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March 31, 2005

Ticket Splitters: Go to a Vote

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

List of E-mails of All Reps

Normally Ticket Splitting is a good thing in reference to SG. But a fellow Burnt Oranger here came up with a good name for the 5 people who purposefully left this Tuesday's meeting in order to kill any possible vote on Election Reform bills AB 18, 19, and 20.

The Splitters are-

Grant Stanis- Business Rep.- Grant.Stanis@mail.utexas.edu
Courtney Livingston- Lib. Arts Rep.- livingston@mail.utexas.edu
Henna Tayyeb- Two Year at Large- hennat@mail.utexas.edu
Clayton Stewart- Lib. Arts Rep.- cstewart@mail.utexas.edu
Jason Smith- Lib. Arts Rep.- Jsmith@mail.utexas.edu

Three of those are Liberal Arts reps, even though the other three Lib Arts Reps stayed to represent their college. Arguements were made by Clayton that the input he heard, from the Liberal Arts Council, was that they didn't like it. I'm sorry to say, but the LAC is not the Liberal Arts College at large. I'm in Liberal Arts, Ali Puente is in Liberal Arts, quite a few of the actual speakers at Tuesday's meeting were in Liberal Arts, most of the people I've talked to that are in favor were from Liberal Arts.

I'm sorry Clayton, Livingston, and Smith, but leaving without voting disables you from representing me or anyone else you claim to be representing. Though your vote no for the sake of the LAC seems misguided in my mind, your absence on Tuesday (and any absence on Saturday) is more than misguided, it's a mistake.

I encourage everyone that is a student to drop them a line along the theme of "Go to a Vote".

Here is the Daily Texan Op-Ed piece. My letter is below the fold.

List of E-mails of All Your Reps

Dear SG Representatives,

Some of you are my reps, some of you are not. Some of you were at Tuesday's Meeting, some of you were not. Sadly, some of you simply left Tuesday's meeting will the intent to kill a simple vote.

This Saturday, at 8 AM in the Glen Maloney Room, you have been called to attend a Special Session to discuss and vote on AB 18, 19, and 20. I would hope that you would give the students you claim to represent what they voted for a year ago- representation.

Vote yes, vote no, but whatever you do please show up and Go to a Vote. It's the least we deserve.

Karl-Thomas Musselman
College of Liberal Arts

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 11:30 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

City Council Endorsement Meeting

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

First, a new semi-old pic of me with Katie Naranjo, our newest BOR writer and possible candidate for TYD Region 6 Thingamagig (which Byron is now).

Location: GSB 2.124
Begins: Saturday 2 April 2005 10:00am
Ends: Saturday 2 April 2005 12:00pm

UDems MEMBERS: This Saturday is a very IMPORTANT meeting.

It is our endorsement meeting for City Council. We will vote on the candidates that we support for Place 1, 3, and 4 and two ballot propositions. It will determine how we are involved with city council for the rest of the year.

Please come to vote for your favorite candidate. The speakers start at 10:30 AM, but free breakfast will be provided starting at 10:00. Please don't miss this important event. It will be in our regular meeting room: GSB 2.124.

Afterwards, we will be having a party of some sort that will involve free stuff for those who attend the meeting. Please make plans to spend the day with us. See you Saturday!!!!

Please note: the constitutional ammendment to limit voting members for this Saturday's meeting to only those who became members as of this past Wednesday passed unanimously.


Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 11:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

SG Meeting Called for Saturday

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Here is the e-mail from President Brent Chaney calling a special session of SG for this Saturday at 8 am to hopefully discuss and vote on the election reform bills. This is from the "secretive insider listservs" that I think some have claimed in the Texan, meaning, the representatives and committee/agency listservs.

Dear Student Government Members,

After watching our assembly debate last night for over six hours I do not personally agree that our assembly and Student Government members have all of the information needed to vote, but I will never be the one to stop a vote from taking place. Therefore, I am calling a Special Session for this Saturday at 8 AM in a location that will be sent out very soon (Glen Maloney Room, basement of the SSB as always).

I need every Representative to do more research until the meeting. It is obvious from the e-mails and calls I have received there are many different points of view among our student body. Many of them believe we are rushing this through at the last second. Student Government took one of the worst PR blows I can remember today. Everyone is responsible.

In comparison to most bills in the Assembly, it had more time for members to find out about it, do research, attend forums, etc. than other bills they complain are rushed. Is there any bill in the Assembly that has some level of controversy that isn't decried as being 'rushed'? If Brent went to more than one meeting on the Bill, and if general members actually showed up to the who knows how many different meetings on this bill, maybe they would be more informed.

Oh heavens, there are differnt points of view from the student body! Sound the "must not vote on legislation alarm" because we aren't all singing Kumbyah as we unanimously approve it by voice vote! Get serious Representatives, you use the same damn excuses for every piece of legislation that comes before the assembly that someone, usually Grant Stannis, doesn't like. I can't even think right now of one piece of legislation this year that was actually voted on if it was contested, and was instead tabled into non-existance without any vote up or down at all. If you don't like legislation, vote it down. Don't 'not deal with it' or worse as the case was this week, leave with your ball because you don't want to play.

The rest of the e-mail below the fold.

I encourage the authors of AB 18 to work with Representatives and students that still have unanswered questions and problems with the bill. The purpose of many of the changes to the way we conduct meetings this year are to ensure that nothing like last nights meeting happens. Take time outside of meeting to ensure that the meeting runs smoothly on Saturday. Please be conscious of the feelings of other people.

This will be the last meeting for this bill to be discussed our term. Whatever the outcome of the Special Session I hope that everyone will look beyond the outcome of one bill and celebrate the great many things we have accomplished this year. Please let Amber know if you will be unable to attend.

It has been a pleasure serving with you.


Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 09:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Perry's Office Lies About Gambling

By Andrew Dobbs

Sometimes I wonder how little regard the Republicans in this state hold the rest of us in. I mean, if you lie about something that is as easily disproven as a 30 second Google or Lexis-Nexis search, how can you possibly respect the person you are lying to? At least if it were hard to disprove I could give them credit for covering up their tracks in an attempt to defeat our clearly adequate research skills and memory. But no, they lie about things there is no reason to lie about.

Case in point- an Associated Press report from today quotes Rick Perry's spokeswoman Kathy Walt as saying

"There are a lot of conspiracy theorists around the capitol," said Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt. "The fact of the matter is the governor has never been a proponent of gambling."

Really? NEVER been a proponent? People who think otherwise are "conspiracy theorists"? Well, I suppose that Rick Perry might want to sidle up next to Alex Jones, since he himself has called himself a proponent of gambling.

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 4-21-2004:

Less than two years ago, Gov. Rick Perry warned that any attempt to expand gambling in Texas would have a "short life span" on his desk. Now Perry wants to make revenue from new video slot machines a centerpiece of his school finance plan, leaving many gambling opponents, particularly those in religious circles, feeling betrayed and angry.”

From the Associated Press (the same author who wrote today's story, no less), 4-13-2004:

Last week, Perry proposed a plan that would lower property taxes for homeowners and businesses while shoring up additional revenue from an increased tax on cigarettes, video lottery gambling and an admission fee on adult entertainment events, among other sources.

From another Associated Press report (same author-- April Castro-- again), 4-6-2004:

Perry's plan does not include a significant new tax bill to replace the revenue that would be lost in tax cuts, but his office has floated allowing state-taxed video lottery terminals at racetracks and an increase in the cigarette tax to fund education.

Now to the good stuff. From Rick Perry's press office, 4-8-2004:

Perry said he will pay for his plan through a variety of revenue sources that target tax fairness, unhealthy behaviors or voluntary actions. His revenue proposals include a $1 per pack cigarette tax hike, fees on adult entertainment, closing the franchise and auto sales tax loopholes, and - if Texas voters approve - video lottery at specified venues.

The same quote was used in a press release on April 13, 2004. Very similar was a line from his April 8, 2004 speech outlining his education proposals in San Antonio:

My plan includes a $1 per pack cigarette tax hike, fees on adult entertainment, closing the franchise and auto sales tax loopholes to make them fairer, and - if Texas voters agree - video lottery terminals in approved areas.

Finally, and most damning, from his proclamation calling the 2004 special session on 4-15-2004:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, RICK PERRY, Governor of the state of Texas, by the authority vested in me(...) do hereby call an extraordinary session of the 78th Legislature(...) for the following purposes: (...)

To consider legislation and amendments to the constitution that authorize and allow the placement and licensing of video lottery terminals at licensed racetracks and certain Indian reservations, providing that the revenue derived from such activity is dedicated to the Educational Excellence Fund, providing that the racetracks and tribes sign a contract with the state.

So three news reports, two press releases, a public speech and the proclamation from Perry's office all say that he supported gambling. How stupid does he think we are? All of this stuff was either on Lexis-Nexis or his very own website. At least the Communists were respectful enough to take stuff out of the records before they lied about it. Rick Perry is a two bit crooked politician and possibly the worst governor in Texas history. All this does is convince me even more that he'll be the easiest to beat in 2006.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 02:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Terri Schiavo Dies

By Byron LaMasters

Thankfully, this national tragedy is now over, but it won't stop Tom DeLay from shameless hypocrisy and overarching hysteria on the issue. My thoughts and prayers are certainly with the entire Schiavo family, and I hope that our nation can benefit from this national incident. Please join Jim's request and fill out a living will. At the very least, speak with your loved ones, and make sure that they know what treatment that you wish to receive if you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to make such decisions.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:18 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Anyone Surprised?

By Zach Neumann

This morning, the NY Times reported that U.S. intelligence pertaining to WMD’s in Iraq was patently incorrect. I don’t think this comes as a shock to anyone. Check out the story:

A report made public this morning concludes that American intelligence agencies were "dead wrong" in almost all of their prewar assessments about the state of unconventional weapons in Iraq, and that on issues of this importance "we simply cannot afford failures of this magnitude."

It adds, "The harm done to American credibility by our all too public intelligence failures in Iraq will take years to undo."

The report concludes that while many other nations believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, "in the end, it was the United States that put its credibility on the line, making this one of the most public - and most damaging - intelligence failures in recent American history."

The failure was in large part the result of analytical shortcomings, the report adds, saying "intelligence analysts were too wedded to their assumptions about Saddam's intentions," referring to the ousted Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein."

But in the end the agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, collected too little for the "analysts to analyze, and much of what they did collect was either worthless or misleading."

The failures the commission found in Iraq are not repeated everywhere, the report says, but "flaws we found in the intelligence community's Iraq performance are still too common," the report declares.

It adds: "We must use the lessons from those failings, and from our successes as well, to improve our intelligence for the future, and do so with a sense of urgency."

The Economist had something along these lines last week. I guess it goes without saying that the greatest tool in the war against terrorism is information. Given the fact that the application of conventional military force does little to halt the spread of non state militants, it is vital that we fully develop our special forces, elite police units and intelligence agencies. Despite arguments made to the contrary by the Bushies in the National Security Strategy (NSS), America’s primary response to the threat of terrorism is still regime change. This has not (and will not) work. Though I’m not a fan of Donald Rumsfeld, I think he realizes this to an extent. While he has (obviously) supported the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, he has also attempted to revamp the capabilities of the U.S. military to deal with unconventional threats. To a large extent, this has included major changes to our intelligence infrastructure. Hopefully, his proposals will be taken seriously (despite suffering a significant setback last week).

Posted by Zach Neumann at 09:51 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 30, 2005

Austin Place 3 Candidate Forum

By Byron LaMasters

It's tonight at 7:30 in the Jester Auditorium. Karl-Thomas and Katie will be busy performing their duties as UD officers, but Andrew and I will try and liveblog it if there's a decent wireless internet connection. You can read my thoughts on the Austin City Council races here.

Update: The forum went well. The wireless was down, so Andrew and I didn't have the chance to liveblog. I got bored 15 minutes into the forum and went outside where I chatted with Andrew, several of the campaign staffers and DNC member David Holmes. Holmes's boss, State Rep. Hubert Vo (D-Houston) attended the meeting. Another one of Vo's staffers is volunteering for Jennifer Kim, and wanted to attend the meeting, so Vo and Holmes ended up attending as well. After the meeting I decided to pick up dinner at Freebirds, and use my free burrito card that I won last time I ate at Freebirds. Interestingly enough, David Holmes and Hubert Vo were also in the mood for burritos, and after running into them again, I ended up sitting down and eating dinner with them.

It was nice to have the opportunity to chat with Representative Vo. I told him that I was looking forward to working with other bloggers to help his 2006 campaign, at which point he made a kind remark of Houston blogger Greg Wythe. Greg did a lot of voter registration work in and around Vo's district. Regardless, it was fun to sit down and chat with Hubert Vo and his staff.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Waste During Wartime

By Byron LaMasters

I'll give Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) credit for one thing. He's standing up to oppose wasteful military spending during wartime. Read the letter that he sent to ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, Ike Skelton in PDF format, here.

There are currently around 4000 Texas National Guardsmen and women serving on active duty in addition to the tens of thousands of Texans on active duty.

This issue is now before the House Armed Services Subcommittee chaired by Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-El Paso). If you are interested in this issue, call Reyes defense LA, Julie Marberg, at (202) 225-4831.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Is this Racially Insensitive?

By Byron LaMasters

We report. You decide.

I'm posting the email that I received from Wick Allison of D Magazine last night. The email is related to my comments regarding the Park Cities People editorial that wrote that it is an "unpleasant fact" that "Anglos will be a minority in North Texas". In response I wrote this:

I agree - we should talk about race, and the serious factors regarding our changing demographics in north Texas. High teen birth rates, high dropout rates and declining household incomes are serious problems that must be solved. My point is that the Park Cities People editorial addressed those issues in a highly insensitive manner. Stating that Anglos being a minority is an "unpleasant fact" suggests racial insensitivity at best, and blatant racism at worst. We'll never solve our problems by scapegoating one race or ethnicity or another. We'll solve our problems by working together towards common ground with mutual respect - something that the writers of the Park Cities People editorial page certainly lack.

Now, Wick Allison has responded by saying that the Park Cities People editorial was correct as he stated via email that "Anglo society is superior to Hispanic society". I would say that such a statement is racially insensitve at best, and is reflective of the attitude held by many north Dallas and Park Cities Republicans that is usually said in private, but usually does not make waves into the mainstream media. Read the full email in the extended entry:

But it IS an unpleasant fact. Anglo society is superior to Hispanic society. Why do you think so many Hispanics want to be here? How many Anglos are fleeing the other direction? Read, for example, the Catholic thinker Michael Novak on Spanish Catholic thinking vs. American protestant thinking and how this divergence formed two very different societies in the Americas. Mexico, for example, has some of the wealthiest families in the world, but it is not (Novak's point) a wealth-producing, wealth-sharing society. Ask Argentinean political analysts about their society, and they will tell that it is a "take" society vs. the Anglo "build" society. It is a fine and wonderful thing to celebrate the different cultures that form our country, but it would be suicide to acquiesce to them. Hispanics flee their culture for a reason. The point of the editorial was to point out the dangers if we do not spend money now to educate and enculturate the new majority, which by the way increasingly consists of illegal aliens. I think the use of the word "alien" is interesting, because they are alien to our culture and way of thinking. So were the Jews and the Italians and the Irish at one time, but the nation made a whole-hearted effort to "Anglicize" them--that's why public education was started in the first place.

Now, to your point about racism. It would be racist to suggest that Hispanics are prone to destructive behavior. It would also be untrue. "Have-nots"--white, black, brown--have patterns of destructive behavior that are not correlated to race or ethnicity. And D Magazine has published extensive research to show that patterns of behavior and even political ideas correlate to class much more than, even to the exclusion of, race or ethnicity. Once again, we have the Jews and the Italians and the Irish and so forth. So we have to take into account poverty as well as an entirely different cultural background--and treat these two phenomena separately. But we DO have to treat them. And we can't treat them if we can't talk about them without having some (highly intelligent, wonderful, nice) liberal yell "Racism!!" every time somebody tries to address it.

What do you think? Let's keep the debate going, and let us know in comments.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:32 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Privatization Hurts Young People

By Byron LaMasters

The College Democrats of America have a petition on Social Security that I hope that you all join me in signing.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

It's a good program, and some of the GOoPers in the lege want to cut it. Read Hope Morrison's post on the topic and act on the issue if you have the chance. Pink Dome adds some thoughts as well.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Quorum Break Kills Ticket Bill

By Andrew Dobbs

Since no one had put up a post describing the ignominous death of AB 18 and the final meeting of the current Student Government, I figured I would.

According to the Daily Texan, the debate lasted six hours and ended not with an up or down vote, but rather with a quorum break coordinated by the bill's opponents (or, as I will now call them, the "Ticket Splitters"- i.e. they split as soon as the ticket bill came up...).

After six hours of heated debate, members of the Student Government assembly found themselves one representative short of a quorum necessary to vote on a measure to eliminate tickets from student elections.

Around 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, a motion to indefinitely table the bill failed. Several representatives who argued against the bill left the room, effectively blocking the legislation from a vote.

Supporters of the bill immediately criticized those members, calling their actions a "political maneuver."

"This shows the assembly should take a serious look at its procedures," said Matt Ross, a two-year-at-large representative, and sponsor of the bill. "I've never been this ashamed to be a part of SG."

Grant Stanis, business representative, defended his decision to leave, saying it was an issue the next assembly should handle. "We thoroughly discussed the issue, but we see too many issues and problems with the legislation," Stanis said. "We didn't feel like this was something that needed to be voted on now."

Now, I have said too many nice things about the Killer Ds to decry the action in and of itself, but I can say that I am disappointed. The Killer Ds split so they could protect the representation of Texans who would be otherwise de facto disenfranchised, Grant Stanis and his crew split to preserve a broken system. AB 18 was the best thing that could have happened to SG- internet voting means that there is no investment of time, effort or money in casting your vote. When people don't have anything invested, they are less likely to do the research needed to make an informed decision. Instead of picking from all the tickets for the most qualified candidates, they stick with one ticket for whatever reason. Some good people are elected, a lot of bad ones are too. Making everyone run as an independent means everyone has to do a lot of research and people will be chosen for their skills and their qualifications, not the fact that they are on the right ticket.

Furthermore, the system as it stands locks most people out of the process. In the real world we have two well established "tickets" and a host of smaller ones. Anyone who meets the legal requirements for office can run in any party's primary. Thus everyone has a chance to serve in public office. Under the ticket system, a handful of people who are at the top of the ticket- maybe 4 or 5- pick all of the candidates for all of the offices. If you aren't chosen, you can try another ticket (who are just as unlikely to pick you), or run as an independent (which means you will likely be defeated). Only the elect has the ability to run a race with a chance of winning, meaning well-intentioned and well-qualified candidates are locked out of the process. Under AB 18 this wouldn't have been a problem.

The good news is that the SG might call a special session for Friday morning to resolve these bills. But chances are the Ticket Splitters will just refuse to attend that meeting as well. I'm not sure if the executives can compel attendance, but if they can, they should. Whether this bill passes or not is of less importance to me now- it is simply time for it to get a fair hearing. Dozens of people showed up on Tuesday night to stick up for this bill. Their voices deserve to be heard.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 02:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

$75,000 Ad Buy in Tom DeLay's District

By Byron LaMasters

It's good to see folks taking on Tom DeLay while he's taking heat from the nation media these past few weeks. The Campaign for America's Future is making a $75,000 ad buy in the TX-22 District:

Tom "the Hammer" DeLay leads the Republican majority in Congress, and epitomizes the blatant corruption, abuses of power and partisanship all too common among the extreme right wing. Help us air a new TV ad to call out DeLay’s corruption for hundreds of thousands of his own constituents and upwards of one million Americans. Corruption like...

  • Taking campaign contributions from a polluting energy company in exchange for what company officials believed would be "a seat at the table" during Energy Bill negotiations.
  • Strong-arming a Republican member of Congress to side with big drug companies and HMOs during the 2004 Medicare bill. (The Republican colleague originally accused DeLay of outright bribery.)
  • For the first $20,000 contributed, the Campaign for America’s Future will match every dollar 4-to-1 to expose DeLay’s corruption for even more people. With this match, every $10 you contribute will put this ad in front of 160 households for a full week! Please contribute today.

More info from the Campaign for America's Future folks via email:

The Campaign for America's Future spot begins airing Thursday throughout Rep. DeLay's Texas district and on major news stations in Washington. The initial $75,000 buy runs for a full week. We've also created a website highlighting DeLay's corruption.

The Public Campaign Action Fund begins a $25,000 buy of television ads also calling on Rep. DeLay to resign this week in three districts represented by Republican members Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Conn., Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., and House Ethics Committee Chair Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash.

More at the Daily DeLay. The Stakeholder is all over Tom DeLay as well. Even the Texas A&M Newspaper is running a column today opposing Tom DeLay.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Chris Bell Campaign Posts Kos Diary

By Byron LaMasters

Read it here, and recommend it if you're a dKos member.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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

By Zach Neumann

It’s been confirmed. The United States has (and probably) is deporting terror suspects to foreign countries to be tortured by governments not bound by petty little things like due process of law. The NY Times reports:

Maher Arar, a 35-year-old Canadian engineer, is suing the United States, saying American officials grabbed him in 2002 as he changed planes in New York and transported him to Syria where, he says, he was held for 10 months in a dank, tiny cell and brutally beaten with a metal cable.

Now federal aviation records examined by The New York Times appear to corroborate Mr. Arar's account of his flight, during which, he says, he sat chained on the leather seats of a luxury executive jet as his American guards watched movies and ignored his protests.

The tale of Mr. Arar, the subject of a yearlong inquiry by the Canadian government, is perhaps the best documented of a number of cases since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in which suspects have accused the United States of secretly delivering them to other countries for interrogation under torture. Deportation for interrogation abroad is known as rendition.

In papers filed in a New York court replying to Mr. Arar's lawsuit, Justice Department lawyers say the case was not one of rendition but of deportation. They say Mr. Arar was deported to Syria based on secret information that he was a member of Al Qaeda, an accusation he denies.

I understand that certain constitutional provisions have to be circumvented from time to time in the name of national security. However, I question if this is one of those times. I am posting this because I find myself in something of an intellectual quagmire. While my small-l-liberal sensibilities are shaken when I read about this case, I still understand that the government needs to be able to deal with potential terrorists quickly. It seems there is no right answer here. More than anything, this article makes me sad because I’m beginning to realize that security and liberty are not completely compatible. While this conclusion may seem obvious to some, it is one I’ve just come to accept. I am deeply disturbed by all of this.

Posted by Zach Neumann at 11:21 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Texas Supremes

By Jim Dallas

The Texas Supremes came down to UH this morning to hear a couple of appeals in front of a student audience (press release). I had to sit down and watch one of the hearings. Here are my observations:

Chief Justice Jefferson is both taller and somewhat more soft-spoken than I had gathered. Just sort of exudes quiet dignity. Wowsa.

Justice Brister asked a lot of sharp, pointed, and occasionally amusing "stump-the-lawyer" questions. Which kept an otherwise dry (ok, dull) event interesting. In retrospect, I probably should have voted for him in November for that reason alone. Although I quiver at the thought of ever having to appear before him in some future career.

Justice Owen, often thought of as an appointee to a higher judicial office, asked a few questions, but mostly took notes quietly.

Appointee Phil Johnson sat in the audience taking notes.

The most inquisitive justices seemed to be (in descending order) O'Neill, Brister, Jefferson, Owen, Medina, Wainwright, Hecht and Green. In fact, I don't recall hearing Justice Green ask any questions.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 10:52 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 29, 2005

Soechting's Ruling

By Byron LaMasters

From my post earlier today was news of the opinion of the state party chair, Charles Soechting over who should chair the April 2 Dallas County Democratic Executive Committee Meeting. I've now posted the letter from State Chair Charles Soechting to Dallas SDEC member Ken Molberg. You can read it here in PDF format.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:36 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Bush's Public Popularity Down!!! Slightly Happy.

By Katie Naranjo

The sad or serious face that President Bush will be wearing in upcoming weeks is due to a slide in his popularity with the public. What are the issues that might have added to this almost 10-point slide, one might ask. Well, a recent decision by the Bush administration to support controversial issues is one reason. Meaning the attempt to intervene in the Terri Schaivo hearings and family conflicts. Bush is also fielding much criticism about his proposal to privatize the social security system. Whether you are satisfied with the current system or not, the entire privatization of the social security system is a huge risk that could result in millions of elderly not receiving the same funds prior. The risks outweigh the benefits that do not seem to be materializing. So why am I writing about Bush's popularity, when you can watch CNN and hear. Simply I was excited, that after poking the Federal nose into none of its business it showed that voters are mildly informed about the Fed's actions.

Posted by Katie Naranjo at 09:38 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Burnt Orange Report from the Floor

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Yes folks, it's the last SG meeting for those elected last spring before the new one is seated next week. I'll be live blogging it, updates marked with ----- lines (and yes Byron, I'll "extended entry" it after it's over in a few hours).

UPDATE:: I'm still updating but I'm sticking it into the extended entry. So just open it up and keep refreshing.

The room is crowded, with more people than I have ever seen at an SG meeting all year long (appropriations being the runner up now). Time for roll call.

Open Forum time: A funny presentation on the life and times of Brent Chaney (with powerpoint baby pictures!) I wish I could only put it into words. Here are some selected quotes... which were followed by a audio montage of quotes, and some singing by his fellow Tejas buds???

...endorsement deal with cabbage patch kids

...a particular affinty for clowns arose after his return from a place called neverland

...though the role of Dorthoty may have been more fitting

...women have proven useful to Brent in other ways as well

Flying Stress Stars being thrown by the Executive Board to the audience!!!

Tim Allen spoke briefly in favor of AB 18.

A Mr. Dale(?), spoke about being possibly the only person in the room who was upset with the display just seen but he left with the comment of "Promoting ideal government should be the paramount objective of Student Government." Hear, hear to that.

A speaker from the Comm Council, and another I missed.

Next speaker: best quote: "If you are comfortable with this system then you need to re-evaluate what SG is about."

UT Watch members spoke in favor of the Top 10% plan in regards to diversity. In short, they are supporting SB 333 and SB 936 and are opposed to SB 320 and SB 1546.

After David Strauss of UDems and the Travesty, we were interrupted by 4 people chanting "where's our pool" dressed up in blue butched paper, carrying foam noodles, and spraying him with squirt guns. Beach balls were bouncing about the room. Oh heavens, it may be the last meeting, but this is not really professional. It's a joke, kinda like SG many might say...

Katie Herbeck, member of the ESB this year, is speaking on behalf of AB 18. You may remember her name from the Daily Texan photography scuffle the night of election results (where the Texan made a stink about their constitutional right to shame and harass candidates that were crying in the name of "free speech").

A motion by Matt Stolhandske to move some of the Exec reports after the debate over the bills failed. Normally motions are made when there are big things on the menu to push debate forward, but incoming VP Elizabeth Brummet spoke against it on the point that after seeing the ridiculousness of the first part of the meeting she wanted visiting students to see that SG wasn't just all "fun and games". No kidding, this place shouldn't be about fun and games, it should bore you OUT OF YOUR MIND, so that you NEVER COME BACK!!!!

Sorry, where was I?

Time for Executive reports...

President- Discussion about the latest on Top 10% reform over at the leg. Talk to Brent Chaney if you want more info. Tax Free Textbooks Bill update. Thanking Exec for all they have done this year. Thanks to Reps, thanks to Agencies (swoon, be still my heart!), LLAs, etc.

VP- OMG it's more gladhanding!!! Matt Hardigree (current president of the SEC on campus) , whom I'm IMing with right now, says that they should be playing "Time of your Life" by Green Day. That is sooo true.

Executive Director- Amy Chiou, gives her Academy Awards Acceptance Speech. And binders, don't forget the amazing binders and the new office space (which is awesome though).

Internal Finace- Jessica Rice in the House! Whoa, like, an actual report. The first one so far today! And she just looked over at the Agengy directors, and she looked at me, like right at me!!! And she gave props to the gender neutral bathrooms, saying she's going to keep working on them going forward. I <3 Jessica Rice. She's now moved into her Al Gore-esqe speech (but I really liked that speech too...)

External Finance- Dan Paschal, zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Attorney General- Last AG report eva! (since the position has been eliminated) Some random stuff. Tone for the rest of the meeting: chill.

Secretary- Andrew Lara talks about an SG banquet. And he said Serrano's with a rolled R. Mmmmmm. And what was that about Brittney and Boy Bands in the SG office?

Time for Representatives are Privileged, oops, I mean Representatives Privilege. Really, there is not much of interest here.

Rep. Grant Stannis brings forth an issue of parlimentary procedure. He appealed the decision of the VP to make the passage of a Bill set at 22 votes, 50% + 1 of the 43 Assembly seats, even though there are about 3 empty seats from people who have resigned in comparison to the total number of representatives who are present in this meeting.

I would normally agree with his point, but this is obviously a political move to raise the bar for passage for tonight's bills. Nice try Stannis, but I think the Assembly is going to shoot this down.

Well it was killed by a about a 20-13-1 margin. Maybe a test vote for the later Bills tonight? A good sign if so.

Committee and Agency Reports- I get to speak!!!

(Matt H Reporting From in the Closet, Rick Perry is nowhere in sight) Karl is following Danielle, that's rough, she's more entertaining than Stolhandske yelling out "Point of Order" every ten damn seconds. Just to prove that he's hardcore Karl's got his laptop on him and he's liveblogging and checking his email while he is making a presentation.

Karl Opens with a joke "I'd like to thank the Acadamy" and it fails like the Stannis Point of Parlientary Information. Okay, i just lost track of what is happening he just said more acronyms than I can keep track of. Something about the BLT and the GBA and maybe an HIV and a PSP. Man I want a PSP. Oh, something about a picnic! I love picnics. And Colby just yelled "K Tizzle" and I thought she was from SOUTH Tyler.

Thanks Matt, and my joke was funny, I swear!. Now for a 5 minute Recess.

And we are back. Time to talk about AB 18. Or maybe not, since Stolhandske is offering up an Amendment, but people want new copies of the bill which has been updated for some reason from what people have. But we are going to debate an amendment for changes in how much each type of candidate can spend.

Rep. "Amendment to your Amendment" Stannis proposes now to eliminate all spending caps. *eye roll* Voting: what's that I hear, No's all around... HAHAHA. 34-2 smackdown.

Limits, Limits, Limits. Keep them low, whatever. Just vote people. Oh, and another amendment to the amendment by Laura Gladney-Lemon! It failed miserably. Then another amendment by Elizabeth Brummet to index college level Reps to $50 a rep, with a $100 floor for any school. I'm mixed on this one, $75 a slot might be better but I don't have a vote. Whoops, Stolhandske just pulled it out from under us, added it as a Friendly amendment, and now we are moving on to the general, original Amendment, which has been whored out too much tonight. And it passes with one vote against!

Onto the general bill. Laura Gladney-Lemon (LGL) is making some confusing amendment about candidate pairings, which no one understands and will vote down I think. The Committee gave it's "negative report" which was silly because in the commite it was a tied vote, 1 for (Chris Kennedy) 1 agains (Grant Stannis) 1 Abstain (E. Brummet), and the chair, Omar Ochoa broke it with a no vote. Let's see, the two people who benefited by the system because they are going to be here next year, voted no or not at all. So I'm not taking the committee report for anything, considering I was there.

And Gladney-Lemon's 1st Amendment ramblings are really driving me bonkers because I don't think it has anything to do with this bill. If there is a problem, I'm sure someone will figure it out. Not a reason to fear the bill.

LGL's Amendment to remove pairings of all types actually passed. But not soon after was an amendment to reinstate all of that PLUS adding back into the mix college level coalitions! Can we say, undercover tickets and changes the intent of the bill? This would fall under the Brent Chaney Baby Steps plan. Ali Puente, UDems VP and SG gadfly gave a slap down of SG being weak and got a standing ovation from the back section where I'm sitting. We totally overclapped VP Rachel McGinity who is the chair of this meeting.

Oh NO! Another LGL Amendment! And people are falling asleep on the floor back here. And a motion to make all votes standing or roll call votes which passed!

I can't even tell what we are debating on anymore. LGL cried after getting attacked by another Rep on her continious amendments. Her amendment failed and now we are on something else. I'm so confused.

And now we have a motion to move out of AB 18 and go to AB 24 because the author has homework. Don't we all, don't we all.

AR 24 passes! On to AR 20! And it passes as well! (After Stannis slowed things down by having them explain the bill. gasp!)

Back to AB 18, LGL's last amendment failed. Call to question failed. Back to debate. Motion for 10 min. of debate total. Now for the impassioned speeches.

Arguements against include regulation of cookies on the west mall. I don't like this, there seems to be a bit of a long line.

Chaney now wants to just not vote on this. This is absolute bullshit Brent. Let the Assembly vote and stop threatening us with the next assembly overturning it. I'd like to seem them try and deal with the press coverage.

Now, there is a motion to table indefinitly. That is even more insane. Let it come to a vote. Stop copping out. This is why I hate Student Government sometimes.

Matt just had a good point, this is more than a political manuever, it's political manure. Motion to Table failed 22-7.

Grant Stannis has left the building along with Courtney Livingston breaking quorum.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 09:32 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

HJR 6 Hearing

By Byron LaMasters

Speaking of gay marriage equality.... HJR 6, the amendment to the Texas constitution banning gay marriage is scheduled for a hearing next Monday, April 4. I would encourage people to attend the hearing. I may stop by for a little bit to fill out a witness affirmation form. The Lesbian Gay Rights Lobby of Texas has more information:

HJR 6, the Anti-Gay Texas Marriage Amendment, would put unequal treatment for gay and lesbian Texans into our Texas Constitution by permanently banning marriage for gay and lesbian couples. It would deny thousands of Texas families access to health care, fair inheritance and survivor rights, and the ability to make medical decisions for loved ones. We believe HJR 6 will be scheduled for a hearing to take public testimony on Monday, April 4, 2005. We need people to do one of three actions:

1. Testify verbally,
2. Submit written testimony, and
3. Sign a witness affirmation form.

HJR 6 will officially post for a hearing on March 30, and we will have more details at that time. The committee hearing will start "at 2pm or upon adjournment," and it could last well past midnight. We need families from across the state to testify that HJR 6 hurts real families!

LGRL also has some "quick facts" on HJR 6. They're good talking points for all of you out there. Read them in the extended entry:

The Texas Marriage Amendment hurts Texas families. It would deny thousands of families access to healthcare, fair inheritance and survivor rights, and the ability to make life-saving medical decisions for loved ones.

Our Constitution should be used to protect people, not hurt them. But that is just what the Texas Marriage Amendment would do. Our Constitution is for protecting our most basic and important rights. It should never be used to settle partisan, religious or ideological disputes. There is no question that many Texans disagree about marriage for gay and lesbian couples, but those disagreements do not belong in our Constitution.

Changing the Constitution is never simple. There are over 1000 protections, rights and responsibilities that go along with civil marriage. Many, like immigration rights and veterans death benefits, cannot be covered by contracts or legal planning. The Texas Marriage Amendment would permanently deny access to each of these family protections to gay and lesbian couples and their families.

This bill DOES NOT “reinforce” heterosexual marriages. The typical reason legislators give for supporting this legislation is that it reinforces traditional marriages. However, they have provided no reasoning to support the idea that barring same-sex marriages in any way contributes positively to heterosexual marriages, or that recognition of same-sex marriages threatens existing opposite-sex marriages. It seems the real motivation behind such legislation is homophobia.

Exactly. Please attend the hearing if you're in Austin, and if you're in Houston give Martha Wong's office a call (see below).

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

Martha Wong Feels the Heat from the GLBT Community

By Byron LaMasters

GLBT activists in Houston have targetted State Rep. Martha Wong (R-Houston) as a possible vote against a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage equality. Wong serves on the State Affairs Committee where she is a possible swing vote. Wong represents the wealthiest state house district in the state including West University Place, Bellaire, River Oaks, etc. Wong also happens to probably represent the gayest district in Harris County as she represents much of the Montrose area.

Despite this, Wong voted against the Dignity for All Students amendment to HB 2 earlier this month proposed by State Rep. Garnett Coleman (D-Houston), which would provide more protection for GLBT students in schools. Even Rep. Todd Baxter (R-Austin) voted for this amendment - I guess Todd Baxter learned something after coming within less than 200 votes of losing, and having the GLBT community raise roughly $30,000 for his opponent. Still, Wong is a potential swing vote on the marriage issue, and Houston activists are taking the lead in educating her district on the issue. KHOU reports:

Texas lawmakers are expected to begin debate this week on a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. And that's throwing Houston Representative Martha Wong into a political minefield.

Gay activists have been blockwalking in Montrose to put pressure on State Rep. Martha Wong.

Back in her home district, gay activists have been blockwalking for a cause dear to their hearts. And they're talking to neighbors about their state representative.

Wong could be the gay marriage swing vote on the State Affairs Committee.

So the activists are burning up shoe leather to get the message out to sympathetic voters.

"These people understand how destructive it is to have an anti-gay marriage amendment being discussed for the next six months," said Maria Gonzalez, president of the Houston Gay-Lesbian Political Caucus.

Representative Wong has twice convinced voters to send her to the state legislature in a district Republicans redrew to defeat a Democrat. But now, she faces a dilemma over gay marriage.

For Wong, this is a classic no-win situation. Her district is mostly Republican, but it includes the Montrose area -- the heart of Houston's politically active gay community. No matter how Wong votes in Austin, she's going to tick off a lot of her voters here in Houston.

"But, more importantly, I think some of her more moderate Republicans take a dim view of government regulating certain types of privacy issues," said 11 News political analyst Bob Stein. "We've seen this in the Schiavo affair and it may very well be that this may come back to haunt her."

Wong told us by phone she hasn't decided how to vote on the gay marriage amendment. She wouldn't talk to us on camera because she says she's trying to keep a low profile on this issue.

But gay activists won't let her.

They say they've printed up 5,000 door hangers, which they're circulating throughout Wong's district. They're targeting homes that they've previously identified as sympathetic to gay causes.

Martha Wong has an easy decision to make. She represents a district with more gay people than any other in Harris County. Will she actually represent her constituents? Or will she toe the party line?

Politically, it is certainly in her best interest to side with the gay community. She represents the wealthiest and one of the best educated districts in the state. Yes, it leans Republican, but these are County Club Republicans that care the most about low taxes - not the social conservatives that could hijack her in a Republican primary. If she votes with the gay community on this issue, Wong will greatly lessen the scale of attacks and money leveled at her by the gay community come election time.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:43 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


By Jim Dallas

Petition drives, lobbying, and letters to the editor are the way to go people, people, not threats of bio-terrorism.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 08:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wingnuts Buy Shiavo List

By Byron LaMasters

Read Kos to see the those who support the parents of Terri Shiavo. Shiavo's parents have profited by selling their fundraising list to a right-wing fundamentalist pro-life organization.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Student Government Not a Wash?

By Katie Naranjo

Tickets, are they really Satan's work? Whether or not you agree with tickets, the arguments against tickets have been stacking up. Ali Puente spoke tonight on the topic of SG tickets and what is best for the students at the University of Texas. The continued domination of one ticket over the other looks to be the future of SG if there is not a change in the current system. If there is anyone who can prove that the mindset and system inwhich candidates are chosen will change in the future, please do post. Now that being said, i also have concerns with changing the system, to a complete abolishment of tickets. As a former candidate, i am fully aware of the time and financial burden that candidates carry. Tickets help to aliviate these restraints. My hope for the end of this meeting is that there is a resolution to the issue inwhich students are not alienated and do not have to foot the bill alone.

Race based admissions is a controversial topic, along with the top 10%. President Brent Chaney spoke on the Top 10% caps and race base admissions. He mentioned the Longhorn Scholar program as a key to diversity for the University of Texas. While I have been in the room listening and watching, I decided to count the number of minority students. Out of over 90 students, give or take a few, 12 minority students, of which less then half are representatives in the assembly. Thus the speeches from LULAC and UT Watch hit home as students looked around the room.

As a person who has attended a number of SG meetings, this meeting has proved to be the most eventful thus far. Maybe it was the random water gun people in masks that sprayed Brent Chaney, or the issues that are relevant to students. You decide. If there are any issues you feel are important to students at UT, stop by Tuesday nights at 7:oo pm, in the Glen Maloney room.

Posted by Katie Naranjo at 07:38 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Open Letter to SG (plus e-mails)

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I'll keep this one short, I just wanted to post the letter I sent to SG Reps today. Included is an easy to copy list of all the SG reps if you only have time for a copy and past job.

To: GymQueen7@aol.com, ByronLongAtLarge@yahoo.com, lamanda@mail.utexas.edu, karawong@mail.utexas.edu, ebrummett@mail.utexas.edu, elsalvrod@mail.utexas.edu, chrisken@mail.utexas.edu, omar.ochoa@bba02.bus.utexas.edu, bella@mail.utexas.edu, matt_ross@hotmail.com, matt.stolhandske@bba02.bus.utexas.edu, hennat@mail.utexas.edu, mary.donaldson@gmail.com, jess4ut@mail.utexas.edu, revisorer@mail.utexas.edu, Grant.Stanis@mail.utexas.edu, mfullerwigg@mail.utexas.edu, lyndsay@mail.utexas.edu, wonder.rios@mail.utexas.edu, sfdave@mail.utexas.edu, mercury42t@aol.com, mwindle@mail.utexas.edu, coachsil@aol.com, lgladney@mail.utexas.edu, yamissette@mail.utexas.edu, cesarmartineze@mail.utexas.edu, sarabearut@mail.utexas.edu, DilenK@aol.com, timliu@mail.utexas.edu, clivingston@mail.utexas.edu, Jsmith@mail.utexas.edu, cstewart@mail.utexas.edu, justinbroyles@mail.utexas.edu, stacygurevitz@yahoo.com, michazel@mail.utexas.edu, AugustusPerez@mail.utexas.edu, andreacarter@mail.utexas.edu, LKarchmer@mail.utexas.edu

Dear SG Reps,

Hopefully I'll be seeing you all at the meeting tonight, I'll be back
over on the right side in the corner as usual. And I'll be blogging
about the SG meeting for burntorangereport.com as well.

I want to encourage you to vote YES on AB 18 & 19 tonight. Though by
no means in depth and comprehensive, I want to present you with two
pieces of commentary on Tickets that have been posted to the Burnt
Orange Report already today (we have a daily readership of about



I've talked to a lot of students about this issue in casual
conversation, people who are so far removed they will never show up at
a meeting and I've talked to people that loyally vote every year, even
if they don't feel that it makes any difference at all. And both
groups of people have been almost 100% behind the concept of moving
out of a Ticket based system. Yes, for some it's just in the hope
they won't have to bombarded with fliers. But even that is telling of
the fact that the current system is turning off a great segment of our
student population. For many others, it's because they wish they felt
that their vote was going to make a difference.

Students are not connected to SG, as hard as we try, because they are
not connected to the individuals in SG. Had you had to run last year,
focused entirely on your college, or in a way where you had to
interact only with your voters, (and not get them for other people on
your ticket), then students might have a tighter bond with you, as a
Representative. As it is now, students are tied to a ticket name, a
party that doesn't even live beyond 2 weeks each spring. Students are
at best tied to a semi-anonymous entity, hardly individuals, and
those, blame the entire body, and worse, the entire SG process and
apparatus anytime something "stupid' happens. And any credit at best
is given to the SG president or the body at large. Tonight you have a
chance to match accountability to good governance and a chance at
making Student Government about connecting with Students and real

There has been many opportunities in the past 3 weeks to express
concerns and input on this bill, believe me, I've been at many of
them, and there were still ones that I missed. If you personal issue
with any part of the bill tonight hasn't been addressed, please be
cordial about it, as there has been many chances before tonight to air
it. Of course, don't hesitate to bring up an issue, that is of course
what debate is all about.

Please don't let this issue die tonight out of fear of the unknown,
out of a concern that candidates and voters won't be able to figure
out a new system, or out of loyalty to a system that you feel you owe
something to. Step boldly tonight, let your last meeting, your last
votes (for most of you) be about stepping boldly forward and trusting
students, and giving them a reason to trust SG again.

Karl-Thomas Musselman
GLBTAAA Co-Director
University Democrats Webmaster

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 05:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Soechting Offers Opinion on Dallas County Meeting

By Byron LaMasters

Texas Democratic Chair Charles Soechting has issued an opinion on who should chair the Dallas County Democratic Party Executive Committee meeting on this Saturday, April 2. The current chair of the Dallas County Democratic Party, Susan Hays had appointed precinct chair 1802 Robert Franklin to chair the April 2nd meeting. The chair appealed to party rules in making her decision. Susan Hays will be resigning on April 1st.

The petitioners, disputed the appointment by Susan Hays, saying that the decision was in conflict with the Texas Election Code. They then asked for an opinion from the state party chair, Charles Soechting. Soechting opined that the chair of the meeting should be appointed by the secretary of the Dallas County Democratic Party - David Wilkins. Now, a letter from Robert Franklin is posted on the Dallas County Democratic Party webpage:

State Party Ruling regarding April 2nd Meeting

DATE: MARCH 28, 2005

There has been some controversy over the selection of a temporary chair for the April 2 meeting of the Executive Committee for Dallas County. It is the ruling of the Texas Democratic Party that only David Wilkins, party Secretary, has the authority to appoint a temporary chair for the purpose of conducting a meeting to choose a successor to resigning chair Susan Hays.

I urge all Democratic precinct chairs to attend this meeting and cooperate with Mr. Wilkins in the conduct of the hearing. A repeat of the chaos of the February 28 cannot be permitted. Please support and help Mr. Wilkins to chair a productive and orderly meeting. If all segments of the party work together for our common goals, we shall continue to enjoy greater and greater success in the future.

Robert Franklin

Now, all that is needed is for the Party Secretary to choose a temporary chair and for a quorum to show up for the meeting. It is important that Dallas County to have a strong Democratic Party going into the 2006 election cycle, and for that reason it is critical that all precinct chairs show up for the meeting. If you are a precinct chair in Dallas, please attend the meeting at 2 PM at the Hall of State in Fair Park.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Let the Ticket System Burn

By Zach Neumann

Tonight Student Government will be voting on a bill that would fundamentally alter the nature of SG Elections here at the University. I am very much in favor of this proposal and here is why. (I apologize for grammatical errors, I’m writing this in a hurry.)

1.It makes student government considerably more democratic than it is today—

Right now to be a student government representative, you have to be a participant in one of a few organizations on campus. These include spirit groups (like the Orange Jackets and Tejas), Fraternities/Sororities (See Chi- Omega) and mainstream political organizations (like the University Democrats). In other words, tickets recruit students to run for office based on who can gain the most support from the biggest organizations on campus. While this is sound political strategy, it is very harmful to the development of a democratic SG. Students not plugged into the SG pipeline of Greek, Spirit and (to a lesser extent) political organizations have no opportunity to serve or even participate (before you angrily comment, realize that I am aware that anyone can volunteer for campaigns or apply for appointments). Thus, instead of having an intellectually and economically diverse assembly, tickets instead tend to be composed of suburban, upper middle class students with fairly moderate political views (and if I might add, a penchant for towing the administration’s line). The abolition of the ticket system would allow students from underrepresented parts of campus to take part in the decision making process. Something they have long deserved.

2. SG needs new blood-- The narrow and highly discriminate stratification of SG leadership among certain groups on campus has led to the election of several weak (although popular) presidents. As I said before, if you do not have strong affiliations with several spirit groups and the Freshman Leadership Organization (the slave labor force for SG campaigns) you will not be SG president. As a result, hopeful candidates for SG president do not spend time developing contacts at the capital or developing their advocacy skills but instead spend most of their college careers cultivating other suburbanites in campus based social clubs. While this cultivation is understandable, it leads to exceptionally weak leadership. Though presidents have, in the past, overcome such obstacles, such instances are rare. The elimination of the ticket system would allow students of a political persuasion with strong skills to make viable campaigns for office. This would lead to stronger recruitment in all positions as students would be forced to rely on raw political talents instead of their club friends. Not only would this lead to a wider array of legislation, but it would also make SG a much more formidable advocate for student interests. Though people like Matt Stolhandske, Jordan Buckley and Andrew Dobbs will never be elected SG president as long as the ticket system persists, their candidacies would gain real weight if they were allowed to take on other candidates without the presence of a large ticket apparatus. This would give SG the opportunity to develop some solid leadership.

3. The Need for Ticket Unity— Opponents of the bill (like Omar Ochoa and Grant Stanis) have argued that tickets need to be united so they can achieve certain goals within the context of the assembly. This argument is irrelevant. As most SG presidents will tell you, the assembly is fairly worthless. Though they can pass all the resolutions they want, these heavily debated pieces of paper do very little in achieving student interests. Lobbying by the executive and members of the assembly goes much further in getting things done both on campus and at the capitol. Eliminating the ticket system would allow for politically talented students to be elected, improving the efficacy of SG even if it is at the cost of unity. However, in my opinion, relative SG unity is a given. If you compare platforms from the past several years… gasp… they are almost exactly the same. Is this because SG people lack original thought? No. It’s because student interests are unchanging. Everyone wants lower tuition, more student services, greater access to parking and a better answer to diversity issues. Since platforms are fundamentally similar, elections tend to come down to who will do a better job representing these limited ideas in office (at least hypothetically-- in actuality it seems that people vote for their friends or fellow club members). By eliminating the ticket system, student government elections will become a contest for who has the best political skills (given that all ideas are about the same). People who have better political skills also tend to be better at harassing the administration and lobbying the legislature, qualities that are desperately needed right now. Before I close my SG unity rant, allow me to also point out that SG unity has resulted in some of the most unoriginal and mundane legislation (not to mention a lack of it) over the past two years.

