A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Friday, June 30, 2006

What Is An "Independent" In Texas ?

I have seen some blogs recently making the claim that Kinky Friedman is not an Independent, so I started to think on the question of just what is an Independent. Many people think that saying you're an Independent is like saying you are a moderate politically, but this cannot be true. Just look at the last few presidential elections. Both Ralph Nader and Ross Perot were Independents, and yet their political views are certainly not those of moderates. Nader was a left-wing candidate and Perot was a right wing candidate and both were able to run as an Independent. Obviously, saying you are an Independent tells voters nothing about your political views.

So, what is an Independent? I went to Dictionary.com for an answer. After throwing out the definitions that have nothing to do with politics, we are left with the definition of an Independent as "a voter, officeholder, or political candidate who is not committed to a political party." Here in Texas, the way you declare your party membership is by voting in that party's primary. If you did not vote in a party's primary and you do not claim any party membership, then you are an Independent. It is as simple as that.

Kinky certainly did not vote in a party primary this year, and he has made it clear with his statements that he is not a member of any political party. By definition, this makes Kinky an Independent. It does not tell you what his politics are. It simply defines him as an Independent.

By stating that Kinky is not an Independent, people are inferring that he is a Republican or Democrat. Saying this on a left-wing site infers that he is a Republican. Saying it on a right-wing site would infer that he is a Democrat. If you want to discuss Kinky's politics, then do so. I believe a lively discussion could be had about where Kinky lands on the political scale. I personally don't think you can fit Kinky comfortably into either the conservative or liberal mold. You may have a different view. But one thing is sure, Kinky is an Independent.

Rep. Veasey Calls New Homes "Substandard"

There have been 29 new homes built in the Stop Six neighborhood of Fort Worth this year. Normally you would think that this is a good thing. Stop Six is an older section of Fort Worth and is in need of some renovation. But these are not the kind of homes that you would want in your neighborhood.

State Representative Marc Veasey said he believes the homes are substandard. He has been trying since February to get the city of Fort Worth to tell him if the houses meet city housing standards. Veasey says the new houses are an eyesore.

The houses are located on three neighboring streets and they all look exactly alike. The fronts of the houses are brick, but the sides and back have olive-green siding. Each house has one long side that has no windows [the builder said that was done because people steal windows during construction]. There is no garage or carport, but each house has a two-car driveway. The yards are just dirt and weeds [the builder said he was not required to lay sod or plant grass]. The homes have four bedrooms and two baths, even though they are only 1200 square feet [got to be some really tiny bedrooms].

The builder said the homes are valued at $90,000 to $100,000 [the city appraised the houses at $78,000]. The houses have been sold to out-of-town buyers in Allen, Dallas, Carrollton, and Lewisville. They are to be rented out for about $850 a month. The builder admitted that, "That development was not built with aesthetics in mind. These houses are functional."

I applaud Rep. Veasey's efforts in this matter. Stop Six is one of the poorer and neglected areas of Fort Worth. It needs the kind of development that will revitalize the area. These new houses will not do that. Building cheap, ugly, and substandard rental units in this area only serves to perpetuate the neighborhood's problems. The city of Fort Worth needs to look at their building standards. If these houses meet city standards, then those standards need to be upgraded. You do not help to revitalize a neighborhood by building new "slum-units".

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Texas: Fireworks, Cameras, Trucks, Lawyers, Muffins, & Yates

There are several interesting legal developments around the state today. So, let's put politics aside for the moment and take a brief look at some of these stories.

The first stop is in Waco. It seems that Waco has banned all fireworks this year because of the drought conditions that exist here in Texas. This is not so unusual. Tarrant, Denton, Parker, Wise, and Hood counties have also forbidden the use of fireworks this year. Where Waco differs is in how they are enforcing the ban. It seems that the Waco Fire Department and the McLennan County Sheriff's Department are "staking out" the fireworks stands just outside the city limits. When a customer buys fireworks, they follow him until he enters the city, and then stop him and write a citation for the fireworks. The citation comes with a $207.00 fine. The fireworks people are fighting back by sending decoys into Waco. The decoys act like they are buying fireworks, and then enter the city with an empty bag. I'm really glad that crime is so low in Waco that the deputies have time to play games with fireworks dealers.

Police Chief Theron Bowman has asked the Arlington City Council to install red-light cameras at the city's 10 most dangerous intersections. He thinks this would generate about $3.8 million in fines each year. Chief Bowman wants to use that money to help pay for 29 new police officers. He said this would allow the department to start responding to low-priority calls, such as car burglaries [Arlington stopped responding to these calls in 2003]. I am definitely in favor of these red-light cameras. It is not at all unusual here in the Metroplex, to see two or three cars go through an intersection after the light has turned red. Evidently, the lives of their fellow citizen's are not as important to these lawbreakers, as getting to their destination a couple of minutes faster. Outside of drunk-driving and cell phone-driving, the most dangerous thing you can do while driving in a city is to run a red light. It would also be nice to have police responding to low-priority calls. They should have never stopped responding to these calls.

The North Central Texas Council of Governments should be releasing the results of a study this week. The study was to find if a ban on trucks driving in the left lane of certain freeways really makes it safer on those freeways or not. Area leaders would like to decide by this fall whether to make the ban permanent, and perhaps extend it to other freeways. It is currently in effect only on portions of I-30 in Tarrant County, and on I-20 in Dallas County. In surveys done by the NCTCG and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, over 80% of the public is in favor of the ban.

The Arizona Supreme Court has refused to grant a license to practice law in Arizona to a Texas attorney. Lee Keller King, a Texas personal-injury lawyer, passed the Arizona bar exam, but was denied a license because he had a criminal record. In 1977, while drinking in a bar, King got into an argument with two other men and wound up shooting both of them. He was sentenced to seven years in prison. After four months, his sentence was suspended and he was placed on probation until 1985. The Arizona justices said that living an exemplary life was not sufficient proof that a felon had been rehabilitated. Quite frankly, I didn't know you could be an attorney in Texas if you had a felony conviction. But I have to wonder, if living an exemplary life for over twenty years does not show rehabilitation, then what does?

The "marijuana muffin" criminals have now been indicted. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, a few weeks ago two young men, Ian Walker [18] and Joseph Tellini [18], made a batch of muffins spiked with marijuana, and placed them in the teacher's lounge of Lake Highlands High School. Nineteen teachers and school employees, including an 89 year old woman, ate the muffins. Several were hospitalized for a short time. These two young men were indicted by the Dallas County Grand Jury on wednesday on a charge of felony assault. Unless they reach a plea agreement with prosecutors, it looks like these pranksters may do some time. It's time for them to plead guilty and accept a probated sentence.

The prosecution has rested it's case in the Andrea Yates murder trial. The defense attorneys will start presenting their case today. I don't have a good feeling about this. It looks to me like she'll probably be found not guilty this time. Personally, I think anyone who commits a crime this vicious and horrific should never walk our streets again. I know it makes me sound like a horrible person, but I don't care if she's crazy or not. Let's think of the children.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Texas House Candidates Need Our Support

I got an e-mail from Vince at Capitol Annex yesterday. Vince is asking that anyone who can, help out Texas House candidate Juan Garcia who is running for the District 32 seat, by contributing to his campaign. The reporting period which ends June 30th is an important one. Many large donors look at the cash on hand on June 30th as an indicator of support for the candidate, and use it to judge whether their money would be well spent if they donated to the candidate.

It doesn't have to be much. Ten $5 contributions are just as good as one $50 contribution. Think of this as seed money that the candidate will use to show he is worthy of future donations. I know that money is tight these days, but anything you could contribute would certainly be appreciated by the candidate. Juan is trying to raise $5000 by the end of June.

Please do what you can. Remember, freedom has never been free.


While I'm begging for candidate contributions, let me mention two other House candidates who could use the help - David Pillow, who is running in District 94, and Sheila Ford, who is running in District 99. Both are excellent candidates with a chance to take a seat away from the republicans.

Nat'l Dems Finally Take A Stand For Workers

Last week, the republican-controlled Senate voted down a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. The minimum wage is currently $5.15 an hour and has not been raised in the last nine years. In this same nine-year period, Congress has given themselves pay raises each year that add up to a total of $31,600. Good grief! In the last nine years, their raises add up to more money than millions of Americans make all year.

But this year, it looks like the Democrats are finally going to make a stand and fight for ordinary Americans. Yesterday, Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid [D-Nev] announced at a news conference, that Democrats are vowing to block the pay raises for Congress until the minimum wage is raised.

