In particular, the chair apologized for using the party stationary while endorsing confirmation of a judicial appointee of President Bush, but did not apologize for her support of the appointee. Regardless, next Monday's meeting should be interesting.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:57 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


By Jim Dallas

Down in the comments of an earlier post, I was called on referring to Gary Polland as a "big whig"; apparently the correct spelling is "big wig."

Only it turns out that in my crazy over-stuffed mind, I managed to accidentally correct a linguistic fluke:

Have you ever heard someone called a "big wig"? The expression really should be Big Whig. It was used to describe members of Henry Clay's Whig Party. Most of the wealthy influential people of the time were Whigs—just the kind of people who would be called big wigs today!

Only it also turns out that there is another interpretation!

Back in the dim and distant past, before the days of hair products, bad hair days were much more common. Rather than having to deal with this problem, people wore wigs, or artificial hair. Though the use of wigs was known in ancient Greece and Rome, we are here concerned with the wig worn as a distinctive piece of costume.

This trend apparently started in France in the early seventeenth century; the fashion reached England later in the seventeenth century. England being England, wigs were differentiated based on class and profession. Men of great importance naturally wore larger wigs than the rabble, and so they were called big wigs.

Bigwig was first used just after the turn of the eighteenth century, and was generally humorous or derisive at the time. It spawned a number of derived terms such as bigwiggery and bigwiggism. The wearing of wigs gradually declined in England among doctors and clergymen; by the coronation of Queen Victoria, for example, only the Archibishop of Canterbury still wore a wig. Wigs are still worn as part of the costume of certain officials and jurists, though there is a movement to abolish their use entirely.

So there you have it. Two perfectly plausible explanations. Although for the second there appears to be quite a bit of confusion over when the term arose, although it would have been at some time during the 18th century. Incidentally, one suggested origin for the word "Whig" is that it meant "country bumpkin" in the 17th century. This being Texas and all, maybe "big whig" is more appropriate after all?

At any rate, I think there seems to be a pretty settled etymology for "O.K." Incidentally, it appears that it originated as a slur against Andrew Jackson by... the Whigs:

Van Buren's opponents tried to turn the phrase against him, saying that it had originated with Van Buren's allegedly illiterate predecessor, Andrew Jackson, a story that has survived to this day. They also devoted considerable energy to coming up with unflattering interpretations, e.g., "Out of Kash, Out of Kredit, and Out of Klothes."

Newspaper editors and publicists around the country delighted in coming up with even sillier interpretations-- Oll Killed, Orfully Konfused, Often Kontradicts, etc.--so that by the time the campaign was over the expression had taken firm root nationwide.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Watering the Grass

By Jim Dallas

Chris Bowers of MyDD wins the Dallas Award For Best Use of The Word "Ontological" with this post.

I adhere to the theory that each individual voter is cross-pressured, and has many different components of his/her identity that are politically relevant. Engaging different voters involves hitting them in the right identity "sweet spot." Taking a one-size fits all mentality runs the risk of swinging... and missing, like the Iowa Perfect Storm did. These "network" theories of organizing are interesting to me.

Fact: for most Americans, politics is intrusive and disruptive. That's why it used to be good manners not to talk about politics in mixed company. Now that it's all too easy for voters to simply turn the channel (mentally speaking), expanding our campaigns is going to be necessary.

One concern, though, is how far you want to take this. If it's done ham-handedly, it'll come off as oafish. If it's done too effectively, people will worry that the traditional seperation of the public and private sphere that we value in a liberal society such as ours has been breached. Chris titles his post "How Democrats Can Seize The New Civic Space." The problem is that "civic space" is a very blurry concept to begin with, and any attempt to replace the traditional institutions which have defined "political space" with ones that extend politics into "civic space" (one which, while still conceivably in the public sphere, is considerably more intimate) inevitably will step on some toes.

Anyway, this is probably the future of politics; the subversion of the Democratic Party as an institutional hierarchy and a new reality of the party as a community of communities. Get used to it.

On second thought, I'm wondering why I thought this was all so revolutionary: there's a far-left-wing wannabe-academic inside of me that's screaming that this is more confirmation of the effects of late capitalism or post-modernism or whatever.

On third thought, I am reminded that, even after stumbling across some nutshell summaries of Habermas's Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere years ago, I have yet to get around to checking out a copy from the liberary and attempting to read it. I'm probably not smart enough to understand it, but it might help me pick up hot dates.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 21, 2005

Ben Barnes to Join the KBH Campaign Effort?

By Byron LaMasters

Save Texas Reps reports:

Word out of the nation’s capital this weekend is that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has asked former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes to head up a “Democrats for Hutchison,” sparking renewed speculation that Texas’ senior solon has made her decision to take on Rick Perry in what promises to be a bruising GOP primary.

Barnes, a longtime Hutchison supporter, was at the center of last fall’s CBS controversy over reports that George W. Bush was AWOL from much of his National Guard duties in the early Seventies. For Hutchison to call on him now has raised eyebrows among her supporters who wonder whether aligning herself this closely to the Bush-bashing Barnes makes sense in a GOP primary.

I don't particularly see the logic in this on either side. I don't see how the support of Ben Barnes helps Kay Bailey Hutchison in a Republican primary, and it certainly doesn't help Ben Barnes in Democratic circles. Some Democrats are likely to vote in the Perry/Hutchison primary race, but I for one, will strongly urge Democrats to not participate in the 2006 GOP primary.

Greg offers up some thoughts that I'm inclined to agree with. Sarah reminds us that KBH is no moderate. Compared to her Senate counterparts Phil Gramm then John Cornyn, yes, KHB is a relative moderate. But a relative moderate in the Texas Republican Party is still a right-winger on the national political spectrum.

On the other hand Rick Perry vs. the World reports receiving this information via email:

The Ben Barnes story is totally phony. KBH hasn't talked to Barnes in months. He will not be doing any fundraising for her. This is a completely phony story, probably put out by Perry people to cast doubt on her Republican credentials.

We'll see how this all sorts out sooner or later, I suppose.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Goldilockboxes and the three bars

By Jim Dallas

Matt Yglesias:

Noam Scheiber observes that -- shockingly -- Charles Krauthammer's take on Social Security is shot-through with logical problems. On top of the problems in question, let's also note Krauthammer's commitment to the rightwing doctine of Currency Fictionalism:

Let's start with basics. The Social Security system has no trust fund. No lockbox. When you pay your payroll tax every year, the money is not converted into gold bars and shipped to some desert island, ready for retrieval when you turn 65.

By this standard, not only is my bond porfolio not real, my bank account isn't real, and, in fact, the cash in my pocket isn't real. The only "real" money, apparently, is stacks of gold bars. Now once upon a time, your U.S. currency was redeemable for gold bars and, thus, one might consider it real. Alternatively, perhaps U.S. currency in the gold standard days was a "mere I.O.U." Either way, we've been off the gold standard for some time now, and people would be alarmed to learn that this means their money is fake. Does the Post pay Krauthammer in dubloons? Do we need to revisit Krugman's "Goldbug Variations" from his good old days at Slate?

We know that Matt is a Harvard Man and a member of the coastal illuminati... etc., etc., but yes, Matt, you will. It was only four years ago, after all, that the Texas Republican Party endorsed abolishing the Federal Reserve and going back to the gold standard. You're going to have to explain this slowly and clearly, just so that reasonable people can understand just how insane that is. (The TxGOP has since moderated the language to "audits" of the Federal Reserve).

P.S. Gary Polland, who is a big whig and former county chair here in Houston, still adamantly supports returning the gold standard. Party like it's 1899!

Posted by Jim Dallas at 10:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

"Makeover" Proposed For Corporate Campaign Giving Laws

By Vince Leibowitz

A bi-partisan bill to prevent union and corporate money from being used in attack ads launched within 60 days of a general election--and require the disclosure of contributors to last-minute attacks--has recieved a warm welcome from watchdog groups but a lukewarm reception from some state officials, the Houston Chronicle reports.

The measure is sponsored by Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Galveston) and Rep. Todd Smith (R-Bedford), who say the bill will bring Texas law more in harmony with federal election laws.

The Chronicle notes Campaigns for People, Public Citizen, the AARP of Texas and other groups are already on record praising the proposal, including a lobbyist for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. [I had no idea the Baptist General Convention of Texas had lobbyists.]

The Chron notes:

The legislation would not eliminate issue ads that corporations buy, such as those by telephone companies seeking passage of a certain telecommunications bill in the Legislature. It also would not limit individual campaign donations to state campaigns, as some public interest organizations have sought. Limitation of Texas campaign contributions is a separate policy debate, Eiland said.

"We can't solve all the problems. We'll have a hard enough time trying to get this bill passed as it is," Eiland said.

Among the obstacles, he said, could be opposition from corporations who want to keep donating company money to politics instead of personal or political action committee money.

The ban on last-minute attack ads using the prohibited money would apply to electioneering that refers clearly to a candidate within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary and that targets the candidate's electorate. It would cover broadcast ads, mass mailings and telephone banks.

Now, ads are permitted if they don't use so-called magic words asking citizens to vote expressly "for" or "against" a candidate.

On a particularly interesting note, Smith says the legislation will cover the various types of ads aired in the Senate District 1 Special Election last spring, in which Rep. Tommy Merritt (R-Longview) was targeted as he ran against former Tyler Mayor and now State Senator Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler).

Merritt was attacked with "radio ads before the election from undisclosed corporate funds, Smith said. The ads asked listeners to call Merritt's office, not to vote against him."

Twenty-six other states have a ban on corporate and union campaign spending, Eiland said. Though Texas has one, the lawmakers evidently believe it needs clarification, though they aren't trying to impact or comment on a Travis County grand jury investigation into campaign spending in 2002 state legislative races and that their proposed law would only affect future elections.

Prosecutors are examining whether $2.5 million in corporate money was illegally funneled to Republican state House candidates.

Under the proposed legislation, non-administrative employees of companies could not be asked more than twice a year about donating to a corporation's political action committee.

Also, corporate money for PACs could be used only for specific administrative expenses, such as office space, computers and telephones. Disallowed expenses would include political consulting fees, telephone banks and political fundraising--some of the areas Texans for a Republican Majority tried to claim were "administrative" during the 2002 election.

The bill got mixed reception from the leadership in both chambers and from Perry.

House Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland, said he wasn't supporting or opposing the campaign finance bill. However, he said he believes there are problems with interpretations of the existing law.

Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (D-McAllen) and Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) are backing the proposal in the Senate, ahtough Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said he doesn't think a tightened ban on corporate and labor spending is needed.

And, even if the bill passes, Governor Perry could veto it. Perry spokesman Robert Black said the governor will take a "wait-and-see approach," but that he has always favored increased campaign disclosure.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 09:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Count Us In

By Jim Dallas

I think I speak for everyone here when I concur heartily with Kuff in endorsing the Count Every Vote Act.

(That said, we might not all agree in endorsing Senator Clinton in 2008; but this is now and that is then.)

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Man of the House; How Embarrassing

By Zach Neumann

I don’t know if any of you have been following this, but on Friday the Burnt Orange is going to be looking pretty bad. Why you ask? Because the administration decided that it would be in the best interests of the University to allow Tommy Lee Jones and Cedric the Entertainer to film a movie centered around the UT cheerleading squad. Though I haven’t done much plot research, I get the impression that the story is as follows: 1. UT cheerleaders witness a crime (a murder I think) 2. They are being threatened because they are witnesses 3. A gruff, yet kind hearted Tommy Lee Jones is assigned to protect them 4. Hilarity ensues. I know this provides publicity for UT, but at what cost?

Posted by Zach Neumann at 09:22 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

When Will Joe Nixon Learn To Shut Up?

By Vince Leibowitz

Remember Joe Nixon? One of Texas Monthly's "Worst Legislators" of the 2003 session?

Well, he's at it again. In spite of all of the flack he took for his own mold-settlement boondoggle, Moldy Joe is singing the praises of Texas' tort reform in the bastion of unbiased reporting on the insurance community, Insurance Journal:

Texas' landmark medical lawsuit reforms, passed just 18 months ago, are producing healthy benefits for the state's doctors, patients, hospitals and nursing homes, according to State Rep. Joe Nixon.

A Texas House panel recently heard several signs of improvement, including announcements that physicians are moving to Texas, especially in the most needed areas, and that two of the state's top insurers of physicians are cutting their rates and a third will be freezing its rates.

"Physician recruitment is up. Lawsuit filings are down. Texas patients are experiencing better access to health care and many doctors and hospitals are saving on their liability costs," noted Nixon, chairman of the House Committee on Civil Practices, in an announcement released by the Texas House.

Nixon worked for passage of the medical reform bill.

In what state do you live, Joe? How do you prove patients are "experiencing better access to healthcare? If physicians and hospitals are saving so much money because of tort reform, why don't you challenge them to take care of the 150,000 kids you kicked off the Children's Health Insurance Program for free? Surely, if they are experiencing such massive savings ($20 million for one hospital system?--read on), they should be able to do some charity work and help all the kids you, Arlene Wholgemuth and the rest of the anti-tax, anti-consumer, anti-poor people legislative crowd screwed, right? Or, perhaps, they should save that money for campaign contributions?

Also, I haven't heard a single doctor talk about lower liability costs until I read this industry propaganda. Why? Because, even though the amount paid out by insurers in settlements remained roughly the same from year to year (and there are statistics to prove this, I just can't find them on the web at the moment), they raised their rates anyway. Why? To make a profit. The need for "tort reform," was all smoke and mirrors built on one industry's flimsy excuses!

Yet, you continue to note:

"In the past 18 months the state has added 82 obstetricians, 94 internists, 35 neurosurgeons, and 475 family practice doctors. Some 47 new doctors have begun practice in Corpus Christi. That is a stark contrast to the 40 physicians they lost in the five previous years", noted Nixon.

Where did you get them stats, Joe? Maybe you got them from the Texas Department of Health (or whatever agency it's now under thanks to you and your buddies wonderful government reorganization back in '03). I couldn't find them. And, if these are official state stats, how do you know these aren't recent medical school grads from right here in Texas? Surely all these people didn't come to Texas to practice just because of Prop 12?

The article continues spewing forth:

American Physicians Exchange (APIE), the state's third largest insurer of physicians, told the House panel it will be reducing rates 5 percent for many obstetricians and surgeons effective May 1, 2005. An estimated 2,200 of the physicians insured by APIE will receive a rate reduction, saving doctors an estimated $3.5 million in future premiums. Likewise, The Doctors Company, the nation's leading physician-owned medical malpractice carrier, announced that they too will be implementing a May rate cut; with reductions ranging from 9 to14 percent.

According to the Texas Alliance For Patient Access, the announced rate cuts mean that Texas doctors will have seen their out-of-pocket insurance costs cut $41 million since the passage of medical liability reforms.

Texas Medical Liability Trust, which insures nearly half of the doctors in Texas against medical malpractice claims, has cut rates 17 percent since the passage of Proposition 12. GE Medical Protective, the state's second largest physician carrier, also announced it would not seek a rate increase this year. The company cited a reduction of claims and lawsuits as cause for the rate freeze.

"Medical malpractice filings in the state's most populous counties—Harris and Dallas-have been cut in half since the legislature placed a cap on pain and suffering-type damages", stated Nixon. In other counties, suits against doctors are down by two thirds. "In that doctors won 85 percent of all lawsuits filed against them, it is appropriate to see this reduction in filings against doctors," Nixon explained.

Ohhh! Five Percent! I'm positively giddy with the thought that my dad's urologist can buy a new coffee table for his waiting room with such massive savings! As for the other stuff, where do you get these stats? I've read many a "Texas Judicial System Annual Review" report over the years, and never once did I see a line item for "suits against doctors." Also, how in the hell do you figure that doctors "won" 85 percent of the suits against them? Did you just make this stuff up? Did you personally go to all 254 county courthouses in Texas and research this? Or are you just borrowing your stats from whatever lobbyist happens to be standing in the corridor when you leave the Capitol restroom holding a shiny binder? Furthermore, if the medical community won 85 percent of suits after Prop 12, they'd have likely won 85 percent before Prop 12, meaning there was no need for Prop 12 in the first place. If anything, the suits that were filed and made it to trial under the farce you call tort reform would have been more air-tight than anything filed before. Finally, could it be, if you are indeed correct about the reduction in number of lawsuits being filed, that more people are settling out of court before ever filing lawsuits? Sure, that may mean there are less lawsuits, but not less money going out the door for insurance companies.

And still more:

Thirteen new carriers are entering the Texas market, and existing ones are seeking new business, Jose Montemayor, the Texas Insurance Commissioner explained. "Competition is good for consumers and we believe this will translate into lower rates for the average doctor," he said. "The newcomers know that they will have to competitively price their policies and existing carriers will have to reduce their price to hold market share. Either way, doctors will benefit from this healthier and more competitive insurance market," said Montemayor.

"For the first time in years, Texas physicians can competitively shop their policies," said Nixon, noting that the number of doctors in the JUA, the state pool of last resort, has dwindled and two new carriers, Advocate MD of the Southwest and Medical Liability Insurance Company of America have begun aggressively competing for business. "Since January of last year 3,520 Texas physicians have opened new professional liability policies, Nixon said. "If combined into a single company, newly insured doctors would comprise the third largest grouping in the Texas physician market," he added.

Hospitals are finding healthy savings, as well. A year ago Texas hospitals were hit with an average 54 percent hike in their liability costs. This year, with a new damage cap in place these same hospitals are seeing their liability costs slashed 17 percent. "Most hospitals have had an easier time recruiting physicians because of the state's more favorable liability climate," Nixon said.

CHRISTUS Health is saving over $20 million this year from tort reform "and we have every reason to believe these savings will continue and, perhaps, even grow," said Randy Finley, director of risk management for the Catholic-owned hospital system.

Finley noted CHRISTUS is reinvesting their savings into the community and expanding their already high level of charity care. Finley reported that in CHRISTUS Spohn is building a new community clinic for the indigent and developing a diabetes excellence program in Corpus Christi. In other Texas hospitals, CHRISTUS will be launching training programs for nurses and issuing grants for innovative patient safety initiatives, he said.

"Increased access to health care was improved through the reduction in the number of lawsuits and lower rates," Nixon concluded. "More doctors are coming to Texas, and hospitals are expanding services. What we set out to achieve with House Bill 4 and Prop 12 is being achieved. Seldom is legislation this successful, and I couldn't be happier with the results of HB 4, " Nixon said.

You said it. Seldom is legislation successful. Just because these people talked a big game before the Holy Civil Practicies and Remedies Committee does not mean they're actually going to do what they said. Oh, and, by the way, if they don't, what are you going to do? Is "contempt of legislative committee" an offense in Texas?

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 04:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Southern Strategy

By Vince Leibowitz

The New Orleans Times-Picayune has an interesting article regarding Democratic party strategy and the South.

In particular, the article focuses on the desire of some Democrats to "write off" much of the South entirely.

The article notes:

With Republicans having tightened their grip on the region in 2004, some Democrats openly advocate writing off the 11 states of the Old Confederacy as a lost cause. But others are busy hatching plans to regain a footing in a region the party dominated for much of the 20th century.


Hewing to the adage that success in life mostly involves just showing up, Dean believes that visibility in the South is the key. He said in his DNC acceptance speech that he plans to replicate the success of his own Internet-powered, grass-roots fund-raising efforts and will hardwire a network of activists throughout the South. He also said he plans to spend a lot more time below the Mason-Dixon line.

"People will vote for Democrats in Texas, in Utah, in West Virginia if we knock on their doors," Dean said. "I believe more people are aligned with the beliefs of the Democratic Party than they are with the beliefs of the Republican Party."

That's a curious conclusion to draw judging by the most recent presidential election. In 2004, President Bush expanded his margin of victory in every Southern state except North Carolina, the home state of Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards. According to one post-election analysis, Bush won 85 percent of all Southern counties and 90 percent of those that have white majorities.

I think Dean's right about alignment of beliefs, but the people don't know it. Clearly, since the South is ripe with poverty, unemployment, and with states generally regarded as being some of those usually considered "near the bottom," in areas like healthcare, education, and what not, the average voter should realize that his or her beliefs, wants and needs are most clearly aligned with or will most likely be met by the Democratic Party. However, the "3 Gs," (gays, guns, God--not necessarily in that order) tend to shift those people over to the R's column on election day. And, he's right about people voting Democrat "if we knock on their doors." During the last election cycle, heavily Republican Smith County had more than 3,000 new Democratic voters for president than in the previous cycle--likely thanks to serious "knock and drag," efforts by the Congressional campaign of Max Sandlin--which I believe clearly had a role in the number of "up ballot" Democratic votes cast.

As for Bush winning 85 percent of the Southern counties, those stats are a little skewed. I'm not sure how many counties Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and the other Southern states have a piece, but Texas probably has at least one quarter--or perhaps more--of all the counties in the South within its borders. With this being the home state of Bush, it's no surprise that many of our counties went Bush. So, that "85 percent," stat is probably a little misleading. And, even in the President's home state, we had counties like Hays County which made tremendous gains and Rockwall County--a huge GOP stronghold which also made good gains in terms of numbers of new Democratic voters over 2000.

The article continues:

The news doesn't get any better for Democrats as they glance down the ballot. All five retiring Democratic senators from the South, including Louisiana's John Breaux, had their seats claimed by Republicans in 2004. And University of Maryland political scientist Thomas Schaller said even Democrats' once-solid grip on statehouses in the South has loosened. In state legislative races in the region last year, Democrats lost 36 House seats and 11 Senate seats, he said.

Schaller, a Democrat, said the party should fold its tent and abandon the South. That's essentially what Democratic nominee John Kerry did in the 2004 presidential contest, pulling campaign finances from every Southern state except Florida after Labor Day to boost his campaign operations in other parts of the country.

Though the "36 House seats and 11 State Senate seats," sounds pretty dire, Texas alone lost at least half that number of house seats in 2002, after redistricting. Plus, he's made no allowances for competitive races--like several we had in Texas but didn't result in Democratic victories. And, there is no mention that in the GOP stronghold of Texas, we actually gained more seats (one) in the House than we have in more than a decade. Schaller also doesn't evidently turn his eye to some statewide races in which Democrats were competitive (and perhaps more competitive than they were in recent years) even though they didn't win.

Too, in Texas, in races that could and should have been much closer like the Glaze/Hughes race in HD 5, where "independent voters" who would have voted for Bush but for downballot Dems like Sandlin, Nickerson or Hughes, we had the GOP sending out mailers coupling their GOP opponents with President Bush and intimating that if a voter was voting for Bush, they should also be voting for the other guys with their smiling faces right along his. If a marketing study were done on this, you'd better believe this does alter voting patterns.

As for "folding our tents and abandoning the South," that's a pretty dumb idea--and certainly not a way to regain control of statehouses, much less put Southern electoral votes in the Democratic column come November, 2008.

The entire reason the South is in the shape it is in is because the national party--though it didn't fold its tent, did evidently put up a big "out to lunch" sign, resulting in us being written off when it comes to national campaigns. Remember that national campaigns often generate the momentum necessary to win or make competitive down-ballot races. When Southern Democrats know that their vote in a Presidential election has no impact whatsoever, there is at least some desire among a select portion of the voting age populous not to bother to go to the polls at all. Too, keep in mind that (at least in my experience), most people who are going to vote for a Democrat for President in the South are going to vote a straight Democratic ticket.


Schaller said the party should attempt to portray Republicans as the "Party of the South," in a negative sense. He would attempt to tar the GOP with the South's legacy of opposition to civil rights and remind voters elsewhere that some Southerners are still fighting over displaying the Confederate flag.

"Don't conservatives talk about Democrats as Northeastern liberals?" Schaller said.

Schaller said Democrats could make some inroads in the South if voting districts with black majorities were redrawn to make them more racially diverse. Some, he said, are 70 to 80 percent African-American, which virtually ensures minority representation from those areas in Congress but stifles black turnout for what are frequently uncontested races. With more than 90 percent of African-Americans voting for Democrats in many elections, Schaller said it takes a toll, albeit an indirect one, on Democrats running statewide.

I'm not sure how the "Party of the South" argument would really work, and I'm not sure it's worth a try, either. The good folks who go to the honky-tonk on Saturday and then sit in a Baptist church on Sunday morning are so easily brainwashed with "moral" issues (abortion, etc.) that we could do everything possible to point Republican hypocricies (and, by the way, using "the GOP voted against Civil Rights" as a "wedge issue" in the South is still about 15 years ahead of its time--the generation who wouldn't vote for Ron Kirk because he's black and Tony Sanchez because he was Latino is still alive) and still not come out ahead.

Until we're able to reframe the debate on abortion and the "Three G's," and discipline our candidates from the top down to deliver the party's message consistently in that regard, we could have some trouble. Reframing the debate--especially over abortion--is essential to our survival in the South. The debate has to shift from "baby killers" vs. "The Godly Saints of Christianity" to "government telling you what you can and cannot do with your own body" vs. "the people who think they know what's best for your uterus". And, this is where Democrats--especially in Texas and at all levels--fail miserably. Dozens of Democrat I've heard on the stump or in a debate have botched questions about this that they should have been able to answer better. Instead of answering with a "it is not the government's place to decide what's best for a woman, period," they go into long, drawn-out, spiels about "I'm a Christian and I don't believe in abortion but..." and end with either a "if we make them illegal we'll have people in back alleys with coat hangers" argument, or a "that's what the Supreme Court says we've got to do, and I'll uphold the law if I'm elected," type argument. Both are no-gos, period.

Too, far too many Democratic candidates want to get off the issue quickly and say something like, "What I want to focus on is all the kids without healthcare, etc.," while Republican candidates will use all of their alloted time talking about the evils of abortion. We look like we're running from a question where we should be standing our ground. It wouldn't hurt for us to point out that this isn't a "religious" issue, it's a constitutional issue.

Anyway, more from the TP:

The candidate doesn't have to come from the South, but in the words of North Carolina political consultant Mac McCorkle, "It sure helps."

McCorkle said Clinton was successful in the South--he captured five Southern states in his two campaigns--not simply because he hailed from Arkansas, but because he had his regional bona fides in order.

"He could sing 'Amazing Grace' without looking at the hymnal," McCorkle said. "The candidate has to look comfortable with the traditions and the culture of the South. If he does, people will give him room to maneuver even if he's not from there."

Makes sense, but I don't think that's all of it. I think message had more to do with it. And, inasmuch as I've become no fan of the DLC message of late (I guess I'm getting more liberal, if that's possible), I do think it was the message that put Clinton over the top. After all, though he may have been able to sing 100 hymns verse by vers sans a hymnal, Hillary, sadly, was no help to him here. She was bashed relentlessly, and not just for the infamous "cookies and tea" remark. And, likely as Teresa Heinz Kerry did to her husband, it cost Clinton votes. (Yes, no one likes to admit that a politician's spouse could cost him votes, but remember, sometimes voters do make up their minds based on strange things).

More from the article:

A key to Democratic acceptance, strategists say, is not alienating Southerners on social issues. At a conference in Atlanta in 2003 called "God, Guns and Guts," the Democratic Leadership Council counseled Democrats to embrace what it called "values centrism."

Will Marshall, president of the Leadership Council's think tank, said Republicans have been successful at framing issues such as gun control, abortion and affirmative action in a way that puts Democrats on the defensive. He said Democrats shouldn't avoid those issues, but rather change the terms of debate.

[HEY! I just said that!]

Democrats should acknowledge a constitutional right to bear arms, he said, but emphasize the need for responsibility in owning guns and the need for better enforcement of gun laws. And whatever you do, he said, don't be snooty.

What the hell is "values centrism?" Sounds like an herbal supplement you get at 7-11. Seriously, though, while some of that is perhaps appropriate (if we look at the country as a whole, the majority do fall in the "middle," and not necessarily on the far left or (we hope to God) on the far right. We've also done exactly what he said about guns. Clinton did it. It's already been done, and proven to work.

But, do we go so far as selling out everything our party stands for to be adopt an attitude of "values centrism?" I think not. The Republican Party is a prime example of why such selling-out is a bad, bad idea. A lot of rank-and-file, non-radical-right-wing Republicans I talk to recall a time a few decades ago when their party focused on things like budgets and stuff, and not the fire-and-brimstone, Pat Robertson-esque garbage they're focusing on now. Why did they change? Because they knew playing on religious values would get them more voters.

Should we change because we know it's going to get us more votes?

The jury's still out on that one. Do we sacrifice to be able to serve, and ultimately do more good in the long run? I mean, Clinton ran on the DLC platform, and still did more good (and promoted liberal ideas after getting in office) than Reagan, Bush I, Bush II, and perhaps even Carter combined. After all, a lot of Democrats in Texas already do this by necessity. You run to the right of the middle and go to Austin or DC and come back with a voting record that gets you hammered come November because, by God, you voted your consience, your party and what's really best for the people you represent.

Vince Leibowitz is County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 02:45 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

SG/Senate Issues Again!

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I got the greatest letter today from SG President Brent Chaney, one of those so called "inside circle" memos that the Texan talked about last week. It is in regards to the Voting Student on the Board of Regents issue which was been discussed here and here before.

The letter is awesome (Brent could be a blogger) and I suggest you read it in full if you like UT stuff.

Hey Everyone,

The last UT System Student Advisory Council Meeting was held on Friday and Saturday before making our recommendations at the May Board of Regents Meeting. It is important you know what happened because students were poorly represented again.

Day One:

I arrived Friday afternoon having already sent in the Voting Student Regent letter to all of the members receiving only an e-mail from Nick saying it looked good. The meeting had been going on for three hours and Nick [Staha, Senate of College Councils chair] still had not shown up leaving UT Austin represented by only me. I finally called him and he said he was sleeping. Nick came to the meeting only to block the letter from leaving his committee. I was glad I called to remind him of the meeting while he was sleeping.

The current Chair and Advisor for UTSSAC moved the letter away from my committee and gave it to Nick’s committee. Of course I had a problem with this and protested, but they insisted citing that Nick’s committee had very few recommendations (They actually had the most recommendations). Nick’s committee dropped the letter. I was not allowed there or to have any say.