Ok guys, I have to write a paper, so I’m going to leave it at that. I invite all comments. Good luck at the meeting tonight everyone.

Posted by Zach Neumann at 04:45 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Ticket Voting and "Baby Steps" Chaney

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The Texan has an article up today on tonight's Student Government meeting where a couple of issues will be voted on in the name of SG Election reform, the big one being the elimination of large Tickets for campaigns.

I'll harp on some comments made by SG President Brent Chaney first.

SG President Brent Chaney, whose Focus ticket swept the 2004 election by 100 percent, said though he believes the election process needs reform, SG needs to take "baby steps" toward change.

Oh please, enough with baby steps in Student Government. If you want to know why people feel SG doesn't get anything accomplished it's because it's baby stepping around all the time. Want to know when they are recognized for actually doing something? Big, single issue, clear moves: Increasing Webmail Space, Student on the Board of Regents, Tax Free Textbooks. And seeing that Mr. Chaney is responsible in large part for 2 of those 3, one would think he understands the nature of bold moves.

However, the English senior said one weakness of running individually was a possible separation of the president and the assembly, who could be pitted against one another if not sharing the same basic goals.

Oh heavens, like Washington, DC, or Austin? Maybe there would be more discussion and student imput and lobbying of Student Governement if it was more like an actual government instead of a jolly glee club where everyone can pat each other on the back because they are all so awesomely the same.

He said the main focus of the elections should be to increase voter turnout and to educate voters.

Well, SG seems to keep failing in this category. Beyond the fact that voter turnout was up because of online voting, it fell back down by 5 points this year in what everyone thought was a more contested election. And as far as educated voters? Well I know the 8 people on the Daily Texan Panel were but I dare say that more than a quarter of those who voted actually cared enough to cross ticket lines or have some real grasp on what they were voting for. Maybe it's because individuality has been squashed by the current system where 40 candidates become swallowed up by a Party label that has no meaning and dies as soon as it is elected.

Until the structural system of SG elections changes, I feel we will never reach a point where we increase turnout and voter education. It's not in anyone's best interest as a Ticket. If we leave the current system in place, I'm in favor of pushing turnout down to the point where it favors those people that actually make a discerning choice between candidates, not parties.

If you are available tonight, come to the SG Meeting at 7 pm in the basement of the SSB. Give your opinions in the Open Forum at the beginning. If you want a summary of the bills, SG fly on the wall, Tim Allen has AB 18 here and AB 19 here.

An e-mail listing of all Representative is located here, should you want to just drop them a short, "I'm in favor/opposed to XX Bill" e-mail. I'll be there tonight for a BOReport from the Floor of course.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 03:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Blog on the Move

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Rep. Aaron Pena has moved over to blogspot for his blog, since his old one on his site was a bit, unlinkable. Of course, we here at BOR hope that we might get listed in Pena's blogroll but only if there is enough space of course?

Go check out the new space!

::Update:: Thanks to Kuff for informing me that I'm blind. We are listed as The Burnt Orange Report. Well, I'm proud to go to THE University of Texas, but we really are just Burnt Orange Report. We write lots of articles but we don't need one in our link. Oh, aren't you jealous of my masterful use of words!

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 03:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Not Exactly The News

By Jim Dallas

I figure I might as well throw a little fuel on the fire since we're all watching the GOP's latest rendition of the timeless kabuki dance.

First, Rick Perry. I'm sure you will all be just plain shocked (SHOCKED!) to hear that Rick Perry was once a Democrat. Yes I know, that is totally and completely surprising... yawn.

However, Comrade Rick may not have been entirely forthright about his decision to switch parties. Consider:

In 1992, Rick Perry gave a little speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention:

Theme of the day: Aggies who used to be Democrats telling the Republican National Convention why they changed parties.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Rick Perry started it off
Tuesday, talking to a much smaller and less attentive crowd than
the one that later greeted U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm. Perry is a
graduate of Texas A&M University; Gramm used to teach there.

In a five-minute speech about an hour before lunch, Perry
told delegates that he and his family voted for Jimmy Carter in
1976 because they thought he would be good for them and other
farmers. "We were dead wrong," Perry said.

As he spoke, most delegations talked and milled around, but
the Texas group listened, clapped and waved bumper stickers from
Perry's last campaign.

"Folks, I joined the Republican Party because I learned that
the Democratic Party could not be trusted to run the state of
Texas, much less the United States. That time, I was dead right,"
said Perry, a former state representative who changed parties in

He was elected agriculture commissioner the next year.

George Bush and Dan Quayle, he said, had promoted agriculture
by pushing for free trade and expanding markets for farm products.

And he denied that farmers are in trouble, saying the industry is
changing but not declining.

He touted the North American Free Trade Agreement signed last
week by leaders from the United States, Mexico and Canada, saying
it could increase agricultural exports "by as much as $ 2 billion. "

He accused the Democratic candidates -- Bill Clinton and Al
Gore -- of ignoring agriculture at their convention in New York
last month and said the mentions of farms in the Democratic Party
platform are few and far between.

"Farming is a hard life, but it's a good life. I want my
children to have the same opportunity I had to live off the land
and make an honest profit from their labors," Perry said.

"That's why I won't be bothering to vote for another
Southern governor for president again."

(Ross Ramsey, Convention '92;
Aggie tells delegates why he switched parties
, Houston Chronicle, Aug. 19 1992 at B3).

Perry's Carter-bashing seems somewhat strange. Perry's hometown of Paint Creek is in Jones County, which unlike many of its surrounding counties is largely a wheat-producing county (as opposed to a livestock county, per the 1997 Agricultural Census) - and the value of short-term wheat futures, which is closely related to the market price of wheat - nearly doubled under Carter (rising faster than inflation), but back-tracked considerably under Reagan and Bush. Granted, Carter did, at the end of his term, make one decision which severely annoyed wheat producers - the grain embargo in response to the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. I'm under the impression that cattle prices did not do all that badly under Carter, either, although I can't find any hard numbers.

But of course, Rick Perry knows a lot more about agriculture than I do, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Carter was "bad for farmers" and that's why he switched parties - 8 years after Carter left office. As noted by Andrea in comments and by others, Perry served as Al Gore's state campaign chair in the 1988 Democratic primaries. Of course, this had nothing to do with mere political ambition:

The campaign that permanently established Rove's reputation for foul play was Rick Perry's race against Jim Hightower for agriculture commissioner, in 1990. Rove and media consultant David Weeks persuaded Perry, an obscure Democratic legislator from Haskell who had co-chaired Al Gore's 1988 Democratic presidential primary campaign in Texas, to switch parties for the election. West Texas was swinging Republican anyway, and Perry, who was discouraged by his failure to advance in the House leadership and thinking of becoming a lobbyist, had nothing to lose. Hightower was the darling of the liberals, a wisecracking and outspoken populist who had been a big vote-getter for the Democrats in 1986. With Rove and the collective financial muscle of the Texas Republican community behind him, Perry ran a tough, negative campaign, charging that the agriculture commissioner's office was rife with scandal and abuse and using photos of Hightower with Jesse Jackson to paint Hightower as a left-wing activist. Perry even tried to link Willie Nelson's support of Hightower to a Kentucky candidate, also endorsed by Willie, who favored the legalization of marijuana.

(S.C. Gwynne, Genius, Texas Monthly, March 2003 at 2).

Meanwhile, I think we all know that Carole Keeton Strayhorn (then McClellan) was a big Mondale backer in 1984

Of course that leaves us with Kay Bailey Hutchison, the only one of the three Republican contenders who has actually been a Republican for her entire elected career (since her first election to the Legislature in 1972).

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Even More Hillar-ity: OMG Perry is TEH SOCIALIST!!11!1!!

By Jim Dallas

Via Taegan Goddard, the Houston Chronicle reports on a letter being circulated by the Hutchison camp in which Comrade Rick once said something nice about Hillary-care:

Perry's letter falls far short of actually being an endorsement of Clinton's health care proposal. But it was written at a time when some commentators already were describing her plan of government-sponsored HMOs and health care cooperatives as "socialism."

Perry was state agriculture commissioner at the time, a position he had won in 1990 after switching from the Democratic to the Republican Party.

"I think your efforts in trying to reform the nation's health care system are most commendable," Perry wrote.

Perry asked Clinton to take special notice of the health care needs of farmers, ranchers and people in rural areas as she worked on trying to overhaul national health care.

"Again, your efforts are worthy, and I hope you will remember this constituency as the task force progresses," Perry said.

Clinton's efforts at health care reform failed. Perry has since described her plan as "a government-run, one-size-fits-all health system."

I think we should start empanelling a House Un-Texan Activities Committee before it's too late...!

Really, this is getting pretty sad, with Hillary-loving socialist sodomite elitist Democrat-Party types* like KBH, Granny Strayhorn, and Comrade Rick running (or threatening to run) in the Republican primary. I think I'm going to go down to the liquour store today so that I can make sure I'll have enough liquid courage to laugh, giggle, err, survive through these next few difficult months.

* I am, of course, kidding.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 08:03 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

I am Here

By Katie Naranjo

Hello to all,

I am Katie Naranjo a new voice of the Burnt Orange Report, thanks to Byron. I am ready and excited to write on a variety of topics involving the Texas Legislature, Austin political gatherings, and current events of interest. Currently, I am facinated with the Terri Schiavo story and the controversy of legal guardianship with a patient in a vegitative state. Word to the wise, if you wish to not have extreme measure staken, fill out a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order and make it known legally.

In local news, Wednesday there will be a City Council Forum, where the candidates for Place 3 will duke it out for the right to be dubbed City Council member. Although not as physical as I hoped, city council candidates will be present to field questions from University of Texas students. FYI: There will be free food & drinks, and for the first hundred people at Jester a free t-shirt as well. All are encouraged to attend this riveting event at Jester Auditorium at 7:30, Wednesday March 30th.

That is all for now, will post again when I think of something intellegent to say.

Posted by Katie Naranjo at 12:49 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Please Welcome Katie

By Byron LaMasters

I hope that you all will join me in welcoming Katie Naranjo to the Burnt Orange Report. Katie is the Secretary of the UT University Democrats, and is running to be my successor as Region 6 Director of the Texas Young Democrats. I support Katie to fill my seat as I am not running for re-election, and am running to be Vice President of Finance of the Texas Young Democrats. Katie is a freshman at UT, and she asked to join the BOR team. I've seen BOR's number one weakness for awhile as our failure to have a consistent female poster, so I was delighted when I learned of Katie's interest in posting on BOR. Please welcome her to our site, and I look forward to hearing more from her.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 28, 2005

Dallas Meeting Notice Posted

By Byron LaMasters

Read the posting of the Dallas County Democratic Executive Committee Meeting in PDF format here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:56 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

My thoughts on the Austin City Council Races

By Byron LaMasters

I wanted to follow-up on Karl-Thomas's post the other day on the Austin city council races. In preparation for the University Democrats and Central Austin Democrats (Austin Progressive Coalition) endorsement meeting on Saturday, I wanted to post some brief thoughts on the races.

Place 1: Lee Leffingwell is the frontrunner for Daryl Slusher's open seat. He's a decent Democrat, and I'm sure will make a fine councilman. However, I'm inclined to support my friend, Andrew Bucknall. Andrew was the re-founding president of the Huston-Tullitson University Democrats, and I've worked with him to integrate his chapter into the Texas Young Democrats.

Andrew calls himself the "grassroots progressive choice for place 1", and is a Democratic precinct chair in east Austin. I think that it is important to stand up and support fellow young Democrats when they run for office, so I plan on voting for Andrew at the UD/CAD/APC endorsement meeting on Saturday. You can read more about him here.

Place 3: Only in Austin would this race be possible. Here we have four more-or-less progressive Democrats fighting for a single city council seat being vacated by Jackie Goodman. On many levels, the four candidates are indistinguishable from one another. Margot Clarke and Mandy Dealey clearly have the longest record of Democratic and progressive activism. Clarke's work has been on the grassroots side of things, whereas Dealey's work has been more related to fundraising and serving on numerous boards. They've both contributed valuable work that certainly qualifies them for the council.

Jennifer Kim and Gregg Knaupe round out the field. Kim is an impressive first time candidate, and is very well-spoken, but she lacks the experience of Clarke or Dealey. Knaupe is running an impressive campaign as well with endorsements by the Central Labor Council and law enforcement organizations, but Knaupe is hindered by the fact that a victory by him would leave only one woman (assuming Betty Dunkerly is re-elected) on the seven member city council. That is an issue that weighs in the minds of many voters.

Unlike Karl-Thomas and Andrew, I have no preference order. Sometimes, I think that I should just flip a four-sided die before I cast my vote - it's that silly. Seriously, flip a coin or something. This race is hard to gauge. I agree with Karl-Thomas that Clarke is probably the frontrunner at this point. However, I could see any of the three other candidates making a runoff with her. Eventually, I'll probably make my decision of who to vote for when I enter the voting booth.

Place 4: This race is the easiest for me. Betty Dunkerly is one of these public officials committed to good government above all else - the type that are in politics for all of the right reasons. She's an Independent, and in most circumstances I would be looking for a progressive Democrat to run for the seat.

However, Dunkerly entered politics during the economic downturn, because she believed that her background in public finance and as assistant city manager of Austin put her in position to help the city through the economic downturn. She's always been very accessable and has the best interests of Austin at heart. We need more people like her in politics. I wholeheartedly endorse Betty Dunkerly for re-election.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BOR Tom DeLay Poll

By Byron LaMasters

Which is more surprising? The fact that Tom DeLay opposes giving Terry Shiavo's husband the same rights that Tom DeLay's mother had when Tom DeLay's father was in a state described as "basically a vegetable"? Or the fact that the Wall Street Journal has taken on Tom DeLay on their editorial page?

We report, you decide...

Vote Here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I am a corn dog Democrat

By Jim Dallas

Some people ask me,
am I a yellow dog,
a blue dog,
a green dog?
None of the above.
I'm a corn dog.

I warm people's hearts
I feed the young and make the old happy
I am comfortable at county fairs
and in your kitchen.

I believe in carrying a big stick.

I am bipartisan. I work equally well
with ketchup and mustard.

I am an American original,
and totally unlike those other dogs.
No bark nor bite nor tail nor scratch.
I am a corn dog.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:38 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Latest on the Guv Race

By Byron LaMasters

After closely following the likely 2006 GOP primary race for governor for awhile now, the Austin American Statesman finally gave Chris Bell a chance for some Q&A today:

Austin American-Statesman: At what point does the exploratory campaign quit being exploratory?

Bell: It stops being exploratory when we find answers to some fundamental questions of viability, but so far the response to our New Mainstream message on ChrisBell.com has overwhelmed me.

AAS: How crowded do you expect the Democratic primary to get?

Bell: I don't expect to run unopposed, but it could not be clearer that the grass roots of the Democratic Party is hungry for new leaders with a new message for reform. No one seems to have much appetite to refight yesterday's battles with yesterday's leaders.

With Democratic governors in red states such as Oklahoma, Wyoming, Montana and Kansas, it's becoming clear that this is a nomination worth having, so we expect to compete for the title.

AAS: Will the presence (or absence) of other Democrats down ballot help or hinder the candidate at the top?

Bell: It depends, of course. It depends on whether we choose leaders who reflect the ethics and values of the New Mainstream. It depends on whether we identify the next generation of leaders.

AAS: How much money should a Democrat expect to raise to be competitive with the eventual Republican nominee?

Bell: A lot. Actually, an obscene amount, but let me put it in perspective. We think we need to raise far less than it cost Texas hospitals to provide basic health care in ERs to the uninsured, and about 40 times less than the amount in federal matching funds for children's health insurance we have turned away. It will cost 45 times less than Texas would have saved by reimporting prescription drugs, but almost twice as much as drug companies spend a year for Texas lobbyists. Perhaps worst of all, it's less by a lot than the tuition increases that UT students paid.

You want an exact number? We figure it'll cost as much as the amount of CHIP money that the state auditor said Gov. Rick Perry lost through mismanagement. And I'll wager the governor has no idea how much that is.

Also in the news today are some editorials on the guv race from the Longview News-Journal and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (from Saturday).

Chris Bell has a press release out today as well about the "ethics emergency" here in our state. Read it in the extended entry.


"We need to hold our state government as accountable as it holds our schoolchildren"

AUSTIN - Saying proposed ethics legislation would only encourage Rick Perry's unethical performance in office, Chris Bell today declared an Ethics Emergency. An "ethics emergency" has admittedly no force of law, just like Rick Perry¹s revolving door policy. Bell also conceded that declaring an "ethics emergency" would be about as effective in stopping ethical transgressions as the Snack Tax would be in making us all skinny.

But it makes a point that Rick Perry just doesn¹t get. Examples of cronyism, conflicts of interest, insider deals, revolving door loopholes, and pay-for-play have become business-as-usual with Rick Perry in the Governor¹s Mansion. In stark contrast is the record of longtime ethics watchdog Chris Bell. In Jun. 2004, then-U.S. Rep. Bell broke a seven-year-long "ethics truce" by filing an ethics complaint against Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Also, as a Houston City Council Member, Bell was responsible for sweeping ethics reform.

"Only in Washington would a truce on ethics make sense to some folks, but here in Texas it looks like Rick Perry is taking ethics lessons from Tom DeLay," said Bell. "This isn¹t just an ethics truce, this is a wholesale ethics surrender."

HB 3148 would give blanket civil immunity for "violations of law involving the making, acceptance, or reporting of political contributions and expenditures." Usually tort reform is aimed at creating a more favorable climate for business. In this case, tort reform would help create a more favorable climate for cheating.

HB 913, sponsored by Mary Denny, would give political appointees veto power over criminal prosecutions of violations of the state election code. In an editorial, the Austin American-Statesman called the Denny Bill "one of the worst pieces of legislation in recent memory." Mary Denny is the chair of the House Ethics Committee.

"We need to hold our state government as accountable as it holds our schoolchildren, and these ideas would take us in the opposite direction," said Bell. "These ideas are dangerous for democracy, and the fact that they could become law-let alone the fact that Rick Perry hasn't denounced them-means we have an ethics emergency on our hands."

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:34 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Schiavo Protesters Force Elementary School Closing

By Byron LaMasters

Even though the Schiavo family asked protesters to go home on Easter, the Randall Terry militant pro-life crowd won't go away. Their antics have forced 600 elementary school kids from their school a block away from the hospice where Terri Schiavo is staying:

Students enrolled at the elementary school near the hospice where Terri Schiavo lives will be sent to other facilities this week, a move designed to keep the children away from the gauntlet of media and protesters covering the ongoing saga.

The 600 students at Cross Bayou Elementary School will be split among three neighboring schools, said Pinellas County schools spokesman Ron Stone. The school is located just west of the Woodside Hospice, where protesters and media have gathered since Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was removed March 18.

That was the school's last day of classes; it was closed last week for spring break. Many students were absent on the day the tube was pulled, something school officials attributed to the frenzy outside the hospice.

Meanwhile, another poll shows that Americans decidedly oppose the actions taken by Congress and the President in this matter.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Republicans Call for Strayhorn to Resign

By Byron LaMasters

More GOP infighting. Yay!

The former Democrat now Republican Grandmother of Texas has recently taken great sums of money from trial lawyers and prominent Democrats. She also appears at fund-raisers for liberal Democrats and has hired a prominent Democrat for her spokesman. Mark Sanders ran the failed Tony Sanchez for Governor Campaign. Shocked conservatives are wondering about Grandma. [...]

This Rough Grandma needs to resign now and allow a non-political senior staff to finish this legislative session. Texans don’t need a Granny willing to sacrifice taxpayers and schools for a vain starlet ego.

Grandmas can be tough, but Texans really need a competent comptroller during this important legislative session who can be trusted to work with other elected officials in good faith.

I posted in Novemeber 2003 that Strayhorn attended a fundraiser for State Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine) as a special guest. I was surprised that Republicans didn't attack her further on that occasion. Regardless, it's always fun to see Republicans fight. Good times.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:45 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Even the Wall Street Journal Takes on Tom DeLay

By Byron LaMasters

You know things are getting bad when the Wall Street Journal takes on a Republican in their editorial page:

Whether Mr. DeLay violated the small print of House Ethics or campaign-finance rules is thus largely beside the point. His real fault lies in betraying the broader set of principles that brought him into office, and which, if he continues as before, sooner or later will sweep him out.

Via The Stakeholder. Also at Off the Kuff and the Daily DeLay.

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

Dallas Rally to Protect Social Security

By Byron LaMasters

From our Dallas friends, a rally to protect Social Security hosted by the NAACP and the AFL-CIO:

The Dallas AFL-CIO is taking action to save Social Security at 11:45 AM through lunchtime this Thursday, March 31, in the 7600 block of Northwest Highway (at Central Expressway in Dallas). It's just across the street, south of Northpark shopping mall.

There's a public sidewalk there just fine for picketing. Right beside it is the office of Charles Schwab brokers, one of the main financial backers of the propaganda campaign for privatizing Social Security. You can see why Schwab will be targeted all over the nation on Thursday: they stand to profit first and foremost if the government undermines Social Security by privatizing.

Jim McCasland of AFL-CIO and Bob Lydia of NAACP have agreed to approach the Schwab people while we're outside. AFL-CIO will provide all the signs, so we just need you to come to enjoy an hour or less with us.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Updates from Dallas County

By Byron LaMasters

News of Dallas County Democratic Chair Susan Hays's pending resignation has certainly been a topic of interest to readers of this blog. There are now over 60 Comments to my post on Thursday night. Since then, another letter has been sent out by the Concerned Democrats of Dallas County (PDF file). The letter urges precinct chairs to attend the Dallas County Democratic Executive Committee Meeting at 2 PM on April 2nd as called by the chair. The letter also disputes several appointments made by the chair. Former Dallas County Democratic Party Chair Bill Howell has weighed in on the matter as well over at Stout Dem Blog as has 100 Monkey's Typing and Off the Kuff.

More news can be found over at the Dallas County Democratic Party website. In Susan Hays's resignation letter, she appointed two judges to chair the credentialing table - Ted Akin and Ron Chapman. Chapman is a well-known Democrat from his 2002 congressional run. According to comments from my Thursday post (along with several emails), Judge Akin voted in the 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004 Republican primaries. Thus, its perplexing why a Republican would be named to the credentialing committee. If this information is incorrect, please correct me, but it has come from several sources.

Also on the Dallas County Democratic Party website is a place where candidates for chair can announce their intent to run for chair. At this point, no candidates have announced on the county party website. A new chair may be elected at the April 2nd meeting, or there may be an election of a temporary chair for 30 days or so in order to give candidates the opportunity to campaign. The only name of a likely candidate for chair that I have heard thus far is precint chair and former judge Darlene Ewing.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:15 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 27, 2005

Dallas Strong Mayor Proposal a Dead Heat

By Byron LaMasters

The Dallas Morning News reports that the Dallas strong mayor proposal is a dead heat. In typical Dallas fashion, feelings about the strong mayor proposal closely follow ethnic, regional and economic divides:

Just six weeks before a landmark election that could change Dallas' form of government, the city is divided on whether to maintain the current system or greatly increase mayoral power, according to a Dallas Morning News poll.

Nearly 500 likely voters were asked whether they would vote on May 7 to eliminate the city manager position and give the mayor a slate of new powers. Forty-one percent favored the change, 40 percent opposed it, and 19 percent were undecided.

The city is divided economically, racially and geographically, with most North Dallas whites favoring the measure and most blacks in southern Dallas opposed, the poll indicates. Experts say the election could swing either way, depending on which camp more effectively mobilizes its voters. [...]

Mayor Laura Miller's supporters are most likely to favor the switch to a strong-mayor system. And her approval rating stands at 57 percent (68 percent among white likely voters, 53 percent among Latinos and 28 percent among blacks). [...]

Both supporters and opponents of the May ballot measure have stressed publicly that race and geography are not factors in the election, but the News poll suggests otherwise. White respondents favored the strong-mayor proposal by a 5-to-3 ratio, while black respondents opposed it nearly 5-to-1. Hispanics were evenly divided.

Geographically, likely voters in Dallas' northern sector strongly favored the measure, while southern-sector respondents overwhelmingly opposed it. [...]

Education and socioeconomic factors also were underscored in the poll. Likely voters who are highly educated, wealthy and over 40 were more likely to favor the ballot measure than those without college degrees and with household incomes of less than $50,000. Women were less likely than men to support the proposal. [...]

Opinions on the proposed strong-mayor amendment were also closely aligned with support of Ms. Miller. Most of the poll respondents who said they would vote for the proposal also voted for Ms. Miller in 2003.

Because Ms. Miller's job approval rating is so low among black residents, many of whom live in the city's southern sector, "she becomes a mobilizing force for the opponents of the strong-mayor proposal," said Harold Stanley, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University and author of the book Vital Statistics in American Politics. "Attitudes about Laura Miller herself do factor into this."

I am inclined to oppose this amendment. While I think that a stronger mayor system would serve Dallas well, I think that this proposal goes too far. I will be issuing an endorsement on this issue as well as for Dallas city council districts 2 and 14 later this week.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:49 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Preventing Future Refinery Disasters

By Byron LaMasters

We're just learning the first details of the possible causes of the BP Oil Refinery disaster in Texas City this past Wednesday. State and federal investigators will surely spend a great deal of time in the upcoming weeks and months figuring out what exactly happened, but one point is worth noting now. The workers in the plant were contractors as opposed to union members. The New York Times pointed to the possible problems that this may lead to in an article on Friday:

Allan Jamail, an official with Pipefitters Union Local 211 in Houston, was quick to point to nonunion labor as the problem. Mr. Jamail said that refineries across Texas had become more dangerous as companies increasingly turned to nonunion contractors to do difficult construction and maintenance work. He said nonunion workers "aren't as well-trained" and did not have the job security to raise safety concerns with managers.

BP officials said that all 15 workers killed were believed to have been contractors, not BP employees. The morning before the blast, 2,200 of the 3,300 workers at the plant were contractors, they said.

We all certainly have great sympathy for the victims of the BP tragedy and their families, and we should all work together to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future. One of the easiest steps towards that goal is to ensure that the workers in dangerous refinery environments are well-trained professionals with the job security necessary to prevent overwork and hazardous conditions that often cause accidents and tragedies. Unions provide these critical safety measures, and incidents such as this ought to give governments and corporations pause before endorsing union-busting tactics that too often put the corporation's bottom line ahead of worker safety.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Texan Editor

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

There has been some discussion of late here on Campus about the recent move to eliminate elections for the Daily Texan editor, one of the last college newspapers to elect it's editor. Current editor Ben Heath seems to be behind the the push, incoming editor AJ hasn't taken a side on it yet to my knowledge.

The editorial board has already written in favor of eliminating elections here. James Burnham, who I don't usually agree with, makes some good counterpoint in arguing for keeping the elections.

In the extended entry are some comments from John Economidy, Editor back in 1966-67.

As a former editor of The Daily Texan ('66-'67), I seek your help as a student leader to save the freedom of the Texan. Your help is sought to stop the effort by the Texas Student Publication's Board to change the Texan's editorship from an elected position to an appointed position at its 3 p.m. Friday, April 22, 2005 meeting.

Students created The Daily Texan for students, and did so decades before there was a Department of Journalism. Through its history of over 100 years, The Texan has editorially advocated the best interest of the students of The University of Texas at Austin. Also throughout its history, the Texan has had to fight for its editorial freedom. In the early 1960s, Regents Chairman W. W. Heath tried to kill the Texan's editorial freedom by converting the Texan editor position to an appointed position. At that time, student government (then called the Students' Association) rose to the challenge and under the leadership of SA president Gregory O. Lipscomb challenged the change and was successful in getting the elected editor position reinstated.

Now another Heath, current Texan editor Ben Heath, takes the Quisling
position that the Texan should surrender its editor position and be appointed by a handful of faculty and student representatives on the Texas Student Board of Publications. He does not trust democracy. He does not trust the student body.

Both Heaths were wrong. Ben Heath's compass is terribly askew. I need not go into the long history of the Texan's successful fight for freedom, as that history is well documented at http://www.godwinslaw.org/weblog. Just as the Republic of Texas was born with a fight that resulted in great sacrifice at the Alamo, the editors of the Texan in the past have fought the cause of freedom of expression for the students with great sacrifice and with continued attack against its freedom.

The Texan has two major positions: editor and managing editor. The editor handles the editorial page and is elected by the student body. The managing editor handles the news side (hard news, sports, entertainment, budget) and is appointed by the TSP Board. Mixing the two leads to mischief.

The elected editor has to get out of the Texan's basement office and meet the students, make his or her positions known over a campaign of weeks, and prove his or her mettle. An appointed editor would have to prove his mettle in a 15-minute interview and otherwise prove that he or she is the fair-haired star of the TSP Board.

At least 25 past editors are currently developing a campaign for the Texan to keep its editor elected. Hopefully, the Texan will run our collective letter to the editor. The Texan has already run the highly informative letter advocating election from former editor ('69-'70) Mark Morrison, now managing editor of Business Week magazine:
In 2001, the former editors successfully fought a move to convert from an elected to an appointed position. See our then position.

Time is short. The TSP meeting is set at a late hour on a Friday just before final exams, so as not to incur significant opposition. As a student leader, please take effective action to stop the conversion of the Texan editor position from an elected to an appointed slot. In the past, student government has risen to the challenge by passing resolutions and ordering surveys. The freedom of
the Texan is now in your hands. Act to save the Texan's freedom.

JOHN M. ECONOMIDY, Texan Editor, 1966-67
Attorney at Law
San Antonio
(210) 521-7843
E-mail: economidy@att.net

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 10:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Happy Easter

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I wish I had some chocolate...

Because this makes me hungry.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 04:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

City Council Forum

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Dear Austinites,

You are invited to attend the Place 3 City Coucil Forum sponsored by the University Democrats (and SG, and Senate of College Councils, and UT Watch) to be held this Wednesday, March 30, at 7:30 PM in the main Jester Auditorium.

As the most competitive place on the ballot, all four candidates will be attending including Margot Clarke, Mandy Dealey, Jennifer Kim, and Gregg Knaupe.

The candidates will field questions from a panel of UT students regarding issues such as housing development in the campus area, the Austin economy, and transportation, as well as take questions from audience members.

More information located here.

Also up for a vote by UDems members will be a Constituional change to extend voting rights to those having paid dues as of the end of the Wednesday Forum in an attempt to protect the endorsement meeting from being stacked by any of the campaigns.

As an aside, it feels as if Margot Clarke has regained her frontrunner status from Gregg Knaupe with her recent series of endorsements. While the UDems endorsement is far from locked down by any campaign, I sense a shift in Margot's favor among the membership at large. That and the fact she has a 139 person strong facebook group, 96 of which are in the UDems facebook group. It is filled with progressives, a number of campus leaders, former UDems officers. I'm a bit impressed.

My personal order of candidates (for the moment) is Kim, Clark, Knaupe, Dealey. This week should be interesting and I think the Forum is going to be critical for a lot of people's votes in our Saturday endorsement meeting.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 03:40 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

That's the way life goes in the 'hood (and FOX News)

By Jim Dallas

This has been a busy day for rap in the blogosphere. The American Prospect has a review-commentary on the recent Fifty Cent-The Game "feud" and now Crooks and Liars posts on the escalation in the Ludacris-Bill O'Reilly squabble.

Meanwhile in the world of lucha, Brad DeLong and Wonkette tag-team Michael Barone's latest, which is neither social realism nor art. According to Barone the alleged scourge of "limousine liberals" is a new and important observation of the Almanac of American Politics 2006. If I wanted to hear some busta spinning cliched conflict narrative, I'd buy me a rap album full of guns and gangs and (pardon) bitches, thank you very much.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 26, 2005

The Passion of the Hammer

By Jim Dallas

The Times resports that Tom DeLay is quietly trying to retreat from Schiav-o-rama.

After being rebuked three times by the House ethics committee last year, Mr. DeLay has been linked to an investigation into campaign finance irregularities in Texas and to potential violations of House travel rules. But he has angrily rejected suggestions that he seized on the Schiavo case to create distraction from those troubles, and aides say his involvement grew out of strongly held beliefs.

"Congressman DeLay certainly wasn't guided by polls," said his spokesman, Dan Allen.

"He saw something that needed to be done and worked with other leaders to make sure we accomplished it in the most expedited fashion possible," Mr. Allen said of the quickly enacted law that sent the case into the federal courts.

Republican strategists say they expect no political repercussions from the episode.

"I am not sure it raised his name ID," said Carl M. Forti, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. "A month from now, people are not going to remember," he said, and 20 months from now, in the 2006 elections, "it will be irrelevant."

Good to know you can always sweep it under the rug.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:29 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Aw Hail!

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Well, it hailed some mighty fierce tonight. Golf ball sized in some places, and it didn't take long for it to pop up with on the ground reports here on the Internets. About.com's Austin section has a report with some pictures here.

I was actually driving with some friends (after having watched one of them get a tatoo on his back) over to Kerbey Lane on Kerbey Lane when we ran into the rain front. And then the hail front. We couldn't even see the hood of the car through the windshield. So after some screaming and such we drove off the side of the road, into a parking lot, and took refuge behind the side of a building. Twice.

Talk about a flash flood, I've never seen something that fierce in Austin, the Hill Country yes, but not here. I think the streets really highlight the runoff affect. I'm hoping that my father's campaign yardsigns survived the attack out in Fredericksburg. I'll try to have a report tomorrow.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 12:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 25, 2005

Lock up your daughters and hide your bibles: the liberals are coming!

By Jim Dallas

Smarter people than myself, such as Ruy Teixeira and Chris Bowers have already blogged on this, but I've got a few comments following up the buzz over Christopher Hayes's article "How to Turn Your Red State Blue".

I would respectfully dissent from the thesis that the number of conservatives has actually gone up since the 1960s as the result of any kind of mass conversion. Rather, the amount of activity generated by conservatives and the number of "hard-core" ideologues has increased. This is important because it changes the inflection of the article.

Texas Party Self-ID and Ideological Self-ID
CBS/NYT polls pooled (based on data from Erikson, Wright, McIver)

Epoch D R I Lib. Mod. Con.
1976-1982 48.9% 17.8% 33.2% 18.2% 41.2% 40.6%
1983-1989 39.8% 28.3% 31.9% 18.2% 40.4% 41.4%
1990-1996 36.8% 30.9% 32.3% 19.1% 40.8% 40.2%
1997-2003 34.8% 33.4$ 31.8% 19.0% 40.9% 40.0%

(Approx. Pooled N = 4000 for Epoch 1976, 6000 for Epoch 1983, 9000 for Epoch 1990, and 8000 for Epoch 1997.)

The best numbers I have show basically no change in ideological composition in Texas since 1976 - and very little partisan change since 1983 - although in fairness, Texas has undergone massive demographic shifts in the last 30 years. However, other states show only modest shifts (Mississippi and Arkansas +5 more conservative; Alabama, Louisiana, and Georgia unchanged; much of the north and South Carolina several points less conservative). Moreover, Chris Bowers' own national numbers, from exit polls (a different source) show basically no underlying shifts.

(Moreover, Chris's numbers suggest that liberal and moderate voters made up Ronald Reagan's margin of victory in 1984; had Ronnie's electorate looked more like today's, we might have had President Walter Mondale. Indeed, the massive decrease in Republican support by self-identified liberals is one reason why the last election was close - and had we had fewer defections, there's a good chance that we'd have won.)

Simply put, conservatism isn't growing, despite the major efforts being expended to make it happen. Indeed, liberals have been amazingly successful, in part because there's a slight bias towards being an ideological conservative and an operational liberal.

What's happened has been that the number of conservatives who have been "activated" has gone up considerably. This may be in part simply because of partisan shifts - when people are not cross-pressured by conflicting ideological and party cues. And undoubtedly, mobilization has had something to do with it.

Of course, I am not suggesting that prosyletizing does not work. I think part of the reason why conservatism hasn't actually become the vast-majority ideology (as opposed to the dominant, plurality ideology, which it is) has been its own excesses, as well as (let's give credit where credit is due) to the DLC and Bill Clinton for making conservatism look less appealing by comparison to a vibrant moderation.

(Of course, our success in undermining the growth of conservatism is contingent upon the DLC being worth a damn - and that means they need to put forth new ideas instead of threaten Michael Moore with castration. If they won't lead, we will!)

Where I'm going with this is, will "converting" people to progressivism work? I don't know. My gut feeling is that in order to acheive the amount of change that is contemplated by Chris Bowers is probably not possible in the short term.

It may be true that conservatives outnumber liberals two-to-one, but its also true that moderates tend to vote with liberals more than with conservatives. Acheiving parity, of course, requires winning an overwhelming number of moderates, which is no easy task (Kerry, after all, came up a little short even with a 10 point lead among the mod-squad). Accordingly, any gains we get will be more than welcomed and Chris's goal of "growing liberalism and shrinking conservatism" is laudible. But they won't make the difference by themselves.

A better strategy is to re-vitalize the Democratic Party, energize those who would-be activists who are sitting at home watching the boob tube, and make sure that we get every moderate and liberal and "left of right-wing" voter to the polls. That's basically what the GOP did in its hey-day, which I believe is quickly passing.

Let me re-emphasize the point about energizing people. I think there's a lot of latent liberalism floating around in America, that has yet to be tapped into. That's why I've previously recommended voter education. Note how this is different from prosyletizing in that it seeks to capitalize on "soft-ideologues" instead of convert new ones, and I think it's a lot more effective. Consider - what's more effective for religious prosyletizers - tapping into "latent religion" (people who went to church when they were kids, but stopped going in their young adulthood), or trying to win an argument with a committed atheist? The surest way to "grow liberalism" is fire up liberals and moderates-who-are-really-liberals-but-don't-know-it-yet.

(And yes, of course there've been atheists who've found Jesus, but that's not the majority of the people packing the pews on Sunday. More to the point, I know there are some hard-rightists that come over, but it's rare, and usually among the young and flexible. When I grew up and switched to the good ol' liberal brand, it was from the position of being a moderate who grew up in a moderate-to-moderate-conservative family.)

A few books on point which I will finish reading and which I encourage you to start. Most obvious is Rick Perlstein's Before the Storm, which apparently the entire blogosphere has already read, but I've only gotten half-way through it.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 24, 2005

Susan Hays Resigns Effective April 1st

By Byron LaMasters

The embattled Dallas County Democratic Chair, Susan Hays has announced her resignation effective April 1st. A draft of her letter to precinct chairs can be read as a PDF file, here.

The Dallas Morning News reports on Susan Hays's resignation:

Susan Hays announced Thursday that she would resign as chairwoman of the Dallas County Democratic Party on April 1, saying she was the victim of a witch hunt.

In a letter mailed Thursday, Ms. Hays asked precinct chairmen to meet April 2 at the Hall of State in Fair Park to select the next leader.

She appointed precinct chairman Robert Franklin as temporary chairman for the April 2 meeting.

"I am saddened to say that infighting has broken out, giving the public appearance that we prefer to fight among ourselves rather than stand united behind our Democratic beliefs and work together to get Democrats elected," Ms. Hays wrote. "My loyalty is not to the position of the chair, but to the larger progressive movement."


"It is time for us all to move forward," Ms. Hays said in her resignation. "Rest assured that the party will move forward, not because I am resigning or because of the artificial lines people have drawn – but because rather than be divided by personalities we are united by our strong, shared Democratic beliefs."

Mr. Molberg and about 10 other Democrats were meeting Thursday night to talk about a succession procedure. The Dallas lawyer said the precinct chairs could select a temporary chairman April 2 for 30 days. That would allow time for candidates for the chair to campaign and develop their platforms.

First, I think that it was bad form that the Chair went to the press on this matter before infoming her executive committee of her decision. Saying that she was the victim of a "witch hunt" without allowing a forum for the very legitimate grievances against her is, in my opinion, quite inappropriate. Second, I don't believe that the chair has the authority to appoint a chair for a meeting after she has resigned as chair. The Texas Election Code states the necessary procedure on this matter:

§ 171.025. PROCEDURE FOR FILLING VACANCY IN OFFICE OF COUNTY CHAIR. (a) If a vacancy occurs in the office of county chair, the secretary of the county executive committee shall call a meeting for the purpose of filling the vacancy. If a committee member files with the secretary a written request for a meeting to fill a vacancy, the secretary shall call the meeting to convene not later than the 20th day after the date the secretary receives the request.

As someone who attended the February 28th meeting, it is my understanding that the meeting was recessed until April 2nd, and that the April 2nd meeting will be a continuation of the previous meeting. According to the minutes submitted by the Party Secretary, after the chair Susan Hays abdicated the gavel at the 2/28 meeting, Dorothy Dean moved to elect a temporary chair to conduct further business. At that time, the motion was set aside, and should be the first order of business at the April 2nd meeting.

I certainly applaud Susan Hays's decision to resign as chair. She is a dedicated Democrat and has many talents, especially as a lawyer and as a lobbyist. While I don't think that her calling was as party chair, I think that she has much to offer our party.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:45 PM | Comments (83) | TrackBack

Justice for All at UT

By Byron LaMasters

The anti-choice national organization, Justice for All is at UT this week. They found three UT students to charter the organization to allow for a demonstration where they put up disgusting 15-foot high pictures of aborted fetuses. The Daily Texan reports. I think that the response to the organization in 2002 was the best. That year, when I was PR Director of the University Democrats, I worked with Voices for Choice to raise pledges for the Lilith Fund - a pro-choice organization that helps fund abortions for low-income women. We asked other students disgusted by the JFA presentation to pledge to donate a small amount - ten or twenty-five cents an hour for every hour that JFA held up their presentation. By the end of the week, we raised several hundred dollars. I would highly recommend that other progressive organizations use similar tactics. Yelling and screaming are easier, but using right-wing organizations as a fundraising tool is much more effective.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:05 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Susan Hays to Resign?

By Byron LaMasters

Unsubstantiated rumors have been swirling around this afternoon and evening stating that embattled Dallas County Democratic Chair Susan Hays will resign. The chair had previously announced that an executive committee meeting will be held on April 2. When I hear futher details, I will post them.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:10 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Firefox 1.0.2

By Byron LaMasters

Via Kuff, I see that there's a new version of Firefox to download. Once you switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox, you won't be switching back. Download it here for free.

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

Austin City Council Endorsement Update

By Byron LaMasters

I listed the endorsements made for Place 3 for Austin City Council made earlier this week by NxNW Democrats, ALGPC, and Stonewall Democrats. Here are some more endorsements in the past few days:

3/21: CAP-D (Capitol Area Progressive Democrats): Margot Clarke
3/21: TED (Texas Environmental Democrats): No Endorsement
3/23: Austin Neighborhoods Council: Margot Clarke

I must say that the Margot Clarke campaign has done a relatively good job of consolidating her base (progressive grassroots) considering the size of the field. If the Clarke campaign had planned a little bit better, they probably could have won the NxNW (word is that they lost that one by a single vote).

I also learned today that the St. Edward's University Democrats have endorsed Gregg Knaupe.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:18 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Bush approval hits new lows

By Jim Dallas

I hear through the grapevine that there's a new Gallup poll putting Bush's approval at 45. That would be the lowest approval rating for Bush ever if this is true (current all-time low was 46 immediately after Abu Ghraib broke).

This would be confirmed by the CBS poll that came out yesterday which put Bush at 43, which was the lowest CBS approval rating since immediately after the first Presidential debate in which Bush looked insane, and would put him more-or-less tied with polls taken contemporaneously with the Abu Ghraib and 9/11 Commission doldrums.

To put it mildly, these are not the best of times for the President.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:35 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Perry Campaign Admits to KBH Tape Praising Hillary

By Byron LaMasters

Jim posted on this yesterday, but now the Dallas Morning News reports that the Perry campaign was behind taping KBH's comments praising Hillary Clinton:

Gov. Rick Perry's re-election campaign acknowledged Wednesday that it hired two men to film a Washington event in which Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton praised Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

An edited version of the video, in which Mrs. Clinton calls the Texas Republican "my partner on so many important fronts," circulated widely this week in e-mails among conservative GOP activists.
Also Online

A spokesman for Ms. Hutchison, who is considering challenging Mr. Perry in next year's primary, denounced the video as a political dirty trick.

"The governor should be worried about far bigger issues than paying people to fly across the country to stalk the senator," said Hutchison campaign manager Terry Sullivan. "If he spent less time worrying about campaign stuff and more time worrying about his job, the state of Texas would be better off."

Perry campaign director Luis Saenz defended the decision to film the event.

"Any potential opponent should not expect a free ride," he said. "We're being very aggressive in following our potential opponents – what they say, what they do. And we're going to continue to be aggressive."

The two senators appeared at a ceremony March 3 marking the preservation of the Sewall-Belmont House, a historic building on Capitol Hill where suffragists gathered more than a century ago to work for the right to vote.

The 46-second video shows Mrs. Clinton praising Ms. Hutchison, and then the pair embracing and smiling for cameras.

Mr. Saenz said the Perry camp paid to film the event but didn't intend that it find its way this week around the Internet.

"I shared the video with a small group of strong supporters, and apparently one of them decided to share it with somebody else, who decided to share it with somebody else," he said. "Now it's everywhere."

The Perry camp paid for a video that they didn't intend to circulate on the internet? Yeah, right. Still, smart move for the Perry camp. It may be dirty politics, but this is fair game. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am certainly no fan of Rick Perry, but his campaign staff is top-notch.

More at Rick Perry vs. the World. He's darn right about one thing - this campaign will be a heck of a lot of fun for us Democrats.

Update: Also at Off the Kuff, Dos Centavos and Pink Dome.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Diagnose Me!

By Byron LaMasters

Have a medical problem and can't afford a doctor? Easy. Send a video to Senator/Doctor Bill Frist and you'll get his expert diagnosis.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Hokey smokes!

By Jim Dallas

I didn't realize until reading Juan Cole's post that, two months after the Iraqi elections, Iraq still hasn't formed an interim government yet due to inter- and intra- party squabbles. Thank goodness we don't have a parliamentary-style government in America.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:34 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

A Service To Our Readers

By Jim Dallas

The Houston Chronicle reported yesterday (and CNN reports today) that interest in living wills has gone up considerably due to the Schiavo case.

As a service to our readers, here is a link to the advance directive form from UH professor Richard Alderman.

Meanwhile, I'd like to extend sympathy to all the victims and families of the Texas City refinery explosion, which has injured hundreds of people and killed more than a dozen, according to local news reports, as well as to all of our friends and neighbors who work for BP/Amoco.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


By Jim Dallas

Zogby Interactive is apparently doing head-to-heads for the Texas gubernatorial race.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 04:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bus Survey and Election Reform

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Do you ride the busses here in Austin as a University Student? What about the campus routes in particular? Take this short survey from Parking and Transportation services to help them out. This has been a public service post.

Also, Election Reform Forum....

Could SG Elections be BETTER for you?
Got Concerns? Bring'Em On!

- Eliminate the Ticket System?
- Make it Easier for Students to Run?
- Host Debates in your College?

Thursday, March 24
WELCH 2.246 - 8:00 PM

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 02:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2005

More Hillar-ity

By Jim Dallas

Taegan Goddard reports that somebody (Sen. Hutchison says it's Gov. Perry -- typical) is playing the Hillary card.

Let me say this now: both Hutchison and Perry are both Hillary-loving, gun-grabbing sodomite lie-beral Demoncrat members-of-the-Democrat-Party! Muahahahahahahaha...

(Top that one, Perry spinners!)

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's getting better all the time

By Jim Dallas

The 2005 OASDI trustees' report it is out. A lot of the assumptions are (surprise!) overly-pessimistic. Still, Brad DeLong says that the report actually has good news, despite efforts to paint it as fortelling doom. Brad Plummer has a pretty chart illustrating the point.

The real story here is the politicization of the Social Security Administration and the manipulation of the media.

There is no Social Security crisis.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

San Antonio Race For Mayor

By Andrew Dobbs

Yesterday I said that I would put up some information on the 2005 race for Mayor of San Antonio. I was just getting ready to track everything down when Cincinnatus of Politicks, Sports and Culture beat me to it. His post is a must read that will catch you up on all of the characters and issues in this race.

As in most big city races, race itself is a big issue. Julian Castro, the 30 year old twin brother of State Rep. Joaquin Castro, is leading the race as a result of his top billing among the city's majority Latino population. However, the two biggest turnouts for a city election (and the mayor and entire council are up for election every two years) in the last quarter century were just about 15%. That means that while the city is 2/3 minority- largely Latino with sizeable African-American base and a growing Asian population- the elections are often driven by upper class whites in Northwest SA. Two candidates are vying for their support- 70 year old former 4th Court of Appeals Cheif Justice Phil Hardberger (a Democrat), and Republican City Councilman Carroll Schubert.

Schubert is weakest, with virtually no minority support, and despite the low turnout, minority support is a big factor in these races. Hardberger is second, with a majority of support in no particular group, he performs well in all of them. Castro has overwhelming Latino support, a plurality of African Americans and a statistical tie for first among Asians (though Hardberger might gain ground there with a new endorsement from the Asian American Chamber of Commerce) and is in the lead right now. Still, no one has a majority as it stands and will almost certainly go to a runoff. Castro has one spot on lockdown it seems, Hardberger and Schubert are fighting for second place.

In the name of full disclosure, I must note that Hardberger's campaign manager is a dear friend of mine- Christian Archer. I must also note that the candidate who wins the "Dobbs Candidate Test"- a) are you a Democrat? and b) will you go on to bigger and better things?- is Julian Castro. I think that these two will likely end up in the runoff, and Hardberger is more likely to pick up Schubert supporters than Castro is. Castro is in an unenviable position right now in many ways- he has probably peaked in his popularity and has everything to lose. He can't tamp down expectations, and if Hardberger ends up within 10 points of him in the first round, he'll be hemmoraghing badly. I think that Hardberger might very well end up winning this one.