Reid said, "We're going to do anything it takes to stop the congressional pay raise this year, and we're not going to settle for this year alone. They can play all the games they want. They can deal with gay marriage, estate tax, flag burning, all these issues and avoid issues like the price of gasoline, sending your kid to college. But we're going to do everything to stop the congressional pay raise."

Senator Reid wouldn't detail the specific tactics the Democrats would use to block the raises, but he did say, "I know procedures around here fairly well." I hope the Democrats are serious about this, and have the unity and perserverence to see it through. This would make an excellent campaign issue. Around 75% of the American public is in favor of raising the minimum wage. With the millions of American workers, this could be a real vote-getter.

Couple the minimum wage & congressional raise issue with the terrible job Georgie has done in Iraq, and I believe the Democrats have a campaign that is a winner. They need to keep hitting these two issues hard until the election in November. I've been wishing the Democrats would find their spines and stand up for ordinary Americans. It looks like they finally have done it.


In other congressional news, the Senate has rejected a constitutional amendment to criminalize desecration of the flag. A two-thirds majority was needed to pass the amendment, but they were one vote short. The final vote was 66-34. A narrow margin of victory for free speech.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Kinky And Bell Both Up In New Poll

Survey/USA has just released a new poll on the Texas governor's race. While Perry dropped a few points, both Chris Bell and Kinky Friedman showed small gains. Grandma finished the poll in fourth place. This poll was taken between 6/23 and 6/25. Here are the results:

Perry....................35%

Friedman.............21%

Bell........................20%

Strayhorn............19%

Grandma seems stuck on 19% right now, and I expect her support will start to dwindle soon. She may not like Perry, but she would govern just like him, and the people know it. Meanwhile, Perry seems to lose a couple of points with every new poll. His support is not dropping fast, but it is dropping. Both Friedman and Bell showed gains in the poll, and are virtually tied.

Right now, this is Perry's race to lose, but if he drops another 5% it could be someone else's to win. I just hope the numbers keep moving in the same direction they have been.

One interesting question is where Kinky's support is coming from. This poll breaks down the support and shows Kinky is drawing from both parties. The following is a breakdown of Kinky's support:

Independents..........37%
Democrats...............19%
Republicans.............17%

Whites......................25%
Hispanics.................19%
Blacks.......................6%
Others......................4%

Male.........................25%
Female.....................17%

Liberals...................34%
Moderates..............24%
Conservatives........17%

Grad. Degree.........19%
Coll. Degree............22%
Some College..........22%
No College...............9%

18-34.......................28%
35-49.......................20%
50-64.......................19%
65+...........................16%

Urban.......................23%
Suburbs....................21%
Rural.........................15%

under $40k..............22%
$40-80k...................18%
over $80k.................25%

This is shaping up to be a very interesting governor's race. Finally, we have a race for governor in this state worth watching.

Are The Excuses Already Starting ?

The excuses seem to be starting a little early this year. It has been common in the last few years for Democrats to make all manner of excuses after an election to explain why they have lost another one. But we still have over 4 months to go before this election, and I've already been told by some Democrats that if Perry wins, it will be my fault because I am supporting Kinky Friedman. That's because I am a progressive, and many Democrats feel that the Democratic party owns the votes of all left-wingers.

I used to be a Democrat. I became a Democrat in the 1968 election as a supporter of Hubert Humphrey for president. For many years, I voted the straight Democratic ticket and worked within the party for change. I was a precinct worker and later chairman, a campaign worker, delegate to five state conventions, etc. But then things began to change, and one day I woke up to the fact that my party had left me. It seems the leaders had decided that to beat the republicans, Democrats had to become more like them, so the party had lurched to the right and left me without a party.

I toyed with the idea of becoming a Green, but finally decided I liked the freedom of being an independent. As a left-winger, I still find myself supporting and voting for most Democratic candidates. I just don't have to support the conservatives or incompetents that sometimes slip through the nominating process of the Democratic party. In 2000 and again in 2004, I voted for Ralph Nader for president. I am proud of both of those votes. It is one of the few times in my life that I was able to vote for a candidate I truly believed in.

But many Democrats became incensed at losing in 2000 and 2004, and instantly blamed the Nader voters. They obviously believed that if Nader hadn't run, all his votes would go to Democrats. No one can know if this is true or not. I know my vote would not have gone to someone I perceived as a weak candidate running a poor campaign no matter what party they were in.

Democrats are good at the blame game after an election. It never seems to occur to many of them that maybe they lost because they nominated a poor candidate, ran a bad and underfinanced campaign, and let the republicans set the agenda and define the terms. It is much easier to blame the Nader voters than to accept blame for your own screw-ups.

I am a supporter of Kinky Friedman for governor. I have been a fan of his for the last 30 years. I know who Kinky is and I like him and respect him. I will be voting for Kinky in November. This has upset some Democrats. Several have even remarked that if Perry wins, it will be my fault. Once again, Democrats think they should have ownership of the votes of all left-wingers.

It is sad that the excuses would start this early. Are these Democrats already thinking they are going to lose? If they do lose, it won't be because of Kinky. It will be because they ran a candidate that could not get the people to vote for him. Democrats need to look to their own party for answers, and stop blaming independents for their own failures.

Except for the governor's race, I am supporting the full slate of Democratic candidates this year. I am doing this because they have a great slate of down-ballot candidates, not because I owe them my vote. But many other Kinky supporters are becoming disappointed with the Democrats for demonizing them. I know several who are seriously considering not voting for a single Democrat. I urge Democrats to be careful. Don't throw away down-ballot votes because of your zeal for your candidate for governor.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Texas Mayors To Discuss Climate Changes

This coming friday, mayors from many Texas cities will meet at the University of Texas at Arlington to discuss ways that cities can deal with climate change. Arlington mayor Richard Cluck, host of the Texas Cities for Climate Protection forum, said, "I've been meeting with mayors from across the country on air quality and global warming issues, and this is my attempt to do this in Texas." Cluck went on to say, "It's important to try to energize mayors to begin to think and study the issue of global warming, and if they think it appropriate, to take action."

The meeting will be a closed-door affair. Neither the enviornmentalists nor the energy companies have been invited to appear. Cluck said this was because they wanted to have a frank discussion on the issues. It is thought that an open meeting would inhibit some attendees from frankly stating their opinions.

Speakers at the forum include Tom Smith [executive director of Public Citizen Texas], Michelle Wyman [executive director of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA], Catherine Thomasson [president of Physicians for Social Responsibility], Laura Miller [Dallas mayor], Will Wynn [Austin mayor], and Richard Greene [regional director of Enviornmental Protection Agency].

There will be a seperate presentation on climate change open to the public. It will be held at 7pm at the Scottish Rite Hospital at 222 Welborn Street in Dallas.


In other metroplex news, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority is holding public meetings this week in Grapevine, North Richland Hills, and Fort Worth. The meetings will be to discuss a badly needed rail line through northeast Tarrant County to the DFW Airport. The rail line will run from southwest Fort Worth. Stops along the line have not been determined, because it is currently unknown how many cities wish to participate. Officials believe the rail line could be a reality in 5-7 years. This is a very good thing. Tarrant County has very little public transportation in the northeast part of the county, even though that is one of the fastest growing areas.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Can Radnofsky Win Senate Seat ?

The Democrats have an excellent candidate in Barbara Ann Radnofsky. She is a remarkable attorney, with many awards, and a tireless community volunteer. Now she is offering her many talents to the citizens of Texas by running for the US Senate. There is no doubt in my mind that she is by far the most qualified candidate in the race. But can she win?

It will not be easy. Kay Bailey Hutchison has been very popular in the past, and won her last election easily. The last poll I saw showed Hutchison at 52% and Radnofsky at 37%. These numbers are not as bad as they look at first glance. For one thing, Hutchison's numbers have shown a decline from around 60%. So, at least for now, the numbers are moving in the right direction. Also, the numbers show that Radnofsky is starting to appeal to more than just the Democratic base. But there is still a long way to go and only about four months to get it done.

I believe the following things must happen for Radnofsky to win:

1. We must make Barbara Ann Radnofsky's name a household word in the state of Texas. She is a great candidate, and the more people know her, the more they will like her. Make sure your local media are covering her events. If they are not, show your displeasure with calls and letters. Even a great candidate cannot win if the people don't know the candidate.

2. We must expose Kay Bailey Hutchison for the right-wing puppet that she is. Around election time, she has a habit of posing as a moderate. After the election, she votes with the radical right. We must make sure that Texans know that her pose as a moderate is fraudulent and dishonest. Don't listen to her lies, just look at her voting record.

