A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blagojevich's Payback


Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has suffered a lot of humiliation recently. First, he was arrested by the feds for trying to sell the senate seat vacated by Obama to the highest bidder. Then Democrats in Illinois and across the country demanded he resign as governor. They also wanted him to leave the senate nomination to his successor.

But yesterday, Blagojevich thumbed his nose at everyone as he tried to get a little payback. Ignoring the wishes of his party and his state, Blagojevich decided he would pick the next senator anyway. He held a press conference and announced he had picked former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris for the position.

Knowing the Democrats in the United States Senate would not be happy, Blagojevich then tried to make his pick a racial issue. Burris is an African-American, and the governor brought another African-American (Rep. Bobby Rush) to speak in favor of the pick and frame it in racial terms.

Rush compared the possibility of Burris not being seated by the U.S. Senate to a "hanging" or "lynching", and said no senator would dare vote against the only African-American in the senate (Burris). Blagojevich and Rush should both be ashamed of themselves for so shamelessly playing the race card.

This is not a racial issue. It's about corruption and payback -- nothing else.

Majority Leader Harry Reid said no pick by Blagovich would be seated in the senate. I hope he has the courage to stick by that decision. The people of Illinois deserve a senator without the taint of corruption, and anyone picked by Blagojevich will have that smell of corruption.

I have to wonder why Burris accepted the nomination. It shows a serious lack of judgement on his part, especially since he has been known to raise funds for Blagojevich in the past. Did he promise Blagojevich anything? That question will always haunt him. He must have wanted to be a senator really bad!

For the good of the U.S. Senate, the state of Illinois and the Democratic Party, Burris should not be allowed to be sworn in and serve the appointed term. And Blagojevich should be impeached so a new governor can appoint a senator not tainted by corruption.

Blagojevich has embarrassed himself, his party and his state. He's a selfish and small-minded fool.

It Starts Early


Political Cartoon is by Dana Summers in The Orlando Sentinel.

War In Gaza Is Wrong


We are now into the fifth day of the conflict in Gaza. So far, 4 Israelis are dead and over 360 Palestinians are dead (many of them civilians). Israel says it is only defending itself from rocket attacks -- supposedly by Hamas, but it certainly looks like they are overreacting. Gaza is trying to defend itself by the only means they have -- shooting rockets at Israel. The rockets are not very effective militarily, but seem to be very effective politically.

In addition to the bombing and rocket attacks, the Israelis are threatening to move into Gaza with tanks and ground troops. I can't believe they actually think this will be an effective move. They have occupied Gaza, and they've tried to starve Gaza into submission by cutting off food and medical supplies. Now they are resorting to bombs and tanks.

This is all in a futile effort to eliminate Hamas. I say futile because no military action short of outright genocide could possibly accomplish that. And that is no more acceptable now than it was when Hitler tried it in the 30's and 40's. If the Israelis think they can defeat Hamas by killing off its leaders, then they are sadly mistaken.

Hamas could lose every one of its current leaders, and it would not kill the organization. All it would do is create a new batch of Hamas leaders, because the conditions that created Hamas are still there and still creating more revolutionaries (or terrorists, if you prefer).

But there is one thing that has not been tried -- negotiating. That's because Israel has bought into Bush's neocon argument that you cannot negotiate with Hamas because they are terrorists, and the only thing terrorists understand is military might. What nonsense! The Israelis seem to have forgotten that the British negotiated with them in the 40's, even though they were committing terrorist acts against the British -- and it worked.

Yes, Hamas has committed terrorist acts, but they are also the legitimate and elected leaders of Gaza. And if you held another election today, they would be re-elected. Bush and the Israelis want only to negotiate with Abbas who leads the West Bank, but he has no authority in Gaza. You simply cannot talk with the enemy you want. You must talk with the people that actually hold the power, and in Gaza that is Hamas.

A ceasefire is needed, but it would only be a temporary halt to an unnecessary war as long as Bush and Israel refuse to negotiate with Hamas.

The Energizer Bunnies Of War


Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at MSNBC.com.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Is Kennedy Qualified ?

By now, everone knows that Hillary Clinton will be giving up her senate seat in New York to become President Obama's Secretary of State. The leading candidate to fill that senate seat at this time is Caroline Kennedy, whose father and two uncles were all United States senators. Personally, I think she would make a great senator.

But recently, there have been some people who are saying Kennedy is not qualified to be a senator. That got me to thinking, just what are the qualifications to become a United States senator? So I went to the source -- the United States Constitution. Here is what the Constitution says about the qualifications to be in the senate:

"No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen."

It seems that there are only three simple qualifications a person must meet to be qualified to be a senator. Is she at least 30 years-old? Yes, she was born on November 27, 1957 and is currently 51 years-old. Has she been a United States citizen for at least 9 years? Yes, she has been a citizen for over 51 years. Is she an inhabitant of New York state? Yes, she has lived in New York since the mid-1960's.

That settles the matter of "is she qualified". The Constitution says she is qualified. So what do those people mean who say she is not qualified? Are they talking about experience? Frankly, I find it refreshing that she is not another career politician -- one of those people who have spent their entire life climbing the political career ladder from one office to another.

I think that is one thing that is wrong with our political system. It is populated by far too many career politicians -- people who have forgotten (or never knew) what it is like to have to actually work for a living. People who are so caught up in a political philosophy, that they have forgotten that the essence of politics is to better the lives of ordinary citizens.

I believe our forefathers intentionally left experience out of the qualifications they laid out for our elected officials when they wrote the Constitution. They wanted the elected offices to be open to ordinary citizens -- not career politicians. I think they were right to do that, but too often today many citizens seem to think our government is so complicated that only career politicians can comprehend it and effectively legislate.