Still, the race is 8 weeks away and things are getting hot and heavy. Keep up with BOR for all your news on this vital race!

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 03:06 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

John Edwards at UNC Law School

By Andrea Meyer

The former senator from North Carolina has a new job. John Edwards is the now the head of the UNC Law School's new Center on Poverty, Work and Opporuntity. Regardless of politics, the former senator has a reputation as an outstanding trial lawyer, and also has firsthand savvy of the implications of poverty, the lack of fortuity for many, and how this affects the future of America through its youth. I see this as a great opportunity for Edwards, as his talent and knowledge will certainly continue to have a positive impact on society and benefit others. As it is part-time, he will have plenty of time to care for and support Elizabeth through her illness and to spend with his younger children. This will hopefully be a positive experience for the Edwards family, and I wish him well in his new endeavor.

Read more here.....

Posted by Andrea Meyer at 01:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Girl Arrested in Protest

By Andrea Meyer

Hello, everyone. This is Andrea, BOR's resident feminist and gender politics enthusiast returning after a long sabbatical due to a move and a fried computer. As I am now blogging from Tucson, Arizona, I thought I'd post one of the many stories arising from Bush's visit yesterday as he attempted to sell his Social Security plan to southern Arizona. There are many stories springing from this visit, and I'll post them as I hear them and get them verified. Here is one fromThe Arizona Indymedia.

Posted by Andrea Meyer at 12:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 22, 2005

Burnt Orange Report from the Floor

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Coming over the next couple of hours, after a looooong break, the Burnt Orange Report from the Floor, live here on the Student Government floor bringing you the latest happenings. Be prepared for updates!

First one, Brent Chaney tells us about movement on the Student Board of Regents bills, which is really moving forward, and of course, finding out that Gov. Perry "is making calls" on behalf of the effort doesn't hurt.


Now we have a representative (e-mail jboots@ku.edu if you need to ask him questions SG reps) from the University of Kansas (and he's a hottie) speaking about their Student Government election systems, since that is the hot topic tonight. Here is their website as far as candidates go (their election is later this spring still). They have about 28,000 students and 57 seats in the Assembly. I'm not sure how productive the questioning in this format will really be tonight. There are a couple proposals in our very own assebly to me talked about tonight, the main bill being AB 18, the move away from Tickets, plus some election reform cleanup in general, AB 19.

More below the fold...


SG Rep. Yamisette Westerband announced that we have gained two more gender neutral restrooms on campus, in Gregory Gym, which is awesome. She's been working on this project all year and there may be one more gender neutral bathroom coming.

Rep. Stannis just spoke about attempting to block Rep. Chris Kennedy's impeachement resolution of do-nothing rep Rodrigo Interiano. Kennedy has stuck his neck out on this one. I personally do not support avoiding the issue just to 'save face' since there isn't much face to save when it comes to SG in most cases. People here are worrying too much Press Coverage (which there is going to be anyways now) and I feel is just another example of SG not wanting to vote on sensative issues.


I missed a bit of typing since my computer spazzed out on me.


Now in discussion of tabling indefinatly the Impeachment of Interiano. Personally, and I spoke to this breifly (it wasn't an impressive presentation, granted), I think this is partially tied to election reform. For someone who's had 2 years in the Assembly, why do we have to wait around and hope things improve? Then again, maybe this legislative action will accomplish it's end without having to have a successful vote of impeachment cast. I don't really care if the actual impeachement gets voted down, but to silence it now, seems more like "insider political coverage" than "clearing his name".

Best quote so far... "we can talk about how we feel all day long..." Oh boy, ain't that the truth. It's been about an hour now discussing the Tabling motion, and we havn't even gotten to the Election Reform package yet.


Omar Ochoa, incoming SG president and current 2 year at large Rep just voted No to table the impeachment proceedings which caused a bit of tittering in the crowd.

The vote to table the Impeachment resolution is 15-14. One more vote and this issue would have moved on to be discussed next week. But now it's dead. Tally another point in the SG protecting it's own category. Seriously, I think many were suprised to get to 14 votes on this one. Then again, Interiano got to vote on that motion though the legislation affects him. I'm not sure if that conflict of interest disbales him from voting, but if it does, that puts it at a 14-14 tie, and in that case, doesn't the motion fail? Something to investigate Constitutional guru Kennedy.


Apparently the discussion about Election Reform will not be tonight, but rather, during the forum this Thursday March 24, @ 8pm in Welch 2.246.


AR 23, a resolution to reaffirm UT's commitment to ending sexual violende and support Sexual Assault Awareness Month, was voted to be fast-tracked and passed without opposition. Not sure why there would be any, but whatever.

Also, if you want to apply for SG offices or appointments, be sure to use this application (buried on the SG website and why oh why havn't each of the SG campaigns sent this out to their thousand person listservs??) and turn it in before this Friday.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 07:45 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

I Was Wrong About Schiavo

By Andrew Dobbs

After my post on the Schiavo case I read some very interesting comments and resolved to do more research into the matter. I read a variety of sources, and in the end I changed my mind- I was wrong. While I hate saying that a woman should die when so many people clearly love her and wish to see her live, I also must say that it appears that I underestimated Michael Schiavo and insulted him. I was wrong to do this.

Interestingly enough, I found the document that changed my mind from a conservative source- the National Review. The document is the Guardian ad Litem's report to Florida Governor Jeb Bush on Schiavo's case. The GAL is familiar to those of us with divorced parents, even more so to those of us who went through custody battles. It is a person, usually with a background in social work and law, who is appointed by the court to represent a person unable to speak for themselves in legal proceedings- typically children not old enough to take the stand, or in this case Terri Schiavo.

The report is tragic and heart breaking. Elements of both sides should be ashamed of themselves- the Right for defaming a man like Michael Schiavo (who is loving, yet flawed, a man who has suffered a horrible tragedy) and some elements of the Left (though not all) for defaming the Schindlers. Both sides of this battle have one thing in common- they deeply love Terri and both are heartbroken by this cruel twist of fate. The Schindlers desperately want to keep her alive- testifying at one point that they would allow all of her limbs to be amputated and for most of her organs to be transplated (were such necessary) before they would let her die. They love Terri, and the thought of her dying is unbearable for them.

Michael Schiavo, on the other hand, has been underestimated by others, and by me. He sought treatment for his wife, taking her across the country for various experimental treatments, standing with the Schindlers on all of these issues. But after four years of tireless efforts, it appears that he simply realized what many doctors had already said and would continue to say- there is no hope for Terri to recover. Even the Schindlers, in a court proceeding in 2001, admitted that she was in a PVS. He realized that what she was experiencing now was torture, being trapped in a world she could not participate in meaningfully. Perhaps he simply tired of the care, perhaps he couldn't handle the stress, the man isn't a god- he is as weak as any of us. In the end, he and others realized that Terri never sought this kind of existence and he changed his orders- he wished for her to be removed from her feeding tube.

This is where the Schindlers and Schiavo had their falling out. The Schindlers kept trying to have Michael removed as her guardian, but there were no reasons to do so. Not only had he not neglected her, but his obsessiveness over her care greatly annoyed the nurses assigned to her. In 13 years (when the GAL report was written), Terri had never had a bedsore- a common affliction for all immobilized people. Some have said, including me, that his motivation for all of this was money. But that money has now run out, and even before then Michael had offered to divest himself from the trust. He turned down the money. He just wants his wife to die peacefully.

So you have two camps who both love the same afflicted person- one wants to keep her alive and the other wishes for her to be allowed to die. Legally, Michael has the decision-making power and in Florida hea has the right to choose whether she stays on life support. The Supreme Court has upheld the right of states to make their own laws regarding these issues. Morally, even the American Conference of Catholic Bishops says that a feeding tube may be removed in the case of a PVS. Medically, the evidence was "compelling" that Terri is in a PVS and various tests to determine if she could swallow on her own concluded that she could not. The various signs of lucidity cited by supporters of the Schindlers leave out some important information- the responses Terri showed were not repetitive or consistetn. In essence, a PVS can respond to some limited stimuli, but unless they consistently do so, they are not aware of their surroundings and they are in a PVS. She was reflexive, not aware, not conscious. It appears she has not had a conscious action in 15 years. While some people in what appears to be a PVS have partially recovered, no one has come close to being in one for 15 years and then recovering. It appears that Terri will never recover, and the law grants Michael the right to end her suffering.

Her parents have said that they would keep her alive even if they knew for a fact that she said she didn't want such. This is damning for their case- everyone has a right to refuse medical treatment. Courts have ruled that Terri never wanted this kind of treatment, and when Michael realized that she would never recover, he honored her wishes. It pains my soul to have to say it, but Terri Schiavo must be let go. To not do so is to turn the oxcart of law in our country on its head and to let emotion trump facts.

In the end, you all were right- I wasn't listening to a broad enough array of sources on this matter. When I did, it changed my mind. I will make this deal with you all- I will remain open-minded and resolve never to make a judgement based on only one side of the debate if you all will promise never to bash me for disagreeing with you. Most of you all were very nice to me, but some (Kirk McPike sticks out in my head) accused me of being a Republican, which I am not. I refuse to believe anything just because a majority of my party believes in it and I will never reject anything simply because a majority of the other does.

In the end, I was wrong about Terri Schiavo, but my intentions were good. We must err on the side of life, but we also must never let our gut and our emotions beat out the often cold justice of law and order. Such is the formula for chaos and mob rule, for Jacobinism and other vile philosophies. Terri's story is a moving one, but those who value her life, her freedom and her rights must be prepared to allow her to pass away.

May Almighty God keep our eyes on the truth, and prevent us from doing any person, particularly Terri, wrong.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 04:11 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Vote for KISS Alec

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

For all of you UT Austin students, I have a rather ridiculous poll for you to vote in. The Engineering Dept. is having a contest in which you can vote for the best "Alec" representation (their mascot). I endorse a vote for the KISS Themed Alec which is currently in 2nd place (about 20 votes behind the first place spot).

So go vote for KISS Themed Alec now (bottom right).

Vote total as of posting was 96-74 (wooden guy v. KISS)
5 minutes later vote total was 96-80.
15 minutes later 99-88
20 minutes 100-92

6:15 Update- KISS candidate now leads with 187-127 votes, garnering 22% of the total 817 votes cast so far in a field of 12 candidates.

(also realize that I'm a college of liberal arts guy, and the engineers are a bit obsessive over their precious alec, and I think the KISS representation is the most 'liberal' artist representation so that's why I'm for it.)

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 03:59 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Strayhorn Says HB 3 Doesn't Balance, Shapleigh and Rodriguez Push For Income Tax

By Andrew Dobbs

According to Quorum Report, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn has reversed course and declared HB 3 to be unbalanced. She says that the cafeteria-style business tax will simply invite continued tax avoidance on the part of businesses and will result in $2.3 billion in deficits. Every year that the tax plan is in place, the deficit will go up, and the tax cut becomes a huge tax increase for everyone- not just the poor and middle class as it now stands. House Republicans (and Mike Villareal, who is singing in that chorus again) dispute her claims.

So what is to be done? Well, my state rep- Eddie Rodriguez- and Senator Elliot Shapleigh of El Paso have put forward the plan they have been pushing for some time now: a state income tax. Here is the press release they put out earlier today:

The Texas Legislature must consider a state income tax in order provide Texas taxpayers with sustainable tax relief and adequate funding for schools, according to several more statewide organizations that joined two legislators Tuesday in an effort to raise discussion of the tax alternative.

Two weeks ago, the League of Women Voters of Texas joined Senator Eliot Shapleigh and Representative Eddie Rodriguez calling for an income tax to pay for public education.

On Tuesday, March 22, the Consumer's Union, the Texas Landowners Association and a group of individual realtors joined Shapleigh and Rodriguez in a press conference aimed at getting the state's leadership to put the discussion of a state income tax on the table.

"Increasing the sales tax or property tax is not a viable option,” Shapleigh said. “We need a new system to replace Robin Hood and we need to let the voters choose from all of the options. If we are to compete in a world based on knowledge, then we must do better than 32nd in the nation in teachers' salaries, 50th in number of high school graduates and 48th in average SAT scores."

Some members of the Texas House claim that the school finance plan passed out of the House last week will provide huge property tax relief, but a new analysis announced by Rep. Rodriguez shows that the tax cut provided by the House plan will quickly evaporate.

“Under the current plan, homeowners’ property taxes will be as high as they are right now within 4 years. That’s on top of the sales tax hike and new payroll tax,” said Rodriguez. “Only an income tax will permanently cut school property taxes by 90 percent and invest $5 billion a year in education. An income tax is a legitimate option, and it’s time to put it on the ballot for voters.”

Reggie James, director of the Southwest office of Consumer’s Union, said that the current plan is not fair for consumers.

“If the Legislature must raise taxes, then we ask that they find a way that is fair,” said James. “An income tax should at least be put on the table because it would be more fair than the other options we are hearing.”

Joe Bradley, a realtor from Lewisville, Texas said that realtors from his area agree that an income tax should be on the ballot for voters.

“I surveyed my fellow realtors from my hometown in North Texas, and a great majority preferred an income tax because it’s fair, and it’s good for the business climate,” said Bradley.

Realtors aren't the most liberal group out there, in fact they tend to be pretty conservative. And landowners' groups tend to be on the GOP side of most issues. Now that these forces have joined with nonpartisan types in the form of the League of Women Voters and some liberals in the Consumer Union, a broad-based coalition is finally forming to redo Texas' taxes the right way- with an income tax.

Appraisal creep is the biggest culprit in the way property taxes will simply jump back up, but the dozens of other taxes not touched by HB 3 and the significant ones raised by the bill add up quickly. Texas needs to get serious about education and serious about serving tax payers. Only an income tax will serve both interests. I'm proud to say that Eddie represented me well today.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 03:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another City Race...

By Andrew Dobbs

So we've talked a lot on this blog about Austin races, and perhaps a little about San Antonio (but not enough, I'll start putting up some posts soon), but there is a big municipal race this year that I am always interested in- the mayoral election in New York City.

The New York Times reports that Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer is well ahead of the pack for the Democratic nomination for mayor, with Manhattan President C. Virginia Fields coming in second and several others- including Council Speaker Gifford Miller- pulling up the rear.

Ferrer also leads mayor Michael Bloomberg by several points, 14 in one poll, 7 in another. He caught some flak recently for claiming that the shooting of Amidou Diallo wasn't a crime and might lose some ground in the Democratic field for that one. Still, with a Texan running his campaign, we know that anything is possible.

Ferrer came in second place in the 2001 Democratic primary and has served in city government for years. He's a progressive thinker, though his website is short on any kind of specifics in terms of policy. The last 12 years have been very good to New York- going from squalor and crime to vibrancy and safety. Rudy Giuliani has a lot to do with that, and Michael Bloomberg has more or less just stayed out of the way of smarter people doing the heavy lifting. Ferrer needs to take the things that they have done right and add to them by putting a progressive spin on things. If he can keep New York prosperous and safe, he'll be a good mayor.

I'll post soon on San Antonio and I'll keep the dispatches on NYC to a bare minimum. Still, I figured everyone would be interested in this one...

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 01:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bush Flip-Flopped on Schiavo-like Cases

By Byron LaMasters

Funny how rally-the-base political opportunism forced Bush back to D.C. to sign a law in contradiction to a Texas law that he signed in 1999:

The federal law President Bush signed to prolong Terri Schiavo's life in Florida appears to conflict with a Texas law he signed as governor, attorneys familiar with the legislation said Monday.

The 1999 Advance Directives Act in Texas allows for a patient's surrogate to make end-of-life decisions and spells out how to proceed if a hospital or other health provider disagrees with a decision to maintain or halt life-sustaining treatment.

If a doctor refuses to honor a decision, the case goes before a medical committee. If the committee agrees with the doctor, the guardian or surrogate has 10 days to agree or seek treatment elsewhere.

Thomas Mayo, an associate law professor at Southern Methodist University who helped draft the Texas law, said that if the Schiavo case had happened in Texas, her husband would have been her surrogate decision-maker. Because both he and her doctors were in agreement, life support would have been discontinued.

Bush signed this law as Governor of Texas in 1999, but now he's against such a law for Terri Shiavo's family. The Bush campaign came up with a word for that in their campaign last year. Flip-flopping.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:11 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Ditto to what Jim Said

By Byron LaMasters

Congrats, Jim for getting a top ranked Kos Diary. Next time, be sure to post on BOR as well!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:50 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Protest Culture

By Jim Dallas

The Washington Monthly has a piece up about contemporary protest culture. The author concludes:

Perhaps in an age when blogs have given average people the pundit's power to bring down network anchors and Senate leaders and shape the nation's political agenda, dissenting Americans no longer need protests and marches to be heard. Yet there remains among many a need for something more—to have an adventure, to experience an historic event, to make direct connections with like-minded people. This existential desire, plus a certain nostalgia for the good old days, fuel much of contemporary march culture. Which is fine: Protesting for protesting's sake serves a market. But so do rock concerts and tractor pulls. If today's marchers want their efforts to mean a great deal more than that, they would do well to recognize the real reason why the marches of yesteryear are remembered. It wasn't just about the messengers. It was about the message.

This reminds me of an episode during my freshman year of college. I was bored one afternoon so I started walking around downtown Austin just to learn about the place. Eventually I managed to run into an anti-death penalty protest that was being organized down in Republic Park. To be honest, I've always been somewhat against the death penalty (because, frankly, there's something tacky and morally offensive about the degree to which capital punishment is employed in this state); although to be sure I've also always been more or less indifferent.

So I stopped by just to see what was going on. A couple minutes later somebody handed be a placard. It wasn't too much longer before I was more or less caught up in the moment, which I went along with mostly out of sheer Gonzo-esque curiousity. After all, we hear a lot about this great Austin protest culture, so I wanted to know what it was all about.

(At the time, I was a peon page-designer at the Texan; despite the fact I had no power over editorial copy at the time I never found it coincidental that the managing editor gave all staffers a good warning about getting involved in protests a few days later).

But my experience begs the question - how many people are involved in these things by accident, sort of like Forrest Gump?

Later on in my college career, I pushed the UDs to get active in the campus anti-war movement. There are of course somethings that are so important and likely to sway opinion (as I think a lot of people thought in the months before the war in Iraq started) that people of good conscience have to be involved. And then of course there's everything else.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:42 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 21, 2005

Austin City Council Update

By Byron LaMasters

My apologies for light posting recently. I have a paper due at 3 PM tomorrow, so once that's finished, along with some needed sleep, I'll be back to more regular blogging. In Austin City politics, our city council races are picking up steam with Lee Leffingwell and Betty Dunkerly the frontrunners in Place 1 and 4 respectively, while the open Place 3 is pretty much wide open. The Austin Chronicle has more on the recent developments in the race. Three progressive organizations held their endorsement meetings tonight. Their Place 3 endorsements are here:

NXNW (North by Northwest) Democrats: No endorsement
ALGPC (Austin Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus): Margot Clarke and Mandy Dealey
Austin Stonewall Democrats: Margot Clarke

I have not endorsed in this race, although I did make the motion for a dual endorsement at the ALGPC meeting tonight. ALGPC rules require a 60% majority for an endorsement, and no candidate had even a simple majority on the first ballot. However, the combined vote of the top two candidates, Dealey and Clarke was 70% of those voting on the first ballot, thus a dual endorsement of the two was the logical motion.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Slacking Off

By Jim Dallas

The left-blogosphere is abuzz with commentary on the Texas Futile Care Law. Mega-kudos particularly to Mark Kleiman (here), who's all over this. Of course, this means we done got scooped.

Of course, the fact that much of the sturm und drang in re: Schiavo is fueled by cynical politics doesn't undermine the moral/legal positions of the true believers, just as all the vicious and inappropriate attacks on Michael Schiavo shouldn't prejudice his moral/legal claims. Can we agree to a cease-fire on the politics of personal destruction....?

...Probably not, but I thought I'd toss that out there.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 10:05 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Republicans Changing Party Symbol

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The Republican National Committee announced that the Republican Party is changing its emblem from an elephant to a condom. The National Chairman explained that the condom more clearly reflects the party's stance today because a condom accepts inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, protects a bunch of pricks, and gives you a sense of security while you are actually being screwed.

Seriously though, I'm back in Austin after spending Spring Break back home working my father's city council race. Some updates on that and other city council races going on here in Texas coming in the next day or two. Looks like this place has done just fine without me being online for a week.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 12:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 20, 2005

Oliver North's Spring Break Road Trip - Galveston '05!

By Jim Dallas

Once upon a time, Oliver North doing a fundraiser for local Republicans would have been scandal-worthy, but considering North's religious and political re-births (sortof) and the Galveston County GOP's support of Rep. Tom "The Hammered" DeLay (who was honorary co-chairman of the event!), this really is just one big yawn. Although Ollie did get a front-page story from the Galveston County Daily News.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pay Raises in State Government

By Byron LaMasters

This article about pay raises in state government demonstrates the silliness of the current structure.

A provision in the proposed state budget would give the governor and other statewide officials a hefty salary increase. The governor "thinks it's a bad idea," a spokeswoman says.

Some lawmakers are offering Rick Perry a $35,000-a-year pay raise, but the Republican governor who two years ago demanded steep budget reductions at virtually all state agencies wants no part of it.

"He thinks it's a bad idea," said Perry press secretary Kathy Walt, referring to a provision in the Texas Senate's proposed budget that would boost the salaries of nearly all statewide elected officials by about 30 percent. "He didn't ask for it, and he does not expect it."

The Senate Finance Committee is poised to adopt its recommendations for the 2006-07 state budget next week. The document, expected to reach the Senate floor for a vote Wednesday, calls for giving statewide elected officials in the executive branch their first pay raise since 1997.

And those raises would be substantial.

The governor's annual salary would jump from $115,345 to $150,000. The attorney general, comptroller, agriculture commissioner, land commissioner and three railroad commissioners would see their pay rise from $92,217 to $125,000.

The lieutenant governor's pay would remain $600 a month because that office is part of the legislative branch of government. The lieutenant governor presides over the Senate and is paid the same as lawmakers, who are not in line for a raise.

Texas needs to join the 21st century and realize that it is not possible to run a mega-state with a part-time, underpaid legislature. We should be raising the pay of the legislature substantially, NOT the executive officers.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 19, 2005

"Christian Statesman Targeted"

By Jim Dallas

Prayeralert.org asks you to pray for Tom DeLay. The Indianapolis Star writes:

Pray for Tom DeLay.

This is not my advice. This is an urgent alert issued on the Internet with the headline: "Rep. Tom DeLay Under Fire, Christian Statesman Targeted."

It is possible that DeLay needs your prayers because the GOP House majority leader is indeed taking incoming fire these days. It happens that this high-ranking lawmaker has a persistent problem with ethics. Three times in the last year he has been admonished for official misconduct. Then there is the long-running investigation back home in Texas that threatens DeLay with a criminal felony indictment for skirting the laws regulating campaign finance.

... but he is trying hard to save Terri Schiavo!

(Hat tip to BCho).

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:24 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

More on the Park Cities People Editorial

By Byron LaMasters

I wrote on Thursday my objection to this remark in the Park Cities People editorial on HB 3 - "First, a few unpleasant facts. In just 10 years, Anglos will be a minority in North Texas". Wick Allison of the D Magazine Blog, The Frontburner posted this in reply:


According to the Burnt Orange Report, we're not supposed to talk about it. Staggeringly high birth rates for teenagers? The second highest dropout rate in the nation? Declining household income? Apparently, we are supposed to treat these social disasters as mysteries too deep to plumb. The fact that Texas is about to become a majority-minority state has profound consequences that need to be faced now. And you can't face them if you are too politically correct to talk about them.

Here's my response:

I agree - we should talk about race, and the serious factors regarding our changing demographics in north Texas. High teen birth rates, high dropout rates and declining household incomes are serious problems that must be solved. My point is that the Park Cities People editorial addressed those issues in a highly insensitive manner. Stating that Anglos being a minority is an "unpleasant fact" suggests racial insensitivity at best, and blatant racism at worst. We'll never solve our problems by scapegoating one race or ethnicity or another. We'll solve our problems by working together towards common ground with mutual respect - something that the writers of the Park Cities People editorial page certainly lack.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:08 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

"The time has come to let Terri Schiavo die"

By Byron LaMasters

I could not say it better myself. I will simply say an Amen to this column. I would urge you all to read it.

I could not imagine the horror of living 15 years attached to a feeding tube without the ability to think or communicate for myself. Given the choice of a brainless PVS existence or death, I would choose to die - the choice that Terri Schiavo and her husband have made. That is much more humane than allowing someone (and their spouse) to suffer for years on end. I pray that their suffering is nearing its end.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:33 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

March 18, 2005

The Real Reason Al Edwards Voted for HB 3

By Andrew Dobbs

So when HB 3- the bill that raises taxes on every Texan making less than $100,600- came up for a vote, only one Democrat managed to vote for the bill, Houston's Al Edwards. Edwards has not given a convincing reason for his vote, claiming that he felt that his vote would give him a seat on the conference committee. Anyone familiar with Craddick et. al knows that he wouldn't seat anyone not completely committed to his goals on the committee and even if Edwards was on it, he'd be voted down 5-1 on everything. Also, the leadership hasn't said anything about this, so it seems shady.

Turns out something far more ridiculous is behind the choice. From Quorum Report:

A member of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus tried to block funding for a planned Juneteenth Memorial Monument at the State Capitol because, she said, one of the sculpted figures looks like a caucus colleague.

During an House Appropriations Committee hearing Thursday, Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) offered a rider to the budget that would stop any state funds going to monuments depicting a living person currently serving as an elected official. She later withdrew the rider.

Dukes' target was Rep. Al Edwards (D-Houston), who has, during a lengthy legislative career, carried legislation setting up both the Juneteenth State Holiday and the Texas Emancipation Juneteenth Cultural and Historical Commission.

"For years people have been tiptoeing around this for fear of offending African Americans or Al Edwards," Dukes said. "But the fact is that the face on the 'law maker' character on the monument is that of Al Edwards. There's no ifs, and, or buts about it."

Just for comparison's sake, here's the proposed monument and here's a picture of Edwards, a few years ago. Looks pretty similar to me...

Inside sources say that Edwards traded his vote for a commitment from the leadership to back this design and to put aside the money for the effort. And frankly, Dawnna Dukes isn't someone I distrust and she's not one to fight a monument to African Americans.

This is bizarre, to say the least, and further proves Al Edwards' uselessness in our party. Edwards might want to watch his back, and if he doubts he can be taken out Ron Wilson might offer a few words of advice...

Update: [Byron here - I second everything that Andrew says here, and wanted to add on a few links to the post].

From Greg's Opinion, here and here.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 10:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Minutes of the 2/28/05 Dallas Co. Executive Committee Meeting

By Byron LaMasters

The Secretary of the Dallas County Democratic Party, David Wilkins, has submitted the minutes of the February 28, 2005 Dallas County Democratic Executive Committee meeting. You may view them in PDF format here. Also attached in the file are the two resolutions approved by the committee at their 2/28 meeting.

I have read the minutes, and as someone who attended the meeting, it is my opinion that they accurately reflect the events of the meeting.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:13 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

We're One Big Happy Family. Yessirreee.

By Jim Dallas

Andrew caught a little flak for his post regarding Terri Schiavo, but one comment struck me as particularly, well mean, but also constructive, in the sense that it suggested Andrew start a spin-off blog.

Really, I happen to believe everyone should start at least one blog, and perhaps more! I have my own side blog. As does Karl-Thomas. It's a good idea.

However, I don't want to suggest by any means that Andrew should leave. Absolutely not! We're not all on the same page here at Burnt Orange. And indeed, the ideological meanderings have kept things interesting. For example:

  • Andrew and I are both mostly against gun control. My understanding is Byron and Karl-Thomas are mostly for it (correct me if I'm wrong).
  • I'm not exactly super progressive in gender politics; occasional poster Andrea, umm, is.
  • Ever since leaving Austin, I've occasionally drifted off into obnoxious libertarian land, with Chicago School-influence rantings about why smoking shouldn't be banned(just to name one post), and the infamous "maybe Newt Gingrich is right about health care" post.
  • I know Karl-Thomas has a tremendous faith in grassroots democracy, which has occasionally made a few of his posts regarding Howard Dean unintentionally amusing. Of course, he's not the only one.
  • As for Byron, he's way too smart and usually right about everything. That really is all I got to say. Although he's got really weird musical preferences.

That said, we here represent only a tiny slice of the wonderful ideological diversity in the Texas Democratic Party. And while we're not always running the same plays, we're all on the same team!

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:29 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

An even lighter note

By Nathan Nance

Being a sports journalist, I have to bring up something silly like sports in the midst discussions on abortion and euthenasia. But it really shouldn't surprise anyone.

My hometown team, the Baylor Lady Bears are playing in Seattle Saturday and were seeded second in the Temepe Regional of the NCAA Tournament. While other newspapers would be content to just send a writer and have him file a story or two every night, the Waco Tribune-Herald is not. Whether it is because I am a blogger and on the staff or someone came up with it on their own, I'll never know (I was away blogging the SxSWi in Austin) but the Trib has started a blog.

It's totally sports oriented and Baylor-centric, but I think it it is worth checking out. We have two great writers there, assistant sports editor Jerry Hill and staff writer John Werner, and if anyone can make it work, it's those two. So visit it over the course of the Tournament and give constructive criticisms.

I will be blogging tomorrow's game as well, but from the comfort of one of my favorite bars in Waco, watching it on a big screen with total WiFi access. Then I'm headed down to Austin to hang out with newfound blogger friends to drink the night away and discuss Democratic politics.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 06:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

On a Lighter Note...

By Byron LaMasters

To venture off on to another topic aside from human vegtables and abortion, Rep. Al Edwards is certainly making news this week. This time, he's worried about high school cheerleaders "shaking their behinds". The Statesman reports:

The Friday night lights in Texas could soon be without bumpin' and grindin' cheerleaders. Legislation filed by Rep. Al Edwards, D-Houston, would put an end to "sexually suggestive" performances at athletic events and other extracurricular competitions.

"It's just too sexually oriented, you know, the way they're shaking their behinds and going on, breaking it down," said Edwards, a 26-year veteran of the Texas House. "And then we say to them, 'don't get involved in sex unless it's marriage or love, it's dangerous out there' and yet the teachers and directors are helping them go through those kind of gyrations."

Under Edwards' bill, if a school district knowingly permits such a performance, funds from the state would be reduced in an amount to be determined by the education commissioner.

Chalk one up for silly legislation. Although, from what I remember, high school cheerleading ruitines were usually pretty tame - at least compared to college and professional sports where there are usually both cheerleaders and various dance squads. I think that someone has been watching too many B-rate high school cheerleading flicks. Pink Dome has a choice picture as well.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:47 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Terri Schiavo Must Not Die

By Andrew Dobbs

[Ed. Note. Andrew has written a follow-up post changing his position on this issue. I would urge you to read it. - Byron]

I don't know if any of you have been keeping up with this case, but this is one that has been muddled by the various social issue special interest groups when this the law is clearly being ignored.

Terri Schiavo is a woman from Florida who had a massive heart attack in 1991, causing her heart to stop beating and depriving her brain of oxygen. This resulted in massive brain damage. Her husband argues that she is in a Persistent Vegitative State (PVS), her parents argue that this is not true. She is able to breathe on her own, but has to be fed through a tube. Her husband-- who has lived with another woman since 1995-- wants to remove the tube, commencing a two-week process of starvation and dehydration to end Terri's life. Her parents want no such thing. Law suits have been waged, and now Congress has been trying to pass a law to save her life. So what is the controversy?

First, diagnosing PVS isn't a cut and dry sort of thing. Because people with significant brain trauma typically have radically disrupted sleep cycles, it takes several hours of observation over the course of several weeks to establish a diagnosis of PVS. The doctors Schiavo's husband has hired observed her for about 45 minutes each. Furthermore, an MRI scan is standard in these sorts of things, as one would imagine. But shockingly, Schiavo has never had an MRI scan, and in fact has only had a CT scan (considered much less conclusive) almost 15 years ago. So the diagnosis is really not well established.

Secondly, there is ample evidence that Schiavo is in fact not in a PVS. PVS cases, by their very definition, have no awareness of the world around them- they are unable to respond to stimulii and do not recognize their surroundings. Schiavo is able to feel pain- she moans and grimaces when struck for various reflex tests- she also recognizes her family and smiles when they are around. If someone can feel pain it seems horrific to starve them to death.

Also, Terri has not received the treatment typically given in PVS cases. Some doctors who have examined her feel that physical therapy could dramatically improve her state. She'll never be the same, but perhaps she could regain some of the lost brain functions. Her husband has put her into a hospice that does not provide such care. In fact, a series of bed sores and other indications suggest that she might be facing neglect in the hospice. When there are indications that a person could get better, it seems cruel to simply end their life.

Finally, why wouldn't her husband simply divorce her and move on with his life? The answer lies in the fact that in the early 90s he was awarded a $750,000 malpractice settlement, with the money earmarked for her teatment. If he divorces her what is left of the money (as much as $450,000 of which has gone to legal fees in his fight against her parents) will go to her next of kin- her parents. However, if she dies he keeps the money. He claims that she said that she did not want to be kept alive with "artificial means." However, she is not on a respirator, only a feeding tube and there is no evidence that she claimed this other than Schiavo's testimony.

In the end, Terri Schiavo is being deprived of her life without due process. Her husband paid for a series of "expert witnesses" who will say anything for the right price or are well-known advocates of the "right to die" movement. The judge bought this testimony, despite a lack of scientific evidence, and now Terri Schiavo will begin starving to death over the course of the next several days. Something is wrong with a country that will let its most vulnerable citizens be put to death for no reason other than her husband wants to move on with a chunk of cash meant to treat her illness.

Republicans have taken the lead on this issue, but that is no reason not to start fighting for her as well. The Democratic Party is the party of the weak, the forgotten, the downtrodden and those who have faced grave injustice. We must stand up for Terri Schiavo if we want our party to mean anything in the future. Terri Schiavo must not die.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 01:46 PM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

March 17, 2005

More Conservative Hysteria Over HB 3

By Byron LaMasters

This one, in the form of an editorial certainly crosses the line regarding appropriate discussion regarding race in the 21st century. Calling this editorial blatantly racist would be a reasonable characterization. Here are excerpts from this week's Park Cities People editorial (emphasis mine):

A Government of Pygmies

The stature of the Texas Legislature shrinks with every session

John Adams warned long ago that there never was a democracy that didn’t commit suicide. This week the state House put the gun to…Texas’ head. Whether the Texas Senate will pull the trigger is still an open question.

The finance bill passed by the House shuffles the array of taxes available to the state like a deck of cards. It adds a few dollars to public education, but then promptly adds mandates on how school districts are required to spend it. In all, it is “revenue neutral.” That is another way of saying it provides no new money.

For a moment, let’s pass over what this means to the Highland Park schools. (And it means nothing good.) Let’s see what it means to the state of Texas.

First, a few unpleasant facts. In just 10 years, Anglos will be a minority in North Texas. In North Texas. We already have the highest rate of teens giving birth in the nation. We rank second among states for child abuse, 43rd for children born into poverty, and 45th in the number of kids who graduate from high school.

If those social problems correlate to poverty, they can do nothing but get worse. Median household income — which has risen every decade since Texas was a republic — is expected to drop two percentage points a decade for the next 40 years.

At the same time, Dallas-Fort Worth will grow 55 percent, from 5.3 million to 8 million over the next 10 years.

What kind of picture does this paint?

What about this picture — huge growth, a less educated workforce, declining household income — does the Legislature not understand? [...]

The real problem is not money. Money is a tool. The real problem is mediocrity.

Robin Hood — take from the “rich” and give to the “poor” — was the liberals’ answer to school finance, and like the socialism it emulates, its end result was to discourage excellence and to flatten education to a level aimed at the lowest common denominator.

Now conservatives are in charge. The House has already shown what a difference this makes — none. Now the Texas Senate says it will do better. Its solution — apparently a majority have already signed on to it — is a statewide property tax to replace local taxes. And what will the end result of that be? To discourage excellence and flatten education to the lowest common denominator. [...]

Any pygmy can become a giant by standing on the nearest rock. What we need in Texas is a Republican leader willing to look around for one.

I'll start by agreeing with one aspect of the editorial. The real problem is mediocrity. Texas must not settle for mediocrity, and Democrats refused to settle for mediocrity by voting against HB 3. I applaud them for that.

Having said that, parts of this editorial step way over the line. The term "pygmy" broadly refers to an exceptionally short individual, although the term more specifically refers to members of various tribes in equatorial Africa and Southeast Asia. By itself, "pygmy" doesn't necessarily have a racial context, but the editorial goes on to make a blatantly racist statement: "First, a few unpleasant facts. In just 10 years, Anglos will be a minority in North Texas".

Excuse me? Poverty, high teen birth rates and child abuse are unpleasant facts, but the fact that Anglos are declining as a portion of the regional population? Why is that an unpleasant fact? I guess that the Park Cities People are looking for an unreconstructed George Wallace or Lester Maddox to lead the Texas GOP to victory in 2006.

Update: More at The Frontburner.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:06 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Update on My Moral Dilemma

By Andrew Dobbs

So my post on abortion has already received 100 comments and counting, perhaps a new BOR record. I thought that it would spur discussion, but I was really only expecting like 20 or so tops. This issue really brings out a lot of people, as well it should. This isn't tax policy or something else arcane and dry- it is a debate about life itself and whether or not we are engaged in some kind of monstrosity. It is an issue which cuts to the core of our values as Americans, an issue which we ought to keep discussing- hopefully with some honesty and respect for one another.

But I wanted to clear a couple of things up. First, I haven't quite made up my mind as to what I believe about this issue, so to all the right wing bloggers congratulating me for jumping ship, hold on for a second. All I know right now is that I really don't like the arguments extended by the two major parties. Republicans are ripe with hypocrisy when they argue that every life is sacred before abandoning children to hunger, poverty, disease and squalor. We Democrats on the other hand seem to only be concerned with what sounds good politically- they say that there is nothing wrong with getting any kind of abortion, even late term ones, but that they should nonetheless be rare. On the one hand, there are no moral consequences to abortion, on the other it seems there are. People will argue that it is a traumatic event, but so is open heart surgery or masectomies. Should these be "rare" as well? We need to pick a side.

Furthermore, for those decrying me as a Republican, I think that it is funny how my rethinking of this issue has caused me to actually become far more liberal. I had become relatively conservative on a lot of issues of social welfare policy, but if we are to end abortion in this country it must be coincident with a dramatic improvement in our spending on health care, education, housing and other social services. We also must take on the issues of low-paying jobs, high crime neighborhoods and urban decay. We must prevent child abuse before it happens, improve sex ed and provide better access to contraception. It has to be a societal change, not merely a legal one. Further, it makes you start to think about the death penalty and war. I suppose that war is for self-defense (and we don't need to get into Iraq right now- one argument at a time) and the death penalty is ending a life that is not innocent as an unborn child is, but one has to ask- who has the right to choose who lives and who dies? It seems that no mortal being has that right, and so all of these things must be called into question.

Finally, I have been looking around the web for various opinions, and I found one where someone said many of the arguments I was making (in a devil's advocate sense, pardon the blasphemy) but used one paragraph rather than several pages. Nat Hentoff has been a left-wing journalist for decades- he was friends with Malcolm X, protested Vietnam, he was basically a socialist. He is also dramatically pro-life. I found a perfect quote from a left-wing, secular, pro-life perspective in a famous piece he wrote that says:

Yet being without theology isn't the slightest hindrance to being pro-life. As any obstetrics manual -- Williams Obstetrics, for example -- points out, there are two patients involved, and the one not yet born "should be given the same meticulous care by the physician that we long have given the pregnant woman." Nor, biologically, does it make any sense to draw life-or-death lines at viability. Once implantation takes place, this being has all the genetic information within that makes each human being unique. And he or she embodies continually developing human life from that point on. It misses a crucial point to say that the extermination can take place because the brain has not yet functioned or because that thing is not yet a "person." Whether the life is cut off in the fourth week or the fourteenth, the victim is one of our species, and has been from the start.

This issue is hard to handle in a non-religious way. Life and humanity aren't things that can be considered without the influence of religion and theology. The fact of the matter is that as soon as an embryo has implanted, it has all of the genetic material that makes it a human, that makes it a unique human distinguishable from all others, that makes it a living creature. Should we consider its life any less important than that of a new born infant's or a full-grown adult just because it still requires a mother to survive? Is there a point in our lives when our rights do not include the right to life? Is one person's comfort and peace of mind worth another's life? These are tough questions, and we must answer them if we wish to be a moral country.

At this time, I have to admit that I'm leaning towards the side of life. Biologically speaking, it is a unique human life, and morally speaking it is wrong to end such a thing. Still, I am loathe to make such a big change without talking it out with people I trust. I appreciate everyone's input, and I'll keep everyone up to date on what happens with this whole line of thought.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 03:29 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

March 16, 2005

Kinky's Immigration Policy

By Byron LaMasters

Weird, to say the least. From O'Reilly last night:

O'REILLY: All right. Now we just had a discussion on the border and the chaotic immigration. And you're in Texas, you're the governor, what do you do about the border?

FRIEDMAN: Well, my plan is to bring back like the Bracero Program from 1944 that ran for 20 years where the Mexican government vets these people. I mean, they pay for it, and they get green cards, and they're actually legitimate. And then seal the border.

O'REILLY: Do you trust the Mexicans to do that?

FRIEDMAN: Well, we -- it would probably have -- it would be both sides, 679 miles-- fair to both sides. Definitely I would seal the border by bringing in the -- I think you're basically right about that.

O'REILLY: The National Guard.

FRIEDMAN: Bring in the National Guard, the Texas Rangers, the entire Polish Army, whatever it takes.

O'REILLY: Well, you could -- as Governor Friedman, you can call the Guard out and you can put the Guard right behind the federal Border Patrol. Arnold Schwarzenegger could do that tomorrow if he so desired.

FRIEDMAN: And I want them to help. I mean, good fences...

O'REILLY: Absolutely. That's what they're there for.

FRIEDMAN: ...Good fences make good neighbors, and, Mr. Fox, help us build that fence.

The Bracero Program? The Polish Army? Huh? More at Rick Perry vs. the World.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:18 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Move Along People

By Jim Dallas

Scott Peterson gets the death penalty. Finally.

The Chronicle also reports that the Robert Blake jury has reached a verdict.

One only wonders what the next round of sensational crime stories the media will have to report on. Michael Jackson's trial is well-under way, of course; there's always that. And there's always the Atlanta courthouse rampage.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 04:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Around the Blogs with Tom DeLay

By Byron LaMasters

I was away from the computer for about 24 hours, and I'm a little bit behind with the latest on Tom DeLay, so follow these links for more...

The Daily Delay is the best place to start, and be sure to sign up on their latest project calling for DeLay's resignation at Without DeLay. Daily Kos reposted Tom's Get out of Jail Free Card. Kuff, as always, has a comprehensive wrap-up as does The Stakeholder.

More thoughts at Drive Democracy and Houtopia.

Who am I missing?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:58 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Remove Al Edwards from the DNC

By Byron LaMasters

Exactly what Greg said - there is no excuse to allow the one "Democrat" who voted with Republicans for HB 3 - the largest tax hike in Texas history - to continue serving on the DNC.

Update: Via comments and Houston Democrats is how Rep. Edwards explained his vote:

Representative Edwards took my phone call this afternoon and was very gracious in his explanation of his vote for HB3. And he had a very good reason. The conference committee will not include any members that voted against the bill. In order to ensure that the Democratic Party has a voice in crafting the final version of the bill, Mr. Edwards and the Democratic leadership decided one Democrate would have to vote for for the bill, since voting against it would not have prevented its passage. In addition, he feels that a positive aspect of the bill is the broadening of the tax base to include business that currently are exempt from the franchise tax.

Well, this is certainly better than voting for the bill on the merits, but voting for a bill to get a seat at the table in order to get crumbs of what you want, isn't worth giving Republicans even the smallest amount of political cover.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Conservative Groups Attack HB 3

By Byron LaMasters

Via Quorum Report is news that major conservative organizations are increasingly vocal in their opposition to HB 3. HB 3 passed 78-70 (PDF file) on the second reading on Monday. Yesterday, two conservative organizations released statements on the issue. The Young Conservatives of Texas wrote:

The Republican-led Texas House of Representatives has taken a big step toward doing what Democrats could not do in over 120 consecutive years in power – enacting a virtual state income tax. For many years, Texas Republicans advocated fiscal restraint, and their opposition to a state income tax was axiomatic. Those days are long over, and Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland) is to blame.

This session, the House Leadership led by Speaker Craddick is dumping billions of new wasteful spending into the state budget. Fiscal restraint is off the table. What is on the table is a new way to take money from the people, which will constitute a net tax increase for most Texans.

Of course, the Republican Leadership does not have the courage to call this an income tax or assess it directly against the people. Instead, they call it a “payroll tax” and assess it against employers rather than employees.

Also yesterday, the Texas Public Policy Foundation wrote:

By the look of morning-after coverage in the state’s newspapers, a review of talk radio callers, and the recent flood of phone calls from voters and taxpayers, Texans are focused on the plethora of new taxes they will be paying, not the property tax cut.

Unfortunately, House members who put their reputation on the line to vote for this enormous tax bill will soon realize what became obvious almost immediately: no one will remember the property tax cut, only the vote to tax small business through a hidden income tax and increase the sales tax to the highest rate in the nation.

For two decades, Republicans made historic gains nationally and in Texas based on a simple marketing campaign: they were the party opposed to tax shifts and rate increases. They were the fairy godmother to taxpayers.

One has to admit that House Bill 3, which passed 78-70, is indeed historic. The Republican-led Texas House of Representatives accomplished something Democrats have wanted to do for decades, but could not. The state of Texas now has an income tax. Defenders of the bill said it was not an income tax, but a payroll tax, or a “Reformed Franchise Tax,” then it became a “compensation tax.” Now we have a “basket” of taxes from which business owners may choose. One thing is certain, the new scheme is sure to make basket cases out of Texans trying to do their taxes next year.

Democrats ought to have a field day with this one come 2006...

Update: Repulican Talk Radio reaction:

73 Pantywaisted Texas House members voted to approve HB3 on Monday night, March 13. HB3 hits small businesses and regular citizens with new and increased taxes The Republicans have charge of the Texas Legislature for the first time in a century and they voted for a HUGE NEW tax!! What are they thinking??!!

I am asking all citizens to send the Republicans (and Dems too if you want) who voted for the tax a pair of PANTIES since they proved they are sissies! (You can buy a yellow pair at Walmart for 88 cents.) Send the panties to as many BAD House members that you can afford to.

All House members (especially Republicans who voted for the tax) deserve the panties!! Let them know you think they wimped out by sending them a new selection of underwear!!! REMEMBER, THESE PEOPLE GET THE PANTIES!!!


Another Update: Also at Pink Dome.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 15, 2005

The Statesman on Tom DeLay

By Byron LaMasters

Their editorial today:

The steady stream of ethical charges flowing around U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay for more than a year are now threatening to inundate him.

DeLay has been admonished three times in the past 12 months by the House Ethics Committee. He is central to a Travis County grand jury investigation of possible campaign law violations and faces new questions about his travel and lobby connections.

Concerns arose last week about a trip DeLay, and others, accepted from the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council. The council is a registered foreign agent, which would make the trip illegal under House rules.

The powerful Republican from Sugar Land has not taken all this criticism calmly. Under his leadership, the GOP recently changed the makeup of the Ethics Committee, canning the former chairman and adding to the panel DeLay's friend, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, a Republican from San Antonio whose district includes parts of Austin.

GOP leaders also pushed through rules changes that would protect DeLay's position if he is indicted; allow easier dismissal of an ethics complaint; and allow one attorney to represent multiple clients accused of ethics violations. Most of this was done in secret, and House Democrats finally revolted.

To protest the rules changes, Democrats prevented the Ethics Committee from organizing last week. Because the 10-member panel is evenly divided by party, it couldn't produce a majority vote to adopt the new rules. Without rules, the House now has no mechanism to investigate or punish members.

The House is, as The Washington Post editorialized, "an ethics-free zone." Democrats insist that they will keep the pressure on until the Republicans undo the rules changes adopted to cover DeLay.

How long the GOP will put up with DeLay's power plays and ethical lapses is a matter for speculation. But some Republicans already are acknowledging that DeLay's position is weakening.

One Republican consultant quoted recently resorted to a remarkable bit of verbal gymnastics to describe DeLay's position. "The situation is negatively fluid right now for the guy," he said.

DeLay brought this on himself. His scorched-earth partisanship, coziness with lobbyists and flippant attitude toward House ethics rules made him a vulnerable target.

Republicans would be wise to get themselves another majority leader before more damage is done.

Tom DeLay must go. He must resign or we must defeat him.

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

Tom DeLay Must Go

By Byron LaMasters

The Daily DeLay is starting the campaign to get Tom DeLay to resign. Join them.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What the heck else are you going to do in Van Horn?

By Jim Dallas

Many people have gone totally mad while driving around in West Texas. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos appears to have joined the club, according to today's Houston Chronicle:

VAN HORN — Even skeptical locals, who've become wary over the years of city slickers with big ideas for their town, perked up when Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos made his pitch — a spaceport for commercial travel into space.

Bezos flew into this West Texas town a few weeks ago to tell key leaders how he planned to use his newly acquired 165,000 acres of desolate ranch land. He also gave his only interview so far on the spaceport to the Van Horn Advocate, the weekly newspaper Larry Simpson runs from the back of his Radio Shack store.

"He walked in and said: 'Hi, I'm Jeff Bezos,' and sat down right in that chair there," Simpson said, pointing to spot in his small cluttered office.