3. We must have a large turnout. Traditionally, large turnouts favor Democrats. It is even more so this year because of the general unpopularity of republicans in Congress. Here is a sampling of recent polls:

Zogby [6/15-20]...............R-29%.........D-38%........O-32%

CNN [6/14-15]..................R-38%.........D-45%........O-16%

NBC/WSJ [6/9-12]..........R-38%.........D-49%........O-13%

Fox [6/13-14]....................R-33%.........D-46%........O-20%

Gallup [6/9-11].................R-39%.........D-51%.........O-10%

The larger the turnout is, the more true these polls will be. It will not be easy for Barbara Ann Radnofsky to win the senate seat, but with the general mood of the country, with a large turnout, and with a lot of hard campaigning it can be done. I believe it will be done.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Screwing The Poor In America

The July/August edition of Mother Jones magazine arrived in our mailbox today. Among the excellent articles is a two-page report of statistics showing how economics in this country favors the rich and penalizes the working poor. The stats are rather eye-opening.

We hear from Georgie and his cronies that we have a great economy. What they don't tell you is that 25% of all jobs in this country pay a wage less than the official poverty level. Remember, these are working people with full-time jobs, and they don't make enough to raise them above the poverty level. Management can get multi-million dollar bonuses, but the working poor can't even get paid enough to live above the poverty level.

Since 2000, the year Georgie was elected, the number of people living below the poverty level has risen. Now 13%, or 37 million people live below the official poverty line established by the US government.

Poor workers must spend 21% of their income commuting to and from work if they have a car [13% if using public transportation]. Of course, in most parts of the country [including Texas] a car is a neccessity because of the lack of public transportation. It's an awfully heavy hit on your finances to have to give 1/5 of your wages just to get to work and back. In contrast, a worker making
$45,000 a year pays only 2% of his income in commuting costs. Further complicating this scenario is the fact that 2/3 of all new jobs are in the suburbs.

On the medical front, a whopping 46 million people in this country have no medical insurance. This number reflects an increase of 15% since Georgie was elected. Only 24% of those making less than $25,000 a year work for a company that offers health insurance. Even when offered, this insurance can be devestating to their paycheck. Of these uninsured workers, 51% have medical debts of $2000 or more, and 16% owe over $10,000. It seems that our "compassionate" leaders have decided that only those with money have a right to medical treatment. This is just so wrong.

It doesn't get any better when it comes to housing. Even though the federal budget has doubled since 1976, the budget for HUD has been cut by 65%. Of the remaining funds, 63% go to households making more than $77,000 a year. Only 18% goes to those making less than $16,500 a year.

Most poor areas are dotted with rent-to-own stores. For many of the working poor, this is their only way to purchase moderately high-dollar items. By claiming they are not selling or financing a sale, but only renting items, these stores can get away with charging poor customers 300% interest. This means a poor man must pay 4 times as much for the same item as a rich man.

Many of the working poor don't have bank accounts. In fact, 13% of American households don't have a checking account and 10% don't have any kind of bank account. This means these people must pay about 2.5% of their income just so they can cash their paychecks. If an unexpected expense arises, many of the working poor must borrow from payday-lending businesses. Since 1990, the number of payday-lending businesses has risen by an incredible 11,000%. Of course, these payday-lenders charge up to 400% interest. The number of pawnshops has increased by 142% since 1986. And credit card fees are 194% higher than they were in 1994.

It seems this country even wants to screw with poor people at tax time. Around 50% of all tax audits conducted are done on those making less than $25,000 a year. How stupid is that? Anyone making less than $25,000 shouldn't even have to pay income taxes!

I'm going to have to stop. I'm getting too angry. But I urge you to read this article in Mother Jones. [The link to their website is HERE, but I don't think they have the July/August edition posted yet.] Be prepared to get angry when you read the article. It is simply incredible how many different ways we find to screw the poor in America.

Friday, June 23, 2006

State Of Emergency ?

I must say I was a bit stunned to read this headline today in the Dallas Morning News. It said, "State of Emergency Declared in Baghdad". I was under the impression that a state of emergency had existed there for the last 3 years or so. Over 2500 Americans and thousands of Iraqis have died, and now a state of emergency is declared? How ridiculous is that?

It looks like the war that Georgie and his henchmen tell us we're winning, has just taken a turn for the worst. Iraqi insurgents have placed strategic roadblocks in Baghdad, and are battling American and Iraqi soldiers with rifles and RPG's. The insurgency has just gotten bolder. Bit by bit, they're learning how to fight us.

The "state of emergency" being declared was to help regain control of the situation. It imposes a strict curfew, and anyone who breaks it can be shot without warning. We are obviously not turning any corners in Iraq, no matter what Dark Lord Cheney says.

It might be different if we had a chance of accomplishing anything in Iraq, but we don't. We cannot impose a government on another country and expect it to survive. And don't even try to say they had a free and fair election! How could it be a free election when all candidates had to be approved by an occupying power [us]. This government will fall the day we leave. Then the Iraqis will decide for themselves what kind of government they will have.

That is the truth of the situation, whether we leave now, or ten years from now. To delay is just to cause the deaths of more American soldiers. Haven't enough of them died already? Let's bring them home NOW and let the Iraqis determine their own future.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hurrah! Kinky's On The Ballot!

I'm very happy to report that Kinky Friedman is officially on the Texas ballot as a candidate for governor. This afternoon, Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams said he had notified Kinky and Grandma that they are now officially on the ballot.

Kinky turned in 170,258 signatures and 137,154 signatures were approved - more than three times the number required to get on the ballot. I think some people expected most of Kinky's signatures to be bad since many were collected in bars and other such establishments. Not true! A whopping 80.6% of the total number were found to be valid. In contrast, Grandma turned in 222,514 signatures and 108,512 signatures were found to be valid. It gets her on the ballot, but only 48.8% of the total number were found to be valid.

I've made it no secret on this blog that I am a hardcore supporter of Kinky in his race for the governor's office. I know this upsets some Democrats, but that's just too bad [after all, I do support the rest of their slate of candidates]. Why do I support Kinky? For me, it's a matter of trust.

Little Ricky and Grandma have shown everyone over the last few years why they can't be trusted by the way that they governed, so I won't waste any more time on them. Chris Bell is another matter. He may be wildly popular in south Texas, but up here in the Metroplex, he is virtually unknown. What little I do know is not positive. He just looks like another pre-packaged candidate with the suits, the hairspray, and the talking points.

Of the four candidates, Kinky is the one I trust. I just like the guy, and I have for the last 30 years. Do I agree with him on everything? No, but I've never met the candidate that I agree with on everything. This year I'm voting for someone I trust. It's been a long time since I could say that.

Burnt Orange Report tells us that a new Zogby poll is out on the Texas race for governor. This poll was conducted this month. The results are:

Perry...............37.7%
Bell..................19.7%
Friedman........17.5%
Strayhorn........14.1%

Starting to look like Grandma is an "also ran". Bell and Kinky are very close [the margin of error is about 3%], but that won't matter unless Perry's numbers start to fall. In a four-way race, 37% is a winner.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Congress Gets Raise & Denies Raise To Workers

The hypocrisy of the republican Congress knows no boundaries. A few days ago, Congress gave itself a cost-of-living salary increase. The raise amounts to several thousand dollars a year for the congressmen. But, while they believe they are in serious need of a raise in salary, they don't think working-class people should get a raise.

Let me make this perfectly clear. Our congressmen, who make well over $10,000 a month, cannot make it without a salary increase [which they generously provided for themselves]. But minimum-wage workers, who make about $824 a month, do not need a pay raise according to republican lawmakers.

Senator Isakson [R-Georgia] said it was a clash of philosophies, the free-market vs. government control. What a stupid thing to say! It has nothing to do with philosophy. It has to do with whether anyone besides greedy republicans have a right to work and make a decent living [you can be sure the current minimum wage does not provide a decent living].

Once again it is made very clear what the upcoming election is really about. You can vote for the republicans and let their rich buddies continue the corporate rape of America, or you can vote for the Democrats and a return to sane economic policies. For working-class and middle-class people the choice is clear.

Iraq Looks More Like Vietnam Every Day

I know the republicans don't want the comparison made, but I don't see how anyone can escape the fact that we've gotten ourselves into another Vietnam by invading Iraq. True, one was fought in the jungle and the other is being fought in a desert, but I really don't see any other differences. The similarities, however, are beginning to pile up:

1. We are trying to help a country that does not want our help. Most Vietnamese did not want us occupying their country, and it is the same in Iraq. In a poll of Iraqis taken a couple of months ago, nearly 70% said they would like for us to leave immediately. There is no reason to believe this has changed.