Then nominations for next years UTSSAC exec begins. The UT Tyler President and I were nominated for Chair. Nick was nominated for Administrative Assistant and Vice Chair. The problem with two UT Austin students getting recommended is that next year there would be no new members from UT Austin because there can only be two representatives from each component school. I shared with Nick that I would resign if we both were elected because I believe there needs to be new blood on the council every year. He disagreed strongly and said we can both serve without a problem.

Day Two:
The committees give their reports to the greater body to be voted on. Everything went smoothly until the Student Regent recommendation came up. Once again Nick spoke out against it, at one time calling it “crazy.” I offered to fix wording if needed, but Nick continued his crusade against it. The time for voting comes and the adviser deems a student body president ineligible because he is doing an internship in Austin and is not full time at his University. He also disqualifies the other representatives from that school because he says the president of their University had not officially named them to be on the council. The student body president and vice president from UT El Paso did not show up. They were all very much for a student regent.

The time for voting comes and the Administrative Assistant on Exec calls for a secret vote. I challenge the secret vote on the grounds that one person should not be able to make that decision. The Chair conveniently had the page already turned in front of him and read the rule for me. A number of Student Body Presidents then made motions that the vote not be secret and the Chair ignored the motion due to the secret ballot papers already being passed around. There went accountability. Student Regent lost by a vote of 10-9 with one abstention with a secret ballot.

It was sad to see the interests of students of our University and the system get thrown away by ridiculous arguments. Nick is quoted in today’s Texan citing the reason why he was against it that “Most that voted thought getting a student as a member on the board was a good idea but not for us to ask the regents to do something that was illegal” It is amazing how asking the Board of Regents to write a letter of support for a student being on the Board of Regents is illegal, but the tax-free textbook recommendation which pointed out certain bills that the Regents should support had nothing wrong with it. Nick is wrong.

The elections for Exec happened next. Nick was also nominated for Chair. I was elected Chair and will serve the students of our System next year. UTSSAC will not have anymore secret ballots or misappropriated recommendations. If you have any questions about what happened please let me know. Students deserve better.

For those wondering about a Voting Student Regent, this will not slow anything down. One student from our University will not ruin what everyone else believes in. The students of UT System are for a Voting Student Regent. UT Austin will continue to take the lead for student representation.

I hope you all had a great weekend and as always please let me know if there is anything I can help with.


Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 12:27 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 20, 2005

Geez, those PowerLineBlog Republicans are real A**holes

By Byron LaMasters

Read this and you'll see why.

Update: I've been asked to note, via email, that the blogger in question, John Hinderaker has apologized for the email in this post here. It's clearly written to try and shift the blame back to his opponents on the left, but it's an apology nonetheless.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NAES: 63 percent of Texas voters are not Republicans

By Jim Dallas

State-by-state breakdowns of Party ID from the 2004 National Annenberg Election Survey.

The Texas GOP did have a seven point advantage in party-ID, however. This is roughly equivalent to the distribution in Arizona or Indiana.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:08 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Jerry Brown Has A Blog?

By Vince Leibowitz

I can't remember now how I stumbled across the link, but it seems that Oakland Mayor, former California Governor, and several-time Democratic Presidential Candidate Jerry Brown has a blog.

It's a Typepad blog, is pretty plain-jane and only has two posts. But, it is interesting that public officials are taking to the Blogsphere.

My question is why don't more elected officials have blogs? Maybe they should read this article on how blogs could be used to better inform their constituents.

Of course, the problem with any elected official writing anything is that their staff usually will end up writing it for them. However, with Brown's blog, I thought surely he must have done it himself, or else it might have been a little more flashy.

Even if written by "staff," blogging would be a good thing for the Texas Lege. Except for press releases and lots of stats, most of their websites are pretty useless. At least one Rep has already attempted to harness the power of blogs, Rep. Aaron Pena.

I mean, seriously, if you've ever been in the gallery of the Texas House or Senate you know there is a lot of "down time," so to speak. So, why not sit there and send your constituents a little note about what you're doing, via blog. Or, heck, "liveblog" some of that lovely debate such as we witnessed in 2003 over tort reform.

If I was in the lege, I'd tend to try to throw some humor into my blog, and would then probably get screwed come election time after the opponent's consultants sent out a mailer with what I wrote. For example, if I were in the House, I might write...

We're having some debate on HB 111111 today. It's rather amusing. I stopped listening to the Republicans an hour ago, because their arguments are all the same. Betty Brown broke her heel on the way up to the well of the House. Poor, Betty. We all laughed. I'm glad she is OK though. She could have sprained something. And Speaker Craddick looks like he used a little too much hairspray this morning. Can you believe Texas Monthly put him on the cover? Does he really have that much power? Also, did you know they have little "cartons" of Blue Bell Ice Cream in the lounge like we used to get in school? I've eaten 10 already today and it's only 1:30. One of the perks of being in the Legislature. Oh, and today I filed a bil to dismantle Governor Perry's Economic Development "slush fund." More on that later. Oh, wait...we're going to either vote on something or adjourn for lunch or something. Oh, but before I go, what is with all those people in the gallery today? Someone dropped a cell phone from the gallery on down to the house floor. But one of those guys in blue jackets snatched it up the minute it hit the floor. How amusing. Remember, folks in HDXX, if you bring your cell phones into the gallery, don't lean over the railing while holding it in your hand. You're just asking for an accident. I'll be back in the district this weekend and having lunch at the local BBQ place on Sunday, so everyone come by and see me, ya' hear?!

Well, I probably wouldn't blog anything quite like that (then again, maybe I would), but you get my point. By the way, all of that is fictious except the thing about the Blue Bell Ice Cream and the cell phone. My State Representative told me that about the Blue Bell a couple of years ago, and I thought it was neat. But, the stuff isn't free. I think they have to pay like a quarter for it or something. As for the cell phone thing, I saw it happen on the floor, but of the Senate, back in 2003 when I was on the floor where the "credentialed media" congregate during Van Zandt County Days.

Seriously, though, who in the Blogsphere can't see the potential for the state of Texas buying a giant MT license package and letting every state-level elected official have a blog? Supreme Court Justices! Railroad Commissioners! The Speaker! Heck, MT might even give it to the state gratis just for all the publicity they'd get.

Now, think what would happen if every member of the Lege had a web cam attached to those handy little laptops on their desk. Oohhh, the possibilities...

Vince Leibowitz is County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 01:48 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 19, 2005

Sin Taxes & What You Could Buy With Your "Tax Relief"

By Vince Leibowitz

An increased cigarette tax, one of the "ultimate sin taxes," Texas could impose to raise revenue for public school education, was the hot topic at the House Ways and Means Committee meeting Thursday.

The proposed $1.00 per pack increase could bring in as much as $800 million in additional revenue per year.

Naturally, folks on both sides of the issue liked up to testify:

Opponents, such as tobacco giants R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, have hired lobbyists to make their cases. They argue that the higher tax would fuel an already lucrative smuggling market, increase Internet sales and would drive Texas smokers to neighboring states and Mexico to buy cheaper cigarettes.

With a $1 per pack increase, the price of a carton of cigarettes would be $35 cheaper in Mexico than in Texas, according to Philip Morris.

"This incentive for smokers to buy their cigarettes from neighboring states and Mexico could lead to a negative impact on excise tax-sensitive businesses," said Jamie Drogin, a Philip Morris spokeswoman.

But advocates of the measure, such as the coalition Texans Investing in Healthy Families, say the tax would persuade smokers in Texas to quit and discourage teenagers from ever lighting up. The group is made up of the Texas PTA — a child advocacy organization of parents and teachers — the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society, among other groups.

They also argue that fewer smoking Texans would translate into a decrease in health-care costs for the state. In the first five years of an increased tax, the state would see $90 million in health-care cost savings, McGoldrick said.

The current cigarette tax is 41 cents, and a $1-per-pack increase would make cigarettes more expensive in Texas than in any other border state.

Cigarette makers argued that a tobacco tax is not a stable revenue source because it will decline as the number of smokers dwindles. But proponents say the anticipated revenue decrease has been factored in to their revenue projections.

A tentative plan filed last month to pay for an overhaul of the public school finance system includes the $1 per pack increase in cigarette taxes. But the author of the plan, Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, cautioned that the bill probably would change significantly before it gets a vote.

A cigarette tax also was included as an option in the Senate school funding plan, but specifics were not addressed.

Far be it for me to agree with the filthy cigarette lobby, but it seems they may be right: it's not a stable revenue source.

Not only would the revenue from the tax go down as more Texans stop smoking, but revenue would also decrease in tough economic times when Texans have less disposable income to spend on the nicotine delivery devices of choice.

And, on the subject of taxation, the El Paso Times had an interesting article which noted:

Plenty of ideas are floating around the Capitol, but little consensus has formed other than broad agreement that school property taxes must be reduced by about one-third. The average El Pasoan with an $83,000 house would save $340 a year in lower school property taxes.

My question is, how do you consider $340 a year tax relief?

Sure, in every single poll that comes along, everyone says they want "tax relief." But, let's be realistic (and I think may be making an argument of Ben Barnes' here, but couldn't find reference to where I thought it was online, so bear with my version of it): if Texans knew how little tax relief they'd actually recieve, and what good that money could do, wouldn't they just say "to hell with that?"

Let's see. $340 dollars of tax relief. What can you do with that, especially when it's not really a savings you "see" in your pocket like your IRS refund? You could:

•Pay part of your car/house payment, or all of it if you have cheap car payments, for one month.
•Buy roughly 194 gallons of unleaded gas at $1.75 a gallon. Let's say your car tank holds 12 gallons of gas, and that translates to about 16 tanks of gas--per year.
•Pay about half of the cost of one semster hour ($743)at the University of Texas at Austin--if your child only takes 1-3 semsters of coursework. (Byron & Karl, correct me if I'm wrong on this one)
•Add about $6.50 to your grocery budget, per week, for 52 weeks. Just about enough to buy both a gallon of milk and a bottle of soda.
•Pay your utility bills for 1 and a half months--if your utility bills are only $220 per month.
•Buy about seven tires, if tires for your car cost $49 dollars.
•Pay for you to buy one daily newspaper per day, for 365 days, if that newspaper costs only $.50, and leave you with $157.50 to spend on magazines. So, if you buy a paper a day and the average magazine costs about $3.50, you could buy about 45 magazines--less than one per week for 52 weeks.

Of course, those are just some numbers I crunched on my handy calculator, so they aren't nearly as sophisticated as anything anti-tax advocates would use. I just thought it would be interesting to illustrate exactly what $340 could buy, since the figure was thrown out there.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 09:59 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Jennifer Kim wins Firefighters Endorsement

By Byron LaMasters

It's not as big as the Central Labor Council endorsement of Gregg Knaupe, but the endorsement of Jennifer Kim by the Austin Association of Professional Firefighters gives her some momentum in the race.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Medical Marijuana Bill has Bipartisan Support

By Byron LaMasters

The Dallas Morning News reports:

Two Republican House chairmen and a Democrat have filed legislation that would give patients... protection [from drug charges]. It would also clear the way for physicians to discuss marijuana with patients.

Despite years of resistance by lawmakers to pass such legislation, proponents say they have hope now for two reasons: a well-organized grassroots movement and a battery of studies and polls in their corner.

A recent Scripps Howard Texas poll showed 75 percent of Texans in favor of medical marijuana. The American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine have endorsed it. Ten states have passed similar laws. And the year-old Texans for Medical Marijuana claims 7,500 members, including doctors, preachers and patients.

The bill's author, Austin Democratic Rep. Elliott Naishtat, said the bill could also find a Senate sponsor for the first time.

"I've never used an illegal drug in my life," said Rep. Suzanna Gratia Hupp, R-Lampasas, chairwoman of the House Human Services Committee and a joint author of the bill, "but God forbid any of my loved ones contract some dreaded disease, and if a doctor tells me that may make a difference in the final outcome, I'd be on the street in a heartbeat looking for it. ... And how dare a legislator be willing to stand in the way of that?" [...]

A similar bill sponsored by House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Chairman Terry Keel, R-Austin, didn't make it out of his own committee in 2001.

But the issue's political and social stigma is starting to fade, he said.

The Texas Medical Association last year said doctors should be allowed to discuss all treatment options with their patients, including marijuana. But the group stopped short of endorsing the legislation.

"With each passing year, there's a better chance for it," said Mr. Keel, another sponsor of the current bill.

Science and medicine are increasingly on the side of proponents of this bill and medical marijuana. Any bill that can get the support of ideological opposites such as Elliott Naishtat and Suzanna Gratia Hupp has a shot. We'll have to watch to progress of this bill.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Smoking Petition / City Council Politics

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The Daily Texan Reports today that the Austin Smoking Ban Petition is on the edge of making on the ballot.

The campaign filed 36,000 signatures, though not all of them counted, missing the mark and only hitting 33,438 of the 36,764 required signatures. Much of this is being supported by the various Health and Cancer groups and societies AMA, Texas Lung Assoc., etc.

Now it is true that Austin political guru Glen Maxey has been aiding this campaign and usually gets petitions on the ballot when he tries. The problem this time was not that Glen didn't do it, but rather that Glen wasn't primarily in charge of getting the job done until late in the game. But I would not be surprised if he managed to pull another 3000 signatures out of the air this weekend (if he hasn't already collected them over the past week or so).

So assuming, that, we head off into the debate over whether or not the City of Austin needs a stronger smoking ban like El Paso or New York City (heck, I think Fredericksburg's is close to being that tough).

It's an issue that will split Liberals along personal freedom / public health lines and could very well play into the city council race. Ruminations have it that the Margot Clarke campaign could come out for it should it make it on the ballot (which wouldn't surprise me since Maxey's is one of her consultants and it would play well with her base turnout groups- Central and South Austin progressives).

I'm already fairly sure that the Gregg Knaupe campaign will be against it considering Mr. Vice President of Public Affairs for the Texas Hospital Association's consulting group seems to be heading up the Anti-Ban forces. As one of the members of the new Travis County Hospital District Steering Committee, it must make things more difficult because there is a very convincing case for either side, which may be why candidates are hoping that it just doesn't make it on the ballot to begin with.

Just as a side note, since it has been on my mind...and believe me, I'll write another City Council entry very soon about all the candidates so don't feel like I'm singling anyone out. It's just that the Knaupe campaign has been very aggressive in positioning itself and I wouldn't be surprised to see them in a runoff and they have a blog, so well, I spend some time on their site.

Though I'm sure that working for the Texas Hospital Association is a nice plus on the résumé, and that Knaupe isn't tied to their political expenditures departments... but since I did a study last semester on Proposition 12 related PAC donations to the Texas Legislature following the 2002 election through 2003...

HOSPAC (Texas Hospital Association PAC)

Total Donations (House): $47,700
-Republicans: $40,350
-Democrats: $7,350
-Avg. Republicans: $1,187
-Avg. Democrats: $735

HOSPAC was one of the heavy hitters in the Pro-Prop 12 Coalition (with 4 of the 10 Democrats they donated to voting for the enabling legislation, HJR 3) which Travis County gave a 62% NO vote to.

I mean, if it was my candidate, and most of the politically active people that vote in City Council elections are also the types that drag their butts out to vote in Constitutional Amendment elections, and maybe, just maybe associate the Texas Hospital Association with something bad rather than good.... I might stop mentioning it.

Otherwise snarky bloggers will write posts like this.

If you want the actual data I collected in reference to this, it is all available here in excel.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 01:50 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Row Boat Veterans for Truth

By Jim Dallas


Steve Clemons, on his excellent Washington Note blog, noted a poll this week pitting president number 43 and president number 1:

The C.V. Starr Center for the American Experience at Washington College, founded in 1782 and located in Chestertown, Maryland, just released this interesting polling data and comment:

If George Washington returned from the dead and attempted to recapture the presidency of the United States, he would beat the incumbent President Bush by nearly 20 percentage points, according to a new national poll conducted for Washington College by the public affairs research firm of Schulman, Ronca & Bucuvalas, Inc. Asked to choose between George Washington and George W. Bush, Republicans in the survey supported Bush by a margin of more than 2 to 1, while Democrats and independents overwhelmingly favored Washington.

Apparently because the American people don't know the real truth about George Washington:

While most Americans remember the myth of the cherry tree, fewer and fewer Americans under the age of 50 can identify any of the pertinent facts of his life. And let's face it, "First in war, first in peace, and seventh in the hearts of his countrymen," doesn't sound very impressive.

Indeed it doesn't. Let's remember that George Washington was a big government tax-and-spend "elitist" flip-flopper who married a wealthy widow, who claims to have seen real combat. Sure, his supporters might try to claim he's likable and not boring, but what do they know?

P.S. Seems like somebody beat me to this punchline. But they don't have my pictures of Hanoi George.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:55 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 18, 2005

Richard Raymond Running for Congress

By Byron LaMasters

State Rep. Aaron Peña (D-Edinburg) writes on his blog:

Today's story is a juicy one. Richard Raymond is running for Congress. Richard will be challenging Henry Cuellar for the Laredo/San Antonio seat, CD 28. No, Richard has not announced but you can trust me on this one.

Via Latinos for Texas blog and Kuff.

CD28 is currently represented by Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) who defeated the incumbent Ciro Rodriguez (D-San Antonio) in the 2004 Democratic primary. The district changed dramatically in redistricting - changing from an urban Bexar County district to a district stretching from the urban areas of San Antonio and Laredo with rural counties in between. Cuellar won the contested election by a few hundred votes with a huge turnout out of Laredo, and a relatively low turnout out of San Antonio.

Cuellar endorsed George W. Bush for President in 2000 and served as Secretary of State under Governor Rick Perry. I would support either Richard Raymond or Ciro Rodriguez in a primary against Cuellar. Raymond was one of the "Killer D" leaders in 2003 and previously ran for Land Commissioner, losing to David Dewhurst in 1998. Rodriguez formerly served as Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and had a strongly Democratic voting record in Congress. CD 28 is solidly Democratic.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:13 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Perry Approval at 51%

By Byron LaMasters

Which is the best it's been in three years! That makes sense to me - for the first time in about three years, Governor Perry has gone several months without saying or doing anything remarkably stupid. Congrats, Guv!

I don't have the full poll, but here's what I've managed to dig out of several articles. The poll - a "survey of 1,000 adults was conducted Jan. 27-Feb. 14 by the Scripps Research Center and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points".

President Bush: Approve 61%, Disapprove 33%
Laura Bush: Approve 81%
Gov. Perry: Approve 51% (73% among Republicans), Disapprove 33%
Lt. Gov. Dewhurst: Approve 46%, Disapprove 17%
Sen. Hutchison: Approve 72% (85% among Republicans), Disapprove 17%
Sen. Cornyn: Approve 49%, Disapprove 16%
Comptroller Strayhorn: Approve 53%, Disapprove 16%
Speaker Craddick: Approve 36%, Disapprove 17%

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:38 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

That Jeff Gannon thing...

By Byron LaMasters

I finally decided that I should at least make a mention of the story that has taken the lefty blogosphere by storm this past week. For those that haven’t followed the story, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version. Jeff Gannon, the "White House Correspondent" for the right-wing news website Talon News asked President Bush a loaded softball question at his press conference last month (... how can you reach out to Senate Democrats when they have divorced themselves from reality?). The question prompted Democratic bloggers to investigate as to who exactly is Jeff Gannon, and what the heck is Talon News?

Well, it turns out the Jeff Gannon’s real name was James Dale Guckert, Gannon is gay, owned the website hotmilitarystud.com among others, had profiles at several gay escort sites including an active one, and had dozens of nude pictures of himself taken for those profiles (details here). Also read the Washington Post story for an overview of the matter.

Among articles written by Gannon include an October 2004 article entitled; "Kerry could become first gay president" – designed to demonstrate John Kerry’s pro-GLBT record in a highly unflattering manner to the conservative readers of Talon News.

To me, there are two key issues at stake here...

First, is of the hypocrisy of Jeff Gannon / James Guckert. It’s utterly disgusting that a closeted gay man (gay escort at that) used anti-gay scare tactics to advocate for the election of President Bush. I have mixed feelings about public outings of closeted gay people, and of delving into the personal lives of public figures in general. Gay public officials and opinion leaders who choose to remain closeted, but who do not take anti-gay positions, or use anti-gay scare tactics should have their privacy respected. However, complete hypocrites like Jeff Gannon should and ought to be exposed for what they are – Uncle Tom’s and whores.

Second, and much more critically is the issue of how Jeff Gannon got access to the White House and to the president. On one level, I disagree to an extent with many others who have written on the topic. The fact that Gannon worked for a right-wing website, or wasn’t a true "reporter" doesn’t bother me too much on the surface. The media is evolving, and non-traditional sources of media are on the rise. I would one day like to see a media culture where the leaders of the blogosphere – both left and right – such as DailyKos, Atrios, PowerLineBlog and Instapundit would have the opportunity to ask questions of the president. The key issues should be balance, creditability and transparency. There should be relative ideological balance among people able to participate in presidential press conferences, those people should have creditability among their peers, and there should be full transparency to the public of who has access to the president. Unfortunately, there's much more to the story.

Not only did Jeff Gannon use a pseudonym, but he received press credentials before becoming a reporter for Talon News. This is where the Bush administration must be held accountable. Does a reporter using a pseudonym approach the level of creditability expected of reporters that cover the president? What security measures and background checks were in place? How did a man not affiliated with ANY news organization receive access to the president and the president’s spokesman? Were Jeff Gannon and Talon News involved with the leaking of the identity of Valerie Plame? Was there any relationship between the White House and Jeff Gannon – financial or otherwise? With the recent revelations that the Bush administration paid reporters to promote their agenda, it is certainly reasonable to conclude that there might have been some sort of arrangement between the White House and Jeff Gannon. Democrats in Congress and the mainstream media must demand answers to these questions.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:33 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

A Gas Tax Increase?

By Byron LaMasters

This Houston Chronicle article yesterday spurred quite a reaction among Texas blogs:

Gov. Rick Perry indicated Wednesday that he is receptive to finding a back-door approach, keyed to inflation, for raising state gasoline taxes. [...]

The idea of tying the gasoline tax to an inflation index was broached Tuesday by Speaker Tom Craddick. Perry said the proposal is "an interesting idea."

The tax, which has been set at 20 cents per gallon since 1991, will raise almost $3 billion this year, but it hasn't kept pace with the increasing costs of building and maintaining highways. Texas' gasoline tax rate is midrange among states.

Three-fourths of Texas' gasoline tax revenue is dedicated by the state constitution to highways and one-fourth to public education.

Both Perry and Craddick indicated that any increase would be limited, at least initially.

State Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said he is trying to draft legislation to tie the gasoline tax to a highway construction cost index or something similar. [...]

Dick Lavine, an analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities... said the gasoline tax is regressive. The increase, he said, would disproportionately hit poorer Texans harder because gasoline consumption is not a function of wealth.

"No matter how rich you are, you really don't drive that much farther than the average person," Lavine said.

Kuff says that it's an "idea to consider", while Greg and Save Texas Reps are decidedly negative to the idea. Rick Perry vs. the World on the other hand, takes a look at the proposal in the context of the looming GOP primary for Governor, while In the Pink, Texas offers up a laugh.

My two cents on the idea? Frankly, I think that increasing the gas tax is a good idea for Texas. Texas has by far the most highway mileage of any state in the country, so one might think that we'd have a high gas tax in order to maintain that structure - well, no. Texas 's twenty cent gas tax ranks us #36 in the nation. On the other hand the three other "megastates", New York, California and Florida rank first, third and eighth in their gas tax respectively ($0.392, $0.359, and $0.306).

I generally oppose regressive taxation, but there's a very clear differentiation between gambling and a gas tax. Whereas gambling has negative social effects, a gas tax has positive ones. Higher taxes on gasoline discourage driving, encourage public transportation and carpooling, and reduce pollution and traffic congestion. Also, as far as regressive taxes go, a gasoline tax is less regressive than most. Low income people are more likely to use public transportation, whereas high-income folks are more likely to drive gas-guzzling SUVs. All in all, a gas tax increase wouldn't be my first choice, but of the options that have been seriously considered thus far, it's definitely one of the better ones.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Greg Moses on Andy Taylor's Law License

By Byron LaMasters

Greg Moses of the Texas Civil Rights Review tells us that Andy Taylor's Law License Should be revoked:

Andy Taylor's double bad faith counts as a Civil Rights infringement in two ways. First, it was an effort to criminalize voters of color by deliberately overlooking exculpatory evidence on the record. Second, it counts as a bad faith effort to overturn the election of a candidate of color. Going after voters of African descent in an effort to unseat a candidate of Vietnamese descent, accusing all parties of fraud when your own evidence indicates they have done nothing wrong, this is offensive, outrageous, indecent, and should cost Andy Taylor his license to practice law in Texas.

Read the rest.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:39 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 17, 2005

Something Stirs in Mordor

By Jim Dallas

Chris Elam informs us that Dark Lord Sauron Tom DeLay may be on the move.

Looks like Frodo failed... again. (It's an old UD joke).

Hat Tip to Kevin at blogHouston.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 04:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Social Conservatives and the Income Tax

By Andrew Dobbs

Note: Nothing I express here should be interpreted in any way to represent the views of the Texas Democratic Party, its chairman, staff, officers, executive committee or contractors. These are my views, and my views only.

Thought I should put that up there because I'm about to grab onto the third rail of Texas politics- the income tax.

Let's start out by laying out the things everyone agrees on. Texas schools need more money. Property taxes are too high on too many Texas families and with caps in place, there is no where local districts can turn for money. State taxes today do not give us enough to even maintain services, let alone add in new ones for education, child protective services, health care and so on. Even with changes in the franchise tax or some tinkering with property taxes, we won't have enough, so some other source of revenue will be needed.

So those are the things people can agree on, and the controversy lies at what other revenue sources will be used. Right now the only thing that has been seriously offered up is expansion of casino gambling. House Speaker Pro Tem Sylvester Turner (DINO-Houston) has filed a bill that would allow VLTs (Video Lottery Terminals- a fancy word for slot machines) at horse tracks, greyhound tracks, Indian reservations and 9 "VLT Centers" (read: casinos) around the state. It was nice for one of Craddick's favorite Democrats to offer up this bill, as it gives Texas GOP Chairwoman Tina Benkiser the ability to bash the bill as a "corrupt Democrat scheme" even while the leaders of her party are pushing it through the lege. But gambling failed in the special session on school finance because a large part of the GOP is so intensely opposed to the idea- social conservatives see it as sinful. Now a large number of liberal Democrats are joining them as new studies on the state lottery find out that the poorest Texans are the most likely to play the numbers, making it what we told them in would be- a tax on the poor (and by we, I mean Democrats, not me as I was a child when the lottery was introduced).

Anyways, gambling is not acceptable to social conservatives, but something's gotta give. Could this be the perfect opportunity to get some conservatives to jump on the income tax bandwagon?

Liberal Democrats and socially conservative Republicans both oppose gambling, both want more money for education. Why shouldn't they both support an income tax? With it we could virtually eliminate the vast majority of local property taxes and taxpayers could take an extra half hour on their taxes to itemize and write off their state income taxes. In the end most taxpayers would actually see a pretty significant tax cut, even while we generate more money for the state. All this and no gambling? Almost sounds too good to be true, but it ain't.

So why shouldn't the social conservatives jump on this bandwagon? Democrats could even offer to make it a flat tax rate and to perhaps consider a pilot voucher program for a decade, just to see what its effects were. Thanks to the Bullock Amendment it only takes a simple majority to get an income tax on the ballot for Texas voters. Between a handful of liberal, anti-gambling Democrats and conservative anti-gambling Republicans could we cobble enough votes together? With the promise of lower taxes and better services could we get enough voters to support the plan? Who knows...

I doubt it would work in a million years as these GOPers would fear primary voters back at home. But with a little bit of courage and a whole lot of creativity we could solve a lot of our problems all at once.

Just my two cents...

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 04:45 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Broken Clock Strikes Again!

By Jim Dallas

When was the last time you heard Rick Perry and the American Prospect singing the same tune?


Rising health care costs will soon bankrupt Texas and other states without help from the federal government and private employers, Gov. Rick Perry said Monday.

Perry said the federal government must increase federal funding for Medicaid and give the states more flexibility over the health care program for the poor. At the same time, he added, Texas needs to find a way for more private employers to purchase health care coverage for their workers.

"If the alternative is government health care, then we have the real dilemma, I think, in front of us of states literally being bankrupt," he said.

The American Prospect's Robert Kuttner (a liberal's liberal):

Medicaid is becoming the monster that's devouring the rest of state budgets. In recent years, Medicaid costs have been rising at between 9 and 12 percent while state budgets are just about keeping pace with inflation.

But Medicaid costs are rising not because states are becoming more generous with what they cover or because states are liberalizing Medicaid eligibility rules. On the contrary, rules are being tightened and coverage restricted. The Urban Institute finds that actual Medicaid per-patient costs are growing at only about half the rate of private insurance, and a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 23 states have already taken actions to freeze enrollment or cut benefits.

So why is Medicaid such a drain on state treasuries? Because it is the health insurance of last resort. As fewer employers provide coverage that employees can afford, more and more people are being dumped into the Medicaid pool, leaving states holding the bag.

Not content to cut the federal share, Bush also proposes to turn the program into a capped block grant, which would pass even more of the costs to the states. This, in turn, would lead to even further benefit cuts and more people going without basic medical care or flooding emergency rooms.

Is Rick Perry a big government liberal? Inquiring minds want to know!

(Functioning minds, on the other hand, know that the answer is "no"; it's just that our nation's health care system is dysfunctional to the point of universal shock and awe. OK, universal except for the Bush administration.)

Posted by Jim Dallas at 04:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Texas DNC Memer David Holmes on Mae Jackson, Baylor Dems

By Byron LaMasters

Mae Jackson was a true friend to all Democrats and a personal friend of mine. I first knew of her when my mother served with her on the Governor's Commission for Women under Mark White.

Mae was always very active in Party politics in addition to all of her other activities. Year after year I sought her advice on just about everything I did in the Party. She was very wise and always able to cut through peripheral issues and take me to the heart of the matter if I was missing it.

She chaired the committee where I was first elected to the DNC.

Unfortunately, I missed her funeral yesterday. But tonight I went to
Waco and spoke to a group of local Democrats - the Heart of Texas Democratic Forum.