Over the next 30 to 40 minutes, Simpson said Bezos told him the goal of his venture — known as Blue Origin — was to send a spaceship into orbit that launches and lands vertically, like a rocket.

"He told me their first spacecraft is going to carry three people up to the edge of space and back," Simpson said. "But ultimately, his thing is space colonization."

All this reminds me that I still have undeveloped photos from our trip to New Mexico last fall.

For what it's worth, here's the original Advocate story. And the Blue Origin web site.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:58 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 14, 2005

Atrocity Watch

By Jim Dallas

Because there's nothing better than screwing the common folk on a lovely spring evening, the Legislature passed H.B. 3 just a few hours ago. Brad Plumer, who is guest blogging over at Washington Monthly, has already gotten in a few gasps as of this writing. Shock and awe, and all.

The final vote was 78-70. I don't know the break down on the roll call vote, since it hasn't been posted yet. But it looks like a few Republicans crossed party lines to vote against it. Pink Dome has the details on amendments.

Meanwhile, In The Pink Texas reports on Wonkette's appearance in Austin.

P.S. Quorum Report just posted the vote record.

P.S.S. This is of course "tentative" in so far as it's only the second reading. Hence the Chronicle's headline.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 11:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Andrew's Abortion Post

By Byron LaMasters

There are now 45 Comments on Andrew's post regarding his evolving views on the abortion issue. Several conservative/Republican blogs have picked up on Andrew's post leading hundreds of viewers to the post. Two female friends of mine have called me in the past day regarding their thoughts on Andrew's post on the issue. I hope that Andrew's post can serve as a starting point towards debate in the Democratic Party. I've said before that my position is unequivocal - I am 100% pro-choice and I believe that abortion is an issue not for me, but for the woman, her partner, her doctor and her God.

Having said that, I think that pro-life and pro-choice people ought to do more to work together to reduce abortion. I oppose anything that would punish woman for choosing abortion, but I think that steps should be made to encourage women with unwanted pregnancies to choose adoption (along with the obvious steps that should be taken to reduce unwanted pregnancies). I would like to see the Democratic Party be more serious about the belief that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare". Abortion is rarely an ideal solution, but I don't think that women should feel shame over making responsible reproductive decisions either.

I don't have much else to say on this, but this is a debate that needs further discussion. I would very much like to have a pro-choice woman's perspective on this debate, and if there is anyone out there who would like to contribute to this debate in the form of a guest post, please email me at: Byron AT BurntOrangeReport DOT com. Thanks =)

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:13 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Dallas County Judge Margaret Keliher in Trouble

By Byron LaMasters

It's nice to know that Dallas County Democrats aren't the only ones involved in a public feud. The Dallas Morning News writes of the Republican quarrels on the Dallas County Commissioners Court:

Discord among Dallas County commissioners has grown so personal and vitriolic that some political observers fear it could hamper the county's ability to solve serious issues.

The four Republican members of the Commissioners Court publicly acknowledge the deteriorating atmosphere on the panel, which stems from an irritation over the leadership style of County Judge Margaret Keliher.

Commissioners Mike Cantrell and Kenneth Mayfield's displeasure with the judge has grown so pervasive they now routinely cast withering remarks her way during weekly court meetings and try to trip her up on the rules of order for moving legislation.

They complain that she works as a loner, neglects to keep them informed, fails to attempt consensus-building, and airs the county's dirty laundry in public for no good purpose when it would be better to solve problems quietly, behind the scenes – the way former County Judge Lee Jackson did.

Ms. Keliher, in turn, considers the commissioners' demeanor rude and unprofessional and says she's just trying to provide a more open county government and publicly air the issues of the day.

"I don't have any personal disdain for Judge Keliher," Mr. Mayfield said. "But she doesn't bring people together. She's out on her own."

The Dallas County Commissioners Court has a 4-1 GOP majority. Both the Precinct 4 seat and County Judge are up in 2006. The DPI (Democratic Performance Index - meaning the average Democratic performance) of Dallas County was 50.18% in 2004. The DPI has increased by about 1.5% each cycle for the past several cycles. The DPI of precinct 4 is in the high 40s. Dallas County is turning Democratic, but it is critical that we recruit a quality candidate for County Judge (an executive, not judicial position). My top choices would be 2000 Congressional candidate Regina Montoya Coggins, Former State Sen. David Cain or Former State Rep. Dale Tillery. One of them should be recruited.

Beyond that, Democrats are well-positioned to take back Dallas County government. The keys to taking over county government are winning a majority on the Commissioners Court, and winning the DA office, District Clerk and County Clerk (since we won the sheriff's office in 2004). I know that a top-notch African-American candidate has been recruited to run for DA, but the other offices are in need of good Democrats to step up. It is my hope that Dallas Democrats will be able to unite under new leadership in order to be victorious in 2006.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Rick Noriega Returns

By Byron LaMasters

State Rep. Rick Noriega (D-Houston) returned to the state house last week while on leave from the National Guard. Noriega has been serving in Afghanistan. Houston Democrats and Kuff have more. I'll join them in saluting Rep. Noriega. Thank you for your service, and have you thought about running for U.S. Senate? I couldn't think of a better profile...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BOR on CNN's Inside Politics?

By Byron LaMasters

I've received several emails this afternoon telling us that we got a plug on CNN's Inside Politics today. I didn't have the chance to watch, but I'm curious - what exactly did they say?

Let us know in comments...

Update: Ok, via email, here's the transcript (emphasis mine):

CROWLEY: Tom DeLay is among the hot topics in the blogsphere today. Here with me now to tell us all about it are CNN political producer Abbi Tatton and our blog reporter Jacki Schechner. Jacki, what are you hearing about Tom DeLay, or reading, I guess?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Candy. What we're reading about in regard to Tom DeLay is just the blogs, especially those on the left, keeping track of what is going on; all of his alleged ethical transgressions. Not so much digging on their part but really sort of collecting a roundup of what has been going on. Over at the Burnt Orange Report, a liberal Texas blog, they smell blood. He says: "There's something big coming soon," over at Running Scared, another liberal blog. They say: "While the Democrats are drooling, the Republicans are concerned. And he says: "With new allegations servicing on a near daily basis, the bug man is rapidly becoming a liability." So speaking of daily.

ABBI TATTON, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: Yes. If you're having trouble of keeping track of all the DeLay stories out there, go to thedailydelay.blogspot.com. This gives you a roundup of all the different mainstream media stories out there on the congressman. Now Congressman Tom DeLay is also the subject of tomorrow's Blog Call. This is a group of liberal and progressive bloggers who have got together. They don't want to wait around for the mainstream media to pick up on their exposes. They want attention. So they have organized this weekly conference call, a blog call, where they're inviting members of the mainstream media to call in and find out what they're blogging about. Not reading the blogs themselves, actually calling up on the phone. Now this was the subject of a New York Times piece today that lots of bloggers have been linking to and reading and commenting on. Here, Amy Langfield (ph), not a political blogger, but read this this morning in The New York Times and she wonders why reporters can't just read the Internet. "This story," she says, "it's about some frothy political bloggers holding a conference call so reporters don't know how to use the Internet can listen to bloggers talk about what they've posted on sites in the past week. Just shoot me now."

Continued in the extended entry...

SCHECHNER: It's actually organized by a democrats.com, which is a liberal site, the Blog Call is organized by them. So obviously on the conservative side they are lashing out. They've got some pretty harsh words. We found one that was a little less scathing, and it's Outside the Beltway. And they say that they have no problems with bloggers trying to get notice in the mainstream press, or with activist bloggers banding together to get the message out. Their problem, this was interesting, is that the conference calls represent bloggers acting as political operatives and not as journalists. Another story that the blogosphere is talking about, the blogs talking about the blogs today, feels like a Monday, is that over at -- it was News Day, it was Stephen Levy's (ph) article -- or Newsweek, I'm sorry, my bad, Newsweek. Stephen Levy's article about the blogosphere being made up of primarily white males, or dominated by white males. A lot of the blogs think this is just a perception. It's not actually in fact the case. There are some people who feel that that's what's going on. But they have got some arguments against it over at Air Force Voices. This gentleman says he's a Hispanic male, so maybe he should just stop blogging, being sarcastic. What he liked about Captain Ed, over at Captain's Quarters, is he talks about he marketed his blog. He's one of the bigger blogs. And says that in short: "I took the time to learn my market and adapted accordingly. I haven't stopped marketing the blog either and don't plan to any time soon.

TATTON: Chrisnolan.com (ph) here, this is a female journalist writing about politics, the media and the Internet. She is saying -- she is talking about this and she has 10 issues here. One of the things she points out, this medium was first taken up by techies. And she's saying that men are linking to men even though the blogosphere has gotten much larger, most of these men still reading the guys they started out with three years ago. There are broader horizons but it's pretty much just talk.

My general mantra on blogging is that any publicity is good publicity. Even when the mainstream media attacks blogs, their attacks only serve to spur interest in our medium - thus increasing our visibilty and traffic. So, I take pride in the fact that CNN is watching what we write here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:37 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Filings for the Dallas County School Board

By Byron LaMasters

I finally got on the Dallas County Democratic Party email list, and today's email brings news of two Democrats filing to run for the Dallas County School Board:

Ann Hubener and Pauline Dixon, both longtime Democrats, have filed for Dallas County School Board of Trustees. Both are active in the Democratic Party and have served their communities in many leadership roles.

Hubener, a Duncanville realtor, is running for the District 4 seat. Dixon, a retired schoolteacher and former Congressional candidate, is vying for the District 1 seat.

In addition to bus service, Dallas County Schools provides medias ervices, psychological services, and technology services to area school districts. The last day to register to vote is April 7. Early voting runs from April 20-May 3. Election Day is May 7.

Ann Hubener is the mother of Katy Hubener - the 2004 Democratic nominee for HD 106 who nearly defeated Ray Allen. Dixon was the 2002 Democratic nominee for CD 32, losing to Pete Sessions. Dixon also ran for Dallas County School Board in 2003 finishing third in a field of six for two at-large seats (interestingly, now-Sheriff Lupe Valdez was also among the losing candidates in that field - I endorsed Dixon and Valdez in that race). Both Hubener and Dixon are great Democrats, and would certainly add some needed diversity to a White-male dominated board.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:06 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

SXSW Interactive blogging

By Nathan Nance

I'm in Austin today blogging the SXSW Interactive Festival. Right now I'm sitting in a panel discussion on blogging about online worlds. Not real worlds; online worlds.

But at least these are our people. They're gamers and bloggers.

I'll be blogging all day from the Conention Center, liveblogging the keynote interiew of Wonkette at 2, and the Al Franken conversation at 5:30. It'll be over at my blog Common Sense at its new URL and blog host. Eileen from In the Pink and Pink Dome are supposed to be here as well.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 10:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tom Musselman for City Council

By Byron LaMasters

Karl-Thomas's father is running for Fredericksburg city council. Tell your friends in Fredricksburg to support Tom Musselman for Fredericksburg City Council. I would encourage you all to donate to the campaign, but apparently Fredericksburg city council candidates rarely receive outside funding, so that would be bad form. Regardless, Karl-Thomas's father has extensive conections in Fredericksburg, and would be a great service to the council. Learn more about his campaign here.

Update: There's a (sort-of) blog here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Metaphor Abuse

By Jim Dallas

The Washington Post reports on the status of Rep. Tom DeLay's bodily fluids:

"If death comes from a thousand cuts, Tom DeLay is into a couple hundred, and it's getting up there," said a Republican political consultant close to key lawmakers. "The situation is negatively fluid right now for the guy. You start hitting arteries, it only takes a couple." The consultant, who at times has been a DeLay ally, spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying he could not be candid otherwise.

That may very well be the most tortured play on the "death by a thousand" paper cuts cliche I've ever seen. But, for what it's worth, one possible reading of the rest of the story in light of this graf suggests that there's something big coming soon. Of course, when a journalist taking the pulse (sorry) of an elected official is reduced to printing obligatory "we support our man" quotes from his allies, you know the prognosis (sorry) is not good.

(I apologize if this wordplay is a tad insensitive in light of Rep. DeLay's recent heart trouble. We at Burnt Orange Report wish the congressman good health.)

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:39 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Public Service Announcement.

By Jim Dallas

Those credit card company folks are trying to make money off of you you.* As Amanda at Mouse Words writes:

The credit card companies want nothing more than to have the students paying off a lifetime's worth of debt by the time they graduate and it's sick. I know people who are in their mid-30s still trying to catch up with charges they rang up before they turned 21. That's all this bankruptcy bill is about, making sure that nothing even slows down the process of transferring the wealth of the nation from the hands of the many to the hands of the few and getting us on track to being feudal as soon as possible.

You probably knew this, but like some messages (e.g. "Don't Do Drugs," "Stay in School," "Watch Where You Put Your Hands, You Don't Know Where They've Been") it bears repetition.

* I would use more incendiary words like "scam", "parasite", "financially raped", etc., but after all what kind of laissez-faire liberal would I be if I automatically presumed that you didn't enjoy that sort of thing? We're all big girls and boys 'round here.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Our Weeklong Forecast is Partly Cloudy

By Jim Dallas

As noted below, it's National Sunshine Week. How does Texas measure up in government transparency? Scott at Grits for Breakfast (whose blog I do not read enough) writes a mixed review. The good news is that Texas would be a great model for the feds. The bad news is that Texas's open records law is only fair-to-midling among state baby-FOIAs.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 04:36 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 13, 2005

Dallas County Dems Get Redesigned Website

By Vince Leibowitz

I hate to be a bloghog, but I guess I've just had several interesting posts to make today, not the least of which is that the Dallas County Democratic Party has a newly redesigned website.

According to my sources, the DCDP's previous webmaster resigned from assisting the party with any functions that aren't fee-paied, though he will continue to host the site.

Not sure exactly what caused the change over, but I understand it had something to do with the party's "Weekly Update" e-mail newsletter.

All of this follows the controversy of a couple of weeks ago which both Byron and I posted on extensively. Perhaps Byron can shed some light on this new development.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 10:27 PM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Sunshine Week!

By Vince Leibowitz

[This post has been updated. Click on the "Read More" link for the update]

Happy Sunshine Week!

For those of you who don't know, Sunshine Week is the week where Texans (especially those who write for newspapers) celebrate and educate others about "sunshine" (aka open government) laws in the state.

In Texas, there are two main open government laws: The Texas Public Information Act and the Texas Open Meetings Act.

For those of you unaware how open government laws came into existance in Texas, the Longview News-Journal (via Cox News Service) has a great article that traces it back to the days of the Sharpstown Scandal.

As someone who has used both the Texas Public Information Act and the Texas Open Meetings Act to help gather news and information for my readers back when I was in print media, I can tell you that our state truly has some of the best Sunshine Laws in existance. But, they always need tweaking.

I can't count the times I've seen government bodies try to get the Texas Attorney General's Office to allow them to withold records they should have released to begin with, or that I've seen government bodies try to violate (or actually violate) the provisions of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

I have vivid memories of an instance where a city in Van Zandt County refused to say anything or release any documents that would reveal why its City Secretary had resigned or been fired--at the time, we didn't know which. We believed it had something to do with financial mismanagement (it did), and ended up requesting to see so many documents they literally filled the city's small council chamber which was, at that time, a long board-room type table in a long, narrow room. Finally, as we were going through this massive mountain of documents, the Mayor came in and said, "Look, here's the deal..." and we got the story and the letter of resignation, which we'd requested to begin with but were told didn't exist (yeah, right).

In particular, I'm especially proud of one achievement for which I recieved a shiny glass award from the Texas Press Association and Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. One of the things I was cited for was securing a favorable decision from the AG's Open Records Committee regarding the release of documents containing rejected or unadopted settlement offers in lawsuits against government bodies.

I think, over the years, as a reporter or private citizen, I've filed at least 200 open records requests with government bodies.

But, what I've always wondered is why more Bloggers don't get in on the act? There are a lot of "speculative" stories we write which could be bolstered with documents we could obtain under the Texas Public Information Act. I guess that, given the "immediate" nature of our medium, waiting 10 days for documents and possibly another sixty for an AG's decision is a little too long a wait.

At any rate, it's Sunshine Week! So, let's all work to "Let The Sun Shine In"!


There is a blogger version of Sunshine Sunday and Sunshine Week, too. It's called BlogShine. Check it out.

In addition, in the spirit of shining the light, I wanted to post two links that can help you figure out how your state senators and state reps voted on various pieces of legislation and amendments, etc. The House Journal and Senate Journal are both online. They can be searched by specific bill number. Or, you can go to the date od a specific vote and just scroll through. I highly reccomend using the HTML versions as opposed to the PDF.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 02:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Retire/Rehire Controversy

By Vince Leibowitz

Most folks who don't know a lot about the Teacher's Retirement System of Texas and who don't follow some of the more mundane parts of education policy and politics in Texas may not be familiar with the concept of "retire/rehire," whereby teachers may retire from active employment with a school district, and then go back to work for that or another school district while drawing both their TRS pension and a salary--sometimes without a loss of pension benefits.

There is a great article about the practice in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram today, and rather than rehash bits and pieces of it, I'll just say it's worth a read for anyone following the Lege this session.

On that same note, the article mentions private companies that school districts may contract with to administrate "retire/rehire" programs. I've heard the pitch of one of these companies, JR3, back when I was covering an Edgewood Independent School District Board of Trustees meeting a few years ago.

If, after reading the article, you don't think there is serious potential for abuse of this system by local districts--or that it may be being abused at all, consider this "testimonial" statement from JR3's website by a school district:

The district was having financial difficulties and cash flow problems. The superintendent recommended that the district work with JR3 in order to encourage individuals who were at the top of the salary scale to retire in order to save the district money in the following areas: (a) health insurance, (b) worker's compensation, (c) unemployment insurance, and (d) FICA/Medicare. Thirty one individuals decided to take advantage of the JR3 option and the district has currently saved over $250,000 in personnel costs. JR3 offers options for those employees who are contemplating retirement.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 02:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Not exactly related

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Just a public service announcement. If you want a G-mail (google e-mail, 1 gigabyte) Account, just leave a comment with the e-mail address you want me to send the invitation to. I have 50 invites and don't mind tossing a few overboard.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 10:18 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Blog Shoutout

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Since I have nothing better to do at the momment, I guess I'll post about State Rep. Aaron Pena's blogging. Though it doesn't have any comments, and it's impossible to link to any page directly, I'll pull some quotes out from the March posts that I thought were funny.

Actually, I just realized that I can't even cut and paste the text from his site. Well damn. I'll just say that you should read the first 4 March entries and know that the numa numa dance was mentioned, re-confirmation that State Rep. Richard Raymond wants to run for Congress, that the "Lobby" reads blogs (oh yay), and that state Rep. Jim Dunnam has a new nickname (Cupcake) thanks to an amendment he made on behalf of his daughter.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 08:03 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Survey for You (maybe)

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

A friend of mine here at college is doing a Sociology survey on sexism and asked me to set up a web based version. Well, after all that coding (thanks Dreamweaver) I'm not going to let my time go to waste. So if you are a male (the only requirement other than being able use the Internet) please answer this short survey for him.

Tomorrow I'm headed home to spend my spring break working on my father's city council race. I sent out the first e-mails of the campaign today (to a whopping 20 people) using Constant Contact thanks to their 60 day free trial. Who said we weren't thrifty Germans?

250 Yard signs have been made, thanks to student support last Friday, and almost 10% of them have already been put up. Understand though, that four years ago, 250 votes basically won you a seat on the city council, and with 4 candidates this go round (compared to 6 then) it's still going to take 400-500 if turnout doesn't change. Of course, I'm planning on increased turnout (higher than the usuual 12% of 7000 voters). More updates soon enough.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 02:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 12, 2005

I Think I Like This Bill...

By Vince Leibowitz

I can't say that I've read all of the more than 5,000 bills filed in the Texas Legislature as of Friday's deadline for filing (and who can?), but I have checked out some bills proposed by my State Senator, Dr. Bob Deuell (R-Greenville).

To be honest, I checked out his filings today because, while in Austin this week, I heard through the grapevine that he was going to file a last-minute bill on parental notification/judicial bypass. Well, I didn't find one, unless I missed it.

I did, however, run across Senate Joint Resolution 44 which would amend the Texas Constitution to allow counties to issue bonds or notes to finance the development or redevelopment of an unproductive, underdeveloped,
or blighted area within the county.

Previously, only municipalities had the option to do this.

While I do believe there are drawbacks to SJR 44 because it could potentially be abused for "economic development," ie, corporate welfare by making "blighted" areas suitable for specific businesses without them having to pay a dime, I believe that this type of financing could help underdeveloped communities across the state in a number of ways.

In our county, we have two wonderful communities which could be considered "blighted." It is my hope that this legislation will allow counties to utilized bonds or certificates of obligation to help such communities--which aren't incorporated municipalities--through things like road improvement and extensive community clean-up.

Both of the communities I'm talking about in our county (and I'm sure you have similar ones in your coounty) are full of wonderful people who have to drive on some of the worst roads in the county and live in some of the worst conditions in the county because the county has no money to make their situation any better.

One community, Rolling Oaks, is in such bad shape because, when it was founded as a subdivision years ago, the subdivision regs were written in such a way that they are totally useless, and most of the roads in the subdivision were never deeded to the county as they should have been back when they were driveable. Now, they're in terrible shape and are "private roads." And, the county can't take them in without either (a) buying the rights of way and roads or (b) some private party paying the money to fix the roads to county specifications and then have the county take them in.

It is my hope that SJR 44 would allow the county to pay for improvements in communities like Rolling Oaks (which has become, in part, a haven for drug dealers, who live in dilapidated manufactured homes and trailers amid the nicer homes and manufactured homes).

Another community, Wynne Community, faces similar problems but doesn't include many manufactured homes. It is an African American settlement totally surrounded by the city of Canton's borders and First Monday Trade Days. Because of subdivision regulations in portions of the community built in the 1960s and 1970s, it faces the same problems relating to bad roads. It also has a public park that needs repair, and has several pieces of property the county could go in and clean up if it had (a) a nuisance ordinance and (b) money to do it.

My hope is that SJR 44 will be able to help counties transform blighted communities into better communities, and not be abused for "corporate welfare."

If it is for the former and not the latter, then I think I like this bill.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 03:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 11, 2005

Rain On Your Parade

By Jim Dallas

The United States and Mexico resolved an important transnational issue yesterday, to wit Rio Grande and Colorado River water debts. Mexico has agreed to release 350,000 acre feet of water a year for the next three years, which will help prevent South Texas farmers from running out of water for their crops.

And what better way to mark such a diplomatic coup than... for Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison to go at each other.

Writes the Houston Chronicle:

"Our diplomacy has been successful, and every drop of the water owed you by Mexico is on the way," Gov. Rick Perry said in the Texas border city of Mission.

"These transfers will ensure that Texas growers have the water they need in time for the planting season and give our farmers, their families and employees some much-needed piece of mind," Perry said.

A statement from the governor's office said the agreement calls for annual meetings to assess conditions in the Rio Grande basin and to develop water-delivery schedules.

Not everyone in Texas was pleased with the arrangement.

Farmers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, some of whom are suing Mexico over the water debt, said the settlement requires repayment of what is owed without compensating them for past damages or fixing the problems that put the country in arrears.

"They're still not addressing what they're going to do when there's a shortage," said Sam Simmons, a farmer in the Lower Rio Grande Valley who is president of the Texas Cotton Producers.

Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison characterized the water deal as too little, too late. All the water owed by Mexico, she said, should be released immediately rather than over a three-year period.

"This agreement is long overdue, and it may well be the best deal available," Hutchison said in a statement released by her Washington office. "But the debt should have been paid in full. ... If anything, the Mexicans should have paid more water as interest on their long-overdue arrearage."

It's getting to the point where there's no more good news anymore, just Perry news and Hutchison news.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 08:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

My Moral Dilemma on Abortion

By Andrew Dobbs

I have been struggling with a rather significant moral crisis of late, really over the last few days. For months I’ve been considering the repercussions and various thoughts behind some of these issues, but some news I read recently put the issue into context, brought it out into full relief and plunged me into this distress. I trust you all and I want to hear what you all think about this one, so please read this rather lengthy post and respectfully comment as you see fit.

Earlier this week I read some coverage of a new euthanasia policy under consideration in the Netherlands. The Netherlands already has laws that allow euthanasia, but the new policies are quite a bit beyond that. The policy would allow the parents of a child born severely deformed or diseased to the point that their life would likely be short to euthanize the infant. In essence, if the child is born with such a condition that they will apparently live a short and “unfulfilling” or painful life, the parents can kill the child after it has already been born.

I find this to be so morally repugnant as to barely need explanation. The ending of an innocent human life is a crime, a catastrophe, something that we should all condemn. If a grown person seeks to end their life rather than suffer a terrible illness and the subsequent loss of dignity, it is my conviction that such is their right (though I believe that physician-assisted suicide violates medical ethics). But an infant has no way of communicating its intentions. Furthermore, many of the illnesses that parents will be able to “treat” with killing their child will be ones that cause no pain for the infant, though the experience will clearly be traumatic for the family. Should one be able to off granny just because taking care of her is a pain- whether granny wants to go or not? Clearly not. An infant is an even more clear case of innocence. So when you kill a living human without its consent, only for one’s own convenience or peace of mind, it is wrong, and this policy is wrong.

Still, this made me ask some tough questions. What is the difference between that infant and a fetus that is a few days or a couple of weeks from being born? What is the difference between that fetus and one that was first conceived months before? Are they living? Are they human? If they are a living human life, shouldn’t ending that life simply for convenience or social and economic stability be just as abhorrent as killing a new born baby or any other innocent human being? If they are living humans, clearly this is repugnant.

So I began to think and ask questions. I am a person of faith, but I decided that since public policy shouldn’t be based on any particular religious worldview, I wouldn’t consider arguments based on religious grounds. I also figured that I should use logic and science and not propaganda, so I decided to stay away from anti-abortion groups and their rhetoric. I decided that one question was of primary importance: when does life begin? When is something a living human? If that is at birth, then abortion is perfectly fine (on a secular level, at least). If, however, that is before then, then abortion after that point is in fact murder, and is a grievous crime.

I began by simply considering the fact that we could be wrong. If we are convinced that life only begins at birth and that we then allow people to terminate their pregnancies, and we then find out at some point that the “fetus” was actually a human life, what will the consequences be? Still, this was one of those religious arguments that I said that I would ignore for the time-being. Additionally, this same line of argumentation could be used to justify outlawing or refraining from pretty much anything. So it seems to be an argumentative fallacy.

So I then decided that I would go to the people whose job it is to study life- biologists. I went online and looked around scientific websites for the scientific definition of life. What I found was that life is usually defined as an entity made up of at least one cell, that can and has evolved, that can at some point in its lifecycle reproduce, grows, has metabolism and respiration, has genetic material such as DNA or RNA, has at least internal movement, has structural organization and has not yet died. Now, not all living things share all of these characteristics- male mules can’t reproduce, some single cell organisms don’t have respiration but rather other chemical processes- and some non-living things share these- viruses have DNA, fire can grow, reproduce and metabolize. Still, anything that has most of these is “living.” Let’s look at a newly fertilized zygote. It is made of cellular material, it is a part of the lifecycle of an organism that has evolved, will at one point be able to reproduce, it clearly grows, it has metabolism and respiration, it has DNA, has internal motion (and once it develops further- in only a short few weeks- it will be able to move independently) and clearly has not yet died. It seems clear that in terms of biology, from the moment of fertilization the organism is “living.”

Still, it seems that even with all of these life is defined more by just knowing what is alive or not than any kind of rigorous set of tests. I suppose that evolution, the presence of at least one cell, metabolism and the fact that it has yet to die would be the most important- no nonliving thing evolves, has cells and metabolizes things and by their very definition all things have yet to die, I believe all living things have evolved or can evolve, have at least one cell (correct me if I am wrong) and all have to convert raw materials (food) into energy- metabolism. Human fetuses have evolved, they have many cells (and have two at the moment of conception), they metabolize food and they are not dead. These would seem to confirm that they are alive.

So after that debate I decided to see what scientists define as the life cycle of a human being. The life cycle is just what it sounds like- the series of events that occur in the life of an organism. At any point in this cycle the organism is alive, except for the point of death, which is usually included as the end of the cycle. If the human life cycle is just birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, old age and death, then everything before that is “pre-living” or not living. But the majority of scientists believe that it begins before birth. Most include fertilization and prenatal development in the human life cycle. While some see birth as the beginning, these theories tend to rely more on philosophical underpinnings- i.e. the recognition of self and so forth- rather than pure biology. This suggests that scientists- who are paid to not let personal or religious bias into their work- tend to regard life as beginning at fertilization. The pre-birth period is as much a part of life as infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age this seems to say. To end an innocent life in any of those other periods would get you sent to prison, possibly to death. Why is ending a life before that legal?

So I started coming up with arguments to counter these slightly frightening facts. First, I considered the fact of development. A zygote is barely developed- it doesn’t look like a human, it doesn’t act like a human, etc. As a result, it really shouldn’t be considered “human life.” Yet isn’t an infant undeveloped? It doesn’t act like a fully mature human nor does it really look much like one. We wouldn’t kill an infant so why is killing just a slightly less developed human any less of an atrocity? It seems that the fact that fetuses aren’t developed isn’t a good excuse to allow for abortion.

Another argument I considered was that this life is different from other types of life in that it is dependent on another human not just for care and provision, but for even the most basic of functions. Its waste is carried out by another person, its breath and food is actually shared by another person. It is clearly a much different form of life than the traditional conception of “human.” Still, when one starts making distinctions between living humans and declares a whole class of them fit for extermination, isn’t that absolutely abhorrent? Isn’t that the idea at the very heart of genocide? If we acknowledge the biological fact that a fetus is alive and it is human, yet a different form of human life, and we then decide that this particular variety of human life can be exterminated at will how are we any better than the Nazis or the butchers in Somalia, Sudan, Japan in World War II or other genocidal regimes? In fact, it seems, we are not if those things are true.

What about rape, incest or the life of the mother, I asked then. The last of these is the easiest to answer in this case- self-defense is a recognized defense for homicide. When carrying a child to term would likely kill the mother, the mother has a right to protect her own life as well and should be able to terminate the pregnancy. Rape and incest are far more pernicious problems. The woman has already been victimized and now has a horrible reminder of the crime. Still, the child did not choose to be conceived and was not the perpetrator of the crime. That the life is innocent, and should not be ended for the crimes of another is the simple answer, but some serious wrinkles remain. Incest caries the likelihood of genetic deformity and a painful life for the child, yet whose say is it to decide for that child whether this pain and deformity is justification to end its life? Still, for incest I can see an argument for ending the pregnancy, though it is a gray area. Rape is a bit more complicated, but one could say that nine months of carrying a child could cause serious trauma to the mother, and thus an abortion could be justified. But as we said earlier (when discussing the Netherlands), being distressed or psychologically burdened by another person is not a justification for killing them, merely a motive. Either way, we need a far better adoption and foster home system than the one in place today for all these cases and others.

In the end, I am now on the verge of being convinced that life- scientifically, biologically and factually speaking- begins at conception, and after that any unnecessary ending of that life is in fact a grievous thing that should be made illegal. I say “on the verge” because such important changes of opinion shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. I have changed a lot over the last several years, mostly because the university has made me open my mind, open my eyes and consider a broad range of ideas. This process of open-mindedness has led me to this point, and this might be the biggest change of them all.

But I will remain a Democrat, and if anything this will make me more progressive. The reason is simple: I value human life at all of its stages and it is ludicrous to say that we will protect a life before it is born, but leave it to the wolves after it is born. If anything, the whole line of thought on the sanctity of life is making me go back to my old position on the death penalty, opposition rather than the openness I had held of late. Furthermore, if we simply outlaw abortions, nothing much will change. Before abortion was legal women got abortions and if it were made illegal again today it would still happen. With illegal abortions come unsanitary and unprofessional practices which threaten the life not only of the unborn child, but of the mother as well. It is a dangerous thing to do. If unborn children are in fact alive, it is a moral imperative that abortion be outlawed, but it is a coincident moral imperative that we make it easier to have an unplanned child to prevent “back-alley” abortions as well as huge new burdens to women in this country.

These protections should be child-based rather than parent-based in order to prevent the phenomenon (at one point a reality in this country) where having a child out of wedlock is a free ride to a government check. Poor women for years had a serious economic incentive to have children out of wedlock while they were young- the opportunities for advancement were scarce, money was available without much work, so they had children- and we should avoid this. I say this not because I’m a cold-hearted stingy type, but rather because the number one predictor for poverty in this country is whether you have both parents in the home. I want to prevent poverty, and ending out of wedlock pregnancies is step one. There are several important policies that will make it easier to handle an unplanned pregnancy without encouraging young women to plan out of wedlock pregnancies. Medical coverage for children should be universal. Child care should be free for everyone who can’t afford it. Clothes for children, decent housing (with some work requirements, so as not to encourage the phenomenon discussed earlier), a world-class education system and other necessities should be provided.

Furthermore, women who would face serious repercussions for revealing the pregnancy should have a safe place to turn to- not some depressing place as in the old days, where they were either demonized or isolated- but rather a welcoming home for them. This may cause young women in abusive or simply unhappy homes to get pregnant as a ticket out, but that means we need better child protective services to prevent abuse from happening in the first place and better school counseling and other mental health services to make sure they have constructive ways of dealing with their problems.

I also mentioned one other issue earlier: for women who can carry the child to term, but even with all the services can’t or are unwilling to care for the child, we need a dramatically improved foster home and adoption system in this country. Foster homes need to be loving places that take good care of kids, not (as they are in a minority, but still significant number of cases) dens of abuse and neglect. Adoption needs to be a much easier process and the attempts to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples must end immediately. There are millions of families that can’t have kids and want them. There are today millions of women who have unwanted children. They need to be matched up and, when possible, the natural mother should take a role in the child’s life. I have always been a big advocate for adoption because both of my parents are adopted- my father at birth because he was unwanted by his natural mother (who today might have been merely aborted him), though he was wanted deeply by two of the finest people on the face of this planet- my paternal grandparents- and my mother’s father abandoned her family and was adopted by my maternal grandfather. Adoption is a wonderful thing whether you support abortion rights or not, and it is a pressing issue that we must continue improving on.

Finally, we need to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place. The way to do this is to have a serious, open, frank and honest discussion in sexual education in our schools- and only Democrats are talking about this right now. Abstinence should be the starting point- kids who aren’t responsible decision-makers yet shouldn’t be having sex. Still, history since 50,000 BC or so has shown that adolescents will have sex even when it is a very bad idea. Abstinence-only education has been shown to actually increase the likelihood that kids will have sex and dramatically increases the likelihood that they will use no contraception or protection. They tell kids that using condoms doesn’t change anything, and they believe it. We have to start by telling kids that sex is a serious choice- if only because once you start having sex it is nigh impossible to stop. It also complicates relationships, leads to a greater chance of heartbreak and the whole dynamic of having to sneak around parents makes the whole thing rather destructive to families. It’s annoying, it’s addictive and will leave you hurt and alienated from people you really care about. That, of course, is if you don’t get pregnant or a disease- those just make everything even worse. So sex should be avoided, but if they make the decision- the rather unwise decision at the age of 15 or 16- to have sex, they should be intelligent about their contraceptive and disease-prevention options. These options should be made more affordable, more available and more discreet for young people, and everyone else for that matter. Widely and easily available contraception and an honest discussion about sex will help us to avoid many of the unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

Human life is sacred, everyone can agree on that. We as a country have more or less decided that abortion is a right. What we now must do is ask ourselves- as honestly, frankly and unflinchingly as we should discuss sex with our nation’s young people- when life begins. Religion has a place at this table, but common sense and scientific reason have an even more important place in the policy-making of a secular government. If what I have found so far (and my search has not ended yet, nor will it ever likely) is accurate- that life begins at fertilization both by the independent definition of “life” and a scientific understanding of the life cycle- then abortion must end.

Choice is not a valuable argument as no one has the right to choose whether another human lives or dies except when that person poses an immediate threat to one’s own life.

Women’s rights is not a valuable argument in that no one’s rights include the right to kill an innocent human being, not to mention that at least 50% of the lives we are snuffing out are women who will never have a choice on anything.

Political difficulty is not an excuse as the history of our country is the history of oppressed groups taking on monumental difficulties to set themselves free, and in this case we must stand up for those who not only cannot speak for themselves, but are as yet unborn.

Finally, constitutionality is not a valid excuse as it is clear that if these embryos are living humans then Roe v. Wade was a bit of unconstitutional abomination on par with Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson. In the end, if life begins at conception, we have no choice but to protect that life with every element of our law available to us. Democrats must take the lead, as only Democrats can protect life before it is in this world and after it is born. It is time for politics to leave this discussion and for level-headed and honest people to debate the issues with themselves and others in a respectful way.

I invite you to join me in this vital task, and urge you to respond to all of this, respectfully of course.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 05:54 PM | Comments (120) | TrackBack

A Tale of Two Ciggies

By Jim Dallas

Houston and Austin are dealing with the problems of second-hand smoke in public places in slightly different ways.

The Houston city council passed a smoking ban in restaraunts - but not in bars or in outdoor areas - on Wednesday. The Houston Chronicle writes:

Under the ordinance, which goes into effect Sept. 9, the city will continue to allow smoking in bar areas within restaurants, in outdoor dining areas and in free-standing bars. Mayor Bill White proposed the measure as a compromise between the economic interests of restaurant and bar owners and anti-smoking advocates who pushed to ban smoking in all public indoor spaces.

The ordinance also bans smoking in covered bus shelters and in taxis that are not designated as smoking vehicles.

Under the previous ordinance, all public buildings could have designated indoor smoking areas, as long as they were clearly marked and properly ventilated.

"Today council acted decisively to make more of Houston smoke-free," White said after the 9-4 vote. "This is Texas, where we do balance freedoms."

Meanwhile, in Austin, which may or may not be part of Texas (it depends on what the meaning of "is" is), and where the freedom-balancing scales apparently are broken, the people will get to vote on the following ballot proposition on May 7:

"An ordinance repealing Austin's current ordinance relating to smoking in public places and replacing it with a new ordinance that maintains the current prohibition against smoking in most public places, including workplaces, and expands the prohibition against smoking to apply to all bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, and billiard parlors, except for restaurants with restricted permits that are renewable through September 1, 2012."

The Austin Chronicle writes:

Battle lines are now in place over the upcoming public vote on a new Austin ordinance that aims to ban smoking in nearly all public places, including bars, music venues, and bowling alleys. As anticipated, City Council voted on Thursday to place the newly proposed ordinance language on the May 7 ballot, for the voters to decide whether to strengthen the less-restrictive anti-smoking ordinance that went into effect in June of 2004. The city clerk had certified on Monday that Onward Austin, the group promoting the ordinance, had gathered enough petition signatures – more than 36,000, representing 10% of Austin's electorate – supporting a strict, new ordinance to force city action. On Tuesday, local bar and club owners, fearing a loss of business, filed a federal lawsuit against the city in hopes of heading off the ordinance, and continue to organize an opposition campaign. At the same time, anti-smoking forces say they are adding business owners and other high-profile supporters to their ranks.

Which solution to this Dreaded Cloud of Tobacco Smoke is better? Depends on who you ask.

The Daily Cougar, the student paper at UH ran a story today on student reactions to the Houston ban, which has been generally positive (although others would opt for a complete ban like in Austin). Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, however, lambasted the Houston plan as weak policy, and it looks like they'll try to push for total abolition in Houston. Will it succeed? I don't know, but considering (1) that the City Council rejected an amendment that would ban smoking in all public places by a whopping 10-3 vote, and (2) that it's not like air pollution is exactly a novel concept to Houstonians, I somehow doubt we'll see a total ban anytime soon.

Ironically, though, half-way measures create interesting incentives for some owners. The AusChron tells us the story of one local businessman:

At least one business owner has broken ranks with his colleagues. Reed Clemmons, owner of the Bitter End, Reed's Supper Club, and Mezzaluna, spoke Thursday in favor of the complete ban. He said the current ordinance puts his bar-restaurants, each ineligible for a smoking permit, at an unfair disadvantage against smoking bars, and he blames the cost-prohibitive ventilation systems required to allow smoking in bar-restaurants. "My happy hours are down 40% since the current ordinance took effect," Clemmons said. "The best-case scenario would be to let bar owners decide whether to allow smoking or not. But in reality, I know that's never going to happen in Austin again. … I have to fight for my business interests." Clemmons considers the proposed complete ban as effectively leveling the playing field among all kinds of bar venues.

Indeed, there's at least ample evidence that a laissez-faire policy works. The Daily Cougar story, for example, tells the story of Ziggy's Healthy Grill, in Houston, which banned smoking on its own initiative. And good for them.

(Keep Austin Free has some statistics of questionable veracity further backing up the claim that the free market solves; for example, they claim that over 99 percent of Austin businesses are smoke-free).

To be sure, smoking is a nasty dirty habit that I do not encourage, and as someone with family members who have impaired lung function I happen to strongly encourage those around me not to smoke, and I know for sure that we're not going to patronize businesses that have smokey, dirty atmospheres.

But Austin and Houston are hardly po-dunk places where there's only one diner, and quite frankly I am very skeptical of anyone who insists that individuals oughtn't be free to choose. On strictly pragmatic grounds, though, I see why the Houston ordinance might make sense. It is completely beyond me why such a large percentage of Austinites would vote for a complete smoking ban, though.

Then again, this is just the sort of bizarre politics that makes Austin... Austin. And as a proud owner of a "Keep Austin Weird" t-shirt, I have to heartily endorse an "aye" vote on the smoking proposition.

As an aside, Galveston and Kemah are now considering smoking bans, according to the Galveston County Daily News. The economic powers that be will probably fight any ban that's stricter than Houston's, for obvious reasons. This presents a question of agency: is it best for this to be dealt with on a municipal level? When big cities pass strict ordinances, small cities are likely to engage in "race to the bottom" behavior, with the upshot being small cities are in fact the places where there is not sufficient diversity in accomodations to allow for perfect laissez-faire competition. Perhaps this should be dealt with on a state-wide basis instead.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Strama and Baxter on HB 2

By Byron LaMasters

Interesting story in the Austin American Statesman on the thought process of Austin Representatives Mark Strama (D) and Todd Baxter (R) - both of whom won by razor-thin margins last November. Strama considered voting for the bill throughout the day before ultimately voting against it. Baxter, on the other hand, voted for Democratic ammendments before voting for the bill.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sign the Letter

By Byron LaMasters

All bloggers, left to right, should sign this letter.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Air America Radio Coming to Dallas

By Byron LaMasters

We've noted that Air America Radio is coming to Austin and that other Texas cities are on the way. It's now official - Dallas is next (albeit on a low frequency station):

Air America Radio, the left-leaning network, is taking on Texas.

Its round-the-clock political talk will hit the air Monday in Austin and debut March 21 in the Dallas area, replacing the Spanish-language programming on KXEB-AM (910). Air America is already on in Corpus Christi.

In North Texas, Air America's success could be limited by the reach of the low-wattage station. Static nearly drowns out KXEB in some areas, but officials at Border Media Partners, the station's owners, said they were trying to strengthen the signal.

Air America executives, who called the expansion in Texas the high point for the network, said Mr. Franken will find an audience, even in President Bush's home state.

"We're providing an alternative for a minority that feels alienated," CEO Danny Goldberg said.

Update: Tom Blackwell reminds us that John Kerry won the city of Dallas by 53,902 votes (Kerry 200,854, Bush 146,952). Dallas is a Democratic city, and is getting more so each election cycle.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 10, 2005

Late Night Fun

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

For all of you Austin students that read us, I would encourage you to join the "I Read the Burnt Orange Report" facebook group. Because we love you just as much as we think you love us.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 10:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gold Star

By Jim Dallas

Joe Lieberman voted against the bankruptcy-deform bill.

Good for him.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 07:34 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Guest Blogging

By Vince Leibowitz

You know those people the late-night talk show hosts always have on their shows when a big name cancels or when, is in the early days of the Jimmy Kimmel Show, no one really famous wanted to come on the show? The low "B" and "C" list celebraties?

Well, if the Blogsphere has such a list, I'm on it. In addition to my guest posting here at BOR, I've also been asked to participate in a blog from Wood County, Wood County Issues. It's a blog that covers a lot of local politics (check out this great post about a letter the DA recently sent out) plus a wide variety of "other" material like the dangers of feeding deer at Holly Lake Ranch.

Though I'm a Van Zandt County resident, I used to live in Wood County (for more years than I like to remember), so I still keep up with politics over there. Plus, I'm sure I'll be able to come up with some other stuff from time to time.

So, now that I have added yet another blog to my list of guest-duties (which I'm very excited about, by the way), I'm wondering...should I send out some head shots and writing samples to try to get more guest gigs? You know, I could probably get quite a lot. I'd be like that guy who always goes on Letterman with all the zoo animals except, of course, without the zoo animals and much more entertaining.

Actually, that would probably not be a good idea. I'm pretty selective about sites I'll associate myself with. Wood County Issues has a reputation in Wood County for really getting down to the truth of various issues and breaking stories the local papers won't touch, so I am pleased to be a part of that. BOR's reputation is, well, obvious, and I am floored every time someone says they've seen my name here. Political State Report, the other blog I write for frequently, is another site that's getting more and more well-known and has a good reputation.

On the other hand, there are a number of blogs I just couldn't see myself writing for. At the same time, there are a number of Weblogs I'd just die to be able to write for on a regular basis in addition to my other blogging (hint, hint, hint to about three or four bloggers in the universe, by the way).

Seriously, though, check out Wood County Issues. I doubt I'll post there as frequently as I post here, but the site's publisher usually comes up with some interesting posts, if you're in to East Texas politics.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 02:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Railroad Commissioner Blog

By Byron LaMasters

I was just browsing Texas blogs to conclude my post on blog reaction to Rick Perry's attack on bloggers. In the search, I ran across Voice in the Wilderness, a conservative Texas blog that noted that Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams has a (sort of) blog. He's a Republican, and the blog isn't nearly as cool as Aaron Pena's blog, but it's good to see another elected official join the blogosphere. I wonder what Commissioner Williams will have to say to Governor Perry's assertion that "most blogs seem to be run with a pretty severe liberal bent".

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

Good for the Harris County Democratic Party. They've started a blog - HoustonDemocrats.com. Via Greg and Kuff.

If they just fix their link to Kuff (which links to BOR instead), they should be all set.

Update: I'm happy to see that the link situation has been taken care of. Kudos to Harris County Dems!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tom DeLay and Foreign Money

By Byron LaMasters

Instead of writing about it, just read this Washington Post article and this Kos Diary (recommend it, too!).

More at: Daily DeLay and Kuff. The Richard Morrison campaign has a statement which I've put in the extended entry.

The Washington Post has the news. Tom DeLay went on a $100,000 trip to Korea paid for by a registered foreign agent.

If you've had enough of Tom DeLay, send a message and support a grassroots revolution that's working to end the reign of DeLay, Inc. Contribute to Richard Morrison here:

Here's more from the Washington Post story:

A delegation of Republican House members including Majority Leader Tom DeLay accepted an expense-paid trip to South Korea in 2001 from a
registered foreign agent despite House rules that bar the acceptance of travel expenses from foreign agents, according to government documents and travel reports filed by the House members.

Justice Department documents show that the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council, a business-financed entity created with help from a lobbying firm headed by DeLay's former chief of staff, registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act on Aug. 22, 2001. DeLay; his wife, Christine; and two other Republican lawmakers departed on a trip financed by the group on Aug. 25 of that year.

The exchange group in late 2003 hosted three Democratic House members and another Republican on a similar trip. It spent at least 106,921 to finance the three-day trip in 2001 from Washington to Seoul by the Republicans, which DeLay (Tex.) and accompanying staff assistants described at the time as having an "educational" purpose.

The DeLay machine is very brittle -- it's held together with chains of money under high tension. Lobbyists give him money because he's powerful. He invests a certain percentage of that in campaign contributions to other GOPers. The influence he buys with that money is then mercilessly exploited to squeeze more money from the lobby.

But now corporations are getting into serious legal trouble for their
involvement with DeLay, Inc. But DeLay is not resting. His criminal
defense fund has already raised $1million.

But his campaign fund is down to only $68,000. He's already hired a top dirty tricks consultant for the 2006 race. We gotta step up our game to win. Every dollar invested in Morrison in 2004 caused DeLay to spend $4.62. That's a 400% return on investment. Contribute here to help Richard Morrison break up DeLay, Inc.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blogging and Pro-Wrestling

By Jim Dallas

From the frigid plains of Minnesota, Stone Cold Steve Perry takes on Preacher Hewitt:

What I'm talking about is evident in matters of idiom--the countless times, for example, that "liberal" is invoked as a taunting slur, roughly akin to the way "cheesehead" or "the fucking Yankees" might be tossed off on a sports-chat board. It's more than a matter of style; there's a worldview lurking beneath it, and what the worldview entails is summed up in the old Vince Lombardi maxim that winning isn't everything--it's the only thing. Now of course electoral politics has always been about winners and losers in a very important sense. But has there ever been a political moment so openly defined by swagger and triumphalism for their own sake--the will to humiliate the vanquished, grind them underfoot for the sheer pleasure of showing them who's boss? As a popular post-election sweatshirt hawked at the Drudge Report exulted, W is for Winner. Enough said.

What's at stake here in one sense is the difference between the moral universe of the citizen and that of the fan. For the fan, the only crucible that finally matters is being on the winning side. To ask whether what's being won is worth having, or in the public interest, or whether these victories may set the stage for future calamity, is about as interesting and sensible from the fan's point of view as suggesting that the Vikings really ought to think twice about playing the Packers this year (or, more nonsensically still, that bad things may befall them if they beat the Packers). As for the current censorial tenor of politics chat, the most rudimentary piece of fan etiquette is that the spoils and the bragging rights accrue to winners. Trash talk from losers is not endured in good humor. Failing to shut up after your side has been vanquished is an outrageous bit of bad manners--or, when it's politics we're talking about, an un-American activity.