2. We can't tell our friends from our enemies. In Vietnam, many of the people who worked with us during the day became our enemy when night fell. The same is true in Iraq. CNN is reporting today that the deaths of two American soldiers on patrol was not due to an ambush, but to an attack by the Iraqi officers who were patrolling with them. This was not the first time uniformed Iraqi officers have fired on American troops. If we can't trust them while they're in uniform, how can we trust them when they're off duty.

3. We are fighting a war without a clear idea of why we are fighting and what we need to do to win. Just as in Vietnam, we have put our soldiers in a dangerous situation and now our leaders don't know what to do about it. All we are given by our leaders are vague generalizations. I'm afraid that's all they have given our soldiers too.

4. The lack of leadership at all levels has resulted in atrocities. This is what happens when you tell soldiers to do a vaguely-worded job, and then don't give tham the numbers, the tools, or the leadership to do the job. We have all heard about Haditha, where American soldiers murdered about 24 civilians, including women and children. But this is not the only case of American soldiers crossing the line. NPR tells us today that three soldiers of the 101st Airborne have been charged with murder for killing three prisoners last month near the town of Balad.

5. We cannot protect those we believe are on our side. We could not do it in Vietnam and we are not getting it done in Iraq. We cannot even protect those involved in our show-trial of Saddam. Yesterday, the lead defense attorney for Saddam was found murdered. This is his third attorney to be murdered since the show-trial began. No point in even talking about a fair trial in these conditions.

6. In both countries, we placed our soldiers in the middle of a civil war, and then tied their hands. In Vietnam, they could't attack across certain borders. In Iraq, it is even worse. Our soldiers are in the middle and we can't even pick a side, so we get attacked by both sides.

It is time to end this nonsense and bring our soldiers home. Call it "cut and run" if you want, but it is the right thing to do. GET OUR SOLDIERS OUT OF IRAQ NOW!!!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Texas Rep Geren Needs To Be Replaced

This is a message to the voters in Texas House District 99. Please replace your current representative, Charlie Geren, with someone who'll vote for the best interests of the citizens of Texas. Seriously, Geren is just a toady for the business and corporate interests, and will choose to enrich his corporate buddies at the expense of all Texans.

For instance, take conservation issues. You would think that all Texans support clean water and clean air. Well, Geren doesn't. According to the Texas League of Conservation Voters, there were 13 times in the 2005 session of the legislature that House members were asked to vote on clean water, clean air, and other enviornmental issues. Geren voted against the citizen's welfare on every one of these issues. He actually voted against clean water and clean air. Vote against this fool. Let him know that it's more important for our children to have clean air and water, than for his buddies to squeeze out a few extra dollars.

Geren won his district pretty handily two years ago. Can he be beat? I believe he can. District 99 is the northwest section of Tarrant County. It has suburban cities like White Settlement, Azle, Lake Worth, Haslet, and River Oaks, but it also includes a large part of the northside of Fort Worth. In many polls, citizens nationwide say they would prefer the Democrats to the Republicans. If this thinking translates into a lower Republican vote in the suburbs, and if the Democratic northside of Fort Worth turns out in large numbers, then Geren can be beaten. It will not be easy, but it can be done.

Geren's opponent in District 99 is Democrat Sheila Ford. Sheila is originally from Foard County in Texas and she received her law degree from the University of Houston in 1998. She has worked as a prosecutor and in private practice. She moved back to the Fort Worth area about four years ago with her husband and her son. In this campaign, her main interests are education, affordable healthcare, getting rid of political corruption, and a fair tax system for all Texans. If you don't know Sheila, please go to one of her events and meet her. You'll be very impressed.

There it is District 99. You have a great candidate and a chance to get rid of Geren. Electing Sheila Ford can be your gift to the rest of Texas. It would certainly be appreciated.

Repubs Still Trying To Destroy Social Security

I have bad news for those of you that thought Georgie's plan to destroy Social Security had died and gone away. Although no action on it will probably be taken until after the election in November, another plan to change social security has been devised. The architects of this plan are Jeffrey Liebman [assistant for economic policy for Bill Clinton], Maya MacGuineas [adviser to John McCain], and Andrew Samwick [former economist on Georgie's Council of Economic Advisers]. It is called the LMS plan.

These plan designers call this a "nonpartisan" plan. They say it has elements in it that will please and anger both parties. These experts met at the American Enterprise Institute on monday to discuss the plan. Let's look at this plan and see if it really is "nonpartisan".

1. The taxable wage cap would be raised. Currently the cap is set at $94,200. This proposal would raise the cap to $171,600, and bring in more money to the system. [Democratic]

2. The payroll tax rate would increase for workers. At this time, workers pay 6.2% of wages and employers add another 6.2%. This proposal would gradually raise the rate on workers until it is at 7.7% in 2018. Note that only the worker's rate is raised and not the employer's. I can't imagine any Democrat supporting this concept. [Republican]

3. Raise the retirement age for full benefits. The age would be gradually raised from 66 to 68. The early retirement age would be raised from 62 to 65. While this may not affect rich republicans much, it would have a huge impact on the poor and working-class in this country. [Republican]

4. Cut the benefits paid out by Social Security. Today, Social Security replaces about 41% of a worker's salary. This plan would cut that to 35%. Again, this hurts those who can afford it the least. [Republican]

5. Create mandatory investment accounts. Every worker will be required to have an investment account [no one can opt out of this program]. About 3% of a worker's earnings will go into this account. This will allow the rich republicans on Wall Street to suck even more money out of our system. [Republican]

Well, there you have it. This "nonpartisan" plan simply does not pass the smell test. Looks to me like they added one Democratic plank to Georgie's old plan and are now trying to sell it as a bipartisan solution. It is not nonpartisan and it is not a viable solution. It must be stopped before it can be sold to the American people by the greedy, lying republican Congress. Once again, we see just how important the upcoming election really is.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Texas Rep Lon Burnam Details Session Failures

My favorite member of the Texas Legislature, Lon Burnam, the representative from District 90 in Fort Worth, published his views yesterday on the recently completed special session of the legislature. This was done in a guest editorial in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Lon talks about how the session didn't really solve the school funding crises. In fact, the tax cuts passed combined with the new taxes passed will leave Texas with a $5 billion shortfall. I don't know about ya'll, but this sounds like a lot of money to me.

Also, no new money was allocated for the schools, so the pressure will still be on to raise local taxes. It won't be long before Texas is back in court and calling another session to deal with this issue. All the republicans did was to cut taxes for their rich corporate buddies.

But click on the Star-Telegram tag above and read it for yourself. Lon is a much better writer than I am. Damn, I wish this guy was my representative!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Texas House District 94 Is Wide Open

Texas House District 94 is one of the few races in the state without an incumbent. This district is currently represented by republican Kent Grusendorf. Grusendorf was one of the far-right candidates supported by rich right-wing nutjob, James Leininger, who pumped enormous sums of money into several races to elect right-wing candidates. The money did not help Grusendorf, and he lost in the republican primary to an Arlington schoolteacher.

It is clear that the citizens of HD 94 were not happy with being represented by republican Grusendorf. What is not yet clear is whether the dissatisfaction was with Grusendorf in particular or with the republican party in general. If it was just Grusendorf the voters didn't like, then the republican may have a slight edge. However, it looks like there is a general distrust of republicans developing in this country, even in Texas. This general feeling that democrats would do better than republicans, would make the most difference in districts that do not have an incumbent. This is the situation in HD 94.

The most exciting candidate in HD 94 is Arlington businessman, David Pillow . David was born in Waco in 1959, but moved to the metroplex in 1965. He graduated from Haltom High School in Haltom City, and later received a BS in Business Management from LeTorneau University. David is also a graduate of the Gemological Institute of America. He is married and has two children. David is a member of Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church and is on the Board of Directors of the Tarrant Council on Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

I had the opportunity to meet David when he dropped by the Blogger's Caucus at the state Democratic Convention. David is a really nice person and a great listener. David cares about the needs of the citizens in HD 94, and when elected, will be very accessible to those citizens. He is a tireless community worker and a Democrat whose ideals and values are impeccable. I think David Pillow would make a great representative for the people of HD 94.