I talked with them about working for Representative Hubert Vo, my service on the DNC and about issues facing the legislature.

Representative Dunnam from Waco was there as was former Representative Mabry. The most exciting aspect of the event for me was the number of Young Democrats in attendance - there were about 15 Baylor Democrats there. They gave me a great shirt that I can't describe near as well as it speaks for itself.

Just as in the other Democratic events I have attended and spoken before over the last few months, it is very invigorating to find so many fired up Democrats like those I met tonight in Waco.

David Holmes

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Daily Texan profiles Strama's First Month

By Byron LaMasters

It's worth a read to see how Austin's freshman lawmaker has been spending his time in his first month at the lege. It's amusing that the one issue Strama has found success in finding a GOP co-author (Rep. Corbin Van Arsdale, R-Houston) is the resolution calling for the abolition of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) for College Football. It worked for the Longhorns this year, but it's still a bad system that doesn't allow for the best teams in the country a shot at the national championship. Now, what the Texas legislature can do to change the BCS is beyond me, but it's nice to know that we can get bipartisan agreement on football, if nothing else.

Speaking of Mark Strama, he was spotted at the 15th Street Starbucks by In the Pink, Texas last week. Geez, maybe if I'd spend more time at that Starucks, at the Texas Chili Parlor or at the Cloak Room, I might have politician sightings, too.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 16, 2005

Poor Aggies, Part #3

By Byron LaMasters

There's just nothing quite like completely beating the crap out of the Aggies. Fun times... it's just a shame that Adam Gracely didn't get a chance to play. Oh well, maybe next time..

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:36 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Get Ready... It's SG Campaign Season

By Zach Neumann

Well folks, it’s that time of year again. With Spring Break just around the corner, current and future SGers have taken to the West Mall to promote their respective candidacies. Bearing goofy one word names and generic t-shirts, it looks like another vanilla ice cream battle. To get election coverage started here on BOR, I have decided to review some of each campaign’s platform proposals. Hold your breath, it just gets better from here…

Lets start with Ignite:

Appoint a City Council Liaison: Wow, what a novel idea. Although Student Government already has a Citizen’s Affairs Committee that deals almost exclusively with the city government, it seems that Ignite wants to duplicate this. Moreover, many past SG presidents have appointed someone from the assembly to represent their interests to the city council in addition to the Citizen’s Affairs Committee.

Create a Campus Safety Agency: You mean like the UTPD? Or maybe you’re referring to the APD? Even if the agency is going to “represent student” safety issues, it will still be duplicating pre existing committee structures.

Student-friendly TA development: Creating a review process that better matches TAs with the students: What the hell does this mean? Maybe it means that TAs getting PhDs in a certain subject are matched with students in classes that are studying that very topic. What a radical idea…

Improve the Parking Situation on Campus: Gee I’ve never heard an SG campaign propose anything like this before. While it pains me to say this, parking will never be substantially improved on campus until we have more parking spaces or a lot less people.

And last, but not least (and my personal favorite): Change time limits on workout machines at Gregory Gym from 20 to 30mins. Wow, I don’t know where to start. To begin with, time limits are not enforced at Gregory Gym or the Rec Center. I’ve seen people spend 45 minutes to an hour on treadmills. Moreover, part of the reason there is a twenty minute time limit (unenforced though it may be) is to give everyone a chance to use the equipment. Either way, this is all exceptionally trivial and unimportant when compared to tuition, student services and transportation issues.

On to Connect: Discount for Students with ID at Austin Movies and Restaurants: This is just lame. Are they going to achieve this through passing a resolution in the assembly? Or will this occur through lobbying local businesses? It doesn’t really matter as this idea does not address the serious problems that face students… (like tuition issues).

Set Tuition Costs for 4 Year Periods: Though this is unfeasible (given the legislature’s disregard for higher ed. issues), I think it is an interesting and somewhat novel idea. It’s the first one I’ve seen so far on either website.

Ensure Grades are Posted Online for Every Class Throughout Semester: This is impossible. Is the student government going to require tenured professors to post grades online? I doubt it.

I could continue on, but I think I’ll stop for tonight. Though most of the ideas proposed (by both tickets) are fairly weak, my cursory reading of things indicates that Connect has a more significant agenda. While it is largely unachievable given the massive restraints on Student Government, at least they are trying to think big. Then again, one could argue that Ignite is just trying to be practical.

Posted by Zach Neumann at 07:23 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Come on people now, smile on your brother...

By Jim Dallas

It appears that Sean Hannity has begun Stage Two of his "Piss Off The World" plan.

(Alan Colmes could not be reached for comment.)

Hat tip to DailyKOS reader WWGray.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Where do you draw the line?

By Byron LaMasters

A question worth exploring came up in the comment thread of my post yesterday on a possible primary challenege to State Rep. Vilma Luna. I stated that I would support a primary challenge to Vilma Luna based on her vote for the redistricting bill in the 2003 session. Luna, along with Ron Wilson were the only House Democrats to support the Tom DeLay re-redistricting scheme. Luna is also a member of the Craddick House leadership team. She represents a reliably Democratic district, where a generic Democrat can expect to get at least 55-60% of the vote.

Some commenters argue that she should be given no more of a pass than those Democrats who voted on other Republican bills such as the CHIP-cutting bill, etc. I argued that Luna voted for bills that cut CHIP as well - I disagree with her vote, and that of other Democrats on that issue, but I don't see that as grounds for defeat in a Democratic primary. Her position on the redistricting issue, however, is something that I find unforgivable. That vote not only ended the careers of SEVEN Democratic congressmen, but also chopped up my neighborhood in central Austin into three congressional districts, deprived the state of Texas of decades of seniority in Congress, and most likely will make it impossible for Democrats to regain a majority in Congress until the next redistricting cycle. That led commenter JW to ask this question:

Should an ideological outsider (a) play the game, gain influence and make a real difference, even if it's just at the margins; or (b) play the role of loyal opposition and fight every fight, even if your cause may be harmed in the long run? There are two schools of thought and both have some merit. Let's see what your readers think.

Personally, I'm typically a proponent of the latter approach, because I find that usually - particularly considering the leadership tactics of the modern day Republican Party - those who "play the game" end up doing more to legitimize the opposition (Republicans) than they do in affecting positive legislation. Thus, in my opinion, the negative effects outweigh the positive ones.

I would say that approach (a) offers a short term gain (i.e. crumbs of positive legislation), but a long-term loss (enabling and legitimizing a governing party that is not in our best interets). Whereas I would say approach (b) offers short term loss (less pork for your district or positive legislation), but is a long-term gain - as it allows to opposition to point out the abuses of power and corruption of the governing party in order to win elections - the tool that will ultimately change the equation.

Anyway, I got to run, but let me know what you think...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:56 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

From the Department of "Revenue Enhancement"

By Jim Dallas

President Bush, State of the Union address, two weeks ago:

We must not jeopardize our economic strength by increasing payroll taxes

Bush today (as reported by the AP):

Bush, meanwhile, said he has not ruled out raising taxes on those who earn more than $90,000 a year to help bolster Social Security's finances. Under the current system, payroll taxes are paid only on the first $90,000 in wages.

Actually, this is not a truly awfuk policy flip-flop, but it perplexes me; if the solution is to tax the rich, then why not, you know, tax the rich? The current general revenue budget deficit... which could be laregely closed by repealing the President's tax cuts for the top one percent... is probably the single biggest threat to Social Security's long-term future right now.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

KBH is Runnin'....

By Byron LaMasters

For something...

The Dallas Morning News reports of a meeting over the weekend in Dallas:

Do you need more proof that Kay Bailey Hutchison is going to run for governor?

More than 150 people met in Dallas on Saturday to discuss the political options for the Republican senator.

She's considering returning to Texas and running for governor against incumbent Rick Perry.

The meeting included Ms. Hutchison's longtime grass-roots supporters from throughout the state.

"There were both written and oral comments," said Dave Beckwith, a spokesman for Ms. Hutchison. "It was very encouraging."

Some who attended the meeting said that most there wanted Ms. Hutchison to run for governor. A small number of people, though, worried that a bitterly contested primary would hurt the party.

I'm waiting for the anouncement...

Via Rick Perry vs. the World.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:31 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

David Van Os and 2004

By Byron LaMasters

David Van Os has started a sort-of blog entitled A Fighting Democrat. He makes the following claim as to the election results of 2004:

I carried 17 rural counties that Kerry-Edwards lost, and ran ahead of the ticket statewide and in every region. Upon analyzing the election returns in the metropolitan areas, I found that the more the daily newspaper had attacked me for being a liberal, a populist, or a progressive, the better my results were.

I'll take Van Os's word for it on the first count, although the second claim certainly requires some investigation. Charles Kuffner, however, did investigate Van Os's former claim here. Kuff counts ten counties where Van Os won and Kerry/Edwards lost. Additionally, however, Kuff also finds 25 counties that Bob Scarborough (RR Com candidate) won that Van Os lost.

I'm inclined to agree with Kuff's conclusion:

My point here is not to bash David Van Os. I voted for him, and I agree with his argument that Democrats need to deliver their message aggressively and forcefully, and they must not be afraid to deliver it in places that aren't traditionally friendly. Kerry's campaign was understandably not present here, and the result speaks for itself. The point I am making, though, is that the right person has to deliver that message as well, and while I admire his fighting spirit, that person most likely isn't David Van Os.

Ditto to that. Greg has thoughts on the matter as well.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:13 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Taking A Gamble

By Vince Leibowitz

Via the Houston Chronicle, gambling interests have made $1.4 million in campaign donations in the last year to statewide and legislative candidates.

No big surprise there, considering it's probably a foregone conclusion that gambling will play a big part in potential "solutions" to the school funding crisis.

The Chron notes:

A political action committee of Houston-based Maxxam Inc., owner of two racetracks where video slot machines might be allowed, was the largest single donor among pro-gambling contributors, giving $273,250, according to figures compiled by the Houston Chronicle.


Maxxam and other track owners gave a total of $1.2 million. Maxxam joined other track owners last fall in forming Keep Texas Running, a coalition dedicated to legalizing video slots at racetracks. Track owners say they are losing ground to tracks in states that have slots.

Two Native American tribes, the Alabama-Coushatta in East Texas and the Tigua in El Paso, together donated $87,500. Associations representing horse and dog breeders gave $90,035, and representatives of video slot technology companies contributed $68,500. Donations from dozens of lobbyists who represent those interests were not included in the Chronicle's tally.

Maxxam owns Sam Houston Race Park in Houston and Valley Race Park in Harlingen.

[Sylvester] Turner [author of the current gambling bill de jour] reported $4,000 in contributions from pro-slots interests. He received $1,000 from Maxxam PAC and $500 each from company Chairman Charles Hurwitz and Friedman.

Turner also received a donation from Big City Capital, a limited liability company based in Nevada. The company would like to see slot machines legalized in Texas, said Reggie Bashur, a lobbyist for Big City.

Big City Capital gave a total of $150,000 to various legislators and statewide officials.


Tina Benkiser, head of the Republican Party of Texas, issued a statement last week calling slots "a corrupt idea from a Democrat lawmaker."

Despite the Texas GOP's opposition to slot machines, large donations were made to the state's Republican leadership.

Maxxam PAC gave $50,000 to Gov. Rick Perry and $80,000 to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Republican and Democratic senators and representatives also received contributions.

Stars Over Texas, a PAC formed by House Republican leaders to support targeted legislative races, received $15,000 from the Maxxam PAC and $50,000 from Big City Capital.

Guess Tina Benkiser forgot that Perry's flip-flopped on this issue, and that (duh!) he's recieved a truckload of cash fom Maxxam, as did Dewhurst. Or maybe, Ms. Benkiser though Maxxam PAC was the political action committee affiliated with the popular men's magazine.

Or, maybe--and this is a novel idea--she's just blowing smoke and attempting to appeal to the party's far-right base.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 01:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 15, 2005

Chris Bell Comes To Town

By Vince Leibowitz

Potential candidate for governor Chris Bell came to Canton tonight for the monthly meeting of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County.

I had invited Chris to the Free State of Van Zandt last month, before his exploratory committee for governor went live, because of the notoriety he'd gained in Congress relating to his ethics complaint against U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Sugar Land). The visit was far more timely and important, however, because Chris' exploratory committee has garnered some recent press and, of course, a lot of interest in the BlogSphere.

I was trying to take some photos during the speech, so I don't have any verbatim quotes to give BOR readers (plus, Chris said he was going to be talking to Byron L. soon, so I don't want to steal any of his thunder), but I can tell you he was well received.

In particular, I felt that Chris had a good grasp on the issues facing Texas at the "state" level. A lot of times, I've found that Congressmen and ex-congressmen spend so much time dealing with federal problems that they aren't as well versed as they should be when they talk about state issues. Specifically, I was glad he addressed the school finance issue, and pointed out the hypocrisy of the Perry's flip-flopping on the issue of using gambling to fund public school education, and of course, the fact that gaming has helped fill Perry and other official's campaign coffers.

He also mentioned the "revolving door" on Perry's office by which top-level staffers sign on with the office of the governor and then leave to pursue lucrative lobbying contracts, often hitting up their ex-bosses for support.

I was particularly impressed that Chris said that Democrats don't need to shy away from the "morals" debate against Republicans. Using the popular phrase, "What Would Jesus Do," (WWJD) to illustrate some of the GOP's hypocritical stances, he noted, and I'm paraphrasing here, that it's far more likely that the WWJD thing to do wouldn't be to deprive 150,000 Texas children of healthcare. He provided a couple of other examples, but this is the first one that comes to mind.

He's got a point. Republicans consistently preach "morals, morals, morals," with regard to a number of issues, but somehow think it's justified to balance the state budget on the backs of those who need government's protection and assistance the most--the poor, children, and the elderly. It's nice for Republicans to be able to say they "put prayer back in Texas public schools," but it's a sad day when those kids are praying for a hot meal, a decent place to live and healthcare.

During the Q&A, Chris fielded several interesting questions. I asked Chris two things at once (like the typical ex-reporter I am, though I didn't intend to ask a double-question) and he was up to the sometimes challenging task of both remembering what both questions were and responding equally to both. I asked how he felt that many were calling him the "reform," candidate and what he thought the final outcome would be with regard to the redistricting lawsuits the U.S. Supreme Court sent back to the Fifth Circuit.

Chris said that he's not bothered by the "reform candidate," moniker, but that people are already beginning to see that his candidacy is about more, because he is familiar with and has ideas to tackle some of the various problems facing the state. He also noted that, though all politicians make mistakes, he's always been about more accountability and ethics in government, dating back to his tenure on the Houston City Council when he worked on a measure to prevent high-ranking city employees from leaving employment and then cashing in on their city contacts in the private sector.

With regard to redistricting, Chris said, as most do, that the outcome remains uncertain. And, that by the time it's finally decided once and for all and the appeals process is totally exhausted, it could be time for another round (this time because of new census figures).

One of our visitors from Rockwall County asked an interesting question and raised an interesting point, too. He noted that Chris' approach to things was a little different than many politicians. In fact, the guy used the phrase "doom and gloom," noting that Chris had outlined a lot of problems facing the state absent some of the more boisterous rhetoric commonly used by candidates.

Chris responded by noting that the current situation facing the state is somewhat gloomy, and that it's important to present the facts about the various situations in as accurate a manner as possible, which sometimes isn't too rosy.

Other questions included some about the makeup of the race on the GOP side. Chris said what I've been saying for almost two years, which is that, even if she enters the primary, Kay Bailey Hutchison will face an uphill battle because so many GOP Primary voters are on the far-right of their party and the political spectrum. He also predicted that Carole Keeton Strayhorn would stay out of the race if Hutchison gets in.

All in all, it was a great evening, with folks coming from as far as Dallas and Rockwall to hear Chris speak mingle at the pre-meeting reception.

And, for our party, it was quite a coup to have Chris. To date, we've had several of the up-and-coming heavy hitters for 2006--John Sharp last May, Barbara Radnofsky last August and now Chris Bell.

Now, I've just got to figure out who to book for our May 7th "Night of Honor and Memories," banquet where we'll give out awards for things like "Outstanding Young Democrat," etc. Regardless of whom we end up booking to keynote, I hope we can count on folks like Chris and Barbara Radnofsky to come back for this great event. After all, 220+ Democrats in one room in Van Zandt County, Texas is a pretty captive audience, hint, Hint, HINT.

Vince Leibowitz is County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County. He would be just thrilled if every potential statewide Democratic candidate in the state reading this would contact him to reserve their seat(s) at the dinner now. He may be reached via email here And, if you are a really, really, really big name Democrat (Martin Frost, Howard Dean, John Edwards, Ann Richards, etc.) and would like to give the keynote address, he'll throw in a Yellow Labrador Retriever puppy (a yellow dog Democrat) if and when the local Tax Assessor/Collector's lab has a new litter. And, if you can't take it back home with you (allergies, planes, spouses who don't like dogs), you can put it in the silent auction.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 11:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Frost an FNC contributor

By Nathan Nance

According to TVNewser, former Dallas congressman Martin Frost has been hired as a contributor for Fox News Channel, much like former Democratic senator Zell Miller.

I don't want to get into an argument on whether or not Frost is a "conservative Democrat" and a DINO. We can save that vitriol for other places. Frost's record speaks for itself and he's no DINO. In fact, he came very close to being the chairman of the DNC.

I really want to know what people think of the fact that both Miller and Frost were branded as it were (Miller for a very good reason) as "GOP-lite" and now both are contributing to FNC. I'm sure some might think that maybe we should be more lenient on some withing our party who reach across the aisle to get things done. I'm sure others will think that Martin Frost was too close to the Republicans and its good that he's not the chairman and that he's relegated to appearing on a conservative network. I'm looking for a debate here on what, exactly, you think about this.

I'm also interested in hearing what you think the chances are that Frost can influence coverage that is more favorable to the Democrats on FNC.

If you must have vitriol, here's more at dKos.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 07:52 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

A Primary Challenge for Vilma Luna?

By Byron LaMasters

There was an interesting exchange between State Rep. Vilma Luna (DINO-Corpus Christi) and Texas Democratic Party Chief of Staff Mike Levine last week. Vilma Luna, of course, was one of the two "Democrats" who voted for re-redistricting in 2003 - the other was State Rep. Ron Wilson (DINO-Houston) who lost his primary election in 2004 to Alma Allen (where I was proud to be part of the effort that helped her raise nearly $3000 online). Ron Wilson went on to show his true colors (again) this past month in offering his legal services pro-bono to Talmadge Heflin's challenge of the election of Hubert Vo. Luna, on the other hand, was not challenged in the 2004 primary, and remains close to the GOP House leadership.

The recent talk of a primary challenge became public in a February 6th Corpus Christi Caller-Times article which suggested that Nueces County Democratic Chair Solomon Ortiz Jr (and son of Congressman Solomon Ortiz) was seriously considering a primary challenge to Luna:

Nueces County Democratic Party chairman Solomon Ortiz Jr. reportedly went around Austin this week saying he plans to run for state Rep. Vilma Luna's office next go-round.

Ortiz denied it Friday, saying it was just rumors run amok.

"All I am going to say is I am very happy as party chair," he said. "I have not told anybody I am going to run against Vilma. Absolutely not, I am not running for anything. If anything I am running away."

But Austin political consultant Dya Campos was sitting at a table with a group of people along with Ortiz Monday night when he began listing reasons he would run against Luna.

"One of those reasons he listed that I found to be ironic was that she had risen to be vice chair of appropriations," Campos said. "One of the reasons he thought she needed to go was because she is part of the leadership."

The rumors irk Luna.

She said several people have told her Ortiz has said he will run.

"I've been told for months," Luna said. "There are some lobbyists, and he has talked to Mike Lavigne at the Texas Democratic Party. A lot of the people who have heard it won't go on the record but it's something he has been talking about for months."

So, is this rumor or fact? The article cites a lot of hearsay without exploring the partisan leanings of Dya Campos. Save Texas Reps does the research:

When the always ambitious state representative from Corpus Christi made sure a hometown reporter knew that a potential rival had met with Texas Democratic Party officials about running against her, the reaction was swift. Never happened, said the accused, Democratic honcho Mike Lavigne. He then fired off a letter to Luna, the veteran state rep and chief enabler for Tom Craddick’s anti-family agenda, suggesting that she get her facts straight next time.

It was apparently Luna’s friend, Dya Campos, a Republican minion at Craddick’s favorite lobby firm, HillCo, who actually fed the reporter the misinformation one day after meeting with Luna in her Capitol office.

Mike Levine, who was cited by Luna in the Caller-Times as behind the efforts for a primary challenge, shot back with this letter:

I read with great interest the story in yesterday's Corpus Christi Caller Times where you are quoted accusing me of having met with Solomon Ortiz Jr. at party headquarters to facilitate a primary run against you. Also interesting was the quote from your friend, Austin Republican consultant Dya Campos, suggesting that forces were aligning against you because you are on the Speaker's Leadership team.

Let me take this opportunity to assure you that I have never spoken with Mr. Ortiz. I don't believe that I have personally even met the man, though all reports indicate that he is performing admirably as one of our better Democratic county chairs in the state.

With all due respect, I sincerely hope you base your legislative decisions on more solid information than you did this decision to falsely name me in your hometown paper.

I am sure you are as concerned as the voters in your district about the anti-democratic and short sighted actions of the House leadership over the past two years.

Luna was equally snarky in her response:

Unlike most Texans, you clearly are unaware of my demonstrated commitment to children, the disabled, the elderly and poor during the last legislative session, when I diligently worked with Senator Judith Zaffirini and others to restore hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for programs that serve our most vulnerable citizens. Since you never have met or spoken to our party's Nueces County Chair, you most certainly cannot be aware of the views of the voters in my district, and whether they feel it is in their best interests for their State Representative to serve as the Vice-Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and as a member of its Ways & Means Committee.

I'll add my own snarky aside as well in noting that the majority of Texans surely have never heard of Vilma Luna, nor would they know of her debatable efforts regarding CHIP and other programs last session. The February 13th Corpus Christi Caller-Times recaps the aforementioned letters, and Save Texas Reps has a response from a constituent of Luna's as well.

What should we make of all this? It looks like a primary challenge of Vilma Luna is certainly a strong possibility, and Luna looks to be playing paranoid by attacking the Texas Democratic Party, and cozying up to Republican consultants. I believe that the Democratic Party is a big tent, and in order to win (especially in Texas), Democrats need to embrace liberals, moderates and conservatives. But voting for re-redistricting in 2003 is an unforgivable act in my book. If a primary challenge to Luna emerges, you can bet I'll do whatever I can to raise money and awareness for such a challenge.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:53 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Liberals Need to Condemn Lynne Stewart

By Andrew Dobbs

Yesterday I got an email from a reader talking about one subject or another that I can no longer remember. I can't remember what it was because of something in the email itself- an image that said "Support Lynne Stewart." I knew that I couldn't take anything this person said seriously at that point.

For those of you not familiar with Lynne Stewart, this is a good non-ideological starting point. In short, she is an old school radical- communist, still talks nice about Stalin and Mao, etc.- and was an activist attorney for years. Her highest profile client was Sheik Omar Abdel Rachman, also known as the "Blind Sheik" and the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombings as well as an attempt to blow up the UN building, an FBI building, 2 tunnels and a bridge in New York City. A high profile Egyptian terrorist, Rachman's organization the Islamic Group killed 62 tourists, many American, in Luxor, Egypt in 1997. In short- he's a really bad dude who wants to kill a lot of Americans.

Stewart was his attorney, which is fine. He was given the right to representation (though as a non-citizen he really isn't entitled to such a thing) and it is Stewart's job to make the state prove their case. Unfortunately, Stewart decided to do one better and to break the legal agreement she entered when becoming the terrorist mastermind's attorney and started secretly passing messages from the Sheik to his terrorist group in Egypt. One of these orders was to end the ceasefire they had declared towards the Egyptian government, meaning that she transmitted a call to war to terrorists. She also had her translator send messages from Rachman's group to the Sheik and praised groups that were perpetuating terror in the name of seeking the Sheik's release. In short, she supported, promoted and facilitated terrorism against the United States and its allies by a bunch of religious fanatic fascists.

Stewart was indicted on several charges of supporting terrorism and after taking the stand and calling for the violent overthrow of the American government during a trial that made it very clear that she was quite guilty, she was speedily convicted of the crimes. That's the good news.

The bad news is that now a bunch of far Left groups- the type that thought that 9/11 was something we deserved, that opposed the campaign in Afghanistan, you know the type- have started calling for her release and have actually tried to explain away or praise her work. One of those people appears to be the person who emailed me yesterday. Some Republicans are trying to stain our entire party with the inanities of a few people who typically don't support us anyways (because we are part of the corporate/capitalist/imperialist/blah blah blah system) by saying that we are the party of Lynne Stewart. Most notably the new NY State GOP Chair claimed this and has since been repudiated by several Democrats as well as the Republican governor of that state. In the end, they might succeed in making us out to be a terrorist sponsoring party if we don't speak up.

The answer? Liberals need to speak out against Lynne Stewart, in support of her conviction and against the GOP slanderers who would associate a woman as far to the Left of our party as neo Nazis are to the right of the GOP with the Democratic Party. Anyone- Left, Right or otherwise- who seeks to kill innocents to promote their worldview is evil and ought to be condemned, and anyone who facilitates that and supports that ought to be called out and taken to task for this crime. Lynne Stewart is a wacky woman to begin with and when you throw in support for terrorism we must speak out.

I'm proud to see the mainstream of our party standing with the mainstream of our country in condemning this woman and her actions. This isn't attorney client privelege- that exists to ensure that an attorney can effectively and confidently represent his or her client. This is an attorney abusing that sacred right in order to promote her criminal client's illegal activities. No different from a mob lawyer ordering hits from a jailed client, and the punishment should be at least as severe.

Please join with me in supporting Stewart's recent conviction and in condemning her criminal activities. Unless the Democratic Party is recognized for what it is- the only mainstream party left in this country- we will continue to lose.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 05:01 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Guilty Pleasures

By Byron LaMasters

Before I started my own blog, I often entertained myself by engaging in debate with conservatives on various blogs – notably the original Political Wire several years back when comments were enabled. Now, that I’ve had my own platform in which to write, I tend to focus on my own posts, and limit my comments elsewhere, but sometimes I still engage in the guilty pleasures of taking on the right-wingers and pointing out their inconsistencies. Yesterday was one of those days, so go ahead and read the exchange I had with Chris Elam, and some of his readers on the issue of same-sex marriage equality. So, check it out and entertain yourself.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:56 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Austin City Council Update

By Byron LaMasters

It's too early in my opinion to declare a frontrunner for the open Place 3 Austin City Council seat, but Gregg Knaupe has received a string of key endorsements including the Austin Central Labor Council most recently. View from the Left cites this as reason enough to peg Knaupe as the frontrunner for the open Place 3 seat, but I'm still going to hedge my bets - it's still a wide open race at this point.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 14, 2005

Maya Keyes Officially Comes Out

By Byron LaMasters

Via Political Wire is news that Maya Keyes, daughter of anti-gay Republican firebrand Alan Keyes officially came out of the closet today. Maya's personal blog was discovered by bloggers back in September, but Maya only made the decision to publicly come out of the closet at a rally today.

Two weeks ago, Maya was thrown out of her home, lost her job with her father's political organization, and told by her parents that they would not pay her college expenses (Maya was accepted into Brown University for the Fall 2004, but deferred in order to volunteer for her father's U.S. Senate campaign).

When I heard of Maya's situation, I hoped that some GLBT organization would come to her aid, and offer her money for her education. Fortunately, today The Point Foundation did just that:

Maya Marcel-Keyes, the daughter of Alan Keyes, a conservative political commentator who recently lost his bid for an Illinois Senate seat, came out publicly for the first time at a rally in Annapolis, MD today. Disowned by her family because of her sexual orientation, Maya is receiving support from The Point Foundation. Keyes has been accepted to Brown University in Providence R.I., and the Point Foundation is committed to helping the 19-year old with an honorarium scholarship and other emotional and financial support.

Good for them. Maya accepted the support at a rally in front of the Maryland State House today:

Keyes spoke at a rally organized by Equality Maryland, Maryland's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) advocacy organization, which occurred in front of the Maryland State House to coincide with the organization's annual lobby day on February 14. Other speakers included Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard and Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, as well as several state and local community officials.

The situation is still sad and unfortunate. Maya Keyes is lucky to have a semi-celebrity status because of the well-documented, militantly anti-gay rhetoric and actions of her father, but it's important to note that for every scholarship that The Point Foundation gives out, they have to decline thirty others. This is their mission statement:

Scholarship opportunities for exceptional students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Point Foundation is the first and only nationwide LGBT scholarship organization that focuses exclusively on granting assistance to undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate students of distinction. Point Scholars are chosen for their demonstrated leadership, scholastic achievement, extracurricular activities, involvement in the LGBT community and financial or emotional need.

You can help them do more by donating here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:05 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Bob Jensen on Ward Churchill

By Byron LaMasters

I tend to agree with Jim's comments on the Ward Churchill controversy. Churchill, of course, made the reference to many of the victims of 9/11 as "little Eichmanns" in an essay on the topic. I decided to withhold judgment on Churchill until I had the chance to understand the context of the remark, so I watched a rally where he spoke at CU defending his remarks in front of supporters. While Churchill excludes the "janitors, food-service workers, children, rescue workers, or passers-by who were killed" from the "little Eichmanns" characterization, he includes the stock traders and other businessmen in the towers as "enablers" of U.S. foreign policy that according to him triggered 9/11.

I agree with Jim's statement that there is "a fine line between controversy and idiocy". UT journalism professor Bob Jensen has argued that the foreign policy of the United States is in many ways responsible for the 9/11 attacks. While I don't particularly agree with that sentiment, it is a worthwhile topic of debate. However, blasting American voters, business leaders, etc. as enablers of the 9/11 attacks comparable to the likes of Nazi's is just idiotic and indefensible. Yes, I understand Churchill's point on the injustices done by the United States to the Native Americans, and other minority groups over the past centuries, but none of actions rises anywhere near the moral equivalence of the actions Nazis.