The mindset expresses itself in a variety of ways. There's the reader who wrote to me shortly after the invasion of Iraq to ask, So what if Bush lied his way into war? It worked. The gleeful contempt with which the epithet "losers" was thrown around after the last election, as if it were the only word they could think of that was worse than "liberal." And the party the Power Line crew is throwing itself tonight at the Center of the American Experiment to mark Dan Rather's forced retirement. Will they rent Stuart Scott from ESPN to lead the room in his trademark winner's jeer, "BOO-Yaa!"? Whatever else you may say about Bush/Rove, they certainly didn't conjure this impulse into being.

You see this streak of end-over-means, in-your-face triumphalism playing itself out in the political alliances now coalescing on the right, where anti-tax, government-off-our-backs libertarians are seen to lie down with religious conservatives who want a government at least expansive enough to make sure no one out there is doing anything of which Jesus might disapprove. Or consider the right-wing blogs' dueling weapon of choice, a practice known as "fisking" that consists of reproducing whole stories from other media and yelling at them in hectoring, frequently disjointed asides until the fisk-er either reaches the end of the text or passes out from hyperventilating. It's a performance whose outcome is fixed with a wink from the start, like professional wrestling or, more exactly, like the version of pro wrestling Rush Limbaugh brought to the radio so long ago now: heroes-and-villains political entertainment made in a controlled setting, with lots of ranting rhetorical takedowns and no fretting over questions of equal time or accuracy. It's a show, folks.

A show... without spandex.

And of course, just like wrestling, blogging is totally tag-team. (See the full details here.)

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pete Sessions Helps Major Donor in Divorce Case

By Byron LaMasters

Wow. This has the potential to be a juicy story. Sessions filed a sworn affidavit in a divorce case which is disputed by the woman in the case:

In October 2003, Katz filed for divorce, and immediately sued to regain the transferred assets.

On February 11, 2005 - the day of a critical divorce court hearing - a surprise document was introduced by Ahron Katz's attorney. The sworn affidavit from Pete Sessions recalled a "summer 2003 discussion with them both ... via telephone, wherein they discussed their plan to have Lucia hold Ahron's lifetime savings and assets while attempting to resolve Ahron's ongoing legal dispute."

Sessions went on to suggest that "both understood that it was clearly never intended by Ahron to gift the assets to Lucia."

Leslie Martin is Lucia Katz's divorce attorney.

"I couldn't believe it," Martin said. "It was extraordinary that a U.S. congressman would file this type of an affidavit."

She said Sessions' sworn statement presents at least one big problem.

"My client, Mrs. Katz, says that conversation never took place," Martin said. "She's in fact never had a telephone conversation with Congressman Sessions."

But perhaps the bigger question is being posed by Matthew Andersen, the attorney representing the plaintiffs who won that December 2002 judgment against Katz. He said Sessions' affidavit outlines what appears to be an attempt by Katz to hide assets from the plaintiffs.

"My clients had obtained a judgment against Mr. Katz in excess of $1.4 million," Andersen said. "We were trying to collect it and they were out apparently hiding assets, and this was known to the congressman."

Andersen said he is considering taking legal action, and may seek Sessions' deposition. He wants to know if Katz was attempting to evade payment on the judgment, and what, if anything, Sessions knew about it.

Katz's attorney said the transfer was legitimate and was done at his wife's request.

Congressional watchdog Melanie Sloan is responsible for helping to bring successful ethics charges against Congressman Tom Delay. She has also read the affidavit, and believes Sessions may have violated House rules requiring members to conduct themselves in a fashion that reflects positively on Congress.

Will their be another ethics complaint? Or will Congress return to the pre-Chris Bell years of "ethics truce"?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

"Do You Write For..."

By Vince Leibowitz

I just got back (well, five hours ago, really) from a two-day junket to Austin for Van Zandt County Days which included, among other things, spending a lot of time aimlessly wandering the halls of the Texas Capitol doing lots of...well...eavesdropping, actually, on legislators, lobbyists, tourists and just about anyone who was engaging in a conversation I thought was worth hearing.

Given I'm no stranger to the Texas Capitol and this was like my third Van Zandt County Days celebration, I spent more time visiting folks I knew and listening to the tabling marathon on HB 2 than engaging in all of the ceremonial stuff our group usually engages in.

To start the morning off, our delegation was recognized in the Texas House, which I missed because somehow the time got moved up. But, since the board members of the Council of Van Zandt County Communities (of which I am an officer) wasn't recognized on the floor as initially planned (there wasn't time, we were told), I guess I didn't miss much. Instead, I was in the gift shop searching for a replacement for a pewter state seal lapel pin I had that broke.

After that, we had our photo made with Texas Governor Rick Perry and our State Rep., Dan Flynn (R-Van) and State Senator, Dr. Bob Deuell (R-Greenville). We were right behind the delegation from my native county, Wood County, which was also under the Pink Dome celebrating Wood County Days. They had their photo made with the Governor and their legislators, Rep. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) and Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler).

As we were getting set up for our photo, who should I notice but Jeff Fisher, Executive Director of the Republican Party of Texas (and our former County Judge). He was there to meet and greet some of his former colleagues and constituents. I spoke to him for a little bit, too.

And, Governor Perry was in fine form as well, complaining about his allergies and greeting the two youngsters in our delegation, signing autographs, and even commenting on one of our group member's brightly colored shirts. As much as I disagree with Rick Perry on nearly everything under the sun, he is quite the "campaigner," shaking hands with many within reach (I was standing too far to his left to engage in this, no pun intended) and just chatting away.

I had actually hoped I'd have been standing closer (though I was only on the second row), so to have shaken his hand and introduced myself. I've met him several times before, but, what politician remembers everyone he meets? In addition to hoping he saw the huge nametag I had identifying myself as County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County, I would have casually mentioned, "Oh, I also write for Burnt Orange Report every once in a while," just to see how quickly he would have moved on to the next person. Sadly, I didn't get the chance to do this.

Following this, Sen. Deuell was kind enough to take the youngsters in the group into the Senate Chamber to sit in his desk and have their photos made. I followed along to take pictures.

After this, our delegation was recognized in the Senate. While that was going on, I actually went over to the House side where my state Rep. Dan Flynn, was gracious enough to go and retrieve my uncle, State Rep. David Leibowitz (D-San Antonio) from the floor to meet a few of our delegation and pose for a couple of photos.

After this, who should I see in the halls of the Texas Capitol aside from one of my personal political heroes, former State Sen. David Cain, who is now a lobbyist. We chatted for a while caught up on "local gossip," so to speak.

After that, I and the Executive Secretary of our local party, her husband and their son braved the maze of the capitol annex to find my uncle's office, as their son was going to be a page for him in the House during the afternoon session.

No sooner than I'm greeting the secretary does another staffer ask me, "are you the same Vince Leibowitz who writes for Burnt Orange Report?" Of course, I said "yes, that's me!" I'm just surprised that I would have such name recognition under the dome given that I'm not that frequent of a poster.

But, to give you an idea about this, I was standing outside the doors to House later that day waiting for our delegation's page and noticed a guy who looked like a young lobbyist staring at my name tag. Finally, he, too, asked, "Do you write for Burnt Orange Report?"

But, the true highlight of the day occurred in the House Gallery during the afternoon session. I had gone to see some folks who used to work for David Cain but now work for Sen. Eddie Lucio (where I also complained about the media credentialing process as it relates to bloggers), and then made my way up to the gallery.

I had been thinking all day, "I bet I'll see the lady who writes "In The Pink Texas," one of my favorite Texas Blogs. No sooner than I had sat down in the gallery near some of our delegation and very near an attractive lady with a laptop, did this lady turn to me and say, "Are you Vince Leibowitz who writes for Burnt Orange Report?" Bingo, once again. It turned out to be Eileen Smith, the publisher of the blog live and in person. (And, she mentioned me on her blog!)

What a small world. At any rate, we made fun of Legislators and the tabling marathon that was occuring at that moment until her laptop battery started to die.

Also, since I am sometimes oblivious to my surroundings after a night of little sleep because (a) the air conditioner in the hotel room went out and (b) whoever was in the room next door was having a heck of a party, I was totally unaware I was sitting less than 10 feet from Bill Hammond, head of the Texas Association of Business! It appeared he was napping in the gallery, and I got a great (but slightly blurry) shot of him appearing to snooze. Of course, I didn't take it with my camera, so I won't have the pic until later, but when I do, rest assured (again, no pun intended), I'll make sure it makes the rounds!

At any rate, it was a good trip. I did overhear a great tidbit while waiting in line for the elevators Wednesday morning, but I'm going to have to find a little more about it before I post anything on it. It may turn out to be nothing at all, but it was curious that the people whispering about it made it a point to start to talk about it, look around and see the crowd behind them, and then move right to the elevator doors to "whisper" their conversation in a loud enough whisper that I could make out every single word.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 02:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Kansas Yes, Colorado No

By Andrew Dobbs

So when should you kick out a chairman of a party? Dallas County is pondering that right now- though they can't really kick the Chair out- but this post (blessedly) isn't about that. I am not terribly familiar with the situation up there and I try my damndest to stay out of intraparty squabbles. This is a post about Colorado

While Chris Bell and Byron are right to suggest that we can learn from Kansas 2002, let's make sure we don't pay attention to Colorado 2005. Greg posted this bit of news from the Associated Press:

Chris Gates, at the helm of the Colorado Democratic Party when Democrats won a U.S. Senate seat and took control of the Legislature, has been voted out as chairman.

Democrats upset with the handling of Mike Miles' unsuccessful Senate campaign helped engineer the upset in Saturday's election by the Democratic State Central Committee. Gates said he will challenge his 187-184 loss to Pat Waak of Erie, who has called for more grassroots organizing and respect for candidates like Miles. (...)

Gates led Colorado Democrats last November, when then-Attorney General Ken Salazar, a moderate Democrat, defeated Republican beer executive Pete Coors for the open seat vacated by Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell. That victory and the win in the 3rd Congressional District by Democrat John Salazar, Ken Salazar's brother, were hailed as among the few bright spots for the party that lost the presidency and lost ground in Congress.

Democrats also seized control of both chambers of the Colorado Legislature for the first time in about four decades. President Bush carried the GOP-leaning state, but his margin of victory narrowed slightly from 2000.

Those accomplishments left party insiders shocked by Gates' loss to Waak, who lost a bid for the 4th Congressional District seat in 2002. (...)

Miles, an El Paso County educator who opposed the Iraq war, said Gates urged donors not to give to his campaign after Salazar, who is more conservative, entered the race.

"He created a lot of obstacles," said Miles, who distributed a letter supporting Waak.

Gates said he didn't endorse Salazar but acknowledges that his apparent ouster as chairman "exposes a disagreement, a rift in the party that is very real."

Miles campaigned for two years and won top-line designation on the primary ballot after winning more votes at the state Democratic assembly. He garnered only about 27 percent of the vote in the primary.

His supporters, however, have maintained their loyalty and have met regularly since the primary election in August. Vicki Rottman of Denver said she and other supporters worked to elect Waak.

"People are ready for a change," Rottman said.

Wow. This is stunning. So the chairman was intelligent enough to realize that in a largely moderate/conservative state, the ultra-left wing loony who has never run for office before probably isn't as good of a chance to win as a moderate Democrat who has been elected statewide. And the supporters for the loony kicked him out of office, even after the Democrat (who, by the way, three-quarters of the party suppored in the end) was elected to the US Senate. Are they completely daft?

This is the problem with the leftward shift of our party in recent years. I'm all about progressivism, particularly on the state level. But 60% of something is better than 100% of nothing, and winning is the most important thing. We have too many people who think that the reason we lose is because we aren't left wing enough. We lose because we run boring, unintelligent, uninteresting candidates on one hand (Tony Sanchez) or psychotically out of touch left wingers on the other (Kerry, one could argue). We have to have candidates that fit the electorate's values, and we have to keep ourselves from eating our young.

Kansas is a great example of what is right. We ran a moderate Democrat when the Republican Party was split over social issues (read all about it in the better-than-expected What's The Matter With Kansas) and she won. We ran someone with some experience, intelligence and who represented mainstream values of her home state. Colorado is likely to turn out to be an example of what not to do- fight fights that you lost not once, but twice, and try and move the party away from the common ground in your state. Texas needs a Kathleen Sebelius or Ken Salazar, and I think we are headed that way right now.

Just my two cents. Oh, and in Dallas, I think that there are legitimate concerns from the activists and some legitimate arguments from the Chair. Still, the war is hurting our party and one side needs to back down. The activists aren't going anywhere it seems, particularly since this movement is firing them up right now. So I suspect that it would be a good idea for the Chair to resign. That way this energy can be translated into a grassroots movement to take back Dallas County in 2006 across the board. But that's beside the point and I could be completely wrong...

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 01:55 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

HB 2 Passes, Close Call on Final Vote

By Andrew Dobbs

Sorry I didn't get this up sooner but I just got to a computer for the first time in a while. HB 2 passed tonight on a closer than expected vote, 76-71. All the Democrats except Al Edwards voted "No" and Edwards voted "Present, Not Voting." It seems strange that a guy from a poor district wouldn't be fervently against a bill that would make his district poorer compared the the rest of the state and force major budget cuts, but then you remember that Al Edwards does whatever the Speaker tells him to and it starts to make some sense.

Still, not a single Democrat voted for the bill and we were joined by 9 Republicans (10 if you count Plano's Brian McCall, who would have voted against the bill, but was paired with the absent Bill Callegari and voted PNV). The most important of those was the only Republican to speak against the bill, and he did so with such passion and poise that I have a new and deep respect for him- former school superintendent Bob Griggs of North Richland Hills. He is credited with bringing several Republicans over with him.

The Republicans who sided against the bill were Fred Brown, Charlie Geren, Toby Goodman, Bob Griggs, Pat Haggerty, Delwin Jones, Ed Kuempel, Tommy Merritt and Todd Smith. All the mean things I say about Republicans are not meant towards you, until you do something to screw it up (which I'm sure they will soon). That goes double for the four that voted for Hochberg's amendment- Brown, Goodman and Merritt (they were joined by Bob Hunter, who voted for the final bill).

Don't be too worried about the impacts on public schools, though. HB 2 doesn't go into effect without the passage of HB 3, and that bill doesn't have the votes to pass right now. Plus, the Senate will certainly make some huge changes to HB 2 and Dewhurst has said that HB 3 is "Dead on Arrival." So it hopefully won't be as bad as things look right now.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 01:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Firefox 1.0.1

By Byron LaMasters

I just downloaded the latest version of Firefox. You should, too. Link here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:38 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 09, 2005

Austin City Council Endorsements Roll in...

By Byron LaMasters

It's endorsement season for the Austin political clubs that make the difference in Austin City Council elections. Three clubs have held endorsement meetings in recent days. Of particular interest is their choices for Place 3 - the open seat with four major candidates. Here's their endorsements:

Capitol City Young Democrats: No endorsement
South Austin Democrats: Margot Clarke
Austin Women's Political Caucus: Dual Endorsement - Margot Clarke and Mandy Dealey

Margot Clarke
Mandy Dealey
Jennifer Kim
Gregg Knaupe

Also, don't forget to vote in the BOR Poll for Austin City Council, Place 3.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Playing Hardball

By Byron LaMasters

The right-wing front group USA Next, which is supporting President Bush's Social Security privatization plan has been sued for $25 Million by the gay couple used in their advertisements. The couple's integrity and patriotism was questioned by the ad which had an image of a U.S. Soldier with an "X" and a picture of the couple with a "check". The ad implied that supporting the rights of gays and lesbians was incompatible with supporting our military. America Blog has all of the details.

More coverage here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Learning from Kansas

By Byron LaMasters

Chris Bell sends an email today on how Texas Democrats can learn from Kansas Democrats (or for that matter, Colorado or Montana Democrats):

If you're as tired as I am of hearing that Democrats can't win in Texas, then just think what Democrats in Kansas felt like going into their 2002 gubernatorial election. Registered Democrats comprised only 28 percent of that state's electorate and no Democrat had won an open race for governor in over 65 years. But Democrat Kathleen Sebelius won that race, and the political environment that produced her win has striking parallels to the environment here in Texas today.

As speculation increases that Sen. Hutchison has all but decided to challenge Rick Perry for the Republican nomination, pundits are already talking about a bitter, bloody primary battle that would strain GOP loyalties and alienate moderate Republicans as well as Republican-leaning Independent voters. This closely mirrors the rift within the Kansas GOP, a rift so severe that one political magazine
described Kansas as a virtual three-party state in which the moderate and conservative wings of the state party fractured to support their own candidates and agendas.

As intra-party squabbling continued over education funding and conservatives' censorship of state curriculums, independents and moderate Republicans began to shift into the Sebelius camp. On Election Day, the pro-choice Sebelius won a resounding 53-45 victory in one of the most culturally conservative states in the nation, a state that President Bush would go on to win by 25 points in 2004.

The Democratic victory in Kansas speaks closely to our current mission. Debates over school funding and legalized gambling continue to strain relations between GOP moderates and conservatives within the Texas Legislature. Sen. Hutchison's expected entry into the race will further divide Republicans, and a divisive GOP primary will produce a weakened and vulnerable nominee. The lesson from Kansas is clear: When the Republican Party turns on itself, Democrats will win even in the reddest of red states.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:22 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 08, 2005


By Byron LaMasters

Jonathan Horak, one of the guys that went to New Mexico with UT Students for John Kerry the weekend before the election, has started Bloghorns, a blog for UT related posts. It's modeled after Austin Bloggers. In order to have your UT related post shown on Bloghorns, simply send a ping to: http://www.bloghorns.com/post/ping/

I've made the necessary administrative changes so that all BOR posts under the category "Around Campus" will automatically ping Bloghorns, just as all BOR posts under the category "Austin City Limits" automatically ping Austin Bloggers.

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

ATTN: Election Junkies

By Jim Dallas

It's now 7 p.m. on the West Coast; the city of Los Angeles has promised that we'll start getting election results around 8:30 PT.

I advise making calls to Papa John's and/or making final beer runs for what should be an interesting night in the City of Angels.

That's all I'm gonna say, since this is, after all, a Texas blog and you want to get your fine bloggerific L.A. reporting from Cali-bloggers such as Boi from Troi or whoeverelse.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 09:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

HB 2 Liveblogged

By Byron LaMasters

Andrew has been doing a great job liveblogging the HB 2 debate. Several others have been liveblogging the debate as well. The pinkos were at the capitol - check out the liveblogging by Pink Dome and In the Pink, Texas.

Inside the Texas Capitol and the Quorum Report also have several updates from the house floor today.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Republicans Pass Tax Increase, Cut In School Funds

By Andrew Dobbs

For years Republicans have argued that when Democrats vote for a smaller tax cut than the Republican plan, they are voting for a "tax increase." That's exactly what happened today when Scott Hochberg's amendment on HB 2, which would have dramatically lowered property taxes on middle class Texans, was tabled by a vote of 81-67.

This bill rejection of the Hochberg Amendment will mean higher taxes for 90% of Texans and less money for more than 90% of the school districts in this state. The average Texas homeowner will pay 17% higher property taxes than they would have if only the GOP cared about them. River Oaks and Highland Park made out like bandits today, everyone else got the shaft.

HB 2 is still being debated, HB 3 will be up later this week most likely. Stay tuned to BOR for all your news on these important bills.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 04:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Legislative Budget Board Reveals Tax Increase in HB 3

By Andrew Dobbs

I don't have the document yet, but Jim Dunnam referred to it on the floor today and my boss was chatting about it, but the nonpartisan (actually, GOP appointed) Legislative Budget Board analyzed HB 3 and found that every Texan making less than $100,000 a year would see a tax increase under the GOP plan- to the tune of a total of $1.1 billion. Taxpayers who make more than $140,000 $100,000 would be the only ones to see a cut.

This is huge, and any Republican who votes for HB 2 (with the property tax cut) or HB 3 (with the funding mechanisms) should be attacked without quarter.

Update: See the Tax Equity Note here. Details: the median Texas family would see a 4.3% tax increase, and the less you make the bigger your tax increase. If you make over $100,000 you see a tax cut, everyone else gets a tax increase.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 03:51 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

CWA Local Head Says Sergeant-at-Arms not Authorized to Shut Down Dallas Meeting

By Byron LaMasters

A letter is being sent out to the Dallas County Democratic Executive Committee by CWA Local 6215 President J.D. Williams (available here - PDF file). In the letter, Williams notes that the action of Gene Freeland (Sergeant-at-Arms of the executive committee meeting at the Dallas CWA Hall last Monday) to kick the Democratic Party out of the CWA Hall was not authorized by the CWA. Freeland was appointed to serve as Sergeant-at-Arms by the chair, Susan Hays. Williams writes:

I want each of you to know that no one in C.W.A. authorized the Sergeant-at-Arms, who is not a member of C.W.A. to speak on behalf of the building owners and ask all of you to leave immediately. I gave no such authority to anyone that night.

Subject to our own needs, our facility will continue to be available for Party meetings in the future.

Susan Hays and Gene Freeland repeatedly warned that Freeland had the authority to shut down the meeting if things got unruly. This letter makes clear that the owners of the building, the CWA, had given no such authority.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:46 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

More Reaction on Perry Attacking Bloggers

By Byron LaMasters

Kuff already put together a list, but I wanted to list blogosphere reaction to Rick Perry's recent attack on blogs here as well:

Greg's Opinion
Grits for Breakfast
In the Pink, Texas
Off the Kuff
Rick Perry vs. the World
Pink Dome
The Red State

Update: Four more blogs weigh in...

100 Monkeys Typing, Common Sense, Phenix Rising and Swanky Conservative.

More: The Lone Star Times has two posts on the topic - here and here.

Final Update: Another conservative blog adds their $0.02. Voice in the Wilderness.

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

Changes to HB 3, Debate Begins on HB 2

By Andrew Dobbs

Yesterday it was revealed that there was a $1.2 billion gap in HB 3- the panopoly of new taxes would not pay for the massive property tax cut. So the bill was sent back to Ways and Means who spent all day looking for ways to make up the money. Here are the changes made:

1. The payroll tax was increased from 1.1% to 1.15% and the cap on income subject to the tax was raised from $80,000 to $90,000. So the job killing tax is even higher now- great job guys. Seriously, when you tax something, you make people less likely to do it- simple economics. So why would you tax jobs? Every business in this state, particularly small businesses and labor intensive businesses, will know that every job they create is an extra tax burden for them. Now that burden will be even higher to pay for a huge tax cut for the wealthy.

John Smithee, a rural Republican who apparantly has some sense about him, asked some tough questions of this section (before voting for the bill). He asked why there was a cap at all, since that makes the tax regressive. Committee Chair Jim Keffer explained that he didn't want to discourage businesses from hiring high-salaried employees. So upper class people should be able to get jobs, but poor folks shouldn't? Great policy, Jim.

2. The new tax on newspapers was left out of the drafting of the bill by mistake, so they've made sure to correct that error.

3. Snack foods will now have a 3% sales tax increase, higher than everything else. So those of us who read newspapers, smoke, eat junk food and have cars that like to break down are really screwed. Thank God the strip club tax didn't make it into the bill or I'd be getting really hard.

4. Tobacco companies who aren't a part of the tobacco settlement will be taxed at a rate to bring them up to the level of state contributions that settlement-included companies are. This is actually good policy, as some manufacturers (American Spirits come to mind) charge extra money from consumers but don't pay into the settlement. Cigarettes are bad for you, everyone knows that, and they should all pull their fair share.

So those are the big changes to HB 3. HB 2 is on the floor today and where there was once a move to unite rural Republicans and urban Democrats, now there is a move to get urban and suburban Republicans on our side as the carrot used to lure the rural Republicans onboard- an increase in transportation funding- actually short changes suburban and urban districts. So no one knows what will happen, but it looks like HB 2 will likely pass, but HB 3 won't. In other words, we'll have a whole host of new funding requirements without any bill to provide the money. Trainwreck, here we come...

Watch the debate yourself and see what happens here, and stay tuned to BOR for your news on the legislature.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 01:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rick Perry Attacks Blogs Again

By Byron LaMasters

Rick Perry really doesn't get blogs. For the second time in just over a year, Governor Perry has gone to the Austin American Statesman attacking the blogosphere. This time, Perry's victim was In the Pink, Texas. Here's what Perry's spokesman said this time:

"Blogs are certainly appropriate expressions of people's opinions," gubernatorial spokesman Robert Black said Monday. "The general public has to realize on blogs . . . there are no controls on accuracy or honesty. And there's no accountability.

"People need to be very careful with what they read in the blogs. Most blogs seem to be run with a pretty severe liberal bent."

Most blogs are run with a "severe liberal bent"? That's completely laughable. I guess that the governor has never heard of Instapundit, Powerline Blog or Little Green Footballs. And even if we just look at Texas blogs, I guess that the governor has never heard of Beldar Blog, the Lone Star Times, BlogHouston or Safety for Dummies.
(Update: Forgot to mention another conservative Texas blog noted in trackbacks for our governor to read - Swanky Conservative).

When I mentioned this to the reporter, Gardner Selby, he said that Governor Perry mentioned that there were no conservative/Republican blogs specifically referring to capitol politics, while there are numerous Democratic and left-leaning blogs at the capitol. I have a very simple solution, governor... there are 19 Republican State Senators and 87 Republican State Representatives. They all have a lot of staffers that could easily start blogs to cover the legislative session. Why don't they join the Democratic representative (Aaron Pena) and staffers that have started blogs this session? It's quite easy.

As for the "controversy" that prompted this article - I'm perplexed that the governor would find it necessary to speak to the press on the matter. The "controversy" - only seen by several hundred people until now, will be seen by thousands in the newspaper today. These types of stories just go away unless fuel is added to the fire. Going to the mainstream media does just that.

I'm rather pleased with the quote of mine that got printed:

Byron LaMasters, a University of Texas senior whose burntorangereport.com raised eyebrows last spring by posting a rumor about Perry's personal life, said bloggers are accountable to readers, like any source.

"If readers disagree, they can say that and comment (online)," he said. "It's much more open than most media.

I believe that blogs are just as accountable to their audience as any other media source. In fact, I would argue that blogs are in many ways more accountable to their readers than newspapers, and other traditional media. Blogs provide instant two-way communication. If a reader believes that something that we write is biased, unfair or incorrect, that reader can post a comment instantly communicating to the writer and all readers their opinion. Newspapers only provide corrections in later editions, and only print a small fraction of the letters to the editor in which they receive. Bloggers, on the other hand, publish nearly all non-spam comments to their posts.

There are arguments that blogs aren't accountable. For example, most of us don't have editors, and anyone can start a blog and write whatever they want. However, as blogs have grown as a major news medium, institutional checks-and-balances systems have emerged. If a blog is not creditable, other bloggers won't link to it. If a blog is not creditable, readers will stop visiting it. If a blog is not creditable, advertisers will not advertise on it. Not all blogs are creditable, but the nature of two-way communication that blogs provide, allow for a checks-and-balances system that separates the creditable blogs from the non-creditable blogs. So, my advice to Rick Perry? Stop whining and set up your own damn blog!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:39 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Another Poll

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

No, this one has nothing to do with city council so you don't have to send people over here to push it in your favor (cough, Gregg Knaupe and Mandy Dealey campaigns, cough). For all of you UT area readers who always bitch about parking, here is a short questionaire for you by the Parking and Transportation Services people. So please take it if you want to see things improved before you graduate.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 06:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 07, 2005

Sam Johnson Story Finally hits the local Press

By Byron LaMasters

Finally, weeks after U.S. Rep. Sam "Nuke 'em" Johnson (R-Plano) suggested that the United State should nuke Syria, the comments have hit the local press. Here's the Fort Worth Star-Telegram article from Sunday:

Capitol Hill is buzzing over remarks made by Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Plano, to President Bush and Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, last month at the White House that the way to solve the problem of Syria allegedly harboring Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is "to put two nukes in 'em."

Johnson, a former fighter pilot and prisoner of war in Vietnam, relayed that conversation with the president at a veterans event Feb. 19 at Suncreek United Methodist Church in Allen. Someone taped Johnson's speech and shared it with Roll Call, a nonpartisan newspaper that covers Capitol Hill.

"Syria is the problem. Syria is where those weapons of mass destruction are, in my view. You know, I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on 'em and I'll make one pass. We won't have to worry about Syria anymore." While there was loud applause, some people took offense.

As for Granger, spokesman Pat Svacina said, "She has no recollection of that conversation."

Isn't that convenient, Kay. Fortunately, other witnesses have better memories. The Houston Chronicle also picked up on the story on Sunday as well:

Dallas-area congressman Sam Johnson raised eyebrows with his recent offer to personally drop a couple of nuclear bombs on Syria.

But he said that he was "kind of joking" in his comments at a pancake breakfast at a North Texas church in February.

His remarks in Allen were first reported last week in Roll Call. The Capitol Hill newspaper said it had heard a recording of the talk.

According to Roll Call, Johnson said he was talking with President Bush and Rep. Kay Granger, a Fort Worth Republican, at the White House about weapons of mass destruction that U.S. troops had failed to find in Iraq.

Johnson said he told the president: "Syria is the problem. Syria is where those weapons of mass destruction are, in my view."

"You know, I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on 'em and I'll make one pass. We won't have to worry about Syria anymore," he said.

Johnson, 74, is a former Air Force combat pilot who served in the wars in Korea and Vietnam, where he was shot down and spent 7 1/2 years as a prisoner of war.

Note to congressmen.... you don't "joke" and you certainly don't "kind of joke" about using nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the Dallas Morning News picked up on the story on Friday:

Folks know the colorful Sam Johnson, R-Plano, is good for the occasional off-the-wall comment, and here's what one person with a tape recorder caught the congressman saying last month to a group of veterans gathered at an Allen church: "Syria is the problem. Syria is where those weapons of mass destruction are, in my view. You know, I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on 'em and I'll make one pass. We won't have to worry about Syria anymore." We're not sure which is worse, that Mr. Johnson, a former fighter pilot, made such an inappropriate, tongue-in-cheek comment or that the group applauded so loudly. It only helps those who would harm this country to paint us all as bloodthirsty cowboys.

I have two questions. First, why did it take two weeks for the local media to pick up on these outrageous remarks? Second, why are people not calling for Sam Johnson's resignation?

I'll do it. Joking about using a weapon that could lead to the end of civilization as we know it, is just not funny. Hearing a member of our federal government make such comments is downright scary. No one who makes such irresponsible statements should serve at any level of government, especially not as a member of Congress, which has the constitutional authority to authorize military action. Sam Johnson should resign. Who will join me in calling for Sam Johnson's resignation?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Republicans Jumping Ship on HB 2 and HB 3

By Andrew Dobbs

Many may not realize this, but no major piece of legislation has been passed by the House this session. Only some local bills that typically pass by unanimous consent and resolutions honoring this or that local good guy have been passed. All is hinging on school finance and tax reform- HB 2 and HB 3 respectively- and right now things aren't looking so good for the GOP plans on either bill.

To begin with, the king of GOP tax policy, Grover Norquist, has come out against the tax bill:

National anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who is close to the White House and Republican Gov. Rick Perry, is sharply criticizing a tax overhaul crafted in the Texas House.

In a news release Wednesday titled "Texas House Poised to Declare Texas Closed for Business," Norquist singled out House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, for getting behind a new payroll tax and higher sales taxes, which House leaders are promoting as a way to pay for property-tax reductions.

"Speaker Craddick and the House seem to want to shut down Texas for
business," Norquist said in the release. "A payroll tax would raise the cost of everything produced in the state, and eliminate Texas' competitive advantage. And sales taxes would raise the cost of every consumer good, lowering the standard of living of Texas workers."

Geez... when Grover Norquist and I agree on something things are getting scary. He's completely right about the standard of living reduction, but I suspect that his tax plan would just eliminate everything and end a ton of government programs. Still, as the article notes, a bunch of Texas legislators have signed a Norquist-designed pledge not to raise taxes and it will be interesting to see how they'll sell this bit of hypocrisy to their constituents. They claim that because they are lowering property taxes, it all evens out, but as I pointed out last week HB 3 would raise taxes on a majority of Texans.

BTW- Chris Kenedy pointed out that I didn't take into account that not every taxing unit (only a majority) aren't at the $1.50 cap. Point taken, and it actually means that people who live in places lower than the $1.50 cap will see an even higher tax increase under HB 3.

But I digress. Not only is Norquist- the uber Republican and ally of Gov. Perry- speaking out against HB 3, but Perry's not-so-uber-Republican-nemesis Carole Keeton Strayhorn has revealed that the bill doesn't actually cut property taxes:

The bill meant to buy down local school property taxes with higher state taxes lost something on its way out of the House Ways and Means Committee, according to the comptroller's office.

It lost the property tax relief, the office said.

"That legislation only included tax increases. It did not include a reduction in property taxes," said Mark Sanders, spokesman for state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

According to the comptroller, who was asked to help with a fiscal analysis of the measure, state tax increases included in House Bill 3 total nearly $9.6 billion over the next two years.

That's a hefty amount, but $1.2 billion short of the $10.8 billion that GOP leaders say would be necessary over the next two years to cut the maximum maintenance-and-operations property tax rate from $1.50 to $1 per $100 valuation.

Republicans are backtracking quickly, claiming that they probably made just a "one word mistake" that would cost the state $1.2 billion, but it looks like the debate might be delayed even further with this revelation. It might be a waste of time, however, as it seems more and more likely that the bill will be amended to pass the Democratic alternative with a significant number of rural Republicans joining forces to get the necessary 76 votes. From the Associated Press:

A plan to overhaul education in Texas could founder this week if measures aren't taken to address the concerns of rural Republicans who say they can't vote for the proposal in its current form.

The GOP-drawn plan to fund public schools in Texas has been slow to garner support from the large number of legislators who represent rural parts of Texas, both Republican and Democrat.

Those who hail from small-town Texas, where communities often revolve around schools, say the plan does not give their schools enough money for transportation, cuts funding for gifted and talented programs and does not give teachers a pay raise that would encourage them to move to the country.

"I haven't heard a lot of folks supporting it, other than the ones that wrote it," said Republican Rep. Scott Campbell, who represents a four-county district surrounding San Angelo. "It just breaks your heart because people have put in so much time and we still don't have anything." (...)

"I think (the plan) is on life support," said Rep. Robby Cook, D-Eagle Lake, who chairs the House Rural Caucus.

Most House Democrats have thrown their support to an alternative plan that they will offer as an amendment during floor debate next week.

That plan, unveiled earlier this week, gives more property tax relief to many Texas homeowners through a tripled homestead exemption. It would funnel $2 billion more than Grusendorf's plan to public schools.

It also puts more money into areas of top concern for rural members:
transportation, teacher pay and funding for at-risk and gifted and talented students.

"Hopefully the alternative can help bring life back to it, so we can get a good plan passed," Cook said, noting that the Democratic alternative "tends to cover a lot more the bases that we've been concerned about."

Remember that Robby Cook came within a hair's breadth of switching parties in 2003 (they had the press conference all organized and everything before he changed his mind) and that Scott Campbell is still a Republican. Pat Haggerty, an El Paso Republican (unfortunately, they do exist), has liked the bill to the Jonestown Massacre. Tommy Merritt, another Republican who likes a lot of Democrats, has said he will not vote for the plan. Those probably make up for the handful of Dems who will vote with Craddick and Grusendorf and all the other rural GOP votes will be on top of that. Enough people are starting to jump ship that the Democrats might just get something they want this session.

But Craddick and his crew will fight to keep their party in line and there is an excellent chance that the regular session will end in deadlock without a school finance bill. Special sessions will be called, but politicians will start getting antsy about their elections and things will get really interesting. The GOP has shown a distinct inability to lead, and this offers Democrats a great opportunity why our message is better.

Either way, stay tuned to BOR for your information on the 79th Legislature.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 03:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


By Jim Dallas

A reader, in a "where's the outrage" moment, wrote a note regarding House Bill 838, which would eliminate the statute of limitations for certain sexual assault felonies, including indecency with a child. He says that the bill is getting held up in committee (I can verify that the bill is still awaiting action in committee, for what it's worth), and asked me to spread the word about the hold-up.

Putting myself into the shoes of a legislator, I'd have mixed feelings about the bill. On one hand, it's very important to prevent child molestors from getting off; but on the other, there are some heavy practical considerations for why the current statute of limitations (which requires suspects to be prosecuted before the victim's 28th birthday) might be sensical.* (below the fold).

Still, I think the reader is absolutely right to demand an up-or-down vote on this bill, and I would hope that our Democratic leadership tells Rep. Terry Keel that.

* Limitations is one of the most important procedural rules protecting the accused, and shouldn't be taken lightly.

In deterimining limitations, the severity of the crime and the likelihood of the existance of evidence upon which a prosecution can be successfully conducted seem to be the most important factors.

Clearly sexual abuse of children is a very heinous crime, but the problem I see is that in many cases there will not be much evidence left by the time the victim's 28th birthday rolls around; memories dim. That isn't to say scars heal, of course. But what if we end up convicting innocent people?

In Texas, there are essentially only two types of crimes crimes where the law provides no time-bar to prosecution: homicides (intentional or negligent), and sexual assaults where there is un-identifiable DNA evidence. (New York appears to have a similar limitations scheme.)

In both cases, there's abundant evidence of the crime (homicide - there's usually a body) occurring. But in sexual assault cases, there may often be very little physical evidence to prove the offense even occurred, particularly decades afterward. Building a case around circumstantial evidence and "he said/she said" testimony (particularly when it relates to things adults think they remember about their childhood - things which often turn out to be wildly incorrect) does not sit well with me.

Ultimately, my concern is, would permitting prosecutions for 20, 30, 40 year old crimes lead to a more just state of affairs? Would abolishing limitations have much of an effect at all? I don't know. But I don't think the answer is clear cut either way.

As a legislator in this situation, I'd have to weigh these considerations, and I'd very much hope that proponents and opponents would have anecdotes or statistics to back up their points.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 04:39 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

A Burnt Orange Flashback; and, let's do it right this time

By Jim Dallas

I'm once again starting to ponder quantitative election models. My last foray into this field was a couple of years ago; I ended up producing a rather-flawed (mathematically speaking) model that ended up producing a pretty good forecast, although that's probably just a coincidence.

My 2003 prediction got 48 of the 50 states called correctly; but one of the errors was a doozy. Calling West Virginia for the Democrats looks downright embarassing in retrospect:

Still, 48 out of 50 ain't bad for a model which was created by an innumerate slacker like me. In fact, this was far more accurate than my "expert" subjective/qualitative/bullshit/whatever projection I made a week before the election:

I'm intrigued by the folks over at Pollyvote, who did a really, really good job.

I'm going to go back and re-think the whole thing, now that I've got a few years to play with computers.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's a Race

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

This spring I intend to try to report on 3 city council races in 3 different cities. There of course will be the Austin City Council race, place 3 especially (make sure you take the poll I set up).

In addition, my father Tom Musselman, running for city council back home in Fredericksburg, now has a challenger, one of the local "Republican Women" who we thought was going to sit it out. So if you are from Fredericksburg, or know people there, please go to the campaign blog or join the campain.

In addition, someone has filed against Jeff Ortiz out in Nederland. Jeff has made his intention to run for a seat for almost half a year now, and if elected, will be one of the youngest city council members in the state at 22. Don't let his age fool you into thinking he's not serious though, stop by his website and help him out.

If you would like to link to either of these sites or mention it on your blog, all of these campaigns, especially the non-Austin ones, would welcome it in order to raise their search rankings. My father has to compete with my own name in searches and the blogosphere's last round of linking actually directed some local supporters to the campaign. This past month he has been running radio and print advertising in Fredericksburg (at the whopping cost of $100 a week for radio) and other campaign materials are now in the production line.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 12:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I noticed thanks to a Washington Post article that DemsTV.com should be launching in the next day.

Two Democratic political consultants are preparing to launch a weekly online political talk show that will showcase the party's message, lambaste Republicans and, they hope, open a new front in the ongoing media wars.

It's called DemsTV.com, and each Tuesday, beginning tomorrow, the Web site will feature 20 minutes or so of talking-head chatter from a rotating cast of young Democratic operatives.

"The primary focus is on politics, and, frankly, a heavy focus is on pointing out the foibles and scandals and dirty little secrets of Republicans that we think don't receive as much coverage in the mainstream media as they might," said Dan Manatt, one of the producers.

This week, he said, the program will include opposition research on the GOP's possible 2008 presidential candidates, the panelists' picks for the "blogger of the week" and their predictions of who will be the most important Democratic leaders in the coming years.

The program, which its creators say is the video equivalent of a blog, does not have any formal connection to the Democratic National Committee.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 12:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 06, 2005

Wonkette? Here? You have to be kidding

By Nathan Nance

I've just learned that Wonkette herself will be in Austin next Monday. I was reading a Q&A in the Austin Chronicle with Ana Marie Cox, and at the very end of the column there is a note that Evan Smith, editor of Texas Monthly, will be interviewing her for SXSW Interactive at the Austin Convention Center Monday, March 14th at 2 p.m., room 17AB.

I have to see this, so I'll be driving the 100 miles to Austin next Monday. I imagine it will at least be fun to meet the Wonkette and try to represent the blogging community. I'd invite you all to attend, but it's not my festival (and I want Wonkette all to myself). But I can tell you it looks like fun and you should go.

For, more info, like registration costs, you can go to SXSW's Web site, and for a quick look at my own views of Wonkette's interview, go to my blog, Common Sense.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 07:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 05, 2005

Burnt Orange City Council Poll

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Floating this back up to the top to get more of a sample.

Ok, so let's try a little something. Even though there is not a whole lot going on in regards to the Austin City Council Place 3 Race, it is still going on. So I'd like to find out what the initial read of Burnt Orange readership is in an Instant Run-off online poll (meaning you can rank your four choices). So below I'm going to post all 4 candidates websites (in case you havn't seen them) and the link to the poll.

(Note to campaigns: Do not try to drive your supporters to this poll to influence my read of BOR readership. I will notice and I will take it down if you do so and write bitchy comments about your campaign.)

Take the Poll.

Campaign Sites:
Margot Clarke
Mandy Dealey
Jennifer Kim
Gregg Knaupe

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 09:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Chris Bell and UT

By Byron LaMasters

One thing that I learned about Chris Bell this past week was his work in UT student government. Not only did Bell graduate from UT, but he was instrumental in reinstating student government:

The son of a decorated veteran, Bell was born on November 23, 1959, in Abilene, Texas. He grew up in Dallas and first expressed interest in public service while attending the University of Texas at Austin, where he received a Bachelor of Journalism degree in 1982. While there, he served as President of the Interfraternity Council, was a member of the Texas Cowboys and was named Omicron Delta Kappa Leader of the Year for his pivotal role in reviving the UT student government.

The Daily Texan had a good story on Thursday on Bell's speech at Sholtz's.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Andrew Bucknall Running Underdog Campaign

By Byron LaMasters

Lee Leffingwell is clearly the frontrunner for the open Austin City Council Place 1 race, but progressives have another option with Andrew Bucknall. Bucknall is untested as a candidate and underfunded, but he's a great Democrat and progressive, and voters ought to take the opportunity to learn about his campaign.

Bucknall is a unique candidate who certainly defies stereotypes. He's a single father. He's a non-traditional 30-something year old college student. He's a White person attending the historically African-American Huston-Tillotson College. Among Bucknall's impressive record of east Austin activism incudes leading the effort to revive the H-T College Democrats which had been dormant for many years. Anyway, read the Daily Texan article on Bucknall's candidacy to learn more.

In other Austin City Council news, Greg Knappe has a lead over Jennifer Kim and the other candidates in Karl-Thomas's BOR city council poll. If you have yet to vote in the poll, click here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Regarding Charles Soechting

By Byron LaMasters

I read Andrew's post on Texas Democratic Party Chair Charles Soechting with a bit of confusion, as I did not realize that there was controversy / negative press regarding Chairman Soechting. Apparently, Andrew's comments were in the context of this article in the Austin American Statesman:

Almost two years after Texas Democratic Party leaders agreed to stow away $250,000 toward owning rather than renting their Austin headquarters, campaigns and other needs have soaked up the money.

In April 2003, the State Democratic Executive Committee voted that $250,000 be "set aside for the future purchase of a permanent home" for the party. [...]

Party Chairman Charles Soechting said he made a "command decision" last year to tap the funds for election needs such as legislative campaigns, a bus tour of the Rio Grande Valley, modernized voting records and vital staff pay raises and furniture.

"It's more important to have a viable political party than it is to worry about your address," Soechting said, noting that the party gained ground in the Texas House for the first time since 1972 when it picked up one House seat last year and welcomed local gains in Dallas and Harris counties.

Purchasing a long-term headquarters should be a priority for a state party, or major organization. While a short-term hassle, such moves save a great deal of money. However, in an election year, the number one priority should be electing Democrats. I agree with Kuff that it would be a story if the party spent $250,000 on a new headquarters instead of throwing in another $10,000 or so at state rep races that might have made the difference for people like Mark Strama, Hubert Vo, Mark Homer, Jim McReynolds, etc.

Furthermore, purchasing the modernized voter files and pay increases to ensure a professional staff are critical long-term investments. If there is reason to believe that there has been any malfeasance, an independent audit of the account might be necessary, but I see nothing from the article to suggest as much.

More at Dos Centavos.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Editorialized and another Letter

By Byron LaMasters

The Dallas Morning News wrote this on their editorial page:

And these bozos expect people to vote for them?

Count on the party of Andrew Jackson, LBJ and Bill Clinton to eat its young. Just when Dallas County Democrats should be figuring out how to advance the major gains they racked up in November – the sheriff's office and three judgeships – they've contrived to implode. A party meeting this week ended when security guards broke up what was fast becoming an out-and-out brawl. Sheriff Lupe Valdez felt the need to call the county chairwoman, Susan Hays, from outside the meeting and tell her it wasn't safe for her to leave. This is madness. For the sake of democracy (with a small "d"), stop it.

Count on the Dallas Morning News to do what they can to make a bad situation for the Democratic Party look worse. Anyone who read this blog during the past election season would know my opinion of the Dallas Morning News editorial page. Furthermore, to my knowledge, the DMN did not attend the meeting. There were no "security guards" breaking up the meeting. The sergeant-at-arms, ousted labor leader Gene Freeland (an ally of the chair), threw the party out of the CWA Hall. If the Dallas Morning News would have actually attended the meeting they would know that the meeting, while very heated in rhetoric was in no sense an "out-in-out" brawl. I did not observe ANY physical violence, nor threats thereof.

Also, another letter is being sent out to precinct chairs. I've included it in the extended entry:


March 4, 2005

Dear Fellow Democrat:

Last Monday night’s meeting of the Dallas County Democratic Executive Committee was one of the most interesting and revealing in our County Party’s history.

We want to thank the large majority of you who petitioned for that meeting. The petition, signed by more than 200 of you, was an historic event–the first time in memory that the Precinct Chairs themselves have undertaken the difficult task of calling their own meeting. This is proof that our Party is strong, active, energized and ready to wrest control of this county from the Republicans.

We are sorry, however, that our opportunity to plan the future of our Party was not completed, and it troubles us that the meeting’s unnecessary and abrupt conclusion silenced many of your voices. Troubling, too, is the misportrayal of the meeting by our local daily newspaper, in a story written four days after the fact. As for the meeting itself, we saw no reason for the extreme delay between the announced start time and the time the meeting was actually called to order. It was clear to all that a quorum was present within less than 20 minutes. The meeting should have been opened then. And, as a last point here, many of us cannot quietly accept the action of the Chair in recognizing a strategic quorum call designed to hobble the meeting, which had the immediate and damaging result of preventing us from filling numerous Precinct Chair vacancies. Many pending Precinct Chairs were in attendance, each one ready to become an official part of the Party structure and move forward. Instead, they were needlessly sacrificed, and that misguided act cost us valuable time, resources and political personnel.

Nevertheless, two very positive things happened. First, you unanimously passed a rule requiring that the Executive Committee meet no less than quarterly, thus ending the chance that the Executive Committee will be forced by the Chair’s inaction to sit idle during a volatile election season. As you know, until the other night, we had not met for some 10 months, not even before the presidential election. Second, you overwhelmingly approved the creation of a Democratic Party Advisory Committee ,whose purpose, among others, is to develop a strategic political plan for our county. This is long overdue. The Advisory Committee is made up of three persons elected from each Senate District, and each district has now elected its representatives and is preparing to move forward.

We have a common goal: securing the election of Democratic candidates who will promote the interests of the many rather than the few, and to do so with an inclusive and active Party structure, one that translates words into action at the grassroots level. For the Party Chair to refer in the press to your actions in your leadership roles as “mob rule,” and to claim with a straight face that the only reason the reformers have taken action is because of a desire for “jobs” from the Party, pointedly illustrates, again, the Chair’s failure to recognize the purpose and value of the Party structure. It is neither wise nor proper to ignore, be intolerant of, or disrespect the Precinct Chairs. One thing is certain, however: a solution cannot be imposed from the top down. A solution must involve the governing organization of our local Party, and it can only be reached through our collective wisdom and experience.

We ask for your continued input. Your voice does matter. We also ask for your help in reaching a quorum at the April 2, 2005 Executive Committee meeting, so that we may fill the vacant precincts. Working together, we will soon put an end to the current difficulties and unite to accomplish our goals in 2006 and beyond. The issues are too important to allow any other result.