House District 94 has been saved from the twisted values of the right-wing nutjobs. Now it must be saved from the aberrant beliefs of republicanism.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

U.S. Hangs On With World Cup Tie

Well, the US men's soccer team is still hanging on in the World Cup. Today they tied Italy 1-1, even though they had to play most of the second half a man short, thanks to an overzealous World Cup referee. The US played very well today. Italy is one of the best teams in the world, and the US matched them step-for-step. It was a rough game, with two US players and one Italian player being given red cards and ejected from the game, but the US didn't back down. I wish they'd played this well in the last game.

The other game in our group was between The Czech Republic and Ghana. Ghana shocked everyone by winning 2-1. This was their first World Cup win. The standings in the US's group is as follows:

Italy...............1-0-1, 4 points

Ghana...........1-1-0, 3 points

Czech Rep....1-1-0, 3 points

U.S...............0-1-1, 1 point

In the final games of the first round, the US will play Ghana, and Italy will play the Czech Republic. If the US beats Ghana and Italy beats the Czech Republic, then Italy and the US will advance to the next round. If the US ties or loses to Ghana, then the US will be eliminated. If the US wins, but Italy ties or loses, then it will be thrown into a tiebreaker situation that does not favor the US. So GO USA! GO ITALY!


In the other sports story in the Metroplex, the Mavericks seem to have fallen apart. The have let the Heat win two in a row and tie the series at 2-2. How can something that looked so good go so bad so fast? I guess I'll just have to cross my fingers and hope the Mavericks find their game before tomorrow night.

Kinky Gains While Bell & Perry Drop

Rasmussen Poll, in a survey of 500 likely voters on 5/16/2006, reports that Kinky Friedman is the only candidate for Texas Governor that has gained support since their April poll. In April, Kinky had 15%, but he climbed to 20% in the May poll.

Both Bell and Perry lost support, while Strayhorn [is that the name she's using now?] stayed the same. Chris Bell had 17% in April, but scored only 14% in the May poll. Rick Perry dropped from 40% in April to 38% in May. "Grandma" Strayhorn's support remained at 19% for both months.

This is how the race stands now [with April results in brackets]:

Rick Perry..........38% [40%]

Kinky Friedman..........20% [15%]

Carole Strayhorn..........19% [19%]

Chris Bell..........14% [17%]

Perhaps the most telling statistic is the "unknown to voters" catagory. Among Perry's challengers, Bell is the most unknown to voters. These figures are:

Chris Bell..........26%

Kinky Friedman..........14%

Carole Strayhorn..........11%

The only solace that Bell can take in these numbers, is that the poll was conducted before the state convention. Candidates for Governor usually get a bounce in the polls coming out of their convention. However, I don't think that will happen this year. Quite frankly, Bell didn't get a whole lot of coverage in the mainstream media during the convention. Unless he can turn this around, he stands a real good chance of finishing fourth in this race. People do not vote for candidates that they do not know.

Perry and Strayhorn are both known very well by the voters. Strayhorn polled about 31% when she first entered the race. It is now down to 19%. As the campaign progresses, I expect her numbers to fall even further. She really has very little to offer that is different than the republican agenda. I also don't see Perry's numbers climbing in the future, and they very well might fall a few more points. But Perry is definitely the favorite in this race.

Kinky started out with a solid base of people who have liked and respected him for many years, and with the help of people like Texas legend, Willie Nelson, he is adding to that base and building support. Many people are angry at both parties. This works in Kinky's favor as he is an independent, and is not tied to the failed policies of either party. Kinky is also not a pre-packaged candidate in an expensive suit with a styled hairdo and poll-approved talking points. Kinky is just one of us common folk. He could be your next-door neighbor. Hell, he even looks like a Texan. Party regulars may make fun of Kinky for this, but I believe it really appeals to the average voter.

Texas Democrats must make a hard choice in the coming election. They can vote for Chris Bell and thereby help Perry win the election, or they can vote for the only candidate who stands a chance of beating Perry, Kinky Friedman. If they persist in voting their conscience [Bell] and allow Perry to win, then I don't want to hear any more whining about how Naderites lost the presidential election in 2000 and 2004. Democrats now have their own Nader - he is Chris Bell.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Church Offers Sanctuary For Anti-War Soldiers

The First United Methodist Church of Tacoma has said they will offer sanctuary to any soldier who does not want to go to Iraq for reasons of conscience. The administrative council of the church voted last weekend to open their doors to soldiers, after a Fort Lewis Army officer, Lt. Ehren Watada, said he thought the war in Iraq was illegal. Lt. Watada is currently trying to resign his commission.

The 300 member church was established in 1876, and has a long history of supporting social justice causes. Reverend Monty Smith, minister of the church, says, "Our initiative was because of Lieutenant Watada's gesture and a clear sense that we have, as a reconciling congregation, deeply involved in justice issues throughout the city, that any war, particularly this one, is inconsistent with Christian teachings." Rev. Smith and other clergy have scheduled a friday news conference to answer questions about the church's position.


In other war news, the death toll of American soldiers in the Iraqi War has now topped 2500. How many more soldiers will have to die to sooth Georgie's wounded pride? Isn't it time to show real support for our troops, and bring them home?

Also, the Dallas Peace Center is sponsoring a protest of the war in front of the Federal Building in Dallas today. Join them if you can. This war must be stopped.

Jefferson Ousted From Committee By Dems

Rep. William Jefferson [D-La.] has been ousted from his seat on the House Ways and Means Committee by his fellow Democrats. The Democratic House Caucus stripped Jefferson of his seat in a 99-58 vote. This move by the Democrats must now be approved by the full House of Representatives. Jefferson has vowed to fight this move on the House floor, saying the removal was unfair and racially motivated.

The Democrats really had no choice in this matter. Jefferson has been caught on tape accepting a $100,000 bribe. Federal officers also found $90,000 hidden in the freezer at Jefferson's home. Although he has not yet been indicted, everyone believes there will be an indictment soon.

The Democrats are trying to win this fall by painting the Republicans as ethically-challenged due to their many problems with bribes and illegal campaign funds. This cannot be done if they allow members of their own party to maintain important posts after learning of similar misdeeds. The party cannot campaign on ethics unless they are willing to hold their own members to a high ethical standard.

Now that they have dealt with Jefferson, what about Senator Harry Reid [D-Nv.]? Senator Reid sees nothing wrong with accepting gifts from people who have business before him. He accepted and used tickets to a very popular boxing match while the Senate was pondering a law that would affect boxing. How can a gift that you really like and that you use, not affect you in at least a small way? This was an ethically stupid blunder. Reid refuses to acknowledge this. His refusal to acknowledge and apologize for his ethical lapse, while in a party leadership position, makes the whole party look bad. Maybe it is time to elect a new minority leader.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

VanOs & NAACP Fight For Voters

On Wednesday, David VanOs, candidate for Texas Attorney General, joined the Austin NAACP, the Texas Civil Rights Project, and two Travis County voters, to file a lawsuit against Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams and Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir. The suit seeks to stop Travis County from using its electronic voting machines.

The eSlate system that is used by Travis County does not produce a paper ballot or receipt that can be used to perform a recount. Supporters of the system said it was secure and images of each ballot are stored electronically. This sounds good, but that is not enough. If a machine is screwing up, how can we trust the images stored on it? And don't tell me the machines don't screw up! During the last primary, Tarrant County's electronic system dropped an extra 100,000 votes into the totals. The machines are only as good as the people who program and operate them.

The lawsuit claims that electronic voting fails to meet the fairness standard by:

1. Voters have no way of knowing whether their vote was recorded or stored correctly.

2. Electronic systems are prone to fraud and mistakes.

3. Travis County voters are denied equal protection because they must use this system, while many other Texans do not use it.

We owe a big thank you to the people who brought this lawsuit. There is nothing more sacred in a democracy than the counting of votes. Paper ballots can be recounted as many times as neccessary, while the electronic machines must simply be believed. Give me an old paper ballot any day. It may take longer to count, but you can trust it.

I must say that Attorney General candidate, David VanOs, impresses me more each day. He says he will fight for the citizens of Texas. Wednesday, he started to prove that by joining this lawsuit. If you've been looking for a Democrat with a backbone, then look no further. VanOs is your man.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Workers Thrown A Symbolic Bone

The House Appropriations Committee threw working people a symbolic bone tuesday. The Committee voted 32 to 27 to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to the princely sum of $7.25 an hour over a two year period. It's about time the politicians begin to discuss this issue. The buying power of the minimum wage has not been lower for the last 56 years. Working men and women in this country fall further behind each day.