That is just not true. Kennedy is a very intelligent person, and any intelligent person can locate and use the right people to educate them on anything they are not already familiar with. But she is not completely without experience. Kennedy has a law degree and has written books on civil rights. She has been active in charitable work and has raised a family.

Is Caroline Kennedy a career politician? No. Is she qualified and experienced? Absolutely!

This Baby Has Problems !


Political Cartoon is by John Darkow in The Columbia Daily Tribune.

T.P.A. Year-End Round-Up


Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind...and, if you remember the rest of the song, you're doing one better than we are. At any rate, it is the last Monday of the year and that means it is time for the Texas Progressive Alliance's End-Of-Year Round-Up For 2008.

2008 was a heck of a year for Texas Progressives. The Presidential Primary came to Texas (for real), we caucused, conventioned, challenged, credentialed, voted, elected, counted, re-counted, brought Netroots Nation to Texas, watched Tom Craddick fight for his life, said farewell to legends, got a head start to on the race to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison and more. A lot more.

It is in that spirit that we bring you the final round-up of 2008. Enjoy.

jobsanger has posted on a variety of subjects, including the popularity of George Bush in 11% Of Americans Are IDIOTS, the Ku Klux Klan in The Klan Is Still Stupid, a plan to steal water from the Panhandle in The Coming Rape Of The Ogallala Aquifer, the fall of a county sheriff in Potter County Sheriff Indicted On Felony Charges and Potter County Sheriff Convicted, and the 2010 governor's race in Who's The Dem In 2010 Governor Race?

John Coby at Bay Area Houston has blogged on a number of issues concerning Bob Perry's home building industry, the Texas Ethics Commission, insurance deregulation, electricity deregulation, and including some humorous posts. One of his favorites series is Spending Campaign Cash which has resulted in a number of stories in the news and contributed to a bill to be filed by State Representative Senfronia Thompson.

South Texas Chisme covered such entertaining South Texas stories from the original
DA Hissy Fit
to his poor imitation, various ethics problems including a
few felonies to helping Republicans recover and Democrats to prosper. And, we
never forget about that Republican monument to racism and fear otherwise known as that d*mn fence!

As he approaches his seventh anniversary as a blogger, Off the Kuff decided to look forward rather than back on the year. My thanks to my TPA colleagues for all they do, and my best wishes to all for a great 2009.

The Texas Cloverleaf looks back on 2008, as it's first full year on the blog scene comes to a close. The DNC kicked off the year by picking the Jewish named donkey over the black one for it's mascot, in what would become the ultimate irony of the political season. Adding to ironies, cash strapped TxDOT gave away $20 million for a Dallas park. We were introduced to GOP family values: 16 US Senators, including our own from Texas, voted against funding for HIV/AIDS prevention, leading to more deaths, and the Palin clan popped out more replacements as part of God's will. Don't forget to carve the backwards B on your face for posterity. 2008 was a whirlwind and couldn't have been more dramatic. Here is to a 2009 with the same kind of flair!

Neil at Texas Liberal wishes everyone good luck in the New Year. Here is my post on controversy regarding what may or may not be the world's largest potato. Please visit Texas Liberal in 2009. I work hard to make the blog worth reading.

As 2008 comes to a close, circumstances have limited Refinish69's access to his own blog, Doing My Part For the Left. He's nonetheless written a compelling series hosted on various national and local blogs that shares what it is to be homeless in Austin. Homeless in Austin-An Insider's View is a four part series so far and Refinish69 wants to thank all those who've helped him get this story more attention. Part 1 at Momocrats. Parts 2, 3, and 4 at Texas Kaos.

Texas Kaos frontpagers have covered a wide variety of issues both national and Texan. Krazypuppy wrote a cautionary tale of how far Republican hubris can go in All Southerner's Should Know Don Siegalman's False Imprisonment Story" Refinish69 shared one man's story of unexpected impact of the historic Democratic extended primary in A Trip to the Gas Station: No it's not a Curious George book Lightseeker reported on the convention for SD 15 and the contrast between previous years. He also gave great pointers on political discourse with the neighbors. SCCS did a series on the congressional races all over Texas, and was our correspondent in the Big Tent at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Txsharon's contributions keeping us abreast of what Big Dirty Oil and Gas are up to are so valuable it's hard to pick only a few, but proving that a picture is worth a thousand words, Barnett Shale Sludge Pond Pictures is a must see (and read).

BossKitty at TruthHugger sees no other options ... Retirement or Exile, Show Bush The Exit.

At Eye On Williamson this year the election took up much of our time on the blog. From candidate filings, to the massive turnout for the Williamson County Democratic Party primary and convention, all the way through to electing the first Democratic state representative in Williamson County since 1992 - Diana Maldonado. There were still the same local issues popping up like road projects that are bad deals for the taxpayers, the county landfill, and the T. Don Hutto family prison in Taylor.

It's been a year of excitement at McBlogger. We've looked deeply at medical tourism and James Dobson's fear of homos. We've also, occasionally, talked about the meltdown in the financial sector. And Mr. The Plumber.

WhosPlayin shared his experience working the Democratic Primary and then the Denton County Democratic Convention back in March. In May, the Earth
opened up and
swallowed part of Daisetta, TX. In September, WhosPlayin suggested how a financial industry bailout could work and be transparent. Over the Christmas holiday, WhosPlayin rolled out a new Congressional Campaign Finance research website.