Concerned Democrats of Dallas County

Theresa Daniel

Ken Molberg
SDEC and former County Chair

Shannon Bailey
SDEC and President, Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus

Steve Tillery

Michael Moon
President, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas

Dorothy Dean
Precinct Chair

Bruce Rothstein
Precinct Chair

Gary Fitzsimmons
Former SDEC

Janice Mattox
Precinct Chair

Buck Massey
Precinct Chair

Ricardo Medrano
Precinct Chair

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:44 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Bloggers To Feel FEC "Wrath?"

By Vince Leibowitz

"Bradley Smith [of the Federal Election Commission] says that the freewheeling days of political blogging and online punditry are over.

Give me a break. Please.

Via Off The Kuff, I found this article which did anything but make me want to run out and hire personal FEC compliance counsel:

In just a few months, he warns, bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign's Web site. Even forwarding a political candidate's press release to a mailing list, depending on the details, could be punished by fines.

Smith should know. He's one of the six commissioners at the Federal Election Commission, which is beginning the perilous process of extending a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet.

In 2002, the FEC exempted the Internet by a 4-2 vote, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last fall overturned that decision. "The commission's exclusion of Internet communications from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines" the campaign finance law's purposes, Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

Smith and the other two Republican commissioners wanted to appeal the Internet-related sections. But because they couldn't get the three Democrats to go along with them, what Smith describes as a "bizarre" regulatory process now is under way.

Gee. Could they now want to regulate the Blogsphere simply because, uh, so many blogs are progressive and Democrat-leaning? Hummm.

Thanks to McCain-Feingold, which I've never been convinced is just a terribly wonderful piece of legislation because I think it sends more money "underground" than ever before, Smith seems to think Bloggers may not be eligible for the "press exemption" within the law:

The real question is: Would a link to a candidate's page be a problem? If someone sets up a home page and links to their favorite politician, is that a contribution? This is a big deal, if someone has already contributed the legal maximum, or if they're at the disclosure threshold and additional expenditures have to be disclosed under federal law.

Certainly a lot of bloggers are very much out front. Do we give bloggers the press exemption? If we don't give bloggers the press exemption, we have the question of, do we extend this to online-only journals like CNET?

How can the government place a value on a blog that praises some politician? How do we measure that? Design fees, that sort of thing? The FEC did an advisory opinion in the late 1990s (in the Leo Smith case) that I don't think we'd hold to today, saying that if you owned a computer, you'd have to calculate what percentage of the computer cost and electricity went to political advocacy.

It seems absurd, but that's what the commission did. And that's the direction Judge Kollar-Kotelly would have us move in. Line drawing is going to be an inherently very difficult task. And then we'll be pushed to go further. Why can this person do it, but not that person?

How about a hyperlink? Is it worth a penny, or a dollar, to a campaign? I don't know. But I'll tell you this. One thing the commission has argued over, debated, wrestled with, is how to value assistance to a campaign.

So, if a hyperlink is a contribution, what about wearing a campaign tee-shirt or a campaign button? Would I have to divide up the area of my shirt by the space of the button to calculate the cost of the space the button takes up? If I go to Wal-Mart and more people see it, is that worth more? If a fat man wears a campaign tee-shirt, is that a greater contribution because it's more visible than on a baby, for example? If an extoridnarily beautiful woman dons a campaign tee-shirt is that worth more because more men will want to look at her?

Corporations aren't allowed to donate to campaigns. Suppose a corporation devotes 20 minutes of a secretary's time and $30 in postage to sending out letters for an executive. As a result, the campaign raises $35,000. Do we value the violation on the amount of corporate resources actually spent, maybe $40, or the $35,000 actually raised? The commission has usually taken the view that we value it by the amount raised. It's still going to be difficult to value the link, but the value of the link will go up very quickly.

This is totally absurd. Can anyone say (scream) FIRST AMENDMENT PROTECTION? I'd personally volunteer to be a test case for this garbage.


The problem with coordinated activity over the Internet is that it will strike, as a minimum, Internet reporting services.

They're exempt from regulation only because of the press exemption. But people have been arguing that the Internet doesn't fit under the press exemption. It becomes a really complex issue that would strike deep into the heart of the Internet and the bloggers who are writing out there today. (Editor's note: federal law limits the press exemption to a "broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication." )

There's sensitivity in the commission on this. But remember the commission's decision to exempt the Internet only passed by a 4-2 vote.

This time, we couldn't muster enough votes to appeal the judge's decision. We appealed parts of her decision, but there were only three votes to appeal the Internet part (and we needed four). There seem to be at least three commissioners who like this.

How can the commission not want to exempt the Internet? How is a Weblog any different from a newspaper editorial endorsing a candidate? It's not, except because of the medium by which it is delivered. If they're going to not exempt the Internet, then, in my view, they would have to un-exempt any newspaper that prints editorial endorsements.

Here's a real kicker:

I'd like someone to say that unpaid activity over the Internet is not an expenditure or contribution, or at least activity done by regular Internet journals, to cover sites like CNET, Slate and Salon. Otherwise, it's very likely that the Internet is going to be regulated, and the FEC and Congress will be inundated with e-mails saying, "How dare you do this!"

This is totally stupid. "Activity done by regular Internet journals to cover sites like CNET, Slate and Salon." Clearly, this would be ripe for litigation. Why would BOR or other sites not qualify? Many sites are written by ex-journliats (In the Pink Texas) or have ex-journalists that contribute (this one, me being the ex-journalist). Furthermore, this day and age, what is considered a "regular" Internet journal, and who is a journalist? It's about like defining what the meaning of "is" is. If you report what you see, write a column on something, etc., you are engaging in the practice of journalism, whether you are working for major media or just posting on some little hole in the wall at BlogCity or Blogspot.

It's going to be a battle, and if nobody in Congress is willing to stand up and say, "Keep your hands off of this, and we'll change the statute to make it clear," then I think grassroots Internet activity is in danger. The impact would affect e-mail lists, especially if there's any sense that they're done in coordination with the campaign. If I forward something from the campaign to my personal list of several hundred people, which is a great grassroots activity, that's what we're talking about having to look at.

If no one in Congress is really willing to stand up (and I doubt that), then it's time for the folks on the Hill to grow some cajones. This has got to be nipped in the bud, and quickly.

Q. If Congress doesn't change the law, what kind of activities will the FEC have to target?

A. We're talking about any decision by an individual to put a link (to a political candidate) on their home page, set up a blog, send out mass e-mails, any kind of activity that can be done on the Internet.

Again, blogging could also get us into issues about online journals and non-online journals. Why should CNET get an exemption but not an informal blog? Why should Salon or Slate get an exemption? Should Nytimes.com and Opinionjournal.com get an exemption but not online sites, just because the newspapers have a print edition as well?

Why wouldn't the news exemption cover bloggers and online media?
Because the statute refers to periodicals or broadcast, and it's not clear the Internet is either of those. Second, because there's no standard for being a blogger, anyone can claim to be one, and we're back to the deregulated Internet that the judge objected to. Also I think some of my colleagues on the commission would be uncomfortable with that kind of blanket exemption.

"The deregulated Internet?" Yes, that's kind of how it is supposed to be, given that, by and large, free speech is deregulated. Consider the irony in this, should Blogs be regulated: It is constitutional to burn a flag in protest, but it is a violation of the law to put a campaign site link on your blog. So, so wrong.

And, how can you get off saying Blogs are neither periodicals or broadcast media? Periodicals are publications updated regularly (blogs), and the Internet sure seems to me to be "broadcast."

Q. So if you're using text that the campaign sends you, and you're reproducing it on your blog or forwarding it to a mailing list, you could be in trouble?

A. Yes. In fact, the regulations are very specific that reproducing a campaign's material is a reproduction for purpose of triggering the law. That'll count as an expenditure that counts against campaign finance law.

This is an incredible thicket. If someone else doesn't take action, for instance in Congress, we're running a real possibility of serious Internet regulation. It's going to be bizarre.

God yes, it's going to be bizarre. Could you imagene the horror at the FEC when two million bloggers start sending in federal spending reports? Seriously, though, this is potentially one of the dumbest things anyone has talked about in a while.

If they're going to consider Blogs as expenditures to count against campaign finance law, then they'll have to make everyone who wears a tee-shirt, puts a bumper sticker on their car, or a yard sign in their yard "count against," too. Clearly, a yard sign and a blog are both free speech. If you're going to say one form "counts" moneywise, then you've got to say the other counts, too--and not just in that the campaign spent the money to print it, but in that someone put it on prominent display in their yard. At least, to me, this is a logical defense against regulation of the Internet.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 04:05 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

It's doubleplusgooder!

By Jim Dallas

Once you join this group, you'll be eligible to join this one:

Students will also have a positive outlet for participating in pro-ex-gay activities instead of anti-gay behavior. For example, why tear down a gay club flyer? The problem of homosexual struggles still remains. Instead, post an Ex-Gay & Everstraight Club flyer.

Now, I'm in to women as much as a fellow can be, but... "everstraight"? Are they trying to creep me out?

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 04, 2005

Republican Tax Plan Would Raise Taxes on Majority of Texans

By Andrew Dobbs

So I've been at work today crunching numbers. I've been doing the math to figure out the impact of the various tax plans on Texas families. Since the Democratic plan doesn't have all the details on how they'll make up for their cuts and new expenditures, its like comparing apples to oranges, but just the impact of the property tax cut is pretty dramatic. I'll start there.

The GOP plan will simply cut the M&O Property Tax Rate from $1.50 per $100 valuation to $1.00 per $100 valuation. Local governments could add another $0.10 per $100 valuation "enrichment tax," and with their finance plan pretty much everyone will have to pass one of those. The Democratic plan, however, would triple the homestead exemption- from $15,000 to $45,000- and lower the rate only to $1.25. This would only apply to homeowners, businesses would see no cut in the rate. The primary advantage to the Democratic plan is that most rural Texans, inner-city residents and South Texas residents live in homes valued not much more than $50,000. Suburbanites live in the big fancy houses, so the homestead exemption wouldn't effect them much. But most Texans would see a significant benefit.

The average Texan lives in a house valued at $109,639. Right now they pay $1419.59 a year in property taxes. Under the GOP plan, their taxes will drop to $1041.03- a 27% decrease with the enrichment tax included. Under the Democratic plan however, their taxes would drop to $807.99, a 43% drop. Half of Texas would see a bigger decrease than even that 43%. Furthermore, every single Texan- no matter how poor- would only get that 27% decrease under the Republican plan. Under the Democratic plan, the lower the value of your house (and by extension, the poorer you are) the more you keep.

Just for some examples, let's look at some selected districts. In Delwin Jones' (a West Texas Republican) rural district homeowners would see an average drop of 50%. Terri Hodge's inner city Dallas district would see a decrease of 65% and Aaron Pena's South Texas district would see a drop of 81%! A majority of Texans would see a decrease greater than 43%, while under the GOP plan everyone would get only 27%. For years whenever Democrats voted for a smaller tax cut than Republicans, Republicans have called that a vote for a "tax increase." So is it far for us to say that Republicans want to raise property taxes on a majority of Texans?

But that's not all. The Democratic plan doesn't have all the details as I've said, but they are unlikely to have much of a sales tax increase and would probably shy away from the payroll tax proposed by the GOP. That's beside the point. What is important is that under the GOP plan the average Texas family would see a tax increase. That's right- their taxes would INCREASE. Let's do the math.

For our purposes we're going to use the Texas average home value ($109,639), the state's median household income ($45,861), the state's average family structure (two parents and one child) and have $300 of repairs on at least one car (not an unlikely scenario).

First, the average family will get a $473.20 property tax cut. This will be followed by absorbing the 1.1% payroll tax. Don't like me using this there? The Republicans are selling it by saying that businesses can simply "shift" their payroll costs- cut salaries, benefits or jobs. Furthermore, for years Republicans have decried the federal payroll tax by saying (as economists back them up) that the 6.2% employer share of the tax comes out of wages. The most pernicious thing is that Texans won't even see this tax being taken from them necessarily, but they will be paying it. This tax will cost them $504.47 a year. That leaves them with a $31.27 tax increase. Next comes the sales tax. The IRS says that the average Texan in this salary bracket paid $714 in sales taxes last year. The GOP increase is 11%, meaning they'll pay $792.54 in sales taxes without accounting for the expansion of the tax base. $31.27 plus $78.54 equals a $109.81 tax increase now. But what about those $300 in repairs? While that was once tax exempt, it now gets taxed with a bill of $27.60. Add it all up and you have a $137.41 tax increase for the average Texas family. Realize that for people who don't own their home (36.2%) the increase will be even greater, and about half of all homeowners will have a higher tax increase than even this.

So how is this revenue neutral? Because the very wealthy get a big tax cut. Let's take a typicaly Highland Park family. On their $500,000 house they'll be saving $1940 a year in property taxes. But on the payroll taxes they are only taxed on their first $80,000 of income, not every penny of it like the average Texas family. So they only pay $880, leaving them with a $1060 tax cut. With the sales tax increase they'll lose $182.16, leaving them with a tax cut of $877.84. Finally, they pay the same amount in car repairs ($27.60 on their $300 of repairs), giving them a $850.24 tax cut.

So a family that makes $150,000 a year and lives in a rich suburb gets $850 in their pockets, chump change for them in the end (0.5% of their income), while the middle class family gets a $137.41 tax increase. This bill benefits the rich more than the poor, but it doesn't even benefit them that much in the end. We need more details on the Democratic plan, but as it stands now this plan should be killed no matter what- even the status quo is better it seems.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 02:49 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Cleaner Air Coming to Austin?

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

So Austin may have cleaner air coming to it, in two different forms.

First, the Daily Texan reports on the city council passing a resolution in support of hybrid vehicle incentives. Huzzah to the locals thinking like this when the folks in DC putter around debating the existance of global climate change.

Roger Duncan, general manager for Austin Energy, pointed out the economic, environmental and national security benefits of pushing for hybrid "plug-in" vehicles. Such vehicles would reduce the city's fleet costs and help protect air quality, Duncan said. Nationally, the vehicles would wean the country from its dependency on oil, he said.

These vehicles are different than hybrid vehicles currently on the market, such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic, Duncan said. The vehicles available for incentives would run on mostly electricity and alternative fuel, such as hydrogen, corn ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, bio-diesel fuel and electricity, according to the Gas Optional Vehicles Report prepared by Austin Energy.

"It's the electrification of the transportation sector," he said.

Secondly, the Texan also reports that the Smoking Ban Ballot Initiative will indeed be on the ballot May 7.

The current city law permits bars and restaurants with permits to allow smoking. The proposed ordinance prohibits smoking in all bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, billiard halls and live music venues.

Paul Silver, owner of the bar 219 West, is part of a group of entertainment business owners who filed a lawsuit against the city Tuesday, questioning the legality of the ordinance's language...

He said all the "funky little places" would definitely close, especially those along South Congress and Red River.

"Small bars aren't sitting around with cash," he said. "Any blip in their sales, and that would be the end of them."

The anti-smoking petition was pushed by Onward Austin, a coalition of health and community organizations such as the American Heart Association and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

The next big question here will be where do the city council candidates fall on this issue since they have to deal with it now. I don't see many of them jumping on the smoking ban bandwagon except for maybe Margot Clarke (who just won the Sierra Club endorsement btw), and certainly not Gregg Knaupe for reasons I have already mentioned.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 01:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


By Karl-Thomas Musselman

OK, Get ready for a series of posts this afternoon in reponse to Daily Texan coverage, Student Government elections, and other local happenings. I needed a day to collect my thoughts and after reading and hearing some reactions today, it's time to comment.

Today's first post will be in regards to this Texan opinion piece titled "Shameful Display on West Mall", written by none other than Connect Union Board winner James Burnham. (At least it wasn't his compadre, Eric Weiner, infamous on the Texan panel for getting orange juice and eating a bagel in the middle of an interview question, who was also just elected as well to the UB, though that discussion is for another post.)

It's nice to see that he has an opinion on this topic, even if he couldn't come up with a stance on how he would have voted in the Taco Bell decision the Union Board made the week before the election.

After some speeches and displays, the energy level of the crowd increased, and people horded around the table to accost the students from YCT who were quickly realizing their brownies would offer scant protection. The crowd proceeded to spend almost two hours (no exaggeration) yelling and screaming at the YCT members hurling unanswerable questions and vicious insults.

At one point, I managed to wrestle my way to the front of the crowd and was hit in the back of the head by candy. Yes, candy. The "peaceful" protestors who will simply not stand for violence or hate had taken YCT's candy and baked goods and were literally pelting the members with them. I even got to hear one charming girl yell at the YCT chairman, "Why won't you fight me? I came here to fight. I want a fight."

(KT- A fight? Kick-ass. I think we should arrange a match up with YCT Chairwoman Lauren Conner and say, the UDs President or SG president? I'd go to the west mall for that.)

It was horrific; it was mean spirited. It was the mob.

Not wanting to make a snap judgment, I asked some of the protestors why they were so incensed about an event that never happened. All everyone could agree on was that there had been an e-mail, to someone, though nobody knew who, declaring YCT's intention to have an Immigrant Hunt. Allegedly, it was also discussed at their meeting two weeks ago.

First, don't buy the YCT innocent defense or "we never planned to have such an event" garbage. They talked about it two week ago, kept trying to land a date, and were discussing it the day before with officials in the Student Services Building. They used Texas Independence Day as cover. I remember last year when they were planning Straight Pride day (also around this time) that the date kept floating when we were trying to nail it down.

That said, it is sad of course, that the noisy protest drowned out the silent one which the University Democrats had a greater hand in, with their Hate is not Activism theme. But as media is prone to do, silence wasn't making a stir.

But it did make for a very humourous Firing Line...

This letter is in response to the story I read in the Texan about YCT's Texas Independence Day celebration that was overshadowed by a group of reactionary leftists. Why do you cowardly students fear the ideas of YCT so much? Why do you attempt to silence them by intimidating and harassing them? Are you threatened by their ideas so much that you will label them racists, Nazis and KKK supporters? Instead of shouting and name-calling, why not go to their table and debate their ideas?

Oh wait, I forgot, in the market place of ideas, socialism failed. I guess that is why the left uses such tactics to silence its opponents. Well, guess what; YCT and groups like it are the wave of the future on college campuses. So, get used to it and come up with some better ideas than collectivism and P.C. drivel. You are going to need it, because you cannot stop the onslaught of right-wing activism now, or in the future.

Brendan Steinhauser
UT alum 2004

Pul-leese. Onslaught of right-wing activism? Yeah, 3 people against 300. Really massing the troops, eh?

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 12:57 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

On Charles E. Soechting

By Andrew Dobbs

I've been meaning to write this for a while, but I haven't gotten around to it until the attacks in the Statesman today finally made me say something. I'm not writing this because of my job, but because I want to say it.

Charles Soechting is the toughest boss I've ever had. For comparison, I'll throw in all the bosses I had at the restaurant I worked at in High School- including some rather tough ones, Joe Trippi, all the people at the Capitol, on the various campaigns I've worked for and I'll even throw in my High School football coaches. He's tough, but for all the times I've been mad at him, he's a good boss.

I think the best example of why he's a good boss and a great chairman is the way I got my job. It all started after his selection in October of 2003 when on October 25 I wrote a piece that began

Well, it looks like the forces of cronyism, institutional short-sightedness and a desire to run our party into the ground once and for all prevailed again here in Austin as the State Democratic Executive Committee selected longtime TDP General Counsel and integral part of the 8 year campaign for obscurity Charles Soechting as the new Chair of the Texas Democratic Party.

Not exactly the thing you want to say about a future boss. Then, two days later Byron put up a post that was nicer, if still skeptical about Soechting. I put a comment that said:

I will say that this story caught my eye as well and that it made me feel a little better about things. Finally, casting your vote for Soechting just because he isn't Mauro is the kind of short-sighted bullshit that threatens to send our party the way of the Whigs and Greenbacks. We need someone with as much fire but a little more independence of the failures of the last 6 years, i.e. Garnet Coleman or any of the other people you mentioned a minute ago. Oh well, here's hoping he'll make it to a UDem meeting so I can ask him some questions myself.

A bit nicer, but still pretty mean. He never made it to a UD meeting (though I'll try and get him to one this semester- no promises), but he did one better. He put a comment up on the post himself. It read:

Hello Andrew and others, this is Charles. If you want to meet me, get ready. I am the Chair and if you are as sick and tired as I am of the lies that the Republicans have told you need to do more than get online and gripe. You need to work with us. Our office number is 478-9800 and we are looking for volunteers. I have monitored your concerns during this election and understand your frustration, it's natural to be frustrated. Change is here and we are ready for your help. Thanks, Charles Soechting, Chair, Texas Democratic Party.

Just so you'll know, that is still the number for the party (512 area code, of course) and we are always looking for volunteers. But I digress. I called that number and emailed him and he got back to me. He set up a meeting with Byron, Jim and me and gave us each a couple hundred bucks (out of his own pocket) to create the Yellow Dog Blog, which has since withered away. A couple of months later, I was broke and needed a job so I called him up. He gave it to me on the spot and I've been here ever since- more than a year later.

All this to say that Charles Soechting isn't the kind of guy to hold grudges against anyone except Republicans and their allies. He doesn't try and make enemies- he even brought David Van Os and Garry Mauro into the process (his opponents in the Chair race) because he realizes that we have enough enemies on the opposite side that we don't need to be making them amongst ourselves. He wasn't an insider- he had a low level party post and had been fighting for change for years. He was General Counsel, and let me say that we talk to our current GC- the talented, intelligent and friendly Chad Dunn- maybe once or twice a month. Charles was exactly what we needed, even if we didn't all realize it.

Having said that, he is tough to work for at times. There have been times when I have wanted to give him the finger and tender my resignation. But when I cooled off and thought about it, he is usually right. He tells us to keep our offices clean, because part of winning is looking like a winner. He gets mad when we aren't working, because he is a person for whom "tenacious" is not quite strong enough a word ("take no prisoners" would be better perhaps). He wants to know what we are doing to elect Democrats, because that is his singular goal in life. He is intense, to say the least.

A lot of it probably has to do with the fact that coming from nothing to everything is the story of the guy's life. He grew up dirt poor in San Marcos- his childhood house stood where the median between I-35 and the access road is today- and worked hard to try and get into a community college. He got top grades there, because he couldn't afford anywhere else, and when he graduated near the top of his class he went on to be an officer in the US Navy. After that, he served for 10 years as a State Trooper. Ask anyone who knows what DPS training is like and they will tell you it separates the men from the boys. My Dad is in law enforcement training and has known men who were Marines, who were even in Army Special Forces and they said that DPS training was considerably tougher. Soechting thrived in that environment and became a respected agent. After a decade of the low pay and thankless work, he began studying to go to law school. He got a scholarship and went to South Texas College of Law, graduating near the top of his class again. He is now a top dog at the super-firm of O'Quinn, Laminack and Pirtle where he has distinguished himself as a trial lawyer. And after decades of Democratic activism, including stints as a candidate for State House, Hays County Chair and General Counsel for the State Party he was elected Chairman. During the first year of his term he had major back surgery and was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After both surgeries he was back in the office about 2 or 3 weeks later.

The theme of his life? Work. The guy knows what its like to start out with nothing and the only way to move up is to work harder than everyone else. As chairman he started out with nothing and he's working his way up. He has very little patience for people who don't work as hard as he does, and that can make things testy at times. He woke me up at 6:30 this morning, telling me to get to the office. He's done the same thing on weekends and in the middle of the night. I don't mind though, because I care about this party and I'm proud to serve it. I can do so because Charles Soechting gave me a chance.

I don't mean for this to sound like a puff piece- the guy is as imperfect as any of us, in some ways more than a lot of us. But he is perfect for the job. In the post where I decried him that led to him giving me a job, I said

We need someone who will shake things up, rebuild our grassroots, develop a much better GOTV effort, recruit candidates, raise money, hone our message and disseminate it and convince people who have voted for the GOP over the last decade or so that they ought to come back home to the Democratic Party. Perhaps Soechting can do this, but I have my doubts- he has been an insider and is rooted in the sort of fuzzy-headed dwelling in the past that plagues our party leadership.

Here’s hoping I’m wrong about all of this.

I was very wrong. Targeting bad Democrats in the primary shook things up. Getting on the case of lazy SDEC members and County Chairs has rebuilt the grassroots. Our GOTV effort was good this year and it will only get better next time around. We had some phenomenal candidates this year, many of them ran because Charles asked them to. He's hard at work on 2006. He's raised money and has recently hired a professional fundraiser and has promised that if she doesn't raise enough to cover her fee, he'll pay it out of his own pocket. Our message is clearer, tougher and spread better than ever before and people are starting to come back to our party. Charles Soechting proved me wrong and just to rub it in he let me be here next to him while he did it. I'm proud to say that I was wrong and I'm proud to work with him.

Once again, no one asked me to write this, I just felt that I had to say something. Next time someone says something rotten about Charles Soechting, show them to this post (especially if it is me).

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 10:17 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Statesman Gets It Wrong Again About "Dream Home Fund"

By Andrew Dobbs

The Austin American-Statesman, a bastion of sensationalism, has seen fit to bash the Texas Democratic Party and its chairman in particular, trying to suggest that doing our job is tantamount to corruption. The paper claims that a $250,000 "dream home fund" was spent up in the pursuit of those not-so-Democratic goals of winning elections and looking professional. They are being disingenuous and sensationalist.

Let's start from the beginning.

In 1999 a 91 year old woman in Dallas, Martha Hughes, died and left her $1.9 million estate to the DNC and TDP. Part of the money was "set aside" at the time for the purpose of buying a permanent headquarters rather than renting one, as we have always done. I put "set aside" in quotes because it was more rhetoric than reality- the money was kept in the same bank account that was drawn from on a regular basis for all mannner of party business. So it wasn't "set aside" at all.

But since then our fundraising has become an even more uphill battle. With no statewides it was tough, when we lost the House in 2002 it became even harder. We were in a catch-22: we had to win some races to raise money, but we had to raise money to win races. What were we supposed to do? Charles Soechting did what he was elected to do: he made a tough decision. This summer we moved from our old offices, which were cozy if a little bit on the funky side, into new offices just across the street that are professional, spacious, much newer and not that much more a month. Our landlord was the same for both places- a great local Democrat named Alfred Stanley- and he is fair and helpful to us. Since we had new, far more professional offices that might just qualify as a "dream home," Charles decided, as he said in the article that "I could watch a party go down or I could step in and make a difference," Soechting said. "I'll bet that Miss Hughes, God rest her soul, is a lot happier winning elections. She'd rather see that than have (the money) spent on a pretty place to hang out."

Not a bad decision. Which do you think the SDEC would be more upset about- losing 5-10 seats in the legislature, 5 in Congress and all the statewides while sitting on $250,000 that an almost wholly different committee voted on 2 years ago; or to spend every penny we could on all of the important races and end up with the first net gain in legislative seats in 32 years, keeping Chet Edwards in Congress and expanding our statewide performance by 4 points in just 2 years? I think the answer is clear.

This money wasn't spent on champagne and strip clubs, it was spent on important stuff. We spent it on legislative campaigns, giving some 5-digit sums of money (and it has paid off in dividends). We spent it on a bus tour of South Texas that rallied thousands and helped us keep at least one Congressman in office and elect two embattled Democrats in open seats. We spent it on our new voter file, which has finally brought us up to speed with the GOP 20 years later- it is state of the art and helped us from losing too much ground on the county level (the only level of government in Texas where we still have a majority, and a significant one at that). And yes, we used it on furniture- not some ostentatious mahogany office fixtures and crystal sculputures or something, but important things for a professional office. We replaced the decades old chairs in our conference room with some nice black leather ones. We replaced the cheap wicker couch in our lobby with a leather couch and chair and long before all of this Charles purchased a leather chair for his desk. All the rest of our furniture is old- come to our offices at 707 Rio Grande in Austin and take a look. We wanted to look just a tad more professional because to be a winner you have to feel like a winner and to feel like a winner you need to look professional. Same reason we don't send candidates out in bermuda shorts and a wife-beater: it looks bad.

So this money was never "set aside" in a meaningful way, it seems as though it was more rhetoric from the former chair than anything else. We moved into a much better office, so we decided that the money would be better used getting 13 votes for Hubert Vo and a few hundred for Mark Strama and a handful for Lupe Valdez (we didn't give her money as far as I know, but Dallas County did benefit from our voter file) rather than buying a fancy new building to house a dying party. But a resurgent and smart Democratic Party doesn't sell newspapers- scandal and heartbreak does. So throw a headline like "Democrats' dream home fund is gone" on a story that cherrypicks its facts and you have a grade A paper-pusher right there. But just like the Barton Springs story and the racial profiling article, they just aren't true. The Statesman might be the worst daily in Texas, and it is all because of this sort of nonsense.

I wanted to close by saying that on January 1 the Texas GOP began their year in their rented offices looking at a $100,000 debt and a net loss in the legislature for the first time since McGovern vs. Nixon. We began in our rented offices in the black and with Hubert Vo, Mark Strama, Rafael Anchia, Marc Veasey, Yvonne Gonzales-Toureilles, Veroncia Gonzales and a number of other great new House members who likely would not be here (Rafael and Veasey had no general election opposition) without the $250,000 Mrs. Hughes gave us. The real scandal isn't that we spent this money, its that we'd ever surrender a single available penny to anything other than winning races.

That's our business, and business is good.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 09:32 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Dallas Morning News Covers Monday Meeting

By Byron LaMasters

Frankly, I was surprised not to see an article in the Dallas Morning News on Tuesday. Gromer Jeffers has an article on the topic here. Stout Dem Blog has some problems with the article, and posts on such. The only real news in the article is mention that the chair is considering resigning:

Embattled Dallas County Democratic Party leader Susan Hays said Thursday that she's studying ways to bring the splintered party back together – including the possibility of departing as chairwoman.

"I'm considering all options," Ms. Hays said. "The overall goal is to stabilize the situation."

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:05 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

From The Internets

By Jim Dallas

I couldn't have written a better essay myself:

An essay on Burnt Orange Report

'Brilliant', 'Quite Good', 'What?', these are just some of the comments made recently in the press regarding Burnt Orange Report. I really, really like Burnt Orange Report. While much has been written on its influence on contemporary living, it is yet to receive proper recognition for laying the foundations of democracy. It is estimated that that Burnt Orange Report is thought about eight times every day by the easily lead, trapped by their infamous history. At the heart of the subject are a number of key factors. I plan to examine each of these factors in detail and and asses their importance.

Social Factors

Society is a human product. Upon Peter Pinkleton-PishPosh's return to Britain he remarked 'class will refelect the inner hero' [1], he, contrary to my learned colleague Sir George Allen’s recent publication ‘Into the eye of , could not have been referring to eighteenth century beliefs regarding society. More a melody to societies dysfunctions than a parody of the self, Burnt Orange Report raises the question 'why?'

Some analysts have been tempted to disregard Burnt Orange Report. I haven’t. Just as a dog will return to its own sick, society will return to Burnt Orange Report, again and again.

Economic Factors

Is unemployment inherently bad for an economy? Yes. We shall examine the Lead-a-Duck-to-Water model, as is standard in this case.

Clearly the graphs demonstrates a strong correlation. Why is this? Recent studies indicate that the average wage will eventually break free from the powerful influence of Burnt Orange Report, but not before we see a standardised commercial policy for all. A sharp down turn in middle class investment may lead to changes in the market.

Political Factors

Modern politics owes much to the animal kingdom. Comparing current political thought with that held just ten years ago is like comparing Burnt Orange Report and former Wolves striker Steve Bull.

One quote comes instantly to mind when examining this topic. I mean of course the words of the uncompromising Achilles Skank 'Taking a walk across hot coals will inevitably hurt your feet.' [2] What a fantastic quote. If our political system can be seen as a cake, then Burnt Orange Report makes a good case for being the icing.
While Burnt Orange Report may be a giant amongst men, is it a dwarf amongst policy? I hope not.


We can say with certainty Burnt Orange Report plays a large part in the lives of all. It brings peace, brings glamour to an unglamorous time and statistically it's great.

As a parting shot here are the words of super-star Uma Pfeiffer: 'Burnt Orange Report is the new rock and roll! And the new opera!' [3]

[1] Flankton - The Complete History - 1999 Fantastico Publishing

[2] Skank - Politics for Dummies - PV6 Media

[3] My Burnt Orange Report! - Issue 4 - BFG Publishing

(This essay was automatically generated by this Web site)

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

True Lies

By Jim Dallas

Kevin Drum has a post on a poll that shows a collapse in support for the Bush agenda; but Kevin being the circumspect fellow that he is, feels compelled to note that a significant part of the sample probably lied when responding whether they were registered voters.

That there might be a few people out there misrepresenting facts about their own voting history isn't surprising; it's more than the rule than the exception. Moreover, how people lie can shed some interesting light on what they think the "correct" (as in socially-sanctioned) answer is. For example, there's a tendency for people to say they voted when they didn't, since voting is considered good, and not voting is considered bad. And, perhaps out of a subconscious fear that the thoughtpolice will arrive at their door if they tell the pollster the "wrong" answer, people lie.

Another traditional pattern of misrepresentation (innocent or intentional) is that respondants often tend to claim they voted for the winner of an election in rates out of proportion to the actual voting results (even accounting for margins of error and sample bias). Here are some recent examples:

  • In a Gallup poll finished on January 13, 1997, 54 percent of respondants reported voting for Bill Clinton, 32 for Bob Dole, and 7 for Ross Perot. The actual election results were 49-41-8. Note especially the big drop off in reported support for the loser, Bob Dole.

  • In a Gallup poll conducted on December 28, 1992, 51 percent of respondants reported voting for Bill Clinton, 29 for George Bush, and 15 or Ross Perot. The actual results were 43-37-19.

  • In a Gallup poll conducted during Operation Desert Shield (October 28, 1990), 48 percent of respondants reported voting for George Bush in 1988; 23 percent reported voting for Michael Dukakis. A substantial number could not remember or said they did not vote; so what's relevant here is the 48:23 ratio, which is more than a 2:1 split for Bush. The actual 1988 split was 53:46.

Similar, albeit less dramatic disparities between reported and actual votes, can be found after the Reagan-Mondale election in 1984, and the Carter-Ford election in 1976. The data in 1980 is mixed, perhaps because Reagan inherited a bad economy.

I would argue that the rate at which respondants lie is tied to the winner's job approval rating. Note different polling results in 2001, before and after the terrorist attacks on September 11 (which sent Bush's approval into the 90s). In a Gallup poll conducted on August 5, 2001, 47 percent of respondants reported voting for Bush, 48 for Gore. In a Gallup poll conducted on November 4, 2001, 50 percent reported voting for Bush, and 41 for Gore.

Why do I bring all this up? Well, in the clip of the New York Times poll which Kevin Drum critiques, the respondants claimed the following: 41 for Bush, 41 for Kerry, 6 percent "won't say". This response is backed up by Gallup's January poll (finished January 16), where 47 percent claimed to have voted for Bush, and 45 percent claimed to have voted for Kerry.

Simply put, it would appear that very few, if any, poll respondants are willing to lie for Bush right now; falsely claiming to be a Bush-backer is not perceived to improve one's self-image.

There's a pattern here. As such, I'm not too concerned about Kevin's objections and I put stock in the Times's original analysis:

Americans say President Bush does not share the priorities of most of the country on either domestic or foreign issues, are increasingly resistant to his proposal to revamp Social Security and say they are uneasy with Mr. Bush's ability to make the right decisions about the retirement program, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The poll underscores just how little headway Mr. Bush has made in his effort to build popular support as his proposal for overhauling Social Security struggles to gain footing in Congress. At the same time, there has been an increase in respondents who say that efforts to restore order in Iraq are going well, even as an overwhelming number of Americans say Mr. Bush has no clear plan for getting out of Iraq.

Again, when people lie, they can reveal just as much as when they're telling the truth. Is that a scientific conclusion? Perhaps not, but I'd be willing to stake my fortune on it.

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

March 03, 2005


By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Just to say, Keep Austin Free is a bad choice for a name if you are group that is working against the Smoking Ban that will more than likely be on the ballot in May. Free of what? Not smoke, which is what I would think on first reaction, but Free in the terms of freedom, as in personal choice. A bit of a stretch, but whatever, it's not my website.

Can anyone verify their claim that The current ordinance has already caused The Filling Station to close down and caused Katz's to file bankruptcy. Maybe Katz's wouldn't be closed (haha, couldn't resist the pun even though bankrupt doesn't = closed) if Mr. Katz didn't charge so much or spend his time running for Mayor to get free advertising out of it.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 09:29 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Who's No. 1. We're No. 1!

By Nathan Nance

The Baylor Lady Bears win sole posession of the Big 12 Conference Championship with a 79-69 win over Texas Tech tonight.

Believe me, there is some celebrating in Waco tonight.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 09:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another Air America in Austin Update

By Byron LaMasters

From today's Austin Chronicle:

Meanwhile, Air America is more than seriously looking at Austin as its latest market. The network will launch its progressive programming on KOKE 1600AM (recently acquired along with six other local stations by Border Media Partners) on Monday, March 14, with a live show from the State Theater.

Better yet, a greater Texas presence is coming soon as well:

It doesn't happen overnight, but we've been adding stations pretty fast lately and we are going to be adding Dallas. And Austin, as we talked about. And Brownsville. We have Corpus Christi, so, we're beginning to have a Texas presence.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Final Thoughts on Chris Bell Last Night

By Byron LaMasters

Since I liveblogged the Chris Bell speech last night, I didn't have a chance yet to provide too much analysis. While liveblogging is great for unfiltered instant reaction, it's not very well suited for analysis. Overall, the speech was phenomenally written. It touched on the points that Democrats must embrace in order to win back this state. I would, however, caution anyone from making over-the-top Bill Clinton references. I like Chris Bell as a person and a candidate, but I wouldn't describe him as Clintonesque. "Clintonesque" is a term I reserve for only the most inspiring and charismatic of politicians - ya know... Barack Obama, perhaps John Edwards in the primary, maybe a few others.

It was interesting to look at my trackback pings from the speech last night where I noticed that Saving String had exactly the same thought as my friend whom I spoke with as I walked to my car after the meeting. Both said that the speech read better on paper than it was spoken. I'm inclined to agree. The speech hits on all the themes that I would want from a candidate for governor, but the delivery certainly needs a bit of polishing. There were several times where it was hard to know if Bell believed what he was saying, or if he was just reading from a script. I could hear genuine passion when Bell spoke of the plight of Jovonnie Ochoa, and the failure of the state in leaving Jovonnie and other children behind because of overworked CPS officials and cuts in CHIP. However, I was a little bit less sold on other parts of the delivery.

Overall, this should basically just be read as a little bit of nitpicking. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet Chris Bell the candidate, and Chris Bell the man. I was very impressed with both. I think that he has the right message, and with time, I'm confident that he'll fine-tune, and polish his delivery. After all, most candidates deliver their stump speech at least ten to twenty times or more before it comes naturally to them. While there's lots of speculation, it's still unknown if there will be a Democratic primary for governor (which I don't necessarily think would be a bad thing), but either way, Chris Bell made an impression on me yesterday, and I'm certainly strongly leaning towards supporting his campaign.

Update: Oh... how could I forget - Saving String caught a picture of me liveblogging the speech.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:58 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

So, who exactly are all you folks?

By Byron LaMasters

Last year, BlogAds initiated a "2004 Blog Reader Demographic" survey for all users of BlogAds. It came at a busy time for me, and I forgot to urge our readers to participate. This year, however, I hope to see significant participation from BOR readers. The information is useful for potential advertisers, but more importantly, the information is useful for us so that we know who our audience is, so that we can better cater to our readers.

I would very much appreciate it - especially if you are a regular reader of the site - if you would follow this link to tell us more about yourself. The survey should take 5-10 minutes, and just make sure to write "BurntOrangeReport.com" for the answer to question 16. Thanks a lot, and we're looking forward to learning more about our readers.

Blog Reader Demographics 2005 Survey

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:50 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

New Details on the Backdoor Income Tax

By Andrew Dobbs

On Tuesday I posted an article on the new GOP-proposed backdoor income tax, or as they want to call it a "Uniform Business Tax" or now a "reformed francise tax." There are some new details to add.

The tax is no longer pegged at 1.25%, but rather 1.1% and it now it seems that it will only apply to the first $20,000 of income per employee per quarter. Great idea guys- now if you are a lower-class or middle class employee 100% of your income is subject to taxation, but your bosses who make more than 80 grand a year only have to pay it on that first 80 grand. Of course, it is employers and not employees who pay the tax on paper, but the major selling point is that employers can just "shift" payroll costs, i.e. cut benefits, salaries or jobs in order to make up the cost meaning that employees pay it in the end without the benefit of seeing it on their paycheck or getting to write it off of their taxes.

Flat taxes are regressive to begin with, but a flat tax that not only doesn't have an exemption for low wage earners, but in fact has a cap to benefit high wage earners makes this a scam of epic proportions. If you want an income tax, vote for an income tax, but please don't support some regressive, secretive, job-killing scheme such as this one. Republic hypocrisy has reached a new depth.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 02:32 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Let's all go hot-tubbin' with Tom DeLay!

By Jim Dallas

The Washington Post reports that Tom DeLay is working his district and trying to soften his image, apparently frightened by the view that his 55-percent win last November and persistant ethics trouble makes him look vulnerable. And when you're trying to be the most powerful legislator in Washington, any sign of weakness is not good:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), struggling to protect his Washington power base as legal and ethical issues fester, also has to watch his back on the home front.

Though the change has received little notice, DeLay's strength in his suburban Houston congressional district of strip malls and housing developments has eroded considerably -- forcing him to renew his focus on protecting his seat.

DeLay garnered 55 percent of the vote in the November election against a relatively unknown Democrat, an unusually modest showing for a veteran House member who is one of the most powerful politicians in Washington. Some Republican officials and DeLay supporters worry that with President Bush absent from the top of the ticket next year, liberal interest groups might target the conservative majority leader and spend millions of dollars on campaign ads to try to defeat him.


But DeLay now has to worry about "Texas 22," the congressional district he has represented for the past 21 years in the U.S. House. Ironically, the Texas redistricting plan he engineered over strong Democratic objections drained some vital Republican support and could make it tougher for him to win reelection. In his old district, DeLay took 60 percent of the vote in 2000 and 63 percent in 2002.

In 2003, at DeLay's behest, the Texas legislature redrew the state's congressional lines without waiting for the next census (in 2010), the customary occasion for redistricting. With the new districts, which still face court challenges, Texas elected five additional Republicans to the U.S. House last November, accounting for all of the party's net gain.

DeLay's new district wound up several percentage points less Republican than his previous one, and it has a substantial and growing Asian American population.


So when the House is tackling what DeLay calls the most ambitious agenda since Republicans took control a decade ago, he has to worry about getting face time with local officials and with business owners who turn out for Chamber of Commerce dinners in the 30 percent of his district that is new.

So now Tom "The Hammer" DeLay is just one of the guys...

And the media gave Al Gore crap about trying to reinvent himself? What next for DeLay -- earth tones?

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:07 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Good Idea, Bad Idea

By Jim Dallas

Nathan Newman's Labor Blog always has interesting things to say about organized labor. But this post , which is cross-posted from another labor blog (Confined Space) by contributing blogger Jordan Barab is really a must read. It seems the only reform likely to get passed at the AFL-CIO convention this year is the one which will do the least amount of good for union organizing.

From what I can tell, it seems like getting the unions on the same page has been a little bit like cat herding. As an interested observer, it's been a little frustrating; that said, reinvigorating labor is a task that will take years - decades - to succeed, if it's even possible. So here's to hoping.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who's No.1?

By Nathan Nance

Politics is all fine and dandy, but we know what's really important: College Women's Basketball.

Tonight, my hometown Lady Bears play Texas Tech for a chance to win the Big 12 Championship outright. The game is being broadcast on FoxSW at 7:30 p.m., and it should be a good one. If Tech wins, then Baylor must share the No.1 spot with Tech and UT.

Now, I'm a big fan of Texas sports. Lord knows I've done my share of cursing out the TV when a bad call was made on the Longhorn football team.

But I can't help but root for my hometown girls to win. It would be such a big boost to the program, especially after last year's stunning loss to Tennessee.

So, I'll be watching to see how badly the Lady Red Raiders get beaten.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 02:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

YCT, Hunting, and Activism

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

If you were wondering what all the hullabloo was about today on campus, the Aus-American Statesman is leading with an article and video on what happened today on campus.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 01:29 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 02, 2005

SG Elections Split, Heavily favor Connect

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I'm tired tonight and you can bet on some post-election analysis from me tomorrow, but I wanted to at least update people with how things turned out tonight. Omar Ochoa and Elizabeth Brummet of Connect won the top spots, including a Connect sweep of all the at-large spots, not all of which they deserved in my opinion (I'll get to this tomorrow). Ignite managed to take 8 seats total in the Assembly, Connect 31, and Jack Waite of the LBJ School won his Independent bid. Of course, there are still 4 hold-over 2 year at large seats from the Focus Party, one of which is Omar's seat which he will be able to appoint a replacement to. Here are the full results.

My only commentary and advice tonight? If I were Omar or the Connect structure, I would give some serious consideration to appointing Ignite Presidential candidate Jessica Rice to the seat or Danielle Rugoff who once again is a vote leader in her second try at an At Large seat (if memory serves me). Since there will actually be other members in the Assembly to deal with, it could be a step toward unity.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 11:35 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Kate Hubener Just Called...

By Vince Leibowitz

I was privileged just now to have concluded a lengthy conversation with former State Rep. candidate Kate Hubener.

Many of you will recall from my earlier post that I commented on some of Ms. Hubener's actions during the Dallas County Democratic Party Executive Committee Meeting the other night.

Having never before met Ms. Hubener, I found her insightful and very passionate about the Democratic Party and the grassroots activism in Dallas County. She was also very outspoken about the current situation involving County Chair Susan Hays.

At any rate, we had a lengthy discussion and Ms. Hubener shared with me her thoughts and the thoughts of many others in Dallas County on the situation. For the most part, I won't share them here because our discussion was not one "for the record." Plus, much of what she mentioned is already posted in various places here on BurntOrangeReport.com.

What did astound me was the number of calls Ms. Hubener said she recieved with regard to my statements in the previous post about her actions during the meeting. I won't requote the passages here. If you want to read about it, go to the other post.

After speaking with Ms. Hubener, though, I do believe I owe readers of BOR and Ms. Hubener a clarification.

As I mentioned previously, I discussed Ms. Hubener's approaching the floor mic and speaking, I did not hear what was said before her which would have prompted her actions.

According to Ms. Hubener, some remarks were made by Dallas County Chair Susan Hays that were specifically insulting to Ms. Huebener and her family, as well as other grassroots activists in Dallas County.

Since I did not hear the remarks, I will make no comment one way or the other about the remarks themselves or mention them specifically. I will note, however, (and I told Ms. Hubener this) that if similar remarks were directed at me, I would have probably responded in like fashion.

Further, I was very concerned that Ms. Hubener believed that the comments I made in my earlier post were hurtful to her and her continued actions as a Democratic activist in Dallas County.

In that regard, I must note several things. As a former journalist who has won a number of awards, I have often quoted people on things or discussed behavior of individuals at public meetings. Many times, such is not flattering and may be hurtful to those people. Sometimes, especially in the cases of Republican politicians saying and doing stupid things, yes, that may have hurt their positions.

However, in the new business, writers and editors consider things for inclusion in their stories based on "news value." In other words, is it newsworthy? Were Ms. Hubener's actions more newsworthy than those of others at the meeting? In my view, at the time, they were because of her position as a former candidate. Though a Weblog isn't always considered journalism in the strictest sense of the word, I will say that I stand behind mentioning what I did because I believed it had news value.

Nevertheless, I must also note that my post Monday night wasn't, in the strictest sense of the word (or possibly in the most lenient sense of the word), a "news" piece. I hadn't intended to go to cover the event. As such, my piece was really more of an opinion column.

As such, and given Ms. Hubener's statements to me tonight, I do believe I may have treated her a more harshly than I should have. In defense of my "journalistic integrity" (do we have that on Weblogs?), however, I will say that, whether it was Katy Hubener or anyone else I had written about in this fashion and later recieved additional information to amplify my story, I would still be writing a similar correction. I am not writing this clarification/amplification because Ms. Hubener is a former candidate for public office. I am writing this correction because I felt it only appropriate to extend Ms. Hubener the courtesy of doing so in light of additional information she provided to me which I did not have at the time of posting.

Once again, it is proven that, while the mainstream media may not consider Weblogs as news or news sources, we must take care to insure that we do report facts and do not paint individuals in an inappropriate light. While it was a fact that Ms. Hubener delivered impassioned remarks from the floor microphone Monday night, I believe now that my use of those remarks painted Ms. Hubener in an inappropriate light and placed her actions somewhat out of context given information I now have.

I regret any error on my part and that Ms. Hubener's actions were portrayed out of context. I will, however, once again state that the piece I wrote was more of an opinion piece than a news piece. Still, though, I believe it is important to place individuals and their actions in the appropriate context at all times. Inasmuch as this was not done in this case, I am truly sorry for any sorrow this has caused Ms. Hubener or her family.

In turn, I will also ask Ms. Hubener, her family, and Democrats in Dallas County to understand that to error is human. I believe that, in making this clarification, I have done the responsible and appropriate thing. Any regular readers of this site, my previous Weblog, or Political State Report is no doubt aware that my posts are usually fairly absent any significant controversy (aside from a misspelled word here and there), and I trust that those readers will take it to heart that a clarification has been made, understand that we all make mistakes, and that my earlier or future work won't be impuned as a result.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 11:10 PM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

Now where would they get an idea like that?

By Jim Dallas

Indiana House Democrats disappear, breaking quorum.