For a person making $5.15 an hour and working 40 hours a week for 52 weeks, the yearly salary is $10,712. Republicans will be quick to tell you that only young people work for minimum wage, and they don't need to pay room and board because they live at home. Crap! Take a look around in your local fast food resturant, or grocery store, or mall - most of the employees I see don't look like high school kids to me. They are adults of all ages, and many of them are single parents. Why can't the richest country in the world pay its workers a decent and livable wage?

For a person making $7.25 an hour and working 40 hours a week for 52 weeks, the yearly salary is $15,080. Would you like to try to live and support a couple of kids on this salary? Any honest person will admit that $7.25 an hour is not a lot of money, and not enough to raise a family on. I don't even see how a single person can live on it. But at least it is something. Too bad it won't happen.

This move by the Appropriations Committee is purely symbolic because they know it has no chance of being passed in this republican regime. It is an attempt to get the votes of working people without really delivering anything substantive. Republican's won't vote for the raise because their financial base is the business lobby. These people would love to see the minimum wage abolished altogether so they could more thoroughly abuse their employees.

Republicans claim that raising the minimum wage would cause inflation. It's funny that giving working people a raise is inflationary, but giving millions of dollars to management is not. This is the kind of greedy republican thinking that is destroying our country.

Republicans also claim that raising the minimum wage would cause widespread job loss. All I can say to this, is that it did not happen the last time it was raised. This false argument is just another republican scare tactic.

Raising the minimum wage is past due, but that is of little concern to Congress. So in advance of the coming vote, let me say, THANKS FOR NOTHING YOU GREEDY CORPORATE WHORES!!!!!!! All you've done is to insult working people all across this country. I sincerely hope you pay for it in November.

Euless worms their way into an award

Hurray! Euless finally made the news for something good! I don't care if it does involve worms, either! Until now, all we've been known for is our love of trees (remember Arbor Daze?), but now we will be known for compost and worms as well. More power to us.

Euless' "compost-ology" program has won us the Municipal Living Award for cities with fewer than 100,000 residents (we're currently sitting at about 53,000). Chicago won for cities with more than 100,000 residents.

Composting bins, thermometers, and spray bottles were given to people in free workshops and school events. Over a hundred pounds of red wiggler worms (who seem to think the compost is yummy) were distributed to residents as well. Their waste assists in enriching soil.

Congratulations to Mayor Mary Lib Saleh, Lori De La Cruz, and all others who helped out! You've made Euless a wonderful, environmentally friendly place to live.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I Like Hank Gilbert

Maybe it's because I'm older and grew up in a rural enviornment, but I don't like this recent trend Texas has had of putting city-dwellers in charge of the Agriculture Department. I know they're supposed to understand the consumer end of agriculture, but this is no feat - we're all consumers, even rural people. We all shop for groceries, clothing, etc. We all see the price tags. But few people understand the hardships endured by our farmers and ranchers. You'd have to spend some time in rural Texas to fully understand. That's why I think our Agriculture Commissioner should have a farming or ranching background. Of course, the best of all worlds would be to have someone who understood both the producing and the business sides of agriculture.

I think Texas Democrats have found someone who understands all of the aspects of agriculture. He is Hank Gilbert and he is their candidate for Agriculture Commissioner. I had the pleasure of meeting Hank at the Blogger's Caucus last weekend and I was very impressed. Hank is the kind of guy who's not afraid to look you in the eye and tell you the truth. He's also no stranger to honesty and hard work. He has been a rancher, teacher, and a businessman. This gives him the experience to deal with all aspects of Texas agriculture.

A Texas A & M graduate, Hank Gilbert has come up with a smart and agressive plan to make the Agriculture Department serve all Texans. Here are some of the things he would like to do:

* Ensure a fair property tax system by restructuring the land appraisal process.

* Enhance Texas water conservation programs.

* Expand global marketing of Texas agricultural products.

* Enforce weights & measurements certification to insure Texans get their money's worth at the grocery store and the gas pump.

* Revitalize agribusiness, ag communities, and rural businesses throughout Texas for future generations.

* Pledge to all Texans to stay as Ag Commissioner for a long-term approach to our problems. He won't abandon us with the job half-done to seek some other office. As his literature says, "It's the only job he wants."

If you want your next Agriculture Commissioner to be a creative, honest, hard-working, straight-shooter, then I have the candidate for you - Hank Gilbert.

Rep. Joe Barton Hospitalized

Staff members confirmed yesterday that Rep. Joe Barton [R-Arlington] was briefly hospitalized this last weekend. His press secretary, Karen Modlin, said, "Congressman Barton felt ill on saturday night. He went to the emergency room of a local hospital and underwent a series of tests, the results of which were negative." She would not identify the hospital or the tests performed. Rep. Barton, who is 56 years old, had a heart attack last December 15th while in Washington. At that time, surgeons from George Washington University Hospital inserted three stents to open blocked arteries. He was released from the hospital on December 20th. Rep. Barton is expected to fly back to Washington today.


In other political news:

The Dignity Memorial, a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, will be coming through the mid-cities area on June 20th, on its way to Wichita Falls. The memorial will be traveling down Texas Highway 10 through Hurst, Bedford, and Euless. I urge anyone in this area to help line the highway on that date. This is a great way to honor our soldiers of all wars.

Eleven state parks and Wildlife Department properties received $3.1 million in damage when Hurricane Rita hit Texas last year. The state was expecting the federal government to pick up about $2.2 million of the costs. Now it looks like that may not happen. State officials have received word from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that there may not be any money coming from them to help clean and rebuild state parks. FEMA said the state did not have flood insurance and that is a prerequisite for reimbursement of costs. Of course, all Texas state agencies are self-insured. FEMA has not yet made a final determination, and are still in talks with state officials.

Robert Luskin, attorney for Karl Rove, said he has been told by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald that Karl Rove will not be charged in the CIA leak case. Rove has testified before the Grand Jury 5 times. White House officials said Georgie had been notified and was pleased.

Retired New York City policeman Bruce DeCell, who lost his son-in-law during the attacks on 9/11, was granted access to the headquarters of Homeland Security Department with a fake ID. Mr. DeCell used a fake Mexican Consular card that he had purchased for $20. The card listed his real name with a fake birthday. What's really crazy is that the card does not constitute ID acceptable to enter a federal building. They should'nt have let him in even with a real consular card. Looks like DHS still has a long way to go.

Monday, June 12, 2006

U.S. Loses - Mavs Win - Roethlisberger Hurt

The United States men's soccer team may have just blown any chance they had in this year's World Cup competition. Today they lost to a very good Czech Republic team, 3-0. In soccer terms, this was pretty much a blowout [about like getting beat 40-0 in American football].

The Americans did wind up in a very tough division with the Czech Republic, Italy, and Ghana. I don't know what kind of team Ghana has, but both of the others are considered among the world's best. Usually, a team must win a couple of first round games to advance to the next round. It will be very difficult since there are only two games left now - Italy on June 17th and Ghana on June 22nd. They will probably have to win both games or go home.

On the other hand, our neighbor to the south has started well. Day before yesterday, Mexico defeated Iran 3-1. They must only win one of their next two games to advance to the next round.


But, while my soccer team is not doing well, my favorite basketball team is doing great. The Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat last night, 99-85. The amazing thing is that Shaq was held to only 5 shots and 5 points. This is Shaq's poorest showing ever in a play-off game. The Mavericks have won both of the first two games, and now the series moves to Miami. The series is not over, but I do like the Maverick's chances to win their first NBA Championship.


NOTE - It has just been reported that early today, Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was in a motorcycle accident. He is in serious condition and is currently undergoing surgery in the hospital. Neither the hospital nor the police have revealed the nature of the injuries.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Texas Democratic Convention Straw Poll

While I was at the Democratic Convention in Fort Worth this last weekend, I noticed that one of the booths was conducting a very informal straw poll on current popularity of possible candidates for president in 2008. This was far from a scientific poll as the "voters" had to purchase a political button for a dollar or two [poll tax?]. While the poll is not scientific, I found it interesting and amusing. This is how it finished up:

Al Gore..........17.1%

John Edwards..........16.7%

Hillary Clinton..........16.3%

Wesley Clark..........11.3%

Russ Feingold..........10.7%

Barack Obama..........7.4%

Mark Warner..........6.1%

Joe Biden..........4.0%

Howard Dean [tie]..........2.0%

Bill Richardson [tie]..........2.0%

John Kerry..........1.0%

Tom Vilsack..........0.7%

Evan Bayh..........0.6%

Harry Reid..........0.5%

Barbara Boxer..........0.4%

John Murtha..........0.2%

Remember, take this poll with a grain of salt. It was not scientific and there is a long way to go before nominating season. Who knows what will happen or what new names will pop up before then.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Texas Dems Showcase Some Great Candidates

One of the main reasons I dropped by the Texas State Democratic Convention this weekend was to meet and try to evaluate this year's crop of Democratic candidates. I must admit I was not disappointed. All of the candidates were accessible and eager to discuss the coming election and their beliefs.