Over at Capitol Annex, Vince Leibowitz had a difficult time trying to select his favorites out of 2,470 posts published (so far) during 2008, but finally settled on a few. After a long PrimaCaucus season and hair-raising state convention, he posted some Random Thoughts on the 2008 TDP Convention. As the election cycle went on, he pondered why anyone would want to re-elect State Rep. John Davis (R-Clear Lake), and told the world about a racist mailer that had been sent out against State Rep. Allen Vaught. After the election season, he memorialized "The People's Lawyer," Jim Mattox, and noted that Tom DeLay's wife was trying to quash a subpoena in a civil lawsuit related to the now-defunct Americans for a Republican Majority.

Mean Rachel started off 2008 with An Open Letter to Whom She Was in 2007, and proceeded to write open letters to just about everyone, including Mark Strama and Elliot Elliott Naishtat. She met Barack Obama, got Obama license plates, and subsequently had her tires slashed because of them. She also wrote for the Texas Observer in Denver and daydreamed about Republican pornography. Finally, in June, Mean Rachel asked for serenity now, and wondered if Americans would ever have the wisdom to change. By November, she had her answer.

No Peace On This Earth


Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Notable Deaths Of 2008


With our nations long nightmare nearly over and a president promising hope and change about to be sworn in, I hate to bring anyone down by talking about death. However, several notable people died in 2008, and I feel it is only proper to recognize them one last time. Here they are, listed by the month in which they left us. In one way or another, these people left a mark on the world. May they all rest in peace.

JANUARY
Margaret Truman Daniels (83) - mystery writer and daughter of President Truman.
Bobby Fischer (64) - world chess champion in 1972.
Milton Wolff (92) - a commander of anti-fascist American forces in Spanish Civil War.
Bernie Boston (74) - took the photo of hippie putting flower in soldier's gun barrel.
Edmund Hillary (88) - first to climb Mt. Everest.
Heath Ledger (28) - actor.

FEBRUARY
Buddy Miles (60) - acclaimed drummer.
William F. Buckley (82) - conservative pundit and founder of National Review.
Roy Scheider (75) - actor.

MARCH
Arthur C. Clarke (90) - acclaimed science-fiction writer.
Jules Dassin (96) - blacklisted film-maker who did "The Naked City".
Paul Scofield (86) - actor.
Richard Widmark (93) - actor.

APRIL
Cedella Booker (81) - mother of Bob Marley.
Charlton Heston (84) - actor.

MAY
Irvine Robbins (90) - co-founder of Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream.
Sydney Pollack (73) - actor and director.
Robert Rauschenberg (82) - painter and sculptor.
Zelma Henderson (88) - plaintiff in Brown vs. Board of Education.
Dick Martin (86) - comedian.
Harvey Korman (81) - comedian.

JUNE
Tim Russert (58) - journalist.
Bo Diddley (79) - legendary rock and blues guitarist.
George Carlin (71) - counter-culture comedian.

JULY
Larry Harmon (83) - Bozo the Clown.

AUGUST
Isaac Hayes (65) - R&B and Soul musician.
Bernie Mac (50) - comedian.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn (89) - Nobel Prize-winning author.

SEPTEMBER
Jerry Reed (71) - country singer.
Barefoot Sanders (83) - U.S. District Court Judge.
Anita Page (98) - actress who starred in first "talking picture".
Paul Newman (83) - actor.

OCTOBER
Tony Hillerman (83) - mystery writer
Gerard Damiano (80) - director of "Deep Throat".

NOVEMBER
Miriam Makeba (76) - acclaimed South African singer.
Mitch Mitchell (61) - drummer for Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Studs Terkel (96) - acclaimed Chicago writer.
Michael Crichton (66) - novelist.

DECEMBER
Odetta Holmes (77) - folk singer and voice of civil rights movement.
Eartha Kitt (81) - singer, dancer, actress.
Harold Pinter (78) - Nobel Prize-winning playwright.
Delaney Bramlett (69) - rock guitarist.

Secret Service Training


Political Cartoon is by Patrick Chappatte in the International Herald Tribune.

Cuba Turns 50


January 1, 2009 is a doubly special day for Cuba. In addition to celebrating the start of a new year with the rest of the world, that date will mark the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution. On January 1, 1959, Fidel Castro and his revolutionary army drove the dictator Batista away and set up the current government structure.

Cuba has changed a lot in the last 50 years. Batista had sold out to American corporations and criminal elements, and cared nothing for the Cuban people. Most Cubans were poor and lacked adequate food, access to even simple medical care, and had no hope of getting an education to try and better themselves.

Today, all Cubans are given a free education, and Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates anywhere in the Americas. They also have quality free medical care.

The island still has a lot of poverty, but government programs see to it that no one starves. Some blame the economic system (communist) for Cuba's current poverty. Others blame the American embargo, which has been in effect for most of the 50 years. The United States has intentionally tryed to destroy the Cuban economy in an effort to force them to once again submit to the tyranny of American corporations.

I suspect their economic condition is a result of both their system and our embargo. Now that we have a new president coming into office, I hope he has the good sense and courage to end the embargo. We can just look at the last 50 years to know we are not going to force the Cuban government to do anything. In addition, we simply don't have the right to try to force our system on any other country.

Does Cuba have problems? Yes (and so do we for that matter). They could use more freedom of speech and a better economy. But instead of trying to force them to change, we should remove the embargo and re-establish trade and contact with them. It's much easier to encourage change in a friend than an enemy. Also, the trade would benefit the economies of both countries.

Happy Birthday, Cuba!! I hope our countries can soon be friends, and that each of us can work out our problems and plan for our futures without interference from the other.