P.S. Apparently, they haven't left the state, and the Indiana GOP did this before.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 09:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Chris Bell for Governor

By Nathan Nance

[Ed. Note (Byron): Chris Bell did not make any announcement for governor tonight. Chris Bell is currently exploring a bid for governor, and tonight's speech was the first major speech made in his exploratory bid.]

Well, with a mind to "dispensing hope" Chris Bell has announced he is running for Governor in 2006.

He's opened strong, spending a great part of his speech to Democracy for Texas tonight to talk about moral values and the lack thereof in Perry's administration. This passage shows where he stands:

Texas failed to dispense hope to Jovonnie Ochoa. He deserved hope, but more than that, he deserved our protection. Jovonnie was our responsibility, but he got lost under a mounting caseload at child protective services.

But by the time an overwhelmed CPS case worker found him two years ago on Christmas morning, hope had run out for Jovonnie Ochoa.

He was four years old, and one of several dozen kids we asked the case worker to protect from abuse.

He was four years old, and his relatives tied him up on his bed and starved him to death.

He was four years old, and he weighed sixteen pounds when they found him.

No budget is balanced that refuses to dispense hope to Jovonnie Ochoa or to any of the hundreds of thousands of kids kicked off a children’s health care plan, kept out of college or left unprotected by a system that demands sacrifice without dispensing hope.“We have not earned their sacrifice if we abide a closed political system that surrenders the common ground.”

He seems to be more interested in fighting the partisan gridlock than fighting the Republicans, which I'm not too thrilled about. But it's an honest goal and I'm just a partisan hack. I think he sees the moral obligations the government has to helping its citizens, and, if I can go so far as to try and interpret him, he thinks the Perry administration is morally bankrupt (I know I certainly do).

I'm willing to give him a shot. I'm willing to meet him on common ground to help him make the system easier for all of us to use. I'll end this the way he ended his speech

I know what the odds against us are. But these my friends are the fights worth fighting. We must forgive ourselves if we feel discouraged. But now we must stand up.

If you are with me, if we are together, the November voices of the New Mainstream will dispense hope all over the Lone Star State.

And then may God bless Texas.

He's the only Democrat in the field right now, but I'm sure he can use all of our support.

Full text of the speech in the extended entry

The Mandate of the New Mainstream

A Speech by Chris Bell Austin, March 2, 2005

I think it’s time we came together and had a real conversation about what we should be doing.

Not too long ago, Rick Perry walked out of the Capitol, stepped up to a microphone and said something that I think pretty well sums up his record in office. He said that government “cannot dispense hope.” This is a country whose government first recognized God’s gift of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is Texas, a “free and independent state” founded on the “great and essential principles of liberty.” Given that, the very idea that a Governor of Texas won’t dispense hope concerns me and offends me deeply. In Texas, we must dispense hope. We know there’s never enough money to solve every problem, but refusing to take responsibility for dispensing hope betrays a bankrupt spirit. From where we stand, outside Rick Perry’s inner sanctum, what he said explains a lot of what he’s done. Inside his closed circle, dispensing hope might sound like a radical notion.

We are not dispensing hope by ignoring problems and refusing to consider new solutions. We are not dispensing hope by avoiding the two-way street of compromise and sticking to the dead end of bitter partisanship. We are not dispensing hope by evading our fiscal and moral responsibilities so we can brag about budget cuts. And we are certainly not dispensing hope to the next generation by hitting it with the highest tuition increase in the country.

There is a New Mainstream in Texas that shares an optimistic vision of freedom, responsibility and accountability. The New Mainstream includes all of us who believe in rewarding hard work, recognizing new ideas and relying on each other and ourselves.

Because “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Rick Perry leads a government that no longer reflects the ethics and values of the New Mainstream. Rick Perry only listens to divisive, partisan screeching or the gentle cooing of his staffers who cycle on and off the retainers of state contractors. Rick Perry thinks he can afford to ignore the cost that his hopeless ideology passes down to the least of us. No longer. Not because of what divides our political parties but because of the difference between right and wrong. Our shared moral code demands that we consider the common good. Because in the New Mainstream, there are no big people or little people. We are all in this together, and we can’t afford to leave anyone behind.

Some people have called me a “reform candidate.” I guess I can’t blame them. You file one little ethics complaint, and suddenly you have a reputation.

But I’m not here because I lost my seat in Congress. I never had a chance to feel safe in Washington, and that’s probably a good thing. If politicians get to feeling too safe, if there’s less turnover in Congress than there was in the Politburo, then politicians are no longer accountable to the people. So I’m not here because I lost my seat in Congress. I’m here because we’ve all lost our seat at the table.

As my wife and kids would be happy to volunteer, I fall far short of perfection. But I’ve always tried to stand up for what I thought was right, and that’s made me friends and enemies in both parties. When I was on the city council in Houston, I raised my voice against corruption and wasting your money. I earned a reputation as an independent voice and as a real pain in the rear, but the voters sent me to Congress anyway. I told myself, do right and speak the truth, and you’ll be fine up there in Washington.

Then I met Tom DeLay.

And it’s not just Tom DeLay. It’s the corrupt culture of Washington that you never really see until you’re on the inside. I never really saw the walls that divided us until the voters of Houston gave me the keys to the kingdom. I had no idea how partisan it was, how locked out people really are. You want to know how broken the system is? When I was thinking of filing the ethics complaint against Tom DeLay, leaders of my own party tried to get me to back down. They wanted to preserve the so-called “ethics truce.” Have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous? Only in Washington, D.C. would an “ethics truce” make sense. I did what any Texan would have done. I did what I thought was right. To paraphrase someone who knows a lot about Washington ethics, I had to choose between Tom DeLay and y’all, and I chose y’all.

But after that whole experience, I’m beginning to understand why Davy Crockett said what he did when he lost his congressional seat. He said, “you all can go to Hell, and I’m going to Texas.”

That’s where I find myself right now, and there’s no place that I’d rather be.

I am a free man. But it is a taller order to meet the measure of a reform candidate.

But if reform means rejecting the old battle lines in search of common ground, then I’m a reform candidate.

If reform means raising my voice against the silent crisis in higher education, then I’m a reform candidate.

If they mean that I will make state government as accountable as it holds our school children, then I’m the reform candidate.

If reform means shining a spotlight on not just an ethics truce, but an ethics surrender in the governor’s office, then I’m a reform candidate. If they mean I will demand real ethics reform, not later, not soon, but without delay, then yes, I am your reform candidate. I have no desire to spend the rest of my adult life stuck in a partisan trench, never giving an inch toward common ground. We need to stop pretending that what we are doing is working and start an honest discussion about how we can make things better.

This is the mandate of the New Mainstream. We know that the moral courage to hold government accountable is linked to our ability to raise the next generation of entrepreneurs.

We cannot sustain budget cuts that demand compound interest from our children. We pay a moral price when we pass the cost onto the next generation whether they’re trying to get into college, into a doctor’s office, or out of an abusive home. In Sunday School I learned that as much as we have done to the least of our fellow Texans, we have done to ourselves. Because we are not alone in this endeavor called Texas. Texas connects us to each other like one big complicated family.

Most of the nation is learning that political openness is one of the precursors to economic prosperity, yet we have a political system designed to prevent access to all but high-rolling lobbyists and entrenched partisan ideologues. We need to renew our democracy, opening it up to real collaboration, creativity, and cooperation. We need politicians who pay more attention to November’s voices than to the partisans of March. We know that an investment in higher education trumps the economic development benefit of a toll road or a tax break for yet another big box superstore.

Every family in this state knows that the next generation will join the New Mainstream when our state government realizes that the law of diminishing returns does not apply to our children.

Rick Perry seems blind to this simple truth. He continues to brag about cutting the budget and not raising taxes on one hand, and he declares an emergency in protecting children from abuse on the other. Forget a Republican primary—Rick Perry needs to debate himself. The budget cuts that forced caseloads for child protective services to skyrocket contributed to the deaths of kids we should have protected. Now—after five hundred kids have died of abuse and neglect—the Governor wants to put the money back into protecting kids, and all he accomplished was making the problem more expensive to fix.

Budgets are moral documents because they reflect our common priorities, and sadly it seems that the priorities of our state government are out of balance.

You can’t brag about balancing a budget that saves a dollar today by making a ten-dollar mess for tomorrow. No budget is balanced that passes the tax burden down onto local businesses and homeowners and calls that fiscal discipline.

No budget is balanced that relies on raising the barriers to a college education.

No budget is balanced that buys textbooks censored by partisan ideologues on both the right and the left.

No budget is balanced that turns away a billion dollars for health care and fails to account for the human cost.

And no budget is truly balanced when it fails so miserably to dispense hope to the weakest among us.

Texas failed to dispense hope to Jovonnie Ochoa. He deserved hope, but more than that, he deserved our protection. Jovonnie was our responsibility, but he got lost under a mounting caseload at child protective services.

But by the time an overwhelmed CPS case worker found him two years ago on Christmas morning, hope had run out for Jovonnie Ochoa.

He was four years old, and one of several dozen kids we asked the case worker to protect from abuse.

He was four years old, and his relatives tied him up on his bed and starved him to death.

He was four years old, and he weighed sixteen pounds when they found him.

No budget is balanced that refuses to dispense hope to Jovonnie Ochoa or to any of the hundreds of thousands of kids kicked off a children’s health care plan, kept out of college or left unprotected by a system that demands sacrifice without dispensing hope.

We have not earned their sacrifice if we ignore the responsibility we all share to the common good.

We have not earned their sacrifice if we abide a closed political system that surrenders common ground. Because common ground is where we need to put our feet if we are to reach and dream and achieve in the New Mainstream.

God gave us Texas to teach the rest of the world about freedom. And when John Kennedy asked the nation to do something not because it was easy, but because it was hard, he didn’t go to Washington, he came to Texas.

This is where we make our stand. And we start by making it our top priority to dispense hope.

You’re either dispensing hope, or you’re spreading dispair. You’re either for opening democracy, or you’re defending a closed political ideology.

You’re either for lifting the next generation into the New Mainstream, or you’re just another brick in the wall.

I know what the odds against us are. But these my friends are the fights worth fighting. We must forgive ourselves if we feel discouraged. But now we must stand up.

If you are with me, if we are together, the November voices of the New Mainstream will dispense hope all over the Lone Star State.

And then may God bless Texas.

Posted by Nathan Nance at 08:01 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Chris Bell Liveblogging

By Byron LaMasters

The speech was embargoed until 7 PM, but it's 7:20 PM now, so here's the speech (PDF file). I'll plan on liveblogging the speech here at Sholtz's.

DFT co-chair Fran Vincent began the meeting by welcoming everyone. Then she introduced State Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin).

Mark Strama gave the keynote address to the young Democrats banquet in D.C. last month, and spoke on that experience.

7:26 PM Update: Strama noted that being the keynote speech at the YD conference was a humling experience especially considering that he spoke between Howard Dean and Al Sharpton. Strama mentioned how Sharpton said in twenty seconds what he had been trying to say his entire life. He repeated it tonight, “Republicans want to privatize social security and public schools… the only thing that they don’t want to privatize our private lives.” Finally, Strama thanked Chris Bell for coming all the way from Houston and thanks him for taking on Tom DeLay (big applause).

7:33 PM Update: Chris Bell started off with a story not included in the prepared remarks. A few years ago he needed to buy some shirts before he went out of town, so he headed down to the mall – forgetting that it was the tax-free weekend. Some guy came up to him thanking him for some speech and said “I thought that was you, but I didn’t know that guys like you shopped for yourself”. Others recognized Bell and came up to him introducing themselves and Bell began to feel inside like he was a real big shot. Then a lady came up to him and asked “excuse me, but is this the only size of these jeans that yall have here”. Needless to say, his big head was deflated, and that flowed in with the thrust of the speech, "We are all in this together, and we can’t afford to leave anyone behind" along with talk of reform. Bell than moved into the text of the speech. The first page basically followed the script with a plug for Texas Independence Day at the end of the second paragraph.

7:36 PM Update: “Some people have called me a reform candidate. I guess I can’t blame them. You file one little ethics complaint, and suddenly you have a reputation.” -- this got a big laugh. I’m proud to say that the footnote cites Vince’s post on BOR “Chris Bell Comes to town”.

7:40 PM Update: Reform, reform, reform. The kicker was this: “If they mean I will demand real ethics reform, not later, not sooner, but without delay, then yes, I am your reform candidate”.

7:42 PM Update: The bible cited – “In Sunday School I learned that as much as we have done to our fellow Texans, we have done to ourselves” (Matthew 25:40).

7:56 PM Update: Bell spoke of a the budget as a “moral document”, but the words really didn’t really hit home until he told the story of how the overworked and overwhelmed Child Protective Services failed Jovonnie Ochoa, who was finally found at the age of four, tied up on his bed by his family, weighing sixteen pounds. Ochoa was failed by the state of Texas and by Governor Rick Perry who signed the law cutting thousands of Texas children off of the CHIP program because in Rick Perry’s words, “government cannot dispense hope”.

The speech is over, but Bell was well-received, and I’m looking forward to hearing more from him over the coming months. I’m a little surprised that Bell didn’t take questions, but DFT has business to conduct, and Bell is speaking with reporters at the moment.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:17 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Chris Bell

By Byron LaMasters

I posted this last week, but I'll post it again:

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

Andrew and I had the opportunity to sit down with Chris Bell earlier today and speak with him about his campaign. I saw it less of an interview than of a discussion on Chris Bell's positions on various issues, how to frame the debate, possible primary opponents, etc. Overall, I came away very impressed. I don't know if Democrats have much of a chance statewide in 2006, but Chris Bell is certainly a breathe of fresh air whose support spans from the activist base that appreciates his courage in taking on Tom DeLay to those who are more in line with his relatively moderate voting record while on the Houston City Council and in Congress. The themes in his speech will reflect this background. Bell offers broad concepts in his theme of a "New Mainstream" in Texas, and I look forward to hearing more about the details. Overall, I think that the speech will go over well. It includes the mandatory red-meat-for-the-base Tom DeLay and Rick Perry bashing, but Bell also offers a coherent vision that should unite Texas Democrats - and probably attract a good deal of Independents and moderates as well. Time to head out...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tejano Democrats Of Dallas County Resolution

By Byron LaMasters

This was passed yesterday:

After reviewing all the facts and hearing the allegations against our party chair, today the Tejano Democrats of Dallas County executive committee (the official Hispanic caucus of the Democratic Party) passed a resolution of no-confidence in our party chair. It also calls for her resignation for malfeasance and undemocratic activities. Until yesterday's meeting the organization had not taken a position, however the chair's actions and refusal to comply with basic party rules leaves us no choice but to encourage our members to get involved and support this grassroots movement for reform and change.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Right-hand Sidebar

By Byron LaMasters

The right-hand sidebar underwent a major overhaul over the weekend. I spent several hours deleting broken links and sites/blogs I no longer read, and adding blogs I read on a somewhat regular basis, or believe are beneficial to our readers. I had already updated the Texas blogroll several weeks ago, but I needed to update everything else - the only thing I need to complete is the "about/contact" page which will be completed when I get the information that I need from all of the writers.

Specifically, I've made significant changes to "Daily Reads" and "More Reads". I also created the categories of "GLBT Blogs" and "College Blogs". So scroll down the right-hand side bar and check them out...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:31 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Lake Highlands / White Rock Democrats Recap Dallas Meeting

By Byron LaMasters

From the email bag today is another recap of the Dallas Democratic Executive Committee meeting from the Lake Highlands / White Rock Democratic Club. They are sending the following article in their newsletter this month. The authors are Bill James, the Newsletter Chair of the Lake Highlands White Rock Democrats and SDEC 16 member Theresa Daniel. Daniel is a former president of the club and the Democratic nominee for HD 107 in 2002. The account given here is the account that I believe is most likely to be reflected in the minutes of the meeting to be prepared by the party secretary and to be approved by the executive committee at the next official meeting:

Petitioned Meeting of DCDP Ends In Controversy By Bill James and Theresa Daniel

Dallas County Democratic Party meetings can be noisy and contentious, but Monday evening February 28 had a special air. The meeting was called by a majority of 324 (347?) precinct chairs (actually over 60% responded) with a signature petition. This was the first time in memory of many of the chairs that such a meeting was called by petition; similar measures were taken in 1990 in Harris County. Why people signed varied - some thought it was time, since the last DCDP executive committee meeting was May 2004. Others had a broad range of dissatisfaction with the performance of Democratic County Chair, Susan Hays. The complaints covered dereliction of duty, statutory negligence, primary election ballot shenanigans, misuse of party resources, a stunted unified campaign effort, and financial and personnel mismanagement.

The 6:30 pm meeting was delayed for over an hour as Chair Hays stalled calling the meeting to order waiting for confirmation of a quorum. Rumblings in the assembled delegation called for “getting on with the meeting.”

Instead, Hays filled time by rehashing the voter turnout numbers for the past election. Once Chair Hays called the meeting to order, she appointed Gene Freeland Sergeant at Arms to maintain order. With his appointment came the warning that the CWA Local president had stated, that if the meeting became disorderly, Mr. Freeland had the authority to order the building vacated on behalf of the owners. Warning taken, the crowd behaved very well.

The first motion on the floor was made by Shannon Bailey to adopt an agenda prepared by the petitioning precinct chair group that included two resolutions to be placed on the floor. After parliamentary games, the first resolution, “to establish quarterly meetings of the executive committee of the DCDP” passed unanimously.

The second resolution, “to establish a Democratic Advisory Committee to create a DCDP Two-Year Plan for 2005-2006” was moved and seconded with various amendments. This passed with a very large margin. Then a Hays supporter was recognized and stated that a quorum was no longer present. A back-and-forth discussion of parliamentary and party rule questions was called in rapid succession when it became clear that Chair Hays was seeking to adjourn the meeting for lack of a quorum. Votes were taken with Chair Hays declaring the meeting out of order to thwart the will of the assembled petitioning Precinct Chairs.

A Roll Call of the precinct chairs was attempted to determine the quorum status. The meeting degenerated quickly as it became evident that the official list was faulty. At one point, Chair Hays read a name of precinct chair who had died. [A precinct chair], scolded the chair stating that this lack of knowledge was typical of the problem. The Roll Call was stopped.

Chair Hays directed Gene Freeland as Sergeant at Arms to declare the meeting over and ordered the assembled Democrats to “leave the building immediately.”

SDEC 16 was hastily assembled by Committee-members Ken Molberg and Theresa Daniel where nominations were made and Shannon Bailey (3220) and Bruce Rothstein (1147) were elected as the delegates from SD16 to the Advisory Committee formed with ratification of the second resolution.

As the SD16 meeting closed Ken Molberg, SDEC 16 Co-Chair said, “After many decades of Democratic activism, I was embarrassed by the actions of the County Chair and her abuse of the precinct chairs. We must regroup and move on.”

Like SDEC 16 the other Senate District Committees met to nominate and elect Advisory Committee members as prescribed in the second resolution as passed.

SDEC 2 seated Charles Bowen (2601), and Gay Michele (2324), with Darlene Ewing (2319) as an alternate. Steve Tillery assumed the committeeman representation.

SDEC 8 elected Kathy Bannon, (1405), and Anthony Pace (1811), with Al Daniels (1110) as an alternate, David Griggs will serve as the committeeman.

SDEC 9 elected Katy Hubener, and Tom Madrzy-Kowski (4601). Christine Asberry as the committeewoman.

SDEC 23 elected Michael Moon (3309), and Dorothy Dean (3535), with Elaine Wiant (3204) as alternate.

Outside the CWA Hall, around the flagpole DCDP Secretary, David Wilkins continued chairing the meeting with many of the petitioning precinct chairs participating. Recognizing that the meeting had never been officially adjourned, they passed a motion declaring the meeting to be “in recess, and to be continued at the stated date of April 2.” That date coincides with the Summit Meeting announced earlier by Chair Hays.

What does this all mean? Theresa Daniel, the other co-committee member of SD16, agrees that the disrespect shown the Democratic precinct chairs by the county chair tonight was unprecedented. “Our challenge is go around, go through, whatever we need to do to achieve our goals as Democrats. It may not be easy, but we are here to see Dallas County through to its place on the Democratic side.”

The greatest loss of the meeting was that 60 pending precinct chairs were not installed. Hopefully next time we will have a quorum to do that.

More from Bill James:

I am the Newsletter Chair for the Lake Highlands White Rock Democrats. Theresa Daniel and I wrote [this article] to report about the County Executive Committee Meeting of DCDP called by petition on Feb. 28, 2005 for the LHWR Democrats monthly newsletter.

LH/WR Democrats was one of the first clubs to begin open discussion of the problems with Susan Hays as Chair of DCDP in December. We ratified the first of the club resolutions regarding the Chair in that arose in January. There is a deep distrust that has developed among a vast majority of the activist base in Dallas toward Susan Hays. It has seemed to many very experienced, long time Democrat activists that the strength of Dallas Democrats was being deeply eroded under her leadership. All during 2004 under the leadership of Chair Hays the County Party apparatus seemed to be unused, the web site had no information, precinct chairs couldn’t get information to help work their neighborhoods, and on and on.

The disorderliness of the meeting on Monday, in my opinion, was provoked by Chair Hays. The two resolutions were handled quite well and seemed to me to be great deliberative process. The meeting veered out of control when quorum questions arose by Hays supporters. It seemed that dirty tricks were afoot to somehow break the meeting. Any damage done to the Democratic Party is a result of her intransigence in failing to see she has lost the confidence of the rank and file activists of Dallas County.

If she has the best interests of the Democratic Party in her heart, she should resign her post, and let the advisory committee cover the Duties of the Chair until the next election in spring of 2006.

Bill James
Dallas, Texas
Newsletter Chair, Lake Highlands White Rock Democrats

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

SG Results Announcement

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The Results of the 2005 Student Government Elections will be announced Wednesday, March 2 at 8:00 pm on the Main Mall. In the event that the weather does not permit the announcement on the Main Mall, the alternate location is UTC 2.112A.

via Mathew Hargrow, ESB Chair

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 10:06 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Byron's SG Endorsements

By Byron LaMasters

I admit that I have followed the SG elections with little interest. I’ve held a rather skeptical view of student government for several years now, but having said that, I always take my responsibility as a voter very seriously. For that reason, I carefully read the opinions of Karl-Thomas and Andrew (here at BOR) in addition to reading the summaries provided by Laura Gladney-Lemon (the progressive slate), and Chris Kennedy in the Daily Texan. Upon reading their summaries in addition to reading the questionnaires I received, I offer these recommendations:

Jessica Rice – President, Ignite
Colby Hanks –VP, Ignite.

Rice seems to be the consensus progressive choice for President, so that choice was easy. The VP race, with two Republicans was a bit more difficult, but I was impressed with Hanks’ answers to my questions, and of the analysis that Karl-Thomas gives her.

2 yr – at large
Devin Fletcher, Ignite
Anjali Fleury, Ignite
Michael Windle, Connect
Stephen Hardt, Connect

Fleury and Fletcher were automatic additions to the list as members of Laura Gladney-Lemon’s progressive slate. Karl-Thomas’s and Chris Kennedy’s remarks on Michael Windle give him my third vote. My fourth vote goes to Stephen Hardt based on his thoughtful response to my questions and plugs from Karl-Thomas and Chris Kennedy.

1 yr – at large
Danielle Rugoff, Ignite
Kumal Das, Connect
Jessica Fertitta, Connect
(No Endorsement)

Rugoff and Das were the easy additions. Rugoff is a member of the progressive slate. Das is a successful online small business owner who would bring an innovative approach to the assembly. Jessica Fertitta gets plugs from Karl-Thomas, Chris Kennedy and Andrew – knowing little else about the candidates, that’s good enough for my vote. For the fourth slot, I’ve decided not to cast a vote. Hart, Hortz and Jan all are admitted conservatives / Republicans, and I did not know enough about the other candidates running to make an informed decision. Considering that all candidates for one-year at large run on the same ballot, and the top four vote-getters are elected, I would rather have my vote for the three candidates I endorse with confidence to have the most effect.

Liberal Arts Reps:
Katie Naranjo, Ignite
Nawal Abdeladim, Ignite
Clint Adcox, Ignite
C.J. Ginn, Connect
(No Endorsement)

I know Katie Naranjo through the UD’s, and along with Abdeladim is part of the progressive slate. Andrew and Karl-Thomas suggest a vote for Adcox, and Chris Kennedy and Karl-Thomas suggest a vote for C.J. Ginn. I’ll follow their suggestions. Again, I don’t know enough about the remaining candidates to make an informed decision, so I will only cast four votes (of five) for liberal arts reps.

SEC President:
John Grube

The UD’s endorsed him. They had a better opportunity to analyze the candidates than I did, so I trust the UD endorsement.

Referendum 1: Funding for a recycling pilot program
Vote YES

How can any good Democrat oppose that?

There was another referendum regarding a change in the SG by-laws. I voted for it based on the limited research provided in the form of the link to the SG website. I almost left it blank, but decided that SG should be allowed to make changes which they deem necessary to make SG run more efficiently. Thus, I voted for the referendum, but I do not have enough information to make an endorsement on the issue.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:36 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Arms Race with China?

By Zach Neumann

Things with the Chinese keep getting thicker. This morning, the NY Times reported that the European Union is probably going to move forward with plans to remove an arms ban on China:

Senior members of Congress from both parties emerged from a meeting with President Bush on Tuesday warning Europe that if it lifts its ban on arms sales to China, the United States may retaliate with severe restrictions on technology sales to European companies.

The warning came after Mr. Bush, on his trip to Europe last week, twice cautioned the Europeans not to lift the restrictions, in place for 15 years. His insistence was based, at least in part, on a new American intelligence assessment that Beijing is rapidly becoming better equipped to carry out a sophisticated invasion of Taiwan and to counter any effort by the United States to react to such an attack, administration officials and intelligence analysts say.

After the White House meeting on Tuesday, Senator Richard G. Lugar, the Indiana Republican who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said that if the ban is lifted - as European leaders have said they plan to do in coming months - Congress could react with "a prohibition on a great number of technical skills and materials, or products, being available to Europeans." The ranking Democrat on the committee, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, called a lifting of the ban "a nonstarter with Congress."

Their statements reinforce warnings that Mr. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made in meetings with Europeans over the past several weeks that the weapons sales would amount to a transfer of even more sophisticated military technology to China. But European officials say that the concerns are overstated, and that they are considering a compromise proposal that would keep advanced technologies from being exported.

Although Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice have spoken publicly about the sale of heavy weapons, Pentagon officials say the biggest concern is the technology that goes with it, including radar and battlefield communication systems that could take China's rapid military buildup to a new level. And to make their case, the officials have begun to discuss how such technology would give China an increased ability to intimidate Taiwan with the threat of invasion if it moves too aggressively toward independence.

The motivations for the officials to discuss this intelligence in interviews over the past two weeks are varied, and certainly include concerns about how the Chinese buildup could affect American security interests. But the discussion also comes as Congress takes up Mr. Bush's new spending proposals, which devote a majority of supplemental funding to land forces and the war in Iraq, while missions related to perceived threats from China fall mainly to the Navy and the Air Force.

What is the EU thinking?!. Though, I hate to say it, I’m having a John Mearsheimer moment. I believe that it would be foolish for Europe or the United States to provide armaments to the Chinese government. Aside from blatant, continued human rights violations (which I am going to sidestep here), the Chinese have engaged in a massive naval buildup since 2002. As the article details, China is attempting to develop a military capabilities on par with those of the United States.

This is extremely dangerous. Though I could care less about preserving the “autonomy” of Taiwan, it is not in the best interest of the Atlantic powers to sell arms to an emerging power. With the world’s largest population and a rapidly modernizing economy, China will soon be able to rival the United States in the North Pacific. If their military expansion continues unabated, this power will take on global proportions, posing a significant threat to Western hegemony. In the long run, China’s expansion could throw the world back into a multi polar system, greatly increasing the chances for major power war.

Though I do not think we should make an enemy of China, certain actions must be taken to slow the growth of this potential future rival. They include: 1. Expanding and fortifying our Pacific Fleet. 2. Encouraging the remilitarization of Japan 3. Preventing the Chinese from acquiring sophisticated Western military technology 4. Encouraging the Chinese to hold off on expanding the size of their nuclear force (perhaps through subsidies and confidence building measures??) 5. Engaging the Chinese government through strong economic ties and improved diplomatic relations— it is only by making politicians in Bejing feel secure can we significantly slow Chinese military growth.

While the Bush administration is (rightly) concerned with fighting terrorism, I think they need to be aware that this is ultimately a temporary action based on passing circumstances. Very soon, I feel, the world will be plunged back into multi-power conflict, and we need to be ready for it.

Posted by Zach Neumann at 08:32 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

SG Survey Questions

By Byron LaMasters

I decided to send out questions to SG candidates for President, Vice President, One Year At Large, Two Year at Large and Liberal Arts Rep., last week as a means of helping me make my decisions on how to vote today. I received responses from 11 (9 Ignite, 2 Connect) candidates on relatively short notice. Perhaps that is due to the perceived bias of this blog towards Ignite (at least from Karl-Thomas's posts), or perhaps the Ignite ticket is just more responsive. I don't know, but I will use the answers received to inform my vote today. I'll post my choices after I vote.

1) Are you currently, or have you ever been a member, and/or officer, of any campus political organization (i.e. Campus Greens, College
Republicans, International Socialist Organization, Libertarian Longhorns, University Democrats, Young Conservatives of Texas, etc.). Please note your current and previous memberships and officer status.

2) Do you consider yourself a Democrat, Republican, a member of another political party, or unaffiliated? Have you participated in the primary election of either party? If so, which?

3) How would you characterize your political views in a word or two:
(i.e. very liberal, liberal, progressive, moderately liberal, moderate,
moderately conservative, conservative, very conservative, etc.)?

4) Do you support allowing race to be a considering factor for admission to the University of Texas?

5) Do you believe that the current “ten percent rule” should remain in
place regarding UT admissions, or should it be changed? If so, please

6) What was your position on AR 1 regarding the UT bid for Los Alamos?

7) What was your position on AR 2 regarding pay equity at the University
of Texas?


Jessica Rice – President, Ignite

1) No, I am not currently a member of any campus political organization.

2) I am a Democrat and have participated in the primary elections of the Democratic

3) My political views are both liberal and progressive.

4) Yes. I believe that race can affect a person's life experiences, and that any quality institution will seek out diversity in experiences. Having a diverse student body is the only way that the University of Texas can educate citizens of the highest quality. It is through interactions with people of varying backgrounds who have experienced different things in life that we grow personally. If college is all about learning, exploring, and educating yourself, then the best environment to do so is one in which there are multiplicitious ideas. How an institution creates this diverse environment is
a lot more complicated.

5) I believe it should be changed to provide for a cap between 50-60% of the entering freshmen class, while students from underrepresented high schools should continue to be automatically admitted if they are in the top 10% of their graduating class. I also support Senator Royce West's bill (SB 333), requiring that students must not only be in the top 10% of their class but also have graduated under the recommended plan in order to receive automatic admission to a state institution.

6) I was against UT's bid for Los Alamos and supported AR 1. I only wish the Assembly had voted on the bill and taken a stance on the issue instead of tabling it.

7) I supported AR 2 in reference to pay equity at the University, not only because it is an important issue, but also because the University should set the standard for all students and faculty that walk this campus when it comes to matters of social justice and equity.


Colby Hanks – VP, Ignite

1) No current or past involvement in these groups, however I would indeed like to see their efforts and opinions addressed more frequently in Student Government. Members of our ticket were able to visit with some of these groups during the campaign speaker circuit to discuss issues and as expected, these were some of our greatest discussions of UT issues. Student Government needs to initiate a closer relationship with these groups that is ongoing. We're all here for the same purpose, why not combine those efforts!

2) Republican. And no, I have not participated in the primaries.

3) Moderately Conservative

4) Yes, and this should be one item in a list of many qualification factors.

5) I definitely support lowering the percentage, rather than capping it. The original purpose was to compensate for a public school system where unequal opportunity is high, and as a result of top ten percent there is more representation of districts now than ever before. If the 50% is decided by wholeistic review, and there is still disgression needed to determine who to cap, why have the rule to begin with? By lowering the percentage, you are still able to ensure districts are respresented. Keeping the idea around at all is definitely something we must keep up a fight for, especially considering Senator Wentworth's support of the Board of Regents bill, because it should be kept in mind that he also wants to do away with the top ten percent rule all

6) Personally, I saw Los Alamos as a great opportunity for the university. regardless of my opinion on the issue, I am a strong supporter of open forum and discussion, which is what this particular legislation recommended and am in full support of that. This bill, written by UT Watch, is one that I strongly feel should not have been tabled by Student Government. While the subject was controversial, discussing the issue is something that should happen.

7) I support the bill. UT needs to work to ensure we're supporting this type of equality at the University level.


Danny Davidson -- 2 yr @ Large, Ignite

1) I have not been a member of a Campus political organization

2) I consider myself a liberal. I loosely support the Democratic Party—but only because a better alternative does not exist on the national level.

3) Liberal

4) I support race being a considering factor for admission. I do not,
however, think it is right. I believe that student assistance and aid in higher education should be based on income, not on race. Unfortunately, minority citizens make up a large portion of the United States lower class. Race should be considered in admission until a time when the lower class of the US has an equal distribution of races. Education works slowly to bring equity, and many years of affirmative action is needed so that race does not mirror one's economic class and one's economic class does not reflect one's race.

5) I think the rule should be changed. I believe that the "ten percent rule" inhibits high school students from pursuing more challenging coursework while in high school. By making GPA such an important admission criteria, students choose coursework that will get them the best grade, not coursework that will be most beneficial to them. In addition, different schools offer different levels of competition, and many students must focus entirely on schoolwork in order to make it into the top 10%. This means that many students that come to UT have never had jobs, been active in extracurricular activities, or been active in their communities. UT prides itself in training leaders, but its admission practices ask for students to neglect leadership opportunities in high school just so that they can be admitted to
UT. Admission should be based more on test scores, extracurricular activities and volunteer work and less on GPA.

6) UT is a great research University. I support most of the projects that UT staff and students conduct. In regards to the Los Alamos bid, I am strongly against it. The price for the bid is far too high and the needs of the Los Alamos facility far too great for UT to be involved. Focus should be on curbing increasing tuition and not on adding more liabilities to the UT School System. The SG resolution to have an open dialogue in discussing the Los Alamos bid was a good decision and I support it.

7) I strongly support AR 2. All people working in the US deserve pay equal to their occupational peers. There is statistical research showing that women and many minorities do not receive equitable pay, but there is not any statistical research showing that their performance is sub-par. All employed persons of the US should be paid based on their value to an organization, not based on their sex or race. I support the SG resolution that asks for more research into University pay equity. Once the research results have been completed, and if the research points to inequitable pay at UT, then it is the duty of SG to take all necessary steps to remedy the problem.


Devin Fletcher – 2 yr @ Large, Ignite

1) NO

2) no affiliation

3) Moderate

4) I don't support race being a deciding factor in UT admissions, however with that being said I believe that there are other options to ensure that the University has an adequate amount of representation from all races, and putting the effort into finding what it would take is what is lacking and by default race would be an easy way out.

5)I believe that the top ten percent rule was a noble idea when it began and I feel as though it has run it's course. I think that this rule affords opportunities to a number of students within the state to have the opportunity to attend top notch institutions, especially students coming from areas that might be categorized as having sub-par academics. I feel that this was a necessary rule in that it gave everyone a somewhat equal chance for success, however I also believe that it has it's downfalls. High school success does not necessarily represent college success or high school failure does not equate to college failure, however I believe that students coming in from areas in which their academics were up to par have an upper-hand, which is at the fault of no one but our public education system. I whole-heartedly believe that a program like this is necessary in order to bridge the gaps that the educational system in our country has left, but the top ten percent rule is not that program in my opinion. It is leading to an overcrowding of institutions by automatically admitting students in the top 10 percent of their class, and without a more stern filter the overall well-being of the student collegiate experience in this state could be in jeopardy.

6) I am not totally familiar with the Los Alamos proposal, but from what I gather I would need to have more information before making my decision. I can see the benefits of acquiring Los Alamos, but I can also see possible long-term detriments as well. I would like to hear pros and cons from individuals who are directly related to it in some shape of form so that I could make an educated decision.

7) On the resolution to support pay equity I stand behind it 100%. I believe that this is information that the University should share and should hold themselves accountable. I believe that if their are indeed no pay disparities then the University would not have a problem making this information know. However, I think that the information should be compared to averages around other Universities and things such as experience, research, etc should be taken into account in order to ensure that the information is not biased in the way it is presented.


Will Fowler – 2 yr at Large, Ignite

2) I would say I am more of a Republican than a Democrat, however I have liberal leanings toward some social freedoms. No, I have never participated in the primary election of either party.

3) I would say that I am moderately conservative fiscally, and like I said above, liberal toward social freedoms.

4-5) I do support race being a considering factor during admission to the University. However, I also beleive that if we are to institute it into our policy for admission then we must let go of the top 10% rule because they are both geared toward helping the same population.

6) My position on this is that we as student government needs to take action towards creating a task force of students and faculty to watch what Los Alamos is doing on our campus. It seems like Los Alamos has operated their organization in questionable ways in the past and we need to make sure this is watched.

7. I feel like it is a good initiative to make sure the University is knowledgeable and conscious about the pay inequity of women.

Stephen Hardt – Connect 2 yr @ Large

1) I have never been a member of any political organization at UT. Since I arrived at UT, my political views have changed rather dramatically. I have gone from a Conservative to a Liberal in just over a year and a half and have therefore always seen any political organization as a limiting factor to my growth and enlightenment.

2) I have never participated in the primary election of either party. I think I embody in nearly every sense the impact that college can have on one’s political affiliations. I grew up in a small, conservative town of roughly 2,500 residents. While I loved my childhood and would not trade it for anything in the world, I was relatively sheltered throughout my adolescence. When I came to UT, I was in culture shock to say the least. As a right-winged, conservative freshman I found myself in constant political arguments over things such as welfare, abortion, civil unions and gay marriage, the war, etc. It got to the point where I associated the word “diversity” with “anti-white.” In addition, I was one of the most homophobic people I knew. I had never truly spoken with a homosexual, nor did I desire to.

However, as my freshmen year went on and I exposed myself to different aspects of campus and different peoples, I grew to embrace diversity in every sense of the word. Not only did I make friends with people I never would have previously spoken with, but I began to actively seek out situations that would stretch my thoughts and question my beliefs. My role as an Orientation Advisor last summer did this more so that any other experience in my life. I was constantly challenged and questioned by my peers in an effort to make me grow.

It worked. At the end of the summer, I reflected on just how much I had changed. I understood that I went from a homophobe, to having some of my closest friends be homosexuals. I went from someone who resented the word “diversity” to someone who seeks it out. I changed my views on gay marriage, abortion, the war in Iraq, welfare, affirmative action, and many other issues. That is not to say that I am insecure with my beliefs; believe me when I say I have arrived where I am only through much struggle and am thus secure in my convictions. Rather, I say these things to illustrate just how much a person can change during their years in college.

So when I am asked where my political identities lie, I tell the person I am an objectivist. I look at each situation as objectively as possible and rule on it accordingly. I feel that on the national level there are far too many problems with each party to limit myself to an “either-or” game. Rather, I would most closely identify with the Libertarian movement. As for the role of these convictions in my decision-making as an SG rep, I answer with, “A leader is but a trusted servant.” It is not my position to vote based solely on my own beliefs, but rather to seek out the opinions and feelings of the student body and act accordingly. I think SG is there to serve the students….and it should do just that.

3) Objectively Moderate

4) I think the University of Texas has an obligation to this great state in which we reside to more accurately embody the diversity of this state. Thus, I think UT should do everything in its power to make sure the diversity of the student body of UT is increased. In short, yes, I would like to see race included as an admissions factor. However, that is only the beginning of the steps the University should take to ensure UT continues to be a model for higher education.

5) I believe it should be altered, though not completely revoked. That is, it should remain in place for underrepresented high schools in an effort to motivate students from those schools to attend UT. However, in the case of the majority of applicants to UT, I think a more holistic review of applications should be considered. Thus, I would like to see the top 10% rule capped at 50% of admissions. After that, other factors such as race, SAT score, GPA, essays, personal statement, etc. should be considered.

6) While UT placing a bid on Los Alamos may help in the University in some minor ways (such as increased funding), I think overall, Los Alamos is something UT would do well to stay away from. In addition to the security and liability risks involved in taking over such a project, the University of Texas has no place involving itself with operations such as Los Alamos. Rather, it should concentrate its time and resources on projects that are less controversial, less risky, and more likely to benefit the University as a whole, rather than a specific department.

7) The University of Texas is one of the foremost higher education institutions in the world. As such, it is viewed as a model for other institutions of all kinds. This role puts UT in a spot light under which it has little option other than to treat its employees in such a manner that other institutions may copy it. Even if this were not the case, I feel organizations should always treat their employees fairly and equally. Thus, I fully support the spirit behind the said SG resolution.


Jessica Hart – 1-yr @ Large, Connect

1) NO
Organizations I am involved with:
Student Government-active member- Fall '02 - present- ITAC and current business rep, Orange Jackets- active member- Fall '04-present- current tappee, Texas Lonestars- active member- Fall '02- present- officer for 2 years, Disch-Falk Diamonds- currently inactive- Fall '02-Spring '04 - officer for 1 year, LEAP- currently inactive member- participant Spring '03, mentor Spring '04, FLO- active - member Fall '02- Spring '03, active -mentor Fall '03- present, Camp Texas Counsler- active member Fall '02- present, San Jacinto RHA - inactive member, Fall '02- Spring '03, HBA- honors business association- Fall '03 to present, Dance Marathon- active helper- Fall '02- present

2) I would consider myself a Republican.

3) I would consider myself a moderate conservative

5) I believe the rule should be changed. Revising the Top 10% rule- the number of students accepted by the top ten percent role has been dramatically increasing over the last years, because of this there are other factors that are being overlooked and the top ten percent rule should be revised. CONNECT ideas---to cap the top ten percent rule at 50%-60% of the freshman incoming class will be automatically admitted with the top 10% rule. The other half of the freshman class will be done using normal admissions standards. This will help ensure that well-rounded students come to the University.

6) I am a current SG rep (for the business school) and have worked a long time on issues pertaining to UT's bid for Los Alamos. I found this piece of legislation to be irrelevant at the time because the government had not even given the rfp (request for proposal) when the rep's presented this resolution. I believed that we should have waited until the rfp came out which outlines the bid for the lab before I decide if I believe UT should bid for it. At that point in time we did not have all the information and would not have made an educated response. I did work during this summer and at the beginning of this year trying to put together a forum for the UT students to hear both sides about the bid. We were working to try to get students, faculty and regents talk about both sides. Then UT decided to not make the bid and this forum became irrelevant.

7) I fully support pay equity at out university, but i did feel this resolution did have a lot of faults. One big issue that FOCUS ran on last year was to only concentrate on UT issues and not get into national issues. To stay true to this promise I felt that this piece of legislation crossed this line. The wording of thei resolution talked about national statisticsn and did not talk about specific data pertaining to UT Ex. Whereas according to an analysis of data in over 300 classifications provided by 015| the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics in 2001, women earn less in every 016| occupational classification for which enough data is available, including
017| occupations dominated by women (e.g., cashiers, retail sales, registered nurses 018| and teachers); and

I talked to the author and sponsors of this resolution and told them my problems with the bill and told them I would support any pay equity resolution at UT if it pertained to UT. I felt more research needed to be done to make this pertain to UT.

Legislation I have worked hard on this year:
AR 13- A resolution calling on texas legislature to allocate more
funding to higher education
AR 12 - A resolution to support the implementation of the LA 101 class
AR 7 - A Call to implement Vending Machine Bevo Buck Service
AR 5- Ensuring Adequate Storage Space for UT Email Services
AR 3 - A resolution supporting high density, affordable, student
oriented housing in close proximity to the University of Texas campus.
AB 1: Measure to Increase Student Government Assembly Member's
Accountability By Publishing Voting and Attendance Records


Bekah Hortz – One yr @ Large, Ignite

1. I have never been a member of any campus political organization.

2) I consider myself a Republican. I helped campaign this year for President Bush.

3) I am moderately conservative.

4) I think that doing so allows guaranteed representation for these groups. I am moderate on this issue because I agree with both sides of the issue. I understand that allowing race to be a factor for admission could prevent other people who score better in areas such as GPA, SAT, and extracurricular activities to possibly not get in. It would be frustrating to be one of those people, but the University needs to be representing the population, so I think it is important to recognize these groups.

5) I think it is unfair for students who have lower GPA and credentials to get in over someone who meets and goes beyond UT admission requirements just because they are in the top 10%. I understand that it allows a more equal representation, but I do not think it is necessarily the right solution. I have several friends who had outstanding GPAs, SAT scores, and amazing resumes in terms of community service and extracurricular activities in high school, but were denied admission because they were not in the top 10%. Other applicants who had lower GPAs, SAT scores, and average resumes were given priority over those people simply because they were in the top 10%. Several factors should be taken into account when looking at these 10% applicants. They could have attended a very small high school, or their scores may not have been high in comparison to other non top 10% applicants. I feel that other factors should be taken into account during the admission process. It is an automatic shoe in for some people. We need to analyze this more closely.

6) It is obviously an enormous undertaking and risk to deal with this nuclear weapons research facility. I think that the stance taken was an appropriate one. We should be concerned about this. When it revealed that “the University of Texas System has not supplied satisfactory assurance that the University System will not be held accountable in the event of continued environmental problems, poor security, and cases of mismanagement,” I was deeply concerned. A lot was brought to my attention, and I think SG expressed itself very well here. It was important to voice an opinion that many students have. I think writing AR1 was necessary.

7) Again, I agree with this position. Because the University of Texas is one of the largest schools in the nation, we set examples for other universities. It expresses well that we demand pay equity for our professors. The statistics provided completely back up the argument, which make it very credible.


Tiffany Jan – 1 yr @ Large, Ignite

1) No

2) I consider myself unaffiliated. In the past 2004 Election, I voted for George W. Bush. However in the past, I have supported more Democrats. The issues which determine my support and vote each election are unaffiliated with either party.

3) Moderately conservative

4) In short, my answer would be “not entirely.” I believe that in theory, brining more diversity into a university is something that is definitely important. However, I do not think that using race to be a considering factor should work against certain groups. I believe that race should only be used as a lightly weighed factor for admissions.

5) I believe there should be some changes to the “ten percent rule.” Coming from a large city with very many 5A high schools, there were plenty of students from outstanding high schools with great grades that just did not make the 10% cut. Someone who perhaps is at the top 11% of their class, very involved, may have comparable grades to one who is in the top 10% who is not involved at all, yet the former will have much more trouble receiving admission to UT. Too many students are being accepted under the top 10% rule, resulting in a great difficulty and obstacle for other students to apply. This places diversity in another direction if most students were accepted under this rule. I believe that there should either be more restrictions on the top 10% rule (decreasing the percentage, for example), or adding conditions to the top 10% rule.

6) I was against the UT bid for Los Alamos, and I definitely believe that something of that nature and of such great effect should be brought directly to the students and faculty.

7) Being a woman, I definitely would be a proponent for pay equity. However, I think that the actual legislation proposed by student government is a bit extreme in requesting statistical information regarding “Average Faculty Salaries and supplements” with all positions on campus. Qualities based on merit are usually subjective, and it would be difficult to pinpoint an equality discrepancy. Even two people with the same position could have unequal levels of qualification and merit. I believe that requesting statistical information would only bring about an unnecessary over-analysis of pay equity.


Danielle Rugoff – 1 yr @ Large, Ignite

1) I am a member of Texans for Israel and University Democrats.

2) I consider myself a Democrat. I have not participated in the primary election, however I did attend the DNC and really enjoyed it! I even ran into K-T.

3) Socially liberal, more fiscally moderate.

4) Wow this is rough. I think that diversity is important.. I'm not sure if affirmative action is the correct answer or the top 10% rule or what.. I'm not well-read enough on the issue. I am a supporter of having some sort of system in place to ensure diversity--> it adds both to the cultural climate as well as enhances the academic experience within the classroom.

5) I think that it could be decreased to top 5%. Once again, I don't know how this would directly affect the diversity on campus, I would like to see more research on this issue.

6) I was against the bid for Los Alamos.

7) I fully support the bill and commend LGL and FW and Karchmer for authoring such wonderful legislation. This is one of the types of legislation that SG should focus on!


Katie Naranjo – Liberal Arts Rep, Ignite

1) I am a member and Secretary of University Democrats.

2) I am a Democrat and i voted in the Primaries and I voted this Nov.

3) progressive

4) I have heard arguments on both sides of allowing race to be an issue for admissions and I support a socioeconomic base for admissions, not merely color based. i think that in itself is well a form of internal/reverse racism. I also feel it is an insult for many of the African Americans who are well educated and meet the requirements to admissions.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Vote Today

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I'm bringing this back up to the top of the page since it's day 2 of voting here at UT. -KT

Following is my personal Endorsement List following ballot order, from my panel work. UT students may cast their ballots online here today 8AM-5PM. College level endorsements below the fold.

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

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 07:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Guest Post by Commenter "WhoMe?"

By Byron LaMasters

"WhoMe?" is a regular BOR commenter, and also a Dallas County Precinct Chair who had some additional thoughts to share from the Dallas County Executive Meeting on Monday night:

New Precinct Chairs Sacrificed by County's Chair's Paranoia

By now, many BOR readers have heard about the heavy-handed tactics used by the Dallas County Chair at the most recent Dallas County Executive Committee meeting. While many other posts focused on past grievances and the delay tactics the Chair employed at the meeting itself, perhaps the biggest casualty of all was the failure to swear in new Precinct Chairs. The Dallas County Party has committed to recruit as many new Precinct Chairs as possible. Precinct Chairs are the life-blood of the party. More than 50 budding activists attended the meeting for their "special day" - their chance to become part of the Committee. Instead, they were not sworn in and many, many left disillusioned and ready to give up on the party they so wanted to make their home.