Let me tell you at this point, I am a progressive left-winger, but not necessarily a Democrat. When the Democrats put forward candidates like Joe Leiberman, I just cannot bring myself to support them. I'm far too old to support anyone from any party that I don't consider qualified. With that said, I am very impressed with many of the Democratic candidates this year.

I met Barbara Ann Radnofsky last night at the Blogger's Caucus and she is terrific. She doesn't stand very tall physically, but if you measure her heart, intelligence, and fighting spirit, then she is a giant. Texans would do well to dump the current senator [Georgie's lapdog] for this dynamic lady. She is running for the U.S. Senate.

Maria Luisa Alvarado is the party's nominee for Lt. Governor. Ms. Alvarado, a retired Master Sargent in the Air Force, impressed me with her warmth, dignity, and intelligence. I think she'll make a great Lt. Governor.

Hank Gilbert is running as the Democratic candidate for Agriculture Commissioner. I grew up in rural Texas and instantly liked Mr. Gilbert. He's a straight-shooter who's not afraid to look you in the eye and tell you what he thinks. He's qualified and capable and will make a great Ag. Commissioner.

One of the most exciting candidates is David Van Os. He is running for Attorney General. Hank Gilbert called him the "short-legged bulldog" of Texas politics. Mr. Van Os may be short, but he's a fighter, and a great candidate. He says he wants to "fight'em till hell freezes over...and then fight'em on the ice". This is not a man who'll let himself be "swift-boated" by the opposition. He also has charisma. Just talk with him five minutes and you'll be a believer.

Others I will be supporting are VaLinda Hathcox, who is running for Texas Land Commissioner, and Gary R. Page, who is running for U.S. Congress in District 24.

I kind of struck out on local Texas House and Senate candidates. I live in House District 92 and Senate District 12. The Democratic Party is not running a candidate in either of these races. Looks like they've just written off northeast Tarrant County. To make the best of this bad situation, I have decided to adopt as my own a couple of Texas House candidates in nearby districts. These are David Pillow, who is running in House District 94, and
Sheila Ford, who is running in House District 99. I'll write much more about these two in the coming weeks.

Looks like the Democrats have some really great candidates. I will have no trouble supporting these guys.

Dems Elect New Chairman In Marathon Vote

Well, the Texas Democratic Party chose a new chairman in what turned out to be a long and exhausting vote. There were four original candidates for the post that were approved by the Nominations Committee - Boyd Richie, Glen Maxey, Charlie Urbina-Jones, and Keisha Rodgers [nominated by the LaRouche faction].

The voting and counting of votes took over an hour and a half for this step of the competition. The vote totals for this round were - Richie 3020.89, Maxey 2445.56, Urbina-Jones 846.43, and Rodgers 98.18. Since no one had over 50% of the vote, a second vote was called. The district breakdown of that vote is as follows:

SD 01 - Richie 171.42, Maxey 53.58

SD 02 - Richie 140.29, Maxey 47.10

SD 03 - Richie 178.08, Maxey 29.91

SD 04 - Richie 100.00, Maxey 83.00

SD 05 - Richie 74.07, Maxey 115.93

SD 06 - Richie 60.66, Maxey 101.10, abstain 1.00

SD 07 - Richie 59.80, Maxey 78.20

SD 08 - Richie 61.85, Maxey 89.15

SD 09 - Richie 79.50, Maxey 69.50

SD 10 - Richie 151.00, Maxey 100.00

SD 11 - Richie 88.04, Maxey 91.96

SD 12 - Richie 83.87, Maxey 84.13

SD 13 - Richie 191.65, Maxey 127.77, abstain 9.58

SD 14 - Richie 61.00, Maxey 229.00

SD 15 - Richie 123.69, Maxey 66.31

SD 16 - Richie 103.56, Maxey 82.42

SD 17 - Richie 74.49, Maxey 116.51

SD 18 - Richie 49.01, Maxey 152.99

SD 19 - Richie 97.18, Maxey 134.82

SD 20 - Richie 146.50, Maxey 90.50

SD 21 - Richie 161.60, Maxey 130.96

SD 22 - Richie 157.69, Maxey 27.31

SD 23 - Richie 224.99, Maxey 96.88, abstain 3.12

SD 24 - Richie 79.16, Maxey 90.85

SD 25 - Richie 50.31, Maxey 173.69, abstain 1.00

SD 26 - Richie 40.00, Maxey 167.00

SD 27 - Richie 196.00, Maxey 0.00

SD 28 - Richie 85.04, Maxey 124.96

SD 29 - Richie 79.61, Maxey 129.38

SD 30 - Richie 147.30, Maxey 37.70

SD 31 - Richie 98.07, Maxey 63.93

At 5:03pm, with districts 24 & 28 still not counted, Glen Maxey stepped up to the podium and delivered a short and gracious speech of congratulations to the winner. The party has a new chairman, and it is Boyd Richie. Mr. Richie has the task of leading the party for the next two years. I wish him luck!

Dems Throw A Party In Fort Worth

The Democrats are having a party in Fort Worth and it started today. Several thousand people showed up at the Convention Center today for the opening of the Texas State Democratic Convention. There were 4832 official delegates plus alternates, candidates, guests and the press.

Conventions aren't what they used to be. With the widespread use of primaries to choose candidates, conventions don't really have a lot of official business to conduct. They will elect state officers for the party and pass a platform and some resolutions. Usually the platform and resolutions are forgotten as soon as the campaigns start to heat up.

Perhaps the most important function of the convention is to recharge the batteries and inspire the Democrats that attend. This is very important since these are the people who will do the real work in the coming campaign season. This is especially important for those living in very red counties [such as Tarrant County].

I could tell right off the bat today that this was going to be good.As we were walking up to the Convention Center, I saw an old school bus on the back of a truck. It had a huge sign on it reading, "Rick, it's still broke!" This jab at the governor was done to advertise Fred Head's race for State Comptroller and it brought a smile to my face.

Upon entering the convention, I was struck by how different Democratic and Republican conventions are. With the Republicans, you have a bunch of older white guys sitting in a room. With the democrats, you have a true cross-section of our great state. It seemed that the hall contained every nationality, race, sex, age, income level, and sexual preference, and they were all here to do the same thing - take back Texas from the Republicans.

Getting our press credentials proved to be very easy. Special thanks have to go out to Amber Moon and Hector Nieto, the Communications Director and Assistant Communications Director for the state Democratic Party. They did a great job. We could not have been treated better.

One of the funniest sights of the day happened across the street from the Convention Center. A.T. & T. laid off 214 workers today in violation of their union contract, so several employees started to picket the business about noon. It did not take long for dozens of Democrats to cross the street and join the demonstration. You'd think a company would be smarter than to violate a contract the day the Democrats are coming to town.

As is usual, there were some great signs around the convention, but my favorite today read "Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam". There was a lot of opposition to the war in Iraq, and an anti-war demonstration got started with a couple of dozen people in front of the main doors about 3 o'clock.

About 6 o'clock, Temporary Chairman Boyd Richie called the convention to order. Gary Horton submitted the temporary and final reports of the Credentials Committee and both were accepted by the delegates. General Wesley Clark delivered a powerful speech, and then the legendary State Senator, Gonzalo Barrientos, was honored for his years of service to Texas. He is retiring this year.

After the convention tonight a Bloggers Caucus was held at the Flying Saucer. This quickly became a great party and many bloggers and candidates had a great time interacting with each other. Thanks have to go out to Anna of the blog ANNATOPIA and Vince from CAPITOL ANNEX for organizing such a great get-together. I was able to meet some of the people who write blogs here in Texas, such as GREG'S OPINION, EYE ON WILLIAMSON COUNTY, MARC'S MISCELLANY, OFF THE KUFF, COMMON SENSE, JEFFERSONIAN , MUSINGS and JUST ANOTHER BLOG. You guys are as cool as your blogs and I enjoyed meeting you.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Fort Worth Embarrassed Itself

The Democratic Party Convention hasn't even started and already, Fort Worth has embarrassed itself. It seems that 400 hotel rooms were cancelled at the last moment for "renovations". This means some democrats have to stay 2 miles or more from the convention center. Very inconvenient!