The Gift Wanted


Political Cartoon is by John Trever in The Albuquerque Journal.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Religion In The New Congress


The new United States Congress is ready to start their term of office, and once again they are a very religious group. They are a testament to the fact that if you want to get elected in this country, it pays to profess a belief in a god -- preferably the christian god.

The vast majority of the new congressmen are protestants -- about 54.7% of them (including Baptists at 12.4%, Methodists at 10.7%, Presbyterians at 8.1% and Episcopalians at 7.1%). The next largest groups are Catholics at 30.1%, Jews at 8.4% and Mormons at 2.6%.

The new Congress also includes 2 Muslims, 2 Buddhists and 1 Quaker.

Remarkably, there is one district in America that doesn't require a belief in god of its representative. The California city of Fremont elected Democrat Pete Stark. Rep. Stark is the only member of Congress who has publicly declared that he does not believe in a supreme being.

Who Would Jesus Bomb ?


Political Cartoon is by Bill Mutranowski at cagle.msnbc.com.

Racism Enters RNC Campaign


Do you have to appeal to racists nowdays to be elected the chairman of the Republican National Committee? It looks like Republican activist Chip Saltsman thinks so. Saltsman, who is the former campaign director for Mike Huckabee (pictured above with Huckabee), is currently a candidate for the position.

During the holiday season, he sent all the RNC members a gift. It was a CD containing the obviously racist song, "Barack the Magic Negro" (sung to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon). The song had previously been featured on Rush Limbaugh's radio program.

The Tennessee Republican said, "I think most people recognize political satire when they see it. I think RNC members understand that."

He is right that most people recognize political satire. They also understand when that satire crosses the line into racism, as this particular song does. But the CD's racism doesn't stop with that one song. It also contains a song titled "The Star Spanglish Banner". Why slur only one racial group, when you can include a second?

Must you appeal to the racist element to get a high position in the Republican Party these days? It was once the party of Lincoln -- the party that abolished slavery. Has the Republican Party fallen so far that it is now a haven for racists and purveyor of racist values? If so, that is a bad thing for our country.

To keep our democracy vibrant and alive, America needs at least two strong political parties. But it does not need one of those parties espousing racist views.

A New Year's Wish


Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Deregulation Through The Back Door


Several years ago, power companies supplying electricity to many parts of Texas were deregulated by the Texas legislature. The Republican legislature promised Texans that the move would result in more competition and lower prices for consumers. They could not have been more wrong!

Before the deregulation went into effect, Texas has some of the lowest consumer electricity rates in the nation. Currently, Texas electrical rates are among the highest in the nation. And it's not because electrical rates have gone down in the other states. The much-vaunted Republican myth of competitive rates simply didn't happen. Instead, the power companies have taken advantage of deregulation to exorbitantly raise their rates.

But there are still a few parts of Texas where electrical rates are still regulated. In the Panhandle, the rates are regulated by the cities. The rates for consumers cannot be raised without city approval. In fact, Amarillo and several other Panhandle cities have just denied a rate increase to Xcel Energy.

In Austin, however, the power companies are trying to pull off an end run around regulation. American Electric Power Company is currently in talks with the Republican-dominated Public Utilities Commission (PUC). They want the PUC to approve "alternative rate-making methodologies" to let the power companies recover "certain costs".

In plain english, this would allow the companies to get around regulations by tacking on extra charges above the approved rate. Amarillo city-staffers say, "There is a significant risk that the adoption of any of the proposed truncated, rate-review mechanisms will be just 'stage one' of an effort to completely eliminate effective regulation of the rates of monopoly electric utilities."

I would go further. It would be the end of regulation, because the company can always make sure the "certain costs" will jack up the bill to whatever rate they want to charge, regardless of what the cities want. Several Panhandle cities are preparing to hire an attorney to fight the new measures. I hope they do.

These power companies cannot be allowed to achieve electric deregulation through the back door after it has been denied at the front door.

Compassionate Conservative


Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays !


Here at jobsanger, we wish all our readers and fellow bloggers a very happy Solstice Season holiday regardless of your religion or lack thereof.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Taking A Short Vacation


I just wanted to let you readers know that jobsanger will be going out of town for the next few days, and there will probably not be any posting on the 25th, 26th and possibly the 27th. It's time for the annual reminder to my family about why they're happy I live so far from them.

Hope you all have a safe holiday, and I'll be back with you in a few days.

Ted McLaughlin (jobsanger)

One More Chance


Political Cartoon is by David Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star.

Texas Is The Fastest Growing State


Once again, it looks like Texas is leading the nation in population growth. From July 2007 to July 2008, Texas added 483,542 people to its population. That brings the total population in Texas to 24.3 million people -- the second most populous state in the union.

Only California has more people than Texas (with 36.8 million). California added 379,132 people last year. Texas gained more people than California last year because while Texas has gained in all three catagories (births, international migration and state-to-state migration), California only gained in two catagories. In state-to-state migration, California actually had 144,000 more people move to other states than moved in from other states.

Here are the top ten states in population gain:

1.Texas483,542
2.California379,132
3.North Carolina180,820
4.Georgia162,447
5.Arizona146,759
6.Florida128,814
7.Washington99,713
8.Colorado96,686
9.Illinois75,754
10.South Carolina74,886

Supposedly, Texas is growing so rapidly because of its economy. While the economy is slowing down in Texas, it is one of the few states that is still adding jobs. Those moving in may be disappointed to find that while Texas is adding jobs, most of those are not great jobs. Texas is traditionally one of the lower-paying states with very few union jobs. Most of the new jobs are in the service sector and pay poverty wages, but I guess in the current economy any job is better than none.