How did this happen? They were a casualty of a Chair who was so paranoid about losing any grip on her power that she played procedural games to halt the meeting. The Chair's quorum shennaigans may have allowed her to halt the meeting, but it also deprived the party of dozens, if not scores, of people willing to give to the Party their most prized possession: their love and their labor. To all present in the room, there was clearly a quorum present (both to conduct business and to swear in new Precinct Chairs). Many "counters" certifed as much, but to admit this fact would have deprived the County Chair of the sharpest arrow in her quiver - the quorum buster. (How ironic that such a device was used for such noble purposes by our House Members, and how shameful that our Chair invoked this heroic deed in using the same tactic to bully the overwhelming sentiment of the Committee).

New Precinct Chairs are our future. A committed new Party activist is literally worth his or her weight in gold. If money is King in politics, then the loyalty and gumshoe work of an activist Precinct Chair is the Emperor. How many legions of volunteers did our County Chair sacrifice so that she could declare that a quorum was no quorum? How many people returned to their communities, not to sing the praises of our Party, but to tell their neighbors that we are dysfunctional? How many would-be-members of the Committee will NEVER come back? The answer to these questions should strike fear into the very heart of everyone who loves our Party and the simple principle that defines us as Democrats: everyone does better when EVERYONE does better.

We know the price that was paid. For what gain? - so that our Chair would not have to co-exist with an ADVISORY committee.

O Tempora! O Mores!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:11 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 01, 2005

UT YCT Chair Lauren Conner Emails

By Byron LaMasters

Shocker. It's another YCT (Young Conservatives of Texas) controversy. There's some speculation regarding what the UT YCT chapter will be doing tomorrow. An email has been sent out stating the following:

Well, the YCT (Young Conservatives of Texas) are at it again. This time they've organized a so-called "Immigrant Hunt" for this Wednesday, March 2nd on the West Mall on campus-- they have reserved the space from 11:00am-1:00pm. They recently organized a similar event at the University of North Texas (http://www.yct.org/illegal.htm) and appear to be emboldened by the post-9-11 anti-immigrant climate. They plan to wear color-coded anti-immigrant shirts and "hunt for immigrants" who will be YCT-ers dressed in brown for Latina/os, yellow for Asians, etc. and offer rewards.

A counter-demonstration is planned by a multi-ethnic coalition of student organizations in response at the same time. Folks are asking for a huge turnout, and that people wear black shirts and white bandanas if possible, and bring signs and chants-- some folks will be linking hands in silent protest, others will be vocal and hold signs and pass out flyers outlining a progressive position on immigration. Please pass this information along to all your listserves. Thanks.

Apparently, this information was incorrect. The current UT-YCT Chair responded with this lovely email:

The information you received is false. Somebody made
this shit up, and I'm extremely pissed off. We're having a friggin' Texas Independence Day Celebration tomorrow....AND THAT'S IT!!! Cakes and Cookies and Lemonade!!! I got a hold of the original email that I'm guessing you received, and it was all lies. Email whoever sent you your information, and ask them to research their information before they sent it ALL OVER THE UNITED STATES!!!

Lauren E.Conner
Young Conservatives of Texas - UT Austin

Apparently, this email has caused the chair some negative publicity for the organization. These emails from Lauren Conner have also been sent tonight via the YCT listserve:




AND... this

YCT: I didn't mean to sound like a dictator when I sent out that email about not talking to the press. The reason I sent it out bold and to the point is because I wanted to make sure that everybody read it. We've had some press problems in the last 24 hours. I retract my last email and am sending this one instead:

Just a reminder: Please remember that only members with express authoritzation from me can speak on behalf of YCT to the press. This is a policy put in place to protect the organization. I trust all of y'all, but we have had problems in the past when folks commented to the press without knowing all the facts of what YCT was doing. I don't want to hog the limelight, though. If you would like to speak to the press, please consult with me so we can make sure we are on the same page and everyone knows all the facts. But until that has happened and you have my expressed approval, I have to ask everyone to avoid speaking to the press for the protection of the group. Thanks for your cooperation and I look forward to seeing y'all tomorrow at Texas Independence Day!

Well... something is up! Will YCT-UT join YCT-UNT in a racist "Capture the Illegal Immigrant Game"? It wouldn't surpise me. Their chair, Lauren Conner is quite defensive.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:57 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Silly Tom DeLay

By Byron LaMasters

Tom DeLay:

"I hope the Supreme Court will finally read the Constitution and see there's no such thing, or no mention, of separation of church and state in the Constitution," said DeLay, a Republican from Sugar Land.

The first amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Silly Tom...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Texas Independence Day

By Vince Leibowitz

Tomorrow, Texans everywhere will celebrate one of the most sacred days on the calendar: Texas Independence Day.

Though many of you might think I'm a bit of a sentimental sap for this very un-bloglike post, I'm going to go ahead with it anyway.

Over the past few decades, interest in the holiday seems to have waned, but for me, it is still one of the most important days of the year. It's a time for us to reflect on our unique heritage and the sacrifices of generations of Texans--not just those at the Alamo or San Jacinto--that have made our state especially great.

Every year about this time, I drag out or pull up copies of a couple of documents to read and reflect on. The first is William B. Travis' letter from the Alamo on Feb. 24, 1836. The second is the most important document in the history of our state: The Texas declaration of Independence.

Regardless of the fact that Travis does tend to use the word "I" a lot in this letter (as opposed to "we"), few Texans can read it without feeling--at least for a moment--that, if we were alive in 1836 and read Travis' dispatch, we would have hopped on the nearest horse and headed for San Antonio:

The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken--I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls--I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid with all despatch...

This year, though, as I was reading the Texas Declaration of Independence, it seemed to take on a new meaning to me in light of what happened in the last legislative session and what's going on in the current one.

In particular, the introductory phrase should hold a special meaning for all of us:

When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived, and for the advancement of whose happiness it was instituted, and so far from being a guarantee for the enjoyment of those inestimable and inalienable rights, becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression.

As I read this, I couldn't help but think: did the patriots who signed this risk their lives so, today, 150,000 Texas children would want for affordable health insurance? Did the brave soldiers who died at the Alamo die so the Legislature of the Texas they were fighting for could summarily lock its own citizens out of her courtrooms and see them denied fair and appropriate compensation for their injuries? Did the men who stormed the battlefield at San Jacinto do so in order that corrupt influence from behind-the-scenes power-brokers and millions of dollars in illegal money could help foster a partisan gerrymander resulting in thousands of Texans being underrepresented?

Could these patriots have ever imagined that the Texas they fought and died for--the Texas they put their lives on the line for by creating a revolutionary government--would be in the shape it is in today?

What would Sam Houston have to say about House Bill 2? I doubt he'd like it much. What would Mirabeau Lamar have to say about school vouchers? The father of public education is probably turning over in his grave. What would Stephen F. Austin, Thomas Rusk or Lorenzo de Zavala have to say about any number of problems facing the state today? I'd venture to say they would not have kind words for those in power in our state today.

When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people...[it] becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression.

I'm not sure if one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence was alive today, that he wouldn't call Rick Perry, Tom Craddick and some of their cronies "evil rulers" working for the oppression of the people.

What regime in the modern history of Texas has done more to stifle legislative debate, oppress the poor through cuts in services, or generally ignore the broader spectrum of Texans to look out for the interest of its cronies and political allies than the current one?

What regime in the modern history of Texas has gone to such corrupt lengths to gain and retain power? Even the Sharpstown scandal of decades gone by is beginning to pale in comparison to what is unfolding in grand jury and courtrooms in Travis County today.

This Texas Independence Day, as we think about all that has happened in our history and look toward our future, surely we must all realize it is time for change.

The Republicans holding power in Austin today have betrayed the trust of the people of this state. They have conducted a wholesale slaughter of much of what we hold dear as Texans. And, what they haven't already attacked, destroyed, consolidated or weakened, they are preparing to. Perhaps not this session and perhaps not this election, but surely the next.

As Texas Democrats, we have the opportunity to work to restore our government to one our forefathers would be proud of. We have the chance to undo what has been done, and make our state the brightest shining star in the union such that the corporate-owned, special-interest serving, poor-people hating majority that has us now in a legislative stranglehold can't change it back in 100 years.

There is only one way for us to accomplish this: we must work at it. We must educate and inform the people of Texas what they have been deprived of and of the corruption of our government. We must register more voters. We must raise more money. We must walk more blocks. We must make more phone calls, encourage more candidates for public office, and give as much as we are able as often as we are able--whether it is money, time or influence--to do what we can to get our state back on the right track once and for all.

More than 150 years ago, it was the "Delegates of the People of Texas
in General Convention at the town of Washington," that shaped our future. Today, it is the Texas Legislature, elected by Texans For A Republican Majority, the Texas Association of Business and Tom DeLay as sent to the city of Austin. But, for a brighter tomorrow, it must once again be a Legislature and executive elected by the people to serve all the people--and not just the special interests--and to protect all the people. Then and only then can we get Texas back on the right path.

It's time for a new generation of people like those legendary Texans Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Coke Stevenson, Lyndon Johnson, and others to return our state to its former glory. They're taking their place now. Soon there will be more Hubert Vos and Mark Stramas joining the ranks of the Pete Laneys, Elliott Naishtats, and Judith Zaffirinis under the Pink Dome.

And, this Texas Independence Day, we must remember to do all we can to help them. Then and only then will our state again mirror its former glory, and again live up to the long ago expectations of those who fought, bled and died for its very independence.

I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid with all despatch...

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 07:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

HB 2 Voted Out of Committee

By Andrew Dobbs

House Bill 2, the school finance bill, was voted out of the House Public Education Committee today in a short meeting at Grusendorf's desk on the House floor upon adjournment. Most think that the debate will begin on the bill on Monday or Tuesday of next week and it promises to be a blood bath. Hearings on the bill this week found only 1 witness in favor of the bill and an odd alliance of property rich and property poor school districts, along with teachers, administrators and others all joining forces to denounce the bill.

For a recap on why everyone hates the bill, we'll start with Quorum Report, one of the better places to start on these things (though paid subscription is required):

Property-wealthy school districts, represented by Clayton Downing of the Texas School Coalition, could not support the bill because they, like others, don't believe the money goes far enough. Many, in fact, fear that enrichment dollars will have to be used to cover current programs. That's no bargain and little gain. In cases like Lewisville, Downing's home district, new money represents adds no more than the cost of inflation. Others dislike the fact that the bill cannot make whole what already has been cut from budgets. (...)

Property-poor districts, represented by Wayne Pierce of the Equity Center, also have problems with the formula. For someone like Pierce, who has put his life's blood into the ideal of true equity, the numbers just don't work. The system maintains “hold harmless” provisions – that's typical of prior school finance bills – but Pierce considers pushing those inequities forward to be no more than perpetuating current problems. Combined with the 35 percent cap, it puts about 70 school districts outside the equalized system, which Pierce points out is the same place the state was when Edgewood began.

Even beyond the property-poor districts are those that are both property poor and educate high-needs children. Superintendent Danny King of Hidalgo ISD, who represented the South Texas Association of Schools, argued that the real measure of equity is not a dollar amount, but the ability to move children in different districts up to the same achievement levels. He countered Branch's assertion that federal dollars meant property-poor districts spent more than property-wealthy districts, saying that it costs far more to educate high-needs children in Hidalgo than it does in wealthy suburban communities.

What was not said in testimony – but has been said outside the meetings – is that school districts wanted a long-term fix to the school finance system. For many of the school districts that have hit the property tax cap – and that's now 700 school districts – the last three to five years have been a task of squeezing more into limited budgets. Promised that the new formula that would “fix” the system with new capacity, the new school finance system appears to be no better than the old one with a new coat of paint.

Teacher groups spoke, all in favor of across-the-board pay raises. That's no surprise. Some committee members consider the teacher groups' opposition to merit pay to be baseless, but if you listened closely to the testimony, some are open to the concept but are concerned with the implementation process. Ted Melina Raab of the Texas Federation of Teachers pointed out what most research on merit pay has indicated, which is that significant teacher involvement must be a part of the creation of merit pay to make the process work. Raab did not consider the language in the bill to go far enough to that end.

On more specific measures, the president of the Texas Elementary School Principals Association questioned why funding for other successful programs for early grades appeared to be cut under the bill, given that the state now retains the third- and fifth-grade students who fail portions of the state-mandated tests. (...)

And then, when the committee had heard plenty of negatives – and everyone was fairly pleasant about it, actually – Scott McCown stepped forward. McCown, the District Judge in the Edgewood cases, told the committee there were two visions of Texas education – one with substantial investment for high achievement and the other with minimal dollars and no new taxes. You can guess which one HB 2 was.

Some question why wealthy school districts can't have “a little bit more,” McCown said. By maintaining equity, everyone remains in the same boat. Everyone has the same imperative to be heard. Equity protects all children, McCown said.

“School districts ask, 'If you have enough, why do you care if I have more?'” McCown said. “Equity is a test of political sincerity. If I truly have enough, and you ask me, 'Why do you need more than I have?' then the answer is, 'I don't truly have enough.”

So, I don't want to rip Harvey off too much, but that is the jist of what went down. Property wealthy districts don't like the bill because there is hardly any new money and the enrichment tax ($0.10 per $100 of property value) is unlikely to cover their expenses. Property poor districts don't like the bill because it does nothing to increase equity and in fact takes us back to pre-Edgewood (the original Texas school finance case) levels of inequity. Teachers don't like it because the merit pay proposals strike them as unfair and insufficient, administrators don't like the cuts to successful programs and the later school start date. Everyone in the education community is dead set against the bill, and the Senate hasn't even taken a crack at the thing yet.

As if all of this weren't enough, the whole funding system is starting to fall apart. At the beginning of the session HB 2 was paired with HB 3- they were two halves of the same whole. The idea was that HB 2 would define how the money would be spent, HB 3 would come up with the money while cutting property taxes. But with the wrangling over revenue sources to make up for the shortfall that will arise with the massive property tax cuts (namely over gambling) and what is soon to emerge as a struggle over the back door income tax, the two are too difficult to handle at the same time. So now HB 3 is simply a tax relief bill, HB 2 is simply an education reform bill and the money for HB 2 is going to have to come out of the budget some how. $3 billion is what has been promised, but how they can guarantee that when there isn't enough money in the bank to fund our current programs at their current levels has yet to be answered.

Harvey puts it this way:

Okay. So here is what you can extrapolate, intended or not, from the discussion: Funding for HB 2 comes from the appropriations bill, not HB 3. HB 3 is a property tax relief bill, with any excess funding going to property tax relief rather than additional education funding. The $3 billion for new educational funding pegged in HB 2 is an arbitrary amount the Republicans determined prior to the beginning of the appropriations process. It was not the result of the appropriations process. In other words, the bill will fit the funding rather than the available funding fitting the bill. The amount may have little or nothing to do with the “costing out” study completed last session, which Republicans now insist was simply a “guidepost” for funding amounts. Until the LBB runs are available, it’s still unclear how much of the new money will go to discretionary funding and how much will go to mandates.

Yeah, so all of the work done last session was really unnecessary because in their desperation the GOP just came up with a number and are going to try and find the money for education somewhere. Rather than saying "this bill designs an equitable system, this is how much we need to achieve this, this is how we will get that money", the GOP is now saying "this is how much money we'd like to have, God willing and the creek don't rise we'll be able to jimmy-rig an equitable system out of it, assuming we can find the cash somewhere." Sloppy policy making at its worst.

This bill is an inequitable, insufficient, despised piece of boneheaded malarkey that has been molested by a dozen short-sighted politicians more interested in pleasing lobbyists and winning reelection. If it passes the House, it will be a miracle. If it passes the Senate it will probably portend the end of the world. As it stands, a fight is about to come down and the one thing the GOP promised to do in 2005 will be another broken promise.

Texas deserves better, but until they start voting for new leadership they won't realize how much they are being shortchanged right now.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 05:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


By Jim Dallas

Statesman: Former Bush adviser says GOP political action committee broke laws

That headline pretty much says it all. But here's some more just to rub it in:

Trevor Potter, a Washington lawyer with ties to former President George H.W. Bush and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., appeared on behalf of the Democratic candidates.

Potter testified that Ceverha should have reported the corporate money it spent on the 2002 elections and disputed whether the state election laws are unconstitutional because they are vague.

He also said the political action committee's $190,000 contribution to the Republican National Committee raised questions about whether the corporate money was laundered into noncorporate donations for Texas candidates.

Lawyers for Ceverha are expected to counter this week with their own campaign finance expert.

And he'd better be a good one, too.

Incidentally, it is the most wonderful time of the year - Rodeo Time! And tomorrow is Texas Independence Day!

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

HB2 Giveth, HB2 Taketh Away

By Jim Dallas

The Chronicle reports that school officials believe that much of the new funding will be eaten up by unfunded mandates. The result is that very little new money will actually go to the kids.

To make matters worse, the Supreme Court today ruled that we can't execute the little hellions, either (my take on that case here).

The result... sigh... is that we may have to raise taxes in order to comply with the ed-funding court orders. Writes the Statesman:

Representatives for several school groups said it provides too little new money for an education system that a judge has declared unconstitution- al because of underfunding. Critics also say the bill does not make up for cuts in state spending that lawmakers made in 2003.

Clayton Downing of the Texas School Coalition, a group of school districts with relatively high property values per student, said $5 billion over two years would better meet the needs of schools.

"It does not meet the court's challenge," Downing said of the new bill.

All these court rulings can be a real pain in the neck, man. Ya'll dig?

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

Republican Back Door Income Tax

By Andrew Dobbs

This legislative session is headed toward a dramatic meltdown in just about a week as HB 2- the bill that was supposed to make Texas schools more equitable and put more money into them, but actually makes them less equitable and looks like it will force major budget cuts in various districts- heads for a floor debate on either March 7 or 8 according to sources at the Capitol. I'll write another post on all of that jazz shortly, but as for right now I have another peeve to discuss.

At the beginning of the session school finance reform and property tax relief were seen as two sides of the same coin and two separate bills were filed- HB 2 to redefine funding formulae for Texas schools and HB 3 to shake up the tax system in order to get the money for the schools. Now the two have drifted apart and have very little to do with each other (more on that later) and some of the things coming out of HB 3 are likely to raise some eyebrows. First on that list would be the push for a new "Uniform Business Tax" to make up for lost revenue with the major property tax cuts proposed.

Quorum Report has the talking points being passed around to explain and defend the new tax. I'll quote some of them here:

With the stated goals of reducing M&O school property taxes by a third along with reaching the 83% of businesses currently ducking the franchise tax, the House proposal has dubbed the tax on payrolls a Uniform Business Tax.

The rate would be 1.25% of wages already reached by the state's Unemployment Insurance. In other words, employees exempt from unemployment insurance would not subject to the UBT. The tax would be based on gross payroll and paid to the state quarterly. (...)

1. It would more accurately reflect business activity in Texas. "Companies in Texas could not reorganize to avoid a UBT." (...)

3. The UBT is not a personal income tax. Employers are prohibited from deducting the UBT from a paycheck although it is based on the gross wages paid to an employee.

5. Unlike property taxes, businesses can adjust their tax liabilities by adjusting payroll. "Businesses can and do adjust controllable costs, and a primary controllable cost in business is payroll. If a business wants to hire an employee at$8.50 per hour, the business will know in advance thtat the UBT will cost an additional $0.11 per hour. (...)

13. A UBT would be deductible as a business expense on an employers federal income tax return.

14. "A UBT would grow with the economy and with enrollment in public schools." (Ed. Note: It would also presumably shrink when the economy is in recession or other distress.)

The bolds are mine, the editor's notes are Harvey's. So let me get this straight... there will be a new 1.25% tax on payroll and employers will conceivably shift this cost onto employees, making it a 1.25% tax on income. Sure it can't be witheld from your paycheck, but at the point when a tax is being paid on one's income and the tax is in effect coming out of one's pocket how is that not an income tax? In fact, it has all of the negatives of an income tax without some of the biggest benefits- the people who are paying it in the end can't write if off their federal income taxes, though their employers can. Big employers get the best of this deal- they get lower property taxes and they can write off a new tax that they just make their employees pay. A big state and federal subsidy to business in the end.

I don't necessarily oppose this tax- it is better than the status quo, though if you really want property tax relief at the expense of an income tax why not pass Eddie Rodriguez's bill (which would eliminate the bulk of property taxes and dramatically increase state revenue)? My big problem is with hypocrisy. Every election cycle Republicans try and beat us over the head with the income tax- in 2002 they used it to great effect against John Sharp, who didn't even support an income tax- they claim that it will never happen, it's the third rail of Texas politics. But now the GOP is the one introducing it. It is just another sign of their shamelessness and their complete lack of principle.

Finally, like any good income tax, the lobbying for loopholes has already begun. Wal-Mart and HEB are seeking a cap on the amount they have to pay in payroll taxes, though they are far less likely to pack up and leave than many other labor intensive businesses- call centers are the example Harvey Kronberg gives. So not only will be tax provide them with big opportunities to make the people of Texas and the United States at large fork over large sums of money, they will have strict limits on how much they have to pay. Great public policy, Craddick.

Keep your eye on Burnt Orange Report for new developments, and be sure to call all the Republican legislators you can to ask if they'll be supporting the new Back Door Income Tax.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 05:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More Reaction From the Meeting Last Night

By Byron LaMasters

SDEC 16 Member Ken Molberg:

I am not a member of the Committee, therefore I could not speak tonight. Being your SDEC person - - Let me go on record as saying how disgusted I was with our Party Chair who could not control the meeting, and who did everything to deliberately thwart your voice, regardless of which side you were on. I think this is testimony to the fact that this party needs to get itself together and move on, and she is not part of the plan.

Precinct Chair Elaine Wiant, elected last night to serve as a member of the advisory committee out of SD 23:

If the chair had allowed the meeting to proceed – from the very beginning -- none of the disruptions would have occurred. The meeting was called by petition, not by the Chair. This should have been a clue to the Chair. She took every step possible to delay and obstruct the meeting.

From the viewpoint of the petitioners, the request for Sheriff Valdez to speak early was clearly a delaying tactic. We would have all liked to hear from her after the business was conducted. It could have been so easy – if only the chair had allowed it to be so. The meeting did NOT have to be a marathon session, and I, one of the petitioners, didn’t expect to be one.

Interestingly, the 23rd Senate District caucused on the street corner after the meeting was recessed and elected its representatives to the advisory committee.

Also, interestingly, I talked to a least one precinct chair who was prepared to support the chair when he arrived and changed his mind after observing her obstructionist tactics.

Kudus to David Griggs, who probably should have chaired the entire meeting!

Dallas Stonewall Democrats President Michael Moon:

I have been involved in Democratic Politics since I was 16. And since the Party Chair won't do it, I will apologize to everyone in attendance last night. It was the most embarrassing meeting I have ever been to. The party had a poorly maintained precinct chair list so no could tell who was pending, who had resigned, or who had moved. The chair ordered a quorum call which is not he motion to make.

Former County Chair Bill Howell:

It is inconceivable that this person who has consistently refused to seek or accept advice from the party activists (thus following the lamentable model of the first campaign she was active in here, that of Victor "no, you can't use me on your party slate card" Morales), would even consider resigning. We have had County Chairs before who hoped to use the job to bolster their resume or name ID for a political future. For that to have any chance of working one needs to spend the time in the position making friends in the party and building favorable contacts. Ignoring and offending the party loyalists is downright counterproductive to any future aims. It has been reported that she previously said she does not intend to run for another term next year anyway. If true, that will spare us a very divisive primary. People should start recruiting good candidates now, and make sure they are the kind of folk that genuinely respect and want to work with other Democrats.

We used to have petty tyrants as County Chairs, who would ignore and try to circumvent the Executive Committee. That was more than three decades ago, before reform rules gave the grass roots a recourse to challenge their power. Democracy must be not just an abstract concept, but a vital means of dealing with others with respect to make a better world together. All of those bullies were conservatives who later became Republicans before they died or retired to rocking chairs. Good riddance.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:45 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

A Blue Beacon...

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

...of hope in a sea of red.

That's what the Think Blue Blog says of the University Democrats who are selling their blue wristbands on campus. If you want one, stop by the West Mall table and purchase one for $2 or get one from me if you see me around.

Also, don't forget to vote in today's campus elections!

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 02:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The New Republicans strike again

By Jim Dallas

I was pretty revved up about the newest edition of TNR, which has a cover story on health care.

It also sports an otherwise commendable review of Roy Moore's new book by Richard Just, which comes to an enlightening conclusion:

Admittedly, among the reasons to bring freedom to the Muslim world, disproving Roy Moore ranks low, to say the least. But Moore, however zany a character, does speak for a well-organized, if extreme, wing of American politics. Alan Keyes, Zell Miller, Richard Shelby, Oliver North, James Dobson, and Ann Coulter all endorsed his book; one can assume they accept Moore's central argument about the necessary link between Christianity and American freedom. As Moore himself points out, a statewide poll taken at the height of the Ten Commandments controversy showed that 77 percent of Alabama residents supported his decision. Presumably many, if not most, of those 77 percent accept the underlying logic of Moore's argument. We liberals can deride Moore as a nut; but we cannot pretend that he is an isolated nut. An empirical blow to the logic of his view that America is a Christian country would not end the debate over separation of church and state. But neither would it be irrelevant to that debate.

But just as it looks like we're going to get through more or less free of wankery, Just goes and takes an un-necessary gratuitous swipe:

There's a larger point to be made here. It's no coincidence that the spread of freedom in the Muslim world would undermine the arguments of right-wing Christians here at home. The struggle to spread freedom isn't a theological crusade, as the illiberal denizens of the Democratic Party's left-wing have convinced themselves; it is a liberal fight, and it always has been and always will be, no matter the party or the considerable shortcomings of the president who at the moment has managed to make it his own. The success of that fight will undercut the logic of religious fanatics everywhere--in the Middle East, in other regions of the world, and, yes, even at home. Is Roy Moore concerned about the prospect of a liberal, democratic Iraq? Somehow I doubt it. Should he be? If he believes what he argues in So Help Me God, then yes.

There really is no end to this nonsense, is there? For the last time, most everybody on the anti-war left is in favor of more freedom in the Middle East. The only person, of the hundreds of people on the left I've ever met who would be against that proposition is an avowed Maoist, an he hates Democrats for being part of the "capitalist system."

What left-wing Democrats are against is military acion for which "expanding freedom" is only a pathetic post hoc justification.

It is sad that the writers of a national magazine take so much pleasure in beating up straw-men. Maybe when The New Republic is "liberated" by a new editorial staff (one that can make a simple point without trying to knive the "democratic wing of the Democratic Party"), I'll reconsider my animus towards that publication.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

ACT serious?

By Jim Dallas

There's been a lack of clarity about the future of the 527s (at least in my mind) since November. John Kerry's loss, according to some critics, sent the message that a decentralized Democratic party would never be able to compete with the top-down GOP. I've taken these critics seriously.

America Coming Together (ACT) has no doubt heard plenty of carping too. So I suppose it sent a message today when Ellen Malcolm announced (in a mass-email) that Hillary's heavy-hitting-hombre Harold Ickes is going to be taking over as ACT's chair.

Now, I'm neither a Kremlinologist or Chappaqualogist, but I would imagine that this means the 527s are here to stay?

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:11 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Shame and Disgust in Dallas County

By Byron LaMasters

I must respectfully disagree with the assessments of tonight's Dallas County Democratic Executive Committee meeting provided by 100 Monkeys Typing and by Vince. I am saddened and I regret that I must write this post, because I often shy away from intraparty conflict – especially such conflict that will inevitably bring our party bad press. For example, I considered writing a post last June regarding some very unfortunate proceedings in the 23rd Senatorial District Caucus at the State Democratic Convention in Houston, but I decided against writing such a post. Whatever benefits attained by exposing the activities of that caucus were likely to be outweighed by the bad press such publicity would provide in the middle of a heated election season.

Today, however, I feel that it is my obligation as a witness to the events of the evening to explain my view of the Dallas County Executive Committee meeting. While the details of the meeting could bring the party bad press, I believe that there is more danger in allowing the status quo to continue unabated. Before decrying the petitioners in Dallas County as power-hungry agitators (or worse), it is key to understand the background in which the meeting took place. This post from Saturday outlines some of their concerns, but there are many significant grievances of the chair, of which I will only mention one specifically that I find inexcusable. Chair Susan Hays had failed to call a single executive meeting since May 2004. The Texas Democratic Party rules clearly state in Article III.E.6.b, “the County Executive Committee shall have the primary responsibility for planning and coordinating the General Election Campaigns of the Democratic Party’s nominees within the County”. It is nothing short of dereliction of her duty as party chair to have not called a County Executive Meeting to coordinate such a campaign during the election campaign season.

With no plan in place, the chair relied on outsourcing much of the coordinated campaign to the Frost campaign and the Sen. West organization. With Martin Frost’s money, Lupe Valdez’s campaign energizing Hispanics (along with the well-documented GOP corruption from the Dallas Sheriff’s Department), and the gradual, but inevitable Democratic trend of Dallas County, Democrats attained much success in 2004. Arguments can be made as to whether the success was because of, or in spite of the leadership of Chair Susan Hays. Either way, it is this context, along with the failure of Chair Hays to call an executive committee meeting in nearly ten months, that the Dallas County Club Council (the organization representing the leadership of all Dallas Democratic Clubs) decided that as an option of last resort, petitions should be circulated in order to force an executive committee meeting upon an unresponsive chair.

The petitioners had called for an executive committee meeting to begin at 6:30 PM in the evening. Their petition to call an executive committee meeting was signed by 60% of the precinct chairs in a matter of weeks – not an easy feat. Within 15-20 minutes of the proposed start time for the meeting, the petitioners, who called the executive committee meeting, verified that they had attained a quorum (40% of the executive committee present per Texas Democratic Party rules). However, the staff of the party had incomplete records of the precinct chairs, including a record of a deceased person as an active precinct chair (more on this later), and managed to bumble around in stalling tactics for over an hour. During this time, the chair Susan Hays, decided to start the meeting of the committee without calling the meeting to order, thus preventing any motions to be made. The chair proceeded to have her staff hand out analysis of the 2004 results and of the advances in fundraising over the past years, while defending her record from various attacks made on her by the petitioners. Instead of allowing an open forum for debate, the chair proceeded in her delaying tactics for over one hour. Finally, at 7:34 PM, the chair announced a quorum of 147 members (or 45% of the committee).

Finally, once the meeting began, there was a debate on the agenda of the meeting. I posted the two competing agenda’s earlier in this post. The chair, Susan Hays had prepared one agenda, and the petitioners, who had called the executive committee meeting, had prepared another. Texas Stonewall Democrats President (and SDEC member) Shannon Bailey moved to adopt the petitioner’s agenda. The chair continued with her delaying tactics. She wanted to speak in opposition to the petitioner’s agenda, and attempted to allow a chair pro-tem to chair the question so that she could speak on it. First, Chair Hays attempted to hand the gavel to County Commissioner John Wiley Price, which violated Robert’s Rules of order as Price was not a member of the committee. Next, Chair Hays attempted to hand the gavel to Gene Freeland, an ousted labor official and ally of the chair, whom the chair had appointed Sergeant-at-Arms of the meeting. Again, Freeland was not a member of the committee, and he was rejected. Finally, the chair asked a member of the committee to serve as chair pro-tem, her decision was accepted, and Hays handed over the gavel. However, the question was called without debate. Members of the executive committee were asked to vote to call the question of whether to accept the petitioners agenda (again, see here) printed on yellow paper to replace the chair’s agenda, printed on white paper. The vote to call the question passed overwhelmingly, and the subsequent vote to approve the petitioner’s agenda passed easily as well at 7:51 PM. In my estimate, both procedural votes resulted in a vote against the chair by a rough margin of five-to-one.

Next, there was a vote to amend the petitioner’s agenda to include the Pledge of Allegiance to both the United States and Texas flag before other action was taken. This amendment passed unanimously, and the pledge was taken. Another issue of no contention was the approval of the minutes of the previous (May 2004) meeting. The minutes were approved without objection.

Finally, after the chair had wasted an hour and a half of the committee’s time (perhaps about an hour of which was avoidable), it was time for business to be conducted. At this point, a motion on the floor from a supporter of the chair called to allow Sheriff Valdez speak out of order. The petitioner’s agenda allowed for “Remarks of elected officials” after business had been conducted. The Chair’s agenda, on the other hand, called for the address from Sheriff Valdez before business had been conducted. Considering that the chair had wasted nearly an hour and a half in stalling tactics, the committee was in no position to allow for such tactics to continue. There was a sympathy vote to allow Sheriff Valdez to speak out of order – in fact it received the most votes on a contested issue for the position of the chair, but the motion still failed by a rough margin of 50 in favor and 90 against (a two-thirds majority was needed).

Finally, the committee was able to get to proposed resolutions. The first resolution called for mandatory quarterly meetings of the executive committee. The chair did not object to this resolution and the resolution passed unanimously. The second resolution was a bit more complicated – it called for creating a Democratic Advisory Committee to assist the chair comprised of 15 members – three from each of the five senatorial districts included in Dallas County. After several friendly amendments, this resolution passed with little to no opposition as well.

At this point, resolutions from the floor were open, but supporters of the chair, seeing the lopsided margins of victory on procedural votes for the petitioners, engaged in further stalling tactics. This time, the tactics meant preventing a quorum – a tactic wholeheartedly endorsed by the chair, who compared precinct chairs breaking the quorum to the “Killer D’s” who fled to Oklahoma during the redistricting saga (this is apples and oranges – the Killer D’s operated under State House rules and were fighting against Tom Craddick and Tom Delay, the Dallas County Democratic Party operates under Texas Democratic Party rules and the chair's supporters were fighting against activists seeking to ensure that the executive committee fulfilled it's duty per the party rules). Quickly, supporters of the chair noted that a quorum was not present, and insisted that proving a quorum was necessary before any further business was conducted. At this point, chaos broke out. Angry precinct chairs attempted to take control of the meeting away from the chair and continue business. However, the chair ignored points of order, and insisted upon a roll call of the 300+ precinct chairs. She began the roll call vote and halfway through the A’s she got to the name of the aforementioned deceased precinct chair that was still on the list of precinct chairs. At that point, a respected precinct chair, and longtime activist notified Chair Hays that the member was deceased, and if the chair would bother to pay any attention to her executive committee, she would be aware of that fact. The comments received a strong ovation. Shortly thereafter, the incident regarding Ms. Hubener which Vince described occurred.

There was so much anger at the chair by this time, and many tempers had boiled over. I don’t agree with the actions made by some of the petitioners, but I understand the context in which they were made. At this point, pandemonium erupted in the hall and the sergeant-at-arms, Gene Freeland declared that the meeting was adjourned and kicked the Democratic Party out of the CWA Union Hall – an action that someone who was not a member of the committee could not take. Gene Freeland will likely have to answer to officials in the Dallas AFL-CIO who are likely to disagree with the aggressive (and perhaps illegal) actions he took on behalf of the chair. Regardless, at that point the chair left the meeting, several senate districts met to elect their members to the Democratic Advisory Committee, and a motion was made to continue the meeting in the parking lot. It is my understanding that the meeting continued in the parking lot with the decision to recess the meeting until the next scheduled executive committee meeting on April 2nd, where the agenda will be completed by the committee.

Regardless of what happens, however, it was clear to me tonight that the Chair, Susan Hays does not have the confidence of the vast majority of the grassroots and precinct chairs in Dallas County. Hays refused - just as she has refused for the past ten months - to accept a forum for grievances against her. Furthermore, she used continuous stalling tactics to prevent business from being accomplished. I offer this summary as evidence that Dallas County needs new leadership, and if Chair Hays will not step down, it is critical that Dallas Democrats work to elect a chair next March that will lead a united Dallas Democratic Party to victory in November 2006.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:10 AM | Comments (51) | TrackBack

Voting Ignite unAmerican? Please...

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

This is what I get for staying up late at night. Earlier on Connect's website was a flash video that called any vote for the rival Ignite campaign UnAmerican. In the case it is removed from the site (which it now has been), it's original source can still be found here for viewing.


Transcript is below. Screenshots in the extended entry of key frames.

Vote Connect!!! Directed by The Rookie

(Black) Rookie: What's up, y'all? This is the Rookie. Hey, Uncle Sam, who you voting for tomorrow?

Uncle Sam: Most definitely Omar and Elizabeth, Rookie! To vote Ignite would be unAmerican.

R: Yes, indeed. CONNECT's primary focus is to connect the Students to Student Government.

US: Ask not what Omar and Elizabeth can do for you, but what you can do for Omar and Elizabeth.

R: And CONNECT will ultimately do a heck of a lot more for you than those peeps in the Black Tees...

US: SO, VOTE CONNECT MARCH 1 & 2! Come on, Rookie, let's go show em how it's done.




This is uncalled for. Through the interview process I was assured that the highest levels of the Connect campaign did not authorize any destruction of Ignite campaign materials. I would like to know how high up the chain approval for this video goes. As a Democrat who has had this charge personally leveled against me before, I take great offense to this action and believe it reflects poorly on the character of people I would otherwise have thought would be 'sensitive' to these issues.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 08:07 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Dallas County Democrats: Behaving Badly

By Vince Leibowitz

I, too, attended the meeting of the Dallas County Democratic Party Executive Committe at the CWA hall in Dallas tonight.

Being a county chair in a nearby county and concerned Democrat, I thought it might be an appropriate way to spend a Monday night. Plus, having heard about the conflict in Dallas County from people on both sides, I wanted to see what would transpire first-hand.

Unlike Byron, I wasn't liveblogging or even taking notes. I was standing in the back of the room with some SDEC-types and Dallas Democrats watching things unfold. So, I don't want to steal Byron's thunder, as he'll no doubt have a quality blow-by-blow post of the whole thing up soon.

In fact, I hadn't planned to actually blog anything at all about the meeting until about the very end, after I'd seen and heard so many things I had decided I just couldn't keep my mouth shut any longer.

I was fundamentally disgusted with what I saw at this meeting tonight. Among other things, for at least the next week, I'll have the image of former State Representative candidate Katie Hubner playing in my mind as she childishly shouted through a microphone at Dallas County Chair Susan Hays. More on that later.

Before I go any further, I want to announce that I am fully aware I'll probably be flamed to Hell and back in the comments of this post for what I have to say here. And, that's fine with me. Flame away. In fact, I feel so strongly about what I have to say I'll even publicize my email address so you can send your venom directly to my inbox. I'll also note that I am sure Byron and I will have different takes on the meeting (and possibly different versions, since he was far closer to the action than I was and I could not hear everything that was said).

So, I hope those reading the two divergent opinions will allow both of us our due and respect what we both have to say and understand that we are both blogging from two very different viewpoints.

In general, I was appalled at the conduct of some of the participants in this meeting. I have always believed that, even in a contensious situation like the one in Dallas tonight, there are ways to air grievances without lowering the discourse and acting inappropriate, immature, or childish. Sadly, I am not sure many of Susan's opponents ever thought to take a lesson from that playbook.

I was also amazed how the "opposition" was willing to, on one hand, use the Party rules and Roberts Rules of Order to their advantage to get what they wanted and, on the other hand, be so willing to disregard them (and even attempt to make up rules as they went along) when things weren't going to suit them.

On one hand, the meeting was a fine example of Democracy and grassroots activism within the Democratic Party being utilized to the best possible extent. Or, at least it was for about five or ten minutes at least an hour into the meeting. Aside from that, it was all shameful.

For one thing, regardless of whether or not I agree with their overall "agenda" (not the one on paper, but their real agenda), Chair Hays' opponents followed the rules and got the meeting called by petition. If there is a grievance to be aired, that's an appropriate step one can take. I'll give them that and even points for making use of a seldom-used rule. Second, they were successful in utilizing Party rules and Roberts Rules of Order to adopt their own "Petitioner's Agenda." Fine. "Democracy in action," and so forth.

They even successfully passed two major resolutions concerning party governance off that agenda--a major accomplishment given the circumstances.

For the most part, much of the debate surrounding the petitioner's agenda and even the adoption of the resolutions was under control. The second resolution was even modified from the floor to correct some conflicting language, all without too much bad behavior.

It's what happened before all of this and what happened after that made my stomach turn.

For one thing, before the Chair could call the meeting to order, she had to be sure a quorum was present. A lot of people around me were saying that was a "delay tactic," because she was answering a lot of the allegations put forth in a three-page front-and-back handout. However, I don't see it as such. For one thing, determining exactly who is there and who is not there and how many precinct chairs are still in good standing to constitute a quorum when you have as many precinct chairs as Dallas County has isn't a five-minute ordeal. I don't know how this was organized and perhaps it could have been organized to work a little faster. But, it was something that had to be done. However, a several people loudly and sometimes obnixously objected to the Chair answering the allegations before the meeting was called. She said she was doing it to save time. I think that's a valid reason for her to have done what she did.

Furthermore, those in opposition should have realized that being certain there was a quorum was actually more beneficial to them than to the chair. For one thing, if they had passed their resolutions and continued with other business and there not been a quorum, all of the action would have been null and void, and their efforts would have been in vain.

Second, when it came to swearing-in newly appointed (not elected) precinct chairs, there was a great deal of controversy because the Chair wanted to follow Texas law, which requires that a majority of the Executive Committee be in attendence in order to fill the vacancies. Evidently, swearing in the newly appointed precinct chairs would have been unlawful. Thus, if they had been sworn in and become voting members of the body, any decisions of the body could have been voidable. Once again, this is something that could have caused a great deal of problems for the opposition. But, they seemed to want to proceed with it anyway.

In addition, once the Petitioner's Agenda was adopted, I found it very tacky that the body wouldn't allow Sheriff Lupe Valdez to address the group. In the initial agenda submitted by the Chair, which was overridden by the Petitioner's Agenda once adopted, Sheriff Valdez was slated to give an address. I have no idea what she was going to address and, to me, it isn't relavent. Of course, the opposition evidently thought she was going to give an oration supporting Chair Hays, since she had previously signed a letter supporting her. Either way, this was the first opportunity the popular, newly-elected Sheriff had to address her core constituants, and she was denied that opportunity. A vote to allow the Sheriff to speak early was handily defeated. Of course, opponents pointed out that in item six of their agenda, they had a spot for "remarks of elected officials." Of course, given that everyone--including the petitioners/opposition knew this was going to be a maratnon meeting, the least they could have done out of courtesy to the Sheriff was to have allowed her to speak. This small courtesy wasn't even extended, and the wrangling over the issue, in my mind, cheapened the opposition. If Sheriff Valdez wanted to dedicate a portion of her address to supporting the Chair, that's her right to do so. I just have difficulty believing that, in a room where Sheriff Valdez was clearly greeted like a rock star and reveared like a saint, she was shunned in the name of party bickering.

Later on in the evening, the issue of whether or not a quorum was present reared its ugly head again. Clearly, it's possible to anyone standing in the back that a quorum might not have been present given the number of people with blue precinct chair voting cards in their shirt pockets or in their hands that kept walking out of the meeting.

Some of the ugliest debate and behavior was exhibited during this episode. And, when one precinct chair called for a roll call from the floor and the Chair tried to conduct it, all Hell seemed to break loose. Either side can utilize the rules to their gain, that's a given. I have no idea if the young woman who called for the roll call was an opposition person or a supporter of the chair--I wasn't watching how she voted. But, that person followed the rules and called for a roll call. When an attempt was made to conduct that roll call, nearly everyone in the room--especially the leaders of the opposition--seemed to forget, yet again, their manners.

One opposition leader even claimed the rules of the Texas Democratic Party included a provision that would essentially mean that "once a quorum is deemed present, it's always present" regardless of if it walked out the door. Such is nowhere in the rules.

Granted, it was a little strange when the roll was called and the name of a deceased precinct chair was called. But, all of the ugly remarks from the floor following that incident were unnecessary. I have no way of knowing if the Chair knew that person was dead, was looking at a list on which that person hadn't been marked out on or what. Sure, it was a mistake--even, I'll grant, a mistake that shouldn't have been made. But, there was no need for the ugly remarks that followed.

Sometime during the roll call, it got even worse, and at this point, I became engaged in conversations with some of the Democrats at the back of the room, so I wasn't privy to everything that followed as opposition leaders scrambled for a turn at the side microphone and chaos generally descended over the union hall.

During this time, I was talking to a Democrat who was part of the opposition. Even he said that the leaders of the opposition were doing their movement a disservice with their childish behavior, and that he couldn't believe what the meeting had become.

About this time, I ended my conversation and my attention was attracted toward the side microphone where the opposition leaders had taken control. Because of the loud noise in the hall and my postion, I couldn't clearly make out every word that was being said. But, I was appalled at the behavior exhibited by former State Rep. candidate Katie Hubner, who gained control of that mic and was evidently hurling demands at the chair to quit or resign. If I'm not mistaken, I do recall hearing a "damn" or "damned" as part of her remark, after which came much caterwalling, and such disorderly conduct that the Sargent at Arms (a union member evidently helping make sure this rowdy crowd didn't stage a bloody coup within CWA walls) declared that the meeting had become too disorderly to continue and was thereby adjourned. Of course, this didn't stop others from trying to sieze control of an already adjourned meeting and attempt to plow through the petitioner's agenda. It even got to the point where the Chair's mic was cut off (I understand by the party's own secretary) when she tried to urge everyone to leave the hall because the Union president had requested that everyone get the hell out of his building.

What was so interesting to me is that, following Hubner's Academy-Award callibur performance, the guy standing to my right turned to me and said "she just lost a lot of respect by doing that."

I cannot believe that an ex-candidate for State Rep would descend to such a level--even in the heat of a passionate argument. Not only is it bad manners, out of order and just plain inappropriate, it makes one wonder what she would have done had she made it down to Austin. Then again, watching her sieze control of the House mic and demand Tom Craddick's resignation might have been a good thing. But, Monday night in Dallas County, it was not called for. I was so appalled by it, I have to admit I turned to a nearby SDEC member I know and described her behavior with a couple of choice expletives. Of course, I wasn't at the mic, and I was speaking conversationally to the person next to me, not standing in front of a hall crowded with people seemingly ready to riot at any moment.

What was most disheartening to me was the man standing next to me early in the meeting. He was a new precinct chair and had come to be sworn in. He knew nothing about the interparty bickering and asked me if I knew what was going on. I told him I wasn't from Dallas County, and that I probably wasn't a good person to ask. After a while, he bemoaned the entire saga, and said he was ready to withdaw his name from consideration, saying, quite simply, "I don't need this."

No, he didn't need that. No one in Dallas County did. The Democratic Party didn't need that. Had the petitioners/opposition behaved a little better, they might have gotten a little farther. In fact, I'd dare say that they might not have lost the support of a few in their own crowd. The Chair appeared amenable or at least accepting of both of the opposition's resolutions, which ultimately passed. It was after that point that some healing should have begun, rather than continued activities that did nothing more than fractionalize the party.

On another note, I recognized many of the key players in the opposition movement from my service on the Permanent Credentials Committee at the 2004 Texas Democratic Party Convention. As you may recall from my post this summer at my old blog, there were some problems with the Senate District 23 caucus. Many of these people who were tonight taking (in many cases) improper advantage of party rules and Roberts Rules of Order and generally behaving badly were among those same people who came before the Credentials Committee asking us to insure that they were protected by the party's rules. I and others on the PCC stood up for those men and women. I, in fact, made the motion that resulted in an entirely new SD 23 caucus because I believed the rules had not been followed and that the interests of democracy and the party weren't served by the initial caucus. Given the allegations they proffered at that time, I can't see how what happened Monday night in Dallas was any better than what they were subjected to at the State Convention.

On a much lighter note, I was pleased to finally meet new Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez. She seems like a very nice lady. I also got to speak briefly with State Representative Terri Hodge, one of my favorite Democrats in the House. Also, after I was informally introduced, a lot of folks recognized me from posting here and over at the Political State Report, which was quite flattering. Of course, some of those folks may not be so glad I was there after reading this.

And, since I think it is appropriate, a sort-of disclaimer: I know Susan Hays and have served with her in various capacities related to Senate District 2 and the Executive Committee for the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Dallas. I have read all of the allegations against her and talked to Susan and others on both sides. Susan has admitted that she made some mistakes, like sending out a letter supporting a federal judicial nominee on party letterhead. I am not defending Susan. Susan can, and has, ably defend herself against these allegations. However, I will note that the majority of the allegations facing her seem to me to be pretty petty. The argument of her opposition is that, when taken as a whole, they amount to a lot. I guess the case could be made for that. Several of the allegations are simply unbelievable (threatening to denounce Ron Kirk because his campaign didn't give the party a room at its victory party in 2002?) and others seem to simply be administrative difficulties any party of Dallas' size is likely to experience. However, the fact remains that some things are going right in Dallas County: Susan has raised a lot of money for the party, and did, contrary to one allegation, run a coordinated campaign. However, because of new laws, not one like the party has seen in the past. I will go on record as saying she probably should have called an executive committee meeting before the election. Nevertheless, her not doing that and these allegations aren't a good enough reason for her opposition to engage in counter-productive activities like tonight's meeting. As opposed to doing party building, this is something that will destroy the party. A lot of this seems to be about personalities and, perhaps, a little "old Dallas vs. new Dallas." Whatever the case, it's time to move forward, build on the party's success in Dallas County in 2006, and end the infighting.

There. I've said my piece.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at 12:10 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

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