I would love to say I think it's just a horrible mistake, but this is not an event that was hastily scheduled last week. It has been planned for quite a while. Wouldn't it just make sense for the city to make sure they had adequate and convenient hotel space for the conventions they are booking? Has this happened to other conventions, or just the Democrats?

Tarrant County is currently a hotbed of right-wing republicanism. Almost all of our elected officials, both city and county, are republicans. It makes you wonder if this would have happened if it had been a Republican Convention.

Malice or incompetence? Either way, Fort Worth has embarrassed itself. As a Tarrant County resident, I apologize to the 400 Democratic roomholders who were denied. You should have been treated better.

al-Zarqawi's Death Will Have Little Effect

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, reputed leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, has been killed. An American F-16 dropped two 500 lb. bombs on the house in which al-Zarqawi was having a meeting with 6 others. The terrorist leader was identified by fingerprints, scars, and facial recognition. DNA evidence is currently being shipped to the FBI lab in the United States for further verification. Of course, Georgie declared this to be a "significant victory in the war against terror".

I would love for this to really be significant in the fight against terrorism, but I believe it'll have very little effect on the war [either in Iraq or against terrorists]. The only real value this death will have is political/psychological. Georgie can boast and America can feel good because this bad guy is out-of-commission.

Why will this not have a huge effect on the war in Iraq? First, you have to realize that there are two kinds of rebels - those who follow a leader, and those who follow an idea. Those who follow a leader form a kind of cult of personality. If the leader is killed, the movement is also killed. An example of this is Charles Taylor in Liberia. Once he left, his supporters just melted away. But al-Qaida is not that type of movement. Whether we agree with them or not, we must realize that al-Qaida is built on a religious idea. They are all true-believers. It would not matter how many leaders we kill, the organization will go on. The only way to deal with this type of group is either to negotiate or to destroy the entire group. Our government seems to be too incompetent to do either.

Don't get me wrong, al-Zarqawi was a pitiful excuse for a human and I'm personally glad the military got him. Just don't expect this to put us on the road to victory in Iraq.

In other Iraqi news, CNN has reported that 1,398 people were killed in Baghdad in May of this year. Around 400 could not be identified and will be buried by the government. In the first five months of 2006, 6,025 people were killed in Baghdad [an average of 1200 a month]. If this continues, last year's record total of 10,150 deaths will be easily surpassed. Remember, these figures count only those who died in Baghdad. Death's in other parts of the country are not included. I'm glad they're not in a civil war - that could be dangerous!

As if the Haditha massacre wasn't enough, it now looks like marines may have committed murder in Hamdaniya. They supposedly shot a man in his home and then drug him outside, where they posed him with a shovel and an AK-47, trying to pass him off as a terrorist.

Isn't it time to get out of Iraq and bring our soldiers home?


NOTE - Blondesense is reporting that the FBI says they have no hard evidence linking Osama bin Laden to the 9/11 tragedy. By the way, where is Osama?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bless Their Greedy Little Hearts

I have never had too high an opinion of lawyers. While I have met a few good lawyers, it seems like far too many are either incompetent or just in it for the money. Well, my general opinion of lawyers has just reached a new high thanks to recent action by the American Bar Association.

The ABA has just announced the formation of a Task Force on Presidential Signing Statements. These statements are what Georgie tacks on to a law after he signs it, explaining why he doesn't have to follow the particular law. He has signed and attached to new laws well over 700 of these statements. Just another example of Georgie thinking the law does not apply to him.

The Task Force is composed of a blue-ribbon panel including members of both parties. They are going to examine whether Georgie's statements are a violation of law and maybe the Constitution. Georgie took an oath to faithfully execute the laws of this country. If he has failed to execute some of these laws, then he has violated his oath and the Constitution, and should be impeached.

Personally, I think that Georgie's lies to start the Iraq War and his warrantless spying on Americans are enough to impeach him. But it looks like many Americans will need more. Maybe this is the story that puts impeachment over the top. I hope so. Maybe the people will finally get angry enough when they find that he has put himself above the law and violated his oath.

The 10-member task force will deliver its report to the Bar Association at its convention in August. Just in time for the elections! My esteem for lawyers is growing.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Billy Preston Dies At Age 59

Billy Preston, the remarkable soul/blues/rock keyboardist, died on tuesday of chronic kidney failure. He was 59 years old. Preston had received a kidney transplant in 2002, but the transplant failed and he has been on dialysis ever since then.

Preston was an excellent musician, and had played with and for many of the greats, including Mahalia Jackson, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Sly & the Family Stone, etc. He also had a string of solo hits.

Billy Preston was a legend in the music business and he will be missed. For me, and many of his other fans, this is a very sad day. Rest in peace, Billy. You earned it.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Mavericks Going To The Finals

I can't seem to focus on politics today, so I thought I would write about what is on my mind - the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks reached a second milestone for the club this year. The first milestone was beating the Spurs in a 7-game series. They had not done that before. Now they have won the Western Conference championship. This is also something they had not done before. Now if they can just win 4 more games, we'll have a trifecta of milestones accomplished this year, and they will be NBA champions.

But that is yet to be done. Miami has an excellent team, and the most dominant center in the NBA. If the Mavericks want that championship, they'll have to bring their "A" game. I believe they'll do it. The Mavericks have played as a team all year and continue to do it in the playoffs. There are no selfish primadonnas on this team. Coach Johnson has got these guys believing in each other and the ball always seems to wind up in the hands of the player with the best shot. The Mavs are on the verge of being a great team. Just 4 more wins and they'll be there. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Texas Dems Reach Out To Bloggers

During the primaries leading up to the last presidential election, Howard Dean showed that the internet could be effectively used in an election. It looks like the Democratic Party of Texas was paying attention and took the lesson to heart.

They have had a website for quite a while, but this year they are going further. In advance of the state Democratic convention, they have reached out to progressive bloggers all across the state. They have offered these bloggers media credentials, and even created a space on the convention floor with internet access so these bloggers can post from the convention. They are also making many of their candidates available so bloggers can meet and talk with them.

How can the internet help with a campaign? In several ways. It can be valuable by helping to raise funds for individual or general Democratic campaigns, and by directing these funds to the proper place. It can be valuable as an information tool to let people know about campaign speeches or visits, rallies, demonstrations, etc. It can also hopefully help some voters to make up their mind to vote for Democrats.

Of course, one small blog such as this one will not make much difference by itself. But there are many good progressive blogs in the state of Texas, and all of them acting together to support Democratic candidates can make a difference.

It looks like the Democratic party is getting serious about winning in Texas, and is pulling out all the stops. This is good. The Republican stranglehold on Texas will not be broken unless the Democrats use every avenue available to them.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Jefferson And Reid Screwed Up

Rep. Jefferson [D-La.] and Sen. Reid [D-Nev.] - what the hell were these guys thinking? Or maybe that's it, they weren't thinking. These guys have stepped in a fresh cow-pattie, and now they're trying to convince us it doesn't stink. Well, it does stink!

The most obvious case is that of Rep. Jefferson. Federal officers have him on tape accepting a bribe of $100,000. His home was searched and $90,000 was found hidden in his freezer. It is pretty obvious that indictments and convictions are in Jefferson's future. It is a futile gesture for him to try to hold on to his office. Even Tom DeLay, one of the crookedest people in Washington, knew when it was time to resign. Rep. Jefferson needs to realize that for the good of the democratic party, his time is now. To delay this will not help Jefferson, but would continue to smear the party. Show a little class Mr. Jefferson. Resign now.

Then there's Senator Reid. You'd think with his age and service, he'd know better than to accept gifts from people who wanted to influence legislation he was working on. I know here in Texas this is drummed into a new government employee his first day on the job. But Reid did it. He accepted several tickets to high-dollar fights from the Nevada Boxing Commission at a time that legislation affecting boxing was pending in Congress. As stupid as this was, there's no proof that the tickets bought any influence. But there is also no proof that it didn't. At the very least, Reid's actions are a breach of ethics. He needs to stop acting like he did nothing wrong. His actions were also a smear on the democratic party.

Senator Reid needs to admit his actions were a breach of ethics, apologize to the people, and promise it will never happen again [and keep that promise]. If he does, I think he'll be pleasantly surprised at how forgiving the American people can be to an honest man. Any other action will simply result in a lack of trust for Reid, and by association the democratic party. The ball is now in Reid's court - will it be honesty or denial? He will be judged by his choice.