The huge job growth since 2000 looks like it will make Texas the big winner when the House of Representatives is re-shuffled after the 2010 census. It is looking like Texas will get four (4) additional seats in the House. Other states adding seats are Arizona (2), Georgia (1), Nevada (1), South Carolina (1), Utah (1) and Florida (1-2).

California may actually be in danger of losing a seat for the first time since becoming a state, especially if the migration to other states continues. Other states that will probably lose seats are Ohio (2) and one (1) each from Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

I don't really have a problem with Texas experiencing this kind of growth. It's a big state and there's plenty of room. But there is one problem I see. At this time, Texas simply does not have the water resources to sustain this kind of growth. When it meets in early 2009, the Texas legislature needs to address this problem. Any further delay could result in serious problems.

And to all of you new Texans -- WELCOME to Texas. I just hope you understand that we are a multi-lingual and multi-cultural state, and always have been. We like it that way, and I hope you do too.

A Happy Holiday Song !


Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fines And Ankle Monitors For Truancy


Anyone who lives in a city of any size knows that truancy has become a major problem in our society. In many cities, as much as 10% of high school and middle school students are serial truants. They are blowing their opportunity for a free education and a passport to a decent life, and many of them will wind up a drain on society -- as criminal inmates, welfare recepients, or spend their lives bouncing between minimum wage jobs and unemployment.

Many cities, including the one I live in, are trying to solve this problem by putting pressure on the parents. The parents of serial truants are fined, sent to parenting classes and even jailed. This may have been a good idea, but it is simply not having the desired result. If a parent doesn't have control of their child by the time they are in middle school, then they probably never will.

But a judge in Midland (Texas) has shifted the focus of the attack on truancy in his city and seems to be having some success. Judge David Cobos (pictured above) is holding the truants responsible for their own actions -- not the parents.

He is fining the serial truants, and making them pay their own fines instead of their parents. If that doesn't work, the next step is an ankle monitor. Those fitted with a monitor are allowed to go only to school and back home, and they are monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Jail is in store for those who ignore the ankle monitor. The best part is that by making these students responsible for their own actions, he is having an 80% success rate. That's remarkable!

The judge has also raised private funds to help rectify issues raised by poverty. For instance, one male student was skipping school because he had to wear his older sister's hand-me-down shoes (pink tennis shoes) and the other students were making fun of him. The judge tapped the fund to buy the student his own shoes and the problem was solved.

Not everyone likes the judge's approach. The ACLU believes it is a violation of the students privacy. I like the ACLU and usually agree with them, but not on this issue. The students have a right to a free education in this country, but they don't have the right to not go to school. In fact, the law states they MUST go to school.

All of the community's citizens pay taxes to support the right to a free education (even renters). It is not too much to expect the students to obey the law and take advantage of the opportunity they have been given. Judge Cobos is not trying to be mean to these students. He is trying to help them, and he's succeeding with a much larger percentage than most other cities.

I applaud Judge Cobos -- both his methods and his dedication to the welfare of Midland's students.

Christmas 2008


Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

Mosquito "Rats Out" Car Thief

This is a great story. A car thief in Finland thought he had committed the perfect crime. He stole an automobile and left absolutely no evidence or witnesses that the police could find. At least, that's what he thought -- but he was "ratted out" by an insect.

The thief stole the car in Lapua -- about 235 miles north of Helsinki. Several weeks later, police found the car about 25 miles from Lapua, in Seinaejoki. But police had no clue as to who had taken the car -- until one of them noticed a mosquito that had been trapped inside the abandoned vehicle.

They noticed the mosquito had recently filled up on someone's blood. They had a crazy idea. Could DNA be recovered from blood a mosquito had sucked from a human? They captured the mosquito and sent it to the lab. Sure enough, blood was recovered and a DNA profile was developed.

The DNA profile was matched to a known criminal whose DNA was on file with the police. He has now been arrested. The thief is still denying the crime (says he was only a hitchhiker picked up in the car). Maybe he'll get lucky with a Finnish jury, but personally, I think the mosquito has "nailed" him for this crime.

He left one witness too many -- the mosquito!

Some Suffer More Than Others


Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up


It's Monday, and that means it is time for another edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance's Weekly Blog Round-Up. This week's round up--the last weekly round-up of 2008--is compiled by Vince from Capitol Annex.

Next week, the Texas Progressive Alliance will bring you its Best of 2008--a compilation of the best posts from member blogs and bloggers from the historic year past.

Happy Holidays, and enjoy the last regular round-up of 2008.

At TruthHugger The crystal ball in BossKitty's head has instructed me to share its opinion on how the final month of a pretentious Bush Administration contributes to the destruction of the America we knew. And, Bush wondered aloud, “How did we get here?”

The Texas Cloverleaf looks, ever so briefly, at Governor 39%'s longevity record.

This week CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme offers unsolicited advice to Democrats: Texas may follow the rest of the country and turn blue, but only if we truly are inclusive and offer value for taxpayer dollars.

Donna at Happinessanyway talks about defending her uber-liberal job to putative uber-liberals.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston details how much money Bob Perry has donated to the members of the Sunset Commission that shockingly spared his home builder commission from being abolished.

Vince at Capitol Annex notes that the United Auto Workers are going to be chasing some jobs to Texas--which were lured from another state by Texas Governor Rick Perry and millions from his personal slush fund, the Texas Enterprise Fund.

jobsanger looks to the future and wonders Who's The Dem In 2010 Governor Race? There is a dearth of well-known candidates with both White and Sharp opting to run for the senate, but he has a suggestion -- although that suggestion may not be well-received by some TPA members.

Neil at Texas Liberal says there is no such thing as a bridge to nowhere. Everything in life connects. Neil also says have a happy holiday.