With that said, it's interesting to take a look at the opinion of Bob Jensen - a professor for whom I disagree with, but respect - regarding Ward Churchill's remarks. Essentially, Jensen states his agreement with Churchill's central thesis regarding the 9/11 attacks, while noting that "there are points in the essay that I think missed the mark" and gives a roundabout defense of Churchill, but states that the "Eichmann" comment "even accepting that narrow construction... is still problematic". In conclusion, Jensen again states his agreement with Churchill's thesis, but urges Churchill to apologize to the families of 9/11 victims, while defending his thesis.

My personal opinion is still that Churchill should go. Freedom of speech is great, but idiocy from professors at institutions of higher education is not.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:49 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Recap of the DNC Meeting - Part Two

By Byron LaMasters

Texas DNC member David Holmes has posted twice on his Yahoo Group recapping the events of the DNC meeting over the weekend. I posted his thoughts from the first day here, and this post is part two of his experience over the weekend. I know that I join many Texas Democrats in thanking David Holmes for his accessibility and responsiveness to the concerns of the grassroots throughout this process of selecting a DNC Chair.

I sent a message Friday describing the events of that day – I thought I would also comment on the rest of the weekend.

I should go backward first – to the Thursday night gala to say goodbye to McAuliffe. It was a very nice event.

The highlights of the evening were Al Franken, John Kerry and Bill Clinton, with two out of the three being motivating or entertaining at least.

The rest after the jump.

Al Franken was his normal funny self – the best part of his emceeing of the evening was a terribly off-color riff he went through with the deaf interpreter – he spoke in third person to give the impression that the interpreter was ad-libbing and talking bad about Franken, saying things like, “Al Franken hates deaf people. When the event is over let’s kill him.” Maybe you had to be there...

Bill Clinton was his normal inspiring self. He gave a captivating speech rallying Democrats to move forward from the election and truly, subtly paving a pathway for Hillary in ’08.

The awkward moment of the evening – and not only for me – was John Kerry. While his speech was fairly flat and received with polite indulgence by the crowd, it was not until I saw clips of it the next day on CNN that it registered what I heard him say:

"This great party of ours doesn't need a makeover," Kerry told the dinner, adding he came "within inches" of winning the presidency. "This great party of ours doesn't need some massive shift."

In an attempt to give him the benefit-of-the-doubt, I first thought that perhaps he meant that we don’t need an ideological shift – that we need to remain who we are. If that was the message, however, he did not declare it very clearly for the discussion of the last several weeks has been one of reforming the party. Either he has not heard the discussion of the need for infrastructure reform or he was disagreeing that it is needed.

The speech was ill-conceived and out-of-touch. Surely, he will not run again.

Saturday the election of the DNC officer positions was held. Dean was elected by acclamation and gave a speech regarding his vision for the Party.

There was strong contention among the Vice Chair candidates and in the end a strong slate of officers was elected. I am confident they will all work well with Chairman Dean.

The weekend was an energizing set of events that left me convinced that the party is on the verge of great and positive change that will lead to more Democrats being elected in both state and federal elections.

I hope you were able to see some of the event on CSPAN.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Koufax Award Finalists

By Byron LaMasters

We didn't make the finals in any of the Koufax Awards categories, but go support the two Texas/Texan blogs that made it in the Best Single Issue Blog category - The Daily DeLay and Grits for Breakfast - although unfortunately, you can only vote for one.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:55 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Weekend Texas News Roundup

By Byron LaMasters

Yeah, I went on a mini-hiatus for the past four days or so. I occasionally get burnt out / writer's (bloggers?) block, and I find that the best way to deal with it is to just ignore blogs and blogging for a few days, refresh my mind, and let my co-bloggers fill in a little bit.

Anyway, here's a quick round-up of some things (in no particular order) that I've missed over the past few days, so I'll be back up to speed:

  • The Daily Delay has an interview with former Rep. Chris Bell (D-Houston). Chris Bell is currently exploring a run for Governor of Texas.

  • Speaking of the governor's race, the folks on the other side are gearing up for a fight as well. Both Rick Perry and KBH have made some significant hires for their campaign staff in the past week. Kuff and Rick Perry vs. the World report.

  • The incumbent mayor of Waco, Mae Jackson - the first African-American to hold the job died on Friday. Mayor Jackson had a remarkable career of public service and activism (PDF file). U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Waco) has a statement, as does Texas Democratic Party Chair Charles Soechting, here.

  • The Texas Civil Rights Review has filed an Open Records Request in order to review the documents in the Talmadge Heflin contest of Hubert Vo's election. While Heflin finally conceded, there are still many unresolved issues that TCRR wants to investigate. More information when we hear it.

  • Forty-two gay and lesbian couples in Houston celebrated Freedom to Marry Week with a ceremony on Saturday (to which our Republican friends equate to "playing house"). It was hosted at a predominantly GLBT Metropolitan Community Church, but Unitarian Universalist, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian, American Baptist and Pentecostal ministers also participated in the ceremony. The marriages are not recognized by the state of Texas.

  • A few months ago we posted on the College Republicans fundraising scam (here and here - a December Washington Post story has more background details as well). Now, copies of some of the actual fundraising letters sent by the College Republicans are available online. The firestorm of negative publicity has caused one Texas College Republicans chapter to take action. The UT-Arlington College Republican chapter amended its by-laws requiring all members to take an oath of financial integrity.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:47 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Ok, so this picture DID turn out...

By Byron LaMasters

I mentioned last week how the picture of Karl-Thomas and I in San Antonio didn't exactly turn out, but I just noticed a picture on the University Democrats webpage of us from the February 2nd meeting. I was showing my support for Martin Frost for DNC Chair, vainly attempting to get a wireless connection, and savoring a tasty cookie - completely oblivious to the fact that someone was taking a picture, while Karl-Thomas apparently was going for the punk-ass blogger look. Anyway, here ya go:

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:32 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Donate to the DNC

By Byron LaMasters

Howard Dean wasn't my first or second choice for DNC Chair, but he's the DNC Chair now, and he has my support, so if you feel so inclined, send the DNC a donation. If I had any money to donate, I'd send some to the DNC, but I promise that I will once I graduate and get a job. I'll have some final thoughts on Dean and the DNC later this week.

Donate through ActBlue here:

Contribution amount: $

A few weeks ago, I was considering trying to find a way to get up to D.C. to liveblog the DNC race. Of course, the DNC race ended up becoming a non-race, and I lost my interest in spending money that I didn't have to liveblog the event. However, there are some recaps over at MyDD, BOP News and The American Street (continued here).

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 13, 2005

Early Report from the DNC Meetings

By Byron LaMasters

Texas DNC member David Holmes posted to his DNC Yahoo Group yesterday his summary of the DNC events on Friday. Here's his summary of the events:

The 2005 Winter meeting of the DNC would feel familiar to those of you who attended the Texas Democratic Party convention. While quite a bit smaller than the state convention, everyone here is covered in stickers and buttons and campaign material of the various candidates for DNC officer positions.

This morning the full DNC met to hear speeches from a number of distinguished Democrats - and two possible 2008 Presidential contenders.

John Edwards gave a great version of his 2004 campaign speech with a few new personal stories thrown in and more energy than I had noticed from him in a while. He said that his wife is doing well.

Bill Richardson gave a good speech about the policy and campaign innovations that have been going on in states - and outside of DC. He did get booed when he said that we need to change the law to allow Governor Granholm to run for President - only because of the California situation. Overall, he was well received.

Most of the rest of the day has been filled with constituency caucus meetings and time to meet the candidates.

There are very heated campaigns going on for a couple of the Vice Chair positions, while at least half of the total number of positions are uncontested. All of the candidates, though, were available to meet with DNC members for a couple hours this afternoon, including Governor Dean.

Tonight the Young Democrats of America are having their big fundraiser of the year with Mark Strama keynoting the event.

I'm sure David will have some more thoughts on the entire weekend coming soon...

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

An SG Update

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Students Government campaigns are only a couple more weeks away. I haven’t had as much time as I would like to keep up to date on all the activities going on, but I think it is time for a quick update on the state of the campaigns.

There are only two tickets this year, and of course, they have the standard, oh-so-creative one word names.

Ignite v. CONNECT

Ignite is headed up by Jessica Rice and Colby Hanks while CONNECT is led by Omar Ochoa and Elizabeth Brummet. For more on these people check out this original post I made last fall. Of course, since that post, Wes Carpenter has dropped off from heading the ticket that Rice now leads. Jessica Rice is currently on the Executive Board of SG.

The difference this year is that both tickets can be considered "SG" tickets. There is no major outside or reform group, though I'm sure that each may try to cast themselves that way. I haven’t seen the down ballot candidate placements (send them to me if your ticket has finalized them) but I wouldn't be surprised to see competitive placement of various SG agencies and student group leaders. Of course, it may depend on who has managed to add more of these such people to their ticket because until turnout rises, those people are important.

Both groups have already had their A-Frame building parties at Frat houses, Ignite hosting theirs at the Sigma Phi Epsilon house on 26th and Pearl and CONNECT at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house on 25th and Pearl. Both have had their first big campaign rallies earlier today which should be the initial indication of momentum in the race, so if anyone has a report on that as well, please let me know.

Now as to the all important question, who is the frontrunner? (Oh, and there is no race for Daily Texan editor or Texas Student Publications Board since there were as many candidates as seats)

It's hard to say. I'm tempted to say the Ignite ticket because I've just seen more of them everywhere and more of them keep in constant contact with me. Important to note as well is that at this time I would predict that the University Democrats would be more likely to endorse the Ignite ticket than CONNECT, partly because Jessica Rice has been to our meetings, partly because one of our officers is on their ticket. After last year's non-endorsement in the SG elections (beyond the UDs running), I feel the group is hungry to endorse an entire slate. And if turnout in the election is similar to last year, the 100 votes that can easily come from the UDems membership (and possibly more if we are active in the voting process) will represent 1%-2% of the vote. Nothing in comparison to having say a dozen frats on your side, which could be 1%-2% of the vote each.

This is why I hope that this year's elections help set up which I think is the more important longer term goal that I mentioned in that post I linked to above. A longer term, more progressive reform oriented ticket that is not dependant on the frats but on student organizations and the everyday populace here at UT.

But for now, that's my Burnt Orange Report. I very well may pick progressive back and forth down the ballot like last year. There is the chance that this year, more than the last two, there will no longer be 100% landslides.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 11:42 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Why Is No One Raising Hell About The Bush Budget?

By Vince Leibowitz

[This post has been updated. Click on "read more" link for updates.]

On Friday, the White House released a 233-page document detailing the impact of President Bush's budget cuts.

They released the list on Friday just in time for it to get lost in the weekend news cycles. Of course, the administration didn't really want to release the details of the cuts until someone asked, via Reuters:

The White House provided the list in response to a request from House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, an Iowa Republican.

The Bush budget cut $420 million in grants, training and other assistance programs that the Homeland Security Department issues for state and local governments.


Another $146 million would be cut from job training grants to states and local governments under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. Bush has long argued the need for job training programs to meet the needs of a changing economy.

The OMB said the Workforce Investment Act needs comprehensive reforms because currently "governors have too little control and flexibility, and programs do not train workers for jobs in high-growth industries.

Bush would cut $145 million in funding for the Army Corps of Engineers, a civil construction program long cited by critics as a prime source of congressional pork.

The OMB said the Corps currently has a $50 billion backlog of authorized construction work.

A $497 million cut was made in federal assistance to the nation's airports for repairing runways and other facilities. The administration also said airports could make up some of the money through passenger fees.

Also in the budget was a $39 million cut in funds for taxpayer assistance, which the White House said could be absorbed because of increased efficiency.

A number of education programs were slated to get no funding at all in 2006, including the Even Start family literacy program and the Perkins loan program that gives money to colleges and universities to make low-interest loans available to needy students.

A program to help communities hire more police officers would be abolished under the budget as would a program that provides block grants to help improve the juvenile justice system.

According to the report itself (which is actually on the OMB Website, with--not surprisingly--no link from the press area of the White House Site) notes:

Terminations of Discretionary Programs in 2006 99 programs terminated in the 2006 Budget 59 of those terminations have been proposed in previous years $8.8 billion savings over 2005 Enacted

Major Program Reductions in 2006
55 programs have major reductions in the 2006 Budget
27 of those reductions have been proposed in previous years
$6.5 billion savings over 2005 Enacted

Major Reform Proposals
16 programs have major reform proposals
$4.7 billion savings in 2006 over 2005 Enacted
$2.9 billion in costs in 2006 over 2005 Enacted

Some of the actual cuts in the proposal are just downright stupid.

For example, the program plans to eleminate the Safe and Drug Free Schools State Grants Program. Instead, the administration proposes increasing funding for the National SDFS program, claiming this will "support projects with measurable outcomes and strong accountability mechanisms to help ensure that Federal funding in the area produces positive results."

The budget also eleminates HSRA Emergency Medical Services for Children grants, which sends money to states to help improve EMS care for kids.

Evidently, though, Bush decided our children ain't healing right or something, because he slashed the program:

The 2006 Budget proposes no funding for Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMSC)program at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The EMSC program has not demonstrated that its activities have led to improvements in the health outcomes of children and adolescents who have required emergency medical care. The objectives of this program can be achieved by States through programs funded by the much larger ($724 million in 2006) Maternal and Child Health Block Grant.

I'm sure emergency room physicians and pediatric ER nurses everywhere would disagree.

And, of course, it wouldn't be a Republican budget without trying to screw the poor out of housing. Bush slashed the HUD program Revitilization of Seriously Distressed Public Housing, claiming it had exceeded its goals and was too slow:

The 2006 Budget proposes to terminate the HOPE VI program. The

program has surpassed its primary goal to demolish 100,000 severely distressed public housing units by 2003. While the
program has achieved success in removing dangerous public housing, the 2005 PART analysis showed the program to be slow at completing construction and more costly than other programs that serve the same population. The Budget proposes to cancel 2005 funding for this program (and requests no further funding in 2006) and to redirect the dollars to more cost-effective alternatives such as Section 8 Tenant-based Rental Assistance.

I guess, since 1992 and 2005, no existing public housing structures have become "dangerous." That's nice to know. As for putting that money in Section 8, I've always thought Section 8 was a much more expensive option for housing the poor than actual public housing or subsidized apartment complexes. Guess I'm wrong again.

One cut in particular that really burns me up (no pun intended) is cuts to the Rural Fire Assistance program. I live in a rural area served by a rural VFD, as does everyone in Van Zandt County. Even the city volunteer departments are classified as such.

But, Bush says:

The 2006 Budget proposes to terminate the Rural Fire Assistance program. The program is duplicative of other fire assistance grant programs. The items and activities funded by these grants could be funded with existing Department of Homeland Security and Forest Service grant funding. Instead, the Department of the Interior will focus more of its fire preparedness resources on training and certification of local firefighters so that they are qualified to assist with fires on Federal lands.

The White House claims this program is duplicative because the Department of Homeland Security also has a similar program. If anyone in the Bush administration bothered to wander into a rural firehouse in the past decade, they wouldn't be cutting this program. Rural firefighters put their lives on the line just like paid big city firefighters do--with less equipment, old trucks, and the best training they can get/afford.

And, Bush wants to cut Community Oriented Policing (COPS) grant funding, a Clinton administration program to put 100,000 new police officers on the street, saying it's served its purpose (118,000 officers):

The 2006 Budget proposes to terminate the COPS Hiring Grant program as have previous Administration budgets. The program has accomplished its goals. The lack of demonstrated results as well as a crime rate at an historic low call into question continued funding for the program. The Budget proposes to cancel funding for this program and to redirect the dollars to other higher priority programs.

What a load! Community policing is not a high priority program for this administration? Again, come to a town or county that has benefitted from these programs, Mr. President. Furthermore, given the fact that 9/11 has happened and his administration has previously said all local police agencies share in the homeland security burden, is it really wise to cut this program? This program is a drop in the budgetary bucket.

The budget also cut a Department of Labor program, Reintegration of Youthful Offenders, which helped offenders under 35 get job training. It replaces the permanent program with a four-year program.

What is so dumb about this cut is that in the very document explaining the reason why the program is cut...

The 2006 Budget proposes to terminate earmarked funding for the Reintegration of Youthful Offenders program, and better serve this population through the President’s Prisoner Re-entry Initiative. Proposed in the 2004 State of the Union address and the 2005 Budget, this four-year initiative will offer a range of job training, housing, and mentoring services and harness the experience of faith-based and community organizations. The 2006 Budget includes $75 million in new funding for the President’s Prisoner Re-entry Initiative to address the problems faced by ex-offenders in a more effective way, through services provided by the Departments of Labor, Housing and Urban Development, and Justice.

...it expounds on the very need for such a program:

More than 600,000 offenders are released from prisons each year and face multiple barriers upon their return to society, including inadequate job skills and housing. Approximately two-thirds of prisoners are re-arrested within three years of their release, and half return to prison during that same period.

Perhaps they wouldn't return to prison if they had adequate job skills and housing? Duh!

These are just a few of the program eleminations. I could go on for hours about the rest of the eleminations--not to mention the cuts.

I know the privitization of Social Security is taking up a lot of media attention, but I think this is deserving of some, too.

I've noticed mentions in magazines, editorials, and on blogs of late that Bush is trying to eleminate all of the good things of Roosvelt's New Deal and Johnson's Great Society.

For those of you among us who also remember the 1990s and the Clinton Administration, Clinton fought for the enaction of a number of important programs like COPS. Granted, they may not have been as groundbreaking as New Deal or Great Society programs, but they are just as important to the welfare of our country.

Essentially, the Bush administration is attempting a wholesale slaughter of major programs enacted by during three of the most domestic-policy progressive Democratic administrations in American history.

And what are we going to do about this?

Of course, we can't expect our Governor or either of our U.S. Senators to raise hell about this. They're all Bush Republicans. But, I'd think at least a few State Senators and State Reps--especially those in communities which benefitted from the very programs Bush is trying to cut--would have something to say about this. Hopefully, over the course of the next few weeks, they will.

Update: Via AP, here is a comprehensive list of budget cuts:


- Agriculture Department

AMS Biotechnology Program

Forest Service Economic Action Program

High Cost Energy Grants

NRCS Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations

Research and Extension Grant Earmarks and Low Priority Programs

- Commerce Department

Advanced Technology Program

Emergency Steel Guarantee Loan Program

Public Telecommunications Facilities, Planning and Construction Program

- Education Department

Comprehensive School Reform

Educational Technology State Grants

Even Start

(High School Program Terminations:)

Vocational Education State Grants

Vocational Education National Activities

Tech Prep State Grants

Upward Bound

Talent Search


Smaller Learning Communities

Perkins Loans: Capital Contributions and Loan Cancellations

Regional Education Laboratories

Safe and Drug Free Schools State Grants

(Small Elementary and Secondary Education Programs:)

Javits Gifted and Talented Education

National Writing Project

School Leadership

Dropout Prevention Program

Close Up Fellowships

Ready to Teach

Parental Information and Resource Centers

Alcohol Abuse Reduction

Foundations for Learning

Mental Health Integration in Schools

Community Technology Centers

Exchanges with Historic Whaling and Trading Partners

Foreign Language Assistance

Excellence in Economic Education

Arts in Education

Women's Educational Equity

Elementary and Secondary School Counseling

Civic Education

Star Schools

(Smaller Higher Education Programs:)

Higher Education Demos for Students w/Disabilities

Underground Railroad Program

Interest Subsidy Grants

(Small Job Training and Adult Education Programs:)

Occupational and Employment Information

Tech-prep Demonstration

Literacy Programs for Prisoners

State Grants for Incarcerated Youth

(Small Postsecondary Student Financial Assistance Programs:)


Byrd Scholarships

B.J. Stupak Olympic Scholarships

Thurgood Marshall Legal Opportunity

(Small Vocational Rehabilitation Programs:)

Vocational Rehabilitation Recreational Programs

Vocational Rehab (VR) Migrant and Seasonal Workers

Projects with Industry

Supported Employment

Teacher Quality Enhancement Program

- Energy Department

Hydropower Program

Nuclear Energy Plant Optimization

Nuclear Energy Research Initiative

Oil and Gas Programs

- Health and Human Services Department

ACF Community Service Programs

ACF Early Learning Opportunities Fund

CDC Congressional Earmarks

CDC Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant

CDC Youth Media Campaign

Direct Service Worker Delivery Grants

HRSA Emergency Medical Services for Children

HRSA Health Facilities Construction Congressional Earmarks

HRSA Healthy Community Access Program

HRSA State Planning Grant Program

HRSA Trauma Care

HRSA Traumatic Brain Injury

HRSA Universal Newborn Hearing Screening

Real Choice Systems Change Grants

- Housing and Urban Development Department


- Interior Department

BLM Jobs-in-the-Woods Program

LWCF State Recreation Grants (NPS)

National Park Service Statutory Aid

Rural Fire Assistance (BLM, NPS, FWS, BIA)

- Justice Department

Byrne Discretionary Grants

Byrne Justice Assistance Grants

COPS Hiring Grants

COPS Interoperable Communications Technology Grants

COPS Law Enforcement Technology Grants

Juvenile Accountability Block Grants

National Drug Intelligence Center

Other State/Local Law Enforcement Assistance Program Terminations

State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP)

- Labor Department

Migrant and Seasonal Farm Worker Training Program

Reintegration of Youthful Offenders

- Transportation Department

National Defense Tank Vessel Construction Program

Railroad Rehabilitation Infrastructure Financing Loan Program

- Enviromental Protection Agency

Unrequested Projects

Water Quality Cooperative Agreements

- National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Hubble Space Telescope Robotic Servicing Mission

- Other Agencies

National Veterans Business Development Corporation

Postal Service: Revenue Forgone Appropriation

SBA: Microloan Program

SBA: Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Participating Securities Program

- Agriculture Department

Federal (In-House) Research

Forest Service Capital Improve and Maintenance

Forest Service Wildland Fire Management (incl. supp. and emergency funding)

Biomass Research and Development


CCC - Bioenergy

CCC - Market Access Program

Farm Bill Programs (EQIP

Farm Bill Programs (CSP)

Farm Bill Programs (WHIP)

Farm Bill Program (Farm and Ranchland Protection)

Farm Bill Programs (Ag. Management Assistance)


Renewable Energy

Rural Firefighter Grants

Rural Strategic Investment Program

Rural Business Investment Program

Value-added Grants

Watershed Rehabilitation

NRCS Conservation Operations

NRCS Resource Conservation and Development Program

Water and Wastewater Grants and Loans

- Commerce Department

Manufacturing Extension Partnership

- Education Department

Adult Education State Grants

State Grants for Innovation

- Energy Department

Environmental Management

- Health and Human Services Department

HRSA Children's Hospitals GME Payment Program

HRSA Health Professions

HRSA Rural Health

SAMHSA Programs of Regional and National Significance

State, Local & Hospital Bioterrorism Preparedness Grants

- Housing and Urban Development Department

Housing for Persons with Disabilities

Native American Housing Block Grant

Public Housing Capital Fund

- Interior Department

Bureau of Indian Affairs School Construction

National Heritage Area Grants

Payments in Lieu of Taxes

USGS, Mineral Resources Program

- Justice Department

Federal Bureau of Prisons Construction Program

High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program

Juvenile Justice Law Enforcement Assistance Programs

- Labor Department

International Labor Affairs Bureau

Office of Disability Employment Policy

Workforce Investment Act Pilots and Demonstrations

- State Department

Assistance for the Independent States of the Former Soviet Union

- Transportation Department

FAA - Facilities and Equipment

FAA - Airport Improvement Program (Oblim)

FRA - Next Generation High Speed Rail

- Treasury Department

Internal Revenue Service - Taxpayer Service

- Environmental Protection Agency

Alaska Native Villages

Clean Water State Revolving Fund

- National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Aeronautics: Vehicle Systems Program

Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter

- Other Agencies

Archives: National Historical Publications & Records Commission

U.S. Institute of Peace, Construction of New Building

Agriculture: Rural Telephone Bank

Commerce: Economic and Community Development Programs

Homeland Security: State and Local Homeland Security Grants

Homeland Security: Transportation Security Administration, Recover Aviation Security Screening Costs Through Fees

Labor: Job Training Reform, Consolidate Grants Program

Transportation: Amtrak

Army Corps of Engineers (Civil Works): Performance Guidelines for Funding Construction Projects

U.S. Agency for International Development and Department of Agriculture: International Food Aid

Vince Leibowitz is County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 08:53 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Rep. DeLay in the Bedroom with a Candlestick?

By Jim Dallas

It's time to tell Reps. DeLay and Culberson to get a Clue about Houston's light rail funding needs.

(Yes, I know, I am so very punny today, har har.)

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

How 'bout some flying monkeys?

By Jim Dallas

Vince is certainly correct that Howard Dean's DNC Plan is exciting because it addresses a number of widely-recognized genuine institutional problems we've got.

And naturally, if I were a Republican, I'd share Thomas Lindaman's view:

Conservatives and Republicans have been licking their chops at the prospect of a Dean chairmanship, but I would urge a bit of caution here. Howard Dean has the potential to be the Democrats' version of Newt Gingrich, and if we overlook the potential impact he will have on the Democrats as a whole, we could see a Democrat Revolution in the near future, possibly as soon as 2006.

Granted, I've taken more than a few shots at Dean in my columns, but behind the scenes I've grown to respect him. He is not a typical modern Democrat by any stretch of the imagination. Instead of focusing on short term personal political goals, he sees a bright future for his party if Democrats are willing to follow him.

And personally, I think he has the ability to do it.

Soon? All in good time, my pretties.

But while we're rebuilding our state parties and modernizing our technology, why don't we take the next logical step - training a swarm of flying monkeys? Just think about how they'd improve our operations - reduced costs for lit drops, and the ability to literally, umm, knock and drag our voters to the polls!

At this point you are wondering... no doubt... did Jimbo have a little too much fun this weekend? What's the point? Is there a point?

In rapid order, no, yes, and yes. The point is this: The Dean plan focuses heavily on infrastructure and institutional reform. But it seems to ignore that other key issue - persuasion. And while I certainly don't intend to join the Chicken Little Wing of the Democratic Party, I'll note that Dean's ascendency probably isn't turning on the un-evangelized.

Having the best marketing infrastructure in the world isn't going to help us one iota if there's not a market for what we're marketing.

This is, I think, my singular critique of the plan so far, but it's important. Our sales pitch needs work. As in, it needs to be employed.

By "work," I don't mean turning tail and pretending that, by golly, if we just have enough Sista Souljah moments the people will trust us again! (and boy howdy, do I absolutely loathe re-running the same tired plays out of the Clinton playbook) but rather, that we need to work on fundamental things like the elevator pitch and... by golly... actually going out and using selling door-to-door.

Howard Dean, I think, is going to do a good job as chair. But at some point we're going to have to start addressing that credibility gap (yes! It's frustrating to admit that millions of Americans still trust those assclowns in the White House!) that's putting a crimp in our persuasive ability. I'm not sure handing over message and policy to the Congressional wing of the party was the best decision... bless their hearts, despite some promising developments in the last few months... I'm still not convinced our Congressional leaders could fight their way out of a wet paper sack.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:48 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Now I'm Excited

By Vince Leibowitz

I must admit, I was among the skeptics who didn't really think it would make a difference who ended up as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

And, though Howard Dean still has a lot to prove, as a county chairman, I was very excited to read about Howard Dean's Plan for the DNC.

If you are a Democrat and don't get at least a little excited reading this, you may need to check your pulse:

1. Show up! Democrats should never concede a single state, a single district, or a single voter to the Republicans. We must be active and compete in all 50 states and work with the state parties to build a true national party.

2. The success of the national party depends directly on the success of the state parties — we must better integrate our operations by:

* Having the DNC pay the salary of each state party executive director to help ensure that the state parties have adequate funds.
* Collectively building and sharing supporter lists between the national and state parties.
* Recruiting, training, and encouraging candidates to run for office at every level — building tomorrow's farm team from the ground up.
* Actively grow local Democratic committees and communities by working with neighborhood activists who can reach out in their communities and enable the grassroots to support state and local candidates.
* Maintaining a permanent campaign in every state. We need to establish an ongoing, active presence, which does not have to be recreated every four years for four months.

3. Set core principles that define the Democratic Party and what we stand for and take a bottom-up approach to the development of the Party's message;

4. Use cutting-edge Internet and other technologies to fundraise, organize, and communicate with our supporters;

5. Strengthen our political institutions and leadership institutes to promote our leaders and our ideas — these organizations must work together in a coordinated and integrated fashion to elect Democrats at every level, so that we can take this country back.

I am particularly interested in this one:

Collectively building and sharing supporter lists between the national and state parties.

Does this mean that the Texas Democratic Party can now get the fund-raising list from the DNC they used to raise something like $19 million dollars (may be wrong about that figure) from Texas?

If so, this would represent a major shift in DNC policy going back at least two decades. If I were Charles Soechting, I'd call the DNC Monday morning and ask for a copy of that list.

Also, I wonder if this means that county parties can get the list of DNC contributors in their counties? Just for the fun of it, I think I'll call the DNC Monday morning and ask for this list.

I am slightly confused as to why Dean didn't specifically include any language mentioning county parties, the true backbone of the Party. He mentioned "community activists," and maybe it all means the same thing.

Also, just thinking out loud here, since Dean is now the DNC Chairman, does this mean he would headline a major fund-raiser like, for free? I'll ask when I call Monday. It'd be great if East Texas Democrats could have a huge multi-county fund-raiser in a place like Tyler and split the proceeds.

I may have to whip out the old Rolodex and get with some of my East Texas contacts to see if they'd like to do something like that--Dean or no Dean. In fact, the more I think about it, the cooler the idea sounds.

I'd better stop this post because I'm already thinking about locations and designing logos in my head. Damn you, Howard Dean for getting me even more excited about being a Democrat!

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 11:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Missing In Action

By Nathan Nance

I want to thank Vince for taking the slack on all the posting, especially since I was no help.

It should come as no surprise that I am overjoyed that Gov. Dean is now Chairman Dean. I supported him all along because I thought he would do the best job for a number of reasons which we've all gone over more times than anyone cares to remember.