Off the Kuff considers the possibilities for 2010 if neither Bill White nor John Sharp runs for Governor.

Devon Energy says they are "passionate" about clean air. TXsharon says: Okay, Devon: Here is your opportunity to prove it. Spend that $60 million—2 percent of your last quarter's profits—and help Wise County stay off non-attainment list.

This week, McBlogger's kinda irritated at the President-elect over his decision to have Rick Warren lead the invocation at the Inauguration.

WhosPlayin published what may be the first quantitative statistical analysis of pipeline incidents - by Jerry J. Lobdill. Hey Fort Worth, are you ready for a significant "incident" with gas pipelines every 6 months?

Dallas-area auto dealers who took out credit life insurance policies with Texas Congressional Republicans have suddenly figured out that they wasted their money. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has it.

All they want for Christmas is to keep jailing innocent children. The Williamson county commissioner's court is set to vote Tuesday, just in time for Christmas, on two more years of jail time for immigrant families awaiting hearings. Wcnews at Eye On Williamson reports that the court has rescheduled a vote to renew its contract with Corrections Corporation of America to operate the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention center for Tuesday, December 23, in order to avoid publicity. In addition to the distractions of the holidays, commissioners are counting that voters will have forgotten about it at the next election 22 months away.

The Free Ride


Political Cartoon is by David Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star.

11% Of Americans Are Idiots


According to the latest figures from the Pew Research Center, about 11% of the American population are complete and total idiots. That's the number of people who believe that George Bush was an outstanding (3%) or above-average (8%) president. I have to wonder how these people are able to dress or feed themselves. Showing only partial brain-function are another 28% who believe Bush was an "average" president.

That means only 39% of Americans believe Bush was at least an average president, while 61% of the people believe him to be below average. When compared to the three previous presidents, Bush looks even worse.

Bill Clinton had 76% of Americans believing he was average or better -- average (32%), above-average (32%) and outstanding (12%). George H.W. Bush had an average or above rating of 87% -- average (51%), above-average (30%) and outstanding (6%). Ronald Reagan had an average or above rating of 84% -- average (25%), above-average (42%) and outstanding (17%).

The chart above shows the one-way plunge in the number of people who approve of the way Bush has acted as president. He went from an 86% approval in September 2001, when he looked like he might actually handle the Trade Center attack appropriately, to a 24% approval this month, as more and more people recognized the depth of his incompetence.

And disapproval of Bush's performance as president cuts across age, sex and racial lines. All age groups disapprove of the way he's done his job -- 18-29 (73%), 30-49 (66%), 50-64 (67%) and 65+ (64%). Disapproval among men was (65%) and women (70%). Whites disapprove by 64% and Blacks by 83%. The only people who approve of his job performance are Republicans, and even among them, 25% of conservatives and 42% of moderates disapprove.

Bush seems to think that history will judge him less harshly than the current generation, and someday he will be viewed as a good president. That shows a lack of intelligence or an unwillingness to face reality. He has been a terrible president, and history will be hard-pressed to find a worse one.

Budget-Cutting


Political Cartoon is by Jeff Parker in Florida Today.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

X-mas Thoughts



Stolen from the wonderful blog of Yellowdog Granny.

AG Brown Opposes Prop 8

California's current attorney general, Jerry Brown, has a reputation as a progressive and a free-thinker, who is not afraid to do what's right instead of what's popular. That's why his latest action didn't surprise me as much as it did some people.

When Prop 8 passed with a slim majority in the November election, most pundits believed Brown would support the majority when opponents of Prop 8 took it to the California Supreme Court in an effort to overturn the new law. Prop 8 denies homosexuals the right to marry in California. But Brown didn't do as expected. He is once again marching to his own drum beat.

Last Friday, right before the court's deadline, Brown filed a 111 page brief asking the court to overturn Prop 8. The Los Angeles Times called Brown's argument a "novel legal theory". I just call it a brilliant defense of individual rights.

Attorney General Brown (pictured above) says California's constitution guarantees the citizens of the state certain inalienable rights to liberty and to privacy. California courts have already decided that the right to marry is included in the right to privacy. This sets up a conflict between the voter's right to change the constitution and the inalienable rights of all citizens, since Prop 8 removes the right of a specific class of citizens to marry.

Brown says that while California voters have the ability to change or amend their constitution, they do not have the ability to deny or remove the inalienable rights of any group or class of people. Allowing voters to remove a group's rights would create a "tyranny of the majority" and place all of the inalienable rights in danger.

That is a clear and concise bit of legal thinking, and goes to the crux of the problem. It is now up to the California Supreme Court to act to protect the rights of ALL of California's citizens.

The Shoe Problem


Political Cartoon is by Larry Wright in The Detroit News.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Death Of An American Hero

Last Thursday, a true American hero died. That hero was 95 year-old W. Mark Felt. Although almost all Americans know what this gentlemen did to save and serve his country in a time of crises, I doubt if most Americans could tell you who W. Mark Felt was. That's because he is much more widely known by a nickname he was given by two young reporters. Mr. Felt was "Deep Throat".

During the Nixon administration, Felt was the second in command at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He was the anonymous source that tipped reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to the criminal actions of Nixon and his cronies, and guided them in their investigation of that administration.

Felt put his job and his reputation on the line because he felt that no one, including the president, is above the law. To protect Felt, Woodward and Bernstein gave him a nickname and never referred to him by anything except that nickname. They called him "Deep Throat" -- taking the moniker from a popular porno movie of the time.

The anonymous "Deep Throat" became famous after Woodward and Bernstein published their book All The President's Men, and a popular movie was made from the book. But Felt never tried to capitalize on that fame, and did not reveal that he was "Deep Throat" until 2005.

He didn't help the reporters to become famous or make a lot of money. He did it because he loved America and the Constitution she is built on. Our nation could use more men like W. Mark Felt.

This is what Carl Bernstein has to say about Felt:

"Watergate was a constitutional crisis in a criminal presidency
. And he had the guts to say, 'Wait. The Constitution is more important in this situation than a president of the United States who breaks the law.' It's an important lesson, I think, for the country and for people in our business, as well."

Our nation could have used a "Deep Throat" from the Bush administration, which has turned out to be even worse than the Nixon administration.

Worshipping The Master


Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Nightmare Is Nearly Over


The long horrible nightmare is nearly over -- just one more month. I can hardly wait. But I do regret that these criminals will probably never be tried for their crimes against humanity and the American people. (Picture is from Seeds of Doubt)

It's Obama's Choice But It's A Weird One


Barack Obama has made a rather strange choice in the man he chose to deliver the invocation at his upcoming inauguration. He chose Rick Warren -- the pastor of a large right-wing church in California. The choice has caused a firestorm of criticism from Obama's more progressive supporters.

It's easy to understand why homosexuals are upset. Warren and his followers were in the forefront in pushing for the adoption of prop 8 in California in the November election. That was the ballot initiative that denied gays and lesbians the right to marry like all other American citizens. That tells us that Warren only believes in equality for those who agree with him.

The men and women who believe in choice also have a right to be disappointed. Warren is a strong opponent of women having the right to control their own bodies. That's a right that Warren would reserve for men.

And even though he pretends to preach the gospel of the "Prince of Peace", Warren is in actuality a rabid neocon who sees nothing wrong with destroying a nation that disagrees with United States policy as defined by conservatives. After all, any nation that disagrees with right-wing beliefs must by definition be "evil".

Evidently, Obama thinks he can reach out to Warren and his followers and they will respond. I disagree. This guy is a super right-wing nut who despises everything Obama and his supporters believe in. He will jump at the first opportunity to plant a knife firmly in Obama's back.

But this is Obama's inauguration, and he has the right to choose whoever he wants to give the invocation. So, even though I personally have no respect for Warren, this is the last statement I will make about him being chosen for this honor.

This inauguration is a landmark I'm eagerly awaiting, and Warren is not going to ruin it for me -- or Obama.

Et Tu, Santa ?


Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Washington Examiner.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Temper With Reason & Compassion

I believe that life requires some rules. Without rules and law, there would be chaos in society. But sometimes it seems that rules are made or enforced without much true purpose behind them. That seems to be what has happened in this case.

In a Douglasville, Georgia courtroom, a judge has ordered a Muslim woman arrested because she would not remove her head scarf (or hajib). The woman was accompanying her nephew to a traffic citation hearing, when a security guard stopped her and told her she must remove the scarf to enter the courtroom. She tried to explain that wearing it was a part of her religion, but the guard was having none of it.

She turned to leave and uttered an expletive. The guard must have been having a bad day, because he handcuffed her even though she was no longer trying to enter the courtroom. He then took her before the judge, and the judge had her jailed for violating the rule about no hats in the courtroom.

Now this whole situation seems ridiculous to me. I can think of two reasons for the "no hats" rule. It is considered respectful to remove your hat in a courtroom (or anywhere indoors), and it could be for security reasons (which I doubt). A guard (preferrably female) could have felt the scarf quickly to determine no weapons were hidden there. As for the respect issue, is it not even more disrespectful to force someone to violate their religious beliefs?

I am not a religious person, but religious beliefs are very important to most Americans and I believe they should be respected whenever possible. Personally, I have to wonder if this woman's beliefs were not honored because she was muslim. If it had been a christian belief, would the rule have been enforced (or would it even exist)?

Laws and rules are important, but they do not constitute justice unless they are tempered with reason and compassion. Rules should never be enforced just because they exist.

The Neighbors React


Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle of msnbc.com.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Another Republican In Trouble ?

It seems as though when it rains it pours for Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota. It was bad enough that six weeks after the November 4th election, the Republican senator still cannot claim victory in his re-election bid. He leads by 200 votes over his opponent Al Franken, but there are still 1500 challenged ballots to be examined and either counted or discarded (and the majority of those were challenged by Coleman).

But now it looks like he may have another problem, even if he survives the recount. He has hired a top criminal defense attorney, and it looks like he is preparing to be investigated by the federal government -- possibly for taking bribes from wealthy businessman Nasser Kazeminy.

Two lawsuits have been filed against Kazeminy, accusing him of funneling at least $75,000 to Sen. Coleman through his wife Laurie Coleman. Mrs. Coleman has also hired an attorney.

Coleman spokesman Luke Friedrich said the attorneys were hired to "to work cooperatively with authorities when such an investigation is conducted, and to quickly expose these allegations for what they are, and to hold those who made these false allegations against the Senator accountable."

But I have to wonder, if the allegations are false why are the two defense attorneys needed for Coleman and his wife? If they didn't take the money, all they have to do is deny it. The feds can't find evidence of a bribe that never happened.

No, the attorneys are needed because the senator and his wife did take the money. They need the attorneys to obfuscate the issues and try to make the "donation" somehow appear legal. The attorneys had better be good, because it looks awfully suspicious that the money was funneled through the wife. That makes it look like they were trying to hide it, and the only reason to hide it would be because it is illegal.

Looks like Coleman could wind up losing that senate seat -- even if he wins it at the ballot box.