I won't list why Howard Dean is going to make a good chairman. Instead, I want to remind everyone why we make a great party.

We are the party of FDR, JFK, Andrew Jackson and Bill Clinton. Our politics and our beliefs, as a whole, have changed a lot through all the years. While Jackson may have hated the idea of a national bank, it was Bill Clinton who signed NAFTA and ushered in the century of global free trade. While Democrats in the 1860s may have supported slavery, Democrats in the 1960s made the Civil Rights Act law. We are the oldest party that represent the newest ideas. We are always evolving, making ourselves better. We learn from our mistakes.

Our friends on the other side of the aisle do not. The party of big business and of the rich and elite in the 1890s was the party of the rich in the 1990s. The Republicans do not change, do not learn. Failed economic policies like cutting taxes for the rich to the detriment of the overall economy keep getting reused without a second thought. Cold War-era policies to fight the Soviets are used to fight a much different enemy in the 21st Century.

While the Republicans use scare tactics and falsehoods, we Democrats use the truth. As Harry Truman said, "I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell." That's what makes us great. That's why we represent what is best with America and why we are going to win. The Republicans can't hold off the inevitable. People will see through the misleading words and the bad results.

Dean is the new chairman. It's his job to help us prepeare for that time so we can be ready to do what it is we do best, help America reach its full potential. Let's do all we can to help him to help ourselves and to help our fellow Americans.

The title of this post is Missing In Action. It was meant not just to describe where I've been, but where we've been. Too often, some Democrats attack others because of a particular ideology or group association.

I know I've taken my fair share of shots at the DLC and others have taken shots at us Deaniacs. Today is the day that ends. Today is the day when we start evolving; start to better ourselves. Today we are not missing, we are found. Today we have a new beginning. Today we are Democrats, pure and simple.

Today, we start the journey, together, toward winning back our government and repairing the damage caused by the Republicans.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 04:31 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 12, 2005

Soon, Very Soon

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Vince is right in the fact that us old guys have not been up to peak posting capacity of late. I will later tonight post my "Post" about Howard Dean as our new Party Chair. I will also have set up some fundraising links.

I know some of you want to donate as soon as you got the word that Dean was Chair, but I have a feeling that all the major e-mails from all the major lists will go out soon enough and they are still coordinating how to best keep track of the dollars and not crash anybody's servers, as has already happened with the Act Blue donation page that Kos set up earlier today. The next couple of days will likly be as high traffic for donations and signing up for DNC services as during the Presidential Election so some patience may be in order.

If you want, try out the Act Blue page since it is a blogosphere wide effort with the best tracking capability. If that is not working, I have set up an ePatriots donation page with the DNC which I would encourage you to use otherwise.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 05:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dean New Chairman, DNC Wants Blogger Support

By Vince Leibowitz

I guess all the regular contributors are taking a much-needed rest, digging through capitol waste baskets for their next scoops, or just otherwise occupied. (Perhaps they are at the DNC meeting?)

So, since it's Saturday and I obviously don't have anything else to do until later, I'll pick up a little slack by announcing:

Howard Dean is the new Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

I'll comment no more on this except to say I eagerly await the fulfilment of his campaign promises.

But, I do think it is cool that the DNC is now actively soliciting support from Bloggers, via this link. I guess if every blogger who supported Dean's presidential run were to contribute, the DNC would make a pretty penny today.

While you can give to the DNC if you want, I'll instead encourage everyone to help out here in the home state first, by giving to Take Back Texas or the Texas Democratic Party.

Or, visit your local party's website. Most county parties in Texas now have a links where they can accept contributions on line, too.

Why not celebrate a day on which grassroots activism has taken the center stage by giving at the local level?

I'm quite confident that Byron, Andrew, Karl-T or Jim will post a far suprior post to one I could write on Dean and his new position, so I'll be eagerly awaiting that.

I would, however, like to know the vote breakdown. Perhaps one of those guys will have that information.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 03:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Hutchison Hires Heavy Hitters, But Won't Commit To Race Against Perry

By Vince Leibowitz

Smack me with a notebook like a slow-moving staffer of the state's defunct treasury department and call me wrong.

Evidently my wish that Kay Bailey Hutchison will just retire and go away isn't going to come to pass. She's hiring people.

Texas' senior senator this week hired two new campaign operatives--Scott Howell of Dallas and Terry Sullivan--both veterans of raunchy senate battles across the nation. Howell also worked for the Bush/Cheney campaign.

The Dallas Morning News notes:

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has hired two nationally known political heavyweights to launch a statewide campaign – a possible indication she's gearing up for a fierce primary challenge to Gov. Rick Perry instead of the virtual waltz she would expect if seeking re-election.

The senator's spokesman, David Beckwith, confirmed the hires Thursday but declined to say what race the new campaign staff is preparing for.

"Whatever she runs for in 2006, it's time to start assembling the campaign team," Mr. Beckwith said.

The new campaign manager is Terry Sullivan, who most recently ran the successful campaign for U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a staunch conservative. Mr. Sullivan guided Mr. DeMint's campaign through what he described as a "brutal, competitive and heated" Republican primary.

The senator also hired Scott Howell of Dallas to direct the media campaign. Mr. Howell has worked for the Bush-Cheney campaign, as well as those of five other Republican senators, including Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.

That campaign, against incumbent Democrat Max Cleland, was particularly rough. Mr. Cleland, a disabled Vietnam War veteran, was coupled in ads with Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

For her previous campaigns, Ms. Hutchison has used ad-maker David Weeks of Austin. He also does the campaign ads for Mr. Perry, who is a longtime friend.

Mr. Beckwith declined to say why Ms. Hutchison was switching, other than to call Mr. Howell "a creative media person."


Mr. Sullivan said he is prepared to run a re-election campaign or tough primary race against a sitting governor. "I'm with her for whatever she wants to do," Mr. Sullivan said.

This little saga is full of contradictions. First, if she's not running for senate, why did she hire veterans of senate campaigns? Second, if she is running against Perry, it makes sense that she's not going to use the same ad people as him.

Too, the hires were announced shortly after her likely opponent--were Hutchison to say in the senate--Barbara Radnofsky, announced she'd raised $200,000 in one month's time.

However, more signs point to Hutchison opposing Perry than staying in the senate, in spite of the heavy hitters she just hired.

On a visit to Houston Friday, Hutchison said that her new campaign hires are "normal preparation for a race," declining to say whether she was preparing to challenge Gov. Rick Perry.

"I have not decided exactly what I am going to do," said the Republican, appearing at a Houston homeless shelter with federal Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson to announce $64 million in grants to fight homelessness. "I just don't think this is the time for politics."

However, I disagree with the statement by the AP that, "If she seeks re-election to the Senate, she would be expected to win easily."

Even for the Breck Girl, after another two years of Bush, an economy showing no signs of recovery, and the Texas Democratic Party as active and vibrant as it is, I'm not sure any Republican statewide can say they'll win "easily." Especially not with a legitimate opponent. With Ron Kirk out of the running and Houston's Radnofsky the likely nominee at this point, Hutchison will have a tough race on her hands. Further, though Republicans like Henry Bonilla say they will run if Hutchison doesn't, look for Hutchison to have a GOP Primary opponent if she stays where she is. It is highly likely that her feud with Perry has poisioned her with many of the state's far-right Republicans, who happen to control the Texas GOP at this point.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 03:13 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 10, 2005

Hey Ossifer, What About My Livil Ciberties?

By Vince Leibowitz

In addition to some other stupid anti-alcohol legislation put forth this session, the Lege is now debating DWI checkpoints to trap drunk drivers.

This issue failed in the Lege in 2003, and I doubt there is enough momentum for it to pass this time. That, and way, way, way too many legislators recieve a heck of a lot of money from beer distributors.

KXAN.com notes:

Do police in Texas have the right to set up checkpoints to catch drunk drivers?

Tuesday, the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving was at the Capitol pumping up some bills to give law enforcement agencies that right.


The bills would allow police to set up sobriety checkpoints next to highways or streets to pull people over and then evaluate if they're drunk.

Detractors say drivers have the right to be let alone if they've done nothing wrong.

Texas is in the minority. Texas is one of about 10 states without sobriety checkpoints.

Bills to legalize them have failed before, but supporters say they can accept changes.

"There are some concerns that possibly the checkpoints could be run in one neighborhood too often. So the bill will most likely be modified to say instead of being able to run a checkpoint once a week, you can only run a checkpoint once a month at a location," MADD Public Policy Liaison Bill Lewis said.

Among those making a push at the Capitol was a mom whose son was killed in a drunk driving crash.

"Very personal basis. And I feel like if I can prevent a parent from going through this, it would really make a big difference," mother Grace Maldonado said.

MADD believes sobriety checkpoints will reduce drunk driving deaths in Texas by at least 15 percent to start.

"You're talking about 250 (people) a year who'll not die in an alcohol-related traffic crash that might have died otherwise," Lewis said.

Checkpoints allow police to stop vehicles in a sequence like every other or every fourth or fifth vehicle. Police can then evaluate if the driver's drunk.


There have been three bills filed by lawmakers to give Texas law enforcement the authority to set up temporary sobriety checkpoints.

Two bills are in the House, and one is in the Senate.

Naturally, MADD (mothers against Drunk Driving) is behind this.

Now, I'm all for not driving drunk, and MADD has done some good work in the past, but let's be real, folks. At what cost does all of this come to civil liberties? I'm very glad the folks over at the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer's Association pointed out just how bad an idea this is:

Opponents are livid.

"Authorizing the police to stop innocent people who're doing nothing wrong is not the solution," Keith Hampton with the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association said.

Concerned about any driver getting pulled into a checkpoint, they say Texas can reduce DWI's by focusing enforcement at bars and promoting safe ride programs.

"You're free to drive wherever you want to drive, so long as you're obeying the law, and the police have no reason to suspect otherwise," Hampton said.

Of course, for the cause of civil liberties, it might have been better if the American Beverage Institute had kept their mouth shut on this one.

Though I didn't know Texas is one of only a handfull of states without this legislation, it doesn't change my view: this is bad public policy. And, MADD isn't a group that should be setting public policy in Texas, period.

For one thing, though MADD mentions the "15 percent" statistic on how many drunk driving deaths they think this legislation will reduce, I'd like to see some real statistics, perhaps from those states such legislation has been passed in.

I'd also like to see some statistics regarding what percentage of drivers within these checkpoints is actually found to be drunk. Unless it's a holiday or the checkpoint is set up near a bar, I'd bet the numbers are few and far between.

Let's consider this further for a moment: MADD's argument is that, to save 15 percent of 250 lives, we should all be willing to be stopped, given field sobriety tests, possibly breathalizers, and generally be investigated without probable cause anywhere at any time on any road anywhere in Texas. I'm all for saving lives, but I think this is a little extreme.

It's kind of like the Patriot Act and similar legislation: In order to stop one terrorist or person who may be a terrorist, the government gets free and unrestricted access to ask our local library what books we are reading. Or, that one person kept in jail for three years (without legal counsel) after 9-11 who wasn't a terrorist should willingly sacrafice those three years of lost freedom in hopes that the government snared a terrorist in its wide net cast with seemingly wanton disregard for civil liberties.

It just doesn't seem right.

In light of our collective loss of civil liberties after 9-11, I think the Texas Legislature should be especially careful what liberties they take away from us. I'm more willing to perhaps give up a little liberty at an airport to stop terrorists than I am to give up civil liberties on the highway to stop potential drunk drivers. Yes, I know we're all targets of drunk drivers and could be killed by one any day. I guess I'm saying I'll take that risk over surrendering my right to travel down Interstate 20 unrestricted.

As for the Lege, there are a lot of people who could really piss off the liqour lobby with a "yea" vote on this legislation. The liqour lobby is a huge contributor to campaigns of Democrats and Republicans.

The list of recipients, just from the Beer Allicance of Texas PAC, is huge, and flows on both sides of the aisle. You can get the list by going here and putting "beer alliance" in the search spot for "contributor." Or, you can go here and look at the Alliance's Ethics Commission reports.

Once again, just to be totally clear, I'm all for not drunk driving, and all for curbing drunk driving deaths. This isn't, however, the right way to do this.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 10:04 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

TV Time

By Vince Leibowitz

I made an appearance on "Face to Face" with Neal Barton, anchor of the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. news for the Tyler NBC affiliate, KETK Region 56 this afternoon during the station's 5 p.m. news cast.

"Face to Face" is a little two-minute segment Neal Barton does weekdays at five where he basically talks current events and politics with local political peoplel.

Lately, they've had a lot of Republicans on, so I was asked to come and give a perspective from the "other side."

Sadly, since it is a live segment, there are never any snippits of it on the station's website. And, since it's only two minutes, there is not a lot you can really get in to.

I was asked about school finance and children's healthcare.

I can't remember word for word what I said about school finance, but I mentioned the VLT proposal, and that I believed it would be what the Republican leadership ended up settling for after they rejected business tax hikes. I also noted that legislators need to be careful in repealing Robin Hood because so many schools in East Texas--specifically all of the districts in Van Zandt County--benefit from Chapter 41 "recapture" funds. And, of course, I noted that the majority of Texas schools are recipient schools, while a very small minority are "donor" schools under Share The Wealth. I also think I said that VLTs were an "inappropriate" way to fund public education. I wanted to use Bob Glaze's catch phrase, "gambling has always been a sleazy way to fund education," but I thought better of it and came out with "inappropriate."

On CHIPS, I do remember pretty much verbatim one good quote I got in, which was, "There's only a small surplus this biennium, and it's not enough to restore all of the cuts the Legislature made last session. In spite of all of the outcry over the cuts--especially in the last election--I suspect the Republican leadership is going to try and see just how little they can actually get by with restoring."

Needless to say, I was honored to be asked, and hope to be asked back again sometime in the future. Hopefully, though, they'll get my name right on the overline next time though.

Right before the commercial break preceeding my segment, I was sitting at the anchor desk with Neal Barton and was actually reading his teleprompter--unaware that the camera on the far right of the studio was going to cut to me and that he was going to be voicing over a live image of me. I realized this when I looked up to the in-studio television high above the newsroom and saw my self looking up at...myself. I think I had been on screen for four or five seconds, which probably means the audience saw me look perplexed when I saw my name misspelled on the teleprompter. I think this is especially true because one of the camera men reminded me to "smile" on the break (and, of course), look into the camera if I wanted to make a point (which I did). Not sure if I smiled or not--not much to smile about regarding the Lege these days.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 09:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

UT Watch Responds to Commission of 125

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The large planning and visioning process for UT had been out for a while, but UT Watch has released a very comprehensive reponse to the report which is available for you to download here. (PDF)

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 04:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Consolidating Power

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Coming from the same party that enjoys having the power to chose which districts and voters should be theirs, comes yet another outright power grab. I don't usually cut large clips from e-mails but this one sums it up well...

Yesterday a GOP legislator, State Rep. Mary Denny, (R--Aubrey) chairwoman of the House Elections Committee filed a bill that would give the state's Ethics Commission -- appointed and funded by legislators who could be investigated -- veto power over prosecutors seeking to enforce the state's election law.

GOP lawmakers don't want to be held accountable to the law. So they are considering legislation which would, in effect, grant them perpetual immunity from prosecution.

This bill should be called the "We're Above the Law" act. Please contact Rep. Denny and House Speaker Tom Craddick and tell them to withdraw HB 913. Let them know that no Texan, especially an elected official, should be above the law. Click to send an email to Denny or Email Craddick

or contact their offices:
Rep. Denny
(512) 463-0688 (512) 463-1000

Speaker Craddick
(512) 463-0658 Fax (512) 463-7722 Fax

The bill is being filed in direct response to an investigation of the 2002 campaigns that has already resulted in three indicted corporations settling with prosecutors and eight other indictments. And yes, Rep. Denny has received money from both organizations under investigation -- Tom DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority PAC (TRMPAC) and the Texas Association of Businesses (TAB).


The Ethics Commission is appointed by state officials and is notoriously gutless. In its fourteen years of existence it has never subpoenaed a witness or any documents to investigate a complaint or referred a criminal case. The Ethics Commission is the very definition of a toothless watchdog!

Check out Drive Democracy's Blog post about it.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 04:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bush Library at UT? Hell no

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Our every friendly UT Board of Regents (infamous for being a bunch of Conservative Tutition Raising Hacks) has found something else to bid on, now that they have lost interest in Los Alamos-- The George W. Bush Presidential Library!

Now I know that these libraries bring prestige and scholarly research, but I'm sorry, considering we already have a far better President and Texan's Library (LBJ's) I'll pass on adding GWB's to the mix. Give it to Waco. The little space we have left here at UT should be spent on facilities or housing. Not some looming reminder that is out of place politically in this city.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 03:52 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers

By Jim Dallas

John Kerry's sending out e-mails asking Democrats to stand behind Howard Dean:

Let's send an unmistakable message to George Bush and his allies: In 2005, the Democratic Party is strong and united.

Again, it is just two days until Howard Dean becomes chairman. Please join me now in getting his efforts to strengthen our Party off to a record-setting start.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What America Needs Now

By Jim Dallas

We need a public debate between likely Minnesota Senate candidate Al Franken and declared Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman.

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

February 09, 2005

"Samsonite. I was way off!"

By Nathan Nance

You know when they passed the Medicare Reform Bill, mor ethan half of the Republicans would only vote for it because it came in at under $300 billion. A month and half later, it turned out that the Administration had kept the fact that it would actually cost $540 billion under wraps so it would pass.

But they were off by a few hundred billion dollars more. The Post has a story that the Administration's budet shows the cost of the law will be $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. That's way off from what was originally estimated.

This is fuzzy math at its worst people. These people can't even estimate how much money they are giving away to pharmaceutical companies, how in the hell can we get them to give us straight numbers on Social Security?

At a House Ways and Means Committee hearing, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) taunted Treasury Secretary John W. Snow about the rhetorical discrepancies.

"If you're looking for a crisis, I would suggest you look at a crisis that was self-made in just last year, because the crisis exists in what's happened to Medicare by weighing it down," Emanuel said. "Those of us who told you it was going to cost twice as much were right."

Bush, questioned by reporters about the new numbers while meeting at the White House today with the Polish president, said that "there's no question that there is a unfunded liability inherent in Medicare" that the administration and Congress will "have to deal with over time."

I don't think Bush is cognizant of the fact that he created the budget deficit and the "unfunded liability" he's talking about. This is really scary, through-the-looking-glass-type stuff. I may actually have crossed into an alternate dimension where someone thinks that Bush is actually making sense.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 08:01 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Lawmakers Look Seriously At Trans Texas Corridor

By Vince Leibowitz

I haven't read much on opposition to the Terrible, woops, I mean Trans Texas Corridor this session, but it is out there, according to this AP report.

Many will remember that Governor Perry announced the $184 billion dollar TTC as an election-gimmick back in 2002 when he was running for re-election.

What many don't realize about the TTC is that it will literally cut hughe swaths through some parts of the state and take, via eminent domain, thousands of acres of land all over the state. Like many Texans, I actually thought the concept of the TTC--merging rail, truck traffic, and car traffic into a state-of-the art mega highway--sounded good at the time, until I actually looked over and studied some of the plans.

Here's what AP notes about lawmakers and TTC:

Now legislators have their own issues with the Trans Texas Corridor.

The corridor is Governor Rick Perry's $184 billion plan to build megahighways around the state.

Legislators appear willing to start tinkering with policies on tolls, eminent domain and how wide the corridor will be.

Todd Staples of Palestine chairs the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security.

Staples said officials want the change to occur in the most user-friendly manner as possible.

Transportation Commissioner Robert Nichols says the corridor is the best answer to solving increasingly congested highways in Texas.

Some farmers fear they'll lose chunks of land if highway splits their property.

Cities like Dallas and Waco are worried that new routes would take commerce away from them.

If you're interested in more TTC-related issues, visit CorridorWatch, one of the most comprehensive sites on the Web dealing with TTC issues.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 06:52 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Follow The Stupidity

By Andrew Dobbs

In 2003, changes in eligibility for CHIP meant that hundreds of thousands of kids lost their health care. The architect of these changes was Arlene Wohlgemuth. From the Quorum Report, November of last year:

Discussion over CHIP funding was a key issue in the Congressional District 17 race because, as a Texas House member last session, Republican candidate Arlene Wohlgemuth had been the author of the funding cuts. Wohlgemuth lost to incumbent U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Waco).

And yesterday, the Texas Hospital Association released a report saying that the Wohlgemuth-led cuts have really hurt Texas. From the press release announcing the report:

According to a study released today at a capitol news conference, “Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program funding cuts represent short-sighted and counterproductive public policy given the current national framework for indigent care.” At the request of the Texas Hospital Association, noted economist Ray Perryman, Ph.D., president of The Perryman Group based in Waco, has calculated the economic impact of cuts in Medicaid and CHIP made in 2003 when the Texas Legislature faced a $10 billion shortfall. Perryman concluded that reductions in state spending for Medicaid and CHIP are “a losing proposition in that for every dollar saved through cuts, far more is lost in federal funding, insurance premiums and other associated costs.” (...)

According to the Perryman study, the net reduction in state funding for Medicaid and CHIP is approximately $2.34 billion for the 2004-05 biennium. About $1.481 billion represents foregone federal revenues.

Now comes the not so funny part- according to Quorum Report today, Arlene Wohlgemuth is the new lobbyist for the Texas Hospital Association.

So an organization that not 24 hours ago was decrying her work in costing the state BILLIONS of dollars has now hired her to represent them in trying to undo her seminal accomplishment- balancing the budget on the back of poor children so that her rich donors wouldn't have to pay higher taxes. Great job THA, you have proved your own irrelevance.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 06:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 08, 2005

A Morning With Barbara Radnofsky: Updated

By Vince Leibowitz

Note: I've updated the post below to include links to coverage of the trip in the extended entry.

U.S. Senate candidate Barbara Radnofsky (D-Houston) is in East Texas this week, and spoke Tuesday to Democrats United in Longview, had a reception with the Upshur League of Democrats in Gilmer, and spoke to the Camp County League of Democrats tonight.

But this morning, she was in Tyler after a trek up from Houston with stops in various places including Lufkin to meet various local folks and, of course, raise money.

I had the honor of accompanying Barbara to her first interview with the Tyler Morning Telegraph after taking her on a few stops around the downtown area including a meeting with my friend and Smith County Democratic Chairwoman Karen Roberts. Barbara met with Karen at the ultra-hip very nicely restored offices of her law firm, Roberts & Roberts just across the street from Bergfeld Park in downtown Tyler. Barbara also got to visit with Karen's brother, Randy, who, as it happened, was an intern at Vinson & Elkins at the same time Barbara was back when they were first starting out.

Barbara had a great interview with the Tyler Morning Telegraph's Roy Maynard and got to meet most of the senior editorial staff--all of whom I worked with when I was a desk editor for the newspaper several years ago.

Here is the link to the TMT story.

I had planned on heading over to Pittsburg to hear her speech to the Camp County League of Democrats, but after a marathon meeting of the Council of Van Zandt County Communities this afternoon at Callender Lake--which included me delivering our legislative agenda to the group and fielding questions for about 30 minutes--I was kind of tired and decided to head home.

My personal favorite moment of the trip was actually getting my hands on a couple of brand new Radnofsky bumper stickers (what can I say, I'm a sucker for political memorabilia). One is generic with her name and US Senate 2006. The other is one I expect to see popping up with some frequency because of the motto it contains: "Tough Name--Smart Dame."

Wednesday morning, SDEC Committeewoman for SD3 Norma Narramore will be taking Barbara on a tour of the Titus County Courthouse in Mt. Pleasant to meet some of the officials and employees there before she and her husband, Ed, head back to Houston. So, if you're in Mt. Pleasant Wednesday morning, swing by the courthouse and introduce yourself.

And, for all of you political junkies out there always working on campaigns (like me), her husband Ed has one of the greatest, simple, "why didn't I think of that?" ideas to hit political literature in recent memory. If you're like me and your business cards are always scattered out throughout your car, briefcase, bag, satchel, purse or whatever, try having them fused into stacks with that waxy plastic-y stuff used to keep together paper on a note pad. They tear off just like a sheet on a note pad, and they stay together. I, for one, hadn't seen that before, but will save the idea in my memory bank for future reference. (Karl-T, your dad may want to take note of that idea for his new campaign, too.)

Vince Leibowitz is County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County, Secretary of board of directors of the Council of Van Zandt County Communities, and a frequent guest contributor to Political State Report and Burnt Orange Report.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 06:15 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Bush Budget Waste

By Byron LaMasters

Both Vince and I wrote on the study showing that the abstinence education program in Texas actually increased teen sex rates. So, one would think that a sensible budget-cutting president would realize that the program isn't working and either cut the program budget or demand results. Well, not really. What does the Bush administration do? They increase abstinence-based "sex education" by 24%. What a waste...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Another Capitol Blog

By Byron LaMasters

For an in-depth look at the goings-on of the lege sans the pink, check out Inside the Texas Capitol.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Chris Bell Exploring Run for Governor

By Byron LaMasters

This has pretty much been an open secret for the past several months, but the talk is now accompanied by a website, so check it out.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:32 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Tom Musselman for Fredericksburg City Council

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Just yesterday, my father Tom Musselman officially filed to run for the City Council of Fredericksburg, Texas. I have been working for the last day on his campaign website, part of his efforts to better connect with the citizens of Fredericksburg. I invite you to check it out at www.TomMusselman.com. Read the bio, keep up with the latest news, and also, if you live in Fredericksburg, please Join the campaign!

If you know people that live in the city, please forward the website to them. If you have a blog, please link to it in order to get his rankings a bit higher when people go to look for it on the web. He has to compete with my own name as it is right now.

Tom Musselman for Fredericksburg City Council

We will have a blogad up here on Burnt Orange within the week and I'll be keeping you up to date with news on the campaign. The filing photos should be ready in the next day or two. Ads are already running on the air and the first print ad will be in this week's Wednesday paper.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 07:38 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 07, 2005

Another Sign The Economic Recovery Isn't

By Vince Leibowitz

When most people think of indicators that tell us what the economy is really like, we think of retail sales, unemployment statistics and the like. However, foreclosures are a pretty good indicator, in my mind, of how well the economy is really doing. After all, if lots of people can't afford to make their house payment, are we really in that much of an economic recovery?

While using Google News to perform my nightly search for new Texas news stories, I came across a startling factoid via a real estate news site: Texas leads the nation in foreclosures. And, nationwide, things aren't much better.

Though the number of new foreclosed residential properties dropped 41 percent nationwide from December to January (a common thing from the end of one year to the start of the next) 20,279 new foreclosed residential properties were listed for sale during January, and the total number of residential foreclosure properties available for sale in the U.S. during the month of January was 78,694, according to Inman Real Estate News"

"A reduction in the number of new foreclosures is common at the beginning of a new year, resulting from properties not being processed as quickly during the holiday season," said Brad Geisen, president and CEO for Foreclosure.com. "The more striking number is January's total inventory level, which remained very high despite the drop in new foreclosures."

"In Texas, for example, new foreclosure inventory dropped by 2,320 properties compared to December -- nearly a 50 percent reduction. On the other hand, total inventory only dropped by 553 properties to 9,375. This means that foreclosed properties are not selling as fast and indicates a very strong buyer's market."

Sadly, Texas led all states in its total number of foreclosed properties for sale, and total new foreclosures in January.

Somehow, amid all the unemployment figures, retail sales figures, and the usual economic indicators we hear so much about, foreclosures seem to take a back seat. Nevertheless, they are not only an important economic indicator, but also a sad commentary on just hoe bad things have become, even in Texas

Take, for example, this article from the Houston Business Journal (via Foreclosure.com) on foreclosures in Harris County:

A record year for construction of new homes in Houston was offset by a negative side effect as the number of residential foreclosures increased sharply in 2004.

A total of 19,866 homes were posted for foreclosure in Harris County, a significant jump from the 17,230 posted in 2003, according to the Foreclosure Listing Service.

Amanda LeCureux of the listing service says the number of postings in 2004 was the highest total the company had seen since mid-1989.

Oddly, this article I found in a North Carolina paper sums it up best:

It’s not necessarily the unemployment rate that tells the best story of the economy, says Shelby Bankruptcy Attorney O. Max Gardner III. The key indicator is the number of home foreclosures.

"When you see the foreclosure rates escalating for such a long period of time with such dramatic increases, I think that tells the state of the economy more than any other factor," he said.

For 30 years, Gardner has helped people who have filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which prevents creditors from trying to get money from a person in debt while they create a plan to pay their debt in three to five years, in general.

All it takes, says Gardner, is "one bump in the road" to throw a family’s finances off track. That can be: credit card payments, losing a job, finding a job that doesn’t pay as much or have health benefits; increases in the cost of gas for heating.

But no matter what, most people try to make their mortgage payment, he said. The foreclosure statistics are indicative of the hardships many are facing, he said.

"They tell me that the economy is really not improving. It’s getting worse. It’s pretty frightening," Gardner said.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 11:20 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Comments Working Again

By Byron LaMasters

Comments are now working again. My apologies for taking so long. It has been a frustrating four days, but everything is working now, so go ahead and start commenting again. If you're interested in the full story for our comment problem, take the jump to the extended entry.

I have to say that in my 20 months of using Dreamhost, this was the first time where I was genuinely perturbed with their service. Apparently, a week ago, Dreamhost made an announcement requesting that MoveableType users upgrade to version 3.15, or otherwise be subject to a stoppage of some services. Unfortunately, since I only received the "Level 5" or "most urgent emails", I don't recall receiving that notification (I've since signed up to receive level 2-5 emails from Dreamhost). Then on Friday, Dreamhost disabled my mt-comments.cgi file, thus disabling all comments. I read through the latest Dreamhost announcements, noticed the request to upgrade to MT 3.15 (I was using MT 3.121), and upgraded. Then, I emailed Dreamhost back asking them to enable my mt-comments.cgi file. Dreamhost usually responds to support requests within 24 hours, but it took them nearly 60 hours to fulfill this request.