Shoes of 2008


Political Cartoon is by Joe Heller in The Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No Appreciation For Bush In Iraq


When Bush lied to America and the world and invaded Iraq, I think he was so misguided that he really had visions of glory. He was sure he would be praised as a liberator, and probably even have streets and schools named after him in Iraq. But last weekend he found out exactly what the Iraqis really think of him -- and it's not good.

During a news conference in Baghdad, where Bush was once again trying to justify the disaster he'd created in Iraq, a journalist stood up and flung his shoes at the lame duck president. As he did it, the journalist yelled, "This is a farewell kiss, you dog. This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq." In the Iraqi culture, the hurling of the shoes at Bush constituted a supreme insult.

The journalist was arrested and jailed, and some say he might be charged with insulting a foreign leader (which could carry a two-year sentence). Bush tried to pass it off as a solitary protest. He is wrong. The journalist was speaking for the majority of the Iraqi people, and I seriously doubt he will be punished -- the Iraqi government has enough problems without further irritating their populace.

On Monday, thousands of Iraqis took to the streets (pictured above) demanding the release of the journalist, Muntadhar al-Zeidi. Overnight, he has become a hero to the Iraqi people for standing up to Bush and publically shaming him. Bush is not viewed in Iraq as a liberator, but as a murderer and a torturer.

Personally, I applaud the actions of the Iraqi journalist. It's time Bush faced the truth.

Blaming The Unions


Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up


It is Monday, and that means it is time for another edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance's weekly Round-Up.

BossKitty at TruthHugger is amazed that today's America is repeating the 1930s era of Economic Depression and Prohibition. America’s Second Biggest Waste, War on Drugs Prohibition of Medical Marijuana keeps profiteering Big Pharma and the greedy Military Industrial Complex in the money, while hurting legitimate patients. Keeping Medical Cannabis illegal hurts everyone.

Joan Huffman's campaign for Texas Senate reached new lows during early voting last week, notes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs. First she violated election law by holding a campaign rally down the hall from an EV polling location, and then her campaign made smear robocalls to Democrats in the middle of the night. Let's put an end to this kind of politics and elect Chris Bell.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston has the top 10 reasons Paul Bettencourt quit.

jobsanger discusses America's Broken And Bloated Healthcare System, and decides the best solution offered to date is Rep. John Conyers' National Health Insurance Act (HR 676).

Some unsolicited advice for Republicans from CouldBeTrue of South Texas
Chisme
.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson discusses the likely federal stimulus and it's implications on infrastructure in Texas, Possible stimulus money for infrastructure creates debate on spending priorities.

This week, Mayor McSleaze at McBlogger takes on Kay Bailey and speculates on who is best positioned to take her on in 2010.

Off the Kuff finishes up his series of precinct analysis posts with a look at CD10.

The Texas Cloverleaf looks at what could have been contained in Rick Perry's suspicious envelope.

Neil at Texas Liberal posted about Houston Mayor Bill White and Harris County Judge Executive Ed Emmett writing in the Houston Chronicle about cuts in emergency care and job reductions at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. These cuts, impacting the uninsured and a small city reeling after a hurricane, are a classic Texas story of kicking the little guy while he is down.

Vince at Capitol Annex notes that sources are denying that State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte (D-San Antonio) will be leaving the Texas Senate for a position in the Obama administration.

WhosPlayin took a look at some of the chemicals used in fracturing gas wells.

Made In China


Political Cartoon is by Tab (Thomas Boldt) in The Calgary Sun.

Who's The Dem In 2010 Governor Race ?


I know it may seem a bit early to some of you to be talking about the 2010 elections, but for us political junkies it's never too early. The race for Texas governor is already taking shape for the Republican Party. Rick Perry will be seeking another term as governor, even though he received less than 40% of the vote in 2006. His main opponent will be Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who has already as good as tossed her hat into the ring.

Both of them are strong candidates. Right now I give the edge to Senator Hutchison, but either one could win what will be a knock-down drag-out fight for the Republican nomination. At the end of the primary race, there may be a lot of unhappy Republicans no matter who wins. But do the Democrats have a candidate who can take advantage of that?

To tell the truth, the pickings are pretty slim. For a while, the names of former Comptroller John Sharp and Houston Mayor Bill White were being tossed around as possible candidates. But in the last couple of weeks, both of them have declared their candidacy for the senate seat Hutchison will be vacating. It looks like both of them think they have a better chance of winning that than beating Hutchison or Perry in the governor's race.

There are some good Democrats who are popular in their own little corner of our huge state, but none of them have the financial support or name-recognition to run a state-wide campaign. I can see only one candidate willing to run on the Democratic ticket who could give the Republicans a run for their money.

That candidate is singer, comic and gonzo-politician Kinky Friedman. I know the thought of Kinky running as a Democrat will upset many of my brothers and sisters in the Texas Progressive Alliance, because they fought him tooth-and-nail in the 2006 election when he ran as an independent. Some of them are convinced he siphoned off enough Democratic votes to cost Chris Bell the election.

I don't agree with that assessment. Bell could not have won that election even if Kinky had not been in the race. The truth is that Kinky siphoned off a lot more Republican votes than Democratic votes.

Kinky has state-wide name recognition, and a solid base of voters from both parties who are willing to back him financially and at the polls. I think he could win the primary, and if the Democratic Party got behind him then, he could pull down enough Republican votes to make the election very close. He might even win.

I'm not asking anyone to jump on the Kinky bandwagon today -- just keep an open mind and see how things develop. He could turn out to be the Democrats best chance.

By the way, the above picture is of Kinky and me during the 2006 campaign.

Not For Nothing


Political Cartoon is by R. J. Matson in The New York Observer.