They finally responded to my request stating that the comments should be working, so I checked, and the comments still were not working, and I promptly filed out another support request last night. This afternoon, I finally decided to go into my ftp program and look at the properties of the mt-comments.cgi file. Sure enough, the permissions were set at 200, so I changed it to 755, checked to see if the comments worked, and sure enough they did. Overall, I've had a great experience with Dreamhost, but this was quite frustrating. Still, I'd recommend Dreamhost - it's $10/month, their service is generally pretty good, and until our traffic increases by a factor of ten, we won't have to pay any more for additional bandwidth.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:56 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Heflin Withdraws Election Challenge

By Byron LaMasters

Details to follow...

Live Stream of the Heflin press conference here on live stream 8.

4:40 PM: Heflin is withdrawing his challenge of Hubert Vo's election...

4:47 PM: The press conference is over. All I can say is that it's about frickin' time. Time for Andy Taylor and Ol' Talmadge to pack their bags and go home. Heflin's political career for all intents and purposes is over - good riddance.

5:35 PM: Houston Chronicle story here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Heflin vs. Vo Findings Highlights & Coverage Roundup

By Vince Leibowitz

I finally got some time to read the entire 60 page report released this morning by Rep. Will Hartnett (R-Dallas), Master of Discovery to the Select Committee on Election Contests.

There were some very interesting things in there, including the mention that Heflin and his attorney, Andy Taylor, presented no credible evidence of fraud.

Here are some of the highlights:

From the Summary

1.) Contestant Heflin has failed to establish by clar and convincing evidence that the outcome of the contested election, as shown by the final canvass indicating Contesteee Vo as the winner, was not the true outcome of the election. Accordingly, Heflin's contest should be dismissed.

2.) It is the master's finding that Contestee Vo's vote margin was reduced from 33 votes to 16 votes. there remain four votes that may be retrieved and opened and 1 voter who may be compelled to testify. However, even if all of those votes were in favor of the Contestant, Contestee Vo would still have a margin of victory not less than 10 votes. [Footnoted with: "Although the Select Committee may order the ballots to be opened or the voters to be compelled to testify, such action is not necessary, because the additional ballots cannot eleminate the margin of Contestee Vo's victory."]

3.) Contestant has produced no evidence of any intentional voter fraud which affected the final vote tally to his detriment. Contestant's challenge to the vast bulk of the votes in question is based on technical, and apparently unintentional, violations of election law.

4.) There is evidence that several voters in District 149 were fraudently transferred into District 137 in late 2003 or early 2004. The voters, primarily Nigerian Americans, all had their voter registrations transferred in a similar manner, likely by the same person...

This was particularly interesting, and Hartnett addressed it further when considering the case of one of the deposed voters, Franca Ejiofof:

It appears that Ms. Ejiofor's voter registration was moved without her knowledge to another district in which she did not reside. She is likely a victim of a broad scheme conducted in Harris County in late 2003 and early 2004 to involuntarily re-register persons with African or Nigerian surnames into Dsitrict 137. In the March 2004 Democratic Primary, the incumbent from District 137, Scott Hochberg, faced a challenge from Bernardo Amadi, a Nigerian immigrant. In the election, Representative Hochberg won 72% of the vote, and subsequently, the Harris County voter registrar conducted an investigation in which he found that over 100 people primarily with African or Nigerian surnames had their registrations involuntarily transferred in time to be effective to vote in the Democratic Primary in March 2004.

In discussing guidelines used in making the determinations regarding contested votes, Hartnett was very clear that a heavy burden of proof had to be met:

Both legislative and judicial precedents indicate that, to overturn an election, the Contestant has the heavy burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that voting irregularities materially affected the election results.


"Clear and convincing evidence is defined as that measure or defree of proof that will produce in the mind of the trier of fact a firm belief or conviction as to the truth of the allegations sought to be estabilshed." This intermediate standard "falls between preponderance of the evidence of ordinary civil proceedings and the reasonable doubt standard utilized in criminal proceedings."


While the proof must weigh heavier than merely the greater weight of the credible evidence, there is no requirement that the evidence be unequivocal or undisputed.


In order to prevail in this contest, the Contestant must show that the margin of victory in this race was offset by clear and convincing evidence of excluded legal votes cast in the race that are tied to a particular candidate.

And, since Heflin didn't show that, Hartnet concluded:

This was a very close election decided by only a handful of votes out of more than 41,357 cast. After months of discovery, the detailed review of the voter files of 259 persons, and hours of examination and analysis of voter files by the parties and the master, it is the opinion of the master that the Contestant has failed to meet his burden of proof. The master concludes that Representative Vo retains his seat by not less than 10 votes and not more than 20 votes, depending on the impact of the five votes that may still be counted.

Although there was no evidence of voter fraud generated by any candidate in this race, serious questions remain regarding the fraudulent "deportation" of a significant number of Nigerian American voter registrations from District 149 and several other districts into District 137.

In a nutshell, that is the report. It did, of course, contain a great deal of information dealing with exactly what guidelines Hartnett used in making his conclusions, a re-hashing of what both sides submitted to the panel, and a great deal of dissection of exploration data, and divided up votes/voters in questions into various categories and discussed persons in those categories who were deposed.

As for a "coverage roundup," In The Pink Texas has some of Andy Taylor's comments on the situation. Kuff has an updated round-up including breaking stories on it, and a link to the report. Save Texas Reps has a link to some hearing transcripts, asks the question about whether or not Andy Taylor committed fraud, and has Vo's statement</>.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 02:45 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Time to tap the keg

By Jim Dallas

Or was that uncork the bubbly...

Kuff: Vo "wins".

P.S. Nonetheless, don't stop working! For Houston area readers, consider heading over to Greg's Opinion and asking Old Man Wythe about the many opportunities for party-building.

The full Hartnett report is here (PDF file).

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

Things are Getting Pink

By Byron LaMasters

It's another week, and it's another pink Texas blog - this one is In the Pink Texas, not to be confused with the Barbie homepage, InThePink.com. That makes two weeks in a row where Texas blog readers have been treated to a new "pink" blog. Last week we found Pink Dome.

In the Pink, Texas will be blogging on the Texas legislature from the capitol, so I look forward to the reporting.

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

February 06, 2005

Pictures from Yesterday

By Byron LaMasters

Unfortunately, the picture of Karl-Thomas and I did not turn out, but here's some other pictures I took yesterday:

A Rose Spector sign outside the Headquarters.
The "Rosemobile" in front of a polling location.
Signs in front of a polling location.
Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Give Dean A Fair Shake

By Jim Dallas

There've always been intraparty feuds, but the sky-is-falling rhetoric over Howard Dean's apparent success (here and otherwise) in winning the DNC helm is way off the charts.

Howard Dean was not my first choice to be DNC Chairman; my first choice was Simon Rosenberg, because I believed he'd be the most capable leader/manager/guru. But that isn't to say I thought anyone would be patently incapable of the job, with the exception of Tim Roemer (whose unfavorables among the Democratic intelligensia probably surpass Dean's by a considerable amount).

I share the anxiety of many people about Dean; like most of us here, I was in Iowa last year. If the Dean DNC will look anything like Dean for Iowa, then every quote in Garance Franke-Ruta's piece in the American Prospect will look prescient. (At the same time, from what I've heard, the New Hampshire organization was brilliant).

On the other hand, Franke-Ruta, who covered the Dean campaign last year, felt compelled to back-peddle from the shrill Dean-bashing in the recent pieces by Jon Chait and Ryan Lizza.

I can't agree with Greg that there's anything amiss with giving money and power to state Democratic party's.

Look, the next four years could validate every fear of the Stop Dean caucus. On the other hand, it could very well shake things up. And on the third hand (I don't really have three hands, but you get the gist), it could end up meaning very little.

I, for one, choose to be an optimist, or at the very least, a realist. And if I could say "let's give Bush a fair shake" (I did, by the way; he just kept acting like a jackass, so that was the end of that experiment), then I ought to be able to say the same thing about Dean.

(Or, for the cynics, I am beholden to take my talking-points from the editors of the American Prospect (also here), instead of from the editors of The New Republic.)

Posted by Jim Dallas at 04:31 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Through The Wire

By Jim Dallas

Houston TV station KHOU informs us on one interesting idea for funding indigent health care:

But Harris County commissioner Sylvia Garcia has an idea that she thinks could help solve the problem. Garcia wants to add a fee to all international wire transfers in Texas. The money would be used exclusively for indigent health care.

"This is an idea that could address the fiscal crisis in healthcare for the entire state of Texas," says Garcia.

If Commissioner Garcia gets her way this fee for international wire transfers would be less than using an ATM. And it could mean an extra $6 million to $10 million for Harris County.

George Garcia's family-owned check cashing business does a lot of international wire transfers. He says the costs of sending wire transfers to other countries has dropped dramatically in the past 10 years.

"If you want to send $300 to Mexico today, it'll cost you $10 bucks. In past, it would have cost you $30," he says, but Garcia worries about additional fees.

"International is probably our No. 1 wire transfer source," says Garcia. "But if it doesn't stop there then there's only so much the company will do. They'll pass it on to the consumer of course and the consumer is not gonna be very happy about that."

I happen to think that funds-transfer taxes are a generally good idea; but I must ask, would such a tax (if levied by the state of Texas) be an unconstitutional state export duty or un-WTO-tional trade barrier?

Moreover, as the story suggests, wouldn't such taxes disproportionately fall upon guest workers and immigrants?

UPDATE: Kuff points to the elephant in the room.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Spector Loses

By Byron LaMasters

It wasn't that close. I'll have more thoughts on all this in the next day or two, but I am proud of the fact that Spector only lost by three votes in the precinct where Karl-Thomas and I worked. Here's the results:

State Representative District 121 - Unexpired Term

Paul Silbert IND 401 2.76%
Rose Spector DEM 4,707 32.34%
Glen S. Starnes REP 192 1.32%
Joe Straus REP 9,255 63.59%

Total Votes Cast 14,555
Precincts Reported 88 of 88

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 05, 2005

Rose Spector and HD 121

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Byron and I are headed down to San Antonio today to help get out the vote for Rose Spector in today's special election. If you are in the area, either vote or volunteer or drop her some jingle to help out.

Polls close at 7 pm and results will be updated online here at that poin.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 05:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Records Link TRMPAC, TAB

By Vince Leibowitz

This is quite the bombshell, via the Austin American Statesman.

Normally, on something like this, I'd try to rephrase and digest the article for the benefit of the readership, but it's so good, well-written and clear, I'm just going to post a link and a few snippits: (but check the end for my comments)

As a California phone bank was urging a select group of Texans to vote for Republican legislative candidates during the final days of the 2002 election, Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond was touting those candidates in a letter mailed to the same likely GOP voters.

It was no coincidence that the phone calls and Hammond's letter targeted the same list, created with corporate money from Texans for a Republican Majority, a political committee led by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land.

The parallel events, revealed in documents obtained by the Austin American-Statesman, provide further evidence that GOP fund-raisers and backers may have used corporate contributions to coordinate their election efforts and support individual candidates. State law prohibits using corporate money for political activity, which both groups deny doing, but a Travis County grand jury indicted three Republican consultants last September as part of a two-year criminal investigation.

The two groups' responses to the latest revelations also demonstrate that their versions of what happened in 2002 continue to change over time.

A year ago, Hammond, through his lawyer Andy Taylor, told the American-Statesman that the California phone bank, Contact America, billed TAB by mistake and the state's largest business organization never used the phone bank's mailing list.

Now documents, including e-mails, invoices and voided checks, show that TAB did use the mailing list for a letter-writing campaign that complemented get-out-the-vote efforts by Texans for a Republican Majority.

Lawyers for Democrats accuse the two organizations of conspiring to circumvent a law barring corporate money from being spent on political activity. Taylor and Terry Scarborough, who represents Texans for a Republican Majority, said their clients never used corporate money to advocate the election or defeat of any candidate.

"With corporate money they identified voters in specific districts, they mailed endorsement letters to those voters and then made get-out-the-vote calls to the voters," said Austin lawyer Cris Feldman, who is suing both groups on behalf of Democrats. "If that's not electioneering, what is?"

Taylor said TAB should be judged on its words to voters, not its actions.

"Under the First Amendment, it's the content of the speech, not the motivation of the speaker that counts," Taylor said.


Last week TAB's printer, Bob Thomas of Thomas Graphics in Austin, disclosed that the letter was mailed, calling it "TAB's endorsement letter," a characterization that Taylor disputes.

Taylor said the letter avoids the endorsement tag because it never used so-called magic words such as "support" or "vote for" a particular candidate. Feldman argues that "magic words" is not the legal test and that Hammond's letter is an endorsement. "If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck," he said.

Here's how TAB and Texans for a Republican Majority worked together on the Contact America project:

•John Colyandro, executive director of the Republican political committee, hired the phone bank, helped write the questions for an October telephone survey that identified likely GOP voters and planned for a follow-up letter campaign to those voters. He also copied his work to Jim Ellis, a DeLay aide who monitored Colyandro's activities for his boss. Colyandro also had Contact America send its $65,175 bill to TAB.

•Hammond forwarded Contact America's telephone scripts to TAB's lawyer for review, then approved paying the bill with corporate money before voiding the check days later. Hammond, through his lawyer, said he doesn't remember why he voided TAB's check to Contact America.

•Following Colyandro's instructions, Contact America sent the mailing list to TAB's printer, Thomas Graphics. TAB had been mailing its ads to a broader audience, but the phone bank's list gave Hammond a select audience of likely GOP voters to send his letter.

•Colyandro ultimately paid the $65,175 bill with corporate money, then spent an additional $48,039 from individuals to have Contact America call likely GOP voters again.

Colyandro, Ellis and Warren Robold, DeLay's top fund-raiser, have been indicted on charges of violating state election laws.

When the criminal investigation began more than two years ago, officials with TAB and Texans for a Republican Majority said they did not work together. But in recent months it has been shown that Hammond and Colyandro worked together on TAB's mailers.

Colyandro and his lieutenants met regularly with candidates. They demanded and got the candidates' campaign plans. Kevin Brannon, a consultant who worked for Colyandro, also briefed at least one candidate about TAB's mailing program.

While Taylor contends that TAB never coordinated its plans with candidates, Feldman insists the organizations circumvented state law.

"There was a concerted effort and a game plan to run roughshod over the state's 100-year ban against using corporate money for political purposes," Feldman said.

First, I've got to say, Cris Feldman, you rock.

Second, I've got to say, "gotcha!" to Bill Hammond, Tom DeLay, and all of the TRMPAC/TAB scandal fokls.

Now that I've managed to (temporarily) stop celebrating this new development with tremendous glee (and I have no champaign, iced tea will have to do) I'll note that this could be the ultimate nail in the coffin for these folks. If nothing else, if Hammond or any of these folks have made any of these "denials" under oath, it's perjury at the very, very, very least. Second, this will have a tremendous impact not only on the civil suit, but also on the criminal investigations being run by Ronnie Earle's office.

I'd write more, but I've got to go to a fund-raiser, where David Van Os will be guest speaker. Believe you me, I intend to get our little crowd RILED UP by announcing this. I only wish I actually had a real Austin American Statesman to wave around in my hand while doing it.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 03:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Because Terrorism & Traffic Tickets Are SO related...

By Vince Leibowitz

With Byron and Karl-T in the Alamo City today working for Rose Spector, I thought I'd help pick up the slack with this little post, which I'm sure to be hammered by law-and-order-types over.

At any rate, it seems that five counties along the Gulf Coast "will soon be able to share information about everything from domestic disputes to traffic tickets. Now, that doesn't sound sinister at all. In fact, I thought most counties already did that through the DPS's databases. Here's where I think things start getting "iffy:"

At a cost of $2 million, the Gulf Coast Law Enforcement Alliance Project will let authorities in Aransas, Kenedy, Kleberg, Nueces, and San Patricio counties compile crime data into a federal anti-terrorism database, Shelby said. [Emphasis mine]

The system, expected to be up and running by June, includes seven police departments, the Port of Corpus Christi Authority, the Texas Department of Public Safety and police at two university campuses.

Shelby said the Corpus Christi region was chosen because its three U.S. Navy bases are surrounded by miles of vast ranch land near the Mexican border. About 18,000 Naval personnel train and operate at the bases.

"Vast ranch land" is now a terrorist threat? No, really. I know what they mean, the writer of the Chron article, however, could have phrased it better. Seriously, though, it sounds like this U.S. Attorney is afraid of a terrorist threat to these bases, coming through Mexico or somewhere else, and that's legitimate. But, read on:

Shelby said the system may be expanded to the entire Texas coast and eventually across the country, with the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection also involved. Similar systems are in place near Naval operations in Seattle and Hampton Beach, Va.

The test comes amid growing efforts to share information and merge databases among different law enforcement agencies following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

"We had erected these barriers between us," he said. "Terrorists and individuals who were there to do us harm exploited those barriers."

He said information deemed "critically sensitive" would not be fed into the database, however.

Several problems. First, weren't those so-called "barriers" between agencies sharing data erected for a reason? Like so J. Edgar Hoover wouldn't come tramping through your town everytime some alleged Pinko got a traffic ticket? Weren't those barriers also erected for privacy reasons? Does the federal government really need to know if a college kid got a ticket for public intox on his 21st birthday on 6th Street? To me, that much information sharing makes the system wide open for abuse.

Of course, they also say that information not "critically sensative" won't be fed into the database. Anyone who's ever listened to Donald Rumsfeld's disjointed ramblings for even five minutes anytime after 9-11 knows that what types of information that could be important to a particular case changes on a case-by-case, minute-by-minute basis. So, how does one know--and more importantly, who judges--what information is "critically sensative"? For example, is the fact that I sometimes get speeding tickets "critically sensative" information? Should your teenage son/daughter be entered into such a massive state/federal database because they were loitering outside the local Sonic one Saturday night? I don't think so.

And, though the following statement could be true, it's further alarming:

David Brant, national director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, said police collect a wealth of information each day, and much of it could help solve other crimes.

For example, he said, a traffic stop in Kenedy County could provide the tidbit needed to capture a terrorist suspect.

Now, unless you happened to give a speeding ticket to an actual terrorist, someone who stole a terrorist's car, or a terrorist's relative, I'm not sure how this could be useful. It could provide this kind of information if you stop the right person, which you might do maybe 1 out of 100 times. Otherwise, is a traffic ticket now going to be like checking baggage at the airport, to wit:

Officer: Have you left your vehicle unattended in the last 24 hours, accepted strange packages from anyone, are you carrying explosives, and do you have any foreign fruits?

Driver:Uh, nope.

Officer: Great. Thanks for helping keep America safe! Here's your citation for going 74 in a 65. Have a great day, and drive safe!

Of course, this could also open up a whole new window on "racial profiling." Whereas conventional wisdom used to be that law enforcement stopped African Americans in nice cars to look for drugs, will it now be that they stop anyone who doesn't look "American," to see if, perchance, they're a terrorist, even if it's just to get them in the database?

While I grant you that my examples border on the far end of the spectrum, it is clearly obvious that there are dangers associated with this type of "information sharing," as well as benefits. After all, who wants to be in a terrorism database just for, say, getting a traffic ticket?

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 01:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ron Kirk Joins V&E; But Will He Run Again? Read This To Find Out!

By Vince Leibowitz

Fomer Dallas Mayor, ex-Texas Secretary of State and 2002 Democratic nominee for U. S. Senate Ron Kirk has  joined the Dallas office of the prestigious Texas law firm Vinson & Elkins, LLP.

Kirk left Gardere Wynne Sewell after 10 years for the new post, which he enters as a partner.

In the very brief story the Dallas Morning News ran on the swicth, Kirk noted:

"It's a natural fit for me," he said. "The firm has a strong team of attorneys, and I hope to spend the rest of my legal career there."

Mr. Kirk, who practiced with Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP for the last 10 years, said he was attracted by the opportunities at Vinson & Elkins. "There's great synergy between the firm's practice and my skills."

V&E, of course, was equally as pleased:

"We have long viewed Ron as a special talent who's known for his consensus building, inspirational leadership and problem solving," said Rob Walters, a partner with Vinson & Elkins.

But, what neither the DMN story nor the V&E press release mention is whether or not Kirk is considering a run for U.S. Senate again.

Although Kirk notes in the V&E press release, "I have long admired V&E's commitment to its clients and the communities in which it practices, and the way the firm's lawyers are so involved in public service," nothing specific is mentioned about public office.

Which, I must say, you should thank your lucky stars for Burnt Orange Report! (Now, aren't you glad the headline made you read the rest of the story?)

Today, through three separate and independent sources, one of whom is close to Kirk, and another who is close to V&E, and another who defies classification but is always a good source for all political stuff in Dallas County, I understand Kirk has told V&E he will not run for U.S. Senate in 2006.

Whether he'll run for anything else, who knows? All I know is that my sources say he's not going to be in the race for U.S. Senate.

Oh, and one more thing, call it a "fun fact:" Did you know Ron Kirk wasn't the only ex-Texas Secretary of State at Gardere Wynne Sewell? If you did, brownie points for you! If you didn't, can you guess who the other is? Ok, Ok. I'll tell you: Elton Bomer, who joined the firm as a "consultant" last October.

And, no, even though I am brilliant, I did not know that prior to tonight. I found it out thanks to the scrolling news-ticker thing on the Gardere website.

But, this makes me want to start looking up other exes and has-beens from state politics and see where they are now. I may just get ambitious and do that, so keep on the look out for it!

Vince Leibowitz is County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County and a semi-frequent guest contributor to Burnt Orange Report. He has a Rolodex, MS Outlook address book, cell phone, business card file, address book, and lots of scraps of paper full of contacts any blogger would love to have.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 03:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fowler, Rosenberg Endorse Dean

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Though Rosenberg already endorsed Dean the other day, his statement got a bit jumbled. Fowler just announced his late today.

Donnie Fowler said, "Today it became clear that Howard Dean has the votes to become DNC chairman.

"I got in the race because I wanted to see change in the Democratic Party. I know from experience that local people know better and that strong state parties and successful elected officials should teach the rest of the Party their best lessons. I want to see the DNC get back to its real mission: to help each candidate and assist state and county parties to achieve new standards or performance.

"With Howard Dean as its next chair of the DNC, the Party will have someone who not only understands change, but knows how to make it happen.

"As a presidential candidate and as a candidate for Chair, Dean has brought with him a grassroots movement that will reinvigorate the Democrats with new activism and new voters. As a former governor and former Chair of the Democratic Governors Association, Governor Dean also knows the value of respecting and including those who are most loyal to the Party. It's the best of the new and the traditional. And the Democratic Party will be better for it.

"This is why I endorse Governor Dean for DNC Chair and hope to contribute to his and the new DNC's successes."

"I am honored to have Donnie Fowler's support to be chairman of the Democratic Party. Donnie should be proud of the integrity, momentum and energy he brought to this race," said Dean. "The support he was able to achieve from all levels of the Democratic Party and all regions of the country is a testament to his political skill and commitment to the grassroots. I hope to be able to count on Donnie's help in the future as I work to build our Party so that Democrats can win elections again."

And Simon Rosenberg...

"Effective today, I am ending my campaign for chair of the Democratic National Committee. I am grateful for the opportunity I have had to share my vision with Democrats around the country, and I remain encouraged by the depth and thoughtfulness DNC members have brought to this important process of picking our next chair.

Today, I am endorsing Governor Howard Dean to be the next Chairman of the DNC. While we have not always agreed on every issue, I believe his passion for our Party, his remarkable fighting spirit, his direct and powerful way of speaking, and his commitment to bringing regular people back into our Party will allow him to revitalize our Party and help us win again in the 21st century.

I call upon my supporters, and Democrats from all parts of the Party and all parts of the country, to join me in supporting Governor Howard Dean as the next DNC chair.

Though my campaign is ending, my work and my commitment to the Party that I love will continue at NDN. There I will continue to focus on the three priorities for our Party that I spelled out in the campaign - crafting a better agenda for our Party, investing in and building a better infrastructure for our politics, and leading a new national commitment to nurturing the grassroots. If we can do these three things and do them well in the years ahead, we can once again become a vibrant, dynamic and winning Party.

Finally, I want to thank my staff and my supporters across the country. Their faith in me inspired me each day to fight just a little harder in this important and tough race."

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 01:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I didn't say it...

By Byron LaMasters

Kinky on Ricky:

During the Kinkster’s announcement yesterday in front of the Alamao, carried live on radio across the nation by his friend Don Imus, the acerbic talk-show personality referred to the current occupant of the Texas Governor’s Mansion as Rick “Pom Poms in the Closet” Perry – an apparent reference to persistent rumors about the Governor’s personal life. Or maybe it was just a nod to Perry’s career as a cheerleader at Texas A&M.

I'm no fan of Kinky, but if he spends the majority of his time going after Rick Perry and the GOP, I don't think I'll complain too much.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 04, 2005

Objection Hearsay!

By Jim Dallas

I can't say I have personal knowledge of this, but I spoke with a representative of a local non-profit today who suggested that there may be not one, but two special sessions in the mix; one on education, the other on child protective services.

The education reform ball is rolling with the filing of HB2 yesterday; and the Quorum Report suggests that it could be up for a vote as early as next month. But will the school funding issues that crashed last year's special session still throw a monkey wrench into the gears?

Meanwhile, CPS overhaul is getting talked about.

Moreover, the income tax is apparently getting discussed again, since all these reforms are going to need to be paid for, somehow.

Again, I can't verify any of this independently, but it seems like a plausible scenario, which is why I offer it.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Tale of Two Connecticut Yankees

By Jim Dallas

The Senior Senator.

The Junior Senator.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dean Over the Top

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

After first seeing this morning that the Georgia Delegation is on board, and that the New York delegation is on board, I get word that as of this morning, Dean has secured enough votes to become the next chairman of the DNC.

Stay tuned for an endorsement from Simon Rosenberg today. Update: (This is now in the extended entry)(ABC's The Note has already published the fact that Rosenberg is making a "major announcement" on a conference call with reporters at 1pm Eastern; my source tells me it's going to include an endorsement of Gov. Dean.)

It's over folks (and that includes you, the overconfident Mr. Fowler). For the first time in my five years of political awareness and involvement, I can experience what it's like to have my guy win.... Gore, John Courage for Congress, Dean, Kerry...

Dean. Let a New Day for Democrats begin, god knows we need it.

Statement from Simon Rosenberg on the Campaign for DNC Chair

"Effective today, I am ending my campaign for chair of the Democratic National Committee. I am grateful for the opportunity I have had to share my vision with Democrats around the country, and I remain encouraged by the depth and thoughtfulness DNC members have brought to this important process of picking our next chair.

Today, I am endorsing Governor Howard Dean to be the next Chairman of the DNC. While we have not always agreed on every issue, I believe his passion for our Party, his remarkable fighting spirit, his direct and powerful way of speaking, and his commitment to bringing regular people back into our Party will allow him to revitalize our Party and help us win again in the 21st century.

I call upon my supporters, and Democrats from all parts of the Party and all parts of the country, to join me in supporting Governor Howard Dean as the next DNC chair.

Though my campaign is ending, my work and my commitment to the Party that I love will continue at NDN. There I will continue to focus on the three priorities for our Party that I spelled out in the campaign - crafting a better agenda for our Party, investing in and building a better infrastructure for our politics, and leading a new national commitment to nurturing the grassroots. If we can do these three things and do them well in the years ahead, we can once again become a vibrant, dynamic and winning Party.

Finally, I want to thank my staff and my supporters across the country. Their faith in me inspired me each day to fight just a little harder in this important and tough race."

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 10:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gooble-gobble, one of us, one of us!

By Jim Dallas

Senator Evan Bayh has been promoted for voting against Condoleeza Rice and Al Gonzales.

And if, as Greg and others imply, Sen. Bayh thinks that pandering will increase the chance of him getting our votes... well, he'd be correct.

That is all.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 08:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dean Dean, yeah, you know

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I havn't been keeping up with every endorsement that has been coming out for Dean now because I think that today or tomorrow he is going to exceed 224 votes for the win.

But I did want to note that the United Steelworkers endoresed Dean, the Young Democrats of America (3 DNC votes) endorsed Dean, the NEA endorsed Dean, and I'm wondering how long it takes for the College Democrats of America to follow suit (3 votes).

MyDD has the latest vote totals up, with Dean at 215 of the 224 needed to win. Unless there is an unexpected blast of Roe-mentum, the only momentum is Ho-mentum at this point.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 03:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

For da shorteez

By Nathan Nance

Since Rep. Henry Bonilla has stated his intentions to run for KBH's senate seat if she makes a go at Gov. Perry, I thought it would be fun to link to this clip.

It's from his appearance on The Daily Show this summer. Jon Stewart asked him about the National Journal ranking of Sen. Kerry as the No. 1 most liberal senator. It seems like such a long time ago, but that was a talking point so that they could say that "he's to the left of Ted Kennedy" and get away with it.

Stewart asks him where this ranking came from and (no official count) Bonilla says "trial lawyers" like a dozen times. He gets caught in some kind of circular logic that trial lawyers and other liberal interest groups ranked him as liberal so he should be proud of it and call himself a liberal. Stewart drops the bomb on him that he knows Bonilla is full of crap by telling him it is the National Journal ranking.

He then asks him if that No. 1 ranking is from his whole career, to which Bonilla says "yes". Wrong again. The ranking was just from 2003, when Kerry had been away campaigning. If he had missed one more vote, he wouldn't have been ranked at all. Over his senate career, Kerry is well within the moderate range.

I could never decide if Bonilla was fibbing on purpose, or if he just spouts off talking points without knowing where they come from like a parrot. Either way serves not the people of Texas, but his own partisan interests. Just something to keep in mind when the 2006 election comes around.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 01:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 03, 2005

Austin City Council Horseracin'

By Byron LaMasters

Read the Austin Chronicle article today for the latest.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Liberty for Some

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

It's one of the most concise posts I've seen over at dKos and it sets up a really good contrast when talking about "Liberty".

How does Bush square this:

Two weeks ago, I stood on the steps of this Capitol and renewed the commitment of our Nation to the guiding ideal of liberty for all. This evening I will set forth policies to advance that ideal at home and around the world.

To this?

Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be re-defined by activist judges. For the good of families, children, and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage.

"Liberty for all". Unless you're gay.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 02:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Volunteer for Rose Spector

By Byron LaMasters

As Karl-Thomas noted below, we'll be driving down to San Antonio on Saturday to volunteer for the Rose Spector campaign. I spoke with their campaign today, and they NEED volunteers to work at the polls and to phonebank. Anyone in the Austin area interested in joining us on Saturday is welcome. The plan is to caravan from the UT campus area around 10 AM. If you're interested, email me: Byron AT BurntOrangeReport DOT com for details.

I'm time-dating this forward a bit to make sure that as many Austinites as possible see this. This is a tough district for Democrats, but special elections are all about turnout, turnout, TURNOUT. Together, we can make a difference in that department. Finally, if you want to help, but can't make the trip, send Rose Spector some last minute cash. She'll need it, especially if the race goes into a run-off.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

The comments are down due to a spam attack this morning which caused my hosting service to disable my mt-comments.cgi file. I don't have time to work on this problem this afternoon, so hopefully, I'll be able to take care of it tonight or tomorrow.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Senate Trivia

By Jim Dallas

I knew the U.S. Senate was an old boy's club, but... ¡Dios mio!

The Chronicle tells us that Sen. Martinez's (R-Fla.) three sentences in Spanish constitute the first bilingual Senate floor speech. Ever.

When Martinez broke into Spanish, followed by his own English translation, the stunned Senate stenographer looked up quizzically and just typed: "speaking Spanish."

Using his native language, Martinez addressed those who came to America to make a better life for themselves, telling them: "Gonzales is one of us" — "uno de nosotros."

Martinez said Gonzales represents "all of our hopes and dreams for our children" — "todos nuestros sueños y esperanzas para nuestros hijos."

He said we "cannot allow petty politics to deny us this moment" that makes us all proud — "No podemos permitir que la politiqueria nos quite este momento que nos enorgullece a todos."

Kerry Feehery, a spokeswoman for Martinez, said a transcript in English and Spanish would be included in the Congressional Record.

After his speech, Martinez, a former mayor of Orlando, Fla., and the 12th secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said that the chance to speak Spanish and emblazon it on the Congressional Record was "unique."

Martinez said he hopes his Spanish remarks will instill a sense of pride among young Hispanic-Americans who feel embarrassed when struggling with English.

Frankly, the Spanish used appears to have been so elementary that even I got the gist of it... without translation. Maybe the fact that the Senate stenographer didn't get it ought to make kids who are struggling with Spanish feel a little better?

That said, it's too bad that Martinez is using his maiden speech to play the conservo-race card on behalf of Alberto Gonzales.

(Cross-posted from texasyojimbo.com)

Posted by Jim Dallas at 07:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gregg Knaupe Blog

By Byron LaMasters

I haven't decided who I'll be supporting for the open Place 3 on the Austin City Council, but I must say that I've been impressed with the work of Rick Cofer over at the Gregg Knaupe blog. Good stuff there.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kinky Friedman

By Byron LaMasters

It's official. He's running for governor. Personally, I don't plan on paying much attention to him. It looks like a vanity campaign that will probably provide a bit of comic relief, but as far as serious candidates are concerned, he's not among them. Kuff has more.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:10 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 02, 2005

SOTU Liveblogging

By Byron LaMasters

Nate liveblogged it over at his blog, Common Sense. Liveblogging.org has a full list of other bloggers that liveblogged the speech. I frankly didn't give a shit about what Bush had to say, so I found other ways to entertain myself tonight. I'll catch the details on the Daily Show.

Update: The Red State also Liveblogged the speech.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Rose Spector Update

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Off the Kuff has a nice update on the House Special Election down in San Antonio that Democrat Rose Spector is trying to win. Included are some early vote turnout number and local endorsements.

Byron and I (and I'm sure that he will be posting on this soon enough) will be headed down there this Saturday for election day volunteering so look out for that in the case that you can help (and maybe even meet a Burnt Orange Reporter or two!).

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 10:39 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Movie With A Gay Character? Can't Shoot It In Our Town!

By Vince Leibowitz

I hardly ever post more than once--let alone twice--a day, and a third time is very unprecedented (and maybe not allowed), but I've been waiting for our local newspaper to update its Website so I could post about this brouhaha, which is so typical of small-town politics. I finally saw the story on there tonight.

Anyway, last week, an independent film was supposed to be shot in Canton. All seemed well and good until the Powers That Be found out that one of the primary characters led an "alternative lifestyle."

Then, all Hell broke out and the blame shifting began, to wit:

[This story is very disjointed, but keep in mind it was published in a very "conservative" paper and was probably severely edited for content without regard for style]

The independent film "Fat Girls" that was scheduled to be shot in Canton from January 23 through January 30 has been relocated to Waxahachie after the crew failed to follow proper procedure through the city and "mislead" the school district on their intentions.

Casting director for this production Katrina Cook released a statement about the move.

"The city manager pulled the plug and we have moved the entire movie to Waxahachie. His reason was because the lead character was gay. Not only is this discrimination but he has denied many local people the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (perhaps) to be in a film. Unfortunately a core group of individuals can make decisions based on their personal points of view," said Cook.

Canton City Manager Charles Fenner said the allegations that he "pulled the plug" on the movie was a false statement.

Fenner said the crew did not go through the proper city procedure to block the roads and sidewalks for their filming needs. The filming crew needed to get approval from the Canton City Council.

"Basically when I talked to the casting producer, I told her that I did not have the right to tell her she could not come to town (to film). She wanted to dwell on the issue of the homosexuality. I told her I did not have authority over the school district because the school facility was no longer available to them," said Fenner.

He explained that he heard the crew was coming to the area and were going to put up saw horses out on the city streets and the public sidewalks.

"I told her they had to go through the proper procedures and that is to petition the council to use the public roads and sidewalks. I explained to her that even our own fire department, MDA and humane society has to go through the council," he added.

"She was the one who dwelled on the fact that the issue was uprising about the homosexuality. I told her that I was sure she understood that there were principals and morals in the community," Fenner said. "I did not even know anything was going on until last Thursday that they were going to be using as much of the public property as they were trying to use... I do know that there were people concerned."

"We just told them that any public facilities that were used had to go through the proper procedure. Even if we have a restaurant owner or someone on the square that needs to use the sidewalks they have to have a permit also," he pointed out. "This is not discrimination; we are not treating them any differently than anyone else."

"They (film production team) said they had already done all of that and I told them they had not."

"The producer called me and kept hitting on the gay issue. I told her whether that was my belief or the community belief was not the issue. They have the right to say what they want to say on private property. But as far as using public property, that has to go through proper procedure" Fenner said. "I'm not sure what the city has to do with this other than the city streets, we don't have the right to tell them they can't come to Canton on private property. As far as the public facility there is a procedure that everyone has to abide by."

Canton Chamber of Commerce President Rona Watson would not comment on the film production being moved.

"We agreed to let the filming take place at our schools but we were mislead by their intentions."

"We felt like the storyline was not appropriate for our school to be involved in," Canton ISD Superintendent Larry Davis said.

Originally some scenes of the film were going to be shot at Canton Junior High.

When the project was first proposed to the Canton Chamber of Commerce the storyline was about three teenagers coming of age in a small rural Texas town.

The town was been renamed to Bloom, Texas. The basis of the story is three teenagers that are a little overweight; they are struggling with what they want to do in life.

It was later discovered by the school administrators, the city manager and the chamber that the eccentric star teen character leads an alternative lifestyle.

Now, given that Phyllis Diller and one of the Lawrence brothers were supposed to be in this movie, I find it hard to believe that the production company didn't bother to give the city a heads-up on what, exactly, they'd be doing--especially since the city Mayor's hardware store was to be one of the shooting locations.

However, in defense of the city, street/sidewalk closure does require a city permit. I've been in charge of the July 4th Parade in Canton for going on five years now, and every year I have to appear in person before the council to get approval for the street closing.

Personally, as a citizen of Canton, I think it would have been nice for a movie to have been shot here. It would have helped the economy and potentially led to more movies coming to town. Our downtown would lend itself nicely to movie filming. And, though I'm not gay and don't lead an "alternative lifestyle," I for one was not bothered by the fact that a movie with such a character was being shot here. Who cares? This is 2005, and I think we should be a little bit past that by now.

Though I'm not surprised by the city manager's reaction (he was formerly a city council member who gained his seat with the support of our former county judge, Jeff Fisher--former head of the Texas Christian Coalition and now Executive Director of the Republican Party of Texas), I am surprised by the school district's reaction. I covered Canton ISD for years and have attended at least four dozen of their board meetings, and met with the superintendent countless times. I can only assume they were bending to the wishes of their constituents and aren't so narrow-sighted to realize that, after all, it is just a movie.

Vince Leibowitz is the County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 10:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Tom DeLay is Outraged...

By Byron LaMasters

That some "elite colleges" refuse to allow military recruiters on campus. Ya know, cuz it hurts American military preparedness in wartime. That amuses me, because for some odd reason, I must have missed the outrage from Tom DeLay when critical Arabic and Farsi translators were discharged from the military in wartime for committing the heinous crime of being gay.

So, it leads one to wonder, what does Tom DeLay really think? The Daily DeLay finds this priceless DeLay quote from 1988 where Tom DeLay defended Dan Qualye's lack of military service at the GOP convention:

[DeLay] and Quayle, DeLay explained to the assembled media in New Orleans, were victims of an unusual phenomenon back in the days of the undeclared Southeast Asian war. So many minority youths had volunteered for the well-paying military positions to escape poverty and the ghetto that there was literally no room for patriotic folks like himself. Satisfied with the pronouncement, which dumbfounded more than a few of his listeners who had lived the sixties, DeLay marched off to the convention.

What else can I say?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Just Say "No" To Nudist Youth Camps

By Vince Leibowitz

Since I both despise Rep. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) and love writing abour zany, bizarre bills, I just couldn't pass this up:

Rep. Bryan Hughes, a Republican from Mineola, filed a bill that would outlaw nudist youth camps in Texas. No such camps currently exist in Texas, Hughes said, but a constituent who read a 2003 New York Times article in which a nudist group said it planned to start one here in 2005 asked him to make a pre-emptive strike to prevent that from happening. Hughes originally filed the bill during the first special session in 2003, but it did not pass. The bill is not a moral statement against nudity, he said, but rather a measure to protect children against pedophiles who could take advantage of them at such a camp.

I can see the point about nude pedophiles, as Van Zandt County is unfortunate enough to be home to the "Ponderosa Naturist Retreat" (a nudist colony) on State Highway 64 in Myrtle Springs, and a few years back there were several people from there charged with all manners of inappropriate acts, but don't Legislators have other things to worry about than whether a nudist youth camp might come to Texas? School finance, perhaps?

Either way, this is about par for Hughes. During his last campaign, almost every speech he gave centered around three things: 1.) He made it legal for kids to pray in public school 2.) he made it a requirement for kids say the pledge to the flag in school, and 3.) He is against gay marriage. Not just a terrible amount of substance there, but then again, what do we expect from the single largest recipient of TRMPAC funds in the entire state?

But, since Hugues is at it, I wish he'd get the legislature to prevent the local nudist colony's landscaper from mowing the outer lawn of the "retreat" right along the highway in a thong and nothing but, because, if you're unfortunate enough to drive by when that's going on, it just ain't right.

Vince Leibowitz is County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 05:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Cracker Barrel Cracks, Cops Deal With DA

By Vince Leibowitz

Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle Wednesday aggreed to drop illegal campaign contribution charges against Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., in exchange for the company's cooperation in connection with the ongoing investigation into illegal campaign practices during the 2002 elections.

Cracker Barrel is the third company to have charges dismissed in the case, AP notes. Previously, Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Diversified Collections Services Inc. accepted similar deals.

Eight companies and three individuals were indicted back in September in connection with contributions to the Tom DeLay-founded political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, during the 2002 election cycle.

The use of corporate money for political purposes is illegal in Texas. Cracker Barrel was accused of making a prohibited corporate contribution of $25,000.

As in the previous two agreements with indicted companies, the one entered Wednesday with Cracker Barrel requires the company to cooperate in the ongoing investigation.

AP notes that the Cracker Barrel agreement stated (according to a company statement, that "there was no intent on the part of (Cracker Barrel) to violate any laws."

"We're pleased with the dismissal of all charges. Since this matter was instituted, we have steadfastly maintained that we had not engaged in any illegal conduct. We believe that this agreement confirms our position," said Cracker Barrel spokeswoman Julie Davis.

The Tennessee-based company agreed to never again make a contribution like the one in question and to disclose all corporate political contributions on its company Web site for the next two years.

In addition, the company agreed to donate $50,000 to support a nonpartisan, balanced and publicly informative program at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.

Officials with the DA's office remain tight-lipped on the details of the investigation, or regarding whether more companies might reach similar agreements.

Also indicted in September and now awaiting trial are Jim Ellis, who heads Americans for a Republican Majority, U.S. House Majority Leader DeLay's national fund-raising committee; John Colyandro, former executive director of Texans for a Republican Majority; and Warren RoBold, a Washington consultant who helped raise money for both the Texas and national PACs.

Ellis was charged with money laundering; Colyandro was indicted on 14 charges, including money laundering and unlawful acceptance of corporate political contributions; and RoBold was indicted on nine counts of unlawful acceptance of corporate political contributions.

DeLay (R-Sugar Land), whose national committee helped establish the Texas committee, was not charged with any crime. DeLay has previously denounced the Travis County investigation as politically motivated by District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat.

Grand jurors have been examining whether TRMPAC and the Texas Association of Business illegally funneled $2.5 million in corporate contributions to Republican state House candidates during 2002.

That election led to the full takeover of the Texas Legislature by Republicans and, ultimately, passage of a GOP-pushed redistricting bill that gave Republicans a commanding hold on the state's 32-member congressional delegation.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 05:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

It Isn't Vietnam...

By Andrew Dobbs

If you don't read Christopher Hitchens, you are missing out. A strange bird- a radical Leftist of the Marxist variety who whole-heartedly supports the War in Iraq- his writing is among the most articulate and interesting you can read. From urging the imprisonment of Henry Kissinger for war crimes to lauding Susan Sontag, from arguing in a special Vatican proceding that Mother Teresa was a bad person to celebrating Paul Wolfowitz, you can almost certainly find something to agree with in his writing, and if you can't it is still interesting reading nonetheless. Much better than the reflexively propagandistic nature of most conservative writing and far more intelligent than the insipid sloganeering of the Left, he should be on everyone's reading list.

This week he has a thought-provoking piece that tears apart the "Iraq is the new Vietnam" meme limb by limb with devastating insightfulness. I'll quote just a bit before adding my own ideas on the matter:

Whatever the monstrosities of Asian communism may have been, Ho Chi Minh based his declaration of Vietnamese independence on a direct emulation of the words of Thomas Jefferson and was able to attract many non-Marxist nationalists to his camp. He had, moreover, been an ally of the West in the war against Japan. Nothing under this heading can be said of the Iraqi Baathists or jihadists, who are descended from those who angrily took the other side in the war against the Axis, and who opposed elections on principle. If today's Iraqi "insurgents" have any analogue at all in Southeast Asia it would be the Khmer Rouge.

Vietnam as a state had not invaded any neighbor (even if it did infringe the neutrality of Cambodia) and did not do so until after the withdrawal of the United States when, with at least some claim to self-defense, it overthrew the Khmer Rouge regime. Contrast this, even briefly, to the record of Saddam Hussein in relation to Iran and Kuwait.

Vietnam had not languished under international sanctions for its brazen contempt for international law, nor for its building or acquisition, let alone its use of, weapons of mass destruction.

Vietnam had never attempted, in whole or in part, to commit genocide, as was the case with the documented "Anfal" campaign waged by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds.

In Vietnam the deep-rooted Communist Party was against the partition of the country and against the American intervention. It called for a boycott of any election that was not an all-Vietnam affair. In Iraq, the deep-rooted Communist Party is in favor of the regime change and has been an enthusiastic participant in the elections as well as an opponent of any attempt to divide the country on ethnic or confessional lines. (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is not even an Iraqi, hates the Kurds and considers the religion of most Iraqis to be a detestable heresy: not a mistake that even the most inexperienced Viet Cong commander would have been likely to make.)

Hitchens was (and is) a committed opponent of the Vietnam War and supports the action in Iraq, so his commentary is a bit more enlightening than the Leftists who oppose both for bad reasons or Right wingers who support both for even worse ones. It basically boils down to the point that in Vietnam you had a popular nationalist movement that had the materiel and military support of two superpowers that was invaded by a misguided United States after they had already won and before they had really done anything worth invading them over. In Iraq, on the other hand, the "insurgency" is an unpopular minority of a minority (only a handful of tribal groups among the Sunni minority, really) that has no real territory of its own and has only pittance support from an impoverished Iran and an al Qaeda that is a ghost of its pre-Afghanistan War power. Furthermore, rather than fighting for an independent Iraq, they are fighting for a return of either Saddam Hussein or the establishment of a non-Kurdish Sunni theocracy- not something the 80% of the country that is either Kurdish, Shi'ia or Christian are really down with. And finally the insurgency and their two icons- Abu Musab al Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein- are both guilty of grievous crimes against their neighbors and the United States.

Insurgencies only win when they convince a sizeable portion of the population to support them, when they have steady sources of arms and other resources and territorial bases to launch their campaign from. The Baathist/Sunni Supremacist axis in Iraq has none of these, and with the successful conduct of elections this past weekend the people of Iraq have an outlet for their concerns that is far more peaceful and infinitely more effective than the insurgency. It is just a matter of time before they run out of fighters, out of weapons, out of money, out of patience and out of time. This Iraqi election was no propaganda ploy as 1967 Vietnam's was, and this "insurgency" is no Vietcong.

We're going to win this one, and it'll be something we can all be proud of.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 04:11 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Gorillas in the midst

By Jim Dallas

Greg says that... oh forget it, just read his post.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 11:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Memories of Da 'Burgh

By Jim Dallas

In a strange coincidence, Kos made a slight boo-boo in a post today:

Rep. Bobby Bonilla (R) is eyeing a Senate run if Kay Bailey Hutchinson retires to run for governor, as expected. That would open up a congressional seat that has narrowly elected Bonilla in several past elections.

Meanwhile, the DSCC's and Ed Rendell's top choice to challenge Santorum next year, Bob Casey Jr., met with party leaders in DC to discuss the race. Democrats want Santorum out in the worst way -- the number one target, in fact -- and feel that Casey's popularity in PA will give them the best chance for success.

In my previous post I made a subtle joke about Bobby Bonilla, the retired baseball player. Why? Because Bobby Bo was one of the stars of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the late 1980s (along with Barry Bonds).

I lived in Pittsburgh for a few years, and I was a huge Pirates fan.

Incidentally, during the same time Bob Casey Sr. was governor of Pennsylvania, and I remember him being in the news a lot.

Almost brings a tear to my eye, all these childhood memories.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 11:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 01, 2005

My Decision on the SG President Matter

By Andrew Dobbs

Alright, well, I thought about it and I really appreciate all the emails and posts. It was something I battled with and I'm still not completely satisfied about, but I doubt that I ever would be.

I'm not running.

I just don't have the time, the energy, the money or the stomach for the whole experience. I drew up a press release announcing that I was going to run and then I just couldn't do it. The thought of skipping work for standing around on the West Mall, of skipping sleep for late night strategizing, of skipping class for various campaign duties and skipping time with the people I care about for a lonely and ultimately unsuccessful effort just pushed me away. I wish I had more people who could help me, but it would be a lonely experience- most of my good friends just can't do it right now and others are already committed to one of the major campaigns. I can't ask them to turn their backs on the friends they've already committed to, so I would be by myself in this matter. I can't do it by myself and so I have to say no thanks.

I will still talk about the issues I care about, talking to the various campaigns and writing in this forum and perhaps seeking a column in the Daily Texan. I hope that the candidates in the race are up to the job, and I respect them for the work they are about to put into a campaign that will be tough.

Jessica, I know you said that you read BOR, which makes me very happy. I wasn't trying to be rude about Colby, I just couldn't for the life of me remember her last name and I didn't even know where to begin looking it up. Can't really use the directory if all you have is the first name. She impressed me when I talked to her and you impress me as well. Can't say you have my endorsement yet, but I'm sure you would be a good President.

All of the candidates are good people and I'll keep you up to date with everything as time goes on. Thanks again for all the support and let me know what you all think.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 11:58 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Ideology, Schmideology

By Andrew Dobbs

Today Howard Dean sewed up his election for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and frankly I'm disappointed. Two years ago it would have been among the happiest days of my life, but now I can't say that. And I have a good idea why. My old arguments to my quite Left wing friends in support of the admittedly more-moderate-than-he-looks Dean was "it isn't the man- it's the message and the movement." In other words, it isn't important who the candidate is, it is important the message he is spreading (make the Democratic Party more Leftist) and the movement of people he has attracted.

Now that argument has turned on its head, or perhaps I have turned on mine. His message is mistaken and his movement is destructive, and I think that there is a good chance Democrats will suffer as a result. I am not giving up hope yet, but without some signs in the right direction soon, I'll have no other choice.

His message is my primary problem. It seems that Dean and his college of sycophants believe that the reason Republicans win is because they are wholly, universally and unwaveringly committed to a far-Right philosophy and Democrats aren't similarly committed to a Left wing alternative. This is the source of Deaniac bellyaching about Frost's Bush-friendly commercials, their constant mouthing of Paul Wellstone's "Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party" quip, the origin of their hostility to "DINOs" of all varieties. His supporters wish to play amateur political consultants, and they are very bad at it.

They are bad at it because they are completely wrong. They are incredibly wrong about the GOP. The GOP is the master of adapting their message to the place where they are running with enough in common everywhere for national candidates to rally around. In the Mountain West they run Barry Goldwater libertarian-conservative types- not terribly interested in social issues, more interested in a hands-off approach. In the South they tend to run religious right types. in the Northeast they run moderate to liberal Republicans. They pick their battles and shift their message accordingly.

In places with strong Unions they run labor-friendly Republicans (Rudy Giuliani), and in places with weak unions they run labor-not-so-friendly Republicans (Dick Armey). In places with mostly pro-choice people, they run mostly pro-choice candidates (Mitt Romney), and in places with mostly anti-choice people they run mostly anti-choice candidates (Roy Moore). In places with a lot of environmentally friendly people, they run environment friendly candidates (Chris Shays, Christine Todd Whitman), and in places where people don't like hippie tree-huggers they run people who hate the Earth (Tom DeLay). In places where people are cool with gays, they run candidates cool with gays (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and in places with people who aren't into gays, they run gay bashing candidates (Bob Dornan, for example). In other words, they are flexible.

Furthermore, they have some serious ideological strain in their own party- much like ours. Business conservatives and social conservatives don't tend to get along. Business conservatives want cheap labor, so they like the status quo with immigration, social conservatives don't like immigrants so they don't like the status quo. It is a brewing battle that might just blow up in their face in the next 4 years. Social conservatives don't like vice, while virtually every big vice- booze, cigarrettes, gambling, corporate porn- has an even bigger lobby that gives lots of money to the GOP. That is a source of strain here in Texas. So the GOP is hardly the picture of ideological rigor that the Deaniacs fancy it as.

The issue isn't ideology- Democrats need not move to the Left (as the soon to be crowned King Howard III would say), nor to the Right (as the disgraced Duke Tim would argue). The issue is organization, structure and money- three things Dean has little to no valuable experience in and which my guy, Frost, had in spades. The GOP has a strong state organization in EVERY SINGLE STATE. Don't believe me? Name a state with a weak GOP. Illinois? Short term hiccups because of some personality problems. Massachusetts? They have a GOP governor. California? Ditto. In fact, there is only one state- New Jersey- without at least one Republican elected statewide. There are several, including Texas, that don't have any Democrats. The Republicans have a great national organization, Democrats don't and that is the problem, not that we are too liberal or too conservative.

If ideology were our problem, Dean would be perfect for the job. With a distressingly large army of nihlistic Bush-hating Leftists he could push our party to the Left better than almost anyone. But as it stands, his record is not good at handling our real problems- resources, organization and strategy.

In his presidential campaign Dean burned through $40 million bucks like Paris Hilton tears through overpriced god-awful skanky couture. In fact, we might want to see if that is where the cash went, because god knows it didn't go to winning votes- he could only eek out a win in a state he had been elected to statewide office in 7 times. $40 million bucks and nothing to show for it- even the Cowboys can do better than that (well, actually...).

In that same bid he managed to get more volunteers and more organization than any other campaign in Iowa by several orders of magnitude. Yet in the comparably simple task of winning Iowa (as opposed to the 49 other states and District of Columbia), he couldn't close the deal. He had more money, more people and better support from more important figures (Tom Harkin, Al Gore, AFSCME and SEIU etc.) than anyone else and he came in a rather distant 3rd. If he can't use an unprecedented and unparalleled organization to convince a plurality of 100,000 committed Democrats to rally around his cause, what makes us think he can get a majority of 100,000,000 mostly hostile people to do the same?

And in terms of strategy, his campaign was very good at this from time to time. Unfortunately it had nothing to do with Dean. Before Joe Trippi, Howard Dean was an anonymous candidate with no money, little organization and a Kucinich of a chance of winning. After Trippi came on, the emails started rolling in, the cash was flowing and his name was on everyone's lips. Save for peaking too soon things might have worked out differntly. But Dean is obviously not the genius, Joe Trippi is. And Trippi endorsed the now former-candidate Simon Rosenberg.

Furthermore, when Dean decided to keep his campaign list annoyed (or enraptured, as the true believer caucus seems to have done) and form Democracy for America, his candidate selection process was nothing if not senseless. David Van Os got his support- who had absolutely no chance of winning. But so did some candidates who had absolutely no chance of losing. In fact, the only real strategic consideration that seems to have been taken into consideration was paying back people who supported him in his race for the Presidency. As a result an insignificant minority won and almost all of them would have won anyways. The rest recieved little more than a mention on his website and few small donations from supporters who couldn't possibly contribute to all of the list of Dean's Dozen. Ask Katy Hubener how well his endorsement did- she lost and Dean's support made little to no difference. Strategy is clearly not Gov. Dean's strong suit.

In the end Dean is uninspiring, but not quite distressing. What he says to the people on the inside is different from what he says when the cameras are rolling. Not contradictory, nothing controversial, just his rhetoric is toned down and his proposals are a bit more specific. More money to state parties, funding much of their core staff, etc. Many of these ideas are worth listening to and I hope that they work out for the best. Indeed, it seems that his followers are a bit snowed over- Dean is hardly the Wellstone-esque crusader for ideological purity, the dot-com-age William Jennings Bryan that they envision him. Rather, he is a typical urban pol done good. He knows how to fire up a crowd in the front and cut a deal in the back. He knows just what words will rally the masses to his standard even as he rubs shoulders with the CEOs and millionaires in back. This isn't an indictment, quite the contrary, but it is a much-needed dose of reality for his starry-eyed cadre of communicants. Don't get your panties in a wad over the good governor.

In the end, our party does need to do what the GOP has done- learn how to create a viable national message that can be adapted to the ideological proclivities of particular constituencies and disseminate it with 50 states' worth of first class organization. Texas should have pro-life candidates, Minnesota probably shouldn't. Alabama should have candidates who are less than vocal for their support of gay marriage, California probably shouldn't. Candidates in Mississippi don't need to be 100% union all the time, candidates in Ohio a bit more so. You have to compromise because without 218 Congressmen you don't have shit, without 51 Senators you don't have shit and without 270 electoral votes you don't have shit. We have to build a national coalition and being extremist just won't do it. What will unite us is a message that we are the party of the American Dream- if you work hard, play by the rules and want a better life tomorrow than today and a better world for your kids than this one, you can have it, and we can help. It should be disseminated by neighbors, co-workers and members of your church. It should be on the radio and on the TV, in people's yards and on their cars' bumpers. It should be unavoidable and undeniable until everyone interested in the continued magnificence of this country stands up and asks to be counted with the Democratic Party.

If Howard Dean can manage to achieve that he will go down as the best DNC Chair in history. I'm willing to give him the chance, and I pray that he does.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 10:43 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Roemer Is Out

By Andrew Dobbs

I didn't see the page for a while today, but I just wanted to let everyone know that we got a call at work today from Roemer's camp saying that they were dropping out but didn't want to conflict with Frost's announcement. So Fowler and Dean essentially, and after this Politcal Wire post today, I suppose Dean is the best we can do.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 10:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Liveblogging the SOTU

By Nathan Nance

I'm planning on liveblogging the State of the Union Address tomorrow over at my blog, Common Sense. Come on over, it'll be fun. I'll pop some popcorn and bring some licorice. Really, it'll be great.

From what I understand, the speech will be divided evenly between foreign and domestic policy. That should make it interesting since I'm more of a domestic policy wonk, and not a foreign policy specialist.

For those of you who were thinking of skipping it, I have a way to make it fun: a drinking game! The rules are very simple.

If he says "freedom", take a shot of tequila

If he says "liberty", take a shot of vodka

If he actually uses the phrase "freedom is on the march" and then smirks and pauses for applause, eat the worm

If he says "ownership society", sip you beer

If he says "personalized accounts", hit the Jack Daniels

This way, everybody can enjoy the SOTU... and Jenna won't have to yawn during the speech. I should probably put in a disclaimer that this game should not be attempted by anyone, since it is almost sure that he will use each of these phrases several dozen times in the 40-minute speech. You'll get alcohol poisoning before he's done talking about his privatization scheme.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 08:08 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

More from Sudan

By Zach Neumann

The U.N. has reached definite conclusions about the violence in Sudan. The NY Times reported today that:

A United Nations commission investigating violence in the Darfur region of Sudan reported Monday that it had found a pattern of mass killings and forced displacement of civilians that did not constitute genocide but that represented crimes of similar gravity that should be sent to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.

In a 176-page report, the five-member panel said that its finding that genocide had not been committed "should not be taken in any way as detracting from the gravity of the crimes perpetrated in that region," and that "international offenses such as the crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been committed in Darfur may be no less serious and heinous than genocide."

The commission was appointed by Secretary General Kofi Annan in October to determine whether genocide had occurred in Darfur, in Western Sudan, where about 70,000 villagers have been killed and 1.8 million driven from their land.

It was also asked to determine how anyone convicted should be punished, and it answered by saying it "strongly" recommended that the Security Council refer the Darfur crimes to the international court in The Hague. It said the crimes in Darfur met the jurisdictional terms of the 1998 treaty creating the court.
That course of action is favored by most members of the 15-member Council, but the United States has said it will vigorously resist because it objects to the court.

The panel said the Sudanese justice system had proved unwilling or unable to pursue the crimes in what it described as a "climate of almost total impunity for human rights violations."
While the commission said that no evidence of an organized governmental act of genocide existed, it suggested that there might have been government officials and other people who acted "with genocidal intent." Only a court could make that determination, it said.

Many prominent politicians and academics have condemned the U.N. commission for its refusal to brand the tragic events in Sudan as constituting genocide. Though I can understand their dismay, I feel that the U.N. commission made a wise, if not popular, decision.

The term genocide was devised by Samuel Lemkin in the 1940’s to describe “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.” In creating the word genocide, Lemkin was attempting to give a specific label to the phenomenal crimes of the Holocaust. By all accounts, he was successful. Genocide was quickly adapted into popular usage and came to describe the routinized destruction of specific national and ethnic groups.

In recent years, Lemkin’s “word” has taken on unintended meanings as it has been used by policymakers to describe widespread violence against civilian populations. While I think it is of the utmost importance to capture the horrors that occur when a state makes war against its people (or against those of another state), such descriptions must be distinguished from act of genocide. In my mind, genocide is a crime that’s magnitude far exceeds that of massive slaughter. Tainted by fanatical racism, genocide represents the potential elimination of entire cultural and language groups—a loss to human civilization that has implications that extend far beyond physical death.

Getting back to Sudan, I do not think that the atrocities in Darfur constituted genocide. While I agree (with the U.N. commission) that the actions of Bashir et al. entailed violence on par with genocide, I think they took a bold step in making a distinction between tremendous slaughter and the systematic extermination of an entire national/cultural group.

Samantha Power’s book, “A Problem From Hell” influenced this post. I would recommend it to anyone interested in genocide.

Posted by Zach Neumann at 07:43 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Ruminations: Roemer & Rosenberg Out

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

From a source in the know, "Roemer and Rosenberg are out now too. That leaves just Fowler still pecking around the barnyard. Also, I'm not sure if this has hit the press yet or not, but the DNC Hispanic Caucus voted this afternoon to endorse Dean."

Of course the DNC Hispanic Caucus has endorsed Dean before, back in 2003 for President.

Update!: After another e-mail from said source, I am willing to put my weight behind it that Roemer and Rosenberg are out of the race and it is just a matter of time before this hits the public media and confirmations pop up here in the blogosphere. This person has been ahead of the curve of every development in the past week and it was only my class schedule that didn't allow me to get things out such as the Webb endorsement and such in advance.

Will Donnie mount a last man standing challenge? Will there be a sudden surge of Mary Beth Malcolmentum? Give us a few more hours and this whole thing could be over.

I doubt Fowler will stay in with the whole Michigan debacle now hitting the mainstream press in that state as of right now. It's not a smear campaign, it's something that has been developing over time, but it could hurt his chances of party leadership under the Dean banner if he is stained by it, which is a shame because I think he and Rosenberg would make a couple of really great organizers for the DNC.

UPDATE:: First confirmations coming out. Donnie Fowler himself lets one cat out of the bag on his blog, saying that only Dean, himself, and Roemer remain in the race. And to think that he thinks he's ahead of the curve... heh, we'll see.

In the last two days, several candidates have withdrawan from the race for chair -- David Leland, Martin Frost, Simon Rosenberg, and Wellington Webb. Only three remain, including Governor Dean, Former Congressman Tim Roemer, and myself. And only I and Dean have proven that we have the message and organization to gather any substantial support. It's a two-man race.

I am still in this race for the reasons I first outlined after the November election....

Brewer said the complaints against him are really an attempt to tarnish the Michigan director of the Kerry/Edwards campaign, Donnie Fowler, in his campaign for DNC chairman.

"It's my belief that this is nothing more than a smear against Donnie Fowler, and the only reason this is being raised is because he's become a candidate for DNC chair," Brewer said. "If this was such an important issue, why did we not hear about it for over two and a half months, until Donnie becomes a serious candidate for DNC chair?"

Fowler's bid appeared to lose momentum Monday after the Association of State Democratic Chairs endorsed former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who now appears to have the best chance to win the DNC chairmanship. The association's executive committee had voted the day before to recommend endorsing Fowler.

Brewer said he didn't vote with the committee or participate in Monday's vote.

Fowler declined to return phone calls Tuesday. But he issued a statement recently in which he tried to distance himself from the Michigan campaign spending dispute, saying that he and other Kerry/Edwards state directors did not manage or set up tracking processes for campaign budgets because of federal laws.

But Fowler legally could have participated in discussions about how the DNC money should be spent and would have been aware of how the DNC money was being handled in Michigan, especially since the Kerry campaign office shared quarters with the coordinated campaign.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 05:33 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Charles Soechting Endorses Dean for DNC

By Byron LaMasters

Texas Democratic Party Chair Charles Soechting has endorsed Howard Dean for DNC Chair. Soechting had previously endorsed Martin Frost along with 13 other members of the Texas delegation. Martin Frost withdrew from the DNC race today. Read Soechting's letter to his fellow DNC members in the extended entry:

Dear Fellow DNC Members:

It's no secret I think we need a major shakeup at the Democratic National Committee. For too long, the DNC has treated Texas like an ATM machine, raiding our most generous donors for millions of dollars while we struggle to remain competitive here in state and local races.

We need to change this attitude in Washington. And that's why I'm supporting Gov. Howard Dean for DNC Chair. He believes in a 50-state strategy, which is the only way we will ever Take Back Texas -- and our country.

Gov. Dean's message of mainstream values is all about helping the people we fight for and represent improve their lives. His political career is all about change. And he agrees with me that our party must change, too -- not to forget our principles, but to fulfill them.

Many of you may have heard by now that former Congressman Martin Frost is dropping out of the DNC chair race. Martin ran a strong and clean campaign that made all Texas Democrats proud.

Now I hope you will join me in giving your enthusiastic endorsement to Gov. Dean to lead our national party in the years ahead. I'm convinced that he is the best candidate to reflect our commitment to securing our future, balancing the budget, providing health care to every eligible child, protecting the environment, and making sure
America looks, once again, like America.

Chairman, Texas Democratic Party

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Frost Withdraws

By Byron LaMasters

On Withdrawing from the Campaign for DNC Chair Today

WASHINGTON - Today, former Texas Congressman and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Martin Frost released the statement below. Withdrawing from the race for DNC Chair, Frost did not endorse any candidate.

"I am calling my supporters to thank them and to inform them of my decision today to withdraw from the race for DNC Chair. I have also called Governor Dean and congratulated him for running a strong campaign. The challenge ahead for Governor Dean will be to unite the Party, rebuild the DNC and win elections in every region of the country.

"This campaign was never about me or any other candidate. It was about rebuilding the Democratic Party so that we can better present to the nation our strong, hopeful alternative to the dishonest, corrupt and elitist Republican Government that keeps selling out the nation in order to reward its few, privileged friends.

"Make no mistake, Democrats are the party that can best meet America's challenges - challenges like keeping our people safe and winning the war on terrorism, stopping the Republican attack on Social Security, solving the health care crisis, and ensuring that all Americans have good jobs and the opportunity to build a better
future for their children.

"With a strong, unified Democratic Party, a real 50-state party structure, and a commitment to working together and speaking directly to Americans' concerns and values, I am confident that we can and will elect Democrats at all levels and in all parts of the country. I look forward to continuing to play a constructive role in those efforts."


Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:30 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Leland Drops Out, Dean +53 DNC votes

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Though the far bigger news is the departure of Frost from the DNC Race, David Leland is out of the race for DNC and has endorsed Dean for Chair.

Leland, who had been publicly endorsed by the Chair of the Ohio Democratic Party and others in the 10-member Ohio DNC delegation, said he would encourage these members and his other DNC supporters to vote for Gov. Howard Dean for DNC Chair. "Gov. Dean has demonstrated his ability and commitment to build our party from the grassroots up."

Democracy for America has also announced 53 new votes publicly for Dean in an expansive list. That includes six entire state delegations, 12 state chairs, 12 vice-chair as well as Mayor Wellington Webb, a voting member. The six states are Colorado, American Somoa, Minesota, Nebraska, and Oregon

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 03:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Henry Bonilla is "in"

By Jim Dallas

The Houston Chronicle:

U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla said today he would seek Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's job if she decides to leave office.

Bonilla, R-San Antonio, made the announcement from Washington during telephone interviews with Lubbock radio stations.

Bonilla, 50, has represented the 23rd District, which includes most of West Texas, for more than a decade.

Hutchison is widely believed to be considering a challenge to Gov. Rick Perry in 2006. Both are Republicans. A Hutchison spokesman had no immediate comment.

"If she makes a decision on her own to move on, then I am in that race, no ifs, ands or buts," Bonilla said.

No comment from me. OK, one. I'd vote for Bobby Bonilla if he decides to run.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Was the GOP the Real Culprit in HD 149?

By Andrew Dobbs

Anybody who watched last weeks's Heflin/Vo hearings felt kind of let down- after months of Republicans screaming about fraud and widespread Democratic attempts to steal the election Andy Taylor admitted that only about 15 votes could be attributed to fraud and that at least one of them cast their ballot for Heflin. In other words, there was no conspiracy- Taylor, Heflin, Benkiser, etc. had been lying to us since November.

But now the tables seem to have turned and there might have been fraud after all, but not like the GOPers were claiming. An article in Counter Punch suggests that some of the evidence presented suggests that Republican operatives were re-registering African-American voters from HD 149 into other districts without their knowledge. Essentially, they were doing a classic vote fraud scheme in reverse- rather than registering dozens of people into a single house inside of a district so that they can all vote in an election, they regsitered all of them in a place outside the district so that they couldn't legally vote in 149.

From the article:

On Thursday for example, Master of Discovery Will Harnett (R-Dallas), a cum laude graduate from Harvard, noticed that several voter registrations in the West Houston area looked strangely alike. They were all dated late 2003, presented accurate mailing addresses, yet re-registered voters to addresses where they did not live. In effect, the series of fraudulent registrations 'deported' African American voters out of Texas House District 149 and therefore made the voters appear illegal when they attempted to vote in their usual precincts.

So when the defeated Republican incumbent in the District 149 race went looking for evidence of 'massive voter fraud' that would explain his embarrassing loss to a Vietnamese immigrant, he snared the names of these 'illegal' voters and brought them to the state capitol accusing them on live broadcast of voting where they did not live. Instead of proving these voters had cast illegal ballots, however, the Republican team of lawyers actually produced evidence of another kind.

Thanks to the careful eye that Hartnett cast upon the evidence, it appeared that someone was moving voters without their knowledge. Hartnett suggested the cards might be forwarded to the Harris County District Attorney. In press reports Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I have not been able to locate a sentence, much less a headline about Hartnett's discovery of this criminal pattern.

On Friday Hartnett noticed another curious thing. As he examined original questionnaires that were supposed to be filled out by alleged illegal voters and notarized as depositions, he found two kinds of ink used to fill out the answers and two kinds of handwriting. Larry Veselka, the Yale-educated lawyer who represents the elected Democrat in the race, Hubert Vo, then noticed that handwritten 'no' and 'NA' answers on at least two questionnaires looked to be written in the same hand.

Again, nobody reported this alleged 'tampering with evidence,' especially not the state capitol press corps, who let this open-air revelation pass without even quoting the words that were mentioned in the broadcast. However, since the proceeding took place under the jurisdiction of Austin prosecutor Ronnie Earle, maybe reporters are simply waiting to quote him on the matter of 'assisted depositions.' Or maybe I'm trying too hard to find a sensible motivation for media behaviors.

Finally, Hartnett was caught grinning at the flexibility he found at the official website of the Harris County voter registrar, which changed its listing of more than one voter from legal to illegal sometime during early January, following consultations with Republican lawyers. Hartnett seemed perversely amused when lawyers for the defense showed him a web page confirming a voter registration, dated early January, as Republican lawyers submitted more recent web pages showing the voter was not registered. Sometimes this duel of conflicting web pages seemed enough for Hartnett to say that he just couldn't be sure if the voter was illegal or not.

At one point Republican lawyer Andy Taylor openly admitted that when he was not satisfied with a listing he found at the web site, he contacted the registrar's office, presented his own findings, and got voters kicked off the rolls so that he could submit revised web pages as evidence. That wasn't mentioned in the press, either.

I would encourage you to read the entire article, despite the fact that it is in a publication I would usually steer clear of. The facts presented speak for themselves and they raise some disturbing questions about GOP officials in Harris County and statewide.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 02:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Donna Brazile to Dean: It's Healing Time

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

In what seems to be a cascade of events right now... Donna Brazile, Gore's campaign manager, basically says it's over and gives some tips on how to unite the Party. I have pulled the best quotes out and bolded them and such, but I really advise you to read the whole thing into the extended entry. This is one of the most amazing open letters I have ever read.

February 1, 2005
By Donna L. Brazile,
Roll Call Contributing Write

Dear Governor:
I have known and admired you for more than 16 years. As you recall, we first met while working on the Dick Gephardt for President Committee back in 1987. Although Gephardt lost in the primary, your unwavering
support of a little-known Congressman from the Midwest was crucial and helped validate his campaign proposals on health care.

Since announcing your candidacy for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, you've been the talk of the town. Everywhere I go, people (not just Republicans, but even some prominent Democrats) are asking me how the Democratic Party could turn to Howard Dean after John Kerry's defeat last year. My simple answer, as a neutral observer in the race for chairman, is "because we can reconstruct our party to stand for something again." Now that you have secured the endorsement of the state party leaders, it's time to heal old wounds.

The truth is, the race for party chairman should never have been about you. But unfortunately the defeated, the dejected and the delirious wings of the Democratic Party have made this, like the 2004 presidential primaries, an "anybody but Dean" race. For whatever reason, your candidacy left a mark and the wound continues to fester. In going forward, win or lose, take some time and care to make sure it heals.

After listening to the candidates for chairman and vice chairmen this past weekend in New York City, I truly believe you have the ability to become a great leader of our party and could shake things up enough to make sure Democrats lay a foundation for future elections. But the chance, like in 2004, may elude you because of what you stand for. As I write this column, some labor leaders are still debating the merits of your candidacy.

At a time when Democrats were demoralized after losing control of the Senate and for failing to win back Congressional and gubernatorial seats, your candidacy gave Democrats a much-needed jolt and got our hearts beating all over again. Your candidacy caught fire, a new generation of activists found a way to be players and used the Internet to create a buzz. And, man, did you make fundraising seem easy for a party dreading the impact of McCain-Feingold.

Suddenly, you were on the cover of major newspapers and magazines. Political pundits followed your every move as you electrified the masses yearning to have a voice at the table. Your name was on every tongue inside and outside the Beltway. This led some people to suggest that Karl Rove was salivating at the prospect of the party nominating an ultra-left, anti-war liberal to take on a wartime president. But just as you appeared to be on the verge of catching fire in the Iowa caucuses, the winter turned harsh. People loved you in their hearts, but they became frightened of what it would mean for the Democratic Party to have you serve as our standard-bearer. Some of those same people are now involved in a last-ditch effort to stop your candidacy.

Your youthful, tech-savvy supporters were new to the game of hardball presidential politics. They were playing in a league where the rules change based on who's in the game. Soon, some party insiders flush with cash went to work to cool your jets. You haven't quite been the same since the moment they made and paid for a video comparing you to Osama bin Laden.

Perhaps this time you will make it to the top. But, as you have experienced, the climb up the ladder from ex-governor, ex-presidential candidate to chairman can be steep. The hurdles now, like the obstacles you confronted in the Democratic primaries, are mainly about ego. For all its talk about inclusiveness, the Democratic Party is extremely turf conscious. Thus, it's incumbent on you to reach out and bring these people, the very ones who went to the mat to stop you, into the fold.

The bigger fish in the Democratic pond (the party is still swimming upstream) are truly bottom feeders eating away their young, casting aside callously their base and ignorant of the sharks circling our old coalitions. They have dismissed an entire generation of potential leaders when they held power by failing to lift up those who were coming behind. With you, some of the people who have been kept down found their voice. No matter what happens next week, keep fighting for them.

Following a bruising loss in 2004, I am truly ashamed of my party for making the most important decision facing it a contest based on who not to support rather than who can help us rebuild. But, luckily, the state chairmen have temporarily put an end to the "anybody but Dean" crusade. No matter what happens to Dr. Howard Dean, M.D., I urge you to continue to heal the wounded. Stay positive and just try to remember why some of us are still loyal Democrats.

Donna L. Brazile, the campaign manager for Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in 2000, runs her own grassroots political consulting firm.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 02:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

More on Frost and Dallas Democrats

By Byron LaMasters

Some of the final comments on my thread detailing the effect that Martin Frost had on the success of the 2004 Dallas Democratic Countywide candidates got buried, so I wanted to do one more post on the topic to highlight the comments of former SDEC member of the 23rd Senatorial district, and well-known Democratic freebooter Gary Fitzsimmons - who crunched the numbers in Dallas County of which my analysis is based, and also the comments of a Dallas County Precinct 1811 Chair, Anthony Pace who was active in the campaigns of both Martin Frost and State Rep. candidate Harriet Miller.

My original post can be found here and you can download the PowerPoint Presentation of which my analysis is based here. I did my best to paraphrase the commentary that Gary Fitzsimmons, but it's not the same as using his own words. Their comments in the extended entry (this exchange is probably more relevant to those of you interested in Dallas County politics, as opposed to the DNC race, but it's relevent to both [update: yeah, well it's still something good to chew on for those interested in the dynamics of Dallas County politics]):

Gary Fitzsimmons writes:

What’s missing from the PowerPoint presentation provided is the commentary that went with it. My intention was to show not only how Frost’s effort “democratized” Dallas county, but also a gratuitous plug for how I think the prevailing thinking in Dallas must change in order to securely win in the future. The point was not so much that Miller benefited from Frost’s campaign, but rather that like Frost she brought an aggressive persuasional campaign to a republican district and the results were quite dramatic. Although there was certainly some synergy between the two candidates, Miller did exceedingly well largely due to her and her volunteer’s extraordinary efforts. Now Miller, like Frost, had only the most remote chance of winning, but their campaigns both proved the truth of what Frost himself said during the campaign – the democratic message can resonate even among voters that we have traditionally written off.

The historical refrain, at least in Dallas, is that “turnout is everything” – thus, all of our county efforts have been targeted to minority or “base” constituencies. If raising turnout from our base alone could win elections, then we would have won the County in 2002 when the minority vote as a percentage of total county turnout was highest. We won a handful of races this year, however, when it was significantly lower. How can this be? Simply put – it seems to me that Frost’s efforts broke straight ticket voting and had the effect of making Democrats and our message more palatable to an enormous number of voters. And remember, Frost’s campaign was not limited to CD32 – he ran advertisements across North Texas and all sorts of people were exposed to his message thru media coverage and interaction with the candidates at forums, public events and churches.

To suggest, as our Chairwoman has done, that the victory was due to turnout work in 16 precincts in the 23rd Senate District (this has now morphed into 35 precincts over the past two weeks) is simply erroneous. Not only was the 23rd’s contribution to the total countywide turnout this year lower than the past 3 election cycles, whatever gain was made in Hispanic turnout (largely located in those CD32 precincts within SD23) was offset by the drop in black participation! – Not surprising since there we no African Americans on the ballot. So what does this mean for the future? Well – it’s simply not reasonable to assume that black voters are going to be motivated by billboard appeals from Senator Royce West alone without African Americans actually on the ticket; this was a huge deficit which the Dallas County Chairman must accept some responsibility. Nor can we assume that the Hispanic electorate is going to come to the rescue anytime soon – they’re getting more republican and at least in Dallas still have very anemic turnout.

What works is getting a persuasional message out to a much broader range of Dallas voters - and with our very limited campaign budgets, its only possible with aggressive direct mail (just like the republicans have been doing since the late 70s.) TDP sent out direct mail pieces (not the County party) featuring Valdez, Raggio & Ms. Huebener – quite effective. Simply put, our Party’s problem, not only in Dallas but the state as well, is not with minority voters; it’s with anglo voters. Our Dallas county effort in 2006 must have both turnout and persuasional components to be successful – in other words, replicate as far as possible what Frost was able to do among voters long written-off by party activists along with a diverse ticket and meaningful turnout efforts.

Precinct 1811 Chair Anthony Pace writes:

I agree with Gary's posting on Frost and Harriet Miller races. I am a precinct chair in a Republican majority precinct (1811) that is in both CD 32 and HD 102 and worked on both Frost & Miller's races. What made a positive difference this yr. were good candidates and good organization. Previously we didn't have strong Democratic candidates for Congress and House Rep. in this area, and our past numbers reflected this. In 2004 my precinct improved its DPI by 12+ pts, in 2002 our DPI was 21 and this yr for Frost we got him a 33% and 35% for Harriet Miller, while Kerry and the judges received about 29%. We saw this kind of improvement in many of the precincts in Far North Dallas, some of them recording middle 40s% DPIs for Frost and Miller. Also these DPI increases took place in precincts that had turnouts in the 70-75%.

I am strong believer that Lupe and the Judges owe their victories in part to the good organizing work that Frost did in increasing DPI throughout the 32nd and repressing the Republican vote. While many are rightly excited about the Democratic victories, 2006 may not be as Democratic friendly for the county as some think without a Frost on the ticket fighting the good battle.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ewww... yuck

By Byron LaMasters

Just when I was starting to warm up to the probability that Howard Dean will be the next DNC Chair, I read this Roll Call article on Kos:

Pelosi and Frost met last week to discuss the persistent talk in Democratic circles that she was telling DNC members and other party officials that it would be difficult for her to work with her former rival if he was elected chairman. The two have met three times since Frost declared his candidacy, and each time Pelosi had refused to support the Texan.

Though Pelosi assured Frost that she had no problem with him as head of the party, her daughter Christine, who is chief of staff to Rep. John Tierney (Mass.), circulated a proposal via e-mail last week that would install Dean as chairman with former Rep. Tim Roemer (Ind.) handling the day-to-day activities of the committee.

No, no, no! Tim Roemer is great to speak for Democrats on National Security, but he shouldn't be in charge of day-to-day opperations. If Dean wins, he should put Rosenberg or Frost in charge of that. Both of them actually have experience running a Democratic organization, and would be able to hit the ground running. It should not be a patronage position to Nancy Pelosi's friend Timmy.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:16 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

DNC: DFT Poll and the AFL-CIO Non-Endorsement

By Byron LaMasters

The organizers of the DFT poll of state convention delegates claimed that they contacted via email each state convention delegate as to their preference for DNC Chair. According to a post on Texas DNC member David Holmes's yahoo group, that was not the case:

I am writing because I am puzzled about the so-called poll of State Convention delegates. I was a delegate to the State Convention and am also chair of Travis County Precinct 326. No one has ever asked me who I support for DNC chair (that is, until yesterday when I found your poll on the txdnc yahoo group site ... which I learned about from you at the meeting Saturday). Was the claimed poll of State Convention delegates only of delegates committed to Howard Dean? I was a Kerry delegate and prefer Simon Rosenberg for DNC chair and believe that it would be a huge mistake for the Democratic Party to choose Dean (even though I agree with Dean's positions ... the problem is that most of America does not agree with those positions and the public's perception of him is very negative).

Keep up the good work!

Bill Morrow

I'm sure that if this delegate did not receive the DFT survey, then there are surely many others who did not receive the DFT poll as well. I doubt that there was a concerted effort by DFT to exclude those who did not support Dean, but it's common sense that DFT would have the most accurate contact information for DFT members, and their contact information of non-DFT members was probably significantly less accurate - thus skewing their poll heavily towards Dean.

Finally, here's a teaser... I just got word from one source that the AFL-CIO has just declined to endorse in the DNC race. Good news for Dean, bad news for Frost. Look for it to hit the AP wire soon....

Update: Ok, it's hit. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

AFL-CIO leaders decided Tuesday not to make an endorsement in the race for Democratic National Committee chairman, a move that could make it harder for any of Howard Dean's rivals to stop his push for the party leadership.

"The AFL-CIO political committee decided Tuesday not to make an endorsement for DNC chair," said Christy Setzer, a spokeswoman for the labor group. [...]

Former Texas Rep. Martin Frost has pushed hard for labor backing that could give him a chance to derail Dean.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:40 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Thinking Outside the Box

By Jim Dallas

Paul Krugman hits what has now become one of my favorite reasons for why privatizing Social Security is unlikely to work as promised: that the comparisons between a privatized system and promised benefits under the status quo involves a little bit of economic hanky-panky.

But just as my precious meme hits the big time, I've realized that there's an escape hatch for the privatizers on this one.

At the core of Krugman's argument is an assumption which does not bear out - that the only rate of return that matters is the rate of return for American corporations in the American economy.

Investors can send their dollars overseas and get higher rates of return as the developing world "catches up." Under the status quo, however, payroll tax revenue is tied to the good ol' USA.

It's possible that you could earn 6.5 to 7 percent abroad even if you couldn't possibly get such a return in U.S. equity markets. That's the escape hatch I am postulating.

The thing is, do privatizers want to admit that their plan necessarily will involve high-risk-for-high-rewards investing in foreign countries? (Or in more politically-charged language, "outsourcing"?)

Posted by Jim Dallas at 07:58 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Well, good.

By Jim Dallas

Ward Churchill is taking a demotion (why not more?).

Granted, we're all here for academic freedom. But there's a fine line between controversy and idiocy. And if making it clear that we don't tolerate idiots involves partaking in the kabuki dance of disassociation, then, let's boogie down.

One of my favorite professors at UT is Bob Jensen. You may not like Bob, but he's a nice guy. He's controversial to a hilt, but he doesn't say things just to upset people.

(And Prof. Churchill makes Bob look like Captain America by comparison.)

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

Can You Say "Birth Control?"

By Vince Leibowitz

Thanks to a taxpayer funded study, we now have conslusive proof that teens are still having sex--and more of it in some cases--in spite of those lovely Republican abstinence-only sex education programs.

According to a state-commissioned Texas A&M University study, abstinence-only sex ed had no impact on teen behavior in the Lone Star State.

Reuters notes:

Despite taking courses emphasizing abstinence-only themes, teenagers in 29 high schools became increasingly sexually active, mirroring the overall state trends, according to the study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University.

"We didn't see any strong indications that these programs were having an impact in the direction desired," said Dr. Buzz Pruitt, who directed the study.

The study was delivered to the Texas Department of State Health Services, which commissioned it.

The federal government is expected to spend about $130 million to fund programs advocating abstinence in 2005, despite a lack of evidence that they work, Pruitt said.

"The jury is still out, but most of what we've discovered shows there's no evidence the large amount of money spent is having an effect," he said.

It sure is great to spend taxpayer dollars to have written on paper (likely complete with colorful graphs and statistics) a conclusion that most parents (and teens) came to decades ago (and perhaps as far back as the beginning of time).

But, before I actually get into some of the interesting stats, I thought it was very funny that the Abstinence Clearinghouse have already declared the study a victory for Republican sponsored abstinence-only education, via USNewswire:

Opponents of truth and common sense are working hard to make abstinence education look bad. Unfortunately, it isn't working. Most recently, a study by Texas A & M University is drawing headlines across the state questioning the results of abstinence education. The flawed study, however, fails to have a control group by which to compare its results. When compared with the general teen population (data found in the 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance), teens who participate in abstinence education programs have significantly lower sexual activity rates.

I know just about every Aggie joke every written goes against my thinking this, but surely the folks at A&M--where they have actually managed to clone living animals--are smart enough to have had a "control group."

Anyway, back to the stats. Here are some snippits:

The study showed about 23 percent of ninth-grade girls, typically 13 to 14 years old, had sex before receiving abstinence education. After taking the course, 29 percent of the girls in the same group said they had had sex.

Boys in the tenth grade, about 14 to 15 years old, showed a more marked increase, from 24 percent to 39 percent, after receiving abstinence education.

Abstinence-only programs, of course, can't offer information about birth control and "must promote the social and health benefits of abstaining from sex," according to Reuters.

To clarify, I'm not in favor of teen sex (what politician is), but I have though abstinance should be included in regular sex ed, and that it shouldn't be the "only" sex ed there is.

I'm hoping to find a copy of the study online, because I'd be curious to know if it also tracked teen pregnancy among the groups studied. Surely, if teen sex increased that much, teen pregnancy (not to mention SDTs) had to increase, too. And, if the kids weren't being taught about safe sex but were sexually active, it stands to reason that at least a decent percentage (perhaps the percentage that hasn't seen the varied PSA all over MTV) was having unprotected sex.

Vince Leibowitz is the County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 12:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Who did YCT Offend this week?

By Byron LaMasters

It's always someone...

This week, it was Hispanics and Immigrants (pictures here)! Via The Daily Texican, the North Texas Daily reports:

Numerous NT students exchanged heated arguments Wednesday during the "Capture the Illegal Immigrant Game," put on by NT's chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas. The purpose of the game was to show the organization's opposition to President Bush's temporary worker plan.

Around 30 students, mostly Hispanic, began engaging members of the organization in a debate because they felt all the facts were not being properly presented. "We want to know! We want to know!" the group chanted. "You shouldn't make a game of these people who suffer for their families," Kristy Cisneros, Carrolton senior, said. "It's a mockery"

Three Young Conservatives members walked around campus wearing bright orange t-shirts with the words "Illegal Immigrant" on the front and "Catch me if u can" on the back for the game. People were encouraged to find these members and ask them why the organization does not support Bush's plan.

So what exactly is their point? That ordinary citizens should go up and approach people that look like they might be illegal immigrants, form a vigilante police force and perform a citizen's arrest?

The broader concern here is the tone of YCT. Illegal immigration, and immigration policy is not a "game". Pete Sessions probably thinks it's a game (since he believes the war on terror to be one), but most rational adults take the issue a bit more seriously. It's great that YCT's want to have a debate about immigration policy, but their tactics (just as their "racist bake sale" tactics) seek to offend rather than engage in reasoned debate. That's not very productive.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:06 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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